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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

My Visa Swap weekend

No.1 The Piazza, Covent Garden , 19 - 20 July 2008

Written by Melinda Neunie

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Every woman has got one, this web ed or at least supposed to have one, online each person’s probably looks different from the next (though not if Primark has anything to do with it) and each most likely has a different purpose and a different story to tell.

The little black dress, currently being showcased at the Fashion and Textile Museum until September 20th, has been a fashion world staple and a seasonal key trend for over 90 years. Yet despite its unwillingness to leave the limelight, this classic piece remains ever versatile, and it is this that is celebrated most successfully at the exhibition; where else would you find a 1980s YSL lace and silk chiffon evening gown with ostrich and stripped cock feathers worn by Dame Shirley Bassey propped next to a 2005 Squirky by Vin and Omi rubber prom dress worn by Grayson Perry? Or am I just the only one that hasn’t been to one of Elton John and David Furnishes’ soirées?

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The exhibition setting is über elegant. A sea of sweeping drapes of white cloth illuminates the dresses perfectly, and the background Rat Pack music makes it feel like you have stepped straight into Breakfast at Tiffany’s. However, the little black dress is not all cocktails, dinner and dancing, and the environment does unfortunately somewhat pigeon hole the garment.

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Another downfall is that despite the exhibition’s claim to chart ‘the development of the little black dress from the 1920s to the present day’, a lack of effective grouping, for example by decade, as suggested by the timeline ascending the stairs, and a weak attempt at contextualising many of the pieces (there are all of three ‘iconic’ images shown), means that many of the dresses are lost amid the confusion. Ultimately there is no story being told.

Rather strangely the highlight for me occurred outside the main gallery space, opposite the shop and next to the little black dress-up area for kids (nice touch), where four glass-cased manikins were clothed in 1970s Zandra Rhodes punk little black dresses. Showcasing to perfection my favourite take on the LBD, I was impressed by Rhodes success in black, rather than the array of rainbow brights she is best known for, and left with a restored faith in the power and wonder of the little black dress.

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It’s like art for your ears, online but it’s underwater. Everything’s better when it’s underwater, right? At least that’s the philosophy that Wet Sounds at Lido Pool in London Fields took on July 6th. It was the beginning of the UK’s first underwater sound art display. Now the exhibition has been around the UK and it’s back to Lido for the final party. With sound artists John Wynne, Yoshi Shinagawa, Klaus Osterwaldt, F Geesin & Wheddon and others, all taking part, I decided to check out this curious sounding event.

Curator Joel Cahen has created a display for all the senses. Ambient sound works by international artists are played by speakers in the pool, where the sound waves mix with the water waves and float on into your submerged ears. Just as swimming is a full-body exercise, underwater sound is a full-body experience as well, with the sound waves taking on a different character and taking over your body and your mind.

I’ve always preferred floating over swimming. When all the other kids were splashing each other and throwing things I preferred to just lie on top of the water and let the waves do their thing. Thanks to Wet Sounds I got to re-live those days, except this time with a soundtrack of street noises, plinky piano melodies, noisy drones, and even the odd monkey howl. The kids were still there too, splashing and creating a general ruckus, seemingly unaware of what was happening inside the blue stuff they were waist-deep in. It is a public pool after all. Which also meant that there were some who insisted on swimming laps like they normally do even if it meant dodging floating hipsters every few meters.

Water can play an important role in music. The Beatles used a microphone dipped in a glass of water to get the famous vocal sound of “Yellow Submarine.” Wet Sounds employs the same technique but backwards, and without vocals by Ringo Starr, sending recordings from dry land into the depths of the pool. This creates a much more personal sound – one that everyone gets to experience as if they’re the only person who can hear it.

You’ll probably have to wait for another year now but if you get the chance, why not dive in and try something different? What other opportunity will you have to go to an art show in your bathing suit?

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When you think of modern art, rx Tracey Emin’s ‘my bed’ and Damien Hirst’s shark in a glass tank inevitably pops into your mind. In a world with celebs getting out of cars knickerless, donning boobs left right and centre and the art world exploring ever more crazy ideas in the name of art; it is hard to be surprised nowadays. But this morning, I was startled indeed when I opened an unexpected email showcasing Andrea Pritschow’s crochet art. Crochet art involves nannies knitting you reindeer jumpers for Christmas right? Well Pitschow turns this concept on its head. Crochet penises anyone?

Yes you heard me right. Studying musicology and Science of Art and then another degree of Philosophy and Sociology, Pritschow then turned her sights to art. In 2007 she started putting her crochet penises on myspace who censored her pictures and then the whole page! But fear not, now the site is working swimmingly. She is now exhibiting in early autumn in Vienna, Austria and in Cologne, Germany.

So if you’re looking for that perfect present for your boyfriend, girlfriend, friend or kinky minded co-worker, why not check out this site. The stripy knits come in all different colours and sizes. From dinky little ones, to mammoth Trojan sized ones,
(a compliment to any boyfriend!). There are even key rings that are sure to elicit a chuckle or two!

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No two festivals are the same. Which is lucky since we would be stringing our genitals up by the linings of our straw hats if they were. Truck Festival, view however, seems to hold a beautiful sense of naivety about it, pretty impressive considering its 11 year jog since its first outing in 1998. What seems to set it apart is its strong sense of community spirit. Throughout the weekend many of the acts expressed their respect and admiration towards Truck organisers, Robin and Joe Bennett. And with ice cream supplied by the vicar and food from the snowy members of the local rotary club, you can’t help feeling you’re a part of it.

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Following an early morning sprint from the more fresh faced end of the car queue, I managed to make it to the heavily odoured cowshed for Oxford’s pop darlings, Alphabet Backwards. Headed by the eccentric James Hitchman with his merry entourage, from appearances you may be excused for thinking you’re in for another melancholy strangling of your sanity with tales of first loves and heartbreaks. Thankfully not. Alphabet Backwards’s brand of energetic lo-fi poptro found the entire cowshed transfixed as we were taken into the rather alternative musings of Hitchman’s brain box. ‘Disco Classic’ was a particular favourite with its synth heavy, building intro. ’80′s Pop Video’ was one of the most involving tracks of the entire festival with the crowd taking over, to ad lib a bizarrely synchronised clapping solo, halfway through. Looking around found many a laughing face or tapping foot whilst the 5-piece bounced around the stage. In the words of Alphabet Backwards themselves, “pop’s not a dirty word”. Thank god for that.

After aimless wandering, I found myself back in the cowshed for the highly anticipated, Youthmovies. It’s hard to argue that they don’t know what they’re doing but amidst the thrashing guitars, flashing lights and smoke machines, it’s also hard to see much else beyond that. The proclamation that we were watching the best band in the world found me wondering whether the farm fumes had projected me to a mediocre parallel planet. If you’re into turned backs and guitar noise you’ll get on well with it but I couldn’t help feeling it was a bit like watching other people eating food when you’re hungry. Strong cheekboned lead singer, Andrew Mears, who was once involved with ‘math rock’ tyrants, Foals, is clearly a talented soul, confirmed after I later heard him deliver a rather intricate poetry reading possibly to an audience that didn’t understand. But there certainly wasn’t enough water around Youthmovies to go floating any boats. Or trucks for that matter.

These New Puritans, with skinny-framed Jack Barnett emerging in a shimmering gold roman-esque shirt, which seemed rather fitting considering the thumping drums which at times, sounded like a call to arms. As Barnett delivered his rap-esque vocals I couldn’t help think this is what Linkin Park would sound like if they were from the UK and just a bit more cool. Don’t let that put you off though. In fact don’t even use it as a comparison. ‘Numbers’ played on our human desire for repetition, perfectly wrapped up in a stupidly named parcel of electronic nu gaze. Whatever you call it though, I dare you not to be stirred at least a little.

Truck isn’t exactly spacious but preceding Noah and the Whale, it was chlaustrophobic madness. Crowd control had to make a forceful announcement that if people didn’t move, they were out. Fun fun fun indeed. After a 25 minute wait they finally arrived. Following the onslaught of skinny kids with 80′s haircuts, the cutesy summer strawberry pop was hideously refreshing. Exactly what you’d want to listen to before taking off all your clothes and dancing in long grass with a childhood friend. Naturally, ’5 years time’ was a favourite, sending limbs all over the place although it’s a good idea to not write them off as some kind of one hit wonder hippy outfit. A lot more lies beyond the band than just a youth celebratory summer anthem. Frontman, Charlie Fink, holds faint similarities to the early Johnny Cash with his collected swagger, well groomed hair and waistcoat/tie combination. This mixed with the love heavy vibe and modern mish mash of jazz and folk rock made me wonder why I’d want to be anywhere else.

I was starkly unimpressed by all the bands named as headline acts. Lemonheads were uninspiring and I would of been equally entertained had someone just stuck a CD player containing their album, centrestage and pressed play. After seeing ‘It’s a Shame about Ray’, I had to go and flog a dead horse for a while. Camera Obscura delivered gentle sugary pop melodies to a laxidasically sprawled audience. Coming across as completely inoffensive in the good sense. But it was within the smaller acts that the most exciting, raw and breaking performances came.

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Pivot delivered the most lip biting, mind blowing set of the weekend. Not an attack you’d usually experience at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon. Seemingly gentle chaps turned into thrashing electronic noise warriors, pulling at the very bottom of the hairs in my neck before tearing them out. Comparisons could be made to a heavier Metronomy or a more broken Soulwax but it would be a weak attempt at pigeonholing something than shouldn’t be. Richard Pike tribally howled his way through a few sections whilst brother and drummer Laurence pounded at the quaking drum kit with such force that I thought a heart attack was only a matter of time. Definite highlight. Their album ‘O Soundtrack My Heart’ comes out August 20th although it’s hard to portray the passion and power that they play at, through a disc or music file.

Young hearts, Orphan Boy, a 3-piece from Manchester were one of the most exciting and promising of the weekend, only stumbled upon whilst I tried to find the person who had my plastic cup of warm cider, which rapidly paled into insignificance. There were few bands at Truck you could claim had any relationship with progressive post punk, but Orphan Boy more than made up for the lack of it. Thrashing their guitars into their vigorous yet half polished anthemic delights, they had the controlled arrogance of musical greats, creating a sound similar to The Fall if you stuck them in a pan and mixed them with a pinch of Arctic Monkeys. I couldn’t help feeling they weren’t getting the reaction they deserved but the few that were there shared my appreciation.

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It was then time to put away my dog eared notebook and effeminate pen and get involved in a good ol’ game of wallet fishing before jumping in a skip, picking up paralytic drum and bass kids and then passing out in someone elses shirt. Holy truck. Ouch.

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On 12th May 2008, no rx areas of Sichuan – China, more about were devastated by an Earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale. More than 60, seek 000 lives were lost, millions of civilians left homeless, and many mourning their loved ones who were unfairly taken away from them.

When I first read a comment online about the China Earthquake, I did not even know about the immensity of this natural disaster. I automatically assumed it was something like the earthquake that we had in the UK in Feb 2008, which I slept through! I then realised the reality of it when I saw the images on the television and the internet that unfolded day by day.

Images of people buried under concrete.
Images of corpses young and old under plastic sheets.
Images of children still holding their pencils whom died straight away when the earthquake struck their schools.

I felt immense empathy for those who had lost their lives, families who had lost their loved ones and people who were suffering. The images were so real and told so much about what was happening and the trauma people were going through. I felt so lucky to live in a country where natural disasters were not a part of everyday life. I donated a measly £50 on the Red Cross website, which is not enough to help those people who had lost everything, although it was the amount I could afford at the time. I sent emails telling friends and family to donate money to the charities. I spent everyday reading and watching the news to see the latest updates of what the Chinese army and government were doing to help. I felt compelled to see how China was responding to this disaster- with emergency aid flying to the effected areas as well as the president, Wen Jia Bao flying in on a private jet to the disaster zone to give consoling words and reassurance to his people.

The emotion in the photos and the video footages really struck a chord within me to do something. However, I felt powerless, not knowing what I could do to really help. After a week and a half of being an obsessive and slightly depressed news addict, an idea came to me. I wasn’t going to sit on my arse, passively surveying the dire situation on TV. So I texted a few of my cousins and friends to see if they would be interested in organising a charity event. After a few meetings, and lots of conversations on phone and MSN, things were beginning to take shape. We came up with a name for our fundraising group, ‘Make a Tomorrow‘, which is a popular Chinese saying that translates well into English. This doesn’t happen very often. It was a perfect name for us. We made a logo, started up a blog and Facebook group, contacted the Red Cross. Things just grew and grew. We researched many venues in London, checked out the prices, researched what audience and scale we wanted, what was going to happen on the evening…

Cut to the chase, after much debate and finding the venue, our Fundraising charity event will be held on: Saturday 26th July, at Parker McMillan, 47 Chiswell Street, Moorgate, London. I have organised bands, Djs, Art sale from Uk Illustrators and Photographers. All funds raised will go to directly to helping the victims of the earthquake.

It has been nearly a month of organising. At times it’s hugely exciting, at others, immensely stressful. However, I am glad I have started this project as I’ve met some great and inspirational people who are eager to help. I have also been surprised by the generosity displayed in people. I hope that perhaps in my small way, I will inspire other young people to be proactive when it comes to social and political situations that are affecting us and those abroad. This world really is smaller than you think; and it is by taking an interest and being open to possibilities that we can really make a difference. By dedication, hard graft and creativity we can change a disastrous circumstance into something we all care about. Through charity events like this one we can strive to ‘make a tomorrow’ that is a positive one we would all like to be part of.

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Ok fellow Amelia’s blog followers – a couple of weeks ago I wrote a story on the Visa Swap event in Covent Garden and promised to keep you all updated on how it went and what treasures I managed to find. Well – the official swap took place the weekend just past, cialis 40mg and true to my word I’m back to share my adventures.

So – if you remember – the idea behind the visa swap campaign was that people take unwanted clothing to specific drop off points in Covent Garden throughout a three-week period. In exchange for our goods we were offered a little visa card with a number of points coinciding with the value of our donations. These points could then be used to purchase other items during a huge two-day fashion swapping event.

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I arrived at the swap boasting a healthy 8614 points, web which was mainly thanks to what I believed to be a random grey jacket that I found in my spare room at home. After deciding I didn’t have a clue where it had come from, or whom it belonged to, I handed it in at the drop off in the hope of scoring a couple of extra points. What I was rewarded with was a ‘ooh – this is nice’ and a whopping 700 points (as apposed to 40 or 50 which I had received for other items) from a delighted Visa assistant. Turns out I had just handed in a Christian Louboutin jacket which was worth at least 400 pounds. I think it must have been the fear of looking uncharitable that prevented me from snatching it right back and attempting to flog it on eBay. Instead I accepted the points and walked away, still wondering where the hell it had come from – and why I hadn’t bothered to look at the darn label!

On the first morning of the swap I thought I’d be smart and arrive at the location ten minutes early. Unfortunately lots of others were smarter, and I was greeted with a queue that backed a quarter of a mile up Covent Garden. Hundreds of eager visa card holding individuals held excited conversations between themselves, all of us joined in our excitement and anticipation for the event ahead of us. At ten on the dot the doors swung open, and all thought of unison flew out with it. It was every man, woman and child for themselves as Visa Swap participants stampeded the building in the hope of being the one to discover the hidden designer gems. Half the crowd – clearly Visa Swap veterans – charged up the stairs to the bag/shoes and accessories section, while I, after finding my bearings, calmly headed for the ladies clothing area.

The building was organised into three stylishly designed levels: ladies clothing, men’s clothing and accessories. In house tailors sat in wait by the changing rooms ready to take in, sew up or amend any of our finds – free of charge! As pop music blared from the surround sound system we darted around manically, heaps of clothing draped over our left arms, our right arms free to wander through the racks. We greeted and excused each other politely, wishing each other well out loud, but secretly hoping that that annoying person beside us would somehow miss the gorgeous shirt in front of them! Everyone’s tactic was the same – grab anything and everything that slightly catches your eye and sort through the load afterwards. The room could almost be likened to a cage full of hungry gerbils, everyone scurrying from rack to rack before retreating to self-made sorting stations, all the while clutching ferociously to their discoveries as though their very lives depended on it. At one particularly low point I found myself alone in a dark corner of the building, sweating and hovering protectively over a heapful of second hand finds! Thankfully I managed to snap out of this uncharacteristic trance after witnessing a bizarre argument between a middle aged women and deceitfully pleasant looking little old lady, who couldn’t agree over who owned the rights to a small leather clutch bag.

I must say I managed to pick up a great collection of skirts, shirts, dresses and shoes that are bound to liven up my flagging wardrobe. The organisers refused to accept faulty items, so the clothing and accessories were of an impeccable quality.

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On our way out the friendly staff issued our garments to us in fantastically designed sustainable bamboo shopping bags, while congratulating us with ‘well done’s’ and ‘you’ve done well’s’ as though we’d all completed a gruelling charity cross country run.

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As I stepped out the Visa Swap doors and back into the sunshine of reality, I immediately missed the whole experience of the event. I think the sense of community I shared with other fellow Visa Swap shoppers, the creativity in the air and the pang of delight I experienced when I spotted other people picking up items which I had brought, was what made the whole event truly special. Well – this as well as the knowledge that I now own a couple of garments that my friends won’t be able to rush out and buy for themselves. Result!

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Dress, bag and boots from Visa Swap

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Shirt, skirt, belt, sandals and bag from Visa Swap

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