“Abstaining from masturbation is the only thing which will improve your writing. You have done everything else perfectly”, said the old man quietly.
I had spent a long time looking for a mentor. I mean mentor in the philosophical or literary sense. It is very easy to find a mentor in the social sense. Everyone who takes drugs and then stops taking drugs and realizes that a couple of things feel better because of the stopping becomes a mentor for those who currently take drugs. And then the mentor feelings even better again for helping the addict. But I had already stopped taking drugs so I didn’t need that. I wanted a mentor in the old sense, someone with a beard and sandals and dirt in some places in his body who knew old fashioned things like the difference between east and west, what big clouds mean, how to listen to the sound of water, how the transformation of the public sphere happened, locations of nudist colonies, good nudist colonies, not ones full of blind children, disabled people, cricket matches, no; one’s with women and long stretches of white sand and blue water. So it took a while for me to find this guy. I had started going to nudist colonies because I was sure that was where people who would otherwise be mentors would be. People who like talking like being naked. Talking and being naked are the same. They are both expressive in a tedious way. Talking repeats itself as the body repeats itself by remaining the same. Even though the body changes and skin dies and regrows if you touch someone’s skin it feels the same every time basically. Tedium of skin.
I couldn’t afford a car so I took the train out to the south coast. I lived in London so the south coast was convenient; £25 for a train and it only took about 2 hours. I took my clothes off, one item at a time. Between taking each item of clothing off my body I stood where I was and began to feel how I felt. I didn’t want to rush my own nakedness. Nakedness should be a gradual thing. If you have sex, don’t take of more than one piece of clothing at a time unless you want to have “angry sex” or “make-up sex”. For that kind of sex, you just want your clothes off. Or keep them on. It is hard to look angry when naked. For other kinds of sex, the removal of the clothes should be slow, because things which are slow are seductive, and sex is seductive. Sex seduces people by being slow. Everything else is fast. It takes three minutes to cook an egg. It is good when it takes an hour to fertilize an egg. Sometimes there is no egg; that means you are having sex for pleasure. That’s okay too. Do that. It’s okay to do that. I took my shoes of first; then jumper; then t-shirt, then my socks and trousers, and then I stood in my pants getting ready to remove my pants. Then I took them off, sort of suddenly in fact. And then I walked around looking for someone with grey hair and dirt to explain myself to me.
I didn’t want glasses. That was too much, I thought. Mentors should be sort of physically powerful. I mean they should be unified. Ying and yang. Body and soul. So I didn’t want someone with deficient eyes. But I figured nudists could usually see okay. Otherwise why would they be nudists. How would I know who would be a good mentor? I had a white t-shirt on, on which I had written on one side “talk to me” and on the other side “if you want to be my mentor”. I tried to walk down the beach in such a way that people could see both sides. I walked along the beach and back. So people would see a different sign both ways I walked. It would make sense regardless of which side came first. But I wanted them to see “if you want to be my mentor” before “talk to me” because otherwise they might talk to me without wanting to be my mentor, and I might end up having sex with them, which, I already knew, would inhibit my philosophical progress. It would be a waste of my philosophical energy. I would not be able to work out if: I had soul, or animals are humans (in disguise), if dogs can feel awful, if cats dance. If trees are all the same in a certain way, or if each tree is different from all other trees. Abstinence from sex leads to answers. Sex is not an answer because desire is a feeling, not a question.
I was half way down the white beach. The water was audible but I couldn’t work out how beautiful I thought it was. Damn this lack of having a mentor. Like a chasm in western masculine culture.
My friends are all exactly the same age as me. They tell me how it feels to fuck but not how it feels not to fuck because we get all self-conscious about not fucking anything and so they don’t admit to abstaining from masturbation even and talking about the heights of consciousness which you can reach. I could find Hindu friends but I hate all other cultures. I don’t even know how to recognize a Hindu. I could look for people who are not masturbating but that is not the sine qua non of being a Hindu, and a lot of people aren’t always masturbating. And some Hindus masturbate anyway. Maybe all Hindus masturbate.
So anyway, I had decided to come to the nudist beach. A man came up to me. He was naked. I think he looked about eighty. He had come to the nudist beach on his own. He said he would tell me about the world, if I wanted. I said that’s what I wanted. He said we had to fuck first. I said wouldn’t that mean we will talk less about the world because of being tired? He said that sex lead to clarity. Well damn. I will need to find a different mentor. I told him there was an emergency and I had to go. I said there was a death in the family. He said, what. He said, why didn’t you tell me before? I said, I didn’t know you existed. He said who died. I said everyone died except me. I said, so there is a lot for me to do so if you excuse me I will attend to business. I walked off. I saw him watch me go and masturbate, sitting huddled up to his knees, just on the high tide mark, covering himself in seaweed and those little flies which gather around the high water mark. For whatever reason. I heard him ejaculate. He was too loud, I think, to be a good teacher. I wanted a man to whisper secrets to me, secrets about great writing and insight into the nature of one’s nature, and also of nature, itself, in general, under his breath, without an erection. This last clause was important and another reason why a nudist beach was such an ideal location.
In a city, sometimes you don’t know who has an erection and who doesn’t. Especially at a restaurant. Their penis is under the table. Your penis is under the table. Either both of you have an erection, or neither of you have an erection. Or one has an erection, only one erection between the two. Next person I saw was a Hindu. Damn these Hindus I said to myself. Why are there Hindus here? Why are there Hindus where I am? I am not a Hindu, I said to myself. I hurried past the Hindus. I had an erection. I guess I love Hindus, in a way. I went even faster. With one hand I suppressed my erection, and with the other hand I tried to cover up the part on the back of my t-shirt which said “talk to me”. I realized I would need to take off my t-shirt for the serious nudist-come-mentors who inevitably spent their days here to take me seriously as a student of them and nudist and address therefore their philosophical questions to me. I would write the words on my body instead, and I don’t think ink implies an absence of nudity, even though the skin itself is not literally showing. By thinking these things, I’d managed to tame the erection and I was far beyond the Hindus. The sand was still white in this part of beach. I like white sand. I hate black sand. I don’t really like colours in fact. I love white people. I love old white people who tell me about the nature of things and myself and themselves. White people are great at talking. Perhaps I need to start the conversation with would-be mentors. Perhaps they are nervous about their existential role in the world. With all these “social mentors” helping people to not to take drugs fulfilling the quota of national quota of mentors. Not to worry.
I walked up to the first couple. An old man and an old woman. He must want to leave her, I thought. What can they do except use up their intellectual energy in fucking etc? I said, how does it feel to die? They looked me and asked me why I was talking to them. I said “how does it feel to die”. The man stood up angrily and pushed me a little and I said “how does it feel to die”. He pushed me on the floor. I thought he would ejaculate on me but he didn’t. Once I was on the floor he seemed happy and went back to his wife. To waste energy, I thought. To fail to answer the eternal questions. I brushed the sand of myself. I walked to the water and washed my penis in the cold salt water. I tried to forget what had just happened. I was disheartened, I admit. At least there is no black sand here. At least the Hindus are more than 200 metres down the other side of the beach. I lay down to get my confidence back. Perhaps I will return to the philosopher-mentor who said that sex could lead to clarity. I was not doused in options here, I realised. And I did not think I was in possession of clarity, which offered, albeit post-coital. But if he wanted sex, he would have a motive to lie about something so that he could have sex. That is why you can only trust people who don’t have sex, ever. Because they don’t want to have sex with you. So what else could they want except to help you reach a state of philosophically insular bliss.
My penis is clean. Yet these questions still perturb me. God said that Abraham should kill Isaac, Isaac being the son of Abraham, and Abraham was going to kill Isaac, but didn’t, and killed something else instead. But why did God tell Abraham that? What is God. I put my hand around my clean penis. Should Abraham have said that he wouldn’t do it because that would show that he really believed in God’s goodness because doing what God said meant that God was not omnibenevolent and so undermined Abraham’s faith in God. I turn my hand around the flanks of the penis. But perhaps God was omnibenevolent (is shaft a better word) and so wanted Abraham to be able to be sure of his own faith? Sort of going up and down the shaft but also moving side to side. I ejaculated into the cold water and lay back on the white sand, far from the high water mark, the Hindus, the black sand, far from all the distractions and women and darkness of the world, the questions, the persistence of time, and I slept for 20 hours. I woke up and went home on the train and had some good conversations with my friends about tennis. After talking to my friends about tennis I got on the bus home. I sat next to a man with a beard. “Abstaining from masturbation is the only thing which will improve your writing. You have done everything else perfectly”, said the old man quietly.
by Hugh Smith
title image: Nastasia Alberti
As winter gets well under way and the weather gets that bit colder, the time for free and cheerful late-night London art viewing rolls around again, courtesy of Time Out’s First Thursdays. However, with an array of more than 130 East London museums and galleries offering charge-exempt visual stimulation, one can become quite overwhelmed by the abundance of choice. In addition, the desire to stalk more than a few select streets in the cool night air lessens somewhat.
This month one site managed to provide thought-provoking art as well as being a port-in-the-storm from the autumnal climate. Down the road from the densely packed and buzzing Vyner Street, with its white walls and semi-complimentary booze (£1 donation recommended, free to those with little to no shame) sits one of the initiative’s more relaxed venues: The Gallery Cafe. Run by Bethnal Green institution ‘The St Margaret’s House Settlement’, this light and cosy vegetarian/vegan eatery provides an ideal environment in which to sit back and really contemplate the art on offer. This month it was provided by Rossen Daskalov.
Daskolov is a Bulgarian artist who has studied and worked in London since the early 90’s, and well established in the capital. Indeed, back in 2011 a sculptural bench created by him was permanently installed on Camberwell Green to mark World Mental Health Day. His show this month is called ANTILOVEWISE, featuring a collection of intaglio prints as well as an animation film through which he “attempts associations that seem to dislocate the generalized modes of relation in the sphere of politics and power”. Heavy stuff.
The dark and detailed prints depict often antagonistic scenes which are uncomfortable to the eye. Whilst viewing ‘Expulsion’ for instance, I was confronted with an erratic scene of various figures standing before a lone bookshelf. In the background naked figures line up to escape from an open window whilst in the foreground a suited ‘fat-cat’ type holds his hand up in protest to two more naked bodies, one of which is balancing a kind of long pole on his shoulder. At this point, a gentleman taps me on the shoulder in order to give me his interpretation of said pole. “It’s a fasces”, he declares, brandishing his glass of red wine precariously, “a type of old fashioned weapon. Sticks are bound together, finished off with an axe head. It’s a classic motif-the American Eagle is often depicted holding it in its claws. Symbolises power through unity”.
Daskalov, then, seems to subvert this meaning by highlighting the disparity between his subjects, a view that can be evidenced in the animation running on a loop. Here two more naked figures hold either side of the double-axed fasces (which derives from ‘fascism’) between their teeth as kneeling, they revolve quickly. A similar discrepancy is found in ‘Hollywoodoo’ where a soldier, a male film director and a number of bony, starved figures nestle uncomfortably beneath towering and bare, muscular, female legs. Here Daskalov especially seeks to open ‘the content of the human form, its harmony and discord, vulnerability and strength’. Elsewhere, the artist continues to make disparate associations moralistically, as in ‘Tesco’ where two helpless figures appear suffocated beneath the printed overlay of a ‘Tesco Fresh Bakery’ logo.
And there is much more to the collection, particularly noteworthy is an especially satirical piece called ‘Britain’s Got Taliban’ which is almost Hogarthian in its social commentary. Additionally, ‘Ipop’ is wonderfully surreal in its depiction of grotesque, bodily dislocation.
I hope the gallery will continue to exhibit such unique and intriguing collections of art work, and I would urge you to go and enjoy their next exhibition over a chickpea burger and bottle of red.
by Kate Knowles
I absolutely love clocking people on public transport taking a cheeky selfie. They try and act pretty nonchalant about it, and you think that maybe they are just checking their hair quickly, or at least sending a Snapchat. But no, that unmistakable pout, the quick ruffle of hair, and possibly a cheeky wink into the front-camera all shouts out one thing: S-E-L-F-I-E.
But a selfie is a great thing. In a world where cameras rove, paparazzi pap and CCTV sits in every nook and cranny, it’s an act of self-preservation. You are in full control of your image. Everything from the angle to lighting is down to you, styling and hair, even how much you trout the pout. It’s up to you how you want to look, even if it’s a bit ridiculous.
Is it vanity then? This act of glamming up to take a snap on your phone and instantly upload it to your Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, or Instagram? Or does it tap into something a bit deeper and sinister? It promotes a need to constantly validate our selves, to get a few likes and comments (doesn’t matter if they’re positive or negative, they confirm you’re alive). MySpace had it all in the PC4PC days (that’s picture comment for picture comment, for those born post-1996). There’s an incessant craving to update people, even people from primary school you didn’t speak to then and don’t speak to now.
And these selfies last for mere hours, minutes, seconds. They get churned into a larger picture of your life- a birthday here, a holiday there. They aren’t substantial; they don’t become part of a physically recorded history. They in fact get lost in the Internet, languishing down at the bottom of a Facebook ‘Mobile Album’.
But maybe that’s the appeal? There’s always a constant stream of acknowledgement. I’m still here. This is what I’m eating. It may seem banal, but really it’s a phenomenon; at once empowering and rather sad.
Selfie has been defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, in fact it’s their word of 2013:
(also selfy) noun (plural selfies)
- a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website: occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary
I particularly like that even the OED deems it unnecessary to post a “new picture of yourself everyday”. Setting the social media standards. There seems to be different rules too, between celebrity selfie and mere mortal selfie. You don’t need to see how Sarah down the road looks at 1am in the morning, but Rihanna is a different story.
In fact, it’s quite interesting that the celebrity selfie, where ostensibly the owner of the smartphone has the control of image, is still wrapped up in a complete lack of image control. It’s supposed to let us mere mortals see the A-list in a natural light. “We’re just like you,” the stars coo, and omg they’re not even waring makeup in some of these. They are so…real. Take Rihanna’s instagram for example, it’s groaning at the seams, here she is happy and another time sad, here’s a risqué sexy pose and here she is innocent and demure. But, Rihanna has apparently started co-ordinating photographers to take her selfies for her. This surely sullies what the selfie is for, an act of subtle rebellion against the media machine. Or perhaps these stars (notably female stars) are under pressure, to look just so even when relaxing naturally.
The world of male body building (and California governing) waded into the selfie debate, as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wladimir Klitschk posted selfies of themselves topless. But this is a nostalgic nod to the past, a little wink in the direction of manhood. They’re still bristling with muscle and testosterone. They are very much in on the joke. Unlike Rihanna, who knows there is no time for joking when her image is at stake…
According to Claire Craig, “the image making process can be incredibly affirming… [and] can promote confidence and enhance self-esteem”. Of course, Claire has probably never been on the end of a scurrilous Sun photomontage, but I get the point. When taking a selfie, you are the image-maker. The sense of achievement as you put that final Instagram filter down can be unparalleled, especially if you weren’t looking so great and now suddenly you wonder why you’re not on the books at Models 1. We look at our faces more than ever, constantly morphing our true selves with the help of Hudson, Valencia, and X-Pro II. And Rihanna should give it a go, loosen the reins so that we know that when (if) she pulls a silly face, well, goddammit she did it for herself.
by Jade French
Write, create, teacher said inbetween the desks, fingers between sheets, a loose cardigan, and a morning of non-introductions, and yet Her presence was felt. It was there. And so silence surrounded the unspoken voice of the poet. Joe and James’ black shoes walk into the back, and medical room confinement is still confining the mind, and in red jumper She stands, and begins to wander through the anthology of the UK’s English GCSE, Her face tilted down, with hands on hips, She breathes deep, each moment, poignant, and She thinks of the cold water as tongue wets lip and the mentions of John Agard are silently agreed upon, acknowledged. The final two join, but “did not the young lady go out?’, patient and inclusive, with both arms now at sides, Her eyes roll in silent confession – morning is not Her time. Morning is not for waiting, and yet She stood out and up in countryside school to see the thirteen to fourteen year old white children, with black bow in hair, and green blazers uncreased, and so she hangs on for one more moment, another minute, and so mumbles are permitted of boys with boys and girls with girls. And they all know She is waiting, and for once Her wait is being written, writing her from and into the corner. And so, from disorganised beginnings, the intro starts, and wisdom of life and poetry is welcomed with applause. She sets Her scene, the writing of a love poem.
You are my Jaffa Cake in the afternoon,
You are my evening nap on the sofa,
You are my bedroom wall full of penguins,
You are Nirvana rock in the morning,
You are my book curled up in my bed,
You are a sunny summer holiday in Spain,
I Love You
She transported them all into their memory, places simple, filled with penguin obsessions, filled with cookies, brand names, familiar and old faces, the teasing siblings, the friendly banter, yet She sat their with Her history, Her memory, cross legged at the heel, picking Her ear, remembering, trying to keep above water, getting through this air saturated in their silent creations, creations which touch a few. The breathing mother of Jamaica sits in the wheely classroom chair, behind the electronic board, and how can they know of the Simple Tings of Life? The simple touch of iPads before bed, of TV sets and iPods stuffing One Direction into their ears, will they ever know the real Simple Tings of Life? this new generation, this White British folk children dressed in uniforms of now. So she releases her dreadlocks and rubs her face down, pulling the skin into awakening – preparing, and asks “are you ready?” – for today the voice of those youth and what they hear and what they know are being spoken into the classroom, and this all must be a tragic love poem for in this month of black history, it is the white children’s simple tings of life we hear, and a black history is left unlearnt.
By Nataša Indiana Cordeaux
§§§ VISIT THE GALLERY HERE §§§
Not So Popular hold exhibitions. This is just in case you couldn’t make it down.
27th November 2013 @ Platform, Second Floor of Netil House, Hackney
Lost Property: A Pop Up Show
Collaborating with MA students from Central St. Martins we want to explore the transitory nature of the exhibition space.
Intersectional London in partnership with Tayo Akindeinde
@ Platform, Netil House
Photographers were asked to take 7 photographs over 7 days, depicting their everyday lives in the metropolis (London).
The exhibition explored cosmopolitanism, identity and belonging.
Angus & Soest @ Catch
Month long residency of Not So Popular artist Ellen Angus at Catch.
Review on AQNB
Review on Diane Pernet Website
Do you remember when you first met him?
Grey sky pardons over us, leave your boots
at the door and come to greet the other side.
Snow will fall here soon and we will be gone
This poem should be in Russian, кто ты? студент?*
Instead I come to you, hands wrapped around my feet.
At the year’s end, no scraps escape the flames
and our dreams of sharing fall light as ash.
The bowels of sister-earth digest these tickets.
Spirits of the house remain transfixed since
we have nothing to offer them. How then to
move onwards, my love, over this aromatic sheen?
*Who are you? Student?
By Sam O’Hana
Photograph by HsienLoong Lim
The Other Club
“Imagined 1913. Established 2013”
The Other Club was founded on an urge to celebrate “women that do”. Founders, Katie Glass (The Sunday Times) and Joy Di Loco (Evening Standard), wanted to provide a female centered space, focused on discussion and debate, but also serving as a testimony to the belief that more and more women are acting upon their ability to speak, write and do.
When I visited The Other Club to find out more preparations were taking place for one of their many events, and as I spoke to Katie (always slightly in the way of a furniture alteration), I began to wonder how the girls had managed to find time to speak to me; the club has hosted a multitude of successful, sell-out events, with talks from the likes of the Vagenda, Mary Beard, and even some Playboy Bunnies thrown into the mix.
The name, much like the initial idea for the club itself, comes from the desire to create something different, alternative, something other. Katie explained to me how the aim was originally to have these dinners for successful, professional women. Their idea grew, and The Other Club became a space in which a diverse selection of women could speculate upon what it was to act upon and embrace the opportunities women have today, the opportunities that they didn’t have a century ago. However, when discussing the history of female equality and rights, it becomes inevitable to explore the present, and what is to come. At the beginning of my meeting with Katie she picks up a flyer for a literary festival and points out the endless names and pictures of featured men. It was observations like these that encouraged her and Joy to place so much emphasis on the club being primarily a space for women. Men are welcome to the events, but they are encouraged to come with women.
One of the first things I wanted to ask Katie was how closely the club identified with Feminism. Jenny Diski of the LRB picked up on their use of the term on the website, where they described how they were “hacked off with feminism telling us what we can’t do”. Diski then commented on this on her blog:
Feminism has never told women what they can’t do. Some individuals have. To make feminisim the enemy is to denigrate the movement that has for a very long time done battle against real forces that have always sought to tell women what they can’t do.
When Katie and I discussed this she mentioned how she had never expected there to be a dispute over the remark. Yet, it seems as though the girls are apprehensive about their identification with the term. “We avoided it because it seems to mean so many different things to different people”, Katie tells me. Thus the club didn’t want to become restricted in those who it attracted, whether they were talking, leading events or attending as guests.
“This weird thing happened where we were like ‘lets start this club’, and 70,000 people have looked at our website in the last week, we realised that this is a place where we have to let others decides what it means”.
The Other Club places emphasis on its celebration of “professional women”, they have held dinners for women who have been successful in professions such as Law and Architecture. I could not help but query how this affects women without access to education and the means to become ‘professional’. I was not the first to challenge the girls on this: “We’re appealing to professional women because not enough people are. People have called us elitist, but that’s not the case. We charge a fiver to be a member, anyone can join. We wanted this to be inclusive. We’ve gone as cheap as we can go and still we only just manage to break even.”
It seems as though this emphasis on professional women didn’t come from elitism or exclusivity, but rather appraisal, “London is full of these amazing women doing these great things … Maybe we’ve come to this tipping point with feminism where we can celebrate that”.
Yet, any of us with an awareness of the state of gender norms and equality in 2013 know that there is a drive for feminists to do more than celebrate. Katie and Joy are no exception. With the eclectic mix of speakers and voices involved in The Other Club they have not only managed to incorporate such a diverse selection of voices, but encouraged women to compare and interrogate these voices.
“Women can interrogate things for themselves, one of the Playboy Bunnies has a PhD in Sociology, she’s studying something that she is taking part in … If a woman is a model she can interrogate what it means to be a model”. The Other Club was not born to attack the choices of individual women, more to force women to consider the choices they make. The diversity of the club encourages women to interrogate their position in society, regardless of whether they are professional or not, and this seems to be where the club has managed to justify their use of the term “other”.
As my discussion with katie drew to a close, I didn’t expect to turn around and see the club entirely different to how it was when I had walked in 40 minutes earlier. It seems as though Katie and Joy had a similar shock with the success of The Other Club:
“We can’t believe how many people are into this, its so exciting. It all started pretty lo-fi, just me and Joy, and our own money, really hoping that at the end of it we broke even”. Safe to say The Other Club is exceeding the girls’ initial expectations, just as the women of 1913 never expected the women of today to be celebrating so much.
Find out more about The Other Club at http://www.theotherclub.co.uk
Words by Rachel Rigby
The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable
Wednesday 4th September 2013
Entering the deserted old sorting office by Paddington station was just like entering a huge haunted house (I’ve always hated them…), to top it off the glamorously dressed actress in the lift chucked me out on the first floor to fend for myself. I was petrified. Although I hate to admit it, I am slightly scared of the dark…
So here I was wandering around darkened woods, old caravans, deserts, and religious shrines in the dimly lit warehouse with hundreds of other people all with beaked masks on. Nothing strange about that. All I had to do now was follow the plot line. Perhaps easier said than done…
Punchdrunk are famous for their immersive theatre, and this definitely ticked that box. Punchdrunk’s promenade style allowed the audience to wander around the four-storey building at their own ease, choosing what to watch and where to go so that each audience member has ‘their own individual experience’.
Personally, I think the reason Punchdrunk kept telling us to have our own experience is less about ‘experience’ and more down to the fact that you lose everyone the minute you get in there. For the whole two and a half hours I lost my family, convinced they had ditched me and gone to the pub. As it turns out, I was partially right… they had sat in the bar on the ground floor, having a nice drink with their masks off listening to the 1960’s band.
Despite the slight down side of temporary abandonment, I saw some spectacular pieces; the movement and energy of the actors was outstanding. Co-directed by Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle; each individual movement was choreographed down to a T by Doyle. One piece which stood out was set in the dressing rooms between a woman and two men, the fluidity of movement and the strength that the actors possess was very impressive to watch.
Set in Temple Studios, amidst a 1960s Hollywood backdrop there are scenes of glamour and fame; Dolores in her sequined red dress sitting at her dressing table with countless mirrors surrounding her. The pine trees were home to some beautiful pieces of movement from some of the female actresses, whilst the top floor was created into a desert surrounded in sand, where I saw a well-choreographed fight scene. Based on the German Woyzeck by Georg Büchner, it is reflected in The Drowned Man, highlighting the dehumanising effects of Hollywood fame with recurring themes of betrayal and human jealousy. I saw these themes in individual scenes, for instance in the Wild West bar after an energetic dance sequence Mary is seen having sex up against the window by her partner William, to which lighting and music changed dramatically and a fight scene followed. But despite noticing these in individual scenes I failed at realising how they all linked together.
The finale sequence was impressive with the audience all gathering in ‘the woods’ for a dramatic ending. However, I was left wondering where these hundreds of people had been hiding since for the most part of the evening I found myself wandering alone through the darkness and feeling my way around corners. Where was everyone else? And more importantly what did I miss?
I’ve always been told that good theatre must involve sex and violence and The Drowned Man certainly included both; I must add both were extremely well done. There were definitely positives, as my first piece of immersive theatre it was certainly unforgettable but I felt it was just too unstructured. Perhaps we should have followed one particular actor’s journey throughout until they completed their loop, or perhaps we should have worked our way through each floor methodically. But, I thought it would all fall into place. However, unfortunately for me it didn’t.
For those wanting a theatre trip unlike any other, Punchdrunk provide a completely new experience that I’m sure many would gush over. The Drowned Man is showing till the end of December. Tickets available at:
Review by Ella Watkins
Image from punchdrunk.com
In the physical realm of lines and muscle, he lurks, wishing each moment for the roundness to reveal, but behind glasses, with hairy legs and chipped nails she refuses to photoshop in the dance of human flesh via internet via phone. Instead, she absentmindedly pinches the thick skin of her vagina through her purposefully chosen ‘relaxed’ pants, scratching her head, the hair a day late on the wash, and the radio babbles on about fast food strikers – the McJob and its fertility in today’s world – now it grows, now its worse, now we are all part of the minijob, the minisoul. And then he receives, refutes, three times, that he declares no war of sexual visions, it’s all a ‘bit silly’ – of course he is not about that; perhaps the words in which she touches into existence are her naked pictures, the world exposed through inner thoughts, beneath an exterior, an honesty hidden and submerged in truth. And then he digs his hole, he hasn’t done it in ages, it wasn’t about that – She never started a war, she never said a word, she just stated her position on the board of the game which they are not playing. Stop being so defensive you naked man. And then she winds the clock, rewinding his arrogance into inflammation, over-exaggeration, though not without foundations.
Words: Nataša Indiana Cordeaux
Photograph: Nastasia Alberti
Miley Cyrus’s infamous VMA performance has been described as racist, hyper-sexualised and inappropriate for a young audience.
But none of that seems to bother Miley – she’s a doin’ not a thinkin’ kinda girl; her one goal was to make a statement, so in her mind she has won.
Because that’s all the performance really was. Yes, her dancing (and outfit) was heavily sexualised, with all the attention being directed at Miley’s mouth, crotch and ass, but nothing about the performance was sexy per say. You could argue that Miley looked sexier, in tune with current expectations of beauty, in her 2009 video ‘Party in the USA’ (if it didn’t bother you that she was 16 at the time) with her long dark hair, cheeky smile and cowboy boots. At the VMAs she looked slightly unhinged, her excessive tongue-wagging being likened to a giraffe’s feeding off eucalyptus trees, and her shaved punk hair roughly tied into two purely practical clumps. So when she started gyrating about with a foam finger between her legs, it wasn’t sexy – it was disturbing.
Miley was out to make history, or at the least to shed her good-girl Disney image once and for all (as if any of us needed reminding). She has accused the media of being afraid to let her grow up, of trying to saddle her with the Disney-image for life, something she says has never been her.
“I never pretended I was as good as the Disney Channel writes,” she said. “During Hannah Montana I think people knew I was acting. I’ve never been able to hide anything.”
In a way, Miley’s right – we are over-thinking the VMAs, after all wasn’t it simply a cry for attention.
Teens have been acting up for attention for years: smoking, drinking, getting in trouble at school just so people will notice them and their parents will engage with them. That is what this is: except in this case the parents are the media and instead of stealing some cigarettes out of her mom’s purse, Miley can blow tens of thousands of dollars on a music video showing her doing what the hell she likes.
But here’s the thing Miley: as much as you’d like to think it is, being famous isn’t just about doing what you like. When you agreed to become a Disney girl you became an obsession to young girls everywhere – the small town gal who is a secret superstar, what twelve year old wouldn’t dream of that life? Just because you’ve decided to bitch-slap Hannah Montana into next week, it doesn’t mean those legions of fans are just going to disappear.
You were Miley in the show and if those girls loved you then they are going to continue to follow you now and learn from what you do. You’re safe up there on the stage, watched from every angle by millions of people, cameras and security. If girls dressed and acted like you did in their local club however, they could be in for some serious trouble.
You chose to become a teen idol and that means you have some responsibility for your demographic. Maybe J. K. Rowling wanted to round off Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with Ron and Hermione getting down and dirty in the woods (technically fine – they’re seventeen and in love, nothing creepy or illegal there) but she didn’t.
The fans she had when the Philosopher’s Stone was published have grown and matured with the characters and would see nothing wrong with their sexual maturity; but the series continually attracts new tender-aged fans who aren’t maturing with Harry and the gang. Harry Potter is a children’s novel series and therefore has to keep in tune with that.
But that’s not what bothers me most about this whole Miley thing: as I’ve said teenage rebellion is hardly a revolutionary path and it’s foolish to think Miley was going to sing happy songs about school and shoes of every colour forever. It’s Miley’s obsession with remembrance that stands out in all this. She’s happily admitted that she didn’t think twice about the content of the performance, and that her and Robin Thicke were just ‘out to make history’ with oversized teddy bears and gyration.
We all want to make our mark on this earth, to be known and remembered after we’re gone. But I assumed it was equally important to be remembered for something good, something worthwhile that people will admire for years to come.
So if you’re so pissed at the world Miley, if you so want to be honoured and remembered, why not take part in a rally for climate change or help feed the homeless or give all of your song proceeds to charity. Prancing about in your underwear making everyone squirm in their seats might get you noticed, it might even break various mindless internet records – but in a year, let alone ten years, no one will give a shit.
By Hetti Lawrence
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
In the last few months, social media has exploded with a variety of boycotts aimed at the passing of anti-gay legislation in Russia. The idea being that the West can grind the Duma and Putin into submission, creating a brighter day for LGBT individuals within Russia. But the concept of any boycott is usually met at best with cynical eyes and at worst disapproving glares; it has been no different this time.
There have been two notable boycotts in response to the legislation. One, advocated by Dan Savage, is that we all stop drinking vodka produced in Russia. On the one hand, it seems like a very good plan. For example, Vodka is so intertwined in Russian culture that it’s often drawn in Pictionary when describing Moscow! So the act of drinking another drink or even the same but from a different country theoretically could send a large message.
Then again, it probably won’t. If you were a large Stoli drinker and all of a sudden started knocking back Smirnoff, it would probably promote a discussion with your friends. And so they can tell more people, encouraging education on the issue. But it’s unlikely that it’s going to get much more attention beyond that and even if it does – it hardly hurts those that can influence change in Russia.
The second one which got a lot more air time in the British press than the one previously mentioned was a proposed boycott of the Winter Olympics in 2014. Stephen Fry was the famous face heading this campaign, arguing in a passionate open letter to Cameron that one could draw parallels to the Olympic games held in the shadow of a rising Hitler in 1936.
This seemed to gather more momentum than Savage’s but it too blew over quickly especially once both Cameron and Obama disclosed that they were against the proposal. Ironically, Savage, agreed with the two politicians saying it would be more effective to have winning LGBT and allies at the Games rather than them staying at home.
That argument against the boycott is the one that I got behind quite quickly. If we look at the 1968 Olympics, the fight for African Americans to have equal rights was definitely helped by the active participation of John Carlos and Tommie Smith. Then again I can’t help feel that this is really only an excuse for why this boycott was untenable.
To me, it seems the sad truth is that in this day and age of a global economy, it would be impossible for any country to boycott the Olympics because it would send too strong a political message. It would cross the line from a passive disapproval to active meddling. Obama and Cameron need to work with Putin on issues such as oil and relations with Asian countries. They just can’t afford to become too vocal against her.
It becomes clear then that both these potential boycotts have big problems. At one end of the scale you have the boycotting of vodka that does nothing except perhaps make ones own conscience slightly better. At the other end, the boycott rested on action being taken by politicians who would have to make an overtly aggressive stance on a domestic issue which goes against all political protocol. There is another possible boycott. We could boycott Russian oil.
It reminds me of a moment in Blair’s tenure when he was at a London school and a student asked him why it was he condoned Britain having nuclear weapons as a precaution but warned against teenagers carrying knifes. My fourteen year old self screamed at the hypocrisy but now I do see his point somewhat. It is different.
Politicians cannot come out and blast domestic policy of a foreign country unless their people push significantly for it In that sense,Stephen Fry and other leading activists take on the role of the schoolboy; failing to accept the double standards whilst not understanding that their leaders are powerless to do anything else.
Our politicians have no choice but to work with Putin. Not only does he control a massive amount of oil but he’s also often a kingmaker in policy concerning the middle east. They can’t afford to stop working with him unless their people demand that they do so.
A ban on vodka isn’t going to do it. Throwing it into their own court wont do it. But the oil, That might just do it.
It is an issue for individual people that can travel up to politicians and necessitate a response. It would be more provocative than drinking a different type of beer. It would target the Russian politicians directly rather than private businesses that happen to be Russian. And of course it would be harder than the former because it would involve a real sacrifice to be taken.
Looking at when real change has been made, it rarely comes without some sort of sacrifice. The boycott of the Montgomery buses is heralded today but we often forget how difficult it must have been for those men, women and children to go over a year without using the bus. But we do know it was for a issue worth fighting for – equality. We all have the power to affect change but only if we are ready to accept it will be a long and not so easy struggle.
By Darren Hardie
I had my first Activia Breakfast Pot on a train to Guildford yesterday, stirring my adult Crunch Corner on the tracks somewhere just past Woking I’ve never felt so grown up. The trees blurring into reams of green and brown as I entertained my first spoonful of vanilla speckled creamy substance, I started to feel nostalgic and it got me thinking about the first time I had done other things. The first time I stole a Curly Wurly from the ironically named ‘Professor’s’ corner shop; the first time I smoked a joint; fingered a girl; the first time I realised I could go out and buy bacon and just cook it and eat it if I wanted to; the first time I discovered Vice magazine. And then I got angry.
It was a Spring day and having just made a killing at my paper job I decided to treat myself to my first flat peak. I was about fifteen and a little high and the gangly Asian bloke who was to be my sales assistant spoke with such gleeful exuberance that I couldn’t help but be drawn into purchasing the very hat he suggested – a white King cap embossed with multicoloured crowns. His patronage and charm, coupled with my general social unease led me to but a hat that was too small for me, but I figured that was fine because I was cool now anyway. At the counter, as if he was doing me a massive solid for spending twenty-five quid on his stupid head accessory, my man winked and said, “here, I tell you what, I’ll throw this in free yeah?” The question-like nature of the statement threw me and I was confused as he pushed a massive magazine into the bag titled Vice. He called me bro as I left and I felt like I’d made it to the big time, then I went and ate a chicken burger from Roosters and sat on a stoop.
Later that day, after I’d decided to keep the golden head-size sticker on my new hat, I flicked through the magazine. My late-pubescent boy-mind went haywire. What was this mystical creature that offered me tits and guns and pictures of people in basements in New York looking like they were having a mildly good time? I flicked through the pages ravenous for more, falling in love, in a weird way, with a lady who was holding a shotgun whilst she breastfed her child. The world seemed so expansive and strange and if art was tits and guns, then I now liked art. I’d been enchanted by its pages of destitution, photographs of hope and of people who were just living life, (plus the section of Japanese schoolgirls photographed doing sexy stuff).
When I discovered their website, with its wide range of documentaries concerning the spectrum of fringe life, covering political struggle, artistic desperation and self destruction, as well as the nuanced portraits of some of life’s strange and fantastic human beings, I thought I’d found something that I could really subscribe to. It seemed as if Vice was a doorway into a world that was otherwise hidden by that stupid bastard mainstream media – and best of all it was free.
Then, over the years, as Vice has sought to expand its audience and churn out content that has a wider appeal, I have grown to loathe this machine.
At this point I should probably tell you this isn’t a ‘Ten Reasons…’ list at all. I lied to you in order to get your internet-addled, attentionless brain invested in what I’m writing. I’ve also pasted pictures in order to make you forget how much you’re reading because reading long things is totes rubbish, and I know you’d rather be trawling through fifty pages of Ratchet Mess, so here’s one I nabbed from their Tumblr to keep you on board:
Though they still do turn out the odd documentary of some real value and insight, you need only look at their recent videos on YouTube to see that something is not quite right. Sandwiched between the front line documentaries in Syria and Egypt, we have a four part series on cats from the internet. That’s right, the media outlet that brought you stunning documentaries such as the truly unnerving ‘Interview With A Cannibal’ and the tenderly beautiful ‘Suicide Forest in Japan’, is now sapping dat sweet YouTube Partner money from you with a vapid, unnecessarily split, four part series about super stars such as Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat. Though this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the trash that is now flooding the site in glacial melt.
The current climate of the magazine, and its readership, reads like a teenager’s angst ridden foray into drugs and being cool and shit. Take the ongoing series of the edgiest journos around taking LSD and going to public events for instance. It sounds funny, and when you see a link that says; ‘Danny Dyer Interviewed on Acid’, you think you’re in for a treat. What you get instead is a girl that looks like her parent’s worst nightmare in fingerless gloves and ripped tights making Danny look like he’s got it together.
Then you have the monotoned, punchable drug-freak, Hamilton Morris, who endeavours to try drugs in places, whilst talking about how many drugs he takes as his intolerable drawl makes you begin to hate the fact that humans invented language at all. Separately Vice also produce documentaries concerning the damning effects of drugs upon people globally, such as Krokodil in Russia and Scopolamine in Colombia. This is a hypocrisy that runs deep in the magazine, and exposes the weak underbelly of what this magazine is trying to do. On the one hand drugs are sweet, funny, wild, zany people do them, (and don’t you just want to be one of them?) – on the other drugs are bad and are made by bad people in bad places who do bad things.
Whilst it may then be argued that Vice is just a platform for opinions, and the expression of an individual’s personal journey into whatever world it is they choose to explore, there is a serious undercurrent of snide cynicism that permeates a lot of their work, which undermines this fact.
Take anything written by Clive Martin, for example, which a commenter below managed to astutely sum up:
And this isn’t just a one off example of the kinds of responses this guy gets for his columns. The self styled nu-age gonzo journalist, whose twitter handle @ThugClive is as witty an ironic twist of Tupac’s infamous Thug Life motto can get, basically goes to do things he doesn’t want to do so that he can write long-winded, unending-sentenced, diatribes filled with pop culture references about how he didn’t like the thing he went to go and do. He’s a dick and epitomises a lot of what is now wrong with the magazine. Where once it was a observation, a glimpse into another world, we are now forced to understand this world through the eyes of a smarmy middle class kid with a penchant for MDMA and East London.
Though this guy’s not entirely to blame, it’s the editor that should be taking a stand to this insipid journalese, and preventing this crap ever being published in the first place. As you can see from the articles produced at the moment, as well as the staff writers employed to create them, the ethos has changed, with a deadening insistence upon hip, smarter-than-you commentators taking the piss out of whatever subculture, celebrity, or person in the news that they can.
Bertie Brands, the girl who calls out pretty girl bullshit, jumped on the Robin Thicke bandwagon recently, and when she discovered that a lot of people disagreed with her, decided to write an article on the people that disagreed with her. Being snide and smarmy, she dismissed anyone else’s opinion as invalid if it did not coincide with hers. Again, the blame can’t be placed on Ms. Brands, and instead we have to look higher up the food chain to find a reason why this petty girl’s bullshit is allowed to be published at all.
Having recently sold 5% of their shares to that bastard Rupert Murdoch, the media and publishing group has finally, openly and financially, crossed over from its roots as an independent underground magazine into the big wide world of media moguls. What we are seeing now can only be the beginning in terms of what Vice will produce.
The clear fact is that there is a sea of discontent within Vice’s readership. Every article has comments alluding to how their content is getting worse day by day, with many commentators feeling betrayed by the very nature of this decline. As an article on Not So Popular touched on recently, with the media and publishing industry facing the seemingly unassailable feat of conquering the internet, and with journalists that don’t write behind pay-walls being forced to churn out a shit tonne of copy in order to compete with one another, the progression of pointless, sloppy opinionated journalism isn’t going to stop any time soon. Much like this article, work will be peppered with pictures to get viewers in, or pithy arguments to insight a reaction from the reader. Whilst the Clives and Berties are allowed to write their nonsense, it will be written. Who are they to turn up their noses to getting paid to be arseholes for a bunch of other arseholes?
What is truly infuriating is the fact that Vice prides itself on being informative and interesting, calling itself in its own meta title ‘The definitive guide to enlightening information’, all the while peddling piddley anarcho-articles steeped in wittier-than-thou cynicism, emulating the exact bullshit industry that it seems to think it’s better than. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older and instead of making zoomies out of coke bottles, or dabbling in Class A’s, I prefer to eat healthy yoghurts and have a day out in Guildford. Either way, all I know is that the mutiny of readers who have had enough of this nonsense is rising, and they’re baying for the blood of Vice’s staff writers. Unless the editorial staff take notice, it might be too late for them to rekindle the spark they once had.