Monday, 29 July 2013

Reportage: Say Aloha to Morley’s Hawaiian night

It’s time to dust of those brightly-coloured shirts as Morley Town Hall will be playing host to the Freedom Generation’s Aloha Hawaiian night for young people age 13 to 25 tonight (Saturday).

Event organiser, Ryan Malyk, 26, said: “It’s just a bit of fun – we’re going do some limbo, making mocktails, there’s going to be live music and dancing.

“It’s a great chance to get to know the young people in the area.”

Freedom Generation are a church group who meet at Morley Town Hall on Sunday mornings, but their events are open to all.

Ryan said: “We like to give a positive life message that young people can be confident in themselves and not have to bow to peer pressure.

“We want to share that God loves non-exclusively, so we welcome everyone along. It’s not about religion, it’s about friendship.”

Aloha Hawaiian night is open from 7pm-9pm at Morley Town Hall, entry is free.

This article was originally published by the Morley Observer and Advertiser, July
, 2013.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Film: Clip Joint - Wrestlers who act

When the stars of the squared circle try their hand at cinema, the results can be mixed.

They may have made their names by dressing up in spandex and pretending to hit other men, but professional wrestlers are some of the most engaging performers in the entertainment world.

Some of the industry's biggest stars have made the transition from the squared-circle to the silver screen, with varying degrees of success – and quality.

Here are five of the most memorable films starring professional wrestlers – can you think of any others? Let us know in the thread below.

1. Mr Nanny

It's odd to think that a man who looked constantly sunburnt and sported a bleached Fu Manchu moustache could be such a hit with the kids, but Hulk Hogan was a huge star in the 80s and 90s, when Hulkmania ran wild across the globe.

Hogan's film credits read like an essay in naffness: Suburban Commando, Santa with Muscles and 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain were bad enough, but none of them compared to the sheer horror of Mr Nanny.

Mr Nanny worked on the same premise as Kindergarten Cop: if you take a big muscly man and get him to look after children, hilarity will ensue. It didn't.

2. They Live

Like Hogan, 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper was a massive star in the 80s. Whereas Hogan was a hero to kids, Piper was a bad guy who was more comfortable on the microphone than in the ring. With his trash-talking and sardonic wit, Piper was a popular draw with older audiences.

In John Carpenter's cult sci-fi thriller They Live, Piper's acting was subtle and gritty. The film's a fascinating, if somewhat outlandish, story about aliens using advertising to control the minds of the masses.

3. Kes

British wrestling fans will have known him from his days as World of Sport's Leon Aris, but Brian Glover's role as the overbearing PE teacher Mr Sugden in Ken Loach's Kes helped him make the transition from wrestler to character actor.

Drawing on his experiences as a teacher and a wrestler, and with his thuggish demeanour and gruff delivery, the role was a natural fit.

4. The Princess Bride

Andre the Giant plays Fezzick the giant, a companion to one of the film's most bombastic and roguish characters: the swordsman Inigo Montoya. The casting was perfect.

5. River of Darkness

It's bad enough when wrestlers try to act, but it's even worse when a wrestling company turns its hand to making movies.

WWE have produced some spectacularly bad straight-to-bargain bin releases, including The Chaperone, starring Triple-H, and Knucklehead, starring the Big Show. But nothing that WWE has done comes close to the efforts of TNA, whose horror film River of Darkness reaches Troy McClure levels of cheesiness, and features a cast of former top wrestlers including Kurt Angle, Sid Vicious, and Kevin Nash (the latter also played Super Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze).

The film is so bad that it scored a paltry 2.1 on IMDb - even Tommy Wiseau's The Room, regarded by many as being one of the worst films ever made, scored 3.3.

This article was originally published by the Guardian.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Art: Interview with Roger Hiorns about Seizure

In 2008, contemporary artist Roger Hiorns oversaw the creation of one of most unique works of art in recent memory by pumping over 74,000 litres of copper sulphate solution into a condemned London flat. The result saw the building’s interior coated with otherworldly blue crystals that formed on the walls, floor, ceiling, and even a bathtub.

The work, entitled Seizure, saw Hiorns receive a nomination for the 2009 Turner Prize. But in 2010 developers had set their sights on demolishing the block of flats that housed the artwork

“This wasn’t a work that we wanted to be destroyed,” explains Roger, “it took a lot of time and effort to make and I didn’t want it to become just a memory for people.”

The artist was concerned that the same fate that saw the demolition of Rachel Whiteread’s iconic 1993 work House – a plaster-cast of the interior of a London terrace – would happen to Seizure.

“House has become quite folklorey and about something in the past,” says Roger, “I wanted Seizure to go on being experience in the present.”

Luckily, Seizure was saved from destruction and has recently been installed in a custom-built exhibition space at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

“The developers said ‘look, we’re going to start demolishing, so you need to make a decision about you want to do’,” recalls Clare Lilley, head curator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, “Caroline Douglas, head of the Arts Council Collection, very quickly pulled people together and said ‘look, we’ve got an opportunity to save this thing’.

“It happened really quickly – maybe less than two weeks, which for something as adventurous as this piece is pretty fast.”

“It’s quite a coup to get this work – it’s very iconic.

Seizure was the culmination of years of experimentation with the process of trying to harness the natural crystallisation of copper sulphate.

“I started experimenting with copper sulphate by dipping model cathedrals into large buckets and allowing them to crystallise,” explains the artist, “I’ve transformed things like car engines into these crystalline forms – I like the idea of taking an object and removing its usefulness beyond the object itself.”

“I’m interested in this idea of allowing nature to do its work – all I provide is the proposition.”

But as the artist reveals, Seizure wasn’t initially intended to be made in an abandoned flat at all.

“Originally I had the idea of making this work in the interior of a 737,” recalls Roger, “but I live on a 1960s estate in central London and there are lots of derelict flats. So I found a bedsit on Harper Road in the Elephant and Castle area, and after negotiating with the resident’s association, the flat was turned into a factory.”

The interior of the flat was made water-proof, and equipment including boilers and industrial pumps were installed to handle the copper sulphate.

“It was a strange experience,” recalls Roger, “every day, a group of youths would sit on a wall and just watch what we were doing. It took quite a few days to set things up, and then it took a few weeks for the crystals to set – there was a lot of waiting around for things to happen.”

Going into the project, the artist had no idea how the work would turn out. It was a big risk on the part of all involved, as the artist had only mastered the technique on a much smaller scale.

“There was a worry that when we were making Seizure that it wouldn’t do what I wanted it to,” explains Roger.

“There are ways of documenting things, and presenting the process as a work of art, but it would have been quite an anti-climax.

When unveiled in 2008, Seizure quickly became a cult hit. It gain reputation for being a site of introspection and meditation, with audiences travelling from miles around to get lost in the shimmering blue glow of the work’s alien interior.

“What I found most interesting was that Seizure became a site of a kind of New Age religious experience. People would come to the space to meditate and try and connect with some kind of spiritual experience.”

The urban landscape of south London may seem worlds apart from the beauty of the Yorkshire countryside, but Roger sees parallels between Seizure’s original site and its new home.

“When you look around at the rolling hills and the cultivated landscape of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park it’s natural to question how this work relates to its context.

“With the park and with Seizure you get this proposition – this idea of nature being controlled and directed.”

Seizure was such a difficult project both in terms of its scope and planning that Roger believes that he is unlikely to attempt anything as ambitious again.

“I don’t have any plans at the moment to anything like Seizure – it was such a massive undertaking,” admits the artist.

“I’m going to be burying a Boeing 737 underground which will be a walk in the park compared to pulling off something like Seizure.”

This article was originally published by the Yorkshre Post July 19, 2013.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Music: Interview with David Prowse from Japandroids

Interview with David Prowse from Canadian alternative rock band Japandroids before their show at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Music: X feat. Y - The Rise of the Featured Artist

The top 40 singles' chart from 21 June 2003 listed only two acts that featured another artist: Evanescence feat. Paul McCoy, and Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey feat. The Flipmode Squad.

The chart from 23 June 2013 had 18.

Why has the featured artist become such a staple of popular music in less than a decade?

To some extent it has a lot to do with the changing role and perception of the music producer.

Traditionally, the name of a music producer would only be known by those who needed to, or those who sought them out.

Sam Phillips, Berry Gordy and J Dillo garnered reputations for being outstanding producers, but they never came close to the fame and adulation they would probably receive today.

In recent years, the music producer has moved out of the shadows and become acknowledged as an artist in their own right, with producers like Timbaland, Mark Ronson and recording their own albums featuring the talents of other established acts.

Perhaps this marks a necessary development in music publishing in which the key contributors to a record are explicitly acknowledged and not just given a cursory mention in the sleeve notes.

This of course only accounts for a handful of artists – and does not take into account how this phenomenon went from being an oddity to a norm.

Although collaboration between different artists has been present since the earliest days of recorded music, it was hip hop labels in the 80s and 90s that expanded the concept as means to give much-needed exposure to emerging artists by associating them with established acts.

It became symbolic of a kind of endorsement that fans could trust and use to seek out new music.

With hip hop moving from the sidelines to being a central force in global popular culture, it probably comes as little surprise that the idea of collaboration as a form of endorsement should be so widely embraced.

With a market that is increasingly saturated and stratified, a well-chosen collaborations can be a good way for artists to gain further exposure and generate an interest in their work from fans whose radars they haven't previously registered.

Daft Punk's recent collaboration with Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers on their hit Get Lucky exposed the French duo to a level of international success that they had never experienced before, reaching number one in the UK and America, and selling over a million copies.

It is arguable that the endorsement from Williams opened Daft Punk up to a larger audience than at any point previous.

Sometimes collaborations can come from a shared artistic vision, or a mutual admiration between performers who seek to bring their imaginative and creative powers together to create something of genuine intrigue.

When Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds recorded their album Murder Ballads, the band collaborated with an intriguing mix of artists from PJ Harvey to Kylie Minogue – the result was something that none of the artists involved could have expected going into the project.

In the 90s, the soundtracks to the films Judgement Night and Spawn created collaborations between acts from different genres with the express intention of sparking something creative and innovative – some of these collaborations worked, many of them didn't. Taking such risks, however, can only be applauded.

Beyond the utopian vision of artists collaborating in the spirit of creativity, there is an argument that the coupling of two or more artists is merely a cynical ploy by record companies to shift more units and get fans to part with even more money.

When roped in the vocal talents of Britney Spears for his track Scream & Shout It, her voice was soaked in AutoTune, she spoke in a hammy German accent, and for some unfathomable reason she seemed to be calling for “All eyes on arse”. It was the star's name rather than her contribution that counted.

Where it used to be a method of exposing new audiences to established audiences, the collaboration between two or more major artists is no longer special and whiffs of cashing in.

If the trend continues to increase at the same trend as it has over the last decade, it is likely that the top 40 in 2023 will be composed entirely of collaborations – whether this is a good or bad thing is certainly open for debate.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Art: Interview with Martin Creed

Controversial Turner Prize winner Martin Creed has an Artist Rooms exhibition at Hull Ferens Art Gallery. Jon Cronshaw spoke to the artist.

Martin Creed rose to notoriety in 2001 when he won the Turner Prize for his installation Work No.227: The lights going on and off. It featured an empty gallery with its lights, as the title suggests, rhythmically going on and off.

As so often happens with the Turner Prize, news of his win was accompanied by ‘is this really art?’ headlines. It mattered not. The award launched his career and an exhibition at Hull’s Ferens Art Gallery is a chance to look at Creed’s development over the last decade or so.

The exhibition features a range of works, including paintings, drawings, and the neon light installation Work No.890: Don’t Worry – works which are much more accessible than some of his earlier installations.

“The reason I got into doing installation works like The Lights Going On and Off was because I really didn’t know what to do,” Creed explains.

“Exhibiting something is like saying ‘hey look at this, isn’t it great?’ I was thinking that I don’t know what’s important, or what the most important thing is in my life – so how can I possibly make something, put it in a room and say ‘hey look at this, isn’t it great?’

“But then I thought I could make the work part of the whole room – that way it wouldn’t it be this sort of important thing in the middle of the room – it would be everywhere in the room.”

While often characterised by the tabloid media as something of a charlatan, Creed doesn’t allow himself to be troubled by his critics.

“I wouldn’t try and persuade people that what I do is art,” he says. “I wouldn’t know what art is anyway. I try and do things and make things that are exciting to me that make my life better. You know, in terms of looking for excitement and pleasure and food for thought. I then hope that other people like these things that I do, but I certainly don’t expect them to.”

A seemingly simple work such as Work No. 88: A sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball reveals itself to be a deep set of ideas. The work has been sold in many editions – from unlimited editions which can be purchased for £10 each, to a work of a single edition which cost £10,000.

The objects are the same, but Creed raises deep questions about value and finance that seem all too poignant in today’s economic climate. The final sting in this work’s tail, however, is the fact that each ball of paper sold comes with a certificate of authenticity – if you lose your ball of paper, you are invited to make your own and it still counts as the original.

“Everything is labyrinthine and complicated when you start looking into it. Every time I do something, I feel like it’s opening up this whole can of worms, but I think that I try and strive for some sort of simplicity exactly because I can’t handle the ever-increasing circles of things that come out of one thing,” says Creed.

But with this philosophical side to his work, there is also a lot of self-doubt and discomfort with what he does. Equally, he finds it difficult when people dismiss what he does out of hand.

“I often don’t like my own work and get depressed about it, so I don’t mind if people don’t like it,” he says. “I think when people say ‘that’s not art’ – it’s a bit facetious. I don’t know on what basis people say that. I don’t know what they think art is. I do get hurt when people don’t like it, so I hope that people will find it to be food for thought or something beautiful to look at, you know? It’s the reason I keep doing this.”

Martin Creed, Artist Rooms is on display at Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, until October 6.

This article was published by the Yorkshire Post on July 5, 2013.

Art: Maurice Carlin - Performance Publishing

Over the next few months artist Maurice Carlin will be transforming the drab interior of abandoned warehouse into a vibrant space filled with over 400 colourful prints.

But it is not an exhibition in the traditional sense, the processes of making the prints and the ways that the audience are encouraged to interact with the space sets Performance Publishing apart from your average exhibition.

Relief prints will be taken of the floor and brickwork, and displayed in a way that maps and scans the existing building.

Using a series of webcams, audiences can observe and respond to how Maurice uses the warehouse to create his unique prints, seeing his process as an act of performance art which is just as valid as the finished prints.

The artist wants to raise questions about how we experience art in a digital age, and where the essence of an artwork's meaning is actually located.

“Most people now engage with culture on multiple platforms. So we rarely see just a finished artwork anymore: we might see an image on a screen, and then see it in a book differently cropped in a different resolution; we might see the work in person in an art gallery or on a poster in someone's bedroom,” says Maurice.

“All of this adds up to a contemporary engagement with art and culture - and all are valid.”

Maurice's process is derived from an ancient Chinese method of relief printing which he learnt while on a residency in Beijing earlier this year. It is a technique that was originally used to copy the inscriptions from stone monuments, but is now being used to respond to a derelict building on a Salford industrial estate.

“It represents the very first time that information was able to be copied and distributed, so it represents the birth of publishing,” explains Maurice.

“I'm interested in this expanded idea of publishing - away from the book, and engaging with public space and seeing publishing as kind of interface with the public.”

For Maurice, the process of making artwork can become a type of performance when done in a public space rather than in privacy of his studio. And in the past, he has taken the idea of street art to a new level.

“I would turn up on Market Street, which is a really busy shopping street in Manchester, and take prints from the surface of the street. It's a kind of performance and a studio in open space.”

To spark discussion about his latest project, Maurice has called upon five writers from around the world to write articles based on their experiences of of his project – none of them will visit the warehouse, they will write about what they see through the webcams.

“It's based on a series that American publication Art News did in the 1950s called 'Paint a Picture',” explains Maurice.

“They sent journalists out to track the development of a single painting. They visited the studios of people like Jackson Pollock and William de Kooning three or four times and then wrote articles about the process.”

The artist sees his current project as being located far beyond the walls of the warehouse, and believes that the engagement with an online audience is a key element of his work.

“I really want to hear from the public about this work,” says Maurice, “part of the reason that it's been developed in public, is that I really want to have this dialogue with people. It doesn't have to be this one-way communication thing.”

With our assumptions about what constitutes a finished work of art called into question, this is a show that will constantly evolve and will be worth revisiting again and again.

Maurice Carlin, Performance Publishing is on display at Regents Trading Estate, Salford.
The exhibition is open to the public Wednesday to Saturday until July 22, and vis appointment until September 22.

You can view Performance Publishing online at:

Music: Nine Inch Nails - Beginners' Guide

Curious about Nine Inch Nails but don't know where to start? Here's 10 essential tracks chosen by readers, to ease you into Trent Reznor's world.

In 2009 Nine Inch Nails performed their final farewell show at a sold-out gig in Los Angeles.

Recently, lead singer and song-writer Trent Reznor announced on Tumblr that he was in rehearsals with a new line-up and was ready to get back on the road.

With the news that Nine Inch Nails' new album Hesitation Marks will be released in September, we asked readers to help compile a playlist of 10 tracks for people who have never listened to Nine Inch Nails before. Here's what they came up with:

1. The Hand that Feeds.

One of Nine Inch Nails' most polished pop records – a perfect fusion of dance beats and fuzz-laden guitars. @Tripmywire says “It's catchy, confident and certain to make a beginner dance!”

2. Head Like A Hole.

It's the opening track to their stunning debut album Pretty Hate Machine, and it's a favourite in rock clubs the world over. @WarHoleRadTimes loves the song's “skyscraper-sized angst, pulsing electro rhythms, and eardrum shattering noise.”

3. Closer.

For @jsinkersole, Closer is “sexy as hell and slightly sinister.” With its unabashedly explicit lyrics, it's probably not the best song to find yourself singing at work.

4. March of the Pigs.

From their second album The Downward Spiral, March of the Pigs brings together industrial rock influences and whimsical jazz piano. Frightened Rabbit says it encapsulates “both sides of NIN in one, brutal and tender.”

5. La Mer.

Melodic and frenetically detailed, for @sukeyyy, “it's gotta be their ultimate instrumental, showing off Trent's less abrasive, more relaxed and groovy side.”

6. Wish

From the band's Broken EP, its unflinching sonic barrage makes it one of their heaviest tracks. @BluetapesUK says, “it sounds like computers playing Ace of Spades.”

7. Something I can Never Have.

One of Nine Inch Nails' most desolate tracks. Its haunting piano and raw vocals make it one of the stand-out tracks of their debut. For @ArchieWhit, it captures the very essence of the band: “beauty, sadness, machines, anger.”

8. The Perfect Drug.

Originally feature on the soundtrack to David Lynch's Lost Highway, The Perfect Drug saw Reznor push the drum and bass genre to its limits – it also has one of the coolest music videos of the 90s. @n_mcguinness says it “represents the length and breadth of NIN.”

9. We're in this Together.

It's a track that crackles and broods before bursting out into one of the biggest rock choruses ever written – it's a song that needs to be played loud. @Eddasaurus say it's “accessible, but unconventional.”

10. Hurt.

Many people think that this song was written by Johnny Cash – many people are wrong. Hurt shows Reznor's song-writing at its peak. For Maarten Schermer, “Hurt has a great balance between harshness and beauty, something it seems Reznor has consistently strived for. And it's one hell of a song.”

This article was originally published by The Guardian, July 8th, 2013.