Summer Photo Fun 2015 – Week 2 – Colour

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We had a right splash of colour for week 2 of this year’s summer photo fun.  I’m not sure whether we had more people contributing because they found this theme easier to interpret that the first week of start, or whether for most people this was actually the first week of the holidays.  Either way there were some great interpretations and it was fantastic to see my timeline pop up with these lovely photos, including some from kids which is always great.

If you click on the gallery then you can scroll through them in the right size, do have a look and let us know which ones you liked.   I really liked the pink umbrella in St Mark’s Square but I couldn’t take my eyes of the piece of art work dripping in colour so I had to put that one at the top this week.

As always huge thanks for playing along with us, the kids will set a new theme each week over the summer holidays so hope you will continue to play along with us.  Just follow #summerphotofun and / or me – @ianstreet67 on twitter and you will see the themes, then just tweet your interpretation and they will all go into the blog gallery for that theme at the end of the week.  You don’t need to be a ‘photographer’ just open your eyes, snap on your phone and have fun with it.  If you happen to be in a part of the world where it’s not summer, no worries you are still welcome to interpret and join in.

Madrid Street Signs

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Whenever I’m in a city, wandering around there tends to be something that sticks out at me and makes that city special.  This for me is not the usual landmarks, but something else that you would perhaps not give a huge amount of time to, but which I think reveals something about the soul of a place.  Last year for example when I was in Malaga I became interested in both the graffiti and perhaps more oddly the paving stones.  In Madrid recently there were two things that really stood out, the amazing markets in each area and the street signs in the centre of the city which I became quite mesmerised by as I wandered around.

Every street, square, alleyway or courtyard had one of these beautifully crafted individually tiled street signs.  There didn’t appear to be any particular style or uniformity to them as they were made up of either 9, 12, 15 or 16 tiles and the artistic designs were also quite different, they were also often quite high up on the walls, often with wires running across them or CCTV cameras next to them.  In other words they were just everyday signs but for me they added a real sense of beauty and style to the city.  Anywhere that takes this much care in designing a street sign for an alleyway has got to be good.  It also really added to my enjoyment of walking around the city as I was constantly looking out for the signs as I meandered along and they made great reference points.

I didn’t do much thinking about them as I walked around, apart from trying to translate the odd one, my knowledge of Spanish and Spanish history is not good enough to understand the meaning or resonance behind many of the pictures but I found myself wanting to know more.  What is the Calle del Codo with the arm in armour all about for example ?

I think about cities and sense of place quite a bit particularly what makes a good city or place?  I don’t necessarily have the answers but as with the paving stones in Malaga, any city that puts this much craft into it’s street signs must have soul.

Postcard from Madrid

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Madrid, one of Europe’s grand old cities, and what better place to spend a few days exploring and feeling the first real bit of warmth of the year.  Like many Spanish cities I found Madrid great for walking and exploring, there was no grand plan just some vague ideas and this approach works for me as you tend to come across things as you mooch, you have the time to take the temperature of the city and get a feel for it with the hassle of thinking I need to get someone by a certain time or to see a particular thing.  Much as great cities have fantastic places to see, it’s people that make places so getting a feel for them and the beat of the city is equally important as far as I am concerned.

Also, like when I was in Barcelona last year, it seems to be very easy to get away from the cram of tourists who follow a very predictable trail.  Walk a couple of streets away in any direction and you are in a different Madrid, one that’s much more to my liking.  I stayed right bang in the centre, in a great little flat that was my first experience of using air B & B and I couldn’t have wished for better.  If meant that I could step out of the door and be right in the heart of things but could stroll half an hour in any direction to explore some of the different areas.

I’d been to Madrid before a few years ago and I wondered how it would feel in light of the serious impact that the recession has had on Spain.  For me the city remains as warm and welcoming and as clean and safe as you could possibly hope for.  This time in the city I seemed to spend a lot of time in the markets, each area that I visited had one and they really were astonishing places and could really teach my home city a thing or two as it ponders how to ‘regenerate’ the city market.  For me the most astonishing was Sunday afternoon in San Fernando market in the Lavapies area.  I stumbled across this by poking my head through an entrance and the first signs were not promising, stalls with the shutters down, the odd one or two with a couple of people sat at.  However music could be heard so we ventured in and lo and behold the world changed.  In the middle of this covered market a hundred or so people were in full swing dancing away to latin music pumping out as DJ’s played the tunes, surround the central area, a labyrinth of packed stalls selling tapas, beer and wine kept the crowd fed and watered.  It was mesmerising and the atmosphere was so good it just made you feel alive.  We found a fantastic little wine place, drank what was recommended and just soaked it up.  I want to spend every Sunday doing that, it was perfect.

I was chatting to someone from Lavapies about the market and he said that a few years ago it was dying, just a couple of stalls remained but slowly the community has brought it back to life with events and activities and placing it back into the heart of the community which has brought new stall holders and businesses in.  A fantastic success story.  Round the corner I also stumbled across a great little bike shop and bought the local cap, I found out that they have only made 100 and the money is going to help run the community cycling club.  They seemed amazed that some guy from Leeds wanted to buy one of their caps.

Little adventures and experiences like this happened across the few days we were there as we wandered about.  Yes we saw the main squares, Guernica, the parks, Churches, Palaces etc but it was the neighbourhood bars, markets and vibe of the city that I enjoyed the most.  Can’t wait to go back.

 

Liberate Tate #TimePiece

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I like it when you stumble across things.  I’m one of life’s bumblers with no grand plan, this can of course be infuriating for me and others at times but on balance it really works.  It’s a particularly good way to enjoy cities so instead of a must see list and charging round at the speed of light so you can cross things off said list, I find it much better to have a vague idea, somewhere to sort of aim at but it doesn’t matter whether you get there or not.  This way, while you have a sense of direction, the journey is somewhat more haphazard and as a result you see more things along the way.

I hadn’t planned to go into Tate Modern the other day but as I was ambling up the south bank having spent a very enjoyable few hours in it’s older sibling Tate Britain and in particular at the Fighting History exhibition I thought it would be good to pop in and see what was in the Turbine Hall, also I needed the loo.  I really wasn’t sure what was going on at first as hunched, veiled figures were holding books, scribbling on the floor.  On closer inspection I’d stumbled across an artistic protest which was kind of spookily ace seeing as I’d just come from an exhibition featuring radical protest art and artists trying to interpret key moments in history.  Climate change and dependence on fossil fuels will surely be a key moment in our history and here unfolding in front of me was conflict, protest, an artistic act that seeks to make sense of this moment and affect change.

The group doing the scrawling were Liberate Tate who are a group of artists protesting about BP’s sponsorship of the gallery.  They have done a number of other artistic protests but in this one they were occupying the turbine hall for 24 hours (to coincide with the tidal movements of the Thames) and were using charcoal to inscribe passages and slogans from dystopian novels, climate change reports, non fiction books that provided a thought provoking narrative.

Should public institutions be tied to companies driving climate change? At the very least it should be very clear what investment is being made and it seems very odd that it took a three year legal battle to get the amount that BP invests in the Tate made public, and the amount ?  £224,000 a year apparently which, while being a not inconsiderable sum of money, makes up only 0.3% of the Tate’s operating budget.  Food for thought I think.

I don’t know what happened when the gallery was due to close, would the security guards move in or would the group be allowed to stay and continue their silent protest, quietly scribbling away?

I’m glad that I stumbled across Liberate Tate.

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Fighting History

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The timeline on the wall outside the Fighting History exhibition at Tate Britain tracks from 60000BC through to 1990. Over this vast span of history are random points of struggle that have been depicted spanning 250 years of British historical art and that form the focus of the exhibition.  What I found striking throughout the artworks across the six rooms was how it made me consider history and how it is portrayed together with the title of the exhibition ‘Fighting History’ and how this was reflected in the art.  Who is fighting who and why? what was the story behind the images captured by artists across the years and indeed what is the fight?  It also made me think about how can you take individual significant moments from history (whatever period that is) and distil that moment or event and in doing so what story are you telling of the event?

My preconceptions perhaps before going in were that I would be confronted with images of Nelson and other heroic figures of British history bathed in patriotic fervour.  However the first image that I was confronted with was related to the poll tax riots as the first room dealt with radical history and how British artists have sought to show the resistance to authority.  Also in this room was the Jeremy Deller picture above, a seemingly simply mind map linking Brass Bands and Acid House within which is the Conservative governments’ attempts to outlaw a particular type of music via the Criminal Justice Bill and how, perhaps as a result of that threat, dance music is now simply another corporate money making enterprise far removed from invention and radicalism.  It’s safe to say that this was not exactly what I was expecting in an exhibition on Fighting History and I found it brilliant thought provoking stuff.

Other rooms continued to educate, inform and enthral me through looking at ancient history, mythology, large scale moments of history, individual moments of fighting history (and there were some fascinating interpretations of what this might be) as well as the humankind’s constant battle against nature.  What I particularly liked in the way the rooms were curated were the different artistic interpretations, so for example there were modernist takes on both the Battle of Hastings and the Biblical Flood which I thought really showcased how different artists interpreted events.

History is written by the winners and this exhibition made me reflect on that and our place within it and it made me consider how we remember things, how do we keep events alive and relevant? who tells the story and what story is it that they are telling?

All of these things came together in a room that looked at the 1984/85 miners strike and in particular a documentary on a re-enactment of the Battle of Orgreave, again done by Jeremy Deller, which interspersed interviews with those affected by the strike amongst the preparations for the re-enactment of the battle, which was meticulously done by ex miners who where there at the time and volunteers from various re-enactment societies.  It left a very powerful impression on a key moment of recent British history that many would like to see forgotten and asks some uncomfortable questions around the truth and whether we will ever really know it.

A truly interesting and thought provoking exhibition.

Easter Photo Fun 2015 – Week 1 – Point

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Point has been the first theme for the two weeks of EasterPhotoFun set by the kids and as always you have sent in some lovely interpretations, some very obvious points others indicating low points for example.  I loved the railway point, knitting needles, ballet shoes, pens/pencils and must give a biased shout out to one of my kids for her photo of the picture frames that I thought was a really good interpretation.

However my fav was I think the photo of Verity, the mammoth 20m sculpture by Damien Hirst that looks over Ilfracombe harbour.  A pregnant woman, holding the scales of justice, standing on a pile of books and wielding a large sword.  This was the largest sculpture in Britain when it was put up in 2012.  I’ve never seen it in the flesh but standing higher than the Angel of the North this must be some sight.  Whenever I see things like this it always makes me angry that Leeds turned down the option to have our own massive brick man sculpture (before the Angel of the North) that was proposed by Anthony Gormley.  However Verity is surely the most perfect interpretation of point, not least of course from the sword in her hand but from the viewpoint that many people will have of this and other modern art when they ask what’s the point.

As always many thanks for all who have chipped in with your interpretations it’s been a really fun week.  Do click on the gallery and you can scroll through the pictures in the size they came in.  Do let us know which ones you liked.

The Dying Graves In Spring

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My jumping-jack cat has shown up. He used to be a part of my childhood and now he’s back again. Wearing 17th century Thirty Years’ War gear (or so I think), he looks rather special. The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) was so utterly horrific and dying so much more common than it always has been anyway that it was as fashionable to reflect on one’s own death as it is fashionable to dream of 15 minutes of fame nowadays (even though vanity was also a huge thing in the Baroque period). That memento mori has its place in Lent as Christians prepare for remembering the death of Christ. Curiously my walk took me to a cemetery today. It was sunny and I wanted to see the early flowers of spring. In other words: life. What do we love about these early spring flowers? They are the heralds of spring, of a beginning of a new life. They defy the final frosty days of winter, fight their way through frozen soil and layers of old leaves from last year’s autumn. In a world still dipped in shades of brown and grey they are a colourful delight to our eyes. Oh, how wonderful they looked today, in white, blue, purple and yellow! They were pure poetry. But their lives will be short – just like those of the people who lived during the Thirty Years’ War.

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The old parts of the cemetery date back to the 19th century. I’m a lover of 19th century art so this place has a lot to offer. Unfortunately, decay has been massive. Here it’s the graves which are dying and being buried by Mother Nature herself. What once was splendour is now reduced to rubble. These graves survived a war but not indifference. The spring flowers here are Nature’s oxymoron to Mankind’s crafts.

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I enter the hospital where I was treated for pneumonia a few days ago. I want to visit an old woman who I shared a room with. I find she is back to her home and nobody is able to tell me which one. A few days back, when I was caressing her cheeks and holding her hands she looked at me and smiled: “You are a good person. Hopefully we will meet in Heaven.”

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