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Sunday, 29 April 2012

Birthday Bashing: A Week Of Culture

As Griff explained in his Blog last Saturday, we recently celebrated the ~Streetlamp~'s second birthday/anniversary, and so all three of set about marking this event by indulging in a plethora of various art, music and cultural experiences.
Here's a more in-depth look at how we got on, who we met, and what we did....

We kicked things off in the West End of Glasgow(the Govan end) with a visit to Bellahouston Park. Our intention was to see a film work by the artist Henry Combes called "I Am The Architect, This Is Not Happening, This Is Unacceptable". However, as we approached the building it was to be shown in, the film-maker's secretary rushed out of a nearby car to tell us that the event had been postponed due to fault with the sound system. Although this was slightly disappointing, on the upside we did bump into our female doppelgangers....we're guessing that somewhere out there a femme-centric version of the ~Streetlamp~ is being run by three women!
We had a quick scout around the park; having a look round the gardens and checking out the last Art Deco building left from the Empire Exhibition of 1938.

Then it was off to the East End....

Walking past a life-style inflatable Stonehenge (no, really!!) we found ourselves right slap-bang in the very heart of the Barras where there exists one of the coolest art centres in Scotland....The Pipe Factory. You have to go searching for this place amongst the back streets of one of Glasgow's roughest areas. The place was locked up when we got there, but after persistently banging on the door and ringing the bell, we were greeted by the cheery, amiable presence of Alex Storey Gordon. Alex is the co-creator of the art installation that was taking place that afternoon; an event called Projector Director which he co-authored with his partner Kari Robertson. This was a collection of images displayed by old (and sometimes broken) slide projectors which allow the viewer to deconstruct the projected image, or to reduce a powerful image such as arch Capitalist Milton Friedman into a series of almost comical snapshots, thus rendering such a hate figure in a humorous light.

Alex took time to chat with us and to explain his work in some detail, something which goes against the more po-faced attitudes of some artists. We were equally impressed by the strange roughshod nature of the in the depths of Glasgow's East End, we were within a wrecked old building in which the sunlight shone through cracks in the brickwork casting an odd, fractured light throughout. One imagines that as the light changes outside, the ambiance of the art changes inside!

After lunch in the 13th Note (which Griff has already described as 'my dream pub') we headed up to Hillhead, to the University end of Glasgow. Here amongst some of the most spectacular architecture in all of Glasgow, we decide to visit the Hunterian Museum. Amidst the sarcophaguses(sarcophagi??) and body-parts-in-formaldehyde came the unusual occurrence of a Jazz quintet fronted by a gentleman with an impenetrable accent performing an accompaniment to an exhibition detailing a piece of wood that 'may' have come from the tree under which David Livingstone's heart was buried!! Confused? We certainly were!
Walking around the splendid grounds and the incredible buildings that make up Glasgow University, I felt pangs of sadness that I hadn't stuck in more at school and hadn't waylaid an education for the sake of Pop Music....

So that was Saturday!
On the Monday, Ray and I want to the Bo'ness Hippodrome to take in a rare showing of Otto Preminger's Noir whodunnit 'Laura'. Despite plot holes you could drive a bus through, and the fact that two of the main characters were inexplicably played as being a little light on their loafers, this was a superb, stylish, dreamlike thriller that, as someone in the crowd remarked at lights up, "they don't make  like that anymore".
Unfortunately Griff couldn't make it to this event which was a pity as it starred his favourite actress (and four tissue fantasy) Gene Tierney.

And so to Wednesday....
Despite almost being May, it was a cold and wet afternoon as we headed back into the heart of Glasgow. The rain was like sheets of icy razors and the perpetual grey of the skyline created a perturbing backdrop as we drove deep into the belly of the beast. Our search was for the SW3G art workshops, hidden away in the kind of gloomy backstreets you'd expect to see Jack Nance walking through, on his way back to feed 'the baby'.
Parking under an archway over which traffic rumbled ominously we found ourselves inside the cold, airy workshops. In the main part of the building was an installation by the artists Max Prus, José Eduardo Yaque Llorente & Diego Chamy.
After viewing this we headed upstairs to catch some of the noise-music performance by Australian composer/artist Marco Fusinato. Like being hit by a force of nature, it was almost impossible to believe that this wall of cacophony was being created by one man with a guitar and an effects box. Coming across like Hijokaidan without the ear-shredding dentist drill treble; Einsturzende Neubauten without the industrial machinery; or Boyd Rice/NON without the offensive political stance, this was quite something to behold. Kudos must be given to the young Buddhist who was using the noise to meditate to, and to the sound engineer who had been there for four hours by the time we arrived.

Going further upstairs we stumbled upon the beautiful bird/rodent hybrid creations of
Jamie Fitzpatrick. Jamie was there and allowed us to film and photograph his incredible work, whilst telling us how he mixed sculpture, roadkill and taxidermy to create his artistry. I think it was safe to say this was one of the highlights of our week.

Heading out of the main building and over to one of the adjoining studios, we caught a glimpse of '#Unravel', a musical installation collaboration between Aidan Moffatt of Arab Strap, and the Edinburgh experimental art/Pop music collective FOUND. Using ten 7" vinyl singles, the viewer/listener participates in unravelling the Narrator's story which, depending on which records you choose and how they in turn will prompt different music, could play out in over 160 variations. We won't spoil any of the story or how the project works, we'll just advise you to check it out. It runs until the 7th of May.

Heading across the M8, we decided to drop into the Scotland Street School Museum where there was an exhibition of Young Scottish Socialism through the 20th Century. We were quite surprised to learn that for most of the last century there had been Socialist Sunday Schools where the teachings of Christ were imparted in a Marxist/Anarchist way, rather than that of any religious denomination. It's pretty eye-opening stuff to see just how deep the Socialist ideology ran through Glasgow at the time of the two World Wars and up as far the early 70s, and it also saddened us that this pure Socialist view is no longer taken by the Labour Party whom we expected to carry it forward. I think the word 'Judas' may have been said a few times that afternoon. Ironically. Or not, as the case may be.

The school (now a museum) itself is quite a thing of beauty to behold, and it's never-to-be-seen-again architecture coupled with its history of Scottish school days makes it a fantastic place to visit.

Once school was out, we headed over to the East End of Glasgow where we we visited the rather wonderful Monorail Music. A shoe-in for best Record Shop in Glasgow, the shop is run by Scottish music legend Stephen Pastel, and Mr Pastel himself was behind the counter upon our visit. I should point out that Monorail is much more than a record shop; it is also a cafe with a selection of vegan and vegetarian foods, and there is also an art and printing studio within. There was a an exhibition of fake 12" record sleeves by the Obstacle Group arts project which gave us some of the best laughs of the day. The project is called Record Store and again runs until the 7th of May.
The shop itself was recovering from the previous Saturday's Record Store Day(at which Edwyn Collins had played a live set), so there were many vinyl rarities and bargains on offer. We were especially smitten by the lo-fi dreampop of Glasgow's own Golden Grrrls whose superb 'New Pop' is an early contender for my song of the year.

And there was also the dreamy, sun dappled music of Lightships whose music and video for their song 'Sweetness In Her Spark' captures perfectly everything I've tried to elucidate about love and the way it affects the light and the skyscape when your heart is full to bursting. The way a girl's silhouette or a streetlamp's glow against a bruised Summer sky can capture a moment that makes your heart beat in a different rhythm. Lightships are the new musical project of Teenage Fanclub's Gerard Love, but for us this is better than any of his principal band's oeuvre....

After all this art, we decided on a long dinner to chill out. This comprised of yet another visit to our favourite haunt, the 13th Note, where we enjoyed three veggie burgers, spicy fries, onion rings and a bowl of olives (bet you're glad you weren't in the car with us afterwards), all washed down with some staggeringly (and unexpectedly) expensive Chardonnay.
Then it was time to head round to the Britania Panopticon Music Hall, located up some back street in the Trongate area.

Built in 1857, it is Britain's oldest standing music hall, and it is where Stan Laurel made his stage debut in 1906. And that is part of the reason we were there....the Laurel & Hardy society, The Sons Of The Desert were using the theatre to show some of Stan and Ollie's best work. It was the first time many of us had ever seen Laurel & Hardy with an audience, and it was safe to say that the duo had lost none of their magic.

The theatre itself, despite being cold and draughty, is a thing of great beauty to behold, and it literally was like stepping back in time. The staff were dressed in appropriate garb of the times, and the place is set to hold many more events based on recreating the past. The theatre relies on charitable support to maintain its upkeep, so we urge you, if you can, to check the place out if you have the opportunity.

So that was our birthday week of culture. Beautiful, surreal, edgy, politically fervent, and at times dreamlike (and that's just us three), this was quite some week. We must do it again some day.
Roll on next year!!


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