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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Crude – Film Screening

Oil in Ecuador

Written by Tom Russell

In the festival preview vein, no rx malady here’s one that promises stimulating discussion, patient music, viagra order dance, crafts and walks with fellow readers and contributors to the spiritual and ecologically aware Resurgence Magazine. A more enchanting and vibrant mix is barely to be found outside the Resurgence Reader’s Weekend and Camp.

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The camp will be hosted in Europe’s only tented conference centre, Green and Away, situated on an idyllic site near Malvern, Worcestershire. They’ll feed us ‘mostly local, mostly organic’ food, there’ll be wood-burning hot showers to bathe away sleep-shod morning eyes, solar and wind-sourced electricity, and saunas too, as if this camp didn’t sound chilled out enough already.

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Entertainment and conversation stimulation will come from a host of speakers : Jenny Jones, Green party member of the London Assembly; Miriam Kennet, founder of the Green Economics Institute; Satish Kumar, Earth pilgrim and current editor of Resurgence magazine; Peter Lang, an environmental consultant and researcher, John Naish, author of Enough and initiator of The Landfill Prize, Brigit Strawbridge, of the BBC’s ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’ fame and founder of The Big Green Idea.

There’s to be a glut of creative workshops – on poetry, Deep Ecology, Tai Chi, finding your voice, and one that should see us sitting comfortably for a round of storytelling.

Music’s coming from the UK, Europe and beyond : bands like Dragonsfly, a wonderfully energetic live band, rocking a pretty unique Celtic-Eastern-Folk Fusion sound, and Bardo Muse – an improvisational acoustic trio, who say they play music simply inspired by life and love.

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Do get booking, as previous events have tended to sell out. For a gently spiritual, artistic weekend a little off the the beat of the usual track, have a listen to the Resurgence Weekend.

Contact – Peter Lang,
Events Director for Resurgence Magazine,
Tel: 0208 809 2391
Email: peterlang(at)resurgence.org
As with a lot of art, order what is taken out or omitted is as important, online if not more so, malady than what is put in. Kako Ueda, a Japanese artist working and living in the US, applies this principle to paper with intricately beautiful results. There is something haunting yet delicate about these shadow like cut-outs; the skulls, spiders, jellyfish, butterflies, feathers, insects and serpents all intertwined in designs in which one may gladly lose hours visually disentangling.

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Her choice of medium was inspired by the cut patterns used for producing kimonos, and Ueda’s appreciation for the history, flexibility and simplicity that using paper entails. The everyday throwaway relationship our society has with materials such as paper makes me evermore excited and sympathetic to artists using these seemingly basic mediums for creating innovative and aesthetically wonderful pieces of work. It was a true honour to pick Kako’s brain about her work, as well as her likes, hates and aspirations.

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How long does it take you to create the average sized piece?
It used to take me a couple of months to make one mid-size work but lately my works are getting bigger and more complicated that sometimes it takes 6 months or longer to finish an installation or bigger work with
separate parts with paint and 3-D objects.

What equipment do you use for cutting paper?
It is called in the US, an Xacto knife (with no. 11 blade), I suppose in Europe or Japan they have a similar knife with different names.

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Who is your art for? What space does your art work best?
I don’t limit/choose my audience; anybody who would look at my work and have a reaction positive or negative. So far my artworks need a wall/walls. So they don’t work so well in the outer space.

Do you have a different reaction here in the UK and in Europe compared to in Japan?
Honestly I have no idea. I would love to have a show in the UK, any European countries or Japan to find out. The only European country I exhibited so far was Finland. Although I was born in Japan I moved to the States as a teenager and my active/public artistic life began here in the US.

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Which artists do you most admire?
There are too many to mention and the list gets longer every day. So today and at this moment I say Salomon Trismosin.

Who or what is your nemesis?
My biggest nemesis is my brain; obsesses too much on energy sucking thoughts and is critical of everything.

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If you could time travel back or forward to any era, where would you go?
It is too difficult to choose but at this moment I would say Edo period in Japan (mid. to late 18th century). I want to experience the urban life/culture in Edo (present Tokyo).

Which band past or present would provide the soundtrack to your life?
Jackie Mittoo’s “Summer Breeze” or “Oboe”. I have a CD called “Cambodian Rock”, which is a collection of various rock bands from Cambodia playing and singing in Cambodian; really cool sound.

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If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?
Gold digger.

What would your pub quiz specialist subject be?
Tolstoy novels.

Who would your top five dream dinner guests be? Who would do the washing up?
Duchamp, one of the cave dwellers who made those awesome animal drawings, Hildegard of Bingen, Utamaro, Buddha. I guess we cannot ask a cave dweller to wash up, can we?

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What piece of modern technology can you not live without?
My electric mind-reader.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Doing nothing.

Tell us something about Kako Ueda that we didn’t know already.
My eyelashes are naturally curly so I never have to use a lash curler in my entire life.

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Kako Ueda is definitely one to cut out and keep.
It was a peaceful Sunday morning in the City like any other, drug when:

‘Slowly it reared like a ridge of golden rocks… from which the sea fled away in clouds of smoke; and now we saw it was the head of the Leviathan… advancing towards us with all the fury of a spiritual existence.’

So wrote poet and prophet William Blake in his iconoclastic work ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.’ Over two centuries and a plethora of literary Leviathan motifs later, symptoms musician and composer John Harle has unleashed his own re-imagining of the monster from the deep on London’s Square Mile. Taking a leaf out of weighty tomes from The Book of Job to Hobbes, pilule from Milton to Melville, Harle has conceived a work in which the clamour of 800 saxophonists evokes the satanic spirit of chaos itself. Crikey. When I strolled out of Liverpool Street Station at 11:30am and followed the strains of an al fresco band practice I was, admittedly, greeted with a rather benign pyjama-clad presence in monochrome. So much for the demonic display of Old Testament torment, I thought.

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The City of London Festival, an independent arts organisation which is none the less jointly supported by the City of London Corporation and the business community, commissioned Harle to compose an Ode to the City of London. But a straightforward gala tribute this isn’t; Harle boldly intends both homage and criticism, in light of the economic havoc of recent months. Notably, the event is not for profit. His aim in orchestrating a saxophone procession on an unprecedented scale is to ‘purge the City of its crisis of confidence.’ We’re in for a sort of musical exorcism, then? Well, of the humanist variety. Although biblical references to the Walls of Jericho are made in the promotional material, by way of metaphor, you understand. Through the medium of MP3, audio recordings and commentary are available for download on the Sustain! website. Accessibility is all; the score itself was written with a range of musical abilities in mind. Harle’s voice-over informs voluntary participants that through music, they will be ‘taming the forces of chaos by concerted, unanimous effort.’ No mean feat for a Sunday morning, then! But it is no coincidence that the event is scheduled to coincide with the Summer Solstice, and also commemorates the 800th anniversary of the first stone bridge across the Thames. Organisers envisage a renaissance of optimism and inspiration as music pours from the City’s four historic gates on to those same streets which just three months ago were the scene of violent discontent.

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In spite of these lofty sentiments, passers by on their way to potter round Spitalfields might have been forgiven for mistaking the motley crew assembled outside Starbucks for a Morris Dancer outreach group, or perhaps an avant-garde yoga collective- is this really what city workers get up to on their day off? However, those that found themselves in earshot when the clock struck noon could not fail to be arrested by the pandemonium that simultaneously wended its way from Bishopsgate, Aldgate, Moorgate and Ludgate to descend on London Bridge.

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Snaking through the winding historic streets past countless architectural landmarks and disgraced monuments to capitalism, the gleaming white and gold troop cuts quite a dash in the midday sun. Less of a march, more of a meander, but the ungodly din they generate en masse quite literally stops traffic. Bemused bystanders are both attracted and repelled, from an amused rickshaw driver given a rude awakening from his nap to a disgruntled OAP with his fingers defiantly shoved in his ears. Each saxophonist has been instructed to repeat a set phrase ad infinitum, but with rhythmic independence and free reign to improvise on the theme (and take a breather) when they please. Only when all four groups converge on the Monument can the true discord of four different keys played uproariously be heard in all its dissonant glory. An unlikely assortment of soulful characters, hippie types, consummate professionals and Brassed Off-esque blokes rub shoulders in eccentric solos, father and daughter duos, jazzy trios of mates and whole family bands. Never have I seen such an array of instruments going by the name of saxophone- alto, tenor, soprano and baritone of all shapes and sizes, even one spectacular specimen in pillar-box red! On reaching the foot of the Bridge the various strands begin to unite on one key before the pivotal moment of transition, as all fall under the aegis of Harle himself, conducting in a pinstripe blazer atop a makeshift podium. Order and harmony is restored as the collective serenely parades across the water towards Southwark, before settling on a final, triumphant ‘concert C,’ fading to silence.

And relax. Or, alternatively, begin impromptu jam session. These are saxophonists after all. In between riffs I managed to snatch a moment with three minstrels of the Aldgate crew, congregated in the shadow of a towering office block. ‘We had no rehearsal whatsoever, just downloaded the music off the web and turned up,’ said Denver of South London. ‘It’s the first time we’ve ever done anything like this,’ he explains. ‘We usually play gigs at the Vortex or at Effra. This was mad chaos, but it worked!’

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‘He got me into it,’ chimed in band mate Len who travelled up from Brixton to take part. ‘It was tiring- I’m used to playing sitting down or standing up, not on the go! It’s tough.’ When asked about the logistics of playing on the move and in so big a group, Len admitted that despite the fetching pinstripe, ‘I couldn’t even see the conductor! I just had to listen for the change, that was the biggest challenge.’ Fellow Brixton sax player Dave was similarly enthused: ‘I’ve got a day job so I just play when I can, but this was absolutely brilliant. I just heard about it at the last minute- on Front Row on Friday night. I’d definitely do it again.’
‘Never in the rain though!’ Len added before they were lost to another round of spontaneous play.

Amid the swirling, laid back notes I catch the eye of the affable maestro himself who tells me that the event has ‘surpassed all my expectations.’ But generously he insists that its success is ‘all down to the participants- I did the least work of anyone here today. The work took on a life of its own.’ This will be key to the future of the piece, the recording of which will be recycled via the Sustain! website until it is revisited for the Festival’s 50th anniversary in 2012. A momentous year in more ways than one it seems, but surely even London can only cope with one Leviathan at a time?

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C.R.A.S.H. Contingency is a useful urban survival manual that points at the target seriously whilst disguised as a funny game.

What I enjoyed the most about this experience was my complete ignorance of the whole thing. I would feel a little bit guilty if this had been the preview of the performance, treatment but since the show is now over, I will just describe how it went.

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Photos by Marta Puigdemasa

After checking Two Degrees festival’s website, a week-long programme of work by radical and politically engaged artists about climate change, I decided to bet on a theatre play: C.R.A.S.H. Contingency. At the beginning of the play I felt like I did watching the shows of the wild Spanish theatre company La Fura dels Baus (well-known for their opening show in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics) : that is, excited about the unexpected, but this time without the fear of getting naked or soaked to the skin.

We were led in pairs, in complete darkness, to our seats – which were actually placed on the stage. “We are not actors, we’ll need your help, and this is not a theatre play.” And it was not. Defining themselves as an experiment in three acts in which to imagine a post-capitalist future, the performance was run by a mixture of artists, activists and permaculturists (permaculture being the design of sustainable human environments based on the relationships found in natural ecologies) and performed along with the audience. It was something in between resistance and creativity, culture and politics, art and life. We started with a game that made us laugh and forget the fact that we were on a theatre stage.

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The second part was more or less like a workshop. We split into small groups and the supposed actors fed us with little doses of urban self-sufficiency. They taught us how to make a home-made radio station, a vegetable garden and an origami flower; always taking into account some of permaculture’s core values : earth care and people care. When our tasks finished, they gave us another challenge, the final performance. At that point, we used a new old technique for taking group decisions : consensus. They explained to us how to show agreement and disagreement just with the use of our hands, and how to measure the “temperature” of a decision with our arms.

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When we all finally agreed about how and where to make our intervention (all, except a woman who said she was starving and wouldn’t have time for it, and a girl who didn’t understand the purpose of the action), we put on our lifejackets, took our tools (a wheelbarrow for each pair) and started walking towards Bishopsgate. Once there, in the middle of the financial district, we built our own patch of paradise : a shelter made of wheelbarrows, canvas, vegetables, an umbrella, and piles of imagination. We warmed up some water for the tea, ate some lettuce leaves and chilled out for a while. We reclaimed the streets. I felt like a child ringing on a doorbell and running away. But this time we didn’t run. We stood up and waited for the slap or, as was the case, the smile of those that ran into our tiny harmless outside-of-the-law act.

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Unfortunately (for my adrenaline’s childish need), the police didn’t come. But in less than three hours we had learnt many things, too many in fact to explain in six hundred words. It was a condensed degree in Life. It also made me understand that another kind of education, non-academic, humble and free (all the meanings of this word included), was possible. I admit that possibly some of their suggested proposals were just utopian. This may be. But it is far better to live dreaming of utopia than sleeping or wandering aimlessly in a rotten world, isn’t it? Good work, guys.

An ear shattering shriek comes down the line, treat the noise of a passing child’s tantrum. As I tentatively return the phone back to my ear Jan Williams, side effects one half of The Caravan Gallery, illness chirps amusedly “Oooh, Greetings from Portsmouth!” and adds, almost by some way of explanation; “We’re just approaching Asda now.” It may not set a perfect picture postcard scene, but that’s not what The Caravan Gallery are about.

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The Caravan Gallery are Portsmouth based artists Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale. You may already be aware of their work from the postcards they produce. If you’ve ever rifled through a spinning stand of postcards at a tourist attraction and chanced upon a card that portrays the grittier, gaudier and, let’s be honest, more realistic side of Britain then chances are The Caravan Gallery duo are behind it. Their best selling postcard is entitled ‘Bank Holiday Britain’, which brings together familiar images of Britons ‘enjoying’ the British sea side in the pouring rain.

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Although Williams and Teasdale have created 170 postcards in total, these are an offshoot of a much larger artistic endeavour. The pair have been travelling the length and breadth of Britain since 2000, capturing unusual and unexpected scenes of its leisure, landscape and lifestyle. The photographs are displayed at each location for the local community to see. Their rather unique, portable gallery allows them to do this; a mustard-coloured, egg-shaped 1969 caravan that is white walled and wooden floored inside. “We don’t really treat it as a caravan,” Williams tells me during our initial phone conversation, “We just think of it as a gallery that happens to be in a caravan.”

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This little gallery on wheels came along to Spitalfields market on Sunday the 14th of June, as part of a promotion with The White Stuff clothing company. After having chatted with Williams on the phone a few days before, I couldn’t wait to go along and see this unique art space for myself.

Plonked on the side of Spitalfields, the little caravan was a charming sight from the outside, but held plenty more charming sights awaiting within. With over 60,000 photographs in their archive, Williams and Teasdale had plenty to choose from to exhibit on their new tour. In their previously released book ‘Welcome to Britain’ their images were separated into chapters such as ‘Concrete’, ‘Smut’, ‘Conifers (thriving)’ and ‘Conifers (dead)’. “We cover all sorts of stuff.” Williams tells me, “A lot of it’s about the built environment and regeneration, how Britain is and how it’s changing.”

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Whilst many of the images throw light on dilapidated areas or the more tasteless aspects of Britain (shut up shops and naughty gnomes), The Caravan Gallery’s work never feels snobbish or patronising. Good humour shines through with every image.

“I think a lot of what we do is a celebration,” Williams admits “and even though places get tarted up there are quite a lot of little bits that refuse to give up the ghost. We really like this juxtaposition of things, it gives places character.”

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Whilst the caravan has travelled the whole of the UK, from Glasgow to Cornwall, North Shields to the Isle of Wight, one unexpected recent jaunt saw the artists taking their work all the way to Japan for an event with Paul Smith.

“Quite a lot of our photos are to do with language and signs so we weren’t quite sure if it would work. But Paul Smith’s staff said that the people there would love anything colourful, anything rude and anything a bit cheeky.”

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And the reaction? “They absolutely loved it!” Williams laughs. “They were saying how it’s just really refreshing to see how Britain really is, instead of just all the same old clichés of Big Ben and the Queen.”

So with us Britons already aware that a bowler hat is not obligatory day wear, and that cucumber sandwiches are actually quite rubbish, what can The Caravan Gallery’s more accurate portrayal of our nation tell us that we don’t already know?

“I suppose the idea is to provoke people and say ‘There’s all this stuff going on around you, have you noticed? What do you think?’” Williams muses. “We’re not saying it’s good or bad but just; ‘Look at it!’”

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But never mind the intricacies of social commentary and the seriousness of urban reflection; at heart The Caravan Gallery is a great laugh. When confronted by the absurdity of a man mowing the pavement outside his home, or a sign advertising ‘Have your photo with a ferret and certificate – £2.60′, there’s nothing you can do but laugh about this crazy place we call home.

And humour, The Caravan Gallery artists have found, is a brilliant social lubricant; “It ends up as like a little social club on wheels,” Williams says. “If we get invited to some kind of prestigious art event, we get the art loving audience, but then maybe we’ll also get a Big Issue seller and someone walking the dog. Shoppers, tourists and passers-by will come in and take a look. We end up with a whole mixture of people in the caravan who never normally have much to do with each other and they end up talking, which is really good.”

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This is certainly true, as I witness the caravan become filled with Spitalfields shoppers. Soon everyone, strangers and friends, are pointing out the most humorous and shocking pictures to one another and the caravan is filled with laughter. If it’s true that us Brits are a reserved bunch then The Caravan Gallery certainly loosens our collective stiff upper lips!

If you’d like to have your upper lip un-stiffened, go see The Caravan Gallery visit the White Stuff stores of Chichester on the 28th June (that’s this Sunday, folks!) and Battersea on the 11th of July.

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We are giving The Caravan Gallery our stamp of approval.
It was a night of contrasts. A contrast between a halcyon past and the here-and-now. It was also a contrast in the ages of the audience, viagra dosage from the veteran disciples to the new believers. Brought together, pill under some nebulous Mojo Magazine honour, generic on the same bill for probably the first time since the opening night of the long defunct Vortex on Wardour Street in July 1977, the evening opened with the original punk poet, John Cooper Clarke. Looking exactly the same as he did over 30 years ago, with wild Robert Smith-style hair, black, skinny drainpipe jeans and black shades, sardonic Salford drawl still intact, this one time partner in crime with the doomed former model, Fellini starlet and Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico (after she fetched up in the unlikely surroundings of early 80′s Manchester) entertained the crowd with a series of gags that literally creaked with age. He finished his brief set with a rendition of one of his most famous poems, Evidently Chickentown, a quick fire dissection of the grim everyday mundanities of life in a no hope town (which also appeared in the recent Joy Division movie, Control, with John Cooper Clarke bizarrely playing himself).

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The friend I was with had never seen the Fall before. I just told them that it’s never a dull moment. Never a truer word spoken. The Fall are only predictable in their (or rather Mark E Smith’s) unpredictability. Even so, it must have proved a novelty (if an unwelcome one) for Mark E Smith to play second fiddle to someone, regardless of their pedigree. Coming on stage typically late, with yet another band line-up (save for keyboardist and current Mrs Smith, Elena Polou), Mark E Smith launched into his trademark stream of consciousness delivery. Movement hindered by a recent broken hip, Smith nevertheless wandered around (and occasionally off) the stage, switching microphones and fiddling with assorted amps, even nonchalantly borrowing Buzzcocks’ snare drum for some impromptu bashing (much to their roadies’ undoubted annoyance), whilst the rest of the Fall thundered ominously around him. The Fall are uncompromising live, rarely given to such trifling matters as pleasing the audience. Their set lists resolutely stick to whatever their current or forthcoming material may be, rarely playing anything more than even a couple of years old (though that may be as much to do with Smith not remembering the songs as much as artistic integrity). True to form, tonight’s set consisted heavily of new songs and tracks from last year’s rather patchy effort, Imperial Wax Solvent. That said, Wolf Kidult Man and 50 Year Old Man did go down a storm. Unusually, there was a rare display of nostalgia with the inclusion of Psykick Dancehall and Rebellious Jukebox, from the Fall’s first two albums. Smith must have been feeling particularly charitable, as not only did we get an encore, but he actually ambled out to join it!

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As for Buzzcocks, well, what is there left to be said? The band that defined the term “indie” with their self-released debut EP, Spiral Scratch, which set the template for the likes of Factory, Rough Trade and Creation? The band that brought the Sex Pistols to the provinces and, with two shows at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall, inspired the likes of Messrs Morrissey, Curtis, Sumner, Hook, Wilson et al? The band that toured with Joy Division as support? Well, that was then, what about now? After their initial reformation over a decade ago, Buzzcocks are now a core of Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle, and basically what they gave us (in contrast to the Fall) was a greatest hits package. But who are we to complain, when you have a back catalogue such as theirs? After a sardonic “thanks to the support band” from Diggle, Buzzcocks launched into Boredom, from the aforementioned Spiral Scratch.

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Even after all these years, that two note guitar solo still sounds ludicrously glorious. Shelley may now look like a middle-aged geography teacher and Diggle was in danger of going all Pete Townshend with his guitar, but they can still rock a joint – a fact proved by the amount of moshing going on by a lot of people who were old enough to know better. The set did flag a little in the middle with the lesser known tracks, and the sound quality from the balcony (particularly the quality of the vocals) was a bit ropey, but Buzzcocks ramped it up for the not-quite-encore (due to the Fall’s tardiness, much to Steve Diggle’s obvious annoyance). After a rousing What Do I Get?, we headed inexorably towards that evergreen classic of pop-punk, Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve), which raised the Forum’s roof off. The set climaxed (as it were) with Orgasm Addict, Buzzcocks’s first post-Howard Devoto single, a song that still sounds so cheekily enjoyable.

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And so the sweat (and beer) soaked masses headed out into the Kentish town night, and our ears were left ringing with a little slice of musical history, one that proved so influential and can still be heard in venues like the Old Blue Last, Water Rats, the Macbeth and the Windmill almost every night of every week.
If you are a London resident, more about then head over to the East End this weekend for a fashion show with a difference. First of all, information pills there will be no door bitches or clipboard Nazi’s on hand to block your entry. You will be surrounded by friendly folk; ethical folk in fact. And that is the premise of the festivities, this a collaborative between Eco -Design Fair and Fashion-Conscience.com to highlight up and coming ethical designers in the fields of fashion, accessories, home furnishings, health and beauty, and stationary and cards.

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To mark the occasion, Friday night will see part of the Truman Brewery transformed into the location for the aformentioned fashion show complete with a recyling party. On hard will be design stalls, DJ’s and organic food and drinks. Kicking off at 7pm, there will be free entry for those bringing old mobile phones that they want recycling, otherwise an optional donation will be requested.

With sustainability in fashion being a key message of the event, those attending who are clearly – and cleverly garbed in vintage and charity shop outfits will be in with a change of being picked by the roving fashion spies to go into the draw for the Style Competition with prizes galore promised. Elsewhere, there will be makeovers, discussions and advice on how to “dress ethically for your shape.”

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Illustration by Sachiko

Saturday and Sunday sees the Design Fair on from 10 am – 6 pm in the same location. All the exhibitors will be showcasing their work in stalls around the building. An example of designers at the event include Believe You Can, Childstar Samantha, Hemp Garden, It’s Reclaimed, and Reestore Ltd. Also taking place will be weaving workshops courtesy of Catherine Daniel, who will be demonstrating how to make pouches, trays and boxes out of reclaimed cardboard, greeting cards and juice cartons – or anything else that you choose to bring along! These sessions will be held in the mornings and afternoons and booking is required. Email info@ecodesignfair.co.uk to reserve your place, stating your name and age. A donation of £3.00 is also requested.

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I spoke with the founder of Eco Design Fair, Louise Kamara to find out more about her work. Founded six years ago, when the concept of ethical and sustainable fashion and design was simply not an issue for both the high street shopper and the supplier, Louise had a lot of explaining to do to a bemused audience. Bringing new awareness to the general public was paramount to her. Having been brought up on a co-operative community, where creative workshops would be run, and food was collectively grown and shared, Louise was shocked by what she saw when she became an adult and entered the ‘real’ world. Thus the twice yearly design fair was sprung from the desire to feature and promote those who lived and worked closer to nature and to showcase work that had not sprung from a sweatshop. It also encourages the public to step away from the large brands who are claiming that their products are environmentally friendly to lure us back into their shops. “When somewhere like Primark says that they have an ‘ethical’ range, they are just using a trendy word” Louise tells me, “Whereas the Eco Design Fair is from the heart, for us it is a fundamental concern; and that is the huge difference. ”

So see you there then. Don’t forget to come in your charity shop finest!

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Illustration by Sachiko
If you thought that graduate fashion week had passed and you’d seen it all, viagra think again. In a small studio on Charring Cross Rd this week, viagra stood the works of a small, perhaps lesser known group of graduates…yet another gifted brood to emerge from the fertile loins of Central St.Martins. In something of a bridge between an MA and a BA, students of the the Graduate Fashion Diploma course spend a lightning 9 months or so working on various self directed projects under the tutelage of David Kappo.
Although open to all, the names listed showed a decidedly Pacific contingent, perhaps due to the school’s overseas reputation. And in part to the program’s fees which are democratically the same no matter where you’re from. Sorry EUers, no discounts here. Also notable was the fact that many of these fledgling designers signed onto the course when the ink was barely dry on their BA’s, which accounts for the elevated quality and a few research sketchbooks of biblical proportion. Which brings us to the first stop on our tour…

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Bevan Avery

New Zealander Bevan Avery who took his first swing at womenswear…and hit it right out of the park with a collection “based on antique medical photographs and Victorian deformities recorded in the Mutter Mueseum.” As an art student on the East Coast myself, many an hour was spent drawing in the creepy catacombs of that museum. Fun for the whole family! Back to Bevan… “I wanted to create a dark collection which focused on shaping an unusual silhouette through the shoulder and tilting the hems forward and focused on the black and gold colouring of the stained photographs.” This creator of bloated and beautiful sketchbooks says of previous collections he has “…used Voodoo, East London working men and Mongolian queens and wrestlers as inspiration.” Now THAT I would love to see.

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Nancy Stella-Soto

Next to bat is Nancy Stella-Soto’s brilliantly styled, loose and transparent blushed silk dress over a nude crotched slip. WIth vintage colored cottons (dyed using yesterday’s coffee) 1920′s steamer trunks and Charlie Chaplin canes, this writer would love to be a stowaway on Stella-Sotos’ next voyage.

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Sol Ahn

Seoul born Sol Ahn is on her way to an MA at RCA. Barely taking a breath between degrees this designer has got momentum a plenty. Fantastic textures and a balance of exaggerated proportions this menswear collection, with its DIY bleach splatter jeans and mammoth pompom (it IS a trend, believe it!) sweaters is so very London. Sol Ahn cites skinheads’ obsessive meticulousness about how they dress and the mixed up dressing of Diane Arbus’ mental subjects in ‘Untitled’ as her influences.

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Marian Toledo-Candelaria

Marian Toledo-Candelaria has a modern-day Boudicca in mind when he designs. For his final collection he drew ideas from the Roman Invasion of Britain, focusing on the cultural clash between the invading Romans and the native Celts. Heavy on adornment the dark silk dresses are topped with a snakepit of golden jewels, oversized beads and gold suede. The deep blue of the silks being inspired by the woad plant, “a European plant used for the extraction of a indigo pigment that the Celts used for painting their bodies when summoned to war. ”

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bouza

Bouza displayed an elegant tomato colored mini dress with a draping shoulder. An asymmetry mimicked by a single stone colored legging. Lucky for us there is also a website full of their previous works. But It was the display of dip dyed rubber bands and shocking red hairy wool samples that really got my motor running. Let us know when we can see the manifestation of those terrific textiles!

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Kim Kwang

Beijing born Kim Kwang who is already working alongside Jimmy Choo on his couture shoe collection, presented an amazing felted wool jacket complete with contrast lacing. The fibrous wads of wool formed a mystery of moulding whose shapes were victorian corsetry and medieval armor all at once.

These designers have high expectations, industry experience and another diploma shoved into their back pockets. We’ll be sure to let you know their latest and greatest as they hack their own paths through the fashion jungle.
Monday 29th June
Regina Spektor, remedy Serpentine Sessions, and Hyde Park, London.

I love London summers, blessed as we are with plenty of lush green space. Hyde Park are putting on a good show this year with their gasp-inspiringly good line-up for the Serpentine Session, tonight everyone’s favourite singing devushka; Regina Spektor takes to the stage, having made the transition from anti-folk to a more mainstream pop during her illustrious career, Ms Spektor has managed to keep her vocal intensity and gift for story-telling in tact; her balmy tales of the strange and the familiar in a voice not quite like any other, will be perfect for an evening in the park.

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Tuesday 30th June
M. Ward, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London.

M. Ward has one of the most heart-breakingly lovely voices I’ve heard in a while, quietly strumming and whispering away in a green and leafy Oregon, entrenched in a rich tradition of simple story- telling and with a predilection for musical simplicity and music of yore; M.Ward is the king of understated brilliance. A must for fans of Smog and other good stuff.

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Wednesday 1st July
Deerhoof, Scala, London.

The first time I heard Deerhoof, I was driving around San Francisco on my 19th Birthday and they seemed like a birthday gift from the gods of music. Their inspired sound is as fun as it is unique, like if Sonic Youth were hyper on lemonade at someone’s 7th birthday party; this is surely a live experience that is not to be missed.

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Thursday 2nd July
The Virgins, Scala, London.

The Virgins have whipped up quite the furore on the other side of the Atlantic, danceable new wave-y good vibes to be had.

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Friday 3rd July
Blur, Hyde Park, London.

Do you remember having to pick between Blur and Oasis at school? I do! I was 11 and I am proud to say I chose Blur every time, then this boy in my class bought me Definitely Maybe on cassette for my birthday- what a schmuck! Blur were the most seminal British band of the 90s from their fun Britpop through to the later dalliances with art-rock circa Thirteen. Expect a heady mix of singles and album tracks, and of course lots of fun. With support from Foals and Crystal Castles among others.

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Saturday 4th July
Internet Forever, Brixton Windmill, London.

I’m a big fan of fantastically- named Internet Forever and their exciting mix of reverb, keyboards and sweet vocals, like falling in love with a robot that was created by My Bloody Valentine and the Gameboy music people. Over-extended metaphors aside, Internet Forever get two big thumbs up from me, and if I had more thumbs they’d get them too! Head down to the Windmill I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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Monday 29th June

The Domestic Carbon Time Bomb

A discussion with Peter Thom, order Kelly Butler, more about Roger Webb and Nigel Rees. Held in conjunction with the Carbon Neutral Company, Energy Efficiency industries are coming together on an invitation from Lord Rupert Redesdale, who is the Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group. They will be presenting information to highlight the need for much stronger policy in order to achieve the government’s Climate Change targets. Carbon from the built environment is responsible for approximately a third of carbon emitted in Britain. A website, G2 Action, will be launched for information.

2-4pm, House of Commons, SW1.
Info: catherine.martin(at)carbonneutral.com

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Tuesday 30th June

Musical Morals and Moral Music – The Artist and the Environment – a public lecture by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

What can we expect from our artists, and what should we demand of them? The independence of artists from society has become an effectively archaic notion, but what stance can an artist hope to take up on issues such as the environment where there are so many better-informed voices already clamouring to be heard? Why should we care what an artist says, and why should the artists bother? Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music, is perfectly situated to consider these questions and will pay particular attention to the environmental issues which lie close to his own heart.

Time: 18:00
Gresham College
Free Event

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Wednesday 1st July

Shappi Khorsandi: ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English’ – Book Launch

In 1976, three-year-old Shappi Khorsandi, her brother Peyvand and their parents left Tehran for London. Without a word of English between them, they found themselves thrust into an incomprehensible culture – all cold weather, strange food and odd customs. If adapting to Britain wasn’t enough, it soon became clear that due to her journalist father’s criticism of the new Iranian regime, the Ayatollah’s henchmen were in pursuit.

Well known to British audiences for her warm and witty stand up, Shappi Khorsandi has now written a book about her experience of growing up in England. She will be talking about her new book and reading extracts. The event will be followed by a book signing and drinks reception.

7pm
The Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, EC2

Thursday 2nd July

Marxism festival

The Marxism festival starts today, with over two hundred events – the opening rally is at the Friends’ Meeting House in Euston, entitled ‘Capitalism Isn’t Changing the World’.

Matthew Fort : Green Talk

Guardian Food writer, Matthew Fort chews over the nature of food and art in this talk at the Barbican, part of their Radical Nature season.

6.30pm, Barbican Art Gallery

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Friday 3rd July

Do the poor have to choose between sustainability & development?

Suzanne Jeffery asks the pressing question of the world’s poor – to conflate buzzwordy terms : how might the credit crunch affect our responses to the climate crisis?

7-8.30pm
Part of the Marxism festival
Royal National Hotel, Bloomsbury
Room: Alexandra B

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Saturday 4th July

Seed Saving

Join an all-day course on seed saving, taught by organic gardeners. In association with Transition Town Hackney.

(£21/£5)
Friday Hill House Learning centre, Chingford E4
Contact: 020 8523 9355/ or 07947 983347
Organisers: Waltham Forest

Sunday 5th July

First Sunday of the month, if you’re not up to speed yet, means Green Sunday at the Arcola theatre. Hop along to Arcola’s eco-cafe and roof garden where you can relax, learn something new, eat some sustainable brownies, meet new people and enjoy some music and film. There will also be a swap shop again, following its huge success at June’s event, so bring along any unwanted clothes, plants, DVDs, CDs and books to swap with others.
Unfold

Nettie Horn
25b Vyner Street
London E2 9DG

Until 2nd August
Wed-Sun 12-6pm
Free Entry

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Gordon Cheung

“Unfold questions a creative and explorative process which has the particularity of stepping, more about conceptually or concretely, about it from two dimensional mediums into a three dimensional space. These “new types of spatial fields” consecutively play and emphasize the virtual aspect of the “drawing process”, visit web the physical nature of its material (carbon, paper) and techniques often associated to paper such as cutting, collage, folding; and therefore focusing on an interest in the physical world surrounding us.”

Artists include: Abigail Reynolds, Tove Storch, Emma McNally, Rosie Leventon and Gordon Cheung.

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Yayoi Kusama: Outdoor Sculptures

Victoria Miro Gallery
16 Wharf Road
London N1 7RW

Until 25th July
Tuesday – Saturday 10.00am-6.00pm
Monday by appointment.

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Yayoi Kusama fever hits London this month, with this presentation of new sculptural work at the Victoria Miro Gallery, as well as a more extensive collection at the Hayward Gallery as part of Walking in my Mind (see below). Celebrating her 80th birthday this year, Kusama has an impressive six decades of success under her belt. These oversized colourful formations have become something of a signature for Kusama, and the Victoria Miro Gallery does them justice in their placing of them by the canalside for all to admire.

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Time and Tide: Al Lapkoysky and Katya Evdokimova

Hay Hill Gallery
23 Cork Street
Mayfair W1S 3NJ

29th June – 18th July
Monday – Saturday 11am – 6pm
Free Entry

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Photograph by Al Lapkoysky

“‘Time and Tide’ is a joint show of the most recent work by internationally recognised London-based Russian photographers Al Lapkovsky and Katya Evdokimova. Both Lapkovsky and Evdokimova have won many photographic awards including Professional Photographer of the Year and the International Photographic Awards and often work together. Lapkovsky’s collection of works in this exhibition juxtaposes the surreal and the ordinary enabling the viewer to take a leap of imagination and look at our ordinary lives through the realms of fantasy.”

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Walking in my Mind

Hayward Gallery
South Bank Centre
Belvedere Road
London SE1 8XZ

Until 6th September
Open daily 10am – 6pm, late nights Friday until 10pm
Entry: £9/£6

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Chiharu Shiota

Reminiscent of last summer’s hugely successful ‘Psycho Buildings’ exhibition, Walking in My Mind explores the imagination of ten international artists with individual large-scale interactive installation. Exploring interior worlds of thoughts, dreams, fears, memories and ideas and their inevitable confrontation with exterior reality, the boundaries between inner and outer space blurred and redefined.

Artists include: Charles Avery, Thomas Hirschhorn, Yayoi Kusama, Bo Christian Larsson, Mark Manders, Yoshitomo Nara, Jason Rhoades, Pipilotti Rist, Chiharu Shiota and Keith Tyson.

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Fresh Faced and Wild Eyed 09: Recent Graduates Exhibition

Photographer’s Gallery
16 – 18 Ramillies St
London W1F 7LW

Until 5th July
Monday – Saturday 11am-6pm, Thursday 11am-8pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm
Free Entry

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Photograph by Petros Chrisostomou

Navigating your way through the vast ocean of Graduate art shows that continue to fill the gallery wall space of the capital can be a daunting and exhausting exercise. Thank the heavens then that for photography fiends the highlights in new photographic talent can be found in this second annual showcase at the Photographer’s Gallery.

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We Dream of Language Without History


Paradise Row

17 Hereford Street
London, E2 6EX

Until 25th July
Wed-Sat, 12-6
Free Entry

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Samta Benyahia

Playing on society’s linguistic assumptions about names and origins, this exhibition of Middle Eastern or Muslim ‘sounding’ names is actually made up of artists who were born, grew up and live and work in a highly disparate series of locations and whose work reflects and explicitly engages, both individually and collectively, with the complex diversity of their backgrounds. This show raises issues of individual human identity and mass political definition; clever, challenging and thought provoking.

Artists participating in the exhibition: Farhad Ahrarnia; Lulwah Al-Homoud; Samta Benyahia; Shezad Dawood; Ala Ebtekar; Mounir Fatmi; Karim Ghelloussi; Aïcha Hamu; Hayv Kahraman; Timo Nasseri; Henna Nadeem; Ayman Yossri Daydban.

Thumbnail: Abigail Reynolds
There lies a certain harmonious relationship between music and art, ambulance sound and illustration, no rx noise and drawing. Perhaps more intensely paired than any of the other two senses, sickness our ears and our eyes stimulated simultaneously can spark something fairly major in both nostalgic recollection and creative interpretation. It appears that Alex Jako would agree with me, her poster and flyer artwork for bands being some of her most distinctive and brave pieces of illustration to date.

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Perhaps it’s her experience of working at Notting Hill’s rare record mecca Rough Trade, or maybe her impressively intimate knowledge of all things prog and psych circa Germany 1970, that means melodies and motifs find themselves overlapping inseparably throughout her work. She confesses that “Music consumes my thoughts… Some of my most articulate works involve representing music..the most exciting for me- as far as challenges go for my personal illustrative communication.”

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This is not a lady who does things by half. She describes herself as “a completely self-taught escapist”. She is more than aware of the hold that drawing has over her; in fact, she readily admits that artistic expression is a lifeline. “Drawing has become my most healthy habit. I have had to turn a lot of dangerous, self-destructive habits into positive obsessive ones. Drawing is one of those things which I can make as horrific or dark- or light as I want to without destroying myself or anyone around me.”

Jako arrived in London a decade ago aged 17, a fresh faced yank with a penchant for the dark and the alternative, taking a string of “various horrible low-wage jobs.. and doodled away stale time.” She reflects that it was unlikely she was ever going to settle into a 9 to 5 work environment. “I’d always get into some sort of trouble in these jobs, until eventually winning my employers over. My time-keeping is awful, my compromising potential completely non-existent.. I’ve always felt like a caged animal working for other people.”

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When I ask her where her creativity can be traced back to, she tells me “I’ve always drawn since I was a child- like, a necessity. It was a great way to escape life fear, anxiety.. the never-ending cycle. Souls are powered by new music all the time. Everyone that saw what I was working on started asking me to do things for them.” Modestly, she describes herself as still just a beginner. “I still feel I have something to prove, personally and professionally.. I’m not at that stage yet where opinions don’t matter to me”. Having said that, her upcoming work schedule sounds borderline frantic; Italian horror film poster re-enactments using porn stars, fields of flowers using pointillism, monstrous blobs for LMNO Projects.
I’m interested in how much free range she is given, or feels she can take, with briefs or specifications for commissions. “There is a huge amount of personal autonomy when creating these pieces, like a burning flame; the more the resistance I feel against what I’m aiming for, the bigger the fire roars and rages rebelliously.. and the more intense the urge to make something amazing, in my own way, to prove them wrong.”

And once that’s established, how long do you spend on each project, on average? “Once the spark has ignited I can steam through most pieces within days, weeks. Some projects become more ambitious naturally and like a chess game or a puzzle, I will sit and look at them for hours until each stroke pieces itself together organically, into the final work, using my subconscious to direct the piece.. a sort of meditation also. Sometimes it just all falls into place at an extraordinary rate!”

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As a Londoner myself I am always curious as to what those who flock here from far flung corners of the world feel about the city and what it has to offer creatively compared with their home ground. “I have many people I admire and love over in the U.S. I spent time in NYC a few years ago and fell deeply in love with it. But sometimes I wonder if I truly exist when I am over there. I feel more real over here. I believe London holds an incredible amount of magic and opportunity and allows for anyone to be self-made if they seize the chance. London contains ‘beacons in the maelstrom’.”

And now for the quickfire question round.

Hey, Alex Jako, what makes you so awesome?
My pirate ship.. steering through the rough seas and mighty winds in search of freedom and gold.

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If you could travel back or forward to any era, where would you go?
I’m scared of time travel at this speed let alone moving it backwards or forwards!

Which illustrators/artists do you most admire?
Nick Blinko the punk illustrator and musician, Austin Osman Spare, his line, and his wonderful world of ‘chaos magic’ , Henry Darger, his insanity, and his beautiful odd drawings, Hasegawa T?haku, his simplicity, his wisdom and finesse, Aubrey Beardsley .. the old masters.. I’m fascinated by painters such as Italian Renaissance artist Bernardo Belloto. His execution of detail is mind-blowing.. I can stare into any section of a painting for hours, days.. admiring his use of colour, application of paint onto page.

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If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?
Working in a record shop in Notting Hill.

Who or what is your nemesis?
Computers.. they hiss when they catch sight of me..

What piece of modern technology could you not live without?
ID cards- no one believes that I’m not 13 and who I say I am.

What advice would you give to up and coming artists?
As Robert Crumb said “Draw your way out!”

Which band past or present would provide the soundtrack to your life?
I listen to many different forms of music and musicians.. It’d be hard to pick just one. I’m very fickle with my flirtations with records also. This week the soundtracks to my life include: Pisces-A lovely Sight, Cate Le Bon’s forthcoming record on Randomonium (Gruff Rhys’ new label), Sam and the Plants, Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac.. Amon Duul II, Honest Jon’s new “Open Strings” compilation.

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I say Modern art is rubbish, you say..?
I don’t really consider simply being a fan of music or art as a great achievement. Nor is merely regurgitating music or art which one is a fan of already. I agree that artist should be social terrorist, as Billy Childish puts it.. crushing boundaries, fighting upstream, existing contrary to the flow that is fashionable. Symbolically, for this reason, we need modern art. As long as the cycle constantly renews itself with fresh ideas..approaches, I will adore modern art. But I refuse to glorify any particular fashion scene labeled as modern art. I like my coffee strong not watered down. Glorification by me is my silent open gaping mouth as I bury my head into my lap and stare at old things, objects, books, smelly old disintegrating yellow paper.. gawp at the old masters, etchings, paintings in Belgian art galleries…

Who would be your top 5 dream dinner guests? Who would do the washing up?
Roy Harper because I love what he has to say and he is incredibly handsome and writes beautiful songs, Werner Herzog because he might challenge everyone’s perceptions on life theory or imagery and might ruffle some feathers, Chris Packham because of his intensive geek knowledge about nature, Stewart Lee for his perverse sense of humour, and Jordan just because she’d rock the dinner boat. All five of these people are a great inspiration to me in their own way. Werner Herzog would probably do the washing up.. and then make a film about washing up, which could draw people to tears. Haha!

What is your guilty pleasure?
pushing buttons.

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Stop, Look AND Listen: Alex Jako proves there is more to music than the sound and more to art than the visual.
Tomorrow! – Wednesday 1st July, there 7pm, visit Millenium Hotel, Mayfair

Ever heard of palm oil? No? Biofuels ring a bell? Revolutionary green fuels from renewable plant matter, not oil. Well, Climate Rush invite you to think that proposal through. Biofuel is the biggest growth market for palm oil, and a growing palm oil industry means vast deforestation and huge carbon emissions.

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The UK is the second largest importer of Indonesian palm oil in Europe. Forty-three of Britain’s hundred top grocery brands contain palm oil, including Hovis, Kingsmill, Flora, Clover, Special K, KitKat, Diary Milk, Wrigleys, Persil, Comfort and Dove.

To find the land for palm oil plantations, people are draining and burning peat land, starting forest fires to clear land, and cutting down tropical rainforest. This is no good for carbon dioxide, indigenous communites, biodiversity, or orangutans.

Orangutans? The orangutan population has been decimated in the last 100 years, and now faces extinction. Palm oil plantations support only a tenth of the wildlife of virgin forest – and have removed more than 10 million hectares of tropical rainforest.

Climate Rush invite you to come celebrate tomorrow evening – there’s much that’s wonderful in the world – with local and homegrown seasonal food and juices, a swing band and the clear message against the growth of the palm oil industry.

Here’s the action bit – rush into a five star hotel holding yet another conference. This time “the 2nd Annual World AgriInvest Congress brings together the full spectrum of the agri value chain AND the financial community. Hear from and meet operators, producers, buyers, government, agri funds, and institutional investors.” These are the people who keep the wheels of the palm oil industry greased – coming off crude oil onto palm oil, laying waste to the rainforest in the process.

And there’s a special prize promised for the best orangutan costume. Be there 7pm sharp. How can you resist?

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After the well received debut release of ‘Greetings From San Francisco’ in 2008, this site Ian Matthew Hale has been busy as ever. With a recent publishing deal, live XFM sessions and even personal praise from Jools Holland, you get the feeling that all the hard work is beginning to pay off.

Speaking quietly but passionately about anything from his love of Prince to an early appreciation of Death Metal, it doesn’t take much to cajole an opinion from Ian M. Hale, which made my job of finding out more about the the 27 year old singer- songwriter and his latest release “Loss” a pleasingly simple case of sipping my pint and tending the conversational rudder.

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What do you think started you making music?

I’m not entirely certain, I think it was a family thing really. I spent a lot of my upbringing with my uncle who is a musician, so when I was little he would often be having rehearsals and like, the band round. Even when he was just cooking there was loud music playing all the time in the kitchen, wherever we were. Also my dad plays and my grandparents and my sister.

I think it’s one of those things, it’s not intentional, you know you’re interested in something when before you know it, you wake up and you’ve been studying something for a few years. You’ve been out searching for music. Then when I was a teenager I started hanging out with this guy on my road a lot who had lots of tracking programs, quite basic now as it was a long time ago, and we had our own sort of little thing for a bit.

I think it became serious when I was about 17 or 18. I’d been playing a long time before then, but I went to do a diploma in music technology so that I could learn a bit about how to do things, which was useless actually because I’m not technically minded. So I ended up leaving there not knowing how to do anything at all. And I still can’t use equipment very well. But, you know, I made some good contacts there and a good friend of mine, Tim, I met him there and he became my first producer. Then for a few years every time we got a chance in the summer or if we had a break, I’d go to his place in the country and we’d record demos. After about 3 years the stuff that we were writing started to form a little more.

At that point I was going to university in London and, I don’t know, every time I did something I immediately wanted to better it or, you know, correct what I thought was wrong. It took a long time for me to reach the stage where I felt comfortable letting go of the stuff that I had done. For years I had lots and lots of songs that never saw the light of day. And they probably won’t, really. But that was part of it.

It seems your uncle’s music taste was a big factor in your early music interests. What kind of music did you grow up listening to?

He used to listen to a lot of Steely Dan. And also a lot of Weather Report, which is a great thing to be thrown in your face when you’re little, I think. But also, one of my Uncle’s best friends was a guy called Gem who used to run Music For Nations, who were quite a big label that did quite a lot of death metal, so I used to get given boxes of tapes that were demos that Music For Nations got sent. So I just had boxes and boxes of death metal, so I used to listen to all them quite a lot. My flatmates, now, listen to a lot of heavy metal and, you know, I quite like it.

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So you’re going to “sell out” and go electric?

Yeah yeah! The songs seem to be going that way. The songs are becoming more and more full and messy, which I really like because for a long time when I was younger, I couldn’t help but feel I was writing these namby pamby pieces of shit and it’s really nice to toughen it up a bit. I’m sure it will go more and more that way, but I never can tell. I’m really interested in soul and a lot of rough sounding rock and roll like live Who stuff and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. But that’s just how I’m feeling today, I just tend to find something, a group of bands with a sound or aesthetic and then I’ll investigate it, listen to it continuously day and night for weeks on end. This single, the Loss single, was heavily influenced by experimental 80′s synth pop, so lots of Blade Runner, Yello, Tears For Fears. It’s going to be fun thinking about what’s next.

So when you sit down to write a song, where do you start from?

I don’t know if there’s that much of a set formula, for me. It depends what frame of mind I’m in. Often a song will come from mucking around on the guitar until I have a riff, or an entire structure, which I will then maybe try and create a melody around without any lyrics so I sort of sing a thousand different consonants to create the rhythm within the melody. Or I might just not use a guitar or anything and I’ll go and sit in a cafe or a pub and write lyrics or poems continuously for a few hours that it can be adapted into a slightly different format.

But it’s often a very late evening thing. It tends to kick in around about 11 o’clock or something. Really inappropriate times and go through to, like, half 6 in the morning. But you have to go with it, you know?

It’s tough at the moment because I’m so busy and I long to be away from the city right now just so I can do more of it. I feel like I get so much information in the city, I creates a mess and I can’t level it out until I disappear for a while, and then it starts to form.

With that in mind, what would you say is the theme of your new material?

Well the single is more like a small EP, or a promo to the album. There was something with the short, poppy nature of the first CD I think I had come to a point where I, I didn’t feel like I wanted to do something different, I just started doing something different. This piece of work feels a lot more solid, although half the size, I think conceptually it feels a lot tighter. It’s much more negative, I don’t think the subject matter is very pleasant. I don’t know why, it’s just how it went. It started with the last track on the single actually, “Be Careful What You Wish For”, from that I devised the concept for the whole piece. For the album, I think it will definitely have to be a large amount of wait and see. I’m looking forward to going away and recording it.

On your first EP the lyrics sounded very personal, was that just good fictional writing or were they based on your experiences?

Well they do come from personal experiences. I, not as a rule but generally, try to set them aside from myself. It’s quite important to be as universal as possible. Indulgence is a good thing, but you need to be careful and have an understanding so that you can make sure you don’t get carried away with your own rubbish that nobody cares about.

It was personal, but the first EP was a little disjointed. You know, there were lots of songs that had a different aesthetic to one another. It was more of a collection of recordings as an example for my first release that I could then take and hopefully put in to a more coherent form. Although there is an overriding theme throughout the CD, which is to do with the title of it. A kind of naive irresponsible optimism. That was the idea. Lots of people who were in situations who just decided “no I’m not going to do that anymore”, either in a positive or negative sense. That childish nature, I suppose. Pretending to be in a fairytale.

You perform and record with your band now, if I can call them that? How did that form?

I work with a few people on a regular basis who are fantastic, I’m very lucky to have them. There is Andrea Adriano from Playtime Productions who is my producer who produced this single and my last EP and he’s also my drummer. A very talented, kind of multi-instrumentalist. He’s only 20 years old but he’s produced some great CD’s for some people who are doing quite well now. I think he used to produce some of Adele‘s stuff before she took off and has done a lot of work with Charlene Soraia who’s doing very well now.

There’s also Moss Beynon Juckes who is a really good friend. I met her about five years ago. I looked up to her an awful lot even when I didn’t really know who she was. I saw her somewhere performing at an open mic night and I was so taken aback by it that I went back there a week later to see if she was there again, so I could talk to her to see if she would be interested in playing together and she wasn’t there, which was a bummer. But as it turned out, someone I was living with was on the same course as her at the time so I gave her a demo of some instrumentals I had worked out. We met up and played a little bit but it didn’t really work out. She was much further ahead of me at the time. I wasn’t sure what I was doing so we parted. Anyway, two years later I met her again and we really hit it off as I’d had a lot of time to grow artistically and so had she. We started singing, almost like a duo, at open mic nights and also at the Beatroot Rendez-vous which was something Pepe Belmonte, myself and Moss were all doing at the time which was a monthly night in Angel. It’s still going actually, that’s a really great night.

Moss gave me a lot of confidence as the music I had written was sitting really well with her, which helped me enormously. Then one of her best friends, Jo Silverston, a very sought after cellist, she started playing with me as well which was fantastic. She’s a really strong backbone to the whole thing, she’s a very strong pitch perfect cellist that will just immediately know what you’re going for. It’s amazing to have her on board. She plays with all sorts of people. Moss and Jo also have their own act called ‘Infamous Karaoke Star‘ and have an EP coming out later this year. It sounds fantastic. Anyhow, so between the four of us we have this quite, almost boisterous sound, as the cello acts as bass. So we have the drums the cello and the guitar and a whole bunch of vocals.

But of course that will change as well in the sense that I’m always looking to expand. Maybe get another guitarist, maybe someone who plays some keys.

You have some interesting artwork on your single, is that the same artist from your last EP?

It’s very different from my last EP, yes. It’s the same guy, David Callow, who is a phenomenal illustrator. Really incredible, versatile artist who I really enjoy working with. On a musical level he can talk for hours about the songs that I’m writing for a project or what the music would be like which makes it very simple for me to let him do what he wants to do. He’s done lots of commissions for all sorts of people although I don’t think he’s done any CD designs other than mine, so far. Although I don’t know for how long it will stay like that.

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And you’re doing a video for this single as well?

Yeah. That will be put together by Matt Bowron, John Addis and Dan Blacker over at Tactful Cactus and that should be out in the next few weeks. It’s my first music video so that should be interesting. I’ve never done videos before, I’ve always found it tough to do music videos. I’ve had a couple of offers before and I’ve turned them down. It’s not something I’ve actively pursued because I find it very difficult to mix the two mediums. Music and film are tough to mix from a narrative point of view. I think it’s to do with the power that each medium has. I think film is very strong and music is very strong and I think you need to be very careful as to which one is intended to be more prominent than the other. If you don’t get it right you can end up destroying, or maybe that’s a strong way of putting it, but drastically affecting the listeners perception of the song you’ve put together. But what Matt and John and Dan are doing for me looks great so far. Those guys are really good at what they do and I’m looking forward to the outcome.

What are your plans for the future?

I’d like to be in a position where I am able to working on music almost exclusively. Rob Smith, my manager, has been an absolute force since September last year and he’s somebody who believes in my music as much as I do, if not more, which is exactly what I need. Next year I’d like to be on tour a couple of times and be in a position where I can be earning from what I do. Money isn’t the reason I do it, but it’ll be what I do for money. It’s what I want to do, but it won’t change depending on how much money I do or don’t have.

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‘Loss’ is out now available for purchase at Rough Trade Online, iTunes and in selected stores.
The album ‘Successor’ is due out later this year.

Last Wednesday I missioned down to the Flea Pit, prostate on Columbia Road, dosage to see a screening of Crude, which just won the One World Media award for best international documentary. Holding faithfully to directions hastily scrawled in my notebook, ‘x’ marking the spot, I was soon chaining my bicycle to another set of railings, and getting half a lager (organic – and screening activist documentaries, this fairly buzzing bar ticked plenty boxes) in some mystification as to where a film might actually be shown in here. Exchanging cheerful admissions of cluelessness with other hopefuls, we didn’t wait long before being led through to a cool back room all set up for the action. Smoothly moving into reviewer mode, I nabbed a chair with awesome legroom just by the fire exit light : note-taking in the dark tends to leave my page more of a drunken spirograph than anything decipherable.

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Joe Berlinger, the director, is here to introduce the film – looking back to his first visit to the Amazon, he remembers a family of local people eating tuna from a steel vat. The river they’d lived off all their lives was no longer producing fish. He wishes us an appreciation of the film – wary of the word ‘enjoyment’ when it deals with the illness and hunger of thousands of people whose land has been so mistreated – when Joe himself watches it back, he finds it at once heartbreaking and inspiring.

The story of Crude manages to make three timeframes hang together : the long-term exploration, pollution and future recovery of the area; the now years-long court case; and the courtroom/boardroom/jungle drama going on as they’re filming. This is thanks mainly to the two strong main characters of Pablo Farjada and Steven Donziger, the Ecuadorean and American lawyers working together to bring a class action lawsuit (filed back in 1993) against the american oil giant Chevron, on behalf of 30 000 people whose lands and water have been recklessly contaminated for over thirty years.

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Texaco started exploring for oil there in the seventies. They merged with Chevron in 2001. PetroEcuador worked alongside Chevron/Texaco for some of that time, and since 1990, they have been the sole owner and operator of the oil industry in the area.

Sound complicated? Untangling all the legalities of responsibility is certainly complicated – the case is still dragging on today, with no near hope of completion. Morally and environmentally, though, it all seems as clear as all those abandoned waste pits aren’t : the oil industry has dumped an estimated 1 000 000 000 gallons of toxic contaminated production water and waste water in the area.

The main progress in the film comes from a perhaps unlikely angle – Trudie Styler, of Sting’s wife fame, and co-founder with her husband of the Rainforest Foundation. Stephen Donziger, the lawyer, flies across to the UK to talk to her about it and she subsequently flies down to Ecuador with him to take the ‘toxic tour’ around the contaminated sites. They fly Pablo Farjado up to the Live Earth concert on the 7th July 2007, and on the back of that as well as a Vanity Fair article in May 2007, “Jungle Law” by William Langewiesche, they stir up a good deal of media interest. But it is Trudie Styler’s commitment to the Rainforest Foundation that sees a pilot project of rainwater filtration tanks launched with UNICEF – a temporary solution, she acknowledges, but an important step for the health of the communities and the only glimpse of real movement amongst all the activity documented. Good enough, even, to almost leave aside the fantastic amount of air travel apparently considered essential to further these environmentally-concerned causes.

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After the film, the audience got the chance to ask Joe Berlinger a few questions.

Why did you decide to make this film?

Basically, to help people … not that I wasn’t shining a light on different situations in my previous films, like with Metallica (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster). Now that I see the film I think that all my films are about outsiders – Metallica fans are a pretty interesting subset of society, and Paradise Lost was about teens wrongfully convicted.

What do you feel is the legacy of this film?

Financially? It’s a disaster. Purely as a film, it’s not the most successful. But as a tool… It’s been criticised for the ‘Trudie left turn’, but out of everyone whose got involved with this issue, she’s perhaps the only one who has come along and helped, with the water filters. I avoided getting too close to the various NGOs involved. I feel it gains a lot from the objectivity, or the illusion of objectivity because of the Chevron participation. The effectiveness would have been much diminished if it could have been dismissed as just another piece of agitprop.

I appreciate the value of what Trudie Styler’s been doing, but I think I felt a collective wince as she first appeared on screen – perhaps it didn’t need the celebrity angle within the film, could that have come afterwards?

Well, it was certainly a hard fight with my editor, who wanted her out. But a sad fact of the way our society works, is that until the celebrities come down, people don’t get interested. And you can see from the film – this wasn’t just a photo-op drive-by. As I said, she’s been instrumental in the water-filter project, run by the Rainforest Foundation along with UNICEF, which is where concrete progress has been made. I mean, I think that this is the lawsuit that’s going to go on forever. Even the Exxon Valdez accident, which they admitted hands up was an accident, with no dispute as to culpability, took 17 years. And if you do the math, the amount of interest that $27 billion earns in the bank (which is the kind of compensation they’d be looking at) – it’s worth their while to throw $20 million a year at lawyers just to keep this lawsuit at bay.

What developments have there been since you finished the film?

Chevron has increased its lobbying of Congress to cut Ecuador’s trade privileges. And everyone’s waiting on a judge’s decision.

I feel moved and inspired by this film, as I’m sure many people here are and will be when they see it. What can I do?

Basically, while the lawyers argue, the people are suffering. Donate. The Rainforest Foundation are coming to the end of their pilot project of 150 or so water filters, and are looking to start a 3-5 year project. Politically, also – check out the links on the website. And I think that anybody, now – people should be aware of what companies do in their name. Most multinational corporations acting in the third world do terrible things.

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How was, or is, your relationship with the company representatives?

I took a long time before reaching out to Chevron. Partly, we were going out to a dangerous part of the world. I had to walk over a crime scene, where someone had been shot, to check into my first hotel. Going around the various sites with the plaintiff and defense attorneys, they had no clue that this would be a feature film. There were plenty of crews around, mostly from the various NGOs. When I eventually contacted Chevron, they felt that if I was to tell an objective story, why wait until now? I said, just look as my reputation – I make ambiguous films. Out of all the guys out there, you should probably be happy that it’s me making this! I was filming plaintiffs meetings, so I said straight upfront, why don’t I film some of your meetings? They didn’t like that. Eventually, I was handled by Hill and North – these ‘crisis PR’ consultants. I love that, for them, I was a ‘crisis’..

Essentially, I think that they have strong legal arguments, but it’s morally reprehensible. It was really a struggle to get them into the film in the end. I’d phone up, saying, ‘I’m locking picture in two months, a month, three weeks… okay, I’m extending my deadline but really now, this is the deadline, because Sundance need a rough cut.’ And so we eventually got the talking heads interviews you see in the film, which was much less dynamic than I had wanted, but worked well enough.

More recently, things have ratcheted up to the point where bloggers have popped up all over to say shitty things about me. And as you saw in some of the mainstream news interviews – calling Pablo [Farjada, the Ecuadorean lawyer] a conman, out to line his own pockets. I invited Chevron to Sundance for a round table discussion, but they wouldn’t sit down with the plaintiffs – I said that they were ready to sit down with you, which is far more extraordinary, but it wasn’t to be.

As a last question, do you have any advice for new filmmakers, finding funding and getting out in the world?

Well, with the current climate, it’s not good. Budgets have collapsed, foundations don’t have much money. And the democratisation of film with Digital Video is a blessing and a curse. For me, who’s used to making films with a certain level of funding and work, and now almost anyone can pick up a digital camera. I mean, it’s great, if people are going out with a camera and just pointing it at what’s happening to get the news out. But we’re going to have to figure out the new media, some way to get some money back to the filmmaker, to keep that professional standard.

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Crude is being shown around the world at film festivals and the Human Rights Watch centre – check out the website for the ‘Now Playing’ list. Hopefully there’ll be a wider UK distribution sometime soon, as this testament to liberties taken is well worth the watching.

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One Response to “Crude – Film Screening”

  1. Anna says:

    Crude is an amazing documentary. While Chevron continues to evade accountability by undermining the rights of indigenous tribes, the humanitarian crisis worsens. Crimes like this cannot go unpunished.

    Here’s an interesting blog about the contamination in Ecuador: http://www.thechevronpit.blogspot.com

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