Thursday, 22 November 2012

Liverpool Biennial 2012, Tate/Open Eye

Outside the Tate there's a strange pavilion, if you go around dusk you'll see the sides of this pavilion shining with the bright faces of the great and good of the creative industries. This is Doug Aitken's The Source a project to locate the source of creativity, though it's an admiral attempt but after a few minutes I have no new insights into creativity.

Anyway inside to where the rest of the art is. I recall when I first visited the Tate during the opening weeks of the Biennial where my thoughts where that the exhibition was much smaller then pervious Biennials. Was this due the a overlap with the blockbusting Turner Monet Twombly exhibition, maybe. Maybe it's a reflection that this exhibition, Thresholds to give its proper name, will be here long after framework of the Biennial has been removed. Maybe that just my perception. Whatever it's a good exhibition with some great pieces including Kader Attia's meditation on the corrupting influence of oil in his video Oil and sugar. My highlight of the exhibition is A Travel without Visual Experience by Pak Sheung Cheun, where you are invited to explore a dark room by means of a camera flash. I enjoyed the simple action of using the camera flash in order to navigate myself around the room, while that action made regard the fallacy of using a camera in order to capture a moment.

In the cameras flash everything becomes clear, knowable, yet the result of that becomes clear as on the cameras view screen you see a corner of a frame or simply nothing. On leaving the space I asked what happened to the images taken with the Tate provided cameras only to be disappointed to discover that they were all erased. It occurred to me that this collect of photos would expand on the issues of the piece and touch on questions about the changing nature of the photograph in a world of Facebook and Tumblr.

Of course less than a stone's throw away from the Tate is the Open Eye. Wherein there are pieces which also explore the nature of looking, watching, how and why we watch. Konei Yoshigui's The Park is comprised of photographs of couples in tryst's being watched by small groups of voyeurs. Youshigui enhances a sense of voyeurism by permitting the images to be viewed only by torchlight. So you enter the darken space the photographs inhabit armed with your torch to be greeted by other visitors with torches. There's an odd sensations of guilt, complicity as we all stalk in the darkness looking at images of people looking at people, fucking. The piece subtlety raises the question of why are we driven to look at images especially sexual images.

There was a point while watching the second piece, Love Hotel where I was waiting, expecting to see the grainy images of naked bodies to being moving. That these questions came to the fore as I was unsure why I was expecting these images to move, because they are presented on video monitors? Some need for titillation perhaps? I'm still unsure but I had to consider what the Gallery Assistant much make of someone like me taking a little too much time in considering the work. Again caught in the infinite regression that is our need to see and be seen.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Paul Rooney – Here Comes Franz, VG&M Liverpool

There's a moment in Paul Rooney's film 'The Futurist' where the main character recounts a story about being transported to a new land on a slave ship. Though it's apparent that this character has never experienced these events, he is clearly haunted by them.

This sense of been haunted permeates Paul Rooney's exhibition at the VG&M. A haunting brought on perhaps by the conflict between the layers of meaning that we subject the world we inhabit to. Whether we attribute these meanings to a historical, cultural or personal context there would seem an inherent issue to applying these tags to one place. It would appear to become some act of magick and ritual of sort in order to solidify a sense of meaning in the world around and through that a sense of meaning within ourselves.

In the piece Small Talk, a piece of liminal space, in this case an petrol garage on the edge of a field. The act of filming and the act of watching imbues that footage with meaning. Of course this meaning is subjective provided in part by the narrative subtitles which reference films (in this case a scene in the The Umbrellas of Cherbourg set at a garage) I guess this another case of apophenia the need to find meaning in unconnected things. This isn't a bad thing it can provide the world with a sense of magic and wonder, for example the shot of a waning moon over the garage edges the mundane with the sense of the supranational.

There is the sense of the supranational within this exhibition, in this case when I mean supranational I'm thinking of the world of David Lynch or of Kurbick's The Shining. How else could a tree tell of its own destruction? Rooney's work is about the worlds between worlds (the German's call it zwischenwelten) of people and objects that are at once trapped and liberated by their situations allowed to be defined by and define the limits of their worlds.


Monday, 19 November 2012

The Monro, Liverpool Biennial 2012

Up some creaky stairs, pass some haunted looking portraits, there seems to be something supranational going on upstairs at The Monro. Where two un-homely hotel rooms created by Markus Kahre, they wait like a vacuum to be filled by the presence of the viewer. I think by this point you probably know the punch line to this piece, the un-mirroring mirrors. During my first visit I did stand in front of the mirror moving my arms around in some strange attempt to activate the mirror. Like with most optical illusions it relies on your brain being set to a narrow band of information, in this case that if it looks like mirror then I will be reflected within it. I wonder if this piece called No Title is about the whole super-modernity concept where in the replication of environments such as chain hotels, airports etc. Makes it hard for the individual to gain a hold within that world and therefore becomes invisible.

Sharing the space above The Monro are Dane Mitchell's Spectral Recordings. When I first heard about this piece I was intrigued by the poetic and enchanting idea of capturing words into glass. Facing the speech bubbles I felt I little disappointed. Well perhaps not disappointed but while looking at these exhalations I really want to hold them to feel the vibrations of the caught voices. Ultimately I want to smash them open, to hear the voices inside, I imagine the twinkle of shattering glass followed by the gasping squeal of the voice released to the ether. I think somewhere within my desire to undertake this act of destruction is the desire to complete a cycle to allow the imprisoned voices to possess another human.

Before I leave there is Janine Antoni's Umbilical which I initially mistook for some strange instrument of mediumship, an instrument to communicate to another world. In a very strange way this might be partly true Umbilical is a cast of the artists mouth which is connected to a cast of the artists mothers hand. The piece seems to be channelling the inexpressible feelings created by the parental bonds. Two bodies joined by the delicate and un-nameable bond of love.

The works at The Monro carry their own poetry they speak of the spirits which inhabit us all and of the spirit we leave behind. The ghosts we form with our memories of the places we inhabit, the people we contact, of what we are and who we will be,

Monday, 12 November 2012

John Moores Painting Prize 2012

I had a go at the John Moores Critics Award needless to say it wasn't shortlisted…

OK, where do I begin?

I've decided to write about the John Moore's Painting Prize and now how do I approach the work on display. I've already thought about my approach, imagined myself climbing up the steps and through the galleries of previous contemporary paintings. Do they form a funnel, a line which is directing me to now?

Will I be bias? I'm an artist but never painted, I did my training at a university which specifically ignored painting until financial pressure prevailed.

Once I enter the dedicated space how I'm I to look at the individual paintings comparing each painting to the one next to it, as my fellow visitors appear to be doing. People stop at each painting consider it and move on. I wonder what's going on in their minds what questions bubble up as they move through the space. How do they compare an excited gestural mark to a carefully placed line?

Like me do they have perceptions of what makes up painting, are they here to have those perception confirmed, denied or altered.

Like me do they attempt to see the exhibition as a whole, carefully studying the paintings for clues which point towards the state of the contemporary painting? In doing so do I congratulate myself for being able to identify the contextual soup from which the paintings emerge. Look there's a bit of Modernism there, Surrealism there, forms of Minimalism other there and so on.

Well the answer, as so often seems to happen, lays somewhere in between. Thinking about the answer actually points to something more important, a shift in attitudes towards painting that's been underway for the last sixty years or so. A shift in the relationship between viewer and artist, it would seem that the painter's authority isn't absolute. The painter isn't simply saying my work is about X and this is all you should see rather contemporary painting seems to want an opening of a dialogue between the viewer and artist.

So as a viewer I'm no longer in a passive position I must take an active role in decoding the work in front of me. For Example Dougal McKenzie's piece Otl's Gift seems to defy any conventional sense of the term painting, as is it constructed from a 70's dress and two images. It's if the artist has collected or collaged objects which he know will activate a set off a sense of nostalgia within the viewer without pointing to a specific moment. While questioning the physical nature of constitutes painting.

Of course there is a danger in this as in this dialogue there is an assumption that both parties know exactly what each other is talking about. In a way this dialogue is a request from the artist for the viewer to perform an act of trust that the artist isn't trying to pull a fast one. This sensation is pushed to its limits by Matt Welch's painting which references the founder of Ikea's involvement with the Nazi movement. All I see is blocks of splodged paint I kind which I could have the reaction of the man stood next to me as he seems to get the joke.

I know what you're thinking surely there are more than two paintings in this exhibition. Well Yes. I want to reassure you the reader that in between these works there is the spectrum which marks what makes up this thing called contemporary painting. John Moore's is an excellent survey of the concerns of anyone picking up a paintbrush today, I could have spent this article listing painters but somehow that didn't seem right. Earlier I said the works open a dialogue between you as viewer and themselves and like finding yourself in room full of people you will find yourself warming to some, amused by others, struck by the beauty of some and completely annoyed with one or two.

Ultimately you as the viewer need to be within that room, to engage in that dialogue. It's the best way to learn how to approach this thing called art.


Sunday, 14 October 2012

Emergency MCR 2012

One of many reasons I've never been to Glastonbury is that I fear that the experience would be defined by what I miss as much as what I see. I have similar feelings when looking at list of 40 artists involved in this year's Emergency, will I be looking the other way when something exciting happens or is it all part of the experience.

Whatever my concern I arrive at Blankspace I find myself going up some stairs to be greeted by heavy black curtains. Performances must be underway; I am cheerfully guided to two open alcoves where I'm greeted by Jojo Townsend and her piece The Wow Project where she asks participants to use Google maps to identify a place where they lost something. It sounds like a slight idea, but looking at the maps left by others it surprising how honest some of them are. Some of the things that people write are quite touching, dealing as they do with the loss of people, some are funny and some are trivial. I don't think about at the time but I relate it to the way people are willing to give up something personal as long as it's part of a communal expression.

In the next alcove there awaits a woman dressed in white sat in front of a projector, well not a project a kind of drawing machine. It's the best description I can make, where invited to use the machine to 'draw' on her face. Which I do, once I've completed my doodle the figure in white takes the picture from the machine, examines it and then reproduces it. Once the picture is pinned to the wall she selects another piece of white clothing and then returns to her starting position. I'm not entirely sure what just happen, maybe I've witness some kind of process of which I was the instigator, like feeding data into a computer so it will perform some unknown computations.

Leaving that piece and finding the other alcoves full, I find myself with a torch exploring the planet like orbs which make up Miyuki Kasahara's installation. There strange planets as each one have an ear and by looking into the ear and shining the torch at the back you get to see an image. These images relate to memories of the people who had their ears casted. Looking directly into someone memories, it could be twee but somehow it avoids that, it's whimsical and I don't know if the artist would appreciate this comparison it's similar to the work of Yoko Ono.

After this I find myself in waiting for Kitty Graham's The Bare Earth and apologising to Juileann O'Malley for leaving a man behind. Gathering in front of a tray full of earth me and the audience wait for something to happen. The earth begins to move and I begin to think about the artist Charles Simonds and his Body>Earth films. This begins I line of associations from a scene from the Wrath of Khan to the J-Horror of the Ring films. The latter comes as the figure emerges from the dirt; we see a body, a human body which isn't truly human but something other. A body transformed by its germination in the dirt.

I work over to the second site of this year's Emergency the Castlefield gallery, where Clarissa Sacchelli is allowing members of the public to immobilise her with red sticky tape. I watch the slow build-up of tape as I wait for Platt, Birchall and Hussian's piece The Dreaming. There are elements in the piece I like, the use of the space, a good use of materials and costumes. After an interesting opening featuring a dance within a cloth womb her movements amplified by contact mics, I find a 'emotional' element missing, something to draw me in, something to make me think 'this is interesting'.

I forgo the other performances at the Castlefield gallery to catch Moreno Sollnas's URANUS. I don't know what to expect when I enter the space to see a man in his pants with his back to us. Once the audience is settled he lays on a table and starts to, well it can only be described as 'arse puppetry'. Look some raunchy act from a working man's club Sollnas's bum crack begins to mime Nessun Dorma. After this he performs a delicate love story using his fingers as the characters, then he slips into a bawdy, song about fucking. Finally he spits into his hands and slips into the audience; sliding between us he reaches out his spittle filled hands threatening to touch people's faces. It's a moment which seems to express something about a fear of intimacy.

Once this piece is over I find myself back upstairs and being asked the question 'Would you like a 6 minute lecture on Dirty Dancing?' Why not. Burrows + Lee present us with an assessment of Patrick Swayze's time bending abilities. Being a fan of nutbag theories I really enjoy the idea that someone can derive such a theory from any piece of popular culture.

Next I find myself sitting in a corner of one of the alcoves next to Alice Malseed, listening to her or rather listening to a recording of her. Her recorded voice begins to speak about her farther and a loss of innocence. As the narrative unfolds I begin to look at Alice and start to consider the validity of the story that I'm being told, and if that matters. I also wonder about why this woman I've just met would share this information. It's something that could be considered intimate but the headphones distance me from the person sat next to me, what is she really thinking? Why I'm I being given this information, in essence what is my role in this narrative?

It's a piece is delves into the ideas of public and private spaces and the role of the participation within a fiction. It shares at lot with the next piece Between Us (you and me) by Sturgeon's Law. I sit across from the performer as she speaks of a story of a fractured love story. It's odd but like Malseed's piece there is a question about my role within the unfolding fiction being presented to me. I take a passive role imaging myself as part of story, while not wholly becoming part of the story. Isn't that often the case? We only become so involved with the stories of other people we meet?

This turns out to be the final piece I see at Blankspace, and how do I feel, do I feel that I've missed out? While I didn't get to see every piece I don't have a sensation of having missed out, the pieces I did see where engaging. Of course as what happens with this kind of event I did find myself just hanging around waiting for the next thing to happen. That is a criticism which doesn't solely apply to this event and I don't know whether to consider those moments as part of the whole experience.

Maybe next time.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Humble Market – AND Festival WE PLAY Expo, Miller Park Preston

You might remember that sometime ago I paid a visit to The Humble Market while it had taken up shop within the walls of FACT. That was at the beginning of summer and now where at the edge of autumn and I find myself waiting by the side of a railway bridge located in a rather nice park in Preston. Why? Well The Humble Market has set up a new stall underneath this railway bridge, which forms part of the WE PLAY Expo which has gathered many of the projects created via the Cultural Olympiad to mark the end of the Olympics.

Whatever the rhymes and reasons of it being here, or my own reasons for being here for that matter. Where here, and I'm looking forward it curious to see how the controlled installation I saw at FACT has transposed itself to this exterior setting. How will my experience of the piece differ, already I can hear excited whoops coming from behind the fencing separating us from the performance space. I can't help wonder how this all relates to the warning of the 'psychological challenging' nature of the piece.

Quickly we are gathered and allowed to pass through the fence and as we do so we are handed a foam animal mask. Mines a tiger. It briefly flashes through my mind that this could be a device used in order to break down inhibitions, giving each 'player' something to hide behind. There's no time to really mull over this as we are suddenly ushered through the space filled with various vehicles and the pounding sounds of Baile Funk by performers dressed in gorilla suits. Our hairy guides take us towards a stage area where another gorilla is on stage in boxing gloves and shorts, sparring with thin air. Behind him are the standard images of Brazil, beaches full of tall tanned people, all juxtaposed with facts about Brazil current state and it promised future state of power and status.

We are instructed to dance and contemplate the fact that the world will be more Brazilian by 2020 and are we ready for this? What does it matter anyway? Who is that figure gilding through the bouncing crowd, is it the king of Brazil as he is dressed in flowing robes. Whoever he is he demands that members of the crowd answer his question 'What's the first thing that comes into your mind when you think of Brazil'. The usual tropes pop up, samba, sunshine, the whole The Girl form Ipanema view of Brazil. Looking back on it I seems that this was some kind of brainwashing, as it was disorientating, pushing you sweeping you along with a strange energy. There's no way you can get out now. Suddenly I find myself hands in the air swaying along to We Are the World.

This is just the beginning. We are gathered into our packs and lead by a gorilla host to one of the vehicles. I'm lined up against the taxi I saw in Liverpool in front of some familiar looking head dresses, our workshops are about to begin. A countdown, a horn blares and it starts.

Time for a group photo and like before where ushered in the taxi. For a moment I wonder if the energy from the pumped up intro is about to dissipate. It all seems to running along the same lines as Liverpool, same car, same projection, same scouse accent coming from the radio. Until the car is invaded by a gorilla who rampages through the car. It's one of those moments that occur in pieces like this, as audience member you're face with a decision, whether to be passive or join in. Not knowing what to do I tickle the gorilla.

What comes next compounds the difficulty of deciding a level of interactivity. As suddenly a hand slams on the window. The door fly's open and women dressed in paramilitary uniform begin dragging the passengers out of the car. Is this a test of British reserve versus Latin confrontation? I don't know but as they point their hands in the shape of guns at me, I know who has the power here. This little group of soon dragged into a extreme samba workshop. All this takes place a corner tucked away from the rest of the space; it's at once sinister and exciting. It's also a great use of the under bridge setting as it hints of horrible acts undertaken away from the gaze of others. As we learn samba moves under the piss-yellow light of the streetlights our capturers demand we answer questions regarding the state of the poor of Brazil. The snarling policewomen detest our status as tourist only here for sunshine and bright shiny smiles, so much so that we are executed!

This must be the 'psychological challenging' section of tonight and one of our party does look genuinely shocked, but soon our capturers are cheerfully shacking our hands and it on to the next workshop.

Which takes place within a white stretched limo, on the way there were instructed by our gorilla guide to hold hands. I actually take the hands of the people either side of me, that's not like me maybe the last experience has pushed me to be more Brazilian. Once in the limo we discover that this is a song writing workshop where asked to drag up emotions from our mobile phones in order to create a song. After the shock of our car-jacking this part of the performance seems good natured and sweet. Almost a chance to catch your breath and maybe it suffers because of that.

Then it's on to the next workshop. I find myself face to face with the INTIMATRON. In its original form this piece came off as a little flat, but in this edited form there is more of a drive behind it. The format remains the same, questions are answered. After that I play a repeat visit to Philosophy Hill again to ponder the mysteries of the universe this time accompanied by hot water bottles and a monk who sits serenely in the back of a van. Maybe it's the adrenaline set off the initial dancing but peoples answers seem to come more easily.

It's soon time for the final workshop, which takes place in the back of a transit van. In the van we gathered around a round table in an atmosphere akin to a séance. We are taken through a tale of possible success; we are given control of the main character of this tale instructed to make decisions of their behalf. Though this questions are raised about the nature of success and also our individual attitudes towards it. During this element I begin to notice the group dynamic some members of the group are vocal, some still looked shell-shocked by the pervious events. We eventually steer our fictional creation 'Rob' to some form of success, whatever that means, we disembark from the van and head back to the stage area.

Here a apparently simple question awaits us 'Waiting room or Disco?' I go for Disco. We put our masks back on and are handing headphones to get the full effect of the music. We are joined by three gorillas and a brash record producer. He's going to ask questions and if we agree we put our hands in the air. So there we are in our Baile cocoon, I wonder what we look like to those who had chosen 'waiting room' do come off as foolish, does it seem where having a good time, do we appear more 'Brazilian'. At the time none of this occurred it me I just danced and threw my hands up in the air in a positive response to the questions. I notice that people are being ushered up on stage to stand in front of large projected images of the other people, is this the live link up to Brazil? I'll find out soon enough.

Before that something strange happens, after a group hug (hey, it's that kind of party) my headphones are switched to another channel. Suddenly I'm hearing a voice asking to look to the person in front of me and if we could be friends. I had been accidently switch to another channel and suddenly I'm confronted with an awareness of what I'm doing, sweating underneath this mask, but being so caught up with the whole atmosphere of the piece I keep going, and our guide switches me back to the right channel. Eventually I find myself to be the only once dancing; I get to be King of the Disco! Whatever that means, I get a cheer its some kind of success.

After that I'm taken to the stage where my telematic moment awaits. I'm about to be broadcasted to a stranger, if it wasn't for the fact that I'm probably on some kind of rush after all that dancing I'd be nervous. I stand on my mark and await my possible new friend to appear. in front of me there arrive a pleasant looking girl, were asked to scan each other, make judgments regarding the sentiment of movements. Eventually where both asked if we'd like to keep in touch over the year. I say yes, she says no. It's a little disappointing but who many times much this happen a day, who many times has it happened to me before, I can't and I don't take it personally.

Turning our backs on each other I leave the stage and begin to leave The Humble Market. Like before we are handed an assessment of our Brazilian-ness. The message still appears to be non-sense, but this time I have the sensation that somehow any concept of identity lays with the control of the other of someone else. This sensation raises the question of how can anyone think of commodifying something so elusive and maybe this leads to a way of circumventing the powers that set out to wrap us up into individual sellable packages. If no one can put a finger on how you are, surely they'll won't be able to put a price tag on you.

Having this question in my head as I walk away from the stage of The Humble Market, indicates that this configuration of The Humble Market has been more successful at articulating its concepts and preoccupations. Of course whatever form they have taken it has been clear that they have been ambitious projects and one of the highlights of this years AND Festival.







Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Secret of the Machine

What does it mean to be a machine? Not just the simple blank faced binary motivation of your computer. Something else, something more akin to begin the Grand Wizard of Oz.

The person behind the curtain that you mustn't look behind.

From the other side one might ask: Why shouldn't you look you might ask why not and confirm your belief that there is no sophisticated machinery behind there. You won't look because admit it you want to believe, to get lost in the idea that two artist have created an artificial intelligence set solely in the task of spice development in the back of a caravan.

Why wouldn't you? It's a small request though, to suspend your disbelief, it makes you engage more. It makes you more excited to find a computer that is puzzling over the properties of nutmeg or the algorithms that might describe the delicacies between sweet and sour.

Much more involving then watching a person like me fumble with jars.

So take it from me, the secret of the machine, all the interesting stuff is happening on your side.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A Rainy Day in Manchester

So it's Friday the 13th and I am looking at the rain outside of my window and I think to myself 'If I have to stay in I am going to have to go out'. I grab my umbrella and head off towards Manchester for some artfaggery.

Under the cover of said umbrella I set off in the direction of my first destination BLANKSPACE to see an exhibition entitled Chroma by Liz West, which reports to explore themes of colour theory, collecting and the real and illusory.

After arriving at BLANKSPACE I find myself within a room facing a pile of furniture. It's like being in some forgotten some backroom or attic only there are monitors poking out from within some of the cupboards. Each seems to be panning over a sea of bric a brac each dedicated to a band of the spectrum. I am not sure what to think as I stand in the dank. I can see one of the draws is open I take a peek and its empty. Though the smell of all this old furniture is touching some buttons.

I move on to the next piece, where as I go upstairs I am greeted by a red glow a intriguing piece of atmosphere perhaps? Once at the top of the stairs I see the source of this glow a room painted red which is accompanied by three other rooms each filled with colour (green, blue, yellow). There is something about approaching and being these rooms that does make me think about the condition of being 'red' or 'blue'. Of course my nerd brains flicks to the colour coded labs of The Andromeda Strain. In each of the rooms there is a vitrine filled with white plastic junk, this is meant to make us think about how things are affected by colour, but for me I found it distracting from the fact that I myself was being coloured. There is a lot I like about the works for example the orange glow which emanates from the slit that is Orange Chamber which in turns defines the small corridor space is interesting. All this is slightly diffused when you look through the slit into a reflected world of detritus. Maybe I should think about it in another way maybe Liz West has created the condition where I expected to see a golden dawn only to face disappointment.

On the whole it's a positive start Liz West's work has been interesting and engaging. Now it's off down Oxford Rd to the Whitworth to see We Face Forward part of a city wide celebration of contemporary African art. Which you can add to the growing list of 'things I know very little about'. Looking around I wonder what I am going to learn about Africa the work has a familiarity to it, documentary photographs, conceptual ideas float around, themes of identity and information overload abound. Pieces which stick for me are Pascale Morthike Tayou's The World Falls Apart a manmade forest filled with the frames of ghost diamonds and strange distorted figures. The wall blurb describes it as a 'bridge between thinking and dreaming' and it has that element of a dream where objects are familiar and yet unknowable. I also liked Lucy Azubike's paintings called Wear and Tear the paintings themselves are careful recreations of the scraps left behind by layers of posters. They suggest to me a series of designs for a new style of urban camouflage one best suited for the war of the everyday.

I am left with the feeling there's more perhaps a second visit would be in order.

Then it's back up Oxford Rd through the crowds of begowned graduating students and head towards the Cornerhouse for Stanya Khan's exhibition It's Good, I'm Cool. Which I'm informed by the pamphlet handed to me by the invigilator is her first solo show in Europe and is comprised of her videos and drawings. What it doesn't mention is comfy sofas and Laz-E-Boys!

Said furniture is welcomed as I sit in front of the image of a battered, bruised and bandaged figure talking about the macho-ness of certain hamburgers to someone off screen. This conversation is soundtracked by small blasts of METAL! It suggests a kind of empty masculinity. As the video progresses we see this damaged figure undertake a strange odyssey where she, still dressed in hospital robes, is seen in the desert discovering a briefcase, going skateboarding. We also she her going through her day to day life despite of her injuries there's a strange mixture of the ordinary and the strange in this video that conflict between extreme personal trauma and the fact that the rest of the world carries on. Which runs through all the videos and the first floor, what also strikes me is the honesty of the videos. In two videos Kathy and Sandra where Khan interview her best friend and her mother's casting a sympathetic eye over their lives, guts are spilled questions about how we live are lives are asked. There is no real narrative to these pieces I get the sensation that I could simply dip in and out these are slices of life always changing always the same.

What also strikes me about Khan's work is a refreshing lack of irony, even when dressed like a penis in Looking Good Feeling Good there's no sense of knowingness which leads to a sense of vulnerability and kind of warmth I guess. I think I mean her work has Pathos which for me can be summed up it by one of her drawings (her drawings feature animals and imamate objects caught in tableaus of everyday angst) which features two octopus one is missing a tentacle the other simply says 'It'll grow back'. It's funny, sad and charming, think Rob Ryan without the sappiness, and would look great on my wall.

That's kind of where my day ends, I did make it to the Manchester Art Gallery with 5 minutes to closing so only briefly saw what they had on display so I can save that for another day.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Kaffe Mattews – you might come out of the water every time singing

Sitting on the edge of a pontoon my feet dangling off the edge into a dim abyss. Though in my equally dim mind I know that the solid floor is inches away from my feet. I am staring at my feet and I am surrounding, enveloped by shifting patterns of sound. These sounds generated by the data accrued from the behaviour of Hammerhead sharks that inhabit the waters of an island I shall never visit.

The varying sound tumbling around me in pitch and speed, gives me a duality where I'm both part of this environment and its centre. Attempting to avoid the cliché for listening to sound art I keep my eyes open. The next time you experience a sound piece look for people doing the 'sound art pose' – eyes closed, head cocked to one side. My reason for this is that like all installations, a sound installation should alter my perception or experience of the space in which it is installed.

I'm laying on the platform now, looking up at the four green lights and a trench that forms part of ceiling the gallery space. The sound passes from speaker to speaker indicating that invisible, partly physical thing are circling the space.

Then the rumbling kicks in.

The platform begins to vibrate; it begins to vibrate my vision. It's not an entirely unpleasant experience but it is akin to being drunk, on you bed waiting for room to stop spinning. Something which is at one thrilling but you want the sensation to leave you so you can return to a sense of normality. A mixture of laying on my back and the rolling thumping sound has disoriented me.

Having already though about writing about my experience words begin to rush in. Really hard-core pretentious stuff like: 'What fire could recall the firmament' and 'How can you code the seas'. Then I realise there are meant to be sharks here swimming in the either, but there isn't. What I am experiencing here is movement transformed in data then transformed into sound. An attempt to comprehend nature as right, as abstract, as a diagram in a book.

Then I begin to consider is the enveloping sound really that abstract. It feels as much as an amplification of the world around you. The movement of others, the lives of others, if you can spend a few moments stand at the top of the stairwell. Looking at the people walking around the space below and see how it tally's with the sound.

Somewhere within the swirl of sound I began to think about how in our species attempts to catalogue the world still points to something unknowable. Something elusive in the actions of the creatures which inhabit this planet from: apes to bacteria. Maybe it is this experience of the unattainable that makes us delve deeper into the unknown. To listen out for the song that is referred to in the title of this piece.

Kaffe Matthews installation is currently part of the Galapagos exhibition at The Bluecoat until the 1st July

Thursday, 7 June 2012


Well it's been a week since Prometheus landed Ridley Scott's return not only to the Alien franchise but to science fiction. The film not unlike George Lucas's return to the Star Wars universe has seen some frenzied fanboy action who've been waiting 30ish years for Ridley to get back to the future.

Thirty years that's plenty of time for people's ideas and beliefs about a film, and what a film should be to become quite ingrained. Even Scott who was responsible for so much of what we would expect from any film connected to the Alien franchise would have a mountain of expectation to climb. Despite Scott being the drive behind Prometheus, as he appeared haunted by the hollow eyes of the 'space jockey' and its role in the creation of the xenomorph.

As Scott is drive behind Prometheus it's only natural that his influences and sensibilities' will show through. What do I know about his influences? Well I believe that one of those influences to be the work of Moebius and comics like Metal Hurlant. From the opening 'sacrifice' scene where a unidentified alien destroys himself leaving bits of its DNA all a familiar looking landscape, before skipping millennia to a group of futuristic archaeologists. Somewhere around this point I wondered if I was watching a live action version of a Moebius strip. It seemed that Prometheus would be a grandiose, sometimes queasy, mixture of ancient mythologies and futurism often found in comics of the 70's.

Like these comics, Prometheus is a bit of a fantastic mess. It has plot holes that you could fly the Nostromo through. It also has several competing plot strands; this element invoked a comparison with David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. Mulholland Drive being an unmade TV series mushed into a film leaving a few stories untold. Of course Scott's films aren't always celebrated for their plots. The film seems to breeze through characters, or does it? Comparisons between the crew of the Prometheus and Nostromo can be drawn, though the crew of the Prometheus are meeting for the first time and therefore don't have the shared experiences and the petty grievances of the Nostromo crew.

The exception would be Fassbender's David who is pretty much the focus of the film and thanks to the behaviour of pervious androids (expect Bishop) we know that androids are sneaky and not on your side. Preferring to tow the company line and admiring the alien. Having an android at the centre of the film does invite comparisons with Blade Runner, though the androids in Blade Runner are much nobler then the ones in Scott's Alien universe. In both films androids have disappointing encounters with their creators.

All that aside what has Prometheus brought to the Alien franchise. For me it has brought of back a sense of Freudian unease to the alien. When characters become infected by the alien there is an undercurrent of a sexual act being forced upon them. The character of Shaw herself is infected through 'normal' sex in the ultimate corruption of human reproduction. This corruption of reproduction and therefor a corruption of humanity lies at the core of what makes the alien scary. Killing you out right isn't enough, especially if it can infect you and force you into becoming the genesis of some other vile creature. You can see my point when you are confronted with the possibility of giving birth to a squid baby, a squid baby that has eyes that shoot tentacles.

Prometheus is uneven, but it is ambitious and tries to deal with everything from the parent/child bond to the ultimate question of why are we here. Maybe not successfully but after a week I'm still thinking about it where with some blockbusters I've forgotten them on the walk home.

PS. I saw it in 2D.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Galapagos, The Bluecoat - Liverpool

I am sure I am not alone in doing this but when I wonder around exhibitions making seemingly random connections between the work on display and my own experiences. One of these connections happened while looking at The Bluecoat's current Galapagos exhibition, where I was reminded of a novel I had read I few years ago called The Traveller in Black
by John Brunner. This was a fantasy novel wherein the titular Traveller in Black is charged with bringing order and reason to a world of chaos and magic.

Why would this fantasy novel spring to mind, when the twelve artists involved in the exhibition have rooted themselves within the real world, within the physicality of the Galapagos Islands themselves. It may lay in my perception of the islands themselves, which provides a kind of link to The Bluecoat's previous Topophobia exhibition. The associations between the exhibitions between Brunner's book and the exhibition may have been triggered by Alexis Deacon's sketches of the creatures that dwell of the dream archipelagos.

Within Deacon's rather beautiful drawings there is the reminder of a time when 'here be monsters', things that existed just beyond the horizon, monsters which disappeared into fiction as Europeans expanded their influence across the globe. The islands saw their first European visitors in the 16th century who saw nothing of worth in the islands, outside of providing a rich source of protein in the form of Giant Tortoises. So this pragmatism is counter to the image I have of sailors struck in awe at the creatures living on the islands. Though I have to wonder what the sailor Thomas Chappell saw that caused him to burn one of the islands in 1820.

Maybe this marks the point the starting point where the European idea of reason conquered though exploration and categorization the realms of mythology. Like Brunner's titular hero's quest to bring everything to a single nature. A process that continues to this day, when confronted by Dorothy Cross's hovering whale spine, their first reaction is to assume that it is the bones of a dinosaur. Rather than the bones of some forgotten giant species. I also wonder if this speaks about our perception that we are the top of our evolutionary tree and therefore there is nothing 'bigger' then us currently on this planet.

Taking that supposed place on the top of the tree, eventually humans settled on Galapagos. Their lives and settlements becoming fodder for the exploratory photographs of the likes of Paulo Catrica or even falling under the critical eye of the islands true inhabitants such as The Blue-footed Booby (with the help of Marcus Coates) who sees nothing special in the lives of humans. I guess what we can take from the progression of reason is that we aren't as separate from nature as we seem, and within the ecology of the islands we see ecology of our selves.

I've also written a piece about Kaffe Matthews sound installation read it here

Friday, 4 May 2012

Where I’m Anymore…

This was a piece I wrote as a companion piece to this which in turn was about the recent Topophobia exhibition at The Bluecoat….

Where to begin, where do I position myself to begin writing. It's problematic. Especially when the subject you want to talk about, in this case the Topophobia exhibition at The Bluecoat, which itself deals with the shifting definitions of space and place.

So where I am? (Or should that be where was I?) Well this piece was initially written in The Bluecoat Gallery, to be more precise Gallery 3 of The Bluecoat. That's the room at the back with the really big windows, where the orbs of Polly Gould sit quietly and look out on the passers-by.

It seems apt to start here, in a place which a mere four years ago not exist in this state as it was created during the gallery's two year hibernation. Which leads into the other reason, it was in that period of hibernation that saw the 'arrival' of Liverpool One, a large retail development which has become to dominate this part of the city.

Looking out into the street I wonder if this is an example of what Marc Augé termed super modernity. A space or place which is as once familiar, but holds no meaning. A place which has no evidence of human permanence, the little echoes of humanity, yet. In a slight digression a place like Liverpool One also highlights, if inadvertently, the economic, social and political forces that shape a city. Also how the ambitions of a small group of people can have on the wider population.

Why have I wittered on about retail development (a subject I know very little about) well spending time in Gallery 3 it hard not to see a bleedthrough between exhibitions themes of displacement of the reduction of meaning which leads to feeling of anxiety and the space immediately outside the gallery space. Though I am not sure which is bleeding into which.

Perhaps it's just being in the Gallery 3 space with it large aquarium like windows which offers me a view on the people passing by which makes me reflect on the transient nature of the space that surrounds us. This in turn makes me reflect on the transient nature of the space I inhabit.

Surely to some degree this gallery is a non-place. As much through necessary for a gallery space has to be accommodating to the art which flows through it. A sympathetic shell, a contemporary gallery in the broadest sense of the world.

Are the spaces of The Bluecoat and Liverpool One a model of how we live in the world? To understand that nothing is permanent, that everything is open to change. These shifting, intermediate spaces have existed in one form of another. Ever since somebody set up an artificial border (a hedge of fence) and claimed that this land is different from all the land which surrounds.

This claiming of ownership of land can be considered the origin of where our concepts and landscape and place. Is this where our anxieties about place stem from? This supposedly setting of physical boundaries created a set of undefined boundaries between commerce and culture. For centuries the idea of a place was in part set by the people who wanted to or could afford to, little interest in with we would consider 'landscape painting' until land owners wanted to be able to show off their lands without taking people there.

What has this got to do with The Bluecoat or Liverpool One, well for one it shows the artists role in defining or exploring our notions of place. Only now these definitions are as much up to the individual as much as they are to the culture, perhaps our modern definitions of place arrive from shared experiences rather than solely physical limits. Would it be better to consider these apparent non-places such as Liverpool One, chain stores and even perhaps contemporary galleries (though I haven't mentioned it before the internet) as the canvases, stages on which we become part of a collective experience.

Of course from my removed position (once in Gallery 3, now elsewhere) I can't offer definitive proof of this, but it is something to consider the next time you pop into a gallery or even Tesco's or Starbucks.

The exhibition will tour to the Spacex Gallery, Exeter from the 12th May

Monday, 23 April 2012

TiLT Dance Platform Night 2, The Kazimiar Liverpool

This article is a follow on to this article written for The Double Negative

Once again I find myself heading towards the Kazimiar, on a cold yet bright evening. My mind is set upon differences at the end of last night we were promised a fresh programme. Therefore should I expect a different atmosphere or should I expect the same mix of the tired and untested. Guess I'll find out soon.

Somehow I find myself being the first one in and after a few cordial hellos I notice someone manipulating inks on an overhead projector to the strains of an electronic score. All very UFO club. This is tonight's overture, though I must say I preferred last night's quiet acrobatics. It provides an unobtrusive backdrop to idly scan the audience, it seems a different mix to last night though there are a few familiar faces there.

I also note there is a familiar face in tonight's programme.

Tonight is already feeling slightly slicker and it's not long before the first act enters the arena. Two dancers (performing under the name dt.Ellipsis') enter the space and begin performing accompanied by Jurassic 5's 'Lesson No.6', I mention this because this section of the performance just seem to mirror that kind of cut 'n' paste approach, the dancers skip to one style another. The music changes and the dancers settle into another rhythm it's during this section of the performance that the dynamic between the performers becomes clear. Their interaction, the way they counter and complement each other is something which is always exciting to watch.

Later I check the programme and it confirmed that this performance was indeed about the interplay of two performers. That was evident through this piece.

The reason I have to check the programme at a later point is because there's barely a moment before into the space there enters four white clad figures. They take the stage for a brief, energetic and somehow earnest performance. Whether it's brevity of Jordan Mullinger's piece I feel I can't offer more.

Already I'm seeing a figure at the top of a flight of stair indicating their readiness. The lights go out and a projection begins, a figure walks across marshland, this figure is soon edited into a jerky, jumping dance. This ends and a solo dancer enters the space where she begins to performance a series of measured, controlled and repetitive movements all in the air of the buzzing, clicking Ryoji Ikeda like soundtrack. Her considered movements provide a counterpoint to some of the more frantic performance I've seen. As much as dance might be about the expressive freedom of movement, it is surely as much about the individuals dancers control over those moments, the control a dancer has over there body. That's the sense a get from watching this dancer. Even when she's joined by a second dancer and the pace increases, there's still that sense of control running throughout the performance. While watching this performance a small voice in the back of my mind whispers 'Merce Cunningham' and that's not a bad thing. The piece ends with a repeat of the video which began the piece, which was intriguing but I wonder if this video could have been better integrated into the piece, it does seem a minor point.

It's interval time; I get the chance to read about the pervious performance, which was Tender by Joe Lott Dance. It's time for reflection. It's been a breathless first half. Without any pauses the acts have come on one after another. It's provided the evening with a drive and energy that seemed to be absent from last night, thought that drive does threaten to blur the performances into one lump. Still I don't know what to expect from the second part of tonight.

Well I already know that due to injury Marc Saad will not be performing. Instead we are going to be treated to an impromptu performance. During the interval the stage has been readied, a set of drums have been splayed across the space. It transpires that this is the duo of Hollie-ann Coleman and Lucy Mercer who 'opened' last night's event. It starts with Lucy and her guitar and Hollie-ann responses to lights concealed in the drums. What is evident is the rapport between the girls on stage, which makes for a pleasing addition to the programme. Though there's a part of me that question how impromptu this is, the romantic in me likes to think that what I'm seeing is spontaneous.

For the final piece we are given a repeat performance of Collaboration which also closed last night. I whole I still feel the same about the piece as I did last night. You can see the potential in this piece and I hope to see its development. Oddly though it's the piece that feels the most unfinished, but that's the nature of this beast?

Regrettably due to being a slave to public transport I have to miss the band Taara.

It has been another night of strong performances thought this night has felt more focused. I might be repeating myself, this platform points towards a core of performers and curators who are willing to share their enthusiasm for their chosen artform. Hopefully this will go some way to strengthen Liverpool's reputation for dance and live art in the north-west and beyond. It's an ambition we all should support.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Samantha Donnelly: Contour States – Cornerhouse, Manchester

Starting at the top, the first piece I come across is what appears to be a curtain of masks, hanging, shedding off the wall. The acclamation of dead skin cells and therefore linked to thoughts of aging and deterioration. Thanks to a misreading I pay proper attention to the piece's title, which is: As You Shed Your Beauty We Will Continue To Project. So far, so reasonable.

Moving to another piece, where I'm greeted by an arced partition of corrugated Perspex, only it isn't that simple. Though there's a strong sense of physicality, I'm lost in the adornments. A large nugget floats in the air; a reproduction of the Venus de Milo sits on a plinth strung with a line of knotted elastic bands, two straps stretch from the floor to the ceiling. Two Polaroid's of the sculpture sit on a mirror, reflections on reflections. Oddly after finding out this pieces title Illusions of Supersaturation I begin to understanding what's happening. Maybe the individual objects have no individual meaning but they are reprehensive of information overload, but it hard for me to separate the use of materials with meaning. Or who you read a piece.

Like with the sculpture which shares the space with Illusions of Supersaturation , Contortionist which features tights stretched over wooden poles, along with fleshly lumps of latex growing at the end of tubes. Rightly or wrongly I read it as a piece which references the human body as machine as sexuality, especially female, commodifed.

At some point between seeing these pieces and the other pieces I come to terms with what's happening with these assemblages, and the way I do that is through J.G Ballard. I can feel you rolling your eyes from here. It's while looking at the juxtaposition of what looks like chicken skin and spilt nail varnish, or to give it is proper name: Circular Fictions and Absolute Truths. I realise that these sculptures are not unlike assemblages or collages created by many character in Ballard's fiction. In Ballard's fiction you often find a character who attempts to deal with the influx of contemporary life, or succumb to the apparent psychosis of contemporary life, by selecting random images or to create a new meaning one that is solely their own. The prime example of this would be Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition.

Away from Ballard I do wonder the paradoxes within Donnelly's work. In presenting work with reflects the fractured and multi layered world is she attempting to point to something outside of that world or is she simply adding to it. I am unsure; on the whole the work has a feeling of things in flux of the possibility of change. To attempt to understand such a shifting a change landscape in which we live in, will always prove problematic and interesting. In having abstracted an already quite abstract world it feels like Donnelly has created a world which is just out of sync, or from a future 5 seconds ahead of us. Where meaning can mean anything.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

GLAMOURIE – Project Space Leeds

Okay, so it's been a few days since I actually saw this exhibition, so there'll be a slight memory lag but I shall drag from the fuzzy mess of recollection what I thought all that time ago.

Literary just off the train, I meet my friend and we work alongside the river towards Project Space Leeds which is currently hosting the GLAMOURIE exhibition which aims to bring 'too-little know' artists. This is where a little knowledge could be a bad thing, having a small interest in that kind of stuff I know that a Glamourie is a kind of Magick spell which enables people to charm and seduce through artifice. Will I fall under their spell?

Entering the space and we are handed a leaflet detailing the artists in the exhibition, identifying which artist is in which room relies on a series of keys. So I am not really referencing it, until now. We moved passed some table and chairs and entered a space which is dominated by a large collection of cardboard, covered in dripping, sloppy gloss paint shaped to form two heads kissing. It's all sort of jolly in a cartoony way, my comment while looking at it was 'It's like something Noel Fielding would do.' Also in the room there is a model of a classic building, compacted and unable to let anyone in. The walls are covered with empty spaces, the artists have recreated those marks left behind when a large item has been removed, it's difficult to pin these down whether its acknowledgement in the beauty of the unintended or something about memory, I'm not sure. There's nothing to indicate either.

Moving back into the main gallery space we pass a vague reproduction of a Tapas Bar, I'm not sure what going on here or why I can't unpick the code. That goes for most of the work in the show not for the first time I get the sensation that I'm like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters, pawing at his mash potatoes, trying to shape something and mumbling to myself '..this means something..'.

Hey, it's not all bad. I was genuinely impressed by Ant Macari's monastic installation Ruach Ha'Shem (Brain of God/Creation of Adam) a sort of mystic conceptualism which references Sol le Witt and Jorges Louis Borges. Maybe it's just the fact that I've been able to identify where the artist is coming from, to see that he is able to collate these references into something solid and interesting, I hope I'm not that shallow. It's not only stuff I can identify with I like another piece which stuck out for me where Paul McDevitt's series of drawings entitled Notes to Self, which could be regarded as uber-doodles. For the spraying bubbling forms which inhabit the drawings stem from the hastily scrawled notes , and seem to be extended versions of McDevitt's handwriting and why wouldn't they be. I was also attracted to Joseph Lewes, cobbled together versions of medieval instruments.

Looking back on it, what did I think? As an attempt to bring some lesser known artists to a wider audience it kind of works, but as what often happens the majority of artists involved can slip pass. Which is the main problem with these type of pack 'em exhibitions but what is the alternative? Also the attempt to allow the works to bleed through impacted on my ability to see the individual merits of individual works. It's as if the attempt to cast a glamourie over these artists has somehow produced the opposite effect. Like the Pil & Galia Kollectiv's (whose work I like) dresser marked with modern corporate sigils is interesting to look at but open the draws and there's nothing inside.

The exhibition runs until the 31st March.


Monday, 27 February 2012

Ben Rivers/David Thorpe/Heather and Ivan Morison – The Hepworth Wakefield

This is my second visit to The Hepworth since its opening last year, and it's where I left it standing like the centrepiece of some post-modern utopia all starkly beautiful concrete sitting upon the weir. I've came to see a trio of exhibitions, so moving through the light filled gleaming rooms the first exhibition we come across is Heather and Ivan Morison's Anna what greets me when I enter the space is a large balloon, of the kind that the Montgolifer brothers might of flown tied to what looks like a handmade stool. Across the floor there lays what looks like railway sleepers, each one is adorned with a number of arcane objects a waxy bunch of flowers, a waxy looking bulls skull what appears to be a Sheila-Na-Gig statue and Eggs. Within the middle of this all is a pile of waxy black bones, all presided over by two large, drawings? I am told that one is produced by using bone ash.

It feels like I've wondered onto a stage long after the players have gone, taking the narratives that where contained within the objects with them. It all gives the impression of some forgotten fairy-tale, of myths lost generation by generation. On reading the stuff on the wall I discover that the piece is inspired by the life and work of the author Anna Kavan, of who I know nothing, if I did would I feel different about the selection of objects. Perhaps the upcoming puppet show will provide a sense of completion. Sat on the floor we await the arrival of the puppets; the puppets are brought in by two of the Hepworth's invigilators who animate the puppets through a tale of love and abandonment. I think. Due the acoustics the heavy eastern European accents that provide the spoken narratives are hard to understand. The puppets provide an intriguing and charming element, which expands on the objects that form the installation, I wonder about the people unable to see this element of the narrative, are they missing out? Who knows?

While waiting for the Ben Rivers film to start again I fill the time looking at David Thorpe's work. In David Thorpe's work I can see the relation between object and production; I admire the beautiful and carefully created patterns recalling William Morris's Arts and Crafts movement I'm left oddly cold. It's only when I pick up a catalogue of Thorpe's earlier work and see pieces like The Defeated Life Restored ( I get the sensation of utopian ideas drawn from the past, of a world based on a deeper understanding of history which points towards a future. Of course in saying that I wouldn't say no to one of his beautiful watercolours.

The final element of this trilogy is Ben Rivers Slow Action ( set in a darkened screening room; I take a pair of wireless headphones and try to settle on a beanbag. The film begins and it is film, Ben Rivers has a taste for using film as it seems to express a sense of time and place which only exists when the film runs through the projector. There is also a Proustian rush, especially if you're of a certain age, as the film apes the documentation style of The National Film Board of Canada, all passive observation. This leads me to what is being observed, which is world the films where shot in real locations but the things discovered there have seemed to lead to a series of possible fictions detailing the alternative lives of the islands and their inhabitations. There's something in this work is points towards to the way we as a race are able to engage our imagination to shape the world in which we inhabit, that imagination seems to be applied by the sack headed inhabitations of the final episode of Rivers film, who adorn themselves with sack cloth in an attempt to restore order to their world. (

On the whole the exhibitions reflect the Hepworth's commitment to contemporary art, it might sound trite but I hope that visitors to the gallery can see that art is a living thing that does have relevance whether it was created last week or fifty years ago.



Sunday, 12 February 2012

Richard and Famous - Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool

The other day I made a brief visit to The Open Eye Gallery to see their current exhibition with the puntastic title Richard and Famous. The exhibition is a collection of the photographs of Richard Simpkin detailing a lifetime of tracking celebrities and catching their image.

Surely that's not particular interesting; we are surrounded by reproduced images of celebrities in nearly all forms of media. Well what makes these celeb pics interesting is the appearance of Simpkin himself, Simpkin originally set out to collect autographs, until he realised that a photograph captured a moment in time, provided proof of occupying the same space of these elevated people.

Simpkins choice of the image over the written word strikes me as the right choice, as the image is much older then the word. When this thing called humanity began to communicate it did so with images, only when life became more complex more abstract the need for the written word arise. Its with these vague thoughts of cave paintings that make me think that these photographs, and maybe all forms of photography, are extensions of sympathetic magic. That the camera is a spiritual medium for us to capture a moment, or to transform a mundane moment into something more.

After all if a moment is caught by a camera there must be some relevance to that moment?

Simpkins photographs are a collection of those moments. What started out as a hobby transformed into a document of Simpkins life, beginning in his teenage years in 1989 through to maturity and the current day. Looking at the photographs spread across two walls underlined with a handy timeline the sense of a lifetime is there. As a look at the photographs, I realise that the 'celebs' that I notice seem to mark certain periods in my life e.g I spot Dave Mustaine, Rob Zombie, Chris Cornell there's something comforting and yet disturbing in the way my memory is connected with these famous faces. Maybe I shouldn't be so pleased to have spotted Pixie Lott on the wall.

This is Simpkins life he becomes the focus of the photographs and the famous people, the ever changing people next to Simpkins become transient less important. Stars may come and go but through these photographs Simpkins gains a sense of permanence. It easy to make a connection the way time is marked by Simpkins and the way time is marked in the work of someone like On Kawara, and when you think about it Simpkins or has all the hallmarks of Conceptualism. A simple rule repeated again and again, along with the use of the camera as passive observer.

The camera is the unsung hero in all this, as it is the tool that enables Simpkins in his quest it's also the device in which he, and perhaps we all do, attempt to immortalise himself to present himself to future generations who'll ponder the presence of this kindly smiling face who allowed himself to photographed with all these strangers.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

On Saturday 4th February I attended The TEDx Merseyside talks on The New Futurism for The Double's some of my thoughts of the day

and I promise I shall write something solely for confusedguff soon.......

Friday, 13 January 2012

If Only…! There and Back Again - The Bluecoat

I believe I did say If Only…! would return and here it is, tonight we are promised be taken on a journey to the centre of the stage and back again. So set the controls to the centre of the stage. After been given an alternative ticket, listing a series of instructions we enter the performance space. To be greeted by a confusion of chairs, people quietly take their chairs and nothing happens. While I sit there in the dim light I begin to wonder if it's already begun, did that man standing up take off his coat in a way that seems stylised, is that woman two chairs away politely smiling putting it on? Then it all goes black. A spotlight picks out the person in the sit in front of me, he jumps onto his chair and begins to recount a story about gender and sexuality, he is quickly joined by another at first I attempt to pay attention to what they're saying. I quickly give up I listen to the overlapping rhythms of their speech, just as well as they are joined by three others recounting stories.

What is happening in front of me is a sound collage (similar to The Dreams by Delia Derbyshire and Beryl Bermange that's a good thing) a sound collage which utilises one of the most versatile instruments we have, the human voice. In this piece we can hear the natural rhythms in the voice its inherent musicality and also how we listen. The piece is also a reminder that often quite complex ideas can be express and explored through quite simple means.

As the final words fade into the air on the lights come back on, we are split into groups according to our colour coded tickets. I am in the pink group. The group is ushered to the Bluecoat's hub where a rough and ready structure of tarpaulin and nylon rope awaits us. We dutifully line up, I am informed I am about to enter an imaginary Mariana Trench, before I do so I am handed a pair of headphones and a blindfold. Strangely I am in familiar territory having experiences of having my senses removed for the sake of art. See . This is INARI DIVE a underwater adventure, though if I am honest I get no sense of being of underwater rather what I get is the sensation that I am moving quite gracefully responding elegantly to the sounds in my ears. This illusion is quickly shattered when after leaving the space I witness the stumbling shifting actions of people undergoing the same experience. For me this is the most interesting aspect of the piece the difference between the perception of ourselves and how we appear to others. Maybe this would be the focus in future showings.

The group is on the move again this time to the Vide space. Where are given a lecture about a work of Danny Heyes, which is suspended in the vide space. It's a difficult one to speak about is it a piece about how we treat art breaking down the individual elements of the work and the artist space in an attempt to find a nugget of meaning. Or was it a piece which tests the audience's commitment, are we listening because we want to learn something new about the human condition or are we there because it ticks off some cultural checklist. Or neither… either way the lecture is cut short for time reasons.
The pink group is now in the garden. In the garden is a 'Street Artist' I assume he's a street artist he has spray cans and he's using them. I'll be honest my interest in this kind of thing in barely there I stand there for a bit…then go the toilet in order to avoid the interval rush.

When the interval official happens, there's a moment of embarrassment where I have to recuse my drink from the performance space, sorry. Interval over where back in the performance space, in its more traditional format, a row of flowers lay in front of the tiered seating. There's a man standing there occasionally offering to hug people (not me) this is Alex Scott is ranting. Well he doesn't really seem angry (I've had angrier rants over the ads, ukulele playing cock) as he lists his targets Cameron, the cuts nothing that the majority the audience already agree with. He only seems animated when recounting someone else's speech.

On to the stage comes the clicking heels of (I don't know it's a failing I know I'm sure someone can tell me). Whoever she is aligns herself with the flowers, and 60s pop-folk, and begins to jump on hers heels, then hops backwards stumbling when the lyrics of the song mention falling. It appears to be a naïve expression of the intent of the song, which is compounded by her frantic hammering of the floor which accompanies Dolly Parton's Jolene. Is it naïve, there is something childlike in her actions, childlike in the sense that the actions she undertakes seem the most oblivious but like the sound collage from earlier it is its simplicity which makes it effecting. Especially during the final movement she lifts her dress, exposing herself to the audience as Peter, Paul and Mary sing 'Where have the young girls gone?/ Taken husbands everyone/ When will they ever learn?' making it a moment of naïve knowing.

She is replaced by Mandy Romeo who takes us through a 'remix' or recounting of the night. Like this blog its bias the phrases and actions which must of stuck in Mandy's mind come to the fore, as see re-enacts her experiences they become mixed, the experiences so vivid moments before quickly merge and fall into memory. I wonder about how different or similar our experiences of the night are and maybe it should be a requirement of the events like these for audience member's to re-enact what they've seen, well maybe. Finally the violinist Laura McKinlay takes the stage to play us out.

Like last months If Only…! we have the collection of artists using this a platform to experiment, to test but I begin to wonder where it goes from there. Where and when will we see the expanded versions of what we've seen at If Only…! surely one of benefits of such a platform is the possible creation of other similar events in The Bluecoat and beyond? Perhaps these concerns will be assuaged by the festival that this round of If Only…! events will climax in.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Here's a link to an article I've written for new website The Double Negative, its related to the Republic of the Moon exhibition currently showing at FACT Liverpool.

Keep watching this space.