Monday, 30 November 2009
Two of my favourite fashion loves at the minute are Katie Gallagher and Jen Kao. I wish we heard more about up and coming designers from other countries in the UK, but I suppose it makes sense to promote local talent, which is what inevitably happens. What's interesting about the - I guess you'd call it the global fashion industry - is that different styles have seeped into different markets. These two designers, but especially Katie, look more like they came out of the St Martin's machine than RISD (Rhode Island School of Design).
Katie Gallagher only showed her first full collection this year - S/S10 in September 09 - and it's pretty fabulous for a first collection: incredibly focused and beautifully finished. The thing I really love through is that she doesn't dabble in side seams. Which is cool. Her pieces don't have any side seams whatsoever, only curved seams that wrap and mimic the body. I mean, when was the last time you saw a straight edge on a woman's body. Exactly.
FC #2 is Jen Kao. She went to Parsons and NYU and launched her label in 2007 (the pics below are all from F/W09). The thing I like about the work of both girls is that the designs are sexy and fitted without being trashy and that they are easy and sheer enough for layering (which I suck at so anything that helps me in that direction = bonus points). Sort of powerful meets pretty and I like that. It's a good feeling when you get all dressed up and you know you look good, not slutty, just fierce, fierce, fierce.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
It's not altogether surprising that while the rest of the art world has moved on, the Papal court is still stuck in the Renaissance. To be fair, I'm not that surprised, given that the Catholic Church's hold on art was never as strong as it was during the Renaissance. And what art it was! Certainly some of the most beautiful works of fine art ever created were done so because of the Church's patronage. The gorgeous frescos within the Vatican itself are testament to this, as is the nearby Galleria Borghese - one of the most splendid museums in Rome, if not the world. We'd most likely not know of the brilliant Bernini were it not for Cardinal Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V, who was one of Bernini's earliest patrons.
Monday, 23 November 2009
The doc is composed of basically three different types of clips: footage from holiday camps in the 50s and 60s (the festival is held in an out-of-season holiday camps), band performances, and random happenings around the festival. The music is amazing, with so many good bands making brief cameos: Les Savy Fav / Mogwai / Gossip / Octopus Project / GZA / The Dirty Three / Battles / Portishead / Daniel Johnston / Nick CAve / Seasick Steve. Apart from the performances, the best bits of the film were the random clips of spontaneous jam sessions breaking out in a room or on the beach or in the street, people falling down and just being generally ridiculous - a picture of this super chilled out atmosphere emerges where it seems like everyone attending is REALLY into their music.
Bit of a shame that the trailer doesn't give more away - you can't really get a sense of how good the docu is, but I suppose you get a sense of the fun.
If you're in London, you can check it out on the 4th of December at Bocking Street Warehouse.
Sunday, 22 November 2009
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
It's funny how spectators of art so often take 'truth' for granted. If someone whacks a shark in a box of formaldehyde and says it's art, we believe that not only is it a real shark in real formaldehyde, but also that it's real art, provided it's in a gallery setting of course. If an artist says that the ashes in a pile in the corner of the gallery resulted from a wind shelter they exploded with a hand grenade, we believe that as well. It wasn't until I went to check out Jill Magid's show at the Tate Modern that I realised how much we were willing to accept at face value.
Though Jill Magid's exhibition at the Tate Modern is in the little gallery on level 2 and hasn't been promoted well or reviewed much, it's the most interesting exhibition I've seen in the TM since Cy Twombly's exhibition in 2008. As a viewer, I'm very intrigued by the idea of Magid's work, her commission with the AIVD - the Dutch Intelligence and Security Agency, the country's secret service - and the restrictions placed on the artist about showing the work, but the very nature of the work itself made me surprisingly sceptical.
It's a very small show, but it took less than 5 minutes of wandering around before I begin to wonder whether I was being had. Was this exhibition a true reflection of the artist's actual experience or was it simply that a very clever individual had dreampt up a fantastic conceptual framework which resulted in some pretty words scrawled in neon light. I've since done a bit of research and it seems that Magid did have a commission with the AIVD and worked with them from 2005 to 2008. Under regulations - which similarly exist in parts of the UK - stipulating that new buildings must provide an element which engages with the arts, usually a public sculpture, she won the commission. It sounds like an initially forward thinking AIVD hired Magid to find the 'human face' of the organisation, only they got a bit more than they bargained for. She carried out her commission by meeting privately with a number of agents and collecting personal data about them and their experiences working as agents in the secret service.
In fact, Magid herself requested to be vetted by the agency and was eventually granted security clearance. Her exhibition speaks strongly of her own desire to be part of 'the secret' and to act as an agent herself. Though no matter how close she got and what kind of access she received, what happened next only demonstrates how clear the divide is between 'us' and 'them'. In 2008, Magid was set to show the results of her commission at a gallery in the Hague, though the day before its opening, a group of AIVD agents showed up (sounds more like a film than real life!) to vet the work. Magid also gave the agents a copy of the manuscript of her novel - which she wrote in lieu of a report about the experience - which they later returned in a heavily edited form.
When Magid complained to the AIVD that the censored manuscript was no longer publishable, they brilliantly suggested that she show the manuscript in a one-time only exhibition, after which it would become the property of the Dutch government and not be published. What else do you expect when you undertake a commission for a secret service agency. Having said that, I think Magid, and the exhibition side-step the problematic issues surrounding permissions and secrecy beautifully and imaginatively. As Magid was obviously not allowed to reproduce photographic images of the agents, she had to think of another way to visually represent them. One of the ways she did so was to visualise language as a series of neon signs - these are words or phrases the agents said during their interviews - which are then written in neon in her own handwriting.
Exploring the negative imapact of a highly intrusive surveilance society is one of the most overused tropes in contemporary art - it's usually presented in a screechy, obvious, in-your-face manner. Magid's work makes the same statement but uses an entirely different pack of cards: the message is so subtle and refined - mixed with an unexpected longing to be on the other side - that it takes until long after you've departed the exhibition to figure out what the real message is all about.
PS While you're at the Tate, make sure to check out the Miroslaw Balka's work in the turbine hall. It's great fun!
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
My thesis deals primarily with one text – Lucan’s Pharsalia – an epic poem written in the first century under Nero (you remember, he played the fiddle while
One of the things I most love about Lucan’s epic is that, as expected, he rails against the leaders of the civil war – Caesar and Pompey – but his purest expressions of loathing are reserved for the Roman people.
When Caesar enters
“So he speaks and enters a
This is what I mean about the contemporary relevance of the ancient texts. This passage reminds me all too well of the fear-mongering that goes on in my own terrified country: the war on terror, anthrax, communists – you name it – if the politicians and the media are able to whip up enough fear, people are all too willing to give up their civil rights.
Lucan delivers a stinging reprimand against the people for such cowardly behaviour and, as the ultimate dressing-down, suggests that ultimately the people of
As Lucan says of the Romans, it’s not enough to blame the sender of the message when the recipient is equally culpable. Like Caesar and Pompey, some of our civil leaders may be dirty bastards, but who lets them get away with it?
*Loathe to say so as there exists a breed of classicist who feels the need to belittle our subject matter by constantly undermining it in ‘justifying the contemporary relevance of the ancient texts for the modern world’. We’re academics interested in knowledge, not in increasing profit margins, I don’t understand why there’s any need to forge bonds of contemporary relevance. That they exist is both happy coincidence and proof of the extraordinary nature of the quality of the writing and the subject matter of the texts.
Monday, 9 November 2009
Having said that, I've still been out and about to see and do lots of interesting things in the last few weeks (yes, aside from work and nightmares): Ravel's L'Heure espagnole and Puccini's Gianni Schicchiat the ROH - amazing, hilarious, and beautifully performed - and who knew this ravishing aria was in the rather unassuming one act about a cheeky Italian farmer. Divine dinners at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon (the third best dining experience I've had in London in the last year, after Landau at the Langham and the fine food and wine evening at the White Swan) and on the old Pullman Orient Express train. If I have the time, I'll write these up properly but I did want to single out one thing in particular: the Sophie Calle show on now at the Whitechapel Gallery until 3 January.
It's a sort of retrospective of Calle's work but the clear star of the show is Take Care of Yourself (as vile a phrase in French as in English: prenez soin de vous), a piece which won rave reviews at the Venice Bienalle in 2007. After receiving an email in which her then lover breaks up with her, Calle whizzed the email off to 107 various women and asked them to use their professional skills to interpret the missive. While the exhibition is simply unmissible and anything I say about it here would only get in the way of your own response to and enjoyment of what is a very, very clever piece of artistry and social engagement, there was one thing that really stood out for me and that was the email itself.
I don't know about you, but I've been broken up with by letter before (and it was handwritten, baby. One up on Madame Calle) and while his letter was as polite as the situation demanded, it wasn't anything like the email Calle's lover sent to her. I kept thinking over and over (you practically come to know the letter by heart - in French and English- if you stay in the exhibition long enough), god, why have I never gone out with a French bloke before! I don't want a boring 'I hope one day you may forgive me. It's nothing you did, nothing I can explain, blah, blah, blah' break-up letter, I want a mysterious, freakishly formal email about 'the others' and how he will always remember the 'unique and beautiful way I interpreted the world' - I still never did quite figure out what the hell he was referring to with 'the others'. Trust me, it's not as obvious as it sounds. But the disconnect between his letter, grounded in the rhetoric of courtly love, the fact that he sent it via email, and well, just that men actually exist who write letters like that sort of turned my world upside down. I think it's a sad day indeed when a gal starts looking at the men of another country differently (favourably, even) by the way the write break-up emails. Obviously, I'm not getting out of the library enough.