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Review: MADONNA NYC 83 by Richard Corman

On the cover of a magazine (book)

On the cover of a magazine (book)

‘Early in May 1983, I got a call from my mother, Cis Corman. She was casting Scorsese’s new film, The Last Temptation of Christ and she’d just auditioned a woman I really had to photograph. “She’s an original! I’ve never met anyone like her!’ … The woman was Madonna, and the part she’d auditioned for was the Virgin Mary.’ American photographer Richard Corman‘s introduction to Madonna NYC 83, a new (and MDNA-approved) book cataloging his encounter/collaboration with the queen of pop which is published this week.

I will never get tired of looking at old Madonna pix and within a month of her madgesty launching her latest creative/hype/humanitarian project, Art for FreedomMNYC83 is a reminder of why and how she became famous in the first place – her moves, her face, her style and her attitude. Even after 30 years her flirtatious joy, brazen ambition, clutch of cultural references (give Boy George his hat back) and raw NYC nothing-to-lose-ness are still as fresh and as challenging as ever in Corman’s photgraphs. Here are some of my favourites… Read More…


What is IT?

Phoebe’s eye – in tribute to Alexa’s eye on the cover of IT

September is officially the beginning of Christmas in book world. It’s the month when lots of books get unleashed onto the autumn in the hope that they’ll find homes on gift lists in advance of the present-giving season. And this year Alexa Chung’s ‘debut’, IT is one of them.

Alexa’s style is untouchable (in spite of the copyists). She knows what to wear and when and she always looks her very best, but IT – neither memoir nor getting-dressed guide nor glossy coffee table book - might test even her most ardent follower’s loyalty. We love her for her great taste and hip dry wit but how does that translate from the internet/red carpets/TV into a hardback book format?

After a big announcement from Penguin about buying the rights to the book in October 2012, there really seemed to be something to get excited about. (My thoughts that day>>> I LOVE Alexa’s tweets!! And a book-length version of her tweets with some new pictures in between? Wow. >>> ok maybe slightly exaggerated thoughts). Books should always be the confirmation of the author/subject’s frowny worthiness and permanence where there’s otherwise only vague tweets and grainy ‘gramz. However, almost a year on from that urgent-email-to-friends-inducing headline, comes IT itself.

Seemingly coaxed out of her by the editor over email and the blank pages in between filled in with internet snaps, IT challenges the very idea of what a book is supposed to be. Yes IT looks very lovely with its matt pink cover, and is not unreasonably priced (at £16.99 and discounted everywhere). It’s just rather disappointing that there’s not more to it. Looking back at the two volumes that it’s probably closest to in audience if not actual content/reading pleasure – Luella’s Guide to English Style and Kira Jolliffe and Bay Garnett’s Cheap Date – IT becomes an even bigger missed opportunity. Shouldn’t a book tell a story, reveal something you don’t already know, inspire curiosity, laughter, disapproval – anything?

The only things I thought while flicking through are, ‘Oh, the letters are really big’ and ‘Who are all these people in the photographs?’ Perhaps captions are really uncool. Or they didn’t have time? Or Alexa and her editor must have assumed that you, the reader, wouldn’t need captions because you follow her online and therefore will know who everyone is. Presumably the people in all the pictures have names which start with @ and don’t have capital letters too, like my friends.

After my quick flick through I realised that my name might begin with A but it doesn’t begin with @ and I am just maybe slightly/16 years too old for IT. But what of the Vogue, Style and Guardian covers Alexa did to promote this book and the serious writing career that she may or may not want. She seems to be plagued by a self-consciousness that means she can’t take anything seriously – great Russian novelists, eyeliner, feminism – but sadly you can’t see her ironic raised eyebrow while you’re reading a book and it just reads like it’s been written in a hurry. Obviously, like the sucker for a pretty dress I am, I’ll give her many more chances to disappoint me in the future. But I won’t be lending anyone the book – I don’t have it anymore.


P-P-P-Pussy POWER: on screen + on the page

PR Quad Sml (1) When Pussy Riot broke out on the internet last year, I was obviously going to be obsessed with them. Riot grrrl for the 2010s, dressed in Beyond-Retro-ish frocks and masked in fluro balaclavas, they had a lot to be angry about and were a reminder of the power of youth, music and rebellion when the closest most of us get to a protest is retweeting someone’s disgruntled missive.

The new book Let’s Start a Pussy Riot curated by Emely Neu and edited by Jade French and the HBO documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer have just been released to help contextualise their story and remind us about their cause as two Rioters – Masha and Nadia – remain in prison.

pussy riotPussy Riot might look the same as any other twenty-somethings in Moscow, New York, London or wherever, but that’s where the comparison ends. At the launch for LSAPR at Yoko Ono’s MELTDOWN FESTIVAL last month in front of an audience that included PR-agitator Peaches, two Pussy Riot reps made a surprise appearance that was humbling, inspiring, colourful and greeted with some noisy applause. Their faces masked, their voices vocodered through microphones and then translated into English by an interpreter, they were determined to share their stories and answer questions in spite of the layers obscuring quick communications.

However ‘punk’ and improvised their protests appear, they’re thoroughly planned and their objectives are always clear, the girls explained. Since most of the Rioters come from a (performance) art background, they are concerned with the visual impact of their activities, and, importantly, those balaclavas are not just about hiding their identities – they’re a statement against the 21st century cult of personality and celebrity. Rather than intimidating, they want that balaclava’d-anonymity to encourage like-minded people to join Pussy Riot wherever they are.

And why not join in? The wider PR collective’s inclusive campaigning is how the makers of the Punk Prayer documentary (which follows the trial of the three Rioters last year and meets their families, giving a Russian as well as an outsider’s insight into their arguments and objectives) and blog-turned-book Let’s Start a Pussy Riot (featuring contributions from Antony Hegarty, Robyn, Kim Gordon, Yoko and many more) got made after all.

[Their latest protest video has just been posted at the Guardian. See Yoko talk Pussy Riot for the BBC here, watch the LSAPR launch at the Southbank Centre online here and follow the campaign here.]


I’m so XXcited

This weekend The XX take their Night + Day mini-fest project to Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. I would be going if I hadn’t done my history coursework on HH (meaning I can never go there again) and already been to the Berlin edition last month – a damp and dreamy evening in an abandoned theme park that was pretty much as XX as it gets. I love them because:

1. Frontwoman Romy is the least attention-seeking, most modest muso girl ever. I’d like to give her my favourite 2012 book ‘QUIET: The Power of Introverts’ or at the very least recommend it highly to her.

2. At Night + Day Berlin Jessie Ware joined them on stage for a very silly, very entertaining mix of ‘Music Sounds Better with You/Lady’ which everyone tried to sing along to:

3. They might appear to just be wearing any old black clothes, but are actually deeply into their ‘look’. I rode past Romy and Oliver walking down Shepherdess Walk last year and blushed as soon as I realised that I was wearing one of my ‘XX’ outfits and hoped they didn’t notice. That’s how specific it is.

4. Jamie XX – who does his own amazing remixing and DJing things on the side – has beaten-up the band’s whole back catalogue to make the songs festival-worthy for these gigs. I’m hoping for a live album please.

5. They have excellent taste as showcased on the line-ups of their Night+Day parties: Chromatics, Jessie Ware, Solange, Dixon, James Murphy, Kim Ann Foxman… the sum of listening without prejudice to pop, hip hop, bass, indie, electronica forever.

 


Win a copy of Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel!

The first Pamflet salon of the summer season is with Amanda Mackenzie Stuart, author of Empress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland and to give the proceedings even more pizzazz, we’ve wangled three copies of Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s beautiful photographic account of Mrs V’s life and work, The Eye Has To Travel, to give to three lucky salon attendees.

the-eye-has-to-travel

All you have to do is purchase your ticket via the button below and you’ll be entered into the draw – we will give the winners their copes at the salon on Tuesday July 2nd.

PAMFLET SUMMER SALONS




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"Pamflet is the photocopy-quality soapbox for two young, sarky post-feminists from London who want women’s rights and the right to wear pretty things, and want it, like, yesterday." Sunday Times Style

"They’re funny and honest and write about fashion with feminism so I’m obviously all over it." Tavi

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