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MATTEmatters: Let’s talk about you and me

By Marcela Filomena

art – You know when you’re floating through Tumblr  or ffffound or Stumbleupon, and you keep finding images that feel like they must relate to each other but nobody tagged the artist?  Well, that had been happening to me with the work of Ren Hang. The Beijing-based photographer is consistently producing some of the most thought-provoking and bizarre photos I’ve seen.  His work is deliberately explicit, madly provocative and surreal, and sometimes shockingly intimate.  So what’s the fuss all about?  His photos use mainly nude men and women (friends, mostly) in funny, beautiful compositions that simultaneously fetichize and de-sexualize the human body with unembarrassed candorPlayfully turning conventional Chinese ideas about sexuality and nudity on their head, Ren Hang is denounced as a pornographer in his home country, despite international acclaim and excellent sales of his self-published books (produced secretly and after-hours at a press willing to risk being shut down).  Whatever the case, he is most definitely an artist to watch, especially since he’s only 27.

design -  Rad Hourani was the first-ever designer to be invited by La Chambre Syndicale de La Haute Couture in Paris in 2013  to show a unisex couture collection.  Amazing that it took them so long, but I guess nobody had come around who could actually fulfill couture’s promise of fantasy in a gender-agnostic format.  His designs are symmetrical and graphic, geometric in their simplicity and so exquisitely tailored it’s disgusting.  The pieces are non-referential, in his own words costumes that exist for physical comfort more than for aesthetic pleasure.  Yet the sensibility behind the clothing is quite clearly thought-out, sensitive and clever; rich in layering and attitude.  They are equally well suited to the curves of a woman’s body and the angularity of a male’s. 

filmI LOVE PETER GREENAWAY.  If you’ve never seen any of his extraordinary films, you’re in for such a treat I’m slightly envious of you, Greenaway virgin.  Originally a painter, his aesthetic is renowned for the influence of Renaissance and Baroque painting.   Greenaway’s films are the stuff of dreams: lush, vibrant stories that escape from the confines of traditional narrative structure and wander off into some sort of fantastical world all their own.  The first one I ever had the pleasure of experiencing (and that choice of verb is utterly deliberate and justified) was game-changing.  The Pillow Book is an intricate ellipsis, ostensibly chronicling the life of Nagiko and her relationship with the written word: from her calligrapher father writing a poem on her face each birthday to her own poetry to her involvement in a love triangle with her lover and his unscrupulous publisher.  It’s also an homage to the historical Pillow Book, a love journal written in 995 BCE by famous Heian era noblewoman Sei Shonagon.  The film is the sapiosexual’s extraordinary erotic fantasy, mixing the vernacular of television with visual poetry, blurring the lines between page and body, turning flesh into word.  There are liminal colonial references relating to skin color, questions regarding the notion of text, criticism of the linearity of language.  Just go- find it, watch it, think on it, make yourself tingle.

music – Don't say it.  Don't even think it.  Yes, my relationship to Bowie is tenuous at best, but when he comes out with an awesome video, even I can put my hesitations aside and say hats off, Mr. Stardust.  So, he premiered the remix by James Murphy (RIP LCD Soundsystem) on Vice, Barnaby Roper directs, and what can I say? Handclaps, squiggles & vectors mesh into what turns out to be not one, but two human bodies furiously making out onscreen, and finally collapsing again into pixelated nothings.  The track is classic Bowie, albeit through Murphy's clickey-dancey filter.