This blog is written by Richard Woolfenden: teacher, film producer and eclectic blogger about stuff. All the views expressed in this blog are my own.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Art and the Marmite Position
For someone who enjoys "art", eg the fine arts, but doesn't go to see new work enough, Adrian Searle's reviews are a real eye-opener to Hirst's most recent work: his self-brushed paintings. When we lose touch with a discipline (I studied art and drama at Poly) it is easy, and lazy, to adopt the "Marmite Position": you either like it or you hate it. I rarely find I "like" or "hate" contemporary art works passionately because I feel out of the loop; I haven't done the groundwork to be able to fully appreciate the work. Sure, I have buckets of prejudices. I can rant against Tracy Emin's bed or tent as good as the next ranter but it can feel cheap. You have to make the effort to see the work live. You need to read about it. You should try and place it in the context of the history of art before you make a Marmite decision.
Adrian Searle comes down quite heavily on Hirst's paintings. A sculptor friend on Facebook would seem to concur with Searle as his status updates and postings read like the crowds who mock the Emperor's new clothes: "Pah! See he can't paint! Useless!" This may well be the case. However, Searle's reviews are a brilliant balancing of harsh words and sympathy for an artist who is, apparently, exposing a lack of talent. In the October review of No Love Lost, Blue Paintings - The Wallace Collection (http://bit.ly/hirst1), Searle describes Hirst's blue gloomy skull paintings as suffering from "the old mortality shtick". Whilst at the end of the article he is almost reaching out to Hirst with his skeletal art critic's arm (if you will) and an admission of personal failure in the pursuit of painting:
I want to be encouraging. It's tough, trying to out-paint your influences, tougher still to keep failing at it so publicly. As a painter, I too tried and failed. Whatever his borrowings, Hirst did all this himself, unaided by his armies of assistants. He fills up his art with dead things: even the iguanas look stuffed. But these paintings are a memento mori for a reputation.Searle goes even further in his November review of Nothing Matters - White Cube (http://bit.ly/hirst2) and tries to break down what is missing and problematic about the new paintings. Hirst is criticised for being too hurried, too eager to be on display. These words dig deep into the problem, the universal problem of application. In moments of self-doubt we all have to face up to the question: have I done the work? If the answer is an honest "yes" then it is the job of your peers to judge the worth of your work. The following criticism reads like an important lesson for all producers of art, young and old, but is a more general observation about commitment. Even when we work hard we may not be inspired but inspiration has to be the corollary of self-discipline and hard work. Doesn't it?
Hirst's scenes of destruction and misery haven't undergone the reworkings or journeys they need to go on in order to arrive somewhere new. They are too artful, and his current shows are premature – however much he needed to go through the process of making the works themselves. In the end, what it comes down to is Hirst's touch, or lack of it. It lacks conviction. His paintings are filled with approximations.One would have to say this is quite damning, if it were true. I am going to make a stirling effort to find out for myself.
No Love Lost, Blue Paintings
14 Oct-24 Jan 2010
25 Nov—30 Jan 2010
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
@eclectictrains muscles in at the end of #moralmaze
Well, go listen to the show if you want to know how it all went. It'll be here for a week:
The discussion was pretty free flowing with the cogent writer and Twitterer, Kenan Malik, probing thoughtfully... and then at the eleventh hour, as Michael Buerk wrapped up the show, he read from 2 tweets and the rest is a Twitterer's, little, slither of semi-narcissistic, tweet-style vanity publishing, history:
Kenan Malik: "...it's pointless pretending that Twitter in and of itself is the problem. It's not the moral agent. It's just the tool used by moral agents and that is what we need to discuss."
Michael Buerk: "Just a few things off Twitter, before we go. 'Lynch mob mentality', this is somebody called elec- eclectictrains, 'Lynch mob mentality' says Melanie Phillips*. I think I like this mob'. And somebody called dogtrouser says that he is worried to find himself agreeing with a Roman Catholic."
[Laughter in the studio]
There you go an eclectic quip gets onto the big airwaves. New media piggybacking on the old.
*Unfortunately yours truly spelt MP's surname with the one "l". Where is the Twitterproofer when you need him?
Saturday, 31 October 2009
- instant communication to the world
- an open networking opportunity
- powerful information leverage
- a rage outlet
- celebrity access for all...
- ...and celebrity status for some
Like video virals before (which almost seem quaint and tame in comparison to a Twitter outbreak), advertising minds are seeing the commercial potential of tweeting and their interest is also having a ratcheting-up effect. But perhaps it is even more profound than that? Perhaps all of us are now small-time, advertising execs digital door-knocking en masse and getting a hat load of tricks and thimble full of treats?
An article online in The Guardian explores how books are being tweeted up the Amazon sales chart and leary journalists (#janmoir) are being tweeted, drawn and quartered. Read it here: http://bit.ly/tweeteroo.
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
The Purple Palace
Premier Inn Wolverhampton City Centre
I am still in a heavy workload space and have stayed in about 18 hotels over the last month. Not just any hotel, but my hotel chain of choice: The Purple Palace (known to most as Premier Inn). As part of my daily ritual when returning from a shoot, I have been snapping the view from my bed partly to put a visual break between one day's photos and the next and partly to test the capabilities of my new SLR - the wonderful Sony A200. As my tour of the UK, and as stays in The Purple Palace have ratcheted up, I have become unhealthy fixated by the furnishings, paintings and tableware at the bottom of my bed. My favourite photos are the ones that manage to capture the fading autumnal light through the hotel bedroom window. These pictures usually mean that I have arrived at my hotel by 6 o'clock which reflects a brief calm moment within a manic schedule.
The growing Flickr set can be view here.
Monday, 31 August 2009
Splodging not blogging, flittering not twittering
I promise myself to eat less red meat...
I promise myself to go easy on the Full English...
I promise myself to go to bed earlier and
post a few blogs before 11pm...
Brain activity is quite high - largely focused around work matters. Going to be very busy up to Christmas (green shoots? I never mentioned the phrase - just good old grafting). So my summer has been busy in the office finishing projects and setting up new ones for the Autumn. Did I get away? Nope. Did I have a nice summer? Functional but scattered with the odd lovely weekend and a special wedding.
That's probably as "transparent" as I want to get right now and as I see this blog as partly for you and partly for me, then I am quite cool with that (as some might say). I regularly follow Jeff Jarvis and he takes a militant stance on transparency which feels principled but at the same time muddle-headed. His recent article Transparency benefits us all - even when it hurts is an explanation as to why he twitter-blogged the news he had prostrate cancer. Why? Because "we are entering an age of publicness when we need to live, do business and govern in the open". Wow! So we are not already there yet but we are about to enter this new age? As a famous rock goes I thought we were at least "half way there"! Jarvis's writing is cogent and arresting. He truly believes that transparency "is a necessary ethic of the age". I'm not so sure. I wonder if Jarvis is meshing a contemporary political mantra "we must all be more transparent" with a more publicly accepted offline/online confessional culture and labelling it with "good thing" tag. Of course we can build "greater value" by sharing but all the emails, advice and good will that Jarvis has received could have been achieved in a more scaled-down and private disclosure. Couldn't it?
Anyway, I'll go back to the offline world have more of a think about that one. Yes, I joined Twitter about 2 months ago. I am not aiming to be part of the twitterati and have posted a meagre 30 tweets. I follow 13 and am followed by 8 - not really entering the spirit of it, I suppose, but I can't help but find it fascinating. "Real-time search" - who thought that an upstart operation such as Twitter could rock Google's boat with such an simple concept. What have I learnt from Twitter so far? That many people take it very seriously and must be spending up to and beyond an hour a day twittering and that Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009 at the age of 50. (Yes, I heard it there first!). Okay, okay, I've found out a little more than that but I'm not hanging out in that virtual space long enough to suck in the more interesting dialogues that must be happening.
Please excuse the splodginess of this blog and if you fancy a flitter on my twitter please visit:
Monday, 27 July 2009
seems to have passed me by
it's not for want of trying
but the analogue world has been quite testing
i have a pile of mental blogs ready to go
but they sit there stubbornly stacked
in a jostling queue all sweaty and angry
cheesy and hungry
Thursday, 4 June 2009
Saturday, 9 May 2009
The Sexual Division of Murder
The clock on top of the Queen's launderers in Upton Park. Taken from my Flickr set: East London signage.
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
Sat opposite me
On the tube.
But it was not really him -
It was Nicholas Upminster.
Mind the age gap
If you open your mind.
I'm not into fun
And my mind's not open.
Fair enough - your loss.
No problem - can't be bothered (am I?)
To argue the toss.
Sunday, 26 April 2009
With added bustle.
Children itching to get in the pool.
"Daddy, you said
You were going to stop fighting
A six year old daughter said.
The kids continued to jiggle
As parents were caught in a
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
this ain't no disco
After a song
When the band leader
Stared at his toes.
The audience was silent
As guitar pedals were adjusted
"Just checking my emails," said band leader.
We laughed as years of email checking had just been validated.
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Being David Byrne
Between 1981 and 1985 I was David Byrne. Now David might dispute this, and so may many of my college friends, but I was that man - the former Talking Heads front man. It is only really clear to me now - having moved on from this period of portmanteau identity - that this might be the closest I've got to being someone else. So, I suppose, seeing David Byrne in concert on Easter Sunday night (12/04/09) was always going to be a special moment; an occasion when I was finally freed from my doppelganger imprisonment. You'll be glad to know that I have been released.
In fact, the sight of seeing thousands of musical souls float heavenward from other 40 somethings in the audience, up above the congregation and through the ceiling of the Royal Festival Hall to the sound of "Houses in Motion", "Life During Wartime", "Once in a Lifetime" and "Take Me To The River" was probably as close as I am ever going to get to a mass collective religious experience...
[Boredom health warning! Alert! Siren! This near-45 year old, father of three, has just been to his first gig of 2009 and is liable to lose all objectivity].
When I dropped into emails to friends that I was going to see Byrne - "same as it ever was" was the oft received reply. But as students of history and culture we know nothing stays the same and yet Byrne - and his sound - has aged gracefully. His shock silver hair, white linen suit and general litheness were a testimony to a 56 year old who has looked after himself. A fitting progression from his over-sized, shoulder-padded zoot suit affair of "The Stop Making Sense" film that was a promotional vehicle for Talking Heads' popular "Speaking in Tongues" album of 1983. But we weren't here to listen to 1983's output, oh no, this tour has been billed as the "Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno" tour and so we are talking about music from five Byrne/T. Heads/Eno album collaborations:
More Songs About Building and Food - Talking Heads - 1978
Fear of Music - Talking Heads - 1979
Remain in Light - Talking Heads - 1980
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts - Byrne/Eno - 1981
Everything That Happens Will happen Today - Byrne/Eno - 2008
There you go listheads don't say I never think about you!
My mate Mike, who had kindly had the foresight to purchase the concert tickets, was agitated before the gig because he bought the tickets believing that he was going to get a Byrne and Eno concert with Eno actually gracing the stage. He might have a viable trades descriptions violation but as was explained by Eno in The Guardian, he had no intention of any surprise live appearance. [And yet a free newspaper handed to me on my way down to the tube tonight suggested that Eno was there - where? - and "added backing vocals to the heartbreaking "Everything That Happens", London Lite, 14 April 2009]. So perhaps Mike will have to call off the trades description dogs but if Eno was there and singing, I'd have to say he was hiding or I was so completely danced-out that my ability to see or hear anything clearly was heavily compromised.
Sorry, if you were looking for serious review then go here.
I went to the gig naked. I hadn't pre-Tubed* or bought the new album or even dug out my "Fear of Music" vinyl or my "Remain in Light", "...Bush of Ghosts" cassettes. Being too busy with work in the run up to Easter I had made the conscious decision not to prepare and I have to say my lack of preparation paid off to maximum effect.
Byrne played all my favourite Talking Heads tracks. Yes, all! (I don't count "Psycho Killer" which was pre-Eno and is too much of a classic to be a favourite, if you know what I mean). Having missed out on the opportunity to see TH in the early 80s this was a special treat. The all white-suited entourage of 11, 8 musicians and 3 dancers (who occasionally donned instruments) meant we were going to get a blast. The new album is very poppy but sat easily with the Byrne/Eno classics of the first period. Why? How? Because Byrne is a master of the mix: African Indie White Funk Whimsy Country are all in the pot. My favourite from the new album (having now listened to it for free here), "Strange Overtones", opened the night and although it was the first time I had heard it, I immediately felt my cultural slippers, slipping on and I was in safe, warm space. Byrne's voice was strong and full of his trademark shouts and preacher-like hollers. We were going to get a night of Byrne/Eno classics, no need for the laying down of gauntlets, or edgey art school rock diffident aloofness - in my mind there was simply nothing to prove. So let's have a party.
Two hours and 3 sets of encores later and I felt I had seen a true artist. Someone who had experimented with fusions of funk, African, punk and garage band rock and had benefited from a collaboration with an exceptional composer-producer in Eno. In 1981 when punk was a lost cause and new wave was lacking staying power, the British synth-pop experiments of the Human League and Heaven 17 and a ska revival seemed to be all we indie-kids had. But there had to be something else and there was: Talking Heads in collaboration with Eno. I picked up a copy of "Fear of Music" and learnt the riffs and got the t-shirt. In 1983 when I got to Trent Poly, new friends recommended "Remain in Light" and "...Bush of Ghosts", the sounds they were creating were just amazing for the time, as Byrne said on the night they were using "found sounds" before "sampling" had been discovered. I briefly played guitar in an Afro-beat influenced indie type band, and made many recordings in my bedroom with other Nottingham indie-jazz fellow travellers and one spectrum of sounds, one sensibility and one person influenced my contribution to this musical apprenticeship more than anyone else and that was David Byrne. If Eclectic Trains handed out honorary fellowships for sheer creative eclectic bloodymindedness, Byrne would be top of my list to receive one.
*Pre-Tubing: the advance checking out of a tour from a vast selection of differing quality mobile phone video clips uploaded to YouTube. Check out this Born Under Punches clip.
Thursday, 26 March 2009
The heart of poetry
Off by Heart is an attempt to revive the tradition of parlour poetry - to make poetry a public delight rather than a purely private pleasure. If you learn poetry as a child, it stays with you for life - having great poetry stored in your head adds lustre to the good times and consolation to the bad times in life.Great pitch. I look forward to watching the competition.
I find the aversion to rote learning in the UK education system both irrational and counter-productive. More on this potential rant another time.
AA Gill has thrown his hat into the Sunday Times poetry ring and penned one of the most refreshing articles I think you'll ever read on the subject of poetry. I hope, like me, you will be inspired to dig out some old favourites and perhaps discover some new ones. Please pass on this article to your friends. Gill, by reflecting on his own prose and his 1,500 words a day habit, battles to define the difference between the journalist's wordcraft and that of the poet's:
I reckon I can make a craftsmanlike job of most wordy things, from a shopping list to a eulogy. But I have no idea, not the faintest inkling, of how a poem is made... I have yet to hear a convincing explanation of where poetry comes from and how it arrives, but I do know it is the highest calling of a cerebral, emotional, aesthetic existence.Wow! Gill describes poetry as the "cornerstone of our civilisation" and I would have say that his article goes a long way in explaining why he might just have a point.
Thursday, 19 March 2009
The backlash to dumbing down in education begins?
Imagine how in 2048 - when a lot of today's graduates will be hitting retirement age - this generation will reflect back on what we did to our education system in the 90s and noughties...
...and they'll be stymied because they won't have the analytical tools to work out where it all went wrong.
It's WUC time. WAKE UP CALL!
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Shhhh... Sony Reader spotted on the tube!
I'll keep you posted.
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
The Swimming Pool
That's not for me.
But as we learn more about our pre-birth existence,
The imagination expands;
The low hum of the swimming pool heating system,
The smell of chlorine and clammy heat,
Mixes with watery echoes and excited pupil voices,
Sending this spectator into his swimming pool reverie.
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
The future of newspapers or we are all pushing pixels now
A blogger I enjoy reading, and was introduced to through his weekly column in Monday's Media Guardian section (the print version as it happens), is Jeff Jarvis and his Buzz Machine. His recent blog on the decline of The San Francisco Chronicle is a fascinating take on a newspaper in trouble situated in the wider context of a generalised decline in the business of making and selling printed newspapers. Jarvis has one clear message for papers like the Chronicle: reinvent yourselves and engage with the new technology of news distribution (the web) or die. As a former newspaper man himself this a tough message from someone who has made berating the world of print journalism a cause célèbre. Jarvis's blog offers up an angle on the technology and humanity of communication that is a joy to read even on my little BlackBerry Pearl screen on a cold and dank February morning.
Also read Goodbye to all this? about the future of subeditors. (Interesting that The Grandad choses to write 'subeditor' as one word when the rest of the world is quite happy with 'sub-editor'. Ahhh the power of house style over common sense and popular usage. There will be a reason for sure).
Sunday, 22 February 2009
25 Random Things about my beard
2. The early stages of beard growth are the hardest because your face is not use to it and it's prickly.
3. Old friends pretend not to recognise you when they haven't seen you for a while...
4. ...but end up being polite and saying "Go for it!" and "Why not" whilst muttering under their breaths: "It must be something to do with his wife being pregnant..."
5. For a short while you feel more intelligent.
6. Glasses help with the academic image and also accentuate your eyes to the onlooker, stopping them being lost in two hairy craters that were your eye sockets.
7. Shopkeepers think you could be a homeless person, until you open your mouth and ask for a mineral water to go with your copy of The Guardian.
8. Even unkempt bushy beards (like mine) require some pruning if you are to avoid blocking the food access orifice (the mouth).
9. Sometimes you catch yourself in the mirror and you get a shock. Who is that man?
10. As a consequence of point 9 you spend more time in front of the mirror.
11. My kids are convinced that I store food inside my beard for unscheduled secret snacks. (I blame Roald Dahl's 'The Twits' for that. But they are not wrong).
12. My beard is particularly coarse just after being washed and I long for its greasy foodiness to return. OMG, this proves I am in a bad, beardy space.
13. As a personal rebranding exercise it has had limited success.
14. Intimacy with loved ones is severely compromised.
15. The temptation to stroke one's beard whilst thinking is overwhelming. This can lead, when in face to face conversation with someone, to people thinking that you are not really listening to them. (Useful in some situations; a problem in most).
16. Inspite of being a big supporter of the folk music revival movement - Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Sons etc... - I don't need to be a beardy to do that.
17. As Che Guevara once said to the American student wanting to help the Bolivian revolution: "Go back to your own country, have a good shave and fight your own ruling class. That's the best way you can help, beardy kid".
18. Witty references to Grizzly Adams, Chewbacca and ZZ Top become tiresome.
19. On the one occasion that I was mugged (in 1989) my street fighting capabilities were seriously compromised by my long hair. (My assailant grapped me by my moptop and spun me round and was about to kick me in the face when my, croptopped friend jumped on his back giving me a chance to run free. Thanks again, Graham). I fear my beard might be an easy grip point for potential muggers.
20. Surely man's inevitable evolutionary direction is towards less hirsutedness (including in the facial region).
21. My favourite aunt, my only grandma and my wife all disapproved of the beard on the same day (yesterday). This cannot be an historical accident, it's fate. The beard must go.
22. My newly born daughter (4 weeks old) might get to used to having a bearded dad and be traumatised when I shave it off.
23. My newly born daughter is not getting proper kisses (the type with varied cheek contact) because I am a prickly monster. This will not do (see point 14).
24. Vanity, although difficult to admit, is an issue. What I might gain with elevated academic gravitas in some circles, I lose in others by looking like an old git with a grey beard. The grey is in a strong 30% minority, flecked on top of the dark, brown 70% undergrowth. I am not about to start zapping the whiteness (as I prefer to call the greyness) on my head with Grecian 2000 but why let the whiteness spread like tangle weed to the lower reaches of your face.
25. Hairballs. No one ever tells you about hairballs but they are a permanent feature. Why? It's obvious isn't it? After eating you lick your lips to clean your chops (surely an evolutionary instinct?) resulting in beard hair collecting in the back of your throat. Unavoidable and quite disgusting.
The beard has just left the room.
Thursday, 19 February 2009
Smart CCTV is dumb
Fellow Blogger, Antonine Plato, caught one of Limmy's rare gigs in London back in 2007 and wrote a nice little prophetic piece about how we might see this fella on the box. Blogtastic crystal ball usage Antonine! It must be getting late...
Monday, 16 February 2009
Comic genius Limmy on the telly
Yes or No - Ever wanted to get violent with a contributor from the floor? Watch this.
What would you do? - Under extreme pressure from work, your family or the bank? Have a taste of this.
Wednesday 18th February, 10pm
BBC2 Scotland (Sky 990 / Freesat 970)
Monday 23rd February, 11:15pm
BBC1 Scotland (Sky 971 / Freesat 960)
And, of course, BBC iPlayer.
Friday, 16 January 2009
I'm all over Bergman
Monday, 12 January 2009
Joining the massed ranks of Virtual PieceWorkers (VPWs)
Actually, this was part of an investigation I'm conducting into digital piece work (which sounds exploitative), or crowdsourcing (which sounds like an amazing social experiment) on Uncrunched.com, my anti-credit crunch blog. Amazon's crowdsourcing site, Mechanical Turk, has literally thousands of micro-jobs that can be completed by anyone with a broadband connection and a desire to "earn" micro-money.
That's 171 words and with these final words included - that's 228 in total - my assignment is complete. (Acobox wanted me to write a minimum of 150 words). Visit Uncrunched.com in a few days for an assessment of the whole experience of me becoming one of the growing millions of VPWs (Virtual PieceWorkers).