Sunday, June 10, 2007

Baby 'Bigger Trees Near Water'

In DH's studio in Kensington last weekend looking at the baby version of his enormous undertaking 'Bigger Trees Near Water' that has just opened at the RA Summer Show. The original work is some 40 foot wide and comprises 50 canvases, all painted outside, using a computer to track the progress of the work. The entire project took 4 weeks and was a race against the encroaching spring. This smaller version is a 60 per cent facsimile of the original work and was made by photographing the individual canvases, the resulting files being printed in LA and flown back to London.

Although it's a bare winter scene, I find the way the trees reach upwards joyous and celebratory, and even though it's a bleak view there's plenty of unexpected colour. Looking at my own winter painting 'The Melting Snowman' at my last show David pointed out that he could tell I hadn't observed my spindly winter trees because the branch ends all pointed slightly, and probably depressingly, downwards (one of many comments pointed out forcefully and described in the air with the aid of his walking stick). I think for the next stage of my childhood explorations I should revisit the places that made me. I think the work could take on a greater depth by exploring memory in situ, rather than using flat photographs as triggers over a distance of years.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

TG Twice

Went to Tate Modern over the bank hoiday weekend for for the one-off event featuring Throbbing Gristle's specially composed piece in celebration of the work of Derek Jarman, performed against a backdrop of Derek's shaky early Super-8's.

The Turbine Hall's steel and polished concrete seemed an appropriate place for a TG gig. The screen and stage were set up at the bottom of the slope and we were sitting on cushions on the floor, not as uncomfortable as it sounds because they were double thickness. I was aware while waiting for TG to come on of a loud electronic hum, which I thought was merely their equipment echoing round the hall, but it gradually got louder and louder as TG-time approached and I realised it was part of the build up. Being in nappies when they were around for real, I've only ever seen them once (at the Astoria, the replacement gig for the ATP and part of there recent commitment to a a handful of live performances) but I could tell this was concert as memoria rather than a TG gig in the ordinary sense. They played a TG piece proper to begin with, which I really liked (especially Cosey's cornet), but no words were sung or spoken. Then when it was time for the filmic component and TG were joined on state by the New London Chamber Choir.

The films were Studio Bankside, Journey to Avebury, Ashden's Walk, Fire Island, Gerald's Film, B2 Movie. The shortest 6-minutes, the longest 14-minutes, with no stops between them. The films were projected at a speed of 3 frames a second (by Derek's design, being the speed of the human heartbeat). The speed was effective and the images seemed to occupy a half-life somewhere between ordinary film and still photography. The speed made the close up portraits in particular seemed revealing, like quick glimpsed nuances of character.

The most beautiful section was 'Journey to Avebury', which I had always wanted to see, and it was as thrillingly mysterious as I had hoped. I also loved 'Studio Bankside', a record of Derek's 1970's bohemian enclave at Butlers Wharf, and the characters that met there in a time when such a way of life was possible.

We were slightly unlucky with some (but only some) of the our fellow cushion-sitters, some of whom seemed to have come to the event for a chinwag. There was one couple who really pissed me off, because they were immediately behind me and their sweet nothings carried right into my ears. She looked shocked and upset when I turned round and hissed at her to 'fucking shut up' but what did they expect? This was clearly a sensitive evening, and important stuff for some people. There was a couple to my left too. She spent all of the pre-film TG-solo part with her fingers in her ears and her head bowed as thought she could hardly bear to be there and when the rare Jarman films shuddered into life she started talking over the sound. Luckily her boyfriend arrived from the bar and put some space between us, but it made me wonder why some people bother paying the money to be honest... Why not stay at home or just stay in the bar???

A week later and we were at the TG recording session at the ICA... no problems with the crowd there, in fact it couldn't have been more different. TG are reworking Nico's 'Desertshore' album and set up their recording studio in the ICA theatre. We were at number four of six recording sessions each incorporating an audience a la TG's 'Heathen Earth' in 1980. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. They recorded for about two hours. They were working on the Nico songs, with Gen struggling with a German verse, and had some magnifient jam sessions that were classic TG, with chaotic bursts of sound and dones and bleeps against muffled beats, and that sort of overriding effect of impending doom. It was interesting seeing the four of them operate, and although there was an audience watching their every move they seemed at ease in front of us. With the exception of Gen they actually looked a bit like a group of kindly geography teachers (Gerald said that). If you weren't a TG fan it would probably have been very dull, with bits being repeated over and over as they got levels and vocals right. I think it would have been interesting for anyone interested in electronic music, but it wasn't a gig in the traditional sense, more an installation.

We repaired to the ICA bar afterwards (one of my favourite places), and knew that we had attended something special. Just as I thought the evening couldn't get any better Sleazy appeared and joined us at our table for much merryment, cultural chat with naughty bits and assorted tales of Bangkok all washed down with a shedload of Budvar. A great end to a fascinating evening.