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Future imperfect

Filed by Jack Yan/December 15, 2020/10.59




Adi Constantin/Unsplash

Above, from top: The real 2015 and one photo that summarizes the decade: Kendall and Kylie Jenner go shopping for Ugg shoes in New York, and take a selfie. The 2015 of fiction: Michael J. Fox outside a cinema in Back to the Future Part II (1989). Still from Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner, set in a Los Angeles of 2019, in some ways mirrored more by the metropolises of China. Unpredictable to most: few in the 20th century, with perhaps the exception of Norman Macrae, foresaw the rise of China to this extent—Shanghai’s cityscape could have been the stuff of science fiction 30 years ago. Below right: Twins Alan and Alex Stokes with another TikTok video.

Travel editor Stanley Moss sent me a news item on twin brothers who staged a mock bank robbery on public streets for their social media accounts. The brothers, Alan and Alex Stokes, have nearly 28 million followers on TikTok, and over 5½ million on YouTube. One prank saw an Über driver, not involved with them, held at gunpoint by police. Now, Orange County, California district attorney Todd Spitzer says the brothers could face criminal charges for putting the public and the police in danger.
   While social media have done a lot of good, there are those who take things to an unhealthy extreme for the sake of an audience. Once upon a time, there would be a controlled set and paid actors, but the Stokes brothers decided to do their stunts in the real world.
   They’re not alone in doing outrageous things for an audience, and this isn’t a piece about the decline or the dangers of social media influencers, a topic that Lucire has covered for some time. It’s whether this environment—the incident took place in 2019—could have been something that any of us foresaw in earlier times.
   People are notoriously bad at predicting decades into the future. This magazine has attempted to look a few months forward, such as our recent story about what a post-COVID world might look like, with China as an example (Lucire issue 42; Lucire KSA September 2020). However, once we begin looking at years and decades things look fuzzier.
   The twins’ pranks could have been foreseen mid-decade: people have been seeking attention for social media since they became the norm, and those who potentially make a living from it—with 28 million followers it’s likely that they do—might wish to see just how far boundaries could be pushed. In societies which are less outwardly focused, it is possible that they did not consider the consequences or the harm to others.
   But could this world have been foreseen in, say, 2010? Or 2000? A glance back through our culture shows predictions of our time looking very different the further back you go.
   In Blade Runner (1982), Ridley Scott foresaw a crowded technological world where androids (‘replicants’) walk among humans. Set in 2019, Scott’s vision is dystopian, with human colonies on other planets, flying cars, and overcrowding. The last point is probably accurate in terms of our global population; Scott envisaged skyscrapers and street scenes devoid of natural light. Down on the streets of his 2019 Los Angeles is a mixture of cultures, with English used alongside other languages. Blade Runner’s Los Angeles is a dirty place, with lots of old stuff that lacks the sheen of the latest signage and advertisements, just as our urban world is today. Science fiction films often make the mistake of giving everything a modern, new sheen, but "blanket newness" doesn’t ever exist in real life: visual futurist and conceptual artist Syd Mead understood this well.
   The protagonist in the film, Deckard, is disenchanted with the technologist society that places little emphasis on human emotion; in some ways it illustrates how humans have become slaves to technology rather than having technology improve their lives. Memories can be implanted into replicants; today one supposes that editing photos on social media paint an idealistic and not always real story about our humanity. Once upon a time a photo album was private, with stories attached to them; today social media and online photos are often offered without explanation, to show one side of life—no wonder studies reveal that social media can make some people more depressed as they gaze at their friends’ seemingly perfect existences.
   Blade Runner might not look like 2019, nor was it right on androids and planetary colonization, but in many ways Scott identified the themes that make humans lonely because of technology.
   Later in the 1980s, Back to the Future Part II (1989) also had flying cars in its world of 2015. Robert Zemeckis, the director and co-writer of the film, said that the future could not be predicted so he and Bob Gale, who co-wrote, decided to have fun with it. Their 2015 is an intentional parody: an antagonist with microchip implants in his brain, hover boards, which are wheel-less skateboards that defy gravity, and a nostalgic hangout for young people called Café ’80s. In the cinema yet another Jaws sequel played, with a holographic projection coming out into the street as part of its promotion. Light switches at home are voice-activated, while what was once a posh neighbourhood was, in 2015, considered a lower-class area. Faxes hung on walls while videophones and multiple tv screens on a wall were part of the 2015 household.
   There’s less cerebral thinking here as it’s played for laughs, though video calls and voice activation are reasonably on the mark, as is the theme of urban decay. It’s not unusual to see a society nostalgic for the past—in fashion we saw our share of 1980s, even 1990s, revivals during the 2010s. An obsession with screens, as the teenage Marty McFly, Jr has in 2015, is accurate, even if those screens weren’t all on the wall, but hand-held.
   Wim Wenders’ 1991 film Bis ans Ende der Welt (Until the End of the World) only had to go as far as 1999, and is more accurate what it predicted: a highly digital society, with hand-held assistants, search engines, and consumer GPS. Wenders foresaw a commercialized East Berlin—a reasonable prediction given the Wall had recently come down—and a San Francisco with a massive income disparity. However, the new invention where brainwaves can be read and dreams can be turned into digital images remains the realm of science fiction. Its main character, Claire, lives an empty life of endless parties before she decides to return to Europe to spend time with friends.
   The films are correct in some respects, illustrating that the human condition hasn’t changed much: it’s always possible to feel lonely and outcast from the world, and it is up to the filmmaker to identify causes. A designer must make similar predictions if a collection or a product is to be a hit: what is it about the human condition in the coming year that we expect to be highlighted? As we stand on the verge of 2021, is it a sense of optimism, that things will get better now that two companies have announced COVID-19 vaccines? Or is it a sense of caution? And how are these expressed? Those that somehow address human feelings, no matter how they are expressed, tend to do better than high concepts that are divorced from what people are going through.
   Some of it will come down to instinct—what are termed intuitive predictions. The more experience one has, the better the prediction one might make. Students of history are often well equipped to look into the future based on their knowledge of the past; our older citizens may well have witnessed phenomena similar to what they see today.
   Statistical predictions, meanwhile, rely on data and algorithms, and the more data one has, and the more reliable they are, the better the prediction. Factor in external events and their impact. Meteorologists rely on these for their forecasts, and designers might be in a position to do the same.
   One individual who had a better record than most was the former deputy chief editor of The Economist, Norman Macrae. He foresaw the rise of China, the ubiquity of the internet, and growing income inequality decades before they hit, all through hard, economic analysis.
   Norman Macrae is an anomaly in how accurate he was, as it is rare to allow for those external events accurately. The further out your prediction is going to be, the more external events you face, with increasing potential to render them inaccurate—just as we had with Blade Runner. Its sequel, naturally, had to take place in 2049 for the world it created to remain just out of reach of us.
   And while some events are cyclical, it can be tricky predicting just how long that cycle is. Economics is one field where smarter practitioners could work it out, but lay people might not see the cycles when they are living it.
   The 1980s were regarded by marketers as a "me decade": in the west this was fuelled by consumerism and free-market ideologies, but more than one author then predicted that the 1990s would be more a "we decade", more caring and more collective. It didn’t happen: the cycle was far longer than any of them expected, to the point where we have just been through a selfie decade aided by cellphones whose forward-facing cameras are often better than the backward-facing ones.
   The decade we have left behind was one that might be remembered for the Kardashians, who shot to fame precisely because the sight of self-indulgent celebrities caught the Zeitgeist. Many a successful Instagram account, especially in the modelling and glamour modelling fields, are founded on selfies, as everyone wants to be seen to be living their glamorous best. The Stokes twins took this to the next, dangerous, and selfish level, in a country that seems to encourage it.
   In 2021, it might be fair to ask if “weism” has finally arrived. Countries that have managed to push the COVID-19 curve down—e.g. China, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia—have done so with an eye on the collective good, demonstrating that we are stronger together. Have we tired of selfies? Certainly Facebook and Instagram engagement continues to fall each year. TikTok may be on the rise because of its novelty, but are enough of us now beginning to enjoy what nature has for us that we can put down the phones?
   In earlier issues (see Lucire KSA June 2020) we covered how some of nature has returned because of our lockdowns, and it seems the countries that respect nature more are the ones who have come out the other side more quickly.
   That’s perhaps an easy one to forecast. But it will still depend on how we see the human experience—just what mood will we, as people, possess in the year ahead.
   Additionally, Simon Sinek, in his book The Infinite Game, believes that having a just cause can overcome those unexpected external factors. It isn’t about having a finite position in the future, or some defined endgame; instead, it’s about understanding what you stand for and nurturing that for the long term. Here at Lucire, for instance, we have never stopped looking to the whole world for our stories, in the belief that the world can come together if we are exposed to more of it. We believe our readers are intelligent, hence we run stories like this: we are not in the business of dumbing down, and never have been. The quest for knowledge—the human thirst for it, and to gain an advantage as evolution would have us do—is part of the condition that doesn’t go away. And in the 2020s, we’re hoping people might want to pursue depth again, coming out of the selfie and Kardashian decade.
   Those that remained sure of their purpose through COVID-19 in 2020 have probably endured without facing some crisis over what they stand for. That’s ultimately what we have to create: a sense of purpose within us. We can look to the future as much as we like, and we can make an educated guess about what people will be going through, but the most sure thing is what we can do about ourselves.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


Javier de Frutos nominated for Olivier Award for RNZB-commissioned ballet, The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud

Filed by Lucire staff/March 1, 2016/11.40


Evan Li


Maarten Holl

Top: Royal New Zealand Ballet dancers in The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud. Above: Award-winning Venezuelan director and choreographer Javier de Frutos.

Javier de Frutos, the choreographer for The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud, which was commissioned by the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2013, has been nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance.
   The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud explores ‘New Zealand’s relation to its physical location and its very identity as a Pacific nation,’ de Frutos said in 2013.
   â€˜I have taken Pacific influences that I like: inspirations, sounds, shapes, styles, and reworked them. Obviously the Pacific is not my home as it is yours but I feel that as a guest you can own the love of something and I love this part of the world.’
   The work premièred in New Zealand in 2013, and was performed by the RNZB at the Linbury Studio Theatre at London’s Royal Opera House in November 2015 as part of a mixed programme.
   â€˜We’re delighted that Javier de Frutos has been nominated for an Olivier Award for this stunning work which holds a special place in our repertoire,’ said Francesco Ventriglia, RNZB artistic director. ‘Javier is part of the extended RNZB family, having first created Milagros … in 2003.’
   This year’s nominations include luminaries such as Kenneth Branagh, Kenneth Cranham, Benedict Cumberbatch, Adrian Lester and Mark Rylance for Best Actor; Gemma Arterton, Denise Gough, Nicole Kidman, Janet McTeer and Lia Williams for Best Actress.
   Dame Judi Dench, Michele Dotrice, Melody Grove and Catherine Steadman are the Best Supporting Actress nominees, while Mark Gatiss, Michael Pennington, David Suchet and Tom Sturridge vie for Best Supporting Actor.
   Best Director nominations went to Jonathan Kent for Gypsy at Savoy Theatre; Matthew Dunster for Hangmen at Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at Royal Court & Wyndham’s Theatre; Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh for The Winter’s Tale at Garrick Theatre; and Robert Icke for Oresteia at Almeida Theatre.
   Virgin Atlantic Best New Play Award nominees are Farinelli and the King, Hangmen, People, Places And Things, and The Father.
   Among the musical nominations, David Bedella, Dan Burton, Peter Davison and Gavin Spokes compete for Best Supporting Actor, while Preeya Kalidas, Amy Lennox, Lara Pulver and Emma Williams seek the Best Supporting Actress award.
   Ian Bartholomew, Killian Donnelly, David Haig, Matt Henry and Jamie Parker are competing for Best Actor; Tracie Bennett, Natalie Dew, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Imelda Staunton and Sophie Thompson for Best Actress.
   Bend It Like Beckham, In the Heights, Kinky Boots and Mrs Henderson Presents are up for the Mastercard Best New Musical Award.
   Best New Dance Production nominees are He Who Falls, by Compagnie Yoann Bourgeois, Roméo et Juliette by les Ballets de Monte Carlo and Woolf Works by the Royal Ballet.
   De Frutos will compete with Alessandra Ferri for her performances in Woolf Works and Chéri, and Sasha Waltz for her choreography of Sacre at Sadler’s Wells.
   The public can vote for the Magic Radio Audience Award at www.olivierawards.com until March 11, 12 p.m.
   The Olivier Awards 2016 will be announced at the Royal Opera House on April 3. Public tickets became available for Mastercard members at www.priceless.com/London.

 


Montblanc launches Great Characters Andy Warhol range of writing instruments

Filed by Lucire staff/January 19, 2016/14.23



Montblanc honoured Grace Kelly a few years ago with a limited-edition collection, and now it has turned its attention to pop artist Andy Warhol.
   Its Great Characters line, which has already offered items based on the legacies of Leonardo da Vinci, Alfred Hitchcock and John F. Kennedy over the last seven years, sees a new range that pays tribute to Warhol. The Montblanc Andy Warhol Special Edition pens feature a cap that shows four images of tomato soup cans—a reference to Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans Series of 1965—worked into stainless steel. The cap ring on the fountain pen, rollerball and ballpoint pen has Warhol’s signature alongside an engraving of ‘©/®/TM AWF’, and the cap top is engraved with one of the artist’s quotes: ‘Art is what you can get away with’. The rhodium-plated 585 gold nib on the fountain pen has a dollar sign from his Dollar Sign series.
   The Limited Edition 1928, referencing Warhol’s birth and inspired by his Flowers (1964), has another quotation on the cap, ‘You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you’, and is accompanied by an abridged version of his 1975 book, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (from A to B and back Again).
   The Montblanc Great Characters Andy Warhol Special Edition is available in New Zealand from Montblanc Boutique at 87 Queen Street, Auckland. For more information, visit www.montblanc.com.




 


Chinese label Lanyu plans international growth, US launch

Filed by Lucire staff/December 30, 2015/4.38

Chinese designer Lan Yu, commemorating her 11th anniversary, says she will launch her Lanyu brand Stateside next, after having shown in Paris during 2015.
   Her Water Charm collection can be viewed on her brand’s home page.
   Her work combines eastern techniques, including traditional Suzhou embroidery that has been practised in China for over two millennia, with western materials. Lan herself had studied at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology and in the US.
   Her couture wedding dresses were her first foray into the fashion business, before branching out to red-carpet gowns.
   Lanyu is available at retailers in Beijing and Shanghai, and can be found on Wechat at Lanyu.

 


Win a luxury skin care pack with Lucire and Skin Institute

Filed by Lucire staff/December 22, 2015/23.57




Before 2015 is out, Lucire has the pleasure of announcing another giveaway, this time in association with Skin Institute.
   Skin Institute is a multi-disciplinary specialist centre focusing on cosmetic medicine, skin cancer detection and treatment, clinical dermatology, vein treatment and surgery, and its 18th clinic has recently opened in central Wellington.
   To commemorate the opening of the new clinic, we have a luxury skin care pack to give away, compromising an Aspect Dr ABC Essential Skin Kit, Cherry Black zinc sunscreen and two Coola Liplux SPF lip balms. The value of this pack is NZ$310.
   To find out more about the new Wellington clinic or to book a free cosmetic consultation or mole spot check, visit www.skininstitute.co.nz or call 64 4 499-8001.
   To enter, become a fan of the Lucire Facebook fan page, then like the post where we’ve detailed this prize. This is for New Zealand-based readers only. We’ll draw it on January 22, 2016.

 


In photos: what happened when Miss Universe 2015 host Steve Harvey read the wrong winner’s name

Filed by Lucire staff/December 21, 2015/7.47

Miss Universe 2015, broadcast from Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday night, will be remembered for years for the crowning of Miss Universe Colombia, Ariadna María Gutiérrez, after host Steve Harvey read her name wrongly as the winner, and the removal of her crown less than five minutes later in favour of the correct winner, Miss Universe Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach.
   Gutiérrez wore the crown, placed on her by Miss Universe 2014 Paulina Vega, for two minutes before Harvey returned to stage to apologize for his error, for which he took full responsibility.
   It was only then that Wurtzbach was announced as the correct winner. Wurtzbach, who had already returned to join her fellow competitors at the back of the stage, was told by her fellow competitor, second-runner up Miss USA, Olivia Jordan. Wurtzbach returned out front, and Vega then came out later to move the crown on to the correct winner.
   Miss Universe New Zealand executive director and CEO Nigel Godfrey, who was present in the audience to support Miss Universe New Zealand Samantha McClung, said, ‘The scenes here are extraordinary.’ His counterpart from Binibining Pilipinas, Stella Márquez-Araneta, sat in front of him.
   Las Vegas, sadly, also saw a major car accident on the strip where one person was killed and 37 were injured after a car went up on the pavement, right after the telecast.
   Harvey apologized to Wurtzbach backstage, while Gutiérrez still had the composure to thank her supporters.


A sigh of relief from Miss Colombia, Ariadna María Gutiérrez, as her country’s name is read out by host Steve Harvey.


A clearly joyful Miss Colombia, with the Miss Universe crown and sash.


Steve Harvey has the difficult task of returning to the stage and owning up to his mistake.


Embarrassed host Steve Harvey explains that he read out the wrong name.


Miss USA Olivia Jordan informs Miss Universe Philippines Pia Wurtzbach that she is the correct winner of Miss Universe.


Former Miss Universe Paulina Vega removes the crown from Miss Universe Colombia, Ariadna Marïa Gutiérrez.

 


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