Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Most recent entries
- Mr Ed has some metaphorical fun
- A picture of a book about pictures
- To Tottenham (8): Zooming in on some Big Things
- Playing golf versus following cricket
- Quota bicycles
- Another Capital Golf car
- Battersea Power Station then and now and soon
- Timing shits instead of forcing them
- Lincoln Paine shifts the emphasis from land to water (with a very big book)
- Classic cars in Lower Marsh
- Stabat Mater at St Stephen’s Gloucester Road
- A selfie being taken a decade ago
- Gloucester Road with evening sun
- Lea River footbridge
- “Yeah, no …”
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Art
The history of this particular picture is that GodDaughter 2 and I were in Waterstones, Piccadilly, which is one of our favourite spots. She loves all the books. I like the books too, but I love the views that I can photo from the cafe at the top. This is not very high up, but it is high enough up to see many interesting things, and familiar things from an unfamiliar angle, of which, perhaps or perhaps not, more later.
So, anyway, there we were in Waterstones, and we were making our way up the stairs to the top, rather than going up in the lift, because I needed the Gents and GD2 needed the Ladies. All of which caused me to be waiting on the book floor nearest to the Ladies, and that was where I saw this book. I had heard about it, via a TV show that Hockney did a few years back, and I did a little read of the bit that really interested me, which was about how very early photography intermingled with “Art”. I wouldn’t have encountered the book itself had it not been for GD2 and I both liking Waterstones, and had it not been for nature demanding GD2’s attention. So, this is another picture I owe to her, to add to this one.
The way Hockney and his art critic pal tell the story of how early photography and the Art of that time intermingled is: that all the other Art critics say that the Artists were zeroing in on a “photographic” looking style, through their own purely Artistic efforts. Nonsense, say Hockney and pal. The Artists were already using the early stages of photography, and if my recollection of that television show is right, that this had been going on for quite a while. They were using photographic methods to project a scene onto a surface, and then painting it in by hand. These paintings look photographic because, in a partial but crucial sense, they are photographic. Later, the photo-techies worked out how to frieze that image permanently onto that surface, by chemical means rather than by hand copying. Those Art critics want to say that the Artists lead the world towards photography, but the influence was more the other way around. Photograhy was leading the Artists.
This fascinating historical episode, assuming (as I do) that Hockney and pal are not making this up, shows how complicated and additive a technology like photography is. It didn’t erupt all at once. It crept up on the world, step by step. And of course it is still creeping forwards, a step at a time, in our own time. Early photographers couldn’t shove their pictures up by telephone onto your television screen, the way I just did, if only because television screens didn’t happen for another century.
Meanwhile, the book trade is creeping forwards. In the age of Amazon, am I the only one who sees a interesting book in a bookshop, looks at the price, says to himself: I can do much better than that on Amazon, and contents himself with taking a photo of the book’s cover? Are we bad people?
For this book, the difference is thirty quid in the shop, but twenty quid or even less on Amazon.
In that talk I did about the impact of digital photography, one of the uses I found myself emphasising was using digital cameras for note-taking. How much easier and more exact to make a picture of this book’s cover with one camera click, than to record its mere title with the laborious taking of a written note.
I couldn’t decide which of these two fish photos was the best, so here are both of them. The photo on the right is better of the fish itself. The photo on the left shows more of the rather strange setting. Click on either, or both, or neither, to get the bigger pictures:
I encountered this fish in Orchard Place, last Sunday. Orchard Place is the road you need to walk along if you want to check out Container City, which is what I was doing at the time. To find Orchard Place on google maps, and to satisfy yourself that we are both talking about the same Place, got to Canning Town tube station and go south.
Before we entered the Royal Opera House to endure and eventually to enjoy Die Meistersinger my friend and I wandered around Covent Garden, and chanced upon a shop selling artfully decorated skateboards, in other words looking like this:
As soon as I was inside this shop I asked if I could take some photos, and they said: snap away. So I did. I took the above photo first, which gives an idea of what it was that got my attention. And then I took a lot more, of which the following were the least worst:
I know. Lots of reflections in the shiny surfaces of the skateboards. But, you get the pictures.
A cat is involved (1.3 in the above clutch). A rather rude cat, but a cat. At first, I thought I ought to hurry the posting up and have this ready for last Friday. Then I thought, no, wait until next Friday. And then I thought to hell with that, I’ve nearly done it, I will post it when it’s done.
These artistically enhanced boards have all the relaxed and unpretentious exuberance of graffiti, of the sort I most regularly observe in Leake Street under Waterloo Station. You don’t have to read some idiot art-speak essay to find out what the hell this or that skateboard is “about”, even though it is sometimes obscure. “SHAKEJUNT”. “HAND IN GLOVE”. “FIVE BORE”. “FLIP”. You probably have to be a skateboarder to get what words like those mean. Which probably explains why I like the giant TV remote the best. That I definitely understand.
However, a magic ingredient that separates these skateboards from graffiti is that the skateboards come with added property rights. Once you’ve painted your own particular skateboard, that’s how it stays painted. Which means you can really go to town on it, make it really great, confident that some other artist won’t paint over what you’ve just done.
There is also the fact that a skateboard, unlike graffiti, can be moved hither and thither, which means it can be bought and sold. This means that politically sane people will gravitate towards decorating skateboards and political ignorami will prefer graffiti, property rights and civilisation being things that go hand in hand, as do attacking property rights and barbarism. Sadly, this does not necessarily mean that the skateboard art will be better, because mad artists are often better than sane artists. Plus, you can now add the magic of digital photography to graffiti, thereby preserving it. But as art objects, these skateboards will, unlike graffiti, be profitable and permanent.
Here’s the final photo I took, complete with the guy who said I could take all the other photos, despite knowing I wasn’t in the market for a decorated skateboard, but was merely interested in an art gallery-ish way:
I asked this guy for a card or something, so I could put a link to the place here, as I have done, see above. He didn’t have anything on paper. But then he thought: have a bag:
And that’s how I knew what the shop was called and where to find its website.
I hope this posting doesn’t do any harm to this enterprise, for example by diminishing its street credibility. Do things still have street credibility? Or, to put it in more recent parlance, is street credibility still a thing?
So I had a look around Dezeen to see what’s there that’s interesting, and their most popular posting right now is about IKEA. All I saw, for several days, was: IKEA. So I ignored it. But on close inspection, the posting is actually rather interesting. Its title is: IKEA switches to furniture that snaps together in minutes without requiring tools.
The fiddly ritual of assembling IKEA furniture is set to become a thing of the past as the furniture giant introduces products that snap together “like a jigsaw puzzle”.
The brand has developed a new type of joint, called a wedge dowel, that makes it much quicker and simpler to assemble wooden products. This does away with the need for screws, bolts, screwdrivers and allen keys.
My chosen destinations for furniture are charity shops, mostly. That or basic second hand places. Partly that’s an aesthetic preference. I take pride in the cheapness of my living arrangements, that being my preferred look. But part of that is because I have always assumed that flatpack furniture is indeed too fiddly and complicated to be relying on. Also, frankly, I basically just don’t like IKEA’s furniture.
But for those who do like IKEA furniture, it looks like it is about to get a bit simpler to assemble.
Thought. Does Lego make furniture? I just googled that question, and google answer number one was this:
This furniture is designed to be taken apart over and over again.
It is called Mojuhler and is flatpack, modular furniture that can be changed from a chair to a table in minutes.
You can fund the project on Kickstarter from about £80.
Nice basic idea, but scroll down and you get to pictures of brackets and screws! Screw all that, and not with a screwdriver. It looks more like Meccano than Lego, I’d say. It says on the right at that place that it failed to get its funding. If that’s right, I’m not surprised.
This is more what I was thinking.
One of the basic drivers of design is the desire to own bigger versions of the stuff you played with as a little kid. A lot of Art is like this, I believe. So, why not furniture too?
But I do. (Clue in the categories list.)
Click if you want slightly more context.
Photoed by me, earlier this evening, at Victoria Tube Station.
Yesterday I told you about a photo I took on January 20th of this year. Earlier that day I had journeyed to Bromley-By-Bow tube station, then walked south along the River Lea, and ended my wanderings at Star Lane Station. It was a great day for photoing, and I especially enjoyed photoing this witty sculpture:
But who did it? This evening I realised that I seemed to recall Mick Hartley having something to say about this, and so it proved.
It’s by Abigail Fallis, and it is called DNA DL90. Well, I say that’s what it’s called. That’s what Abigail Fallis called it, but I bet nobody else calls it that. I bet what most people call it is more like: Shopping Trolley Spiral. I’m guessing further that Abigail Fallis regards her sculpture as some kind of critique of late capitalist consumerism. But such ArtGrumbling need not stop the rest of it thoroughly enjoying the thing, and also continuing to relish our trips to the supermarket, there to sample the delights of early capitalism. Because you see, Abigail, capitalism is just getting started.
Yes. I was right. Says Hartley:
It is, says Fallis, a symbol of modern society’s consumer culture, which has now become entwined in our genetic make-up. They can’t help themselves, can they, these artists?
The usual bitch about Artsists is that they are predictable, and indeed they are. But this was something else again. I literally predicted this, before I read it. How predictable is that? Very, very.
On January 20th I attended one of Christian Michel’s 6/20 meetings. The subject was: The Meaning of Life. To be rather more exact, it was: What kind of question is the question “What is the meaning of life?”
So, when I was making my way home, via Earls Court Underground Station, I guess I was in a Meaning of Life kind of mood. Which might explain why I took this photo:
This particular message is a bit too sentimental for my liking. Those little hearts put me right off. But actually, I don’t really object to these little sermons that the Underground has taken to erecting at the entrance to its stations. This is because something that is merely written, no matter how big the lettering, is easily ignored. I think this is one of the things I like about signs and adverts and posters and notices. You can pay them all the attention you want to pay them, from a great deal, right the way down to absolutely nothing.
This is in sharp contrast to those appalling underground train guards who insist on preaching sermons over the intercom, instead of just telling you about how you have stopped in between stations because of a train still stuck at the next station. Those sermons are impossible to avoid.
See also those buskers who actually climb onto trains and play. Both these buskers and the tube train intercom sermonisers are on my personal Room 101 list.
The above also explains why Modern Art is so successful, but why, on the other hand, Modern Classical Music is so profoundly unsuccessful. It’s not that Modern Art is mostly good while Modern Classical Music is mostly crap. Modern Art is also mostly crap. But, crucially, when a piece of Modern Classical Music traps you (when played live, in between two bits of proper Classical Music), you are stuck with it until it finishes. Modern Art, in total contrast, is, when it’s crap, crap that is easily ignored. Even when it ambushes you in an Art gallery, you can still just walk right past it. Or, you can photo it, and then walk right past it.
Yet more evidence of how digital photography has encouraged temporary art, by making it digitally preservable. What we see is videoing, I think. But we can be sure that a straight up still photo of the final result will be included in the photography process.
Note the silver paint, on top of what was there before. If the previous occupant of this spot (in the Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel) didn’t have what he had done photoed, he has only himself to blame.
Don’t ask me what the graffiti means.
Up early – blogging early – elephant sculptures
What I’ll be talking about this coming Friday
3D printed jewellery by Lynne Maclachlan
Lighting up the bridges of London
A photo of nothing
The painted word
The art of taxi advertising
An enlarged Dinky Toy in Belgravia
When the people are the Art
1666 remembered - with another fire
David Hockney comes to Pimlico
Keeping their distance
A pig and two dogs
The right moment and the right alignment
The new Tate Modern extension from inside Blackfriars Station
The Union Jack’s near death experience(s?)
The Sugar Land selfie statue
Horizontal French signs
Looking in at the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery in Goswell Road
John Cage does Sudoku
Dirty art on White Vans
Bach’s development of the most intense musical vision from a straitened environment
Asking about the Southbank Mosaics Gallery and asking about London’s Big Things
A still life and a cat cushion in Kentish Town
Two mice and a cat on a Wicked Van
The laboriousness-to-effect ratio at Colossal
Anonymous guys taking (and making) pictures in Trafalgar Square
Coloured lights in bottles outside the RFH
Phil Tufnell paints cats!!!
A rather argumentative van
Cats and cricket – cats and drones
Two strangers photoed by Mick Hartley and shown there (and here) without their permission
Old London by the Buck Brothers
Snohetta does zig zag roofs for competitive cities
A Shiny Thing by Frank Stella Hon RA
Marc Morris on how the Bayeux Tapestry ought not to exist
CATable at the Building Centre
From a cat cushion to Bill Murray and a nude to a demon horse sculpture that killed its creator
Anish Kapoor photoed next to his big shiny balls
Hand done photos
Golden Gate being built – Severn Road Bridge ditto – C20 photography – Hitler’s paintings
Hirst’s Hymn outside the Tate Gallery
Non-faceless architecture in Rome
How the internet is cheering up Art
As found not-art
The Poppies (2): The crowds
The Poppies (1): What they look like
Why I am a point-and-shoot photographer rather than a Real Photographer
The illustrations for Christian Michel’s talk this Friday (plus some thoughts from me)
Photographers in Tate Ancient
Out and about in the sunshine
Cats … on scaffolding … with shadows …
I see cats
Homer Simpson on Thames
Lego bridge in Germany
Finally working out what I liked about those Gormley Men
Art has its uses – but where did it have its uses this time – and what is it?
Temporary art made of brightly dressed people
Sandcastles that will live for ever
Digital photography as telepathy
David Byrne on the constraints of artistic form
Smaller is more legible – big is more fun
Owl at Canning Town railway station
Edwin is a bad person
Stairs Thing outside St Paul’s
Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
So painters also used to “take” pictures
Hong Kong housing that looks like abstract art
A mannequin in Tachbrook Street sheds light on the nature of perception
Lunch at Gessler at Daquise
Wandering about afterwards
Art without Artists
Cheap hippos are hard to find
An afternoon in Croydon
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom internet headline of the day
Photographers at Eros and Art in the tube
A happy British Summer Time to all my readers
Hockey Stick art
A pill that turns sweat into perfume
Release Ai Weiwei
Gormley’s South Bank Men
Blue Men on a boring building in Borough High Street
Quota photo by someone else
Tiny Cardboard Box People Appear All Over Singapore
Spray can girl in Leake Street
A good bit about the future of art galleries and how to rescue good bits
Large areas the same colour on the first first day of spring
The right to photograph
Abstract satellite expressionism
The Min-Kyu Choi folding three point plug
Cat blogging and Gormley blogging
The Wheel through some Art
“Dying is a fulltime business. You haven’t time to do a lap of honour.”
More random links
A little drunk blogging
“… the idea is to remain ignorant of how dumb you look …”
Is the contemporary art bubble bursting?
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
If it’s not Art it can be rather fun
An abstract view of Kings Place
Lump art and dinner in sky
It only takes One Rich Lunatic
John Carey on Shakespeare and the high-art/ popular-art distinction
Keith Windschuttle on history - truth - Robert Hughes
Two adverts in the tube
Photos are better
Art is always a value judgement
Classic car thinness
Sounding like a different country
Girls these days flashing their cleavages it’s disgusting don’t know what the world’s coming to …
There’s a crack in the cracks at Tate Modern
Three proper photos … and three Billion Monkeys!!!
Photography is not dead
Deceiving the eyes of Paris
It only takes two idiots
Man may not sit on Art bed and be photoed by Billion Monkey lady friend!
Venus by the river
Tate Modern Extension
Wichita line (and colour) man
Skill and Post-Skill
The Million Dollar Homepage