Blog Archive

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Martin Creed is Sick

The new Martin Creed solo show at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham is slightly disturbing. I love it.

On entering the first floor gallery the first thing that hits you is the splattering sounds of vomiting. As you round the corner you see an unending, uninterrupted video of sex - a penis rhythmically bumping in and out... (just in case you needed a description of what's involved) Set in front of this projection (!) almost as a physical distraction from the visual and auditory assault (or maybe as evidence of it's potentially anxiety-inducing content) was a piece of white paper, screwed up into a ball, neatly housed on a plastic covered plinth.

The sounds of sick mentioned above are part of a video work (Work No.583 - 2007) consisting of 4 TV's on which 4 people - 2 girls, 2 guys - step on screen and simultaneously make themselves puke. They continue for (presumably) as long as they can stomach, creating a trail or pool of sick where they stand, then leave. The videos are edited together so that each initial splattering hits the ground at the same time. They finish at different points, leaving the larger of the 2 girls to continue spewing berry-red vomit in a neat line a short time after the others have gone.

What I liked about this piece was that although it's a pretty straight forward process - they all stuck two fingers down their throat and hey presto - the style for each person was different. The bigger girl made a line, taking a step back after each heave. A thinner girl wandered on screen and stood on the spot, hair over her face, head down and made a neat pile at her feet; actions I guess that had not been preconceived probably as they were more concerned at the prospect of throwing up over and over again. And anyway how do you decide where to puke should you be given a nice empty white space like this one?

Other exhibits in the space included cacti or nails, arranged in a line from smaller to larger sizes, dictated either by nature or industry, and I soon realised that not only did each piece have a depth of consideration independently, but the combination of them came to form parallels and new dialogs - a dizzying experience in the space (in which a neon sign in the corner reads 'Dont Worry') and one that the gallery's invigilators we're notably distressed by. I spoke to an invigilator (who was not enjoying listening to the sound of sick for hours on end) who commented that mostly it was younger people that we're shocked at the work, and in their embarrassment tended to shuffle on quickly. Older people, it seems, have already experienced their fare share of sex, dealing with sick and comparing cacti.

Upstairs you have to dodge through a door that continually opens and closes, only to find that the sound of puke is replaced by the unnerving clatter of a line of metronomes, each set at a different and decreasing tempo. Twin TV's show video footage of a ferry coming into dock, one slightly delayed, so you are given two simultaneous windows in time for the same event. Sheets of paper are covered with short, singular non-overlapping strokes, which create a jostling, textured selection of drawings; every stroke evident.

'Work 160:The Lights Going On and Off (1996)' is housed in the tower room, and consists of... yes... the lights going on and off. I worked in clubs as a VJ for a few years and am well aware of the impact that lighting has on an audience; although standing quietly watching the world pass by through the windows, listening to the regular click of the automated on/off switch of these lights is perhaps more akin to the passing of days and nights, than the noise, disorientating flashes and momentary glimpses found at a club.

Martin Creed it seems likes to make the most of simple ideas. One of ideas is repetition, another is variation, he also likes a performance. Creed's talent seems to be to present minimum stimulus to maximum effect; something very simple which resonates across your psyche. The thinking space around each piece emboldens the concept, enhancing exponentially possible applications and greater considerations of it's reading and purpose. The clarity and simplicity of his work allows you to make your own associations and ponder your own applications of the basic processes.

I got stuck a few years ago creating my own art. One piece I created and repeated recently at the sadly deceased Crowd 6 Gallery is a series called 'If in doubt repeat' in which I didn't know what to do, so I just repeated the same thing over and over. It was amazing how much was revealed through repetition and variation. Maybe I'm sick, but Martin Creed has given me new inspiration in my doubt about what life's about.

You can see an extended version of the sick video along with Martin's Band live at The Electric Cinema on Saturday Oct 4th. Can't make it? Buy the DVD here. Cant wait??? Here's a taster from a similar piece 'Sick Film', Work No. 610.

Lucienne Cole and Friends present
Here & Now & The Future (Do you want to dance and blow your mind? on 31 October 2008 @ Ikon Eastside. 7.30pm–late.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Fantasy.Fashion.Sex -: Go Tokyo

I've had a minor obsession with Japan since I was about 18 and went mad on Manga. Obviously I was a prime example of a teenager being into Manga and Metal, and moody. So anyway when I think of Tokyo, I think of Akira, but alongside imaginary Kanada's & Tetsuo's blazing around on motorcycles and the place being destroyed by dark forces, mutants and Godzilla... I've found there are equally fantastic but real people and places there...

In Harajuku district the Cosplay-zuko (Costume Play Gang) turn up most weekend's at Jingu-bashi bridge. These moody teens find escape in dressing up, and dress as Anime characters or other stylised alter-ego's from music, film, games and fantasy; bloody nurses, Goth's, Lolita's and cyberpunks all gather and hang out. Tourist's turn up in droves to snap them apparently and here's why...

More here:

In Shibuya you get Ganguro Fashion which consists of Manba & Yamanba girls who get tanned to the max, then go seriously blonde. Apparently this all goes totally against traditional Japanese concepts of beauty and the girls are generally seen as well... probably what girls who dress like these Barbie's from Hell (complete with worldly treasures and scorching) would be seen as over here; slappers...

Victory V's seem to be the thing to do when being snapped in Tokyo it seems

Back in the day, when Japanese families all lived together (inc. Nan, Grandad and Great Uncle Rodney) it was tricky for Mom & Dad to find space to get jiggy and add another member to the family. So they used to go and find a quiet room in a Love Hotel where questions are not asked and you can hire the room by the hour. Now this doesn't sound too unusual does it? Until you find out that many Love Hotels are themed... and in true Japanese style you can bonk your missus (or anyone else you care to lure) in a room decorated as... well... a clinic, a forest, a school room or subway car. Or perhaps you'd prefer inside a boiler? or as an alien in a spaceship, or on a Carousel horse?? or even as Wallace & Gromit, in a room complete with oversized TV and furniture..?!?

Read the full Wired mag feature here:

Oh did I mention, I'm in Tokyo this Halloween?? hehe. Lucky me. Here's my fave scene from Akira...

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Wisdom from Disabled World (TM)

This gave me much amusement on it's discovery, and I feel that the wisdom given herein from this Disability and Seniors Information and Community site should be passed on to others.


Friday, 29 August 2008

I Went to the Woods at Walsall

Phew.. we made it... I just spent a couple of busy days putting together an interactive album for Juneau/Projects/ an artist duo I've worked with on many projects over the last few years. The piece entitled "I Went to the Woods" has been an ongoing project at Walsall Art Gallery for a while now and consists of the general public writing and recording music with the artists, at their studio there. August 28th was the album release, complete with performances of the tracks and the chance to buy the DVDROM album (each disk mounted on a small forked branch).

The concert started with the Juneau lads dressed in painted suits playing wonderfully weird wooden bug shaped guitar type things, producing synthesized sounds. A selection of people involved were asked to come and join them and ranged from a young girl reading poetry to an older man playing guitar to two men on piano and cello. These amateur performances reminded me of Outsider Music or the oddness of Captain Beefheart. The aesthetic is it's clumsiness and unconventional nature; a lack of knowledge and experience overlooked and a sincerely found beneath. You can imagine what it would sound like conventionally, but you are also given it's short-fallings; mistakes and imperfections become exemplified, but acceptable, resulting in moments usually carefully removed or avoided by professionals - missed notes, forgotten and mumbled words, over-long pauses, odd lyrics, unusual technique.

Ben Sadler - half of Juneau/Projects/ in painted suit

The Album itself is a cross platform, multi-track interactive piece, with which you can add and subtract different instruments parts and effects as you listen, even recording your own mix or arrangement and playing it back. Not sure how you'd get your hands on a copy but you could try contacting them at if your interested. They have some mp3 downloads from older projects here.

Also at residence at the gallery has been Milee (Feng-Ru Lee) who has been grazing as a sheep in small grass pens in the space, bringing the outside inside. She told me she liked the fact that you are never sure when you'll bump into a sheep out in the country, and had relocated this experience, in a way, to the gallery. As Milee the Sheep she had been living on, tending to and growing (real) grass.

Friday, 22 August 2008

On Life, Science & Art

Generally I have little or no interest in Science or Nature, two things my parent's are both keen on. Neither of my parent's are musical or artistic, which strangely is exactly what my brother and I became involved in respectively. Perhaps there's some relevance in that somewhere...

Anyway, soon I'm off to New Zealand and South America to see just about how exotic and wild Nature can get. There is of course plenty of other things to see and do, personally I'm looking forward to being lowered into shark infested waters in a cage, but I thought I'd better do a little ground work on my weak spots first, so aside from fixing cars, swimming and speaking Spanish, I've been reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, and actually enjoying it. OK so it's an audio-book and I tend to listen to it late at night in bed, or just as I wake up, and yes sometimes it has come dangerously close to sending me back to sleep, but on the whole it has been pretty enlightening.

Just to REALLY rub it in, here's a picture of Bolivia's Altiplano salt plains

Bryson's premise is that it must be possible to understand science, even if basically, without being in-the-know, and for this information to be digestible by the average reader without a coma ensuing. So from the planets to chemical compounds, evolution, quantum physics, plate tectonics and everything else since the dawn of time, Bryson guides you through all the stuff you forgot, or never got, or were never bothered about, and it's actually accessible. Well done him.

One thing mentioned in the section about how life started on Earth was Stromatalites - a name that rung a bell. These weird living rocks are apparently the World's Oldest Living Thing - "the original source of oxygen in the earths atmosphere and hence one of the most important steps in evolution."*Now it takes a lot to impress me with anything nature related, but surviving 3.5 billion years is pretty good going, even if you are just a race of breathing rocks. Sadly they have yet to evolve mouths to chat to us about it all.

Report any weird science you may encounter here

a few years ago on Australia's West Coast at Shark Bay I stood and took a few photo's of these things. I was of course told at the time that they we're really, really important and very, very, very old etc. but to me they were weird and pretty, and I was glad to be in the middle of nowhere, in the sun, amongst a semi-submersed alien landscape.

When I met the Stromatalites - a bunch of old Rockers - hahardyfuckingha

One of my insights from the book was that much of the time Scientist's don't know, which was kind of comforting. I suppose this is why they experiment. Hysterically, many of them are mad, weird, anti-social, maniacal or just plain thrill seekers with an unusual medium. They reminded me of a few famous artists with similar tendencies.

If your bored at this point, here's
a list of unusual deaths and here's one of people killed by their own inventions
courtesy of the wonderful wikipedia.

What appealed was the idea that they were exploring concepts and exploring, sometimes with only an inkling of what they would end up with. I've always though that the beauty in art was rarely the product, and more likely the process of creating, experiencing or conceptualising the work. But then that's why I like performance art - it's an experience, which is perhaps what you should get with most of the arts (inc. music, theater, literature etc.), but performance is always a touch more more real and confrontational - essential in a world now dominated by media and society's sway towards non-physicality. I suppose that when the product becomes the focus of the process, it feels a little too close to manufacture - work for robots to do, painting by numbers... and evolution I suppose is also a process of adaptation to explore an unknown future.


Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Magician of New Street

The other day I got to New Street station only to find that all trains to Coventry were cancelled and had been replaced by buses. 'Balls' thought I, 'I suppose I'll have to get a coffee and wait then'. I looked at the coffee shop, and figured I'd just save my money.

So I trundle out the back of the building to discover the loitering place. On my way out of the doors, I get a "'scuse me, mate". "Sorry" I say, delivering my usual leave-me-alone-i-am-not going-to-give-you-money line with half effort and blindly walk on. "I'll do you a trick." he says.

So I stop, and turn around to see a guy in a floppy hat and shorts with a bag. He looks like he's just fell off the Oasis tourbus, complete with hangover and mild concussion. 'Fuck it.' I thought. 'I've got 30 mins and if this guy can amuse me for a few, what do I care? I'll just keep my hand on my wallet, and an eye out for his accomplice (should this be one of the Distraction category scams)'.

So he offers me a deck of cards and and after narrowing down my choices to next to nothing, he says 'think of a card'. I say "11 of hearts" in my post-party, only just woke-up, slightly bruised state. "Hmmm.. that'll be a Jack then?" he says. "Err.. yeah, that'll be a Jack" I say. So anyway, up turns my Jack from the deck, as if by magic, and he reveals that all the other cards are blank. It must be magic. I start to form a slight grin. "Feel free to go 'Woooo!' and show your excitement!" he says. So he shows me a few other tricks that look mostly like they've come from a kids magic set and have been dragged through the garden a few times.

Up wanders an old Afro-Caribbean guy to watch. 'Maybe this is the accomplice' I wonder... the pair are such a mismatch, it would be a perfect cover. The old man loves it as the magician transforms 3 ropes of varying lengths (with my help) into 3 ropes of the same length, and laughs sporadically, patting his hands together. "That's wicked!" I say, genuinely impressed with his slight of hand, "Your best trick yet!". "Yeah? Can you spare me a little change?". I dig out a pound, and he offers some more really, really good tricks for another small donation. "Next time" I tell him and shake hands.

So my bus turns up and I get on.. now with a curious grin, thinking that the money I would have spent drinking coffee i didn't want, sitting at a wobbly metal chair, at a sticky Costa table, got spent on being amused by a magician.

Even if a basic one.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Guardian says Digbeth has 2nd & 3rd best outdoor dancefloors in UK

Well it finally happened. Birmingham is ace, and Digbeth is better.

The Guardian voted The Rainbow 2nd best outdoor dancefloor in the UK, and swiftly followed it with The Custard Factory's Factory Club (Medicine Bar) as 3rd.

Birmingham you fuckin' rule..!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

More Flummoxed with my Flickbook Anim!

After reporting on the Flummoxed event a while back here, I wondered whether I'd ever get to see my animation played and am delighted that the flickbooks have made it online! Yay! Mines even first to play, done in black playschool crayon...

mmmm.... crayon taste good.

It seems Trevor Woolery was responsible, and there's more to follow as this is just part 1. Thanks to CiB for blogging it here.

Here's the animations, in there full glory :) :)

Flummoxed Flipbook Workshop part 1 from Lonomi Productions on Vimeo.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Secret Garden [P?]arty

Well it's not over yet, but I went down to Cambridgeshire to check out the Secret Garden Party, which, all told, was strangely very quiet and mis-organised.!? I went down on wednesday to help artist Will Parker set-up the video installation we had been working on. Will's exhibit consisted of a time delayed video feed, one side of which was slightly delayed so you could, in theory, interact with yourself, a bit like this;

The first day was spent... waiting... for a carpenter, scaffolder, electrician, organiser - in fact anyone of any use to turn up and help us set the space. Lots of promises and no show from anyone. A team were building an entire bar in the same tent with food serving facilities and they too were waiting... and being delayed.. in fact they had to stay up the entire night building it ready for the 12 o'clock opening the next day with little help or contact from anyone from the festival. Will's install never got made while I was there due to structural concerns, a complete lack of three wooden walls and no electricity. We were promised that it would happen, but be relocated. I don't know if it ever did.

I've never been to the Secret Garden Party before and well, it was curious. It looked great - there were trees of shoes, random doorways, houses of straw and wood, random nan's living rooms, a dance-off boxing ring, mud pits, a boat and more props, flags, circus tents, surreal scenery and curious clothing than you can imagine, but behind this attractive frontage was a distinct lack of... well.. Party!

On wednesday the workers on site had to trek to Tesco, 4 miles away, to get food and drink as pretty much nothing was available on site - no drinks, no alcohol, no food! The dance-off boxing ring, which was the only place pumping music late and being rawkus were told to stop at 10pm and a topless girl was asked to put her shirt on. Hmmm... I went back to my tent at 10.30 bored out of my mind to relax for 5 mins and fell asleep, missing, I'm guessing, very little.

Grandma's living room in a field

So along came Thursday and the crowds started arriving - hooray! - but it turned out that the production of the festival was so far behind that the main stage wasn't even built for the thursday evening and, despite the increase in numbers, the place started to feel more like a theme park that was closing for the night than the first day of a festival. I overheard one conversation discussing how with only 3 people in the que in front of them, it took someone an hour to get through the festival gate as they were searching peoples bags so thoroughly.

Thursday night however was a vast improvement on wednesday, not that that was hard. So it's going better - I'm getting pissed on the alcohol I brought in yesterday from Tesco - a can of Red Stripe being £3.30 here (thats £13.20 for a 4 pack of lager!! Not exactly the reasonably priced selection of food and drink available mentioned on their website). Anyway I find a dance tent and get lost in a small crowd of zebra women, dandys' and deranged farmers. My minimal techno hit out of the way, I venture off and find that a Teddy Bear house is pumping - great methinks, only for them to announce 5 minutes later that they only have an 11pm license and are closing... so I find another tent with techno playing, and the power cuts out twice on the DJ who is working from a computer, by which time the crowd has begun to dissipate.. and they announce they too only have an 11pm license and are now closing........!! fucking hell.

Wrongness was on the menu at the Teddy Bear's house

I wander off to buy a drink at a little Honeymoon lodge, only to find they have run out of everything except Mead, which I except in desperation. Very little is going on. Fuck it thinks I, I've got better things to do than wallow in disappointment. I try to buy some food from a chinese shop, of which they have none left. "What can I buy with £2?" I ask. "2 Springrolls??" replies the guy behind the counter. So off I walk bemused with a single springroll wondering what the hell happened to my festival experience?

I can only hope for all those who are there now and paid £125 a ticket that Friday and Saturday were fucking amazing!?!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

How to be a Rivethead

Need advice on how to be Rivethead?
Need to name your Industrial band?
Seeking advice on how to date a non-Rivethead?
Wondering how to express your post-apocalyptic-ness at work?

Don't worry help is here...

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Recent Drawings (6)

copyright © Ben Neal 2008

Monday, 14 July 2008

Supersonic Friday

Rated as the best experimental music festival this-side of Sonar in Barcelona by someone recently (if my memory serves...) it was Supersonic again this weekend in Birmingham! What a treat:) As usual, I got rather excited at the Friday line-up... Saturday looked amazing with Battles headlining and Sunday had the delights of the ZX Spectrum Orchestra and possibly the most awe-full band in the universe ASVA.

ASVA are the only band I've seen (at another Capsule gig) in which I have totally lost my concept of time and could have easily been there for a month. People left crying with disappointment that an ex-Mr. Bungle member [Trey Spruance] could be doing anything as strange as playing as slowly and loudly as possible. ASVA make Type O Negative sound like Chipmunk-Speed Garage.

Anyways... I got asked to VJ again this year and again sadly had to decline. The first time there was a bombscare and since then I've hung-up the old VJing gloves and retired. The good news though - I get to be at the event and enjoy it as a punter. Excellent. Visuals were good in the medicine bar but what the hell was the pink and green shapes all about when Cutting Pink were on? ergh......

So why Friday? Well...

First up were Cutting Pink with Knives whose tracks Airz and Laser Hannon from their ‘Populuxxe’ album are a couple of the most listened to tracks I own, according to the trusty LastFM profile. They may barely be over a minute and a half each and completely spazzed out cybergrind pop nonsense, but I love them. Which may be a little more than the band themselves do, who were HAMMERED. It's their last gig before splitting and they swiftly massacred everything like a seasick serial killer. These guys were funny! Crowd surfing, throwing guitars in the air, crawling around the floor, throwing cans of beer at, and chatting to the surgeons in the crowd... great to watch! but sadly, after missing them the last time they played, I felt a bit underwhelmed that the songs I know and love somehow got turned into sludge. Ah well, it was funny, even if they seemed outta tune, outta time, outta key, outta their heads and considering each track was about 2 minutes max, you got a 'let's chat break' of about 4 minutes between every song. Ace, but for all the wrong reasons.. maybe..

Here's a pic - not from Friday, but perhaps evidence that CPWK are mostly mental?

Rolo Tomassi however were tight as fuck. Totally amazing set from a band who when I first saw them were dressed as a selection of manga dragons, bob the builder and Sam from Blakfish for Halloween - a look that I somehow still miss. None of them look very old. And this is usually pointed out early on, closely followed by 'and the little girl with the cute blond bob can't half scream with the best of 'em'. It is true. Eva, Rolo's incredibly sweet and innocent vocalist, can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand-up like porcupine spines as she snarls and adds a little pirouette. Rolo started strong but tended to peter out a little just before the end, similar to the last time I saw them - but the first few songs were just electrifying. They seem to be going from strength to strength this year too and just played Download..! Luckily there back in Birmingham in sept or playing in Wolverhampton in august if you need to catch them. Oh, and they're from Sheffield - I love Sheffield. Actually they appeared in my first blog on here.

Here's Rolo live at Rock City.

Sadly I missed most of PCM with the vocalist from Bolt Thrower... sounded good from the bits I caught though. Dalek were a tad dull for me, and I'm surprised they're on Ipecac but maybe they're just not my cuppa tea - big industrial hip-hop beats and serious rap, but nothing I'd write home about. I was keen to see them as they are playing this years All Tomorrow's Parties in December which is curated by Mike Patton and The Melvins. If I were going to be in the country, I'd be there! Among the acts are The Locust, Thrones, Bohren und der club of Gore and Fantomas playing The Director's Cut in it's entirety!

The Osaka Invasion was great, I was looking forward to Bogulta who did not disappoint. Playing electro-pop-cartoon-noise this Japanese two-piece looked and sounded great, as was Ove-naxx . DJ Scotchegg the KFC obsessed, Wrong Music genius was amazing. Playing his set from a Gameboy, this frazzled-looking stripey-hooded madman, clawed the air like the god of thunder, while hammering out 8-bit gabba blasts, smoking-nintendo-doomcore, and stars & bonuses. YES!!!

Here's Scotch Egg's Bach remake:)

But where the hell was DJ/Rupture? I was looking forward to seeing him, but couldn't find him anywhere! Was I just too wasted or did he not play??? Confused.

Anyway thank you again Capsule. We love you. Feed us weird things, more weird things.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Tweeting into space

I have found myself updating my online Twitter account. This disturbs me, as i get the distinct impression i am writing brief statements to the Internet for no particular reason, with no mission in mind and a microscopic audience. Status updates? What is the point? Curious...

Twitter Profile

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Alien plantlife meets Hip-hop / VJ Starwars

On the off chance you've not seen it already, here's the incredible and very inspiring video to Sixes Last by Alias created by 1st Avenue Machine. AMAZING.

Here's something a bit special too from Electraglide 2005 in Japan. Chris Cunningham cuts Starwars... Being an ex-VJ and a big techno fan, I got a bit wet over this...

Got Flummoxed!

On Thursday I went to Flummoxed at The Rainbow Warehouse next to The Rainbow in Birmingham. Last time I went their was Below - a rather epic and deep techno night which was quite a contrast to the intriguing events unfolding at 7 Inch Cinema and VIVID's collaboration event.

On entry I was greeted by a lady in what I can only think was a icecream van who relieved me of £4 and told me that a piece based on the No.11 bus route was taking place next door. So I wandered through and after a quick hello to Mr.Ben (Illustrator and purportrator of unusual musics) realised that the array of onstage musicians playing doublebass and violins were somehow describing the route of a bus...

Time for a beer methinks, and promptly walked into a beach constructed beneath the arch of the railway. So after getting sand between my toes, I plump for a bench instead of the deckchairs from which I might never leave. I'm given a flickbook and reveal to the guy handing them out that I am already armed with a crayon and ready for action.

So I drink and chat and draw my flickbook - a journey through the air and into an ariel view of me getting beaten in an arm wrestle, which I hope might appear online at the 7 Inch site at some point, as I didnt catch it on the big screen... The screen that's showing the flickbooks being scanned in and animated as their made...

So the event is about Fluxus, a 60's performance art movement involving such artists as Yoko Ono and John Cage. It's all about playing and making and doing and exploring. Strangely I have a long lasting link to Fluxus, as for years I have been using the name Phluxm to create and perform (as Artist/Musician/VJ/DJ) with, a name that evolved from Fluxem ('em - as in them) a cheeky rewrite of Fluxus. As part of that process I developed PHLUMX, VJing software (which is the same word as Phluxm with the last two letters flipped), a word that works in ALL CAPS or all lowercase but strangely not so well as a mix of the two. Anyway... shut up Ben... Here's a pic that I recognise from my Fluxus research at Uni. Can't think why...

Photograph of Shigeko Kubota performing her Vagina Painting,
taken July 4th, 1965 at Cinemateque, E 4th Street, New York City during Perpetual Fluxus Festival.

In the side room I watch Flux Concert 2 which involves a selection of performers called into play with the ring of a bell. The sort you have in Faulty Towers at the reception. A small steel thing, you tap on the top. Bing! Manuel!!

The happenings involve; a barrage of noise in the form of a 3 piece band, a message written on paper but never seen, which is torn to pieces on completion and thown into the audience, and a potato which is peeled intil there's nothing left. The highlight for me was John Richards's "Piece for Sparklers & Dirty 'Dutch' Feedbacker" - a new piece - which involved creating sound from heat/light sensors attached to candles. The electrical hums, buzzes and crackles are controlled through the lighting, burning and blowing out of candles, to create a sort of audio-visual, electrical/heat-light sound composition.

I couldnt help but think of two other works; one seen at Sonar 2007 in which the sound of tiny metal rods had been amplified on a tiny table - the movement of the metal rods was controlled with magnets to create a juddering drum-like performance. The second by Brian Duffy held at Ikon in which he had used the light from the stars to create sounds which altered as the stars changed.

After this Ian Francis introduced us to a video 'which they wouldn't normally show'. It was a video documentary about a government cover-up made mainly of hidden camera footage . It was all very serious and intriguing as a story unfolded of a disaster at some sort of atomic facility over which the media coverage had been suppressed. I did get a bit suspect of the genuineness of the footage when a worker (apparently trapped in a safehouse in a contaminated area for 3 days) appeared to be standing in what looked more like someones bedroom covered in tin foil... then through the back door of the room stumbled a mutant! It was the guy from the video, lit only by a group with torches - he stumbled into the room and collapsed. A niceley executed shift from video to reality...

Aha.. just found a little bit of paper with a few links on it about the inspiration for the piece which was called The Atlas Experiment. Try these for some real info: and

From here on, I relaxed on the beach watching the flickbooks animate on the video screen and laughing at the occasional whistleblow which called onto the dance floor a gang of silent ravers (all with mp3 players), one who seemed to be some sort of cross between the badguy in Flash Gordon (with the goldmask who melts) and a Transformer. On leaving, this strange being gave me a playing card, which I have just found. On it is written "There's a suit for your kind! Find them - this evening!". Which I did:)

Official Fluxus Site

Friday, 4 July 2008

another album that amazes me on every listen

Another album which is incredible and I still listen to a lot is Paw's Dragline. How they write such powerful stuff about things like a dog, or fishing, or drinking is just plain unusual... Post-grunge stuff, very American but what a fuckin album... I own it on tape and it is in danger of being chewed up and spat out every time I play it. I need a copy on CD which will have to be 2nd hand because you cant buy it anymore. I pretty much dosn't exist online either.. :(

This video is Jessie I'd rather have put Sleeping Bag on here but it seems every YouTube video of the band has been videod from across the room while watching it on ancient VHS equipment as the tape is being mangled...

Judging by the posts on YouTube for Sleeping Bag there's a few out there who also love this album. Death to Traitors was not so good an album, and to be honest the newer stuff sounds a pretty dull. Strange how sometimes a band will just unexpectedly pull an amazing album out the bag.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

On getting flummoxed...

Tonight I'm off silent raving at Flummoxed thanks to Flux-fest run from VIVID and hosted by 7 Inch Cinema. I am also told to bring my best worst vinyl for a 3 deck mix and a marker to create flickbooks. Can't wait:)

Ian Francis and 7 Inch Cinema have consistently brought exciting new music, film and frolicks to Birmingham. Here's an interview curteosy of Created in Birmingham

Don't miss out on the remaining fun at Flux-fest either, there's plenty more to be had....

PS. Did anyone mention I developed a piece of video mixing (VJ) software called PHLUMX used at a fair few 7 Inch events in the past?..? LOL

Thursday, 26 June 2008

3 albums that amaze me on every listen

Every now and then you chance on an album that you have to play from start to end every time you listen to it. Many are well know, but here's a few I love that slipped the net or just got plain terrible reviews full stop...

B>Thong - "Damage"
In my eyes as good as Pantera's "Vulgar Display of Power", but never as influential and got absolutely panned by the reviews. I actually listen to this a hell of a lot more. Crunchy as hell, sharp as serrated metal knives and with a dash of cheeky humour. If Pantera we're Swedish this would be them. Methinks the band name may have done them no good at all and apparently the other albums are crap..!? Well this one's ace! Check out the video too, got me hooked on first listen ever.

Meet Me in St.Louis - "Variations on Swing"
Pretty Emo for me but the spazzed out arrangement and delirious musicianship win every time. Managed to catch em life briefly but their vocalist has just left, so it was not the same. Sorry guys. Loved this EP to pieces. One wince-fully aggressive online review claims that this gem is 'a load of pretention wank' that's a small quote from a slagging off of epic proportions that the 'reviewer' seems to have felt necessary. Exactly what a 'pretention wank' is - I dont know.

X is Greater than Y - "Negative Snow"
I actually know Simon their bass player, but this EP is epic and genius for what initially seems a straight forward-ish indie act. Bit lost as to why I like this so much actually.. maybe it's the claustrophobic, upfront-ness of the production. Apparently it was produced by a guy who would normally do dance music. Many people really didn't like it - I love it!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

A Door

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Rut Addict

Well I've become an addictive personality. I am blaming my age and a newly discovered tendency to get stuck in patterns of behaviour. My current addictions include; Photography, The Smiths & Spanish.

Photography... I bought a bullet-proof camera for my travels and try to make an effort to carry it about with me and take pics of stuff. Clouds strangely are becoming a main focus of attention when I'm out. However a week or so ago I was lucky enough to go to the peak of Snowdon on a Stag weekend for the infamous Levon Lumb, so many pictures taken there of various outdoor scenes and collapsed drunken friends.

The Smiths... how the hell did i get into the Smiths?! They are totally unlike any other band I listen too.. Which is good i suppose. I have no idea why I like them so much. I can only say great song writing; A weird mix of wispy guitar lines, jolly basslines, eighties drum sounds, huge effects and of course Morrissey's whimsical plum-like observations on British life...

Spanish... I will not mention here for fear of flying into a whirlwind of broken amateur Spanish. Found this though which is ace - its a TV drama type thing for learning it:

Can't wait for next episodes !:S


As a total aside, check out this fella; Mr.Bungle, Fantomas, Naked City, Korn, Meshuggah - remixed as Breakcore! YEESSSS!!! :

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Stirring the $urface

Danny Smith's amusing blog on the $urface Unsigned Festival's tendency to make money from their clientele.

Made especially portent by my own experience of coming 4th in last years festival with Jazz Thrash Assassin, although fond memories... maybe there's an underlying agenda here (?).

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Performance Endurance Art

It's been a while since I saw a piece of really influential, truly amazing performance art, but the other day I went to see a treat at the Endurance body-art weekend mini-festival held recently at VIVID.

The piece by William Hunt called "Call John the Boatman" involved the following;

The room is silent aside from the drips of water from 4 paint pots held aloft by ropes which run to a central point close to large black bin. The Artist enters though a side door, to kneel and tape two tape recorders to his knees. He then stuffs earplugs into his ears and nostrils. He clips his harness onto the ropes and leaps up the back wall, inverts himself and slowly dunks himself headfirst into the large black bin of white paint.

He then lifts himself back out, the paint pots acting as counter balances, and hangs suspended above the paint bin - head now white, hair trailing paint onto the floor. He clips himself in place and takes out the earplugs. (I notice that in other performances, Hunt uses a buoy as counter balance but the surrounding pots of paint hanging two either side of him, used in the VIVID performance, suggested his enclosure in an art space, at the center of which Hunt literally soaks himself, which I kinda liked.)

Straining, he presses record on the tape recorder on his left leg and sings what sounds like a sea shanty calling John the Boatman, who is asleep. He then rewinds and plays the tape, while pressing record on the machine on his right leg. The artist sings 'a round' variation of the song (row, row, row the boat style) over the initial recording which is recorded into the second tape player. He then rewinds and plays the new recording while singing over it again and records this over the first recording, transferring the song between the two players, while adding new parts.

As he repeats the process, the recordings grow increasingly distorted and layered, and Hunt gets progressively weary, hanging upside down, as the audience watch paint dry over his facial features and dripping hair. To me it suggested distortion through analogue recording, copying and duplication, or the strength of oral tradition as the words and tune remain the same despite the degradation of the recording. The inversion certainly added an element of stress and increased physical presence, straining his singing as the piece develops. When the round is complete, he unhooks and lowers himself to the floor, then leaves.

The rest of the show included an absolutely A grade mix of moving image pieces from the very best in performance art; including Stuart Brisley, Vito Acconci, Marina Abramović, Ron Athey, Chris Burden, Tehching Hsieh, Valie Export, Smith/Stewart, Bob Flanagan, Orlan and Gilbert and George. VIVID did an amazing job of gathering these gems together, this was an opportunity to see so many incredible performance art videos all in one spot.

I returned to see Kira O’Reilly on the Saturday and was disappointed at the turn out as the place should have been crawling with students and artists from far and wide.. (VIVID : Better marketing needed methinks, I only found out there were three days of performance when I arrived!). O'Reilly, naked aside from small props such as a hat and feather, performed a series of dance-like, circus-esque motions and repetitive actions including slapping her thighs until red, climbing into then jumping from a wall in high heels and holding uncomfortable poses against the concrete floor. At one point she circles the audience, with her back turned, looking into every face through a small hand mirror. The piece is punctuated with small gasps, gestures and waves of her hand. Frequently she twirled a feather between her teeth. Personally I found the amount of variation in her actions difficult to identify themes or narrative in and was a little underwhelmed after friday's event.

More on William Hunt on his website here.

Keira O'Reilly's website here

Interesting anti-art article on O'Reilly here. Here's more on the piece in discussion.

More performance Art coming soon courtesy of Fierce! Including works by Harminder Judge Singh and Jiva Parthipan with whom I was lucky enough to have a chat with in a bar after VIVID.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Get it all up front. Communications meltdown

I've been tinkering with Google's iGoogle space for a while, but have just found a lovely plugin that diaplays blogs RSS feeds, alongside my handy 30 boxes calendar and Facebook (oh my god you geek) plugin so everytime I logon online it's all there in front of me. Glee... I even have the weather...

Monday, 5 May 2008

If In Doubt... Repeat...

On April 18th I did a spoken word performance called "If in doubt repeat..." performed at Crowd6 in Bearwood alongside Edward Bond, David Miller, Ana Benloch, Stuart Tait, Matt Westbrook and Michael Hesp among others. This version was sub-titled "Buy" as the piece is one of a series of durational word-based works, using a very simple concept of repetition.

The idea is simply to repeat a word or phrase for as long as I can or until I make a mistake, and this usually gives some interesting results. The series includes; “I Don’t Know” (2005), “Art is Good” (2005) and “Data” (2008 -30mins).

Here's a bit from the proposal I made to Crowd6 : "Through repetition, the phrases gather new meanings and readings, via variation and mishearing. Human behaviour often intervenes or interrupts such as sighing, yawning, breathing or laughing and betray other human processes affecting this simple procedure. Throughout the duration of each video I become increasingly tired - introducing an aspect of endurance and motivation.

Facial expressions add to the reading of the words and give insight into my thoughts and feelings. Rhythms emerge and sounds begin to take recognisable patterns. Regional dialect and pronunciation also play a part in the sounds formation.

The performances can be humorous, frustrating, at times expressive and at others not. Spiritual mantra’s are called to mind, or perhaps rote learning or memorising. ‘I Don’t Know’ works around a theme of uncertainty, failure and struggle. ‘Art is Good’ entertains themes of creative license, brainwashing and belief. ‘Data’ introduces a theme of digital reproduction, information processing and offers a human equivalent.

These pieces are intended to highlight human variation (intended or otherwise) in language and emotion through time and repetition, and our fluctuations in the reading of them."

For "Buy" I wore a jacket and sunglasses and repeated the word non-stop as if giving a lecture to the audience. A variation for this piece involved shortening it, as previously most of the performances had been around 30-40 minutes, and I was asked to make this more like 5 minutes, so, as a way of limiting the time, I gradually raised the volume of my voice until I was shouting "BUY!BUY!BUY!" at the top of my voice (although in reality I could have probably gone further - I thought I'd spare the seated audience).

I hear there is some footage on DV of it somewhere.. maybe I should chase it up...

Edward Bond - pirate, minor deity and possibly the universe's finest dancer has also blogged the event here. Go Read!

Ed & Dave's previous show '
Wunderkammer' curated by Kate Pennington-Wilson and Charlie Levine at BIAD has also been posted on Ed's Blog here and Ana Benloch has also posted on it here.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Recent Drawings (5)

copyright © Ben Neal 2008