Thursday, 28 April 2011

Art Speak and Gallery Benches

The inconspicuous art gallery bench

I have just finished my last ever university essay. A strange feeling; not sure it’s one I’ll miss though. The topic of my final exposition was an odd one (albeit slightly pretentious sounding) on the link between metaphor and art. Academic jargon and copious synonyms of ‘subsequently’ and ‘furthermore’ aside, it was about the figurative BS that pervades the art world.

Don’t mistake me, I am a big fan of art and was mocked repeatedly whilst inter- railing for wanting to visit most galleries on the continent. I am also forever jealous of my school friends who went on to do fine art and fashion courses. Wistfully I ponder how fun making a portfolio of ideas and photos seems when trawling through Paradise Lost for the umpteenth time…Anyway I focussed my search for vom-inducing art criticism on the recent Miró ‘Ladder of Escape exhibition at the Tate, Modern.

What a disappointment that was. After paying an extortionate amount for ‘student’ entry (don’t get me started on that…a mere £1.50 off, a separate rant) I felt like an emotionless robot following hordes of punters around the samey labyrinthine rooms. I would stop, stand and stare and try to feel something about what was essentially was uninspiring squiggles and blobs of primary colour. I'm not adverse to abstract art, they were just boring and hardly differed from room to room. I almost felt sorry for the canvases, how many critical eyes were looking them up and down and spouting, ever so loudly trite ‘listen -to-me aren't I clever’ comments. I got to business on my essay research and read every adjoining placard about how each work was speaking and shouting about ‘the flowers of rebellion’. Surprisingly though, apart from the Tate trying to create the caricature of Miró the crazed Spanish rebel (who really wasn’t any Ché figure- he enjoyed copious siestas and property in Mallorca) there wasn’t that much I could point my finger at and say ‘there it is, classic, elitist art crap’. Instead I just got annoyed at the exploitation of his average prints on t-shirts, mouse mats and pens in the adjoining gift shop.

I inadvertently found my ultimate example of annoyingly figurative art speak at the Royal Academy’s Modern British Sculpture exhibition. I was busy observing one of Epstein’s enormous examples of male appendage when I spotted a standard looking bench on the far side of the room. I headed over and hesitated as I noted it had it’s own attached placard; briefly asking myself whether it was indeed a sculpture in itself. I had found it, a perfect case in point of ridiculous prose. It read ‘here a bench has been placed to offer temporary repose to a wilting public’. Was any of that necessary, it was a plain, brown, boxy bench? Who decided to write and place and hang such an unnecessary sentence? Apart from, possibly aristocratic older echelons of society, who seeks ‘repose’ these days? Or describes themselves as ‘wilting’? It made me resent sitting on the thing. Unfortunately, said essay couldn’t revolve around my disgust at the elitist and outdated approach of Britain’s leading art institutions but I think my general weariness at the bench incident pervaded it.

Monday, 25 April 2011

product recall?

This afternoon, whilst reading outside I heard a little repeated chirping sound coming from the hedge. I looked up and saw that this little bird had become wedged in to the seed feeder. In an over-ambitious, greedy head-dive on the bird’s part - the well-intentioned device had become a death-trap. With a bit of stuffing and shaking I freed the poor thing and it bashfully hopped away. For some reason I thought photo evidence may be needed to launch a product complaint. Think my mind is snapping a little.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Bude, Cornwall.

I had never been to Cornwall. It was Bude-i-full (customary over-used pun of the trip). We went to the beach, used my Canon film camera again, had a REAL Cornish Pasty (embarrassingly, I asked for a ‘pay-stee’), ate home-made scones and stayed in an olde cottage over-looking the sea. A lovely escape from the city.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Miss this.

I wish I could repeat summer '10 and feel as carefree as I was on that kinda scary swing ride.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Frankenstein, The National Theatre.


Adapted by Nick Dear, realised by Danny Boyle.

The National Theatre, London

Danny Boyle- English filmmaker – of Slumdog and Trainspotting fame- returned to the theatre in what was being hailed as a radical re-imagining of this classic gothic tale. Famous actors Benedict Cumberpatch and Johnny Lee Miller were cast to alternatively play the Creature and Dr. Frankenstein and acclaimed electronic duo Underworld were set to create a soundtrack.

It all sounded great, funding was thrown at it, and the National Theatre primed Frankenstein as the big theatrical ‘event’ that would begin their year. But what this production revealed to me was that despite an all-star cast and Oscar-winning director, fundamentally you need a good script.

Every other aspect of this production was faultless. The lighting was entrancing and the staging was creative and cleverly designed for seamless scene changes. Aesthetically it was an amazing production; from the spark-throwing abstract industrialist steam train to the primitive sun salutation, which involved paper birds being flung skyward as Frankenstein innocently experienced nature.

The opening scene was particularly memorable, for many reasons. As the audience settled an ominous bell knelled through the auditorium warning of the terribleness of the soon-to-emerge creature. Jonny Lee Miller broke through a membranous womb-like cell and flopped on to the stage. The first ten minutes of the play (unbelievably this scene was 20 minutes long in the preview!) involved a perverse distortion of a bambi on ice sequence where the creature gained self-awareness and literally found its legs. It was definitely a protracted scene; Miller twitched and spasmed fully naked whilst making grunting sounds as ‘it’ discovered its vocal chords and bodily movement. This worked for a few minutes…but when the creature began doing full laps of the stage, screaming, for some people, namely my mother, the scene had descended into farce. Whilst I have a terribly English stiff upper lip, my mum resorted to putting her head between her knees and massaging her temples to avoid angry serious theatre-goers stares.

My mother was not the only one having to restrain laughter; people seemed to be laughing inappropriately at various points in the play. One of my major critiques of the script was that it had cheap, often sexist gags about places or people that were placed jarringly within the dialogue. There were really only two characters in the play, the creature and Dr. Frankenstein. And they were fantastic. However their parts only served to highlight how two-dimensional and unconvincing the supporting characters were. The two main female figures, the farmer’s wife and Frankenstein’s wife were infuriatingly simple and conservative- spouting very male-centric banal lines about love and life. Frankenstein’s wife who was such a drip, who for some, unexplained reason was going ahead with marrying the aloof, disinterested medic, whined about being unloved and not the object of Victor Frankenstein’s sexual desire. It almost led me to be grateful she received a bit of physical attention from the Creature in, again a rather unfortunately farcical, rape scene.

A further source of unintentional comedy was the vast cultural disparity in accents, between Victor Frankenstein and his father. In many play’s I have seen differing ethnicity doesn’t affect a spectator’s ability to believe familial relationships. However the disparity between Bendict Cumberpatch’s Queen’s English and the strong Caribbean accent of George Harris, who played his Swiss father was quite funny and involved suspense of belief and credulity.

All the actors, particularly Jonny Lee miller, were fantastic. This production did not suffer from bad acting but essentially from a poor script. The themes the interpretation raised were emotive and interesting, particularly the decision to tell the tale from the creature’s perspective. Regardless of the company’s talent and Boyle’s artistic direction, ultimately, this production proved that you cannot successfully go from page to stage without having a decent script to work from.