LISTEN AGAIN, for the next month (30th April) > guest to one of the best journalists in the business, great writer, and he does some kind of festival in Bucks…listen up!
PAUL WATERS @paulwaters99 (twitter)
LISTEN AGAIN, for the next month (30th April) > guest to one of the best journalists in the business, great writer, and he does some kind of festival in Bucks…listen up!
PAUL WATERS @paulwaters99 (twitter)
Please come and celebrate the best edition yet…
Entry from a fiver includes the magazine (RRP: £100), and ace music and poetry.
I began putting together the features last year. It’s the kinda thing I’d like to read… designed by the beautifully talented Personality Crisis who is now on a jet plane!
Entry includes the new summer edition
words chez moi – photos by Lilly Creightmore at the NOKI x COLD LIPS party for LFW 15th Feb 18 (artwork below by me for the Tweet Me Up show at the Tate, 2012)
The artist NOKI’s work is Fashion AND anti-brand – ya – confusing, right 🤓🤪😫🤯 (you can read more to understand his work on Cold Lips, and i-D, or in the exclusive interview in the third issue we created for the show – Paypal: firstname.lastname@example.org with £2.99, and a bit for postage if you can afford it, or visit the www.coldlips.co.uk shop), and in the same way, I don’t really know when a zine becomes a magazine, or a fanzine becomes a zine, becomes a magazine. Sometimes Cold Lips gets called a zine, sometimes a magazine, sometimes a fanzine. Labels fuck everything up as much as money, and our desire to have the beautiful things in the world. I mean – I’d wear some of that new Fendi garb… But my conscience battles with the lameness of existing to an index of any kind – negotiating my life through stupid tokens of success, and signals of others. OM! Be gone! Whether we want to become collectors of water-chiselled bedrocks from Korea, or a piece of Vetements bearing a DHL logo – let’s not be slaves in a battered joke of a vehicle that’s cruising towards a major crash in a post-Colette world of slavery to pop-up distractors. So when I see content from fashion lifestyle magazines doing little else but promote the production abilities of their glorious advertisers: LMVH (who look after Loewe, Louis Vuitton, Moet, Fendi, Celine, Dior, Pucci, Givenchy, Kenzo, Mark Jacobs, Thomas Pink, Nicholas Kirkwood, Edun and more) or Chanel S.A. (who own Chanel), or Kering (who own much of Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, McQueen, Stella McCartney, Christopher Kane, Puma, and more) – or the mega-firms of Proctor and Gamble, L’Oreal and Unilever, all pushing ideas of beauty upon my information-pummelled eyes, just to keep the cash circus circulating, I get sick, and I want to withdraw. Because that’s just one idea of Fashion. Not only do I want some of the clothes and the wedge from holding those ads, I don’t wanna compromise anything we’re doing in COLD LIPS – which I started to perpetuate the subculture that created it. Which I’ll come back to – but meanwhile, rather than bemoan the luxury oppressors who I adore, we shall party. Which is good. As I’ve always enjoyed a good underground night out. So it was an honour to be a part of the propaganda team for the NOKI private view on the dawn of London Fashion Week this February – and later all laugh on WhatsApp seeing FENDI do what FILA do, throwing the South London streetwear irony back in the face of the kids that created that look, and see Feral’s look parade down the Gucci line eleven years late…
We had performances from Anne McCloy, who was a resident at the spoken word night that began Cold Lips, she’s toured with Peter Doherty, made merch for many, and lectures at St Martin’s, asking people to challenge what fashion is, daily. Gary Fairfull stepped up with his NHS poem, he gave the original spoken word night its platform. Feral Is Kinky – a fashion subculture stalwart, known most for singing Everything Starts With An E with Boy George – but currently slamming it out of the underground gay scene to River Island commercial mainstream brilliance, and back again. We also had the word artist Robert Montgomery and poet/filmmaker/model Greta Bellamacina who are the forthcoming cover stars for Cold Lips IV – it’s SUCH A HOT SHOOT by Lilly Creightmore (we turn Robert into the muse of Syd Barrett as per Madcap Laughs, and dress Greta in Vampire’s Wife). I also put down some lines. And the beatbox supremo Killa Kella, and DJs Q Boy and Ladylaw.
New published work:
👉PHONELESS IN BERLIN 👈 travel diary on COLD LIPS: pics by Martyn Goodacre, featuring: Stroke Order, Danielle De Picciotto, Mark Reader, The Horrors, Anton Newcombe, and more…
HOLLY GROVE new poetry published on The Opiate magazine, edited by Malik Crumpler et al.
The poem, about my new hood, inspired by this photograph:
Ace to rise the lift to BBC 6Music HQ as guest for the inimitable Murray Lachlan Young. Taking over Jarvis’ reg slot, the pathos-invoking don of the cautionary poem, bard of the iambic block, introduces the series exploring lyrics by genre. I’m on for the last half hour of the show which looks at PUNK- but listen to the whole thing. Penny Rimbaud who I once wrote a poem for, adds much light…
I spoke about PUNK IS DEAD, edited by playwright, Richard Cabut, and Andrew Gallix – on 3:AM Magazine…and much more…
Every girl grows up with the threat of Weiner Productions: from the beaches of Thailand to the villages of Russia, refugee camps, to banking; the spectrum of prostitution that women maintain to better themselves is alive, and flourishing. It’s not solely aligned to girls either – boys and trans alike, we all know placating men with sex, and the possibility of it, is the trade of marriages real or unreal the world over. It’s the denial of this reality which is harmful.
The fact is, Weinstein delivered. Two fold. If the girls chose to suck his cock, he made them famous. Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington, it is only a step away from prostitution. But Mother, the stage is Everywhere.
It makes me sad that my cum face is the best face. We play the roles of the female stars, sucking it up like Marilyn. To pass Go! successfully, independently, without passing a cock, has anyone ever done that? I’m not saying any of my sisterhood have stooped, but it’s about time we had an honest conversation about why paying it down to a hyperreal cartoon of a Trump-like Harvey Weinstein is impossible to ignore in all industries. Show me a girl who hasn’t had guilt for feeling dirty about her choices, and I’ll find three that have been raped. Ultimately, no woman who wanted stardom turned Weinstein down. He played out his own masochistic fantasy that women would not fuck him UNLESS he could offer them fame. And all of us fell for it. The power that the co-founder of Miramax represents is endemic to masculinity. The danger of Weinergate is the flipside, the shadow, the villain to the heroine: it perpetuates an acceptance that women are victims. We are not. Feminisation does that. Falling into roles. And this is the first case in the media where the women admit to being implicit in the rape by saying, yes, we did try to use our female powers, and it wasn’t as straight forward as a gun being-held-to-our-head situation. The polarisation of victimhood is where this is too black and white; if we were born into worlds where equality was the norm, and girls’ muscles were accepted to be as strong as the man’s wallet, we’d all be richer.
We can hope that by exposing Weinstein, as he exposed his power and penis to us, it will lead to a greater understanding of casting couch mythology, and dialogue about unwritten behaviour of knowing when to flick your hair, go Diana-coy, bash your eyelids like you’re Manga. Because it is not only in Hollywood where a casting couch is the route to stardom or bettering one’s opportunities.
The issue revealed here canonises a false belief that women can’t enjoy sex as much as men. The reality we create, the one we indulge, the one sold to us – behind the screen, it fizzes with the moralistic micro-chimera we carry in our souls of being as good as the last person we fucked. That is the reality. When this is abused, it means we carry heavy guilt. Rape sucks. We are who we’ve slept with, and still, we seem to accept that we have to fuck the cock that feeds us. It’s a tragic feedback loop.
Entitlement to sex through dominance is what this is about. It is owned by men, but also by girls, young women, consciously, or without awareness capitalising on eyelash length and bouncy hair. Why wouldn’t we, those are the images we receive. Yet tropes of max excess infantalise our own expectations of men. Weinstein is just another victim of our beauty, a symbolic representation of power, of super-patriarch being our prey: of youth and beauty. We are part of this system, and we need to fess up, that the norm is a girl who nicing up the boss, smiling, looking maternally, or sex daughterly, or with a promise, all the way up the greasy pole: we all wear the I FUCKED HARVEY WEINSTEIN T-shirt. And there has never been such a clear symbol of this dichotomy.
Weinstein has hounded people for the rights to their works as they lie on their deathbeds. He is no angel, but we could say that if it wasn’t him, it would have been another pursuing those ‘rights’. It is the culture.
In my novel, DEATH WISH (my agent loves it, other agents love it, the few friends I’ve shown it to love it) – the main character, Scarlett Flag, a victim of the patriarch wears an I SUCKED A LOT OF COCK TO GET HERE – T-shirt. It’s too strong. For a woman to say that. I’ve had 8 solid refusal letters. I think they’re all from women.
My ol’ DJ blud, Irvine Welsh assures me: ‘Trainspotting would never get published now’ – in the world of middle class gatekeepers. But I can’t help feeling it’s because I’m a woman writing about a lifestyle that’s usually reserved for men. As I get older, the shield of my youth falls, thank fuck – but I find women like Cosey Fanni Tutti guiding my way: speaking at Frieze recently, she was keen to explain expectations of sexual behaviour being codified by sexuality, citing women who have written with male pseudonyms, and vice versa. We need to discuss why men rape and don’t realise they are doing it. They don’t accept they rape like they don’t accept No. Women are forever the victims, accepting Men are more powerful. Men are predatory. They hunt. They rape. They earn more. So we have to be nice to them. Girls, seriously, is our only option to stop playing out ideas of beauty in wanton fuck me imagery of selfie-filter-face culture? All of us enact gender roles: sadly affected by what we consume on all screens, literature, news, friends, role models. Everywhere. It does not have to be this way.
We are the society we create. Create the culture we want.
In my life as a DJ, I worked with strippers – empowered by the Hugh Hefner super-sexualisation of us, and the laddish culture that was apparently about men reclaiming their manhood post-rave and equality – but I’ve known a lot of girls less into it. You could say forced by circumstance. Forced to wear mascara. Forced to be judged on image. All of this may be as old as the hills, as is it being about what is inside that matters. That is what we radiate. Many burlesque dancers I meet are the kind of girls bullied at school, their sexual spectrum makes them drop dead sex magnets, who express themselves through dancing and fantasy. Everything is on a spectrum. I am happy naked, on a beach. I took my clothes off at Manumission. In solidarity of my sisters, like it was a taboo I had to break with myself, towards liberation, from being fucked by men. I was born naked, ran around a hippy kid, camping for months at a time across Europe. Why apologise for liking heels? They make my legs look longer, my arse better. That’s the imagery I fancy. Or is that something I should police – along with the production of feel good hormones? I don’t accept anyone telling me what to do, so why should I accept the way they make me feel?
Back to Harvey: he’s not the first and last guy to whizz around the best hotel suites in the world, eating the best food, being offered sweet pussy. He’s done exactly what he wants. Sure it’s a filthy habit but we all know acting is one step away from prostitution. As long as we are acting, we all are one step away from prostitution. Yeah – we could lose everything and end up on the streets. The moralistic media and BAFTA backlash reinforces such fears – reputation, victimhood, it’s one long bog roll, perpetualising imagery of the sexes. So wear the T-shirt – be proud. If you’re acting, you’re taking part – so choose and accept what you suck up. Be the directors, and producers of the world that we want to live in.
THE FILM & ALBUM PROJECT, GHOST DRIVER BY KELLI ALI, IS NOW HAPPENING! I AM PLAYING HOLLYWOOD ARCHETYPE, GRACE RIDER – SUPPORT IT NOW!
I went to Erdoğanland and freaked out.
Please read & share the essay here.
It’s about globalised hysterical normalisation in digital culture, brought on by autocrats, and corporate-serpents. The slave dance marches on…
Illustration by Gil De Ray
I first met Kelli Ali when we were both new – I was writing for an MTV mag – BLAH BLAH BLAH (it was actually called that) – I was commissioned to interview the Sneaker Pimps down in Greenwich, for some reason. It was a day out from Old Street, f’shiz.
As a good journalist, I did my research, listened to their music – got into it enough to write further pieces in MIXMAG, and go on a US tour when I was editing on the fashion mag, SCENE which I edited on (prior to getting sacked for crashing out in the fashion cupboard). The diary for that US tour is good.
Kelli and I have collaborated a heap over the years. I did a film for her last album:
We had a party at the W Hotel with Sink The Pink. It was fun.
Now Kelli’s making an amazing film, Ghostdriver, which sounds all Suicide, but takes from everything hip on celluloid ever: Jubilee, to Warhol, to noir. It’s done with a cast of all our fave people, and is half-funded. It’s interesting the way the music and film are phoenixing together. Neither is yet quite finished, but bouncing between mediums – you can be part of her journey by Pledging. The cameras are rolling. The piano is playing – it’s kinda trip-hoppy, deep jazz. And is dark as life. I play Grace Rider, Hollywood actress.
Kelli continues to be a great influence and inspiration. Someone who never stops learning.
Extrapolating drugs, sex, rock n roll and great art is never easy. Be it poets, artists, singers or the destitute, they all get wrapped in myths of madness, nymphomania, witchcraft, addiction, crazy clothes and all things normal members of society can’t be. Thank you, Satan! But when you’re one of the most romantic artists of the 20th Century, Johnny Thunders, there’s a frustration from biographer, Nina Antonia, in separating the goods from the chattels…
In Cold Blood was Nina Antonia’s first book, she was a struggling single mother and got a break with Leee Black Childers, Jerry Nolan and Johnny Thunders…they became her fam, an apprenticeship with rock n roll blood of the highest order…
It’s always hard to be a woman, she wanted to write but says she wasn’t the kind of girl, or person to be taken on by Sounds or NME. Already typecast as a cult heroine, working-class from Liverpool, the opportunity offered through this book was her golden dawn.
The rest, is written…yet I chiselled away a little more into the legend at this talk, and made this lil film for ya…
Punk, a label that many originals prefer to deny, gets blamed for spreading heroin from the boho set of the 60s to the football terraces of the 70s, whether there’s a wider conspiracy – like the way cocaine flooded the streets of Harlem in the race riots, who knows – smash the oiks…as Nina says, heroin was everywhere before punk, you could buy it in shops in the Kings Road, and Finsbury Park, the Irish ghetto was awash with it – but Nina seems to believe it’s a case of repackaging the old as something new… this time, the press created totems of behaviour (spitting, violence, rudeness, green mohawks, etc) which overshadowed the talent – and in the same way that Johnny Thunders proudly stuck a needle in his hat, heroin became a symbol of its era, as the culture became commoditised into a look you could buy, and now appropriated into middle-class events at cinemas, and galleries, with Johnny Rotten sticking a finger up at the canon of the Queen and a burning, safety-pinned British flag. How very quaint. What’s clear is the seventies were bleak. There wasn’t the panache of super-loans that we see now. Powercuts were frequent, blamed on the poor (as Ballard notes in Highrise), money was scarce, squatting was normal, and the only option was to go out in a bin bag…now that trashsack is the meat-bikini of Gaga, or perhaps a post-bling world of filters where flagrant abundance of Primark devastates the future with plastic on beaches. Today is a world of crap wigs, and Italian fashion companies tipping leather-dying byproducts into the eco-system. The new punks tote Starbucks on Insta in a recession, wilfully sheltered in desire and post-modernist digital submission and corporate oppression – but the G at a Grindr party, or the sanitised normality of Adele or Ellie Gould, these poisons are as toxic and complex as Sid Vicious’ mum being a junky, lest not forget – heroin was not new, as it was not new in the 90s with heroin chic, it was not new when smoked in pipes in the 20s, nor had poppies never been seen in the Opium Wars of the 1800s. LSD was not new in the 60s, and ecstasy was not new in the 90s, speed is still used to get soldiers marching in wars. But drugs and subcultures often seem inexplicably bound, the psychedelic art of Beardsley to the acid of Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, the symbolic rhetoric of culture is never as simple as a stand-alone product, be it an album, book, poem or picture – because we are ether, we are sentient, and we take in all around us like the cellulose of our skin…pop culture’s symbols, be them flares, drainpipes, mini-skirts, kaftans, pills, pipes or needles often overshadow the art at the time, and it’s not until the products of art have been rinsed in a sieve of centuries that the good stuff sticks. Yet the myth is always part of the attraction to legend. Anaïs Nin, for example, is appealing because of her porn writing, and the mystery of her personality; Gertrude Stein, some of her writing is terrible, but her courtly abilities are as pithily attractive as a line of Dorothy Parker shouting down the Algonquin Table.
Although my punk pal, Bruno Wizard, of The Homosexuals would say there’s no such thing as subculture, or the underground, only what the government and establishment don’t want to be mainstream; ultimately, tabloids love to find new enemies such as Johnny Thunders to entertain, vilify and nail to the crosses of sacrifice. It’s no coincidence that Nina Antonia has edited the diaries of Peter Doherty, who loved In Cold Blood…
Artists are forced to be as extreme as Van Gogh under the pressure of not conforming – to challenge the demonic hegemony of the day. If they’re true geniuses. And this is the mortal trap. To be a true soothsayer, one must live outside of a system, like a monk – but this is the privilege of few layabouts, saints, and people who really can live on lentils 365. Even Rimbaud gave up poetry to sell coffee. The issue of current day culture is the system that raises those to be distributed is generally one of privilege. Obscurity is ever easier on the internet, and without a little genie’s magick, it’s hard for smoke to be seen. The cultural superstructures are so cataclysmically embroidered to the weaves of corporaations and networks, you’ve got to be in it to win it, to pervert from within. If Vice is largely owned by Hearst, Disney, an ad company, and News International, all we can do is trust in the power of our art, and rock n roll. As Nina says, play the game, or lose.
Whether Looking For Johnny is a hagiography or not (a word I learnt last night, meaning the method of creating saints in story), any ripples in the pond lead towards a cultish or glorifying process and yeah, it’s impossible to explore a whole life in a film. But as Viv Albertine has been very clear to point out, the women are often left behind. Not in Looking For Johnny, one gets a sense of equality from a series of strong business women but aside those women, there’s a somewhat never-ending stream of floozies, muses, and beauties, invoking a ‘player-ness’ to the rockstar hero. But perhaps there is a darker tale here, where actually women are far more than accessories, they are part of this hero-making crime, because Johnny is accused of beating someone, and it’s brushed over. I thought it was just the lifestyle but serial domestic abuse is common in all situations and it made me wonder if this parade of women through his life, was actually more to do with the women saying no to the patriarchal blows of rock n roll, bored of the bruv-hood of bands and violent, vain frustrated bastardness. Hanging like useless decorative objects to the carved bust of sex and drugs and rock n roll is a pretty pointless preoccupation, and most girls get with that programme, yet are still vindicated by their associations to this epic image frequently outdoing their own success. The competition between women to be rock n roll empresses repeatedly enables this imbalance; whether it’s Posh Spice hanging by Beckham, or Hilary Clinton double-matriarching Monika Lewinsky. Many women believe matchmaking is a contract – but poets believe in love, and I for sure would rather die at that altar than rise with a pre-conceived maliciously intended gameplan, but life is full of greys, and freedom is rarely black and white. But this phenomena of women enabling gender-roles to continue with all their romantic and flawed tropes is as crazy and beautiful as the fact that great artists are murderers, philanderers, rapists, and thieves. Should we rip up every book by Burroughs because he shot his wife, or walk out on all the recordings of Joe Meek because he shot his landlady, before himself? Carravagio was a murderer, but we still look at his gods over Italy…I know it’s hard to listen to Gary Glitter – but maybe it’ll come around again; Lewis Carroll, Benjamin Britten – they seemed to get away with it…Roman Polanksi, Woody Allen…as Johnny Thunders said, “You can’t put your arms around a memory…”
So, tortured genius, we salute you. We take pleasure from your pain. Nabakov, or die. Without Keith Richards’ gonzo-ism, the fascination with the Stones would not be as great, without Madonna’s proclivity to boundary pushing ideas of sex, society would not have embraced liberal attitudes as easily, perhaps – or maybe, we’ve been cheated – and if we take it right back, there is nothing new, ever…the Greeks did it, the Romans – the Egyptians, ETs… but don’t forget women have ruled this world too, matriarchs maybe just need to be repackaged and glorious, and embracing and wild – because, like there is only one of each of us, there was only one Johnny Thunders…and without sex and drugs, rock n roll is straight and sober and uninspiring. It’s great to have some Coldplays, because they make Nirvana look better. Life’s edges are all so wilfully intertwined. The only precipice is death and destruction – which is one hell of a muse. Far stronger than any woman. Or man. And that cliff is the one walked by rock n roll at its finest.
Find Nina’s beautifully penned In Cold Blood, or her others on Peter Perrett from The Only Ones, or the bestselling: Too Much Too Soon about The New York Dolls (I need my copy, Ninaawwww!). She writes thoughtfully, poetically and with great reverence to decent research and those that have flown the earth in laudanum twilights. Nina Antonia is just finishing her first novel, which I can’t wait to read, and In Cold Blood is seeking the perfect Johnny T in Hollywood…
To hear more, watch the film above…x
It’s the lovely Colm Forde & Vanessa Lobon Garcia at Doc N Roll Festival who put the event together that sparked these deliverances, please do comment below. Danny Garcia’s documentary about Johnny Thunders, Looking For Johnny was screened at ArthouseN8 on 21st August 2016. I’d intro’d for Doc N Roll before, at a special screening of The Sex Pistols’ The Filth and The Fury (Julien Temple) at the 100 Club to celebrate 40 years since the Pistols first played the stage – did a chat after with Viv Albertine and Skinny Girl Diet for Converse (will hopefully feature some of the convo about fashion and punk in the next ed of Cold Lips).
Vive la Rock! x August 2016
Carl Loben, my dear ed at DJ Mag, where I edit films, books and arts, invited me into the show he was covering for Eddy Temple Morris…
He wanted me to speak about culture – I wrote the words below in response, which I read over the top of a new Daniel Avery mix of Soft Bounce by Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve…
Dance or die
At the convention
Hangar Steppenwolf doors
Four to the floor
Wanna live all night
To down below
The tweaking Underground
With the smoke and the writers and the bartakers and drugsellers
Reluctant indie conscripts
Cashing the cheque
Kulture couture encounters
Nailing all to its cross
Put Targets on our backs
You gotta be selling something
Nuked by the Voice of other people
Do not restrain
To dance in your own light
Cloak of fright
Stabilise the kool aid of sobriety
With offline rebellion
In Fake society
Destruction is necessary
In the fight
To stay free all night
Started a fash and spoken word zine: BUY IT
Beyond the editorial, read why in a piece for the Literary Platform
Look at these gorg photos by Charlotte Freed from the London Fashion Week party at The Library. Thanks to DJs, Gil De Ray and Feral is MC Kinky, and all the amazing performers, and supporters. Massive appreciation to London Fields Brewery for keeping artists happy
For more info: email@example.com
What inspired you to put together the Sylvia Plath Fan Club?
I wanted a home for people with a bit of integrity, and rock n roll, the true meaning of literature. Sylvia Plath is a very loose icon for the night – she’s not a literal paragon; people are surprised when folk from all worlds come together to celebrate lyrics, writing and words of all sorts – we had Mussolini come down to the last one and perform his final speech. Lisa Moorish has read lyrics, Gail Porter’s tried out bits from her forthcoming memoir…I like to make films for people who have performed. We’ll start playing those back. It’s good to play some records too. The place it happens in is important, people have to feel comfortable as it’s kinda naked doing words without music, the way we listen is important too, it has to feel easy. Words offer light, through the darkness, I like the space to reflect that…it’s about words all ways. Words always. Words against the silence of voices. The outside world may be fucked, so let’s create our own. I’m a total aesthete like that. I think short bursts work well from a variety of voices. Like a cool magazine – as a writer, it’s always about the way different people speak, I’ve been transcribing people’s dialogues for years – everyone speaks differently, I love that, but I hate slams, sure they encourage perfection but it’s not about that, it’s not a competition, it’s about appreciation, and unity, through words…
What do you consider to be the perfect environment for writing?
It’s in the soul, primarily. I do some of my best work in bed. Ha. Relaxed. I have a decent desk too. It’s solid. I get synesthesia, so there’s only some music I can write to, but having written professionally since a teen, I can do it anywhere. I write on my phone, wherever I can. I think having a pen or a keypad is like having a cunt, you’ve always got it on you – it’s how you use it that counts.
Name three Instagram accounts we should be following.
I also like @MakeBlackOutPoetry
What are the top three items on your bucket list?
My bucket is happily on its own experiential bucket list experience, without me – I think it’s on holiday, or washed out to sea – I’ve lived so many lives, I can’t keep up with dreams – it’s one long and beautiful trip, making the most of every day. Of late, that’s been more about trusting inward than outward. So that would be top, then remembering the bucket is the journey, then being switched ON in the bucket.
What can we except from the upcoming event at LIBRARY?
It’s gonna be hot. It’s London Fashion Week, and I’m launching my first ever magazine at the club. It’s called COLD LIPS. I am super excited. Amazing line-up. It’ll be a fun!
Kirsty Allison is bringing her already legendary Sylvia Plath Fan Club to LIBRARY on Monday 22 February 2016.
The all-star line up includes:
Johny Brown (Band of Holy Joy)
And residents: Kirsty Allison, Anne McCloy & Gary Fairfull…
Mike and Claire Manumission are infamous for first shagging live on stage in Paris in the 90s, and continuing the tradition at Privilege, in Ibiza – the biggest club there, where audiences of 15 000 were regular, every Sunday night. Their shows were a spectacle of imagination, with fetishes for all tastes, guided by the most beautiful dancers on the planet.
I played in the backroom, with Kris Needs, and friends from Primal Scream and writers such as Irvine Welsh and Howard Marks.
From the days when I was known as K-RoKA – and that’s Jade Jagger all bound up…
On NYE it was a total honour to be invited to go all 50s guitar twang, and play aside friends and accomplished folk such as Paco Fernandez, Mark Moore, Feral is MC Kinky, Richard Norris, Andy Carroll, and see the wondrous Polly Fey and Johnny Golden. Shoreditch House put on one hell of a party, with piles of lobster, and mountains of cake, and it was good to be closer to the legendary NYE fireworks. The hosts, my dear compadres, part of my Ibizan fam, Mike n Claire Manumission are forever inspiring. Claire’s vision and Mike’s will to enable his queen’s desires have always been their magic. Their creative connection is fabulous. As are their shows and parties. There’s always sleaze, in the best taste, but it’s balanced with Claire’s pure panache and class. They had the Royal Ballet perform before jumping into the pool at midnight. What fun times we have had, from Cannes film festival to the summer living in the Manumission Motel, a former whorehouse near Ibiza Town, replete with waterbeds, for the resident DJs, and dancers (separately, always, of course). Wild times. The music never stopped, and the bar rarely closed.
1:54 Somerset House, 15-18 October
Africa is the most raw of nations, the rage I feel when I listen to stories from just a handful of the 54 countries, is raw, as can be the laughter – as deep as the rape of the land. I hope you like this selection of amazing art…there’s so much more if it, if you’re able to visit, either the countries, or this sideshow for Frieze – which my friend calls: ‘the art supermarket for the super-rich’, tickets to 1:54 are £15 or £10 for concessions. 2015 sees the third edition, where 33 exhibitors present over 150 artists, aside five curated projects. There are a number of events, talks and films between now and Sunday, when it closes at 18.00. The fair was founded by Touria El Glaoui, daughter of the Moroccan artist, Hassan El Glaoui. She worked in banking and international business development before becoming a member of the Executive Committee of The Friends of Leighton House and a trustee of the Marrakech Biennial. The first 1:54 Pop-Up was in May, at Pioneer Works, Brooklyn.
O M Geeeeeeeee – it’s happened.
Versus. Redchurch Street. Opposite the HQ of Sean McClusky (1234 Records).
The Versus party is tonight. I’m wearing an invisible cloak. Or maybe some Obscure Rebellion:
This year, fashion is regenerating Soho: the British Fashion Council have taken over the car park in Brewer Street. You can almost smell the patina of 90s raves, and Soho sex. Plus Diptyque, obvz…
Upstairs makes a natural catwalk with its gritty, pitched glass roof.
I made this 12 second film about the Fyodor Golan show:
The major thing in this video is what’s going on in the head of Laurie Long Legs.
AN ASIDE: Laury Long Legs (aka Smith) may now be stylist to the stars, living in LA – but once upon a time SHE MADE me hang about in a warehouse in South London in a bikini for X magazine, edited by the perfume writer, Tessa Williams and art directed by Mat Maitland (pictured next to me).
The first day of LFW had a distinctly Irish flavour – and co-incidentally we have the Irish actress Ash Sands staying – so she became my fash wife.
First stop: the amazing Ed Marler tudor tableaux in the new Kingly Court of Brewer Street – Smith’s Court, where Tatty Devine used to be.
I made another a slightly longer film of that:
Marler was recommended to me by photographer Louie Banks, whom I chaired the talk for at Shoreditch House a few weeks ago.
Ed Marler was way post-Derelicte. Really exciting and clever.
The ICA held a presentation by a selection of Irish designers – fave out of the selection: Laura Kinsella.
Stopped off at Gary’s Place – Arts Club East on the way home to get my membership card signed by the special calligrapher. Good to see more pals down there. x
Thank you to the marvels of Newstand – online delivery – the first edition of DJ Magazine, September 2015, in my new tenure as editor of films, books and arts – OFF THE FLOOR – has made it to my rural writing rehab – where I’m working on the next edition, reading Grace Jones and soooo much more. x
So delighted the new editor, Carl Loben, found the space for me 🙌. Feeling very proud today.
After writing the Red Gallery book on Shoreditch last year, I was delighted to be interviewed by Andrew Mark Corkery for this three-parter comparing Shoreditch with his hometown of Fishtown, in Philadelphia…
The last chapter is my favourite. And there’s also this lil film he put together with me n the artist/editor of Dark Times, Paul Sakoilsky.
A Fish Out of Water: Spirit Reporter Discovers Another Fishtown Across the Pond
BY ANDREW MARK CORKERY | JUNE 17, 2015
Art galleries, coffee shops and street art. Community gardens, street food festivals and First Fridays. Start-up tech companies, converted warehouses and creative spaces. You may think theses elements describe the vibrant community of Fishtown, but not in this case. What I’m actually describing is a community similar to our Riverward, only this one is more than 3,000 miles and an ocean away in London, United Kingdom.
In this “A Fish Out of Water” series, we’ll take a look at this far away neighborhood called Shoreditch, see what similarities we can find between it and Fishtown and maybe even learn a thing or two from that community’s developmental process.
But why compare these two communities? Are they really that similar?
According to Fishtown resident Nadia James, they are.
“I actually just came here visiting a friend and never really considered [living in] Philadelphia at all,” James said. “But I came to Fishtown because it specifically reminded me of where I used to live in London—an area called Shoreditch.”
James had lived in London for a couple of years, but a desire to start her own business led her back home to North Jersey where she launched her content marketing consultancy firm, Griot Digital. Not long after starting up, James found a new home in Fishtown because it possessed the same creative business environment she loved back in Shoreditch. Today James serves customers like Rutgers University, SemperCon and Practice Unite from her office space located at 2424 Studios.
Shoreditch and Fishtown share commonalities throughout their respective histories. Both communities have a long, storied past of being working class neighborhoods.
Charles Booth, in his 1902 book “Life and Labour of the People in London,” described Shoreditch by saying, “The character of the whole locality is working class.” The UK blog Book Snobs say Shoreditch’s “working class roots” remain an element of the community’s vibrant nature today.
Kenneth W. Milano, a local historian who has published six books on Fishtown and other surrounding neighborhoods, characterizes the Riverwards’ roots in similar terms.
“It’s always been a working-class community,” Milano said. “You have families from the 1730s that are still living here. I think it goes to show the character of the people of Fishtown and the attachment to their community. [It is] a 275 year-old working-class neighborhood.”
Conrad Benner, an artist and street photographer, grew up in Fishtown and his family still lives in the community. Benner remembers how his father installed fire alarms for a living and his mother worked at a bank. Together his parents bought their house in the neighborhood during 1970s. According to Benner, his family will never leave Fishtown; their attachment to the community has become a large part of who they are as people.
Live music in Fishtown and live music in Shoreditch.
Live music in Shoreditch and live music in Fishtown.
“When I was growing up I really loved it,” Benner said. “I mean, it was definitely rough around the edges, like most American cities at that time, but for the most part [the neighborhood’s residents] were great, loving people.”
Even with these proud working-class traditions and demographics, Fishtown and Shoreditch are also linked by their well-documented past of embracing artistic culture in the community.
It’s not widely known that the first theaters of London were built in Shoreditch. The first of these playhouses was simply and aptly called “The Theatre,” built in 1576. Shoreditch is also partly responsible for breathing inspiration into the man who many would come to regard as one of the greatest playwrights the world has ever known: William Shakespeare. He came to the area as an actor during the 1590s and lived in the community. He wrote a few characters into his plays based on people he had met while living there. Some of his earliest works were even performed regularly in Shoreditch, including Romeo and Juliet.
Milano believes that Fishtown has also nurtured artists and creative people getting their start throughout the neighborhood’s history. He cites influential artists from a more recent history like Frank Bender—who is considered one of the foremost forensic sculptors in American history—as one of the many creatives who have called Fishtown home.
It’s important to note that what’s considered an artistic profession has changed over time; the folks living in Fishtown a few hundred years ago would definitely be considered artists by today’s standards.
“You always had artisans,” said Milano. “You always had craftsmen, cobblers, furniture makers and so forth. But we didn’t bill ourselves as artisans; we were working people with a job. We have always had artists in Fishtown, but it wasn’t an art community. It wasn’t artsy in a sense that it was called artsy. We didn’t have galleries, we didn’t have a scene, but people were definitely artistic.”
The two communities’ storied artistic traditions have stood the test of generations, manifesting their creativity in a number of forms through the openings of boutiques, galleries, cafes and street art.
Philadelphia-based photographer and artist Jen Cleary, recently took a trip to Shoreditch and stressed how impactful the experience was for her own creativity.
“I was told that that’s where the art is, so I just spent a whole day in Shoreditch walking around and shooting as many photos as I could. I remember being like this is a candy store…holy shit,” said Cleary.
“It reminded me of Fishtown. Just so much of it was in one compact area. Like the part next to the Old Street train station in Shoreditch [where] it’s just non-stop street art. That reminds me of underneath the El between Girard and Berks Station.”
It wasn’t until recently, over the past few decades or so, that Fishtown and Shoreditch were openly considered by the public as landmark arts communities with creativity emanating throughout the broader culture of each area. This kind of change doesn’t happen overnight. According to New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC), more than anything else, it takes years of community development articulated with a vision put in place by people who genuinely care about the community they inhabit.
Row homes in Fishtown and row homes in Shoreditch.
Row homes in Shoreditch and row homes in Fishtown.
Sandy Salzman, a fourth generation Fishtowner, has been Executive Director of the NKCDC since 1998. She credits her community’s progression to its residents as well as partnerships with various city agencies and organizations like The Philadelphia Horticultural Society and Mural Arts.
“When I started [at NKCDC], Frankford Avenue was a mess,” Salzman said. “We decided that we were going to make it into an arts corridor. We didn’t have one gallery; there were no artists living on Frankford Avenue. We didn’t even have a coffee shop.”
In her office Salzman keeps a picture from 1998 of a trash-strewn lot at Montgomery and Frankford Avenues. The photo paints a clear memory in Salzman’s mind and vividly symbolizes the more than 1,100 vacant lots scattered throughout Fishtown during the the 1990s. Close by is another image of that same lot, but in 2004. It shows a starkly contrasting view of an upstanding and well-tended pocket park with several trees that continue to grow there.
Shoreditch’s similar transformation was put into words by Wong Joon Ian, an East London based journalist, at the start of his article “Gentrification Without Displacement in Shoreditch,” published in the Center for Urban and Community Research’s blog.
“First came the Young British Artists, then it was Banksy and his cohorts,” Ian said. “Now, it’s the million-dollar startups of Silicon Roundabout. Shoreditch and its brick-walled Victorian warehouses have been branded a cultural quarter since the Young British Artists moved into the hollowed out, lightly industrial area on the City’s edge in the early 90s.”
Kirsty Allison was one of those Young British Artists and is now a professor, filmmaker and writer, with articles appearing in publications like The Guardian and a recent book entitled “Making Something Out of Nothing: Red Gallery Shoreditch.”
Allison believes the Young British Artists undoubtedly took ownership of the community and laid the groundwork for transforming Shoreditch into what it is today.
“[Shoreditch] used to be a lot more black and white, but now it’s very, very colorful,” Allison said. “It’s a very fluid area, which means it contextualizes to whatever is around it, and whatever is incoming into the community. It adapts naturally.”
As the neighborhood adapts, so do its businesses, with new tech startup companies like Soundcloud bringing more creative energy to an area well known for its entrepreneurial spirit.
“There are so many tech companies now, which are really part of creative industries. They are the kind of business side of creativity,” Allison said.
In 2013 the Silicon Roundabout of Shoreditch brought 15,720 new tech/creative startup companies into the community, making it the most popular and sought-after startup destination in all of the UK.
While the number of tech startups in Fishtown isn’t quite as staggering, there has been an influx of companies coming to the area, partly because the neighborhood falls under Philadelphia’s Keystone Innovation Zones—geographic zones where young tech and life science companies can apply for up to $100,000 of saleable tax credits. Tech companies in Fishtown include Boxter, Bluecadet, Pixel Parlor, and 3D Printing Dog, among other new and creative businesses popping up at places like 2424 Studios.
According to Fishtown resident Nadia James, another element that makes the local tech startup scene so incredible is the sense of camaraderie and passion she experienced first-hand during Philly Tech Week.
“I came to [Philly Tech Week] and everyone was really open and supportive when I was telling them I was starting my consultancy company, so I just knew this would be a great place to start my business,” James said.
“What I also really liked about Philly, particularly in Fishtown, is that you get a small community feel even though you are in a big city, and that’s probably the biggest thing I loved about London,” said James.
After moving back from London, James wanted to find someplace similar to the area of Shoreditch. Being a North Jersey native, New York City seemed like the obvious choice. But The Big Apple just felt like too big of a place and lacked a sense of community.
“I mean, you can live in a borough but it does not necessarily mean you get to know the people around you and feel like you know you are a part of something,” James said. “I felt like that in Shoreditch—a neighborhood where I could meet people. When I moved to Fishtown I felt the exact same way.”
This sense of community is fostered in several ways: First Fridays are staples of the monthly calendar in both Shoreditch and Fishtown, and an important component of how the arts stay in focus and at the forefront of the community. According to James, both areas’ First Fridays are nearly identical in layout, setup and overall community vibe:
“Free wine and beer, you just walk around the same little streets. It’s very close together and you talk to people.”
As James continues living in Fishtown, she wants to play a role in adding more elements to the already dynamic nature of her community, especially relating to London’s work culture. James was an account manager for Linkedin, a slightly stressful position at times, but she notes that on random sunny days (which can be rare in London) her manager would tell everyone busy at work to leave the office.
“Everything that I experienced there I want to have for the people that work for me here,” said James.
Workplace etiquette and random lunches aside, James’ attraction to living in Shoreditch came from its blending the conventional with the alternative. She sees the same synergy in Fishtown through the colorful variety of people who call the neighborhood home.
“I don’t really fit into either box personally but I enjoy different aspects of both. So I may be going to a pub that’s full of yuppies [or] I may also like to go to a dive bar that’s maybe full of hipsters. I felt like I could get all of that in Shoreditch and I feel the same way about Fishtown.”
Back in London, writer Kirsty Allison believes that this mix of culture and creativity plays a large role in what makes communities like Shoreditch and Fishtown so inviting and unique.
“It’s about maintaining a spirit of creative community and freedom within a space that should be available for everyone. It’s about cultural equality as much as anything,” said Allison. “There is an important part of cultural progression that needs freedom to articulate itself, and needs space where you can be free to express yourself beyond existing paradigms.”
Allison stresses the life-changing effect that communities like Shoreditch and Fishtown have on the folks who are a part of them. When speaking about Shoreditch directly, Allison stated: “It’s created me.”
“I would not have written my book—it’s a product of a friendship through the community. It’s also inspired my fiction work. My whole novel is set in 1990s Shoreditch,” said Allison. “I would not be who I am without having had the experience and freedom that I have had here. It’s given me my identity really.”
Conrad Benner, photographer and lifelong Fishtowner, echoes the same sentiment about his own home and how it has effected his own personal and artistic growth.
“I would definitely not be the person that I am today if it were not for growing up in Fishtown.” said Benner. “It’s not just the sense of the community and the support that community inspired, which has shown itself throughout the years. It’s also about what it taught me about the world. I saw the world first through the eyes of Fishtown.”
Want to learn more about Shoreditch and the ways it compares to our home in the Riverwards? Check out Spiritnews.org in the coming weeks for more in this “Fish Out of Water” series.
A Fish Out of Water Part Two: Class and Sustainability
BY ANDREW MARK CORKERY | JULY 2, 2015
“A Fish Out of Water” is our ongoing series describing the similarities between Fishtown and a community in London called Shoreditch. The series will explain how these communities have adapted over time to the challenges they face. Part One described similarities of both communities through the lenses of their creative environments, illustrious histories, working-class traditions and deep impressions left on those who have lived there.
These hip and developing communities, heralded as they are, often bear the brunt of divisive generational and class divides. In particular, the alienating divide of cultural stereotypes provoke deep-seated misunderstandings, frustrations, and occasionally points of anger in those who inhabit these neighborhoods.
This section of “Fish Out of Water” focuses on exposing what might cause these tensions in the community and how best to cultivate understanding through a culture and policy perspective. Beneath the tension and misunderstanding there are new, albeit tentative, perspectives circulating. And in it, the power to make these communities sustainable for the long term by harnessing the same creativity and diversity that made them so dynamic.
When speaking on diversity and its role in the community, Nadia James had this to say about Fishtown:
“You can have racially diverse communities but very rarely…is it also diverse in class. What I love about Fishtown, at least in this moment, is that you do still have that class diversity. I think it has a lot to do with the history of Fishtown and that a lot of people have been here for multiple generations,” James, a former Shoreditch and current Fishtown resident, said. “You have a working class and a young professional class and they are all coming together.”
Her claim is backed by statistics. Census data shows a noticeably wider spectrum of median household income, ethnicity, length of housing tenure and education level in Fishtown than in nearby neighborhoods like Mayfair.
Conrad Benner is an artist and photographer who grew up in Fishtown and still lives in the community today. Benner agrees that this blending of cultures and classes has had a unique role in shaping the community but feels as though he has experienced the community through a different lense than James. Benner believes that the cultural makeup of Fishtown is not something that can be garnered from the narrow context of these census tracts or the framework that broader society uses to define class.
“[There’s] this whole idea that working class families are different than the people moving in because [the newcomers] are creative. I would almost argue that the people moving in are in fact the new generation of working class,” Benner said. “This is the economy of the 21st century. I work in digital marketing and these are the jobs that are available to us. Everyone is working class.”
Kirsty Allison, an English writer, professor and filmmaker, echoes similar sentiments from across the pond:
“I wouldn’t use class to determine people. I just think that the class categories have become outmoded and they are no longer relevant.” said Allison. “The creative people that are actually doing innovative work rarely have that much money.”
As we reported in Part One, Shoreditch boasts a large population of creative people working in an array of tech, art and creative industries.
According to statistics from accountants at UHY Hacker Young reported in London’s Financial Times, 15,620 new businesses were set up in and around Shoreditch between 2013 and 2014. In addition, 305,000 sq. ft. of office space was rented to startups, about double the amount in 2012. With this new, booming industry Shoreditch has been dubbed by many as the primary hotspot of digital creative industries in all of the UK.
Regardless of Shoreditch and Fishtown’s ongoing development of industry and the class discussion that surrounds it, both communities have a distinct collaborative nature where everyone seems to help one another.
As James puts it, “People are trying to build one another up.”
As people build each other up in a personal and professional sense, the ways in which each community has been structurally built up differ. The types of buildings and construction projects happening in each area and how those spaces function within the community highlight some of the major differences between Shoreditch and Fishtown.
Fishtown has always been a largely residential area with rowhomes and condos making up a large amount of landscape, still remaining that way even following the continuing influx of people to the community. As more people have moved into the neighborhood, so has development of additional low-rise residential spaces to accommodate the growing population.
In Shoreditch it’s a much different tale. Before The Young British artists moved there in the 1990s there was actually not a lot of residential space in Shoreditch. Because of that, the area and its property values are currently booming and developers are flocking in to build more.
“There is a supply issue and there is also a rent issue because of the way that housing is done in London and in the UK. There is not enough social housing in general and the total amount of housing is also going up and as a result you have a crisis from the supply side,” Wong Joon Ian, an East London-based journalist, said. “Add to this a spike in global demand because global investors view London property as a desirable and safe asset”.
It’s not just that people are being displaced and forced out of their houses only because the rent is rising. Ian says it also has to do with the fact that a large amount of new residential space is being built to accommodate the influx of high-income people moving into the area, most of which is high priced real estate.
“You have declining supply and increasing demand from outside. So the people who do get squeezed are the people who don’t have the capital to compete with the demand and don’t have the capital to find new supply,” said Ian. “But you have to ask yourself who is that new supply for, who can afford that new supply?”
Some would say the biggest and most controversial “new supply” of housing and real estate on the horizon in Shoreditch is the Goodsyard, an £800 million ($1,254,240,000) mixed-use scheme by joint developers Ballymore and Hammerson. As reported in the Financial Times of London, if the project obtains planning permission more than 1,450 new homes and 600,000 sq ft of office space are set to be built.
“There’s a lot of money in Shoreditch at the moment,” said Matt Cobb of Hatton Real Estate in the FT. “That can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing, because whatever you decide to build you have to make sure you won’t be destroying what made the area desirable in the first place.”
Ian stresses some alternative ideas about the gentrification of Shoreditch in his article, Gentrification Without Displacement in Shoreditch written for the Center For Urban and Community Research Blog.
“Unlike the narrative of commercial or industrial gentrification, in this case, the displaced property owners welcomed the move out of the area. Again, this upsets the narrative of wealthier incoming gentrifiers displacing existing residents,” said Ian. “In the case of Shoreditch there were no existing residents to displace”.
In Fishtown, Conrad Benner believes the traditional narrative of gentrification in his own community may not fully apply either. Benner critiques the framing of gentrification put forth by outlets that influence public perception and offers his own counter argument.
“The media sort of projects this idea that when gentrification happens it’s this clash between cultures, but that’s just not what I have experienced,” said Benner. “On a human-to-human scale and as someone who grew up in the neighborhood, I am very excited to see the way that [Fishtown is] changing in positive ways. Business are opening up, Girard Avenue is getting redone, the highway (I-95) is getting redone, more and more transportation options are becoming available and all of these things are happening because there is a renewed energy in the neighborhood.”
While Nadia James hasn’t been in the area as long as Benner has, she was in Shoreditch during that neighborhood’s development and feels that Fishtown is starting to reach a similarly uncomfortable level.
“I think that there is actually way too much property being developed in Fishtown right now. Every block I go down I see a new building coming up. The good thing about Fishtown, though, as opposed to Shoreditch, is that at least there are the building limitations,” said James.
There are two 42-story skyscrapers planned for development in Shoreditch that have been set on a timeframe to be completed by the late 2020s, as reported by The Independent. This would never be the case in Fishtown though, thanks to specific zoning classifications in the area that would not permit the construction of the skyscrapers currently set to be built in Shoreditch. The only designated zoning code in Fishtown that would permit something close to the 42-story Skyscraper in Shoreditch would be designation SP-ENT.
There are also additional checks and balances on the development of larger buildings in particular areas, including Fishtown. One of these checks that involves the community most is Civic Design Review, a process that occurs when a plan requires both an appeal and a design review. Then there are public meetings and hearings which occur before a Zoning Board, and when City Council considers amending the zoning code they do so with input from the public. Through these processes, the public has some power to influence the development of their own community.
“I think here in Fishtown people want it to be more balanced though so it doesn’t turn into the next Brooklyn, or I mean even just thinking of other Philadelphia communities. There is a reason why people are paying to live here and not Rittenhouse Square,” said James.
In Shoreditch, a number of people in the community sympathize with this same view but within the context of their own community. The Shoreditch Community Association sees the area’s continued development as something that needs to be guarded, regulated and watched closely for foul play.
“There isn’t enough balance on the development. The Council (local government) wants to see only commercial space, the estate agents and developers only want to see residential units—for overseas investors to pay over the odds for but never live in. And the historic locals are trying to protect the historic balance of the area,” said Rachel Munro-Peebles, a leading member of the Shoreditch Community Association. “Everyone, big businesses, companies, and people wants a slice of Shoreditch but it’s only the people who live and work here who understand it and want to protect it.”
Kirsty Allison was part of the movement that lead to Shoreditch becoming cool, and understands the importance of keeping a watchful eye on development. But she also notes that there is an invariable part of community regeneration that we must all come to accept on a fundamental level in order to have progress.
“Change is change, and that’s the thing about it,” said Allison. “That’s the issue with rent control and where artists fit into a community, and whether society values it enough. A lot of people would say that rent control is necessitous to retain a community. There are still a lot of artists and creatives living around here but I don’t know who could get a warehouse now, they would move further out,” said Allison.
With that said the cost of a one bedroom flat in Shoreditch varies anywhere from £335,000 ($513,488.00) to £725,000 ($1,111,280). Additionally the sizes of these flats are regularly priced at £1351.35 ($2071.35) per square foot.
Whatever the multiplicity of factors behind the fundamental changes in communities, it’s imperative that everyone be looking at the issues we all face today through a sense of broader contextual vision.
“Look at how we arrived here. What are the factors driving it? These are global trends and recognizing that, these may not be issues a local council can solve on their own. Maybe there needs to be some redistribution of legislative power or something,” said Wong Joon Ian.
As real-estate prices are skyrocketing in Shoreditch, the market in Philly remains sustainable by comparison. Robert Beamer lives in a repurposed residential warehouse in Fishtown. He sees Philadelphia and Fishtown as a much more economically sustainable environment to live than most other high-priced cities in the U.S., and others internationally. In fact, it was Philly’s affordability that brought him here in the first place.
“Most cities are intensely crowded and expensive,” Beamer said. “But here I can go to a show and see a world-renowned artist, then I can also go to an amazing dinner and not pay an arm and a leg for it and the dinner is going to be really amazing.”
James concurs with Beamer and sees our community as an area that may really remain less affected by these global trends noted by Ian in Shoreditch, in relation to affordability and sustainability. She sees Fishtown as somewhat immune to the high, unaffordable nature of city life that some believe is currently affecting Shoreditch. She notes that Fishtown is not next to such a massive financial hub like London, which in her understanding makes it easy to develop since financiers and developers are only a 10 minute train ride away.
“Somewhere like New York or London, they are international cities and Philly is more of a regional city. So I think that plays a massive role in the development of each city because you have all these foreign investors in these other two cities. And yeah they have the money to throw at Brooklyn or Shoreditch and make it what it is becoming. As where in Philadelphia we don’t have the same kind of people, ” said James. “There are very few large enterprises here in Fishtown and for this area thats a good thing. Because when you’re small you can’t bully and say this is what we are doing.”
But regardless of Fishtown’s fundamental and developmental differences to Shoreditch and other large cities globally, by the numbers Fishtown is actually becoming more unaffordable. From the 2003 to 2013 Fishtown saw a staggering 270% increase in home property value.
Local historian Kenneth W. Milano has seen this first hand.
“What does a working person make, $50,000, $40,000? The point is that a working person cannot afford a house in Fishtown, can’t really even afford a house in Kensington,” said Milano. “So you would need 20 percent down to buy a house, 10 percent in a better economy, and then pay $1,000 a month for every $100,000 you borrowed. Well $1,000 a month is a lot of money. So I mean thats still only a $120,000 house, that’s a little row house in Fishtown, not even Fishtown…Kensington.”
Here lies the issue at heart—gentrification and displacement in both Fishtown and Shoreditch.
Some believe these factors could risk pushing members of each community apart from one another if not handled and understood through the proper framework.
James feels, having lived in Shoreditch and now living in Fishtown, that both communities confront the issues of gentrification and displacement on a daily basis and that they have varying degrees of societal impact.
“It comes down to the economics of things. So if the rent is too high then people and business can’t stay here. And it’s the smaller businesses that make it what it is,” said James. “If you have people who are really only interested in themselves and what they do, then those are the same people who don’t mind there being monopolies. But one thing I’ll say about Philly and Fishtown is that everyone is really collaborative and I think that is because the economy has been small”.
With regards to people being displaced in Fishtown, Benner feels it’s an issue that warrants a certain level attention given the climate of gentrification that the community is experiencing. But at the same time he sees his own experience first hand as an anecdote that counters full fledged displacement.
“It’s a question and issue that really needs a study but I can say anecdotally it has not pushed my parents out and it has not pushed me out. And definitely the block I grew up on the vast majority of people I grew up with on that block still live there,” said Benner. “Again, I think that Fishtown has had so much space to grow that there’s room for more people.”
In spite of the fact that Benner feels strongly that there are alternative experiences and viewpoints revolving around society’s limited contextual understanding of what constitutes displacement in Fishtown, he notes though that the increases in the cost of living more generally are, without question, cause for concern.
“An apartment that I would look at three years ago would have been at least $300 to $400 cheaper then it is today. And I do really worry that may really not need to be the case,” said Benner.
Crossing the pond once again back in Shoreditch, Allison believes wholeheartedly that regardless of the community under no circumstances should that kind of systemic and systematic injustice “be the case” as Benner puts it.
“It does not matter who they are no one should be living in a squallored environment if there are people living next door living a good lifestyle. Everyone in an environment should look after each other it does not matter where you are,” said Allison.
“The issue is though whether or not there is a divide being created in the community between the people who have every right to live here and who have their community here and the people who are being sold the lifestyle here for a million pound for a flat. It’s gone to a different level of greed…That is what will destroy it too is mass greed.”
A Fish Out of Water: Spirit Reporter Discovers Another Fishtown Across the Pond (Part 3)
BY ANDREW MARK CORKERY | JULY 20, 2015
SOLUTIONS, DISSENTING VOICES AND CULTURAL OWNERSHIP
Despite the varying levels of affordability and overall differences in the sustainable economic climate of both Fishtown and Shoreditch noted in last weeks (Fish Out of Water Part 2), many whom we spoke with believe these communities are prime examples of how people work together to create the essence of a neighborhood. In addition people noted that communities like these are needed on a fundamental level because of the way they are able to help guide society at large.
The way these communities often look to guide our society is through their dissent.
President Deight D. Eisenhower once described “dissent” as inherent within American culture.
“Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels – men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion,” said Eisenhower.
Despite Ike’s heartfelt patriotic characterization of “descent” the phrase “dissenting voices” however is one that over the years is sometimes confused, not fully understood, and in conversations about communities is often not invoked for fear of upsetting the status quo.
Through this series of stories though it’s clear that time and time again when offered the status quo Fishtown and Shoreditch often opted to reinvent themselves, staying vibrate and taking on an entirely different approach to community.
However the most basic components of the phrase dissenting voices remain murky at best. When pressed for a definition one will find some variation in meaning that includes straying from the beaten path of authority and utilizing speech in some form to do so.
Spirit Journalist Andrew Corkery and Professor Kirsty Allison
Regardless of how general the definition it still paints a focused clear picture of what the communities of Fishtown and Shoreditch offer to the rest of the world, a vigilant dissenting voice on issues and culture within the larger spectrum of modern global society.
One facet making up the dissention within both Fishtown and Shoreditch is how the communities, to a certain extent, exist within an alternative economic landscape.
Nadia James, a former Shoreditch resident and current Fishtown resident, believes that the fashion and art sectors of these neighborhoods contribute to their environment of independent sustainability.
“It’s not going to be a Forever 21 that has a small up-and-coming artist have a pop up shop in the community, it’s going to be another independent boutique owner,” said James. “So you need those small small local businesses there to sustain each other.”
Across the pond in the UK , professor, writer, and filmmaker Kirsty Allison also sees those same sustainable independent economic models as prevalent elements of their developing community culture in Shoreditch.
Allison’s recent article published in The Guardian entitled “The Cultural Revolution Starts Here” discuss particulars of how many in the Shoreditch see themselves as a part of a more all encompassing economic, political and social movement, dissenting against status quo power structures.
“East London was the first zone to co-opt creative people into its ‘regeneration’ program[me]. The current phase witnesses remaining native communities and cultural migrants rebelling against economic apartheid, creating an urban laboratory of flexible arts spaces for symposiums, screenings, street-food festivals – anything really … IF YOU’VE GOT NOTHING, THERE’S NOTHING TO LOSE is painted high by artist-in-residence, Chris Bianchi of Le Gun,” wrote Allison in The Guardian.
Back in Philadelphia, resident Jen Cleary believes art is what drives the multifaceted discussion fueled by these dissenting voices. She feels it furthers those conversations outside the community as well, and into a dialogue within broader society.
Cleary is a photographer and spends a lot of time in Fishtown and other areas of the city photographing street art. Earlier this year she also took a trip to Shoreditch to experience the street art like the piece mentioned by Allison above, among many others.
She focuses on street art’s unique ability to embody dissenting voices through a medium of social and political commentary that seeks to derive the impetus for societies structural change and progression.
“It comes from a place of rebellion, its the art of rebellion really, and being able to say something through a visual medium,” Cleary said.
Cleary notes that important issues throughout history were brought to the forefront of society’s collective consciousness through foundations laid by street art in years past, which continue to influence other street arts projects today.
“In the 80s [prominent gay-rights activist and artist] Keith Haring had a lot of things to say about how gay men were treated during the HIV Crisis in New York. It was huge,” said Cleary. “And now were talking about people in Shoreditch and how they really don’t think the Tory Party [UK’s conservative political party] treats them well.”
Creativity particularly in the form of street art in Cleary’s view invites people from all walks of life in a simple emotionally powerful manner, to question the world around them and look for solutions within themselves to help solve society’s complex problems. She also sees how similar forms of street art to those mentioned during the 80’s HIV Crisis are represented through different forms of creativity in Fishtown, depicting today’s pressing social issues.
“At one point there were these little cat calls that were on the ground, and you would find them at every bus stop,” Cleary said. “As a woman that kinda shit can happen to you a lot. They were just little pieces of art spray painted on the ground with a stencil that would give you little things that you could say back to Catcallers. It was good to see, it lets you know that you are not alone and it wasn’t just you. And it opened up the dialogue.”
“The funny thing is that it became a city-wide action to place anti-catcalling signs on all SEPTA transit. So its always a political statement, which we need we always need. Every society needs a dissenting voice.”
Street art may be providing a dissenting voice in these hip communities. According to Conrad Benner, a local photographer, these voices are even more dignified in areas like Fishtown because the artists live within the community and respect it. While some may interpret street art as vandalism, the artists who create it do so in a way that is beautifying and thought provoking.
“I think one of the greatest things about artists that live in Philadelphia is that by and large they pay respect to people’s private property and to businesses,” said Benner. “So when they put up a wheat paste and a sticker or some stencils, generally speaking, it’s on abandoned spaces which are sort of abundant in Fishtown. So it’s exciting to watch.”
Robert Beamer lives in a formally abandoned warehouse in Fishtown that has since been converted into creative living space. Beamer agrees with both Cleary and Benner in that the development of dissenting voices along with creativity’s place in that process is not only exciting to watch, but even more inspiring to be a part of.
“Living in a building where every other apartment is filled with other artists, the ability to bounce your ideas off people, to throw a flyer on the wall and know that people are going to see it, it lends itself to creativity.”
In the eyes of those living there, places like Fishtown and Shoreditch are communities that celebrate their residents and the lives they lead. In addition they often function as an olive branch extending the impetus for societal progression in one form or another to those the world over.
Still many questions face these communities today. How do we keep these communities functioning in a manner that benefits all who are apart of them, along with continuing their substantive and positive impact on global society, rather than benefiting just a few?
How can we ensure that vibrant and necessary communities like these will stay at arm’s length from people only looking to take advantage of their message by commodifying the “merchants of cool” surrounding the fabric of the community?
How can we know that 20 years or more from now places like Fishtown and Shoreditch will still remain viable and sustainable for all people?
Having lived in Shoreditch and now calling Fishtown home, James feels she knows part of the answer.
“I think you need a balance. I think Fishtown does that really well. For example you can have the bigger establishments but then you can have a small, little Indian restaurant like Ekta,” said James. “Most of the companies I have seen, they all came up because other people helped them. They understand the value of helping other people, playing it forward, and giving back.”
In Shoreditch Allison agrees with the principle of balance in theory, but offers advice seeing changes play out in her community within a somewhat uneven landscape filled with a seemlinging endless amount of individual interpretations.
“Everyone has their own narrative about what has happened. I don’t know if I am into mass sweeping generalizations about do’s and dont’s for anyone but this idea of ownership is where all the problems start. But what is ownership? Is it a financial investment, or is it creative ownership? So that goes back to the idea of the social and cultural economy. How do you measure those though?” said Allison.
Allison sees cultural ownership as an element that factors heavily into the complicated equation of keeping communities sustainable, but still senses an innumerable amount of questions about how to quantify the concept.
“Do you do it by the amount of time you invest into something, do you go Malcolm Gladwell and say it has to be 20,000 hours you put into Shoreditch to make yourself part of Shoreditch? How does that work?” said Allison. “I think that people still need a space to be a part of the community, and to have a space that is a long term investment. That would be a really radical thing to do.”
Beamer in Fishtown believes what Allison advocates for should not necessarily be such a radical decision, but unfortunately in our modern global society it is. That being said, Beamer recognizes that sustainability is in fact the most sensible choice to make.
“You need to stick around the neighborhood that you helped create, and we should learn from those mistakes and missed opportunities of other cities,” said Beamer. “There has to be some sort of a fusion between making a lot of money from these spaces and keeping them around.”
The artist formerly known at K-ROCKA went digital, 29.04.15 at the London launch party for the incredible How The Light Gets In PhilosOPhy festival, which runs aside Hay Literary Festival, 21-31 May. This feat of tech-transgression from DJing with vinyl was guided by one badass rockchick, Kristy Harper at the Mondrian’s Rumpus Rooms overlooking the city of London. Thank you, Kristy, may light shine on your path.
I put together a mix on Garageband for the event, live-ramping some of it up, and used a laptop and phone on two channels with a mixer (demonstrating extreme heights of DJ skillz – ha) – everything from the Dracula-inspired Kelli Ali x Ozymandias to an assortment of Feral is Kinky, Major Lazer (of course) and haaaawt new demos from Gil De Ray & Ösp Eldjárn. Also paid tribute to the recently departed, Alan Wass.
I love the Mondrian Hotel – Tom Dixon bronzes everywhere. Situated in Sea Containers House, this area has a special place in my heart, as it’s where I first got a gig as a journalist in my teens – IPC Tower is now being converted into luxury flats.
The walk along the Southbank always makes me feel like the whole of my life is ahead, at 21 or 22 I had an office in a newspaper office with a Thames view. One of the many things I’ve lost. Looking out to the dark river, I always feel a tinge of LIVE NOW – as it’s where my schoolfriend Mandy Wright’s father was taken by the Thames whilst in a boat with a secret lover. Mandy, sadly, fell after, from a window, tragically, 20 years ago. RIP.
BUT BEYOND DEATH – I take every opportunity to live a distinguished life – so had the pleasure of joining the Schrager legend on the Southbank for my birthday (back in Pisces season) at the Mondrian Hotel. (Ian Schrager co-founded the only disco of the 70s, Studio 54, before moving into the hotel business.)
THIS PLACE – Agua Bathhouse + Spa – is less of a hang out, more of an urban treatment rehab. Likely faster than 28 days and promises to die for. Feet up, newspapers, placed under crisp, hotel-starched duvet. HEAVEN. Best massage I’ve had in London, thank you Motoko. Think it’s called the Guru treatment, personalised mix of essential oils after a consultation. AND I AM ALL ABOUT ESSENTIAL OILS.
It’s a copper funnel funhouse – Clockwork Orange, sci-fi modernism in the basement – and they brought me cake – I AM A ROLLOVER. That’s Mr Kirsty reading the FT. He also had a Guru, to whom he shall return. High praise.
Birthday shenanigans continued at Foyles’s bookshop for the launch for a McQueen book published by Olly Walker (I interviewed him on Resonance FM about his previous stencil art book). And onwards via a classic pub on Tin Pan Alley (AKA Denmark Street), and further into the Thursday night with the cabaret of darlings at Hoi Polloi.
Also had a lil get together at Vout O Reenee’s – the members’ club run by Sophie Parkin, who wrote the book on the Colony Rooms, which I had long coveted, and was kindly gifted, alongside membership. Vive Sophie, and all like her. And the wonderful friends able to join us…
Fashion is a kingdom – and when the king, Alexander McQueen took his own head, fashion died. And of course fashion comes back, every season, every day, with relentless collections and handbags and perfume but never will the freedom of 90s Shoreditch be experienced again – and such a unique brand birthed.
The V&A exhibition, which adds 66 pieces to the show from the Met, is an emotional ride from humble, radical beginnings to carrying troupes into the war of international fashion.
I only met the designer once, backstage at a Primal Scream gig with Alister Mackie, the stylist, whom I was helping out last night via Olivier Van De Velde (the archivist and stylist), dressing 101 models in black kilts. Yes – tis a tuff life. But Alexander introduced himself as such that one time, I’d always heard him called Lee, and was as nervous as he may have been, in a golden compound. Although he undoubtedly deserved to be there, he’d probably commuted in from Paris, where he was working as head of Givenchy, before his own line joined with the Gucci empire.
And this exhibition is the story of destruction. Between fabrics and creatures of haunted nights. As with every McQueen show – it is all encompassing, and purposefully overwhelming in its beauty. One of the curators, Louise Rytter kindly guided us around – she’s been working non-stop for 11 months, closely with Katy England, McQueen’s muse, and the wife of singer, Bobby Gillespie. Her influence is everywhere – she’s an artist of the highest calibre and this tribute to McQueen’s talents does him great justice. It is only too sad that he could not run with us around darkened galleries surrounding this new London wing at the cocktail party last night.
After the warehouse-y room of graduate pieces and key tailoring, a breathtaking golden hall of antiqued mirrors bears funereal feathers and Mohican masks by Helen Woolfenden (pictured with Olivier, below). Through hallowed regalness we tread, tartan and red and white. The death waltz continues into a catacomb with the hair-wig coat, and sublime claustrophobia opens into a magical wardrobe, or shoppe, of curiosity. Like a hall of mirrors, video and sound continue to escort this experience – benches – where so many weep at the tragic beauty of lost talent – but he did everything. Every boundary pushed, from razor and mussel armoury to defences of animal horns – no one can save another who cannot be saved. This is an art show.
The collaborations here on video with Nick Knight, couple with perfect set design. Music from Bjork plays with many others…
And after the madhouse video, my favourite of the immersions, comes the ‘holograph’ and light: flowers, and net and Plato’s Atlantis. And then into the gift shop with Fashionaries (a designer’s dictionary with patterns and a sketch pad) and scarves, and books: Nick Waplington’s is there – carrying photos of the working process of the design team: some of which are carried at his current show at the Tate, making Waplington the first living photographer to have a solo show there.
I missed the gift bags with the catalogue, and will have to flick through Vogue to see the event with a flashbulb but it was great to see so many talented friends. There was much collection-spotting, who in what from seasonal themes which read like lines of poetry or album titles. Clues which were not always read as they are retrospectively.
This exhibition is the most marvellous of any sort I have ever seen. It is art. The epitaph of which may read: make fashion. Always.
I’d encouraged him.
Showed interest. When he asked me to listen to a song.
I dropped him. He’d been too active and I follow who I follow. I guess I should follow everyone? Jesus would – or more likely no-one…what does Kanye do?
Tonight he came back, said “your a venomous hack.” – please provide sources/citations for these supposed exertions, and check your grammar.
He said: “your stupid” – with kisses.
I must have hurt him. He thinks I am someone who could have helped him. Twitter is not utopia. It is a simulacrum of the wars upon our world.
He called me an opportunist. Yes. Or I’d be dead. Raised by Thatcher, reared in the selfish 90s. The thinker. The speaker. But “fake” – what? I don’t speak my mind, on social media, why of course…
I thought media would allow the truth. but I was forced to find art a faster medium for such nuance. live n let breathe, n no judgement, n peace.
If I’d been a man, and said, “Yeah, nice music,” – it wouldn’t have led to:
the abuse I just got. the hate.
I am sensitive. He too. He’s blocked me now. And I too him.
Is there a power which we are supposed to wield? A grace, a torch to lead with from all we yield?
Give me a hammer and give me a gun – I’ll build a place to defend myself from.
The offence and the lies. The fear of spies.
Or give me a pen and give me some ink. I don’t want to add a hyperlink.
But here we are. in the future, far. we reap what we sow, and I’m trying to grow
An understanding of social, behaviours, observed. Gotta lead, speak truth. To shock, to defy, to challenge, to flower. To go to seed. Or blossom forever. But defending ourselves from free will- the choice to Unfollow? The choice to engage. To be social. Manners and openness. Tracking. Recorded forever. Archived and stored to define who we may be. Are we only digits and bites, with no fight? The weight of Proper Distance (Silverstone/LSE) – is that another Foucaultian prison. Transparency- a failed dream, when profit is motive and kills equality.
But our freedom is dying, or is it multiplying? Maybe I am as dim as he said. People don’t always get what I said. The fear of the new. The fear of the brave. The screen between cyberspace and ‘real’ life.
140-character debates – the depth of this joke.
I’m taking so many of my thoughts to my grave, and they should have been said, they should have been shared.
I once got sent a cock on Instagram. Instacock. Snapchat wankface. Shitter. I blog.
💙💻💻💻💙🔫Kirsty Allison 2015
(Main image: Inga Tillere.)
I half beer
And then she stopped counting
A spunk-strewn British flag lies over a black, metal trunk in the alcove of the gay bar on Prague’s outskirts. It is daytime, late December 1992. The action has left the building, leaving a smell of beer, good-times and a plastic policeman’s hat, which is scraped up from the floor by an English-speaking manager who took pity on the three of us – female students, who somehow found ourselves without somewhere to stay after a two day bus ride from London. Directing us to a grand flat, dripping with gold and literature up near the famous clock tower. We’d made it.
I’d been to Prague before. In 1990 I’d carried memorabilia from Amsterdam to Charles Bridge where me and a Dutch-Indonesian guy whom I became biro pals with (who later had plays on Dutch radio which were banned, I never asked why) worshipped at the Lennon Wall – my fave monument in the world ever, which on that first visit was just a candle, burning for world peace and love, with a photo of the dead Beatle. Flowers hung around it like a Hindi temple and a few of us left messages, in biros on the walls. (I was travelling with my parents, from Amsterdam, with my own tent, them giving me freedom to explore. It was a pretty cool trip.) By this return in 1992, the sacred shrine of Lennon’s Wall (who I often spelt like Lenin) prayed on anything alternative: The Doors, The Velvet Underground, but “I heart Guns n Roses” in massive graffiti writing – that didn’t make sense. To me, at that time, Guns n Roses stood for nothing – the west was impacting.
By 1997, of course my appreciation of songs such as Mr Brownstone grew. And it was around then, reporting for Scene with the British shock artists, that I checked in on my rock n roll mecca once more. The acid-house generation were still in naive belief that Blair would never go to war and unity would guide us into the next millennium. The popular belief he manifested (until he lost us) by getting Oasis over to Number 10 for all that champagne supernova malarky. Yet we were desperate for a government to believe in after Thatcher’s rave dissolution, taking our parties into superclubs she could tax, and monitor. In came artists we could believe in: their values of privileged liberty were explored in video, installation and on walls: porn, freedom to fuck, vegetarianism etc, and after a rather loud night on the absinth, fellow hotel residents pushed a note beneath Tracey Emin’s door saying they were “ashamed to be British”, (the note Mat Collishaw made into a T-shirt). It was punk and Cool Brittannia. Although, I found more light at the Lennon Wall, standing as a glocal foreshadow of mobile phones bringing everything closer, the iron curtain peeled back bad hip-hop graffiti, stretching far along the river. The west wanted more west, as my friends had wanted more city, back in the New Year of ’93. Taking an overnight sleeper to Keleti, Budapest’s main station. For £20. It was serious adventure. Communism fell in ’89, as it had in Czechoslovakia, but unlike Prague, we were the only tourists in Hungary. Or maybe there were a few other bravehearts, but they’ve vanished from my memory in these blurs of youth. A woman pounced us as we arrived, offering us a place to stay. Trustingly, we travelled an hour out of Budapest (!) to a pine forest village covered in snow. We fed village dogs our old salami, only to have village children pull it from the dogs’ mouths. The alpine houses were all made with local wood. It was modern and excellent for young explorers. Every little shop in the village (of which there were two, basically sheds with no signs, built onto living rooms) offered us vodka shots as soon as we were through the door. That’s the kinda behaviour that can make a girl fall in love.
Budapest was a train ride away, and I remember it being very dark at all times. No shops with illuminated anything – no flash windows, just huge black cement buildings, Tudor-esque hills of medieval voids, wide-roads rambling ordered forever, entrancing squares of balconied houses that stood off main streets – looking down as if the centre was a theatre. If you wanted to buy something it was held in a glass-enclosed unit behind a big Hungarian behind a counter. My pride purchase was a patchwork sheepskin waistcoat “It’s for a child!” laughed the woman with big arms.
At a Turkish bath, massages were done with soap bars and buckets of water. My pal Juliette, who’d been brought up Catholic, screamed in hysterics at the proposition of walking around naked in public with a towel the size of a flannel.
Now, in 2014, the baths have signs in English and there are massages available in oils and chocolate and all sorts. I’m sure Grindr and Tinder and Sugardaters work as well as they do in any other western city. For now there are tourists everywhere. You can buy everything from Zara to Louis Vuitton. Budapest has become City Break Central, and with Alex, my husband, we visited Kiraly and Gellert baths. Kiraly is beautiful, more authentic than Gellert, with the obligatory holes in a domed roof, plunge pools where Alex was warned of their shrinking powers, there’s an outside tub, in a square in the gardens. It’s a right hang-out. Gellert, by comparison, is ginormous – they make women wear swimming hats to swim in the pool – men don’t. And in both, everyone wears swimming costumes. The first time I went, with the girls, it was naked and same sex. Annoyingly, if you want to swim and haven’t been before, hats are available to purchase once you’ve locked all your goods away in a locker. But there are bars, for lunch, it’s the kind of place you can stay all day, but of course we didn’t arrive until the sun had nearly set…There are outdoor pools, sun loungers, and yes, Wes Anderson has defo visited. Shame to share the water. Which I made the mistake of perhaps drinking a little too much of, having read of Agua Juventus – offering eternal youth – Bottle That Shit and Sell It To ME, I thought, drinking as greedily as I felt looking at the cream cakes at the Centrál Café (I’m lactose intolerant).
We were in Hungary for the wedding of artist, Marta Rocamora and composer, Gregor Konready’s wedding. This Catalan / Hungarian couple met working at the Red Gallery and they helped enormously at our wedding, so it seemed a good circle to celebrate their love.
We thought we’d go five star for 4 nights, booking the Buddha Hotel – (and should have stayed at the Boscolo) – Buddha is all red and black, nailed over the top of nouveau – a nightclub-style place full of waiters laughing at the chaos of breakfast and storming into our room for a party at weird times of the night.
Ernesto Leal, who founded Red Gallery, arrived with the co-founder, Yarda Krampol and Red director, Giuseppe Percuoco. We goulashed it up for a night before leaving town to a place where the Hungarian princes took their crowns – Szekesfehervar, or as Ernesto called it: Che Guevara. I was calling it Shake it Baby. Met by the groom’s brother, we went onto Tac, now 70k from Budapest, where we were all staying, where the reception would be…
Alex and I had a quick look around the village, he thought I was joking when I told him I was going into a shop – it was one of those sheds I’d been to twenty years ago. We returned to our room, changing into appropriate garb and the Spanish mother ceremoniously separated herself from her bridal daughter.
A big master of marital proceedings with a huge felt cape in cream and red, fairytale leather boots and an accordion was our guide – joining us on the solidarity bus back to Che Guevara Shake It Baby, where the exchanging of rings would occur. With a soundtrack including The Bangles’ Eternal Flame, there was rice throwing, photos, and the Red contingent escaped, now with several more of us, planning to re-group in half an hour. Of course, after taking a beer, and an ice cream and photos, we missed the bus back to the reception. Cabbed it back. We were lucky enough to witness such traditions as the holy cutting of the log – where man and wife each hold an end of a saw before the chainsaw is passed to the wife, with champagne toasts and the first palinka (the stuff they’d called vodka back in the sheds)…
Uncle Andres and his revolutionist’s moustache
There was so much palinka. And pastries. I did a full palinka detox – sitting with catalans, all excited for the forthcoming Scottish election. Singing Kalinka Kalinka with Palinka Palinka. After a few hours, chicken was dropped on the table – we ripped it from the bones before broth followed with aldente gnocci pasta and pimento on the side – amazing food – then holy stew and potatoes – all hail a decent goulash, and sauercraut and gherkins – and once one’s appetite had been met – fried cheese and fried hash brown and fried rolled up ham and we danced all night, found a secret bar with a huge lizard dragon in it. And more alcohol and holy goulash and holy stew. Marta began wearing her belt around her head, all hippy child, before dosie-dohing around and coming back down for dessert dressed as a Hungarian Disney Princess. Greg was all top hat and tales, looked like he was from a century ago – which is quite a weird thing for an electronic music producer…all friends forever – the dawn rose, and the tour with Red Gallery ended at 5am, when Alex and I took a cab to the station to get our train to Bucharest…
City pipes up like rattlesnakes
Crowns in the road
Full metal church
Men with double earrings
Gypsy with wooden stick
Men with big moustaches
Helmet hat bellend rooftops
Big cereal fields
Meeting puppies on platform
Gypsy no eyes – prison tattoo number, steal a child, beg. Gypsy curse.
Pear dumpling haystacks.
There is a bored girl called Amelia going to Bucharesti – I give her Polish fudge, the same type my old Polish neighbours used to give me. The Danube is wide as a lake and really is blue. It’s stunning, wild, green hills forever. Takes 15 hours from 7 this morn to 11 tonight to reach:
I leave half a bottle of wine from the wedding with a guy walking with a shepherd’s stick, defo part of the 3% of Romanians who are of Romany stock. (Blame British media for my surprise at this statistic.) 3% battered, tattooed, outcaste. It’s wild here. Loads of men drinking beer around barrel tables at a little nightshop shack at the back in the station, where hard-as-iron women serve. It seems the educational standards aren’t very EU – there’s very little English and there’s the same stupid factor you find in any central city station with boozy guys stepping over luggage rather than waiting for it to be moved. It is midnight…and cities congregations are often stupid.
Having eaten peanuts and crisps since the wedding, we relish a half grilled chicken and a spicy merguez-esque sausage, violent red, with big cut chips. Everyone else eats beer. We could have had about 4 Happy Meals from the undercutting new MacDonald’s for the same price.
We roll our luggage around the outside perimeter – got an hour before the connection to Sofia. The streets are wide and glitz-free. There a couple of uber-lights – from a Subway and the obligatory supermarket-near-the-station which makes most of its cash from meths-esque products. It’s dark here, huge communist buildings reach into the sky, without the glow of cities such as London. Black as the sea we shaln’t see the Danube wash into.
When a weird Soviet guy starts taking your train ticket from you in the middle of the night, it doesn’t matter if he’s dressed as a night guard in the sleeper train you’re boarding to Sofia. What happens if he just takes the tickets, flogs them on, and tries to kick us off the train? All aboard for pure costume drama. We’ve stepped past an ancient tea toiler boiler, and Hey Jude sings from a ginourous comms device of the same era as the song, all inside a worker’s cabin. There’s a woman in there, bored, getting dressed or undressed. Dark wood everywhere. Red claret carpets and velvet bunks. The weird Soviet guy wants to exchange our tickets for sheets. But he can’t tell us that. Speaks no English, I have no Hungarian or Bulgarian – although later pick up a couple of words – in Greece. A fight nearly broke out as he drunkenly staggered over Alex’s shoe – he seemed to be complaining about the difference in the quality of their footwear before passing over the sheets, as we bid adieu to our evidence of purchase. I’ve always said the problem with communism is shit shoes.
Yet we wake with no problems, Soviet guy is smiling, the morning light shows Bulgaria to be far craggier than Romania, which was soft and undulating.
Raw nature. Verdant – never trodden by human foot, in any kind of shoes, there’s loads of it – on and on. Everything is written in Soviet script/cyrillic.
Che Guevara awaits in shops at the commie station. There are pictures of various revolutionaries, above glistening pastries. No cashpoint. A McD’s in a tent. Left luggage womanned by a little lady. Everything looks like you’re wearing glasses with a nicotine sheen. Part of Europe since 2007 but uses Lei as the currency. A few alco-groupies await tourists at Sofia station – people trying to help for 1 Lei…about the cost of the biggest bottles of beer ever – like maxi-bottles of Coca Cola. We get a train to Centrum. Metro. New. Two stops.
Homemade orangeade with mint for me and big ice cream coffee for Alex. The esplanade is wide, with cafes all along the centre of the main shopping streets. It’s mellow and cosmo with mountains at the ends of the roads. Lunch in a cafe playing house music. Every cafe played house music. Big Byzantine church – gold gold gold domes, amazing mosaics, blues. Beautiful. Walk around town for the afternoon.
Steaming through country now. Back on another train. This time to Thessaloniki. It’s a long way. Agrarian climbs down from the mountains. Rivers, roads. Slow life in the south looks richer than the dying communist bloks nearer the city.
Hark, wheels stopping. That was us and the German interrailers freeeeeaking out. Train has been going in the wrong direction for 30 minutes. It’s picked up some random carriages – we’d just got into Greece, after a 38 hour journey, we don’t really want an extra couple of hours on a train.
Yet we arrive in Thessaloniki 10 minutes early.
WHY DID WE DO THIS JOURNEY
Thessaloniki station has a lil orthodox corner to light candles in – and an ancient photo booth. Feels like a film set – frozen when the debt happened. Trains have only been reconnected for a few months (post-recession) but it felt pretty India. As it did walking around the bus station later looking for a hotel and finding one with wallpaper over damp and mirrored ceiling tiles – we didn’t get an hourly rate.
Now at the back of a bus going past lush lakes and small fields on the northern coast of Greece – it explains so much having travelled here from the north, over the mountains, rather than flying straight to holiday central.
My big idea for the day is a philanthropic index – where tax and CSR is rated per individual. Everyone needs to do something for others. Alex doesn’t agree with me.
There are clouds across the higher hills as we head into a valley towards Turkey. What the fuck are they doing there? I do not want to see clouds for the next week. I want to turn off – see the temp rise as the minutes strike up from my first coffee in the mornings. I want the blue and white of postcards. I want the pictures in the guidebook. We’re getting a boat from Kavala, pop to Thassos or Samoraki, we’ll leave for the other if they’re too full of package holiday makers, what a weird phrase. Make like it’s a holiday, dudes.
The bus driver’s music is quiet though the air con, Chilli peppers, Guns n Roses, classic soft rock – a long way from where we started. 22km to go. Proper info travel seeing the baltic wilds, the chipped communist faces, German trains exporting cereals.
After a ferry, and a bus, I’m lying on a bed looking at weird Christmas cards framed on the walls – pictures sent from early explorers to this island, an island now overrun by Romanians. It came as a surprise – to get to a beach recommended in an out of date guidebook that you now can’t see for people. CLAUSTROPHOBIA – GET ME OFF THIS ISLAND. Seeing every beach stacked out by cafe owners’ umbrellas and sun loungers, offered for a minimum spend of 25E. So much water falling from the sky now – explains these verdant crags. These domineering hags. These green salads. A wood fire around a fig tree, grape vines, roofs sucking up the skies, sealine and clouds hazed together. My Nike insoles blown to sea. Heavier and heavier the rain and sailboat masts ticking geiger faster. Sun-dried pine replaced with pools of needles and burning logs. Men running under parasol shades and warmed by mama in towels. Water on marble. Olives falling over crazy-paving. Waves bashing over the Byzantine ruins, sandy beaches finally free of peeing children and mothers watching whilst dads channel Olympic swimmers past. This place is not for travellers like us – it is a place of reservations and organised families. But half the ferries no longer run, victims of the recession pushed by the loans offering greatness – so it’s hard to leave.
Giola pool is used on all the guidebooks to Greece – it looks bigger in pictures. Jumping in from quartz diving boards carved by the ocean into this natural round pool, filled with still sea water. Scores of people. Freeform. On a moto – no shades, trying to find an unknown beach, a place to recluse. This restaurant old, with rooms above all with the beauty of Aliki from its sights. A family palace, a unit. Something we don’t have. And then it stops and the island is bathed in sunlight.
Bread and stew go in the fire oven – I feel part of a Greek family – fuck banks – we’re in cashland – why would greeks on an island do anything other.
Moving house – moving house. The place was only available for two nights, we’d tried 6 others prior to this, used to rocking up and seeing what’s available. In a cheap place with another dodgy mattress, booked with a 14-year old spotty kid, his mum apologises for him when she drives our stuff around to the next place we found – it’s hard, getting rooms here. All the Romanians have booked in advance. We hang with some Romanian academics – they’re not coming back next year – too busy. The climate is not of the south islands – yet the sea is stunning and blue and the sun warms the stones so it’s perfect for naked midnight swims.
If we’re up that late.
Now we’re on Kinira Beach – the woman who only speaks German, and Greek, is OCD clean. Not a grain of sand is in the wrong place. We have balconies at the back and front and the sea is loud and hypnotic through the window. Proper mattresses – personal kitch – not blue and white though – here she’s gone for fleshy pink and white. BASTARDS (I WANTED BLUE AND WHITE – that’s why we came to Greece. It was here or Croatia, after the wedding – but we’d had our honeymoon in Mykonos/Anti-Paros/Serifos last year and were keen to feel as good again – and the journey here was worth this disappointment).
RAIN, CLOUDS, GO AWAY.
Epic travel frazzle. From Kinara to Poptos by moped with all our luggage and both of us. It began raining heavily. Potos – nice baclava lady feeds us in her cool Pretty Sweets shop (or something ) all Farrow n Ball colours. Not as good as the stuff we had in the mountain village – but we needed that woman’s spirit. Potos – skala Prinon by bus. Whisky stop for Alex, more camosmile tea for me. Skala Prinos to Kavala by boat. Now on bus to Salonikia.
So we did 2 nights in Aliki Archodika Restaurant, long hike to stony beach by food and they made everything from bread to olive oil on site, was well worth it and the view from the storm has all come back through writing this.
1 night of miscomm at Dolphins on Kinar – gets super- advanced bookings and final 3 nights in Kinara Clean Obsessed, next to Hotel Sylvia.
Makedonia Palace hotel at Thess. I hate arriving after the pool and sauna have shut. Top breakfast. Would return.
We had champagne cocktails by the beach in Navona, the restaurant, and later found a jewish rock bar, full of rich kids, next to a squat a few blocks back…
I was first approached about writing the book which became MAKING SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING in 2011. It was published in December 2014.
We had a party. I escaped before dawn. RED gave away 2000 copies. If you weren’t there, you can read the book here. It’s designed by Tomato, art directed by Jason McGlade.
Here’s the related article in The Guardian:
Grateful to the Red Gallery’s Ernesto Leal for awakening many of the thoughts that made the final cut. Also for he and Yarda Krampol’s trust in my exploration of the Shoreditch I’d recently returned to. I approached it like a documentary, an archive. Left some interviews entirely unedited.
The essay explores the cultural legacy and necessity of Red – plus 30 interviews with people involved with the building of this unparalleled contemporary hacienda. Thanks to all contributors/interviewees and those that supported the creation of the book.
Pics below by Urte Janus, more here, the cover pic is thanks to Fiona Cartledge.
Shoreditch’s RED is the creative force engaging local communities through facilitation of the continuing Cultural Revolution in the heart of East London.
This versatile, multi-functional space has welcomed a myriad of creativity through its doors since opening in 2010; transforming a derelict group of buildings and unused land into chameleon like art studios, galleries, live events venues, offices, screening rooms, open air event setting, incorporating a street food market and bars.
In keeping with its ethos of cultural guardianship, RED has actively encouraged not only artists and local residents to engage with the facilities, schools such as St Monica’s Primary have utilised the space and in keeping with their continued commitment to communitas, RED plays host to an annual symposium of the religious arts initiative Urban Dialogues, bringing together people from all faiths.
A year in the making, MAKING SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING documents elements of the magic that takes place behind the doors (and often on the walls) of RED through interviews and photographs.
To celebrate the launch RED will be hosting a photographic exhibition and in keeping with its anti-hegemonic practice, 2000 copies of the book will be distributed at the launch.
Additional commentary from visionaries such as Stirling Ackroyd’s James Goff, Tom Burger Bear – one of the chefs who led Time Out! to dub Red Market as being the birthplace of ‘the new food revolution’, curators and artists such as Alice Herrick of Herrick Gallery, Jerwood Prize winning Svetlana Fialova, Paul Sakoilsky, Chris Bianchi, Matthew Hawtin of Minus, former street artist, Part2ism,Dimitri Hegemann of Tresor Berlin, trends author Dr. Lida Hujic , fashion designers: Roggykei, patron Nick Winter, Stephen Shashoua of 3 Faiths Forum, music consultant: Juan Leal, Gary Means’ Alternative London street art tours and more.
Never has the art of getting down and worshipping sounded as sexy
Thurston Moore is as close to William Burroughs as I’ll ever get. Moore’s band, Sonic Youth, were borne on the back of the New York punk scene which groupied the king kong of cut up.
I’m born on the back Ciccone Youth – one of their best albums. Covers Madonna songs.
Thurston, currently living in this joyous town of layers (LDN) with girlf, Eva Prinz both curated this show at Red as part of the Burroughs 100 series – celebrating the centennial of the guy who shot his wife dead in the head, when playing William Tell. William Burroughs was a Yale grad with a parental stipend, put most of it in his arm. Which, as Thurston rightly said in an interview to NME, will continue to inspire folk forever – the act of being creative on drugs, not everyone can afford it…
The show at Red Gallery DOES IT THROUGH PHOTOS OF BURROUGHS HANGING WITH MUSICAL COLLABORATORS + THOSE HE PATRONED WITH CROAKED OUT WORKS OF ADVICE. It’s a black n white who’s who of the world’s renegades standing aside their hero. The catalogue features a total list of his recorded works. Oh, HIGH praise, I give.
Back from teaching at the Naropa University (Ginsberg’s palace to Kerouac et al), PRINZ MOORE put together a nice lil ‘catozine’ – feat. interviews and work by the students: METAL DREAM MACHINE MUSIC – that kinda explains the show as good as anything.
But the pictures on the wall,
Burroughs got about. NAKED LUNCH. SOFT MACHINE. JUNKY. QUEER. BLADE RUNNER…
SUCK IT TO ME: THE BEST COLLECTION OF POETRY EVER
You gotta read to believe – Tom Verlaine from Television is in there under a pseudonym…GEEK OUT, PUNKS
YOU GOTTA GET DOWN TO GET UP
A myth about graphic designers is that they’re sticklers of aesthetics and masters of finding the ultimate font, aren’t they?
They know how to rock a retentive margin. And their pencils are always needle sharp, and in a nicely OCD-straight line. Most def a tonne more file-conscious and organised than the paint-brush wielding crazies who took the less financially instantaneous pathway at art college – under the belief they were secret Hirsts, but better. It’s an old fashioned belief that fine artists hold the higher ground of insanity. It’s a pre-pop assumption that they refuse to sell out to capitalist normality and they have ‘chosen’ to live in their mother’s shed with a Dan Flavin light, making shit video installations about mice being their best friends from the city they have been rejected from, or they’ll solve world peace by forming sculptures out of coffee grinds in the shape of Africa.
Yeah – I came to this realisation when putting together this catalogue for a show about acid house flyers. Although the curator, Ernesto Leal had done the groundwork, tracking down these heroes of rave art, a collection of the first rave wave of designs, it took ’some time’ to co-ordinate the facts of this posteriturial research (posterity/curatorial – yes, basically a timeline) – these designers were rock n roll…
*Ease on by…*
– under the echoes of the utterances of acid house, always said between gurns and rushes upon rave fields of yore – Where are you from? What are you on? (obviously my answer would always be that I was from the school bus and I was on my way home) – we EVENTUALLY agreed on the dates and places and facts of these MDMA artifacts.
[please click the blue Issuu link below if the artwork doesn’t show in your browser]
Creative direction for the poster was by Wilhelm Finger at Double Decker – – always a dream to work with.
I’ve been places.
Many of my cuts have been left in the 20th century – on the pre-digital slow train – alongside Lacroix dresses, a record box or two and a few empty bottles…
A fellow professor was interested in some of my old travel writing – in about ’95-’96 I worked as a travel ed for Dan Kahuna. Anywhere I could get to with other people paying for it. With Lee Bullman as my wingman, we toured Europe, did Paris Fashion Week (our first date), the next issue was maybe Munich (doubling up on my TV presenting duties), later gigs included a sex tour of Amsterdam, staying in the John & Yoko Hilton. Neither Lee or I died, surprisingly.
These are a few travel cuts from the digital age:
Prompted by the invitation to write something for Windmill’s round-up, with authors, agents and other folk: WHICH IS HERE>>> http://www.windmill-books.co.uk/index.php/books-of-the-year-3/ –
A lil more:
13. Started the year with a black eye. The American border people still allowed me into their land of roadtrips, and we took the wheel from San Fran to Mexico. In an RV – sleep n ride, baby. I rolled in the rocking chair at City Lights – the Poet’s Chair. Stopped at Henry Miller’s Memorial Library before some rocks in the road turned us back up the Big Sur to take the wine route into LA. In the desert, we weirdly homed into the place where Gram Parsons died. Other pitstops included the Integratron, Noah Purvifoy’s scrap-art graveyard, the Grand Canyon, and Arcosanti – Paolo Soleri’s commune. Came back via Vegas. Epic.
In addition to the Windmill mentions…
At the Miller Library I picked up Crazy Cock – post-humously published, a brilliant and terrible debut. Reassuring to read ill-kempt, overwrought drafts. Armistead Maupin’s taking his 92-year old transgender superstar on an American roadtrip in 2014, The Days of Anna Madrigal in 2014. Also good to hear DBC Pierre’s got a new one coming out.
I love discovering new writers: Ben Lerner was my American darling of 2013, like Sam Lypsyte was in 2012. Lerner’s Leaving Atocha Station is exactly the self-conscious, post-terrorism era that I’m stoked to leave behind. He’s very minimal, like Paul Auster, although a little less parred down, unfortunately. I’d had connections with Madrid whilst reading the British edition, and loved the ballsy biographical flavour.
I scan John and Irvine blattering about on Twitter, makes me feel like I’m at the quiet end of the pub table, but I met Niven recently – and he’s a classic. I forget titles if they’re not on my reallife #shelfies or stacked up by the bed – yet, upon a beach in Serifos this summer, I consumed his Straight White Male on an iPad. I used to write A LOT about music, so the books for much of my twenties were rock biogs. I’ve since consumed far fewer, but caught up on the staggeringly honest Anthony Kiedis’ Scar Tissue. Also loved John Waters’ Role Models. Also got through a graveyard of dead writers (my favourites this year being Sylvia Plath – I knew of her life than her work, so got into Ariel et al. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s reading of The Bell Jar is magical.)
Over Christmas I’ll switch my iPad on for Damien Barr’s memoir Maggie & Me. Next year’s salonniere’s memoir that I’ve pitched into, is by Salena Godden. She lived with us in Old Street in the 90s for a short while, and started the Book Club Boutique, where I first read poetry. At the Book Club Boutique’s summer party, I met Lemn Sissay and subsequently sought out his witty poem collection. He’s working on a biog which’ll perhaps open new audiences up to some of the realities of migrancy, not that I believe his route to British shores was traditional in any way, but what journeys are? Rebel Cities by David Harvey was one of my most interesting academic reads. My pal Robert Pereno turned me onto Platform by Michel Houellebecq. Geoff Nicholson has a new book out for pavement pounders, like me, Walking In Ruins.
Photobook-wise, Nick Waplington’s Alexander McQueen Working Process features several friends, and captures the genius of a life left too early. Next year, I’m looking forward to Dougie Wallace’s book on the Hoxton Mini Press.
And also, I’m super-excited to have a book I’ve done for the culturally progressive, RED Gallery in Shoreditch, out early next year. Designed by Tomato, with images from Jason McGlade of Freestyle. It uses conversations with creative innovators to explore the effect of subcultural commodification, and how cultural environments can be reproduced for pluralistic societies.
Listening to The Fall – hearing more online now than I’d ever heard at 20 or 21 when we put this together for Scene- the style magazine I used to edit on in the grunge days.
Mark E Smith had a girl with him (not Brix), I pinned up her drooping hem after he’d sunk about 9 pints in Finch’s on Portobello Road. They’d taken an early train down from Manchester. We had to get Smith drunk to get him into Jocelyn Bain-Hogg, the photographer’s studio- he’d dealt speed from the doorway years before and it brought back bad memories.
Already that day he’d thrown a window cleaner around atop a crane from the base control in Canelot Studios and bitten Gary Numan’s hand.
The PR, Bernard MacMahon told me Mark paid his band members a weekly wage. Few lasted long.
I’d like to see him play soon, and meet him again, having understood his music better.
“There were random walks through the town, along dark streets on sleepless nights. He would stop to look through windows at gilded interiors, through lacework illustrated with elaborate designs: flowers, acanthus leaves, cupids with bows and arrows, lace deer; and the interiors, hollowed out in massive and shadowy altars, seemed to him veiled tabernacles.” Jean Genet, Our Lady Of The Flowers – he also likes to write about cock. And it’s more hardcore than William Burroughs shooting his own wife.
The narrative in this film is clearer than the book.
HOT IN THE CITY, HOT IN THE CITY – it was, when Jason McGlade, editor and publisher of Freestyle, parked up in my mate’s gallery, RED, blogged me with this picture, and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, awwwww….
Producing an entire issue of a magazine which is ROUND and comes in a FRISBEE – from the back of their converted van – FREESTYLE needed a journalist for a feature about RED and this is what we made:
I’ve done a LOT of sit-ups since seeing that picture…
THE AMAZING ARTWORK is by LE GUN‘s Chris Bianchi and Robert Rubbish.
FREESTYLE IS AVAILABLE FROM GOOD STORES & ONLINE, get in touch with them to find out more.
This is issue 4, and was crowdfunded. Previous collectable frizbees designed by Paul Smith, Eley Kishimoto, Matthew Williamson – this edition is all Berlin black vinyl and has a super-fly, augented reality app – showcased in the video above…
It’s the magazine that’s circular and comes inside a frizbeeeee : FREESTYLE
Previous frizbees designed by Paul Smith, Eley Kishimoto, Matthew Williamson – this one is all Berlin black vinyl
I have a big, phat feature in the sexy, nu crowd-funded edition – it features artwork by Le Gun and pictures by Jason McGlade –
#LFW parteeeeeeee this SUNDAY – tweet me if you’d like to come x
PRESS RELEASE, 11th June 2013
KISS ME CLEOPATRA
A film for Kelli Ali by Kirsty Allison starring Munroe Bergdorf
You are cordially invited to attend the launch party at W Hotel, 19th June, 2013 RSVP essential
Hosted by Munroe Bergdorf
Drinks reception from 8pm. PA by Kelli Ali x Kindle 9pm. Premiere at 9.30pm
With DJs: Sink the Pink,
Sarah Blackwood (Dubstar/Client), Andy Fraser & Villota
Kirsty Allison’s Automonika Demonika Ego Erotika and Family Is A Night Out Across Starlit Glades played pop-ups at Tate Modern & Tate Britain last year. Kelli Ali (Sneaker Pimps/Satoshi Tomiie/Paul Oakenfold) loved the political poetry/iPad collages and she approached Allison to make a film for Kiss Me Cleopatra, the first single from her new Band of Angels album. Released on 19th June at 9.30pm, the Warhol-esque video stars rising femme-fatale, Munroe Bergdorf (host & DJ at London’s hippest gay club, Room Service):
“Being a huge Liz Taylor fan, it is an absolute honour to play Cleopatra – especially for somebody as iconic as Kelli. I’m in love with the final project, Kirsty’s made an amazingly fresh product.”
Kirsty Allison, a multi-media artist who’s explored many arenas of expression from styling for Boy George to DJ goddess of Ibiza, paint & collage, literature & poetry, film, radio & media production says:
“My vision for KISS ME CLEOPATRA was to bring frenetic fragments of 20th century culture into the 21st century. The song’s concept brings parallels to Mapplethorpe, Soft Cell’s Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret & Lou Reed’s Street Hassle. Casting Munroe as Cleopatra made it possible to reach a fierce new Egypt. Munroe epitomises progressive society & post-modern beauty. Ada Zanditon’s AW13 pieces are perfect for the acid-goth diaspora-vibe.
I love how Alexander Villota shot it.”
Cutting between the simple look dictated by the original ‘selfies’-style footage supplied by Kelli Ali, shot on a mobile phone by her collaborator & muse, Léigh@BitPhlanx, and an editorial-influenced process, the video reflects the DIY method of Band of Angels (so-called as it was 150% funded by fans via the crowd-sourcing platform, Pledge Music).
“DIY is where it’s at. The world has suddenly woken up & remembered that art not only ‘can’ exist outside the humdrum drone of mass mainstream culture but ‘must’ exist outside of it. Kirsty Allison & Munroe Bergdorf are hanging out at Warhol’s Factory right NOW…they’re both modern icons of beauty & feminine POW in their own right.”
Ali first shot to fame as front-woman for trip-hoppers, Sneaker Pimps. In the midst of grunge, the Spin Spin Sugar remix by Armand Van Helden gave birth to speed garage. Kelli later went solo, releasing two albums with Bjork’s label, One Little Indian before independently releasing her critically acclaimed, Rocking Horse (produced by composer Max Richter). This was followed by A Paradise Inhabited by Devils (with pianist Ozymandias) & now, the self-produced Band of Angels album. Kelli has collaborated with top producers & artists including Marilyn Manson, Marc Almond, Bryan Ferry, Linkin Park & Paul Oakenfold. Exploring genres & identity within an idiosyncratic musical framework, Kelli Ali is becoming the Cindy Sherman of pop music.
Band of Angels available on iTunes / http://www.kelliali.com/ & Amazon worldwide. Kiss Me Cleopatra Remix EP features Peter O, Killaflaw, Coloquix , Terminal 11 & more…coming soon to iTunes & Amazon
Julie Birchhill was not in the Modern Review office when I was running errands for the editor, Toby Young in the fin-de-siécle-haze of the mid-90s. She was too fucked. Hungover, I was told. My teen learning-experience with Modern Review lasted a day because The Modern Review was not a fun place to work: Julie was half-way through her fucking of Charlotte Raven, her writing protegé, having fucked the marriage to her husband and the magazine’s co-founder, Cosmo Landesman, and now the office was fucked. I went back to training at Loaded (which meant note-keeping when everyone was too fucked to hold a pen) and at Dazed & Confused (where Julie Birchill was fucking OLD school).
Listening to the iPlayer edition of R4’s Desert Island Discs with Julie Birchill has prompted me to bash my typewriter with the hammer I’d hold to the puerility of every critic, be them men, women, or children. The listening experience was only saved by Kirsty Young’s treatment towards Julie’s pipsqueak defensiveness – like a nanny attempting to reason with a toddler who’d caned all the candy.
I’ve come across all types of insecure morons in the media, I’ve shagged them, and worked aside prime cases everywhere from the NME (prep-school-groomed wet-wipes who scared easy and wouldn’t have known dance music if it stuck a glowstick up their straight arseholes) through to headmaster-esque condescension towards audience at fashion and style titles. Let alone the (at times) sickening and blasé assumptions of broadcast.
“The compensation of early success”, said Scott F. Fitzgerald, “is a conviction that life is a romantic matter. In the best sense one stays young.”
Birchill said she used to be precocious, that all writers have their best days. But she’s still precocious, that’s her recipe, goading every inch of the media mic with a LOOK AT ME, MUMMY-desire. And she’s made a good few million out of it, she boasted of Sugar Rush Emmy’s giving her credibility, but failed to mention the Transexual piece that’s been taken off The Observer’s site for prejudice (and re-posted by the long-jilted, Toby Young on The Telegraph). The point in the Desert Island Discs institution is it’s music that means something to you – Julie could not conform to such a brief. Her music choice was total shite – it was a calculated statement of outdated rebellion. Perleaze, the Israeli national anthem, with “I wish I’d been a Jew”-type remarks? That behaviour is older than John Lydon. Unless she’s trying to get a film made, she could have at least tried a song of Yemen and ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I was Islamic?’ Get with the programme, Julie, a) music to sing along to, b) contemporary people live beyond categorisation in a Twitterverse without borders. We’ve got to be liked. I got RSI fast-forwarding through her attention-seeking playlist on the iPlayer. Skin-crawling. Yet affirming my belief that all critics were bullied at school. Reviews = revenge.
It’s not that I don’t rate Julie Birchill’s work, I liked her novel, Ambition, I read it at the right time in my career, post-early-success-implosion, yet in the same way that it channels JC (yes, the holy Jackie Collins), she sounded exactly like a copywriter in her determination to be a “controversialist” on the radio, taking the punk ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks’-line, unconvincingly, and as she said in the first link – that does become a broken record. Carbon copies, kerching. I’m going to start my own newspaper; I love the (glorified) tropes of journalism: the fight for truth and a tenacity that would lead a pack of dogs across a desert. But who’d back me? The issue is, media ownership is a simple thing, you swap your soul with whomever you meet at the crossroads, but Taste? Isn’t one person saying, “Mine is better than yours” – like, ur, Hitler? Or does every right-wing liberal reading The Guardian like the same thing? Or has en masse media become less powerful than iTunes? P’raps the best thing a reviewer could offer would be a link in their byline to their fave records/wardrobe items/bookshelf, so readers can sit on the plateau of equality we all signed-up for. Another element to the media fraternity is a pathological desire to achieve. Doors may be held open with a smile, but if that person was wearing a balaclava they’d be slamming it in your face before you could laydown a cartoon oil-slick. That’s why I’ve done more yoga than journalism over the past years…anyway…
Folk need guidance but there’s always some naîve fuck somewhere who’ll swap ego for 4 or 5 stars on the poster. I’ve done it, first screening I’d ever been to, they gave me some nice lil’ canapés. As happens every morning to crews of bloggers being bought, literally, for Taste. As a professional, whenever I’ve taken the hatchet it’s been a daft-move because, fatally, the thing would then chart phenomenally, like the God Is A DJ album by Faithless – whoops, I just didn’t get the concept as I spun tunes at Manumission (never mind how seriously I took my music, and everything available) – but as a film producer, with the past behind me, I learnt what it’s like to be on the other side of a journalist’s inability to respect years of artistic slavery. Call the bad reviews of our movie karma or deserved, alright, touché, I was once an obnoxious young tart but my heart was always one of enthusiasm. The film also received awards nominated by journalists and some stonkingly good reviews (and I didn’t even know those people) so where, pray, is the parity?
Super-pleased to present a new
series of images at Tate Britain.
You are invited to join us on a spirited quest to explore questions of identity and belonging. Amidst pumping bass lines and crowd mayhem, LABEL will explore the one question that has intrigued mankind for centuries: “Who am I?”
Label: Family Old, Family New, Who Am I? Exhibition as part of Tate Collectives – Great British Art Debate showing UK, Iceland, Finnish, American and other international creatives with artist Tracey Moberly in projected installation.
Saturday 24th November at Tate Britain 1-5pm
LABEL is curated by Tate Collective as part of the Great British Art Debate. What does Britishness mean to you? Join this audacious retort to stereotypical ideas about Britishness.
Here’s the scrawl I began from. I will upload a Videm version shortly.
Videm – definition: series of pictures/video/poem.
Family Is A Nite Out Along The Branches of A Starlit Glade
Family is a fallen manor
A service gardener
A quad-grandson of a preacher man
A loan shark
A potion pusher
The BBC. An MBE
A family fantasy // fallacy
A rigger A writer A lover A lawyer
An artist A daughter
I am black as a flock of sheep
I am mexican I am manx I am blonde I am white I am scottish
I am crazed
I am straight
I am early. I am late
I’ve walked a thousand mountains and fallen down more
I’ve sailed ships around the world
I’m related to Ford
Grace Darling the Starling chirped for me
My grandfathers wars were all different you see
I was rich
I was poor
My family is yours
My family is higher than sun
Follow The Great British Art Debate on Twitter @GBArtDebate and on Facebook
Sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Funded & Great British Art Debate
I’d been going on at Ernesto Leal to programme Danielle De Picciotto in his Red Gallery in London’s Shoreditch, and am super-proud he invited me to steer this panel.
I knew this picture of Danielle De Picciotto (with her husband, Alexander Hacke, of Einsturzende Neubatten) prior to knowing much else about her…
It was Chris Bohn, editor of The Wire magazine, who turned me onto Danielle – he was reading her book (The Transgression of Beauty – which I whole-heartedly recommend – she’s a true inspiration, the type of woman I don’t find enough of, and trust her schedule will allow her to perform at Red later this year…) – Alexander Snelling – my boyfriend and I were meeting with Bohn and his girlfriend, Keiko, to discuss a film Alex is directing about psychedelic-techno maverick, Manuel Gottsching (the Berliner who went up a mountain with LSD-guru, Timothy Leary, managed to come down to be chased by Nico, recorded with Ashra Tempel, and made this, the definitive Balearic track, sampled on Sueno Latino, nicked by countless inferiors, re-sampled by Derrick May, who, incidentally, believes Techno is a power greater than the mechanical consciousness feared by The Frankfurt school – which I’ll get to – but let it be known, Gottsching is the DUDE).
So we’ve visited Manuel’s scene in Berlin – and I’ve fallen in love with the city’s embrace of techno-academic philosophies guiding ART (I’m a long-term fan of Christiane F- Hacke’s first girlfriend, and I love the Helmut Newton gallery by Zoo Station, and just knowing that Iggy Pop & Bowie hung out in West Berlin kills me – I’ve been lucky enough to visit amazing private views over the years and have a few of Sven Vath’s Harthouse records, a couple of Kraftwerk, some Detroit, Belgian, some of Jeff Mills Underground resistance and old Tresor records in my collection…) but the biggest appeal to Berlin for me is the rationalisation and need for structural understanding of CULTURE in the programming at festivals such as Transmediale, and discussions at squatted buildings which support discussion as an essential element of progressing thought and practice – call it Neo-Marxism, or techno-democracy, stemming from The Frankfurt School (which I have State-lectured in – under the guise of Contextual Studies for Media – in the old syllabus for undergrads, before Marxism disappeared from the current outline, which came out shortly after the current government – NB – how the fuck can you discuss technological and democracy without Marxist-models is beyond me – but I find it easy to blame the State’s need to have conforming, non-questioning workers who love life in the Mall – another soapbox/blog, another day)…however, the German need to evaluate is likely the intelligent evolution stemming from their post-Nazi situation, I find an inherent German characteristic is logic and REASON (I don’t care if nationalistic identification is perceived as rascist, again, another soapbox, another blog) AND I love working with Germans for this, in my experience, Germans deliver – and progress is why, when I used to write for NME, DJ, Mixmag and many other publications including The Face, Sky, Dazed and Raygun (before DJing and going onto make music documentaries for BBC Radio) – I was always on about the ELECTRONIC VANGUARD, and that’s what Ernesto’s events have always been about – which is why we’re drawn to each other – but aside from Ecstasy, Peace, Love & Unity, the aspects of rave culture shared by the British and German scene-are people came together from different worlds – when the Berlin Wall fell, the former-Soviet East and the Western bloc (which had been broken into districts ruled by the ‘Western Allies’, France, the US and Britain – with consultation with West Germany), having parties in warehouses in former GDR-land (German Democratic Republic/Soviet) where ownership and legislation was murky, dancing under initial idealistic ideologies of anarchy and optimism in much the same way as we did around the M25, in pre-Criminal Justice Bill Britain – before super-clubs, capital super-greed and State taxation were instigated by the devisive mega-minds at the top of the power tree – so what evolved, particularly in the grimy warehouse clubs of Berlin such as E-Werk, and all the ‘stay up forever’ principals of Doctor Motte’s LoveParade, was the Techno philosophy of Newness being the Future. Space – the final frontier…
Ernesto has a pre-occupying theme of gentrification, which becomes as explosive as Shoreditch rents when combined with Berlin’s 90s trance culture and the MASS POSITIVISM which accompanied the WHITE LIGHT/WHITE NOISE-TOTEM championed by DJs such as Paul van Dyk, a discovery of Mancunian, Mark Reeder who was drawn to Berlin in 1978, having started The Frantic Elevators with a certain Mick Hucknall – before becoming Factory Records label rep in Berlin, moving into East Berlin – the nutbag – started managing and engineering bands like this female punk band, Malaria!
Our economy has been on a downward spiral since acid house – I don’t blame the drugs, I’m with the half-glass full, Nobel prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman, who suggests LURVE will get us out of our current financial straits – basically, positive spending energy encourages positive energy – embrace, LoveWorks – bring it on, let’s just get in debt forever, it will always be future debt.
I’ve previously said I believe there should be a Global Charter of Corporate Social Responsibility (with relative social ‘taxes’ – not wholly binary, or financial – more altruistic and community-based) and with this in mind, should base-level creative projects, such as bars, clubs, and galleries, and those feeding from their existence such as property people and businesses, support the underground matrix of artists which offer them credo – (Shoreditch being a prime example of essential co-existence – if Westwood and McQueen have lots in Redchurch St, will they want to stay there without a little of the grit that attracts hipsters to Boy – or will East have moved South by then – I suspect the rents will have pushed them there) but an alternative model could perhaps exist through something in the grasps of corporations: Land, and the provision of it to artists – seeing as we cannae squat civilly nae more – from September it will be a criminal offense to squat in the UK, I would suggest areas encouraged giving land to artists to aid gentrification, perhaps if their taxes and business rates aren’t doing so well, what with all these empty shops – but if it is done borough by borough, communication can exist in a real sense between those who need to be provided for in some sense by those bigger than them – let’s call it the the parental duty of the 1% if they can be philanthropic enough to assist, but we know it’ll never work – as long as there is greed and need…
But I hope THE INNOVATOR, DIMITRI HEGEMANN (who’s the key speaker) can spread some advice here – he gives grants to artists, supports them with one job to lead to another, a good guy – labelled a Techno activist through, what I suspect will be a belief about DIY-ism, he had the Fishburo bar, turned it into the UFO club, before setting up Tresor -does his embrace of Techno side along using the Internet and whatever private-app based networks we can think we’re underground communicating upon – to achieve this – because what this talk at the Red Gallery sets out to do, is explore the relationship between Subculture and Creative Industries – Tresor, being a prime example of a Creative project, so passionate in its advancing of the techno arts that it became a philanthropic sport of Hegemann to provide lifeblood to the underground matrix of artists. Is it as simple as Subculture being another word for Lifestyle – so said Alvin Toffler, the futurist who is cited by Detroit-Juan Atkins (Cybotron, Model 500) for inspiring him with his writing on ‘techno rebels’ in his book, The Third Wave. Is it true the underground no longer exists in our networked world, and instead, the choice is Lifestyle – and whose we’re buying into, because Money Corrupts Equality.
And if we have to be part of a Lifestyle, can we do it without guys like Dimitri investing in progressive artists in an era where it’s Google vs The World? (They have Orwellian-powers you do not want to believe) – where does the capital fit in with art? Currently through gallerists – bless their sweet souls, but howabout musicians – it’s hard out there, and writers – wow – well, I lecture, and have a PHD is Ducking n Diving. Is it as black and white as being either DIY and thoroughly indie-pendent, is there a rainbow of opportunity to find support through sponsorship as a working class artist – or one that has to work. To offer complete autonomy to artists takes a truly maverick brand, and in my experience, there are very few who don’t want to imprint some level of Ownership, and a corporate-instigated belief system or another bullshit masquerade. I love the principals of GEMA (the copyright society of Germany) who are responsible for ‘protecting artistic works’ but such are their endeavors, to protect the artist as a creator, they are superstrict – and German YouTube is not as liberal in content as elsewhere (another blog -Creative Commons etc and the need for ownership). Is freedom of expression the same thing as freedom of audience – in Idealistic times, yes. Which seem historical by their very notion – amoral times, ladies and germs (that’s a Garfield-ism, he was my philosophic hero when I was growing up).
Is there a middle ground of compromise where artists don’t have to do as De Picciotto and co did – which was recluse to a castle, only to have a hundred skinheads as their door- or is the point to co-exist, to log-in to culture and leave the studio as and when required, rather than build a wall around culture, forcing us to totally DIY it, leaving our small castles to get attacked – do we need to be more unSocial than Social – UNwiring ourselves to the networks where corporate/capital cyber-control leave Analogue the only freedom fighter in the ongoing flotilla of post-modernism – because even private networks will always be hackable, because people and artists will always be buy-able. Let’s all go and buy an island of ideals. It couldn’t possibly be this planet. What is the revolution? As I read in Vanity Fair’s current issue, Woody Allen has endorsed Smirnoff, Kurt Vonnegurt – credit cards, Hitchcock- Western Union and Salvador Dali – Alka Seltzer (!) – Bobby Gillespie sold his soul to Uniqlo – if you’re stupid enough to buy it, you’re stupid enough to believe it – but free economy… (another box of soapsuds, another blog).
As I draw to a close, I would suggest the corporate wave of digitalisation has overthrown the Techno dream of a democratic internet, and new-tech or old-school are the NU NEW. All power to Anonymous, or maybe not an oligarchical portion. Folk jumpers and the craft they represent worn with iPhones continue into the next season, my darlings…(iPhones, I know, still – despite a recession, what can everyone sport? The symbol of not being lonely.)
So the velocity of techno-times have passed, to be replaced by the arguments for living anti-Socially whilst being wired in – PHEW – had to get that out –
Techno-culture was always the melting of new forms, dripping towards a virtual existence – we are in that place – where morals have been replaced by armageddon. The devil’s playground, which is what the underworld and new world’s can offer – Money and art, and where the twixt wane, cultural capital and it’s involvement with the state – let’s embrace the arts and intellectual like a fist full of dollars and challenge and progress at this event on Thursday 7th June. Which is full – but message me if you’re super-keen and I maybe able to swish you in under my magic cape…or stay tuned on here, Twitter and my mailing list, and I hope to upload the discussion soon…
My mind is sure of one thing, there needs to be cultural friction, such as that caused in the competition for Berlin to reclaim its capital status against Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and the riches of Bavaria – cultural friction causes us to fight for progress, unless we’re just creating, man, either in a fog of auteurism and drugs – what Simon Reynolds enchantingly labels some aspects of techno as, “A full-scale retreat from the most radically posthuman and hedonistically functional aspects of rave music toward more traditional ideas about creativity, namely the auteur theory of the solitary genius who humanizes technology,” or in other words, the bedroom DJ – a precursor to the ‘Dead Boys’ of Japan, who are called so because they literally do not interact with society – and this is the darkside, the last frontier, or crossroads that an artist has to do a deal with the devil at in order to create a new beginning…perhaps the Techno dream has come true.
Crossroads and fringes have to shake their tassels right back to the core to have any effect -Techno was a reaction of modernity, a quest for the future, to live on spaceships, in clinical, scientific beauty – away from the wishy-washy drug music of psychedelia – whether Berlin can continue to do this now that the wall’s come down remains to be seen, or as British politics currently suggest, there is, in fact, a dark secret that if you Build walls, spectacular things will occur, but only once they’re destroyed.
Where are you moving to next? I heard Athens is pretty cheap…Britain overlooked the importance of allowing people to live as artists to produce exportable merit. We’ve been drugged goddamit. And all nanny wanted to do was help. I take responsibility…TECHNO FOREVER!!!
DO CHECK THIS SELECTION OF TRAX- THEY WERK…
Kirsty Allison, London, June 2012
I first visited the London Book Fair with Salena Godden in about 1997. I had press tickets, and we raided the complimentary wine at 11am, and rolled through shrieking like ill-informed head-cases. In 2010, I visited again, wearing neon-pink eyeliner, “Who let the writer in?” I overheard a publishing suit comment – this year, I dressed more like them, and trawled the hard, Earl’s Court floors for 2012’s dukes of publishing, the writers who’ll be paying for their suits and propping them all up at the bar IF authors don’t all decide to self-publish and leave them jobless. Obvz, I’m not including the trash-writers, or the genre-busters, nor cookbooks and self-help, nor pissy little gift-books…Here’s my pick of the super-shiny, major-leaguers for the rest of 2012…
Embarrassingly, I get him confused with the world’s first artifical voice, Max Headroom (which was British technology, so y’know…):
Trendwise, this article about NarcoLiterature is interesting: [http://www.englishpen.org/against-narcoliterature/]. NarcoCinema is unique to Mexico’s drug culture, low-budget movies demonstrating the lack of power the government or anyone has against the cartels [http://www.vice.com/the-vice-guide-to-film/mexican-narco-cinema-part-1-of-3]. The paperback of Narcopolis also recently appeared on Faber, about Mumbai’s dope culture.
I also heard David Bowie is writing a biography – I hope it’s sordidly honest…
Currently, I’m reading about 5 books, Danielle De Picciotto’s memoir of Berlin, The Beauty of Transgression, published by Gestalt. Also, obviously, as a former-DJ partner with Irvine Welsh, I’m reading Skagboys...then some old Russian stuff, and some Neu Journalism…plus I was given that Jennifer Egan book…and all the free shit that publishers are desperately poking us with, and the magazines and the aaaaaargh – I’m suffering from infoenza…later maters n paters. x
Please comment if you have other suggestions for this decidedly BLLLLLLEEEEEAK LIST!!!! WHERE ARE THE NEW VOICES? MOVELLAS.COM? C’mon people, be brave in your reading matter. It makes your head matter – groan. Y’know, what was most depressing about the Book Fair – how hard it must be for all those marketing folk to break new writers. WHERE THE HELL ARE THE NEW GENERATION? Please comment generously…of course, my book will be out later this year, if we are lucky – please subscribe for updates. I can’t promise it to be life changing, it is only my first, but it does have heart and soul.
[and a disclaimer: I haven’t included the likes of Hachette, Harper Collins, PanMacMillan and Random House who didn’t have New Title catalogues for me to peruse at the Book Fair, not even Argos-style ‘catalogues of dreams’, they referred my journalistic enquiry to their websites – I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to do that right now – do I look like a staffer? Sorry staffers – but you won’t be reading this because you’re doing my job, and that of five others… Also, apols not to include anything from some of my fave indie publishers such as Old Street (read Sam Lipsyte), Cargo (Alan Bissett) , Black Spring (any classic) and Tindal Street Press (David Gaffney).]
‘ArtIsts’ we are (the I being the ego), dottIness extremus, the InfinIte I. And few artists exemplify this better than the pre-Yoko Ono, single Japanese female, Yayoi Kusama – so conceptual she sacrificed her sanity for us.
The first room – the micro-struggling illustrations of a young girl in a world where death lies at the end of the phallus-twisted tunnel.
[Yayoi Kusama, Accumulation of Corpses (Prisoner Surrounded by the Curtain of Depersonalization) 1950]
The second room – making it big in America – with obsessive, fish-scale canvases –
[Yayoi Kusama, Pacific Ocean, 1960]
…which remind me of the beautiful off-white, suede Louboutin for Giles boots I was lucky enough to borrow for a shoot…
[Yayoi Kusama, Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show, 1963]
The exhibition then goes pop! She makes a film about herself, a pretty geisha vs the entire ugliness of an industrialised city.
O, the 60s! Send a letter home.
The next rooms get preeeeeetty psychedelic. Learning from pop-meisters, and being in contact with Georgia O’Keefe, who possibly advises on lifetime themes, dots start to appear in Yayoi’s work. She brands herself with the burning stamp of dottiness – polka polka polka dotty dotty dotty. And she looks good on a horse.© Yayoi Kusama and © Yayoi Kusama Studios Inc.
And she puts dots on the horse. And rides the horse. And puts dots upon herself. And takes the horse to water. And puts dots on water. And the cat gets polka-ed too…Self-Obliteration – the movie of these events is wonderfully pre-computer, and so is she…
-they inspired the S/S 2012 Louis Vuitton collection…
[The future vision of Louis Vuitton and Kusama is destined to be dotty…where Murakami added colour and cutes-i-ness, Kusama will add strong-woman circles, in yellow on black and white on red.]
The exhibition moves on to chart happenings in her apartment, although not orgies because she was scared of venereal disease, it was about real love rather than sex, a peace mission – everyone gets naked, and she is the star. The posters are wonderful, even the desperate, hand-written ones.
The naked venus of her own parties. Putting the I into Artist – I mean, would we bother otherwise?
But after all the parties, the result – it’s too poetic for words, because, after a hallway of amazing collages, she sections herself, works in a hospital studio, art therapy, and the phalli are back, leaping out of boxes, like bad thoughts from a spaghetti-ed brain.
[Yayoi Kusama, Heaven & Earth, 1991]
I nearly cried at the burned-outness of the next pieces…which I cannot easily find pictures of, and to revisit it, I only have to flick through my mind. No, you can’t come in. I’m busy.