Monday, 24 May 2010

Stag & Dag-her

a most un-excellent snap of the excellent Phenomenal Handclap Band

Ah, what a weekend: surfeit of sunshine, dancing and music and a not a whole lot of sleep.

Stag & Dagger was in London on Friday night and I suppose it's the unofficial kick off for the summer festival season. And a brilliant kick off it was. I'd dutifully printed off the schedule and highlighted the bands I wanted to see - much to the amusement of all my friends - and rocked up to meet everyone for a quick drink before heading over to swap my billet for a bracelet.

After hearing horror stories of queueing for hours last year, I was a taken completely aback to find that at 9pm there was not a single soul in the queue and I skipped right up, got my wrist band and made my way back to my friends. This happy coincidence was consistent with the rest of my S&D experience. The whole evening was incredibly well organised - we didn't queue once, bands started on time - and perhaps in part because of such good event management, the crowds were awesome - lively but well behaved.

We blagged our way into a packed out Hoxton Bar and Grill to check out the much-lauded Phenomenal Handclap Band. what if the BBC hates them, my friend Keith saw them live a few weeks ago and hasn't shut up about their act. True to his word, PHB absolutely threw it down/rocked it out/did every other musical cliche in the books. They were excellent. Everyone had the biggest smile on their face and we danced like idiots for their entire set. 

Check out my two favourite songs here:

Then we headed over to Hearn Street Car Park cause I insisted we see Dopplereffekt. Thankfully, my friends are great and didn't give me too much shit when they turned out to be super lame. Yawn inducing and pretentious and boring and blah. 


We snuck across the street for a quick bass-fueled boogie before rocking back up to Hearn Street for Casper C (good times) and Simian Mobile Disco (amazing). SMB absolutely brought the house down. The whole place was just going crazy: dancing, dancing, dancing. The best kind of night out is when you're still dancing when the sun comes up. Love it. The thing about something like Stag & Dagger is that there are so many venues and so many bands - there's no way you're going to make it to even a fraction of the gigs. So you hedge your bets and hope for the best. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don't. Thankfully we hit the jackpot. Bring on the summer. I'm ready to dance.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Niyang River Visitor Centre


love this. 

on the banks of the Niyang River in Tibet.

by Standardarchitecture-Zhaoyang Studio.

all photos by Chen Su.




Monday, 17 May 2010


Even if I'm not tired of London, perhaps I'm tiring of not being tired with London. One can only preach the gospel for so long without becoming tiresome. Indeed. Nevertheless, it's lovely to be home. Thailand might be rocking, but at the moment, tis for all the wrong reasons.

Up first: Tuesday and la Newsom. Saw Joanna Newsom live for the first time on the first night of her two-night run at the Royal Festival Hall. I've listened to the new album start to finish twice today. Though I hadn't given it a proper listen before the gig, it hardly mattered. Such a beautiful woman. Beautiful voice. Beautiful harp. Beautiful everything. If you haven't got the new album, you really ought to, especially if you've always found her slightly-off putting. Personally, I loved Ys, but I gather that it's not to everyone's taste. With this new album, Have One On Me, she's moderated those medieval, bardiac impulses (to some extent a forced moderation - she had surgery on her vocal chords last year) and her voice is cleaner; those dramatic, vocal affectations are almost entirely absent. Though it flirts with the mainstream the new record is still bizarre, but bizarre with substance, not just bizarre in style. There's a strong narrative arc, though free of Ys's conceptual mythology: the new songs are firmly grounded in reality and all the more powerful for it. Even if the break-up narrative is one we're all overly familiar with, it's the mark of a master craftsman who can make the overly familiar novel and nostalgic all at once.

Wednesday: I went to the preview of Artangel's new project, Smother, developed over the last nine months with artist Sarah Cole and a bushel of young parents. To be honest, I found the whole experience completely mystifying which is rather mystifying in itself as Artangel produced Roger Hiorns's, Seizure, one of the best exhibitions I've ever seen in London. I think it's meant to be a loose, performance-based meditation on the problems/experience/anxieties of being a young parent, but all we saw was a rather wonderful, 65-degree wedge, Alice-in-Wonderland-style house and a few people wandering around, ostensibly 'doing' things: moving a mattress, screwing about with a stereo system, straining to reach a balloon floating on the ceiling. No idea what any of this had to do with the raising of problematic progeny, but then again, I was only in the space for 10 minutes or so: I kept feeling that if I stayed just a little bit longer, I might see something which would then make everything make sense. We could see a pair of feet lacing up ice skates downstairs and were certain that if we just waited a few more minutes we might get to see the lady skate around, but instead we were shepherded out. Rather disappointing, but perhaps worth a second look.

Smother by Kevin Dutton

Thursday I intended to witness the wonderful Simon Barraclough go all psycho poetic interpreting Hitchcock's Psycho, but instead I rather unhelpfully got the flu.  I slept from about 6pm on Thursday until 3pm on Friday. I don't think I've ever been so pleased to have the flu before, though. Just as I was ready to start googling symptoms of malaria I came home to find my flatmate on the couch sneezing into a box of man-size Kleenex. When I went to India, I got ALL the shots and took the malaria pills until I realised that a) they made me horrid sick and b) there weren't any mosquitoes in the Himalayas. Didn't even cross my mind that there might be mosquitoes on the beach in Thailand. I've only been an all-you-can-eat buffet once before, and that was strictly in the service of art, not for the pleasure of blood-sucking insects. Evil creatures. So when I went all feverish less than a week after my return from the 'land of smiles' I was cursing myself for negligence and praying to the manes not to have malaria. Thankfully, I was well enough by Friday evening and so headed to the Tate Modern for their ten-year celebrations.

Friday saw, No Soul for Sale, what the Tate Modern is calling the maniacally hodge-podge jumble-sale of a 'festival of independents' happening in the Turbine Hall. There were concerts (ticketed) happening as well, but we didn't have tickets for those and so had to find solace in the post-modern bouncehouse on the mezzanine level, which we happily discovered on our way out. The bouncehouse (hello, this is the Tate Modern and there's no way in hell a bouncy castle is going to be called a bouncy castle within such hallowed, institutionalised walls. obviously). To allow for full disclosure, we didn't really give the fair our complete attention. We sauntered in and immediately felt overwhelmed. There were people everywhere, the demarcation between the galleries/exhibition spaces was unclear and poorly defined, and the whole thing was just mostly incomprehensible. Some lady pointed us toward a miniature bouncy castle (yes, another one) and started reeling out some yarn about the recent discovery of the mini-castle (we were supposed to pretend it was 2050 or something) serving as evidence to justify the argument for the existence of domesticated cats (who were, you see, extinct in the future. but the future was now...). This kind of art makes me angry and rather depressed. Even more so when it's displayed in what's supposed to (hahahahahahaha) be the pre-eminent venue for the display of contemporary art in this country. This crap should not be sanctioned by The Big Boys. But even in the claustrophobic crush and disorienting disarray, I managed to find at least something that made me pause. Raphaël Zarka had a lovely piece on the 220jours gallery stand. I think the premise of the 220jours stand was to see whether the remnants of previous works or exhibitions could themselves become works: interesting enough. Zarka, who is best known for his skateboarding series, showed a lovely series of posters, Catalogue Raisonné des Rhombicuboctaèdres, documenting all the rhombicuboctahedron used by the artists in previous works. Of course, I can't find an image anywhere, nor did I take one, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

good times in the bouncehouse

Pause. Brief interlude for dancing. Thank god for dancing.

Saturday I went to (gasp!) South London to visit my friend's gallery, Platform 1, which is sweetly located just off platform one at Wandsworth Common Station. Platform 1 is hosting an exhibition by Mobile Studio, a young London-based architectural practice. The exhibition is not really an exhibition so much as it is a public consultation: an opportunity for the attendee to become artist and offer a possible solution to an intriguing problem. The gist is basically this: in the 1950s Erno Goldfinger built a caretaker's cottage on the grounds of a Wandsworth school, the cottage was demolished illegally a few years ago, and the responsible developer was recently ordered to rebuild the cottage exactly according to the original footprint. Bit bonkers, right? So Mobile Studio have taken it upon themselves to question such an action and to involve the public in thinking of other ways the space might be put to better use or at the very least to question the decision making process. The public is encouraged to submit proposals for alternative plans for the space. Some local school children took up the challenge with gusto: one of the most amusing proposals was from a Cody, aged 15, who wanted to build a giant gold statue of a hand with the middle finger flipped up. A man after my own heart, really. In case you're curious, as I know you are, my proposal was for a museum of demolished/destroyed buildings.

Goldfinger's cottage...

Sunday, how do I love thee. Sundays are for sherry and speakers turned way up but also for work, of course. Thankfully this work entailed a meeting which involved Exmouth Market and brunch. With a friend, I'm organising a rather spectacular event for the London Festival of Architecture. Things are starting to come together and it's all unbearably exciting. I won't say much for now, but it's all going to kick off in Clerkenwell the first weekend of July. As always, stay tuned...

Monday, 10 May 2010

how to do nothing

I’m not very good at doing nothing. In fact, I’m terrible at it. My mind has a major temper tantrum when I try to turn it off. Part of it is because I like doing stuff, but it’s also partly because of the curse of the PhD. You always feel like you should be working on your thesis, not spending Sunday afternoons sitting in the park, or if you are going to spend Sunday afternoon sitting in the park you feel that you ought to take some work with you. Not that I always take work with me to the park, mind, but I’m always thinking about it or thinking about things I’ve got to organise for an exhibition or an event or whatever. I’m hard to switch off.

When my NYC holiday was cancelled thanks to the Icelandic volcano of doom, I rather spontaneously booked a flight to Bangkok with my refunded funds. I figured I’d give the whole doing nothing thing a proper shot. Turns out that spending a week on a beach with nothing but a bikini and a book is really rather glorious. Not that I did nothing the whole time, but I figured out that I’m better at the nothing game than first I thought.

I went snorkelling at the Similan Islands, one of the world’s top dive sites, and swimming with sea turtles in waters so turquoise no photoshop needed. I got stung by a jellyfish. I rode on an elephant, actually on it, not on one of those seat bench things. I went canoeing in Khao Sok Natural Park. I hired a scooter to spend the day driving around the Mae Sa valley in northern Thailand. I ate as much coconut ice cream as I could without making myself sick. I managed to snoop around the crazy goings-on in Bangkok without getting myself into trouble, even though it was probably the scariest place I’ve ever been. I didn’t much care for Bangkok, which reminded me of New York City done Vegas-style. I was grossed out by the sex tourism in Chiang Mai and bemused by the monks who have iPhones and get iced lattes in Wawee coffee shops. I turned into an actual human being: in the city, I’m a smirking cynic, but after a few days in Khao Lak I was getting teary eyed reading Rudyard bloody Kipling. I killed my camera battery after only five days, which was fine as I had already filled up the memory card by then anyway, so half of the pictures below are unfortunately from my phone.

I loved living outside for two weeks, even though it was ridiculously hot in the north. Makes me long for nicer weather in London. Being inside all the time is not good for people. More than anything, though, I just loved being away somewhere different, someplace new. Novelty is exciting and travelling alone is good for recharging. I love coming back after being away. I feel so hyped up, ready to get on with things. Time to get busy.