Winnie-The-Pooh: Exploring A Classic, V&A, 8 December 2017

Little boy, captivated by the images and artefacts

We booked a late afternoon preview slot for this exhibition months ago, when it was first announced.

We love Winnie-The-Pooh; we don’t love swarms of children. Simples.

Result.

We got to see this charming little exhibition in ideal (for us) circumstances. Enough people around for it to have atmosphere but a quiet slot mid-to-late afternoon, just ahead of any members who might bring their children after school.

The V&A rubric on the exhibition can be found by clicking here.

Reviews and stuff (at the time of writing just previews) can be found through this search term – click here.

We took several photos – if you want to see more than just the few on show in this piece, either click here or the photo below:

The show is an interactive experience, but in a very analogue way – with a staircase to sit halfway up, a slide, an hexagonal spinning name generator and some drawing exercises.

This little girl tried out the drawing exercises

No virtual reality like the Modigliani across the water, nor even any computerised games. Pooh sticks was thus, in my opinion, under-served. One senior lady member wondered out loud whether any children had been involved in the curating of this exhibition. I thought it a good question and guessed that the answer is no.

Still, the exhibition was beautifully designed – Janie thought it one of the most stylish she can ever remember – with lots of hoardings in the style of E. H. Shepard drawings emblazoned with well chosen chunks of A.A. Milne’s wonderfully crafted words and some sound effects, such as bees in the vicinity of the story about Pooh searching for honey. The simplicity, I guess, is a large part of the show’s charm.

I even visited the North Pole

I got to visit the North Pole. Janie, of course, now five weeks into her pole dancing hobby, found Pooh’s pole a little tame for her taste…

Janie visits a pole in her own way

…yet Janie was surprisingly timid at the idea of trying out the slide, which she did attempt, eventually, rather gingerly in my view:

Hard landing, apparently

We had lots of fun at this exhibition and did learn quite a lot about the wider context of the works from the exhibits.

Afterwards, we tried out the new members’ room for refreshments and very much enjoyed it. A much larger, airier space than the previous room, which was rather pokey and “uti” for the V&A. The friendly staff and tempting menu come into their own in this improved facility.

Keeping the wolf (or perhaps, in this case, tigger) from the door

As for the Pooh show, the V&A shop will no doubt do lots of business with some excellent books about the wider context and also some beautiful editions of the Milne/Shepard Pooh books themselves. But we resolved instead to stop off at the flat and pick up my tatty Methuen paperback Poohs for the weekend – by gosh they are dog-eared and falling apart but they are mine:

My Poohs and I’m proud of them

After dinner, little Daisy dropped off to sleep while I was reading her some of the poems. Bless.

Culture in Crisis: At Home in Syria, Talk With Zahed Tajeddin & Diana Darke, V&A, 23 October 2017

An excellent talk and reception at the V&A – part of the Culture In Crisis series – two contrasting stories about houses in war-torn Syria. 

Diana Darke is an English writer and broadcaster who bought and restored a villa house in the Old City of Damascus some years ago. She talked about the multi-faith, multi-cultural nature of Damascus; we learned that Sunnis and Shias often intermarry in Damascus; those folk are known as Sushis. The old city in Damascus has not been badly damaged in the war, but a corrupt lawyer tried (unsuccessfully) to steal Diana’s house from her. She’s written a book about it – click here – Janie bought the book after the talk.

Janie and I took tea at the Umayyad Palace Restaurant, Damascus, 1997

Zahed Tajeddin is an artist from Aleppo. He bought and restored an old villa house in the old city of Aleppo several years ago. He explained that most of the old city of Aleppo was very dilapidated when he was growing up; his grandparents were the last generation to use those houses as comfortable residences. But a restoration trend had started towards the end of the last century with a few restored and used as restaurants – Janie and I knew about that…

Janie and I dined at the Sissi House Restaurant, Aleppo, in 1997
Janie and I dined at the Sissi House Restaurant, Aleppo, in 1997

…but Zahed chose to buy and restore one to its former glory and residential purpose. His description of the project and his pictures were, for me, probably the best bit of the talk. Of course Zahed’s house has been severely damaged in the war; many of the neighbouring houses have been completely destroyed.

Aleppo street in 1997
An Aleppo Street in 2017

Both stories were fascinating. Zahed’s story is sadder, but both of the speakers demonstrated incredible courage and resilient determination to overcome their respective difficulties. Incredibly, Zahed has already started restoring his house again.

There wasn’t much time for questions, which was possibly just as well, because the few questions that did come up were a bit daft.

There was however plenty of time for a glass of wine and chat after the talk. Janie got to buy the book and chat briefly with both of the speakers, asking them far more sensible questions than those that came earlier from the lecture hall grand-standers. We met a couple of interesting young people; one young Oxford student who wants to go to Syria as part of her studies and one young Syrian student at SOAS.

A fascinating evening, rounded off with some fine sushi from the Sushi Shop in South Kensington…we’re talking Japanese style fish here, not a Damascene mix of Sunni and Shia people.

Two Visits To The V&A For The Exhibition Road Big Reveal, Plus Grayson Perry & The Pavilion At The Serpentine Gallery, Plus Pink Floyd and The V&A Reveal Festival, 26 and 30 June 2017

Exhibition Road – Aston Webb Screen and new steps from within

Monday 26 June 2017

Janie was very excited when we got tickets for Amanda Levete’s talk at the V&A, just ahead of “the big reveal” of the results of the new Exhibition Road Building Project. The talk was nicely timed for Janie’s birthday, 26 June.

We had hoped to get to see the Serpentine stuff that day as well, but we didn’t get our act together in time for that; indeed we only just allowed enough time to walk through the park from the flat to the V&A for the talk.

The talk was very interesting. Amanda Levete explained the background to and details of this extraordinarily ambitious and unusual project, to build a substantial exhibition space and piazza in what had been dead space at the Exhibition Road end of the V&A site.

Of course, the new exhibition space is underground, so cynics might argue that this V&A project was a gargantuan Kensington basement development. But we aren’t cynics in this regard – we were chomping at the bit to see the new space.

Drinks were pleasant enough and we chatted to Amanda Levete herself briefly. She cemented our view that we wanted to return Friday to see the new space properly ahead of the big reveal and events that evening.

Friday 30 June 2017

Daisy got her act together on the Friday, so we did have time to visit the Serpentine Gallery and Pavilion ahead of the V&A.

Francis Kéré’s Pavilion

We started with the pavilion, not least because we were both peckish and could picnic therein…

…except we couldn’t, as an unattended bag encouraged the staff to clear the pavilion just as we started to munch.

We had more luck with the Grayson Perry exhibition: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever. Janie had seen it before; indeed she took these photos a few days earlier:

I suppose there was some irony in me seeing the work of one of Chelmsford’s greatest so soon after my visit to Chelmsford. But I must say I prefer the idea of Grayson Perry’s work far more than I like the work itself. Janie is keener on the work.

Then on to the V&A to see the new space “ahead of the plebs”, as Daisy put it, with no apparent irony, despite her regular vitriol about social inequality, in the borough and beyond.

Just before the arrival of Joe Public, a man puts the finishing touches on the Oculus with sticky-back plastic.
Old and new features combine.
Inside the new exhibition space

We then waited for “the big reveal” in the new Exhibition Road cafe. I thought there might be a fanfare at 17:00, or at least the multiple gates on the Aston Webb screen would be flung open, but no such thing happened. They merely started to admit people through the main Aston Webb gate whereas previously they were asking to see membership cards.

As we had some time to kill until the opening Friday evening events of the Reveal Festival were to begin, we went to see the Pink Floyd exhibition. Pink Floyd have never really been my thing, but of course I am familiar with much of the music and the iconography, so it was interesting to see it. Pretty crowded on a Friday evening, it was, especially as I suspect we weren’t the only people who had planned to take in that exhibition ahead of the live music events.

After the Pink Floyd, we wandered down to the John Madejski Garden to watch KOKOROKO setting up and sound checking for the headline gig later.

KOKOROKO sound-checking

We had planned our evening activities carefully ahead of time – I had even printed out and marked up the event schedule – click here for the unmarked, on-line version.

So we soon headed off upstairs to find the Hejira gig. This was in Room 82, a relatively small room, so we did the right thing getting to the room in good time, finding one of the last bits of wall space for a proper view.

The music is, in theory, inspired by Ethiopian music, but we couldn’t really detect much of that. Still, the lead singer is very elegant and has an extraordinary voice.

The following embedded vid is far funkier than the music they played in Room 82:

After that, we went to see the Music Television exhibit in the Tapestries room, then failed to get in to the virtual reality behind the scenes tour. I suppose, as we have had a special, private behind the scenes tour of the V&A in our time, our need for the virtual tour was not so great.

Then back to the John Madejski Garden to see get a drink and see KOKOROKO. The garden was really starting to fill up festival style, so we got ourselves a good position and enjoyed dancing to the DJ’s music while waiting for the gig.

KOKOROKO were very good – an afrobeat sound that reminded me a bit of Fela Kuti but with a more fusion/eclectic mix of sounds. I have embedded a vid at the bottom of this piece.

Everyone was movin’ to the groovin’

There was a great spirit among the crowd; we ended up dancing and high-fiving with various strangers. Whereas Janie and I had possibly been the youngest people at Amanda Levete’s talk on Monday, we were among the oldest people enjoying the festival headline act – who cares? We had a great time.

Luxury Travel Fair, Olympia West and Revolutions Weekender, V&A, 4 to 6 November 2016

6-november-2016-va
Doesn’t look all that revolting to me.

Janie and I arranged a day off on the Friday (4th) primarily to visit the Luxury Travel Fair.  Conde Nast Traveller Magazine had bunged Janie a couple of freebie tickets and we are seeking ideas for our next trip.

We had also wanted to keep some extra time free for the weekend as the V&A had mysteriously pre-announced that there would be a weekend of activities around the Revolution Exhibition – which we saw in preview a couple of months ago – click here. Janie had chased this up a couple of times but we only got the programme about a week before – still several items looked good.

Here’s a link to that very V&A programme – click here.

I didn’t hold much hope for the travel fair, so wasn’t too disappointed when Janie announced that she needed to get Bill to sort out a problem with the boiler at the house and that first thing Friday was the ideal time. Naturally, that took up the whole morning, so in the end we got to the travel fair around 14:45.

There were a few interesting stands, but on the whole the larger agents had sent their “B” teams to staff the stands and very few of the smaller agents covered holidays that might appeal to us. Cruise anyone? Not us.

So we had bags of time to get to the V&A for the first thing we wanted to see: a movie entitled Louder Than Love by Tony D’Annunzio which was due to be shown at 18:15. We got there about half an hour early, to discover that the movies were running early so that piece was playing to an empty room as we arrived and we caught the last 20-25 minutes of it. Probably got enough out of it that way nonetheless. Roger Daltry and Alice Cooper being the most interesting people from that scene still alive and their interviews were in that last reel.

That timing shift enabled us to see John Lennon “In His Own Write” that same evening. This is basically a performance piece based on John Lennon’s 1964 poetry book of that name. Cartoons too, projected onto a screen. The performers; Jonathan Glew, Peter Caulfield and Cassie Vallance, were all very good. Some of the poems were good; some very silly, some horribly violent. Still, certainly an hour well spent before dinner.

We also saw a small exhibit about Glastonbury and danced for a while in a rub-a-dub stylee to Babylon Uprising. Not quite “Janie and Ian, the only one’s dancing”…but not far off.

Sunday 6 November

After a cold game of tennis at Boston Manor, we went straight to the V&A to see a conversation between Joe Boyd and Nigel Waymouth. We were keen to see this, not least because Joe is a client of Janie’s and I found his book White Bicycles fascinating.

I thought I should try to sport some fitting gear, given our incongruous “just off the tennis court” look, so I wore the tee-shirt Kim had made for me from Janie’s “guru on a camper-van” picture which she used as the 60’s party invite in the spring:

img_1471-2

I also thought I should sport one of my most psychedelic-looking bandannas. It was indeed all in keeping with the subject matter of the conversation, just as I thought, although perhaps not so much in keeping with the way the rather elderly (on the whole) audience was dressed.

We ran into Brian Eno briefly before the session started. I don’t think he stayed for the session, so must have been popping in to see Joe before the start.

At the end of the session Janie asked Joe Boyd a rather penetrating question about commercialism (or rather lack thereof), which I thought was by far the most interesting question (and indeed answer) in the Q&A bit of the event. Whether or not Joe will have anything more to do with Janie after that question is hard to say.  I’ll guess yes.

You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970, V&A, 9 September 2016

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Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream to the V&A.

We were fortunate, through Janie’s membership, to be able to attend the members’ preview of this wonderful exhibition late afternoon/early evening.

The exhibition is well described on the V&A site here.

We both absolutely loved the exhibition.

Of course, the sixties is still very much on our minds in the aftermath of Janie and Kim’s groovy happening – OK, so the above photo is from that happening, not the exhibition.

Still, you could be forgiven for thinking that the V&A curator might have been hanging out at our groovy happening taking notes ahead of the exhibition.

They used a similar mind-blowing sound-bleed technique as the one we used at the party in the themed rooms.

The penultimate room in the exhibition is a sixties festivals room, with festival memorabilia, Woodstock (the movie) on a loop and AstroTurf on the ground so you can chill in a sixties-rock-fest-stylee.

It is a great show. If you read this posting in time (I think it runs to February 2017) get thee a ticket to the V&A show and surry down to South Kensington to see the show. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, V&A, 10 July 2015

Janie was really looking forward to this exhibition. I thought I’d find it interesting too.

The V&A explains the exhibition and provides some video elements that show you quite a lot about it – click here.

In truth, neither of us much liked it. I really didn’t like it at all. Some of the rooms were so noisy and had so many different stimulae at the same time, I couldn’t really get my head around the art of it all. Perhaps it really was replicating the heaving nature of fashion shows. It didn’t help that, for this show, that Friday evening slot seemed very popular and therefore very crowded. Not for me.

We knew that we’d find several examples of our fashion photographer friend Anthea Simms’s work and sought those out; several to be found amongst the iconic postcards and posters for sale in the exhibition shop. We liked that bit best.

Here’s an e.g. for those Anthea Simms works – click here or on the picture above while the link is still live.

I for one was grateful that we’d arranged to go on to the Wigmore Hall for some grub and a late night concert afterwards; it felt like an escape from chaos into tranquility – what a huge cultural shift just down the road.

Roots, Cantor Norman Cohen Falah & Kerensya, V&A, 21 March 2010

This was an afternoon concert at the V&A. I’m not sure how we got on to this one. Daisy wasn’t yet a member of the V&A – perhaps one of her clients suggested it.

The Sephardic music was very sweet and interesting. A relatively small room/small audience at the V&A, I recall.

We very much enjoyed the experience.

The programme follows:

 

Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts, With Tony & Phillie, 1 January 2010

Tony and Phillie stayed with us over new year that year and we went to see this exhibition on new year’s day.

We had the idea for it when we went to the V&A with Z/Yen a few week’s earlier – an event that will be Ogblogged in the fullness of time.

Tony and Phillie really enjoyed spending the day with us and also enjoyed this exhibition – Tony especially enjoying the V&A and its artefacts.

There is a good V&A resource about it – here.

I remember being astonished by Phillie’s energy, although she was very poorly by then, as she wanted to explore some other bits of the V&A before we left.

Blood On Paper: The Art Of The Book, V&A, 2 June 2008

This exhibition was about contemporary/recent artists and their relationship with books.

Janie and I had both heard/read good reviews about this exhibition and ensured that we took a Monday off at a suitable stage in the exhibition’s life to have a quiet look at it. This plan worked very well on the first Monday in June.

On the V&A site, there remains an excellent essay and resource link about this subject matter – click here.

Also this scholarly article by Dr Rowan Watson – click here for V&A link to pdf...

…or here for the Ogblog upload of same.

Interesting reviews/articles on the exhibition in:

 

The Art of Lee Miller followed by Dinner at Cambio de Tercio, Z/Yen Staff Christmas Event, 14 December 2007

Ian and Janie

The above picture, from Cambio de Tercio, is possibly the last photo taken of me before I grew my beard over that Christmas break. I suspect I should be “crediting” Monique for it, or possibly Jez given the proximity of the photographer to Sarah.

Earlier in the evening we had all enjoyed a cultural time at the V&A. Most people followed Linda’s lead to The Golden Age of Couture, but I was keen to see photography instead; The Art of Lee Miller. I think Janie had already seen the couture, so some folk joined us for the photographic exhibition.

Cambio de Tercio is a fine restaurant and we indeed had a very fine meal there.

The song that year was, Santa’s Using PropheZy At Z/Yen to the tune of Santa Claus is Coming To town:

SANTA’S USING PROPHEZY AT Z/YEN
(
Sung to the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming To Town”)
He’s made an edict!
He needs to know why!
He’s out to predict,
He will classify;Santa Claus Is Coming To Z/Yen,
PropheZy has done it again,
Santa’s using PropheZy at Z/Yen!

Santa’s making a list,
He’s checking it twice,
His model works out
Who’s naughty and nice.

Santa Claus Is Coming To Z/Yen,
PropheZy has done it again,
Santa’s using PropheZy at Z/Yen!

He predicts when you’re not sleeping,
He predicts when you’re serene,
He computes if you’ve been bad or good,
In Support Vector Machine!

A Santa index,
A Santa Claus game,
A Santa benchmark,
The answer’s the same;

IndeZy is coming to Z/Yen,
ExtZy is coming to Z/Yen,
PropheZy is coming to Z/Yen.

The boys and girls in Z/Yen-land,
Want to know the reason why,
Each name has got to start or end,
With a Z and then a Y.

They’re eaZy to use,
They’re peaZy to play,
No sleaZy abuse,
When done the Z/Yen way;

IndeZy is coming to Z/Yen,
ExtZy is coming to Z/Yen,

Here’s Bruce Springsteen’s version of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, with lyrics:

I seem to recall that a very good time was had by all that evening.