Tag Archives: 2009

Subverted Children’s Toys

ImageDorothy is a Manchester-based design studio that are well-known for their song and film maps, but I found these politically-charged takes on classic children’s toys much more interesting.ImageImageThe ‘Casualties of War’ sets take on tragic variations of the classic toy soldier, showing the grim realities of being in the armed forces – from alcoholism and psychosis through to amputation and suicide.ImageThese Dorothy ‘No Globes’ were commissioned for Ctrl.Alt.Shift, in anticipation of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2009. Designed to highlight the threat of coal power to the environment, black particles of soot float above this bleak diorama, replacing the traditional snow…Image

Forever 27 Club

Michael Gillette‘s ‘Little Angels’ series portrays dead musicians when they were children. The ones I’ve chosen above are all members of the infamous ‘Forever 27 Club’, but his portraits also include 2pac, Biggie Smalls, Whitney Houston and Jeff Buckley, to name a few. Because of Gillette’s subject matter and technique, I can’t help but be reminded of Annie Kevans’ paintings. I worked on her FAS solo exhibition in 2009, which was brilliant because I really love all of her pieces and the inspiration behind that particular set.

Boxing Clever

Hilarious video which mercilessly rips the piss out of pretentious creative types who go on about “the box”. This animated short is a few years old now, but it’s still relevant and brilliant. It was made by the very talented Joseph Pelling and deservedly won the Partouche Prize for experimental film at Arts Le Havre Biennale 2010.

Annie Kevans

Annie Kevans at FAS press release/invitation, for Fluff PR. I wrote the text and selected the accompanying images. November 2009.

Feature on the show in ELLE Magazine.

Derek Lawlor

The Derek Lawlor post-show press release for Fluff PR, September 2009. I selected images and wrote the text.

The Ruling Class

Interview with The Ruling Class for the print edition of Fashion.Music.Style, September 2009.

Huddled round some rusty bike railings to escape the noise of east London’s 1234 Festival, the wind is making it difficult for north London five-piece The Ruling Class to light their Benson Silvers. With just two singles under their belt they haven’t quite broken into the mainstream yet, but are already being compared to indie legends such as The Stone Roses and The Charlatans. As you’d expect, their baggy jeans draw looks of confusion from the skinny-legged Shoreditch masses.

They manage to seamlessly combine late eighties baggy rock with early nineties shoegaze, resulting in a nostalgic concoction which has earned them the rather cringeworthy “shaggy” tag, (shoegaze and baggy, geddit?!). Psychedelic elements also shine through on their simple but effective melodies, and Jonathan Sutcliffe’s effortless vocals recall Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie singing ‘Velocity Girl’. Debut single ‘If You Wonder’ combines universal lyrics with a charmingly soft sound, while their latest offering ‘Marian Shrine’ has Sutcliffe nonchalantly singing over a drum beat that sounds like it was made to swagger on stage to.

Founding members Tomas Kubowicz and bassist Anton Lindberg first met in 2005 in their native Stockholm, but had difficulty finding likeminded bandmates. “We couldn’t really find people with similar tastes in music or ambition so we moved to London,” Kubowicz says.

Their quintessentially British sound is due to Kubowicz – the band’s self-proclaimed “musical dictator” – being heavily influenced by nineties British indie. Sutcliffe and Needle are, quite fittingly then, northerners…albeit from Harrogate, not baggy’s spiritual home of Manchester.

Bound by a shared love of psychedelic music, Lindberg and Kubowicz found front man Sutcliffe and rhythm guitarist Andrew Needle at fellow shoegazers The Tamborines gig, one New Year’s Eve. The addition of Italian-born Alfie Tammaro on drums completed the group.

Lindberg admits that the band are self-consciously derivative, saying, “When Tomas started writing these songs, he wasn’t trying to invent a new genre of music. Although that sort of music isn’t around right now so I suppose that is innovative in itself.”

What about image though? “The music is primary,” explains Tamarro, “once you get the music right everything else should just fall into place.” Sutcliffe agrees that unlike a lot of contemporary bands they’re more concerned with substance over style but they “still look great anyway!” Just don’t compare his choice of hairstyle to Tim Burgess’s – “I would say my hair was more Guy Fawkes. A true revolutionary haircut.”

And if they could rule Britain for a day, what would they change? “The music,” Sutcliffe replies almost instantly. So they’d ban terrible music like Cascada and Soulja Boy then? “No, no. We’d just educate people – teach them to appreciate good tunes again.” he asserts. Hopefully it won’t take a Guy Fawkes-style attempt at revolution to achieve that anyway.

Ben Westwood – Spawn: Bound

Exhibition review for Disappear Here, June 2009

 Vivienne Westwood may have reportedly dismissed the concept of her son’s exhibition as “a load of rubbish”, but I didn’t let that deter me from going along to the Bodhi Gallery to check out photographer Ben Westwood’s latest exhibition Spawn:Bound. Oh, and I am a bit of a sucker for the words “champagne reception” too. Unfortunately, lovely though the free drinks may have been, I found the art itself a little underwhelming.

Quite fitting for an exhibition where the crux of the art is that second generation celebrities are almost haunted by their parent’s fame, the highlight of the evening was probably when mummy Westwood showed up. The photography itself was well done, and deliciously vulgar. However the compositions struck me as amateurish, and although they were vaguely amusing, reminded me of the fictional set ups you used to see in Smash Hits. Remember when rumours of Spice Girl spats were depicted by crudely superimposing said band member’s heads onto boxer’s bodies? Yeah, like that. The modern day equivalent is probably Heat magazine’s made up scenarios. How appropriate, as Heat do like to bring the “rockocracy” to public attention.

The concept is an interesting one, and I feel that Westwood could have built on it a lot more. It really got me thinking and as an idea it had so much potential. On the one hand, offspring of the rich and famous have it much easier because of their money and connections. What most people don’t seem to take into account is that if you’ve always been brought up with fame and the press, it must be much easier to handle a career where dealing with the press is part of the package. Most children of celebrities are inevitably good at courting the media, so really it’s no wonder most of them end up famous themselves. Westwood’s pictures weren’t really saying much, although I suppose you couldn’t accuse him of being inconsistent. Each one was much like the first, a bondage clad model with an oversized celeb-brat head in place of the face, usually wearing a totally incongruous expression to what was going on in the original photo. Entertaining I guess, but certainly nothing groundbreaking. Then in case you weren’t sure of who they were (as with Richard and Judy’s daughter, Carol Thatcher and Imogen Lloyd-Webber) the names of their famous parents were wrapped around them. Helpful.

By the end of the exhibition, I fully understood the delicious irony of the whole set up. Talentless celebrity offspring feature in art made by another celebrity offspring using their famous mother’s name to gain a bit of media attention. Celebrity spawn laugh smugly to themselves. Overenthusiastic art buyers pay good money for Photoshop’s finest. Ben Westwood gleefully checks his bank balance.

If you do want to buy one of his original images, expect to pay around £1,000. However if you’re a bit strapped for cash my mate Woolfie can knock up something similar for around a tenner, his dad doesn’t do anything that interesting but he’s pretty handy when it comes to the old cut and paste malarkey. So if you don’t mind losing the whole post-modernist vibe, form an orderly queue, art lovers!