Culture Critic Alice Kiff is the next visitor to the Culture Corner as she discusses her three cultural favourites
Van Gogh’s Tree Roots
As someone with Dutch heritage, the work of Van Gogh has been a part of my life since visiting the Van Gogh museum with my relatives as a child. However it took a little growing up, and a little suffering of my own mental health problems to gain a deeper appreciation of the Dutchman’s work. Positioned at the end of the Van Gogh Museum, Tree Roots was probably the last work that Van Gogh created. Tree Roots was painted in July 1890 in the idyllic gardens of Auvers-sur-Oise; shortly after the deeply ill artist left a mental asylum, and shortly before his tragic death the very same month. The piece strikes a chord with me and many others who have suffered mental illness; it is a deep, dark, tangled knot of roots, beginning nowhere and ending nowhere. It is a tragic piece; painted in a idyllic landscape; a poignant reflection of the art that this troubled artist created in his short but incredibly celebrated lifetime.
“Back to Back” by Rhea Butcher and Cameron Esposito
Okay – onto much happier things! Comedy duo Butcher and Esposito’s incredible stand-up show is so funny, heartwarming and weep-into-your-pillow adorable that it almost has you forgetting how utterly millenial you feel, listening to a queer comedy show on Spotify in your student house. In “Back to Back”, the married couple effortlessly bounce off of eachother; each with a unique wit and anecdotes a-plenty. Even though I only listened to this show upon its release in 2017, I’m including it because it’s the kind of media I wish I grew up with. Butcher and Esposito regale the struggles and joys of being queer women; from the awkwardness of gym changing rooms at school to the butch lesbian reality of having to rent a boy’s tuxedo for a wedding. Esposito and Butcher are utterly warm and always hilarious; and should be on everyone’s to-listen list this year.
Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
In the words of Bob Dylan, “On the Road changed my life like it changed everyone else’s.” You’d be hard-pressed to find an adolescent who read Kerouac’s defining work of counterculture and remained untouched by it in some way. As a sixteen year old living in Surrey in 2013, I couldn’t be much further away from the jazzy, wild and free excitement of soaring through the States in a Hudson commodore with your best friends; but the story’s celebration of youth, travel, and adventure, hit home with me. On the Road is as relevant to young adults who want to change the world today as it was in the 60s. It challenged core American ideals, rigid family structures, patriotism and attitudes towards youth culture. On the Road manages to do so much without being over dramatic; it’s easy-going, adventurous, personable, totally genuine, and definitely had me checking when the next flight to San Francisco was on more than one occasion.