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Monday, 24 November 2008

Comlexity vs Simplicity

A Disappearing Number by Complicite and Mind Out by Station House Opera.

The Barbican Theatre is absolutely lovely, I hadn't been there in a while. The doors close the audience in, leaving the rest of the world far away preparing us to be engrossed in a performance. Unfortunately was not engrossing. It was rather shallow.

The piece told the story of an Indian mathematician in the 18/early 1900s and a teacher studying the mathematician's theories in the present day. The company used complex maths as the central topic. There was then a number of threads from this which were a relationship, the mathematician moving to Cambridge and an overall theme that everything in life is connected; something happening in India in the early 1900s is connected to an event in England today.

The piece constantly flipped between India and England, past and present. Flipped in a literal term as there was a screen in the middle of the stage where characters and centuries changed as the screen reversed and characters ran through it.

The play was very visually pleasing, projections of hundreds of numbers running across the screen and live video offering different perspectives of scene. The design was precise and well thought out. However this was the only part of the play that was precise. I found the transitions between scenes too fast and clunky. This play did not seem to have any heart, it was rushed through. I was waiting for a moment of climax in the piece, a moment of excitement but it did not happen. However the play was moving at an exciting pace but it felt that each scene did not have any time to develop. There was so much going on between set, maths, music and costumes that I could not connect with any of the characters which left the story quite, well, empty! The complex maths even more complex layering was just far too confused.

This was an extended run of this play, maybe it had been over done, so that it wasn't fresh? Did any one else seen the play? I would be interested to hear comments!

Mind Out by Station House Opera was incredibly simple and tremendously effective. Each performer was separated in mind and body. Each performer commanded an others actions and there were multiple relationships happening which shifted constantly.

The performance had a good pace with small situations building up to anarchic scenarios as the performers' evil side emerged. Identity and free will were toyed with and the characters personalities were built through their actions, commanded by another. Each performer determined situations to benefit themselves and they became selfish. The performers were all out for themselves!

Mind Out is rather surreal, the occurrence of three musicians with performers in a freeze frame, is a image that comes to mind. Pace, great acting, focus on content and extension of one idea made the piece very effective.

A Disappearing Number was so busy and complicated that I couldn't connect, couldn't feel anything because I could not get through. And Mind Out was honest (if that's the right word) by leading direct route to the heart of the performance as soon as you enter the theatre. No fuss, just performance!
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Pick of the Week 24.11.08


Meat and Cheese by Mike and Jen aka Duotard video by The Selby from the selby on Vimeo.

Some people in the office have been complaining about a feeling of emptiness and general feeling of lethargy. You may think this is because of the arctic temperatures or only having what feels like 20 minutes of sunshine a day, but I know the real reason... its because I was away at sea last week (with no internets for 4 days!!!) and didn't put up the pick of the week and for that I'm sorry loyal followers.
This time round I promise you a selection of Londons most wonderful events, exhibitions and oddities.Come on gang chin up, kettle on away we go with this weeks pick of the week...


THE BEST THING EVER - chosen by Sam
You Me Bum Bum Train
Cordy House
Curtain Road
£15 (includes a free rum cocktail and the best experience of your life)
Ever since I found myself in an abandoned, boarded up pub in Shadwell in 2006 being ushered through a series scenarios that included winning a gameshow and crashing during my driving test and then being rescued by a gang of firemen I have loved You Me Bum Bum Train.
It was taking part in You Me Bum Bum Train that made me make performance and to support new generations of live artists to make work that was both fun and transformational.
And now it is your chance to experience this head down to Curtain Road from 6pm every Saturday til December 20th. Get there after 7.45 and it will be sold out.

Nights out - Dance Party 2000
Friday 28th
9.00pm - late
Bethnal Green Working Mens Club
£5
The UK's premiere husband and wife spandex interpretive dance troupe has decided to ressurect their summer blockbuster Dance Party 2000 once again! Including heavy metal/ragga/gothic/country/rockabilly demographic was sadly being being missrepresented in club culture so the ever spinning genre wheel will be back in action on Friday, November 28th at the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club!

Art Event - Chosen by Mark
Saturday29 November
7:00pm - 11:30pm
The Bluecoat
Mobile Academy presents: Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge
Head on up to Liverpool and hang out with an expert of your choice, you get a staggeringly good deal... 1/2 an hour with your chosen expert for a mere £1.
More info here

Event - Chosen by Frank
Topshop Swap Shop
Buy nothing day on Saturday 29th Nov -
there is a Topshop swap shop in the Top shop on regents street, courtesy of the space hijackers and many other events going on around London. Check here.

&

Hulkdash
Sat 29th Nov
The Korsan Bar
E2 8AL
Experimental music night!
Expect alot of very abrasive but apparently beautiful noise.



Exhibition - Chosen by Eleanor
A Quiet Reverie
A sound installation by Mark Peter Wright
As part of Audio Forensics @ IMT Gallery
Thurs 27th Nov-Sun 30th Nov | 12.00-18.00

A Quiet Reverie explores notions of hauntology, sonic cartography and
places of abandonment and absence. The installation contains field
recordings from four ruined abbeys in North East England, and combines
sounds from the architecture, space and landscape.
Mark Peter Wright's haunting sound installations are a must-hear in London this week.
Haunting then!

Website - chosen by Joao
http://www.supercream.org.uk
Saturday 29 NOVEMBER 2008
Afternoon party 3PM>>>6PM
THE BAR AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY/GSK CONTEMPORARY - 6 BURLINGTON GARDENS, LONDON.
Launching the 00 issue of thier on-line magazine supercream.org.uk
The boys would like to invite you and whoever wants to launch something else to come along.

Bring Photocopies, Flyers, Print-outs, Drawings, Cards - be it your Blog, your Art, Magazine;Fanzine, doityourself project, one off idea...something you believe in, or merely want to advertise and sell out.
They are calling for yourPropaganda!
Go along and share whatever you have to offer on paper - no public is garanteed apart from other promoters and a good enthusiastic chat.
Times are rough.



exhibition - Chosen by Lisa
Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008 at the Natural History Museum
31 Oct 2008 - 26 Apr 2009
"A stunning display of the natural world caught in a heartbeat, with categories ranging from the behaviour of animals to the relationship between humans and nature to under 10-year-olds' fledging photography."

Retreat - chosen by Holly
A yoga retreat
"I went on one last weekend and it was wonderful - from skipping in wet mushy grass bare foot to being summoned by a gong for each yoga session, not to mention being fed lots of tasty veggie food and the peace away from the city!"


Performance - Chosen by Richard
MARK MCGOWAN'S
THE GUY HILTON GALLERY
2pm outside Stockwell tube
This is a free event.
for more info 07828524056
chunkymark1974@yahoo.com

"it sounds dreadful although it might be alright!"

REENACTMENT OF THE MURDER OF JOHN CHARLES DE MENEZES
the event is to start at station and finish downstairs on the underground
platform.

To see a video trailer click on here...
McGowan says,
"I think it is awful that John Charles de Menezes was killed in such a
violent way, but the cover up and blatant lies by the police, who in fact have
been giving false testimonies and perjured themselves in recent weeks is
absolutely terrible."
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Monday, 17 November 2008

The potential for mass mischievery using the internet


450 women posing for Spencer Tunick in New York central station


Ever since (and probably slightly before), it’s creation, the internet has been seen as a potential solution to many a problem. The revival of democracy, creating a responsible media and the education of the world are just some of the small problems lumped on it, and I now intent to add to that list.

It seems to me that the potential to create mass pieces of art by getting, say 0.003% of facebook (about 4,000 people, based on my very dodgy maths), involved could be phenomenal. It also seems to me that, and I may just be out of touch and thus very wrong, apart from flash mobs and events like the circle line party networking sites really haven’t been used to there full potential in this way.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising anyone here, but I just really wanted to see what people feel about the subject. Do you think that there is things that could go wrong when organising in this way? Do you have any ideas about a piece that you’d like to create? Do you think that some of these sites are too heavily monitored?

One of the only reservations I think there is about organising things this way is the slightly unsure feeling about anything arranged over the internet. No matter how many “confirmed guests” there is, there is always a slight inkling that no one will turn up without some real human contact. Never the less I still think that the internet holds a massive potential for some artistic mischief. Ideas anyone?
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Saturday, 15 November 2008

Little Gems




(Image from 'In the way of things' Damien Griffiths)
Last week I took a group of A level photography students from Leyton into Shoreditch to sample some of the lesser known galleries that make up Photomonth this year. Most of the students hadn't visited exhibitions in spaces like these before & it is a bit of a gamble taking teenagers on a such a trip, rather than a safer option like the Tate for example, although the level of intimacy at these smaller galleries can create a higher level of educational value than that offered at bigger institutions. I think it's important to introduce students to alternative spaces that they wouldn't really know about or have had the confidence to visit before, let alone press that buzzer! I was slightly nervous as to how they would respond to our outing, there'd be a fair bit if walking (at student/snail pace) in the rain, and if they didn't like the work they'd find it all a bit pointless, & there's not much worse than dragging 22 miserable teenagers around London in the rain!

The first exhibition we visited was Tom Hunter 'Are you being served', a small show at the V&A childhood museum. My concern as to the success of the trip grew as the students didn't really engage with Hunter's images of east London shops and their keepers, despite its social-cultural content, the work was a little mundane in comparison to his usual contemplative photographs of people on the periphery of society in the east-end. But as we were in a museum, the students were able to go off & find other areas of interest or a corner to hide in! In this case I was both relieved that there were other things that the students were more interested in and could explore for themselves, but on the other hand I was disappointed that they didn't spend more time studying the photographic work. Some of the group had not found anything of interest (ce la vie), & my concern grew as I knew there'd be less on offer at the rest of the galleries, teenagers can be so difficult to please! Next stop was the Gallery Cafe on Old Ford road for 'A walk on the wild side' showing photos of drag queens and counter culture. We piled into the bustling little restaurant & peered over & around the diners to see the work, it was a little awkward at first, with people eating &; relaxing as there were so many of us, but the students soon loosened up & started to study & discuss the work, sitting amongst the cafe goers & in the sofa area. It was probably a combination of the slightly garish content of the photographs & the ambiance of the location that got them involved. This is more like it I thought! A bus up Hackney road & a walk up Columbia road to the Shipton gallery, which is literally someone's living room. I'd called in advance to warn the owner of our imminent arrival & he gave us a very warm welcome as we crammed into his 'lounge', saying he'd offer us a cuppa if he had a kettle big enough. Conversation flowed & questions were answered, the students seemed comfortable in such informal settings & our host Peter was happy to have us break up his afternoon of DIY. Next we slowly snaked our way through the streets of Shoreditch & made our way to Redchurch street. I was aware that we'd probably spent more time on foot than in actual galleries but the group were in high spirits & were enjoying taking in the environment, it's surprising how few of our students have ventured out this way despite living in east London for many years. Studio 1.1 was our next stop, 'In the way of things' by Damien Griffiths, a conceptual installation of mundane, some might say boring photos. My initial thoughts were "oh dear they're not gonna thank me for bringing them all the way in the cold & wet for this!" But upon arrival, we were greeted by 2 men from the gallery who were keen to explain the ideas behind the show, they gave a short talk which fueled our interest. The work considers the photo as image & as object, playing with elements of scale, juxtaposition & variations of mounting, 'demanding the viewer's attention, yet parrying it at the same time'. The students really got into it & made intelligent associations, conversation was energetic, the gallery alive with their responses to the work. This is what art should do & the curators were quite taken with my rabble of east London adolescents, saying they'd fill the artist in on our visit, as he'd appreciate the feedback. Again I think that the intimacy of the gallery & the enthusiasm of the people there helped make the experience. We finished up on Leonard street at AOP for 'Polaroid Retrospective', which was a bit more white space & full of seductive images. Then finally Pure Evil gallery, where we were warmly welcomed again & allowed to explore the basement while they were setting up for my friend Twinkle's private view.
On trips like this, my own personal experience is heightened by the company of my students. The artists are interested in their responses & gain from the experience too, there is more of an affiliation between viewer, artist & gallery, than on other trips i've done to bigger well known galleries & museums. These relationships form a significant part of the creative process, the ongoing conversation & debate is what art is all about...I think more should be made of such galleries & although I love the Tate, it is so packed everyday, while many other galleries stand empty.
Some of my A level students wont continue onto art school & i feel that it is important that they are made aware of the art scene that thrives in their neighbouring boroughs...Students, what do you think? What sort of trips do you prefer? Have you had any particularly good or bad educational experiences at a gallery or museum...?

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Friday, 14 November 2008

Musings from the 10:15 to Manchester

As no one has pointed out, there were a couple of false premises in my recent post 'Oligarchs Form An Orderly Queue'. Firstly it was inaccurate to state that Frieze sales 'could now be as much as £100 million'. The referenced article actually stated:

"the total amount of money that is expected to change hands during Frieze week is around £100 million … and only a small part of those transactions take place at the fair."

Secondly, my assertion that Russian oligarchs are 'recession-resilient' was quite naïve, given a story I've just read in The Guardian explaining that:

"Russia's wealthiest 25 individuals have collectively lost $230bn"

It seems that the oligarchs were given massive loans by the Russian government, which they used to buy shares in Russian companies. They subsequently borrowed even more money from US banks, using those shares as collateral. Now the Russian stock market has lost 71% of it's value, and the banks want their money back, causing a collapsing pyramid of debt.

Things are apparently so bad that Moscow's top restaurants have stopped accepting credit cards.

"Inevitably, the amount of Russian money 'loshing around' the west end of London will diminish" says Chris Weafer, an analyst with the Moscow-based brokerage UralSib.

So I just wanted to apologise for my fallacious assumptions.

Speaking of fallacious, or a word to that effect, I've just googled the word 'loshing' on my phone and found a definition that's far too filthy to publish on the esteemed Artsadmin Artsblog. Just as I am pondering how the word made it past the The Guardian sub-editors, the lady opposite catches my attention by blurting the following phrase into her mobile:

"It was so stiff, Martin!"

There's a sentence you don't hear very often. She continues:

"He was wearing a dicky-bow, it was a load of bullshit really, the only time I loosened up was when Alan's dad threw up over the cheese-board.'

I begin to reflect on the positive and negative effects of mobile phones on trains. One the one hand you have the annoying man to my right who is texting furiously yet has not disabled the keypad volume, only stopping intermittently to call members of his family to explain that he is going to have to give a strong talking to his nephew, who was so rude to his grandma that she locked herself in the bathroom crying.

"I've got to tell him to turn it down a couple of notches" he says, in each conversation.

On the other hand, the same cellular technology allows one to eavesdrop with an unprecedented level of convenience; as I sit here tapping away (keypad volume turned off, of course) everyone else assumes I'm merely texting.

After all, people on trains not using their phones can be just as annoying.

Thus I advocate covert liveblogging about fellow train passengers as an effective way of dissipating your anger. Try it in the comments section below.


NB. Richard reserves the right to alter his attitude regarding train eavesdropping, should he discover that other passengers have been posting pictures on the internet of him picking his nose.

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Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Sculpting a world



My tutor had been recommending the Richard Serra exhibition at the private Gasgosian Gallery for some time, so I was expecting something pretty awe-inspiring. And I wasn't dissapointed; Serra's immense free standing steel sculptures could only be taken inside the gallery by knocking the wall down first, and standing next to them you can't help shake off the small, nagging feeling that they look fit to fall right over and crush you.

Walking inside these sculptures takes you into a different kind of world, pictured right, causes the viewer to inadvertently tilt to one side to mould their body with the space as they walk through, and it filled me with more than a little sense of claustrophobia as I followed its winding path enclosed by towering walls.

It's free to take a look, so the next time you're near Britannia Street before December 20th, pop in and get lost in a giant hunk of steel.
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Experimentica '08

I was lucky enough to go to the annual performance arts festival based in Cardiff this year and here are five of my favourites:


Richard Bowers and Gwilly Edmondez – “Pandæmonium”
You can shut your eyes but you can’t shut your ears. Sonic art takes advantage of this; through sound, an atmosphere is created, it is translated in to a feeling within you, and in this case, it was the same feeling I got when looking at Francis Bacon’s ‘Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X’.
The use of a chair, the body positions and facial expressions silently projected on the wall conjured up feelings of panic and wanting to scream, but being unable to react physically.
The sound quality did this justice. Texture was created by recording sounds made by the performer, then digitally layering it, live. The sounds increased in intensity and layers as the performer became more frantic and physical; the addition of paper ripping and being crumpled, a typewriter, a pencil scratching and his blowing through a straw onto a microphone.
On the video projection, he was making violent gestures and clearly using his voice, but we could not hear it, only fragments of it were weaved into the background sound. Live, he became increasingly violent, as did the sound, then with a burst of frantic energy, he began jolting and created a new wave of hard, fast noise. Then he lay still and there was absolute silence.
I suddenly felt exposed. It all went dark and there was only silence, with some awkward shuffling. He was still lying on the floor.
I’m familiar with music effecting your emotions, where the subconscious attaches itself to a rhythm, but this wasn’t music, only a precisely layered collection of recorded sound played back. Wait – was it music?

Photo © Cathy Boyce 2008.

Tom Marshman - “Hello Sailor (Goodbye Heart)”
He saturated himself with all things sailor; your standard sailor’s outfit and handing the audience rum, but what shocked me was that he got an actual tattoo of a ship on his arm. This, unlike the sailor hat, is permanent. It raises the question:
At what point does commitment to your art become unreasonable? A performance artist relies on the aesthetics and functionality of their body. An act during one performance which permanently affects their body may hinder their next performance physically or limit their conviction visually.

Random People – “Versions 1-5” – Various artists
A very good example of collaboration; 4 different artists, each tackling a common piece of text, expressing it individually at the beginning of the piece, then bringing it together at the end as a group performance.
Because I had participated in the ArtsAdmin Summer School ’08, I was able to detect little performance techniques here and there (audience interaction, dealing with mistakes etc). At the same time, I was absorbed in the piece and constantly anticipated their next actions.
I wondered after the performance, whether being conscious of the process takes away from your experience of an art piece, like watching a horror film but constantly noticing that the monster puppet’s mouth can never synchronise with the sounds it is making, as it only has three basic moves which can never cover our lexical field. I then realised that unlike a horror flick, this performance never tried to dictate how I should feel or imposed any restrictions on what I should take away from it, so I was free to experience the enjoyment of a good show as well as have the satisfaction from my background knowledge.

Andrea Williams – “Car”
A five minute audio visual instillation of a view of the sky from outside the car and then a view across a road with cars driving past. These visual scenes are eerily familiar, I immediately recall them and realise how many precious minutes I have spent waiting to cross a road or falling asleep in a car. A major factor of this installation was its location; in the basement of a very small art gallery, G39. The space was dark and basic, with brick walls and room for only two benches to sit on. You enter through a small trap door in the floor, down steep makeshift stairs. There is nothing to distract you and no space to do quick floor exercises or a random dance if you’re the only visitor, so you are completely engulfed by whatever happens to be projected on the wall.

Adele Vye
She used the G39 ground floor space all night long and could be seen from outside putting on various outfits from her huge transportable cupboard and transforming into various characters. I saw many bewildered passers-by try to make sense of it, which was amusing, (also, it was Saturday night) but I eventually got too cold and went home.

http://www.experimentica08.blogspot.com/
www.richardbowers.co.uk/
http://tommarshman.blogspot.com/2008/06/hello-sailor-goodbye-heart.html http://www.artcardiff.com/website.cgi?place=artists&id=117
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Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Pick of the Week 10.11.08

It's Monday, it's pissing with rain, it;s dark by 3.30pm, it's my 5th cup of coffee, it's 3 meetings down and it's the pick of the week YAY......



Book - Chosen by Sam
Launched this month is Lucy Popescu's wonderful book The Good Tourist:An Ethical Travellers Guide,I especially like the suggested reading section for before, during and after your holiday. Available on line or if you are in the westside go to the travel bookshop and chat about ideas and ethics of travelling with the wonderful staff who are always up for a little debate.
&

Check out my new obsession - the cockettes - watch the film - take on fashion tips - keep off the drugs. Gore Vidal said of the cockettes New York debut "Having no talent is not enough." Whatevs Gore Vidal!

Radio - Chosen by Giles
A series of lectures on radio 3 'Free Thinking' it aired last weekend but is still available on Iplayer. Titles such as Being Green Can Be Dangerous sounds controversial and juicy. Get you teeth (ears) into some meaty radio!


Film - Chosen by Joao
Der Baader Meinhof Komplex,
"The course of history as represented in the concept of catastrophe has no more claim on the thinking man’s attention than the kaleidoscope in the hands of a child. With each new twist, everything collapses into a new order. The image is thoroughly well-grounded [hat sein gutes, gründliches Recht]. The concepts of the rulers have always been the mirrors by which the image of an ‘order’ was established. – The kaleidoscope must be smashed." (from Walter Benjamin, ‘Central Park’, 1938)

For the ones interested in appropriation of the writings of Walter Benjamin (philosopher of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory) by the Red Army Faction in order to ground their violent acts, I would recommend the article "Entsetzen: Walter Benjamin and the Red Army Faction" by Irving Wohlfarth, now being published in parts in "Radical Philosophy", a great journal of feminist and socialist philosophy published in the UK.


Photography - Chosen by Eleanor
Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life 1990-2005
National Portrait Gallery
"A beautiful and moving photographic exhibition of Leibovitz's personal and professional work, beautifully curated to portray a surprisingly intimate portrait of a photographer's life through her own pictures"

Exhibition - Chosen by Jen
Svetlana
Pil and Galia Kollectiv
S1 Art Space
SHEFFIELD
Pil and Galia Kollectiv simulate the making of an opera by Waw Pierogi, which never made it to the stage. The mock documentary footage captures the theatricality of military might, the rhetorical force of sound and the political power of art within former Soviet ideology.

Exhibition - Chosen by Holly
AOP gallery on Leonard street Shoreditch - 'Polaroid retrospective'
" I went yesterday and it was beautiful!"
While you're down there pop into 'Never Shall Be Slaves?' at Pure Evil Gallery 108 Leonard street! an exhibition based around themes of Britishness.


Theatre - Chosen by Carly
A Midsummer's Night Dream, from Footsbarn, in a tent in Victoria Park, with puppets and a European cast!
&

Spectacular from Forced Entertainment. How can we resist the call of the F.E.? at the riverside
ED note While you have the riverside in mind head down to the mother of all Peachy Coochy's on Saturday at 2.30pm


Film - Chosen by Lisa
Burn fer Reading
Screening everywhere!
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Pick of the Week 3.11.08 (honest)

Bringing you the hottest picks from our intrepid bloggers bang on time and not at all a day late because you had Monday off, its this weeks Pick Of The Week....


Exhibition - Chosen by Holly - 'Borderspaces'
Schwartz Gallery
92 White Post Lane
Hackney Wick
Private view, Thursday 6th November 6pm - 9
This is the first photography exhibition to be held at the Schwartz Gallery and form part of photomonth. Other off site work is showing around Londonn including Danilo Murru's The London Wall which documents the 11.5 mile blue wall that surrounds the 2012 Olympic site, exciting stuff!

Dance - Chosen by Carly - DV8 - To Be Straight With You
National Theatre
including a platform discussion on the subject of religious and cultural tolerance / intolerance of homosexuality in society with DV8 director Lloyd Newson on the 5th Nov at 18.00 at the National Theatre.


Exhibition - Chosen by Lisa
Alan Aldridge: The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes
Design Museum
10 October – 25 January 2009
£8.50 adults, £6.50 concessions, £5 students, free for under 12s, free for Design Museum Members.
A colourful and psychedelic exhibition of Aldridge's beautiful illustrative work.


Art and Design - Chosen by Oyinda
Wouldn't it be Nice... Wishful Thinking in Art and Design
Somerset House
17 September-7 December 2008
Expect wit, subversion and a constantly-changing programme of events and performance from this major exhibition of contemporary art and design.
This week includes Social Pasta on Friday 7 November in The Studio where Graphic designer Alex Rich and friends will prepare and serve food while you watch a movie, with food chosen to reflect the story of the film. (Limited capacity) FREE FOOD!


Film - Chosen by Sam
Hunger
Steve Mcqueen
An odyssey, in which the smallest gestures become epic and when the body is the last resource for protest. As with everything Steve McQueen touches this is gold!
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Saturday, 1 November 2008

Drawbacks of Dialect: Ian McMillan's Talking Myself Home - UK Tour


Broad, bubbly, Bard of Barnsley, Ian McMillan is currently on a tour around the UK, performing poems live from his new book, 'Talking Myself Home'. I went to see him in Sheffield, a stone's throw from Barnsley so close enough in proximity to attract that all too salient solidarity that emerges when you fill one room with a hundred Northerners.

McMillan's memoirs in poetic form, are detailed and very personal accounts of his life in Barnsley and, more specifically, Darfield. He offers intimate insights into relationships with his teachers, parents, colleagues and friends. As we read we detect a faithfulness to the subtleties of regional dialect, 'An A sez 'Are thy a Gibson?' E sez 'R.' A sez 'Tha looks like thi dad.' He writes of the difficulty of a graduate working on a building site, where he would ritually find his Guardian alight; 'We'll call thi degree cos tha's got a degree'. He takes us to the landscapes of Stanage Edge, to a cloud that looks like his Dad's old hat and he recounts the folk tale of The Owl in the Tower, “A bird of destruction, a ghooast devil fowl...” and he thanks his rhyming Aunt Bella and the Wartime Postal System for instilling in him a love of words.

“We are dwellers, we are namers, we are lovers, we make homes and search for our histories”, so said Seamus Heaney reflecting upon the sense of place that pervades so much of his work. In writing, McMillan himself evokes each of these processes in turn, yet read aloud and these fundamental qualities are sadly lost, jettisoned by the hackneyed discourse of England's great divide.

Despite hilarity between the poems and his charisma as a public speaker, I believe the intimacy, poignancy and nuances of his work are suppressed by the rhetoric of the region of which he writes. I suggest that his writing and his public performances be kept separate by an imaginary line of their own, for his broad baritones undermine McMillan's true identity, not as a Northerner but as a poet with a whole life story to tell.

For more info on his book and tour click here.




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