Thursday, August 31, 2006

Spillage Folk

Photo by Liz Sheridan

The Cecil Sharp House near Regents Park houses The English Folk & Dance Society, I was aware of it’s existence from friends who attend ceilidhs that are hosted in the building but not being much of a dancer I have resisted the Society’s activities, until today that is. A couple of weeks ago I picked up a slightly grungy, photocopied flyer which advertised the ‘Blank Tape Spillage Fete'. With only one day left until the fete closes I decide to catch up with the event.
A handful of artists and musicians have been invited to create a ‘spillage’ tape, a kind of compilation, demo or collection of their music or sound recordings which they have been asked to fit onto two twenty minute sides of an audio tape. Along with the audio they were also asked to provide the artwork to accompany the tape.

Upon descending the stairs and entering the hall I was faced with the familiar village hall style fete scene, bunting is placed around the hall and at the head of the room is a stall selling various items. Around the walls are trestle tables with chairs and on the wall above the tables are black and white photocopies of a variety of images, text and drawings. On the tables lined with paper sit the tape cases, inlays, sketchbooks, paintings, drawings and sculptures of the artists and amongst these objects sit a variety of tape players, walkman’s and headphones. To complete the impression of the village fete is the nice touch of sitting the tape machines on white paper doilies.

To engage with all the exhibits is an epic feat but never has so much time in the context of an exhibition passed with such ease and enjoyment. The musicians have either given the context of the site very serious thought or the curators have done an exceptional job with their selection. The folk theme carries through the music but this is the point where the music is developing, traditional folk, pop and electronica all meld together. The musicians differing styles complement each other to the overall success of the project. The traditional folk sound is evident in My Dark Aunt’s contribution, simple but effective music is played with subtlety and this carries through in their finely crafted inlay and postcard. Phil Gardner never managed to produce any artwork but his song that listed all the places he’d visited in his life raised a smile in all those that heard it. Marcus Oakley recorded his jamming at home, he plays guitar while his brother plays along on an old fashioned children’s casio keyboard, the artwork to accompany included some slightly disturbing 60’s style cartoon images.
Throwing Shapes Away play Four Tet styled electronica and their sculpture of a deconstructed tape player spews out tape that has wrapped itself around a harmonica.
Luke Abbot’s 'DIY until I die' caught my ear as the first sounds I heard were reminiscent of a machine gaining conscious thought and beginning its attempts to sing in a fifties croon, this gives way to the slightly more conventional music which sounds like The Broadway Project as produced by AIR. Russell Wickwar plays a kind of East Anglian blues, his artwork a cardboard sculpture of a guitar with a guitar case that looks suspiciously like a coffin. Frank Hirota and End Of June play their lo-fi American sound allied with the mini AMERICAN LO-FI skateboard.
MMC started out like a street field recording which then moves into a filmic orchestral passage with elements of ambient feedback bubbling away in the mix.
The music of Woodworms featuring Giffle didn’t grab my attention but I was perhaps distracted by their psychedelic town plan, it looked like Buckminster Fuller had been given free reign to build a town in the future with the landscape to build on being comprised of oversize kittens. Kyran Lynn’s “Prisoners Of The Sun” provides no music at all but as a listening experience grabs you and takes hold, six people were asked to listen to a ham radio exchange previously recorded by Lynn and then repeat the words of the recorded speakers. From these repeated words he then overlayed the voices of the six new speakers, the balance of speech patterns and timings of the voices keeps you listening to the manner of their speech, only after some time do you begin to follow the conversation and then the disturbing nature of some of the political ideas being spoken become clear.

Of all the great recordings in this exhibition the one that caught my ear most was Half Cousin (Kev), on the wall above the tape player is a letter by Kev to the curators apologising for the quality of the recording. He explains the process that enables his music into being on the tape. His grungy, scratchy electronic folk production arrives at our ears via his 4 track machine “bouncing tracks on top of each other”, the final 4 track version is transferred onto mini-disc and from there onto the tape using his girlfriend's dad's stereo. He is obviously conscious of the distressed sound quality and his artwork echoes this with his distressed dirt encrusted tape case and inlay, next to that sits an old equally muddy and dirty copy of the book ‘Don Quixote’, the book is open at the inside cover and with all the pages removed you can see two images, the left hand image of scenes from the book and the right hand side a portrait hand drawn in biro.
This is in keeping with the feel of the show, the recordings are necessarily lo-fi, the artwork is finely crafted but often produced from modest materials and is housed in the village hall atmosphere of the equally down to earth and modest environs of The Cecil Sharp House.

There are tentative rumblings that the Blank Tape Spillage Fete hopes to return next year. I hope so, it should become a permanent fixture on our village calender.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ernesto comes ashore in Florida

Headline on Yahoo News this morning read "Ernesto comes ashore in Florida".

If Only!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Journeys Round A Beer Glass

I am a vaguely misanthropic character, I like my friends (sometimes!) and enjoy spending time with interesting people but every now and again I indulge my social phobias and avoid the telephone or forget about my email inbox . I deliberately stroll the streets at times when all the massed ranks of shopping obsessed rubberneckers, slack jawed wage slaves and shark eyed fashion victims are elsewhere, times of the day when they are still in bed or either side of the weekly lunchtime when you can stumble on those strangely empty parts of London just a few yards from the crowds, for instance Postmans Park. I actively seek out cosy pubs that are empty in the middle of the day and stop for a nice, long, quiet pint.

Occasionally however a pub is such a must visit that even when it is packed to the rafters with the same people I normally shun I take a big gulp of air, brace myself and with spectacles tinted with that colour of ‘irony rose’ hold my curmudgeonly anger in and sup with the sharp elbowed masses. One such pub that I take this risk with is The Junction Tavern, normally the well heeled Tufnell Park locals have me gnashing my teeth. The punters can be particularly ‘elbows’ and the occasional twentysomething who was born in a barn (somewhere in the home counties) will have me internally raging for a return to the days of the Tooting Popular Front because their snooty self-obsession has somehow affected my enjoyment of this great pub.
I am an infrequent visitor but something forced me through the crowds last night and that was the last night of their 6th beer festival. This bi-annual festival is local legend, very few of the areas pubs can compete with the food in the ‘Junction’ and when the beer festival comes along they certainly cannot compete for number and quality of beers.

After a bright and crisp Bank Holiday I ended the evening in the company of my housemates drinking my way round Britain with a lovely lemony ‘Sun Dance’ from the Conwy brewery, an Isle of Wight festival inspired, hoppy ‘Hippy High’ and some more hop action with a Dark Star ‘Hophead’. After a final beer we were left with an emptying pub and ushered homewards by the friendly barstaff, I had strangely forgotten my dislike of humanity and was ready for the new week with my batteries recharged. The next time The Junction has their beer festival I will be elbowing my way to the front of the queue with the best of them.

CGA exhibits at the Zetter Restuarant and Rooms for the London Design Festival

CGA exhibits at the Zetter Restuarant and Rooms for the London Design Festival

2nd – 29th September, 7am – 11pm Admission Free

The Zetter Restaurant and Rooms is showcasing work by designer-makers supported by the Clerkenwell Green Association, a charity which enables creative individuals to achieve the highest standards in fine craft and design.
The work on display celebrates the vibrancy of London, its traffic, its people and its architecture and is on view in a dedicated glass exhibition cabinet and Atrium wall space
Retreat from the hustle of the festival crowds and enjoy some unique design work in one of the most stylish and design-led hotels and restaurant in London.
Zetter Restaurant and Rooms St John’s Square, 86 - 88 Clerkenwell Road EC1M 5RJ
Tel: 020 7324 4444

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pop Star

It’s raining, the sky is darker than the time the clock you have just walked past would indicate for this time of year and the cool, rainy, street doesn’t have that slightly pissy summer smell anymore. It feels like autumn, summer’s given up for another year but the streets are still quieter than usual whilst everyone is still departed for the summer break. We walk up Kingsland road and duck into the Seventeen gallery.

On the floor is a patch of turf and it has the smell of trampled grass. Sitting on the turf amongst the assembled lounging people are several large yellow balloons gently swaying above the trays with tea lights on them that they are attached to.
We make our way to the back of the gallery (where the beer is served, on tap once again), nestled against the ceiling over the little staircase are assembled black balloons from which hang some small, black fabric figures. On the mezzanine floor tiny paper cut figures are scattered around, Manuel Mera’s soundtrack plays almost inaudibly in the background. Many invited guests are grabbing the black balloons and with varying degrees of effort and success are popping balloons on the nails that coat the ceiling and walls. With singular lack of popping success I give up after an embarrassing length of time (c.10 minutes) and settle with my drink to watch as those that suceed free little messages from the balloons. This is no pretentious audience participation art performance or knowing, tongue in cheek ‘happening’. This could be Turin, not London and for once any art ego needs to be checked at the door, any that haven’t been left at the door stand out like a sore thumb and that’s without coming into contact with the nails.

The printed blurb tells us that Kiyoshi Yasuda wants to make the world a better place, in a small gallery with a full but modest audience but in a very significant way he has done this. Ego is flattened on entry, quietly we are charmed by the spectacle and Yasuda’s enthusiasm and open emotional honesty is evident as he buzzes round the room greeting friends and visitors. On a fleeting pass on the way to some other person Yasuda gives the impression that anyone he has never met is a friend to be.

The smell of the turf and the chuckles as people enter the ‘enjoy toilet’ and the sound of popping balloons and the mini people scattered round the gallery and the grinning people observing and participating give the impression of the festival spirit. We head back out into what feels like the first day of autumn but for the past hour Yasuda has dragged us back into summer, we haven’t been kicking and screaming though because in the Seventeen gallery tonight the world is a better place.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Rest In Peace Tommy

Tommy Brunner
In late April, 2006, In the mountains of British Columbia, Tommy Brunner, An experienced all-mountain rider and big brother of snowboarding's extended family was taken from us by an avalanche.

His death is a great loss to snowboarding but more importantly to his family and friends. He was greatly respected not only for his mastery of the sport but also because he belonged to the small group of human beings who are unqusetionably real and true. To cross his path was an enlightening experience that would without exception revitalise ones belief in the goodness of ones fellow man.

We have all lost a friend, a role model and a brother.

(text reproduced from Onboard Magazine #82, August 2006)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Misanthropes and Curmudgeons Society Newsletter

Supposing ... We ban parties and replace them with real fun
Charlie Brooker
Friday August 18, 2006The Guardian

Here's an amusing game for all you coal-hearted misanthropes out there. Next time you find yourself lurking in the corner at a party, watching the disgusting fun unfold around you, start saying the word "despair" out loud. Begin the incantation at conversational level, then increase the volume incrementally until someone asks you to leave. I guarantee you'll be bellowing at the top of your lungs before anyone even notices. If you're lucky, someone else'll join in, and then you've made a new friend. I know; I've tried it myself.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a fun guy. There's nothing I enjoy more than a bit of pointless dicking round. It's the single most life-affirming activity in the world. But I have a problem with parties. Parties are supposed to be the last word in devil-may-care enjoyment, yet they fill me with an infinite sense of sadness, so vast and gaping that shouting "despair" seems like the only sane course of action. After years of pondering the subject, I've worked out why.
Parties somehow represent the rationing of fun, and that very concept depresses me. You're allowed to act like a tit at parties; therefore, by implication, you're not allowed to act like a tit the rest of the time. I consider that a serious infringement of my human rights. It's like society is blowing a whistle and shrieking, "Attention drones - your allotted enjoyment period starts now." Talk about enforced bonhomie. It takes the joy out of joy itself.
Consequently I'm suspicious of parties, and all who sail in them. Experience confirms my aversion. For example, when people refer to someone as a "party animal", you can guarantee what they really mean is "a loud, unimaginative, overbearing cretin who just about gets away with it when everyone around them is too drunk or stupid to complain". If there are any self-proclaimed "party animals" reading this, I hope the ink rubs off on your fingers and poisons you - and if you're online, I hope your monitor shatters, firing white-hot LCD shards into your dimwit, party-loving eyes.
Come to think of it, just hearing the word "party" makes me angry. In addition to wishing misfortune on "party animals" everywhere, I firmly believe that anyone who uses the word "party" as a verb - as in "hey everybody - let's part-ay!" - deserves to die shackled in rags while a masked torturer pours a saucepan of their own boiling blood down their throat. "Let's party" is a pathetic phrase. It really means, "Woo hoo everybody - we're allowed to enjoy ourselves for a moment! Aren't we ker-razy!?" Ugh.
The only solution, as I see it, is to swap the fun/no fun balance in everyday life. I'd prefer it if the entire year consisted of one long party, punctuated by bursts of compulsory stony-faced toil, preferably doled out in the most fascistic manner possible: two hours of serious work a week, overseen by jack-booted stormtroopers who'll thrash you into a coma if you so much as chuckle before the all-clear sounds. Global efficiency levels would sky-rocket. Better still, our quality of life would improve dramatically. And that'd give everyone real cause to celebrate. Not party. Celebrate.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Pondering Waves

Friday, August 18, 2006

Who Are The True Renegades?

detail from Neal Fox's 'Renegade City' flyer

A showcase of some of the most talented students graduating from London’s architecture schools opened yesterday. “Renegade City: Best in Show” is curated by Judith Van Ingen and Pieternel Vermoortel from the curating course at Goldsmiths, 10 students were invited to create proposals for architectural interventions and display their ideas in the context of a curated show with joint aims for all participants. Unlike normal architectural proposals these displays should not exist in a stand-alone capacity but exist as a dialogue between all the participants.

It constantly strikes me that for most architects the response to building and sustaining an architectural practice means losing the freshness and freedom they enjoy as students, often this freedom manifests itself in the architect appearing to have a desperate need to be an artist with only a little architectural context thrown into the mix. The projects displayed last night gave exactly the same impression. Toby Carr’s ‘anxious lounge’ appeared as a display stand with desk and a portrait of the man himself. From this portrait it seems Toby Carr is attempting to be Gilbert & George in one body, but why not Rogers and Foster or Herzog and De Meuron?.
Cynthia Leung’s mini environments on exploded stilts that protrude from open suitcases seem familiar, I have seen this visual conceit used many times before in the art context and to carry this visual language forward requires more development of the materials. Leung’s piece was an interesting and finely crafted starting point but unfortunately was just that, a starting point.

The most successful works were those that unapologetically spoke as an architect, Sebastian de la Cour’s ‘The House of Obstacles and Invitations’ was an impressively scaled model of a theoretical building with huge doors, false openings, dead end staircases and unreachable floor levels. The work was a great example of creating a false and unsettling architecture and works as a sculpture in it’s own right. de la Cour’s piece made me think of artist Gordon Matta Clark’s sculptural interventions in architecture. de la Cour could rightly be seen as making architectural interventions into sculpture.
Equally engaging was Joerg Majer’s G.U.L.L.I.V.E.R. Majer’s photos showed fantastic views of a cityscape intruded into by the hand of a giant. The living hand appears to become a building in its own right as the tiny world it has intervened in continues to live and move around it. One photo of particular note shows a tiny scale model of a building swamped in size by the fingertip that it sits upon.
Renegade City continues at The Architecture Foundation’s Yard Gallery until 2 September.

Just a few yards on the other side of Old Street was the opening of Pedro Alvarez photos at the Dazed Gallery. Portraits of surfers tired, dazed and just out of the water sit by photos of the break they have just surfed. The photos show the view at dusk with the surrounding lights of cities and towns in the distance glowing amid the grey blue tones of sea and sky. Exhaustion and calmness hangs on the faces of the surfers and juxtaposed with this distant, calm, somewhat soft water landscape is a little unsettling. The fact that the view from which the surfers have emerged can look so beautiful and settled contrast with the pain of effort that is required to tame the waves. No doubt this is exactly the point. The beauty and calm of the environment is worth the pain, fear and exhaustion when you are in its midst. I encourage you to see these photographs, any clichés you may feel about surf photography should be put to one side. These are something different.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I Pity The Fool.....

I guess this is doing the rounds at the moment but just had to..I know 'simple things' and all that but it made me laugh anyway.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

London On Screen

Time Out's London On Screen festival will take place September 1-30, 2006

Friday, August 11, 2006

Rise Of The Idiots, On Tour

photo by Liz Sheridan

Frenchmen arrested for bringing 'happy crashing' to Spanish roads Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Thursday August 10, 2006
The Guardian

You're approaching a busy roundabout in a bustling Spanish city, minding your own business. Suddenly a rogue figure lurches out into the road and reels towards you. You swerve, skid, narrowly avoid collision, and go on your way, cursing perhaps. Then you learn that it was a deliberate stunt, staged to film road accidents and post them on the internet.
In a variant of "happy slapping" - when people beat someone up and capture what they are doing on phone cameras - albeit one with a kamikaze aspect to it, four French pranksters in Benidorm have been risking their lives to provoke traffic accidents while one of their number films the mayhem.
Screeching brakes, skidding cars and angry drivers were captured on film by the four, who fled before passengers or police could catch them.
They chose a busy roundabout in the eastern coastal city on the road to La Nucia as their preferred hunting ground and, according to local police, risked their own lives to provoke sudden reactions. Three of them took it in turns to jump out at drivers while a fourth hid in some bushes and filmed. Police said the men, all 18, caused at least two accidents before being caught.
The antics normally took place early in the morning, as the Frenchmen indulged their exuberance after a night of drinking, police said. "They risked their physical integrity, as well as that of the drivers and traffic in this busy road," a spokesman told the local Las Provincias newspaper. Nobody was hurt in the accidents.
Spain has recently seen the arrival of happy slapping and other versions of crimes in which the perpetrators record what they are doing. The country, where more than 100 forest fires were burning yesterday, has also seen cases of people starting fires and filming the results.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Languedoc, May 2006
Raymond Depardon is familiar with the mountainous central regions of France and it’s farming societies. His documentaries “Profils Paysans:L’approche” and it’s follow up “Le Quotidian” were filmed in 2000 and 2004, focussing on characters he has built a relationship with over the years. The first part of this two part project “l’approche” is a simple exercise, it documents his approach to farmers and their families and shows us their lives. Many participants are obviously uneasy with the presence of Depardon’s camera and two or three have taken some persuading to undertake such an invasion into their privacy. Depardon handles his filmmaking lightly, the camera rolls as the individuals and families move in and out of the frame of the still camera, Depardon is rarely heard and never seen.
We see the individuals in their kitchens eating lunch, conversing with their families and friends and trading with the livestock breeders, butchers and others who come to buy their goods.
Depardon visits the regions of Lozere, Ardeche and Haute-Loire, these areas are semi mountainous and are harsh especially in winter. In all cases the family homes appear untouched by modern times, you would not be surprised if the film had been made 20 years earlier, the individuals who create a living from agriculture appear socially isolated to an urban observer and this level of isolation and social awkwardness is extreme in comparison to the gregariousness of the rural population in many other parts of France and Europe. It is obvious that Depardon is quietly chronicling a dying culture, their work is less valued by wider society and the money they can make from their livestock is constantly reduced.
Many of the people he visits are elderly and need to continue working long past retirement age, some have never married, very few have sons and daughters and those that do have seen them long since move to cities or educate themselves out of the hardship of agriculture into more lucrative employment. We are certainly not asked to feel sentimental about the life of a farmer but nonetheless it is tragic to see these people in their 70’s and 80’s fighting to continue their way of live in the face of a changing world. Certainly the hardship is exacerbated by the ageing process, many are struggling to physically cope with the hard work necessary to survive. Occasionally we see a spirit and humour in some of the farmers, one can be seen joking with a visiting livestock breeder, he is aware of the correct price for his cattle and leaves his visitor in no doubt what he expects from the deal and negotiates with humour, tenacity and pride.
By no means can you consider this a feelgood film, I left with a sense of defeat. This sense of defeat is evident on the faces of several of the participants in the film. We could be sentimental about the issues the film raises but too much time has passed and too much of the world has changed, the clock cannot be turned back. Those in power should work hard to create sensitive and sustainable improvements to the benefit of those that have been left behind in Lozere, Ardeche and Haute-Loire and many other parts of rural Europe. To inform themselves of this necessity they could start by taking a look at this documentary.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Quiet Day

Saturday was a great day to be in London. I walked through the city and had the place all to myself, what with many thousands departing for the weekend for various festivals including The Big Chill and many others hanging out in Regents Park for Fruitstock and the protest in the West End. The City was empty and I took the opportunity to visit a couple of exhibitions.

On Charlotte Road the Counter Gallery was showing their latest group show, I particularly enjoyed Anya Gallacio’s durian cast in yellow glass.
On Old Street I stopped for a beer in The Reliance and settled down to watch the world pass with the unique pleasure of having a Hoxton pub to myself for once. Upstairs the Approach gallery’s new Reliance space was showing Germaine Kruip’s mirrored kinetic interventions, unfortuanately the main piece installed in the two front windows had broken down and was still. I will have to return.

The Bloomberg Space was showing it’s current group exhibition ‘To Here’. The theme of the show was to ask the seven participating artists to create a work based on the journey from their homes to the Bloomberg Space at Finsbury Square. Some of the works didn’t particularly engage me, Mark McGowan’s film of his celebrity fancy dress race grabbed my attention, made me laugh and infuriated me at the same time. However, two pieces really stood out. Firstly Anne Talentire’s 16mm film of the car journey from her Camden home to Finsbury Square, I was entranced by the broad blue screen which gently fizzed with granular light, without reading the booklet blurb I waited for something to happen. After an indeterminate period of time something moved from the top to bottom of the left hand of the screen, not fast but not slow enough for my eye to grab enough visual information. This movement had keyed my mind into reading the granular light into the gentle top to bottom panning of the camera. At either side of the screen things ran from top to bottom, firstly a street light protruded into the screen edge and then roof edges and treetops. Talentire’s film traced her journey in real time as the camera placed to receive the view straight up into the sky. Any sense of time was lost as I was captivated by the need to catch these moving glimpses of intermittent visual information.
Further into the exhibition are three photographs by John Riddy. The photographs were taken in various parts of the city during his journey taken at a quiet time of day, the dawn light creeps into the photos to show us three different scenes. The first is a statue of Sir John Soane that stands against the wall of an imposing city building, the streets are still damp from overnight rain and creates a shiny darkness to the usual matt tarmac, the whole image of the street shines despite the flat low level lighting. Secondly is the view of a café under what appears to be a railway arch, the grubby brown yellow bricks are interrupted by a canopy bearing the words ‘coffee house’ and two hand written menus appear on either side of an opening in the wall which emanates a light from the small counter/serving point. A loose bulb provides some light to the exterior and 2 plants in hanging baskets and a plant in a pot on the floor can be seen. This rudimentary interruption in the fabric of the city is strangely reassuring despite being free from any notion of permanence. The third image is as charming but much more generically familiar, the view of a fifties style council estate with a Portuguese flag hanging from one of the windows, the most telling in this photo is, once again, the flatness of the light. No people can be seen but their presence implied by their absence as we assess the empty scene through the dawn light. This third photo should resonate with any English city dweller especially Londoners. I revelled in this scene of an empty street at that time of day, anybody who has to regularly walk the streets of London at dawn for reasons of work, insomnia or returning from a big night out will recognise this view of melancholy twinned with the joy of savouring moments of quiet in a usually insanely paced city.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Mazen Kerbaj's Blog

illustration by Mazen Kerbaj, August 2006
I was turned on to Mazen Kerbaj's blog earlier last week. It is now in my links but because of the current situation I thought I would highlight this in a slightly more obvious way.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Street Philosophy

Approached whilst having a beer outside The Champion on Thursday evening I heard the best persuasion for coughing up; "Can you spare a pound so I can invest in a balaclava and earn some real money".

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

30 Days

'30 Days'
ceramic cups, coffee on painted board