Starting Over

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A visit to Tate Modern

Saw two exhibitions recently - the intriguing and interesting Martin Kippenberger (though I'm not sure I really engaged with but a few of the pieces), and Albers and Moholy-Nagy: From the Bauhaus to the New World, which I found more interesting and engaging. The Kippenberger exhibition was for me more interesting in terms of considering artistitic practice and the production of ideas and influences. Individual works varied in impact for me from the banal (and somewhat dated feeling) to the striking.The Albers and Moholy-Nagy exhibition is one of several exhibitions and events in London at the moment dedicated to Modernism. Next on my list is the V&A exhibition. It's interesting how Modernism still produces such strong media reactions of negativity. This exhibition looks at two less well known figures who experimented with different media and ideas and was wonderfully curated - engaging with art history, ideas and the visual impact of the works.

Dark Back of Time

Dark Back of Time by the Spanish author Javier Marias is an amazing digressive, thoughtful and just plain interesting book. not sure how to categorise it - memoir? extended essay? does it matter? One of the themes Marias explores is the reaction and consequences of the publication of his earlier book All Souls, based in Oxford and narrated by a visiting Spanish academic. Marias talks about the difference between fiction and reality and yet how these get confused by people and also in some ways seem to converge - when a fictional work generates reality, some times directly and sometimes as a result of coincidence or chance. There's no need to have read All Souls (but it is a lovely story) and in fact Dark Back of Time is a longer book. The book contains a number of short narratives. which may be real or fictional, as well as snippets of memoir and references to numerous authors and books. Its an unusual book and a wonderfully written one.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Becoming British

Last Tuesday I turned up at my local town hall for the Citizenship ceremony that officially conferred British citizenship upon me. I'd applied before the need to sit a test on life in the UK, for which I am grateful. The ceremony is now though an essential and compulsory part of the process. Having applied in Ocotber last year I received my letter saying I'd been accepted in February and this was my first opportunity to get the certificate and officially take up citizenship. I felt a bit odd about it as I'm retaining my original citizenship and aside form being able to get a passport making travel in Europe slightly easier it makes little difference to my life. And I'm not big on ceremonies at the best of times.
The ceremony itself was a very British occasion - including a obligatory waiting experience, though no queues. Due to the upcoming local elections we missed out on having a local councillor present the certificates and shake our hands, but a commercial photographer was present and the registrar dutifully posed and smiled for each group. We also missed out on singing the national anthem (well the first verse only) as the CD with the music was missing. The cermony mixed the formal requirements of the occasion with an informality of approach that was essentially understated, not taking itself too seriously, but also respectful of the individuals and families in attendence.

My Name is Red

I bought Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red, after being entranced by his novel Snow. My Name is Red is a literary historical who-dunnit novel, full with descriptions of the history of Islamic manuscript illumination. The novel won the international IMPAC award and its easy to see why its been so popular - well written with multiple voices pushing ahead both the plot of the murder mystery, a love story and a debate on the conflict between illumination and western concepts of style, originality and representation.

The Sluts

Having fallen behind somewhat I'll now try to catch up on things - so apologies for brevity.
The Sluts by Dennis Cooper, falls much more into what I expect from his work - compared with God Jr. mentioned below. Quite simply, its subject matter is largely about sex and sexual fantasy. Cooper's work attracts me for the way it engages with transgressive themes about sexuality and for the damn fine quality of his writing. The Sluts is structured about different forms of web based communication. In avoiding direct narrative Cooper says much about how people represent themselves online, and allows for characters (if that is the correct word) who misrepresent themselevs, lie and even co-opt others identities. This perhaps challenges the usual reader experience of identifying to some extent with at least one character and positions the reader as almost a voyeur or a disturbing online conversation. All credit to Cooper for keeping this structure tight and manageable and for a satisfactory resolution. A challenging and though-provoking book that I'm still thinking about over a week later.

Monday, April 03, 2006


In between exhibitions finally caught Capote .
Philip Seymour Hoffman deserved that Oscar - playing Truman Capote as a contradictory, complex and ambiguous character!
A great film that made me
(a) want to re-read In Cold Blood, and
(b) to read Capote's fiction (there's a confession)

Have been made to promise though that the next movie we see is a 'happy' one (after Constant Gardener and Capote I'm getting reputation for choosing somewhat bleak stories).

Not My Future

Was prompted to see this alternative exhibition to the Beck's sponsored award by Marc Vallee ( but as it turns out he was unwell so his photographs entitled "Protest Boys" weren't installed, but are available on his website above.

Not My Future was held at one of my favourite bars Trash Palace, in Wardour St, Soho, London. An equally interesting range of work - though we missed the performances - although less well installed than at the ICA (which after all is a beautiful gallery space). Particularly liked the photographs on the corridor leading towards the toilets - but can't tell you who did them now...

Beck's Futures 2006 - Can't Wait for Tomorrow

A busy Sunday started with a visit to the ICA to see this years Beck's Futures exhibition. Its usually an interesting exhibition though a somewhat mixed one. This year the award will have three exhibitions but I won't be able to visit Glasgow and Bristol to compare and contrast.
So London displayed all thirteen shortlisted artists with work ranging from a display of Bedwyr Williams' size 13 shoes, through video, painting, two walls and Jamie Slovin's archive of post-punk German cult band Lustfaust memorabilia.
My favourites were Matt Stokes' video (Long After Tonight) of a Northern Soul night in a Dundee church (contrasting the artful motion of young dancers with the incongruent beauty of the church) and Seb Patane's installation (Absolute Korperkontrolle) which links a photograph from the archive of occultist (and mountaineer) Aleister Crowley, with another picture of a couple at a dance marathon, with a video of two dancers in mountaineering costume and an electronic music soundtrack. I was also intrigued by Daniel Sinsel who presented work that was exquisite and intimate and made me want to see more.
Check out the website above, and you can even vote for your choice!