Friday, 29 October 2010

Nottingham Creativity

Following a tip off from The Guardian at the beginning of the week, my attention skipped up to Nottingham. However, I was sidetracked from The British Art Show (it begins a tour in the city anyway, so I will be able to catch it in London at some point) in attending a concert of music put on by the city-based GameCity festival. Here's what the event looked like:

An insight into the machinations of the musical underscoring of games, the evening doubled as a celebration of the music of game composer James Hannigan. We heard a mixture of the prerecorded tracks (actually used in games such as the Command and Conquer series and The Lord Of The Rings) and a live choir (The Pinewood Singers) with a couple of instrumentalists and a soloist performing in synch. The music is exciting live, especially for those familiar with the games. I particularly liked Yuriko's Theme (from Red Alert 3) which sounds great live with its crazy violin meanderings.

What was most interesting though was hearing how the music is assembled. Considerable flexibility must be built in for the music to be able to respond to the playability (sorry, can't think of a better word) of the game. Hannigan talked about the orchestral recording process - whilst he was highly complimentary of British session orchestral musicians and singers he noted that the ideal, which is recording separate orchestral tracks for each part is unworkable due to cost. The ideal? Well, the music is designed in conjunction with the game to respond to the events in the game, providing an intuitive dramatic and emotional response to the action.

The event concluded with a first hearing of the music for the tie-in to the upcoming Harry Potter film (The Deathly Hallows), which conductor Allan Wilson undertook to direct with a wizard's wand given to him by the evening's host, John Broomhall. A fun evening.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Serpentine & Hyde Park Art

I finally got round to visiting this year's Serpentine Pavilion today on the way to having a look at Anish Kapoor's Turning The World Upside Down series dotted about Hyde Park. This is what a representative mirror looks like (i.e. you've seen it before)

Super (etc.). The pavilion is a not unrelated installation.
Though Jean Nouvel's striking design is a unique melange of the monumental, sci-fi and Pagoda-style tiered roof/awning, it also has a lot of fun with the exotic, womb-interior red that is the mainstay of so much of Kapoor's work (also here).

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Damien Hirst

Walking past the Gagosian on Davies St on Friday, I saw prints being taken out and put in the back of a cab. This is the activity on the eve of a new exhibition of Hirst's work (which also happens to coincide with another brief show across town. In another coincidence I have no idea whether Tracey Emin was on her way to the Gagosian).

I'm reading a book on Hirst at the moment which is rather good. I like this, for example:
I have proved it to myself that art is about life and the art world's about money. And I'm the only one who fucking knows that. (1996)

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Social Network

So, first of all, I clearly haven't mastered the camera on my new smartphone (this pic was the best of 6). Additionally, as it's not an iPhone I felt like a spy Tweeting from the Apple Store, Regent Street, where this Q&A with the cast and writer of the Facebook film - The Social Network - was taking place. From left to right we saw and heard from Aaron Sorkin, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg. Rick Edwards of T4 was compering (or 'moderating', according to the introduction).

I didn't stay for it all as I have my ticket for a Wednesday screening and clips were being shown. It's enough to say that all four were making considered comments about playing living people who had not only been caught up in one of the most significant socio-technological developments so far this century but who also had had to deal with the inevitable litigation that comes with.

Me? I can tell my grandkids I stood 5m away from the man who wrote The West Wing.

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Beginning of the End of Enchantment

Towards the end of Before Sunrise (1995), as dawn comes to Vienna, Jesse (Ethan Hawke), the twentysomething American traveller, realises that his magical tryst with CĂ©line (Julie Delpy), the young French tourist he met the day before, is drawing to a close. "We're back in real time," he says, as the sound of a harpsichord playing Bach's Goldberg Variations drifts up from a basement apartment. It's the beginning of the end of enchantment.
from Sight & Sound, August 2004

I'm listening to the Angela Hewitt recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations (BWV 988). More accurately (and slightly masochistically) I'm listening to the 25th variation, the mysteriously viscous trickle of notes that the famous harpsichordist Wanda Landowska once, and with good reason, referred to as 'the black pearl' and used in the scene from Richard Linklater's film described above. I've been forced (for the second time this week, but for very different reasons) to go back and take a hard look at what I wrote about a film. Funnily, I stand by my verdict that it's
A wide-eyed youngster's film executed by a grown-up
although executed takes on a rather insidious double edge.

Here's Glenn Gould playing the piece:

Society and the Artist

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to that great institution, the Canada Council for the Arts, without whose grant I could not have brought together this story... If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.
Yann Martel's foreword to the Booker Prize-winning Life of Pi

Saturday, 2 October 2010

10:10 and Curtis Video Disaster

This month we've seen the launch of two significant video spots to promote important campaigns. The first, a David Shrigley animation, promotes Save The Arts, a campaign looking to maintain the highly successful British Arts industry from financial climate austerity cuts.

The second, launched yesterday, is a high profile short film written by Richard Curtis for the 10:10 campain, which promotes the action of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 10% this year.

(As detailed later in this post, the 10:10 video has now been removed from its original address but may still be viewed here)

I found Shrigley's animation a little clumsy. Halfway through, the characters in the script have a bit of a pop at the vogue for 'vampire movies'. For me, suggesting that one arm or genre of the arts industry is better than another is a dangerously divisive line to take when lobbying for the industry as a whole.

Yet this is as nothing in comparison to the offensive drivel that Richard Curtis has come up with to try promote Franny Armstrong's climate change awareness cause 10:10. The video simply shows those who are seen to be indifferent to the campaign or its aims blown up.

That's it - support the campaign or we'll kill you. It's that clear. No? This is the final frame:


That's right, someone's blood and body parts spread across the screen, with a slogan like the calling card of a self-interested serial killer punched over it.

I and many like me who have already commented publicly on this video on The Guardian website where it has been promoted (as was the Shrigley) will be open to charges of sense of humour failure. To which I say, well I didn't realise that the 10:10 campaign was just a joke.

It's not. It's a concerted campaign to raise awareness of a serious issue, and provide ideas and support for confronting it. That's what I signed up to at last year's launch.

Humour is indeed the most valuable tool available for communicating that idea. This however is a gross misjudgement of what constitutes fun under the circumstances. It shows that Richard Curtis' humour is now an anachronism, wastes the generosity of those who have given their time and talent to try and help, and undermines Franny Armstong/10:10's effectiveness in lobbying for awareness and change at the highest level.

The South Park crew had something short and to the point to say about this sort of nonsense (from 1'00"):

http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:hcx:item:southparkstudios.co.uk:c16419a3-230f-4589-8541-c8413695714d

UPDATE: at 1830 10:10 Tweeted to say that they've 'missed the mark' and taken it down.

UPDATE 2 (03/10/10): The Guardian/Observer publish a story about the hasty retraction of the film. Correctly this is titled "Backlash over Richard Curtis'... film", though goodness knows why Dougal Wilson undertook to make it. Franny Armstrong suggested that it was intended as
a funny and satirical tongue-in-cheek little film in the over-the-top style of Monty Python or South Park
upon which I refer her to the video posted immediately above.