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ASK ME ASK ME ASK ME by Patrick Potter (Carpet Bombing Culture, 2017)

ask meI have no idea how this little gem of a book got to be stocked at the shop of Bologna’s Museum of Modern Art but I’m grateful for some employee’s initiative and vision.

Its subtitle is ‘Random questions for awesome conversations’ and that, together with some lively graphics, is exactly what you get.

The content recognizes the sad truism that the human race is rapidly losing the art of conversation. It promotes the notion that asking and answering questions is a step towards reviving this vital social skill.

The zombie-like addiction to screens of all shapes and sizes means that we risk forgetting the pleasures and perils of ‘real’ human interaction. Left unchecked, this will leave us increasingly technologically connected and physically isolated. View full article »

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Walk Through Walls: A Memoir by Marina Abramović (2016)

marinaI suspect most will, like me, come to this illuminating book through the publicity surrounding Marina Abramović’s recent works of performance art like The Artist Is Present at MoMa New York (March 14 – May 31, 2010) and ‘512 Days’ at Serpentine Gallery, London in 2014 or through the numerous fascinating video interviews and talks to be found on You Tube.

These show her to be powerful woman who is both strikingly beautiful and rivetingly charismatic. It becomes clear after seeing and hearing her how she can so fully captivate audiences and inspire adulation. Through the force of her personality and strong physical presence she comes over like a cross like a dominatrix or femme fatale yet also exudes warmth, humor and compassion.

The memoir – ghostwritten by James Kaplan based on extensive interviews – reveals her as an all or nothing character for whom nothing short of total committment is good enough. View full article »

black-mirror-logoThese days I find most TV shows cringeworthy rather than bingeworthy. Black Mirror is the exception that proves the rule.

Charlie Brooker’s brilliant techie-themed tales of the unexpected continue to enthrall and entertain.

The six diverse new episodes in season 4 were released by Netflix on December 29th and I consumed them all eagerly in just a couple of days. View full article »

THE STORY OF LOOKING by Mark Cousins (Canongate Books, 2017)

mark1As with his previous book – The Story Of Film (the tie-in with the brilliant Channel 4 series) , Mark Cousins acts as an articulate and able guide in the same way that E.H. Gombrich did for ‘The Story of Art’ in 1950.

Like Gombrich, the language is kept simple and jargon free in order to appeal to readers of all ages.

It’s easy to imagine Cousins carefully preparing each chapter in the same way as teachers put together lesson plans. He’ll have pack of slides to show and discuss in the classroom but he’ll be ready to shuffle these up to keep students on their toes and to relieve boredom.

There is clearly an educational purpose behind such an ambitious study but there also a desire to keep things as light, accessible and entertaining as possible. View full article »

Nico: a faded femme fatale

NICO, 1988 directed by Susanna Nicchiarelli (Italy/Belgium, 2017)

Nico-1988By common consensus, the career high of Nico (Christa Päffgen b. 16th October 1938 d. 18th July 1988) came in the late 1960s as a Warhol superstar in Chelsea Girls and as the singer of three songs on the The Velvet Underground’s groundbreaking debut album.

While a conventional biopic would have centred on this heady, decadent period, Susanna Nicchiarelli chooses instead to focus on the last three years of Nico’s life. At this point, the artist’s striking looks had declined to the point that she openly conceded that she’d become “a fat junky”.

As the film shows, Nico never stopped being feisty and firey but makes no bones about the fact that the looks which brought her fame had suffered through a life of excess. She is no longer the stunning blonde model whose long list of lovers included cult celebrities like Alain Delon, Brian Jones, John Cale and Jim Morrison. View full article »

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