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Milford Graves – Full Mantis

“Man, that’s me up there on that screen – that’s what I’m about.”  Full Mantis, the feature-length documentary honouring the work of avant-garde percussionist Milford Graves, is a kaleidoscopic portrait of an enigmatic, curious and mythic figure.

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As a student of Graves for fifteen years, director and producer Jake Meginsky has an understanding with his subject that lends a beautiful empathy to the film. As Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth expressed, Meginsky and his co-director Neil Young, have tapped into Graves’ very particular sonic vocabulary.
The pair has managed a rare thing in creating a music documentary that takes on the form of a musical piece. The narrative progresses with hypnotic rhythm, aided by the soundtrack of Milford’s percussion.

As a pioneer of the New York free jazz movement and a master of polyrhythms, Graves’ sound, at times, makes for complex listening. We see footage of performances where Graves yells over the thrashing of the drums. Meginsky has said, “We both approached the material in an intuitive, rhythmic way in order to inject the film with the same sense of fluidity and intensity that are the hallmarks of Milford’s sound.”

For the entirety of its 90 minute running time, the only voice the audience hear from is
Graves’. As the film cuts between never-before-seen archival footage from his early career and interviews filmed over the fifteen years of mentorship, we oscillate between Graves’ younger and present self. The two appear to communicate, both through music and discourse, into a wonderfully cyclical narrative.

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Percussionist, herbalist, martial artist, programmer, scientist, philosopher, and teacher, Graves’ contradicting identities all work together to inform his life philosophy, of which vibration is the key, “It comes down to vibration, which is motion. As human beings, if there’s no motion, we’re dead!” In one a poignant scene we see this put into practice when, on a tour through Japan, he performs at a school for children with autism. Accompanied by Japanese interpretive dancer Min Tanaka, the high-intensity performance continues until all the children are on their feet. One child in particular, seen sitting and pulling on his hair in the beginning, ends up standing directly in front of the drum kit to dance, in rapture, enthralled by the energy of the sound.

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A natural teacher, Graves reflects deeply on a multitude of subjects as the film progresses, in what Moore described as, “a lexicon of thoughtful and mystic consciousness.” As the audience, we  quickly become his students. There is a wonderful scene where he describes in complex detail how minor and major chords are related to the sympathetic nervous system.

His lengthy interpretations, like his music, at times veer into the bizarre. However, by the time the film comes to a close the audience is enveloped in Milford’s bizarre and beautiful world.

This is not a documentary solely for avant-garde jazz lovers; Graves’ curiosity and humour also spills out from the screen, and his unwavering hope in the healing power of music is infectious.  Graves has said of the drum kit, ‘the equipment just can’t capture the energy of the music.’ The same can be said of film’s ability to capture the rhythm and energy of  Graves’ life; and yet Full Mantis succeeds in coming very close.

You can hear his music on Albert Ayler’s Love Cry (1968), Sonny Sharrock’s Black Woman (1969), and releases with the New York Art Quartet. For screening information visit the Full Mantis official website.

References from:

Directors Notes, Jake Meginsky.

Thurston Moore’s introduction at the BFI, July 2018.

Interview with Milford Graves in Bomb Magazine, 2018.

Anna Kaniasty – Alive St.

Featured image, Porto 2013.

 

Alive St. is an ongoing photo series by Warsaw based photographer Anna Kaniasty. Taken over several years, the images uniquely capture fleeting moments of everyday life in various cities across the globe.

See a selection of the images below. For more information, and to see more of her work, visit her website.

 

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Lisbon, Portugal 2012

Malaga 2015

Malaga, Spain 2015

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Miyajima, Japan 2011

Cleveland 2003

Cleveland, USA 2003

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Tokyo, Japan 2011

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Warsaw, Poland 2013

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Lisbon, Portugal 2012

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Krakow, Poland 2012

 

Omar Victor Diop: Liberty / Diaspora

Featured image – Omar Victor Diop, Thiaroye 1944. From Liberty (2016). Courtesy © Omar Victor Diop / MAGNIN-A, Paris

London Gallery Autograph,  presents a two part exhibition by Senegalese artist Omar Victor Diop, his first solo exhibition in the UK .

Liberty, a Universal Chronology of Black Protest, reinterprets key revolutionary moments in Africa and across the diaspora. It spans four decades and features historic events such as the 1965 Alabama marches on Washington, and the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin, which triggered the Million Hoodie March in New York and later inspired the Black Lives Matter movement.

10) Trayvon Martin 2012 © Omar Victor Diop

Omar Victor Diop, Trayon Martin, 2012. From Liberty (2016). Courtesy © Omar Victor Diop / MAGNIN-A, Paris. 

Strikingly detailed and potent in symbolism, the images primarily feature Diop as the protagonist portraying a range of figures, separated sometimes by time and often by geography, but unified by their defining struggle for human-rights.

For Diop, these images redefine black history, and consequently the history of humanity, as well as the concept of freedom.

4) Breakfast for the Children of the Black 1969 © Omar Victor Diop

Omar Victor Diop, Breakfast for the Children of the Black Panthers 1969. From Liberty (2016). Courtesy © Omar Victor Diop / MAGNIN-A, Paris.

Project Diaspora, the second part of the exhibition, celebrates four centuries of notable Africans in Europe, drawing parallels between their experiences and those of contemporary African footballers based in Europe.

8) Omar Ibn Saïd © Omar Victor Diop

Omar Victor Diop, Omar Ibn Saïd 1770 – 1964. From Project Diaspora (2014). Courtesy © Omar Victor Diop / MAGNIN-A, Paris.

Diop explains, “Football is an interesting global phenomenon that for me often reveals where society is in terms of race. When you look at the way that African football royalty is perceived in Europe, there is an interesting blend of glory, hero-worship and exclusion . Every so often, you get racist chants or banana skins thrown on the pitch and the whole illusion of integration is shattered in the most brutal way . It’s that kind of paradox I am investigating in the work “

9) Ayuba Suleiman Diallo 1701 - 1773 © Omar Victor Diop

Omar Victor Diop, Ayuba Suleiman Diallo 1701 – 1773.From Project Diaspora (2014) Courtesy © Omar Victor Diop / MAGNIN-A, Paris.

The accompanying exhibition Purdah – The Sacred Cloth, by Arpita Shah, was produced as her residency on the Albert Drive project in Glasgow in 2013, and shows Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu women from the Pollokshields community, wearing traditional head coverings or veils.

The portraits highlight the deeply personal and significant meanings of the purdah – the ‘sacred cloth’, and seeks to address the common misconceptions surrounding the tradition of head covering and veiling.

“Purdah slowly unfolds the complex and intimate relationships that these women have with their sacred cloths, offering us a glimpse into its varied uses and interpretations across diverse cultural and spiritual worlds”.
– Arpita Shah

Omar Victor Diop: Liberty / Diaspora, and Arpita Shah: Purdah – The Sacred Cloth, are on show until 3 November 2018 at Autograph Gallery, Rivington Place, London EC2A 3BA. For more information visit their website.

 

ōtimo – July Playlist

Our July Playlist is a laid back selection of contemporary music from artists such as Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, five-piece Malian outfit BKO, and Leon Vynehall, along with time-tested classics from the likes of Bobbi Humphrey and Gil Scott-Heron.

Listen below.

Akari: Sculpture by Other Means

Akari: Sculpture by Other Means, a new exhibition at New York’s Noguchi Museum, examines and celebrates Isamu Noguchi’s iconic, collapsible paper lanterns.

One of the most important sculptors of the last century, Isamu Noguchi (1904–88) was born in Los Angeles, California, to a Scottish-American mother, and Japanese father, he moved to Japan shortly after, where he remained until the age of thirteen, when he returned to the US.

He was interested in art and sculpture from an early age, but initially studied pre-medicine at Columbia, whilst also taking evening classes with sculptor Onorio Ruotolo. However, in 1926, after witnessing revolutionary sculptor Constantin Brancusi’s exhibition at the Brummer Gallery, he was inspired to focus entirely on his art, and in doing so, achieved the Guggenheim Fellowship allowing him to work as an assistant to Brancusi, at his Paris studio.

“Great good fortune such as this has something of the divine and inevitable,” said Noguchi, of this opportunity, the pair forming a constructive and reciprocal relationship, with Noguchi, much like Brancusi, going on to work across a range of disciplines, using a multitude of materials, exploring the pureness of their texture and form.

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During his career he became increasingly interested in making a socially relevant and accessible form of sculpture, which he detailed in his 1936 essay What’s the matter with Sculpture for Art Form. The essay appealed to artists to create sculpture that dealt with current problems, “drawing on science, industry and contemporary life in order to engage with the viewers everyday lives”

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He applied this both to his public works of art, and to his functional designs, a number of which were mass-produced, including the Bakelite intercom for the Zenith Radio Corporation in 1937, and the Herman Miller produced glass-topped table, ten years later.

However, his most iconic mass-produced design, and his best example of integrating art into daily life, is undoubtedly the Akari lantern. It’s invention occurred during a 1951 visit to a post-war and economically struggling Japan, where Noguchi was asked by the major of Gifu (a small city with a long history of traditional lantern manufacturing), to help revitalize the industry by designing a lamp for export, made using the traditional combination of bamboo and handmade washi paper (made from the bark of the mulberry tree).

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Inspired by the traditional lanterns used to illuminate night fishing on the Nagari river; Noguchi collaborated with local design firm Ozeki & Co, to create a contemporary electrified take on these, in a range of shapes and sizes.

A perfect consolidation both of form and function, and of traditional craft, with modern technology, Noguchi felt the ‘magic of the paper’ filtered the harsh electric light, so it appeared warmer; more like natural sunlight.

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He went on to create over 200 different versions of the Akari, a number of which are on display at the exhibition, including the largest, the 200D, built for the American Pavilion at the 1986 Venice Biennale. In addition, there are a range of installations aimed at displaying both the functional and aesthetic qualities of the Akari, illustrating Noguchi’s concept of light as both place and object.

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The accompanying exhibition, Akari Unfolded: A Collection by YMER & MALTA, presents a selection of the 26 lamps, designed by five contemporary designers, and created using new materials and processes by the leading French design studio.

Exhibition curator Dakin Hart, (Senior Curator at the Museum), explains,

“It is with the affordable, lightweight, collapsible, and now ubiquitous, Akari—which solve virtually all of the problems associated with sculpture—that Noguchi achieved his high ambition to positively alter the built environment. Sculpture by Other Means aims to show Akari as Noguchi intended it: as a flexible, open-ended, modular ecosystem of light sculptures, rather than a fixed product line, and to demonstrate some of the unusual ways in which they shape, transform, and create space.

The new lamps presented in Akari Unfolded: a collection by YMER&MALTA, parallel the development of Akari by synthesizing various craft traditions with new technology, pushing the basic alchemy of Noguchi’s light sculptures into the future. We are grateful to Valérie Maltaverne and YMER&MALTA for demonstrating the ongoing power of Akari to inspire.”

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Akari Sculpture by Other Means, and Akari Unfolded: a collection by YMER&MALTA, are on view at the Noguchi Museum in New York until January 27 2019. For more information visit their website.

Photography by Nicholas Knight, courtesy of the Noguchi Museum. 

ōtimo – June Playlist

Our first ever playlist features two hours of eclectic music from across the globe, including contemporary London jazz from Sons of Kemet, Zambian rock from Amanaz, and  funk-tinged Turkish folk from Esin Afşar.

Listen below.

 

AMOMENTO 18 Summer Resort Collection

Seoul label and boutique, amomento, have been garnering  the attention of discerning womenswear enthusiasts recently, both with their contemporary and understated silhouettes, and their carefully curated selection of international brands.

Their latest collection features essential summer items in nature inspired tonal cotton and linen, whilst the rugged backdrop accentuates the elegant simplicity that has become their trademark.

Visit their website for more information and to purchase items from this collection.

 

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All photos courtesy of amomento.