Monday, 27 October 2008

Fit and you know it

I am so unfit. And there are so many kinds of unfit to be - match fit, piss fit, fit fit. I am none of these things. Add to that a complete lack of essay-writing fit and I'm screaming for a Biggest Loser-cum-Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader type makeover.

Farewell daylight my friend




And fade to black........ 5.42pm

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Stalkbook, fuggboots and one mighty fall from grace

How has this come to be? A vigilante card-carrying, eyebrow-raising, scorn-inducing member of the sartorial squad for Crimes Against Humanity... and I sit here wearing ugg-boots. When I say it's a dark, dark day I mean it more than literally (yes the clocks change tomorrow and sunset is scheduled for 4.46pm...)

I loathe ugg boots - their blatant hat-tip to skankiness and lazy up yours to the unspoken rule of "tough shit if they give you blisters/squish your toes/make the balls of your feet throb after only 15 minutes, wear them, they MATCH YOUR OUTFIT and reveal a modicum of effort to FINISH DRESSING". Yes I hate ugg boots. It turns out though I also hate cold tiles, cold English mornings, cold English evenings and socks with holes in them.

I don't feel like myself... Facebook I can almost, albeit somewhat lumpily, sweep under the rug - drunken promises etc etc - but ugg boots? Even as strictly indoor wear? I feel a part of me has been irrevocably changed forever. And for the dirtier not for the better. Already I miss the view from the high heels of sartorial superiority.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Procrastination. Definition: Moi

I can now count on, umm, three fingers the number of days I have until this essay is due and I am still reading, still smacking my head against the books, still checking facebook/yahoo mail/SMH Online 14 times an hour on the off-chance that something, nay, anything, will distract from the burden of post-modernist rhetoric and the 40-year old obtuse ponderings of self-important white men.

For something fun and different I could always just write the bloody thing and get my life back but then I'd have nothing to complain about... and where is the fun in that?

Monday, 20 October 2008

Grey days of blah

It's certifiably cold. I am certifiably snotty and as for "hitting" the books, it feels more like smacking my head against them. I understand now why they gave us a whole week to read for this assignment... three days to remember how to actually read obtuse cultural theory, two days to squander at the library faking doing work, one day to actually start said work and reading and a final and seventh to realise you need at least another seven if you have any hope of succeeding. Am beginning to regret picking the hardest question simply to make a point to my tutor...

Not all doom and gloom though. Cousin John arrived in town today - bringing sadly not sunshine but news and gossip from home and my purple suede heels. Happy days. A lovely meander through Southwark and Westminster - taking in the tourists taking in the sights. Am looking forward to having him in town this week.

Back to school tomorrow. Hmm. Am sure it will be fine - impending essay notwithstanding but we're off to Germany in two weeks - six days of rabid art interrogation and endless coach travel. Makes Contiki sound like a genteel stroll through the English countryside... Am sure it will be amazing but in truth I am exhausted and, after my masochistic episode trawling through photos of Bondi this morning, I am yearning more than ever the arrival of Christmas and a month long sojourn in the warmth and dazzling light of a sunny Sydney summer . Because this kind of grey....

looks good on no-one.

The cold, the pouring rain - these things I don't mind - it's the heavy bleakness of the sky I find so debilitating - though to be fair there have been occasional bouts of blue. But the clocks change next Sunday so the days are about to shrink considerably. Waaa-aaaa-aaaaaah.

So yes. The honeymoon period is probably over. And it's a funny sort of limbo I find myself in now - not quite connected to the ongoings of life in Sydney but yet to really find myself with a routine or recognisable life here in London. Key word being "yet" I suppose. School - despite the whinging - is definately a salve and I am looking forward to returning to London bronzed and relaxed post-Sydney summer to tackle next semester so that has to bode well as far as signs go.

Now if only I could write this essay.... anyone for the 'absent brushmark' in painting c.1960s?

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Recipe for an awesome day

1. Take a 4.30am start and head to Berlin's Schoenefeld airport for a 7.15am flight to London Gatwick.

2. Add a delightful five hour delay and several cranky Germans who have issues with your hand luggage and lack of a clear plastic bag.

3. Cancel the flight two hours into said delay.

4. Spend nine hours in airport terminal after re-collecting checked in baggage while waiting for the 4.10pm flight to London Luton. Say a small prayer of thanks for wifi.

5. Add a 50 minute delay to said later flight and then for added awesomeness stand around in several queues waiting to check-in, clear security, buy food and then board fully packed flight.

7. Enjoy descent into Luton while massaging cold-laden head. Alternatively drive nails into your skull.

8. Run for the bus to London Victoria while carrying all luggage, crossing all fingers that you'll make it the Apollo Theatre in time and abandoning all thought of going home for a shower first.

9. Slide into seat as the curtains go up and leave behind all thoughts of horrendous day while enjoying fabulous campness of musical Wicked with lovely family friend.

10. Be thankful for the dark theatre where no-one can draw comparisons between your appearance and that of the wicked witch.

11. Go home and pass out.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

I (heart) Berlin

Welcome to "Reading Week" - though depending on how you understand Vanity Fair and the Berlin u-bahn map I think it's fairly safe to say there has been little achieved by way of substantial reading yet. It is only Monday.

Am back to London tomorrow after four lovely days in this crazy, cranky but still generally agreed to be pretty fucking cool city. At this time of year every neighbourhood looks like an Andy Goldsworthy work gone loco - the leaves are turning and starting to drop in a spectacle of brilliant autumn shades and we've been graced with glorious sunshine - the perfect weather for biking and flea market trawling and generally feeling alive in the world.

It's been a tonic to say the least as I was on absolute Struggle Strasse when I left London last Thursday. One of the many things I love/hate about London is the fact that no matter what state you're in - inebriated, hysterical, throwing toys and stifling sobs - people will just ignore you. Not even politely. I mean totally and completely fail to recognise your existence. Which, when you happen to be throwing toys from the pram and stifling sobs and snot, is not such a bad thing.

Had a really stressful week at school, everyone turning uber-competitive over the return of first assignments and me managing to succeed at what I do best - which is shredding my self-esteem when I fail to meet the ridiculous standards I set for myself. So yes, a little unsure of how I'm feeling about my imminent return to London, 7.15am flight notwithstanding.

My lovely friend here in Berlin has taken great care of me - turning up looking royally like crap always helps - but it has been lovely to be in the company of a fellow Australian and we have had lots of giggles over the Germans - hereforafter referred to as entschuldigungs (German for "Sorry" and the single most popular word used by tourists when encountering cranky locals who go out of their way to explain that whatever it is you've just done is "verboten" or forbidden...)

The exchange of cultures has made me realise just how exhausting the constant companionship of Americans has been. I love them - but I'm finding myself missing the shorthand of friends and fellow countrymen. And yes men too. The novelty of post-graduate study with 49 other females has well and truly worn off. Though at least we're keeping up the historical precedent - apparently when Henry Moore was teaching sculpture at the Royal College of Arts in London during the 1930s he didn't have a single boy in his classes either. Times like this a girl misses her brothers.

But I digress. Berlin. It's been a pretty cruisy few days - Turkish markets for delicious food and scrappy flea markets for fabulous plastic belts. Have also seen a couple of fantastic art exhibitions at the Hamburger Bahnhof and just generally enjoyed pedalling around Berlin - especially through the Tiergarten. How could you not when it looks like this:

One of the "only in Berlin" art exhibitions we saw was a project on Torstrasse where an entire apartment block was given over to a group of artists to create their own project in each apartment. A pretty interesting idea, especially given that so much of Berlin is dominated by so many gloriously ruined and abandoned buildings. It was a pretty international line-up of artists but the work was phenomenal - each had a completely different understanding of the use of space and the architectural imperatives of each room. Or a complete disregard for it altogether.

One of my favourite works was a wall projection using an old school over-head projector. Apparently the artist came in and drew something new everyday:

Or this artist, whose work was so fragile and yet so evocative - and all the more impressive when you realised it was constructed from wool and staplers:

So yes, it's been a lovely four days - just what I needed and the balance of general outdoors-ness with art and culture (we also took in an afternoon of Dvorak at the Berlin Philharmonic) has been tops. I could keep coming back to Berlin and find new things to love and crazy things to do. Which is good. Because I'm going to need to get out of London again soon.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Heaven Is A Place On Earth... called Hackney

Today marks my one month anniversary since landing in London. Totally and hilariously scary how quickly the last four weeks have flown. Totally hilarious how the last four weeks feel like six months. And in the strange and ongoing absence of any regular and/or traumatising toy drops it might well be theorised that this pack up my life and leave for London to start a Masters degree lark wasn't such a bad move. Even with the increasingly crappy weather.

Today was a lovely day, in spite of the pissing down rain and cold wind. After a genteel start to the morning, I met up with a lovely school pal for lunch and a wander through the Columbia Rd Flower Markets. I would have taken a photo but my hands were full with umbrellas, orchids and my 3 for 5 quid bunches of irises...

Am discovering all sorts of hidden gems in East London, flower market the most recent - though my sense of geography is still largely shite. One place we did walk past today in Hackney was a pub called the Birdcage. A pub I tragically stumbled across with two friends last Monday night after too many glasses of wine. In and of itself, not such a problem - two friends with a not so secret penchant for karaoke (and of course the ability to sing...) though and it gets interesting-slash-extremely dodgy.

Karaoke was one of those things I swore I would never, ever, e-v-e-r do. (Yes, shamefully, that was past tense I just employed...) It may have only been back-up vocals but god someone please promise to shoot me if I ever look likely to bungy jump or tuck my jeans into my boots. It seems anything's possible these days.

And speaking of all things artistically low-brow, I went to see the Turner Prize at the Tate Britain last week. The constant ire of art critics and cultural commentators the UK over, the Turner Prize is generally good for one thing - and that is making those of us who work in and support the arts look like enormous wankers. I think the highlight for me was the bulletin board where visitors got to post their comments and thoughts on the exhibition...

Thankfully I'm off to see Mark Rothko tomorrow afternoon. I do love a four day week that ends with a trip to Berlin... Life will be truly sweet once I finish these last 64 pages of reading for tomorrow's seminar. Hmm...

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Culture fatigue

If I appear listless or lacking in humour I apologise at the outset - it's entirely possible my capacity for wit and clever insight was left at the roadstop in Oxford last night on the way home from Liverpool. What a loooo-o-ooong last few days it has been. Amazing in so many ways but I am now so tired I don't even have the energy to watch America's Next Top Model - surely the one true and effective antidote to a serious case of Culture Fatigue.

I got home late last night from our three day trip to the North of England - Sudeley Castle (which is in the Cotswolds if anyone is interested...), Birmingham to see the Martin Creed exhibition at Ikon Gallery and then two days in Liverpool for the Biennial. 2008 European Capital of Culture maybe but sometimes a dump is just a dump, you know? Certainly a hectic few days - but in many ways also the ultimate magical mystery tour (sorry - couldn't help myself) of all things art and crazy.

Sudeley Castle was on the list because every year it holds an outdoor sculpture event called Reconstruction. Contemporary art meets gothic ruins - that sort of thing. A fabulous idea really and a fabulous exhibition too - despite the rain - thank goodness for sculpted hedges to hide under. These were just two of my favourite works - taken between bouts of thunderous downpour. This here being a work by Henry Krokatsis (the name of which escapes me....)

And this one, by Kevin Francis Gray, which was particularly evocative - especially when you looked up at her face through the beads...

Just insane. Won't go all art theory on you but suffice to say there's been a lot to think about and it's been fascinating. Not like Birmingham - rife with idling police oficers thanks to the Conservative Party Conference that was also on that day. Ikon Gallery though was great and an interesting exhibition of Martin Creed's work, despite the videos of vomiting and anal sex. For those of you that don't know, Creed won the Turner Prize a couple of years ago for his installation featuring a room with a light that went on and off. And then on and off again. And then...

We also saw an amazing project by an Italian artist called Claudia Losi that was all about whales.

Uh huh.

Anyway - Birmingham was a flying visit and we got to Liverpool (after leaving London at 7.30am) at 7.30pm. The whole experience was rather like school camp - long bus trips, communal lolly eating etc etc - except at this camp you got to stay at the Holiday Inn Express. Thankfully we didn't spend much time there (a hotel whose chief appeal is its proximity to the Beatles Museum doesn't hold much sway with a bunch of girls from London it has to be said...)

The Biennial had a lot on offer - sadly most of it was seen in the rain on the first day - not the most conducive of conditions for viewing outdoor sculpture - especially when you add icy winds and an ambient 8 degrees.

As with any biennial of this scale there was a lot of dross but enough sparkling moments of genuine ingenuity, beauty, perplexity, humour and intelligence to make it overwhelmingly worthwhile. Highlights would include Ai Wei Wei's Web of Light...

Richard Wilson's Turning the Place Over...

Steve Mcqueen's Queen and Country (no pictures sadly but the most beautiful, brilliant work about the Iraq War and all the British soldiers who have died in the conflict) and Yayoi Kasuma's totally immersive and utterly hypnotic Gleaming Lights of the Souls...

This was one of the very last works we saw before beginning the shlep back to London. She's a Japanese artist who lives voluntarily in a mental asylum (though she comes out for openings apparently...) Her work is exquisite and totally trippy - you certainly get a sense, among other things, of what it would be like to suffer, as Yayoi does, from a vision constantly obscured by hallucinogenic-like dots. In this work you enter a darkened enclosed space with mirrored walls and roof and a floor of water surrounding the small standing platform. The room is dark but for a series of suspended light bulbs that change colour intermittently - creating an otherworldly, ad infinitum experience. It was fairly magical. And quite mysterious.

There were other highlights of course, one of which was getting to know more of the girls on the course. We didn't sit around singing camp songs or braiding each others hair but we drank a bit and gossiped and bitched - talked art and shoes and boys. And we were all of us thrilled to get back to London last night. Nothing like a six hour bus trip for a bit of communal bonding.

No plans for the weekend - though half of Saturday has already been squandered because I refuse to get out of bed it's so fucking cold - but looking forward to next week - Rothko at the Tate Modern, some great lectures, return of the first assignments... And then Berlin. I mean "Reading Week"...