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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?
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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John Roberts: Eternal Tour

The Musician and Editor of The Travel Almanac Considers Sounds for the Itinerant Holiday Season

As many of us set off on journeys to see loved ones this winter, editor and creator of moody house tracks John Roberts reflects on the relationship between music and wunderlust, creating an exclusive NOWNESS mix that features Arthur Russell, Shintaro Sakamoto and The Smiths, and curating a selection of images from the first four issues of The Travel Almanac. Co-founded in 2011 by Roberts and his Dial Records label-mate Paul Kominek, aka Pawel, the publication focuses on the intimacies of the journey—the planes, trains, hotels and sites—seen through the eyes of such cultural icons as Will Oldham, David Lynch and Rinko Kawauchi. “Physical destinations, and the trips we take to get to them, often find their natural extension in a soundtrack,” says Roberts. “Certain songs seem to almost brand the mind with the distinctions of previously visited locations. The beauty of this is that after becoming conscious of song and place associations, it becomes possible to mentally travel to a desired destination. This can be as rewarding as a physical visit, due to the mind's tendency to bolster its contents with minor works of fiction, plastering over the holes of forgotten or unnoticed specificities. Some pieces of music are so evocative in their aural complexity that they may even allow temporary transportation to places untraversed in the physical world. It should come as no surprise then that these records are usually the ones worth holding on to.” Click here for Roberts' sonic itinerary.

The fourth issue of The Travel Almanac is out now. John Roberts’ second full-length album, “Fences Editions”, will come out on Dial Records in April, 2013. 

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Haute Dogs

NOMA Veterans Serve Up Hot Dogs and Champagne at New London Eatery Bubbledogs

Photographer Erik Wåhlström explores the aesthetic dimensions of wieners in this series of stills taken at Bubbledogs, the first-ever restaurant to specialize in the high-low mix of champagne and hot dogs. The brainchild of husband-and-wife team James Knappett and Sandia Chang, Bubbledogs is a daring step away from the culinary couple’s fancy food background. Having met while working at Thomas Keller’s three Michelin-starred Per Se in New York, the pair subsequently did stints at Noma and The Berkeley, with Knappett in the kitchen and Chang managing the front of house. “It’s just always this thing that’s been in the back of my mind,” says Chang of the buns and bubbly combo. “James gave me this little hotdog necklace charm, and later I got a small champagne bottle, and that’s when I first thought, hey, these go really well together.” Generally considered the go-to American ballpark snack, Bubbledogs’ take on the frankfurter is decidedly more gourmet. Current options on the menu include the BLT dog, wrapped in bacon and served with truffle mayo and caramelized lettuce, and the Jose dog with guacamole, sour cream, salsa and jalapenos. The menu will be complimented by a wine list that includes an extensive list of champagnes and sparkling wines from small, lesser-known producers. “It was really about creating something unpretentious and delicious,” says Knappett, “a place that is slightly unexpected and a little different––and nothing is less pretentious than a hotdog.” 

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