Monday 10 November 2014

Seeing Stephen

A few weeks back, I went for a day out in Cambridge.  After sitting down to eat in two different pubs which we had to evacuate due to their smell of damp hair / shin-pads, we settled on the reliable stench of pseudo-french-cuisine at the familiar Côte franchise.  Whilst waiting for a table i scoured the vicinity, brashly feasting on other peoples plates with my hungry eyes, and generally making people around me feel uncomfortable with my presence.  As i surveyed the area, my eyes drifted over steak tartare and an accompanying side salad and a few spaces across the table, there to my utter disbelief, was Stephen Hawking.  Now my eyes feasted on one of the greatest minds humanity has to offer, and he was now completely upstaging the steak tartare, which to be honest, was looking a bit undercooked anyway.

 I felt anxious that he saw me looking at him. Not only is it rude to stare, but I also rediscovered a dormant anxiety about staring at physically disabled people which harked back innocently to my childhood, before i knew any better.  It was very frustrating.  It's not like bumping into someone famous, saying a few words and maybe getting an autograph.  I couldn't look due to the reasons i had just mentioned, but also because it's just plain rude to look while someone is eating anyway.

 I couldn't even fathom making small talk; I'd be intimidated by such a powerful mind and also I'd be nervous about interacting with someone with a computer based communication system for the first time.  So i did what anyone would do. I walked past and glanced at him as i ambled through the restaurant to reach the toilets, which i didn't actually need to use.  It was an action that was inquisitive, but mostly cowardly and quite literally anally retentive.  I washed my hands in order to add a greater sense of validity to the trip to the toilet - or as the french say, toilette.

 I allowed myself to reflect on the scene i had just encountered when i had tactically, and maybe shamefully, walked past the professor.  He was being spoon fed his dinner, and naturally, the process appeared quite messy.  I obviously knew he was physically disabled but it wasn't until I saw this scene for myself that i came to terms with the severity of his disease and the stark comparison between my physical state of affairs and his.

 I felt very sorry for him - which wasn't what i expected at all.  I expected to feel solely empowered and in awe of his intellect and achievements, but my resounding thought was a sad one -  that he has been stripped of his independence and the chance of a wholesome life. For better or for worse, he couldn't just amble to the toilets on his own to get a glimpse of a celebrity if the opportunity was to ever arise.

I don't think there is a more poignant and stark juxtaposition between mind and body than Professor Stephen Hawking.  It is empowering to know that he has achieved so much in his field, even despite the disease that has been periodically demobilizing his body.  Actually seeing him for myself was probably the most star-struck I've ever been. But this story which quite simply started with evading a duo of fetid pubs has re-affirmed to me that pure thought alone is no replacement for just plain doing stuff.  Even if the stuff that I do is flawed, stupid, cowardly or generally involves toilet related subterfuge, I've learned that the air of spontaneity and freedom involved is what life is all about and i can leave quantum physics to Stephen. 

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Banksy - The Unauthorised Retrospective... Beautiful Vulgar Irony.

Amongst the repugnant stench of £50 notes doused in cocaine, and cologne's with base-notes of sandalwood and caviar and Saudi oil, I could just about trace something else.  I homed in on this peculiarly bitter-sweet smell and drifted along its vapors, floating my way down to the source of such a distinctly powerful scent.  The smell was emanating from Sotheby's, and as I approached the exhibition's doors, it reeked of IRONY.  I coughed and spluttered as I entered and at once I was struck by a hilarious form of satire.  A swanky West-London retrospective of BANKSY  - the infamous graffiti artist.

Banksy has typically subverted the idea of art and its value through his work - he's been the incognito voice of a generation, a cynic and a renegade, offering up his guerrilla art in the free domain of the street.  Now the biggest name in exclusive commercial art peddling is exhibiting his works for sale -  creating a peculiar and critical context for Banksy to inadvertently thrive in.

Running with the pretense that Banksy had no input on the selling exhibition due to its title as an "Unauthorised Retrospective" we are stripped of the incentive to brand Banksy as a sell-out (as he quite often is) and turn our attention to Sotheby's own image as a sell-out.  As a vulgar, art consuming, merchant whose literal aim is to sell-out.  The show, in accordance, is highly charged by this major irony, which can be deemed gross or beautiful depending on your inclinations.

It's almost as if Banksy has managed to sneak his work into an unwitting territory as he did when he pranked the MET, Louvre and British Museum - like a cuckoo placing its egg into another birds nest and having the unwitting bird raise its young.  Take for instance, his screen print entitled "Morons", which depicts an auction house scene, which in plain sight reads:

 "I can't believe you morons actually buy this shit."
Morons (Gold Frame) Signed, dated 06 and numbered 32/150

 It's subject is so outrageously relevant to the print's impending acquisition at auction that you can't help but laugh as you imagine the actualization of the printed scene in which Sotheby's sells the print for a five figure sum to a subsequent moron.  This goes way beyond irony! You can imagine Banksy's next piece being the entire stencil print set within the frame that originally only read the slogan "I can't believe you morons actually buy this shit." And after that a frame within a frame within a frame, and so on ad infinitum.

The potentially infinite Moron series...

If you haven't already seen Banksy's seminal and witty mocumentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop” - I'd advise you watch it!  The parable of the film comes to fruition, complying that the best ideas of all the most brilliant artists are ultimately rendered into more crap for sale.

A relentless nod to Andy Warhol is evident throughout the exhibition.  Banksy continues pop-art's notion of consumer society taking itself as the subject of its art.  Images are appropriated two fold, directly by Warhol, and then by Banksy - for example his "Kate Moss" or "Soup Can" series, which quite obviously reflect Warhols renowned "Monroe" and "Campbells Soup Cans" series'.

Kate Moss - each: signed, dated 05 and numbered 4/20.

Soup Can (Original) - Signed, dated 05 and numbered 3/50

This is by no means groundbreaking, in fact, in normal circumstances, this kind of re-appropriation can be quite dull (especially when you have been saturated with these images printed at low-resolution on a 16" x 20" canvas in every "hip" flat you've ever visited).  However, in the setting of Sotheby's S2 exhibition space, the artworks become hyper-sarcastic and loaded with pertinence thanks to Sotheby's role in actively perpetuating and thriving on the notion of art as a consumable.  The artworks are so directly relevant to their vicinity yet at the same time an antithesis to it. It's like Sotheby's is masturbating over its own vulgarity.  Viewing the exhibition was something like watching Shawshank Redemption as a captive in Guantanamo Bay or Free Willy on a whaling boat.

Burger King Kid - oil and emulsion on canvas, 225 by 187cm, executed circa 2006, this work is unique.
Nothing can be more opposing than the renegade graffiti artist and the established auction house. But opposites attract.  As I left the show, and having traveled only 50 metres away towards Curzon Street, I was met with a tower of scaffolding supporting a new building project. A plush high rise project. On the hoarding of this capitalist venture was the quote:

 "The most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet" - Andy Warhol

Another instance in which a soulless commercial pursuit of capital has appropriated the work and words of an artist, for spectacle but ultimately for gain.  However, they follow in the footsteps of Banksy and Warhol by absorbing and borrowing from popular culture. Without commercial giants such as these, Banksy's art couldn't exist or make a meaningful comment.

Just like little school children who secretly fancy each other, Art and Commerce kick each other in the shin and then point and laugh after doing so.  They are fundamentally too opposing to admit a legitimate relationship, but there's an exciting attraction.

If you'd like to catch the free exhibiton,  it runs from 11 June - 25 July 2014 - 31 St. George Street, London, W1S 2FJ

Andy Warhol quote on hoardings of building project near Sotheby's S2 Exhibition space.

Sunday 28 April 2013

Supermarket Detective

You need to be sharp and alert in Supermarkets.  Rows upon rows of wrapped up convenience, all battling for our attention and all the while, us ailing shoppers are faced with the ultimately banal (yet fiendishly complex) riddle of whether it's more cost effective to buy a 2 litre carton of Tropicana or two one litre ones from an other brand. 

 Sometimes, you will find evidence of a previous customer finding a more cost effective deal for a similar item, say, for instance, in the manner of a discarded 8 pack of Tesco Everyday Value sausage rolls, flung next to an 8 pack of Tesco Finest Lincolnshire Sausage Rolls which happen to be on offer.  In these instances I take on a Jonathon Creek persona and in my head I begin to create a physical and mental profile of the sort of pasty faced twat that would consider Every Day Value sausage rolls in the first place.

 But sometimes the discarded items can really throw you, and you have to use your best detective skills in order to understand the circumstances in which the evidence came about. It can force you to make some informed guesses as to why a Fleetwood Mac - Hits Album can be found with the Unsmoked Gammon Steaks at Lidl in Braintree, Essex.

Meatwood Mac

As you can see in the above photograph, the offender has placed a compact disc containing 'The Hits' of Fleetwood Mac in an area ear-marked solely for pork-based itemsOne is left to imagine what sort of tyrant would behave in this manner, but through informed guesses it is possible to come to some conclusions...

Let's firstly imagine the demographic shopping at Lidls, and furthermore the sub-demographic that would also consider buying a Fleetwood Mac album.
  • General demographic of Lidl: Frugal, low earning, Eastern European.
  • General demographic of Fleetwood Mac CD buyer: Ageing, out of touch, wears Sketchers.
After combining these two demographics i decided the likely offender was the late Pope John Paul II.

Having conclusively worked out that the perpetrator was in fact the recent Bishop of Rome and the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church, the next step was working out WHY he had resurrected and had placed the Fleetwood Mac album upon a box of gammon.

I have come to two possible conclusions:
  1. It is a divine gesture - symbolically representative of how western christianity must improve relations with Islam and the east. The pork is an obvious symbol of the conflict, i.e. Islam's forbidden consumption of pork compared to western ideologies that pork is well good.  The Fleetwood Mac album, however, is a symbol of peace, harmony and freedom - note the bird adorning the cover of the album, soaring freely - and symbolizes what can be achieved between the two if they learn to co-operate.
  2. He couldn't be fucked to put the album back in the proper place because he had a revelation that Fleetwood Mac are a bit wank and he prefers Razorlight anyway.

Take a look at another piece of evidence i documented on a visit to Waitrose in Brighton, East Sussex.

Crazy in the Coconut
This time the offender has not only discarded a solitary coconut, but also the carrying basket!

I will let you detectives decide the culprit for yourself and the reasons behind this deplorable behaviour! *

*CCTV footage later proved the culprit to be Calvin Harris, who swiftly dropped his entire weekly shop due to his irrational fear of Quavers.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Periods of Time.

I have a theory. It's a little controversial.

I have a theory that girls are better time keepers because they have periods; that their menstrual cycle is a biological clock that makes them more punctual then us phallic lot. When a woman has a period, her body is physically telling her that a month has passed since the last time she rid her clunge of stuff.  Men don't have this, our version of the menstrual cycle is generally set by the sporting calendar - which for football is about 10 months - that's 10 periods for women. So women create a kind of 'dot to dot' of menstrual related circumstances.  Lets imagine a man was left by himself in the north pole where it stays light all day and it is hard to notice the seasons change. After a while he wouldn't have a fucking clue how long he had been stranded for. Now let us imagine a woman in the same circumstance...

"Well, i've had 34 periods so it's been about eeeerm.... 34 months."

Monday 21 January 2013

Plato's Touch-Screen Cave.

Since 2008 we've been enduring the worst recession in recent history. Money is tight, employment is lower than a 13 year old limbo champion...with low self esteem... living in Lowestoft... and yet Ipad's (and windows tablets) are flying off of the shelves and nestling in the palms of the masses. The ipad doesn't discriminate against any age of user - It's "user friendly". Its ease of use and its sleek design make it very convenient. Great! Older generations can get to grips with it quickly and its intuitive nature makes it a piece of piss for children. And that's what I am uneasy about. I have witnessed children, young children, using them as if it's second nature, and it literally is. Typical organic past times such as painting and drawing and writing are now being carried out on touch screen computers. This commercial just about sums it up really - a woman replaces a girl's art easel with a Windows 8 PC and uses the 'Fresh Paint' app.


 Is it not a bit sad that this generation of kids might never know what a real brush stroke feels like? Or what paint tastes like? Or how annoyed your dad might get when you paint all over the walls? But it's up to the parents who buy them for their kiddie-winks to decide whether it's sad, and many don't.  Parents who buy their children an ipad (or equivalent) obviously feel that they are aiding their offspring's development, however I feel that these computers could be depriving kids of first hand real experiences too. It's imperative  that there needs to be a healthy balance of doing real things and doing virtual things in a child's development if they are not to become  a socially, mentally and physically stunted being - swiping at their front doors with two fingers to try and unlock them, or pressing a doorbell and expecting an options menu to pop up.

 The more and more social these computers are deemed, the more and more alienated the populous shall become. They are computers after all, but because of their sleek ergonomic design and ability to share just about anything you do with others, dicking about on computers is regarded a social activity, carried out wherever and whenever we please.The reason I started this post about the recession and money being tight was because in reality, ipad's (and the likes of) are an indulgence and somewhat of a luxury. This notion is even supported by the slogan for Intel's 'Ultrabook' range in which they insinuate a tablet is not fundamental but instead an item of gratification. What we want and what we need are often two different things entirely but company's such as Intel are great at blurring the line - even when the slogans make the line blindingly obvious.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

POLIO - The Krill Is Dry - EP Review

If you know anything about Polio, you'll know that they don't abide by the status quo in any respect. Infact I'd hedge my bets that they aren't particularly fond of the band, Status Quo - that's how un-status quo they are.

 You might therefore consider Polio as a punk band, which would entail that the band are anti-establishment and reject mainstream tendencies. This is a half-truth. Yes they think everything is bollocks, but the manner in which they do it isn't what I'd deem as punk - it's cleverer than that, infact many / most of their songs consist of very pop and mainstream influences.  For instance, their previous debut EP,  entitled Pig Heart Boy is named after a wanky late 90's BBC television series in which a boy is given a heart transplant to save his life, it worked!...but wait for it, here's the twist, his heart was swapped with a pig's heart!

More ironic citations of popular yet somehow obscure themes are evident throughout their musical oeuvre, starting with the bands very name - Polio ; Thom, Carl and Carlos' previous musical endeavor was a band called 'Fresh Legs' compare this with 'Polio', a disease which can severely wither the legs, and you can already understand what direction the band is moving before they've even picked up an instrument. Other obscure pop culture references include mentions of Master Chef and Wes Anderson in their song lyrics as well as track names from their EP's, such as:Razumikhin,  Oliver Cromwell, and Lava.

 With a certain amount of pastiche and irony, Polio's music does what punk music does without being so fucking obvious, and with a few more ideas up their crumb encrusted sleeves. They 'celebrate' pop culture with screams, heavy riffs, sporadic drumming patterns and bizarre breakdowns, all of which create a surreal listening experience - like listening to a gang of clowns make a child laugh and then proceed to throttle the child for laughing.  Unfortunately that listening experience doesn't have a genre, so the most consistent allocation of genre for Polio would probably be 'Mathcore' - although it still makes me feel uneasy to classify them as such. 

Polios latest offering, The Krill Is Dry, is a no holds barred 6 track EP that will leave you rubbing your nipples in delight (or alternatively, shielding your arse in disgust). 

 It opens with an intro track which i always think is a good start because it means that the band actually care about the listening experience of the EP and don't just want to create klub bangerz. 

After setting a foreboding tension with their purely instrumental intro, we are then met with a host of klub bangerz

In track 2,  Skooma, the listener is straight away metaphorically punched in the sternum by strong throaty vocals, heavy drumming and thrashy guitar and flows in and out of heavy break downs that culminate in another punch in the sternum to round the track off. This track let's you know that Polio are heavier and more twisted than ever.

The third track, They Came Bounding Over, once again punches the aforementioned sternum and leads to a fantastic middle section (reminiscent of Test Icicles but not as queer), that hardcore lovers could definitely two-step to (but they won't because they are too busy straightening their hair). The track then falls into a dichotomy of weird guitar back and forths and intricate drumming until the track seeps out into a slow and heavy chorus of "HOLD HER DOWN".

Track 4 is called Women that Explode, this song, like many of Polio's songs has swearing in it.

Track 5 - Lava, is named after a crap late night music channel on Sky (channel 378).  However tongue and cheek the song may be, a late verse about the fable of Icarus spat out by Thom genuinely exudes a butt-load of pathos and his muffled screams of "ICARUS" chill to the bone. 

The sixth and final track of the EP is entitled Low Self Esteem Week and begins with a purposefully tinny solo drum intro, met with Polio's self confessional, funny and sarcastic lyrics, and the recurring gang vocals that have been put to good use throughout the EP.   The track ends with a two minute instrumental decline which acts as the EP's outro, and just like the intro, it ends with a curious a sense of foreboding, which will leave you feeling paranoid and insecure, like a 13 year old girl that has just had her first period whilst listening to Nirvana.

you can buy the EP here it's fucking great! 

Sunday 4 November 2012

We have now truly entered the digital age.

We are shifting so far into a digitally orientated world that I'm pretty sure my cock and balls have turned into 0's and 1's.  There is no greater sign of the times than BBC's recent termination of the long running clunky, Lego inspired information service known as Ceefax.  The service began in 1974 as a popular anytime information service and eventually became obsolete and ended up only being used by dithering old people who smell like rust and people who accidentally lent on their TV controller.  My personal experience of Ceefax were of it's overnight broadcasts complete with terrible porn-jazz music.  I would get up really early as a kid and just watch Ceefax and graze on cereal, waiting for heavily stereotype driven cartoon Hammerman to air, starring an animated MC Hammer and his magic talking shoes that would turn him into the superhero "Hammerman" when he wore them. Or  alternatively on another channel, I could watch a blue hedgehog that was really fast and enjoyed chilli dogs ... but that one was just fucking stupid and unrealistic.

I feel a little bit sad that Ceefax has gone, but i can't really justify why it should survive. Ceefax had been a dormant gene in the genetic make up of what we now call the Digital Age. A throwback from a previous generation that no longer has a use in its new modern environment of high speed internet connections, smart phones and Shake-Away milkshakes.

This screen shot illiterates how boring this man called John is.

I reported the comment on grounds that he sounds really boring and if you look you'll see he's inciting boringness among at least 28 other people.

Here's some Ceefax "Chillin' Out" music incase you had forgotten its genius.