Monday, 27 December 2010

Hansel and Gretel

I'm really sad to say that i was terribly disappointed by Kneehigh's production of Hansel and Gretel at the Southbank. I'm a huge fan of the Cornish theatre company, whose inventively interpretative productions of plays including Brief Encounter and A Matter of Life and Death have captured my heart and imagination in a way like few other plays over the last few years. Perhaps it was because this was most definitely for children, perhaps because i secretly wanted to be at a Christmas party across town, who knows, but the songs failed to excite and the story never seemed scaled the heights of innovative daring and surprise i was expecting, acrobatically flying between the familiar and fantastical with gravity-defying elegance as with former productions i've seen. I kept thinking it should have been like Told by an Idiot's production of Michel Faber's short story The Fahrenheit Twins, weird, wonderful, funny and deliciously dark, but it wasn't. sitting somewhere between awkward and deflating instead.

Still, i've booked tickets for Kneehigh's adaptation of Powell and Pressburger's classic film The Red Shoes, starring Moira Shearer, about a fatally passionate ballet dancer, which opens at the BAC in March. so fingers crossed that'll more than make up for this disappointment.

Broken Hearts

I literally can't stop listening to these Broken Hearts covers of songs. LOVE them. i want to be in the videos, clad in neo-burlesque finery with a heart shaped bob.  

Naughtily Black XS

There is a very particular significance to my liking this video. the end. 

Friday, 10 December 2010

James Turrell

Sustaining Light, 2007
Wood, computerized neon setting, glass piece
Aperture: 62 1/4 x 46 1/2 inches (158.1 x 118.1 cm)

Everyone's been talking about the James Turrell exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery, getting all giddy with excitement in their explaining of it. I can now understand why.  It's incredible. Today, the last day,  through nothing short of a gloriously unexpected miracle (given how many times i've tried to book a slot) i managed  to get one of the coveted spots in Bindu Shards (2010), the immersive light installation experience. You enter the lunar-esque space pod (below) like it was an MRI scanner - flat on your back and slid in by the 'laboratory assistants' who ask if you'd like the hard of soft experience. i went for the invigoratingly hard as oppose to the blissed out soft experience, which they informed me meant being surrounded by coloured strobe lighting effects. The experience, which lasted about 10 minutes, and which you do all alone, is a bit like being inside a piece of op art - a Bridget Riley, say - or like wandering round a technicolour, throbbing M.C.Escher print crossed with Antony Gormley's Blind Light. Patterns of colour converge and diverge around you. it's wholly enveloping, like being at the epicentre of a kaleidoscope. the colours which flash seem not so much to be around you as within you - inside your eyes. it's not really like seeing. it's like being. being transformed into light that has shape and pattern and a perspective that pulsates rather than being visible upon a surface. It is one of the most extraordinary experiences i've ever had.

 James Turrell, Gagosian Gallery

The Animals and Children Took to the Streets

I'm not sure what it would be like to be in a graphic novel, as in to actually see events unfold in 2D animated life, but i imagine it'd be something like 1927's production of The Animals and Children Took to the Streets at the BAC. the story concerns an insalubrious, dilapidated, cockroach and weirdo ridden tenement block staffed by a melancholic caretaker, called the Bayou Mansions. We learn that residents include "a 21 year old... granny" and "a man with a horse... as a room-mate". it's all about unexpected twists, as we learn from these statements, which are delivered with a suspenseful pause midway through so as to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Renegade child vagabonds terrorise the building; theft, larceny, peddling of illegal wares and prostitution are the local trade. the area is in the Mayor's blind spot. but not for long. Into this condemned malaise enter Agnes and Evie Eaves who come to help transform the fates of the children with Blue Peter-esque gung ho. They have no idea what they are getting themselves into... What unfurls is a sardonic satire on fairytales, morality, heroism, adventure, love stories and moral triumph. Here happy endings are uncertain and good may not necessarily win out. if that is to make it sound depressing at all, be sure that it isn't. it's caprivatingly magical, hilarious and pacey. but for the opposite reasons you'd expect.

The production is part animation, part cabaret, part theatre, part art creation, part silent cinema and part macabre fairytale that confounds expectation with droll chutzpah, fizzes with deadpan black humour and is brought to life through screen projections which provide scenery, supporting characters and soviet-esque printed script revelations. Its deliciously dark magic is completely enchanting, the songs are witty, funny and utterly original. i've never seen anything like it. but i hope to again.

see a teaser for what to expect here

The Animals and Children Took to the Streets by 1927 at The Battersea Arts Centre, £16, running until January 08, 2011 7.30pm & 3pm.

House of Voltaire... Miu Miu... Fistful of Mercy

Last Friday night was rather a bizarre evening as I ran around town to events which couldn't have been less connected to one another. Still, they were all wonderful in their own way.

First up was a trip to House of Voltaire, a pop up shop run by contemporary arts organisation Studio Voltaire above Rupert Sanderson's shop on Bruton Place, in Mayfair which sells affordable contemporary art by names including Ryan Gander and Linder. I've been there several times since it opened in November and there's an ever changing selection of amazing prints and print collections, plus various art objects (bags, a suit made from fabric which looks like bricks, dog bowls, tea towels - all designed by artists). Every time i've been i've loved the Richard Nicoll and Linder collaborations, including this bandanna.
Next up, I nipped just round the corner to meet the delectable Sophie de Rosee and head to the opening of the new Miu Miu shop on the corner of Bond street, a visual treat if ever there was one, and i don't just mean the juicily coloured patent bags, glittery vertiginous heels, and apple and heart print shirts, dresses, earrings and belts (as modelled below)... literally I've never seen such HOT WAITERS. it was enormously distracting. in a good way, obviously. they even took attention away from the array of stars who rocked up - from Harry Potter kids to Jessica Alba,  Chloë Grace Moretz (A.K.A Hit Girl) and the glitterati of the fashion and design worlds - Katie Grand, Tom Dixon (and pup) et al.  Prior questioning and research into the proliferation of similarly dishy waiters at glitzy fashion and art events reveals that apparently there are waitering agencies where the higher your hire fee, the hotter the hands who help. literally. Good to know.

Finally i ended up in Koko to see Fistful of Mercy, a band comprised of Dhani Harrison, Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur. Their troubled emotional rock tinged with a soulful country flavour and mellifluous, yearning vocals strangely rather makes one want to be heartbroken the intensity is so all-consuming - hardly surprising given that more often than not there are 3 acoustic guitars and 3 male harmonies thrown in to the mix.  I love the title track Fistful of Mercy as well as  Things Go Around.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Janelle Monae

I went to see Janelle Monae at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on Sunday. She's completely incredible - lungs like bellows and a natty sartorial style - she's a monochromatic, sexy, pixie-like teddyboy-tomboy, with a quiff to die for and super cute dance moves. She's playing at The Roundhouse in March. The song Tightrope rocks big time.

Moustaches to take home...

I don't seem to be getting bored of my moustache obsession. in fact it seems to be growing. some things which have caught my eye...

A Field Guide to Typestaches, $24 Etsy (+$8.50)

Moustache Hip Flask, £14 Urban Outfitters

Moustache Mugs, £16.95 Pedlar's

Cushion cover, £49, le Cerise sur le Gateau, Lifestyle Bazaar

Moustache Tumblers, £16.99, Peter Ibruegger

The Windows of French Connection (thanks Laura x)

Thursday, 2 December 2010

A Dog's Heart

Hmmm. where to start when trying to describe the Complicite/ENO collaborative adaptation of Bulgakov's story, A Dog's Heart? Frankenstein meets War Horse meets Quentin Crisp's Gothic fantasy Chog? possibly. Frankenstein because it's a Gothic fable that sees the scientific creation of a monster symbolising the proletariat (more or less), War Horse because the eponymous dog is a puppet manually operated by 3-4 puppetmasters, and Chog because it's a seriously disturbing tale involving a weird dog/man hybrid. 

In short, it's a deliciously dark Soviet political polemic that sees a stray dog fall prey to the scientific experimentation of a bourgeois intellectual doctor who swaps the dog's testicles and pituitary gland for those of a recently deceased man. the experiment is the 'natural' continuation of the doctor's commercial practice involving human/animal transplants  - whereby he gives men dogs' genitals to make them virile, and women monkeys' uteri to repair the ravages of sexual promiscuity. After this latest transplant, however, the dog actually physically transforms into a man - and proves himself to be the worst combination of man and beast. But he is readily embraced by the soviet authorities, who award him a government post, despite his sexually rapacious tendencies, scatological nature, and permanent state of inebriation. havoc ensues. After he denounces the doctor to the authorities (amongst other things) the doctor forcibly restrains him and reverses the procedure - but the damage is done.

All that and it's an opera. But not any old opera, no, no; one whose foundations are dissonant chords, cacophonous clashes, and dog howling sopranos. no joke. set to the jarring, jagged score is contemporary dialogue - abrasive, course, witty - at times hilarious, even - poignant and curious.

It is, quite simply, brilliant. Shocking, arresting and thought-provoking obviously, but also so cleverly realised - from the delicate precision of the puppetry and the ingenious deployment of numerous projections which blast out messages in soviet font, to the use of silhouette, and gory, gory on-stage antics (blood, there's rivers of it). It's also funny, very funny (with a libretto which includes 'fuck you, motherfucker' you'd be hard pressed to remain po-faced).

After the MASSIVE disappointment that saw ENO collaborate with promenade theatre kings Punchdrunk, on The Duchess of Malfi, in a vast disused warehouse space somewhere at the end of the Dockland's Light Railway during the summer (completely non-sensical and a bizarre re-apportioning of dramatic focus to completely irrelevant themes) i was apprehensive, but this production brought all the experimentation, courage, chutzpah and energy of Complicite to opera without sacrificing its integrity. AMAZING.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Killing Time

I'm not quite sure if I was killing time, wasting time, filling time, making time for, passing the time or keeping time but in the spare couple of hours before I had to be at a party in central London on Saturday evening I spent time watching Christian Marclay's video installation at White Cube: Mason's Yard - The Clock.

It's amazing - completely absorbing in a strangely mesmerising way. Created like a sort of video patchwork quilt made using edited cuts from mainstream classic films where clock faces appear, or during which times are mentioned, each sliver from the various films are sewn together to create a 24hour film which exactly follows the time kept by the viewers as they watch it. You're watching at 10am, it's 10am in the film, then 10.01 - each minute is marked by references to the time in various films.

During the early evening when I was there, (4.30 to 6pm) there were lots of catching of trains, clocking out of work, countdowns to explosions, fleeting meetings before hurried departures, eyes watching the clock and willing it to hurry up, appointments made and missed, tea time dates, children eating their supper, people heading out for the evening, radio broadcasts... i'd imagine at different times you'd have people doing very different things - in the morning they'd be waking up, at the dead of night there'd be zombies trudging about or people tossing and turning in bed.

It's a weird experience because there's no continual narrative thread; an episode from Psycho is followed by one from Pride and Prejudice. There's screaming, there's bombs, there's a civilised tea. Yet it works, becuase you're drawn into a world consumed by time, just as you are consumed by it in your own time because you're watching the minutes pass so very consciously. every minute us searingly significant. and that's the story, taking you into time, into every minute, in multiple directions and making you think about each second and rolling its significance around in your head just in the time it takes the scene, visual flash or comment to play out, because you can't possibly take everything on board.

Overwhelming, exhilarating, thrilling, confusing, fascinating, funny, weird and thought-provoking.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


I left Frieze on Friday and literally slumped down in a heap on the floor outside the tent in Regent's Park; a little pool of misery. I had to take myself off for a cup of tea and caramel waffles to pep up my spirits which had been culturally steamrollered. As usual, the fair was completely overwhelming even though I pretty much let the art wash over me like a cultural salve rather than allowing it to penetrate my consciousness, agitate my senses, provoke a reaction or illicit any kind of formulated thought at all. Since it is basically a glorified trade show, admittedly of very expensive agitprop high culture, it's just nice to notice general patterns and trends, pick out the shock-jocks,  creep round the stranger exhibits (the 10 embarrassed men by Annika Ström this year) and linger over pieces which personally appeal rather than try and make sense of it all. A selection of the latter piece (for me) are below. 
A grand cinematic statement that's part glamour of the silver screen, part decidedly un-glamorous industrial fundamentals behind the scenes
 I've always had a penchant for word collage creations like this, you want to make sense of it, you can't, you grapple... you surrender. I like the phrase 'Skitish friend in central Asia'
 Completely different from most things at Frieze, I liked this for the mix of instantly relating to it, aligning oneself with something about it, and then confusion when the white crosses are noticed, like there's something sinister and insidious lurking beneath the surface.

 Pretty much what i was feeling about half way round the art fair
 Reminds me of the two rather crazy golden palm trees that light up that used to belong to Elton John and which my Dad bought in a Sotheby's auction eons ago, and which i love.
 A George's Cross made up of £10 and £5. sort of so grim it's cool? In two minds.
 Love love love this Tracey Emin line drawing of a woman masturbating. Looks like the most elegant act in the world.
 50s cultural reference: Check.  Outward expression of what was going on internally: Check.
 Quasi-street signs with slightly non-sensical, existentialist phrases. Basically summed things up for me at that point.
" It comes with oblivion, per se. All in a day's work"

Friday, 15 October 2010

Multiplied Arts

Harland Miller print, £500, White Cube
While the whirr of Frieze continues apace in Regent's Park, the inaugural and alternative Multiplied Arts has set up shop very nicely thank you very much at Christie's on the Brompton Road. Filled with over 30 galleries (most of whom aren't at Frieze) the fair focuses on limited edition prints, artist box editions, and multiples, which means the prices are brought way down - they start as low at £9.99 but generally hover around the £500 mark, but big names still feature - Peter Blake, John Baldissari, Tracey Emin. Rachel Whiteread, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Harland Miller (above - GOD I LOVE THIS PRINT). It's such a wonderful opportunity to see amazing work that's actually affordable, in a space that's not frenetic or intimidating. I particularly liked The Vinyl Factory - artist/musician collaborations of album cover artwork, and the cosy prints at Elphicks, plus the stands of the ICA and the Whitechapel galleries, which sell limited edition prints by both big name and emerging artists, with the proceeds supporting the galleries.

Album cover from the Vinyl Factory

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Tracey Emin @ Louis Vuitton

I braved Louis Vuitton's new(ish) shop on Bond Street yesterday to have a snoop at the Tracey Emin  curated book shelf  in the 'Louis Vuitton Librarie'. To be honest it's a thoroughly intimidating experience, with about 702 staff greeting you emphatically as you enter the vastly spacious shiny, glitteringly gold and twinkling 3 floor store - light bounces off seemingly every surface: the floor to ceiling mirrors, gold chains, polished-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives surfaces - buckles, glass cabinets, patent shoes and bags, watches, sparkling jewellery. It's the epitome of indulgently luxurious retail heaven, a sort of cloying, claustrophobic, decadent shopping overload that attacks you from every angle an inveigles itself into your soul. on the first floor though is the fabled Librarie, where there are a series of shelves that act as an art installation cum cultural shopping experience... artists curate a wall of books that have helped shape their lives, influenced their work and that they've written. It's a curious creation that works surprisingly well. Tracey Emin's books include, amongst others, a healthy smattering of Amistead Maupin, Graeme Green's The End of The Affair, Raymond Carver's What We talk About When We Talk About Love; A.A.Milne's Winnie the Pooh; Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote; Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov, plus a few of her own books. You can buy any of those on display. Sort of beats 'Waterstone's recommends', at any rate.
12 October - 30 November 2010

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Hell's Half Acre

Polly Morgan's flapping pigeon wings suspended and
frozen in time

A Bacon-like vision of hellish metamorphosis
Bodies cocooned in clingfilm hang from the vaulted ceiling
A ball of Swarovski crystals hang in a cloud of suffocating, claustrophobic dry ice - as the light reflects off the crystal, the ball seems to pulsate
An armada of gold boats hang suspended, their shadows eerily sailing along the exposed brick walls behind.
A video projection of flames is reflected in a sea of pitch black liquid

Hell's Half Acre is a phrase reverberating with cultural resonance. Here it's embraced for a subterranean lair (the Old Vic tunnels under Walerloo station) which plays host to a reinterpretation of the nine circles of hell making up Dante's Inferno, as curated by Lazarides. Nightmarish visions abound, in the labyrinthine tunnels dripping with damp, where footsteps echo eerily and shadows obscure clear vision - involuntarily creating monsters in your mind. It's curious - some artworks on show are indeed viscerally hellish: the bodies curled in foetal positions, cocooned in clingfilm and suspended from the ceiling literally made me want to vomit with disgust and shock; the nightmarish metamorphosis of figures writhing in agony always can't help but instill foreboding sense of dread; Polly Morgan's beautiful taxidermy plays neatly to Hitchcockian phobias of flapping bird wings; callous vandalism always upsets; as ALWAYS does a viciously barking dog (between the jaws of which you have to enter the exhibition); a pulsating ball of ethereal light in a smoke-filled corner first seduces then blinds and constricts... But other artists interpretations of their visions of hell left me entirely cold - cliched, flat, or just too left field. It's a weird exhibition, a bit overworked possibly, but interesting none the less...

Hell's Half Acre 6pm-11pm, The Old Vic Tunnels, Station Approach, SE1 7NN. Free.

Monday, 11 October 2010


I completely adore this picture, which was a Guardian Weekend reader picture, submitted by Jake Harris. It's SO DAMN COOL. I'm not sure i would have submitted it under the title 'action', though - surely there's  a word that would have been more fun? Hmmm.

Julien Schnabel: Polaroids


They are pretty impressive, really, these huge Polaroids, taken on a behemoth of a machine: a dolly-mounted, 20x24 inch 1970s camera. There are some poetic sepia pictures; intimate, off duty, snatched moments of downtime easiness captured on film. Others are in vibrantly bright colours, aggressive technicolour - often with paint streaked on top to exaggerate the colours and the mood. There are portraits of famous friends - Lou Reed, Mickey Rourke, Christopher Walken - and those of family.  my favourite were pictures of the fabulous creative spaces - both the studios and interior spaces where magnificent artworks hang. How incredible is the Montauk studio space (top picture)? the high green walls leading up to no ceiling but the piercing blue sky. I love the self portrait here of JS dwarfed by the towering walls and bright sky. I also love the crazy indoor decor, i'm guessing they are mostly rooms in the Palazzo Chupi - the mixture of so many grand-scale statement pieces, huge artworks, ornate chairs, beds, rugs - a sort of insanely luxurious boho style.

I only really know Julian Schnabel as a film-maker; the director of, amongst others, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and the upcoming Miral (which i've seen and though problematic, is a challenging and brave exploration of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict as told through the perspectives of four Palestinian women), so it was interesting to see his work as an artist/photographer. there's an easy creativity that oozes from these works. A mixture of fun, provocative daring, experimentation, petulance and devil may care, don't have to care confidence.

Julian Schnabel Polaroids is at Colnaghi gallery, 15 Old Bond Street, London W1 until 12 November.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Social Network

I'm not even on Facebook (stubbornly remaining part of the Faceless few) and i loved this film. 'The film that defines a generation' is the tag line (along with the above), and I'd probably have to agree in many ways. It's Mark Zukerberg's voracious desperation to achieve status, recognition and popularity that's really his motivation, his driving force: to be accepted, applauded, to get girls. tapping into that, and sharing it with everyone else is the key to his success, whatever the personal cost in the end. It may sound mad. it is. but that's just it. everyone wants a bit of exactly what he did, which is what has made his success.

The development of the site, in a pique of post-dump rage, via the girl rating 'face-mash', idea stealing and friend dumping is intercut with two law suits subsequently brought against Zuckerberg by his former best friend Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevoss twins (the Winklevei as Zuckerberg calls them in the film). With a script by Aaron Sorkin it's fast paced, taught and punchy - no one's a cardboard cut out; a nerd, a jock, a good time boy, a Jew, an over privileged brat they each may be, and that's important to their identity, but it's not painted  in a cartoonish way. Your sympathies flit between everyone - they're all clever, dynamic and driven yet also selfish, myopic and overconfident. the complexity of the characters leads to an oblique reading of the film - i imagine everyone will take away something different, and that'll change every time you scrutinise the story.

It's out on the 15th October. See it.

The New Yorker Festival

The New Yorker has a festival; a weekend literary one. In NYC, obvs. anyway, by luck (the luck of the Icelandic volcano that postponed my trip by 6 months), I was in town for this year's one. Obviously i didn't go to all the events, but i did go to a few, my favourite being The New Yorker teaming up with The Moth. The Moth organises storytelling nights where speakers come and tell a story, a true story: no notes, lasting no more than 10 mins. We have something similar in London 5x15 (the one on the 18th Oct has a great line up), but it's less storytelling than a talk, still good though. The Moth nights also generally have a theme... this collaboration with The New Yorker saw New Yorker writers tell a true story about working at the New Yorker. It was completely fascinating as the stories behind the stories emerged - the luck of the first OJ trial expose by Jeffrey Toobin, Jane Mayer's story behind abuse at Abu Graib. they were completely engrossing - truly brilliant - and all without notes... no hesitation, repetition or confusion.

At another event I also heard Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon talk about their work - here's a video link to them discussing their preferences for writing fiction/non-fiction. Zadie Smith seemed on edge. Michael Chabon, well, i think i might just be in love.

NYC: I saw, I loved, I snapped

 Kara Walker, Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as it Occurred b'tween the Dusky Thighs of One Negress and her Heart, 1994.
What a title. what a image to cover an entire wall.
Hannah Hoch, Rome, 1925, Guggenheim (Chaos and Classicism exhibition)
Mussolini gets the Dada treatment

Marcel Gromaire, The Banks of the Marne, 1925, Guggenheim (Chaos and Classicism exhibition)
I love the sexiness of the strong lines, the muscular female rower - industry and angularity meet sex and sumptuous curves.
 Attrib Leni Riefenstahl, untitled, 1936. MoMA 
Makes me think of Busby Berkeley. shame about this German film maker's crazy Nazi connections.
 The New Photography 2010 exhibition at MoMA included work by Alex Prager - Desiree, 2008 (above) and a short film with Bryce Dallas Howard (still below). The latter was a shot in almost luridly bright Technicolor, but was a  desperately dark fairytale where a 1950s Hitchcock style heroine kills herself. Sort of Alice in Wonderland meets The Wizard of Oz meets Vertigo.

 Also in The New Photography exhibition  was work by Elad Lassry (above). More than the film itself, i loved its projection on the wall with the sight of the suspended red legs jiggling about. When you watched the reel run round the projector, you could occasionally see the individual stills whizz past.

 On a bookseller's stall in Williamsburg. Uppity women are the best.

 "Hell, Yes!" Outside the New Museum in the East Village, near hidden-away-down-an-alley, Taxidermy-adorned restaurant Freeman's.  

 de Chirico's ballet costume for Diaghilev's Ballet Russes... the classical and Grecian fashion craze goes a bit literal... love it. Guggenheim (Chaos and Classicism exhibition)

Whistler: Harmony in Pink and Grey (1881). The Frick
 I completely fell in love with The Frick collection. especially the Whistlers. complete emotional symphonies, i agree.

Whistler: Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland, The Frick.