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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Frieze Art Fair

Frieze Art Fair, Regent's Park, London , 11-14 October 2007

Written by Tim Brown

Many thanks to Mr Avsh Alom Gur who injected a bit of much needed humour into an otherwise straight-faced London fashion week. Part of the Vauxhall Fashion Scout line-up at Baden Powell House (which also doubles as a youth hostel, buy information pills salve useful for anyone who needs a lie down between shows) he drew a sizeable crowd for a relative newcomer. The enthusiastic rabble also included my ‘Best Dressed Show-goer of the week’; a woman I seemed to see everywhere, erectile pulling off the Katharine Hepburn power-trousers meets 50s rockabilly look with eye-popping skill day after day. Superb.

Anyway, back to the show which opened to the sounds of tinkling bells and Queen’s ‘Bicycle Race.’ We were quickly left in no doubt as to the theme. City cycling. A glamorous, multi-coloured ride around town. Your leisurely jaunt along a country lane this wasn’t. Acid bright chiffons and silks were turned into a series of loosely constructed short length dresses. The Grecian thing obviously hasn’t run its course just yet with AAG determined to push those Hellenistic necklines. Tie-dye made a brief but brilliant appearance in a simple, casual shift dress. I know tie-dye has been buzzing around for quite some time now but this was one of the first occasions where it didn’t look annoyingly ‘on-trend’, instead being just an interesting way to play with colour.

The obligatory swimwear moment turned out to be my favourite of SS08. A rainbow striped deep-v swimsuit which wouldn’t win any prizes for originality but was just plain gorgeous. Accessories came in the shape of (actual) bike wheel bracelets, spare parts as waist decoration as well as bike frames worn as shoulder pieces. All very OTT-the loud clanging noise was a little distracting, but fun all the same. Sponsorship by Raleigh was celebrated with a cheeky deep blue shift dress emblazoned with the company logo, topped in the silly stakes only by the Morrisons plastic bag dress.

On paper the collection wouldn’t be my cup of tea but there were so many charming touches that it won me over in the first two minutes. A brilliant soundtrack (Late of the Pier-the bears are coming. The candy-bright lipstick and slick (bike-practical) hair-knots. The Frida Kahlo-esque eccentricity of it all…I could go on. A bold collection that had us all grinning like kids in a sweetshop.
The Scala was full and the line outside, side effects long. It was a weird crowd, not what I expected in the slightest; made up mainly of middle aged, balding, paunchy men wearing polo shirts, mixed up with some younger’uns and other regular Jills and Joes who’d finished work at the office not a few hours earlier. I can’t quite remember what I was expecting to see from Simian Mobile Disco duo James Ford and Jas Shaw, but on sighting the set up on stage – some mad scientist’s mini lab – I wondered how SMD were going to present themselves and their music in this ‘live gig’ format.

Neon blue lights began to glow and signalled the kick off. A Daft Punk feel came with the light show, all highlighter colours. Despite being the best light show I’ve ever seen, it wasn’t particularly exciting to watch otherwise, being a gig format and not a club or even a danceable situation. It did occur to me though that surely not that much twiddling was needed?

Not that I’m particularly knowledgeable about that kind of thing, the fact also is that it was the first ‘live’ purely electronic ‘gig’ I’d ever been to; similar acts I have seen were in a club format. This light show was the absolute genius of the set; cleverly designed to take to obscure vision of Ford and Shaw as they twiddled about on their circular set up, giving the crowd a view of their bouncing silhouettes. Ford did all this with an injury to boot, adjusting dials with only one hand whilst the other was in a sling.

Props to SMD for being able to keep the attention of a mainstream consumer audience for an hour or so; they are masters of a consumable build up and play the dynamics game with panache. They had better be good at it after all! If only it was at a grimy club or in a dance arena.

Maybe it was the audience that didn’t sit right, as it was strangely conservative, made up mainly of middle-aged men with m(anb)oobs. SMD play music that’s about losing yourself and just getting messy on the dance floor. The crowd instead were relying on being told to have a good time and not just doing it themselves – which is why the dynamics game played such a big part. The tunes were hot, but the crowd and atmosphere were unfortunately more Simian Mooby Disco than Mobile Disco.

I’ve been going through a bit of a musical dry spell the past few weeks. My battered old Ipod seems to reject my attempts to introduce something new and I find myself falling back on the safe, more about comfortable classics; My Kate Bush playlist, page my 80s MEGAMIX!! and some rather embarrassing 90s R&B of which the less said the better. But there’s a limit to how much Cloudbusting and Bette Davis Eyes a girl can take. Thankfully, cure White Heat at the cavernous Madame Jojo’s could just have saved the day. Headlining act, These New Puritans have been buzzing around for a while and if Thursday was anything to go by they may’ve found a new home in my earphones.

Describing the four piece isn’t easy but when I find myself struggling for adjectives and comparisons it usually means something good. Physically the band are a kind of Hedi Slimane meets gothic-surburbia dream come true. No surprise then when I later find out that the ex Mr. Dior has indeed taken the youngsters into the fold as he did with Doherty and countless other Indie waifs. Consequently my initial thought was that a band who looked this cool could never match up on the musical stakes. Fortunately I couldn’t be more wrong.

Everything is based around George’s incredible drum beats, unusual, stuttered and not too dissimilar to a trippy Gang Gang Dance bassline, they form the core of their angular, occasionally distorted creations. Icy blond Sophie Sleigh-Johnson presides over the synthesizers, introducing an electronic element while lead singer and jerky ringmaster Jack Burnett (one of GQs 50 best dressed) talks in code-repetitive and nonsensical, half-spoken, it’s here the Mark E. Smith comparisons start and in truth probably end. Self-confessed fans of The Fall, thanks to their fondness for a catchy beat their music is a whole lot more listenable than that of their heroes. The result then is a kind of brilliant indie, triphop, goth, punk hybrid, played with a kind of taut, wired energy that makes it impossible to look away.

Lead singer Jack Barnett cites hip-hop, ancient magic and complex chess moves as their influences and while all that could be mistaken for pretension the music is so multilayered that it’s not hard to believe. What post-punk and new-neu-nu-wave should be; experimental, energetic and full of ear-pleasing beats.

The show began with a brilliant performance by the eccentric and wonderful Patti Plinko and her Boy. Patti won the audience pretty quickly with her rich voice, information pills ukulele and with a je ne se quoi dark charm evocative of more seductive times and smoky cabarets.

Not far behind, pills her Boy anonymous behind his gas mask, adiposity was the perfect support with his guitar. Nostalgic but with a twist, I was swinging all the way.

The Puppini Sisters then glossed up the stage with their fancy 40′s ways… and they entertained. The three sisters, Marcella, Kate, and Steph certainly had a crowd of followers last night at the Sheperds Bush Empire all singing along their chorus and moving to their music. The sisters didn’t disappoint, as not only their close harmony vocals were spot on, but they also played the accordion, violin and yes a toy piano brilliantly; constant coordinated dancing included. Indeed, an energetic performance, well stringed by humorous remarks and great vibe. If not particularly innovative, their interpretations included the much-adored Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, and the Italian nostalgia of Tu Vuo’ Fa’ L’Americano and finishing the night off with Walk like an Egyptian. They’ve just released their new album “The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo”, and were awarded Gold for their first release. Well done ladies!

Another album, rx ‘that difficult second one’ and so, prescription another tour for Brighton’s very own party poppers The Go! Team. This time as headliners on NME’s none too shabby Freshers tour featuring, amongst others, young upstarts Operator Please. A perfect platform it would seem, to showcase the merits of ‘Proof Of Youth’ – the ramshackle new album that was met with decidedly mixed reviews on it’s arrival last month. Free from the constraints of the studio however, is (usually) where the fun loving sextet thrive, so an opportunity to wow a bunch of beered-up, impressionable freshers should be just the ticket. Well, it should be.

The band charge head first into the lead single from ‘Proof Of Youth’, the raucous ‘Grip Like A Vice’ to open up. It’s opening 2 minutes lacks any sort of cohesion, not helped by the muddy sound, but in a second half dominated by snarling guitars and stomp a long brass it redeems itself somewhat. So we’re up, if not yet quite running. More of the same features on ‘The Wrath Of Marcie’, before which effervescent front-woman Ninja gleefully informs us is the bands new single. Again it splutters into life during the second half, but it’s not the most auspicious of openings. Indeed, aside from the wonderfully energetic and endearing Ninja, the remaining band members appear disinterested – their lack of energy all too apparent.

A blink and you’ll miss it two minute thumper finally engages the crowd, and the band hit their stride on the cartoony but likeable ‘Fake I.D’ Ninja switching to drums for this one and at last it feels like the Go Team are here to party. But, inexplicably what we get next is a dreadful, slow acoustic number, stalling all momentum. So much for the party.

They manage to save face somewhat with a string of hits from ‘Thunder, Lightning, Strike’ that fill the remainder of tonight’s set. The best of which are, rather predictably ‘Ladyflash’ and the achingly beautiful ‘ Everyone’s A V.I.P to Someone’, showing that when they get it right, there really is little to compare to them. If only they could get it right a bit more often.
Friday my life was truly enriched. After having Ra Ra Riot on loop for the past few weeks and a growing obsession with their sound, price seeing them play such an intimate gig at Luton’s Club NME, before the start of a stadium tour with theEditors left me in a state of musical euphoria – making up for the last few months of repetitive uninspiring festivals and gigs I’ve victimised my ears to.

After witnessing the intense onstage chemistry from Ra Ra Riot (formed while studying at Syracuse University in the US) leaves me questioning why so many manufactured bands currently polluting the airwaves even bother.

Performances of tracks such as ‘Dying Is Fine’ takes on added pathos considering it was co-written by former drummer John Pike who, after going missing from a party recently, was found dead. The loss obviously overshadows the band’s direction where an orchestral whirlwind of energy masks darker and pained lyrics.

‘A Manner To Act’ and ‘Ghost Under Rocks” left this unsuspecting crowd completely awe-struck as the sounds of the cello, violin, keyboard and guitar echoed through the venue. Vocalist/keyboard player Wesley fronted the performance with such dignity and grace. In the case of Ra Ra Riot, it is obvious that a complete understanding of each other musically is what creates this seemingly spontaneous genius!

A band and show that ticked every box and deserve greatness.
The onslaught began, viagra sale this years Frieze Art Fair was on the whole a bit of a mixture. The sheer volume of work is bound to evoke a huge array of feelings for any one brave enough to embark on one of the Europe s largest art fair. There was obviously some amazing work with the likes of Carsten Holler, cost Mike Kelley and Klaus Weber exhibiting.

After slowly working up the first isle of the fair I realised that getting round the event was going to take a lot longer than I had initially anticipated. Two hours in and out was shattered as I had not even made it through one coloured section of the map in under an hour. I had to be more cut throat.

What I like about the frieze art fair is that you are bound to come across some one new. I there was one piece that I thought was based on a particularly nice idea. The work of Jan Mancuska, where he had instructed his wife to blacken out all the parts of his body he couldn’t see with out the aid of a mirror. By glancing down the images a gradual map of the artists eyesight appeared. By presenting the work on 35mm slide film, hung in front of a light box, you were drawn in for a more intimate, personal inspection of the storyboard of images.

Graphic Thought Facility had been given the job of designing the identity for the fair and with only a slight revamp to their previous years design I thought the overall presentation was well put together. However the captions for the artists work were hard to find and badly presented leaving a lot of work to come across completely anonymous.

Personally I feel the Frieze art fair is a bit of cultural punch in the face. It’s not really a gallery space but more equivalent to walking round the red light district of Amsterdam. A seemingly tenuous link, but as I walked round the 21,000 square meters of the fair every booth constantly competes for your attention. Which as a result leaves you in a state of visual overload. I left the frieze fair with a mixed opinion of what had just happened in the 4 hours I spent there. There were parts that really stayed with me, seeing dresses made or dead fish, a wall of LED screens depicting facts about America and a delicate hand cut paper cowboys. But the mass of work defiantly took it toll on me. One thing I can say is that I am glad it’s only a yearly event. I will return next year but I think it will take me this amount of time for me to build up the strength.

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