Interview: Ayshia Taskin

Edinburgh artist wants to reduce food waste and global hunger – one corn puff at a time.

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Artist Ayshia Taskin (Photo Credit: Rachel Lee)

Meet Ayshia Taskin. She’s a mother, an artist, a wife, a student – and now, thanks to her recent project, an engineer.

With her installation performance art piece, Paradise Corns, Ayshia hopes to prompt visitors into conversations about the impact food waste and modern day corporate consumerism has on world hunger. Paradise Corns – the name of the machine Ayshia built herself – churns out edible corn puffs which visitors of the exhibition are free to help themselves to.

When I first encounter Ayshia, she envelopes me in a friendly hug. In the interview below, Ayshia passionately discusses the personal connection Paradise Corns has to her and about her hopes of a world in the not-too distant future where food waste has drastically reduced and everyone is happy and healthy with a full belly.

I thought that was all my life was going to work in hospitality, I never thought I was going to be an artist. I’m the first in my family on both sides to go to university. I’m really lucky because my husband took the brunt financially, he told me to finish university and focus on my art. Luckily I got funding to go to Venice, there are some really supportive tutors at ECA. I always try and keep myself and my work down to earth. It gives me a good worth ethic.

I think what happens in your childhood really affects you when you grow up. When I was a kid in Cyprus, me, my brother and sister would see the British tourists with an abundance of food and enjoying their holiday. I think that sticks in my brain that I was born in Britain but only had a bit of couscous to eat. It is very surreal to look back on.

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“Paradise Corns” produces an abundance of corn puffs (Photo Credit: Ayshia Taskin)

When I look and see people still starving in 2018 when we shouldn’t be – we have all these factories and mechanisms to make things available to people – it’s very irritating in my mind the way the system works and they don’t necessarily want everyone to have an abundance of food or anything because it’s all about the capitalist system. I think we are at a point where we don’t need capitalism anymore. There’s enough food in the world but it’s not distributed properly.

I don’t like to see the waste. It’s unnecessary. In the West we are so disconnected from other countries who don’t have access to food at all. If everyone was just more aware of the rest of the world, and how people in the world are struggling to survive then things will change.

“Paradise Corns” is the amalgamation of performance, multi-sensory methods, i.e. olfactory senses, sight, smell, taste and auditory. Visual stimuli in the form of video and the literal production of food – auditory stimulation in the form of the sounds of the milling machine, extruder and videos. I created a set of films as part of the Paradise Corns project that are inspired by adverts from the 90s. They were very child-focused…bright colours…very appealing. ‘You can have this, when you want it’…but not really if you don’t have any money. It helped create a spoiled society and food waste.

I harbour a fascination of mass food production and consumerism. When I watch documentaries about starving people, food waste, countries unable to feed their people and my son asks, ‘well why don’t we just send food’. I always think ‘yeah we could, but that’s not going to sustain them’. People need to eat everyday so if I make a machine, you can make a machine too.

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Ayshia constructs her masterpiece (Photo Credit: Ayshia Taskin)

I didn’t study engineering but I built a machine. It shows that women can engineer things. I’m not an engineer – I’m not even good at basic mathematics – but when you have such a desire to make something or do something for a purpose you just have to go for it.

Women are held back from doing engineering jobs because they don’t have the belief they can do it because it’s so historically male dominated. I think we have to encourage girls from young age to be interested in engineering and building things. The logic brain is considered masculine and the creative side of the brain is considered the feminine, sensitive side. To this all starts at childhood, so I think it’s important for parents and teachers to give girls mechanical sets.

We should all try our best but it shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of individuals. The Council should provide more outdoor space to grow your own things – fruits, vegetables, corn – whatever! It’s more sustainable. I would love for anyone to be able to walk into a supermarket and buy whatever they want and to have an abundance of food, but it’s just not possible.

I set up a free-for-all pantry in the studio. I wouldn’t say it was me, I would just do it. I set myself a budget of five pounds a week to get as much as I can and then everyone can help themselves. People in the studio can add to it they want but not forced to, or don’t have to spend as much as a fiver.

With Paradise Corns, I’m creating the food waste and I want it to look shocking. The project has so many layers. I don’t want to tell people what to take away from it – they may want to just take a corn puff! But I hope the work inspires people to question how food is made and consumed so we can create a future where people do not starve.

Behind the Red Door

Twenty miles outside of Scotland’s bustling capital lies a place with a vibrant community of close to 20,000 people, where the Union canal divides the neighbourhoods at the hilltop and the High Street at the foot, which leads to the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots. In many ways, the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow is a worthy equal to Edinburgh.

However, the recent launch of Red Door means the West Lothian town may steal the limelight from the big city when it comes to showcasing local music. On the high street, hidden between the eleven pubs, small cafes and local shops, there is a red door which many people often walk past without noticing  — the entranceway to St. Peter’s Church. In the close future, following the work of three musical enthusiasts, this red door will signify the portal to a new venue which could bring the community’s music scene to life.

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The recent renovations transformed the heart of the 90-year-old church into an unexpected Greek-orthodox style kirk with a Cycladic style dome, gifting the upcoming venue with perfect architectural acoustics which further enhances the intimacy of the venue, which will fill a void in the community’s arts scene.

Although the town hosts an annual folk festival which draws in big crowds and has a jazz club which puts on regular shows, it lacks a venue fit for these types of events. For years, local musicophiles and art-lovers have had to hop on trains to travel to the neighbouring cities Glasgow and Edinburgh to see touring artists or leftist, specialised (music) events. As big venue spaces in the capital, such as Studio 24 on Calton Road, Grindlay Street’s Citrus Club, and Market Street’s Electric Circus closed up recently, this is the perfect time for Red Door to attempt to provide an eclectic mix of talent for the town’s inhabitants to enjoy right on their doorsteps.

Red Door as a brand is the brainchild of Stewart Veitch, a solicitor and trustee of the church, Robin Connelly,  who has a background in promoting small-scale events and jazz gigs at St James’ Church in Leith, and Rob Adams, a journalist and music critic. One of the co-creators, Stewart Veitch, explains how this will change both the church and the community: “I suppose it is about creating an identity, because for many people in the town, the church is just a red door on the high street, they don’t know what lies behind it, so this is an invitation for them to look behind it and see what is there.”

Red Door drew its first big crowd in with Richard Holloway’s book launch of ‘Waiting for the Last Bus’. The former Episcopal bishop of Edinburgh, who is also a broadcast journalist and author, was the first to baptise the church as a cultural venue to explain his exploration in prose of our fear of death. The event was organised in collaboration with Far From The Madding Crowd, the town’s local bookshop which was awarded  ‘Independent Bookshop of the Year for Scotland’ in 2017.

Sally Pattle, who owns the bookshop, commented on the collaboration: “At Far From The Madding Crowd, we are really excited about Red Door and what it means for Linlithgow. There is already a vibrant cultural scene here in the town, but Red Door are offering something slightly different in that there will be regular events for people to look forward to.”

Following this successful partnership, both local entities have decided to put their hands together once again for a music-cum-literary event. On Saturday, October 27, two of the most distinctive jazz guitarists in the UK, Don Paterson and Graeme Stephen, will help inaugurate Red Door as a musical venue. Aside from the concert, which will see the adventurous alliance explore melody and musical invention in a whole new setting, includes the book launch of Paterson’s latest book ‘The Fall at Home — New and Collected Poems.’

This event will be followed by an intimate gig with BBC Folk Award-winning singer-songwriter Chris Wood, whose first stop of his tour is the little burgh, and a look into different cultures with Jyotsna Srikanth, a superb violinist, who plays in the (Indian) Carnatic tradition. Veitch explains the importance of including touring and world-music artists: “We are setting up what we think are high-quality artists, who seem interested in being involved, almost to establish this as another gig on the circuit for similar acts. We are keen to see how these artists will respond to this place as well as how the local community will view it as an audience.”

Starting next year, the Red Door team is hoping to incorporate spoken word into its program, including hosting an event with Shore Poets, the main poetry collective in Edinburgh. When asked about how Red Door will establish itself from here on, Veitch added: “The initial splash of events are close together and we are hoping that, by doing so, we will establish an audience quite quickly. We want to draw in a listening audience and create social space to gather people, get them away from Netflix.”

Red Door is hosting events on Saturday October 27, Thursday November 8 and Wednesday November 28.

Preserving Scottish Gaelic heritage and culture through the Royal National Mòd

Culture and history are two of the key motivators for visits to Scotland and the Highlands and Islands, and they play an important part of the visitor experience. Scotland is rich in history and archaeology — from World Heritage Sites to ancient monuments, listed buildings to historic battlefields, cultural traditions to our myths, stories and legends.

However, there is a fear that Scotland is risking the irrecoverable loss of its heritage by abandoning the use of its native language — Scottish Gaelic. Only 57,375 people which is the equivalent of 1.1% of the Scottish population aged over three years old, are reported as able to speak Gaelic.

Luckily, the Gaelic community is actively trying to preserve its culture and traditions, and the Royal National Mòd is one of them.

The Royal National Mòd is the main music festival of Scottish Gaelic literature, songs, arts and culture and is one of the more notable peripatetic cultural festivals in Scotland. It is the most important of several other Mòds that are held annually. This year it was held in Dunoon and was organised by An Comunn Gàidhealach (The Highland Association).

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The Royal National Mòd 2018 programme

The festival ran from October 12 to 20 and included many competitions and awards for people as young as seven years old. Whether you are fluent in Gaelic or still learning the language, everyone was welcomed to take part.

Ricky Hannaway, an Assistant Floor Manager and Runner Co-ordinator working on the Mòd, spoke about what impact festivals like this one has on the Gaelic community.

“There are only about 60 thousand Gaelic speakers,” Ricky explained. “So, to have a situation where you can put more emphasis on the culture, where people learn old songs, where people learn old arrangements of things when they learn instruments to go do musical events, it’s really good.

“Our culture is an oral tradition where we pass everything on, all the information, through word of mouth, spoken stories and songs. So now that we’ve got a place and a platform to do that it’s really good.”

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Dunoon presents… The Royal National Mòd 2018

During the Mòd festival, people celebrate old traditions of the Gaelic culture. But some believe this isn’t the best approach to keep the language alive, Ricky said.

“Some people don’t have an opinion of the Mòd of something that’s good, they think it’s a bit detrimental to the culture, thinking we’re always looking backwards. But I think it’s something that can preserve what we’ve got but has a forwarding outlook as well.”

Not only does Ricky work in the festival, but he also competes in it.

“It’s an absolute experience to be a part of the Mòd,” he said. “For years I sang in the Mod and I never knew anything about the media side of things. Now doing the media side of things, it’s great and it’s adventitious because I know the people involved in putting the Mòd together.”

Rip It Up – Inside the Simple Minds of Scotland’s Musical Geniuses

When thinking of popular music in Scotland, what comes to mind? Does one wonder about those extra 500 miles you’d be willing to walk just to be the man who walks a thousand miles to fall down at your door?

Maybe you reminisce about being around loved ones belting out Loch Lomond Hogmonay or the Paulo Nutinis and Simple Minds of the world come to mind. These are all great examples of what makes music in Scotland great, but they are just a few drops in a great ocean of musical magic, and diving beneath the surface reveals a vast magnitude of songs, genres and artists dating back to the dance hall days of the 1930’s. Enter Rip It Up, an exhibition celebrating Caledonian musical creativeness.

Working alongside BBC Scotland, the National Museum of Scotland has put together an exhibition that takes audiences on a journey through popular music history in Scotland. One of the foremost surprises about this exhibit is discovering all of the bands and artists that were born in Caledonia. It may surprise fans of legendary Australian rockers AC/DC  to learn that the iconic Young brothers were born in Cranhill, Glasgow, alongside original singer Bon Scott, who grew up in Ayr.

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AC/DC Guitarist Angus Young, who was born in Glasgow. Photo by Ed Vill.

Walking through the decades, this exhibit features many interactive portals, from jukeboxes to music videos, giving the visitor a chance to learn about the early days of Scottish folk, with key figures such as Hamish Imlach, to Billy Connelly’s short-lived group The Humblebums. 

Scotland is a great ocean of musical magic, and diving beneath the surface reveals a vast magnitude of songs, genres and artists dating back to the dance hall days of the 1930’s.

As the exhibition travels forward in time, the faces and names become more recognisable. Instruments and memorabilia from bands who became successful worldwide are proudly displayed behind thick glass and “no photography allowed” signs, from custom Bay City Rollers guitars to the sunglasses Ultravox singer Midge Ure wore during the iconic Live Aid event. It features striking visuals, from old punk rock posters to stadium gigs projected on walls, and the ever-changing playlist of great Scots artists, from In a Big Country to Many of Horror.

Rip-It-Up curator Stephen Allan explains why it is relevant to start at the very beginning and work towards where we are now in music history: “Between the objects, the AV and the music, people will be able to learn more about their favourite artists and see their treasured objects up close, but also to discover music that is new to them in a whistlestop tour of over six decades of Scottish pop.”  

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Musical Scots legends Simple Minds. photo by Stefan Brending

Many of the artists included in the exhibit were interviewed and feature on various videos played there. A continuous theme that emerges from these interviews is the sense of community and respect bands had for one another. Anyone who has lived in Scotland will be painfully aware of the cold, wet nights that can plague many of our months. Along with boredom, unemployment and creative energy, this seems to have sparked many bands that started in the working man’s clubs of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and went on to perform on the prominent stages all over the world.

Allan explains why this exhibit will relate to a wide audience: “Popular music is a shared experience and a really important one in many people’s lives. We want the exhibition to capture people’s imagination and allow them to reflect on their own experiences of listening to and enjoying music.”

Shirley Manson from the bands Garbage and Goodbye McKenzie applauds the National Museum of Scotland for recognising the depth and influence of Scottish artists: “Scotland has long deserved an examination of its rich musical heritage, the effects of which can be heard all over our globe today. While music is universal, and Garbage is an international band, being Scottish is a large part of who I am and has had a huge bearing on my work and our career.”

Scotland has inspired many bands that started in the working man’s clubs of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and went on to perform on the prominent stages all over the world.

A visit to this exhibit is essential for any young musician looking to turn their talent into a lifelong adventure or for the die-hard music fans who grew up with posters of these musicians hanging on their bedroom walls. Those who came before, and continue to create, are all represented under the banner of creative Caledonia. The exhibit will close on November 25, so be sure to catch it, before they rip it up and start again.

More Information on Rip It Up can be found here

As well as the main exhibition itself, students from our very own Napier University will be performing a night of Scottish songs from artists featured at Rip It Up, on Thursday 25th October. Tickets for the event, held at Summerhall, can be found here

 

Positivity and religion

Jade

Miriam Hussain

A story of a Scottish-Pakistani girl changing the status quo in Edinburgh.

With more and more people from different backgrounds moving to Edinburgh, the influx of new cultures and nationalities is changing the demographics of Scotland. This can be a hard pill to swallow for some, and integration can be even harder for others. Some people are trying to change that; Miriam Hussain is one of those people.

Miriam’s parents both came to Scotland when they were young in pursuit of better work and have since forged a good life for their family, but she says she still feels a close link to her heritage: “I’m Scottish-Pakistani. Born and raised in Fife by Pakistani born parents. Saying ‘Scottish’ doesn’t cover it. I feel just as much Pakistani as I do a Scottish lass.” Growing up in Scotland has given her a Scottish accent, a Scottish sense of humour, a Scottish lifestyle – if you were to close your eyes and talk to Miriam, you would be none the wiser that she is Scottish-Pakistani.

Both of these factors contributed to making Miriam very loud and proud about women’s rights, social issues and religion. She confesses she isn’t quiet, retiring or timid, even when some people expect her to be.

In the final year of her English Degree, Miriam has a positive message to spread, and she wants as many people to feel accepted by her as she can.

“In my experience, Edinburgh is a city where you definitely have to create your own space, which is something I’m doing at Edinburgh Napier”, she says.
“I am the founder and president of Napier’s first Southern Asian Social Society. I didn’t want to feel like ‘the only’ Asian, so I created a space for us to get together and socialise and create our own authentic narrative, our own student community.” She might have created a space for other Southern Asians, but she’s also become a middle-man of sorts between Southern Asians and people of other backgrounds. Miriam feels strongly about answering any questions that you might have and tries to debunk myths people may have of her culture, to avoid ignorance being manifested within her group of friends and family.

A phrase I’ve heard a lot is ‘You’re not like other Asians’ – as if it’s a compliment to compare me to their distorted view on Asian women?

There’s also the assumption that when I tell people I study English, their first instinct is that I’m learning to speak English, rather than studying English literature. It amazes me how casually I’ve experienced it. It’s really scary, just how integrated it is within us all.”

Instead of scaring Miriam off, these prejudices have encouraged Mirian to make a positive change. She spends a lot of her time highlighting indirect racism and misconceptions on a daily basis, and leaves in her wake a trail of enlightened and more supportive people. When she’s not changing the world for the better, one ignorant person at a time, she’s always got a good Halal restaurant recommendation – “Cheap and Cheerful – Spicy Bite” at Fountain Park. It’s owned by a great family, who really took care of me during my first year! And if you really want to treat yourself, head to Dishoom. When I graduate, you’ll find me there.”

A trip down family lane with Edinburgh Napier’s photography exhibition

Edinburgh is often viewed as one the most picturesque cities, with photographic hotspots at every turn and corner.

However, Solasta Photographic Collective is hoping to focus our attention towards a more pressing issue that is growing in the society.

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Poster for the exhibition Image Credit: Solasta

Formed by five photography students from Edinburgh Napier university, the collective is running a free event to display a range of work from photographers who have been exploring the range of modern family types.

The exhibition is titled ‘Post Nuclear Family’ and it explores the meaning of family, especially those that are stereotyped as ‘bad’ in the media, in a positive light.

Lauren Ray, the photographer behind the ‘Lonely Child’ exhibit said:

“We all wanted to create work that we had a personal connection with, but we also wanted to be able to tackle a subject much bigger than us. A subject that could be relatable to a great number of people not just restricted to the UK.”

The Nuclear family is defined as a couple and their dependent children, regarded as a basic social unit. However, as humanity changes, there is more than just a single way to define ‘family’.

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Part of Ili’s exhibit about her non-related family in Edinburgh Image Credit: Solasta

The display promotes the inclusivity of all kinds of relationships and aims to show how diverse our society has become.

Lauren added:

“Our exhibition came together on the idea of tackling the stereotypes society has placed upon family types that do may not fit in a box. Everyone in our group has taken a family type they can relate to most and created a body of work from that.”

There will be five sections in total, each highlighting a different perspective to the theme. With the dates coming up close, the group is excited to showcase their hard work to the city of Edinburgh.

Ili Nadhirah, the photographer behind the ‘Family by Journey’ exhibit said: “This is my first ever photo exhibition. I’m nervous but excited for it. I love all my photos and everyone’s too. We put in so much work for every photograph. All of us have a different approach to the photographic work.

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Part of Lauren’s Lonely Child exhibit Image Credit: Solasta

“You can’t imagine the amount of work we have to put in so that we can present a good photographic exhibition to the public. I also believe that this is a good platform for me to see how it is like to present my work out to the public professionally.”

The group has faced many challenges preparing this event – from raising funds to finding the right participants – but their passion for photography is what makes them strive to do better.

Ili added:

“I have friends who come to me for advice and I always tell them to take what you’re passionate about.”

SOLASTA

Another poster from the photography team Image Credit: Solasta

“My best advice would just be to experiment. There is no harm in trying, and the more you do something the better you get at it, so just keep going,” said Lauren.

They hope that more people will attend the exhibition and leave with a different perspective of the word ‘family’.

The exhibition will be held at Whitespace gallery and will be open to the public from the 16th March till the 22nd March.


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There’s a new photography Crew in town

Photography is floundering in the wake of iPhone amateurs, but Edinburgh based talent agency Crew Ltd are on their way to bringing professionalism back.

Scottish visual art agency Crew Ltd held an exhibition in Summerhall last night, showcasing personal works of some of the country’s most talented professional photographers. They said:

We wanted to showcase our photographers in a more relaxed atmosphere. The exhibition was a selection of personal works from our established clients, alongside a glimpse of our rising stars too.

Crew Ltd tackles the under-representation of local freelancers. Their live app is the first of its kind in Scotland. Acting as a digital talent agent, the app has built a community of like-minded professionals; providing them with anaccessible platform from which to network their brand, control their finances and get their work out there. They added:

Companies like us are crucial to the industry. We need to bridge the gap between education and employment, innovating the mindset of the trade and redefining what is expected as a professional in the industry today.

The folios on show last night covered a vast number of genres and styles. Allowing the artists to exhibit whatever they wished made for an endearing visual representation of heart, humour and intellect.

Sam Sill’s Folio. Credit: Mairi Mulhern

Sam Sills is Burma born and Scottish bred. She explored her heritage in Myanmar for the first time last year, seeing and feeling it through her lens.

She says commercial photography can be restrictive, so having the opportunity to share this personal story through Crew last night was refreshing, she said:

Doing your own stuff is self-fulfilling anyway, but when someone like Crew lets you showcase it in this setting, it’s refreshing – like you’re baring your heart and your soul! I love it.

Jodie Mann keeps professional fashion photography glitzy and glamorous for her clients. However, in her spare time she blends commissioned work with her personal creativity to invent obscure, gloomy and dystonia pieces of art. She said:

Commissioners in the fashion industry don’t want personal work in a professional exhibition, so Crew are doing something quite out of the ordinary by merging the two and giving me freedom to open up myself, as opposed to just opening up my folio.

Jodie Mann with some of her work. Credit: Mairi Mulhern

Crew Ltd have a mindset that is refreshing for Scottish photography. Blending the professional with the personal and the work with the play, in this case, has worked to create something new. A heaviness is lifted to leave only art. Modern art.

Drawing Circus comes to Edinburgh

The Drawing Circus comes to Edinburgh for the first time this evening for a night of theatrically themed life drawing set to music.

Photo by Mary Martin

Six models will be posing unclothed and costumed, creating ‘narrative tableaux’ to draw; holding a variety of 1 minute to 3 hour long poses over the course of the evening – all accompanied by live music.

Drawchestra will be accompanying the models

The Drawing Circus are a troupe of Brighton-based artists, models, art tutors, musicians and performers who seek to promote a ‘sense of wonder at the visual world through innovative drawing classes’.

Photo by Mary martin

Jake Spicer: Co-director of the drawing circus:

We aim to push the boundaries of life drawing classes, with theatrical, narrative tableaus of models and live music, so we couldn’t wait to come up to Edinburgh where there is such a vibrant and creative life drawing scene. We’re hoping to meet a lot of new artists here, see some wonderful drawings made and hopefully encourage a few novices to come and have a go too!

Photo by Mary Martin

The event will be held tonight, October 24, at the Basic Mountain studio on Hill Street.
Doors at 6.45 pm, with drawing from 7-10 pm with breaks. Tickets are available here.
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