Monday, 27 October 2008

Acceptable in the '80s

So, Saturday we went back to bed in the afternoon and stockpiled sleep before Duckie. I got into what my Dad used to call "your night's sleep" and felt disorientated when I woke, not knowing for a moment whether the time on the clock was 9am or pm. Almost made the decision to stay in my nice cosy bed but dutifully hauled my weary carcass to the shower and headed out to the Tavern.

Not only was this the end of British summertime in terms of putting clocks back; it's also the first Saturday evening cool enough for me and TSB independently to don jackets. We usually try to avoid getting trapped in the cloakroom queue at the start of the night. On the way to Duckie, some guy leaned out of an upper floor window and shouted at us, "HEY GUYS, GOING TO HARDON?" and I realised we were both somewhat black and leathery of outfit.

All six there again, with Amy (fresh from a Moustache Fiesta that was seemingly more moustache than fiesta) looking particularly fetching in black and pink and expressing only a tiiiny amount of faux-bitterness at coming second to Lisa Maffia in CelebAir (she was robbed). At least she beat autograph-pimping slacker Chico.

Kind of an odd night in terms of punters: big fluctuations in crowd mass, with plenty of dancing space one minute and crammed in tight the next. It seemed to get a good deal busier after the cabaret, which is unusual.

First up was one Luci Brixton ("she liked Brixton so much, she changed her name", apparently, having originally been billed as Luci Briginshaw). Opera backed with a Yamaha beat, the not-at-all-unattractive mismatch putting me in mind of Pet Shop Boys. Very nice.

During the first "musical interlude", I nipped outside and across the Grassy Knoll to see the outdoor act, part of Duckie's De Trop season, where it spills out of the main body of the Tavern and into other parts of Vauxhall. Harriet Poole's Darkroom was a good example. This time, a crowd had built up around a rather post-apocalyptic brazier and someone dressed as a Hassidic Jew, cooking fish suppers (I'm not quite sure how she was making chips over an open fire).

Amy had suggested we look in the pushchair so, braving the windblown flames, Gareth and I peered in at... a large dead fish!

From the Age of Aquarius to the Age of Pisces! The juxtaposition of fish and cryptically evangelical (and, let's face it, slightly nutjob) note made me think of a JG Ballard flooded metropolis and the return of the Nummos... Perhaps we'll all be saved by fish-gods from Sirius?

Inside, Martin del Amo was taking to the stage in nowt but his pants. A piece of interpretive dance to Antony & the Johnsons, in bluish light, the effect was contorted and subterranean, like we were looking at him through water or old, thick, rippled glass. Still feeling deliciously spooked by the evocative reference to Pisces and the fishbaby, del Amo's watery movements seemed a continuation of my pseudomystical Drowned London imaginings.

Something completely different next: one Richard DeDomenici, hirsute and cute in a Hazmat suit.

He introduced two films, the first a spliced-together montage including footage of him as a child in the early '80s at Greenham Common, to the strains of This Used To Be My Playground. He and Luci Brixton then led a mass singalong to Nena's 1983 hit, having handed out exactly 99 helium-filled red balloons so the entirety of Duckie could join in on the chorus in comedy falsettos.

Ahh, Nena! 99 Red Balloons was the first single I ever bought with my own money (the second was the somewhat less memorable Hole In My Shoe by Neil from The Young Ones; let's draw a veil over that). At the time, I was going through a major early teens fear of the bomb thing, and thought Nena's one-hit was incredibly deep. I listened the 7-inch single repeatedly, obsessively poring over the sleeve photos. I even tried to convince myself I fancied the Germanic chanteuse. I was doing a lot of that at the time.

So... jolly balloon-toting Come Armageddon Come nuclear anxiety fed nicely into the evening's dystopian future theme. Would the coming fish-god messiahs save us from the bomb? Would chips of plutonium be twinkling in every, er, gill?

We'd noticed Our Lady J at the back, looking gorgeous in a beret, and it wasn't too much of a surprise when the final act turned out to be Novice Theory again, this time singing about his mother's difficulty accepting his maleness (nice rhyming of "daughter" with "slaughtered").

I found his Vignettes more immediately engaging than the accordion piece from Friday's Lustre. Just the one song, but it went down well. Here it is:

Home, with Mel in tow, and a drunken flicking through the music cable channels while TSB dozed on the settee. Britney's Womaniser (I like!), ill-advised vodka and playing with the solitary red balloon I'd saved from Richard Dodemenici's piece.

I think of you and let it go...

Sunday, we'd arranged to meet J (not Our Lady, another one) at Tate Modern, for the Rothko exhibition: bit of cultcher for a grey, hungover Sunday, just the thing. I've been to the Tate's dimly lit Rothko room before but not for a while. It had been beefed up with some extra pieces (the Seagram Murals) and formed the centrepiece of the exhibition. It was chock-ful of people, making the experience somewhat less than contemplative. I also found that there was almost too much to look at, the sheer number of Rothkos in one space was almost too distracting.

Some of the oranges seemed harsh, brash, garish. My favourites are still those that hum, the combination of colours making them seem to float and hover, vibrating slightly, off the surface of the canvas:

I liked the black paintings too, subtle shades and gradations within the darkness. Impossible not to see them without thinking of an increasingly depressed Rothko, wreathed in grey cigarette smoke, inching his way toward suicide. His mood state is communicated so intensely that some of the paintings are almost menacing. I'd have liked an emptier gallery and more time to sit there on my own with them - but then, I almost always think that at the Tate.

Downstairs in the Turbine Hall, we pushed through a claustrophobic curtain of heavy red and green plastic strips/sheets and found ourselves in Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster's vision of future London, the latest in the Unilever series. In her 2058, the remnants of society have taken refuge inside Tate Modern, on a series of bare bunk beds, to the sound of rain. The rainforest conditions have also somehow caused sculpture to grow beyond its proportions, so there were 20%-bigger copies of Henry Moores, Claes Oldenburgs and, dwarfing all, Louise Bourgeois' colossal Maman, a particular favourite of mine. Here's a pic from a year ago:

Rain and radio static fill the space, an enormous screen plays clips of suitably apocalyptic films and one can sit on the prison-like bunks and leaf through selected paperbacks (I gravitated towards Jeff Noon's Vurt and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451) to get into properly downbeat mood. As Nummos and Nena had already filled my head with End Of The World imagery the night before, I was primed and ready for more dystopian miserablism, and I think I liked the whole experience more than TSB did. That said, it did feel less cohesive than previous Turbine Hall installations, more cobbled-together.

Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth had been filled in but was still quite visible, a huge crack in the floor. I liked the fact that there was no attempt to conceal it and the concrete floor will always now look a little imperfect.

In-between Rothko and Gonzalez-Foerster, we found the members' room (TSB is a member, as is J) and braved the weekend middle-class bloodbath for seats on the balcony overlooking the Thames. J forced a second bottle of white wine upon us and we watched the light change over St Paul's Cathedral as an increasingly leaden sky slid into night:

I love living in London. It's my dystopian ideal.


Gareth said...

I want a supply of helium ballons so I can sing along on a high welsh accent.

Pogonophile said...

There was something inherently comical about Welsh + helium...

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