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Culture

A Radiant Renaissance

One of only two female founding members of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Angelica Kauffmann was something of a trailblazer in the 18th century. Her importance in the history of art is not just based on how unusual it was for a woman to be a recognised artist, but also on the influence her work would have on subsequent generations of artists.

A Radiant Renaissance presents a comprehensive selection of Kaufmann’s works, which illustrate the breadth of her talent, from portraiture to decorative arts and history painting; the field that would ultimately bring her international recognition from the leading courts of Europe and private patrons alike.

Born in Switzerland in 1741, Kauffman spent her childhood living and travelling in Europe with her father, the lesser artist, Johann Kauffmann. Her ability showed from an early age, so much so, that by her teens she was already working on portrait commissions. At the start of this exhibition, visitors are invited to explore her mastery in this field through several of her self-portraits, such as Self-portrait in the Traditional Costume of the Bregenz Forest,…

Strokes of Genius

The Baroque Dutch painter Frans Hals is considered one of the most innovative artists of his time. His paintings of citizens of Haarlem, where he spent most of his life, were unlike anything else in-period: natural, spontaneous, full of movement and vitality; effects achieved thanks to his incisiveness as an artist and his unique technique […]

Heralding a new cultural age

A canvas so vast and so beautiful, the ancient city of AlUla is, by its very nature, a place of extraordinary beauty. Positioned on the ancient Incense Route between Southern Arabia and Egypt, this expansive region spans 200,000 years of human history and features a lush valley, towering sandstone mountains, and heritage sites. Its most […]

The intriguing mystery of our obsession with footwear

It’s safe to say that shoes score top of the list when it comes to attire people are obsessed with. From the infamous Imelda Marcos’ reported 3,000 pairs to Paris Hilton’s 2,000 or NBA player Russell Westbrook’s 1,000, our obsession with footwear seems to date back to Ancient Egypt, where shoes said a lot about where you stood in society.

The Hampshire Cultural Trust holds a remarkable collection of historic shoes and boots, which are the focus of an intriguing exhibition that deals with our fascination for footwear. For starters, shoes say a lot about us; not just status but also line of work, hobbies, taste and even aspirations in life.

Containing around 70 pairs – mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries – Shoes also features several very early objects, including a bone skate from the Anglo-Saxon period (10th–11th century) that was found in Winchester, and four pairs of shoes, a couple with matching pattens, dating from the early 1700s.

Left: Women’s “Flapper” evening shoe, Julienne, France (c.1920s). Right: Women’s shoes, Biba, London (c.1970s).

Among the other objects on display are a WWI officer’s trench boots, early 20th-century clogs and a pair of dance shoes from c.1925 in the flapper style. The second half of the 20th century is represented by 1940s–50s utility wear, 1950s stilettos, brothel creepers and platforms that became synonymous with popular culture in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Sports footwear is also on display in the form of ice skates, roller skates, and baseball and basketball shoes from the likes of Converse and Nike.

Shoes are not just about how beautiful, sexy or cool they are. How they are made matters, and for this exhibition, some have been x-rayed and those images will be displayed alongside the corresponding objects to reveal their construction, developments in design and, in some cases, an ethereal reminiscence of a life lived.

Left: X-ray of women’s Victorian pearled button boots, Joseph Box, London (c.1890-1900). X-ray courtesy of the University of Southampton. Right: X-ray of Biba women’s shoe. X-ray courtesy of Hampshire Cultural Trust.

High-heel lovers may be surprised to learn that they originated in Assyria around 700 BC on riding boots, coinciding with the invention of the stirrup, enabling male soldiers to sit more firmly in the saddle and hold heavier weapons. Elizabeth I wore them in an effort to emphasise her princely masculinity. In contrast, the traditional cowboy boot – with its stacked leather heel designed to keep riders comfortable throughout long days in the saddle – is an item of workwear that’s redolent of masculinity.

Left: Mary Quant shoes (c.1960s). Right: women’s wedge shoes by John Galliano (c.2020s).

An exhibition about shoes couldn’t ignore the rise of high-end designers, represented here by a pair of studded Christian Louboutin stilettos and a pair of shoes made by the late British fashion icon Mary Quant. Other famous labels featured include John Galliano, Biba and Liberty.

For more information and tickets, HERE.

SHOES: INSIDE OUT

The Gallery at The Arc. Jewry Street, Winchester SO23 8SB

This exhibition runs until 6th March 2024

Words: Lavinia Dickson-Robinson

Opening image: “Alti” stiletto shoes, Christian Louboutin (c.2000-2015).

Becoming who you are

In Venice, Oscar-winning director Sofia Coppola sat down with Pete Carroll to discuss the inspiration behind her upcoming film Priscilla, and why she was drawn to Priscilla Presley’s life story.

Sofia Coppola has always made powerful films that evolve around strong but often isolated and lonely characters whose true personalities and lives are revealed as the movie unfolds. Priscilla Presley, the ex-wife and widow of Elvis Presley – one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century and the king of rock ’n’ roll – absolutely fit that description and, understandably, piqued Coppola’s interest.

“I was just surprised by her story and connected to the fact that it was such an unusual setting,” Coppola says, perhaps alluding to her own atypical upbringing. “I didn’t know she was going to high school when she lived at Graceland. I can’t imagine what that was like. I’m talking about universal things that all women can all relate to, such as going into womanhood or becoming a mother and especially, at her time, being expected to stay at home while men went off, did their own thing and had fun. Just the stress of meeting all those expectations.”

“I’ve always been interested in how people become who they are, and how their identity emerges through the choices they make.”

       – Sofia Coppola

MKX

From the beginning it was clear to Coppola that she wanted to tell the story from Priscilla’s point of view and connect with her humanity, not just her celebrity. And the film does exactly that, depicting Priscilla’s loneliness at Graceland – which was not unlike Marie Antoinette’s at Versailles. “I’ve always been interested in how people become who they are, and how their identity emerges through the choices they make,” Coppola says. “So when I was starting to think about this story, I considered whether it would be too similar to Marie Antoinette’s – but I realised that it was a completely different world, and I was curious to find out how Priscilla became herself living in that rarefied context.”

Like most women in the 1970s, Priscilla didn’t have a career or her own money; she was entirely dependent on her husband. “She is from my mother’s generation,” Coppola says. “And I know [she] struggled with trying to have her own creative life.” After pausing for a moment, she adds, “I look at my daughters and think of the difference in the roles of women from the time of my mom to now… but on the other hand, I still see women that totally defer to their husband and what their husband wants.”

Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla and Jacob Elordi as Elvis in Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla.

Casting for Priscilla was a challenge, Coppola says: Priscilla, because she had to carry the entire film; and Elvis, because he’s an icon. “I wanted just one actress to play Priscilla from the ages of 14 to 29, and that’s not easy.” Her team had brought Cailee Spaeny to her attention; and Kirsten Dunst, who had just worked with Spaeny, also recommended her.

Going for an unknown actor can be an advantage in that they don’t have baggage; they come to the audience purely as the character. “Also,” Coppola adds, “it gets tiring to have the same few actors in everything. That often happens because to get financing you need the same five people. Therefore, it was a blessing to be allowed to cast someone like Cailee.”

Choosing the right actor to play Elvis was even more daunting. Since Coppola couldn’t find anyone who looked like him, she went for “the essence of Elvis,” she says. The decision to cast Jacob Elordi was sealed when she met him in a restaurant and all the women turned around to look at him. “I thought he had as much charm and charisma as I imagine Elvis had,” Coppola says. “But I also felt that he had the sensitivity to show the vulnerable Elvis, the person he was in his private life.”

YOU CAN READ THIS INTERVIEW IN FULL IN OUR WINTER ISSUE. GET YOUR COPY HERE.

Priscilla will be released in UK cinemas on 1st January. Her book Archive is available now through Mack Books.

Interview: Pete Carroll / The Interview People

Post-production: Edwin Ingram

Love, addiction, life and death

Nan Goldin’s work is not for the faint of heart. The American artist’s raw, intimate photographs began not as an attempt to find recognition or fame, but as a visual diary of her life among her chosen family in Boston, USA, in the early 1970s. For the next 40 years, Goldin continued to chronicle the people around her – performers, friends, lovers and abusers (sometimes one and the same) – as well as her own drug and alcohol addiction and her difficult road to recovery. Her subjects were drawn from her diverse community, and her backdrops were the streets, bedrooms and nightclubs of New York, Berlin, Bangkok and beyond.

This Will Not End Well comprises six slide shows presented in six tent-like structures designed by architect Hala Wardé. “I found a way to make films out of still images,” Goldin said. “Making slide shows gives me the luxury of constantly re-editing to reflect my changing view of the world.” The thousands of photos here – supported by music, voice-overs and archive material – often overlap, resulting in a rich representation of Goldin’s bohemian universe.

Nan Goldin, Jimmy Paulette and Tabboo! in the bathroom, NYC, 1991. © Nan Goldin.

The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1981–2022) is Goldin’s best-known work. The monumental show has been edited and re-edited many times over the course of her career, so it is never the same twice. Named after a song in Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, the 700+ images, together with the soundtrack, pack a huge emotional punch; the ravages of addiction, domestic abuse and the AIDS epidemic are unflinching. The Other Side (1992–2021), named after a gay- and drag-friendly bar in Boston, is an homage to her trans friends, whom she photographed between 1972 and 2010. Fire Leap (2010–2022), the “lightest” of the films, is an ode to the beautiful, wild and free children in Goldin’s life (“Never a mother, always a godmother,” the artist writes in one of the credits).

Nan Goldin, Self-portrait with eyes turned inward, Boston, 1989. © Nan Goldin.

Sirens (2019–2020) was conceived as a tribute to Donyale Luna, often cited as the first Black supermodel, who died in 1979 of a heroin overdose. Made from found footage, the piece is Goldin’s attempt to portray the ecstasy of a drug high. Memory Lost (2019–2021) is a claustrophobic depiction of withdrawal. And finally, Sisters, Saints and Sibyls (2004–2022) is the story of Goldin’s sister Barbara, who committed suicide in 1965; the piece delves into the many repercussions of that tragedy on Nan Goldin and her family.

Nan Goldin, French Chris on the convertible, New York City, 1979. © Nan Goldin.

For all the darkness depicted in This Will Not End Well, there is in fact a hopeful ending. Goldin has neither rested on her artistic laurels nor succumbed to despondency; she instead wove her sorrow into resistance. In 2017, after her own recovery from opioids, she founded the action group Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (PAIN). And although All the Beauty and the Bloodshed – Laura Poitras’s Academy Award-nominated 2022 documentary about Goldin and PAIN – is not part of this exhibition, it is an important coda, and a testament to Goldin’s resilience, love and dedication to the memory of those she has lost.

Nan Goldin: This Will Not End Well

Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam

Until 28th January 2024

More information and tickets HERE

Words: Lisa Burnett Hillman

Opening image: Nan Goldin, Brian and Nan in Kimono, 1983. © Nan Goldin (photo cropped from the original due to format limitations).

The show will be presented at Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin (October 2024 – March 2025); Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan (October 2025 – February 2026); and Grand Palais, Paris (March – September 2026). 

The Race Against Extinction

The flame-haired, convivial, and talented British actress Zoe Telford is known for her captivating performances spanning film, television and theatre. When I enquired about her early influences, she charmingly replied, “I went to a lot of local and independent cinemas in my hometown of Norwich and found myself imitating scenes – one of which was from Back to the Future”. Slightly spooky – was this a prediction?

Zoe originally trained at The Central School of Dance from the age of six and continued on that path until she was in her early 20s. Whilst she loved the feeling of entertaining and the non-verbal elements of dance, she found acting to be a wonderful combination of both the physical and cerebral. Zoe’s real breakthrough though came in 2003 when she secured the role of Eva Braun in Hitler: The Rise of Evil, which ultimately led her to working with Woody Allen on Match Point. Since then, she has gone on to win a Special Commendation Award for her role as a beleaguered housewife in the film Greyhawk at the 2014 Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Zoe Telford as Dr Kitty Gray and Vinette Robinson as Janet. Episode 5, The Lazarus Project, Season 2.

Her latest venture is the second series of The Lazarus Project, where she plays Dr Kitty Gray a genius astrophysicist building a time machine within the time loop of 2012. Written by Joe Barton and directed by Carl Tibbetts, the first season of The Lazarus Project presents our world locked into a never-ending time loop that will ultimately end with the planet’s complete destruction. The Lazarus team is a secret organisation dedicated to preventing mass extinction events and with the ability to make time go backwards. Its newest agent is George (Paapa Essiedu), who, as the plot thickens, discovers that the cause he is fighting for may be more sinister than it first appeared, and begins to suspect that the only person he can trust is himself.

When Zoe was offered a role in the second season and read the script, she felt immediately drawn to the story. “It is quite a complicated story. There are so many loops – both in time and in the story itself – that I realised I had to watch the first series straight away.”

“The story and my character are so exciting that it was a no-brainer to accept.”

–   Zoe Telford

The complexity derives from Joe Bardon’s interpretation of cause and effect when moving or resetting time, factoring in anomalies, such as someone remembering, in this case, the main character, George. But not all is doom and gloom in the show. Bardon injects a healthy dose of humour and irreverence into his writing, which translates into welcome breathers for the viewers, who otherwise find themselves most of the time at the edge of their seat, white-knuckled and holding their breath.

This season introduces a new time-loop, in 2012, where agent Janet (Vinette Robinson) is trapped. This is how we meet Zoe’s character, who seems to be the only one able to return Janet to her time. “The story and my character are so exciting that it was a no-brainer to accept,” Zoe comments smiling.

Watch the official trailer HERE

Apart from all the excitement and trepidation, the show presents interesting speculative thoughts on how science fiction often engages with contemporary issues, delves into profound questions about humanity and trust and warns about the potential cataclysmic consequences of tampering with the fundamental elements of existence.

Season two of The Lazarus Project airs on Sky, on the 15th of November 2023.

Words: Shelley Campbell

The master of provocation

Now that we live in a world seen more often than not through the lens of a smartphone, it’s hard to know what photographer Helmut Newton, who died in 2004, would make of it all. A new retrospective exhibition in A Coruña, Spain, showcases the works of the provocative photographer, underscoring the genius of his enduring, and often erotic, visual art.

A once-in-a-lifetime visual artist, he not only turned the world of fashion photography on its head but also left an artistic legacy that endures to this day. Not bad for a man who once said, “I hate good taste. It’s the worst thing that can happen to a creative person.”

Whether or not you agree is something to be discussed at dinner parties; but his work is considered so important that a major exhibition has been dedicated to his work.

“I hate good taste. It’s the worst thing that can happen to a creative person.”

     – Helmut Newton

Self-Portrait, Monte Carlo, 1993.

Helmut Newton – Fact & Fiction has been created with the Helmut Newton Foundation and curated by Philippe Garner, Matthias Harder and Tim Jefferies; it is the third exhibition from the Marta Ortega Pérez (MOP) Foundation. 

Known as “the king of kink,” Newton’s provocative photos – many shot in black and white – were ahead of their time. Often featuring sado-masochistic or fetishized images, they sometimes shocked but always entertained.

Newton was able to take the most famous faces in the world (and anonymous ones, too) and find new and bold stories to tell. Among those featured in the exhibition are actresses Monica Bellucci, Charlotte Rampling and Daryl Hannah, jewellery designer Elsa Peretti (who modelled Halston’s “Bunny” costume in 1975), Jerry Hall and Naomi Campbell, as well as David Bowie, Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld.

Those who knew him intimately speak highly of not just his incredible eye for an image, and his work ethic, but the way he treated people both in front of and behind the camera.

Helmut Newton, David Bowie, Monte Carlo, 1982.

Stylist Sascha Lilic worked with Newton for more than a decade. Starting his career as a make-up artist and hair stylist, Lilic was introduced to the photographer on a shoot for French magazine Paris Match in Strasbourg, in the early nineties.

“Helmut Newton girls were not supermodels,” Lilic says. “They were women he liked and they didn’t have to be famous, and they didn’t have to be in the pages of Vogue. For Helmut, beauty had many different faces. He didn’t care if they were old or young, and he didn’t care about fashion. He didn’t give it the importance that everybody else gives it. He just wanted a beautiful picture.”

Lilic recalls styling Monica Bellucci with Newton for Vogue Italia at Karl Lagerfeld’s abandoned mansion in Monte Carlo. The standout photo from that 2001 shoot – of Bellucci dabbing her glossy red lipstick with a tissue – is featured in the exhibition.

“… the Kleenex stuck to her lips, and Helmut, who was always looking at what you were doing, screamed, ‘Stop! Take your hands away!’ I did, and he took the picture…”

 – Sascha Lilic

Monica Bellucci, Monte Carlo 2001.

That frame was captured by Newton working on instinct. “I wanted red, glossy, shiny lips and Dior had brought out that lip gloss back in the day,” Lilic says. “It was super-sticky, but it looked like Chinese lacquer. Helmut said we had to take it down because it was reflecting back into the light.

“So, I took a Kleenex and tried to block the lipstick down to take the shine away The lipstick was so lush and sticky that the Kleenex stuck to her lips, and Helmut, who was always looking at what you were doing, screamed, ‘Stop! Take your hands away!’ I did, and he took the picture. It was an incredible moment.”

A visionary, Newton’s aesthetic was born out of Nazi oppression and life as an immigrant. Born Helmut Neustädter to a Jewish family in Berlin in 1920, he began taking photos almost as soon as he could hold a camera. In 1936, he became an apprentice to renowned fashion photographer Yva (Elsie Neuländer-Simon), but just two years later was forced to flee his homeland.

He landed in Singapore, where he found work as a photographer at a local newspaper. However, it wasn’t long before he was interned by the authorities and sent to Australia, where he served in the army for five years. On becoming an Australian citizen, in 1946, his name was changed to Helmut Newton.

“Look, I’m not an intellectual – I just take pictures.”

– Helmut Newton

Charlotte Rampling as Venus in Furs, Paris 1977.

It took 10 years before he landed his first contract for British Vogue, and after that French and Australian Vogue, but by the seventies, his portraits of women in erotic, unconventional and powerfully charged poses had changed the face of fashion photography.

Lilic, whose own family left Yugoslavia for Germany under dictator Tito’s regime, said he bonded with Newton over their early disrupted lives. “We started talking on the day we met about our childhoods and found that we had many things in common. We were both running away from politics. Even though there were two generations between us, we became family. I would often spend time with him and [his wife] June at their home in Monaco.”

It was Newton’s skill at finding extraordinary moments in a way never seen before that propelled him to the top of his profession. While his personal history informed his art, Newton said of his style, “I have always avoided photographing in the studio. A woman does not spend her life sitting or standing in front of a seamless white paper background. Although it makes my life more complicated, I prefer to take my camera out onto the street … places that are out of bounds for photographers have always had a special attraction for me.”

Helmut Newton, Bordighera Details, Italian Vogue, Bordighera, Italy, 1982.

Lilic says he thinks Newton’s artistry was also about giving women control. “He showed how much power women can have over men just by their physicality. I think that’s why it was so different, especially at the time, because nothing like that had been seen.”

Graciously, Newton would always give credit to his wife, June Newton, née Brunell, also known as Alice Springs (after the place of her birth). An actress as well as a gifted photographer in her own right, she met Helmut in 1947 when she posed for him. They were married the following year. “I was lucky to have my wife as the art director – and it turned out to be quite something. A great success. I’m very proud of it,” he once said.

Lilic recalls that on set, Newton would leave to have lunch with June and then return full of ideas. “They would kind of elaborate on a script together. They really did rely on each other.”

Helmut Newton, Karl Lagerfeld, Paris, 1973.

His death was sudden. He had a heart attack driving his car while leaving Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont in January 2004. He was 83. Lilic remembers how shocking it was. “It took me a while to get over it,” he says. “But thinking back, I had something a lot of people will never have and I was very, very lucky to do so. I come from a time of analogue photography, and for 10 years I worked with one of the biggest, if not the biggest, masters of photography that ever lived. That’s something nobody can take away from me.”

We’ll never know if Newton himself would agree with how the world still sees him. He once said, “Look, I’m not an intellectual – I just take pictures.” But what incredible pictures they were.

Helmut Newton – Fact & Fiction

Marta Ortega Pérez Foundation, A Coruña, Spain

18th November to 1st May 2024

Information and tickets, HERE

Words: Lisa Marks

Opening image: Helmut Newton, Grand Hôtel du Cap, Marie Claire, Antibes, 1972, © Helmut Newton Foundation. Image cropped from the original due to format limitations.

They did a bad thing

This fast-paced, nail-biting thriller series by Stephen Garrett, the executive producer behind TV series such as Spooks and The Night Manager and director and screenwriter J Blakeson, self-confessed thriller-addict, tells the story of a crew of elite criminals, who, years after going their separate lives, suddenly start being hunted down one by one by a ruthless assassin.

Although filmed in seven different countries, the action takes the viewer to Italy, the United States, Britain and Norway. The pilot episode kick-starts in Lombardy, where an older guy in a bathrobe is frantically running through a luxurious villa, trying to escape from a masked man, who finally catches up with him at the front of the house and shoots him dead next to his yellow Lamborghini.

From there, we are taken to the U.S.A., where we meet the main protagonist, Joe, played by Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (The Night Manager, Candyman, Misfits…), who appears to have a normal life in a suburban town with his husband (Kevin Vidal, from Strays, Workin’ Moms…) and their two children. He has recently purchased a commercial unit to start a business and except for the usual racial harassment by the police, his life, like him, seems as gentle and docile as one could possibly imagine.

Culprits preview trailer:

However, very soon we realise there is more than meets the eye with Joe, as we are shown flashbacks to his previous life in London, where he is the bodyguard of some dubious businessman, whom he saves from an ambush by getting rid of half a dozen men all by himself. Next, we are back to the present and see him going in the middle of the night to a forest nearby – being cut down to make room for a highway – and collecting a hidden bag with an insane amount of sterling pounds in it.

Soon after, another flashback scene introduced us to Dianne (played by Gemma Arterton), a cold and unscrupulous woman who seems to be the mastermind of the heist who somehow, three years into the future, is seeing Joe and his family in mortal danger, together with everyone else involved in that theft.

Gemma Arterton as Dianne, the mastermind of a daring robbery undertaken three years before in London, now having Joe (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) and anybody else involved in it, in mortal danger.

I won’t tell you anymore in order not to spoil the show for you, but I will tell you that the script is ace and the performances of all the actors quite remarkable. Most of them had previously worked with either Garrett, Blakeson or producer Morenike Williams (Killing Eve).

After the preview of the first two episodes, which took place at one of the BFI locations in London, I had the chance to chat to Stephen Garrett, who told me a bit about the casting process. He explained that when the script was written, the team really had no specific names in mind for any of the roles. But when it was completed, he realised that each actor was bringing their own personal flavour and spirit to their character, which made the process very refreshing.

Culprits is available to stream from Disney+ in the UK and Ireland, from Wednesday 8th November.

 

I’d bring your attention to British actress Kirby (Killing Eve, Why Women Kill, The Sandman…). She plays one of the members of the team that partakes in the heist in London, and I was particularly impressed by her guile and playful finesse.

Words: Papa S Abebrese

Images and trailer: Courtesy of Disney+

Books that will make you think and smile

In the same way that in summer I prefer to go for lighter reads that I can drop and pick up anytime or read while also keeping track of the conversation around me, in winter, I like spending some time exploring books with inspiring stories. This time, I have selected four very different books, which I think are equally interesting and inspiring. I hope you’ll feel tempted to read them.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WEREN’T AFRAID?

In this book, international mentor Michal Oshman embarks the reader on a journey of self-discovery through quite an unusual route. She explores the possibilities that would open to us if we set aside our fears. All of them. Fear of rejection, of change, of failure, of pain… these are all obstacles to our full development and more importantly, they prevent us from living our lives to their maximum potential.

Starting from the premise that we all are needed in this world and that we all have a purpose – regardless of how grandiose or humble that may be – Oshman makes the reader realise how, finding that purpose, is probably the most important thing you’ll ever do.

In this book, Oshman intends for all of us to find the tools that will help us embrace change and move forward, with confidence and faith, rather than fear and regret.

Sharing her own personal experiences, Oshman covers all kinds of subjects that contribute to that state of paralysing fear which, in her view, is what is holding us back. From parenting to relationships, professional career and many other topics, she shows how discovering our potential and purpose are the first steps towards a much more meaningful life.

Michal Oshman is the former Head of Company Culture at TikTok and an International Leadership Development Executive at Facebook. Oshman served as an officer in the Israeli Defence Forces and she has three university degrees in psychodynamic and systemic thinking, sociology and anthropology.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? is published by DK|Penguin Random House; available from Amazon and Waterstones, among other retailers.

WONDER WOMEN

After the previous book, I think Wonder Women: Redefining Leadership in the World of Work is the perfect follow-up read. In it, you’ll discover fascinating women leading the way in many different fields, from finance to law, engineering, media and other sectors traditionally male-dominated.

Embark on an empowering journey through the pages of “Wonder Women,” a captivating book that shines a spotlight on the remarkable leadership and trailblazing achievements of the most influential female leaders.

Wonder Women introduces the reader to successful, yet relatable women who are redefining leadership in many fields.

The women featured in this book share their personal stories and journeys with their own voices, which I found particularly inspiring and relatable. They also talk about the women who inspired them and as you read, you realise that there is out there a wonderful and powerful group of women who have set aside their fears and embrace the challenges life has put in their path until they achieved their goals.

Excellent examples of inspiring women that you’ll find in this book are Ann Cairns, former Executive Vice Chairman of Mastercard, who has devoted a lot of her time over the decades to achieve gender equality in the corporate world; Pips Bunce, a senior director at Credit Suisse, who works to promote LGBTQIA+ inclusion and has defied every kind of stereotype one could think of in the financial world; and Sarah Khan-Bashir, a second-generation immigrant who has succeeded in building one of the top law firms in the country, overcoming social disadvantage, economic difficulties and religious prejudice.

Wonder Women is published and sold by SHe2 Leadership Ltd.

WHEN BUSINESS IS LOVE

Men have also interesting and inspiring stories to share. Jan Ryde is the CEO of one of the most luxurious bed brands in the world, Hästens. The business has stayed in the same family for five generations and, under Ryde’s leadership, has gone from moderately successful to global phenomenon. When Ryde took over, he promised himself he’d write a book when the company’s annual turnover reached USD100 million. As he hits his ambitious target last year, he made good on his promise.

If you are thinking this is just another boring demagogic book by a ruthless businessman showing off his talents (History written by the winners and all that), let me tell you that this is not such a book. When Business is Love, The Spirit of Hästens – At Work, At Play, and Everywhere in Your Life tries to reflect the spirit of the company, which Ryde insists is built and run on love.

In When Business is Love, Jan Ryde shares his leadership philosophy and explains how any business, in any field, can operate on the basis of love.

In this story, Ryde bares his soul and candidly shares his childhood and youth with the reader, how he fell in love, how he ended up working in the family business and the journey that took Hästens to be considered the manufacturer of the finest beds in the globe (they sell in 50 markets) and the favourite among Hollywood royalty, real royalty and celebrities of all kinds. Their beds can also be found in the suites of some of the most exclusive hotels worldwide, the latest of which is the uber-luxury cruise ship Regent Seven Seas Grandeur.

Furthermore, the book explains Ryder’s methodology based on establishing a corporate culture that values people, imagination, craftsmanship, and mastery, and that encourages honesty, openness, forgiveness, integrity, humility, and encouragement.

When Business Is Love: The Spirit of Hästens – At Work, At Play, and Everywhere in Your Life is published by Forefront Books, distributed by Simon & Schuster and available to pre-order through Amazon and Simon & Schuster, among other retailers.

SEEING THINGS

My last choice is a very different book from the previous three. It is equally inspiring but instead of communicating its message mostly with words, it does it with images. Seeing Things is a compendium of short stories and Instagram images by writers such as Elif Shafak, Amit Chaudhuri and Elizabeth Day, musicians and singer-songwriters such as David Byrne and Jarvis Cocker, and artists such as cartoonist Roz Chast and visual artist Cornelia Parker, who has also written the foreword.

Seeing Things is a captivating collection of images and very short stories some of which invite to smile and some to reflect.

Edited by the critically acclaimed editor, designer and publisher Julian Rothenstein, with texts by Charles Boyle, the book intends to help us see the small wonders of the world and perhaps, take a pause to pay attention to details that we so easily miss in our manic daily lives. Seeing Things is divided into five sections, starting with “Writers and Books” and finishing with “Creative Places”, a section that gives us an insight into the minds of several of the artists and authors featured in the book.

Seeing Things is published by Redstone Press and available from The Redstone Shop and Blackwell’s among other retailers.

Words: Julia Pasarón

Art, Activism and the Women’s movement in the UK 1970–1990

In the 1960s and 190s, interconnected networks of women used radical ideas and rebellious methods to make an invaluable contribution to British culture. Women in Revolt! Art, Activism and the Women’s Movement in the UK 1970–1990 pays homage to over 100 feminist artists and collectives living and working in the UK.

These women’s creative practice was forged against a backdrop of extreme social, economic and political change. Some of them, such as Sonia Boyce and Susan Hiller, became very well known. But others, despite their long and significant careers, have been mostly left out of the artistic narratives of the time. This is the case for Poulomi Desai and Shirley Cameron, both of whom are being shown at a major museum for the first time.

Left, Penny Slinger, Spirit Impressions – 5, 1974. Richard Saltoun Gallery (London, UK). Right, Alison Lloyd, SUPPORT THE MINERS, Solidarity will win!, 1984. © Alison Lloyd.

The show takes its name from Eva Figes’ 1970 book Patriarchal Attitudes: The Case for Women in Revolt. Presented chronologically, the exhibition begins with the first women’s liberation conference in the UK, the Miss World protest, and the formation of the Brixton Black Women’s Group. It is here that we see works from artists such as Margaret Harrison and Monica Ross, among others. This period saw a dramatic evolution in women’s relationships with work, motherhood and home life, which often translated to frustration, social upheaval and even political implications.

The Punk and post-punk movements had a deep effect on the feminist movement and its creative expression. Collages, performance art, posters and journals are some of the artistic media selected to represent the era, including Jill Westwood’s Potent Female and a sexually charged performance work by Cosey Fanni Tutti.

Jill Westwood, Potent-Female, 1983. Courtesy of Dr Jill Westwood.

But the thread that holds the show together is activism. Material from the Greenham Common and Section 28 protests as well as from anti-racism and AIDS campaigns are supported by extensive documentary photography and a major sculpture by Margaret Harrison displayed alongside protest banners by Thalia Campbell.

The section dedicated to the 1980s concentrates on feminist movements that support women from non-Caucasian ethnicities, such as the first National Black Art Convention in 1982. Here visitors will see not only works from key figures such as Rita Keegan and Lubaina Himid but also Nina Edge’s Snakes and Ladders (1985), an installation that, despite featuring on the cover of Maud Salter’s landmark 1990 book Passion: Discourses on Blackwomen’s Creativity, has not been shown in over three decades.

The final part of the exhibition focuses on the Thatcher administration, emphasising women’s response to Section 28, the visibility of lesbian communities, and the AIDS epidemic, and concludes with works that reflect on the changing economic landscape and women’s place in it, represented by works from Joy Gregory, Franki Raffles and Roshini Kempadoo.

Women in Revolt

Tate Britain. Millbank, London SW1P 4RG

8th November 2023 – 7th April 2024

More information and tickets, HERE.

Words: Lavinia Dickson-Robinson

Opening Image: Helen Chadwick, In the Kitchen (Stove), 1977. © The Estate of the Artist. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery, London and Rome.

A random history of backgammon

It seems simple enough, backgammon: a board game for two players where the checker-like pieces (referred to as “men”) are moved in contrary fashion around the board, governed by the random roll of the dice. A player wins by removing all their pieces (known as “bearing off”) before their opponent. The game’s outcome is a mixture of luck and strategy, but just how much luck, or which strategy, differs depending on the dice and the point of view of the individual.

The rules are easy enough to understand, but backgammon becomes complex when considering which move to make given your roll of the dice and the probabilities from your opponent’s turn. The game has its origins in 17th-century England; its precursor is believed to be one of the world’s oldest board games, having been around for approximately five millennia. Archaeologists have discovered a 5,000-year-old board at the site of Ur, in modern Iraq. In Egypt, a backgammon set was found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

A diagram of the modern backgammon board indicating the direction of travel for the counters, to “bear off” and win.

For many eastern Mediterranean countries, the game has national and cultural significance. Popularity across the region has manifested itself as an oral tradition over time, where the numbers from the dice roll are announced using language derived from both Persian and Turkish. Backgammon became popular during the Ottoman Empire, and even today it’s a common feature of coffeehouses and social settings in the region. From the early 19th century, Damascus became known as the preeminent location for Damascene-style wooden marquetry backgammon.

In the Western world, backgammon’s immediate predecessor was a 16th-century table game called Irish, the Anglo-Scottish equivalent of the French Toutes Tables and Spanish Todas Tablas; the latter name, a translation from Arabic manuscripts, was first used in El Libro de los Juegos (1283). In English, the word “backgammon” is most likely derived from “back” and Middle English “gamen,” meaning “game” or “play,” and the earliest mention was under the name “baggammon” by James Howell in a letter dated 1635. The first documented use by the Oxford English Dictionary was in 1650.

An illustration from Libro de los Juegos, 1283, showing the game Todas Tablas, a precursor of backgammon

Elizabethan laws and church regulations prohibited “playing at tables” because it was considered gambling – even if the clergy were the worst offenders! It was in the 18th century, during the Age of Reason and the British deism movement, that backgammon found its natural home in this country, in the social and learned salons of the day. Edmond Hoyle, who also studied the rules for probability, published A Short Treatise on the Game of Back-Gammon in 1753, describing the rules and strategy. Hoyle considered it a game of computation and planning, and his pamphlet contained “a table of the thirty-six chances, with directions on how to find the odds of being hit, upon single, or double dice” so that, along with knowledge of the rules, “a beginner may, with due attention to them, attain playing well.”

For David Hume, the proponent of empiricism – the belief that humans only learn from experience – backgammon was more a game of random chance; the learning by doing that applied to human action did not do so for a game that was related to the roll of dice. In his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), backgammon provided the antidote to ruminating over the “manifold contradictions and imperfections in human reason.” He explained, “I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hours’ amusement, I would return to these speculations.” There was little in the way of reasoned strategy; it was more the enjoyment of play.

David Teniers the Younger, Game of Backgammon, 1640, © Cleveland Museum of Art

It was thanks to Prince Alexis Obolensky – “Obe” to his friends – whose family had fled Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution, that the modern game, with its organisation and authorised rules of play, came into existence in the mid-1960s. He co-founded the International Backgammon Association and in 1964 organised the first major international tournament, which attracted royalty, celebrities and the press. The game became highly popular, with tobacco, alcohol, soft-drink and car companies sponsoring tournaments. Even Hugh Hefner held backgammon parties at the Playboy Mansion.

The newfound status – with sponsorship and prize money involved – saw the rise of professional players. It stands to reason that if backgammon is a game of pure chance, then players who earn their living from competing would not exist; over a long enough time horizon, the professional would fare no better than a rank amateur. Since 1967, there has been a world championship, and the sartorially resplendent Tim Holland was the initial holder of the title, winning the first three tournaments in a row. Holland was definitely of the opinion that he was playing strategically. In an interview for Jon Bradshaw’s Fast Company, he noted, “It’s the luck factor that seduces everyone into believing that they are good, that they can actually win. But that’s just wishful thinking.” At the height of his success, demonstrating that winning was not due to chance, Holland reportedly earned around $60,000 a year (about half a million dollars today) in prize money and other endorsements.

Pepsi-Cola advert from 1959 showing backgammon in the modern home

Legally, the game of backgammon is strategic because everything is known on the board; the position of your counters and your opponents’, and a fair dice have a set number of probabilistic outcomes. Justice Stephen S. Walker, in State of Oregon v. Barr (1982) concluded that, “Backgammon is a game of skill, not a game of chance,” and found the defendant, backgammon tournament director Ted Barr, not guilty of promoting gambling. The state of Oregon had reasoned that, because of the use of dice, it was a game of random chance and, with the offer of prize money, players were therefore gambling.

Tim Holland, showing form as the archetypal sartorially on point lounge lizard, playing as backgammon world champion, circa 1970.

Endorsing the opinion that the game is more strategy than chance, computer scientists have studied backgammon. The implication for the game having a set number of outcomes is that it is amenable to computer programming. With 15 white and 15 black counters and 24 possible positions, backgammon has 18 quintillion (18 million million million) possible legal positions, each with an assigned probability depending on the roll of the dice. With modern computing power, and the use of programmed strategies, a computer can win by brute-force calculation.

And so it did. In 1979, a computer program called BKG 9.8 developed by Hans Berliner, Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, defeated reigning world champion Luigi Villa, winning 7–1.  Paradoxically, Berliner attributed the victory to “largely a matter of luck,” as the computer received more favourable rolls of the dice. Popularity for the game waned in the 1990s, but has since made a comeback through computer play – either against the electronic opponent or with its assistance.

Tina Turner, photographed for Backgammon Magazine, 1979. © Andrea Waller

With the rise of online play against either machine or human opponent, the temptation is to use the same computer programs to cheat. However, this is practically impossible because many online sites use move-comparison software that identifies when a player’s counter positions resemble those of a backgammon program.

What is obvious from the medieval drawings of the game, through the ages since, is that backgammon should be enjoyed between two people across the board. Perhaps that’s why the game has made a comeback, with sets considered luxury items and prices accordingly. From artisans like Alexandra Llewellyn to megabrands Prada and Chopard, backgammon sets have become practically objets d’art – and are often displayed as such in homes. As a player, though, I can tell you that the wood inlay, the weight and manufacture of the counters, the feel of the dice and the cup all are part of the visceral experience of play.

Swimming pool travel backgammon set by Alexandra Llewellyn

Because of the simplicity of the game, the mixture of strategy and chance, there is nothing more enjoyable than an evening in the company of another, as “two peas in a pod,” playing a game or three, and whether you prevail in the end, companionship and amusement are all that matter. David Hume was probably right; for most of us, the social enjoyment of play, away from the trials and tribulations of the rest of the day, make the game both endearing and enduring.

Words: Dr Andrew Hildreth

Opening picture: Hugh Hefner demonstrating his backgammon prowess to fellow residents of the Playboy Mansion.

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