Terrence Malick, To the Wonder
Watching this I sometimes felt as restless as you do on a long train journey when there is nothing but the same expanse of landscape stretching on for miles, your mind still too attuned to what has just been left behind to fully rest in its stillness. There were also moments I felt irritated by the camera’s constant, travelling gaze over Marina, the main female character, by her portrayal as endlessly winsome, lithe, childlike. It made me feel caged in and reminded me of the potential reductiveness of the male lens, especially as the way Malick portrayed the characters seemed somehow archetypal. But as the film progressed the admiration for the beauty of the cinematography and of the film’s rhythm gave way to awe of what Malick was doing. Through the structure, the narrative, the editing, the characters, he had managed to create a kind of cinema of the metaphysical, capturing in just two hours the seeming inescapability of human suffering; the striving for and elusiveness of transcendence and connection; the banality and loneliness of being trapped within our selves; the all-too-brief escape of romantic love; the immanence, despite all this, of beauty. The way he managed to counter conventional characterisation with characters almost devoid of particularities that instead of ending in stereotype, reached towards a universality of experience.
‘In Order To Join’, Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, Germany
Exhibitions with generalised categories such as ‘India’, ‘Africa’, or ‘Women’ often leave one with the impression that the included artists have been put together to give them some presence within a cultural landscape that does not yet seem to have more nuanced spaces for them. ‘In Order to Join’, a show of women artists born between 1947 and 1957 and specifically of work created in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, curated by Swapnaa Tamhane and Susanne Titz, creates a context that brings added depth and coherence to the artists work, rather than reducing their context. The starting point of the exhibition is the videos, performances, installations and writings of the Indian artist Rummana Hussain. The threads of her work, the questionings and re-workings of notions of personal identity, gender and political realities create resonances and dialectic throughout the exhibition; whether through the embodied works of Ana Mendieta’s sculptures, Adrian Piper’s photographs, the performances of Mona Hatoum, the recreations of personal biography of Helen Chadwick; the complicating of identities and categories of representation in Pushpamala N’s beautiful and witty mock ethnographic photographic series of native women of South India; the more directly political posters, collages and paintings of Lala Rukh and Sheela Gowda; or the recurrent one of archives and text in the book drafts of Rosemarie Trockel or the new ways of navigating narrative and textual form created by Angela Grauerholz. There are also works by Jamelie Hassan, Chohreh Feyzdjou, Shelagh Keeley, and Astrid Klein, but to rush through them here would be to do the show injustice. Its premise, In Order to Join, to create historical discourses of forgotten or neglected histories; to no longer just be talked of, but be part of the talking, the naming, the undoing; and to create new paradigms of connection, of understanding; is present in each of the artists work, and is underscored by the totality, the collective expression, of the exhibition. It runs till 16 March 2014 in Mönchengladbach and 1 November – 14 December 2014 in Mumbai.
José Mujica; Uruguay
My parents’ generation feels like the last to have believed in the integrity, effectiveness and transformative power of politics. With what feels like realism rather than cynicism we seem to have accepted that politicians are interested more in personal glory than collective wellbeing, often dishonest, sometimes greedy, and more and more impotent. But Uruguay’s José Mujica stands out as an example of personal humility, political common sense and humanity, so much that he embodies a forgotten, an almost unbelievable idealism. He lives in his one-bedroom farmhouse and eschews the presidential palace, offering it instead as one of the state shelters for the homeless; drives an old Volkswagen Beetle instead of in a cavalcade; flies economy class rather than by private jet; donates most of his money to social projects; and runs a government that sets prices for essential commodities and provides free computers and education for every child.
Paapa, Accra, Ghana
Accra is incredibly exciting right now in terms of film, art, poetry, and most especially music. Musicians like Efya, Wanlov & Mensah, Jojo Abot, Kyekyeku, Tawiah, King Ayisoba, Sena Dagadu, and Drunk Beggar Thief are creating work that is original, diverse, and exciting, but my favourite concert of the year was of a young musician called Paapa, launching his conceptual album where Kukua, the main love interest, turns out to be Ghana, so that the lyrics, at first those of love songs, double up to speak to some of our most poignant existential predicaments.
The Kenyan-born Somali poet, who this year was named London’s first young poet laureate, and who, with poets like Kate Tempest and Hollie McNish, is awakening a whole new generation to the economy, eloquence, directness and ambit of poetry.
LOOKING FORWARD TO 2014:
Frances Bodomo, Afronauts
Frances Bodomo’s second film, premiering at Sundance, tells the imagined story of the very real Zambian space program, started by science teacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso and his establishment of the Zambia National Academy of Science, Space and Astronomical Research in an old farmhouse outside Lusaka. Nkloso recruited a 17-year old girl, Matha, and Bodomo in the film looks to tropes such as albinism, the perspectives of exiles and outsiders, and the promises of escape, of space, of another reality.