Announcing New Plans for InArteMatt Content!

Changes are coming! Aside from my work with FRED Film Radio and JAZZIZ Magazine, I fully intend to continue to pursue my personal projects, including new podcast conversations for my series Matt’s Art Chat as well as the return of The Art Movement.

The idea is to bring three Matt’s Art Chat podcasts each month and, on the conclusive week of each month, bring a three-hour-long episode of The Art Movement. While Matt’s Art Chat will be available free of charge, The Art Movement will be available behind a paywall.

For those who do not know, Matt’s Art Chat is my series of podcast conversations about the arts with creators, curators and art lovers from all over the world. The Art Movement is a radio show, where I share my thoughts about the arts and play clips from all the audio content I produce.

The hope is to one day find a terrestrial radio home in various territories for The Art Movement and also have it available online for a small fee. I will also continue to upload clips from the show for free on my YouTube site.

All this will not affect my work for JAZZIZ Magazine and FRED Film Radio. In fact, at JAZZIZ, we are excited about the launch of a new regular weekly livestream series titled Crate Digging. I will also continue to produce a weekly radio show on FRED on all things cinema, titled Big FRED Tuesday.

The new intensive schedule will kick off next week and more information will be available in the coming days.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

How Art Inspired Outrage, Empathy and… the Revolution

A partial transcript of Episode 22 of my arts and culture radio show, THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full show.

culture and education can lead to a revolution, which is a forceful way for people to take charge of time, which is history in motion. Whether those people fall on the wrong side of history or the right side of history is the real challenge.

But the way I see it, the two energies that are the foundation of a revolution are outrage and empathy. So, at certain points in history, especially when a shocking event occurs like the explosion of Beirut, the death of George Floyd or 9/11 and so on…

The reactions they solicit are outrage and empathy. The way I see it, the former is a more impulsive one, it is more easily understood and that is why it instantly attracts more people.

That’s also why social media and, arguably, the internet at large are the best vehicles for outrage. Because they too are fast-paced and offer the promise of instant gratification. But because outrage is such an impulsive reaction and so strong, it tends to manifest itself as violence or through violent acts. Now, I would be naive to think that violence has no place in revolution and that’s true.

Also, violence itself manifests itself in various ways, not only via physical violence but through the destruction of cultural heritage, spiteful words and in ways that are a bit more concealed and don’t stand out as easily.

The other force, empathy, is a little harder to generate can easily be overcome by outrage, but in the end, empathy is the more long lasting of the two forces. But two of the conditions that empathy requires are time and distance. Which is why art is the perfect vehicle for empathy.

Art is not as immediate and can take time to both find and evaluate. But it also has that capacity to linger in your mind for far longer than the fast-paced world of social media. But also because to be sure, art like Nina Simone famously said should reflect the times. But also because art has that capacity to reveal truths that are timeless and universal.

Some of these truths are so plain to see but at the same time, to be aware of them is incredibly difficult. Although these are truths that are also a part of us, to become aware of them requires a certain distance or even detachment. It also requires us to be passive, as we are confronted by such truths.

Art provides just that distance and that type of confrontation. However, in a strange twist, it is impossible to know just what artwork will lead to such a powerful awakening.

The best way to achieve this awakening is by experiencing as much art as we can of as many kinds as we can all of the time. And you don’t need to be intellectually aware of the different art movements, just that art is varied and different and all of these varied and different styles, movements and forms represent different viewpoints. But no matter how different they are, there is always a timeless and universal truth within them that is also within us.

In a nutshell, that’s why I think that art is so important. That’s also why I think that I don’t have to agree with an artwork that I ideologically oppose in order to deem it good because that artwork too has a concealed, universal and timeless truth that will help me understand myself and the world around me.

Understanding that timeless and universal truth… that’s what empathy is all about. And it’s hard. But I really believe in my heart that that’s the revolution I want to be a part of. Are you with me?

Download the full radio show HERE.

Why the Bolsonaro Government is Damaging Brazil’s Cultural Heritage

A partial transcript of Episode 22 of my arts and culture radio show, THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full show.

Sao Paulo-based film critic Felipe Furtado told Sight & Sound that the Bolsonaro government has “zero interest in culture and memory, and their neoliberal views regard any sort of art funding as a complete waste of resources. They also see most of art and education as suspicious overrun by leftists…”

But why would he be interested in harming the arts and cultural sector? Well, as mentioned, Bolsonaro is a highly controversial figure of the far-right. Art, of course, has power and resonated with people. It also broadens people’s horizons, opens their minds and gets them thinking. This is obviously something that an extremist government would not want people doing.

A government that’s interested in controlling as much of its population’s life as possible will most likely want to control all narratives of its own country. By doing so, it will not only look to produce new stories but also do its best to repress the older ones.

That’s what the Bolsonaro government did with the Cinemateca, although they were quite deceitful about it. They didn’t burn it to the ground outright. They just cut its funds and then cut its energy sources, leaving all those reels of film to rot.

Of course, one would assume that the intent is to destroy the past to increase investment in creating new films, perhaps ones that help communicate Bolsonaro’s vision of his country and project an image of Brazil that he could really get behind.

This is not a new concept, and it is an idea that recalls the term propaganda. And you know, it’s like that old saying — if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it?

Because you know what? Whatever Bolsonaro is doing is actually working! As of this recording, the coronavirus has killed more than 105,000 people in Brazil, making it the second-highest death toll worldwide after the United States. Several jobs were lost during this period.

Nevertheless, a survey revealed that Bolsonaro’s popularity is at a record high, showing that his popularity has surged five points from June, to 37 per cent, while his disapproval rating plunged 10 points to 34 per cent. And why am I not surprised…

Download the full radio show HERE.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

Trans-genderism and Virginia Woolf

A partial transcript from Episode 21 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full radio show.

Regarding the #IStandWithJKRowiling, I should say I’m not a fan of her books. That’s just personal taste, I realize that Harry Potter means a lot to a lot of people.

But in terms of trans-genderism, may I suggest Virginia Woolf instead? Not only was she revolutionary in experimentation with form and content, going against the norm of the novel during the Victorian Era and pioneering the stream of consciousness style of writing. But she was also modern-minded in her exploration of such themes as gender and sexuality in her books.

Actually, Woolf was a lesbian I believe. I’m not entirely sure whether she identified herself as such outright but she reportedly had affairs with women, especially with Vita Sackville West, who was an author herself, a prolific diarist and a garden designer. She also inspired one of Woolf’s most celebrated and modern-minded novels known — Orlando.

If you haven’t read it, it’s difficult to kind of do its narrative justice both in terms of content and form in just a few words. Essentially, it’s the story of Orlando, and it’s a fictional historical biography that spans almost 400 years in the lifetime of the title protagonist. And all throughout the book’s length, the protagonist constantly changes sex.

So, I suppose the novel explores such things as how gender roles are defined within society, confusion about gender and sexuality and all such things. There are a couple of lines that illustrate that, including the opening lines: “He–for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it–was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.”

In another part, Woolf wants us to understand the force of gender roles in her own world and writes: “When the boy, for alas, a boy it must be – no woman could skate with such speed and vigour – swept almost on tiptoe past him, Orlando was ready to tear his hair with vexation that the person was of his own sex, and thus all embraces were out of the question.”

But it’s a wonderful book and I would recommend it, particularly for anyone who is looking for some type of representation or comfort about their own sexuality and gender in classic literature. Sally Potter directed an awesome version of the book in 1992, starring Tilda Swinton, that you can check out in case reading is not your thing.

But as far as I’m concerned, and in terms of how I feel about this whole thing, if you do stand with J.K. Rowling, that’s cool. But I, on the other hand, stand with Virginia Woolf.

#IStandWithJKRowling: My Thoughts

A partial transcript from Episode 21 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full radio show.

I wanted to share an opinion on a hashtag I saw, which was popular with the interweb. I’m talking about the #IStandWithJKRowling, and it especially referred to her comments about trans women not being real women.

I’m not sure why she has been so vocal and passionate about this issue and I’m all for freedom of speech. I really believe that people should share their views no matter how controversial within a democratic system. But I equally think that said people should be prepared to take whatever backlash results from their statements.

That’s why when Rowling along with other public figures like Margaret Atwood and Noam Chomsky and 150 more people got together and wrote a letter denouncing the “restriction of debate,” I was in favor of it.

It’s also why, I don’t understand how the concept of freedom of speech has been appropriated by the Western World’s alt-right, like I don’t understand how apparently they have appropriated words like boogaloo.

Frankly, what Rowling has been talking about is quite dull to me and I haven’t really explored it fully. I mean, I’m a punk at heart and I just don’t like any types of labels. If it was up to me, if you feel like you’re a woman then you’re a woman. If you feel like you’re a man, then you’re a man. If you feel like you have every gender or no gender, that’s fine.

So, when it comes to the legal systems and human rights, I’m not sure about any of that stuff. But if I was the president of the world, this would be my ethical standpoint on these matters.

As far as the hashtag itself is concerned, while I was born at the right time to grow up with the Harry Potter saga, there was nothing about it that particularly excited me. I tried reading the books and found they just didn’t draw me in. And I even watched the movies but couldn’t get past the first three. It just wasn’t my thing.

Obviously, Rowling is upsetting a lot of her biggest fans with her behavior. Members of the LGBTQ community actually drew on them for a sense of empowerment about who they were. All this, of course, raises the question of once again, whether it is possible to separate the art from the artist.

What I believe is that everyone has a dark side and opinions about life that we disagree with. This includes artists, simply because they are human beings.

Find Your Mentors in Books, Films and Music

In life, I’m sure, you have encountered/encounter/will encounter people who will tell you that books, films and music are not important. I suggest you ignore those people.

Knowledge is pretty much the most important thing you can acquire. There is very little evidence that not reading books, watching movies and listening to music will not lead you anywhere in life. On the other hand, many of the most accomplished people in life had one thing in common: they read, watched, listened, explored. They acquired knowledge all their lives.

There is another reason. The one thing in life that’s going to get you anywhere and can change your life is finding a mentor, who will help you acquire knowledge and achieve a better version of yourself.

There are two ways of finding a mentor.

The first way is by contacting people directly, asking them questions and establishing a relationship with them. Understandably, not everyone will be willing to help you. You may contact ten people, and out of those ten people you may only get one reply. However, that one reply can be your one step forward in acquiring knowledge and getting you that one step closer to your goal, whatever that may be.

The second way is possibly easier but just as rewarding. It is by establishing a relationship with people you admire who may be dead or unreachable through their works, whether through books they wrote or have been written about them, films they made, or music they made.

Some of my mentors, Helen Keller, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Louis Armstrong, Leo Tolstoy, Walter Benjamin, Elizabeth Bishop, etc. are long gone. Yet I feel a connection with their lives and their works that is a lot like having a relationship with them.

Robin Dunbar said that a human will only maintain a stable relationship with 150 individuals. I think that’s a good number.

In your life, you will hopefully read thousands of books, watch hundreds of thousands of movies, and listen to an incalculable amount of music of all kinds, from all parts of the world, dealing with different themes and issues.

However, you will encounter works that will particularly resonate with you and you will feel the need to revisit them, whether by experiencing them again or just by thinking about them.

From the list of all the books that you will read, films that you will watch, music that you will listen to, you will find yourself automatically compiling a list – whether mentally or on paper – of 150 works that will have positively affected your health, your wealth, and your happiness.

We live in an age where knowledge is more accessible to us than it ever has been before. As a result, it has never been easier to find your mentors. For anyone who is not hindered by technological issues of any kind, there are no excuses.

No matter what your goals are in life, nothing will set you on a faster path in achieving those goals than actively looking for them either through direct interactions with living people, or through your interactions with books, films, music and the arts at large. It is through these interactions that you will most likely find the confidence and the desire and the curiosity to gain experience out in the real world.

Originally published on my previous website, CineCola on June 18, 2018.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

The Problem with Major Bookstore Chains

A partial transcript from Episode 21 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full radio show.

When it comes to literature, it is commonly believed that people read less nowadays. That myth has been debunked and the rise of ebooks, Kindles and so on have actually made accessibility easier.

Now, I’m a paperback guy when it comes to books, so I don’t really factor in a virtual experience as far as reading is concerned. It doesn’t work for me. So, one of the things I like to do is I like to visit bookstores, often to the point where I buy more books than I have time to read. I know there may be people out there listening to this who feel what I am saying.

The thing I have noticed is that bookstores in general are a tricky thing. If you go to the mainstream ones, their selection is not so impressive. I more than likely do not find the books I am looking for.

I’m also not surprised by anything that particularly catches my eye. It’s a lot of mainstream stuff, a lot of celebrity biographies, a lot of populist philosophy, a lot of books about cooking. There are some big name authors out there but only a handful are really prominently exhibited in those major bookstore chains.

This is not a new trend. In Galway, Ireland, the major bookstore is Eason. But I hardly ever remember buying a book there. I would usually go to Charlie Byrnes of Keane’s, though the latter was a bit further away from the city center. And most of the time, I would favor second-hand books, also because I used to be really, really broke.

Actually, what I liked to do is at the time, they would randomly stack books outside the store and I would close my eyes and randomly pick out a book from the 1 euro baskets. I would walk to the counter not knowing what I picked up, pay it and then see. Even if it sounded like the dullest, most uninteresting thing ever, I would make myself read at least the first chapters and try my best to get through the whole thing. That’s how I made so many great discoveries, read some really challenging books ever from an early age.

One time, I was embarrassed to walk to the counter with an adult book titled Amour, Amour by Marie Claire de Villefranche, and so I noticed what I had picked out before the counter. Instead of paying for the book, I was so embarrassed, I just walked off stealing it. I wasn’t caught but I guess the thrill of reading a pornography book was enhanced by the fact that I had stolen it.

All this to say that during the week, news was announced that 150,000 WHSmith jobs could be lost. When I lived in London and when my mother lived in the UK, that’s when I would occasionally visit one of their stores. Then, of course, I used to buy copies of Sight & Sound magazines at some airports there. But again, they’re overpriced and their selection of books tends to be pretty dull.

Of course, I feel for the people who risk losing their jobs. I really do. But I read a tweet reflecting my sentiments on the situation that stated: “I do wonder if the drop of customers at WHSmith is less to do with COVID and more to do with reducing the magazine and book and stationary stock to stock massively overpriced chocolate bars and bottles of water no-one ever wants.”

And I’m talking about WH Smith here but this is something that extends to the cultural sector at large. It’s like when you watch an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, and you see that these restaurants are in financial dire straits and in order to save their restaurants, instead of focusing on the quality, they try all these things that just cheapen them like early-bird specials and a menu that is too big, microwaving food and all that stuff.

In other words, what I am getting at is that WHSmith, but also arthouse cinemas and even museums and other art institutions are in dire need of a more tasteful curation. Maybe a long-term plan that works on a wider diversity and quality control.

Maybe the collapse of WHSmith will lead to the rebirth of independent bookstores and if that happens, it may be the best thing for cultural development. Of course, if it happens, I wish the thousands of people who will lose their job all the best.

Venice Film Festival 2020 program announced: My thoughts

A partial transcript of Episode 20 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Click here to listen to the full radio show.

Several film festivals have had to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic but the Venice International Film Festival looks set to be the first major international film festival to hold a physical edition since the coronavirus outbreak. So, the festival will take place in Venice, Italy, from the 2nd to the 12th of September and the lineup was announced last week.

The program is obviously not that Hollywood heavy as that of previous editions. This too is because of the pandemic and the ways in which it has impacted film production. But it’s also because so many of the big stars simply won’t be able to travel because of all the travel restrictions and so on that we all know about and are familiar with at this point.

Some film critics have, pardon the pun, been critical of the lineup precisely for that reason. Where are the big movies? Where are the big stars? And it kind of makes me sad to hear that despite the challenges that Venice has had to overcome, people would complain about the quality of the program simply because of the lack of A-listers who will be walking down the red carpet of the Lido di Venezia this year. If indeed, there is to be a red carpet at all this year. I’m not even 100% sure.

But here’s what I think about that. First of all, if I take a look at the list of filmmakers who will be premiering movies at the Lido this year, I see such names as Michel Franco and Andrei Konchalovsky, as well as Chloe Zhao in the main competition. And they may not be famous as Steven Spielberg but they are revered directors, especially among arthouse film lovers. Then Luca Guadagnino, Abel Ferrara. I mean, there are some notable names there indeed.

But aside from that, these destructors. It seems to me that they forget that it is the role of film critics at film festivals to make discoveries and communicate their discoveries to the rest of the world.

It’s far too easy to talk about a movie like Joker, which actually premiered in Venice last year. It’s obviously a bit tougher to talk about the obscure Iranian film that could end up being a masterwork of our time but would most likely not garner the same type of mainstream reaction as the Joker on social media. I mean, it’s not going to get you a tenth of the likes on social media.

And that’s what it’s become about and it’s the problem of art criticism as a whole. They’ll write about any little, stupid think that jokester Banksy does but won’t necessarily go out there and discover the art that’s harder to find. Most likely because it’s not going to get the type of exposure for either the media or the journalist. So, it all becomes this never-ending, self-service, vicious cycle that’s not going to do anybody any favors in the long run.

But I think the role of film festivals is yes, absolutely, to celebrate the art of cinema and offer a platform for those mainstream movies to legitimize themselves in the eye of the arthouse snobs. But importantly, it should also be about and is about giving arthouse and more challenging movies some type of exposure too. The pis, therefore, that some of the media that the big movies at film festivals attract will get those smaller movies a mention. Even when it’s a peripheral mention in an article that is 70% about the latest Marvel movie, it’s still something.

I for one am more conflicted about whether or not it was the right thing to do by Venice to hold an edition of the festival at all this year. On the one hand, I don’t think it will be safe, no matter what precautions they are taking. Like, there will be more outdoor screening sites and there will be temperature checks and so on. But I’m not sure it’s still going to be that safe.

On the other hand, I do also think that it would be disastrous if film festivals did not show their support and give movies a chance to grab the attention of film distributors and so on at this time of need. And that’s mainly for two reasons. One is that if they’re not exhibited, these films risk disappearing off the face of the planet without having been given a chance and the consequences of that could be disastrous for the global cultural heritage in the long run.

The second reason, very important, is that cinema is also an industry, populated by craftsmen and workers of the sector, many of whom have found themselves in financial dire straits as film productions have shut down all over the world. Many of these workers are also freelancers with no contracts, who are making no money whatsoever as productions have been halted.

And so, as I consider the challenges of a major film event like the Venice International Film Festival, I remember that it’s just a challenging year for everybody and people should be expected to do a little more than they are maybe used to, just to get by. Film critics included. If that’s what we gotta do, that’s what we gotta do.

Download the full radio show here.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

A trip to Prague Castle

A partial transcript of Episode 19 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Click here to listen to the full radio show.

My love for Prague has been reignited over the past several weeks, as I was forced to remain with the outbreak of the pandemic. At first, I was far from happy about the whole thing but now, I feel like I couldn’t have been stuck in a more beautiful city and I have been treasuring these last few days that I have here, as I am most likely going to be flying out of here on the third of August, unless something happens.

Nonetheless, for the past weeks I have been saying that Prague has been one of the places that responded the quickest to the outbreak and as a result, things never got so severe here. In fact, for about two months now, businesses have reopened and these include museums.

So, after a while of being reluctant about leaving the house, I decided that I might as well take in some of the sights and museums. So, last week for example, I told stories about visiting several museums in the city and since then, I ticked another landmark that I had never visited, strangely enough. Prague Castle.

Now, the Prague Castle is a must-see for anyone visiting the city. It’s a complex. A beautiful complex built in the 9th century that is a must-see for anybody visiting this city. Prague castle was the seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors and presidents of Czechoslovakia. Today, it’s the official office of the President of the Czech Republic.

It’s also incredibly vast and varied. The Guinness Book of Records acknowledges it as the largest ancient castle in the world. And what did strike me was the wide variety of architectural styles that can be admired within it.

There’s the Old Royal Palace and the Vladislav Hall, which combines Late Gothic with elements of the newly arriving Renaissance style; the St. Vitus Cathedral, which stood unfinished for centuries and as such, is like a schizophrenic blend of Renaissance, Gothic and Art Nouveau; and then there is the small-scale small-scale architecture of the little houses of Golden Lane, among other things that I won’t list there for time’s sake.

Actually, the reason why I decided to finally visit the Castle was that I have been on a Franz Kafka high as of late. I have read most of everything he wrote in his life and think about him a lot everytime I find myself in his hometown. Kafka himself lived in one of the little homes of Golden Lane. More precisely, he lived in house number 22 with his sister Ottla in 1916-1917.

The house itself is tiny, so much so that it’s almost hard to imagine two people living there. So, he didn’t live there very long and now, the little house is a souvenir shop. I bought a Kafka notepad and a little postcard because I just felt like I had to buy something Kafka-related.

In any case, it’s kind of a thrill being there for a fan like me, also because I am sensible to spaces. While he was there, he wrote some short stories for the book A Country Doctor and found inspiration for his book The Castle, which he would start writing in 1922 and would not be published in his lifetime.

If you do decide to visit, you should know that you can walk around the castle for free and aside from the spectacular architecture, you can enjoy an amazing view of Prague from above that alone is worth your climbing the steep steps that take you to the castle.

Some areas of the castle are restricted, which means that you need a ticket to visit them. These include some of the cathedrals and Golden Lane before 6 p.m., when all the houses and little shop inside them are open for business. But after 6 o’clock, Golden Lane is open too. I didn’t have time to visit the restricted areas because they are locked up by 6 p.m. But I do think that getting a ticket would be well worth the price.

Justice for Emmett Till

A partial transcript of Episode 19 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Click here to listen to the full radio show.

Have you ever heard of Emmett Till? In 1955, Emmett Till, a black kid, was lynched in Mississippi, a state with a strong Ku Klux Klan presence, after being accused of offending a white woman in her family’s grocery store. He was 14-years old.

His swollen, disfigured body was found three days later by two boys who were fishing in the Tallahatchie River. His head was very badly mutilated. After his death, Till became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. Yet, his killers were acquitted.

The Black Lives Matter movement is offering us a chance to revisit such historical horrors and this show is being recorded on the day after what would have been Till’s 79th birthday. The Emmett Till Legacy Foundation is currently raising awareness for bringing truth, justice and long overdue closure to this historical case. A few days ago, the Foundation launched a petition asking for people’s support. You can find out more about that at emmetttilllegacyfoundation.com.

Among the demands stated on the petition are for the FBI to complete its investigation, and for the case to be moved forward by state authorities with appropriate charge and an indictment of any known accomplice.

In addition, the Foundation demands that an official apology be made to the Till Family from the Federal Government, the Department of Justice, the State of Mississippi and local law enforcement for the human rights violation, wongful death, kidnapping and lynching of Emmett Till, and for the miscarriage and obstruction of justice in the 1955 trial.

London-born music artist ALA.NI is an ambassador for the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation and she released a new song, “Lament for Emmett Till,” on the eve of what would have been Till’s 79th birthday. The song recites a 1955 poem of the same name by the radical activist, journalist and organizer Claudia Jones. All proceeds from the track benefit the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation. This is the song.

Download the full radio show here