Wednesday 29 February 2012

Hope Lost

The seductive embrace of the abyss beckons
Looking up shows the fallen depths
Paradise receding. That's not coming back.
The macabre dance of a skeletal soul

Bones picked bare, stripped of humanity
The pain all but invisible;
The sockets of insanity dulled
By persistent unconscious torture

An explorative embrace of the abyss inevitable
How far can brittle mind be pushed?
Paradise undeserved. With soul already gone
Hollowness remains to mock fake pretence

Monday 27 February 2012

'Overcoming Hurdles’: Photos at the London School of Economics

The LSE is providing a wealth of entertainment this week with the Space for Thought Literary Festival (probably more on that to follow) and the LSE Photo Prize exhibition: Overcoming Hurdles which opened today. The website describes it as ‘the 6th LSE Photo Prize Exhibition 2012 showcases a wide range of photography by LSE students and staff. Photos have been selected by a judging panel of art professionals and LSE staff.’

Friday 24 February 2012

Strange Creatures at UCL

Yesterday took me to my first pop up art exhibition. And it’s going to take some beating in terms of both the art and the venue. Far away from the commercial luxury of the west end and the soulless white cube spaces of east London, there is nothing ordinary about the Grant Museum of Zoology.

The website tells us that it is the ‘only remaining university zoological museum in London [and] houses around 67,000 specimens, covering the whole animal kingdom. Founded in 1828 as a teaching collection, the Museum is packed full of skeletons, mounted animals and specimens preserved in fluid. Many of the species are now endangered or extinct including the Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine, the Quagga, and the Dodo.’ It isn’t a large space but even without the non permanent art, there is more than enough to keep the non biologist enthralled. They have embraced interactive displays and social media so that visitors can get involved about the role of science in society and how museums should be run. The highlights of the collection for me were the skeleton of the dugong, the video of the artistic bowerbird, skeletons in the gallery and the brain coral (helpfully tagged with ‘not a brain’). The whole galleried space is crammed with curios and reminiscent of a renaissance cabinet of curiosities.

Thursday 23 February 2012

City Business Library: Can you afford not to know them?

You may recall that I spent a happy evening in the London Metropolitan Archives looking at their photographs. So when I had the opportunity to go to an ASLIB event at the City Business Library (CBL), one of their sister organisations, I couldn't resist putting a few notes down about them.

© City of London
Since 2010 the CBL has been part of the Guildhall complex, sharing the refurbished space with the Guildhall Library, Art Gallery and the general administration of the Corporation of London (CofL). It is hard to believe that it was once housed in a separate building, though the nine ways of accessing the Guildhall can make the entrance to the library quite hard to find (opposite the public loo and Boris bike rack...).

About the CBL

The CBL is a publically funded free library service which has been open to all individuals and companies in the area for the past 30 years. As the name implies, its focus is provision of information on all aspects of business - whether you are global conglomerate or small and medium enterprise (SME), start up or sole trader. This information could be economic statistics, market research reports, law, tax, international markets, director/company information or business2business marketing opportunities. Though a large amount of information is available online, they also keep a small collection of books, journals, newspapers available to browse. They also run seminars, clinics, and organise network events which I shall come on to shortly.

Sunday 19 February 2012

On Epstein's 'Rock Drill'

Supercilious creature looks on
With eyeless disinterested stare.
Refusing to meet the viewer's gaze

Artificial muscles threaten space
Black bronze sheen pure machine
Contrasting with viewer's living warmth

Potent snout under curved skull
No vulnerability in this metal shell
Existing only to intimidate viewer's mind

Once looming over all it surveyed
Proud to rape and plunder, with efficient virility
Demonstrating earth and human fragility

Now left castrated by artist's horror of war
Itself caught in the destruction torn limb from drill
Left impotent for the viewer's judgement

Hard torso emphasises open curved chest cavity walls
Emphasising soft shaped tiny humanity within
Proudly, gently, cupping viewer's subservience

On Wyndham Lewis's 'Smiling Woman Ascending a Stair' (c.1911)

A dark derangement of lines
Leering out in masked smile.
Angular triangulation bursting
Moving pointedly, awkwardly.

Daring us
Fascinating us
Challenging us

To follow her up the stairs
Despite illumination demonic
Soft warm shades are found within
To drag us down with blind assent.

What's it worth? : Sounding out art

A few years ago I wrote a piece about the commoditisation of art and then this week an article in the Independent rekindled my interest. The story is nothing new – people have always spent large amounts of money on big name paintings. I don’t have a problem with that because it’s their money, their investment and keeps the art market interesting. Currently London’s commercial galleries can afford to experiment and are putting on some seriously thought provoking stuff, e.g., Lazarides and their Old Vic Tunnels shows.

Everyone is agreed that the majority of art, for better or worse, is a commodity that can be bought and sold for stupendous amounts of money. As the Indy article says, ‘it emerged this month that Qatar had bought ‘The Card Players’ by Cezanne for a world record $250m at the end of last year’. Writing in the late 1990s Julian Stallabrass naively noted ‘the rise of art prices in real terms through the 1980s was a sign of the commodification of the art world as a whole, not merely the result of excess funds looking for investment projects’.[1] However I think this has changed; the wealthy are looking for a safe place to invest their money. But it still makes me think, what about art you can’t put price on? The art you can experience but can’t buy? 

Saturday 18 February 2012


Frenzied orgiastic colours
Obliterating self
Losing reality
In a mass of coiled bodies

Shapeless formless helpless
Losing sanity
Organic movement
Just accept dotted fluidity

Intricate dirtied balletic
No end no beginning
Losing focus
Surrender to tangled sensation

On Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Nets

From the minute dark intense
To the frenzied open nets
More rhythmically enclosing

Yet opens thoughts and
Imagination breathes infinitely
With happy textures

A distant suedelike softness
Focusing inward, hungrily
Grasping. Determined. Obsessive.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Panic Attack

When heavy air wears thin as
Tired patience. Breathless. Tight.
Once freely open friendly
Turns dense panic gasps:
Madly sucking down.
As an addict their empty bottle

One useless heaving pull at a time.
Constricted tortured capillaries
Cry out, 'give me oxygen!'
Release the inelastic of those bands
And cut free the plastic round my heart.

V&A Photographic Archive: Photography as Art

The Victorians proved problematic in my previous archive visit post so in the interest of balance, the next one is far more cheerful. The V&A story begins with an intriguing polymath, civil servant and inventor: Henry Cole (15 July 1808 – 18 April 1882). He was responsible for organising the Great Exhibition (1851) and then founding and developing a science/art collection in the South Kensington area which would both educate the masses and improve British industrial design. As the first General Superintendent of the Department of Practical Art, South Kensington Museum (1857-1873) he recognised the new phenomenon of photography had the right blend of art and science to be relevant to the museum.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Royal Anthropological Institute : Discovering disturbing distances

The RAI is the world's longest established anthropological organisation with a global membership. Its controversial history is interesting and unavoidable; The Aborigines [native peoples] Protection Society was initially formed by the Quakers in 1837 to monitor slavery issues in the aftermath of the early 19th century Quaker campaign against the African slave trade.

From this it developed into the Ethnological Society of London (ESL) founded 1848. Their focus was the history of mankind but given the interesting Victorian obsession with colonialism and perceived inferiority of anyone who wasn’t white, in 1863 Richard Francis Burton and Dr James Hunt decided to form The Anthropological Society. This new society was interested in scientific notions of race and with dubious ideology was keen to prove that native people were actually a different species in order to justify slavery.

Monday 13 February 2012

Knowledge Management: Building blocks and knotty problems

I went on a Knowledge Management course and seeing as everything I do is managing information and spreading the knowledge, I thought I'd put my notes down here. It's not arty or anything but I found it interesting.


Knowledge Management means different things in the context of each organisation and the definition has to be agreed at management level. But basically it’s about managing the intellectual assets of the firm/company which can take the form of documentation, expertise, communities, departments, conversations and collaborations – the effective sharing of creative knowledge.

For it to work properly people have to be engaged and given that people always know more than they say, it is challenge to get the information flowing around the organisation. We – collectively - have to create a knowledge environment that will take all the data and information and turn it into knowledge. This has little/nothing to do with technologies.

Friday 10 February 2012


Window on the stars
Light absorbing eyes
Shining in delight
Wondrous, stirring, deep.

Points of light
Some real
Some reflect
Reaching out forbidden.

Edges cracking silently
Semi opaque
Fluid enchantment
Dark, delving, endless.

On Stanislaw Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova 'Arcus 1' (1991)

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Magnum Photo Agency: ‘No rules, just photographers telling stories’

'No rules, just photographers telling stories’ is essentially the Magnum Agency motto.

Their vast online archive is crammed full of images of momentous world events in the past 65 years; fall of the Berlin Wall, the Spanish Civil War, Tienanmen Square, the mass mourning at Princess Diana’s funeral, and any modern conflict – Chechnya, Iraq, Arab Spring. Then it’s not just events but well known individuals; actors on film sets, politicians of all persuasions and who could forget that Afghan girl with the green eyes? Their international reputation enable them to document NGO aid missions, raise awareness of health issues and provide photo-commentary to what might otherwise be overlooked by the traditional press.

Set up as a photographers’ collective in 1947 by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David 'Chim' Seymour, they were determined their work should remain their own rather than giving up control of copyright and context to magazines for which they were working. In setting up their own agency (named after a magnum of champagne), they could not only license the images and control how they were used but go on to use spare funds to ‘support the production and the independent vision of its individual photographer members’.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Formula 1: Doing things artistically at speed

Sometimes my impetuosity and ability to do things at speed leaves my friends reeling. There is nothing more exasperating (apparently) than being left dazed and confused in my slip stream as I go off on another diversion; usually followed by alarums and excursions in way or another.

My whirlwind tendencies, combined with the freezing weather, suggested that I should review an exhibition very close to home. So I popped unexpectedly downstairs from my office (with a cup of tea), had a gossip with the receptionist and spent an exhilarating few moments in the Collyer Bristow exhibition.

For 2 weeks only (catch it quickly) Darren Heath presents some of his best photographs from the 2011 Grand Prix season. This award winning photographer ‘specialises in Formula 1 and the automotive industry, endeavouring to cover events and commission in a creative and artistic manner using natural light and colour to their maximum effect’. Images of all the recent Formula 1 drivers are in evidence – Lewis Hamilton, Jensen Button, Fernando Alonso, and their teams, as well as the tracks and cities which play host to these annual races.

Sunday 5 February 2012


Relicts of the past
Linger to torture the present
Icons cast their spell
No need for words

Just tears falling
Bitter embalming of hearts
Brittle bodies piled
No need for sound

There is faceless grief
Returning regular year on year
Ashes scattered grey
No need for speech

Saturday 4 February 2012

Mending Broken Hearts: Meaningful not mawkish

Let me put this to you straight; I don't have an issue with Valentine's Day. I am secretly an old fashioned romantic and a day in cold mid February celebrating the hotness of love is to be enthusiastically lauded. In fact knowing it to be rooted in ancient Roman feasts celebrating Juno Fructifier and Lupercalia makes it far sexier, fascinating and visceral than a semi Christian non feast day. It's more the tenuous connections commercial organisations make that get me steaming. An excuse to sell you something meaningless when your lover would rather more time with you; to simply hold hands in a park, giggle in a gallery, or something far more intimate.

This isn't going to be a tedious diatribe about the evils of commercialism (or religion). Though I retain my art critic's hat, I'm embracing and exonerating this exhibition from my usual cynicism. I'll allow them to seduce as many visitors into buying art objects for charity.

Thursday 2 February 2012

London Archives: What happened when I went looking for City Dragons...

Last night took me to the vast London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell. The only way it can be described is ‘a collection of collections’ with millions of photos and 100 kilometres of shelving. Collections include Architecture, Family, Schools, Government, Hospitals, and Businesses, and within each sit a number of different layers/structures. For instance under Hospitals you would find the related buildings, famous people/benefactors, medical practice (but not medical records). Under Architecture you would find everything to do with the built environment, such as slum clearance, planning, surveying and so on.