It’s been another massive six-month gap between blog posts, and so much more has changed and happened, both in my life and practice. At the back end of 2021 I was very busy travelling to a number of different countries for exhibitions, including Belgium, France, Berlin, Romania and the Czech Republic, alongside having big changes in my personal life. To say it’s been busy is an understatement.
Let’s first start with my trips outside of the country, and then we’ll fill in the gaps from there. My first trip was to Brussels for an exhibition I was curating at [Senne] in Brussels, titled Algorithmic Bias. The space is based within a private collector’s office space, so it was an interesting negotiation with the curation, understanding what could and couldn’t be altered in the space. I have curated shows in the past that have been outside of traditional gallery settings, but this was slightly different to that. I think it’s probably a lot to do with not really knowing the space that well, and the fact that people would be interacting with the work on show by working within it. It was nice to be in Brussels, but due to the covid situation at the time I was a little unsure whether I was able to leave the premises of the exhibition space or not, so I basically ended up not going out all week, which was a shame as I would have loved to explore the city a little more.
Anyway, the show was called Algorithmic Bias, concerned with the systems and structures embedded within the internet of things, many of which were and continue to be created with an in-built bias. Algorithms have become a common tool used in the framework of social media platforms, created by unknown coders, reinforcing social biases of race, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. The works in the exhibition explore and critique the procedurally generated invisible rules that control our online and offline lives. It included work from Zach Blas, Joy Buolamwini , Bob Bicknell-Knight, Jacob Ciocci, Ami Clarke, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Stephanie Dinkins, Ben Grosser, Joel Holmberg, Esther Hovers, Claire Jervert, JODI and Lynn Hershman Leeson. Here’s the link to see documentation from the exhibition - www.isthisitisthisit.com/algorithmic-bias
I also put together a small book for the exhibition, featuring pictures of each artist’s work alongside descriptions/bios. The design was a little rushed, but I was happy with it nonetheless, especially the size, 20 x 11 cm.
For the show I also produced the first 3D printed and painted life size Spot. Sadly for this show the dog wasn’t able to stand, and took so much longer to build than I first thought it would, but overall it was a real success and I was very happy with it. I later built three more dogs for the show in the Czech Republic, one of which was even able to stand.
Next up in my travels was Bucharest for On Labor & Affect, an exhibition and event series curated by Quote Unquote that featured newly commissioned video works, screenings, panel discussions and seminars, exploring labor and work practices, with artworks from Michael Bucuzzo, Alle Dicu, Ioana Gheorghiu, Mel Ghidini, Brandon Labelle and myself, alongside special guests Andrei Anastasescu, Mara Mărăcinescu, Diana Meseșan and Anda Zahiu. I was showing my new film that I’d been working on for a little while, Pickers, a 24-minute CGI film concerning Amazon Fulfilment Centres, abusive workspaces and the 24/7 non-stop processes of twenty-first-century capitalism.
For the show the work was contained on a 3D printed USB drive of a finger, linking to my previous body of work surrounding Amazon and automation. Here’s the link to watch the full 24 minute film - www.bobbicknell-knight.com/pickers
Whilst there I also took part in an open talk with Michael Bucuzzo and Anda Zahiu, speaking about the ethics of new technologies and the inescapable nature of work. The talk was okay, with me mostly speaking about my lack of hope for the future - https://youtu.be/SuWqSZw0nZk Overall I had a really lovely time in Bucharest, being hosted by the Quote Unquote team (Dan Angelescu, Irina Radu and Cristina Vasilescu), shown around exhibitions and introducing the visiting artists to galleries and places.
After Bucharest I travelled to Berlin for a few days for Soft Agitators, a group exhibition at Saarländische Galerie curated by Gilles Neiens, exhibiting artworks and artists that question the circumstances of our reality and (co-)existence, including work from Zohar Fraiman, Lynn Klemmer, Sali Muller, Sarah Niecke, Julie Wagener and myself. I was showing Pickers again, alongside a few sculptures from my show It’s Always Day One earlier in the year at Office Impart.
It was really great to visit Berlin, I hadn’t been for a few years and it was nice to be back, especially after having my solo exhibition there. The show was nicely put together, and it was lovely to see lots of shows and meet a bunch of people I’d only really known digitally. I got to visit the exhibition space of Office Impart, panke.gallery, meet a couple of artists and curators I’ve only met online, and eat a few breakfast buffets in the hotel. By this point I had gotten very used to hotel buffets.
My next trip, only a few days after Berlin, was Paris for my solo exhibition Eat The Rich at Project Room - Space Sono of Galerie Sono in Paris, curated by Alexandre Pastor, revolving around my portraits of billionaires. I had a really lovely time in Paris, slowly installing the show with Alex whilst talking to and being introduced to lots of people. As I was only there for a little while I sadly didn’t get to actually visit any exhibitions, but it felt great to finally show this work as a full body, rather than just bits and pieces. I had been making this work since my solo exhibition in Copenhagen in 2019, so having a solo exhibition of this work was a long time coming. The show included new paintings, sculptures, an animated video and an editioned deck of cards, all focused on billionaires and their extreme wealth. Here’s the link to see documentation from the exhibition - www.bobbicknell-knight.com/eat-the-rich
For the show I made 24 portraits of the 24 richest people in the world, portrayed as trophy hunters. Each portrait was the same size, 40 x 30 cm, acting like the kind of portraits you’d see in the corridors of a corporate office space.
These were accompanied by 3D printed sculptures of the heads of a number of billionaires with arrows sticking out of their heads, as if they had become the hunted. The heads are positioned on the floor, decapitated and attacked by a variety of archery arrows from unknown assailants. They are 3D printed in marble PLA plastic, making reference to how individuals whose likenesses are reproduced in marble are usually those that have the power and wealth to dictate their own histories.
I also produced a new animated video, Jeff's Dead, a short looping video, featuring the decapitated head of Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, in the House of Commons in the UK. The head is presented alongside a series of objects commonly found in the Commons, including a water jug, mic and mace. The House of Commons can only operate lawfully when the royal mace, dating from the reign of Charles II, is present. The soundscape for the piece is a melody of found sound, ranging from an angry mob to the repetitive chimes of Big Ben. Link is here - https://youtu.be/d6ex6ZMlVRA
The final piece was Most Wanted, an editioned deck of playing cards. The work presents the 54 wealthiest people in the world depicted as trophy hunters. Each playing card is unique and features a different billionaire, accompanied by their job title and accrued wealth, as was recorded on the 20th October 2021. I was really happy with the card deck, it’s something I’ve wanted to produce for ages and this was the perfect opportunity for it. To see all the pictures, and to purchase a copy, follow this link - www.bobbicknell-knight.com/most-wanted
My final trip of 2021 was to Brno in the Czech Republic for Digging History, a solo exhibition at Industra curated by Pita Arreola-Burns and Elliott Burns (Off Site Project), including new paintings, prints, video work and a large-scale sculpture installation focused around Spot, the autonomous robot dog currently being produced and marketed by Boston Dynamics. It was quite a wild place and install, probably the most hands on show I’ve produced, with us arriving on Saturday and the show opening on Thursday. The location was in the middle of an abandoned area of Brno, one currently being redeveloped and very much under construction.
The show was a faux museum exhibition exploring Spot, the autonomous robot dog currently being produced by Boston Dynamics, from a museological perspective, imagining that several robotic remains have been discovered on the border between the Czech Republic and Germany. The main showcase of the exhibition included a large-scale sculptural installation, containing three life size 3D printed Spots, fenced off in a space akin to a museum diorama. Accompanying the sculptures are several new paintings, prints and a CGI animation. The museum invites the visitor to wonder how these artificial beings came to be discovered, whilst the contemporary exhibition questions whether new machine technologies will result in social stratification.
At the start of the install we had to clear a lot of debris from the exhibition space, making it somewhat clear and fully embracing the warehouse like environment. Past shows utilised a series of moveable white walls that we quickly disregarded in favour of using the length of the space and the original walls. We ended up building a fenced off space for the dogs to reside within, like a museum diorama, with the dogs sitting and standing on top of a pile of rubble This involved procuring an old bath tub, attaching it to a moveable platform and walking it back and forth from a pile of rubble that was – kind of – close to the exhibition space. As I said, it was very hands on, but by the end I was extremely happy, both with the outcome and for inviting Pita and Elliott to be a part of the project. If it wasn’t for them the show really wouldn’t have been half as good.
So included in the show was this large museum diorama, accompanied by six paintings of the dogs inserted into different scenes that I had captured within the video game Grand Theft Auto V. There were also a series of small prints in 3D printed frames, with all of the works being accompanied by small metal plaques that reinforced this faux museum show, interpreting what the works were about from a museum point of view.
Alongside the physical works, I also produced a new animated video work of Spot dancing in the snow, atop a mountain, titled The Dance. It’s a CGI looping video work featuring Spot enacting The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker, atop a snowy mountain, surrounded by human bones and plastic water bottles. The Dance is a sombre exploration of our relationship to increasingly lifelike autonomous objects. As the camera continuously revolves around the mountain the audience becomes acutely aware that Spot is alone, enacting a perfectly executed pre-programmed routine with no one left to observe it. I really love this work, and was so happy with how it turned out. Truly sad and beautiful, with the dog performing to no one. Link is here - https://youtu.be/OKDPSnxok1s
Also, during the lead up to the show Pita and Elliott organised a workshop, titled A Society Of Spots, intended to inspire and stimulate ideas for the exhibition, imagining what the world would look like if packs of robotic dogs roamed the Earth, including Claire Jervert, Tamara Kametani, Catinca Malaimare, Erin Mitchell, Tom Milnes, Jack Smurthwaite, Petra Szeman, Wade Wallerstein, Lan Yao and Hui Xu, alongside Catinca Malaimare, Ross Murray and Jake Charles Rees for lending their voices for the audio guide included in the exhibition. As a thank you to them I produced a series of micro versions of the six new paintings included in the exhibition.
I actually really like making these small works, and definitely want to experiment further with producing them.
So that was all my trips outside of the country, now for the other work I’ve been up to, beginning with a series of paintings, large and small, that I’ve been making that explore ideas surrounding time and the addictive nature of the bright, lucid light of your phone screen, usually in the early hours of the morning. The work began with one work, titled Sum, inspired by David Eagleman’s short story of the same name that explores how, when you die, you’ll experience all of the events from your life in different sections, grouped together by their similar qualities. You might spend two hundred consecutive days showering, whilst only fifteen hours will be spent writing your signature. Sum, and the other paintings in the series, is my own way of coming to terms with how long I spend meaninglessly scrolling through my phone, obsessing over pointless social media trends and the minutiae of other people’s lives.
I made a few large-scale versions of this work, alongside a bunch of mini versions that I produced with 3D printed frames. Although I liked the large-scale ones, I really enjoyed the micro ones, and the added layer that the 3D printing added to the work. It’s something I really want to experiment more with, both framing and the 3D printed frame.
An interview of mine from 2019 was included in Curating Digital Art: From Presenting and Collecting Digital Art to Networked Co-Curation, a new book edited by Annet Dekker, published by Valiz. Alongside my interview, it contains 26 other interviews with curators of digital art, speaking about the potential of exhibiting digital art, both offline and on the web. It also features a broken timeline of curated online exhibitions, presenting a lineage of web-based curatorial projects that are often overlooked by the mainstream artworld and their discourses. It feels great to be part of such a fantastic resource and archive, amongst those that I have both worked with and long admired, although was a little odd to see my words from 2019 almost three years later, after so much has changed in my life and work.
The book includes contributions from Pita Arreola-Burns, Evelyn Austin, LaTurbo Avedon, Paul Barsch, Livia Benedetti, Bob Bicknell-Knight, Elliott Burns, Tom Clark, Marco De Mutiis, Constant Dullaart, Madja Edelstein-Gomez, Amber van den Eeden, Rebecca Edwards, Rózsa Farkas, Marialaura Ghidini, Manique Hendricks, Tilman Hornig, Florian Kuhlmann, Kalle Mattsson, Anika Meier, Marie Meixnerová, Laura Mousavi, Katja Novitskova, Domenico Quaranta, Stefan Riebel, Ryder Ripps, Sakrowski, Katrina Sluis, Lilian Stolk, Systaime a.k.a. Michaël Borras, Gaia Tedone, Jon Uriarte, Miyö Van Stenis, Nimrod Vardi, Marcela Vieira and ZHANG Ga. You can purchase a copy for €26.50 by going to https://valiz.nl/en/publications/curating-digital-art
I’ve also been making a few new drone works, paintings of police officers in various places around the world, with drones placed in front of them, continuing to think about how new technologies are weaponised and regularly produced for violence and law enforcement. It’s something I’m still thinking about and working on.
Other than making work during this time, I’ve been a part of a bunch of group exhibitions, including Proyector Festival in Madrid; having my video I Wish I’d Been Born A Balloon screened at Focal Point Gallery’s big screen for several months; Drava Art Biennale 2021 at Koprivnica Gallery in Croatia; Work Upside Down at Casa Municipială de Cultură in Cluj, Romania; In Crystalized Time at Museum of Museums in Seattle; The World of Light in New Zealand/online; Pink Cloud at Arad Museum in Romania; THE STRUGGLE IS REAL, online at Green Cube Gallery; Highlights Of The Year 2021 at Office Impart in Berlin; The Zium Gallery, online at The Zium and WDT 2:1, online at Wet DoveTail.
I was also successful in applying to Jerwood’s 1:1 FUND, a new fund for collaborations where the candidates were selected by a random number generator. Basically like winning the lottery, but for funding. I applied with Rosa Nuutinen to undertake initial research into digital worldbuilding, exploring the relationship between 2D/3D worlds, the real and the virtual and how differently time is experienced within video game spaces vs the physical world. This is still happening at the moment, and will probably be the start of a new video work.
Other than that I’ve just been applying to lots of things at the moment, as during the last few months of 2021 I was just too busy to apply to anything, so right now I’m in a bit of a slow point in time, seeking out new opportunities and inspiration. I’d like to travel more this year, to go on a few residencies and connect more with people in person. I’m also currently working on another ACE application for isthisit?, which would be partially funded by a private collector. I’m hoping to submit that before the end of the month. So yeah, both busy and not so busy, rolled into one.
I think that’s almost everything that I’ve been up to over this period. I felt incredibly burned out at the end of the year and have basically been de-stressing for the past month or so, alongside moving house and dealing with the hecticness that encompasses. Now for the next part, which I’m dreading, looking through all the exhibitions, films, TV shows, games and books that I’ve ingested, beginning with exhibitions. Be aware that this will be a random timeline of shows, in no particular order and from various locations that I’ve visited.
Let’s begin with Disgrace by Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings at Arcadia Missa, a solo exhibition exploring the history of feminism on the political right in the UK, connecting the links between colonialism, capitalism and neoliberalism. It was a loaded exhibition, full of intricate etchings and a fresco, depicting different events in feminist history. Brilliant work that needs time and energy to fully deconstruct.
Slow Burn at indigo+madder was fine, a group show of watercolours. It felt very toned down and salon-y. I couldn’t truly grasp onto any of the work.
Lunatics by David Micheaud at Xxijra Hii was also fine. It felt like a very muted exhibition, with beautiful paintings but very little to bring them together. Lots of subtle colour hues but not a lot of actual substance. It’s a very weighted title for a show too.
London Grads Now 2021 at Saatchi Gallery was an interesting, degree show like, mix of work from all the London universities. As always with Saatchi, their catalogues/exhibition materials are terrible, so by this point I remember very little about my experience. One of the highlights was Minyoung Kim’s cute canvases, although I’m sure there were a few more things I enjoyed.
Zethu Maseko’s of water and womb at 303 Projects, an exhibition of work exploring de-colonial thinking, investigating de-colonial memory practices using ritual, storytelling, sonics and spiritual objects. It was a nice show, although again it felt very muted and display-y. Perhaps I was just a little disappointed with the lack of a considered press release, or maybe I’m just bored by shows that I can see simply by looking them up online? Perhaps that’s why I think lots of things are muted at the moment.
John Powell-Jones’ Cyberjunk: Quantum Crash at IMT Gallery was like stepping into an 80s B movie style sci-fi film, complete with blobby characters and cyborg action figures. I enjoyed it’s aesthetic and unfinished feeling, a little rougher and around the edges than other shows, which I definitely appreciated and wanted.
Mary Hurrell’s Buoy at Nicoletti was fine, lots of layering of imagery and materials, although, due to the fact that there were eight performances scheduled during the shows run, it felt a little empty, as if the work was only truly activated with the performance. I’m okay with this kind of work, although it does pretty consistently lead to a disappointing show in between times.
Wishbone Vision, a group show with Anthea Hamilton, Sophia Al-Maria, Zadie Xa and Benito Mayor Vallejo at Project Native Informant was a little disappointing. It was fun to see the costumes from Hamilton’s 2018 Tate commission up close, and Xa and Vallejo’s paintings/wall dividers were fun, but with no press release I was left wanting for some interpretation, especially given the quite dense material list for Al-Maria’s works. A shame.
Testament, a massive group exhibition at Goldsmiths CCA, was quite overwhelming, especially on opening night. It’s a simple premise, invite over 40 artists to contribute anything, big or small, to act as a new monument for the future. This means there’s some good work and a lot of detritus to sort through. The highlights for me were the work of Jeremy Deller, Tenant of Culture, Lawrence Lek, Yuri Pattison, Tai Shani, Edward Thomasson and Ryan Gander.
Jane Hayes Greenwood’s Garden of the Night at Castor was good to see, beautiful paintings of plants and bodily changes, both sci-fi like and human esque. I love Greenwood’s paintings and their detail, although one of the main issues I had with this show was the curation. One room held paintings, very simply installed, whilst another, smaller room at the gallery, featured a large-scale sculpture of a torso, alone, with it’s back against the wall. This second room felt a little like an afterthought, pushed back into the office, rather than being treated as an equal to the paintings. It just felt very odd and unnatural for this large sculpture to be hidden and pushed against the wall. Why not use the space in the larger room to install this work as a centrepiece. I dunno, I like the work, but felt the install wanted more. Her previous exhibition at Block 336 felt more connected and cohesive, although of course that might be the difference between a publicly funded and commercial gallery.
Admire Kamudzengerere and Troy Makaza duo exhibition Haipere nyaya yacho at Catinca Tabacaru was a really interesting clash of styles and artworks. One painted onto canvas with very fast strokes, whilst the other produced very intricate silicone-based works that really warrant being seen in person. Lovely work in a beautiful space.
Ma Jianfeng’s In Time at Sandwich was okay, I’m not a big fan of his work.
In Beloved Bucharest, a group exhibition with work by Geta Brătescu, Florina Coulin, Alice Gancevici & Remus Pușcariu, Ion Grigorescu, Mircea Nicolae, Ștefan Sava, Mona Vătămanu & Florin Tudor at Ivan Gallery was an interesting look into how Bucharest has changed and transformed since the 1977 earthquake and post communism. This work by Alice Gancevici & Remus Pușcariu was interesting, if I remember correctly this machine transformed wood into some sort of liquid.
TIMPURI NOI: Xenogeneze ale SF-lui at Rezidența BRD Scena9 was a fantastic, extremely well researched and produced, exhibition all about science fiction in Romania. The highlight for me was seeing the Aiud wedge, an aluminium wedge that was discovered whilst digging in Romania. People believe that it may be a historical artefact, left behind by aliens, whereas the far more plausible explanation is that it was part of the digger which was being used to dig. Either way it’s a fantastic story, and I had been using it as a research point for the Digging History exhibition, so when I saw it in the gallery I just couldn’t believe it, especially as it was THE wedge! Very exciting.
THEORETICS, a group show at Suprainfinit Gallery with work by Aron Madon, just wondering…, Raluca Milescu, Alex Horghidan, Nico Mureș, Thea Lazăr and Smaranda Ursuleanu, was okay, although the press release was only in Romanian, making it difficult to decipher what the show was about. From the work on show I gathered that it was an exhibition exploring feminist environments. The most interesting work, from Thea Lazăr, was a video called For You Can See No Other, about a anthropomorphic mirror, and the importance of mirrors throughout history. Watch it here - https://cutra.ro/de-la-sinele-oglinda-la-oglinda-sinelui-un-pelerinaj-feminist/
At MNAC there were a few shows, one by Gustafsson & Haapoja presenting Becoming, a video exploring how to be human in a world endangered by obsolete conceptions of humanity. I did not stay long enough to understand it. There were several other shows too, although the MNAC website is truly terrible to navigate, so I can’t really find what I saw whilst I was there. It was an extraordinary building though, one with fantastic views.
I visited the Museum of Recent Art in Romania, a wild building with quite a cool collection of work. Highlights were Ioana Batranu, Horia Bernea and Stefan Ungureanu.
Hand to your ear at Emalin, with work by Alvaro Barrington, Nikita Gale, Jasper Marsalis, Alison O’Daniel, Malick Sidibé, Dominique White and curated by Gabriella Nugent, had an interesting conceit, artists who work with sound, although the reality was an exhibition weighted with an impenetrable text. Perhaps I was just tired, but this show, for me, was just meh.
Temporary Compositions at Gallery 31 was a fun group show, with work by Abbas Zahedi, Phoebe Davies, Joe Namy and Sonya Dyer, curated by Stella Sideli. I really enjoyed Zahedi’s work in the show, a kick drum pedal connected to a custom acoustic system that enabled audience members to create their own melody by pushing down on the pedal. A really beautiful, simple and subtle exploration of sound and audience participation.
I enjoyed Yoshitomo Nara’s Pinacoteca at Pace, especially the idea of exhibiting work within a custom built shed within the gallery space. It’s fun, very cute, work.
WHAT DO YOU SEE, YOU PEOPLE, GAZING AT ME at Sadie Coles with Natalie Ball, Kevin Beasley, Georgia Gardner Gray, Tau Lewis, Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Simphiwe Ndzube, Agata Słowak and Frieda Toranzo Jaeger was okay. I wasn’t so into the work, although I thought the idea of splitting up the gallery into pizza-like slices was a fun way of curating a group show.
Rachel Maclean’s That’s not Mi! at Josh Lilley was definitely an enjoyable time, although I think the photographs may have been more enticing than the actual experience. Everything felt a little, for lack of a better word, tacky. The paintings felt very plastic-y, obviously the aesthetic but one that I don’t enjoy, whilst the 3D prints seemed weirdly dirty. It fitted in with the centrepiece of the show, a new animated film that explored two different sides of a Disney esque princess, but for me it just felt weird and off. It was good, probably the best show I saw that day, but not great, especially not compared to previous shows of Maclean’s.
Allison Katz’s Artery at Camden Art Centre was thoroughly enjoyed, very playful painting, alongside nice explorations in installing these 2D works. One of my favourites was a to scale depiction of the lift, whereas another enjoyable series depicted the insides of a mouth, with small cabbage paintings hidden and installed on the backs. It was a good show, inspiring new ways of exhibiting and showcasing painting.
Also at Camden Art Centre was Julien Creuzet’s Too blue, too deep, too dark we sank…, exploring the social realities of the Caribbean diaspora. What interested me was the floor works, metal cut outs of various scenes, inviting visitors to be a part of the floor transformation.
I really enjoyed System Down? State of Affairs at KLEMM’S, a group exhibition posing as an abandoned office space, featuring the work of Lucy Beech (and Edward Thomasson), Omer Fast, Mikhail Karikis, Imran Perretta, Ho Rui An, Igor Simić, and Emilija Škarnulytė, curated by Olaf Stüber. It was a very tight show, with great work enclosed by a fantastic transformation of the space. Very cool, very well done.
Petra Cortright’s solo exhibition BALEAF GYS AKADEMIKS maamgic BROKIG at Société was fine. When I visited there was no press release, which makes the aesthetic driven artworks even less interesting than they purport to be. I dunno, I’m kind of tired by Cotright’s work at this point. I enjoy the method of production, but the finalised artistic image is quite repetitive and very meh.
Refik Anadol’s MACHINE HALLUCINATIONS: NATURE DREAMS at KÖNIG GALERIE was pretty wild, not because of the work, but simply due to the large quantity of people visiting the exhibition to see the work. I guess that’s NFTs for you.
At Kindl there were a couple of different shows. The first was Alexandra Bircken’s Fair Game, an exhibition based within a very tall part of the building, effectively featuring the outer shell of figures, placed around the space. It was an incredibly ominous exhibition, truly dwarfing you and those that enter.
Another exhibition at Kindl was Tatjana Doll’s Was heißt Untergrund?, large, messy paintings that took lots of iconography. Not my thing.
The final show was a group exhibition, Ende Neu, with work from Katja Aufleger, Angela de la Cruz, Caterina Gobbi, Bastian Hoffmann, Soshi Matsunobe, Renaud Regnery, Michael Sailstorfer and Nicola Samorì. There was a lot of work focusing on violence, both loud and quiet kinds. Katja Aufleger’s GUILTY was a favourite, perfume bottles acting as Molotov cocktails.
Marina González Guerreiro’s ras Cada fantasía escapista hay un día a día que sostener (Each escapist dream there is the day-to-day to sustain) at Bungalow (ChertLüdde) was kind of fun, fridge doors offering portals into other worlds.
Füsun Onur’s This story will continue at ChertLüdde was kind of beautifully simple, filling the space with sound, a perfume of sorts and a couple of umbrellas found whilst journeying to the gallery. I kind of hated its simplicity, but I enjoyed it at the same time. It was quite an odd show to see, especially as it was my first time visiting the gallery, so had no real context as to what the space is “normally”.
Farewell Information by Camilla Steinum at Soy Capitán was fine, massive playing cards. I think I wanted to like it more than I did, having the hallmarks of an “interesting” show (carpet, colourful lights) with no real substance.
THE ALBANIAN CONFERENCE: HOME IS WHERE THE HATRED IS by Anna Ehrenstein, feat. DNA, Fadescha, Rebecca-Pokua Korang at KOW Berlin was fine. I wasn’t so into the work, with the aesthetic being quite messy and throwaway, accompanied by the use of gym equipment, which always makes me think about Sondra Perry’s work, where this equipment is actively used to power the artwork on show. For this show the equipment was used as props, unusable, so it just felt a bit stiff. The main piece was a video that had been synced to several different TVs around the space, encouraging and taking the audience by the hand around the show. This I liked.
Erin Mitchell’s A Prime Dystopia at Kreuzberg Pavillon was fun, a window display mimicking that of a tech start-up launch, with a QR code linking to news articles about the exploitation of low-wage, precarious, and gig economy workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
HR Giger and Mire Lee at Schinkel Pavillon, curated by Agnes Gryczkowska, was a pretty amazing show, exhibiting work by Giger, including a life size version of a Xenomorph, alongside the work of Lee, an artist who appears to be heavily influenced by Giger. I really liked seeing this work up close, especially Giger’s paintings, alongside just visiting this fantastic venue that I’d never actually been to before. A very enjoyable show.
A FIRE IN MY BELLY at the Julia Stoschek Collection was a very good show, bringing together a ton of video and digital artists from her collection, examining the ways in which experiences of violence and loss are enacted, witnessed, and transformed. I still think Love is the message, the message is Death by Arthur Jafa is one of my favourite video works and it’s always fantastic to see Marianna Simnett’s Faint with Light.
NINE at panke.gallery was a sound and light installation by Martin Bricelj Baraga and Olaf Bender, where balloons inflated and deflated overhead, connected to both the sound and light in the space. It was quite an intense experience which I enjoyed.
A group show with Hannah Sophie Dunkelberg, Johanna Dumet, Lena Marie Emrich at OFFICE IMPART was fun, both to see the work on show and to see the space in person after having a solo show there in early 2021.
Beano: The Art Of Breaking The Rules at Somerset House was a mammoth group show curated by Andy Holden. Somerset House always seems to put on these types of shows, focusing on a theme that will bring the general public in (Beano, Snoopy, etc) and sneakily present you with actual art that wasn’t necessarily inspired by the main theme of the exhibition. As I’m not really a super Beano fan I was happy to see that this was the case for this show. There was of course the historical side of the exhibition, but then there was like a ton of amazing artists who just had really great work on show. Alongside the art I also really enjoyed the comic produced specifically for the show, full of art world references and links. It was a great show and I was really glad that I went.
Flat Work at Solid Haus, a new Kunsthalle-like space initiated by Ryan Gander in Suffolk, was fun, featuring work by Cory Arcangel, Simon Newby, Luna Suzuki Stahl, Åbäke, Simeon Barclay, Liv Preston, Harry Grundy, Sarah Lucas and Oliver Beer. As someone whose grown up in Suffolk it was cool to see contemporary work in a contemporary space, something of a rarity.
Corporeal Glitch, a duo exhibition between Monique Atherton and Liz Calvi at Seager Gallery wasn’t so great.
Registration Of Stano Filko at Fait Gallery, a solo exhibition of Stanislav Filko, was quite wild. It was a retrospective of sorts, from an artist I did not know, who seemed to have produced a huge amount of work, varying in size and scale. I think it was just interesting to see how one might go about displaying/archiving such a big body of work.
The Moravian Gallery had an interesting retrospective of work by the Czech designer Jiří Pelcl, who seems to have made a lot of things out of a huge number of materials. I’m not really a designer-y person, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, kind of like going through an IKEA. It’s not an art experience.
Galerie TIC had three different shows in it’s building at the time, all of which had press releases that were sadly only in Czech. Tea Bags on Eyelids by Barbora Zentková and Julie Gryboś was fun, I’m assuming tea infused thread, intertwined with metal structures and benches.
Plan DELTA by Daniela Ponomarevová felt very low-fi sci-fi, but in no way as interesting at IMT gallery’s exhibition.
The final show at TIC was App Art 3: Bots of Obvia Nomin. I liked the idea of app based work, but didn’t really know how they were supposed to work.
Triangle, featuring work by Will Kendrick, Catherine Parsonage, Jess Power, was the culmination of the Freelands Painting Fellowship. I kind of liked this show, or parts of it. I really enjoyed the reading room, where the artists had selected books and had been interviewed about their practice, speaking about how the fellowship had helped them grow. I also really liked the space after weirdly never visiting there. The work wasn’t too great, I have worked with Kendrick before a few times and do enjoy his work and research, and especially like how he was selected for this even though he isn’t a stereotypical painter. I wasn’t so interested in the others, not really my style of painting.
Bryan Giuseppi Rodriguez Cambana’s Ópera de Balcón at Cell Project Space was a pretty great show, two balconies communicating with each other via their blinking lights. Very good and clever.
DISASTERPIECE by Benjamin Murphy at Lychee One was not my thing.
I am not American (I love Adrian, I miss Carolee, I follow Hannah), a solo show by Sands Murray-Wassink at Auto Italia, was a thought-provoking exhibition as archive, showing work that was produced between 1993 – 2021, exploring gender, mental health and sexuality.
I am a Bird from Heaven’s Garden by Bill Lynch at The approach was an exercise in subtle mark making on found wood. The painting was subtle, representational in a way that made you reconsider the objects depicted. Kind of nice work.
I was kind of disappointed by Memeplex, a group exhibition at Seventeen with Minjeong An, David Cronenberg, Joey Holder, Botond Keresztesi, Kinke Kooi, Jack Jubb, Isaac Lythgoe, Katja Novitskova, Omsk Social Club, Transformella malor (fed and cared for by JP Raether), Jonas Schoeneberg and Suzanne Treister, engineered by Omsk Social Club and Joey Holder. It was basically a meme hospital of sorts, although I don’t really think it immersed itself enough in the set dressing of the experience. Before visiting the space I had seen pictures, which all look great and immersive, but in reality it’s just some painted walls and a hospital bed. It feels like a cheap imitation of a hospital, when, for me, Seventeen is a gallery that regularly transforms the exhibition space, making real effort to produce shows that are worth your time. I dunno, disappointing to say the least, which is a shame as I love Holder’s work.
The final show I’ll write about is She Keeps Me Damn Alive by Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley at arebyte, a fantastic exhibition whose showcase was an on-rails shooter. It’s an exhibition that makes you question gameplay mechanics, as well as forcing you to reflect on your actions and choices with regards to Black Trans people. It was an incredibly clever, thought provoking and semi-enjoyable experience, that was potentially my favourite show of the past 6 months. Instead of me writing more about it, however, I’ll link to an article written by Elliott and Pita, who I visited the exhibition with - https://offsiteproject.medium.com/keeping-them-damn-alive-guilt-and-failure-arebyte-gallery-a994c56a2944
So that’s 54 exhibitions. Now let’s start writing about the 120 or so films, TV and games I’ve consumed, beginning with Fast & Furious 9. An obviously trash film that I vaguely enjoyed.
I kind of enjoyed The Boondock Saints, two Irish Catholic brothers killing criminals whilst being tracked down by Willem Dafoe as an eccentric detective. Pretty enjoyable.
The Chair was fun, Sandra Oh being great as the head chair of an English department in an American university. Yeah, I definitely enjoyed it.
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf, an anime film featuring some Witcher lore, was really good and highly recommended for any Witcher fan.
Probably the worst/best thing I watched was Cooking with Paris, a Paris Hilton cooking show which will make you incredibly upset and distressed. Just terrible but kind of fantastic at the same time, as you may imagine.
The Magic Pudding was an odd film about a magical pudding. What more is there to say?
I tried to watch Centaurworld, an animation about a war horse who gets transported into a land of singing creatures, but couldn’t really get into it. I don’t know why, but evidently it wasn’t for me.
Surge, a film featuring Ben Whishaw as a low level worker in an airport who, over a 24 hour period, slowly looses his mind, was incredibly painful and stressful to watch. It was a bit like Uncut Gems, making you squirm in your seat as you watched Whishaw slowly descend into a very bad place. A good film but a hard watch.
The Prince was one of those animations trying to be “adult” but dramatically failing. The jokes were bad and it was a pretty tedious plot, focusing on Prince George, both within the royal family and in primary school. Yeah, just not funny, and that’s coming from someone who hates the royals and would happily watch a comedy animation about how terrible they are.
I tried to watch Made in Abyss but only got a few episodes in, perhaps I should come back to it at some point…
I kind of liked Q-Force, an animation about a gay secret agent who compiles a queer team to undergo missions with. Fun but sadly kind of forgettable.
For some reason I wasn’t so into Beckett, John David Washington traversing through Greece on a stressful mission. Perhaps I thought it was a bit too obvious? I watched it so long ago that I can’t remember why I rated it so badly (5/10), but I trust my past self nonetheless.
In preparation for the new Matrix film I watched all of the old ones, having both a tedious and great time. 2 and 3 just blend together in a mish mash of randomness.
I really enjoyed the first half an hour of The Matrix Resurrections whilst it was being really meta, making you question whether the Matrix was just all a dream within the mind of Keanu Reeves. Sadly the narrative swiftly changed, and for the rest of the film we were watching fighting that feels painfully unrealistic and very long, overblown expository conversations. An okay return.
Kate was fun, a “gritty” action assassin film. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has been in so many fantastic roles to be honest, this isn’t really one of them, but it definitely shows how versatile she can be. Good fun, but nothing amazing.
The Guilty with Jake Gyllenhaal was another anxiety inducing film, about a police officer assigned to a call dispatch desk, who takes a call that spirals out of control. It was solid, and almost entirely filmed within the call centre. I won’t say anymore for fear of spoilers.
Those Who Wish Me Dead, Angelina Jolie as a daredevil firefighter, was fun. Not great but fun enough. It had all the stereotypes.
I remember watching Squid Game when it first came out, enjoying it, and then quickly forgetting about it. A few weeks later everyone was talking about it, and by that point I was kind of over it. I definitely enjoyed the experience, especially the early episodes when there was a lot more mystery, but have kind of forgotten about it at this point. The sets and costumes were good, and the multiple different storylines taking place throughout. It was nice to be introduced to Dalgona too, a very simple tasty treat of a food.
I really enjoyed Candyman, even though some of the art stereotypes were a bit crass, I thought it was a fantastically coherent horror film about gentrification and race cocooned by art world satire. Very good and highly recommended.
I liked Free Guy for what it was, a blatantly fun comedy adventure about an NPC gaining sentience. Yeah, I had a good, solid time. It’s a classic “does what it says on the tin” film, which I had promptly forgotten about.
Gunpowder Milkshake was fine, a little bit overdone for my taste, an attempt at making a female version of John Wick. For me it lacked the coherent worldbuilding and “grit” that made John Wick so great. It was fun, but not great fun.
I fell in love with The Way of the Househusband, an anime about a Yakuza boss who retires and becomes a househusband, cooking and cleaning around the house for his partner. It’s the funniest show I’ve seen for some time, playing with the idea of this scary looking man going to cooking classes and going out to buy toys as gifts. It’s a really great show that I hope gets renewed for a second season.
Another, slightly weirder, show is 10-Year-Old Tom, an animation about a ten-year-old kid being influenced by terrible people in his life. It’s a very odd, hilarious, show that I would definitely recommend, with Tom reflecting on things with an oddly adult perspective whilst simultaneously having the knowledge of a ten-year-old. It’s a very good, very weird, show.
I enjoyed Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales for what it was, a comedy combining Lego and Star Wars. What’s not to love?
Den of Thieves was pretty trash, boilerplate heist film.
I enjoyed Toradora!, although a lot of anime has to be taken with a pinch of salt when it comes to portraying women, with Toradora! Being no exception. It’s about a nice guy who starts helping a fierce girl, slowly growing closer as the series continues. I enjoyed it for what it was, although was in no way blown away, especially when comparing this to The Way of the Househusband.
I watched a few episodes of Oruchuban Ebichu, an old anime about a sex obsessed hamster. I wasn’t so into it.
It was my first time watching Zardoz, a pretty terrible 70s sci-fi about a “savage” man finding his way into a community of immortals, disrupting their bored lives. I think I liked it, although it had aged quite a lot in the almost 50 years since its inception. The massive floating head that spawns guns is definitely a sight to see.
Girls5eva was light fun, a show about a group of women who used to be in a girl band getting back together to revive their career. It was enjoyable.
I thought The Green Knight was fantastic, beautifully crafted scenes depicting Dev Patel traversing a medieval landscape. I had a really good time with it.
Jungle Cruise was a messy film, full of painful racist tropes inspired by a racist Disneyland theme park ride. For a cohesive and brilliant break down of the problems with the film, head to the Pop Culture Detective podcast, where Jonathan McIntosh speaks about its many problems - https://popculturedetective.agency/podcast/the-case-of-the-cursed-jungle-cruise He also has a great YouTube channel all about toxic masculinity in film, if interested - https://www.youtube.com/c/PopCultureDetective
I was very disappointed by Dave Chappelle: The Closer, a stand-up special that saw Chappelle say truly terrible things about the Trans community. Just very unpleasant to see, not funny and most importantly not understanding that the struggles that someone else goes through doesn’t reduce your own struggles. Just really bad, and definitely stopping me from watching anything Chappelle related in the future.
Attack of the Hollywood Cliches! was very sleepy and quite tedious. I was over it before it had even finished. Rob Lowe in Wayne’s World is great, but this comedy documentary was not so good.
Now I don’t think I ever wrote about Kidding, a fantastic 2 season TV series featuring Jim Carrey as a Mister Rogers esque children’s TV presenter who becomes increasingly demystified by the world he inhabits. It’s a really beautiful show, with Carrey doing an amazing performance alongside Catherine Keener and Judy Greer.
Adult Material, a series about a woman working in porn, was pretty good. Very English, very Channel 4. It definitely makes you think about porn and how the industry is observed within the wider world.
Now, I am a fan of Jason Statham. He’s both terrible and great, in a very knowing way. I loved the original Transporter when I watched it as a young person, so really enjoyed Wrath of Man. It featured Statham as a new employee of a cash truck company making deliveries of cash in LA. It’s a very enjoyable film, full of tight action and Statham being Statham.
I liked No Time to Die, although it was in no way a favourite. It was fun, and worked well within the Daniel Craig arc, but not the best film in this era of Bond. That is reserved for Casino Royale with Mads Mikkelsen.
The Card Counter was the dullest film I’ve seen for some time, Oscar Isaac being very boring with a terrible script and actually very bad acting from him and Tiffany Haddish. I was very surprised at how dull this film was. A total waste of time, which I very rarely say.
Swallow was a distressing film, featuring a pregnant housewife swallowing various objects. It was very unpleasant to watch, making your stomach tight and forcing you to look away. Haley Bennett was painfully believable.
I quite enjoyed Young Rock, a semi-autobiographical comedy about Dwayne Johnson reflecting on his childhood whilst being interviewed by Randall Park during his campaign to become the next president of the US. It was a fun time.
Revolver, another film about cards with Jason Statham, was sadly no Wrath of Man. Very dull and kind of goes off the rails a bit towards the end.
I thought The Gentlemen was better, another film by Guy Ritchie which was fun and fairly clever. Like most Guy Ritchie films, enjoyable trash.
Stephen, a drama inspired by the real-life story of Doreen and Neville Lawrence attempting to achieve justice for the death of their son, was bleak to say the least. The lack of care from the police, as always, is painful and really demonstrates how fucked the system is.
Assassins, a documentary about two women who were convicted of assassinating Kim Jong-un's half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, was a wild story of deception. As with most true crime esque shows, I had a good time.
I found Involuntary to be a fantastic, painfully distressing and hilarious, Swedish film about a series of people putting their foot down. If you enjoy awkward situations and long silences, watch this film, it is fantastic.
Y: The Last Man was a really well produced series about a virus that kills off all the people in the world with a Y chromosome, apart from one. It was a fantastic series, building a beautifully fleshed out world that asked complicated and big questions about what you do when half of the world’s population just dies. I watched the series, thoroughly enjoying every moment, and, after Googling, discovered that it had been cancelled, which was severely disappointing, and somewhat baffling. It’s a great show that I would highly recommend watching.
Norsemen was very funny, a Norwegian show portraying Viking life in the 8th century. It’s very funny and straight to the point. I’d definitely recommend if you’re looking for something easy and funny.
I found Maid to be quite an amazing, deeply painful, watch, exploring how hard it is to escape an emotionally abusive relationship whilst forcing viewers to rethink every relationship you’ve been in. For me this was a near perfect series, incredibly well made and almost forcing reflection. A fantastic show that I would really recommend.
Copshop, a film about an assassin running amok in a local police station, was an enjoyable, easy watch.
Continuing my Jason Statham obsession, I watched Chaos, a 2005 film featuring Statham pursuing a bank robber. Utterly forgettable.
I quite enjoyed Old, a film about a family that, whilst relaxing on a beach, discovers that its ageing them at a rapid pace. I found it to be a fun, semi-worthwhile, watch.
I was surprised to not have watched Derry Girls before, as it was very funny. A show about young women living in Northern Ireland during the 1990s. Very watchable, very enjoyable.
Inside Job was a fun enough animated show about employees of the Deep State, people who suppress conspiracy esque secrets. I kind of wanted to like it more than I did due to it being from Alex Hirsch (creator of Gravity Falls, a show I love). It was fun whilst it lasted, and will watch season 2 if its been greenlit, but I’m not as intensely excited by it as I was Gravity Falls.
Bong Joon Ho’s Mother was a fantastic watch, focusing on a mother searching for a killer who framed her son for a young women’s murder. It was a very bleak film, beautifully bleak, and a must watch for all those that are obsessively connected to their mother.
Aquaman: King of Atlantis was okay, an animation about Aquaman. It was okay, but in no way great, or probably even good. It was fun, I guess?
The Vault was a basic heist film. It is what it is. I kind of hate Freddie Highmore though, a very painful young person.
The Host, another Bong Joon Ho film, was pretty great, although not quite as devastating as Mother, about a monster emerging from Seoul's Han River and causing havoc. It’s a great watch, both sad and action-y.
The Protégé was fine, a fun enough action film with Maggie Q and Samuel Jackson. Fun action, yet again.
I thought Fairfax was both gross and kind of fun, an animation about middle school kids obsessed with collecting Supreme like clothes and accessories. It was very odd, and yeah, quite terrible, but maybe kind of fun, seeing what the youth are involved with these days? I don’t know…
WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn was an interesting watch, and very informative, focusing on WeWork and why it’s a truly terrible company. Highly recommended.
I started and stopped watching Band of Brothers, a World War 2 series about US army soldiers. The more I watched, the more it felt like military propaganda and just boring bullshit. 20 years later this show just felt very dated and boring. I’m very not interested in war shit anymore.
Happily was a pretty dull watch, about a couple’s life being disrupted by a stranger making them doubt their relationship. It was fine!
I thought The Harder They Fall was a fantastic, contemporary western. A fantastic soundtrack combined with great acting and a well written script. Highly enjoyable and very recommended.
Mads Mikkelsen in Hannibal was great, a delicious portrayal of a serial killer controlling from the shadows. I remember trying to get into it in 2016 and failing miserably. I’m very glad I returned and finished the series. If you’re into serial killer dramas I would highly recommend.
Weirdly I hadn’t watched The Cable Guy, Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick in a – pretty – funny comedy about a lonely cable guy just wanting to make a new friend.
Another older film, that I’ve pretty sure I’ve seen, was Basic Instinct. Sadly it has not aged well, Michael Douglas is a very unpleasant figure in a lot of these older films.
Finch was fine, Tom Hanks being Tom Hanks at the end of the world. Fun but dull.
It took quite a while, but I finally finished Monster, a wild ride of an anime about a neurosurgeon who saves a psychopath’s life. It’s both dark and hilarious at times, going down such a winding road of layers and complicated-nuss. Yeah, I definitely enjoyed it, and it’s opening sequence is a classic - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msTB5r8nUHU
I felt Annette was pretty great and weird, the new film by Leos Carax (director of Holy Motors) featuring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard in a musical. They basically have a daughter, whose portrayed as a doll, that can sing at opera like levels. It’s very odd and quite fantastic, with some beautiful moments. Adam Driver, as always, is a very attractive man.
Love Hard was trash, a film about a catfished woman who learns to love her cat-fisher.
I loved Border, a Swedish film about a customs officer who has the ability to smell people smuggling suspicious items. I won’t say anymore as I don’t want to spoilt it, but I would really recommend watching this film. Really great and worth your time.
I kind of enjoyed Showtrial, a BBC crime drama about a university student who may or may not have been killed by a fellow student. It was fair, and well produced, with Celine Buckens portraying a very painfully privileged young woman.
Red Notice, with Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot, was fun trash, art thieves stealing expensive art. If you want to turn off your brain for a little while, watch this.
Dead Pixels was a fun, albeit slightly painful to watch, show about three gamers obsessed with an online role-playing game. I’m often very suspicious of how gamers are portrayed within TV shows and films, usually being seen as geeks with no friends. This show was sadly the same as many others, with the individuals being seen as people who are unable to interact with others in the physical world. So yeah, kind of a fun show, but ultimately disappointing. Why would you make a show like this if you weren’t actually interested in games and gamers?
I’ve been enjoying Blade Runner: Black Lotus, an anime that takes place 17 years before Blade Runner 2049, featuring an extremely lifelike replicant. I’ve been enjoying it, both as an anime and the ongoing storyline. If you’re a fan of Blade Runner, anime and strong action I would recommend it.
I quite enjoyed The Suicide Squad, a rebrand of the previous Suicide Squad film, in a very knowing way. I enjoyed it for what it was, a – kind of – brainless, action film about villains you don’t really know about, or ones that aren’t featured prominently in any of the universes.
Another super film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, was fun. I’m a big fan of Simu Liu because of Kim’s Convenience, so I was very much on board with the film, but it was pretty much the same as many other Marvel films in the franchise. You know what you’re getting involved in and can rely on it to be fairly enjoyable.
Deerskin was a weirdly great film about a man obsessed with his deerskin jacket. It’s hilariously dark at times whilst simultaneously being quite melancholic. A comedy horror which I would highly recommend for its weirdness.
Marvel's Hit-Monkey was pretty fantastic, about a Japanese snow money that’s mentored by a dead assassin, seeking revenge for the death of its family by killing lots of people in brutal ways. Very enjoyable and a solid show.
I really wanted to like Reminiscence, a film set in future Miami, where you need a boat to navigate through the city due to the rising sea levels. Hugh Jackman plays a private investigator who looks into the memories of his clients, enabling them to relive their past due to the failing present. So, an interesting concept, but the characters felt a little wooden, with their motives painfully unrealistic. I dunno, I liked the idea but the film didn’t really achieve what I wanted from it.
I loved Boiling Point, a truly stressful 90-minute, one shot, film about Stephen Graham being the head chef of a busy London restaurant on the Friday before Christmas. A truly amazing film, that was so incredibly stressful. I was very much at the edge of my seat for the entire experience. I would really recommend it, even though it may cause you to have a heart attack.
The recent South Park covid specials were, as always, fantastic.
Ron's Gone Wrong, an animation about an autonomous toy that every child is obsessed with, was pretty nice. Very lovely and a fun critique of our screen obsessed lives.
I liked Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas, a fun children’s TV movie.
I was kind of disappointed by Blown Away: Christmas, a Christmas special of the Blown Away series. As I’ve mentioned previously, I liked the Blown Away series, where glass blowers compete to win money and an art residency, but this Christmas series was just a bit crap and not as exciting as the original competition.
A while back I started watching Big Little Lies but never managed to finish it. This time I watched both seasons properly, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Kind of Succession-light, a bleak exploration of the upper class.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage was dumb fun, to be expected after the first film. Enjoyable trash.
The Outlaws, a TV show about a group of strangers completing a community payback sentence in Bristol, was good fun, with very up to date themes and cutting jokes. The ending, a cliff-hanger of sorts, was a bit annoying though.
The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, the second film in this series, was, again, pretty trash. Salma Hayek is, as always, pretty great though.
I found 8-Bit Christmas to be a very fun new Christmas film, a film that felt like it was positioning itself to be watched repeatedly over the next 20 or so years. It features Neil Patrick Harris telling his kid the story of how his 10-year-old self, in the 1980s, was on a mission to get a Nintendo. Really fun and perfect for Christmas/family viewing.
I kind of hated Last Night in Soho, a film that exposed Edgar Wright for his terrible writing of female characters, alongside seemingly fuelling fears surrounding London being a scary place to live. Yeah, not great.
Another film that I thought I’d like but truly hated, The French Dispatch. Painfully Wes Anderson decided to make 5 different films in one, turning his usually beautifully intricate detailing into a painful and tedious mess, exposing the pointlessness of those very details. So very boring, unforgettable and actively painful to watch.
I loved Tokyo!, an annoyingly titled film (making it very hard to find online) containing three different short films by three different amazing directors, all set in Tokyo. All three stories from Leos Carax, Michel Gondry and Bong Joon Ho were fantastic. If you can find it I would highly recommend it, with each short giving a little taste of the city and some very peculiar/science-fiction esque happenings.
Robin Robin was a cute stop-motion short about a bird raised by mice, questioning where she belongs. Very lovely and Christmassy.
I watched Don't Look Up with my family on Christmas eve, a perfect time for it. I found it to be very funny and cutting, with the various character portrayals to be highly enjoyable. Another great film to watch at Christmas.
I wanted Hawkeye to be better than it was, although obviously it’s Marvel so what was I expecting? It was kind of fun, seeing what happens to superheroes after stopping being one, but there’s lots of other TV and films that have looked at this in a much more cohesive way (see Bad Batch and Invincible).
Death to 2021 was even worse than Death to 2020, I’m unsure why I even watched this.
Dopesick was a very bleak TV show about OxyContin, Purdue Pharma (owned by the Sackler family) and the rise of the opioid crisis in America. A really distressing watch, detailing how these drugs were actively forced onto doctors, prescribing them knowing full well that they were incredibly addictive.
Last Train to Christmas was a very fun film featuring Michael Sheen, going back and forth in time via different train carriages. It’s a very fun, very sad, film that I would definitely recommend, even more so if you’re older and connected to the different years that he traverses through.
I thought The Humans was going to be a different film from what it actually was. I’m unsure what, but the reality was a drama filled experienced about a young couple moving into a flat in Manhattan who have invited one of their family’s over to celebrate Thanksgiving. It was good, but not really what I wanted at the time. If you want an awkward drama then this is for you.
Lou was a lovely little Pixar short about a lost and found box that comes alive. Very sweet.
Forget About Everything for Awhile, a YouTube film featuring Mason Carter and Joel Haver was a masterclass in improvisation. The entire one-hour film, about two strangers who end up house sitting in a family home, is entirely improvised. A very impressive film that I found myself enjoying more and more.
The Lost Daughter, Olivia Colman being fantastic as always portraying a troubled woman on a beach holiday, was really fantastic and quite troubling, reflecting on motherhood and very awkward scenarios. Very good and a great first feature film from Maggie Gyllenhaal.
I was kind of into Silent Night, a film about a posh family getting together for a Christmas gathering, although the world is about to end and everyone has been issued with pills that will kill them in their sleep, preventing them from experiencing a painful, gas infused, death. I enjoyed its bleakness, how it subtly shifted gears from being a stereotypical Christmas film to an apocalyptic one, and the terrible people you’re introduced to. Yeah, a fun watch.
I loved Hilda and the Mountain King, a feature length film finalising the amazing Hilda, an animated series about a kid who lives in Trolberg, a city that’s inhabited by various magical beings. The film was a truly beautiful way to end the series and, even though I’m really sad it’s finished, I did love that the show didn’t milk its beauty, finishing the arc after 2 seasons and the film. If you like animation I would really recommend Hilda, especially if you want to watch something that’s great for both adults and children.
Another great series, The White Lotus, was a fantastic snippet of privileged lives in a tropical resort, exploring the guests and employees. This was one of my favourites, with the stress and madness of the characters and various situations slowly bubbling up over the course of the series. Who knew Ned Schneebly could write/direct such a great show?
Titane, the new film by Raw director Julia Ducournau, was pretty amazing. It’s a head fuck of a film that feels other-worldly in various ways. I would really recommend both the film and not reading anything about it before you watch. The journey it takes you on is truly wild.
I also really loved The Summit of the Gods, an animation about a photojournalist trying to find the truth about the first expedition to Mount Everest. It was very beautifully animated, with a tense story of mountain climbing. It was a very good 90 minute experience.
I was not into Single's Inferno, a Korean reality show about nine young people on an island trying to find love. A lot of reality TV I appreciate, ranging from Below Deck to Love Island, but Single's Inferno was a bit much for me.
Only Murders in the Building, a show about three strangers who, obsessed with true crime podcasts, begin their own after someone is murdered in the building they all live in. I thought it was a very clever conceit for a show, and the characters, portrayed by Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez, were very well cast. I am eagerly awaiting season 2.
Smiling Friends, an odd animation about employees of a company dedicated to putting smiles on people’s faces, was pretty fucking bizarre. I’d definitely recommend it if you like shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and The Shivering Truth.
I’m part way through Reservation Dogs and thoroughly enjoying it, a comedy about Native American teenagers growing up on a reservation in eastern Oklahoma. It’s very funny and teen focused, created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi. I’m very much looking forward to continuing with it.
I kind of stopped halfway through Scenes from a Marriage. I enjoyed it for the time I was watching it, but for some unknown reason I stopped. Maybe it was just a bit too sad and distressing, or maybe I was just bored?
I also never finished Solos, a series of short sci-fi snippets featuring famous actors but not very well written stories. I really wanted to like the series, but didn’t feel compelled to finish due to the somewhat tedious tales. I usually love sci-fi anthologies, but this was like Black Mirror light.
Best in Show, a 2000 comedy and faux documentary about a competitive dog show, was fun, although had sadly aged quite badly in the 22 years since its inception.
I was forced to watch Dumplin', a terribly predictable comedy drama about an overweight young woman who enters beauty pageant to annoy her mother, played by Jennifer Anniston, a former beauty queen. Very tedious and painfully obvious.
The House, a truly weird tryptic of an animated film exploring three different tales of three different timelines in the life of a large estate like home, was fantastic. For me it had the perfect level of unhinged-nuss about it. Fucking weird.
I thought Mass was a great film, about two sets of parents coming together after a school shooting, although at times, particularly at the end, it felt a little overly stretched. Really great performances by everyone involved.
On-Gaku: Our Sound was a pretty great anime about three guys in high school who decide to form a band, even though they know nothing about music. A very weird hour with an intriguing animation style.
Lamb was a very odd film about a couple, living on a farm in Iceland, welcoming a child into their lives through disturbing circumstances. It was a great, incredibly subtle and slow, experience. To say anything more would be a spoiler.
Queenpins was a fun, light and apparently true story, about two women who create a multi-million-dollar coupon scam. It’s a nice film, although I wanted a little more action.
The Book of Boba Fett was an enjoyable add on to The Mandalorian. I’m a big fan of Temuera Morrison and the original Boba, so this was fun to see. Learning more about the Tusken Raiders and their backstory was also really interesting, as well as just any new bits of Star Wars lore.
I found The Tinder Swindler to be a fun and deeply distressing documentary about a man who builds relationships with women over Tinder posing as a wealthy figure, eventually asking them for hundreds of thousands of pounds with no intention of paying them back. A very interesting true crime documentary.
House of Gucci was a bit disappointing. I didn’t know the true story behind it until after the film, but after reading about Patrizia Reggiani, where she is now and how blazen she is about murdering her ex-husband, I kind of wanted to see more of the other bits. For an incredibly long film they left a lot out, leaving large holes and being left in the dark about a lot of things. It was a shame really, as the true story is so wild, but sadly they concentrated on some of the less interesting parts of the family.
I’ve been really enjoying The Righteous Gemstones, a TV show about a world-famous televangelist family who, in reality, are terrible, greedy and pretty stupid people. Yeah, a funny show.
I found No Longer Home, a video game about a young couple moving out of their university house, quietly beautiful and a very lovely two-hour experience. It’s about change and reflecting on life from a young point of view. I would definitely recommend it, with the art style being heavily inspired by games like Kentucky Route Zero and Untitled Goose Game.
Speaking of Untitled Goose Game, for some reason I didn’t write about it when I played it some time ago. It’s a game where you play as a goose causing havoc in a small country village. It’s very fun, especially when playing with two players. If you’re looking for a good couch co-op game look no further.
Another two-player game, Cuphead, is also very good, a 2D platformer with a detailed art style inspired by 1930s Disney animations accompanied by very difficult but rewarding gameplay. It’s a good game, although sadly when you utilise an art style from the 1930s, one that is very well known for depictions of racist stereotypes, things get a little complicated, with the game being potentially complicit in the problem, utilising this imagery as an art style without actively addressing the massive problems its associated with. For a much better comment on this, please go to Yussef Cole’s essay here - https://unwinnable.com/2017/11/10/cuphead-and-the-racist-spectre-of-fleischer-animation/
Another game was Road 96, a fantastic experience putting you in the shoes of several young people crossing the border to escape a fictitious totalitarian state. It’s a really great game, changing with every decision you make, that I would truly recommend playing if you enjoy layered storytelling and dynamic, well developed, characters.
I’m still slowly playing through Cyberpunk 2077, although it sadly doesn’t live up to the mammoth amount of time it was being developed for. The story is forgettable and the fabricated world feels very shallow, completely different from The Witcher series and all it stands for. At the moment I’m really graduating to shorter games that are a lot more fun to play, with Cyberpunk 2077 ultimately being a big disappointment.
I loved There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura, a fantastic book about a young woman in Japan who, after quitting her job due to burn out, receives a series of job placements from the employment office. It’s very good magical realism that I truly enjoyed. Highly recommended for those interested in ideas surrounding labour.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro was another great read, focusing on a world where autonomous doll-like toys are given to growing children, both as a friend and teacher. It was all from the perspective of one autonomous bot, called Klara. It was a very interesting way of viewing this alternate/future world, gaining snippets of what the world was about, a really beautiful way of world building. It was a very sad book that I highly enjoyed.
I wasn’t so into Shadow & Claw: The First Half of The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. The main character of Severian was very painful to read, and to get into this world was quite difficult. After 500 or so pages I was not really inclined to read the second book in the series. Not really my thing.
Asking for a Friend was a breath of fresh air after Shadow & Claw, a terribly trashy book about three female friends starting a dating game. It’s total trash and I loved every minute of it.
I’ve also been getting into a few new podcasts, branching out from my usual Kermode and Mayo, Reply All, etc. I really enjoyed Sweet Bobby, a true crime podcast about a woman who gets catfished for about 13 years. It’s a very wild story that unfolds in real time as the podcast moves forwards, and it’s based in London. There are so many American podcasts out there that it was nice to listen to something that feels a little more relatable. The location, not the catfishing. It’s a really great story that has many painful details.
Another podcast that I’ve been enjoying, Heavyweight, focuses on a middle-aged man who tried to solve other people’s problems by inserting himself into them. It’s very funny, although at times it gets a little more serious, with my favourite episode being about Moby and the inspiration for one of his albums. Very good.
Storytime with Seth Rogen, another podcast, is okay. Seth Rogen telling other people’s stories. It’s fun, but not amazing.
Other podcasts that I’ve been enjoying include Crime Show and Underunderstood, a crime podcast about various crimes, past and present, and a Reply All esque podcast about people trying to answer questions that are impossible to answer on the internet. Both shows are very good, well researched and well produced.
We’re now nearing the end of this blog post, at around 12500 words. I’m hoping that this year I’ll be a lot better than last year at updating this. I’m a little more relaxed now, have moved out of London for the time being and am taking things a little slower. I’m hoping to read and reflect a little more in 2022. Let’s see how that goes.