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Thursday 25 March 2010

The Scouting Book For Boys in Cinemas Now

The Scouting Book For Boys is in Cinemas now. Winning, Best British Newcomer at The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival in 2009, and the Observer offering this plaudit: “Exhilarating...a twisted Romeo and Juliet for the Skins generation”, it seems that Tom Harper is on the road to success. The film was written by Jack Thorne (Skins, Shameless) and produced by Christian Colson and Ivana MacKinnon of Cloud Eight Films (Slumdog Millionaire).

With Thomas Turgoose (This is England, Somers Town) and Holliday Grainger (Awaydays), before the opening scene even rolls – it’s something to be excited about. British cinema is on the rise, if the recession has taught us one thing, it’s this – not to be too gratuitous in all aspects of life. People are bored of the high-budget Hollywood blockbuster and want something more from the heart and mind, which The Scouting Book For Boys delivers.

The story begins with best friends David and Emily and their carefree lives in a coastal caravan park. Although, they’re not on holiday, they actually live there, and you can see from the onset how this affects their lives. Neither have particularly amazing home lives, with David’s dad always asleep because he works shifts in the park and Emily’s mother always drunk.

So, when David learns that Emily is being forced to move away, he helps her hide out in a remote cave on the beach. At first it’s a bit of a game, but then their innocent secret soon becomes complicated, as David watches the police close in on his missing friend. David even begins to appeal for witnesses on local television. He’s able to look into the camera and feign grief. Although, when the real reason Emily wants to escape comes to light, David's world is shattered. Swept up in a situation out of his control, and with his feelings for his best friend intensifying, David is forced to take action.

It’s a film of many proportions. First you feel a sense of loss for both David and Emily, with their home lives being nothing spectacular, they take comfort in each other. However, as adolescence goes, David develops a crush on Emily, and those feeling are not reciprocated. As usual she’s a 14 or 15 year-old girl going on 20.

There are some great cinematic moments, brilliant camera angles that really enhance to overarching feeling of the film – moments of sadness, desperation and loneliness. This clever shooting only adds to the overall sentiment of the film. It’s a critique on modern society, and the boundaries of the self, which can be ultimately scary.

Another aspect of this film that stands out is music from Noah and the Whale. It completely sets the atmosphere.

The Scouting Book For Boys opened in cinemas on 19 March, go see it this weekend!

Wednesday 24 March 2010


Andrea Büttner (b. 1972, Germany) was announced as the winner of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women last night. Büttner lives and works in London and Frankfurt. Shortlisted artists Becky Beasley and Elizabeth Price were also in attendance. I first looked at the Max Mara Art Prize for Women when Margaret Salmon won in 2007. This Prize offers women the chance to not only disseminate their work to a larger audience, but to create through a 6-month residency. How I would love one of those!

The Prize celebrates the diversity that female artists bring to contemporary art, with regards to aesthetics and discourse. It also provides a platform in which they can reach a wider audience. It is a unique initiative set up to promote and nurture female artists based in the UK, enabling artists to develop their potential through the conception of a new work. Shortlisted candidates are asked to develop a proposal for their desired projects, which is then judged by an all female panel. The judging panel for the third Prize, of which Iwona Blazwick is Chairwoman, included artist Fiona Banner; gallerist Alison Jacques; art collector Valeria Napoleone; and art critic Polly Staple.

This year’s winner, Andrea Büttner, will undertake a 6-month residency in Italy, where she can realise her vision. Büttner’s residency will be divided into two locations. The first section will take place from 26 April 2010 at the American Academy in Rome and the second part at the Pistoletto Foundation in Biella. The work will then be offered to the Collezione Maramotti for acquisition and presented at the Whitechapel Gallery in an exhibition in Spring 2011.

Andrea Büttner works in a variety of media, sometimes using old-fashioned items such as woodcuts and pressed flowers, and is especially interested in the area where art and religion overlap. In the last five years Büttner has held solo exhibitions at Pawn Shop in Los Angeles, Crystal Palace in Stockholm, Goethe-Institute in Dublin, London’s ICA, and in 2009 at Croy Nielsen in Berlin, amongst others. She has studios in East London and in Frankfurt.

Andrea Büttner said: "I am very grateful for this opportunity and for the support and trust the Max Mara Art Prize judges show in my work. I look forward to my residency in Italy, and the time it affords me to concentrate on developing a new body of work.”

Iwona Blazwick, OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery and Chairwoman, Max Mara Art Prize for Women, said: “We are delighted to announce Andrea Büttner as the winner of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women. “It is absolutely of the moment; the range of media she uses references art from German Expressionist woodcuts to photography. We eagerly await the results of her 6-month residency in Italy and look forward to showing her work at the Whitechapel Gallery.”

Andrea Büttner is definitely worth keeping an eye on!

Image credit

(c) Andrea Bütner, Nativity, 2007, wood cut, 3 panels of 180 cm x 80 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Hollybush Gardens

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Photography is Immersive: Two New Exhibitions

Last Christmas, I got a new camera, and since then I can't keep away from photography. Even in the next issue, we're running a feature on CONTACT, The World's Largest Festival of Photography, but you'll have to pick up the April issue for more information. I've just been reading, Photography: A Cultural History (Laurence King), and I feel so inspired.

I am really pleased to report two new exhibitions, Simon Roberts: We English and Robbie Cooper: Immersion, which have recently opened at the National Media Museum (Bradford), who are also one of our partners for the Aesthetica Short Film Competition.

During 2007 – 08, British photographer Simon Roberts travelled the length and breadth of England with his family in a motorhome, photographing people playing, relaxing and revelling in the country’s richly varied landscape. Gathered together as We English, his works are an intriguing and lyrical, personal exploration of the nation.Simon’s project reflects the strong heritage of British landscape and documentary photography, and the exhibition will include a complementary selection of photographs from the National Media Museum’s Collection, including works by Roger Fenton, Tony Ray Jones and John Davies.

Locations featured in the exhibition include Skegness Beach, Aintree Racecourse, Malvern Hills, South Downs Way and Bolton Abbey, taking in events from golf to paragliding, picnics to parties, and camping to racing across mud flats. The large prints rejoice in their subjects, showing a fantastic level of detail across expanses of terrain and the collective activities taking place.

In Gallery Two, Robbie Cooper: Immersion probes the media saturated world that we inhabit. Cooper, a photographer and video artist, has worked with volunteers over the past six years and recorded the many ways people use screen media to detach themselves from their immediate surroundings. His works examine the spread of the ‘unreal’ into daily life and investigate contemporary relationships with visual technology.

Featuring several brand new photographs and videos, Robbie Cooper: Immersion gives an intimate and revealing insight into the motivations and reactions of people watching and engaging with various forms of digital imagery; from films and TV programmes to video games and online virtual worlds.

Video and photographic pieces feature the exquisitely captured facial expressions of babies and toddlers as they watch children’s TV shows; horror fans engrossed in gory movies and documentary footage of real life violence; men and women watching adult movies and teenagers playing action video games. Thanks to the clever assembly of equipment, Cooper makes it appear as if the subjects were looking directly into the camera lens as they reacted to the images on screen.

For another set of images, titled Alter Ego, he photographed people from across the globe who create computer-generated characters, known as avatars, as representations of themselves to populate online virtual worlds and interact with other avatars. Inspired by a divorced man who used this method to gain more time to communicate with his children, Cooper travelled to locations including Korea, China, the US, Germany and France, to meet and photograph other avatar creators. Pictures of both their ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ selves are showing alongside each other in the exhibition.

Both shows explore how photography is one of the most powerful tools for communication.

Free entry, both shows run until 5 September, www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk

Image credits:

Simon Roberts: We English
All images (c) Simon Roberts

Robbie Cooper: Immersion
All images (c) Robbie Cooper
Alexander Kinch playing Call of Duty 4, 2008
Timmie McLees watching The Death of Neda, 2010
Lee Taek Soo is Crammer in World of Warcraft, 2004

In the Land Of The Free – A Chance to Win Tickets to Premiere!

In the Land Of The Free is out nationwide on March 26th and we have a pair of tickets available to the film’s premiere on March 24th, which includes a Q&A with special guest Robert King, and Director Vadim Jean. Read on to be in with a chance…

In The Land Of The Free… is a feature-length film documenting the story of the Angola 3. During the 1970s, the Angola 3 protested against continued segregation, corruption and abuse facing the largely African American prison population within the Louisiana penitentiary, Angola. The prison is so named as it stands on the former site of a slave plantation, the workers of which hailed from Angola, Africa. This gives you the first insight into the driving force of the feature. Shortly after speaking out about their conditions, and under suspicion of affiliation with the Black Panther Movement, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were subsequently convicted for the murder of a prison guard, Brent Miller.

There was no physical evidence against them. The main eyewitness was bribed with a carton of cigarettes every week and promised his freedom by the warden in exchange for testifying. A convicted rapist, he was sent to the lowest-level security section of the prison, and subsequently released into the community. Another eyewitness was a legally blind and a sociopath. A bloody fingerprint from the scene was shown not to belong to Herman or Albert and yet never tested against the rest of the prison population. Throughout the film, you constantly feel like there is almost no mystery to be solved – the evidence was there, and was point-blank ignored. Here lies the frustrating truth about this story – the solution has been staring officials in the face for nearly 40 years, and still a campaign is needed in order to bring the true murderers to justice and to end the inhumane conditions of the remaining Angola 2.

Albert and Herman have now been in solitary confinement for 37 years, in which time they have spent 23 hours of each day in a 6 x 9 foot cell. Shockingly, this is likely to be considered the most extensive stretch in solitary confinement known in history, even more than any countries ruled by dictatorships.

Robert King was also imprisoned in solitary confinement for 29 years; though the crime he was said to commit was an impossible act for him to have performed as he was not even imprisoned at Angola during the time of the crime. Finding ways to continue to keep him incarcerated in solitary confinement “under investigation”, the prison officials clearly ignored all ideas of human rights for 29 long years until his release.

The film depicts the disturbing truth of not just the story of the Angola 3, but about prison life in Angola, Louisiana; a dangerous and terrifying place to be. Institutionalized racism, gang wars, power games and rape make up the day-to-day survival of the inmates throughout the documentary, surrounding the plight of the main protagonists in genuine context. With chilling images of the tiny cells and the intimidating prison walls, the film truly gives a sense of the fate that has been assigned to Wallace and Woodfox, indicating the seriousness of their solitary entrapment.

The winner of the premiere tickets will also be invited to attend a Q&A session after the film in which Robert and ITLOTF director Vadim Jean will take the audience member’s questions, the winner will also receive a copy of Robert’s inspirational book From the Bottom of the Heap. There are also In The Land Of The Free t-shirts available for 3 runners up.

For your chance to win just answer the following question:

Who directed In The Land Of The Free?

Please send your answer to Alexis Smith at office@aestheticamagazine.com by 2pm on 23 March. Hurry, don’t miss out!

In The Land of the Free is out nationwide on March 26th, and is most definitely worth going to see. For further information please visit the website:

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