PAMPAS by Jessica Bishopp – A Short Film on how to spot a Swinger

For her directorial debut filmmaker and artist Jessica Bishopp explores the practice of swinging — habitual group sex or the swapping of swapping of sexual partners  — in the 1970’s. In an imaginative documentary, she  the rumoured notion that suburban swingers identify themselves within the community by planting a feathery planted called Pampas on their front lawns as hidden invitations to each other.

The documentary features the voices of a group of women discussing the rumours that were connected to the plant as they also reminisce on the swinging parties that occurred  in the 70’s. With model and author Naomi Shimada centerstage , the film gives a peek into the worlds of female desire, subcultures, botanical myths and this intriguing suburban legend. 

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“Nearness” – an exhibition in celebration of British Black History Month

Imagery courtesy of Ronan Mckenzie

This evening Brixton Village will celebrate UK Black History month with an exhibition curated by British acclaimed designer Bianca Saunders. The showcase, titled ‘Nearness’ is a pop up installation that explores black creativity in a vast variety of forms. It will include the works of multi-disciplined filmmaker & video artist Akinola Davies Jr, fashion designer Jazz Grant, poet and director Caleb Femi as well as photographer director and curator Ronan Mckenzie. 

“As London continues to grow and evolve in this age of gentrification, we need to keep stoking the fires of multiculturalism and inclusivity by celebrating creativity in up and coming areas. 

The concept of this exhibition is something that speaks to me on a personal level — supporting other artists of colour in London. I reached out to each of these artists personally, based on their unique creative vision: my favourite multidisciplinary talent from the community that enriches London’s culture dialogue,” explained curator Bianca Saunders. 

The exhibition will open it’s door tonight at 6pm at the Market Row in Brixton and will run until the evening of October 27th.

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“The Invisibles” by i-D & Jermaine Francis

Next week , photographer Jermaine Francis in collaboration with i-D will present an exhibition titled “The Invisibles.” The expo is a documentary of  London’s Homeless crisis through the photography of tents that serve as temporary homeless shelters around the city. 

Francis initially began shooting this project a few months ago and had the final project — The Invisibles featured in i-D’s most recent issue. 

“I didn’t enjoy making this project. About a year ago, I began noticing tents popping up around the urban landscape. I already knew that homelessness had increased and increased everywhere, not just in London — but the tents cemented it. Research from Shelter has revealed that there are about 300, 000 homeless people in the UK, an increase of 13, 000 in the past year alone . This means that one in every 200 people in Britain are homeless. If you add in those who are unrecorded, or sleeping two and three to one tent, that number is even higher. 

It felt strange seeing so many homeless people living in tents here in Britain; we’re the fifth largest economy in the world. This is a place that’s supposed to be able to help the most vulnerable in our society. I decided to document them,”  the photographer wrote in an article about the project. 

In addition to Jermaine’s photography, there exhibition will also include an auction of work from artists such as Robi Rodriguez, Lena C Emery, Mel Bles, Vinca Peters and others. All of whose proceeds from the draw will go towards supporting charities such as Shelter’s Home Team &  Family Support Service.

“The Invisibles” will take place on the 23rd of October at Protein Studios 31, from 6-9pm.

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Mixed Feelings – an exploration of the impact of our digital habits , a chat with author Naomi Shimada

Social media is the most powerful, disruptive and exciting tool to have come into the world in the last decade. It’s role in our lives has drastically changed too, as we lean into its complex system of absorbing information, embracing likes, tracking follows and sharing bits of ourselves.

Two people extremely well placed to grapple with the complexities of this landscape are Naomi Shimada and Sarah Raphael. Having both grown with the internet,  and felt the power and possibilities that the digital landscape presented, they’ve distilled their thoughts and experiences into a new book, Mixed Feelings. Bringing together diverse voices and ideas, the result is an insightful take on the most pressing issue of our time. How do we live together, openly, imperfectly and harmoniously in this digital age? 

We caught up with Naomi Shimada to discuss their work. 

Why did it feel like now was the time to write Mixed Feelings?

We were feeling this overwhelming sense that this conversation needed to happen on a larger scale. For millennials, the internet and social media are the things that affected our lives in the biggest way. It’s changed the way we work, love, travel, exercise, eat! It’s drastically changed how we live and there’s bound to be some fallout because of that. The fallout is mostly an emotional one.  To have a smartphone and be using social media almost undoubtedly means you have mixed feelings about it. There is this overwhelming feeling I can feel in the air and see in peoples’ eyes that things can’t go on like this as they are. Everyone we spoke to, so many conversations I overheard, wherever I went in the world, someone was talking about something that happened via social media, where it’s something they saw or did themselves that made them feel some type of way!

 How have your relationships with social media changed since you started  using it?

More than anything I’m more conscious of how I try to manage my time on it. I know when I want to be quiet and when I feel like being more active. I’m more aware of the feelings it triggers and try to give myself what I need. Also I feel less affected by the pedestal culture it can often create. There are so many things we can’t see in a photo, I really understand now that just because something looks good, doesn’t mean it is good. And it’s been a good reminder that we shouldn’t all be yearning after the same things in life, success shouldn’t look formulaic to all of us. We are all on different paths and it’s important to remember that amid everything we see on social media. 

Do you feel like it’s possible to have a naive / carefree relationship with social media today, or does it have to be conscious and curated?

I think that question is more a lot to do with who you are as person and what you’re using social media for! I think if you use it mainly for work or as a portfolio etc than probably using it in a more curated way makes sense for you. I’m all about doing what you feel is best for you!

How do you think social media impacts our friendships and relationships in real life, for the better, and for the worse?

I don’t think it’s black and white like that. It’s been a super powerful tool for connecting with people for me. Some of those digital connections have turned into some of my deepest IRL friendships so I definitely don’t discount the power of a relationship that starts online, but it can be confusing sometimes when social media is so made to be so much about social capital. We can also use our profiles to curate and create a version of ourselves that doesn’t necessarily mirror who are in real life and that’s tricky terrain to navigate. We are also a generation that has so many aquaintances and less deep friendships. I think just being aware of what kind of friendships you want and what kind of friend you are or want to be to others online as well as in real life is a grounding place to start. 

What has been the most exciting thing about creating this book for you both?

It’s been really powerful to just create a space to have and try to encourage really honest and vulnerable conversations. Social media is so often a place of pretence and projection, so we wanted to make something that was the antithesis of that. We wanted to make something that you had to put your phone down to absorb and think and sit with. 

What was the biggest learning / take away from the process of creating the book?

That even though our book was focused on our emotional habits around social media, what we were really writing about, was the human condition. That all of these complexities that we’re talking about, all these feelings, are innately human but are just amplified by social media! 

Although it’s entitled mixed feelings, is there a clear takeaway that you want to leave readers with?

That you aren’t alone in these feelings. This technology in the grand scheme of things is so new we don’t really understand what it’s doing to our brains yet, as we don’t have the research. We don’t pretend to have the answers but we’re hoping by sharing our experiences it makes other people feel more free and less ashamed about these feelings we so often feel in isolation, alone on our phones. Let’s just be honest and agree that so much of how social media makes us feel and make us do – is weird man! 

Based on what people have contributed to the book and your own thinking, do you think our relationship with social media is going to change any time soon?

I don’t think this technology is going anywhere, our lives are only becoming more and more intertwined. These apps are designed to make us addicted, and the more time we spend on them the more tech companies can gain from us financially. So if we want the internet and social media to change, we have to change. We have to be more aware about how things make us feel and from then decide what kind of role you want it to keep playing in your life. If we want it to grow up we have to grow up ourselves.

 Mixed Feelings: Exploring the Emotional Impact of our Digital Habits by Naomi Shimada & Sarah Raphael (Quadrille, £16.99) is out now 

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Rihanna set to release visual autobiography

In the world of pop culture, Rihanna is one of the three names that sits on the thrones of the holy trinity of modern day female music, alongside Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj. 

The Bajan singer’s story is one known and celebrated by many: having officially moved from Barbados to the US at just the age of 17, she soon signed with Def Jam Recordings and released her first hit single Pon De Replay as a part of her debut album Music of The Sun (2005), and the rest was history. Since then the artist’s image has gradually evolved and she has managed to keep the attention of the public as we all watched in fascination, as she transformed into the Good Girl Gone Bad (2007) with singles like Umbrella and not long after officially established her status as a sex symbol with songs like We Found Love from her album Talk That Talk. Today the artist is a proud recipient of 9 Grammy Awards , 12 Billboard Music Awards, 6 Guinness World Record and many others, and is the owner of billion dollar fashion operations like Fenty Beauty & Savage X Fenty. 

All of this journey and much more is set to be documented with intimate moments from her life and creative journey in the artist’s first visual autobiography published by Austrian publisher Phaidon Press. With 504 pages and over 1,000 images that include shots from her childhood in Barbados, to intimate family moments, iconic fashion moments and worldwide tours, the 15 pound book portrays the artist as the musician, performer, designer and entrepreneur we know and love. 

“I am so excited to share this collection of incredible images. I’m very grateful to the talented photographers and artists who contributed. We’ve been working on the book for over five years and I’m really happy to be able to finally share it with everybody,” commented Rihanna. 

The book will officially be released on October 24th, and will also be available in three luxury editions as a collaboration with artists The Haas Brothers: “This Sh*t Heavy” that will include a custom designed bookstand inspired by Rihanna’s hands; The Luxury Supreme Edition (already sold out) that has been signed by Rihanna, includes a special matte black book cover and a specially designed 18-carat gold coloured bookstand; and The Ultra Luxury Supreme edition (already sold out) includes the special matte black cover and a custom marble bookstand.  Secure your copy at TheRihannaBook.com

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Dark Air: A Solo Show by Gray Wielebinski

Born in Dallas Texas, artist Gray Wielebinski uses their practice to explore the ways in which gender and sexuality intersect with other structures of power and identity, often referencing their body and journey as an individual who is currently undergoing the transition from female to male. 

Working between London and Los Angeles in print, video, performance, sound, sculpture, and installation, Gray moved to London in 2017 to complete a masters in Fine Art Media at The Slade.  Since then, Gray has exhibited internationally and is currently an artist in residence at The City & Guilds of London, alongside Taku Obata and Alistair Gordon. 

Using a variety of strategies to explore identity, specifically their ambivalent relationships to masculinity, Gray’s more recent research and practice uses sports for both aesthetics and metaphor as an entry point to examine themes such as national identity (specifically the US and Americana), desire, myth making, surveillance, hierarchies, race, and gender. In Dark Air, the artist’s first solo exhibition at SEAGER gallery curated by Martin Mayorga and Vanessa Murrell from DATEAGLE ART, we observe Gray’s ongoing exploration of sporting ceremonies as seen in the artist’s personalised football scarf stand. Located at the entrance of the gallery space, the piece highlights the ritualistic yet commercial nature of the sport, while also reiterating the entwined nature and relationship found between myth and sport. 

Dark Air, a solo show by Gray Wielebinski curated by Martin Mayorga and Vanessa Murrell at SEAGER Gallery © DATEAGLE ART

Instead of displaying a body of work, the exhibition uses the body as the work – acknowledging it as something which can be moulded and adjusted continuously. Using a diverse array of textiles to create a patchwork of materials that include recycled leather and jeans, Gray creates a site-specific sculpture, a monstrous creature that is representative of both the sphinx and Scorpion. Stuffed and stitched, the physical act of creating the hybradised beast presents the audience with a work that exists in a paradoxical realm. All at once it is violent and volatile yet gentle and vulnerable – playing with traditional binary stereotypes of male and female. With only a few days left to see Dark Air, Gray spoke with Twin about the show and their grotesque Frankenstinian beast. Gray also speaks openly about their own dysphoria and dissociation with their body as well as the importance of being conscious in order to re-inhabit and bridge the gap between their mind and body to create as harmonious a relationship as possible. 

You started to create art as a way of helping you relate to your own body – is this where the tactile element of your practice and its link to your own body manifests from? 

In a lot of ways, in regards to my gender identity as well as my art practice itself, I was existing very much in my own head and in an ideological way rather than a physical one, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I think became a problem for me as I was coming to terms very starkly with my own dysphoria and dissociation with my own body. This show in particular deals with a rejection of “before” and “after” narratives in a broader sense around myth making and storytelling, but that are so tied to mainstream/cis narratives around transness that can really seep into my consciousness, but is ultimately a dangerous way of thinking when it comes to my own understanding of myself and my life. I don’t particularly identify with the concept of “being in the wrong body” so while my dysphoria is real and distressing in its own way, there’s also a recognition of and gratefulness for the body I have and what its capable of and finding ways to inhabit it more consciously as I discover the ways, big and small, I might have subconsciously unlearned out of self-preservation. The “before” and “after” narrative tells us we aren’t complete yet or we can’t be happy or know ourselves until an outward marker of change or identity has been breached for others, but that obfuscates the work and learning and daily experiences we encounter on the road towards knowing oneself. Everyone in their own way has these experiences with learning or unlearning themselves, recognizing and accepting their bodies and their possibilities or limitations, and making their own meanings and interpretations on their own terms. With this in mind, I moved towards a more physical or tactile practice which has been a way of trying to reinhabit my body in a more conscious and present way on a daily basis (sewing in particular is quite a meditative act). Without sounding too much like Frankenstein, there is a power and a catharsis for me in creating these new ways of embodiment that take up physical space and I can hold in my hands or that literally dwarf me in a room, and I can also use this physical practice as a means of furthering my ideological pursuits and explorations of my identity and the world around me, and in so doing I hope to get closer to bridging my mind and my body in ways that are within my control. 

Dark Air, a solo show by Gray Wielebinski curated by Martin Mayorga and Vanessa Murrell at SEAGER Gallery © DATEAGLE ART

You are influenced by science fiction and the way it allows us to create other worlds and possibilities Can you name some of your influences? 

Whether it was books or films or TV, I consumed a lot of media and stories as a kid and still continue to do so, so the list of inspirations is long and muddled together in some ways, but science fiction has always held a special place. Science fiction has long been a means, particularly for marginalized people, to hold up a mirror to see and critique that which is made to feel “natural,” which can then be a very useful tool for survival, communication, community and ultimately questioning and fighting the powers that be by understanding where they came from and how dominant narratives are upheld. 

In Kindred, Octavia Butler interrogates the impacts of slavery and white supremacy through a time travel narrative. The Matrix has widely been revisited through the lens of the trans experience and transitioning, particularly as the directors, Lana and Lily Wachowski, came out as trans in recent years. The Twilight Zone is masterful at weaving both the minor and major elements of creating uncanny atmospheres that can go from nudging you slightly off kilter to knock you out for the count. For ‘Dark Air’ specifically I was also thinking about Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris which subverts a more typical trope of space exploration as a colonization narrative, and in fact is ultimately about the astronauts’ inability to cope, physically and emotionally, with an overpowering ocean planet. It’s about our complete inability to understand or fathom the extraterrestrial (and maybe even our own subconscious). Science fiction, at its best, lets us imagine and wonder and be awestruck with possibilities, while still keeping a foot firmly on the ground and, in fact, may help us see reality even clearer. 

Dark Air, a solo show by Gray Wielebinski curated by Martin Mayorga and Vanessa Murrell at SEAGER Gallery © DATEAGLE ART

With Dark air you hope to overthrow the notion of the “hero’s journey” and our perceived set paths, goals, and obstacles – is this a comment on the overwhelming conditioning that has been determined through society and the West’s patriarchal system?

I’m fascinated by the idea of the hero’s journey as a storytelling archetype, and I think more so than completely subverting or throwing it out the window, it’s about an even deeper dive into it and not shying away from the minutiae and the mundanity that arguably differentiates a story from a life. The conditioning you’re referencing I think is important especially in relation to our contemporary moment within capitalism and this tension between expectations and conditioning to want certain things for our lives, to take certain paths or understanding success in specific ways, while at the same time being led to believe it’s our decision and that our happiness or opportunities lie squarely within ourselves or within our grasp rather than questioning what is out of our control and what might be possible to question or tweak within ourselves to find our own ideas or barometers of success. Some people are just trying to survive while at the same time we’re being told what we need to be happy or what we are doing wrong or what we need to overcome, and then the goal post keeps moving. It’s a function of capitalism to obfuscate our “true” foes or obstacles and for our path to be fog-covered, so perhaps even subconsciously I proposed of a sphinx that fits in with this atmosphere, or at least how I often feel while trying to navigate it. This all sounds a bit pessimistic but in actuality I hope for it to be empowering in any small way it can, that even in a time where things are made to feel and may very well be out of our immediate hands, there may be ways to internally recalibrate our parameters for success and happiness and fulfilment even on a day to day basis, even if it’s just how we relate to ourselves and each other.

Dark Air, a solo show by Gray Wielebinski curated by Martin Mayorga and Vanessa Murrell at SEAGER Gallery © DATEAGLE ART

 Can you explain the link between your exploration into Mythology and sports and how you connect the two? 

I’m interested in blending ancient storytelling and mythological creatures or narratives with contemporary interpretations and iconographies, and in so doing am hoping to bring into question the biases and power dynamics/hierarchies that are often involved in storytelling and myth making both in the past and the present, and how that has the potential to shape our futures.

I also was thinking of intersections of sports, mythology/religion and even being an artist-the relationships between the grand events and the mundanity of the everyday that both, in their own ways, make up these experiences and our relationships to them. Holidays, championship games, art exhibitions certainly hold their own meanings, they can build community and give us something to look forward to and remember, but these go hand in hand with the everyday and the myriad other emotions and experiences built up around these that make up our meaning as well. Personally I am also thinking about gender and transitioning and the relationship between insular and exterior identities and how to shift narratives from a “before” and “after” to a whole other way of being and experiencing and becoming oneself on a daily basis. Rather than being a sort of trick or gimmicky reveal, my use of this iconography and the set-up of the exhibition itself is coming from a place of optimism and empowerment, of wanting to give both myself and the audience the choice to create meaning for ourselves and to question how and when we might be told otherwise. 

What else will you be working on this year?

Right now, I’m working towards making new works for a group show at Lychee One in London and a three person show in Odense, Denmark both in September. I am also working on a newly commissioned video and performance piece in collaboration with HRH that I’m really looking forward to. After that I’m going to take some time to reflect on what I’ve made this year and how I want to move forward. 

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Saatchi Gallery Presents – Sweet Harmony: Rave ft Seana Gavin and others

Today,  London’s Saatchi Gallery opens it’s doors to an immersive retrospective exhibition devoted to presenting a revolutionary survey of rave culture through a variety of various voices who have experienced it. The exhibition, titled Sweet Harmony: Rave| Today is set to open on Friday July 12th and will include several portrayals of the new world which emerged from the acid house scene. Throughout the exhibition, the space will feature multimedia room installations and audiovisual works by some of the rave movements experienced by first hand. As the concept of the acid house revolution is set to be recalled through photo series , live music events, talks and panel discussions by the movements’ architects and influencers of the 80s and 90s. 

The Saatchi Gallery’s director Philly Adams in partnership with co-curator Kobi Prempeh have assembled a team of youthful visionaries and photographers including Sheryl Garratt, Agnes Bliah, photographers Tom Hunter, Vinca Petersen and a Twin favourite Seana Gavin. In anticipation for the upcoming event, we called upon the London based artist for a quick chat on what to expect. 

. In anticipation for the upcoming event, we called upon the London based artist for a quick chat on what to expect. 

For the exhibition, your work is mainly based off your time during the Spiral Tribe,  what would you say was the definition of  the term “rave” during a time such as this?

The raves I attended began in London. They were parties put on by collectives and sound systems such a Spiral Tribe who would take over abandoned empty buildings like office blocks, factories, post offices and outdoors in fields and quarries and would transform them into spaces where people from all walks of life could sweat the night away on a dance floor surrounded by likeminded individuals. The parties were run on a donation only entrance policy. Their ethos were all about the freedom to party as a way to break away from the commercial club culture that was emerging at the same time. They were illegal, very underground and it became a subculture. When Spiral Tribe left the UK in 1993 they would continue their mission across Europe. Other sound systems followed and raves turned into multi sound system Techno Festivals known as  ‘Teknivals’.

New Years day,Barcelona by Seana Gavin

 How would you say rave culture has changed since then and in what ways has the way in which you document rave culture since then evolved?

Overlapping with the scene I was part of, rave culture expanded from illegal warehouses into ticketed commercial club events. Even though raves and Teknivals still go on today they can’t have the same energy and rawness from the early days. Nothing can be repeated like that. In the early days to find out about the parties there was a secret party line info number you’d call on the night. It is incredible to think that between 30-50,000 people attended the iconic Castlemorten 3 day rave in the British countryside in 1992 purely through these channels and on a word of mouth basis.

In Europe, flyers were also handed out to pass on info about the next party. In my era it was pre-smart phones and social media so there was less documentation. Nowadays the digital age and overload of selfie culture has tainted things. Everyone has a portable camera in their phone so there is less mystery around it.

I think it’s great that clubs like Berghain in Berlin try to keep things more old school by storing your phone as you enter the club. Which also forces you to be present in the experience and not live through the lense of your smart phone camera.

record dusting, hostomice Teknival 1998, by Seana Gavin

 What would you like your audience to take away from your series?

I’d like to think the viewers would feel a sense of intimacy to the subject matter. I wasn’t a photo journalist documenting this scene at the time, I was immersed in this way of life . The photos I’ve included in the show capture the raves locations, the journeys in between, the aftermath of the parties and people who defined the scene.

I would hope the viewers would get a sense of the perspective of what it felt like to be part of that community which was more than a night out but an alternative outlook to society and a way of life.

Twice as Nice, Aiya Napa, London, 1999
VINCA PETERSEN Bus And Rig

Other names of images makers included in exhibition are Ted Polhemus, Dave Swindells and Mattko. Throughout the exhibition, a space is created featuring the visually stimulating collections of each artist accompanied by a Spotify playlist with sub-genres of Detroit Techno, Acid House, Happy Hardcore, UK Garage and Grime. Uniting a selection of like, yet diverse minded creatives including electronic musician, visual artists and of course photographers. After the exhibition’s debut this Friday, it shall remain open to the public throughout the summer, until September 14th. For more details, visit Saatchi Gallery.

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Somerset House Studios : Get Up, Stand Up Now – June 12th – September 15th

This summer London’s Somerset House Studios will host an event in celebration of 50 years of black creativity and culture in Britain through an exhibition of art, music, photography, film , literature, design and fashion. The exhibition, set to debut on the 12th of June will feature a round up of around 100 interdisciplinary artists whose works are centred around the black experience and sensibility around the culture as they explore the definitions of what it means to be black in Britain today.

The series will feature several days of live music, drag, and performance art, as they aim to nurture a safe free space for black youth of all kind.  This will feature names like Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S) — a led sound system whose events prioritise the comfort and safety of black and non-white women , femmes queers and trans folk who will be taking over the House’s Lanchester Rooms for a few nights in July. An evening of poetry in August entitled “Deep End” and a series of club night performances called “No Tea, No Shade” addressing the use of drag culture.  For more information, visit Somerset House. 

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Playing For Keeps: Molly Matalon & Caroline Tompkins – May 23rd – June 29th

Later this month, creative studio Enlarge Your Memories, in partnership with Italian  lens-based bookstore Micacamera will open the doors to an exhibition entitled Playing for Keeps,  featuring the work of American photographers Molly Matalon and Caroline Tompkins.

This exhibition, set to open in the Micacamera space in Milan, will tell the tale of a contemporary woman’s viewpoint of romanticized America. With its infamous patriarchal history, the typical photography that addresses American ‘landscape’ has tendency to only display the postcard values of automobiles, family values and great outdoors.  However, in 2019, the idea of American lives have been expanded on by a wealth of cultural and artistic effort.

Throughout this exhibition Molly Matalon takes on a domestic point of view as she explores the narrative of the housewife. She explores the part of the typical housewife’s world not shown on camera. Portraits of home visitors, palpable sexual tension etc. With the compilation of images, she addresses the freedoms and power plays commonly associated with men in like-environment and in photography. On the other hand, Caroline Tompkins’ work embodies the female YOLO America. It displays a narrative of the fast life, climbing the highest trees, hiking the tallest mountains, getting too close to the fire.

Tompkins’ work denounces gender stereotypes and strives for a reclamation of the pseudo masculine American landscape as she schools her audience on how gratifying it is to live life with the wind blowing through one’s hair. In Playing For Keeps, the photographers explore and update the ideas of humour, sexuality, ownership and power play within today’s contemporary America. 

Image by Caroline Tompkins
Image by Molly Matalon

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Foam: “I Can Make You Feel Good” by Tyler Mitchell

Cover Image: Boys of Walthamstow, 2018, Tyler Mitchell

This Spring Foam Museum has opened photographer and filmmaker Tyler Mitchell’s first solo exhibition entitled I Can Make You Feel Good.

Since his historical debut last year with American Vogue’s September issue, featuring Beyoncé as cover, the photographer has been exploring the visuals of the black utopia ever since. This exhibition showcases a compilation of images that feature black youth in safe spaces. With the use of his signature candy coloured palettes and natural light, Mitchell creates images of young black people in gardens, park and in front of idyllic studio backdrops where his subjects appear as free, expressive and vulnerable beings. He creates a  sort of utopia around his subjects that mimic scenarios that are in contrast to what one might acknowledge as reality, bringing a sort of humanity to the forefront. 

The exhibition also premieres two of Mitchell’s video works: “Idyllic Space and Chasing Pink” and “Found Red. ” These are presented as audiovisual installations that explore the senses of play and childlike freedom within the black utopia. His stimuli for the exhibition was based off a younger period of his life where the dynamic site of Tumblr was very influential to the development of his creative vision. “I would very often come across young, attractive white models running around being free and having so much fun — the kind of stuff Larry Clark or Ryan McGinley would make. I very seldom saw the same for black people in images — or at least in the p hotography I knew of them.” I Can Make You Feel Good presents Tyler’s rendition of an earlier Tumblr in a time where it provided creative nutrients inclusive of black youth. The exhibition will run throughout the Spring at the Foam in Amsterdam until the 5th of June. 

Untitled (Two Girls Embrace) 2018, Tyler Mitchell
Untitled (Hat) 2018, Tyler Mitchell

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Congregation by Sophie Green

For the past two years British social documentary & portrait photographer Sophie Green has been working on a project in celebration of Southwark’s community of Aladura Spiritualist African churches and congregations. As the product of her detailed studies, Green has created a compilation of all the documented images of the community that is often referred to as the “white garment” churches and will be presenting them in the form of an exhibition and hardcover titled Congregation this Thursday at the Hannah Barry Gallery. 

The images give a front row seat to the Christian denomination practised by Yoruba Nigerians that throughout the past 40 years has become a greater part of Southwark London —  being the community which hosts one of the highest concentration of African churches in Europe. Congregation will also raise conversation about collective identity and power within subcultures, cultural practices and traditional dresses, food and customs in modern technology and fashion. For the project, the photographer collaborated with members of the congregation through portrait sessions and photographic workshops which go hand in hand with the candid images of the men, women and children throughout their religious practice. 

Congregation will be launched available online this Thursday and can be purchased via Loose Joints.

Congregation by Sophie Green 
Congregation by Sophie Green
Congregation by Sophie Green

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Love Me by Stella Asia Consonni – April 25th

This Thursday Italian photographer Stella Asia Consonni is set to open the doors to her solo exhibition entitled Love Me . The showcase, set to take place for one night at Protein Studios in Shoreditch, London, will feature a compilation of intimate images of with diverse couples as subjects.

The photographer first began shooting for the project a year ago, with the intention of creating an online photo series as a means of healing as she overcame her then-recent break-up. One of the images from the original series, featuring two men mid-kiss was uploaded by the photographer via instagram and was soon after deleted by the platform for “not following community guidelines.” Instagram later issued an apology and allowed the image to be re-uploaded but the second time around Consonni was met with homophobic comments and slurs in reaction to the image.

This was when she decided the best way to contest the homophobes and bigots was to create an entire exhibition in celebration of the many colours and forms of love. In addition to the photo series, the photographer will also debut a short film complementing the series by documenting short bits and pieces of these love stories. 

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Foam Talent Exhibition: May 15th

For the third year in a row,  Amsterdam based international talent organisation Foam returns to Red Hook Labs in New York for their annual group exhibition Foam Talent. Set to debut on May 15, the exhibition will feature the work of twenty international photographers who were selected through the organisation’s annual talent call from a pool of 1853 creatives under the age of 35. 

The showcase will feature the works of these artists under several tabs of contemporary themes and topics such as social politics, nostalgia, night fall, homesickness and grief. A few of the names featured will include French duo Durimel,  Chinese photographer He Bo, Australian Sophie Gabrielle, Italian Salvatore Vitale, British Maisie Cousins, among others. For further info on how to cop tickets visit Foam

Cover image: “Untitled” from the series Worry for the Fruit the Birds Won’t Eat, 2018 by Sophie Gabrielle

“Kaelyn and the girls” from the series Frères dune île pas très proche, 2018 © Durimel
“Ants” from the series grass, peonies, bum, 2018 © Maisie Cousins
Model Angela and her personal story”, 2016, from the series Separation Anxiety, 2018- ongoing © Dima Komarov
“Untitled” from the series How to Secure a Country, 2015-2018 © Salvatore Vitale

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Hayward Gallery: “Kiss My Genders” 12 June – 8 Sep

Cover Image: Martine Gutierrez, Masking Fish Mask from Indigenous Women (2018)

On June 12th this summer, central London art gallery Hayward Gallery will open it’s doors to a group exhibition titled ‘Kiss My Genders,’ showcasing the work of 30 international artists whose repertoires engage in conversation around gender identity. Curated by Vincent Honoré, the exhibition will feature a compilation of over 100 artworks by several generations of artists from across the world who share interests in articulating with themes of gender fluidity, non-binary, trans and intersex identities communicated throughout their work. The exhibition will include wide range of several types of media including installations, videos, paintings, sculptures, portraitures etc.

Juliana Huxtable Untitled Lil’ Marvel (2015)

The panel of creatives will include names who explore gender expression through the forms of performance, drag and masquerade. Such as names like Ajamu,  a London-based visual activist whose work challenges conventional understanding of sexuality, desire, pleasure and cultural production within contemporary Britain and Amrou Al-Kadhi, a British-Iraqi writer, drag performer and filmmaker, who in collaboration with British photographer Holly Falconer, created a photographic portrait Glamrou (2016) using triple exposure to communicate the experience of being in drag as a person of Muslim heritage. The exhibition will also bring forth political undertones with artist artist Hunter Reynolds who is an AIDS activist as well,  whouses art as a tool to process trauma as well as transform it. The Kiss My Gender exhibition will also be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue featuring original essays and a roundtable discussion with and from a few of the artists along with the exhibition’s curators and a performance by Berlin based artiste Planningtorock, whose song lyrics were featured as the showcase’s title. The exhibition will run throughout the summer and close its doors on September 2019. For more info visit Hayward Gallery.

Zanele Muholi, Phila I Parktown, (2016)
Catherine Opie, Mike and Sky (1993)

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Centre National de la Danse: “Where Did Our Love Go?” – March 16th & 17th

In the early 90’s during the Great Depression of the US, there began an interesting tradition of exhaustive dance marathons.  Participants would dance for hours while mesmerised audiences made bets on winners and predicted losers. Although they included many rules with risks of disqualification, these marathons offered a  cathartic release as they acted as a sort of mirror to the crisis happening where the main aim was survival as opposed to glamour.

French institution Centre National de la Danse as a part of their Trois Fois Rien exhibition recently tapped artist and choreographer Émilie Pitoiset to conceive a performance titled, “Where Did Our Love Go?” in ode of the iconic dance marathons. The 6-hour performance set for March 16 &  17 at the institution’s headquarters in Pantin, France will explore the dance form which Pitoiset has been studying since 2009. It will include repertory of gestures and postures which are at the heart of her studies and artistic works from the time period which will feature the bodies on the borders of falling, intimately enduring the mechanisms of capitalism in ways to appear increasingly contemporary. For more information, visit CN D.

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“The Wahi Series”, – Northern New York City as seen by Kasandra Enid Torres

Kasandra Enid Torres is a culture and fashion photographer based in Washington Heights, NYC who has been documenting the soulful inhabitants of her neighbourhood for the past three years. Her series titled “Wahi” — short for Washington Heights —  diaries the vivacious poetic spirits of the busy district in ways which treasure the Old New York City aesthetic with a 21st Century twist. In conversation with the photographer , Twin discusses her inspirations and experiences throughout the process of the project. 

When did you first start shooting in New York? 

I moved to the city at the beginning of 2013 after graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2011. For the first two years I didn’t shoot much, I was constantly working 24/7 and if I had free time I spent it sleeping. I was also on an artist block, I wasn’t sure what to shoot. I came from an art background making abstract photography and films. To get myself unstuck, I started to shoot anything and everything.

What inspired you to start the “Wahi” series? 

Around 2015 I started to shoot regularly. At the time I didn’t have access to models so I decided to shoot outside in my neighbourhood. I am not the most extroverted person and having to go out to make pictures by approaching strangers was daunting to me. It was definitely a challenge. I slowly got more comfortable with it and found my flow. I got my hands on a Hasselblad Superwide C, which is a medium format camera with no viewfinder. It was fun experimenting with it and finding its sweet spot. It is a somewhat big and chrome camera. I liked shooting with it for this series because it attracts attention. It is also a conversation piece, people approach me asking me about it and allow me to take their portrait. 

How do you select your subjects? 

I walk up and down on St Nicholas Ave between 168th and 191st street, keeping myself open for opportunities. I am attracted by really interesting people, how they are dressed, how they walk, their  expressions etc. I also choose things that speak to the culture of the neighbourhood, such as the supermarkets, the crowded bus stops, the chairs, domino tables, and the empanada carts. 

What’s your favourite thing about Washington Heights?

My favorite thing about this neighbourhood is the people. I love being surrounded by other hispanics. Having lived away from my family for the past eight years, I like being reminded of my culture and roots. I like listening to the radio blasting salsa or reggaeton while walking to the supermarket. I like watching the intensity of people playing dominos. I love the sidewalk parties of people chilling on their lawn chairs, drinks in paper bags, puffing from hookahs and grilling up on barbecues.  I love the wafts of food smells, such as pernil, mofongo, empanadas, and asopao. It feels like home. 

What would you like people to take away from viewing this series?

I want these images to give the viewer a look inside this Old New York style neighbourhood. There really aren’t many places like this in the city. Majority of the city has been gentrified and franchised. I want them get an honest raw interpretation of this community.  I want them to be able to see how interesting and cool the neighbourhood is, to feel as if they were there. 

Can we expect to see more projects like this from you in the future?

Yes I will continue to document series like this one. I just wrapped up a series I shot near the Adirondacks in January of a Snowmobile drag race. I shot that one during an insane blizzard! I am also currently shooting a series at busy subway platforms like Times Square, documenting all types of people.

What’s next for you as a photographer? 

I am always looking for new ways to challenge myself. With each new series I try to do something I haven’t done before, be it a camera technique, lighting technique, shooting a specific way or subject matter. 

Where can one view more of your work?

Majority of my work is online. I have work published here on Twin (my Afropunk series), Document Journal, a couple of other indie magazines and my website. My Dependence series is published on issue 7 of Recens Paper, another of my favorite project. In the future, I aim to have a gallery show at a space in the neighbourhood. I want to give back to this community that has given me so much. 

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J Hammond Projects: “Fuck Paintings, Etc.” by Betty Tompkins

This week London based exhibition space J Hammond Projects presents the opening of their latest exhibition “Fuck Paintings, Etc” by pioneering feminist artist Betty Tompkins. The exhibition which opens today features a series of pornographic images aimed predominantly at men missing heads, hands and other identifiers until the work takes a form of abstractionism. The artist tells the stories of sexuality and desire from a female perspective, in attempt to break the monopoly of the male gaze. The  series will include a selection of ‘Fuck’ , ‘Cunt’ , ‘Pussy’ and ‘Dick Paintings’ which the artist has completed throughout the last decade along with four brand new text works from Tompkin’s “Insults/Laments” series. 

The “Insults/Laments” is a combination of the artist’s work featuring quotes of crude and degrading language directed at women. “I’m always moved by what I’m quoting, by including the words in my paintings, I’m showing respect for how women have survived these awful experiences,” stated Tompkins.  

The artist began her journey of making giant genitalia ‘Fuck Paintings’ over half a century ago and was presenting a body of work which had initially been rejected by all corners of the art world for its sensitive subject matter. As a result, despite a handful of group shows during the early 1970’s these  paintings have been ignored for the past three decades stored in the Tompkins’ New York studio until a solo exhibition in 2002 and her participation in La Biennale de Lyon the following year. The exhibition is set to run throughout March until April 13th. 

Betty Tompkins Who Will… Acrylic on canvas 2019
Betty Tompkins Cunt Painting 2017, Acrylic on Canvas

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Hen The Exhibition, by Bex Day

British fashion and documentary photographer Bex Day in collaboration with producer curator Sandrine Servent and artist publisher William Esdale have recently joined forces in the conception of a campaign which seeks to raise awareness and visibility of the UK’s older transgender community.  The campaign titled ‘Hen’ is an initiative Day has been working on for the past three years, that aims to promote a better understanding of integration in and outside the transgender community through an exhibition, film, talks and workshops. 

According to Day, “Hen is an anthropological study on gender fluidity and an exploration into the lasting impact societal restrictions concerning sexual identity and gender roles upon us. It examines how gender stereotypes have affected the older transgender community and questions how we define gender and if as a society we should, as well as exploring the inherent social and cultural problems within these alienating classifications.” The exhibition is set to display a series of 30 photographic portraits in various sizes and a newly commissioned film featuring subjects over the age of 40 which with successful funding, will take place in London at the Herrick Gallery during the first week of April following Trans Day of Visibility day on March 31st.

Unfortunately , the campaign is sans funding and is in attempt of seeking financial sponsors to cover the expenses of the panel discussion, transport and installation of the artwork, equipment for the three workshops among other costs. The workshops will be hosted by the charity Stonewall Housing with whom the exhibition has partnered with to ensure that 50% of prints sales goes to the organization as one of the UK’s LGBTQ+ and trans only supported accommodations. Twenty percent will also be contributed to partners Press For Change as one of the UK’s leading campaign groups in focus of the rights and treatment of transgender people. To donate, visit Hen The Exhibition, to learn how. 

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TO GO: Nights Global : The Female Experience Pop Up

Nights Global, a London based pop up cinema launched in 2015, for their first venture of the year will premiere an event which explores “The Female Experience.” Running from February 18th through 24th, the experience will be hosted in Brick Lane, Shoreditch and will include a series of seven events.

The first two days will feature workshop group discussions on topics such as Social Media Branding and Making Bold Decisions which will feature a panel of fashion stylist Nayaab Tania, Nail Artist Jess Young, Actress and Rapper Lauren Marshall.  The second workshop will discuss Time Management, Collaboration and Freelance with a cast of Net-a-Porter Stylist Audrey Mark, Filmmaker and Actress Thea Gajic, Co-Founder of Crownrose swimwear Nikky and Illustrator Olivia Twist. Over the course of these two days, this diverse panel of women are set to discuss some of the most pressing questions and issues facing females in the creative industries. 

The next following days (20th-24th) will feature a retails party where female products will be selling products. As well as film screenings which have been produced, directed and written by female creatives such as Thea Gajic, Runyararo Mapfumo, Rosie Matheson, Kaj Jefferies, Savvannah Leaf and Ella Bennett. For more information and ticket visit Nights Global.

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Gucci’s Chime For Change, “To Gather Together”

In 2013, the anomalous Italian fashion house Gucci launched their global initiative Chime For Change in aid of convening, uniting and strengthening the voices in defence of women and girls around the world. Co-founded by Beyoncé and Salma Hayek Pinault, the organization has  since then leaped forward in the world of humanitarianism through partnerships with organisations such as Global Citizen, Kering, UNICEF and Catapult with several projects in aim of broadening the conversation around the world.  

On their first venture for the new year, the Chime For Change organization has released their project titled “To Gather Together,”  which represents a global call to unite in support of gender equality. 

“With this next chapter of CHIME FOR CHANGE, Gucci is proud to reaffirm our commitment to a more just and equitable world. Achieving gender equality is critical to securing our collective future, and we are dedicated to leveraging our creative power, global employee engagement, and support for non-profit projects to ignite conversation and help empower the next generation of leaders,” said Gucci President and CEO Marco Bizzarri. 

For the project, the brand has teamed up with Italian visual artist MP5 who has created the new Chime For Change campaign imagery which has been revealed on Gucci’s ArtWalls in London, Milan, New York, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The imagery, which the organization describes as its new identity, features the silhouettes of unidentifiable human figures standing together in unison.  

“Every person is created equal. We all have the power to use our voices to stand up for what we believe in.  When we gather together across generations and communities, we have the opportunity to create real change.  The fearlessness of this generation to express themselves gives me hope that a future of freedom and equality is possible,” said Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele. In addition to the murals, Chime For Change has this week published the first issue of their CHIME [maga] Zine edited by activist and writer Adam Eli , including contributions from activists, artists and writers across the world. A digital version of the Zine will also be available on the organization’s new website at chime.gucci.com

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