Modelled on the wildly successful “nuit blanche”, a landmark date on Paris’s annual cultural calendar, the inaugural (and free) Art Night takes place in both public and private spaces in the City of Westminster on 2 Jul, between the hours of 5P.M-2A.M. The ICA is curating and hosting the first-year artists and works, and the Whitechapel Gallery has already signed on for the 2017 version, which will see various locations in the East End transformed aesthetically. A few of the more intriguing ticketed events have already sold out their available space (including a sound and sensory installation on the disused Jubilee platform at Charing Cross station and a performance piece in the model apartment of a forthcoming luxury block of flats), but the greater percentage of events require nothing more than gathering in a public space with fellow audience members and enjoying a continuous performance (the night itself is an interdisciplinary stew of every imaginable medium, from dance to film to music to architecture, certainly an orgiastic celebration of all available art forms and currencies). The origin of these “sleepless nights”, which Paris so popularized from 2002 onwards, are the cultural festivals created to keep a restless population engaged during the 24/7 periods of darkness (polar nights) in North European countries, and similarly during periods of endless summer daylight (midnight sun) in St Petersburg. The principle manifests embedded in these cultural extravaganzas has now been globalised, with a host of cities ranging from Rome to Brussels to Lima, and now London, hosting their variations on the original.
More details to be found @ https://www.ica.org.uk/off-site/projects/art-night
I’m not at all certain the loose thematic preoccupations of suspension between life and afterlife are ever quite achieved as described in the manifest of this immersive promenade through the expanse of the atmospheric pathways of Tower Hamlets Cemetery, but this hugely ambitious circus-based performance by Yaron Lifschitz’s Australian troupe is vastly successful as pagan spectacle. Upon entry, the audience is led to a clearing, from which two pathways fork, anticipation mounting. Soon, a lone figure emerges, climbing atop a plinth, summoning a cloaked choral group to commence the rites of the evening. The colour of an audience member’s wristband issued at arrival determines which guide is to be followed into the cemetery grounds, strict silence to be observed for the length of the piece. From here, an audience encounters scenarios of trapeze artists agilely dangling from trees, ghostly dancers amongst the graves or tucked into a grove of trees and brush, pole performers vaulting stunningly and impossibly around each other’s bodies, and for the finale, a heart-stopping spiral of ever-more daring and dangerous assemblages of physical feats enacted by the whole cast (throws and holds and pyramidal ascensions that beggar belief). A continuous electronic soundtrack pervades the environment, blending seamlessly with the natural sounds of the grounds (bird calls, insect drone, wind, which effortlessly enhance the experience), and the omnipresent tones of the veiled singers also weave throughout the space. Especially as dusk descends, the path less illuminated, an eerie loaded stillness settling over the gravestones and thicket, the occasional figure suddenly grasped standing idly in a patch of dark, you feel as if you are being led through a troubling, thrilling wonderland. For the scale and comprehensive length (two hours), a journey through the performance is well-organized and fluid, even with a great degree of walking between each set piece. Much of the work sensually is taken care of by the setting itself. Highly recommended if you are available-it runs for one more week, with a few dates already sold out. Visit https://www.liftfestival.com/events/depart/ for details.
At the end of 2012, Tate Modern opened-for a trial of 15 weeks-the vast subterranean spaces of the Tanks, a conversion of the awe-striking concrete cauldrons which once housed oil in the gallery’s original use as a power station into an evocative stage for dance, film and performance art. Now, atop these momentous industrial husks has been constructed the Switch House, in some cultural quarters considered the most significant new building in London for years. Designed, in a wonderful bit of symmetry, by the original architects of the Tate Modern itself (Herzog and de Meuron), the 10-storey building will expand the Tate’s capacity by a stunning 60%, allowing many pieces of the collection which have been long dormant in storage to finally have their public moment. It will also enable the Tate to display many more artifacts and examples of output from Latin American, Middle Eastern and African nations, areas of the world that Tate and other venerable institutions have long been criticised for underserving and undervaluing-this is a perfect opportunity to confront the dearth of exposure. Visually (to my eyes, at least), the building resembles a cardboard box that has been slightly crushed inwardly-in addition to the three floors of galleries, there will be a restaurant, café, members club, and 360-degree terrace. Upon opening the Tate in 2000, capacity was designed to accommodate 2 million visiters per annum-at least twice that number now pass through the doors each year, with the statistic set to climb even higher in the years to come, so this is an essential extension. The perforated brick latticework, the boldest design feature, is meant to make the illumination of the interior lights really pop after dark. The Tate, in celebration of the inception of the new build, is remaining open until 10;00 each evening, Friday to Sunday 17-19 June, as throngs of curious visitors are expected. There will be a full program of events, all available on the Tate’s website.
Arriving at this usually modestly attended beauty of a space to find a fair queue in progress on a mid Thursday afternoon should have been a clear sign that this show devoted to new works from the cult Japanese figure Kusama was less a traditional exhibition than an event. Indeed, nothing that followed altered my sense that the audience gathered was experiencing a very carefully calibrated “scene”, which most members were more than happy to oblige. Kusama has created three mirror rooms, which continue her nearly psychedelic obsessions with pattern repetition, two of which are rather crudely and awkwardly situated in the voluminous Miro spaces, neither aesthetically nor spatially favourable. Due to limited capacity within each room, you find yourself spending most of your time waiting, allowed only a 30-second immersion in each before being directed away to the next queue. The third room, located on the gallery’s waterside garden terrace, is the simplest and the most successful of the three, a stainless steel box construction with dot-like holes (another recurring trope) that plunges you into a rather tranquil, enveloping celestial darkness, although the room devoted to the hallucinatory pumpkin patch will become the selfie shot of the season, and will adorn many a computer face as screensaver. The gnawing feeling here is that these mirror rooms are more successful as spectacle than substance. The vast upstairs gallery hosts examples of Kusama’s Infinity Nets, at close view an almost maniacal assemblage of dots and swirls that resolves into sweeping, contemplative ebbs and flows of almost topographical movement and design at greater distance. Tate Modern’s comprehensive retrospective four years ago gave a greater indication of Kusama’s artistry and standing in the contemporary art world, a detailed account of her origins in the avant-garde movement of 1960s New York where she regularly staged libidinous and subversive art happenings to her later years as a psychiatric patient of her own volition. The poor gallery staff outfitted in Kusama branded clothing is another worrying signal that this exhibition may be less than weighty, a mere fashion statement.
The name of this new pleasant, colourful, and intimate Mexican establishment in Shoreditch translates as “Holy Remedy”, a reference in this case to the principle healing powers of food embedded in the culture. It’s a wonderful ethos of food acting as a sort of panacea for any compromise against the senses and goodwill, which one could easily attribute to both French and Italian cuisine as well. Owners Edson and Natalie Diaz-Fuentes hail from Mexico City, and for the past three years have been delighting Londoners with their authentic fare at various pop-ups, supper clubs and a stall at Street Feast, culminating now in the permanence of a bricks-and-mortar location on a very charming side street in this ubertrendy East corridor. All items are made fresh daily on site, and the couple proudly belongs to the slow food movement (using “Ark of Taste” ingredients, items which would otherwise face elimination in an increasing industrialised agricultural process). They are firm believers in the deliberate practice of marination and braising (I sampled a very tasty beef barbacoa taco in this vein), portions skewed towards the tapas style, so a table may share a few dishes amongst its members. For the ambitious, grasshoppers and cactus feature on the menu (I tried the cactus, which was reminiscent of baked peppers). The dimensions are very comfy-fellow diners will be, in some cases, practically sharing seats with you. The feeling is very welcoming and warm, however, so it needn’t be a problem, at least not after a few margaritas or various other cocktails. Reservations are taken for groups of six or more, otherwise it’s first-come, first-serve, and there is a strict two-hour table occupancy due to the limitations of space, although there are a few bar seats on the first-floor available for extremely casual dining. http://www.santoremedio.co.uk/
Last year, at its 88 Strand address, Pret introduced its Good Evenings menu, transforming the location into the first proper casual dining restaurant in the franchise, a menu handed to each person as they enter the shop-an individual still orders food at the counter, but the dishes are then delivered to table on traditional crockery, the options a mix of familiar items and slightly more upscale fare created specifically for the program. Also wine and craft beers are available, a clear signal that this is not your typical transient Pret experience. Now, one year on, Pret has moved on to its latest innovation, a pop-up store devoted exclusively to vegetarian dishes, from salads to sandwiches to toasties to desserts, a reaction to double-digit growth in its veggie market. CEO Clive Schlee and his marketing team are to be credited with taking some interesting risks and bold moves for a business perceived mainly as a quick lunch takeaway establishment. The 35 Broadwick Street location in Soho, an existing Pret site, has been chosen to host this conceptual pop-up for the month of June. In addition to staple vegetarian selections already available on Pret shelves, several new items are being trialed for possible wider distribution in stores (expect lots of trendy suspects such as avocado, quinoa and kale) . Visitors are strongly encouraged to fill out comment cards detailing their particular favourites, and their overall experience of a veggie-only shop. This can be seen as the broadest stroke of Pret’s recent “Not Just For Veggies” expansive storewide marketing campaign to sell the carnivore crowd on the seductive textures and dense flavours of more ambitious vegetarian recipes, a valuable endeavour. On evidence of my visit, the experiment is working-the floor was lively and animated with people, the till constantly busy. Pret has rightly and comprehensively responded to in-store polls and social media noise about customer desire and need. The plastic utensils, need I even mention, are of a green hue.
London’s (and indeed global culture’s) bonkers fascination and devotion to the one-dish, one-ingredient culinary trend is far from abatement-the march will not be quelled. Already present is the Potato Project, a shrine to the mighty spud; the slightly risqué sounding Balls and Co. serves up dishes organized around the titular meatball; and no less than three establishments centered around the humble egg have popped up recently, including the Good Egg, the Bad Egg (and all states of eggs in between the poles, I imagine) and Egg Break. Only Burger and Lobster takes a novel binary approach to its concentration. Add now to the growing list Soho’s Mister Lasagna, a self-styled lasagneria, as they refer to themselves. On offer overall are 21 varieties of the signature dish, eight staple plates and usually two or three seasonal or specialist recipes available per day. The variety is impressive, anything from traditional bolgnese and spinach to the more ambitious pumpkin, artichoke, or chicken and chorizo, enough options to suit each palate. You choose slices from the array of trays at the counter just inside the door, either a full or half slice, or for the adventurous, a sampling of three half slices, prices ranging from £3.50-£7.80. There’s a pleasant, if modestly designed seating area in back, unadorned save for a small living wall and the unexpectedly delightful detail of a centerpiece herb plant at each table. I should mention the truly momentous heating tray directly next to the till, an efficient solution for the more labourious, cumbersome need to install an oven on the premisis, or the need to cheat with a microwave. Just outside on Rupert Street is an extremely vibrant afternoon market, so the relative calm and serenity inside the space, at least the day I visited, was a most welcome respite from the densely populated quarter. Whether the restaurant is always this serene, I can’t confess.