Tuesday, January 23, 2018

my visit to the tate modern // a brief interview with Frances Morris, director of the tate modern

Hello Everyone!

Recently, I had the pleasure of going to London-- such a beautiful city and so rich in culture. One of the main reasons for my trip was to visit the Tate Modern, a museum I've been wanting to go to for what feels like ages. It's definitely a must-see for anyone interested in modern art.

I've been to quite a few modern art museums, and the Tate Modern definitely stands out among them. Firstly, they have an incredible amount of space. I appreciated how many of the exhibitions were participatory and they seemed to make an effort to get visitors involved, as well as educating them on the art and the artists. But what makes the Tate Modern particularly unique is that it's not afraid of controversy; in particular, it is not afraid of critiquing the art world or of exposing uncomfortable topics. It may seem like that is commonplace in any modern art museum, but too often this component of modern art is ignored or approached in an improper manner. Most modern art museums I have been to will display works that explore cultural or societal taboos, but it is often done in a safe and simple way, shying away from criticizing the power structures and institutions that made those things taboo in the first place. The Tate Modern is an exception. The Guerrilla Girls, a feminist group of artists who created scathing graphic asessments of the art world itself were on display. Additionally, I loved Toguo's Purification, Kanwar's The Lightning Testimonies, and Alexander's African Adventure, all of which were powerful criticisms of the racism and sexism present in cultures worldwide. I was ecstatic to visit the special exhibit, Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future on Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, pioneers of installation art. The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment conveys a message of escapism that retains relevance in the current cultural/political landscape.

Alexander's African Adventure

The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment

Prior to my visit to the Tate Modern, I reached out to the director, Frances Morris, for an interview. Morris took over as director fairly recently, and her perspective on intersectionality in the art world is reflected in the museum. She granted me two questions, provided that they were unique. I obliged to her conditions.

1. You've talked a lot about art institutions being more inclusive and diverse as well as the public having more access to art/art education. What can people like me, who are art enthusiasts but have little influence, do to make art more accessible and diverse in their community?
Firstly, don't think you don't have influence! Peer to peer conversation is the key to conversion so get talking to your community, via any and every means. Persuade your local gallery or museum they need a young people's programme, youth ambassadors and activists like you to network them into the community. If they have any ambitions to grow a broad and diverse audience for art they will welcome you with open arms. I love working with young people just like you.

2. Of all the exhibitions that you've been apart of, which one had the biggest emotional response from visitors, and from yourself?
The Restrospective of Agnes Martin that Tiffany Bell and I curated a couple of years ago touched visitors in an extraordinary way. Martin struggled with mental health problems all her adult life, living on her own [in] New Mexico for decades and she destroyed many of her works frustrated by the difficulties of achieving perfection. She clearly made her astonishingly beautiful but austere abstract paintings as a means of ordering and controlling her very troubled mind. The contrast between the assuredness of her painting and the vulnerability of her personality had many of us who visited the exhibition in tears. I have never seen people study supposedly difficult abstract paintings with such incredible attention or react with such powerful emotion.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

My Year in Review // AdAge Creativity 50

Hello Friends!

2017 was a wild year. I am proud of the people I met this year, the things I created, all the work I took inspiration from, and the places I went.

I started off 2017 in Paris, which was as amazing as you would expect. Macarons and luxurious hotels set the tone for a year of escapism. Highlights included feeding pigeons and finally visiting the beautiful Musee D'orsay.

I had the opportunity to visit Seattle for a journalism convention, which was not quite as glamorous but still a great experience. I spent my time wandering around Pike Market, wondering about the stories of passersby.

Spring 2017 was a productive time. In May, I finally executed a long time idea of ad placement in the senior portrait section. I worked with companies/ad agencies like Wieden+Kennedy (KFC) and the Martin Agency (Geico) to get school portrait images of the Geico Gecko and Colonel Sanders in the portrait section along with the rest of the class of 2017. Additionally, I got the rights to some celebrity photos to use as well. But more on that later.

Summer was about new experiences. I was accepted to the School of the New York Times, and spent two weeks at Fordham University, surrounded by some of the sweetest, most intelligent people I have ever met. We squandered our time sneaking into hotel pools and fantasizing about our lives in the city years from now when we're rich and famous.

Senior year began and existential dread set in. Fall was the season of college apps. I watched the sun rise and did a whole lot of nothing. In November, I went to Dallas (again for a journalism convention), a surprisingly cultured city. I don't ordinarily mention school accomplishments on here, but I've edited the school magazine for the past couple years. Each time we print, we have a theme that all the content is centered around. It's truly amazing to see my vision for the magazine materialized. Because we use nontraditional techniques, we hadn't won any awards, but this year our exploration issue ranked 6th nationally.

I saw one of Kusama's infinity rooms, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins at the Dallas Art Museum with one of my best friends; I'd describe it as profoundly comical.

Picture Credit: Alyssa Ann Photography

I've been a huge fan of Kusama for years. Her work affects me in a way that cannot be expressed in words, so when I found out Infinity Mirrors was coming to the Broad in L.A. I had to get tickets. I tried to get tickets ahead of time, and couldn't. I spent 3 hours in line for standby tickets and it was so, so worth it. Infinity mirrors is the kind of exhibit that makes you wish "life-changing" wasn't such a trite phrase because it seems so inadequate when used appropriately. During the same trip, I visited the Museum of Failure to remind myself that there is not a single creator out there who hasn't fallen flat on their face; the point is you have to recover from it.

The end of 2017 was much sweeter than the beginning. I ate my weight in Christmas cookies and got to spend time with family. I was featured in AdAge's Creativity 50, alongside so many people who have inspired me (including Kusama herself!) for my yearbook ad concept, and I realized that this year I've grown a lot as both a creator and a person.

But in 2017, I learned not to dwell, and to move forward instead. 2018, you better be good.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

4 Questions with Julian Morgans, editor of Vice Australia

Vice is one of the most provocative and daring websites out there. What is it actually like to work at such an audacious online publication? I contacted Julian Morgans, editor of vice.com Australia, to see how he got where he is and what it's like to be there.

1. What's the best part of your job?
I basically come up with and shape stories for our site. And the range of human experiences I get to explore is amazing. We can do stories about anything, anywhere, and tell them however we feel will work best. There's a lot of freedom that makes me feel pretty lucky.

2. What's the hardest part about your job?
Being creative, all the time. Trying to come up with the next idea or find the next story that'll drive traffic. Also admin. If I wanted to I could do admin 24/7 and nothing else.

3. What advice do you have for a young journalist?
Find stories with amazing pictures. You know what people like on the internet? Photos. So make the visuals your starting point for finding and telling stories.

4. What is your education?
I studied film and Swinburne before working t Matchbox Pictures, while also freelancing for Broadsheet, Vulture, and VICE. Then I got a job at Vice and stopped freelancing,

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Maisie Skidmore Gives Advice to Young Writers

Maisie Skidmore, as editor of anothermag.com, certainly knows a thing or two about the journalism industry. Here's her advice for people wanting to follow in her footsteps:

"I would advise and aspiring writer simply to write, as much as you can, and for whoever you can. You can refine your technique through experience, but when you're just starting out I'd say it's even more crucial to pursue your interests, be they are film, fashion, art, theatre...These are the passion[s] that will give you the unique perspective and tone which will single you out and send editors your way for years to come

Also, be kind, and work hard. This industry is small, people are busy, and diligence goes a long way."

Saturday, May 13, 2017

An interview with Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed may be best known for its listicles and clickbait, but the media company is more than that. It has made politics more accessible to the public. Headed by former Politco reporter Ben Smith, BuzzFeed is a sharp contrast to the more traditional media giants. I was able to briefly chat with Smith about his advice for an aspiring journalist.

Q: I think the main thing I want to ask is what is the reality of getting/having a job in the journalism industry? Everyone always tries to soft-pedal things for young people, but I want to know the truth. I am very passionate about journalism, I think I'm talented, and it's what I want to do. But how hard is it to get a job and keep it? Would you encourage someone like me to go into journalism? What advice do you have?

A: I think if you are willing to work hard and don't need to be in New York and Los Angeles and don't care too much about money, it's not a bad time to get into the business. There are newspapers and web outlets all over the country. Many are struggling-- but that can be an advantage for someoen starting out, because you get big stories even as a junior person.

Q: Secondly, where do you think the journalism industry is headed? I feel that BuzzFeed is always on the cutting edge as far as finding new ways to keep the audience interested without sacrificing content. I know that more traditional journalists have characterized the majority of its content as clickbait, but I think it's amazing how you guys have covered complex issues in an accessible way. Because of BuzzFeed, my friends are aware of current events that they otherwise would have been oblivious to. Granted, they mostly come to BuzzFeed for quizzes and listicles, but they stay for the heavier and more serious stories/information. Obviously, everyone is whispering about the death of journalism. In my eyes it looks alive and well; it seems to merely be shifting to digital and placing more emphasis on voice rather than objectivity. But what's the insider perspective? What skills so you think are important to have in order to survive in the changing industry? You've also spoken about how Trump has "breathed new life" into journalism/media. Do you think that this is temporary or will it have a lasting affect?

A: I think there are many different paths and skill sets but I'd say curiosity and a certain level of aggression in fighting to get answers are the key qualities. It also helps to love the internet and try to crack why some stories get big audiences.. Everything else-- writing, editing video, etc --you can learn by doing it.

Q: What kind of background should you have in order to succeed in journalism? From what I garner, experience is the most valuable tool, but how much weight is placed on education/degrees? Basically, as a high school junior, what should I be doing now and in the next few years to prepare for a career in journalism?

A: It's more important to have clips than to have a degree. If you're passionate about it, write for school papers or local papers, contribute whatever they'll let you-- sports is sometimes a good place to start --and study things that actually interest you in college. Better to learn a language or be an expert in a subject than to have a journalism degree, if you're doing it.

Monday, October 17, 2016

An Interview with Kristina Rodulfo, Associate Editor of ELLE.com

Elle.com is one of the most prominent fashion magazine websites out there, and I had the pleasure of speaking with the associate editor, Kristina Rodulfo. She explained the challenges and benefits of her job, as well as the work she is most proud of. 

1. What's the best part about your job? 

I work with an incredibly collaborative, creative team who I learn from everyday. I’m constantly in awe with the way they are always three steps ahead of the rest of the internet and have had the best training thanks to them. I also love that I get to cover a variety of topics from social issues to celebrity  news to beauty and fashion trends, as well as explore different kinds of writing from employing humor in quippy, short blog posts to flexing my longform skills in a profile.

2. What's the hardest part about your job? 

Because it is a digital publication, we work long hours at an incredibly fast pace, and are always “on.” If some news breaks over the weekend or late at night when you might regularly be off work, you have to jump on and figure out how to approach it. That can mean a difficulty achieving a work-life balance, but at least you always have your team in the trenches with you. In the end, it is always worth it.

3. What college did you go to? 

I went to NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

4. What did you major in? 

At Gallatin we could create our own major–so I made Creative Non-Fiction, which was a combination of traditional journalism specialized with writing longform (think: personal essays, 5000-word profiles, etc) focused on writers in the diaspora, who wrote about their immigrant-hyphenate identities (like Edwidge Danticat). 

5. What's your favorite piece that you've written for Elle? 

It’s hard to pick from since I can write up to five stories a day! I think I really loved “Young Muslim American Women are Fighting Stereotypes with Self Defense.” When Islamaphobia  was taking root last year amidst the presidential election, I spent a day with a group of Muslim American women who not only gave high school and college aged women the leadership skills to fight back, but literal fighting skills in case of physical danger (an all too terrifying reality for many Muslim women). I produced a video and wrote this piece. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

An Interview with the Staff of the Onion

It's nearly impossible to discuss satire in this day and age without making mention of the Onion. Pioneering the trend of satirical online publications, the Onion has been churning out quality content for 28 years. No one seems to strike the balance between funny and meaningful quite as well as the Oniom media empire has. Growing up with the site, the Onion inspired me to take journalism classes, and now as editor-in-chief of my school newsmagazine I was even more interested in hearing about their process and experience. I reached out to them for an interview, and they graciously answered my questions. 

1) What's the most difficult part of writing satire?
Originality. In a world where there are so many observations being made and then published by so many people, it can be tough to find an angle or approach on a topic that hasn't already been covered. We never want to be derivative so there’s a lot of pressure to find fresh perspectives on everything.

2) Do you ever worry about offending people? What's the worst you've ever offended someone?
We don’t worry about offending people, and there are two reasons for that. First, there will always be someone who is, considering we publish content online and in the history of the internet, there has probably never been a thing posted that hasn’t upset somebody. I mean, we published this harmless, dumb story about a fat salmon and received some angry response. If we worried about people not liking something of ours, we’d never have a happy moment in our lives. Second, we only published things we’re 100% confident to stand behind. We're always trying to punch up, not down, so that affects the way we approach sensitive subjects. You’ll notice we’re always poking at those in positions of power, society itself, the media, etc. and never the victims, the downtrodden, etc. There’s a motto that traditionally runs through the world of satire to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” and we hold strong to that. We try to offer commentary on the world around us; we never actively try to offend people. There's no point to us being offensive without purpose. It isn’t a productive way of offering commentary. So if people are offended by something we publish, hopefully they're at least thinking about why they're offended.

3) How do you deal with the pressure to be funny/clever on a strict schedule/time limit?
I think everyone deals with this differently, but mostly it comes down to taking mental breaks. We set up our production schedule to allow our writers to take time off when they need to recharge. We store up a lot of good ideas so when we need to take a break, we can tap into those reserves instead of writing new stuff. We also try to rotate content topics and types in ways that keep the writers from getting locked into any one thing. The DNC and RNC were tough in part because many of the writers were working almost exclusively on those topics. Coming out of the DNC, everyone has made it a point to pitch non-political headlines and jokes to change things up. Basically, we set up our system to eliminate most of the intense pressure and the rest is just every individual writer finding their ways of managing their stress (ex. writing an hour, then exercising, then writing another hour—whatever works for them).

4) What advice do you have for a young satirist?
Write your brains out and then get ready for rejection. The Onion writers submit hundreds of headlines each week, and we throw away easily 97% of them, if not more. Sometimes brilliant headlines will be pitched that won't work for very strange and specific reasons (e.g., we've done a joke that's thematically just a bit too similar, or the headline is great but the story wouldn't work well when written out, or the target of the joke isn’t clear enough). Our writers are world-class comedians and write constantly … yet nearly all of their ideas get rejected. That’s how great stuff is made.

5) What's the most fun part about working for the Onion?
Ultimately we’re sitting in a room with our friends pitching jokes all the time, so how could anything be better than that? To take it a step further, in any career, there’s nothing more rewarding than getting to do something you’re passionate about for a living while also making a difference in society—and we’re even more lucky to get to do that through humor and pointed satire. We get to make something we love with people we love and people love what we make. It’s a beautiful cycle.

6) The Onion has been mistaken for a real news source on many occasions. How do you achieve that sense of realness?
Perhaps surprisingly, given how often we're mistaken for real news, that's not something the writers aim for. The Onion seems like a real news source sometimes because it needs to reflect and imitate what it's satirizing, and that's often how those instances of reader confusion originate.

7) Do you have a favorite Onion article?
Each person here has a very different favorite. The serious articles are more universally agreed upon; one of the office's favorites is "‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens," which gets adapted for each new shooting. We've found it resonates with our audience and captures the hopelessness and frustration we all feel with mass shootings and the fact that nothing seems to change afterward to prevent the next one.

On the lighter side of the Onion, though, we polled everyone on staff and here’s the collection of their favorites:

8) What satirists inspire you?
Strangely, there aren’t a ton of external satirists who inspire us—the majority of the staff is in their 20s and grew up with The Onion, so if there’s any shared inspiration, it’s the original staff of The Onion. We’re here to uphold a brilliant 28-year tradition and so when we need inspiration, we simply look to the people who started and then maintained that tradition.

9) What makes a good satire piece?
A good piece of satire ideally sparks thought in readers or resonates strongly (that is, it "feels real"). Sometimes, a good satire piece approaches its subject from a unique or clever angle and makes its point while still being funny. But it can also be a piece that just makes an original observation and runs with it — for example, "Dollar Store Has Great Deal On Fig Nortons," where the joke plays off of those weird off-brand versions of food you always see in dollar stores. Maybe the best way to summarize it is this: We want to take the sentiments everyone shares but nobody knows how to articulate or realizes they think and then we bring them to the forefront.

10) Does a lot of the Onion staff come from a particular background (comedy, journalism, etc) or is there more of a variety?

We’re all over the map background-wise. In fact, only one person on our 15-person core staff came from a journalism background. We’re widely distributed in our geographic origins and even more widely distributed in our educational backgrounds. We have people who majored in such varied things as English, sociology, economics, mathematics, history, film, French, and music. We have college dropouts. We have people who worked in advertising, trade publications, temp agencies, even at the Lego Store before working here. In order to have various perspectives in our paper, we have to have a staff with widely varying experiences and viewpoints on the world.