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  • Courtesy of First Run Features

    Courtesy of First Run Features

    Around a decade ago, Jonathan Olshefski began taking photographs of a basement music studio in North Philadelphia, a hangout for local hip hop artists. The planned photo essay would reflect working life vs. creative life, specifically that of music promoter/producer Christopher “Quest” Rainey, owner of the studio. But Olshefski got so caught up in Rainey’s life and that of his family, that he wound up switching to film and shooting for almost a decade.

    The result is Quest, an intimate documentary about a working-class African-American family struggling — and ultimately coping — with crime, poverty and illness. For those who aren’t familiar with rough neighborhoods like North Philly, the film also offers a glimpse into an impoverished but tight-knit community that is both frustrated and hopeful about its prospects. Neither glibly upbeat nor utterly despairing, the film achieves a believable balance that seems to reflect the current situation of so many Americans.

    Courtesy of First Run Features

    Courtesy of First Run Features

    Quest, which opens with the 2008 presidential election as backdrop and closes with Trump soundbites from the 2016 debates, includes various events as time markers, including Obama’s second win in 2012. Though Quest, who exhorts his community to vote, is clearly thrilled with those victories and is suspicious of Trump’s promises to African-Americans, it becomes pretty obvious that the national political scene doesn’t really have much of an effect on the day-to-day realities of his neighborhood.

    At the beginning of the film, we see preparations for Quest’s marriage to Christine’a (“Ma Quest”), after 15 years together. We meet their young daughter PJ, an aspiring DJ, and William, Christine’a’s son from an earlier relationship. The father of a brand-new baby boy, William has just been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and must undergo treatment, with the support of Christine’a and Quest. She already has a challenging job in a women’s homeless shelter, while Quest delivers neighborhood circulars in addition to doing various household chores and walking his daughter to the school bus daily. He also hosts gatherings at his studio for passionate young hip hop artists, as much to keep them out of trouble as to give them an outlet for their aspirations. We watch him interact with one of his main artists, Price, as the latter is clearly still struggling with alcohol addiction despite his protests to the contrary.  Quest is clearly frustrated – he had high hopes for the rapper, which included his own success – but continues to work with him.

    Courtesy of First Run Features

    Courtesy of First Run Features

    From what we see in the film, the Raineys have an easy rapport with each other and with their community, for whom they are pillars—Christopher with his studio; and Christine’a, who is a kind of den mother (as she wearily testifies), hence the nickname “Ma.” Though William’s diagnosis is a hard one, the couple and PJ provide solid assistance, including care for his infant son. William himself is understandably less sanguine, at one point expressing frustration with chemo’s side effects and his inability to find a good job because of his condition. We watch the Raineys toil at their respective jobs, with Christopher finding release in the studio, where mentoring young locals feels like concrete action.

    When despite their best efforts, violence befalls the family, it’s a real test of their mettle. Due to their stature in the neighborhood, they have the support of many, including local cops, which helps them get through it. Ultimately,  the Raineys, along with the community, find cause to celebrate.

    As an engaging portrait of a typically atypical American family and their environment, Quest is that most successful of nonfiction films: a specific window into others’ lives and a cogent representation of a bigger picture.

    Quest opens on Friday, Dec. 8, at the Quad Cinema, NYC.

    Marina Zogbi

  • On Wednesday 17th November, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece Salvator Mundi, became the most expensive artwork ever sold, after being purchased for £450M during an historic event celebrated at Christie’s auction in New York.

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    The two hour auction took place at Christie’s with a total of sold artwork in the amount of $692 million ($785.9 million with fees), on 58 lots. The sale unexpectedly turned into a historic show.

    Since the auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen announced lot nine: Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (circa 1500), it took 19 minutes to sell the artwork for $400 million ($450 million with fees). People clapped and laughed during the unbelievable show. The sale of Davinci’s painting resulted in the most expensive piece ever purchased at an auction and broke all the previous records in the history of art, including the $179.4 million for a Pablo Picasso painting at Les Femmes d’Alger in 2015.

    The crowd came to Christie’s expecting a show, and in the end they finally got history.

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    Salvator Mundi represents a secular image of a a serene-looking Christ dressed in blue and holding an orb. It also shows an ambiguous gender aspect about his appearance that makes it very mysterious and special.

    The picture is one of fewer than 20 works by Leonardo still in existence. It’s hilarious that the painting was sold by London’s Sotheby’s auction house in 1958 for less than 50£ when experts refused to believe Da Vinci painted it. For many years it was considered as the work of one of Da Vinci’s students.

    Salvator Mundi, which was painted in 1506, was owned by King Charles II. It spent most of its life in London before eventually ending up in the hands of art collector Sir Francis Cook.

    Finally the painting was sold this month at Christie’s NYC by Russian billionaire Dimitry Rybolovlev who bought it in 2013 for $127.5 million. The owner of the most expensive art work ever sold, it is not known yet.

    Nerea T. Ruiz

  • Aliens Dead Orbit

    The Alien franchise comic books are about to get a makeover.

    Although the title has remained popular throughout the decades via various mediums, the comics barely hold the excitement and passion that were ignited by the first film. To reinvigorate the franchise, the company hired acclaimed cartoonist James Stokoe as writer and artist for a new miniseries.

    The first comic book under his leadership is entitled Alien: Dead Orbit #1Vice shared their interview with the veteran illustrator, where he expressed his love for the franchise and how he’s changing his style to fit the series. “I saw the second film at the perfect age—around 12 or so—and I instantly loved everything about it. Then I saw the first film and the sequels, and I turned into an Alien sucker for life,” he gushed.  (The following images are previews from Dark Horse Comics)Preview from Dark Horse ComicsStokoe approached the franchise with more suspense than he’s used to in his previous works. He did this to stay true to the films but admitted that it was challenging nonetheless. “I’ve never really done a horror-type comic before, so the pacing is a completely different animal than what I’ve been used to,” the artist stated. He went on to note that he had to redraw some pages to get them right. He views this experience as a major learning curve in his career.

    Preview from Dark Horse Comics

    James Stokoe is known for colorful, bombastic and action-packed illustrations. Other comics he has worked on include Wonton SoupOrc StainStrange Tales, and even Marvel’s The AvengersHe relayed to Comics and Cola how he progressed into the impactful independent artist he is today. “I was definitely drawing them before I was reading them. Like, I knew from a young age what they were, but never owned any until I had met a friend with a collection,” he confessed. His ability to layout incredible details is among the traits that are often admired by both readers as well as other artists. This level of dedication inspires fellow indie artists to further hone their craft, despite the challenging situations in the industry.

    Stokoe is well aware of the circumstances, too. In terms of his career path, he says that he just goes with the flow. The Canadian artist professed, “Enjoyment and a bit of money is all I’m really asking for. I like to draw, and I like to eat!” He hopes that more talented illustrators and writers will be given the chance to showcase their creations and realize their dreams.

    Preview from Dark Horse Comics

    Since the announcement of Stokoe’s involvement with the Alien franchise, Dead Orbit #1 soon became one of the most anticipated comic books of the year. It was even listed by The Guardian as one of the comic books to watch out for in 2017. It was mentioned that the pairing of Stokoe and the Alien franchise was “worthy of notice”. The Guardian describes Stokoe as a rare cartoonist gifted with both technical ability and the capacity for developing beloved characters without straying away from their essence. Paired with Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant, they herald 2017 as a banner year for the franchise.

    True enough, the comic became a massive hit when it hit the shelves last April. Nikki Powers of Comicosity even gave it a 10/10 rating after reviewing the issue. She exclaimed, “If you’re an Alien/Aliens fan, you won’t want to miss this book. This first issue captures the horror ethos of the first movie: the dread, the solitude, the unknowing, all while introducing you to a foul-mouthed action-oriented crew, much like the space marines in Aliens.”

    The Alien franchise is one of the most iconic sci-fi franchises ever made, so it’s no wonder Stokoe jumped at the chance to be affiliated with it. Its reach is far and wide, and the films have had success in every continent they’ve been released in since the franchise’s inception. Similarly, the many games the Alien franchise has released have also had success. Among them Alien: Isolation, which was released in 2014 by The Creative Assembly is held in high regard and has been downloaded from Steam by hundreds of thousands of sci-fi gamers. Additionally, the franchise collaborated with Slingo to create the Aliens slots game, which consists of three levels – each one incorporating the characters and settings of the original cult classic. The franchise has permeated almost every aspect of visual entertainment, and Stokoe is just the latest artist tasked with breathing new life into it.

    With all this positive media attention brought about by Dead Orbit, the future looks bright for Dark Horse Comics and James Stokoe. The independent artist is one of many new artists that are turning the spotlight on the art of comic books and graphic novels. And by touching on a legendary franchise, his stock will undoubtedly rise in the coming months.

  • MLiR stands for Modern Life is Rubbish, an utterly accurate and ironic name. Founded by the two absolutely crazy Swedes from outer Space, Marco Gegenheimer and Einar Christofferson. In 2016 the two lads broke through with the musical and mega hyped debut EP ”Swedish Lo-Life” on Studio Barnhus, the re-known and eclectic record label run by Axel Boman, Kornél Kovács and Petter Nordkvist.

    An EP of 5 songs, featuring the big hit people with almost 300 000 plays on Spotify so far. Up next in 2017 for Marco and Einar is their 2nd installment for Studio Barnhus, an EP under the name ”Trans-World Junktion”. They also have EP:s coming early 2018 for UK label Banoffee Pies, Berlin based Lossless, a 3rd EP for Studio Barnhus and non 4/4 stuff for Magic Teapot Records. Apart from all this, the boys are also preparing a live show for next year where everyone will be able to see them shaking their asses and showing the world they’re here to stay to make you go bananas. Modern Life is Rubbish, and you know it!

    artworks-Swedish Lo-life EP

    Marco, nice to meet you and welcome to Art for Progress. MLiR it is the new project you have created, but your career started a long time ago. Please, could you tell us when did you start to produce music?

    My interest to produce music started after having a 5.5 years break from DJ’ing in 2009. I then started working on an album for Ratio?music / Rush Hour (which got lost) and released several EP’s on Ratio?music / Rush Hour, Moodmusic and Perplex Recordings. I had a band called Factious Combo also when I was 16-19 years old which kinda sounded like a mix of Blur meets Sonic Youth.

    How did you meet Einar, and why did you guys decide to call the project MLiR? What is the inspiration and story behind MLiR?

    MLiR started with my buddy Einar Christoffersson back in 2012. We wanted to make something fresh and different, so we started doing experimental, cinematic and space traveling music before any dance music was done.

    The name stands for “Modern Life is Rubbish” and was taken from Blur’s second album with the same title. They had a great start in 1991 with “Leisure” and the tour in Europe went very well, but went to hell on their US tour, as they got totally shitfaced every gig (pulling out cables etc) and so the critics thought they’d be a one hit wonder band. So in an era where the music scene was dominated by music from the US (Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Pearl Jam), they decided to go against the stream and do something super British with “Modern Life is Rubbish.” Their record label Parlophone / EMI thought they were crazy but the record became a commercial success, and the rest is history.

    Our name is a political satire of the world and system we live in. It’s also very ironic as we of course love technology, but think that it’s important to have your own sound and go against classical rules within musical compositions. The name is also very on-point if we talk about how us humans live, glued to our phones, social media and forgetting the fact that all the answers to our problems is out there in mother nature.

    As you know, every artist has another artist as a reference for inspiration. Would you like to mention some of the artists that inspire you to create that interesting and inspiring music? 

    Please, describe which are your influences.

    That’s really hard to say but, to name a few artists and sounds that have influenced us here are some. Damon Albarn, Moodymann, DJ Koze, Sonic Youth, William Onyeabor and any psychedelic music with synthesizers, Tortoise, Jay Dilla, DJ Premier, The Radio Dept, cinematic music, music with stories and hidden messages. The list goes on and on.

    How do you define your style?

    Our style varies a lot so it’s really hard to describe but always fresh music, great to dance and romance to, with a lot to say to you.

    Which facilities and machines do you use at your studio to produce the tracks? How do you describe MLiR creative process?

    We try to use both analog gear and live instruments fused with drum machines etc. We use MPC and Ableton and use hard to find vinyl samples mostly, SH-101, Yamaha DX-7, Ableton Push etc.

    The creative process of a song varies a lot. Sometimes we start with a kick drum only, sometimes with a sample we’ve found, it really changes a lot. Live music is something that’s really missing in electronic music, for example, and our aim will always be not make things sound too “loopy”, but instead humorous and fun yet still serious and timeless.

    As your career started a long time ago. AFP would love to hear a run through your music works since you started.

    Well I mentioned some of my older stuff. In 2015, Axel Boman convinced us to start doing some dance EP’s with MLiR, and so we did. Our first EP got released on Studio Barnhus in 2016. The second EP  should’ve been out in June, but due to a sample licensing it’ll be out in the beginning of 2018.

    In all your music career path, which is the best work you produced and you more feel proud of?

    I would say MLiR’s first EP, what we’ll release next year and my EP for Ratio?music / Rush Hour called Inner Path Stories.

    Are you working today in new projects you can tell us? 

    We’re currently working on a 3rd EP for them and new stuff for Lossless, Banoffee Pies and Magic Teapot Records. Magic Teapot Records is mine, Jens Ingelstedt and Dani Baughman’s online record shop, selling rare and pretty unknown records from all over the world. I also have a project with my friend Tapia called Son Dos. We have released stuff on Berlin’s Outcast Oddity, where I also have released another song called “G8,” an acid techno banger.

    Tell us please, a nice story that you remember related to your music career.

    Can’t really think of anything right now, but I’m really happy that people like Gilles Peterson, Laurent Garnier, DJ Koze, Andrew Weatherall and so many big names like the music that has been pushed out from me, MLiR and Son Dos.

    Electronic music is a changing environment. What is your opinion about the evolution of the scene and to where this genre will progress?

    I think these are really exciting times for electronic music, at the same time as it’s extremely sad to see how media/clubs/promoters use a style like for example techno and house to just make money, brainless and soulless. I hope to see more live music in the scene and it’s nice to see companies like Roland and others doing versions of some pretty expensive old analog synths and loads of new modular synths coming out everywhere as well. Absolutely love it!”

    I have heard that you are planning to release a new label very soon. Please, would you mind to tell us something about it?

    After having the perfect and free promotion / introduction to our followers, Magic Teapot Records have decided to start as a record label in 2018. We will release new music from friends, one or two vinyl reissues and compilations featuring discoveries we absolutely love and cherish, from rather unknown artists that we think need some recognition from the music scene itself and collectors all over the world.

    Thank you very much your your attention, Marco. Congratulations to you and Einar Christofferson for MLiR. Your project is awesome! Let’s enjoy the vibrant and funny music video of MLiR’s “People” from their last EP “Swedish Lo-life EP” created by Einar.

    You are welcome Nerea. Thanks also to Art for Progress for inviting me to talk about MLiR. Me and Einar are pleased to present our work here.

    Please, remember to check MLiR’s Soundcloud and stay tuned to Magic Teapot Records new releases.

     

    Nerea T. Ruiz

     

  • Streetwear designer Gosha Rubchinskiy may have burst on the scene in 2008, his eponymous line is finally heating up, as it’s reported that athleisure is cooling down.

    The former filmmaker, based in Moscow, melds a early-’90s Post-Soviet  style of oversized sweatshirts with modern high-fashion suiting, demin and accessories. And the designer has also collaborated with brands, including Levi’s, on the iconic trucker jacket.

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    Image Credit: Collier Schorr

    Despite being lumped in a “Post-Soviet youth culture” fashion category along with Demna Gvasalia and Lotta Volkova, Rubchinskiy rejects the comparison.

    “I feel, myself, like an international artist,” he tells W Magazine. “Not like Russian, local thing,” adding, “I don’t like when people say—‘Oh, Gosha does the post-Soviet Russian thing.’ I think, no.”

    He goes on to say “I try to speak about the current moment. That’s why I’m hanging always with young kids, because I want to see what’s happening in their heads. And I mix my emotions, my great memories, with what is cool and great for now.”

    Can’t wait to see what this hypermodern designer has in store in 2018.