Comments on Dokei, a play at The Lion and Unicorn

DOKEI-(Longing)

Last night I went to the opening night of the play “Dokei“, produced by my friend and ex-colleague Michelle. This is a short review because I don’t know a lot about how to write a review for a play.

The play is clearly a unique and compelling piece, partly because of its clear feminist and minority point of view on an interesting period of history. Many people have written about early Dutch explorers in Japan, but usually from the Dutch men’s point of view. This play flips that on its head in a unique way, but not a patronising way.

The acting by Jung Sun den Hollander is impressive as well – she is continually engaging and manages to switch between different ages of the character in a impressive way, and maintains a high level of energy and amusement for the scenes where she is a younger woman. Plus, she is personally impressive: she wrote the play, arranged for funding for it and (by all accounts) has been organised and thorough in getting it to stage.

Overall, a very impressive play, and reminded me I need to get out and see new plays more often.

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Thoughts on watching Something, Anything

I just watched my friend Ashley’s film (she is the producer), Something, Anything. Here’s a trailer (hope this works):

Something, Anything – Trailer from Self-Reliant Film on Vimeo.

This is not going to be much of a review, although there are other really fantastic reviews for the film out there (like this one in New York Times). This is really more of a love letter to my friend, and an endorsement of the path and voice that she has found in her life (not just in relation to this film but more broadly).

We met when we shared a room studying abroad, and bonded over a love of poetry, mail from friends, experiences of breakups and her willingness to listen to Dar Williams. I feel completely fortunate to have had her as a roommate in that weird semester in Warsaw, and as a correspondent and sometimes-in-person friend since then.

This film is beautiful and mesmerizing, and I’ve had a really powerful emotional reaction to the journey that the lead character makes in the film. It tugs at something I feel a lot of the time: that my life is too complicated, or I am on the wrong career track, or something more nameless than any of that, and all I really need to do is move to a monastery for 6 months or go to a mountain and watch fireflies. I feel all of these things and do not do anything about them (for a number of reasons: these are not the only things I feel about my life, and I also like to buy a lot of books and be busy and learn things at my job).

The film is not about me, of course. But this is just a review about how I have responded to it. It is a good crystallisation of a positive journey and inner strength. And it manages to pack in an enormous amount of questioning into a script without much dialogue.

So that’s my Sunday rambling for the week, and what I will be spending time to be with, thinking and feeling and musing about … instead of working and preparing for the week ahead.

“Melancholy is the … feeling of distance that separates us from a potential simple world.”

Today I went to “Constructing Worlds”, an exhibition at the Barbican. There’s still a week left of the exhibition, and if you live in London, you should go. Barbican exhibitions are generally a good bet, but I usually have a niggling criticism – some of them are too heavy or too light, but I thought that this one got a great balance.

The subject of this post is taken from this Frieze Magazine article about one of the artists whose work was exhibited at the Barbican, Luigi Ghirri. (One of his images from the exhibition – actually my favorite – is here, where you can see other photos from the exhibition as well.) There is something about his style and technique that really grabbed me. He is not, seemingly, widely written about on the internet – or anyway his Wikipedia page is quite short. But I fell in love with him. I think we have a special bond.

There were so many fantastic photographers, and I took away a small treasure from each of the rooms about them, so I won’t go on about that today. Such arresting photographs with such different style, but all fascinated and interested in photographing space.

I love photography of people, but this exhibition really spoke to how I tend to take take photographs. That is not to say that I should be included in the exhibition – but it just made me realise that there is clearly this history of photography of cities and and spaces and environments at weird angles, or with different view points. I take vacant pictures, with no people in them, that somehow don’t work that well on Facebook sometimes. Now I can say that I am fitting into some kind of a movement or a period or a style of photographing the contemporary urban environment. Probably this comes from leaving Texas (a certain strange architectural and spacial environment – vast and vacant) to go to Poland, Siberia and Central Asia (another strange architectural environment – with their colossal postwar buildings and Soviet ruins). Perhaps my photography style would be less melancholy if I’d started traveling in Europe. Although, looking at that Ghirri quote, maybe not.

So I will leave you with some of my own “architectural photography” from the last few months, none of which is very good and all of which is taken with an iPhone in a sly, surreptitious or fast manner. I would always edit photos like this out of Facebook posts, but I post these now in a sloppy tribute to my new artistic love interests like Walker Evans (you can watch a cool YouTube video about him here) and Luigi Ghirri.

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