The Painted Elephants of Jaipur

The Elephant Festival in Jaipur, India, is a beloved yearly tradition. High-ranking pachyderms are primped and treated to a full make-over by caretakers known as Mahouts, who decorate them in jeweled head-plates, drape with brocade jhools, or saddle cloths, and adorn the tusks with gold and silver bracelets.

Not only are the elephants decked out in their finest festival attire, they're also encouraged to play polo, dance, and join a human tug-of-war. French photographer Charles Fréger was on hand to capture the more festooned of the gentle giants...

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Aug 28, 2015 20:13:00
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

A Trans-Pioneer Isn't Completely Cool with Caitlyn Jenner

A growing chorus of those uncomfortable with Caitlyn Jenner as an untouchable transgender icon (John Waters recently proclaimed "Caitlyn's a Republican, she’s on a reality show, and she’s a Kardashian. We can’t make fun of him or her?") now includes Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. The English singer-songwriter — who fronted the industrial band Throbbing Gristle in the 1970s and the experimental band Psychic TV throughout the 80s and 90s — transitioned in 1993, along with his late wife Lady Jaye, to a non-gender-specific state, or pandrogyny, and ultimately one with each other.

In a fascinating one-hour interview for The Talkhouse, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge — who generally avoids using singular pronouns, preferring "we" and "our" — expounds on this unique and radical perspective, the belief that humankind will eventually "evolve into a unified being, not male or female, but both. The human body is not the person...The mind is the person.” If you've heard the expression “Transsexuals are the stormtroopers of the future,” know that Genesis Breyer P-Orridge coined it.

Inevitably, the topic of Caitlyn Jenner came up, about whom Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is mostly supportive, but with one very important caveat, basically: Don't speak for the trans community...

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Aug 27, 2015 21:41:00

John Waters Is Spreading His Filth

The British Film Institute in London toasts 50 years of cinematic filth with a retrospective dedicated to the one-and-only John Waters, he who even found time to tarnish the oh-so-sterling reputation of the fashion world as host of the CFDA Awards. All of his films — from gross-out early filth to slightly more sophisticated later filth — will be screened. Because Divine's racier scenes in Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974) really have to be seen in full-size at some point in a person's life, not to mention still-adorable Johnny Depp hamming it up in Cry Baby (1990) or Kathleen Turner indulging in a campy murder spree in Serial Mom (1994). Even Waters' earliest projects, his short films from the 60s, will hit the big screen.

The Pope of Trash himself will introduce a number of these screenings, plus take to the BFI stage on September 18 for what promises to be a lively discussion of his repertoire. He's also hand-selected a number of indie British films to be shown in a side series, Teabaggin’ in the Kitchen Sink, including Boom! (Joseph Losey, 1968) and Blue (Derek Jarman, 1993).

“This tribute is like receiving a plenary indulgence from the movie gods above," Waters said, "and for once I can be showbiz thrilled without the slightest drop of irony in my thanks. Yikes, respectability…the final outrage.”

John Waters Retrospective, September 1 – October 6, 2015, British Film Institute Southbank, London

Watch the original 1972 trailer for Pink Flamingos...

Aug 27, 2015 17:28:00
Gay Semiotics, by hal Fischer

A Gay Cult Classic Returns

Before mainstream assimilation, gay men had a secret language all their own — the hanky code. Now a seminal relic in the annals of gay history, the code was used in the 70s and 80s to decipher the meaning behind various fashion choices made by those out for a bit of cruising.

This was the illicit atmosphere in which photographer and art reviewer Hal Fischer arrived in San Francisco from Illinois in 1975. He soon set about creating the not-quite-book Gay Semiotics — more of a text-image hybrid project about the hanky code, as observed among gay men on the prowl in the Castro district — that's now being reprinted by Cherry and Martin gallery. These images depicted, for instance, the careful placement of handkerchiefs in the back pockets of jeans, alongside text that read: "A blue handkerchief placed in the right hip pocket serves notice that the wearer desires to play the passive role during sexual intercourse.” Hence hanky code, although keychains, earrings, and scarves were also part of the uniform and they, too, received similarly cheeky anthropological scrutiny.

Fischer also photographed a series of gay archetypes. The so-called Street Fashion Jock dashed about in satin gym shorts and Adidas sneakers, the Street Fashion Leather Gay strapped on chaps and leather boots, while the Street Fashion Basic Gay kept it simple in a flannel shirt and Levis.

The small art publication, which Fischer described as a "lexicon of attraction," became a significant contribution to the canon of art theory and an important document of gay life in 1970s San Francisco — in spite of, or perhaps because of, it's droll nature. The new edition recreates the look and feel of the original volume, reproducing in bound format those 24 iconic images from the gay cult classic.

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Aug 17, 2015 17:48:00

Art History in Today's Kiev

In a mesmerizing transcendence of time and place, Ukrainian artist Alexey Kondakov photoshops characters from mythology and antiquity into ordinary scenes of modern Kiev. Incongruous though they are, clearly, there's something rather apropos about Bouguereau's Virgin Mary and child riding a bleak subway or Caravaggio's depiction of David and Goliath played out in a shadowy alley. This is art without borders, pastiche in the digital age.

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Aug 14, 2015 14:19:00
Brigitte Bardot

When Famous People Jumped

Born in Latvia, photographer Philippe Halsman began his long career in Paris. But like so many artists forced to flee Europe during WWII, Halsman arrived in the United States in 1940. He established himself as a portraitist, working for nearly every major magazine and shooting a record 101 covers of LIFE. And Halsman liked to end his portrait sessions by asking his subjects to do one last thing — jump!

In all, over 200 good sports, from Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot to Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau, took the leap of faith — now compiled in a reprint of the seminal 1959 book of the same name, Jump (Damiani). "Life has taught us to control and disguise our facial expressions, but it has not taught us to control our jumps," he said. "I wanted to see famous people reveal in a jump their ambition, or their lack of it, their self-importance or their insecurity, and many other traits."

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Aug 10, 2015 17:07:00
Marc Jacobs

Cultural Icons as Kokeshi Dolls

Refashioning fashion designers and artists as adorable little dolls continues. The Japanese craft of kokeshi — limbless, emotionless, wood-carved figurines — is the latest tradition be revived, although here practiced by the English artist Becky Kemp, aka Sketch. She's applied the tadpole-like treatment to the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Andy Warhol, and Frida Kahlo, who've never looked more kawaii.

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Aug 07, 2015 18:29:00
Björk at the Governor's Ball, NYC

Meet Björk's Mask-Maker

Like all in Björk's creative coterie, mask-maker James Merry (what a name!) works with the hand of a craftsman and the soul of an artist. For the British native — who splits his time between bustling New York and a remote cabin in Iceland, surrounded only by mossy outcroppings and fields of lavender — it's all about quiet contemplation and profound transformation.

The latest fruit of their six-year collaboration, which began in the early stages of Björk's Biophilia album, is among the most memorable: a hand-embroidered headpiece — in which she performed at the Governor's Ball in New York — that covered large swaths of her face and head with splotchy lace and meandering Miró-like lines. Worn with an enormous winged dress by the Danish designer Nikoline Liv Andersen, green and black with flashes of yellow, she resembled an exotic butterfly, the kind that flits about her barren island paradise. And therein lies the common ground between the two: a respect for one's roots and a passion for personal expression. 

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Aug 04, 2015 15:32:00
Raf Simons at 032C, photo Boris Kralj

Raf Simons as Lensed by Willy Vanderperre

A small Raf Simons retrospective is on view at magazine 032C's gallery space in Berlin. Curated by longtime collaborator and photographer Willy Vanderperre, the exhibit charts the designer's 20-year oeuvre — pre-Dior — in a school-locker setting, linking with notions of male adolescence that have always figured prominently in Simons' work.

Naturally, Vanderperre’s own images of Simons' work take center stage, an extension of those published in the winter 2014 issue of the magazine. Set to differing music on each end of the central vitrine, the installation further emphasizes the symmetry and longevity of their creative partnership.

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Aug 01, 2015 12:45:00

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