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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

100 pieces of Havana

Dray walk Gallery, Truman Brewery, 23rd-26th July

Written by Tanya Geddes

Water is accessible through a tap. Most of us, pills price (if were not trendy art students who squat) pay expensive water bills to have this privilege of running water. So why do I find myself forking out my hard earned pennies on bottled water during the day? WIth the recommended daily amount of at least 4 pints a day (equivalent to 2 litres), the disorganized and thirsty of us may waste up to four golden pounds to fulfill our liquid fix.

So there’s my rant out of the way. The main issue here is not just our pockets, but our environment. You would have had to have been hibernating over the last year if you are not aware and taking part in the risen popularity of recycling. Great! Yet, in actual truth a large proportion of recyclable materials end their time in Landfill, or even worse our beautiful oceans. Estimated to take between 500-1000 years to biodegrade we need to crack down on this issue. Even the relatively small proportion of plastics which are given a stab at the recycling process are transported around the globe to be reincarnated before returning to their origin. Again, this is a far cry from ecological efficiency. Before I ramble further, for those of us which are not inspired to change habits purely through concern for our planet, I remind them of the recent rumors of harmful toxins which disposable plastics are potentially leaking into fluids.

So there we have it. I’m not complaining about our sudden splurge of sun, but our rate of plastic disposal is rocketing during these summer months. Which leads me to the introduction of the reusable and recyclable aluminium drinks bottle courtesy of the clever SIGG people. Celebrating 100 years of establishment, the SIGG designs prove that although old timers, they are still able to produce an environmentally friendly and visually strong alternative to the plastic bottle. Constructed from a single piece of aluminium using minimum waste manufacturing processes the leak proof, easy to clean, seamless bottles are available in a range of sizes and designs whether you prefer a sleek professional sip or an illustrated cheerful gulp.

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As Amelia models, the Sigg bottle is very handy for festivals and teeth cleaning!
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Ah, sick the ICA, bar one of London’s finest scrums. But somehow it’s always worth it – and tonight it certainly is. First up, Herculean one-man-band, Bass Clef. Let’s start with an instrument inventory: trombone; Theremin; Roland IR-606; whistle; cowbell; drumsticks; Behringer mixing desk; cd deck and echo chamber microphone (as Ralph himself might call it) all shrouded in an unhealthy obsession with seminal Soviet dystopian novelist Yevgeny ‘We’ Zamyatin. The very polite Bass Clef aka Ralph Cumbers is quick to make point of the slothenly ground-seated audience who quickly adjust to two feet (I wonder, would they have taken to the floor if it wasn’t such a balmy summer evening).

After several years operating out of Bristol, Bass Clef’s sound bears the marks of that city’s bass-centric tradition. Yes it is as his name indicates all about the bass. I can’t help but mention Hackney Hardcore’s ‘Dancehall Dangerous‘ (Clef is now resident there) but if I mention Smith and Mighty, and Massive Attack as geographical forebears to the Bristol bass sound exhibited by Clef tonight the picture might become clearer, and Lennie De Ice’s ‘We Are I.E.’ would appear to be a reference point for Clef on both the quality of bass line and use of clicky snare hits.

His use of a repertoire of instruments not necessarily considered to be traditionally ‘dub’ is key to the unique sound and performance tonight. The sound is built up with the use of pedals and effects units to create a layered stratum of sonic jabs and reverb-ridden polyphonies that is reminiscent of the classic Dub sound but never as sparse. Clef’s set exudes strong avant-garde tendencies and for certain he was expounding this sound long before the only current scene with which he might be associated was born.

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As if fresh from one of their famous NYC guerrilla street gigs the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – eight brothers, the progeny of epic horn man Phil Cohran accompanied by drummer 360 – take the stage. The crowd is eager and hyped. This is the horn section for real. Like those viciously sampled by hip hop greats such as Public Enemy and Gangstarr but with real brass, real breath and real spit.

These guys rock their instruments with true party clarity and hip hop sensibilities. As they play they sway and glean touching such bases as the Salsoul Orchestra, Etiopiques, Blue Note and mid-70′s Herbie Hancock as they disseminate their ‘musical medicine’ with true jazz pedigree. It never feels dated – as it might easily do. It’s ‘Inner City Blues’, the soundtrack to a Donald Goines novel, Mardi Gras, Crooklyn Clan, fresh, fresh, fresh, all for today. 360 drums with the precision of Idris Muhammad, and the brothers play like it’s for the last time, in a room as hot as Sal’s Famous.

There is a strong element of crowd participation – not naff here – which adds to the block party vibe. The lights go down; the cell phones go up (instead of lighters). The waftiest moment of the night seems to work for the crowd – like panacea. At the end of the evening, after a very long encore, the players are introduced one-by-one James Brown-style. The crowd pour out onto the Mall, the humidity, the jazz, the summer is here!

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Last night after leaving the team Amelia’s free drink fest that was the Havana Club Exhibition I wandered over to Cargo full of anticipation (and rum) for Ratatat. I’ve had not seen Ratatat live before so I really didn’t know what I was expecting. But as feature on the constant play on my ipod, information pills I was sure it was going to be good.

Shuffling into Cargo just before 9 I realised with impeccable timing Micachu‘s support set was due to start in a few minutes. I was introduced to Micachu through fellow Amelia’s intern, pharm Sarah. I don’t think Sarah would mind if I let you all into a little secret; Sarah loves (maybe that should be capitals) Micachu. Enjoying the fading sun in the beer garden I realised said lady was sat a few centimetres away, Sarah really would be super jealous I thought to myself. The praise heaped on Micachu by Sarah and others is most definitely justified.

Watching Micachu as she performed with her band, The Shapes strumming her ukulele I was struck by how much she reminded me of Jaime T. In pretty much every way. The way she sings with a slight snarl of the lip (Elvis would be beaming), the stance, the strumming, even the way she looks! I’m not suggesting she rips off Jaime T, just that there are some unintentional similarities.

However Micachu was very much a warm up for the main event. The crowd seemed restless, and for an apparently sold out gig I was wondering where the swarm of people where. Grabbing the attention of the said crowd, was achieved by the inventive use of an oyster card and a vacuum cleaner. But even Micachu seemed to be keen on hearing Ratatat, with her praise of them uttered frequently.

So the moment I and everyone else had waited for was drawing near. The room started filling up, and I was no longer in any doubt as to the sold out nature, myself squeezed between over enthusiastic youths and a smooching couple. The projector flicked a Pioneer display across the screen, lighting up the instruments waiting for their owners. With all the waiting bodies and the unlikely sunny day, Cargo has been transformed into a sweat box. Nice. I receive a kick from the enthusiastic youths. Forty minutes later and still waiting I am reminded why gig going annoys me. Finally, as I’m giving up hope of every making it home at a reasonable hour Ratatat enter the stage.

Ratatat launch into song after song, with little verbal interaction with crowd. Apart from the encouragement for head nodding by the tour-only keyboard player whose gigantic curly mop is nodding frantically. I don’t think I’ve seen so many heads nodding in near enough unison, ever. However, it quickly transpires I am stood behind Mr. Nodding Dog who takes it to the next level. With every nod, his head runs the risk of flying off his neck and into my face. In a feat Cyclops would have been proud of I maintain one eye on Mr. Nodding Dog and one on the stage. For an instrumental band, its comes as no surprise to see visuals to lend support to a performance. But, super trippy visuals are unexpected. Slowed down images of geometric shapes and kung fu have a hypnotic quality. I even spotted Arnie pre-politics looking every bit the last action hero.

Ratatat played a good mix of tracks from ‘LP3′ and ‘Classics’ and hearing the first few bars of ‘Lex’ I almost forget to keep an eye on Mr. Nodding Dog, he obviously liked that one too, alerting me, as his nodding takes on a dangerous turn. Ratatat were pretty much what I was hoping for live, I had high expectations and they did live up to them. However, after the 40 minute late start I decided to call it a night after hearing ‘Wildcat’. I had hoped to hear the irresistible chimes of ‘Seventeen Years’, but I guess I’ll never know.

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Last Thursday the amelia’s crew (minus one or two members) scampered down to the Dray walk Gallery after work, viagra sale looking a bit dishevelled (I’m talking about myself not the others- that would be just plain rude!) Ploughing through my emails half an hour to finishing work, shop one particular email entitled ‘rum and art’ prickled my attention. ‘100 pieces of Havana’ involved 100 artists showcasing their interpretations of Cuba in an 100 hour art exhibition. Hollaring at the others to come and join me in a bit of Cuban fun, plus one or two servings of rum was an easy plea.

Walking in on the open spaced gallery, we were met with an array of exciting art, exhibiting a spirit and vivacity that is so focal to Cuban life. Graffitti, illustration, photography, fashion design, it was all there. Some highlights included Will Tuck‘s goldfish in a bottle, Kate Harrison’s mixed media piece and illustrations by ‘rude’.

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will tuck’s fish!

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kate harrison’s piece

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illustration by ‘rude’

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matthew hawkin’s piece

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‘hedonista’ by billie jean

The only thing that puzzled me was why so much of the art centred on Havana Club bottles. No sooner had I read the press release than I realised that Havana club rum had commissioned the initiative. The release even concluded ‘The iconic logo, strong heritage and vibrant history have made it a sought after brand loved by artists and talent over the world’. Indeed! I didn’t know Cuban life equated to Havana club rum.

Despite this, the exhibition was fun and fresh with a colourful range of art employing different medias. There was always a piece to grab your attention just around the corner. It was a shame that works were limited to selling the brand in a slightly more liberated way to a series of free ad campaigns. Rather than sitting on the side, making art the focus, Havana Club had infiltrated the exhibition, attempting to fuse both brand and art together. Havana club should know they may be able to dull our senses for an evening, but inevitably the sober fact that art will always rein over corporate indoctrination, will arise the next day.

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One Response to “100 pieces of Havana”

  1. Sarah says:

    I’m glad I missed that fish in a bottle whilst I was there… I would’ve got very upset and rung the RSPCA!

    Great closing sentence BTW, you’ve captured exactly how it felt x

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