Thursday, 31 March 2011
Tuesday, 29 March 2011
My thanks to The Daily Constitutional for featuring this blog. I'm flattered.
A blue plaque I was most surprised by is that one for Kurt Schwitters, on a house in Westmoreland Road, Barnes. The surrounding suburb is pleasant however to me it was, to partially quote Will Self, definitively (if not ‘effortlessly’) dull; a perception affected by the monotonous work I was doing there. The sight of this particular blue plaque jolted me from the drudgery of seemingly unrelenting visits to letter boxes. That a seminal and radical German Dada artist lived in such a suburban semi in the 1940s was discombobulating.
What trace of the acclaimed father of modern collage remained in the suburban terrace? Was the house a site of a Schwitters’, ‘Cathedral of Erotic Misery’? Elsewhere Schwitters had anti-artistically crammed the interiors of rooms with junk or urban detritus creating ‘merzbau’. These cave-like retreats were shrinking spaces within which the artist flitted about in his own intensely externalised identities. I imagined Schwitters, in a furore of sneezing fits, bouncing off the Dada grotto walls.
Robert Hughes has playfully referred to Kurt Schwitters as, ‘the saint of reclamation’, transposing junk into art. In creating cave like art installations might Schwitters have been attempting to connect with or reclaim the progenitorial in art; a founding essence of why to create?
Joseph Campbell has written about caves and cave art as a mythological realm in which we can be witness to ‘the symbology [sic] of the labyrinthine chambers of the soul’. He understands the prehistoric chambers as progenitors of all temples and cathedrals, embellishing this with a notion of an inscribed cave as a site of a connubium. Frustratingly, or perhaps not, some of Schwitters’ merzbau have been lost; some to the ravages of war. How might the primal artistic spirit be reclaimed? What is the nature of this communion?
Werner Herzog has recently rendered ancient artistic ecstasies in cinematic 3D, with his film, ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’. The film features the prehistoric art of the Chauvet Cave in southern France. ‘Lost and Found in E17’ clambered about the exterior of Walthamstow’s EMD cinema feeling and sniffing for celluloid drafts - signs of such long lost cinematic life. Sadly the landslides and coalitions of local history have continued to render this cave entirely out of bounds, at least to film-goers if not the trespass of spray can wielding ravers who have some way to go before emulating the talents of our prehistoric ancestors. ‘LaFiE17’ headed for Stratford Picturehouse instead, to enjoy Herzog’s vivid imagery and other metaphysical interventions. The eminent master of ‘New Wave’ cinema guided us through and about the palimpsestic reliquary.
Philip French’s Observer review fairly reflects my appreciation of the film; in particular the musical content. He comments on the breathtaking beauty of the drawn and painted figures and that the ‘price to be paid for seeing these images is Herzog’s heavy breathing excitement, his wild conjecture and hyperbole, his choice of music upping the ante on the numinous, and his fey playfulness....’. Given Herzog is working on a film about convicts on death row, and that he discussed this with Jason Solomons in the Q&A following the nationwide Picturehouse Cinemas premiere, ‘fey playfulness’ is a particularly pointed criticism.
As with other Herzog films (including, Land of Silence and Darkness) I was drawn into the land of nod where I’m sure I dreamed but of what I do not remember clearly. I have some vague and ironic sense of the interior of the EMD which had become a magnificent ‘merz-bild’ of dripping celluloid formations.
For more information about the EMD cinema:
Monday, 21 March 2011
Sunday, 20 March 2011
Friday, 18 March 2011
Thursday, 17 March 2011
Monday, 14 March 2011
It was fitting that the assembled fellow’s announcements from the floor, prior to the talk, included clarion (perhaps ‘anglosaxophonic’) calls to our hearts and minds to protest about the draconian public spending cuts. How can and will culture counter the belligerence of a governmental alliance purporting to big society?
With hope, energy and poetry.
The poet, with his ‘anglosaxophone’, appeared to transcend the frailties of his age as he sprang about, animated by the ecstasies of poetic language and primal communication; only to return to an apparently nervous if not highly strung awkwardness, in which he stood, while his hands restlessly fiddled with his hair. In contrast to the sonority of his performance poetry, his voice flattened, sometimes somnolently, as he reflected on the darker side of experience, were it historical, contemporary, familial and personal.
He recalled his unsettled childhood as a German Jewish refugee in Britain during World War II. This experience marked the beginnings of his resistance to doctrines of faith and ideology made bellicose and internecine. The young Horovitz grew up defiantly counter cultural, inventing resorts of skies painted green and trees blue, to express Utopian and poetic interconnectedness. This was sometimes, he recounted, much to his mother’s consternation.
Horovitz’s 76 years have formed a long, wide and sometimes turbulent stream of consciousness which, for the purposes of understanding, requires an extensive array of anecdotal stepping stones or ports of call at which to encounter the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Stevie Smith and Cornelius Cardew. One and a half hours was a very short time to explore the interconnectedness of their visionary and often troubled contumacies.
So how potent is the counter culturalism of such Dada infused exclamations as, ‘The Furore of Sneezing’? The various connections between history and context reveal the potency as being in a state of flux. That poem performed to what was likely to have been a highly educated, liberal, middle class audience, at the Epicentre, possibly did little to counter that presiding culture. At its most contrary, the performance may have been novel, eccentric, zany or silly. The poem’s originator, Kurt Schwitters, was one of the artists derogatorily featured in the Nazi curated 1937 Degenerate Art (entarte Kunst) Exhibition; a show which toured Germany extensively. Six months prior to the opening of that show, Schwitters had fled Germany, finding exile first in Norway and then Scotland and Britain. He was interned as an enemy alien at the Douglas Camp, Isle of Man for a year and a half. Schwitters and Horovitz are/were both refugees and share an artistic consciousness born of rupture, survival and adaptation.
In the discussion following Horovitz’s talk and poems, a member of the audience told how she had discovered those World War II ‘enemy aliens’ had created a university at the Douglas (Internment) Camp. This is an example of counter culture at work, adapting to circumstances and hopefully resisting dehumanising forces. Schwitters may have been a student and/or teacher at the university and Michael Horovitz’s spirited performance of one of his sound poems represents a playful testament to the full, free ranging and liberating power of art and the capacity to learn by it in the most difficult of circumstances.
Saturday, 12 March 2011
Sunday, 6 March 2011
Saturday, 5 March 2011
Friday, 4 March 2011
‘Blood Sweat and Tears’ by Roger Huddle, Angela Phillips, Mike Simons and John Sturrock (Artworker Books, 1985)
- is among the 32 listed.
Is the ‘Roger Huddle’ the same Roger Huddle who resides in Walthamstow and keeps the history of its anarchist and radical past alive by a variety of means necessary - among them, a forthcoming talk for the News from Nowhere Club ( June 2011 / http://www.newsfromnowhereclub.org/ )?
If he is, does he know of his place in the book and what does he think the 'fact’ is? I doubt there could be a broad consensus about the miners’ strike or its consequences, and the current political climate is one in which ideological differences are likely to grow bigger and more divisive. ‘What is the fact?’ might be a question to ask again at the talk.
It was the recent encounter with the dragons in the foothills (or is it, concrete jungle?) of the mcalpines which seeded a brainstorm of confused and confusing associations concerning the relevance of facts in the ramblings of this here blogger. Those mosaic beasts occupy a site on the wall of the Chingford Hall Estate at one of the dedicated pedestrian entrances to and exits from Ching Way. What are they protecting the estate’s residents from - miscreants straying from the badlands of the Tarkovsky Trail, across the motor moat which is the A406 otherwise known as the North Circular or Southend Road?
What a wall! Replete with flying buttresses and cctv cameras, bordered with a suitably spikey evergreen shrubbery - ideal for snagging, absorbing and deflecting the flotsam, jetsam and roar of the North Circular flow. It appears to be brick but is it brick?
Could the brick be a thin veneer panelling, faux cladding (erectable in any weather) to make the surrounds seem more humane? It could be as if the wall is rising from and belongs to a ground in which there is a history of (thicker more solid) local brick making? What if concrete was and is at the heart of the wall?
With Horseface Toole I learned the rule, no money if you stop for rain.
For McAlpine's god is a well filled hod with your shoulders cut to bits and seared
And woe to he who looks for tea with McAlpines Fusilier
The presence of Norman Tebbit (blogger by The Telegraph) on one the plaques, further enlivened the psycho squall about this place. Norman Tebbit was, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry / President of the Board of Trade (16th October 1983 to 2nd September 1985), during the time of the miners’ strike. His self acclaimed ‘greatest achievement in Government’ was, The Employment Act 1982. The latter created many difficulties for the character, ‘Terry Winters’, in GB84’s rendering of the intrigues and struggles of the NUM’s national strike committee - ‘hiding’ union funds in overseas accounts to avoid seizure, and making furtive and unwitting trips to Libya to seek funds and other support for the strike.