Our side and their side…a visit to Famagusta and Salamis

I’ve been in Cyprus this week staying with my Godparents (my aunt (my ‘Nouna’) and uncle (my Dada) on my mother’s side). This is my fifth/sixth visit and on such a small island (and in March) the ‘things to do’ list has inevitably shrunk.

Today was quite poignant, however, when my Godparents, mother and I travelled over to the North side of the island. Cyprus is divided following a Turkish invasion in 1973. It’s a bit of a quagmire – and unnecessary – to try and apportion blame or spat about who did what. The legacy of what became a vicious battle thankfully hasn’t been passed down the generations.

Residents, including many of my family members over here, were immediately displaced and lost their homes and land. It’s been a short ten years since the border between North and South was lifted. My Nouna told me that on the day queues from the South caused congestion on the motorway even a significant way from the border.

What these Greek Cypriots found was bitter; their homes were still there, and so was their furniture and ornaments. Only now other people were living lives there: sitting on the same sofas, seeing their reflection in the same mirrors.

Today we crossed over to the Famagusta region and visited my Dada’s childhood village, Salamis. When he first stepped back over to the North side, he discovered a tableau similar to the one described above. He managed to haggle a painting back. Now the land has been flattened.

IMG_4488His childhood church is crumbling. IMG_4483We could still treat ourselves to wild lemons…and what we thought was a mandarin but was, in fact, an orange lemon.

IMG_4489I can’t imagine how bizarre it is to have such a personal and important part of you – your country, your upbringing – become distant and quite literally a foreign country.

Cyprus remains a beautiful island and becomes even more so when this division and past conflict becomes apparent.

There a vast swathes of the Famagusta area controlled by militia, where no member of the public – Greek or Turkish – can tread. Hotels are still the way they were in 1974 when the bombs started falling. And nature begins to reclaim the land.

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Soops zeitgeist: ‘Teh internet is serious business’

It seems totes appropriate 2 discuss a play about the net in some sort of homage: a reward for the epic bantz. Unfortunately my lingo is limited sad face, wide-eyed blush face.

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Teh internet is a serious business‘ at the Royal Court had the serious task of mirroring the internet on stage. You know: the technically intangible internet; that network that growls and swirls with the everyday natter of a billion people; the arena that has the burden of entertainment, information and transactions; that place where people have the freedom to arrange pixels and become users: whatever they input becomes their identity; that internet.

A ball pit sits at the fore of the stage where characters are tossed aside and emerge. Different internet sites – such as an inflatable group of palm trees representing file sharing site The Pirate Bay – rise and fall from the stage. The set’s walls are tiled with panels where users and Rick Rolls can appear out of nowhere. Giant neon icons are lowered from the rafters. Memes frolic about the stage like cartoons in animal costumes and each user is a carefully crafted image.

Tim Price’s vibrant and imaginative play follows the rise and fall of a Moltey group of hackers known as ‘Lulzsec’ – a real-life hacking group that splintered from the Anonymous movement. Upholding the freedom of speech on the internet was a common interest in a legion of people who didn’t even know each other’s first names.

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The group were responsible for using their prowess to bring down corporate giants who, until then, behaved with impunity on the world wide web. They used lawyers and their weight to replicate their offline might in the virtual sphere. Lulzsex sought to readdress that balance.

The running argument was that the internet wasn’t like the real world. It shouldn’t have to bend to the same rigid social order and limitations that the real world has. And, taken to the extreme, none of the accountability either.

When a security giant threatens to expose their identities in a PR exercise, Lulzsec dupe him into sharing an internet password. They hijack his Twitter-feed and tarnish is career and reputation in one fell swoop: exposing the actual, feeble power of corporations and the contradiction between our view of the internet as a frivolous place, and the reams of sensitive information we willingly pour into it. In a musical celebration the characters smirk and frolic in their polished ensemble: another epic win.

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The repulsed attitude towards ‘real world’ rules infiltrating the internet is explored in a serious of vignettes. A red sign reading ‘Offline’ appears halts the fun. Each hacker’s demeanour changes, they hunch their soldiers, become unsure, or stutter. Someone from the world of flesh stands, high above, attempting to coax them into the natural light, to get a job, to feed their children. It’s a poignant reminder, once again, how the internet offers freedom of form and endless possibilities. It can be utterly liberating or completely destructive for people who are already disenfranchised. Power is always corrupting.

Emma Martin’s staging at the Royal Court was incredible: it was an ambitious, choreographed production that flitted between poignant, flippant, saccharine and seducing. The diverse cast was dedicated and demonstrated great ability. Props to the staging team for achieving the impossible: to truly denote the delicious, delirious and elective multiverse of the internet on stage.

‘Teh internet is serious business’ runs until 25 October at the Royal Court, Sloane Square. All images owned by Johhan Person.

Poetry and Performance Development Day

The Poetry and career development day was hosted by poet Deborah (Debris) Stevenson  at the Roundhouse, Camden. The day was collaborative in spirit and a celebration of writing and the launch of Deborah’s debut collection: #PigeonParty.

Deborah hosted a workshop for 30 of us, winners of an IdeasTap brief. After a physical meet-and-greet (flailing arms and physical mirroring) we were asked to supply, using only nouns and verbs, our motivation to write. We all stammered in our summations; the irony not lost that we were at a loss to deliver in writing. Writers are, after all, typically insular and protective of their work. That attitude was soon dashed as we divided into groups and directed to write ‘speed poetry’; Deborah fired off provocative titles such as ‘Black Jesus’  and ‘Self portrait as a shoe’. Each person in the groups recited their poems to one another and received pithy feedback: e.g. ‘loved that line’, ‘great rhythm’, ‘that didn’t work’, ‘do not continue this poem’ etc etc

The latter part of the day we were all privileged to witness performances, hosted at the Camden Roundhouse, from Deborah’s mentors and fellows in her collective: Mouthy Poets.

This stunning collection of performance poets, musicians and spoken word artists stripped away any reticence I had to be an insular timid writer. The support and companionship evident among the performers was awing and fortifying to experience. They also made me realise that the answer to the stumbling block question: ‘Why do you write’, was identical to the answer to the question: ‘Why do you enjoy being an audience member at such events?’

It’s entering into the space where transmitting ideas and experiences are unbound by normal conventions and expectations. People can expand and unravel through the staggering malleability of language. The voice and its story can be stripped, swirl in poetry or be amplified through video or music.

Deborah requested we condensed the day into a Haiku, here’s mine:

“Leaves and open mouths
explain their grey yesterdays,
unite us today

 

Pen test

Last night Christie’s introduced a collection of fashion illustrations from their archives at their Fashion Illustration gallery in south Kensington. A host of estimable guests, including Tim Blanks and Meredith Etherington-Smith, discussed the status of the artform and its relevance and viability in publishing. Their conversation lamented a purported decline of published works, with David Downton particularly vocal about the artistic field  ‘coughing blood into a tissue…but never dead’. A lot of focus was given to the wane of illustration in commercial magazines and the mainstream.

I was there as on behalf of .Cent magazine, a cornerstone of the magazine is illustrations. Each issue of .Cent commissions illustrators to interpret a piece of creative writing to accompany the prose. In the bi-annual fashion specials (a round-up of key designers and guest-editor’s favourites from the Milan, New York, Paris and London shows) each label featured is portrayed in pen. This an element of the magazine that has a high demand and the supply is invariably strong.

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Publications such as the Economist, Spectator, Metro, Stylist, Sun newspaper and even the Corporate Dispute Resolution all feature illustration to enhance their written features, from satirical doodles to surreal and demonstrative.   From a cynical stance I’d suggest that an illustration cheaper than a photoshoot and more respectable than a stock image. One the other hand, what better way to add a vivid and engaging dimension to an article than a unique illustration: a leap from the imagination.

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As I browsed the collection at Christie’s, any debate as to whether fashion illustration should be considered an art was mooted. The collection showcased intricate displays of impossible worlds and beautiful, minimalist blotches that created a face from profile. Out of context the seed of the drawing maybe fashion – often dismissed as frivolous and inconsequential to the world – but clothes are not the focal points of the various designs. Some are absurd, some colourful, some have narratives and others are a surge of beauty, fantasy and desire.

Exhibition runs until 19 December 2013, 85 Old Brompton Road, SW7 3LD

The Fastest Clock in the Universe

 

This was a seriously impressive play in writing, staging and performance.

Everything is ramshackle in the East End apartment where the characters dwell. An adaption at The Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington was an outstanding representation of lust and misery, love and its delusions. Cougar’s long stints of palpable silence, Captain’s screaming at the free birds, Cougar’s lascivious sideways glance through sunglasses, Sherbet’s spiteful exposition, Cheetah Bee’s reeling monologue (‘I am at the end, you are at the beginning’), and an artful plunge into a willing schoolboy’s trousers as an entrancing fairtytale is regaled in the background.

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Each character in Phillip Ridley’s The Fastest Clock in the Universe is barraged by time and crippled by human cruelty; whether it be fate, to a fellow, or to an animal. In tradition with his history of penning children’s books all characters are named absurdly (Cougar, Sherbert) and innocent details seem garish and haunting. 

Captain has been turned a servile wench in his part salivating and part parental love for Cougar; Cougar is stuck in a pursuit for the folly of eternal youth. His fixation turning him into a tyrant and scurrilous beast..his dick both figuratively and physically the epicentre of his every whim and action. Focusing on trapping time has left him vapid and tormented.

Sherbert and Foxtrot both have time ahead of them. Foxtrot’s youth has led him both easily led and easily led astray. Unaware that his susceptibility to excitement  and developing sense of platonic and sexual romance is under surveillance. Sherbert is in constant pursuit of the truth and sees through masks like only a child can.

Cast: Joshua Blake, Ian Houghton, Dylan Llewellyn, Ania Marson, Nancy Sullivan

 

Ode to maps

I was under the misconception that like dating, replacing errant USB cables, finding synonyms and keeping photoalbums, that street navigation, too, was something that needn’t be physical anymore. The internet made it all better and us all aghast  that the alternative was considered tenable.

This now seems absurd. I used to say ‘fuck, I love google’, ’I live by google maps’, and, oddly: ‘let’s see what goggle mops has to say about where I am/which direction I’m facing.’

As it turns out, it’s pretty fucking simple to decipher where you are on a paper map. Identify the name of a street, work out if you’re more up or down it (I’m still new and but vaguely aware this is occasionally referred to as ‘north’ and  ’south’), and locate where you’re going.

This antiquated (but far from redundant) method has several advantages:

1) It does not require the monetary madame of data when in a foreign country.

2) You control what way your map faces. If you want your perspective to be the only notable landmark of the raging roundabout behind you. It doesn’t automatically swivel around when you attempt to determine which direction is your desired destination is. Occasionally, frustrated screen poking  turns this auto-north off. Alas, having your entire interface in pictures masqueraded as intuitive design, does not allow me to ever replicate this effect by choice.

3) A map can be annotated in several ways. Where you’re staying can have be highlighted in pink with a giant arrow labelled ‘home’ in unperpendicular lettering. This technique can be used with increasing aplomb when it is mastered. Other labels include: ‘nice restaurant’, ‘quite interesting sounding museum’ and ‘go back here tomorrow’. This is, believe it or not, vastly more informative than a swath of indiscriminate, uniform gold stars.

4) None of this:

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Parallels:

1) Neither are particular useful when wet

It was fun but I had to LEAF early…

I’ve just returned from the inauguration of LEAF: London Electronic Art Festival. This actually translates as esteemed DJs camping up across London over this weekend. The event is set to dissect both the bass, synthesiser and the laser shows that often accompany them (and are usually best appreciated when natural light dawns outside). In other words, both electronic music and art.

At the time of my arrival and departure – a bureaucrat workers evening of 7-9pm – the Circus Space was still filling. Everyone was wondering around like you did when trying to avoid the opposite gender at a school disco. Still, there was a Dinos Chapman installation upstairs to keep people entertained.

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The three-screen installation was reminiscent of a comic-strip in old school, bi-colour glasses 3D. There were jarring intersperses of pyromaniac woodland animals, automatic rifles and polluted superhighways, all over an assailing beat. It seemed a bit like it was thought up on the back of a Pret napkin when Chapman’s iPhone popped up with the favour asking to create something to open the show. Then again, I had the same feeling when I saw Tracey Emin’s ‘More Passion’ neon sign that she was commissioned to create for 10 Downing Street’s diplomat-entertainment room.

And then I remembered. They’re rich enough for Clippers coffee shop now.

Out of the Woods

The Victoria &Albert museum – an unchallenged centre-point of London Design Week, joins material sustainability and the poetry of objects in RCA-associated Out of the Woods. Supplied with timber from the American Hardwood Export Council, 12 RCA students were invited to a weeklong retreat. Their goal was to not only design furniture, but build it.

Santi Guerrero working on Num.4

The virtues of building their own designs was learning about the impact on the environment by material and design choices were at the fore. The American Hardwood Export Council is keen to stress that the range of Hardwoods available equals its abundance, quality and sustainability. It’s the job of prose writers, playwrights and professional poets including Patrick Gale, Gillian Clarke and Stella Duffy use the decorative, symbolic and functional chairs as the foundation for creative pieces. The central idea for design and literature was the lifecycle of the chair. The students were given free reign with one obligation: the chair had to be functional. This facilitated a fruitful array of compex joints, environmental investigations and exploration of materials.

Well Proven by Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw

Leftovers by Lauren Davies was a standard chair design stained with the juices from the fruits grown from the varieties of Hardwood Trees. Anton Alvarez carved a triangular prism from a tree trunk in Tree Furniture, starkly combining the natural world with severe angles. Mark O’Flaherty’s Num.4 created a basic-looking chair that on closer inspection had intersections of joints around curves and edges, a demonstration of precision and thorough understanding of furniture composition. Impossibly thin and frail looking-furniture with strength is a common theme in the RCA student’s collections. 

Leftovers by Lauren Davies

Prose and poetry, published in mini-anthology Out of the Woods: Adventures of Twelve Hardwood Chairs, remained in the more human experience in the life cycle of a chair, whereas the young designers’ priority was manufacturing furniture that made best use of materials and granting them longevity. The union of the two allowed the chairs to remain alive, out of the woods and long after the yell of ‘Timberrrrrrr’. 

Tree Furniture by Anton Alvarez

Tree Furniture by Anton Alvaraz

For more information visit:

ahec.org

vam.ac.uk

All images taken by Petr Krejci and Mark O’Flaherty