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An assortment of recommendations from the month of January.

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watching

I finally signed up to Netflix at the end of 2018 when the lure of binge watching Vikings became too strong(!). Netflix aside, the January break freed up time to see

Shoplifters made my heart ache and Kusama Infininty shed some light on an artist who I have long admired, but knew very little about. If anything the film is a reminder that Yayoi Kusama’s work is so much more layered in meaning than the instagram shots of her pumpkin at Island would suggest. Finally, Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War (2018) looked and felt as though it was from another time. The combination of black and white, — performance (an echo of Monica Vitti), the framing of architecture and the underlying sense of futility that reminded me of Michelangelo Antonio’s triology of modernity and its discontents. It also features a dance sequence to “Rock around the Clock” that rivals the brilliant trio in Jean-Luc Godard’s Band of Outsiders. The fact that it makes me recall all the films I love from the 1960s

 

reading

Most of January’s reading was dominated by Haruki Murakami’s new tome, Killing Commendatore. Although I enjoyed the bizarre magical realism and musical references that have become synonymous with Murakami’s writing style, it felt as though it didn’t break any new groun. The book that really left an impression on my bedside table stack was Alice Water’s Coming to my Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook.

Water’s recounting of her childhood and early adulthood that led to the opening of her restaurant, Chez Panisse, is interspersed with her unpretentious philosophy of simplicity and beauty. As a further reading note, I also recommend Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution by Thomas McNamee. McNamee goes into more detail on the brilliantly unconventional everyday machinations of the restaurant and almost picks up the final thread of Coming to my Senses.

One of the last books I read in 2018 was Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, a treatise on the silent and overlooked power of introversion. As a means to cultivate introversion in the face of western society’s privileging of extraverts, Cain recommends seeking out “restorative niches.”

I jotted down this term and later picked up artist Johanna Tagada’s self-published zine, Penser, Manger, Partager. In a moment of unexpected synchronicity, I turned to a small postcard of Tagada's tent from her exhibition Épistolaire Imaginaire. The fabric dwelling, which is embroidered with memories and serves as both an archive and a shelter, appeared as the ultimate restorative niche and a visual reminder for seeking out such places in 2019.

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It’s a matter of discernment and appreciation, but anybody who is educated in a certain way is able to see that beauty...It’s about everything in life: What do you want to look at while you’re washing the dishes? Can you make your own lampshade rather than buy it? What sort of rose can you plant in your garden? What herbs can you plant on your fire escape? What kind of pan do you want sitting on the stove? What kind of handle does it have?
— Alice Waters