Archive for the ‘travels’ Category

On the trail of Egon Schiele

I first heard of the Austrian artist Egon Schiele in a radio interview with David Bowie when I was at school. At university I got a travel scholarship to do some research on him in Austria. I stayed a short train ride outside of Vienna (Payerbach-Reichenau) and, beside going into the city, I travelled out to Neulengbach (under an hour from the city centre) to where Schiele lived and had his studio at one of the most productive times of his life. When I went there that time (1984) there was no sign of Schiele in the town. When I went to ask the way to his studio I was told people didn’t talk about him.

Last summer I was working at ORF in Vienna and took the opportunity to revisit Neulengbach and various other Schiele-related places. In the intervening 33 years much has changed. Schiele has a strong presence in Neulengbach and in his nearby birthplace, Tulln, and is widely celebrated. There are posters across Vienna and galleries of various sizes.

In my eyes he’s one of the great artists of the 20th century and since this year is the centenary of his early death (at the age of just 28 from the Spanish flu epidemic in the wake of the Great War) I’m publishing this photo-post to mark the occasion. The day of his death was 31st October 1918 (his birth was 12th June, the same day as my other half).

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On the trail of Schiele in Tulln, Austria

egon schiele's birthplace - the station at Tulln, Austria

Schiele’s birthplace – upstairs in the station at Tulln

Schiele's birthplace - upstairs in the station at Tulln

The artist whose name dare not be spoken three decades ago is now celebrated and signed

Schiele's birthplace - plaque in the station at Tulln

The plaque at his birthplace

Schiele's birthplace - the station at Tulln

The station where his father was station master (before he set fire to it in his madness)

Schiele's school - Tulln, Austria

Schiele’s school, Tulln

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A presence in the streets of Tulln

gates of the egon schiele museum tulln austria

The Egon Schiele Museum – Tulln. Opened on the centenary of his birth (12th June 1990).

The Egon Schiele Museum - Tulln

The museum is housed in what was formerly the gaol. Schiele was imprisoned here in 1912.

statue of Egon Schiele outside the Egon Schiele Museum Tulln Austria

Statue of Schiele outside the Egon Schiele Museum, overlooking the Danube

advertisement poster for leopold museum schiele klimt august 2017

Schiele’s presence around Vienna – advertising the Leopold Museum

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The atrium of the Leopold Museum, Vienna – opened 2001

Leopold Museum, Vienna

Leopold Museum, Vienna – the world’s largest collection of Schiele’s paintings and drawings

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Leopold Museum, Vienna egon schiele poster

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Neulengbach where Schiele lived with his girlfriend/model Wally

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Bust of Schiele in the centre of Neulengbach – erected in 2016

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Once invisible, he even has his own Platz now

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The courthouse in Neulengbach where Schiele was confined and sentenced

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

The courthouse now contains a small museum

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

The orange on the cell bed (brought by Wally to paint and eat)

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

Orange on cell bed

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

gaol guitar door

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

Schiele’s cell

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

I had a moment in here – the whole place was empty

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

Death mask in a cell

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

Schiele in cell (he’s on a plastic bag)

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

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He’s now got a Place and a Street

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on the way to his studio

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And Wally’s even got her own lane

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

Schiele’s road – Au

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

A neighbouring house of the same period

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

Site of Schiele’s house & studio – it was torn down in the 60s(?)

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

Schiele & Wally’s place (photographed 1963)

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

Schiele’s house/studio

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Captured for posterity by art historian Alessandra Comini

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After the cell experience, Schiele left Neulengbach

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

In 1912 he moved to a studio in suburban Vienna (Hietzing) at 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

I happened to be staying in Hietzing by chance on this visit – beschert

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

Schiele’s studio is on the top floor

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

Treading in the great man’s footsteps

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

He spotted his future wife (Edith) in the building opposite where she lived with her parents and sister

egon schiele Hietzing, Hietzinger Hauptstraße edith harms

The Harms’ apartment – 114 Hietzinger Hauptstraße, Vienna

egon schiele Hietzing, 114 Hietzinger Hauptstraße edith harms

Both Edith and Egon died in this building in 1918

egon schiele Hietzing, 114 Hietzinger Hauptstraße edith harms

Edith & Adele’s view of Egon’s place

Egon Schiele letter to Edith and Adele Harms 1914

A letter from Egon to sisters Edith and Adele Harms 1914

egon schiele Hietzing, 114 Hietzinger Hauptstraße edith harms

Klimt's grave Hietzing Josef Hoffmann: Grave of Gustav Klimt, Vienna Cemetery Hietzing, Vienna, Group 5, Grave # 194

Schiele’s mentor, Gustav Klimt, is buried nearby in Hietzing Cemetery

Klimt's grave Hietzing Josef Hoffmann: Grave of Gustav Klimt, Vienna Cemetery Hietzing, Vienna, Group 5, Grave # 194

Headstone designed by Josef Hoffmann – Cemetery Hietzing, Vienna, Group 5, Grave #194

Klimt's The Kiss in Schloss Belvedere, Vienna

Klimt’s The Kiss in Schloss Belvedere, Vienna

Klimt's The Kiss in Schloss Belvedere, Vienna

Truly magical

 

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The Fetishisation of Storytelling

I’ve noticed the increasing fetishisation of the terms ‘storytelling’ and ‘stories’ in the last couple of years, especially in commercial media. Everyone’s a storyteller now, even if your ‘story’ is about baked beans. Many indie producers’ websites single out skill in storytelling as their USP. When I see the word “storytelling” now I view it with scepticism and take a moment to assess if what’s being said is meaningful or fashionable hype.

This morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the Thought for The Day was about the need to rehabilitate the children of Isis extremists by introducing them to new stories. They have lost their innocence to one perverted story.

On a brighter note, today was a good day for being reminded the rich weave of stories that thread through daily life. My day began chatting to a taxi driver cum news cameraman, half-Korean half-Russian, born in the bit of Russia nearest Alaska; grew up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan; studied in St Petersburg; moved to Helsinki sixteen years ago. It ended chatting to a roast chestnut seller from Innsbruck. I’ve spent a total of €12 in a week in Helsinki – on two bags of chestnuts.

Between these bookends I received this text exchange – ‘Osama Loves’ is a multiplatform documentary project I commissioned a few years ago at Channel 4, some months before the Big Bad O, ObL, got terminated.

text exchange about osama loves

Great story…

 

channel 4 osama loves website screenshot detail

detail from ‘Osama Loves’ website

Cycle of Life

Anglia Television TV Norwich

Norwich

I heard one of those stories the day before yesterday that makes you despair of mankind. I was in Norwich to deliver a lecture on online video at NUA (Norwich University of the Arts). Actor John Hurt served proudly as its first Chancellor until his sad passing at the beginning of the year. The course leader (Film & Moving Image Production) who lead me through the charming city was telling me about the new yellow bikes that have appeared in the city recently as one crossed our path outside the lecture hall building. It is a city scheme which the students are testing out enthusiastically. He told me a new bank of bikes had appeared outside his house the day before. But when he came down that morning they were gone. He found them soon submerged in the river, chucked over the wall. Why would anyone do that?

As it happens, I’m working on a documentary about cycling, cyclists & bikes at Little Dot Studios which includes the story of a university cycle scheme. With a bit of luck the tapestry of stories will be nearer the uplifting end of the scale.

I’m writing this at Venue No.2 of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York (a multistorey bar), killing time before Evensong at York Minster. I went yesterday afternoon too – it’s pretty uplifting even if religion is not particularly your bag.

I served on the jury of this year’s festival, judging the Documentary category among others. I’m just out of one of the Docs screenings which concluded with a short entitled Dial-a-Ride about a minibus service for the elderly and remote of Brecon. It was the other side of the human coin, propelled by a caring driver who appreciated the rich mix of stories of his mainly elderly passengers.

And so the wheels of life turn…

York Minster cathedral

York Minster

Coincidence No. 403 – Flamingo Club

17/5/17 Parque natural de las Lagunas de La Mata y Torrevieja, Spain

My Other Half & I were watching flamingoes from a hide. They were white apart from under their wings which had the intense pink we know and love.

17/5/17 La Mata village, Costa Blanca, Spain

I was reading outside a cafe after our walk in the nature reserve. The book was Evelyn Waugh’s novella ‘The Loved One’. I came across this sentence (on p.78), not the most likely of sentences:

Now was the time to watch the flamingoes and meditate…

natural-park-of-las-lagunas-de-la-mata-torrevieja

Story Snippet No. 400 – walking backwards

We are sitting as a family at a spontaneous lunch outside of Amici on the high street (East Finchley). A man walks by. Backwards.

At first we all worry about collisions and him hurting himself, walking into a pole or tripping on an obstacle. We watch him cross at the traffic lights. People turn to watch him wherever he goes.

We are talking about mental health. Enfant Terrible No. 2 wonders if the fella gets a physical kick out of it like the elderly man in the short film Slo-Mo. This backwards walker is getting on in years. We all already know the compulsive runner with a backpack who used to run along this same high street, though has been spotted much less in recent times. And I’ve shown the family one of my favourite shorts, The Edgware Walker by Lee Kern, about another compulsive runner in my childhood high street.

He walks back past us backwards, disappearing down the hill, still turning heads.

 

Amici East Finchley

Update 18/5/17 Torrevieja, Spain:

From the balcony of the fourth floor apartment where we were staying I was watching the world going by first thing in the morning. Two Spanish schoolgirls were walking to school together. The one behind, dressed in red and yellow (the Spanish colours), was walking backwards, watching herself reflected in the windows of empty shop units, taking pleasure in reversing the norm.

Three Days a Week

 

Eight Days A Week

Eight Days a Week

Day 2: Liverpool

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So I’m sitting in front of Liverpool Town Hall in the Indian summer afternoon sunshine. I’m discussing a documentary with a Scouse film-maker, the protagonist of the film and the cameraman. We’ve just arrived, the beers have just landed and out of the open balcony door of the Town Hall tumble the strains of Let It Be. Then more Beatles. Then a female singer doing covers of their songs. I couldn’t have scripted or timed it any better. My fantasy Liverpool afternoon. After the meeting I trotted down the street to the Odeon for the world premiere of the Beatles documentary, Eight Days A Week, put together by Ron Howard. The red (actually blue) carpet shenanigans were broadcast live from Leicester Square to this and other cinemas around the country and beyond, including the arrival of Paul and Ringo. Where better to watch it than in Beatlesville. The moment and song that punched out was when John composed Help. It stood out as the point when their song-writing went up a gear or three.

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Day 1: Sheffield

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Spent the day working with an indie producer in Sheffield – which was fun. After we wrapped for the afternoon, I headed into the city centre from the atmospheric, leafy burbs. In the golden early evening sunlight surveyed the city’s excellent array of street art, not least the excellent work of Rocket01.

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After a fine Mexican beano, hung out chatting in the Peace Gardens with their monumental fountain portals and all-round perfect mix of water, stone and grass. I’m usually in the city for DocFest in the summer so it was good to see it under other circumstances. It has some of the finest regeneration in the country, with a brilliant passage from the station up to the Peace Gardens. The blade sculpture bordering the station with a thin layer of water flowing over the gigantic knife-edge of shining steel. The tower of the university bearing a poem by Andrew Motion about standing looking at the tower of the university. The art deco Showroom cinema. The art deco Library and (Graves) Gallery. The wooden ribs and hothouse glass of the Winter Gardens. The Victorian Town Hall, sheltering the Peace Gardens.

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Day 2: Sheffield

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Edith Sitwell by Roger Fry

Began the day at a working breakfast with a Sheffield-based film producer who is a very nice guy. Then a quick visit to the Graves Gallery to look at the hidden treasure that is their permanent collection. Catching my eye this time: Christ Carrying the Cross attributed to Luis de Morales (late C16), a prematurely aged, weary Jesus, right beside a striking painting of a man holding a skull, a dark momento mori where the difference between the head and skull is marginal; The Hours by Burne-Jones, six ladies representing the sweep of the day, their dress ranging from dawn blue to late afternoon russet and back to night-time blue-black; a Paul Nash landscape, an Auerbach cityscape of Mornington Crescent; Sam Taylor-Wood suspended from the ceiling (flashback to young John Lennon); a portrait of Edith Sitwell and her languorous hands – one of the best galleries in the land.

Then the train to Liverpool across the Peak valleys bathed in Indian summer gold.

Day 3: Sheffield

Rain after the early hours thunder, making the work at Roco (a new creative co-operative space) all the cosier. A good creative session, inducing headache in the journey to a possible break-through, wrestling with knotty problems between cups of tea. A burst of sun as we left to mark the conclusion in grand style.

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“So we sailed on to the sun”

The Beatles – Yellow Submarine

 

 

Simple Pleasures from Cyprus (Limassol – Lemesos International Documentary Festival)

IMG_6705Reggae. The sound of the sea. Iced coffee. Going shirtless. Fresh white fish. Balconies. Rooms shuttered from the sun. Reading on the beach. Curves. Pregnancy bump. Sandals. Cool showers. Water with ice & lemon. The shade of trees. Watermelon. Handstands in the surf. Floating in the sun.

Adam and the eve

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Yesterday in 1916 was supposed to be the day of the Easter Rising in Ireland. However, because Eoin MacNeill countermanded the order, the rebellion was delayed by a day amid confusion. I marked the eve of this momentous event in Irish history with a day in Dublin of much more coherence.

It began at the GPO in O’Connell Street, epicentre of the Rising, with a visit (with my sister- and brother-in-law) to a new permanent exhibition space built into the yard of the Post Office as part of the centenary commemorations. The exhibit I most enjoyed seeing was one of the original printed posters of the Proclamation. Due to a shortage of type in Liberty Hall where the document was printed on the eve of the insurrection the C in Republic is made from a converted O and the E in the next line (“to the People of Ireland”) is made from an F with an extra bit added in wax.

At the end of the exhibition is a marble and digital wall of all the recognised 1916 combatants (all those eligible to receive a pension from the State) on which we found my wife’s great uncle Patrick Donnelly of Louth, something for my two half-Irish boys to take pride in.

We walked up O’Connell Street with various signs of the centenary commemorations in windows and on lampposts, portraits of the Proclamation signatories, banners from the city council. The Sinn Fein office had a suitably Soviet hoarding with raised fist heroics. We ducked into Moore Street, to which the GPO combatants fled at the end of the uprising, visiting the lane where the O’Rahilly had died after writing a haunting last note to his wife (one my late sister-in-law Bronagh used to have on her wall). We also saw the houses/shops where the fleeing revolutionaries took shelter, numbers 16-20, which are currently under threat from property developers. In front of the boarded up red brick buildings was a rough looking band of Northerners from some kind of pipe band, tattooed to the hilt.

This set us up nicely for our next encounter – masked (Continuity) IRA men at the Gardens of Remembrance (which are dedicated to the memory of “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom”) gathering for a parade to the GPO. Those not in paramilitary-style masks and shades had on Celtic shirts with player names on their backs like Pearse and Sands. This motley crew looked out of step with the times and as bonkers as the rebels may well have seemed as they left Liberty Hall for the GPO on Easter Monday 2016.

We popped in to the Hugh Lane (Dublin City gallery) for a fascinating exhibition about Roger Casement, High Treason based around a large painting of Casement’s appeal by John Lavery, High Treason: The Appeal of Roger Casement, The Court of Criminal Appeal, 17 and 18 July 1916.

From there the three of us headed over to Glasnevin cemetery, the only location in Joyce’s Ulysses I’d not yet visited, and the main burial place in Ireland. From Michael Collins’ much-decorated grave to De Valera’s down-at-heel one, from monumental sculpture by James Pearse (father of Patrick and Willy) to the small marker for Countess Markievicz (part of a mass Republican grave), we followed a super-enthusiastic (oddly) Dutch historical guide around a 1916 themed tour under bright afternoon sunshine. The various characters joined by the Glasnevin tour also linked back to both the Casement case and the many stories making up the content of the new GPO exhibition. So all in all it was a considerably more coherent day than 23rd April 1916 in Dublin and across the country, and more satisfying.

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High Treason: The Appeal of Roger Casement

100 years on to the minute and the yard

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It’s strange how things work out. I found myself today at noon under the portico of the GPO in Dublin, by my calculation within a couple of feet of where Patrick Pearse first read the Proclamation of Independence 100 years ago today. I’ve no Irish blood but I find the event very meaningful and resonant and it meant a lot to me to be present there and then. I made a special trip to Dublin for today to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising.

I took the train in to Connolly Station (named after one of the signatories of the Proclamation, socialist leader James Connolly, in 1966 to mark the 50th anniversary) from Rush, a small station north along the coast from Dublin where scenes of Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins were filmed. On the train I sat at a table with a mother and daughter who were busy planning the logistics of some major shopping manoeuvres for the day. I revelled in the gap between what was on their mind and what was on mine.

On arrival in the city I walked round the corner to Liberty Hall, Connolly’s headquarters which played a central role in the planning of the uprising. The original building from which the rebels marched to the GPO on the fateful day is no more – in the Sixties it was built over to make a statement about modernity in the form of a highrise union HQ. Shortly after I arrived a woman dressed in dark green 1916 Irish Citizen Army uniform was preparing (with a modern worker with a droopy moustache and hi-viz vest) to raise an Irish flag of the era. She was then joined by two other ICA women and a troop of armed men dressed up in period uniforms. They marched out of an adjacent alley and gave the flag-raising sufficient gravity before a crowd of just a couple of dozen motley passers-by, tourists and left-leaning supporters.

I followed them off along the quay to the point where they were dismissed and wandered off. As I walked down the quay on the route I imagine the rebels took just before noon on 24th April 1916 to the GPO in Sackville (O’Connell) Street I could easily conjour up their emotions – they would have been perhaps slightly self-conscious in similar ‘unofficial’ uniforms as they walked among the few Easter holidayers on the streets that Monday morning. They would have been nervous on the short walk knowing they were about to raid the GPO and reach a point of no return.

As I turned right into O’Connell Street a crowd was gathered in front of the GPO. A trade unionist or socialist of some kind was making a speech, amplified off a stage just beyond the General Post Office, recounting and interpreting the events of Easter Monday 1916. Banners for various contemporary campaigns to do with energy companies and water charging and the like leant an appropriately grass-roots political  vibe to the gathering. This was the Citizens’ Commemoration and it was a refreshing contrast to the bigwigs’ official ceremony on Easter Monday a few weeks ago. Suddenly on stage appeared a friend, ironically from just the other side of Highgate Hill from me, actor Adie Dunbar, who was playing Master of Ceremonies with his usual aplomb. I texted him from between the bullet-scarred classical columns of the Post Office. As noon approached, the hour Pearse came out of the building to give the Proclamation its first airing to mainly uninterested passers-by, somewhat against the odds I saw the mother and daughter from the train. They were rushing by through the now dense crowd with shopping bags in hand, pretty much oblivious of the commemorative event going on around them – a perfect echo of the Dublin citizens who largely ignored Pearse and his men.

A few minutes before twelve Adie announced that a descendent of one of the GPO combatants, the O’Rahilly, would lay a wreath at the entrance to the monumental building. Proinsias O’Rathaille, the grandson, walked a few inches in front of me and I found myself among a small group of media photographers as he laid the wreath to the fallen. As the clock above the window in which the emblematic black sculpture of Cuchulainn is displayed struck noon I was within a couple of yards of the focal point. Strangely I don’t think anyone had focused on the precise spot where Pearse would have been standing.

Foggy Dew was sung. The Proclamation was read. The Soldiers’ Song was sung. I watched for a few more minutes from the stone base of a column. I left to the strains of Fenian Women’s Blues, a song by a young Irish singer drawing attention back to the women who participated in the Rising but were to a large degree airbrushed out of history.

I walked round the corner to the Winding Stair bookshop, one of my favourite spots in Dublin, and picked up a souvenir in the form of a copy of Ruth Dudley Edwards’ new book The Seven, about the signatories of the Proclamation. Still buzzing from the intersection of history, time, place, my life – the rhyming of hope and history.

History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

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My Patrick Pearse T got another outing today

Today in Dublin in 1916

Simple Pleasures from Donegal 4

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My secret beach

Empty beaches. Lough Swilly. Hazy horizons. Traces of everyday history. Meeting strangers. The kindness of strangers. Working on beaches. Snoozing on the sand. Miles Davis’s music. A Kind of Blue nap. Photo exhibitions. Irish words for modern phenomena. European films. BB King & Tracy Chapman singing The Thrill is Gone. The Bridge Bar. Ramelton. Rivers. 

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