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Death: Mike Nelson and Susan Hiller

I have the great fortune of living around the corner from Matt's Gallery. 

This is especially fortunate when the day is wet and cold and the gallery's private view is so full that people are queuing down the street in the rain to get into a Mike Nelson installation.

Which is what it was like a few weeks' ago when I went.

The Mike Nelson and Susan Hiller shows are an excellent combination of contemporary British Art. I like both artists for different reasons, so it felt like a two-for-one deal - great bang for your buck.

Mike Nelson

The insane passage of human bodies that preceeded More things (To the memory of Honoré de Balzac)  is mostly due to the fact that there is so much sculpture - fairly delicate sculpture - jammed into the gallery, requiring a 6-person limit. It also has the added bonus of generating a fair amount of hype and, if I'm generous, perhaps is the real Mike Nelson at work.

Especially because the work inside the gallery is kooky but not what I have come to know from his work.

Yes, there's his wild-west aesthetic that we all know and love, a few dramatic and poignant pieces - especially an intense assemblage work featuring an Israeli produce box, Arabic signage, American Op.Desertstorm badge and an 'enter at own risk' sign - but not the usual installation and spatial influence that thrills me.

The element of surprise or unexpectedness in his work is not obvious, apart from the casual 'oh, it's a skull' and a little more of  'oh, this isn't like his usual work' reaction, which isn't satsifactory. It probably means I didn't try hard enough.

Susan Hiller
On the day of intense queuing, Channels, the Susan Hiller room, was as much a physical respite from the crowds as an aesthetic balance for the Nelson work.

A largely-empty room, with the entire back wall filled with TV sets and screens of various sizes, colours and content. Mostly graphic (not uncomfortable, I mean, plain colours, lines, like graphic design), the screen sculpture conveyed the rhythm of conversations played out - a series of interviews on people's near-death experiences.

Green oscillators, static, black screens, blue screens and the occasional flicker give an appropriate 'backdrop' for listening to sound works: documentary and fractured, you can dip in and out of these stories in the way that radio functions at its best. Or you can sit and stare mesmerised as your eyes wander over the faint rhythm of slowly changing screens as you listen to the whole narrative of these people's deaths.

The place of light in the space is great, as the audience are bathed in this pale blue light, ghostly and slightly horrific (especially if you've ever watched either version of The Ring).

These two works together, opposed creates a beautiful and uncanny death theme running across the gallery, which I loved. The movement from this mortal coil from two different perspectives: hers from direct but calm curiosity in the active dying moments of people's lives, to his deserted, Death Valley, departed graveyard of symbols that allude to it.

The exhibitons are on until the 14th April, so head to Mile End and check it out and feel free to pop over for a cup of tea afterwards.


mothers are women too

caveats: i've become an unashamed beyonce fan. 
i don't have children so i don't understand.

UPDATE: here's a complimentary and updated post from feminspire about the anti-beyonce bullshit.

in the words of the beastie boys: if this is gonna be that kinda party, i'm gonna stick my dick into mash potato.

Last week loads of peeps are talking about the superbowl half time extravaganza that Queen Bey staged on the weekend. there were a couple of official 'furore's about it, apparently. all of which have now been superceded by the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church®  resigning.

But I still feel the need to chuck my two cents in.

There were two 'issues'. PETA are unhappy with her over the use of iguana skin, etc in her amazing costume.

Her being a massive 'role model' and all, she shouldn't fuck with animals. Which is true. I do wish she'd get with the program a little. But, as this excellent tweet (and the brilliant responses) highlighted, since when have men been required to be amazing role models.

And then a bunch of mumsy types are concerned about her short-skirt-put-in-on-ya-sexiness not being a good model for mommas...  and that's what this post it about.

Apparently, now that Beyonce is a mum, she's got a whole new set of criteria which makes her accountable to the rest of us aspirationals.

So, let me get this straight, she was absolutely amazing, sexy, empowering, creative, business woman and owning all over the world up until last year. And now, because she's had a baby she's shifted into being a 'mother' that has to turn it down a little?

She can only be a beatific role model, saviour, light of the world, here to protect the whole of pop culture and your mum too? Fuck that.

Here's (an entirely subjective) list of awesome stuff that Beyonce did before she had Blue Ivy.

1. run the world performance at VMAs (jaw-dropping, powerful and i love the JT in-yo-face)

2. made the best video of all time. of all time.

and i'm still backing kanye over taylor swift. the final 2 seconds of panting? ouch!

2. crazy in love - the catchiest fucking pop tune this side of...

3. ...halo

4. turned up to dance with a stack of girls' dance class as part of the Let's Move group (which still makes me cry every time).

http://youtu.be/XoX9qXBP0Bs (sorry, embedding not allowed)

5. did an amazing version of tina turner's proud mary

6. took the piss out of her own husband with fine swagger

here's what she's done since then.

1. lip synced a national anthem (first person to do that, ever)

2. made a massive event at the superbowl and wore a short skirt.

And suddenly she's supposed to become some kind of angel?

I'm surely not the only one thinking that this kind of massive ethical demand on her work is a little unreasonable.

As it happens, this whole palaver illustrates one of the reasons I've chosen not to become a mother - or more specifically to have a child of my own. Because suddenly you become a 'mother' and that word, that identity is laced with all kinds of heavy and sometimes unnecessary shit.

This is where the community (especially in the US) and its role in assuring the survival of the human race can get warped. It seems that the view of ideal motherhood - that which best serves us as a society is getting more and more hypocritical. It's fine for a woman who doesn't want to have a child, or is incapable of emotionally doing so to be forced into it by the denial of abortion or contraception, but it's not OK for an amazingly successful and capable woman to continue doing what she does best because she has a child.