Are you local?

Generally it’s lah-di-dah large cultural institution this and blah-di-blah big museum that and pomp-di-pomp predictable arthouse cinema too. As someone who agonises over where to buy the magazines I rarely manage to read, hoping to spread my community pound wisely (the South Kensington station newsagent is a big beneficiary of this policy), I feel I have to support what’s found in my current region of influence, too. Last Saturday I wasted a lot of precious cultural time researching what to do, instead of doing it. The results weren’t so bad – Matt’s Gallery in Mile End Park, then Poster Art 150 at London Transport Museum and A Hijacking at the Renoir. This Saturday, things would be different, so I researched in advance, guided as ever by Londonist and IanVisits. There was an exhibition about 400 years of gardens in Redbridge, at the museum in the Ilford central library. At present I’m able only to look over a communal garden and it’s not a subject on which I expend much energy. However, I thought I should invest my interest locally for once and took the bus there, enjoying the views of neighbouring areas I haven’t visited yet. It was quite a small show, a mixture of physical recreations, including a World War II bomb shelter, pictures, photos, text panels and video. It was clearly resonant for some of the older people there, who had seen some of the changes to the area themselves. There was a sheaf of comments forms instead of a book and I felt sad that someone had filled in the bare minimum set of details, only in order to put the comment “it’s boring”. My own form was rather more positive. Wonder where I fitted in their demographic plots? On the way to Ilford station I saw the Kenneth More theatre, which was a surprise. I knew about the tussle between Woodford and Walthamstow over William Morris, but not about this connection, if indeed it is such.

Next on my list was the Souzou show at the Wellcome Collection. I wonder how they feel about the fact that a lot of people travelling from Euston seem to use it, or at least the café, as a high class waiting area (better than Casey Jones). Maybe the st0ical hope that the art will rub off on them, à la Bennett. Like the indefatigable Ian, I’m a little wary of the term Outsider Art. However, everything I’ve seen there has been good. It was very varied, with nevertheless some common themes, perhaps the result of common tuition, given lots of the artists were from the same places in Japan. Everyone liked the large table of many tiny robot/alien warrior figures by Shota Katsube, made entirely from different coloured cable ties.

Look at this guy, he’s clearly in charge

I heard some people say, referring to the only figure with a black cape, and they wondered whether a silver creature in the middle was a dragon. This display repaid close attention and everyone ended up crouching at the edges for a better view, marvelling at the miniature details. Several of the artists had very particular working patterns, even rituals, and these were well-described. I’m always attracted by very detailed artworks, and there were plenty of examples here, notably the enormous fictional cityscape by Norimitsu Kokubo (the website image really doesn’t do justice to the scale of this piece, which is several metres long), which is a work-in-progress, the draughtsman-like approach of Kenichi Yamazaki and the hyper-dense notebooks of Shingo Ikeda. The many pieces by Marie Suzuki are notably disturbing. It will be interesting to compare this excellent show with the one that’s just opened at the Hayward Gallery.

Thence to Oxford Circus, passing a group of men claiming to be the

original lost tribes of Israel

who held placards declaring

The end of America, according to God

They were attracting both heated debate with motivated shoppers, and lots of photographs. Did they consider their efforts a success?

It was a shame to see the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize at the Photographers’ Gallery after I knew the outcome, not that suspense is really the point. (Though I do try to see the Turner Prize show before that’s announced, on the subject of which, I read the other day that Elizabeth Price is the artist-in-residence at RAL – I’ll have to see what she’s produced the next time I go there). The four finalists were a mixture of the fantastical, the political and the more traditional/realistic. Hmm. Not fully convinced, though at least they were quite dissimilar. Downstairs, I enjoyed the alien domesticity and colours from a vanished world in Claire Aho’s Studio Works. A shame they didn’t include the Finnish Morrissey-lookalike in the examples on the site. I intend to go back and spend some time looking at the trove of Geocities sites at The Wall in the lobby.

Not really a complete re-orientation to local North-East London venues, then, but a start.

A description of Saturday night’s music at the Barbican and today’s escapades will follow separately.

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