Wednesday 8 February 2017

A double week, some film chat, some innovative art, and some Spielbergian musical magic...

23rd January - 5th February 2017

Anselm Kiefer - Walhalla - White Cube, Bermondsey
The Radical Eye : Modernist Photography From The Sir Elton John Collection - Tate Modern
Spielberg At 70 : Philharmonia Orchestra - Royal Festival Hall

Due to feverish wedding preparations taking over this is a bumper blog covering the last two weeks of activities, so without further ado...

Mark Kermode Live In 3D At The BFI

After successfully pretty much selling out every instalment of this monthly film based night of discussion, dissection and guest interviews last year, Kermode's been renewed for 2017 to carry on with what seems to be a popular and winning formula.

Those familiar with the 5 Live film review show Kermode presents with Simon Mayo will be at home with the show's style of film discussion so will already know they'll enjoy it, however for those non-avid listeners it's a monthly night of lively debate which is well worth checking out.

Hosted in NFT1, the largest screen at the BFI Southbank, the show breaks down roughly into sections such as film news, questions from the audience, (some live and some pre-Tweeted), a top ten list, (January's list was a tongue-in-cheek '10 Reasons Why Meryl Streep Is Overrated...'), and at least one film related guest who also presents their 'guilty pleasure' movie and defends their reasons for enjoying it. All replete with clips, snippets and visual aids.

Previous guests have included movie industry legends such as composer David Arnold, (who also played and sang a live rendition of 'Surrender' a song originally proposed as the theme for 'Tomorrow Never Dies' but ultimately ended up over the end credits sung by KD Lang), director Ben Wheatley and director Alan Parker.

This month's guest was Mark Gatiss of 'Sherlock' and 'The League Of Gentlemen' fame, who proposed the atrocious Roger Moore and Michael Caine vehicle 'Bullseye' as his guilty pleasure and also spoke of his upcoming roles both on stage and film.

Gatiss in full flow...

We're unable to make the February show which is on the 27th and there is no March show due to the Flare Film Festival dominating the BFI's screens, but long may it continue as it's a departure from the norm and an entertaining and informative evening out.

Adrift : The Secret World Of Space Junk

The future Mrs Culture doesn't partake in attendance of lectures at The Royal Institution as it's something I do with a colleague with a nerdy leaning towards sciencey stuff.

Sometimes things can go a bit above our head, depending on the subject as they cover a broad range of scientific subjects, but we tend to just read the brief summaries and select based on those lectures which hopefully will keep us entertained and possible teach us something.

This particular lecture was interesting in that it was an art project/installation which was derived from hard scientific research and involved both the artists Cath Le Couteur and Nick Ryan and scientist Hugh Lewis, (An Aerospace Engineer and go to guy for things hitting the Earth type worries), all delivering their own aspects of the project, which made for an entertaining and fascinating talk.

I won't get too technical with the science side, but basically it involved analysing the dearth of 'space junk' which has been created since the world started travelling into the upper atmosphere, either through abandoned technology or rubbish left behind by man.

From this information, (all of which is available online, with various databases plotting the whereabouts and orbits of these items, with anything over about ten centimetres being tracked), a pair of visual and audio artists created Project Adrift. The project consists of a large metal Phonograph cylinder which is coordinated with a machine which tracks space junk in real time and synchronises sounds with the items to play whilst showing a picture on a companion monitor to visually and audibly represent these items as they pass overhead.

Obviously although it's known there are these pieces of debris up there, it's not always entirely clear as to what they are, so the artists asked members of the public to send in random items to represent the junk and created sounds from them which they then mapped to actual recorded items.

They then took this further by picking three well known documented pieces of space junk, and made short films in which they provided the items, (with the aid of musicians, writers and actors), with a story, personality and presence, whilst also setting up associated Twitter accounts for the items which can be followed and send out appropriate Tweets conveying these personalities.

It all sounds a little bonkers, but in practise was fascinating.

The project can be checked out online and the back stories of the people involved and the junk itself is well worth a look.

What Computers Can't Do

As fate would have it the next event was another lecture at The Royal Institution, although this time it was a Friday evening discourse, which are generally only available to members as they take the form of a more formally structured evening with the traditional hour time limit followed by questions.

The subject of this one going in was a bit daunting so we weren't sure quite what to expect as it revolved around the age old 'P Vs NP' problem... Huh? I hear you say, yeah me too...

Anyway I suppose you never know until you try it...

I won't go into the ins and outs of it as I couldn't sufficiently convey it if I tried, however the speaker Kevin Buzzard, (a professor of Pure Mathematics), was charismatic, entertaining and sported some of the most colourful trousers we've seen here.

He managed to make the subject manageable and never boring which is always a bonus as sometimes the discourses can be a little dry in their delivery.

With a variety of different events, for something a bit different The Royal Institution is worth checking out, especially if you have even the most remote interest in science.

The Lego Batman Movie

So Sunday morning saw the dynamic duo back in full force, (see what we did there?!), and after a much anticipated, but thankfully unrealised battle through the road closures for London's Great Winter Run we made our way to the BFI Southbank for a lunchtime preview of 'The Lego Batman Movie'.

Being fans of the previous 'The Lego Movie' which arguably catered more to the adults than the kids, we were looking forward to this one, especially after seeing the trailers.

The plot broadly speaking involves Batman coming to terms with working with others whilst taking on the world's greatest villains, lead by the maniacal Joker.

The voice cast boasts Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson and Mariah Carey to name but a few.

With too many visual gags and clever nods to all aspects of Batman's portrayals on screen to list it was a constant stream of cleverly scripted, laugh out loud action which is well worth catching. Again it felt like it catered more to the older members of the audience, however the kids were more than entertained too which can only be a good thing, as I would imagine some cinema trips to kids movies can be interminable for parents.

We laughed pretty much throughout, take from that what you will... :-)

Afterwards Miss Culture was off to a birthday celebration for the afternoon so, I decided to take a walk along the Southbank to Bermondsey and the current show at the White Cube gallery.

Anselm Kiefer - Walhalla

If you've ever visited the either of the White Cube galleries at Bermondsey or its baby brother in Masons Yard behind Fortnum & Mason you'll be familiar with the impressive gallery spaces which are the very definition of 'does what it says on the tin'. Modern, clean and almost Science Fiction like in their design with plain white walls and polished concrete floors which allow the art within to really be the focus.

Anselm Kiefer's latest exhibition here at Bermondsey, (I think his first since his large scale show at the Royal Academy a couple of years back), takes everything the White Cube is known for, both by name and construction and turns it on its head.

If you're familiar with Kiefer's previous output, you'll have seen his large scale paintings which incorporate organic and discarded materials into broad impasto-like techniques, and his sizeable sculptures and vitrines which when taken as a whole complement each other in style and colour, usually muted greys and earthy tones which only enhances the appearance of the minimal use of colour when it is employed. Whether on canvas, found materials such as discarded boards or the manufactured items for the vitrines all of the work has a 3D element to it which draws the viewers eye and assaults the senses with textures to enhance the visual aspects.

For this show Walhalla, which takes its name from the Norse realm of legend and the Walhalla monument built to honour heroic German figures by Ludwig I King of Bavaria in 1842, the names of Norse gods are referred to throughout the exhibition along with references to architecture to convey ideas of life and death.

Kiefer works here primarily with lead, a material which Kiefer believes is the only material capable of supporting the weight of human history, documenting history and politics is a major aspect of Kiefer's work. The RA show incorporated several uses of this material also which Kiefer had obtained from the discarded roofing materials of a Cologne cathedral, (the method of getting hold of the lead was not revealed), although whether this is from that same source is unclear.

Upon entering the exhibition through a doorway below the handwritten title, visitors are handed a warning sheet explaining that the works are almost exclusively made of this material and the walls are clad with it too, so not to touch the artworks due to its poisonous nature. This is probably the most life threatening gallery show currently on in London, and piqued the interest immediately.

About half the length of the corridor is shown here...

A close up of the lead 'sheets' and 'blankets'...

One of the rusted weapons...

The sheet lead cladding to the walls...

The time and work that must have gone into installing this show is phenomenal the high walls are entirely clad with sheet lead, and the main central corridor of the gallery is used to showcase the heart of the exhibition, a series of metal framed bunks with sheets, blankets and pillows formed from the metal, some with rusted guns placed on them, leading to a large photograph at the end of the back of what looks like a soldier walking away from the scene. The detail and properties of the lead, being both solid but very pliable and quite harmful makes the scene all the more unsettling, along with the darkness created by the clad walls creating an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia, despite knowing that in reality the corridor and building itself is so large. Lit only by several hanging bulbs.

The several rooms which lead off of the corridor contain smaller 'scenes' of more beds, a cluttered storeroom filled floor to ceiling with archived paperwork or sorts and piles of what at first look like paper but upon closer inspection reveal themselves to be more Lead.

Angelic wings and boulder type shapes are seen in some of Kiefer's other works...

A close up of the bed...

The 9 x 9 x 9 gallery room contains a metal spiral staircase which leads from floor to ceiling which various items of clothing which have been treated and hardened hanging from the handrail all the way up and has photographs of stark architecture flowing out of the base like tentacles reaching out the audience.

Along with the 9 x 9 x 9 gallery there are two further rooms which are not lead clad, but revert to the white walls usually seen here and house large scale paintings of architecture and abandoned streets, some look almost war torn, and many vitrines which contain organic materials such as earth and dead and withered plants, and discarded objects with all exhibit a patina which speak volumes about their existence both before and as they are now, including more clothing, a wheelchair, bicycles and other discarded metals.

Despite the much smaller scale of this exhibition compared to the many larger galleries afforded Kiefer at the RA show, this one feels much more immense in scope and the craftsmanship and attention to detail is nothing short of breathtaking. For the White Cube to allow such a subversion of their spaces speaks volumes about Kiefer's influence and increased recognition as a major name in the art world I feel.

The metal staircase spanning the entire height of the 9 x 9 x 9 gallery...

Reels of photos reaching our from the base...

Some of the discarded metal objects in the vitrines...

A rare splash of , (muted), colour...

More of the vitrines...

The pieces all have an almost museum-like atmosphere to them, like moments preserved in time and displayed almost as a snapshot of a bygone era.

It's only on until the 18th of February but is a must see!

The lonely departing figure...

The Radical Eye : Modernist Photography From The Sir Elton John Collection

On my way back West along the Southbank I stopped in to check out the latest headline show at the Tate Modern's new Switch House approaches it's thematic thread through a slightly different route, by focusing on a particular style of photography, in this case Modernist, but basing it around a particular private collection, that of Sir Elton John which he has lent to the gallery to be enjoyed and appreciated by a wider audience.

It's a fascinating approach, which allows the viewer to both see works of art which would ordinarily never be on view to the general public, and also a glimpse into the tastes of a well known artist, albeit working in a different medium.

No photography, in the photography exhibition...

A short introductory video shows some footage of where the photos hang in Elton's Atlanta 18,000 square foot apartment, covering all the wall space, but ultimately hung in the same frames exactly as they are in this exhibition.

Featuring such a wide range of artists and approaches means that the show takes the approach of arranging the photos by subject to maintain a cohesive narrative flow, starting with some examples of the Modernist movement and various types of subjects, moving on through portraits, (both facial and of bodies), experimental photographic methods and collage, documentary photos and finishing up with photos focusing on objects, perspectives and abstraction.

The handy little free guide that comes with every Tate exhibition provides ample general information on each section and the additional notes alongside certain works fleshes it all out a bit more, but the real magic is in the images themselves.

The bigger names represented here, such as Man Ray and Irving Penn have plentiful offerings contained here, but nestling amongst them are many works by others, names which I'll admit to not being too familiar with such as Dorothea Lange, Johan Hagemeyer, Herbert Bayer and Ilse Bing.  

Having only been to a smattering of photography shows before, (most memorably the William Klein + Daido Moriyama show at the Tate Modern a few years back and the brilliant Out Of Focus : Photography exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery), mainly due to their relative scarcity in relation to traditional shows featuring painters/sculptors it made for a nice eye opening change.

The Man Ray pictures were the most familiar images, with their soft focus, high contrast compositions, (hopefully I'm using these terms correctly!), reminiscent of silent films from the 20s, and also his experimental works with Rayographs and inversion.

However most interesting to me at least were the portraits, particularly those by Irving Penn known as the corner portraits, where the subjects were placed in a tight corner of an old set which restricted their movement and focused the lens completely on their bodies language as much as their faces. Subjects includes Salvador Dali, Joe Louis and Duke Ellington. There are also many portraits figures who would have been the photographer themselves artistic contemporaries featuring Picasso, more Dali and Georgia O'Keeffe.

The detail and composition of many of these shots is truly stunning, and the Modernist style appears to have paved the way for the style used by many photographers and fashion shoots so commonplace today.

Hopefully the major galleries will begin to explore photography more often as this made was refreshing afternoon spent at the gallery.

Ultimately these need to be seen first hand to really appreciate them and there's ample opportunity as the show is open until May the 21st.

The journey back along the Southbank continued with the Thames looking as great as ever by night.

The Thames by night...

Spielberg At 70 : Philharmonia Orchestra

The final stop of the day was the Royal Festival Hall for a night of some of the most iconic film music performed live by the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Anthony Weedon with introductions by film critic and biographer Iain Johnstone.

The iconic ET flying bicycle...

Although obviously the music itself wasn't composed by Spielberg, it's associations with the visuals he created are indelible, and just hearing the music conjures up memories of watching the films themselves.

I'd managed to snag some a cheap seat in the side stalls for £15 which was an absolute bargain and afforded a great view and even better sound.

The great view from the bargain-tastic side stalls...

The pieces selected were not just of films Spielberg directed but also those he produced and even one that he 'produced', ('Poltergeist' I'm looking at you!).

The full list of movies covered was:

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Bridge of Spies
Memoirs of a Geisha
War Horse
Jurassic Park
Back to the Future
Catch Me If You Can
Deep Impact
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Medal of Honor (the videogame)
Schindler's List
E.T. : The Extra-Terrestrial
Raiders of the Lost Ark

Particular highlights were the opening double of 'Jaws' and 'CEOT3K', the second half openers of 'Back to the Future' and 'Catch Me If You Can', (an unusual but captivating sight seeing an entire orchestra performing the jazz inflected finger clicks), and the theme from 'Schindler's List' featuring a stunning solo violin.

Between tracks Johnstone regaled stories of the making of the films and the times he has met Spielberg, along with information on the composers, particularly long term collaborator John Williams.

The closer of the theme from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' brought the night to a close superbly and sent chills down the spine.

The two hour show just flew by and barely touched on one of the greatest filmographies of any director, living or dead.

If you get a chance to catch any of the performances of movie music by the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall go for it, hearing the scores live is a truly exhilarating thing.

Next week sees us enjoying some live music, a stage great performing in an 'artistic' environment and some cult theatre. Till then, get inspired...

No comments:

Post a Comment