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Birds and Guitars
I am a frequent visitor to the Barbican Centre and often head there after the Proudfoot office closes to catch a film and grab something to eat. Occasionally I’ll also visit to see something a bit less run of the mill: among the things I saw there last year were a spectacular one-off concert with Grizzly Bear (my lo-fi indie idols) featuring the London Philharmonic orchestra, and a screening of cult film “The Room” with commentary from comedians Graham Linehan and Peter Serofinowitz – another memorable experience, although for rather different reasons (the event was part of the Barbican’s “Bad Film Club”, so I’ll leave you to work out the rest…).
The Barbican is apparently the largest multi-arts centre in Europe and also plays host to art, theatre, dance and educational events. Not being much of a connoisseur in these fields I hadn’t thought to properly check out what else is on offer, but earlier this month I stumbled upon an “installation” in the Centre’s Curve gallery.
The entrance to the space tells you that held within is “a new commission for The Curve by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot”, and as you enter into darkness with strange ambient noises playing in the background, you’d be forgiven for wondering what on earth was going on. But as you get to the last quarter of the gallery (which is literally named after the shape of the space, a long semi-circular corridor), suddenly everything is illuminated and you are greeted by two things: birds and guitars.
Mr Boursier’s idea is remarkably simple: he has placed several electric guitars and a few cymbals on stands, hooked them up to amps, and filled the space with 40 zebra finches. The flock of finches use the guitars as perches, and the cymbals double as feeders, with piles of bird seed scattered over them. As the birds land on the instruments or occasionally pluck at the strings they create a unique and ever-changing sound.
He may have added a couple of effects, such as reverb and echo, but to my surprise, the resulting noise sounds remarkably musical. Boursier is a trained composer, and he is fascinated by the musicality of the sounds that surround us in everyday life. His previous works apparently include an installation of 13 vacuum cleaners which have harmonicas attached to their suction nozzles. He likes to orchestrate situations that will produce unusual sounds, but he wants to enable the sound to occur in a random and unaffected way. As you walk in between the instruments in the Curve you notice that your movements can also affect the birds behaviour, and on the two occasions I have visited the experience has felt and sounded completely different.
It is unclear if the birds know about their temporary rock-god status, but they seem pretty at home; on my second visit I noticed a couple of them trying to weave a nest between the strings of one of the guitars. They will be maintaining their residency for another couple of months yet, and entry is free, so I recommend paying a visit to the Barbican before these guys get signed and embark on a world tour.
Posted by proudblog on March 24th 2010 at 5.32pm
For some reason or other Wendy and I decided to go and see “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” last week. Nicely done, but I gather it’s a cut-down from a two part Swedish TV drama so some of the plot is irritatingly sacrificed, maybe you should just read the book, although Noomi Rapace who plays the Lisbeth Sander character is great. So this week we brave Scorsese’s “Shutter Island”. Scorsese’s latest is another long one and seems to have had mixed reviews, so you wonder, is it worth the time? Nevertheless you go along knowing that Marty is at least going to show you some interesting moments, even if it is flawed. The way Scorsese moves the camera or moves the performers within the frame is always elegant and inspiring to watch, his style is economical but somehow we are always aware that his eye is there – we are being shown things in a particular way for a reason.
Well let me tell you “Shutter” is certainly worth going to see and in years to come might be seen as one of Scorsese’s best films. What he does with this story is subtle and clever and it’s only on coming out of the cinema after the final twist you begin to remember how his careful direction has lead you though the narrative’s many layers. The beginning is deliberately pulpy, by that I mean the camera angles he chooses, even the dialogue has echoes of a fifties comic book. Gradually the visual styles change and Scorsese uses different filmic devices (all beautifully executed) to draw us into the final denouement. Without wanting to spoil the ending, one often comes out of mainstream cinema wondering what you have carried away from the experience, in the case of Shutter Island I was reminded of something Jonathan Miller once said to me: “as scientists, we know more about deep space than how the human brain actually works”. Maybe we all have a little bit of “Patient 67” about us?
Posted by proudblog on March 22nd 2010 at 12.57pm
Proudfoot have a shoot in Geneva at the moment and it has coincided with the first few days of spring. It’s new year’s day in the natural world and Michael has started the ball rolling with what looks like a new resolution to exercise during shoots. I’ll be taking my running shoes next time I’m working abroad- they might even help when someone tries to steal the camera.
Posted by proudblog on March 2nd 2010 at 5.01pm