Friday, 17 December 2010

The king's new clothes

We went to Nottingham during the week to visit Nottingham Contemporary which, with two other galleries in Nottingham, is showing the British Art Show 7.

It's a wonderful building and the people are great. Modern art can be inspiring, challenging, bewildering, annoying, but this, I'm afraid, was just banal.

The subtitle of this exhibition is 'The Days Of The Comet'. In the Days of the Comet is a 1906 science fiction novel by H. G. Wells in which the vapors of a comet are used as a device which brings about a profound and lasting transformation in the attitudes and perspectives of humankind. The main Character, William plans to kill his ex-lover and the man she has run away with.
"After making thorough plans to find and kill the two lovers, he follows them to another village along the coast. Finding them bathing in the sea at night under the comet's green light, he begins his final contemplations on the acts he is going to commit: two murders followed by his suicide. Before he can carry out his plan, two battleships appear on the horizon and begin shelling the coastal town. Amongst the chaos of the shelling and panicked people fleeing, William almost loses Nettie and Verral as he decides to try and shoot them amongst the distressed crowd. The comet begins to melt as it enters the atmosphere, releasing a mysterious green gaseous fog that quickly envelops most everywhere. At this point the fleeing people are not running from the shelling but from the foreboding fog. William is swallowed by the fog and subsequently falls asleep.
He awakes with a great clarity of mind, feeling rejuvenated in almost every way, and curiously remarks on the short-sighted and ill-conceived notion that he deliberately tried to kill his only love. Finding other people who are waking themselves, it is realized that the green gas has changed the air somehow, and brought simplicity and understanding to humankind."

I'm afraid I saw nothing in the installations that might have taken any inspiration from the novel or its subject matter. Why, then, bother with it?
The various installations seemed disparate, inarticulate and pretentious. I realise that saying such things is going to raise the usual arguments that I don't understand what ther artists are getting at... what modern art is... why it's important. These things might be more, or less, true but what is clear is that most of what was here was inaccessible, confused and confusing.

There was general agreement among our group that one item (we had to have our attention drawn to it) a slit in the wallcovering that looked like the paper was beginning to lift, was actually stuffed with minute amounts of cows' brains. There was no way of knowing this nor of understanding what the artist wanted to say or to have us receive. I note that nowhere in any of the critical essays about this exhibit in newspapers, magazines, blogs etc., is there any comment on this particular artwork. Plainly I'm not the only one who's baffled.

The one item that, I feel, might draw people in from outside is Brian Griffiths’ huge bear’s head.
A quote from a newspaper crit - sorry I can't remember which...
"Brian Griffiths’ huge bear’s head made from faded orange canvas is viewable from the street through a full-length window. Suspended by thick ropes, it’s a curious, maudlin thing that looks as if it has got lost on the way to a funfair, separated from the rest of its body by some violent storm. It’s not quite huggable, not quite scary, not quite right."
I think the reason this makes an impression and has been put where the outside public can see it is precisely because it's representational and people have some chance of being touched by it in many ways.

The rest is just so much 'king's new clothes' and some innocent child needs to say so.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Things that make me angry or make me smile

If you've read this blog in the past, you'll know about Sutton's elms. Sutton in the Elms has its name because of the elm trees under which, in 1650,  the Baptists from nearby villages assembled secretly to worship. Elm trees have, in recent years, been subject to the depredations of the Elm Bark Beetle and the fatal fungus it spreads so that the Elms of Sutton in the Elms are long gone.

Last October, the village got together to plant new elm trees through the village and, over the hot Summer of 2010, they watered them and cared for them.

A few weeks ago, someone tore down one of the elms in the outskirts of the village. It has been put back together and its trunk bound theough it seems unlikely to survive. If that weren't bad enough, the final, symbolic tree was broken and cast down in the early hours of a morning this week.

Other things were part of the vandalism, an old lady's bins were removed and dumped on the main road - perhaps not a great crime, but very difficult for someone old and frail. The notices asking people not to park their care where bulbs had been planted were also pulled up and thrown about.

I know I'm getting old and crabby (as opposed to young and crabby) but what makes me angry is the sheer pettiness, the blind destructiveness of destroying something that gives people pleasure and into which they have put a fair bit of hard work. It's as if the vandals are saying,"No matter what you do to make life better for everyone, we can still bring you down to our twisted level". "What we want is for you to have lives as stripped of light and joy as our own". It's the simple banality of that point of view that angers me. Instead of doing what they can to improve people's (including their own) lives, they simply destroy.

I'm also made angry by the fact that this happened at 5.10 in the morning. This wasn't some drunken spree after the pubs close, it was a calculated piece of contempt. Of course, the most depressing thing of all is the fact that the Police attended and gave pursuit but lost the culprits. This is a village! What's wrong with them? Don't they have radios, cars, even a helicopter which seems to hover frequently overhead. I almost despair that they are capable of any real action.

So, it's time to write a bit about what makes me happy: living in a beautiful part of the countryside, the passing of the seasons, snow, frost and startling sunshine. I'm easily pleased.

Some of the elms survive and people are keeping a watch on them

Startling sunshine  - a village dawn

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Christmas starts now

In last week's blog, I asked "...where are the snows of yesteryear..." (in French, of course). Well, as we expected, they have arrived.

Living where we do, the countryside in Winter can be very beautiful,  a little bleak.

However, the road out of the village can be a bit hazardous, so the car can stay where it is today and I'm working from home updating the Jobs Desk

There are still plenty of haws on the climbing roses, with their own dusting of snow - brrrr.

The birds are being well fed, but water is a problem.

Anyway, in all this cold, were worried that no-one would turn up to our Celebration of Christmas at Leicester Guildhall. This is in aid of the Leicester Children's Holiday Centre (Mablethorpe) and it falls to me to organise the acts,the PA system and the mulled wine.

We began with 'Starlets Performing Arts'  who can be seen above with their organiser, Kerry, waiting to go on stage.

This being a mediaeval guild hall, the stage is tiny but the atmosphere is magical. halfway down the hall there's a blazing coke fire to drive away the Winter cold.

'Welcome to the 60s'

'I'm Gonna Wash That Man...'

SoClose Barbershop Quartet performed for us a couple of years ago and I was determined to get them back as soon as they were available.

Banjo Dez is one of our greates supporters and always goes down a storm. He has some of George Formby's original robes and does a wicked impression. To drive the cold away, this year we had 'Swimmin with the Wimmin' - nice and Summery.

Rivers and Shivers are a Professional duo who sing all sorts of music and they gave us a bluesy, jazzy session that everyone appreciated,

 Meanwhile, the team were getting the buffet supper ready for the interval.

T43 - good friends who are soloists with the local Bardi Orchestra (there are 3, but the pianist is slighly off the stage on the right). There repertoire includes all the classics but also traditional celtic music and jazz.

The view across the courtyard while the Fosse Singers Community Choir waited to take the stage.

They gave a varied programme in the second half and concluded by leading the audience in a number of carols. Everyone seemed to enjoy the evening and I hope we've raised a bit of money for the children's holidays next year.