Category Archive for Art + Design
Decisions, decisions. Shall I head towards Dubai or Abu Dhabi? Don’t worry: my travel filmmakers and I went to both Middle Eastern cities, and will be sharing the footage with you soon.
I’ve been fascinated by Dubai for a long time. The Arabian emirate (one of the seven making up the UAE) is like a Jetsons space-age city rising out of the desert. The city is oil-rich, and invests in ritzy building projects to keep tourism and finances flowing.
What’s emerged from the sand? A city of the future, with skyscrapers straight out of a science fiction novel. Everywhere we went, we saw more mega-towers under construction.
The Dubai Metro stations resemble gold alien pods, and the subway stops have names like “Internet City” and “Business Bay.”
There’s a feeling of possibility in Dubai; the sense that anything you imagine — a peninsula shaped like a map of the world, a mall that resembles an Egyptian pyramid — can be brought to life. I can’t thank Fairmont The Palm Jumeirah hotel enough for hosting us here.
Cat tshirt and leopard print skirt: Banana Fish, from Closet Child Tokyo
White rabbit clock bag: Amavel, from Shinjuku Lumine
Not all of Dubai is high-tech and touristy. You can relax on the beach, or drive about an hour out to experience the sand dunes. (Think Lawrence of Arabia.) Some tourists try “dune bashing,” or speeding up and down the mounds in a thrilling car ride.
My crew wanted to capture Dubai’s traditional side, so we rode the green metro line to Al Ras station, and walked a few blocks to the spice and gold souk (market).
Above: Japanese kawaii is everywhere! While we were filming, the store owner came out and demanded five dirhams (about $1.50) for the privilege.
Travel filmmakers Eric Bergemann and Melissa Rundle were enthralled by the marketplace lights and action. When I saw the shop sign for “Nirmals,” I couldn’t help but think of Garfield sending Nermal to Abu Dhabi. (Apparently, there are lots of stray cats in the United Arab Emirates…)
Shop windows glittered with gold jewelry. At every step, local vendors called out to us: “Sir, would you like to buy a gold watch?”
The spice souk is one of the least touristy parts of the city. In other areas, such as Dubai Marina, you feel like you’re in Times Square.
One of the vendors spoke to me in excellent Japanese! I was intrigued by the black kohl eyeliner, herbal teas, and bizarre remedies for sale (like a yellow rub for eczema).
The spelling may be off, but the spice selection is spot on. On the shelves, you can see shisha (or hookah): a traditional waterpipe for smoking flavored tobacco.
What’s the dress code for Dubai? The city’s cosmopolitan, and there’s no need to wear a headscarf. However, it’s a good idea to dress on the conservative side (cover your arms and legs), especially in traditional neighborhoods.
This mannequin is wrapped in a keffiyeh, or headscarf worn by Arab men. The colors and meanings vary; you can read more about male headscarves in this Wiki article.
I wish our photos could convey the scents and energy of the Arabian market!
Coming up next: we dive into the modern side of Dubai, with photos inside our Fairmont hotel (located on Palm Island), the Burj Al Arab, and one of the world’s largest malls.
Doesn’t Dubai remind you of an alien city? Do you have questions about traveling here? Leave me a comment, and I’ll try to help you out.
Tokyo has many crazy club nights, but which takes the cake? Department H, a monthly party that celebrates the wildest aspects of underground culture.
You’ll see monster costumes, sexy tentacle performances, anime-head masks, drag queens, extreme piercings, lesbian wrestling… read on for incredible photos!
At the entrance, a woman covered in fake blood writhes in this glass coffin — like a scene out of Tokyo Gore Police. Next to her is a realistic, decaying corpse with a very long appendage…
Inside, we met an alien. While I struggled and ran away screaming, Yukiro decided to mount and conquer him.
I wore a carnival type of outfit. No fake eyelashes today; everything’s drawn on with black eyeliner pen.
Striped pastel goth skirt: Peace Now, from Closet Child Ikebukuro
White ruffle top: Spider, Hong Kong
(I kept the same hair that Kukukachoo styled for my magazine shoots.)
Department H takes place in the unassuming Kinema Club (Address: 6F 1-1-14 Negishi, Taito-ku) near Uguisidani station. On the lower level, there are booths that offer extreme body modifications and sell alternative goodies.
While the DJs spun disco, Kanashimi no Belladonna (an old anime inspired by Art Nouveau aesthetics) projected on the backdrop. Then, the stage cleared, and the drag queens strutted their stuff.
Each showed off their handcrafted outfits, which expressed different personalities.
Such as a full body latex suit with green eyelashes.
This strawberry princess worked it to the max: as she walked the runway, her outfit exuded the scent of strawberries!
Hanky-panky and nudity are not a problem here. This is a safe space; nobody ever makes you feel uncomfortable.
Next: girl-on-girl wrestling! In the words of Naomi (who took all these images): “The match usually has two or three judges who are dressed in various monster/sci-fi costumes, and two participants who start out dressed up. However, as the match progresses, the wrestlers are encouraged to remove each other’s clothing as part of the match. It’s raunchy and ridiculous! The “fighting” is more for show than serious but they are very good at faking it.”
Many people cover their faces entirely. Anyone can be in these suits.
Japanese burlesque performer Naomi wowed us with her light-up hula hoop act.
Now that’s a power couple.
Thanks to organizer Gogh (center) for this incredible event, which has been going on since the 1990s!
Department H occurs the first Saturday of each month. Please consult my Tokyo nightlfe guide for details on this and other parties.
Many of Dept H’s regulars took part in an art show, curated by Keroppy Maeda, at Vanilla Gallery in Ginza. This little space often holds underground exhibits, such as one dedicated to burlesque. This one was titled “死と未来 – la mort et le futur” (Death and the Future).
On display were works by eight artists, including Keroppy. He’s currently fascinated by trepanning, or drilling a hole in the skull (a Medieval medical procedure).
Keroppy performed trepannation on an animal skull, and took the photograph on the wall. Behind him plays a stop-motion film of a forehead saline inflation (which he is explaining to his friend!)
Also in the exhibit: photographs of katana, corpses, and post-earthquake destruction. All the pieces reflect the theme, “The reality of death shows truth and the possibility of the future predicts a new vision for humans and our world.”
I enjoyed speaking to the artists about their process. The works ranged from stream of consciousness collages, to mistress photographs, to cultured human skin.
Keroppy Maeda is continuing to push forward with extreme body modifications and art in Japan. I can’t wait to see the projects he takes on next. (See his site for more.)
Would you attend a nightclub like this? What do you think of Tokyo body mods and underground art scene?
PS: Today, I did something involving bagels in Montreal… did you see it on my Twitter?
Travel filming in the Maldives! Gili Lankanfushi, eco-friendly island resort: organic garden & tropical spa.
My pirate ship has struck Treasure Island — and it’s in The Maldives.
I’ve explored beaches in Thailand, the French Riviera, Hawaii, and Mexico. However, I’ve never experienced anything as special as this eco-friendly resort, Gili Lankanfushi. While my film team edits the footage we shot, here’s a first peek into our tropical paradise!
Where exactly is Maldives? Near the equator; it’s an independent nation of two island chains, in the Indian Ocean.
To get here, my film crew and I flew over 24 hours (I went from Vancouver to Seattle to Dubai to Male, the capital), then took a 20-minute speedboat to Gili Lankanfushi (the resort sits on its own island). As soon as we stepped on the baby-powder sand, we knew it was well worth the journey.
The resort has a Robinson Crusoe theme; each guest is assigned a “Mr Friday” to help in any way needed (more on that later). With only about 80 guests on the pristine island, we felt like we were living out the tale… albeit with 5-star amenities!
You’ll notice that I’m barefoot in all the photos. Gili’s slogan is: “No shoes, no news”, and I took it to heart — it was a relief to get offline and on “Island Time.” Each guest receives a bicycle, but since I’m a tad uncoordinated, I walked or got a buggy ride from my “Mr Friday.”
The eco-resort is impeccably maintained, and there are many jungle paths to explore. I loved the organic vegetable garden, blooming with herbs from around the world, as well as regional curry bushes. These fresh ingredients took center stage in the dishes we ate.
What a view of the blue lagoon! Guests can take part in water activities like sailing and snorkeling.
There are different residences (details on Gili Lankanfushi’s website) — honeymooners often chose a water-bound villa, only accessible by boat. I had one of these villas along the jetty, which I’ll show you in the next post.
The brown jars are filled with water, for us to rinse sand off our feet. How gorgeous is this view?
For landlubbers, diversions include a Jungle Cinema (outdoor film screenings), tennis court, library, gym, freshwater pool, and gift shop. My dad saw this photo and commented: “You obviously have no idea how to play tennis.”
An elegant communication system: Eyes Open means you’re welcome to enter. Slide the panel to Eyes Closed, and nobody will disturb you.
Every effort is made to support the environment. Structures are made with renewable or recycled materials, and designed with energy efficiency in mind.
All of the architecture, such as these stepping stones, harmonizes with nature. This is the outdoor spa; we were treated to hour-long massages inside, in rooms that overlooked the ocean.
Coming up next: a Pirate sailing adventure to One Palm Island…
… plus incredible scenery, seafood, and a tour of my villa.
Polka dot shades: Dot sunglasses, Marc by Marc Jacobs (a gift from Seby)
Panda dress: gifted by A Bros Products, Hong Kong
Photos of La Carmina by Eric Bergemann (filmmaker).
Have you heard of The Maldives, or seen photos of this equatorial paradise? What do you think of our Robinson Crusoe getaway so far? Take a glimpse at Gili Lankanfushi’s website, you won’t regret it.
Pirate Cat: custom iPhone case & laptop sleeve from Caseable! Designer cell phone cases, Scottish Fold in bow tie.
Ok, this is a ridiculously cute post featuring my Scottish Fold kitten in a bow tie…
My iPhone’s on/off button stopped working, so I recently upgraded to an iPhone 5. When Caseable invited me to design my own cellphone case, I took this opportunity to hoist my ship’s flag, designed by First Mate Naomi.
I also custom-designed a laptop sleeve, with Joanna’s winning design from my La Carmina Goth Travel contest.
It was fun and easy to make custom designs using Caseable’s website. I selected the iPhone 5 template, then uploaded the high-res images and moved them around until I was satisfied with the layout. There are also options to change the background color and add text.
You could save and share the designs before placing your order. If you’re not feeling creative, you can choose a pre-made design by a modern artist (see examples above).
And then the goods are delivered to your door. As you can see, the printing job was spot-on, with no color mismatches or blurriness. Everything’s hand-crafted in Brooklyn, from recycled materials. The materials and stitching are solid; I can tell they’ll last through my journeys.
I haven’t been doing many DIY or home decor projects recently, since I’m always on the road. Luckily, Basil Farrow’s grandma is picking up the slack — and made him this special bow tie for his birthday.
Aren’t the colors and style a perfect fit for this gentleman?
Basil doesn’t mind wearing costumes or hats, or even cat wigs.
The bow-tie had to be extra, extra large to accommodate his fat neck… I think it suits his personality perfectly.
As for home decoration, do you remember the pop printmaking lesson I had in Arizona? Artist David Manje sent me a few of the prints we made together. You can spot angry Basil in the mix.
I also arranged the stencils into a pattern, and pasted them on these boards. To see how we achieve these colors, watch my pochoir print-making video tutorial.
Have you done any crafts or sewing lately? How do you decorate your home and cell phone?
PS: I updated my press page with the latest clips, magazine covers and interviews. View it here.