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A Jamboree at the Newbridge project

February 23, 2012 by Matt Foster   Comments (0)

“Via a process of invitation, A NEWBRIDGE ENQUIRY proposes a 3 day programme designed to cultivate hospitality, reciprocity and social dialogue.

The opening times have been designed to welcome a visitor dialogue outside of the customary gallery opening hours.

All events are free and welcome to all”

It starts with a breakfast: “Come on in, sit down, grab a cuppa and a slice of toast! Chat to your neighbour!” Activities follow through the first afternoon, just some simple, enjoyable things to pass the time pleasantly. The same happens again on day two, but instead of an afternoon of sit-down workshops there is a (mind-opening) daytime disco. One of the Artists – Andrew Wilson is dressed to the nines, which is appropriate for the projection of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ playing on the wall behind him. He walks onto the dance floor just as I come in, and truly begins to strut his stuff. Initially I feel awkward, but as the calls for me to dance come in I give a little wiggle, and begin to move to the beat. Admittedly I didn’t quite fall for the charms of this part of the experience as much as most of the others did, but then I suppose I hadn’t had the magic of Messrs Lloyd and Wilson working on me for long enough. Luckily, others were more receptive and soon everyone was boogie-ing on down on the dancefloor like the best of them.

 The big event was that evening, the big Jamboree. I honestly had no idea what to expect but a bar in the second room. If anything I expected an exhibition, or perhaps a quick performance. I am quite glad that there was neither.

When I walked in it took a moment to realise that actually the people in the middle of the floor are not doing a performance piece, but are visitors to the gallery like me; It was as we tried to behave awkwardly, and give the wierdos a wide berth (making absolutely no eye contact) as they seemingly attempted to break as many musical instruments as they could that we realised how many other instrument were arranged in little, inviting piles all over the floor, and only then does it dawn on you; you are here to play.

                We ended up sitting on the floor for around two hours, occasionally getting up to move to a new stack of music-makers, or to make short trips to the bar. The sensation was extraordinary; we had gone back to a simpler time, remembering why it had been important as a child that ALL of the toys remained on the floor, within sight and therefore available for immediate use in the imagination. If one of the (quite decrepit) instruments were to come apart under the strain, its parts would simply be taken and used as new instruments of mass expression.

 I saw people are whacking away at the drums and cymbals, smashing tambourines together, and using strangely-shaped whistles to pluck at the strings of the electric guitar sat across their lap. I even spotted an old, rusty saw and a quite retro old salad-spinner (just for inventiveness’s sake), perhaps just to aid in the regression of the visitor – after all; who as a child did not just play with a salad spinner just for how it felt in your hands (as well as that noise)?

 

Everyone suddenly became enough of an expert to play an instrument in a public place, although occasionally someone with an actual skill would pop up, but would be forgotten or ignored in the medley after briefly, but proudly showing off said skill to the person next to them (the only person who would have been able to hear). Someone else, suddenly excited by a new and wonderful  noise would immediately seek the attention of their peers, pride being quite a dominant emotion in the experience that night.

One testing element of the potential absolute musical freedom was the bottle of Lyon’s golden syrup lying on the floor, its lovingly squeezed-in sides, and the fact that it is only half-full almost invites someone caught up in the madness of bashing a tambourine with a duck-shaped kazoo to think of it as a musical addition to any of the instruments, almost guaranteed to introduce heavy and sticky variations into any instrument's musical output. Luckily though I spent more than a moment thinking about it and was able to deduce that one of the Jamboree team, exhausted after the days of preparation and maintenance of the exhibition had simply been celebrating pancake-day earlier on. It was a close one.

People were able that night to leave the modern culture of social fears and peer-driven self-consciousness (which people normally have to resort to drinking to achieve) for a small amount of time, leaving them able to use the instruments for their true purpose – which is to MAKE SOME NOISE!!!

It gave people an excuse or reason to act strangely without the judgement (again usually something reserved for alcohol abuse) of their peers, and allowed them to just throw themselves in and enjoy themselves. A brilliant concept, and an enjoyable night.

More available at www.definitelywriting.com

Donald Trump can ruin anything

February 23, 2012 by Matt Foster   Comments (0)

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I just watched a film.

In this film I noticed something strange.

In this film I noticed how whenever people talked about any of the nearby buildings (AKA skyscrapers) they would refer to them as ‘the glass building’ or ‘the building with the dome’, and other equally vapid descriptions of these great monoliths. This happened every time the protagonists had to explain something about their quickly changing surroundings to the secondary characters, with one exception: one building was exempt, one building’s name was said quite a few times, the big, rich pinstriped baddie even holding the captured leading lady there instead of his big, hollowed out volcano (I can ony assume it was being repainted at the time, and so was unavailable). As you may have guessed from the title (and you all being such a smart lot) the tower in question was Trump tower.

Donald Trump. The man never ceases to annoy me.

I shudder imagining the contract written up between his and Hollywood’s lawyers, him explaining what he wants: “first of all, it’s not so much that I want my building to be named and used in the film, but I also want the other buildings of consequence to be unremarkable, unrecognised in their drabness by the characters in the film. It’s fine though… I’ll pay for a big, bronze, claw-footed director’s chair for you to have on set”. Well, it was probably something like that.

The part of it that really got to me though is that it was actually subtle, I mean it had enough of Trump in it for me to notice (actually it stank like hangover piss on a gilded toilet seat), but someone less cynical wouldn’t have noticed, and definitely not a child; the actual target market for the film.

Also, don’t forget what he is actually paying for here: not just product placement, but Donald placement: “look how cool the building I named after me is” says this particular piece of plugging. He is essentially making sure that the legend that is his ego – and not the one that is the big, gingery mop of (something that looks like) hair that sits on top of his head – is to be remembered by the great unwashed, the millions of folk who end up watching the movie, but so they don’t realise how big a pair of rolled up socks this actually stuffs down his incredibly expensive underpants.

 more at www.definitelywriting.com

What is the Opposite of Philanthropy?

February 23, 2012 by Matt Foster   Comments (0)

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In my refined and beautiful life it is not often that I am forced to come across adverts on TV or the radio, but inevitably they serve only to make me irritated, and after further (‘rational’) thought about them I usually decide to become angry. A couple that have passed my field of vision in recent times have been one made by Cadbury’s, and the other by a generic air-freshener or ‘compensation’/ambulance chasing legal service (I forget which one, as the advert was completely interchangeable).

 

The Cadbury’s one was for a ‘new’ chocolate bar (which was actually originally released in around 2006), the advert featuring a number of ‘wacky’ purple vehicles suddenly transforming as they drove along and literally ballooning (I mean that too; they actually literally turn into balloons) until they are flying above the country in one massive, tacky armada with strange little people inside pulling levers, this triggers the release of thousands of chocolate bars attached to parachutes, which are now going to float out over the nation so that everyone can have some free, (although strictly hypothetical) chocolate.

One problem that I have with this is that they have paid a big advertising firm to take the image of these people giving chocolate – in the most loving, and fun way that they can think of – to (hypothetical) beneficiaries, and then put it on television.

 

Surely a much easier way to spread the news of such a revolutionary (not to mention tasty) ‘new’ product is to actually hand it out (to real people) on the streets. Not only would this be cheaper than buying up prime-time advertising space, but also spare the expense of filming the whole ridiculous charade. They could actually give out free chocolate, instead of paying another company to show potential paying customers a hypothetical simulation of generous, showy philanthropy by Kraft (neé Carbury’s). Surely this is not the way to go about the Wonka-style attitude that they have been trying to trick people into believing that they have? Even down to wearing silly purple coats…

 

No, Mr Wonka would have trusted in the quality and tastiness of his new product to sell itself to the people upon tasting it, and that is why he had faith in his ‘free-chocolate-that-you-can-eat-straight-from-the-telly’ marketing ploy to relauch his name. Unfortunately, due to this not being the case with the Cadbury’s newly released (or old and repackaged) product, it is illogical for them to do so, instead dodging the fact that they are selling low-range confectionery at mid-range prices and instead paying for the sense of good feeling and improved reputation that comes with the public associating you with the (hypothetical) act of generosity in the advert.

 

what we have here is a group of controlling executives paying professional propaganda companies for the hearts and minds of the public (which I personally question the morality of, despite the fact that is only a figure of speech, rather than a reference to organ-harvesting).

More available at www.definitelywriting.com

Tracey Emin's 'Love is what you want' - at the Hayward Gallery

December 7, 2011 by Matt Foster   Comments (1)

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When I first went to the Hayward to see this exhibition I was ready to cringe, to be disgusted and as a man; be held in utter contempt. I expected to see the works that to draw in the masses of young, angsty women and teaches them that all men are cruel, misogynistic, wife-beating rapists-in-waiting, and I fully expected to pay dearly for the experience. I walked in through the doors, was charged £9, and began to warm up the muscles in charge of making my eyes roll.

I walked through the big doors into an immensely long room; along the entire length of the closest wall was hung about 10-12 of the famous Tracey Emin blankets. I though that this was a good idea; ease people in with the easy stuff, the pieces that people can relate to because even if they don't understand the work, they can still read the text.

That was the last delusion that I had had about the work becoming some kind of gender-based demonisation. It began to become clear to me that Tracey Emin, despite her rough nature, and reputation for the strange and angry is actually quite a calm, lucid individual. Her work may be based in a child-hood so far removed from my own experiences that I was unable to relate directly, but I still was able to very much enjoy the experience.

 

I had originally surprised at the entry fee for the exhibition; reflecting back on all of the free galleries that I had been given access to back in Newcastle..My thinking therefore being that all that awaited me in there was a single white room with some small, unintelligible works on the walls and some miniature bottles of that cheap French beer lined up on a table. I had also not read the entire article about the exhibition before planning my trip; it wasn't an exhibition of her new work, it was to be everything that she had ever made.

I could not have imagined a more perfect was to introduce me to the world, work and mind of Tracey Emin; someone who has never seemed to have had a problem saying exactly what she thinks, expressing these thoughts in words or in the (highly-valued) art that she makes. I was to be shown everything, and because they were not displayed in chronological order it allowed me to see past her evolution and growth as an artist and appreciate the expressive nature of the works, as well as what they were telling me about Emin herself.

 

As with all artists in the public eye who will not restrict their content or materials to include that which is appropriate, she has been picked on by the red-tops, general conservatism and tabloid reporting until she has had this image built around her of someone who is some kind of overpaid degenerate or pervert who shows everyone her old, soiled tampons that she has been holding onto for a couple of years. Unfortunately the tabloid presses are still working under the premise that the world works like the playground back at school, and therefore who is or does something that is weird (or just if you don't like or understand it) should be pointed out, condemned and ostracised immediately, and unfortunately I never took the time to check my sources and had therefore been misled (and, technically ignorant by default).

 

The exhibition was a true eye-opener about the possibilities of art as a completely personal project, as well as a form of expression and of healing. Nearly all of the work drew me in, and made me think, whilst telling me the story of a skinny little girl from Margate, but due to the enormous amount of work on display I was unable to linger too long over any one piece and so was unable to get to grips with it all, although I did manage to spend a good few hours wandering around in there. Many thanks, Tracey; a thoroughly enjoyable (due to quality, not entertainment value) experience, and I am very sorry for misunderstanding you for so long.

A truly guilty pleasure...

November 30, 2011 by Matt Foster   Comments (0)

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This week of all times i decided to indulge myself. It is towards the end of term, and despite the fact that I should have my nose pressed hard to the grindstone i decided that i was too tired for life, especially the part that requires concentration, and brain-thoughts. I picked up a book that I have been meaning not to read for some time (unlike those ones in the slowly growing pile on the shelf that I actually have to read) found the warmest blankets in the house and settled in for the long-haul. The book was no challenge (hence why I am not supposed to be reading it, but instead should be taking lessons from its more intelligent cousins) but was a treat indeed, I will not tell the name of the book, but I will tell you that a 16 year old girl with dyed-blue hair recommended it to me, and it perhaps contains talk of Dragons (alas, not the dragon 'Smaug'. That would be less shaming).

 I churned through a few hundred pages over the course of the day, only stopping occasionally to make food that would not get in the way of the book, nor soil its pages as i read (it is most satisying to be this functional about something fun, I think).

 I cannot remember the last time that I had the time nor the motivation to spend this amount of time reading, despite my love for the printed tale and appreciated every moment as one in my own, personal heaven.

 

 

Well, anyway; the moral of the story is that when life gets you down (or you simply wish to run away) there is no place better than where you shouldn't be, and no task better than one you should not be doing.

Fuq da polis

Guests at the Baltic (Turner Prize)

November 15, 2011 by Matt Foster   Comments (0)

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Even 20 minutes before opening time, the Baltic has plenty of folks strolling in the doors, this includes the obligatory school trips whose sole purpose seems to be to shift seemingly limitless numbers of small, screaming, chattering children from the stoic isolation of the classroom to the quiet, contemplative space that is the (alleged) 'high' art gallery. I wonder why they do this; is it perhaps to ensure that the teachers 'earn' their state-size pay packets, perhaps to justify the 'cost' of the education that their children are recieving.

 

As I write; a massive group of A-level students have just been led straight past me into the gallery, dyed, straightened and gelled hair flapping starchily in the breeze, those who took advantage of the fresh air between the bus and the doors hanging back to finish their illicit fags.

 

The rest of the crowd coming in are in twos and threes, usually a couple taking a much younger child with them, or a single escort for a mildly younger charge. Another group approaches, and now I fear for my gallery experience entirely, I am going to run inside and attempt to grab a place in line ahead of this mass of noise-machines in tiny, blue sweaters

 

more to follow...