Art / Culture I really loved in 2020

It’s december, the month in which many of us review the past year.
Here, in this article, I’ve chosen to share my artistic favourites of 2020. Everything I enjoyed, everything I was moved by.
I encourage you to do the same on your side. You’ll see that’s it’s always less depressing than a year’s review (especially for this year !)

> Warning : There’re a lot of spoilers in this article !


TV shows :

I watch a lot of series. I’m a netflix addict and except “Riverdale”,
I’ve finished every show I started to watch.
Among the shows I watched this year, there are two that really stood out.

The first one is High Fidelity, a series developped by Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka, which came out in 2020. The brilliant Zoe Kravitz is the main actress, and she is accompanied by other very good actors such as Da’Vine Joy Randolph, David H.Holmes…I won’t list them all but the casting is really perfect!
“High Fidelity” is inspired by the novel of the same name, written by Nick Hornby. And this one had already been adapted into a film (by Stephen Frears, 2000) and in which you could see…Lisa Bonet, Zoe Kravitz’s mother ;) I haven’t read the book and I haven’t seen the movie either, so don’t judge me if I don’t have enough hindsight on the subject.
The series “High Fidelity” is the story of Robyn Brooks aka Rob (played by Zoe Kravitz). She owns a vinyl store and music is at the heart of her life. So much so that she wants to create a playlist inspired by her ex “Mac”. This relationship has been over for a while but Rob’s heart is still in pieces, and by talking directly to us /to the camera, Rob will take this as a starting point and start telling us about her “top 5” worst breakups. The ones that made her lose faith in love a little. I don’t want to spoil more, but this series is really worth watching.
Many adjectives come to my mind when I think of this series.
First : it’s really cool. The music, as you can imagine, plays a big part in this series, and each selected song is good. From “I can’t stand the rain” by Ann Peebles to the songs of Thomas Doherty (who, moreover, plays in the series) via Darondo, John Moods…what a pleasure for the ears ! Rob’s clothing style is also incredibly cool, I think there are thousands of us who have loved her relaxed yet totally awesome outfits.
Another thing to put in this category is the places ! The series was shot in Brooklyn, and with the rooftop, Rob’s flat, the concert hall and the famous New York streets, everything makes you want to go there.
However, it‘s also a sad series and that’s also what I personally like.
That not everything is simple, easy. There’s something admirable about admitting that. Watching it gives a very human side to the story and the characters. It’s very universal. We could, for example, all make our own top 5 of our worst break-ups, couldn’t we?
It also shows how every decision we make can have consequences for the rest of our lives. Rob is trying to understand her life, and I think we’ve all done that at some point.
Unfortunately, the series has not been renewed and there won’t be a season 2. It’s quite sad because season 1 showed huge potential, and the end could clearly call for a sequel.

The other series that I loved to discover this year and that clearly has nothing to do with High Fidelity is the Orphan Black series. I discovered it this summer, during a time when I didn’t know what to watch.
And I was quickly won over. Orphan Black starts with the presence of Sarah (played by Tatiana Maslany), a young and lost money, in a train station. While she is on a platform, she briefly looks at a young woman. This woman commits suicide by throwing herself under a train immediately afterwards. But at the moment their eyes met, we understood, like Sarah, that the young woman looks really just like her. Very disturbing.
Sarah then decides to steal the deceased young woman’s belongings in order to take her identity and…know more about her. If she thinks at first that they are twins, she will soon understand that it is much more complicated than that…since it’s a story about clones and biotechnology.
To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of the scientific shows.
I was often bored. And in the case of Orphan Black, there were moments when I didn’t like the plot so much. When I saw things that were too predictable.
But if I really got hooked on this series, it’s because of Tatiana Maslany’s completely unbelievable talent : since the series is about clones, the actress had to play several people with very different personalities (there’s the lost Sarah, the nerd-scientist Cosima, the stuck-up mother Alisson, the “crazy” Helena, the nasty Rachel, the bimbo Krystal…) and her performance is really amazing in each episode. By this I mean that sometimes we can move from one scene to another and we have to remind ourselves that the actress we see playing this character is the same actress who played the previous character.
Without forgetting that sometimes a clone has to imitate another clone!
Each episode is a feat that deserves to be seen and reviewed.
Tatiana Maslana has received several awards for her interpretation and once you see Orphan Black, you understand that it was totally deserved.
And of course I also have to mention the special effects, which are frankly bluffing, here is the making-of of one of my favourite scenes.


Movies :

I‘ve watched quite a few movies this year, especially during the boring week-ends of lockdowns. But if I have to list the ones I really really liked, there are only two.

First of all, there’s the movie Play, which I saw in the cinema at the very beginning of the year. It’s a Franco-Belgian film directed by Anthony Marciano, which may well speak to you if you grew up in the 90s.
Play is the story of Max and his little gang of friends.
When he’s 13 years old, his parents offer him a camera and from then on, he films many good and bad moments that he lives with his friends.
As an adult, Max decide to review all these moments and share them with us.
What I liked the most about this film is that it has the power to make us feel a lot of emotions: we laugh, we’re nostalgic and we cry at the same time.
Even if there are several sad moments, I think it’s definitely a feel-good movie. The kind of movie you watch to get your smile back.

The other film I really liked was The Neon Demon (directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and released in 2016). I’m not going to lie, I find that the negative point of this film is the story. There’s nothing extraordinary in it: a very young and beautiful woman named Jesse (played by Elle Fanning) arrives in Los Angeles to fulfill her dream, which is : to become a model.
Except that she will soon make people envious and that the story will take a dramatic turn.
If it’s one of the films I liked the most this year, it’s obviously not because of that, but because of the visual slap in the face that it represents. Everything is both beautiful and strange in this film. There is an incredible colour treatment (many images reminded me of Philip LorcaDicorcia’s photographs), and a lot of contrast. The colour dominants always seem extremely well thought out because they always create atmospheres that correspond perfectly to the story .They also sometimes show, in a blatant way, the evolution of the characters (I’m so close to spoiler). The shots are also beautifully composed.
If you’re a fan of Gregory Crewdson and Erwin Olaf, you‘ll definitely like it. It’s really hypnothic and fascinating.
One might think that all this care for aesthetics is linked to the subject of the film, as if the fact of seeing something beautiful naturally attracts us to it and make us envious. But isn’t this vision too limited?
There’s another point that I also particularly liked, but this I will tell you about a little later in this article.


Books :

The first book I read in 2020 was By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham, and I really devoured it. I read my books mostly at night before going to bed, and I only read 10 pages because I like to take the time to immerse myself in everything I read. And concerning “By Nightfall”, I always wanted to go further. It was the first book by Michael Cunningham that I read, and certainly not the last.
With this book, I thought I saw a too predictable evolution and finally I was wrong. This has made me appreciate this book even more.
I loved the fact that most of the scenes take place at night, that moment when the masks fall off, when we are much more vulnerable and more…ourselves? I also loved the thoughts about art and artists, the selfish but interesting personality of the main character, the way of talking about the unsaid in couples… And also this universal idea of looking for a new beginning, something that will reboost us and even transform us.

I read between 10 and 15 books a year, and in my book list I like to read classics that I never took the time to read before.
This was the case with Tracy Chevalier’s La Jeune Fille à La Perle.
I read it during the first lockdown (and I preferred it to the movie) and this book replaced the outside world by inspiring me enormously.
There’s no connection between the story and my work, but without really knowing why, it really motivated me to produce. As if reading something imbued with art (and I kept imagining the scenes in my head before seeing the film) was a real driving force.

After this book, I read Rien n’oppose à la nuit by Delphine de Vigan. It’s clearly not the happiest book in the world, especially when you read it during the lockdown. And yet I loved it. I loved — although it’s strange to say this — the way Delphine De Vigan recounts the life of her mother. One sometimes wonders where’s the limit biography and fiction. Her use of words is remarkable, and it’s even more so in her book D’après une histoire vraie (one of my favourite books).
In fact, I would say that this book is a very beautiful tribute to a woman whose beauty was equalled only by her sadness.

Virginia Woolf is one of my favourite authors (I talked about her works in a previous article) but I’d never taken the time to read Orlando before. And I realized when I read it what a great book it is. First of all, it’s inspired by her lover Vita and you always wonder where the real is and where the fake is (yes…I love this theme).This is very well highlighted by the fact that the book and Orlando’s life span four centuries and that the narrator speaks to us as if we should never question his story. On top of that, I found the character of Orlando very endearing, interesting and sensitive. By talking about a man who becomes a woman, Virginia has again given an effective point of view on male-female relationships and how they are supposed to behave towards each other. I could talk about the book and Orlando’s life for hours and I would always end up telling you that I also liked Virginia’s tone, which always oscillates between seriousness and humour, that I also loved the idea of the multiplicity of identities and the relationship between Orlando and Shelmerdine, which seems to flow very naturally.


Visual Artists :

I haven’t discovered Elsa Bleda’s work this year, I think I know it for at least a year (thanks instagram!), if not more. But this year, since traveling was almost impossible, her photographs allowed me to travel in my mind.
On top of that, her colour treatment and her cinematographic shots with very few people, are a real source of inspiration. It often looks like a photographic version of Edward Hopper’s work but in the 21st century. I especially love those night scenes in Johannesburg — where one imagines that when most people are asleep and the calm gradually replaces the euphoria of the day — Elsa Bleda leaves her home with her camera, in search of delicious, electric and mysterious photographs. We easily put ourselves in her shoes, becoming voyeurs of a city we have never really seen.
Elsa Bleda is definitely a great great artist and I strongly encourage you to check her work.

It’s also on instagram that I saw for the first time the work of Monaris. If you are a fan of cinematographic photography, it’s also here that you will find your happiness! Behind Monaris is Paola M Franqi, a young woman incredibly talented in street photography and in the approach of the human being.
Her spontaneous portraits and very well edited can easily confuse us (in the good sense of the word!) because we have the impression of being on the edge of cinema or staged photography. Especially when the models notice the photographer.
Monaris is really good at capturing the right moment, the moment that makes the ordinary interesting, and every photograph is a story that we dive into with pleasure.

The third visual artist I would like to talk about in this article is Alison Jackson. I didn’t discover her work this year but in 2017, in the exhibition “From Selfie to Self Expression” at the Saatchi Gallery but it’s this year (and you’ll soon understand why) that I got even more hooked on her work.
At first glance, when you see Alison Jackson’s images (especially her mental image series), you can easily be shocked: indeed, you see celebrities in really crazy and incongruous moments. As if these people have been photographed by paparazzi in situations that are really too intimate and/or could be harmful to them. But if we look at the artist’s statement, we understand that these are photographs staged with look-alikes of famous people.
In short, it’s really great (and so imperceptible if you don’t know the statement)!
And if I took a closer look at them this year, it’s because Alison Jackson did quite a few pictures with a Donald Trump look-alike, and so with the American elections, it was the opportunity to (re)see these photographs.


Music :

If there’s one piece of music I’ve listened to over and over again this year, it’s Anna Calvi’s Wish. I discovered Anna Calvi’s music through the great Peaky Blinders series. And if I don’t like all of her songs, I definitely love Wish.
It’s sensual, it’s violent, it’s attractive…and as a fan of Siouxsie Sioux and Alison Mosshart, I totally find these different inspirations in this song.

In what I have also listened to over and over again this year, there is the soundtrack of the film The Neon Demon, largely composed by the genius Cliff Martinez. Like the shots and the colours, I found that it was perfectly suited to the story. It’s strange, electric, mysterious, captivating.
And even detached from the film, it‘s a very good selection of songs.


In short, here’s everything I liked the most about art and culture this year.
I hope that despite this crazy and difficult year, you are all doing well and
I will be back in 2021 with a new article.



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Pauline Le Pichon

Pauline Le Pichon


I’m a French visuel artist, freelance photographer, instructor and writer.