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The Culturist won Best Blogger Award in the second du Social Media Awards. List of all the winners.

Official Honoree of the 2012 Webby Awards

The Culturist was selected as an Official Honoree of the 16th Annual Webby Awards in the Blog - Cultural category. List of all the honorees.

The 2011 Bloggies

The Culturist won Best Asian Weblog in this year's Bloggies. Thanks to everyone that voted. List of all the winners.


RIP Robin Williams 

The world has lost a great comedian and a fine actor. My first Robin Williams experience was in the late 1970s watching Mork and Mindy. Since then, I've laughed and cried watching him in many, many films. Read this touching obituary A constant quality: Robin Williams, 1951-2014 by Matt Zoller Seitz highlighting his career in film. 


Here's an interview from 2001 with James Lipton from one of my favourite TV shows, Inside the Actors Studio. It is outrageous, hilarious and heartwarming.

Towards the end of the interview, there's this:

James Lipton: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

Robin Williams: There's seating near the front. The concert begins at five. There'll be Mozart, Elvis and then one of your choosing. Or just a nice if heaven exists to know that there's laughter. That'll be a good thing, just to hear God goes "Two Jews walk into a bar...".




RIP Robin Williams, 1951-2014. Wherever you are, hope there's laughter, Mozart and Elvis. 



[image via]


Film Screening: Like Father, Like Son

The Scene Club
 will screen Like Father, Like Son on Tuesday, 12th August 2014 at 8pm. Tickets are complimentary, but you must register in advance and collect your ticket at the venue. 

Would you choose your natural child, or the one you believed was your own during six years together? 

Following an unexpected phone call, affluent architect Ryota and his wife, Midori, learn that their six-year-old son, Keita, was switched at the hospital and is not their biological child.

Seeing Midori's devotion to Keita even after the news, and observing the rough yet caring family that has raised his natural son for the last six years, Ryota begins to question his own values on fatherhood as he must choose between 'nature' and 'nurture,' a decision that will change their lives forever. 

Directed by Kore-eda Hirokazu, Like Father, Like Son was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize and a commendation from the Ecumenical Jury. It then went on to screen at numerous international film festivals (including Toronto, San Sebastian, Vancouver, London), winning 18 awards and receiving 38 nominations.

Event details
Date: Tuesday, 12th August 2014
Time: 7.00-7.45pm - Ticket Collection and Networking | 8.00pm – Film screening 
Venue: Knowledge Village Auditorium, Dubai (location map)
Film duration: 120 minutes (Japanese with English subtitles)
Register for your ticket online.    


Happy Eid Al Fitr 2014

© Hind Mezaina

To everyone celebrating Eid Al Fitr today, I wish you Eid Mubarak. Wherever you are, hope you are with your loved ones.

This Ramadan was in the midst of some of the most harrowing events in Jerusalam, Gaza, Iraq and Syria, plus the devastating news of the shooting down of one of Malaysia Airlines' aircraft and the Air Algérie plane crash, along with more sad news from around the world.

Watching and reading about these events and trying to make sense of it all has been an activity many of us have been doing over the past few weeks.   

My friend Masarat Daud shared these words on Facebook yesterday in her Eid message. It expresses how I (and I'm certain many of us) feel and I'd like to share them here with you. 

Grateful for life and its gifts but continuously seeking clarity among stories of human fragility and injustice.

Remembering all those who were lost and the broken people they have left behind.

Thanks Masarat for these words. 


Happy 75th Birthday William Eggleston 

Today is William Eggleston's 75th birthday. He is one of my favourite photographers.

To celebrate his birthday and his work, watch this episode from BBC's Imagine series, The Colourful Mr Eggleston

William Eggleston is one of the most influential and original photographers alive today.

A Mississippi aristocrat with a fondness for guns, drink and women, he dragged colour into the world of art photography. Reviled in the 1970s, he is now considered a legend whose unique visual style has influenced generations of photographers and filmmakers.

Imagine shows the normally shy and elusive Eggleston at work - taking photographs on the road, in and around his home town of Memphis. 




Happy birthday Mr Eggleston.


Exhibition - Ramadan in Yemen by Max Pam


East Wing gallery will host a new exhibition this month, Ramadan in Yemen by Max Pam, opening on Tuesday 15th July 2014 and will go on till Wednesday, 10th September 2014. 

The exhibition is a journal of photographs and text by Max Pam from his travels across Yemen in the late 1990s. 

Working exclusively in black and white and utilizing a square format, Pam translated his exploration and experiences into a series of images and diary entries, reflecting his distinctive style: a layering of words and images.

Pam travelled across the country, sharing in the everyday lives of its people from the capital, Sanaa, to Shibam, Taizz, and Al Mukallah; then through the desert, along the country’s coastline and up into its mountain regions, returning with an intimate journal of his experiences.

The additional layers of ephemeral material and writing creates a record of a very specific moment in time, giving an in-depth insight into his creative processes;

…Because a lot of things you can’t photograph, but you can draw and write about… they are important to me; those other ways of defining experience.” Max Pam


During his teen years in Melbourne, Australia, Max Pam was drawn into the counter culture of surfing and was intrigued by the imagery in National Geographic and Surfer magazines, which planted the wanderlust for travel. He left Australia at the age of 20 in 1969 to work as a photographer which lead him to travel around the world.  

Here are some of photos and text from the exhibition, including words by Max Pam about his experience in Yemen. I am looking forward to seeing the photos and book in person. 



What could I say about Yemen that did it justice. I tried in my journal to work it honestly. I tried with 60 rolls of black and white 120 film to translate the experience. That hot, spare and beautiful Ramadan. 



No eating or drinking anything between sunrise and sunset. The faithful waiting for the moment. The cannon booms from the mosque in the afterglow of the day. KABOUMMM and a frenzy of quat buying, tea drinking and food eating begins in the suqs and squares and oases and towns all over the country. Everyone happy, elated laughing and joking sitting down together as one nation.  


And you know what, people always wanted me to share and be part of their Ramadan, their community, their Yemen. I travelled all over the country with them. To Shibam, Taizz, Al Mukallah, Sanaa, over the desert, by the sea and into the mountains. The shared taxis were always a half past dead Peugeot 405’s with sometimes 10 or 12 people jammed in.  



The 92 pages of this book give my version of that unforgettable Ramadan month. An experience freely given to me by the generosity of Yemeni people.  



Signed copies of the book Ramadan in Yemen by Max Pam will be available at the gallery's bookshop. It's a limited edition publication of 1000 copies: 92 pages with tipped-in photograph on embossed hardcover in a specially designed Clamshell (28 x 28 cm – book 25.5 x 25.5cm). Price: $120 USD. 



Exhibition detais 
Date: 15th July - 10th September 2014 | Sat-Thu 10am–10pm | Fri 4 pm-10 pm
Venue: East Wing, 
Limestone House no. 12 (next to Ritz Carlton), Dubai International Financial Center (location map) 


Exhibition - So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish

Adam Dix - Silent Servitude, 2011 | Ink and oil on panel 117 x 51 cm / 46 1/8 x 20 1/8 in


So Long, And Thanks For The Fish is the title of the latest exhibition at Lawrie Shabibi, on till 31st July. It's a group show featuring Adam Dix, Tala Madani, Basim Magdy and Taus Makhacheva and includes animation, painting, photography and video.

I think this is the best exhibition title in Dubai so far this year. It comes from the fourth book in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams, "So long, and thanks for all the fish", is a message left by dolphins when they left Planet Earth just before it was demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. 

The work in the exhibition includes "elements of the absurd, the surreal and hint at possible futures".

Preoccupations with sci-fi, fantasy, transformations and magic permeate the show, which combines animation, painting, photography and video. Elements of nostalgia for an ordinary life are cajoled by bizarre forces into a strange new world, where ritual, violence and technology compete to be catch of the day. The little things that justify our existence are questioned as we seek to find a way out on a new wave. 


The exhibition includes the following: 


Adam Dix

Adam Dix - The Messenger Pt1, 2013 | Ink, fluorescent pigment and oil on panel 45 x 45 cm / 17 3/4 x 17 3/4 in

Adam Dix’s neo-futurist paintings speak of a time of historical optimism, when absolute faith was put into new communication devices; embraced as powerful spiritual icons for the modern age, which deserved to be worshipped and revered.

The collective awe and wonder is palpable; any sense of individuality is forgotten in the group dynamic. Using a muted palette and strong, dramatic lighting, Dix’s fictive landscapes seem to be taken from a post- apocalyptic world.

Satellite discs take on the role of haloes or crop circles and phone masts totems or flags; lead characters are disguised by wearing Shaman-like masks and costumes. The merging of folklore, local religion and science fiction throw us into an uncertain future.

Dix’s work explores our associations between communication technology and our absorption with it. Focusing on the abundance of communication devices, his work encapsulates the allure for the user to stay in a mode of constant connectivity and how these instruments interrupt and influence our command of the world around us. 


Tala Madani 

Tala Madani - Eye Stabber, 2013 | Single channel, stop motion animation 1 minute and 35 seconds

Tala Madani infuses her video animations with the rich brushstrokes and loose, expressive technique that characterize her paintings, creating uncomfortable scenes in which bald, middle-aged men engage in absurd scenarios that fuse playfulness with violence and perversity.

Tala Madani is known for creating paintings that look incisively and often irreverently at Middle-Eastern culture and gender issues. Madani typically represents male subjects in a child-like and simplified style, addressing themes including terrorism, tattoos, body hair removal, and prayer. Her paintings are often gestural and expressionistic, perhaps ironically echoing the painterly bravado attributed to male abstract artists of the mid-20th century.

The video animation Eye Stabber is a fantastical vignette, taking place in a sinister alleyway where the protagonist’s torso becomes covered in cutouts of different eyes. Overcome by this curious turn of events he lashes out, eventually escaping this bloody mess and propelling his shrunken form into a rubbish bin at the rear of the set. 

Basim Magdy

 Basim Magdy - Every Subtle Gesture, 2012 | Ongoing, color prints on Fuji Crystal Archive paper and Letterpress silver text (DETAIL). Each 52 x 45 cm. (framed)

Basim Magdy - Every Subtle Gesture, 2012 | Ongoing, color prints on Fuji Crystal Archive paper and Letterpress silver text (DETAIL). Each 52 x 45 cm. (framed)

Basim Magdy’s practice is grounded in an interest in iconic images and objects found outside of explicit historical investigation and political referencing. His work concerns itself with the social implications of such symbols, and their transformation over time, forming a mix of legend and bizarre cultural constructions and encounters.

Here he presents a selection from the ongoing photographic series Every Subtle Gesture, which featured in the Istanbul Biennial in 2013. Snapshots seemingly from an archive, whose relevance and purpose remains unknown, are paired with phrases invented by the artist, coming together to create an indecipherable narrative.

The images appear to be a form of documentation or a specialized archive, but in fact they are all disparate snapshots of some kind of fragment, and that seems to be the only strand binding them together. The phrase accompanying each snapshot encapsulates it as a surreal moment or part of an imaginary tale. The series as a whole follows no discernable narrative or plot, but the little clues Magdy offers beckon the viewer to turn this ambiguity into a magical story of their own.

Taus Makhacheva

Taus Makhacheva - A space of Celebration, 2009 | HD Video, colour, silent 16'10” min

The video A Space of Celebration from 2009 by Taus Makhacheva that was part of the Art Dubai 2014 film programme, brings us back to earth by revealing the absurdity of highly commercialized lavish wedding ceremonies.

By focusing on an event that is common to all worldy cultures and speaks to the heart of human existence, Makhacheva helps us discover (or remember) the traits that make us distinct and extraordinary.

In this video-performance, in which a figure dressed as a “giant deconstructed napkin” (in Makhacheva’s words) enters a banquet hall, popping up from between chairs and behind tables, and rolling about on the floor like a turtle tipped on its back, Makhacheva share her sense of humor and criticality.

In this piece, the artist gently probes at the ways in which society’s rituals become strange and curious spectacles. Through such an embodiment, Makhacheva encapsulates the tension between tradition and progress.  




Exhibition details
Date: On till Thursday, 31st July 2013
Venue: Lawrie Shabibi, Alserkal Avenue, Unit 21, Al-Quoz, Dubai (location map)   


Film Screening: The Lunch Box

The Scene Club
 will host a screening of The Lunch Box this month, on Wednesday, 9th July 2014 at 9pm. Tickets are complimentary, but you must register in advance and collect your ticket at the venue.

I saw this film last December at the Dubai International Film Festival. It is a lovely film, so I strongly recommend you watch it. Warning, be prepared to crave some delicious Indian food after you watch the film.

Middle class housewife Ila is trying once again to add some spice to her marriage, this time through her cooking. She desperately hopes that this new recipe will finally arouse some kind of reaction from her neglectful husband. She prepares a special lunchbox to be delivered to him at work, but, unbeknownst to her, it is mistakenly delivered to another office worker, Saajan, a lonely man on the verge of retirement. Curious about the lack of reaction from her husband, Ila puts a little note in the following day’s lunchbox, in the hopes of getting to the bottom of the mystery.

This begins a series of lunchbox notes between Saajan and Ila, and the mere comfort of communicating with a stranger anonymously soon evolves into an unexpected friendship. Gradually, their notes become little confessions about their loneliness, memories, regrets, fears, and even small joys. They each discover a new sense of self and find an anchor to hold on to in the big city of Mumbai that so often crushes hopes and dreams. Still strangers physically, Ila and Saajan become lost in a virtual relationship that could jeopardize both their realities.  

Event details
Date: Wednesday, 9th July 2014
Time: 8.00-8.45pm - Ticket Collection and Networking | 9.00pm – Film screening 
Venue: Knowledge Village Auditorium, Dubai (location map)
Register for your ticket online. 


Paul Rudd on The Colbert Report


Paul Rudd was on The Colbert Report a few days ago and the entire interview was so cheeky, so playful and funny. Both Rudd and Colbert were on top form.

I featured Paul Rudd's Lip Sync Battle on the The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon a few months ago, and this interview is equally good. There are lots of great lines in it, one of my favourites is Paul Rudd's response to Stephen Colbert's comment about Paul Rudd's latest film "They Came Together" opening against "Transformers: Age of Extinction".

I know you're saying "Transformers" is competition to us. I feel as if that's an insult to the word competition.


I've said it before, and I will say it again, I LOVE Paul Rudd. 





Here's the trailer for They Came Together. Looking forward to seeing this. 



[image via]


Ramadan Kareem 2014

© Khalid Mezaina - Porta Mosque, 2014

Ramadan Kareem to everyone celebrating this holy month.  

The above illustration is by my brother Khalid Mezaina for Capsule Arts. It is available in a limited edition of 25 prints which can be purchased this month for AED 550 and 25% of the proceeds from the sales of each print will be donated to The Big Heart Campaign (a UAE-based charity for Syrian refugee children).  


Porta Mosque is inspired the temporary cabin mosques found around the UAE; from construction sites to random desolate areas in the city.

Even though these mosques are so simple in their construction, they still have so much character and individuality to them.

These mosques speak stories about the communities that congregate within their space, and how religion is important and sacred no matter what social class you come from.

Khalid Mezaina


You can purchase the print form here.  


On a mini break in London

© Hind Mezaina


I'm on a mini break in London. 

This photo was taken on my way to the hotel, when I saw this 9.00 am zombie walk to work.