Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Hit Reading Series



I'm excited about this! Travis is reading some of his work, Evelyn is reading her Bitch Magazine article and I'm going to do one or two of the monologues from "Kill Everyone Now". Plus Mary Ocher's performing a special live set. See you there lover!

Friday, November 26, 2010

This week with Alexander



And if you visit everyone's favourite psychedelic scrapbook fagcity, you'll find a brand new Alexander image. It's like a treasure hunt, lover.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It isn't in our blood.


Mary Ocher at Immer Gern, Nov 2010

Last night I finally had the pleasure of seeing Mary Ocher, one of my favourite songwriters, perform live. It was a fairly intimate gig, as it often goes on a chilly Monday in Berlin, but Ms Ocher presented a set of ten wildly colorful, deeply melodic, wonderfully emotive, altogether batty, original songs delivered in a soaring, swooping, confident voice channeling the blues, folk, riot girl and even, dare I say it, pop music. Confrontational at times, frequently obtuse but nonetheless captivating for it, Mary brought to mind a fascinating combination of Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Diamanda Galas, Regina Spektor and Leonard Cohen. Those references are of course misleading because all of her influences are collaged in a marvelously off-kilter manner and become her own thing. As Taylor Mac herself said, "Comparison is violence", though sometimes it's useful in hinting at, if not defining.

Mary's record comes out in Spring 2011 and she will be touring Europe to promote it, so check her out at http://www.myspace.com/maryocher for a full list of her upcoming dates.

Picture by Stevie Hanley

P.S. Alexander and Mary will be performing together on Dec 5th at The Silver Future, but more on that later.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Alexander this week.




This week's Alexander show is aptly on Alexanderplatz, at the City Boy party in celebration of Stevie Hanley's latest exhibition "Many Dogs Run Wild In The City...." which opens at The Centre for Endless Progress on Friday November 19th.

And here's a little peek behind the scenes of last week's show.

Alexander with the Crystal Tits

Jaime Diamonds of the Crystal Tits giving some showgirl realness

It's a very light-hearted working environment.

Photography by Evelyn Krampf International.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Queen at Breakfast



I saw this rather lovely painting of The Queen by her husband Prince Phillip a few months ago and have been thinking about it on and off since. It's a surprisingly good painting isn't it? I mean, WHO KNEW? The informality is very charming, and the style in no way showy, it's a terribly modern sort of portrait and very unexpecte. It's very unusual to have the monarch eating toast somewhere in the background, not even looking at the viewer. I wonder if the dear old D.of.E made more, or if this was just a one-off? I hope not.

The Queen is very young in this picture, I imagine there is a whole history of images from the interior of her life, running parallel to the images we see of the exterior of her life. She hasn't spent the best part of a century simply shaking hands with diplomats and waving at crowds in floral dresses. (Which prompts another question how did a woman so chic in the 50s become so, not so? How quickly does one descend into the cheerful hell of pastels?) Rather she has lived a life of nudity, fireplaces, emotional outbursts, child birth, heartache, excitement, illicit moments, unthinkable privilege and soft, even intimacy. If the Duke of Edinburgh has captured any of this, anything of the woman behind the throne it will be a hundred times more interesting than any amount of official portraits; those images that forever tell only one thing "This is the Queen."

I'm put in mind of Hemmingway and Dietrich's great, unconsummated, love affair and the letters they wrote to each other until the writer's suicide. They tell a very different story from that which we know. Hemmingway is revealed not as the alcoholic womanizer of popular mythology, but as a deeply depressed and very shy man who confesses to Dietrich that his sexual encounters have in fact been few. Dietrich meanwhile is shown to be more capable of romantic feelings, and considerably less megalomaniacal than would be believed. She called him "Papa" and he called her "My Little Kraut" - cute, right? Sort of.

Their love affair (partially due to it's unrequitedness) is amongst my favourite love stories, up there with Marlon Brando putting his cigarettes out on James Dean. Yet, I love to daydream about how Marlene and Ernest may have brought things to fruition, he femme butch, she butch femme, at it in the Imperialé suite at the Ritz. An alcohol fueled flight into self-destruction, the incomparable narcissism, bottles smashed and tears wept, panic, lust, cigarette smoke, and then, curtains. She would leave him bruised and hungover, a plane to catch a commitment on some other continent, and he wouldn't have the words to say goodbye. She would write to him often and think about him oftener, and he would nurse his wounds, she would send him trinkets and he would keep them in his pocket as he walked out into his garden in Idaho, shotgun in hand.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ich must besser deutsch lernen.




I'm currently learning German, I have class at 9am every morning, at a language school which has been rather conveniently placed at the end of my street. I am however late everyday, and in my early morning rush to class, am often reminded of Gerry Visco telling me that she takes a taxi to work everyday but is still always two hours late.

Learning a foreign language in a formal setting is infantalizing, not just because the text books look as though they were designed for nine-year olds and the listening exercises revolve around the sort of situations normally never seen outside of Postman Pat. You find yourself totally without verbal access to your thoughts, unable to express anything but the most basic (and usually unconnected) ideas. A limited vocabulary and little understanding of tense, means you find yourself thrashing about like a fish on deck, with access to only cocktail party language. Talking about objects one might see at the train station, activities for the weekend, or who has lost their ball. To be permanently caught in the present - I go, you go, she goes, they go - never even able to consider she has gone, I will go, or he would go, is maddening. Time shrink wraps you, all you have is the moment you speak, and the struggle to express that moment.

And of course, my teacher is demonically chirpy. Her enthusiasm is so intense, I sometimes ponder if she isn't in fact a speed freak. I doubt it though. To paraphrase Anna from Crystal Tits, she has the kind of enthusiasm that only evangelical Christians have, maybe she's doing God's work. I don't know, I'll ask, but there is something most definitely religious about the experience, being thrown together with strangers, all of whom have one focus, one aim, one belief - German. From across the world, we come, from different countries, professions, communities, age groups, and social strata, speaking no common language, all gathered in the belief that we can learn German if only we truly believe, if only we follow the scriptures. I am often put in mind of the Churches I attended growing up, when we run through verb endings, en mass and aloud. In the monotonous chanting Ich bin, du bist, sie ist, er ist, es ist, Sie sind, wir sind, ihr seid, there is no escaping how similar it all sounds to a congregation intoning a prayer together. That flat, unchanging intonation, the low register the group adopts, the obviousness of anyone who falls out of time, making the experience wonderfully close to that of uttering the Hail Mary, or answering the priest (altogether now); "And also with you."

Occasionally I see how tired our lecturer looks, how much older than her years. All of that pantomiming and manic energy really take their toll. She seems sad, behind her happy grimace leers a dark dissatisfaction, yearning to express more than my bag, your bag, her bag, our bags, is that all there is? And from amongst all the simple insistences, questions regarding "Who's suitcase is this?", she will from time to time let slip something accidentally poignant. Taking the role of one of the many horribly drawn text book characters, she will announce, "Ich bin allein. Menschen kommen und gehen." And even though we know it's not true, she's happily married, we all know it's true.

Of course, the most notable experience for me in beginning German, has been learning a gendered language - and sitting right at the front of the class. Several times a week I am the example in the formation of such sentences as "Is das eine frau? Nein das ist keine frau, das ist ein mann!" It's a little awkward to say the least. The entire class is conducted in German and I am yet to reach the level where I can ask; "Is Judith Butler translated into German?" So, I'm sort of suffering in silence, being shoe-horned into the good old binary. And of course, the text books and exercises are horribly heterocentric, every other page requires you to decipher some inane letter between Sara and Jan, or asks you to pair "frau" with "mann", "mädchen" with "jungë", and bind the apparent opposites together in perfect insidious naturalness.

German, however is further gendered, objects are either feminine, masculine or neutral, not just people, meaning that it's pretty inescapable. There's a strange sort of muddying effect with objects inhabiting the same genders as people, which is kinda cosmic on one hand, but on the other, very constraining because you always come back to der, die and das as though it's the root of being. At least there's the option of the third (ie neutral) way, huh? Only that's even more depressing - who wants to be neutral (neutered, neutralized) EVER? Exactly. Plus of course, to have a third option doesn't in anyway shake up the strangle hold of the other two, it actually justifies them in giving an alternative.

However, German, like French and all the other modern Indo-European languages (besides English of course), has a formal form, Sie, which can maybe help me in some small way to overcome linguistic social stratification. I have decided to address everyone as Sie, as though I were always talking to a learned scholar, a priest or royalty. That way I shall elevate everyone to a status of respect in a simple, personal way, a little off-center perhaps, but so be it. In my own way I shall defy the conventions of gendered language by always talking to everyone, everywhere as though they were a queen.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stills from "Edward !!"





A set of pictures by Marcello from our video piece based on Christopher Marlowe's play "Edward II", shot in August.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Alexander




New hit flier for new hit shows.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Overdressed and overeducated

I wrote this during the Summer for a now defunct German magazine, but I thought it deserved an airing - no?


London’s hippest neighbourhood, Hoxton, has gone and got itself something of a bad rap. It is mocked for being the centre of all things try-hard, its inhabitants taunted for their fashion sense, and its hang-outs slandered for their extortionate prices. As such it is a magnet, for what New Yorkers would call “the bridge and tunnel crowd”. At the weekend the area is awash with drunken suburbanites looking for cultural kudos to compliment their pitchers of mysteriously colourful cocktails. The streets are full of hen and stag parties brawling in the middle of the road, puking in doorways and screaming homophobic abuse at the area’s earlier residents (artists and performers) who now make their way further afield to parties in territories as yet unspoilt. The visiting revellers are arguably some of the worst dressed people on the planet, skin tight high street party dresses, and murderously orange sunbed skin, accessorised by neon tutus and sunglasses worn as an ironic laugh at the Hoxton trend from 5 years ago, for 90s rave inspired looks (itself of course ironic to begin with). Like Kreuzberg or the Lower East Side, raucous new arrivals force the previous occupants out, and the cultural landscape changes again. Call it gentrification, call it evolution, call it capitalism’s sickest joke yet, nothing is stable.

On sunny days in Hoxton Square, a ruptured square of grass behind Old Street, a crowd of a sixty or so people gather to enjoy the afternoon’s glow. In twos and threes they are chic twentysomethings who work in the area (at one of the many bars and restaurants or design firms) or students returning from art school, stopping off on the grass on their way home. They are all dressed in that specifically London way, that unmistakable transhistorical, borderline outrageous look. It’s too vulgar to be French, too impractical and immodest to be American, too gaudy to be Belgian and too grungey to be Italian, it’s a style that can only be British.

The girls wear super short denim shorts with turn ups that graze their upper thighs, leaving long acres of flesh exposed. They walk on sky high platform heels, they wear scarves in their hair and studded leather jackets and oddball vintage sunglasses. Vermillion red lips and ghostly white skin, tattoos, and enormous handbags of expensive fabrics. Their hair is platinum blonde or cinder brown, either lustrously long or viciously short å la garconne. The boys themselves (and yes, the gender disparity is that blatant) are a lot more understated, sporting a look comprised of the French Rivera, geek chic and a very bourgeois nod to hip hop. They wear baseball caps with flat brims, oversized spectacles, deck shoes with no socks, plaid shirts or pastel polo shirts, and skinny jeans. Likewise the hair is almost always identikit, short through the back and long on the top, varied in contrast and shape depending on how bold you care to be. From a limited menu of acceptable options the British fashionista puts together a look they would like to call “individuality”, which underscores vividly how in such a developed capitalist economy, choice is always an illusion.

They lounge in the sun, glad to be free from the drudgery of the classroom, or their entry level job, flipping disinterestedly through classic American novels (say what they will, the British are deeply enamoured by American culture), discussing last weekend’s adventures, drinking cans of cider and planning next weekend’s adventures. The pose is that of slumming it, the scene reminiscent at once of an alfresco music video casting, Manet’s Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe and a zoological garden. Satiated by relative economic stability, distracted by an unprecedented flow of technology, and subsidised by a constant influx of material goods produced in foreign sweatshops, this is the most apolitical generation of the past hundred and fifty years.

In the mid-70s this very same spot, the exact same square of grass in the sun now populated by mid-afternoon daydreamers, the infamous British fascist movement, the National Front, would square up with the local black youth. On Saturday mornings, the two sides came face to face at a designated time, and gathered as though on a medieval battlefield, they lined up and fought it out hand to hand. They fought for control of the East End, for the shaping of the capital and the country, to see whose ideology would rule. They fought bloodily with broken bottles and improvised instruments of violence, with absolute conviction, but before they did so, before the first punch was thrown, combatants from both sides of the lines spent time admiring the ensembles of their enemies, complimenting the cut of each other’s jackets and the leather of their boots. The same boots that would soon be biting deep and hard into their opponent’s face. One of East London’s most knowledgeable long time denizens, Beverley Whispers, told me, “It was two tribes, more about style than hate.” In a decade of massive political upheaval and soaring unemployment, Londoners literally wore their heart on their sleeves. The white skinhead National Front combatants wore boots and braces, super cropped hair. The black youth wore flares, double denim ensembles inspired by Bob Marley, and afros replete with combs jammed in the front. As a teen Beverley knew not to go near Hoxton, now she runs the Joiner’s Arms one of the pubs that has defined
the new East End scene, and the National Front have moved out to Dagenham.

It seems that the afternoon picnickers, lovers, and Kerouac readers have absolutely no idea however of what happened right here, beneath their feet, before they ever arrived. If they are cognisant of those events, they show no signs of it, no-one discusses it. It’s as though Hoxton Square were newly created specifically as a destination for weekday afternoon lounging. But such is the prerogative of each successive generation, to be bored by the recent past. Perhaps it is for the best that such violent scenes as the clashes between the NF and the BP have been condemned to the dustbin of history. Maybe we don’t need to be further traumatised by such memories. But I can’t help thinking that it’s important to know where we came from, that we should be aware of how the freedoms we take for granted came to be. Civil liberties weren’t just handed out by benevolent governments, people fought and died in the streets for them whether that was in fist fights with fascists or at the hands of the police (and often one can discern little or no difference). Interestingly the boot boy style of the skin head National Front members is once again en vogue; witness the re-emergence amongst the fashion forward, of the Doc Marten boot, stonewash drain pipe jeans and braces over white graphic t-shirts.

Thankfully the politics of the look have not been resurrected with the ensembles. It is provocative, exciting even to see such a loaded look reappropriated by wearers with a very different political bent, especially when (as can be seen in Berlin today) left-wing punk skin head activists rub shoulders in the streets with right wing militants, and all are dressed the same. The code is broken, and re-written, power is reclaimed from the iconography of fear and transferred. But without knowledge of what is being reworked, the purely fashionable, apolitical wearers run the risk of ignorantly digging up bloody visuals from the past, and unwittingly parading themselves zombie like to through the parks and gardens of Europe’s metropolises. To paraphrase performance artist Penny Arcade; “You are the most informed generation in history but you lack context.” And that is the postmodern danger, without knowing our history, without a Penny Arcade or a Beverley Whispers, we all become billboards – loaded symbols unaware of our content.

- JJ Bibby, Summer 2010