Some thoughts on Deadpool and A Bigger Splash
Merc with a mouth, indeed. Borne along on a constant kick of kinetic energy, powered by a bracing verbal raunch rarely heard in such a mass-market product,director Tim Miller’s entry into the superhero genre upends genre tropes with gleeful derangement. The titular Deadpool may very well be the (anti)hero that current societal spasms of dread and unease needs to call into its service. Sarcastic, most assuredly unhinged, psychosexual, consumed with vengeance as his only motivation (one of the byproducts of which is some actual good), he is a corrective to the inviolable virtue and morality that afflict many superheroes, and which strain credibility. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, not wanting to be a burden to his commited girlfriend, the mercenary Wade Wilson agrees to an experimental procedure which leaves him broken and disfigured-but gloriously, torturously alive. The bulk of the film is an extended chase after the doctor responsible for Wade’s new state in which much destruction and chaos ensue. Near the conclusion there is a filthy declaration of love and devotion that somehow manages a surprising romantic charge. Ryan Reynolds brings an endearing dimension to what could have been a brittle, sour and intolerable character, and there’s good work (and chemistry) from co-stars Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller and Leslie Uggams. The easily offended will instantly recoil, but for the adventurous the film offers plentiful snark and snap.
In contrast, the attractive, prodigal quartet at the centre of Luca Guadagnino’s curious mix of romantic idyll and thriller, hide ugly motivations and schemes under surface gregariousness and cordiality. Recovering from a throat operation on a remote Italian island, a rock star and her boyfriend’s serene rhythms are soundly disrupted by the sudden appearance of her ex and his apparent daughter from a previous fling (although a clammy intimacy is often suggested). As embodied by an obstreperous Ralph Fiennes, this is a character who is endlessly pitched at a decibal level just one or two levels too high, creating a certain unease and discomfort in most every social environment. From the start, all four participants become enmeshed in an increasingly dangerous erotic and emotional frolic, all the while the weather building towards a major tempestuous storm. It’s in its hazy visualisation of a particular brand of sun-baked torpor and languor that the film is most consistently successful.The machinations between the lead characters remain intriguing while the film unspools, mostly due to the efforts of the wildly talented and charismatic cast (including, in addition to Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson) but I’m not sure any feeling is carried out of the cinema. As in his previous film I AM LOVE, the drama suffers from a manufactured sense of melodrama, an empty style. The Italian police are filtered through a buffoonish lens, there are half-hearted, weakly conceived attempts at suggesting the migrant crisis gathering force in the background (given the island’s proximity to Lampedusa), and the film concludes on a blithely sour note that the privileged will necessarily escape all justice and sanction. After a time, these spoiled individuals, lacking in rectitude, cease to be interesting or worthy of investment.
The vast spaces of this gallery demand large-scale shows, and this multi-channel film/panoramic photo installation certainly succeeds in that regard. A transposition of Joseph Cornell’s 1866 London-set novella to early 70’s Lisbon, following in the wake of the Carnation Revolution which overthrew the existing authoritarian regime, the film retains the book’s central themes of revolution and aftermath, in some quarters seen as one of the first works to directly confront the concept of terrorism. The entirety of the bewitching loft area (which, after extensive renovation, is now used consistently as curated space) is devoted to the six screens on which the film narrative unfolds, allowing the spectator manifold angles and perspectives from which to view proceedings, at times guided to watch one action in one space from multiple viewpoints, at others to juggle several concurrent activities unfurling over a sprawl of both public and private realms. I only wish that, as the press notes state, that I had felt the disorientation that an exposure to such an insurgent cavalcade of imagery was meant to provoke, that even in possession of more information than the characters had onscreen, we as viewers were no closer to comprehending the totality of such a chaotic environment. Instead, due to a very (Brechtian) conceptual impulse to heighten the style of performance to a pitch very much beyond the natural realm, and the tendency to drily investigate the tropes of the Hollywood espionage thriller, I found the material distant and untenable. My awareness of it was only as brittle conceptual art piece, with no lasting resonance. The photographs on the ground floor level were of much more haunting effect-four digitally rendered pictures (through a 3d interactive software programme used mainly in the field of animation) of barren lots, forsaken realms, industrial wastelands, and most astoundingly, a hotel right out of a gothic hallucination, all eerie with the absence of any people, hyperreal radiant light forcefully fielding your eye’s movement across each frame. The mood here is noir, and it’s here that the real energy and success of this exhibition is found. The show runs through 24 March at:
I first visited the Print Room for a production at their original location in Westbourne Grove on the site of a former graphic design centre and printworks, and duly described it as the most luxe fringe theatre I had experienced in London. A marvel of minimalist design, public pathways softly and radiantly lit by candles set within a series of glass lanterns arranged at foot level, the space exuded an ethos of class and refinement, a splash of Zen splendour. Fast-forward two years, and the theatre has relocated to the former Coronet cinema in Notting Hill, and the aesthetic has vastly transformed, now appropriately described as artfully distressed, if not disheveled, which is not to say matters have diminished. The look feels entirely harmonious with the environment of a crumbling picturehouse, and the administration has performed wonders with the atmosphere, especially in the basement bar/café, a flatteringly low-lit cavern of nimbly arranged knick knacks, bookshelves, and an impressively repurposed piano which now serves as bar. The programme remains the same, an ambitious mounting of more obscure, early works of major playwrights, scripts by emerging voices, dance pieces, poetry readings, and art exhibitions. The quality of performance in both plays I’ve seen has been of high standard-any flaws in Peter Schaffer’s FIVE FINGER EXERCISE were entirely embedded in the sometimes overwritten text, which tended towards broad characterizations(as an astute critic wrote, the play slots uneasily between LOOK BACK IN ANGER and WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, achieving neither the majesty nor seismic influence of either of these groundbreaking works). Tickets are not stratospherically priced, so taking a chance on a piece will not break a bank account, and you will most likely have a satisfying experience.
More detailed information may be found at:
On my amble of a walk home from the Vauxhall area last week, I stumbled across this most intriguing corner gallery space, housed in a former pub. The current show was in the final week of its run, unfortunately, but the gallery will mount a new show in just a matter of weeks, with a focus on painting and sculpture. As this is the official arts venue for the college, most of the shows are devoted to the work of Morley staff and students in a variety of disciplines, this most recent show dedicated to sound installations. The quality of the work was easily the equal of what you would find in an established gallery, with the emphasis on gifting sound with dimension and volume, the realisation of space. In most instances, I was lost in the headphone landscapes and soundtracks. Most strikingly, a curtained black box invited the spectator into a precarious space wherein a (self-aware?) orange sat on a plinth quietly, helplessly awaiting its sordid fate at the sounds of a juicer preparing its judgement. Somehow, the piece managed to poignantly suggest any human’s vulnerable struggle in the face of mortality. I happened to have the gallery all to myself, so I felt unhurried and reflective, although with the esteemed work on display and the impressive space in which the material was situated, I certainly wished more people were in attendance. The public is indeed most welcome, and entry is free, so the next time you find yourself in the Lambeth North area, make sure to visit this venue. A five-minute walk away is the canteen-style Barista & Baker, the casual deli/café of South London University, located quite fetchingly and attractively in the Clarence Centre development; it’s not glamourous, but it is friendly and warm.
Some thoughts on the experience of Matt Copson’s A Woodland Truce
Being the first of its kind, I (along with every other guest gathered for the occasion, and quite possibly a fair few of the administrative officials) did not know what to expect from this event. My first surprise upon arrival was that the performance was set to take place not in the neighbouring Sackler Wing but inside the elegant, womblike interior of the Zaha Hadid designed restaurant. Arranged on staggered tables throughout the space was a menagerie of luxuriously crafted life-size animals who were to be the cast of the evening’s tale, the backdrop an illuminated screen which occasionally flashed descriptive threads of narrative between soundtracked dialogue, and behind which both accompanying band and vocal performers could be seen in silhouette. The piece itself, in which the gathered group (under the wily machinations of the principle character Reynard the Fox) attempt to subvert the fixed course of nature and biology by disposing of one another outside of ordered hierarchy, felt both obvious and static, and a bit juvenile. The unfortunate use of cliché vocal stylings robbed the piece of crucial pace and drive, as the voices were the sole means of establishing any movement or animation. I also wish it had been a requirement to either have the audience stand or sit as a collective: as latecomers seemed to forego seats, clusters formed in front of the screen, blocking the view of people who had arrived earlier to claim a good view of the proceedings. In the future, I certainly hope that spectators are better organised within the venue. No doubt each subsequent evening will have its own unique temperament and flavour, which is the most intriguing aspect of this new series, perhaps some with more of a promenade structure-it’s well worth attending at least once, perhaps choosing the artist and material from the calendar most likely to pique your interest or curiosity. Drinks and a menu suggested by each participant are available from the restaurant, which stays open following the performance. Please regard the previous post for event details.
PERFORMANCE AND EXHIBITION
The first in a new series of one-off multidisciplinary, experimental arts commissions (incorporating sculpture, sound, lighting, aspects of live performance) under the auspices of Fiorucci Art Trust and the Magazine Restaurant at the Serpentine Sackler Wing, this event has the potential for great sensory reward. I managed to somehow score one of the very last available slots for tomorrow’s session earlier this afternoon, so I will report on my experience in a post early next week. Five subsequent dates (all on Monday evenings) follow throughout the spring and fall of this year. As visibility (and, hopefully, reputation) heightens, tickets may become highly desirable, so I encourage all to research the website and book well ahead of time. The participating artists have worked closely with the staff of the restaurant to create a bespoke menu in some relation to the themes and preoccupations of each piece if you should want to enhance your visit in culinary terms. The ticket price is well within accessible range at £7.50, so it’s fairly easy to take a chance on what could be very rewarding material. Matt Copson, the first rostered artist, features chameleonic folklore character Reynard the Fox as a recurring motif, his featured WOODLAND TRUCE being no exception, wherein Reynard will be joined by four friends for a spirited clash with nature.
……and so with a visit to this South London gallery, I complete my Condo odyssey. Founded and managed by the charming and personable Tobias Czudej (the gallery appellation of which is a phonetic spelling of his surname, so as to no doubt avoid a host of colourful mispronunciations), this is also the newest space of all the Condo participants, its inaugural show launching just last September (although Chewday’s has been exhibiting offsite since 2013 in cities as diverse as Berlin, New York and Los Angeles, as well as London). Tobias kindly took time out of his day to give me a bit of background as to the genesis of the Condo initiative, its reception, and projections for its future-and to offer me insight into his plans for the Lambeth space, a few cosmetic tweaks and refinements. Both artists on display make playful, if assiduously pointed, statements on the crush of consumerism, whereby even supposedly sacrosanct and priceless virtues such as friendship and harmony can be commodified and purchased with a click, Daniel Keller’s AmazonGlobal/Priority Cairn Unit 2 the most piquant example of this absurd, troubling assumption, nature corralled and deformed into inanity, sent to a buyer in a box.
I must amend my post from just a few days ago now, as I need to include this wonderful storefront space in my list of galleries in the Vauxhall area, one more bit of evidence that this is indeed an emerging arts neighbourhood. To the eminent list of Gasworks, Newport Street, Beaconsfield, I may now add Chewdays-one would be remiss to not have a wander through its doors on a day out in Vauxhall .