Raqib Shaw Absence of God

On my way home from a meeting I went to this at the White Cube.  The biggest work is a huge panel seven metres long, painted in industrial enamel with rhinestones. My first impression was of impossibly bright colours, fantastical creatures, the deep blue skin of human figures decorated with strings of sparkling beads. Then chimera of wildly different combinations:  cat, monkey, bird heads, lizard tails and octupus genitals. There were architectural elements, ruined columns and arches then a chasm the figures appear to be falling into while butterflies float above. There was no referencing system for someone like me in the intricate  almost lurid colours. The  solution for me was to walk slowly past letting myself be dazzled by the gems winking at me as I moved.

Upstairs, ‘Adam’ is an awkward looking lobster mounted on top of a struggling human figure lying on its back. The male figure has a featherless baby bird’s head with bats and frogs mating in its mouth and maggots crawling around on its tongue. It has more creatures for genitals.

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Raqib Shaw Absence of God

Machine à habiter

Le Corbusier at the Barbican

This exhibition was frustrating to begin with. Why must they establish such a banging narrative? But the second part, where you could just mill around taking in the materials and documentation, offered a chance to admire the work of the great man. Altogether it made me want to go and visit the buildings themselves again-I’d go to Marseilles to visit the Unité. There was the picture of the nursery children playing on the roof, something they were probably never allowed to do again.

The most interesting exhibits are the contact prints, models and annotated drawings part of the design process. The drawings on discoloured paper look fragile but it was moving to see the lighting and heating drawings that looked so simple, hand labeled in those kind of capital letters I tried hard to copy when I was at architectural school. 

There was film footage of the Indian workers carrying up the concrete in large metal bowls. Amongst contacts from the work of Lucien Hervé was a picture of rows of workers standing at the top of the shuttering amongst the forest of reinforcement bars pouring in the concrete by hand. 

To experience the ideas themselves you must visit the buildings, which you can easily do, next time you’re in Paris, Marseilles, Ronchamp. Or you can see Le Corbusier’s influence on London architects in the Golden Lane Estate.  next door. On my way out cycling away, the glass clad office buildings surrounding the Barbican just looked a mess. Could be reverence or reference, placing artfully massed ventilation shafts in the piazza.

Machine à habiter

I went to see Synecdoche, New York

synecdoche460

My  shove towards culture this week was a trip to the Rio Cinema.  ‘Unloved’ on Sunday night, directed by Samantha Morton, a television film based on her own childhood, made me feel so guilty and depressed by the time I went to bed, I was considering becoming a foster parent myself. So how was I going to feel climbing into bed after Synecdoche, New York? That is if I could find my real bed and not the play bed with my real partner not my actor partner. And was it me or the person playing the person playing me? Next morning I was still  confused about which actor was playing who. I still had Samantha Morton and Emily Watson muddled up during breakfast and lost fifty quid over it. Worst of all I missed recognising Jennifer Jason Leigh who has always been one of my favourite actresses. Luckily I had no problem recognising Philip Seymour Hoffman who aged and suffered and balded very well. 

A theatre director, Caden Cotard,  wins the genius prize (my partner says he’s always dreamed of getting one of those) and embarks on directing a huge production inside a massive industrial building. The play takes seventeen years to create, involves more and more characters who exchange places move on and off ‘stage’.

Unusually I enjoyed the scenes near the end of the film most, where Caden pretends to be a cleaning lady to get into his ex-wife’s flat. Then in the stage version he plays the part of the cleaning lady while the actress who was playing the cleaning lady directs. Several friends I know  are in a race to finish the great work before dying gets the better of them. I went to bed feeling I had massively disappointed myself already. I think this was mainly down to the fact that we, the audience, never see Caden’s play and can’t imagine how it would ever be performed.

I went to see Synecdoche, New York

Les Sylphides

DSCN0738I never thought I’d go and see Les Sylphides, no story, plain white costumes, set in a graveyard, but last weekend I was offered a ticket to the Royal Ballet. Fokine was influenced by Isadora Duncan so its all grist to the mill. My first impression was of long tulle costumes so white they looked as if they could be dayglo. Can you have fluorescent white? The soloist, Yuhui Choe, put an extra contemporary sideways slant into the Prelude and the Pas de Deux. She took the what now seem like quite drab movements and transformed them really into something fey and whitty at the same time. 

Sensorium, designed specially to go between the two Les Sylphides and Firebird, had something surgical about the colours, elastoplast pink and blue. I mainly enjoyed Philip Cornfield’s  performance of the Debussy, and the choreography looked more exciting for the dancers, a bit gymnastic. It was thrilling to watch Leanne Benjamin being twirled upside down over her partner’s head.

In all three ballets I was struck by the way the corp de ballet defines the space on the stage by making three sides of a square or circles, rather than the wings or the backdrop which are flat. Usually I’d be up in the amphitheatre. Seen from up there the dancers appear to be making patterns across the stage. This time, sitting in the stalls circle, for Firebird I could really enjoy the spectacle, a mass of colourful, twirling arms and heads.

I was disappointed with patrons of the stalls circle though. Top artists are performing live and they’re sitting as if on their own sofa watching television. Next time its back up to the gods. 

Les Sylphides