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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

This is no theatre play

Two Degrees performance review

Written by Marta Puigdemasa

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.

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