June 15, 2024


Without Art It's Really Boring!!!

Onwards and upwards: music, film, art and more to inspire change | Culture

2 min read

Table of Contents


If you were a teenager in the 00s, the lyrical triptych of blank page, dirty window and rain on skin is likely to conjure up a deep sense of nostalgia. Popularised internationally as the theme song to teen reality drama The Hills, Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten is Here Comes the Sun for the MySpace generation, an anthem of infectious resolve and main character energy that encourages the listener to embrace the joys of their uncertain future. Teens of today would no doubt find it terminally cheesy, but whether you’re rallying yourself to rejoin the gym or committing to self-love after a messy breakup, you can’t deny that it still feels good. Jenessa Williams


Raphael, The Dream of a Knight, circa 1504
Raphael, The Dream of a Knight, circa 1504. Photograph: National Gallery, London

In this tiny, jewel-like panel, Raphael places his dreaming knight between Virtue with sword and book held out and a rocky mount to climb behind her, and Pleasure bearing flowers, displaying her hair and with inviting open meadows in the background. The allegorical women in this soothingly symmetrical painting aren’t in a contest for supremacy of the young quester’s soul, however. Rather, like many a wellness guru today, Raphael seems to be arguing for a balanced life, which here means meeting the courtly ideals of a knight who is a fighter and a lover. Be brave and win honour on the literal battlefield, and love will be your reward. Skye Sherwin


Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,” said Henry David Thoreau. In 1845, he took himself off to a cabin on the shores of Walden Pond in New England. There he did his best to lead a simple life, shunning all human company, avoiding hot drinks and even refusing to have curtains. He says he wanted “to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life.” It helped that his buddy Ralph Waldo Emerson lent him the land on which to play out his fantasies, that he had no dependants and was within 20 minutes’ walk of his family home and food. But Walden, his account of his time in the not-so-wilderness, is an early classic of environmental literature, as well as a mass of contradictions. “We can never have enough of nature,” he wrote. If the longevity of this book is anything to go by, he may be right. Sam Jordison


Enlightened. Photograph: HBO

Highly strung business executive Amy Jellicoe is keen to change her life after a nervous breakdown triggered by her boss. So, after attending a spiritual retreat, she returns to her old life with a smug “namaste” attitude. Still, Jellicoe is frustrated to learn that she hasn’t changed as much as she likes to put on. As new year sells the myth of life overhauls, Mike White’s throws into relief the idea that events can lead to spiritual epiphanies that profoundly alter your character. This is not to say Amy does not change for the better – she becomes a whistleblower against the pharmaceutical company she works for – but Enlightened is instructive in showing that the path to becoming a better person is often a long and tortuous one. Jason Okundaye


Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart
Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling arrived earlier in the year, to much tabloid fanfare, but it was her 2019 directorial debut Booksmart that established the actor as a director to watch. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever play diligent best friends who have spent their school years deep in books, forsaking fun to meet their goal of getting into prestigious universities. On the last day of school, their worldviews implode when they discover their hard-partying classmates are also heading to Harvard. To make up for lost time, they vow to spend their last night as high-schoolers breaking the rules and going on adventures. As they flit across boat parties and house parties and even go on a few joyrides, they learn the pleasures of doing exactly what they shouldn’t. Rebecca Liu

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