Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Through the eye-holes at the Ashmolean Museum

As I leave the Japanese galleries I glimpse a masked dancer behind glass in a corridor. The convulsive anguish of her movements and the pale set face make me think of kabuki theatre and shibari (Japanese rope bondage) which I draw for another blog.

Some people pause to watch; school parties giggle; the dancer is an importuning wraith trapped in the architecture.

There is a trend to use museums and galleries for professional performance and random flailing by the public: it is deemed a privilege for punters to turn their back on the works and work out. This can expose vulnerable exhibits to impact and vibration. Today, however, no artefact is in harm's way: the dancer is a nimble flyweight positioned in empty passages.

On my way out I find an information sheet. The inspiration is not Japanese after all.

Marie-Louise Crawley is performing the dance/mime she choreographed in 15-minute segments, Likely Terpsichore? (Fragments).

The title is based on the museum's Roman marble statue of a seated woman minus head, arms and harp who might represent Terpsichore, the Greek muse of dance.

Marie-Louise depicts women from Ovid's Metamorphoses: Myrrha, Philomela, Medusa, and Pygmalion's nameless marble statue who comes to life and, in later versions of the story, is called Galatea.


Marie-Louise Crawley devised this work while artist in residence at the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama where she also contributed to the APGRD's Leverhulme-funded 'Performing Epic' project. Please contact the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford for details of future performances.

Book I can't let go: Collins Essential Calculator

Condition: good

Inscribed, in ink:
To Ken, so you can make billions and billions in the Mediterranean sun.

Probably bought by my father at a jumble sale or church fête within a four-mile radius of Weybridge. So much for the sun. I expect Ken had a calculator.

Published 1975, first and presumably last edition.

Content: computer-set tables for multiplication, division and percentages, including profit percentage on sales or mark-up.  Goes up to 99 x 1050 and 60% margin. 

Some worked examples are provided. 'It takes 77lbs of sand to cover 1 sq. yard. How much sand is required to cover 640 sq. yards?' Answer in tons, please.

Brexiter cult value: high. Salutes imperial measurements and outdated drudgery; ignores need to be competitive in today's market.

Reason for keeping: misplaced nostalgia for a totem of certainty.

Monday, 16 April 2018

'Catch me when I fall.'

'Take your time' and 'Catch me when I fall' are what I overhear most often at this weekend's moko jumbie workshop for children and adults.
A moko jumbie is a stilt dancer in a tradition out of West Africa via the Caribbean. Fully fledged performers wear stilts ranging from four to ten feet high, but here the pupils have shorter practice sticks.

Everyone is calm and happy here. People can't afford to be cross or spiky - they'd topple over. The children are naturals and a grown-up beginner is soon filming herself striding around with confidence.

After walking comes stomping, hopping and dancing for some. No tantrums except from me when I get home and realise that the ink I've been sketching with isn't waterproof. That means I can't just add streaks of colour which I'd hoped to do.

The workshop (led by Alan Vaughan, supported by Marcio Antonio and Igor Tavares) is part of a programme of hands-on carnival arts workshops organised by Carnival Village Trust in Notting Hill.

Life class

Facilitated by Ron Best in Portobello.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Brexit criminal law seminar. No spoilers necessary.

Brexit comes early to Notting Hill
No chance of good news about Brexit: the speaker is wearing his brown trousers.

Unless we can find a way out of this fix, we are being fast-backwarded to the sick-man-of-Europe days while proving de Gaulle right. I remember being bewildered as an infant by maypole dancing, but at least it was affordable entertainment.

I am at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies for a seminar given by Professor John Spencer: Where are we now with Brexit? It is organised in collaboration with the European Criminal Law Association (UK), who are seeking new members.

He is 'in despair about Brexit', which will foster the free movement in Europe of criminals 'unless we go the way of North Korea'.

He has perky slides, such as Bugs Bunny showing us how to fall off a cliff. Another slide refers to the Bayeux Tapestry, itself a victim of Brexit: Macron's good-cop gesture of lending us the fragile tapestry (to sugar the pill of being a Brexit bad cop) is deplored by art conservators. 

Professor Spencer points out that Brexiteers aim to 'wave two fingers at Brussels and moon at Strasbourg'; sections of the media peddle folk myths (for example, that the EU makes member states pressure-cook dead pets); but, in reality, those representing British criminal law interests in Europe post-Brexit are likely to share the curse on the Gibeonites in the Book of Joshua by becoming 'hewers of wood and drawers of water'.

'We've never lived up to what we contributed...never punched our weight,' he says, because of Eurosceptic Brexiteer reservations. Nor is he is kind about the 'feeble, self-referential' campaign for Remain which helped to land us here. He introduces the spectre of Brexit 2.0 - the plan to drag the UK (or what's left of it) out of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In this lecture theatre, the graffito on the dun-coloured concrete wall, UNITED, always has its more or less ironic part to play.