Posts Tagged ‘ Andy Warhol ’

PENNY ARCADE: LONGING LASTS LONGER

Penny Arcade: Longing Lasts Longer
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Although it is her past associations with Andy Warhol –as acolyte and ‘Superstar’- friend of Quentin Crisp and her rise from the fringes of New York’s avant-garde to its hierarchy that have established Penny Arcade’s name, it is her name alone which stands in this show and it is her voice that must be heard.
Her ruminations on our society and the deterioration of culture within it are genuinely spot on and beyond observational; she really feels the decline and desensitization of our senses, probably because she was from the generation which first understood theirs and encouraged others to do the same.
The universal gentrification which has turned the world and its varying cultures into some sort of global shopping mall receive a fair bit of her ire but it doesn’t stop there and her diatribe although heavy and thought-provoking is always delivered in a manner that is humorous, non-didactic and hopeful that those listening will realise there is more beyond the media saturation we are all subsumed by on a daily basis.
Humorous insights into why so many of us charge into each other on the streets as opposed to New Yorkers, who seem to slalom along their pavements gliding away from collision elegantly, is because they have guns apparently so any confrontation is best avoided as it could lead to fatality. And she raises a fair and very valid point about the apparent number of murders in Midsomer.
Quirky but insightful, Arcade rampages her way through her show soundtracked by her long-time musical accompanist on the decks such landmark songs as the Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’ Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ as well as potent and poignant choices by The Staple Singers, Nirvana and The Doors all of which deliver a dialogue of their own. Make no mistake however as this is very much Arcade’s show.
Only on for a limited run this year so it is best to get there over the next week if you don’t want to miss what is definitely a Fringe highlight with better and louder fireworks than those showing at the castle on a nightly basis!
*****
Penny Arcade: Longing Lasts Longer is at Assembly Roxy at 18.55 until August 14th

PENNY ARCADE: LONGING LASTS LONGER

Penny Arcade: Longing Lasts Longer
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Penny Arcade’s background is legendary: Warhol Superstar and acolyte, Friend of Quentin Crisp and Queen of the New York Avant Garde. However all of these pale into insignificance when left to stand alone without these reference points and only her witty, satirical, dissecting and very quotable observations on society –focussing heavily on New York- where she becomes a force on her own to be reckoned with, listened to and taken note of. Definitely a Fringe highlight this year Arcade’s verve and chutzpah reduces the nightly fireworks taking place up at the Castle to mere fizzle. Here at the Underbelly is where the real fireworks are!
There is little pretence about Arcade as, unlike many other acts. she actually wanders around the venue greeting and chatting to the audience as they enter thus removing the barrier that usually exists between artist and observer. At once we empathise as she connects on a down to earth level that relaxes and makes us warm to her instantaneously.
Not having appeared at the Fringe for several years she begins with a wry comment about it now being all about selling alcohol and how the financial success of shows generally relies on big advertising budgets. The analogy is then applied to New York’s arty and creative scenes which have also been appropriated by big business and gentrified.
Gentrification is a big theme in Arcade’s spiel and one which lies at the core of what she thinks is amiss in the world today.
Although most of her show focuses on New York and how it has changed she does also have very real concerns about all the crime in Midsomer, especially the murders. Certainly if the ITV programme is to be believed she has a point as the crime rate per head and the chances of being murdered are extremely high.
Mediocrity is the new black, the Big Apple has become the Big Cupcake, ageing is failing and Internet life support are just some of the more memorable phrases which are tossed out like confetti over a crowd more than eager to be smothered in them. A run through of the decades from the sixties onwards and what each has meant to her especially is riveting especially when revealing she hated each one at the time, has no truck with nostalgia and believes in living in the present.
Soundtracked by her longstanding musical director who played such diverse tracks as the Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’, ‘I’ll Take You There’ by The Staple Singers, ‘The End’ and Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ at appropriate moments which gave the show extra shape and colour. Not that Arcade lacks shape, colour or anything else.
Do yourself a favour and go and see this show as although it focuses on how seeking validation from others is pointless until you can validate yourself it is one step forward towards attaining that validation. Oh, and it is also fun!
Penny Arcade: Longing Lasts Longer is at The Underbelly until August 31st (not the 17th and 24th)
*****

LOU REED REMEMBERED

Lou Reed Remembered

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Yesterday October 27th was just another Sunday morning apart from the fact disorientation had set in due to the official arrival of winter with the clocks going back encouraging me to get up at an hour unthinkable a few years back. The only other thing slightly out of the ordinary was the fact I had an overwhelming urge to listen to Lou Reed’s Berlin album.

Usually an album which requires a certain mood as it is a dark, despairing and harrowing listen with little recommendation or redemption for any of its protagonists, even if its message is cloaked in some of the most awe inducing beautiful music ever recorded. Suffice to say it requires melancholic tendencies and I was far from feeling even remotely down; quite the opposite in fact. Melancholy, despair and shock arrived  only a few hours later however as I would be overwhelmed with feelings of sadness  when news of Lou Reed’s death, at the age of seventy one, began to filter through on social media and was later sadly confirmed as fact.

 Two days previously had seen an internet hoax reporting Reed’s death spread like wildfire before it was announced he was alive and kicking. As far as anyone knows at this stage he wasn’t even showing signs of the symptoms which eventually claimed him so some scepticism met the original Sunday reports of his death. In hindsight this made the news even sadder as on one of his last days on earth he had to deny he had died then forty eight hours later he was actually gone for real. In some ways this was typical Lou- rising to a challenge-who many had predicted wouldn’t live through the seventies never mind into his seventies.

 Like many others of my generation my introduction to Reed came through that font of all knowledge, David Bowie, when he tried to resurrect the faltering career of his idol by co- producing his album Transformer with Mick Ronson. Many evenings were spent with a select, elite group of friends lounging on bean bags applying nail polish, smoking mentholated cigarettes and contemplating sex in the hall as we listened to this album with its tales of decadent New York and colourful characters- Candy, Holly, Jackie and Little Joe- who we discovered were real and, at the time, all  very much alive.

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 Other favourites were the New York Dolls, early Roxy Music, The Sex Pistols and Bowie but Lou seemed darker and more dangerous- look at how his made up panda eyes glared past and through you on Transformer’s metallic cover- promising a subterranean demi-monde where it was always after midnight and debauched glamour was the entry code. On top of all this he was the best singer ever and he couldn’t even sing. Perfect!

 Transformer provided a perfect point of entry to Reed’s work and before long I investigated and discovered his Velvet Underground back catalogue which totally blew my mind. To the point I still refer to their debut The Velvet Underground and Nico as my all time favourite album. It had everything; sex, drugs, sado-masochism, twisted love songs, thrashing guitars, Reed’s throwaway drawl, Nico’s Germanic icy cool and Andy Warhol’s Factory people. Here was a record which inhabited a universe all its own and unlike Bowie’s exotic characters Reed’s subject matter actually existed. Oh, how I wanted to be there!

 Discovering Lou Reed was akin to finding a guiding light in my life. He spoke to me through the medium of song in a way I could never envisage my father speaking to me. Lou understood and prevented me from feeling I was wrong when my surroundings were screaming at me otherwise. ‘White Light/ White Heat’, ‘Candy Says’, ‘What Goes On’,Kill Your Sons’, ‘Sad Song’ and ‘Satellite of Love’ are just some of the songs embedded in my emotional hard drive eternally. How also can I forget the perfect chords of ‘Sweet Jane’ or the auto biographical Rock ‘n’ Roll’? As for the blistering assault of the seventeen minutes of mayhem that is ‘Sister Ray’, which at its denouement still leaves me feeling drained, exhilarated, confused, relieved and hyperventilating all at once; well it may be a cliché but they really don’t make them like that anymore.

 Lou Reed meant something not just to me but to so many others and he will continue to mean something. At some time we all have to take a walk on the wild side hitching a ride on a satellite of love and obviously Sunday October 27th was when Lou felt that final beckoning tap on the shoulder calling him. I could go on but really I have only one thing left to say and that is ‘Thank You ’.

ANDY WARHOL: POP, POWER AND POLITICS

 

Andy Warhol: Pop, Power and Politics

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Andy Warhol is better known than the actual art works he produced and whilst this may fit in with his quest as one of the all time greatest self publicists-he was definitely among the first to understand and take advantage of an obsession with media figures- it detracts somewhat from the power of his artistic statement. This exhibition in the Scottish Parliament redresses that balance by showing that far from being a charlatan who used bright colours there is a depth and intelligence in Warhol’s work which despite being over exposed and deeply ingrained in our consciousness actually still resonates with validity twenty six years after his untimely demise.

 The connection with Scotland in this exhibition is the portrait of Scots philanthropist Andrew Carnegie who also lent his name to the prestigious Carnegie Hall. It is a portrait that has previously never exhibited outside the United States and as a dominant central work it commandeers a large portion of the wall it hangs on. Not that the works surrounding it are any less imposing or impressive.

 Other stand-out pieces in this well curated exhibition are German Social Democrat Willy Brandt looking more like a Hollywood film star than politician whilst artist and sculptor Joseph Beuys and his role as founder of the German green party is also represented. The famous ‘Mao’ also makes an appearance though here as a full size drawing rather than the more recognisable screen print.

Warhol’s sole entry into American politics culminated in a poster he designed for the Democratic party in 1972 when McGovern was a contender against Nixon for the Republicans. In a typical Warholian ruse the artist used a portrait of Nixon with the words ‘Vote McGovern’ below to great provocative effect. To give some idea of the political context of this  statement think of David Cameron’s face being used as an advert to vote yes to Scottish independence. Unfortunately Mc Govern lost out to Nixon whose administration never really forgave Warhol who found himself constantly being audited by the IRS during their tenure and beyond. In hindsight his warning showing what people were actually voting for- Nixon- proved itself prescient when tales about Watergate eventually leaked.

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  Endangered species such as Siberian tigers and seas turtles are also on show as a representation of conservational politics as are royal figures including Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and our very own Elizabeth II.

 The Kennedy’s ‘Flash’ section is for me the most captivating work in the exhibition telling the well worn story as it actually unfolds in a wholly engrossing way without lapsing into morbid obsession. Related through a series of telex updates the text is interspersed with visual representation of Kennedy and his widow Jackie as the events of that four days which shocked and changed the world unfold. It is fascinating and even though the events and outcome are known it is as if you are caught up in the drama for the first time.

 This exhibition should help to clear up just how relevant an artist Warhol actually was for anyone who is still in doubt. Whilst his work always seemed to be simplistic it is this very simplicity which also made it complex as simply showing things as they were, the doubt and decisions to be made are all in the minds and eyes of the viewer.

 Andy warhol: Pop, Power and Politics is on at the Scottish parliament until November 3rd. To book free tickets click on the following link.http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/visitandlearn/61837.aspx

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just An Observation Friday  October 4th

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After a relatively quiet September-culturally anyway- after the excesses of the Fringe it would seem that Edinburgh’s artistic circle have stirred themselves. Possibly the most high profile opening this weekend is the Andy Warhol Pop Power and Politics exhibition being held at the Scottish Parliament until November 3rd.

Possibly the most recognisable and influential-in many ways- artist of the 20th century detractors always claim  Warhol’s work to be vacuous and lacking soul but this misses the point completely. There was a lot more intelligence in his work than is instantly recognisable and presenting culture as it was –albeit with brighter colours- was a bold statement that afforded his work longevity and ongoing scrutiny.

 Warhol himself is as recognisable as his works and emerges as one of the all time great self publicists. His influence and fingerprints are all over 21st century culture whilst his ideas still course through the veins of modern life. Reality television has its roots in Warhol’s ideas of sticking a bunch of previous unknowns and recording their actions and reactions.

The main difference between his early films and the abomination that reality TV has become is that most of the characters he chose to feature included great beauties, articulate talkers and interesting characters such as Edie Sedgwick, Joe Dallesandro, Candy Darling, Nico, Jackie Curtis and Gerard Malanga, all who operated in a vacuum of sorts and had something worthwhile to say and put across.

Compare and contrast with the never ending circle of Bianca Gascoignes and Louis Spences and it is clear how this ideology has faltered and become an instant form of creating a false celebrity. True the Warhol acolytes also wanted fame and celebrity status but deep down were aware it was never actually going to happen- of all his disciples only Lou Reed  really achieved international acclaim in his own right- therefore retaining some of their credibility and, more importantly, their integrity.

 As for politics Warhol’s work is shot through with politics although it is not always clearly apparent. The Chairman Mao’s, Jackie Kennedy’s, JFK Assassination works as well as his Andrew Carnegie portraits are all obvious enough candidates but his ‘Electric Chair’ is also rampantly political. It is a stark image which says nothing and everything at the same time but simply presents an object of death and allows the viewer to make their own mind up whilst drawing their own conclusions. Or not as the case may be.

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The Edinburgh International Fashion Festival team are also back next week and their involvement in the Pringle show at the opulent Signet Library looks like being a fashion event not to be missed. Entitled ‘Princess Grace: More Than An Image’. I am assuming the collection will be based on poise and elegance, two characteristics heavily associated with the former screen icon who became a bona fide royal after marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco abandoning her Hollywood career at its very apotheosis.

Although September was a quiet cultural month for me personally it was very active socially so now that October has arrived I am looking forward to more nights in. Matters in this would be assisted however if there was ever anything decent ever on the television. Even a series which started out as hopeful as ‘Peaky Blinders’ seems to have somehow lost its way and although it still possesses a great Nick Cave and White Stripes soundtrack-not to mention Cillian Murphy’s ethereal eyes and razor sharp cheekbones- the plot is flagging and the characters raise little empathy, never mind caring what actually happens to any of them. Hopefully the return of ‘Homeland’ for its third series this Sunday will raise the bar again and some decent drama will provide relief from the barrage of reality shows, singing and dancing competitions and ‘Downton Abbey’s’.

 Saying that my own guilty pleasure in the reality show stakes, ‘Made in Chelsea’, is also returning in the coming weeks. I actually annoy myself by watching this as the characters-I refuse to call them real people- are all obnoxious, smug, self obsessed and supercilious. Somehow I have convinced myself that I watch it to feel glad at least I am not like them and feel better for it but this argument is unconvincing as that would make me smug, self obsessed, supercilious etc. etc. and therefore I am no really any better than them at all. In fact it makes me worse as I am still interested in their lives-whilst insisting the opposite- but they are not even aware of mine.

 Let’s hope then that the programmers who organised the winter schedules have a new surprise up their sleeves. I hold out little hope for this however and may have to join the rest of the world by drowning in ‘Breaking Bad’ box-sets, hyperbole and obsession. Sounds like a good idea!

Photo at the top- Joe Dallesandro in Andy Warhol’s ‘Flesh’