Archive for the ‘art’ Category
Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
I’ll draw a sketch of thee,
What kind of pencil shall I use?
2B or not 2B?
Poem: by Spike Milligan (1918-2002)
Hot off the presses – Big Art Mob has been nominated for a TV BAFTA in the Interactivity category (the only interactive/cross-platform category in the TV Awards). Now that’s lifted what started out as something of a drudgy day a bit!
The competition is:
- Dr Who Comic Maker
- Spooks Interactive
- The X Factor
So no problems there then…
[Picture courtesy of AFP]
I’m sitting here in the James Joyce Foundation in Zurich with in front of me a copy of ‘Thom’s Official Directory of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for the year 1904′ published in Dublin by Thom & Co. (Limited) of Middle Abbey-Street. 1904 is the year in which Joyce’s Ulysses is set. This big red volume is the reference book Joyce used to recreate the detail of Dublin from exile here in Zurich. Joyce came to the city on leaving Dublin in 1904 (hence the choice of date for the novel – it is Dublin as fixed at the point of exile) accompanied by his other half, Nora Barnacle. They moved on to Italy/Trieste, back to Zurich, and on to Paris. Much of Ulysses (1922) was written here in Zurich. Joyce left occupied France in 1940 for Zurich where he died in 1941 (aged 59) and is buried.
So I’m flying in this morning with my iPod Shuffle on and up pops Van the Man singing ‘Too Long in Exile‘ with the line “just like James Joyce, baby / Too long in exile” – one of those meant to be moments.
And on the subject of Abbey Street and occupied France, in my hands is a copy of a classy thriller ‘The 6th Lamentation‘ by William Brodrick whose two central characters are a monk and a victim of the occupation of Paris. Another key character is a refugee to Switzerland. So I’m psyched for the Stiftung James Joyce.
I’m welcolmed by a friendly American academic and by the Director and prime mover of the Foundation, Fritz Senn, a Joyce specialist and as near as a Swiss man can be to being Irish.
In the back of Thom’s is an advert for Uska-Slan – Water of Health – in the form of Cantrell & Cochrane’s Table Waters. Just the kind of ad Leopold Bloom would have dealt in. I’m fresh from a lunchtime conversation which included the benefits of Badoit and the insanity of bottled still water. There’s a wonderful passage in Ulysses about water I heard declaimed atop the martello tower in Sandycove, South Dublin on the centenary Bloom’s Day on 16th June 2004.
I can, for example, look up my sister-in-law’s street in Ballybough (PoorTown) and see exactly who lived there in 1904. Mrs Grace at No. 24. A draper at No. 1, a jeweller at No. 14 and Mr John Killen of the GPO at No. 16. It tells you where the pillar boxes were (“Pillar Letter Box adjoining Raglan-road”). I’ve just spotted my father-in-law’s namesake (Murphy, James, esq.) at No. 26 Clyde-road which was valued at 70 pounds – and a certain William McGee at Cobourg-place (next door to Jasper Monahan the spirit grocer, which I assume is a far more colourful name for an off-licence).
My wife has now lived in London – many miles away from the cemetry at Kilbroney, Co. Louth where James Murphy after James Murphy is buried – for more years than she’s lived in Ireland – she went past the mid-point a couple of years ago, very significant really.
When I was in Ireland for the summer holidays last year, staying at said sister-in-law in Ballybough, I picked up a copy (at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Kilmainham) of ‘That Neutral Island‘ by Clair Wills about the Irish home front in the Second World War. I often wonder what similarities and differences there are between the Irish neutrality and the Swiss. Joyce spent most of the First World War (July 1915 to October 1919) in Zurich, as well as getting the permit for entry from occupied France in late 1940.
A few weeks ago there was a big art robbery just outside Zurich from another Foundation – the Emil Buhrle Foundation. Buhrle was a Zurich-based, German born industrialist who sold arms to the Third Reich. After the war 13 paintings in the collection, which was raided in February by armed masked men, appeared on a list of art looted by Nazis from Jews and eventually he handed them over, getting some compensation from the Swiss government. The provenance of other works in the collection remains shady. Much like the Russian collection currently on show in the Royal Academy, London (in the From Russia exhibition), where the British government had to provide an official ‘safe passage’ document to insulate the dubious pieces from any chance of investigation and return to their rightful owners – Russia’s art galleries are peppered with works ‘nationalised’ after the Revolution or looted in the Second World War, many ultimately from murdered Jews. So one has limited sympathy for the Emil Buhrle Foundation as whose work the masked raiders with the Slavic accents actually stole is a moot point.
I recently came across this quotation by the writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner (and man behind another foundation, this one a Foundation for Humanity, which bears his name) Elie Wiesel (through A.Word.A.Day – a daily email with an interesting new word – might have been Joyce’s cup of tea [my philisophical Zurchner taxi driver earlier today was tickled pink by this British idiom]):
“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
“It is necessary only for the good man to do nothing for evil to triumph.”
Reckon I’ll give the last word to Van the Man (not to be confused with White Van Man – the Buhrle robbery was carried out in a white panel van) and his collaborator on ‘Song of Being a Child‘, Peter Handke (not Swiss but Austrian like Adolf Hitler and Simon Wiesenthal, born in 1942, also a collaborator with Wim Wenders [Wings of Desire], a writer who has lived in self-imposed exile in Berlin, the US and for the last two decades Paris):
When the child was a child
It was the time of the following questions
Why am I me and why not you
Why am I here and why not there
Why did time begin and where does space end
Isn’t what I see and hear and smell
Just the appearance of the world in front of the world
Isn’t life under the sun just a dream
Does evil actually exist in people
Who really are evil
Why can’t it be that I who am
Wasn’t before I was
And that sometime I, the I, I am
No longer will be the I, I am
A little more magic from the Hiberno-Germanic melting pot.
Warum bin ich ich und warum nicht du?
Warum bin ich hier und warum nicht dort?
On Monday the artist Mark Titchner pulled by Channel 4 HQ to give some background to his new work, unveiled that day in front of the building, Find Our World in Yours. It is the latest incarnation of the Big 4, a 40 foot high figure 4 marking the 25th anniversary of the Channel and the advent of the Big Art Project, a bold cross-platform (TV, web, mobile, real-life) initiative focused on Pubic Art. Each quarter the Big 4 is reskinned by a different artist and this quarter it’s Mark‘s turn.
His approach involves punctuating the metal skeleton of the 4 with slogans in a style derived from trade union banners. Into the upstroke of the 4 is built a video booth, with echoes of the Right to Reply one at 60 Charlotte Street back in the day. Passers-by, staff or anyone who wants to can pop in and leave a message with their thoughts about Television. A selection of these is played out each week on the TV screens that pepper the framework. The main slogan reads: Find Our World in Yours, Find Your World in Ours.
What was most inspiring about hearing Mark talk was the eclecticism of his inspirations. In art history these ranged from Renaissance depictions of religious ecstasy to Duchamp op-art, from 60s psychedelia to contemporary advertising. And then beyond the art world he used everything from record labels to the aforementioned trade union banners, from the Black Panther movement to corporate mission statements from which to springboard ideas.
I’m a great lover of such eclecticism. At school I remember being given a book by velvet-jacketed Mr Fitch RIP (think Rob Newman’s Jarvis meets the Cyril from That’s Life) – it was a copy of Paradise Lost edited by someone called Broadbent (or similar) which had the most fantastically eclectic footnotes, from the biblical to the scientific, from the geographic to the historical, and all points between. Apart from turning me on to literature (I ended up studying English, French and German literature), it made me realise how interconnected all these disciplines are and how essential those connections are to creativity.
Which brings me to a peak of creativity, my favourite book, James Joyce’s Ulysses. One of the things I most love about the book is the fabulous ecelecticism of the novel – whether you want to know about the water supply of Dublin or the dynamics of grief, the family life of Shakespeare or the history of Irish Republicanism, it’s all in there. And, of course, the art of advertising (Leopold Bloom is in the business) which brings us full circle back to Find Our World in Yours which, like Channel 4, has advertising in its life-blood.
Now here is something tutti frutti from the mobile world – our new WAP site for Big Art Mob which I’m well pleased with. It’s knocked together by the boys from Moblog:tech and designed by Clifford from Edition. Looks great even on the crapola end of the hand-set spectrum. Helps complete that magic (cross-platform) circle of TV-web-mobile-real life so you can interact with the Mob wherever you are – you can register, comment and do everything you want from the ol’ mobile, as well as immediately seeing where the action is on the site (i.e. the posts with most comments in the least time). So check it out – on your phone – at http://m.bigartmob.com
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.
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
When I was over in Canada last month, speaking at the NextMedia interactive media festival and the Banff TV festival, I had the pleasure of chatting with journo Jenn Kuzmyk of C21 about some of the stuff I’ve been working on recently – yesterday the fruits of our convo showed up in Jenn’s C21 Factual weekly bulletin:
C4 factual arm gives power to the people
What does user-generated content (UGC) mean in the factual television space? Sometimes it has very little to do with television at all. Jenn Kuzmyk profiles the Big Art Mob and Hot Shots [Picture This], two new interactive social media projects from Channel 4′s factual unit that are to be fuelled by contributions from people throughout the UK – and perhaps the world.
The Big Art Mob is billed as the first major mobile blogging project to come from a British broadcaster. It’s also the UK’s first comprehensive survey of public art, and will be based entirely on pictures (or audio and video) from the camera phones of art-lovers nationwide. Launched in April 2007, a full year before its TV component will roll out, the project aims to record for posterity the wealth of artworks in public places across the country and serve as the focus of a dynamic national conversation.
The project is a spin-off from the Channel 4 Big Art Project (3 x 60′), a series for the main terrestrial network that will culminate in the commissioning of six large-scale pieces of public art throughout the UK some time next year. The TV portion, to be produced by the UK’s Carbon Media (Jump London), won’t launch until the mobile blogging portion has been running for over a year.
“We can do something that couldn’t have been done before,” says Adam Gee (above), C4′s new media commissioner, noting that the Big Art Mob was in part inspired by the BBC’s mass user-generated climate change studies Springwatch and Autumnwatch. “If people think something is worthwhile, they’re quite willing to put the information up there, and they’re quite assiduous and careful about it, as well,” says Gee, emphasising C4′s belief in UGC.
C4 devised the Big Art Mob with moblog:tech, a UK mobile blogging facilitator that has worked with the likes of Universal Music, Greenpeace and Warner Music. Essentially, a user takes a picture (or video) of some public-domain art that they love, they MMS it to a number and it drops straight into an online map (below) that tracks contributions from across the nation. C4 first contacted niche groups that already have an interest in public art, and is now going out to people whose parts of the map are under-represented, to encourage those regions to submit.
Contributors can add any information they have about a specific piece of art that they have submitted, but the opportunity is open for others to tag someone else’s image and complete information such as title, important dates and the history of the artist or piece. “It’s like a simple Wikipedia, really,” describes Gee. “It has the same openness as a Wiki, in that the person who submits the picture can have a right of veto over what is put up about the picture. It also protects against abuse,” he says, noting that people can also see who has last visited their picture, which encourages connection among users.
Gee’s remit is to focus on pop factual projects with a tendency towards public service, and for the Big Art Mob there is, of course, an underlying learning element, and something Gee classes as an “interpretative” function: something that can spark debate and conversation. “You have to decide what public art is. I could put a bronze statue up there but I could also put up the piece of graffiti around the corner as well,” he says, noting that at the moment the balance is probably around 60/40 in favour of street art (below).
Now that the infrastructure for the initial UK effort is complete, it is transportable to other territories, and a few possible spin-offs are already being thought of. “It’s designed to have legs before and after the broadcast, and the overheads are relatively low. Now that we’ve done it once and know how to do it, we can replicate it for next to no money. We’d like to roll out to New York and Paris next, making the ‘Big Art’ map really big,” says Gee. “If C4 ever pulls out of supporting it, which is not really on the cards because it has very minimal overhead, then we could give it to a public institution and they could carry it on and keep it, but it is being established for the long run.”
The Big Art Mob and other projects in the works are part of a push to experiment with C4′s public service and how that role can be carried into the interactive space.
Next up is Hot Shots, an integrated TV/web project being produced in association with online photo-sharing outfit Flickr, which is involved via an ‘in-kind’ exchange. “They are very supportive of the project. They’ll [Yahoo!] promote it, and we’ve traded the TV sponsorship for that, really. It helps us to do a project that has some serious scale,” says Gee.
The rest of this article is available at C21.
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.