Pursued by a Bear »

  • The art of Zizu and Best

    September 29, 2010 @ 2:41 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    The other day I was tearing up the back of the DVD shelf on an afternoon looking for something to kill a few hours – Rocky now has so many scratches that it needs replacing and it’s impossible to watch Bullitt without a decent drink in hand – when I found Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. Despite it’s pretentious name, this is a terrific film, that goes a long way towards explaining why there are so many of us who view excellent football as enthralling an experience as the highest forms of art. Unless, of course, it’s Manchester United playing.

    It doesn’t take long to figure out that this is no ordinary sports documentary. The film was directed by Douglas Gordon (who won the Turner prize in 1996) and Philippe Parreno (an artist and filmmaker whose work can be found in MoMA, the Guggenheim in New York and the Paris Museum of Modern Art). The film – or conceptual art piece, or odd Match of the Day package without the irritating voiceover, or whatever you want to call it yourself – uses 17 synchronised cameras to film Zidane during a game between Real Madrid and Villareal in April 2005. These scenes are overlaid with Zidane’s own musings, which manage to be thoughtful without being pretentious or overly serious, and then there’s the soundtrack – Scottish postrockers and football fanatics Mogwai were handed the keys to the sound-desk. Imagine getting that phonecall: “Yeah would like you to soundtrack a film about Zidane playing football.” Pause. “I see. And precisely who do I have murder, and is he the leader of a major or a minor superpower?”

    This film captures the narrative and drama of a given game, despite the fact that Zidane actually played fairly poorly in the match. There’s enough in there to keep non-sports fans interested and it might even convert a few philistines to the merits of the beautiful game. (Apparently such people exist though, like Scientologists, they are probably best avoided.)

    However, like nearly all great works of contemporary art, it’s been done before – and with none other than the late, great George Best. It doesn’t quite have the glamour of the Zidane flick, but this is a fairly revelatory approach from a different footballing era. in 1970, Hellmuth Costard, a German director, used eight 16mm cameras to shoot Manchester United against Coventry City, but the only player he filmed was Best. Would Best’s voiceover have been more entertaining than Zidane’s? Probably. Is Football As Never Before as pretentious a title as Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait? Definitely, but both have a certain ring of truth about them. Surely that’s what all great art is about?

    If you’ve got an instrument to hand, you can watch both short clips below, turn down the sound, and try and write your own tunes. Good luck beating the Mogwai effort, though the Best film is a blank canvas.

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  • Gimme gimme gimme – Fringe awards

    September 27, 2010 @ 12:05 am | by Laurence Mackin

    After 16 days, more than 100 shows, 460 performances, and 40 venues the Fringe 2010 has taken its final bow. But before it exited gracefully off the stage, there were the Fringe Awards to hand out.

    The organisers must be plenty pleased with themselves – this year’s Fringe had more sold out shows than ever, so all you audience members deserve a hearty high five for digging into your pockets in tough times. (more…)

  • Dispatches from the Fringe and weekend recommendations

    September 24, 2010 @ 12:18 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Spoiled for choice you are – utterly spoiled for choice. If it’s not enough that this year’s Fringe is gearing up for its last hurrah, then you also have Culture Night events across the country to contend with. For a full proper two broadsheet pages on what’s shaking, stump up the €1.80 for a copy of today’s Irish Times. Or you could click here for free to see the equally informative if not as pretty online version. So instead of giving you our regular recommendations, check these out instead. Honestly, how many pointers do you need?

    But back to our Fringe folk, who last night almost ran a-cropper thanks to some overenthusiastic marketing high jinks. For anyone stuck in the capital last night, the marketing wonks at Guinness had designated the day Arthur’s Day and stuffed the city’s venues full of well-known acts, including Snow Patrol, Brandon Flowers and Manic Street Preachers (nope, me neither). The end result of Diageo Day seemed to be a whole lot of beer sold, and a huge increase in workloads for the Garda and the ambulance services (the horrendous weather conditions did nothing to help matters).

    But at one stage yesterday, the Guinness gremlins lost the run of themselves and had floated some advertising tat in the Liffey, which somewhat ruined the effect of Fergus McCarthy’s Liffeytown installation. A few phonecalls from the Fringe office had it sorted. Fringe 1, beer peddlers 0.

    Back on dry land, the festival proper is preparing its exit stage left. The dance programme seems to have proven particularly strong, with an embarrassment of critical praise being heaped upon the various shows, and The Spinner is no exception. Christine Madden reckons this show, depicting the work of three Greek dieties fuses “the godlike and arachnid in work with all the delicate grace and meticulous ruthlessness of both”. Crumbs. Of choreographer Aoife McAtamney, Madden says: “The fates foretell a bright future here.”

    was also on this critic’s agenda, and it was getting plenty of press in the run up to performance time. A three-hour show on feminism featuring a stage-full of nude women was always going to provoke attention, and Madden reckons this was a highlight of this year’s Fringe.

    Meanwhile, Sara Keating was at I Alice I, and while she is reluctant to give too many details, for fear of ruining the show for others, she reckons this is “an impeccably executed piece of documentary theatre”. Michael Seaver was charmed almost senseless by 25 minutes of a simple tale well told at Never Look in the Mirror When You’re Dancing (sound advice if ever there was some). We can’t say the same for Peter Crawley, though. He found the rambling The Butcher Babes (based on the gruesome 2005 Scissor Sisters killings) contained little of substance. You can read these reviews in full and more arts coverage over here.

    And so we head for the final weekend. If you haven’t seen Medea and are free this afternoon, there is one more performance at 3pm today that you might be able to scrounge a ticket for. Also, this weekend are those all important Fringe awards, and we will have the winners here the minute they are announced. Start getting your sob-strewn speeches into proper order now, Fringe folk. It behoves you to make a rather large scene, Fringe folk – behoves you.

    And to get your weekend off to a musically pleasant start, who not have some Amiina, the main highlight from this weekend’s Icelandic Fringe offerings? They’ve done well out of the Irish arts circuit, having played the Kilkenny Arts Festival, the Festival of World Cultures and the Fringe in the past year and a bit. We demand nothing in return, except a really good show tomorrow night in the Grand Social.

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  • Dispatches from the Fringe – #7

    September 22, 2010 @ 1:40 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Things have been a little quiet on the critical Fringe front in the past few days, but today were setting all that to rights. Today’s Arts page is a feast for the reviewing senses, and you might not find all of it agreeable.

    Peter Crawley has been hard at work in the past few days. World’s End Lane left him stunned and earned every one of its five stars (I’ve also written about it previously here). Sex, Lies and the KKK sees Abie Philbin Bowman in stand-up mode and focusing on racial and sexual stereotypes. It’s comedy with a purpose, but Crawley feels it doesn’t go far enough. I Love Guns, meanwhile, contains “dark, elliptical meditations about control, gender and the power of words” but he also reckons it is tedious and rootless, if maybe worth a shot. (more…)

  • Ron Rash wins Frank O’Connor prize

    September 20, 2010 @ 3:44 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    We’re very late off the hoof with this, and no doubt the news may have trickled through to you via other forms, but Ron Rash has won the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award, and with it, the very tidy sum of €35,000.

  • Dispatches from the Fringe – #6

    @ 10:57 am | by Laurence Mackin

    The chaos of Fringe week one has drawn to a close. Most of the headline shows have already opened, some runs are being slightly extended, extra shows are being squeezed into the schedules, and reviews plastered up around the place, stars slapped on to posters to try and sell out the last of the stalls.

    So this week things will be a little calmer on the Fringe front. That said, there is still plenty to get your theatrical teeth into. One show you almost certainly won’t get to see (sorry) is World’s End Lane – its run has been sold out for quite some time, given that it can only handle three people at a a time (though on the day I saw it, there was one spare ticket for a no-show, so no harm in chancing your arm, perhaps). Medea might have the traditionalists all a-froth, and Pyjama Men might have them rolling in the aisles, but World’s End Lane is the stuff of Fringe legend. (more…)

  • Dispatches from the Fringe – #5

    September 17, 2010 @ 11:06 am | by Laurence Mackin

    Romance – sure ’tis everywhere in the Fringe. Medb Lambert from the Lambert Puppet dynasty knows all about it. She got married a week before the festival opened and, as a honeymoon, decided to put on a show – Cleaner by Asylum Productions at the Tiesan Cafe in Filmbase – with her new husband. If your marriage could survive that it could probably survive anything, and getting hitched doesn’t seem to have done them any harm. Michael Seaver, writing in this paper, said this adult fairytale about a woman who falls in love with her sweeping brush, has “subtleties in the action that reveal the sad realities of this marginal life”. It ends tomorrow. (more…)

  • If you only do one thing this weekend . . .

    September 16, 2010 @ 7:41 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Ah Fringe – you get enough PR off me, and besides, my regular weekend brown envelope has yet to arrive. So all our selections here are of a non-Fringe variety.

    Do: Something to support the arts today, on the National Day of Action. Today, 80 TDs around the country, including the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for the Arts, are meeting with arts representatives to discuss the vital role the arts plays in this country. There are a number of events on around the country, and you can also send a letter to a TD expressing your support for the arts with a a few simple clicks of your mouse, thanks to the very active people over at the National Campaign for the Arts. Click here for more details and to get your angry arts face on. (more…)

  • Dispatches from the Fringe – #4

    @ 12:12 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Last night was a terrific evening’s entertainment at the Festival Club, which has a new home in the wonderful arty lofty space of the Grand Social (dig those funky light fittings in the roof). The Grand feels like it’s been around for years, even though the paint is still drying in some of its corridors, and it’s a perfectly natural fit for the Fringe (who needs a Spiegeltent any way?). (more…)

  • Dispatches from the Fringe – #3

    September 15, 2010 @ 1:32 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Medea – so that’s what all the fuss is about. This is a top-drawer cast and crew, in an accomplished production of one of the classics of Greek theatre that deliver a thoroughbred theatrical experience. Last night’s performance looked to be a sell-out and it was always going to be one of the Fringe highlights. Writing in this paper’s Arts pages, Peter Crawley said “The compelling, unsettling power of this Medea is that it folds beauty and horror into the same moment.” He’s not wrong. (more…)

  • Dispatches from the Fringe #2

    September 14, 2010 @ 1:26 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Last night might have been one of misery and winter-esque weather, and no doubt most of you were at home curling up in front of Britain’s Next Top Model. But not The Irish Times Arts desk team. Oh no, with the lash of the editor’s whip at their backs (metaphorical, I can assure the NUJ), they were scurrying around the city, taking in the best of what the Fringe had to offer. Expect sales of hot whiskeys to go through the roof at the Festival Club at the Grand Social if this nonsense continues.

    In today’s Arts pages, Michael Seaver is blown away by the exuberant performance of Ballet Ruse – five stars people. Christine Madden gets completely over-caffeinated and over-stimulated at All This and a Hill of Beans, so much so that she also manages to take in TheatreClub’s Shane Byrne Left His Sleeping Bag in the Car Again – she reckons the production is a bit chaotic and could use a touch of stagecraft. (more…)

  • Dispatches from the Fringe #1

    September 13, 2010 @ 11:32 am | by Laurence Mackin

    And so it begins – the Fringe Festival is back in town for another two-weeks-plus of theatrical, comedic and musical madness. Set your attention span to flicker and your liver to iron; lash the vitamin pills into you, and say goodbye to your nearest and dearest (at least temporarily); lock up your daughters, pull out the programmes and your big red pen, and get on to fringefest.com before all the good stuff is gone.

    Today’s Arts page in The Irish Times has the best of the opening weekend, and over the course of the festival we’ll be bringing you daily reviews of the best shows. So far, it has been a hugely positive reaction. Of the nine shows reviews, five got four stars and Brian Boyd was first out of the critical blocks with a five-star review. You can read them all here. I managed to take in Heroin over the weekend, which is an excellent, brawler of a show – intelligent, razor sharp and very Fringe indeed.

    It’s not just the shows that are getting attention – Liffeytown was always going to provoke debate but it’s a while since I remember an art installation causing such a stir. Well done to Fergal McCarthy for a terrific idea that’s well executed. Here’s hoping his garden sheds last the distance.

    Liffeytown in all its Monopolistic glory. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

    So, what did you see at the weekend, or what are you planning to go along to? Have you overheard a snippet of conversation that you would only hear during the Fringe? And where’s the best place to grab a late-night bite (or indeed pint) between shows? Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be funnelling your Fringe commentary on to this blog, so let us know what you think and what you’re seeing. Recommendations are always welcome on the comments below (though do declare an interest if you have one). Daily reviews will also be on the Arts pages and at irishtimes.com/culture with an update or three here. Brace yourselves – there may be some theatrical turbulence.

  • If you only do one thing this weekend

    September 10, 2010 @ 11:53 am | by Laurence Mackin

    Visit: The Chester Beatty is one of those museums that I don’t visit enough. Its current exhibition, Muraqqa, featuring imperial Mughal albums and folios from its own and other collections, is nearing the end of its run, so this is the perfect excuse to visit one of the best museums in the country. (more…)

  • What’s that Skip? You’re not on the Booker and Timmy has fallen down a well?

    September 7, 2010 @ 4:44 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Yes, yes, yes, we all know the Booker shortlist is out, I hear you grumble, and we all know Paul Murray (who gave a cracking reading from Skippy Dies at the weekend’s Stradbally shindig) didn’t make the cut – unfair, perhaps, as it is a great book and you can’t help rooting for the homeboy. (more…)

  • Electric Picnic – Day three

    September 5, 2010 @ 2:51 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Sunday is definitely an embarrasment of riches at this year’s Electric Picnic, at least as far as the music is concerned – most festivalgoers will spend at least part of the evening tearing from one tent to another to maximise their scorecards. On the arts front, the big draw in Leviathan today will probably be Jon Ronson’s slot at 3.30pm. The journalist, writer and documentary filmmaker will be on hand to discuss his book The Men Who Stare at Goats and other oddballs with way to much power in their meaty hands, and there’ll be a sneak preview reading from this forthcoming book, The Psychopath Test. (more…)

  • Electric Picnic – Day two

    September 4, 2010 @ 1:00 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    It’s getting very political over in the Leviathan area today. At this very moment, Sean O’Rourke is testing a panel of festival personalities, including this paper’s Conor Pope, on their knowledge of current affairs. Expect howlers aplenty, but for a guaranteed bun fight, I imagine the History Ireland Hedge School discussion on Irish neutrality is a safer bet. Former Respect MP George Galloway (who was recently interviewed here) is in a room with TCD lecturer Eunan O’Hailpin, former diplomat Eamon Delaney and T Ryle Dwyer (rumours of Tony Blair putting in an appearance later in the day are wide of the mark). (more…)

  • Electric Picnic – Day One

    September 3, 2010 @ 4:49 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    The sun is beaten down on the Electric Picnicers in Stradbally, with the event warming up nicely. Every year there is one big colourful piece of art to greet festival-goers coming through the main entrance into the arena proper and this year it’s tulips. Gigantic red and green constructions by Jig Cochran that will come into their own as darkness falls.

    The boat that becomes something of a photo op for most punters is still locked to the land, and is getting a graffiti makeover. Brazilian artist Askim and Brian Coldrick, James Kirwan and Risto (who some of you might know from their Monster Truck Expo), will be going to work on the, along with a host of other artists, so watch this one take on a life of its own as the weekend progresses.

    The festival organisers are at pains to try and get people to clean up after themselves, so Sophie Maltzan and Fieldwork and Strategies have designed an installation, All Wasted, made out of tents abandoned at festivals. The construction should sway in the wind with some spooky lighting shining through so keep an eye out for it when the sun eventually goes in.

    Those who made it to the Body and Soul festival, or those of you lucky enough to have crossed the Atlantic to take in Burning Man, might well be familiar with Shrine aka Brent Spears. He’s rolled into Stradbally to build a new permanent addition that will be at the Picnic for years to come, so check it out so you can say you saw it first.

    Things are quiet enough in terms of arty stage antics today, though this evening should draw a few punters into the Leviathan Political Cabaret – for Politics in the Internet Age. David McWilliams is at the helm and in about an hour he’ll be kicking off an argument or two with David Cochrane of Politics.ie; Amanda Brown, who writes the Cybersorter Column in this newspaper, Senator Dan Boyle; and Gavin Sheridan of TheStory.ie and KildareStreet.com, with White Cholera.

    For musical reviews and updates, keep an eye on Jim Carroll’s On the Record blog or hit up @thetwicket twitter feed. For those on site, the excellent Daily Ticket is currently been honed to a fine point in a lovely shed out the back of the main stage (which is where this dispatch is coming from). We’ll be filing over the weekend here and @laurencemackin on Twitter. And if you see something particularly fantastic, let us know below or sent us a tweet.

  • If you only do one thing this weekend …

    September 2, 2010 @ 6:38 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    We thought we’d put this week’s selection out slightly earlier than usual, and you’ll find it contains no mention of a certain festival in a field. If you are attending said festival, we’ll be there covering the arts end of things through this blog and the Twitter feed (@laurencemackin), while the Ticket crew will be showing the rest of the festival who is boss with their Daily editions. (more…)

  • … and your video kicks for free

    September 1, 2010 @ 1:51 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Arcade Fire – the mere mention of these words lately seems to bring out bloggers and commentators in a rash of hastily-slung insults and rabidly constructed defences. (more…)

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