Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Autumn Rush

It's been a busy couple of weeks. I was in Tampere, "the Manchester of Finland" for a conference the week before last. Missing the Manchester literature festival 2nd week as a result, but I did get  to see a pyro-show, a modern dance troop, a jazz band, a Moomin mural and the world's first cyborg; all of which is suitably Finnish, and part of the reason I always love my trips to that country.

Coming back I recovered just in time to go to Goat, Hookworms and Jane Weaver at Albert Hall, and mid-week caught Heaven 17 playing their debut "Penthouse and Pavement" before morphing into their proto-Mark Ronson act B.E.F. with slightly cheesey turns from Mari Wilson, Glen Matlock ("Pretty Vacant") and that bloke out of the Farm, before Glen Gregory returned to the stage for "Boys Keep Swinging" and the inevitable "Temptation."

My only literary night of the week was at Verbose on Monday in Fallowfield where it was great to see Clare Dean read again - a return showing for Nicholas Royle's "uncanny" short story pamphlet series published by his Nightjar press as single volumes. 

Then it was time for some art again, as the new show at HOME opened on Friday. Rachel Maclean is a young Scottish artist who creates over-the-top grotesque movies, photographs and sculptures all inhabiting a strange Alice through the Looking Glass / Wizard of Oz world that aesthetically seems part Teletubbies, part Hieronymus Bosch. This new show Wot u :-) about? incorporates a new film, Its Whats Inside that Counts, where the somewhat simplistic narrative (People are transfixed by internet celebrity pin up, who gets literally "trolled", as people's addiction to data becomes a metaphor for our inner decay) is made so much more by her tendency to constantly switch the tone, and stretch these ideas through her confident and exuberant film making - with CGI, performance, and Sesame Street-like costumes all combining in a seamless piece of extravagant pop cultural overkill. The large sculptures and photographic collages that you need to walk around to get there are in themselves wonderfully extreme, but its the film where all of this seems to come together and make a kind of nonsensical sense. On a continual loop and across three large screens, the film is well worth the time, and for once, dropping in at any time in the performance is actually designed into the piece's fragmentary narrative. Over the last two years, the mixed-media, overtly filmic, sense of contemporary internet-inspired solipsism has been a constant theme of HOME's opening exhibitions, but Maclean's show seems a culmination of this - perhaps the vision of a single artist providing a welcome unity. Allergic as I sometimes am to slightly non-ironic takes on our current digital self-obession this seemed one of the first times where an artist is embedded enough in the currency of this world to not make it seem like a piece of zeitgeist-pandering. Like Matthew Barney's "Cremaster" there's plenty to enjoy in the spectacle, regardless of what your feelings are about the subject matter. We also popped into Hotspur Press where Richard Shields was showcasing a number of Shining-influenced works in a short-run "Retrospectre" exhibition. A good reminder that its sometimes good to revisit older work by an artist for a different audience.

More art this afternoon, to Islington Mill for a short performance, We Are Resident. This coming week, there's a fundraiser for Jonathan Wilson, a young performance poet, part of Contact's Young Identity, who is going to Nepal with VSO - that's at Solomon Grundy's on Thursday. An event to celebrate Frank O'Hara is a week today at the Royal Exchange.

Plenty of regular literary nights as well - including some Halloween specials - and I'm looking forward to this Small Press Symposium the Saturday after next.

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