Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hen Abuse at the Hayward Gallery

Ana Mendieta
I've always felt that Carl Andre got away with murder.  Those bricks in the Tate Museum all those years ago were a fine demonstration of brazen chutzpah but little else.  Brutal in fact.  And nothing he's produced since has changed my mind.  I had forgotten about him until a trip to the Hayward Gallery in London yesterday reminded me of a more palpable crime with which he had been associated.  On show was the work of Cuban/American  artist Ana Mendieta who was living with Andre when she fell to her death from the 34th floor of their New York apartment.  Andre claimed ignorance of how she fell but scratches on his face and arms and the existence of a witness who heard  cries of "no" and "please don't"  led to his trial for second-degree murder.  She had been gathering evidence for a divorce from the artist and it has been suggested that she confronted him before the fatal fall.   However, having opted for a non-jury trial, he was found not-guilty by the presiding judge on the grounds that the evidence was not conclusive.  He continued through his art to fool enough of the people enough of the time to carve out a lucrative career.

Mendieta's work is angry and confrontational - there's a lot of blood and a lot of nudity.  Its appeal isn't compromised by her beauty.  It's mostly video and photography of installations and scenarios she set up.  A couple of works feature her nude and bloodied body simulating a rape and murder scene.  Apparently she invited unwary punters along to apartments and outdoor locations where they'd happen upon her apparently lifeless and abused corpse.  Now that's art that'll shake you up.  The most disturbing piece for me was a video where a nude Mendieta is handed a just decapitated chicken and she holds it (gingerly) by the legs while the unfortunate fowl bleeds out after some increasingly feeble flapping of its wings, and the occasional slow fall of a poignant feather.  Another piece shows her lying under a bloodied sheet with a large cow's heart on top.  (Shades perhaps of Alice Maher - certainly they share more than the same initials.)  This last image is a disquieting harbinger of her ultimate fate.  There are other pieces suggestive of her interest in Cuban voodoo - Santeria, and a lot of images and sculptures of her body imprint in wood and earth.  I exit the Hayward shaken and stirred and when I lunch at the BFI nearby I eschew the chicken option.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Not Bitter just Bemused

Scatter Dice Confounds the Punters
Betting on horses is a cure for incurable optimists. Ask any bookmaker or check Paddy Power's share price.  It's best to approach it as  entertainment with occasional highs and regular lows.  There are also ways of reducing the randomness of the whole thing.  Stick to the bigger meetings (Ascot, Newmarket, Goodwood, Sandown) and avoid all Irish racing, apart from the Curragh.  Follow trainers who can be relied upon to be trying with their horses.  These include John Gosden, Roger Charlton and Aidan O'Brien.  If you study the form, take cognisance of the going, and keep a special eye out for course specialists, you can do reasonably well.  Also, Twitter has become a source for up-to-date intelligence from stables and courses ("the going has changed to soft at Ascot").

Every now and then however a result comes around that renders moot all calculations and all intelligence.  Such result was Scatter Dice's 66-1 win in the Cesarewitch last Saturday.  He had never won over the course, or the distance, and in fact last won 15 months earlier in a much shorter race on much different going.  In his previous two races he was placed last of 13 and a fourth of 7.  The great Pricewise declared that if he had 30 picks from the field of 34 he would not have selected Scatter Dice.  "Not even Nostradamus could have predicted this result" he opined.  To compound the freakish nature of the result, Scatter Dice was left at the start of the race and lost 10 lengths on the field.

By the way, I had backed the second (Waterclock) at 33-1 and the third (Lieutenant Miller) at 14-1.  Each way of course.  So more bemused than bitter.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Tony O'Malley at Taylor Galleries

Tony O'Malley:  Bahamian Butterfly
The Tony O'Malley centenary show in Taylor Galleries is remarkable in many ways.  Primarily it is a celebration of the artist - with some of his finest work on display.  It ranges right across his career and there is a nice contrast between the bright Bahamian works downstairs and the dark brooding work from the mid-Sixties upstairs.

It's surprising that such a large number of these impressive works are for sale.  Where have they been hiding?   I suspect that O'Malley's widow Jane has been holding on to them as her pension fund.  Whatever the reason it's a great opportunity for someone with a few bob to get a classic O'Malley.  I'd be looking for one of the large dark pieces he did in St. Ives around 1965 - The Watching Windhover or Winter Hawk.

Make sure you get a catalogue when you visit the show.  There's a wonderfully perceptive essay by Brian Fallon who was a close friend of O'Malley.  It's particularly good on milieu and influences.

The show ends on the 9th of October - a lamentably short run for such a smashing exhibition. Catch it while you can.

It's Official - I Despair

When two evenly matched teams (like Leinster and Munster last Saturday) meet up, the one that is hungrier and more passionate usually prevails.  So it was with the Seanad referendum.  The No side cared more about the result.  The Yes team were complacent and largely didn't bother making any case other than here's an opportunity to bash a few politicians.

But now, despite all the guff about reform, we will be left with the status quo.  As Arthur Beesley phrased it in todays's Irish Times:  We "saved an elitist bastion with a tiny franchise, little real power and a craven history of subordination to the Dail".  Well done folks.  Or as a letter writer in the same paper put it, we have voted to keep a political institution for which 99% of the electorate is not eligible to vote.

Let's see where all those who urged us to vote No for reform get between now and the next General Election.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

I'm Voting Yes

Forget the earnest debates by the concerned, forget the polls, forget the hysteria about democracy, and above all forget the pleas for reform (mere prevarication in our benighted land).

The resolution to abolish the Seanad will be successful because the plain people of Ireland will take this opportunity to show their contempt for all politicians by sacking the few they can get their hands on.

Having abolished the Seanad let's turn our attention to the Dail.  It's not to late to make a republic out of this sick little oligarchy.