Luciana Erregue: The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (or The Zoom Meeting)

Jonas Bendiksen, Nesoddtangen, Norway, March 29, 2020. Source: magnumphotos.com

We congregate like The Muppets at the theatre: a first tier, a second tier, a third tier. Depending on the age of the host, the “chat” feature is either silenced or not. It is the ideal medium for someone accustomed to exercising control in real life. Yet there is always the sliding into dms. The guy who will tell you: “Why so serious? Ahhh, that hand on your face adds another layer of seduction.” It is just like high school, the kids at the back of the classroom up to no good.

The real gems, though, are the what-a-pleasure-to-meet-you-in-Zoom, I-would-like-to-have-a-meeting-with-you-sometime-early-in-the-morning types. You know it is going to be business during a pandemic, when nobody you know is getting up voluntarily at 6.30 to start a meeting at 7.30 because EST… so when you oblige, and you barely have time to shower, dress and grab your coffee, you know you will rip him a new one. Except he does it first, of course.

Continue Reading

Tanjil Rashid: In Time’s Late Hour

Al-Ma’ari’s Saqt Al-Zand (or “The Tinder Spark”, Syria, AD 1300. Source: sothebys.com

I am often susceptible to feelings of belatedness. “Is literary greatness still possible?” Susan Sontag asked around the turn of the millennium, and twenty years on, I’m not sure we have had an answer. Is it finally, as Cyril Connolly put it, “closing time in the gardens of the West”? I have always preferred the gardens of the East, but they may not be faring any better.

I am fully aware that this sentiment has been known to reactionaries for thousands of years, and quite often they’ve been wildly wrong. With me it is not by any means a political stance, and probably just a hyperbolic way of appreciating works of art and literature from a time before my own. The feeling is usually prompted by an encounter with a marvellous line composed in some distant time by an ancient poet or sage.

Continue Reading

Youssef Rakha: Sartre, My Father and Me

When my father’s body gave in at the age of 67, there was no cause of death as such. His health was undoubtedly poorly, he was addicted to a range of pharmaceuticals — but none of the vital organs had stopped functioning. Strangely, my mother and I saw it coming: there were tears on the day, long before we could have known it was happening. And when it did happen, the relief of no longer having to care for a prostrate depressive seemed to justify it. In the next few months there was oblivion. I had felt alienated from his dead body, I saw it wrapped in white cloth, in public, and I thought I was over the fact.

Continue Reading

Luciana Erregue: The Ballad of the Spectator-Curator

Youssef Rakha, The Louvre Abu Dhabi, 2020

They are everywhere now. Satellite museums and universities: Guggehnheim Bilbao, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Disneyland Paris, Disneyland Tokyo, NYU Abu Dhabi, Temple University, Tokyo, Saint Louis University, Madrid. They aspire to assert themselves as leaders in the relatively new global business of improving a country’s image and reputation or otherwise giving it the edge.

I live far away from such big cities, and universities. You could say I am not included amongst the experienced customers these satellites target. I have never visited such destinations. I inhabit a no man’s land in the Canadian prairies and, as an art historian, I work roaming the floors of my local gallery, which shall remain unnamed, for obvious ethical reasons. In my private life I am also your average museum visitor. A Doctor Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde persona split does exist in my digital life, though. I post these images alongside presumably witty captions on my Facebook and Instagram feed. As a dutiful digital citizen, I sporadically write on my blog SpectatorCurator (also my Instagram and Twitter handle). I have branded myself, and I have an edge over the Louvre Abu Djabi or the Guggenheim Bilbao – I exist everywhere and nowhere. We know by now we are virtual brands in open competition with the brands and artists of yore, redefining them, submitting them to our capricious gaze. If the Mona Lisa was an example of the quintessential open text, now the whole museum is the viewer’s canvas. It is both an exciting and an uncomfortable instance of negotiation between the self and former colonial models of appropriation. Because our selfies are an extension of our bodies.

Continue Reading

Two from Freiburg by Yasmin Helal

 An Epiphany in the Land of Plenty

May 15, 2018

“An Epiphany in the Land of Plenty” by Yasmin Helal

Far away from home, I walked down a nameless street, in and out of nameless shops, buying products I never believed in. Weeks after, meaningful words have left me. Just when I needed them the most.

I’ve always been a talker, playing with words until they succumbed to my will. But now they have abandoned me. So did my healthy appetite and peaceful sleep.

Left to my own devices. I remain in the dark. Here I am where kids attend music classes after school. Drinking clean water from the tap, long after the sewage has left my kidneys. Eating clean food with a stomach of steel that can digest stones. Rolling my tobacco and counting my Euros.

Continue Reading

Rabiu Temidayo: Burkas

Alex Majoli, Lagos, 2013. Source: magnumphotos.com

Early the staccatos swelled, the jalopies trundled through the eigengrau, martins and peckers perched on wires portending the resurrecting sun. Windows jittered in the cold, and outside the red, blinking mast laddered up the azure-turning sky. Watchmen tinkered with their rusty panels and disappeared into silent folds. I woke up on the sofa in the parlor facing the green glow of the incandescent crucifix above mother’s bed. It waned like the moon in the morning. Occasionally, whirring airplanes flew low with their wheels down headed for the airport’s runways, shaking the houses in their cold silence. She’d face the ceiling on her bed, muttering a prayer, then descend into her loose sleeping robes. Feet sweeping the carpet, she’d examine the children splayed on the floor, my sisters and I, sometimes our cousins, carried a lantern and trudged through the creaking door, then through the hollow hallway.

Continue Reading

Peter Collins: James Cameron and the Tabora Hotel

James Cameron, image courtesy of Peter Collins

If there was a golden age of journalism, then surely James Cameron represented Great Britain. You could throw in the Commonwealth countries and its former colonies for good measure, for he would have invariably visited them all, drank in their bars, met their dignitaries and moved amongst their people.

Born in 1911, Mark James Walter Cameron learnt the rudiments of his trade in the offices of Scottish newspapers before heading south to London’s Daily Express and eventually a life on the road as a foreign correspondent and a role which would define not only Cameron the man but the standard for journalists to follow the world over.

Continue Reading

No more posts.