Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pussy Riot Appeal Monday

Pussy Riot's appeal is to be heard Monday am in Moscow. Here is the text accompanying MEN's new video in support of them. "This may be the last chance for the Russian judicial system to free the jailed members of Pussy Riot. After this, the women are expected to be sent to three different penal detention centers, where we are very concerned for their safety. Please check in at for more information."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Two Lives

 I've been thinking a lot about collaboration lately, about how living and working together must be just about one of the highest states of being: crashing the frontiers of music, art and film, combining the personal and the professional à deux.

So, it's terribly timely that Club des Femmes (a collaboration) is staging Two Lives this Friday in London, showing cinematic work by mostly female duos. I jumped on Skype to chat to CdF's Selina Robertson to find out more.

So, Club des Femmes. It's not about French film, but it is about film. Tell us more.
SR: Yeah, well, we named ourselves after a French film that was one of the first films that had a lesbian character in one of the dominant roles. We are a queer feminist film club and we started in 2007 and we basically do pop-up events in London and sometimes in Berlin. We screen a mixture of shorts and features, and we have Q and As and parties and lots of things.

OK. And you've got an event coming up in London on September 28.
Yeah, we have an event which is part of the Scala Beyond season and is at the Horse Hospital. It's a short film programme, plus a documentary and it's called Two Lives, which we named after Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. The programme is about collaboration and partnership and how people respond to working partnerships, whether they're lovers or family or best friends.

So, why did this topic interest you?
Well, we were asked by Scala Beyond if we wanted to participate in this two-month season. The Scala Cinema was really known for putting on kind of schlocky B-movie stuff, but also a lot of really interesting 16mm work and new work. And we sort of took the Scala Beyond season, sort of the spirit of it, not the letter of it. I was amazed at how many film clubs and organisations wanted to participate in this season. So, we thought of it as a massive collaborative process and we wanted to do an event about collaboration and then we decided to focus on a few filmmakers, at certain times, some from the last century and some from this century, partnerships and filmmakers who work in partnership.

What do you think is the significance of women collaborating?
I think it's an interesting relationship. For example, we're showing some work by Tove Jansson and her girlfriend, who was a graphic designer. They just made sort of home movies together. But then we're showing some work by Sandra Lahire and Sarah Pucill, who are [known as] filmmakers in their own right, but then they also worked together. I think there's obviously a lot of inspiration and creativity that's sparked off with each other and against each other. I'm interested, because I don't think it's all plain sailing. I think it must be a difficult process, but also very rewarding. We've picked some films that really show how interesting partnerships and collaborations can be with queer and lesbian artists.

Two Lives is on at the Horse Hospital in London on Friday, 28 September at 19:30. Filmmakers Sarah Pucill, Bev Zalcock and Sarah Chambers will attend.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

E17 Art Trail

I didn't get to see that much of the rather overwhelming E17 Art Trail, which has just concluded. But here are some sights that caught my eye.
bicycle; photo by Val Phoenix
Topsy Turvy Tree; photo by Val Phoenix
Broken Britain; photo by Val Phoenix
life drawing; photo by Val Phoenix
venue shopfront; photo by Val Phoenix
WIFF; photo by Val Phoenix
Free Pussy Riot; photo by Val Phoenix
bird boxes; photo by Val Phoenix

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Whitstable Biennale: art and oysters

retaining wall; photo by Val Phoenix
Well, my belated investigation of Kent + art continues with a day trip to the opening of the Whitstable Biennale on Saturday.

Availing myself of the Biennale Bus from sunny London, I arrived outside the Horsebridge Art Centre just before 13:00 in time for the launch, which consisted of many people hovering outside the Biennale HQ (a rather functional black box) and sipping beer. Finding myself elbowed out of the HQ, I set off down the beach, hoping rather than expecting to encounter any exhibits. This is because, try as I might, I could find no map on the website.

This information did, however, appear in the guide I picked up on my travels and so I hotfooted it back to the HAC to hear Jeremy Millar's guided tour of the artists film on show on the ground floor. I was somewhat late and so arrived midway through his discussion of Maya Deren's Ritual in Transfigured Time, and had the unusual experience of sitting in a darkened room with a group of people listening to someone give a running commentary on a silent film.

I had to break off from the talk to nip upstairs to see performance duo Internet enact their very self-referentially awkward piece Acting, an hour-long reflection on performance, shyness and repetition. I found it funny and especially enjoyed the audience interaction (I'd wisely avoided the front row, fearing being called upon), with one audience member asking a puppet whether he was influenced by Brecht's Verfremdungseffekt. You had to be there.

That done, I went in search of food. Now, Whitstable is known for its oysters, and these were EVERYWHERE. On the seafront, in the bars, even in shop windows as decoration. But, being a vegetarian, I was immune to their allure, and ended up enjoying an enormous English breakfast in a cafe.

Sated, I made my way to my next exhibit, an installation called Hollow Moon, by Tom Gidley, which was installed in an out-of-the-way Scouts Hall. Entering the darkened room, I heard a rather detached woman's voice relating a strange encounter with a missing building, while a dancer circled a room, interacting with pieces of pottery. Spotlit in the Scouts Hall were some of those very same objects. I watched, intrigued and bemused, and tried to determine the meaning behind this, while a young boy next to me looked very serious and equally bemused.

This pairing of video and objects was also used to great effect in Emma Hart's Monument to the Unsaved #2 (M20 Death Drives), which I found with great effort hidden on the other side of a large industrial site in a Sea Scouts hut. I didn't mind the hike, because it gave me a chance to explore the beach some more, picking my way over groynes and past the beautiful beach huts. Someone was throwing a birthday party in one, adding to the festivity of the occasion. Once I'd located the Scouts hut, I was greeted by a marvellous multi-media sculpture of wing mirrors reflecting video, plus an installation of plastic bottles, cocktail glasses and trinkets. Even after listening and watching, I am not sure of the connection of the objects to the piece, but the audio/video aspect was entrancing, as Hart related a frightening cut-up of a near-death experience on a motorway. The wing mirrors were a brilliant device for this, and I had to have a close-up look afterward to see how she did it (flatscreen TV!). This was undoubtedly the artistic highlight of the day. Then it was a mix of sunset-hunting and time-killing before the late-night departure of the Biennale Bus. 

The festival continues through the 16th, with different activities throughout the time. The website does not indicate any entry fees, but some events do have fees, as do most of the publications. There is also an app, which may have some of this info, but, not having a smartphone, I didn't try it.

A most enjoyable day, and I am now dreaming of my own seaside cottage or beach hut.