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Posts Tagged ‘scotland’

crawick-multiverse_140715_01

Photos: Charles Jencks
Landscape artist Charles Jencks has turned a Scottish coal mine into a work of art reminiscent of Stonehenge.

It’s not news that to save the plant we need to move away from using coal. Every few days, it seems, someone else is getting on board. Yesterday, for example, I saw that a big Italian insurance company decided to stop insuring coal plants. (Story at Reuters, here.) And remember this post about a German coal town turning an old mine into a giant, water-powered battery?

Well, human ingenuity continues to work at the problem of coal mines present and past. In this story, a Scottish mine was turned into artwork.

Writes Contemporist, “Landscape artist Charles Jencks has completed the transformation of Crawick Multiverse, a former coal mine that has now become a 55-acre artland, visitor attraction and public amenity. …

“Crawick Multiverse is a major land restoration and art project in Dumfries & Galloway, utilising landscape art to transform a former open cast coal mine into an outdoor space that can be enjoyed by future generations.

“Privately funded by the Duke of Buccleuch and designed by globally-renowned landscape artist Charles Jencks, Crawick Multiverse … links the themes of space, astronomy and cosmology, creating a truly inspiring landmark that will appeal to everyone from art enthusiasts and scientists to the wider community. …

“The site is managed by the Crawick Artland Trust which includes trustees from the local communities surrounding the site.”

The BBC adds that the project “follows on from other works by Mr Jencks including the likes of Northumberlandia in north east England, the Garden of Cosmic Speculation north of Dumfries and the Beijing Olympic Park’s Black Hole Terrace.

“He said: ‘This former open cast coal site, nestled in a bowl of large rolling hills, never did produce enough black gold to keep digging. But it did, accidentally, create the bones of a marvellous ecology.

” ‘The landscape had to be healed, it had to welcome the nearby communities of Sanquhar, Kelloholm and Kirkconnel, and help restore the locality both economically and ecologically.’ ” More.

More great pictures at Contemporist, here.

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Photo: Elliott Simpson
“Two Piece Reclining Figure No.1,” by Henry Moore, Glenkiln Sculpture Park in southwest Scotland. Scotland’s government has proposed a policy that, among other things, would give ordinary Scots a greater say in shaping the cultural life of their communities.

What I remember about a trip to Scotland decades ago is Loch Ness, the glowing quality of sunlight in Inverness, how Edinburgh’s castle looms over the city, sheep on the hills, sheep crossing narrow highland roads.

But there is more to Scotland, and now the government is working to give communities a greater say in how the country’s culture is presented to the world.

Christy Romer writes at Arts Professional, “Ensuring culture is fundamental to Scotland’s social and economic prosperity is a core aim of the country’s first culture strategy in over ten years. …

“The draft document outlines plans for a new Government cultural adviser and new funding models for the sector. In addition, it aims to give people a ‘greater say’ in shaping the cultural life of their communities through participatory models of decision-making and community ownership.

“ [The draft strategy says Scotland] ‘places culture as of equal importance alongside other areas such as the economy, education, environment, health and tackling inequality, and values culture for the unique perspectives it can bring.’ …

“One of the major initiatives announced is a new cultural leadership post within Scottish Government, which would be supported by strategic thinkers from the culture sector and beyond.

“This figure would be responsible for joining up thinking across Government and with major stakeholders. They would aim to respond to big societal issues and make culture central to progress in areas such as health, the economy and education.

“Other initiatives include developing a national partnership for culture, which would see the sector work with academics to develop new approaches to measuring and articulating the value of culture.

“Partnership working with businesses, schools and care homes is also seen as key to creating opportunities for more people to take part in culture. The document …  suggests using Scottish Government powers to generate a collective responsibility to support culture in the long term.’ This could involve the National Investment Bank or devolved tax and legislative powers.”

Oh, dear. Already I see trouble ahead. The intentions are good, but that wonky document suggests to me that artists were not involved in the writing and may not be helping much to carry out the policy. Hmmm. I’m wondering if government’s role in a country’s culture should be limited to funding it.

For example, consider what Claire Selvin reported in October at ArtNews about New York City: “With largest-ever allotment for department of cultural affairs, New York City Grants $43.9 million to arts programs.” That’s putting your money where your mouth is. I realize some of the funds may get lost in the bureaucracies of the various recipient arts organizations, but I think I’d rather have them working on the ultimate allocations than a government entity.

More on Scotland at Arts Professional, here.

One of Scotland’s historical highlights is the Antonine Wall, built by the Romans across what is now the Central Belt of Scotland. These ruins mark the northernmost frontier barrier of the Roman Empire.

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Photo: James Glossop
Scottish Ballet expands Dance for Parkinson’s classes to cities across the country.

The class that comes right before my Essentrics stretch class on Thursdays is for people with Parkinson’s. The participants seem to enjoy it. One man, who is said to be over 100, routinely leaves the class with a smile on his face.

Exercise classes for people with Parkinson’s are not new, but there are always new locations offering them and new techniques to help people keep moving. Consider, for example, this report from Scotland, where the Scottish Ballet has a program.

Jeremy Watson writes at the Times, “Research has shown that dance can help people with the degenerative disease physically, mentally and socially. [At the Scottish Ballet,] staff and volunteers help participants develop movement skills with particular emphasis on fluidity, balance, co-ordination and posture. The sessions include activities focused on problem solving, improvisation, vocal skills, memory and multi-tasking.”

The Scottish Ballet website adds background. “Established in 2016, the Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland programme supports those with Parkinson’s to experience the benefits of dance and creativity — improving balance, spatial awareness, confidence and fluidity in movement. Every week, around 75 participants take part in sessions delivered by Scottish Ballet in Glasgow and Dance Base in Edinburgh. …

“The warm and informal Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland classes feature elements of ballet and contemporary dance with a focus on Scottish Ballet’s repertoire. Using the themes and movement from current productions, specially trained Scottish Ballet and Dance Base Dance Artists lead participants to develop movement skills with particular focus on fluidity of movement, balance, coordination, expression, posture and rhythm.”

The Edinburgh Parkinson’s site says that the aims of the classes “are to

* wake up stiff muscles and improve flexibility,
* encourage mind-body connection,
* improve co-ordination and balance, and
* increase self-awareness and self-esteem
* in a supportive and joyful environment

“The social time at the end of each session is a chance to make connections and feel part of the dance community. … The teachers have a wonderful sense of light-heartedness and fun which they bring to the classes. Live music is an essential ingredient, and we have a talented pianist, Robert Briggs, providing the accompaniment, so the music is used flexibly to encourage movement and development of sequences. …

“The original concept, arising from collaboration between the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group in New York, is now increasingly practised worldwide among the Parkinson’s community.”

Patients’ partners and caregivers attend the class that I’ve looked in on, and they are welcome to participate and get some exercise, too. The musical selections are great, but unlike in Scotland, there is not a live accompaniment.

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When I was last in Manhattan, I took a photo of a putative Banksy stencil. It’s one that the gourmet food emporium Zabar’s helped to preserve in 2013, when the British street artist was said to be tagging all five New York City boroughs.

I have written often about Banksy — here, for instance. I get a real kick out of his ideas and the fact that he works by stealth. (Speaking of that, if you search on the word “stealth” at the blog, you will find all kinds of examples.)

Banksy’s art, like other street art, is not necessarily meant to last for the ages, but he has become such a phenomenon that there are now efforts to restore murals that have been painted over.

The BBC reports from Scotland, “Restoration work is under way on three early works by the artist Banksy which were accidentally painted over with grey emulsion in a Glasgow nightclub.

“The murals, which feature a gun-toting monkey in a tutu and a framed Mona Lisa, were created as part of an exhibition at The Arches in 2001. But they were mistakenly covered in 2007 then left after the club went into administration [bankruptcy] in 2015.

“A team of restorers are expected to take five months to uncover the works. … Banksy created the works, which also feature the words ‘Every time I hear the word culture I release the safety on my 9mm’ when he was beginning his career as a graffiti artist.

“They were shown as part of the ‘Peace is Tough‘ exhibition in March 2001, … but six years later, and long after Banksy had established himself as an international artist, the murals were covered with grey emulsion during refurbishment work at the nightclub.

“When the club went into administration in 2015, the then owners had considered restoring the murals and selling them to clear the club’s debts.

“Chris Bull, technical director at Fine Arts Restoration Co (Farco), which is carrying out the restoration, said the murals were the only known works by Banksy in Scotland with any provenance. …

“The new owners of the venue, Argyle Street Arches, say they now want to save the works for the nation. … Once complete the works will be put on permanent display.”

More at the BBC, here.

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Photo: Celeste Noche
Charming Wigtown, Scotland, is famous as a “book town.”

Do you remember reading my post about Alex Johnson’s survey of “book towns,” small locales with numerous emporiums for buying books? Well, here’s another angle from the New York Times. It describes how a book critic got a taste of running a bookstore in one of the better known book towns.

Dwight Garner reports, “Recently, if only for a day, I had a bookstore in Scotland. …

“It is worth getting to Wigtown, population 1,000. [It] is lush and green and smells of the nearby sea. It is Scotland’s national book town, its Hay-on-Wye. With a dozen used bookstores tucked into its small downtown, it is a literary traveler’s Elysium.

“Best of all, Wigtown offers a literary experience unlike any other I’m aware of. In town there is a good used bookstore called the Open Book, with an apartment up above, that’s rentable by the week. Once you move in, the shop is yours to run as you see fit.

“I was handed the keys and a cash box. I was told I could reshelve and redecorate. I could invite Elena Ferrante and Thomas Pynchon to speak, and Sly Stone to play, if I could find them.

“The Open Book is run by a nonprofit group. It has touched a chord with so many people, from every continent, that it’s booked through 2021, which is as far as Airbnb will take reservations. There’s a waiting list after that. I managed to wedge myself in for a single night by begging and whining. …

“My first task as proprietor of the Open Book was one I hadn’t anticipated. What to write on the slate sandwich board that sits out front?

“A favorite exhortation came to mind. With chalk I scrawled: ‘Read at whim! Read at whim! — Randall Jarrell.’ For the opposite side, after a bit of puzzling, and given my physical and mental state, I shakily wrote: ‘Of course it’s all right for librarians to smell of drink. — Barbara Pym.’ I set my board outside.

“It was time to get a look around. The Open Book is not entirely my kind of used bookstore in that its literature section is modest, dwarfed by the sections for miscellaneous subjects like birds and Scotland and garden design. But there was a nice shelf of Penguins under the register. …

“I’ve worked in many bookstores in my life, and I hadn’t realized how much I missed them. It’s surprising what you learn, as if by osmosis, a daily mental steeping, about every possible subject.

“Often you learn more than you want to know, when people bring to the register books about hemorrhoid care, loneliness or coping with the death of a child. To this day, when a young person asks me for advice about finding employment in the word business, I say (after telling them to read like lunatics): Work in a bookstore if you can find one, or a library, all through high school and college. …

“A young couple, Beth Porter and Ben Please, arrived with their infant daughter, Molly. They had musical instruments in tow: Beth, a cello; Ben, a ukulele; Molly, a toy glockenspiel.

“Porter and Please are the core members of the Bookshop Band. They write songs inspired by books and play them in bookstores. I’d met them the night before at [large-bookshop proprietor Shaun] Bythell’s apartment, which is above his store. They’d decided to welcome me to Wigtown by performing an impromptu concert.

“The Bookshop Band is not just good but achingly good — listen to its soulful lament ‘Accidents and Pretty Girls,’ based on Ned Beauman’s novel ‘The Teleportation Accident’ — and it played a resonant 20-minute set for me and a few lucky droppers-in.”

More about the band and the temporary-shop-owner experience at the New York Times, here, where you can also enjoy some delightful photos. For an overview of Wigtown shops, check this out, too.

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Photo: James Glossop 
Charlotte Hoather as Uccellina in the “BambinO” production from Scottish Opera, Improbable theater company and the Manchester International Festival.

I know that babies take swimming lessons these days and yoga with Mama. I know they go to music classes (“put your instruments back in the Taster’s Choice bin before we go home”). But opera?

Well, why not? Some babies are so loud everyone says they will be opera stars when they grow up.

Michael Cooper, a reporter for the New York Times, wrote in March at about an opera actually designed for babies. “The average age at the Metropolitan Opera is about to get lower — much lower. Sitting still will not be required: Audience members will be encouraged to crawl around and interact with the singers if they like. The dress code will be so relaxed that many operagoers may opt for onesies.

“No, the barbarians are not at the gate. The Met is presenting a new opera for babies.

“The company will present 10 free performances of ‘BambinO,’ an opera for babies between 6 months old and 18 months old, from April 30 to May 5. …

“The most unusual opera, about a bird, an egg and chick, was written by the composer Lliam Paterson and developed by Scottish Opera, Improbable theater company and the Manchester International Festival. It was directed by Phelim McDermott. …

“ ‘In the Met’s never-ending quest to develop audiences of the future, we’ve decided to start at the very beginning,’ Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said in a statement.

“The opera will be performed for 25 babies, who will be seated on the laps of their caregivers on benches with cushions around the perimeter of the stage area.

Changing tables and stroller parking will be provided.

“The Met’s education team will work with researchers in infant development and early childhood music education from the Rita Gold Early Childhood Center at Teachers College, Columbia University.” More at the New York Times, here.

I apologize for not posting this in time for New York readers to take babies to the opera, but you can read a thoughtful review at Broadway World:

“No one in the audience as on Facebook or Twitter during Lliam Paterson’s opera BAMBINO at the Met’s List Hall — a rare occurrence for the company these days — on Friday May 4. In fact, no one looked at a cell phone at all during the performance. And nobody fell asleep — even though the opera was written for 6-18 month-olds. …

” ‘It’s lovely to see the full range of reactions the show has received,’ says Paterson, ‘and that every little toddler is just a person — and you’re already seeing all of the characteristics that are eventually going to come out.’ ”

Let’s hope operas for babies help build audiences for the future. “Free” is definitely the way to start.

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Photo: Ruairi Gray/Twitter
Students tricked a museum into exhibiting an ordinary pineapple as a piece of art.

They used to say of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis that the janitorial staff had to be careful not to leave a mop and bucket in a gallery even for a moment or they could come back to find a cluster of museum-goers studying it.

Actually, that can happen.

Recently, Roisin O’Connor wrote at the Independent that students left a pineapple in a gallery of a Scottish museum and someone on the staff thought it was the real thing.

“Students claim they managed to pass off a pineapple they bought for £1 at a supermarket as a work of art, after leaving it in the middle of an exhibition at their university,

“Ruairi Gray, a business information technology student at Robert Gordon University in Scotland, and his friend Lloyd Jack, reportedly left the fruit at the Look Again exhibition at RGU’s Sir Ian Wood building, hoping that it might be mistaken for art.

“When they returned four days later he found that the pineapple had been put inside its own glass display case at the event. …

“Natalie Kerr, a cultural assistant for the festival who organised the display, said she wasn’t the one who included the fruit as an artwork because she is allergic to pineapple.

” ‘We were moving the exhibition, and came back after 10 minutes and it was in this glass case,’ she told the Press & Journal. …

“The incident recalls a similar prank last year when a 17-year-old placed a pair of glasses on the floor at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

“Apparently unimpressed with some of the work on display and wanting to test the theory that people will try to interpret any object provided it is in a gallery setting, TJ Khayatan placed the glasses on the floor and walked away.

“Soon after, visitors to the gallery surrounded them and began taking pictures.”

More at the Independent, here, and at the NY Times, here.

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