Sunday, 26 December 2010

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Pas de deux, or trois, ou quatre...

Serge Diaghilev, c 1924

Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russes 1909 - 1929 at the Victoria and Albert Museum  is one of those block-buster exhibitions that gets so much bad press where quantity and volume, rather than the quality of the items on display, appear to be the prevailing factors used in judging the merit the exhibition.  The V+A have scored some rare treats that offer a glimpse into a life which has been the centre of much controversy and arguably, one of the changing forces of art in the last century.   Diaghilev's influence across the all aspects of the contemporary art of his time and his reach across  art today can still be felt. Some absolute gems include  the earrings worn by Nijinsky, who became his lover and principle dancer.
   

Earrings worn by Vaslav Nijinsky as the Golden Slave in Schéhérazade
Designed by Léon Bakst 1910
 

Chanel designed costumes for le Train Bleu


Perhaps best known for the performance of Blue Train, for which Coco Chanel designed the costumes and Picasso the sets, Diaghilev's legacy still prevails, from  fashion collections to porcelain and interior design. There's an exuberance of orientalism.  He lived a lot of his life in hotels but had  a few very beautiful possessions, including precious items by Faberge and a carved table from the Winter Palace. His letters and correspondence are revealing, perhaps this is as close as we can ever come to knowing someone so elusive, whose life is revealed through his collaborations and his art as much as through what he left behind.

See this till January 9th 2011 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Incendiary exposures, Will and another Kate, Ken Clarke and his secret lingerie revolution and Sam Leith's Legendary cock.


 After a brief period of coitus itinerary interruptus, more of
Darling MA's anodyne perceptions on Charles and Di 2 (Camilla), students rioting,why Uncle Ken always knows knickers best and Sam Leith's Legendary cock.

VF: Students. They've been a riotous lot recently and poor Camilla, Pseudo Princess of Wales (don't you dare diss my Diana in Heaven) looked frightfully shocked when those rowdy rabble rousing students who expect a higher education but don't want to pay for it later smashed up the princemobile and poured paint (how common) on it. What should we do about the current taste for anarchy that prevails on these hallowed isles?

MA: Camilla had every reason to look shocked - she was poked in the ribs! I assume a huge priceless ruby near her breast deflected the improvised (and cheap) stiletto away from her heart. I have read about these kinds of miracle in battlefields of valour, a sure sign that God wants to keep her and Diana well apart for as long as possible.
I was most impressed that Charles and Camilla continued to give royal waves even as the yobs pelting their Rolls screamed “Off with their heads!” Should the Duracell Bunny ever seek a retirement warren, we’ll know where first to look for replacement models of robotic endurance.
As for the current state of anarchy (sooo late 80s) in England, the lawful public executions of Nick Clegg and Vince Cable on TV’s University Challenge - after the failed lie detector tests - would probably pacify anyone under the age of 21.
Quick! Jump!
 VF  Justice Minister Ken Clarke has taken a lot of flak for retracting 18 years of Tory policy and announcing "prison doesn't work". Do you think poppet has lost his mind or is soft soaping the liberal back benchers who appeared to have taken over the bodies of normally sane Hang 'em and flog 'em Tory boys.
MA: Madame Arcati is privy to Ken’s actual plan - his new complete slogan is:
 "Prison doesn’t work. But prisoners will!”
And I can exclusively reveal Ken’s secret weapon of penal correction. Lingerie.
Major retail outlets such as Primark, Bhs and C&A will be invited to sponsor selected prisons and subsidise jailbirds’ keep in return for their lingerie labour - bringing to an end foreign sweatshops and child slaves into the bargain. Ken thinks that exposure to lingerie manufacture all day will either feminise prisoners and soften away their criminal tendencies or cause them to become so averse to prison life that they opt for the straight and narrow as preferred domicile.
How stitching lingerie will affect female and transsexual prisoners I’m not sure. Over to you, Ken.
How prison lingerie might possibly look
VF: What of this rift between Cleggover and President Macaroon? What do the stars say about the star-crossed lovers' future?
MA : Alas, there is no rift. Like Antony and Cleo they are embarked on a doomed journey with their own battle of Actium in Parliament Square. If only Clegg had a bosom and a love of the asp.
Hand in hand like lovers are supposed to
 VF Will and Kate. Seven years and a midsummer wedding? Hope she gets a pre-nup. Is this real love or another royal marriage of inconvenience. And what about that tawdry dress she wore on the day the engagement was announced? Really darling, if you're gonna do wrap, it's DVF.
MA: I’m afraid to say that a Gemini/Capricorn alliance is most unwise - it can only end in sullen silence, separate bathrooms and celibacy. 
I happen to know a close friend of Kate’s who told me sometime ago, after the couple’s last break-up, that there was relief in her camp that she was free of him. 
Apparently he treated her abysmally. He is, after all, his father’s son and Charles for years was
Private Eye’s “shit of the year” for his treatment of his tarts. Wills may not be as bad, certainly not as promiscuous, but his Uranus Opposition in his early 40s could prompt a longing for soulless extra-marital whoring without condoms in Arundel. Let’s hope I’m wrong.
Kate is uber-trad and will end up more royal than the royal family put together. Doors to manual, darling. The Queen will live to 103.

Prince Williams and Another Katie
VF: We live in a surveillance society yet so much goes unnoticed. Police gangsters can kill G20 protesters on camera but no action is taken. Women are dragged out of police station custody cells and beaten to a pulp, on CCTV, and officers are reprimanded, get a slap on the wrist and are completely acquitted by Appeal Court Judges. Can this last. Or do plod have to become more accountable?

 MA: Ken’s got the answer - cut police numbers and close cop shops.  He already wants to remove CCTV and speed cameras - the man’s a Hush Puppy anarchist. Thank God for the Tories! Who’d have thunk it. Have you noticed  the more police there are the more trouble? In my area, you can walk 10 miles and not see a cop - and there’s scarcely any crime, except dog defecation. I’m sure that if the police suddenly became visible I’d be mugged in a trice: bad energy attracts bad energy, see.
The recent riots have to a great extent been made worse by the police - provocative kettling, cameramen, batons, mounted charges, barking Alsations, helmets, grouchy facial expressions, etc. Your average cop is a heterosexual thug with a tattoo on his soul: at school he will have been trouble; and it was a matter of chance whether he ended up in a uniform or a prison pen. I’m afraid Hollywood movies and tabloid editors have encouraged this idea that a cop can break the rules and get away with it in the best interests of society.
Without Ken, things will get much worse.


VF: London or New York?
 MA: Little Poynings in West Sussex

VF: What of dead tree media? Sam Leith has been heralding it's imminent demise for some time now but newspapers ( the ones that aren't hiding behind massive paywalls) appear to be thriving. What do you think the state of current newspapers / mags are? How long before the digital revolution makes all paper-stuff redundant?
 MA: Alas, Sam is correct, print newspapers are not thriving. Just this month most newspaper circulations fell another 4-16%, and the story is downward. For years The Sunday Times sold 1.3m copies a week, now it’s close to 1m and heading south. The pay wall won’t save it. I’m certain iPads (or a better variant) and other portable devices will offer papers and mags an afterlife - and Madame Arcati knows all about the afterlife.
Sam Leith is such a dear and he has told Madame Arcati of his large cock. 

I’ve lost count of the number of columns he writes - such is the diversity of opinion in newspaper-land!

Darling MA, thank you for the honour of peering into your proverbial bottom drawer, putting a periscope inside your psychic back channel and allowing your fans to ruminate over your molecules of atomized wisdom. 
Happy Winterval poppet. XXX

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Tony B-liar's marital bugs, Andy Coulson's nemesis and more by Darling Madame Arcati

Back by popular demand and because she's been let out on day release from her private and exclusive spa on the Dead Sea in Israel, where she undergoes daily Abhyanga treatment to open her third eye and clear her cluttered karma, Darling MA offers up some wisdom and musings on what has been, let's face it, an altogether trying year.In order to extend the pleasure of  being on the company of greatness, the multiple installments of this essay on contemporary Britain will be Wikileaked upon a somnambulist public. Like the Guardian.

Pinocchio

Now that Andy Coulson has been cleared of any wrongdoing and is no longer needed in Scottish Tommygate trial, what do you make of his vindication by the feds? Who's zooming who, is Yates of the Yard gone soft like Tony B-liar's willy?
Darling, I’m afraid Bliar’s willy is not soft at all - I am reliably informed that he gets it up at least twice a week for Cherie (without the help of Viagra), when either of them is not away on separate, lucrative pilgrimages. I have my bugs in the marital bed.
As for Andy Pinocchio, no one but the Prime Minister believes that as editor he did not know about illegal phone hacking at the News of the World. 
I can’t improve on the Tory propagandist and blogger Guido Fawkes words on the matter - ‘Coulson is as guilty as sin of condoning the News of the World culture…’ Nonetheless, Guido is happy to peg his nose to the stink in No 10 and just truffle after soft targets like William Hague and his preference for goooorgeous male hotel room-mates. I fear for Guido’s credibility as the Coalition starts to sink under police water cannon. I really do.
Scotland Yard - which has very close links to the News of the World - did its best for austerity Britain and save on public legal bills by threatening to place witnesses against Coulson under caution during questioning. Ken Clarke must be delighted. A prosecution of Coulson would have cost taxpayers about £2m. Coulson has already cost Murdoch about £4m in settlements and legal costs to shut up phone hacked litigants (£1m to Max Clifford alone!) - think of the money Murdoch is saving the British taxpayer. 
However, I fear that someone from Kajagoogoo, or some other branch of entertainment, will undo Scotland Yard’s sterling fiscal work and go public on tabloid phone hacking one day.
You have leaked news and important stories for years. How did you escape the gallows and the entrance only court room of District Judge Howard Riddle? What do you make of the recent remand of Julian Assange? Do you think the Frontline club was right to allow him to stay there, the proprietor,  Capt Vaughn Smith, an ex-army-man, reformed hack, claims Julian always paid his room bills but then remarked rather remarkably that he never used a credit card. One wonders how poppet carried all those used £1 coins.

Well, one is impressed. Personally, I can’t book into a decent hotel without proof of solvent existence, such as my Boots saver card. I assume Julian did a Gillian McKeith and carried his essentials, such as cash, in pockets in his Y-fronts. This is why I don’t think he raped anyone. Can you imagine? He drops his pants and out pops an avalanche of pound coins clattering against the skirting. That would put off most aspiring rapists, don’t you agree? And intended victims would probably have time to make a getaway as Julian crawled around collecting his coins, with his exposed testicles swaying about below his hairy crack. He may therefore be guilty of indecent exposure; that’s possible.
The Frontline club should be commended for its dedication to free market economics. An example to George Osborne and that funny little urchin, Toby Young.
Separated at birth. But how many chins? 

 A lot of columnistas have made a lot of noise about the misogyny of Assange's *alleged* sexual crimes on women in Sweden, given that one of them write a book on seven ways to legally avenge your lover and that one of these ways was to tell the police he raped you, do you think Julian Assange might be released soon, as there are no charges to answer or do you think the naughty poppet deserves a spell in the pokey? 

The problem is that the moment Julian lands in Sweden, Obama’s loyal drones will apply for his extradition to face a 500-year spell in a Texan penitentiary for upsetting Hillary Clinton over her illegal UN spying directives. So I think we should follow daytime TV Jeremy Kyle’s example and subject Julian to a lie detector test on these rape allegations - perhaps on the show itself, surrounded by hair-gelled oafs and their screaming chav tarts with their hoop earrings.  
If he passes, Sweden can fuck off and Jeremy can shake Julian’s hand. Sorted.
Rape is of course a very serious matter and should never be used to further the interests of Hillary Clinton. 
Not a good hair day

Monday, 13 December 2010

Miles Ahead - the art of Robert Miles-Kingston

Bob Miles-Kingston describes himself thus:
Deliver me from composition

Robert Miles-Kingston has no money, no time, lives and works in London.

Much of his work is produced with materials that are immediately available to him - such is the wealth available to people who are skint in London- reflecting elements or aspects of his confused, conflicted and inverted urban psyche that wants to destroy as much as create. As much immersed sponge-like as defying it's influence the city psychology, mentality and it's cultured apathy and foolishly facile mastery over convenience as an objective simply appalls and amuses him. His love of London and it's inconsistencies inevitably promotes cynicism and self deprecation, a quality that he looks for in most of his allusions. 

His latest creations therefore are impossible to behold, either merging with their surroundings, unseen, to be neglected or ignored in the city's necessary myopia, or sinking into the folklore that makes London's future trajectory so intensely fascinating and confounding. He likes confounding and doesn't care if you miss it. It's natural after all.

His paintings are anti compositional, have no apparent design or content, take months to create and are, he says, better appreciated through a magnifying glass.

They emulate the random patterns of nature's gradual and inevitable re-encroachment into man-made, intellectually contrived constructs and environments.

He enjoys the process of reclamation of millennia over the immediate and finite.

He aims to move this further into London's civic environment by reproducing it on much of the blank concrete that London threw up in the 1970s and 80s , He is interested to see if a more colorful decay of damp and crumbling material could involve the human sense without the need to stamp authority or identity on it.


Me.

If my work is personal and immersive, it's probably because I allow external or incoming information to reveal aspects of myself  to myself. I think that there is enough theory of thought around positing that we comprehend through our reactions and readings and not directly to what information may or may not be 'out there'. and I enjoy working with the sub or unconscious aspects of this. - both of which I understand very little about- but which kind of enable me to surprise myself sometimes.
I wouldn't take too much stock on the anti or uncommercial- I'm sure there's plenty of important  thought around that will never be 'commercial. saleable, liked or recognised by distributors- however I do like the conflict involved in the making of a product (the term 'product' in a very contemporary essence may be described as a commercial concept now) which will never sell. 


But the Anti-Commercial work really came about with the Embryomix-Left Field Glastonbury films project which was made with a specific purpose in mind- and that's another story which has kind of been disposed of or is at least in the recycle bin.

I'm not sure about this term 'inspire'. Maybe 'drive' or 'urge' would be more apt. Either that or I am constantly 'inspired', which either makes me almost divine or very tired. 

'Creation' gives me the shivers ( unless firmly sistered with  'destruction' ) -for me it's maybe unfolding or uncovering. 'Creation' has a lot of baggage I don't have a lot of time for right now unless I happen upon it, or it surprises me en route somewhere.
Art without boundaries? Really? I'm not sure that's possible. It's an attractive phrase, but I imagine a kind of genetic level of communication that has both it's success and it's failure already programmed in. If I transcend any boundaries it's probably only because I'm not good at holding or tapping information intellectually. 



How did you start making art? Who inspired you? Who inspires you now?

I started conciously age 5 when the school called my parents in to show them a painting I made- Then I just drew and painted and wrote, ignoring everything else unless it related to my own view. l I studied life drawing with a brilliant man called Arthur Ruff ( Rough ) at East Ham Technical College probably age 12-13. I saw my elder sister June's work on her foundation course there and knew where I wanted to go from that point. Events conspired against me when I was 15 and we left London for two years but by 18 I was running around the world in a Punk band, not giving a fuck and spouting anti-art rhetoric- artists and dealers were pompous, ineffectual, self indulgent, pretentious and up their own arses- a view I refuse to shake off completely even though I have prophetically become the object of my derision- a common fate for most rebels I think.

Influences past and present? It's difficult to narrow down influences when you enjoy maintaining an ontological outlook. I believe that I am influenced by the conflict between ancient and contemporary. I love and hate the wealth of information available (if you are looking) and accept the trade off. I suspect you can be focused or balanced but not both. 



A lot of your work is very isolated, made on your own, in the streets of London, using iconic images and the naturally layered old/ modern faces of the city, how did you start that process?

I don't have a lot of time currently to dedicate to collaborating with anybody. I tried to work with my sister but  it hasn't worked out yet, even though we have very consistent outlooks on alot of things - so I work alone right now.  I haven't thought about it as isolated. I suppose too that if I lived in Glasgow that would be where the main body of work would be situated too- so it's where I am. But London for me is unique. It;s a magnet and a repellent. It has every kind of complementarity and conflict. The further I look into it or myself the more I see an inseparability. So really,  the process started before I was born. It pushes forward, dragging antiquity with it. It's links are so ancient that the uncertainty of past and future occupy the same space in some unmapped potential. I think that history is as unreliable as prediction.




Your work has been described as "outsider", what do you make of the art world's desire to label everything?

Labeling is for convenience and will always (foreseeably) be a search tool. The hardest thing is to label accurately. I forgive anyone who doesn't quite succeed. I'd be flattered if anyone wanted to categorise me. although I'd probably fail to agree with them. I don't worry too much about what the 'Art world' does or thinks. I know plenty of people that work in the Art industry and it is very much like other industries once it comes down to shifting units. If you place me inside this sphere I probably seem an outsider, mainly because it seems to be filled with post graduates ( or aspirants )- which I am not- and commercially successful (to whatever level ) individuals or companies- which I am not. And since I work cheap and currently finance myself I am in the enviable position of being uncompromised and broke.





How does the east influence your creative process? There's a zen-like simplicity, something Japanese in the aesthetic. Did you spend time in Japan?
I could probably go on forever about the influence of the east. It's influence is underestimated, but so is the influence flowing the other way.




How do you view the contemporary art scene and the massive hype bubble that surrounds a few superstar artists and their dealers?
I shit it.



Do you think an artist has to stay poor to stay pure?
It's not possible to stay pure. the dirtier the better anyway.




What do you mean by your paintings are "anti-compositional?"

This came about when I came across a whole batch of prints on vinyl 'canvas'' in a London Ad agency. There were about 35 in all in various sizes. They were printed with designs and photographs which  were evidently used for displays in corporate events and conventions and were related to a client's product. They were specifically designed and geared toward commercial aim.It's no secret that regardless of your political views, commerciality relies on some form of 'exploitation' . Advertising has enough documentation that enables me to not bore you with particulars about fear and desire and insecurity. I do believe, though, that basically and intrinsically, it belongs to business and not the other way round. I got these items and set out to destroy and disfigure them. but not actively or by design. You can read about the process in my file EleMental. 



 He is currently planning and developing work for an independent solo exhibition at Albert Embankment opposite Tate Britain.   What is that?
I'll tell you about it in the new year.




What's your advice to aspiring art students?

Don't stray from the path- Run as fast as you can from it deep into the woods.

For more photos and art work click here

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Turkish Delight


Turkish contemporary artist Şükran Moral, who is Turkey's answer to Tracey Emin and Marina Abramovic, largely due to her provocative works about female power, circumcision in Muslim countries and the European slave trade,  made love with a female partner during her latest performance Amemus (Lovemaking) on Thursday December 2  at the Casa Dell Arte Gallery in Istanbul.
 "You have these angelic girls dancing around the table, they don't know this is what they'll end up like."

Guests at the event, who hadn't been warned about the content of the show were shocked when a young woman, wearing only a g-string and bra, went onto a bed on the stage and started to have sex with the artist Moral, who was wearing the same.
“Excuse me, but they had real sex in front of people; I mean it was not a fiction or anything,” said one of the viewers. Most of the audience left the venue in the first 10 minutes. 
“I was really embarrassed. Everyone was in shock,” said another guest. Twenty minutes later, in an almost empty gallery space,  Moral was still having sex with her partner, one feels compelled to commend her  enthusiasm.
Speaking about the event, Moral said her performance had no particular purpose.
“Generally speaking, the purpose was to bring a new expression to the language of performance art and of course to break taboos. My goal was to annoy the viewers of the performance. I don’t want to make a performance that does not annoy people and make them excited and confused.”
She said: “I have always had a problem with taboos in all my performances. Sexuality is one of the fields banned by governments. Making love in this performance is an artistic event. It is not a ‘sexual show’ but discussing a moral problem.”
Because of the outrage and for security reasons, Moral has canceled her exhibition of the same name, which was to feature photos of the performance and was scheduled to open Dec. 9.
In a 2007 performance piece entitled Peace...Fucking Fairytale, Moral shatters a glass on which lipstick prints have been used to spell out the Italian word for "peace."
Her acclaimed film Bordello about female empowerment and the permeable membrane that separates art and prostitution was shown   over 2 days at the Lab Gallery in midtown Manhattan. The reactions  of passers-by are revealing. 

Shame. 
But you can watch Mediation / Meditation, the ongoing conceptual artwork conceived by Daniel Rothbart here

Miriam Makeba with Hugh Masekela- Every day is Freedom Day

Friday, 10 December 2010

Freedom, mince pies and John Hegley

Amnesty are opening  their doors in the festive spirit for a night of entertainment, music, mulled wine, mince pies, card making workshops, amnesty books, and ethical shopping stalls. Entertainment by Hackney Songworks, Anima and others with headliner popular London musician John Hegley who will be doing a set of his own poems and songs. 


Here's a stanza from his poem Love Cuts, which seems strangely a propos.
Love cuts
love shuts up shop

and shuts it on your finger
love cuts
what isn't very nice is
love leaves you in slices...
.



tonight , Friday December 10th at  Amnesty HQ , 6pm - 9pm


Amnesty International UK
The Human Rights Action Centre
17-25 New Inn Yard
London EC2A 3EA 





Listen to John reading  In the Beginning here


Drawings by audience members from a JH recitals
So, don't just wear your favorite slippers and never wear them out... 


PS
Poems full of vim and vinegar, John was ably assisted by his acting buddy, Allan Bailey, who donned a black latex love glove on his head and played a host of kitchen utensils to accompany John Hegley's innovative poetry / song combinations. This might have been the first time in living memory a man played a salad grater with a plaster spoon, or something like that. Great night, lot of cakes, great books on sale and great  a cappella singing by local bands including Anima and the Balham Buskers. 




Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Monday, 6 December 2010

Sex, Italian Style

This is  a guest post by Jeffrey Felner, style maven

by Monica Bellucci
  • If one utters the name Monica in the U.S.A., there are only two possibilities that come to mind: Monica Lewinsky—we know what she is infamous for—and Monica from the television show Friends. In more rarefied circles, the name conjures up a sultrier European image of what seems to be an ideal woman: Monica Bellucci.
s. Bellucci has been the subject of many of the greatest photographers of the 20th century and does not seem to be at any risk of fading away anytime soon. 


Spanning her 20-year career, which includes editorial work as a model and movies as an actress, this homage to herself includes 165 pages of exquisite photography from the likes of Richard Avedon to Bruce Weber. She is captured as a 50s fashion model a la Dovima, a Pedro Almodovar heroine a la Rosy de Palma, a 50s movie queen a la Anna Magnani as well as the images of temptress, motherhood, sex kitten, dominatrix, and all-around sex symbol. Some of the most arresting images are courtesy of Mr. Avedon and from Fabrizio Ferri not to mention Steven Meisel and Helmut Newton.
Were it not for the fact that the proceeds of this flawlessly produced volume, are being donated to a women’s rights organization , Paroles de Femmes nd to a pediatric oncology charity, one would have labeled this as a purely egotistically motivated project.
Ms. Bellucci was quoted in  
Italian Vanity Fair (April 2010), 
Being photographed is a way to know oneself.” 
It can be extrapolated from this that she is exquisitely tuned in to her inner self as evidenced here with this publication. She has now given the world the opportunity to know her as well as she knows herself.
The star says: 

"Behind some of those photos there are some very sad moments in my life. I appear to be satisfied but I was really in pieces. 

She recently posed nude with five-month-old Leonie for the cover of Italian Vanity Fair




Monica's book is published by Rizzoli and available here


Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Art of War, Walid Raad

Currently on view at the Whitechapel Gallery is Lebanese multimedia artist Walid Raad's retrospective of his work from the last 20 years, including an installation for the fictional art collective, Atlas Group which was created in 1999 - 2004  to document the history of Lebanon.  The Whitechapel which prides itself on offering internationally renowned artists a non-commercial space to exhibit  works, across narratives, finds itself in challenging times.  It is often criticised for not interacting with its local community which is largely Bangladeshi and that the art it exhibits is "irrelevant" to Londoners at large.

This is a difficult exhibition but it is an important one, it rips off the veil of acceptability and naturalness of conflict. It defies the sanitised view of war and suffering presented to the world by those with vested interests.

 It's the day-to-day detritus, the discarded bullet shells, the bombed out cars, the scraps  of lives torn to shreds which he reclaims and redefines as  art  that force the eye  and the mind to stay focused when every natural instinct is repelled and upset by the cold, almost lyrical applications that Raad articulates. This is high art and pure, distilled emotion yet it remains detached.

In a poignant group of black and white photographs depicting shot out buildings, Raad has positioned stickers in different colours and sizes. This looks random, child-like but the child who wanted to be a war correspondent didn't have to travel far to find his context.  In Lebanon, he states,

Like many around me in Beirut in the late 1970s, I collected bullets and shrapnel, I would run out to the streets after a night or day of shelling to remove them from walls, cars and trees.  I kept detailed notes of where I found every bullet and photographed the sites of my findings, covering the holes with dots that corresponded with the bullets' diameter and the mesmerising hues I found at the bullets' tips.  It took me ten years to realise that ammunition  manufacturers follow distinct colour codes to mark and identify  their catrtidges and shells.  It took me another ten years to realise that my norebooks in part catalogue seventeen countries and organisations that continue to supply the various militias and armies  fighting in Lebanon : Belgium, China, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Libya, NATO, Roumania, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, USA, UK and Venezuela."

The video installation is spine-chilling and irresistable. Souhail Bachar, a low-level employee of the Kuwaiti Embassy was held hostage in Lebanon from 1983 - 1993 in Lebanon. He spent three months  in a basement cellar of a suburban house, along with Terry Anderson and five other Americans.  In 2000 he collaborated with The Atlas Group to produce 53 videos about his captivity. Only tapes #17 and  #31 are allowed to be shown outside Lebanon. Bachar gives very explicit instructions on how he wants the tapes made and presented; the subtitles should be on a black or blue ground, his voice should be dubbed on a neutral-sounding female's voice, native to the country in which the film is being shown. He explains how the men went to great lengths initially not to allow their bodies to touch  for the first few weeks of captivity. He explains how although his own body disgusted them, they wanted to touch him, they touched him all the time and how one night, another of the male hostage's  ass pressed into his groin and he became aroused. The person pushed him away.  All five Americans released books about their captivity, upon release, Bachar did not get a lucrative book deal but this grainy footage  is infinitely more memorable than the  memoirs of  unfortunate preachers.

Souheil Bachar
The exhibition is mesmerising in its details: a catalogue of photographs, consisting  of 145  cut outs of cars used in the  conflict as a car bomb between 1973 and  1994. Alongside the photograph is the description such as the make, model, colour and  what was used to make this vehicle into a car bomb, as well as the Arabic text that describes  the place, time and date of the explosion, the number of casualties, the perimeter of destruction,  the exploded car's engine and chassis numbers and the weight and type of the explosives used.  By making this information a piece of art, Raad removes us from the horror of the atrocity this car was used to deploy but the text and annotations force us our gaze deeper, and we confront what we don't want to see.

This is a microcosm of "witnessing" and leaking information, maybe a mini-WikiLeaks before its time, this catalogue of weaponry so carefully compiled, with the obsessiveness for detail and  facts. By presenting them in this photo-montage fashion he becomes the whistle-blower for the truth behind the clinical image of war presented to us by our governments. WikiLeaks just took it further.
The Corniche was the boulevard along which lovers would amble, spooks would make drops,  and runners jogged along the coast. The Lebanese government posted cameras inside mini food vans to spy on these activities. One such camera operator changed the angle of his camera every day just for the duration of the sunset and these have been compiled into a film. Even in the worst of times, when the war was raging, there was some beauty and comfort the camera operator found by shifting his prescribed task to gaze at the beauty of the sunset. There's just something so human about that.  He was fired after this went on for over  a year but he was allowed to keep his contraband footage which he donated to The Atlas Group.




Walid Raad, just round the corner from Brick Lane, in this important and provocative exhibition raises important questions about how exclusion breeds hatred and isolation.  Raad's work is a concise historical document of what it was like to grow up in Lebanon as a teenager during the war years. There is no agreed upon  history of those troubled times so history cannot be taught in school.

This is art making history, serving a purpose being that of being emotive and decorative.

 The exhibition runs through January 2nd 2011.

Perhaps the Whitechapel Gallery is more on-message than it pretends to be.