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(Summer 2019)

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(Spring 2019)


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Issue 14

(December 2016)

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Issue 15

(February 2017)


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Issue 1

(December 2012)


On the Edge of the Arctic Landscape in Icelandic Crime Fiction

This article was previously published in Issue 20, ISLANDS (March 2019). Stranded in the North Atlantic and battered by harsh winds and volcanic eruptions, the bleak shores of Iceland loom large in contemporary crime fiction. Despite its diminutive population, which is settled sparsely over much of the small island nation, Iceland has produced a remarkable number of crime novels, reflecting the larger explosion of Nordic crime fiction across an international market. While the cold and dreary landscapes of many Nordic countries provide a suitably bleak backdrop for plots that always revolve around a murder, the narratives that emerge from Iceland demonstrate an especially close reliance on th

The Migration Museum: Re-Evaluating Britain's 'Island Story' with Matthew Plowright

This article was previously published in Issue 20, ISLANDS (March 2019). Matthew Plowright is Head of Communications at the Migration Museum, an organisation that explores the many ways in which the movement of people to and from Britain across the ages has shaped who we are – as individuals, as communities, and as a nation. The museum stages an acclaimed programme of exhibitions, events and education workshops throughout the UK, as well as in an arts and community space, The Workshop, in South London. The current exhibition at the Migration Museum, ‘Room to Breathe’, is an immersive experience inviting visitors to journey through a series of rooms – from a bedroom to a classroom, a kitchen

Don McCullin: Images of Brutality

This article was previously published in Issue 20, ISLANDS (March 2019). The opening  statement  of the Don McCullin retrospective at Tate Britain is bold and uncompromising: photography is ‘not looking, it’s feeling’. This is how legendary British photographer McCullin describes the sixty years  he spent as a photojournalist, capturing some of the most devastating scenes of suffering the world has seen. McCullin’s reflective  comment  concisely  sums up the response that his powerful and unsparing body of work demands of its viewer in this comprehensive exhibition. Showcasing some 250 photographs of war, starvation, poverty and death, McCullin’s stark  retrospective does not shy away from i

Islands of Escapism

This article was previously published in Issue 20, ISLANDS (March 2019). Illustration by Grace MacKeith London, the city we live in, is found in perpetual movement and chaos. With sometimes too much, and never too little to do, a state of constant stress can arise. Nothing allows time to stop in this city. With the condensation of multiculturalism and through the current political period of uncertainty, it is sometimes a real necessity to detach oneself from this fast-paced society. Fortunately, the city offers islands that provide the sensation of time-stopping naturalist and brutalist spots; small nooks that allow for a drastic disconnection from dehumanized London can be found. I decided

Vests Are Having a Moment in the Fashion of Politics

Paris is still hot and sticky from its recent heatwave but on July 12th in the halls of the Panthéon, the voices of hundreds of undocumented migrants can be heard shouting in unison, “What do we want? Papers. For whom? Everyone.” The scene is as chaotic as it is impressive. Standing on the ashes of national figures such as Hugo, Voltaire and Curie, they call for the right to hold documentation allowing them to live and work legally in France. The ‘Gilets-Noirs’ (black vests), as they have chosen to name themselves, can be distinguished not by a physical item of clothing as their name might imply, but rather by the symbolic white papers that fill their hands, shaking furiously in the air. The

Open Space 2019: In Conversation with Huma Kabackı

This article was previously published in Issue 20, ISLANDS (March 2019). Pluto's Kitchen by Işıl Eğrikavuk, Co-commissioned by Block Universe and Open Space (Image: Arron Leppard) Huma Kabakcı is the Founding Director of Open Space, a charitable arts organisation that seeks to foster experimental art practices and explore the interconnected nature of politics and art. With physical roots predominantly in London with links to Istanbul, Open Space emerges from two diverse cultures with their own artistic, culinary, literary, and political traditions. Open Space doesn’t belong to a particular national identity – it exists within a new kind of territory, an omnipresent virtual space with the cap

Is Cocoa Colonialist? A Brief History and Attempt at Criticism

This article was previously published in Issue 20, ISLANDS (March 2019). Islands have occupied much of my research interests since taking up Dr Emily Mann’s second-year undergraduate course: ‘Competing Ventures, Contested Visions: Constructing European Empires in the Early Modern World’. A lot of the scholarship on this period is concerned with the study of commodities and luxury items, charting their arrival and integration into European cultures. One of the products that arrived as a novelty to Europe between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries and has since embarked on its own colonising journey of sorts is the cocoa bean. Without this humble and unassuming bean, we would not have the

What Does Your Soul Like? Photography and the City

This article was previously published in Issue 20, ISLANDS (March 2019). Mahayana Buddhism teaches of six realms of corporeal existence, all of which hold their own vices. The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, adjacent to Hell, holds those consumed by their desires. They traverse barren landscapes, cold, starving and untouched. The consuming need for substance is an Uroboros tragedy, a snake eating its own tail: one can only be ‘full’ once they accept the wisdom of emptiness. Don’t worry, this isn’t about me trying to convert one to Buddhism to fix depression, or preach about my art. Actually, it has a happy ending. Apart from my love of bleak, Eastern philosophical openings, I also love Photograp

Olivia Laing on the Art of Being Alone

This article was previously published in Issue 20, ISLANDS (March 2019). Following a difficult breakup and a transatlantic move to New York City, Olivia Laing finds herself in the midst of a crisis – alone in New York and experiencing poignant isolation. Her remedy? Art. In a sharp non-fiction titled ‘The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone’, Laing gently rips to shreds any of the New York glamour and glitz installed upon us by the likes of Nick Carraway or Carrie Bradshaw. Instead, she offers an exploration into the solitary lives of several of New York’s twentieth-century artists as a balm for wounds of loneliness – after all, what is relatability if not a great comfort? Illu

Esther Chadwick: Castaway

This article was previously published in Issue 20, ISLANDS (March 2019). What better way to illuminate the theme of ‘islands’ than by re-enacting Desert Island Discs? Radio 4’s much-loved series has been entertaining the British public since 1945, and today it stands as a treasured tune-in across the country. My castaway is Dr Esther Chadwick, who kindly agreed to share her choice of eight discs, a book and a luxury item, along with some insights into her interests and ambitions. Her song choices, she states, are selected not only because she loves them deeply, but because they say something about her history. Seated in the National Gallery, following our ‘Possibilities of Portraiture’ class

Floating Roots

This article was previously published in Issue 20, ISLANDS (March 2019). A native-born islander’s relationship with their home can be complicated. If you happen to be an islander, chances are you had a beautiful, albeit concealed childhood, seeing that you grew up far, far away from the hustle and bustle of a metropolis like London. You eventually come to realise that having had the advantage to grow up on an island gives you an outlook on life unlike any other person’s. The ugly side of this is felt once you have moved away from the tiny bubble you were raised in. Upon your occasional return, you are hit with the realisation that sadly, nothing ever changes. Everything remains stagnant, as

Jewellery As Memento Mori

This article was previously published in Issue 19, ABSENCE (December 2018). On a recent visit to the Royal Academy’s exhibition, ​Oceania​ (29/09/18 - 10/12/18), a necklace on display caught my attention for two reasons. Firstly, it was accompanied by the most basic description, ​including only a vague placement in time and origin with a simple list of the materials. It struck me as odd that there was so little to give the viewer a better understanding of what the object was, or what it was used for.​ ​Perhaps the limited description is accountable to the universal nature and understanding of a necklace as ornament. This particular piece was made in the nineteenth century by an unknown craft

'I am Ashurbanipal: King of the World, King of Assyria'

This article was previously published in Issue 19, ABSENCE (December 2018). ‘I am Ashurbanipal, great king, mighty king, king of the world, king of Assyria.’ The British Museum’s new exhibition explores the reign of King Ashurbanipal, who ascended to the throne in 669 BC, ruling at the height of the Assyrian empire which then extended from the eastern Mediterranean to western Iran. ‘The greatest king you’ve never heard of’, Ashurbanipal has been thus far largely absent from the canon and this exhibition is attempting to change that. The first/main part starts by looking at how the older South-West and newer North palaces at Nineveh, including their interiors, work as a display of the king’s

Queer Eye: The Colour We Need Right Now

The arts and media have an incredibly important impact on us all. In a time where I am avoiding all news unless I see something to do with art, I turned to the show Queer Eye on Netflix, and learned more than I probably could reading about how there still hasn’t been a decision on Brexit. The aim of the original Queer Eye, or Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in 2003, was to take one straight guy per episode, and with the help of five gay men with certain strengths (food and wine, culture, style, decoration and grooming) to help make them over. The emphasis of the show goes beyond this from make-over to ‘make better’. The 2003 version was particularly ground-breaking, because at the time there

Finding Agnès Varda

This article was previously published in Issue 19, ABSENCE (December 2018). Still from The Gleaners and I, 2000, dir. Agnès Varda (Image: Cine-Tamaris & Zeitgeist Films) Still from The Gleaners and I, 2000, dir. Agnès Varda (Image: Cine-Tamaris & Zeitgeist Films) We find Agnès Varda and an anonymous man in a field in rural France, gleaning for potatoes left to rot by industrial agribusiness. The man: “There are deformed ones, heart-shaped ones.” Varda: “I was glad. I immediately filmed them up close and set about filming perilously with one hand, my other hand gleaning heart-shaped potatoes.” These heart-shaped potatoes, ‘deformed’ to some, draw clear parallels with Varda’s own hand, the han

The Gwangju Biennial: Traumatic Memory and the Absence of Stability

This article was previously published in Issue 19, ABSENCE (December 2018). Celebrating its 12th anniversary, the Gwangju Biennial began as an arts festival to commemorate the young lives lost during the Gwangju Uprising. The Uprising was a mass protest against the repressive military government which took place on the 18th and 27th May 1980, in the small provincial city of Gwangju in South West Korea. Freedom from oppression is a recurrent theme seen throughout the pavilions, celebrated through an array of thought-provoking artworks and site-specific installations. Most of these spaces are reused, recycled and borrowed from the city, encouraging visitors to engage with local culture and cui

Smirna Kulenović: In the Absence, The Artist is Present

This article was previously published in Issue 19, ABSENCE (December 2018). Bosnian artist Smirna Kulenović was born in Sarajevo in 1994 during the siege. Today she is one of the most interesting artists within the contemporary Bosnian art scene. Smirna Kulenovic (Image: Samuel Berthet) As a young artist working in Sarajevo, what does absence mean to you? In the past three months, absence has been one of the most important topics in my life. My current absence within the Bosnian legal system derives from one specific event that happened in my life that I could not control. Last August, I came back home from Portugal and both my passport and ID were stolen at the airport in Sarajevo upon my a

Clara Peeters on Her Own Terms

This article was previously published in Issue 19, ABSENCE (December 2018). ‘Absence’ is not the first word one thinks of upon seeing a seventeenth-century Northern European still life painting. Filled with exotic flowers, porcelain-ware, gold cups, curiosities and food items, the canvas is densely involved with the daily life of the burgher society. By employing heavy symbolism along with material riches, still life paintings warn their audience of the fleeting nature of earthly pleasures. In the early 1600s, the genre developed and flourished in the Northern and Spanish Netherlands in response to the increasing urbanisation of cities such as Antwerp, Haarlem, or Leiden. Still life paintin

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