Holiday Highlights

I was lucky enough to spend the holiday season in New York, so braving the blizzard that brought the city to a standstill, I headed out to the New Museum in the Lower East Side.

The museum is worth a visit simply for it’s award-winning architecture. Designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, the building looks like a haphazard stack of sugar cubes.

The standout for me was the ‘Free’ exhibition, which runs until January 23rd. The exhibition takes its name from free culture, “a social movement that acknowledges the revolution the internet has caused in industries like music and print publishing, and argues that it be dealt with as an opportunity for greater sharing and distribution of knowledge, rather than a threat.”

Takeshi Murata played with this theme of ‘free’ with his ‘I, Popeye’ short film. European copyright laws mean that since 2008 anyone has been able to use the iconic Popeye character without authorisation or paying royalty fees – and therefore take a chunk of the approx £1.5 billion in annual sales that the cartoon figure generates.

Murata’s film casts Popeye as a modern-day, self destructive loner. The 3D animation is brilliant, as is the soundtrack, but don’t expect the story to leave you feeling uplifted. Watching the anti-Disney treatment to the characters of Olive Oyl, Bluto and Popeye was, for me, one of the most depressing moments of the holidays.

If it all gets too much, you can check out Joel Holmberg’s ‘Legendary Account.’ His subversion of the ‘Yahoo! Answers’ site is both challenging and hilarious. A selection of Holmberg’s Q&A’s are on show in the exhibition, posing questions like, “How possible is it to convince people that you are an artist?” and “How do you occupy space?” You can view all of his posts on his Yahoo! profile.