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On Thursday September 17th, I danced on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.
Click here to watch, and here to listen.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Beyond Limits 2009: sculpture exhibition at Chatsworth House.

Tell you what: let's bury yesterday's dodgy little tale under an avalanche of lovely images (taken by K) from this year's Beyond Limits exhibition at Chatsworth House.

We particularly liked Yayoi Kusama's Narcissus Garden, which involved the freeform placing of several hundred stainless steel balls in one of the ornamental pond. Curiously, the vast majority of said balls opted to clump together on one side of the pond, regimentally lined up in rows. Occasionally, a smaller cluster would attempt to break away from the parent clump, drifting a short distance out into the middle of the pond - only to run out of steam and drift back again. Elsewhere on the pond's perimeter, small groups of renegade balls had drifted into the shallows. Some had become stuck in marshy areas, unable to drift away again. An even smaller number of individual balls had detached themselves entirely from the group, finding their own individual spaces.

Naturally, we decided that the whole piece was a Metaphor For Society, and therefore a Profound Masterpiece.

The exhibition runs until 1st November. Highly recommended, as always.

L: Igor Mitoraj: Eros Bendato Screpolatio.
R: Subodh Gupta: Leap of Faith.

Claude Lalanne: Olympe (grande).

Ju Ming: Taichi Series: Pushing Hand.
L: Francois-Xavier Lalanne: Carpe (tres grande).
R: Aristide Maillol: L'Harmonie, Premier Etat.

Sol Lewitt: 1 2 3 4 5 (Brescia)

Jedd Novatt: Chaos Mundaka.
L: Manolo Valdes: Ariadna 1.
R: Fernando Botero: Dancers.

Henry Moore: Three Piece Reclining Figure: Draped.

Bernar Venet: 222.5 Arc x 5.

Antony Gormley: Angel of the North (Life-size Maquette).
L: Niki de Saint Phalle: Buddha.
R: Jaume Plensa: Heart of Trees.

Ju Ming: Taichi Series.

Guy Zagursky: Mirror against Mirror.
L: Ugo Rondinone: Air gets into everything even nothing.
R: Richard Hudson: Marilyn Monroe.
L: Zhan Wang: Artificial Rock #70.
R: Marc Quinn: Archaeology of Desire.
L&R: Yayoi Kusama: Narcissus Garden.
L: Eric Goulder: The Woman.
R: Sorel Etrog: Mother and Child / George Rickey: Two Lines Up Excentric Twelve Feet.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Save Rufford Ceramics Centre.

Although I've never blogged about it that much, both K and I take a great interest in contemporary ceramics, and we've built up a fair old collection over the years. Many of our most significant and prized purchases have been made at the annual Earth & Fire fair, which is held every June at Rufford Abbey Country Park in North Nottinghamshire, not far from the village in which I grew up.

For many years, the park has boasted a terrific Ceramics Centre, which has attracted an international reputation and ensured that Earth & Fire has become THE leading ceramics event of the year, with a large proportion of this country's leading practitioners - Chris Keenan, Antonia Salmon, Ashraf Hanna, Tim Andrews, Eddie & Margaret Curtis, Emma Johnstone and many more - manning their stalls in person, and making themselves generally available to gushing groupies such as ourselves. The centre also stages regular exhibitions throughout the year, as well as hosting workshops, providing artists' residencies, offering pieces for sale, and generally serving as a national centre of excellence.

Sadly, all of the above is now under threat, as Nottinghamshire County Council, the centre's prime benefactor, has begun to roll out a series of "changes to the operating model" - or "cuts", to use the more common parlance - at short notice and without any prior public consultation. Staff are being laid off, ceramics are no longer for sale at the centre, support for the exhibitions is being withdrawn, all workshop programs are being closed, and the whole scope of this nationally acclaimed centre is being narrowed right down. In short, a scarce and valuable national resource, which attracts thousands of visitors to an otherwise undervalued part of the county, is in danger of virtual extinction.

Thankfully, the centre's many supporters aren't taking the situation lying down. An online petition has already attracted over 1000 signatures, a campaign blog has been set up to report on the developing situation, a supportive article has appeared in The Times, a "Save Rufford Ceramics Centre" group has been set up on Facebook, and pressure is building on the County Council to justify their position.

If you're the sort of person who takes an interest in these things, then please visit the blog, sign the petition, and generally spread the word. This has been a Troubled Diva Public Service Announcement. Thank you for your time.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Well, quelle surprise...

Marc Quinn: Myth (Sphinx), from the Sothebys/Chatsworth House Beyond Limits Sculpture Exhibition.

(Modelled upon Kate Moss, although I suspect a degree of artistic license in the arse-width department.)

This has become, by some considerable distance, my (or rather K's) most viewed photo on Flickr.

Hmm, I wonder why.

Beasts of the field, the lot of you!

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Oh, for goodness' sake: let's get Amsterdam Part 3 out of the way, and then we can all move on with our lives.

Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here. This will be somewhat shorter.

Long post-Cockring lie-in.
Aching bod, thick head, brave face.
Out for pad thai, in an almost deserted wok bar.

Not at my chattiest. Thankfully, Alan and I have known each other long enough to be comfortable with companionable silences.

Quick peek at the flower market; obviously not at its most colourful, although some of the stalls had still managed to rustle up some tulips from somewhere. How does that work?

Shortcut through the chi-chi fine art galleries, and on to the Rijksmuseum; currently undergoing renovation, but with a condensed "greatest hits" show on display round the back. This worked in our favour, as there was just enough to see without having to skip anything. Besides, an hour and a half is all you need at the best of times. The exhibition climaxed, inevitably, with Rembrandt's The Night Watch. Yes, I know it's a Masterpiece - but this was at least my third viewing, if not my fourth, and I still retain no abiding visual memory of it.

Tea and biscuits, bought from the grocery opposite Alan's apartment. Spotted on display by the till: cannabis flavoured lollipops, in a suitably "herbal" shade of green. You know, just so the "Little 'Uns" don't feel left out. Only in Amsterdam, eh readers?

Early evening beers in a surprisingly busy Twinksville, our ears once again battered by late 1980s/early 1990s commercial dance hits on endless shuffle. Don't twinks listen to contemporary music any more?

Goodbye hugs and thank yous, as I head off to the airport and Alan heads straight back to bed. But I thought I was trying to keep up with him, not the other way round? Ah well, no matter. That's a good couple of months worth of Gay Points usefully accrued in advance. Lovely weekend. I'll be back.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Amsterdam, Part 2.

(You might want to read Part 1 first.)

Saturday afternoon. After lunch, Alan and I wandered northwards to the temporarily relocated Stedelijk museum, now stuck out in a "post-industrial space" near the Central Station, and accessible via a series of wind-lashed pontoons. Regrettably, the museum's fine permanent collection of contemporary art was not on display. Instead, we had to make do with a load of half-baked, indifferently executed, wilfully obscure and largely clueless pile of ropey old conceptual-art-wank toss-bollocks. That most wretched and aesthetically bankrupt of genres, "video art", dominated much of the space - but it was surpassed in pointlessness by a vast installation of crudely scrawled "political" graffiti which would have shamed an SWP convention for the under-12s. However, the overall disappointment was at least redeemed by some stunningly powerful and disturbing photography, shot in South Africa and Israel, which landed some massive sucker-punches to popular perceptions of both nations.

Our cultural duties fulfilled, we rewarded ourselves with leisurely early evening drinks at the Queen's Head on Zeedijk, which connects the Central Station area with the Nieuwmarkt. The street is reassuringly chi-chi at the top end (K would have been in his element), before yielding to some funkier shops and bars, and a mini Chinatown. We liked the moderately chi-chi Queen's Head, which benefits from not being a "destination" gay venue, but more of a low-key regulars' haunt. It's the sort of place which you could visit regularly on your own with a newspaper or a book, slowly building your relationship with it.

Saturday night. Our half-hearted plans to pay brief lip-service to "coffee shop" culture ran swiftly aground, as 30 seconds inside the raucous Bulldog on Leidseplein were enough to signal that it wasn't our scene. On we trolled, to the campy bars around the Amstel, for a restorative contrast to Twinksville and the Dead Cow Zone.

Monmartre was quieter than we had led to expect - that mid-January effect again - but there was still enough residual jollity to spread around, and a much higher ratio of smiles to pouts than we had become used to.

Around the corner, the venerable Amstel Tavern instantly felt like home, with its traditional decor, its Delft mugs hanging from the ceiling, its welcoming bar staff and its camp-as-tits musical playlist. Disco-pop classics merged into singalong Dutch schlager (and boy, did people sing along), taking in a healthly dollop of Eurovision along the way (Teach-In's "Ding Dinge Dong" in its original Dutch version, woo-hoo, I have found my level at last!). Best bar yet.

Up the road and off to the west of Dam Square, it was nipple-to-nipple at Prik, the city's newest gay venue, which was celebrating its six month anniversary with half price drinks all night. A solid and seemingly impenetrable wall of flesh had to be squeezed through in order to get much more than two feet inside the doors - but we are nothing if not persistent, and minor irritations like having half a glass of lager sloshed down my cleavage weren't going to hold us back. Prik is the nearest thing that Amsterdam has to a lively and pumping Soho venue such as Bar Code, with a more cosmopolitan and recognisably Urban Gay Scene crowd to match. It is, without a doubt, the biggest Destination Venue of them all right now.

Wedged into the back bar, Alan and I spent the next couple of hours benignly observing the bobbing throng, as they jiggled their bits to an eclectic mix of classic and cheesy hits: Blondie, The Cure, Kylie, New Order, and MC Miker G & and DJ Sven's lost classic "Holiday Rap". A clump of drunken Irishmen handed out glowsticks, before brandishing inflatable guitars and roaring along to "Copacabana". Oh, it was a scene and a half.

On the way out, I remarked to Alan: You know, that would have been most people's idea of sheer bloody Hell, and I can't even explain why I enjoyed it. I mean, all we did was stand there with drinks in our hands while getting pushed and shoved by a crowd of total strangers - and yet it was great. What's that all about?

The night ended back in - oh look, shall I just spell it out this time - COCKRING. There, I've said it. Cockring. We went to a club called Cockring. Is everybody here OK with that? More of the same, only for longer. Heaps of fun. But let's not dwell, eh?

(I'll wrap this up tomorrow.)

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Working the night shift.

It's 1 o'clock in the morning, and I'm on after-hours support, waiting for The Phone Call which lets me know that it's time to check stuff on the mainframe. The Phone Call was supposed to come at around 11 - but I've been told that there are delays, and that I won't be hearing from anyone until at least 1.30. So I might as well bash out a rambling blog post to pass the time and keep me awake.

What can I tell you? Well, yesterday was a nice day out. K and I took a day trip from Derby to London, to attend my aunt and uncle's Golden Wedding luncheon at the Savoy Grill. The train arrived 40 minutes early in London (I know!), which gave us an extra hour to kill - so we swung by the National Portrait Gallery and went to see the David Hockney exhibition, all smartly togged out in our best suits. Does Hockney count as High Art? I don't know; there's something lightweight and decorative about him, and I'm not sure that he particularly Illuminates The Human Condition with any great profundity - but it's pleasantly familiar and diverting stuff, which lifted our spirits. The usual cast: Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark, his grey-haired mam looking a tad self-conscious (and latterly a bit doolally), various handsome young men with brooding eyes, that bearded New York art bloke whose expressions give nothing away.

For the luncheon, we found ourselves at the next table to Preston from the Ordinary Boys, who was on Celebrity Big Brother this time last year. You know, the one who married Chantelle, the non-celebrity winner. She wasn't there - but no need to alert Heat magazine for a scoop ("PRESTON AND CHANTELLE: IS IT OVER?") as I think she was doing Celebrity Big Brother's Little Brother at the time, so maybe Preston was just kicking his perfectly formed little heels in town with his man-friend. Yes, that would be it. He's skinny and slight, and hence right up K's alley. K chose his seat well, and got to gawp at Preston all the way through the meal. I was happy for him.

Our golden wedding present to the aunt and uncle was a bottle of 1956 Armagnac, so they could have a taste of the year they were wed. (The anniversary itself was December 29, but they were cross-country ski-ing in Austria at the time, which isn't bad going for two people in their late seventies.) They seemed delighted with it. My cousin was there; she's a Something at the House of Commons, and K was duly invited to take the personalised access-all-areas tour of the Palace of Westminster which was such a highlight of 2006 for me. (Clambering onto the roof for great views and an up-close-and-personal with Big Ben; necking a quick post-adjournment pint in the surprisingly cramped and unadorned Members' Bar with the MPs; standing at the dispatch box in the debating chamber and pretending I was running the country.)

K flies to Florida on Friday for the big annual vets' conference - and so, rather than being stuck on my own at home over the weekend, I have decided to pay my dear friend and erstwhile midweek drinking buddy Reluctant Nomad Alan a visit in Amsterdam. It will only be his second full weekend there, and so everything is up for discovery. Hopefully we'll get to hook up with Caroline Eachman (née Prolific) as well. Introductions are better when they're face to face.

I have just received my first interview assignment from t'local paper. I'm going to be interviewing Will Oldham, aka Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, in advance of his Rock City gig on the 23rd - which will also be the first date on his first tour of England in twelve years (Scotland and Ireland got him last year). Gulp. Better start genning up, then.

I spent the earlier part of the evening assembling the tracks for next month's instalment of the Which Decade Is Tops For Pops project, which will be entering its fifth year. I had got it into my head that this year's crop was going to be a total shower of shite - but, actually, it's not too shoddy after all. Two of the tracks from February 1987 have been disqualified, as they are 1960s re-issues that were being used on TV adverts, and so I have substituted the songs at #11 and #12. The 1967 selection is pretty decent, the 1977 selection markedly less so (punk/new wave had yet to cross over commercially, and disco was thin on the ground that week), the 1987 selection is more nostalgic than I was expecting, and the 1997 selection is all grown up and credible, thanks to that brief period when Radio One also decided to be all grown up and credible.

It is now 1:40, I am all rambled out (there's only the stuff about our forthcoming Nottingham kitchen refit to tell you, and I don't propose to bore you with the details), and the Big Call has not yet happened. If I wander outside for a crafty fag, it shall surely happen, and so I shall try and induce it via the power of nicotine. So let's do that.

No editing, no revisions, no sprucing up. Totally old school. G'night!

Update: The Big Call has been put back to 2.30. Thank goodness for the 250+ spam comments that some kindly passing Italian has just left me to deal with. Couldn't have happened at a better time!

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