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Thursday, 30 January 2014

Derek Jarman: Pandemonium @ Somerset House, WC2R / Cultural Institute at King’s / till 9 March 2014 / Free

Tilda Swinton in The Last of England
directed by Derek Jarman
photo courtesy of BFI
BFI SouthBank season = Feb/March

Pandemonium = A very noisy place; Wild uproar and chaos; Capital of Hell in Paradise Lost; Wild confusion; A place or scene of turmoil, disorder; tumult...

At the end of my visit to Derek Jarman: Pandemonium, I asked Mark Turner, the curator of the exhibition if there were any links to Kenneth Anger and Aleister Crowley. I was reassured its connections were only because Jarman studied Anglo-Saxon, the Hieroglyphic Monad, Medieval, Renaissance and Early Modern periods, but he had no interest in satanic celebrations or immature / mockery sacrifices. As a teenager entering King’s College in 1960, Jarman was art director of the student magazine Lucifer, but rapidly transcended his interests with beauty and light.

Pandemonium concentrates on two aspects of Jarman’s life = from his student days at King’s / his undergraduate education in early 60’s and his experience of living in warehouses with contemporaries including Andrew Logan and Keir Smith at Bankside and Butler’s Wharf along the Thames in the 70’s. It was on the South Bank that he first made his Super 8 films, before Caravaggio and Edward II. London was his backdrop, his subject of studies, using his Super 8 as a form of painting.

Jarman loved words. He had a delicate handwriting and wrote as part of a ritual. He loved books and read constantly till his final days. The first room contains Jarman’s reading material = medieval occultist Dr John Dee, Shakespeare’s sonnets, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, Beat Allen Ginsberg, esoteric historian Frances Yates.
Also in the first room = Death Dance, the first of Jarman’s Super 8 film. A tribute to his love of architecture “My own interest in architecture was historical; and I had had Nikolaus Pevsner as a tutor at King’s... we would travel to the cathedrals – Lincoln, Winchester, Canterbury – and we spent the entire day leaving no stone unturned.”: London in derelict, a pavilion, a medieval dance macabre performed with ritual and symbolism... handsome young naked boys meeting their fate... fire, light, mirrors and reflection.

Each passage from a room to a corridor to another room is punctuated by recurrent contrasted symbols - a circle with a dot, triangle, cross, semi circle - were created by John Dee in the XVI century = claro / obscuro; water / fire; sun / moon.

Corridor = Garden of Luxor (1973) is a dream-like of evocative images of light, reflection, water / Egyptian pyramids, the Sphinx, horses, whipping, flies, warriors, a garden in Luxor...

Another room = Poster of his films Sebastiane and Jubilee. Both films have a soundtrack by Brian Eno. Music was important to Jarman. He listened to “the monks of Solemnes, not Cliff Richard”. On arrival, you will be given a headphone providing a range of tracks from Medieval incantory music to sounds from his collaborators = Cyclobe, Simon Fisher Turner, Coil... (Jarman also directed videos – undisplayed - for Marc Almond, The Smiths, Pet Shop Boys, etc)
A film = Studio Bankside. All of his friends in the warehouse, cactuses, skulls, view on the Thames, naked men...
A display on his epistolary correspondence-interview with Andrew Logan with its print on Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine in 1974. Jarman to Logan “Is London exciting or plain dead” “It’s plain dead, but I love funerals”. The page interview has references to Cocteau, Rabelais (which I refer to on my first post), An American In Paris, Ossie Clark, St Raphael, Tahiti, David Hockney...

Last room = Last of England (1987) = an installation projected simultaneously onto five screens. A meditation on the state of a nation in late 80’s and shot around the abandoned Millenium Mills in the Royal Docks of London East End. Jarman engages with London landscape = urban ruination, a legacy of an empire and the power of state. Jarman learnt he was HIV in 1986 and the film is about his rage at the Thatcher government homophobic and inadequate response to AIDS “Queer people should demand equality in all aspects of life; legally binding unions, the right to bring up children...a bill to outlaw homophobia in the media... deletion of anti-queer statements in the Bible...” the film represents his family roots as he was an RAF’s son = footage of RAF planes, drug addiction, Maze Prison... and Tilda Swinton, his muse, with long hair in a wedding dress.
SPECIAL SCREENING = The Last of England / 1987. Dir. Derek Jarman / Thursday 6 March 2014 at 7pm / Anatomy Lecture Theatre, King's College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS + 1 March & 7 March @ BFI SouthBank

This reconstructed “chaos” is a perfect excuse to discover or re-discover Derek Jarman early work; a man who fiercely defended his views and opinions; who bravely told the world of his HIV disease; a non-hermetic creator who opened his unashamed occult doors to his knowledge; a free innovative spirit and ecclectic artist who only excluded the bigots. A man with an immense sense of community/collaborative and daring in touch with humour and his destruction/creation values. A character who bears similarities to Michael Clark perhaps...

Derek Jarman: Pandemonium marks the 20th anniversary of Jarman’s death from an HIV-related illness.

Derek Jarman (31 January 1942 - 19 February 1994) was a student of humanities at King’s from 1960 to 1963, He went on to become one of the most important creative practitioners of his generation and a crucial voice in gay politics in Britain. Painter, filmmaker, set designer, diarist, poet, gardener, activist – Jarman’s work across many areas that you will also (re)discover in the exhibition’s space.

Most italics in this post are taken from Jarman words from a tiny book you will receive. It has been created by Mark Turner and designed by Martin McGrath and Sam Ashby, authors of Little Joe, a magazine with a focus on queer cinema.

Derek Jarman: Pandemonium / Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing, Strand, London WC2R 2LS / 23 January – 9 March 2014 / Times: Daily, 12.00 – 18.00 (until 20.00 on Thursdays) / Admission: Free / Presented by the Cultural Institute at King’s / Curated by Mark Turner, Professor of English, King’s College London / Design by Martin McGrath and Sam Ashby (Little Joe) /  / twitter: @CulturalKings /

A continuous 24 hour screening of The Angelic Conversation (1985) in King’s College chapel on Jarman’s birthday (31 January) followed the next day by a symposium in which various specialists in mediaeval, film and queer studies, discuss the work = Friday 31 January, 7pm – Saturday 1 February 2014, 7pm (continuous 24-hour screening) / King's College London Chapel, Strand, London WC2R 2LS / Free entry – no booking required

Derek Jarman elsewhere =
BFI South Bank season/Feb/March 2014 = Queer Pagan Punk: Derek Jarman part one: Jarman and the Occult =
DEREK JARMAN AT THE V&A = Saturday 8 March, 12.00 – 16.00 = A day of events to celebrate the creative output of filmmaker Derek Jarman, looking at hiswork as well as the V&A’s collections from his unique perspective. Free, drop in.

Related to Derek Jarman = Display @ V&A = SHAKESPEARE: Greatest Living Playwright / 8 February – 28 September 2014 / To celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, this display examines the enduring influence and popularity of the world's most famous playwright. FREE

Stalk the twit on =  - fresh videos

Monday, 27 January 2014

The Stuart Hall Project (2013) / by John Akomfrah / The BFI’s DVD release = 27 January, with a soundtrack featuring Miles Davis.

Courtesy of BFI

The Stuart Hall Project
Revolution, politics, culture and the New Left experience
A film by John Akomfrah

One of the most charismatic and inspiring voices of the post-war Left, Stuart Hall has profoundly influenced the academic landscape with his work in the field of cultural theory.
John Akomfrah’s film/documentary chronicles Stuart Hall’s life and career. Highly acclaimed in 2013 at Sundance and Sheffield Documentary film festivals, and heaped with critical praise when it opened in UK cinemas in September, it is now available on DVD by the BFI.

My blog should read Babylon-London-Orbital, pronounced Baby London Orbital. As a non critical thinking blog but rather an invitation to share my tastes in a de-complexed way, I am finding very hard to compete with the magnificent essay written by Mark Fisher on the DVD booklet. So, I will choose to extract moments of the film which have particularly touched me.

Stuart Hall was born in 1932 in a Jamaican semi-working class family. He moved to UK, to study as a Rhodes Scholar at Merton College, Oxford (1951-57).
At a young age, Miles Davis put a finger on Stuart Hall’s soul and this is through the years of Miles Davis sound that we shift moods through the life and career of Hall.
Hall reveals to be part Scottish, part African and part Portuguese Jew, but was three shades darker than his family = the first social fact he knew about himself. He expects people’s social and cultural identities to be this complex hybridity and the Caribbean is the home of hybridity.

A TV presenter asks “One of the moments in your life for which I have the most emotional sympathy is that moment when I see you as a young boy coming from Jamaica and you come to Oxford for the first time”. Hall pinches his lips. “Can you remember what that was like?, What was that moment of encountering Britishness and England for the first time?” Silence... a view to roar of surf breaking. Miles Davis’s The Blue Room plays in the background.

... West Indian have constantly been on the move = transportation into slavery; countryside to town; small islands to larger islands; from their land to other part of the world’s land.
White people were realising that the Black population coming to England were going to stay. Stuart Hall was confronted to the Englishness educational and class system... Miles Davis’s Miles Ahead.

Stuart’s mother was worried that he was considered an immigrant on a land where everything is so beautiful. His parents thought he would study and go back home to continue their struggle. But at 20 years old, Stuart Hall decided not to become an identity they had chosen for him.

In 1956, England lives a cultural explosion. Stuart Hall had co-founded the New Left Review = a space in politics which was defined by the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the invasion of Egypt. Somewhere in between there, the idea of a democratic socialist, anti-imperial politics had been born to experience a new political platform.

The London landscape thinking was about to change in 1958 when Kelso Cochrane was murdered by four white men. It was almost the first time that there was a Black presence on the British streets to protest against intolerance/racism. The Black politics emerged.

In 1964, no one was teaching films in universities. Hall noted that most films were about characters on the move = on the road or socially; about young people with new attitudes and moving away from their background. He thought there were submerged themes which were never questioned.
The question of identity was not only about who people thought they were, but included also how others saw them; how people are shaped within a political system.

1968 = a cataclysmic year in the US, France, Italy, German, Japan and Czechoslovakia; the year of Black Power; Culture underground, protest against the Vietnam War, Student Revolution.

The 60’s were marked by some liberation that included “strange” music and hallucinogenic drugs.

The 70’s were a period of alienation = Black people not feeling British and White people refusing to consider Blacks as British. Hall calls it the “deepest crisis of identity”. The whole world was radically turning socially and culturally with feminism and sexuality being a major transformation.

Hall refers to the 80’s as a stop in communication. “The most profound thing Thatcher said is ‘There is not such thing as society, there are only individual men and women’ “. Even that quote being taken out of its original longer quote, Thatcher was definitely not an icon of equity and she worked hard at discharging her government from its obligations.
Of the Summer Riots (coal strike) of 1981, Hall thinks Britain is more threatened by a slow drift towards authoritarianism “The most important sense I have here is that there was a kind of a sense of what the political conversation was about from about 1945 onwards... until the 80’s”

The 90’s were defined as a common sense that Britain is a multicultural society.

In 2000, the question of Kosovo people immigrating to Britain was answered by Hall “it has been bombarded... people want to escape the trouble and chose Britain... how can you look at them and say they are ‘bogus’?

Today, in his 80’s, Stuart Hall feels out of time for the first time in his life. He mentions GramsciA pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”.

When I came back to London in 2011-12, I sensed a lack a community, gathering, even a sense of rejection if one doesn’t belong to a specific “tribe”. I sensed it not only from new people I have met, but most scarily from my friends. Now, I don’t mind tribes/communities in the Amazonia, for example, who don’t want any contact with the other part of the world in order to preserve their belief and tradition. But in London... it deeply saddens me to see people moving into their own circles, opening it for their own benefit.
My way of understanding it or accepting it is to think that people are taking refuge into a safety group out of fright of what the “leaders” are trying to disrupt; alienating people into a fragility bulb. They are no more part of a society, but have become an individual man or individual woman, against their own will (hopefully), à la Thatcher. Facebook is the only illusionary society with fake faces offering comfort in terms of likings.

As Mark Perry says in A London Trilogy: The Films of Saint Etienne 2003-2007you can go to a market, to a park, films, arts, music... people try to turn London into small villages... but we live in a big city and we should use it...

John Akomfrah, Stuart Hall, The Stuart Hall Project exists now for ever on DVD and for not forgetting that we are all part of a society with our differences and our similarities. It’s time to put our thinking cap back on and being inspired by a great living New Left “entrepreneur”.

Special features
•           The Stuart Hall Project Q&A (2013): John Akomfrah and Baroness Young in conversation at BFI Southbank
•           John Akomfrah and Stuart Hall Q&A with Parminder Vir (2013): audio recording from the ICA screening of The Stuart Hall Project
•           Black and White in Colour Rushes (1992): interview with John Akomfrah recorded for Isaac Julien’sTelevision, Memory, Race, from the BBC’s ‘Black and White in Colour’ season
•           Original trailer
•           Optional 5.1 surround soundtrack
•           Illustrated booklet including a newly commissioned essay by Mark Fisher

Product details
RRP: £19.99 / cat. no. BFIVD998 / Cert 12
UK / 2013 / colour and black & white / English language, with optional hard-of-hearing subtitles / 95 mins / DVD9 / Original aspect ratio 1.78:1 (16x9 anamorphic) / Dolby Digital mono audio (320 kbps)

Further watchings that I would advice =
-       The Colonial Misunderstanding by Jean-Marie Teno
-       Burning an Illusion + Blood Ah Goh Run (the 12 dead) by Menelik Shabazz
-       London, The Modern Babylon by Julien Temple (which my blog partly refers to)
-       Dance Hall Queen by Don Letts / Rick Elgood = that came up to my mind when Hall mentions his mum upbringing.

Since this post, Stuart Hall has left this world - RIP Sir - 3 February 1932/10 February 2014

Update: 6 Dec 14
Tate and the British Council announced today 5 Decemver 2014 that they have jointly acquired John Akomfrah’s highly acclaimed work The Unfinished Conversation 2012, with support from the Art Fund.

The Unfinished Conversation 2012 is a three-screen video installation that takes as its subject the memories and archives of the acclaimed and influential cultural theorist and sociologist Stuart Hall (1932 - 2014). The work explores the multi-layered issues of identity and ethnicity, which for Hall were not fixed, but the subject of an ‘ever-unfinished conversation’.

The film unfolds using news extracts alongside Hall’s personal home videos and photographs. Akomfrah weaves issues of cultural identity using a wide range of reference, overlaying archive footage of Hall with a soundtrack made up of jazz and gospel music and readings from a wide range of authors, including William Blake, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf and Mervyn Peake. The film focuses on Hall’s formative years of the 1950s and 1960s, reading his life and work within wider international political changes such as the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, the Vietnam war 1955-75, and racial unrest in Britain during the same period.

The British artist, film-maker and writer John Akomfrah (born 1957) was one of the founders of the Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC), active between 1982 and 1998, a group of artists and filmmakers dedicated to examining issues of Black British identity through film and media. In 1998 he co-founded Smoking Dogs Films, with Lina Gopaul and David Lawson, and has since pursued an individual and distinguished film practice. Stuart Hall has exerted a considerable influence on Akomfrah over the course of his career and The Unfinished Conversation is a fitting testimony to Hall, his work and the inspiration he gave to others.

The Unfinished Conversation
An Autograph ABP Commission, Produced by Lina Gopaul and David Lawson, Smoking Dogs Films, in collaboration with Professor Stuart Hall. Executive producer Mark Sealy, Director of AutographABP. Project funded by Grants for the Arts, Arts Council England and supported by the Bluecoat, New Art Exchange, Nottingham and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University, Boston, Royal College Inspire Programme and Smoking Dogs Films Production. With kind support from NAXOS Books, The Open University, BBC, Time/Image and Getty Images.

The three-screen video installation  has been shown in a variety of significant Biennials and exhibitions including the Liverpool Biennial, Sharjah Biennial, Taipei Biennial, all in 2012, and at New Art Exchange, Nottingham  and Tate Britain, London in 2013. Akomfrah also created The Stuart Hall Project (95 minutes) a single-screen film produced for theatre distribution that was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival in January 2013.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

In bed with...

I slept with a dandy, journalist and writer on the verge of suicide. I slept with RHP singer. I slept with Leitmotiv drummer, and singer. Daytime with a film and literature intellectual élite, by night with an ephemeral DJ @ the Dogstar. With a clandestine Argentinean in love with Maradona and Cantona. With a Prince Albert pierced VJ. With a gay guy, straight for one night only. With a civil engineer specialised in earthquakes. With a S&M event promoter. With a bohemian banker. With a tattooist cyberpunk from Brighton. With a solicitor under E. With a Jamie Oliver’s chef. With a blue blood who wanted death to labours. With a student and artist, 15 years younger than me. With an ex S&M practiser who became a Buddhist. With a twin research scientific. With a one leg traveller. With a communist editor from a right wing mag. With a dentist specialised in Eastern languages “lost” in Amazonia.
Bob Dylan was not far. Jeff Buckley was signing Rough Trade ceiling in Covent Garden. A diner with Chris Blackwell and Baaba Maal @ Momo’s in Heddon Street, W1. But am getting lost in translation... all these men were creators, soul transformers, time makers, genre innovators, one wanker (the blue blood one). Respect to all my exes though. And there were these young women when I was a teenager with whom I made pubic hair salads. I never wanted to detain anybody, we accepted our body landscapes and our differences.

And there was that guy. Ex diplomatic passport who became French and then artist. He was very tall sideways and couldn’t stop talking, even in his sleeps. He moved me with his speech “I’m a son of a bitch and a gentleman of a third world... I met my German wife in Spain and we got married in Ireland. We adopted a Chinese girl. I was tortured and I still feel guilty. My friends call me “el hijo del sol”. I have no mother tongue anymore. I read L’Equipe every day. I hadn’t seen my mother for 20 years when she died. I love the rain when I am at home.”
I met him at the dawn of my 40. I had already dived into a pool of mental and physical exhaustion... that kind of state when you don’t feel your body anymore, you can’t think anymore. He said I was beautiful. I giggled. He loved my ass. I giggled. My small breasts. I giggled. My silky hair. I giggled. My smooth skin. I “felt” like an inflatable doll on wig. Apart from giggling I didn’t react. He took medicine because he was going to die... soon. This is how he advertised himself, so his art was selling high... but in bed, he was not dangerous!

He told me his burlesque stories about Carla Bruni and other high ranking women. He said I was just a hippie and gave me €2000. From inflatable doll to proper whore. I giggled. He said I had the intelligence of a sparrow. I became a silent human bruise within two days of “fucking him”. But we went to the best restaurants, best food in the world and I drank a lot of Maracuya sour. One day, we were having lunch at a restaurant burrowed in a rock facing the Pacific Ocean. A Professora of art was his guest. She had a great time in the 60’s before the dictatura process started. She was a Chola. I had been to Chincha and tried to know more about the depth of racism in the country. The class A. The class B... the class E. She gave me Jorge Bruce’s Nos Habiamos Choleado Tanto – Psicoanálisis y Racismo. I kept in touch with her. A beautiful mind.
His performance was approaching and he had written nothing. The morning of his perf, he left early for the beach to find inspiration. A few hours later, I met him in front of his blank pages. I said a few sentences on his subject. To help. He slapped. I ate some sand. Lost a hearing aid. Got back on my feet. “Fuck off” he said. Silly me, disturbing an artist. I apologised, found my hearing aid and left.

We were both backstage. He spoke in the mic, hidden and a sign language interpreter was the act on stage. Disability was/is not all the rage in some countries...  I am sitting next to him. I am hearing his words. My words. My sentences. He cries and goes on stage to show the crowd he is sensitive. He throws his notes on the floor and shouts that everything has to come from the heart and leaves. I thought he must have loved me to finally accept my words. I thought it was a shame I didn’t feel anything... anything for him anyway. I left the access all area pit where I met his Chola sister outside. They didn’t let her in!
We met the day after. He didn’t ask my opinion. He was very pleased with his performance. He said many countries had contacted him to buy a video of his perf and booked him to perform in Berlin, Sydney, Milan... plain bollocks! He had two exhibitions and a show in FIAC where he sold nothing and got nothing out of it. He is an intellectual with no soul, an empty Calabash with no resonance.

He called me last year. Said he thought of me often. He wanted to see me and asked about my callipygian curves. I didn’t giggle. “Are you alright?” I said yes.
The other day, I was in a pub and I saw a guy. It was not him, but could have been on many levels.

Stalk the twit on =  - fresh videos

Monday, 20 January 2014

Taking Shots: The Photography of William S. Burroughs @ Photographer’s Gallery, W1. Until 30 March 2014. Free on Mondays all day; free on Thursday between 18:00-20:00, free entry to under 16s. Fees apply for other times and age.

Unknown Photographer, 
Burroughs in the Villa Mouniria Garden, Tangier, 
© Estate of William S. Burroughs

Equation, “coincidence”, law of nature...
2014 = 7 // safety, defensive magicks, protection, mysticism, Neptune, purple // dealing with own inner shadow // perception, equanimity // ritual, alchemy...
2014 = William Seward Burroughs is 100 years old on 5 February
2014 = Derek Jarman dies 20 years ago, 19 February.
2014 = Tilda Swinton started her film career with Derek Jarman and stars in the latest Jarmusch.

LONDON – first term – three major shows // three exhibitions @ Photographer’s Gallery.

2014 = Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive is released on Feb 14 @ BFI + general release in UK from 21st Feb (a discreet tribute to Burroughs)
2014 = exhibition of Derek Jarman’s Pandemonium @ Somerset House = 23 January - 9 March 2014 + Derek Jarman season @ BFI Southbank from February to March 2014.
2014 = Photographer’s Gallery = Factory Man Andy Warhol’s Photographs 1976 – 1987 + The Factory Photographs of David Lynch + Taking Shots: The Photography of William S. Burroughs. Until 30 March 2014

Last year, David Bowie held London at a gunpoint; Tilda Swinton shot open David Bowie Is exhibition @ V&A.

November 2005, I was seating at James and Rafael’s flat in Miraflores, Lima, Peru. We just arrived from London and we had just been introduced by a Peruvian artist. Our priority was to visit the pyramids of Caral, then, under the influence of Pisco and local weed, we talked Tangiers, the beat generation and la Planta del Pardon (the plant of forgiveness) = Ayahuasca. Ginsberg and Burroughs went to Latin America in the 50’s-60’s to taste the planta. I had absolute no interest in the plant. I didn’t believe in forgiveness! My approach lies perhaps on the Buddhist’s belief. I prefer to rely on chaos, conflict, regeneration and a fresh re-start around some liquor. If not, I’d rather “kill” the b/itch/astard for-ever-and-ever-so-I-can-be-queen-for-one-day, heroes! Or being the “murdered” one.
January 2008, I had a serious accident in a casa antigua de Barranco that left me with one good leg. Like in one of Eric Rohmer’s film, a word, Ayahuasca, flashed into conversations more and more regularly. I was told I had a call. I had to take the plant. A shaman reassured me “you don’t have to forgive anyone; the plant will lead you anyway”.

Mid 80’s, after failing my Baccalauréat, I registered to Allo Stop in Passage Brady, Paris 10. I wanted to visit Morocco where my (furious) parents lived, Rabat. On my way to the Flea Market in Clignancourt, I met a Moroccan guy who was driving to Rabat from Paris three days later. Off we went, spending time in Tangier, forgetting to tell my parents I would arrive a few days later than planned and losing their address and phone number on the road...

That is the flashback springing to my mind when I entered the Taking Shots: The Photography of William S. Burroughs exhibition’s room. Pictures of Tangier. The seaside. Amateur prints from local chemists are favoured rather than professional prints. Is tomorrow important? is the peripatetic question that peep shows the brain along these 100 rarely/unseen photos spanning from the 50’s up to the 70’s.

Ephemeral, cheap, fickle, disposable, un-serious, libertine, untitled, undated, unknown photographer, j’m’enfoutiste in Tangier, Paris, New York, London, un-towned... but looking closely and the photos reveal, not perfect portraits nor perfect documentary stills, but a Burroughs documenting his life, or moments of life creating an archive of a decent decadent life. Burroughs explores photography as an invitation au voyage (not Les Fleurs Du Mal...) à la Rimbaud  to titillate the curiosity of a chaotic past reflecting a nomad soul rather than being an authoritative statement.

New York. Car accident series. In his street. Intuition of a click. A series of photos oscillating between people witnessing the damages and the damage itself.

Tangiers. Real English Tea Made Here series. 1964. Perhaps showing openly his sensitivity mixed with humour.

London. The Moka Bar series. 3 August 1972. 29 Frith Street, W1. Burroughs has an argument with the bar’s owner... the bar closes and becomes on 30 October 1972 The Queen Snack Bar.

The exhibition also includes :
-       photos from domestic interiors – a rose in a Coca cola bottle, bed before and after sex; portraits of Ginsberg, Gysin, Kerouac and perfect strangers/lovers; cut-ups/collage/assemblage and self-portraits.
-       A 9 minutes short experimental film Towers Open Fire (1963) by Anthony Balch

Taking Shots is about travelling for an hour with a cult icon and an influential author (and yes a misogynistic - but at least like Thatcher - you knew where to stand, as he was in your face-not in an hypocrite shadow), William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) who used photographs as “catching the intersection points between your inner reality and what you are seeing”. A black rider who shared his many experiences (and visions...). Let’s imagine Burroughs being the annihilator of I think, Therefore I am and becoming the precursor of today’s generation “I copy and paste, therefore I am”.

one day only screening of Burroughs: The Movie at London’s The Photographers’ Gallery on March 14th, 2014!

Exhibition runs until 30 March along with David Lynch’s The Factory Photographs + Andy Warhol’s Photographs 1976-1987

2014, the year is just starting...

The Photographer’s Gallery. 16-18 Ramillies Street, London W1F 7LW. Opening times: Monday - Saturday, 10:00 - 18:00, Thursdays, 10:00-20:00, Sunday 11:30 - 18:00
Exhibitions admission: £4 / £2.50 concs, free entry on Mondays and Thursdays
18:00 -20:00, free entry to under 16s
T: + 44 (0) 207 087 9300 - E: - W:

Stalk the twit on =  - fresh videos

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Little Morocco, London

Nick Cave, Murder Ballads

In 2009 or 10, a friend of mine based temporarily in Australia recommended me Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It was the usual freezing cold London-ian December and I was to meet Nino in Notting Hill. I was early and went to the retro bookshop. I asked the guy about the book. His books are at the back of the shop. I looked up at King’s books and got lost in a dream’s clockwork. The guy came up and asked if I found anything, if I was alright. No, yes, do you have any Kirk Lake’s books? By the end of my question, I was surprised I asked. No, we don’t have any Kirk Lake, said he semi aggressively going back to his desk. He stopped. I am him by the way. He had recognised me. I recognise energies. We hadn’t seen each other since the previous century.

I met Nino at the Gate cinema and we walked down Portobello Road en route to Lisboa Patisserie in Golborne Road. Only you Sybille... only you, he said when I told my retro shop’s adventure. I thought he was a bit weird, but in the cavalry of my enthusiastic thoughts, I told him that in 1996, I went to a Nick Cave’s gig two days after my birthday in Brixton Academy. On our way out, my friend and I were convinced we had recognised Steve Buscemi by the bar. We both loved him as Mr Pink’s “I don’t believe in tips! and In The Soup. The day after the gig, I was walking in Notting Hill to one of the retro’s shops when I spotted Buscemi coming towards me. I had a few spliffs and full of courage, I asked him if he was Steve Buscemi. I recognised his teeth when he said no. I went, are you sure, you have the same teeth? I told Nino it must have been him because one of his films (Trees Lounge?) was out in London. Only you Sybille, only you. Nino was one of my vintage friends and I loved him to bit. But having being blessed with a low tolerance of how much crap I can take, he started to annoy me with his “only you Sybille, only you”. Apparently, I was his only friend coming up with such stories. My blood reaching a boiling point, I informed him that perhaps he and his friend didn’t notice anything and led a banal life filled with gossips! Life is about observing the repercussions of events, and I guess I went on and on... typical me.

Arriving at the junction of Portobello Road and Golborne Road, Nino took me to a new gallery further down the Portobello Road. As we entered the gallery, Mark greeted me. Five years before, he was a homeless friend of one of my 10 warehouse mates in Haringey. We put him up and fed him he said to Nino. I didn’t remember being more generous than my mates, but I remembered him being a snake tongue. Nino thought he was sexy anyway. I put on my aristocratic attitude and went “only me, Nino, only me...” You win, he said. We walked the Little Morocco street where I feel home for I have Arabic blood running through my veins. Nino wanted to be forgiven and announced I was his guest. That, or I curse you I announced back. I chose my patisserie and a woman asked me if I was back from Latin America on her way out. I had worked with Daniella in Film London. Nino knows Jane I told Daniella. Do you know Jane, Nino asked. Everybody knows Jane... she replied.

Nino’s parents emigrated from Italy to Australia where he was born and bred. He works in London.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

William Burroughs / Taking Shots. David Lynch / The Factory Photographs. Andy Warhol / Photographs 1976-1987 = opens tomorrow 17 Jan to 30 March 14. The Photographer’s Gallery, W1. Free only on Mondays and Thursdays at specific times.

David Lynch, Untitled (Lodz), 2000

This morning, I checked Burroughs and Lynch, and also Warhol.

Like Rimbaud, David Lynch is one of those poet-artists I find difficult to talk about. I am never sure I understand them or maybe I am afraid of understanding them, or maybe I understand them too well. For sure, it gets into me and then... am not me anymore, but am not someone else, I submit to an out of body experience.
I love industry. Pipes. I love fluid and smoke. I love man-made things. I like to see people hard at work, and I like to see sludge and man-made waste” David Lynch. I love derelict buildings, more specifically warehouses, pipes, huge heaters, the bricks and weeds through them. The Factory Photographs are exactly this. Black and white. Highly contrasted. Post industrial architectural spaces. Dark, magical, mysterious. Catwalking along these photographs while a multi-channel sound composition plays in the atmosphere by Mister Lynch himself. Photos taken in Germany, Poland, New York and England between 1980 and 2000.

Burroughs... “I drifted along taking shots when I could score. I ended up hooked” in Junky, 1953. Taking shots = taking photos = heroin addiction = obsession with guns. Taking Shots took me to Tangiers more specifically. I crossed Spain a few times on a 2CV to get to Tangiers. No other towns I have visited made me feel welcome in a weird way. It is somehow a magical city. What’s even more magical now is that Taking Shots: The Photography of William S. Burroughs is in London when in a few weeks time Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive opens in UK = not only the film is partly set in Tangiers, but look out for the photos of Burroughs... somehow a tribute to him.
Taking Shots is also in Paris, London, New York, and portrait of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Gysin = between the 50’s and 70’s. + a film = Towers Open Fire.

I love and hate Warhol. “I told them I didn’t believe in art, that I believed in photography” = Andy Warhol. Andy Warhol: Photographs 1976 – 1987 are Black and White photos, most of them I had never seen = Jean Michel Basquiat eating, Liza Minnelli “upside down”, Jerry Hall on a sofa...

To be continued...

While you wait...

one day only screening of Burroughs: The Movie at London’s The Photographers’ Gallery on March 14th, 2014!

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Tuesday, 14 January 2014

From Cumae to the Amazonia

Cumae Park

Two letters. C D.
On Sundays, we drove by the Royal Palace overlooking the sea and the palm trees.  A grand avenue, empty apart from some authorised vehicles.
Months after my brother’s malaria episode... unfortunately he didn’t make it to the world of ténèbre, we were four kids seating at the back of the car. Our mothers at the front. Our fathers were having some apéritif at the ambassador’s house. We went to collect them. My mother took a short cut. Only our car’s headlights pierced its road’ pitch darkness.
The radio played “Yaoundé, la capitale, la capitale du Cameroun...” tune – we never lived there. The car stopped suddenly. We were surrounded by machine guns or rifles. I looked at the gun pointed at me. And then, I looked at its man. Pitch silence. A man told our mothers to get off the car. I kept looking at the man. I could feel my mother’s vibration. She was freaking. I was not. Perhaps I had complete trust in those two letters. Perhaps, the man didn’t scare me. Our mothers and one man were talking in low mass voices. Another man talked to the man talking to our mothers. They went in front of the car and checked the number plate. Our mothers sat back in the car. We drove in silence. When we arrived, my mother must have been crying. All women came up to her. We were told to go and play. Our fathers in another section were playing pétanque or were laughing. We played hide and seek. The garden was much bigger than ours.

For 25 years, the image of those guns surrounding the car has come back to the surface on some recreational occasions. Because of a sound. Because of a film. Because of an image. I guessed my mother drove a forbidden road, but I never challenged her. She would have lied like she did when she wanted me to believe in Father Christmas. I never bought her stories about the stuffed red geezer.

The coach was leaving at 6am from Lince, South America, 2008. It was a 12 hours journey across the coast and Andes. A friend recommended a cheap but comfortable hotel (meaning hot water at some hours) in the village, and I would continue my eight hours journey to the Amazonia, the day after. I always travelled alone despite its potential danger. Always by coach. I am a landscape lover. Those trips are highly meditative. My coaches always left and arrived on time... quite magically! We arrived at 6pm.
I got off the bus and as my feet touched ground, my body and mind went into a violent-but-controlled spasm crisis. Someone threw my rucksack from the bus roof and I asked the driver if there was another coach for the Amazonia that night. He had no idea but said it would be too dangerous. I had to wait for the morning one. I asked people from the coach, same answer. There were all very nice but I had to trust my body, my mind. I had to leave that town ASAP, as exhausted as I was. I walked in the poorly lit streets of that village and found an internet point. Luckily, a friend from Lima was available on chat. He said it would be dangerous to cross the Amazonia by night, but encouraged me to trust my guts. We were both on an Ayahuasca journey and on a strict diet of vegetables and fruit. No-coffee-no-alcohol-no-spliff was the hardest part of the diet. The Internet guy would not tell me where the coach station was.

I walked the streets of that village for an hour or so and found a “dodgy” coach station. Coach leaving at 10pm. Arriving at my destination at 6am. The sales assistant showed me the coach and asked if I really wanted to go. Por que? It was no luxury... no western people usually use these coaches... I bought the last ticket. An urge to leave; a strong feeling of being unwelcomed despite villagers’ friendliness. I will learn later about the town’s strangeness.

Pitchdarkness, one headlight working, rain inside the coach. At 2am, the bus stopped and two gunned men wearing army clothes boarded the coach. They had a speech on how they protected us, the forest and we had to contribute. I asked my neighbour how much I should give. 1 sol. The coach drove on, they collected the money and got off 30 minutes later to vanish into the forest thickness. Sleeping was not an option, the road was uneven and eventually, the coach got stuck in some mud. Men pushed. At 4am, two other gunmen wearing different army clothes boarded the coach. Same scenario. At 6am, I arrived in Puccalpa and moto-taxied to the Ucayali River. I had an extrato de jugo in what looked an improvised and improbable harbour. People were already busy selling fruit, hammocks, fish, and so on. I slipped onto the mud to the wooden boats trying to find the one going to my shipibo community, I was welcomed by two teenagers in love on their way to school. They took me to the shaman hut. I was not expected and the family showed me a small mattress in an open hut where I could rest until they prepared a hut for me. As I lied down, an immense sadness filled me. Why had my mother taken such a big risk? Two women sat near me and continued embroidering. Their small dog came to my breasts and their Ouistiti lookalike monkey grabbed my neck. I fell asleep.

A few years ago, I asked my mother about the forbidden road, the guns... she said I read too many books as a child... I had a vibrant imagination.

I asked if she remembered my ears tickling her vagina. One day she might remember giving birth to me. 

TS Eliot, the wasteland =

Saturday, 11 January 2014

The taste of Guava

Impression d Afrique, Dali

From the French Centre Culturel, I took books and comic books.
I was reading the (hi)story of Eyadema in comic book sitting on the kitchen floor with a margouillat as a temp pet while the “boy” François was cooking. The white people were busy with my malaria dying brother. He sat me on the white tiled kitchen working space and asked me what I thought of his president. He is a good man. You can’t trust all books! I guess I must have looked at him as if he were an alien! I waited 5 years before I was allowed to decipher words and their letters’ association, and now, at 8 or 10, I was told to be careful with them... and images he added.
He took me out from the kitchen’s door, walked me to the back of the house where we reached a wall covered with high trees and plants. He sat me on the wall and asked me what I saw. Children with exorbitant navels on top of their big bellies washing in the street, stray dogs trotting, cars, people walking. It was my neighbourhood. Where do you wash and where do you get your water? From this side of the wall, my country is luxuriant, from the other side it’s a desert! I was not sure how I had to feel, but these differences were made clearer.

François said I was privileged. We went back to the kitchen and he sat me on the tiled surface. He explained what privileged meant while preparing a mayonnaise. As he was beating the yolk with sunflower oil and mustard of Dijon, the black lobsters started to crawl on each others in the boiling Cocotte Minute. Privileged is when you have advantages that others have not. You go to the bathroom, turn the taps on and you have water coming out. Most of my neighbours had to walk some distance to get water from a specific source and go back home with their buckets. The lobsters’ antennas agitated severely on top of each others. It’s the same with books. The mayonnaise was thickening. Some books say the truth and some invent a truth. There was a huge battle in the Cocotte Minute. But how do I know what is the truth! You have to trust your feelings. You have to guess what’s true or what’s not. You have to ask yourself questions. So, your president is not a good man? You have to decide. In fairy tales, everything is beautiful. Not in life. It is more difficult for people who don’t have privileges. The lobsters were pink. The mayonnaise, a solid crèmish fart. People play tricks too. He went to the dining room and set the table.

He “uncaged” the lobsters’ carapace while I reread the comic book. Eyadema did this and Eyadema did that. He is a good man because he helps the poors. But he helps the poors, so he is a good man I screamed. Is she annoying you, a concerned aunt asked. No, she is reading the story of my president. Unconcerned, she left. Why are your neighbours washing in the street? He brought the meal on the table and served me in the kitchen. We listened to the radio. I sponged the mayonnaise with bread, scooped the avocado and didn’t touch the lobster. I wrapped it up in some foil and said it was for his boyfriend. How do you know I have a boyfriend? Because you have breasts. You don’t want to be a man, so you let your breasts grow. So, you can love a man. I went to the garage and took his love song that was hanging where he dressed and undressed – I spied on him sometimes when he sang. I stayed in the kitchen entrance – I knew he was going to chase me – and I sang “Maladie d’amour, maladie de la jeunesse, si tu n’aimes que moi, reste auprès de moi” I always did this with a bit of macabre dance and I would run as fast as my 9 years old legs could. He must have liked me to put up with my mischievous attitude, he caught me while the dog Piccolo – who liked me too - tried to bite his calf and got kicked – they hated each other passionately. He “spanked” me and sat me on the wall. We watched the reality of the street until “François, can you bring the dessert please?” What if you don’t go? You will have another François. But do you like cooking and washing the house? He rushed to the kitchen. I peeped through the window of my bedroom where my dying brother was squatting thanks to MY air conditioning. He looked like a pile of bones. It was the first time I had seen him in weeks. I couldn’t be sure it was him. They warned me that at some point, I would have to kiss him goodbye. No way was I going to kiss a bone.
I come from a cannibal tribe and I want to study. I want to be a solicitor and my family is poor, he said when I came back to the kitchen. In between, he had to explain what were a cannibal and a solicitor. I have to work to pay for my studies in the evening. Will you eat my brother when he’s dead. He laughed often. We don’t do that anymore. Who waters the plants, the flowers, the trees in the evening? My father. Sometimes, he waters us with the hose. It probably takes a long time? Until apéritif time. No day off.

Apéritif time meant peanuts time for me. I loved peanuts. Luckily, we had a collection of empty Johnny Walker Red Label bottles, courtesy of my father. People were roasting peanuts in my street and they sold them per filled JW. We were never short of peanuts.

When nobody was home, François wore a tight pant with a protuberant hump and danced like crazy while washing the floor. He taught me the rhythm of African moves with some K7 he brought.

Since the lobsters’ carnage in the Cocotte Minute, I never touched a lobster. Chickens were more fun. A giant coup of coupe-coupe in the neck and the chicken ran like crazy in the kitchen courtyard. I tried once but the coupe-coupe was too heavy. I visited François’s family once, but rapidly, my mother wanted to leave. There were some tiny skulls around the huts and she might have been frightened we could be next. We went to a monastery instead where monks made sensuous jam, the taste of guava. That day, I discovered the worlds of magick, invisible but readable to those who wanted to read.

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