Amsterdam Movement

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Lithe, easy going, effortlessly gliding; understated coolness moving to a different beat.

Water ever present adding it’s own shimmering, chugging splashes to the palette of the cities movement.

Like looking into the ever changing flickering flames of a late night outdoor fire I find myself hypnotised by a city that flows like no other.

Trams snaking through the middle of ancient streets, utter modernity alerting you to their presence with a timeless 1920’s bell.

A progressive political and social heartbeat, tolerant, boundaries pushed outwards in art, philosophy, architecture, enlightenment shining through still.

I adjust to it’s rhythm, thought processes slowing but clearer, more space as my mind relaxes, body too in no rush, gentle movement and wandering seems the best pace.  Natural not forced and I instantly feel the better for it.

Then I join the flow, turn the pedals, relax and just journey randomly taking the temperature of it’s perpetual movement of which I’m now part.

I stop at a canal-side cafe and settle into the Dutch state of being, gezellig.  Time for my pen to move and distil thoughts.  I sit and watch trying to work out how to capture the moment and the movement that aligns with my soul.

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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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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Is sound a sculpture ?

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There’s been some interesting things going on around the the Henry Moore Institute recently, people chipping away at big blocks outside reducing them to dust, clay being thrown at the outside of the building so I was intrigued when I heard about a travelling wave so popped along this lunchtime to see what that was about.  Apparently all of these are part of an Event Sculpture series which encompasses sound, objects, dance, action, images.  These events happen (mostly outside the gallery) and then the results have moved into the gallery so that they now exist within a gallery space, no longer an event ?  Something like that, anyway back to sound as sculpture, I’ve heard the expression aural sculpture used to describe music and for me it fits with the sort of sound created by a band like Godspeed You Black Emperor or Mogwai and of course it’s also the name of an album by The Strangers but is sound, something that you cannot see a sculpture?

The Traveling Wave  by Anthony McCall creates the sound (loudly) of an ocean that ‘crashes’ and moves through the gallery space powered by a series of space age looking speakers arrayed along the floor.  It’s strange being in Leeds, nowhere near the sea, been assailed by the sound of the ocean.  It creates feelings of times spent near the ocean, holidays and memories for me came vividly to the fore.  I did feel transported and it challenged my perception of art and sculpture and was of course as different a break as I could have had from my desk which is no bad thing at all.  I often talk to my kids about what is art and this is certainly something open for debate and I have no idea whether or not this is a sculpture after all beyond the speakers there is nothing to see.  Made me think though that’s for sure.

What was slightly odd was that alongside this there were a couple of people cavorting around the floor in various embraces and kisses, which I realised after several moments of bemusement was another event sculpture called Kiss by Tino Sehgal and then also around the gallery there was the noise of hammering – the sound of which is all that is left from the event a while ago that had large blocks chiselled away outside the gallery.  So in that case something did exist and now it doesn’t and all that is left is the sound of what happened.  Scratches head.

An utterly intriguing and thought provoking way to spend a lunchtime

The art gallery as art

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There has been a trend when it comes to the architecture of art galleries that the gallery becomes a piece of art in it’s own right and perhaps is sometimes of more interest than the art inside it.  I can remember having this discussion when I was in Rome with a few friends and we went to the MAXXI designed by Zaha Hadid which carries on a trend perhaps started by the Guggenheim in Bilbao.  Closer to home the Hepworth is a visually impressive piece of architecture as it appears to float on the river.

In Leeds the Henry Moore Institute is striking in a different way, although I go there regularly it’s architecture is not accessible, it does not draw you in in a welcoming fashion as it’s smooth black facade appears more like the outside of Darth Vadar’s house than somewhere you’d want to enter.

I was somewhat taken aback therefore as I walked past it today to see hoards of kids playing around the front of the gallery picking hunks of clay off a big mound and basically doing what they wanted with it including covering the outside of the gallery as well as building sculptures, putting their names etc all around the entrance, steps and hand rails.  It was a real what the ….. moment and just made me smile.  I couldn’t do it justice in the photo but some have managed to throw blobs of clay right up to the top of the building.  It’s totally anarchic, surreal and playful.  Who knows the kids doing this might look at this building in a very different way now and might over the years start to venture inside, their journey into discovering sculpture ignited by splattering blobs of clay against the front of the gallery.

Generative Art

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As I often do on a Saturday morning I popped into @coloursmayvary to check out the latest publications and give my eyes a visual treat with the lovely prints to buy.  As well as being a gorgeous shop they often have stuff going on, the other week they had old school printing machines in there and they’d been running letterpress workshops, today there was this huge mural that you could get busy on.  It’s been created as part of the run up to the British Art Show which is coming to Leeds in October and will apparently feature the largest collection of contemporary art in the UK.  Prior to this there will be all sorts of activities in the run up to the launch.

The illustration / mural above is part of the lead in, it’s been created by three artists with a Leeds connection – Lucas Jubb, Jay Cover and Kristyna Baczynski – each one of whom has created elements that have then been generated by code to produce this huge mural.  Apparently this is a new process called Generative Art/Design.  We the public can then get involved and colour in the mural and when it’s complete it will tour round Leeds in the run up to the British Art Show.

Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of colouring in ?  I found it quite hypnotic to sit there grab a pen and fill bits of the mural in, as you are colouring, little bits of the city appear – The Corn Exchange, Town Hall, Broadcasting House all connected in a random fashion (presumably due to the programming code) with swirls and a myriad of different shapes.  As I was trying to stay between the lines (not always successfully) it made me ponder a bit about Leeds and it’s future and perhaps this mural represents the ideal vision where technology, collaboration and interaction form the basis for the city and it’s people to thrive?

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The Smiles are the Same

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Today was an amazing experience riding with some great people, the weather was incredible for a winters day, bright blue sky’s with a low retina burning sun but it was still very cold and as we climbed onto the moor tops there was solid ice, snow and freezing fog that rolled in.  It was one of those classic British Mountain Biking days, and we had more wardrobe changes than a fashion show as layers came on and off as the temperature and conditions fluctuated wildly.

The were some highly technical (for) me sections on the ride that I took immense pleasure from just about riding although my fragile confidence did take a knock in places.  However what I thought about as we were riding round is how unique mountain biking is as an activity in terms of the enjoyment you can get riding with people of different ability.  The people that I was riding with today are miles better riders than me but we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in a way that I don’t think is possible in any other sport.  If I was playing tennis for example against someone really good then it would be a very dull experience however on a mountain bike that all changes.  You can ride along together chatting, laughing and chewing the fat and then if you get to a more technical or quick section the better riders can take it at the pace they want picking all sorts of lines and I’ll attempt to snail my way down.  We meet at the bottom all having enjoyed it equally in our own way and then ride on together to the next bit.

As always we finish at a pub for a pint chatting over the ride and the fun we’ve had, no matter the difference in our abilities the smiles are the same.