Album Review | LCD Soundsystem American Dream  (2017)

It was a bittersweet moment when I first discovered LCD Soundsystem. It was sometime in 2012. Or was it 2013? Either way, it was in conjunction with my discovering of the TV show Misfits. Late to both parties, as per usual. But I can’t forget hearing “Get Innocuous!” for the first time, nor can I forget the visual accompaniment.

Thanks to the geniuses behind the Misfits music department , “Get Innocuous!” led me to the rest of the Sound of Silver album, and then to LCD Soundsystem’s entire discography. In my young, feverish excitement of trying to learn absolutely everything about this awesome new band I’d just heard of, I also learnt, much to my dismay, that James Murphy and gang had decided to call it quits in 2011. It meant that I would never be able to hear more new music from them, nor catch them live. The closest I could get was their 2012 documentary film, Shut Up and Play the Hits, which covered their massive blowout in Madison Square Garden. I was jealous of everyone in the crowd; of the crying boy, of Donald Glover, of Aziz Anzari. They all got to witness something great and something I never would get the chance to experience myself.

Fast forward to now, post resurrection, and you can imagine how crazy happy I am. Granted, I still haven’t been able to see LCD Soundsystem play live yet (working on it), but they released a new studio album (their last being This is Happening in 2010!) at the beginning of this month and I’ve been spinning it nonstop since.

Unlike Sound of Silver with “Get Innocuous!”, the first song on American Dream, “Oh Baby” eases you in gently and calmly. A most painless rebirth. Murphy’s voice is warm and soothing, every verse adding another layer of soft clouds that lift you above and cradle you ever so softly.

Then comes “Other Voices”, which describes the mundane morning routine of waking up and getting ready for the day. It deals with the inevitable passing of time and the anxiety associated with it: “Time isn’t over, times aren’t better/So it’s letting you down/You keep dragging back to it/You keep going back to the well/Oh that shit’s a dictator/Time won’t be messed with/Buddy, no no no”. It is, inarguably, a theme which occupies much of Murphy’s thoughts. The song concludes with the lyric “You should be uncomfortable”, taken from a conversation between David Bowie and Murphy, after which set in motion LCD Soundsystem’s return from retirement.

Following in the same vein, Murphy acknowledges his getting older in “Change Yr Mind” with his usual raw honesty and brutal self-awareness: “And I’m not dangerous now/The way I used to be once/I’m just too old for it now”. What starts off as pretty damn depressing (“I ain’t seen anyone for days/I still have yet to leave the bed”), gradually repositions itself as encouraging and reassures you that things can get better, that all the bad times will pass “If you change your mind/You can change your mind”.

Sprinkles of hope, but melancholia is nevertheless ever prevalent. With every consecutive LCD Soundsystem album, the shadow of sadness grows incrementally and the latest is heavily inundated with a barely concealed sense of hopelessness and desperation. Things get depressive real quick in the title track, with lyrics such as: “Find the place where you can be boring/Where you won’t need to explain/That you’re sick in the head and you wish you were dead”.

Reminiscent of “Someone Great” on Sound of Silver, “Black Screen” is a down-tempo yet emotionally-charged eulogy about the loss of a prominent figure in Murphy’s life, in this case, it’s the loss of friend and mentor, David Bowie. In the song, Murphy expresses regret over not having spent enough time with him—”I meant to get to you/On the turning/Things sneak up on me/Like a landslide comes” and “I’m bad with people things/But I should have tried more”.

It is Murphy’s unveiled vulnerability that gives the songs so much substance, something not so typical to dance tracks. His fears and worries, regrets, nostalgia, cynicism—they’re all there, within the music, and they’re all too frighteningly relatable.

What’s truly impressive is how LCD Soundsystem are able to transport me to sonic landscapes I never knew existed, let alone imagine. A cavernous blackhole where time moves according to other rhythms, oscillating between unknown formulae, amorphous shapes contorting and blending into new ones, strange flying fish, extreme and staggered magnifications of unkempt fingernails tapping, sweeping panoramas of mountainous terrain, shattering glass on a reverse loop, frogs hanging out in nests and birds underwater. That’s where “How Do You Sleep?” takes me. To weird fucking places, man.

Once again, Murphy has crafted synthy, dancey aural pleasures that attach themselves to our auditory cortexes like a clingy partner with abandonment issues. I find myself hearing songs (especially “Oh Baby”, “Change Yr Mind” and “How Do You Sleep?”) throughout the day, and also at night, only to discover that my laptop isn’t even on and I’m just hearing them in my head. “It moves like a virus/And enters our skin” indeed.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for continuing to make music, LCD Soundsystem. I know a lot of people are divided in their opinions about the reunion, some feeling cheated that their once (or still) favourite band got back after announcing that they were done. Or maybe it’s due to fear of a band reuniting after so many years only to totally suck and ruin their legacy. But that’s not the case here. I believe Murphy still has more to say and more to offer, and I look forward to the next album. In the meantime, I will be cycling through American Dream one more time.

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Album Review | La Femme Mystère (2016)

On the bus from Munich to Salzburg, with the Bavarian Alps looming in the horizon as you peer through your rain-flecked window, shaking off any remaining dregs of sleep from your early morning rise. The wondrous sight before you is unfamiliar—it’s new, it’s foreign—you can’t really comprehend it. It’s enticing and it’s got you gripped to the edge of your seat.

It’s one of those religious moments in life when you come across two things that complement each other ever so satisfyingly. Like ice cream and white bread. Or Crocs and no one. Or when listening to La Femme’s latest album, Mystère, with the magnificence of the Alps as your cinematic backdrop.

Originating from the coastal town of Biarritz, France, La Femme’s lyrics are mostly—but not always—in their mother tongue. Their foreign words mirror the foreign landscape before me; it’s something I can’t fully grasp, nevertheless, my lack of comprehension does not detract from my experiencing its charm.

Music itself is a language—a universal one—and though I don’t speak French, Mystère is able to successfully narrate a story, evoke a certain mood, and communicate to its non-French-speaking listeners. Like watching a foreign film without subtitles, it’s sometimes sufficient to refer to the universal gestures and facial expressions, and of course, to the film’s score, to come to an overarching understanding of the content.

The massive 15-track album opens up with “Sphynx”, a balance of sterile, robotic, electronic beeps and a soft, sweet, floaty voice singing in French. La Femme’s sophomore album is decidedly less Kraftwerk-y than their 2013 debut, Psycho Tropical Berlin, and track two shows off an acoustic guitar and a more delicate side to their repertoire. “Le Vide Est Ton Nouveau Prénom” is the kind of song you would put on at night, just before bedtime, maybe with a couple of candles lit around the room so that you can bask in a warm glow as you wind down for the evening.

I’m brought back to the sight of the mountain range and the gusts I imagine weaving in and around the valleys, inspired by the eerie, high-pitched whistling in “Où Va Le Monde”. The increasing distortions and intrusion of wailing synths in “Septembre” suggests that not everything is as calm and carefree as the beginning of the song implied. In fact, hints of trepidation are sprinkled all throughout the album. The possibility of a little danger just when all seems well, the lure of the unknown: it’s what makes life exciting. And it’s what makes La Femme exciting.

“SSD” features a funky motorik beat paired with suave male vocals that makes me immediately think of a dark, grimy, hedonistic club scene with the camera panning over mounds of leather-clad debauchees rubbing up against each other. So in other words, soft porn. Which I guess makes sense why I also hear some Prince-esque elements in the song, especially the bit with the sensual female voice (Wendy? Yes, Lisa). The track is brilliantly composed, with glimpses and snatches of different sounds, sharp twangs of violin, snippets of recorded street noise in the beginning (which again, made me think of Prince—“Lady Cab Driver” this time) and laughter, all playing over an underlying metronomic beat. It’s hypnotic.

Things are lightened up a notch with the next few songs that follow, including “Exorciseur”, which sounds suspiciously similar to “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, and “Elle Ne T’aime Pas”, which reminds me of a 2009 Miike Snow. A very Echo and the Bunnyman-sounding “Tueur De Fleurs” sees the never-distant darkness make its return, before turning to more psychedelic-driven sounds with “Le Chemin” and the epic 13-minute long, slow-burning “Vagues” to round out a diverse, sexy, and enigmatic album.

Film Review | Berlin Syndrome (2017), directed by Cate Shortland

A 20-something-year-old Australian girl decides to pack a bag and fly solo halfway across the world to Berlin.

Not exactly a surprise, then, as to why I was highly interested in seeing this film from the many others offered during this year’s Berlinale. And boy, did it take a pinch or two of persistence in getting tickets for the premiere.

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What’s up with Berlinale’s online ticketing system? I am convinced that the whole thing is a big joke, and that it’s not actually possible to get a ticket online. Judging by the number of angry punters on the Berlinale’s official Facebook page, some of whom claim to have been on the ticketing page within 20 seconds of the tickets being released, the number of limited tickets must be really limited.

So in failing to grab tickets online, and in a stubborn refusal to admit defeat, we hauled ass (or rather, I hauled my friend’s ass along with me—a companion for long lines, very vital) to the box office at Kino International three days before the viewing date only to be told there were also no hard copies left. We decided to come back on the day of the premiere, three hours before the film would start, only to find out we were too early for leftover tickets. It wasn’t until we returned one hour later to join a line that was already 11 people deep that we were finally successful. Around 18:15 we were, among many others who had lined up for the last-minute sale, the proud holders of tickets to the premiere of Berlin Syndrome.

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If at first you don’t succeed…

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Shaking in excitement.

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Berlin, the city of queues.

The buzz of anticipation as we were all waiting in (of course, yet another) line to the cinema reinforced why I was so decided on seeing this film at the Berlinale, as opposed to waiting a few more weeks for its official general release.

At ten minutes to seven, we were ushered in.

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Ten past and curtains open to reveal more curtains.

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Then a few minutes later a screen was revealed, introducing the film and main character, Clare (played by Australian actor Teresa Palmer) alongside a montage of the new city she has found herself in. Wide-angled shots of Berlin’s skyline interjected with well-known scenes of Kreuzberg (shout-out to Kotti and SO36) bring about the warm fuzzies one gets when recognising familiar sights on the big screen. The initial wonder and curiosity that Clare has as she explores the city of Berlin is so hauntingly relatable, as well as all the experiences and obstacles she encounters in her first few days: Staring starry-eyed at the architecture of Eastern Berlin; partying until the sun rises and sleeping through the day; Clare’s well-meaning yet laboured attempt at the German language drudged in thick Australian twang—“Dunk-uh. Chooss.”—which earned a sympathetic chuckle from the native speakers in the audience.

It’s all so exciting. Everything is new, everything is foreign, and you’re taken in by all that surrounds you. You pay attention to the sounds, to the smells, to the sights—your senses, all of them, they’re awakened. Yes it’s overwhelming, yes you’re out of your comfort zone, but this is the moment when things that were once small and insignificant are now given meaning. The initial experience of a city is a moment to savour, and you try to take in as much as you can, for when familiarity begins to settle over—and it is inevitable—the magic will wane and you’ll never be that same starry-eyed newcomer again.

So, amidst the wonderment of her explorations, Clare happens upon charming and ridiculously good-looking English teacher, Andi (played by charming and ridiculously good-looking actor Max Riemelt).

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“Do you like strawberries?” Not the worst line I’ve heard.

Clare is immediately drawn in by Andi’s charisma (and his twinkling baby blues) and thus ensues the cute-but-also-cringeworthy way humans of this digital age try and flirt with each other without the use of emoji faces (here’s an actual guide on how to emoji-flirt, by the way) or mass amounts of alcohol. Cue wolf mask and weird “wolf” noises.

But in amongst all the funny awkwardness of their courtship, glimpses of danger (the dog barking whilst the couple walk through a Schrebergarten—again, more chuckles from the audience as Andi explains to a non-German that they’re essentially small allotments of land featuring a disturbing number of garden gnomes; the wolf mask; Andi leaning towards Clare in the car) foreshadow the dark path their relationship will ultimately take.

What was interesting to draw from this is the very thin, sometimes hard-to-see line between attraction and danger. Take the scene where they’re in the car, after their Schrebergarten date, for example. It’s night time, they’re alone, and it’s quiet. In most instances, and especially when we’re into the other person, this is a perfectly romantic set-up. But as Andi leans over, slowly, to caress Clare’s face, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread. Well, to be honest, it was kind of fifty-fifty between “You go girl!”, and “Oh no, girl, are you sure those doors aren’t locked?” In both cases, whether it be lust or fear, your heart rate quickens, your sweat glands are activated, your pupils dilate, and your breathing becomes shallow. Adrenaline is pumping through your body, either when you’re scared or when you’re turned on. It’s the delicate interplay between these two states which director Cate Shortland so very capably delivers, that makes Berlin Syndrome a successful thriller.

However, after the climax (yeah I did) of their attraction for each other, things start to take a turn.

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Sorry to burst your post-coital bliss bubble, Clare.

The morning after they have sex for the first time we see Clare wake up to an empty apartment. Andi has left for work and, as it turns out, apparently forgot to leave her a key, effectively locking her inside. She playfully accuses him of trying to keep her trapped, but doesn’t entertain the thought any further. Because no one’s that crazy, right?

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Oh hey, you’re home. Quick question, no biggie—but did you like, maybe, I dunno, purposefully keep me locked up in your creepy apartment in an abandoned building in the middle of nowhere? Whatevs, it’s cool—Can I stay over again?

It’s not until later that she learns his leaving her keyless was no innocent mistake at all. The tension heightens when Clare finally accepts the horrible truth—that Sexy English Teacher Andi is in fact Crazy Kidnapper Psycho—and her attempts to break free from the confinements of his apartment escalate in desperation.

Of course, not all thrillers contain gore, but there was a bit of that about halfway through this film that drew a very audible collective gasp from the audience. From my peripheral vision I could see a few hands snaking up, either to shield their eyes from the possibility of more gore, or to prevent themselves from throwing up into their laps. (You’ve been warned.)

As the film progresses and we see Clare go through the different responses to her situation (from fight, to passivity, to acceptance… and to even express concern for her captor—a phenomenon which lends the film its title), we also get a small glimpse into the character of Andi.

We learn that probably the only person he ever cared for was his father, and that he despises his mother for having abandoned them early on. Perhaps this is the source of his hatred toward towards women, which becomes more obvious with each encounter he has with female colleague, Jana. After the New Year’s Eve party where the peak of his interaction with Jana takes place, her dismissal of him in response to his lashing out at her results in Andi trawling the streets in his car, looking for single women walking alone at night. This rejection, from a woman (regardless of how much Jana repulsed him), led Andi to seek out another, one whom he can control and keep from running away (unlike his abandoning mother).

It’s a sobering reminder of a man’s ability to create and control situations in which a woman may become fearful for her safety. The point was brought home during the Q&A that followed the screening, wherein the director and producer both casually acknowledged their own horrifying encounters— Shortland once had a taxi driver lock the doors on her, refusing to let her go, and producer Polly Staniford recalled the time she went on a date with a guy who told her he was going to take her home and kill her.

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Some of the cast and crew up on stage to answer questions from the audience.

Having the opportunity to hear from the crew and cast after the film was an enriching experience. It was especially nice to hear from Riemelt, and to be reminded that he isn’t actually a deeply messed-up, crazy dude in real life (it was a scarily convincing performance). But the stand-out goes to Palmer. Such attempts could have easily fallen victim to being too vanilla and uninspiring, but her restrained and understated portrayal of Clare was masterfully executed.

Great acting, good build-up of tension… the film was ticking all the right boxes. Until. Oh man. The ending. Why. WHY?! Unfortunately, as good as the acting was, and as thrilling as the film was, ultimately its overall success was let down by an unrealistic ending. Not that the resolution itself was unbelievable, but more how Clare behaved during one particular scene. When she calls out to Andi at the very end. No one in her situation would do that. It was overly dramatic and ill-fitting, and it derailed all the credibility that had amassed up until this point.

Okay. So Berlin Syndrome wasn’t as impactful as it could have been, which is a real shame. But if you block out that one tiny moment at the end, and just focus on the rest—which is all really good—then it’s actually a commendable thriller, and one to keep in mind when suggesting movie night. Which would be done by way of emojis, obviously.

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Album Review | Warpaint Heads Up (2016)

I admit it. I’m late to the party. The four-piece indie rock outfit has been around since 2004 but it’s only now that I’ve taken proper notice of the band, so I guess you could say I’m jumping on the band-wagon. And I’m Heads Up and over heels obsessed. And I will now stop these warful puns and get on with the review. (That was the last one, I swear.)

Heads Up kicks off with “Whiteout” and it’s probably my favorite track on the album. When Emily Kokal’s voice drops to a low drone at the end of the second ‘Don’t go tonight’… it’s a very nice, subtle hint at the desire and budding frustration lurking underneath. That looming desperation manifests itself into a controlled frenzy at the penultimate chanting of the song’s title which is then soothed over by the release of a final ‘Tonight/Don’t go tonight’. At the outro the song is stripped back and picks up slightly, just enough to delve competently into the next song, “By Your Side”.

The second track drops into an even slower pace, a darker tone, and shows the beginnings of a more electronic-influenced Warpaint. It’s deep, dark, and mature, and it highlights drummer Stella Mozgawa’s attraction to the clean and precise sound of drum machines, which she replicates flawlessly on this album.

Released as a single preceding the launch of their third full-length, “New Song” is heavily inundated with pop sensibilities: it’s dance-y and fun, but the repetitive one-line chorus prohibits it from excelling beyond a predictable crowd-pleaser. After some period of time my brain turned the lyrics ‘You’re a new song/You’re a new song baby/You’re a new song to me’ into ‘You’re a nuisance/You’re a nuisance baby/You’re a nuisance to me’ and now I can’t stop hearing it. This foray into overt pop isn’t where Warpaint excel, at least it isn’t what they are known for, so the string of songs that follow, which are, once again, downtempo and shadowy, more experimental-pop than straight-pop, is met with welcoming ears.

“Don’t Let Go” stands out from the crowd with lush fingerpicking in the beginning, shortly thereafter interjected by clear, striking, hypnotic vocals over distinct guitar riffs, that then slowly and increasingly become marred by distortion and electric twangs, transporting us into melodious surrealism.

I listened to a bunch of newly released albums during this time, though I couldn’t help but come back to this one, again and again. Heads Up is a well-produced and well-rounded third album from the charismatic band Warpaint. The overall mood is sexy-cool, atmospheric, dreamy, dripping with want though ladened with complications (best epitomized in “Don’t Let Go”), but still exuding strength and determination (the self-reassuring ‘Got my girls, I’m not alone’ from “By Your Side” and ‘Oh we will not be defined’ from “Don’t Wanna”, for example). It’s restrained and minimal, keeping only what is absolutely necessary, and yet layered and skilfully arranged to show complexity and substance.

The Grocery Show

Apples. Bananas. Mushrooms. Cauliflower.

Your eyes scan the various produce and products on offer until you find one that beckons to you. You then bring the selected item to the back of the store, pose with it, and have your photo taken by a man in a newsboy cap and black sunglasses.

On a Monday night, in an unremarkable small grocery store on the southern end of Hermannstrasse in the neighbourhood of Neukölln, a happening was taking place.

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Unsuspecting customers stopped by their local store, on their way home from work, perhaps, or from a game of basketball, to find themselves in a rather unusual setting. Granted, the physicality of the space was the same: vegetables piled in an assortment of crates and boxes were stacked along the left wall, household items and shelf-stable foods to the right, and the benign shopkeeper by the back wall covered in many black and white print-outs of Che Guevara.

No, what was different was the atmosphere in the room. Oh, and probably the fact that there were a handful of individuals stationed around the store, staring at you in silence as you entered. Smiles were proffered in an attempt to lessen the intimidation, but in retrospect we probably came across as followers of a creepy cult happy at the prospect of another victim.

Which isn’t too far off the mark, actually.

Audience participation was key to The Grocery Show, and the architect behind it, the cap-donning Ser Lagania, wanted people to join in. To join in the world of art. Whilst doing their grocery shopping.

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Mixing life and art. Not exactly a new concept, by any means, and in fact, it immediately springs to mind one very well-known artist in particular who rocked the bleached blonde ‘do and had a penchant for mass-produced images of celebrities and household goods.

But Lagania isn’t trying to be the next Warhol, or the next anything for that matter (although he was likened to Marcel Duchamp in his school years). He’s simply a dreamer putting into practice one of his many creative ideas. Amongst artist, Lagania has also tried on many other hats: jeweller, milliner, videographer, photographer…

I have too many interests, he told me one evening in his kitchen. Being a dreamer is good, but you also have to be a doer.

You have to go for it, otherwise you wait too long.

He wanted to do something for his fellow Neukölln inhabitants, to make art accessible to the locals. To break down barriers and mix the art with the non-art. The high and the low. According to Lagania, the art world might not come to Neukölln, unlike its inextricable presence in New York. Debatable, for sure, but I think I understand what he is trying to say. Yes, art is available in places like Neukölln, but it isn’t as seamlessly entrenched in the everyday life like that of say, a New Yorker.

Lagania has been lucky enough to call New York, London and Berlin (amongst other cities) home at different junctures in his life. There are some places that carry a special vibe, and for him, the neighbourhood of Neukölln is one such place. I asked him why he decided to hold the show in this particular shop, to which he answered, “There’s something different, something special about it.” After having visited the place myself that Monday evening, I understood what he meant.

In a neighbourhood where the predominant greeting is a surly stare and customer service non-existent, the tiny grocery store on Hermannstrasse is indeed something special. Owned by a taciturn and humble man, Ahmet Erdoğan’s guileless smile and kind eyes welcome you into his space, putting you immediately at ease.

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Perhaps it was the combination of the storekeeper’s congeniality and Lagania’s warm and calming manner of speaking that so easily persuaded the shoppers to participate in the show. There were one or two who turned down the invitation, but most of those who were approached did not need much convincing to have their photo snapped.

Not everyone who entered the store was approached, however. At times there were more than eight people inside (which is a lot considering the size of the place) and Lagania was already busy taking someone else’s picture. So whilst the practice of art was taking place, at the same time and in the same space, it was business as usual and the store operated as it would any other day.

What does it that say about art, and about the art world?

Besides a painting and a handheld digital camera, there were no other outside props brought into the store for this art performance. Most of what made The Grocery Store possible was indeed already there. Does this mean that we are constantly surrounded by art? That we are living in art? That Life = Art? That art is, and always has been, all around us, and that we are oftentimes blind to it until we have someone else come and point it out to us? Is this not what art institutions do? Determine for us what constitutes art? I get now why Lagania’s mentors had likened him to Duchamp.

Or is it, then, the act of pointing it out that makes it art? That it’s not art until someone intends it to be so? Who decides what is art? Who makes art? What makes art? What is art? How many more times can I drop the word ‘art’ before it loses its meaning? What does anything even mean, anymore? What is meaning? What is the meaning of life? What is life?

(This is why you should never question anything. Stop now while you’re ahead. It’s an unrelenting spiral that will pull you off tangent and before you know it, you’ll find yourself in a batting cage with Life’s Toughest Questions constantly hurled at you whilst you try to swing at them with one of those sticky hand toys you get as a consolation prize.)

Okay, let’s try and reign this back.

So, bearing in mind the question of “What makes it art?”, I couldn’t help but ask myself whether the inclusion of the painting, which served as a backdrop for the portraitures, was at all necessary. If art exists in the everyday, doesn’t the painting in the background undermine this ethos? We shouldn’t need the crutch of a classical representation of art to convince us that what we are seeing is art.

Maybe it was intended as a measure of reassurance to the public, a quick and effective way of legitimising what was happening. People are more willing to give an interview to someone who is decked out with a camera and a microphone than to someone with just a pen and paper and a timid approach. (I’m working on it.)

Or maybe Lagania just felt like having the painting in the background.

One other interesting thing I noticed was that when told we were participating in an art performance, one that involved using a prop, it was like the Do Not Touch sign was taken down and we were granted immunity to touch everything in sight. Grabbing the pasta box from the shelf, opening the refrigerator and reaching for a tub of yoghurt, sizing up every single apple in the palm of our hand. It gave us authority to strip off the reserved disposition we previously wore, and approach the store in the same manner we would our best friend’s apartment. Nothing was off limits.

The Grocery Show provided a beam of unexpected colour in an otherwise monotonous evening. It was interesting to cycle through thoughts on life and art inside, and provoked by, a grocery store. A nice change from my usual conundrum of whether I want the green or red pesto sauce, something which consumes more of my shopping time than I’d like to admit.

Ser Lagania’s next show, Chapellerie will take place on Saturday, June 24, 2017. It will be the first in a series of performances, and is by invitation only. To find out more about his other works, click here.

Processes

Perched on a tired and crotchety sofa, one that is amiable for the first hour, but inhospitable beyond that, I reach for my coffee mug to realise its contents have been emptied. This is not the first time my arm has shot out, almost like clockwork, in seek of an immediate reward for successfully weaving through the intertwined strands of thought in my head and producing a somewhat coherent string of words.

It’s a moment of reprieve, a break from the constant, a tiny reshuffling in my otherwise unchanged arrangement.

The coffee mug is empty. Like the telltale rings of ageing in trees, the coffee-stained lines around my mug show me the intervals taken since I sat down and started to write.

The uppermost rings are the most notable, if coffee stains were to be worthy of note. The markings of the initial indulgence; a sampling. A narrow separation between the first three lines, an indication of the small imbibes relative to the temperature.

Slow to start.

From there the spacing between lines grows, and an almost uniform pattern is revealed. Like clockwork. There’s no more hesitation now. A rhythm builds. And towards the end, to avoid being left with sad, lukewarm coffee, the final big gulp.

No more coffee. But also no more outstanding work.

All that remains is one very sore bottom.