Salman Rushdie Slumbers in the Moroccan Artist’s Provocative Film
A 3D rendering of Salman Rushdie lays motionless, hirsute chest rising up and down with each breath, in Mounir Fatmi’s “Sleep Al Naim,” which reinterprets Andy Warhol’s groundbreaking Sleep (1963) and infuses it with a new, politically potent message. The full six-hour-long video was censored at a show at l’Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris last year, but will premiere this week at Paradise Row as part of his solo exhibition History is Not Mine. “Rushdie lives between different worlds, between countries, between life and death,” says Fatmi. “It is at once boring and voyeuristic to look at someone sleeping for six hours. I want the audience to feel guilty about Rushdie’s destiny.” Paris-based Fatmi was born in Tangiers, Morocco, where he became notorious as a member of a generation of Arab artists—such as Akram Zaatari, Youssef Nabil or Yto Barrada—exploring the codes of conceptual art to question contemporary cultural identity. His work has been exhibited from the Brooklyn Museum to Mathaf in Qatar and has propelled him to the list of nominees for the Victoria and Albert Museum’s 2013 Jameel Prize. Fatmi credits French philosophical titans such as Derrida, Deleuze and Foucault in creating artworks that are at once aesthetically seductive and provocative. “I have never accepted the world as it is,” he says. “We must think the world.”
History is Not Mine runs from April 19 through June 1 at Paradise Row, W1.
Our New Open Call For Experimental Films Launches With Evan Prosofsky's Directorial Debut
Artificial waves crash and swimsuit-clad patrons frolic in the strange suburban utopia of World Waterpark in Alberta, Canada, in cinematographer Evan Prosofsky’s first directorial effort, launching an open call for submissions to our new Shorts on Sundays series via the NOWNESS Vimeo channel. The aquatic playground cast as the uncanny protagonist in Waterpark is located inside the West Edmonton Mall, North America’s largest shopping destination. “I never seemed to adjust to the absurdity,” says the director of shooting in his hometown’s famous fantasyland. “Even as a kid, I just couldn’t believe we had flamingos, submarines, roller coasters, and pirate ships in our mall.” The increasingly sought-after cinematographer became known as the lensman behind several of last year’s most shared music videos, including Grimes’ “Oblivion,” Bat for Lashes’ “All Your Gold” and Grizzly Bear’s “Yet Again.” Sound features prominently in Waterpark, too, with the soundtrack composed by Prosofsky’s friend Alex Zhang Hungtai, aka Dirty Beaches, infusing the innocent family environment with a seductive, contemplative undertone. “[Evan] told me of his experience there as a child,” says the Taiwanese-born Canadian musician of the effort. “That helped me understand his perspective, and I liked how neutral and non-judgmental it was.” Shot over a span of three years, the labor of love hints at the anxiety that lays dormant behind an otherwise glossy North American leisure culture. “Once I was in there,” Prosofsky recalls of shooting in plain view. “No one paid me the slightest bit of attention.” We asked Emily Kai Bock to share her thoughts on her collaborator's uncommon vision and process.
Waterpark is an early glimpse into the way Evan has structured his life around the craft of cinematography—being a typical teen working at the West Edmonton mall, but using his money and time off to go to the expense of documenting the space for hours on 16mm. It's rare to find that kind of devotion and love for the craft with a cinematographer. I've led him into many situations on several videos where his equipment could have been confiscated or ruined by the conditions. When we were shooting Grizzly Bear's "Yet Again" I remember watching him as he read the manual for a HydroFlex underwater housing before dropping it into a swimming pool with his own 35mm camera inside. The camera was safe, but it demonstrated that getting the shot was more valuable to him then his own equipment. His knowledge has provided an unwavering buoyancy through our sink-or-swim shoots.
Visit the NOWNESS Vimeo page for more information on how to submit to our Shorts on Sundays open call.
The Photography Legend Turns a Sensual Lens to Tokyo’s Annual Floral Explosion
Known for his darkly erotic portraits of women and his suggestive shots of flowers, Japan’s prolific Nobuyoshi Araki set out to harness the stunning cherry blossom season in Tokyo for this exclusive series. An annual occurrence in the Japanese capital and the center of centuries of local tradition and literary inspiration, the sakura flower has very rarely featured in Araki’s oeuvre. This year, as the trees bloomed early in Tokyo, the celebrated lensman used vintage Polaroid film, framing the vibrant pink flowers’ silhouettes with a distinctive, pitch-dark corroded border. Shot amid the petals at Tokyo’s Hamarikyu Gardens and Aoyama Cemetery, the results seem to reflect the traditional Japanese interpretation of the cherry tree as an enduring metaphor for the cyclical nature of life itself. “The city’s skyscrapers appeared as gigantic tomb stones in the background,” Araki explains of his melancholic urban florals. “Then at the graveyard I photographed a beautiful woman with a baby in her arms and another child happily running around the trees. For the first time, I realized that cherry blossom brings happy memories too.”
Do you go to see the cherry trees in bloom every year?
Nobuyoshi Araki: I hardly ever go, but I’m still very attracted to it. The flowers only blossom for one to two weeks out of the whole year, which creates this ephemeral quality. People sympathize with that.
What attracts you to the cherry blossoms in particular?
Araki: Flowers are there for me to love, and cherry blossoms are the top of their kind. I can’t quite put my affection for them into words, and that’s why it continues to hold a special place in my photographs. When standing under the old trees, the layers of flower petals look like women’s underwear, transparent to the sky above.
How do you feel these Polaroids stand out from your previous work on the subject?
Araki: They are completely different. In recent years I have experienced the tragedy in Fukushima, the threat of the nuclear power station and the passing away of a very close friend. I believe that that emotional proximity to death brought a different dimension to my work this year. Photography has never been a method of documentation for me, but a reflection of raw feelings and sensations born out of my experiences. This is why I only trust my libido—instead of "thinking" about photography, which is something I completely gave up some time ago. I don't analyze the situation; I capture the moment.