Rencontres d'Arles 2013

My photo postcard from the Rencontres d'Arles 2013

The twin surprise of the Rencontres d’Arles was both how much photography is on show and how each photographer strives for visibility but also how crowded the shop fronts and display spaces are with other events. Competing publicity ranged from bull fights to poetry festivals, and show fights in the town's Roman remains by re-enactment gladiators...

There are the expected formal displays of framed photographs in carefully curated gallery spaces, the visitors walking round respectfully. There’s a book or catalogue with nicely printed reproductions. And of course an app with taster photos from each exhibition but which - on my Android at least - failed to do the most useful thing of using the GPS and map to guide me from the app to the real gallery through the labyrinth of the delightful medieval street plan of the city of Arles.

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Pas de l'Œille, Vercors - July 2013

My photo postcard of the Pas de l'Œille

Hiking up with the Ibex and the clouds above the limestone rocks of the Vercors! The Pas de l’Œille (1960 m.) connects the Vercors with the valley of the river Drac. It’s a steep climb, the haunt of shy animals like marmottes and the long-horned Ibex, which we were careful to observe but not disturb.

Jardin des Fontaines Pétrifiantes - July 2013

My photo postcard of the Jardin des Fontaines Pétrifiantes, La Sône, Isère (38), France

A surprising and mad garden paradise built on a bank of the river Isère, the garden is blessed with many dozens of springs which have formed travertine pools. The first view of the garden is from above, the path leads down to a number of garden rooms which are built around water features. The design is mad... there’s a dresser filled with plants, the seats and music stands for a band which have been overgrown by plants and a frame that has nothing inside, just a view of more garden. The “English garden” has a table laid for dinner set in a pond cruised by some satisfyingly large golden carp. Not to mention the deck chairs laid with turf.

The centre piece of one of the gardens is a major waterfall falling on to cascades and pools of travertine rock. The sound of water cascades, fountains and streams is everywhere, giving a peaceful atmosphere. The monotony of the sound of moving water is broken by a number of water clocks which count time by the principle of filling containers. Their regular but unsynchronised chimes attract our attention, holding it with the fascination of working out the very visual principles of operation.

The flowers are laid out by size and colour or on an aesthetic or whimsical basis: the Jardin des Fontaines Pétrifiantes is a fantasy garden, much of it is mad and it's absolutely not a botanical reference site.

We visited on a cloudy day so heat was not an issue, this place has mmde its own micro-climate and would be a refreshing visit in the summer heat.

Jardin des Fontaines Pétrifiantes, La Sône, Isère (38), France


Vercors - July 2013

Hiking La Grande Moucherolle and Tête de la Dame in the Vercors, July 2013

A couple of hikes in the Vercors in Dauphiné in France: the mountain rockscapes near La Grande Moucherolle (2284 m.) above Villard-de-Lans. In the south west of the Vercors region, the Tête de la Dame (1506 m.) near the Col de la Batalille (1313 m.), with views to the Ecrins, the Savoie Alps and even the Corniche of the Cévennes far away in the haze. Summer is late here so as well as the green grass, the flowers are at their best about now, thanks to lots of rain.

Show RCA 2013

My photos from Show RCA 2013

An impressive display of work across a very broad spectrum from this year's graduate students at the Royal College of Art. My companion and I concentrated our attention on the exhibitions from the RCA’s Fine Art department at the new site in Battersea; these works encompassed traditional framed artwork on the wall, photobooks, video work, sculptures, installations and environments, performance work and even a performance work where we were invited to step on to a set and participate as actors in a drama. Much of the work seems to have been the result of collaboration which the college has specifically cultivated between workshops whose titles would otherwise indicate separate skills. I was struck but the imagination and detail of the pieces, my companion noticed the high standard of workmanship overall.

Trends I noticed included a move away from short descriptions or explanations of the piece; many pieces stood without explanation, others displayed a quote or a theme which was a starting point for their work. Some sculptures had additional notes in a handout in newspaper format whilst some of the contributions to the photobook Waving Flags interweaved text and pictures in almost equal area on the page.

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BBC Television Centre auction - June 2013

Auction signs at BBC Television Centre, London W12

Auctionneers at BBC Television Centre in Wood Lane, London W12. Today’s auction is for kitchen and catering equipment.

Keep Your Timber Limber - ICA, London

Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

“Choosing to step outside the boundaries of social acceptability” says the ICA’s publicity, it is a huge understatement and although there is no claim of a “first”, this exhibition must surely be one of the first public showings of many of these works by artists such as Tom of Finland, Cary Kwok, Mike Kuchar and Antonio Lopez, who portrayed male sexuality in the raw and - in the case of Tom of Finland - defined and inspired the whole leatherman subculture.

Biographical details are provided but there’s very little explanation provided but not much provenance or context; there seems to be no catalogue or accompanying essay. Whilst is interesting to see these works in a prime London space at last, surely Sarah McCrory (curator) could have provided more context and explanation than the few words of the publicity handout. This mentions the high level of technical skill and outlines an interpretation based on gender politics and challenging of social conventions but fails to make the most of this opportunity to re-evaluate these works at just the moment they would be able to receive recognition outside specialist audiences.

Keep Your Timber Limber (Works on Paper) continues at the at the ICA / Institute of Contemporary Arts throughout the summer. Free admission: worth checking out, even though there’s very little interpretation. The ICA has an OK coffee bar too!

Merrily We Roll Along - Sondheim

A happy little West End production of Stephen Sondheim’s show that houses such standards as “Old Friends”, “Not a Day Goes By” and “Our Time”. The music is surprisingly potent and the book packed with vicious one-liners in the New York style. Transferred from the intimate performance space of the Chocolate Factory, Maria Friedman’s revival production looses a little intimacy to the tiers of the Harold Pinter theatre, formerly the Comedy Theatre.

Merrily We Roll Along is a show I’d forgotten about, despite knowing several Sondheim fanatics at the time, I didn't see it when the show didn’t run for long in London when it first opened here in 1982, not following on the popularity of Sweeney Todd. But there was recording of the Broadway production; this didn’t flatter: my memories are of scratchy LPs played to distortion in friends’ squats in Brixton. Several numbers became classics in their own right, not least because of their gay resonances in the era when much of even the London gay community was still emerging from the closet. It's been a emotional treat to hear these numbers in context and in first rate performances.

Read more: Merrily We Roll Along - Sondheim

Bright clear London - June 2013

Earls Court in the sunshine

Earls Court exhibition centres are soon to be demolished, the area is to be redeveloped to an architects' vision of an urban village.

Albert Memorial, Hyde Park in the sunshine

Meanwhile the Albert Memorial shines in the June sunshine as the scaffolding is removed after the renovations.

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