Projecting the Masons

At the Rook and Raven gallery, a new venue for me, I saw the last day of Stephen Wilkes: Day to Night. The first impression was rather shallow, perhaps because of the glossiness of the prints. When other people came in, I looked more closely and re-examined the earlier ones. It was only then that I really saw the care with which the shots taken across 15 hours had been blended and the startling change in weather and light across the view. A form of panorama in time rather than space. In the Paris-set one, you could see a fresh bride scurrying across the bank of the Seine, while the 9/11 memorial lights were striking in one of the New York images. The handout referred to an image from an entirely separate series, set in a Chinese factory, which didn’t seem to be around. I asked one of the gallery staff, and she said that it had been put into storage because it was (of course…) the last day. She did kindly show me the whole series on her laptop.

In my border crossing between Soho and Fitzrovia, I tried GRAD next. The absence of any signage meant that it had in fact disappeared, or is searching for a proper home. Tsk. Nearby is Carroll/Fletcher, which I like because there always seems to be an element of slyness in what they exhibit. Very unusually for me, it was the day after their latest show, Constant Dullaart: Stringendo, Vanishing Interiors, had opened. This may have transpired because I went there for reasons of proximity and previous enjoyment, rather than scheduling. The first room contains a whole set of lenticular implementations of Photoshop filters, applied to a photo famous in Photoshop history – Jennifer in Paradise – which re-arrange, dissolve and resolve as you move around.

Recently I read Dave Eggers’ The Circle and I was reminded of that by the female voice of one work, complete with animated mouth formed by the Google search box, intoning that corporation’s terms of service. He’s taken the circular dots loading symbol as the signifier of YouTube and there’s a clever realisation using alternating lights and polystyrene. There’s usually something good saved for the stairwell and in this case it was a laser projection, redolent of vector-based arcade games, extolling Dullaart’s idea of Balconism. Downstairs, there are more Photoshop-trope homages and a parade of flags representing countries that censor the Internet, amongst which the UK proudly stands. I do intend to go back and take a longer look at all this, especially if there’s an artist talk.

Back on the other side of the wretched Oxford Street, I saw John Deakin’s photos of 1950s and 1960s Soho, at the Photographers’ Gallery. As good as the photos were some of the blurbs and ephemera, including two letters from the same month sadly listing the camera equipment that Deakin has lost, and a quote from someone that Deakin was

the second nastiest person I know

to which others in the same circle wondered, with some incredulity, who was the first. The scorn with which Deakin’s efforts in his preferred medium (painting) were received at the time, was quite poignant. There was time for a quick second look at the Deutsche Börse contenders, reminding me again that the power of Richard Mosse’s installation at the Brewer Street Car Park (which featured in something I was to see the next day, though I didn’t know that yet) was only hinted in the few photos on show here. I suppose it’s a bit like the Turner Prize. There isn’t room to exhibit all the items on which they’re being judged.

Across London to the Andaz Hotel in Liverpool Street, for a double-bill of macabre films in their Masonic Temple, as part of the East End Film Festival. Ticket holders were asked to wait in the lobby, before being taken upstairs to the temple. Animations were being projected as part of the Festival and I started watching a Russian one about an industrious ant committed to Art, that made me rather sad, as the best short animations tend to. In fact, I missed everyone else’s departure as a result and had to ask directions. Unlike everyone else I didn’t take any of the free popcorn. There was something magnificently vulgar about the room, especially the marble, which was garish rather than impressive. For the first film, I sat in the temporary seats in the middle of the room. This was The Last Winter, starring Ron Perlman, who had been billed as providing a Q&A beforehand, but we were told he couldn’t make it. The film was pretty grim (for which effect it was aiming). However, I don’t think it managed to transcend the influence/shadow of John Carpenter’s version of The Thing, though that may say more about me.

After the interval, in which I bought a Strange Attractor Press book, the head of that company and a BFI person introduced the next two films – a Kenneth Anger short (“Invocation of my Demon Brother”) and Night Tide, an early starring role for Dennis Hopper. We were told about the links between the directors and various occult figures, and a revelation about Robert Heinlein’s fling with L. Ron Hubbard. When the Kenneth Anger short started I recognised the music, which was performed by Mick Jagger on a Moog. Apparently, when the synth was delivered, someone said

Mr Jagger, here’s your sanitiser

I think I’d seen it before, though I really couldn’t remember where. Anger tends to stay with you. Dennis Hopper saw Night Tide again late in life and we were told he exclaimed that he couldn’t believe how good looking he was back then. It did have quite an odd atmosphere, with Hopper’s ingenuousness matched by rather grand declamations from a couple of baroque English-sounding actors. The focal point of the merry-go-round for some reason reminded me of that scene in The Sting, when the “girls” want to have a free go, while the punters are away. For this second half, I moved to one of the throne seats at the side, for greater comfort and spiritual easement.

Magic and Macabre at the Masonic Temple

When I did so, people next to me asked to see my Tarot card (we were all given one as a ticket), checking whether we all had the same one or not. As the artiste in the film said, the cards should not be subject to oversimplification.

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