Sunday, September 03, 2006


Level of conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 1
Hair day: Newly-chopped by meek chap with afro at Vision in the silly heart of Shoho. Not as anarchic as before, but Andy informs me I look slightly less like a militant lesbian with this look.

Well, I'm facing 7 packed weeks of school madness (with a few juice gigs, some research for Music Orbit - new music networking organisation run by composer Colin Riley - and proposals for composer-in-residence posts thrown in for good measure) on the flipside of a sausage and mash-fuelled sleep tonight. Ugh. Well, I have to earn proper money in order to rent my lovely basement flat in Bethnal Green somehow, I suppose.

Still, I made the most of my last weekend of freedom by ploughing the culturally-fertile fields of London town. This began with a visit to the inexplicably-named Wormhole Saloon IV, a night of sound and art at Whitechapel Gallery (I’d popped into my local big gallery earlier in the day to see the splashy, slightly daft paintings of Albert Oehlen). We were there to support visual partner-in-crime Harry's quirky film work in collaboration with baffling sound-art DJ Ash Sargent. But before that we had to wade through all manner of ludicrously pretentious artwank nonsense in the packed bar and surrounding rooms. Now, remember, I am a fairly avant-garde-minded kinda gal, and can take all sorts of challenging mixed media installations involving living rooms being recreated in galleries and music sampling insect sounds and text projected onto icebergs. But a man in his underpants steadfastly fixing lollipop sticks to his head with a gluegun is silly. Two bellowing opera singers, a trombonist and a flautist trying to make their music (timed with stopwatches) heard in a rammed, steamy bar full of massive-specced, angular-haired East Londoners who loudly ignore them is silly. A girl who invites you to ink-stamp her seated, utterly naked form with words like 'choice', 'vulnerable' and 'communication' is not only silly but incredibly Yoko Ono and thus incredibly over. It wasn't a club night, wasn't dedicated enough to performance to be a live music night, and the brain-melting wall of industrial noise generated by bowing kitchen implements meant it wasn't just a bar either. Whilst I may have bumped into Enrico and Eric of excellent music producers 'no-signal' and star-spotted the maverick avant-folk urchin Leafcutter John and his musician buddy Simon Bookish, it was all just too silly, and we were all grateful to fall out of the gallery and have some beers on scummy Whitechapel Road outside Indo instead. There was even a bit of an fight (or a 'frac-art' as my friend Cat wittily coined it) after DJ Ash had accidentally left a little strip-light on as the next film in the auditorium took over, meaning lots of shouting (obviously the effect was ruined) from the stalls and a few too many arch words in the doorway later. Crumbs.

Aaanyway, Andy and I ignored London for most of Saturday, stapling ourselves to the sofa for a diet of toast, tea, biscuits and football but roused ourselves to get to Dalston for a decent Vietnamese in an unprepossessing old bathhouse and drinks in the super-lovely pub the Talbot. Alas, the completely brill-looking Dalston Jazz Café was stuffed to the gills and we sloped home.

Today, we caught the tail-end of the Tour of Britain at the Mall (ie, stood around, then cheered for the two seconds in which 30 cyclists buzzed past in a flash of neon pink and yellow, adverts on two wheels with all the sponsorship logos plastered all over them) and popped into the ICA for refreshments and an extremely brief glance at the Surprise, Surprise exhibition. The concept is that artists, all hefty names (Hirst, Chapman, Gursky, Ofili), show something very unlike their known body of work, to turn expectations on their heads, and challenge the audience into viewing the work based simply on the content rather than with a name attached. I did find myself wondering who's was who's (information was only put in the accompanying brochure, not beside the works), but there's a lesson to be learnt as to why we haven't seen these pieces before. It is because they are, frankly, a bit rubbish.

Rather more fun was the Passion for Paint exhibition at the doughty old National Gallery. I'm not a fan of pre-1900 stuff generally, but could still see the appeal of grand renaissance works amidst the swathes of paint in the more modern stuff from Bacon et al. My favourites were both produced only last year: there was a very cool, vibrantly metallic homage to Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights and best of all, a brilliant, funkily colourful work by a Taiwanese artist, which was practically 3D in its layered, holographic colours, with hints of traditional Taiwan art and graphic novel imagery.

Art lecture over. But hey, this weekend, along with many other epiphanies like walking towards the Gherkin through Whitechapel Market whilst a helicopter takes off from the Royal Hospital, makes me not take London for granted. I love that Ken has put up his 'We are Londoners' signs. Of course, living in this bulging city comes with the paranoia of terrorist threats, the muck, the constant rush to be somewhere, but that's what comes from being here, in the centre of the damn world.

Right, back to school…..

And the mass* is finished! Go in peace etc, ho ho.

* The evening mass I have been writing for the Ebor Singers in York Minster next month, that is…

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