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Arty Farty Friday: Ai Weiwei, Without Fear or Favour

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I’ve done quite a few Arty Farty Friday posts in the past few months, loosely interpreting what art is.

I’ve tried to cover a variety of topics, from artists and their paintings and origami to fashion and documentary films.

Today I’d like to suggest a documentary film about Ai Weiwei, one of China’s best knows artist, who is also regarded as the one of the most dangerous public figures.

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His work don’t reach the highest prices at auction, but he has become the face of human rights struggles in China.

  His criticism of the authoritarian regime has resulted in prison time and a ban on traveling without official permission.

The Chinese officials certainly have a problem with Weiwei.

On the one hand he is kept under house arrest, on the other he is the most noticeable artists of his generation that cannot be erased so easily, if nothing else he’s the architect who designed the Beijing Bird’s Nest stadium.

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If you’d like to read more about Weiwei, I suggest a brilliant article at Smithsonian.com.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Without Fear or Favour and remember that art isn’t only about beauty or subjective emotions.

Arty Farty Friday: What could you do with a sheet of paper?

Have you heard about The RA Silent Auction?

The response has been amazing, but we’re still looking for items that can be auctioned off, so if you would like to do so please leave info in comments and I shall email you!

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Last week I missed Arty Farty Friday, but I will certainly make it up to you today.

What could you do with a sheet of paper?

I’d either write a list on it (shopping, books, post ideas) or I’d use it as a wrapper for my old chewing gum.

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The documentary Between the Folds shows what amazing things others can create using a single sheet and a gift of folding.

This is not merely a documentary about origami, believe me, I made that mistake and was discouraged until I had nothing better to watch.

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This beautiful documentary shows folding paper as a means to create art, solve mathematical puzzles, but also as means to making scientific breakthroughs that can influence the way we live our lives.

I dare you to watch it and not be compelled to at least learn how to fold the most basic origami shapes!

Here’s an instruction on how to fold an origami crane:

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Arty Farty Friday: Fabulous Fashionistas

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I know last week’s Arty Farty Friday was about fashion but I came across a wonderful and uplifting documentary Fabulous Fashionistas and wanted to share it with you.

It’s a story of six women, average age of 80, who have redefined what old age is.

Bridget, Sue and Daphne from Fabuous Fashionistas

No frumpy frocks and orthopaedic shoes for this lot!

No botox, facelifts and beige.

These women love life, colour and fashion and are wonderful role models, not only for pensioners.

This is feel-good viewing and a lesson on how to make the most out of the time we have left!

Arty Farty Friday: Tom Ford is my Secret Crush

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There, I’ve said it!

Something about Tom Ford makes me secretly swoon- he’s intelligent, talented, unbelievably stylish and you just know he smells good!

He first came to my attention when he took over designing for Gucci in 1994 and created some of the most recognisable silhouettes of the 20th century.

He was also one of the hardest working designers, although the pace of life being a fashion demigod wore him down.

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The documentary I’d like to recommend isn’t as gritty as I like them, there’s plenty of arty farty talk (and not in the good way), but there are some gems, like when he described being a boy, looking down at the new shoes his mother had bought him and just knowing there was something flawed in their design.

It’s also fascinating to watch his designing process.

I’ve mentioned many times that despite having a degree in fashion design, I know I’ll never work in fashion.

One of the reasons is that I have little attention to detail which is essential in creating clothes.

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It’s fascinating to watch Tom get his scissors out and start hacking away at a jacket I would have given the green light to.

What I admire most is that in 2004 Ford was able to walk away from a career that was slowly destroying him and turned to making another dream come true meaning directing.

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In 2009 he wrote, produced and directed The Single Man, which is based on a book written by  Christopher Isherwood of the same title, much to the disbelieve and amusement of the fashion world.

Ford has stated that the main character is loosely based on his own experiences, and was his way of dealing with his mid-life crisis.

How can you not just crush on this guy?

Arty Farty Friday: McQueen and I

This is the last Arty Farty Friday of September and I wanted to take the series of posts in another direction.

One of my graduation thesis papers was titled “Is Fashion Art?”.

To make a long story short, I summarized that, indeed it was, and when you look at collections produced by top designers, you can have no doubt.

I also included examples of how fashion and art collide, one inspiring the other, but that deserves its own post.

When I was at Fashion Design school I realised how hard it is to come up with a collection that fits trends, it sellable but original, one that is your voice but appeals to others.

It really is a terribly hard task (not to mention expensive) and as much as I enjoyed the process, I knew I’d never make fashion design my profession.

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I think it takes extraordinary talent and tailoring/construction skills to make something that is ground-breaking and beautiful.

When designing you feel like everything has already been done before and the few original ideas  you have (lego shoes anyone?) are beyond difficult to construct and make practical.

The world of fashion looks glamorous on the outside, but it really is all blood, sweat, and tears, tantrums and even the odd tiara.

The “it” designer at the time, the one all students looked up to in awe, was Alexander McQueen.

He was a visionary who combined theatricality with superb tailoring, a new voice in the stale world of fashion.

He had taken the catwalk show and had turned it into a performance.

I came across a 2011 documentary titled McQueen and I which follows the designer’s journey into the world of fashion, but which especially focuses on his muse and friend Isabella Blow.

Their relationship was both a burst of inspiration and creativity, but also one marred by depression and resentment.

Blow had an incredible eye for talent and would use her influence in the fashion world to launch new talent like McQueen or McDonald, but felt unappreciated when they’d inevitably move on.

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McQueen designed some of the most recognisable fashion pieces of our generation and I regret that the documentary doesn’t focus more on his creations, having said that we learn about his tumultuous private life and what would inspire his vision.

This is a tale of an incredibly talented and sensitive visionary who led a pace-paced life releasing 10 collections each year, but also about the pitfalls of fame and the pressure to constantly produce something that will outdo everything you’ve done before.

Arty Farty Friday: Grey Gardens

I have something special for Arty Farty Friday today as the topic I’ve chosen isn’t really about art in the exact meaning, but concerns a 1975 documentary that moved me to bits.

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Grey Gardens depicts the everyday lives of two reclusive socialites living in a decrepit mansion in East Hampton in increasing squalor and isolation.

Although Edith Beale, known as Big Edie, and her daughter Edith Beale- Little Edie, are quite well known in the US as they were related to Jackie Kennedy Onassis, I had never heard of them before this documentary ran up and punched me in the face 🙂

Let me tell you, both Big Edie and Little Edie are a piece of work, but you can’t help but fall in love with them.

These women redefined the stereotype of the crazy cat lady everyone in the neighbourhood avoids!

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The Bouvier and Beale families were a sort of American aristocrats, and both mother and daughter were socialites who lived in a beautiful house called Grey Gardens, named so after the colour of the dunes, the cement garden walls, and the sea mist, in the affluent East Hampton.

After Big Edie divorced from her rich husband in 1946, the women continued to live in the mansion, although didn’t have enough money to sustain it.

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By 1975 when the documentary was shot, the house had already become so decrepit and an eyesore in the posh neighbourhood that an intervention was staged.

The Beale women faced eviction and Grey Gardens underwent a thorough clean-up.

In 1972 Jacqueline Onassis and her sister Lee Radziwill, Big Edie’s nieces,  provided the necessary funds to stabilize and repair the dilapidated house so that it would meet village codes.

What they found was terrifying.

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The house was infested by fleas, inhabited by numerous cats and raccoons, deprived of running water, and filled with rubbish and decay, deeming it unfit to be lived in.

By 1975 the house was slowly creeping back to the squalor it was three years before.

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This isn’t a story of how the high-flyers of society can fall, but rather a portrayal of two women living in seclusion, a story told in their own words.

I struggle to summarise what this documentary is about.

On the one hand it shows two women with huge personalities who defied social norms and chose to live their life on their own terms.

It’s a tale of an incredibly close relationship between mother and daughter, of the freedom to express your artistic impulses even if it means being shunned by society.

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On the other hand, it’s a story of co-dependency, emotional blackmail and living with regret over what could have been, resentment of decisions made in the past.

Like in any true American gothic tale, disturbing things happen in remote locations unregulated by the scrutiny of the outside world.

Perhaps Grey Gardens is ultimately about women suffering from a hereditary mental illness which, if left undiagnosed and unchecked, poses a threat and excludes the sufferers from society.

The story of the Beale women was expanded on in the consequent 2006 documentary The Beales of Grey Gardens, which consisted of footage not used in the first film.

Here’s a clip from it, I could have sworn I watched the whole thing on YT, but I can’t find it now.

It focuses more on Little Edie, who has since become something of a fashion icon.

Suffering from alopecia which resulted in hair loss, she created a specific style of dressing which would consist of make-shift turbans and scarves, accompanied by her beloved brooch.

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Edie was a master in fashion recycling, a good 20 years before it became a popular movement, and the documentaries are worth watching if only for her quirky sartorial choices.

Although a devoted catholic, she spends her time reading horoscopes and flirting shamelessly with the filming crew.

Both women love to sing and perform in front of their friends, displaying a need to be the centre of attention and admired.

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The story of the Beale women is so incredibly touching, and they have both become cult figures.

The notoriety they dreamed about didn’t come during their lifetimes, but this documentaries carries on their legacy.

Watching them, it seems like time has stood still for Big Edie and Little Edie, just as it had when they were living together in Grey Gardens.

In 2009 the story was turned into a movie Grey Gardens, with Jessica Lange playing Mrs Beale and Drew Barrymore as Little Edie.

Although the film catches the nuances of the Beale spirit, it doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing.

After all, those are some mighty big shoes to fill…

If you’re wondering whatever happened to Grey Gardens, here’s a slideshow illustrating its extraordinary history:

Arty Farty Friday: Herb and Dorothy

I’ve been meaning to clean up my blogging habits and trying get some kind of rhythm going, but I’ve been also wanted to share with you some of the great finds of this summer, especially ones connected to art.

That’s why I hereby announce the start of Arty Farty Friday, a series of posts devoted to artists, their works, and the art world in general.

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Today I’d like to share with you the extraordinary story of Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, a middle-class couple living in New York, who amassed the largest and most important collection of contemporary art despite being on a limited budget.
Their collection consisted of over 4,782 works, which they kept displayed, but also stored in closets and under the bed, in their one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan.

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The couple would lived on Dorothy’s librarian salary, while Herb’s postal clerk income was spent acquiring art from relatively unknown New York artists.

They’d spend all their free time visiting artists in studios, attending exhibitions, and expanding on their enormous art stash.

Their collection, which was donated to The National Gallery in Washington in 1991, focuses on minimalist and conceptual art because, by their own admittion, other types of art were just too expensive for their meagre budget.

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Although they were regarded as the mascots of the NY art scene, and became authorities in “the next big thing”, it wasn’t until the 2008 documentary titled Herb and Dorothy that the extent of their passion for art was revealed to a wider audience.

This is a story about the love for art, a love that is all-consuming but ultimately incredibly rewarding.

You can watch the whole documentary here.

In a time when artworks go for astronomical sums and have become the safest way to invest money therefore pricing it out of the market for mere mortals, this pair redefined what it meant to be an art collector.

The Vogels collected works by Chuck Close, Pat Steir, Robert Mangold, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Sol Lewitt, Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Richard Long, Julian Schnabel, Jeff Koons, and Richard Tuttle, just to name a few.

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All of these artists works are worth a fortune at auction, but I don’t think it ever even crossed Herb and Dorothy’s mind to actually sell of any pieces from their stash.

When their collection was turned over to The National Gallery and the couple received an annuity to keep them financially secure, they just continued to buy more art.

Herb and Dorothy was so successful that a follow-up documentary was created which continued the remarkable story of the Vogals.

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Herb and Dorothy: 50×50 follows the launch of The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, a program donated 2,500 works to 50 institutions across 50 states.

To watch the whole documentary go here.

I really do urge you to check the documentaries out, even if you’re not all that interested in art.

This is a touching tale of what happens when an art lover is also a hoarder exhibiting compulsive behaviour, of how ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things with enough commitment and quite a bit sacrifice to their own personal comfort.

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Ultimately, it’s a love story about two kindred spirits who share a passion and allow it to consume their life and it’ll warm your heart.

Word of warming, before you rush off and start buying art in a Vogel-inspired haze, I think it’s important to mention that Herb had an incredibly eye for spotting artists who would go on to become acclaimed and sought after.

He would acquire works by an artist that especially moved him at an alarming pace, revealing his compulsive nature and, luckily, many of these pieces turned out to be a sound investment.

Secondly, by their own admission, not all the artwork the Vogals bought for their collection stood the test of time and is valuable now.

You can take The Collector Challenge to test your eye for art by trying to pick out works from the Vogel collection.

Let me tell you, I’ve never gotten so many wrong answers in one go before, but it’s so much fun.

A Vogal I am not!
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A Very Weird Whining Wednesday with a Dash of Irony

This wasn’t the Whining Wednesday post I was planning on writing this week.

It was supposed to start with the stats.

After a little over 1 month I’ve lost 5,5 kg (a little over 12 lbs.), which bummed me out until I realised that not for one second of that time was I hungry or  felt deprived.

On the contrary, I’ve been eating very yummy vegan dishes.

There’s still much room for improvement with portion control and regular exercise.

I haven’t had a cigarette in over a month, nor am I likely ever to.

With each passing week second-hand smoking bugs me more and more as it really does stink something awful.

Let me tell you, it sure tasted better from the cigarette straight to the lungs 😉

I was going to recommend that you watch the documentary Fat, Sick & Almost Dead (extended trailer at the end of the post) which I found very motivating.

It’s a story about Joe Cross who confronts the consequences of his terrible lifestyle and embarks on a 60 day juice fast.

Highly motivated by what we saw, the plan was to go on a juice fast starting Monday.

It all went terribly wrong on Sunday afternoon.

I started feeling very dodgy, with a huge headache ready to burst my head open, and I had blurred vision and light-headedness.

I just felt off, which is not something I’m accustomed to.

The next day the fast began.

I wasn’t feeling very well, but soldiered on, and battled through the nausea.

The nausea won big time!

By the afternoon I had my head stuck in the loo like a greenhorn on board a crabbing boat in the Bering Sea (can you tell I’m a huge fan of Deadliest Catch?)

It was a disaster and quite frankly it freaked me out.

I hadn’t felt this bad in ages, and I’m usually quite smug about having a very strong healthy body that might not look like it belongs to  a Brazilian supermodel, but it’s built to last!

I finally reached the conclusion that I need to get my blood pressure checked as my dad has been battling high blood pressure all his life and it’s one of my greatest fears. All of the symptoms apart from the Dehi Belly pointed to this problem.

I figured that although all my results had always been perfect, maybe the changes I’d made came too late and I’d have to pay the consequences of a lifetime of sins.

Turns out….

I have extremely low blood pressure.

It’s almost like all my life my body has been doing its best to keep it healthy and balanced despite my horrible eating habits and smoking.

When I eliminated these two vices, my organism struggled to maintain the proper blood pressure.

As my BF Max put it:

Sh*t, you smoke and eat junk, they tell you it’s bad…

You’re trying to be good, you get ill!

You can never win…

Don’t worry, I’m still going strong and WILL NOT be going back to either smoking or a diet of fat, sugar and meat.

I just need to readjust my body a bit.

Maybe I’m still going though the nicotine detoxification, which is a very scary notion.

Unfortunately because I reacted so badly to the juice I drank, the thought of going on a fast is nauseating.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to come back to the idea, as I think it has merit.

By the way, this is a HUGE victory for my sister Magzy as I’ve been trying to get her to limit her coffee intake.

The whole situation has just shut me up 🙂

Time to whip up some artificial Thorin coffee-like powder to perk up my day!

Here’s the extended trailer to the documentary I recommend you watch:

A Good Documentary on a Whining Wednesday

I’m still going strong and enjoying the process 🙂

Yesterday I introduced exercise on top of my alternative vegan and vegetarian days.

There’s just one more huge hurdle for me, but I’ll write about that some other time.

It’s important to keep that motivation high, and I’ve come across a few documentaries that are a must-see!

The first is Food Matters.

“Let thy Food be thy Medicine and thy Medicine be thy Food”

-Hippocrates, the founding father of modern medicine.

Food is nutritionally depleted foods, with chemical additives and we rely on pharmaceutical drugs to treat what’s wrong with our malnourished bodies.

Modern society is getting sicker.

This documentary is an eye-opener and makes you question the way we look at curing diseases.

The next documentary I’d like to recommend is Food, Inc.

It’s a look inside America’s corporate controlled food industry, and shows at what it is we are supporting each time we go shopping.

Don’t be fooled into a sense of security because the documentary is about the US.

I’m sure the same processes occur worldwide.

I’m really don’t bug meat-eaters, usually the opposite is true that I have to defend my choices, but if you’re supporting a system, you should at least know what the reality is.

The next documentary is a must for anyone who likes their fast food.

I saw Super Size Me a while back and it actually put me off McDonald’s, even when I’m naughty.

By the way, I understand the importance of self-responsibility, but at a time when a burger costs less than a bunch of broccoli, it’s time to make changes.

Let’s talk about sex, Mr. Armitage

All images: The Armitage Effect ( check it out, it is fast becoming one of my favorite blogs)

The Great Sperm Race

A wonderful 2009 documentary narrated by Richard Armitage for Channel 4

It charters the journey from conception to birth.

What I really liked about it (apart from the obvious) was the fact that sperm cells were scaled up to human size and are played by real people. This makes the experience quite dramatic. I dare you not to feel sorry for those sperm cells, which are destined to die a horrific death. We see the sperm and the egg scaled up by 34000 times and we learn about the obstacles and challenges the sperm overcome to reach the egg.

Not unlike a talented handsome actor getting his big break 😉

On a personal note, I must admit I did giggle like a  little girl every time RA mentioned a “naughty” body part and I dare you not to do the same. It’s hard not to blush 🙂

What more can an RA admirer want?

Here is part 1

You can find the other 7 parts on youtube 🙂

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