When you live in the UK and you have one sunny day, you tend to spend most of it outdoors (unless it is a workday and you are enjoying some sunshine from the office). Summer is the obvious time for everyone to travel outside of the country, explore, embark on adventures and spend some time relaxing. I have just gotten back from a two-week road trip in California and that was an absolutely incredible experience – something certainly to discuss in another article. Summer is also a very important season for the arts with Edinburgh Art Festival and Fringe both taking place in August.
Last weekend Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos opened Jupiter Artland‘s latest permanent commission, Gateway, as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. Gateway is a product of a three-year collaboration between Joana Vasconcelos, an internationally acclaimed artist who exhibited at 2005 edition of the Venice Biennial, and architects and engineers from Portugal and Scotland. This collaboration transformed the artist’s famous colorful designs into a fully functional 9-meter swimming pool and created a spiritual artistic space in the gardens of Bonnington House just outside of Edinburgh. Gateway is a one-of-a-kind art installation with the design of each tile incorporating both traditional and cutting-edge technologies (11,366 tiles were hand-painted).
The location, Bonnington House, has its own spiritual significance as well. It is believed that it sits at a point where leylines intersect; leylines are invisible lines that connect most spiritual sites in the world. The artist, therefore, created a site to contemplate and participate with.
And the best part is you can participate in public bathing sessions where you can interact with this art installation as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. (Please sign me up!)
‘Gateway is a big splash that invites the public to immerse in a joyful and spirited dimension, leading to a connection with the energy of the Earth. It’s like a threshold to another universe that we’re not conscious of but through which we can flow.’
– Joana Vasconcelos
October 2, 2015
“I just got to Brooklyn Bridge Park, where do I go?” Not a single sign to be seen anywhere.
“Photoville is at Pier 5.”
Ten minutes later and I am still walking down the pier watching couples go by hand in hand, children playing along the mini sand beaches, groups playing basketball and soccer in the large recreationally converted piers. “Damn, this is a ways down.”
This happens to me everytime I go to Photoville. You would think that after two years of going I would have the walk down by now. But every year it gets me. The only people who seem to know how to get down to the river effectively, most likely live in the area and scoff at all the tourists and Manhattan-ites who come over on select weekends for special events such as this one.
However, the walk is a very scenic and lovely late-September stroll. Photoville is open until the late evening, so the best time is to go at sunset and get the perfect view of the setting sun over the Hudson. The Statue of Liberty is illuminated in a hopelessly romantic kind of way while the warm glow causes the skyscrapers of the Financial District to sparkle.
Every mid-September for the past four years United Photo Industries has come together at Brooklyn Bridge Park to create a small village out of shipping containers, fill them with photographs and share the fun [for free] with all of New York City. It’s a simple concept and absolutely fantastic.
As described in the Photoville Chronicle this year, “UPI has solidified its position in the public art landscape by consistently showcasing thought-provoking, challenging, and exceptional photography from across the globe.”
This year Photoville lasted from September 10th-20th and had over 400 artists participating with more than 80 partners. Companies and organizations such as Instagram, National Geographic, The New York Times, The Peace Corps, EveryDayClimateChange, Getty Images, Crusade for Art Brooklyn, NYC Salt and many more funded and organized the exhibitions within their respective containers. Universities showcased their senior thesis projects and department projects; included were Tisch’s Photography & Imaging at NYU, FIT’s BFA program, the BFA Photography and Video Department at SVA, and Parsons the New School.
The festival has a great variety of photography to offer –from documentary style, to experimental, street scenes, natural landscapes and portraits. As I made my way through I noticed that some containers have heavy and somber messages such as New York Times’ “Scenes from the Ebola Crisis,” “Blast Force Survivors,” “American Exile: Detained, Deported, and Divided,” and “The Geography of Poverty” to name a few. Photoville’s smart though and knows that while socially trivial topics such as these need to be addressed, documented and seen, people who come to a festival also want to see some cheerful things. National Geographic also had an outdoor exhibition “Presenting: Weed,” which detailed the daily cycle of marijuana and affords you a nice chuckle, because everyone loves art about weed. “The Mash-Up,” a graffiti work done by two celebrated street artists took up two containers stacked on top of one another. The bright colors, swirling letters and cartoon-esque figures offer a fun, upbeat relief from image overload. “Luminaries” gave all of us comfort as you approach the container and see Uzo Aduba’s (aka. Crazy Eyes) ecstatic face beaming out at you. What other goodies could be inside? The familiar faces of Pharrell and Snoop Dogg, Nicki Minaj, Peter Dinklage, Meryl Streep, and others greeted us. Who doesn’t love to see a striking headshot of Peter Dinklage?
Apart from photographs and containers, Photoville also has a host of special events, activities and workshops for everyone to engage with the images. Panel discussions, presentations and conversations with well know photographers went on everyday. This year David Burnett was featured. Visitors were able to swap prints with each other, learn how to spot great image shots in the Street Photography workshop, have a fun family photobooth [dog included, of course] and learn the basics with the Science and Tech Expo.
Even though I’m quite the photo-enthusiast, half-way through the photo village my eyes were starting to glaze over the images. It was time to reboot. Oh, what’s this right here, a beer garden? SCORE. After some Brooklyn Lager and delicious treats from the adored vendors of Smorgasburg, I was brought back to life and ready to take on the remaining containers. One of my favorites by far was “En Plein Air,” featuring Edoardo Delille and Gabriele Galimberti. This series showed images from Rio de Janeiro shot from an aerial perspective, illustrating that “sports are life and life is not a spectator sport.” From the Photoville Chronicle.
So, if you’re ever in NYC during September make sure to head over to Brooklyn and check out Photoville. It’s educational [but not in the annoying, overbearing kind of way], eye opening, inspiring and a great social event for a group of friends or just you and bae.
September 23, 2015
When you ask Americans what’s the first association that pops into their heads when they think about Austria, the “Sound of Music”, with its singing nuns and melancholic captains, probably comes up first. At least every American I ever talked to got pretty excited by the sheer thought of Maria and the children and the bikes and the curtains. The movie was shot on location in Salzburg, Austria, and ever since then, casts it’s shadow over the romantic little town. Buses loaded with hundreds of tourists are guided around the city each day to visit the original shooting locations – Sing Alongs included. Well, who wouldn’t love the opportunity to dance in the gazebo like Liesl and Kurt or ride a bike through the gardens of Schloss Mirabell?
Salzburg’s tourism, however, has profited immensely from the popularity of the movie. But the picturesque, and sometimes – with its clean roads and neatly renovated houses – even fake looking little town, has more to offer. Especially in the summer. Once you’ve seen and heard enough of Mozart and the “hills, that are alive”, you can experience top-notch quality – if you’ve got the “small change”.
The Salzburg Festival, one of the biggest festivals for classical music, opera and theatre in the world, takes place July and August every year. It gives the culture vultures out there the chance to experience the highest form of culture (and the highest ticket prices) – whereas I got the chance to work there this year. It was an overall exciting time, meeting great artists, actors, directors and a whole crazy bunch of energetic culture freaks. What does one get to see there? Opera (lot’s of it), classical concerts (just as much) and theatre productions. This year, 14 locations around the city were used to stage 188 performances for 262.893 visitors from around the world. But that’s enough with the numbers. What you actually get to experience are plays directed by the most renowned directors of our time like Deborah Warner or Peter Stein, opera stars such as Anna Netrebko or Placido Domingo and musical highlights with solo concerts by the likes of Yo-Yo Ma. Quite impressive stuff. But, as you might imagine reading those big names, the festival is clearly not for everybody. The tickets cost on average 130€, the highest prices ranging around 430€ per ticket. These prices mirror the audience that pays them.
Each night, but especially on premiere nights, luxurious limousines drive up in front of the festival hall and sometimes ravishingly, sometimes not so ravishingly dressed people make their way to the entrance gate. Pictures are being taken and hands shaken. These people are usually quite wealthy and make sure everybody sees that. Whereas many locals have never even attended the festival, also because they can’t afford to. Just as most Austrians haven’t seen “The Sound of Music”, by the way (sorry to disappoint you).
Getting the chance to catch an overall glimpse by working in the production drama office, the summerly happenings in Salzburg reminded me of a circus of the rich and beautiful. But this, nevertheless, should not distract from the fine artistic quality and the cultural delights that are being offered. This year, it was for example Mozart’s opera “Le nozze di Figaro”, Shakespeare’s “Comedy of errors” or Wolfgang Rhim’s modern opera “Die Eroberung von Mexiko” – which was a hit with the critics as well as the audience.
Another great highlight is the annual performance of “Jedermann”, an everyman-play by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who, together with director Max Reinhardt and composer Richard Strauss, founded the festival in 1920. Since then, the play was performed every year (with a few exceptions, i.g. between 1938-45) on the Dome square, an open-air stage of its own kind. The atmosphere, when the sun begins to sink and dawn sets in, is magical. That’s what theatre is there for, those special moments.
Every day on my way to work, I could hear opera singers practicing behind open windows, trying to reach the highest note possible, saw actors all dressed up for “Mackie Messer”, an experimental version of Brecht’s “Threepenny Opera”, linger around in the sun during their rehearsal breaks, and listened to theatre talk in every restaurant I ate in (especially the Triangel, the place to be for celebrity-sightings). All of this makes this festival truly special and one gets the feeling, that Salzburg, the provincial town in the Alps with its narrow streets, large squares, abbeys and churches, becomes the cultural centre of Europe, or maybe even the world, for those six weeks.
And as cliché as it might sound, the hills then really seem to be alive with the sound of music…