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In Transit Blog: On Vieques, a Yoga Retreat

Written By wartini cantika on Kamis, 23 Oktober 2014 | 17.36

Photo Tara Stiles on Vieques.Credit W Retreat & Spa

W Retreat & Spa on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico is offering Energize by Tara Stiles, the first program in the property's new Fit Retreat initiative for more health-focused getaways.

As part of Ms. Stiles's partnership with W, the high-profile New York yogi created a program for the resort where guests can practice yoga with Ms. Stiles or other teachers trained in her Strala Yoga style.

The customized three-day or five-day programs incorporate yoga sessions, outdoor activities like kayaking and snorkeling, and healthy meals, many of which were inspired by Ms. Stiles' cookbook, "Make Your Own Rules Diet," scheduled to be published next month.

Prices start at $609 nightly per person, exclusive of daily resort fee and tax.


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T Magazine: A New Short Film, Starring James Franco, From the Artist Daniel Arsham

Written By wartini cantika on Selasa, 21 Oktober 2014 | 17.35

The new collaboration between the two talents depicts the end of the world as they know it.

Photo
The artist Daniel Arsham (right) and the actor James Franco on set.Credit James Law

When Daniel Arsham had doomsday visions, he didn't stockpile survival gear or scurry off to the nearest bunker. Instead, the New York-based artist wrote nine short screenplays, which together form one story about life after humanity's ill-fated attempt to save the planet from ecological disaster. The "Future Relic" series crystallized when he began exhibiting casts of everyday objects made to resemble archaeological finds (eroding laptops and cellphones, for instance, made from volcanic ash and plaster). The second chapter in Arsham's saga, "Future Relic 02," features a worker played by James Franco who spends his days underground indexing and destroying objects from the civilization that was. Shot over four days in Arsham's Brooklyn studio, the project — which makes its world premiere here — is just a taste of what the Miami native plans to screen at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. As for Franco, he could easily relate to Arsham's vision. "I try to look at the world as a repository of antiquated artifacts and experiences," he says, "all of them worth preserving."

The world premiere of Daniel Arsham's film "Future Relic 02," starring James Franco.

danielarsham.com


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In Transit Blog: What’s New in the French and Swiss Alps

Written By wartini cantika on Senin, 20 Oktober 2014 | 17.35

Photo Courchevel in France, part of Les Trois Vallées, where you can dive under a frozen lake.Credit Patrick Pachod

France claims the world's largest ski resorts; Switzerland claims it created winter tourism, and will celebrate 150 years of snow play in 2015.

Both countries aim to encourage Americans to visit the Alps this winter, not just for seemingly endless runs and riveting views, but for novel attractions including ice-diving, ski-jogging and suspension-bridge-hiking.

Les Trois Vallées in France, one of the largest ski areas, encompassing 380 miles of interconnected runs, recently introduced the world's highest zipline at 3,230 meters (10,597 feet), effectively a unique ski lift stringing one peak to another.

This winter it will introduce ice-diving,scuba diving below the frozen surface of Lac du Lou, and "jogging on skis," after-hours uphill hikes followed by ski runs down. In the 3 Vallées town of St.-Martin-Bellevue, novices will be able to try the winter sport of biathlon with the French Olympic medalist Vincent Jay as the instructor; participants will use air rifles for target shooting on a cross-country ski course.

Opening in December, the area's 384-room Club Med Val Thorens Sensations will offer all-inclusive stays with meals, lift passes and ski instruction from $1,399 person for seven nights.

But it's Switzerland that says itinvented winter tourism in the Alps in the Graubünden region, where in thewinter of 1894-95 visitors first came to Davos for the clean frigid air, and thehotelier Johannes Badrutt wagered English tourists that if they stayed the winter and didn't enjoy it, he would pay their way (they did, and he didn't).

Events are in the planning stages, but Alpine resorts from Andermatt to Zermatt have added new hotels, and new lifts now link the Arosa and Lenzerheide ski areas for a combined 225 kilometers (140 miles) of runs. In the ski village of Les Diablerets, a new 170-foot-long suspension bridge known as Peak Walk at the Glacier 3000 ski resort will offer access to hikers year-round at over 9,800 feetwhen it opens in November. 

A version of this article appears in print on 10/19/2014, on page TR3 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Trending: What's New in the French and Swiss Alps.


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In Transit Blog: Pas de Rooms

While pirouettes and grand jetés may not get a porter to your room any faster, a little basic ballet training might improve their grace upon arrival. At least that's what JW Marriott is hoping will come of a new employee training program it has developed in partnership with the Joffrey Ballet in New York.

The hotel's Poise and Grace Program is a series of video tutorials led by the Joffrey's artistic director, Ashley Wheater. In them, Mr. Wheater demonstrates core movements and mind-sets practiced by professional dancers in order to achieve the seamless flow of a ballet sequence.

The training focuses on four areas: warming up the body, proper breathing techniques, the flow of movement and a connection with the audience. In essence, to think and act as if they were on stage- or perhaps in a Wes Anderson film.

"In ballet, we learn to foster self-confidence and to make a genuine connection with those around us, which are crucial skills for anyone in hospitality," Mr. Wheater said in an email. "Through proper technique and practice, those elements become second nature so that each person in the hotel has the foundation to approach guest interactions in a thoughtful and fluid way."

The exercises take between five and 15 minutes to perform, teaching posture, eye contact and proper breathing. They are meant to be an inspirational tool to any employee, no matter their job, Mitzi Gaskins, the global brand manager of JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts, said.

"It's remarkable how seamlessly the mannerisms that come so naturally to trained dancers translate from the stage to the hotel floor," she said.


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In Transit Blog: What’s New in the French and Swiss Alps

Written By wartini cantika on Minggu, 19 Oktober 2014 | 17.35

Photo Courchevel in France, part of Les Trois Vallées, where you can dive under a frozen lake.Credit Patrick Pachod

France claims the world's largest ski resorts; Switzerland claims it created winter tourism, and will celebrate 150 years of snow play in 2015.

Both countries aim to encourage Americans to visit the Alps this winter, not just for seemingly endless runs and riveting views, but for novel attractions including ice-diving, ski-jogging and suspension-bridge-hiking.

Les Trois Vallées in France, one of the largest ski areas, encompassing 380 miles of interconnected runs, recently introduced the world's highest zipline at 3,230 meters (10,597 feet), effectively a unique ski lift stringing one peak to another.

This winter it will introduce ice-diving,scuba diving below the frozen surface of Lac du Lou, and "jogging on skis," after-hours uphill hikes followed by ski runs down. In the 3 Vallées town of St.-Martin-Bellevue, novices will be able to try the winter sport of biathlon with the French Olympic medalist Vincent Jay as the instructor; participants will use air rifles for target shooting on a cross-country ski course.

Opening in December, the area's 384-room Club Med Val Thorens Sensations will offer all-inclusive stays with meals, lift passes and ski instruction from $1,399 person for seven nights.

But it's Switzerland that says itinvented winter tourism in the Alps in the Graubünden region, where in thewinter of 1894-95 visitors first came to Davos for the clean frigid air, and thehotelier Johannes Badrutt wagered English tourists that if they stayed the winter and didn't enjoy it, he would pay their way (they did, and he didn't).

Events are in the planning stages, but Alpine resorts from Andermatt to Zermatt have added new hotels, and new lifts now link the Arosa and Lenzerheide ski areas for a combined 225 kilometers (140 miles) of runs. In the ski village of Les Diablerets, a new 170-foot-long suspension bridge known as Peak Walk at the Glacier 3000 ski resort will offer access to hikers year-round at over 9,800 feetwhen it opens in November. 

A version of this article appears in print on 10/19/2014, on page TR3 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Trending: What's New in the French and Swiss Alps.


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In Transit Blog: A New Bike Tour of Eastern Germany

Written By wartini cantika on Sabtu, 18 Oktober 2014 | 17.35

Photo Dresden, the final stop on the tour.Credit VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations

"Berlin to Dresden: Hidden Gems of Eastern Germany," a new trip for 2015 from VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, features connections with local residents, a lesson in sauerkraut making, and wine sampling at a local vineyard. Bicycling routes follow easy terrain with optional rolling hills

Stops along the way include the landscaped gardens of Potsdam's Sanssouci Park and palace; the wetlands and waterways of the Spreewald, a Unesco biosphere reserve; and a trip to the sandstone peaks of the Bastei, in Saxon Switzerland National Park.

The tour concludes in Dresden, which travelers will explore on a walking tour.

This 10-day itinerary starts at $3,745 including international air fare. Add-ons include a pre-trip to Berlin and a post-trip to Prague.


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In Transit Blog: What’s New in the French and Swiss Alps

Photo Courchevel in France, part of Les Trois Vallées, where you can dive under a frozen lake.Credit Patrick Pachod

France claims the world's largest ski resorts; Switzerland claims it created winter tourism, and will celebrate 150 years of snow play in 2015.

Both countries aim to encourage Americans to visit the Alps this winter, not just for seemingly endless runs and riveting views, but for novel attractions including ice-diving, ski-jogging and suspension-bridge-hiking.

Les Trois Vallées in France, one of the largest ski areas, encompassing 380 miles of interconnected runs, recently introduced the world's highest zipline at 3,230 meters (10,597 feet), effectively a unique ski lift stringing one peak to another.

This winter it will introduce ice-diving,scuba diving below the frozen surface of Lac du Lou, and "jogging on skis," after-hours uphill hikes followed by ski runs down. In the 3 Vallées town of St.-Martin-Bellevue, novices will be able to try the winter sport of biathlon with the French Olympic medalist Vincent Jay as the instructor; participants will use air rifles for target shooting on a cross-country ski course.

Opening in December, the area's 384-room Club Med Val Thorens Sensations will offer all-inclusive stays with meals, lift passes and ski instruction from $1,399 person for seven nights.

But it's Switzerland that says itinvented winter tourism in the Alps in the Graubünden region, where in thewinter of 1894-95 visitors first came to Davos for the clean frigid air, and thehotelier Johannes Badrutt wagered English tourists that if they stayed the winter and didn't enjoy it, he would pay their way (they did, and he didn't).

Events are in the planning stages, but Alpine resorts from Andermatt to Zermatt have added new hotels, and new lifts now link the Arosa and Lenzerheide ski areas for a combined 225 kilometers (140 miles) of runs. In the ski village of Les Diablerets, a new 170-foot-long suspension bridge known as Peak Walk at the Glacier 3000 ski resort will offer access to hikers year-round at over 9,800 feetwhen it opens in November. 


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In Transit Blog: A High-End Tequila Tour

Written By wartini cantika on Jumat, 17 Oktober 2014 | 17.35

Photo Farmers in a blue agave field in Tequila.Credit Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita

The Four Seasons Punta Mita in Mexico just put a new spin on the tequila flight experience.

The resort is offering the "Ultimate Tequila Tour" as a daylong immersion for lovers of the distilled blue agave spirit.

The nine-hour tour begins with a private helicopter ride from the resort to the town of Tequila, where guests tour the family-run José Cuervo distillery, a Unesco World Heritage site.

The first stop is the agave fields studded with more than 25,000 maturing blue agave plants, where a sommelier explains the process of jima (harvesting) and the growth cycle. Guests will be able to plant their own agave plant.

That is followed by a tour of La Rojeña, said to be the world's oldest distillery (established in 1795 at the time of the Spanish conquest), where a sommelier will discuss the varieties of tequila found onsite and take guests on a tour of the underground cellar to taste sips from a barrel.

At the distillery's cava (reserve vault) guests will be able to label and take home a Reserva de la Familia bottle in a wooden box painted by a Mexican artist.

Also included is a multi-course lunch at the distillery's hacienda, with live mariachi music. In the afternoon guests return to the cava for an information session on the blending process; each participant will help create a personal blend to take with them.

"The idea is to create a holistic and historical indoctrination of the region," said the general manager of Four Seasons Punta Mita, John O'Sullivan. "This is an opportunity to do something indigenously Mexican," he said.

Rates start from $20,000 per couple; Thomas Citterio, director of marketing at the property, said a substantial part of the price tag comes from the helicopter ride.

Reservations can be made with the concierge at the Four Seasons Punta Mita.


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In Transit Blog: A High-End Tequila Tour

Written By wartini cantika on Kamis, 16 Oktober 2014 | 17.35

Photo Farmers in a blue agave field in Tequila.Credit Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita

The Four Seasons Punta Mita in Mexico just put a new spin on the tequila flight experience.

The resort is offering the "Ultimate Tequila Tour" as a daylong immersion for lovers of the distilled blue agave spirit.

The nine-hour tour begins with a private helicopter ride from the resort to the town of Tequila, where guests tour the family-run José Cuervo distillery, a Unesco World Heritage site.

The first stop is the agave fields studded with more than 25,000 maturing blue agave plants, where a sommelier explains the process of jima (harvesting) and the growth cycle. Guests will be able to plant their own agave plant.

That is followed by a tour of La Rojeña, said to be the world's oldest distillery (established in 1795 at the time of the Spanish conquest), where a sommelier will discuss the varieties of tequila found onsite and take guests on a tour of the underground cellar to taste sips from a barrel.

At the distillery's cava (reserve vault) guests will be able to label and take home a Reserva de la Familia bottle in a wooden box painted by a Mexican artist.

Also included is a multi-course lunch at the distillery's hacienda, with live mariachi music. In the afternoon guests return to the cava for an information session on the blending process; each participant will help create a personal blend to take with them.

"The idea is to create a holistic and historical indoctrination of the region," said the general manager of Four Seasons Punta Mita, John O'Sullivan. "This is an opportunity to do something indigenously Mexican," he said.

Rates start from $20,000 per couple; Thomas Citterio, director of marketing at the property, said a substantial part of the price tag comes from the helicopter ride.

Reservations can be made with the concierge at the Four Seasons Punta Mita.


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T Magazine: Strolling Along East London’s Fournier Street

A walk down a narrow passageway in the Spitalfields district, where 17th-century Huguenots meet immigrant laborers and contemporary artists — and time seems to misbehave.

Photo
The artists George Passmore and Gilbert Proesch, known as Gilbert & George, on Fournier Street, where they have lived for almost 50 years.Credit Jooney Woodward

In "The London Nobody Knows," a documentary made in 1967 and presented by the Hollywood actor James Mason, several minutes are given over to Fournier Street, a short, battered row of old merchants' houses in the district of Spitalfields in East London. A long sequence shows tramps drinking whisky and a purple liquid (denatured alcohol) from glass bottles, and fighting chaotically outside a defunct synagogue.

Wearing a tie and tweed cap, the aging British movie star cuts an elegant, elegiac figure in the slum. The place was on its knees. By the mid-1960s, most of old Spitalfields had been gutted and turned into sweatshops for Bangladeshi garment workers, the last in a succession of poor immigrants and refugees going back to French Huguenots in the 17th century who had come to the neighborhood to work with cloth. No one lived there by choice. Two art students were renting the floor of a house on Fournier Street for 16 pounds a month — the cheapest rooms they could find in London. At night, the drunks hollered up at them in the dark. George Passmore looked out in disbelief as the film crew wandered past. "You probably think I'm mad," he said to Gilbert Proesch, his fellow student and collaborator, "but I think James Mason just walked past the window."

That was a long time ago. Gilbert & George, who practice as a single artist, are in their 70s now, and famous around the world. Fournier Street, where they own two townhouses and a run of studios behind, is also changed. When I visited on a recent summer afternoon, the street looked immaculate, a postcard of competing restorations: intricate doorways, smart brickwork and weatherboarded attics. (Houses worth £4,000 in the 1960s fetch £2.5 million these days.) There was a low buzz of neighborly expectation in the air. The artists' latest show was opening that evening at the White Cube gallery in Bermondsey and half the street seemed to be going.

Photo
From left: Rodney Archer, a longtime resident of Fournier Street, in his back garden, from which the view has not changed since 1726; Fiona Atkins's bed-and-breakfast, the Town House.Credit Jooney Woodward

It was the first time I had been back in several years. My wife used to live on Fournier Street, in an informal colony of actors, artists and photographers. They lived in one of the largest houses, Number 27, which was rented out to them at a benevolently cheap rate by a rubber plantation executive in Malaysia named Henry Barlow who is also an expert on moths. Before then, I hadn't known what the street was called, even though I had walked it many times. Two blocks of brown and plum-colored townhouses, it is one of the city's small but indispensable thoroughfares — a blood vessel near the heart. It connects the great, and once-again expanding, financial district around Liverpool Street to the curry houses of Brick Lane and ephemera of the now fashionable East End. The monumental white spire of Christ Church Spitalfields, one of London's finest baroque churches, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, stands on the corner, inviting you into the slanting corridor behind.

And once you are inside, time misbehaves. The ordinary sequence of past, present and future doesn't seem to hold. It's not just that Fournier Street is old, although of course it is. The street was built back in the 1720s, long before the bulk of 19th-century and Victorian London was laid out, so it has subtly different proportions, an unusual, preindustrial aspect. More apparent is the accelerated passing of eras, the torrent of urban lives that has gone through such a narrow place. In their time, the 34 houses of Fournier Street have been French, Irish, Jewish, West Indian, Bangladeshi, gay, Protestant, Muslim, rich, poor, threadbare, glorious; home to atheists, artists, hedge fund managers, bookmakers, pharmacists, silk weavers, taxi companies and movie stars. Since James Mason's film, the abandoned synagogue, which was a Nonconformist chapel in the 18th and 19th centuries, has become a mosque. A sundial, dating from the 1740s, is mounted high on the wall. "Umbra sumus," reads the inscription. We are shadows.

Photo
A guest bedroom and a map of 18th-century Spitalfields, both in the Town House. Jooney WoodwardCredit

Rodney Archer, a former actor and drama teacher, has lived at Number 31 since 1979. In the hallway, he showed me the bricked-up doorway that used to connect to the house next door. The first residents of Fournier Street were Huguenots, Protestant exiles from France, and they liked to be able to move around out of sight. We went into the garden, where the edges of a 19th-century garment workshop were still visible on the bricks. I sat on a bench and looked up past grapevines and the backs of houses to the white steeple of the church rising behind. "The view there is unchanged since 1726," he said.

Mr. Archer caught the first wave of gentrifiers in Spitalfields. They were led by Mariga Guinness, the daughter of a German prince and the estranged wife of an heir to the brewing fortune. In the early 1970s, she moved into a white stucco house on nearby Elder Street, which she did up by hand and where she threw parties for politicians, musicians and property developers. Mr. Archer first came to Fournier Street around then to drink with artists; he still remembers the dark walls, the sense of a lost townscape. When his mother broke her hip and announced that she was coming to live with him, he decided that the only place they could afford a house big and interesting enough to share was here. The house they found belonged to an Indian cab stand. Some turquoise paint remains on the windowsill, a memento. "A lot of people came here because they loved the architecture," Mr. Archer told me. "I must say I was drawn by the roughness."

At the age of 40, he took a job as a manual laborer at an architectural restoration firm and learned to work with his hands. When he got up for work at 6 each morning, the lights at Gilbert & George's across the road were already on. In the garden, Mr. Archer reminisced about the neighborhood's other pioneers — like Dennis Severs, an eccentric from Escondido, Calif., who lit his house with candles and shared it with a fictional 19th-century family called the Jervises — and the gradual disappearance of the Jewish tailors and furriers, and the West Indians and the Bangladeshis who sewed in industrial workshops crammed into pine-paneled living rooms. "It's all like ghosts," he said. "For me, the street . . . is packed with people that most of the people now don't know, and never knew." Everybody knows Mr. Archer, though. The other day, hearing that he was unwell, Sandra Esquilant, the publican from the Golden Heart on Commercial Street, sent him a bowl of watercress soup from St. John Bread and Wine, a local restaurant, on a tray carried by a waiter. The artist Tracey Emin, who lives a few doors down, came by with flowers.

Photo
The old rooftops of Spitalfields as seen from Christ Church.Credit Jooney Woodward

I left Mr. Archer to get ready for the opening, and walked back up to Number 5. It used to be the Market Cafe, serving breakfast at 3 a.m. and lunch at 7 a.m. for the drivers and traders at Spitalfields vegetable market, but is now Town House, an antiques shop and cafe with rooms upstairs available to rent. Fiona Atkins bought the building in 2000 and has traced the history to the 1760s, when she believes it was owned by a partnership of Irish and Huguenot weavers. Last year, she commissioned a local artist to paint a map of the neighborhood as it was then, and has put it up in a small outbuilding, encouraging people to pin the names of families that used to live there in the 18th and 19th centuries. "I can't tell you how much people have loved it," she said. The map was bristling with pins. "They have loved it."

The Huguenots are Fournier Street's talismans, its elves. They started arriving in large numbers in London in the 1680s, and were quickly making its finest silk garments. They weaved figures from life, working in bright, steamy attics — sealed with paper to keep in the moisture — that teemed with dahlias, auriculae, tulips and caged songbirds. Over the centuries, they have become idealized artisans, known for their scholarship as well as their craft. Huguenot Spitalfields was a place of mathematics societies, of amateur historians, of entomologists and poets. It was also a place of flashy decorating, which is why the houses on Fournier Street, inside and out, are pattern books of early Georgian ornament — of red dressed bricks and curved sash windows, of monogrammed drain heads and smooth-fitting shutters. In the largest houses, the stairwells are joiner's poems of raking architrave, barley twist, corbel and column-newel. In the attics, there is always room for a loom. Long, low windows beckon in the London light.

But it is a delicate business, reaching back to the 18th century. There are practical difficulties. Beautiful as they are, Fournier Street's houses are flimsy constructions, many held together by surreptitious slips of steel. There is a social pressure in conservation, too. Fournier Street is a place where the houses and gardens nudge up against each another and people confide about their fragile, sloping ceilings. Not everyone wants a neighbor on the doorstep with a jar of hand-mixed paint. Keira Knightley, who bought a house on the street in 2012, reportedly sold it again in 2013. ("She passed by one day," recalled Mr. Archer, "looking rather like Virginia Woolf when she was young.")

Photo
"Triptych" by Rebecca Hind, at Christ Church Spitalfields.Credit Jooney Woodward

There are also larger questions of honesty and fairness. With a history as crowded as Fournier Street's, aesthetic decisions can become political. The long, true story of Spitalfields has been of poverty and decline, of streets thick with the damaged and the desperate. "You will find the poor weavers and their families crowded together in vile, filthy and unwholesome chambers," wrote John Thelwall, a local poet, as early as 1795. Reckoning with centuries of hard living means choosing details to enhance, but also chapters to forget, colors to paint over.

Late in the afternoon, I drank a lassi with Bidhan Goswami, who works at Number 39, the Bangladesh Welfare Association, which has provided free legal advice and lobbied on behalf of the community since 1964. It is the last trace of the Bangladeshi era on the street. Inside, filing cabinets were crammed into 18th-century fireplaces and candles rested on dead light switches. Mr. Goswami spoke of the "gentle threat, the silent threat" of gentrification and conservation erasing the less picturesque aspects of the street's working past. "Those who sacrificed themselves to make Fournier Street actually Fournier Street are being pushed out," he said. "Now, the money man will take it over." Mr. Goswami likes to listen out for the walking tours that now take tourists past his office window. "I think, Yes, I am part of the history as well."

When I used to stay on Fournier Street, I saw Gilbert & George a handful of times — giving out tea to the drunks at dawn, stepping out for walks. We only spoke once, when they told me off for littering. A few days after their show opened, we walked through Number 12 and sat in one of the studios that runs behind their two townhouses. It used to belong to their tailor Mr. Lustig — " 'Mr. Happy,' in German," said George. The name prompted a recitation of the vanished craftsmen who used to make their suits. "Then we had Mr. Chaplain," said Gilbert. "Then we had . . ." "Mr. Simons," said George, "who lived across the road." "Then we had David London." "Levenberg," completed George. "Jewish tailors from around here. . . . They all retired to play golf in Portugal."

The works in the artists' new show, "Scapegoating," depict the collision of symbols of contemporary London. Small, bomblike canisters of laughing gas, of the sort favored by clubbers; double-decker buses; women in niqabs. The artists' central and unmistakable concern is the rise of conservative Islam — and its attendant homophobia — on the streets where they have lived and worked for half a century. Gilbert & George have had their front doors kicked in. Young Muslim men interrupt their photo shoots. Spitalfields is a "holy place" now, the men say. Taxi drivers mutter their disapproval. "To which, of course, there is no reply," said George. "Horrific, don't you think?"

Photo
Clockwise from left: a mural featuring Gilbert & George in the nearby Ten Bells pub; a view of Brick Lane's restaurants and stores from Fournier Street; the facade of 37 Fournier St. Jooney WoodwardCredit

The pictures are urgent and uncomfortable. "We want our Art to bring out the Bigot from inside the Liberal," runs a slogan on the wall of the exhibition, "and conversely to bring out the Liberal from inside the Bigot." As so often in their work, Fournier Street is presented as a claustrophobic backdrop of railings, shutters and doors. "It is an amazing background," said Gilbert. "It is so enclosed, so narrow. It creates, like, an atmosphere, like going into a room." "We are not the artists to travel to Tunisia for inspiration, you know," said George.

Talking to the artists, it struck me that there was no trace of the other tensions — around change, around gentrification, around race — that I had picked up on in other conversations on Fournier Street. The artists do not want orderly history. A flat sense of time, without perspective, suits them fine. "We believe in the past, present and future being all together," said George. "We don't believe . . . in modern. We don't think there is such a thing." The Huguenots fled religious extremism. John Wilkes, of Wilkes Street, fought for a free press. Spitalfields used to be famous for its rent boys and prostitutes. Now there are conservative mullahs, and covered-up women, who disdain the way the artists live. Such vivid material, so close at hand. "It's perfect," George said. "It's ideal, isn't it?"

The artists are so well adapted to Fournier Street in part because they have never committed to any particular version of it. For Gilbert & George, people and period are just effects to play with. Their other townhouse, Number 8, which they do not live in, has been restored to historical perfection. The rooms have dull blue ceilings, brown skirting boards and austere, sparse furniture. The linseed paint took a year to dry. A single chair upholstered in deep-red velvet carried Gilbert & George's coat of arms — a pubic louse — picked out in gold. For 47 years, they have kept the same portraitist's distance from their neighbors as they have from the emotional fabric of time. Always standing at the window, never getting involved. "Not one glass of sherry," said George. I asked him why. He didn't pause. "We don't want to be contaminated," he said. "We want to be weird and normal."


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