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Saturday, January 11, 2020
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Suggestions for your senses,
every Saturday at 9 a.m.
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SPONSORED BY
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Good morning.

This week, we get comfortable with Omar Sosa, shop more sustainably with Object Limited, head upstate to Westwind Orchard for a taste of delicious maple syrup, put some pep in our step with a motivational playlist from Photay, and consider how snow can affect our sense of smell.

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See
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Comfort Zones
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(Photo: Andrew Zuckerman)
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Omar Sosa, creative director and cofounder of the influential interiors magazine Apartamento, tells us about his first curatorial effort, “Comfort,” a group show of unconventional and provocative art and design works—which range from a wonky Ettore Sottsass bookshelf, to a Bless-designed hammock made of pillows, to a toilet-sink hybrid by Guillermo Santoma—on view through Feb. 15 at New York’s Friedman Benda gallery.
 
How did the idea for the show begin? What led you to explore the notion of comfort?
 
Comfort is something that, most of the time, is not considered much in the world of contemporary art objects that could be utilitarian. It’s always been interesting for me when somebody completely outside or unfamiliar with this world looks at a chair and thinks, “Is it really to be used? Is it actually comfortable to sit on?”

It’s exploring the idea of comfort in a physical sense, but also visually and psychologically. At the same time, on a personal level, I’m doing something new and going outside of my comfort zone by curating a show, which for me is really venturing into a different world. It’s hard to say what people will experience—and I want to keep it quite open-ended—but, for me, it’s more about asking questions rather than providing answers.
 
With Apartamento, you’ve had the chance to step inside the homes of many eccentrics and creatives around the world. How do you feel this has shaped your personal taste?
 
Seeing so many people’s homes conditions the way you think about your own space, and this is actually one of the reasons that comfort instinctively came up. Maybe the only nondescript rule of Apartamento is that we show people who have a strong expression in their personal environment, which often means a completely different thing from person to person. It’s made me realize that I’m more interested in venturing outside of what I consider beautiful versus not beautiful, or what I like or don’t like—looking at things in that sort of black-and-white way doesn’t apply anymore. 

For me, visual comfort is very important, and that comfort is more based on what I find interesting. I prefer to live with objects that are challenging, that you may not like at first, but which slowly grow on you. That comes from having seen so many houses, how different people live with different things, and have different standards of beauty and of comfort.
 
There seem to be more and more artists working with “functional sculpture,” a blurry middle ground that defies conventional lines between art and design. Of course, there’s a longer history of artists who have done this, but why do you think this approach resonates today?
 
Today, houses are being turned inside out in a way that has never happened before. With Instagram and social media, it’s easier to show what you have in your house and also see what other people have—there’s a heightened interest and attention to this realm because you can share your sofas as easily as you would, say, your sneakers. What the objects in the show have in common is that they transcend the comfort zone of conventionality. And what I wanted to highlight here, a bit, is that it has been happening for some time—it’s not just a recent phenomenon, though there is obviously more attention and interest to it now. It’s about objects that have a strong and critical art component, but also could be used in your everyday life. 

The toilet-sink definitely challenges my comfort zone! One is for cleaning and the other expelling, and yes, you usually see the two together, but not so … close.
 
That was one of the few works I commissioned for the show. I thought the idea of having such an often disregarded, common, utilitarian everyday object would be a fun way to bring in some humor. Guillermo made his own version of it by combining it with a sink and flattening the surface—it makes fun of the idea that these fixtures just kind of recycle the same water. It’s a challenging piece, and interesting to see alongside other works. 

Another piece [in the show] that’s relevant for me is Nicola L.’s “Canapé Homme Geant.” I like the connotations of her being a woman artist, chopping a man into pieces, and then sitting on him. It’s super powerful and feminist. Another important piece is a couch by John Chamberlain. It’s just a beautiful, generous couch to lie down in. It’s so simple—he cut some foam and put a parachute over it. It’s one of the contrasting pieces of the show. When you see this together with the others, it’s meant for you to be like, “Oh, that’s comfort!”

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Touch
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Secondhand Solution
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(Courtesy Object Limited)

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With increasing awareness and reporting on the ongoing climate crisis, we’ve learned more about the top industry offenders and culprits with the largest footprints. Fossil fuels and agriculture top the list—but the clothing and apparel industry takes a significant toll as well, accounting for 10 percent of humanity’s carbon emissions and a major consumer—not to mention polluter—of the planet’s water supply. Producing a single pair of jeans requires 2,000 gallons of water, on average, and laundering synthetic fibers are to blame for nearly a third of all microplastics found in oceans. Meanwhile, 85 percent of all textiles end up in the dump, as fast fashion feeds an appetite for constantly buying new, cheaply made garments. (To go deeper into all of this, we recommend Tatiana Schlossberg’s new book, Inconspicuous Consumption.)
 
The stark figures make for a compelling case for shopping vintage and secondhand, and with a plethora of online sellers, boutiques, and marketplaces, from eBay and 1stdibs to Etsy and Depop, there is a style and budget for everyone. One of our favorite places to browse is Object Limited, an online shop and app that offers highly curated sales hosted by vendors who are vetted and selected by application. Its founder, Anna Gray, a vintage hound, writer, and sometimes model, started the easy-to-navigate platform after a cross-country road trip yielded a literal truckload of thrift and antique store finds. “It opened our eyes to how much stuff is out there, just waiting for a good eye to show it to someone that needs or wants it,” Gray says, adding, “Everything ‘new’ and trending—fashion, home goods, etcetera—is a remake of something else. You never have to buy anything new, except for tech and underwear.” 

Buying vintage not only makes for more conscientious consumption, it’s perennially in vogue. Virgil Abloh, for one, thinks streetwear is dying and will soon be a thing of the past: “I think that fashion is gonna go away from buying a box-fresh something,” he recently told Dazed. “It’ll be like, hey, I’m gonna go into my archive.” While buying vintage clothing alone won’t save the planet (and may come with hidden environmental costs), at the very least, giving a secondhand garment another life always makes for one less piece of clothing in the trash.

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SPONSORED BY
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Taste
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Syrup Season
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(Photo: Fabio Chizzola)
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Eighteen years ago, Italian-born Fabio Chizzola traded fashion photography for farming, when he purchased an heirloom apple farm in upstate New York, where he now runs Westwind Orchard year-round. While summer and fall are easily his busiest seasons, with spring spent preparing for both, Chizzola tells us about the peak, all-too-brief harvest he looks forward to each winter: maple syrup.

“We’re mainly an apple orchard. We make alcoholic cider, we serve food, allow folks to pick their own apples, and we also grow some plums, raspberries, blackberries, Asian pears, make jams, and harvest honey—we’ve widened our set of crops over the years, because you never know if there will be frost in the spring, and how or if that will affect each. In the beginning, I would split time between the city and the farm, but now it’s been some time since I’ve fully relocated here. I work sixteen-hour days. Especially in the summer, it’s just nonstop.

Before farming, the calendar year and summer used to signify a month back home in Italy—now, I vacation in the winter. Winter, for me, is when I take care of myself—I have more time. But we’re open all year. And at the end of my property, I have more than two hundred maple trees. A few years ago, I was crazy enough to say, “Okay, we’re not busy in the winters. Why don’t we get busy? We can try to make maple syrup with the trees.” So now we don’t have as much of a break in the winters. [Laughs
 
To harvest maple syrup, we have sap lines set up, which tap all of our trees and collect [it] into a series of large buckets. We work with the weather: If it’s too cold during the day—let’s say, 20 degrees [Fahrenheit]—the sap won’t run because the trees will freeze over. When it’s above 32 degrees during the day, and below that at night, that’s when it’s prime time for maple syrup. Here, where we’re up north, but not too far from the city, the peak season will happen in the next few weeks and last up to the start of March. But it really depends on the microclimate of where you are. In Canada, they have at least two and a half months of maple syrup. 

Tapping the tree is quite simple: We go maybe an inch and a half in, and then we just let the sap flow and collect it. Forty gallons of maple sap will yield one gallon of maple syrup. Sap is basically water with 1.5 to 3 percent sugar content, so we boil that off and reduce [it] in a giant evaporator until the sugar content is closer to 68 percent. By then, the color deepens and the texture is much thicker. We make two types: a normal maple syrup and one that’s aged in bourbon casks for a smoky taste. The second one’s my favorite. I’ll put it on granola in the morning; we also use maple syrup on one of our pizzas, a sweet one with ricotta, apples, and whatever fruit is in season. It’s fantastic. It’s all-natural, but it’s a sugar, of course—you can’t really have too much of it.”
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Hear
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2020 Listen
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(Photo: Jack Tumen)
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New year, new grooves. Evan Shornstein, the Woodstock, New York, native behind the ambient-electronic outfit Photay, shares with us a playlist of motivational tracks to usher in good vibes for 2020. A particular surprise—for us, anyway—is the second-to-last track, Bob Dylan’s “All the Tired Horses,” from his 1970 album Self Portrait. Like us, you’ll probably have it on heavy rotation in the months ahead.

Viderunt Omnes,” Pérotin, performed by Hilliard Ensemble 
“When I was growing up, my mother played music of the Middle Ages in our house during the shorter cold winter months and holidays. I find it deeply comforting and cozy.” 

Bench,” Clark
“I was part of a big tour this past autumn. The opening DJ, PBDY, played this tune every night in each city around the continent.”

Come Down ’68,” Lord Creator
“An all-time favorite, and a great tune to greet the day. It never fails to bring my spirits up.”

Danado Cantador,” Fernando Falco
“The closing piece from the 1981 masterpiece Memoria Das Aquas, this track contains hypnotic sounds of the Berimbau within large, passionate arrangements.”

All the Tired Horses,” Bob Dylan
“This track is deeply heartwarming, both alone and shared with friends.”

Illusion,” Norma Tanega
“R.I.P. to Norma Tenega, who passed away on Dec. 29, 2019. Apparently her music career kicked off when she was discovered singing as a music counselor at a camp in the Catskill Mountains (my home!).”

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Smell
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Winter Fresh
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(Photo: Andrew Zuckerman)
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We associate summer with the smell of salt and sand, and autumn with cinnamon and campfires—but what about winter? The peak of fresh pine has escaped us for the moment, our holiday wreaths and Christmas trees mulched. As it turns out, cold weather has an adverse effect on our senses. The scent of a “crisp” and snowy winter day is, in fact, one of absence and void. Fresh snowfall brings humidity to the air we breathe in, giving our noses a sensory hit that we feel more than we smell. Molecules in the air slow down in colder temperatures, while, as researchers have found, our olfactory receptors also retract a bit more into our noses, possibly as a natural bodily defense against cold air. Whether it’s snowy or not, we smell fewer odors than we’re accustomed to during the winter as a result. For the moment, the silver lining is consolation enough for us here at The Slowdown, daydreaming of warmer weather.

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Until next week...

Today’s email was written by Aileen Kwun.

Editor: Spencer Bailey
Creative Director: Andrew Zuckerman
Producer: Mike Lala

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The Slowdown | 508 West 26th Street, 7A | New York, NY 10001 | United States

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