Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jodorowsky's Dune – An Ode To Failure

The sun is shining, the city streets are awash with colourful scarves and seedpods, even the babies seemed to have stopped weeping, at least temporarily.
I am back in my fair homewasteland after a poorly thought-through, yet soul-cleansing solo voyage to Reyjavik, and although Iceland is certainly a magical little piece of lava, it is always good to be back where I (sort of) belong.
Happily kicking my heels through the grim building site that is Shoreditch, I was feeling wholly imbued with the multicoloured arcane light of cosmic truth. It’s a good feeling.
What better day, then, to go and see the new psyched-out dream of a show at the Drawing Rooms. This is an exhibition of concept drawings and prints by Chris Foss, H.R.Geiger and Moebius, which were created for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s production planning of the 1974 filming of Dune, Frank Herbert’s epic novel of space, spice and spirituality.
Ultimately, Jodorowsky’s Dune was cut short in its infancy by the cruel, commercial clutches of Hollywood, and was (in)famously eventually filmed by David Lynch, who to this day cities it as his biggest failure and only real regret (incidentally, Lynch and Jodorwsky are currently working together on a mysterious futuristic desert western entitled King Shot).
Jodorowsky, a fierce powerhouse of a visionary, is the writer and director of the seminal art-house feature films El Topo and Holy Mountain. (If you have not seen these, go and order them online, right now. Go). His aesthetic and narrative style hold power and creativity that most contemporary film-makers and artists could only begin to vaguely claw at, and even with repeated severe funding problems, he has managed to create films, over the last four decades, that greatly shadow the likes of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle.
Therefore, it is hard to look around this show without a tinge of regret – the concept art alone makes the project look as though it would have been at least a billion times better than the monumental belly flop put forward by Lynch. What is more, Jodorwsky promised not to respect the original novel, which strongly suggests we would have been privy to his signature Alchemy and Kabbalism-inspired symbolism and gibberish dialogue but IN SPACE. Ah, imagine.
However, as the exhibition begins to settle in the mind, it starts to become something other than just the documentation of what could, or even should, have been. Many of the drawings by Chris Foss contain scribbled quotes from the novel, mostly referring to the nature of being an artist, living in fear and searching for truth. As one quote says “The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced” Very Lynchian indeed.
What this collection of work shows is that, whether or not a creative project actually comes to fruition, there is something transcendental and inspiring about the conception and the attempt themselves, as is more than adequately demonstrated by the presence of two contemporary sculpture pieces in the exhibition by Matthew Day Jackson (a brilliant, brilliant brilliant artist) and Steven Claydon, both of whom have connections to the ideas explored by Jodorowsky in his career, but have taken them to new, green places for their own twisted means. Ideas don’t have an end, and, if Jodorowsky is to be believed, they don’t have an author either.
The main thing to take away from a show such as this is the idea that success, essentially, sorts itself out, and for those of us who would torture ourselves with the pursuit of a creative career must be prepared to follow ideas and fantasies with integrity, reflexivity and without fear of failure. I can’t imagine this was too easy for Jodorowsky to remember when faced with the destructive brutality of Hollywood’s demons during the production of Dune, but, by gum, he has stood strong over the decades, and on the day King Shot finally arrives onto the plateau of reality, I know I’ll be celebrating with a massive pagan wig-out, wine drinking, and a marathon sketchbook session of delight.
Teenage Dreams

Having suffered six months of essence-draining work in the Anthony Gormley retrospective a couple of years ago, I was reluctant to return to the Hayward Gallery last week, as the ghosts and nightmares of rusted metal penises and silly grid structures still loomed large within my tortured subconscious.
The title of the current show ‘Walking In My Mind’ did little to alleviate my reservations; it called to mind a kind of A Level art sensibility, though I had it on good recommendation the show would appeal to me, despite its drab moniker.
The nine pound admission fee was also a mental hurdle, yet given the other shows in London that are currently charging similar fees, I would like to say this: ‘Walking In My Mind’ is fantastic. Honest.
You may have seen the toadstoolesque branding of the show, a visual concept by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, which has been extended to an outside interactive work, in which the trees along the south bank have been swathed in the red and white polka dot fabric.
This frivolous visual cliché may well not appeal to most art enthusiasts, and indeed, I personally found little (to zero) excitement in those kitsch erections, which have been marred further by numerous tourist scribbles proclaiming Simona’s love for Fredo, and the fact that “London rocks”.
However within the undeniably beautiful modernist structure that is the Hayward, lie numerous treats for the eye, the soul and, indeed, the mind.
Entering into the hushed atmosphere of the main lower-level room, I was confronted with the disarmingly irreverent little shed/hut by Yoshimoto Nara. Nara is one of those artists who always seems end up winning me over, though I can never be sure why. Out of context, the thought of all those ‘Kawaii” repetitions and frivolous examples of mock innocence make me feel decidedly uninspired, however, whenever I actually see his work in the flesh, I am always pleasantly reminded of the subtle sensitiveness and melancholy laced into his sketches and paintings, and this installation was no exception.
A kind of Wendy house studio space, adorned with toys, pots, drawings, doodles and poems, this is essentially a large-scale prop, though the theatre to which it belongs is one of the heart and the mind. It manages to achieve a level of sophistication and inner reflection that Kusama’s polka dots have a long way to go in attaining.
The dwarfed scale and self-depreciating atmosphere highlighted the looming sense of voyeurism that is so implicit in the appreciation of all art forms, and the soundtrack that warbles from an old, cheap stereo instantly conjured up visions of a troubled puberty that I defy anyone not to have partaken in.
Almost surrounding Nara’s pubic hut was one of Keith Tyson’s drawing installations, a series of A1 drawings and paintings executed by Tyson and his devoted assistants, hung in a simple grid like format and reaching impressive heights on the wall in all their grand, stacked glory.
The main appeal from this was the overload of concepts; Tyson wades somewhat clumsily into science, mysticism, religion, art history and just about everything else, upsetting and confusing his subject matter through the execution of his own fractured visual language. And it really works.
There is a certain ugliness and amateurish, or rather ‘outsider’ overtone to the aesthetics and the texts within the drawings, which doesn’t feel affected, but rather serves to convince me of Tyson’s genuine love for his craft, and an ability to move freely between the naïve and the Post-modern.
As I moved upstairs, Charles Avery’s faux- topographical drawings and zoological sculptures peppered the space and tugged it towards the realm of the museum. Christian Larsson’s theatrical, magical sculptures take up most of the staircase, distracting and perplexing in their implied usage yet obviously fantastical conception.
These little wonders were, in my opinion, the highlight of the show, and demonstrated impressively that special ability art has to transmute the inner psychologies and personal histories of an artist into engaging and charming artefacts in the real world. Almost the real world…
Thomas Hirschorn’s installation on the upper level, an impossibly large cave-like structure fashioned from parcel tape, aluminium foil, tin cans, movie posters and mannequins appears to have always been there, and transforms the space violently and excitingly.
The artist has taken control of the viewer entirely, from the bombardment of visual information on the wonky walls and lumpy canopy to the creaking noise underfoot, made as the tentative steps along the cardboard floor strain the worryingly weak structure below.
Here, the title of the show approaches its most excusable, and once again, the 1980s and 1990s references in the poster imagery conjured up a shared experience of the past that had a lasting impact on me.
Although some of the works in ‘Walking In My Mind’, notably Jason Rhoades’ derivative and tedious installation of pornography and bric-a-brac, ‘The Creation Myth’ and the aforementioned frivolous toadstools by Yayoi Kusama were disappointing and lacking the sophistication demonstrated by much of the other works on display, there was always something else lying around the corner to feed the senses and confuse the eye.
Mark Manders’ subtle sculptures bring up strange questions and frayed loose ends, and again, these things stuck with me, so that even on the bendy bus home I was left with fragments of the artist’s mind lodged somewhere within my own.
At the end of the experience is a classic immersive film installation by the brilliant Pipilotti Rist, which, the longer I sat within, drew me further and further from reality and into a world both ridiculous and perplexing. And really creepy.
As I walked out into the sunshine of the afternoon South Bank and headed for a coffee at the newly re-vamped NFT, I found myself genuinely moved.
‘Walking In My Mind’ is not just the best group show I have seen in recent years, it is also a brilliant example of the fact that that even in the current fame and money obsessed climate of the contemporary art world, it is still possible for a prestigious gallery and a group of successful international artists to produce something endearing, inspiring, humble and playful.
So do not despair, lovers of the dream world and of the insane, treat yourself to a rewarding stroll though the Hayward, and know that despite its few slip-ups, ‘Walking In My Mind’ is a fine choice to fritter away 9 British pounds, and a ray of lovely moonlight in the glaring blaze of the recession.
Geoffrey Glees

London is a uniquely bizarre city – why waste your precious pennies on tourist monoliths when there is a whole array of cost-free cultural excellence to delight your soul?

Last week, financial experts “strongly hinted” that the worst of the recession is over. This uncharacteristically optimistic piece of popular media would appear have at least a smudge of truth to it, although the UK is predicted to be one of the slowest to recover in this global minipocalypse, and with western society still just about safe from total annihilation we must continue to seek out reasons to go on…
Living in London is a treat, a privilege, a revelation, and an exhausting, grubby, cortex-melting pain in the wallet. That said, there is arguably no better place for art and design graduates, to live and look for work than this sprawling great cess-hive of activity that has inspired, confused and disgusted in equal measure for over two millennia, chock-a-block with fanatics, heroes, angels and psychopaths.
Even for that rare entity, the bona fide Londoner, the endless museums, galleries, venues and general tourist attractions will still hold an enduring appeal, but for those in need of alternative artistic inspiration here are some lesser-known gems that may well whet the appetite of any self-respecting fancier of all things in the vein of creative otherness without siphoning off too many of those precious gold coins…
Exquisite Bodies At The Wellcome Collection, Euston.
Not that anybody needs an excuse to go and visit the sublime Wellcome Collection (next to Euston station) but this new free temporary exhibit of biological curios will feed your creative side better than all of the current fine art exhibitions put together. Seriously.
As a traditionally un-shockable, de-sensitised connoisseur of abjection, squalor and gore I was surprised at how much I was affected by the gruesome nature of this exhibit; deformity, vile discolouration, unnecessary splatters of fake blood and rolling eyeballs are part of these early-20th century medical artefacts in abundance.
This is an experience to revisit the human body as a landscape of wonder, despair and genuine, transcendent beauty.
The expert craftsmanship of the wax models in all their venial, crepuscular glory literally sucks the breath from the lips, and the carnvalesque atmosphere generated by the gathered collection genuinely causes a floating sensation somewhere in between the spine and bowels. Never have I been made so physically aware of my own flabby, corporeal mass.
For a real head-spinning treat, dare to peek behind the red curtains, which, quite appropriately, warn of explicit content. Without trying to spill the beans, let me just say that the contents within will have you arranging an appointment at the sexual health clinic as you stumble towards the exit.
Goddard’s Pie And Mash, Deptford High Street.
This may not seem like a very convincing suggestion as an inspirational experience for art-lovers, but I strongly urge you to venture into this hushed, noble dimension of bygone wonder. The trip to Deptford is worth it alone, but the simple fact that the place has not changed in the best part of one hundred years has to be given at least a morsel of kudos by culture snobs like myself.
The experience of eating in a place like this reminds me of how much of our traditional culture has been forgotten in this new Yankee-designed cultural age that southern England now founds itself lodged irredeemably within.
From the mismatched, cheap crockery to the positively confounding pie liquor, this is a place that feeds ghosts as well as human beings, and proudly so.
Rife with grumpiness, a touch of the macabre (I don’t know why) and a true sense of magic in the air that you simply won’t find anywhere else in the Multiverse, Goddard’s will do nothing if not remind you that Englishness has a unique cultural presence and sensibility of which we could all definitely do with re-acquainting ourselves.
And with spotted dick (to be differentiated with the kind found in the Wellcome collection) for only a pound, who could resist such an opportunity?
The Apothecary And Herb Garrett, Borough.
An all-too-overlooked London highlight, this shabby, badly-laid out museum in the roof of St Thomas’ Church, which was used as an operating theatre and apothecary in the Victorian era, is, truly, a hidden brilliance.
Looking at the various medical instruments, sludges, tinctures, herbs and the theatre itself made me rue the day I read Frankenstein (it’s actually a pretty lousy book), considering all the best elements of it were here laid before my very eyes, and without all the ham and plot-holes.
Once again, you will be connected to a long gone world, which is both absurd and a little frightening.
Plus, what it lacks in class and Feng Shui, it makes up for in pure, soiled, humble charm. Inhale a Monmouth filter coffee from Borough market beforehand and you will be itching to have at your sketchbook.
Although there is usually a £5.60 entry fee, the Apothecary and Herb Garrett has two free open days on the weekend of September the 19th, so make haste.
Christ Church, Lambeth North
They call it a Church, but, to all intents and purposes, it looks like the kind of place Georges Bataille and H R Geiger would take you for a session of lengthy soul molestation.
A pleasant stone’s hurl from the aforementioned Herb Garrett, this is a place of goodness and grossness; I dare you to try and make mental sense of the architecture. Go on…

Freemason’s Hall, Holborn.
Given that there is probably no organisation more intriguing and seductive England than the honourable brotherhood of Masons, this is another real visual titbit for the hard of spending.
An genuinely astounding art deco building that is well worth a visit on a glum autumnal day, don’t expect to be given much spiritual enlightenment unless an ancestor of yours helped build the bank of England with his bare hands, but do note the mind-boggling symbolism and rich decoration that give it its rich, celestial energy.
Prime yourself for a trip here with a good stiff reading of the Mason-inspired ‘From Hell’, one of the best and most horrific comic books ever written (don’t even mention the abominable film adaptation) and a watch of the genuinely fascinating (if not far fetched) documentary film ‘Freemasons On Trial’.
The kind of London experience that makes your impending council tax payment slightly easier to part with.

Geoffrey Glees

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Zzatann??!! Points

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Il Tonsil Del (at least it isn't) Prostate Infection (yet, then cancer). Mr God, you've done it again.

Its 8pm, saturday night. Right now I was supposed to be sitting in the lobby of Manchester Opera house with a glass of ale getting ready to see something I've looked forward to for months; Il Tempo Del Postino. Instead, due to a crippling bout of tonsilitis I am in bed trying to get youtube clips of kate bush to work on my laptop. Great.
Il Tempo del Postino is a one off event over 3 nights curated by the honorable Hans Ulrich Obrist (co director of the very lovely Serpentine Gallery, which has the best gallery bookshop I've seen yet, but I digress, must be the drugs/delirium) which comprises of work by Matthew Barney, Tino Seaghal, Phillipe Pareno, Rikrit Tiravajia, Olafur Elliason, Carsten Holler and others. The idea is for the artists to do performative work (no video allowed) with emphasis on sound. Each artist has been allocated time, rather than space, in which to present offerings to this group show, and the setting of an Opera house is inspired.
I had hoped to review this exciting event for this blog but it was not to be. In light of this, allow my fever-induced hallucinations to imagine, imagine, imagine a story...

8:00pm. The lights go down. A short fat man in a pink klu klux klan hat walks on stage. "ladies and gentlemen, with thanks to our sponsors, I bring you SPECIAL ART...EAT IT NOW GOOD. I am Hans and I am an important curator of things like these. Ready Team? GO! xxxx

Barney: The artists himself walks onstage in a beret and dressed as a half-sheep/kilt=haggis+ballet (x) cowboy mutant. He smashes a motorbike in to all bits, then dives into a testicle of vaseline (vase= sculpture, you see?) 20 fit girls jiggle their jewish nipples to the sound of all the songs in the world being played at once. The end.

Tino Seaghal: An alcoholic man in a black tracksuit walks onstage and muses about the meaning of life before weeping and begging the audience for money/sex/forgiveness/access to kids/and etc, which is deep and powersome because with Tino IT IS ALWAYS ALL TRUE...or is IT? IT IS....?

Olafur: A big sun rises from the stage and the audience see their own reflection, but strangley ephemeral and more middle class than usual. Then a mist flows around a bit and violins play a kind of sad song. then littles, special, purple fireworks. Lovely Boy. xxx

Rikrit Titvagina: EAT MY RICE MY RICE IS ART he screams as he flings many curries about the stage. Free plastic fork bonus but IS IT ART...

Carsten Holler: The audience is invited to play a giant chrome connect 4 set, but you have to have a ticket and you also have to be a pricknut.

Douglas Flash Commissioner Gordon: whilst the soundtrack from Nightmare on Elm St plays really, really slowed down so you don't know that that is what it is that you are hearing, some men dressed as ghosts run round going wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo for a while.

Tacita Dean: Oh I don't know a fucking foghorn or something

It was great great great. Life is a treat sometimes. Fanks and goodnight.

Monday, July 02, 2007

It's Made of Bread: Fucking Get Over It.

When I started this blog I promised myself I would not allow it to degenerate into a slagging , bitter rant at why all art is shit, because, lets be honest, it isn't, and there are plenty (though perhaps not nearly enough) of genuinely brilliant things being unveiled in the world's galleries.
This, however, was before I started working at the Hayward, where it is now my raging despair to be working in Anthony Gormley's first major UK retrospective.
The collection of metal human forms and "disorientating" enclosed spaces displays both old works and new ones. There is a lot in here, though it is justified because Gormley has been practicing, to the delight of housewives and middle class jollies for nearly 30 years. And he is popular, there is not doubt; the place is packed to capacity even on a rainy monday morning , and people roam about with a look of excitement and wonder that one rarely sees in contemporary shows nowadays. And that makes it worth something right? Who am I to criticise when so many leave satisfied and enlightened? Well I don't fucking care, this is about my biased opinions and I feel the need to unleash them.
Apart from their monstrous pomposity, the main problem with these farty efforts is that they simply don't even begin to do what everyone says they do. They are about the human body, apparently, yet any semblance of humanity has been stripped, save for the basic outline. The sheer fact that they are rendered in metal removes the resemblance to humans and thus strips any sense of connection to them. A case in point;

A mother and her young son walk past.

Mum: "(Hushed tones) Ooh, look, a man hanging upside down! that makes me feel really uneasy"
Boy: "
(Incredulously) why?"
Mum: "(irate) because it's not nice to see someone strung up like that is it?!!"
Boy: "(nochalantly) It's a statue."
Mum: "(angry, raised voice) Well I can only say how I feel can't I???"
Boy: "I'm bored."

I couldn't agree more with the delightful young man.
The famous piece made of bread, whereby the outline of a human body has been grawed away into the slices, attracts nothing short of dazzlement , and awe. Why? It's ridiculous. Someone please explain what it supposed to be ineteresting about it? It's something that a GCSE student would whip up after forgetting they had art homework to do. I'd give it a C- at most.
The wire sculptures are the horrible, they look cheesy and don't work together. They are like an 80s Habitat design for a lamp, and a shit one at that. Cleverly made, I grant you, but not even close to being works of art.
On the ground floor sit a series of cuboid concrete body prison thingies, each meticulously measured to entrap a group of Swedes who live on an Island. Gormely has said that, given time, we start to see the "shy ones and the strong ones". Err...what? They are cubes... no features, merely boxes with holes in them. Once again the humanity is stripped away completely, yet we are told to pretend otherwise. The holes are wierd too, one for each orifice... including the anus. They make me wonder if Gormley gathered this islanders together to encase and then rape them, leaving them locked up in a castle like a micro community of pavement-clad gimp-slaves.
The thing that annoys me the most, taking in to account the ugliness, the dullness and the repetition of the works is the fact that somehow Gormley has made a name for himself doing this nonsense. Most books on sculpture through the years cite him as a key player, and people come in droves to sing his praises. Even Adrian Searle liked this show, a man who usually has nothing but salient and insightful things to say about art. If Gormley could perhaps not take his own work so seriously, if he could break down his work and try to be more imaginative then I think he could make great things... he certainly has the ambition and the conviction.
However, this is just another example of the quintessential boring Englishman, devoid of tact, bereft of exuberance and serving only to ornament the gallery with flourishes of twee , please-all rhetoric and pretension-enabling devices. Plus, he can't draw to save his life. Let's get him fellas.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Psychic Tv

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Noddy's World of Cubic Wisdom:

Slade MFA/MA private view 07

Jesus' robot ghost was that place packed. Snaking around between humpfooted old men is no way to see an art. There was so much on display in this amazing space, I went around it hard and fast. Part of me was trying to see how much I could view in as little time as possible but ultimately I found myself striving ever more frantically for something exciting and new...ay, Bernard there's the rub.
Not to say it wasn't professional, it most certainly was that, but this really was a let down. I saw only a handful of works that I really enjoyed. The overall feel was the familiar Slade playfulness and shabbiness, which is always a good start, but beyond this atmosphere there was little to get my teeth into.
So much of the work was minimalist, I must have seen a dozen works that were about painting being sculpture and vice versa, a great many of them including a single length of wood or similar jutting at an obtuse angle into the space. There were tacky colours, MDF edges and rectangles all over the shop, and I soon began to feel desperate.
The three pieces I thought showed the most originality and verve were 1. (sadly forgot the name) a room of motorised, clanging bits of timber and metal, which demonstrated a nervous intensity that I found most pleasurable; 2. Erika Nordqvists drawings, which may have been typical of her practice but were still a lot more engaging and seductive than the other work nearby; and 3. Ian Larson's (pictured) congealed heavy metal paraphernalia and shabby painting installation. This latter offering showed a true desire to play with both subject matter and audience, and to almost overload the viewer with jarring, visceral elements. There was a lot crammed into Larson's corner, and, to be frank, more ideas than in the bulk of the show altogether. It was satisfying to see an exuberant (yet also teetering and slightly uncertain) work of art by a young person, especially in amongst all of the blank, listless planks of plywood.
The more traditional painterly works were almost uniformly lacklustre, demonstrating variations on a style that felt forever fixed and destined to remain stuck in a kind of silly parody of 1990s brit art.
I also felt that the space had not been used to its fullest; I keep happening upon nooks, corners and curves which sat bare save for a few small pieces hung upon the wall around them.
Anyway, not to completely put down this show, most of the work was considered and intelligent, and well-made to boot, which is more than can be said of a lot of other degree/graduate shows. I simply felt slightly empty afterwards, and even a little depressed that this mix of students of all ages and cultural backgrounds hadn't managed to come together to make a mark and stand up proud in the dross of contemporary art and claim ownership of the present over the Hursts and the Koons' of this world. If they aren't going to do it at a place like Slade where are they?

for more info visit for erika nordqvist

and for Ian Larson.

Don't remember the name of Ol' Clanky blocks, it was a Korean name I think. good luck with that one...