Contemporary Art: either you're 'out' or you're 'in'. Either you 'get' the somewhat jaundiced,
laconically ironic stance of much of this work - you know, of how we're living in a post
modern world bereft of a single 'grand narrative' - or you remain nonplussed at the
often obtuse outpourings of these 'so-called artists'. And many of them don't even
have proper jobs (whatever one of those might be...).
But you keep at it, no matter how disorientated if - like me - one has cultural pretensions (and - arguably - too much time on your hands). Being partial to red wine can also help, particularly on Opening Nights. And disorientation - or rather, a kind of cat-and-mouse guessing game - has been a staple artistic strategy since arch-Dadaist Marcel Duchamp began signing and exhibiting bicycle wheels and Parisian urinals.
For my sins (too numerous to list here) I am an artistic 'insider', albeit a frequently cynical one. My personality - cumbrous, to say the least - means that I often depart these cliquey soirees in something of an intellectual huff (which isn't quite as bad as kicking off outside a curry house on a Saturday evening, which I have never done).
But it is still something of a relief that even in Hull - not widely regarded as being a cosmopolitan Mecca for the arts - there is often more than enough to gawp at, listen to and scratch your chin about. Perhaps it is the city's tendency for the insular, or that media whores can't pull themselves away from Soho bars, but one seldom reads - in sensible depth, at least - about some of the artistic curiosities that come the way of this mucky old port. Or maybe artists are just shit at advertising themselves and their wares.
Being a part of Hull's furniture, and also a sometimes productive writer (when, as ever, I can be bothered to get around to it), I thought it might be an interesting exercise to pretend to be a cultural critic and infiltrate some recent events whilst posing as a mere 'punter'. Being a man of inordinate leisure, I donned my best cravat, and tried not to get the shit kicked out of me by drunk townies as I investigated some of this summer's cultural offerings.
Manic Minor Robot Dreams was the Red Gallery's summer (July) exhibition. Newcastle artist
James Johnson Perkins staged this rather slight, but thematically consistent show. I met him briefly at the opening and I gauged him to be a relatively young practitioner (unless he's just better groomed than I am - at times, not a difficult feat...).
This would explain his enthusiasm for growing up with 1980's paraphernalia - home computers, such as the Atari and the ZX81, Lego bricks, and American TV action shows such as 'Knight Rider'. All of which were fed into 'Robot Dreams'; with Lego bricks in particular being his prime medium in this and in other exhibitions of his.
It was very 'boys and their toys' territory - a kind of less mature variant (in age, not content) of the narcissistic BBC motoring series 'Top Gear'. But for boys who stayed indoors a lot during their youth.
In the first room one encountered a monstrous Lego model of a robot character - a kind of totemic figure or, possibly, a species of 'imaginary friend'. In room two we watched the robot perform silent dance routines, in blocky retro graphics, on a monitor.
On Perkins' web site these gymnastic vignettes are performed to quirky pop music pertaining to the era. It wasn't clear why this musical element was dropped in the show - considered 'too frivolous', or simply too distracting, perhaps? In the third and final room was a large scale projection of a favourite episode of 'Knight Rider', digitised - perhaps as seen through a robot's eyes (if, properly speaking, they have any) - into cascading swathes of numbers, letters and keyboard characters.
Reviews, Theatre - Johnny Comes Home at St Columbas, Drypool By Richard Axford
It's not usual to give the ending away when writing a theatre review, but in this case you will
forgive such crassness. Credo Arts Community have produced an excellent follow up to their last
After a piece based around death and loyalty, this time they explore the pangs of despair
surrounding family breakdown, and the various responses to resolution of the problem.
Reviews, Theatre - Tuesday 3rd June 08 - Dolly at Hull New Theatre By Steve Rudd
A Rockman Music production, this grand old celebration of the glamourous
life and times of Country legend Dolly Parton pulls out all the stops to entertain. Even on the opening night of its debut UK tour, the show drew a huge crowd of Dolly fans who were in the mood for singing and clapping along to all her best-known hits.
Reviews, Books - Here, Bullet by Brian Turner Reviewed by Michelle Dee
Here, Bullet is as startling as it is direct.
The anthology of poems written by the multi award-winning U.S. war
veteran Brian Turner uncovers the landscape of the war in Iraq with
unswerving honesty and importantly he writes from a non-political viewpoint.
Brian Turner saw active service for seven years which included leading an
Infantry Team in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd
Infantry Division in November 2003.
Reviews, Theatre - Wednesday 19th March 08 - The Bat Trilogy at Hull New Theatre By Steve Rudd Photos by Matt Rudd
Back in black and ready to rock the venue from the rafters to its foundations,
Steve Steinman vaulted into an epic rendition of Life is A Lemon without delay,
the incredible power of his vocal delivery reaching the row furthest from the stage with ease.
I should know: that's where I was sat, yet the sights and sounds even from back there were to be savoured.
Having mimicked Meatloaf for almost twenty years now, Steve Steinman's
Reviews, Theatre - Saturday 2nd February 08 - Steve Steinman's Bat Trilogy at The Futurist Theatre, Scarborough By Steve Rudd
Pulling out all the stops to put on an electrifying show, Steve Steinman and
his hard-rocking entourage pulled into Scarborough on what was a freezing
Fortunately, fans of Steve and his Bat Trilogy tour showed up in their
droves, crowding into The Futurist to witness one of the first shows of
his new tour... and with some scandalously talented
Reviews, Out of Town - Wednesday 6th February 08 - Open Mic Night at The Locomotive Inn, York By Michelle Dee
A bit of a thisisUll gang night out this one, with CillaUberwebfuhrer,
Jane Fozzy Foster
and Michellethe scribeDee. Representing Ull tonight Joejust got signedHakim and
mad as a bicycleWatts.
Our trip out to York began with a vicious nasal assault, as we got stuck behind a
fertilizer tractor just before Market Weighton. In the back of the car it smelt as
though a rat
Reviews, Cinema - VUE HD Digital Cinema, Princes Quay By Dave Fox
I feel a bit of a naughty writing this, considering my friend is running the new cinema
in St Steven's Square (sorry Sal) but I am so impressed with Vue, the new cinema on
the top deck of the Princes Quay.
I've just recently got into the High Definition at home with Blue Ray and HD TV so
I was buzzing when I heard about a brand
Reviews, Events - Wednesday 19th December 07 - Off The Road at The Adelphi By Michelle Dee
Jane Foster opened the show by taking a traditional Christmas poem and bringing it right up to date.
So 'Twas The Night Before Christmas was set on a decrepit council estate with characters more attuned to Christmas spirits rather than the spirit of Christmas.
Jane delivered the five minute piece with a cool ease and her references to local
Reviews, Books - Pleading Guilty by Paul Genney (Dedalus Books) Reviewed by Nick Quantrill
On the face of it, Henry Wallace, barrister in Hull's Whitebait Chambers, has it all. A well paying job and a comfortable life, but when solicitor's runner, Pauline Dawson, enters his life, everything changes.
Overcome with the pressures of a changing work place and his growing lust, Wallace starts to overheat.
Feeling guilty and angry, his relationship with
Reviews, Theatre - Saturday 13th October 07 - Vampires Rock at Hull New Theatre By Steve Rudd
It's safe to say that Steve Steinman is one of the hardest-working singers and performers in the UK.
No sooner did he finish his Bat Trilogy tour on the brink of summer, and he was getting back to
grips with his other great show - Vampires Rock - in anticipation for the current Autumn tour
that's sweeping up and down the country in style.
Reviews, Theatre - Monday 15th October Disposable People A Croft Creative Production By Andrew Pearson and Thom Stridd At The Boatshed Hull Marina (show runs from 15th - 20th October) By Michelle Dee
Monday evening, inside a cavernous boat shed on Hull marina, a tale of international importance and concern is unfolding. A terrible tale; a tale of modern day slavery, which the general public support, without a moment's thought, on a daily basis. That new leather bag you bought, those shoes,
Reviews - Thursday 20th September - Poetry And Music - ThisisUll At Babylon Bar, Cleethorpes By Michelle Dee
Having missed so many of Joe Hakim's recent out of town dates (Harrogate, Camden,
Southend) I was sure as hell not going to miss this one over the river in Cleethorpes.
He was joined by Mike Watts who has recently been accompanying Joe on his excursions
and flying the spoken word banner himself somewhat.
Also supporting Joe on this rare
Reviews, Events - Wednesday 22nd August Off The Road Poetry Performance Music Adelphi Club
Got in to this late due to being on the radio so first off apologies to all the acts I missed.
I'm quite sure you were brilliant and zany in that order. To be honest I have it on good
authority that performance poet Mike Watts who opened the show was indeed all that you can
read more of his poems in the poetry section on this site.
I also know having seen his zany act at Umber Gob Part 1, that
Reviews, Events - Sunday 19th August 07 - ThereplicagooseEgg support Chris Mayo at Durty Nellys
Hull's brand new comedy sketch group ThereplicagooseEgg had just over a week to prepare for this,
their first ever live show produced by Carnival 69 and they didn't disappoint a packed
Even though not one of their 4 members had ever had any stand-up experience, their unique,
clever, yet twisted approach to comedy carried them through, with a little help from Masked Dan.
Reviews, Theatre - Lord Of The Rings The Musical By Andy Dykes
Lord of the Rings the musical arrives on Drury Lane after a popular stint in Toronto. Riding on the coat tails of the Oscar winning trilogy of films and billed as a visual spectacular, the stage version is hotly anticipated by the London crowd.
Tonight the Theatre Royal is packed with theatre-goers eager to see just how Tolkien's voluminous tale
Reviews, Books - Daniel Mayhew - Life and How to Live it (White Horse Publications)
Reviewed By Nick Quantrill
Writing successful novels about music or bands is a notoriously difficult thing to do,
and something that rarely succeeds.
Step forward Daniel Mayhew to prove the exception to the rule with his debut,
which tells the tale of Serpico, the band formed by flatmates, Reilly and Jacob,
and the adventure that ensues when Reilly takes a week off work sick, and binging
Reviews, Films - 300 By Lee Cassanell
Due to the extreme cheapness of pirate DVDs it is often tempting to hand over a couple of sweaty coins to a council estate heavy at Walton Street market rather than pay six English pounds for a seat at your local cinema because that way you can smoke your lungs black, order a pizza, sit in your pants and not have to brave the uncomfortable chairs,
Reviews, Theatre - The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler at Hull New Theatre By Becky Martin
How The Vagina Monologues reflects wider anxieties and atrocities in modern society.
Thank God for Eve Ensler! Finally a strong female figure with the tenacity to stand up for and work to protect women and young girls all over the world, initiated by her wonderfully comic and complex tales of women's experiences of their own sexuality