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Articles, Community, Compassion, Oneness

When Social Media Becomes Anti-Social

November 20, 2015
Photo by Ivan Kerasev

Photo by Ivan Kerasev

I have been a defender of social media. It has been my substitute for face-to-face social connection when I have been unable to engage due to illness.

I am not as much a fan, anymore.

I have very intelligent friends – highly educated, successful, articulate and artistic friends. And yet, the lowest common denominator surfaces and gains a voice time and time again on social media. Rather than bringing “friends” together in a time of crisis, social media seems to be polarizing and breaking down “community.”  When consensus does emerge on one or two ideas, is it because we have given the issue due consideration or is it the product of harried individuals who do not wish to appear apathetic and so, succumb to peer pressure?

I suspect it is not through considered deliberation that consensus has been formed.  In the days following the Paris attacks, how did solidarity with one group come to mean that one has no compassion for another group? How did compassion, prayer and meditation come to mean that one must be either a hashtag activist or a Zionist? When did we become so tired and lazy in our thinking that we allow such reductionist and judgemental conclusions of those we call our “friends” and how did we become willing to engage in shaming them in front of our entire “community?”

We are influenced by our surroundings.  What that influence will be depends on our choice of surroundings.  There is a theory of proximity that suggests that through a kind of intellectual contagion, we can make exponential leaps in collaborative innovation if we are in close proximity to other creative thinkers.  This is, I suspect, the theory behind TED conferences and Silicon Valley clustering.  There is also evidence of emotional contagion in adults.

Emotional and intellectual contagion can uplift or destroy our communities.

I long for inspiration and collaboration and that spark that comes from engaging with others working on very different pursuits but whose ideas and techniques fuel my imagination. I know I have a great network out there, and, like me, that network makes up a largely silent majority, just trying to make sense of life and do more meaningful work, in a meaningful way.

I am observing the people that I admire, this week. They are not engaging in social media polemics. They occasionally post something which may promote thought but they don’t debate.   I have no idea how they are spending the hours they don’t devote to social media, but, I suspect that they are not wading through their news feeds to become offended or depressed.  I hope that they are producing more of the work that I admire and living their lives in the way that I admire – engagingly, compassionately, thoughtfully and creatively.

And so, while I value proximity and I long for inspiration, I have decided to turn off my social media channels for awhile.   I will follow the lead of those I admire, and post only what I hope is food for thought.

I am going to use my time to make more work with which others might wish to engage. If you are interested in non violent, non judgemental, creative exploration and dialogue and in committed action towards an artistic, spiritual and/or social or environmental goal, then let’s connect.  I would love to learn from and be inspired by you and to share my own ideas and energy with you.

Perhaps we can find our way back to the meaning of friendship and community, together.

 

Art, Articles, Meditation, Music, Nature, Oneness, The Practices

Why I choose Art in times of crisis

November 16, 2015
Inside the Musée D'Orsay, Paris France. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Inside the Musée D’Orsay, Paris France. Photo by Tania D Campbell

In 2001, I was living and working in Lower Manhattan. My boyfriend, my social circle, and my spiritual community were all in Manhattan. It was home.

My home came under attack.  I was consumed by the news.  It ate away at my insides.  And then, I turned it off.

Two days after the attacks on New York in 2001, my boss closed the studio and we went to look at art on the upper west side. I can’t even remember what art gallery we went to that day, but I do remember being on the roof and in the presence of incredible sculptures and seeing a sky not filled with smoke, for a change.

That day began my experience of communion, through art.

The very nature of art is to interrogate our perceptions of reality, to question what makes us human, to strip away all that is unnecessary in order to find the essence.  The ultimate aim of art is simply one thing only: Truth.

 

Truth, it has been said, is the preserve of the artist, the poet and the mystic.

 

Some would say that Truth is also the preserve of religion and the press.   The spin doctors of political agenda use the media to incite and divide the public.  Our press is owned by corporations with profit motives that dictate certain agendas.  Information is delivered in reductionist snippets and hashtags. There is neither discourse nor freedom in most of the ways we consume “news” from the press.  How can a media so constructed deliver the Truth?  I question whether it can ever even deliver the facts.

I have not lost my faith in the power of the word. I do believe in discourse and the power of the word to persuade. I believe in being informed and taking reports from a wide variety of sources. I believe in listening to scholars and experts and in discussing what is being said. But all of that simply delivers opinion.

Oh I do believe in words.  Words, like all art, can approximate the Truth.  But it is not their content which provides our insight.  Words may only have the power to approximate Truth through the ambiguity of the spaces between those well chosen words.

As in music, it is the silences that give words their meaning.

 

As for religion, it has long been the organising force around which wars have been fought.  Religion became the rallying force for a political agenda driven through the media. Since 2001, the combination of religion and the media has lead to wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, and violent acts of terrorism in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America.

It remains so, now, as crusade and counter crusade strike a chord of familiarity in our collective unconsciousness, whose shared history is one of bloodshed and violence as much as peace and progress.  Currently, there is a lot of talk about the crusades and apocalyptic thinking of a certain group of terrorists.

I am an Interfaith Minister and I chose that path because I believe in the Truth of Oneness that lies at the heart of all of humanity regardless of belief.  It is a rejection of the divisive power of Religions to embrace all faiths and all paths of light whose aim is to seek the Truth  – including the paths of atheism and of science.    There are some that call this a nonsense path in the face of opposing ideologies born in the Middle Ages.  They are entitled to their beliefs, as well. And beliefs are simply that: they are not facts and they are not Truth.

And the argument goes: But how can we stand aside and do nothing when one side has already set up camp on the battlefield?  It is a good argument, if we look at the logic and the rhetoric and if we choose to believe that our God takes sides.

And yet, setting up battle camps on either side of this line, will surely, with today’s technology of killing, usher in a bloody war that we may well wish would unleash the apocalypse.

 

The mystic knows that in every religion, there is one way to know God. It is not from the pulpit nor on the battlefield.  God, in all religions, is revealed in the silence of the heart.

And if we choose to kill God and all concepts of God, we find that it is in the silence of meditation, contemplation, and communion with art and with nature that we can experience what we might call Oneness.

 

As the world struggles to make sense of an outer existence that has once again shown itself to be chaotic, distressing and unpredictable, I choose to turn off the media barrage and seek the one unchanging Truth of Oneness.

I meditate, I send healing to the hearts of family and friends of the dead and for the passage of the souls of the dead, and of course, I cry.  I make inquiries of friends who have been impacted and I listen.  I select my news and I engage in discourse with a variety of sources.  And, with a meditative stillness, I turn to contemplation and communion with art.

On Friday evening, as events were beginning in Paris, I was leaving the Giacometti exhibition in London.  It was an uplifting and deeply moving exhibition.  In describing his own process, Giacometti referred to the material from which he formed his sculptures as the illusion, itself. He sought to pare down the superfluous to reveal the presence of the living essence of being – not of any particular person – but of us all.

In the spaces between the words, in the silence of our hearts, in quiet contemplation with nature and with art, the Oneness of being calls to us constantly because we are a part of it.  We can choose to enhance its light or to shroud it in darkness by what we bring into our collective unconsciousness, our very essence of being.

 

What will you choose, this week?

 

 

Art, Art, Articles, Community, Oneness

Doing Lines: Hyper Collaborative Art Madness

November 7, 2015

Doing Lines, BSMT Space‘s third and final Street Art Exhibition of 2015 opened last night in Dalston.  The brain child of Captain Kris, Tony Boy Drawings, The Real Dill, and Obit, Doing Lines promised to be “hyper collaborative art madness” and “an immersive experience,” according to Captain Kris.  The show delivered on the promise.

"Doing Lines" at BSMT Space. Photo by Tania D Campbell

“Doing Lines” at BSMT Space. Art © by Doing Lines. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Stepping into the space, one is surrounded on all sides by black and white illustration of the character based genre. The individual illustration style of each artist is present but they merge and interact in ways that create vignettes in true improv fashion.

 

From different vignettes, character by Captain Kris (Left) and Tony Boy Drawings (Right). Art © by Doing Lines Photo by Tania D Campbell.

 

An overarching story begins to unfold as one examines details of a sea scape, a naughty sexual encounter on one wall, a haven to intoxicants in another corner and a foodscape on yet another wall which provides for the inevitable munchies that will result from a wild night of partying.

 

An intoxicating corner. Art © by Doing Lines. Photo by Tania D. Campbell

 

The visitor feels as though they have walked into a larger than life comic book where a party is underway.  The text is written in reverse, telling us that we have left our everyday existence and entered inside the world of the story that the images are creating.

The party continues with DJ Seeds on the decks spinning wicked tunes and white balloons covering the floor.

 

Entering the space, reversed text makes the visitor feel they are "inside" the story that the illustration is telling storylines

Entering the space, reversed text makes the visitor feel they are “inside” the story that the illustration is telling.  Art © by Doing Lines. Photo by Tania D Campbell.

 

It is clear that the artists, Captain Kris, Tony Boy Drawings, The Real Dill and Obit have created a fun time for the visitor, improvising the piece, despite the three days and nights of hard work it took to create. The improv does not end with the artists. We are meant to become a part of the story.  The white balloons lay strewn upon the floor and markers lay at the ready for visitors to draw themselves into the story as merry party goers.

 

A visitor "draws himself" into the story. Photo by Tania D Campbell.

A visitor, artist 616, “draws himself” into the story. Photo by Tania D Campbell.

 

And it isn’t just by drawing that one can enter the storyline. A voluptuous naked woman is positioned in a waiting pose for a sexual encounter.  She is drawn exactly at the height where a gallery visitor might be inclined to position himself or herself to enjoy the encounter – were the illustration a real woman, or were the visitor made from illustrator’s ink and able to step out of this world and onto the wall.

 

AVolutuous woman by Obit with face and stabby creature by the Real Dill. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Voluptuous woman by Obit with face and stabby creature by The Real Dill. Art © by Doing Lines. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Masters of mixing performance art with street art, the energy of the piece continued at the opening with live drawing.

 

Live drawing. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Live drawing. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

All in all, an evening of community and mirth was created between artists, and gallery visitors.  A small number of works are available for sale, including a limited edition signed print, and several canvases which had been carefully hung and concealed on the blank walls at the start of the jam.  Keeping to the promise to be different from the usual “paintings on walls” shows, the canvases for sale from Doing Lines were completed as a consequence of being part of the blank wall for the improvisational 3-day illustration jam.

 

A massive amount of fun, the immersive party atmosphere continues at BSMT Space with the Doing Lines walls on exhibition through 14 November.

 

 

Art, Art, Articles

Stinkfish Sets Off an Explosion of Colour on Bonfire Week in London

November 7, 2015

Colombian based and Mexican born artist, Stinkfish, has returned to London with his exhibition, Crossroad Portraits at Pure Evil Gallery.

Art © by Stinkfish at Pure Evil Gallery. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Art © by Stinkfish at Pure Evil Gallery. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

An explosion of colour characteristic of his vibrant portraits, the fireworks of bonfire night was the perfect backdrop for the opening of an exhibition by one of the most energetic and vibrant artists to have painted on London streets and graced the gallery scene in awhile.

 

"Agga(?) Family Values © by Stinkfish. Photo by Tania D Campbell

“Agga(?) Family Values © by Stinkfish. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Visitors to the opening were able to chat with Mr Stinkfish about his work and see the photos of people who have captivated him in his travels and subsequently become the subjects of his portraits.

 

Image of unknown mother and child whose image Stinkfish used as a model for his mural painting. Photograph from wall of images at Pure Evil Gallery, now on display. Photo of images by Tania D Campbell

Image of unknown mother and child whose image Stinkfish used as a model for his mural painting. Photograph from wall of images at Pure Evil Gallery, now on display. Photo of images by Tania D Campbell

 

Within each portrait is contained a tale of the momentary captivation of heart and mind, captured in a photograph, and carried in the heart of the painter through to completion of his portrait. Often unaware of the photographer, these interesting moments with intriguing strangers are immortalised in a combination of stencil and freehand paint on canvas.

 

"Phoenix Girl" © by Stinkfish. Photo by Tania D Campbell

“Phoenix Girl” © by Stinkfish. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Many times, Stinkfish has been asked about his choice of colour palette and over again, he replies that it has come organically. Perhaps by considering the indigenous and folk art of Central America, including Colombia and Mexico, one can see that in the context of this art history with their vibrant reds, oranges and yellows, the equally vibrant palette of Stinkfish, a man of the streets, is organic to cultures from which he comes.

 

image

“Barrio Girl #1” © by Stinkfish. Photo by Tania Campbell

 

These delightful portraits, refreshingly dazzling to the London public are very accessible to aspiring collectors, evidencing the truth of Stinkfish’s  ethos of wishing not to exploit his success but merely to be able to continue to make art available to as wide an audience as possible, particularly through the public gallery of the Street.

 

The exhibition runs through 6 December. Pure evil gallery at 96/98 Leonard Street is open daily from 10-6.

 

 

Art, Art, Articles, Community, Oneness

BSMT Space – Celebrating Community Through Street Art

November 4, 2015
Lara Fiorentino with Art © by Meeting of Styles, UK. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Lara Fiorentino with Art © by Meeting of Styles, UK. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Just six weeks after launch, BSMT space in Dalston has wrapped its second contemporary Street Art exhibition, Death in Dalston.

BSMT launched the space with a first contemporary street art show, Underhand.  The show was a smash success with art by a range of international street artists.

A third exhibition of Street Art, Doing Lines, with Captain Kris, Obit, The Real Dill and Tony Boy Drawings, opens this Friday, 6 November.

In an art community that is often suspicious of the gallery world and is rife with stories of artists failing to be paid for their sales, what makes this gallery able to command such talented artists in such early days of their positioning in the art world? It appears to come down to credibility as fellow artists, good intentions and a sense of community.

 

Good Vibrations

Lara Fiorentino, the gallery owner, is an artist herself, with more than a decade of both fine art and professional decorative painting on her CV. Understanding the art work as well as the disposition of the artist gives her the ability to forge relationships with artists from a wide range of styles and backgrounds. It is her high-end decorative painting skills that helped her transform a dark and dank basement into the beautiful and inviting gallery it is today. But it is perhaps her intuive skill as an artist and a business owner that has served her best.

“I just felt it when I saw this place,” Lara Fiorentino, the gallery, owner said of the BSMT location. “There was no staircase, we had to enter through the landlord’s premises, there was water dripping down and you couldn’t even see the whole space. The walls were bare. It was a mess.” When asked whether it was her ability as an artist to visualise the potential of the space she said: “Yes, I suppose. But I just felt it. And it all comes down to good energy.”

Friends of Lara have said of her that she possesses a rare quality – she embodies the gestalt of the art of the time. It is this good energy which she brings to her endeavours and which makes them a success. An artist herself, she aims to provide a positive creative space for ideas to come to fruition.

“I couldn’t do it without Greg,” she hastens to add. “And Greg couldn’t do it without me. We are a great team.”

Lara Fiorentino and Greg Key at the launch of BSMT Space in Dalston. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Lara Fiorentino and Greg Key at the launch of BSMT Space in Dalston. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Community Making

Greg Key, her partner, is a Street Art curator with a background as an entertainment and hospitality industry professional. He has spent the past several years building relationships in the Street Art community and gaining the trust of the artists whom he and Lara now represent, at the gallery.

I spoke with Greg before the first group show, Underhand, about his motivation for putting on the show and for donating the gallery commissions for that show to the homeless charity St. Mungos.

“It’s about giving back to the community,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out on the street with artists, as they paint, and I’ve seen how people suffer on the streets. It’s only getting worse.” Regarding the artists, he said: “I want to give back to a great community of artists that has embraced me and accepted me as one of their own. They’re my friends. I want to do something special for them.”

Greg Key and Lara Fiorentino with Art © by Ekto. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Greg Key and Lara Fiorentino with Art © by Ekto. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Visiting The Gallery

Entering the gallery, there is a sense of ease and community. One is welcomed warmly by the curators and left to engage with the works of art alone or to engage in spirited dialogue with the curators, as one wishes. One gets the sense that the gallery, although a business, will succeed only by helping the artists to succeed in selling their work and by drawing in buyers to a world that is, in many cases, foreign to their own.

BSMT Space, located underground at 5 Stoke Newington Road in London has also filled 620 sq ft space, two alcoves and additional newly renovated room for the launch of a contemporary art collective and social movement, Food of War. The magazine, Funhouse, also launched at the space in October.

The recipe of good vibes and community seems to be working, with back to back bookings through to the end of year, foreign buyers clamouring for pieces, and celebrity gallery visitors like Gilbert and George making appearances at openings. This cozy space, creating community in the heart of Dalston, is well worth the visit.

 

Exhibition Reviews:

Read about BSMT’s  first exhibition of Street Art, Underhand 

Read about BSMT’s second exhibition of Street Art, Death in Dalston

Read about BSMT’s third exhibition of Street Art, Doing Lines

Read about the launch of Food of War

Art, Art, Articles, Community, Oneness

Death In Dalston – Street Art Remembers the Community of the Dead

October 31, 2015

Death in Dalston, BSMT Space’s second Street Art exhibition curated by Greg Key opened this week in London.

image

Flyer Courtesy of BSMT Space. Design by Captain Kris. Artwork by Tommy Fiendish

 

Dubbed “A curious collection of skulls,” the exhibition offers a sometimes sentimental, often whimsical, and sometimes shocking view of physical mortality and of psychological death.

The exhibition coincides with the pagan celebration of Samhain, the secular celebration of Halloween, the Christian marking of All Saint’s Day and the Mexican tradition of welcoming the community of the dead on Dia de Los Meurtos.

image

Art © by Lennie Lee. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

That is a lot of death and ghosts to pack into a 600 square foot gallery!

 

Art © by Gary Alford. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Art © by Gary Alford. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Yet the visitor is greeted with sight of the whimsical “Disco Ate My Brain” by Alfie Black, a massive disco skull made from a sculpted form covered in hand-cut mirrored glass.  Given the scale of the piece, it should not surprise that it took over 300 hours to create.

 

Detail from "Disco Ate My Brain" © by Alfie Black. Photo by Tania D. Campbell

Detail from “Disco Ate My Brain” © by Alfie Black. Photo by Tania D. Campbell

 

Skeleton Cardboard offers up a wall of merry skeletons complete with his own shrine to commemorate the season.

Art © Skeleton Cardboard. Photo by Tania D. Campbell. Top: "Empire State Skele(L), Chrysler Skele (R) Bottom: Altar, "Nothing Matters"

Details from Art © Skeleton Cardboard. Photo by Tania D. Campbell.
Top: “Empire State Skele” (L), “Chrysler Skele” (R)
Bottom: Altar, “Nothing Matters”

 

Nick Flatt’s painting of a skull with gold teeth against a hot pink background offers another thumb of the nose at the Angel of Death.

 

Art © by Nick Flatt. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Art © by Nick Flatt. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

 

The cow bone and human hair “shrunken skull” of Donald Trump from the collection by Burt Gilbert is a wink to visitors to acknowledge the dark voodoo desires this will evoke in most people in the run up to the U.S. Election.

 

Art © by Burt Gilbert. Photo by Tania D Campbell.

Art © by Burt Gilbert. Photo by Tania D Campbell.

 

Skulls are a common motif on the streets and one might wonder why this theme has captured the imagination of so many Street Artists. We must recall that the skull is a motif in art across the world, from Hamlet’s soliloquy to the skull of his departed friend reminding us that our precarious existence is a choice, to the use of the skull as a reminder of our mortality in the Vanitas paintings of the Dutch Golden Age of painting, to the depictions of Kali wearing a necklace of skulls in Hindu and specifically, Tantric magical iconography.

Triumph over the illusion of life and death in Tantric practice is ritualised by drinking and eating from human skulls, and meditating or making love in burial grounds while the illusion of life without end is challenged by the Vanitas paintings and the words of the Bard.

There is a long tradition of skull imagery in art, yet there is special attraction to the skull in the street art world.  Perhaps it is partly a totem that signals street sense and toughness, as it seems to do for heavy metal fans.  Perhaps it is that, in a world where graffiti and throw ups must be done quickly, the skull, as a universal symbol, offers an immediate and rapidly delivered message to the viewer.

An affront to the denial of our immortality in a culture that glorifies youth and discards the elderly, the use of the skull by Street Artists of London dismantles our illusions of reality and questions the meaning of our altogether too short existence.

Resistance to the death of independent thought and of our very humanity within in a world where we work to consume like automatons caught in a macabre capitalist system, Street Art challenges our perception of the meaning of life, and particularly, the walking death of our modern existence.

In a world of information overload, the depiction of the human form devoid of flesh flips the message inside out allowing the subtext of the message to smack the viewer in the face and scream: “Wake up, while there is still time!”

This urgency is conveyed by the threads that surround the wonderful threaded skeleton by Perspicere.

Art © by Perspicere. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Art © by Perspicere. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Wrapped in a shroud, the viewer is reminded that only a thread separates life from our inevitable death.

Drawing on our cultural references of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven and Hitchcock’s The Birds, Ali Hamish’s suited and booted man is already dead.  His skeletal face smiles at the world as his bony hand reaches out, as if to strike a deal.  The subject continues to walk through his empty life, complete with his elite corporate job.

Art © by Ali Hamish. Photo by Tania D Campbell.

Art © by Ali Hamish. Photo by Tania D Campbell.

 

In a more sentimental vein, the painting of Alex Illusra Feccia takes as its base, the X-Rays of his brother’s skull, acknowledging for the viewer that we actually suffer the least from our own death. It is the death of our loved ones that causes us grief.

Art by Alex Illustra Feccia. Photo by Tania Campbell.

Detail from Art © by Alex Illustra Feccia. Photo by Tania Campbell.

 

Most poignant of all, perhaps, is the installation by Morgazmik/Morgandy, in memory of two family members lost during the year.

 

Art © Morgasmik/Morgandy. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Art © Morgazmik/Morgandy. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

The only piece lacking a skull, the raven conveys death, the crisp autumn leaves evoke the inevitability of the cycle of life and death and the personal mementos of the dead allows what is the artist’s personal loss to touch the viewer and trigger our own pain of loss.

The message hits home: In order to honour the community of the dead we must wake up and live.

Other wonderful pieces by talented artists complete the exhibition designed to meet all of one’s ghoulish needs.

 

Death in Dalston offers a quick trip through the underworld and runs at BSMT Space only through 2 November so don’t miss out.

 

Articles, Gratitude, Gratitude Practice, The Practices

Receiving Thanks

October 7, 2015
Photo: Jonathan Pendleton

Photo: Jonathan Pendleton

Sweet pumpkin lattes, the cinnamon scent of apple pie baking in the oven, leaves catching flight and lingering like a lover’s kiss before tumbling into an auburn and maroon carpet for children to crunch or swoosh aloft in a final hurrah of autumn. For North Americans, these are the signs which begin a season of giving thanks.

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday.  Although it has a tradition steeped in colonialism, if we separate the day from its history, it is a day to celebrate our bounty.  At least, as a Canadian, I was raised to see it this way.  There is no gift giving, no hiding or distribution of candy.  It is, simply, a day to recognise our good fortune and to gather with loved ones.

I am home this Thanksgiving, which is a rare treat. How will I celebrate this year? I hope to do things a little bit differently.

We are not perfect, but we are getting better at expressing our gratitude in Western culture. This whole magazine and my own ten thousand day commitment is based on the practice of expressing gratitude.  But what about the flip side?  Where do we hone our skills in being able to receive gratitude? Stranger still – is it possible to ask for appreciation for those things which matter to us, and from those who are dearest to us?

We know, by now, that being grateful feels good.  Several studies have shown this to be the case. But equally powerful is the experience of being on the receiving end of gratitude – of being appreciated.  Leadership trainers cite one of the most common and easily remedied causes of job dissatisfaction is the feeling of not being appreciated.  It is a costly oversight. People perform better, are more engaged and act more cooperatively when they feel appreciated.  And, if one feels appreciated during the good times, one is more likely to redouble efforts and commitment in bad times.

In intimate relationships,  feeling appreciated is equally important.  One of the keys to relationship success, according to American relationship counsellor and author, John Gray, is feeling appreciated – for both the big and the small things we do for one another.  A lack of appreciation, and the expression of opposite emotions (criticism and contempt)  has been correlated with marriage failure in studies by psychologist, John Gottman.

We all have a sense, that as adults, we are responsible for using pro-social means of getting our needs met and we are aware of the powerful impact of being appreciated, in our lives.  So why is it, then, that we struggle to ask for praise, acknowledgement and appreciation?

Photo: Milanda Vigerova

Photo: Milanda Vigerova

We struggle because to ask for what we need and to beopen to receiving it puts us at risk. We expose our needs and we risk rejection. Brene Brown, leading expert in vulnerability research, admits:  “The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you, it’s courage and daring. In me, it’s weakness.” (Forbes, April 21, 2013)

And so, we are called to be brave, to step into the unknown and to take a risk, when we ask to be appreciated.  We expose our tenderness and our wounds.  But only by exposing them, without shame, can we let those wounds be healed.

I started this piece by saying that this year I would celebrate differently.  In 2002, I was ordained in the Cathedral of St John the Divine, in Manhattan.  My father did not attend my ordination. Every year, when we gather for Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving, he asks someone to say the blessing.   It has never been me.  And that has hurt me.

This may be our last Thanksgiving together, and given that I have worked to model a purposeful life of grateful living, I would like to be acknowledged for my work, and appreciated for this very significant part of my life.  I have asked him to ask me to say the blessing this year. Will it happen? I don’t know.  If he asks me to give the blessing, it will be wonderful. If it doesn’t happen, it will be very sad for me, but it won’t change who I am.  Now is the time to heal this wound or to sew it up and move on with the scar tissue, knowing that I gave it my best and I dared to be vulnerable in order to connect with him.

So, again, I turn it over to you, dear reader.

 Where in your life do you need to feel appreciated?
Where in your life are you willing to ask for it?

If you don’t know where to begin, why not begin with this 3-minute investment in a Ted talk by addictions counsellor, Laura Trice?

I wish you a wonderful season of gratitude.  Please know that I appreciate your presence in my life.

Articles, Joy, Music

The Joy of Jesse Cook

September 30, 2015
Photo: Marcin Nowak

Photo: Marcin Nowak

 

Widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost Nuevo Flamenco guitarists, Jesse Cook wrapped up the West Coast leg of his Canadian tour on Monday night at Chilliwack’s Hub Theatre And Cultural Centre.  With a seating capacity of 550, this intimate venue was filled with an ephemeral upsurge of joyous energy as Jesse Cook and his band threw a rollicking rumba party.

Arriving in Canada from France and Barcelona as a youth, Cook was recognized as a guitar prodigy, and trained as a classical, flamenco and jazz guitarist.  Cook has always sought to work with the world’s finest jazz, flamenco and world-beat musicians.  His newest album, “One World” includes a worldwide mix of such talent and achieves a blend of world music, flamenco and gypsy sounds, weaving new and ancient rhythms from east and west into what has been hailed, in the Whole Note Magazine as “a joyous celebration of alpha wave stimulation and artistic globalism.”

Cook’s band are equally some of the world’s finest musicians in the genre, and many have played with him for over 15 years.  Cook generously featured them throughout the performance and opened the show with each member layering note upon note until Cook took the stage. Violinist Chris Church opened the evening with rapid and crisp string fingering virtuosity.  Church was soon accompanied by one of the other finest flamenco guitarists Nic Hernandez and  shortly Dennis Mohammed took the stage on bass, until the band was completed with Alberto Suarez on percussion.  When Cook took the stage, the audience erupted in adoration for one of the world’s finest musicians that Canada has been quick to claim as their own.

Cook moved the audience with his melancholy Three Days and held them spellbound with Baghdad, following tales by Cook of the impact of 6th century persian music on all music in the world today. Cook lured the audience to their feet with an up-tempo rumba jam in the second set, and built to a joyous crescendo with such favourites as Shake. The  highlight of the performance, however, came in the second encore when the band performed an acoustic version of their 15 year old and greatest hit,  – a cover of the Crowded House ballad, Fall at Your Feet.  Without urging, 550 voices softly sang the chorus back to the band members.  It was a moment of Oneness as if the audience was expressing gratitude to the band for all the years of wonderful world music.

 

A quick survey following the show confirmed that this was, for those interviewed, the best performance they could remember, from any band.  Some claimed it to be the best concert of their lives. Smiles on all the faces were testament to the joyous celebration that only a Jesse Cook rumba party can bring.

Cook and his band now head south of the border for a USA west coast tour and return to the east coast of North America in late autumn/early winter.

In a world where joy is sometimes hard to find, “One World” delivers.  Tour dates and further information are available on Jesse Cook’s website.

Art, Art, Articles, Community, Music, Oneness

From social phenomena to Social Movement: Food of War

September 25, 2015

Amidst the refugee crisis in Europe, the UK visit of the Dalai Lama, and the celebration in Trafalgar Square of UN World Peace Day, last night, a new Social Movement, Food of War, celebrated its launch event to raise awareness of the linkages between food and war.

Visitors to BSMT space in Dalston were greeted with a multi-media and multi-sensorial event.  Music and films played in various alcoves, while paintings and photography challenged the viewer to interrogate the relationship between food and conflict while food and drinks piqued the taste buds as well as the collective unconsciousness.  The aim was to make connections between the sensory experience and the intellectual understanding of the represented conflicts.

In the statement by the collective, we are reminded that:

 

“Above all, food is about power”

 

Visitors saw this power-play in the intersections of the various food and art to be experienced.  Sugar cane juice enlivened the taste buds with the familiar but richer, more essential, flavour of South America as we gazed on Omar Castañeda’s painting “Raped Seeds: Farmers vs Government – Sugar Cane” which depicts farmers greeting police with the traditional Colombian drink.  Peasants opposed the Colombian government in 2013 for offering no protection to small farmers under Free Trade Agreements or against big agri-businesses like Monsanto.  This opposition, depicted as violent in the press, began as a peaceful but political protest through the universal act of hospitality – sharing of food.

 

"Raped Seeds: Farmers vs Government - Sugar Cane" by Omar Castañeda

“Raped Seeds: Farmers vs Government – Sugar Cane” by Omar Castañeda

 

Unlike the Colombian farmer who battles to compete and preserve their heritage seed, Food of War aims to metaphorically plant the seed in the minds of the public and other artists to begin to engage in thought and dialogue around both the current relationships and heritage of Food and War.

Other works evoked different conflicts.  A short film by Omar Castaneda and Monica Rubio about the traditional Spanish food, Las Gachas,  combined with the taste of the food itself, evoked, for visitors the hardships and resilience of the people during the Spanish Civil War.  In another alcove, a documentary film by Quintina Valero accompanied by Italian salad represented the triumph of local communities despite long standing conflicts with the Mafia.  Finally, an offering of hummus sat upon a cloth embroidered with a hummus recipe in several languages, representing the conflict in the middle east.  All visitors were treated to a slice of cake which bore the edible inscription of the Food of War Manifesto

Photography from the ‘Maiden Women’ project by Omar Castaneda and Quintina Valero documents the role of women and food in the conflict in the eastern Ukraine.

“Maiden Women” by Omar Castañeda and Quintina Valero. Photo by Quintina Valero, courtesy of Food of War.

 

In the final room, a short film by Omar Castaneda  juxtaposes violent images of police assault and peasant protest with haunting and powerful music by Carolina Munoz.  Work by the opera singer Hyalmar Mitrotti was also represented.

Upon entering the gallery, the visitor was confronted by the painting “Food Inc. Refugees” by Omar Castaneda, which challenges the viewer to make the connections between the way in which our humanity has been called into question over the refugee crisis in Europe.  This is represented by the desperate refugees found dead in a lorry normally used to transport dead battery farmed chickens.

 

Omar Castañeda With his painting "Food Inc. Refugees"

Omar Castañeda With his painting “Food Inc. Refugees”

Before the launch, I had the opportunity to discuss the Food of War with three of the members of the collective, Omar Castaneda, Hernan Barros and Quintina Valero.

 

Tell us about your organisation, how it was founded and what are your aims?

image

Omar Castañeda

Omar:  In 2010 we travelled to Palestine and Israel and we saw this connection of food.  It was really important in those areas.

For example, to go to a checkpoint you have to leave all your food, if you’re going from the Palestine to the Israeli territories but going the other way,  it is no problem. So we thought okay, there are pretty interesting objects and subjects and ideas that we can develop.

We saw all these problems that they had with food and how they managed to appropriate Western brands and make their own in Palestine.  There was this kind of ‘fight’ in a way.  I  want to be a part of it but the world doesn’t want to let us be a part.  So we thought okay there’s something important happening around these foods.  We – Monica Rubio and I – spent three weeks there.  We started working with the project until Monica became busy with having a family and Hernan Barros came on board as part of the art collective.  We started developing the whole idea, as a group, and we started writing The Manifesto.

 

Hernan Barros

Hernan Barros

Hernan:  There was a lot of discussion with Monica in the beginning because she is a documentarian, Omar is a visual artist and I work with visual effects and I write.  So, in the beginning we were thinking this could be a documentary or this could be a cookbook or an exhibition and then we started debating and we thought this could be a Movement so everyone would be welcome to contribute in different ways.  And, now we have associated artists.  At one point a singer approached us and I thought: “What?” and then Omar said “Of course she can, she can be a part of it!”

Omar and I collaborated and then Quintina joined the movement, once we decided this could be a movement.  Quintina is a photojournalist which brings a completely different angle to the work.  She is more “hands on” –  like a street fighter.  She is the type of professional that goes out, takes pictures and interacts with the community and so she brings that quality, which was a little lacking in us, until then.

When she came along, she really liked the idea and she said let’s go to the Ukraine – something is happening in the Ukraine – and so Omar and Quintina went there and worked for over a month.  The way that she has really influenced the movement is to be more hands on and interacting with the community.

And so, we welcome everyone who can, in a creative way, explore the relationship between food and war through art, ideally under the principles of our Manifesto, and raise awareness of ongoing and past conflicts.

 

Omar:  For us its really important to have the experience from the people; from the situation.  Quintina has the press card so she can travel to places that I cannot, but I’d like to.  So it was really interesting the way we collaborated because she is a photojournalist and I am an artist and so sometimes we clash because we have different approaches but I learned a lot from her and she learned a lot from me and we learned how to work together and how to do a project as a collective.

We want to plant the seeds in the minds of people to think that every time we eat something, there is something behind that.  Nowadays its so easy to go to the supermarket and we don’t think where food comes from so that’s something we want to do – to make people aware of what’s behind the produce that we eat.

 

Tell us about your name: Why Food of War and not Food of Peace?

Hernan:  We were just discussing this yesterday and we were saying that it is in times of peace that we appreciate the consequences of war and we are grateful that we are not at war.  But it is when we are at war that there is this power play, all the time, and that is what we like to explore because food, above all things, is about power.  In war, there is a clash of power.  We are not pro war, we just like to observe it and dissect it, through food.

Omar:  Through our research for our projects we have realised that the things we have nowadays have come from the times of war.  We don’t think these two things (food and war)  belong together but actually they are really linked.  Many of our ‘fast foods’ comes from war – tinned food which came from the Napoleonic war.

Hernan:  Think about Spanish food! Where would we be without all the ingredients the Spanish took when they invaded Latin America?  They took spices and even potatoes so there would be no patatas bravas without that conflict.  It wasn’t a war initially, it was an invasion and then it was a war with the Latin American uprising.  And before that, when the Muslims invaded Spain and continued to influence them for some 800 years, it really influenced the food.  The Moors were powerful so they took what they wanted from the farms but they didn’t eat pork so the pigs were left for the farmers.  So the peasants maximized what they could get from the animal.  That’s why we have chorizo and all the pork based foods from Spain.  They used everything – they even ate the ears.  All the food that remains when we go on a gastronomic tour of Spain is a direct consequence of war.  We eat these in times of peace but they come from times of war.

 

What wars are within scope of interrogation in reciprocal relation to food?

Omar:  I’m obsessed with food.  I’m really passionate about food.  All my projects began because there was a fight between my father and my mother to get control of the kitchen.  In order to show that they had power they decided to buy a fridge.  My mother bought a fridge and then my father decided to buy a bigger fridge to show: “I’ve got money, I’ve got the power.”  And then my mother did the same.  In the end, we had 7 fridges.  And we weren’t allowed to eat the food inside the fridge.

I know its weird.  But that’s an example of how domestic violence can start it off.

Hernan:  We haven’t explored that since we created the movement.  We started working with wars between countries and religions but we are open to do a piece like that.  So far we haven’t but that doesn’t mean we aren’t interested.  We are open if an artist comes with an interesting proposal that isn’t about war between two countries or two religions, but maybe conflict between two communities or neighbourhoods.

Omar:  So its not just war,  its the relationship between food and conflict.  For example I can have a problem with Hernan and probably I can sort it out over sharing food.  In the gallery we have a film with a song about the conflict between the peasants and the government and Monsanto in Colombia so its not just about war between countries, in this case it was within my own country.  We like to explore all of that.

Quintina Valero

Quintina Valero

Quintina: Yes, carrying on with the same theme, we are exploring a future project around conflicts around water.  I have some experience from Spain and how the government and communities are dealing with shortage of supply of water.  We can see that the same issues are going on in other countries.  So, it is not just food, either.  It is food and water and the interactions.  And its great to get to work together because everyone brings ideas.

We get so many people sharing things we’d like to explore.  At least it gets people starting to think about it.

Hernan:  Yes, its like therapy.  Last time I was here in this space at the gallery opening, I was talking to people and I say what I do and everyone says – “Oh well, in my country…”

Omar:  It’s when you say the two words together that people make the connection.  That’s why we aren’t called Food of Peace, because when you put the two together, people say their personal stories.  “Food and War?  Oh, my brother dah dah dah…”

 

Your manifesto refers to your group as a movement and that you don’t take sides in your works or have any party affiliation, the word movement implies evolution and change at the level of civil society.  How does this manifest with your movement?

Quintina:  What we try to do, where there is a conflict, and it is possible, we try to see both sides and document both sides of the story.  For example in the Ukraine, there is a conflict in the East.  We try to show both sides.  At the moment there is only one part in the show but the other part is coming.  Without being on one side or the other, we try to raise awareness of the issues.  We want to show both sides so they see that the same problems are shared.

Omar:  However, we document the wars and the issues but we want to go further and we are planning to do more about those issues.  We see ourselves as helping those people that are in conflict,  building bridges between the parties that are in conflict.  We think we have a social agenda.

Quintina:  But, we are also artists…

Hernan:  We’re people!  We’re always going to have a side, whether we want it or not,  and maybe it leaks into the work.  You try to be impartial but maybe they don’t even let you go there to the other side .  If  we tried to do something on North and South Korea, we probably couldn’t go to North Korea and then people will think hmmm…

Quintina:  Yes, even in the Ukraine I had that problem.  I was with the journalists and as soon as someone was publishing on social media, they would decide you were working with the rebels and wouldn’t let you go to that area.  So its quite difficult sometimes.  At least if we can only cover one side we try to have someone else cover the other.  We try to be neutral.

We work in different ways and we are always learning.  We are learning about the issues, we are learning about each other and we are learning from the food.  We want to make others aware as well.

Hernan:  Yes, it’s like people can go – “Oh, I didn’t know there was something happening there.  I didn’t know there was an issue with food in Western Sahara”

Omar:  We are working on something now for the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl.  We did an exhibition with photographs and propaganda but we are also doing a documentary from different countries.  That is coming.

 

How and why have you selected the dishes and pieces in the show, today?

Omar: We are showing 7 works here tonight and we decided to take the works from artists that have been working with us for a long time and that have most relevance to our message.  We chose the food that is familiar to the audience coming today so that they can understand what we’re talking about.

Hernan:  Like for instance we took the Las Gachas, Hummus and Italian salad, we have a cake with our manifesto and we have a sugar cane drink to represent the Colombian conflict.  And I will ask people to write on edible paper with edible ink.  So we cover the Spanish civil war, the middle east conflict, the mafia control in Italy, Colombia peasant opposition and also the Ukraine conflict and the European refugee crisis.

 

What would you like visitors to take away from this event?

Omar:  This is a multidisciplinary art collective so there are multidisciplinary things going on.  There are no borders.  Food is part of the art, food is part of the cooking, food is something to help you think about the works while you’re eating.

Something is going to happen to them like:  “Oh really, I didn’t know about this conflict…wow, hummus…is that going there?  Oh the immigrants…”  And this idea of  carrying away the dead immigrants the way they carry away dead chickens.

I think people are going to start making links through all of these connections.

Hernan: We’re aiming at that connections that normally you don’t make when you are tasting something.  I call it the forgotten sense – tasting.  The other senses you use for basic survival but you also use them for aesthetic pleasure.  But with food, there is very little sense of intellectual connections of something happening behind this or the consequences that brought this dish here.  A dish is like a biopsy of what has happened.  It’s like cutting a slice of time and space and anything – financially, culturally or socially – can be reflected through a dish.

We are aiming for that to happen if not in this exhibition then it will be the seed for it to start.

Omar:  This is our seed and we want to plant the seed for the movement in every person that comes today and make them think.

Quintina: We are open, we are looking for people to come into the group or even some ideas for future projects.  It’s just the beginning.

 

What is the role of community in the themes you address?

Quintina:  The way we work is we do research on the problem or conflict, the food related to it, and then when we go there, we interview people from all aspects of the community and then, when we can, we offer a workshop to give back to the community and to include food and drawing and art.

We try to bring a seed to open a door to come back and also to work with local artists.  It’s very interactive way we work with the community.

Omar:  Also, we contact NGOs or people working in the countries to be able to go to places we need to go, or to give us ideas of where and how to work in the area.  Thanks to one of the NGOs we got to go to one of the refugees camps in the Ukraine and that was really powerful.  We want to be part of the that to understand the whole situation.

 

What is the greatest hope for this collective movement? What would be a dream-come-true?

Hernan:  To work with as many artists as we can, to increase our knowledge and to raise awareness of as many conflicts as possible.  To reach as many people as   possible.

Omar:  Yes, that’s exactly it.

Quintina:   Yes and there are many ways of collaborating.  When we went to the Ukraine, they arranged a translator for us, sometimes they give us accommodation, we also hope to be connected to other artist collectives, and people from galleries who want to exhibit our work.  There are many ways we can work with people together.

Omar:  Yes but at the moment it is just ourselves funding the project…

Quintina: …and we’ve had to delay our second part of the Ukraine project because there isn’t enough funding.

Hernan:  We are looking for applying for funding for our projects.  We are just at the beginning and we are proving ourselves, still.

Omar:  Today we are making our statement and people can talk about us for better or worse and we are putting ourselves on the map.

 

And finally, because it is the nature of this particular magazine to ask:  For what are you most grateful in relation to this work?

Quintina:  I am very grateful to be invited to be part of Food of War and the first time they spoke to me about the collective 2 years ago I was very interested and excited and I was pleased when they invited me to be part of the collective.  Since then, I have learned a lot from the way they work and the way we work together and the possibilities I’ve had to work on very interesting projects so its very exciting to be part of the group and doing what we do.

Hernan:  For me, it is the opportunity to rescue the forgotten sense – taste – and to take it to another level.  Every time that I meet someone and I see the way they eat and their cultural background,  I am seeing the world through a different lens.  I am very grateful because I had that in me  but I didn’t know how to channel it.  Food of War has given me the excuse to channel it and to pursue it.  I don’t just have Vietnamese food because it tastes so good.  There is a whole story about how Vietnamese food has evolved through all different wars, through the French invasion, through the Chinese invasion and through the war with the Americans.  When you find a eureka moment, when you make all these connections, it makes you happy and you want to share it with everyone.  And it’s not just past conflicts; when it’s about current conflicts its even more powerful.

Omar:  I’m grateful to understand that food is a very powerful tool to communicate with people and communities.  It’s something we take for granted.  I don’t know how to explain it.  I’m so pleased that working on these projects has given me the ‘salt’ to be happier and to learn more about war as well.  Food has that other meaning.

And I would like to thank two of the artists in the show who are not with us today, Carolina Munoz and Hyalmar Mitrotti.

 

Food of War exhibition is on until 30 September at BSMT Space, 5 Stoke Newington Road, N16 8BH, London.

 

“Tantrum” courtesy of Food of War

 

Follow, engage and collaborate with Food of War at:

Website:  http://www.foodofwar.org/

Twitter: @foodowar

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/foodofwar?fref=ts

Art, Art, Articles, Community, Oneness

“Underhand” – Global Community Through Street Art

September 17, 2015

BSMT Space launched a new gallery in Dalston this month, with Underhand, a Street Art exhibition, curated by Greg Key, and drawing from the global community of Street Art.  Artists from Los Angeles, New York, London, Chile, Greece, Norway, France, Poland and the UK are among those represented in the show.

 

Flyer courtesy of BSMT Space, Art and design by The Real Dill

Flyer courtesy of BSMT Space, Art and design by The Real Dill

The Community of Street Art

Street Art, a particular passion of BSMT Space, is very much a global community.  Although associated with vandalism and the gang violence of a few American cities, in the minds of many, the Street Artists represented at BSMT Space are a thoughtful, articulate, sensitive and creative group of individuals.

Academics and lawmakers continue to debate whether Street Art is to be viewed as a crime, or as an art form.  In London, we understand that many legal walls and tunnels exist for the practice of Street Art and graffiti letter writing and so, this magazine leaves aside the legal debate and does not condone or promote illegal activity.  Where illegal painting does occur, (in the absence of any other additional crime), it seems that the marking of a wall entails damage to property, rather than assault to individuals, and so perhaps the punishment might be best aligned with other forms of property damage.

With motives and messages as diverse as the number of individuals, all share a common drive to exercise freedom of thought and freedom of expression at a time when these very freedoms are at risk.  Some may paint illegally; many paint only legal walls  – but all seem to attract the label of “outsider” artists who view the street as a place to reclaim and remake the city, community and society.

Street Art often takes as it’s subject the poor, the homeless, and the marginalised, and reclaims and proclaims the difficult aspects of life that consumer culture represses with a plethora of glossy images of perfection. Street Art often expresses uncomfortable truths.  Within this urban artists’ salon (the street), art works both eschew and comment upon the hierarchical structures of power politics in modern society, including those that exist within the art world, itself.

As outsiders to the mainstream art world, a sense of community and mutual support appears to be a central value of most Street Artists one meets.  Arrive in most towns wanting to paint or paste-up works and the Street Art community will help newcomers find safe and legal spaces for expression.  Far from a closed and self-serving network, Street Artists are often charitable and many walk the talk of local community activism, donating their time and their art to community projects.

As a repository for both our spiritual and shadow selves, Street Art offers a beacon to help us return wholeness to the psyche of the urban communities of mankind.

 

Monsù Plin

The first piece to sell at the opening night was “Self Portrait,” by Los Angeles based artist Monsù Plin.

"Self Portrait" by Monsù Plin; Photo by Tania Campbell

“Self Portrait” by Monsù Plin; Photo by Tania Campbell

 

Similar in style to the characters painted by Plin on the streets, the piece draws upon a global art history with hints of expressionism, cubism and the indigenous and folk art of Central and South America.

The piece depicts three states of being, leaving the viewer to question if this is three perspectives of the same object or whether it represents three emotional states in a given space and time, or indeed, whether this is a reference to the indigenous view of time as circular, where each episode of life is a repetition of a former moment and a precursor of the future.

Like Plin’s street work, the piece strips away the artifice of ego, leaving the viewer facing the primal essence within us all.  The powerful figure conjures the notion of the spirit totem which protects the keeper from evil and evokes the concept of the community Shaman who exists at once, in all times, states of consciousness and places.

With this piece, the exhibition summons and includes both threatened indigenous communities and mankind’s ancestors and future generations.

 

616

Like that of Monsù Plin, the work of UK artist, 616, evokes tribal and indigenous memory from the collective unconscious.

 

"Just sometimes you have to paint inside the box" © by 616. Photo by Tania D Campbell

“Just sometimes you have to paint inside the box” © by 616. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Repetition of line hypnotizes the viewer and leaves one unable to discern the origins of the patterns from any particular culture.  The art suggests African, Polynesian, South American and Aboriginal tribal markings and speaks to the commonality of symbolic language found around the globe.

 

"Where's Your F**cking Tool" © by 616. Photo by Tania D Campbell

“Where’s Your F**cking Tool” © by 616. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

With a subtle witticism characteristic of the works of 616, the painting on handsaw reminds us that for all our technical advancement and urban amenities, we are all still essentially cave dwellers who have evolved little from our leap of advancement: the hand tool.

The unspecified origin of the markings coupled with the reminder of our origins confirms our membership in a single tribe: Mankind.

 

Pyramid Oracle

In his own 3-faced piece, spirituality and transformation are central themes of the art of New York based artist, Pyramid Oracle.  “Evocations Revolve” infuses the show with an otherworldly spirit that is characteristic of  the artist’s street pieces.

 

"Evocations Revolve" © by Pyramid Oracle, photo by Tania D Campbell

“Evocations Revolve” © by Pyramid Oracle, photo by Tania D Campbell

 

The surrealism of the piece seems to call forth a dream from the collective unconsciousness which binds all of humanity in a community of image and myth.   Like Pyramid Oracle’s street pieces, “Evocations Revolve” highlights our struggle to maintain the veneer of an unchanging yet false story of the meaning of “reality”.

The man’s face is weathered, wild and weary, and one face melts into the next. Two faces gaze directly at the viewer, while the central one gazes heavenward, drawing our attention to the unseen. It is this unseen essence that links each to the community of souls.  And, it is this, which lies just beyond our cognition, which seems to infuse light into Pyramid Oracle’s weathered faces, filling them with their profound beauty.

As in many of his works, Pyramid Oracle celebrates the sacred in what we have otherwise discarded – the elderly and the poor.  In seeing them thus restored, the viewer participates in welcoming the marginalised back into “community.”

 

Captain Kris, SpZero76 and The Real Dill

The theme of myth, legend and collective need for meaning is echoed by artists like Captain Kris, SpZero76, and the Real Dill whose character based artwork takes us into the world of storytelling.

 

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Top: “Flailing Limbs” © Captain Kris Bottom: (Left) “Painting the Town” © by SpZero76, (Right) “Untitled” by The Real Dill Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

The style, associated with comics, ‘zines and graphic novels throughout the world, expresses the need for myth and joins a tradition dating to ancient times where symbolic language and image helped define ourselves, our gods, heroes, and communities, through storytelling.

It is through our stories that mankind has handed down our histories and linked successive generations to their ancestors.

 

Saki and Bitches

Like ‘zines, which are sometimes sexually explicit and associated with bawdy humour, Saki and Bitches presents voluptuous and sensuous women in poses and situations one might associate with the male gaze and erotica. Rather than objectify these women, the viewer is challenged to integrate the image of raw feminine sexuality.

 

Art © by Saki and Bitches, Photo by Tania D Campbell

“Erika” © by Saki and Bitches, Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

In a similar way to Captain Kris, SpZero76 and the Real Dill, these works – whether on the street or inside the cover of ‘zines – reclaim the repressed shadow side of our collective unconsciousness as a part of our heroic visions of ourselves.

As a community of mankind, we are made whole by being able to witness these projections of our baser instincts and to accept them as part of ourselves.

 

Skeleton Cardboard

With a stylistic nod to late New York Street Artist, Basquiat, Skeleton Cardboard’s style of paint and drawing on reclaimed and found objects adds a further international flavour to the show.

 

"No photos on the dance floor Plz" © by Skeleton Cardboard. Photo by Tania D Campbell

“No photos on the dance floor Plz” © by Skeleton Cardboard. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Like Basquiat, Skeleton Cardboard uses social commentary as a springboard to deeper truths about the individual in society through dichotomies such as wealth versus poverty, connection versus disconnection, and self awareness versus self image. Skeleton Cardboard’s art challenges and dismantles our assumptions of the good life. His merry skeletons seem blissfully unaware that they are dead, just as a culture of media munching, socially networked individuals have forgotten how to think independently and to connect to one another.

 

"No wifi, Can't breathe" © by Skeleton Cardboard. photo by Tania D Campbell

“No wifi, Can’t breathe” © by Skeleton Cardboard. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

A darker view of community is communicated. Yet, by holding up a mirror to society, Skeleton Cardboard’s work offers an alternative way forward to connection.

The marriage of image with text and symbols, drawing, and painting, goes well beyond the heyday of graffiti in New York, evoking ancient and prehistoric times and reminds us that we are, indeed, a link in the DNA chain of a mankind struggling to form and maintain structures of clan, tribe and community.

 

Fanakapan

UK artist, Fanakapan has long worked with the dichotomy of innocence and violence, with his balloon and candy characters that evoke memories of our own childhoods.  Sometimes playful and joyous and sometimes violent and macabre, his works challenge viewers to consider the ways in which we gloss over uncomfortable truths and sometimes re-invent “false memories” of happier times.

 

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Inflatable horse children of the apocalypse © by Fanakapan. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Whether the “Inflatable horse children of the apocalypse” series encourages us to throw off the veils of illusion of the re-invented childhoods that we, as adults, have used to cope with our pasts, or indeed whether we are meant to be encouraged to live our short lives to the fullest, one thing is certain: Fanakapan conveys the one universal truth which links all of mankind – the inevitability that birth is always chased by death.

 

Otto Schade

Death looms in much of the work of Chilean born artist, Otto Schade.  “Extreme Fishing”  is part of the artist’s oeuvre which focuses on the dichotomy between innocence (or ignorance) and violence at the societal level.

"Extreme Fishing" © by Otto Schade. Photo by Tania D Campbell

“Extreme Fishing” © by Otto Schade. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Familiar images of children at play are disrupted, as weapons – most often weapons of war – replace familiar objects of play.  The children continue playing, ignorant of the deadly nature of the game.

Otto Schade challenges the viewer to question the way in which we have come to see war as a game.  We have become desensitized to the brutality of killing, from playing violent and realistic virtual war games and from accepting the convoluted and dispassionate language of the killing machinery of modern warfare.  The death of a human being is described as as a “win” when an enemy is killed (“target acquired”) and as a “clerical error” when our own soldiers die (“collateral damage”).

The artist confronts the viewer with the blood on our own hands as we turn a blind eye to the reality of the game.  In “Extreme Fishing” the gun that is hooked by the boy’s fishing line points towards the boy.   Death is a moment away, and calls into question the very future of humanity if we fail to stop playing the game.

 

Illuzina

The future of humanity is called into question as well in Illuzina’s piece, “Gaia”.  In the piece, the mother goddess, Gaia, is represented with reference to images of early feminism, particularly the black lesbian feminist who was, for a long time, marginalised in a movement that had been dominated by the perspective of white middle class, Northern privilege.

 

"Gaia" © by Illuzina. Photo by Tania D Campbell

“Gaia” © by Illuzina. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

The painting portrays woman as a powerful agent and offers positive racial and queer imagery.  Referencing the 1970s Black Exploitation genre of Northern cinema, it also calls forth and embraces the global South which has been exploited by the global North for her natural resource riches.

It is the obsession with excessive consumption in the North which has already triggered unpredictable and destructive impacts of man-made climate change.  The global South, with its inability to adapt to these changes, stands to suffer most.

Despite historical geo-politics, we are reminded that the population of the global South constitutes the majority of mankind.  The work not only gives prominence to the South in planetary dialogue but positions the planet as the centre of the discourse.

Illuzina’s work reminds us that there is no future for the community of mankind if we destroy the planet. If She dies, we all die, and we will all join the voices of our ancestors in a community of the dead.

Yet, the piece offers hope.  Gaia sits in a state of potential – unplugged and disconnected to her power.

The message of the piece, and perhaps an underlying theme in much of the Street Art in the Underhand exhibition is this: the marginalised are the majority.  This majority, once awakened and connected to their power as a community, can create positive social, environmental, political and spiritual change.

 

Many other talented artists not already mentioned have outstanding works in the show, making this exhibition well worth the visit.

Underhand runs at BSMT Space until 21 September.

 

Articles, Community, Compassion, Oneness

#Never Forget

September 11, 2015
Photo: J Duclos

Photo: J Duclos

 

The sky. The most beautiful blue. A clear blue sky.  A perfect day.

Parvathy calls. We are under attack. Hysteria. She is going to her daughter’s house. It’s war!

I turn on NY1.

Dad calls. I guess you aren’t going to work today. I don’t know. There’s fires down there.

What the hell is going on?

I see the first one fall. I reach out and scream. ‘No!’ as if somehow my hands could hold it up. Shock. How could a whole building collapse with all those people in it. Just tumble down?

My niece emails me. 12 minutes after the fall. Am I ok? (How did she know? It had to be after midnight there – she’s 11 – what’s she doing up?) I flew in the night before. She is worried I am still on a plane.

She is among the first to check in. Many more will follow. I let her know: I’m ok. I Love you. My sister comes online and stays there with me.

 

The second one comes down.

 

I go down to Shawn’s apartment. Everyone is there, glued to the news. He says come in, don’t be alone. I don’t want to watch anymore. I only want to know they’re all alright. NY1 said give blood. I’m going. I don’t want to be with people, now.

I walk to St. Vincent’s on 13th. It’s only 7 blocks from my house. There is a plume of black smoke from downtown where the towers used to fill the end of 7th Avenue.

 

And a clear blue sky above.

 

I walk against the masses of people moving uptown covered in what looks like baby powder and bits of paper. Someone is yelling on a megaphone: Stay away from downtown. Keep walking uptown! No cars at all.

A crowd has gathered at the corner. They must have seen NY1. They line up to give blood in total silence. We are soon sent away. There is no need for more blood.

Doctors and nurses and stretchers fill 7th Avenue outside St. Vincents. An eerie silence in spite of the mass movement of people. No casualties come. Nobody pulled out. They wait. But it is only injuries of the rescue workers who survived. No rescue.

 

A clear blue sky.

 

Burning. A smell like melted plastic.

I call Terrence several times until I get through. His brother answers and tells me he’s already gone to work – he was on a subway downtown. I say I am ok, I hadn’t been downtown yet and to ask him to call me when he gets home. I don’t hear from him for another two days – he never gets the message. The lines are impossible to get through.

For the first two nights, we both think the other is lost.

I email B-. She comes immediately over from the photography studio at the Pier just 5 blocks away. It will become the morgue for the next few months.

We hug.

Donna checks in. Frey checks in. Maureen. We all want to know: did we lose anyone?

A fighter jet flies over.  In a clear blue sky.

We go to Dag’s on 21st to get food, hardly talking. 8th avenue is a ghost town. We watch a Bollywood movie and eat pasta. A lot of pasta. And cake. I make a bed for her. We sleep. Fitful sleep.

Everyone brings food, blankets, money to the cop shop on my block. City folks bring hot food to the firemen. Volunteers come and assemble at the pier. The news is always on.

 

I can’t understand. And yet a total belief in something bigger than myself replaces despair.

 

A lot of sleep. New threats. Fighter jets and helicopters overhead. Photos everywhere. Union Square Park candlelight vigil and photos. The sweet and acrid smell ever present in lower Manhattan, where I live.

The entire seminary checks in online. We organise.

Exaggerated startle response. Make an escape plan to walk to Donna’s in the Bronx. Get emergency numbers of friends into phone. Make a call chain. Map out the route to the Canadian consulate.

Turn off the television. One hour of news a day.

Get on with life.

Days pass like a dream.

Images. Fear. Sleep. Anger.  And love. Outpouring. Faith.

Take care of yourself, take care of your neighbour.   Watch everywhere and everyone.

Under a clear blue sky above.

 

These are the things that I will never forget.

Articles, Gratitude, Music, Oneness

Centre Stage: Dan Shears & The Velveteen Orkestra

September 9, 2015
Dan Shears featured on Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude.com

Dan Shears & The Velveteen Orkestra (Photo by: Plainview Media)

“While weaving tales of love, heartache and fantasy in his intensely dark and mystical style, Dan Shears is proving himself to be one of London’s more interesting and captivating artists…”

(www.danshearsmusic.com)

I first encountered Dan Shears in 2012 at Union Chapel. He was opening for another folk singer, Charlene Soraia.  Charlene was riding a wave of popularity following a successful commercial campaign for Twinnings tea which used her cover of The Calling’s song “Wherever You Will Go.”

When Dan took the stage, the room fell into an awed hush as our senses were captivated and our hearts were lost.   His bio describes his sound:

 

“Beautiful, flowing vocal melodies, with lyrics that bring to mind carnivalesque lullabies written by a much older soul, cascade over delicate and intricate guitar work and songs so immersed in passion and pathos that they’re sure to haunt the memory long after the first listen…”

Dan Shears has played gigs throughout the UK and Europe and has garnered himself a loyal following.  Quirky, witty and waif-like, his angelic voice floats through dark lyric and complex melodies causing audiences to swoon as he sings of longing, loss and revenge.  Sometimes playing solo, often accompanied by Megan Affonso’s enigmatic harmonies and cello, and by Sarah Boughton on the violin, the sweeping orchestral richness of his sound is fully realized when the full Velveteen Orkestra takes the stage.

 

This evening, London will be treated to such an event at the Karamel Club (Chocolate Factory, 2 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London N22 6UJ ) as part of a Pledge Music event.  I caught up with Dan about tonight’s gig and his upcoming first album, Shadow & Whimsy and asked him about the process of crowd funding his first album.

 

You’ve had a really great crowd funding campaign!

I was very nervous about launching a crowd funding campaign in the beginning.  There is a real risk that you could look really silly in public if you don’t get the interest you were hoping for.  When we launched and people started pledging and sharing the campaign online, I was thrilled but also a little relieved.  We reached our target 2 weeks before the deadline which was great, because now it means we can continue running the campaign right up until we release our album.  It is wonderful to have had so much interest but most importantly, I am so excited to get the album finished and hear it complete, all the way through for the first time. 

 

You’re headlining tonight at the Karamel Club as a result of that campaign – Can you tell us more about that?

I think it’s more to do with us having more band members than the other acts, if I’m honest.  There are other people playing who seem on far more people’s radar.  I certainly won’t get carried away by the fact that we’re playing last, it’s just nice to have been invited to play off the back of our PledgeMusic campaign.  We’ll put on a good show and hopefully let a few more people know about us. 

I understand you’ve had a challenging journey to get this album made?

Actually, since we began making this album, it has been a joy.  The lead up was hard though.  Our third EP was recorded and pretty much complete but then was lost.  A great deal of time and energy was spent trying to get it back but to no avail.  It got to a point where I considered knocking music on the head and just spending my spare time going to watch my football team instead… perhaps if Millwall had been having a better season at the time, things might have turned out differently.  After all that time we decided to draw a line under the music that we lost, put a load of new songs together and make our first album.  Although it has taken a while, making this album has felt very liberating and has definitely brought us together even more, not only as a band, but as a group of friends.

 

How does the new album differ from your previous EPs? 

The new album (Shadow & Whimsy) is heavier than the previous EPs but there are still a lot of elements that have remained in our music.  We are always influenced by European folk music and Americana but with some of these new songs, we have added a bit more bite that I guess is reminiscent of bands we love like Queens of the Stone Age and Masters of Reality.  The horrible situation with the lost third EP bred a lot of anger and frustration, so some of the new songs started to come out a lot more aggressive.  We have really tried to use the instruments to add drama and paint pictures.  The strings and brass instruments add a real elegance in songs like ‘Pound of Flesh’ and ‘Waltz in Viscera’ but there are also songs such as ‘Hook in Your Head’ and ‘The Bloody Anthem’ where they sound like a horror soundtrack.  The last 45 seconds of ‘The Bloody Anthem’ sounds like a thumping gypsy dance around the roaring fires of hell.

 

 

That sounds amazing! I’m curious to know more about the band and how you chose the name? 

Quite a lot of things about our band are juxtaposed.  Musically, artistically and sonically we are both: – elegant yet unrefined; noble yet savage; pompous yet inferior.  We have a sound that some might consider to be nodding towards the baroque composers, yet we do it with a degree of venom and snarl that somewhat tarnishes or humbles that ornate, gilded beauty.  Our lost EP was going to be titled ‘The Street Urchin Opera’ which was kind of leaning on the same theme.  Velveteen is a very cheap material made to look like something very expensive and luxurious so we thought it was a good way of describing a group of penniless musicians playing passionate, operatic music.  The album title of  “Shadow & Whimsy” is another reference to those opposed themes.

 

How did you first get into music, Dan?  Mandolin is rather unusual – How did that come about? 

Joining a band was always something I wanted to do even when I was very young.  I sang in my first band at school when I was 12 just doing Beatles and Kinks songs.  I began teaching myself the guitar soon after that and began writing songs as soon as I could put a few chords together.  Writing songs was always the goal, right from the beginning.  I think I was always drawn towards those dark, melancholic folk sounds but it took a lot of time to actually discover that was the case and where I could find that kind of stuff.  When I began finding out more about the folk music that I liked from various parts of the world, I realised that the mandolin was quite often used so I bought one and decided the learn.  If you can play the guitar then it’s not a difficult transition to the mandolin.

What is your writing process and your inspiration for the haunting melodies and lyrics that are a Dan Shears signature?  What part does the Velveteen Orkestra play in the writing process?

I can’t really be mechanical when it comes to writing, I could never force a song out of me.  Sometimes a song will be complete all but for the lyrics for months before it gets finished.  Suddenly the melodies and word spaces that I’ve been “humm”-ing or “la la”-ing for several months, will align with each other and the words come.  I want people to form a relationship with our music in the same way that I have with my favourite artists.  For me, a compelling melody is your first line of communication. Your melody is like your first kiss with your listener and your lyrics are the warm embrace and the flutter in the heart that says they want keep you in their life.  The Velveteen Orkestra is wonderful at enhancing the aesthetic of the songs.  Illuminating the mood and imagery that emanates from the lyrics or the chords.

 

Well, you’ve certainly fluttered the heart of this fan!  Your lyrics are rather dark.  Should we be worried about you, Dan?  Worried about those who live with you? 

You should all be worried… I’m coming for each and every one of you haha.  I’ve always been drawn towards art that is darker in nature.  I wrestle with the darker thoughts that reveal themselves in my head and exorcise them by putting them on the page rather than letting them fuel anything destructive.  I find being onstage, quite liberating as well.  I share things in songs, I’d be far less inclined to share in life.  I can be a me that I’m a little frightened of being out in the world.

 

Are there any other collaborations in which you are engaged and any other media in which you’d like to work that you haven’t yet?  Why does that interest you?

I have sung vocals on an album with Woody Woodgate from Madness which has been my main collaboration in recent times.  Woody used to teach at my school when I was doing A-Levels so we’ve known each other for a long time.  I hadn’t spoken to him since I left school however, so I dropped him a message one day and he said how spooky it was because he was actually trying to find me so he could ask if I would sing on his album.  Charlene (Soraia) and I have talked about maybe doing a duet one day, that might be fun.  I would envisage it to be something similar to that song Nick Cave did with Kylie.

 I would very much like to get involved in film.  Our music kind of veers towards the cinematic so I think it would be great to get involved with a film project.  A song from the new album is being used in a film over here but it would be great to try and compose some music especially for a film.

Your Pledge Music campaign is still running and there are all sorts of goodies and special offers including a pre-order of your new album, Shadow & Whimsy.  Where can people find those offers ?

Yes!  I have done a little video appeal you’re welcome to share and people can find the album pre-order and other offers at my Pledge Music site:

 

http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/shadowandwhimsy

Can we give the readers a little sample of your music?

Sure, our video for ‘Dressed Up in Sables’ from Shadow & Whimsy is still in editing but will be out soon.  We have a video by Plainview Media of our song ‘The Rest is Silence’ from our first EP, The Eternal Mystery of the Human Heart.  It is softer than our current album but it will give you a flavour of our sound.

 

Where can people follow you?

Everything is under Dan Shears music – that’s Shears like the shears you cut with, because nothing says Rock n Roll like gardening equipment. 

 

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/danshearsmusic

Website:  www.danshearsmusic.com

Twitter:  @danshearsmusic

 

And my final question for you, Dan is this – For what are you most grateful, in this moment?

I am most grateful for my family.