Photos from Lundy’s Day in Derry, Northern Ireland
The spectacle presents itself simultaneously as all of society, as part of society, and as instrument of unification. As a part of society it is specifically the sector which concentrates all gazing and all consciousness. Due to the very fact that this sector is separate, it is the common ground of the deceived gaze and of false consciousness, and the unification it achieves is nothing but an official language of generalized separation.
From the Sea to the Land Beyond
My review of British Sea Power’s latest album, on Line of Best Fit now:
British Sea Power’s latest release is the soundtrack to a mesmerising film by Penny Woolcock, which captures scenes and dramas by the British coastline from 1901 until the present day. Bringing us through two world wars, peacetime, industrialization and social change, with snapshots and snippets of archival footage, she tells the story of the people living along the coasts of this island, the film itself seeming to teeter at the edge of story-telling, film-making and memory.
It is a strange way to hear a new album, and yet entirely fitting for British Sea Power, given their history of recording in small coastal towns and an existential connection to the sea and its stories. So much so, that From the Sea to the Land Beyond seems more a collaboration than merely a soundtrack. Given that there is no dialogue in the film, and no sound from the scenes themselves (as much of the footage pre-dates necessary advances in technology), the musical soundtrack matters even more than usual.
Made up of re-workings of previous British Sea Power songs, recorded in Brighton and mixed by Ken Thomas (Sigur Ros, Daughter, M83, Cocteau Twins), the songs manage to enable and illuminate the film’s story-telling, rather than distract from it. Including The Islanders, Docklands Renewed, Heroines of the Cliff – the album is a substantial part of the film, by connecting past scenes of sailors launching into the ocean, or girls synchonising their swimming, with modern sounds, subliminal ideas and the sense of present rather than past emotion. History is brought into the fold of the tide pictured in the film, ebbing in with each fractured stretch footage or snapshot of a catastrophe. It has not simply paid attention to the subject; it has become it.
The collaboration between the film and the music is so successful, in fact, that it is hard to describe the music without noting the scenes: crowds on a promenade, two people struggling to paddle a boat a few yards from the beach; women in grand hats looking out to sea; men fighting in the sand, troops marching nearby, planes dropping bombs into the sea; girls diving from up high, children building sandcastles, couples waltzing, waves crashing. Seagulls, German bombers, Navy sailors, émigrés seeing British shore for the first time, soldiers running onto the shore with rucksacks; synchronized swimmers and tourists on their weekends in Brighton; oil rigs and shellfish; gales in Blackpool threatening to send the scantily clad girls into the sea. The music pulls its audience into this past, as if it is a personal memory reignited by an unexpected face or an intoxicating scent. Romantic, mystifying, and stirring a kind of modern mythology, British Sea Power have shown an instinctive and intuitive integration with their muse.
Despite living by the sea nearly all my life, I sometimes forget that it is there, or that “Britain” is one vague grouping of islands (and parts of islands), and I doubt I am alone in that forgetting. This album, and the film it comes with, remember not only a century of history, or common memories, but also the fact that we are a people surrounded by oceans, tides and depths. There is a little fear in this, perhaps – the slight feeling that those edges may collapse in on a little island country like this, any day, and swallow us into those enticing, terrifying depths. As the album goes on, the music comes to be the sea, and the images the land, and the people on it – tiptoeing, diving, or falling into the abyss located a few steps from the promenade, a few steps from children building sandcastles. Wistful and romantic, the album recalls not only the history told in the film, but also the memories and recollections of whoever drifts into it.
On this occasion, for this listener, that is Scottish sea birds, walking home in the dark after dinner at the Ship Inn with a new love; waking to sea air, and running across East Sands in the morning. Listening to the gales, escaping the towns, and reading Fitzgerald books in summer, one last page especially apt: “… The orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Snorri & Frosti (& Sparkles)
The most perfect Christmas present or winter read, “Snorri & Frosti” by Ben Myers is released! The Limited Edition Christmas Edition has added sparkles…
Illustration and sparkles by Christiana Spens…
Illustration (and sparkles) by me…
My “Art Turning Left” review for Studio International can be read here.
"Term" by Nina Frances Ellis, (with illustrations by Christiana Spens) is available to pre-order from our friends at Galley Beggar Press now. Buy it here
Waterboarding and Romanticism: an Interview with Tom de Freston
My interview with painter Tom de Freston is published in the Quietus today… Read it here…
Art Under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm
My review of Tate Britain’s “Art Under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm” is published by Studio International today.
The Aesthetics of Violence in the Work of Tom de Freston
My essay on Tom de Freston’s recent artwork, 'The Aesthetics of Violence in the Work of Tom de Freston', is published in the exhibition catalogue by Breese Little Gallery, London. His work will be exhibited at The Globe also. Read it here…
http://studiointernational.com/index.php/andy-warhol-pop-power-and-politics - my review of “Andy Warhol - Pop, Power, Politics” - for Studio International
"Ian Hamilton Finlay: Poet, Artist, Revolutionary"
On in Glasgow just now… My review of the exhibition is on Studio International.
Our Autumn / Winter chapbooks are imminently on sale…
Some chapbooks I illustrated…
Wild Horses, William Burroughs And White Cake With Danny Fox
My interview with painter and poet Danny Fox is published by the Quietus today…
Copyright Jamie Burke 2013.
Danny Fox is a London-based painter, poet and musician, originally from St. Ives, Cornwall. His exhibitions, Song for Someone Else, Young British Alcoholics and this summer’s Bloom have over the years brought him a cult following, with his paintings of wild horses, delirious figures and enshrined beauties in great demand. Large canvases using iconography, Greek mythology and religious symbols recollect the styles of Otto Dix, Egon Schiele and Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as complementing and challenging contemporary painters Peter Doig, Lucy Stein and Cecily Brown. Simultaneously vivacious and sensitive, stylish and studied, Danny Fox’s work continues to evolve, taking in ideas from the past as well as present observations and people, and exploring other media with consistent success.
Interview with Darran Anderson
My interview with Darran Anderson - about Gainsbourg, Lolita, censorship and freedom - is published by The Quietus today….