Archive for the ‘architecture’ Category

That was the week that was

Golightly

Golightly

Gowest

Gowest

Not the easiest of weeks as I walked around half deaf and drowning in my own snot but here we are, Friday evening, made it. And it had its moments. Highlights included two awards ceremonies. Last night I presented the Multi-talented Award at the friendliest awards in town – the 4Talent Awards – to Oli Lansley who combines acting, writing and directing in the theatre and on TV in a way full of energy and promise (“that dirtiest of dirty words” – just been watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the first time, Holly Golightly is my beloved sister-in-law Bronagh, right down to the take-out cwofee). I judged this category with Dan Jones of Maverick TV – we have both been building  4Talent (formerly Ideasfactory) since the early days, over the last 6 years painstakingly developing it across the UK with James Estill and the dedicated crew to the point where it has the warm, creative vibe that was suffusing the room yesterday evening. Oli has a new series going out on ITV2 early next year called FM based on the Comedy Lab he did for Caroline Leddy at C4 in 2006. He also has a series in development at the Beeb with Matt King of Peep Show called Whites. On top of all that, he leads his own theatre company called Les Enfants Terribles who did a show entitled The Terribles Infants at Edinburgh this year and last, due to tour it in 09. So a multi-talented, multi-channel man to keep an eye on.

The 4Talent Awards  were hosted with great aplomb by stand-up comedian Jack Whitehall, talented well beyond his 19 years, with fine comic judgment. Other entertainment came from the versatile jaw of Beardyman.

Winners were a rich mix ranging from Hollyoaks’ Emma Rigby for Dramatic Performance to Rose Heiney for Comedy Writing, from Dan & Adrian Hon of Six to Start for Multiplatform to Robert Glassford & Timo Langer for Directing (this last presented by my colleague Peter Carlton of FilmFour with whom I had a lovely rabbit before the presentations, the two of us equally infectious so no danger of adding to overall global germ activity).

To start the week I had the pleasure of attending the announcement of this year’s Turner Prize winner at the Tate. I arrived with Jan Younghusband, fellow Commissioning Editor for Arts & Performance TV, who introduced me to the ITN team that was shooting the event live for Channel 4 News. The looming gothic cowboy with the handle-bar moustache who walked by me with his looming gothic girlfriend was Nick Cave. He first entered my life with the Bad Seeds on The Firstborn is Dead over two decades ago now. On this night he passed by in the flesh like an extra from Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (which I watched again recently – fabulous film, Kris Kristopherson was perfect as the Jim Morrison-style gunslinger-cum-rock messiah).

A while later another messiah, model for that humungous roadside crucifixion that is the Angel of the North, Antony Gormley introduced me to Grayson Perry who was wearing a fetching art student-designed post-it note dress. Not too often I get the chance to say stuff like ‘Antony Gormley introduced me to Grayson Perry’ or spout my theories about avant-garde art 1900-1970 to two luminaries of that world but we had a great chat and a consensus on how difficult it has been to innovate in the wake of that huge Modernist arc that went to the roots of every aspect of painting and art over those seven decades.

That was, of course, the Biggie but other chats included John Woodward of the UK Film Council (who agreed, through not quite gritted teeth, that FilmFour has had an awesome year with its string of Irish tales of waiting), and TV types like Roy Ackerman of Diverse and Michael Waldman (Operatunity). Art critic Richard Cork (The Listener – why on earth don’t they bring it back?), Alan Yentob of BBC’s Imagine (the Woody Allen of British TV, gets to make whatever he wants, quietly, no questions asked), Hans Ulrich Obrist of the Serpentine, were all swilling around. Enjoyed the walk home past the neon courtyard of the Chelsea College of Art and through the rainy backstreets of Pimlico

A final high point of the week takes us from art to architecture. I was having a meeting with RDF, who make Secret Millionaire, and Zopa, the interesting online finance service (interesting and finance – not words I often invite out to the same sentence). The fella from Zopa was asking about the Channel 4 building as we headed up the particular red of the stairs (the colour is lifted from the Golden Gate Bridge which is a delightful thing to think about every morning) – were Channel 4 the first occupiers? was it purpose built? etc. – I told him what a fine building it was bar a few flaws which I’d love to pass on to the bloke who designed it, like there’s no Gents on the side of the floor I work on, two Ladies instead. The delicious irony was that the RDF rep was Zad Rogers, son of Lord/Richard, the architect of C4 HQ in Horseferry Road – we revealed this after a while of course as – as in that essay on Iago by WH Auden in The Dyer’s Hand (Joker in the Pack) which velvet-jacketed Mr Fitch (RIP) drew our teenage attention to – there’s no satisfaction in a practical joke without the final revelation.

Skin Up

The Big 4

The blue wrap came off. The Big 4 saw the light of day. A real buzz was released into the air around the Channel. Big Art, bold creativity.

The Minister for Culture Margaret Hodge unveiled the 40’ high figure four based on those much admired idents on Channel 4. On the approach to the Channel’s Richard Rogers designed headquarters in Horseferry Road (London SW1), the 4 stands three and a bit storeys high. The structure forms a figure four only from a particular angle, just like the on-screen idents masterminded by Brett Foraker. The concept of the TV graphics is that the four only comes together for a fleeting moment. So, strictly speaking, the Big 4 should be viewed walking by, no stopping.

The structure has been skinned by leading British photographer Nick Knight. He is the first of four artists to tackle the task over the coming year. His approach: skin the figure with images of people’s hearts – from the outside. White skin, black skin, brown skin, the patchwork that is modern Britain. Stand in the middle and you can hear the beating of a heart.

In three months it will be the turn of Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui, and then the marvellous Mark Titchner. The last skinner will be the winner of a competition run in conjunction with the Saatchi Gallery.

The Big 4 celebrates 25 years of Channel 4 Arts and the launch of the Big Art Project – an innovative, bold cross-platform initiative involving a 4 part documentary series from Carbon Media, the commissioning of 6 new works of public art across the UK – from Beckton to the Isle of Mull, and the first comprehensive map of public art in the UK in the form of the Big Art Mob – a mobile blogging initiative where people photograph public art they know and love and send it from their camera phone into a visually led blog and a Google Map mash-up, the Big Art Map.

Today I had a meeting at the Public Monuments & Sculpture Association with its Chief Executive Jo Darke to make sure the Big Art Mob complements what the Courtauld Institute-based research project has been doing. We (Jo, me and sculptor Nick Pearson) had a fabulous chat in a tranquil corner of Somerset House animated with passion for public art. What I so love about this interactive commission is it’s so adaptable to partnership initiatives. From arts & disability groups to the Arts Council, from Kew to specific creations like Aluna, Big Art Mob is an easy, accessible way to record, explore, enjoy, engage with public art in all its forms.

The day before the unveiling Montreal-based Mexican-Canadian multimedia artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer revealed his idea for the Big Art piece in Cardigan on the Welsh coast to the local community. Home of the first Eisteddfod, hub of the oral tradition; point of departure for America in the 19th and early 20th centuries; Lozano-Hemmer has really got under the skin of the place and distilled in a work based on buoys floating just off the river bank, collecting and projecting back the voices of the local population and interested people beyond.

There’s 2,800 job cuts being discussed at the BBC today. That’s over three times the size of Channel 4. What the Channel lacks in bulk, it makes up for in size of ambition, degree of creativity and scale of idea. Sometimes it’s good to be the underdog. Between Saturday’s unbelievable England rugby match in Paris and yesterday’s unveiling of the Big 4, I’m totally c!h!a!r!g!e!d.

Art and Soul of London

Urban Chiaoscuro


Had the pleasure yesterday of two inspirational encounters with London-inspired artists.

At lunchtime photographer/artist Emily Allchurch visited Channel 4 to talk to any interested parties about her work. This was at the invitation of Andrew Webb, the Picture Editor in Channel 4 New Media’s design unit who had first met Emily working together in the Tate’s shop. She focused on her new exhibition ‘Urban Chiaoscuro’ currently at the Frost & Reed gallery in St James’s.

The exhibition is inspired by the fantastical Caceri d’Invezione drawings (c.1745-1761) by Piranesi, intricate architectural constructions of prisons of the mind.

In recent years Emily has focused on reconstructing old master paintings and drawings by seamlessly collaging contemporary photographic components in Photoshop. Hundreds of layers of photoshopped elements – individual details photographed from very particular angles to make the perspective work – result in smooth, painterly transparencies displayed on thin lightboxes, the size of an art gallery painting.

A little later in the afternoon I pulled by Frost & Reed’s to see the works in the flesh. They typically take three months to create. In real life all that masterly craftsmanship is even more evident in the painterly, surreal qualities of the luminous images. I bumped into Emily again at the gallery and had a chance to chat a bit more – I was saying how what really struck me in her images was where she had (re)created fantasy, impossible environments – for example, Bruegel’s Tower of Babel and some of the more labyrinthine, Escheresque Piranesis.

Emily featured in the excellent BBC4 series Digital Picture of Britain. In the episode I saw of that she recreated a Whistler nocturne viewed from Battersea Bridge using images taken on a mobile phone (that was part of the challenge of the series – each photographer ended up with a high-end digital camera, a high street one or a mobile phone by luck of the draw). It was only in the wake of participating in the series that Emily switched from film to digital.

Despite being born on Jersey, Emily is clearly turned on big time by London, which, as a major league Londonphile immediately elevates her in my eyes. There’s an interesting element of fear in her works which stems in part from having to hang out alone in the dark recesses of the city to get her raw material. It manifests itself in the photographs as references to surveillance – cameras, tannoys, signs, warnings. Yet for all the anxiety there’s the joy of discovery.

When we were looking together at one of her Urban Chiaoscuros made in Paris, I spotted one of those mosaic Space Invaders. Emily didn’t know what it was and I was able to explain to her that it’s part of a long-term public art project with its roots in Paris – something I found out when I posted one on the Big Art Mob which I’d come across round the corner from St Martin’s art school in Kingsway.

Which brings us neatly to the second inspiring encounter of the day, as I’m hoping to feature this artist and her work on the Big Art Project and she posted her first image to Big Art Mob from St James’s Park where we had our meeting.

Laura Williams was introduced to me by the Creative Accountant (Sydney Levinson). She is slowly but surely creating an amazing public artwork, Aluna, a lunar clock which is destined to land on the north bank of the Thames opposite the Millennium Dome at the site of the old East India docks.

The huge sculpture indicates the movement of the moon around the earth and the flow of the tides using LEDs built into its recycled glass curves.

Aluna is designed to reconnect us with a slower, more natural flow of time – much as can be gotten from the allotment where I’m writing this post from on a Blackberry, having just eaten a very late raspberry off my neighbour Maurice’s bush. And just to be neat about things I’ll pause for a moment to go and get a late blackberry off our fence…

…Yum, had three but they’re pretty much done now for the year, they’re mostly rotting on the plant, covered in a yellowy fungus or something. Ah nature, dontcha just love it – one big restaurant.

Now where was I? Ah yes, close to the Meridian in East London. Laura is also truly inspired by London and the Thames. The lunar clock is, naturally enough, tidal powered, sitting on the bend in the river with one of the fastest tidal flows. The artwork will be driven by turbines in the river which will generate surplus electricity to sell back to neighbouring houses making the whole thing self-sustaining.

So between Emily and Laura, the ol’ creative batteries were certainly recharged yesterday, ready to plug in to Medicine Men and Fourmations and all the other interesting creations coming over the horizon in the world of Channel 4 Factual interactive media.

Pictures courtesy of Emily Allchurch

Me New China

view from ICA

Hooked up with Philip Dodd (of BBC Radio 3 arts and Made in China) fresh from an appointment with posh dim sum – that fella is seriously immersing himself in the culture. He spends about a third of his life these days on planes to and from Shanghai – his carbon footprint must be of Charlie Caroli proportions.

We were talking about taking the Big Art Mob to China which would be a real kick. I hope I can interest Buddy Ling Ye of Wang You Media in the initiative (Philip connected us last year) as the reach of his outfit is way beyond lil’ ol’ British dreams.

Alfie Dennen over at Moblog was up for the challenge of tinkering under the bonnet of Big Art Mob to take the baby on the road to China. (Which reminds me, I must ask Philip what it signifies that Made in China is based on Burma Road.)

Philip of course was formerly Director of the ICA which brings me neatly on to another highlight of the week – the Petcha Kutcha which launched the Cultural and Creative Leadership Mentoring Programme at the ICA on Tuesday evening. The programme is DCMS backed with Arts Council England, MLA (Museums Libraries and Archives) and London Development Agency support. I met my mentee for the first time, Caroline Bottomley of the Radar Festival, an annual competition and allied activities for emerging film-making talent centred on music promos (4Talent, by chance, features among their partners). I’ve only ever mentored very tall Afro-Caribbean 16 year olds before, at a comprehensive school round the corner from Channel 4, so this will be an interesting contrast.

Petcha Kutcha is a speaking format originated in Tokyo by Klein Dytham architecture. 20 speakers with 20 pictures each speak for 20 seconds per slide. It seems consistently to produce inspiring events. As a speaker, the parlour game aspect was highly enjoyable, encouraging a loose, free-flowing approach.

The people who charged my batteries this time included Sydney Levinson, a Creative Accountant, the first of this breed I’ve come across I could really call inspiring. He is Chair of Cockpit Arts and supports young creatives at the RCA, Crafts Council, etc. He seems to have had a left-field brush with punk (in the form of Generation X) and to love spreadsheets and music with equal passion, which can’t be a bad thing.

One of the speakers works out of Cockpit (and obviously loves her subsidised studio space there) – Annette Bugansky radiated the commitment of a genuine artist/craftswoman, explaining a lifetime of mastering her disciplines. She has melded an early career in tailoring and wardrobe (including cutting for Jean Muir) to a later flourishing in ceramics, in the form of white porcelain pots and other exquisitely pure pieces whose surface textures are created by literally dressing the moulds in fabric clothes before casting and painstakingly hand-finishing.

Contrasting masterly experience with youthful energy, Claire Louise Staunton was very endearing. She is the dynamo behind the Late Night Programmes at the Whitechapel Gallery, which appears to have been a hub in her lively career to date. She is interested in bringing sonic arts to museums, especially lesser known ones. (Note to self: hook Claire up with Martyn Ware if they aren’t already in touch).

Other colourful speakers included Victoria Bean with her art typographical books created at Arc, a collective of similarly oriented artists; Mark Downs of adult puppet theatre specialists Blind Summit; John Newbigin, formerly a colleague at Channel 4 and now co-trustee at 24 Hour Museum; Trudie Stephenson of Emineo Fine Art who was MD at County Hall Gallery and has evidently helped a lot of fine artists make the money they deserve.

To round off, the ever amiable Paul Bennun of Somethin’ Else took us through a day in his life – his 20th slide bringing us right up to the moment as he photographed the audience from the stage. Among the audience was Philip’s successor Ekow Eshun. And so the circle is closed.

Mashist Groove Thang, or 14 Things I was Inspired by yesterday

Big Art Mob

Spoke at a really fun event last night – Quickfire organised by Katz Kiely’s Just B (which puts on the bTween interactive media conference every year in Yorkshire). It was a formatted event, Petchakutcha style – 14 slides for 30 seconds each, moving on automatically whether you’re ready or not. There’s something about this kind of format for speaking events which has made the ones I’ve experienced truly inspirational, at the very least very interesting and entertaining – and last night was no exception. I think it’s the combination of concision and parlour game.

Last night’s event was focused on the 13 areas which make up the Creative Industries in governmentspeak. There was one speaker for each area (with just a couple doubled up and with me as Television). The theme across the whole breadth was the impact of connectivity on the discipline in question.

So here are the 14 Things which Inspired me.

1. Advertising – Richard Adams / Chemistry

Not the Watership Down Richard Adams but an imposter who knows a lot about the way brands need to approach interactive media. I liked the term he used – “Mecast” – to capture the shift from broadcasting to active engagement with creative material (including advertising).

2. Architecture – Armand Terulli & Ghislaine Boddington / Body Data Space

I was taken with the glass roof they’d designed for a school in Kingston(?), London which detects light changes and alters the opacity accordingly – not in a uniform way but in a digitally designed pattern to cast a natural feeling pattern of shadows which looked like leaves in sunshine.

3/4. Television & Radio - Yours truly / Channel 4

I really got a buzz from the challenge of speaking in conjunction with an out-of-(my)-control automated set of images (as is my wont with Powerpoint, I only used pictures, no words). It appealed in its semi-improvised nature to the wannabe jazzer in me.

5/6. Art & Antiques - Fiddian Warman / Soda

Fiddian showed off the breadth of Soda’s work across pretty much all of the 13 sub-sectors (he struggled by his own admission with Fashion and had to make do with the sweat-shirts they sell bearing their designs). The huge Energy Ring in the Science Museum (which I haven’t yet seen in real-life) was impressive, as was the digital light display on the side of a tower in a North London school (Stoke Newington?) – I had no idea they had done this kind of work. I’m more familiar with the likes of the Irrepressible project they did for Amnesty which is one of the most purposeful mash-ups I’ve come across).

7. Computer Games - Charles Cecil / Revolution

Charming Charles, decendent of Robert of Elizabethan fame, gave a fantastic overview of the Games industry in a mere 840 seconds. I liked the look of Broken Sword 1 which I’ve never played but reminded me of retro bandes-desinees like Yves Chaland. Pictures of Charles’ juvenalia from the era of the ZX Spectrum were particularly inspirational – the man’s been living Games for a long time now.

8. Crafts – James Boardwell / Rattle

The interface between digital technology and crafts I know nothing about so this was a great (global) trip. One image showed craft creations inspired by some Manga-style PlayStation game ranging from ear muffs to a pink cake! You gotta love it.
There were some convincing reflections on the contrast between the speed of the digital age and the slowness of Craft – there’s no doubt we can all use some Slow Time. I’ve noticed that a significant proportion of people who leave the new media industry go off to do stuff like horticulture and carpentry.

9. Design – Kristina Nyzell / Lego

This one just reminded me of happy hours playing Lego in my room in Selvage Lane – although apparently “it’s not a toy” – brands, dontcha just love ‘em?

10. Film – Matt Hanson / Swarm of Angels

An interesting attempt to create a user-generated feature film based on subscriptions from participants. Apparently though “there has to be a head chef in the kitchen and that’s me!” Can’t beat benign dictatorship to get stuff done. Reminds me of the scene in Channel 4’s documentary about Findhorn a couple of years ago where the hippies were trying to design a leaflet collectively – never happened til the designer took the law in his own hands. Swarm makes an interesting comparison with the current MyMovieMashup project from FilmFour, MySpace and Vertigo Films. Also with Michaela Ledwidge’s Sanctuary project at Mod Films. So my inspiration here was the memory of the last movie I watched, last weekend, Walk on Water which was a good entertaining and moving film made in pretty much the normal way without that much cash.

11. Music – Martyn Ware / Illustrious

Who’d have thought when I went in to buy that 7″ of Fascist Groove Thang all those years ago that one day I’d be sharing a stage with the cuddly Martyn Ware, founder member of the Human League, Heaven 17er, and unflagging champion of interactive audio. We used to do the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment committee together when we were young&foolish. He gave me the low-down on that Bruce Nauman sonic installation at Tate Modern – sounds like it was pretty much the audio equivalent of Jeff Koons, most of it made (very badly in Martyn’s ears) by the hired help. You can catch Mr Ware on his Future of Sound tour on 12th April out East at Queen Mary, University of London. Hoping to include some of his work as the first example of sonic public art in my Big Art Mob mobile blogging project launching next month. [test design above]

12. Performing Arts - Kelli Dipple / Tate

This speaker didn’t play the game because she had had to step into the breach at the eleventh hour – there was no synchronisation between words and pictures. So the pleasure in this one lay in the energy of the performance, which was as it should be for the subject.

13. Publishing – Mike Butcher / Mbites

Mike gave a quickfire history of publishing from an aboriginal cave painting via the Gutenberg bible and sufragette pamphleteering (which he likened to this very act of blogging) to Marconi and Logie Baird, to whom I suppose I owe more than the occasional admiring reflection as I walk past the John Baird public house. I enjoyed the link to the lost art of pamphleteering and will think further on it.

And my fourteenth inspiration to round off? The enjoyment of analogue connectivity in a big room with wine and cake. The room where I first came across Alfie Dennen, setting off the chain of connection which has resulted in the Big Art Mob. The room where I talked acoustics with Martyn Ware (including of the Whispering Gallery in Saint Paul’s where I proposed) and where I talked swing bands with Katz who is paying me for the gig in music.

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