Wednesday, 20 May 2009

A consolidation of pieces on the Hardcore Continuum

From around the end of 2007 through 2008 the idea of a "Hardcore Continuum" (HCC) cropped up in a number of articles charting the rise of emergent genres/trends of funky, wonky and bassline. This idea of a HCC was brought in to help locate these new musical phenomena within the overall London/British tradition of dance music. The idea of a HCC was originally put forward by Simon Reynolds back in 1999 but over the last year or so it has become, to quote Mugatu of Zoolander, "so hot right now".

For those who want to catch up on the debate and see where all this business started I've provided links to most pertinent articles in rough chronological order.

15 December 2007 - K-Punk talks about bassline in reference to his now unavailable piece for FACT magazine

18 December 2007 - Simon Reynolds spots 'nuum talk about the web

10 January 2008 - Bok Bok responds to K-Punk

11 January 2008 - Both Word the Cat and John Eden argue against

15 January 2008 - further detractors sally forth: Jace Clayton presents the Ice Cream Cone Continuum

18 January 2008 - Homoludo provides a survey of the HCC bitchfight which then lies dormant as not much happens for a year...

28 January 2009 - Simon Reynolds writes the first of seven articles in the Wire specifically about the HCC.

09 February 2009 - K-Punk defends the HCC

11 February 2009 - The debate makes a dramatic leap from the blogosphere into the Real World when Simon Reynolds gives a lecture in Liverpool with input from K-Punk. The video can be seen here and a text version read here

13 February 2009 - Things get heated on Black Friday as Dan Hancox takes a swipe at the 'nuum gatekeepers, Alex Splintering Bone Ashes weighs in with K-Punk managing to respond before bedtime.

18-20 February 2009 - Alex SBA gets deeper with a 3 part treatise on Wonky within the HCC framework

18 February 2009 - K-Punk responds to Alex SBA

20 February 2009 - Simon Reynolds goes wonky

20 February 2009 - Alex SBA continues to provide quality insight

21 February 2009 - Uncarved gives coverage of the 'nuum warz so far as Laurent Fintoni joins the melee

05 March 2009 - Simon Reynolds ruffles some feathers by marrying wonky with ketamine.

17 March 2009 - Alex SBA points out Mr Reynolds' narcomaterialist fallacies.

27 April 2009 - Simon Reynolds launches a pre-emptive strike before the HCC debates makes another appearance in the Real World.

28 April 2009 - K-Punk wonders if music writing is obsolete the day before...

29 April 2009 - HCC discussion at the University of East London with all the big hitters of the HCC debate emerging from behind their screens to talk with their mouths about that which is So Hot Right Now.

That afternoon Martin Clark reflects on the day and posts his contribution.

30 April 2009 - Alex SBA provides a transcript of his contribution on the day. IMHO the most insightful of the lot.

05 May 2009 - Simon Reynolds' initial reflections on the UEL conference. Dan Hancox thinks about it too.

07 May 2009 - Laurent Fintoni gives a great run-down of the conference.

08 May 2009 - New entrant Rouge's Foam comes in with a decent survey of the debate and he/she is all about balance

12 May 2009 - Melissa Bradshaw thinks this whole thing is waste

21 May 2009 - Dan Hancox, sniping at K-Punk, provides a buffoon empiricist manifesto

10-22 May 2009 - Post-UEL Simon Reynolds expands his fortress with 4 (soon to be 5) articles further articulating his position. #1, #2, #3, #4

01 June 2009 - Rouge's Foam writes not one but two highly detailed pieces. I haven't read them yet but they look super. This blog is one to watch.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

As the crow flies

I've been to the Barbican a number of times but on every occasion I'm always impressed by the grandeur of this arch-modernist concrete clash of apartments and capital 'C' culture. With birds singing and fountains flowing in the geometric ponds it does feel like a utopian paradise (if you can afford it mind you).

With utopia on my mind I was appropriately primed for an exhibition on probably the most high profile utopian architect of them all, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret! Or Le Corbusier to most people (which translates to 'The Crow-like One', hmmm....). The exhibition was biographical, covering his early influences and his key works throughout his life. All the big ones were there like Plan Voisin, Unite d'Habitation, The Radiant City etc etc

Plan Voisin aka 'How to Butcher Paris in One Easy Step'

Unite d'Habitation in Marseille - this one actually worked, people LIKE living there

The Radiant City - a model of social alienation and destructive car dependency

Le Corbusier would be familiar to anyone who has come within a scale ruler's length of an architecture or urban planning class but it was nice to have them all in the one spot. In this way it's much easier to appreciate his life-long mission to create a perfect form, be it a building, city, chair, whatever.

Besides his greatest hits, I found his rough sketches and contemplative doodles very interesting. I'm so used to seeing the finished product that it was nice to see evidence of the creative process. It somewhat humanises Le Corbusier's god-like auteur image. As a god-like auteur Corb has been analysed to bits so I won't go into that here, but this IS a blog and I have an opinion so here goes: While his ideas are noble and the execution of those ideas are flawless, his designs treat people as elements of a machine and have no regard to how humans actually behave. Culture, society, desire, 'soft' humany things, are subsumed by the juggernaut of rationality. Consequently, he designs sublime and elegant buildings which perfectly fulfill an abstract function but the assumptions behind that function are flawed and out of touch with reality. Corb is an architect's architect, not a people's architect, and that makes him a dangerous influence on our built environment.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Annette Messager at the Hayward

Through the magic of facebook I was indirectly recommended to go see the Annette Messager retrospective at the Hayward, the art component of the beautifully ugly brutalist animal that is the Southbank Centre.

Being only an armchair enthusiast and not a lecture-hall-seat devotee to art history I was unfamiliar with her work. So a quick peek at the Timeout rundown (art authority that it is) enlightened me on the fact that she is an artist concerned with gender politics who executes work with a sense of play, as in child's play. Great! I thought, I did a bit of gender studies at uni, I can tackle this! But I was also intrigued with this 'play' aspect. Could this exhibition be fun too?

Messager's work involves a wide variety of materials and media, from drawing to my favourite of contemporary art, the wacky installation. And in line with what our friends at Timeout said, there is a clear preoccupuation with gender issues. Messager uses craftsy, domestic materials like wool and plastic shopping bags to allude to gender roles but also uses stuffed toys and feminine clothing to play up 'softness'. These 'feminine' media are employed in quite morbid or violent constructions. In these works it's easy to make the connection between the experience of being a woman and the associated societal injustices and marginalisation of the women's world view. References are often made to the female body and how it is viewed as object and landscape. This is all interesting in itself and but what makes this different from feminist art I've seen is the apparent childlike whimsy and tongue-in-cheek approach.

It's too hard for me to cover most or even a significant minority of her work in great detail. That gets boring very quickly, especially when I'm writing this for 'fun'. I recommend you go down and have look for yourself. It's a great exhibition that's well curated so you're not left hanging at all.

What I will do is write about a couple of works which grabbed my attention for longer than the required 30-60 seconds of furrowed brow I usually give.

The Horrifying Adventures of Annette the Trickster

Tucked into a corner in the first room, this piece is more introverted than the giant winged Chimeras on the opposite wall. It consists of a dozen or so framed photographs of pen sketches, each sketch depicting acts of violence and torture by evil looking men against a nude bonded woman. Why is this woman being tortured? Is she being punished? Is she innocent or guilty? The scenes of torture and bondage and the word "trickster" brought about associations of the Salem witch trials where certain women, often those who lived alone or secluded lives with other women were scapegoated for their gender role deviation and blamed for the poor villagers' misfortune. Here Messager draws parallels with those atrocities and the experience of being a woman artist in 70s France.

Although the subject matter is dark, the sketches are done in pen on grid paper, a medium not uncommon inside the classroom. In fact, the informal drawing style and uncomplicated compositions of each sketch make them appear as though they were drawn at the back of some boring class on a Friday afternoon. With such a pulpy, comic book title to the work, Messager includes in that element of childhood (or adolescent) play that is present in all her work.

Story of Dresses

Here Messager places young girls' dresses in wooden boxes with glass lids. They are attached to the wall with the glass facing the viewer allowing us to see each dress. On each dress is a series of pictures of otherworldly objects or fantastical places. The combination of childhood dresses and these images conjure up memories of that special type of wonder one experiences as a child. The colourful dresses relate this wonder to childhood appearance and by extension, childhood identity. By having these dresses and pictures kept in coffin-like boxes and arranged coldly against the wall as if by an entomologist, Messager presents the death of childhood as cultural artifact, to be contemplated by the chin-stroking adults of the gallery. One can see the irony in having childhood 'critically engaged' in this way.

Fables and Tales

3 stacks of fiction books with 2 stacks of stuffed toys in between, on each stack of books is a single stuffed real animal. Here Messager equates stories with stuffed animals (tales, tails, geddit?). After contemplating how uncomfortable it would be to be stacked like that I wondered why children's stories always involve anthropomorphic animals? Would the often moralistic tales of childhood be less palatable to children's tastes if they involved everyday human people? Is it a reflection of parents' concern to teach children about rights and wrong while also sheltering them from the harsh realities which play out everyday by having these stories acted out by animals and thus maintaining some buffer from the real world? *breathes in heavily* well? maybe. The 3 stuffed (as in taxidermy stuffed) animals led me to speculate what stories with speaking animals would be like if they were real. What if a free range chicken did start shouting that the sky is falling? Presented this way would we still search for the moral of the story or just start a program of anti-psychotic drugs for this crazy chicken?


The final work in the show, A-D consists of a dozen or so soft animal toys of indeterminate species subjected to motorised pulleys, pulling and yanking their limbs in a sad spectacle of futility against hardship. Saddest, and funniest, of them all is the cow/bear looking thing, sad already with half its stuffing missing, being dragged by the neck, tracing a square on the gallery floor for eternity. According to the description on the gallery wall, this pieces was a reaction to the mad cow disease saga in the UK but really, it reveals the absurdity of life, suffering and our earnest efforts to survive.

In other news there's a new post at Empty Swimming Pool.