I am going to make a resolution to try and post here more regularly than once a week but it’s sometimes so hard to find the time. Here’s a few sporadic events from another busy week: apologies for the stream-of-consciousness style rambling:
…I went to see the lovely new Ceri Hand gallery in Liverpool and the most uncanny current exhibition by artist Doug Jones.
…I also saw the New Ends, Old Beginnings exhibition at Open Eye Gallery and the Bluecoat – my highlights were the beautiful photographs by Lara Baladi.
… I went to the launch of the new exhibition at Cornerhouse – Masaki Fujihata’s ‘The Conquest of Imperfection’. It’s great fun – definitely recommended if you get chance to check it out.
… I re-read my old Virago edition of Elizabeth Taylor’s Angel in anticipation of the new film adaptation which I think comes out later this month. I haven’t read it since I was a teenager and had forgotten what a spectacularly peculiar book it is. I have mixed feelings about it: it’s a pretty depressing read but also oddly compelling. I’ll be interested to see how they attempt to transfer the book – and the character of Angel herself in particular – onto the big screen.
… I also had quite a lot of my hair chopped off. It was a bit scary. I didn’t think I’d be that bothered – after all, it’s only hair, it grows back – but I actually felt strangely emotional about it. I’m starting to get used to it now, but I have felt very tired ever since – I am starting to suspect that my hair contained all my strength, Sampson-style. It also worked very well as a substantial blonde security blanket – very good for hiding behind. I’ve not exactly got a ‘short back and sides’ now, but even so, it is a bit of a shock to the system.
… And I marvelled at knitting wizardry from my friends Rachael Elwell and Sarah Hardacre. Check their lovely and very inspiring new artyarn blog out here. They have been commissioned by New Islington festival to knit guerilla art. They are making tree cozies! They have knitted a chandelier! I love it…
“…you are a detective. your mission is to document and observe the world around you as if you’ve never seen it before…”
The wonderful Keri Smith has announced a new book! How to be an Explorer of the World is all about exploring, collecting, observing and documenting the things around us. As with most of Smith’s work, it’s all about enjoying the mystery, inspiration and fascination of the seemingly ordinary and everyday. There’s a tempting little teaser for the new book online here, though unfortunately it won’t be out here in the UK until November. However, in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying keeping up with Smith’s well-loved blog, the wish jar journal.
Keri Smith describes herself as “an author/illustrator turned guerilla artist.” As an illustrator, she has worked for a wide variety of clients from Random House to the New York Times, but she has gained particular success as a blogger and author writing about creativity in its broadest sense, and perhaps most especially about the fun and importance of creative and artistic play. There is a certain childlike naivety to Smith’s work, which works well with her distinctive illustrative style: titles such as Living Out Loud may strike the reader as twee in places, advocating everything from painting pebbles in the back garden to making paper dolls in the quest to enjoy a creative life to the full. However, looking beyond the surface, Smith’s books are also highly inspirational, referencing everything and everyone from eastern philosophy to John Cage and Charles and Ray Eames. In a recent interview, Smith explains her commitment to writing about creativity: “I love the idea of creating books that give people more of a direct experience with life instead of walking through it passively. Get up out of your chair and take a look at things around you… Turn off the TV… there is no time to waste. Aren’t we all just aching for a bit of adventure?”
It is this “sense of adventure” that Smith’s books aim to encapsulate, becoming a playful call to arms to artists of all kinds. As well as Living Out Loud, my personal highlights would be the ever-popular Guerilla Art Kit and Wreck This Journal, a book filled with prompts telling the reader how to systematically ‘destroy’ the entire book. As Smith explains “in this book good does not exist. The goal is to fill it up, to shift your perception of the blank page and the journal itself into a place for experimentation. Into a place… to do those things you were taught to never do (make a mess, destroy, fold down pages, write in books, play with dirt). This book IS the place.” I treated myself to a copy earlier this year and have been thoroughly enjoying the destructive process, which feels enjoyably subversive and just generally naughty in a very good way. Check this out:
(You can see more journal wrecking inspiration at the wreck this journal website here.)
Congratulations to the lovely Naomi Kashiwagi who was announced as the winner of the Art category at the Best of Manchester Awards at Urbis last night.
Naomi was awarded the prize for her piece ‘||: Repetition :||, Fugue No.1 in QWERTY for 8 Typewriters’, a music and text score that saw four pianists and four percussionists playing typewriters. Naomi also performs fabulous gramaphone DJ sets and will in fact be performing at the Barbican as part of the Viktor and Rolf exhibition in September. You can see a video of her in gramaphone action here.
The other award winners were Richard Cheetham (music) for High Voltage and Simon Buckley (fashion) for the rather wonderful Rags to Bitches. Work from all the winners and finalists will be on show at a ‘Best of Manchester’ exhibition at Urbis until the end of September, which I’m sure I’ll be checking out sometime soon.
… went shopping for misty’s birthday present – we bought her a bird necklace, a “make your own monster” and a goats cheese (like you do), plus a beautiful moomin bag to put it all inside
… ate a tasty prawn bun at the vietnamese restaurant round the corner (it’s a noodle dish, not an actual bun made of prawns, or anything weird like that, in case you’re wondering)
…watched the rain from the balcony
…drank coffee, ate bagels
…meandered down Brick Lane for people-watching, window-shopping, bicycle-spotting…
…went to John Lewis to buy luscious Rowan wool for a secret knitting extravaganza
… wandered across the river to Tate Modern to see the Street and Studio exhibition (I liked Wolfgang Tillman’s tube photos and the entertaining yet slightly disturbing two channel video installation by Rineke Dijkstra) – and as always, to covet all the lovely books in the bookshop
…misty’s surprise birthday party at Mildred’s in Soho. I ate baba ganoush, a vegan burrito and vegan tarte tatin (nice but not a fan of the tofu ice cream I’m afraid). I am quite tempted to post a really amusing photograph of me eating the tarte tatin but I’m not sure I’m ready to share my pudding-appreciation grimace with the world just yet.
… read “Perdido Street Station” by China Mieville
… treated myself to a most beautiful ruby slipper necklace – hurrah!
… went to the Publish and be Damned DIY book fair at The Rochelle School and checked out inspiring things from fuselit, strange attractor, 20×20 magazine, the arts pneumonia, impulsive random platform and the archive of shredded catalogues, amongst many others
… took photos of things that caught my eye
This week, amongst other things, I went on a little trip to Liverpool for a work-related event. The event itself was very interesting, but a little too participatory for my liking (we had to do a tableau at one point. Yes, really).
However, having survived my day of participation, I took myself over to FACT to see the new Pipilotti Rist exhibition, and I think I have now found myself a new favourite media artist.
For me, the highlight of the show was the installation Gravity Be My Friend, which invites viewers to lie down on heaps of soft carpeting, arranged like islands drifting through calm seas, to watch video projections shown on the ceiling. Moving through hazy, Edenic landscapes, to the background of an uncanny lullaby of strings and bells, we glimpse vague mermaid-like figures moving through an underwater haze. The work is rife with dream-like symbolism, but for me, it’s peculiar power lay in its ability to evoke a strange nostalgia for lost childhood summers, and the most elusive early memories, enhanced by a vivid colour palette of apple-red, sky-blue and grass-green.
Your Space Capsule, in Gallery 2, continues the theme of childhood, re-creating the pleasure of miniature dolls-house landscapes. Peering inside what appears to be an ordinary crate abandoned on the gallery floor, we find ourselves looking down into a tiny, private space, perhaps a student flat, complete with books and records scattered on the floor, a plant in a pot and even a tiny pizza in a box. What makes this tiny space unique is that an enormous planet against a cosmic background of stars has literally invaded this intensely personal territory, making an interesting statement about the relationship of the particular and universal, the individual and the eternal, the miniature fragments of space we occupy and the broad horizons we can fathom. Meanwhile, Apple Tree Innocent on Diamond Hill dangles a variety of clear plastic packaging from the branch of a tree, transforming everyday domestic objects into twinkling, transluscent objéts d’art, seemingly endowed with a strange, almost magical power, as if a part of some secret ritual or unknown child’s game.
Writing for The Guardian here, Adrian Searle complains that this exhibition “sometimes makes me feel as if I’m stuck inside a vegan, possibly even fructarian, new-age indoctrination video” and even compares Gravity Be My Friend to a hair conditioner ad. I can see where he’s coming from – there’s no doubt that Rist’s interest in 1960s art and culture and utopian idealism infiltrate these works, and yes, there might even be a Timotei moment or two. But there is a strong sense of humour implicit behind this throughout all of Rist’s work: an enjoyable, infectious “silliness” which Searle himself acknowledges. This is perhaps most obviously embodied in her 1997 video Energy Is Over All, which is perhaps the best-known work in the show, and clearly reveals the artist’s infectious, anarchic good humour. Here, a woman in a flirty, floaty summer dress dances blithely down a city street, pausing every now and again to smash the window of a parked car with the long-stemmed flower she carries. These unexpected acts of violence are seemingly tolerated by a friendly policewoman, who becomes almost a co-conspirator in the act itself. Of course, I noticed that the woman is wearing red shoes: it’s no surprise to read that feminist theorist and writer Peggy Phelan has suggested that she acts as a parallel Dorothy figure, skipping merrily in her ruby slippers down a modern-day urban yellow brick road.
For me, it’s precisely this sense of energy, irreverence and playfulness which makes these works so enjoyable and engaging, particularly in contrast to some media artworks where technology serves to keep us, as viewers, distanced and unable to access meaning, firmly at arms length. Instead, Rist seems to find a child-like delight in the magic, the sheer imaginative power and the possibility for aesthetic beauty offered by moving image as an artistic form; she gleefully welcomes us to join in the game, to play in her own carefully-constructed fantasy wonderland, as in the installation The Room which physically throws us back into childhood. This sense is, of course, reinforced by the knowledge that the artist’s name ‘Pipilotti’ is a fusion of her own childhood nickname, and the heroine of her favourite children’s book, Pippi Longstocking, giving a clear indication of the enormous importance of play, childlike imagination and innocence at the heart of Rist’s artistic practice. It’s perhaps for this reason that in concluding his review of the show, Searle describes Rist’s work as “a guilty sort of pleasure”, but for me, it’s far less complicated: it’s absolutely this kind of sheer joy and enjoyment which is exactly what the art I like best is all about.
[Image via flickr]