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Saturday, December 14, 2019
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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 peruse the Noguchi Museum’s just-launched online catalogue raisonné, learn about the art of Japanese gift-wrapping from Nalata Nalata, talk botanical drinks with the founders of Brooklyn’s Forthave Spirits, take in Sigur Rós frontman Jónsi’s first art exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in L.A., and get nostalgic for the scent of pine.

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1dc3695d-61f2-431d-964a-fef21b62c7bd.jpgOn Ep. 30 of our Time Sensitive podcast, Spencer talks with Suketu Mehta, author of the new book This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto.
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See
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Noguchipedia
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Model for Isamu Noguchi’s proposed Expo ’70 U.S. Pavilion (1968). (Courtesy The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum. Photo: Kevin Noble)
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The lasting legacy of the late Japanese-American artist and designer Isamu Noguchi can be seen everywhere in popular culture, from the influence of his Akari lantern lights, much-imitated and still produced today, to public outdoor artworks, to a coffee table that’s a part of the modernist canon (to the point of parody). These are but mere skims on the surface of a vast and rigorous body of work that included playgrounds, landscapes, plazas, set designs, lighting, furniture, and of course sculpture, his principal mode of making—smooth and contoured abstractions, impossibly carved, polished and stippled from weighty, solid stone. The extent of Noguchi’s prodigious output and mastery is the latest internet rabbit hole to take over our minds and screens—thanks to his namesake museum in Long Island City, Queens, which has spent years digitizing a comprehensive archive and expanded catalog raisonné of his life and work. (Full disclosure: this newsletter’s editor is on the museum’s board.) 

Among the more than 60,000 holdings available to peruse digitally are archival photographs, manuscripts, drawings, correspondences (with a nexus of figures from his personal and creative life), as well as never fully realized works. We’re partial to the colorful, undulating playscape, pictured above, he proposed for the U.S. Pavilion at the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka, a tech-forward expo unusually filled with robotic experiments and inflatables fueled by the Space Age. With an underground exhibition space, “my entry, made with the assistance of Shoji Sadao, was, of course, not that of architecture and may have been a mistake because it was not selected,” reads a memo from Noguchi, who was instead commissioned to create a set of fountains for the fairgrounds: enlarged and elevated cubes that would rain water down, as if defying gravity and propelling into the sky.

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Touch
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Wrap Genius
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(Courtesy Nalata Nalata)
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Gift wrap can transform an everyday object to something more special and thoughtful, and nowhere else is this custom taken more delicately than in Japan, where the style of wrapping varies from item to item. “We love the emphasis on gift-wrapping in Japanese culture: It not only makes the experience of accepting the gift better, but also of giving the gift,” says Angélique J.V. Chmielewski, a frequent traveler to Japan and co-founder of the specialty home and gift shop Nalata Nalata, which stocks a curated assortment of crafted goods from all over the country. “The value of the gift is not as important as the manner of presentation. If you’re offering money, it typically is inserted into an envelope that has a decorative rice-paper cord knot on the front, called a mizuhiki. For objects, there are cloths called furoshiki that are available. They evolved from a need to wrap items for protection during transport centuries ago, and became a part of how items are offered to friends and family.”
 
There are many different ways to wrap items creatively with furoshiki—anything from wine bottles and ceramics to fruit and loaves of bread—and the beautiful cloths can be reused for future gifting, making it a more sustainable alternative to the standard paper and ribbon, which is sure to get ravaged and tossed after a single use. You can also wrap using tenegui, a thin cotton hand towel commonly used in Japanese kitchens, which similarly comes in a range of colors and patterns, says Chmielewski, “but we like the idea of reusing cloth you have laying around the home as well, like a linen scarf or cotton bandana.” As for the actual folding, there are plenty of online tutorials available—some more intricate and difficult to pull off than others—but don’t sweat the details too much. When it comes to gifting, it’s the thought and care that matters: “Gift-wrapping is a reflection of the amount of consideration and time the giver put into selecting the right item for the individual and is a sign of respect.”
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SPONSORED BY
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Taste
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In Good Spirits
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Locally roasted coffee beans. (Courtesy Forthave Spirits. Photo: Cristian Candamill)
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Brooklyn distillers and artists Aaron Fox and Daniel de la Nuez, co-founders of the botanicals-focused Forthave Spirits, tell us about their latest concoction, Brown, a coffee liqueur made with locally roasted beans from Café Integral.
 

You both have artistic backgrounds in painting, writing, and film. What led you to start Forthave?

Aaron Fox: Daniel and I became friends about seven years ago, nerding out over wine and other dinner drinks—amaro in particular. We started to make little experiments in his kitchen, and when that started to take over his dining room, we moved into this space that I would use as a painting studio. A few years ago, we went legit with a licensed space and began making it for people to buy. We started with this love of amaro, and that expanded into aperitivo. From there, our interest expanded into this larger category of what we call “botanical spirits.” 
 
Your color series includes different takes on classic spirits—Red for aperitivo, Blue for gin. Tell us about the newest, Brown.
 
Daniel de la Nuez: The ingredient came first. Here, where we’re based in [Williamsburg], it’s a big warehouse complex, and there are a lot of small food startups. Earlier on, when we had our beginning studio space, our neighbors were this mother-son team from Nicaragua, and they created a beautiful company, roasting and importing coffee, called Café Integral. We started trading Red for coffee and became friends over the past few years. Naturally, Aaron and I thought, Hey, what if we were to collaborate on something? Forthave is ingredient-driven, so we took a lot of time trying a lot of different coffees, roasting processes, fermentation processes that growers use, and then we landed on this one bean, the Pacamara, grown by Don Sergio Ortez.
 
What about the Pacamara stood out in particular?

AF: It’s fermented like you would a chocolate, which is an anaerobic fermentation. Most coffee is what you’d call ‘washed coffee.’ You wash the fruit right off of the bean, which is its pit, and then you try it out in the sun. And then there are ‘natural coffees,’ where you let it ferment in the coffee cherry. This has a bit of both; it ferments inside the cherry for a week or two, then it gets a partial sort of dry wash, where some of the fruit and mucilage is left on, but the roots are taken off. Then it undergoes an anaerobic fermentation for another two weeks before it’s put out in the sun to dry. Between that process and this particular bean, where it’s grown, and the farmer, together you get this coffee that’s remarkably chocolate-y.
 
We do two different processes, then we blend them and age them. First, Café Integral will do a large cold brew for us: they have a giant machine where they can produce three hundred liters of immaculate cold drip. We start with that, then we fortify by adding spirit so that it rests and starts to integrate. Then, separately, we have another industrial-size, special filter we had made for us—it’s a bit like a giant pour-over or French press, where the coffee sits and macerates and ages for a long, slow soak. That one is blended with the cold brew and additionally aged.
 
How do you like your Brown?
 
DN: Our focus is on making it so that you can drink it just by itself, as a sort of after-dinner treat. We’ve [had] a bunch of tasty cocktails [that use it]—there’s a pizza shop in Philly that does an affogato with it. There’s been quite a few people who’ve been texting us about mixing it in with their espresso in the morning, and, I don’t know, that sounds pretty enjoyable on a cold day.
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Hear
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Vocal Range
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Jónsi’s “Í Blóma (In Bloom)” (2019). (Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. Photo: Jeff McLane)
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The ethereal and eerie, sonic landscapes of the Icelandic avant-garde rock band Sigur Rós transcend language—and only partly on account of lyrics that are sung in both their native tongue and an unintelligible, invented one that’s been called “Hopelandic.” Frontman Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson morphs and bends his folkloric falsetto like an ambient drone, chartering an otherworldly sound that first garnered global acclaim in the early aughts. In the years following, the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist has collaborated with a myriad of artists, including Doug Aitken, Olafur Eliasson, and Merce Cunningham, across many mediums.

For his first-ever solo exhibition—on view through Jan. 9 at Tanya Bonakdar’s Los Angeles outpost—Jónsi explores various contours of sound with a trio of multichannel audio works that explore shape, feel, smell, and movement. The first, “Í Blóma (In Bloom),” projects sound from a cluster made of of P.A. speakers, chrome buttplugs, metal, and wood that has been formed into the shape of a foxglove, a flower that’s both toxic and medicinal, accompanied by foul notes of cadaverine—the putrid smell of rotting flesh. “Hvítblinda (Whiteout)” brings viewers into a blank, brightly lit gallery filled with the scent of ozone. It’s an uplifting space foiled by the last, “Svartalda (Dark Wave),” a nearly pitch-black room filled with notes of seaweed and ASMR sounds alternating between ocean waves, whispers, and breaths. Quixotic, uneasy, and complex as ever, this is a new side of Jónsi we welcome seeing—and hearing—more of.

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Smell
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Pine Soul
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There’s no need to cry over spilled milk—especially when it brings with it a whiff of opportunity. German-Canadian perfumer Julius Samaan first introduced the ubiquitous Little Trees pine-scented car freshener in 1952, after meeting a milk truck driver from upstate New York who complained of the smell of spills throughout the day. With its sharp and pungent aroma, the tree-shaped cardboard cutout was a small but simple solution for the driver’s relatable occupational hazard (and, really, anyone with a little funk in their trunk). Sold at gas stations for a thrifty $1.99 to this day, the kitschy little ornaments now come in dozens of sickly scents, from Black Ice to Caribbean Colada, that stray far too far from the original thing, let alone anything you’d ever want to smell, spilled milk or not. Then and now, the smell of fresh evergreen pine is synonymous with festivities of the holiday season, and you can easily enjoy the scent without the guilt of uprooting a whole tree—or giving into a sad artificial stand-in: Simply boil some dry or fallen needles in water at home for a similar effect, and an instant quench for time-honored nostalgia.

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Until next week...

Today’s email was written by Aileen Kwun.

Editor: Spencer Bailey
Creative Director: Andrew Zuckerman
Producer: Emily Queen

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