Welcome to Downtime: a regular series in which we ask our favourite artists for their cultural recommendations. This month, we catch up with Midland.
For the past decade, Harry Agius – aka Midland – has distinguished himself as one of UK club music’s best-loved figures. As a producer, DJ and label head, he hard codes a sense of fun and intelligence into everything he does, whether it’s a pumping house and soul set, his own layered, upbeat techno productions or the music he releases through his consistently excellent Graded imprint. We had high expectations for his cultural picks – we weren’t disappointed.
In the Shadow of the American Dream / The Waterfront JournalsDavid Wojnarowicz
Over the last few years, I have started making my way through all of David Wojnarowicz’s work left behind after his death in 1992. These two books seem to occupy a very similar space in my mind; part diary, part monologues, part fiction. In the Shadow of the American Dream is an overview of the diaries he kept from his early teens to his death, as he explored his sexuality and became acknowledged for his work, as well as coming to terms with his HIV status and the deaths of many of his peers. The Waterfront Journals presents monologues from his journeys across America, his encounters both sexual and conversational with hustlers, addicts, runaways and everyone in between. He has given me insight into a generation I was never able to learn from in person.
Another Kind of Life exhibition at the BarbicanAlona Pardo
This exhibition at London’s Barbican managed to chart a line across generations without it ever feeling forced. Dianne Arbus’ photos of drag queens and crossdressers felt poignant given their proximity to the Stonewall Riots and her suicide in 1971. Perhaps most powerful was the Casa Susanna section. Casa Susanna was a holiday camp for crossdressers and trans people run by Susanna and Marie Valenti outside New York in the 50s and 60s. The photos were discovered by chance in a New York flea market by Robert Swope. It was a time before there were any guidebooks or protection for people exploring their gender identity.
La Vie En RoseMalick Sidibé
Malick Sidibé was a photographer from Mali – he’s one of the most famous photographers to emerge from the country and, in fact, Africa. This book is a collection of portraits he shot in his studio in Bamako that covers everyone from children to teenagers to adult couples. With every photo, he tells such a unique story. This was a time when you had few chances to take get the photo right, and as such, a lot of the people he photographs have an intensity that you don’t see in the age of digital photography.
Cindy Sherman exhibition at the National Portrait GalleryCindy Sherman
This exhibition was a revelation. I am always in awe of artists who stick to such a specific concept throughout their artistic career. Cindy Sherman only shoots self-portraits. This may sound limited, but in reality, the range of the photos on display is mind-blowing. She uses her body and her face as a canvas, exploring prosthetics, elaborate costumes, bizarre makeup and post-production to manipulate and disguise herself. One moment, she’ll be a soccer mom, and then suddenly a presidential candidate. Given today’s social media climate, it feels quite prophetic.
The Alchemy of Circumstance is out now via Graded.