"Chaos is not the opposite of rhythm but the milieu of all milieus"
Deleuze & Guattari



Sunday, 13 October 2013

SOME TIMES IN BEIRUT

The time I went for dinner at the home of the region's biggest collector of religious icons from the Levant and Byzantium. He occasionally lends them to the Louvre for exhibitions. There are many more throughout the house, including on the walls in his children's bedrooms. Some of these are from as early as the 12th century. You can tell which ones are Byzantine as they're ornate and decorative, while the Levantine icons look more naive.

The time we went walking in the hills outside the city and found armfuls of giant pale crystals and geodes that are like sparkling natural glitter bombs when you break them open.

The time I posed in the sea at night in a country where night swimming is pretty much unheard of unless you're a fisherman. The water was shallow, calm and warm, and the rock beneath me was covered in soft seaweed. I looked up at the stars and imagined I was in an ecstatic state somewhere between death and pleasure.

The time I posed in the sea at night and tried to look like I was drowning. Lebanon was very tense at this time and most people were safe in their homes after dark. The waves were breaking over me and I was thrown against the rocks over and over again as I tried to keep my head underwater. I got cold. The volcanic rocks were sharp and grazed my back and arms.
The time I interviewed Samer Kozah about what the situation in Syria means for the country's art scene. He spoke of how he had run a residency programme for young artists before the war and told of leaving his gallery in the old city of Damascus behind. He said Beirut had opened its arms to Syria's creative community and shared his plan to launch the Syrian Art Fair, which opened in Beirut this month. I recently edited the fair catalogue for him. 

The time I edited my first glossy magazine and then had to pull together an art newspaper to go with it a week before the deadline. The night before we went to print I was at the office until 11pm. I had a salad and a glass of wine with my editor-in-chief and our in-house illustrator as we put the finishing touches on the editorial. Then I drove home passing through two army check points in 10 minutes as security was high following a recent spat of car bombs.

The time I chatted with Maripol at the opening of her exhibition of Polaroids from 1980s New York at Beirut's new art space called Station, run by Leila Alaoui and Nabil Canaan. A few days later she screened her films about her friends Jean Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, both downtown legends whose lives and deaths were symptomatic of that decade. Her mapping of street and club culture in Haring's work, set against the AIDs crisis and utopian escapism of The Paradise Garage shared many ideas with my thesis on The House of Beauty and Culture (see my last post). Maripol was an art director for Fiorucci back in the day and styled Madonna's look for Like A Virgin and Debbie Harry for her debut with Blondie. Her grandmother was Lebanese.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

GUEST POST FOR THE V&A MUSEUM

Sacking suit by Christopher Nemeth. 
Broken bottle rings & rope belt by Judy Blame.
Photo by Mark Lebon shot upstairs at HOBAC. 
Image courtesy of Judy Blame.

In 2011 I was doing an MA in the History of Design at the V&A Museum and the Royal College of Art in London. For my final thesis I decided to look into a little-known craft collective called The House of Beauty and Culture, who I'd heard had run a shop in East London during the 1980s that had been elusive, inscrutable and legendary among the artistic inhabitants of London at the time. 


Advertisement for HOBAC in Blitz magazine.

I spent a few months interviewing the surviving members of the HOBAC collective, namely Judy Blame, Alan Macdonald, Richard Torry and Mark Lebon, plus other people who had been associated with London's creative subculture back then such as Caryn Franklin and Stephen Philips. I also looked through a lot of magazines (The Face, i-D, Blitz) from that decade and read quite a few relevant books, obviously. 


In my resulting 35,000 words about the group, I consider their clothing, jewellery, shoes, furniture and attitudes in the context of postmodernism, adhocism, outsiderdom and Thatcherist London. I cast their shop-cum-studio as a vehicle for expression and an agent of innovation in the city's fashion and club network during the late 1980s, and as the forefather of today's fashion heartland in Dalston. 


Two years later the V&A and ICA both have exhibitions relating to the group and their milieu. In connection with the V&A show Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s I recently wrote this guest post about HOBAC for the museum's blog. This week I will be writing another for the ICA in relation to its current Off-Site project with the Old Selfridges Hotel, A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now, which starts its curatorial narrative with The House of Beauty and Culture.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

SELECTIONS MAGAZINE


I recently started editing Selections, a quarterly magazine about art, fashion, design and good living.

Mary Katrantzou, Resort 14 / 3.1 Philip Lim by Faye Toogood

My first issue comes out in September and I'm excited to be able to feature work by some of today's leading creative lights around the world, particularly from London and Beirut.



 
La Mamounia Palace, Marrakech / Giambattista Valli, Couture AW13/14

Highlights from the upcoming issue:

* Photos of the world's finest historic jewellery from museums including the V&A and the MET

*  A think piece by young British curator of Middle Eastern art Miriam Lloyd Evans on Arab art now


* Catwalk reviews by the FT fashion writer Avril Groom


* Interviews with two of today's most sought-after designers Michael Anastassiades and Faye Toogood


* Trend guides in fashion and design by two of the world's leading trend forecasters


* A personal guide to London by the artist Matthew Stone



And As They Reach For God With Their Fingertips 
Their Toes Write Stories In The Sand, 
by Matthew Stone, at Bold Tendencies, Peckham, London, 2008


Plus a 16-page section of art that has been curated especially for Selections by the Artistic Director of the Beirut Art Fair Pascal Odille.

Plus (!) an Art Paper to accompany the fair with highlights and key interviews.

The magazine is published by City News Publishing in Beirut, with Rima Nasser as Editor-in-Chief, and is available in book shops, art galleries and hotels across the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Lebanon. We will also be online and in the Apple and Android app stores from next month.

Out 19th September.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

SHIRO KURAMATA AT ARAM


How High the Moon, 1986
Photo by Mitsumasa Fujitsuka, courtesy of Phaidon

Shiro Kuramata, 1979
Photo by Kazumi Kurigami, courtesy of Phaidon

Shiro Kuramata's poetic postmodern furniture goes on show tomorrow at the Aram Gallery to celebrate the new two-part monograph on the Japanese designer by Deyan Sudjic, director of London's Design Museum. 

Aram was the first to exhibit Kuramata's work in the UK back in 1981 and the selection of pieces being shown this time have been lent from a variety of collections, so may not be exhibited again - certainly not together. 

The exhibition runs until 10th July 2013.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

SOUND TRACKS : FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS

 
Sahar Ghanbari illustrates Woodpecker Wooliams 
for Sound Tracks Festival 2013 
at the Brunel Museum, Rotherhithe
Video edit & projection by Anomalous Visuals
Watch a film of the event & all four videos here.


Wet Dream 
perspex, light and water sculpture 
by Sarah Cocking & Laurence Symonds 
for Sound Tracks Festival 2013
at the Bussey Building, Peckham

Thursday, 2 May 2013

SOUND TRACKS FESTIVAL


Come see artworks, apps and installations I'm curating for Sound Tracks festival - happening on Saturday 11th May along the East London Line between Dalston and Peckham.



Monday, 25 February 2013

AMELIE HEGARDT FOR SHOWSTUDIO




Last week Nick Knight invited my pal and housemate Amelie Hegardt to interpret the London Fashion Week collections for Show Studio. Visionary that she is, Amelie mixed paint, ink and photography to create some very personal and abstract responses to the A/W 2013 catwalk. These three are my favourites - her take on Jonathan Saunders, J.W. Anderson and Mary Katrantzou. 

http://showstudio.com/contributor/amelie_hegardt

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

SURREALSCAPES


Berndnaut Smilde, Nimbus Cukurcuma Hamam I, 2012
 Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery
Photo Onur Dag

Berndnaut Smilde, Nimbus NP3, 2012
 Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery
Photo Cassander Eeftinck Shattenkerk
Berndnaut Smilde's Nimbus photographs were some of the best received imagery of last year. The series is showing in The Uncanny, which opens tonight at the Ronchini gallery. Less often seen are Smilde's Cumulus works, which are very different in character despite their same cloudy subject.


Although I like the Cumulus models, their reframing of a natural phenomenon is less magical, less awe-inspiring than the Nimbus sequence. Architectural models just don't hold the same empathetic draw as large format photos of real interior spaces setting off the fluffy white spectacles.
 
Berndnaut Smilde, Cumulus- Mijnsherenlaan 2, 2012
Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery

Berndnaut Smilde, Cumulus- Adlergasse 1, 2011 
Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery
 
Metaphorical readings relating to entrapment and impermanence could abound when talking about the Nimbus pieces but I'd rather focus on the sense of surprise they generate. It gives the viewer that moment of wonder we so often miss in the pre-emptive Googlable world. Although I'd suggest that Google ad words have more of the Uncanny about them than Berndnaut's clouds, the double-take factor has brought the Nimbus pictures the celebration they deserve.

That these images have remained so popular is perhaps testament to something more permanent than wonder - and that is beauty. Whether seeing one of the individual images for a second, third, fourth time, or seeing the different versions in their fantastic interior sets across the series, you are still struck by a moment of dreaminess and awe each time you see these photographs. Which after all may be the perfect uncanny image - a bundle of suggested metaphors wrapped up neatly to strike you every time. 

 
Adeline de Monseignat, Loleta, 2012
Vintage Fur, pillow filler, glass, motor, wood on 2 tonnes of sand
Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery

Dree Hemingway for Mania Mania's Astral Plane story
Photography by David Mandelberg

Surreal sculpture and photography by Adeline de Monseignat places oversized fur balls and micro sandscapes like cabinets-of-curiosity details alongside Smilde's clouds in The Uncanny. Aside from Dali, they bring to mind the Black Rock desert in Nevada, where Burning Man is held, and Mania Mania's Astral Plane shoot starring Dree Hemingway.

[The Smithsonian has more on Smilde and his cloud-making.]