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Category Archives: New Utopia
Utopia or Oblivion exhibition at Bunker Projects takes a colorful approach to addressing technological concerns – PGH City Paper
Posted: October 11, 2019 at 6:50 pm
click to enlarge
Photo: Kevin Clancy
Utopia or Oblivion
Despite the brightness, Clancy admits that the shows themes are less than cheerful.
Its definitely more on the bleak side, I would say, says Clancy, an interdisciplinary artist who works in installation, sculpture, light, and new media.
He goes on to describe it as very much a personal dive into the larger social ramifications of the rapid accelerations of technology, including facial and hand gesture recognition, screen time, and, as he puts it, humans merging with machines and melting into the void.
Its a lot of questioning how were using these devices and what their effect is on us, says Clancy.
Photo: Kevin Clancy
Utopia or Oblivion
To achieve this, he created an immersive environment occupied by sculptural tableaux with fake laptops, smartphones, and tablets with holographic, reflective screens. These are all set into built-in alcoves and arranged on commercial gridwall displays. Adding to the effect is a soundscape composed by John Also Bennett.
Funded by the Professional Artists Grants Program, a partnership of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments, Utopia or Oblivion is a continuation of a body of work that, over the last few years, has been investigating the way our devices and technology shift our relationships to the world, ourselves, and each other, says Clancy. But while he feels that addressing these concerns is important, he also believes its the job of the artist to maintain hope and vision.
Hopefully, [Utopia or Oblivion is] doing all those things at once, and creating a space where people can sit with that, and using beauty and aesthetics to create a space where people can be calm and comfortable, but still go into those subjects, says Clancy.
Here is the original post:
Posted: at 6:50 pm
With my colleagues, Robin Ferner and Carl Heneghan, I recently contributed an editorial to The BMJ about drug shortages. Already online, it will appear in the print issue tomorrow (12 October 2019). So far, the modest altmetrics score includes 76 tweets, one from a senior editor of The BMJ: crisis in the supply of medicines paints a dystopian future.
The IndoEuropean root TOP meant to travel or reach a place. The Greek derivative meant a place in general and hence a part of the body, a passage in a piece of writing, a burial place, a district, a room in a house, and a house of the zodiac. Aristotle used to mean a class of general matters that would serve as a kind of place in which a rhetorician might look for suggestions for treating his subject, a so-called commonplace, a common or ordinary topic; arguments based on such topics were called topic axioms, rules, maxims, or arguments, or simply topics. A topos in English, a 1940s coinage, is a traditional motif or theme in a literary composition, a rhetorical commonplace, or a literary convention or formula.
The diminutive of is , plural . In English, topia are interior wall-decorations like those found at Pompeii, consisting of the natural or artificial features of a place, such as landscapes or pictures of trees and bowers; topiary, a word that was introduced by Rabelais (topiaire), is the art of shaping trees and shrubs into ornamental shapes.
Atopy refers to the hypersensitivity syndrome that includes rashes in unusual places. Ectopic means out of place, applied to fetuses and testes, and tarsectopia is displacement of the tarsus. Other words that begin with topo- or end in -topia are listed in Tables 1 and 2.
In 1516, Sir Thomas More published his novel De optimo rei publicae statu deque nova insula Utopia (On the Best Type of Republic and the New Island of Utopia), written in Latin. He had been in correspondence with the Dutch philosopher Erasmus, and they had discussed the title. Utopia is generally regarded as being from the Greek , no place, but it could equally well have come from , a good place. When Samuel Butler wrote his utopian novel in 1872 he called it Erewhon, a near reversal of nowhere.
In 1818, Jeremy Bentham, in A Catechism of Parliamentary Reform, took the eutopian route and coined its antonym, cacotopia (Greek , bad): As a match for Utopia (or the imagined seat of the best government), suppose a Cacotopia (or the imagined seat of the worst government). In 1915, Patrick Geddes made the same association in Cities in Evolution. An Introduction to the Town Planning Movement and to the Study of Civics: The material alternatives of real economics, which these obsessions of money economics have been too long obfuscating, are broadly two, and each is towards realizing an ideal, a Utopia. These are the paleotechnic and the neotechnicKakotopia and Eutopia respectively.
Then in 1952, Glenn Robert Negley and J Max Patrick, in The Quest for Utopia, invented the word dystopia: The Mundus Alter et Idem [of Joseph Hall] is the opposite of eutopia, the ideal society: it is a dystopia, if it is permissible to coin a word. They used the Greek prefix, -, hard, bad, or unlucky. The OED defines dystopia as an imaginary place or condition in which everything is as bad as possible. Others have used the term anti-utopia, which is also used to describe criticisms of utopias. The term is not listed in the OED; the earliest instance I have found is from 1962.
Famous dystopias include 1984 by George Orwell, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess, but the form is nowadays most commonly associated with the post-apocalyptic novels of J G Ballard, such as Crash.
Drug shortages have been with us for a long time. The earliest description that I have found is in a November 1942 editorial in the Indian Medical Gazette, describing shortages of quinine and mepacrine (Figure 1).
Figure 1. An extract from an anonymous editorial in the Indian Medical Gazette, November 1042, describing shortages of quinine and mepacrine
The pattern of publications listed in PubMed whose titles include drug shortages and similar terms is unusual. Sporadic single reports between 1942 and 2000 are followed by small clusters in 20002010, but then in 201112 the number suddenly rockets and then falls. It has now plateaued at about 30 papers per year (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Numbers of publications containing drug shortages or related terms in their titles since 1990 (source PubMed)
The prospect of a no-deal Brexit has raised the spectre of major drug shortages. Whether it would make the current shortages worse, creating a therapeutic dystopia, remains to be seen.
Jeffrey Aronsonis a clinical pharmacologist, working in the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine in Oxfords Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. He is also president emeritus of the British Pharmacological Society.
Competing interests: None declared.
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Exhibition Takes a Fresh Look at ‘Utopia’ with New Works That Engage with The Huntington’s Collections – ArtfixDaily
Posted: at 6:50 pm
Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), Utopia, 1516. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
In partnership with LA arts organization Clockshop, The Huntington's "Beside the Edge of the World" features works by artists Nina Katchadourian, Beatriz Santiago Muoz, and Rosten Woo, and writers Dana Johnson and Robin Coste Lewis
Nov. 9, 2019Feb. 24, 2020Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art, Susan and Stephen Chandler Wing, and various garden locations
New works of art and literature will debut at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in "Beside the Edge of the World," one of the programs marking The Huntington's Centennial. The exhibition, on view Nov. 9, 2019 to Feb. 24, 2020, features works by artists Nina Katchadourian, Beatriz Santiago Muoz, and Rosten Woo, and writers Dana Johnson and Robin Coste Lewis, and will give visitors the opportunity to experience video works, poetry, and more in a gallery setting, as well as an audio tour and a sculpture installation in the gardens.
Beside the Edge of the World uses an item at The HuntingtonThomas Mores satirical workUtopia(1516)as a thematic point of departure. The Los Angeles arts organization Clockshop, in partnership with The Huntington, invited the three artists and two writers to consider Mores work and its map depicting the fictional Isle of Utopia. The cohort spent a year delving into the institutions library, art, and botanical collections to create works that make up the exhibition, which is anchored by an installation in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Arts Susan and Stephen Chandler Wing that will include a selection of the objects used by artists in their research alongside their new works.
We selected the artists and writers in Beside the Edge of the World because of their interest in working in archives to re-frame and re-imagine history, said Julia Meltzer, founder and director of Clockshop and co-curator of the exhibition with Jennifer A. Watts, curator of photography and visual culture at The Huntington and coordinator of the /five initiative. Watts added, The exhibition will be revelatory. The work responds to the projects directive with enormous energy and intellectual depth.
Thomas More structured his story around a newly created world that described an alternative society. More was pushing boundaries, and these new works are, too, said Meltzer. The artists expanded their inquiry to borders and edges, islands, forgotten histories, and utopian experiments that necessarily happen on the periphery.
ArtistNina Katchadouriansresearch centered on the theme of monsters in maps and rare books within The Huntingtons archive. Her kinetic silicone sculpture Strange Creature, which the artist describes as half-baby, half-fish, is inspired by Ulisse AldrovandisMonstrorum Historia(1642); the English edition of Abraham OrteliusTheatrum Orbis Terrarum(1608?), considered to be the first true atlas of the known world; and the ancient Chinese textGuideways through Mountains and Seas, compiled between the fourth and first centuries B.C., which describes mythical beasts within the cosmos of heaven and earth. Installed in the Chinese Gardens Lake of Reflected Fragrance, the sculpture is meant to provide an element of surprise for visitors, appearing at the surface momentarily before disappearing underwater. The brief glimpses that visitors may catch of the Strange Creature are intended to suggest that there is more around us than we can see or perceive.
FilmmakerBeatriz Santiago Muozfocused on The Huntingtons botanical collections. Her video work, Laurel Sabino y Jagilla takes its title from the vernacular names of twoMagnoliaspecies native to the artists birthplace and home on the island of Puerto Rico.Magnoliais an ancient genus, dating back 20 million years; its family, Magnoliaceae, has survived ice ages, mountain formation, and continental drift.Magnolia splendensis now endangered by logging and wood harvesting. Filmed in the rain forest of Puerto Rico and in the botanical gardens at The Huntington, the work imagines the relationship of theMagnoliagenus to utopia, photography, soil, vision, and time.
Artist, designer, writer, and educatorRosten Woocreated "Another World Lies Beyond," consisting of a series of interrelated stories told through audio tours in the gardens along with a projection and artifacts installed in the gallery. Woo's research focused on the life and work of Robert Hine (19212015), a scholar of utopian communities in California whose archives are housed at The Huntington. Each audio story (accessed via smartphone in the gardens) offers a glimpse of the idea of the perfect state and the world just beyond it: a historian slowly goes blind as he documents American communes, only to regain his sight suddenly in his final years; a dilettante is charged with drawing the border between the United States and Mexico, and instead creates an archive of every living creature he encounters before being dismissed and discredited by Congress; an archivist plots to rename the world's largest tree and erase the history of America's most successful Marxist commune. Additionally, one of Woo's audio tours will guide visitors into the Chinese Garden where the phrase 'Another World Lies Beyond' appears on a placard at the main entrance to the garden. The phrase, which is also the title of the Woo's work, is intended to prepare guests for the space they are about to enter, a space separated from the mundane world of daily life.
AuthorDana Johnsonwrote a short story, Our Endless Ongoing, that unearths the history of a remarkable woman, Delilah L. Beasley, who wrote and self-publishedThe Negro Trailblazers of California(1919). Beasley recorded the lives and stories of pioneering African Americans living in California in the 19th and early 20th century, from gold prospectors and early settler families to the founder of a utopian black community near Fresno. Johnsons short story, along with a biographical essay of Beasley, is included in a limited-edition publication Trailblazer: Delilah Beasleys California, published by Clockshop and The Huntington. A copy ofThe Negro Trailblazers of Californiais on view at The Huntington through Jan. 20 in the exhibition Nineteen Nineteen.
Poet laureate of Los AngelesRobin Coste Lewistook Chapter 14 of Henry David ThoreausWaldenas the starting point for a new poem. In Chapter 14, Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors, Thoreau conjures up the community of free blacks who lived around Walden Pond long before he arrived. Lewiss poem, titled Inhabitants and Visitors, erases and rearranges words and phrases in Thoreaus text to illuminate the world of the free black community that once lived at Walden Pond. A limited-edition book of Lewiss poem, along with images of the draft manuscript of ThoreausWaldenheld at The Huntington, will be included in the exhibition and sold at the Huntington Store.
About the artists
Dana Johnsonis the author of the short story collectionIn the Not Quite Dark. She is also the author ofBreak Any Woman Down, winner of the Flannery OConnor Award for Short Fiction, and the novelElsewhere, California. JohnsonsThe Story of Biddy Mason(2016) retraces the parallel but contrasting early 20th-century Los Angeles of Henry E. Huntington and African American entrepreneur Biddy Mason. Born and raised in and around Los Angeles, Johnson is a professor of English at the University of Southern California.
Nina Katchadourianis an interdisciplinary artist whose work includes video, performance, sound, sculpture, photography, and public projects. Her projects often make a case for closer scrutiny of our everyday surroundings by creating situations that attempt to provoke and awaken a viewers curiosity.
Robin Coste Lewisis Poet Laureate for the City of Los Angeles. She won the National Book award in 2015 forVoyage of the Sable Venus: and Other Poems.
Beatriz Santiago Muozis an artist whose expanded moving image work relates to Boalian theater, experimental ethnography, and feminist thought. Her recent work is on the sensorial unconscious of anti-colonial movements and everyday poetic work in the Caribbean. She has received the Herb Alpert Arts Award, a USA Ford Fellowship, and a 2015 Creative Capital Visual Artist Grant.
Rosten Woois an artist, designer, and writer living in Los Angeles. His projects aim to help people understand complex systems, reorient themselves to places, and participate in group decision-making. He is co-founder and former executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) and winner of the 2016 National Design Award for institutional achievement. His bookStreet Valueabout race and retail urban development was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2009.
Posted: at 6:49 pm
She had come as a child to this house on the island. She remembered the reflection of the waves, their patterns shimmering on the walls of her bedroom in the early mornings. She remembered the winds rattling the string of seashells that hung on the balcony where she would lie in the hammock, daydreaming. She remembered the frigate birds, sailing in cloudless skies, and the fishermen coming each morning with their catch, holding them up for her aunt's inspection. I could not bear to lose this house, she said. It was so much a part of my childhood.
The house overhangs the sea. With the water lapping beneath the decks, it feels like being on board a ship, sailing away. Stone steps lead straight down. There is the smell of ginger and mango and coconut and brine. The Caribbean touches the horizon with its rainbow of seven blues, while the breezes fill the house, still stirring the shells that were gathered by children a generation ago. The house is called Monasterio del Viento, the Monastery of the Wind, and I was staying in a room looking out to the ocean.
In the morning, a man named Malcolm came, his boat turning through silver waves. This is the best day of our lives, he called to us. Let's go, man. The sea, she is calling. The house's owner, Cristina Garca de la Concha, appeared at the top of the steps. He will take you snorkeling at Crab Cay, she said. And you can grill your fish on Morgan's Head beach. It is named after the pirate. Malcolm knows all the stories. But only half of them are true.
The island is called Providencia, in the care of God. They say it is the island that disappeared. It's not like any place I have ever been.
Colombia can feel like all South America in a single country. There are Andean peaks and Amazonian jungles, gaucho prairies and colonial towns, indigenous tribespeople and a wild Pacific coast. But it is also on the Caribbean, with an extensive shoreline facing north toward Jamaica and Cuba, running almost 1,000 miles from the Darin Gap and Panama in the west to the border with Venezuela in the east. The mistress of this remarkable coast is Cartagena, the most beautiful Spanish colonial city in the Americas.
Dishes at Titi Gamba Cevichera, in Palomino, northeast of Cartagena
To visit Cartagena is to begin a love affair. I know people who came for a week and stayed 10 years. I know a man who only wanted a vacation and ended up with a wife, a troupe of children, a back-street bar, and a half-finished novel in a drawer. Cartagena is all Mrquezian charm, with old mansions, courtyards of divans and potted palms, churches moored like ships, shuttered rooms where, in the still hours of the siesta, an erotic frisson crackles like electricity and women call to one another from balconies and horses' hooves clip-clop on the cobblestones below the window. But it was time for me to break the bonds of the city. The Caribbean coast was beckoning. I wanted to escape Cartagena's narrow streets for the wide ocean, for the islands and beaches. It was time to run away to the cerulean sea.
My first stop on this new voyage would be the Islas del Rosario, right in Cartagena's backyard, a scattered archipelago of about 30 islands beyond Isla de Bar and an hour's boat ride away. It has long been a playground for wealthy Colombians: Yachts come and go between the islands, negotiating a labyrinth of secluded bays and inlets that showcase some of the country's smartest waterfront properties.
To get there, we sailed down the length of the city's sheltered harbor, the Baha de Cartagena, where the galleons of the Spanish Main had dropped anchor. At one of the entrances to the bay lies the 17th-century fortress of San Fernando. Here I stepped ashore onto the quay where English pirates had once arrived in shackles and where Tony, a local fisherman limping like Long John Silver, waited to show me round. He was a one-man theatrical experience, bringing the old fortress to vivid life. In the empty courtyard, he marched and wheeled and saluted. In the barracks he dozed on a stone bunk before waking suddenly and hurrying to the watchtower to scan the horizons for pirates. Unlocking the dungeons, he led several phantom prisoners up to the ramparts and promptly threw them into the moat where 150 sharks, so he claimed, had once waited to devour them. Finally, in the guards' room, he showed me how to use the latrine and fire at the enemy at the same time. It's an acrobatic trick, but you never know when it could come in handy.
Later we dropped anchor to snorkel among trumpet fish and blue-striped grunts on one of the Caribbean's finest reefsColombia declared these waters a national natural park in 1988. Deep in the mangroves, I stopped for lunch at Las Islas hotel, where boardwalks wind through the trees, connecting stylish bungalows of stone, pine, and thatch. Like so much of the archipelago, it felt like a private members' club.
On a long beach on the island of Tierra Bomba, I disembarked at Blue Apple Beach House, an elegant hotel conjured out of driftwood, and a stylist's daydream. With its pools and umbrellas and informal, youthful vibe, it has an Ibiza feel, as if a party is about to kick off. But the evening petered out into a splendid stillness. Late at night I swam alone in the dark ocean. Cartagena might have been half an hour away, but I felt a long way from anywhere. The bonds of the city were loosening.
A four-hour drive east of Cartagena lies Colombia's most dramatic slice of Caribbean coast, where the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains sweep down to the sea in a tumble of greenery and swollen rivers. Here the jungle-covered slopes are home to jaguars and tapirs, and some indigenous tribes still live a Stone Age existence. There's a vine-strangled Lost Cityyou can trek to it in three daysthat was once an important center of the Tayrona people.
At the foot of these mountains I spent a Huckleberry Finn day messing about in boats on the Don Diego River in the dense ecosystem of the coastal Tayrona National Natural Park. I kayaked under the gaze of red howler monkeys and truant boys floating in inner tubes. Colombia is home to 20 percent of all the world's bird species, and on this lazy afternoon most of them seemed to have turned up to dance among the branches. Later I followed sandy paths through the jungle to the most unexpected restaurant. On a balcony overlooking a clearing where hornbills clattered between trees, Samy's three-table establishment served up the home cooking of this coastcoconut rice and prawns the size of drumsticks, washed down with beer cooled in a mountain streamwhile Samy herself regaled me with hilarious stories about wayward husbands.
On my way to Providencia and Cristina's house by the sea, I was watching the shadow of our small plane passing over the turquoise patterns of the water. The island lies about 500 miles off the coast, closer to Nicaragua than to Cartagena, and like all the best places, it's tricky to get to. Flying first from Cartagena to San Andrs, the larger of the two islands in this archipelago, I board an 18-seater propeller plane of uncertain vintage. It is also a time journey. While San Andrs has long been overtaken by modern package holidays from the mainland, Providencia feels more like the Caribbean did 70 years ago.
The first settlers arrived here from England in 1631 on the Seaflower, a sister ship to the Mayflower. Centuries later, many islanders still think of Providencia as an outpost of the British Empire and speak EnglishSpanish is the second languagein spite of the fact that the British government gave the land to Spain in 1783. It was known as the island that disappeared, vanishing from colonial maps. When it became part of the new nation of Colombia, it sent the only native-English-speaking member of parliament to Bogot.
Those settlers came with conflicting motives. On the one hand they dreamed of creating a new utopia of God-fearing people. On the other, they hoped to plunder the galleons setting off for Spain from Cartagena and Portobelo, Panama. In no time, piracy won out over prayer. The placeindulgent, gorgeous, swept by tropical windswasn't helping. The buttoned-up settlers soon gave up on being buttoned up. Utopia it might have been; God-fearing it could never be. By the time the pirate Henry Morgan set foot on the island some decades later, it had already acquired a reputation as a refuge for seafaring riffraff for whom even Jamaica was too dull and uptight.
Las Islas hotel, Islas del Rosario
Today, Providencia remains an undiscovered corner whose 5,000 largely Afro-Caribbean inhabitants are the descendants of pirates, slaves, and settlers. Among themselves the islanders lapse into Creole. Keen to preserve their way of life and distinctive character, and to avoid being swamped by people from the continent, as they call Colombia, they blocked plans, for now, for a new airport that would allow direct flights from Cartagena and Barranquilla. With hardly any carsmost people get around by scooter or golf cartthe island remains as sleepy as it has always been.
There is a single road, and it circles the coast. I set off to explore a succession of ravishing beachesAlmond Bay, Fresh Water Bay, South West Bay, Manzanillo Beach, and a dozen more with names I never learned. On some, little shacks have taken root, serving cold beer and grilled fish, places such as Roland's, with gangly palm trees and hammocks slung between the trunks. In the evenings this is the place to be, with a reggae soundtrack and ready supply of coco locospia coladas served in coconuts. But on many beaches there's nothing at all except the hot sun and the curling waves.
Days blurred into one another. I watched the horse races on South West Bay, where the riders galloped bareback through the surf. I went to townSanta Isabelthree streets of double-story buildings with a caf serving pies and cakes that could have come from England. In the cooling evenings, I headed to baseball games, joining the raucous crowds in the bleachers as they cheered the teams playing against their neighbors and kinsfolk. In the old days, they had to turn off all the lights on the island in order to have enough power to illuminate the field. On Sunday I went to church where dour puritanical instincts have long since vanished among uplifting music and glamorous outfits.
A colonial building in Cartagena
Isla Grande, part of Islas del Rosario
Manzanillo Beach, Providencia
Bird-inspired artwork, Providencia
Roland, of Rolands reggae bar on Manzanillo Beach
A colonial house in Cartagena
A bedroom at Blue Apple Beach House
Las Islas hotel, Islas del Rosario
I spent a day on the water, snorkeling on what is thought to be the world's third longest and one of the best preserved coral reefs, now part of the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve. We went fishing and lunched on our catch at Morgan's Head beach on Santa Catalina, where I climbed to the old pirate's hideaway, the ruins of Fort Warwick. Malcolm had the inside scoop on how the island disappeared from the British Empire. The Queen Victoria, he said, she fell in love with the president of Colombia. And she gave us away as a present to her new boyfriend.
At one point I went to meet musician and island historian Elkin Robinson, who lives at Lazy Hill, a seaside settlement on the southwest shore. He cheerily welcomed me to the laziest place on the laziest island in the laziest part of the world. He played a set on a terrace above the sea while neighborhood children ran about our feet. His band consisted of guitar, washtub bass, and horse's skullthe percussion was played with a stick, running up and down the teeth. Must be the skull of the mare, said the horse-skull player. Sweeter sound. The rhythms were thrilling. You could hear Africa in this music, as well as reggae, flamenco, and calypso, with a dash of melancholic country and western.
Another time I sat with Perla, Robinson's great-aunt, in her kitchen as she talked about the old days when everyone came and went on boats that plied between Jamaica, the Caymans, and the Creole coasts of Nicaragua and Panama. Her grandfather had been a ship's captain from the Caymans. Sure that man had wives and children all over the Caribbean, she chuckled.
Back at Monasterio del Viento, I chatted to Cristina, who remembered the place from her childhood. Though she grew up in Bogot, she used to come to Providencia on holidays and stay in this house, which belonged to her uncle. When he wanted to sell the property in 2015, she suddenly decided that she had to keep it. And so she and her boyfriend, the chef Rodrigo Perry, left for remote Providencia to turn Monasterio del Viento into a small, intimate hotel. I wanted to preserve what I had loved so much as a child, she said. I could not bear to lose the house, or to leave this idyllic island.
I doubt that anyone leaves without a feeling of loss. Untethered from Colombia, adrift in the Caribbean, a place that is neither here nor there, the island that has disappeared could be anyone's half-remembered childhood dream, composed of innocence and seascapes and the sound of the wind rattling strings of shells.
Hotel Las Islas
Opened in mid-2018, this pretty beach hotel is a real game changer. Although it was built among Bar's mangrove forests, no trees were felled in its construction. Guests can cycle around the grounds on winding boardwalks that link the 55 bungalows, and take in 360-degree views from the clubhouse rising above the mangrove canopy. The private terraces have plunge pools or hot tubs; snorkeling and helicopter tours are available, plus a first-class spa. Bungalows from $555.
Blue Apple Beach House
This informal Tierra Bomba Island hotel, made up of thatched cabanas with brightly patterned fabrics, attracts a fresh influx of clued-in day-trippers from Cartagena, settling on the canopied Bali beds. Kayaks and paddleboards keep everyone entertained, massage therapists ease tired limbs, lunch is a pescatarian's delight, and a chill-out playlist draws from soul, jazz, and Latin. In the evenings, when the visitors go home, lanterns illuminate paths to the sea for night swimming. Doubles from $170.
Villa Playa Tayrona
With just six rooms, discreet Villa Playa appears more like an elegant private house than a hotel. In one direction are the cloud-bumping peaks of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in the other the roaring surf. But it's the palm-tree groves and still lagoon belowwhere egrets stalk their own reflectionsthat lend the place its dreamy atmosphere. Three local women prepare seafood feasts that are served on the pool patios, and the pristine beach is five minutes away. Although the spectacular waves draw a small band of surfers, most days you'll find yourself alone with the sea spray. Doubles from $210.
This villa is set above the forest, with views of both mountain and sea, and is designed to give a whole new meaning to the term open plan. Kitchens and dining and living areas all flow into one another; most of the house receives the sea breeze; and instead of windows, entire walls fold open like shutters. The terrace with huge sofas is made for a cool drink and a good book. From $2,040 for two (inquire for groups; sleeps 14), full board.
A bedroom at Monasterio del Viento
Conch fritters at Monasterio del Viento
Monasterio del Viento
Right on the ocean's edge, with white-washed walls and forget-me-not-blue accents, this place still feels like a memorabilia-filled home. A jetty is laid with cushions for candlelit dinners, and chef Rodrigo Perry, who has worked at El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, does some mean coconut prawns. From $400 for a room or about $1,000 for the house (sleeps four).
A neighbor of Monasterio del Viento, Providencia's only properly sophisticated hotel is up the steep hill from its seaside restaurant, the best place to eat on the island. The villas overlooking Crab Cay are like light-flooded ship's staterooms, and there are plunge pools on the terraces from which to watch the moon rise. Staff are a hoot and will teach you a bit of Creole. Doubles from $195.
Cazenove+Loyd creates trips to Colombia that can include four nights at Monasterio del Viento on Providencia, three nights at Casa San Agustn in Cartagena, two nights at Las Islas on Bar, and three nights at Villa Playa Tayrona from $6,190 per person, B&B, including transfers but excluding international flights.
Posted: at 6:49 pm
Photo Source: Matthew Murphy
Annie-B Parson can make anything movejust ask her collaborators. Between her work in theater, dance, concert, and beyond, the auteur choreographer has worked alongside everyone from St. Vincent to Lucas Hnath to Mikhail Baryshnikov to David Bowie. Her newest venture reunites her with David Byrne, one of her longtime artistic colleagues, though it takes them both to somewhere neither has been before: Broadway. With Byrnes American Utopia (running at the Hudson Theatre through the new year), Parson is using the entire breadth of her skillset in ways tried, true, and completely new.
Parson tells Backstage how she can make even the most stagnant performances kinetic and her advice for all actors to get moving, whether or not they believe they can (spoiler: they can).
How did you come to work on American Utopia?Since 2009, Ive had the honor of working with David Byrne, making dances for him and his band on a number of his concert tours. These shows also included his collaborations with Brian Eno, Fat Boy Slim, and St. Vincent.
Details about this show are being kept pretty under wrapshow would you describe it?For your ears, American Utopia is a concert; for your eyes its a dance piece redefined; for your mind its a meditation on community. But first and foremost its a celebration of the brilliant canon of David Byrne, which has had far-reaching musical and aesthetic influence. Seeing him livesinging, dancing, and speakingis the heart of the piece.
Youve obviously worked extensively in all types of performance spaces; what has been unique about American Utopia?We overuse the word unique on a daily basis, but when he created American Utopia, David Byrne created something that actually is unique. And thats a big promise! In a way, the show poses a theatrical argument: Can a rock concert hold all theatrical elementscostumes, sets, text, dance, a narrative arc, as well as a protagonistyet still make you want to get up and dance?
READ: An Interview With Choreographer Justin Peck
In general, whats different about choreographing for theater compared to dance or concert performance?The compositional elements are the same in both mediums; issues of the use of space, of time, of line, motion, dynamics, and so forth. Those considerations are always going to be part of your craft in dance-making. But the givens are different, the contract with the audience is different in the theatrical concert form; the heavy lifting is coming from the catalogue of songs, with the dance as a very strong supporting player. The form of the show, the marriage of dance and music, is what holds it together.
I imagine the answer is very closely but, in theater, do you work with performers directly?Yes, true! I work very closely with performers in all [types of performance]. In music, the performances are crafted primarily from the self, meaning there is no pretend or actingat least in the shows Ive worked on. But finding that is tricky; its more like dance. In acting, the crafting of the role is created through a pretty intense relationship between me and the performer and the material.
Also speaking to theater, specifically, lets say youre working with an actor who is more mover than dancer. What are some ways you help them get more comfortable with movement?I always start standingno table work. We start with the physical body and how it relates to the space, creating movement material first based on my initial reading of the text, before we even delve into textual analysis and acting, so that it comes from a more kinetic place. This can be very, very simple movement, often not what people associate with dance. We think of dance as full-bodied, extended, and very felt actions, or as some style that we are accustomed to seeing onstage that has been passed down from play to play. But dance is many, many things; the best of it doesnt even exist yet. New ways of moving are constantly being invented. I dont much like couch theater (when the performers sit on couches), disembodied in a way, and talk to each other for three acts.
In general, what are some ways actors can gain confidence with movement?My best advice for actors who want to gain confidence with movement is training, training, training. Dont be afraid of going to dance class. There is sort of no way around it; you have to study how to use your body. Its like learning an instrument.
Catch Annie-B Parsons Big Dance Theatre companys The Road Awaits Us at Skirball Center in November; her new book Drawing the Surface of Dance is also out in November.
Want to hear more from the best creators in film, TV, and theater? Get it right here!
Casey Mink is the staff writer at Backstage. When she's not writing about television, film, or theater, she is definitely somewhere watching it.
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The Black Keys continue their "Let's Rock" tour at TD Garden in Boston tonight and The Anthem in Washington, DC, on Saturday. They close out the Northeast leg of the tour with shows at the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and a return to The Anthem for a second show, all next week.
The bands ninth studio album, "Let's Rock," was released in June via Easy Eye Sound / Nonesuch Records. From top to bottom, the 12-track 'Lets Rock' holds tight to captivating instrumentation, with guitar at the center, says the Associated Press. The Black Keys are rock royalty and to the relief of many, they arent quite ready to relinquish their reign.
Composer John Adamss Violin Concerto is performed by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Andr de Ridder and featuring violinist Leila Josefowicz, in the Netherlands this weekend: with concerts at De Doelen in Rotterdam tonight and TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht on Saturday. The program also includes Adamss The Chairman Dances, the Dutch premiere of Steve Reichs Music for Ensemble and Orchestra, and the world premiere of Mathilde Wantenaars Prlude une nuit amricaine.
Nonesuch released a recording of Josefowicz performing Adams's Violin Concerto with St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and conductor David Robertson last year.
Composer/pianist Timo Andres and NYCbased ensemble yMusic help celebrate the seventieth birthday of composer Robert Sirota with the New York premiere of his Luminous Bodies at Kaufman Music Centers Merkin Hall in New York City on Sunday.
David Byrne is in conversation with The New Yorkers Burkhard Bilger at Florence Gould Hall in New York City on Sunday morning as part of The New Yorker Festival.
David Byrnes American Utopia is currently in previews on Broadway as part of its strictly limited engagement at the intimate Hudson Theatre and ahead of the official Opening Night on October 20. Performances continue through January 19. The Boston Globe calls the show a marvel of humanity and hope an undertaking made in hopes of bringing wonder back to the world.
Daughter of SwordsMountain Man's Alexandra Sauser-Monnigperforms as special guest of Wilco this weekend, with a concert at Boch Centers Wang Theatre in Boston tonight and two sold-out shows in New York City, at Radio City Music Hall on Saturday and Brooklyn Steel on Sunday. Her debut album, Dawnbreaker, released earlier this year on Nonesuch, reveals her effortless skill as a songwriter as she delivers an homage to the betwixt and between of a relationship in its twilight, says Pitchfork.
Emmylou Harris takes the storied Opry House stage in Nashville tonight to perform on the Grand Ole Opry early and late sets. Harris has been an Opry member since 1992. "I feel like Ive come home to a family I didnt even know I was a part of," she said on her induction. Also performing on tonights shows are Margo Price, Chris Janson, and Bill Anderson, with Dierks Bentley joining for the early set. Folks around the world can listen live online at opry.com.
Kronos Quartet is at the Melbourne International Arts Festival in Australia this weekend: the group brings its Around the World with Kronos family concert to Toorak Uniting Church on Saturday afternoon and live-scores the Australian premiere of filmmaker Sam Greens A Thousand Thoughts: A Live Documentary at Melbourne Recital Centre on Sunday evening. The multimedia experience blends live music and narration with archival footage and filmed interviews with some of the artists with whom Kronos has collaborated, like Philip Glass, Tanya Tagaq, Steve Reich, Wu Man, and Terry Riley.
Lake Street Dive plays The National in Richmond, Virginia, tonight and Saturday, followed by a sold-out show at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater in Wilmington, North Carolina, on Sunday. The tour closes out with concerts in Toronto and upstate New York next week.
Lake Street Dives Rachael Price and composer, singer, and guitarist Vilray stopped by WNYC Studios in New York City last week to perform songs from their self-titled debut album, Rachael & Vilray, on All of It and talk with host Alison Stewart about their music. You can hear the conversation and performance here.
Gaby Moreno continues her tour of Germany with concerts at Kulturgut Hagenbach in Backnang tonight, Burgersaal in Helmbrechts on Saturday, and Centralstation in Darmstadt on Sunday.
Moreno and Van Dyke Parks were on NPR's Alt.Latino to discuss and share tracks from their new album, Spangled!, last week. Host Felix Contreras calls it a stunning collection of music ... a fabulously gorgeous album." You can listen to the episode here.
Chris Thile hosts his public radio show, Live From Here, from its new home, The Town Hall in New York City, on Saturday, with special guests Trey Anastasio, The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Sarah Jarosz, and comedians Dulc Sloan and Tom Papa. Folks in the US can tune in on their favorite public radio station this weekend and around the world via livefromhere.org, starting at 5:45 PM.
Yola brings music from her Dan Auerbachproduced debut album, Walk Through Fire, to Zilker Park in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, as part of the Austin City Limits Festival. Rolling Stone named Yola among the best of both AmericanaFest and Farm Aid; you can watch her Farm Aid performance of It Aint Easier here.
Walk Through Fire has been named one of The Best Albums of 2019 (So Far) by NPR Music, which says its an exhilarating album that encapsulates country-soul lustiness, plushly orchestrated pop transcendence and a range of expression both subtle and striking.
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Posted: at 6:49 pm
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. Staten Islands own Pete Davidson is everywhere these days: Saturday Night Live cast member. Movie star whos in the next Suicide Squad film. Stand-up comic. Boyfriend to songbirds and Hollywood starlets.
Even the older folks are noticing.
There was a concert at the St. George Theatre on Thursday night to mark the 50th anniversary last year of the Beatles landmark White Album.
Helping lead the all-star band was rocker Todd Rundgren, 71, famous for big radio hits like Hello, Its Me, I Saw the Light and Bang the Drum All Day.
Many in the crowd looked like they could have been first-generation Beatles fans themselves, so not the venue where youd expect to hear about the young and hip Davidson.
But Rundgren is nothing if not unpredictable in concert.
In between songs, Rundgren was talking about how he hadnt visited Staten Island.
I didnt have a reason to go to Staten Island, Rundgren quipped.
That brought a wave of good-natured catcalls from the crowd.
Tell it to Pete Davidson, Rundgren said with a laugh.
There truly is no escaping Davidson on Staten Island.
Rundgrens borough references didnt end there.
Introducing fellow performer Christopher Cross, Rundgren talked about taking the Staten Island Ferry, which he described as jammed with tourists.
He talked about the loud volume of tourist babble, and, perhaps apocryphally, of seeing a familiar sloop out in the sea (as Rundgren referred to Upper New York Bay) piloted by Cross. Cross then performed his number-one 1980 hit Sailing.
Get it? The ferry? Sailing?
Despite his quips, Rundgren is no stranger to Staten Island or to the St. George Theatre.
He performed there during his White Knight tour in 2017. And way back on Oct. 1, 1979, Rundgren and his band, Utopia, performed at the theatre. Playing bass for Rundgren was Islander Kasim Sulton, who has performed with Rundgren for decades.
Todd Rundgren and Utopia played on Staten Island on Oct. 1, 1979. (Tom Wrobleski/Staten Island Advance)
It was big news when Davidson skipped an appearance on Saturday Night Live recently to attend a Joker movie premiere and to do some filming for Suicide Squad.
And Davidson was all over the Island this summer, filming his own feature film, so far untitled, with director Judd Apatow.
Then theres Petes love life, an endless source of fascination for the tabloid press and his hometown paper. Davidson was engaged for a time to singer Ariana Grande. Hes also dated Kate Beckinsale and now Margaret Qualley.
As for Rundgren, he doesnt mind getting controversial. The rocker is so virulently against President Donald Trump that hes said that Trump supporters should stay away from his concerts.
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Coalition refuses to say how much Scott Cam is being paid as ‘national careers ambassador’ – The Guardian
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Labor has blasted Michaelia Cash for refusing to say how much taxpayers are paying The Block star Scott Cam to promote vocational education in his new role as national careers ambassador.
At a press conference on Thursday the skills and employment minister said Cams pay for the 15-month role was commercial in confidence but suggested spending was about outcomes and reflected the fact the government had secured one of the highest profile people in Australia.
Labor and the unions suggested the Coalition should stop hiring celebrities and properly fund Tafe and apprentices instead, claiming $3bn has been cut from vocational education since it came to office.
Cash said the government is determined to shine a light on how fantastic vocational education and training is and described Cams role as to work with us to really get that message out, explaining she would be out and about with Scott attending high-profile events to do so.
Cash described Cam as a former apprentice around 40 years ago now and literally a household name in Australia, citing the fact he ran his own business and had employed apprentices as qualifications for the role.
Cam did a three-year carpentry apprenticeship at age 17 and has worked as a television presenter since 2000 when he first appeared on Backyard Blitz. He won a gold Logie award in 2014 for hosting renovation reality television show The Block.
Cam told reporters he was very privileged to have the role, adding he is not taking it lightly.
Cam said the National Careers Institute provides a one-stop shop for people to get information about vocational education and careers pathways and my role is to get the information out there, to let them know that its there.
Contracts on AusTender show in 2009 the Labor government paid $74,250to SWC Contractors for representational services by Mr Scott Cam at Centrelink Job Expos.
A separate contract published in 2011 suggests the same company was paid $76,500 for sponsorship of event or celebrity for a representative for job expo.
In February 2013 Treasury officials told Senate estimates the Australian Taxation Office paid $77,962 to Media Heads to create a series of YouTube videos called Build a better business lodge online featuring Cam, although it did not say what part of the fee was paid to Cam.
Mr Cam was used because he is a well-recognised celebrity with broad demographic appeal and credibility with small business, Treasury said in an answer to a question on notice.
In November 2016 Cam featured in an education department advertisement with Karen Andrews, then the assistant minister for vocational education and skills. The video has 866 views despite almost three years online.
On Thursday Labors shadow education minister, Tanya Plibersek, responded that Scott Cam is a good bloke, but if the Liberals were serious about fixing the skills crisis theyve created, theyd stop hiring celebrities [and] start funding TAFE and apprentices.
At a doorstop in Melbourne, Plibersek said it was unacceptable for the government to refuse to say how much Cam was paid.
If the government believes that this is a worthwhile investment they should be upfront about what theyre spending, she said. But this isnt about Scott Cam.
In the 2019 budget the Coalition promised to create 80,000 apprenticeships through employer incentives, unveiling a $525m skills package with just $55m of new money, with the vast majority ($463m) the result of reallocating unspent funds in the Skilling Australians Fund.
Plibersek said there were 150,000 fewer apprentices and trainees in Australia today than when the Liberals came to office in 2013.
We have more people dropping out of apprenticeships today than completing them, she said.
Weve got fewer apprentices and trainees today than 10 years ago and all that while weve got 1.9 million Australians looking for work or looking for more hours of work and weve got three quarters of Australian businesses saying they cant find the trained and skilled staff they need.
Producers of the ABC TV political satire Utopia later tweeted about an episode that talked about appointing Cam as an ambassador.
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Posted: at 6:49 pm
California University of Pennsylvanias Department of Music and Theater showcases the talents of its newest crop of aspiring actors and technicians when it presents playwright Jason Pizzarellos "Saving the Greeks: One Tragedy at a Time."
Curtain times for the 23rd annual First Year Show are at 7 p.m. Oct. 24-25, and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Oct. 26.
The 23rd annual First Year Show is open to the public and will be performed in the Gerald and Carolyn Blaney Theater in Steele Hall on Cal U.'s main campus.
Saving the Greeks is a breezy comedy full of laugh-out-loud merriment that pays homage to the melodramatic absurdity that is Greek tragedy.
The audience follows the story of Dialysis and his downtrodden slave, Peon, as they try to right all the wrongs done to the pitiful citizens of Athens.
Their efforts lead them to create Betterland, a city where formerly doomed tragedians can start their lives over again, free from the misfortunes of their previous existence. Traveling from tragedy to tragedy, Dialysis and Peon gather inhabitants for their new utopia.
Our students have been working tirelessly to bring some of the most popular tragic Greek heros to life while staying true to some ancient Greek comedic performance practices, said Dr. John Paul Staszel, director and assistant professor in the Department of Music and Theater. If you have always wanted to study Greek mythology, or just brush up on your Greek history, but wanted to do so with a comic twist, this is the show for you.
Subject matter offers mature content and themes, which may not be suitable for younger patrons.
The cast is partnering with Greek Life and the Cal U. Cupboard for a breakfast food drive. Nonperishable breakfast food items may be dropped off at the door before the show.
Ticket price is $12 for adults; $6 for those 60 and older and 12 and younger. Cal U. students with valid CalCards pay a $5 deposit that is refunded at the show.
For ticket information, or to charge tickets by phone, call the Steele Hall Box Office at 724-938-5943.
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Posted: at 6:49 pm
One day last November, Mitch Japczyk, an administrator at an Illinois staffing agency, was called upon to help solve an office mystery. A handful of his co-workers were huddled around the office printer, where a one-page document had just printed itself out, unprompted. Nobody in the office knew what it meant.
ATTENTION! the document began. PewDiePie is in trouble and he needs your help to defeat T-Series! It went on to explain that PewDiePie, a 29-year-old Swedish YouTube personality, was in danger of being overtaken as the platforms most popular channel by T-Series, an Indian music label and Bollywood production studio. In order to prevent this from happening, the author recommended five steps:
1. Unsubscribe from T-Series.
2. Subscribe to PewDiePie.
3. Share awareness to this issue. #SavePewDiePie.
4. Tell everyone you know. Seriously.
Japczyk, now 33, spends more time on YouTube than many of his colleagues and was able to explain the broad strokes: PewDiePie (rhymes with cutie pie; real name: Felix Kjellberg) was a YouTube megacelebrity with a group of hard-core fans, known as the Bro Army, who often went to extreme lengths to show their support. But it was only when Japczyk got back to his computer that he realized the scale of the operation. A hacker was claiming responsibility for finding a set of 50,000 printers all over the world with unsecured network connections, taking them over and using them to print these fliers.
The printer hack wasnt an isolated incident. For months, tributes to PewDiePie had been popping up all over the world. Billboards and fliers appeared in India, Bangladesh and Times Square. Early this year, hundreds of Estonian fans held a parade in the nations capital city, chanting his name and holding signs that said Sub 2 Pewds. Someone chalked Subscribe to PewDiePie on a World War II memorial in Brooklyn.
Like Japczyks colleagues at the staffing agency, many people who witnessed these events most likely wrote them off as dumb stunts or random emanations from some Gen Z media universe they werent plugged into which, of course, they were. But as the Subscribe to PewDiePie movement grew, its meaning got blurrier. Some people were cheering for PewDiePie because they liked his videos. Other people saw him as the flag-bearer of an older, weirder internet culture that was being steamrollered by bland corporate interests and needed to be defended. And a few had much darker motives.
On March 15, a white nationalist in Christchurch, New Zealand, said, Remember, lads, subscribe to PewDiePie on his Facebook live stream, just before going on a shooting rampage, killing dozens of worshipers inside two mosques. A few weeks later, another violent white nationalist cited PewDiePie, this time in writing. In his manifesto, the suspect accused of killing one woman and injuring three others at a synagogue in Poway, Calif. even claimed that the YouTuber aided in the plot. I had the help of a man named Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, wrote the shooting suspect, who, like the Christchurch suspect, has pleaded not guilty. He was kind enough to plan and fund this whole operation the sly bastard.
Just to be abundantly clear: As far as we know, these were both sick jokes. Kjellberg has no connection to either man, and there is zero evidence that their deeds were actually inspired by him. But he was not a randomly chosen target either. For years, Kjellberg has been trying, fairly unsuccessfully, to shed a reputation as a far-right sympathizer. Partly, thats because a few years ago, he made some Holocaust jokes on his channel, which led to a nuclear-grade backlash. And partly, its because Kjellberg responded to being called out for those jokes, and other offensive statements, the way a reactionary might: by mocking his critics, casting himself as the victim of a media smear campaign and refusing to back down.
Modern right-wing extremism is wrapped in so much irony that its hard to know what motivates any particular adherent. The suspects in the shootings in Christchurch and Poway might have been casually trolling PewDiePie by mentioning him in the context of mass murder knowing that it would set off a media frenzy and stall his campaign to rehabilitate his image. They might have been trying to bait reporters into wrongly blaming PewDiePie for the killings. (Which would make those reporters look gullible and out of touch, thereby proving that PewDiePie was right about the media.) They might have just been chaos-loving nihilists. A lot of internet culture exists in this frustrating quantum state things are either total jokes or total nonjokes, depending on their context and your vantage point.
A few weeks after the Poway shooting, Kjellbergs publicist called me. Kjellberg hadnt given an interview in years a guy with millions of YouTube subscribers has little need for reporters but in the wake of the shootings, I had asked, and he agreed to talk. People were accusing him of supporting white nationalism again, and he wanted to explain why they were mistaken. I flew to Brighton, the seaside town in Britain where Kjellberg has lived since 2013, and we met at an Airbnb near his house. He showed up a few minutes late, popping out his earbuds to greet me.
Here we are, he said.
Here we are, I agreed.
In his YouTube videos, Kjellberg is a spring-loaded ball of manic energy he screams, he curses, he cracks himself up. But in person, he was withdrawn and polite, with the stiff body language of a job applicant. He seemed eager to make a good impression, or at least to appear nonthreatening.
Im happy to have this opportunity, he said unconvincingly.
One crucial thing to understand about YouTube is that there are really two of them. The first YouTube is the YouTube that everyone knows the vast reference library filled with sports highlights, music videos and old Comedy Central roasts. But theres a second YouTube inside that one. It is a self-contained universe with its own values and customs, its own incentive structures and market dynamics and its own fully developed celebrity culture that includes gamers, beauty vloggers, musicians, D.I.Y.ers, political commentators, artists and pranksters. The biggest of these personalities have millions of subscribers and Oprah-level influence over their fandoms. Many Inner YouTubers never watch TV and develop elaborate parasocial bonds with their favorite creators. For people who frequent Inner YouTube generally people under 25, along with some older people with abundant free time the site is not just a video platform but a prism through which all culture and information is refracted.
I started hanging out on Inner YouTube in earnest a few years ago, and its scale and insularity was jarring at first. Imagine a genetic mutation that gave everyone born after 1995 the ability to see ultraviolet light. Imagine that these people developed an identity around UV light, started calling themselves UVers and became suspicious of any media product made exclusively on the visible spectrum. As an old person with normal eyes, you would experience this change as a kind of slow cognitive decline. Every day, as more and more of the world played out in UV, you would struggle to catch glimpses of it. All of a sudden, people would be talking about Area 51 or eating Tide Pods, and youd have no idea why. This deep chasm of understanding between Inner YouTube and the rest of the world has proved to be the defining problem of Kjellbergs career.
When Kjellberg started his channel in 2010, YouTube culture hardly existed. He was a 21-year-old college student in Gothenburg, Sweden, who liked playing video games in his apartment. Eventually he took his game footage, superimposed some running commentary in the corner and started uploading it to YouTube early examples of a genre that became known as lets play. Thanks to some combination of goofy charisma and algorithmic luck, Kjellbergs channel blew up, in a way no YouTube channel ever had. In 2012, he hit a million subscribers. The following year, PewDiePie became the biggest channel on the site, and Kjellberg started making serious money a reported $4 million from ads on his channel and was involved in various lucrative offshoot projects, including a deal with the Disney-owned Maker Studios. In 2014, a survey found that PewDiePie was more popular with American teenagers than Katy Perry, Johnny Depp or Leonardo DiCaprio.
Despite the fact that PewDiePies audience had grown larger than that of any late-night talk show, many mainstream outlets still treated him like an exotic animal. Journalists wrote breathless stories about his earnings (sample 2014 headline: This Guy Makes Millions Playing Video Games on YouTube. What?!), and late-night hosts puzzled over his mass appeal (Why do you think people like it so much, watching you play games? Stephen Colbert asked him on The Late Show). He appeared on several episodes of South Park, where the running gag was that nobody could understand what he did for a living.
Inside YouTube, PewDiePie was a prized talent. The company put up PewDiePie posters in its headquarters and gave him a starring role in YouTube Rewind, the companys year-in-review video. (Rewind has become a kind of annual report card for Inner YouTubes top creators, who analyze it frame by frame, looking for hints about their place in the platforms pecking order.) During these years, PewDiePie was not just the YouTuber with the biggest channel. To many Inner YouTubers, he represented the values of the platform lo-fi, authentic, defiantly weird. In 2016, when his channel became the first in history to hit 50 million subscribers, YouTube commissioned an enormous ruby-colored statue of the brofist he signs off most videos by raising a clenched hand to the webcam and mailed it to him.
Kjellberg unboxed it in his kitchen with his camera rolling and seemed genuinely moved.
YouTube really has given me everything, he said.
Years ago, YouTube embarked on a radical experiment in self-governance. In 2012, the company vastly expanded the number of creators it allowed to make money from ads on their channels, provided they stayed within some loose boundaries of taste. This made YouTube unique among social platforms, in that it was possible for popular creators to earn a full-time living directly from the platform. YouTube built an algorithm that recommended those creators videos based on how engaging they were. Then it stepped back, let the machines run and let a thousand media moguls bloom.
So Kjellbergs relationship with YouTube has always been a two-way street. His videos brought the company lucrative advertising revenue and a steady stream of loyal users at a time when it was fending off competition from Facebook, Netflix and other video platforms. In exchange, the company promoted his channel and turned a blind eye to some of his more erratic behavior as in 2012, when he was criticized for his habit of referring to beating his video-game opponents as raping them, or in 2016, when he was temporarily banned by Twitter after joking that he was joining ISIS. Kjellberg called these mistakes his oopsies, and he knew they were easily fixed with an apology. At the time, YouTube took pride in being a creators utopia, and PewDiePie was hardly the only one pushing the limits. Gamers with David Duke vocabularies were everywhere, and a nascent group of right-wing reactionaries was beginning to learn that skewering political correctness was a ticket to YouTube virality. But so was a more garden-variety brand of shock humor, carefully calibrated to the sensibilities of teenage boys.
Edgelords people who post offensive things online for attention had always existed on message boards like 4chan. But YouTube brought them out of the shadows and turned provocation into a viable career path. On YouTube, there were few rules and no lawyers looking over creators shoulders which is precisely why millions of young people went there, to find the kind of stuff they couldnt get on TV. The platforms algorithms promoted engaging videos, with little regard for what made them engaging, and showered ad revenue on the most successful channels. And as all kinds of boundary-pushers raced to fill this void, it became harder to tell who had an actual ideology and who was just feeding the machines what they wanted.
Kjellberg knew plenty of edgelords he was a gamer, after all but he never considered himself one of them. Sure, he cursed and shouted while playing video games, but that was normal behavior. Of the hundreds of videos he posted every year, most were solidly PG-13. Around 2015, though, he began to take more risks. He continued playing video games, but he started experimenting. He did viral challenges, made fun of other YouTubers and reviewed meme submissions from his fans. His video titles from that period sound like a jumbled set of X-rated refrigerator-poetry magnets:
SEX WITH YOUR CAR SIMULATOR
FIST ME DADDY
TOILET EXPLOSION DEATH???
Today Kjellberg attributes this period to a combination of immaturity, boredom and YouTubes platform incentives which encouraged creators to increase their watch time by doing outrageous things. He says that he grew sick of playing video games and that his channels growth had plateaued, which gave him the urge to let loose. Looking back, it was a bubble waiting to burst this bubble of, how far can we push this? Kjellberg told me. I think YouTube at that time was at a place where no one really knew where the limit was.
But Kjellberg did know where the limit was, because he had already started breaching it. In early 2015, he nearly blew up his Maker Studios deal over a video in which he read erotic fan fiction starring characters from the hit Disney movie Frozen. According to a person with knowledge of the incident, Bob Iger, Disneys chief executive, was very upset when he found out that a YouTuber employed by one of his subsidiaries was cackling over pornographic depictions of Elsa and Olaf the Snowman. Iger calmed down after a Maker Studios staff member explained that erotic fan fiction was a popular internet genre. (A spokeswoman for Disney said that Iger found the video to be in poor taste.) Another former colleague of Kjellbergs told me about an incident that happened in November 2016. Kjellberg arrived at a taping of Scare PewDiePie a show he was making for YouTubes premium video service in a T-shirt with a swastika drawn on it. Kjellberg explained that the shirt was part of a running joke on his vlog, in which he and his friends, at least one of whom was Jewish, pranked one another by drawing things on one anothers shirts. The colleague intervened, telling Kjellberg that it would be irresponsible to wear a Nazi symbol on a show that millions of young people would see. (Videos posted by Kjellberg during this period show him and a friend wearing shirts with swastikas drawn on them, but Kjellberg denied wearing one on the shows set.)
I talked to roughly a dozen people who knew or collaborated with Kjellberg during this period, and none thought he was a genuine anti-Semite. Some theorized that Nazi jokes were just the most offensive type of humor he and his friends could imagine, and therefore the funniest. They said he didnt understand the power he had as YouTubes most popular creator, or what millions of impressionable kids might make of a blond, blue-eyed European joking about Hitler. Even today, Kjellberg whose 100 million subscribers would collectively form the 14th-most-populous nation on earth has a hard time making sense of his influence. In his mind, hes just a normal guy who happened to get famous.
My job is just: I go to my office; I record a video in front of a camera, he told me. He then glanced down at the microphones sitting on the table. Its weird for me to be in this position, because I dont really want to be in this position.
In February 2017, Kjellberg learned that The Wall Street Journal was preparing to run an article about nine videos, posted on his channel over the course of six months, that contained anti-Semitic jokes or Nazi imagery. Kjellberg knew that the videos were controversial, and he did some quick damage control. In a post on his Tumblr, he explained, I think of the content that I create as entertainment, and not a place for any serious political commentary. His jokes, he said, were in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes.
Some of the videos The Journal featured were clearly less offensive in context, like the one in which he told his fans to stop building swastikas in a video game. But other jokes like a video in which he tested the limits of what people on the gig website Fiverr would do for money, including paying two Indian men to hold up a sign that read Death to All Jews were harder to explain. A few of these videos captured the attention of established anti-Semitic groups, who speculated that Kjellberg wasnt totally kidding and might be converting to their cause. The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi hate site, was so hopeful that it changed its tagline to the worlds #1 PewDiePie fan site. Today, Kjellberg blames himself for stepping over the line, but he also characterizes what happened as a kind of category error a group of outsiders, blind to UV light, who mistook his trolling for genuine hate. Of course, even people who understood that he was trolling found it irresponsible. As a writer on the video-game website Polygon put it, Intent only gets you so far when it comes to toying with hate speech in front of an audience of tens of millions, many of whom are younger children.
The fallout from The Journals article was swift and brutal. Maker Studios ended its partnership with Kjellberg, and YouTube canceled his Scare PewDiePie series and dropped him from a V.I.P. advertising program. By the end of the day, Kjellberg who was on a Valentines Day getaway with his longtime girlfriend, Marzia Bisognin, when the article went online was in danger of losing his whole empire. I spent the day being in this little cottage with no internet, he said. And then I go on Twitter, and theres J.K. Rowling calling me a fascist, and Im like: How is this happening? This is crazy.
A few days later, Kjellberg posted an angry, defensive video in which he vacillated between self-deprecation and grandiosity, accusing The Journal of punching down at a rookie comedian seconds before saying things like, Old-school media does not like internet personalities because theyre scared of us. He recast The Journals article as a conspiracy, implying that the jealous, dishonest mainstream media had ginned up a fake controversy in order to take him (and by extension, all of YouTube) down a peg. By turning attention to the news media, Kjellberg found a fight he could win. Mainstream outlets had, in fact, botched some of their early coverage of YouTube culture, and YouTubers were inherently suspicious that the media establishment saw them as competition.
PewDiePie felt besieged, even though his audience dwarfed that of any mainstream media outlet and the Bro Army agreed. For weeks, they barraged The Journals reporters with harassment and threats, and even dug up off-color jokes one reporter made years earlier on Twitter. Kjellberg promptly featured the tweets in a video; afterward, the reporter received so many death threats that The Journal offered to briefly move him out of his house. The Bro Army also took aim at YouTube, which fans believed was siding with the media and punishing PewDiePie in response to outside pressure. When the 2017 version of YouTube Rewind came out, he was nowhere to be found.
After the Journal article, Kjellberg seemed to lose whatever was left of his inhibitions. He started his own parody news series, Pew News, in which he mocked the media and dissected negative articles about him. He took on the kinds of culture-war topics he once avoided, like microaggressions and the wage gap. Kjellberg never identified himself as a conservative, but his new, more politicized views attracted the attention of right-wing personalities like Carl Benjamin, a British YouTuber known as Sargon of Akkad, and Alex Jones, who offered Kjellberg a guest slot on Infowars. (Kjellberg politely declined.)
Kjellberg also kept making oopsies bad ones, the kind that would instantly end careers anywhere outside YouTube. In a September 2017 video, he yelled nigger on a gaming live stream. (He apologized, saying in a video, I know I cant keep messing up like this.) In 2018, he recommended an anime review channel that, upon closer inspection, turned out to be rife with anti-Semitic and hateful content. These scandals made Kjellberg toxic outside YouTube. But they only strengthened his fan bases perception of him as a martyr, a symbol of YouTubes freewheeling culture sacrificed at the altar of corporate profits. And they endeared him to the alt-right, which saw in him a potentially valuable ally. In an age of ruthless cultural conformity, someone like PewDiePie isnt supposed to exist, Paul Joseph Watson, a far-right YouTube commentator, said in a 2019 video defending Kjellberg from his critics. Which is why theyve tried to tear him down, over and over again.
Kjellberg and I sat in the Airbnb together for an entire afternoon, and I spent at least an hour trying to pin down his actual political beliefs or get him to talk about how this period of intense criticism shaped his views. He spoke freely about his feud with the news media he now regrets going after the Journal reporters, he said, especially given what happened to them afterward but when the conversation approached partisan politics, he clammed up. He told me that he was more apolitical than anything, and when I asked him whether he was more right-wing or left-wing, he said he was somewhere in between. We had a lot of long, futile exchanges like this:
Are there any politicians who excite you?
Like, anywhere in the world?
I couldnt name one, no.
What did you think about UKIP endorsing you? I asked. On Twitter, the far-right British party had recently told its followers to subscribe to his channel to stop T-Series from overtaking him.
Its kind of funny how a political party would post about a meme, he said. But its also kind of like, Ehh, dont drag me into your politics.
To Kjellberg, the past few years have proved that there is no reward for engaging in politics, even if it would be good fodder for his channel. He is especially annoyed that he continues to be linked to the far right, despite his insistence that he doesnt support its causes. When Kjellberg is accused of being far right, he doesnt respond by protesting that hes actually a classical liberal or a heterodox Stoic or whatever YouTube reactionaries are calling themselves these days. Instead, he insists that hes not interested in politics at all. Its a clever strategic position for a guy whose audience straddles the partisan divide.
But its also plausible, if you watch more than a few of the roughly 4,000 videos on his channel. PewDiePie doesnt endorse candidates, debate podcast hosts or make fun of transgender-bathroom bills. He plays video games, reads memes off Reddit and sometimes jokes about stuff in the news. His political preferences, to the extent they exist, seem almost entirely predicated on entertainment value. President Trump, he told me, became a meme for a while, until it stopped being funny. And while recent history has taught us that extremists often use stupid memes to smuggle their views into the mainstream, in Kjellbergs case, the memes themselves seem to be the point.
Kjellberg described the New Zealand shooting as a major turning point in his life. The morning after, he was in bed, struggling to get back to sleep, when his phone began buzzing. He saw, on Twitter and in a flurry of texts, that the shooting suspect had said, Subscribe to PewDiePie just before he began his slaughter. After Kjellberg absorbed the shock, a sequence began unspooling in his mind. First, the news media which wouldnt understand that all that Subscribe to PewDiePie stuff was as much a joke as an actual endorsement would accuse him of inspiring a mass murderer. All the Nazi stuff would come back up. He would have to issue a statement, and doing so would make it seem as though he were drawing attention to himself and away from the victims.
It had been about a month since the shooting when I asked Kjellberg about it, and he looked genuinely pained. He repeated his concern for the victims and their families, and he reiterated what he said about himself a hundred times before: He wasnt a white nationalist, and he didnt condone violence. He told me that he was planning to release a video calling for an end to the Subscribe to PewDiePie campaign and was hoping to return to his roots as a goofy, uncontroversial gaming vlogger.
We parted ways. And then, for whatever its worth, everything he said would happen did. A few days after our interview, he persuaded his fans to end Subscribe to PewDiePie. He stopped grinding axes with the news media and started playing Minecraft again. He and Bisognin married and went on their honeymoon. He got new advertising deals, and he returned to YouTubes good graces. YouTube sent him a red diamond play button on the occasion of his 100 millionth subscriber, along with a congratulatory letter from Susan Wojcicki, the chief executive a sign that, in the companys eyes, he has turned back from the edge.
The charitable way to interpret PewDiePies new attitude is that he has actually grown up, developed a thicker skin and taken stock of his own power and responsibility. The more pragmatic way is to point out that Kjellberg is a professional YouTuber and that for now, at least his career prospects are partly dependent on his ability to stay out of trouble. Either way, if Kjellberg ever achieves something like redemption, it will always be complicated by the world-historic nature of his YouTube stardom and the daily high-wire act it requires of him. Stand too close to the edge, and he risks jeopardizing his standing with the people who sign his checks, host his videos and write about him on gaming websites. Stand too far from the edge, and he risks looking like a sellout in front of 100 million fans, many of whom follow him expressly for the unfiltered straight talk or worse and could turn on him if they sense that he is taking directions from above.
In September, after reaching 100 million subscribers, PewDiePie uploaded a new video. In it, he pledged to give $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League, one organization that criticized him for joking about the Holocaust. It was a symbolic gesture of closure, a signal that he had matured and was ready to apologize and move on. Ive finally come to terms, he said, with the responsibility I have as a creator.
Some of his fans, though, werent ready to bury the hatchet. They barraged the videos comment section with anti-Semitic slurs and conspiracy theories and accused the Anti-Defamation League of blackmailing him into making a donation. Some of them were actual anti-Semites, but others were just suspicious. Why would PewDiePie donate to an organization that criticized him? Was he being bullied? They had been conditioned to think that any time a YouTuber apologized for stepping over the line, it was because someone from the outside a media organization, an advertiser, YouTube corporate was forcing his or her hand. As his second family, one commenter on a PewDiePie-themed subreddit wrote, I feel like were obligated to voice our concerns when theres something clearly not right here.
The next day, Kjellberg posted another video and announced that he wasnt giving the $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League after all. He said that it doesnt feel genuine for me to proceed with a donation at this point and that he didnt know a lot of things about the groups activities when he made the pledge. He would find another charity, he said, one that better represented his values. Some people interpreted Kjellbergs about-face as a sign that he wasnt actually sorry for the Nazi jokes. Others surmised, probably more accurately, that he feared offending his most vocal fans more than he feared the criticism he would face for retracting a donation to a Jewish anti-hate group. No one was particularly happy, least of all Kjellberg, who took to his YouTube channel to confess that he just wanted to make the drama go away.
Watching all this play out, I thought about something he told me back in Brighton. We had been talking about the likelihood that T-Series would soon dethrone him after six years as YouTubes top creator. Kjellberg surprised me by saying that it didnt really bother him that, in fact, he had been getting nostalgic for the days when he had fewer subscribers. He confessed that he periodically thought about giving up on YouTube altogether. His wife had given up her popular YouTube channel last year. I suggested that he could do the same thing shutter his channel and spend his days lounging on a hammock somewhere with her.
Dont tempt me, he said with a smile. I kind of question if the positive outweighs the negative, he went on. Its a lot more than I think I signed up for. He seemed to catch himself mid-daydream and clarified: Deleting his channel is not something he would really go through with. Like many other extreme ideas, its just something he plays with from time to time.