Tuesday 24 January 2012

Evangelist of Happiness

'Evangelist of Happiness' - this phrase was used to describe Pipilotti Rist by the New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl, I saw this written in a review of her recent London show at the Hayward Gallery and couldn't think of a better or more apt description for 'Eyeball Massage' - her recently-finished show at the Hayward Gallery.

[photo by me]
The first thing you see when you go in to the exhibition is Massachusetts Chandelier -  a light-hearted start to the show and a nice way to begin.  The underwear was donated from her family and friends and in the booklet accompanying the exhibition she refers to underpants as 'the temple of our abdomen' and goes on to say 'this part of the body is very sacred, as it is the site of our entrance into the world, the centre of sexual pleasure and the location of the exits for the body's garbage'.  So straight away you get one of the main themes of the exhibition - the celebration of the human body.

My photos are, to put it bluntly, crap! However the video review at the bottom was filmed in the exhibition so watch that if you want to see more of the films.  The photo I've included here (below) is of 'I'm not the girl who misses much', made whilst Rist was a student.  It shows her singing the words of the title (a line from the Beatles song Happiness is a Warm Gun') while dancing around topless.  This was really weird as you had to stick your head up through holes in a wooden board in order to see the film - it felt like watching a peep show, but with other people as there were quite a few holes - even weirder!  Both image and sound were at varying speeds and there was a definite air of hysteria to it, but still a real element of fun as well.  There were lots of films shown on the floor, in the floor, in seashells, in handbags - so innovative!  My absolute favourite, and the one I could have spent all day in was 'Lobe of the Lung'.  This was projects on three screens, a slightly different film on each one, with lots of cushions for folk to sit and watch it on.  It was like a cocoon, with hypnotic music as well.  When we were in there were children in, dancing about and enjoying it and lots of people lying about on the cushions.  The colours in this film were totally saturated - I remember lots of shots of rotting fruit, water lillies, a girl underwater, a wild pig eating grass shown at the same time as the girl eating an apple. 

[photo by me]

In his audio review Peter Schjeldahl says “She resolves no critical problems of contemporary art. She just makes you forget that there are any”.  This isn't meant as a criticism at all as he begins by saying she is one of his favourite artists.  I don't know much about the critical problems of contemporary art but this exhibition didn't make me forget issues in contemporary art and art history which I think are important.  This show really made me think about the way that women are often portrayed in art, of the absence of women throughout the history of art (not a complete absence just a distinct lack of).  I would also say that in the positive depiction of sensuality and of the human body in all it's shapes and sizes, the theme of reconnecting us with nature, with animal instincts, makes it in a sense very political.  And, as Schjeldahl said, 'it made being a member of society seem like a great idea'.

Another description of the show, which sums up how I felt when I walked out - happy, dazed, calm, on a bit of a high, in love with the world - comes from Adrian Searle in the video shown below.  His description? 'You come out and the world feels better'. Thank you Pipilotti Rist for making my world a better place on Saturday January 7th.


Wednesday 11 January 2012

Cinema in a suitcase

I'm not sure if I can count this as my January fulfilment of Resolution No.4 'Try and visit a new-to-me Cinema/film screening venue once a month' as I've been to the ICA bar before and their cinema, however it was the first time I've seen a film screened in their bar. Also the first time ever I've seen film I've 'made' screened!

So, I better back up and start at the beginning.  When my friend Sarah said she was coming down for the weekend and did I want to meet up I said of course! I happily cancelled my plans for, well, having no plans and staying in, and went out to meet up with Sarah and Bob instead.  We headed down to the ICA for the launch night of the London Short Film Festival as Sarah had spotted that Suitcase Cinema were going to be doing an event/workshop in the ICA bar.

Now I had never heard of Suitcase Cinema before but one look at their website and I knew I wanted to go.  Suitcase Cinema are all about the celluloid and for this particular event this meant salvaged 16mm films they had found in skips and at flea markets.  Here was the event information from the LSFF website:
write and draw directly onto transparent film, or deface a strip of their flea market found film by bleaching, scratching, rewriting and re-imagining. When your work is done, they’ll thread it up and feed it straight into their projector, so you can see your images instantly transformed into moving, living beings.

choosing my tools, Suitcase Cinema event, 06/01/2012

What an amazing opportunity to try making a piece of film (however short it was - as it turned out very short due to my previous lack of understanding of how quickly the piece of film I'd drawn, scraped & bleached on would move through the projector!).  Also looking at it very simplistically it's the very antithesis of my professional work - defacing and altering something rather than preserving it as it is.  My only previous experience of working with film was running it through a Steenbeck and using a splicer to repair film. 

Me and Sarah, at work/play!

As the films were salvaged and bought second-hand this was film strip with content and a story already on it. We were given pens, scrapers, paint and bleach to alter/deface this film and create our own images and ideas on top of it. The effect of the bleach on the film was pretty dramatic and I liked using the scraper as well to create lines and patterns. Sarah pointed out to me that any patterns would have to be continued over a number of frames in order to show up when projected - I hadn't realised how much so until I saw the tiny bit of film I'd worked on projected - it was pretty much a case of 'blink and you'd miss it'. It really made me appreciate just how much work must go into any experimental film - Norman Mclaren's work immediately sprang to mind - not, I hasten to add, out of any parallels I drew between his work and my own meagre attempt - just in terms of drawing straight onto film.

I had so much fun at this event and I really think that the experience of making films - even just playing about with it a wee bit like we did - would do so much to enrich the experience of film preservation.  I'm sure that most archivists working in film preservation also have experience of film making, definitely of film projection but for me it was a first-time of film-making (however short-lived and fleeting it was).  All in all, I'm so glad we went (thanks Sarah, for bringing the event to my attention - and for coming down as I probably wouldn't have gone alone!).  And of course a big thanks to Suitcase Cinema, and to the LSFF and the ICA for hosting the event - what a fun and creative way to spend a Friday night.
Long live Celluloid!!

Sunday 8 January 2012

Resolution time - Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! Well, I'm already falling a bit short on my first resolution - to organise my time better.  Where has this first week gone?!

My first full year living in London  - it's been fun, it's been busy, it's been overwhelming at times but on the whole I'm loving it!  It took both me and Oliver a while to settle in to London life - at first we felt like we had to be busy all the time as there's so much to do, but now we've realised there's always going to be lots to do and it can't all be done as time is needed to relax too - this was a hard lesson for me to learn as I'm not very good at relaxing!

I didn't write any resolutions last year so I thought I'd write some this year - here goes!

New Year Resolutions

  1. Organise my time better, at home and at work
  2. Sign up for the Archives & Records Association Registration Scheme
  3. Get back to reading more non-fiction
  4. Try and visit a new-to-me Cinema/film screening venue once a month 
  5. Keep a record of all the films I watch and books I read
  6. Buy less clothes/get back to learning to sew
  7. Introduce the idea of Analog Sunday's as I saw it on a blog I recently found 'Someday. by Avalonne Hall' Try and have at least 2 a month
1. hmmn, not quite sure how easy this will (see above)
2. I think I'll leave this till February as I've got quite a lot on at work this month already and I don't want to spend all my time when I'm not in my work still doing archive-related work.  I went to a Registration Scheme workshop so I need to a. find my notes from this then b. write them up for the London region newsletter - this will be my first step towards signing up for registration.

3. I have lots of non-fiction sitting on my shelves just waiting to be read so time and motivation are the only constraints here.
4. Can't see any problems with this one!
5. I used to keep scrapbooks that I would fill with all my gig, cinema and exhibition tickets.  I'd like to get back to doing this but make it a bit more personal by trying to add in short notes on the films/books/gigs.
6. Ahem, well motivation is the main one here, as well as organisation of course.  I could have done some sewing today but instead filled my day with housework, cooking and watching 'The Philadelphia Story' for the third or fourth time!

7. Well, apart from today that is!  I would like to try and have more days without opening my laptop.  It might be harder not to check Twitter on my phone though!  Over the Christmas holidays we were back in Scotland for 9 days and only went on a computer once.  I really enjoyed the break, and even though I checked Twitter I didn't really engage with it at all over the holidays.  So yes, I'd like to make an effort to have computer/Internet free days.  I didn't add 'No television' to mine as I enjoy watching films on a Sunday. Similarly I phone my Gran most Sunday's so I certainly couldn't make Sunday a phone-free day!

So, let's see how these go. I don't think I've set myself anything groundbreaking or to difficult so hopefully I can stick to them all!