Pursued by a Bear »

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

    February 25, 2011 @ 12:01 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Go: No doubt you’ll be getting your vote on today (assuming you haven’t already), but the count is where the real entertainment is to be had. That’s when the knives come out, the upper lips are set to stiff, and the blood drains from the faces of certain candidates when they realise with horror they have been abandoned by their people – and after all they’ve done for them. (more…)

  • Two shows to treasure

    February 22, 2011 @ 5:35 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Sometimes, if you are lucky, you stumble across a show, film, exhibition or concert that you immediately want to drag all your friends too. It happens very seldom, but when it does, it’s a joy to grab the opportunity with both hands and share it with others. Dublin is lucky enough to have two such shows at the moment. (more…)

  • King of Limbs reviewed

    February 18, 2011 @ 1:48 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    That shuffling stampede of adoration and outrage you might well be hearing is the posse of music writers desperate to get out the first knee-jerk reaction to Radiohead’s new album, which the band helpfully sent out into the world a day early today. Who better, then, to earn your opprobrium with his hasty words, or give early voice to you inner monologue than this newspaper’s Arts Editor, Shane Hegarty? Who indeed, so here is his review of The King of Limbs.

    The King of Limbs, Radiohead
    SHANE HEGARTY, Arts Editor

    Radiohead’s new album The King of Limbs jumped out of listeners’ inboxes with a surprise early release – brought forward a day, after they’d only this week announced a release date.

    Eight songs – 37 minutes – long it begins with the chopped beats and fluid brass of Bloom, over which Thom Yorke drags his vocals with that familiar affected-exhaustion.

    On Morning Mr Magpie, his quick breaths add percussive energy to a funk bassline while the lyrics, as is common, are there primarily to add layers the sound. This one ends with “Good morning Mr Magpie/How are you today/ Now you’ve stolen all my magic/Took my melody.” That reads far more naff than it sounds.

    Melody, though, hasn’t been taken out. Even if The King of Limbs makes fewer concessions than In Rainbows, it is not as deliberately challenging as the extraordinary but polarising Kid A or Hail to the Thief.

    Still, the next tracks Little By Little and Feral are absorbed in the kinetic, looping pulses that became dominant several albums ago – but on early listening these two tracks bring a certain flabbiness to the centre of the album.

    But then it unfolds into the ethereal Lotus Flower, before the rich piano and more conventional vocal on Codex (echoing earlier Radiohead tracks Pyramid Song and Videotape) brings the album’s high point.

    The comparatively flat Give Up the Ghost seems an interruption rather than a progression, so it is up to the closing Separator to epitomise a tenderness and optimism that infuses the album.

    There is darkness, but The King of Limbs is one for the dawn.

  • If you only do one thing this weekend: get tied up in knots

    February 17, 2011 @ 6:12 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    See: What do silent-film star Charlie Chaplin and playwright Eugene O’Neill have in common? The answer is tied up in knots of his own making. James Thiérrée is the grandson of Chaplin and the great-grandson of O’Neill and, understandably, he seems to have performance in the blood. In an article in this Saturday’s Irish Times Magazine, Sara Keating writes that he spent “much of his childhood touring theatres across Europe, performing as a piece of luggage that sprouted little legs and ran around”. Who hasn’t James, who hasn’t? His latest show, Raoul, is a tad more ambitious, that mixes acrobatics, theatre and dance, and he claims it is the most intense thing he has ever done. Thiérrée already has plenty of local fans, following performances at Galway Arts Festival, and this latest show at the Abbey Theatre, which opens on Friday night, could be his best yet. It ends on February 26th so you’ll have to be quick off the mark to get tickets.

    Let’s not discuss the elephant in the room. He’s very sensitive

  • How my editing mistake got John Healy back in print

    February 15, 2011 @ 6:42 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    How articles make their way into print can be a strange business. Usually, a journalist pitches a story idea, or an editor comes up with an idea, and the piece is finessed and commissioned, after a bit of discussion. But sometimes, it is the slightest remark, an accidental meeting or a series of coincidences which can lead to a fantastic bit of writing seeing the light of day. In the case of last weekend’s Saturday Magazine, it was a mistake, and it was one of mine – but thanks to this mistake we got to publish an intricate and vibrant piece of fiction by John Healy, his first new piece of writing in decades. (more…)

  • If you only do one thing this weekend – get slammed

    February 10, 2011 @ 7:36 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Get slammed: There are times when you struggle to find something out of the ordinary to go, see or do in Ireland. This is not one of those times. Last week we mentioned the Upstart initiative, which is hoping to harness the current political energy (or turmoil depending on our point of view) to create some exciting artistic activity. On Saturday night, it is holding an event that promises to unite two of the more, ahem, misunderstood sectors of our, ah, arts world: poetry and American superstar wrestling. (more…)

  • A personal story on why the arts matter

    February 9, 2011 @ 4:02 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Last night, I met an English chap by the name of David and got into a friendly bit of banter about the power of art. His girlfriend is an artist, so he has been forcing himself to learn a little bit about it of late, and is enjoying the process, although he admits to wondering what all the fuss is about Picasso. He also lives in the centre of London, so has all the educational tools he could possibly want on his doorstep.

    David also cheerfully admitted that he held the impossible opinion that while he doesn’t think arts should be cut back more than other areas, he also doesn’t, as a taxpayer, want to fork out for it, and he raised the age-old question of where do you draw the line with funding, and at what point do you stop funding hospitals and start funding art galleries, when the purse is tight and the coffers bare?

    This enormous issue was tackled rather eloquently in this honest essay by AL Kennedy. In it, she grabs the bulls by the horns and says: “A straight – and completely mythical – choice between the baby’s incubator and a poem? The incubator wins every time. The poet would write the poem anyway. Poets will write less if they never get paid, thrive less, or give up. So we get fewer poems and, long term, the poems are part of why we try to make sure there’s an incubator there for the people we don’t know, will never meet, don’t understand, don’t like.”

    Read the full piece for her much more complete reasoning, but here is one very personal example of how funding for the arts is critical to our wellbeing. Over the Christmas, I was doing the usual tour of the relatives and we called into an older aunt of mine, Terry (incidentally, she claims to be the last virgin in Dundalk, but that is a very different story for a very different blog). Trying to keep up with Terry’s conversation is like trying to catch the wind. She rattles off quip after insult while battering you gently with questions and throwing in the odd appraisal: “That’s a lovely coat you have there. Where did you get that? Would you not shave that auld beard? Why haven’t I seen you in ages? Come here till I tell ye what that one up the road did to me the other day …”

    On this particular day, she was holding court in her tiny sitting room, and we noticed a painting on the wall that hadn’t been there before. It was a straightforward scene, an old boat dragged on to an estuary beach, the river running out on an evening’s low tide, with a few indifferent mountains holding up the sky. The colours were vivid and bright, the strokes were steady. It was simple, and lovely to look at, and stood out on the bare walls. I guessed it must have been a gift, or something that had long been in the family, and wondered why we hadn’t seen it before.

    My father asked where it came from. A short glance from Terry. “Ah, I did that auld thing.” It turns out that Terry goes to a day centre regularly, where older people drop in for a chat, a cup of tea and various social activities, one of which was an art class. (There followed a five-minute tirade from Terry at the extra fiver they were asked to stump up to cover the cost of art materials.) But afterwards, she told us how in the art class they were told to simply paint what they liked, so Terry painted the river in Dundalk and the boat, mindful that so many of her relations had worked at sea. She had never in her life before picked up a paintbrush, and has had no education in this regard. But the picture is every bit as sharp and joyful as her wit and her banter.

    “They had some fella down from Dublin and had an exhibition yoke, and I won first prize.” At this stage she couldn’t keep the quiet bit of proud satisfaction from her voice though she waved it away dismissively. “So they asked me to do another, and I asked yer man there [an accusatory finger fired in the direction of my father] to bring me an auld picture of the lighthouse so I can do that, and I’m still waiting on it, hey.” And with that we were back on to the safe ground of slagging and accusations amid slabs of cake and buckets of tea.

    The point is that this small art class has probably done more for Terry’s confidence and got her out of the house more often than plenty of other well-intended schemes. She tried something new, found a bit of joy in it, and something she could be proud of. A tiny bit of arts funding can work wonders when properly deployed and reach areas and people that are unresponsive to other approaches, as argued by Kennedy in her article that I referenced above. You don’t have to look far to see why funding the arts is every bit as essential as properly funding our healthcare and welfare systems.

  • If you only do one thing this weekend … get involved

    February 4, 2011 @ 10:51 am | by Laurence Mackin

    Get involved: Things are getting fierce political at the moment. No back is going unstabbed, no stunt unpulled, and no baby unkissed. There are several arts initiatives that are seeking to take advantage of the renewed sense of political responsibility so now could be the perfect time to get involved. UpStart is one such initiative. It’s a non-profit arts collective that “aims to put creativity at the centre of public consciousness during the Irish general election campaign in 2011”. The idea is to hold a vast exhibition using the spaces ordinarily taken up by political posters for works of art. It wants 500 submissions from writers, visual artists, photographers, painters and graphic artists to help put a bit of colour amid all those meaningful messages and grip-and-grin portraits. Click here for more details.

    Of course, if it’s cold hard cash you want, you could always get yourself the job as chief executive of the National Concert Hall, or something much more impressive – become a part-time puppeteer! Think of the business cards – genius.

    Take In: Visceral at Dublin’s Science Gallery does exactly what is says on the arty tin. The show features exhibits created using living tissue, from research laboratory SymbioticA. So far, so queasy. The idea, though, is that artists are using the tools of science and advanced technologies to explore their art and hopefully create works that cross a host of boundaries. And if you pop down tonight, it’s open till 8pm with tapas and drinks. We’re assured that none of the exhibits is enough to put you off your pinot grigio and plate of banderillas.

    Read: Fiction wise, I’ve just put David Vann’s Caribou Island to bed, and I’m only now getting around to Antony Beevor’s history of the Spanish Civil War. But for chinstroking attention-seeking while drinking black coffee at an outdoors table in my snuggest polo neck, there is no better man than Ben Ratliff’s Coltrane. Admittedly, I’ve only started it, but it’s cracking stuff already. Ratliff says this is no straightforward biography (there are quite a few of those on John Coltrane, and I do have a really good large format book on the recording of A Love Supreme) – rather, he is looking at the “story of a sound” and how Coltrane sought to finesse and refine his iconic, urgent sound. It traces his rise, and his continuing influence with a light if incredibly well informed touch. Non-jazzers or non-musicians should find it thorough and accessible to boot. Nice.

    So that’s our two cents for the weekend. Last night The Digital Socket Awards took place, where a bunch of music bloggers selected their favorite music in a range of categories – think of it as the Golden Globes to the Choice’s Oscar. Among the winners were The Ambience Affair and Souljacker for their video for Devil in the Detail – which uses no video cameras. Stop go motion in the woods with a touch of Don’t Look Now? Certainly madame. It looks, rather spectacularly, like this. Enjoy.
    YouTube Preview Image

Search Pursued by a Bear