Tuesday, 28 June 2011

As you approach the studio-home of sculptor Stephen Cox RA, an old farmhouse not far from Ludlow, you make a steady ascent up Clee Hill.
This high peak, made famous in A.E. Housman's poem, A Shropshire Lad, in the line 'From Clee to heaven the beacon burns', still shows signs of its Iron Age past. As you climb, depending on the weather, a panorama of the Welsh Marches unfurls: Snowdonia to the west, the Peak District to the north and, further around, the Cotswolds, the Malvern Hills and the Black Mountains.

This view is not, as Cox might have thought when he and his curator wife Judy moved there from London in 2002, merely of scenic interest. Had he but realised, Cox had chosen an area of the British Isles whose geology precisely matched one of the materials he had used in his own work. The carboniferous rock called dhustone or dolerite, a feature of this area of the west midlands, was the exact type that he had spent years travelling across the globe, specifically to India, to explore in his sculpture.

(from the summer 2011 edition of the Royal Academy magazine)

Friday, 24 June 2011

'The result is a teasingly ambiguous sequence of makeshift workshops and half-lit shelters where weary merchants might have just spent a night, or where itinerant weavers had long before abandoned their tapestry factory. The whole experience is a loop: from beginning to end symbols reiterate and multiply until you are suddenly popped outside into an internal courtyard or Byzantine backstreet. This moment of clarity is like the breath you take at the centre of a labyrinth or before entering an unknown darkness - the vertigo before the plunge.

It's only later that the physical feat of taking the pavilion's roof away and replacing its innards with three storeys of brick and cement render hits you, of how dramatically and seamlessly Nelson switched interiors, leaving almost no trace of himself, like a sculptural thief in the night'

- (emphasis mine) Ossian Ward describes artist Mike Nelson's installation in Venice

Sunday, 19 June 2011

If you are Kurdish today, even if you don’t speak the language, you can hear a song in Kurdish, and your soul roars. It makes you feel part of a struggle.


Monday, 13 June 2011

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The boy amid the ruins could have been no more than 12 years old and he looked at us with genuine disinterest, sitting on a broken office swivel chair in the middle of rue Trablos, scruffy brown hair on top of a tired, old face. He was wearing khaki dungarees about three sizes too big for him and a boy's shirt with pictures of Mickey Mouse printed across the front. In his right hand he held the barrel of a Kalashnikov rifle, its wooden butt resting on the roadway. In his left he balanced a glass of scalding hot tea.


The buildings around us were scorched by fire, their roofs long fallen in, the facades scored by shoals of bullets, shattered by artillery fire.

It was hot and the cicadas whispered away in the shadows. Somewhere, perhaps a mile away down the Beirut front line, shells were bursting in a long, low rumble that ever so slightly changed the air pressure in rue Trablos. The explosions were dull and heavy; the sort of noise that an expensive carpet would make if thrown onto a road from a balcony.


When we approached the 12 year-old's little aluminium throne with its torn plastic seat and its bent wheels, he looked at us with that special insouciance of the Lebanese militiaman. The gunmen of Lebanon had grown used to the sahafa, the press. Sometimes they would take journalists to the front line; sometimes they would risk their lives to help reporters. Or they would rob them or threaten to execute them. One day, in years to come, they would kidnap them, too. Our 12-year-old had plenty of time to make up his mind.

'If you want to see the war, you should go that way,' he said, gesturing wearily in the direction of a gutted restaurant. He put down his glass of tea, lifted the rifle to his shoulder and trudged off into the debris. We followed him, across the street and into the building. It was Al Ajami, once one of Beirut's most prestigious restaurants. We walked into it through the wall, through a shell-hole that had been enlarged by the gunmen for easy access. In the darkness, we padded across the dank, wet velvet floor and out through the kitchen wall into a street whose hollow buildings leaned outwards. Four or five storeys high, they tottered against each other, held up only by the shells of neighbouring structures, their innards shrivelled up by fire, a real Dresden of a street.

What did the boy want to do when he grew up? I asked. 'I want to be a guerrilla commander,' he said in French. An educated gunboy, his intellectual ambitions were limited. He gave us a grin of yellow teeth.
He was enjoying himself. And if the war ended? He shrugged.

- Robert Fisk in 1976

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The UN's human rights commissioner has criticised Australia's tight policies on refugees and the treatment of Aboriginal people.
Navi Pillay, who grew up in apartheid-era South Africa, said it was part of an undercurrent of racism in the country, which leads to refugees and migrants being subjected to arbitrary detention in Australia, and also in Malaysia.

(source: Big Issue, June 6 - 12 2011.)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Controversial government changes to housing benefit could see 11,000 young disabled people forced out of their flats, putting them at risk of homelessness, according to campaigners.

oh goody.