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Tue 31 May 2005

Cityspace Opening

Went to the opening of am exhibition at City Space, the gallery hidden above the photography shop on Corporation Street. I'll probably in back for a more detailed look, but the pieces included: panels of interlinked words mainly on the theme of contempory art; a nice 2 screen video installation showing skaters transforming into divers etc; panels and boxes covered in fabric; a collection of blank canvases and video cassettes packaged for sale; a telephone and button one of which seemed to set off a buzzer.

Posted on the move at 09:53:34

Seven Inch Cinema

Later, went down to Seven Inch Cinema at The Rainbow, which was excellent as usual! Unfortunately, I got there late and missed the films Brown Owl and WASP which sounded very interesting. Did get to see Electronic Behaviour Control Systems again, a cleverly edited and scored montage of news readers, politicians and advertising spokespeople. Also notable were a live video set from Chris Keenan and DJing from Simon / Mr Simon of Dog Food fame.

Posted on the move at 10:04:59

Sun 29th May 2005

Sounds of Excess

Went to the Capsule / Fierce Festival night "Sounds of Excess". I got there a bit late, so I don't know if I missed any early performance, but the only one I saw was Ron Athey and Juliana Snapper doing the vocal performance from the Judas Cradle. Although it sounded the same, they performed in normal street clothes, and without any props or acting. This actually made me appreciate the performance more, as I could contrast it with my earlier reaction to the full thing. Ron was smiling and laughing, and appeared "just like a normal person" as opposed to the disturbed and disturbing figure he appeared on stage.

Out back, there were live bands, with "Noise Noise Allore!" giving a very striking vocal performance.

Sat 28th May 2005

The Courtesan Tales

Started the day with The Courtesan Tales at Warwick Arts Centre. An assistant takes you into in a dimly lit Morrocan style space, with black canvas walls, candles, sweets and candied fruits on the table and offered tea, talking only in hushed voices. A menu shows a choice of 10 or so stories, "Gift", "Vision", "Dinner", "Forest", "Bath" etc. I chose to go for a random one, letting the Courtesan choose. The performance is for one person at a time. When my time came, I followed the trail of rose petals, to find a wooden chair, draped in black cloth, in the centre of the room. I sat, and put on the blindfold, as the assistant had told me. I could hear the Morrocan music as you sat there, now in darkness, the chair was comfortable, it was very relaxing, almost hypnotic. Suddenly, there was a breath in my ear, then in my other ear, then a voice. A hand gently lifted each of my arms onto the arms of the chair, and tied them there. The story began...

Somehow I felt was the right story due to it's early and repeated references to Shiitake Mushrooms, on which I am particularly keen. This made the Courtesan's choice seem somehow inspired. During the story, feathers brushed against my face, neck. Sometimes fingers ran through my hair. The voice moved all around me, sometimes very close, sometimes further. Sometimes I could feel sweet hot breath on my face. It was a completely engaging piece of performance, relying on your senses of hearing, touch, smell and taste. Requiring you to trust a stranger.

At the end, I was asked not to spoil the story for others by revealing it, my wrists were freed and the Courtesan left, silently. After a moment, I removed the blindfold and followed the trail of petals back to the waiting area.

In short: Bedtime stories for grown ups
Best Thing: The whole atmosphere of calm

Carnesky's Ghost Train

Postponed from last year's Fierce Festival, I queued for around 30 minutes to see Carnesky's Ghost Train. There were quite a few grumbles from those around me as what appear to be friends of the organisers jumped the queue (though maybe they'd been sent away earlier), and others were told it would be better if we came back later, but that we would have to rejoin the queue at the end. The tickets were numbered,, so it would be easy to sort this out. Still, minor niggles...

The experience itself takes place within a real ghost train, but with images of displaced and distresses women replacing the typical spiders webs and white sheet ghosts. At the off, a woman with a placard reading "What are politicians doing about our missing daughters" tells us that all the daughters of the town have disappeared, and begs us to tell them that she loves them, if we come across them. Inside, the train performs several loops, corresponding in a way to several acts. A screen near the beginning showed images for each "round", including passports, and a third class ticket to fortress Europe. As you move around, you see women. Some with facial sores, one in an eastern european style glamourous dress dancing standing alone in an empty room - but with a holographic presence, one in a nightie who sinks slowly through the floor, disappearing until only her hair and feet remain. In the darkness, they reach out to you, sometime touching you. One woman appears through a series of tight strips of matresss. She impores us to help her, she is pulled back and reaches out her hand for us to save her, but it is useless.

It was one of the most disturbing performances I've seen. In particular, it contrasts with the voyeurism and choice involved in some of the other Fierce Festival productions.

In short: Brings a tear to the eye
Best Thing: The matress
Worst Thing: It's too popular, so you have to queue

Carnesky's Ghost Train


Wow! Duckie is a table performance caberet nightclub, "a dress code of evening wear is encouraged". "Duckie Champagne" (i.e. cava) is served. We were given a complementary 35 or so "Duckie Dollars", and a menu from which to choose performances. We chose a "Headbang Derby", "Natcho Snatcho", a "Boogaloo Stuicide" and a "Butterfly Kiss" amongst others. They were all great, the Derby and Natchos were quite interactive, with us "racing" to pump up balloon by bouncing up and down on pumps, and eating Natchos handed out in a rather bizzare, but beautifully choreographed manner. There were also a couple of stage performances.

Overall: Beautifully constructed, wonderful element of choice
Best Thing: The Natchos

Duckie Champagne:
Duckie Champagne

Duckie Dollars:
Duckie Dollars

Headbang Derby:
Headbang Derby

Protection Needed...:
Protection Needed...

More Protection Needed...:
More Protection Needed...

Fri 27th May 2005

The Judas Cradle

Saw The Judas Cradle at Warwick Arts Centre as part of the Fierce Festival. I was expecting something pretty unusual, and wasn't disappointed on that score! The Judas Cradle takes its name from a medieval torture instrument, in which people were lowered onto a pyramid. The performance was in multiple acts, with 2 main performers, a man (Ron Athey) and a woman (Juliana Snapper). The performance starts in darkness, with man and woman atop a small flight of stairs, he is clad in a metal breastplate, a rather bizare cutaway shorts/jockstrap and completely covered in tatoos. She wears a red velvet cloak. They sing, a note so strong and pure, which, resonating with itself looped back (or recorded) on computer, seems to fill the space completely. They sing, in operatic style, first in Italian, and later in French, and other langauges (perhaps Japanese??). A video appears above them, sometimes with english surtitles matching the songs, sometimes with surtitles in french, which don't seem to match (but I'm comparing my very limited french with my even more scanty italian). The man stands on a platform, he reads a poem. The woman hoods him. The video shows the man, wearing an orange suit, face not visible, led on a leash, by the woman, the theme of course being obvious. She knocks the hood off him with a stick. He is proded to move, and goes to a dance platform. The woman starts a metronome. He taps dances, starting slowly, but speeding up, while she hits the floor with the stick. He is reciting the poem, word by word.

OK, this is getting too long (as I only saw it an hour or so ago), but next, he climbs the ladder leading to the pyramid of the Judas Cradle, impales himself, and turns around 180 degrees. He's really impaled. It looks very painful. Later, the woman crawls out of her red clock while lying on a chaise-longue, she looks like a giant insect in her shiny black corset and bustle. He makes breasts from chicken wire and cream, or cream cheese or ice cream, and dances while wearing them. They dance together whilst making plaintive cat-like mewling noises. She lies in a frame, which tips her upside down, while she sings for several minutes. It's all pretty over the top. No-one leaves, no-one faints, no-one laughs.

Afterwards, it's like a vision into another world, unreal. Did this really happen?

Thu 26th May 2005

Saw the exhibition of modified butterflies, "Nature?" by artist Marta De Menezes ( ) at BIAD. The installation consisted of a plastic greenhouse with a kind of "airlock" to allow four visitors at a time to enter. Inside, butterflies fluttered around - a mixture of those which had been modified and those which were "Natural". A video showed the artist performing the modification procedure by touching the chrysalis with a pin. This changes the development of the wing spots, resulting in asymetrical butterflies. Apart from the difference in pattern, the butterflies are perfectly healthy, and the wing develop as normal.

Outside, there was a notice saying that some of the staff objected to the use of living creatures for art. Personally, I'm not convinced that insect have a concept of pain, particularly at the chrysalid stage, where it would serve no good evolutionary purpose.

In Short: Great idea, provokes a lot of reaction. Best Bit: Seeing the modification on video and discussing it with people who know about developmental biology. Worst Bit: Butterflies close their wings when seated, so it's hard to spot the patterns! smile

Wed 25 May 2005

Subject: Instructions for forgetting

Forced entertainment put together this collection of true stories and pre existing video sent by friends of the artist. The stories were funny, tragic or everyday, but always engaging. Each one filled you with empathy, put you in the mind of the teller. From the first film experiences of a small child, to losing a loved one and being mistaken for a ghost, each one was riveting.

At the REP as part of the Fierce Festival.

Posted on the move at 09:09:16

Tue 24 May 2005

Subject: feathers fall

Today our birdman is dropping feathers to the crowd. There's still quite a lot of people around, and the kids chase the feathers as they fall. The wind around the rounda makes them float like magic. Still lots of camera phones. The occasional bloke shouts jump.

Overheard: his girlfriend was on the telly, in a really foreign voice she said "it's art. It's a gift for the people."

Got to go, as now i'm about to be interviewed for the fierce tv website ( )

More pictures at: The Great Swallow

Posted on the move at 18:44:18

Sun 22 May 2005


Saw "Live From Paradise" by Station House Opera at the Mailbox as part of the Fierce Festival. A performance piece which takes place in three locations simultaneously: Birmingham, Colchester and London. It left me quite confused... by the end, I'd pretty much worked out how many characters there were (one unique to each location and two who appeared in the other locations), making ... thinking...erm...that's 7. But I don't think it was really a piece with plot. To me, it really seemed to be a piece developed from a series of improvisations, and I wasn't really sure of any direction... there was one theme, of characters communicating between the spaces, even of a plan(map) showing the connections, but nothing which I could easily explain without giving too much away.

Performance-wise, it was very interesting, with lots of very tight camera-work (remember, we're watching live in Brum + video screens from other places), and some funny scenes with cross-location pianos, and dancing. I did enjoy it, I'd say "go see it", but I didn't pick up the uptopian themes which the blurb promised.

Best Bits: The "yes,yes,yes, no" tease + dancing
Worst Bits: Spending the first 20 minutes in total confusion
In short: Found geography, lost plot.

Another one bites the dust?

Through the BBC new website, I saw a story from 2003 which told me that the Leatherback Turtle might be extinct in 10 to 30 years (or 7 to 27 years now). Searching for info, I came across this: I hope that the turtle is still around when this person grows up so that they can fulfill their dream to help save it.

Sat 21 May 2005

More Swallowing

Took some more pictures of The Great Swallow, which are now on their own page.

Subject: Rooty Fruity

Eating at Rooty Fruity at the Custard Factory. First time I've been here. The furnishings are wooden, but in a slightly modern and not too ethnicy style. I got a bowl of potatoes in a creamy sauce, with roasted veg (pictured) for 3 quid. Good value for money, and the veg quite tasty - benefiting from some roasted garlic bulbs and ginger. My fresh orange, carrot and ginger juice (normally 1.75) came free as they couldn't include the apple (machine broken) or ginseng (run out). Staff were friendly, chaty and relaxed. Didn't go for a sweet, but their range of cakes looked good, and I'd certainly return just to try them.

Posted on the move at 15:12:14

Fri 20 May 2005

Subject: the great swallow

Live bloging time again. Outside the rounda to see the first day of The Great Swallow. It's drawing quite a crowd, lots of people with mobile phone cameras held up. The nest looks great, and emits a crackling sound which attracts attention. It's hard to miss! Comments overheard "there's a man in there, it's a work of art", "i think there's a giant eagle in there" etc. The tv people have a van here, but there's no info on fierce, which is a pity.

Posted on the move at 18:12:15

Wed 18 May 2005

Subject: Mobile Surfing

I'd tried using wap before, but not via gprs, so i'd been paying per minute and it was frustratingly slow. Now I've got it set up properly, after, I must admit, some problems, it's great. With images switched off, it's fast and cheap. At the moment I go through the google xhtml cache / gateway too. Though i've just checked, and my guess that it would somehow strip down the pages to reduce their size was mistaken - in my very rough tests, as many bytes seem to be transfered, mainly as overhead AFAICT. What it does do is break large pages down into sections, which can be useful as it gives you a fixed loading time - if you hit a big page, you won't have to wait for the whole thing to load. Costwise, I'm paying 1 per Mb, and a megabyte is a lot of text! The good thing about gprs is that you only pay for the amount of data you transfer, not the time you're online, so you can get some info and read it, without at am appropriate speed. Hurray (or huspaz as my phone would have me spell it) for gprs!

(Some info on setting up a k700i for internet access - )

Aha! There's also a google WAP proxy, which does convert HTML pages to WML - you can access it at

Posted on the move at 00:00:23

Sat 14 May 2005

Complaint Choir Performance

I performed in the 1st Complaint Choir of Birmingham, the first time I've been on stage since I was in Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat as a kid! We actually performed twice, the first time in the Springhill Institute, then again in the Red Lion pub in Hockley. Both times it went well, though we had one slight glitch in the first performance. In the pub, our audience included regulars who just happened to be there, and they seemed to really enjoy it too. Afterwards, we just wanted to carry on to the next pub and perform there! There will be a DVD produced, not sure how watchable it will be - probably the take we did without the audience was best, but maybe we'll see it at Seven Inch Cinema...

More what's on...

I notice that Fused Magazine has a good online arts events guide at I've added this to my things to do in Birmingham page.

Subject: popped in sold out

Popped in to Jibbering Records to try buy the new single from Misty's Big Adventure but it's sold out! Same story in other places, so I hear.

Posted on the move at 15:38:00

Sat 14th May 2005

Added More Street Furniture Stickers, including my favourite, the plug socket smile

Friday 13th May 2005

Launch party for the Fierce Festival. Didn't get to see any of the acts, though I heard good reports about the band. I did get to meet what described as "plenty of free loading arts folk" but my "lashings of free booze" were limited to a single glass of champagne.

Thurs 12th May 2005

Two plays at the Rep Door, both on the theme of "war", and both one-handers. Gifts of War shows "the girls" partying after news arrives in Athens about the fall of Troy "How clever Odysseus is", drinking naff celebratory cocktails "The Trojan Horse", "Greek Victory", "Death to the Trojans" etc. The greek women are portrayed as like upper-class horsey english women. Our actress has a wonderful fake smile, vital in this situation where she's surrounded by these awful, crowing, greeks!

In The Retreating World, our warm, friendly, funny and traumatised Iraqi protagonist tells tales of his childhood, his grandmother, his love of birds, his clever and excentric school friend, and then the tales of later, during the "first gulf war" and under sanctions. Very moving, wonderful acting.

Sun 08 May 2005

Saw a film about "The Yes Men", who inpersonate the WTO and other organisations, at the MAC. Quite inspirational in terms of the work they do - they seem to put in a lot of effort. Very funny too. Good debate after with Sadie Plant speaking / chairing.

Sat 07 May 2005

Updated my Misty's Big Adventure page to add some new downloads. You can now hear and see Misty's without leaving your seat. They're the best band in the world, so now you've no excuse not to find out what you're missing!

Fri 06 May 2005

Subject: test image

Checking camera settings

Posted on the move at 14:53:44

Thu 05 May 2005

There's so many Street Furniture Stickers out there that I've had to start a More Street Furniture Stickers page!

Wed 04 May 2005

Subject: Complaint choir

Went to the first meeting of the complaint choir, at the Springhill Institute. There were 15 or so people, and we split into groups to make our verses, with complaints themed into city, personal, other people and world issues. I found it a bit hard to get started, but after a break with lovely food, we got our verse sorted. I'm sure there will be modifications on the way, but it looks like a fun project!

Updated Street Furniture Stickers page

Tue 03 May 2005

Subject: Springhill Institute artists talk

Went to the Springhill Institute to hear a talk by Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen ( ) the two artists who are organising a complaint choir there over the next week or so. They showed a variety of work including film scenes written by the public ( ) and set in peoples homes; Wierd experiments by a finish scientist on creating the northen lights; utopian societies based at the north pole and a conference of micronations ( ). Afterwards, I saw an open mic session at the red lion, with a nice laptop set, and various singers and poets.

Posted on the move at 22:16:55

Sun 1st April 2005

Subject: Long Barrows Near Stroud

Saw two barrows near Stroud. The first, nymph barrow, was open to the sky, and gave the impression of being fairly much rebuilt. The sign at the site said it had been plundered to build the nearby road! The second, marked as Uley on the map, was much more intact, with a roof and mound, and an entrance which required you to stoop right down to get through. Inside we found the typical bunch of flowers, a very large spider and a pentangle marked on the ceiling in candle soot. Both barrows were built on the edge of a steep hill, with potentially excellent views though these are now blocked by woods. No photos as out of battery frown, sad smile

Posted on the move at 10:21:23

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See Also: Web Changes for other recent updates, All Blog Pages for previous blogs. You might also want to read other Birmingham Bloggers

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Topic revision: r19 - 31 Dec 2005, andyp
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