The End

This was a blog that covered visual arts, sound art, art history, public space and society. It was active between 2006 and 2014 (with the occasional post in 2015). I stopped writing it to re-orient my life, away from being a visual artist who wrote a lot, to a writer (with a visual arts bent).

I’ve crept back onto twitter, so you can follow me there; i’m on radio at eastlondonradio.org.uk; and I’m writing my debut novel – an historical fiction.

Thanks for reading

 

Thoughts of Growth and Loss: A review of Martin Creed, What’s The Point Of It?

 

Sitdowncomedian, and I took ourselves to the Martin Creed show at the Hayward gallery. We were both struggling a little, heavy hearts for different reasons, but found it a perfect antidote.

It was the first time I’ve seen the breadth and the depth of Martin Creed’s practice*.

Until this point, it’s only ever been catalogues, a few displays in group exhibitions/biennales/etc and a ramshackle live performance at Goldsmiths. I
 think the man is pretty great, I just didn’t realise how much until this show.
 
The thing about this show is that you just have to see it. You don’t even need to know anything more about it than that.  
 
Which renders this post a little superfluous. However, I will do my best to write something about it, so that you can make a point of seeing it.
 

Succinctly, it’s a show about ascendence (and descendence).

In as many ways you can possibly think of.
 
The curators at the Hayward have done a shit-hot job of taking you on a journey along that simple-but-profound-idea and it is immensely satisfying.
 
It is also the busiest show I’ve seen in a while, because of the frenetic and prolific nature of his work.
Yet  because of the size and the purity of his investigations, it’s not cluttered or overstated. Which feels an odd thing to say about a show that repeatedly speaks about the same thing over and over and over again.
Because he comes at it from a variety of angles, it is clear and pure – crystalline.

A diamond says the same thing about carbon over and over again and is brilliant and dazzling, without being bloated or overstated.
This show is like that.
 
Yes, I know, I just compared Martin Creed’s show to a diamond.
Perhaps I am guilty of overstating.
 

Anyway, without giving too much of the show away, you can look forward to highs and lows, ups and downs in a gorgeous cascade of variety, including:
 
Colour spectrums (ascending light/colour)
Musical scales (ascending and descending) on the piano – played by the security staff
Towers of boxes (ascending space)
Towers of other objects (ascending form and line)
Phallic cacti getting bigger/smaller (natural order)
Cocks doing the same 
A newly erected wall (it’s all about getting it up)
Even the ramp was blocked off (for clear reasons to do with safety) and you had to climb up and down those stairs.

Up and down, up and down, again and again and again.


It sounds like a Doctor Seuss book in visual form.

Perhaps it’s exactly like that – filled with direct poetry, profound ideas and joy joy joy for the hell of it.

 
A couple of nice and fitting diversions from the theme include the massive swinging MOTHERS sign. It didn’t wow me that much the second time around, but it is a crowd-pleaser.
 
The funny film of a dog and a couple of people tracking back and forth across the screen. It could be arbitrary, but it seemed to be triggered by people crossing the space, which I liked. And a cool trick with a car doing something similar;

The wall of tape – which was sort of like a colour spectrum, but more linear and ridiculous. 
Nipples and arseholes/nautical installations and objects, which were lovely (although not quite as lovely as Sue Webster and Tim Noble when they do similar things);
 

And a special mention to The Balloon Room. Although I was in no state to really plunge into that fit of joy on that day, by all accounts it was pretty exciting, if not a bit claustrophobic (like the Gormley White Light room). It is an installation that finely balanced childlike and simple joy, with opportunity for deep anxiety. That takes a certain skill.

The great wall of broccoli prints did something similar, although rather than anxiety, it produced a clear fantasy about being Martin Creed’s Broccoli Assistant:

 
(at a party)
“Oh, nice to meet you, what do you do”
“I work for Martin Creed, I’m his Broccoli Assistant”

with the business card:


Lauren Brown

Broccoli Assistant
Martin Creed Studios
London, UK


See? The exhibition takes you to some absurd places, without being obtusely, or disrespectfully ironic (everyone knows how much I hate irony as the core of an artwork). And because it is so generous, it also leaves plenty of room to dislike works without feeling left out or hating the whole show.


Like all good art shows should.


If you want a flourish for the well-rounded experience at the Hayward, pop across the way and head into the Royal Festival Hall, to the Singing Lift. It features his permanent ascending/descending sound work, which overlooks a different perspectve of the balloon room.

In fact, this added exterior perspective of the show was great and not something I had seen in many shows at the Hayward. It was a reflection of an exhibition which concerned itself with entirety.


From the outside ‘car park’, you could see the image of the two dogs on the side of the opposite building, and from exterior balcony, you looked towards the towers of The Shed and the Tate Modern – which had similar forms to those seen instide. (I did have a little wish that the tower of the Tate Modern had been painted in a colour spectrum by him, so it would tie all in nicely across that southern bank.)


Anyway, you should go and see the show.  I’m going back for seconds soon.

*I always call him by his full name Martin Creed. Just Creed or just Martin seems weird to me.

Image: pinched from the martin creed site itself.

Confiscated Childhood: A review of Afro Supa Hero and Confiscated Cabinet at the Museum of Childhood

It’s not far from where I live, but I had never been to the V&A’s Museum of Childhood before now. Crazy, huh. 

 

Anyway, last week I finally went to check out their two concurrent shows: Afro Supa Hero and Confiscated Cabinet

 
 

If I’m honest, the building itself shocked me a bit, reminding me of a starker version of the Pitt Rivers Museum (which is a weird museum – another story). It was all open and noisy. I don’t know why, but I was expecting more of a library, journey-type museum, rather than an (admittedly, gorgeous) open hall and with massive ceilings and balconies around the outside. 

 

I was also hungry at the time, so some of these opinions may be slightly skewed.

 
Wow, I’ve digressed already.
 


Afro Supa Hero – Jon Daniels


 

I loved the underlying idea behind Afro Supa Hero. I loved seeing the comics from the 1960s onwards –  I wished I could have read some of them there. I’m not even into comics that much, but there were some seemingly great action stories and ace history-based ones I wanted to peer into (especially the one about Harriet Tubman).

 

But the historical journey of Afro action figures and heroes was the really interesting bit. It was a relief to see a shift from their names being ‘Black XYZ’ to just XYZ. That’s polite of everyone.

 

Some renditions of famous black characters into toys was embarrassing – you could compare the printed image on the box to the way they’d been rendered in 3D and you could tell sometimes it was just like – “eh, we’ll just make White Lady Action Figure into darker skin and it’ll be fine!” Cringe.  

I learned that Jean-Michel Basqiat and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry have action figures (!!). Which is pretty rad, although i never really played with dolls (cough). And, on a selfish level, I was a bit bummed that Frozone from the Incredibles wasn’t in there. Maybe he’s missing for a reason. Like licensing blah blah. 
(Or maybe Jon Daniels doesn’t like Frozone?)

At the end of the historical/collectible action figures was Jon Daniels’ own super hero design.
And it was fly – matching mega afros, the earrings matching the goatie? red, yellow, green and black colours of Africa? Loved it. 

 

There were mock-ups and lego versions, although I really want to see them in production. Surely Momiji dolls need a new range – I would have bought some Afro Super Hero dolls, for sure.

Well, I say that, but I couldn’t afford to buy one of the cute mugs on sale, so who am I kidding ( I would like to think that the money went to Daniels himself and not back into the V&A merch pot)

But what Daniels’ show highlighted, of course, was the limitations of scope in action figures and super heroes and how that perpetuates the limitation of scope in pop culture of human beings, especially human beings of colour. Starting from the beginning. In childhood.

Super important issue to tackle.

 

And, here’s where I add to the problem: I wanted to draw even more out of that show. 

 

I wanted to extend it into a whole show about race and childhood and toys. 
Like, looking at the Mamie Clark research from the 1960s on colour dolls and how she changed the way race and childhood imagery was understood; it has had an influence in psychology, cultural studies, art and image-making and of course education. 

And I could totally imagine a wider scope that takes those ideas, includes the excellent ones from Daniels’ work and extends even further – Makie dolls, Bratz, Barbie, Fino and Bino dolls, Home-made toys/dolls from non-western cultures, etc.

 

I wanted to see more, not because I’m culturally greedy (although there is that), but because the influence toys/dolls have on us as adults is significant.

With them we learn to play, to associate, develop identity, understand our body and the abstraction of the internal experience to a external object in identification – we boil down our expansive selves into these very particular objects.

 

And a show like that would become a museum show about the history of where limitation starts. The history of where adults decide how small a box they can squeeze future adults into, in order to get the best possible outcome for current adults.

 

Wouldn’t THAT be a cool show to see?

 
OK, I’m being a bit ascerbic, but I do think that, given the influence of dolls from childhood into adulthood, especially when it comes to race and culture, it’s a massive topic that deserves even more attention.
 

And speaking of home-made toys/dolls….

 
Confiscation Cabinets – Guy Tarrant
 
 
 

These cabinets of confiscation were fascinating: A collection of toys/weapons/objects that have been confiscated from school children over the last 30 years.

Hand-written notes, those paper-based things girls play with, knives, flame-throwers (what?!), stones, playing cards, chewing gum, etc.

 

It was organised according to ‘age’ and ‘gender’. Two cabinets each for girls, two for boys. Two for lower grades and two for higher grades.

 

That sorting in itself intrigued me. 
Yes, there are obvious links between boys and girls of similar ages. But i think it also would be interesting to make the cabinets sortable in different ways. 
Like, actual age – what do all 9-year olds hide. 

Or chronology – all the things confiscated in 1991, or 2007. 
Maybe even by kind of school – what do grammar school kids bring and what do comprehensive school kids bring?
Actually, given the place of class and schooling in the UK, that would be particularly enlightening.

 

Vack to the display at hand, it was still enlightening for me, as a woman (who was previously a girl at a catholic primary and single-sex private high school) to see what was gendered. 
So it wasn’t just in my school – girls really do use words as weapons. And vanity is a weakness (one conditioned, I argue).

So much make up, cruel notes and there was a chewing gum/hair attack sample that was simultaneously gross and stark reminder of the nature of our attack/defence tactics: long-lasting and shame-based.

 

Boys? Garden-variety violence.

I knew it, but the image of some of the sticks and metal rods brought to highschools still made me go a little weak at the knees. How the hell you’re supposed to cultivate nuanced social interaction when that’s a threat, I have no idea. The fact that men grow up to be sensitive at all? Bravo. Hats off to the sensitive ones!

 
 
 
A History of Childhood

I do wish shows like both of these could be seen and talked about more. Especially because, given that we all have childhoods and those become our adulthoods/society at large, it’s amazing that more people aren’t fascinated with the history of the small but constant ways in which we really belittle ourselves as humans.

 

I know, clear reminders of painful history and the failings of the human condition is not traditionally a thing that we enjoy pondering over on a wet Sunday (except if you’re in a cinema), but I think I would like them to be.

 

Perhaps if we could see these childhoods in museums (in an abstract way) and how they project forward, we might be better able to make decisions about our own adulthoods, or any childhoods we may be in the business of influencing right now.


Details:
Afro Super Hero
14 September 2013 – 9 February 2014

Confiscation Cabinets 
9 November 2013 – 1 June 2014

At V&A Museum of Childhood
Cambridge Heath Rd, London E29PA

images pinched from the V&A Museum of Childhood site.

Hard out Here: Sarah Lucas and Kehinde Wiley

This was originally a post about Lily Allen’s tone-deaf video: Hard Out Here. But, well, who needs yet another mouthy white woman’s opinion on the subject, really.*

So I’m going to do what I do better – write about art.

Specifically about two recent exhibitions speak with a little more nuance about some of the issues that Ms Allen was trying to portray in that racist piece of shit video. Oops? did I really say that.

Anyway, back to it: Sarah Lucas and Kehinde Wiley.

Sarah Lucas at the Whitechapel.

…and it’s all about bitches. It’s all about the images, the violence, the tawdriness of the same-ol-same-ol images of women’s bodies, men’s bodies – the same blah blah bullshit we’re all just a little bit sick of seeing.
Maybe you’re not sick of seeing, but I am. Friends of mine are. In fact, my first visit to the show was with a friend who is battling depression because of the hatred she has about her body because it doesn’t ‘fit’ with what ‘should’.

Anyway, it’s all there in the gallery. Just there. In all kinds of detail. with varying levels of humour, finesse, mess and message.

It is refreshingly unsimplifed – in fact, it’s all over the place.
It is probably ‘sanitised’ for the general Whitechapel Gallery-viewing public, but even with that in mind, it’s not a perpetuation of the ‘good girl’ imagery. But neither is it so erratic that there isn’t plenty of room to read her messages about images of women.

About the control of our own image, and who has it.

Although this isn’t a post about the video, I do think this image says some of what Ms Allen WAS trying to get at with her BAGGY PUSSY imagery, but with a whole lot finer detail. It is hard being that bitch.

Having said that, Sarah Lucas is a white, middle class woman who presents a fairly singular image of Woman.
But for that, it’s relentless. And consistent. She portrays the violence of gender symbolism, makes fun of the entendre – the guardsman of language – and rides it like she’s going to come any second.

She is unabashed.

The variety of materials is also refreshing: sculptures, readymades, drawings, wallpapers, prints, mechanical wanking cocks (a material type all of its own), photography and text. And on that front, it is not singular.

It was a relief to see the savageness of her response to the same old sexist bullshit about the female form.

Personally (and currently up to my back teeth with it all), it is an exhibition which says ‘It’s ok honey, i feel the same way’.

The work takes up so much space, too. It gets into every bit and there’s not enough space to spread out and because of that, do make plans to see the show twice.

Before anyone whinges about it, I don’t think the antidote is to give more space. I think the slightly-claustrophobic feeling of the show perfectly demonstrates a) the intensity of being an artist: you have a thousand things on the go at the one time and there’s no space from it. You can’t walk back from your life. b) same thing about being a woman. Your imagery and the intensity is relentless, there isn’t a break from it. You don’t get to take a 10 minute breather, walk back and see how it feels to not have all of the ‘requirements’ and ‘opinions’ and ‘representation’ in your face. So why should you in an art gallery?

Kehinde Wiley at Stephen Friedman Gallery

The first time I saw Kehinde Wiley’s work was in his Black Light book at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin (note the caption: I still REALLY want this book.)

The show at Stephen Friedman gallery last month was his work from Jamaica. Floral, Patterned and Beautiful. Part of his ongoing series from around the world – especially places that have significance for (young male) figures unseen in the former colonies: Israel, Africa, Brazil.

This is one of my favourite: all pattern everything.

I love the OTT of it all. Yes, posed staring out in a fairly straight-up pose, but bursting with life and colour and yowsers!

Unlike previous works of his and other shows I’d heard about/seen, this show included the ladies. In fact, the gallery at #11 was all Ladies. Three large works of larger-than-life ladies, showing off their thang. I don’t remember ever seeing a woman portrayed by Wiley like that – he has been notoriously focused on the young men until now.

Despite the regal/papal titles given to these paintings of women, the underlying message that comes with them is that ‘this is not their life’. They are not ‘portrait sitters’, like the subjects Wiley refers to in his video about the history of portraiture.

They are the ‘bitches’ in Allen’s song. (The ones who she will never be and has never been.) These are the women for who it is fuckin’ hard. Oops – I went there again.

To repeat myself, the images are seriously beautiful. They had me, as a 30-something educated white woman staring at the ornate, decorated images of young black men. Hmm

This was the difficult part about the show for me, and the subject of a long chat with the gallery staff.
(I’m very glad they were willing to have the discussion. They didn’t, to their credit, ignore the obvious racial and ethical place of art/paintings/objects/viewers in what they’re selling, and hide behind the ‘it’s just paintins, miss‘.)

So, we have this age-old dynamic.
Me: western, privileged white appreciator of young, gorgeous black specimen. Not that’s how I personally believed I was viewing these images and people, but I cannot ignore the echoes and the dynamic that had been set up. Into which I had walked and cannot avoid because of the fact that I am most of those things. Depressing.

The gorgeous patterns, the refreshingly different images of men and women surrounded by colours and framing reserved for the white elite – they’re amazing and I love them. but if *I* take one home and stick it on my wall, am I not the same as the old anthopological doyenne with her specimens of ‘the noble savage?’.

Argh! the mobius strip questioning of ‘for whom is this art made?’ ‘who has the power?’ drove me wild, in a way that I value: Is Kehinde selling out young black street stylers – his own peeps, for the fodder of white folks, again? Or is he taking back that role of representing the young black gorgeous man into the hands of young black gorgeous man and the privilege white folks just get to watch, whilst they get to be immortalised. Or something of both. Or neither.

I left the show with all those complex feelings of wanting to take a shower, to dance in joy, all desire and need to turn off all the images in my day to ignore how annoyingly complex and shit human power and relationships are.

And to that end, the power within those paintings – especially for the black collector, or one with her eyes open, is worth the 5-figure price tag that will rarely go out of fashion.

*here are a few excellent responses to that video:

– Deanna Rodger, poet wrote and performed a piece about it:
http://bit.ly/19CG9s5 
– Chimene Suleyman, also a poet wrote an excellent essay:
http://www.poejazzi.com/fighting-against-the-fetishisation-of-women-doesnt-work-if-you-fetishise-women/http://www.poejazzi.com/fighting-against-the-fetishisation-of-women-doesnt-work-if-you-fetishise-women/
– Bridget Minamore made an excellent storify of women on twitter: https://storify.com/bridgetminamore/lily-allen-and-satire

image credits:
Sarah Lucas, Chicken Knickers, 1997
Sarah Lucas, Bitch (detail) 1995

Kehinde Wiley, Portrait of James Hamilton, Earl of Arran’, 2013

word. sound. power: an exhibition review

A few weeks ago, on a gloriously sunny day in London, my fellow smart-lady, Zana, and I covered ourselves in wordiness along the southern bank of the Thames.

We sandwiched the BFI’s screening of Right On! between visits to the Tate Modern Project Space for their brilliant exhibition Word. Sound. Power.

Right On!

The Herbert Danska film is of the (original) Last Poets –  late-60s poets, performers, griots-if-you-will, from New York City. And crucial influences on the development of rap and hip-hop.

It was an amazing film, consisting of an 80-minute flow through eight pieces by the trio, backed by drums, costume changes and amazing black male power on a hot summer afternoon/evening.

The series of spoken word performances –  poems, matras, incantations –  were performed, spat and hand-delivered from the rooftop of a hot Harlem block on a sunny afternoon in 1970, to a dark soporific theatre in London.

As the sun tripped from east to west across the sky, the trio: Felipe Luciano, Gylan Kain and David Nelson, interchanged between lead performer. The different forms for each poets flow, their particular voice and rhythm were mesmerising and supported by a powerful drums, occasional dance and the uhs, ahas and energy of the other two artists.

Works like Poetry is Black, Jazz and James Brown were not so much choreographed, but embodied. As crucial element of the relationship between words and the body, between the themes of race, sexuality, white power and poverty, as they came spilling out.

 

 

Word. Sound. Power

Whenever I think about this show, lyrics from the Sub Swara ft Dead Prez song Speak My Language (Machinedrum Mix) comes flooding into my mind:

“This is word sound power, this is rebel soul.

This phenomenal exhibition is rebel soul, curated by two amazing women in conjunction with the fantastic KHOJ artists collective from India. It features 6 artists making work about sound, the voice, the word and power (not that you needed my help in making that leap).

Lawrence Abu Hamdan has two works in the show. His work with Janna Ullrich, Conflicted Phenomes (pictured, pinched from the Tate website) is visual research and data map of Somali spoken language tests enforced to ascertain cultural original, to satisfy criteria for refugee status. As a data excercise on its own, it’s quite beautiful – with its graphic keys to each person’s relationships and language connections

As a reflection of official policy on the business of people’s asylum and freedom implemented by outsourced agents, without checks or balances, it’s creepy.

I was originally suprised to see that Australia uses this for their immigration processes. Then I really remembered Australia’s immigration processes and was unsurprised again.

His other work in the show, The Whole Truth, shines a light on the relationship between the place in which the voice and power intersect: the Lie Detector; When the voice is used to support incarceration, the place in which a person’s (political) voice is removed – according to Foucault.

Caroline Bergvall‘s word drawing and spoken piece was quiet, but striking. A poem, with all of the letter o-s taken out, and placed on the opposite wall, creating a spacial relationship to the word and the sentiment, supported by the surround sound work. It was simple, but I felt things.

Zana and I went back twice to see Mithu Sen perform I am a Poet and both times we missed her – she cancelled one performance, as it was too much to do too many in the day, and then she must have finished the reading early, because it was already over by the time we arrived after the movie. We were both super disappointed because we wanted to hear her.

But her work in the gallery is interesting and engaging nonetheless. I loved her underlying premise of nonsense as resistence. The language is crucially human and that defying the technology of language, there is a core resistance of all that is human.

Nikolaj Bendix Skyum and his videos Arise and Keep Evans Safe Tonight were seemingly a major focus for the exhibition. Although, to be honest, I didn’t feel like they were as crucial to the themes of the show as some of the other works, or the exhibition as a whole. Just my opinion.

The interviews in KEST were quite lovely, giving young men a voice and ability to speak out. I especially enjoyed the KEST boys speaking of the common diasporic experience of going back to the land of one’s parents and suddenly feeling the ease of a culture that is deep within.

Added to the work in the gallery, the essays in the catalogue were amazing.

Both women speak about the relationship between sound, power, culture in different, but equally engaging, ways. They provided second and third angles on the underlying themes of the show, providing a solid triumvirate, reflecting the title itself.

Hansi Momodu-Gorden from Tate Modern writes about the experience of sound, referencing Brandon La Belle and speaking about it as a means of creating an ‘aesthetic space’ and the apparatus of the vocal, quoting Louis Chude-Sokei.

Asmita Rangari – Andi from Khoj speaks about the privilege of using the voice (and other sound means) to speak out – the ability and agency to articulate and the place of silence in this privilege.

The place of words, sound and power in contemporary aesthetics, culture and politics are particularly present at this time and the exhibition is a must-see for anyone remotely interested in any of these things, as well as the ways in which political ideas can be presented aesthetically not didactically.

The exhibition is on until November 2013.

world listening day

Started by the excellent World Listening Project, the 18th July is a day to celebrate the aesthetics of listening – music, art practice and probably theatre works which encourage the act of listening.

Commemorating the birthday of R. Murray Schafer, a composer and writer who is crucial to the study of acoustic ecology, who coined the term ‘soundscape’, and is influential to contemporary artistic output of music and sound cultures. WLD has been slowly building over the last few years through autonomous actions around the world.

Last year I spent it doing one of my listening session artworks: 4 hours at Berlin Olympic Stadium. Specifically as the site of the Summer Olympics of the XI Olympiad: a complex sporting event in modern history.

On 1 August 1936, The grand aesthetics of Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich were displayed in glorious spectacle – proof of its power and might – in the opening ceremony, and guided through the impressive film work of Danny Boyle Leni Riefenstahl.

Despite it being a conduit for Nationalist-Socialist Party propaganda, Jesse Owens – a fine, fit black man from the United States won the most medals, killing it on the athletics field, with the hyped ‘snub’ from the Chancellor on his victory in the 100m sprint.*

Reading the Wikipedia entry on the games and the efforts to ‘clean up’ Berlin including signs saying: “Jews Not Wanted” sent a chill through my spine. Especially in light of this going around town at the moment:

I digress.

World Listening Day.

So, on 18 July 2012, Berlin Olympic Stadium was the site of a few school tours, incessant rain and the miserable sound of a super-sopper on the blue track going around and around in circles. No birds, no traffic even and a smattering of sociality as teenagers flirted with each other in bleechers. It was the most depressing list/listening project I’ve done to date.

I didn’t realise that the sound such emptiness could exist on the site of such grand spectacle. It’s almost like the more image-focused a site is, the less connected it is to a sound of humanity.

Perhaps this year I should have listened at Queen Elizabeth Stadium as a comparison.

This year, World Listening Day 2013, however, I was unable to make a work for it.

But I have compiled a small list of recent listening-based shows to see:

Sounding the Body Electric
Experiments in art and music in eastern europe 1957 – 1984
Calvert 22

I hadn’t heard of any of these artists before – unsurprising because my understanding of experimental music (especially that which crosses over into art) is self-taught and mostly through the experience of seeing shows like this.

Highlights included the great reading section, which I wanted to just lounge around all day in, the proto-Marclay records and music by Milan Knižak (pictured), which made me want to spit rhymes all over it, and the graphic scores by Katalin Ladik and Milan Grygar.

Musically, I noticed my complacency, feeling like I’d heard a lot of the works on film soundtracks already, yet fascinated by the link between post-war Socialism/Iron Curtain and electronic music, obviously sanctioned by the State’s ideology through the Experimental Studio of Polish Radio.

Huw Hallam has written a great thesis on the link between post-totalitarianism and electronic music, and the works herein expanded my understanding of rejecting propaganda and a need for music that is without dramatic reference.

Calvert 22 is such a great gallery, especially for small theme-based shows and this one was no different.

At the moment of being heard
South London Gallery


I had heard about this show almost 6 weeks before it opened. as soon as any of the promo came out about it, I had tweets, FB posts and emails from everyone emailing me about it and I was looking forward to seeing it on my return from Australia.

Especially given that it featured some artists who I have admired for a while and some that I was looking forward to learning more about.

I enjoyed the exhibition – there were some typically subtle and gentle works that combined softness and tension – Rolf Julius’s pigment-filled speaker cones (pictured) and crys cole‘s salt speaker combination were beautiful. I really loved the photographic work of Reiner Ruthenbeck for the documentation of those daily sounds, without a sound.

Having said that, I thought it was going to be a little more about the act of listening – a more philosophical or even theatrical look at that moment of being heard – not just changing what is heard, but on a deeper level of how.

Granted, it’s not easy to make work about listening, (I know, as an artist I suck at it), but I was hoping for some guidance, from people who’d been doing it for years. It was a bittersweet show.


In the upstairs gallery Variations of Silence by Boudouin Oosterlynck was more about the action of listening, of the collection and pursuit of silence using the variety of ways one listens – a detailed dossier of quiet sites, on paper.

Aesthetically, I found it difficult to really enter into, possibly a language barrier, or a resistance to a particular aesthetic, but I still spent time hanging out with his journey.

Tom White’s Public Address is also a work that intrigured me, but because I went on a Thursday, wasn’t able to see it in the flesh – it’s installed in the housing estate that the gallery backs onto and only accessible on Saturdays.

The public programme for the exhibition is pretty exciting. I wish that I was a 12+ teenager, so that I could do Barby Asante‘s workshop at the end of August (I couldn’t get to do her DIY one as an adult either, so I just have to press my nose to the window for a while) and the Ambarchi and Umeda gigs, of course, look great.

Reading and Being list

Both of these exhibitions had supporting reading lists and publications, which I really appreciated. And I have some more to add – bits’n’pieces which relate to listening that I think are great:

The Hush at The Shed National Theatre
According to the blurb on the The Shed site, The Hush asks audiences to listen in a way they never have before. Performers interact with live foley and immersive sound design to recreate the past, imagine the future and give voice to The Shed itself.”

Again, I’m looking forward to seeing this work, to see how others create work about the action of listening. Sadly, I can’t make the Thursday Q& A (which looks great), but I’m going to see the show soon.

A Listening Mind: Sound Learning in a Literature Classroom by Nicole Furlonge on Sounding Out
When I read this post, I wanted to be Nicole. Her understanding and interesting in pushing pedagogy and teaching and experience of the world outside a dominant visual paradigm (yes, i just used that phrase) is inspiring, and exactly the kind of thing I’m into.

The way she speaks about it is amazing and a deeper undestanding of listening and why World Listening Day needs to keep existing.

The Sounding Out blog consistently posts stuff that I love reading about. They posted about the Afrika Bambaata record collection being catalogued at Gavin Brown Gallery and I almost wet myself. And through that I found out about..

Hip Hop Aesthetics Summer Course by Shante Paradigm
As if this wouldn’t be a RAD way to spend the summer…

I’ve been following the progress along of each day’s topics (including, unsurprisingly, the verdict on the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer. What’s Hip Hop without Hoodies…).
They’ve covered some ace stuff like Big Freedia’s Azz Everywhere, Lil Mama’s Lip Gloss, Black Aesthetics, Feminist Aesthetics and Opposition Discourse, Total Chaos and Ian Maxwell‘s thesis about Hip Hop Aesthetics and the Will to Culture –  which I loved reading about, not just for the generic content, but because I knew some of the peeps mentioned in it; a bit of home-town pride and nostalgia for my time with Quiz and the writers and MCs of inner city of Sydney in the 90s.

Other links to cool listening works

Surfacenoise’s Peter Lenaerts
Dan Scott
Sam Underwood
Stan’s Cafe’s The Commentators and their Cult Listening
The Soundscape
Hearing Cultures
Audio Culture (which i’m ASHAMED to say I’ve not read nor do i own)
Resonance by Susie MacMurray at Fabrica, Brighton
This year’s Primavera featuring Kusum Normoyle

*Who needs that to be a ‘thing’, really, to highlight the gross racist antics of the regime – they only ‘allowed’ black and jewish competitors after a bunch of people pressured them into it, for goodness sake. Is Jesse Owens really that heartbroken over not having his hand shaken by that pariah? Surely not.

image credits:
Migrant Rights UK and Home Office YouTube
Milan Knižak, Destroyed Music, Calvert 22 website
Rolf Julius, Singing, 2000/2013, South London Gallery website