Category Archives: Tips. These days

Chasing lasers

exhibition in London

#digitalrevolution @Barbican

You don’t have to be a digital guru to enjoy this exhibition. Au contraire.
I have a scratched ancient generation Nokia, the cheapest Kubik mp3 and the most basic Chromebook. But I still enjoyed whispering to butterflies, playing a radio-piano, growing wings and chasing lasers.

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Gandini – Juggling apples and ideas

Apples

Of Apples and Jugglers

An artistic director who talks about juggling, Pina Bausch and the mathematics of dance in the same sentence, by definition will not come up with a run of the mill circus act. “Smashed” tells stories with the help of 9 skilled jugglers, 80 apples, 4 crockery sets and a soundtrack that makes you want to waltz. In Berlin.

The story takes place in uncertain territory, building on a soundtrack reminiscent of the golden days of musical hall, the Blitz years, but also Bach, Tammy Wynette, and more. The rhymes and rhythms of music and jugglers slowly but surely predict a storm. The show is playful and dark, humorous and tragic, absurd and meaningful, constantly juggling with moods and ideas.

The day I saw “Smashed”, the wind was shaking the Underbelly tent. Kansas style. Not a planned extra challenge for the jugglers, but one that added to the dramatic effect of the finale. Needless to say it all went smoothly.

Beautiful and clever, this is a piece of contemporary juggling you don’t want to miss (must end 18 May). Also, you’ll never crave apples this much. And you may consider taking up juggling. Or waltzing. Or both.

Photo credit: Ludovic des Cognets

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Kltz. Pmz. Aaaaaa! An Exhibition

mada zaha picThere is this tiny art gallery on Essex Road you can’t miss after dark, because it is bathed in white milky light. These days they show ‘Kltz. Pmz. Aaaaaa!’, a 6 piece exhibition by Madalina Zaharia, Romanian artist living and working in London.

First, the title. “Kltz. Pmz. Aaaaaa!” is the phonetic representation of a popular onomatopoeic catchphrase from one of the first adverts to be aired on still pre-capitalist Romanian television in the early 90s. The ad became a national hit, even though today no one can quite remember what the commercial was for. The works revolve around the peculiar relationship between sound and nonsense, between onomatopoeia and the realm of history. Five of the six works in the show relate to a sound from the catchphrase. “Pst. Pst.” for example mimics an elongated ‘S’ and the photographic image in the same work is a ‘T’ from the mute alphabet with morse code signs for ‘P’. Madalina directs every piece as if it is a character performing and recalling history: “Each sound is an actor with a prescribed set of actions and representations, a character in our investigation, a thespian dressed with all our objects and depictions”.

Giving materiality to onomatopoeia is a playful challenge for the imagination, one Madalina chose to connect to a snippet of post-communist popular culture. Triggered by a crippled would-be-iconic ad, the 6 pieces are embodiments of a media product visually long forgotten but mysteriously still present in its awkward sonority. It goes without saying that there are Romanians who would relate differently to this exhibition given the shared history, but everybody will have the chance to see what sounds look like on metal, paper, stone and silent video.

It will be pretty quiet for a walk through so many sounds, but this is the kind of walk that has the potential to alter your relation to nonsense onomatopoeia and pieces of history embarrassingly hard to forget. Or remember.

Initially published in Weekend Notes

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Merrily we stopped at the theatre

Merrily we stop at Harold Pinter Theatre

Round the corner @ Harold Pinter Theatre

With lyrics and music by legendary Stephen Sondheim and a book by George Furth, you won’t probably be surprised to hear that this is one of those musicals that can appeal even to those who think musicals are a waste of time and money, leaving you intellectually dissatisfied while humming meaningless catchy tunes.

This production of Merrily We Roll Along moved in April from The Menier Chocolate Factory to the Harold Pinter Theatre, in the West End, for a limited run. It easily breaks through the thin glittery filters that characterize most musicals. It’s poignant, smart, strong and can live a life beyond a few catchy tunes.

Merrily We Roll Along tells the story of three friends from 1957 to 1976, but in reverse. It’s set in America, but it tackles universal themes. Although it starts with the ending, it manages to keep you hooked and excited about the… beginning in a beautifully constructed flashback that keeps adding pieces to the puzzle and various layers to the characters.

The musical has an interesting background history, it won awards and it is equally adored by audiences and critics. There isn’t much to deconstruct in terms of narrative, direction and production. The cast is impeccable, singing and dancing their way through 2 hours of challenging, changing characters over a period of 20 years of busy lives.

But the real incentive is the story that captures truths about ideals, compromises, dreams, friendship and makes them ring true, loud and clear. You’ll know it, because you’ll repeatedly go through the ‘aha’ moment, constantly nodding with sympathetic smiles. Sondheim’s musical makes you hum happy catchy tunes, while still brooding over the deeper meanings that reside in all the great plays. And that’s worth your time, money and mental space.

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American Landscapes by the Thames

We stopped by the river, at the National Maritime Museum, to see Ansel Adams: Photography from the Mountains to the Sea.

The American photographer, environmentalist and author  believed in making photographs as opposed to simply taking photographs. He was 13 when he got his first camera, a Kodak No. 1 Box Brownie. Nothing unusual so far, just that the year was 1916 and he was transfixed by a visit to the Yosemite Sierra. That’s how a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and photography started.

This exhibition will help you track the steps of one of the best photographers of the last century, while strolling through his iconic black and white landscapes of the American West. The theme: water. In all its forms, states and shapes (you’ll see), his work is a celebration of nature.  No wonder that at 17, Adams joined the Sierra Club and his work ever since would prove to be instrumental in advancing the cause of environmentalism too.

Must: Whether you’re an experienced fan or just a curious newbie, sit and watch the insightful documentary snippets.

So, this is a great indoor walk through the… great outdoors. And much cheaper than a plane ticket to USA. It goes without saying that it’s also a first-rate lesson in photography, with touches of biopic, climatology and geomorphology. If you don’t know what these words mean, don’t worry, the exhibition will clear everything up.

Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

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Man Ray’s Hall of Fame

420_ManRay_currentWalk and stop at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s foggy and cold out there, so let Man Ray keep you company.
This exhibition is a great first lesson, but it’s also a treat for those advanced in the life, work and tribulations of one of the greatest artists of the last century. The fans will probably spend double the normal time in there, smiling uncontrollably with every new step taken, discovering some works never seen before in UK, some of his groundbreaking studies of Barbette, Catherine Deneuve, Ava Gardner, Lee Miller, Kiki de Montparnasse, the famous solarized portraits, personal and intimate portraits of friends and lovers.

Scattered through the 100+ black and white vintage prints are a few colour ones taken mainly in the last years of his life, original magazine covers and clippings. This exhibition is also a treat for those who wish they lived in Paris during the 1920s. Or in London. You’ll find yourself staring at Picasso, Dali, Chanel, Hemingway, Matisse, the Dadaists, Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, Antonin Artaud… But enough with the spoilers. You’ll see.It won’t be easy to erase from your memory those iconic portraits, the stories behind them, and the artistic twists of a wizard turning photographs into masterpieces, unaffected by a billion devices and one click away effects.
And what absolute bliss that is.

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A Question of Talent

When it comes to photography, London is not just the sum of an incredible array of topics, but a precious hub for displaying the results. So, with long nights and cozy interiors, November seems to be a favorable time to visit exhibitions. Here’s two of them.

On the north bank, at Somerset House: Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour. It’s one of those tiny, free of charge, yet pretty dense exhibitions set in flamboyant rooms. There’s plenty to take from this one. It features 10 Cartier-Bresson photographs never before exhibited in the UK, alongside over 75 works by 14 international acclaimed photographers. It all starts with Cartier-Bresson’s affection for black and white photography, yet the exhibition is full of colour and it will leave you stuck in some sharp memorable greens and reds. It’s a matter of minutes, but it feels like you’ve seen a couple of hours of documentaries. The challenge to capture the ‘decisive moment’ in colour photography too is met in this surprisingly passionate display of unique moments and stories. Definitely a question of talent.

On the south bank, at the Royal Festival Hall: The World Press Photo 2012. It paints a grim picture of the world during the past year. Revolutions, mass killings, nuclear disaster, natural disasters, injustice, to name just a few of the topics. It’s an international showcase of 169 award-winning photographs that set a standard in photojournalism. But beyond the skills of the photographers, what will stick with you are the tension and the pain of a suffering world. It even comes with a warning, and it’s not recommended for a ‘young audience’. Unlike other years, there are too few pictures (if any) that will make you smile. It’s one short walk that will drain you out and keep you wondering what’s wrong with this world, while you’re making your way out through the happy talkative Southbank crowd sipping wine.

Actually, this could be a good time to rush over Waterloo Bridge straight into Cartier-Bresson’s search for ‘decisive moments’, away from the disturbing specter of now.

Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour from Nov 8 until Jan 27
The World Press Photo 2012 from Nov 9 until Nov 27

Text originally published on Inspired Magazine

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Cupcakes and phone boxes

Walk through London these days, and you’ll notice that there is a steady rise in the number of bakeries, and a sudden one in the number of phone boxes. I bet you thought I’d say tourists and  TfL “get ahead of the games” warning posters. 

Anyway. Phone boxes. Do you remember the Big Egg Hunt, just before Easter?

Egg on the Southbank

That’s pretty much the same. Only this time, the iconic red phone box has been skilfully redesigned.  The 82 BT ArtBoxes will be around one more week, then auctioned to raise money for Childline.

In Covent Garden: One of the many

Cupcakes. That’s something sweet to say about a big ‘bad’ city, but being such a complex topic, I’d rather leave it for later, after I’ve properly researched it 😉

Domino thought: I wonder if these fancy boxes led to a decrease in the number of tourists taking pictures with the classic red ones. Or on the contrary.

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Moving South

Southbank Centre, of course

Southbank Centre, of course

Quick update: For literature, try the Southbank Centre . For laughs, try the Underbelly before it moves its purple grin to Edinburgh. For free outdoor entertainment, watch this space on the Southbank. For food and drinks, try the Propstore. For the world, try the…  Southbank Centre?!

It’s true, the Southbank is as busy as can be these days. There is no more space left for another festival, even if you squeeze it on a barge on the Thames.

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The isle is full of noises…

Frankenstein in cinemas. Prometheus in Greenwich. Come again?

It’s true. Frankenstein is the show directed by Danny Boyle last year at the National Theater. Because it was a smash-hit they came up with these encore screenings in… cinemas. Rejoice the comfort of the seats in picture houses while surprised at the uselessness of cup holders in a… theater.
Domino thought:
I also think I know why they wanted Boyle to direct the Olympics opening ceremony.

Prometheus awakes around the National Maritime Museum tonight. For free. It’s part of a festival that takes place in the Docklands area.

If you don’t fancy anybody awaking in front of museums or on screens, you may want to check the Elements. You know, gold, silver and bronze. It’s free too. Friday night alchemy.

Of course, I forgot to mention the other 1376 great unmissable events. But I’m sure you’ll manage.

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