What would music look like if transposed into a visual image?
What colour would rhythm or melody take?
These are not questions that we have ever asked ourselves but they are definitely ones to consider. And composer Lee Westwood and geometer Sama Mara have explored these in a collaboration called ‘A Hidden Order‘.
Borrowing from geometric art that has Islamic influences, fractal geometry and non-periodic tilings (we don’t claim to understand most of this), Westwood and Mara have created a system where contemporary classical music can be translated into patterns and vice versa, with the results as follows.
The compositions of Westwood and the images generated by Mara were recently on display at the Princes School of Traditional Arts Gallery and we were lucky enough to attend one of their performances where a special quartet performed key pieces from the project. Against the backdrop of a large screen and instruments that included a flute, cor anglais, cello and a marimba, this talented group held a small audience enthralled for forty-five minutes of putting an image to sound.
Certain compositional criteria had to be set in place by this duo when they were creating both the music and the art for this project. And these have resulted in unique musical structures and images that raise the question – in cases like these do you remain true to the rules of music to create a melodic phrase, or do aesthetics win in the end?
An interesting question and a dilemma skillfully raised, this collaboration has resulted in music and art which if either of them stay true to their preordained constructs, they inadvertently force the other to yield to the weird and the wonderful.
We’ve recently discovered the images of the inspiring Christopher Pillitz, a photographer of Argentinian origin, who considers his camera to be his passport to the world. With over thirty years of work behind him and explorations into over 80 countries, here are some of our favourites from among his different projects. His work has made us think about the two kinds of photographers there are – those that need to go to where the story is, and those whose lives are the story.
We’ve been thinking movies recently and more so in the wake of the Oscars. With Steve McQueen winning the coveted prize, it makes us look more closely at the artist as a story teller and whether you can do both – capture a single moment in time, or successfully weave the entire story that enfolds it. And though McQueen has crossed the fence to join the other side, today we stand inspired by the moment, that single instance as captured by artist and filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson in her Crying Men series; one that is sometimes lost or forgotten when the camera moves on to the next. And what better way than to highlight this using the very people who magic our screens.
A series of images of famous movie actors as they sit mid-cry, these were all staged on the command of Taylor-Johnson as she got them to weep for her camera. If it’s all acting, the same kind of make-believe, then the sheer variety of expression communicated through glistening cheeks and furrowed brows is truly remarkable.
This is a series focusing on South Africa’s Africanis, aboriginal dogs thought to have migrated from Egypt and that now inhabit rural South Africa. Naudé first encountered these slender and agile creatures in 2006. And though his images depict remarkable stillness, it takes a photographer with great talent to capture these skittish animals.
Looking at these images makes me think about how we adapt to survive our surroundings. But when these change take place faster than we can naturally cope with, some rare and special parts of us become extinct rather than evolve.
While the true Africanis are still found today in those parts of South Africa where a traditional lifestyle is maintained, as the country develops it’s hard to say whether this special breed will retain it’s distinctness or soon morph into something more commonplace.
Walking through a well curated exhibition is like magic. You either discover a wonderful new artist, or rediscover an artist whose work you were familiar with, but had been buried under the layers of recent art you’ve seen. I’ve heard so much about Ellen Gallagher but had never really seen an exhibition of her work, till this weekend at Tate Modern. And I’ve been bewitched.
An artist with Irish / African American origins, Gallagher’s art is hard to put into a particular box or even arrange into straight chronological categories. She’s constantly exploring different media and returning to themes she has previously worked with, to either continue the story or give it a new twist. Her show at Tate is called AxME which is a play on the black American vernacular for ‘ask’ as well as the fictional mail-order company ‘Acme Corporation‘ that gives the cartoon character Wile E Coyote his supply of devices to trap Road Runner.
One thing that’s useful to know before going to see the exhibition, is that you have to take the work for what you see it to be. Her genius lies in her medium, technique and the representations she reinterprets. And while I am guilty of walking into every exhibition asking for a story, a cause, a point to the art, Gallagher’s is less straightforward and obvious.
Gallagher’s background and interests are varied, ranging from skin cream and wig advertisements in vintage African American magazines, the Harlem Renaissance, oceanography, whales and one legged men especially the Herman Melville kind, the googly eyes and caricatured lips that were used to represent black people in cartoons or minstrel shows, and definitely a love for penmanship paper and modelling clay. Most of Gallagher’s works are multlayered and structured in grids, with her fascination with lips, wigs and tongues being very evident.
The exhibition also has a number of video pieces Gallagher has made in conjunction with German artist Edgar Cleijne. But the fascinating paintings quickly drew me away from these projections which run to strange jazz/javanese music that I found a bit disturbing.
Above all, Gallagher’s work is like jazz. It’s playful and repeats itself, it’s discordant but beautiful, and it has a mastery that is mesmerising. While this might sound like a tad too many gushing adjectives, stand up close to one of her works from the Morphia series, look through the lazer cut holes in the drawings to see the rest of the works within the gallery, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Ellen Gallagher’s AxME is one show that you need to physically see to believe. No technology can capture the delicate beauty of the layered works, though I rue that there are no install images available online to share. If you do venture to make the trip to Tate Modern, go visit the Saloua Choucair exhibition as well. Two exhibitions by powerful women artists only a floor apart, is a big coup indeed and not to be missed.
One of the most engaging and immersive exhibitions I’ve seen in a while is Light Show at Hayward Gallery.
Not quite an exhibition that everyone loves, but one that many more can.
Because it doesn’t take much for us to magicked by light and its atmosphere, its warmth and absolutism.
This exhibition requires time; a few hours at least because the works need to be absorbed.
You cant walk into one of the installations, stay for a few seconds and expect to ‘get it’.
You have to stay, muse, ponder…
Some works require for your eyes and body to get used to a certain environment. Other works require to be looked at from up close, and then a bit further away. And then still others like Anthony McCall’s You and I – Horizontal II, 2005, command repeat visits.
Here are a few of my favorites –
Leo Villareal’s Cylinder II, 2012 is stunning. And I love how you automatically sense what each different mode symbolises – snow, fireworks, rain – without needing to be told.
One of his other works – Scramble, 2011 that I discovered online, is powerful enough to give me goosebumps.
Inspired by Frank Stella’s series of the same name, which in turn takes the name from a Merce Cunningham piece, this work is hypnotic even on Vimeo.
Moving back to the exhibition, another powerful work was David Batchelor’s Magic Hour, 2004-05 which is inspired by Las Vegas sunsets as the wall text informs you. But there are other correlations to be found if you look closer, as David discovers himself.
One of my friends asked me what was so fascinating about this work, being that it is based on a device frequently used in performance; it came across as quite contrived to her. But the one thing that made it special for me, is that it makes the action of throwing tangible; somewhat of a paradoxical spectacle using the ephemeral, intangible medium of light. With this work, Ceal makes the action of throwing a moment you can pause, see and touch, even if you only end up touching the floor.
Works like this hit my spot.
Jim Campbell’sExploded View, 2011 is an example of how you need to give looking at art, time and space. Take one or the other away, and you only get to see and experience one side of the work.
Anthony McCall’s You and I – Horizontal II, 2005 is a very hard work to describe. It consists of compartments of light and fog that gently waft around a large room, taking form and meaning from the visitors that walk into the space. An immersive piece, this work has a different feel when you stand in the centre of it versus when you stand against the wall and watch other visitors move across the beams of light.
Here’s Anthony talking about his light works from a previous exhibition at Ambika P3 (another beautiful space on my To Explore list)
Light Show is turning out to be one of the most popular exhibitions at the Hayward and has been extended due to popular demand. It’s definitely an exhibition to visit and immerse yourself in. But don’t be too critical of what you see.
Enjoy it. Play around with the light. And you will leave realising you’ve spent a few hours discussing and experiencing light – something we take for granted and constantly live within.
Living without it, is a whole other discussion and nightmare.
The cover story for the February issue of Wired features eight young entrepreneurs who have taken YouTube by storm. And each of them have their own unique style which has earned them a solid fan base, and ensures they get to do what they LOVE for a living.
Here they are…and every time you watch one of their videos, cash registers go ringing.
I’m all for young entrepreneurs finding the quickest and most fun way to make a name for themselves, fully knowing that what might be interesting and entertaining to someone, could be complete rubbish to someone else.
But hey ho, it ain’t called the world wide web for nothing. It spoils us for choice and I’m thankful that I can switch it off when I choose to.
The Rain Room at the Barbican by Random International has been around for a while now, but for most it’s still cloaked with an air of mystery considering the long, daunting queues to get in.
I managed to make it one Sunday before Christmas, and it was worth every minute of the three hour wait.
Now why would anyone in their right mind wait three hours to experience this work?
Because for a few Sundays of this exhibition, Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance troupe performs in the Rain Room and the experience of standing in the rain alongside them is spellbinding. And yours truly would have it no other way, what with Max Richter music on offer as well.
Here’s a video of another project from April 2012 that this group of artists and creatives have worked on.
And my absolute favorite is this video of Wayne McGregor giving a choreography demonstration for a TED audience.
As Wayne says, we need to ‘misbehave more beautifully, more often.’
You can see Random Dance perform in the Rain Room on Sunday 20 Jan and 24 Feb. I would advise going in for as early in the morning as possible if you want to skip the queue. About 6-9 visitors are let into the Room at a time so the queue moves quite slowly.
DO NOT go into the Rain Room in BLACK.
You will get WET like I did, which is not pleasant especially when you’re not expecting it.
The technology is not designed to respond to the colour black and the Barbican attendants are supposed to let you know this before you walk in.
No one told me, but I’m telling you.