Friday, September 24, 2010

Deptford X

Mitch McEwen at the Old Police Station; photo by Val PhoenixDeptford X, which declares itself "London's foremost contemporary visual arts festival", returns tonight for a ten-day run in sunny south London. The full programme is online, but last night I interrupted artist-unlicensed architect Mitch McEwen as she wired up her installation Black Site #2 at the Old Police Station before the opening tonight.

Based in New York, McEwen works with spaces and how people think about them. For this work, she has re-created a full size representation of a black site used by the CIA for interrogating prisoners. We had a bit of a chat, will go out next week on Odd Girl Out, but McEwen explained her starting point was imagining that the CIA asked her to design such a site. Basing her construction on legal depositions given to the ACLU, McEwen used plywood to construct a cell draped with transducers, used to pump music in to induce sleep deprivation. With a laugh, she acknowledged that visitors to the installation will not experience anything like the discomfort of the real thing, but the work questions the relationship between military and civilian society.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Surround Sound

This week I have been immersed in archive tape, sorting through various interviews to use to mark my 20th anniversary in journalism. I wanted to share a selection of clips from my encounters with amazing women in a range of creative pursuits--mostly music, but also writing, film and other, uncategorisable, fields.

It's pretty daunting: how to choose? How to edit? How to present? I am looking at doing a series of short clips for my show and then putting them up online.

This week I tried out a five-channel option on Soundtrack Pro. It's designed for a five-speaker surround sound effect, but I just listened on headphones and rather liked the panning, albeit with several tracks competing for attention.

Recently, I had an interesting conversation with someone who does video interviews and she said she always found audio a bit uncomfortable, a bit too intimate. "That's what I like about it," I replied. I find audio a delightful medium. I like the immediacy, the closeness and the mystery of the unseen. Conducting a one-to-one conversation is one of life's great joys. A pity so many regard audio as the unwanted stepchild of video.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Flying Squirrel

Back in London on a busy Saturday afternoon, catching up on errands, I spot a rather panicked squirrel dodging traffic in a busy high street. Concerned, I watch its progress until it disappears behind a wall. "Mum! A squirrel!" pipes up a small boy ahead of me. The squirrel has now raced up the cement railing of a staircase of a block of flats.

Realising it is no closer to safety, it turns 90 degrees and, before my wondering eyes, makes a flying leap off the staircase, landing on the concrete of the front yard. It must be 3m high and a distance of 4m. Ouch. More to-ing and fro-ing before it returns to the relative shelter of the small shrublike tree of a side road.

Looking about, I realise how few tall trees are in this street. But, another five minutes' (human) walk takes me to a beautiful expansive tree, bursting with branches and shade. Squirrel Paradise.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Dual Action

Golden Disko Ship at West Germany; photo by Val PhoenixAnother double dose, as I took in two gigs in one evening, albeit just around the corner from one another. Missy magazine's relaunch was held at the ever-so-secretive West Germany, a venue which displays the abundant charm of a distressed dentist's waiting room, but books some fantastic acts. I was there to see opener Golden Disko Ship, having missed her gigs in London some months back. Time was of the essence as I wanted to check out Ich bin ein Berliner at SO36 later that night.

As it happened, GDS took the stage just after 11pm, slipping into her gigwear of poker cap and sparkly top, as she addressed her computer keyboard. Not sure of the significance of this look, but perhaps it gets her in the mood. The performance was a marvel of multi-tasking as she worked in guitar, violin, squeezebox and assorted other musical paraphernalia. I thought the images projected on the screen behind her really worked, adding to the ambience. Or maybe it was the sparkly top.

Then it was on to the fabled SO36, which I had never, ever visited. I found it surprisingly posy, as if one had wandered onto the set of the Blitz Club, ca 1983. Great sound and lights, though. I needn't have worried about time, because I was there early enough to see the opening acts, but I was keen to see Mona Mur and En Esch, who absolutely rocked. The live show very much lets the album off its leash, even if a lot of the music comes from a computer. They also had a live drummer, which helps. Mur is the quintessential show-woman, all aggression and blood lust, while guitarist Esch is an unusual mixture of menace and knock-kneed geekiness. Set-closer "Die Ballade vom Ertrunkenen Mädchen" was the icing on the cake.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Family Gatherings

Flyer for Queer Punk Thingy; photo by Val PhoenixTwo gatherings in a space of 15 hours in extremely chilly Berlin: the Queer Punk Thingy in Kreuzberg and Suppe und Mucke in Friedrichshain. The first was at the long-standing Köpi project and featured an array of bands, performance artists and a film programme catering to the queer punkerati.

First stop was a showing of Taxi zum Klo, viewed from extremely uncomfortable benches in freezing conditions. It's December in September! Then off to see a coprophilic performance duo, then some electro pop with glitter. All in all, a fine evening's entertainment, even if now I find myself flagging where once I got a second wind. Am I still a night person?
Soup bowl at Suppe und Mucke; photo by Val Phoenix

The next day was a blur of strollers, face-painting and long queues for soup at the Kiez event Suppe und Mucke. I don't know whose idea it was to mix soup and music, but, hey, why not? Didn't actually sample much of either, but for mere minutes the sun shone and it almost seemed like summer.