Breathtaking parkour shots

Roll over, Paris.  Here’s a fantastic set of free running pix, taken in Sutton Coldfield and elsewhere by Marky Lil.

(Thanks to Birmingham: It’s Not Shit for the original link)


Led Zeppelin – pioneers of house music?

Although they didn’t know it, when rock gods Led Zeppelin released the album Physical Graffiti in 1975, they invented a style of music that wasn’t to take off for over five years.

House music.

Oh yes.  Side two, track two – Trampled Under Foot – has almost all of the hallmarks of the seductive dance music that came out of Chicago in the 1980s and was to take over the world – for a while, anyway.

Trampled Under Foot doesn’t have a conventional verse/chorus structure, but bashes out verse verse verse verse with a relentless repetition, based around a jagged guitar riff.  The release of this charging tension comes from an electric piano figure with a lot of the feel of a house breakdown.  It doesn’t have a drum machine, of course, but  John Bonham’s 4/4, underlying the track with precise brutality, does just fine.

Hairy Melon mix

Well, that’s my theory, anyway, so in tribute to this pioneering track, here’s an entirely unofficial remix of it.  I’ve taken out some of the 70s soloing, which sounds a bit self-indulgent now, and laced it with some 21st-century distortion, but it’s essentially the same propulsive tune.

Trampled Under Foot – Hairy Melon mix

I’d be interested to hear what you think about the mix.  And is there an even earlier tune with a claim to be the first house record?

My artwork has arrived

My tiny little part in the Twit2art project, which I wrote about last month has arrived.

In fact it arrived ten days ago, but because my MacBook got soaked to the skin my blogging has been rather disrupted – as was my composure, for a while.

But all is fine now, and so – I’m happy to say – is Twit2art #39:

As well as being an enterprising artist, Jan Leenders was a pleasure to deal with.

He’s currently up to number 52 – which will cost the client 52 euros.  Get in there quick!

11 hours on the number 11 bus

This is a brilliantly mad idea.  Eleven hours on Birmingham’s number 11 bus route on 11 November.

It’s a proposal from Jon Bounds of Birmingham: It’s Not Shit, who has been promoting this wonderful city in his own idiosyncratic way for the last six years.

Sadly I can’t make it (Archers scriptmeeting that day).  But I did once take my sons for an outing on that iconic 26 mile round trip.  Why?  They’re still asking me that question.

Now I can tell them that they should feel lucky I didn’t take them for 11 hours.

Gehry pavilion and the Serpentine Gallery

If you happen to be within striking distance of the centrally westerly bit of London, I can recommend a visit to this year’s summer pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery.

As you probably know, it’s designed by Frank Gehry.  Rather shamefully, this brings the total number of Gehry buildings in Britain to two.  The other is Maggie’s Centre in Dundee, which also features exuberant use of wood, and a scale that lifts the spirits without being imposing.

Inside the pavilion is plenty of staged seating, being used (I imagine) exactly as intended – for sitting, chatting, waiting for friends or just enjoying the space.  When the sun shines, the roof panels (all different as far as I could tell) play interesting shadows on the floor.

And the evenings bring a series of talks, discussions, screenings and live performances.

Just to make this a public space that can hold its head up with the best in Europe, there’s also an excellent kiosk (run by Gail’s Bread) with some fabulous filled rolls and good coffee.

The Gallery – Richard Prince: Continuation

The show in the Serpentine Gallery next door is also worth a mention.  Richard Prince is known for his reworkings of existing artefacts, often of classic Americana, from the illustrations adorning pulp novels – Dude Ranch Nurse, anyone? –  to cowboy imagery and casts of car hoods.

Some are fairly straight translations, while his de Kooning series portrays more disturbing, distended figures, with porn-derived genitalia.

The standout for me in this eclectic selection was his monumental “joke” paintings.  At a distance, they portray a gag pulled from a stand-up routine or magazine  But the fine working that becomes visible at close inspection shows Prince to be not just a clever conceptual magpie, but a fine craftsman too.

Richard Prince: Continuation er, continues until 7 September.

The Park

And finally a word for the overall setting of the Serpentine Gallery and its pavilion – Kensington Gardens and next-door Hyde Park.

Kensington Gardens

On a sunny day, there are fewer nicer places to be than an urban park, with its opportunities for people-watching:

Hyde Park people

stealing a little solitude:

or showing off:

How to put people off contemporary art

Inspired by Nicky Getgood’s excellent Digbeth Is Good blog, I looked up the web page for the current exhibit by the Mexican collective Tercerunquinto at Ikon East.


Stuart Whipps
photo: Stuart Whipps


The exhibit looks great, but oh, how my heart sank as I read the accompanying blurb.

Apparently “the inscription of language onto buildings particularly corresponds with Tercerunquinto’s established interest in institutional self-definition through architectonic modes”.

I’m sorry?

“institutional self-definition through architectonic modes”

Repeating it doesn’t make the meaning any clearer, does it?  I have no idea what institutional self-definition means, and I had to look up the work “architectonic”.  Pertaining to architecture, it seems.  Did someone else have dibs on the work “architectural”, so the Ikon people couldn’t use it?

From the pic, this exhibit is bold and accessible. I could see it appealing to a wide range of people; maybe some who wouldn’t normally sample contemporary art.

But compare it with the words that someone has chosen to drape over it like an obscurantist shroud.

What on earth does the person who wrote this nonsense imagine its effect will be?  It doesn’t interpret the work; it clouds it.  I can’t imagine that many people would be more likely to visit Ikon East having read it – apart from a small group of institutional self-definition enthusiasts, that is.

I like contemporary art.  I’ve recently visited the Psycho Buildings exhibtion at the Hayward Gallery, and the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design end of year show.  I’ve even commissioned a piece, in a very small way.

But I long ago learned to ignore the pseudo-academic verbiage that accompanies contemporary art.  Let the work speak to you directly.  You decide what it means, if it means anything, and you decide how you’re going to react to it.

After all, if you wanted an interpreter, wouldn’t you want one who speaks English?

Last chance to catch Jarvis

I’ve just realised that Jarvis Cocker’s Musical Map of Sheffield is about to drop off the BBC’s iPlayer.

It’s as much a musical map of Jarvis as of his home town.  Shot through with his laconic humanity and with some nice impressionistic audio – as well as some blindingly obvious Steel City tunes, of course.

Engels, The Sweeney, preparing for interplanetary travel, tenacious bits of tree and a cut-price Apocalyse Now.  Well worth a listen.

You can hear the programme here, until 10.30 this evening, 8 July (the link may be broken after that time, sorry).

Oh, don’t be frightened by the organ music at the beginning.  Jarvis’s programme starts about four minutes in.