Bizarre love triangle at the Arnolfini


M enjoyed listening to New Order at the Arnolfini. We didn’t understand much of the rest of the exhibition and may have to go again. Or not.

Update:  the exhibition, from what I remember, was spread over two floors and had quite disparate elements so it was quite hard to understand the message. Here’s a description from the website and I don’t understand this either:

How do we relate to the world through images and objects? How is our vision of the past and the future affected, or transformed, by the contemporary information economy?

Version Control is a large-scale survey exhibition about the notion of appropriation and performance in the expanded field of contemporary artistic practice. Instead of an understanding of performance as a live activity or connected to an exploration of the artist’s body, the exhibition explores performance in a radical sense as a method of making the past present. Performativity, in this way, explores the conscious moment of staging, appropriating, archiving and re-visiting images and other forms of representation, touching on questions of historiography, mediation, subjectivity, and ownership.

This lack of understanding is not my usual experience at the Arnolfini.

Arnolfini, Bristol Artists Book Event 2011

Just when you wondered what else could possibly be happening on this extended bank holiday, it turns out that the Arnolfini will be playing hostess to a chill out event post- royal wedding frenzy, the Bristol Artists Book Event 2011.

Spread over three floors and two days there will be more than 80 artist bookmakers, dealers and small presses from Bristol and around the world showing and selling their work.

BABE provides a relaxed and friendly space to meet and chat to artists about their work and buy works of art. Prices start from just a few pounds.

It is an event organised in conjunction with the Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of the West of England.

Sat 30 Apr, 11am – 6pm
Sun 1 May, 11am – 5pm

Free entry

Imi Maufe: World Atlas
Also, if you get a chance you can take part in creating a World Atlas from memory during the BABE weekend. This work in progress will be on view during the weekend, before being bound into a book at the end.

Arnolfini, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA, +44 (0)117 9172300 / 01,

Baby Boomers, All About Age?

Ed Howker and Shiv Malik were at the Arnolfini as part the Festival of Ideas. Howker and Malik have written the book Jilted Generation: How Britain Has Bankrupted Its Youth.

“Born after September 1979? Struggling to find a decent job, even though you’re a graduate? Can’t afford to buy or even rent a house? No prospects? Welcome to the jilted generation. Things go wrong in society all the time, but rarely do they go wrong for an entire generation” says the summary at the back of the book.

Apparently these two authors did their own research and discovered that today’s young people (31 and under) did actually face a harder time than young people of 30 to 40 years ago. Pardon me for my lack of enthusiasm when Malik told us that he’d had to learn to use Excel and to draw up graphs and everything. Compare that to the 1.38 million hits that social mobility as a search term brings up in Google Scholar.

Some of the issues that young people are facing according to the authors:

  • Being stuck in the rental sector, over 50% of young people rent because they can’t afford to buy;
  • Student fees mean that young people start off their professional lives in debt.
  • General financial situation: increased national debt because of the costs of pensions and the NHS etc.

Why do these things matter?

  • Because young people will stop having children, apparently there is a statistical link to housing and money;
  • Society will lose its communities;
  • People will stop having relationships;
  • People will start leaving the country.

The political part of the discussion focussed on neoliberalism and the rise of Thatcherism. There was some discussion about demographics and market research and how we were now segmented into voters. Politics focuses on short term discussions rather than the real issues apparently.

Also, young people just weren’t involved in politics any more, they weren’t striking, they weren’t protesting and they were generally apathetic. The irony of the pair’s own friends who were policy advisers and that at 29 they told us they were themselves too old to advise politicians seemed to pass them by.

The relationship between the media and politics was questioned and we were told that editors are usually much older and this was the problem.

Ed Howker rejected the idea of class as a determinant of how society works. Then when I questioned why they, two 29 year old journalists, who in general are professionals who will have grown up in families that are better off than three in four of all families in the UK, and both married saw themselves as facing the same issues as young kids from Brixton (an example from another audience member) – Shiv got defensive and wondered why his choice to get married should have any affect.

Most of the talk was based on generalisations, 50% of young people are now in higher education we were told. In actual fact the real rate was 45% in 2008/09. But those 45 out of 100 are not randomly plucked out of the population. Female and male young people face a difference at 51% and 40%, respectively. Also, “currently fewer than one in five young people from the most disadvantaged areas enter higher education compared to more than one in two for the most advantaged areas.” (2010, Hefce 10/03).

It was a fascinating talk and most of it was shallow enough to raise many arguments. Some audience members agreed with the ‘analysis’ and told about how their children spent too much money. Another woman nearly had tears in her eyes talking about how she had to go on the dole in January after being very well educated. I was reminded of the David Icke documentary I saw one time where the existence of lizard people was combined with discussions of 9/11 and terrorism. Just because some elements are true does not mean that we need to believe the rest.

Bristol Temple Meads, the site of the Affordable Art Fair

Bristol Temple Meads, originally uploaded by still awake.

Leaflets for the Affordable Art Fair are distributed at the front of Bristol Temple Meads in the days leading up to the new exhibition at the Passenger Shed. There are also some on display at the Starbucks on Temple Quay and there is much promotion in the local newspaper and around Bristol.

The thought of art being put on display and promoted is a positive one, the idea that a ticket needs to be bought means I won’t be going. There are over 20 art galleries in Bristol and they don’t charge for entrance. The most thought-provoking displays I’ve come across have been at the Arnolfini which also charges no fee for the opportunity to marvel at other people’s creations.

The Affordable Art Fair is at the Passenger Shed, right next to the station this weekend from the 14th – 16th May. 55 galleries will take part in the exhibition of contemporary paintings, sculpture, photography and original prints – and the items are priced between £50 and £3,000.

I remember being hugely offended when someone gently mocked a tour of the Arnolfini as a middle class endeavour. Art is not middle class, I protested, and it’s free to all. There is no privilege being purchased here.

The Affordable Art Fair is not free, although it is half price with a train ticket, and is limited to those who would pay. I would just question, affordable for whom?

Bristol turned out for the second leaders’ debate

Bristol residents turned out to the harbourside location of the Millennium Square to watch the live broadcast of the second election debate. The party leaders Gordon Brown (Labour), David Cameron (Conservatives) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats) took part in a pre-election debate at the Arnolfini art gallery just across the floating harbour from where the debate was shown live. The general election is taking place on May 6 and there is one last debate that will take place on Saturday 24 April.

The issues covered in tonight’s debate were of a more international theme with topics such as immigration, the EU, Afghanistan and Trident. A large police presence in the city centre surrounded the harbour along the Narrow Quay and the Bordeaux Quay. The Bristol Stop the War coalition protested with banners that carried messages about Palestine and removing Israel from Gaza. Once the debate began there were a couple of hundred people that congregated to watch the live broadcast. The evening was completed with a visual display on the walls of the Arnolfini.

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Art in Bristol, a fair amount

I finally finished reading the Guardian’s Guide (Saturday 11 April) this morning and have now added some art exhibitions to my list of things to see. As I’ve put in the effort of typing them out I thought I would share the fun and locations. See some of the following for a lovely little cultural addition. Some end soon.

The Art of 3rd Eye at the Grain Barge for some Graffiti art. Sat, Sun, Tue-Fri 12 noon – 11pm to 2 May, free

Michael Auder: The New Cut film documenting scenarios the artist encountered – Picture This, Mardyke Ferry Rd, Sat, Fri, Thu 12 – 5.30 to April 17

Alinah Azadeh and Rosa Nguyen: The Shape of Things, Textile and Ceramic artist, City Museum, Queens Road

Amanda Beech: Sanity Assassin, Multimedia and Sculpture, Spike Island, Cumberland Road, Sat and Sun 11-5pm

Emma Bennett – Performance artist explains the nature of language, Arnolfini to 18 April,

Sarah Crew and Chris Holman: Once viewed from Afar, Photography and Paintings Centrespace Gallery, Leonard Lane, Sat-Wed 10-5, Thu 10-2

H20 Space: Young People and the Cultural Olympiad, Designs for the regeneration of Weymouth’s waterfront, The Architecture Centre, Narrow Quay, Sat and Sun 12 – 5, Tue-Fri 11-5 to 9 May

Asyle, a reflection

Asyle was shown at the Arnolfini, on Saturday 13 March, as part of the Girls on Film festival.

Four women’s lives are gently approached and glided over in this introspective and quiet movie. The story skips from character to character in a plot centred around an open terrace above a ‘love motel’ which rents rooms by rest periods rather than nights.

Mika, a 13 year old runaway, finds her way to the terrace where she is surrounded by people of all ages who seek to escape the concrete city life. There is a playground, a shed, benches and games on top of the motel and each night Tsuyako, the owner, shoos them away. The stories behind each of the characters slowly unravel to reveal a loneliness and lack of connection. In this tale of modern life, people get lost in a busy city and it isn’t until necessity brings them together that they step outside the solemn day to day reality and find that they were all connected already.

A beautiful film that is definitely worth watching.

Arnolfini, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA, +44 (0)117 9172300 / 01,

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