Monthly Archives: September 2009

ESCAPE to Underworld

Smiley-face

This summer I spent three days in Ibiza with some good friends of mine.  The first two nights which we spent in Privilege and Space were fun for sure, but at this point the party island hadn’t provided me with the kind of stand out experience that I was expecting. Increasingly rigid noise restrictions meant that all of the outside areas of the clubs had been closed. The boy to girl ratio was outrageous; there must have been fifty boys to every girl…and not in a good way. The music, which for me will always determine the success of a club, was ok, but in Space particularly, highly monotonous and without melody. However, something happened on the third and final night that flip reversed my attitude and sent my opinions of Ibiza soaring. That something was Underworld. For some inexplicable reason, previous to my holiday in Ibiza aside from a half hearted flirtation with “Born Slippy. NUXX”  in the wake of Trainspotting, Underworld never really grabbed my musical attention.  As someone who takes pride in having a fairly extensive knowledge of music, I expect to have all of the essentials covered. Now I feel like a fool. I have been truly humbled.

There is so much more to Underworld than “Born Slippy ” it’s a joke. In fact, there were almost two hours of epic, energized, live performance during which time TUNE followed TUNE followed TUNE followed total TUNE. Set amongst some very crafty visuals and the giant smiley faces of club Amnesia’s ” we party like 1989,” rave, Underworld put on a live performance  that will forever be etched in my memory. There’s something about early electronic music that I love and Karl Hyde and Rick Smith of Underworld were around with Kraftwerk when it all began. When a new musical genre is born, musicians have different priorities; it’s about progression and carrying a sound forward by creating something new that has never before been heard. Electronic music, with its  allegiance to electronically generated instrumentation, its repetitive rhythms and computer-speech software,  carried music on a new tangent, to another dimension. Underworld fused their admiration of Kraftwerk’s pioneering electronic sound with their own affiliation for reggae dub to create something unique in its own right that evolved with the sound of the 90s and still sounds great now.

As Rock and Roll had done in the 50s, electronica revolutionized music in the 80s and I felt a genuine sense of this excitement  in Underworld’s performance. I left the club  feeling as contented as I can imagine that I would have done, should I have seen my electro favorites Kraftwerk perform, although my enjoyment was exalted by the added element of surprise and the fact that Underworld are British – I always feel a strong sense of pride when cool people are from my homeland.

I have trawled the internet looking for clips of Underworld’s performance in Amnesia. Didn’t really want to put “Born Slippy NUXX” on but I think that this is the vid that best captures the vibe in the club during their performance.

http://www.amnesia.es/webapp/home;jsessionid=zmyzbeq38xcz

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ESCAPE to Venice AND the Biennale

Still from claymotion video in "Experiment" by Nathalie Djureberg

My dad and I in front of a still from claymotion video in "Experiment" by Nathalie Djurberg

Venice is like a supermodel. All it really has to do is exist, exactly as it is and people will gasp in awe of its stunning beauty. No need for modern architecture, nightlife, particularly good shopping or any attention to be paid to the slightly bad smell or overcrowding. For me, Venice is and will probably always be, the most spectacular city in the world. It does seem kind of unfair however, that Venice just walks it, when other cities try so dam hard. But as with any beautiful model, its nonchalance serves only to heighten its attraction.

It is even more unfair then, that on top of being the most beautiful, Venice is also home to one of the most prestigious cultural extravaganzas in the world – The Biennale : a bi-annual cultural institution/series of events, which includes an international art exhibition that has been running since 1895. Now we have the equivalent of a Supermodel with a double first in Art history and Contemporary Arts from Cambridge. Selfish – but such are the ways of life.

As an avid follower of the sun, I was happy to take up my parents offer of a holiday in Venice a last month because I was aware that our hotel would have a sweet pool and that Italy is boiling in August. I have been to the city a few times before which I figured could excuse me from participating in any form of cultural activity and enable a lot of time for extensive chilling. At this point, the Biennale had not even entered into my thoughts. However once in the city, which has red Biennale signs in virtually every street, I realized that its presence was unavoidable.  Thanks to my arty disposition and my degree in art history, I was unable to relax and so I ditched my plans in favour of some artistic action.

Going on the recommedation of a friend, my primary destination of choice was the Palazzo Fortuny which was described to me as being the “coolest exhibition ever.” I do not doubt for one second the validity of this statement however, I was only able to get as far as the doorstep of this glorious gothic museum. I should probably make one thing clear before delving any deeper into my adoration of Venice and its Biennale. They have it all;  big names, innovative display and diversity in content, but the Venetians make it exceedingly difficult for you to actually see anything. Different exhibits and museums are shut on different days and at different times according to no logical schedule. And so….. although I arrived at the Fortuny on a Monday at 5pm (the timetable stating it should be open until 6pm on Mondays,) I was unable to to get in. To make matters worse I tried everything to utterly no avail: member of the press..give a shit. Art student, nope. Crododile tears…door slammed in face. This really bummed me out because the main parts of the Biennale; Giardini and Arsenale, were closed on alternate Sundays and Mondays, as well as the occasional Tuesday…. or something ridiculous like that ( and I was leaving on Wednesday.)

Anyway to cut a long story short I eventually managed to get into Giardini….whacked Radiohead’s Amnesiac on, on my ipod, (theraputic and atmospheric, perfect for the observation of art) and made my way around the 53rd International Art Exhibition, this year entitled: Fare Mondi, or making worlds. The Giardini or Gardens were laid out in the Napoleonic era and have been the traditional venue for the exhibition since its start. They include the Palazzo della Espozisione as well as indiviual pavillions each built and designed by a participating nation. In the main Palazzo Argentine Tomas Saraceno and his astronomic installation blew me away…

Galaxies forming along filaments, like droplets along the strands of a spider's web' 2009 by Tomas Saraceno

'Galaxies forming along filaments, like droplets along the strands of a spider's web' 2009 by Tomas Saraceno

As did the twisted eden of Swedish artist Nathalie Djurberg, in which mesmerizing claymation video installations ran amongst her giant surrealistic sculptures.

Pavillion wise, with 77 different participating nations and 29 seperate pavillions there was something to suit everyones taste. I was particularly frightened/ intrigued by Japan’s black membrane-like tented pavillion which contained Miwa Yanagi’s massive wrinkly breasted “Windswept Women”

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I found Bruce Neuman’s critically acclaimed American entry to be rather uninspiring and I didn’t even get to see the Steve McQueen’s video installation in the British one because they were being all British about it and were the only pavillion to make visitors arrive at certain times and queue to get in. Andrei Molodkin’ sculptural installation for the Russian pavillion, using real human blood was cool, as was the Nordic entry which inventively addressed issues of public and private life, hedonism and excess. Their pavillion which was entitled “The Collectors,” was made to look like the home of a flashy art collector; its retro armchairs filled with naked men and a dead clothed body floating in the pool out back.

The Collectors, Nordic Pavillion

The Collectors, Nordic Pavilion

For me Giardini is modern experiential art at its finest.  Venice with its decadent historical architecture and authoritative position within the history of  art, provides the perfect juxtapositional backdrop for the display of international contemporary creativity. The art on display in “Making Worlds,” enables visitors to comprehend the spectrum across which modern art spans as well as the variety of talent in existence at present. Meanwhile the amibiance that Venice exudes invokes a constant awareness of art’s beautiful past and the course of its journey through history to reach its modern state.

The Biennale closes this year on November 22nd and will be hitting the galleries of Venice again Summer 2011.

www.labiennale.org/en/Home.html

www.designboom.com

-SW

ESCAPE with Duffy

Scary_monsters

This is a little something I pulled from the vintage prints that I have been archiving at work. Having worked with Duffy  for nine months now, I have come to know his photographs extremely well. Aside from those that he burnt back in the early eighties, I have seen every image, on every contact sheet, from every roll of film, from every photo shoot that he ever did. With an archive full of actors, musicians, models and various other celebrities, Duffy was surprised when I told him that out of everything this was probably my favourite photograph.

It’s from a shoot that Duffy did in 1979 for Bowie’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album. Being a huge Bowie fan, much of my love for this picture can be easily accounted for. However, this wasn’t the image chosen for Scary Monsters, in fact this image has never before been published or even seen, aside from by those involved in the shoot.   Whereas Duffy’s more iconic images such as his Aladdin Sane cover, have been retouched, consciously selected and then admired by many to achieve such status, I love the fact that this one was forgotten for thirty years and for that reason I loved discovering it. I could perhaps align the thrill to that of finding buried treasure.  There is something about Bowie’s unperfected facial expression that gets me every time. In a way I find the photograph to be extremely revealing in that it humanizes Bowie. This scornful look which, was not included in his contrived and manufactured public image, lowers him from the elevated, almost superhuman level of the pop/rock star.  What we have before us here, is a man in a ridiculous costume looking pretty indifferent.

I asked Duffy what his thoughts on the photograph were :

” You like it? Yes me too. You may have noticed that in many of my male portraits my subjects look as if they’re on the verge of smacking me…. ha! (Duffy acquired a reputation, of which he is proud, for being a bit of an anarchist.) That was my technique, I would say something to rile them or wind them up. It won me some great photographs -full of genuine male aggression. You may also notice that the same can not be said for my female portraits!”

Hmmm this does seem to be the case….

Christine Keeler by Duffy

Christine Keeler by Duffy

For more on Duffy check out his website: www.duffyphotographer.com and come visit our exhibition which opens at Chris Beetles photographic gallery in Mayfair from October 14th : www.chrisbeetles.com

Also watch out for the Duffy documentary (and  my own cameo!), which is coming to the BBC in November.

-SW

ESCAPE with Tek13

ttteeekkk

As part of the notorious One Trick Pony  design Crew, Tek13 is one of East London’s most prolific Graffiti bandits. His street art is easily distinguishable through it’s vivid affiliation with pop art-inspired design  and has seen him dally with the likes of the late King of Pop – Michael Jackson, party with Paris & Nicole and hang with Kanye (fishdicks) West. As I prepare to embark on my very first street art project  I had a chat with Tek13 to get the London street art lowdown and to thank him for making my home such an interesting and vibrant place.

Me: Ive watched my brothers get territorial with their airplane armrests. This follows suit on our streets with drug dealers and gangs……therefore I can only conclude that the same applies to the Graffiti scene. You and your crew are originaly from York, was it hard/ dangerous to break onto the scene here?

TEk13: When I first arrived in London I didn’t know a single person so yeh, that was pretty intimidating…it’s a huge city after all. I moved down here in 2006 and over time mates from OTP have joined me. Establishing ourselves in London was a gradual process; we had to make ourselves known… and yeh – being known does come with its fare share of trouble. There are a lot of haters.

Me: Why exactly is that….do I detect a certain amount of jealousy on the streets?

Tek13: Well yeh I suppose our success will have something to so with it. Originally we were a Graffiti crew but now we’re a lot more. We always stay true to our graffiti roots in everything we do but as we have evolved as artists, so too has our art.  We never restricted ourselves to fit in with the “Underground” stereotype, this way we were able to transgress boundaries and find our own place within the commercial world. I suppose there are those devotees to the underground scene that view us as traitors to the cause, whereas we believe we are pioneers of a new one.

Me: Are you working on anything exciting at the moment?

Tek13: Yeh I got asked to do some art work for the band Muse -Ive never listened to their music though!

Me: I have!!! I was a big muse fan back in the day…WOW.

Tek13: But I suppose the most exciting thing we’re working on at the moment is our first OTP exhibition which is going to be held in Shoreditch in December. It’s really a collaborative design project. We want to show that there are many dimensions to our art work. We specialize in freestyling as well as pre-designed stuff, I use stencils a lot, we paint, we spray ,we draw…there’s a whole lot going on, which is the key to the irony behind our name – One Trick Pony. Our exhibition is going to bring that together.

Me: Sounds amazing…can i come?

Tek13: Of Course.

Me: Awesome. And lastly then..any words of advice you can give me for me as I embark on my own first street project ? Its going to be collage, not paint based and what I really want to do is have three variations of my design in three different locations in London.

Tek13: Mates of mine have been arrested and even put in prison. You have to remember that even when your producing something that you consider to be art, by law its still considered as vandalism so just be careful. Try not to do it in broad daylight on a main road where poilce cars will drive by every five minutes. That said, you have no previous convictions and you’ re girl so if anything were to happen just claim ignorance and you ll be sorted.

Me: Thanks –  ill let you know how it goes!
tekgirl

For more on Tek13 check out his myspace – www.myspace.com/tek13

and his crew  – www.otpdesign.com

-SW