Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

80’s Disco & Gloss Pop! (a mixtape)

Tony Benn: National Treasure status was a sign of failure

Tony Benn was a mediocre minister when in power, a terrible grandstander once out, and a leading figure in a generation of failed Labour politicians that left the way open for the rise of Thatcherism, neoliberalism and the toxic strain of Capitalism that persists today, and a great admirer of Margaret Thatcher herself... no wonder he was the Left-winger most admired by the Right in general and the Daily Telegraph in particular. His elevation to tea-drinking 'Nation Treasure' status was nothing more than evidence of his complete failure as an advocate of Socialism and irrelevance to the shaping of the national discourse. It is when the right-wing press hate you that is a sign that they see you as a threat and take you seriously enough to fear you, that is the sign that you know you are doing well, not when they pat you on the head and patronise you. This is the thing to remember as we await the string of sycophantic tributes from across the political class's that will now inevitably follow his passing. We live today in a country ruled by a bunch of incompetent Old Etonians where the poor, the sick and immigrants are punished for an economy brought to its needs by the incompetence and avariciousness of a venal and corrupt 'greed is good' banking class. Despite her passing we are still living very much in Thatcher's Britain and as much as Thatcher is seen as an icon of the triumph of the Right, Benn can be viewed as a symbol of the abject failure of the left.

Monday, 5 August 2013

On Art and Music: Making Dance Music & Producing Artworks

Keith Haring: Untitled (Palladium backdrop), 1985

At the birth of, what is now usually referred to as, 'dance music' at venues such as The Loft and The Gallery in 1970's NYC, it often inhabited a cultural arena congruent with the city's art scene and artists, along with both New Wave and nascent Hip Hop. Arthur Russell, for instance, one time musical director of avant-guard downtown performance space The Kitchen, made disco records with early innovators Nicky Siano and Francois Kevorkian, Keith Haring decorated the interior  of The Palladium nightclub and Jean-Michel Basquiat executive produced an early electro-rap Lp.

As both a producer of dance music and art the relationship been the two has always sat comfortably with me. My art work is conceptual, idea-based, de-skilled (de-crafted would be a better term) so an artwork's creation, bar the practicalities of some perfunctory post-production, may only take a fraction of second (while obviously the background that enables an idea to pop-up i.e the *research* - reading and thinking about that which interests me, is continuous). Therefore my practice is generally a very cerebral thing and a non-craft based thing. The music on the other hand, being 'dance music' (I dislike the term), is ultimately located in the body. Therefore while a viewers engagement with the art is extremely subjective/contingent/contextual, with the music it operate at a more primordial, visceral, and in a sense 'pure' level i.e a person will either 'feel it' or they won't. While language, discourse and discussion are integral to a viewers engagement with the artworks they are, to a large extent, superfluous in relationship to the music. So to be a little bit simplistic one is 'mind' - the other ‘body'.

On a practical level while I find making art (as opposed living life!) very easy - this leaves me with a pervasive feeling that maybe it has no value. While having a basic 'feel' for music is something one is born with I've enjoyed the challenge of learning the technical aspects that are essential in modern dance music production, and cultivating the skills to listen analytically and craft sounds - 'sound design' and getting these sounds to sit together is very much a *craft* just like a carpenter developing a feel for different timbers or a painter developing an understanding for how different oils mix.

Having said there are also projects where the two have come together: In a piece I did for my MA show at Central Saint Martins with Paul Abbott, we performed a live audio/visual 'set’ mashing together randomly selected youtube clips with software we had developed ourselves. In a recent piece I performed at the Vibe Gallery I mixed 'spiritual' music from around the world, such as Japanese rieki, Tibetan singing bowl music and Estonian sacred classical, in a dj set applying the techniques and effects of Jamaican dub such as delay, frequency modulation and extreme reverb. ‘Live Sonic Arts Event’ was a performance evening I curated at Chelsea College of Art. The evening aimed to explore the space between the divergent audience expectation’s of a dance music event and and a sonic arts performance. It included performances by Julian Doyle AKA Filter Feeder and Pete Caul AKA Pseudo Nippon. One of my earliest pieces consisted of 5 wall mounted 12" x 12" panels each coverd in a different coloured layer of hi-gloss paint, each titled below after an underground dance record from early 1980s NYC.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Brutalist Architecture, Photography & Memory.

The photographs of Brutalist Architecture I find most engaging are those that have a significant people and/or nature presence. Dappled light refracted through trees, the warmth implicit in the stark contrast of light and shade caused by the sun and its shadows, or kids hurrying to class. Concrete's monolithism can be oppressive in urban areas were there is little nature to soften its brute force, but I also find nature oppressive in its 'authenticity' without the contextualisation brought about by proximity to the man-made. It is this juxtaposition that causes me to love airplane vapour trails, Hammersmith Flyover and the Westway (low level auto-mobile flying on concrete).

My warmth towards Brutalism may also be auto-historical. Born in the winter of 1969 I was a child of the 70's when it was still 'in' (in the 70's cinemas still occasionally showed B-movies to support the main feature and I once witnessed a corporate style documentary called the 'The History of Concrete' - I found its boringness absurd). I would also play with Tess and Mark Tinker, the children of Tim Tinker, the lead architect of the recently demolished Heygate housing Estate in Southwark, It had been completed in 1974. Brutalism also has a boldness and bravery that embraced the future: sci-fi realised. These are some of the reasons photographs of Brutalist Architecture evoke in in me feelings of warmth, hope, idealism and utopian progress, and sunlit days.