In my shoes

It all begun late at night walking the streets of Rome.

Me and a bunch of Italians, in our 20s where walking to a place I can’t quite remember now.

I can recall the excitement of the new experience ahead, a new thing to discover, having fun, drifting from one place onto another.

Coming back to art school, developing the photos, I realised having taken a photo of our feet, walking. This small and unimportant detail became the point of recall of what the hang out felt like at that point in time.

The style, became a thing over the years.

Photos of shoes on feet in places. They were taken when there was time to absorb the moment. When life paused. A documentary without the documentation, yet a personal moment of just being.

The following photos follow the trail of moments over the past twelve months or so, from early 2018.

This is something I wanted to do for awhile. There may be more from the past in blog posts to come, or of moments from further back into the past.

Take a walk with me…

This was taken in Methoni, in summer 2018, walking through the village late evening
Taken at my stylist’s back garden in North London
This was taken inside the beautifully serene riad, in the heart of Fez, Morocco
This is an odd one, but the stone paved ground rings Camden Town Market to me, at the Stables.
A Friday night at the Star in Bath “when in Bath…”
Leaving Stansted Airport after landing from summer holidays, full of vitamin D
At the Blues Bar, on a night out with Dad, Carnaby Street London
In Tromso, Norway, looking up at the northern lights
Attending a lecture by a friend in Central London, the Strand
Waiting for the train ride accross Cinque Terra, West Italy
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Curatorial proposal

From the Contemporary Art in the Global (MSc School of Oriental and African Studies)

WE.LIVE.INDARKTIMES

Artists: Derek Walcott, Mark Rothko, Frank Bowling, Atsuho Tanaka, Sammi Baloji

The project visits the theme of darkness as it is approached by the selected artists through painting, poetry, installation art and photography. Dark times have for centuries been associated with the Dark Ages, the victorian times, the plague, III Reich, and the Crusades. Is darkness created in the name of God to entice a journey in reflection?
Darkness in this exhibition will be visited through the artists’ own periods and reflections of darkness. Starting with the more recent Baloji’s photographs have a strong post-environmental sentiment, yet all artists reflect on humanity’s over-consuming framework of aimless societal misappropriations maintained by irrelevance.
The artworks date from post-war period, aligned with the more recent works of Baloji’s diptych, for the provision of a bridging point on perpetual concerns about the loss of communities, citizenship and human rights that have been exaggerated, yet feel less visual, for the absence of blood.
The art on show reflects as much today, as they did at the time of making, that we are entering an autumn of social conscience exasperated by the informality and misappropriation of technology coercing the psyches onto a temporal loss and inaction.
Yet there must be resistance. Art is also a mirror up to the society, ourselves, in hope each individual visiting this exhibition will reflect a little and make a small step of resistance that translates into a big change.
When we don’t speak, we maintain darkness. Northwest indigenous communities have talked of ‘silence’ as a skill. ‘Silence’ used in diplomacy can present a show of arrogance or absence as in demonstration against what I’d said. Against that theory, words presented hide the things that happen in silence, including their potential to tell a different story.
Bringing artworks made by Rothko, Bowling, Tanaka, Walcott, and Baloji together distinctively plays to the audience responses, being of equal therapeutic importance as they were to the artists at the time of making. The five artworks have incredible ‘enlightening’ power’, offering a quiet introspective space for soul searching.
We would like visitors to individual notice which one artwork they are drawn to on their individual experiential pattern route, free from want and free from fear.

ARTWORK SELECTION

  1. Rothko. M, ‘Orange and Yellow’, 1956:

Rothko “Silence is so accurate.”
Yellow and orange make green; green the colour signifying life, renewal, growth, fertility, harmony, nature, freshness, energy, and safety. Rothko never wanted association with any art movement however he was pigeonholed as an abstract expressionist. The simplicity of Orange and Yellow cannot go without noting the technical challenge of keeping the colours separate so they don’t produce green. Is the artist pointing out that we are in the process of exploring our spirituality, and have not reached a harmonious existence yet?
A quest for ascension, Orange and Yellow has a ritualistic quality to the universe framed within the shuttle golden Buddhist orange outline. His work has often been described for its meditative qualities whilst remaining large, and non representational.
Barney Newman, the man inspired title of Frank Bowling’s work in the exhibition, saw himself as a political artist who has also shown his work outside Rothko’s Chapel in Houston, Texas.

  1. Bowling. F, ‘Who’s afraid of Barney Newman’, 1968

The painting is another major African flag colour representation Bowling is known for. Bowling is of Guyanese descent, a descendant of a slave, still surrounded by racism and race assumptions with participation in the First World Festival of Negro Arts, whilst being the first black artist elected in the Royal Academy of Arts with the artist recently receiving an OBE, continuing the colonial mode of tradition. His work was also shown at Afro Modern exhibition at Tate Liverpool in 2010’s, for significance the port of Liverpool having hosted the largest number of slave trade shipments in England.
The question is does Bowling rebel or commercialise further the idea of Africa in a place of exoticism and colonial frames? ‘Who’s afraid of Barney Newman’ was made in 1968, placed two years after the Guyanese independence from the British. Was Bowling raising awareness at a time when slave trade destinations were gaining independence from colonial rule?

  1. Tanaka, A. ‘Electric dress’ 1956

Atsuko Tanaka had one said “I wanted to shatter stable beauty with my work,” highlighting how domestic objects are but beautiful and disruptive from the lack of presence, yet plethora of being.
Tanaka’s silence covered by the bulbs in the original artwork, from a position of an emerging arts movement, could have represented silence as an imposition for a projection of power. In international relations frameworks, silence is mostly imposed by psychological violence, affecting the corporal of the most vulnerable, women, people of colour and those not integrated in the functionality of post Colonialism, and neoliberalism in the global and constitute political discourses and practice. (Dingli, Bhambra and Shilliam, 2009)

  1. Walcott, D. ‘Love after Love’, 1948–1984

Undoubtedly there is a pause in Walcott’s ‘Love after Love’ poem. Who inspired the poet to write this? Is it advice, or as I have always read this, as a love poem to oneself?
Derek Walcott passed away two years ago and his sea breeze of poetry is a timeless reminder to leave the insecurities we all carry, behind, and just be.
The meditative quality in the thought of spending time with oneself is not unlike Rothko’s iconographical ‘Orange and Yellow’.
Does it really matter who’s heart is broken or who broke whose heart? If anything, the world would become a better place if each and everyone reflected on the poem a little every day. After all, through love there’s light and the light lost in things that don’t work, is light lost.

  1. Baloji, S. ‘Kumbuka’, 2003

Stylistically ethnographical, the photographer has removed the orientalism and exoticism of indigenous communities, removed the smiles and colours and yellow grey toned the landscape, to represent Congolese as the Congolese see themselves. In this diptych he has interestingly kept women seperate to men. He plays with the Primitivist Theory of the artist as an ethnographer, whilst placing it in a contemporary context.
Artwork Labels

orange-and-yellow(1)6721995702035878555.jpgImage from eu.art.com
Rothko’s goal was “the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer.” Rothko was known to suffer depression, reflected by the frame as a limit to happiness. Rothko was Latvian and Russian who went to primary and high school in Portland, Oregon – the ‘weird’ US city because of its rebel inquisitive population. His work invites the viewer to explore ‘metaphysical realities of their own consciousness’. The red a reflection emotional forces fighting nature a sea of blood at sunset, framed in limitation, stopping time, a photograph. The mesmerising quality of this work, is attracting attention even for non believers. The quality of light and Rothko’s interest in creating light reflects his religious iconographic approach to his frames.

t12244_10190182530184748032.jpgImage from https://www.wikiart.org/en/frank-bowling/who-s-afraid-of-barney-newman-1968
Bowling has expressed his frustration in an interview with Laura Barnett for the Guardian: “It seemed that everyone was expecting me to paint some kind of protest art out of postcolonial discussion. For a while I fell for it.”
The Rastafarian flag of green yellow and orange, signifying the displaced africans living in exile as a result of the slave trade. Unlike Rothko’s clearly defined frames, Bowling’s use of colours is blending into one, another around the edges and without affecting or altering the core of the three colours. Could the merging of colours also point to different ethnicities merging into one in the Caribbean and South America, as a result of colonial rule. Think of the children of Chinese, Indian, Syrian and Spanish immigrants on post-colonial lands, the ‘dougla’, the ‘koolie’, the ‘red skin spanish’.
Or did he attempt to define frayed around the edges, maybe from wear and tear?
The impact of slavery remains as unaddressed as it was in 1968 as it is today. Microaggressions are all apparent. The artist, a slave descendant, opposed the idea of representing Caribbean art.

Electric DressImage from youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUV-v3xI7Lw
Atsuho Tanaka’s electric dress, still lighting gallery spaces and discussions across the world, even after the artist’s death, in a timeless manner, originally the bulbs laid to cover her body, now exhibited without it.
In the West, a Christmas tree is something beautiful, pretty and a tacky representation of a happy time.
Tanaka was one of the more influential Gutai art movement artists, believed by many to deserve the leadership position within the rebellious post-war Japanese artist group, a but hindered from it due to her being a woman.
Tanaka’s work is symbolic to false light, untruth, prettiness by misrepresentation, a wonderful objectification of many beliefs changing and evolving in the years the work was created.
When the artist wore the artwork, around 200 light bulbs flickered every two and half minutes, like a pulsating body, inviting the viewer to view it a ‘living’ being without consideration of the being inside. Gutai translates as ‘concreteness’ born from a society that advocated for the loss of individualism.

love-after-love7742550341063638439.jpgImage from https://www.christystich.com/blog/2016/2/4/my-most-treasured-poem
Derek Walcott passed away less than two years ago, a Caribbean child of a slave, lived most of his life in Trinidad and St Lucia, and was awarded with the Nobel Prize in 1990’s.
Walcott’s poem is a reminder of being one with ourselves, salvaging ourselves with acts of faith ‘Give wine. Give Bread’ playacting Jesus proclamation of memory in the act of sharing love towards a progression towards oneself to a place where our reflection in the mirror doesn’t feel ugly or drained anymore, but celebratory.
Walcott’s exploration of European and African cultural adaptations within the Caribbean, and the multiculturality of the West Indies is reflected throughout his work. Walcott’s poem has a nostalgia about the mistake of trying to fit in other people’s shoes, and when ‘The time will come’ as in the time we will be ready or will be forced upon us to reflect in being at peace with oneself reminding us it is entirely achievable as ‘Sit. Feast on your life.’ is one of the few things in life left we have entire freedom to do on our own.

1-sammy-825x5106533298255495888239.jpgImages from #sammybaloji instagram page
Sammy Baloji is a Democratic Republic of Congo born photographer working internationally, with photographs represented in a wide range high profile african art fairs and collective exhibitions.
Born in a country known for the inherent political fragility, threat to human life, animal habitat and near extinction of species. His work is very much representing a colour code for how DRC is seen abroad and how it feels to Congolese people from within the country.
Baloji having participated in Venice Bienalle in an exhibition on Belgium’s colonial rule, he notes sharing and learning about a specific time period “To talk about our reality, and also to dream.”

Checklist:

  1. Mark Rothko, (b. 1903, Daugavpils, Latvia), Orange and Yellow, 1956, 231.1 x 180.3 cm, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, US
  2. Frank Bowling, (b. 1934 , Bartica, Guyana), Who’s Afraid of Barney Newman, 1968, acrylic paint on canvas, 236.4 x 129.5 cm, Tate
  3. Atsuho Tanaka, (b. 1932, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan), Electric Dress, 1956, 165 X 80 X 80 cm, courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo
  4. Derek Walcott (b. 1930, Castries, Saint Lucia), Love After Love, Collected Poems, 1948–1984
  5. Sammy Baloji (b.1978, Lumumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo), Kumbuka!, 2006, Photo collage, various venues)

Bibliography:

  1. Foster, H., Marcus, G. and Myers, F. (1995). The Traffic in Culture. California: University of California Press, pp.302-309.
  2. Bishop, C. (2006). The Social Turn; Collaboration and its Discontents. Artforum International.
  3. Project, S., Bourn, J. and Bourn, J. (2019). Meaning of The Color Green |. [online] Bourn Creative. Available at: https://www.bourncreative.com/meaning-of-the-color-green/ [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].
  4. New.diaspora-artists.net. (2019). Diaspora-artists: View details. [online] Available at: http://new.diaspora-artists.net/display_item.php?id=928&table=artefacts [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].
  5. En.m.wikipedia.org. (2019). Frank Bowling. [online] Available at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Bowling [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].
  6. Artnet.com. (2019). Atsuko Tanaka | artnet. [online] Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/atsuko-tanaka/ [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].
  7. Dingli, S. (2015). We need to talk about silence: Re-examining silence in International Relations theory. European Journal of International Relations, 21(4), pp.721-742.
  8. Haus Der Kunst. (2019). Electric Dress. [online] Available at: https://postwar.hausderkunst.de/en/artworks-artists/artworks/electric-dress [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].
  9. Liverpoolmuseums.org.uk. (2019). Ports of the Transatlantic slave trade – International Slavery Museum, Liverpool museums. [online] Available at: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/resources/slave_trade_ports.aspx [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].
  10. visibleproject. (2019). Kumbuka!. [online] Available at: https://www.visibleproject.org/blog/project/kumbuka/ [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].
  11. Barcio, P. (2018). Achieving Luminescence – Mark Rothko’s Orange and Yellow. [online] IdeelArt.com. Available at: https://www.ideelart.com/magazine/mark-rothko-orange-and-yellow [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].

Chefchaouen, the blue pearl of north Morocco.

Chefchaouen is the perfect day or weekend trip on your travels in Morocco.

Famous for the blue painted buildings, more recently featured on French Montana’s ‘Famous’ videoclip

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNHkxOU7zz8 that was filmed in the souks and circular main road around the town sitting on the mountain side. The 33 year old  moroccan-american artist is from the Casablanca and often pays tribute to his love for Morocco.

Back to Chefchaouen, the town is easily navigable by foot, but not wheelchair users, or for those with mobility difficulties. Built on the mountain side, souk and town streets climb up and down through the mountain curves, offering exquisite views over the town and the landscape beyond.

Chefchaouen is one of the easier villages to travel through Morocco. It is small enough to walk through in a day, and big enough that you can find another photogenic corner to help you on your dream-scape of what life may be like in the town, or in-fact to those that grow up in the alleys and buildings, protected by the elements and near everything else.

Here are some of the photos from our visit, we arrived on a cloudy and rainy day, yet it was also wonderful to see the town in non-postcard conditions, a different, and what felt more genuine side of life there. Rain gently encouraged us to go into the local cafe, not the tourist ones, and to get lost around the back streets to a school, trying to find a way through to the main square.

Chefchaouen’s location is equally impressive nesting on the mountain feet, reminds you of the perspectives on life which is so easy to forget when bouncing about between places in a city.

You could say Chefchaouen becomes the little blue light, twilight, dream-scape of adventure.

A walk in the port of Piraeus

Westward from the ferry port for destinations to the Cyclades and Crete, the port of Pireaus has a few hidden surprises.

Boats get larger and the space wider, abandoned warehouses as a backdrop, grafitti and murals galore.

The Chinese Road and Belt initiative will be redeveloping this area and on a beautifully sunny autumnal Sunday morning, I could not find an excuse to not document the blue of the sea with the yellows and blues of the ferries and the brownish grey concrete warehouses overshadowing the port streets.

I can’t predict what the port will look like in the future development, however I know for sure, the colourful ferries will still be floating on the beautiful coloured sea all the same.

Driving around in Westfalen

Christmas in Germany, through the markets and shops, the streets decorated with pine trees, lights out letting the natural phenomena shed light as clouds, day and dusk allow.

Yet the most fascinating part in the journey is driving from place to place.

Unlike the English quintessential village feel, the countryside in Westfalia is a mix of wild growth areas and farmed fields, wind turbines and easyness, in the sense of a down to earth grounded kind.

Cemetery walk, at the Victorian Tower Hamlets

The Tower Hamlets cemetery is one of the seven ‘magnificent’ Victorian resting places remaining in London. They were created to settle the dangerously overcrowded parish cemeteries. Dracula was filmed at Highgate Cemetery.

DSC_3093.JPGMy local, the The Tower Hamlets cemetery, is located in the back streets of the heart of the Eastend between Mile End and Bow Station. It has certainly gone to sleep and woken up to the sound of the Bow Bells for many years. Not surprisingly for an Eastend lock-in, it is open 24 hours a day.

In the past I have attended art events and film festivals,  including the Shuffle festival curated by Danny Boyle. My visit recently was made in search of a contemplating walking space away from the hectic pace of a Monday mid morning and in search of clean air and quietness.

What I like about this cemetery is it’s capacity to disorient you and draw you off track between the thick growing foliage, and fallen gravestones.

DSC_3091.JPGI love how the place smells fresh in contrast to the rest of the wonderfully diverse smells in the Eastend. I love how it is equally shared by hooded youth, trendy dog walkers, old cockneys and the odd walker, like myself, just taking the green goth-icky scenery in.

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The cemetery is now a nature reserve looked after by a friendly society, looking out for the wildlife residing in the woods. They hold bat watching events in true Gothic style.

This reminds me of references of the tours at Highgate cemetery, that coincidentally I discovered that on occasions were run by well acclaimed author Audrey Niffernegger who’s one familiar book is Her Fearful Symmetry, a ghost story, is also based in the cemetery surrounding area. Ghostly enough, only two weeks after learning that she gives site seeing trips around the cemetery, one if her books found its way in front of me on a very rare visit to an Eastend charity shop. Good enough reason to write this, right?

There is an uncanny beauty in the ‘Magnificent Seven’. I have not heard of other cities’ stories of overflowing burials, to the extend of contaminating water and grounds.

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Victorian Eastend couldn’t have been a happy place, non-the-less for the very unpleasant presence of many evil and opportunist men, without forgetting Jack the Ripper, who roamed the streets freely only a mile or so down the road.

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Being able to walk through a place that hosted so much pain once, to soothe the pain of city living in the 21st century is a gift that I rest assured was not planned originally.

I can’t say enough, thank you.

 

 

Camden, for the soul

On the first chilly day of autumn, I walked out of the house for work to find my brain clicking into Camden cravings.

I’m not talking about the food options, the bashing vibes, the shopping or drinking ports.

That would be too much detail.

I’m talking about the warming feeling I get when I’m here.

In Camden Town, at sunset, on a crisp day. It feels like belonging, it feels like home.

I could climb under the cobble stones and sleep there for the night.

And wake up to crawl back up from beneath them, to see Camden in sunrise.

Notting Hill Carnival, in love again

Now was this another carnival to remember?

Come carnival Monday the clouds were hanging low over the sky. That never and didn’t either in this occasion, stop over 1million revellers going on the road.

Windrush scandal overcasting, Brexit bringing more tensions, and the usual fair amount of racist press and media coverage did not stop us having a blast of a time. The stupidness of anyone reporting on crimes before carnival are equal to those not understanding that in 1million drink fuelled crowds, the crime figures are low and well below what could have been in other crowds. Stormzy rightly pointed out they should start reporting the drug den bust ups of pre-Glanstonbury season for the shake of fairness.

I am a firm believer if you put the kids from Glastonbury in carnival, not only they would have had a lot more fun, for much less, they would definitely stay away from the hard drugs that are being sold freely during the field based event.

Notting Hill Carnival was buzzing, end of. On a personal level, I could not have asked for more. The day begun downbeat, given that most of my Caribbean friends are either in the Caribbean itself or were not up for the road, for the first time in many years we have been going together. I would have gone on my own, happily and by lunch other friends decided to join.

The beauty of having the afro-caribbean community being free and expressing itself is invaluable. The rest of the year, people hide away at home or community aimed parties, the vibe that we, the rest of us are missing enormously. This always makes me feel like I’m missing out.

I was really lucky to come across one of the carnival bands I was involved in many years ago. I got to see some beautiful and familiar faces, still spending their summer months in preparation for this beautiful event. I got to carry a large costume for a couple of hours to give one of the masquerades a break. I got to climb up the bus and see the enormity of the crowds on the road on that beautiful evening sunset on this August Bank Holiday.

I will have to wait another year before this, unless of course, I choose to go to Trinidad carnival.

Love ya carnival crews, keep it alive and don’t let anyone blame you for anything otherwise.

Tragedy, in the home of tragedies

This summer I went to Epidaurus (/ ˌ ɛ p ɪ ˈ d ɔː r ə s /; Ancient Greek: Ἐπίδαυρος Epidauros) was a small city in ancient Greece, on the Argolid Peninsula at the Saronic Gulf, because I always wanted to watch an greek tragedy in the ancient Greek open air theatre.

I picked the play Elektra because it is a classic and a true tragedy, set in the city of Argos a few years after the Trojan War, it recounts the tale of Electra and the vengeance that she and her brother Orestes take on their mother Clytemnestra and step father Aegisthus for the murder of their father, Agamemnon.

The play was directed by a relatively new director, Thanos Papakonstantinou, who has found increasing attention, in a relatively short space of time, and in a very competitive genre.

I really loved the drive to Epidaurus, in the late afternoon, nearing sunset, travelling through the mountains with many other thousands, for the one purpose, to be at this venue and watch an ancient play. My expectations were close to none, as it would have been my first experience. I only assumed, Elektra would have been translated into a slightly more modern version, as many other cultural references and movements in Greece nowadays do.

I only realized the enormity of the crowds gathering there when I saw the size of the carpark and the queues when we got to the theatre gates. The ancient stone carved and built space welcomed us with a stage made in the same shape of its roundness, all in white with a round hole cut out on the white backdrop, linking the stage with the backdrop, by steep dramatic steps.

Epidavros

The tragedy begun and it was a disorienting and confusing experience. There were women covered in see through cloths, moving effortlessly like on-screen ghosts from the 70’s era. They reminded me of Catholicism and that became even more apparent as the play evolved. They were judgmental and backbones-less. The main character squeaked and screamed in unconnected personas making it even more uncomfortable. Yes she was going through a huge trauma however she did not need to be portrayed in such a misogynistic way. She was neither a woman, nor a devil. She was bitter and lost but the character portrayed was uncharacteristically poltergeisted for the pain and revenge she was planning. The whole lot of the other characters played out the same, they were either too weak or a copycat of Dracula like comicon characters that lacked dimension – this was a huge disappointment. The director could have played out the roles much more and did not think about their human element. It felt like he imposed his impression of the story on the actors. This left me with the impression the actors did not connect with the Director, and that is was pretty obvious he had made little effort to collaborate them even between them.

At the end of the tragedy, a bigger one happened. As the actors were bowing to their audience and receiving lots of thanks, the director, Thanos Papakonstantinou, went to the stage, dressed in an outfit resembling a German soldier outfit from the 2nd world war.

I did not find that funny or creative. I understood well his tendency to associate with the dark wave movement in Athens, after all I once was part of it too and remember al the boys getting excited with memorabilia, only to find themselves very isolated in the end. His choice was distasteful and inappropriate given we are at the verge of fascism all over Europe.

Thanos Papakonstantinou, failed on all fronts. It sounds like someone is pushing him to the front stage, however unqualified.  The Greek economy may be small, and opportunists like him can get attention and success, however Greece doesn’t deserve people like him mocking the situation (this is not a creative license, whatever he may come up to say) and fueling the division in our society further.

I wish to not see Thanos Papakonstantinou getting opportunities any day soon and for greek stages to host the original grassroots talent that exists but doesn’t try to buy in their way, through controversy. This is not USA, and there is no reason to be wearing an offensive outfit, not un-similar to Melania Trump’s ‘I don’t care’ outfit as she visited the children immigrant detention centres.