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In “The Composer of Noise,” an original essay in #TCultureIssue, @cathyparkhong looks back at one of those relationships where, despite changes in circumstance and place, two people are able to pick up where they left off. “I didn’t pay much attention to Rei at first because of his laconic nature. But he had a depth of character that kept uncupping itself like nesting dolls the more I talked to him,” she writes of her friend, a composer from Japan who now lives in Berlin, to whom she recently reached out again after they’d lost touch. For the essays in this issue, we commissioned and chose works about friendship. Above is “In Memory of a Sure Thing” (2021), made exclusively for T by the New York-based artist @AlannaFields , who said: “Since the onset of the pandemic, a lot of my friends have moved out of the city, and the dynamics of our relationships have changed. With this piece, I used an archival image of three male friends. I brought in the borders to signify isolation, and the red to signify loss — what does it mean when you lose physical nearness, when you can’t access a person in the same way?”
It was Manhattan’s print journalism scene that served as matchmaker to the Paper magazine editor at large Mickey Boardman (@askmrmickey ), the writer Lynn Yaeger (@babylynnieland ) and the columnist Michael Musto (@musto184 ), who have been friends for over 25 years and dedicated (and instantly recognizable) New Yorkers for even longer. In the early ’90s, Yaeger, then the fashion editor at The Village Voice, assigned a story to Musto that never made it to press. “My article was so appalling she didn’t run it, but then we became friends, partly out of gossip and partly because we were on a lot of the same lists for parties,” says Musto. He met Boardman in 1994, after receiving an invite to Paper’s 10th-anniversary bash. “Michael and Bill Cunningham were, to me, the legendary documenters of downtown culture,” says Boardman, who was subsequently introduced to Yaeger by Lauren Ezersky, the host of the television series “Behind the Velvet Ropes,” after she spotted the two aboard a long-since-retired Fashion Week bus that carried attendees from show to show. Since then, the crew has been all around New York together and witnessed the city remake itself time and again. It hasn’t been all fun and games — they lost mutual friends to AIDS and have seen each other through plenty of other hardships. But what’s remained undiminished, and has in fact deepened over time, is their connection — as well as their ability to enjoy each other’s company. Click the link in our bio for a smattering of images, along with candid captions from the threesome, that offer a window into their friendship. Written by Arden Fanning Andrews (@ardenparty ). #TCultureIssue
FRIENDS WHO PROTECT ONE ANOTHER: Beaujangless (@beaujangless ), Xunami Muse (@xunamimuse ), Arra (@xxoarra ), Brazier Ray (@brazierray ), Linux (@im_linux ), Bobby LeMaire (@bobbylemaire ) and Radical Pom (@radicalpomm ). Linux: I really hope that we live to be old, old, old ladies one day — no one is dying on us young. I hope we’re the oldest women to live in the history of old-age women. And when we look back at our 20s, I hope that we think, “Oh, honey, that was just the beginning! I can’t believe we used to be that poor, and that we used to struggle like that.” When we look around at each other much later, we’ll have lived a full life and have experienced so many things — been onstage for millions of people, been pop stars, flown on private jets, lived the life. I hope all of our dreams manifest and materialize themselves. Xunami Muse: A few years ago, Beau got jumped by a bunch of random people outside a gay club. It was so bad that their whole mouth was wired shut, and they could only eat and drink through a straw. When that happened, our whole group of friends felt like in some way we failed to be there for them, to protect them. That’s when the true heart of our friendship came alive. After that happened to Beau, they couldn’t go to work for a while, so we made sure someone was always there with them for whatever they needed. Food, company, help getting to a therapy session or a doctor’s appointment — they always had somebody there. Brazier Ray: People you haven’t known for as long as your family, your blood family, can become just as close in a short amount of time. I don’t know what my life would be like without Arra, Bobby, Beau and all the other girls — they’re family to me. I want to emphasize the point that you never know when you’ll find your people, but everyone has their people. They’re out there. Click the link in our bio to see the full interview, by Río Sofia (@rioxofia ) and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by Melody Melamed (@melodymelamedfoto ). #TCultureIssue
FRIENDS WHO MAKE MUSIC TOGETHER: Christian Konopka (@chrkonopka ), Suzan-Lori Parks (@suzanloriparks365 ), @BendjiAllonce and Parker McAllister (@lo__qi ) Suzan-Lori Parks: I started playing guitar in high school in Maryland, where people, Black and white, told me, “Black people don’t play the guitar.” This was before the internet, so I had to hip them to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Memphis Minnie and Reverend Gary Davis. I’m not disparaging anybody, it’s just what happens when people encourage you to stay in a box. The idea of an award-winning playwright (and a screenwriter-showrunner) playing an instrument is also strange to some. My feeling is, if you find yourself in a box, maybe you want to lower the walls. When I was first putting a group together, I was in need of an awesome guitar player and realized, “Hey, my husband, Christian.” Then he and I started trying out different musicians and instrumentations, looking for the best sound. People would come to our apartment, and we would jam. (Though that’s more of a West Coast word; in New York, you rehearse.) Before Covid-19, I was working on another project and met Parker and Bendji through that. I thought, “Well, that’s the sound, and these are the dudes.” It was kismet, where you’re searching and searching and then, in an instant, you just know. Bendji is a percussionist and Parker is a bass player and, if they are the tracks and the train, Christian is the sky, the firmament. I write the songs, drawing on my love of soul, pop and spoken word. Our name is Sula and the Noise. Click the link in our bio to read the full interview, by Kate Guadagnino (@k_guad ), and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by Nathan Bajar (@nate_nate ). #TCultureIssue
FRIENDS WHO COOK TOGETHER: Grace Denis (@dracegenis ), Raul Lopez (@raulzepol ), @JakeTylerBrodsky , Pierre Serrão (@chefp ), Devon Scarpulla, David Toro, Solomon Chase, @DongPingWong , Kira Lillie, Gerardo Gonzalez and @RamlaAli , holding Saige Scarpulla Serrão Gerardo Gonzalez: At the Palm Heights hotel, where I’ve directed the food and beverage program since 2018, meals are occasions where we get to combine many of our common interests: aesthetics, performance, culture, culinary expression. Of course, a location that looks and feels like paradise doesn’t hurt, either. But being in the Cayman Islands during a pandemic is especially trippy. In March of last year, a group of friends quarantined at the hotel. We cooked all our meals together, celebrated birthdays and threw high teas to test out new recipes. It’s been a revealing year, for better or worse, but it’s also given me time to nurture my friendships. I’ve been learning how to be more supportive and understanding. During the first few months of the pandemic, we worked closely with local organizers to provide over 5,000 meals to people on the island: Four days a week, we would cook and pack them up while blasting our favorite music. In July, when things reopened, we started throwing events, both for locals and visiting friends. When you’re breaking bread with people from all walks of life, everyone leaves that experience much more satisfied, and not just from the food. Click the link in our bio to see the full interview, by @KorshaWilson , and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by Tony Floyd (@studioavafilms ). #TCultureIssue
The Language of Friends: In Berlin, a group of both Deaf and hearing people, brought together by the artist Christine Kim (@chrisunkim ), have found a common vocabulary, and serve as a reminder that every one of us is a vessel for communication. Click the link in our bio to see more from T’s Culture issue, and to read about the safety precautions we took while making it. Video by Paul Sonntag (@_paulsonntag ). #TCultureIssue
#TellTAJoke: The playwright @JeremyOHarris recalls a joke he learned as a fifth grader in Martinsville, Va. Click the link in our bio to see more from T’s Culture issue, and to read about the safety precautions we took while making it. Video by @FloraHanitijo . #TCultureIssue
MENTOR / PROTÉGÉE FRIENDS: Catherine Opie (@csopie ) and Sam Richardson (@slamrich ) Catherine Opie: I met Sam over a series of phone calls in 2018 when she was considering U.C.L.A. for grad school. I was the head of the photography program, and there were only three spots. When I look at a potential student’s work, I want to see that they’re having a conversation with ideas, and with the history of photography. Hopefully, I can be another voice in that conversation. Sam Richardson: Cathy was kind, open and very present. She asked me about myself and my practice, and we discovered we had a lot in common. I was introduced to her work as an undergrad, when a professor told me I had to go see her 2008-09 retrospective at the Guggenheim. I remember being overwhelmed by the honest self-representation in Cathy’s “Being and Having” (1991), a group of 13 portraits of Cathy’s friends in the queer community wearing fake mustaches. I felt both confronted and at home — it was the first time art made me cry. C.O.: There are many photographers who eschew tenderness, who believe that you have to shock the viewer — often by creating derogatory images. Sam’s work has an overall quality of humanity, and that’s what I strongly believe in as an artist. S.R.: There’s obviously an inherent hierarchy in our relationship: It’s real; it’s institutional, but Cathy dismantles that with her students. We had similar approaches, which minimized the power dynamic and facilitated a true friendship. Click the link in our bio to read the full interview, by Kerry Manders (@kerrymmanders ), and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by Catherine Opie and Sam Richardson. #TCultureIssue
SCHOOL FRIENDS: Sohina Sidhu (@ladyvold3mort ), Julian Sanchez, Jonathan Higginbotham, Maia Mihanovich (@mihanovichmaia ), Amauta M. Firmino (@mauta.man ), Hudson Oz, @JeremyOHarris , Sydney Lemmon (@sydney_lemmon ), Patrick Foley, @EdmundDonovan , Andrew Burnap, Michael Breslin (@mischabreslin ), Cat Rodríguez and Em Weinstein (@em.weinstein ) Jeremy O. Harris: I joined a Facebook group before we arrived in New Haven, Conn., where I posted that I was planning a reading of my play “Daddy,” in case anyone wanted to get to know my work. That was how I met one of my two great friends at Yale. I categorize Michael Breslin, who’s an actor and playwright, and Amauta M. Firmino, who’s a screenwriter, as my “great friends,” because we were inseparable at school: Michael and I lived together, and Amauta was like our third — he was in our apartment every night drinking wine, watching TV and doing homework. There’s that maxim about grad school: “You don’t go for the education, you go for the people.” I always thought that sounded gross, like it was a networking thing. But I was able to find others who spoke my language; no teacher challenged me the way Michael and Amauta did. I felt more creatively and artistically engaged by those who I lay in bed with and got messy with and was vulnerable with — another friend, the writer-director Em Weinstein, directed the first production of my next piece, “Slave Play,” in our second year. After graduation in 2019, I knew everything was going to change. A lot of my Black friends moved to Los Angeles, became successful and went through cultural and social shifts — I think people lose themselves and those who are really important to them — and I didn’t want that to happen. Over the next six months, our lives would become completely different, but I was trying to create pockets of normalcy. Click the link in our bio to read the full interview, by Maya Phillips, and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by Justin French (@frenchgold ), styled by Ian Bradley (@iancogneato ). #TCultureIssue
FRIENDS WHO SAW IT ALL: Johnny Dynell (@johnny.dynell ), Michael Musto (@musto184 ), Susanne Bartsch (@bartschland ), Flotilla DeBarge (@flotilladebarge ), Mickey Boardman (@askmrmickey ), Patrick McMullan (@patrickmcmullan ), Chi Chi Valenti, Bethann Hardison (@bethannhardison ), Lynn Yaeger (@babylynnieland ) and Laura Willis Michael Musto: I met Lynn in the ’90s when we were both working at The Village Voice — she was the fashion editor and I was a columnist. Mickey and I became close friends around the same time, too, as we were both in the downtown scene and saw each other at parties. This was before the old downtown spirit and aesthetic had been subsumed by the mainstream. These were the days when New York had so much edge that you had to constantly look behind you to see if you were being followed while walking quickly to some club, for something like Johnny Dynell and Chi Chi Valenti’s goth-punk-fabulous Jackie 60 party in the meatpacking district. Eventually, Lynn, Mickey and I started a monthly movie club with our other friends. I’d choose these awful-in-a-good-way movies and camp classics, like 1974’s “Airport 1975.” We’ve been doing it ever since. Once the pandemic hit, we moved the club to Zoom and increased it to twice a week, and we’ll text each other commentary the whole time. I’m an only child and both my parents are gone, so I don’t have many blood relations in the city. Lynn and Mickey provide that for me, and this year even more so. I’ve been through two plagues in my life — the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s, and now this one. So I’m familiar with the horror of losing friends. The rest of us have clung together tighter than ever, like a modern-day mob squad. Click the link in our bio to see the full interview, by @JohnnyWogan , and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by Donavon Smallwood (@xdonavon ). #TCultureIssue
Across #NovaScotia’s cliffside fishing towns, #OmarGandhi’s residential architecture is as austere and intense as the environment for which it’s built. Gandhi's 2013 project #RabbitSnareGorge, a slender cabin that stretches 43 feet tall, like a 16th-century Mannerist portrait, was constructed on the wind-swept island of #CapeBreton (a glove-shaped appendage separated from Nova Scotia’s main peninsula by the narrow Strait of Canso). Built for a New Jersey lawyer who has vacationed in Nova Scotia for years, the house looks toward a 120-foot bluff fronting the Gulf of St. Lawrence, three miles outside the village of Inverness. A broad 20-by-8-foot bank of windows faces west over a narrow chute of black spruce and birch toward a slim triangle of water, etched on blustery days with white caps, like a sinister sea in an Edward Gorey illustration. The structure gracefully withstands Nova Scotia’s often brutal weather, its 1,200 square feet split over three spartan floors; each level has a 14-inch ring beam to help protect against the island’s gale-force winds. Nova Scotia, Gandhi says, “is a place that doesn’t change very quickly.” But his Rabbit Snare Gorge house injects the island’s static saltbox vernacular with sudden kinetic energy. See more homes as wild as the landscape around them, at the link in our bio. Written by @mtpsnyder , photo by @andrewrowat .
In “Just Passing Through,” an original essay and part of #TCultureIssue, Sigrid Nunez writes: “A long, hard year in isolation has given me a keener appreciation for the kinds of social connections that are lower in the hierarchy of friendships. I mean that outer circle we usually take for granted — people we see regularly but never really get to know, such as neighbors, doormen, shopkeepers, baristas, beauticians, fellow gym members — and even those we’ve never seen before but with whom we nonetheless share something, if only for a moment. I especially like the rapport that can spring up between people who meet in passing. I’m not talking about the kind of meeting that leads to better acquaintance. I’m talking about the kind that takes place between people who know their paths will never cross again, who often part without ever learning each other’s names.” For the essays in this issue, we commissioned and chose works about friendship. “The Bittersweet” (2021), pictured here, was made exclusively for T by the St. Paul, Minn.-based artist @JulieBuffalohead , who said: “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at accepting the fact that relationships have ups and downs, and that it’s OK to accept them for how they are at any given moment. That’s something children are good at — I see how present my daughter is as she moves through life — and you can see it with the animals here, who are being playful with each other.”
FRIENDS WHO SHARE A LANGUAGE: Emily McDermott (@emiliabedelia__ ), Lucas Odahara (@odahara ), Meg Stuart (@megstuart33 ), Youka Snell, @AceMahbaz , Christopher Tester (@ctester ), Christine Sun Kim (@chrisunkim ) and @ThomasMader Christine Sun Kim: Growing up, I struggled to communicate and develop friendships with hearing peers, but then I went to college and became more comfortable with my signing and myself. Then I went to grad school, and my A.S.L. bubble popped. I learned I had a skill with strangers. I realized that small talk with hearing strangers was an opportunity for them to see me. And if I saw that they weren’t interested in me, I knew they weren’t worth my time, and it didn’t hurt my feelings — it was the filter I needed. Thomas Mader: When you get along with someone and share a sense of humor, that sensibility becomes part of your common vocabulary. That happens in our family, as well. For example, when Christine asks our 3-year-old daughter to apologize, she signs the German sign for “sorry,” rather than use A.S.L. It’s like she’s saying, “I’ll apologize … but not your way.” And so that has become a part of our family vocabulary. When we screw up, we’ll sign the German sign for “sorry,” which to us is an inside joke — meaning a half-assed apology. Lucas Odahara: Signing in general is so different in other parts of the world, and my work often looks at histories of colonization and language. So it interests me that sign language didn’t always follow the same routes as spoken language, which is often connected to violence. Sometimes, I think Christine thinks I sign better than I do. When I speak to other Deaf people, I understand much less — I’ve come to realize that might be because I’m signing Christine’s language. That is, that one invents signs together, with your community or your close friends. It feels like a dialect sometimes. Click the link in our bio to read the full interview, by Gisela Williams (@giselaatlarge ), and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by @JuliaSellmann . #TCultureIssue
NEW FRIENDS: Rina Sawayama (@rinasonline ) and @EltonJohn Elton John: Rina’s album, “Sawayama” (2020), just blew me away. I had to call her up and tell her how brilliant it was. I mean, it was Led Zeppelin meets Prince meets a couple of things that referenced Madonna. I think her songs “Bad Friend” and “Chosen Family” Madonna would have killed for. It was so many musical influences, but done in her own way, so it didn’t feel like pastiche. Rina Sawayama: Thank you. Wow. It came from me being really bored between songs I was writing. I didn’t want to write only the same genre, because that wasn’t my taste. My taste was varied. And I thought, this is the one time I can make my debut album, so I’ll just do it how I like. E.J.: It was nothing you can pigeonhole. It was like hearing, I suppose, the Mothers of Invention in the late 1960s. When I heard Rina’s album I thought, Jesus, this is really daring. It’s fantastic. It made me want to meet this person. It was like, “Who are you?” R.S.: Elton doesn’t realize how many people’s lives he’s made by contacting them and telling them that their work is great, that the work is seen. And I was so amazed, when we met, by how much he knows about new music. I was ashamed because I don’t know anything, especially when I’m writing. I’m too scared that it’ll worm its way into my head. Click the link in our bio to read the full interview, by @JonCaramanica , and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photo by @HarleyWeir , styled by @RobbieSpencer . #TCultureIssue
WORK FRIENDS: Jared Blake (@lichennyc ), Christine Espinal (@chrispyny ), @EricMayes , Ed Be (@edddbe ), Vian Lee and Alvaro Ucha Rodriguez (@alvaro_ucharodriguez ) Jared Blake: About four years ago, I’d gotten some gray Eames shell chairs on eBay — and then my dad bought me a single yellow one, but I didn’t want it, so I put it on Craigslist and Ed came to buy it. When we met, he was wearing something I would wear: a fitted Mets cap with a blue oxford, black pants and checkered Vans, the ultimate business-casual, casual-business outfit. It was like a hidden language. He told me he was stockpiling furniture to open a brick-and-mortar store. And I’d been thinking about dealing furniture online. Ed Be: We started selling out of a storage unit. Now we’re in a bigger storefront in East Williamsburg that we opened just before the pandemic began. Most days we start at 8:30 in the morning, running around the city and sourcing until 7 at night. We hit estate sales, offices that are moving — wherever there’s furniture, we’re there. J.B.: Recently, we started making our own furniture, because we’d heard from people who wanted smaller pieces, like a 6-foot-by-3-foot wooden dining table, which you don’t often find in the vintage world. The goal is to create affordable designs that disappear into your home the way a white T-shirt does in your closet; they’re not necessarily inspired by Enzo Mari or Donald Judd, but we try to channel their approaches. As we’ve grown, we’ve hired people based on energy. No one ever told me, “You should consider interior design,” and so I think we have a responsibility to elevate people of color who have been starting from behind. Click the link in our bio to see the full interview, by Jason Chen (@chen_jason ), and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by David Chow (@spuhz ). #TCultureIssue
FRIENDS WHO BECAME ADULTS TOGETHER: @RowanBlanchard and @AmandlaStenberg Amandla Stenberg: I remember the first time we met. I was 11 and Rowan was about 9. We were at an event for child actors, and a designer had collaborated with both of us to make our dream dresses — I wore a lace piece with studs, and Rowan had on a little blue-and-pink pirate dress — so we ended up taking a picture together. I met a lot of other young performers at events, and there were weird semblances of friendships, but they were always supposed to be these public things. Rowan and I have found something much more substantial beyond that. There was an interesting cultural moment happening around 2014 or so, when we were still child actors. We already had public social platforms, which was a privilege, and it felt natural to both of us at that age to use them for good and speak about the things that mattered to us, like gender, race and sexuality. Because of that particular moment and what we were interested in, they became easily politicized. We were expected to have authoritative voices when we hadn’t really had the opportunity to become adults. It feels less important to me now to use that forum to speak to the things I care about. I’m more interested in exploring those concepts interpersonally, which inherently means within my queer community and community of color — groups that represent safety, freedom and the ability to just show up as you are. Click the link in our bio to read the full interview, by Jess Cole (@jesscole___ ), and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photo by @JoshuaKissi , styled by Angela Koh (@ang.koh ). #TCultureIssue
FRIENDS WHO SUMMER TOGETHER: Fernanda Pérez, Luca Guadagnino, Giuppy D’Aura (@giuppydaura ), Frida Ruggieri and Alessio Bolzoni (@alessiobolzoni ) Luca Guadagnino: I spent the entirety of the first lockdown from March onward with my pal the photographer Alessio Bolzoni, whom I also work with on my films, and then in June, after restrictions in Italy started to ease, I was asked to do a campaign for Ferragamo in Milan. I called my very dear friend Fernanda Pérez — a makeup artist whom I’ve worked with since my first film, “The Protagonists” (1999) — to see if she wanted to join Alessio and me for the project. I live there, and she lives in Buenos Aires. She flew in with her now-13-year-old daughter, Frida, whom I’ve known since she was a baby; I held her in my lap when we were filming “I Am Love” (2009). By the time we finished shooting it was July, but we weren’t much interested in the idea of a summer holiday. We just wanted to find a place where we could gather and be calm. Our last friend, Giuppy, joined us after we wrapped, and we all set off for the Alcamo coast in Sicily to stay in the country home of the New York-based artist Francesco Simeti and his sister, Natalia, children of the great author Mary Taylor Simeti, who writes about food, travel and ethnography. We stayed there for two weeks before going on to Palermo for a few days. The house was empty for the season, so it was just the five of us, friends for over 20 years and certainly by now a kind of family, with our reliable rhythms. Our Alcamo routine was quite simple: We’d wake up fairly early, get ready and go down to the wilder, more secluded parts of the beach, among the rough sand and rock. We’d spend the afternoon in the shade of a beautiful tree on the house grounds, reading and talking. There was a lot of cooking, too, which is one of my favorite ways to pass the time. Click the link in our bio for the full interview, by @NoorBrara , and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by Alex Majoli. #TCultureIssue
PARTY FRIENDS: @AdrianTManuel , David Chan (@thelimitdoesnotexist ), Bowen Yang (@fayedunaway ), Drew Pak (@drwpk ), Mimi Zhu (@mimizhuxiyuan ) and Justin J Wee (@djdumpling ) Bowen Yang: I met this group of friends mostly through social media and mutual friends, but I actually know Adrian from when we were both working at One Kings Lane five or six years ago. He and I kind of attuned ourselves to each other, the way that any Asian person, and specifically queer Asian person, will: “Oh, I see you.” And then the separate friendships converged at Bubble_T, which was a novel concept back in 2017, a roving party inspired by and catering to queer Asian folks but also inclusive and open to anybody. The last Bubble_T we went to before things shut down was the Lunar New Year party in January 2020, and it was on a Saturday, so as soon as the “S.N.L.” cameras stopped rolling, I beelined it to Elsewhere, an event space in Bushwick. I hadn’t had a particularly good show that night, which sours your whole mood. You need some kind of coping salve, and Bubble_T is a place to feel joyful and fun. You release all that self-examination against some oppressive standard. I think it’s called proprioception, where you’re able to perceive yourself moving through space — you never have that self-consciousness at Bubble_T like you do at other gay nightlife spaces. That opens up a way for you to form authentic friendships. Early on during the pandemic, in April, we all met up in Prospect Park and just stood in this big circle six feet apart wearing masks. I had to toss a jar of mapo tofu sauce to Justin because he needed it for a recipe. Since the pandemic, we’ve mostly checked in via Instagram — we’re all on top of each other’s finstas: It’s a lot of memes or cute pseudonudes, and we’re just giggling with each other from afar. It’s our little back channel where no one’s being judgmental. Click the link in our bio to read the full interview, by Jason Chen (@chen_jason ), and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photograph by @FloraHanitijo . #TCultureIssue
My Favorite Song: The actress Rossy de Palma (@rossydpalma ) recalls the first time she heard the Beatles and rode a bicycle — while on a family vacation in Barcelona. Video by Carlota Guerrero (@carlota_guerrero ). Click the link in our bio to see more from T’s Culture issue, and to read about the safety precautions we took while making it. #TCultureIssue
WEEKEND FRIENDS: @DonChristianJones , @DavidMVelasco , Hannah Black (@nanpansky ), @NicoleEisenman , @SarahNicolePrickett , Lauryn Siegel (@flockofsiegel ), @FarisAlShathir , @TMDavy and Liam Davy (@liam.davy ) T.M. Davy: Our first summer out here was in 2012, thanks to a nonprofit called Boffo, started by Faris Al-Shathir, which runs an artists’ residency I participated in. A group of us have been coming to Fire Island ever since — we’ve become like family. Queer artists have spent time in the Pines for decades: The group PaJaMa — Paul Cadmus and Jared and Margaret French — were here in the 1930s, getting weird. It’s just right for the light and for the ocean and for getting away from other people’s eyes. David Hockney was playing in the Pines in the 1970s, before AIDS devastated the creative community. Privileged spaces by the beach tend to be rather white, and that’s a fair critique of the Pines. Still, I think in its spirit it has been a place for people to find escape from the straight, patriarchal world. Even though it’s mostly gay men, it’s away from the regular, the norm, and the role of the artist is to expand what’s possible. Friendship in your adult life is a strange thing — in my 20s, I wondered how I could make meaningful relationships. There’s not much to do out here, and no cars and lots of time, and it’s surprising how bonding that is. This summer, there weren’t as many people wandering through the house or staying for a weekend. But on the other hand, because a lot of us were coming out of a New York City quarantine and this was our first escape, there was a beautiful energy. Just being with people on the beach, in the woods — just being able to talk to a person — it’s incredible. What a gift that is — one I’d taken for granted my whole life. Click the link in our bio to read the full interview, by Jameson Fitzpatrick (@jmsnftzptrck ), and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photograph by Bon Duke (@bondukestudio ). #TCultureIssue
PARTNERS, NOW FRIENDS: Jessica Rankin (@j_ss_c_r_nk_n ) and @JulieMehretu Jessica Rankin: We met in 2000 in a bar, and got married in 2008. From the start, we were in sync in terms of the way we look at art: the way we think about it and the way it weaves itself through our lives. It’s a conversation that started and never really stopped. When you spend time watching someone work, you get a sense of what they’re striving for, and you trust that they feel that in your work, too. When relationships change, as ours did in 2014 when we separated, you inevitably have to take some space, but it didn’t last that long for us. Julie is one of the people I trust most to talk about my work with, so it was impossible to maintain any kind of distance. Julie Mehretu: There were times when we gave each other more space, but in the middle of that, it was always, “Can you come down and take a look at this?” J.R.: Like, “Let’s just put everything aside and be artists together right now.” And at the beginning of the pandemic, it was spring break for our two sons, so we thought, “Ah, look, we’ll just all go upstate.” Click the link in our bio to read the full interview, by Julia Berick (@berickupontweed ), and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by @MeghanMarin . #TCultureIssue
FRIENDS WHO TEACH EACH OTHER: Nan Goldin (@nangoldinstudio ) and @ThoraSiemsen Thora Siemsen: We met in December 2019 at Saluggi’s in TriBeCa, when I interviewed Nan about the reissue of her 1993 book “The Other Side” and her last show at Marian Goodman Gallery in London. We talked for hours. I flew home to Colorado the next day for the holidays and, when I got back to New York, we picked up where we’d left off. We started playing backgammon and began what I refer to as “film school,” where Nan teaches me about movies — we started with Hitchcock and Visconti, and everything starring Judy Holliday and Barbara Stanwyck. When we heard about the impending lockdown, we had a conversation about what it would look like to quarantine together. I made the decision to move into her home in Clinton Hill quickly, but it was the right one. I feel like myself with Nan: like an adult, safe. For her birthday last September, I took her to Holy Land U.S.A., this run-down religious theme park in Connecticut that was in one of our favorite movies, “Wanda” (1970). This past summer, I went swimming for the first time since going on hormones. From a boat, Nan took a picture that is precious to me. Her photographs allow me to replay those moments when I felt beautiful. Nan Goldin: I was very lucky Thora came into my life when she did. I hadn’t photographed a person in years. I was more inspired by the sky, or by going into my archive of tens of thousands of slides to make new pieces. It’s very intimate for me to photograph someone. I need to feel a deep connection, and that can become deeper through the process. When I see somebody who’s beautiful and doesn’t know it, I feel an obligation to show them to themselves. Click the link in our bio to read the full interview, by @CocoRomack , and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photo by Jasmine Clarke (@jasmineclarke0 ). #TCultureIssue
FRIENDS WHO MISS EACH OTHER: Luedji Luna (@luedjiluna ), Xenia França (@xeniafranca ) and Larissa Luz (@larissaluzeluz ). Larissa Luz: For me, Afro-Brazilian music is something that was created from the cultural influences brought here by the African diaspora. I’m always looking for interesting and provocative rhythms created by Black people around the globe, but the music I make has changed during quarantine — it’s become more introspective and pensive. In 2017, I had the idea for Xenia, Luedji and me to do a show that paid homage to the voices of Black women who have shaped Brazilian music but whose influence has been erased by racism and misogyny. We’ve been told we live in this racial utopia, yet we as Black artists haven’t had the authority and opportunity to tell our own stories. Even when I’m not working, I’m still making and consuming art. During quarantine, I learned that it’s possible to be well even if you’re alone — that solitude is a form of tranquillity. Click the link in our bio to see the full interview, by Tarisai Ngangura (@journotari ), and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by @HickDuarte . #TCultureIssue
FRIENDS WHO CAME UP TOGETHER: William Hazel, Shiona Turini (@shionat ), Melina Matsoukas (@msmelina ), Alisa Reynolds (@thechefalisa ), @CynthiaErivo , @DanielKaluuya and @LenaWaithe . Melina Matsoukas: I’m from New York, but I moved out to Los Angeles 15 years ago, and I didn’t really have a foundation. Since then, my friends and I have grown together as people, as artists, as found family. I look to this group for guidance — or just an ear when I want to vent my rage. Even though we’re peers, we mentor each other as we try to widen the path for the next generation in Hollywood. We all had to navigate through a system that wasn’t really built for us. The best example is how we created “Queen and Slim” (2019). Lena wrote that script and brought it to me to direct, and I fell in love with it. I knew it would be my first film. We asked Daniel to be in it, and then we had this trifecta of power; you really see our stories onscreen, undiluted by other voices. Shiona Turini: I moved from Bermuda to America to work in fashion by myself in 2003. I would see Melina out and about, and I admired her style from afar. She was always pulling a look, and I had this big fashion crush on her. In 2014, we ended up on a group camping trip, and that’s when we solidified our friendship. She asked me to be the costume designer for “Queen and Slim” and, through that, I met Daniel. Something just clicked between us: I’m so protective of him and he’s taught me so much about the world and the industry. During the quarantine, he and I were our own little pod, the good-looking pod. He would stand outside my window and yell up — that little moment of feeling like I was at home with my friend was so special. These are the people who champion and uplift me, but also check me when I need to be checked. Click the link in our bio to see the full interview, by Sandra E. Garcia (@s_evangelina ), and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by Renee Cox (@reneecoxstudio ), styled by Ian Bradley (@iancogneato ). #TCultureIssue
The Making of a Found Family: In Los Angeles, a close-knit collective of friends, including the filmmaker Melina Matsoukas (@msmelina ) and the costume designer, consultant and stylist Shiona Turini (@shionat ), have made a point of championing one another, and of helping to pave the way for the next generation of Black creatives. Click the link in our bio to see more from T’s Culture issue, and to read about the safety precautions we took while making it. Video by Alima Lee (@alima_lee ). #TCultureIssue
In “TY, Love You, See You Soon,” an original essay and ode to going-out friends in #TCultureIssue, bry.washing considers the importance of the bonds formed, pre-pandemic, in queer spaces, and how they’ve endured over the past year. “The energy from these friendships hasn’t disappeared,” he writes, “it’s just changed forms…[slipping] into some other crack or valve in my life, contorting itself as needed, intensely pliant in the way that queer friendship tends to be, taking whatever form that it needs to at the time. It could be better, maybe, but it’s just enough to know it’s there. Life is different now, certainly, but it’s still going on. And we’re lucky for that.” For the essays in this issue, we commissioned and chose works about friendship. Above is “Mustafa” (2020),” which is exclusive to T and was made by the New York- and Memphis-based artist Tommy Kha, who said: “This is part of an ongoing, lifelong body of work called ‘Return to Sender,’ for which I invite different people to kiss me and I don’t kiss them back. Not as fun of a project during a pandemic, but I still wanted to mark the moment. In the end, I only felt comfortable collaborating with people I know and trust — people who are friends — and it was so restorative to see them again.”
FURRY FRIENDS: Ai Weiwei (@aiww ), Shadow and Yellow Ai Weiwei: My cats think they are so important. They always want to sleep in the center of my bed or get on my shoulder, and I really have to negotiate with them. But they bring me so much joy. A neighbor found Shadow nearby, abandoned in some trash. She’s very small, but full of curiosity. Half is 6, and more sophisticated — I brought him with me to Portugal from my studio in Berlin, where I lived between 2015 and 2020 — and Yellow was a local street cat I took in. He’s very attached to humans. If I go on a walk, he follows me, almost like a dog. But of course, all cats are independent, and our house here is in the middle of a field, so they can run around all day. In Berlin, we were on an upper floor of an apartment building, and Half and another cat I had then jumped out of a window. Fortunately, they weren’t hurt. Cats are so capable. It’s amazing. Any other animal would be dead. I’ve learned so much from animals. It’s important to be around another species that has a completely different set of instincts and intuitions. Humans are so rational. We are defined by our knowledge, and that blocks our emotions and understanding of ourselves. But anyone who opens their mind or heart to cats can experience something that can’t be found in human society. They teach you that you can have a happy life without knowing anything at all. They take care of themselves, and they make their own fun. To be an individual, to be self-content — those are nice qualities for a life. Click the link in our bio to read the full interview, by Alice Newell-Hanson (@a_m_n_h ), and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by Catarina Osório de Castro (@catarinaoc ). #TCultureIssue
FRIENDS WHO CREATE TOGETHER: Jess Cole (@jesscole___ ), Elizabeth Osaguona, a.k.a. Elheist (@elheist ), Saul Nash (@saul.nash ), Trey Gaskin (@heyheytreytrey ), Kusheda Mensah (@modularbymensah ) and Bianca Saunders (@biancasaunders ). Bianca Saunders: I am a London girl — from South East. It’s as suburban as London gets: lots of green space, and away from the party. I’ve always worked collaboratively. It’s how I get inspired, by bouncing ideas off of other creatives. My work nods to my British and West Indian heritage, my family, but then — through collaborating with people who are from lots of different backgrounds, both creatively and culturally — I can present it through a different lens. Jess Cole: I met Bianca through our mutual friend Joshua Woods, a photographer I knew from my time in New York. I live in Peckham, and he thought we would get along. All three of us ended up working on a photo book, “We Are One of the Same” (2020). It started off as a working relationship between me and Bianca, but it has blossomed into this lovely friendship. We go for walks around South London for miles — there’s no route, we just go. I’m not great on pop culture, so our conversations can get quite deep. Click the link in our bio to see the full interview, by Lynette Nylander (@lynettesaid ), and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by Siân Davey. (@siandavey1 ). #TCultureIssue
HOMETOWN FRIENDS: Chloe Oh (@chlocloh ), Ez (@ez_ez_ez_ ), Sohyun Jung (@cochon_j ) Sohyun Jung: My first New York Fashion Week, I was 21 and still didn’t speak English very well. I was doing a fitting for Marc Jacobs’s fall 2017 runway show, and couldn’t understand what anyone was saying and why I was waiting around for three hours. It was nothing like Seoul Fashion Week. My phone died. I started to panic. But then, another Korean model approached me and comforted me. She invited me to sit with her and let me borrow her phone charger. She translated the announcements and told me when it was my turn to be fitted. That woman was HoYeon Jung — she was a year older than I was, and it was her third New York Fashion Week. In Korean culture, we take care of each other, especially when we’re working overseas. We commute to fittings and eat together between shows. I met EZ six years ago at a party in Seoul, and when we went to New York for fashion week, we lived together for the whole season and got really close. I met Chloe recently in New York, but I already consider her a younger sister. What I’ve longed for over the past year has been that sense of community, of going out in Seoul with EZ and my other model friends, like Sora Choi and Yoon Young Bae. Click the link in our bio to read the full interview, by Angela Koh (@ang.koh ), and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photo by Less (@less_photo ), styled by Hyunji Nam (@hyunji_nam ). #TCultureIssue
ACTOR FRIENDS: Aml Ameen (@amlameenbaby ), @CynthiaErivo , Chiké Okonkwo (@chike1 ), @DavidOyelowo , Malachi Kirby (@iammalachikirby ) and @GuguMbathaRaw David Oyelowo: It’s so specific to be Black, British, of African descent, living in Los Angeles and working in Hollywood. I can count the people I know like that on one hand. Among them is Chiké, who is one of my best friends in the world. He’s been there for so many of the milestones in my life, and my kids consider him an uncle. Through him I met Gugu, and one of the things she and I bonded over is that we were both born in Oxford — at the same hospital. Gugu is one of the loveliest people I know, and one of the most humble and unassuming, especially considering how talented she is. Aml and I found each other when he started to dip his toe in the L.A. scene. He has an entrepreneurial spirit that, to be perfectly honest, isn’t encouraged in British culture. I always felt like he would do great things, especially in the States. Malachi and I met through a program at BAFTA; he’s been my mentee for four or five years now. And I met Cynthia in L.A. She’s also of Nigerian descent, but we really bonded over the fact that when she was cast as Harriet Tubman in “Harriet” (2019), she got some flak because she was a Black British actress playing an African-American icon. I experienced some of that when I played Dr. King in “Selma” (2014), so I became a sounding board for her. These are friends with whom I share an outlook on life and interests, whether it’s our faith, our culture or our aspirations. To be Black in America is to sometimes feel gaslit, so it’s important to have people around you who get it, who help you remember that you’re not crazy. And then, of course, central to any great friendship is encouraging one another, cheerleading from the sidelines and really making sure the people you love see how you see them. Click the link in our bio to read the full interview, by Lovia Gyarkye, and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by (from left) @MirandaBarnes and @ChieskaFortuneSmith . #TCultureIssue
CLIENTS WHO BECAME FRIENDS: Alexandre de Betak (@alexdebetak ), Anaïs Lafarge (@thebrokenarm ), Ramesh Nair (@rameshnair_ ), @TomPecheux , Louis-Géraud Castor (@castorfleuriste ) and Benoit Pierre Emery (@benoit.pierre.emery ) Louis-Géraud Castor: I have always loved flowers, so about four years ago, I left a 15-year career as an art dealer to attend the École des Fleuristes de Paris. Since I opened my studio in 2017, I have grown a little community, a village of people, really, and what we have in common is a respect for the beauty of the flower. Being a florist is very intimate; people ask you to make a bouquet for their bedroom or for a dinner party — you’re there for these private, personal moments in their lives. Romain Joste and Anaïs Lafarge of the Broken Arm really supported me at the beginning. They didn’t know if I was going to be any good, but they immediately placed orders for their boutique. Now, when Romain asks me for something for Anaïs’s birthday — I know she likes grasses and field flowers in a style that’s simple but constructed with a 17th-century spirit — it’s not just decoration but an expression of friendship. I met Tom Pecheux by chance when he happened to pop into my studio after visiting some nearby galleries. Now we’re great friends. I know what vases he likes, and the kind of construction and color combinations — yellow with touches of red, rose or violet — that move him. Alex de Betak and I met in a similar way: He started coming into the studio because he’s my neighbor and likes flowers. When I visited his extraordinary flat — the art, the styling, the colors, the mood — I understood much better what he’d need: simple, architectural compositions with one leading flower, such as a cherry blossom branch, in the simple vases the ceramist Mathilde Martin (who makes vessels for most of my arrangements) creates for me. Click the link in our bio to read the full interview, by @IsabelWilkinson , and to read about the safety precautions we took while making this issue. Photographed by Kenny Germé (@knngrm ). #TCultureIssue
In “Jefferson Street,” an original essay in #TCultureIssue, Jesse Green revisits early friendships made in suburban Pennsylvania that, because of divisions only faintly perceptible at the time, proved difficult to keep. He writes: “It was as if a law had been passed. For the rest of my childhood, even on birthdays, no Hill boy visited my house ... We came apart, spun out, demulsified. Were it not for ironic gym teachers and the accident of alphabetization, I would never again have played a game with Tony or David.” For the essays in this issue, we commissioned and chose works about friendship. Above is “Grand Rising” (2021), made exclusively for T by the Los Angeles-based artist @CliffordPrinceKing , who said: “With the pandemic, a lot of my friendships have intensified and fast-forwarded. There’s more checking in, and you can’t go out in groups, so you’re usually meeting one on one. A.J., the boy in the mirror, and I are friends, but recently became intimate. Another aspect of this time is that I’ve had really candid conversations about how to create closeness while deciding which boundaries to keep.”