Posts Tagged “art”

Soulivity LIVE! Special Guest: Jade Tailor, December 14, 2017

Find out more about Jade Tailor and her advocacy here: JADE TAILOR
Learn about and watch the trailer for Season Three of Syfy Channel’s The Magicians!

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The Magazine That Inspired Rolling Stone


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‘When you look back on it, where else would those articles appear? The Saturday Evening Post?’
Nick Lehr/The Conversation via flickr, CC BY-SA

Author(s): Peter Richardson, San Francisco State University

The 50th anniversary of Rolling Stone magazine has arrived, and not without fanfare. Joe Hagan’s biography of co-founder Jann Wenner appeared in October to stellar reviews, and earlier this month, HBO aired Alex Gibney’s documentary film about the magazine’s history. Wenner’s announcement that he was planning to sell his company’s stake in Rolling Stone also prompted a flurry of retrospective tributes.

Conceived during the Summer of Love in 1967, Rolling Stone was always a creature of the San Francisco counterculture. From the outset, the magazine touted Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and other San Francisco bands. Well before that, co-founder Ralph J. Gleason was featuring the Haight-Ashbury’s vibrant music scene in his San Francisco Chronicle column.

But Rolling Stone’s identity can also be traced to two other sources: Berkeley’s culture of dissent and Ramparts magazine, the legendary San Francisco muckraker.

The Berkeley influence was strong and direct. The magazine’s early staff writers were steeped in Berkeley’s ardent campus activism, and their views on politics, drugs and music informed the magazine’s coverage. Wenner wrote a music column for the student newspaper and covered the free speech movement for a local radio station. Even more significant for Wenner, perhaps, was the example of Gleason, who combined an impressive body of music criticism with public support for student activists. Wenner spent hours at Gleason’s Berkeley home, soaking up his insights on music and journalism.

Rolling Stone’s Berkeley roots were important, but the Ramparts influence ran even deeper. Ramparts was by no means a hippie magazine, but its rebellious spirit, flair for publicity and professional design would all leave their mark on Wenner and Gleason’s fledgling magazine.

A bomb in every issue

Founded in 1962 as a Catholic literary quarterly, Ramparts initially ran articles by Thomas Merton, John Howard Griffin and other Catholic intellectuals. But when a young Warren Hinckle became editor in 1964, he converted Ramparts into a monthly, shifted its focus to politics and hired Dugald Stermer as art director.

Hinckle also recruited Robert Scheer, a former graduate student at UC Berkeley’s Center for Chinese Studies, to write about the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Scheer and his colleagues challenged U.S. government pronouncements about the war and routinely lampooned the mainstream media’s Vietnam coverage.

Once Hinckle, Stermer and Scheer joined forces, Ramparts achieved liftoff. It adopted a cutting-edge design, forged links to the Black Panther Party, exposed CIA activities and published the diaries of Che Guevara and staff writer Eldridge Cleaver.

A Ramparts photo-essay, “The Children of Vietnam,” persuaded Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak out against the war, and the title of a Time magazine article about Ramparts, “A Bomb in Every Issue,” described the muckraker’s explosive impact. In 1966, Ramparts earned the George Polk Award for excellence in magazine journalism, and its circulation climbed to almost 250,000.

From left to right: Ramparts magazine editor Warren Hinckle, assistant managing editor Sol Stern and writer Robert Scheer.
AP Photo

Ramparts also became a seedbed for Rolling Stone. Gleason, who was a contributing editor at Ramparts, secured a job for Wenner at the magazine’s spinoff newspaper, the Sunday Ramparts. While there, Wenner picked up layout ideas from Stermer and encountered the work of Hunter S. Thompson, whose bestselling book about the Hells Angels appeared in 1967. Wenner also learned the value of showmanship from the free-spending Hinckle, who frequently echoed playwright George M. Cohan’s motto “Whatever you do, kid, always serve it with a little dressing.”

Ironically, Hinckle played an indirect role in the creation of Rolling Stone. Gleason had planned to write about the Summer of Love at Ramparts, but Hinckle ran his own cover article, “A Social History of the Hippies,” in the March 1967 issue without informing him. A furious Gleason resigned from the magazine, and Wenner lost his job when Hinckle shut down the Sunday Ramparts. That summer, the two men began working on their own publication. By alienating Gleason, laying off Wenner and demonstrating that a “radical slick” had broad appeal, Hinckle cleared the way for Rolling Stone.

Despite reaching a broad audience, Ramparts never stabilized its finances. After running through two private fortunes, it filed for bankruptcy in 1969. Hinckle left to start Scanlan’s Monthly, where he paired Thompson with illustrator Ralph Steadman to cover the Kentucky Derby; that article is now considered the first example of gonzo journalism.

The voice of its generation

Rolling Stone’s first issue appeared in November 1967, but the magazine didn’t come into its own until 1969.

In December of that year, the notorious Altamont free concert devolved into lethal chaos. Several Rolling Stone staff writers witnessed the mayhem, much of which was attributed to Hells Angels, but other media outlets missed the story. Gleason insisted that the magazine cover Altamont as if it were World War II, and its “Let It Bleed” issue landed Rolling Stone a National Magazine Award for Specialized Journalism.

Rolling Stone writer Hunter S. Thompson takes notes while listening to testimony at a trial in West Palm Beach, Flaorida in 1982.
Ray Fairall/AP Photo

Having established itself as “the voice of its generation,” Rolling Stone continued its ascent. After Scanlan’s tanked in 1971, Wenner recruited Thompson and Steadman, published their most notable work, and turned Thompson into a cultural celebrity. Wenner also hired Annie Liebovitz as the magazine’s chief photographer in 1973.

Gleason died of a heart attack in 1975, the same year Ramparts closed its doors for good. Two years later, Rolling Stone decamped for New York City. Although Rolling Stone’s reputation waxed and waned for decades, it retained its ability to break big stories. In 2008, staff writer Matt Taibbi’s political commentary earned Rolling Stone a National Magazine Award, and his 2010 takedown of Goldman Sachs rattled Wall Street. Since then, the magazine has collected two Polk Awards for stories on the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.

Rolling Stone’s overall record is decidedly mixed. (Consider, for example, its misbegotten account of rape culture at the University of Virginia, which appeared in 2014.) But as one Ramparts staff writer observed after that magazine perished, “When you look back on it, where else would those articles appear? The Saturday Evening Post?”

The ConversationSo it is with Rolling Stone: No other rock magazine could have matched its coverage of the Manson family or the Patty Hearst saga. For all its flaws, Rolling Stone accomplished a rare feat. Like Ramparts, it created a distinctive niche in the national media ecology; unlike its precursor, it maintained that niche for five decades.

Peter Richardson, Coordinator, American Studies, San Francisco State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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How Subversive Artists Made Thrift Shopping Cool

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Customers shop during at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Out of the Closet thrift store in Columbus, Ohio.
Jay LaPrete/AP

Author: Jennifer Le Zotte, University of North Carolina Wilmington

National Thrift Shop Day (August 17) exists alongside other quirky holidays like Play Your Ukulele Day (February 2) and Rice Crispy Treat Day (September 18). Though intended as a lighthearted celebration of an acceptable commercial habit, the process of making thrift stores hip involved unusual advocates.

As I describe in my recent book “From Goodwill to Grunge,” thrift stores emerged in the late 19th century when Christian-run organizations adopted new models of philanthropy (and helped rehab the image of secondhand stores by dubbing their junk shops “thrift stores”).

Today, there are more than 25,000 resale stores in America. Celebrities often boast of their secondhand scores, while musicians have praised used goods in songs like Fanny Brice’s 1923 hit “Second-Hand Rose” and Macklemore and Ryan’s 2013 chart-topper “Thrift Shop.

Yet over the past 100 years, visual artists probably deserve the most credit for thrift shopping’s place in the cultural milieu.

From sculptor Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 ready-made urinal to “pope of trash” film director John Waters‘ popularization of a trash aesthetic, visual artists have long sought out secondhand goods for creative inspiration, while also using them to critique capitalist ideas.

Glory in the discarded

During World War I, avant-garde artists started using discarded objects – stolen or gleaned, or purchased at flea markets and thrift stores – to push back against the growing commercialization of art. André Breton, Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst were among the first to transform cast-aside objects directly into works of art know as “readymades” or “found objects,” or to channel inspiration from such goods into their paintings and writings.

Coinciding with (and emerging from) the anti-art art movement Dada, which fiercely rejected the logic and aestheticism of capitalism, the movement surrounding that elevation of pre-owned items would soon have a name: Surrealism.

In his 1928 semi-autobiographical work “Nadja,” Breton, the “father of Surrealism,” describes secondhand shopping as a transcendent experience. Discarded objects, he wrote, were capable of revealing “flashes of light that would make you see, really see.” Exiled by the France’s Vichy government in the 1940s, Breton settled in New York City, where he sought to inspire other artists and writers by taking them to Lower Manhattan thrift stores and flea markets.

While Duchamp’s “Fountain” is perhaps the most well-known piece of sculptural art derived from a found object, his ready-made “Bicycle Wheel” (1913) appears even earlier. Man Ray’s “Gift” (1921) featured an everyday flatiron with a row of brass tacks secured to its surface. While men did seem to dominate Surrealism, recent sources highlight the importance of the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, whom scholars suggest may have gifted Duchamp his famed urinal, making the “Fountain” collaboration. The eccentric and talented baroness created “God” (1917), a cast-iron metal plumbing trap turned upside down, the same year Duchamp displayed “Fountain.”

Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 work ‘Fountain.’
James Broad, CC BY-NC

An aesthetic of imperfection

Surrealism enjoyed its greatest renown throughout the 1920s and 1930s, with its precepts covering everything from poetry to fashion.
Then, in the 1950s and 1960s, New York City witnessed the rise of an avant-garde trash aesthetic, which included discarded goods and the resurrection of bygone themes and characters from from the “golden age” of Hollywood film. The style became known as “camp.”

In the early 1960s, the Theatre of the Ridiculous, an underground, avant-garde genre of theater production, flourished in New York. Largely inspired by Surrealism, Ridiculous broke with dominant trends of naturalistic acting and realistic settings. Prominent elements included gender-bending parodies of classic themes and proudly gaudy stylization.

The genre notably relied on secondhand materials for costumes and sets. Actor, artist, photographer and underground filmmaker Jack Smith is seen as the “father of the style.” His work created and typified the Ridiculous sensibility, and he had a near-obsessive reliance on secondhand materials. As Smith once said, “Art is one big thrift shop.”

He’s probably best known for his sexually graphic 1963 film “Flaming Creatures.” Shocking censors with close-ups of flaccid penises and jiggling breasts, the film became ground zero in the anti-porn battles. Its surrealist displays of odd sexual interactions between men, women, transvestites and a hermaphrodite culminated in a drug-fueled orgy.

A scene from ‘Flaming Creatures.’

According to Smith, “Flaming Creatures” was met with disapproval not because of its sex acts, but because of its aesthetic of imperfection, including the use of old clothes. To Smith, the choice of torn, outdated clothing was a greater form of subversion than the absence of clothing.

As Susan Sontag points out in her famous assessment of camp, the genre isn’t merely a light, mocking sensibility. Rather, it’s a critique of what’s accepted and what isn’t. Smith’s work rebutted the reflexive habit of artists to strive for newness and novelty, and helped popularize a queer aesthetic that continued in bands like The New York Dolls and Nirvana. A long list of artists cite Smith as an inspiration, from Andy Warhol and Patti Smith to Lou Reed and David Lynch.

Beglittered and begowned

In 1969, items from Smith’s enormous cache of secondhand items, including gowns from the 1920s and piles of boas, found their ways into the wardrobes of a San Francisco psychedelic drag troupe, the Cockettes. The group enjoyed a year of wild popularity – even scoring a much-anticipated New York City showing – as much for their thrifted costuming as for their quirky satirical productions. The term “genderfuck” came to signify the group’s aesthetic of bearded men, beglittered and begowned, a style encapsulated by the Cockettes’ storied leader, Hibiscus.

The Cockettes split the next year over a dispute about charging admission, but members continued to influence American culture and style. Former Cockettes member Sylvester would become a disco star, and one of the first openly gay top-billing musicians. A later Cockettes member, Divine, became John Waters’ acclaimed muse, starring in a string of “trash films” – including “Hairspray,” which grossed US$8 million domestically – that very nearly took Ridiculous theater mainstream. By then, a queer, trash aesthetic that relied on secondhand goods became a symbol of rebellion and an expression of creativity for countless middle-class kids.

For many today, thrift shopping is a hobby. For some, it’s a vehicle to disrupt oppressive ideas about gender and sexuality. And for others, thrifting is a way to reuse and recycle, a way to subtly subvert mainstream capitalism (though some mammoth thrift chains with controversial labor practices tend to reap the greatest monetary benefits).

The ConversationLeading the charge, artists have connected secondhand wares with individual creativity and commercial disdain. What started with the surrealists continues today with the hipsters, vintage lovers and grad students who celebrate the outré options and cost-saving potential of discarded goods.

Jennifer Le Zotte, Assistant Professor of Material Culture and History, University of North Carolina Wilmington

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Soulivity Featured Artist: Yuliya Zelinskaya

This week, Soulivity Magazine is pleased to feature artist Yuliya Zelinskaya!

When you look at Yuliya’s paintings, there is no doubt of her deep connection to the world.  Her thoughts and feelings flow through the colors and textures of each piece, invoking emotions within the soul.  Narratives are included to support the understanding of the work. These experiences are a welcome treat for the soul.  Enjoy!

“Since my childhood, I have exhibited a deep interest in art, especially after my first colors merged and became a rainbow for me.”

Stand Off

Alpha… the first letter of the Greek Alphabet, which also means “the beginning,” provides the basis for the thoughts used for this piece: Which entity has the most power in a group, animals or people? This is what I identify in this work, the concept of strength in leadership. Who is showing the greater leadership? Confidence? Which is successful, in all that they do, both in business and personal life? Do they have that power and the natural qualities to retain credibility and maintain good character? Are they one who will triumph in life just by being dedicated to a task? Leaders are generous, fearless, bold, and ready to go to the end fighting. They are able to find unexpected solutions in desperate situations. Additionally, the sky symbolizes Justice and Eternity. This painting represents the power that has been here from since the beginning of Civilization, rules the world, and will continue to rule the world to come.


This colorful canvas depicts the essence and the soul of Malta. It takes the imagination to a place of solitude in the midst of the Mediterranean Seas. As she is surrounded by beautiful aqua waters, the romantic life within her harbor is brought alive, with every boat calmly rocking to the rhythm of the sea. And if one looks, every reflection on her waters is a mirror image of what is truly in Malta. It is her heart and soul, as intrinsic colors, which takes you to a place of happiness, joy, love, and peace!

The Dance of Scents 

(Dedicated to THE ONE from Dolce and Gabbana)

This painting shows the delicate dance of the scents during the creation of this fragrance. The main characters are the masculine scent of tobacco and cardamom, as they coalesce with the fresh feminine scents of oranges and blossom. The dance develops with intensity and great sensuality.


Russian painter, Yuliya Zelinskaya, is based and lives in Moscow, Russia.  She says, “The main theme of “My art” is taken from the concept that I found in theatrical productions: Theater this is the place between Fantasy and Reality. I would really like to convey the same emotions, strengthen and impressions through my art, for many viewers of my paintings.”

Make sure to follow her on Social Media:

Facebook: Zelinskaya.Yliya   Instagram: Zelinskaya_Yliya   Twitter: Zelinskaya_ART


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How ‘Game of Thrones’ Became TV’s First Global Blockbuster

The amazing journey of a well-done cable series to an internationally known hit series.

Author: Amanda Lotz, University of Michigan

Photo Courtesy of

On July 16, viewers around the world will eagerly tune into the premiere of the seventh season of “Game of Thrones.”

That phrase – “viewers around the world” – hasn’t applied to television premieres before. For most of its history, television has been a profoundly national medium. While shows like “Dallas,” “Baywatch” and “The Simpsons” all drew large global audiences, international television trade required delays: A television series could air in different countries, but it often happened months – even years – after it would air in its country of origin.

As I explore in my book “We Now Disrupt This Broadcast: How Cable Transformed Television and the Internet Revolutionized It All,” many of those practices have changed in recent years. It’s now possible for a series to release new episodes for viewers around the world, and the result is a global watercooler – a shared media culture that transcends national boundaries.

While you might think that Netflix or Amazon Video would have an advantage, it’s an HBO show – “Game of Thrones” – that’s at the forefront of this phenomenon.

Building a global fan base

Even in a golden era of television production, “Game of Thrones” stands out. HBO spends lavishly on the series – beyond what most other networks can afford – and the result is a visually breathtaking product.

Its fantasy setting takes place in a world that isn’t geographically or culturally distinctive to the U.S., which also broadens audience appeal. Television shows that aren’t country-specific – miniseries such as “The Odyssey” and “Gulliver’s Travels” – tend to be among the most successful in international trade. There was also a built-in global fan base from the popular series of novels that inspired the show.

“Game of Thrones,” however, didn’t start out as a global blockbuster.

HBO debuted the show in 2011 for its U.S. cable channel. Following standard practice, the network sold the series to channels around the world that would air the series with the typical delay. For example, Canal+ airs it in France, Sky Atlantic airs it in Italy and Foxtel airs it in Australia. There are also several HBO branded channels around the globe such as HBO Canada, HBO Central Europe, and HBO Asia. Some are owned fully or in part by HBO’s parent company; others just license the name.

By 2014 “Game of Thrones” had become the network’s biggest hit. But as the show’s popularity grew, so did its rates of piracy. While unauthorized access of video is difficult to measure with certainty, many called the series the most pirated show in the world.

How HBO pulled it off

We’d expect changes wrought by the internet to have played a key role. They did, but not in the way you’d expect. HBO didn’t use the internet to distribute “Game of Thrones” to subscribers around the world like Netflix and Amazon Video have done with their series. Instead, the internet was important to the series’ global growth because of the opportunities it gave fans to interact with one another.

The intricate, surprising storylines on “Game of Thrones” inspired instant dissection and analysis on social media feeds. This encouraged fans in TV markets outside of the U.S. to seek out unauthorized video sources: It was the only way they could avoid spoilers. While news stories about the high rates of piracy highlighted the popularity of the series – a form of free promotion – HBO certainly would prefer viewers to watch through authorized channels. Eliminating the delay in access was one solution.

In 2015, just before the start of its fifth season, HBO announced that it had deals in 170 markets around the world to air new episodes simultaneously with its U.S. broadcast. This was not unprecedented. “Dr. Who” did the same in 2013 with a 94-country simulcast in honor of its 50th anniversary – a one-time event.

Arguably no network other than HBO could have pulled it off.

Because HBO is both the producer and distributor of the series, it can adjust the timing of its international availability. Making shows (the job of studios) and presenting them to audiences (the job of channels) are two different businesses, and their interests don’t perfectly align. If a different studio produced “Game of Thrones” for HBO, the studio might be too concerned that the simulcast would diminish its ability to sell the series to other distributors. Moreover, HBO had significant international reach and relationships that provided it with a direct pipeline to viewers outside the U.S.

Not the new normal – for now

While HBO has shown that global TV blockbusters are now possible, they aren’t likely to become common practice. Internet-distributed services that are building a global subscriber base – such as Netflix and Amazon Video – have a clear advantage in this regard. They have customers around the world and can act as the producer and distributor of their series or negotiate for worldwide rights. It’s notable, however, that neither has succeeded in creating a true blockbuster hit. For example, Netflix’s “Marco Polo” had a huge budget and a premise that appealed to audiences around the world. But it never caught on.

While blockbusters can be incredibly lucrative, there’s no magic formula for making one. The odds of success are far greater when making series that speak specifically to the cultural experiences of people in individual countries or with particular tastes.

The ConversationOnce Netflix and Amazon Video have firmed up a strong subscriber base outside of the U.S. with local programming, look for them to also wade into the risky – but rewarding – business of global blockbusters.

The trailer for Season 7 of ‘Game of Thrones.’

Amanda Lotz, Fellow at the Peabody Media Center and Professor of Media Studies, University of Michigan

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Creative Country: 98% of Australians Engage with the Arts

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Nearly three-quarters of Australians go to live art events, such as Dark Mofo in Hobart.
Stefan Karpiniec/Flickr, CC BY

Author: Jo Caust, University of Melbourne

The arts play a role in the lives of 98% of the Australian population, according to a new survey, Connecting Australians, released by the Australia Council today. That is, the majority of Australians from all walks of life – different ages, genders, cultures and backgrounds – participate and engage with the arts on some level.

While this figure is consistent with previous surveys, one major change is the national impact of new technologies on the experiencing and making of arts practice. For example, the survey found that 97% of all Australians aged between 15 and 24 engage with the arts online and 81% of Australians overall, up from 49% in 2009 and 73% in 2013. The major areas of engagement are listening to music (97%), reading books (79%) and going to live events (72%).

Australia’s arts engagement 2016.
Australia Council

The latest report is a follow-up to surveys in 2009 and 2013 that tracked the way Australians engage with the arts. The data are derived from a nationally representative sample of 7,537 Australians aged 15 years and over. The researchers also did studies with several focus groups within particular demographics to develop a deeper understanding of community attitudes and values.

Young engaging with the arts

Another important discovery in the survey is that both First Nations people and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are more likely to engage with the arts online (at 90%) relative to the general population (just over 80%).

This online participation compares with 72% of people attending arts events in person. While this might be a problem if fewer people were attending arts events, it appears that many of those experiencing the arts online are in fact new audiences – no doubt the 15-24 age group as noted above. Thus there may not be a reduction in attendance; rather, we are seeing an increase in other forms of participation.

An important change is the recognition by an increased number of people that the arts have a positive impact on their lives. Young people, again, are the group that recognises this most. This effect appears to decrease with age, as do most kinds of arts engagement.

Both aspects of this finding are surprising given that the audience age at particular forms of arts practice such as classical music or opera is older. It would seem from this data that as the population ages, there is less engagement with the arts and those engaging feel less of a positive benefit.

Signs of discontent?

There are some other areas of concern too that seem to reflect broader social disengagement patterns in the Australian population and culture. For example, there is an increased ambivalence towards public funding of the arts from around 13% of the population in 2013 to 25% in 2016 (they answered “neither agree nor disagree” to the statement that the arts should receive public funding).

Some 76% of Australians listened to recorded music online.

The percentage of those who think the arts are too expensive has also increased (from 36% to 43%). Likewise, more people think the arts attract people who are somewhat elitist, and more people think the arts aren’t for people “like them”.

The report authors see this changing perception as possibly reflecting a particular framing of the “arts” – that is, the arts are interpreted only as the “high” arts. If this is the case, there is a need for further work around how the arts are defined, as well as more consideration of skewed funding patterns versus broader cultural preferences. The survey shows that this elitist framing is generally age-defined, with younger people seeing the arts from a broader perspective.

More people see the arts as a way of improving cultural understanding and tolerance, with an increase from 36% of the population in 2013 to 64% in 2016. There is also an increase in those who believe the arts are more truly reflective of Australia’s cultural diversity – from 64% in 2013 to 75% in 2016.

The survey demonstrates the changing way that people now engage and participate in the arts. Researcher John Holden has talked at length about this with his framing of three forms of culture – publicly funded, homemade and commercial.

One of the survey researchers notes that the boundaries between art appreciation and art making are increasingly blurred. This is evidence of greater engagement in art making, especially by young people, using platforms such as Youtube, Instagram and Spotify.

The ConversationTechnology has been a democratising force in encouraging and enabling more people to both appreciate and participate in all forms of arts practice. It is likely this will continue and that is good for both arts engagement and how we value arts practices.

Jo Caust, Associate Professor and Principal Fellow (Hon), University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Soulivity Featured Artist: Sabrina Eleb

This week, Soulivity Magazine is pleased to feature photographer Sabrina Eleb!


When you look at Sabrina’s photography, you are immediately transported to the time, space, and location of each photo.  Her passion captures the vivid colors and feelings of the moment.  Her work is simply amazing.  Enjoy!

(For full-size photos, please click on image to enable the lightbox)


French photographer, Sabrina Eleb, is based and lives in Paris, France; but, she also loves to travel. She says, “I let my curiosity guide me through new territories and experiences. Photography is my way of keeping track of all my discoveries.”

Make sure to follow her on Instagram: itsabrina


Profile Photo by Camille Betinyani

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For the Record: the Vinyl Revival and a Plug-in Too Far



Vinyl is back, or so it might seem. For better or worse? I’m not so sure myself.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/NataliaDeriabina

Author: Jamie Birkett, University of Salford

Like a lot of vinyl enthusiasts, I too enjoy the ritual, the feel, the physicality of a real product in my hands. But as soon as I get to the listening part, the sound engineer in me can’t help but feel it’s all a bit of snake oil.

Following yet another successful record store day in an ever growing market, a closer look at the top 10 highest selling vinyl albums of 2017 reveals that seven out of the 10 are either re-releases from legacy artists or old soundtracks. There’s plenty that has been said about the reality of this revival on independent artists and labels but what impact has it had on the recording itself?

Although ostensibly a market driven forward by new technologies, the audio recording world has a tendency to be nostalgic for that same vintage “authenticity” that lies behind the vinyl revival. Analogue synths and reel-to-reel tape decks, although old technology, are still the holy grail for many recording engineers that yearn to capture the sounds they grew up with. And for the younger generation, a return to analogue recording ideals may well represent a rejection of the seemingly less real digital audio they grew up with.

In a market increasingly aimed at bedroom producers and “prosumers”, many of the most popular audio plug-in manufacturers concentrate on creating “in-the-box” digital plug-in versions of vintage audio hardware. These plug-ins have done wonders to advance the quality of home recorded music and even the grumpiest of old-school sound engineers would find it hard to resist the temptation of owning a piece of that classic sound at a fraction of the price. But it was only a matter of time until all this vinyl frenzy seemingly forced a gap in the market for the snake oil salesmen to jump on that wagon.

A new old sound

Recently the popular audio plug-in developer Waves released its Abbey Road Vinyl plug-in. If the “Abbey Road” moniker alone wasn’t enough to steam up your rose-tinted glasses, this vinyl emulation promises to capture the very “retro feel of a record, combined with the analogue warmth of its sound which makes vinyl a beautiful nostalgic statement”. With a reputation like Waves’ and an RRP of $249 (about £192), I can only imagine that it does come close to being a “precise model” of the original Abbey Road cutting lathe. But is that really a good thing?

Zealots on either side of the fence can argue until they’re blue in the face about whether vinyl sounds better or not. But even if we ignore that a large number of commercially released vinyl is pressed using CD quality digital files, the reality is that technically it just can’t compete. Surface noise, warping and added distortion are inherent to vinyl and all amount to a far different representation of the audio that the artists and producer intended for the listener.

The ConversationThen what does vinyl emulation hope to achieve exactly? It would seem that the soul purpose of these types of plug-ins is to actually recreate the particularly undesirable artefacts that recording engineers tried so hard to eliminate before digital audio existed. So if the vinyl revival is really driven by the music fans’ desire to have a real product, complete with the ritual and aura of a physical record, then vinyl emulation is nothing more than a degradation tool. Maybe it’s time we stopped with the nostalgia, fellow recording engineers. We’ve gone too far, time to go back. Or should that be forward?

Jamie Birkett, Lecturer, University of Salford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Soulivity Featured Artist: Vincent Mei

This week, Soulivity Magazine is pleased to feature photographer Vincent Mei!

When I go out to capture an image I never know where I’m going, nor what I’m going to shoot.  I always let my inspiration guide me.  Each photo is above all “a moment of life” and more than anything, an atmosphere.  If the atmosphere doesn’t come together, then I imagine it, I visualize it, I make it live.

(For full-size photos, please click on image to enable the lightbox)


Vince Mei is an aspiring amateur photographer, based in the city of Marseille, located in the south of France.  He believes that “A photo is not just a nice picture for the readers.  It is an art, with different inspirations, which makes it possible to escape to the place and at the moment when the photographer uses their passion for feeling all that they could absorb at that precise moment.”

Make sure to follow him on Instagram: Vincent Mei

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From Nazis to Netflix, the Controversies and Contradictions of Cannes



The past, current, and future history of the Cannes Film Festival will always be complicated.

Photo Caption: Students and striking workers occupy the projection hall of the Cannes Film Festival Palace to prevent showing of films in 1968. (Courtesy of AP Photo/Raoul Fornezza)

Author: David Scott Diffrient, Colorado State University

On May 17, the 70th edition of the Festival de Cannes kicked off with the opening-night screening of director Arnaud Desplechin’s “Ismael’s Ghosts.” It will wrap up 11 days later, when the Pedro Almodovar-led jury bestows the highly coveted Palme d’Or on one of the 19 international productions in the festival’s main competition. The Conversation

In between, dozens more motion pictures will flicker to life in theaters along the Croisette, a sun-kissed promenade dotted with luxury hotels that attracts a swarm of paparazzi with the promise of celebrity sightings and scantily clad starlets.

But behind the pageantry, controversy has been brewing. Netflix has two entries premiering during this year’s event. The popular streaming service will then release the films to its millions of subscribers – foregoing the exclusive run in French cinemas requested by the organizers. In turn, they’ve threatened to ban Netflix from submitting any films to future editions of the festival. Telegraph reporter Robert Mendick called this dustup Cannes’ “most explosive.”

If it is, it’s only the latest.

As Lucy Mazdon, one of the few film scholars to have studied this annual event, points out, the Festival de Cannes has long functioned as an expression of France’s national identity. It reinforces the important place that film occupies in the country’s culture, along with its reputation as a purveyor of artistic – rather than strictly commercial – cinema.

But Cannes has sometimes struggled to live up to this ideal, and the competing agendas of art, commerce, international politics and national pride have long roiled the festival.

Anti-fascist origins

In 1938, French diplomat Philippe Erlanger, film critic René Jeanne and Minister of National Education and Fine Arts Jean Zay were disturbed by that year’s Venice Film Festival, when pro-fascist films from Germany and Italy – Leni Riefenstahl’s “Olympia” and Goffredo Alessandrini’s “Luciano Serra, Pilot” – jointly won the top award (the tellingly named Coppa Mussolini).

They were also appalled by the hostile reception given to Jean Renoir’s anti-war masterpiece “The Grand Illusion” one year earlier. (Joseph Goebbels, the Third Reich’s minister of propaganda, who had been a “guest of honor” at the Venice Biennale, had called it “Cinematic Public Enemy Number One.”)

In response, they came up with the idea of a French “counter-festival” that would stand in opposition to Italy’s. Originally branded as the “Festival International du Film,” the organizers hoped the event would outshine its European counterparts, celebrating the art – rather than political value or propagandist content – of cinema.

However, politics almost immediately came into play. On the night of the inaugural gathering on Sept. 1, 1939 – as guests were arriving at the Casino Municipal, including Hollywood stars Gary Cooper, George Raft, Norma Shearer and Mae West – Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Following a single screening of the RKO production “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” organizers brought the festival to a sudden halt.

Great Britain and France declared war against Germany two days later. It would take another seven years before Erlanger, Jeanne and Zay’s vision was finally brought to fruition.

Art clashes with commerce

In 1946, the first full-fledged film festival held in post-Liberation France took place, featuring soon-to-be classics like Roberto Rossellini’s anti-fascist neorealist film “Rome, Open City” and Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller “Notorious.”

Even then, the festival was torn between dueling agendas, with European ideals of art cinema rubbing up against popular Hollywood productions that many French audiences clamored for.

The contradictory nature of the Cannes Film Festival has only intensified since.

In 1959, the French Minister of Cultural Affairs André Malraux called for the establishment of an international “film market,” the controversial Marché du Film.

Intended to strengthen the commercial appeal of the festival, the Marché brings together industry professionals for the purposes of networking and brokering deals between buyers and sellers. Meet-and-greet opportunities are formalized through the inclusion of daily breakfasts, round-table talks and workshops with industry leaders.

A 1967 photograph of French film director François Truffaut. Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Significantly, that initial foray into the business side of cinema took place just as the festival helped launch the “Nouvelle Vague” (French New Wave), a hugely influential, decidedly noncommercial film movement. Led by François Truffaut, whose autobiographical coming-of-age tale “The 400 Blows” earned him a Best Director award that year, French New Wave cinema privileged the personal expression of young filmmakers. Films like “The 400 Blows” and Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless” (made one year later, in 1960) also expanded storytelling possibilities through a reflexive foregrounding of the cinematic medium itself (with characters frequently “breaking the fourth wall” and looking directly at the camera). (Ironically, Truffaut had been banned from Cannes one year earlier after he criticized the festival for prioritizing entertainment and spectacle over art and personal expression.)

A decade later, in 1968, student and worker protests swept through Europe. Truffaut and other French filmmakers and intellectuals, including Jean-Luc Godard and Claude Lelouch, called for a premature end to the 21st edition of the festival. The festival, which was supposed to run between May 10 and May 24, was shut down six days early in a show of solidarity with those who were opposed to American cultural imperialism, the Vietnam War and the global spread of capitalism.

Since then, other well-publicized episodes have disrupted the Festival de Cannes, from the discovery of a handmade bomb beneath a stage at the closing ceremony in 1978 to Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier’s explosive (if jesting) claims that he was a Nazi who “understood” Hitler in 2011.

Grappling with Netflix

This year’s edition of the festival is no exception to that history of politicized hullabaloo. Much of the recent commentary surrounding Cannes concerns the current state and future of film exhibition and distribution.

Specifically, the decision of the festival’s artistic director, Thierry Frémaux, to include two Netflix-produced films – South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” and American filmmaker Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories” – has been criticized.

The move has drawn the ire of the National Federation of French Cinemas (FNCF), an organization that represents the interests of local theater owners who worry international streaming services will threaten not only their own livelihood but also the quality of cinema in the years to come.

Almost immediately after this year’s Cannes program was announced in early April, speculation arose in the pages of U.S. trade magazines as to whether online streaming services and small-screen platforms would be blocked from entering forthcoming film festivals. According to The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, a new rule set to go into effect next year will require any competing film at Cannes to be distributed in French theaters before being made available for online viewing.

Moreover, current French law requires a window of 36 months between theatrical release and streaming availability, a stipulation that Netflix, Amazon Studios and other streaming services aren’t likely to abide by.

The wrenching changes brought by streaming services to the TV and movie industries mark a departure from the political conflicts of years past. But controversy is certainly nothing new on the Cote d’Azur: a long view of its history suggests that strife and contention have distinguished this French cultural event since its very beginnings.

David Scott Diffrient, Professor of Film and Media Studies, Colorado State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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