Will Dutta at NPG Late Shift

Will Dutta at NPG Late Shift

Will Dutta at NPG Late Shift

Playing the National Lottery and the lute of life

Last Friday was a Black Friday.

Because LAAF learned that a black veil is about to fall upon all future Friday evenings in London when, at the end of February, the National Portrait Gallery's Late Shift will lose its two beauty spots: the Friday Night Music and the Drawing in the Gallery.

‘It’s because of a hurricane of reasons’, said an NPG employee sadly, ‘…one of which to be mentioned, is the 42% drop in ticket sales last year’.

The number of acts LAAF has enjoyed there is uncountable and despicable. Ranging from classical chamber orchestras, to a women’s trumpet quartet, from Indian jazz to Turkish rock…  Armenian disco, Polish chanson, piano symbolism (last Friday, Will Dutta), cello drawings and anything and everything in between.

LAAF has also, very irresponsibly as it looks now, missed an even greater number of life music at the Gallery. And deplores this generous opportunity to simultaneously enjoy and educate oneself.

After a short hesitation, shouldn't it play the National Lottery? Perhaps the only efficient  fundraising method around? LAAF ran down and pushed the suggested £5 donation note into the plastic bowl by the door. Then decided to also play the National Lottery, as a possibly more reliable way to save the Late Shifts at the NPG.

Starting from March, alcohol-free, LAAF will prefer Monday mornings to Friday evenings; as on Monday mornings it will still be able to drink coffee, while on Friday evenings, from now on, only glasses of cold water will be available. Cheers.

LAAF invites all to Late Shift's final edition on Friday, 23rd February, when Guillan Wormley and Din Ghani will perform lute songs associated with Sir Walter Raleigh.


Betraying Little Stones

The only architectural phenomenon I love more than the Barbican in London is the Pyramids in Egypt.


The sight of the Barbican’s Towers has the same effect on my heart as the sight of a Renoir painting, which is the same as the sight of a dear old friend. A friend that one has known since childhood, rarely sees, but always has good times with.


When I see the Barbican towers from a distance, my heart bangs. And when I see the Barbican buildings up close, say at the sloppy entrance of Baltic Street, I smile. As at this distance, my old friend the Barbican can see me too.


With the same cinematographic detail with which I remember my first encounter with lifelong friend Nadej at the age of 11; I remember my first sight of the Barbican 11 years ago. The exoticism of palm trees, lakes and waterfall amongst the concrete just blew my mind.


Later on, I dedicated a lot of time to the Barbican and its discovery. I did guided tours. Brought all my visiting friends. I love it.


I love it because it represents an old times image of the fantasy of the future. The image of how those before us imagined our life will be. The sight of the Barbican, each time, evokes in me simultaneously a collective notion of all the science-fiction works I have read in my early days; all the Isaac Asimovs, Rey Bredburys, John Wyndhams etc… and the concrete memory of an endless sunny afternoon, as teenage summer holiday afternoons tend to be, reading Dandelion Wine at a friend’s loft.


A cathedral. This is how Barbican’s architects saw the future. A sacred place. With no cars, no adverts, no commerce. Spacious and clean. Empty like a church on a weekday at lunch. Vast. Hand drill-chipped concrete surrounding Eden gardens. Lawns, trees, lakes, waterfalls. And, amidst the Eden gardens, the Arts Centre.


A part of all this is the Curve, always offering challenging projects, free to the public.


And now at the Curve, until 20 May, there is Yto Barrada’s Agadir.


Agadir’s press release makes sense. Yet, the exhibition itself did not for me.


Somehow, all its excellent elements; the good collages, the wonderful documentary, the talented and young actors from Guildhall School for Music and Drama, the comfi furniture, the delight of the luxurious red carpet, and the large-scale monochrome murals didn’t stick together. It’s all good. Very good, even. But the various elements do not concord to create sense.


Despite the project being described as ‘particularly relevant to the Barbican’s history and foregrounds important contemporary debates around the rebuilding of society’, the comparison between post-1960-earthquake Agadir and post-bomb-erased original Barbican site seems too vite fait to me. Surely naturally and humanly inflicted disasters don’t have the same emotional impact? The mention of Barbican’s history brings to my inner sight the image of the original lunar-landscape of the place followed by multiple images of war shattered cities in today’s Middle East.

Which inevitably makes me note that, amidst the Middle Eastern death and destruction madness of this decade, Morocco is one of the very few ‘disaster-free places’.


And I would like to celebrate this. I would love to see how the peaceful palm trees of Agadir wave their leaves gracefully to their sister palm trees in Barbican’s Eden. And how the calm waters of the Bay of Agadir sparkle like the tube-fizzed lakes of the Barbican. This is the resemblance between London and Agadir - more than half a century after disaster, they are both free from ruin.


The exhumation of these defunct ruins of Agadir from 1960 is like talking about rope in the hanged man's household, bearing in mind the current destruction of most of the other Arabic speaking countries.  


It reminds me of this woman who’s married to a wealthy foreigner. Who, when on holiday, in her crisis-devastated country of origin, at the sight of her impoverished friends in their simple conditions will exclaim; ‘Do you remember the stinky cigarettes we were smoking as students? They were so cheap!’. Failing to notice that they still smoke the same.  


This exhibition would be more at home in the Design Museum or other exhibition venue dealing with urban spaces and planning, or other government/king (Mohammad V, in particular) instigated missions rather than the Curve. 


While the Curve, on the other hand, would be better with its usual burning hot, heavy artillery engaged stuff.  


Because as Yto Barrada rightfully notes, ‘The Barbican Curve is as scary as a haunted house: some pretty great ghosts have already installed wonderful projects using the space in every possible way.’


That's exactly right love. Only it’s the other way around - the Curve is as scary as our world, today. By ‘ghosts’, we usually refer to bad, yet harmless, memories of the past (more than 50 years ago, in this case).


The highlight of this exhibition?  When a boy from Guildhall School for Music and Drama sat next to me and read, ‘...writing my journalistic material about the disaster made me feel like I am betraying the victims, not only the people, but also the buildings, even the little stones, while I was Instagramming photos of the exhibition.’


That's alright darling, young and beautiful as you are, I’m happy to listen to whatever you wish to say (in this case hybrid novel-play, Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine – Agadir).


New in town

Shrapnel, shreds and souvenirs.

Issam Kourbaj, the British Museum

The small boats with the burnt matchsticks vertically stuck on them bring the shimmering gold-blue waters of the port of Chios to mind.

I stand there in the cold spring wind, and the blinding bright Mediterranean light, chatting to the newly arrived Syrians, Iraqis and others. The improvised camp is just above the water, where they are dragged out and off the boats - dripping wet, most without shoes. All crying.

Women and children fall asleep. Men and boys stay to chat. It’s Sunday afternoon, 20th March 2016. The EU has just slammed its doors shut. And I have arrived with the new team of Doctors of the World, Belgium, the night before. No one knows what’s going to happen next and what our new orders and routine will be.

The recent acquisitions by the British Museum, works on paper by Arab artists, are only about 15 in number, but very challenging for me to view. One after the other, the pieces suck the breath out of my lungs and I eventually leave with a crazy heart banging in my chest.

At the entry in the ‘where the carpet is’ room, as the guard instructs me, I first see four photographs. People handling a newspaper. ‘What, what?’, I say and go to look more closely as the central object tickles deep layers in my memory. Indeed, even reversed, I have recognised it, the Ba’ath newspaper, common for both Ba’ath party Syrian and Iraqi regimes. I’ve studied hundreds of them, working on my comparative Ba’ath discourse memoire. Here too, the flashback is bright and clear.

After five days spent at Francois Mitterand library in Paris, I’m going back to Lyon. I ask a young man to help me with my suitcase, down the Metro stairs. Surprised by its weight, he jokes about illicit content and wonders whether it’s worth stealing. It contains more than 20kg of photocopies of Michel Aflak and Saddam Hussein speeches published in this same Ba’ath newspaper and elsewhere. Yes, Ba’ath means Resurrection and this Jaber Al-Azmeh four-pieces Resurrection Series 2011, resurrects a hell of a lot of souvenirs in me.

All the works are by Syrian artists, except the small painted book of Iraqi Dia Al-Azzawi. This frugal piece makes me wonder how art is done where bread costs your mother’s golden rings.

But it is the twisted typing machine fragment that throws me off the rails. Just like the boats with the matches, it is Issam Kourbaj’s. It’s called Burning World, and I can see Syria burning, in its towns, cities and villages. And the burning schools of Haleb (Allepo). And the shrapnel and shreds of Isis-occupied Raqqa. And the battles for Daraa and Dir az Zor.

All that, but also through the flames and the smoke of burning Syria, in this typing machine fragment, I recognise it and see another burning. Slowly, but equally mercilessly, the burning of post-communist Bulgaria. When, in the early nineties, the hungry years of the early transition, the years of shameful, endless queues for bread and milk, ‘enterprising Bulgarian businessman’ were exporting still ‘communist’ priced Maritza - brand new typing machines. Syria was buying them for their iron.  

‘Living Histories: the recent acquisitions of works on paper by Arab artists’ is at the British Museum until 4th February  


For more geographical and gender diversity, in the same vein, I recommend Egyptian Nermine Hammam http://www.nerminehammam.com/

And Iraqi Hannah Mallah http://hanaa-malallah.com/

You can see more of Hannah Mallah at ‘The Age of Terror: Art since 9/11’, group show, until 28th May 2018 at the Imperial War Museum, London.

London Art spoils us. (No spoilers.)

Agony in the Guarden, 1538, oil on genes from  Genoa

What’s true is true; we’re very spoiled art-wise in London.

Yet still, the Monochrome exhibition came as a surprise to me. It’s really something.

Fantastically rich with masters, and exquisitely curated, Monochrome is the must-see exhibition of the moment.

Because surprise is, in my eyes, its main strength, I won’t write much in detail about it.

I’ll only mention my discovery of Hendrick Goltzius. What a celebration. First comes a small grisaille ‘Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus would freeze’, 1599. Then the big ‘Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus would freeze’, 1606, a huge painting with pencil. One, nothing like the other.

Amidst the large figures with vivid expressions of the mythical gods, peeps a self-portrait of the painter, with such a timeless face, so close and somewhat familiar. As if I’d crossed his path in Shoreditch the day before yesterday. Bearded Hendrick peeps at me with playful eyes and a cheeky contemporary smile through wine leaves and Venus's pearls.  

Goltzius is not the only one that spurs me to say, ‘I haven’t seen anything like it’.

There’s also the Paragone hall. I’m grateful they have arranged it in a hall with a bench in the middle, as I literally have to sit down when I see it. ‘Paragone (Italian: meaning comparison), is a debate from the Italian Renaissance in which one form of art (architecture, sculpture or painting) is championed as superior to all others’, says Wiki. I say, go and see it for yourselves. And I’ll say no more.

At the very end, there’s Olafur Eliasson’s Monochrome Life Experience about which, again, I offer no spoilers. Just like the rest, it’s extremely thoughtful to have it where it is – 10 out of 10 to the curators.

Rembrandt, Ingres, Picasso, Richter, and many others at the National Gallery until 18 February 2018

From Life Screaming Girl and Boys

Jeremy Deller's Iggy Pop Life Class 2016, From Life exhibition RA

White seagulls fly low above the green grass at Green Park. Cameras click and shutter around me. On the upper deck of the No.19, I feel a part of the Japanese group. I like their language. I like every language I don't understand, a safe bubble where I can abide in peace.

Friday, 12th of January, is also the day of the screaming Bulgarian child. She screams her head off for no obvious reason. Gets into surgery with only her weight taken. No blood pressure or temperature, no-one was able to take those.

I tell her father about the Small Claims procedure. Every Bulgarian, at any given moment in time, has somebody who hasn't paid them a year ago. All but those who know about HMCT Small Claims procedure. It is my personal mission to tell every Bulgarian I meet about it. 

The Royal Academy is quiet in red and green. Red leather chairs and green plush sofas. A very gentle young woman talks to me, another puts in my hand a blue-greenish glittery cocktail with prosecco, violet syrup, lychee cream and more. The walls of the Bloggers From Life evening are ornate with academician Anthony Eyton’s paintings.

I like the cosy chaos of his big paintings. I sit under an excellent small still-life called Iranian Pot: Orange and Lemon. I like sitting there knowing that the orange and yellow glow in the general blue above my head. People come into the room to look at this particular painting. I ask a couple who had come to see the Iranian Pot, ‘Why precisely this one?’.  ‘I don't know’, says the young man, ‘I just like it’. I like it too, glowing above me, but I prefer looking at the Two Shelves across the room. For no obvious reason, it reminds me of Bonnard, peintre de l'intime, and the painting of his wife entering a bath tub. I love both men, the men who stand behind the artists, who stand behind the paintings of the Shelves and the bath tub paintings.


Grace Adam, RA tour guide, loves all the works (I think). Never mind that she occasionally says, ‘I’m not sure what I think about it. You’ll see for yourselves’. The quick tour she takes us on in her presentation is fascinating. So are the works in the exhibition. 

My favourite three at RA's From Life are somewhat obvious: Jeremy Deller's Iggy Pop Life Class 2016. A whole big hall full of sketches, taken from all sides, of a naked Iggy. What a star! Deller's idea in its simplicity is brilliant, just as Iggy is. Also, Iggy is immediately recognisable, regardless of the artist’s skills. On Friday evening, the shop only had 20 Deller-signed pink albums of this work left.

Second favourite was Antony Gormley, presenting two works - a digital one and an iron cast one. I unreservedly like him anyway. I still wear the naked-man-pin boat from the 2007 exhibition.

Second, second favourite is Humphrey Ocean’s RA raisin chair with two wooden prostates. A wonderful, marvellous object. I couldn't see the three virtual works, as the waiting time for the virtual helmet was about an hour.

After attending both the Media and Bloggers view, I think I like the second more. I don’t mind that it comes a whole month after the first.

So, to finish the Screaming Cycle, a friend invites me to a gig at Islington Town Hall, where men of all grown-up ages scream their heads off. I particularly like the last tune of Shamash, whose alternative name might have been Four Yes Blonds - with four excellent guitars, they scream Hail Satan, Hail. Love it.

The stage is full of Eastern Orthodox Church paraphernalia: icons, candles, bells, clappers and whatnot. Very well performed Batushka’s Strange Liturgy Show is unexpectedly entertaining. Screaming might be lucrative, it seems.

Batushka’s merchandise is also very attractive. I buy head gear which sits somewhere between ski-cap and ecclesiastical tiara. It has prints of Orthodox crosses, doves diving into cups, gem stones and all the other indispensables. Since then, whenever I wear it, people look, smile or talk to me. It always takes me a second to realise that this abandoned attention is due to the ecclesiastic-ski-cap.

On the over ground, a black man stares at me with an indecipherable smile. I wonder if he’s a Voodoo priest; will he start a magical war? And, if so, which deities will he send after me? I’m already wondering what I would do in return, when the man gives a desperate gasp, grabs his head as if he’s having a severe headache and gets off the train.

Once the Voodoo priest is off, the voice of the Queen, from a rare interview I heard on the BBC, rings in my years, ‘Crowns are very important things!’


For Anthony Eyton hurry up https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/anthony-eyton-ra

For From Life https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/from-life

For Batushka Litourgiya https://batushka.bandcamp.com/album/litourgiya

Batushka in Litourgiya at Islington Assembly Hall

Allan D’Arcangelo at Pi in the Sky Gallery, Cork Street - Untill the 10th of March

Allan D’Arcangelo at Pi in the Sky Gallery

I fall in love with Allan D’Arcangelo’s huge paintings of skies, seen through concrete structures or wire cables. It reminds me of the Barbican - an old concept of the future.

I very much like the blue, the smooth oils and the time spotted drawings of electricity pylons, that I think I should see the painter and ask him for an interview.

I wander about the Pi in the Sky Gallery, in an attempt to recognise who D’Arcangelo might be, thinking that I haven’t done an interview in ages. How long? Maybe twenty years?

Was it 1998? As nobody looks like they are the artist, I look down at the press release in my hand where I see ‘Allan D’Arcangelo (1930-1998)’. I feel a distant rumble of distress, at the sight of the two hiphoned dates. La lionne est morte fatiguée pops in front my inner eye reminding me of the last time I tried to contact an excellent writer, only to find out she has just died. I run out of the gallery.

Cork Street is dark, contrasting with Darlington Arcade where tens of plastic trees shine ornately with fairy lights.

I need to see more paintings, more art to wash away my sadness for the newly discovered, and immediately lost, D’Arcangelo. But Cork Street is gloomy, all its numerous galleries closed.


Extract of Dog’s Year. Dragon’s Day

Full text in Lost of Translation Rubric




Friday Lates

Friday Lates at the National Portrait Gallery really are the best place and time.

The gallery becomes busy and animated. Not less than Trafalgar or Leicester Squares, but in a more solemn, even wings-elated way.

In its soothingly marshy-green rooms, people of all ages and from all places slowly drift around - like decorative carps in a Chinese water basin, beaming at the other faces peeping down from golden ornate frames.

The best of both exalted men and art are here. The abundance of human beauty - still and animated - is beyond description. Although some try to capture it within the Lates, one of two formal activities drawing them into the gallery, gathering no less than hundred amateurs. All around the first floor.

Music in the gallery is the other formal activity. Jazz, pop, folk or classical… it’s always good, sometimes excellent, and invariably adds to the general impression of the evening as described above; ‘beyond description’.

Smaller sized, unannounced activities also twinkle in the night. Like the unscheduled private talks. But, for those, one has to fish. To arrive at the right place, at the right time (within the already perfect place and perfect time).

Last Friday, I stumbled upon a young specialist of 17th century paintings, who had brought her family to show around and ended up with a group of more than 20 people.

The Friday before, it was a camp guy who was doing a tour a la Gay in British Art. According to him, Queen Elizabeth I was probably a man, and he illustrated his arguments with the Queen’s wonderful portraits. An excellent and eccentric talk and walk in the gallery it was. ‘No matter what they say, we know we are all gay’. ‘Are you a lesbian my dear?’, I was asked when I slowed down beside the Camp Guy and his bunch of three male gay couples.

Music-wise, last Friday, was a pure epiphany; and actually being the 5th of January. Monika Lidke sang with an angelic voice, the memory of which still now brings tears to my eyes. Described as a jazz singer, this Polish, all-languages-singing Diva, was more like an improved version of Suzan Vega to me.  Accompanied by a filigrane cielo and a guitarist, her material is fantastic. At the end of the act she performed a moving ‘What a Wonderful Day’, topped with an original couplet, that went something like this:


‘I hear babies cry

Watch them grow

See them learn more than I’ll ever know

And I say to myself, what a wonderful day…’


Friday Lates at the National Portrait Gallery is the time and the place to be. All art dimensions in one.

In 2018, about the Press Pass. Seriously.

Many things change over time, which I usually perceive as a good, exciting thing. Unless they deteriorate for no good reason. Like, for instance, the origin of a friend of mine who comes from a small Eastern-European country.

This friend has lived in London for thirty years; during the first twenty of which, whenever she made a new acquaintance, she would provoke interest and curiosity, as people didn’t know a thing about her birthplace. So, they would ask her questions and be fascinated by her stories about it.

Then, during the last ten years, all this changed. People still don’t know a thing about her birthplace, but now they don’t want to know about it either. My friend is perplexed - her attitude towards new acquaintances hasn’t changed, so why has theirs?

I’ve recently experienced something similar with my Press Pass. For the last twenty-odd years, it has swiftly opened many doors, and without hesitation or reproach. On the contrary, just like the distant origin of my friend, my Press Pass usually provoked interest and curiosity. It also inspired deep, profound conversations.

Lately, for some unknown reason, this has changed. Although nothing in the Pass itself, or the journalists’ union it represents, has. Only the hologram sticker that indicates paid fees changes colour every year.

It’s true that my journalistic activity has metamorphosed through the years, and now I mostly write about art; yet, ironically, it’s the museums and gallery doors that stick and squeak mostly now while opening. To be honest, they still open, but somehow with attitude.

I find it strange that I am sometimes asked to present a plan of the material that I’ll write. As I usually don’t know whether I will write any material at all, as I write when inspired. And not only when I’m writing for my own website.

But even before, when I was hosting programmes on national radio, my head of sections would sometimes ask if I had a subject, in case I needed an assistant (after all, it was 40 minutes air time), but they’d never impose one.

I always visited current exhibitions, even though my programmes rarely dealt with such art. How can you treat any subject of a given society if you don’t consume its art? If you don’t go and see the galleries, what artists produce, what curators narrate, what galleries exhibit…

Artists are like the worker bees of society - their products are quintessential. All journalists should consume this honey, whether or not they directly write about it. And, actually, the most invited should be those who write on other subjects. To restrict press access to exhibitions to only journalists who write about it is to deny the purpose of both art and journalism. So this should be seriously reconsidered.

Last month, I was very close to being denied entry to the ‘Impressionists in London’ exhibition; who is the journalist whom you would deprive of the exhibition’s vibrant and contemporary socio-political resonance, showing the most venerated artists in the vulnerable position of war refugees? Or illustrating the complete change of attitude of some of them from revolutionary rebels to court-commissioned artists?

I honestly can’t think of a single type of journalist who wouldn’t benefit from this particular exhibition, and who wouldn’t echo it in one way or another: fashion, war, economic, society, refugees, ethic morals, et al.

Having now added the blog activity to my usual writing for the website of my journalistic union (the only one in my country), I am now treated as a blogger. In contrast, I imagine, to still undergoing more limited, but more official, writing. Thus, having been initially on the Royal Academy press view list, I was then taken off it for a couple of years and, now, after much effort, reinserted for the Bloggers’ Evening. As opposed to the usual journalists’ morning… Hopefully, it will be more successful than my visit to the Russian Film Festival last November, when no Press Pass holder was admitted to the main hall and the main event.

Seriously, what is the problem the galleries have with the Press Pass? Are the galleries too full? In which case, they could suggest time slots for Press Passers. Or are the galleries too empty, struggling to achieve a proper return on their exhibitions? In which case, a Press Passer paying for the cloakroom; the audio-guide; the coffee, the cake and souvenirs wouldn’t be a bad thing, would it? Or are the galleries just perfect as they are, except for the Press Passers?

To say art exhibitions are for art journalists alone is like saying art is for art’s sake only. Seriously? In 2018? Depriving the journalist from access, you also deprive the artist, curator and gallery from a proper outlet.


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'17 through a 19th-century lens



On the last day of 2017, it’s time to look back at the past year - and ourselves.

If you’re afraid this might be an unpleasant process, I recommend doing it through a 19th-century ‘Arnolfini’ mirror, surrounded by exuberant beauty.

Who knows? You might even like what you see…

You’ll find a pair of beautiful, round mirrors alongside fantastic oil colours at the diamond sharp ‘Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites’ exhibition at the National Gallery.

Like most diamonds, though, it’s undesirably minuscule.

So miniscule, in fact, that you can easily do it between two festive pints at the Admiralty. And your friends won’t even notice.





Bark at the moon

Tate Britain wins LAAF's Best Christmas decoration award!

Living with gods, flying with no god


Living with gods, flying with no god.


An excellent small exhibition shimmers at the heart of the British Museum, like a pearl in a shell.

It’s arranged in the mysterious rotunda at its centre, and deals with the ritualisation and fetishisation of human beliefs; the instrumentations people have developed to communicate with powers, visible and invisible, and the tools they’ve produced to impact upon these powers. 

Apart from the trite, but beautiful, paraphernalia of the well-known three headed Lamia ‘Judaism-Christianism-Islam’ (where exceptional objects shine, like fascinating copper crosses from Ethiopia and a marvellous ivory and gold compass from Turkey) the exhibition’s real sensations are the numerous, unseen and unheard of magical objects from vast Siberia.

Siberian cosmology is very complex, judging by the level of sophistication and diversity of magical tools presented. There are shaman tools and a full shaman outfit; hunters’ magical tools; amulets to protect, and others to provoke; dollies to be inhabited by dead friends and family members with little garments, soiled from systematic feeding; tools to collect the spirits of the dead and to help them pass beyond.

Above all, though, is an extraordinary tool for catching spirits of dead shaman and helping them transition to the great beyond, so they don’t hang around and play with the living.

It’s a beautiful, beautiful collection, even though it’s a little scattered about.

The exhibition was so good, it awakened my appetites - one to see the Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia exhibition before it closes on 14th January and, two, to see a similar but much, much bigger exhibition that includes the many more existing cosmologies and their magical weaponry and artefacts. 

Near the end, just when I thought the exhibition couldn’t get any better, my heart stopped when I noticed the original of a favourite poster from Soviet times. In fact, one I’ve been thinking a lot about lately… wondering whether to use it in lieu of Christmas card.

It’s the one that features an astronaut, actually, they were called cosmonauts in the Eastern Bloc at the time… so… a cosmonaut who smiles at us while flying through the skies, the churches bending below, as he says through his space helmet ‘THERE IS NO GOD’.


Living with gods: peoples, places and worlds beyond

Until 8th April 2018




There Is No God', by Vladimir Menshikov, 1975


Bellydance Bodymind Winter Show at the Holiday Inn London-Kensington

Belly on the button

I suspect myself of having done it on purpose. To uninvitingly invite my friends to this show.

Like when you have a delicious cake in the fridge and you offer it in such a manner

that your friends feel obliged to decline. If they are proper friends, that is.

I even managed not to hear my phone when the most persistent candidate called again and again

on the day; and to retain a spare ticket. Which felt like having the whole show, undisturbed,

all to myself.

So I say, next time, do it alone. Get yourself a ticket for the Bellydance Bodymind Spring Show.

The excellent performances of bellydance, hip-hop (Manifestnation) and bellytone,

was achieved by the entire audience freestyling like crazy.

As it turned out, this 200-strong audience (mostly friends and families of the dancers involved)

were mostly dancers themselves. Which really made it a six-hour show performed by 280 dancers.



For Bellydance Bodymind classes, workshops,

shows and dancers: https://www.bellydancebodymind.com/

Next free trial : 10th of January 2018 at 1830



Hassan Hajjaj Is So So Not Hot That if you put him next to the Sun, The Sun Will Be Hotter than Him!

For Hassan Hajjaj https://www.artsy.net/artist/hassan-hajjaj

For Somerset House https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/

For the primary not hot material that inspired all mens not hotness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQwQqJwWpW4


Hassan Hajjaj at Somerset House, South Wing, until the 7th of January.

The Silk Road of the Faithful

61 Sufi showing off his rings, Tim Coleman

Zikr is Egyptian for ‘dhikr’, meaning ‘memory, to remember, a pillar practice in Sufism,

to remember one true self, or God’.

‘Derwish’ supposedly came from the Egyptian ‘dar wishou’,

meaning ‘turned his face (from the world)’.

So. The first word is achieved through the second.

One turns one’s face away from the world to remember oneself and god within.

Here it is, for all to achieve, with immediate effect.

With only a simple free visit to the exhibition Fairgrounds of the Faithful, Moulids -

The Sufis’ Festivals of Egypt at the Brunei Gallery.

Factor in an extra 40 minutes for Tim Coleman’s exceptional documentary on the subject.

The Fairground of the Faithful finely merges with Music, Faith and Diplomacy along the Silk Road, next door,

which exhibits a few (but excellent) Sufi musical instruments, books,

shrines and practices from Central and Far Asia.

Chop, chop. It closes 16 December.


For the artist  www.timcolemanmedia.com

For the gallery https://www.soas.ac.uk/gallery/


Dhikr Pictural Exhibition at Gallery P21 Until the 6th of January

Through its search for Palestinian art in London, LAAF found its way to Gallery P21, a Palestinian Gallery next door to the British Library, and currently exhibiting Algerian artist, Anissa Berkane. Independent Event Director Toufik Douib, curator of the exhibition, describes the gallery as ‘engaged’.

P21’s calendar is full of events: talks and workshops. Check out the Interfaith panel discussion with Caravana Arts on the 20 December at 6pm. It must be good as one of the participants is Soheila Sokhanavari, an excellent scientist who decided – midlife – to become an excellent artist.


Curator Toufik Douib with Anissa Berkane's "'The Old Faithful"

The October Gallery. A must for December.

Hassan Massoudy with his works at October Gallery

I discovered the October Gallery while randomly Googling 'Palestinian Artist’ and ‘Palestinian Art in London’, the day The Grand Douche Muppet decided to irritate every grown-up, and reasonable person on the planet, by moving his country’s embassy to Jerusalem.

Laila Shawa’s name was first to pop up, together with that of her representatives in London.  The October Gallery situates itself in the ‘trans avant-garde’. But it’s not your ‘beyond avant-garde’ of the late 70s (when the gallery was established). Now it has a new twist - the ‘first-to-cross/pass-borders’, as I read it.

John at the Gallery describes it as ‘Artists coming from more than one country, or mixing cultures. Plus being avant-garde.’ (relative quote). “How lovely”, said I, “Exactly me, if I were an artist”.

October Gallery has many obvious charms, apart from its trans avant-garde stance and echo-technics. It is small, yet airy. Has a locally popular coffee, and serves food. Rents working spaces. Hides the greenest lavatory in town, full with blossoming jungle flowers and plants. Features the most pretty, friendly, forthcoming and efficient staff ever, and more. But it also has a huge, trans-border and not so immediate tr... muppet, called GOSH next door. The Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Two types of healing.

Thus combining two of my favourite things, gallery and hospital, nearly in one. For galleries and hospitals, alike, treat a human being’s body and soul. Both change humans’ inner landscapes. Both life-givers.

So I recommend a combined visit to everyone. In whichever order you wish. GOSH’s visitors and workers, after the usual hand washing and disinfecting, should regularly moisturise with a healthy dose of art.

Gallery visitors have only to turn right, and right again, on their way out to find themselves contemplating the trans-level-image and language signage of GOSH elevators. Unseen anywhere else in London. And very much resonating with the Hassan Massoudy solo exhibition at the October Gallery.

for October Gallery http://www.octobergallery.co.uk/

for Hassan Massoudy https://www.artsy.net/artist/hassan-massoudy


“Hassan Massoudy is an artist for whom the word itself remains the most sublime creative force. His work features the texts of a diverse range of writers, from poet Charles Baudlaire and philosopher Jean-Jacques Roussaeau to Virgil and Ibn ‘Arabi.” from October Gallery press-release. Also Rumi, Ibn Khaldoun and Al Hallaj.

LAAF strongly recommends Hassan Massoudy’s calligraphy life-performance videos on youtube.

The Muppet Show – an important announcement

Laila Shawa

Having participated in a pro-Palestinian rally (after le massacre des innocents of Sabra and Shatila) at the tender age of 11 (independently from parents), and having since been engaged in various forms of political activism, LAAF can announce that it is righteously retiring from all forms of direct action and militantism.

We hereby concede that art (and some food) is the sole meaning of human existence.

So, this month, with regards to The Muppet’s decision to proclaim Israel as a capital of Israel, LAAF will be reviewing Palestinian artists (as much as is possible in London) or Arab artists in general if there is a shortage of the former.

Palestinian artist Laila Shawa will be part of a group exhibition opening February 2018 at the October Gallery London

October Revolution Centenary

Arsen Savadov, Donbass-Chocolate at the Saatchi Gallery

May it soon be over this tormenting celebration.

Or is it real art because it haunts, tortures and torments us? This doubt, self-doubt and uncertainty related to everything Russian; communist or socialist shall we call it?

Coming deep from within our past; we love it, we hate it. It’s exalting, it’s humiliating. It has the dark attraction of the criminal rubric in a yellow newspaper - such a bother, to sum it up in one word.


Having started with ‘Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1937’ at the Royal Academy, an exhibition so exquisite that it nearly made me forget and forgive the mystification of our lives, and those of our parents and grandparents before us. This exhibition of the most discerning of man’s innovative and artistic creation made these two decades look almost beautiful and nearly human.


As the centenary celebrations come to (hopefully) an end, we have - yet again - two gigantic and fantastic, exciting and depressing, must-see exhibitions, taking history from polarised points of view:


‘Red Star Over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture 1905 – 1955’ at Tate Modern, exhibits works from David King’s vast collection, purchased with funds provided by a private donor, as the booklet reads. Apart from the curator’s message, I’m not sure if it was more sophisticated but, for me, it was a simple reminder of the belief and self-sacrificing efforts of millions that stood behind the forging of the Developed Socialism (as it was called then) only to secure its cynical nomenclature and apparatchik a construction of monumental scale to dismantle and embezzle. So, apart from this elementary message, the striking point in the exhibition is the colossal might of a single person's passion. Collector David King has researched, found and purchased countless, unique artefacts without curators, anonymous donors or cultural institutions behind him. The magnificent posters of Soviet propaganda in the Far East from the 20s, are a must-see.


‘Art Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism exhibits the not less scary, wonderful, painful, self-sacrificing creations of nowadays Russian artists. It is just as beautiful and awful to see. They are still bleeding those grand-grand-grand-grandchildren, direct or indirect descendants, of Kustodiev, Brodsky, Golubev, Malevich, Kandinsky and Petrov-Vodkin. They are as inspired, threatened, scared and daring as Soviet artist have always been during this horridly-bright century since 1917.  Strong and fragile, you can see Slonov, Pavlensky, Natalya Yudina and many others at the Saatchi Gallery.

My personal favourite being Arsen Savadov with the photo series Donbass-Chocolate from 1997.


Admiring as I am, let me get back to where I started. Let these celebrations and commemorations now come to an end. Let the Red Past be forgotten and the Red Art pass into oblivion. For at least ten, if not another hundred, years.

Let the Kremlin be present in our politics and economy but, please, please not in art. Not. In. Art.

And, if this isn’t possible, at least let it pass undercover. Let it be in disguise, in disguise.





Rinat Voligamsi, Stars

Saatchi Gallery

David King's Collection

Tate Modern

David King's Collection

Tate Modern

Burning Hot  - 20 Cross Street

Galeria Carles Taché at No 20 presents six Spanish artists in association with Galeria Carles Taché - Barcelona.

Javier Arce

Miguel Angel Campano

Santi Moix

Javier Pérez

Guillermo Pfaff

Vicky Uslé

All for you to see until 23 December 2017

Javier Arce

Galeria Carles Taché at No 20

Galeria Carles Taché at No 20

Javier Pérez

Galeria Carles Taché at No 20

The Wildean Night At the Poetry Brothel

Amy Neilson Smith with her Dark Matter

Life is full of paradoxes. One of them the human failure to describe perfection and, ever-so-often, to even notice it. Failure of which even masters of the pen are not spared. Take Tolstoy as an example; “All happy families are alike.” That’s it. This is what you get describing perfection. And then 800 pages to describe the imperfections of one single family.

That’s why, I cannot really describe last night’s Wildean Poetry Brothel. Last night being my best night since I arrived in London. And by “Since I arrived in London” I don’t mean “Since I am back from Iran two days ago”. Even though it might have something to do with it, as meditating on the two experiences at the same time might drive me insane.


I am trying to maintain in my brain the following two images:

One. Last week. Shiraz. Moharam commemorations. The women’s compartment of the public transport bus (made in 1970) with its dark grey curtains pulled down. Women of all ages, resiliently sitting side by side, silent, all in black. Heading to Shah Cheragh’s Mosque. A young woman looks stubborn and disgusted in obvious silent revolt to her mother sitting next to her. Forcefully dragged to the mosque, is my thought.

Men in their compartment, at the front of the bus, are equally silent in the dark.

Two. Last night. London. The Poetry Brothel. The Arts’ Theatre Club is sprinkled with red rose petals, and green carnations. Women of all ages dressed in 19th century garments recite, read, sing, act, strip their poetry, flirting with all, men and women alike. Dressing, undressing drinking absinthe and wine.

Men sing, play instruments, clap hands, laugh, turn on heels, pour absinthe, recite sonnets.


The atmosphere of the Poetry Brothel is surreal. This is the best I can come up with. And, if I try even harder, decadent and content, are the two words I find swirling like green peas in the otherwise empty pan, getting cooked slowly in the unfamiliar mists of an absinthe hangover.


Meditation over, now I know, not only the spirit of Sir Oscar still roams London’s Covent Garden, but also the spirits of Agas Hafez and Khayyam.


For the Poetry Brothel http://thepoetrybrothel.com/

Or https://www.facebook.com/poetrybrothellondon/?ref=br_rs


The Poetry Brothel

The Poetry Brothel

The Poetry Brothel

Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali and chess

At the Royal Academy

Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali and chess

at the Royal  Academy

Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali and chess

At the Royal Academy

Rollywood or To Myself with Love

Dare drink Rollywood's Blue Fizz?

26 November 2017

Russian Film Week. (Closes today)

Or, the Farce with the Journalists.

Or, Always Keep in Mind Who You Are Dealing With.

This piece could have many titles. Let’s just stick with The Farce title for now; and the farce goes like this...

Imagine that you are a journalist and you apply and receive an accreditation for Russian Film Week; you go to the opening ceremony, you expect to meet the event’s committee, film directors and stars, other film professionals, other journalists; then you expect to have an insight into the week’s programme by the organisers - so you can make a more informed choice about which films to watch. You believe you’ll be at the world premiere of a Russian film produced in Hollywood. Rollywood.

Now, imagine that when you get there, you find yourself amidst a press conference running in Russian, with an interpreter so bad that you can’t follow a word. You can’t ask questions and you don’t understand what’s going on.

Then also imagine that you realise that you, and your fellow journalists, are supposed to see this world premiere in the press conference hall (aka a basement), projected on a wall (sans screen), through bad speakers (I had better 30 years ago), with white lights from the ceiling full on, and with all the sounds from the London Science Museum coming from above your head.

You also find out that, at the same time you’re enjoying this ‘Special Screening for Journalists’ as announced by the organisers, upstairs in the IMAX cinema other people are crossing the red carpet to sit in proper chairs, in proper darkness and watching the proper world premiere of this same film.

How would you feel? I felt like a naughty child who failed to grow up and is kept away from the Beautiful People in floor length evening gowns (which vividly reminded me of my mother going out with my father when I was seven, while I was left behind) along with white shirts, black jackets and bow ties. Also envision that you’re a journalist who thinks they are part of an event, just to find out that – actually, no - the event is taking place somewhere else.

Not too far, just two floors above. But still other-worldly.

Now, imagine you’re the organiser. You want to create an event, you want to make it big and bright to attract attention, but not just any attention.

If your event is big and bright enough, obviously journalists will come. But you don’t want them to come; and certainly not for the opening night, nor the gala at the end.

You’ll have many reasons for that… but what to do? Aha! Invite them hospitably, then isolate them. That’ll do. Stuff them in a basement and give them plenty of alcohol.

But how will you actually achieve this? Why would they just follow and be where you want them to be instead of making a riot? Well, let’s try some old techniques: First, break up the group, then bring them down bit by bit. Make them believe that they’ve made a mistake. For example, that they haven’t registered for the screening.

If they don’t get to the screening, then it’s their fault.  And, on arrival, give them all a press-pass; then only give wristbands to half of them. Then let’s give tickets to half of the group with the wristbands.

But then we’ll still have journalists in the IMAX hall, won’t we? Don’t be silly! We’ll mislead them with all these tokens, to break up the group; so that some of them think they are cleverer and did better than others; and vice versa; so that half of them think that they missed something and weren’t good enough.

Eventually, we won’t let any of them in anyway.

Soon, all the children-journalists-press-passers will start running around amidst the Grown-Up-Beautiful-People. Then they will learn that the press-passers don’t bypass anything, and certainly not the usherettes that guard the escalators towards the upper-floor-heaven-of-the-IMAX.

Then some of them will realise that the Grown-Up-Beautiful People have white wristbands; as they do, and will show them to the usherettes to pass through and get onto the escalators.

If those without wristbands start asking what to do, they’ll be told, “Oh, you should have registered for the screening, now there is nothing to do”. But to others, “No worries, now you have to go to the main reception, and ask for wristbands there.”

Once they reach the Upper-Heaven-IMAX floor, the naughty-children-press-passers will be asked for tickets. Those who have them will be let into the screening hall. Others won’t and will be sent to main reception (the main reception being miles away). Having finally got into the screening hall, the ‘lucky’ minority with the ultimate combo of press-pass, wristband and ticket, will realise that despite all the decoration, they still don’t have an allocated seat.

Thus, 45 minutes later, all children-press-passers-naughty- journalists will find themselves back in the basement.

None of them having done well enough. None of them grown-up. Understanding, disgusted, humiliated. All the journalists find themselves down, in the basement, drinking warm blue fizz. Yes, blue. Children like bright colours.

Luckily, I had only a press-pass, and didn’t lose time running up and down the escalator. Instead, I got mad. Especially when I saw the PR person, Mamasha (verbally called Masha), sneak up and disappear towards the IMAX-Upper-Floor-Heaven with the answers of all my unasked questions. I got mad and shouted at the RFW Director “Are you seriously keeping the journalists in the basement with no screen and bad sound?” To which he answered with a question “Do you know how much these people have paid for their tickets?” sweeping his gesture to the Beautiful-Grown-Ups surrounding him. To which I too answered with a question, “Was I given the choice?”. To which he says, “It was written as a Special Screening for Journalists”. To which I said, “Since when did special mean degradation in a basement?’’

Then I got so mad that I simply left and went down to where I was expected to be - in the basement with a glass of wine, and another glass of wine, and another glass of wine.

All the while asking journalists, one by one, if they had anything to comment. “Do you think this is representative of the Russian attitude towards journalists?’’, from a young woman running a blog (I can’t tell you her name, I was so pissed by the end of the event that I lost my notes). Another charming man writing for some sci-fi edition mentioned something about a ‘special tea’. But, unlike me, they are all calm. They all sit like good children to watch the film.

The screening starts. I can’t watch, anger and wine spoil my concentration, poison my brain. Loathing surfaces: Why have they done this? Self-doubt: Why am I here? Self-questioning: Do these children-naughty-journalists love cinema more than me? As I see, they all sit quietly watching their film…

I sneak towards the IMAX-Upper-Floor-Heaven led by the smell of popcorn. Where else food if not with the Grown-Ups? “Where are you going?” the usherette questions. “For popcorn”. They let me go. With hands full of packets of popcorn, I bump into RFW Director and the film Director with his girlfriend (model-tall but slightly stooped) while they sneak out of the salon. Next to this tall company and with hands full of popcorn I really feel ungrown. A naughty, sneaky, nosey child, diagnosed with a retard journalistic growth. I go down to eat my stolen popcorn when, a few minutes later, ushers arrive from the Upper-Heaven-Floor with serving cars full of popcorn and politely asking the naughty-children-journalists, “Sweet or salty?” as if it were “Red or white?”

A director’s call is always efficient I think through the mists of the warm Pinot Grigio. And, I also think, now all is in its place: the children have popcorn, and when the film finishes the Grown-Up-Beautiful-People will have Champagne.

About half an hour into the film, I leave. Apparently, I don’t love cinema enough to watch the last tech film in a basement, on a wall, with white lights in my eyes and the sounds of a whole museum in my ears. The other children-naughty-journalists must love cinema more than me.


That was the beginning and end of Russian Film Week for me. I don’t know about film selection, I don’t know about guests or anything. You should read somebody (good luck with that) else’s piece who got less mad about the opening trick performed on an otherwise nice Sunday afternoon in West London.




Fancy a basement screening?


The Charity


The Charity


The Carpet

The Wellcome Collection

The Wellcome Collection

The Wellcome Collection

The Wellcome Collection

Beauty and awe. 19th century Chinese Lady shoe. Original object for handling

Is always worth visiting/revisiting. Full of magnificent,scary objects, exhibitions and bars, it is a place where one can spend a whole day and even have a nap in the library.  Guided tours and objects-handling sessions are not to be missed.

Who Invented the Disco-Ball?

Who Invented the Disco-Ball?

Who Invented the Disco-Ball?

Who Invented the Disco-Ball?

Fantastically Commercial

Lorenzo Quinn's Women Make the World Go Round  at Halyon Gallery

And a veiled version in case a Saudi sheikh passes by to buy some art...

The Fabulous Incident of Discovering Feroze Antia on Google Maps

Feroze Antia at Work

I like Google Maps.

I’ve always liked it. Even though I have a lot of trouble getting the direction right. Sometimes I wander about, up and down, left and right for 10, even 15, minutes to get on the blue track. And yet I love it.

As for reading from the A – Z book, 10 years ago, that was even more of a mission impossible; let alone carrying the brick about all day long.

These days, I use Google Maps all the time, either to get directions, check on opening hours and read reviews or the other way around - to populate it with photos, comments and improve the Bta plan.

My logic is simple. As it gives me so much for free, I should give something in return. In this way, Google Maps and I have coexisted, symbiotically, in love and harmony (despite it being irritating at times such as when it keeps asking ‘Does this place have a good tea selection?’ when it’s actually a residential complex!). It can also be annoying (like when it takes its time while I’m waiting for the blue dot to catch up with me in the middle of the road). A long lasting, happy liaison, as I said.

Yet, last Thursday, Google Maps took me to a totally new level of experience. I had a bit of work in Palmers Green, which is quite far from my pond. In order to make the chorus look fun I thought I’d Google Map ‘Gallery in N13; and thus combine work and pleasure.

A handful of options popped up. One of them Anita (as I read it) Art, which had no reviews. The idea of reviewing an unreviewed gallery helped me grow some wings and fly in the direction of Palmers Green.

Having reached the location of the reversed red drop, I can see no gallery.

I go up and down the street; discover a river called ...New! Marvel at it and eventually dial the number politely provided by my partner in travel, discovery and adventure - Google Maps.  

‘Hello, is this Anita Art?’

‘Nn...o...yes! It is!’

We converse and it becomes clear that the address is wrong for not one, but two, reasons. One, this is not an art gallery. Two, this is an artist’s private home.

To my surprise, the voice invites me to still despite this. This is London, strangers are not often welcomed into peoples’ homes. But Antia, Feroze Antia, as I soon discover, is even more surprised than I am.

‘Excuse the mess. I just returned last night! I spent the last seven years in the Far East. I literally flew in last night. I haven’t yet unpacked. When the landline started ringing I wondered, who knows that I am back?!’

Yes, he is an artist. This I can see from all the watercolours dispersed throughout the large room (old books, tons of them; open suitcase, still unpacked) and a freshly-started watercolour work on the easel. It has been inspired, as Mr. Antia explains, from an article about him written by a friend. ‘A Mess versus fines’ reads the title of the article published in this year’s ‘The Artist’ (October edition).

So there, having just arrived home after seven years, Mr Antia already draws a watercolour inspired by his friend’s, Paul Talbot-Reaves’ article … and marvels about the fact that apart from his daughter, nobody knows that he is back. And yet, here I am, a curious visitor, asking questions and taking pictures.

Born in Bombay, Feroze Antia studied mathematics and moved to London to complete his PhD. He took painting up as a hobby, doing collage and oil painting.

Mr Antia retired early and moved to Thailand, where he taught English and drawing. During the last seven years, he also gave courses in China, Vietnam and Cambodia.

‘I’m very happy to see you on the first day of your new life’, I say on my way out, ‘And welcome to London. I wish you good luck!’

(And a big thank you to Google Maps, I say to myself.)

To see more of Feroze Antia check http://antia.org.uk/

Collage and photography

Darn it. You’ve just missed ‘Selfie-Destruction Portrait of the Countess of Brighton and Hackney’ by Nico & Vittorio and Ines Sole at the Brick Lane Gallery, 11-15 October 2017. All light boxes and prints now sold out.

You also passed up the unforgettable Private View on 12 October, with performance by living exhibit - The Golden Dominatrix.


Lust for Life

by Nico&Vittorio


presenting the exhibition


being interviewed

The Golden Dominatrix

in action

Alien Viking Submarine

On Friday 13th, an Alien Viking Submarine was spotted floating on the waters of the Grand Union Canal, emitting strange sounds.

Well-informed sources referred to it as the ‘Meanwhile Hydrosiren’. They say that, in the next two weeks, a lucky few and those born under a water sign might be able to see it coming to the surface of Regent’s Canal near Little Venice.

Feeling lucky?



Meanwhile Hydrosiren

One day of Gorka Mohamed in London

Sunday, 8 October

I meet Gorka Mohamed at Berwick Street. He loves it for its many record and comic shops, and restaurants. He spends hours in Reckless Records and Gosh Comics, shoulder-to-shoulder with the tens of other customers.
It’s crazy how busy both shops are. Gosh blows my mind. There are comics on every possible subject, style and age. I am absorbed by the ‘Shop’s Favourite Selection’. I didn’t know that Neil Gaimon had comicised lots of his books.
Byron on Wardour Street is also a favourite of Gorka’s because of the continuous  screening of old, black and white cartoons.
Seeing the Super Power Girls, he can’t resist asking for a picture.
Later on, we want to see the new Blade Runner movie, but we give up - all shows in Soho are booked. It’s Sunday afternoon, after all.
The next day, Gorka is flying to Madrid where he lives now. 
Bye, bye Gorka. Hope to see you soon.

Gorka Mohamed

Gorka Mohamed

At Reckless Records

Gorka Mohamed

At Gosh!

Gorka Mohamed

And the Silver Screen

The Curve Today - 5 October 2017

John Akomfrah

The Curve Today - 5 October 2017

John Akomfrah

The Curve Today - 5 October 2017

John Akomfrah

A Visual Napoleon?

John Akomfrah conducts six screens, both vision and sound. Skillfully he takes us from Alaska and Greenland to the Marquesas Island and the Himalayan highths. With documentary material from different eras this is  a journey in space and time. The sophisticated juxtaposition of six moving-pictures lines is coordinated by the subject of human impact on nature.

Late Wednesdays at Camden Art Centre

Nathalie du Pasquier, until 14 January 2018

Late Wednesdays at Camden Art Centre

Nathalie du Pasquier, until 14 January 2018

Late Wednesdays at Camden Art Centre

Nathalie du Pasquier, until 14 January 2018

Late Wednesdays at Camden Art Centre

Christian Nyampeta, until 14 January 2018

Late Wednesdays at Camden Art Centre

Robert Longo at taddaeus ropac Until 11/11/17

Robert Longo at taddaeus ropac Until 11/11/17

Robert Longo at taddaeus ropac Until 11/11/17

You Have Just Missed : Queer British Art 1861-1967 At Tate Britain

Vasil Nijinski as the Faune by Una Troubridge

You Have Just Missed : Queer British Art 1861-1967 At Tate Britain

Charls Ricketts and Charls Shannon as Medieval Saints by Edmund Dulac

You Have Just Missed : Queer British Art 1861-1967 At Tate Britain

The Mower, Hamo Thornycrof


Next Friday a friend of mine and I are going to Chelsea Theatre to see an Iraqi play. On Monday my friend called to arrange the meeting place and time. In the middle of the conversation I remembered that this same day the Kurdish elections took place, so I interrupted myself amidst the sentence to tell her “Congratulations. May you have a state!” My friend surprised me replying “This year elections. Next year Mosul” (we will take it). “God forbid, said I, what are you saying?” “Yes, she said, better us than Turkey”. I was literally mind blown by the notion of the occupation of Mosul by the new Kurdish Republic. Yeah, that’s write, they miss only that in Mosul, I told myself, after a war with Iran; a mobilization for the blitz invasion of Kuwait; a Desert Storm; an embargo from the world; another war with the States and few others others (including Peshmerga and other Kurdish forces); two years Islamic State occupation and half a year liberation combats, what they really need next is peshmerga shooting anew at their freshly painted houses and freshly put windows and doors. But I am also gobsmacked by the blind, election-fuiled enthusiastic ballsiness of my friend to through it like that in my face knowing that I am half “Maslawi”, my father being from Mosul.

“Why not Iran?” I manage to compose a random response. “Nah, Iran doesn’t want you, says she to me, embodiment of Mosul town, you are Sunna. Iran wants the south, cos they’re shia; Turkey wants Mosul; but we will take you, if God is clement”. Having swollen my tongue, as we say in my mother’s Bulgarian, under the bright new for my imaginarium, apocalyptic image of a Great Kurdistan allied with Israel, opening a wide front against Jordan and the remains of dispersed Arab population across what have once been Syria and Iraq, I say “Forget politics. Let’s arrange the theatre”.

We are about to see the Iraqi collective Together, in the play We Are Responsible. No joke.

Yasmina Aoun at Central Saint Martin's Design Exhibition

Yasmina Aoun
Attracts my attention with her Free Parti project, her record is a mix of sounds from the war in Lebanon, mainly shooting and shouting. The record is good, but I linger longer on her work, because I think on the probability of her being daughter/granddaughter of Michel Aoun, current President of Lebanon. Highly likely I conclude.

I like the record and its cover. I like the discrepancy between the inscriptions in English and Arabic; the English reading Side B The Defenders’ Melody; the Arabic reading Side B The Assassination of Rafic Hariri (Prime Minister of Lebanon at the time he was assassinated).

I wonder what are the reasons for this discrepancy. And I also like that the discrepancy of side B leaves me more perplexed than the discrepancy of side A: 2006 Night Heros in English and The Lebanese War 2006 in Arabic.

I wonder how would a daughter/granddaughter of Rafic Hariri perceive the tune. As it is highly likely that some of Rafic Hariri’s offsprings live here, in London, just like presumably some of Michel Aoun’s do.

And how much would you fear for your father’s life if he is a President of a country where the Prime Minister was assassinated a decade ago… Which, of course, makes me think of Saad Hariri, son of the assassinated Rafic Hariri, who, for a second time, dared to become Prime Minister of the this same Lebanon, about a year ago… What is your relationship with death if you grew up in Lebanon?

Of course these are all fantazy questions, as the author might turn to be only a distant relative of Aoun, or no relative at all. But how likely is that? Not likely at all.


Yasmina Aoun at Central St Martin's Design Exhibition  September 2017

Basquiat at Barbican Gallery


Basquiat in London.

And some questions.


So many people at an exhibition I haven’t seen. And, boy, have I seen some exhibitions.

There’s no doubt that Basquiat is a fantastic artist - and one who answers questions. Particularly mine.

Lately, I’ve been questioning myself on the senselessness of the linear narrative. Can it be skipped? And how?

This mind blowingly boring… word after word, sentence after sentence. Yet, here he is, Basquiat, deconstructively constructive, presenting the whole history of mankind in a single painting. And, what a painting it is.

Full of history and laughs, it reads ‘A BONE OF AN ASS’ at the top then goes on to list the characters of the entire Old Testament.  What a sublime, terrible eye and hand of a creator cuts through pharaohs, Alexanders and centuries with the swiftness of a hot knife in butter.

As I missed the press view on the previous day, I visited the exhibition on its first opening day instead.

Did I say that I haven’t seen quite so many people at an exhibition? What I actually meant is that I haven’t seen so many black people at an exhibition. Not at an opening day, anyway, not at a press view, not at any day. Not in London. Not in Paris.

When I wrote the opening sentence, I had genuinely forgotten to write the word black, even though I was thinking exactly that.

So, first I forgot to write it. Then I wrote it above the sentence. Then I scratched it. Which made me think deeply, at length, and to no avail on the meaning of the written, then scratched, yet readable words in Basquiat’s art. Or his repetition of words, names and images like they are in -



Matisse …

  • Why haven’t I seen so many black people at other exhibitions?

  • Does the lack of so many black people at other exhibitions mean that so many black people cannot associate with not black art?

  • Why haven’t I seen so many black people at Wai Wai’s exhibition?

  • Why were there so many black people at this exhibition?

  • How do many black people see this exhibition?

  • Do many black people see this exhibition as many people read ‘Hello’?

  • Why wasn’t I thinking of Basquiat as a black artist, before I saw all the black people in the exhibition hall?

Apart from the ‘lack of so many black people at other exhibitions’ question, the new security measures taken by the gallery after the last London bomb attack also left me mystified.

At the entrance of the gallery, I was asked to leave my bag at the cloakroom. Ill prepared for such a demand, I was wearing a dress with no pockets. Which meant I was then stripped of all my identity documents - ID, press pass, bank cards, telephone, keys.

If a bomb had exploded - good luck deducing what colour I was. 

Basquiat at the Barbican


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