Review – One Two Three Swing!

 

Sitting on a swing in the middle of an art gallery sounds like the kind of thing that could get you dragged out by security. However, the latest installation in the Tate’s Turbine Hall encourages you to not only climb on, but play with the art. 

One Two Three Swing! by Danish artists’ collective SUPERFLEX is a huge interactive art piece that occupies the whole turbine hall. It consists of a stripey carpet, over which swings a giant metallic globe (think disco ball pendulum), while a bright orange pipeline wraps it’s away around the rest of the wall and first floor walk way, holding several swings.

The stripey carpeted side of the hall is referred to as the ‘apathy zone’, where viewers can relax on the carpet, the colours of which are inspired by bank notes, while the swings make up an activity zone. The swings themselves have up to three seats, with participants been able to swing along, with friends or with strangers, where they are able to swing much higher together.

The installation has been met with mixed reviews with Mark Hudson in The Telegraph referring to it as ‘a whimsical exercise of shallow metaphor’ (October 2017), Adrian Searle from The Guardian stating that it ‘was no world-changing work of art’ (October 2017) and Laura Cumming writing for The Guardian arguing that One Two Three Swing! is ‘the worst Turbine Hall exhibition in the history of the Tate Modern’ (October 2017).

In contrast to Cumming, I don’t feel that SUPERFLEX’s work deserves the mantel of worst Turbine Hall work and had a positive experience of the work.

I entered the hall from the first floor, so was greeted with a birds eye view of the ‘apathy’ and ‘activity zones’. The striped carpet and disco pendulum where very striking from this view, and I enjoyed watching other visitors laughing and swinging in the hall.

From there, I made my way down to the floor to try one of the swings. Seeing adult couples, strangers and friends having fun on swings was an immediate mood-lifter on a cold London evening and taking part in swinging myself was a pure and fun experience. The change in angles also provides a good opportunity to take it the Turbine Hall from a unique perspective.

As a lone attendee, I did indeed feel a connection with others taking part in the art piece and enjoyed it immensely. The meaning behind the piece that more can be achieved from collaboration is not the most complex or subtle theme. However, I believe that there is space for fun, interactive pieces as well as deep works that prompt soul searching, while the amount of people engaging with the work and pulled into the Turbine Hall was uplifting to see. I am always happy for works to engage the public and hope that those visiting for this piece also made their way upstairs to explore the rest of the Tate Modern’s collections.

One Two Three Swing! is a fun piece, with a striking a bold aesthetic. It may be not be among the most complex piece to ever take over the Turbine Hall, but as a piece that places such an emphasis on pure enjoyment, does it really need to be?

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What I’ve been reading ‘The Vegetarian’ – Han Kang

As a sun lounger read during my holiday in Mexico, The Vegetarian doesn’t instantly spring to mind, as most ‘holiday reading’ recommendations I’ve come across online and in magazines tend to sway towards writing about lighter themes than are found contained within the pages of Kang’s novel.

It was the promise of something subversive that intrigued. What can I say, I studied subversion in gothic literature and fin de siecle works during my undergraduate degree, so am always drawn back to this area of interest expressed through contemporary works.

The novel itself recounts and unremarkable housewife’s declining mental health following her turning vegetarian after experiencing reoccurring gruesome nightmares. Her behaviours gradually become more shocking and socially unacceptable, effecting all members of her somewhat traditional family.

The journey from conformity to subversion is a page-turner that could easily be devoured in an afternoon and reminded me of such work as Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. However alongside the shocks and darkness, there is along heartbreak of losing a loved one, that makes it so much more than merely sensationalist.

Overall, The Vegetarian is an extremely readable and gripping novel, which isn’t for the squeamish.

Speed Mating with Girl Gang Manchester

Texture, Manchester, 16 August 2017

As someone who has lived in Birmingham, London and Manchester, I know that living in a big city has the potential to be a lonely experience. So when I found out a group of women were putting on a ‘Tinder for Friends’ event, I not only thought that it was a great initiative to enable people to make connections, but decided to go along and give it a go myself. 

The event itself was put on my Girl Gang Manchester, the Manchester arm of a collective of female artists, creatives and thinkers, who have previously organised events such as slumber parties and an immersive screening of Bridesmaids.

Even though I’d describe myself as quite chatty and open person, as I approached the trendy Northern Quarter venue that ‘Speed Mating’ was taking place in, I couldn’t help feeling a bit nervous, and it seems that I wasn’t the only one as I chatted to several similarly nervous attendees in the queue on the way in.

However, as the night went on it turned out I had no reason to feel nervous. Initial conversations were sparked with a use of a friendship bingo sheet, where you had to find someone who matched a feature listed – for instance, I was the person who loves pineapple on pizza, which definitely leads to debate!

We then circulated round the room, meeting a new person every 5 minutes, prompted by questions and tasks like ‘what’s the book you would take a a desert island?’, and ‘tell your partner 5 things you like about yourself’. There was also miming films and drawing portraits of the person opposite you. It couldn’t be more different from some of the dull ‘networking’ events that I’ve attended in the past!

There was such an infectious vibe of openness and positivity that it was infectious, and the team had certainly made the effort to make the event as inclusive as possible. I met some fantastic, interesting people, and got way out of my comfort zone – I’ll definitely be on the look out for more of Girl Gang Manchester’s events in the future!

Beyond the body: Tracey Emin and William Blake in Focus

Tracey Emin and William Blake in Focus
Tate Liverpool, exhibition runs until 3 September


(Image Tracey Emin, My Bed, 1998, Saatchi Gallery, used under Fair Use)

What is it about Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' that captures our imagination? Is it the fact the mundane objects recognisable from our own lives have made their way into a gallery? The depressive phase it encapsulates? Or is it the uproar it caused among the artistic community in the late 1990s?

For me, one of the most compelling things about the piece is the absence of the artist figure. We are only left with the curated remains of three days, which gives the piece a transient feel, a glance into a time and situation that is no more.

I also feel that 'My Bed' provides a powerful juxtaposition to 'traditional' or 'classical' art which is overflowing with nude forms, particularly female. In Emin's work, the viewer is denied the ability to gaze on the woman's form that has long since moved on and left us with remains. There is a palpable sense of the woman missing from the scene.

It is the removal of the body that makes this work so suited to the pieces by William Blake that surround it, as unusual as the pairing of Emin and Blake may seem on the surface.

Although, the body is present in Blake's work, it is often obscured, contorted or vanishing into it's surroundings in a state that appears particularly transient when he depicts spiritual bodies.


(Image William Blake, Nebuchadnezzar, 1795-c1805, from Tate, CC-BY-NC-ND)

For example, in the work 'Nebuchadnezzar' Blake poses his figure in a somewhat animalistic way, with veins in the leg mirroring the tree in the background , and elongated beard and nails melting into the surrounding scenery.

Likewise, in 'Soul Hovering Over a Body Reluctantly Reluctantly Parting with Life' (1805), both the soul and the body are drawn so faintly they almost disappear into the blank paper behind with an airy barely- there quality. While, in his copper plate prints of Dante's Inferno, Blake contorts and merges together the various sufferers in hell, making it hard to make out where one ends and one begins.

At the far end of the gallery Blake's work is further complimented by a selection of Emin's gauche paintings that abstract female nude bodies so that at first glance they are barely recognisable. As if to further obscure her subject, in 'All for You' in this series, the face of the subject is bloated out with frenzied stokes in thick black ink. I can't help wondering if 'All for You' is an ironic title, as the painting denies the viewer a whole view or 'all' of the subject.

What further emphasises the sense of abstraction, obscuring and absence of the body in the works is a soundtrack of opinions on 'My Bed' from Liverpool residents that visitors can listen to as they make their way round the gallery. It seems rather apt that our guides to this work are disembodied voices, who have experiences the work before us.

Had a chance to visit this exhibition? I'd love to hear your opinions of it!

Party Skills for the End of the World 

7 July 2017, an abandoned building in Salford, part of Manchester International Festival.  

Wearing a party hat and handmade tissue paper flower, I’m rushed down corridors amoung a stream of people being told to ‘move faster’, and ‘go now’. All around the sounds of planes and bombs blare out, while red flashing lights guide us down abandoned passageways. It’s not a real emergency, but it might be an apocalypse: it’s Party Skills for the End of the World. 

Surreal starts

Having received the tickets for free from my work and going along on somewhat of a wim, it’s safe to say I had no idea what to expect.

Upon arrival, I was ushered across an empty car park and into an abandoned building, down more empty corridors and finally into a room full of fellow participants trying out their martini making skills. We then had to evacuate into another part of the building for a disaster themed sing-along and orange stitching session to prepare us for having to stitch wounds together. ‘Word of advice…don’t get injured..’ a cast member advised my partner after seeing my stitching attempt – I was truly awful at this part (as you would expect from someone who flunked textiles classes at school). 

Suddenly, music started up as a homemade bar sprung up, and from that moment we were free to roam and learn.

Picking up the party skills

Unless you were the world’s fastest  learner there’s no way that you could have visited all the learning spaces available to explore. So instead of trying to catalogue everything from knife throwing to gas mask making on offer, here’s a run down of what I tried:

  • Magic tricks – not the most practical of end of the world skills, but a good laugh. I have to admit I have insuccessfully tried the trick learnt on a couple of friends now I’ve returned to civilisation…
  • Knot tying – If you have an ex-Boy Scout partner like myself, steer clear! I got shown up in style, but at least I know what a wreath knot is now…
  • Pepper spray making – presented in such a fun, bubbly tone. Baby oil is what it’s all about to make the good stuff apparently. 
  • Vegetable animal making – look at this little guy! I’d be able to build on army of bird companions in the apocalypse!

  • Flower making – the calmest, most relaxing apocalypse experience. Despite the screams and helicopter noises, we were all very chill and chatty in the flower zone. 

Into the belly of the beast

The screams, helicopter noises and bomb sounds all ramped up as tension become palpable – then, the evacuation began. We were ushered down flights of stairs and through corridors, all the time told to go faster by stewards and disorientated by coloured strobe lights. Occaisionally a figure appeared in the darkness of rooms we were passing in a gas mask or waving, as we fast walked/jogged towards a seemingly distant rumble.

As we hurried along more corridors, it became apparent that we were moving towards drums before emerging into what looked like an abandoned office met by a band playing and people starting to dance. ‘I can’t believe it’, whispered my partner, ‘this is my old uni library’. 

What followed next was in keeping with the surreal tone of the night, that skipped between serious and silly. A singular figure emerged on stage to list off every possible regret one could have about their life in a doom-ridden poem before PowerPoint slides exclaimed ‘How to Dance’ and the whole room erupted into silly routines. As weird as it sounds, the juxtaposition of contemplating your own worst fears and then bursting into the most-cringeworthy dance moves you’ve ever performed in your life was actually very life affirming! Like dancing off the list that precided it.

Afterwards we were ushered into another room with a DJ, board games, tea and coffee that was decorated with fairy lights, strewn about lamps and paper party emphemera. Now it was time to put those party skills into practice a let our hair down! I’m not sure exactly how much time I spent dancing, playing bowling or relaxing with a drink, but if it weren’t for the thinning crowd I would have happily stayed there for even longer.


On our way out we were given a goody bag and spent the whole of the walk home dissecting the crazy and fun-filled experience we had just had. And I’ve been annoying my friends by not shutting up about this event ever since. 

Arcade Fire

Thursday 6 July, Castlefield Bowl (part of Manchester International Festival) 


It’s 10.30pm on a Thursday night, normally you’d find me catching up on my to-do list or sweating it out at the at the gym, but on this Thursday, I was belting out the words to Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ as it’s covered in a hypnotic, ethereal way by Arcade Fire. And all the time I was thinking – in live music terms, for me, it doesn’t get much better than this!

In case you haven’t heard of Arcade Fire, they’re a Canadian indie-rock band consisting of artists who can turn their hand to multiple instruments including the hurdy-gurdy, omnichord and gadulka. They’re currently touring in advance of the release of their album Everything Now. 

Castlefield Bowl, a concrete amphitheatre was a rather intimate venue for a sweeping and expansive performance, both in terms of the staging which consisted on ambient projections, huge clouds of smoke and colourful lighting, and the music that was in true Arcade Fire fashion was full of soaring choruses, synthesised beats and vocals that fluctuated between catchy and atmospheric.

I’m usually very skeptical about bands saying how much they love the current city they’re performing in. After all you’re hardly going to say you’re not fond of a place in front of a crowd of locals. However Win Butler’s between-song assertions that Manchester was an inspiring city did seem to give off a palpable love for this place, that only increased the positive energy bouncing round Castlefield’s concrete arena. 

I quickly found myself swept along with the music and the dancing of the rest of the crowd in what was  joyous gig, featuring songs like ‘Sprawl II’, ‘Everything Now’ and ‘Rebellion’ that are favourites of mine and that I’ve been enjoying listening to for the following week after the gig. 

In my opinion, the sign of a good live musical performance is when you can’t wait to hear the artists’ music again and I’ve certainly been eager to revisit their albums at every opportunity over the last few days, especially because it’s given me a chance to reminisce over what was an enjoyable gig featuring impressive, skillful and completely entertaining performances.