Saturday, 27 March 2010

Why Satyagraha is necessary in 2010

Satyagraha, first performed in 1980, is the second in Philip Glass’ trilogy of operas celebrating men who changed the world. It loosely follows the story of Ghandi’s struggle for India’s liberation from the British Empire, while putting a mirror to the Western World and dragging the viewer through two hours of agonising arpeggios and bullet time protest. So, why have the Improbable theatre company and the English National Opera decided to bring it to London’s Coliseum in 2010?

First, we need to understand what the year 2010 means. The world is scraping its way out of a recession, the British Army are occupying a country they have no right to be in and global politics are in a constant state of very nearly almost changing dramatically. Like most years, I suppose, but especially in 2010. It’s the perfect time for a tale of liberation from materialism, belief in change and internal criticism.

The production is unbelievably Brechtian. A chair can’t possibly just be a chair. A chair is a weapon, a chair is armour, a chair is a signifier of wealth and privilege, because in a society where the poor actually have nothing, even the simplest of furniture screams of social status, dahling!

The set is transient, amorphous and captivating. Great images are realised using two key materials; corrugated metal and newspaper pages. In the first act, a huge war is fought between a massive papier-mâché Queen Victoria in formal attire using a parasol to stab a huge Indian soldier. Newspaper pages, symbolic of Castell’s Age of Information, become key to every image that the show creates, with no creation having any permanence. Today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper. We’re faced with the throwaway nature of the western world while cannonising an icon of the east.

Satyagraha, Sanskrit for “non-violent resistance”, is a celebration of great men. Not only is it a tribute to Ghandi, but each act is observed on a spiritual level by another great mind that, in the nauseatingly genius mind of Philip Glass, represent other incarnations of non-violent resistance. It is interesting that in this production the final figure of Martin Luther King Jr is depicted by way of an enslaved black man being stripped of his rags by his peers, who then clothe him in a suit and elevate him onto a towering podium. To a modern audience, it seems impossible not to see elements of Barack Hussain Obama’s heroic ascent to presidency last year and remember the optimism that came with it - albeit only to be faced with a prolonged period of very nearly almost having achieved change.

Most sinisterly, the canonising of Ghandi requires the viewer to demonise the English. The thousands, who took their seats in that opera house over the nine performances, sat and watched as the British brutalised a peaceful protest of ghandi’s supporters and murdered the man himself all in the name of the Empire. This would be fine if it were a case of, “look how barbaric we were back when we invaded India for no reason”, but it isn’t, is it? The 2010 production of Satyagraha prompts the viewer to question our occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan and the innocent people whose lives have been devastated as a consequence.

Not only is Satyagraha among Philip Glass’ greatest works, it is an incredibly necessary piece of art for a contemporary audience. Rather than being tucked away in an opera house with a fifty quid entrance fee, it should be made compulsory.

(Images Courtesy of ENO and Catherine Ashmore)

Dissapointed by Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland?

Fair enough. It feels more like a sequel to a Shrek film than a reinterpretation of a literary classic. The CGI acts as a crutch for the film's lack of innovation. The archetypes of the story are under-explained, which would be fine if it were pitched at an adult audience, but the brand of Disney and Pixar humour employed throughout would surely only impress a naive runt.

We all know that the advantage of doing a '10 years later' on a children's story is that you can fuck with it a bit. We didn't want a straight forward hero story. We wanted dispisable heroes and tragic villains.

Positives? Matt Lucas is brilliant and Matt Lucas is brilliant.

CONglamourART was really hoping for a film that strung together hitRECord's Morgan and Destiny's Eleventeenth Date - The Zeppelin Zoo and the computer game, American McGee's Alice.

Morgan and Destiny's Eleventeenth Date - The Zeppelin Zoo

As far as contemporary film goes, this offering from Joseph Gordon-Levitt's production outfit, hitRECord, demonstrates a far more astute study of Lewis Carrol's brilliance. The language is engaging, taxing and really beautifully amusing. A feature length rendition of this would be bloody hard work but it'd pay off.

American McGee's Alice

So, Alice has spent her teenage years in a padded cell. Wonderland is falling apart and so is her stability. Despite having a fraction of the budget of Burton's Alice, this game manages to be visually gorgeous. It is quite obviously a product of passion and not merely an attempt at bringing in crowds.

NOTE TO TIM BURTON: Don't worry, we still love you. But if there's any way you could chose something a bit more interesting next time. Shock us, why don't you?! Alice was such an obvious choice for you. Let's face it, it has exactly the same storyline as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. What you gonna do next? Wizard of Oz?

Thursday, 25 March 2010

SHHHHH!!! Don't Disturb The Art

Copyright of <a href=

Copyright of The National Gallery

When I go to The National Gallery, my husband and I scurry around the place in hysterics. We dash up to Whistlejacket (above) and audibly swoon. His legs go weak at the Kandinsky and we give huge pantomime yawns at Van Gogh's tired, unemotional, unnecessary vase of mundane summer plants. Bizarrely, the horrid artless barrel of testosterone with a walkie talkie strapped to her muffin tops threatens to throw us out.

At the Courtauld Gallery, we discussed the intricacy of Michelangelo's pencil drawings which lead towards The Dream and gossiped about the fate of the great master's relationship with his teenage muse, Tommaso de’ Cavalieri. And we were told to "shhh"?

Why should we experience visual art in silence? It requires your eyes, not your ears. I appreciate that there should be a level of respect, but it doesn't have to be a solitary experience. Art suffers from its formality. We're told what is and isn't great and never given chance to engage with it on any sort of an intelligent level.

My relationship with Whistlejacket is personal and emotional. For a whole summer it was housed in the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, while I was working round the corner. I fell in love with its scale and became attached to the apparent sadness in the horses eyes. I'd pop in and visit it every day on my lunch break. So, when I bump into this old friend and I'm with my new boyfriend, of course I want to tell him this story.

Copyright Ras Marley

Similarly, when Nick, a composer and scultor, sees Kandinsky he wants to tell me all about how Kandinsky (above) is an artist and composer; how Kandisky paints sound and visualises symphonies; how he feels connected to Kandinsky through their joint burden of living in art and the alienating struggle to translate what exists in thier heads to something tangible to the everyman. He tells me about his passion in such a way that I engage with the painting and it takes on a new meaning for me.

Sorry, horrid artless barrel of testosterone with a walkie talkie strapped to your muffin tops, I will talk my way around your gallery. I'm appreciating it a hell of a lot more than most of the Brian Sewell parrots in the room.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Eurovision 2010 Looks Set To Be Completely Void of Controversy

So let's remember 2008, when France's entry Sebstian Tellier...BRACE YOURSELF...sang in English.

There was uproar. If you missed it, you obviously have better things to do with your life than become emotionally involved in a completely defunct song contest. I envy you.

"Sexual Political Agendas Are SOOOOOO Last Decade". Discuss (40)

She calls herself my "good Christian sister-in-law". My husband calls her his "amazing Crowleyan sister-in-law". Both are true of my alright-when-the-moon-isn't-full Children of God cultist sister-in-law.

Earlier today she presented me with the statement above. Sexual Politics are off the agenda, are they? Does 2010 mark the beginning of the queer utopia? Probably not. No.


Well for starters, the BBC thinks that this is worth debating: Should women soldiers fight on the front-line?

For mains, I present Come Dine With Me's Andy Swales from the painstaking York edition of the show. Andy comes served with a side dish of sexism, artlessness and biggotry. Wash him down with a huge pinch of salt? No. Women, pour yourself a pint of stout. Men, make yourself a creamy Baileys. We're going to war!

Ready for something sweet for desert?:


Conclusion. If we stop caring about queer politics, they suddenly become more important than ever before. And as our very Miss Jackie Beat shows. Politics doesn't have to be serious.

But, in fairness to my pleasant and spiritually clouded in enigma sister-in-law, the queer bits in Dr Who were getting really dull. I agree.

Doctor Who

This Easter, the new series of Doctor Who hits our screens. It's got a new doctor, a new companion, a new logo and a familiar, but also pretty new Stephen Moffatt. We can safely say, it's new. In fact it's also fresh and cool and now and all those other buzz words that make something seem important and necessary.

Change is great. Change is key to Doctor Who. But it always comes with a sort of buttock clenching moment. It could be aweful. We're pretty sure it'll be great, but it could be aweful. Here's three things that I'll say now, but might not still be saying in a couple of months time:

  • Matt Smith hasn't sold himself.
  • Mark Gattiss shouldn't have been allowed to write the Dalek episode - or any episode for that matter.
  • Stephen Moffatt runs the risk of diluting his genius by taking on the whole series.
Just stuff to muse over. Also, we know it's premiering on Easter Sunday, but when is Easter Sunday? How do we find out? Surely it should be advertised.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

CONglamourART presents... 6Music Shutting Down is a Political Game

Adam Buxton has joined the ranks of people protesting against the closure of radio station, BBC 6Music. He's recorded a brilliant take on Bowie's 'Changes' with some pretty frank lyrics.

Note to TV commissioners: Everyone misses The Adam and Joe Show.

My brother - computer games designer, drinker of cheap lager (which he calls 'beer') and, every once in a blue moon, fully functioning adult male - made a pretty astute observation about the whole furore:

You realise that this 6 music closing thing is all a political game right?

BBC know that the Tory Party is going to get in this year and they want to make cuts. They [the Conservatives] want to make cuts to the BBC. So, the BBC is pre-empting this, so they have picked lots of rubbish websites (that were going to get shut down anyway - cos noone has heard of them), a weak radio station and a radio station that the BBC knows has a vocal and activist target market. They know that you and me will phone and compain etc. So the BBC can, in a couple of months time, turn around and say, "We listened to you, and we've decided to keep 6 music up, and invest more into it" and the BBC publically look good. They don't get forced to make cuts under the tories and more people listen to 6 music than before because of all the publicity.

That's all obvious right?
Let's just clarify. This level of intelligent astute observation is a quite a rare occurance. When he read the post below about the trainers, he thought the ones that ripped off Missy Elliot were the ones I thought were ugly. Fool!

Don't Buy These

So, Hi-Tech have teamed up with New Look to sell:
  • One really ugly pair of shoes
  • One pair which seem pretty cool, but would annoy you after a couple of days.
  • One pair that are a blatant rip off of the ones Missy Elliot designed a couple of years back.
I don't think you need me to tell you which is which.

CONglamourART presents...Children's TV - The Glory Years?

Owen Kimm, of Elephants fame (reputedly this decades answer to Debbie Gibson), and CONglamourART have been locked in a discussion about "the glory days of kids TV".

Can these presenters actually be responsible for the pinnacle of children's TV or do we just think so because we were there? Send your answers on a stamped addressed envelope to: PO Box.....

Tim Vincent and Anthea Turner
Responsible for a generation of gay kids?

Kirsten O'Brien
Apparently better known as "Bad Teeth O'Brien".

Katy Hill, Konnie Huq and Stuart Miles

Richard Bacon
The nation's favourite coke fiend. PopBitch today quoted him as saying, "Having a meat-based surname can prove problematic". Amazing.

Mark Speight (RIP)
A CONglamourARTist? Certainly a brilliant man who died too young.

Andi Peters
The first black man on telly? Probably for some kids growing up in a monocultured seaside town.

Neil Buchanan
Did he always look this terrifying?

Incidentally, while making this list, it was impossible to ignore how many had gone on to do sexy photo shoots:

Gaga / Ok Go / Hot Chip / Gorillaz / Darwin Deez - 2010 is all about amazing music videos

Lady Gaga - Telephone


Ok Go - This Too Shall Pass (Video #1 - Live Brass Band Version)

Unembeddable for these reasons:

Difficulties with EMI

The marching band video sparked much controversy online immediately after its release. Because of deals between the band's label, EMI, and YouTube, the video was not embeddable, frustrating many fans and music industry professionals who wanted to post the video on their blogs, nor was viewable across the globe. The band, led by singer Damian Kulash, explained the label's rationale via the band's blog and through an op-ed piece in the New York Times. According to Kulash, EMI disallowed the embeddable play of the video because they only receive royalties for views on the YouTube site itself. He further pleaded to allow embedding of their next video, citing a 90% drop in viewership when EMI disabled embedding on existing videos, affecting the band's own royalties from viewership.[11][12][13]


But viewable (and very much worth it) here:

Ok Go - This Too Shall Pass (Video #2 - Rude Goldberg Version)

Cool, but a bit tried and tested.

Hot Chip - I Feel Better

Again, unembeddable, but absolutely brilliant. Directed by Peter Serafinowicz. Apparently raising awarenes about cancer. Have any of you heard about cancer? I hear it's pretty big these days.

Watch it here:

ps, I don't think the song is up to much.

Gorillaz - Stylo

Ok, we get it. Royalties are pretty important to artists. I can't think why someone would be so hung up about getting paid for doing their job (really really well). Oh wait...

Once again, dear reader,we are unable to embed this video. It's ridiculously good though. It even manages to make Bruce Willis look cool.


Darwin Deez - Radar Detector

Less gimmick heavy than the others, but really brilliant anyway. Darwin Deez, we salute you.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Thomas White - The Maximalist

Everyone's aware of the Six Degrees of Separation theory, right?

Well I take it incredibly seriously, which is why I opted to review Thomas White's album. I didn't have a clue who he was except that he knew, had worked with and would bring me one step closer to Patrick Wolf. Unfortunately, his album wasn't great and I had to say that. Also, it soon transpired that I already had a power of one away from White via a bar maid I all too regularly lust over, in a completely respectful manner at one of Brighton's many watering holes.

Here's the review: Thomas White - The Maximalist

In other news, I've been job hunting. I've found:
  • the more you try, the less qualified you feel and the lower your standards fall.
  • being rejected is less agonising than being ignored.
  • the people who run the canal buses from Warwick Avenue - Camden Lock are looking for staff and, although it isn't exactly the summer I had in mind, I'm beginning to find it really appealing.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

First Aid Kit

So I trotted off to the best venue in London, Union Chapel, with a pen and a pad - both went unused - my ipod and my dictaphone. I was reviewing a pair of Swedish sisters, both of whom are far to young to be achieiving the sorts of successes they are, who go by the moniker First Aid Kit. It was a good gig, but it wasn't a great gig. I reckon that's the hardest thing to write about - mediocrity - and for ages I....

I wrote my review in Ground Cafe in Kemp Town. Ground is possibly my favourite cafe in Brighton and my second favourite independent cafe of all time. Interestingly though, I have quite a pure love relationship with Ground. Like a long term partner or a family member, sometimes it can really piss me off>>>

I rapidly grew tired of the middle class soy drinking sociopaths quizzing the [gorgeous] Batista on the sugar levels in absolutely everything they contemplate ramming down their child's throat in case its metabolism fucks up and it learns to think, develops feelings and chews off the umbilical:::::

There's something really pleasant about spending a whole day in a cafe {outside of London}. You see the ebb and the flow. The costumers do simulate waves in extremely slow motion. Later on in the day, costumers would come in and ~ thinking they were doing some great work for the minimum wage bum working [gorgeous] Barista, making his day brighter with small talk ~ say "have you been busy" and bizarrely my day would brighten [Brighton] with the small talk and I'd be tempted to turn to them and say "oh yeah, you should've seen it at half 12. We were fighting them off, weren't we gorgeous Barista?"

:::::chord. In all sincerity, my biggest beef with the clientele that frequent my Ground is people - and I'm sure many of my best friends are guilty of this and I don't write out the possibility of myself one day joining the ranks - who say that a cake looks "deliciously unhealthy". It's not funny. I was there for five hours and i swear this exhibition of post-modern body consciousness was far too fucking frequent.

<<< but I let it off because I know that our relationship runs thicker than that. Ok, so the internet refuses to work on my laptop and a good 60% of the clientele are twats, but the coffee is stunning and there's something about the room that feels - right.

....struggled. Thankfully I eventually pulled it together. I think that building a really tight structure to work around is probably the best way for me to operate from now on. My only concern is that putting words into an extremely controlled framework might make it seem a bit sterile. But, without structure, I would never have been able to create this onion.

Oh yeah, here's my review: First Aid Kit @ Union Chapel

Friday, 5 March 2010

Eight Legs

I like Eight Legs. I like them a lot, but I had a bloody hassle reviewing them. They're basically just an indie guitar band. And that's basically all I said in my review. Over and Over and Over again with a sort of late drop at the end.

Also, I was dubious about the existance of a barometer of standards at this particular publication, so I decided to fuck about a bit. In the last paragraph, I discuss the band in term of quantum mechanics (my other hobby)...they still posted it.

Things I didn't say:
  • Two quarters of this band are really fucking hot.
  • The same one half of the band have amazing sexual chemistry.
  • One half of that two quarters, so indeed one quarter, might actually be a gay. If there are any developments on this front, CONglamourART might be the only gossipmill that cares. Rest assured, we will run a month long coming-out feature for him
Here's the review: Eight Legs @ 93 Feet East

As with all my XYZ material, it benefits immensely from the, to coin a phrase from the Ilkley Gazette, "image-making" of Liz Chambers.


Girls (Frankie and the Heartstrings support)

So, we've met Girls before. Last November, I was singing thier praises RE: thier brilliant video for Lust for Life. It is quite definately a brilliant video and if you missed it first time round, please go there and have a look.

I then got the album, Album. That was really good too. Full of quirks and amazing tunes. It effortlessly earned it's place on the "Best of 2009" lists.

Obviously, I was thrilled when The Music Fix said I could bugger off and review them!

Unfortunately, I had to go on my own.

I've not been to many gigs on my own. When I have, it's always been at festivals when it's a case of: "I'll catch up with you later, friends. I'm gonna go and see this band, but it'll be fine cause everyone there'll be in a lovely mood. It's a festival after all. Can I take that bottle of gin with me? I'd hate to get dehydrated/sober/all of the above."

No. It was more like walking into a room of North London scene kids on your own with more than a thousand paranoias floating around about your personal worth and any ounce of arrogance you can sometimes muster in these situations is gone, because it's raining outside and there's a hole in your winkle pickers and you over dressed to come here so you've got to carry your coat which adds a thousand 'divvy points' to your general appearance - you know it, right?

I often wonder if the review you eventually give a band is at all based on thier performance. It's far more likely that I just impose my mood on them. "When Girls came on stage, they looked like divs with wet socks and red faces after an embarrasing kerfuffle with the bouncers on thier way in. They are well not scene enough for an encore."

Anywho, here's my review: Girls @ London Scala