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June 24, 2014

JR & José Parlá: Wrinkles of the City

The Freewheeling Artists On How They Transformed the Streets of Havana

Artists and longtime collaborators José Parlá and JR traveled to Havana, Cuba for Wrinkles of the City, a global series of public art installations and expressionistic murals centered around enigmatic portraits of the residents in each metropolis, from Berlin to Shanghai. This leg acted as a homecoming for Brooklyn-based Parlá, whose own parents emigrated from Cuba to Miami where he was born. Commissioned by the 2012 Havana Biennale, today’s self-directed film captures the duo’s citywide project that ran from Old Havana to Vedado, offering both artists the opportunity to engage with a city that has profound personal resonance. “Using any kind of media to express myself has always been key to my work,” says the Paris-born, NYC-based JR. “I’m glad we made the film to better understand our journey through this fascinating place that is La Havana.”

You’re both multilingual expatriates with similar backgrounds—what impact does that have on your art?
José Parlá: JR’s work is a commentary that is sharing something positive with the present or with history. Working together as we have has been organic because we both think alike. If I can't make something happen, JR steps in, and if he can’t, then I communicate it. In Cuba we spoke Spanish, Portuguese, French and Japanese, inventing ways to share.

JR: José and I have that in common, we always feel language is not a barrier. I guess it’s because we speak with our own hands a lot. 

How does your work in one discipline inform the other?
JP: The stories of walls are the memories of society. If I use photography it is to document places and people that later inform my paintings as well, with regards to colors and the mood or history of a painting’s direction. When I paint very layered and large-scale calligraphic paintings, the language is informed by gestural, free-associative movements, which I think of as a dance that envelopes the work.

What’s your favorite highlight from the trip?
JP:
When we were making the largest wall work of the whole project, JR guided me from across a field while I was suspended on a crane. It was hard to see with the sun glaring in my eyes. We finished the whole thing and celebrated the whole night.

JR: The people we met, especially the couple who we photographed and pasted up. We stayed in touch with them and they have been such an inspiration to both of us.—Timothée Verrecchia

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Spotlight

Return of the Sun

Filmmakers Glen Milner and Ben Hilton Witness the Greenland's First Dawn of the Year

Set against the expansively beautiful and iridescent landscape of Northern Greenland, Glen Milner and Ben Hilton's subtle and touching short visits the annual sun-welcoming ritual of the country’s Inuit population, which celebrates the dawn after more than 40 days of complete winter darkness. Following the daily routine of an Inuit ice fisherman and his son, Return of the Sun examines the affects of the changing climate on their livelihood and community, and pays tribute to the locals’ innate adaptability. “While we were there our fisherman lost hundreds of pounds of fish due to ice breaking away and lines being lost, rare for this time of year,” explains Milner. “The fishermen were already thinking of new ways to hunt and the Inuit attitude in such a harsh environment proved inspiring.” Although the pair had previously worked together on diverse projects including Rwandan genocide prisoners and a short on experimental rock band Rolo Tomassi, filming in Greenland’s harsh environment offered unique new challenges. “Filming in such low temperatures with high winds is grueling. Keeping the camera out of the battering snow, keeping it warm and getting sound away from the winds was really tough, and it's so dark,” says Hilton. “But emotionally, you see nature at its most inspiring and its most intense.”  

STATS FROM ON SET

Location
Ilulissat, Greenland. 

Longitude and Latitude
69° 13 min N; 51° 6 min W.

Average daily temperature
-17°C.

Average daily wind speed
5.6–11 km/h (Force 2, Beaufort Scale).

Affect of changing climate
Ice depleting by up to 15 meters (49 feet) per year in Ilulissat, meaning 20 billion tons of iceberg break off and pass out of the Ilulissat fjord annually.

Hours of darkness per day while filming 
21.

Days of total darkness per year 
43.

Average sunlight per year 
On balance, 1,878 sunshine hours––approximately 5.1 sunlight hours per day.

Traditional first annual sunrise
January 13 (13 minutes before 13:00).

Sunrise in 2011
January 11.

Number of inhabitants 
4,000.

Transport
1 x 4x4, 6 x planes, 1 x small fishing boat, dog sleds.

Number of dogs per sled 
30.

Camera 
Sony F3 with Zeiss ZF lenses.

Length of shoot 
Two days traveling to location, six days filming, two days traveling back.

Clothes worn while filming 
North Face everything.

Average number of layers of clothing 
Six.

Skin care 
Arctic skincare packs and lots of ChapStick.

Food during filming
Equal mix of fine dining and Pot Noodle.

Safety equipment 
Not enough.

(Read More)

Spotlight

Wolfgang Tillmans: New World

The Turner Prize-Winner Goes Digital to Capture Instant Encounters on Far-flung Travels

From the stars above Kilimanjaro to Shanghai’s neon-lit cityscape, preeminent photographer Wolfgang Tillmans unveils his first impressions of the furthest reaches of the globe. Taking the viewer on a frenetic journey between London, Tierra del Fuego, Tasmania, Saudi Arabia and beyond, Tillmans’ latest monograph Neue Welt creates a hyperactive and graphically juxtaposed image bank that conveys the sheer density of information available in contemporary culture. Edited and designed by Tillmans, the Taschen release marks a turning point away from his abstract investigations of the photographic form to a more outward-looking figurative exploration of the world and the camera’s ability to record modern-day experience. “Neue Welt is a very inspirational document,” says gallerist Maureen Paley, who has represented Tillmans for over a decade. “It flows from micro to macro observations from all over the world with enormous ease, as only Wolfgang can with his generosity of spirit and innate curiosity for all things visual.” Staying only fleetingly at each place he visited so as to retain his instant reactions, Tillmans switched to a digital camera for the project and refused to retouch his images in order to capture an authentic vision.

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