Apologies for the 19th century radio silence…we’re busily building a whole new look HotelsWeLove … In the meantime, maybe you’ll enjoy this cute animation, by Colombian designer turned animator Fedelpeye, that celebrates some of the world’s most iconic architcts. No prizes for guessing who gets ‘Z’.
An exhibition in Paris at the Maison du Danemark elevates the anarchic mischief-making of yarn bombing to an evolved commentary on issues ranging from animal conservation and weaponry without losing the bite of it activist roots.
If yarnbombing grew out of the ironic revival of knitting and crochet clubs it found its voice in the graffiti movement. But whereas the latter is dominated by spray-can wielding types sporting XY chromosomes and low-hung jeans, yarnbombing is a decidedly more feminine movement. And if you will forgive us making a sweeping statement, it is smarter for it. Whereas some aspects of graffiti – such a tags and repetition of motifs – speak largely of territory marking – the urban interventions of yarnbombing seem more concerned with space reclamation, statement making or delight creating – in part perhaps because each object must be individually crafted.
The Maison du Danemark devotes a considerable portion of its presentational text to proving/defending the knitted objects as works of art. To be sure, knitting has usually been relegated, along with other ‘women’s work’, as craft rather than art. (The relationship of ‘craft’ to ‘Art’ being that of ‘cook’ to ‘Chef’ with the same gender implications.) For us it’s a moot point – whether art is made using wool and needles, steel and blowtorch or coloured pigments mixed with oils and dabbled about with a little hairy stick is irrelevant.
The show is dominated by Danish artist Isabel Berglund’s gorgeous tree. Rendering what is usually hard into something as soft and in need of support creates a Hans Christian Andersen -like fairy tale mood while engendering the desire to tree hug. Or should we say tree hygge? (Don’t worry, out supply of Danish themed puns is now officially exhausted.)
Also on show are French artists Art Oriente Objet’s lovely interpretations of endangered animals from their 1992 series, The Year My Voice Broke. Reflecting on issues of extinction and human’s approach to conservation whereby animals became subject to human laws (governing, we suppose, their movements, migration, procreation etc), the artists decreed it should be “The Year of Knitting for Animals” during which, according to their website, they “would knit as many animals skins as were asked of us”. The Panda and Stag on display are beautifully realised works reminiscent of the ongoing (and somewhat bemusing) craze for taxidermy.
Danish artist Hanne G has taken history’s most common and iconic guns and rendered these objects of – let’s face it – masculine power all floppy and harmless. The Crochet for Peace (2007) series inspires the following un-woolly idea: let’s spend our defence budgets on buying wool for knitted guns and live in peace. In contrast her Lady Weapons (2007) series features feminine and domestic paraphernalia with a potentially violent application such as rolling pins, irons, stilettos and lady razors.
Also on display are knitted and knobbly landscapes captured from Google Earth by the Collectif France Tricot.
The Mailles: Art en Laine show continues until 19 November, 2011. Visitors are welcome to contribute to a communal knitting project and help themselves to cups of tea, bringing a touch of homeliness and sociability to this otherwise crisp, if lovely, space on the Champs Elysee.
For details: see the Maison du Danemark website.
Sometimes simple is simply good. We just came across this video depicting an obscure installation by street artists Brad Downey and Akay… For the Fame Festival 2011 in Grottaglie, Italy, this year, they created a myriad of playful artworks, including a pasta curtain, a Tipping Point paint-meets-donimo effect street painting, shenanigans involving brooms and the deletion of cars (now that’s the kind of Tidy Town campaign we’d like to see more of). Hope you enjoy their little video for more details, see the FAME blog page here.
BTW Brad Downey and Akay’s tipping point installation reminds of this bit of shenanigans by the veteran Swiss artist Roman Signer. For the surreal and mechanically minded, it’s a cracker.
Catch Paris, Delhi, Bombay in it’s final days at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Presenting an overview of contemporary Indian art, the exhibition spaces are broken down into six themes: politics, urban development & environment, religion, home, identity and craft. Additionally there is a final space where French artists have created works in response to the concept of India – which is a little bit unusual (did they run out of Indian artists?). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the exhibition takes a fairly bleak view of the issues effecting India – the ratio of positive to negative art was that of a bindi to an elephant. Nonetheless it’s a great and stimulating show. Our suggested highlights include the pop art-ish yet beautifully crafted ‘ Tara’ , by Ravinder Reddy. This portrait of an ordinary Indian woman is majestic, upbeat and somehow reassuring.
Other highlights include Krishnaraj Chonat’s ‘My hands smell of you’; a dual-sided wall at the entry of the exhbition. One side is covered with electrical cords, keyboards and disused computer mice evoking issues pertaining to both India’s growing digital economy and the perils of unmonitored and toxic computer waste disposal and less than bona-fide ‘recycling’. The other side is composed of soap scented with sweet-smelling – and decidedly organic – sandalwood. The two sides evoke the two faces of India and highlights tensions between tradition and modernity, community and globalisation. Hema Upadhyay’s “Think left, think right, think low, think tight’ a three-dimensional, re-creation of Mumbai’s notorious shanty town, Dharavi, in miniature, was also a crowd pleaser. Created from left-over rubbish it was an all too easy to imagine the real thing.
Among the French contingent we enjoyed Pierre et Gille’s installation of Indian inspired portraits referencing religious iconography with a heavy dose of kitsch. If not entirely unpredictable, India a la Pierre et Gilles was a love match made in polytheistic heaven…gorgeous, lucious and lurid. Finally we enjoyed the ‘Bragdon Pavillion’ by the cool French artist Loris Greaud. Featuring a black room with multiple screens showing loops of hypnotic video art that might described as ‘pared back psychedelia’ alongside a minimalist trance-inducing sound track, Revelation: Music in Pure Intonation by Michael Harrison. After an overload of colour, themes, imagery, noise and ideas it was like stepping off a street in Mumbai and retreating to a kind of meditation ashram. Om.
PS: Don’t get so overwhelmed that you forget to go downstairs and have your photo taken for French street artist JR‘s latest project.
There’s something funny in the forecourt of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. A sleek and slippery object that looks like a curvy space ship crossed with a piece of futuristic footwear has landed. It is in fact a mobile art pavilion, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Commissioned by Chanel, which has donated the structure to the Institute, the pavilion was transported in shipping containers and toured several of the world’s fashion capitals, before coming to rest in Paris where it will be used as an additional exhibition space to showcase art by the Arabic world.
The pavilion is an interesting addition to the Institute which is already on the archi-tour hit list thanks to its own design pedigree – it was designed by Jean Nouvel in the 1980s and was one of President Mitterand’s Grand Travaux.
The pavilion’s first show is fittingly dedicated to Hadid, an Iraqi-born and educated architect, who has since trained and settled in London. Showcasing several of her current projects, with an emphasis on those in Middle Eastern countries, the exhibition seeks to demonstrate a synergy between Islamic influences (from traditional calligraphy to the intricate geometry of mosaics) and Hadid’s style that somehow melds two extremes: organic molecular and geometrical structures such as branching and cell repetition with the crazy artificiality of skyscrapers.
As far as the exhibition goes it’s more of a taster than Hadid’s exhaustive (and exhausting) 2006 Guggenheim retrospective, the tone and content on offer is more promotional than analytical and there’s scant insight about the woman herself.
For all that, it’s an interesting experience to see an exhibition of Hadid’s work in a pavilion that she also designed; the space and the objects certainly inform each other in a stimulating way, though the effect is a little bit like being in a showroom. Certainly, if I was Hadid I’d be bussing in the Saudi’s and those heads of nation states desperate for a new status building that will help put them on the map – if anything can convey the concept of ‘Hadid’ world, it’s this. Not that they need the business. (Aside: too bad they didn’t have Hadid’s cool kitchen unit.)
Twenty years ago Hadid was a brilliant and well-connected academic, dreaming up architecture that was virtually impossible to build; now it’s not. Standing there and looking at her work, gave me an insight to how visitors to the Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret’s Pavillion de l’Esprit Nouveau at the 1925 Exposition des Artes Decoratifs must have felt. I think they must have felt something along the lines of: ‘This is the future’ and ‘WTF?!’.
Dates: Zaha Hadid, Une Architecture runs until October 30, 2011. Information: Institut du Monde Arabe Tips: you must buy your ticket inside the institute, and if it’s your first visit, don’t forget to take the elevator to the top floor for a great view of Paris from the terrace.
We just came across this fantastic little video about New York-based yarn artist Olek. Having transformed herself from struggling creative to (kn)IT girl on the NY street art scene, the Polish-born artist can finally indulge those crazy ideas she had years ago, but never got around to realising, such as crocheting an entire scene from a design by Keith Haring…(pictured). Here she is, talking about hi-jinx stunts like giving the Wall St Bull a nice warm sweater and her recent show, “The Bad Artists Imitate, The Great Artists Steal“ at Jonathan LeVine Gallery in NYC.
Perched to the side of the misnamed Petite Palais in Paris, is the unlikely sight of a silver, dodecagon Apine Refuge hut. This 12-sided little edifice was built 72 years after it was first designed by modernist architects Charlotte Perriand and collaborator Pierre Jeanneret, the less famous cousin and business partner of the Swiss architect Le Corbusier (real name: Charles-Édouard Jeanneret). The structure was initially designed in 1938 and dovetailed with a growing interest in Apline tourism and Perriand’s own passion for the great outdoors. Alas, WWII put a stop to many things, including quirky architectural pop-ups like this one.
The Refuge Tonneau proposed various advantages over the traditionally log cabin. The structure weighs 40 kilos and can be assembled within three days – weight and time efficiency are definite pluses in the context of high-altitude construction. It’s also fire resistant, wind resistant and the aluminium cladding reflects sun/snow glare, reducing inside temperatures on sunny days. Although only 8sqm, this particular model sleeps 8-10 Aplinists, eight upstairs, with another two in the living area if required. (Modernist trademarks such as built-in/fold away furnishings assist in the hut’s transformation.) A larger version of the refuge was designed to accommodate up to 32 people providing they arrange themselves in a circle, sleeping with their heads to the exterior wall and feet facing inwards. (We’ve seen similarily space efficient sleeping arrangements on South American beaches with hammocks swung around a central pillar.)
This model was constructed as a student project in Thônes by ARTE (Art Contemporaines in Thônes) and the University of Technology in Annecy, using materials and building techniques of the 1940s. What it’s doing outside the front of the Petite Palais was unclear to me until a google search revealed that there’s an exhibition of Charlotte Perriand’s work inside.
Perriand may not be as well known as Le Corbusier (gender relations at the time help explain why) but she’s credited with the prototype designs for the ultra-modern kitchens in Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles; she also co-designed iconic furnishings such as the LC2 Grand Confort and the B306 Chaise Longue.
Seen in the context of some of Paris’ grandest buildings, it a truly graphic illustration of the radicalism – and modesty – of modernist architecture. Add the exhibition to your hit list for ‘Things to Do in Paris’ this summer. Charlotte Perriand 1903-1999 until September 18, 2011.
The Raleigh Vektar. Could anything be cooler or more 80′s than this BMX with its own computer console, a PacMan like sound track and a body that looks like it was built from the Star Wars Lego collection? As if that wasn’t exciting enough, the bike’s owner, London designer Tom, has updated the sound system so it connects to an I-Pod. Then one day he was riding it around town and had a chance encounter with the Belgian street artist ROA…
We’re in a run-down house put to artistic use in a large garden populated by mud and odd bits of broken glass. A sort of mosh-pit has formed under the veranda where Angelo Milano, covered in glitter like a grunge version of Gold Finger, is spinning like a demented top while the crowd thrashes out – bemusingly – to re-mixes of 90′s dance hits. Above us, a very big, very pink cartoonish penis has been spray-painted across the ceiling. The overall ambiance is akin to a fertility rite as imagined by Keith Haring and manifested in Italy via Google translator. The location is Studio Cromie, Grottaglie, Italy, an unlikely epicentre of street art. The occasion, closing night of the FAME Festival which had begun oh-so-civilly with a gallery opening and dinner hosted at Milano’s grandfather’s house.
Founded by Angelo Milano of Studio Cromie, FAME references both the Warholian 15 minutes and the Italian word for ‘Hunger’; particularly pertinent in this historically poverty-stricken part of southern Italy that still falters behind the prosperous north.
In the lead-up to the festival in September, the elite of the world’s street artists descend on Grottaglie to paint the walls of neglected buildings, apartment blocks and laneways in the historic quarter, transforming it into a maze of art, Big Ideas, strange tales, satirical jokes and unexpected presences. The festival centres around a gallery exhibition where attendees can purchase tangible artworks, chiefly prints, which helps fund the festival and keeps Studio Cromie ticking over. (If you can’t make it to the festival prints are available for purchase online and obviously the street murals are open all year around.)
ARTISTS: This year you can expect to see Italian artists BLU, superstar of the scene, Erica al Cane whose animal-themed works are incredibly cute and twisty and 108. The Euro contingent includes the witty and incisive ESCIF, wall-sculptor Vhils and the German artist Boris Hoppek. Brits include Word to Mother and the lovely Lucy McLauchlan (last year her works so pleased the neighbours that they bought her drinks and snacks while she worked). Also keep your eyes peeled for US paste-up star Swoon and the geometrically inclined Momo. See the FAME Festival website for a complete list.
TIPS: The festival is fairly organic so keep your eyes open and follow the crowd. In the event that you miss something crucial, e.g. the address for the closing party, try this technique: drive/walk around Grottaglie looking for hipsters and when you find some, just ask where the party is! (Grottaglie is a small town. ) Anyone wanting to visit the festival should check out the FAME Festival website but based on our experience, we thought we’d pull together some of the gaps with a bit of a travel guide for the uninitiated.
GET AROUND: The art is spread across the city and Grottaglie doesn’t do public transport. Plenty of people explore the murals on foot, but there’s no doubt that having a car will speed things up and also enable you to do some regional tourism. We rented a Fiat 500 and it was perfect for the region’s winding laneways. (Regional tourism lures include cutsie whitewashed villages, such as Ostuni and Martina Franca nearby, and beautiful coastline villages such as Gallipoli. Also note food is unbelievably good and cheap.) Failing that, a bike is a good compromise. (See here for info train travel in Italy with a bike.) The nearest international airports are Brindisi and Bari.
LOOK AT ART: Studio Cromie makes a handy little map to the town’s street art which you can collect from the gallery on the opening night. (Bottega Papocchia, Via Caravaggio, Ceramics Quarter, Map link: here.)
The spooky rambling Monastery on the edge of town has inspired some amazing art (watch our Monastery video) but can be tricky to find.
Look for a big red building up on the hill off Via 25 Luglio on your right hand side. It has a sign ‘Instituti Provinciali di Benificenza’ which you can glimpse on this map link: here.)
EAT & DRINK: Note that restaurant hours across Puglia are disconcertingly short – arrive too late and you’ll go hungry (arrive respectively by 1pm/8pm for lunch/dinner). This is particularly unfortunate at lunchtime when all the shops close for the afternoon siesta thus dashing your dreams of a quick bakery run.
Osteria Il Piatto Reale Enoteca: traditional family run joint with friendly service and excellent regional cuisine at reasonable (mid-market) prices. It’s extremely popular for Sunday lunch so book ahead, or be prepared to queue for hours – seated guests will go the full three-courses and then linger over the coffee while your tummy growls. (Via Cavour, 13, Grottaglie. Closed Wednesdays.)
Pizzeria il Forno: Excellent cheap pizza (from €6) in an enormous, rustic barn-like room. It’s very popular with families on a Friday and Saturday night (and why wouldn’t it be?) so arrive early for a quick bite or book in advance. (Via Sicilia, 14/Via Foggia, 12. Tel: 099-5638-927. Closed Tuesdays. May be closed at lunchtime.)
Caffè-Libreria Nomine Rosae: An atypically minimalist arty book store meets drinkery with pared back wood interior and bright red chairs. This is where to find the cool crowd. (Via Risorgimento, 5-7, Centro Storico.)
Vine Caffe’ Di De Giorgio Maria: a typical low-key joint to grab coffee or drinks in thee historic quarter – in good weather you can enjoy the terrace on the plaza.(Piazza Regina Margherita, 16, next to the Salita Immacolta church. Map ref: here.)
SLEEP: Grottaglie isn’t tourist central, so the level of accommodation is not as exciting as that available in some of the more scenic villages elsewhere (eg: Ostuni, Martina Franca). However, if you don’t have a car – or even if you do – it’s definitely the most convenient option for festival go-ers. On the upside, the pricing is very reasonable starting from €35/40 for a single room.
Il Bato B&B: A characterful 18th century house (pictured above) featuring locally made ceramics and materials (we like the looks of the antique floor tiles). It’s situated behind a church in the historic quarter, is very reasonably priced and has free wi-fi. We didn’t stay there, but this could be the pick of the bunch.
Sogni d’Oro: The rooms are plain, but you can bet they’ve been scrubbed to within an inch of their life. The drawcard here seems to be the view and roof-top terrace and a bit of a ceramics theme, given it’s location in the ceramics district.
Maschere Grottagliesi: Situated in a Renaissance building in the historic quarter, it offers three rooms named by different colours. Thanks to the traditional architecture, the bedrooms might be a little on the dark side, but the website does say “the rooms are all furnished with gusto and creativity and respect the ancient structure of the house…making you feel comfortable and cuddled.” We like the sounds of feeling ‘cuddled’ especially when coupled with comic sans.
Gill Hotel: Angelo organises a special rate for FAME festival guests. It’s a serviceable hotel outside of the historic quarter, rooms are spacious and comfortable enough and perfectly clean. It won’t win any awards unless there’s a prize for ‘exhaustive use of the colour coral’, but it’s central and does the job. Avoid the dismal breakfast area – just around the corner you can have coffee, pastries and juice at the friendly and extremely popular neighbourhood cafe Zelig Bar (Via Amendola, 15, 74023 Grottaglie). The exterior is unpromising, but it’s nice inside. Hotel booking: firstname.lastname@example.org
TAKE A HOLIDAY: Grottaglie is surrounded by lovely villages (Ostuni, Martina Franca, UNESCO-heritage listed Alberobello) –which are quite well set up for tourism. If you have a car you could stay somewhere a bit more exciting (like a hobbit-like trulli house or glam masseria) during the festival – or tack on a holiday at the end of it. Follow this link for info about tourist jaunts and alternative accommodation in Puglia.
GET EXCITED!: Check out the video we made about FAME Festival 2010 for Babelgum below.
A while back we were taken up with the idea of buying a Hasselblad. These iconic cameras don’t come cheap and it took quite a bit of patient E-Bay-ing before we managed to snaffle one in our price range. The camera in question came from a retiring portrait photographer in Texas and turned up, lovingly wrapped, with a number of interesting accessories. After years of using digital cameras, looking through a filmic lens of this calibre was a revelation. Shortly after it arrived, we took it to Sweden. (Which funnily enough where the cameras were first made.)
Many months later, we finally had the prints developed! (OK, so we’re spear-heading a sort of ‘slow photography’ movement.) The light metre in the camera didn’t work and the film – which was an out-of-date gift from a photographer friend in Pau – was going to be a surprise in any case. (It was fun to open up an envelope of processed film and wonder what was inside.) Needless to say, there was a high casualty rate! That said, the enjoyment of taking the photographs and a couple of successes were good enough for us. At least, to begin with. Here’s three that turned out. For all their shortcomings I think they convey something of the atmosphere of a Småland lake on a summer afternoon. (You can see a review of where we stayed here.) But this summer, we’re definitely buying a light metre!