Subscribe to The Culturist
du Social Media Awards 2013


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.


Typewriter Artist - Keira Rathbone 

Keira Rathbone is a performance artist that uses good old fashioned vintage typewriters to create her art. I have a huge typewriter fetish, so I am extremely jealous of her typewriter collection.

Check out this video interview with Keira Rathbone where she talks about her work and what inspires her.


Trailer Tuesday - Last Year in Marienbad

When I was in London earlier this month, I found out about the tribute season to Alan Resnais at the BFI (I wish I can live at the BFI!). The screening schedule included Last Year in Marienbad (L’Année dernière à Marienbad), which is also celebrating 50 years this year.

I could not pass the chance of watching this film which has been described as "there is, quite simply, no other movie like it".  It does look sublime and yes, I can't think of another film like it. It's up to the viewer to decide what's real and what isn't. It was a pleasure to watch. So here's a little taster.

To know more about this film and Alan Resnais, I suggest you read this essay by Mark Polizzotti, "Last Year at Marienbad: Which Year at Where?".

Synopsis via BFI

Defining the words 'art film' for a generation, Marienbad is every bit as extraordinary today as when it was premiered in Venice, 50 years ago this August. The plot is banal and, as in Hiroshima, the characters have no names. X (Albertazzi) pursues A (Seyrig) through the endless corridors of a luxury hotel, trying to persuade her that they met last year, while M (Pitoëff), who may be A's husband, looks on. But, in the eternal present of Robbe-Grillet's screenplay, drenched in the organ score by Francis Seyrig (brother of Delphine), there can be no 'last year' (and probably no future either). Don't miss the chance to see this timeless masterpiece on the big screen, for which the inky blacks and flaring whites of Sacha Vierny's cinematography were made. There is, quite simply, no other movie like it.


Image via


Malia Mills - Love Thy Differences™


I'm a big fan of Malia Mills swimwear, especially the Love Thy Differences ™ motto. In an age where so many women conform to dress and look like an ideal set by magazines, Hollywood and some wretched 'reality' shows on TV, it's great to see a company that celebrates women of all ages and sizes.

So in the spirit of summer, a message to all the gals out there - love the body you have and go out and enjoy yourselves.*

* If you are in Dubai, you might have to wait for a couple of months to for this killer summer to pass by.


Music Monday - RIP Amy Winehouse

Not much to say this week that has not already been said over the past couple of days. RIP Amy Winehouse.

We only said good-bye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to black


Amy Winehouse Obituary
Amy Winehouse Tributes


Sampling India: Of Blind Men and Elephants

© Mahesh Shantaram - Archana-Nikhil
A new exhibition opened last month on 14th June 2011 at The Empty Quarter featuring six emerging photographers relating to the Indian subcontinent. It’s a great mix of work and I strongly recommend you don’t miss this show, it’s on till 31st July 2011. The giant Bollywood style movie poster featuring the six photographers is enough reason to visit the gallery.

Here’s a small selection of work from the show.

Mahesh Shantaram is an art documentary photographer based in Bangalore. About the “Matrimania” series:

We in India take our weddings very seriously. Sometimes, a wedding set is designed for impact -- it needs to strike an everlasting impression with guests who might arrive in the thousands, sending out a clear message of the family's social standing. At other times, the sets are traditional containers within which a marriage takes place. I have been documenting wedding sets and little associated details at weddings because I find them to be fascinating metaphors of my country's penchant for order and chaos; colour and noise; and the peculiar sense of taste and design or the lack thereof.

 © Mahesh Shantaram - Saranya-Vinoth


Michael Bühler-Rose was born in New Jersey (1980) and currently lives and works in New York. About his series "Indian Still Lifes"

Beyond the beauty of the Dutch Still-life lays the evidence of Dutch colonial power: its imports of exotic spices and goods from India. You can currently purchase any of these Indian imports, plus anything else you can find in the streets of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, or Chennai, in the “Little India” sections of various major cities of the world. These photographs feature a mixture of contemporary and traditional items purchased in these “Little Indias,” while referencing the lighting, compositions, and scale of the Dutch still-life tradition. They create an aesthetic experience of near recognition while still allowing disorienting puncture points to come through. Although visually similar to the Dutch still-life, these pictures do not evidence Western colonial power but rather a reverse of power, of India settling the West.

© Michael Bühler-Rose - Mangoes, DVDs, Calendar & Honey

Neil Chowdhury
is an artist working in photography and digital media. His work explores the relationships between individuals, their societies, and environments in different cultures. His “Waking from Dreams of India.” incorporates photography, video, audio, and photomontage to chronicle his journeys, physical and imaginative, as he explores and comes to terms with his Indian heritage.

This work tells the story of my lifelong dream of exploring India, the land of my father’s birth. He died without telling me much about the culture in which he grew up or the story of his early life there. Growing up in the United States, isolated from Indian culture fostered the cultivation of imaginative fantasy about the land of my ancestry. My knowledge of India ripened from exoticized Western media accounts. None of this prepared me for the discovery of the circumstances that drove my father away from his family as a teenager, or the actual masala mix of complexity, misery and beauty of contemporary India that I finally had the opportunity to see for myself. Having now made several trips, and collected a wealth of photographic images, videotape, and journal writings, I am shaping this material into a body of work that connects and contrasts my youthful fantasies of India with my adult experience building a relationship with the land of my ancestry. I hope to symbolize the merging of the actual lived journey with the expectations I carried for half a lifetime.

© Neil Chowdhury - God Pictures


Priya Kambli was born in India and moved to the United States at age 18 carrying her entire life in one suitcase that weighed about 20 lbs. She began her artistic career in the States and her work has always been informed by her experience as a migrant.

My photographs visually express the notion of transience and split cultural identity caused by the act of migration. I have been viewing this issue through the lens of my own personal history and cultural journey from India to the United States. This journey left me feeling disconnected- unable to anchor myself in any particular cultural framework. I have therefore formed a hybrid identity, a patching together of two cultures within one person. In my work I explore absence, loss and genealogy through the use of my own family snapshots. These personal artifacts are recontextualized alongside fragmented images and staged imagery to reveal the correlations between generations, cultures and memory.

© Priya Kambli - Dada Aajooba and Me

Vidisha Saini
is a photographer who also also teaches, researches and writes. Her practice frequently draws on the unseen details of her own life. It encompasses still life studies and portraits, which address questions concerning identity, gender, sexuality and culture.

 ‘Behrupiyas’ are costumed performers changing looks every forty-two days; and transforming their mannerism according to the garb and character they adorn. They are a cluster of lower caste communities in India who are nomadic. Under the patronage of monarch they provided their services as messengers to another kingdom; today, they perform on streets, and collect alms door to door. Their looks are mostly inspired by popular culture; history, religion and politics documenting the visual culture of India.

I refer to these portraits of the ‘Behrupiyas’ as ‘Pratibimb’ (meaning reflection); like living with an alter ego. It is a reflection of the certainty that co-exists with the uncertainty within me. “Sometimes I wear glasses, because I have no gray hair.”

© Vidisha Saini - Ardhnarishwar© Vidisha Saini - Tourists from Dubai














Zubin Pastakia is a photographer living and working in Bombay, India. After studying economics in college, he pursued further education in film and cultural studies. His photographic projects to date are a synthesis of these interests as they explore and trace the interstices of shifting cultural, economic and representational value. His series is my favourite. Can you guess why?

The Cinemas Project series visually traces the lives of Bombay’s disappearing single-screen cinema halls. Once symbols of modernity, the relationship that many of these halls share with the city has changed significantly as colonial Bombay metamorphoses into "post-industrial" Mumbai. On the one hand, this collection of images is a repository of the architectural form and interior detail of these buildings that range from the classic to the idiosyncratic. These buildings seem to exist today in defiance of the generic aesthetic and cultural experience of the city’s new multiplexes.

However, to view these halls merely nostalgically—and to cast them off to history—would be to deny them a place in the present; our lived present that is in constant play with time past and pending. As I explored these cinemas, which are simultaneously spaces of dwelling, labour and spectatorship, they revealed themselves to be sites of deep affective investment, traces of which are evident in every nook and corner.

© Zubin Pastakia - Auditorium, Maratha Mandir, Mumbai

© Zubin Pastakia - Projection Room, Dreamland Talkies, Mumbai



Exhibition details
Dates and timings: 14th June - 31st July 2011 (Sat-Thu: 9am-10pm; Fri: 3pm-10pm)
Location: The Empty Quarter, Gate Village, Building 2, DIFC, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 323 1210


Abu Dhabi Film Festival at The Pavilion - Mapping Subjectivity


This month's Abu Dhabi Film Festival's film series at The Pavilion will feature four films from Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema 1960-Now, a program co-curated by The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and ArteEast that traces the largely unknown heritage of personal, artistic and innovative cinema from the Arab world.

In the 1960s, galvanized by a broader global vanguard of countercultural experimentation in the arts, filmmakers in the Arab countries began to craft a language and form that broke away from established conventions and commercial considerations, ultimately clearing the ground for boldly subjective cinematic expression. In the 2010 edition of Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2010, they presented several films from Mapping SubjectivityThe full program was presented at MoMA in New York last year.

Three of the four films in this month's line up are by Elia Suleiman and I wish a selection from the 1970s-1980s were included, to show a wider range of films from Mapping Subjectivity. Al Yazerli, an Iraqi from from 1972 and The Mummy/Night of Counting the Years (Al Moumia')an Egyptian fllm from 1973 are two films from the Mapping Subjectivity program at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Film Festival that really stood out for me, and I'm gutted they're not included in this month's program at The Pavilion.

Here's the full line up. Please spread the word, and if you go, hope you enjoy watching these films. 

Friday, 8th July 8 at 5:30 pm and  7:30 pm

Port of Memory 
Directed by Kamal Al Jafari
Arabic | Germany, France, Palestine, UAE | 2010 | 63 mins 

This is a story rarely told, about the emptying of Jaffa, a thriving urban and economic port city in pre-1948 Palestine, of its indigenous residents. Aljafari’s film follows his family after they receive an order to evacuate their home in Ajami, Jaffa’s once-wealthy sea-front neighborhood. Radically poetic, Port of Memory is a reflection on the absurdity of being at once absent and present.

Thursday, 14th July at 7:30 pm  |  Friday, 15th July at 5:30 pm and  7:30 pm 

Chronicle of a Disappearance
Directed by Elia Suleiman
Arabic, Hebrew, English, French | Palestine, USA, Germany, France | 1996 | 88 mins


In a series of witty vignettes, some contemplative, others laden with satiric humor and critique, Elia Suleiman expresses his emotions and state of mind as he observes daily life in Palestine. Through scenes of a Palestinian actress struggling to find an apartment in West Jerusalem, the owner of the Holy Land souvenir shop preparing merchandise for incoming Japanese tourists and a group of old women gossiping about their relatives, Suleiman leads us on a meditative search for what it means to be Palestinian.


Thursday, 21st July at 7:30 pm  |  Friday, 22nd July 22 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm

Divine Intervention
Directed by Elia Suleiman
Arabic, Hebrew, English | Palestine, Morocco, Germany, France | 2002 | 92 mins 

Subtitled 'A Chronicle of Love and Pain', the film follows a group of interrelated people as they struggle to maintain the veneer of normal life in Nazareth, the West Bank and Jerusalem. Observing that its characters are trapped in a land that denies them basic human rights, the film defines the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory in painfully explicit terms. Subversive humor abounds in a series of expertly executed fantasy sequences and sight gags. In the laughter created from such bleakness, there is a sensation of triumph in the face of adversity.

Thursday, 28th July 28 at 7:30 pm  |  Friday, 29th July at 5:30 pm and  7:30 pm 

The Time that Remains
Directed by Elia Suleiman
Arabic, Hebrew, English | UK, Italy, Belgium, France | 2009 | 109 mins  

Suleiman returns with an immaculate, comically deadpan examination of life as an Israeli Arab in Nazareth from 1948 to today. Based on his father’s diaries and his own reminiscences, the film tells the story of a young rebel forced into exile who returns to Nazareth as an adult to find more apathy than anger. Suleiman chronicles history with devastating absurdity and wit. 


Event details:
All the films have English subtitles.
Free entry, but seating is limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis (screenings start promptly at the specified time).
Venue: The Pavilion Downtown Dubai, Emaar Boulevard (location map)


London Street Photography Festival


The first London Street Photography Festival starts today and will run throughout July with a diverse programme of exhibitions, events, talks, walks and workshops. According to the London Street Photography Festival street photography is described as,

Un-posed, un-staged photography which captures, explores or questions contemporary society and the relationships between individuals and their surroundings.

The calendar of events includes exhibitions of some of the best contemporary street photographers, honoring past masters, plus talks, discussions, debates and appreciation of the current relevance of this time-honored genre. You can see the full line up of events here

For the first year, the exhibitions have been curated by the festival team and partners (rather than through submissions). But street photographers from around the world were invited to to enter the first Street Photography Awards which included a Student Award (open to UK-based students) and an International Award (open to photographers from all over the world). The winning entries will be exhibited during the festival. 

The majority of activities will take place in and around King’s Cross, exhibitions and events will also take place at the German Gymnasium, British Library, National Portrait Gallery, V&A and St Pancras International. Satellite exhibitions and events will take place across London. Download the festival map to find your way to the exhibitions

Here's a small trailer to give you a taste of what to expect at this festival.


Film Screening - Empire II

In 1964, Andy Warhol and Jonas Mekas made Empire, a silent black and white film that lacks a traditional narrative or characters. The passage from daylight to darkness is the film's only plot in this 8 hours and 5 minutes long film - with the protagonist played by the iconic building that was the tallest in New York City and the world, The Empire State Building. 

Fast forward to 2010, a sequel an homage, Empire II was made by David Payton, Lohra Ydna and Andre Orione. Filmed on July 27th, 2010 from 6.35pm till 12.02am, this version is in colour and with sound, but just like the 1964 film, its only narrative is the tracking of time from daylight to night fall and starring today's world tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai. 

Empire II will be screened on Monday 4th July at The Pavilion Downtown Dubai’s cinema and will continue to be screened everyday (except on evenings when other films are scheduled to be screened) throughout the month July between 6.35pm and 12.02am (the same hours it was filmed). 

The screening is organised by Brusselssprout*, a curatorial magazine on emergent art published from Dubai that aims to become an open, independent and alternative platform offering free content related to the artistic and cultural world. Brusselssprout's Editor-in-Chief Ignacio Gomez and filmmaker Camille Mallat will introduce the film and Empire II. 

So much has changed since 1964 and I am curious to know why Empire II was made, its relevance to today's audience and what could this film mean in the future. I am also curious to see if there will be anyone interested to sit through the entire film. I doubt I will sit through the whole thing.  

The original Empire was recently screened at the Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures exhibiton in MoMA that ran from 19th December 2010 till 21st March 2011. Listen to this interview with Jonas Mekas who recalls the making of Empire with Andy Warhol and talks about the planning of the shoot, the set up, the premiere screening and the response they got. He ends by saying,  

Don't expect anthing from it. Just relax and permit it to come into your eyes and just look at it with no expectations. Then you will enjoy it. 




* About Brusselssprout
Brusselssprout is a curatorial magazine on emergent art published from Dubai and aims to become an open, independent and alternative platform offering free content related to the artistic and cultural world. It strives, with the help of the curatorial endeavors of artists and projects that can contribute a different layer to the ever more monopolized and homogenized artistic scene. The first three issues set up a Dubai Manifesto by chapters: Dubai Manifesto 1/3 “The Game is not over”, Manifesto 2/3 “Renovating Dreamlands” and Dubai Manifesto 3/3 “Graphic Encyclopedia”. You can download all three issues here


Event details
Date and timings:
Launch event on 4th July, 7.30pm (the film will be screened daily from 6.35pm till 12.03am, except on nights when other films are scheduled).

The Pavilion Downtown Dubai, Emaar Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (location map)

Phone: +971 4 447 7025
Free entry


Trailer Tuesday - The Circle

This year's edition of the Arab Film Festival in Australia will be screening a few films from the United Arab Emirates. The festival is on from 30th June till 31st July 2011 and taking place in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Brisbane.

One of the films from the United Arab Emirates is The Circle by Nawaf Janahi. It premiered at the Gulf Film Festival in 2009 and received very positive reviews. I have yet to see this film myself, but if you are in Australia during the Arab Film Festival, go check it out. 
Ibrahim, a poet and a journalist, discovers that he is dying soon from a fatal disease. He confront his crook partner, Bader, and demands his share. Ibrahim, happens to look out of his window that night where, Shahab, a thief forced by his boss to steal Ibrahim's neighbor's house. When Ibrahim captures Shehab, the two find themselves exchanging roles in life. 


Vincere at The Picturehouse

The Picturehouse
, Dubai's only arthouse cinema (located in Dubai Mall) is screening Vincere this week. The Picturehouse isn't very consistent when it comes to screening films, so if you want a break from the Hollywood blockbusters this week, here's your chance. Here's the screening schedule.

A cinematic tour-de-force, VINCERE is Italian master Marco Bellocchio’s (FISTS IN THE POCKET) portrait of Benito Mussolini (Filippo Timi), and the fiery woman who was his secret wife and the mother of his abandoned child (Giovanna Mezzogiorno). The film was a standout selection of the 2009 Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, New York, AFI film festivals, and received awards for Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Actor at the Chicago IFF.

In VINCERE, the closely guarded story of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s secret lover and son is revealed in fittingly operatic proportions. Thunderstruck by the young Mussolini’s charisma, Ida Dalser gives up everything to help champion his revolutionary ideas. When he disappears during World War I and later resurfaces with a new wife, the scorned Dalser and her son are locked away in separate asylums for more than a decade. But Ida will not disappear without a fight...