Adrian Johnson: All Wound Up - Red Gallery exhibition, March-April 2009 By Philip Wincolmlee-Barnes
I am currently re-reading John Carey's The Intellectuals and The Masses, a fascinating (and sometimes troubling) survey of how the former regarded the latter from the late 19th Century until the 1930's.
He charts a course via Nietzsche's theories of 'the Superman vs. the common people' (guess his preference...), H.G.Well's unpleasantly rabid eugenic outbursts, E.M.Forster's rallying against urban sprawl, the Mass Observation project, and Wyndham Lewis' tendency to regard Hitler as something of a Great Purifier. (Imagine that lot of crotchety brow-beaters turning up in the same place these days...)
Writers across those decades railed against the popular press, the right to universal education (women and working class children in particular shouldn't trouble their tiny minds with it...), and the unwashed hordes in general, with their cheap tinned food and 'mindless' entertainments.
Carey posits the thesis - with plenty of quotes to confirm this - that the likes of these men, and T.S.Eliot and Ezra Pound, for example - founded the Modernist movement (composing 'difficult' poetry and dissonant music, etc) to keep the riff raff out. Art was to be intentionally complicated and abstract, and not to be easily understood by all those grubby pipe-smoking men in pubs or by the rising class of middling suburban clerks.
Which has little to do with Adrian Johnson's recent Red Gallery exhibition - as I'm sure he'll agree - except to beg the question, often asked, of what is art 'about' (or 'for'), and ought it always seem to be stuffy, 'difficult' and remote? I've written elsewhere about visitors trying to tease some meaning, some clear 'narrative', some recognisable form or other, from several of the venues' other more abstract displays.
Not that Johnson's work is 'difficult'. In fact, it was rather jolly: sculptures made from nothing more complex than bright rubber bands, held together with paperclips, which form taut geometric shapes and constructions. And notices encouraged visitors to 'twang' them so that they vibrated. Lots of random wobbles. Or, as he put it, 'My sculptures investigate movement and energy, bringing change and chance to shape their aesthetics', adding, 'If in time one of these frail elements in space should rupture, the composition would then change to one of infinite possibilities'.
In other words he didn't seem to mind if you accidentally 'twanged' too hard and broke one of the bands (which I didn't: partly out of English reserve, and partly because my arthritic mits can sometimes make even snapping rubber bands seem like too much hard work these days...)
So, all in all, a bright, cheerful exhibition - though aesthetically well thought out, but playful nonetheless.
Two of the three rooms were dominated by large singular works which could be 'brought to life' by operating motors and sending pulleys and twisting, suspended bicycle wheels into motion, creating various lines of colourful ripples around the room by the quivering elastic bands (which brought to mind Jean Tinguely's and Mark Pauline's self-destructive kinetic sculptures and machines, although in a much less drastic way).
This sort of colourful playfulness also reminded me of Ben Smith's recent installation at the same venue - reviewed elsewhere - in which snooker balls would ricochet around the gallery's walls via a series of gutters. I think I referred to that piece as being a kind of life-size version of the board game 'Mouse Trap' at the time, although I do realise that I have a tendency to be flippant when discussing some contemporary art (Adorno or Walter Benjamin I am clearly not...)
The aesthetic of abstract, minimalist sculpture used to be so severe and dour back in the 60's and 70's - Robert Morris' emotionally distant plinths, Carl Andre's stern arrangements of bricks, etc - which is ironic considering that the era was supposedly that of freedom and fun; now that we are living in the credit crunch noughties, with all its fears and uncertainties, perhaps art is assuming, as one of its functions, the need to lark about, watch things bounce about brightly, pluck at things merrily, and so on...
Perhaps art of this kind is attempting to cheer us up, which doesn't sound like such a profound, chin-stroking activity in itself, but Johnson's wobbly bands and Ben's balls (I know, I couldn't resist...) certainly do put some harmless fun back into the sometimes sombre and austere pantomime that is Contemporary Art.
It can certainly make you feel childishly young again, which suits me, as I'm getting dafter by the day (and enjoying it). So, for this often-debilitated, hobbling near-corpse I'm all for a bit of well-ordered and artistically pleasing daftness, even though, in addition, Johnson's work shows the rigour of the serious practitioner. So, it's all the fun of the (art) fair, then...
Reviews, Theatre - Write to Speak at Hull Truck - Wednesday 27th May 09 By Mark Walmsley
Having found the thisisUll website by accident while looking for an
outlet for my hobby and passion, Writing, I was welcomed by Cilla after an initial
contact who took a page of my work I submitted and pasted it on the World Wide Web as
seen, titled as The Right Hand of God. In addition to this, she asked me if I would be
interested in attending the Write to Speak gig at the Hull Truck on Wednesday 27th May.
Reviews, Theatre - Funny Turns and the Opening of The New Hull Truck Theatre By Gary Clark
I was fortunate enough to get an invite to the opening gala night of the very
impressive Hull Truck Theatre to get a first hand look at the new venue and to see the
opening night of the latest John Godber play, Funny Turns.
The company went to great expense to make all the invited guests welcome with vats of free champagne and a choice of wines already poured out for the 440 guests to gorge
Reviews, Films - AWAYDAYS at The Bradford Film Festival By Margaret J Shillingford
When Carty meets Elvis at a Bunnymen gig, they fall headlong into a volatile friendship that each of them aches for but neither can control. Violent, sexy and funny, Awaydays is a blade-sharp rites-of-passage that buzzes with the post-punk energy of its late-70s Liverpool setting.
Based on the classic novel by Kevin Sampson, and pulsating to a soundtrack of
Joy Division, The Cure, Read more...
Reviews, Films - The Confession By Steve Rudd
Expertly directed by Dave Kebo and Rudi Liden, The Confession is an extraordinary movie for many and varied reasons, not least because it was shot all in one take. Another major reason why the movie is so unique comes down to the fact that it is 'interactive' and features three and a half addictive hours of multi-angle footage.
Having been shot via a multitude of strategically placed CCTV
Reviews, Films - Slumdog Millionaire By Ruth
I don't go to the movies, and I don't usually enjoy love stories.
My idea of a good love story is Thelma and Louise, Crash, or possibly Monster
(with Charlize Theron).
The darker element of humanity is what I find appealing.
I went with my family to view this film and was utterly blown away.
We left the cinema feeling as though we'd been slapped hard across the
face and somehow enjoyed it.
Reviews, Books - The Dance of the Pheasodile by Tim Roux (Upfront Publishing) Reviewed by Nick Quantrill
With his sixth novel, Hull native Tim Roux, is certainly one of the city's most prolific writers. A committed champion of all things East Yorkshire, the publication of his crime story, The Dance of The Pheasodile is his well deserved opportunity to take the limelight.
With a fulfilling job, a successful wife and two beautiful children, Keith McGuire leads an idyllic middle-class life in the south of England.
Reviews, Books - How Not To Manage by Adam Kirkman and Daniel Mayhew (Quick Brown Fox Publications) Reviewed by Nick Quantrill
Think you're a great manager? Think you know how to get the best out of people whilst
increasing your personal performance and worth? Think again - you can be better -
it's simply a matter of attitude. If this all sounds a bit too much like hard word,
fear not, this new spoof management manual from York's Adam Kirkman and Daniel Mayhew
is here to
Reviews, Books - What Do I Know Anyway? by Jamie Mcgarry Reviewed By Steve Rudd
Writing poetry is a painstaking craft, and it's clear from the outset that Scarborough-based
Jamie McGarry spends a lot of time in perfecting his poems.
An award-winning poet at a young age, Jamie recently unleashed What Do I Know Anyway? - a wry look at life in the twenty-first century.
Consisting of twenty-nine superb poems which are spread over seventy-five pages, there
really is something for everybody in this,
Reviews, Films - The Wave (Germany, 2008) and Hunger (UK/Ireland, 2008): Fascism & Faeces By Philip Wincolmlee Barnes
European cinema has a substantial post-war tradition of coming to terms with, exploring or challenging 20th Century fascism and, in particular, Germany's uneasy goose-stepping heritage, its subsequent national 'identity crisis', and its more recent spasms of political unrest.
For example, the flirtatious - and some might say notorious - excesses
of Night Porter (Dirk BogardeRead more...
Reviews, Books - Mosaic by Clive Ashman Reviewed by Tim Roux
Officially launched last September at Brough's Petuaria Centre, the town where it happened, on the 60th anniversary of the worst unsolved crime in British archaeology, Mosaic is the novel based by writer Clive Ashman on its known facts.
If you have ever read Marguerite Yourcenar's The Abyss, a classic and
intensely haunting reconstruction of daily life in sixteenth century Europe
Reviews, Books - The Mermaid Chair by Tony Flynn Reviewed by Tim Roux
In 1980, Tony Flynn published A Strange Routine, a compelling
map to his terrain of loss - the loss of his mother, of his wife, of his child,
of his past. Twelve years later, his Body Politic came out, another outright
masterpiece, this time including an extended mourning for the victims of state repression.
It has been sixteen years since then,
Reviews, Arts - November 08 - All Systems Go: Red Gallery Group Show By Philip Wincolmlee-Barnes
According to their publicity (and not counting numerous one-off live events and screenings) this
is the gallery's 108th exhibition. This certainly shows my age, as I've been involved with the
space in one capacity or another for over ten years now.
Not that there appears to be much in the way of personal wear and tear over this time: I still
get asked for ID in public houses and in off licences.
Reviews, Arts - From The Postmodern To The Pastoral: Two Recent Exhibitions in Hull By Philip Wincolmlee-Barnes PortEst Exhibition Photographs by Andrew Quinn
PortEst (Red Gallery, Sept/Oct) was an exhibition by three Estonian artists -
Jane Remm, Piret Peil and Minna Hint - in which the theme of portraiture was subjected to a variety of treatments in different media, making for a diverse and captivating presentation.
Francis Bacon used to say (usually whilst somewhat addled) that he was trying to
Reviews, Arts - A Walk Through H: Some recent cultural musings around Kingston Upon Hull By Philip Wincolmlee-Barnes
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...).
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,