Daily Mind-ful 11 May 2017 (Higgins Museum)

[Click the full screen icon at the bottom right corner of the video in order to watch it in normal, much larger format.]
Main reason to watch today’s vlog: I discover the Higgins Museum during my day trip to visit photographer and artist, Edgar Martins, in his studio in Bedford, England. Today’s the first hot day of the year.
HOORAY; listening to too much easy, pop music is like eating junk food for all three meals in a day – not healthy or nutritious for the mind; I meet Edgar Martins, brilliant photographer-artist at his studio in Bedford and am blown away by his intensity, ideas and eloquence. Definitely a Maxell blow-the-hair-back moment!
The use of photography is incidental to his practice. In fact, his formation is philosophy and semiotics, explaining, perhaps, why I felt like I was talking to myself (for better or worse, poor guy). You can judge for yourself once you see my short film about him;
I check out Bedford and, like so many ancient English towns and cities, its historic center is beautiful and charming; I end up canning my plan to hoof it over to the Milton Keynes Art Gallery in favor of the local Higgins Museum, highly recommended by Edgar;
Higgins Museum (Bedford)
It’s always difficult for hard-core enthusiasts of contemporary art to understand my interest in every single period of art but I welcome learning about any period or style of art or, for that matter, new sub-culture; whereas the exhibition about the local airship manufacturer holds zero interest for me, the exhibition of pre-Raphaelite, Victorian painting is fascinating – mostly because this is such a little-referenced, infrequently exhibited, comparatively unpopular period of English art. Yet the quality of the captioning and exemplars at the Higgins easily propels me through it. The Higgins Museum has a very large collection of artworks from every period through the Modern period, so it stages exhibitions (like this one) in order to rotate the collection for public view; I continue my wander through the restored Higgins residence, once the home of the wealthy brewery-owning family who founded the museum and am delighted by the collection of English decorative arts. In my opinion, the best part of the museum is the design gallery, which gives a fantastic, capsule overview of the evolution and history of English decorative arts from the 16th century through the Arts & Crafts period, with an emphasis on Victorian era artifacts and furniture; by the way, I’m a nutter for Meissen porcelain, believe it or not. Deep inside, I’m an unrepentant maximalist who believes that minimalism and all-black are unforgivable design cop-outs; the Higgins Museum contains a large collection of graphic design and printed materials from Edward Bawden, one of England’s leading graphic artists, who passed away in the 1980s; I finally leave the museum — and Bedford — and what a gem of a visit! You never know what you will find tucked away in a quiet corner of England, explaining my willingness to drive far and wide to burrow into its nooks and crannies.
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Daily Mind-ful 7 May 2017 (Hampton Court Palace)

Hampton Court Palace: Henry VIII’s Great Hall was the largest hall in England at the time and features giant, wall-to-wall tapestries of exquisite artistry and condition. Even if you’re not into tapestries (because I’m not), it’s a gobsmacker of a room; the chic floor pillows are emblematic of Historic Royal Palaces, the caretaking organization of Hampton Court Palace, and wouldn’t look out of place in a house today; extremely elaborate napkin and fabric folding was an art form during the Tudor period; headless paper sculptures representing various courtiers flesh out the tableaux of court life within many of the rooms within the Palace and are, in and of themselves, wonderful masterworks of contemporary paper craft; while the palace is crammed with portraits (too many to notice after a while), the best paintings are exhibited in the Cumberland Art Gallery, which boasts many true masterpieces by Van Dyck, Holbein and Rembrandt. The quality of the artworks displayed in this wing (where photography is prohibited) is a definite cut above the rest of the palace’s paintings and one of the high points of Hampton Court Palace; the chapel garden (with its unfortunate green and white striped railings) boasts a series of colourful metalwork animals perched at the top of decorative, heraldic posts.

The undisputed artistic, decorative and creative highlight of my visit was the Guard Room in William III’s apartments, because of the bold geometric arrays of weapons — 3000 fully operational, impeccably polished and maintained ones — lining the upper walls of the chamber. The jaw-dropping display, originally conceived to impress and intimidate visiting generals and dignitaries, undoubtedly achieved its desired effect then — and now, if my own reaction is any indication.

I was so wowed by this room that I made a separate short clip about it for Instagram; each chimney at Hampton Court Palace has a different design. The brickwork of the Palace is maintained by a neighbouring business, 300-year old Bulmer Brick Yard located a stone’s throw away from our house; the yew trees at the Palace make you feel like a mini Alice in Wonderland; we were treated to a game of “real tennis” which, based on casual observations, combines tennis, squash and net goals. (My tennis coach told me later that there are courts and a league quite close to Little Henny but that it’s easy to injure yourself because the balls are rock-hard and, therefore, tennis elbow is a real risk.)

To sum up the highlights: 1) The Guard Room in the apartments of William III; the Cumberland Art Gallery; the gardens; and real tennis, provided there’s an actual match going on. (Without the animation of a live match, it’s just a narrow room with nets.); Sadly, our banner day at Hampton Court was marred by the nightmarish logistics of getting back home! We arrived at Liverpool Street Station and discovered that virtually all the trains on our line were canceled. Consequently, we took a train to Stansted and then an Uber to the car park of Colchester train station. Lesson learned: NEVER expect or plan to take a train on Sunday!

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Daily Mind-ful 6 May 2017 (London shopping)

Shopping in London: Love Delfina Delettrez‘s wacky, surrealist jewels; at Purdey, we met Chris of English Handmade Knives who explained how intricate marbleized effects are created by folding sheets of steel again and again under intense pressure, to increase the metal’s strength while producing an incredible decorative effect; jokey cigar ashtrays in the shape of Havaianas; we visit Thomas Goode, the blue-chip destination for the best china and silverware in the world. But the place is like a museum. No doubt they make their budget each month by selling three or four trousseaus to Qatari princesses. Who else (besides my husband) continues to buy this stuff?; I discover a new and amazing handbag brand (misspelled in the Instagram story): LONB (“Love Or Nothing Baby”). My gut feeling is that their marketing and ad campaign misses the mark (black and white 1960s images) but their bags are to-swoon-for. Hard to believe that someone would launch yet another handbag brand in today’s saturated market. But this team, formerly from Labelux, definitely knows what it’s doing with the product. Equally brave, they’re not wholesaling and ONLY sell through their website and their first and only flagship boutique located on South Audley Street. Seriously, I’m saving up for the Vagabond already….; after a bang-up lunch at yummy new Indian restaurant, Jamavar, on Mount Street, we head to Hampton Court and take a walk around the gardens because it’s too late to enter the house; while buying some wine for dinner, I notice some of the most pretentiously labeled and branded alcohol products ever; trout for dinner; what do people see/taste in rhubarb?!
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Daily Mind-ful 2 May 2017 (Museum of Childhood)

This Daily Mind-ful clip is mostly about my visit to V&A’s Museum of Childhood, so I’m going to dispense with the customary recapping of every Instagram story contained in the accompanying video and share my impressions about the Museum and why it’s a destination as entertaining and enriching for adults as it is children.
Although a parade of prams and baby buggies greets you at the entrance, the museum’s huge collection of toys, dolls, games, party favors, costumes and childhood whatnots archived since Victorian times is a treasure trove for the most exigent adult socioanthropologist studying the stuff of childhood over the generations. What’s missing, however, is exhibits dated after 2000, as if childhood ceased to evolve, when, in fact, the stark opposite is the case. Indeed, my main impression of the museum was a rueful sense that, in one or two generations, childhood and adulthood have converged – possibly to the point where there’s no longer anything to separately archive for the former. Considering that the material artifacts of childhood amassed over one hundred years could undoubtedly cover the surface area of a few small countries, the museum’s curators have chosen objects which are not only good exemplars of their age but idiosyncratic, eccentric, exquisite or weird in many cases. As a bonus, adult art, such as Sarah Raphael’s sculptural Childhood Cube and Rachel Whiteread’s large collection of dollhouses, “Place (Village)”, punctuates the exhibition halls as a sort of meta-commentary on childhood, its obsessions and playthings. In one of the captions, the museum states “all creativity has a value,” espousing a highly progressive vision of childhood education which dovetails perfectly with its embrace of multi-ethnic, multi-culturalism, a theme expressed with multi-lingual captioning in one of the exhibits. (I didn’t bother to scratch the surface of that exhibition and only noticed the unorthodox signage.) Last but not least, I was struck by “Searching for Ghosts,” the thought-provoking exhibition about Britain’s housing crisis in the front hall of the museum. It certainly wasn’t for children and featured photographic portraits by Tom Hunter of families living in one of London’s original council estates. While it wasn’t a suitable diversion for a child, the art made sense in the context of families, households and their inhabitants and asked viewers to engage with a pressing civic issue. The name “Museum of Childhood” doesn’t reflect the kaleidoscopic richness of this museum, not at all. Suffice it to say that I walked through it like a kid in a candy store.
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An exposition, not an exhibition (Spring Workshop)


Kudos to Hong Kong’s Spring Workshop and its founder, Mimi Brown, for breaking new ground in arts and culture by daring to introduce ground-breaking art exhibitions and performances like “An Exposition Not an Exhibition” by Ari Benjamin Meyers to Hong Kong. I attended an hour of this unusual musical happening which features a five-hour durational performance comprised of pieces from the canon of contemporary music, played in different locations within the premises of Spring Workshop, without any prior distribution or announcement of the program or sequence of pieces to be played, to the audience. The entire experience was rendered even more fun and intriguing by the sporting of masks by both the performers and audience members. By bringing this unusual, world-class event to Hong Kong, Spring Workshop dares us to open our mind to the new musical forms presented by contemporary music. If you’re interested to learn more about contemporary music, my best advice is to start by listening. The playlist for Meyers’ piece is a great starting point and can be found here on my site.
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The Handmaid’s Tale (Stephanie Rushton)


While documenting FORMAT 2017, I met artist, Stephanie Rushton, who told me about “The Handmaid’s Tale”, one of the images in her “Archaea” series, on display in Pearson House, along with a live plant sculpture. By portraying plants as phantasmagorical, surrealist, anthropomorphic creatures, Rushton makes the point that they possess an intelligence which connects them to human beings. The “Archaea” series was a great example of how FORMAT artists expressed this biennial’s theme of “habitat.”

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Daily Mind-ful 21 April 2017 (FORMAT 2017)

[APOLOGIES but the first story in this clip appeared in yesterday’s diary post.] You can watch my full rant about how Mark Zuckerberg needs to grow some balls and show more leadership here; first stop on my tour of FORMAT 2017 is the University of Derby on Markeaton Street, located across the street from a trailer park; you can actually order instant coffee at the cafe; the FORMAT exhibition spans 15 venues across the city of Derby so that residents, students and everyone in Derby is exposed to the art; bleak images of the former Yugoslavia by Borko Vukosav; gorgeous, if slightly obvious, images of glaciers juxtaposed against abandoned eskimo dwellings by Magda Biernat; extremely disturbing autoradiographic images by Masamichi Kagaya document the radiation still present in natural and man-made objects in the environs of the Fukushima nuclear plant; FORMAT is astounding for its curatorial choices and quality of writing; Derby is quaint and idyllic to boot; my iphone selfie lens has a crack across the protector explaining why I haven’t been and can’t be the talking head in my own vlogs lately; I arrive at Pickford House, the 250-year old former residence of Georgian architect, Joseph Pickford; Shivani Gupta’s portraits of Ladakh people printed on fabric are gorgeous and folkloric; but I’ve spent too long savoring the art at the first two venues, meaning that I’m running out of time to see the rest of the venues in FORMAT today; St. Werburgh’s Chapel houses two artworks by Tim Simmons and Simon Aeppli, captured in a video on my Instagram feed; at the Derby Museum, there’s an exhibition dedicated to the contents of one of the world’s oldest photography studio, W.W. Winters of Derby; one of FORMAT’s strong suits is the very disparate aesthetic, historical and thematic range of images on display; I check out FORMAT’s River Lights venue so that I can try out the Virtual Reality headsets from Oculus; I didn’t video any part of my visit to the Dubrik recording studio because it’s right next to a halfway house (and lots of dubious characters loitering loudly on the street); I fall in love with one of the FORMAT venues: the Small Print Company and end up shooting the owner of that business instead of the photography — enough to make a short film actually; the penultimate venue of the day is the semi-derelict Pearson House, a mystical,
overgrown former school housing the artworks of about 10 photographers; Poulomi Basu’s video and virtual reality installation about Western Nepalese women ostracized under Hindu tradition for undergoing menstruation for the first time is arresting and memorable; my final stop is on Cathedral Green, to see FORMAT’S iteration of the global, travelling photography project, Flaneur; after a jam-packed day at FORMAT, I have to drive home — starving and thirsty; the real, hard work begins after I download all the clips from my camera; no Prets in Derby (but it’s a good thing); HOME – at last — after the LOOONGEST day!
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Daily Mind-ful 13 April 2017 (Foam)

Last day in Amsterdam: visit to Foam Amsterdam; Daisuke Yokota’s incredibly thought-provoking installation; skipped Eggleston because it’s about as interesting to me as David Hockney (NOT); how Dutch houses have slanted facades and hooks on the roof for hoisting furniture into the house, rather than using the stairs, because they are so narrow; Gavin Turk’s curated exhibition at the Van Loon Museum is disappointingly prosaic and mediocre; I mean, REALLY uninspired; our first lunch in Europe EVER without alcohol: was it too salubrious? Do we really need a museum dedicated to handbags? A last cocktail at The Dylan; stocking up on smoky fish at Schipol; Amsterdam recap notes (various).
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Image versus Materiality (Daisuke Yokota at Foam Amsterdam)


(N.B. This film was originally formatted to fit a square Instagram frame.) A lyrical sculptural installation by Japanese photographer, Daisuke Yokota, of archival film suspended from the ceiling of photography museum, Foam Amsterdam, explores the relationship of image to its traditional photographic substrate, film, by dissociating image from its usual freight of associations – memories, culture, expectation. The three-dimensional installation through which members of the public can freely walk is also a metaphor for our relationship to imagery today: we are surrounded, even flooded, by it.
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