Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Dissertation Karaoke

I woke this morning with soggy eyes and an elevated sense of already elevated stress about my dissertation. And all because I had a dream. A dream where, instead of writing 15,000 words on some aspect of contemporary art practice, addressing all relevant cultural and political theories, I had to write an album. Not only that, I had to then present each of the 12 self-penned songs on my album, explaining the structure, content and intent of each verse, sing one of them and then design an appropriate cover which had to feature an image of yours truly. And please justify that too. I have felt sick and anxious and nervy and consequently exhausted all day. Ahh Panic. Hello my friend.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Busy is over-rated.

It's a terrible thing to wish a week away but staring down two full days of nannying, an all day group tutorial, a new job and two nights at the bar and realising diddly squat was going to be accomplished on the research front, well I really had no other option. Because I'm still resisting my former ways of chocolate as a coping mechanism.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Some ish and some art

I've started August in earnest... Ish.

Tidied my room? Ish.

Started the arduous process that is researching my dissertation? Ish. With a dash of tick.

Returned fervently to my exercise regime of twice-weekly swims? Cough. Next?

Vowed to be a better writer, better ponderer, better Bondi girl when it comes to being 12,000 miles from home? Too early to say but I'm feeling optimistic.

The last time I wrote the parentals had just left and I was about to depart for Barcelona for The Meal of My Life at The Number One Restaurant In The Whole Wide World. That is a tale that very much needs to be told - a gastronomical, emotional, artistic(al) journey through 35 courses and some bloody fabulous wine. See previous point about being a better writer. To be honest, I don't yet have the words. But they're coming. Ish.

So to August for now and all things school and art and heavy intellectualisms. It's Dissertation Day Two and god bless Diet Coke - the ultimate fix all for hangovers, headaches and a curious affliction called Brain Fry. I popped my British Library cherry today and despite the curious fuzzy-headedness that resulted from six and a half hours churning through books on politics, monuments and the problematics of collective memory in artistic representation, I left feeling rather virtuous and too tired for tears.

As part of my Earnest August month - and because, you know, I'm doing a Masters degree in Contemporary Art - I have resolved to make more of an effort to see more art. It sounds silly I know, but in all my years as an art journalist, the more I wrote the less I actually had time to see. I am turning over a new leaf.

In truth it started last month, dubiously enough, with a visit to the Wapping Project in east London. A fabulous old building, the former Wapping Hydraulic Power Station in fact, it's been converted into a killer art space for exhibitions and performances but that also includes a chi chi restaurant and a cute-as little book store in the garden - inside a greenhouse.

What a total shame the exhibition we saw was utter shite. I hate feeling like art is taking the piss out of me, because I'm normally such a staunch defender of all things weird and ugly and challenging and silly. But this was, well, it was crap. An exhibition about the cultural history of eels, yes, eels, in Japan and the UK. There were some lovely sound installations, recordings of the daily kerfuffle at the Billingsgate Fish Markets, but otherwise, it was a room full of vitrines holding paraphernalia about eels - everything from fishing baskets to those naff patches your brother sewed on his football jumper. Yes. The Parramatta Eels got a mention...

So thank god for a wheatfield in the middle of Dalston.

Part of the Barbican's Radical Nature exhibition, the architectural collective EXYZT turned an abandoned railway line in east London into a functioning mill, with its own power-generating windmill. You could go and bake bread or simply lounge in a deck chair by the wheatfield and revel in the sheer delight of this little pocket of oddness.

As part of the off-site project, American land artist Agnes Denes was invited to re-create her famous 1982 work Wheatfield - A Confrontation. Twenty-seven years ago Denes planted two acres of wheat in Battery Park landfill in New York. Interrogating ideas about food, energy, economics and waste, it remains an iconic work:

Falling a little shy of two acres (by about 1.9 acres...) Denes' Dalston wheatfield is nevertheless a thought-provoking and in this instance, quite charming, interruption in an otherwise pretty drab industrial site. I liked it. No ish about it.

And then TODAY (earnest, earnest) I finally managed to get to Trafalgar Square to see Antony Gormley's take on the Fourth Plinth Project. Now I'm not sure what I think of Antony Gormley (shades of Artist-as-God complex perhaps?....) but his work for the Fourth Plinth was interesting, loath though I am to use that word because it says everything and nothing at the same time. The intellectual equivalent of a Milky Way bar.

But well, it was. The Fourth Plinth is, as the name suggests, the fourth plinth in iconic Trafalgar Square. The other three bear historically significant monuments dedicated to well, I'm not entirely sure who, but I'm sure they're important. Anyway - the fourth plinth, in the north west corner, was built in 1841 and intended for an equestrian statue that never eventuated. It was empty until 1998 when the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce commissioned a series of temporary contemporary art works to sit on the plinth. Rachel Whiteread, Thomas Schutte and Mark Wallinger are just some of the big names to have plonked a big piece of sculpture on it.

And now it's Gormley's turn. For his 100 day work, One and Other, the artist invited members of the British public to sign up for a roster, an hour at a time, to sit on the plinth. Well, to sit, paint, sleep, dance, mime, protest - whatever the hell they wanted really. I'm not even sure it has to be legal. 2400 people - 24 hours a day for 100 days - are living the dream, immortalised as living, moving pieces of sculpture in one of the coolest locations in town. I imagine the view's not bad either.

I wasn't really sure what to expect, British Library Brain Fry and all. Maybe it was the hours of reading about monuments and democracy and the individual versus collective experience, but it turned out to be quite breath-taking seeing this tiny woman atop this huge plinth, just sitting and drawing. It was lovely too to just sit myself for a while and let my brain cells re-coagulate. While it wasn't terribly exciting up there on the plinth, there was still something quite impossibly cool about it, in the great tradition of anti-establishment gestures perhaps. And then the hour was up. And the crane came. And the lady with the sketch pad was replaced by a young girl with a banner that read "Happy 5th anniversary Sarah-Jane and Phil". It wasn't Shakespeare by any stretch of the imagination - but I think that's the point.

Speaking of Shakespeare though and funnily enough El Bulli comes to mind. Laughter, tears, confusion, strange nonsensical words and a period in the middle when we thought it would never end. Never mind being transported to a magical otherworldly place. And no, I don't mean the Costa Brava.

But that is a tale for another day. Soon. Ish.