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Thursday, 4 August 2011

New Cinematic Experiences: Screen Arts Festival: Picturehouse Cinemas, Nationwide.


The Screen Arts Festival, a brand new cross arts initiative organised by Picturehouse Cinemas, opens this summer. Showcasing a wide range of arts content – ballet, opera, theatre, and concerts, both pre-recorded and live – the festival will also include a number of related films, documentaries and special events, including a satellite Q&A with Sir David Attenborough to accompany the first wide cinema screening of BAFTA winning documentary Flying Monsters – all programmed into a variety of themed strands.

It's a packed programme so we've hand-picked some of our favourite events below:

DANCING ACROSS BORDERS
Anne Bass

The UK premiere of Anne Bass’ wonderful documentary, chronicling the meteoric rise to stardom of teenage dance prodigy Sokvannara Sar. Whilst holidaying in Cambodia, filmmaker Anne Bass saw Sar dance and, spotting a true un-tapped talent, invited him to the US to train with dance legend Olga Kostritzky. The film is a feast for the eyes and testament to a truly inspiring success story.

DON GIOVANNI
Jonathan Kent

Just one of a host of hit productions from Picturehouse Cinemas’ successful run of opera broadcasts, Jonathan Kent’s hugely popular production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni from Glyndebourne’s 2010 season returns for a one-off show. Reset against a slick corporate European backdrop in the late 1970s, Gerald Finley’s Don is now a pin-stripe suited sleazeball, master seducer of women, and doomed to a grisly comeuppance in the opera’s stonking final act showdown.

NUREYEV AND FONTEYN: SWAN LAKE
Truck Branss

A never-before-seen restoration of the historic Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s exquisite ballet, performed at the Vienna State Opera House in 1966. The performance was choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev and conducted by John Lanchbery, with the Wiener Symphoniker orchestra.

MRS CAREY’S CONCERT
Bob Connolly & Sophie Raymond

Fresh from its UK premiere at Sheffield Doc Fest, we are proud to include Mrs Carey's Concert in this diverse programme. A powerfully moving portrait of passionate High School Music Director Karen Carey, and her preparations for a school concert at the Sydney opera house, the film provides a rare and intimate insight into the world of child music prodigies as they prepare for the gig of their young careers.

DANCING DREAMS
Rainer Hoffman

After Wim Wenders’ striking 3D experimental tribute to legendary dance choreographer Pina Bausch earlier this year, Hoffman’s more traditional documentary focuses on the creation of one of the most striking pieces featured in that film, the surreal dance hall drama Kontakthof. An account of the ten months of gruelling rehearsal leading to its first performance at her Tanztheater Wuppertal, Hoffman’s film provides a revealing look at Bausch’s methods and an insight into troupe of dedicated and skilled young dancers.

The Screen Arts Festival takes place across Pictureshouse Cinemas until August 11. For full details visit www.picturehouses.co.uk

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Image:
Still from Dancing Dreams

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

A World-Class City of Bad Taste: Patrick Dalton Explores London's Darker Side





Understanding and exploring the role of street photography as an agent for social reflection and expression is now more important than ever. However, the dissemination of street photography, facilitated by the web, has meant definitions are difficult to pin down. This certainly isn’t a bad thing, and allows photographers such as Patrick Dalton, the man behind Shit London, an arena for expression.

Ahead of the London love-in brought on by the 2012 Olympics, Shit London captures the eccentricities of the capital city. For Dalton, London isn’t about Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, St Paul’s of The Ivy, he prefers to focus his lens on the area’s of the city that remain hidden and undiscovered.

It’s a humorous book, in which David Cameron’s campaign posters and comical typos play the lead role. There are some real gems, ‘Sellfridges’ in Stoke Newington, and the destitute sofa branded ‘Louis Futon’. However, it’s best read in stages. There are only so many bad-puns and grammatical errors one can take.

Shit London is published by Portico, and is on sale now.

anovabooks.com

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Images:
Courtesy the artist

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Aesthetica August/September Issue - Without Limits


Text by Cherie Federico

The line between production and consumption is blurred. As a society we yearn for more; of what, we’re not sure, but it could be anything. As a result, we create more and more. It’s a complex dynamic, one which needs to be considered. On a recent visit to Amsterdam, I saw Willem Popelier’s Showroom Girls; it was a fascinating exhibition, which made me think about the past and the future, but more importantly the now and how all this production and consumption is forging a new identity.

Many of the features in this issue are about time and awareness. In art, the V&A’s latest blockbuster show, Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970 - 1990 explores architecture, design, popular culture, film and fashion and the manner in which they challenged modernism. Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface opens in San Diego and investigates how artists like Robert Irwin and James Turrell appropriated and utilised light as a medium. The first major UK retrospective of French artist, Charles Matton, opens at AVA, London and presents his miniature boites. Investigations of a Dog from the FACE collection emphasizes today’s social reality, and we also give you a snapshot of this year’s Arles Photography Festival and introduce the work of Lara Jade, one of fashion photography’s rising stars.

In film, it gets gritty with Break My Fall. We also chat with Xanthe Hamilton, the Director of Branchage Film Festival in Jersey, about the rise of the boutique festival experience. In music, Scottish band FOUND discuss art, winning a BAFTA and their new album. We also consider the rise of app music and how this is changing the way music is produced. In performance, we preview Re-Triptych from New York-based Chinese choreographer Shen Wei; complete with stunning visuals and inspiring movement.

Finally, we chat with artist Mariah Robertson about her show on now at Baltic, which investigates analogue techniques with work sprawling across the gallery.

Pick up a copy from our stockists or visit our online shop.

Unpicking the Social Language of Music: A Fire in the Master's House is Set, Chapter, Cardiff.


Text by Luke Healey

A Fire in the Master’s House is Set, named after a lyric that is repeated hypnotically throughout Rage Against the Machine’s 1999 song New Millennium Homes, feels simultaneously like a pet project for its curator Simon Morrissey, and a sensitive barometer for a particular type of approach to artmaking, based around the perennial themes of music and rebellion.

By way of unpacking the theme of the show, one might consider a revealing couple of passages around two-thirds of the way into Jonathan Franzen’s celebrated novel Freedom, in which the alternatingly hapless and shrewd father-of-two Walter Berglund visits a Bright Eyes show with his old friend, jaded rock star Richard Katz. Feeling old and washed up among a sea of hip young things, Katz metaphorically finds himself "the one stone-sober person in a room full of drunks". Walter, meanwhile, is somewhere between these two polarities – in a taxi afterwards, Berglund, intoxicated by the experience, gushes forth an analysis that is contrarily temperate: "They’re all about belief...The new record’s this incredible kind of pantheistic effort to keep believing in something in a world full of death." Berglund is routinely described by the author as observing life from an ‘abstract’ point of view – by which he means that Walter has a tendency to over-intellectualize the ecastatic. Franzen’s use of the term is partially – if forgivingly – accusative. When a likewise tendency comes to underpin Morrissey’s group show, it is done so in a manner which re-claims the term and puts it to productive ends – the press release proudly declares that in the show, "ideas of opposition, social defiance, protest, hedonism – so often the social language of music culture – are distanced or enfolded within abstracted forms."

Thus, in Ruth Ewan’s Damnatio Memoriae (2011), Michael Dean’s Untitled (2011), and Elizabeth Price’s various monuments to formerly-great record labels (2008), formats, objects and images loaded with cultural association become barely intelligible nuggets of information processed through layers of memory and affective feedback. Dean’s prints are stuck to the wall with tape in the manner of band posters stuck to a teenager’s bedroom wall, but their enigmatic content ensures that they are sufficiently ‘abstracted’ from the source of this youthful exuberance. Price’s photographs enter at the more ‘intellectualised’ end of the music-appreciation spectrum by focusing on the cult of labels, and further distance themselves from the ecstatic associations of their source references through artful greyscale and nods to Rauschenberg and the Dadaists. Ewan veils the violent gesturing of her work – several cardboard record sleeves with great gouges torn out where the musicians’ smiling face should be – with an old obscurantist trick, the Latin title. Damantio Memoriae is an old Roman declaration that somebody should be dishonoured by being erased from memory, a reference to Paul Robeson, the artist behind the sleeves, who met the ire of the CIA and the FBI for his outspoken political views. This process is both most obvious and most poignant in Magnus Quaife’s wistful watercolours (taken from his series 1968 and other myths, 2008-11) of strikes, rock gigs and other rebellious activities, which speak calmly of the distance between direct engagement with the endless tumult that is politicised youth culture and the sort of engagement usually reserved for artists.

What Morrissey is labouring to communicate in this show – and one should commend him for refusing to do so in the manner of banal, condescending ‘essay shows’ – is the extent to which the contradictory ethos evinced by Quaife’s paintings can, and should be seen as a positive position for the artist in an age where all information has an imperative to be immediately consumable. As such, Morrissey has curated a show that itself bears certain anomalies. A good number of the works featured here, from Henry Krokatsis’s cut mirrors (Untitled, 2010) to Sarah Dobai’s sumptuous photographs of impassive youngsters in sleekly artificial surroundings (Emily & Emmanuel, 2009; Bella and Esmee, 2011) to Mike Ricketts’s sculptures which display the names of crystals in the manner of toppled road signs (Azurite, 2011; Amethyst, 2008), appear so obtusely related to the stated theme of the show as to be mere outliers. Furthermore, far from the ‘abstract’ tendency of numerous other works included, the works supplied by Melanie Counsell and Mark Dean actually verge on the mood-altering – the melancholy violet light from Counsell’s billboard-sized colour field at the main entrance to the building floods the cafĂ© space, and Dean’s Christian Disco (Terminator) (2010) is a slow-burning and mildly terrifying experiment in psychedelic film-making.

Indeed, these confounding pieces form such a substantial body of work within A Fire in the Master’s House is Set as to offer a sort of dissent to the curator’s declared intentions. In this regard, Morrissey is highly successful – the very curation of the show reflects the vein of ambiguity and ambivalence that runs throughout its component works, but if one steps back from weighty thematic issues for a moment, it’s also a triumph of aesthetic rigor: somehow, these disparate works pull together in an intoxicating sort of way. The curator is vindicated in conceiving of the eclectic components of the show as coming together in "a kind of spell", not only in including several works by Adam Chodzko, from whom this notion is cribbed, but in putting together a collection of works that offers more than the sum of its admittedly impressive parts.

A Fire in the Master’s House is Set continues until 4 September.

chapter.org

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy Aesthetica today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Image:
Installation view
Courtesy Jon Pountney

Monday, 1 August 2011

Japanese Modernism:Atsuko Tanaka: The Art of Connecting - Ikon, Birmingham.


Text by Matt Swain

The Art of Connecting is the first solo exhibition in the UK by Atsuko Tanaka (1932-2005), one of Japan's most renowned avant-garde artists. Tanaka was a member of the Gutai group which was founded in 1954 by Jiro Yoshihara (1905-1972) in Japan and comprised diverse artists who had all undergone traumatic experiences in World War II. The artists and particularly Tanaka employed a radical, conceptual approach, expanding the notion of painting and sculpture into space and actions, pioneering an approach that was picked up much later by other artists in the US and Europe.

There is singular vision running through Tanaka's body of work which possesses a refreshing simplicity and a realism which reflects cosmic phenomena. Her work is about what is tangible and concrete rather than illusion. Although much of the work is open to a degree of interpretation due to it's abstract nature, and the fact that conventional notions are rejected. The exhibits here include works from the Gutai period as well as very early work including paper and fabric collages as well as a selection of later paintings and short films.

Calendar (1954) comprises two paper collages, emanating from a time when Tanaka was in hospital and adopted the habit of writing down dates as a countdown towards being discharged. Work (1955) is a minimal work on rectangles of yellow cotton which are pinned to the wall, the fabric's edge symbolizing the dividing line between "thing" and "world".

Work (Bell) (1955) is a sound installation consisting of 20 electric bells wired together, ringing occasionally and in sequence at the press of a button. It's movement and electrical circuitry is something of a precursor for Electric Dress (1956), the work for which Tanaka is most renowned. This radiant piece, which was actually worn by Tanaka in exhibitions, is a cluster of electric lamps and tubes of various shapes and colours, and which was initially inspired by a pharmaceutical advertisement illuminated by neon lights. It is a quite remarkable creation, with it's excess of light representing a celebration of post-war popular culture. Essentially, the dress is a representation of the connection between electrical wiring and the physiological systems that make up the human body. Somewhat bulky yet elegantly refined, it is a combination of the tradition of the Japanese kimono and modern industrial technology. The work lights up sporadically, the crowning glory that effectively illuminates the whole exhibition, a true masterpiece.

As part of the exhibition, there are numerous drawings relating directly to Work (Bell) and Electric Dress. Those for Bell are of a rigid, technical nature whilst the Electric Dress drawings possess a degree of freedom and veer more towards the style of painting that Tanaka adopted in the 1960's. These paintings, predominantly acrylic on canvas, are almost exclusively a series of lines and circles, mirroring the lamps and wiring of Electric Dress. The colours are vivid and the patterns are a hybrid of complex doodling and a representation of the nervous system. Initially the paintings were mainly in black and red, although later, this was extended to include blue, green and yellow. Notable examples from this phase include Work (Hoops) (1963), Three Black Balls (1962), 86G (1986), Work 1968 (1968) and the motorised Spring 1966 (1966), the movement for which is effected by pressing a button.

Round on Sand (1968) is a film which shows Tanaka drawing on a beach. This is an elongated and extended version of her paintings with a quite spectacular level of detail. Circle upon circle in the sand, interweaving, interlocking, stretching beyond the frame, sometimes connected, sometimes meandering, but always with a purpose. It is deceptively simple at first until you study the attention to detail and marvel at the forethought that undoubtedly led to it's creation - this despite the fact that it would seem to be improvised. It is a vast drawing, and the location and genial atmosphere actually detract slightly from what is arguably a very radical gesture.

Two further works, Tanaka's Round Circle and Documentary Films (both 1956-1962) are worthy of mention, not least because they give further insight into Tanaka's world. Shot delicately and beautifully, there are brilliant lights, sections of performance and of course the Electric Dress which even in black and white possesses a majesty all of it's own.

Tanaka's circles and lines represent experiences in everyday life. There is so much depth, and the transfusion of the various mediums in which Tanaka worked make this a remarkable body of work - a symbiotic beauty that is visually arresting.

Atsuko Tanaka The Art of Connecting runs until 11 September.

ikon-gallery.co.uk

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In art, the V&A’s blockbuster show, Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970 – 1990 explores architecture, design, popular culture, film and fashion and the manner in which they challenged modernism. Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface opens in San Diego and investigates how artists like Robert Irwin and James Turrell appropriated and utilised light as a medium. The first major retrospective of French artists, Charles Matton, opens at AVA, London and presents his miniature boites. Investigations of a Dog from the FACE collection emphasises today’s social reality, and we give you a snapshot of this year’s Arles Photography Festival. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Image:
Atsuko Tanaka
Electric Dress (1956)
Vinyl paint on light bulbs, electric cords and control console
Courtesy Takamatsu City Museum of Art
Copyright Ryoji Ito

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