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Monday, 29 December 2014

Me, Myself and I... the best of myself via Q&A - verse II

Riverside Studios booklet - Front cover and middle pages
Zone Guerrilla Zen, an exhibition in memory of Ed Lewis
by Sybille Castelain - Sponsor Time Out

... Any regrets since you started the blog?
Sort of regret... I regret I had to take the decision to stop working with BFI Northbank. I thought about it in many ways but I asked my contact to stop sending me DVDs and invites. It really hurts because I do like their stuff and think it’s essential BFI exists, but on a personal level and according to my own little logic I couldn’t possibly continue working with half of the BFI, feeling deeply that Southbank was acting either as racists or at least being profoundly discriminatory. I felt I would have silently supported their “south” actions + I wrote to Head of Comm to get an explanation, but got no replies. Why I couldn’t do the Jarman season or write about African Odyssey is a mystère! Believe me, I am good at insisting... But I don’t regret my decision. They have to explain. Of course, they can pose with Afrika Bambaataa and smile on pictures. I even gave some dates to the young press officer, so we could meet and talk: dates of films I bought tickets, but she must have decided I was not worth it! A shame because, on a personal level BFI is a continuity with my involvement with Riverside Studios up until Ed Lewis’s death and my exhibition Zone Guerrilla Zen on his first anniversary’s departure; supported by Time Out, via Geoff Andrew’s contact.

Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch - Soda Pictures

Any favourite films?
Only Lovers Left Alive. I think it might even be my favourite Jim Jarmusch. I recently re-watched Dead Man, a film I saw in 1995 @ the NFT1 and I didn’t like it. I don’t think at the time I grabbed Jarmusch’ capitalism denouncement, racism and how society transforms a well willing man into a wolf for man! On the surface, it’s very much about poetry, landscape, “slow motion”. It’s interesting how these two films are so similar. But OLLA is magnificent.
I thought 20000 Days On Earth was a great film too, but as months go by, it’s fading already. I would be curious to know how the film “scored” in other countries. I can’t imagine it working well in France or Spain, or Italy: the English press release was very good but I think it would have to be rewritten/re-thought in other languages.
I loved Winter Sleep very much, but I am not sure why it won the Palme d’Or. There is something cold and beautiful and slow à la Bergman... Ok, I wished Xavier Dolan had won!
Hockney was a marvel, but David is a great story teller in the positive sense of the phrase.
For the DVDs, the Alain Robbe-Grillet collection by the BFI: a great discovery that blew me totally.
I wish I could add, but film distributors or their press office are playing very shy... so I have little to say in comparison to the myriad of films / DVDs that were released in 2014. Someone like @SophiaSB1 is luckier than me and I love the way she gets inspired by my blog on many levels, but I’ll give only one example: JLG / cinéma vérité or Jarmusch Night On Earth for her 20000 Days On Earth on her @grolschfw review. Perhaps in 2015, film press officers might want to suggest some films and invite me rather than send me vimeo links... I guess they want me to save a bus journey!

Erm... Music?
As my friend says, it’s a circus... but how can I pick up one out of what I received? Fire Rec only contacted me twice this year: each time a week before a gig and sent me a downloadable album that was released months before. So I asked them to either treat me as anybody else in the music bizz or delete me from their press list. They chose the latter. I followed them on FB and I usually like what they don’t send me... But we haven’t met, so she doesn’t know me.
Drag City has great releases. But their accountant and its Lauren Unable are as great at inventing stories. They fit well in the circus, shame!

I think I have to applaud the V&A. As a major institution, they could relax and show “easy” stuff, but they just don’t. Their exhibitions are carefully researched and rich in knowledge. Plus, they are the only ones (to my knowledge) that make it easy for disable people, or at least for hard of hearing / deaf people.
In terms of photography, Conflict, Time, Photography is a must see, a new way of looking at conflicts. Still on is Egon Shiele and am looking forward Goya at Courtauld.
London is blessed with exhibitions. I wish Time Out would come back to their list of exhibitions rather than their “Must-See” list: they have the space and I guess the staff. Time Out was my bible because it taught me a great deal of London and its Things to do stuff. Now, it’s too patronising, too selective, leaving out the hidden gems. We used to have a love-love relationship...

 Time Out features my photo of Trellick Tower and artist for their Notting Hill Carnival in 2000
Time Out features my exhibition for Ed Lewis, one year after... in 2004
Time Out features my Bjork secret event in Aug 2004 in their film section

This is a sore point... I have contacted hundred of films, music etc festivals. Feminist film fest replied they had enough (mainstream?) coverage and the rest simply ignored my quests. Almost... Lift 2014 and Anxiety Festivals were excellent. Anxiety, for its first edition was near perfection in its selection. I have discovered an extremely rare gem Pressure by Horace Ové. Oh and Tarkovsky’s Solaris, my first time! Yeah yeah yeah, I have Jarvis Cocker playing within my brain “Do you remember...”

Any resolutions?
“What are you implying? That I need to change? Well, buddy, as far as I’m concerned, I’m perfect the way I am!” (Thanks Calvin of Calvin & Hobbes). More seriously, the world needs to be changed, not me! But if we could fix the United States of Da America first, we might be sorted... While we wait... we have to sort out the homeless situation worldwide! There is no need for anybody to sleep in the street unless it is some people’s will. Banning them from some London boroughs or caging benches in France are adding up to the problems but not resolving anything!
Disability is another issue. Such discrimination, rejection, less opportunity, ignorance... This is perhaps the worst: valid people who dismiss less able people out of their prejudice.
Women... I’ll stop here, but if you want me to rule the place, follow me @Sybillebbldnrbt, I’ll be a great leader, I was born the same day as: Cara Delevingne (we are almost twins), Samuel FullerCecil B De Mille, Francois Hollande. But Leos like me include (apart from most of my family – tis in my genes) Barack Obama, Napoleon Bonaparte, Fidel Castro, Bill Clinton, Hitler (just kidding), Madonna, Thierry Henry, Edward Norton, Mick Jagger etc.
But then again, if people follow, I’d rather have them to participate more than being contemplative or being a voyeur.

Anything you look forward?
Alexander McQueen. It’s going to be massive at the V&A, but also at Tate Britain and ShowStudios. Watch this space...

Sybille Castelain for

Friday, 26 December 2014

Me, Myself and I... the best of myself via Q&A - verse I

[edited. last paragraph on Miguel Zegarra. link added. 14/05/15]

I have to write a few posts on exhibitions, albums, film, but I have decided to wait January 2015 in order to give a better exposure to these important events. And since I don’t want to write on 2014 “best”est” of”...
Meanwhile, I think a Q&A with myself would be “de bon augure” or “a propos”!

Myself: How and why did you start Babylondonorbital?
Myself: I had come back to London to look after a friend who had a brain tumour. We had a deal that I would stay at hers and look after her while I would apply for jobs. London seemed to have become a strange place (not in a good way) and I didn’t get replies. My friend died early March 2013 and I thought I would write articles with a soupçon of “auto-fiction”. A sort of on-going CV (laughing to myself very loud)!

Back from left to right: Jean-Daniel Beauvallet, Calou, Moi, Christian Fevret, Arnaud Deverre, Serge Kaganski, Rodolphe A D'Ormeuil, Emmanuel Tellier
Front: Eric Mulet with son Boris
Photo taken by Renaud Monfourny

Did you have any background in media?
While I worked as a train hostess in Paris, one day in 1990, I called Les Inrockuptibles. It was the only magazine I wanted to work for. I loved Actuel too but Les Inrocks was my target. I got the job straight away as editorial assistant, receptionist, subscription manager. I made it clear that I also wanted to be trained as a photographer and journalist since I had no time to damage my bottom and my clothes on university benches. I learnt a huge amount of things from tickling a computer to dealing with press officers. There was an element of trust as well as I dealt with people like Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Philippe Djian (Betty Blue’s author), Etienne Daho; I had a massive list of confidential contacts: I was the one sending magazine copies to the famous and infamous artists’ private address. Of course, many people outside the magazine wanted to be friend with me: some wanted a job at Les Inrocks; some wanted info on artists... I learnt to smell vultures and kept my distances. But I was the first and only woman for a good year in a eight male team environment and one of them was constantly harassing me + I worked more hours than agreed + I was learning nothing about photography despite an in-house built darkroom + they were preparing their weekly issues even before they became monthly + I was born with little tolerance on how much crap I can take (I am LOL again). The guys who taught me a lot and showed respect were Serge Kaganski (who recently sent me a nice email); Samuel Blumenfeld; Calou and Arnaud Deverre. Even when I resigned, I kept going every evening after my new job shift, to sort out cheques and cash for subscriptions as it took them a while to find someone trustworthy. As angry as I was to leave them, I never sold the news on their plan to become a weekly mag; not even my best friend or flatmates knew about it. Actuel and Les Cahiers du Cinema offered me a job at some point, but I shot off to London after I finished a photography course in Paris.

All photos were taken by moi: Fun Da Mental, Idjut Boys, 
Lydie Barbarian and dog, Burning Spear
© Sybille Castelain

Did you have a planned job in London?
No, I came back to the family I stayed with as an Au-Pair before living in Paris and I wanted to pursue photography. I met the photography lecturer Bill at Roehampton in 1993 who was a wonderful man, and a great photography transmitter. He eventually offered me a part-time job with him. At about the same time, I became an usher at the Riverside Studios and met someone who was humble and extraordinary, Ed Lewis. Bill and Ed appeared in my life at the same time and guided me for 10 years. They were somehow replicas of Serge and Samuel (no, I was not in love with any of them, they were gods for Christ sake!) – Serge and Samuel are still around in this life, thanks god for the film business! I even was Ed’s cinema assistant from 1995 to 2000.
Eventually, I wrote for some French mags and took some photos / press photos for record companies.
So, yeah, I was no new-comer when I launched Babylondonorbital, but I didn’t want to scream out loud or justify anything. I had to re-build things.

Ed Lewis, Cinema Director @ Riverside Studios
His office, 90's
© Sybille Castelain

Was it easy?
Fuck no! I thought it would be though! That used to be the beauty about London. You could turn up at something, meet people, have a chat, blah blahblahblah. I could surf in between tribes, I never felt rejection. In the music business, I got sent rare stuff, got invited to private concerts in the basement of luxurious buildings in Regent’s Street... looked dodgy, was full of famous people, free cocktails and nobody checked whether I wrote for mainstream this or posh that! There was a real relation between a press officer and a journalist.
Now, it’s a bit down to how many “likes” you are going to harvest on FB and how many followers you have on Twitter that’s going to determine whether you are invited or tolerated (I’ll literally have to be a pain in the ass to get through)!

Unite against racism festival
© Sybille Castelain

And more concretely, what do you mean?
Yeah, am a bit vague... am good at it... I should be a millionaire if such job existed! What’s your job? Oh, I’m an androgyny bisexual vaguist! Well, I consider that I had a very good training at Les Inrocks (in terms of dealing with press officers – music, films, literature) and at GLR (BBC London). So, to me, there was no way I would write about an art event without getting in touch with a press officer. You give me this and I write about it. Since I am alone, I have no time to deal with things I don’t like. I am quite selective. If you send me a CD or DVD I don’t like, I’ll give it back to you. I don’t want my space to be invaded with stuff I don’t relate to.
BFI was one of my first targets. I became a NFT member when Riverside Studios closed down for refurbishment in 1994. Then, when Sonic man Stuart started there in 1998, I renewed my membership as I loved the film-music combination. A dary step for the BFI and I wanted to support it.
Without telling press officers who I was when I started my blog, they were quick to reply. BFI Northbank sent me DVDs and invites to private screenings, BFI Southbank insisted on my writing on some of their specific seasons. Since I was not knowledgeable to some of their suggestions, I invited them to send me info on their African Odysseys seasons, leftfields seasons etc. I have only managed to “do” Tony Garnett eventually. 27 year old press officer clearly wrote that she has no time for me as I am not a mainstream outlets... only proper journalists can get comps / press tickets to BFI seasons. Oh yeah, like Michael’s Atomica girls!

 Editorial Assitant for Les Inrocks / L'Immature (Editions Independentes) + their CD: compilation of Leonard Cohen songs by other artists - photo Weegee, Children Playing in Water.
My writings + photos: Premonition; Coda (FDM, Baaba Maal); Milesahead; Barbican booklet; WOMAD booklet

Don’t you think you write like a pancake?
Ah ah you bitch! But yeah, I thought so too. So, I sent some of my posts to friends I know would have no issue telling me I should change interest. I have to admit that I am not happy with some of my posts, but in general it is not that bad. Even the most aggressive press officers at Soda, BFI Southbank or Second Run DVD admitted my posts on their films were good, but I was not mainstream enough!
This is what I call underground racism or intellectual blockade. They have the privilege to send you to hell! It doesn’t matter how good or bad you write, numbers have a magic “spell” to them: the number of clicks on a link; number of viewers per day; numbers of followers on Twitter; number of “likes” or “fav” on FB/Twit; number of viewers per month and so on. I was asked about my figures or got sent applications to fill about my figures. It’s a bit like wearing a media star on your forearm and its colour would dictate where you can go.
Before going to the private screening of 20000 Days On Earth, I read Time Out and Dazed & Confused articles. I had already my doubts on D&C film critic but since both D&C + TO went on the film makers’ website page as references, I relied on them. I did read the press release as well. If my grammar is not perfect, I am against misinforming readers or raving about something to please artists or press officers. I don’t even want to harvest “likes” or “favs”. Time Out eventually changed its article but D&C “colossal rockumentary” had nothing to do with the film, and yet it gathered a huge amount of “likes” shares” and “favs”. That gives a credit to the film makers.
I could compare the phenomenon with the slave trade: the more slaves you had, the more respectful person you became, reinforcing the very capitalist system! You could be the most horrid person on earth; you were respected by some, feared by others. They had power and participated to a country’s economy but didn’t care on their vile actions on human beings.
Not that it is vile to write “colossal rockumentary”, but its only purpose is to gather a maximum of credibility by any means, so film makers can apply for funding in case they have other film plans.
I liked the film, had my own vision on it, have been denied any interview with film makers but I don’t understand their propaganda around it; that effervescence at Barbican? I don’t think the film deserved such a cheap treatment: the “archivist” reading the twits on stage... If this is the future of art-house cinema, then we are heading towards a Gattaca experience!

Euh, you hate press officers then?
I don’t like the new generation attitude. They are like robots on ego-trip. Technically speaking, it doesn’t cost them to invite smaller publications. Recently, I got in touch with an ex music PR who worked for a major label. When the music business collapsed, he had to leave. We had been in a working relation from the 90’s to his departure. It was my saddest moment in the music industry. He never tried to convince me on anything. He knew I had broad taste, so he would send me samples of materials and we worked on an artist, a band etc. He was dealing with obscure sounds and major bands. I was always aware of anything new. I would ask to see some major bands I wouldn’t cover and he would put me on the guest-list whenever possible. Even though, he left London and the music business, he knows what’s said around and he lets me know. It has become a complete circus! I am in it because art can convey vital energy on many levels. This is what I want to defend. Jane Bown (RIP) was in search of perfect light. What was wrong on my post for the documentary? What’s wrong with Soda pictures to jump me off their press list three times in six months when I dealt with more press officers that the four films I wrote for Soda. Having to beg for photos to “escort” the article and finally having to get them from the web (I suppose illegally). This is insane!
Of course, I was told recently, that some PRs are interns who are not being paid for their work. So, in one hand there is a company that invests in a product but has no resources to pay for that product to be defended properly. Then, you have an “in-training” PR who needs a job but knows won’t get one from smaller publications and focus where money is... It is becoming a Man Bites Dog field. It Smells Like Teen Spirit!

3 photos of Basement Jaxx, Into You tattooist, Dave Courtney, Fetish club, Man on Bench (for AOP),Home (for the Independent/Channel4), Carnival Notting Hill with beer ad, Punk neighbours, rainbow family at festival, 
Trafalgar SQ - © Sybille Castelain

Any time you have fucked up?
At first, I did a lot of research on articles written about films I was to write about. I had my own views, so I “copied-pasted” what corresponded to my views. I re-wrote bit and pieces of film critics who I felt close to. However, I never used anything and never read either anything from Serge Kaganski or Samuel Blumenfeld. These two are fine critics and I would find it hard not to copy-paste or get influenced by. Jonathan Romney is an interesting case because I can profoundly agree on what he describes but totally disagree on what he gets into: on the film Archipelago, he describes the film quite perfectly or rather to the way I felt about the film (the colours, the atmosphere) but he disliked the film when I loved it for these very reasons.
Music wise... It took me a while to understand how to download a private link. I used to receive finished CDs... I guess I was a nightmare, but now I ask at least for a promo CD; I have little space on my compu.

Why are you at war with “likes””favs”... mainstream?
I find it freaky! For its fascism aspect when it determines whether you are in or not because of a figure. Also, a figure is no synonymous of success. Success can be dangerous! How do you deal with success? As if, it is something natural and there can’t be any aftermath! Look at someone like Amy Winehouse. She was catapulted to a place where she didn’t feel that comfortable. Unfortunately, her case helped me to understand how I felt when I dealt with Mathew Barney’s DR9 film screening in Peru. I was very pleased to get front pages and many articles written by most publications (and I gave the same importance to blogs and major publications and allocated press tickets to those who wrote... just saying). The film had a unique projection screening at 9.30pm and was free – first come, first served basis. At 5.30pm, I was told people started to queue. I left more than 800 people outside the gate that we had to lock to prevent incident. Everybody congratulated me for its success, I just cried for a week for leaving 800 people outside. Looking back at it, there was nothing I, we could have done. There were so many parameters to respect and so little choice: we did the best we could, but I wouldn’t call it success. Numbers are freaky! You can post your crap photo on FB and harvest 12 “likes” out of your 5000 “friends”, it doesn’t mean your photo is good, it just means you have some supporters! Don’t believe the hype!

What’s art?
Go and bore someone else with your stupid question! I’ll answer it anyway. It’s a trip. If it doesn’t take me somewhere, then I might not get it. I immerse myself into some sounds, images... Since my stay in Peru, I have come to realise it’s also a privilege to experience (art-wise) what others can’t. I used to live with a curator called Miguel Zegarra. He was a brilliant curator and had an immense knowledge despite the fact that Peru didn’t have the resources to provide contemporary art teaching. He spent his time on internet. He was very passionate and we spent nights talking about art; him being gay or not; his depression; his mother, sister; local curators who decided who got a grant to study in Spain. So, now, when I immerse into something, there is another dimension or appreciation. I know for me it’s a luxury and I always view or listen thinking of him particularly, but others who won’t have that privilege. Art should be accessible to those who want to experience, but shouldn't not dictated by those who have got ghost keys.

Sybille Castelain for

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Guy Bourdin: Image-Maker @ Somerset House, London WC2 – jusqu’au 15 mars 2015

Charles Jourdan, Fall 1977
© The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2014 / Courtesy A+C

English version, click here

C’était aux Halles que je tombais amoureuse des chaussures. Je découvrais un monde de punks, rappeurs, dealers de drogue, SM, la Banque de l’Image et son bas-ventre de musique underground, de cartes postales des The Smiths, Joy Division, The Stranglers, Nick Cave... l’étroit escalier, la promiscuité, les regards furtifs, le sexe.
La Librairie Parallèles vendait des livres et des vinyles rares, venus d’ailleurs; la police faisait la ronde et se mettait en rapport constant avec la jeunesse non-blanche. Un jour, je me suis aventurée dans le quartier huppé, au-delà du Centre Pompidou, Rue des Francs Bourgeois, III arrondissement… Tout ca, c’était quelque part dans les années 80. Je (re) découvrais le monde de Charles Jourdan et les pubs de Guy Bourdin. Le magasin des chaussures chics y avait sa base. Mais c’est en fait dans les années 70 que j’avais « rencontré » Guy Bourdin dans la chambre d’ado de mes tantes : des couleurs saturées, des images étranges agrafées au mur… alors qu’elles écoutaient Marie Laforet, Dalida ou The Beatles. Elles me peignaient les ongles de ce même rouge vif qu’on voyait sur le poster et je courais dans l’atelier « caverneux » de mon grand-père. J’étais fière de lui montrer mes nouveaux ongles à la Bourdin. Il m’asseyait sur un haut tabouret et continuait son travail d’électricien réputé pendant que mes ongles séchaient.

Pentax calendar, 1980
© The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2014 / Courtesy A+C

Je ne comprenais pas vraiment les pubs de Bourdin, peut-être un peu trop mystiques ? Elles me racontaient une histoire que je ne maitrisais pas. Je saisissais le fétichisme, le meurtre, le jeu et l’investigation amplifiés par des couleurs exagérées. Guy Bourdin était à la mode ce qu’Alain Robbe-Grillet était au cinéma. L’un racontait une histoire à l’intérieur d’une image, l’autre rompait en permanence la narrative en fragments. Les deux artistes utilisaient les jeux de réflexion et de miroirs tout en s’appropriant des références en peinture : Balthus ou Magritte pour Bourdin ; Mondrian ou Duchamp pour Robbe-Grillet.

Né en 1928 à Paris, Bourdin avait étudié la peinture en école d’art mais était autodidacte en photographie. Il avait établi une collaboration de longue durée avec Charles Jourdan tout en travaillant également avec Chanel ou encore Ungaro. Son travail était régulièrement éxposé au Jeu de Paume, The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, The National Art Museum of China et le V&A lui rendait un hommage majeur en 2001, 10 ans après sa mort. Ce même musée qui contient dans sa collection des photographies de Bourdin.

Charles Jourdan, January 1980
© The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2014 / Courtesy A+C

Somerset House met en scène Guy Bourdin: Image-Maker, une exposition des plus importantes en Grande-Bretagne sur l’œuvre du photographe énigmatique du monde de la mode. Elle présente quelque 200 travaux et contient du matériel non connu entre 1955 et 1987. Ce protégé de Man Ray a en quelque sorte révolutionné la photographie tout en remettant constamment sa tâche à l’ouvrage pour atteindre la perfection. Alors qu’il mettait la photographie commerciale au défi pour rendre une image attirante de façon indirecte, il tenait aussi à garder le control artistique quant à la publication de ses images. Guy Bourdin a détourné les standards de la beauté, de la morale et de la représentation du produit : il y a rajouté une composition et un espace dans un lieu spécifique en passant par des mannequins démembrés ou des voyages en Cadillac de Brighton à Battersea Power Station, l’édifice rendu célèbre par la pochette Animals des Pink Floyd.
L’exposition rend aussi hommage à son travail de peinture, ses planches contacts, ses Polaroids et ses films tournés en Super 8.

Charles Jourdan, Autumn 1970
© The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2014 / Courtesy A+C

Même si je ne me suis pas sentie émue à revoir son travail connu, ses Polaroids et ses photos sans titres et non publiées m’ont en revanche plongée dans une profondeur quasi science-fictionnelle : un voyage entre J.G. Ballard et Blow-UP

Dates: 27 November 2014 – 15 March 2015
Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm Daily.
Address: Embankment Galleries, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA
Admission: £9, £7 Concessions
Transport: Temple, Embankment Charing Cross, Waterloo

Sybille Castelain for

Monday, 22 December 2014

Guy Bourdin: Image-Maker @ Somerset House, London WC2 - til 15 March 2015

Charles Jourdan, Spring 1979
© The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2014 / Courtesy A+C

Version française, cliquez ici

It was in Les Halles, I fell in love with shoes. I discovered a world of punks, rappers, drug dealers, S&M, la Banque de l’Image with its under-belly, where the sales assistants listened to some underground music, selling postcards of The Smiths, Joy Division, The Stranglers, Nick Cave... narrow staircase, promiscuity, glances, sex. The Librairie Paralleles was selling underground books and rare records from around the world; the police was constantly on tour, catching up with non-white youth. One day, I ventured further than Le Centre Pompidou, in Rue des Francs Bourgeois, III arrondissement, somewhere in the 80’s. I (re)discovered the world of Charles Jourdan and its Guy Bourdin’s ads. The chic chaussures’s shop had its base there.
But it was actually in the 70’s, that I first came across Guy Bourdin in my teenager’s aunts bedroom: saturation of colours, strange pictures... while they listened to Marie Laforet, Dalida or The Beatles. They would paint my nails in that same red nail polish that was on the poster and I would rush to my grandfather’s “cave” workshop to show off my Guy Bourdin lookalike. He would sit me on a high tool while drying my nails watching him doing his electrical stuff for he was a reputable electrician.

Vogue Paris, May 1970
© The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2014 / Courtesy A+C

I never knew exactly what to make of Bourdin’s ads as they were mystical. Somehow telling me a story that I didn’t grab. A sense of fetishism, murder, game and investigation accentuated with strong colours. Guy Bourdin was to fashion what Alain Robbe-Grillet was to film. Only that one was telling a story within a picture while the other one kept breaking the narrative into fragments. Both artists used intensively reflections in mirrors or windows and had strong references in the painting world. Balthus or Magritte for Bourdin; Mondrian or Duchamp for Robbe-Grillet.

Born in 1928 in Paris, Bourdin studied painting and taught himself photography. He had a long term collaboration with Charles Jourdan, but also worked for Chanel or Ungaro. He exhibited at The Jeu de Paume, The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, The National Art Museum of China and 10 years after his death, the V&A had a major exhibition of his work in 2001; some of his photos are part of the V&A’s collection.

Charles Jourdan, Autumn 1979
© The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2014 / Courtesy A+C

Somerset House stages Guy Bourdin: Image-Maker, the UK’s largest ever exhibition of the influential and enigmatic fashion photographer Guy Bourdin, featuring over 200 works and previously unseen material from the photographer’s estate, from 1955 to 1987. This major show charts Bourdin’s distinguished 40-year career from Man Ray’s protégé to photography revolutionary in his own right and explore his pursuit of perfection.
While he challenged commercial photography by being attractive in an indirect way, he also demanded to have complete artistic control over the way his work was to appear in magazines. Guy Bourdin deconstructed all the standards of beauty, morals and product portrayals and gave composition and space a specific place: disembodied models or being on a Cadillac from Brighton to Battersea Power Station. The exhibition features also some his paintings, contact prints, Polaroid’s and Super 8 films.

British Vogue, September 1975
© The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2014 / Courtesy A+C

Although I was not necessarily moved to see again his renowned work, I was totally taken aback by his Polaroid’s and unpublished / untitled works that I found more profound: a sci-fi trip between J.G. Ballard and Blow-Up...

Dates: 27 November 2014 – 15 March 2015
Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm Daily.
Address: Embankment Galleries, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA
Admission: £9, £7 Concessions
Transport: Temple, Embankment Charing Cross, Waterloo

Sybille Castelain for

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience, 1950s-1990s - 16 février – 24 mai 2015 @ V&A, SW7

Title: Yinka Shonibare, 'Diary of a Victorian Dandy'
 © Yinka Shonibare / Victoria and Albert, London

English version, click here

Le 18 janvier 1981, une fête d’anniversaire d’adolescents tourne à l’horreur. Ca se passe dans le quartier de New Cross, dans le Sud Est de Londres où la maison a pris feu et a tué 13 jeunes gens noirs. L’événement est depuis connu sous le nom des 13 Dead – les 13 Morts (voir lien plus bas) ou le New Cross Massacre – Le Massacre de New Cross. Le dub-poète Linton Kwesi Johnson a marqué l’événement avec sa chanson New Crass Massakkah alors que Menelik Shabazz a produit un mini documentaire Blood Ah Goh Run.

L’attaque et son investigation ont été motivées par le racisme : l’activisme des extrêmes droites était omniprésente dans le quartier ; la police a couvert des éléments cruciaux à l’enquête ; la population blanche a peu réagi face au drame. Peu après le massacre, des manifestants se sont emparés de la rue et quelques mois plus tard, le premier « légendaire » Brixton Riot (l’Emeute de Brixton ) a éclaté.

En 1951, Stuart Hall est parti de sa Jamaïque natale pour étudier à Oxford, en Grande Bretagne. Hall a influencé le paysage académique par son travail sur la théorie culturelle en Grande Bretagne : en expliquant les déplacements permanents des caribéens, il mentionnait également la réaction des Britanniques « la population Blanche se rendait compte que la population Noire arrivait en Angleterre pour y rester » (voir lien sur le DVD du BFI de John Akomfrah ci-dessous).

Normski, 'African Homeboy - Brixton, London, 1987', printed 2011, c-type print.
© Normski / Victoria and Albert, London

Créée en 1981, la mission de Black Cultural ArchivesArchives Culturelles Noires était et reste encore de collectionner, préserver et célébrer l’héritage et l’histoire des personnes Noires en Grande Bretagne. La collection offre une connaissance approfondie sur la descendance des peuples d’Afrique ou des Caraïbes, y compris des papiers personnels, des témoignages structurels, des livres rares, des photos et une petite collection d’objets.

Joie puisqu’au printemps, la V&A présentera 50 photographies qu’elle a récemment achetée pour sa collection permanente. Cette collection explore les expériences des Noirs de Grande Bretagne à partir de la deuxième moitié du XX siècle mise en valeur par des extraits d’histoires orales rassemblées par les Archives Culturelles Noires.
Depuis plus de sept ans, la V&A a travaillé avec les Archives Culturelles Noires pour acquérir des photographies soit de photographes noirs ou celles qui documentent la vie des personnes noires en Grande Bretagne. Jusqu'à présent, cette collection particulière était sous-représentée dans le secteur photo du musée. Une acquisition pour l’instant de 118 travaux par 17 artistes de Yinka Shonibare (serie grand format de Diary of a Victorian Dandy - 1998) ; à l’étude élaborée de femmes nigériennes de J.D. Okhai Ojeikere ; en passant par le Noir & Blanc des photos de rue des années 70 à Londres par Al Vandenberg.

Staying Power mettra en avant l’expérience des Noirs Britanniques par le biais de la photographie. L’exposition sera une vitrine de portraits intimes de la vie londonienne des Caribéens Britanniques des années 60 et 70 avec Neil Kenlock, Armet Francis, Dennis Morris and Charlie Phillips. La musique, le look et la mode sont documentés par Raphael Albert avec ses concours de beautés noires des années 60 aux années 80 ; Norman ‘Normski’ Anderson quant à lui témoigne de la jeunesse vibrante et colorée des années 80 et 90 ; Maxine Walker attire l’attention sur les stéréotypes raciaux en se photographiant elle-même dans des déguisements différents.

Il y a quelques mois, on a eu le plaisir de découvrir l’expo Return of the Rudeboy à la Somerset House (voir lien plus bas) et je suis plutôt impatiente d’explorer cette fois-ci cette nouvelle collection de la V&A dont Stuart Hall se réjouirait très certainement.

Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience, 1950s-1990s
16 February – 24 May 2015
Black Cultural Archive :

13 Dead / March against racism link
Stuart Hall Project, BFI release link
Return of the Rudeboy link

Sybille Castelain for

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience, 1950s-1990s - 16 February – 24 May 2015 @ V&A, SW7

Title: Al Vandenberg, 'High Street Kensington' from the series 'On a Good Day'
 Credit line: (c) The Estate of Al Vandenberg / Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Version Française, cliquez ici 

On 18 January 1981, a teenager birthday party in New Cross, South East London ended up in horror. The house was set on fire and killed 13 young black people. The event is now known as The 13 Dead (see post link below) or New Cross Massacre. Event remembered by dub-poet Linton Kwesi Johnson with his song New Crass Massakkah; and Menelik Shabazz for his short film-documentary Blood Ah Goh Run.

The attack was believed to be motivated by racism: far right activists were strong in the area; police covered some crucial facts; the white population had little reaction. Following the massacre, demonstrators took up to the street and a few months later the first Brixton Riot took place.

In 1951, Stuart Hall moved to UK from Jamaica in order to study as a Rhodes Scholar at Merton College, Oxford. Hall influenced the academic landscape with his work in the field of cultural theory in UK: talking about West Indians constant move across history, he also mentioned the reaction of British people “White people were realising that the Black population coming to England were going to stay.” (Link on John AkomfrahBFI DVD below).

Founded in 1981, Black Cultural Archives’ mission was and still is to collect, preserve and celebrate the heritage and history of Black people in Britain. The archive collection offers insight into the history of people of African and Caribbean descent in Britain and includes personal papers, organisational records, rare books, ephemera, photographs, and a small collection of objects.

Title: Armet Francis, Self-Portrait in Mirror, London, 1964, gelatin silver print
 Credit line: © Armet Francis / Victoria and Albert, London

We can all rejoice as this spring the V&A will present a display of over 50 recently acquired photographs that explore the experiences of black people in Britain in the latter half of the XX century, enhanced by excerpts from oral histories gathered by Black Cultural Archives.
Over the last seven years the V&A has been working with Black Cultural Archives to acquire photographs either by black photographers or which document the lives of black people in Britain, a previously under-represented area in the V&A’s photographs collection. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Museum has been able to collect 118 works by 17 artists ranging from Yinka Shonibare’s large-scale series Diary of a Victorian Dandy (1998), to studies of elaborate headties worn by Nigerian women, by J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, to black and white street photography of 1970s London by Al Vandenberg.

Staying Power will showcase a variety of photographic responses to black British experience. On display will be intimate portrayals of British-Caribbean life in London in the 1960s-70s by Neil Kenlock, Armet Francis, Dennis Morris and Charlie Phillips. Music, style and fashion are documented in Raphael Albert’s depictions of the black beauty pageants he organised from the 1960s to the 1980s to help celebrate the growing black community in Britain and Norman ‘Normski’ Anderson’s colourful depictions of vibrant youth culture of the 1980s and 90s.
Maxine Walker also draws attention to racial stereotypes by photographing herself in a variety of guises. In her Untitled series (1995) she presents herself with different skin tones and hairstyles as though they were instantaneous transformations made in a photo booth.

Recently, London was lucky to host the Return of the Rudeboy’s exhibition at Somerset House (see link below), and it is quite with some excitement that I am looking forward to explore more of the collection. Surely, Stuart Hall would have been very pleased of that move.

Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience, 1950s-1990s
16 February – 24 May 2015 #InspiringPower

More info on Black Cultural Archive:

13 Dead / March against racism link
Stuart Hall Project, BFI release link
Return of the Rudeboy link

Sybille Castelain for

Sunday, 14 December 2014

"Hate" post on Aleicester Crowley "devotees"

 MeMyselfAnd I @ Hackney Marshes
© Sybille Castelain

Sweary material. Things might be true... but then again it might be. There is always space for inaccuracy and extravagance! But it is mainly the reverse of lies!

ASX = American Suburbx
561 Artists listed = around 100 are women. 
203 Artists featured = around 30 are women. 
Interviews? Mostly done by men on men! 
Women representation? Don’t ask... It hurts!

Brad Feuerhelm, managing editor for ASX. North American with muscles from Monsieur Propre. Lives in the nipsters area of London with his Aleicester Crowley clan. Both amateur & professional on photography... Who cares? Collector... From what I have seen on his own photographs, just plain crap. One can’t be good at everything.
I got introduced to him via Anthony Faramelli, a North American who teaches in Kingston and the Atlanta boys Lee Tesche + Ryan Mahan of Algiers the band, a music trio  (Franklin James Fisher lives in US) at the ICA. So, no I never physically met the geezer!

Not that the meeting with these people @ ICA went bad, but it was weird! Bearing in mind that, according to the normal... I am weird... However, we didn’t connect much in terms of weirdness. There was this miraculous suspended point in time when I said I ran my blog coz it was a good opportunity to meet people and perhaps find a job. Do you remember when Georgy Bushy was told about 9 11 in the classroom? His lizard’s look? Same. Complete silence. No reaction, no questions asked about type of job I was looking for. When I left the polite gang, I felt awkward for many reasons, but couldn’t nail them. So, I just vomited by the Captain Cook statue. Illuminati buoys.

Nevertheless, I went a few days later to what they promised to be a sensorial event, etc, etc... @ the Red Gallery. James Batley was nice at first, Michael Salu was talkative, Lee Tesche of Algiers was dismissive and lecturer Anthony Faramelli was ultra nervous. Ryan Mahan of Algiers was there but super discrete – maybe he was on a secret mission. I mean... I had, with their agreements, contacted Time Out, NME, The Guardian about their music and event + contacted a few people as they urgently needed a new place to live. Well, from the 500 people expected (that was the capacity of the place)... we could easily breathe. I saw Feuerhelm “œuvre” = I don’t think it was meant to be that funny. James’ film was experimental and cool to rewatch, the band The Crow were pretty good for an emerging band. They were not signed on Pop Noire as James and Anthony had told me / everyone! Then, there was that Karolina girl, a Dennis Cooper friend who gave me an invite to some re-enacting of a murderer / puppeteer at this stuffed animal’s place. Although I have a bit of an attraction for the unusual, I have no interest in celebrating murder or other abject seedy situations, but my door is open to the unexpected – expect the unexpected as the 90’s campaign went for Dazed and Confused, or maybe it was Jockey Slut?
I wrote to Polish Karolina that “I’ll give it a go and could publish on my blog, here is my address to send book, soon please because I am slow to read, digest, evacuate”. “Sure, come to the event and you can buy the book” was her reply.
So, I went: “I have to write-advertise about your event; pay for the event; buy the 40 quid book at the event; read-digest-evacuate-interview-write about the book?” She was very sorry that if I wanted to write about the book, there was only one way... buying it! I am not so desperate about cheap capitalism, so I went for a stay-in night and read myself a Calvin & Hobbes bed time story.

Lee and I had a long surreal e-conversation. He was so polite that it s/melt of sulphur. There was definitely some misunderstanding that he chose to abort by silence while Faramelli sent a text @ 1AM “fat finger poetry”. It’s funny because I saw the geezer 3 hours in my life! As if I’m a whore on call...
Out of curiosity, I had a look on this Feuerhelm geezer via his FB and couldn’t believe my luck: a gem of misogyny! A non-objective photo “critic” rubbing shoulders with the cream of the cream: Richard Mosse, Cristina De Middel, Broomberg & Chanarin and the Photographer’s gallery / Deutsche Börse photography prize Klan. Strangely enough, I wrote one thing about a TPG exhibition and got kicked out of their press mailing! I bet there is some of his male North American friend / Crowley devotee in semi-control of who gets in... or not!

The Algiers peeps went to cry over their spit milk to French domino girl in New York who happened to be friend with JD the DJ et hop they got their first French article. It’s funny because they’ve been in the zik biz for 10 years, most possibly 20... had no major reviews in their home country, nada in London apart from me, played about five times and a half in London in the past 5 years and the paper I worked for in Paris gave them coverage for the one and only song... that is already over three years old. Don’t get me wrong. The song is good. I am just questioning their mushiness attitude. They were quick to put their French popus on their e-walls. So I went “Oh, so you don’t want to be DIY anymore, you got a major record deal?” and Lee went “Yeah, we are so pleased to be in that French mag”. But I like Lee, he likes dogs. Brad says Lee is a genius. Well, they have breakfast together on a daily basis!

Last year, Brad was very pleased that his friend Richard Mosse won the £30,000 award Deutsche Börse 2014 photography prize. Before I knew they were friends, I saw the exhibition @ TPG and thought his images were coffee table crap for ass-bleeding lickers! I am not just talking about his “Madonna and Child” pic...

Anyhow, our Brad travels around the world, has a pied-à-terre in London village, vomits on how unfair the world is on FB – FB is his confident – therapist – best friend – maybetoozuckerberg for him but life is no fair... and on women! Say Abramovic to him, or worse Pussy Riot and he goes wild. Verbal diarrhoea ensues!
Then again... I might be wrong on his sexist / misogyny / female intolerance because he’s quite friend with D&C “colossal rockumentary”  New Zeland 20K DOE female “film critic” (oh and Houellebeck vanished too). Thinking about it... she is very good friend with Chris’ 2nd DVD and sodagoodmovies. Weird that they jumped me off their mailing boat. I guess I am getting paranoid; aren’t they all, these Mouton de Panurge preaching Crowley “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.”? Naughty Crowley who nicked it partly from Rabelais! I wonder if they knew great devotee Peaches Geldof, The Great Preachess of his rituals. For sure, JD the DJ was sad when she died. Maybe that’s how they all met after all, at the funeral (RIP).

He doesn’t openly criticise The Guardian Jonathan Jones because, well, just in case The Guardian rings his Stokey palace bell one morning and offers him to ink their pages... can’t take too many risks in life innit? Maybe ASX doesn’t pay him well?

Def, am weary of these guys who want publicity but give nothing back. It’s true though. Another example? I’ll spoil you. Tom Hunter, another Brad boy friend was happy for me to write on his exhibition. Then, he posted on his FB and Twitter all articles written about him. We were eight, but he posted seven. I pride myself for being a good reminder of stuff. But he is deafer than I am! Despite my tags on social media and my five emails times two (he has two emails, so I write on both in case one is down coz in technology... it’s still technology – fuck happens). Must have been lots of fucks! Or he is a fucker himself!

Interestingly enough, Brad’s friend curator Gavin Grindon (who also happens to be Anthony Faramelli’s colleague – yes, the world is small) who curated Disobedient Object with Catherine Flood  (show still on at V&A BTW) has elected to exhibit Guerrilla Girls 1985 ad-poster questioning the world of art with 4% of women representing it against the world of nudes represented by 76% of women...
I am not good at math, but it looks like ASX hasn’t greatly participated to its change.
That’s precisely what I was questioning on American Suburb FB page! Brad deleted my comment and censored my future “like” or “comment”. I can only share...

So, I am sharing my view on you Brad Feuerhelm “you can call me a bitch, I don’t give a flying fuck. Why don’t you pack your Sun Protection 50 (you’ll get burnt anyway) and take a never-ending holiday in Syria? I bet you’ll go to Mexico to show off your courage! Mexico is no danger for you, they’ll think you’re a narco-traff!”

Other related posts on those bunch, one way or another:
Lee Tesche & Ryan Mahan of Algiers:

Xmas thx: 

Algiers on satire following Charlie Hebdo attack:

Sybille Castelain for

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Allen Jones RA @ Royal Academy of Arts, W1S, jusqu’au 25 janvier 2015

Kate Moss on Body Armour, 2013
Image courtesy the artist. © Allen Jones

English version, click here

69, année érotique” chantaient Jane Birkin et Serge Gainsbourgh.
1969 est aussi l’année des « meubles fétiches » qu’Allen Jones a produits : le Hat Stand, Table and Chair. Des représentations féminines à quatre pattes et grandeur nature habillées en tenue bondage qui sont aussi animées que des mannequins de vitrine, servant véritablement de table basse. Deux Table accueillent le visiteur pour cette exposition d’Allen Jones RA à la Royal Academy of Arts.
Ces trois œuvres fades et impersonnels évoquant l’érotisme standardisé ont défini, moulé et « condamné » Allen Jones tout au long de ses cinquante années de carrière artistique.

Une malchance alors qu’il produisait son travail en même temps que le féminisme s’émancipait. Certaines de ses expos ont subi le blocus d’activistes féministes comme aujourd’hui certains activistes antiracistes bloquent l’exposition Exhibit B.

Table, 1969
Image courtesy the artist. © Allen Jones

Etant moi-même une féministe à mi-temps, je ne me suis pas forcement sentie très à l’aise la première fois que j’ai vu sa Chair et je n’ai pas cherché à creuser davantage son travail. J’ai relevé le défi et rejoint la présentation presse à la RA, quelques semaines plus tôt.
Ce vétéran de la pop britannique, Allen Jones, est-il un artiste qui chosifie la femme ou un artiste controverse se servant des femmes pour pointer du doigt l’image qu’en fait la société de consommation ?

Allen Jones a étudié à la Royal College of Art, à Londres dans les années 60. Parmi les étudiants de cette époque se trouvaient David Hockney RA, Patrick Caulfied, Derek Boshier, Peter Phillips RA et Ron Kitaj. Leurs images discordantes étaient une réappropriation de la culture populaire, transformant le banal en images contemporaines vibrantes : un nouveau langage visuel naissait alors qu’ils utilisaient des figures humaines au centre même de leur travail. Dans le récent documentaire Hockney, David explique ce besoin de rompre avec le conventionnel.

Allen Jones s’est rendu pour la première fois aux US en 1964-65 où il s’abreuvait d’artistes comme Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, Ed Ruscha et Mel Ramos. Dès le début de sa carrière, il s’acoquinait avec Roman Polanski, The Beatles, Elton John, Johnny Rotten ou encore Adam Ant.

Exhibition general view of a room

Très clairement, Allen Jones n’avait aucune intention de produire des boites de soupe à l’infini à partir de cette culture populaire. Son inspiration d’alors et d’aujourd’hui puise dans sa fascination pour les femmes ; leur façon d’être représentée dans les masses medias tout en véhiculant un message ambigu. Son intention n’était pas de choquer le public, mais plutôt de choquer le monde de l’art. Il est plus facile de s’identifier à une sculpture humaine hyper réaliste plutôt qu’à une chose « artifier » empruntée à la société de consommation. Le débat s’épice du coup beaucoup plus…
Stanley Kubrick avait d’ailleurs bien compris son travail transgressif, mais n’a pas su convaincre Allen Jones du prêt de ses œuvres pour A Clockwork Orange. Le metteur en scène Kubrick a alors reproduit le style Pop de Jones pour son film.

Pareil aux images d’érotisme subtil d’Erwin Blumenfeld, Allen Jones créait une femme sensuelle mais inaccessible semblable à celle récemment produite de Kate Moss. Alors que les femmes de Blumenfeld sont réelles, celles de Jones sont des constructions psychologiques, des appareils… enracinées dans le monde réel de l’obsession ou du sadomasochisme. Comme Egon Schiele, il exagère l’utilisation des couleurs non réalistes ou des corps démembrés, mais à l’inverse de Schiele, Jones nourrit son appétit pour la consommation vénimeuse.

Cette rétrospective retrace le développement du processus et des idées artistiques de Jones. Elle se compose de plus de 80 travaux et présente des exemples de ses peintures et sculptures du début à aujourd’hui. On y voit des dessins rarement vus et des maquettes sculpturales.

Il se peut qu’Allen Jones interpelle le visiteur / voyeur et qu’il le force à réagir. Il se peut qu’Allen ne soit pas misogyne et qu’il s’amuse de ce que la culture médiatique fait des femmes… je suis sortie et mon cerveau s’est accroché à un poème de Paul Verlaine « Je fais souvent ce rêve étrange et pénétrant d’une femme inconnue et que j’aime et qui m’aime et qui n’est chaque fois ni tout à fait la même, ni tout à fait une autre et m’aime et me comprend... son regard est pareil au regard des statues, et, pour sa voix, lointaine, et calme, et grave, elle a l'inflexion des voix chères qui se sont tues. »

Allen Jones RA - Burlington Gardens - 13 novembre 2014 – 25 janvier 2015 @ Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington Gardens, London W1S 3ES
Dates and Opening Hours
Open to public: Thursday 13 November 2014 – Sunday 25 January 2015 - 10am – 6pm daily (last admission 5.30pm) - Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm)
£11.50 full price (£10 without Gift Aid donation); concessions available; children under 16 and Friends of the RA go free. - @royalacademy #AllenJones

Sybille Castelain for