Thursday, April 19, 2007

DSC_2623 - In case of emergencyThe problem with not blogging regularly is that one never quite can remember what has been done. Did I mention the parakeets? No? Oh, well a pair were being both thoroughly incongruous and utterly natural when I went to visit my brother a while ago. First time I've seen them naturalised and it took me a while to work out that the chittering things with odd flight styles weren't just some odd but normal and half-forgotten bird.

Speaking of things half forgotten, Easter was quiet. Literally. I was ploughing my way through His Dark Materials (good but not stunning) on Easter Sunday when I realised that there was nothing beyond birdsong. No cars, no people, no extractor fans ostentatiously shushing, no fractious traffic rumbling, no spiteful compressors hissing, no electrical drilling whine, no plaintively ululating alarms, no generic hum. Just finches, tits and the rest. It's odd to think that that's how Sunday used to be. I know this sounds like nostalgia, but having thought it through, it seems true (at least for certain parts of the country]. Nothing was open on a Sunday. There was nowhere to go. There was nothing to do but go for a walk or visit people. Visiting people meant pre-arranged trips where the journey is a small part of the event. Going for walk meant only that. Partly it's economics, partly opportunity, partly attitude. Petrol was treated as a rarity (even if it was only thought of as that), cars were scarcer, more sacrosanct and less reliable, roads less efficient, but above all the country was shut down for the duration.

It's odd to read that back, because it sounds so old fashioned, yet it can't be, but I know the world never used to this perpetual, incessant, presumptive. It's disconcerting to find oneself aware 'twasn't ever thus. It's easy to learn the world moves on, said he who still half expects the names in the news to be Thatcher, Reagan and Gorbachev, but it be able to recognise differences in the slowly changing parts of it seems strange (and faintly damning - I can't be old enough to know the past).

Speaking of things changing, am I meant to be worried by this Pakistani Summer (well, if an Indian Summer runs into autumn...), which allows the absurdity of watching the Grand National barefoot in shorts through sun-bleached vision? April is meant to be wet, April showers should not come from a watering can; Easter is meant to mean dreary days trapped indoors with books and bank holiday epics, not eggs eaten before they melt.

Incidentally I've been listening to Hypem's radio while typing this. It's an odd mix, alternately dully generic and plagiaristic (just listen to the beginning of Bright Eyes's Four Winds and try not to think about being naughty or nice, but the Jackson's thing may well have been a borrowing to start with). But either their computer tries to blend based on similar sound or fuzzy synths are very in (I suspect it's simply the industry's current vogue for all things eighties - actually, that's not just the music industry, as digital television recently managed to a Back to the Future on air at the same time as Short Circuit and Weird Science. All they needed was a Police Academy to complete the set and the earth would have spun at eighty-eight miles per hour flinging us all into a land inhabited solely by Goldie Hawn and Harrison Ford). But having said that, I'm baling on Hypem as they've just switched from Miles Davis to punk-trance. Back to Winehouse methinks.

Other cultural stuff included a last minute foray into the RA's Citizens and Kings exhibition, which explores the development of portraiture. The Tate's Hogarth thing was more fun and possibly more coherent (the Royal Academy are good at propounding one arguement, stating shifts in style occurred at fixed points in one room and then having the next room wreck any semblance of pattern while ignoring the incongruity between them). Look out for the very blue eyes and his neighbour Calonne early on, a friend's baby sister with castanets on her hip, and the twin eyebrows of Kemble and Siddons. But the best thing in there is Christen Købke's 1832 portrait of Frederik Sødring (No. 81, page 176 of the catalogue [reduced to £4.95 as the exhibition closes on Friday]). It's just very obviously of the Protestant north, because it still looks normal. It's just simple, hence bluntly modern. It's the mix of light, technique and attitude which proclaims it to be a product of Northwest Europe. Which makes me realise I must try harder with my photography, as usually I aim for low sun scudding across the land, flaring on protrusions, yet in terms of art that which grabs me is the immense depth of fairly dull, flat, greyly white light. Cue hopeless search for a bit of panelling beside a window, by Vermeer I think, which grabbed me on first viewing and has lingered ever since. I've got a postcard of it somewhere, yet cannot find it or an online copy. Anyway, you probably get the idea.

And then in contrast we moved onto Gilbert and George at the Tate (with the still damaged chimney). I didn't have anywhere near long enough to go round this, nor really the right company (look, if I couldn't comment on which males I thought were good looking in the images at the RA, an exhibition which burst into full frontal, full rear and full unflattering angle male nudity isn't going to be the most comfortable of viewings. And attempting to come out beneath explosions of spunk might be not be the best idea). But there is some fascinating work in there, along with many intriguing photographs (yep, I did go along the Thames later to work out how the view's changed). I think I'll be going back, once I figure out the right person to go with (if you know anyone who is patient, liberal, tolerant and intelligent...), as it's worth investigating properly. Do keep an eye out for Martin Clunes though, in amongst the semen-eaters.

Oh, and I nearly forgot, in going to the RA I passed through the Jericho sculpture-cum-installation in the courtyard. Rickety towers of shipping container moulded reinforced concrete, with frayed and battered edges. Hmm, I wonder what that's about? Well, the walls of Jericho fell down because they were all eating sloths or something, or perhaps being fans of Gilbert and George (hang on, wasn't that Sodom and Gonorrhoea?). So it has a name redolent of Biblical destruction. But isn't there still a Jericho? And where is it? In Palestine. With the Israelites still running circles around it. Walls falling down, shelled out look to buildings, that curiously impermanent permanence that inhabits lands with volatile economies such as those besieged (I remember being very confused on discovering years ago that a Palestinian refugee camp could consist solely of 4 storey reinforced concrete buildings, because that doesn't really sound like a temporary refuge or a camp). Are the reinforcing bars left exposed through hope of future extension or because the remainder has been blasted away? I think I get the analogy. I also think I quite like the towers, through a mix of gun emplacement chic (well, obsolescence and hence unpunishable clamber friendliness) and the clash with the surrounding neoclassicisms. It still wonder what would happen if they turned the fountains underneath on though.

Think that's it (it had better be, because I'm disappearing for a while imminently). Forgot to mention the pheasant alarm clock but you can figure that out for yourself.


PS. Insert your own links, or just Google (I know it's not the worldwide strand, but I don't have time).

You think that's bad? The Pakistani summer is about to melt the tar on the roads here. And it's only April. *horror*
I was going to argue, past the glow of my nose-lately-come-brazier, but the room's swaying noticeably so I won't.

Don't worry, I've been on a boat.
Completely unrelated:

You know you're a London blogger when/you've been reading your blog too much when:

You come back from the kitchen after dinner to find the news is on, and notice almost immediately that the presenter has different sized nostrils (he so does!).

Surely enough it was BBC London News, and though I'm not sure...could it be he?
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