FAULT Focus: Khadija Saye: Remembering The Artist Through Her Photography

 

Early Thursday morning, the reality of London’s Grenfell Tower blaze hit home for myself and my fellow UCA alumni as we read the final Facebook update from our once classmate, Khadija Saye. Trapped within the burning building, Khadija reached out for prayers from her loved ones, and they rushed to the streets and social media in hopes of finding her. Sadly, the next day Khadija’s family would confirm that what we feared the most had come to fruition, Khadija had tragically perished in the blaze.

While we did share a class throughout university, myself and Khadija were not close friends. Remembering my panic as I scrolled Google and social media desperately looking for an update on her condition, I feel compelled to help ensure that her captivating body of work and not the tragedy of her passing, form her lasting legacy.

As an artist, her work cast a light on Gambian culture, the collective unity within “the other” and her journey into self. In memorial of Khadija and the conclusion of her photographic portfolio, FAULT takes a dive into the work of the late great artist – Khadija Saye.

 

‘Crowned’

In 2013, Khadija took her seat at the proverbial table and unveiled her centrepiece in the form of her photographic project entitled, ‘Crowned’. This series of photographs is one of the projects that our class was able to observe as it developed from inception to completion as Khadija’s final degree show series. ‘Crowned’ is made up of eight portraits showcasing the different ways in which black woman close to Khadija styled their hair. From woven braids, extensions, dreaded and natural afro, the viewer is given a glimpse into the diverse range of hair styling possibilities open to black women.

Entitled ‘Crowned’, Saye references the physical and the symbolic idea that black hair is something to be prized and adorned and not ashamed of. The words of Ingrid Banks taken from her book entitled ‘Hair Matters: Beauty, Power, and Black Women’s Consciousness’ echoes in my mind when I reflect upon Khadija’s title choice. In the book, Banks writes:

“Crown suggests a source of power, excellence or beauty…Therefore, a notion of power is embedded in the idea of hair as a black woman’s crowning glory. Hair has the ability to become a foundation for understanding how black woman view power and its relationship to self-esteem” –  Ingrid Banks 2000.

More contemporary references to black hair as something of brilliance can also be seen in Solange Knowles’ critically acclaimed 2016 release ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’, where within the opening verse Solange exclaims:

“Don’t touch my crown, They say the vision I’ve found”

“They don’t understand, What it means to me”.

One does wonder what significance Khadija’s perception of her own afro hair and its beauty played in her choosing to embark on the project and if I were to guess, producing ‘Crowned’ was a labour of love and presentation of self-pride. Indeed in March 2017, four years after the release of the series, Khadija reminisced on the making of the project in joy tweeting:

 

In the image, her young assistants observe possibly unaware of the importance their participation played in the construction of ‘Crowned’ or how it might affect their perceptions towards their afro hair and ideas of self in years to come; truly the impact of ‘Crowned’ will stretch on far further than even Khadija would have imagined.

As the only black male on our course, I once attempted to play up my “wokeness” and asked Khadija if she had seen “the Chris Brown documentary called ‘Good Hair’”, (misquoting Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary that focussed on the perception of natural hair within the African-American community.) Emblematic of her kind-hearted and gentle attitude, Khadija, of course, corrected my mistake letting out a light giggle; dropping my façade I listened to her thoughts on the documentary.

Earlier I referenced Solange Knowles’ ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’, a fiery anthem that highlights the resentment caused by patronising actions which decrease afro hair to a thing of play but observing ‘Crowned’, the same frustrated narrative does not confront me. My interpretation of ‘Crowned’ isn’t, “don’t touch my hair!” It is an inviting, “Don’t touch but do see. Bear witness to the beautiful ways black women can choose to style their crowns.” The viewer is invited to marvel at the intricacies of the different twists, curls and over-locking structures of the sitter’s hair and when printed and framed in a gallery, we’re disarmed and hypnotised by their sophisticated beauty.

It’s important we recognise the personal connection Saye shared with the women she photographed. The trust the sitters have placed in Khadija is unique; formed not just from a shared experience of blackness but through the confidence these women placed in Khadija’s skill as an artist to capture so much more than just hair. It is thanks to her affable character that Khadija was trusted to capture up-close the art within her subject and through her artistry and presentation nous, she allowed the viewer to appreciate black women’s hairstyles up close as something of splendour.

Khadija’s ‘Crowned’ might end here, but the project as a form of inspiration to a new generation of artists will continue. The eight sitters included on Saye’s website are but a drop in the ocean of the many different ways black woman can choose to style their hair; making ‘Crowned’ a gleaming seed from which the mightiest body of work can still grow.

 

Home.Coming

For her series entitled ‘Home.Coming’, Khadija travelled to The Gambia and documented her exploration of self through a series of portrait and landscape photographs.

Something I notice through all of Khadija’s work is her ability to find familiarity and gain trust within cultures sometimes seen as ‘the other’. ‘Home.Coming‘, ‘Crowned‘, ‘Eid‘, ‘Madame Jojo’s‘, all focus on different categories of the human experience yet notice how she has never been kept at arm’s length from her subject. I don’t feel the presence of a white tape that Saye is forced to photograph from behind when I observe her work. When capturing her subjects, for a time at least, Khadija is one with their environment and through her lens’ eye, the viewer is too.

For me, the unseen friendship-building and conversations Saye would have had with each person to earn their trust before the photo session conjures much intrigue. The above portraits arrest your gaze; the men’s eyes tell countless yet frustratingly unattainable stories. Khadija has stopped time but for a moment yet opened the door for myriads of questions – made sorrowfully more perplexing now they’ll go unanswered.

In another photograph from the series, a young girl smiles as she watches something out of the frame and in the below photograph a man leans on his prized Volkswagen, both beg a mountain of questions yet if we take a step back, we’ll find Khadija’s story told throughout the series.

Any second generation migrant knows all too well the conflicted notion of “home”, and from what I can only guess, Khadija travelled to The Gambia to find, explore and reflect on life in a home in which she did not live. While the content of Khadija’s photographs doesn’t answer the question of “did Khadija find self and the comfort of home while in The Gambia” but we need only look at her sitters to find our answer. As referenced previously, her subjects are unperturbed in front of the camera and this is likely because they were relaxed with their photographer. Any artist can tell you the anguish of requesting a portrait of a stranger only to watch their sudden discomfort when faced with the intrusive camera lenses flung in their face but notice the air of calm in Khadija’s work.

Yes, each photograph in the series contains countless untold stories, yet one is clear, and it’s the sitter’s tale of Khadija. As a photographer, she wasn’t a stranger in their midst nor a second generation displaced entity forcibly taking up shop in their domain; for that time if only for a moment, Khadija Saye was one with them – truly at home.

 

Dwelling: In This Space We Breathe

Khadija’s last exhibited work ‘Dwelling: In This Space We Breathe’ made with the help of artist, Almudena Romero, saw her once more exploring her heritage by investigating traditional Gambian spiritual practices and the comfort practitioners found in the arms of a higher power.

There is something remarkably poignant about her final project immortalised on such a physically existent format such as the tintype. By using tintypes, Khadija transformed her amorphous visual being, memory and legacy from a temporary state and gave it physical form. Unlike a digital file, memory or spoken recollection, her tintype image has weight, texture, smell and uniqueness the very same way our physical forms do; yet unlike us, her tintypes do not have an expiration date and will always remain.

The very idea of legacy and the pursuit of artists to leave a token in this world for after we pass, itself is a practice of spirituality. For all we know, there is no telling of what significance our life actions will play after our lives come to an end, yet we attempt to leave proofs of our existence to tell the future world “I was here and I existed.”

In the tintype images, Khadija is depicted in a ritual using sacred Gambian artefacts meant for the purpose of connecting with the spiritual world from the physical plane. Now with her passing, there is a spiritual awakening of ideas and ways of reflecting within the viewer. Now as we gaze upon the imagery, it is us the viewer who are being connected with Khadija and in turn, linked spiritually to the “once was”.It is through Khadija’s immortalisation of Gambian ritual that we now look upon her from this physical plane despite what would be considered by many religions as her soul ascending to a higher state of being.

I’ll admit that the above sounds somewhat of a stretch and likely not what the project was intended to symbolise, but it did cast a light on my scepticism towards schools of beliefs that I do not understand. In reflecting on the work, my own westernised perception of spiritual ritual has come into question. For myself at least, the actions depicted by Khadija provides a brand new outlook and way of seeing such ceremony.

For some of those raised in the UK, the idea of spirituality and non-conventional western religion is sometimes considered as something of myth or fantasy, not necessarily through conscious choice but through our conditioned view of pre-evangelised spirituality.

In Sir Edward Burnett Tylor’s 1887 book (now somewhat offensively entitled) ‘Primitive Culture’, he gave the broad belief that spirituality can be attributed to ritual and inanimate objects the name ‘Animisim’.

Note: ‘Animisim’ does not exclusively describe the Gambian ritual Khadija explored in her project but broadly refers to the school of similar beliefs held by people throughout Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia throughout history. Hopefully an anthropologist or practitioner of the specific belief Khadija explored can provide a more suitable title for us to use in this essay.

While coining the English term for the phrase, Tylor knew he was generalising a large number of people, but he did so out of frustration with writers of his day who saw such displays and dismissed them as illegitimate forms of spirituality.

“Short of the organised and established theology of the higher races as being a religion at all. They attribute irreligion to tribes whose doctrines are unlike theirs”. – Taylor 1887

The link between the photographic process and spirituality is also drawn upon in the accompanying text for ‘Diaspora Pavilion 2017’ where the works are currently held on display.

“The process of submerging the collodion covered plate into a tank of silver nitrate ignites memories of baptisms.” – Disapora Pavilion 2017

It is clear Khadija found a spiritual link at every step of this project even choosing herself as the subject when producing the tintypes but rather than theorising or projecting, it’s only right to let the words that accompany the project have the final word:

“This work is based on the search for what gives meaning to our lives and what we hold onto in times of despair and life changing challenges. We exist in the marriage of physical and spiritual remembrance. It is in these spaces that we identify with our physical and imagined bodies. Using herself as the subject, Saye felt it was necessary to physically explore how trauma is embodied in the black experience.” – Disapora Pavilion 2017

 

Notice how throughout Khadija’s entire body of work, there’s a level of thinking that transcends just the art of seeing. All three projects spoken about above are unique individual displays of artistry and wonderous displays of photography worth that of an artist far beyond Khadija’s years.

‘Crowned’, ‘Home.Coming’ and ‘Dwelling: In This Space We Breathe’, are all linked only by the artist of origin and much like Khadija, they mean and will continue to mean so much to so many different people. Reminiscent of the Khadija that I knew from across the lecture theatre, not a lot is shouted nor is it displayed with over-the-top performance – because work and artists with true substance donesn’t require such theatrics.

This week we sadly lost Khadija, but not her contribution to the artistic world.

 

See more from Khadija’s portfolio on www.sayephotography.co.uk

 

 

 

FAULT Magazine Reviews: HotPot, Chinatown London

Photography: Rob Greig

 

Summer is fast approaching and with that in mind FAULT is on the quest to bring you the very best of dining experiences in London for our 2018 “where to dine this summer guide”.

Today we present to you Hot Pot, the quintessential group dining experience for friends and family. Hot Pot is of course nothing new, for over one thousand years it has allowed groups of people to come together in a shared cooking experience to prepare and enjoy food cooked at your very own table. With the newly opened Hot Pot restaurant located on Wardour Street and right in the heart of London’s Chinatown, we headed down to see if Hot Pot could still be enjoyed as part of a summertime experience.

Photography: Rob Greig

Walking into the restaurant, it’s clear that it’s already a hit; despite it being a Wednesday evening, the restaurant was still a hive of chatter as friends caught up for their slow-paced postwork meetups. With two floors the second to be opened later in the year. It’s important to mention that the décor and arrangements are well put together as opposed to some other venues within the area. Every ornament complements the next without being garish or thrown together; it’s truly a place you’d feel comfortable.

As a group dining venue, seating is arranged in tables of 6, 8 and 10 with private dining rooms available if you’d like a more exclusive experience. In the centre of each table, you’ll find the hot plate on which all of your cooking will take place.

Now down to the food! Diners have the choice of five broths to cook chosen ingredients within which are listed below.

Mala Sichuan Spicy, Tom Yum, Chicken, Clear and Vegetarian.

We had the chance to sample all five and to my own surprise Vegetarian was my favourite – any vegetarian will tell you that some restaurants can really miss the mark with their vegetarian options usually resulting in disappointingly lacklustre flavours but Hot Pot is defiantly not an example of this. I’d highly recommend the Vegetarian or Chicken Broth for meat eaters who aren’t great with spicy food but are still looking for flavoursome dishes with rich spices.

Photography: Rob Greig

After finding your broth, it’s then time to pick your ingredients to cook with it. This is somewhat daunting but luckily the restaurant staff are on hand to help pick dishes which complement each broth’s individual flavours. You can pick from a vast array of ingredients, all of which are listed below.
Rib-eye, wagyu, marinated chicken, pork belly, sea bass, king prawns, shrimp wontons, Scottish lobster, fresh abalone, shitake mushrooms, golden needle mushroom, sweet potato, fresh tofu, crab claws and quail eggs. 

While a large option is available, make sure to ring ahead and see what they actually have available that day. We know from last year’s “Datenight Guide’ that you’re all a big fan of lobster and crab however on this occasion the restaurant did not have the option available even with lobsters in the tank display, so if it’s a must, be sure to confirm before making the trip.

Despite it being a strange concept to have to cook your own food at the table, it’s actually surprisingly fun and interactive. An unexpected plus side to everyone participating in cooking and dining is that it drives conversation as you comment on the different flavours and discuss favourite dishes with your table. What really would be handy would be a graph with cooking times for each ingredient, left to our own devices there was a worry about making sure each ingredient was cooked properly and with little guidance, we were forced to either overcook the food or to risk eating it before it was fully cooked and neither option is ideal. That being said, it’s a new venue with all the potential to add in these features at a later date.

What really would be handy would be a graph with cooking times for each ingredient, left to our own devices there was a worry about making sure each ingredient was cooked properly and with little guidance, we were forced to either overcook the food or to risk eating it before it was fully cooked and neither option is ideal. That being said, it’s a new venue with all the potential to add in these features at a later date.

Photography: Rob Greig

We tried a little of everything available and your dining experience is definitely down to you thanks to their wide variety of options. If you’re after something light, you can go with wontons and shrimp cooked in a light vegetarian or clear broth and if you’re looking for something more hearty then pair the ribeye and sweet potato cooked in a tom yum broth. If there’s one thing you get when dining at Hot Pot, it’s the pleasure of choice which is a massive advantage.

Is Hot Pot a must this summer? Despite some growing pains which we imagine will be ironed out in the coming months, it’s a resounding yes. Despite it sounding more suitable for the winter season, the broths are actually pleasantly cooling. Located in the convenient but often bustling Chinatown, it’s  a godsend to have a place where you can take things slow and enjoy a meal at your own pace with your loved ones. If you’re looking for a truly unique dining experience, then look no further than Hot Pot.

Address:
17 Wardour Street
London
W1D 6PJ

Opening Times:
Monday-Wednesday: midday to midnight
Thursday – Saturday: midday to 00.30am
Sunday: midday to 11.00pm

www.hotpotrestaurants.com
Price:
Hot Pot is £8 for the table and ingredients range from £5 for vegetables, mushrooms and tofu, £5.50 for marinated pork, £7.50 for mussels, £10.50 for scallops and £20.50 for premium wagyu.

 

Lights Of Soho X Fenwick Of Bond Street unveil ‘Women in Neon’ Exhibition

 

FAULT Favourite creative venue, Lights Of Soho have brought their creative nous to the high street with their latest partnership retail behemoth – Fenwick Bond Street.

Entitled ‘Women in Neon’ all works on display were created by female artists. While the whole collection of works can be viewed on the first floor – LOS have also taken over the window display at the street level where Federica Marangoni’s ‘Art Has No Sex’ neon unashamedly illuminates their message.

While all artists have worked with Neon for this exhibition, they all hail from different disciplines and creative backgrounds, the display is fluid and stands as a testament to how both individualism and collaboration can come together to create a true work of art.

“Women in Neon” will be taking a four week residency on the 3rd floor of Fenwick of Bond Street on 20th March and all pieces displayed will be available to purchase.

Read more info on the artists displaying work below:

Linda Bracey is creative director of God’s Own Junkyard, founded by her late husband Chris Bracey. Linda has designed neon artworks and studio ranges for several exhibitions at the Lights of Soho gallery. She has also curated an exhibition of her late husband’s artworks in various London gallery spaces.

Lauren Baker is a British contemporary multidisciplinary artist who exhibits internationally. Her work explores the fragility of life, energy-fields, the after-life and other dimensions. She’s created installations at The V&A, Tate Britain, ran an art workshop at Tate Modern and directed the windows of Selfridges.

Rebecca Mason is a UK based artist using light to convey the darkness within human life, existence and emotion. Rebecca has exhibited in various UK locations including restaurants, bars and galleries.

Dianna Chire is a London based artist. Her practice frequently employs visual puns and bawdy humour as well as a commentary on female identity. Dianna works in mediums of sculpture, performance and neon.
Federica Marangoni is a Venetian artist and designer, working internationally has researched on various materials and technological media throughout her career and has exhibited in many international museums including MoMA (New York 1980), Peggy Guggenheim Foundation (Venice, 2001) and La Triennale di Milano (2016)

Get to know: Spoek Mathambo and Lars Iversen’s new project ‘HOT ICE’

Introducing Hot Ice, the incredible new project from Copenhagen based producer and songwriter Lars Iversen and South Africa based MC/Producer/Artist Spoek Mathambo. The first taste of Hot Ice comes in the form of their irresistible single ‘Lola’, an uplifting and bouncy slice of summery, tropical dub-pop, due for release on 24th March 2017 via Atlantic Records. The track also features guest vocals from Mattias Kolstrup, lead singer of renowned Danish electronic band Dúné.

 Critically successful artists in their own right, Hot Ice sees a first time collaboration between Lars Iversen and Spoek Mathambo; with Iversen known as the founder, producer and main songwriter of The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, and Mathambo as a hugely influential and pioneering electronic artist and producer both within his native South Africa and the wider world.

 

FAULT Magazine Meets The Kid Flash, KEIYNAN LONSDALE

 

Keiynan Lonsdale has come a long way—and at super speed—since spending his days chatting up celebrities as an MTV VJ in his native Australia just a handful of years ago. The 25-year-old is currently holding it down as Kid Flash on The CW’s popular comic book series The Flash.

 

Lonsdale made his Hollywood entry in 2015 after scoring the role of Uriah in Insurgent, the sequel in the young-adult Divergent franchise. The rising actor has since appeared in the third blockbuster chapter Allegiant and drowned his wet feet in Craig Gillespie’s disaster-at-sea drama The Finest Hours opposite Chris Pine and Casey Affleck. And wouldn’t you know it: Lonsdale dances and sings, too. To say that he’s a mere fan of Michael Jackson would be unjust and cruel. Also, for someone who was mute for a short time as a young boy, he’s certainly making up for it nowadays.

 

Following up on last week’s one-off musical crossover episode of The Flash and SupergirlFAULT sat down with Lonsdale to discuss his childhood dreams of performing on stage, the unexpected impediment that comes with donning the Kid Flash suit, and his idolization of Michael Jackson.

 

There’s a lot of hype around the musical episode that’s airing next week. Are you excited?

 

I’m excited for everyone to see what was put together. There’s some really good production value. I think it’s going to be something totally different that we haven’t presented before.

 

You guys have an intense and devoted fanbase—a Comic-Con audience, essentially—so it’s all about the secrets and reveals. Are you good about keeping things under wraps?

 

It’s funny because the fans I meet always want me to give them the lowdown. But I’m pretty loyal to the show. I do my best not to spoil anything. I definitely let something slip before by accident.

 

So what happens then? Is there like TV jail?

 

[Laughs] I think it would depend on what information you’re revealing. When I started working on the show last season, I revealed by mistake that an actor had returned or that I had bumped into them [on set]. I got super nervous. I called the producers: “I’m so sorry! This is my second week and I already ruined the show!” But they were super cool about it. They obviously know absolutely everything that’s going on, so they have even more information to keep locked away. They get it.

 

What are the added challenges that come with acting in costume as Kid Flash?

 

I just couldn’t hear a lot of stuff. [Laughs] But we made adjustments. I also just got used to it. Also, it’s all very tight fitted. You can’t just casually move the way you normally would, which is actually kind of cool because it separates you from the now superhero. If you’re going to turn, you’re going to really turn, you know what I mean? It’s not some lackluster motion.

 

I’ve come to learn that you’re a huge Michael Jackson fan. When did you start idolizing him?

 

Gosh, it was crazy because when I started to become aware of Michael Jackson, I was super young. I was like 2 when I started watching all of these things, every day. There was so much content for me to grab onto because he had been around for so long at that point. I was heavily obsessed with numerous songs and iconic moments. I did have my own “Thriller” costume and dance—that’s how I always performed and felt most comfortable doing. I knew that when I did “Thriller,” I would win the dance competition because this is the one. I remember watching the behind the scenes for the music video and thinking that it was such a crazy process. It’s such an extravagant and marvelous music video, and the best music video of all time. “Of all time!” to quote Kanye West. [Laughs] So I would say that, but every moment in his career was legendary.

 

It was shocking to find out that you were mute for a couple of years when you were young because I didn’t talk for a good year in elementary school. That you would be so shy, yet so incredibly eager to perform at the same time is both heartbreaking and endearing.

 

My mom definitely helped and we were always super close. She knew that I wanted to perform because I would tell her, “I want to dance on stage with Michael Jackson.” But I didn’t like people looking at me or talking to me. [Laughs] Eventually, she said, “I’m not going to take you to dance class anymore,” because I would go to class and cry or sit down. I was so nervous to be with the other kids, parents, and teachers. My mom said, “Look, I’m not going to let you do this until you accept the fact that people will be watching you. You’re going to have to be okay with that because that’s what you’re asking for.” I did some weird things. When I started doing competitions at 4 years old, I got my mom to hide me until I was on stage because I didn’t want anyone looking at me until I was up there. Then as soon as I got off the stage, I would sneak around the back until I got back to my seat. I just didn’t want any attention at all. As for the whole being mute thing, that was purely out of shyness. It was hard for me to communicate with anyone outside of my house.

 

Do you still struggle with social anxiety?

 

Oh yeah, it’s there. I’ve had so many experiences and jobs that force me into that position. I worked for MTV Australia as a VJ for two years, which obviously makes you feel quite exposed. Your job is to host, interview, entertain, and show off your personality. I found that really difficult, but it also showed me that I could push through a lot of challenges. I freak out when I’m around a lot of people. If I’m told that I have to speak in front of a bunch of people, I get so nervous. But then I’m like, “Wait, I did do this for two years as my job.” I just forget, you know?

 

PULL QUOTE: I didn’t like people looking at me or talking to me. I just didn’t want any attention at all. As for the whole being mute thing, that was purely out of shyness.

 

So you come from a big family. You were the youngest of six children growing up. I know you have more siblings on your father’s side as well. Did you find your place as the entertainer?

 

It’s always played into the family dynamic because dancing was my life 24/7. My siblings were very much aware of that because I took over the living room every day. Now that they’ve seen me getting to do some cool things—they were watching The Flash before I was even on it—they’re really proud. They’re all creative in their own right as well, which is awesome. It’s all good vibes.

 

When you come from a big family like that, that’s really your first audience, right?

 

Yeah, exactly. I remember when I had my first movie premiere, I was nervous, but I had so many family members that I got lots of cheers whenever my face would show up on that big screen. It made it sound like the whole audience was just loving it. It was very helpful.

 

This is a fairly recent one: What do you remember from shooting The Finest Hours?

 

It was the hardest shoot that I’ve ever done because of the rain and the water elements involved. But it also felt like this really tight-knit group because the whole cast and stunt crew were going through the same thing. It created this cool bond. It was fun and physical and inspiring and draining… I got to meet and work with some really incredible actors. It was also beautiful because it was the first time that I got to take part in something that’s based on a true story.

 

I know you bonded with Jai Courtney on Insurgent and talked about making a similar transition coming from Sydney to Los Angeles. Is there an Aussie circle in the industry?

 

There’s definitely an Aussie circle. I know that when I came over here for the first time for pilot season, I came with six other Aussies, we lived together, and then went to dinner with a bunch of other Australians. It made us feel really safe and it’s a great community. In L.A., I feel like half the town is Australian. That’s obviously not the case, but it feels like that. It’s crazy how many Aussies are out here working and just doing their thing. I think if you come all this way and put all this work in, you might as well do the damn thing and give it all you have, you know?

 

Have you ever had the opportunity to ask a filmmaker, a producer or a casting director, “What made you hire me for this job?” I just think I would be endlessly curious about that.

 

I’ve never been like, “Why did you cast me?” [Laughs] I don’t want them to reconsider, you know? I remember having dinner once with the producers on Insurgent and they were explaining to me how they saw my tape and it just felt right. That’s not super helpful, but it’s such a nice thing to connect with someone like that. We go through so many rejections as an actor, but the majority of the time, we’re not the one. We’re just not the guy for the job. So when someone tells you that they saw your work and, for whatever reason, you were that character, it’s quite humbling. It makes you realize that there are certain roles for you and others that you’re going to miss out on. That’s all.

 

I guess it is this ephemeral thing, too. Casting is so intuitive. It’s hard to explain.

 

Yeah, exactly. It’s not a formula. It’s so subjective.

 

What’s happening on the music side of things? It looks like you put that on the back-burner.

 

I did put it on the back-burner. When I booked Insurgent, I had just released a song out into the world. A terrible song. [Laughs] When I booked the film, I wanted to really immerse myself into acting, the role and to where my life was taking me like, “I have to do this. I have to give this everything I have. All of my attention.” I feel like there was maybe like ten months where I didn’t write a single song. Eventually, I sort of found a balance. Now I’m at a place where I can go shootThe Flash on a 14-hour day, head home, and write a song for three hours. To be able to have that balance is really cool. Whenever I have a few days off, I’m giving sort of everything I can to create. I have a lot of content. I just want to make sure that it’s right and take the time to make sure it’s right because I can be quite impatient. Then I can share it with whoever wants to listen.

 

Based on what I know about you, I think you might like this project I just made up: a Baz Luhrmann musical starring yourself, Michael Fassbender, and Rachel McAdams.

 

Oh yeah, that would be everything. That cast and Baz—all of that. You should write the movie and cast us and have Baz direct it. [Laughs] Make it happen. That would be marvelous.

 

The business of acting is unpredictable in countless ways, but you’re still at the steering wheel with the choices you make. Where would you like to ultimately end up?

 

I really don’t know anymore. I always had very creative goals. I still do, but I’m learning to let go of all the pressure and the permanent attachment of wanting to be at this place at this time. That’s when I go a little bit crazy. I just want to continue doing what I’m doing right now. I couldn’t be happier with life. I get to be creative and chill out when I can chill out. Also, I’ve surrounded myself with really good people. I want to live that life where I get to do all of those things, experience the world, and experience new stuff all the time. That’s what I never want to stop doing.

 

WORDS: Reto Sterchi 

PHOTOGRAPHY—Nikko La Mere 

FAULT Magazine Meets Olivier Assayas

 

In the defiantly unconventional and resolutely disorientating ghost story Personal Shopper, French auteur Olivier Assayas reteams with Kirsten Stewart after 2014’s Clouds of Sils Maria, once again investigating a beleaguered and solitary individual who’s living in the shadow of another person.

 

Stewart plays Maureen, a young American woman in Paris who’s biding her time as a personal shopper, going about the quotidian rituals of her job schlepping haute couture from one atelier to the next for Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten), a revolting celebutante whose one ironclad caveat is that her slave never try on the clothes. Maureen doesn’t always obey: In one explicit scene, she throws back shots of vodka and slips into Kyra’s brand new bondage outfit, made even more lubricious when she begins to masturbate in her employer’s bed. When Maureen’s not busy pleasing her boss—or pleasuring herself—she doubles as a medium, submerged in her obsessive quest to open up spirit portals and commune with her recently expired twin brother Lewis (Anders Danielsen Lie) to take the edge off her suffering and move on. If her freelance ghostbusting sounds strange, there’s plenty more on offer, like incoming text messages from a sinister correspondent—“I want you and I will have you”—that may or may not involve supernatural forces from the afterlife.

 

Premiering in competition at Cannes last year, Personal Shopper provoked a farmyard chorus of backbiting boos at its initial press screening, with Assayas going on to pick up the highly-coveted directing prize, in a tie with Graduation director Cristian Mungiu. That’s Cannes in a nutshell.

 

The French auteur spoke to FAULT about Kristen Stewart’s transformation, Sylvester Stallone’s comeback, and his Cannes-winning Personal Shopper.

 

I took a look at the Personal Shopper press conference footage from Cannes last year. You didn’t leave any room for ambiguity in saying that the film’s ending is pretty clear in your mind. Were you surprised that so many viewers found the ending much more open-ended?

 

Well, I think that movies are questions rather than answers. I honestly do like that audiences can leave the theater guessing. I think it has to do with some kind of an afterlife that movies have, you know? To me, movies aren’t so much about giving immediate gratification to the audience. I think anything that’s worthwhile echoes. I like the notion of things echoing with the audience, when you question and include things that are very personal about one’s faith or belief in things that are invisible. I honestly think that’s one part of filmmaking that’s missing in a lot of movies.

 

The film is in many ways about Maureen coming to grips with death, isolation, and repressed sexuality. Did you want to reconcile something in yourself when you set out to make this film?

 

I suppose I did. A movie like this is pretty dependent on the mood or the situation you’re in when you make it. That’s what Maureen is about. It certainly has to do with my own questions and my own interrogations. I’m sure this movie was about exploring my relationship to the presence of invisible things in filmmaking, which I’m convinced exists. I’ve been convinced ever since I started making films that movies capture something beyond what is physically present in front of the lens. Movies capture vibes that you don’t entirely control. Maybe it’s a crazy idea, but still, it has been very important and informed my filmmaking since the very beginning. With Personal Shopper, I think I’m trying to explore it and question it and figure out if it makes sense or not.

 

Is it always your first inclination to want to do something that’s unmistakably unique?

 

When I start writing, I usually have my back againt the wall. I don’t have any kind of career plan. There’s no master plan, really. I’m trying to move on and take one step forward from whatever I had been doing, and try to explore things that I have not explored. What it all boils down to is that I’m writing the one thing that I have the energy to write. It’s something strange enough, mysterious enough, and weird enough to give me the desire to put it down on paper and have a shot at it. In my own strange way, I suppose, I’m some kind of an experimentalist. And I don’t want to know if it will work or not. I need to be scared and not completely sure if I’m going to get away with it.

 

EMBED TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0Ng5JDR9KM

 

I’m a huge fan of Kristen Stewart. She has shown incredible range since Panic Room.Twilight launched her into the stratosphere, maybe at a price, but you single-handedly secured her a spot in arthouse. What is it that makes her endlessly fascinating?

 

Honestly—knowing Kristen, having worked with her twice now, and being friends with her—the more I know Kristen, the more I think she’s a completely exceptional actress, not to mention an exceptional human being. I feel extremely privileged to have been able to somehow document her transformation, you know? I feel that I’ve been the right person at the right time to be able to record on film the moment Kristen kind of became conscious of her talent and the reach of her talent. I hope I will work with her again because I think there are still things we can try together.

 

PULL QUOTE: The thing is, I’m not interested in actors. I’m interested in individuals… I’m not choosing actors. I’m choosing friends I’ll be spending time with in the coming months.

 

That’s a beautiful thing. I spoke to Anders [Danielsen Lie] at Cannes last year and he wasn’t entirely sure why you cast him in Personal Shopper. So, why did you want him to play Erwin?

 

[Laughs] Usually, there’s no solid answer to this kind of question. Here’s the thing: I wrote this part not knowing who I was writing it for. At the time, I had a very vague notion of who would be in the film and how I would be doing it. I remember having a discussion with Antoinette Boulat, my casting director, who I’ve been working with for twenty years so she’s more a friend than a casting director. We’re very close. We started discussing the character of Erwin and putting down names of actors, and so on and so forth. The next day, she sent me a text message with Anders’ name. It struck me in that moment that I had actually been writing this part for him, you know? Erwin is very close to what Anders did in Oslo, August 31st. It was as if Antoinette had read through me—as if she had entered my subconscious and clarified that this part had been written for Anders. Instantly, I said, “Yes, of course. Call him. I’m offering him the part. I want him and no one else.”

 

You’re clearly good at reading people and sussing out future collaborators. You’re sensitive to your needs. You don’t talk much on set, either. Your style of directing is almost telepathic.

 

The thing is, I’m not interested in actors. I’m interested in individuals. I’m interested in individuals who are, more or less, on the same wavelength as myself. That’s why I never do screen tests with actors or anything of the sort. I just need to meet them. After thirty seconds, I know if it’s someone I can function with or not. It’s very intuitive. To me, I’m not choosing actors. I’m choosing friends I’ll be spending time with in the coming months. In the same way it is with your friends, you don’t need to constantly explain things or reestablish things. That’s why your friends are your friends. So I think my approach to working with actors is much closer to what we call friendships.

 

How long does it take you to complete a screenplay, generally speaking?

 

It depends. I wrote Irma Vep in nine days. I wrote Personal Shopper in two months, at the most. With the screenplay right now, I’ve been working on it on and off for a year and I’m not through yet. So it depends on the project. Sometimes things come to you finished and you put it down on paper and that’s it. Other times, you have to feel your way into a subject and the characters.

 

Is the script you’re currently working on Based on a True Story for Roman Polanski?

 

Oh no, the Roman Polanski one was fast. The deal was that they wanted the script, like, the next day. I really worked fast on that one. We started working on it in early June and we had a finished screenplay by mid-July. We basically reshuffled it with Roman Polanski during August and started preparing the film. Now it’s done and finished and they’re in the editing room with it.

 

Are you in the habit of seeing every idea through, or do you have a lot in your periphery?

 

I like to try things. Ultimately, I don’t think I work with ideas—I work with characters. Once in a while, I start scribbling down stuff, but it’s not so much ideas and more characters. I realized that I’m serious about turning something into a film when the characters stay with me or I keep going back to them. Gradually, layer by layer, [the character] comes to life and I build the screenplay around that one character or possibly a few characters. That’s the best answer I can give you.

 

You went through a traumatic experience in 2014 when they suddenly pulled the plug onIdol’s Eye. What’s happening with that one? You’ve since called it your “ghost film.”

 

[Laughs] It’s more like a burden that I’ve been carrying around on my back. It’s super frustrating to not have done it. It literally fell apart a day before we were about to start shooting with the cast. I’ve been trying to revive it because I really believe in it. I think there’s potential for it to be a really good film. But it’s too expensive and we’ve been really struggling with that. So maybe it will be my next film or it won’t be my next film. It’s still certainly possible. It’s a very fragile project.

 

I know Robert De Niro was first attached to star and Sylvester Stallone, who obviously made quite a comeback, has since replaced him. Are you excited to have him on board?

 

It’s very exciting. I’ve always been a fan of Sylvester Stallone, ever since his early films and when I was a young film journalist. He was my first choice, really. That’s just how the industry functions, I suppose. When I wrote Idol’s Eye, I wanted Stallone and everybody told me, “You’re never going to get this financed. No one will want him for that part.” I thought that was crazy because he’s a great actor. At the time, they said I should offer it to Robert De Niro if I want to get the film made and, obviously, I’m a huge fan and I was happy to offer it to him and work with him. But now a year has passed and, all of a sudden, everybody is excited with Stallone because he was in Creed or something. So, it’s just weird. I just don’t get it, you know? I go with the flow, I suppose.

 

WORDS: Reto Sterchi

PHOTOGRAPHY: Rafa Rivas 

Paramount Pictures presents Ghost In The Shell immersive pop-up at Lights of Soho

On Thursday 23rd March, in order to celebrate the launch of their latest blockbuster movie, Ghost In The Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson, Paramount Pictures transformed neon art gallery and member’s club, Lights of Soho into a completely interactive and high-tech immersive pop-up experience.

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 23: Lights of Soho set up for the “Ghost in The Shell” London Gala Screening After Party on March 23, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 23: Lights of Soho set up for the “Ghost in The Shell” London Gala Screening After Party on March 23, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images)

Based on the internationally acclaimed Japanese Manga series of the same name, written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow, Ghost in the Shell tells the story of the fictional counter-cyberterrorist organization Public Security Section 9, led by protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi in mid-21st Century Japan.

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 23: Lights of Soho set up for the “Ghost in The Shell” London Gala Screening After Party on March 23, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 23: Lights of Soho set up for the “Ghost in The Shell” London Gala Screening After Party on March 23, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images)

 

Bringing the film to life, the Soho gallery space has been transformed into a completely immersive and interactive environment using the very latest modern technology. From a 360° holographic Geisha mask and interactive windows to exclusive memorabilia from the film, guests from the world of film and music were transported to a fictional cyber world with the help of London trio, Sälen who hit the decks with a mixture of electro and trip hop beats to set the futuristic tone and keep guests dancing into the night.

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 23: Lights of Soho set up for the “Ghost in The Shell” London Gala Screening After Party on March 23, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 23: Lights of Soho set up for the “Ghost in The Shell” London Gala Screening After Party on March 23, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images)

HTGAWM’s Jack Falahee discusses lessons learnt from the LGBTQ community in FAULT Issue 25

 

Photography by Joseph Sinclair
Styling by Angel Terrazas
Grooming by Mishelle Parry at Celestine Agency

Jack Falahee ‘Playing Connor | Finding Jack’

Words: Miles Holder

How To Get Away With Murder first appeared on our screens in 2014 and is to this day one of America’s most progressive and expertly written television dramas. Oscar award winning actress, Viola Davis stars as the powerful, female, African-American lawyer without a defined sexuality nor reason to explain one. As an African American female actress, she will no-doubt have faced similar prejudices to that of the character she plays; however the same can not be said for the whole cast. Enter, Jack Falahee. Despite years of training at prestigious acting schools, it was the role of a homosexual college student, Connor Walsh that would provide Jack with a clear and untilfiltered glimpse into the LGBTQ community. It’s a credit to Jack’s skills as an actor, that Connor’s character and his sometimes turbulent relationship with his HIV-positive boyfriend have created strong discussions within and outside of the LGBTQ community. With that in mind, I sat down with Jack to find out what the character that means so much to so many different people – means to him.

You’ve got an impressive resume – you’ve studied so many different acting methods, what is it about television and the screen that mean you’ve gone down that route?

When I was at NYU I was originally admitted to study musical theatre but when I started hanging out with kids who had grown up with ballet classes and vocal coaches, I quickly realised I was a bit out of my depths. If I felt that way in a class of forty students, then going to an open audition for a broadway show was going to be a nightmare; and it was and I was cut very quickly.

I went to Amsterdam and studied the experimental theatre and then Shakespeare in the States but when I got into television acting, I was really inspired by the technical side of it. I grew up enjoying movies but when I started studying it I became aware of angles, what “the shot” was and just everything that is done to make a screenplay come to life. That really fascinated me and will likely lead to me producing and directing in my future.

What period of Connor’s character resonated with you the most?

Fundamentally he and I are very competitive and also very jealous people – it’s something which I’m personally working on but I don’t think Connor is! I grew up with 3 siblings and 2 brothers who are all wildly brilliant and whilst it was a house full of love, it was also incredibly competitive so I definitely relate to Connor in that way.

When you first got the role, did you think the show would have such an impact?

Frankly, you’re not thinking about that when you’re a struggling actor; you’re thinking about getting a job so you can pay rent and survive so I never really sat down and considered I’d be spending years of my life on the project.

I’m still not over how the much of an impact the show has made and a lot of that is Connor’s character and his importance to fans. It’s emblematic of my straight privilege, but I never thought his character would be so important to the LGBTQ community. When the finale came out and Oliver proposed to Connor, seeing the Twitter reaction was so overwhelming and I was just overjoyed at how meaningful the character is to people.

What are the best lessons you’ve learnt from your fans?

100% opening my eyes to the LGBTQ struggle and I can’t stress that enough. Going into this, it was never written on the page that “Connor Walsh is a homosexual”; so when it came to the first love scene I just thought, “wow this guy is willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead” and now I know that was the heteronormativity in my mind back then that was rationalising this whole aspect of his character. It wasn’t until Pete Nowalk was like “oh no, Connor is gay” that I’ve been really trying to become a student of the history of LGBTQ rights and learning more about the struggle of those in the past and in the present day.  I asked Pete and my friends for a reading list on LGBTQ history because one of my favourite aspects about being an actor is that I’m continually having to learn about things I’ve been very uneducated on in the past. I’ve grown up with friends and family who aren’t straight white males so it was important for me  to do Connor’s character justice. The outpouring of love from the fans was so gratifying and humbling for me. Receiving messages from fans saying “Connor & Oliver helped me come out to my parents” is deeply rewarding and to be any small part of the courage needed to come out will forever be a blessing to me.

Are you comfortable with your sex symbol status?

No! Well, it depends [laughs]. I go back and forth on this, on one hand, it’s a great boost to my confidence but on the other hand, it’s a very vulnerable thing to be. Women live their lives being objectified and reduced to just their bodies every day and it is awful so I’ve been discussing it with the women close to me. I obviously can never understand how women can go through life that way but I can see a glimpse of what that experience might feel like and it’s not a nice one.

Nine times out of ten, it’s all good fun and nice things are being said but that 10% of the time when people disregard my space or my wellbeing is not okay. People tell me “that’s what you signed up for” and I really don’t think it is! I was this chubby, awkward kid and now I’m a sex symbol with the help of great makeup and lighting experts making me look a certain way on tv and magazines.

What is FAULT?

I think that there is a part of me which is always seeking validation which is very informative of why I’ve become an actor; regardless of what might happen, I think I’ll always be seeking approval.

Read Jack’s full interview and see more exclusive photographs only in FAULT’s Special #25

AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER NOW