Thursday, 21 February 2013

A trifecta of treats

Last weekend saw a confluence of occasions that brought together a few of my favourite things…


On Friday evening Nina and I went to the Hayward to see LIGHT SHOW. This is a sensory, almost spiritual, literally and otherwise dazzling exhibition of works that all use and explore light as a medium and an experience. 

Dan Flavin, untitled (to the "innovator" of Wheeling Peachblow), 1966-68
The expected big guns were there – early 1960s fluorescent pioneer Dan Flavin, Jenny Holzer with her flashing electronic signs conveying a whirr of political messages. 

Jenny Holzer, MONUMENT, 2008
Holzer came to attention in the early 1980s with her flashing billboard works in Times Square. MONUMENT (2008), which is shown here, is a tall, broad column of over 35,000 words recording the testimonies of soldiers, officials and ‘war on terror’ detainees, taken from declassified government documents and re-packaged as distracting streams of information. The bright, busy reams of text are glaring and overwhelmingly impersonal in this bright and distracting form but the work is uncomfortably effective, thanks to the powerful inferences to memory and remembrance that the title brings to the piece.

Olafur Eliasson, Model for a timeless garden, 2011.
Olafur Eliasson’s Model for a timeless garden was what I imagine being on LSD is like – totally fucking trippy. Here, 27 water fountains are illuminated with strobe lighting and the effect is to turn their gentle gurgle into an unending series of freeze-frames that transform the water into surreal crystal sculptures. Beyond trying to comprehend visually what was happening, the distinct physical impact – near nausea – was a fascinating negotiation also.

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Chromosaturation, 1965-2008
Other highlights were Leo Villareal’s shimmering LED installation, set to an unheard musical score, Carlos Cruz-Diez’s walk-through rooms or “situations”, where the light and colour saturates not just the walls but your skin and clothes, making you an involuntary part of the work. I liked every room but the blue room (not so flattering on the freckles.) And then there was Anthony McCall’s You and I, Horizontal 2005. Using artificial mist to create what he calls ‘solid light’ installations, McCall’s use of light (together with a computer programme, the haze and a dark room) feels profoundly tangible. A computer script directs a wave of projected light that when dusted with fog creates a penetrable cone of light. 

Anthony McCall, You and I, Horizontal, 2005.

To walk through it, stand in the middle of it, to see the swirls of haze dance as if on the skin of this delicate construction, is truly spellbinding. And to watch people hesitate before breaking through the light wall, to stand reverentially along its edge is quite something. I can’t tell you how much I loved it.

And that was just Friday.


On Saturday night LB and I went along to BYOC – a new bar in Covent Garden whose USP is that YOU bring the booze. Tucked away under a small juice bar on Bedfordbury St, this new speakeasy-style bar only seats 18 and is made all the more intimate with its small tables, candles, exposed brickwork and crooning jazz. The premise of the bar is that for £20 and a bottle of liquor, a dedicated barman will use your booze to make you any kind of cocktail you like – with ingredients (spices, fruits, mixes, herbs) from the antique Italian drinks trolley that fits neatly between the tables. I’d read about it online and booked it a couple of weeks ago - apparently they’re now booked out until mid-April. I’m not surprised.

We had a really, really fun night – so fun I don’t remember much of how we got home but I know I fell over somewhere along the way because I have the black and blue knees to show for it #classy. There are arguably some issues around the responsible service of alcohol when you’ve got two hours and a bottle of liquor (or three) to get through – and the service is exceptionally generous (I lost count after the fourth cocktail…) but then it could probably be argued that as a usually fully functioning adult, you should know when you’ve had too much of a good thing and call it a night. In the immortal words of Frankie Vallie, oh what a night.

The beginning of the end...

Going to a net-a-porter sample sale with the mother of all hangovers is up there for ultimate definition of a First World Problem. But that was what I did on Sunday afternoon. LB’s best mate Chris works for net-a-porter and he was kind enough to tell me about an exclusive friends and family sale at Chelsea Old Town Hall. I couldn’t even swallow a mouthful of crumpet I was so violently hungover on Sunday but dammit if I was going to miss the chance to buy a designer frock (or five) at nearly 95% off prices. 

A very astute (male) friend made an observation recently, as part of a conversation about women having things in their closets that they love but never wear but that they'll also never part with.

His analogy was that for a lot of women shopping is like game hunting – but instead of furry, stuffed, horned heads, we treasure prizes of the drycleanable variety. It certainly explains the vintage gold and black sequinned collar that I bought for £12 from a flea market in Edinburgh that I’ve worn once for instance… But I think it’s true. That thrill of the find, the joy of the bargain, the profoundly, indescribably ridiculously strange sense of satisfaction that comes with owning something that makes you giddy just because it's pretty. My jewellery collection is a carefully curated collection of one-off finds and beautiful pieces that tell myriad stories about my travels. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Wearing them is almost besides the point.

In retrospect, it was lucky I did have a hangover or I probably would have spent even more money last Sunday. As it is, £200 on five dresses including two Diane von Furstenburgs and two Marnis (£40 reduced from £680 – tell me that’s not a no brainer, c’mon….) was more than enough. My problem now is finding space in the pool room that is our shitty Ikea clothes rack to hang them all.

But like the gluttony of good exhibitions to choose from and the mess of cocktails to recover from, this is my kind of problem.

Happy days. 

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