Wednesday, 17 June 2020

ARCUS, Artist Proposals and The Shivering Truth

It’s been quite a hectic month, with mass change happening in the world. Meanwhile, I’m still jobless, applying to lots of different art opportunities on a weekly basis, alongside working on various artworks and projects. I left London for a little while, which was nice. I feel like I’m able to do a lot more work when I’m sitting beside someone else working, rather than simply being left alone all day in a small apartment. I passed to the second stage of a residency in Japan that I applied for, which is exciting, alongside continuing to work on new paintings, a new video and online shows. Also it was my birthday.

So, let’s begin with my continued interest in Amazon employees and its general business model. I’ve been continuing to apply with my idea for a video about Amazon to a number of different art open calls, none of which have moved forwards for the moment. Instead of working on the video, I’ve been continuing to paint, depicting various people within Amazon’s fulfilment centres around the world. Below are a couple of examples. I’d love to have a solo show or something of this work, a number of paintings, the video, sculptural works incorporating the hand scanners they use to scan different items, alongside a trolley or two, important tools for Pickers and their work. Anyway, it would be nice to get funding for the video idea, which I’ve spoken about in previous blog posts, but who knows…

I’ve also been continuing my interest in drones and how they’re reshaping the human experience. I’m still waiting for the online show with Office Impart to open, which has been delayed, so I’m yet to debut my new drone based video work on Instagram, although it’s available to view on my website. I’ve been making more paintings of various drone attacks, which I’m really happy with, which foreground the video.


For the residency in Japan, at a place called the ARCUS Project, I proposed to continue my research into drone culture, specifically the businesses who produce drones, alongside individuals who utilise them on a daily basis, both for work and pleasure. Below is my initial proposal, which helped me progress into the second round of the open call.

Through the residency at ARCUS I would continue my research into how drone usage is slowly shaping society and having an increasingly large impact on the human experience. I am exploring both military and commercial drones, looking at how drone usage has become normalised within society as a tool for delivering packages, surveilling communities and documenting wedding receptions, whilst disregarding the militaristic background of the technology.

For some time, I have been researching and producing works related to drones, considering how they have been used in wars around the world and as tools for extended surveillance tactics. In a recent video work I looked into how drones evolved and changed from their early beginnings as helium balloons, creating a research based narrative that was spoken from the point of view of a nano drone, a device primarily employed in military zones to peer around corners and over high walls.

Currently, due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, drone use has expanded, with drones being utilised around the world to ensure successful lockdowns. As drones continue to be used and produced, the appearance of them will become the new normal, allowing governments to further harness their power.

During my time at ARCUS I would investigate how drones are used in Japan, researching and looking to speak with representatives from certain manufacturers who have been producing drones for many years, such as Yamaha Motor Company and SECOM Security Systems, who create drones for agricultural and surveillance use.

A turning point for drone use in Japan was in 2015, when citizen Yasuo Yamamoto flew a drone carrying sand that contained traces of radiation onto the roof of the Japanese Prime Minister's Official Residence as an act of protest against the use of nuclear power. The incident triggered the passing of multiple laws, reducing the amount of freedom the average civilian has when flying drones, as well as pushing Tokyo police departments to invest in anti-drone technologies alongside sparking their own interest in the complex machines, devoting funds to purchasing a number of units for themselves.

Through this investigation I would be looking to create a new video installation, alongside a series of paintings, charting the history of drone usage in Japan and around the world, tracking the devices impact on crime and mental wellbeing in the region as well as depicting the devices being used in different industries.

Alongside speaking with representatives from drone manufacturers, I would also spend time searching for and speaking with citizens who use drones, either for work (in agriculture, film, delivery services or as part of racing leagues) or pleasure (drone hobbyists). The interviews and conversations conducted with these individuals would be recorded and archived, to be used in future works in an effort to chart the technological impact of this multibillion-dollar industry on the human experience.

For the second round I had to answer a number of questions, writing about what I would do if part of the residency was taken online. This would allow me to undergo research into the companies that I would hopefully visit and speak to whilst in Japan, which would also highlight the difference between how companies portray themselves in the online and offline space. I also had to record myself speaking about my work for two minutes, which was an incredibly stressful experience as I kind of hate being recorded speaking and find it really hard to do. If you’d like to see me struggle through, please do so by following this link to the video on Dropbox - https://bit.ly/30_ZddO

Alongside this residency, I’ve also been applying to a number of other things. One of which was a commission for a billboard like space on the side of the New Covent Garden Market, where they wanted work that celebrates vegetables, fruit, plants or flowers. My proposal is below, it would be amazing if I actually got this, although I don’t have high hopes. We shall see.

My proposal for the Vitrine Art Commission builds on an ongoing series of paintings concerning elements of technology being overwhelmed by the natural environment. The work is primarily inspired by the process of bit rot, the slow deterioration in the performance and integrity of data stored on digital media, examples being flash drives or DVDs. In this body of work, I explore virtual worlds, and use in-game photography techniques to document the degradation of technology and modern life in different environments, specifically within the 2017 video game Horizon Zero Dawn.

The game follows Aloy, a hunter in the year 3040, who inhabits an Earth that has limited access to technology and has become overrun by animal like machines controlled by a rogue artificial intelligence. In this world, the natural elements have overwhelmed cars, buildings and roads, causing them to become relics from a past/future world, these objects, frozen in time and space, covered in digital flowers. The in-game objects have become monuments to virtual users, who would have previously inhabited them within the digital space.

In my ongoing series of 2D works, I paint the different flowers that I discover within this game world. They thrive within the video game, although as time moves forwards within the physical world, the game disk will slowly decay and rot.

For a recent solo show, titled Bit Rot, at Broadway Studio + Gallery in Letchworth, I produced a series of paintings depicting individual flower varieties, captured at different times of day within this in-game world. In a particular series I made 24 paintings, captured from the same angle, each depicting the intricacies of the same digital flower at a different hour in a given day.

My proposal for this commission would be to go back into the game, continuing to document flowers, specifically searching for wild orchids, a flower that has a long life span, staving off both physical and digital decay. After documenting the same flower over a 24 hour period within the video game I would produce 24 small paintings, which would then be photographed and edited into a chronological sequence. This finalised image, of an orchid, slowly being transformed throughout the day by a digital sun, would be produced and printed. The work focuses on ideas of time and transformation, mirroring those who pass by the market each day, slowly evolving and growing.

I have also been working on a series of larger, more detailed paintings depicting a number different flowers covering in-game cars, this references the overwhelming potential of nature and the power of flowers, alongside commenting on our ongoing use of motor vehicles. In this instance, a singular image would stretch across the entirety of the vitrine space.

I have attached two images of previous works in the series to this application, one documenting 24 paintings of a Larkspur and the other of a car being overwhelmed by flowers and vegetation.

What else have I applied for? Science Gallery has some amazing open calls at the moment, which have all been incredibly well suited to my practice. For this open call, titled Contagion, I proposed a new interactive project called The Village, see below for details.

The proposed project, titled The Village, will be an interactive video game, placing viewers into an abandoned village where an unknown event has caused the inhabitants to leave long ago, allowing the surrounding wildlife to infect and transform the man-made structures left behind.

The work will explore how relics and historical artefacts are perceived by future generations, alongside exploring the notion that human beings and our impact on the environment is virus-like, terra-forming and slowly obliterating the planet.

Through exploring the world and interacting with the artwork, viewers will learn about the history of the space, slowly unravelling why it may have been abandoned. Within the work participants will be provided with a number of answers, from a rapture-like event occurring to the outbreak of a deadly virus.

The piece will be foregrounded by in-depth research into world building and the affect that nature has on various buildings and objects over substantial amounts of time. I’ll also be looking into various historical, catastrophic events, and using those as inspiration to be used as possible reasons as to why the village has been left.

As the work is an interactive video game experience, audience participation would be incredibly important in uncovering the world and understanding what has happened within the digital space.

How you understand and perceive the experience will depend on how long you spend investigating your surroundings as there will be multiple references and hints embedded throughout the village. There will be no finalised answer as to why the location has been left, but through playing the game you will learn that religious members of the community predicated that a rapture was imminent, a war had recently begun with a neighbouring village and an unknown illness was spreading from person to person.

The work will be playable by one person, or multiple if multiple screens were provided, and would last around 5 – 20 minutes, depending on how much time the audience member would spend exploring the created world.

As an installation in a gallery, the piece would be shown on TV screens placed within a forest like environment, complete with a bark floor and artificial plants. Alternatively, the work would also be playable as a digital download, so people would be able to experience the work at home on their own computer.

So, an interactive game where you as the player piece together what has occurred within the village through various environmental clues. I think I’d really like to make this as a work. If it gets funded and things move forward that would be great, but I think it would be nice to concentrate on something big for a while. I feel like a lot of my project recently have been quite quick, not to say that they haven’t taken time and effort to create, but it’s been some time since I spent many months working on a piece. Let’s see how it goes.

I’ve applied to a few others, but these are the ones that stand out, and that I’d really like to get. I’m still waiting to hear back from the public sculpture open call in Portugal, although at this point I highly doubt I’ve been successful as I haven’t heard back, which is a shame. Well, the more I apply for the likelier I’ll be successful.

For a week or so I worked on this short video piece featuring Boris Johnson in hospital on a ventilator, a part of history that may or may not have happened. I think this will be my sole artwork about the coronavirus. I’m not sure whether it’s actually a thing or not, but I quite like it, it’s both subtle and terrifying at the same time. I think I can definitely see it as an hour long loop, going on and on. Yeah, I like it, I think I just need to think about it for a little while before moving forwards with it. Link is here - https://youtu.be/kDjCLcfm2dI

I was invited by Vishal Kumaraswamy to give an online talk to the current digital residents at Contemporary Calgary, a gallery based in Canada. I spoke about my recent solo shows and the work that I do through isthisit?. I felt a little odd speaking with them, as many had done Mas, so a lot of what I had to say felt very, I don’t know, unimportant or obvious perhaps. I’m not sure, I never really know how these things go, as no one is ever at these things who will tell me how I actually was, either when giving an artist talk or speaking on a panel discussion. Either way, you can read the talk by going to my Dropbox here, if you open both the word and PowerPoint PDF at the same you can read and look at the images simultaneously  - https://bit.ly/30PxUyp

I also recently made a new piece in the Trophy Hunter series, and rather than make it a painting I made it available to download as a digital artwork, for everyone and anyone to download and print onto any material. I got the idea from Olga Fedorova, an artist who I admire and have worked with before. You can see and download the work by going to my Dropbox here - https://bit.ly/3hAtBNx

I've also been working on a larger piece in the series, featuring many hunters and billionaires. I need to spend time properly working on it, but here's a work in progress pic.

One of the other things that was published recently was the show, titled 2020 DO NOT LINK, me and Dirk Paesmans (one half of JODI) had been curating for Upstream Gallery. It was an interesting experience, with the gallery providing no fee whatsoever, either to the curators or the artists. That made me quite sad, as they’re a gallery that promotes themselves as heralding net artists, with a lot of their artists and programming being focused on digital and net artwork. It’s something I’m very used to, of course, doing work for free, but in this case it just felt a bit crap. I guess I forgot that commercial galleries, whether they’re digitally focused or otherwise, will rarely pay you for your artistic/curatorial labour, unless you actually sell something. Anyway, the show was good, Dirk did pretty much everything to do with the website, and produced a very simple black layout, obscuring the text about each work as a way of forcing the viewer to highlight the text. I really enjoyed this incredibly simple way of distorting the viewing experience, and having it subtly interactive. It felt like a very 90s way of exhibiting work online, which I think worked really well. The show is going to be added to throughout its duration, updated with various links.

The show featured work from Madeleine Andersson, Michael Berto, David Blair, Nancy Buchanan, Heath Bunting, Green Cube Gallery, Inari Wishiki, Peter Luining, Conall McAteer, Viktor Timofeev & Jaakko Pallasvuo, Everest Pipkin, Niko Princen, Kristina Pulejkova, Guido Segni, Petra Szemán, Krassimir Terziev, Puck Verkade & Thomas van Linge. I chose artists who I’d worked with before, whether that’s through the online shows, the residency program or the physical exhibitions/book series. The short press release is below.

2020 DO NOT LINK is an online exhibition concerned with ideas of virality and data distortion, featuring artworks and external links that explore the embedded hyperreality of our networked society. The show takes the format of an infinite scroll, an ever-evolving list of artworks and ephemera, referencing the habit of uncontrollably hoarding electronic bookmarks or digital tabs. The title of the exhibition refers to being disconnected from the world, web pages and one another during this unprecedented moment in history. It acts as both a warning and an impossibility, with 2020 being remembered in history for years to come.

With the rise of search engines and the demise of the URL, websites, much like the year 2020, can now never not be linked to. Within the show an ongoing archive of embedded links, from artist interviews to digital downloads, are available to access, embracing our hyperconnected online existence. From simulating an environment that’s cut off from its essential resource to a tutorial detailing how to enter a fictional realm, the artworks in the exhibition reflect how dependant we are on our interconnected lives.

You can access the exhibition here - http://www.upstreamgallery.nl/exhibitions/185/2020-do-not-link

What else? Kristian Day, the curator of my solo show at Broadway Gallery in Letchworth invited me to write the press release for a new online/offline exhibition that he’s organised with artist Robin Megannity. I found it quite fun to write about his work, bringing in a bit of my own personal experience to his practice. His work is very painterly and focuses more on the process/paint, as opposed to the actual imagery that he’s creating, so I found it hard to actually go into what his work is about due to him being quite vague in interviews and in his own artist statement. Anyway, I had fun writing it, and I hope both Kris and Robin like it. Below is the short text.

I’ve never met, or even spoken to, Robin Megannity. I’ve never actually seen his work in the physical world, only ever admiring his intricately crafted paintings through the lens of Instagram, or whilst looking at the documentation for this exhibition. The closest I’ve come to one of his works, was when I helped transport a small painting of his, from a warehouse in South London to a framers after it had been acquired by the Government Art Collection.

As a freelance art technician I see and interact with a lot of art on a weekly basis, with names and work details slowly blending together, pushed to the back of my mind in a helpless bid to forget yet another tedious work week. When I saw Megannity’s name on the soft wrapped package I hesitated, imagining what was behind the bubble wrap and the protective polythene sheeting. Knowing Megannity’s work, I was picturing a 3D modelled Egyptian bust, or perhaps a glossy balloon hand, full of helium and waiting to pop.

Instead, however, I later found out that the acquired work was being satisfied (2019), a hyperrealist painting of a glass ornament, simultaneously resembling both a vase and a candelabra, alongside mirroring the attributes of certain smoking paraphernalia. Perhaps this confusion as to where the object would reside within the home is part of the work and Megannity’s practice, with many of his paintings being both an invitation and a provocation, asking the viewer to create their own narrative through identifying references and visual cues.

Many of Megannity’s paintings begin as 3D models, created using digital software to produce objects and artefacts that are both familiar and alien, with his hyperreal style becoming eerily artificial at times, especially when viewed through the sheen of a computer screen. The works resemble historical still lifes, brought forwards by their presentation within the context of the contemporary landscape.

Due to the ongoing global pandemic, this exhibition is an online presentation of paintings that were physically photographed within an empty gallery space, where Megannity is exhibiting several recent works made in 2019 and 2020. The exhibition’s title ferme la fenêtre, translates into English as close the window, a reference to closing a digital window within a computer screen, and by association the online nature of the exhibition, with the audience looking into the gallery space through their electronic devices. Alongside this, the majority of paintings in the exhibition are multi-layered, with the main focus of the work being pulled to the centre, framed and surrounded by abstracted painterly textures, continually reminding the viewer that these are elaborately hand painted representations of an unknown reality.

The centrepiece of each painting contains a familiar item, from the head of a spray can to a miniature toy house, returning to Megannity’s interest in objects that many encounter on a daily basis, but may not necessarily have taken the time to contemplate. The titles attached to each work, People are private (II) (2020), Love mistake (II) (2020) and eating alone (2019) suggest an elaborate storyline behind each piece, with Megannity once again requiring the viewer to fabricate their own intricate back-story.

ferme la fenêtre is an exhibition that invites the audience into an artificial environment, where refined objects contain complex stories, viewed within the context of the internet and via a window that will eventually close.

I spent about a week subtly re-designing my entire website, changing all the image sizes, general layout of the home page and the font. It took a lot of work for a very subtle change, but I’m really happy about how it looks now. I feel like it’s a lot neater and professional like this…

I’m still interviewing Petra Szemán on a weekly basis in the lead up to her solo show in July. I’m really happy with how it’s going, and am excited to see how it turns out. I’ve liked getting back into doing stuff with isthisit?, properly curating some of the online shows and dedicating more time to them. They’re an element of my practice that I think I should start to value more again, and not just dedicate time to focusing on my own painting and practice. It keeps me connected to other artists, as well as using the isthisit? platform to promote work that I really like and enjoy. Here’s a small section of the interview.

BBK: I like that creating Yourself began as a psychological push to move your present self forwards, in order to become this fabricated future self, but has now become its own person, connected to your own physical being, but also able to interact with virtual realms and experiences that you aren’t able to access. I’m interested by your use of lived experience, and how that hints at how you see her in relation to your true self, in that it makes me feel like you created her as a copy of you, but in aesthetics alone, rather than a copy that holds all of your memories, lived experiences and cultural heritage. Is this the case, and if it is, do you think she will continue to change and evolve as her own person, creating her own national identity, one that is far more influenced by Skyrim, Japan and anime culture than your own personal heritage?

PSz: I think so! The longer I use her in the videos, and as a consequence the more experiences she accumulates that are unique to her, the less capacity she’ll have to function as an ‘empty’ avatar whose purpose is recreating me but in a different form. But I wouldn’t want that anyway, as this way she represents a different form of vitality – and at the same time suggests at the existence of an identity that isn’t localised in just one body, but dispersed throughout multiple selves, each holding different possibilities. Regarding the national identity aspect, for a good while I was considering making a video where Yourself goes on a tour of places that are significant to my upbringing, but make no sense in terms of her reality and memories. An exploration of what to some extent is her own personal history too, but at the same time completely alien to her, placing her in an ambiguous position.

Alongside this I’m currently being interviewed by Davide Da Pieve. He’s an curator and educator based in Italy, who runs Mock Jungle, a video screening project at a gallery called DAS. It’s been an interesting interview, with Davide asking me questions about my work that I’ve not really been asked before, and have only thought about in my own mind. For example, speaking about relying on my practice as my main source of income, and how I’d feel about that. Why I would make a new body of work for a solo show, rather than showing previous disperate works in a solo show format. It’s been exciting to speak about these things, rather than going through the motions of a normal, fairly pre-scripted interview, not to say that those aren’t important, but it’s nice to speak to someone who is interested in my work and how I feel about it. Anyway, this is going to be published at some point, hopefully in il manifesto, or perhaps NESXT, he’s not sure. He’s also spoken to me about curating a solo show of mine in Italy, which I’d be fully into and very excited about doing, potentially in an institution. We shall see, but I’m excited for the future. Here’s an excerpt.

DDP: There is a letter in which Giovanni Bellini, in the early 1500s, tells Isabella D'Este that she shouldn't make too many requests about how to arrange the figures in the painting, because he works according to his style and not to satisfy her taste.

From here, who knows what hints and reflections could start... What do you think about it, as a painter? Is being an artist a job? How does a passion become a job?

BBK: I wouldn’t call myself a painter really, more a multidisciplinary artist, as producing 2D wall based works is one of the many mediums that I work within. Since producing work, I’ve probably spent more time making videos than I have paintings!

At the moment I class my art and curatorial practice as a career, as it doesn’t yet sustain me and my living costs. I think if that eventually happens it may become a ‘proper’ job, and will shift how I see my work, but for now my practice is an element of my life that I spend a lot of time on, sometimes for money and other times for little to no money. Either way it’s something that I'm truly passionate about doing, if I wasn’t there would be no point, and I would instead spend my time finding a job that I truly enjoyed.

I guess the idea of having my practice as the element of my life that makes me enough money to live is a scary concept, one that I would of course very much prefer than having to work two day jobs to pay my rent and living costs, but it’s still scary nonetheless. It would be a lot of pressure, especially as it would be relying on something that I have an emotional connection to. Like most things, this will take time, but if it does happen at some point in the future I hope I’ll continue to be passionate about what I do. It’s something that I think about on a regular basis, and continue to reflect upon.

The exhibition in Brussels is still at a bit of a standstill, I’ve informed all the artists that it’s been delayed, until September or later, and am currently working on the catalogue. I really want it to go ahead, as the artist list is fantastic and it’s a really exciting opportunity.

Annd I think that might be it for me and my practice for the moment. As I said, it’s been super busy and definitely a worthwhile month and a half. At this point in the blog, and as I’m typing this, it’s 11:42am on Wednesday 17th June, we’re almost 5000 words in, and I’d like to get this published by the end of the day, so let’s start talking about films, TV and video games, rather than the usual art exhibitions, as obviously things are still closed and I won’t be venturing into a public gallery for some time.

Let’s start with The Assistant, a harrowing film about a young woman, played by Julia Garner, who basically works for an unnamed and an unseen boss that’s akin to Harvey Weinstein. It’s a brutally subtle portrayal of power and distress which I highly recommend watching. Sadly, a lot of the IMDB negative user reviews illustrate how far as a society we have to come to actively accept that the abuse of power occurs on a daily basis, and that this abuse is not always overt and physical. So, my recommendation is, watch it, and if you want to feel bad about yourself and the human race afterwards just read through a couple of the IMDB user reviews.

Guns Akimbo was utter trash and painful to watch, I wouldn’t recommend. A film that sees Daniel Radcliffe have two guns bolted to his hands.

Aniara, a Swedish sci-fi that inspired the terrible TV series Avenue 5, was fantastic. It’s a sci-fi that sees a spaceship, transporting hundreds of passengers, knocked off course. It slowly dawns on the residents that there is no way to escape, and that they’re going to be trapped on the ship for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s very intense and really fantastic to watch. Emelie Garbers is great.

Just Mercy continued to reinforce how fucked the prison system is, around the world. It focuses on a true story of a black civil rights lawyer who works to free wrongly condemned death row prisoners. The whole concept of death row is fucked, and a truly barbaric system. America as a whole is pretty fucked, and somewhere I never really want to live.

Solar Opposites was a fun animated series, created by Justin Roiland (co-creator of Rick and Morty) and Mike McMahan. The basic premise is that aliens crash landed on earth, and now they’re living among humans as themselves, not disguised in any way. It’s a fun concept that works well, especially the plot line where the child aliens are shrinking people down to put in a large cage embedded within a wall. A new society emerges in this tiny ecosystem, and that plot line is just fantastic to watch slowly unravel over the course of a number of episodes. That was the real winner for me, it’s worth watching the series for that episode alone.

I expected more from Spit Earth: Who is Jordan Wolfson?, a new documentary on the semi-controversial artist. I much preferred the in depth write up of him and his practice in The New Yorker a little while ago, which dove deeper into the madness. Overall it was fine, but I didn’t really learn anything more than I already knew, both from reading the article and seeing his work in various galleries. The New Yorker article is here to read - https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/03/16/jordan-wolfsons-edgelord-art

I have become obsessed with an animated series called The Shivering Truth. It’s potentially the most hectic TV show I’ve ever seen, coming up with ideas that I am truly in awe of. Each episode is ten minutes long, and heavily features claymation. Let me give you a small example, at the start of one episode you are introduced to a boy picking his skin, the narrator tells you that this boy picks his skin, and continues to pick his skin, until the scab starts to resemble a church. The church grows larger and larger, the more he picks, until it’s a full grown church, where the parents of the boy are praying for their son. This is a tiny ten second snippet of a ten minute show, continually coming up with these amazing ideas that are interlinked in various ways. Another example is that when it was discovered that prayer actually works, people started hijacking individuals who believed in God to prayer fly them around, alongside praying for sandwiches. As people held knives to the believers throats in order to get them to prayer fly them around, they themselves obviously begin to believe in God. At that point they are also hijacked, or prayer-jacked, and someone else gets them to prayer fly them. This culminates in multiple people stacked up, flying through the air, as one by one they start to believe in God. Again, this is about a minute long segment of a ten minute experience. It’s just fantastic and I continue to be in awe of the creators of this show. If you’re reading this and decide to take one thing with you from this entire blog, please let it be the recommendation to watch this amazing TV show. This is why it's highlighted.

The Lovebirds was fine, a classic rom-com which was enjoyed and quickly forgotten.

It hurt to watch Never Rarely Sometimes Always. Again, like in The Assistant, the abuse of power portrayed in this film was subtle and devastating to watch. The film follows a young woman who needs to get an abortion. It’s so worrying to watch, especially as it’s set in the present day. Again, another film that reinforces my distaste for America and its terrible policies, withholding the ability to have an abortion and have access to healthcare of any sort. The system is fucked. Another brutally depressing film which needs to be seen.

Watching Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich reinforced, yet again, how fucked a lot of rich and powerful people are. I’ve listened and read a lot about Epstein in the past, so kind of knew everything that there was to know already, although the one interesting and important thing that this documentary did do was bring the survivors to the forefront of the conversation. It’s rarely done in documentaries, and that’s why this documentary should really be heralded. I think it’s an important documentary, although I feel like I didn’t learn as much as I had done listening to podcasts and reading articles, but I was introduced to and pushed to listen to the human impact of Epstein, and the lives he destroyed, something which I hadn’t been properly exposed to in the past. Fuck Prince Andrew and people in positions of power.

I’ve been waiting for Weathering with You to be released online for some time. Finally it was and kind of lived up to expectations. It’s a very lovely anime about a relationship between a young boy and a girl in Tokyo, who happens to be able to manipulate the weather. It wasn’t as good as Your Name, although the drawing was, as always, amazing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it throughout, especially the ending. I haven’t dug through Makoto Shinkai’s back catalogue of films, and I really should, as they’re consistently good and thoroughly enjoyable.

Yet another film illustrating how fucked the rich are was Greed, with Steve Coogan portraying a British billionaire, famous for exploiting human labour in foreign countries and shuffling money around within various businesses. It was fun, with small drops of realism.

So. I finally finished The Americans. If you’ve been following my blog for many years and have an amazing memory, you’ll remember that I wrote about the show back in 2016, over 4 years ago. I’ve stopped and started with this show multiple times, and I’m not really sure why, as it’s truly fantastic. The show features a married couple who are Russian spies, living in America in the 1980s. It’s both gruesome and violent at times, whilst at others considers love, marriage and what it means to have kids. I’m really glad I watched all six seasons, and made the effort to return to it. A highly enjoyable series, with an incredible final episode that just blew me away.

I listen to a film podcast on a weekly basis, called Kermode and Mayo's Film Review, and have done for well over ten years at this point. It’s a fantastic show, and at the moment they’re building a list of films, with one film being assigned to each country in the world. So listeners write in with their film recommendation to represent each country. Whilst listening to the show my partner, who is Finnish, suggested that Finland’s contribution should be Lapland Odyssey. That evening we watched Lapland Odyssey and it is truly hilarious. It focuses on a young man from Lapland, whose girlfriend asks him to buy a digibox. Instead of buying one he sleeps all day and goes out drinking in the evening. Returning home to his girlfriend, with no digibox, she tells him that if he doesn’t get a digibox by the morning she’s going to leave him. What entails next is an evening of madness, encountering various interesting characters along the way, from the ex-boyfriend whose short and obsessed to an all-female underwater rugby team. It’s very good and highly entertaining.

I fee like the theme of ‘rich and powerful men being terrible’ has been incredibly prominent in this months film list. The Invisible Man is yet another fantastic example of this. I’ve been putting off watching this film, as I knew it would be both painful and quite scary to watch, but it was truly fantastic and definitely worth your time. I would recommend going into the film not knowing anything about it, as that makes it even more tense and fantastic, but the basic idea is that Elisabeth Moss is being haunted by an invisible man.

The King of Staten Island was nice, and very much a feel good film, following a young man dealing with the death of his father. Yeah, Judd Apatow, as always, knows what he’s doing.

Snowpiercer, the TV show not the film, has been really great so far. It’s still coming out via Netflix on a weekly basis, and follows the same premise of Bong Joon-ho’s 2013 film; Earth has frozen over and the last dregs of humanity go round and round the Earth on a luxury train. Poor people live in the tail of the train, whereas first class passengers live at the front. It’s a story of severe class divides, and is really well made with fantastic characters and rich plotlines. I’m excited to see where it goes.

We Bare Bears: The Movie, a feature length look at the animated adventures of three talking bears, was super lovely and well worth my time. Transitioning from ten minute stories to an hour long experience is tough for a lot of cartoons and animations, but I think We Bare Bears: The Movie did a fantastic job of this. If you’re a fan of the show, which I am, I’d recommend the film.

I think that’s it for TV and films. The other day I played a beautiful game called A Short Hike created by Adam Robinson-Yu (Adamgryu). It took about two hours or so to play, and puts you in the shoes of a young bird, with the goal of the game being to reach the summit of a mountain known as Hawk Peak in order to get reception on your phone. Along the way you meet and talk with a number of different animals, engaging in various fun mini games and short quests. It’s incredibly well made and was such a pleasure to play. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed myself.

Other than that I’ve been kind of dabbling with a couple of games, still playing supplementary levels of Hitman, which continues to be enjoyable, alongside starting Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, but not really getting that into it. I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of The Last of Us 2, a game that was pre-ordered for me as a birthday present. I am highly against pre-order culture, but in this instance as it was a present, I can’t really say no. Me and my partner also finished Knights and Bikes, which felt very nice, although some of the puzzles were very obscure.

Annnd I think that’s it. surprisingly I got through everything quite fast. So, what will the next month have in store for me and my practice? Hopefully I’ll hear back from a couple of my applications, fingers crossed for those, alongside continuing to think and make work, writing more applications for future things, watching enriching films and playing genuinely exciting games that push the medium forward. Yeah, let’s see how it goes.

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