Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Spring has Sprung in London!

I TOOK A FEW PICTURES TODAY in Regent's Park, so happy was I to see flowers and green green grass! The following poem is part of a project to bring poetry to the public via the advertising space inside London's tube carriages that touches my heart! Read more about Poems on the Underground and browse the archives!! This one really encapsulates the profundity of watching plants grow in the city...

The Very Leaves of the Acacia-Tree are London

The very leaves of the acacia-tree are London;
London tap-water fills out the fuchsia buds in the back garden,
Blackbirds pull London worms out of the sour soil,
The woodlice, centipedes, eat London, the wasps even.
London air through stomata of myriad leaves
And million lungs of London breathes.
Chlorophyll and haemoglobin do what life can
To purify, to return this great explosion
To sanity of leaf and wing.
Gradual and gentle the growth of London pride,
And sparrows are free of all the time in the world:
Less than a window-pane between.

Kathleen Raine (b. 1908)

From Collected Poems 1935-1980, © Kathleen Raine.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

I stand corrected.

Having brushed up on the definition of "Intellectual Property" in the UK (via their website) I can assure the concerned reader(s) of this blog that no more infringements of UK copyright laws will ensue here. Particularly, the laws that protect the copyright of visual art created after a certain date, or belonging to living artists, prohibit unauthorized amateur photography of this work. I apologize for any infringements, and appreciate greatly the notification.

Thank you.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tate Britain speaks volumes silently...

The Photographers' Gallery

A CHARMING SMALL gallery near Leceister Square in London...The Photographers' Gallery is split into two street-side buildings, including a small crammed bookshop. The gallery was closed on Wednesday, when we first went to see it, but reopened on Friday, and we walked through Trafalgar Square towards Chinatown a second time to discover it. It is free and intimate, with an auction space upstairs. It is also apparantly one of the only galleries devoted solely to photography in London. Definitely worth the visit. We saw the breathtaking black-and-whites of Anders Petersen, the curious "found art" and exploration of cultural bounderies which marks the work of Fiona Tan, and the work of Simon Roberts and Philippe Chancel, who explore the reclusive and exotic cultures of Russian Siberia and North Korea, respectively...

Also, this is one of the only galleries in all of London in which I have been able to photograph the art. I often sneak photographs, though. The act of taking photos in art galleries is so pervasively frowned upon here that there aren't even signs that forbid your taking pictures...the condition is understood. Therefore, I am consistently having the experience of being politely but forcefully told to put my camera away. Which bothers me, because without a camera and a pen and paper I cant properly record the images that are moving to me, in order to find out more about the artist later. The question constantly in my mind, when I am feeling a bit indignant after being reprimanded yet again, is why? Do they insist that photos cannot be taken because the art is property and I am somehow stealing it...like the belief in some more sequestered culture-groups that taking a photo of someone could steal their soul? Or is it a moral stance? Am I defacing the art in some way? After all, what does it mean to take a photograph of a photograph? How far removed from the subject am I, how limited is my view, my understanding, by the perameters of my camera lens? They probably wonder why I am taking pictures in the first place...nostalgia, proof, touristy representations of times spent...or as a reference point for my own work, for the pot of creative stimulation i am constantly churning in my brain.... I prefer to think that is the later, but cannot be sure. This is a persistently unresolved question for me...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Children of War.

THE PLIGHT OF THE BRITISH PEOPLE during World War II is incredibly stirring, and difficult to fathom, particularly for Americans (for obvious geographical reasons). As I am getting to know the city intimately, I thought the time ripe for an exploration into the destruction of London by the Blitz bombings of World War II. A German bomber plane actually crash landed a mere block from my flat in 1941. It was believed that the plane was intended to bomb Buckingham Palace, but was clipped by a British defense pilot, and sent hurtling into a train station courtyard at some 350 miles per hour.

To know more, I commuted to the Imperial War Museum today. It is a bit off the beaten path of most tourists, and borders a working class neighborhood, complete with a make-shift soccer field nestled in the side gardens. The museum was a profoundly moving experience for me. Firstly, the majority of conversations around me indicated that not only was I surrounded almost exclusively by Britons (an odd museum experience in multicultural London, to say the least) but the people around me were swapping stories of their family's station during World War II. This woman's father was among the children evacuated from London, and sent to live in foster care in the country for four years...That young man's grandfather was killed on D-day and his letters are among his mother's possessions...My street in London was destroyed...Mine too...My grandparents lost everything they owned...My grandmother was a nurse, though only fourteen when the war broke out...My grandfather was a German POW for two years.
Strangely, while drifting from display case to display case, in and out of model bomb shelters, reels of film running in dark rooms and niches, I began to feel an incredible affinity for the people exchanging stories in my presence. My grandfather also served in the war, losing his left arm at the age of 21. The patriotic sentiment, the mixture of laughably silly propoganda posters and horrific black-and-white images, seemed familiar, not in a benign way, but in a unifying one. Truly, a world war.

Perhaps the strength of my response was due to the fact that I came to the museum alone, as a mission that was personal. Or, perhaps it was the particular exhibits I saw...focusing on the plight of British children during WWII, and the atrocities of the Holocaust. (My interest being in the human side of war, the innocence shattered, lost, the civilians, the casualties who did not opt into war...who were swept up by the carnage of an impasse between particular men. Though there is attention paid in the Museum also to the technical aspects of war, the ingenuity forced by desperation.) But I left the museum energized as well as drained, hopeful as well as sobered...and very, very grateful for such a powerfully moving experience.