Myth Or Legend

24Apr18

BLOG - Damien Hirst

Whilst Mrs Weir was elsewhere celebrating (somewhat) the beginning of the end of Le Professeur, Mrs Weir Snr. and I travelled the short distance required to see Damien Hirst at Houghton Hall.

Although I wasn’t entirely convinced by what was on offer from the UK’s richest living artist (I’m sure he’ll struggle on regardless) there were some high-points. Myth and Legend, the two sculptures sat directly outside the house looked particularly good against the brilliant blue sky (although that isn’t always part of the show) and Observe, Identify, Reason, Analyse, Measure, Modify and Reproduce / Space, Time, Form, Matter, Substance, Change and Motion, two pieces of kinetic sculpture found inside the Stone Hall were entertaining if somewhat reliant on their inspiration from the bingo halls of Britain.

The highlight of our visit for me wasn’t anything by Hirst but, as ever, James Turrell’s Skyspace which is one of the permanent fixtures at Houghton and worth the price of admission on its own.


BLOG - Gedney:USSR

If you’ve missed Speechification Vol.001 and Vol.002 then further context can be found elsewhere. I won’t repeat myself for a third time because that may alienate the few people who still pay an (intentional) occasional visit.

So here are three pieces of radio (and one additional piece of music), two from BBC Radio 4 (albeit one via a repeat on BBC Radio 4 Extra) and one from BBC Radio 3, and all I hope, firmly in the spirit of the original Speechification site.

Target Practice
Sometimes everything seems connected.

Following a brief conversation with Mr Maxim Griffin in relation to his intended expeditions to Donna Nook – a salt marsh just South of the mouth of the Humber used by the Royal Air Force for bombing practice – I made a decision to visit a similar set up that can be found at Gedney Drove End (just  twenty or so miles from Weir HQ). It’s one of those places that’s in easy striking distance of home but somehow it’s somewhere that I’ve always succeeded in failing to visit.

That same day this documentary about RAF Holbeach was broadcast – RAF Holbeach is an academic air weapons range (no me neither) that’s located at Gedney Drove End, albeit that there’s very little physical evidence of it.

A couple of days later I remedied my failure to visit by travelling through the mists that had hung around all week to investigate these literal edgelands, to find that Maxim’s assertion that the location was “deep weird” remarkably accurate. It’s a disarmingly (although I suppose appropriately so) remote location, and once you’re stood on the sea-wall looking out into the Wash a bafflingly alien landscape. Throw in an occasional pillbox, a distant control tower and signs warning of unexploded ordnance and it doesn’t get any less weird. Well worth a visit though, and somewhere I shall return to when the weather is more forgiving.

As a further aside Maxim is currently looking for support over on Unbound for his new book, Field Notes “An illustrated voyage into the depths of time, space and Lincolnshire. It contains Werner Herzog, sausages and mild peril.”  Needless to say, I can’t recommend this to you enough.

Cold Art
This second documentary echoes the first with “Louis K Wilson meeting fellow artists who, like her, make work inspired by the Cold War”. In particular, the inspiration is drawn from the architecture of the era with the programme opening (once again with coincidental proximity to where I’m currently sat) at a Royal Observer Corps underground post in North Norfolk.

Like the artist, Stephen Felmingham I was aware of these Royal Observer Corps posts from an early age as a fairly visible example was located on the edge of the village that I grew up in. The record of said outpost, on the excellent Subterranea Britannica, mentions that it’s occasionally opened to the public, which seems to be something that has passed me entirely by – must investigate that further.

Late Junction
This last piece of radio is only an excerpt, but one that adds some further colour to the previous programme. Taken from a recent edition of Late Junction on “the sound of secrets and subterfuge” over on BBC Radio 3, it consists of a number of field recordings made by Freya Hellier (which already feature somewhat in the Cold Art programme above, which she also produced) at the Field Station Berlin, one of the largest listening stations built in the early 1960s by the US, although now abandoned and being slowly consumed by mother nature. 

BLOG - Concretism

Finally not a piece of radio but a piece of music, albeit one that continues to maintain the theme.

This is the opening track from the new Concretism album, entitled For Concrete And Country, released on the Castles in Space label (who specialise in “limited edition vinyl pressings of new and newly unearthed vintage, alternative pop and electronica”) with artwork from none other than Mr Richard Littler aka the Leader of Scarfolk Council. A copy of the record, on “utilitarian black vinyl” (I missed out on the very limited “nuclear bunker hospital bay” turquoise) should be arriving at Weir HQ in the next few days, and if this is anything to go by it’s going to be very well received.

So if “the cold war is back with a vengeance” at least it can be handsomely soundtracked.

 

 


June

I’ve been re-watching the second series of Mum as Mrs Weir missed it when it was originally broadcast. If you’ve not stumbled across it then I’d thoroughly recommend seeking it out. And whoever’s responsible for the title sequence, that shows the situation of the comedy as the episodes work their way through the year, deserves a special mention.

BLOG - Mum#2

BLOG - Mum#4


In recent years whenever Mrs Weir has enquired as to my preferred holiday destination I have usually offered up the Northamptonshire town of Corby as my first choice.

Perhaps unsurprisingly she has failed to take me up on the suggestion. And to be entirely honest I’ve not always been disappointed by that. After all according to the Office for National Statistics people in Corby “are the unhappiest in the country”, the people at MoneySuperMarket tell us it’s “the debt capital of Britain” and whilst it did manage to avoid the top spot it was still named as the third worst place in Britain for women to live by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

I’m sure the town does have a number of redeeming features, however the few hours I spent visiting for the first time last Monday did suggest that it’s a place that needs plenty of love and even greater quantities of money.

One particularly sad sight was what remained of a sculpture originally installed in the town back in 1974 called The Spirit of Corby. The (sadly unnamed) artist’s interpretation of “molten steel coiling down and flowing over limestone into water” (as a homage to the local steel industry) had been relocated having been hidden away in storage for many years, before then being “bent double by the severe weather in 1997” whilst sited on one of the town’s many roundabouts. When the spirit of the town is literally broken by the elements you have to sense that it’s probably not a good omen.

In fact, reading around what’s happened in the town in the intervening years does suggest that not everything progresses as smoothly as would be hoped. The Corby Cube for instance (which the Borough Council’s website insists is ‘iconic’) seems to have had a particularly problematic history given that it was only opened in 2010 – with various reports telling of its ‘dangerous design’, police investigations into the finances surrounding the funding of the building and a continuing story of ongoing repairs.

That said perhaps Corby’s future is brighter than I imagine, given that late last year it won the Great Town category in the 2018 Urbanism Awards, which commented that although only just over half-way through its thirty year growth plan the town is “an excellent example of what can be achieved by following through a shared vision and co-ordinated regeneration framework”. 

I hope that Corby’s star is in the ascendence and I’ll return at some point to investigate further (with or more probably without Mrs Weir) because if nothing else it’s probably the only town in Northampton I’ll visit that’s twinned with a Chinese megacity.

*With apologies to Katherine Jakeaways.


Eastern Magic

10Mar18

BLOG - Maxim

If you know me over and above a cursory viewing of this blog you’ll hopefully already be well aware of the work of Maxim Griffin.

Maxim, is one of those horribly talented individuals who appears to use the same tools as many others when creating his art, but somehow finishes up with an end result that’s so very much greater that the sum of its parts. Obviously this is largely down to the aforementioned talent, however there’s also some additional magic at work which I don’t begin to understand.

Earlier this year I bought a series of four small paintings from Maxim, however due to the frailties of Her Majesty’s postal service they only arrived this week. Quite where they disappeared to for just over a month is anyone’s guess. The fear that they’d been subsumed by the landscape between Maxim’s address and mine seemed quite likely for a while, however it’s grand to report that unlike King John’s lost treasure the four paintings are very much still with us.

BLOG - Maxim #bBLOG - Maxim #aBLOG - Maxim #c

Maxim’s work can be seen on his website over at maximpetergriffin.co.uk, in his regular column Solvitur ambulando in Lincolnshire Life magazine and is frequently featured over at Caught by the River.


Exhibitionism

26Feb18

Our recent days away in East Anglia’s second best county (sorry Suffolk, it’s a close run thing though) were mostly spent resting and recuperating, however some treasure hunting was permitted.

Amongst the treasure found was a copy of the Official Guide to the Brussels World Exhibition in 1958, a handsome thing full of intricate, coloured maps centering in and around the Atomium – one of the few (safe to say only) buildings depicting “nine iron atoms in the shape of the body-centred cubic unit cell of an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times”.

I’d assumed that having been born in the 1970s (albeit only just) I’d missed the opportunity to visit one of these events, however according to the ExpoMuseum website (who, in this respect, seem to be the fount of all knowledge) they’re still going strong with the last being held in Astana in Kazakhstan just last year.

Sadly the next one, due in 2020, will be located at the home of “ugly excess” (aka Dubai) – so maybe we’ll make the one after.


BLOG - Lavenham

Three days away with Mrs Weir, in “one of the most beautiful small towns in Britain”, which according to recent news was responsible for saving a 15-year-old Andrew Lloyd Webber from thoughts of suicide.

I’m not sure whether a blue plaque will appear to note the occasion, however given that there wasn’t anything noting the spot where a certain Mr John Hayes (aka Mr Howard Marks) was arrested back in 1980 it’s probably unlikely – such modern diversions would probably be unwelcome. 

Hoping to return (to Suffolk) later in the year when the weather allows a somewhat less monochromatic experience.




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