Friday, 20 August 2010

Laura Belém's The Temple of 1000 Bells @ The Oratory

If I needed reminding - and I don’t! - that it’s less than a month till the 6th Liverpool Biennial, last night was a special preview of Laura Belém's The Temple of 1000 Bells at the Oratory.

The Oratory is the small, square, classically-pillared building down from the front of the Anglican Cathedral. I've always thought that there is something restrained but slightly distorted about 19th Century funerary sculpture, and the light coloured but monumental stone of the sculpture counterpoints Laura Belém's incorporeal installation.

The sight of a thousand individually created glass bells hanging in the central light well is both beautiful and intriguing. It’s everything it promises, a diaphanous suspended layer of glass objects, each in the same form but each visibly distinctive. Quite simply, The Temple of 1000 Bells is lovely to behold.

If only it had been left as that! A simple and arresting installation with an evocative title would have been much preferable to final form of The Temple of 1000 Bells. From speakers around the room emanates a voice, telling a story in that overly earnest, childrens’-programme-on-Radio-4 type manner. Accompanied by some half-arsed hippy, hypno-meditation type music, it's unbearably twee. Seriously peoples, “a symphony which cannot be described in words” is not audibly conjured up by a few plinks on a bloody xylophone!

Hmmm...  the only option seems to be to recommend ear plugs.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Endurance @ Merseyside Maritime Museum

Stuff the A Team, the only display of hyper-masculine tomfoolery I have any time for right now is down at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

I grew up with the sagas of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Huntford’s book on Scott and Amundsen pretty much held the place a bible might have taken in a religious household. Polar opposite of the heroic, but ultimately unforgivable, bungler Scott Falcon Scott stood Ernest Shackleton. Steadfast, tenacious and just kick-arse, Shackleton is a colossal but approachable figure.

Preening martyrdom on the ice was not for Shackleton. How is it not possible to admire a man who achieved so much and could still wryly say "Better a live donkey than a dead lion"?

If you do not know the story of the Endurance (or should I say the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition?), look it up. It’s is an incredible story of persistence, survival, practicality and, yes, heroism on the ice. Frank Worsley's book Shackleton's Boat Journey is particularly fantastic.

And perhaps the best part of the story? That it rests in the period when photography in such harsh conditions was becoming possible while remaining a true technical and photographic feat. That these laboriously created glass plate negatives remained unscathed is remarkable in itself.  In a digital age, when we are so used to images being composed from intangible data, the physical nature of these negatives is almost extraordinary to regard.

Words cannot convey what Frank Hurley’s lucid photographs manage so eloquently. The strange and beautiful nature of the ice, the startling vision of the Endurance caught in the ice flow and the inscrutable Edwardian explorers, I love all of it.

I may be a polar exploration fan girl, but I will fight anyone who says this is not visual story telling at its very best. It is wonderful to see photographs I know from books displayed so prolifically in this compelling exhibition.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Trash Humpers @ Wolstenholme Creative Space

For a film that features bin fucking, baby doll abuse and hippy murder, Trash Humpers is a surprisingly dull experience.

Presented on Saturday night in the earnestly edgy Wolstenholme Creative Space, screened from VHS on a pile of knackered TV's, the setting and medium for the evening was actually rather pleasant. I'd gladly pay a fiver to go to a showing of the Twilight Zone in such a manner... or even better Doctor Strange!

But the film itself? Over indulgent hipster shock fare. To call it pornographic, hell to call it shocking, is to dignify it. Nothing that Harmony Korine put in his film, in either style or content, came near to the sight of a drunk girl sitting in her own piss on Wood Street.

Not even the demented posture it strikes or the directors hipster credentials can raise this film above masturbatory pubescent scheme. It is just too boring to be vilified or event found that offensive. Yawn.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Having A Do @ St Luke’s Church

Keep it simple, stupid. Who hasn’t been assaulted by this exhausted phrase? It might make me want to obstinately elaborate, but that doesn’t stop it being irrefutably true.

Fab Collective might have a stated passion for capturing the city of Liverpool and its residents in their pictures, but seem to miraculously avoid those acceptable stereotypes we are so familiar with. With beautiful, almost brutally honest, photographs, sparsely curated by only one loose theme, they have created something brilliant.

It’s all too easy to be abstract and hoity-toity about art. Setting aside the high-art sensibilities I do love to lug about, Having A Do is simply a small collection of brilliant photographs adroitly, and often tenderly, illustrating the many agreeable ways we celebrate. Unique and defiantly ungentrified, "The Bombed Out Church" is the perfect venue for this stubbornly simple but perfectly realised exhibition.

This month, if you find yourself at the top Bold Street with half an hour to spare, Having A Do is well worth a look.