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By Warwick Cairns
There’s an old Red Indian saying.
I know, I know.
But the ‘American’ part of ‘Native American’ – well, that takes you back to Amerigo Vespucci, doesn’t it? Amerigo Vespucci was the Italian explorer who, along with his chum Christopher Columbus, could be said to have kicked the whole thing off, that whole ‘Europeans conquer the New World’ thing.
Where do you start with this correct terminology thing, and where do you stop?
But as I was saying: there’s an old Red Indian saying.
Or is there?
I mean, there is a saying that I’m thinking of, but whether it’s really old, and whether it really originated where it’s meant to have done, well, that’s a whole other question.
It’s a bit like the ‘Old African Saying’ you hear quoted every now and then.
You know the one: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Big place, Africa.
No-one seems to be able to be any more precise about it than that.
Anyway, the saying I have in mind on this particular occasion is this:
“Never criticise a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.”
You can sort of tell it’s meant to be from the Wild West, can’t you?
It has the word ‘moccasins’ in it, see? If it had been from somewhere else - Ancient Rome, say - it would have had something like ‘gladiator sandals’ in it. It probably would have had miles in it too, being as how the mile is a Roman measure. But I’d have imagined that the Red Indians would have come up with some other measure of distance. Something buffalo-related, perhaps.
I think, sometimes, people like having that sort of provenance to their proverbs. Sort of noble and wise, yet unsullied by the sophistry of progress and still in touch with the earth and the fundamental truths of life.
You can imagine the venerable old chief, sitting there in his fringed buckskins and his feathered war-bonnet, sucking slowly at his pipe as he considers his next words, the medicine-man at his shoulder, doing things with a bag of bones, while all the tribe sit cross-legged before him, waiting rapt.
And then he speaks.
“Never criticise a man,” he says.
And you cannot help but listen.
You cannot help but listen, even as the young braves come cup-handed, bringing smouldering leaves to the pile of wood heaped beneath the timber frame from which you hang suspended by your ankles. Even as the young women gather up their pointed sticks.
You cannot help but listen, even though you don’t even speak their bloody language.
But how wise, you think, nevertheless: how very, very wise.
I suppose where this is all leading to, this walking a mile in another man’s moccasins, is the importance of empathy. The ability to understand – and share – the feelings of another.
I would say that it’s one of the things that makes us human, except that it isn’t, really.
You can have empathy and not be human.
And you can be human and not have empathy.
Dogs, for example.
One of the few species, they are, who ‘catch’ yawning from seeing people yawn.
And it’s not just a matter of seeing a mouth opening and copying - if the researchers at the University of Tokyo are to be believed. What they found – what they published in their report this past couple of months – is that dogs, humankind’s oldest animal companion, catch yawns from people in a way that shows empathy between the species. Which is to say, they respond more to real yawns than to fake ones, and they respond more to their owner’s yawns than to the yawns of a stranger.
Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Porto in Portugal have found that dogs’ stress hormone levels rise and fall in direct relation to their owners’.
Empathy, you see.
Non-humans with empathy.
And meanwhile. Meanwhile, back in the human world, you have psychopaths. Now, it used to be thought that psychopaths had no empathy at all, being as how they’re such unfeeling, self-centred bastards and all. They were thought to have no empathy whatever kind of psychopath they might be - whether the mad axe-wielding serial-killer variety or else the more common manipulative, self-serving sociopath kind that many people rightly or wrongly believe their bosses to be.
Rightly, most probably.
According to studies, there are, proportionately, four times more psychopaths in the boardrooms and management suites of big businesses than there are in society as a whole. Psychopaths know how to get ahead in business, you see.
But here’s the thing – it used to be thought that psychopaths had no empathy at all. Now, however, it turns out that they do – but just as an optional extra.
Again, just this past couple of months, at around the time the dog-yawning study went to press, researchers at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, were publishing their report on psychopaths and how they feel. And it’s not quite how we thought they felt.
According to Christian Keysers, the author of the Dutch report, “The predominant notion had been that they are callous individuals, unable to feel emotions themselves and therefore unable to feel emotions in others. Our work shows it’s not that simple. They don’t lack empathy but they have a switch to turn it on and off. By default, it seems to be off.”
That must be nice for them, the psychopaths.
I mean, if you have no insight into how others feel, then you’d wonder why you’d go to all the trouble of doing something really bonkers – I don’t know, building an underground torture-chamber in your basement and kidnapping people off of the street to do unspeakable things to. Because if you did that, and if you had no sense of the effects of it on your victims, no appreciation of it – well, you’d be bound to question whether it was worth all the effort of doing it. Maybe you’d take up a less demanding hobby instead.
Whereas it turns out that they can feel what others feel, after all.
But only when they want to.
There is a link, I think, between empathy and cruelty.
There was an interview I read a while back with what you might call a ‘champion’ torturer from Cambodia, or somewhere like that. I don’t know if there was an actual championship, or any sort of award for it, but he was one of the best, if there is such a thing – if not the very best. He was much in demand for his skills, and frequently called upon to do the honours whenever a local paramilitary thug needed to be particularly beastly to someone.
What he said was this: he said that he hadn’t always been good at it. He’d actually started out being quite a rubbish torturer. It wasn’t that he didn’t hurt people enough – quite the reverse, in fact. He beat some people senseless, and beat others to death. Blood everywhere. But he was crude, you see. He had no style, no panache. He was a long way from being the respected figure in the torturing community that he later came to be. But then, he said, gradually and with practice, he began to get a feel for his trade. He learned to vary the pace and severity. He learned to watch the signs and cues given out by his victims, rather than bludgeoning blindly ahead. He learned when to offer small mercies like a glass of cold water to drink; and when, suddenly, to snatch those small mercies away – the water flung in the face, the glass smashed and… well, we’ll draw a veil over that.
But what he did was more than just a technical thing. It was an emotional one. He learnt to establish a bond of empathy with his victims, and this made his skill as a torturer all the more terrible. Because of this bond he was able to see inside them and sense exactly what they were feeling; and because of this he was able to devise ever more cruel and subtle refinements.
Writers do the same. In tragedy and in comedy, from Macbeth to Alan Partridge, they allow you insight into a character’s inner world – and at the same time they heap misfortune and embarrassment upon him – deserved or otherwise. And you feel for him, while at the same time relishing the feeling.
The bond of empathy is a knife that cuts two ways.
Which sounds rather like it ought to be some kind of old Red Indian saying.
So, a few weeks ago a preview track drops into our inbox on a (probably) rainy and certainly not summerfide morning. We probably flagged it. We probably had some tea and biscuits to celebrate the end of the “flagging of the emails” part of the day. We might’ve left it flagged for a month or two and then quietly unflagged, a little guilty that we never got round to it. But we didn’t, we played it.
Then we went "MOTHERF****ER!" and heads began bobbing up and down around the office (not in that way, filthy) and big smiles were shared round and shameless robot dances were done with bandy legs and tip-toe trainers and macs quacked up to thirteen. For this was no ordinary email stow away, this was Marc Houle and Miss Kittin’s “Where Is Kittin” and it is a big fat bastard!!
So, of course not only do we have to tell you that - now you know - and tell you you should probably buy it to make your life better, but we also had to have a chat with Marc Houle and ask questions and stuff to put on our magaweb. And they go a little something like this..
Hi Marc, how’s your day?
It’s a sunny beautiful day in Berlin….I’m of course in the studio working. I did take an early morning walk along the canal to see some swans and ducks though.
Doing anything exciting?
nothing specifically… I went to a BBQ in the park yesterday and always making tracks.
The “Where Is Kitten” EP came out at the end of May. How’s the response been?
I’m not too sure really - I don’t usually check the charts or read reviews. But when I play it, they people love it.
In the office, we love the bass line and claps! It reminds us of Donkey Kong and early Daft Punk. How about you?
There’s always some elements of old video games in my tracks - either consciously or not. They’re some of the sounds that make me happiest because of some sort of passive/active reinforcement behavior i suppose. As for Daft Punk, never really got into them.
How did the collaboration with Miss Kittin come about?
She dropped by my place, heard some stuff I was working on, and went to work making it better. It was a really fun and had a nice flow to it. She really knows her way around a studio so it was quite easy for me to sit back and relax.
John Foxx remix. Nice.
He’s a legend who still is making great dark minimal stuff. I was quite fortunate to have worked with him this way. So much of his style and early Ultravox! stuff found its way into our type of music.
Who’s in your top 3 music heros list?
I have like 60 dependent on the genres…John Foxx, Moderne, Black Sabbath, Kraftwerk, Prince, Aphex Twin, Beatles, King Tubby, The Spoons, The Cure…. Anything without too much midrange I really go for.
You’re label boss at Items & Things. How are things?
Going good - we just grabbed a new office so I’m really thinking i need to go buy some plants for the stark white office. We’re working hard on the release schedule at the moment to maintain our level of what i think are great releases. And of course we’re always going through demos and looking for some new, fresh talent.
Can you give us a brief history of the label?
When we were on Minus, we wanted a vehicle to put out some weird, new music that we ran across during our adventures - stuff that didnt really fit the Minus sound but needed to be heard so we started the label just for that. After leaving Minus, we used the label as our main platform.
What’s up next for you and Items & Things?
We’ve just released the Seph record and coming up is a great bunch of tracks from our old friend Tomas More. After that I’m gonna try and sneak in another EP of some cool tracks if i can get them polished in time.
You’ve gained a reputation as being all about live performance. I remember the Jeep Girls used to write all their tunes in front of a crowd to get the vibe right. Is that how it is for you?
I’ve made so many tracks all over the sound map that I can sorta play what I think the crowd wants or needs by exploring different directions on stage. I sometimes start housey and slow but will build it up to some harder techno based stuff or dark melodic depending on how they people react. It does depend on the crowd and you really do need to be flexible I think.
You’re wiki’d as being inspired by early video game sounds and soundtracks. Where do you stand on Chiptune?
Though I did grow up on that stuff and it is a part of my wiring now, I’m not a purist like some of the people out there. I’m just as happy with a sid chip emulator than running it through the real thing. I’ve dabbled with trackers here but I’m too in love with a warm analogue Juno-60 to make exclusive 8-bit stuff. I do have a bunch of playlists from famous commodore 64 pioneers and I have made some stuff in the past but ya - it’s a world I only want to visit.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Mathew Jonson just stopped by yesterday and left me his new CD so I’ve been listening to that along with the new Miss Kittin album and all the old synth pop stuff I always listen to. For that stuff you can listen to my 2 synth pop mixes to see what I mean.
Tell us a secret?
I like hacking apart Pillsburys bread rolls to make mini garlic sesame burger buns.
Grolsch or Brooklyn Beer?
Beer sucks :P
The "Where Is Kittin" album is on iTunes here. Go buy it, then we all get to eat.
Things we like.. James Griffiths’ fantastic “Room 8” film for the “Imagination” series.
By Chris Morley
Ahead of the Play Up Pompey Music Festival (July 12-27), I caught up with Kill Kasper man, Pompey fan and all-round good egg ’ Kolonel’ Jamie Kasper, to talk music (and of course football)
What gave you the inspiration to stage the festival?
Myself and a local musical legend called John Hicks chatted on Facebook about chipping in for one of the £1000 shares the Pompey Supporter’s Trust were offering, then we thought, why not put a fundraiser gig on instead? We told a few more mates about the plan and invited the main movers, shakers, promoters, venue managers/owners, journalists and socialites from the city’s local scene to a meeting to see what we could do. After a few beers too many our single fundraiserhad turned into a 16 Day festival!
With the aim being to bring the football club back into the community, would you say the local music scene ( bands, artists, venues) is similarly community-owned?
The overall scene in Pompey is huge and magical, made up of many smaller scenes with well over 100 active bands at any one time and some of them are flippin’ brilliant. I don’t know about community-owned, but a lot of love has been shown for Pompey in it’s time of need and it’s great to see any egos put aside for something we all believe in. We’ve even got bigger bands like We Are Scientists backing the cause, the support has been fantastic!
Given the roster of acts you’ve managed to put together for the events, it must be heartening to see such support. Who would you encourage punters to check out?
I wrote out a list, there were 20+ bands and I still felt mean for not including mates, I just can’t do it!! So what I am going to do is tell you the shows that have the potential to raise the most money for Pompey, which is why we’re all here! On July 19th we have a Ska Night at Fratton Park headlined by The (brilliant) Racketeers and a Mod Night at the Cellars headed up by The Targets. Our big finale is a weekend at The Wedgewood Rooms; on the Friday 26th July, Dirty Little Rockstars are showing off some of our local talent in a 2 room gig to be headlined by Kassassin Street along with 7 other bands including my own and the It’s a Sin DJs until the small hours of the morning. On the Saturday we have Days of Speed (Paul Weller Tribute), Heartbreaker as Led Zeppelin and The Tiddley Kinks as The Kinks with the legendary Funk’difino and The Monkey Love Stunt Team finishing off the night in glorious style. Our other big potential earner for the club is the Comedy night on July 14th, again at The Wedge. Have a Google of the Raymond & Mr Timpkins Revue, they are are hilarious! Tickets for these shows are available from links on our website, www.playuppompey.org or you can phone Fratton Park for Ska Night tickets.
Are there any spaces left for local bands/artists to play shows in aid of Play Up Pompey Music?
Yes and no. We’re up to our eyeballs trying to organise the 16 days and 20+ venues we have already, but venues have been slow getting back to us and there are still a few slots available. We have a feeling a few more will come out of the woodwork too and as long as they want to help raise money for Pompey, we’re not going to turn people away!
You’ve been asked to organise a stage for the Fans Day at Fratton Park on July 20. Are you looking forward to the challenge?
We’re 100% behind Fans Day and the organisers The 12th Man. Thankfully tho, Steve Pitt from The Cellars organises the bands for that! We love Steve, not only does he know his bands, he’s also helping to take some of the load off us!
Have you set any major fund-raising targets for the festival?
We don’t want to put a figure on it and we’ll be grateful regardless of the sum. Our original plan was to raise one share for the local music community, so whilst we’re naturally hoping to raise more, anything above and beyond that is going to be progress! If a venue/promoter raises the £1000 for a share on their own, they can keep it, everyone who takes part but doesn’t make the £1000 mark will receive a certificate from PUPM and their funds will be pooled to buy shares on behalf of the local music community.
Do you see yourself as the ’ Guy Whittingham’ of the festival, galvanising your team to go out and play the best gigs they can for themselves and the club?
Haha! No, Guy’s an absolute hero, I met him the other day and got a little star struck! He’s such a friendly person tho, he’s even offered to introduce some bands for us and is going to take the squad to the pub that raises the most money! I see myself more as a someone who just loves Pompey, learnt to sing on the terraces and couldn’t stand watching his beloved club be treated the way it was. Thankfully I wasn’t alone and some fantastic people have been helping me out. You know who you are!
How will the money raised help Pompey?
It’s not really about the money. It’s more about galvanising support for a community owned football club and giving people who couldn’t afford a share on their own a chance to chip in for shares whilst enjoying themselves. Us local musicians have much bigger mouths than we do pockets, so we figured throwing one hell of a 16 Day party was a great way to do our bit.
As a fan of the club, what have you made of their recent struggles?
Pompey has been a roller coaster my entire life and if you’d have asked me in the 90’s if I’d have swapped an FA Cup for dropping down the leagues, I can’t lie, I’d probably have bitten your hand off! Now we have a new adventure but this time it’s *our* adventure, because we own the club!
The League Two fixtures for the coming campaign were released this week, with Pompey starting at home to Oxford. A winnable game, you’d think- how do you see the Blues getting on this season?
Guy knows there’s only one league Pompey doesn’t have a trophy for and whilst our budget is mid-table, our aspirations are high and with the best fans in the world cheering you on, anything is possible!
Posted on Sunday, June 23rd 2013, by I Am Dan Eastmond
Things we like…
Thanks to Cool for Cats for turning us on to this great track from London singer Mercy & Toby from Hatcham Social. Top of our playlist today!
Living in a box may not be everyones taste, but Alex Martin and Danny “LC” Pickering are happy to take up the space. Together they form the backbone to Box Frequency FM, a newly formed internet radio station catering for deep house, techno, electronica, funk and all things soulful. Since its inception in 2012, Box Frequency FM has opened the lid to a host of radio jocks from the UK and beyond building an impressive mix of talent both established and new. There are regular shows from Scorp!o AKA Steve Alex, a long time stalwart on the London club scene, Desyn Masiello, a world renowned global DJ from the electronic music collective Faciendo and Los Grandes who are based in Madrid, Spain.
Alex and Danny are no strangers to the electronic music scene choosing to immerse themselves in clubbing from a young age. They became DJs, started playing at parties and hosted numerous radio shows in the process. Alex spent his formative years living in Brighton where he was a regular visitor to the infamous Brighton Zap Club and Positive Sound System parties during the early 90s. He has also produced and released his own music, most notably alongside Neville Watson as Midnight Steppers. Danny spent many years cutting his teeth as a DJ and producer acquiring a variety of music tastes along the way including house, funk and soul. He has also produced music with fellow cohort Alex Martin as well as a string of remixes and re-edits; as expected both host their own regular shows on the station.
Can you tell us about the concept behind Box Frequency FM?
Well, it’s all about good music really; relatively simple. We have hosted several radio shows before, some positive and some slightly more challenging! At that point we felt that we could go off on our own and cater for a vibe that isn’t really being catered for in a big way. We are huge fans of the deeper end of the electronic music spectrum be it house, funk, soul; call it the slightly more esoteric side of dance music. The station isn’t genre specific though, the DJ’s can play a two hour Trojan set if they like. We want to create a platform for other like-minded DJs that can channel their art and share it with as many people as possible.
Tell us more about the people and shows on the station.
We have a guy called Johnny Eyeball who plays mainly soul music. He has a roster of DJs himself who all do guest slots for the station on a weekly basis. Then we have Steve Alex AKA Scorp!o who has been around for a long time and is one of the original Kiss FM jocks. He was also involved in Garage City and is now a big name on the London after hour’s scene. Next up we have Dynamicon from Spain - who runs the label Los Grandes - doing a regular show. We host our own shows Frequencies and LC Sessions (Liquid Country) There are a whole host of other talented DJs who all bring something unique to the table or box in our case!
Now that the station is fully operational, what else do you have planned for it?
We are now offering streaming through iPads, iPhones, Android and other similar devices. This is a big step for us, as before all people could do when they wanted to listen to the station was sit in front of their computer which was impractical. We have just hired a young, knowledgeable web developer who has proved to be quite successful. The future for us is where we’ve garnered a significant regular listening base to the point where we’ll be able to steam through iTunes, and it’s getting there. We just want to grow, get our presence up and be a successful independent station. We‘re not trying be a huge commercial entity or anything like that. We’re not charging the DJs or trying to sell things to people. It’s a lovely, uninterrupted radio station that gives people an unlimited listening experience. We want each show to have its own unique personality too. Some people have been sending us mixes only without any presenting as such; we’re not looking for just a two hour mix. We want to get to know the person behind the show and are encouraging people to present their shows and not be afraid to let their own personality shine through.
Tell us more about your own backgrounds in dance music
Danny: I started off DJing at the after party scene in Salisbury and got into music that way. I was actually into the hardcore gabba techno scene and a bit of drum and bass of the time. I’ve mellowed out over the years and discovered house music and Detroit flavours. I’ve been at it for the past ten to fifteen years. Production wise I’ve just started up a new outfit called 54th Street Hustler, with which I now have a record deal. Radio wise, I started out playing at a station based in Portsmouth that specialised mainly in trance music, I was the only one playing deep house at the time and have continued with that trend ever since.
Alex: I was into music from a very young age. I grew up playing the piano, guitar and drums. I was in a band during my younger days. I discovered the rave scene when I went to Brighton and did my degree. I frequented the Zap Club which was like a mecca for me for two years and became a part of the after party scene there. I always wanted to make music so I bought a Yamaha QY70 and started making records with it. At a party I met a guy called Neville Watson who was a DJ on the acid house/house scene and we produced a few records together on The Mighty Atoms record label; in a nut shell I caught the bug for studio life. About three years ago I started to up my DJ game again. Danny introduced me to radio and I was hooked back in. I think in a club you’re restricted to what you can play as the objective is to keep people dancing. With radio you can loosen up and play what you want to a degree – I’m a musical purist I guess.
Where else can we see Box Frequency? Are there any parties planned or events?
We have got an event in the pipeline and are looking at venues around London at the moment; negotiations are going on as we speak. Sometime over the summer they’ll be a Box Frequency party. It will be small and intimate to start with and expect to see all the Box Frequency DJs in attendance. We need to build our profile up so hopefully these club nights will be a regular occurrence. It will also be a great opportunity for all the DJ’s to get to know each other and bring their friends along. We will have people coming from Scotland, Spain, Liverpool and London so it will be quite something!
Many people now upload their podcasts and mixes to Soundcloud or Mixcloud. Do you feel that the influence of radio still works in this day and age?
We feel there is a definite need for radio despite the advent of modern technology. Many people still want that human element and interaction rather than simply going to a website and clicking a play button; you don’t have that interaction with the person playing the tunes. This is one of the reasons why we encourage interaction during our shows. We can get immediate feedback from the listeners to see how the show is going and hopefully that they’re enjoying the music we’re playing. We also feel that live radio makes the listener feel a part of something, that they might hear their name mentioned over the airwaves or they can meet like-minded people in the chat room. There can be too much talking on the radio of course which could have adverse effects by discouraging the listener, not to mention ruining a great record. There is a fine line to tread in regard to presenting and as DJs we have to except that we have limited stage time; the music must be allowed to talk too!
Can you both tell us about a funny thing that happened to you whilst on the radio or playing at a party?
Alex: I was playing at a friend’s party once and it was getting completely out of hand, a bit crazy. I was invited to play in the back room and by that time was the only person fit to man the decks. I remember seeing this Trojan records double pack twelve inch on the floor with four tunes on. I then proceed to play a two hour set using just these records. At the end of my “set” loads of people came up to me and said it was the best dub set they’d ever heard!
Danny: I couldn’t possibly comment…well actually I can remember when I was eighteen years old playing at an afterhours party until midday. The police raided the party and they swarmed all around me; I never did finish my set!
Alex: Can I just add that we’re a really friendly station that encourages a wide variety of music with some amazing talents that are really passionate about music they play; it comes from the heart.
Many thanks to Alex Martin and Danny LC Pickering for the interview.
Interview by Pete Rann
in elementary school,
we’d break out the glitter and crayons
and make cards for our mothers.
thing was, they were pre-made,
so we would just have to color them in.
and every may,
i took my crayons
and marked out “mom”
and put “grandma.”
and when you found out,
you were furious.
it took you a while, though,
you never being around and all.
and every may,
the kids would make fun of me
and tell me you didn’t want me.
grandma tried to say you did—
really, you loved me, you did,
you were just having a hard time getting on your feet.
which would be understandable, i suppose,
if you ever managed to do it.
and now i’m here, in high school,
and we don’t make cards in school,
and i don’t mark out mom
because i haven’t seen you in years
and i console my little sister,
who you messed up too.
and i try to keep it together
when the kids in her class make fun of her
and say her mother doesn’t want her.
and i’m not going to lie for you,
because i’m not grandma.
i’m your daughter.
and i deserve better than this.
Things we like… Ron Mueck, “Couple Under An Umberalla”
A lot of things about this production are quite curious in themselves. This is a stage adaptation of the much-loved book, which received a lot of praise during its first run at the National Theatre. With some of the original cast following its transfer to the West End, this is a production that doesn’t quite strike a chord with everybody in the room.
It tells the story of the autistic Christopher Boone, who finds his neighbour’s dog murdered by a fork. A garden fork. A tale of family separation and the difficulties that Christopher, played superbly by Luke Treadaway, faces on a daily basis. But more drastically when he decides to move to London, is what follows. With such an array of characters around him, not all quite delivering the strongest of performances, we get to know Christopher and his personality traits quite well. Family life isn’t great for Christopher, and with his A-Levels looming, which he is sitting early, it’s understandable why he seems a little all over the place, but it’s quite difficult to believe how some family members respond to his situation.
The design by Bunny Christie is absolutely superb. The building of a child’s train set is inspired, and there are numerous moments that instigate an involuntary gasp; the aesthetic of this production is by far the most pleasing aspect. The trouble is the way in which all of the astounding moments of walking on walls and lighting up London with figurines, actually make all of the realistic and banal moments far too realistic and banal: in these moments we start to miss the real four walls of a room, but we shouldn’t because the majority copes so well without.
The stage adaptation isn’t one to fall in love with, and it has Simon Stephens, whose reputation precedes himself, stamped all over it. Granted, that’s far from a bad thing; there are moments where his ideas suit the large scale production now being staged in a much larger venue than where it was born, but there is ample reason to have reservations about whether there was nobody else more suitable for the job. The switch from being staged in-the-round as it was initially, to now being in a traditional proscenium arch is one that may have had some hindrance. It’s quite easy to imagine why in the Cottesloe, this was a must-see, but it’s not quite living up to every expectation in its new home.
31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7ES
Box Office: 0844 579 1971
See before 4th January 2014
Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton
This article was originally published on: http://whatspeenseen.co.uk/ and is reproduced with permission of the author and founder of the site, Adam Penny.
Pae White: ‘Too Much Night, Again’, 2013, installation, mixed media. Courtesy of greengrassi, London. Photo: Andy Keate
Beneath the high glass ceilinged exhibition hall of the South London Gallery, a dense mesh of red and black thread engulfs the room. The interweaving lines form a tunnel that draws the viewer into the space. Within the network, the threads are animated by the emergence and dissolution of large letters that are gradually deciphered to spell UNMATTERING and TIGER TIME. This site-specific installation by American artist Pae White is inspired by a period of insomnia and her consequent reflection on the transience of our existence. Such existential questions are alluded to by the simultaneously substantial and transient quality of this textile installation. However, it is White’s perceptive negotiation with architecture that is the most compelling feature of this exhibition.
Responding to the ‘relentless ethereality’ of the exhibition hall, White constructed the work to be simultaneously in conflict and sympathy with the space. Indeed, from certain angles, the threads coalesce to form a dense, angry mass of red, black and purple, clashing boldly against the serene white walls. Move slightly, and the illusion of substance collapses and the threads elegantly fall into geometric harmony, echoing the fine lines of the building, drawing our gaze upwards to contemplate the site itself as an extension of the artwork. The fluctuation between substance and nothingness is reinforced by the unusual word UNMATTERING written on a monumental scale down the length of one wall. TIGER TIME, White reveals, suggests the menacing quality of insomnia, ‘concealed’ and ‘lying in wait’.
With a vast and incredibly diverse career, White’s work shares one common theme: a specific and often unpredictable response to place. Previous works have been sited in a decommissioned French synagogue; a disused Venetian warehouse transformed into an elaborate birdcage with hidden impersonators mimicking birdsong, and a sound installation of German bells programmed to play love songs throughout Dusseldorf. More recently, White’s work has involved increasingly large-scale public art commissions: her signature thread installations in LAX airport; an outdoor exercise park for dogs, and future plans to re-design London tube stations with enormous Kelvin light-boxes to provide a ‘wash of optimism’ for seasonally-affected Londoners. In each piece, White displays an unusual ease in relinquishing control of her art and letting the site influence its outcome; the reflective surfaces of an installation that depended on her native Californian sunshine were transformed in the dim January light of a Berlin gallery.
This flexibility and willingness to collaborate is apparent in ‘Too Much Night, Again’. White is openly grateful for the collective effort required to assemble the vast textile installation. In total, the work involved 48km of yarn, 4,725 eye screws, 8 people, 2 weeks and 18 pizza boxes. This joint effort is testified by the presence of the 18 pizza boxes piled at the end of the installation, alongside White’s ancient running shirt; a ritual aspect of her studio time. This unique signature style is seen in other pieces: her marital initials were embroidered into custom bus seat covers, ‘just for kicks’. And in the corner of a vast metallic stage curtain, White scanned her thumbprint, rather than the standard artist’s signature.
‘Too Much Night, Again’ is an impressive installation, and well worth visiting for its immersive, experiential viewing experience. However, I can’t help but feel that White’s artwork is paradoxically more successful outside the art gallery. Her work is most vibrant and exciting in its engagement with the public, often with a practical concern: ‘sculptures often do something for people.’ All of her projects are built around her persistent questioning: ‘how does art engage with the world?’ The textile installation at South London Gallery draws our attention to the ‘relentless ethereality’ of the site, though it also highlights the limits of the exhibition space, raising the question: is art more effective in public spaces than confined in art galleries?
‘Too Much Night, Again’ Exhibition Dates: 13 March - 12 May 2013 Admission free
Tuesday - Sunday 11-6pm Closed Mondays
Current exhibitions: Eoghan Ryan: Oh wicked flesh! 5 March - 12 May 2013