La Reina
May 20, 2019

La Reina

La Reina
La Reina

The foot of Sorte Mountain in Yaracuy, Venezuela is the spiritual base of the religion of Mariá Lionza. Throughout the month of October, thousands of adherents of this syncretic belief voyage to the area in search of purification and guidance. Cartel members pray for protection from the vindictive spirits of dead gangsters. Mediums channel the souls of ancestral leaders, and shamans spill their own blood to heal the sick and infirm. La reina or the queen, as her followers call her, is the revered goddess of nature, love and harmony that inhabits the mountain.

Like a reverse exorcism, pilgrims invite the spirits of chieftains, Vikings and even criminals to permeate their bodies. (It is also not uncommon for Simon Bolivar, the 19th century liberator of Venezuela, to possess a medium). By communing with these spirits, believers hope to tap into otherworldly powers that can bestow healing and enlightenment. Other characteristics of the month-long event include jumping through bonfires, walking across hot coals, lighting candles over pagan symbols and chanting. Director Michelle Coomber says, “Rather than the religion being a magical adjunct to people's lives, it’s now their only hope for healing.” 

It is estimated that up to a third of Venezuela’s population are practitioners of the religion and hail from all strata of society. However, as the country faces the biggest political upheaval in recent South American history, the number of 'Mariá Lionzeros’ is expected to rise. 

“With Venezuela in economic collapse, the country is facing medical shortages of up to 90%," Coomber comments. "There aren’t drugs to buy in the pharmacies, and the doctors don’t have supplies for operations. Desperate and in need of treatment, more and more people will make the pilgrimage to Sorte.”

Snowciety
May 17, 2019

Snowciety

Snowciety
Snowciety

Through the eyes of a clique of local snowboarders, Zürich-born director Kris Lüdi documents the countercultural underbelly of St Moritz—a Swiss ski resort commonly regarded as the winter playground of the rich and famous.

In this film, enviable images of fur coats and bottles of Dom Pérignon are juxtaposed against snapshots of burnt hash and broken boards. Lüdi comments, “By having acquaintances from both the luxurious and rebellious sides of St Moritz, I was able to create a film that visually translates the dichotomy between the two worlds.”

The self-taught director reveals that the alpine town’s often overlooked sense of authenticity can be found in its snowboarders who spurn the opulence of St Mortiz living. To this end, Lüdi highlights that the film’s voiceover speaks in the ancient Swiss language of Rumantsch, which he says, “demonstrates that alternate lifestyles and sophisticated traditions can still be preserved in living environments."

Verses
May 15, 2019

Verses

Verses
Verses

This film presents the first instalment of a bi-annual, bi-coastal night of poetry, music and performance that aims to raise funds for different charitable organisations. Two New York-based artists, Eliza Soros and Eliza Barry Callahan, are the driving force behind the Verses project. They collaborated with filmmaker Owen Smith-Clark on this film that memorializes their maiden event.”

For one night in early 2019, Verses brought together established and emerging multidisciplinary artists to perform work in reaction to the migrant crisis at the US-Mexico border. “It was important to us that the film not only exist as a record,” the directors comment. “But also as a stand-alone piece that both extends and evokes the legacy of activism within the arts.”

Hosted in The Kitchen, a non-profit space in Manhattan, the film’s monochrome and syncopated visuals are excerpts of musical performances from Lily Konigsberg and L’Rain, with powerful poetry and spoken work delivered by the likes of Eileen Myles, Dorothea Lasky, Wayne Koestenbaum, Precious Okoyomon, Anaïs Duplan and Raquel Salas Rivera.

To proactively address socio-political issues across the US, the night was held in support of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP)—with Soros and Callahan collaborating with artist Gussie Roc. The group provides emergency legal aid to thousands of asylum seekers across the country and works to make the government accountable for abuses suffered by people in detention.

Them
May 15, 2019

Them

Them
Them

“I should have stayed in Sudan and died there with a clear conscience instead of living in this world of punishment…” These words are taken from an open letter written by this film’s central figure, Mohammed Gardaya, a 23-year-old Sudanese man who fled the violence of Darfur to claim asylum in Europe.

In this project, Gardaya sprints and crawls across a dimly lit urban environment as if harried by the nightmares of his past. Between gun flashes and echoes of rapid fire, director Adrien Landre centers the emotional trauma and psychological chaos that can haunt asylum seekers.

“This film is a metaphor for the refugees' condition,” explains the French-born Landre. “Their lives become a loop, an eternal resumption, an infinite vertigo.” Speaking about the project’s title, he continues, “Labels such as 'migrant' or 'refugee' systematically reduce people to a monolithic group. It denies any notion of their individuality.”

Gardaya has developed a passion for the arts after discovering Good Chance, a groundbreaking charity and innovative pop-up theater that works with artists from refugee communities across the world. According to Gardaya, it was through acting and writing that he learned to reclaim his identity and a sense of dignity. With renewed zeal, Gardaya hopes to see his refugee status one day recognized by the French government.

Read Mohammed Gardaya’s open letter:

In the name of Allah! I will tell you about my story.

Today I am here in Paris. I am only here because I was obliged to. I have left my people to death and rape, and for this I am a criminal. I should have stayed in Sudan and died there with a clear conscience instead of living in this world of punishment. At every moment I remember my father, my mother and siblings. My body is here but my mind is always there with them. I am a young man who has let his people and homeland down by coming here, only to live in loneliness and suffering.

Seven years ago, back in my village called Wand, I had a decent life. There was peace and dignity. I enjoyed horse riding, camel racing, swimming and shepherding. But one day we woke up to a nightmare. Our own people came and destroyed everything. They raped our mothers and sisters and killed our fathers and brothers. We wept until our eyes dried up and our hearts became hard like stones. We wanted to take revenge, but if my father were not there I would have taken a gun and killed them, like they killed us. Without my father I would not be alive today. So, for my father I fled my homeland. I now have no fear for my life because my life has no meaning anymore. It is full of suffering and bitterness and sadness. My life is useless. 

I am talking to you today as friends so I can attenuate my deep suffering, distress and sorrow. I was lonely and humiliated until a group of people came and asked me to leave this sphere of sadness. I found friends at Good Chance who made me feel like a human being. They made me feel that there is still humanity in the world and a chance for life. I am so grateful for all of them and I thank them so much for everything they did for me. They used to ask me what I was looking for when I fled my homeland. I am just looking for dignity, peace, happiness and humanity. I just want to live like everybody else in this world.

Thank you very much.

Your brother, 

Mohammed Mostapha Gardaya 

Photographers in Focus: Stephen Shore
May 13, 2019

Photographers in Focus: Stephen Shore

Photographers in Focus: Stephen Shore
Photographers in Focus: Stephen Shore

American documentary photographer Stephen Shore will be honored at this year’s Photo London as the Master of Photography—an award bestowed on leading contemporary artists who have made an exceptional contribution to photography. Alongside a headline talk, Shore will also debut Details, his latest series of images that capture found arrangements of natural material and street debris.

Since taking up photography at the age of six, Shore has published over 25 monographs that showcase his unconventional framing and subject matter: parked cars, gas stations, public signs, desolate streets, hotel rooms, uneaten meals… All the while his unique frame of vision blurs the line between observational and documentary photography.

Shore’s interest in daily life and common objects began when, at the age of 17, he became the de facto photographer in residence at Andy Warhol’s studio and creative epicentre, The Factory. Shore’s early work humanised pop icons like Lou Reed, Paul Morrissey and Edie Sedgwick, who frequented the Manhattan space. Instead of glorifying them, Shore’s images labored over the quiet, interstitial moments between The Factory’s famous film shoots and bohemian gatherings. 

Fifty years of empty chairs and cracked pavements later, the work of the ever-evolving photographer has transitioned to Instagram, with his social feed being foregrounded at a recent MoMa retrospective. In a nice turn of events, Shore's work has flourished on this social media platform, which fulfils Warhol’s prophecy that everyone in the future will have their fifteen minutes of fame

Alongside Details, as part of Photo London Shore will be exhibiting his classic work Los Angeles, California, February 4th, 1969, a series of photos taken over the course of one day, chronicling the minutiae of existence. 

And for this editorial partnership with Photo London, NOWNESS is putting on a special program of screenings—including tnis new Photographers in Focus episode Shore—as well as a live panel discussion with NOWNESS creative director Bunny Kinney, Emmy-nominated Freddie Paxton, photographer Yumna Al-Arashi, and artist Maisie Cousins.

Photo London runs from 16 - 19 May at Somerset House, London. For more information click here 

Nude Descending a Staircase No.3
May 10, 2019

Nude Descending a Staircase No.3

Nude Descending a Staircase No.3
Nude Descending a Staircase No.3

French conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp once described his 1912 work, Nude Descending a Staircase No.2, as an exercise in solving “the problem of motion in painting.” While many cubist artists were concerned with depicting objects as if viewed from multiple angles, Duchamp sought to represent the subject itself in motion.

A little over a century later, Milan-born creative vanguardist Marco Brambilla has re-envisioned Duchamp’s fragmented image of a monochromatic human form by exploring the illusion of movement on a digital canvas. The London-based video artist incorporates the original painting’s multi-layered tableau of shattered geometric shapes and injects it with velocity. 

“The figures of No. 3 constantly reconfigure themselves to cascade down an unseen stairway,” says regular NOWNESS contributor Brambilla. “The body, shapes and colour palette are pure Cubism, now expanded into three dimensions using state-of-the-art computer technology.” Brambilla’s No. 3 is a simulation of a walk cycle, which itself is an abstraction of human movement taken from motion-capture recordings. Variations of the cycles are rendered at different speeds and collaged into a kinetic composition that constantly evolves.

Throughout his career, Brambilla has been a steadfast advocate of integrating technology into art. In 2012 his virtual reality collage, Creation, the birth of heaven and hell was chronicled alongside pop culture iconography. Then in 2015 he created Apollo XVIII, a 4K multi-channel video installation about a fictitious mission to the moon broadcast in Times Square.

The ability to reduce movement to a collection of stills inspired Duchamp to paint as if he were overlapping frames in order to evoke a sense of elapsed time in a static composition. “Duchamp is a rare case where an artist was inspired by a forerunner of technology like Muybridge for the subject of a painting,” says Brambilla. Speaking of his own work, the artist continues, “By taking Duchamp's revolutionary painting back into the technological realm and adding the dimension of time, I hope to complete the circle and pay homage to the deconstructed image using a wholly contemporary visual language.” 

An excerpt of Nude Descending a Staircase No. 3 is on display across 21 screens at the Westfield World Trade Centre in New York throughout May 2019 as part of their video art program  

The Validation Clinic
May 8, 2019

The Validation Clinic

The Validation Clinic
The Validation Clinic

“This film is a commentary on how much our self-worth and happiness is based on other people’s opinion of us,” says British director and photographer Jack Daly on his film featuring a fictitious gratification helpline. “And how our self confidence can be increased or decreased depending on the social validation we experience in our day-to-day lives.” 

The Validation Clinic is the latest addition to Daly’s ever-expanding portfolio of irreverent work rooted in socio-political commentary—notorious of all is a picture he took of himself urinating on Donald Trump’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star. Discussing the social conditions that inspired this film, Daly comments, “Although presenting itself in different ways, the need for gratification is a common thread that runs throughout our lives.”

Thomas Bangalter: Sangria
May 6, 2019

Thomas Bangalter: Sangria

Thomas Bangalter: Sangria
Thomas Bangalter: Sangria

Described by critics as a “satanic Step Up” and “Fame directed by the Marquis de Sade”, Climax is the Gasper Noé-directed feature film that has provoked people to walk out of cinemas in outrage since its premiere at Cannes in 2018.

A bowl of spiked sangria is the catalyst to Climax’s gradual descent into despotic chaos. Noé edits footage from the film into this music video that features dancers vogueing, krumping and breakdancing themselves to near ruin—like a dystopian High School Musical on acid.

Thomas Bangalter, the French musician and DJ best known as half of Daft Punk,who wrote the track featured here is a frequent collaborator on Noé-directed projects—also composing the soundtrack to the director’s 2002 psychological thriller, Irréversible.

Post Hoc
May 3, 2019

Post Hoc

Post Hoc
Post Hoc

Transmission towers disguised as pine trees broadcast a near-infinite inventory of obsolete items in the new installation titled Post hoc by Auckland-born artist Dane Mitchell. “The work isn’t intended to be a moral lesson, it’s an elegiac recalling of the past,” says Mitchell, who will be representing New Zealand at this year’s Venice Biennale. “My hope is that it will allow for people to consider the superabundance of bygone or overlooked things that sit below this present moment.”  

Obsolete instruments, abandoned parishes, destroyed artworks, recessions... 

The inexhaustible aural list will emanate from “trees” outside the pavilion and viewers can tune into the transmission via their phones at the other sites where the the installation is dotted around the city—situated outside Sant’Elena gardens, the IUAV University of Venice and the Civil Hospital. Mitchell specifically chose sites that represent the history of human knowledge, as a way to show that ongoing progress relies on the ever-presence of obsolescence; there is no forward without a past.

In this film, cinematographer Adam Luxton follows Mitchell to the factory in Guangzhou, China where the communications towers were created. "I felt like I had finally seen the real planet earth; a sprawling generative environment endlessly pumping out material,” says Luxton about his visit to the industrial plant. “This was the moment I realized how powerful the superabundance of Dane’s list was.” 

The New Zealand Pavilion will be based at the Palazzina Canonica—the former headquarters of the Institute of Marine Sciences—from 11 May to 24 November 2019

Dark Web: Blue
April 26, 2019

Dark Web: Blue

Dark Web: Blue
Dark Web: Blue

“Women have a unique hyperawareness of their physical selves as objects,” explains Samantha Severin, the director exploring salacious voyeurism in this short film. “We’re constantly on display—sometimes we feel like prey.”

The New York-based filmmaker describes her directorial debut as the “surreal fever dream” of a webcam model who fears she is being watched offline as well as online. The blue glow of her digital display seemingly creates a sense of anonymous intimacy between herself and the clients she seduces. But over time, the line between being observed and devoured grows thinner. “Men consume her in both private and public spaces,” says Severin. “When she is safe behind a camera she has the control and enjoys being on display. Outside of that, the attention can be terrifying.”

Severin also uses the idea of the male gaze to question the ubiquity of personal content on digital platforms. She describes “camming” as “symbolic of a cultural moment where we provide windows into our private worlds.” Blue not only questions whether society has made “cam-girls” of us all, but also encourages us to wonder who is staring back.

SELF 03: The Arrangement
April 26, 2019

SELF 03: The Arrangement

SELF 03: The Arrangement
SELF 03: The Arrangement
The Arrangement is the third incarnation of the international art enterprise, SELF—curated by Saint Laurent’s creative director, Anthony Vaccarello. The initiative aims to find artists that evoke the Saint Laurent attitude of confidence, individuality and self-expression. To this end, Vaccarello commissioned individuals who were aligned with his own values and the spirit of the brand. “The Saint Laurent woman has never been submissive,” he says. “She makes all her own decisions.”

"The Saint Laurent woman has never been submissive"
Anthony Vaccarello

SELF launched at Paris Photo 2018 with an exhibition by Japanese photographer Daidō Moriyama, followed by an installation from performance artist Vanessa Beecroft at Art Basel Miami. Vaccarello gave the artists full reign; their only brief was self-expression. Less Than ZeroAmerican Psycho, and White writer Bret Easton Ellis is the latest recruit to join the multidisciplinary project—and The Arrangement marks his latest directorial vision.

"Infatuation can often make the tactile world seem fictional"
Bret Easton Ellis

In this film about jealousy and romantic obsession, two young men vie for the attention of a woman whose affection seemingly swings between the suitors. “The Windmills of Your Mind,”as covered by Petula Clark, acts as both the soundtrack and narrative to this tale of alternating passions. “The windmills of your mind are the things you project onto a neutral reality when you are trapped within the throes of desire,” Ellis comments. The director juxtaposes the dreamy, elegant surroundings of the characters’ world with the reality of their emotional turmoil. “Infatuation can often make the tactile world seem fictional,” he adds. “This is why I wanted the film to have an LA feel—a place where fantasy and reality often collide.”

Ellis’s career has resisted categorization as he modulates between novelist, scriptwriter, podcaster and director. The interdisciplinary contrarian has never shied away from self-expression or been cowed by conventional opinion. Echoing Ellis’s approach, Vaccarello says, “Saint Laurent represents a form of freedom.”

Tears of the Mountain
April 15, 2019

Tears of the Mountain

Tears of the Mountain
Tears of the Mountain

In a time when gods left footprints as wide as lakes and their heads towered over clouds, there was once a mountain goddess called Tunupa. Legend has it her husband abandoned her for another woman. Heartbroken and distraught, Tunupa cried while breastfeeding her child. The water from her tears and the milk from her breasts mingled to form the largest salt flat in the world—the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.

Tunupa has since been immortalised as a mountain, which bears her name, by the Aymara people of the Andes. In Aymara belief, specific geological formations are considered sacrosanct, as gods can choose to take the shape of caves, hillsides or rivers.

Nico, this film’s protagonist, has lived and worked in the shadow of Mount Anupa all his life. The frosted expanse which surrounds the mountain is almost as large as the state of Connecticut, and is where Nico voyages to work every day. As he hacks away at the salt rock with a well-worn ax to source material for his sculptures, he steadily chews coca leaves—his labor becoming a form of self-induced meditation. “The salt flat is a nurturing entity to Nico. It is as if it connects him to a higher dimension,” says director Ivan Olita. “It provides for him and his family, so it has to be treated according to the teachings of his elders.”

Nico maintains some reverence for the Salar by using traditional and more time-consuming hand tools over mechanized instruments to extract the rock. “Myths are a potent way to investigate our reality from a different perspective,” says Olita. “They inform the life of the people from the area they belong to and can help us connect with it more profoundly.”

The wonder of Bolivia’s bleached sea, which continues to draw the awe and respect of local residents, also precipitates its own desecration. Salar de Uyuni is one of the flattest places on Earth and holds up to 70% of the world’s lithium reserves, making it a hotspot for tourists and a mining magnet for tech companies. 

“The Aymara myth intertwining with contemporary myths of technology exemplifies the co-dependence between man and nature,” Olita comments. “But most of all it is an attempt to identify the connection that exists between places that live in the collective consciousness and the people that actually inhabit them.”