Junji Ito’s Japanese manga Uzumaki (published in 1998) like most Japanese horror leans toward the psychological, rather than the violent or monstrous. Although it is categorized as psychological horror, it employs several other sub-genres, including mystery, the supernatural, suspense/thriller, and the most important of them all, Lovecraftian cosmic psychological despair. Uzumaki is about a town, Kurozucho, plagued by the curse of the spiral. Through a series of short stories, we gradually learn about the town, the scope of the plague, and how it all relates to the two main characters, Kirie Goshima and Shuichi Saito. Is it frightening? Yes, sometimes, but not in a there’s-a-monster-in–the-house way. What’s scary is how the normal becomes inexplicable, and the characters can’t truly grasp and/or explain what they are seeing. And we as readers become similarly confused about what’s right before us.
|Does this say anything about you?|
What does fashion mean to people? Well, clearly lots of different things, depending on who they are, how much money they have, and their relationship with clothes. Yes, I believe everyone has a relationship with clothes. What’s interesting is that fashion not only tells us about a person’s identity, but also can create that identity. No matter where you’re from, what you do, what you wear, how you wear it, and how much it costs, you can’t hide behind your clothes. They say everything about you. So I decided I wanted to know more and asked people to take a survey about their relationship with their clothes. What I found out was weirdly illuminating and caught the strange intersection between what we wear and who we are.
|Keanu knows Gun-Fu|
Before we talk about Chad Stahlelski, perhaps one of the most interesting directors of recent years, we need to mention that this is the first time since The Matrix that we’ve seen Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne together. What else needs can you say? This is the second John Wick Stahlelski has directed, the first being in 2014 and whether you saw it or not this one will give you exactly what you paid for: guns, guns going off, and more guns, as well as Keanu Reeves’ ability to form meaningful relationships with just about everyone using the fewest words possible. If you saw the trailers, you saw the movie. Unlike most movies that do this, John Wick 2 movie gave you more of the same with a huge emphasis on the word more. And let’s be honest more is all you wanted from the movie in the first place.
|Rings 1 by Austin Conrad|
There are not many sports that have somehow managed to avoid being controlled by rules. When we think of major or even minor sports we think about a set of rules to decide how a game should be played. When considering the idea of a foul we think about whether that action is harmful, and gives an unfair advantage to a player or team. Similarly, there are some sports that ignore rules and change the very nature of how people play games.
|Many of the great themes of Pat Perry|
I recently took a trip back to my hometown, Grand Rapids Michigan, where I visited family and friends. Coming from the Bay Area, going home is always a bit of a culture shock. Grand Rapids is uneventful and very conservative. One night, while grabbing drinks with old High School friends, I found myself in the middle of an intense argument over who’s 9-5 job is better and who makes the most money. At this moment I realized how different my views of work are and how leaving home and becoming an illustrator has changed me.
|Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams|
When we think about wilderness, we think of nature untouched by man. If you plan a trip to the wilds you probably think of an uninhabited place that is unspoiled by man or woman. It’s interesting that we don’t consider our National Parks to be under the control of the federal government, but they are. I remember when I visited Yosemite in the summer of 2016 the valley was covered in shuttle buses, stores, lodges, traffic, etc. I was taken back by so much activity in the unspoiled wilderness. But don’t get me wrong, walk in the opposite direction and Yosemite still has the appearance of pristine wilderness.
|It change the world!|
When the urinal got flipped upside down and tagged the moniker R. Mutt, Marcel Duchamp sent the art world and everything we knew into a new dimension. The Dadaists were the first artists to explore what it meant to be an artist in the vortex of the urban world. They found a home in cities all throughout Europe, and slipping through New York. And from New York their influence splintered all over the US into a variety of different social and artistic movements. Some of these movements might seem highly unlikely, like “The New Negro Movement”, but that’s how culture works. It slips and slides past the censors of good taste and possibility. So nothing you know is new; the past is always present and alive in the future. Since Dada burst on the scene, the young have created social and artistic movement from different cliques and racial backgrounds. These movements rely on the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next, with each generation progressively building on the previous one’s ideas. These movements rely heavily on what is literally the state of cool. But art movements require catalysts. Music, art, fashion, philosophy, aesthetics, and of course drugs, have all served as the markers for new movements; but what they really need is a real person to help drive them. Duchamp was one of these, and I’m going to key you in on a couple more.
|Ride the Dead Fart Machine!|
Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan directed Swiss Army Man, starring Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, with their eyes fully on that middle ground between comedy and drama. This is the duo’s first major release and it must have been quite a coup to get a cast of mid-range stars. Since Winstead has been John McLane’s daughter in the entire Die Hard Franchise it isn’t surprising that she wanted something new. Dano is clearly looking for challenging roles—he received a best supporting actor Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy. And Radcliffe, is a wizard. Or was.
|The Destination of our Food Pilgrimage|
The first thing I do is go to the website. I want an incredible food experience, and not just a generic great food experience; I want a high-class, incredible, Japanese food experience. I had trolled around the Internet looking for a restaurant that might serve my needs, and then I came across Kusakabe. There was something about the understated quality of the design and the promise of a long meal that was irresistible. I clicked to reserve a table and immediately realized that the restaurant was booked for a month. I don’t know how to explain this, but it made the restaurant seem almost perfect, like a paradise I needed to visit. And so I learned the first rule of an incredible food experience, not everyone can have it and you have to want it real bad.
|The Revolution Hit the Streets!|
So, what exactly is someone referring to when they say ‘Sound System Music?’ Doesn’t my grandma have one in her car? In fact, yes she does, but the origins of sound system music derives much further back in time to Jamaica, where it emerges from both an economic crisis and a technological break through. Within the context of Jamaican pop culture, a sound system is the meeting of many Disc Jockeys and engineers, linking up huge speakers and generators and setting up parties in densely populated areas of Jamaica, first and foremost in Kingston. In the 1940s and 50s most of the music being played was popular Rhythm and Blues from the U.S., but eventually other local Jamaican music took form and grabbed center stage at sound system events.
|Yeah, I'm bad, one bad mother-fucking movie|
Jordan Charles Vogt-Roberts directed this movie and unless you’re a Sundance film groupie or historian or both his name won’t mean anything to you. It certainly didn’t mean anything to me and I’m not sure after Kong it ever will. Executive producer Ridley Scott does mean something and you’ll find his influences all over Kong, though probably not in any admirable way. But we’re name-dropping now, which happens to be the most successful thing the movie does. Whatever Vogt-Roberts pitched to get this thing made, he clearly mentioned The Dirty Dozen, Apocalypse Now, King Kong (all versions) and a little liberal wink-wink to indigenous people. It’s one of those films, or really a dozen of them.
|A Classic is Back|
Lucinda Childs, John Adams, and Frank Gehry’s Available Light premiered in 1983 at the Los Angeles Museum of Modern and Contemporary (MOCA). The piece is now considered to be one of the most significant works to come out of American performance and is thought by many to be a masterpiece. Each of the contributing artists—Childs, Adams, and Gehry—have become world famous in their respective fields of dance, music, and architecture. The present remounting and tour of Available Light (at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall) is a chance to go back to a moment when they all were on the cusp of fame and see how they negotiated creating a piece of art together. And the issue really is about artistic collaboration and the way they imagine it.
|Style Beyond Belief|
John Galliano is a British fashion designer and by far one of the most talented and controversial designers in the world. He was born in Gibraltar and moved to Streatham, South London when he was six. He graduated from St. Martin’s School of Art, the top fashion design school in London, and became an instant star. His style was hyper-romantic and passionate, but he also displayed a meticulous attention to the details of tailoring that set him apart from his experimental peers. He was the head designer of Givenchy (1995-1996), Christian Dior (1996-2011) and his own brand John Galliano (1988-2011) before he got drunk, went on an anti-Semitic tirade in a dive bar, was caught on videotape, and got fired from his job and shunned by all his friends. He later apologized for being blasted out of his mind and everyone forgave him. He has since become the creative director of the Paris luxury fashion house Maison Margiela.
|GREAT = ART, GREAT = ACTIVISIM|
In 1989, a young artist named Keith Haring produced an untitled poster, later known as “Ignorance = Fear, Silence = Death” for the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP New York. Haring's deceptively simple imagery and text provided a sharp social critique of AIDS’ policy, politics, and among other things drug addiction, social outsiders, and gay life. Using a graffiti-inspired style and addressing stereotypes about AIDS, Haring’s poster drew attention to the dangers of prejudice and ignorance. He also distributed the posters free of charge (7) to spread the word to the general public. This is art as social activism, and yet despite all the serious political and social implications Haring never lost his sense of fun.
|The Definition is Historical|
Whenever the world experiences a drastic change, we get a new movement in art. Industrialization and the emergence of photography gave us Impressionism and Expressionism. WW1 gave us machine guns and chemical weapons and artists responded with Surrealism and Dadaism. With the Atomic Bomb, came Jackson Pollock and Abstract Expressionism. In 2016, the digital revolution is here and with it the new, new abstraction in art.
|Here She Is, Ave Maria|
Marina Abramovic is aggressively frank. In much of her work, she invites audiences to break social norms and allows them to participate in simple gestures that are usually considered inappropriate or strange. In Rhythm 0, which is perhaps Abramovic’s most famous work, she simply sits and invites the audience to engage with her in whatever way they please. Timid at first, people eventually become bolder and sometimes they get aggressive and even violent. After 6 hours of this strange confrontation, she walks toward the audience. Most people run away. In Abramovic’s most recent work The Artist Is Present, she sits at a wooden table and invites viewers to sit across from her and share a silent moment. In this way, many of Abramovic’s works deal with reframing a seemingly unimportant, or simple interaction in a way that can cause the viewer to reconsider everyday moments.
We’re supposedly living in the golden age of tech, where revolutions in product design, communication, even AI, are touted everyday. And so we tend to think of the 70’s as being the Stone Age, the age of 8-Track tapes, laser discs, gas guzzling muscle cars, but that would be a mistake. People are always assuming that what happened in the past was crude, primitive, and not worth the time. But that’s because the most lasting changes disappear from sight and become the everyday world.
|There was once no choice|
An infinite number of typefaces are available today. Hundreds of them are released every week and if you are a young designer like me it can be overwhelming to know where to start in choosing a typeface. Do you pick what’s cheapest? Do you choose based on foundries, variations? This is a critique of a handful of contemporary typefaces. It is meant to help novice designers compare contemporary typefaces based on qualities rather then just how the typeface looks. Every designer has intuition and preferences that tell them what typeface to apply in their projects, but if you can take a critical perspective on foundries, type anatomy, type history, etc. it will elevate and strengthen your design.
|The Place Promised in Our Early Days|
What distinguishes Makoto Shinkai’s work from his contemporaries is his embrace of the open-ended. His plots meander and wander where they want. He concentrates on the mundane. He’s a realist interested in exploring odd connections and relationships. Strangest of all, his films provoke an interest in learning, not morals, but actual activities and skills. He possesses an appreciation of and the details of everyday objects. We see this in the way Shinkai is a master of technique, from his use of live cameras in 2D space, extreme color tones, and ambient sound effects. Taken as a whole, we can see bits and pieces of Buddhist thinking embedded in his films, which is quite unusual for animated films.
|So Beautiful, so revolutionary|
The SUV is an interesting type of car. It’s designed to carry more people than a regular one and is beloved by soccer moms everywhere. But that undersells the SUV’s potential and by potential I mean the ability to change how we think of travel and transportation. Elon Musk, the great South African entrepreneur, who has changed our ideas about electric cars, space travel, and all sorts of things, has put his sights on the lowly SUV. And what he’s done with it is almost as wild as what Apple has done to the phone. So it’s with great anticipation that we await Musk’s new masterpiece. It’s not just a vehicle, but also a window into the future, and, most important of all, a new way of thinking. This is the beginning of the revolution.
|X marks the Devotion|
The Devotion of Suspect X is not your standard mystery novel, where there is a crime, an investigation, and a solution. Instead, Keigo Higashino practically tells you in the first chapter who the killer is, why he did it, and how he’ll be caught. You’re probably asking yourself, why bother reading a mystery when there’s no mystery at all. To your surprise, the next 17 chapters will prove you wrong: there is a mystery and it’s quite unnerving and complex. And if you’re alert you might ask, “devotion to whom? And what’s with the X?” That’s the most brilliant part of Higashino’s design: the X is more than a little scary, and it’s scary because of how worthy and laudable it is, even for a murderer.
Most people think video and online games are not only a waste time, but are also a fine way to waste your life. Yet, there are video games and then there are video games, and I want to talk about the latter and Final Fantasy XIV is an excellent example of it. It might not change your thoughts about gaming, but you’ll have to admit that it is far from a waste. One of the hallmarks of great art is that it actually anticipates its audience. In other words, it thinks about the needs of the people who use it and then shapes those needs. FF14 is especially sensitive to its audience and goes much further than other video game in establishing a compact between user and game.
|The Medium Matters|
What could be more exhilarating than seeing one of your favorite musicians live? Music that had previously only been in your head is right in front of you. You aren’t separated by production, but you’re part of the music, part of the experience. As it turns out, there are plenty of people that prefer the experience on their own—they want to hear the music as the artist wants it to be heard and no other way. I was first introduced to Porches by my high school friend Johnny—that sounds like a cliché. We have the same taste in music, so I’m always ready to hear something new while driving around town in his old Trooper. I remember Johnny excitedly pulling up Porches on Spotify, but it didn’t take long for me to feel that something was off about Aaron Maine’s overly auto-tuned voice. Like so many vocalists today, Maine just didn’t feel human enough. Despite the song’s overall sparseness and minimal use of synth, I felt repelled by Maine's voice. I upped the volume, fiddled with the air conditioning, the trooper hummed, and I soon switched to the more familiar synth beats of Com Truise.
|A Kitchen design for Hell|
I’ve been in a lot of different kitchens, all over the world. In China, where I’m from, I have, of course, seen many kitchens. When I moved to America, one of the first things I looked for was the kitchen. Strangely, Chinese kitchens and American kitchens are not that different -- they’re made for mess and fast cooking. It wasn’t until I moved to Denmark that for the first time in my young life that the kitchen, or should I say, the design of the kitchen, made perfect and total sense.
What’s peeping? Peeping is spying on people and sometimes for no good reason, like for your own thrills. It might be wrong. It is wrong, and yet people do it all the time, because it makes them feel that they’re in control, as if merely by watching what they’re not supposed to they become powerful. To be a peeper or voyeur, if you want to use the fancy French term, you don’t need a telescope or a camera, but just the desire to kind of check up on someone without them knowing it—like your boyfriend or girlfriend’s text messages, or emails, or their browsing history, or, you know, what’s in their medicine cabinet. There are a lot of things to check, believe me, I’ve thought about it. So we all peep. It’s fun and it’s human and you get to know other people’s secrets.
|THEY WILL SING|
John Stevens was born in 1981 in Springfield, Ohio. Apparently Stevens wasn’t a mythic enough name and so he became a Legend, a John Legend. Like any R&B superstar, Legend has an image, a silky voice, and fans who adore and lap up what he gives or sells them. He seems to be manufactured, an R&B singer, tailor-made for every generation, and yet somehow he comes off as sincere. His rise to fame has supported a newfound voice for activism and caring in America, which Legend, born Stevens re-packages in an enticingly humble allure.
“Why didn’t you keep playing?” “Because I wasn't good enough.” That was my boyfriend’s cold and direct assessment of his athletic ability. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Athletes are reminded of the brutality of talent all the time. You aren’t fast enough, you aren’t tall enough, you aren’t strong enough. That brutality is what makes Libyan-Italian artist, Adelita Husni-Bey’s exhibition Movement Break, so powerful and disappointing. Like my boyfriend’s athletic ability: it was good, but not good enough.
|A Wild Identity|
The exhibition, Bring it Home: (Re) Locating Cultural Legacy through the Body, curated by Meg Shiffler and Kevin B. Chen is a group show of ten artists that represents culturally diverse communities of the Bay Area and how they explore their sense of home and belonging. Though the show was laudable in its ambition, it reads as the same generic blueprint of “culturally diverse exhibitions” that are thematically built around popular assumptions about assimilation or migrant experiences. This becomes problematic because it dilutes the specificities of religious belief, history, and the politics of each artist and privileges the more digestible aspects of displacement. Tsherin Sherpais one of the artists exhibiting in the show. He was a born and raised in Nepal. He studied in Taiwan and moved to the United States in 1998. As a thangka artist, he began his career painting traditional Tibetan deities. However, over the years he has embraced a more contemporary style. He still paints in the traditional Tibetan style, but more as an act of defiance to the dominant Western mode of art.
If you ever walk through Hayes Valley in San Francisco, you cannot help but see David Best’s Patricia’s Green Temple, plopped in the middle of a strip of green, sandwiched between a jungle gym, food trucks with some of the most expensive slices of pizza in the world, clothing stores for millionaire skateboarders, and restaurants selling thirty dollar pancakes. Best is famous for building immense temples out of recycled wood sheets for Burning Man and then setting them on fire, in the tradition of that ridiculous hippy festival in the desert. Best’s Hayes Street Temple stands out because it’s so different than everything else around it: expensive boutiques, Victorian apartments, new multi-million dollar Condos, expensive shoe stores, one might say that everything is expensive and for sale on Hayes Street, maybe even including the people. So, Best’s Eastern inspired temple stands out that it doesn’t appear to be selling anything and even seems to tout—in Burning Man tradition—it’s own temporary status. It too will be destroyed.
|Time yields hard truths|
How many movies end in perfect love? The couple gazing into each other’s eyes, the knowing smiles, the arms entangled around each other, the kiss, and then the slow fade to black: happiness, forever after. Richard Linklater, filmmaker, screenwriter, and art house darling, is as fascinated with love as any Hollywood hack, but how he depicts it is radically and strangely different. His Before trilogy challenges the notion of happily ever after, and instead looks at how we love and why we love. They explore stages in a relationship that are too often sugarcoated over by clichéd notions of romance (Hello, Nicholas Sparks. Hello, Bridget Jones and all your diaries). Instead, Linklater gives it to us as it is.
|That's where I went|
Strolling around the new Berkeley Art Museum, which opened under the multi-show theme of “Architecture of Life,” I thought that I was going to get some snazzy and iconic architectural drawings. Instead, I saw spider webs, wooden sheds with abstract films showing in them, Saul Bass inspired video art, a charcoal map of China, not very accurate although I haven’t been to China, textiles from Nepal: and it all made me think what is architecture, what is life, what am I doing here, I’m very mad. Just as I was about to leave and go to Top Dog across the street, instead of the fancy third floor vegan cafeteria for the dowagers of Berkeley, I turned a corner into a new room, I hadn’t noticed. In front of me was something I might call art.
|The audience is in the masks!|
I had an unusual experience. Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More, a strange take on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, messed with my mind and my sense of who I am. Yes, it was that good and bad. Before entering the theater, a waitress -- dolled up in 1930’s film noir style – opened up a door and led us down some stairs into a dark room. It didn’t feel like a pleasant way to begin an evening of theater. There were electric candles in every corner, the only and insufficient light available. We were stumbling around in the darkness, trying to catch up to our waitress, or was she our leader?
|Everyone, come and look|
A public mural, at any scale, can be a massive undertaking for an artist or group of artists. Often fraught with conflicting public opinions, a mural with any substantial content can quickly be politicized and sometimes watered-down. As Lucy Lippard poignantly states in her book Mapping the Terrain, “Culture is not where we come from, it’s where we’re coming from.” A successful public mural reflects the community in which it resides. The Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project (2015), an effort by Attitudinal Healing Connection (AHC), meets and exceeds these requirements. Heroes should be praised for its execution in uniting the community and its ability to negotiate Oakland’s complex political climate.
Morgan de LorenzoI was 18 years old when I first attended a show at the Luggage Store Gallery on Market Street near the Tenderloin in San Francisco. The Gallery is a S.F. landmark, established in 1987 by Daryl Smith and Laurie Lazer. From the beginning they have been relentless in their passion to support emerging artists from the Bay Area as well as international ones. You can easily trace the paths of many contemporary artists back to the Luggage Store. New to the Bay Area I made fast friends through skateboarding and graffiti. On a rainy day my friends and I set out from Oakland as a pack of wild and reckless youths to view the infamous Brazilian twins, Os Gemeos exhibit at the Luggage Store.
Oscar season has come and gone, and taken with it the season of predictions, speculation, and judgment on the motives of the Academy. By this point, it can certainly feel like everything that could possibly be said about the nominees has been said, probably at least six times. We’ve made predictions, commented on the lack of diversity, and collectively wept for the winners of this largely arbitrary award. Since these things have been covered, there’s something else I’d like to dig into. The Academy Awards are supposed to honor the best in film achievement. But is it always artistic merit that drives the production of Oscar nominated films? How can we distinguish from films that were produced by committee with the intention of winning prestigious awards, the Oscars included, and those that were made purely because their creator had to make them.
|Do you like me outfit?|
The allure of the dystopia is an everlasting one. We can’t seem to get enough of everything going wrong. From “Hell” to the latest Mad Max, dystopia sells and especially at the movies: every year Hollywood releases a film that seems to catch the essence of the look of dystopia. But not all dystopias are made equal. The Fifth Element takes place in the twenty third century, where the cabs and cops fly at the same level as high-rise buildings. The Matrix’s dystopia takes place in a computer-generated dream, and in the film, Snowpiercer, the last survivors on earth are trapped in a train that circles an icy earth over and over again. You couldn’t ask for more different dystopias. Yet, no matter how different each dystopia, you can count on the clothes always being the same. Yes, I said that, it’s as if the same costume designer has worked on every dystopian film for the last twenty years, wait thirty, no forty, fifty years. It’s always the same.
|He's our man.|
Polit-Sheer-Form: Fitness for All at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) opens with an incredibly striking image: a 61 3/10 × 47 3/10 inch portrait of a man wearing a perfectly ironed white shirt with a blue badge, awkwardly parted hair, looking straight ahead, and possibly to nowhere. Most people who see it just glance at it for two seconds, avoid eye contact and then go on. Who is he? Why is his portrait here? Why are they so disinterested? Perhaps because his face is uninspiring and seems to be as normal as you could possibly get. He is an average man of no particular note. And that’s your first mistake. You should be very interested in this boring man and everyone who sees this show should be, too. No one has ever quite looked like that, so normal and so non-noticeable. How is that possible? The answer is that he is not one man, but the amalgamation of the five artists who make the group Polit-Sheer-Form (PSF). The man’s name is Mr. Zheng (Mr.Polit).