Friday, 29 August 2008

I Went to the Woods at Walsall

Phew.. we made it... I just spent a couple of busy days putting together an interactive album for Juneau/Projects/ an artist duo I've worked with on many projects over the last few years. The piece entitled "I Went to the Woods" has been an ongoing project at Walsall Art Gallery for a while now and consists of the general public writing and recording music with the artists, at their studio there. August 28th was the album release, complete with performances of the tracks and the chance to buy the DVDROM album (each disk mounted on a small forked branch).


The concert started with the Juneau lads dressed in painted suits playing wonderfully weird wooden bug shaped guitar type things, producing synthesized sounds. A selection of people involved were asked to come and join them and ranged from a young girl reading poetry to an older man playing guitar to two men on piano and cello. These amateur performances reminded me of Outsider Music or the oddness of Captain Beefheart. The aesthetic is it's clumsiness and unconventional nature; a lack of knowledge and experience overlooked and a sincerely found beneath. You can imagine what it would sound like conventionally, but you are also given it's short-fallings; mistakes and imperfections become exemplified, but acceptable, resulting in moments usually carefully removed or avoided by professionals - missed notes, forgotten and mumbled words, over-long pauses, odd lyrics, unusual technique.

Ben Sadler - half of Juneau/Projects/ in painted suit

The Album itself is a cross platform, multi-track interactive piece, with which you can add and subtract different instruments parts and effects as you listen, even recording your own mix or arrangement and playing it back. Not sure how you'd get your hands on a copy but you could try contacting them at juneau.projects@virgin.net if your interested. They have some mp3 downloads from older projects here.


Also at residence at the gallery has been Milee (Feng-Ru Lee) who has been grazing as a sheep in small grass pens in the space, bringing the outside inside. She told me she liked the fact that you are never sure when you'll bump into a sheep out in the country, and had relocated this experience, in a way, to the gallery. As Milee the Sheep she had been living on, tending to and growing (real) grass.

Friday, 22 August 2008

On Life, Science & Art

Generally I have little or no interest in Science or Nature, two things my parent's are both keen on. Neither of my parent's are musical or artistic, which strangely is exactly what my brother and I became involved in respectively. Perhaps there's some relevance in that somewhere...

Anyway, soon I'm off to New Zealand and South America to see just about how exotic and wild Nature can get. There is of course plenty of other things to see and do, personally I'm looking forward to being lowered into shark infested waters in a cage, but I thought I'd better do a little ground work on my weak spots first, so aside from fixing cars, swimming and speaking Spanish, I've been reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, and actually enjoying it. OK so it's an audio-book and I tend to listen to it late at night in bed, or just as I wake up, and yes sometimes it has come dangerously close to sending me back to sleep, but on the whole it has been pretty enlightening.


Just to REALLY rub it in, here's a picture of Bolivia's Altiplano salt plains

Bryson's premise is that it must be possible to understand science, even if basically, without being in-the-know, and for this information to be digestible by the average reader without a coma ensuing. So from the planets to chemical compounds, evolution, quantum physics, plate tectonics and everything else since the dawn of time, Bryson guides you through all the stuff you forgot, or never got, or were never bothered about, and it's actually accessible. Well done him.

One thing mentioned in the section about how life started on Earth was Stromatalites - a name that rung a bell. These weird living rocks are apparently the World's Oldest Living Thing - "the original source of oxygen in the earths atmosphere and hence one of the most important steps in evolution."*Now it takes a lot to impress me with anything nature related, but surviving 3.5 billion years is pretty good going, even if you are just a race of breathing rocks. Sadly they have yet to evolve mouths to chat to us about it all.

Report any weird science you may encounter here

Well,
a few years ago on Australia's West Coast at Shark Bay I stood and took a few photo's of these things. I was of course told at the time that they we're really, really important and very, very, very old etc. but to me they were weird and pretty, and I was glad to be in the middle of nowhere, in the sun, amongst a semi-submersed alien landscape.


When I met the Stromatalites - a bunch of old Rockers - hahardyfuckingha

One of my insights from the book was that much of the time Scientist's don't know, which was kind of comforting. I suppose this is why they experiment. Hysterically, many of them are mad, weird, anti-social, maniacal or just plain thrill seekers with an unusual medium. They reminded me of a few famous artists with similar tendencies.

If your bored at this point, here's
a list of unusual deaths and here's one of people killed by their own inventions
courtesy of the wonderful wikipedia.

What appealed was the idea that they were exploring concepts and exploring, sometimes with only an inkling of what they would end up with. I've always though that the beauty in art was rarely the product, and more likely the process of creating, experiencing or conceptualising the work. But then that's why I like performance art - it's an experience, which is perhaps what you should get with most of the arts (inc. music, theater, literature etc.), but performance is always a touch more more real and confrontational - essential in a world now dominated by media and society's sway towards non-physicality. I suppose that when the product becomes the focus of the process, it feels a little too close to manufacture - work for robots to do, painting by numbers... and evolution I suppose is also a process of adaptation to explore an unknown future.

* http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Oceania/Australia/photo868281.htm

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Magician of New Street


The other day I got to New Street station only to find that all trains to Coventry were cancelled and had been replaced by buses. 'Balls' thought I, 'I suppose I'll have to get a coffee and wait then'. I looked at the coffee shop, and figured I'd just save my money.

So I trundle out the back of the building to discover the loitering place. On my way out of the doors, I get a "'scuse me, mate". "Sorry" I say, delivering my usual leave-me-alone-i-am-not going-to-give-you-money line with half effort and blindly walk on. "I'll do you a trick." he says.

So I stop, and turn around to see a guy in a floppy hat and shorts with a bag. He looks like he's just fell off the Oasis tourbus, complete with hangover and mild concussion. 'Fuck it.' I thought. 'I've got 30 mins and if this guy can amuse me for a few, what do I care? I'll just keep my hand on my wallet, and an eye out for his accomplice (should this be one of the Distraction category scams)'.



So he offers me a deck of cards and and after narrowing down my choices to next to nothing, he says 'think of a card'. I say "11 of hearts" in my post-party, only just woke-up, slightly bruised state. "Hmmm.. that'll be a Jack then?" he says. "Err.. yeah, that'll be a Jack" I say. So anyway, up turns my Jack from the deck, as if by magic, and he reveals that all the other cards are blank. It must be magic. I start to form a slight grin. "Feel free to go 'Woooo!' and show your excitement!" he says. So he shows me a few other tricks that look mostly like they've come from a kids magic set and have been dragged through the garden a few times.

Up wanders an old Afro-Caribbean guy to watch. 'Maybe this is the accomplice' I wonder... the pair are such a mismatch, it would be a perfect cover. The old man loves it as the magician transforms 3 ropes of varying lengths (with my help) into 3 ropes of the same length, and laughs sporadically, patting his hands together. "That's wicked!" I say, genuinely impressed with his slight of hand, "Your best trick yet!". "Yeah? Can you spare me a little change?". I dig out a pound, and he offers some more really, really good tricks for another small donation. "Next time" I tell him and shake hands.

So my bus turns up and I get on.. now with a curious grin, thinking that the money I would have spent drinking coffee i didn't want, sitting at a wobbly metal chair, at a sticky Costa table, got spent on being amused by a magician.

Even if a basic one.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Guardian says Digbeth has 2nd & 3rd best outdoor dancefloors in UK

Well it finally happened. Birmingham is ace, and Digbeth is better.

The Guardian voted The Rainbow 2nd best outdoor dancefloor in the UK, and swiftly followed it with The Custard Factory's Factory Club (Medicine Bar) as 3rd.

Birmingham you fuckin' rule..!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2008/aug/07/uk.bars?page=all