Gallery

“Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life” at the International Center of Photography

Last Thursday, as part of my new internship at ARTnews, I visited the International Center of Photography to take a look at its current exhibition, “Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life.” Curated by Nigerian-born … Continue reading

Jens Lekman @Terminal 5

Love, romance and Kirsten Dunst: Jens Lekman plays Terminal 5.

German vegetarian food in Berlin. Dandruff on a girl’s shoulder. Swastikas drawn in Kirsten Dunst’s cappuccinos. What do these three things have in common? Nothing, really, except for a 31-year-old Swedish songster who keeps falling in and out of love and wants only to find his right kind of romance.

Jens Lekman took the stage at Terminal 5 on Monday, Oct. 8, following the ethereal and soothing sounds of opener Taken By Trees, comprised of fellow Swedish singer-songwriter Victoria Bergsman and her band. Emerging quietly from the shadows as his keyboardist tapped out the opening notes of “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name,” Lekman gazed at the packed room from under the rim of his baseball cap and beamed widely as the crowd exploded with deafening cheers of pure bliss.

And that’s exactly what a Jens Lekman show is: an explosion of joy and a night of permanent smiling. The king of concert banter, Lekman rattled off reels of farcical — but true — anecdotes that inspired each song. One could not help but grin as he told his stories, ranging from conspiring to marry a friend to attain Australian citizenship to stalking Kirsten Dunst as she visited his hometown of Gothenburg to pretending to be his lesbian friend’s boyfriend as her father grilled him intensely.

Lekman sang of those who have had their hearts broken (“The End of the World is Bigger Than Love”) and of those who break hearts (“Some Dandruff on Your Shoulder”). But sung with his boyish charm and darling humor and accompanied by joyous instrumentation ranging from swelling baroque sounds to jazzy numbers to ABBA-esque disco jams, these overworked themes shed their typical sadness. As we’re bouncing and singing along to Lekman’s jovial tunes, we’re reminded of the absurdity of relationships, of the option to take something painful and turn it into a droll tale to share with others. Lekman transforms his crowd into a swarm of hopeless romantics, beckoning us to experience his rocky love life with him, but it’s still a journey brimming with energetic handclaps, snapping and galloping piano keys that can force even the most jaded New Yorker to groove a little.

And there’s never a dull moment with Lekman: whether he’s playing air xylophone at the end of “The Opposite of Hallelujah” — which could easily belong on a Belle and Sebastian album — or posing pensively for photographers or throwing an adorably pathetic pocketful of confetti at his audience, he catches our attention and runs with it.

Clearly a crowd-pleaser, this raconteur mostly played songs off of his latest album, “I Know What Love Isn’t,” but still incorporated old, fan favorites such as “Waiting for Kirsten” and “Sipping On the Sweet Nectar.” He commenced his three-song encore with everyone’s beloved, “A Postcard to Nina,” rousing an energetic sing-along.

As Lekman closed his show with solo performances, he offered to sing specific requests to anyone who found him in the crowd and said he would be in the city for a couple more days, if anyone would like to email him to hang out. With all his charm and graciousness, it’s no doubt he’ll be facing a full inbox. And with any luck, this self-labeled “potato chip factory boy” will be weaving new tracks about these adventures. One can only hope that he’ll return to New York City for another lively jamboree.

Adventures in New York: A Lazy Photo Post

WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO LATELY:

  1. Seeing Yeasayer live at Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield:
    You can find the somewhat mediocre review I wrote for NYU’s Washington Square News here. More photos can be found here.
  2. Gaining calories at Smorgasburg, the weekly food market in Williamsburg (warning: some food porn follows):
  3. Playing with my newest love — my fisheye lens:
  4. Spending time with some of my favorite people — making meals, going on walks, getting late night ice-cream, running amok on rooftops, roaming Brooklyn, chatting in coffee shops, listening and grooving to music, etc…

Climbing Cloud City at the Met

Two afternoons ago, Alex and I went to the Met to see Tomás Saraceno’s sculpture, Cloud City, located on the roof of the museum. If you find yourself in New York City from now until November 4th, I highly recommend paying this sculpture a visit (of course, don’t forget to look at all the other masterpieces in the Met while you’re there). Visitors are allowed to climb up and into the sculpture – where you unfortunately can’t take photographs – but only if they have timed tickets (they’re free!), so be sure to allot yourself enough time to receive a ticket and wait for your assigned time to explore Saraceno’s incredible work of art.

Once you’re in there, you might feel slightly disoriented; it’s difficult at times to tell if you’re about to walk into an actual space or a mirror or a plastic pane. All confusion aside, it’s an extremely beautiful and fun, interactive work of art. It explores the ways in which we experience space and nature and our environment; although we’re inside these large nodules, we’re still very much exposed to the outside world as well. We’re also surrounded by not just one, but many different views of our surroundings, through the particular placement of the mirrors, which additionally creates a cool, juxtaposing effect that frames the natural setting of the trees and the city within the sturdy, industrial metal frames like some kind of grandiose painting or photograph. So when I was walking through the sculpture, at times it was almost similar to walking through an art gallery, where the surrounding walls were large frames displaying my environment, and in that sense, emphasizing space and scenery as art forms in themselves.

Afropunk Fest

Phew. All moved in to the dorm. This has been one hectic, busy week. But on Sunday night, right after unpacking all my belongings, I went to the second day of the free, 8th annual Afropunk Fest at Commodore Barry Park with some friends. This year’s lineup included artists such as Erykah Badu, Gym Class Heroes, Janelle Monae, Das Racist, Toro Y Moi and TV on the Radio.

We arrived just as Toro Y Moi took the stage, but the line to enter the park was insanely long. So after roaming around and checking out all the various food trucks, we sneakily snuck our way into the middle of the line (you gotta do what you gotta do). We waited for a LONG time; I could barely see Toro Y Moi but I could still hear him and was extremely pleased that he performed “Low Shoulder.”

Then I received a phone call from another friend saying that another entrance was now open and that he had managed to enter the park immediately after arriving. So in we went, just as TV on the Radio started its set.

TV on the Radio was fantastic, and the crowd was wonderful; people were dancing, singing along, clapping their hands. I was a tad tired from having woken up early that morning and spending most of the day unpacking, but I still managed to dance around a bit. And I had forgotten to charge my camera so these are the only decent photos that I have, le sigh.

On Donald Judd

Untitled, Brass and colored fluorescent Plexiglas on steel brackets, 1969. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. 6 1/8″ x 2′ x 2′ 3″

One of my favorite museums is the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, located right here in Washington, D.C. It houses a piece by Donald Judd, an artist I adore, who created many sculptures similar to the one in the Hirshhorn.

Labelled by many as a Minimalist sculptor, Judd was a New York City-based artist (he actually studied at Columbia after transferring from William & Mary) who focused on simplicity and precision. He wasn’t at all interested in abstruseness; as you can see, this piece is plainly comprised of ten geometric boxes made of Plexiglas and brass. There’s no other material…no paint, no wires, nothing else but these unadorned boxes. Untitled isn’t supposed to carry some kind of metaphorical nor symbolic meaning; it simply just announces, “This is me! I am an object!” It’s straightforward.

I don’t, however, find it basic. As artists such as Duchamp have taught us, art doesn’t have to tell a story or have some kind of moral to be considered art. It isn’t a betrayal of art to simply intend to exist as is, without any element of surprise.

I find Judd’s geometric sculptures beautiful because of their use of space. Three dimensionality is severely stressed – almost aggressively because of the work’s rigidness. Space is very real. There are no illusions: it is sculpture, not a painting, and its purpose is to play with space. The lines are clean and hard, which is especially emphasized by the use of industrial material, and clearly divides the space into segments. The use of Plexiglas also enables the viewer to see inside each box, creating additional, new space inside the boxes.

The entire sculptural area is also used to highlight the colors and materials. In fact, the gaps between the boxes become part of the sculpture itself: the red Plexiglas surfaces reflect off one another, casting light and shadow onto the walls, and from certain angles creating a column of color. I also see this column as extending continuously throughout the length of the sculpture, so it’s as if an uninterrupted pillar of red exists, despite the presence of boxes. Space is broken up by the boxes, but it’s also one continuous space of light and shadow. Paradoxical!

In sum, Untitled plays with space, and it interacts with itself. In that sense, it’s sort of producing some kind of frozen movement, rigid as it is while creating verticality and tossing light and color in the air.

Klimt’s “The Kiss”

While shopping at World Market yesterday with my mom, I stumbled upon a card featuring Gustav Klimt’s painting, The Kiss.

Oil and gold leaf on canvas, 1907–1908. Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 180 cm × 180 cm

I absolutely adore this Viennese painting for its ability to convey sensuality in such subtle ways, and aesthetically, because of it’s gorgeous colors and rendering of emotion. Klimt painted it during the fin-de-siècle (end of the century, for you non-French speakers), in which the growing middle class worked to mimic the luxuries enjoyed by the aristocracy. Thus was born a culture of self-indulgence, engrossed in sexual desire, corruption and the want for power. Everyone basically had a pretty forced attitude to make sure they enjoyed life.

The Kiss captures the spirit of this decadence with its use of glimmering colors and of course, the layers of gold leaf. The couple’s embrace depicts the sensuality of the period; however, only small glimpses of their bodies are visible. The rest is engulfed by the opulent patterns and shapes – to me, it is almost as if their love has grown out of this ornateness, implying its artificiality, perhaps, emphasizing the materialism and superficiality of the period. Or perhaps their very human emotions are tragically vastly overshadowed by these material objects. There’s also something rather religious about the circle of flowers around her head. It is probably not intentional, but they remind of me Byzantine-style halos…suggesting some kind of perversion of religion, maybe?

I still find it utterly romantic, though. He leans over to kiss her, holding her like a dream. Her face is completely serene: eyes shut, lips slightly pursed, her cheeks blushing ever so subtly. He holds her tight, cradling her head; she pulls on his neck with one hand, almost as if she needs him for support (I love those bent fingers!!), and with the other, takes in his hand as if stroking it. And I love the contrast between the softness and transparency of the figures’ skin and the hardness and opaqueness of the extravagant patterning. And the extreme detailing of the patterned bits, versus the plainness of the people. Yet somehow, their emotion certainly captures my attention first before I begin to examine the rest of the painting. Overall, it is a visual reflection of the lavishness of the end of the 19th century.

I’m also a fan of Klimt’s little orange signature floating in the bottom right hand corner.

Visiting Mutts and Mittens

Two days ago, my friends brought me to Mutts and Mittens, an animal shelter in Pasir Ris Farmway, because I’ve been incredibly bored and needed some thrill in my life. So I spent that afternoon being mauled and nibbled by overly excited puppies as well as rubbed against by attention-seeking cats. Below are some photographs I took; one of the cats (3rd row, 5th column) looks like he has a handlebar mustache!

If anyone reading this lives in Singapore and has the means to care for a pet, I encourage you to drop by Mutts and Mittens and adopt one (or two, or three) of these lovely animals. Or at least stop by and give ’em some attention and love.

Shopping in Haji Lane

Greetings from Singapore! I’ve been on the island for almost a week now and will be here until the 18th. It’s extremely warm and humid. I miss New York, but I’ll be back before I know it.

Today, I headed over to Haji Lane, which is my all-time favorite place to shop in Singapore. I consider it a little hipster alleyway, tucked neatly aside from the main streets. Here you will find a cluster of cute, independent boutiques filled with both international and local clothing, accessories, home goods and more. It’s also speckled with Middle Eastern cafes and hookah bars. Many buildings are covered in street art, so simply walking down the street is an experience in itself. I love that everything is so colorful; the vividness of the walls just creates such a wonderful vibe. It’s also a relatively short street, with stores flanking either side, but it still took me close to 4 hours to make it down and back (I entered almost every store).

From a street off of Haji Lane. These shutters are so fucking awesome. WANT.

I especially love shopping here because each boutique has its own personality; most of the store owners do a great job of creating fun, interesting and often cozy rooms in these old buildings. Most importantly, the merchandise is unique and just plain fun to look at, and everyone is sure to find something to suit his or her fancy.

Fixie store!

I left after a successful albeit utterly exhausting solo shopping spree with: 1. a surprisingly amazing, slinky black dress that just looks like a piece of fabric on the hanger (hence no photo), 2. a studded collar shirt (“so edgy!” my mom exclaimed) because I am currently OBSESSED with studs, and 3. a sunny floral shirt. It was a very good day. Looking forward to my next visit.

Meet Gatsby

This is Gatsby. We rescued him from the animal shelter a couple of years ago.

He is very curious.

He likes to play ball.

Most of all, he likes snack time.He also yawns like a velociraptor.

This is a year-old cyanotype of him.

An Unexpected Bill Murray Look-Alike

Doesn’t the dude on the Philippine 20 pesos bill look like Bill Murray?

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FILIPINO BILL BILL MURRAY. His name is Manuel Quezon.

Maybe I’ve been watching too many Wes Anderson films.

On My Time at Gothamist

Today was my last day as a summer intern at Gothamist. Overall, the experience was wonderful. I worked in an airy office in DUMBO, Brooklyn alongside Gothamist’s small and friendly staff and spent a lot of time copy editing posts, reading Twitter and Google Reader and scanning YouTube and Reddit for crazy or strange stories. Even though I stumbled upon hundreds of fascinating and often hilarious articles, photos and videos, sometimes the task became a tad tedious; however, I was also sent to embark on many adventures around the city. From roaming SoHo to photograph and ask people whether men should wear flip-flops in NYC (this sparks some serious debate…) to chasing businessmen and women to get their opinion on square-toed shoes (a topic not as heated as the great flip-flop shebang) to staking out the Chipotle in Brooklyn to investigate the discount police officers supposedly receive, I not only had tons of fun but also garnered some solid journalism skills and put my photography experience to good use.

The greatest reward of the internship, though, was the fact that I wrote a couple of posts for the blog. Which is awesome, because Gothamist has a huge readership and it’s nice that interns are given the opportunity to have our voices heard. So I emerge from the internship with my name appearing on numerous pages of a major news blog, but what I’m most proud of are my two photo-heavy clips on the OWS Guitarmy March and a survey of Bedford Cheese Shop’s new Manhattan location.

Again, overall, it was a wonderful experience. I met some great, cat-loving writers who taught me all about ’80s/’90s pop culture, and I will honestly miss spending time in that office. Also, being in a legitimate, real-world journalism work area has really alerted me to the fact that I really need to keep up my writing. Which is mainly the reason why this now exists.