Category Archives: Art

Documenta 14 in Kassel, Germany, 2017

Documenta is a huge art festival that takes place in Kassel, Germany, every 5 years. This one, the 14th, is also simultaneously taking place in Athens. We went to Kassel a couple of weeks ago, so thought I might as well post a load of pictures. I am sure the one in Athens was just as nice.

If you want more information on the festival you can check out the official site https://www.documenta.de/en/ 

As stated in the link: “Over 160 international artists present works conceived for Documenta 14 at more than thirty different sites, public institutions, squares, cinemas, and university locations.” That is a lot of material.

We didn’t see all the artists because we are mere mortals but over the course of two days and 50,000 steps (according to my pedometer), we saw a hell of a lot. If you fancy going, the official site gives tips on how to get there. We ignored the advice as we also went to the Sculpture Project in Muenster. Because art.

I won’t go into too much detail as Documenta should be experienced and I can’t write pretentiously / lexically dense / cleverly enough to match a lot of ‘art writing’. The pretty photos should help a bit. I do have a few personal highlights and a very vague itinerary if that helps those deciding to go.

The main section and hub of Documenta is in the centre of town where there is an Acropolis made of books. It was a work in progress when we went but it was pretty amazing. There is a lot of stuff around this area with all the principal sites about 10 minutes walk from each other. You can also buy tickets, get maps, press passes and so on.

We did all the central stuff in one mad burst and the plan was then to have a beer and food and take it easy, finishing up the next day. However, after a large German ale and currywurst, we were sufficiently revived to see more. So we then took in two more sites that were amazing and completely different. One was in an abandoned subway station and the other in an old post office. Both are highly recommended.

Without further ado, here are the aforementioned loads of photos. (If you click on them, they get bigger.) They don’t really do credit to Documenta as that would take hundreds of pictures and a better photographer than myself. The festival runs until 17th September. Enjoy.

 

 

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Scooter Trouble by Nikolai Lockertsen on an Ipad

Scooter Trouble by Nikolai Lockertsen

I have an iPad Pro and pestered my local Apple shop on an almost daily basis as to when they were going to stock the Apple Pencil. I was going to teach myself to draw because I am so damned creative. Probably. I finally got the pencil but my art career has, sadly, yet to take off. The iPad has paid for itself from what I have written on it, so it wasn’t a total waste and I regularly use the pencil to take notes and practice writing Thai. It is also big and lovely and shiny. But my art and drawing skills remain on par with my music – I can do a tiny, tiny bit of each but thank god for my writing or I would be broke and starving in a gutter. (I will be plugging more fiction soon but for now click on this.)

I then saw a video on Facebook and I am feeling inspired. An artist called Nikolai Lockertsen creates amazing art on an iPad Pro using an iPad pencil. His other art is superb but I saw this video of him drawing a piece called ‘Scooter Trouble’ and felt a creative stirring. I have the Procreate app because I impulsively downloaded nearly all the art apps as doing so would make me more arty owing to some kind of osmosis. (It didn’t really work.) I feel I should point out that I get nothing from Nikolai Lockertsen or Apple or Procreate for writing all this. I just thought I would share as it is incredible and inspirational. (If Lockertsen or Apple or Procreate want in on some kind of affiliate deal, I am totally willing to sell out  – email me.) I have added links below if you want to follow this up a bit more.

Here is the video, apparently it took 16-20 hours:

Art Study Online’s website:
http://www.artstudyonline.com

Nikolai Lockertsen website:
http://www.lockertsen.net

Procreate (app) website:
http://www.procreate.si

 

 

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Ok Go – The One Moment video

OK Go - The One Moment

OK Go – The One Moment

This is incredible. The band ‘OK Go’ always does pretty cool videos but this one took so much planning and is so well done that I found it hard to believe at first. What they did was set up a load of events, timed everything with computers and digital triggers, then filmed ‘The One Moment’, real time, in 4.2 seconds. The music video is then that 4.2 seconds stretched out.

For more details check out the OK Go website: http://okgo.net/2016/11/23/background-notes-and-full-credits-for-the-one-moment-video/

Here is an excerpt with Damian Kulash, Jr. (director and singer), as he explains some of the stuff in the video:

Just how slow is this, and is it all one speed?
It is not all one speed, but each section is at a constant rate, meaning that time does not “ramp” (accelerate or decelerate). We just toggle from one speed to another. When the guitars explode, we are 200x slower than reality (6,000 frames per second), but Tim and Andy’s short bursts of lip sync (Tim twice and Andy once) are only 3x slower than real life (90 frames per second). The watermelons are around 150x, and the spray paint cans are a little over 60x.

How did you plan all this?
The whole point of the video is to explore a time scale that we can’t normally experience, but because it’s so inaccessible to us, our tools for dealing with it are indirect. The only way we can really communicate with that realm is through math. The choreography for this video was a big web of numbers — I made a motherfucker of a spreadsheet. It had dozens of connected worksheets feeding off of a master sheet 25 columns wide and nearly 400 rows long. It calculated the exact timing of each event from a variety of data that related the events to one another and to the time scale in which they were being shot.

You probably skipped all that text and just want to see the damn video already. So here it is. OK Go and The One Moment:

 

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Loving Vincent

LovingvincentLoving Vincent is the only film of its kind and it hasn’t even been finished yet. It has been all over social media recently as they are finally getting close after a mere 6 years and have released a trailer.

The idea is to make a film made entirely out of paintings. As in a painting in the style of Van Gogh for every single frame. Hence the 6 years and 85 exhausted artists (and counting). The result, as you can see in the trailer below, is pretty astounding.

Loving Vincent is a project that was begun by Hugh Welchman, the Oscar winning animator of Peter and the Wolf in 2006. He saw the Royal Academy’s van Gogh show in 2010 and decided he really needed a ridiculously long and involved project to sink his teeth into.

Here is an intro that has some more information and several scenes from the trailer (which is at the bottom):

I love Vincent van Gogh’s work and I’m not just saying that to impress hot art students. (Although I may have been guilty of that sort of thing in my youth.) I saw his show in London and have also been to the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. If that isn’t enough, I have also been to the house at St Remy that used to be an asylum where he lived and did a ton of paintings. It’s a pretty amazing place if you happen to be in that part France. They have van Gogh pictures in the locations where he painted them, which is a pretty nifty idea. Also, the entire setting is bloody lovely and has lavender at certain times of year. We went in May and here is a picture:

Where Vincent van Gogh lived in Southern France

Where Vincent van Gogh lived in Southern France

Good memories and I am sure it will feature in the film. Loving Vincent is due to come out in the autumn and will star Saoirse Ronan and Aidan Turner. I hope I get to see it in the cinema, because it looks incredible. For more information, check out the website: http://www.lovingvincent.com

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Temple of Art

templeofartThe Temple of Art is a documentary (and website) about what it is like to be an artist. Although not just an artist, just generally creative. There are lots of writers, musicians, directors and actors, etc, featured, and the end result is damned inspiring.

Although I work as a writer for my day job, it is a non-fiction / journalism type of scribing, not really all that creative. As you can see at the top of your screen however, I am starting to publish some fiction and travel writing. It is surprisingly nerve wracking releasing something you have created out into the big wide world. You open yourself up to criticism and possibly even ridicule.  There has not been a book written that hasn’t got some ass-hat on Amazon giving it a shit review. (Seriously, search any well-known novel.) On the other hand, as Ricky Gervais said on Twitter: “It’s better to create something that others criticise than to create nothing & criticise others. Go create! Have fun :)”

So create stuff and screw everyone.

Temple of Art

templeorartteamHere is the blurb from their website:

“Temple of Art is a documentary that sets out to explore the questions around the people who dedicate their life to art. The film looks at what it means to be an artist, how to fail beautifully, and proceed with courage. Coming 2016.

From Good Bully Collective (Co-creators Allan Amato & Olga Nunes), score by Jason Seigler. Featuring Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Dave McKean, Amanda Palmer, Kevin Smith, Chuck Palahnuik and over forty more artists.”

For more info and to pre-order the documentary, look here: http://templeofart.net/shop/

Here is what got me all inspired in the first place. It is one of many ‘Temple of Art’ trailers and features Ben Folds, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Grant Morrison, Chuck Palahniuk, Kevin Smith, and Billy Bob Thornton.

Temple Of Art: Permission from Olga Nunes on Vimeo.

 

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Salt of the Earth – Sebastiao Salgado

Salt of the Earth

Salt of the Earth

Salt of the Earth is a documentary movie about the life and photography of Sebastiao Salgado. It is astounding. If you are into photography, adventure, nature, films, etc, you will love it. Frankly, if you have a hint of a soul, you should see it. I was pretty blown away.

The film begins with a voice over talking about how photography means “drawing with light” and I started to get concerned this would be a two hour arty borefest. I don’t mind some art films but the linguistic pretension and false intellectualism they often employ, seem like they are trying too hard to impress. Thankfully, Salt of the Earth isn’t like that.

Soon after that opening statement there was a series of photos that made me realise I was seeing something that might change me. They were images of a gold mine / pit from hell, called Serra Pelada in Brazil, and were powerful, especially on a big screen. The imagery and photographic skills are awe inspiring and a great introduction to the abilities of one of the greatest photographers of all time. See it on the biggest screen you can find. Salgado captures the staggering sight of 100,000 men toiling in a colossal hole (see below), as well as capturing the people involved on a more personal level. As Salgado points out, this is a scene from history – this is what the building of the pyramids would have looked like. Thousands upon thousands of people working in heat without a piece of machinery in sight. Amazingly, none of them were slaves. This was a gold rush.

Brazilian gold mine

Brazilian gold mine

I started to think that maybe that maybe Salt of the Earth was simply going to be about this mine, but then we are off on a modern adventure with Sebastiao and his son Juliano (who partnered with the Wim’s to make the documentary). They are trying to take photos of walrus at the north pole but they get pinned inside their shelter by a polar bear. Then a trip to Papua New Guineau to see those tribespeople where the men but their todgers in rolled up bark. And then… You get the picture.

While this is happening, you also learn about Salgado himself. The documentary shows his family, what shaped his life,  his work, how his major projects came about. It is always fascinating but it is when he started to photograph humans and the mass escape of people from conflict and famine (frequently linked) that things get pretty dark. There are some horrifying images of the famine in Ethiopia and some incredible scenes from the burning oilfields of Kuwait.

Kuwait's burning oilfields

Kuwait’s burning oilfields

It was the atrocities in Rwanda that finally seemed to really get to Sebastiao Salgado. Then the war in Yugoslavia causes him to realise he has had enough. Even as a documentary viewer you have to admire how he survived such horror for so long. The way Salt of the Earth is structured, running in parallel with Sebastiao’s life, you can see why he returns home to plant trees and go a bit introspective. He is pretty disgusted with humans and you can see why. We really suck.

This, basically, is the lead up to his most recent work – Genesis. He goes to places that haven’t been royally fucked by humanity. His friends express concern that he is not a ‘nature’ photographer and he simply says that it is something he will have to learn. And he does. Like this:

selgadoAnd this:

fo_salgado_genesis_int-2b1There are other photos in jungles, deserts, snowy wastes; of exotic animals and rare tribes and more. He went pretty much everywhere and photographed everything and the pictures are consistently staggering.

sealsI have always been a fan of Ansel Adams and Cartier Bresson, and Sebastiao Salgado is a mixture of the two and by far my favourite photographer of all time. Seeing his work introduced and discussed by Salgado himself, along with a variety of others, is a great way to get to know his work and the thought processes behind it. I saw Salt of the Earth in the cinema and the way the documentary is structured, coupled with seeing the pictures on a big screen, made it a pretty emotional experience. Both my wife and an unknown lady on my left were weeping at the end. I, manfully, was fine but had a slightly itchy eye. A mixture of the documentary’s journey coupled with unbelievable imagery, made it pretty hard not to be moved.

As I said, I was blown away by this film and have waffled on way longer than normal. I kind of want to be a photographer as well as a writer now.

Here is a trailer:

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10 iconic characters drawn by 10 iconic artists

What would happen if you took 10 iconic cartoon and comic characters and then have them drawn in the style of 10 iconic artists? Well, see blow. The characters on the vertical are: Asterix, Calvin, Donald Duck, Captain Haddock, Batman, Heimo Vesa, Corto Maltese, Moomintroll, Garfield, and Lucy. The artists across the horizontal are: Uderzo, Watterson, Barks, Hergé, Adams, Jarla, Pratt, Jansson, Davis, and Schulz. In case you get confused, the greyed diagonal from top left to bottom right shows the artists matched with their artwork. (I really like Hugo Pratt.)

Maybe I am just a nerd but I spent ages looking at this when I first saw it on Sploid.Gizmodo.com. They are so well done that I felt obliged to share. Enjoy.

10comicartists

 

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Freaky gifs from Hayden Zezula

I saw these the other day and they were weird enough for me want to share. A graphic artist called Hayden Zezula created these eternal looping bursts of oddness and put them out on twitter. And possibly elsewhere. If you like a weird gif featuring babies and limbs (who doesn’t right?) then you have come to the right place. More can be found on Hayden Zezula’s twitter page (@zolloc).
cdkt2

cdktq

cdkue

cdkus

If you want to see more, Hayden Zezula (@Zolloc) can be found on twitter here:
https://twitter.com/Zolloc?original_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fio9.com%2Fdont-look-at-these-gifs-unless-you-want-nightmares-abou-1637395461&tw_i=503802792461361153&tw_p=tweetembed

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malfunction by Cyriak – mental but fun.

Having a normal day? Everything a bit sameish? Got a couple of minutes to be weirded out? Good. Then watch this clip called “malfunction” by someone odd on the internet called Cyriak. I found it strangely uplifting. Enjoy.

Fuerza Bruta

Fuertza Bruta

Fuertza Bruta

I saw this last night at the Roundhouse in Camden (London) and if you want the short version of the review:

It was awesome, go and see it.

Now for a more lengthy version. I had no idea what to expect from Fuerza Bruta as every review I had read struggled to accurately describe what happens. I’m not going to lie – this will probably be the same. But it might at least give you a taster.

Here is a basic rundown of how things happened and what goes on:

At the start of the show we, the milling crowd, were led to the central section of the Roundhouse into what could be described as a circular circus tent that was missing a roof. The audience was immediately herded toward the centre of the room where we waited and sipped drinks and were treated to techno that sounded a bit like a heartbeat. A heartbeat from an increasingly excited person. Then the lights dimmed and Fuerza Bruta began.

_DSC6097.JPGAt first no one knew where to look. Then, people gradually turned in one direction where there was a guy silhouetted in an orange light welcoming us and shouting a bit. Then the lights came on and there was a row of Argentinian drummers. As their drumbeats filled the air a group of shouting people suddenly swung from out of nowhere and skimmed over our heads while at the same time lights started to strobe and the air was filled with confetti. This was what Fuertza Bruta was all about – spectacle, sensation, and an incredibly fun interactive experience.

The show was essentially three acts that were linked by drums, dancing, music and sensory assault. As things changed, the audience was expertly moved and parted to allow sets and machines to be brought among us.

FuerzaBrutaFor the first act, we were split into two groups as a huge treadmill was wheeled in amongst us. Then an unstoppable man began an inexplicable journey. He walks, then runs, with wind and confetti blasting in his face. Suddenly there is a shot, blood appears on his shirt and he stops for second seemingly about to collapse. Then he takes the shirt off, revealing an identical one underneath, and gets going once more. I won’t go into too much detail but there are obstacles such as people, chairs, walls that explode into glitter, staircases and more, as this plucky fellow miraculously pounds ahead with music blaring and strobe lights strobing. Fuertza Bruta means ‘brute force’ and it clearly stemmed from this amazing set piece.

fuerza-bruta-2-816x1024After another few moments of ‘where the hell should I look now’ and a dash of ‘what’s going to happen next’ eyes strayed to the ceiling. Two large rectangular pools made from see though plastic where suspended above us. A light shining through revealed the body of a lithe young lady lying in a shallow pool of water. As the pools were lowered toward us she was joined by other lithe women and a strangely beautiful (and beautifully strange) dance occurs as the ladies writhe and leap and occasionally slam down in an explosion of purple-lit water. At times this occurs inches from the audience’s head and if you are tall enough you can push the plastic bottom of the pool as the performers slide over. It was such an amazing atmosphere and unique spectacle that it felt only a tiniest bit pervy.

1240-3-fuerza-brutaFor Fuerza Bruta’s final act a plastic sheet is pulled across the top of the audience – by the audience themselves – which is then filled with air to create a big plastic dome. Performers then appear on top of this dome and peep through via three holes. At one point they dropped into the audience and grabbed a couple of people, which was a tad disconcerting. Other madness occurs such as tubes with flying people and fans billowing and music and general shenanigans. By this point our senses had been pretty heavily assaulted by wonder and we calmly took it in our stride.It is then all nicely rounded off with the drummers and the whole cast dancing.

The above description is just a taste of what Fuerza Bruta is all about. There is a lot more I haven’t even mentioned. It is a spectacle where art meets performance and if that sounds pretentious then I should also add that it is messy, loud and bloody good fun.

If you are in London, it is on at the Roundhouse (which is an awesome venue anyway and well worth a visit) until the 2nd of March. More info here. It also appears all over the world, but I suspect only in major cities as it needs venues actually capable of holding the show.

In case my feeble description of Fuerza Bruta isn’t enough to wet your insatiable appetite, here are a couple of videos. Enjoy and then book tickets – it’s worth it.

Fuerza Bruta at the Roundhouse ad:

And a generic ad (from the New York show I think):

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LLSB – Long Live Southbank

Even without everything going on Southbank is a nice spot

Even without everything going on Southbank is a nice spot

This is primarily about the LLSB, Long Live Southbank campaign but it also rambles charmingly on about London in general. So if you aren’t a Londoner but one day hope to visit, consider this an incentive. Alternatively, if you are into skateboarding, check out the video at the end.

southbank human statueOne of the joys of being a Londoner is just the sheer amount of stuff that is going on all the time. Truly if you are bored of London, you are a boring bastard indeed. There is not just so much going on that you feel guilty every time you browse an issue of Time Out, there is also a ridiculous variety of things all around. I love all the book readings by famous authors, comedy nights, world famous bands playing live, the greatest selection of theatres on the planet, the markets, the pubs, parks, and random events like boat races/fireworks/pageants/random art happenings/street performances, etc. There are also things I don’t really give a shit about – opera, human statues, invigorating swims outside in the winter, performance art, vegetarian restaurants, chessboxing, religion, skateboarding, and so on.

But just because I don’t give a shit about these latter examples doesn’t mean I don’t want them around. They add something to the city.

Southbank-bookstallFor example, a place I love is the Southbank. This stretch on the south side of the Thames holds pretty much everything I have mentioned in both lists (not sure about chessboxing but I wouldn’t be surprised). It has Shakespeare’s Globe theatre (which must be experienced), the British Film Institute, the London Eye, Tate Modern, second hand books stalls, bars, restaurants, theatres and art galleries. It even has a beach!

It has also a place for skateboarders which has been there since I was a kid. As I said, I don’t really care much about skateboarding but the Southbank skateboard park is something I would be very sad to see disappear. It adds to London’s diversity. It seems a fun place for all the young youth-types to hang around. It’s always a laugh watching someone trying to show off and falling flat on their face. Besides, the area has been dedicated to the skateboarders for 40 years. Everyone likes it, including tourists.

LFA-south-bank-skateboarding_jpg_573x380_crop_q85The problem, no matter what the council’s argument claims to be, is that the skateboarders don’t make any money for Lambeth whereas a Starbucks/Wagamamas/Nandos/whatever will.

If the Southbank skateboard park is shut and replaced with chain shops/restaurants, it can only be a bad thing for a city trying to stay one of the top places for art,creativity, and diversity. I think it will be a massive shame to lose this. So do lots of others. Consequently, the LLSB or Long Live Southbank was set up.

I wrote most of this because they have now made a short video that they want to try and go viral. It’s actually really interesting, even if you aren’t into skateboarding. (Their website is here and is worth a look: http://www.llsb.com/)

At least watch the video and make your mind up. I learned some new things.

 

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Death at the Wellcome Collection

No this isn’t Agatha Christie novel, it’s an art exhibition. About Death. Which was brilliant.

A painting about death

The exhibition comprises over 300 pieces of art, sculpture, anthropological pieces, and more. I’m no expert but I thought it was brilliantly curated. Great lighting, well presented, and er, other curatorial goodness. The first room is full of art relating to death with lots of ‘Memento Mori’ – which is Latin for ‘Remember your mortality’ or ‘Remember your going to die’ (I did 5 years of Latin at school and it just paid off). Then things diverse into skulls, masks, models, pictures, and even cool things like a bone candelabra. It’s downright fascinating.

I would have liked a bit more anthropology however. There were some really cool masks and statues but they were so interesting I wanted a few more. It is a minor quibble though.

Here are some photos to give you an idea of just quite how much Death is on display:

This was particularly gruesome

Death: A self-portrait is on at the Wellcome collection until the 24th of February. It is well worth a visit and like all exhibitions at the superb Wellcome collection, it is free. So if you’re in London, check it out.

Here is a video about it:
http://youtu.be/ZDybI1vRSbE
The Wellcome collection is at 183 Euston Road, London (opposite the main entrance to Euston).

For more info, click this link. Death: A self portrait.

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Ansel Adams – Photography from the mountains to the sea

I saw this exhibition yesterday at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (London). It was downright awe inspiring. Alongside Cartier Bresson, Adams is probably my favorite photographer in equal first place. I guess I’m a sucker for black and white photos.

Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams is best known for his stunningly detailed photographs of American landscapes. In particular Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Death Valley, and the Californian coast. He does do smaller more intimate pictures but my favorites are his huge and epic pieces. You can see a few at the the bottom of this post but quite frankly, the only way to do justice to his work is to see it on a larger scale. Which means you should go and see this exhibition if you happen to be in London. I have been a fan of Ansel Adams since I was a kid and this is a worthwhile exhibition with a variety of examples of his work – from the small and intimate to the large and epic. There are also a couple of interesting documentaries.

ANSEL ADAMS Photography from the Mountains to the Sea is on at the National Maritime Museum (which is fascinating anyway) from 9th November 2012 to 28th April 2013.

As promised here are some bigger pictures. Imagine them even bigger.

Ansel Adams

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Thai Modern Art arrives in London

London is one of the world’s great art centres. Lots of art fans are currently descending on the city from all over the globe to take part in or see the colossal Frieze art fair. This is a great event but visitors should know that there is a lot more to see. Most of London’s established art scene is in the West, North or middle of the city but huge amounts of exciting new stuff is coming out of the East. An area of hip and trendy struggling artists, writers, musicians and unemployed.

In the depths of East London there is a mini hub for all this emerging art called Vyner street. The first Thursday of every month there is a bit of a party with the collection of galleries that line the street opening late to admit lots of excited and slightly inebriated art fans. It’s good fun and cultural to boot.

Of particular interest is an exhibition of Thai modern art called Origin-Originality at Forty7 Gallery, 47 Mowlem Street (Off Vyner St). You don’t get much Thai modern art in the West, so this is an ideal opportunity to see some and buy some. It will be worth millions soon. One of the artists has already featured in a Christie’s Auction, so you’d better get in quick as Southeastern Asian art is very ‘in’ right now. This exhibition looks great, the art is intriguing and the whole thing is on from the 4th-14th October. It is curated by the superb Nim Niyomsin. If you are here for the Frieze art fair or just like art generally, you should check the area out. It’s where it’s at.

Here is a link that will tell you all you need to know about the background to the exhibition, the artists involved, and where all the excitement will be happening. http://www.origin-originality.blogspot.co.uk/ There is also info at the bottom of this page.

Here is some of the art:

Maitree Siriboon

Peerawayt Krasaesom

Tatiya Udomsawat

Here are some details:

Public Opening: Thursday 4th October 2012 (First Thursday), 6-10pm
Exhibition Runs: 4th -14th October 2012
Opening Hours: Mon-Tue: By appointment, Wed-Sun: 11am-6pm
More information please contact:
Nim Niyomsin
[+44] 07999 064254

Forty7 Gallery
47 Mowlem Street (Off Vyner St) London E2 9HE,http://www.forty7gallery.blogspot.co.uk/

 

 

About First Thursdays and the area including Gallery Forty7:

http://www.firstthursdays.co.uk/galleries/forty7-gallery-7coco

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John Martin: Apocalypse at Tate Britain

Apocalypse by John Martin

 

Everyone loves a good Apocalypse and everyone seems to love John Martin’s work. I certainly did.

John Martin was hugely popular in the 19th Century and toured the world with his spectacular paintings of the end of the world and scenes from the bible of God smiting the shit out of everything. Obviously most of the paintings come from the Old Testament when God was going through his ‘angry phase’ and regularly destroyed cities and drowned the whole planet. Fortunately he chilled out a bit after that and started banging on about being meek and merciful as if all the mass destruction had never even happened.

Martin’s work focuses on these more exciting bits of the bible along with other scenes such as debauched feasts and epic battles. Man, the bible went downhill in the second half (apart from the epic destructive end scenes, but it was too little too late to save the book in my opinion).

At the time, plebeian Victorians flocked in their thousands to see the huge and exciting pieces of work. They were the blockbuster cinema equivalent of the time (it was boring back then, hence all the warfare and Empire building). Of course the intelligensia of the day slagged off Martin’s work as being distasteful and dubbed him the ‘people’s painter’. Intellectuals hate stuff that gets too popular and John Martin was the Michael Bay of his time. The main difference is that Martin is now seen as being ahead of his time, whereas I suspect Bay won’t be.

Sodom and Gomorrah after God gets pissed off

John Martin: Apocalypse
is well worth seeing. I loved it. There’s an added bonus near the end where a load of arty actors have done a voice over for a sort of mock up of the sensationalism that surrounded his tours. This consists of a triptych of pictures (three paintings in case you’re an oik) with lights and cool effects.  The left picture is of heaven and has cherubs lolling around fatly and pointlessly. The centre has Jesus being judgemental and condemning half the population to eternal torture. The painting on the right is of hell and collapse and general coolness. This is accompanied by the actors recreating the sort of cinematic voice-over sensationalism that was used to publicise his work. ‘SEE THE DAMNED CONDEMNED TO THE FIERY PITS OF HELL’ sort of thing. It was brilliant.

As I said, I loved it and so did everyone I was with. It’s on at Tate Britain until mid-January, so you have plenty of time.

Bizarrely, here’s a trailer:


 

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The Secret Cinema

Last week myself and Mrs wordofward went to the mysterious sounding ‘Secret Cinema’. We were invited by our hip and trendy friends who took us to Shunt. It’s not just a cinema event, it is primarily an art event happening experience thing. Which are always fun.

We were told to wait outside Wapping tube stop dressed as if it were the 40s. In case you don’t know London, Wapping is a bit of a shithole. It’s lucky that it wasn’t the forties as the whole area was pretty much wiped out in world war two and rebuilt in the architectural style known as ‘characterless’. In case the gathered crowds got too rowdy, a few policemen turned up in 1940s police outfits. One even had a moustache which is as authentic as you can get.

We arrived and lurked around the pavement with lots of other people dressed vaguely 40s-ish (although some were distinctly late 1930s, the amateurs). At precisely 6:30 there was suddenly loud chanting approaching us from a side street. A load of people in period clothing arrived chanting ‘Freedom to create!’ and carried banners saying the same. People in the crowd joined in this plea to be free to create. This confused me a bit because I thought we were free to create in this country. Unless I missed a meeting or something. I’m pretty sure there are art galleries everywhere and London is one of the art and culture centres of the world. But hey, what do I know? Let us be free to create you fascists! Yeah!

We followed these chanters to a large warehouse known as Tobacco dock. Here we joined a huge long queue. We were entertained throughout though as a load of actors in character wandered around chatting with us. A nice lady asked us our names to check if we were on the list. We weren’t just on the list, we were on the elite list. Our friends had a display/installation at the event so we were suddenly in a queue of 10 people as opposed to 900. Consequently we were soon in.

Gents in hats with pints

The interior was basically like a large shopping mall with lots of open areas. Instead of shops there were art things and bars. The first room we came across was a bar which sold the classy Stella Artois Black beer. There was also a fellow on the piano and a lady who sang and played the kazoo. We grabbed a couple of pints and headed for culture.

All around us were gents in suits, hats, and moustaches with dames in sexy dresses and those old fashioned stockings with the line up the back of the leg. Which look great. We decided to check out some of the installations and as always with these things, they were a hit and miss affair.

The tradition in the 40s was to hang your ballet shoes from the ceiling. Good times.

One room was full of paper for some reason. Tons of it, shredded and lining the walls. One room had lots of ballet shoes hanging from the ceiling. As you do.

In another room was a strange man who I think was supposed to be an old time actor. He sat there looking at roses in front of a mirror. Which is what actors do apparently. The freaks. On a similar theme, another room had a lady in it who changed poses while wearing a white dress that had what I think was supposed to be blood around the hem. It was bizarre but it looked good in a photo. As you can see.

Strange lady

There were more rooms with videos and the like going on. Our friend’s room was pretty cool. You stand in front of a large screen and thanks to some computer jiggery pokery the screen interacts with you. For example, the lady on the screen beckons someone forward while holding up a dress. A real person then steps forward and they can see themselves on the screen wearing the dress. There was more to it than that obviously but I’m trying to keep my descriptions quick. Here is our friend Francesco watching a clown in the room:

Francesco watching a clown

In addition to all these rooms were open spaces that held performances and sold food. Obviously the food wasn’t that authentic as there was some and it wasn’t rationed. The performances varied from dances to acrobatics to music and were all really well done. One of the highlights was a very limber lady hanging from the ceiling by two lengths of cloth. The music was very tuneful too. There were a lot of actors wandering about and when they weren’t on stage they acted out random scenes among the audience. For example, we saw two guys dressed in ‘old school’ labourers outfits – trousers and vests – being shouted at for being late with the luggage they were carrying. The luggage was ‘old school’ too.

More random performances.

Finally, there were the inevitable screenings of old movies. These vary each event and set the theme for the whole evening. One Secret Cinema event was Lawrence of Arabia and was held in huge tents with kebabs and belly dancers. On our particular night it was the movie ‘Red Shoes’. You know, the one from the 40s.

All in all, it was a superb evening. It changes each time and due to its popularity it rapidly becoming less of a secret. I look forward to future events like this especially if they are Scifi or porn related. That would be a cool but probably a different type of evening. Scifi porn!

I will end with another picture of some random people and then a video of the event that someone kindly created. Thank you Sophie for all the pics.

It turns out the 40s were cool. Apart from the first half. Pip pip stout fellows.

Random people in costume.



http://www.secretcinema.org/

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Susan Hiller Exhibition

Being the cultural man about town that I am, I went to the Susan Hiller exhibition at Tate Britain yesterday. Actually, it was my wife’s suggestion otherwise I would have just gone to the pub. I’m glad I went though as some bits were awesome.

The exhibition was £11 or £9.50 with concessions. For some reason I was charged £15.50 for the two of us. Work that out.

The first thing we saw was called Recycled Work, which was essentially some bits of cloth made into a book. I’m sure it had a brilliant meaning or something else I missed, but I wasn’t that impressed. Then there were some books where people had written down their dreams. I discovered that not everyone dreams of zombie apocalypse, alien invasion, and lots of naked ladies every night like I do. Which is a shame as it would have been more interesting.

Dedicated to Unknown Artists

Then there was a bit called Dedicated to Unknown Artists. This was pretty interesting. It was a load of postcards from all over Britain featuring rough seas at various points along the coast. Some of the pictures were pretty cool but I was always under the impression that postcards were a kind of advert for the area. These had full on storms in some of them. It was a good idea though and had an accompanying map.

There were a few other things that were ok, but not great. A series of photos of Hiller’s belly when she was pregnant looked quite interesting due to the way it was presented. There was also a collection of items, literally just random stuff, where I must have missed the point. We then watched a video called Magic Lantern which consisted of a series of coloured circles and some audio recordings of people saying random things.

The rest of the art was pretty cool though.

At some point, Hiller found a forgotten monument in London that mentioned lots of people dying in heroic ways. She took photos of these and displayed them on a wall. Most of them were pretty sad. Things like a ten year old boy who died saving his eight year old brother from drowning, or a guy who saved lots of people from a burning building but then never came out again. It was genuinely quite moving and there is an audio tape too.

In one section there was a mock up of a living room with a TV that showed a picture of fire. Accompanying the fire was a whispered voice that told how in the old days before 24 hour TV (ITV not included – who watches nightscreen??) people heard voices and saw apparitions in the fuzzy picture left after broadcast stopped. Things like John Lennon saying that everything will be ok. Even though the sort of person who stays up watching ‘noise’ is probably prone to hallucinations and bouts of madness anyway, it was still pretty creepy.

Psychic Chicks

Next up was a big room with five screens in it showing clips of psychic chicks from movies like Firestarter and Stalker. As the girls start to levitate things and burn things the soundtrack of drums builds to a crescendo. It was really effective and interesting and made me want to watch Firestarter again.

Scary Punch and Judy

Another room was pretty creepy. It was dark but had videos playing in two corners – two screens in each corner. The visuals were a repeated and edited video of Punch and Judy, which sounds pretty innocuous. The videos were reddish in hue and the shots were of Punch or Judy beating each other repeatedly with clubs. This was accompanied by screams and aggressive music. It somehow seemed really violent and impressively shocking. Give someone some LSD and they would go mental in about 10 minutes.

Then there were my favorite two rooms.

The first was called The Last Silent Movie. Cunningly, it was almost the opposite of a silent movie. It had audio and subtitles but no video. It was the subject matter that was fascinating though. It was a series of recordings of languages that were either extinct or close to it. They were varied enough to be interesting. Sometimes it was a song, other times a fable or personal story. It was quite sad hearing the last people speak a language. Especially when a caption then appeared saying it was the last speaker and they died 50 years ago. While doing my English degree I studied how languages arise and become formalised and it was moving to think that these were the last utterances and that an entire language was dying.

Then there was the best room of all. It was called Witness. You enter a large blue-lit room that seems to have a load of string or wire hanging down, with some kind of disc attached to the end. In fact, it looked exactly like this:

Witness by Susan Hiller

When you get closer you start to hear a weird whispering noise. A bit like a theatre audience just before a performance as heard from the stage. The discs at the bottom are actually speakers and each one has a recording of someone recounting a UFO encounter. They are in all languages so you soon find yourself wandering among the strands and speakers listening for English (presuming you are an English speaker obviously). There are quite a lot of English ones and the stories are really interesting and I speak as one who believes in alien life but doesn’t think they fly around and probe us. One of the best things though, is the strange sensation of wandering among the voices. You feel like Professor Xavier when he is doing that search thing among humans and you hear lots of snatches of conversation from hundreds of different people. Or that chubby cop guy in Heroes, who can hear people’s thoughts. I’m trying to think of a non geeky example but I can’t. It’s a really cool and fascinating experience.

So, to some up: there are some hits and some misses. Even the misses aren’t too bad and they could just be misses because I am an uncultured oik who missed the point. The majority of the exhibition is really good and thoroughly interesting. I highly recommend it.

The Susan Hiller exhibition is at Tate Britain (nearest tube is Pimlico) and runs until May 15th. It’s worth the money. Whatever they charge.

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Shunt at London Bridge.

Last night I went to a bar/club/theatre/art/performance/thing called Shunt with my wife and some creative friends. It’s a very difficult place to categorize except to say that it’s fucking brilliant. Shunt are a ‘performance collective’ which sounds a bit arty or indeed wanky but it is truly a superb idea and I’m mildly annoyed that no-one has told me about this place before.

Beyond this innocent door lies untold wonders. Plus beer.

Beyond this innocent door lies untold wonders. Plus beer.

I have walked past the entrance a thousand times and never knew what it was. This website now gets over 100 people a day looking at it and I’m not even that sure I want to let you all know where it is but as you can look it up yourself, I suppose I might as well. At least then you can buy me a beer if I’m there. When you come out of London Bridge tube and start walking toward the escalators that lead up to the overland trains, you will see this door. Plus a small queue. There are no signs.

You WILL be asked for ID, which was actually pretty cool as that hasn’t happened to me since I was 17. It costs £10. Once you walk through the unassuming entrance you suddenly find yourself in a colossal underground vault. It is huge and sphincter-tighteningly impressive. From this point, a lot of it is hard to review because here lies the genius of Shunt. Every night different stuff happens in various rooms. First let me describe the space a bit. On entering, you will be faced with a long vaulting corridor with huge, high-ceilinged rooms branching off at either side. Sometimes it looks like this:

photo001

Sometimes like this:

1_400x300Last night it was dark and lit entirely by candles.

In the rooms there can be anything. Bars selling beers and other bars selling cocktails are dotted around, as are cosy corners with small tables or couches or recliner chairs or anything. There is artwork in odd places and random performances from actors or artists or musicians or people who are a bit mental. When we entered we came across a room where a creative looking lady was doing a book/poetry reading to creative looking people. In another room there were comfy chairs and a cinema screen playing old black and white sci fi movies. And they weren’t all Metropolis.

One room held a theatre and there were loads of others with shows going on and interactive arty things.

A bar in one of many cavernous rooms.

A bar in one of many cavernous rooms.

Every night something different and interesting and random happens here. If you just want to have a quiet drink and soak up the huge cavernous atmosphere there’s plenty of hidey-holes for that too. At one point a guy appeared near us and started performing brilliant songs under a spotlight on his keyboard. He appeared like magic.

This guy appeared from nowhere. Sorry about the quality but my phone doesn't have a flash.

This guy appeared from nowhere. Sorry about the quality but my phone doesn't have a flash.

Here are some random pictures ruthlessly stolen from the internet of things that have gone on here in the past:

No idea what's happening but you can see the size and atmosphere

No idea what's happening but you can see the size and atmosphere

Another bar but with ladies dancing. Marvellous!

Another bar but with ladies dancing. Marvellous!

A band. Obviously.

A band. Obviously.

Another random section of the HUGE Shunt bar/club/thing

Another random section of the HUGE Shunt bar/club/thing

Ok that’s enough. You get the idea. Shunt is a truly unique experience. A good and exciting one. It’s one of those places I always envisioned myself in. On drugs. With Jagger and Bowie.

It got shut down in November so that it could be turned into a load of shops. I hope the tedious peon that came up with that idea died in an hilarious accident worthy of a Darwin Award. Thankfully, it has now opened again but no one seems to know how long for. Hopefully at least another year. So check it out.

Here is a video that shows yet more stuff that has happened in the past. Some of it looks a bit mental but remember you only have to get as involved as you want to. There is a lot of room.

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Pop Life: Art in a Material World at Tate Modern

Pop Life at Tate Modern

Pop Life at Tate Modern

This was a great exhibition. It is essentially about artists who mixed fame and the desire for fame and money with their art. These artists sought out as much publicity as they could and said ‘Balls! I love publicity and money’ to all the purists and critics who claimed they were selling out.

Jeff Koons and his rabbit sculpture.

Jeff Koons and his rabbit sculpture.

The first room is like a tester or a sample. It contains Jeff Koons’ sculpture of an inflatable rabbit alongside video footage of an actual colossal balloon that he put in the Macy’s thanksgiving parade in New York. There is a video showing an Andy Warhol advert for TDK tapes and there is a human sized sculpture by Takashi Murakami of a manga chick with huge norks spraying out milk.Takashi Murakami's big titted manga chick

This is all just for starters.

The next room was dark with some florescent gem paintings by Warhol. This was followed by a room full of Warhol’s celebrity portraits which he did purely for the fame, kudos, and money. He even offered discounts if the celeb in question bought two. There is a bit of multimedia action after this as we are informed that Warhol linked the whole fame and art thing, and that all the Pop Artists that followed were going along with this idea. There more ads and movies and a scene from The Love Boat where the Cunninghams from Happy Days meet Andy Warhol on the Love boat. I kid you not. Talk about fucking surreal. I came away from these rooms with an increased appreciation for what Warhol was trying to achieve. Both as a publicity seeking artist and with ‘the Factory’ where he encouraged struggling New York artists to create work under his guidance. The Warhol rooms show just how influential he really was and the rest of the exhibition reflects this.

Soon after this is a small room where an artist called Richard Prince had a photo of a naked Brooke Shields at the age of ten. It was taken down day one as people complained that it wasn’t exactly art, more of a picture of a naked girl who later got famous. I think the complainers have a point. It was unnecessary. Even though he tried to justify it by giving it the pretentious title of ‘Spiritual America’ and presumably tried to make a point about child celebrity and exploitation (I couldn’t be bothered to read it), it was clearly a case of ‘Ooooh aren’t I shocking and controversial!’ I can’t be bothered with this sort of crap. In its place is a picture of an older Brooke Shields in a bikini. Which was nice but no more art than when I had a similar poster of a chick in a bikini draped across a Ferrari on my wall when I was 14. Perhaps I missed the irony.

Next up was a room where I really started to appreciate all the effort the curators had gone to with this exhibition. The entire room was dedicated to Keith Haring and his unique art. There was 80’s Hip Hop blaring, T’shirts and other merchandise, his art all over the wall, and a fully functioning shop with accompanying bored attendant. I wish I like his art more but the way the room was done really made me appreciate what ‘feeling’ it was that Haring was trying to achieve.

Keith Haring's "Pop till you drop at the Pop Shop"

Keith Haring's "Pop till you drop at the Pop Shop"

After the 80s excitement of this room we were faced with a choice. Turn right down a corridor lined with 70s porn done by some chick that was apparently famous in the adult industry in the 70s and 80s. Or go through a huge door marked ‘Over 18s only. Extremely explicit imagery.’ Quite a quandary. After walking through the door we were indeed faced with an explicit image. Imagine a woman being fucked by guy with her on top and bent forward slightly. Now imagine her buttocks pulled apart and the guys legs spread and you looking the insertion with your head about a foot away. The result is that you are limited to seeing half a penis in a vagina and a woman’s arsehole. Take a photo and blow it up to a huge size. I’m no prude but a lady’s puckered rectum a foot across is not that attractive. This was the first picture in Jeff Koon’s Made in Heaven room. Apparently he started to take photo’s of an Italian porn star called Cicciolina (whom I sadly had heard of), then photos of him having it away with her. Eventually he married her. Isn’t that romantic? Anyway, the whole room is full of pictures of him cumming on her and her ramming didlos up her orifices. In the middle is a statue of him boning her. I found the whole thing a bit pathetic to be honest. It just seemed like an exhibitionist that has found a way to make tons of cash without labeling it porn. It is the talk of the town but is curiously missing from a lot of reviews. Here’s about the only tasteful picture I feel like including:

This is art not porn apparently. How controversial!

This is art not porn apparently. How controversial!

Then back out and down the 70s porn corridor, which by this point actually seemed fairly artistic. Even though it was mostly just pictures from Razzle.

Then you enter the realm of the Brit artists who follow the whole ‘I’m a celebrity artist ethos’. Obviously the prime contenders were Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin. I find Tracey Emin annoying and not in the way she is trying so hard to be. Hirst’s stuff was ok to quite cool. The ok stuff:

Look! Twins in front of dots! Genius!

Look! Twins in front of dots! Genius!

The quite cool stuff:

Damien-Hirst-False-Idol-2008-

Damien Hirst's False Idol

I know it’s a pickled calf with gold shoes but I actually quite liked it.

The next room was by Rob Pruitt and Jack Early. There are a load of really cool Blaxploitation posters featuring people like Martin Luther King and NWA and so on. All with Jackson 5 music playing.

After that there was yet another controversial piece of art as it showed a collection of pictures of Hollywood actors in roles where they played Nazis. There were a lot of people standing around saying things like “in which film was Clint Eastwood a Nazi?” (or Harrison Ford or Richard Buton or Tom Cruise or Ralph Fiennes, etc)  The controversy was pretty dumb in my opinion as none of the films were making the Nazis out to be good guys. Maybe I missed the point. As a collage though, I thought it was pretty impressive and mildly thought provoking.

Piotr Uklandski The Nazis 1998 Courtesy of AFPGetty images

Piotr Uklandski The Nazis 1998 Courtesy of AFPGetty images

The next couple of rooms were a bit unnecessary and shite in my opinion. One was a video of an artist called Andrea Fraser having really boring sex with an anonymous art collector on a video shot in a hotel room. The other was a stuffed horse with a sign that read INRI – apparently the sign that Pontius Pilate had hanging around his neck when he was killed. Which is just pretentious arty shit. One critic described this as ‘Flogging a dead horse’ which I found mildly amusing.

Maurizio Cattelan's Untitled dead horse with a stick in it

Maurizio Cattelan's Untitled dead horse with a stick in it

The final room was by Takashi Murakami and was brilliant. One wall was entirely dedicated to a colossal manga chick wandering down the technology and manga heaven of Tokyo’s Akihabara district. It was entitled: Giant Magical Princess! She’s Walking Down the Streets of Akihabara! (2009). In this room you learn all about how Murakami opened the Kaikai Kiki company where he effectively did a Japanese version of Warhol’s Factory. He churned out small manga toys which could be collected with gum in Japanese shops and did photography and videos of Japanese cosplay. Kaikai Kiki did something similar to Warhol in that it took in loads of aspiring artists and under Murakami’s supervision churned out art as business. There is even a music video featuring Kirsten Dunst as a hot manga vixen walking down the streets of Akihabara (like the mural) accompanied to a revamped version of The Vapours’ “Turning Japanese”. Loud and on a huge plasma tv. I loved this room. It was a great ‘cap’ to the earlier Warhol stuff and encapsulated what the whole exhibition was about.

This was a superb exhibition and I’m really glad I went. I came away with a greater admiration for Warhol and Murakami and a lot of the artists in between. Sure there were a lot of things I didn’t like or thought that the artists were just going for shock value, but as an exhibition charting ‘Pop Life’ and the mix of consumerism and money for art, it was fascinating. There was a lot more than I have mentioned but I though some of the highs and lows would suffice. A lot of thought had been put into this and overall the experience was a highly enjoyable one. Sadly it has finished now but if it goes on tour it is well worth checking out.

Next time I’ll try and review art before the exhibition shuts. Apologies.

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No Love Lost, Blue Paintings by Damien Hirst

Hirst's Blue skull

I saw this the other day at the Wallace Collection. Which was a bit odd as I’m sure you’ll be aware if you have ever been to the Wallace Collection. The building is a couple of hundred years old and is full of old stuff. Old paintings, statues, suits of armor, antique guns and so on. Even the couches, fittings and banisters are ancient and frequently blocked off by red velvet rope. So it was a bit odd to turn a corner and leave a room filled with 17th Dutch masterpieces and see two long rooms filled with Hirst’s ‘Blue paintings’.

These paintings were done by Hirst himself! No assistants or anything. They are actual paintings too. I’ve never rated Damien Hirst much, so I thought I’d go and see what he’s like as a solitary painter.

A-visitor-with-a-painting-009To be honest, they were ok. That’s all. Sorry if you were expecting more depth but there you go. The blue skull at the top of this post was one of the better paintings. There were also three others that had a ghostly figure facing a kind of translucent blue forest that I particularly liked. The rest were just alright. There were strong hints of Francis Bacon but they were nowhere near his league.

These were my favourites.

These were my favourites.

So there you go. Fairly average would be my overall review. Some good bits but overall I left fairly underwhelmed. It was free and in a cool building I’d never visited before, so it was worth it.

This exhibition has finished now but the Wallace Collection is a brilliant place. I’d highly recommend it. There will be two big rooms with different stuff in it now as well.

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