Archive for the ‘national portrait gallery’ Tag

Phucket List

I’ve always winced at the phrase ‘Bucket List’ – it smacks of inauthenticity. There was an awful looking movie about a decade ago which I avoided, much though I like Jack Nicholson and Rob Reiner. I think that may have done much to mainstream the concept but I’ve no idea where it originates from or how far back it goes.

Last night I went to the Late Shift Extra at the National Portrait Gallery to hang out at Everything You Can Imagine Is Real. The NPG was a favourite in teenage years as it gave a face to much of the literature and history I was learning about. In recent years I’ve done some pro bono consultancy on the Gallery’s digital strategy. And me and the Mrs go every year to the BP Portrait Award exhibition. Even if I wasn’t such a long-term fan, I love galleries and museums after dark – there’s something slightly naughty about it.

As I came in to the Gallery yesterday evening I bumped into Martyn Ware of Illustrious, Heaven 17, Human League and BEF. We had a chat about the future of energy and Port Merrion and stuff. I know Martyn a bit from the early days of BAFTA Interactive. He curated the Everything You Can Imagine Is Real evening to complement the Picasso portraits exhibition currently showing at the NPG.

“Everything you can imagine is real.”

  • Pablo Picasso

I like the quote for giving equal value to the outer and inner world; for putting conscious thought, the dreamed, the imagined and the unconscious on a level playing field.

Some of the playing I most enjoyed last night was a short performance by dancer Vanessa Fenton to Martyn’s reworking of Parade by Eric Satie. I listen to Satie often when I’m writing as his work features on my Music To Write To playlist.

Parade was a ballet by Satie for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1917 on which he collaborated with Cocteau (scenario), Massine (choreography) and Picasso (sets). Vanessa’s costume by Bruce French in midnight blue and deep-sea green was redolent of the era.

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Vanessa Fenton parading her stuff

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Where two corridors intersect in the National Portrait Gallery

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Martyn Ware records the action

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Spirit of Diaghilev

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Ware’s Satie?

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I also enjoyed a performance by the Radiophonic Workshop, famous scion of the BBC, forever associated with the Dr Who theme tune, and no doubt a significant influence on Martyn and his electro-pop pioneers in Sheffield. They premiered a new composition with visuals derived by Obsrvtry from Picasso. In the middle of it the theremin, that quintessential early electronic instrument, which had been sitting tantalisingly towards the front of the stage, went into action. The previous act, White Noise, had deployed some electronic glove instrument through which hand gestures shaped the sounds but the Theremin is the real shit. It was created by Russian Leon Theremin in 1920 and graced movie soundtracks from Hitchcock’s Spellbound (with its Surreal visuals by another Spanish painter, Salvador Dali) to The Day The Earth Stood Still (a precursor of this year’s Arrival).

 

Anyway, it prompted me to start my Phuket List here, to be completed over time:

1  Play a Theremin

2  Spend a month painting abroad

3  Go fishing in a Spanish river like in The Sun Also Rises

4  Walk around the Antrim coast

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Any suggestions for 5 – 12 gratefully received…

Hammers and bags of stones

STEED (nods)

I’ve gathered intelligence on Fenian agitators in Liverpool and Manchester, Sir. In both cases I was able to ascertain the ringleaders, and break up the malignant activity.

A MINISTER grips a copy of The Times with growing irritation

MINISTER

The Suffragettes are regrettable by-products of our civilisation, out with their hammers and their bags full of stones because of dreary empty lives and high-strung over-excitable natures.

I read the script of Suffragette early last year when I was doing some work with Film4 to do with it. I found the history more compelling than the story and immediately hit Wikipedia in search of more on the Pankhursts and the heroic Emily Davison. I saw the finished movie the other day at The Phoenix, East Finchley – it was OK but the most moving part was actually the documentary footage of Davison’s funeral right at the end.

The factoid just after, in the end credits, that Swiss women didn’t get the vote until February 1971 also moved me – and many others in the audience – right off our perches.

This week got off to a colourful start with a workshop in the boardroom of the National Portrait Gallery, in my case focusing in particular on the digital. The boardroom is on Orange Street behind the gallery which I’ve always loved for sharing its name with the street in downtown Kingston, Jamaica which was once the heart of ska, rocksteady and reggae.

Buster, bowl me over with your bogus dance, shuffle me off my feet
Even if I keep on running, I’ll never get to Orange Street

One fella in the room did have dreads – Professor Paul Gilroy of King’s College, London. The rest of the gathering was equally professorial including a Princeton History professor and a Goldsmith’s lecturer/curator. The new director of the NPG was there with his senior team, all women. While we were discussing the future plans of the gallery I was thinking about how to piggy-back effectively off other media and be topical/reactive –  in doing so I came across some amazing photos on the NPG website straight out of the Steed scenes (Brendan Gleeson and his prodigious beard) from Suffragette

Surveillance Photograph of Militant Suffragettes by Criminal Record Office 1914 {courtesy of NPG}

Surveillance Photograph of Militant Suffragettes by Criminal Record Office 1914 {courtesy of NPG}

Surveillance Photograph of Militant Suffragettes by Criminal Record Office 1914 {courtesy of NPG}

Surveillance Photograph of Militant Suffragettes by Criminal Record Office 1914 {courtesy of NPG}

After the Fight c.1914 {courtesy of NPG}

After the Fight c.1914 {courtesy of NPG}

You can find 5 suffragette portraits on the National Portrait Gallery site here.

At lunchtime after the workshop I popped round the corner to the Noel Coward Theatre to try to get a ticket for Photograph 51 with Nicole Kidman about another monumental woman, Rosalind Franklin, one of the three key discoverers of DNA. Looks like I’m going to have to do a heroic two-hour queue at 8.30 in the morning to get to see this play – and I’ll have to try not to get over-excitable in the process…

Rip Off Britain – Never was so much owed by so many for so little

victor-meldrewI hate monopolies. I hate bad value. I hate bad faith. I hate organisations which rip people off and add no value to the lives of others.

Glad I got that off my chest.

And just to get through a difficult Victor Meldrew moment I must now start a cumulative list of the companies who typify Rip Off Britain.

Churchill--V-sign

1. Apcoa Parking (and London Luton Airport Operations Ltd.) – Why do they charge £2 for people to drop off their family at Luton Airport? (We’re not talking parking here, we’re talking stopping the car to let the passenger out and hand them their bag.) Winston says:

Never was so much owed by so many for so little

What do they think that £2 is paying for? What service do they imagine they are actually providing? What value do they think they’re adding? And why is their machine to collect the undeserved £2 held together with tape, why doesn’t it even work? What mediocrity that they can’t even rip you off properly. Apcoa’s vision apparently is: “to be the first choice in parking” I don’t believe it! – where’s the choice when you’re dropping someone off at the airport?

2. National Portrait Gallery – I’ve loved this place since I was a teen but £14 for an exhibition? That’s making art and culture for tourists and the chattering classes exclusively. Try playing Spot the Non-White at the ‘National’ Theatre to reach the same place by a different route.

3. [whoever next cheeses me or you off on similar grounds]

Want to add anything to the list? Feel free to join Winnie and Victor as we fight them on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets by commenting below.

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