Sunday, 29 July 2012


I'm in Addis! 
Last night I got hypnotised by Ethiopian music, and had a shimmy-off with a traditional dancer in a restaurant. Now my shoulders hurt. 

12 seconds of Ethiopian shoulder dance

Modern Ethiopian music has bizarre roots. In the 1920s Ras Tefari (a.k.a. the future Emperor Haile Selassie and the man who inspired the Jamaican pot-smokers) visited Jerusalem and was greeted by a brass band of 40 Armenian orphans, whom he brought back to Addis. Over the years the sounds absorbed jazz, swing and traditional Ethiopian music. A blend as diverse and disorientating as Ethiopia itself. 

Shake it.

Ethiopiques 3 - The Golden Years of Ethiopian Music

Ethiopiques 7 - Mahmoud Ahmed 

Aster Aweke - Track One

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Twists and Turns: Rimbaud + Leo

The other day I watched "Total Eclipse", a film by Polish director Agnieszka Holland. Pre-Titanic Leonardo diCaprio plays French poet and enfant terrible Arthur Rimbaud, whose explosive love affair with Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis) is both creative collaboration and a shock to fin de siècle society.

And it shows Leo's first kiss on film - with the man who plays Professor Lupin in Harry Potter. Unspectacular?

"Total Eclipse" - Leo diCaprio and David Thewlis - Kiss

Rimbaud was unconventional in every sense. He cursed like a sailor, got into fights with other poets, and generally refused to settle into bourgeois life. After producing some of the most avantgarde poems ever written, he stopped poetry altogether at age 19. 

His deviousness inspired Polish-American artist David Wojnarowicz to embody the eternal rebel in New York of the late 1970s. A time when the city was buzzing with struggling artists, overdrugged parties and pre-AIDS promiscuity. 

Untitled, David Wojnarowicz, Rimbaud in New York 1977-19

David Wojnarowicz, Rimbaud in New York, 1977-1979

David Wojnarowicz, Rimbaud in New York, 1977-1979

Ironically, Rimbaud became the opposite of rock'n'roll. Rejected by Parisian society and ignored by literary critics, he left Europe for Africa to work in trade. His letters home reveal a man who complains about everything and is only interested in making money. So much for growing up. 

Autoportrait in Harar (now Ethiopia), 1880-1890 

                      "Total Eclipse" (1995) - Full Film

Saturday, 21 July 2012

dOCUMENTA 13: A Hundred Days of Art

Last Sunday I woke up in Germany. At 8am my Dad and I got into the car and drove three hours south, destination dOCUMENTA 13

The world's largest contemporary art exhibition is held every four years in Kassel, a drab industrial town in the heart of Deutschland. For a hundred days, artists from around the world show specially commissioned works across museums, parks and random semi-public places. The whole thing is even more overwhelming than it sounds. But the trip is worth every effort: This might just be the most thought-provoking show this side of the millennium. 

Untitled, Pierre Huyghe. Taking the beehive to another level.

Leaves of Grass, 2012, Geoffrey Farmer. 50 years' worth of LIFE Magazine

Detail from Leaves of Grass

Anna Mario Maiolino, Here & There, A whole house of strangeness

Untitled, 2012, Francis Alÿs - part of 20 Afghanistan-themed paintings in an ex-bakery. 

Tacita Dean, Fatigues, 2012, chalk on blackboard. In city's the former tax office.
Detail from Fatigues - an Afghani river
Song Dong's Doing Nothing Garden, made from organic waste

Full review coming soon

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


A Danish teeanger comes to Paris,  models for Coco Chanel, meets and marries Jean-Luc Godard and becomes the embodiment of the French Nouvelle Vague. This is Anna Karina's life in a nutshell. 

To begin to understand Anna's mysterious charm, watch this excerpt from the show "Who are you...?" (which by the way inspired the cult fashion world spoof "Who are you, Polly Maggoo?").

Who Are You, Anna Karina? (1967) - 9 mins, with English subtitles 
[looking like Kate Moss at 8:15?]

Another feat of Miss Karina? Starring in what is probably the only musical ever produced that Parisians would not dismiss as ringard (tacky). "Anna" is an avantgarde TV film written by Serge Gainsbourg, filled to the brim with catchy songs. Here the whole thing - with a pubescent-looking Marianne Faithful at 32:25.  

Anna (1967) - 87 mins
Featuring Serge Gainsbourg and Marianne Faithfull

Merci Anna. 

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Cut

Collage is back. 

1 - John Stezaker, Mask XXXV, 2007
2 - Lindsey Wixson for What's Contemporary, June 2012
3 - Unknown - 2012

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Church of Balkenhol

A catholic church in a drab German town is an unlikely place for contemporary art.

But Kassel is full of surprises. When over there this weekend, I stumbled upon Stephan Balkenhol's staggering wooden sculptures arranged across the walls and patios of St. Elisabeth church. New religion?

Western wall of the St. Elisabeth church in Kassel - sculptures by Stephan Balkenhol

360° tour (thanks to my Dad's iPad)

Confusingly, the show is organized by the Catholic Church and is not part of the dOCUMENTA, the world's largest art exhibition currently held in Kassel (more on this soon). dOCUMENTA's curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev is furious. Claiming that she feels "threatened" by Balkenhol's sculptures, she has been trying to stop their display. The crusade failed. 

Here some of my favourite Balkenhol relics outside Kassel. 

It's there

Death, a matter of perspective

     Blackfriars Bridge, London 1992             

3D tableaux - wood only

Wednesday, 4 July 2012