Friendly Faux

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Days weeks months of every day interactions made that first meeting feel like less of a blind date and more of a catch up between friends I hadn’t seen for a while.

Berklee, Kyren and i laughed, drank tea, ate cake and talked about ourselves, app.net hardly got a mention as we did some colouring in on our real life existences, that we’d met each other online just three months previously was just by the by.

We had a moment noticing Stevie Wonder soundtracking our meetup as we sat down in one of my favourite cafes, a few weeks earlier Berklee had sent me a Stevie/Little Kim mix he’d done. Bonding over music can go deep and hearing ‘Superstitious’ that afternoon was an echo on the good vibes you get when someone you’re talking to likes the same stuff as you.

Somewhere along the daily way on app.net (ADN) of exchanging good morning pleasantries and cheeky situational threads that spurned much hilarity I’d formed online friendships with some engaging and witty friendly folk.

So i grew very fond of the place, but lets be honest, what’s a social network without all the complexities of human personalities amplified within? It wasn’t all funnies and how-ya-doins, the jovial salon was from time to time very much alive with The Disgruntled who would storm back to Twitter after posting hefty monologues full of drama, foreboding and "ADN GODS BE DAMNED YOU MUST DO BETTER".

I exaggerated just a tad with that, but some of the goodbye missives were extraordinarily heartfelt; like i say having paid for an annual or monthly membership some people felt the need to be in charge and tantrumising their dissatisfaction seemed the only way to say goodbye.

Theme Monday was magicked out of a conversation around some of the gloom left behind. Alicia’s "why don’t we change avatars for a day" was funnier than it sounds as around sixty folk shrunk down to their baby photos, some more recognisable than others and really really cute.

Creating value for other people shows up all the time on app.net, that is one of the community’s many endearing qualities that survives in spite of the sometimes febrile threads on whether the platform itself can/will/should survive.

A Second Monday of the Month community tradition grew from that first Baby Monday; Alicia, Berklee and I got more organised and efficient with each one. It was my first time doing anything like this and I was delighted to see people getting in to the spirit of it, part of the idea behind it was to give folk a reason to connect with users who might be strangers to them, and for me that happened a lot as I captured all the many different avatars.

It grew with each month, Albums Monday had 248 ADN users joining in, a milestone at its six month mark. Music sharing can be such an expressive thing, it’s one of the reasons why I love Rivr app so much, how it affords the opportunity to leave a digital thumbprint of what I’m listening to with some social potential attached.

With everyone posting their favourite album as their avatar I wanted to duplicate the Rivr experience and compile a playlist from each avi choice. I floated the idea publicly and discussed it with Berklee in private then found myself cut out of the conversation with the Monday Night Dance Party team.

Not what we agreed would happen but it happened any way, when I asked what had been said I received a petulant copy/pasted transcript of his conversation with the MNDP guys and later a broad stroke criticism of my personality. That was really the beginning of the end of my involvement with Theme Monday.

Do you think we talked it out as albeit new friends or collaborators? I tried but all my Private Messages and emails went unreplied. Aware of a bereavement in his family i gave Berklee space to get in touch and with the following month’s Lego Monday the bullshit flowed in to disrespect.

So the copy I produced for an Albums Monday Playlist never did go up on the Theme Monday website and Berklee’s justified his non response on the basis that my emails were incomplete.

Allowing for different communication styles or the varying ways people handle conflict I weighed up what I loved against what I was coming to hate, and calling time on my involvement with Theme Monday was a logical but sad choice.

I took a timeout from ADN and regrouped and returned to have Berklee in my morning Mentions exchanging pleasantries like nothing the frack had happened, that is too much disconnect for me to get my head around and i had to put a stop to that.

We can be whoever we want to be online and behave however we choose, trolling and flame wars for the most part don’t bleed out in to our real lives.

I have no idea why they reached out in to real life to meet me and kept their online personas going. The end of Theme Monday -and I won’t be taking part in any of it, was also the end of a friendship.

I’ve been freeze framing that coffee shop conversation, feeling small about not having filtered myself more, I didn’t think much about their cartoon avatars
and yes I had an expectation that I was meeting with real people not online handles. I probably wouldn’t have shared my business idea with them if I’d thought about them being aliases.

I’m very particular about having my choices eroded by other people, that is one aspect of control freakery that I’ll own as all mine. I can’t hold on to feeling upset about being genuine and real with fake people I’ve met, faux friendships have to fall apart.

Note 10/11/13
I’m sad to hear Theme Monday has somewhat dissolved as a community event. No publicity efforts on the part of Berklee & Co, when Theme Monday was always about seeding a community, has had the inevitable effect of apathy and slim participation.

The guy could paint

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I spent time at the Manet show at The Royal Academy last week, based on a really slim understanding of his work I’d been looking forward to this one.

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I’ve seen the Berthe Morisot portrait often enough, and his Music In The Tuilleries Gardens is an of it’s time celebridee group portrits that foreshadows Vanity Fair magazine cover shots by about 130 years. What else did i know? That the Impressionists credited him with hugely influencing the work they produced and that he revered Diego Velasquez.

Actually, his admiration for Velasquez is what plinked this show on my radar, Diego’s become a touch point for my art appreciation, being the first artist i fell in love with his work has become my personal standard of the sublime. Observing Manet’s expression of old master techniques blended with Velasquez realism was a delight and I realised, that guy knew how to paint, I’m going back for more.

The Philosopher1867 Eduoard Manet

The Philosopher
1867 Eduoard Manet

Art is not an object

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Victoria Falls, 23 million gallons of water crash over the precipice every minute. The largest waterfall in the world, to hear it and feel the rumbling in your chest is quite something, to trek your way through a dense rain forest coming upon it after a 20 minute walk is quite profound. It’s one of my favourite things to do back home, to stand observing the edge and feel dwarfed, to feel inconsequential in the face of it’s magnitude and privileged to be a witness of such awesomeness. Scale is a thing I’ve been considering since Bronze at The Royal Academy and William Klein at Tate Modern last year.

“Art is not an object but a trigger for an experience” – Roy Ascott

I wrote about seeing Klein, it was like visiting an old friend so full of iconic images on a gigantic scale that couldn’t fail to impress or draw you in. Drinking in the pleasure of the exhibition I went deeper with Klein and found something I didn’t know was there.

William Klein  fashion photography

William Klein fashion photography

Before that show i’d missed the added layer to the mirror work, blown up on a gallery wall the lines and perspective that Klein worked so well make this fashion photo from 1950s Vogue shoot feel intriguingly urban.

Art and photography is usually what I go and see at galleries, but the Bronze show has shifted something in me. If you knew how pedestrian my self taught art appreciation tastes are you’d be as surprised as I am that the two most affecting shows I’ve seen in the last year were a sculpture show and an art installation. Yeah, I can hardly believe it myself, but I’m certainly feeling it.

My first visit to the Bronze at The RA was so absorbing and intense that my brain cut out after Room 5, probably because of the Brancusi bird -all simplicity of form with no details to absorb, it’s just golden and perfect.

 Brancusi and Giacometti at Bronze at The Royal Academy

Brancusi and Giacometti at Bronze at The Royal Academy

But also there was Boccioni and De Kooning pushing dimension and form in to the realms of science fiction. Giacometti, Louise Bourgeoise and Il Porcelino by Pietro Tacca which reminded me so strongly of the wild boars in Princess Mononoke I almost clapped delightedly at the likeness. That show triggered emotions for me, in addition to the joy of observing  some seminal bronze works up real close or actually appreciating the many moving parts of the sculpture making process, there were also the waterfall moments when pieces transitioned from being beautiful to being experiential.

Il Porcelino by Pietro Tacca

Il Porcelino by Pietro Tacca

There was one piece that made me revisit that show. The immediate thrill of seeing some of my favourites having dissipated, the pleasure centre of my being wanted, actually needed me to experience Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus With The Head of Medusa one more time. I went late on the final day, hoping for, if not an empty room then one less crowded than on my first visit.

Commissioned by a Duke de Medici for the Piazza della Signorina in Florence, Perseus holds Medusa’s head in his right hand, held high in triumph for the viewer to see, Perseus’ left foot pins down Medusa’s headless body, sprawled beneath him, her form is as physically accurate as his. Her back arches and her dress flows in ripples like its silk, it’s bronze. Looking up from underneath in to his face his expression is fierce.

Perseus with the Head of Medusa, bronze by Benvenuto Cellini

Perseus with the Head of Medusa, bronze by Benvenuto Cellini

It’s bronze but it’s alive. The statue would have joined Michelangelo’s David in the piazza and whilst that seminal work is, too, magnificent, Cellini in one piece produced a narrative climax that transcends the marble perfection that is David. It took my breath away and made me feel small with wonder, i love the intensity of that and i haven’t been able to stop looking at sculpture around town ever since.

 

Horizons

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Avenue At Middleharnis, Meindert Hobbema

Avenue At Middleharnis, Meindert Hobbema

On a rough day when I still worked at the gallery I’d take a specially curated walk. The gallery itself was a wonderful building to work in, my office was on one side beneath the religious iconography of the 13th century, my project space and teams were on the more contemporary side of the 19th century art collection, not too far away from the Impressionists and other visionaries. I knew so little about my art tastes when I started working there, over three years though I formed a daily habit for appreciating something beautiful and i built up a personal portfolio of sensory treasures. I needed to, the personal dynamics of the organisation made working there hostile and emotionally fraught but there was always a piece of work I could seek out to find comfort.

Needing to traverse the gallery space I could take the outside course, crossing the top of Trafalgar Square, side stepping stationary tourists and feed pecking pigeons, plowing through clouds of filthy bird feathers, delightful. By delightful I mean yuck, but that 90 second escape hatch brought me in to the fresh air of the day and was by far the most convenient route to the furthest of my project outposts in the East Wing.

On rainy days I could navigate the warren of internal, staff only passageways, a particular favourite was the straight path from the Sainsbury Wing beneath the Portico along the Directors’ Corridor exiting out in to the East Wing. I’m a heavy footed noisy stepper and the rhythmic echo of heel toe on the parquet floors would give me a little aural disconnect, like focusing on your breathing during an asthma attack. I’d sink in to the gaps between the footsteps and reorder myself internally, before pulling opening the heavy doors to reemerge in to the storminess of my day.

The granite flights of Sainsbury Wing staircase connect three floors on that side of the building, it was a route I referred to fondly as The Stairmaster, my thighs were amazing but I took it on the way up only if I had to. This was a crisis pathway and my least favourite, on a hard day the stone cliff held a lifeline when I made it to the summit which made the effort worthwhile.

It seems obvious in a way that a gallery like this one would be a magical place to get lost in, on early mornings, staff from varying parts of the organisation’s team would spend a bit of time truly alone with something they loved or were interested in. Forming a connection with a piece of art was normal and being able to feed that without the background hum of the general public was very special. I don’t care much for what the royal family do, but that Prince Charles would hold private dinners in one of the gallery rooms is the only thing i envy. Imagine it. No really, close your eyes and imagine what that must be like!

My first loves in that space were the two Turners bequeathed to be displayed alongside works by Claude, I would detour past them if I had time but more often than not I did not, and I would clip clop through rooms full of magnificence and concentrate on reaching my safe haven.

My quest would bring me to Avenue at Middleharniss by Meindert Hobbema, it used to hang in Room 22 until a deranged curator had it moved. Okay the curator probably knew what they were going for when it took up residence in Room 19, but the rehang irretrievably changed my experience of this painting.

My favourite art mirrors something back to me and I curated my art therapy tour, so that when I entered Room 22 Middleharniss faced me directly from the back wall. Hobbema does an interesting optical thing with the trees lining the avenue, so that the flow from foreground to background is a smooth elegant transition. I love how he manoeuvres me deeper in to the painting and I would walk an imaginary procession up to the back wall in a straight line with my eye drawn to the sweet spot on the horizon, it was a total and complete escape.

William Klein

William Klein contact sheet

William Klein contact sheet

The William Klein retrospective at Tate Modern is an overview of a prolific artist who has been creating in visual mediums since the 1950’s. Its a wonderful show.

I love the detail in Klein’s photography his frames are full of context and pinned down ephemera. Starting out as a painter when he left the Sorbonne in Paris, an accidental experiment with photogram panels drew him in to what a camera can present and reveal. Returning to New York after Paris, Klein bought a wide angle lens to cram as much as he could in to each shot. The aesthetic that he formulated served him in his street photography and his Vogue fashion work alike.

“I was out gathering evidence, I made up the rules as i went along and they suited me fine. Grain, blur, contrast, accidents, cockeyed framing, no problem.”

I could spend an afternoon regarding just one room of his work and at this show there are eight. The first delights for me were in Room 2, where some of Klein’s more familiar photos have been exquisitely blown up to cover vast lengths of the gallery wall. I took a few photos on my phone when I noticed lax gallery security, I couldn’t help it!

William Klein  fashion photography

William Klein fashion photography

This was a revelation for me, seeing it in real life for the first time I got the full effect of the mirror work and got the fun as a viewer looking in to the shot and then deeper still to penetrate beyond the lens in to the mirror, and it’s beautifully done.

With so much content there’s a lot to discover here, not least the different mediums that Klein has worked in and the changes from room to room are welcome with so much to absorb. That film in Room 1 of New York neon cut to a jazz score led made an impression on Orson Welles who called it “the first film i’ve seen in which the colour is absolutely necessary.”

That is one of Klein’s many forays in celluloid, before The Devil Wears Prada there was Who Are You Polly Magoo snippets of which screen in Room 6 and the documentaries which chronicle Muhammad Ali, Eldridge Cleaver as well as the Paris protests of 1968 probably deserve a cinema season of their own.

In Room 3, a selection of the photo sequences that form a part of Life Is Good and Good for You in New York: Trance Witness Revels showcases the city portraits that bookmark a development in photography’s technique in capturing a culture. Nestling amongst the humour of the Tokyo series, that i followed from end to start and was really none the worse for it, there’s this moonlit meditation on a New York skyline.

William Klein New York

William Klein New York

I found it the quietest photo of them all. I love it for that.

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Mixel of the Week #4

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Mixel of theWeek

An echo from the previous week’s Mixel of the Week #3 i find my eye is drawn to the Kandinsky circles, trying to figure out what the pattern is and how often it repeats. The Mondrian trees bleed intensity with mini aneuryisms of colour exploding on the canvas. The movement through both is what held my attention, it made me think about dance and ballet and Matthew Bourne and consequently a whole other mixel got made.

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Favourite mixel last week
More so because this was my most awesome random moment last week. Crossing the square outside Westminster Cathedral between Mcdonalds and Specsavers, there was something almost medieval about this Harrison Hawk’s keeper.

The bird was perched on his leather clad forearm, majestic and alert, I’ve probably imagined that he wore swashbuckling boots, and that would be weird, but the two of them together looked like they were out of time and for once the square was pigeon free.

The flying rodents that are a tourist attraction constant are kept in check by this hawk who looked right at me as if i were dead to him, it was a little unnerving. Encountering that detachment felt odd. Sangfroid not withstanding I was relieved to hear he’s not trained to perform tricks, other than catching a morsel of food mid flight, Harrison here will show up at your birthday party and swoop around regally and that’s about it.

Mixel of the Week #3

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Mixelled Mondrian & cake

I can see I’m not the only one who throbs for cake because this is the mixel that received the most ‘likes’ last week. In real life, outside of Mixelronia, I’m known as somewhat of a cakeoholic, I quite literally push the take-my-delicious-cake-and-make-it-look-extraordinary to really ridiculous levels, consequently my Facebook album is full of *cake porn*.

“I believe it is possible that, through horizontal and vertical lines constructed with awareness, but not with calculation, led by high intuition, and brought to harmony and rhythm, these basic forms of beauty, supplemented if necessary by other direct lines or curves, can become a work of art, as strong as it is true.” -Mondrian

Mondrian sounds so optimistic here I imagine he’d be delighted by this cake homage because cake is beautiful, and if you think about it the eggs, flour and butter being mixed up to manifest as cake is deliciously harmonious. I therefore put it to you that this cake is the artiest of arty art right?

Mondrian might enjoy how it references ‘Composition II in Red Blue and Yellow’ one of the grid based paintings he began to produce after 1919 and for which he came to be renowned. He started out as a more literal painter, i like and have mixelled some of his tree paintings which are a teeny bit abstract in form and can be viewed as a transition between the literal to the abstract and spatial work that is his signature. It wasn’t until I saw a retrospective last year that I even knew that he had painted in any colour other than red, white, blue, yellow and black.

Mondrian -mixellled ‘Trees’

My favourite Mixel

I’ve had a fairly inside-doors week so I’ve been home a lot more when the afternoon merges in to early evening. The beauty of autumn not withstanding I actually hate this time of year. It’s synonymous with going back to school, putting away my summer toes and recognising the nights begin earlier and earlier. I don’t enjoy winter light, it’s not just the absence of sunshine with any significant heat ratio, it’s that the light for the next six or seven months will be thin and feint and distant. Brooding over this I took comfort in JMW Turner.

JMW Turner ‘Three Seascapes’

If I’ve not said this before let me say it loud and clear, when Chris Smith MP made museums and galleries free to enter in the 90s he created a cultural legacy that changed peoples relationships to art, he did an amazing thing. The national collection belongs to the taxpayer and for the various buildings that house it entrance is free, as it should be. I live not too far away from Tate Britain,I treat it like it’s my living room.

JMW Turner

It’s where I got to know Turner really well; they have loads hanging there. What keeps me going back to him is his fascination with light, he painted the sea a lot and most of what I’ve seen are daytime scenarios. I’ve always found this night time painting spellbinding, that funnel of a spotlight in the middle of the painting is beautiful to me.

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