Thursday, 24 September 2009

quick update and David Byrne, 'Playing the Building'

Apologies for the rather extended break! Things have been busy at work, and then interrupted with a wonderful holiday in New York, more of these events in later posts though. I just wanted to do brief posts about two exhibitions I went to in London, not so recently now, but definitely worth a mention!

'Playing the Building', David Byrne's installation was on at the Roundhouse in London from 8-31 August of this year. He has previously installed 'Playing the Building' in Fargfabriken in Stockholm, and in an old ferry terminal in Lower Manhattan, New York. In his original proposal for the project in August 2003 he wrote
"A sound installation in which the infrastructure, the physical plant of a building is converted into a giant musical instrument. ( I use the term musical loosely. It might not play melodies in the conventional sense... but it might.)....
It is a way of activating the sound-producing qualities that are inherent in all materials." (David Byrne, 2005, quote taken from the leaflet accompanying the Roundhouse installation)

The Roundhouse itself was a really interesting theatre to visit, with a photo display on the first floor which illustrates a timeline of the building and all the different events and organisations which have used the building. It's an unusual space, starting life as a steam engine repair shed, with, as you would imagine from the name, a round central space. I can imagine it would often make the use of the building for theatre/art/music more of a challenge. It worked incredibly well with this show though.

In the middle of the room is a beautiful antique wooden organ which is all connected up with cables which are attached to the metal girders and pillars which form the structure of the space. Anyone can sit down at the organ and 'play the building'. I liked watching how people, myself included, were at first a bit shy or scared to sit down and play but once people do it's great to see how much they enjoy it. While we were there there was a young girl, who looked like she knew what she was doing, who was getting so much enjoyment out of the strange sounds emitting from her playing. Hitting different keys makes different cables move, which then trigger vibrations in the pillars, girders and beams they're attached to. I found a quote from a press conference for the opening on Art Review which contains a quote from Byrne, discussing the democratic nature of the piece "“everyone is as good at playing it as anyone else. It’s not the sort of performance you consume. We’re used to consuming culture, of going to sit down and have it fed to us. In this case, you have to do it yourself – and if you don’t do it, you don’t get anything out of it.” Being forced to interact with the work and with the space was great - fun and thought-provoking.

NB. The first theatre in the Roundhouse was established by Arnold Wesker in 1964. Called Centre 42, it was the first time the building had been used as an arts venue. So, here's another Lindsay Anderson connection (it seems we can find them almost everywhere!). In an interview on 'What's on Stage' on 4 April 2005 Wesker says of Anderson
"There’s no doubt that my first career break was when I asked Lindsay Anderson to read a play of mine called Chicken Soup with Barley. He read it, and he said, "You really are a playwright, aren’t you? Will you let me show this to George Devine at the Royal Court?""

Friday, 11 September 2009

Rock and roll library

From the 18 July - 23 August there was a unique exhibition on in London. Called 'The Rock 'n' Roll public library' it is the personal vision and personal archive of Mick Jones, the lead guitarist and singer with The Clash, and later of Big Audio Dynamite. Since he was a young teenager Jones had been a collector and acquirer of 'things'.

"Suddenly people who've been given a hard time all their lives by their partners for never throwing anything out are feeling justified, " laughed Mick Jones. "Now they realise that they were curating social history."

The range of materials in the collection is huge - the subjects covered include music, film, art, drugs, crime, sport, war. There was one room just filled with music and film magazines form the 1960s on. There are almost 10,000 books, lots of records, films recorded on VHS, music memorabilia, film posters and some wonderful photographs. For seventeen years this personal archive had been stored in a lock-up and it was great to see so much of it out on display. I'm sure part of the enjoyment is in the feelings Mick Jones identifies when he says that it can justify the need/compulsion to collect, it certainly did for me! I've included a few photos, and yes, there are some Lindsay Anderson related ones, as ever!

New publication on Lindsay Anderson

Isabelle Gourdin-Sangouard, my colleague on 'The Cinema Authorship of Lindsay Anderson' project has just had a very interesting article published in a new journal, 'Journal of Screenwriting'. The article 'Creating Authorship? Lindsay Anderson and David Sherwin’s collaboration on If.... (1968)' discusses the working relationship between Lindsay Anderson and David Sherwin. I've included the abstract below:

This article draws upon the research currently undertaken for my doctoral thesis and is meant to act as a complementary study of Lindsay Anderson and David Sherwin’s partnership on If…. (1968), following Charles Drazin’s 2008 article for the Journal of British Cinema and Television, ‘If… before If…’. Charles Drazin (2008: 318) highlights the idea of a ‘creative dynamic’ underlying the working partnership between Lindsay Anderson and David Sherwin on If…., as well as in the subsequent projects they developed together. The following article aims to uncover the nature of the creative dynamic suggested by Drazin’s article by looking at both the personal and the artistic dimensions that the working relationship assumed. The aim is to highlight the distinctiveness of their collaboration in the cinema; the article will show that in the course of this collaborative work they realized their artistic potential through an exchange of expertise, and that their collaboration helped to bring about an alternative approach to the conventional opposition between screenwriter and director, especially when it comes to claiming authorship over a film.