Follow The Culturist
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.


Red Bull Stratos One Year Anniversary


14th October 2013 marked the the one-year anniversary of Felix Baumgartner's supersonic free-fall from the stratosphere.

I am sure anyone whi watched the fall last year remember exactly where they were and how they felt. I was in Copenhagen at the time and glad I was back in my hotel room in time to watch it live online along with thousands of people around the world. I still remember gasping and getting a lump in my throat when he jumped off.


To celebrate the one year anniversary, Red Bull released this 9 minute video of of the fall as seen through the eyes of Felix Baumgartner as he completed his world record breaking jump from the stratosphere. 



Additionally, a full length documentary, "Mission to the Edge of Space: The Inside Story of Red Bull Stratos" was also released which can be viewed on (annoyingly, you must have an account, or sign up to get one to be able to watch it). Click on the image below to link to the site to watch it. 


Alternatively, you can watch this BBC documentary which was aired few months after the jump.   

The BBC documentary is very good and goes back four years folloiwng the preparation and the tension leading to the jump. Mission to the Edge of Space: The Inside Story of Red Bull Stratos looks and feels like a corporate video, but includes a lot of very fascinating technical details and lots of behind the scenes.

Both documentaries show how much work went into Red Bull Stratos and the several tests and attempts that eventually led to the record-breaking 128,100 ft free-fall from the edge of space to Earth. But most importantly, the two documentaries highlight and celebrate the team that supported Felix Baumgartner, like Colonel Joe Kittinger, who made history himself in 1960 when he ascended to 102,800 feet in a high-altitude balloon and jumped to Earth, setting four world records; Art Thompson, the Red Bull Stratos Technical Project Manager; Luke Aikens, the skydiving consultant to name a few. You can read about the whole team here. Hats off to every single one of them. 



The Courtyard Playhouse in Dubai


The Courtyard Playhouse
in Dubai is a performing arts training centre and rehearsal studio. It is home to Drama Dubai and specialises in workshops that include acting, stand-up comedy, photography and improvisation. 

The space also has a 58 seater auditorium which I have yet to visit, but love the idea that there's such a small and cosy theatre space in Dubai. 

From what I've read and heard so far, there's a lot of love and passion put into The Courtyard Playhouse. But Kemsley and Tiffany Dickenson, the founders of The Courtyard Playhouse need some financial help to complete the space and have launced a crowd funding campaign. 

"The UAE is our home, and we believe that the population's unique make-up lends us all an artistic individuality. Dubai residents deserve a platform to express themselves: to say 'we are here; we are alive and kicking, and we have something to say!"

You can help by sharing news of the campaign through your local networks or by donating. 

This is a passion project that we have undertaken and financed ourselves, we now want to involve a wider community of friends, and supporters to help us complete this worthwhile project by spreading the word. The addition of basic theatre lighting, backstage changing rooms and washrooms would realize the vision of a vibrant theatre space, created for Dubai, by the very people who live here.




If you live in the UAE and care about this, please donate as little or as much as you can. Full details can be found here. The campaign ends on 30th November 2013.




The X-Files 20th Anniversary with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson

A week ago, I stayed up late into the night to watch the live stream of an interview with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson with Time Out New York's Keith Uhlich, celebrating the 20th anniversary of The X-Files. Today I found the interview posted online in several parts and would like to share it with you. 

The X-Files is one of my all time favourite TV shows and after I watched this interview, it made me miss the show so much, and I now want to find time to watch all 9 seasons again.

If you are a fan of The X-Files, you will love this interview (it's around an hour and a half long). It is delighftful. 

Part 1  

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5


Part 6

Downtown Design 2013

Downtown Design is a new international design fair that will take place in Dubai from 29th October till 1st November 2013. The fair is a trade event open to professionals from the design industry, but it is also trageting design enthusiasts and will be open to the public between 5pm - 8pm from Tuesday 29th to Thursday, 31st October and between 12pm-6pm on Friday, 1st November. 

Exhibitors at Downtown Design will include some of Italy’s leading furniture makers like Poltrona Frau, Cassina and Cappellini as well as the timeless US chair manufacturers Emeco and contemporary Turkish design brand Gaia & Gino. In addition to the international exhibitors, there will be regional and local exhibitors including environmentally-friendly Abu Dhabi firm Al Khaznah Tannery who will be presenting its new specially commissioned camel leather furniture. The full line up of exhibitors can be found here

The fair will showcase some of the very best in furniture, lighting, accessories, textiles and new technologies, trends and concepts never-before seen in the region. 

But besides showcasing products to sell, Downtown Design also aims to promote an appreciation and respect to craftmanship and showcase the process that leads to the final results. So many people just focus on the final product, what it looks like, its value and not really have an understanding of the process that leads to the final product, especially when it comes to design. This will be done through a series of talks that will offer a rare opportunity to discover the stories behind the products being exhibited, and to gain an understanding of the region’s increasing development in the design world. The full line up of talks can be found here.


Additionally, I think the Special Projects section of Downtown Design will be another part of the fair that will interest the public. The Special Projects section includes the following: 


Craftsmanship at The Workshop 

Craftsmanship at The Workshop will feature two Danish Master Craftsmen, flown in from Denmark where—via their own factories—they have been creating furniture design classics for decades, including Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair and Hans Wegner’s Wishbone Chair.

These craftsmen will showcase their respective skills and craftsmanship by making chairs from brands, such as Carl Hansen & SønRepublic of Fritz Hansen  and Louis Poulsen, live on the stand in a workshop environment with material samples (fabrics and leathers) and tools. 


I love the sound of this. Check out these short clips to give you an idea of what to expect.




Nouvelle Vague Volume II

In 2011, the first Nouvelle Vague exhibition took place when five emerging designers were presented at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, Milan. These designers were subsequently rewarded with multiple awards, in addition to having their creations produced in various countries. A continuation of this travelling exhibition that has visited the likes of New York and Toronto, Nouvelle Vague II will bring to Dubai five new faces with fresh statements and ideas to discover.

Presenting their projects for the first time at Downtown Design, the five designers are: Pauline DeltourGuillaume DelvigneFrancois DumasVictoria Wilmotte and Dan Yeffet. Also joining the exhibition will be the unique objects of Emirati designer, Khalid Shafar, which have been specially created for the event.



Temporary Museum for New Design


For the last six years in Milan, the Temporary Museum for New Design has been a destination and an institution. Located at Superstudio Più—the largest cultural and expositive private centre of the city—in the renowned Tortona area, the “Temporary Museum” is an innovative and unprecedented event, arising one week per year, during the Design Week in April.

Attracting more than 100,000 professional visitors from around the world and presenting the latest production of research design through the revolutionary format “less fair and more museum”, the Temporary Museum for New Design does not consist of product exhibition booths, but rather includes artistic, technological and interactive installations.

Downtown Dubai brings to Dubai the idea of the “Temporary Museum” as a container of excellence and creativity, as a place to bring together industrial design and contemporary art where designers, architects, producers, distributors and other professionals of the sector can meet in a mutual business and cultural exchange.

Brands to be featured in this exhibition space include: 
Astrini Design; CrjosFlavio Lucchini Art; LandorMaletti; Melogranoblu; Slide; Slide Art; Tagina and Zava


This edition of the Temporary Museum for new design will be curated by the Creative Director and CEO of the Superstudio Group, Gisella Borioli, and Giulio Capellini. I looked up all the brands and fell in love with this light installtion by Melogranoblu. 



If your eyes are yearning to see beautiful objects, then don't miss this.




Event details
Dates: Tuesday, 29th October - Friday, 1st November 2013 (Open to the public between 5pm to 8pm from 29th-31st October and between 12pm-6pm on 1st November.) 
Venue:  Custom-built marquee at ‘The Venue’ on Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard in Emaar's Downtown Dubai
Tickets: 50 AED for general public (4-day pass)





Red Bull Cliff Diving - An Instagramer's View





















Red Bull teamed up with three of the biggest Instagramers in the UK, @chaiwalla@danrubin and @jeera to create a stop-motion film of the Red Bull which took place last month, on 14th September in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

It took three hours and 21,489 shots to make the stop-motion added below. I am not a fan of Instagram, but I do like this short film.


Here's an interview with @chaiwalla, @danrubin and @jeera about the making of this stop-motion film.


We Are Here - Issue 2 - Dubai



The second issue of We Are Here came out this June, focusing on Dubai like it did in its first issue, which I wrote about a few months ago. Each issue focuses on a city or a part of a city. Conor Purcell, the editor of We are Here explains why he featured Dubai for the second time. 

"It was never our intention to cover Dubai again, but after the first issue, we were contacted by people around the city that were doing interesting things, and had stories to tell. So, if issue one attempted to give the reader a sense of a place, this issue attempts to chronicle some of the people who live here."


We Are Here 2 ran into some issues with the National Media Council (who approve all books/magazines that get printed in the United Arab Emirates). The Council asked for some changes and cuts, so the team behind We Are Here decided to raise money by crowdfunding to print and publish the magazine independently outside the United Arab Emirates. Their goal was met and the magazine came out this June. 





I recently bought this issue (now sold out). Apart from a few interesting pieces like "The Man Who Builds Towers in the Desert" and "The Farm" which had insights into Dubai you don't normally read about, the rest of the issue touched upon the usual themes you find in other publications, like its transient state, its architecture, the contrast between the haves and the have nots.

"The Runner - Tracking Dubai on Foot" by Jimmy Dawson is the only piece that stood out and resonated with me. Here it is, posted with kind permission from Conor Purcell and Jimmy Dawson. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 



The Runner - Tracking Dubai on Foot by Jimmy Dawson


Sometimes I am in Dubai, but not in Dubai. Not the metropolis that the travel guides would sell me on, anyway. Sometimes a couple of strange turns can take me from that Emerald City straight into the pages of a National Geographic.

I stood amid the foot traffic in a narrow, inconspicuous alley. Dark skinned people with gold dots on their foreheads, all barefoot, squeezed around and past me as I loitered in all my western whiteness and fluorescent running gear.

The camelback with the sipping tube hanging out in front of me suddenly felt like part of a space suit.

The walking path in this nook of Al Bastakiya was as wide as a grocery store aisle. On either side of it were crammed, makeshift shops where vibrant garlands hung over tables that were filled with keepsakes of one sort or another. Each little shop looked similar to the one before. The only thing that broke up the explosion of colours and shapes was a metal stairwell, which led people away from what I would come to know as Dubai’s only Hindu temple.

It’s hard walking into places like this and not feeling intrusive. Even though I live here and feel like Dubai is as much a part of me as any American city I’ve lived in, even though I come upon these scenes honestly and not to gawk, there are some places I feel more of a tourist than a resident; as if I had just stepped off of one of those tacky tour buses in front of a well-trodden landmark.

These are the moments I run for, though. Not because I’m 40 years old and trying to stave off the ailments of age; but because I’m 40 years old and haven’t seen as much of the world as I would have liked.

Running is my way of being a tourist without looking like a tourist. Cars can’t take you past places like this. Not to where you can see it, anyway. Not to where the senses can run wild.

You could even walk around the Bur Dubai souq a couple of times before deciding to make your way down this alley. If you happen to notice the entrance at all.

The first time I decided to incorporate Dubai’s streets and alleys as a means of exploration I, of course, ran to the Burj Khalifa. That’s where Dubai starts with most people. How could it not, as unavoidable as it is? It was a 14-mile trek and just about the entire way from my villa in Mirdif I could see it. The beacon. The proverbial North Star. The landmark of landmarks. And the whole time that I was being guided by the symbolism of Dubai’s future, I was running through its past.

With each new run, I do my best to not plan the route but rather embark with wanderlust; to try and see a part of Dubai as if I had just stepped off the plane. I zigzag this way and that like a cat under a disco ball chasing what- ever objects seem to catch my eye: the architecture of a mosque; graffiti on a wall; the sandlot cricket games where hives of eastern expats make use of the barren morning parking lots.

One morning I was drawn to a foot- bridge and came down the other side to see a weary face looking up at me, unfazed. The man was dressed in an unassuming salwar kurta sipping coffee as he stood outside his squat quarters that, much like him, looked far removed from the luxury apartment homes on Palm Jumeirah.

Dubai has this reputation as the home of the jet set crowd, but I’ve seen men who look like they couldn’t rub two dirhams together and could care less. Sometimes they smile, sometimes they don’t. Either way, you’re not likely to see their face under the glossiness of the travel brochures. But they’re with me on every run. I also go to the places in this Emirate where there are scant signs of life. Or buildings. Or anything else, for that matter. On the outskirts of town, there’s Academic City Road. A good part of this tract, the part I run any way when I don’t have time to meander, is surrounded by desert.

Out there the call to prayers are faint. What’s more audible are the occasional work camp buses barreling past and the endless cue of planes making their final descent into DXB. But mostly it’s marked by silence.

The tourist authority might show this desert with a smiling Arab in his kandora leading a serene camel across a dune as the sand sparkles in the sun, But they won’t show you the Bangladeshi whose picking up trash in that desert at 5.30 in the morning. That is specifically a runner’s perspective.

And that alone will give you as much insight into Dubai as anything else. Through my morning runs I have heard the city’s quietest moments being shattered by the day’s first call to prayer. I have run past the desert winter camps at sunrise as some locals dune bash while others struggle to gain traction in the soft sand. And I have been in the veins of the old city, through the orifices that lead to these mazes of alleys. Places I imagine not many westerners, expats and tourists alike, experience.

These are the places that allow you to imagine how life here must have looked half a century ago: tired, strained buildings overlooking a creek’s simple shipping methods.

I read recently that Deira is getting a Dh3 billion facelift. The picture in the paper showed a conceptual building that could fit in with any of the other futuristic projects the city is dreaming up. I thought about how different this place will look in a couple of years. About how, at some point, when you’re in Dubai you’re gonna know it. Every step of the way.




Issue 3 of We Are Here will cover Kathmandu and will be out in November. 


Jung Lee at Green Art Gallery

Jung Lee, I Want To Be Your Love, 2012, C-type Print, 136 × 170 cm


Korean artist Jung Lee has a solo exhibition in Green Art Gallery that is on till 12th November 2013.

I visited the gallery yesterday and quite liked the images. They are very atmospheric, with a sense of reflection (I do wish there was more written material about each image).  

Below are some of the photos that can be found at the exhibition, including the gallery's write up explaining Jung Lee's series. 


Working across sculpture and photography, the exhibition will present works from both her Aporia and Day and Night Series.

Aporia, meaning “coming to a dead end” in Greek, was inspired by Roland Barthes’s “A Lover’s Discourse” that tells the story of the ineptitudes of people in love. According to Barthes, when one falls in love the beloved becomes a mystery and one will ceaselessly try to figure out the reasons for their mysterious feelings. The desire to express one’s love produces lies and conflicts leading to a dead end.


Jung Lee, How Could You Do This To Me?, 2011, C-type Print, 136 x 170 cm


For Lee, those empty phrases reveal the solitude and sorrow of modern people today.

Inspired by Barthes’s close reading of desire and love, Lee slows everything down patiently analyzing that most intense and overwhelming of states, unanswered desire - the language of complete love and the deep solitary state it throws the lover into. 

Jung Lee, I still Remember, 2010, C-type Print, 136 x 170 cm


Collecting cliched expressions of love and hatred- very much like Barthes’s collections of of hesitations, stammerings and gasps- Lee places them in deserted landscapes in the form of neon text sculptures, mimicking cold neon signs so often found in cities.


Jung Lee, I Dream Of You, 2012, C-type Print, 170 x 136 cmJung Lee, Day and Night #3, 2012, C-type Print, 175 × 140 cm















The result is a group of beautiful and melancholy empty landscape photographs, contrasting sentimental phrases such as “I still remember”, “Once in a lifetime” and “How could you do this to me?”, with stark layouts of deserted plains or barren snow fields.  

Jung Lee, Why? #2, 2010, C-type Print, 136 x 170 cm 

In the works entitled Day and Night, Lee focused on 'God' and 'Love' as the two main words reflecting her interpretation of Dante's Divine Comedy where he highlighted the belief that true faith and love would lead you to heaven.

Lee produces a cluster of those “divine” words and places them floating over the sea as reproductions or in a heap, demonstrating one’s desire to salvation.   


Jung Lee, Day and Night #2, 2012, C-type Print, 140 x 175 cm


Thus Lee’s constructed photographs evoke amorous intensity with a coolness that enables the viewers to find their own way into this world, to have their memories stirred, to consider what it means to be alive in time. 


Jung Lee, The End, 2010, C-type Print,100 x 125 cm




Event details
Date: Exhibition is on till 12th November 2013, Saturday-Thursday 10.00am-7.00pm
Venue: Green Art Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1, Street 8 (location map)


The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson


Some more Wes Anderson love for today.

The trailer for Wes Anderson's latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel is out and I am in love with it. Can't wait to see this film.

I love the world Anderson creates in all his films and can't wait to lose myself in this one. 


Wes Anderson's THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL recounts the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. 




The Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz

The Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz is a new book that I am dying to get my hands on. Wes Anderson is one of my favourite film directors, and this book is the "first in-depth overview of Anderson's filmography, guiding readers through his life and career". It looks beautiful. 

The website includes a series of video essays supporting each chapter. So far only "Chapter 1: Bottle Rocket" and "Chapter 2: Rushmore" are out with more to follow. 

About the book:
Wes Anderson is one of the most influential voices from the past two decades of American cinema. A true auteur, Anderson is known for the visual artistry, inimitable tone, and idiosyncratic characterizations that make each of his films—Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom—instantly recognizable as "Andersonian."
The Wes Anderson Collection is the first in-depth overview of Anderson's filmography, guiding readers through his life and career. Previously unpublished photos, artwork, and ephemera complement a book-length conversation between Anderson and award-winning critic Matt Zoller Seitz.
The interview and images are woven together in a meticulously designed book that captures the spirit of his films: melancholy and playful, wise and childish—and thoroughly original.   

Here's the trailer for the book:
[images via Amazon

In South America: Untamed Winds by Vincent Urban, Clemens Krüger, Stefan Templer

Last year I shared a beautiful travel video called In South America by Vincent Urban, Clemens Krüger, Stefan Templer. They are now back with a sequel called In South America: Untamed Winds which was sponsored by the travel agency Peru for Less. It's great to see the success of the first one led to the second installment and I believe more will follow. 


The new short-film, ‘In South America: Untamed Winds’ follows lifelong friends, and filmmakers, Vincent Urban, Clemens Krüger, and Stefan Templer on a four-month road trip through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and southern Brazil. Along the way, they witnessed the continent's natural beauty and were confronted with difficult weather conditions.

The film takes us on an adventure, acting as a guide, and leading the viewer through incredible landscapes, weather phenomenons and cultural rarities.

The three friends are not just a strong traveling team, but their combined artistic eye comes through in the creation of this strong and vibrant film, set to the effervescent sounds of Other Lives’ Dust Bowl III.



I must say I prefer the first one, but the second one is also very good and definitely makes me want to explore South America. But as I said before, it's a kind of trip I want to make with a travel soul mate I have yet to find.

I hope a viewer is able to feel the time passing, the huge distances, the loneliness, and even the struggles of doing such a trip. It’s not like Disneyland where you walk from one attraction to another. It’s an adventure. 

On a trip like the one we took, you experience many different stories, landscapes, and people. I don’t believe it’s possible to make a film that covers every experience from a trip in just one clip. Vincent Urban 


Watch, enjoy and hope it makes you want to go out and explore the world. I am looking forward to the future installments by these three great travellers.