Monday, 23 April 2012

Glasgow International 2012 In A Day

As today was my day off work (or my "working from home day" as it's also known), after dropping the kids off at school I decided to batter round as much of the Glasgow International 2012 as I could. I did a bit of a recce earlier in the morning when out for a run, and passed the flag messages being broadcast to Govan from the Tall Ship for 'Nothing About Us Is Without Us Is For Us'. After that I decided to best way to go about things was by bike.

So after school started I had to wait unto 10am until Kelvingrove Gallery opened. They have 'Works On Paper' by Glasgow based Turner Prize winner Richard Wright, whose large scale intricate works are usually drawn directly onto gallery walls. Here the pieces are hung all over the wall in a way that makes you at times step back to take it in and then come up close to examine other works. These pieces below reminded me of some of Martin Boyce's work with their woodgrain and lettering.

Richard Wright at Kelvingrove

Back on the bike and up to the Common Guild, which I'd never been inside before, a townhouse up at Park Circus. Turner prize winner Wolfgang Tillmans diverse photography was excellent (as was the building). Even with a simple still life like the corner of a Jurys Inn hotel room, the composition and reflections need looked at again and again and the photo of Kilimanjaru at night was stunning.

View from the Common Guild
Right. 10.42am and off to the Mitchell Library. Nairy Baghramian is an Iranian-born German sculptor and she has the whole hall of the ornate old reading room here to herself and has strung a tense rope across it. Moira Jeffrey in The Scotsman liked it, didn't do much for me.

Spanner (Stretcher/Loiterer) by Nairy Baghramian

Okay 10.48 and across the corridor to the Art Lending Library by Walker & Bromwich which had more life about it as the overall-clad installers headed out with their wooden crates, first checking they had their drill with them, to loan out another piece. Part library, part theatre.

Back on the bike. Hidden in a basement at the ugly, shiny box which is the Skypark building
I eventually found Petrosphere, an ongoing collaboration between 10 artists in Athens and Glasgow. It has a variety of sculpture, painting and video work. I particularly liked Ciara Phillips 'And other options' a cross and a tick screenprinted on cotton sheets, which in the Greek context made me think of the lack of options the people there are getting on their financial situation at present. It's the kind of disparate exhibition that my kids enjoy, using their less prejudiced imagination to interpret or sneer at the work as they see fit.
SWG3 houses a group show which had some nice bits and bobs in it, but what I'd really come down here to see was #UNRAVEL across the lane. Put together by musicians Found and Aidan Moffat, you get to try to "unravel" the story of the narrator's life by picking and choosing 7 inches from his collection to play on the turntable whilst the mechanically powered instruments accompany. It is a lot of fun. Nice. The "after 4pm there are more adult themes" warning I'll leave for others to explore as I had to get going again.

'The Immortals' by Folkert de Jong
Lunchtime approached so off to CCA, where Rob Kennedy and others have video instillations. One is a film of a man walking backwards and falling down steps outside the old SFA offices at Park Circus, surely that's something that's been done many a time before? It was a shame I was on my own though or I could've had a game of table tennis on the table lying there as part of the exhibition. Cafe Saramago there is a good place for some lunch, and musician Bill Wells was eating there too (Scotland is just a big village really, isn't it?). Okay, I had to get out of the saddle and push the bike up to the Glasgow School of Art where Dutch artist Folkert de Jong has installed sculptures largely made in indestructable stryofoam inspired by Mackintosh and his group, the self-styled 'Immortals'. It is weird coming out the main door here and seeing the empty space where the Student Union used to be. I've spent a couple of nights there, now just a building site.

Down past my favourite camera shop on Parnie Street to the Modern Institute. American artist Paul Thek's works from the 60's and 70's are fantastic and his notebooks are not the dry, dusty items being described like that makes them seem. The Briggait is a lovely space that I'm always nostalgic when visiting as my great-great-great grandfather used to have a fish stall here about 120 years ago. I've not yet seen an exhibition that uses the space well and I'm not sure 'One Person's Materialism Is Another Person's Romanticism' does either. I liked the tweety bird sounds in the side room with the mountain photographs by Judy Spark & Lesley Punton.
Inside The Briggait
  Across the road from the Briggait is a new space for the Modern Institute which houses Michael Wilkinson's exhibition, Dresden in what was apparently an old glass factory. It wins 'Best Use of a Stack of Vinyl LPs in an Exhibition' award with his tower of them. From there it was only a hop, skip and a jump to Glasgow Green to revisit Sacrilege by (Turner Prize winner) Jeremy Deller, better know as 'the bouncy castle Stonehenge'. I think this is a thing of beauty. With bigger crowds here than at any other exhibit I've seen today it has also captured people's imagination. Interactive is the word I think you've to use to describe this, but it is also a lot of fun.


I didn't go back to them today as I'd stumbled accidentally into their preview nights (thank you for the wine/beer) when I was out on Friday but Marjolaine Ryley's photography of 'Growing Up In The New Age' at Street Level Photoworks is worth a visit, as are the new works by Adrian Wiszniewski at Glasgow Print Studio. They are lovely things but I'm not sure I could live with one, although his wee sketches here were also lovely. Time marching on, the kids will be getting out of school soon, so off to the GI Hub on Miller Street to see Rosalind Nashashibi's lovely film of Scottish Ballet rehearsals with fly on the wall focus on the faces and reactions of ordinary locals given access to watch. It is definitely worth taking the time to go see this if you get the chance and I recognised one of the women watching the ballet, and really hope she knows she's been included in the film. She's such a lovely person she'd get a real kick out of it.

Karla Black's "Tiramisu" (not its real name)
A short hop up to GoMA for Karla Black's sculpture/installation/pile of sawdust and cellophane. The scale of it is impressive, and the temptation is really to touch it or jump on it, but like her other stuff I've seen it left me a bit cold. My daughter when she saw it thought our gerbils would love it whereas it made my mum remember the sawdust-filled days of her childhood (her dad was a joiner). It looks like a museum attendant's nightmare. The columns as trees, cellophane made from makes you think. (I think.)

Still I was cheered to see that the Duke of Wellington outside GoMA was not only sporting a traffic cone today, but a seagull as well, every Glaswegian's favourite piece of interactive art.

My Runkeeper tracking reckons that was 17 km on my bike today and I managed to see about 17 exhibits, so I reckoned I'd earned a quick pint before I had to get the children at school chucking out time. I like the mix of Glasgow International 2012, and there is plenty more than this to see. Check out the brochure.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

And the Land Lay StillAnd the Land Lay Still by James W. Robertson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this up after reading some rave reviews, and an effusive blurb. I've read some of James Robertson's stuff before (The Fanatic) and enjoyed it and this state-of-the-nation book doesn't set itself an easy goal, aiming to tell the post-war history of Scotland. Although it runs to 670 pages it (largely) moves along apace. However I was pretty disappointed with it I have to say. The plot was at times a contrivance to move on to the next major historical footnote or development in the Nationalism debate. Some of the threads running through it worked in this chronological narrative - the war vetran wandering as a tramp and the photographer documenting and touching on people's lives across the country, but the majority of characters I found a bit clichéd. They were basically all middle and upper class bores, apart from a couple of "decent" working class types, or right bad working class ones. So this cuts out the majority of the people of Scotland. Then industry is dealt with briefly (miners strike gets about 2 pages and is basically all Arthur Scargill's fault - so thats that dealt with) and a character is forced to go live in Glasgow for a few pages to include that city, although he could be anywhere, whilst endless debates between tiny groups of Nationalists merits pages and pages. So ultimately we hear a lot about the people from nice Perthshire towns and public schools, and people living in Edinburgh who have enough money to drift along without working and debating Scotland so that the reader can be told the history of Scottish Nationalism, rather than shown it.

View all my reviews

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Streetcar Heading to Edinburgh

Streetcar Named Desire

I was saying it on twitter over the weekend, but I've had a proper westend Partick Thistle fan couple of days. The highlight was going to the Theatre Royal last night with my son. Yes, Edinburgh will finally have a streetcar/ tram, call it what you will, because Scottish Ballet are heading there next week with their new dance production of the Tennessee Wiliams play "A Streetcar Named Desire".

I've never seen the story staged as a play and it is many, many years since I've seen the iconic film version starring Marlon Brando. The ballet tells the story chronologically and therefore manages to show some of the things alluded to in the play/film and the score, the set design, the acting of the dancers all tell the story beautifully. It is powerful stuff in places, dealing with death, violence, alcohol, addiction, domestic violence, madness, and amazing to think the play was written 65 years ago. It works really well as a ballet and is one of the best ballets that I have seen in a long time. I am glad to see that it is garnering great reviews and I hope that as many people as possible get to see it. My son came with me, and although he is only 12 years old, the way the ballet presented the themes we were able to go over it and discuss the issues afterwards (including rape and the effects of domestic violence) but it is not really a ballet for taking younger children too. Anyway, it is a long time since I can remember a ballet audience cheering and wooping at that end as they did last night.

Partick Thistle 1-1 Raith Rovers

Earlier that day I'd watched Partick Thistle's season peter out at Firhill as they clung on for a draw against a decidedly ordinary Raith Rovers team. Although Thistle can play decent football, it is too inconsistent. We struggle to breakthrough against 10 men defending, and are very shakey at the back when others run at us. Saved by Fox and the post in the last seconds, when that should have been 3 points in the bag. Anyway, at least Thistle got a point. Combining their score with the 2 English teams that I follow meant that my teams lost 12-3 over the weekend and my horse didn't finish the National.

Le Havre

My Westend luvvie weekend had started on Friday with a jaunt to the Glasgow Film Theatre. I always forget to check out their programme properly until the film I've wanted to see has passed 2 weeks previously, but I did manage to see Le Havre before its run was over. Aki Kaurismäki's fable of an African illegal immigrant arriving in the French port and being looked after by the ordinary characters of the town, pursued by the police inspector who has seen it all.

I loved the strange 70's feel that the whole film had despite the present day setting, the ordinary looking actors and generous, benign characters.

One more thing before I leave Le Havre. I watched the film thinking that André Wilms, who plays the lead character, bohemian shoeshine Marcel Marx, was doing an impersonation of my grandfather all the way through, both physically and in his mannerisms. Later I've found out that when my brother and cousin saw the film, they both separately had the same thought. You decide.

André Wilms and my grandad. Separated at birth?

After that, all there was to do was to play in the swingpark on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Glasgow (with hat and scarves on, obviously - it is only April). Warning: viewing video fullscreen may cause nausea.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Last Holiday: A MemoirThe Last Holiday: A Memoir by Gil Scott-Heron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This "Memoir" of Gil Scott-Heron, which he seems to have been in the process of pulling together piecemeal before his death in 2011 is a tantalising glimpse at the life of a unique individual. Much of the focus is on the Martin Luther King/ Hotter Than July tour with Stevie Wonder and no light is shed on the drug abuse and jail terms he went through. His early life is well represented here, which accompanies some of his later musical pieces on his early life and Lily Scott, his grandmother who raised him for many years. It would have been nice to find out more about what he was thinking during the 70's, this section reads like a chain of events he is watching from the outside. The story of being on Scottish TV and having to talk about football reveals us (I'm from Glasgow) as the parochial nation we know we are. The bits at the end about the Hotter Than July tour with Stevie Wonder are fascinating and more detailed, but he remains a very private man. In these last sections you learn more from his genorous comments on Diana Ross, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson about these people than you do about Gil himself. The short chapters at the end to his children give a glimpse behind the mask that never really slips during the rest of the book.

View all my reviews The Sense of an EndingThe Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I enjoy Barnes's writing, he packs a lot of nuanced stuff into his books and many of the situations made me chuckle or nod in agreement. However I found this tale a bit self-conscious, like the main character himself, with twice the statement "if he'd/I'd acted like the character in a novel" showing this is acknowledged in the narrative. I just found it hard to engage with this effete bunch of smug characters. Sorry for my inverse snobbery.

View all my reviews V.V. by Tony Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The outrage over the film of this on Channel 4 in 1987 passed me by so this edition with the poem and the press clippings of the arguments for and against banning the TV program made fascinating reading. The poem itself is excellent and still very much relevant.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Edinburgh Kilomathon

The last thing that the world needs is another blogging jogger, so I won't bore anyone with my running tales on a regular basis. However last weekend on Sunday 1st of April I decided to do the Edinburgh "half-kilomathon". Despite the punning title and the date of the event it is a real race. I think the original idea was a race distance for the marathon, but done in kilometres, ie a 26.2km kilomathon, but for whatever reason the event today had only a half-kilomathon, a quarter-kilomathon and a 2.5km race. I'm sure it seemed like a good idea to someone, as did the Union Jack-y flag logo.

I started running a year ago, just to get a bit fitter, lose a bit of weight, but I've done that and managed to keep it going. It can be a bit of a time-consuming chore so I don't think I'm in any danger of becoming crazily addicted to it. Last year I ran a couple of 10K races in Glasgow. Once the application money had been sent off it was a good motivator for me to keep going. So this year I wanted a further target to aim at, so have applied for a half-marathon, the Great North Run in Newcastle and Gateshead in September 2012. Sunday's 13.1km race has proved to be a good way of getting me to up my training distances a bit, and I also fancied running about the scenic streets of Edinburgh for a wee change.

After the starting gun went, we left Ocean Terminal and ran past a couple of ships, then around Leith Links. Sadly most of the rest of the route was along a cycle-path, so I had a lovely view of the dog walkers and trees of Edinburgh. The last part of the route came down Gorgie Road. The last time that I was here I came to see Spurs play Hearts in the Europa League in August. I was supporting Spurs, whilst sitting behind the goal in a Hearts section. (If you missed the goals, you can watch the 5 occasions I had to celebrate silently and pretend to be sad here. It was at that point in the season that I thought Spurs might have got a decent squad together this year, or that Scottish football had fallen further behind the rest of the world than I realised - it turns out that both were true.)

The finish of the race was in Murrayfield Stadium, so it was fun to run in there and cross the line on the track whilst family and friends were cheering from the stands in the last of the winter sunshine before the snow started 48 hours later. I had hung onto the tail of someone who seemed to be going at the 1 hour pace I needed and I achieved my goal of getting around in under an hour (57 mins 58secs officially). I then collected the usual medal and random goodie bag of tat for my 3 children to fight over ("Who wants a sports watch with special ions in the strap to make you run faster? Who wants a wee box of raisins?"). Ahead of me someone had set a new record for this distance, but I was pleased to come in 40th, good encouragement to keep going and do that half marathon.

I've had Type 1 diabetes for over 20 years, so there are plenty of personal benefits for me in keeping on running, and as I've done before, I'll be running the Great North Run to raise money for Diabetes UK. Nearer the time I'll start promoting my Just Giving page, but if you feel inclined to sponsor me it is up and running. Thank you very much, and let me know what you are up to so that I can return the favour.