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Tea with Culture

Podcast featuring discussions and interviews about the cultural happenings in the United Arab Emirates presented by Hind Mezaina (The Culturist) and Wael Hattar.


In Berlin for the 64th Berlinale

Greetings from Berlin. I've been here since 9th February for the Berlinale and busy doing my movie marathon sessions as soon as I arrived. I will try to post my highlights whilst I'm here. If time won't permit, I will report back when I return to Dubai.

In the meatime, here are some sights from the Berlinale. BTW, there are some gorgeous cinema theatres here.

And because it's Friday and Valentine's Day, I leave you with this photo of posters I saw a few days ago. Think it's quite suitable to share today.


London Diaries Part 8 - The Politics of Food at Delfina Foundation

On my last day in London, I went to Delfina Foundation. I've known and dealt with some of the team from Delfina in Dubai, but never visited their space. They recently expanded their space and started a three year food themed artist residency. 
The Politics of Food includes exhibitions, tours, talks and events that will involve food and lots of eating I suppose. I only had a chance to check out the exhibition and looking forward to seeing the next phase of this programme.


As part of with Delfina Foundation's new seasonal theme on The Politics of Food, we present a group exhibition featuring Abbas Akhavan, Gayle Chong Kwan, Leone ContiniCandice LinAsunción Molinos Gordo, Senam Okudzeto, Jae Yong Rhee, Zineb Sedira, Tadasu Takamine, and Raed Yassin.   

From F. T. Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurist Cookery to Gordon Matta Clark’s conceptual restaurant to Michael Rakowitz’s Enemy Kitchen, artists have often employed food within their creative process and practice. In recent years, a host of cultural practitioners has been interrogating relationships between food and environmental, economic and social concerns, as well as notions of cooking and eating as performative acts and of dishes, recipes, and cookbooks as oft-contested markers of cultural memory. 

The Politics of Food will explore an array of artistic strategies, both past and present, that address the history, politics, and ethics of food production, consumption, distribution and display. The group exhibition is a constallation of works that attempt to untangle complex histories and question current issues, from globalisation to excess waste.  This first serving of art, food and politics introduces some of the issues and ideas that will be further researched through residencies and complemented by events.  



Here are some photos I took when I visited the exhibition. 

Asunción Molinos Gordo 

Candice Lin

Jae yong Ree  

Zineb Sedira 



This is my last post from London. My next destination is Berlin. Will report from there when I can. In the meantime, London, you've been fun and hope to be back again soon. 



London Diaries Part 7 - Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr at the Science Museum

© National Media Museum - Beachy Head boat trip, 1967 by Tony Ray-Jones

© National Media Museum - Beauty contestants, Southport, Merseyside, 1967 by Tony Ray-Jones
© National Media Museum - Blackpool, 1968 by Tony Ray-Jones  

Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr at the Science Museum is by far my favourite exhibition during this trip to London. It was the second main reason I visited (after the Buster Keaton retrospective). 

The exhibition is on till 16th March 2014, if you are in London or travelling there before 16th March, do pay a visit. 

Fascinated by the eccentricities of English social customs, Tony Ray-Jones spent the latter half of the 1960s travelling across England, photographing what he saw as a disappearing way of life.

Humorous yet melancholy, these works had a profound influence on photographer Martin Parr, who has now made a new selection including over 50 previously unseen works from the National Media Museum's Ray-Jones archive.

Shown alongside The Non-Conformists, Parr's rarely seen work from the 1970s, this selection forms a major new exhibition which demonstrates the close relationships between the work of these two important photographers.

I am in awe of Tony Ray-Jones work. His notes, his methods, "Don't take boring pictures" is one of them - he and his photos showcase British eccentricism at its finest. He died in 1972 at the age of 30. Gone too soon, but his work and influence lives on. He clearly influenced Martin Parr.  

Here's an extract of one of his notes from the exhibition. 


US characteristics
Vision (as opposed to British experience)
Idealism (as opposed to British compromise)
Challenges (as opposed to precedents)
Innovation and Experimentation (as opposed to tradition and well trodden path)
Lack of Individuality
Naivety and Innocence (always surprised when people attack or produce new weapons or land a man on the moon)
Lack of knowledge of anything outside themselves

British characteristics and qualities
Love of tradition
Love of stability
Art of compromise and muddling through
Apathy and indolence (from the security of the welfare state)
A country lacking in drama yet the people have a fine sense of drama


Watch this video which has more information about the exhibition and includes more photos. 




Martin Parr's The Non-Conformists

© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos. Jaws queue – Halifax, West Yorkshire – 1977

© Martin Parr/ Magnum Photos. Mankinholes Methodist Chapel, Todmorden 1975

The video below is also from the exhibition. It features Martin Parr talking about Tony Ray-Jones. I strongly recommend you watch this. 




London Diaries Part 6 - Louis Malle's Lift to the Scaffold at BFI Southbank

I watched Louis Malle's Lift to the Scaffold last night at the BFI (if they rented out rooms there, I'd be the first to sign up). 

It's tragic, but oh what a gorgeous looking film. And the Miles Davis music...   


In one of the seminal French films of the 1950s, a handsome veteran of the Indo-China and Algerian Wars (Maurice Ronet) and his lover (Jeanne Moreau) plan the murder of her arms-manufacturer husband.

But on his way from the crime scene he’s trapped in a lift, she anxiously walks the night streets of Paris waiting for him, and a teenage couple steal his car and gun for a reckless joyride. Influenced by Hitchcock and Bresson, Malle consciously puts his individual stamp on an adaptation of an ingenious but otherwise conventional roman noir, much influenced by Double Indemnity. His co-screenwriter was a leading rightwing literary novelist, Roger Nimier.

Miles Davis was persuaded to provide a superb score improvised in a single night, and for the high contrast black-and-white look Malle engaged the brilliant cinematographer Henri Decaë, who went on to shoot the first films of Chabrol and Truffaut. This triumphant feature debut helped turn Moreau into an iconic star, introduced the key themes that recurred in Malle’s work over the next 30-odd years and can be seen as the first movie of the Nouvelle Vague.  (via BFI)



After watching the film, I wanted to walk around in Paris listening to Miles Davis. 



London Diaries Part 5 - National Portrait Gallery

David Bailey's Stardust at the National Portrait Gallery is what I expected, lots of beautiful pictures of beautiful people. The exhibition was split into themes and also included a few sculptures by David Bailey. 

David Bailey has made an outstanding contribution to photography and the visual arts, creating consistently imaginative and thought-provoking portraits. As well as new work, this landmark exhibition includes a wide variety of Bailey’s photographs from a career that has spanned more than half a century.

Bailey’s Stardust is presented thematically across a series of contrasting rooms and illustrates the extraordinary range of subjects that Bailey has captured: actors, writers, musicians, filmmakers, designers, models, artists and people encountered on his travels; many of them famous, some anonymous, all of them unforgettable.

Rooms are devoted to Bailey’s time in East Africa, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Delhi and the Naga Hills, as well as icons from the worlds of fashion and the arts, striking portraits of the Rolling Stones and Catherine Bailey and people of the East End of London.

Featuring over 250 images, personally selected and printed by Bailey, the exhibition offers an unmissable opportunity to experience the work of one of the world’s greatest image-makers.

In an interview with the Independent, David Bailey said we should not look at this exhibition as a retrospective. 
“But it is not a retrospective,” he stresses. “It’s in no order whatsoever and it’s not about looking back. I’m still working flat out. I’ve got a lot of work left in me.”

There was no photography allowed at this exhibition, but I found this 
video on Vogue which includes a video with David Bailey and images from the exhibition. Watch it if you want to know what the exhibition looks like.    


The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2013 


I managed to catch the last couple of days of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition, also at the National Portrait Gallery. It included some very striking, beautiful and raw portraits.  

You can see the winning photos here. My favourite is the fourth place winner, The Twins by Dorothee Deiss.

The Twins by Dorothee Deiss, 2013 © Dorothee Deiss

Her portrait, from her project VisibleInvisible, is of twin sisters she visited in their house. She says: 'I took a lot of more conventional portraits of them but when I found the bathrobe in a corner, perfectly fitting to the bedspread, that was when I knew I had the picture'.






London Diaries Part 4 - Design Museum and Whitechapel Gallery

Hello, My Name is Paul Smith at the Design Museum
is a delightful exhibition about Paul Smith's career, his inspirations and how he works. It includes a recreation of his first shop in Nottingham and his current office space.

Told in his own words, you leave with a sense that Paul Smith is a very down to earth man, someone you want to be friends with. I know he's someone I'd definitely like to hang out with. If you don't believe me, read this article from The Guardian, What I learned from the Paul Smith exhibition.

Besides the fashion aspect, we learn that Paul Smith is an avid photographer (would love to see an exhibition dedicated to his photography) and is a collector or art, images, objects (made me feel good about my hoarding habit). 

Step into the world of fashion designer Paul Smith, a world of creation, inspiration, collaboration, wit and beauty.

Celebrating his career to date and exploring future developments, the exhibition references Paul Smith’s influences and fashion designs, charting the rise of this quintessentially British label which has become one of the leading fashion brands in the world.

Looking at the impressive scale of its global operation today, the exhibition draws on Paul Smith’s personal archive, from the company’s beginnings in Nottingham to its international prominence today. The exhibition explores how Paul Smith’s intuitive take on design, together with an understanding of the roles of designer and retailer, have laid the foundations for the company’s lasting success and offer a unique insight into the magnificent mind of Paul Smith.

Here are some photos I took. 



Watch this video with fashion writer Penny Martin who walk through the exhibition. 


I also strongly recommend you watch this video of Paul Smith talking about his career. Love the part where he complains about the egos in the fashion industry.  





Hannah Höch at Whitechapel Gallery



After my many visits to London, I finally got a chance to visit Whitechapel Gallery. The Hannah Höch exhibition is the main show there, it's quite an extensive show spanning six decades. I didn't know about Hannah Höch before this exhibition and quite looking and learning about her medium and how she explored her work.  

Hannah Höch was an artistic and cultural pioneer. A member of Berlin’s Dada movement in the 1920s, she was a driving force in the development of 20th century collage. Splicing together images taken from fashion magazines and illustrated journals, she created a humorous and moving commentary on society during a time of tremendous social change. Höch was admired by contemporaries such as George Grosz, Theo van Doesburg and Kurt Schwitters, yet was often overlooked by traditional art history. As the first major exhibition of her work in Britain, the show puts this inspiring figure in the spotlight.

Bringing together over 100 works from major international collections, the exhibition examines Höch’s extraordinary career from the 1910s to the 1970s. Starting with early works influenced by her time working in the fashion industry, it includes key photomontages such as High Finance (1923) which critiques the relationship between bankers and the army at the height of the economic crisis in Europe.

A determined believer in artistic freedom, Höch questioned conventional concepts of relationships, beauty and the making of art. Höch’s collages explore the concept of the ‘New Woman’ in Germany following World War I and capture the style of the 1920s avant-garde theatre. The important series ‘From an Ethnographic Museum’ combines images of female bodies with traditional masks and objects, questioning traditional gender and racial stereotypes.

Astute and funny, this exhibition reveals how Höch established collage as a key medium for satire whilst being a master of its poetic beauty.


There was no photography allowed at this exhibition. But here's a video that is a good introduction to Hannah Höch by Eisler Curator and Head of Curatorial Studies, Daniel F. Herrmann. 




London Diaries Part 3 - Buster Keaton at BFI Southbank and The Hayward Gallery

One of the main reasons I'm in London this week is to watch a couple of Buster Keaton films at the BFI, part of a retrospective celebrating him and his films

I watched The General and Battling Butler. Battling Butler was accompanied by live piano played by Stephen Horne. I had a grin from ear to ear watching both films. 


The General


Widely and rightly regarded as one of the greatest comedies ever made, Keaton’s masterpiece also impresses as a vivid recreation of the American South during the Civil War.

The pleasingly symmetrical storyline is basically an extended, virtuoso variation on the chase thriller, charting the perilous odyssey to behind enemy lines and back undertaken by Confederate train driver Johnny Gray (Keaton) when his beloved engine – carrying, as it happens, the girl he forlornly dreams of marrying – is stolen by Union soldiers.

Immaculately designed, stunningly shot and perfectly paced, the film is considerably more than a consistently funny and inspired series of beautifully executed gags, thanks to a dramatically satisfying narrative and deft characterisation. It helps that it’s graced by uniformly strong performances, with Marian Mack especially engaging – and game! – as Anabelle. But it’s Keaton, of course, who carries the day, his athletic skill combining with those watchful, wonderfully expressive eyes to create a credible hero of real resilience and intelligence. As close to perfection as filmmaking gets. – Geoff Andrew    (via BFI)



Here's Andrew Pulver from the Guradian explaining why you should watch The General: 




Battling Butler


Some might be surprised to find in a comedy a brutal prize fight, with Buster’s spoilt millionaire posing as his boxing champion namesake to impress a girl (such, for Keaton, are the follies of love!). Otherwise it’s business as usual, with pacy, streamlined storytelling, expressive camerawork and expertly executed gags (most memorable, perhaps, in a duck-hunting scene), all centred around Keaton’s inimitable blend of wiry physical prowess and deft, subtle characterisation. (via BFI)



Before watching the films, I walked around Southbank and went to the Hayward Gallery to see Martin Creed's exhibition





Martin Creed - What's the point of it?  


I couldn't take photos of the Marin Creed exhibition. Below is a video review from The Guardian of the exhibition and you can read The Guardian's review here):  


London Diaries Part 2 - The Photographer's Gallery and Rough Trade 

The Photographer's Gallery
is one of the galleries I have to visit every time I'm in London. Three big American names that go beyond the world of photography are featured this month, David Lynch, Andy Warhol and William S. Burroughs.  

David Lynch - The Factory Photographs
The Factory Photographs by David Lynch, which also includes a sound piece composed by him took us on a journey to desolate locations in Germany, Poland, New York, New Jersey and England. All the photographs were taken between 1980 and 2000, depicting "the labyrinthine passages, detritus and decay of these man-made structures – haunting cathedrals of a bygone industrial era slowly being taken over by nature".

"I love industry. Pipes. I love fluid and smoke. I love man-made things. I like to see people hard at work, and I like to see sludge and man-made waste."  David Lynch

© Hind Mezaina 
© Hind Mezaina© Hind Mezaina

David Lynch, Untitled (England), late 1980s early 1990s

David Lynch, Untitled (Lodz), 2000

Photos by David Lynch via The Photographer's Gallery.  

Andy Warhol - Photographs 1976-1987 

© Hind Mezaina
The Andy Warhol Photographs in this exhibition include work I have not seen before. I really liked the stitched series which reminded me of photos taken with the Lomography Actionsampler camera, only Warhol's stitched photos are literally stitched together with a sewing machine. 

"I told them I didn't believe in art, that I believed in photography." Andy Warhol

© Hind Mezaina 

Despite his fame as a painter, filmmaker and colourist, Andy Warhol’s (1928 – 1987) use of photographic imagery permeates his practice. However, it was only later in his life, when acquainted with the compact cameras of the 1970s that he focused on photography in its own right. 

Tendencies and patterns emerge across both the singular and stitched works that reveal photography to be at the centre of Warhol’s thinking, looking and making. 

Warhol’s interest in serial and repeated imagery, seen throughout his work, is brought to play through his striking series of ‘stitched’ photographs, creating over 500 between 1982 and his death in 1987. These feature identical images arranged in grid form, stitched together with a sewing machine. 

Using 35mm black and white film, Warhol carried a camera with him most of the time – taking up to 36 frames a day. Capturing everyday details, people, street scenes, celebrity parties, interiors, cityscapes and signage his subjects all reflect the artist’s characteristic indifference to hierarchy. 


© Hind Mezaina 

Young Man Holding a Glass 1976-1987, ©2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York & DACS, London.Andy Warhol, Jerry Hall 1976-1987, © 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York & DACS, London. 


William S. Burroughs - Taking Shots: The Photography of William S. Burroughs 

Unknown Photographer, Burroughs in the Villa Mouniria Garden, Tangier, © Estate of William S. Burroughs

Taking Shots: The Photography of William S. Burroughs
 is an insightful look at Burroughs' life as a photographer which wasn't something we associated him with. Turns out he was a very active photographer and the exhibition includes many series he worked on. 
William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) was one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century. Despite his prolific achievements as a novelist, essayist, spoken word performer and painter, Burroughs’ work as a photographer is rarely acknowledged. 

Coinciding with the centenary of Burroughs’ birth, Taking Shots will be the first exhibition worldwide to focus on Burroughs’ vast photographic oeuvre and offers new and important insights into his artistic and creative processes. 
Burroughs’ photographs, striking in their self-containment, lack any reference to other practitioners or genres. While they can be gathered into categories of street scenes, still lifes, collage, radio towers, people – his dynamic approach to image making sits outside of any canonical structure.
I drifted along taking shots when I could score.
I ended up hooked. (William S. BurroughsJunky)   
William S. Burroughs l Midtown Manhattan, 1965 © Estate of William S. BurroughsUntitled, Silver gelatin print, probably London, 19.2 x 12.9cm, c 1972, © Estate of William S. Burrough




Here's a video featuring the curators of the show discussing Burroughs' photography.  

Patricia Allmer and John Sears, the curators of Taking Shots: The Photography of William S. Burroughs, talk about the man and the genesis of this exhibition at The Photographers' Gallery. Despite his prolific achievements as a novelist, essayist, spoken word performer and painter, Burroughs’ work as a photographer is rarely acknowledged.
Coinciding with the centenary of Burroughs’ birth, Taking Shots will be the first exhibition worldwide to focus on Burroughs’ vast photographic oeuvre and offers new and important insights into his artistic and creative processes.
I also 

Maximo Park at Rough Trade
Later in the evening, I went to see Maximo Park playing in Rough Trade (East). It was to promote the launch of their new album, Too Much Information.   

It was a fun gig, and lead singer Paul Smith is awkwardly charming and funny on stage, I quite enjoyed his banter on stage. Someone who attended the gig posted the first few minutes of the show online.  

The short gig which lasted for was around 40 minutes long ended with a song about going to the movies, "Where We're Going". A band after my heart.   




London Diaries Part 1 - Tate Modern 

© Hind Mezaina - Tate Modern

Today I spent my afternoon at the Tate Modern. The current big exhibition is Paul Klee's Making Visible, but it was crowded, so instead, I checked out some of the smaller exhibitions and and revisited some of the work I saw during my last visit to London which was in September. 

Here are some of my highlights. 

Harry Callahan - Photographs 

© Hind Mezaina

I really like the Harry Callahan exhibition and left me thinking how everything has been done in photography and the challenge today is how to not look like you are copying someone else's work, how to make photographs of subjects and ideas that have been photographed time and time again your own. 

From the towering buildings of Chicago and its urban inhabitants to grass and weeds in the snow, Harry Callahan (1912–1999) is regarded as one of the most influential figures in post-war photography, yet his work is little known in the UK.

Callahan disregarded the limits of conventional landscapes to give equal focus to both broad perspectives and individual details. His work is grouped into three themes which he described in 1975 as ‘Nature, Buildings and People’.  (via Tate)

Here are some of my favourite photos taken from the Tate Modern website. I quite liked his nature shots (and I'm not usually a big fan of nature shots).  
Harry Callahan - Detroit 1951 printed 1979-89 © Estate of Harry Callahan

Harry Callahan - Providence 1966, printed 1990-9 © Estate of Harry Callahan

Harry Callahan - Georgia Mountains 1988 © Estate of Harry Callahan
Harry Callahan - Cape Code 1971 © Estate of Harry Callahan

Although diverse in subject matter and approach, Callahan’s œuvre demonstrates a sustained interest in line and composition, depth of field, multiple exposures and the relationship between his chosen medium and abstraction. The last of these can be seen particularly in his images of nature. Disregarding the limits of conventional spectacular landscapes (as portrayed by Ansel Adams), he gives equal focus to both broad perspectives and individual organisms in his many studies of grass, foliage and weeds in snow. In Weed Against Sky, Detroit 1948, the organic form when photographed against a clear sky could be mistaken for an abstract drawing.

Callahan would spend most mornings out shooting and inevitably photographed the cities in which he lived. His interest in line and composition features strongly in his cityscapes, be it the towering buildings of Chicago or the wooden houses in Providence, or when looking at the metropolis in more detail, with close- up images of shop windows or the abstractions of paper peeling off walls, creating a jigsaw of block colours in Chicago (Abstraction) 1951. He also turned the camera on the inhabitants, making several series of people in the streets taken from low angles, often surreptitiously as Callahan was unusually shy (Chicago 1961).

Despite the variety, there is a certain still quality which runs through all of Callahan’s work. Landscapes and portraits sit seamlessly side by side, sometimes even overlapping, for example when taken as multiple exposures, a technique he often experimented with (Eleanor,Chicago c.1949). And his colour images fit comfortably within his overall practice, perhaps because he began experimenting with colour as early as 1941 (due to the technical limitations of the medium at the time and the expense associated with making durable dye transfer prints, he didn’t print or exhibit them until the mid-1970s).  (via Tate)

Hrair Sarkissian - Execution Squares  

I saw this series of work in September and seeing it again was just as haunting.  

Hrair Sarkissian’s Execution Squares 2008 comprises a series of photographs depicting the sites of public executions in Syria, the artist’s country of birth. The images were taken in three different cities – Damascus, Aleppo and Lattakia – in places where public executions have taken place, for civil rather than political crimes.

Sarkissian took these photographs early in the morning when the streets were quiet, around the time when executions are carried out. The subject of an execution will usually be brought to the square at 4.30 a.m., but their body is routinely left there in full view of passers-by until around 9.00 a.m. Sarkissian’s first personal experience of an execution was as a child when he passed one of these squares on his journey to school and saw three bodies hanging in the street. (via Tate)

© Hind Mezaina

Here's a video featuring
Hrair Sarkissian talking about how he got into photography and his Execution Squares series.


William Eggleston 

I absolutely love William Eggleston's photography and his approach to his work which I relate to a lot. The photographs displayed at the Tate are beautiful to look at, because of their colours, their compositions and the mood in each photograph. If you are ever in London and enjoy photography, don't miss this. His work will be displayed till 11th May 2014. 

Mostly shooting in and around his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, Eggleston depicts the banal and everyday. His work is frequently characterised by elements such as bold colourful interiors, cars and gasoline stations, and portraits of individuals known to Eggleston as well as strangers encountered in the street. Eggleston pays close attention to the formal organisation of the frame, often employing diagonal lines and reflections, but he also relishes strong contrasts in colour with vivid reds, blues and greens.

Though these images record a particular place at a certain point in time, Eggleston is not interested in their documentary qualities. Instead, when asked what he is photographing, Eggleston simply answers ‘Life today’. (via Tate)


Here's a video with Simon Baker (curator) discussing this show. 



Chewing Gum Man 

Outside the Tate Modern, I noticed an artist who goes by the name of Chewing Gum Man (his real name is Ben Wilson) creating small and intricate work on the Millennium Bridge.  

© Hind Mezaina

© Hind Mezaina
© Hind Mezaina 

© Hind Mezaina 

I found this video about him when I tried to find more information about him for this post. 




In London for a few days 

© Hind Mezaina

I'm in London for a few days (heading to Berlin from here for the Berlinale). I will share my London highlights during my stay over the next few days.

The photo above is of a mural in East London where I will be spending most of my time in London.