Monthly Archives: April 2017

Info The Collar Venice Biennale artist uses 27,000 neckties for installation

Few items symbolise masculine pomp and power quite like a necktie – they sit around boardroom tables, witness business deals, attend interviews and are loosened in pubs.

But, at this year’s Venice Biennale, one artist has turned 27,000 of these potent strips of silk into a vast artwork which is a “silent embroidered scream” against the global patriarchy.

British-based artist Michal Cole has taken tens of thousands of used men’s ties and laboriously sewn them together to create a traditional gentlemen’s living room in this year’s Pavilion of Humanity, which is backed by the University of the Arts London. The ties line the floor, the walls and the fireplace; they cover the overstuffed sofa, the stag’s head on the wall, the mounted rifle and even the pipe on the table.

“Some ties are over 60 years old and belonged to people who have probably died now,” said Cole. “There are wedding ties, school ties, funeral ties; these ties have seen every celebration, every stage of human life. They’ve witnessed deals, they’ve been to prostitutes, they’ve been to the pub, some of them have blood and dried vomit on them. I found a tie that had earth inside the lining, like someone was buried in it.”

For Cole, who was born in Israel, the work is a direct comment on the oppression of women she feels these simple items of clothing have come to symbolise, from the pay gap in offices worldwide to the men in political office – most pointedly Donald Trump – who sign laws that affect women’s bodies and livelihoods.

The idea for using ties in her work first came to Cole when she was studying at Chelsea School of Art. A group of bankers were interested in buying some works of hers which used fragments of real money, and she met them in a nearby pub to show them some pieces.

  

“We had drinks and then the whole conversation just became really inappropriate on their side,” she recalled. “It got quite sexual and even though I’m not someone who gets easily offended, I just had enough that day. I had a moment where I thought: why should I have to put up with this? So I asked them to give me their ties. They thought I was just being flirtatious, so all four of them took off their ties and gave them to me. And then I just left and never spoke to them again.”

Cole took her trophies from that day and made them into an artwork, and has expanded on the idea since. The Venice piece is her largest tie work so far, involving over a year of sewing it all by hand. While Cole sourced 45kg of ties through a company that exports secondhand clothes, many were also taken from men who have harassed her or given her and female friends unwanted attention.

The message of the work coincides with a crucial moment in the women’s movement worldwide, which has galvanised in the face of Trump’s election. The American president’s presence is indicated in Cole’s room by a tie from Trump’s own brand wrapped around a rifle.

The backdrop of global protest against the oppression of women, which saw millions around the world take to the streets earlier this year, “has made this work feel more powerful, definitely”, said Cole. “It’s incredibly current and everything fell into place with this. And I honestly wish it hadn’t because women are paying a heavy price for this.

“I feel like we are going backwards in time, back to an era where misogyny was acceptable and all the efforts, all the achievements that has been made is unravelling.”

But as well as commenting on the wider issues faced by women around the world today, the piece also comes from a deeply personal place for Cole. Her grandmother was a child bride, married off at 11 and gave birth at age 12. Cole also grew up in Israel and served her mandatory time in the military, where sexual assault has long been an issue swept under the carpet: last year alone there were 802 reports of sexual assault.

Cole said sexual assault was something she had just “learned to live with throughout my whole life, just a part of being a woman” but there was a moment when she was going through her divorce where she had reached breaking point.

“It was a moment where everything I had been through – my boss kissing me, people pinching my bum or grabbing my boobs on the bus, the sexual abuse I went through when I was five – all of those things came out at that moment and I screamed,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. “It was that breaking point which served as a creative surge for this work, an inspiration for me to go and make something out my frustration.”

The tie room – or padded cell, as Cole refers to it – is just one of several rooms in the Pavilion of Humanity, and Cole has collaborated with Turkish artist Ekin Onat for the project.

Unlike the pavilions that form the official exhibition of the Biennale, the Pavilion of Humanity is not rooted in, or promoted by, a single country, and the show’s curator, Gillian Fox, emphasised the significance of the collaboration between a Muslim artist and a Jewish artist – “defying, rather than honouring borders”.

Laughing, Cole noted that there was, however, a certain irony to the whole project. “Yes this might be my loudest feminist statement but all I’ve done for the last 18 months has been ironing and sewing men’s ties.”

Musical Adventures in Estrella Places

Our newly formed musical ensemble does not have 76 trombones; heck, we don’t even have one, but despair not, music lovers, I’m working on it. The rhythm section (keyboard, bass, drums, guitar) is pretty good, and the horn section (alto sax, trumpet) is coming on strong. Our vocalists are working hard as well. I’m optimistic. Check back with me in two months. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

The Estrella Mountains are located in Goodyear, Arizona about 30 miles west of Phoenix. After ascending into these so-called mountains, via Estrella Parkway, and driving to the very end, one discovers a gated community known as CantaMia. According to literature describing the community, the name translates to “my song” in Italian; although technically “my song” is “la mia canzone” or if we change to “my chant”, it is “il mio canto”. Canta mia literally means “sings mine”. Doesn’t make sense, does it? But okay, I can give such language indiscretion a pass. I mean, it’s common knowledge about how real estate developers in America play fast and loose with foreign words to make communities somehow sound exotic. To be fair, US developers are not exclusive e.g., in Paris a parking garage is referred to as Le Parking. Exotic? I think not.

The point is this: the community of CantaMia has a musical theme running throughout the compound including names of house styles such as crescendo, concerto, aria, etc. With that in mind, a neighbor, Nick Bogden, a former musician and retired Los Angeles major recording studio owner has been attempting for about five years to organize neighborhood musicians into a band. There have been periodic starts-and-stops; always with an inevitable end. However, a “from the flames of the Phoenix” tipping point occurred recently that jump-started the latest attempt, and one I believe, will be a successful. I mean, with Nick as the leader, and me as the pimp, what could go wrong?

Here’s the genesis of that tipping point:

The CantaMia Jazz Club arranged for Blair Clark, a charismatic, talented vocalist and entertainer, to appear for a one-night show. Nick and I were heavily involved in the effort, and the event was a huge success creating a demand for Clark to appear again. There was one problem with the first event, i.e.: the venue did not have enough capacity to make that affair, and/or any successive events economically viable. In short, without sponsors there weren’t enough seats to fill the demand for tickets, and pay performers. Ah ha, we thought, next time we’ll provide two shows, splitting Clark’s time, but provide an inexpensive (but talented) opening act. Budget friendly, right? The theory was sound, we thought, but that didn’t turn out to be the case—the down-in-flames part. Nevertheless, it did provide the springboard for restarting Nick’s vision—the Phoenix part.

Julie Christopher, a CantaMia yoga instructor originally from Marseilles, had (before emigrating) performed in Europe singing and playing classical guitar. She also did some studio work in Los Angeles. In her, we figured we had our opening act with Nick accompanying her on trumpet. I sat in on six-weeks of rehearsals with Julie and Nick, and felt positive they could pull it off. Both were enthusiastic about performing; and Julie asked me if I could find musicians after the gig so she could continue performing with a jazz combo. In a moment of euphoria, she pleaded, “Say, you’ll manage the band.” Since I fancy myself an effective pimp, I said I would.

However, from the onset, I was uncomfortable that we didn’t have a few more musicians, say, percussion and bass, to fill out the musical arrangements—Clark’s musicians were not an option. I did find two likely candidates, but they declined stating rehearsal time was too short. We had no option, but to press on. What a lousy pimp!

Juxtaposing a soft foreign language classical and jazz act with Clark’s high-energy act seemed like a good idea; however, the audience didn’t think so. I alone am responsible for that—not Nick, nor Julie nor Blair Clark. The paying customers wanted two-hours of Clark, not a half hour of Julie followed by an hour of Clark. Blair saved the night, but still, they felt cheated. Because of that, an alarming number of people vented to me that, in their opinion, Julie’s guitar playing was not in tune, and the vocals were flat. I happen to have an excellent ear, and those negative comments were not accurate; however, frustrated audience members will say about anything to justify their ire; and so even if untrue, perception to them is reality. I cannot argue the point. One lady went so far as to say while Clark sparkled (as usual) that the opening act “sucked”. On a positive note, I did ten minutes of stand-up before the first show, which earned raves. Also, before the second show, Nick opined to the organizers—the CantaMia staff—that they could have done a better job. Some audience members thought he was being critical of them. Uh-oh… Bottom line: since I was the brains behind both of Blair Clark’s appearances at CantaMia, much of the fallout rubbed off on me. First time: GOOD! Second time: BAD! Oh well, that’s show biz. Additional fallout was that Julie wouldn’t acknowledge me for a month afterward, and Blair thought the idea of a trumpet with a classical guitar was ill-advised. As for the former, I stay out of Julie’s yoga classes to give her space; and as for the latter, I could not disagree more. Here’s why: Julie’s first number was a fusion of Spanish guitar songs that Nick introduced with a Granada fanfare, and punctuated with a Spanish flair at perfectly timing. In Spain, duets between those instruments are commonplace. The next two numbers were classical guitar only with Julie vocalizing—no trumpet. The last two jazzy, up-tempo versions of “La Vie En Rose”, and “Lullaby of Birdland” featured Nick playing the intro and noodling throughout the songs. Julie sang, and did NOT play guitar. Without the trumpet, the numbers would have been totally A Capella. I thought it had a 1950s Paris nightclub vibe.

After that “mixed bag” evening, I continued to recruit musicians from the Estrella area to come together, under Nick’s leadership, and rehearse to determine if there was a common bond and shared interest. Julie informed me that she was “out”. No surprise there. After about six weeks, 15 musicians and singers are starting to fuse into a cohesive group. Our goals are twofold: 1) have fun, and 2) be inclusive. Five of the members are from outside CantaMia in nearby neighborhoods with others showing interest, which in my opinion, is exactly the type of cross pollinating we need to find success. We plan to be ready to play gigs by late summer.

Meanwhile, Blair Clark continues to flourish as an entertainer and vocal coach; and he will return to CantaMia on an annual basis to the delight of everyone in the area. A better, more suitable, venue is planned. He has also been helping Julie professionally. I can’t imagine a better coach. With his help maybe the Phoenix will rise from the ashes twice.

How to Designing for the Meta-physical

Carlos Arnaiz’s approach to design involves a careful inspection of culture, art and science to accurately reflect the world we live in. IAnD explores his trajectory with the design of spiritual spaces like the 100 Walls and La Salle…

CAZA’s designs are people-centric and rooted in how people use spaces. When applied to the design of sacred spaces, this ideology successfully achieves spatial democracy. It creates architecture that draws people in through the mere act of acknowledging their individual relationship with spirituality.

In conversation with IAnD…

IAnD: As contemporary architects, how do you ensure that architectural interventions do not become desecration? What are the challenges that you have faced breaking away from the historic typology?

CA: In our experience, we have found that religious leaders are very interested in how architecture can represent the future of their congregation. All our projects have started as a conversation about, what architecture can do to open the church to more people, new ideas and how to build on this tradition to evolve it in new ways.

IAnD: The modern church has a varied demographic. How do you cater to such different population with requirements of different levels of engagement? How important is it to make a church feel democratic?

CA: We are interested in looking for architectural forms that speak to this idea of difference and multiplicity and public engagement. Today, it is quite common to talk about our cultures as diasporic, and the story of the saint to whom the 100 Walls Church is dedicated to, for example, is a microcosm of the immigrant experience. This idea of different cultures coming together, but preserving their own unique character is very important to us.

IAnD: How has practicing in Philippines been different from practicing around the world? How does this difference materialize in the churches you design?

CA: It is compelling to explore the mixture of sameness and difference in architecture in local cultures. We employ a convergence of international architectural practices, but local traditions are still important and are folded into our designs as a force for innovation. We also try to build local craft traditions and knowledge of certain materials / economies, etc. through our practice.

IAnD: From where do you draw inspiration to design these sacred spaces? What sets them apart from each other?

CA: While designing sacred spaces, both religious and secular, we try to make spaces with an inspirational value, something that raises the civic quality of our environment. Before starting any project, we try to work like archeologists and anthropologists, collecting artifacts that stand for this wide definition of context. We will look at an old structure from another religion, an art installation, anything that will give us a direction we’re interested in going. We’re agnostic, when it comes to borrowing.

Hi-5

A church should feel like… a place that takes us outside of ourselves.

The best way to explore religion is by/through… asking many questions.

An architect is not a god, but… connects the physical with the metaphysical.

Designing a church requires… some sense of our limits as mortals.

The most striking characteristic of Philippines is… its people.

This Ceramic with a twist

 Move aside, little teacups! The world of ceramics is going crazy with experimentation…

Be it the quaint porcelain snuff cases in museums or the bright glazed vase at the local fair, ceramics have been mankind’s secret creative boosters. With more sculptors and ceramic artists exploring this territory, here is a compilation of interesting ceramic items worth a buy.

Embossed is so passé. These ceramic babies are the ideal adornment on your front door, with a nice baked earthy twist! An ideal gift for a housewarming party.

If ceramic figurines look pretty on your mantelpiece, try using these ceramic hangings on the wall. With myriad number of abstract ceramic sculptures in the market, one can never go wrong with these!

Aren’t these cherubs cute? Jazz up the celebrations with these miniatures in the showcase and transform the living room into fairyland!

Or perhaps, is an intimate or mysterious ambience the look for the evening? A nice artefact for Halloween and Diwali alike, bask in the glow amidst fun and friends.

An ingenious creation, this luminaire provides light as well as ventilation through the holes for provision of a duct, if required. With a lovely pattern that will liven up the room, this is a must-have the next time you wish to go home shopping.

The clear-cut lines and smooth rotundity of the centrepiece creates a classy impression, with an air of simplicity and substance. The ceramic bird in the foliage to the left gives an expression of freedom trapped in time. Quite deep, yet pretty!

The time-tested usage of ceramic as crockery can never be forgotten! The earthy hues trapped under the glazed finish give the bowls an exquisite finish and will ensure praise at the next dinner gathering!

Simple doodles ensnaring the little joys of life have been wonderfully caricatured on to these ceramic plates. The piece de resistance for the ceramic enthusiast!

Ceramic has always been a solid artefact of documentation through the ages. Empires have been forged on little snuff cases in China. Here is a lovely little ceramic artefact, handmade with calligraphy engraved on it.

The perfect gifts for the newlywed couple, these figurines evoke the sacred and timeless bond of marriage and the memorable stops on the way.

And here is something to satisfy the pet peeve in you! Be it kitty and doggy bowls, playthings and homes for the feathered friends, there is plenty where that came from.