THERE are two professional categories constantly abused on
television: doctors and cops. For both, watching a drama dedicated to their
line of business must be very funny. It would be interesting to research how
many doctors committed suicide after watching yet another screen healer
performing a tracheotomy with a pen. It’s the same for cops: what does a real
detective think when he sees Mr Henshall solving a crime case only by thinking
about an unplugged telephone cable?
Shetland is your typical crime drama. Everything about it is
typical. From the plot to the characters, there’s nothing new or innovative
about the BBC programme. The location is very promising; one would expect
scenic waves breaking into the cliffs and sail yachts waving in the bays. What
you get instead is a couple of hills and a car driving (at legal speeds)
between them. And the story won’t bring that much colour either.
A crime mystery that stimulates your whatever part of the brain, this would be the best way of
describing Shetland. You don’t watch
it because you’re caught in the action, you don’t watch it because it’s
beautifully directed, you don’t watch it because you fall in love with any of
the characters. You just watch it because procrastinating in front of the TV
with Douglas Henshall is what people do. 6.4 million Britons watched the first
episode and, whatever critics may say, this simply makes the series a success,
especially for Scotland.
Although episode 2 lost a bit in viewership, maybe it won’t continue into a
larger series, overall it wasn’t a ratings disaster.
The biggest disappointment would be then that Scotland didn’t take a bit more of
a risk in making this special. They just followed a recipe which, while not
going terribly wrong, won’t render IMDb users crazy either. Although the actors
do a great job, the characters they impersonate are simply not that well
contoured. With one exception, it’s not their personality that drives the drama, like in most
successful modern series. It's Tosh (Alison O’Donnell), the
detective assistant, a young woman with a passion for Dutch chocolate vodka that brings a bit of freshness to the characters; it must be the alcohol.
This means there still is potential. If Shetland continues into
something bigger there’s no reason why it shouldn’t improve. Given a bit more
time and money, it could raise to the standard of larger productions, such as
its sister, Mayday. It only needs to be brought into the 21st
Century. The script is a bit outdated; it’s the view of old David Kane on
modern Shetland. And we come to the funny moment when a 16 years old, bored and
probably craving some chocolate vodka, complains there’s no Marks and Spencer’s
on the island.
IT MUST have been
a shock for young Daniel Pipe to find himself immersed in the motherly warmth
of a Victorian bathtub. The water was hot; the steam was healing his lungs. His
skin was infantile, soft and white, lacking in pigment, creased by the boil.
His legs were crouched into his chest, so was his head.
The bathtub is in the
middle of a transparent box. The box is nowhere. It floats in an endless mist
of translucent gas, somewhere in space. If it weren’t for the condensation
dripping down the glass walls, Daniel couldn’t have realized he’s trapped in a
box in the first place. He remembers his grandfather once told him there’s
nothing beyond the sky. But he could never imagine what nothing looks like, until now. He can’t see anything, there’s no
horizon, no shadow, no end. Nothing up, nothing down, left or right, just a
see of transparency and light. Where is he?
He jumps out of
the tub onto the glass floor. He would normally think of a way out, but there’s
nowhere to go, nothing to escape to. Is he dead? Quite possible, but if he were
he wouldn’t ask himself this question. And then it’s the bathtub… He concludes
there’s no logical explanation for what is happening, so he must be dreaming.
Some dreams are so deep you can realize you’re dreaming without waking up. All
you need to do is wait.
But what if he
won’t wake up? There are no holes in the glass box, he won’t be able to breathe
for much longer. Maybe he could make some cracks into the walls, let some air
in. But how can he know for sure there’s air behind those walls, not some sort
of poisonous gas? It’s getting warmer, more steam; the water in the tub starts
boiling. He has trouble breathing.
And then some sort
of majestic creature splashed on top of the box, like a bug on the windshield
of a car. It seems to have fallen out of nowhere. Its limbs are spread all over
the glass, some brown fluid drips out of them. Daniel jumps back into the
bathtub, scared, enduring the boiling water.
His skin starts to
melt slowly and painfully, but he won't get out. It’s the only safe
place. He can see the glass walls cracking under the pressure of steam, like
iced puddles under a boot. He is relieved; he knows it will all end when the
box will crash.
But it didn’t. The
box silently exploded and Daniel found himself falling indefinitely. It’s just
him, in the bathtub, constantly falling through space; he crouched his head and
knees into his chest and began waiting.
men lie. It’s the only way to cope. Some say cigarettes are just as good, some
suggest alcohol. I tried both but truth is, nothing compares to a cold hearted lie,
delivered straight in the stupidly innocent face of your wife, boss, brother…
A man today has no privacy, so he has to
build his own. Power helps, it keeps people away. But sometimes, a door with
your name on it is not enough to keep you isolated from the cheap bourbon stench
of those behind it. You need a bigger door; thicker, carefully guarded…You need
There’s always a self made, thick-fingered
American, to tell me the story of how he built an empire from nothing. Hard work, sweat…that’s the key; he
would say. That and honour, my ol’ man
used to always say…and this is the moment when I want to punch him in the
face and show him what honour means. But instead, I smile and give him a new
catch phrase for the next ad. A lie of course, but a lie that makes everybody
happy. And some rich…
I like to think that we, (m)ad men, make
capitalism work. Of course, in the end, we only sell lies, but is it a lie if
people want to believe it?
It is quite difficult to understand conceptual art. A urinal, a chair, a vinyl record or a messy bed are in the spotlight of any modern art gallery. Art lovers stare at them for minutes, contemplating the genius behind a pile of bricks carefully arranged on the museum floor. But then, if any object can be a museum exhibit, why aren’t we all artists? And if a pile of bricks is a work of art, then what is art in the first place?
From left to right: Joseph Kosuth - One and Three Chairs, 1965; Peter Fischli and David Weiss – Masturbine, 1984; Carl Andre - Equivalent VIII, 1966; Tracey Emin – My Bed, 1998; Marcel Duchamp – Fountain, 1917.
Conceptual art has begun back in 1917, when Marcel Duchamp was window shopping in New York. While cruising down Fifth Avenue, he saw a Bedfordshire urinal in a J.L Mott Iron store and proceeded to buying it. For what we know, he never used it for his daily needs. Instead, young Marcel signed it R. Mutt 1917 and sent it to the Society of Independent Artists’ exhibit. They rejected it…
The point of the urinal, or the Fountain as it is officially known, was to laugh in the face of traditional art, so much focused on aesthetics and artistic skill. Duchamp, who was in contact with the Dadaist anti-art movement, thought that any object can become a work of art if an artist assumes it; in other words, anything an artist spits is art. For example, an artist didn’t have to bother with crafting a sculpture; he could simply pick a readymade from nature and go on display. It was the idea that mattered, not the craft or aesthetic value of the work.
It is why Duchamp’s Fountain cannot be interpreted in a traditional way. At most, you could see in it a giant, white vagina and you could talk about the significance of the pseudonym R. Mutt; but none of this matter. In reality, the urinal is nothing but a good prank a young Frenchman played on artists of his time, a great idea that changed art forever.
But then, if a urinal can be such a great piece of art, why my scruffy gym shoes aren’t in a gallery yet? The answer is simple: I am not an artist and my shoes mean nothing. If they were Pope’s shoes and there was a pot bag hidden in them, the story would have been different. In conceptual art, the idea behind the work has to compensate for the lack of “practical” involvement from the artist. The idea is what turns the object into art and it really has to be great…
Sometimes however, people got fed up with “ideas”…It was the case of Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII, a set of a hundred and twenty piled up bricks, controversially bought by London’s Tate gallery. When you see on a museum floor something you would normally expect to find on a construction site, you might be right to ask “What the hell is wrong with modern art?”.
There are, of course, conceptual artists that can prove there’s nothing wrong with modern art. Two of them are Peter Fischli and David Weiss and some of their work is on display at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art. The pictures in the exhibition are part of the “Equilibres” series, a collection of photographed household items, all on the point of collapse. Ironically, the photographs show one last moment of equilibrium that was made permanent by the use of the camera. The artists generated the cause of fragile equilibrium by putting the objects in weird positions, and then completely eliminated the effect (the fall) by taking the picture. In reality, the objects must have collapsed, but there’s no way we can know that for sure…it’s in a way like Schrodinger’s half dead half alive cat. In their gallery corner, the artists act like god, controlling time and screwing around with Newtonian physics…and this is cool.
From left to right: Peter Fischli and David Weiss – Das Tagwerk, 1984; Peter Fischli and David Weiss – Masturbine, 1984.
Probably the greatest print in the exhibit is “Masturbine”, a photo of a wheel made of women shoes. I like the “momentum” the picture has, it gives the impression that the Jimmy Choo-wheel is about to take off and roll out of the frame. It seems lively although it is a photo of boring leather shoes.
After “Equilibres”, the Swiss duo produced a thirty minute film, going around the same equilibrium obsession. The Way Things Go, also on display at GoMA, shows a carefully built installation that generates a long and elaborate chain reaction. The two artists used everyday items such as bottles, tyres, plastic bags, pieces of wood and chemicals to construct a complicated domino that shows the beauty of equilibrium. It is apparently their most famous work and it definitely is a must see for all modern art lovers.
To conclude, if you’re still not sure what’s what with conceptual art, go to GoMA.
Everybody was outraged by the News of the World phone hacking scandal.
They all rushed to say that the media is some sort of hand of the devil, the embodiment of all that’s evil and bad in our
beloved world of roses and Green Peace. And then, to top it up, the BBC tried
to hide the rather unorthodox sexual orientation of its former star, Jimmy
Saville, thus creating a brand new scandal.
Who can we trust then? The privateers, like
Murdoch, who will hack into people’s phones just to gain a couple more
Strongbow-ed readers, or the publicly funded BBC, who will transform a rapist
into a TV icon?
I’d say none of them. See, I was never
outraged by the phone hacking scandal. That’s because I had very low expectations
from a tabloid like The News of the World.
When you buy a one pound razor, you expect to cut yourself; you’re not outraged
when it actually happens. Same with the paper, low quality, low expectations.
The BBC is a different story. They were
supposed to try and be decent and unbiased, especially when funded from
taxpayers’ money. Now, after all the scandals, the image of the objective and
professional Corporation is dead; they’re not much better than a cheap tabloid
But then again, this is not a problem.
Everybody talks about how the media is deceptive and how it cannot be trusted.
But why would you trust it in the first place? You wouldn’t believe if somebody
in the street told you Cameron Diaz is a rapist. Why would you believe if
somebody on TV told you the same thing?
Overall, the media is there for our
entertainment, not for modelling our lives. We should start from the premise
that it’s imperfect, biased and apparently full of sex offenders. But so is our
every day lives. It’s time to accept the media for what it is.
PS: This means the Leveson report is a piece of crap.
Graffiti is dying…Thirty years ago it could be considered an expression of liberty, a manifesto for freedom of speech, a denial of established rules and a form of art. Today however, in a western world with fibre optic and branded shoes, a graff is nothing more but the effect of a protein powder overdose on some wannabe gangsta kid.
As Diane put it in Trainspotting, the world is changing, music is changing, even drugs are changing. In today’s pragmatic yet hyperreal world, graffiti is a thing of the past, a relic of a period when there was no Twitter to shout your anger, no China imports to accommodate your Twitter and no virtual friends.
Back then, graffiti was a beautiful element of contrast: It contrasted with the grey functionalism of the buildings and with the neat suits of those who built them. It was about free spirit and free expression. Today however, anyone can be a free spirit…and buildings are made of glass.
Graffiti has lost its place in the 21st Century society and it is unlikely to regain it. There is no more reasoning behind it, no more empty walls and, most importantly, no more “graffiti artists”…the old ones retired and the kids today prefer to paint the Facebook wall. However, there are some exceptions.
I found one on a Glasgow building, down from Central station on Argyle Street. I think it is commissioned or at least approved by the City Hall, so there is nothing interestingly illegal about it. This means it can be judged solely for its artistic value, it could be considered, if you want, legal 21st Century mural art.
The first thing to notice is how well it mixes into the brownish scenery of the street, colouring up the area and warming the industrial look of the buildings around.
The second thing to notice is that instead of the gangsta tags and complicated writing, the artist preferred to recreate famous paintings from the likes of Picasso, Da Vinci, Pollock or Dali. There is a Scottish, Irn Bru drinking Mona Lisa with the SECC in the background, and an absolutely amazing “Censored version” of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon. It is ironic and postmodern, exactly how graffiti should be. And, since the artist is unknown to those who pass by, it feels like it belongs to the community, it feels local. I actually know the girl emerging out of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.How much local could it be?
There is a large dose of Scottish humour in the painting as well. The Mona Lisa holding an Irn Bru can is a prime example of that, but there is also a laser protected Van Gogh and a Jackson Pollock Age 8 sharing the same wall with Da Vinci and Picasso.
I like the way the artist managed to give an ironic, postmodern interpretation to famous impressionist, surreal, or modern paintings, and how he managed to prove that you do not need an art gallery for that…the street is his gallery. I hope to see more of these works; maybe graffiti can be resurrected after all.