Poor Door Street Art

Penny Gaff

“V.I.P. Ben – From aristocratic stock. He has no regrets.
Skid Row, Los Angeles, CA 
Oct. 2013″

I received an email from artist Penny Gaff in response to my Trews Report on the Poor Doors at No.1 Commercial Street about her V.I.P project from 2013 that “explores the idea that everyone is V.I.P.”

The project is a series of photos “featuring homeless folk  surrounded by red rope and gold stanchions” shot around South Central Los Angeles. They’re really powerful images that subvert the everyday image of homelessness.

Have a look at the rest of the series on Penny’s website (scroll horizontally)

 

Art Party Conference – Scarborough

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Headed up to Scarborough at the weekend for the inaugural Art Party Conference organised by Bob and Roberta Smith and Crescent Arts.

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I’ve been to Labour Party Conference a few times and performed my satirical comedy show The Soapbox Cabaret on two occasions – but as soon as I stepped inside the Spa at Scarborough it was apparent that the Art Party Conference would be a world away from the murky world of block votes and corporate lobbying.

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The target was clear – Tory hateboy Michael Gove, the man with a mission to remove art from education, and erase the cultural memory of the nation. Where Thatcher was the ‘milk snatcher’ Gove is the ‘crayon grabber’.

Bob and Roberta Smith read out his impassioned letter to Michael Gove making the case for the importance of art in education.

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Artists had come from far and wide to rally to the cause, show their work and generally have a bit of a laugh in the bracing North Yorkshire air. I was there to present my documentary about Bob – Make Your Own Damn Art, a film that focuses on the humorous polemical campaigning heart of Bob’s work.

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Jessica Voorsanger as Salvador Dali

There was a great programme of films shown in the splendour of the Spa Theatre, a space more accustomed to vaudeville than artist film and video. Amongst the films there was Cornelia Parker’s Chomskian Abstract, Ian Bourn’s zen meditation on the cockney staple Black, Green and White – the way of the pie, and a John Smith programme that featured the world premiere of another of his hotel diary films, Demo Tape, as well as classics such as OM and Gargantuan.

Apparently Michael Gove was seen walking out into the sea the next day in his pants before disappearing beneath the waves.

 

 

Nook

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The Leytonstone Centre for Contemporary Art finally has a rival – artist Lizzie Hughes’ ‘occasional project space’ Nook.
I went along on Sunday to have a gander at the inaugural show – Constellations, featuring the work of Ian Bourn, Matt Hale, Robert Ellis, and Pat Naldi and I spent more time in the Tardis-like gallery than I have in many of the rooms at Tate Modern.
Leytonstone may yet reclaim its place as London’s Left Bank.

Opening times and info about Nook here

Reframing Maidstone

I’ve just started working on a new project with Cathy, my sister, down in Maidstone. Reframing Maidstone (Video Mapping) is a event that is part of Architecture Week 2007. We’ve been commissioned to produce a project that highlights hidden aspects of the town. The project will use film and video images to instigate an exploration of the town centre – a kind of cinematic psychogeography, a kino-derive.

It’s very interesting what is happening in Maidstone. Louise Francis and Laura Knight (Art at the Centre Project Officers) are researching the feasibility of establishing an ‘Artists Quarter’ within the Maidstone town centre by: identifying potential artist studio space; raising the profile of the area through temporary art installations, street entertainment and a creative marketing campaign. It’s a really bold and ambitious plan in town that isn’t really looking for arts-led regeneration (in the way that Folkstone is) but seems to be doing it for arts’ sake and the potential benefits for the feel of the place, the genus loci.

We’ll be instigating a number of derives with local people and will mixing up the methods: algorithmic, constrained walks, “sauntering as Charles II, Richard Jefferies, W.H. Hudson, and Edward Thomas sauntered” etc. Then the central event will take place on 16th and 23rd June.

email reframingmaidstone@googlemail.com for updates and information.

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PLAY.orchestra and Tot Hill

Lunchtime today I found myself sitting on a plastic box outside the Royal Festival Hall that produced the sound of a cello when I plonked myself down. People sat on other boxes around me that emitted the noises associated with flutes, violins etc – collectively I suppose we formed a kind of orchestra. The piece is called PLAY.orchestra, although as I sat there as an Oboe I thought Bum Orchestra might not be a bad alternative. You can then download the sound you’ve made to your phone via Bluetooth and use it as ringtone, send to friends, burn to CD or whatever. It’s the second creative use of Bluetooth technology that I’ve come across this week. The other looks like a large advertising stand in the foyer of the NFT (there’s also one in the IMAX) where you can download a clip from one of the many classic CIO public information films currently screening at the NFT. I think the use of Bluetooth as a creative tool and as a means for disseminating artistic material is quickly becoming common practice.

I went over to Westminster the other day in search of Tot Hill, one of the prehistoric mounds of London mentioned by E.O Gordon in her seminal book ‘Prehistoric London: its mounds and circles’. I’ve previously been fixated on the Penton, because I lived about a hundred yards away mainly, but I’m considering a project based around the sites, even if it’s just a walk to link them up. I knew that it was just outside Westminster Abbey but not sure where. Tothill Fields was a feature on London maps till the C18th and is commemorated by Tothill Street. Tothill Fields is now marked by the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre (opened in 1986). A friendly Abbey gatekeeper pointed out where the fields (and supposedly the mound) had been and also told me that a telephone exchange had been on the site and an old derelict building overgrown with grass. Westminster Central Methodist Hall sits on one side and was where the first U.N General Assembly was held in 1946. Along with the conference centre, the Abbey and Houses of Parliament nearby this site has maintained its ancient function as a place of congregation and worship for thousands of years.

Round the back of Middlesex Guildhall I found the relocated gate to Tothill Prison. There are several parallels between the Mounds (Penton and White Mound/Tower Hill the others) that Peter Ackroyd describes far more eloquently than I can (‘London: a biography’ p.13-15) but one symmetry he doesn’t mention is that they all housed prisons – Tower Hill probably the most famous in our history, Tothill being one of the more humane apparently and Penton Mound had the Middlesex County House of Correction on one side in Cold Bath Square.

have a look at a couple of photos I took of Tothill and PLAY.orchestra on Flickr.

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