Lebanese artist Nadim Choufi breaks down his award-winning project

Art Jameel Commissions Digital. Courtesy of Nadim Choufi
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Updated 16 October 2020

Lebanese artist Nadim Choufi breaks down his award-winning project

BEIRUT: The brief was “Time.” Basically, the artist’s interpretation of time and how it can affect the way we live.

I was already researching space colony prototypes that are built to mimic Martian conditions. In a way, they have become blueprints for smart cities in a future full of ecological and health crises. However, while they seem like a neat solution, there is a sort of exclusivity: What plants and animals will be saved? Which humans? How many?

So I wanted to explore how this model functions on exploiting biological and environmental time (labor and life cycles to make the city run). I wanted to make a work about the temporal regime of future cities and how it connects to the space itself.

I used the same format used by governments and corporations to show the future — rendered images and videos. It’s basically an animation with digitally rendered environments in which two narrators reflect on what’s on screen. Such renders rarely show any type of social organization — just skyscrapers, transportation plans… it’s always a city expanding with little reflection on how people will organize with or against that. So the voice actors and the poetic script create friction by imagining different modes of living than those presented in the renders.

I hope what comes across is how efficiency, labor, and functionality as current time measures inform the way future cities are modeled, but that might not be the best way. For example, with COVID, slowing down became a major method to combat the virus — rather than the usual ‘faster, better, stronger’ way we are accelerating through time. I also want to muddy the idea that the future is always a solution to the present, and this is done through the script — the lived experiences and bodily effects the actors go through as they live in these renders.

In a way, renders of the future dictate our present, because they show us what 100 years from now will look like. I would like this artwork to work against that and show that the present (and how we live through it, with it), rather than the future, can be the starting point.

When the future is presented as a starting point — as in, freed from any and all of the problems we face in the present — technology is usually presented as the solution. But technology without any social and political change just brings around the same core problems.


‘On the Rocks’ — Bill Murray is a steal in this dad-daughter outing

Updated 25 October 2020

‘On the Rocks’ — Bill Murray is a steal in this dad-daughter outing

CHENNAI: Bill Murray is the most endearing aspect from “On the Rocks,” Sofia Coppola’s seventh film as writer-director. Behind his trademark deadpan expression, Murray still has twinkle and mischief in his eyes. And he brings out the same kind of lonely wistfulness we saw in his earlier association with Coppola in 2003’s “Lost in Translation,” in which he and Scarlett Johansson meet in a Tokyo hotel and find comfort in each other. There was no romance there, as there is none in his latest outing as Felix. Daughter Laura (played by Rashida Jones, who has starred in “I Love You, Man” and “The Social Network”) is troubled thinking that her life is about to go into a tailspin. 

“On the Rocks” is now on Apple TV+. Supplied

“On the Rocks” — on Apple TV+ and set in New York — is just as sentimental and sweet as “Lost in Translation.” As Coppola’s latest adventure begins, we see Felix, who has made his millions as an art dealer, in the lap of luxury with a chauffeured Mercedes, first-class hotels and sensational magic in his persona. But having divorced his wife many moons ago, he longs to nurture the relationship with his daughter Laura, who is married to the very successful Dean (Marlon Wayans) with two lovely daughters. 

However, in a kind of mid-marriage crisis, Laura begins to have doubts about Dean’s fidelity, especially after he gets busy with his new professional venture that takes him away on frequent trips. His “leggy” assistant, Fiona, accompanies him, and Laura confides this to her dad, who weaves stories of all that could be happening between Dean and his assistant. Felix suggests that they follow the possibly philandering husband, and a troubled Laura gets talked into it.

“On the Rocks” has great moments, and is compelling to a great extent. Supplied

All this leads to hilarious situations with Felix always being in command, even when cops catch him speeding as he is trying to tail Dean’s cab. Wittily calm and composed, he is the sort of guy who will unabashedly say to a passing stranger that she looks ravishing and get away with it, much to his daughter’s consternation.

“On the Rocks” has great moments, and is compelling to a great extent, with Murray engaging us with full-of-life banter. Jones matches up to him, a nervous wife tottering on the edge of what has been a great marriage. She hides her angst with remarkable alacrity, trying to play a good mother to her kids, while her dad leads her up the garden path. “On the Rocks” is happily no weepy tale, and Coppola spices it up.