Archives for posts with tag: nature

I have been working hard on my new piece everydaymatters.

Within an ordinary space are hidden the building blocks of the structure of the universe – intangible and unseen. I am exploring the similarities in our search for a spiritual encounter and the urge to understand the origins of our universe.

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The RCA Second Year MA interim show at Café Gallery Projects in Southwark Park was a chance to test out ideas to take forward for the upcoming final show.

It was also a chance to be in the park in early morning sunshine with the first hints of spring in the air and the sounds of waterfowl and birdsong.

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This bird is a bronze ornament seen in the antique shop at the corner of Paradise Walk in Chelsea, a bit of imported tropicalia. I used images taken around the various paradise locations I visit that I felt had some connection to an idea of paradise; exotic birds, palm trees, sunshine, plants, spiritual reflections.

It had been a marathon of screen printing to get my work ready in time for Café Gallery; 6 mirrored circles to print with 11 layers on each one.

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With no straight edges to register to and often printing black on black it felt impossible at times to line it all up. The mirrored surfaces are very vulnerable so I  became rather precious about the whole thing.

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The fear that the structures I had ready to hold the circles may just lean to one side or even topple over once the mirror was attached added to the stress and my heart was thumping when I finally slotted the circles over the steel upright. It was an exhausting experience and a huge relief to find they stood straight. (like sentinels – thanks Zoe)

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Placing the bowls with the disperse images at the base of the stands was a last minute decision but it suddenly seemed that they belonged there to complete the work. One image of the everyday scattered into matter, dark and otherwise, and one paradisiacal image hovering illusively, both are about looking for something, an aura, an understanding of origins.

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In my crit there were comments about the small punctum of colour being an entry point to the work, a little view of the world or another world. Of being drawn into the image, looking through the surface and finding yourself absorbed into the work. The slightly runic quality of the placement looking religious or ritualistic but also having a cinematic quality. Exploded moments of arrested movement. The idea of trying to solidify a glimmer of a partial thought.

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The Sarah Sze exhibition at Victoria Miro fully repaid the effort required to traipse over there in a bitter wind. The first gallery downstairs was all grids and space, a bit like Tron, creating mazes of perspective as line and depth moved as you circumnavigated.

Sarah Sze

Sarah Sze

So much detail, held together by dashes of  repeating colour. The long studio where Siobhan Davies dancers used to limber up was strewn with lichen crusted boulders in vibrant shades.

Sarah Sze

Sarah Sze

Some real, some not. Finally the grand arena upstairs laid out a response to all matter and all questions.

Sarah Sze

Sarah Sze

The Times newspaper, the everyday, a record of time passing with every image scalpeled out, leaving a high definition replacement showing the real news; the elements, the forces of nature. Ice, fire, earth all spotlit in the grand experiment of life.

Sarah Sze

Sarah Sze

Stripped back to basics, revealing the true beauty and complexity of the universe. Everyone who saw the show was awed and everyone felt it spoke to them and their practice.

Sarah Sze

Sarah Sze

Back at school there was a general consensus that Sarah Sze has cracked it, should we even bother to continue our pursuits.

The French writer Xavier de Maistre suggested back in 1790 in his essay ‘Journey Around My Bedroom’ that is was possible to enjoy the thrill of discovery without having to embark on a long voyage, travel to foreign parts or even leave the confines of your own room. To look with tourists eyes upon the familiar would reveal hitherto unnoticed phenomena offering an equally rich experience.

I have recently been playing the tourist on my visits to Paradise Row in Bethnal Green and Paradise Passage which runs alongside Paradise Park in Holloway.

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Delighted to discover an appropriate spiritual behest above a more direct pursuit of happiness in one frame

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and a personal reminder of old bosses from chefing days – Balls Brothers legacy

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Paradise Passage is worth a visit at dusk

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for the ethereal light of the sports pitches

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turning Holloway into holiday destination

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Any exhibition involving Esther Teichmann is going to be a sensual experience. We Come From the Water at Jonathan Miles new project space/gallery Lychee 1 submerses you in its dialogues like the water it speaks of in terms of a weight, an origin.

Esther Teichmann

Esther Teichmann

It was wonderful to encounter Chantal Faust’s work for the first time, her Plantlife series is stunning.

Chantal Faust

Chantal Faust

Carol Mavor weaves language and image to create weighted slippery moments.

Had the pleasure of attending Mark Ferelli’s Magic Lantern Show : Devil Daddy

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A ritual flame is brought to light the oil burner of a nineteenth century magic lantern.  A twist of fume travels out the painted tin chimney as a slow disc of warm, broad light illuminates on screen.  Within its orbit develops the image of a ruined chapel, alone, deep in the hills of a cruel heath-land landscape stricken by winter.

Weaving original film stills, contemporary location shots, bird song and spoken word, Ferelli re-imagines both time and setting of the ‘lost’ british folk horror film classic ‘Blood on Satan’s Claw’ (g.b.1970) evoking, prompting, the ethereal return of the film’s central character, ‘Angel Blake’, seductress, priestess and idiot savant to the monstrous, blood-thirsty hunger of an old pagan god. The ritual operation of lantern image, sound and spoken text navigate uneasy layers of simultaneity, born of the past film location and ever present film story, a performance crossing this uncanny landscape.

This event was prefaced by a selection of Edison’s Black Maria films and an excerpt from Hans Jurgen Syberberg’s 1977 seven and a half hour epic, Hitler: A Film From Germany.

Hans Jürgen Syberberg Hitler - A film from Germany

Hans Jürgen Syberberg Hitler – A film from Germany

I may never get beyond the opening credits of this surreal film but was captivated by the romantic backdrop and the voiceover which sets the premise on which the film evolves as an investigation into evil and guilt stating that if man is offered any amount of material wealth or the paradise of the imagination he will always choose paradise even when he knows it is false.

Our relationship to nature is close to the heart of one of my classmates, Gloria Ceballos who has just had an impressive solo show – Nature: a cultural artefact open at the Instituto Cervantes. Her work explores our experiences of nature in an urban environment focusing on the idea of three natures. 

Gloria Ceballos The Three Natures

Gloria Ceballos The Three Natures

I was recently asked by a male visitor at an exhibition if spiritual concerns were predominantly a female pursuit.

For Ana Mendieta in the 1970’s when a lot of land art was being made by artists such as Robert Smithson she felt her works were more spiritual and in tune with nature as opposed to the brutality of the industrial spirit. She left little trace in the landscape unlike her male contemporaries who were interested in the earth as material. She was interested in the earth’s sensual qualities, exploring the primary relationship of humanity with the earth as mother.  Through tapping into the ancient spirits of a primordial age and using the same elements of earth, fire and blood in her art as her ancestors used in their rituals she hoped to infuse her work with power and magic. She was often aligned with feminist and goddess groups but held firm that her work should not be tethered to gender issues, it was more universal.

Exploring the complexity of the female perspective today Disturbance was an exhibition culminating on International Women’s Day featuring Hermione Allsop, Alexandra Drawbridge, AnnaMaria Kardos, Paula MacArthur, Kate Murdoch, Mitra Saboury, Wendy Saunders, Susan Sluglett and Geraldine Swayne at Atom Gallery in Finsbury Park.

Kate Murdoch

Kate Murdoch

Kate Murdoch’s silent gathering bears witness to those unheard voices from the past when a girl was not expected to speak out.

My time at the RCA will soon be over. It’s been an incredible experience that I never imagined I would participate in.

After spending last summer wholly immersed in writing my dissertation I have had the honour of receiving a distinction. It wasn’t an easy birth so it’s really rewarding to find my energies were worthwhile and I ended up with something I can be proud of that will be archived at the Royal College of Art.

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The visions of paradise that we conjure in our imaginations will be influenced by our culture, personal aspirations and spiritual beliefs but however paradise manifests itself in our consciousness it will symbolize the promise of bliss.

Formed from joining the ancient Iranian words pairi, ‘around’ and daêza, ‘wall’, paradise was first used to describe a walled enclosure. Over time its meaning expanded to include the landscaped parks local nobles created to hunt animals trapped within their walls. These royal parks were lavishly planted with beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers and so paradise came to refer to any delightful garden. Ultimately used as epithet for the Garden of Eden, imagined as the most exquisite garden of them all,  its meaning became ever more sacred, taking on the very idea of Heaven itself.

Also I have met some personal challenges so am feeling good about that too.

One of the reasons I initially hesitated over applying to the RCA was the knowledge that as part of the MA I would be sent on a teaching placement. This terrifying possibility is now in the past. I went to Manchester School of Art and was made very welcome.

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My fears were unfounded and I was able to give a talk and tutorials which although an intense and exhausting experience was not the horrific one I imagined it would be. So I feel ready now to set a new challenge.

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Saw Chimerica, an amazing new play by Lucy Kirkwood. It is a powerful exploration of two cultures – China and America.
We are taken back to the student protests of 1989 in Tiananmen Square and follow the search of an American photographer, who took the iconic shot of the student standing with his shopping bags in front of the tank, as he tries to discover the identity of  ‘tank man’.

The fate still remains unknown of the unarmed man who blocked a column of tanks as they moved along Chang’an Avenue towards Tiananmen Square.

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The script is very tight, funny and moving, playing out  a touching relationship between the photographer and his Chinese contact as they question their roles in history.

There are questions about cultural identity and personal responsibility.

Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood

Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood

Who is a hero and how can one voice rage against the machine.  I found it a little scary to contemplate the future in this context as China is such a hard country to relate to and it’s influence is spreading quietly across the world.

In China there seems little compassion for the individual.

Yet obviously there are individuals who raise their voices, people we can relate to in their desire for justice, for free speech and for clean air.

Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood

Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood

Chimerica explores the courage required to step outside the control of the state and the security of a job.

It also makes us wonder about the dramatic changes to the landscape, the explosion of consumerism and urbanisation and the sources of energy to power this explosion in growth.

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The ideas behind Chimerica can be found at  http://headlong.co.uk/work/chimerica/explore/

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I have always loved the work of Antii Laitinen since being introduced to his work by Nettie Horn Gallery.

I went to listen to him at the ICA in conversation with Elizabeth Neilson, Director of Zabludowicz Collection, and Harri Laakso, a co-curator of the Finnish Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale.

He undertakes extraordinary feats of endurance to make his art such as building his own island from bags of sand, only to have it swept away by a storm and then starting again.

Antii Laitinen 'It's my Island'

Antii Laitinen
‘It’s my Island’

In his talk  he stressed that he uses nature as his material and his studio space and what he is exploring is the nature of human existence. He questions the value of effort which stems from his native Finnish culture and its Lutheran attitude to the benefits of hard labour. In ‘Sweat work’ he constructed a human sized hamster wheel and ran until he was dripping in sweat, he then removed his clothes and laid down onto photographic paper.

Antii Laitinen 'Sweat Work'

Antii Laitinen
‘Sweat Work’

The photographs were then hung on the wall where the image of his body slowly faded and disappeared.

Antii Laitinen 'Sweat work'

Antii Laitinen ‘Sweat work’

Each of his pieces has required physical exertion in often futile exercises. Originally training as a photographer he moved into performative work which he then documents himself through photography.

He likes to be in control. He prefers if possible to perform all the hard labour himself.

There was an interesting discussion on the reaction of different cultures to his sawing up of a tree into many pieces and then trying to fix it back together again like a puzzle. In Finland where there are vast forests and there is a pragmatic relationship to a tree and he had no problem getting any number of trees to chop down. In Vienna he caused an outcry at the stupidity of his endeavour. In Bristol he had real trouble getting a tree at all, and the tree he was finally given was a very small tree, barely a tree at all, weak and diseased. What is it that makes it hard for us to chop down a tree. The shortage of trees or the love of the old, a national instinct to preserve maybe.
What was it that mobilised the nation into protest recently – the threat to the forests. We might never visit them – but it’s good to know they are there. Our cultural history is tied up in the forests not as a source of fuel and income but as a refuge, as a source of myths and legends.

Antii Laitinen

Antii Laitinen

For the project “FOREST SQUARE”, new work made for the Venice Biennale 2013, Laitinen chopped down a ten meters square section of forest and sorted the entire found material such as the soil, moss, wood, pines, etc into various categories. He then reorganized the forest according to different colours – the composition referring to the pure abstraction and utopian ideal of spiritual harmony and order from the De Stijl movement.

Antii Laitinen 'Forest Square'

Antii Laitinen ‘Forest Square’

I am still working on the collagraphs  ‘return of the forest’ and still not entirely happy with the way it is going.

I have been painting trees with sublimation inks to print onto organza which I will then cut onto the iceberg collagraphs I have made.

The thing about sublimation inks is you can’t quite tell what colour they will print until you put them in the heat press.

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I was upset to find out that London Printworks Trust had closed in February.

It is so sad that such a great resource is lost. I did think it bad though that as a paying member I hadn’t been told it was closing, I guess as they were in financial difficulties they weren’t going to refund memberships.

Now I have to find another large heat press to use.

The Ochre Print Studio Summer Exhibition had lots of good feedback. Shame I had to miss the Private View this year.

Susan Eyre 'Yellow Sky'

Susan Eyre ‘Yellow Sky’

‘Yellow Sky’ is about looking for refuge and reliance on a controlled environment to survive

Susan Eyre 'Graft i'

Susan Eyre ‘Graft i’

‘Graft I’ explores ideas about the changing landscape, the urban and the cultivated space, the hybrid landscapes and the empty inbetween spaces where imagination can flourish if nothing else.

Lots to see from other members and guest artists. It’s a good opportunity to bring the community at Ochre together.
Tom Hammick

Guest artists -Tom Hammick – woodcuts

Richenda Court's lino cut

Richenda Court’s lino cuts

Julie Hoyle

Julie Hoyle screen prints on wood

Lockwood Group

Lockwood Group artists with learning disabilities

Anna Hennings - artist in residence

Anna Hennings – artist in residence

Guest Artist - David Dragon - monoprints

Guest Artist – David Dragon – monoprints

 

Susan Eyre 'Subluna'

Susan Eyre ‘Subluna’

 

Sold ‘Subluna’ at Ochre and also some of my ‘Collected Thoughts’ sold at the Surrey Contemporary.
Always a strange mixed feeling of loss and pleasure.

I have been looking at moss. It gets everywhere.

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I found an interesting blog that puts moss in context historically…

‘This soft plant pre-dates just about everything that surrounds it…older than ginkgo, older than Turtle Island, older than the very first tree, quite possibly older than the dirt itself.

The moss pre-dates the very notion of history.  Because the moss comes from an Earth that would be completely unrecognizable to you and me, completely alien even to the trees themselves.’  Read more…

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Then thanks to Giovanni Aloi Founder and Editor in Chief of Antennae, the Journal of Nature in Visual Culture my attention was brought to the news that ancient mosses are returning.

‘Frozen mosses that were buried under glaciers 400 years ago have now been regrown. Surprisingly, the hardy “bryophytes” required no special techniques to regenerate. That means they might be candidates for colonizing extreme environments — even in space.  During the Little Ice Age, which occurred between the 16th and 19th centuries, massive glaciers moved in and covered various regions in the Northern Hemisphere. These glaciers slowly retreated throughout the 20th century, and the rate of ice melt has sharply accelerated since 2004. The substantial glacial retreat is now revealing beautifully preserved vegetative communities, says Catherine La Farge, a bryophyte botanist at the University of Alberta. “It’s kind of like a blanket being pulled back, allowing you to see what the Little Ice Age was like.” ‘ Read more…

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So maybe my work should be looking at ‘Return of the Moss’ not ‘Return of the Forest’.

It’s not quite such a dramatic image. I have been looking at some impressions of the first trees, there were a bit fern like.

Fern looks so primordial. I have been working on making stencils to screen print over the ice collagraph. Using the scans from the ferns I pressed I have added an embryo as a harbinger of what is to come.

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Every summer Ochre Print Studio opens its doors for an Open Studio Exhibition and I usually help curate this.

Lots of work arrives from all the members. We line it up and start looking for connections.

Ochre Print Studio

Ochre Print Studio

Also need to fit my own work in.

Yellow Sky

Yellow Sky

Subluna and Graft i

Subluna and Graft i

Went to see ‘Disgraced’ at the Bush Theatre. Set in New York. Today. Corporate lawyer Amir Kapoor is happy, in love and about to land the biggest career promotion of his life. But beneath the veneer, success has come at a price. When Amir and his artist wife, Emily, host an intimate dinner party at their Upper East Side apartment, what starts out as a friendly conversation soon escalates into something far more damaging.’

Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar

Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar

This blog from Paul in London sums it up nicely

‘Over the course of 90 minutes everything that is civilised and awfully respectable about two New York couples is gradually undone and at times the conversation is so frank and uncomfortable ‘. ……Read more

The characters reflected a fast retreat to their roots when under pressure, to the lessons of their parents to shared histories and a sense of belonging.

It seems origins are very important and potent.

Look at the moss slowly spreading, changing the climate and allowing new growth and eventually the advent of man.

It was a good exercise for me to give a talk at the Robert Phillips Gallery in conjunction with the Surrey Contemporary 2013.  Time to think about my own origins and how they influence my work. I dragged out old sketchbooks and notes to refresh myself on the ideas that have led me to this point.

I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to talk for. I started by talking a little about my own background – growing up in the countryside – living in the city and how this has made me very conscious of the difference between my contact with nature then and now. Also the influences of the ecological call to arms on my feelings about the natural world and my love of the urban landscape.

Binformation

Binformation

 ‘Binformation’ always provokes lots of discussion so that was a good piece to be able to discuss. Rubbish is remarkably personal, it’s something we all produce relentlessly and often harbour guilt about. So it can be comforting to think that maybe in millennia that layer of plastic will turn into something beautiful to be mined.

While doing a bit of research for my talk at Riverhouse I went back to some old sketchbooks from Goldsmiths days and pulled out his quote that I had come across at the time. Those feelings that once everything was better go back a long way.

 “One thing is sure. The earth is now more cultivated and developed than ever before. There is more farming with pure force, swamps are drying up, and cities are springing up on unprecedented scale. We’ve become a burden to our planet. Resources are becoming scarce, and soon nature will no longer be able to satisfy our needs.” Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus Roman theologian, 200 AD

I have been falling in love with Angela Carter again. Reading ‘Nothing Sacred’ and marvelling at her insight of 40 years ago.

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Writing on the discovery of the idea of the Sublime she looks at the industrial landscape of Bradford and notes the seductive attraction of grit and grime heralded by the art-house films of the fifties appealing to the romantic who was not born and bred in a back to back house.

‘The history of taste may well be that of the obscure and probably warped predilections of the bourgeois romantic intellectual gradually filtering down through the mass media until everybody knows for certain what they ought to like. After all, only a handful of eccentrics enjoyed mountains until a mountain got up and followed Wordsworth across a lake’.  New Society 1970

Despite the urban growth and industry of the northern city she finds there is still a direct contact with nature in the markets of Doncaster – ‘It’s cold and wet underfoot, here.’

‘Outside, among the fruit and vegetable stalls, it had started to rain in earnest and the cabbage stalks and shed lettuce leaves were turning to soup in the puddles. It’s very tiring, not being alienated from your environment.’

New Society 1976

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Much happier with the way my collagraph is going now that I have pulled back from all the colour I have been using.

Also I am getting much more detail in the image through careful inking. Thinking about all the changes that the earth has been through in deep time. So slowly.

Waiting for the forest to emerge.

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This is still work in progress which I intend to print over. I have been thinking about blocking off the image in parts with paper stencils before I print the collagraph to leave blank spaces to print on.

Making a template for hanging ‘Collected Thoughts’ at the Surrey Contemporary.

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This way I can just fix the paper up on the wall and tap the nails straight though.

I hadn’t been to the Robert Phillips Gallery in Walton on Thames before. It is a bit tucked away but a lovely space right on the river with a little café and terrace.

The gallery has high ceilings and lots of light.

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It was good to meet the other artists and chat about their work.

Stephanie Wright told me about the nervous excitement she feels when slicing through her thrown pot to reveal the figure inside and the alchemy of using glazes.

Stephanie Wright

Stephanie Wright

Dave Richards demonstrated his website documenting the Museum of Modern Zoology where new hybrid species have evolved via his imagination from a fusion of technology and the animate, like the Makagadikadi big cat which shares its aerodynamic structure with a racing car.

Dave Richards

Dave Richards

Jill Flower explained the inspiration behind her sculptures using recycled papers and stitch to convey the seven ages of man (and woman) through a literary journey.

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The Private View was really busy.  Over the tap tap tap of Mat Clark’s morse code installation on the obsolescence of the art object Alison Clarke from Surrey Arts welcomed everybody while Chairman of Surrey County Council, Mr David Munro thanked all the sponsors and wished he had a rosette to award to an artist like he did for the prize bull at the county show. The artists present were not sure how they felt about that.

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So glad we have at last had some sunshine, and ‘Subluminal’ which I have hung in our sunroom is doing its thing with the rays.

If I worked it out maybe it could even be a sundial.

Would be so great for the big piece ‘Incidence’ to have a wall that gets the sun rather than be in a bag under the bed.

Incidence e

Had great inspiration on the themes of nature in the urban environment at the Soho Theatre in the witty and surreal play ‘Pastoral’ by Thomas Eccleshare.

Pastoral

Nature is fighting back. The forest is returning. The army have been called in but are being pushed back by the speed and strength of the growth.

The south is being abandoned as buildings collapse and roads are swallowed up and the only escape is to evacuate to the north behind the big plastic wall.

Pastoral

It’s everyman for himself when the only game for dinner is one hedgehog between 6.

The man from Ocado can only regret his perseverance to deliver his goods at all cost.

Great staging and wonderful delivery from Anna Calder-Marshall as Moll blessed with the freedom that comes with age to say what she thinks (about ‘the fats’  and other blights of our time)

The weeds bursting through Moll’s carpet did resonate with me – ‘Emergency’ made while at Goldsmiths had a similar idea at its core but in this case it was the rubbish from landfill mutating and bursting forth.

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Some musical inspiration from Flaming Lips.

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Photo by Chris Boland

Blinding light show and space age silver sculptures.  Photography at www.distantcloud.co.uk

Wayne Coyne was ill and couldn’t really sing. He gave a moving speech at the beginning to say in the scheme of things what was going on at the Roundhouse that night was insignificant when children were dying at the hands of a hurricane. Real nature this time.

Also on a higher plane the soulful voice of Eska and her thoughtful lyrics.

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‘Seeds of her memory grew up from the earth….she’s in the flowers….’

http://www.eskaonline.com/#c87/youtube