“..it is very hard to always be very strong, but I try to do it, and to have a lot of courage and faith. It is not that I am doing the right thing; I am doing the only thing I can do. There is no other way I can do my work. I cannot think about what will happen and who will see it and what will they think? I can only do what my heart says, because if I lie… I cannot lie. The artwork will not let me lie. I think it is beyond me, really, beyond me as a person and as an artist.”
In your video Mitzvah Tantz from 2005, we see a Jewish ceremony intersected with video footage of your belly-dance followed by flashes of an Arabic belly dancer towards the end. Mitzvah Tantz means ‘mitzvah dance’ or ‘commandment dance’ and this is the tradition of the men dancing before the bride on the wedding night, after the wedding has taken place.
There is an air of you struggling towards something, your mind appears to be slightly bothered and interfering with the movement of your body as your eyes stare thoughtfully into space, possibly watching the video while you are dancing. You are lightly dressed in a plain white belly dancing outfit that is designed to evoke desire and passion and to allow the body to move freely without restriction.
How did you learn belly dancing, did you teach yourself or did you study?
Well I knew for a long time that I wanted to learn belly dancing and I don’t know what comes first; my art or my life? Because many times I combine my passions in my art and it is like an excuse to learn something or to go through an experience. I tell myself that it is for the art. For a long time I wanted to make work about belly dancing, but it took me years to feel like I was ready. Belly dancing is very provocative and very erotic. You have to be a woman, you cannot be a girl and I just didn’t feel like I was ready. And then in 2005 for my final year of the BA at Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem, I was determined I would do it. I studied in various studios, under several teachers, but I studied mainly in Jerusalem at a Centre for Dance called Arabesque. After I made this piece in 2005 I became a belly dancer dancing professionally. I was even on TV with it and I taught it as well. I have the funniest stories of ending up dancing on bars, almost falling over all the bottles. One night I was dancing in front of my art teachers by mistake, but they didn’t recognize me. I fell off the bar and landed straight near their table saying ‘”Hi!” They couldn’t believe their eyes! I also made my own costumes, because I didn’t have money to buy professional ones.
Photo: Stills from Mitzvah Tanz, 2005, All rights reserved
When I became a teacher I developed a certain way of teaching combining contemporary dance with belly dancing and Tantra. It is all about freeing your pelvis; your inner woman and your passions. You really have to be freed and I used to be very tight, very in control all the time and I only let myself go when I made art. So it was very hard for me. Eventually, for the video Mitzvah Tantz, I recorded myself learning. What I show in the video is the process of learning; it is not a great amazing sexy dancer. It is a child learning to walk. It is the clumsy awkward movement; it is the body not doing what the mind wants it to do. It is the lack of control and too much control. I would take out the camera from school, position it in front of me in my room and practice, wearing provisory outfits, like a scarf wrapped around me. When I looked back at it, all those moments when my body didn’t do what I wanted it to do; I loved those specifically. I concentrated only on two movements out of the entire dictionary of dance and I repeated them throughout that whole film.
In Mitzvah Tantz, and with my painting at the time, I wanted to show the moment when a woman stops being innocent, when a woman sees that she is being looked at for the first time. The first time a woman realizes that she has a man’s gaze on her and she blushes. The first time a woman exposes herself to a man. I thought “Where is this innocence?”
What are your thoughts regarding the exhibition medium and does the fact that you are represented by commercial galleries have an impact on your work?
“I always make pictures and I don’t consider the viewer, at all. While I am editing I am driven by the question “Was this getting what I want?” “Was this getting what I am interested in?” Somewhere down the line, hopefully it is distant, I wonder “Gee! Maybe there is a sucker out there that would buy this stuff?” And then I send it off, or don’t. Preferably I let it wait a couple of years and see if it still has resonance. So you make things and you let go of some controls and it really is a kind of addiction of a microsecond. Although, for a while I made long exposures so I got more fulfillment. There is a thrill there.”
On her desert walks, O’Keeffe picked up sea shells, rocks, and skulls, pieces of wood and sun-bleached bones and took them home. When the desert trophies started appearing on her canvases, the critics drew parallels to death and resurrection, but for the artist the remnants of deceased animals revealed something else. In her own words: “The bones seem to cut sharply to the center of something that is keenly alive… even tho’ it is vast and empty and untouchable – and knows no kindness with all its beauty.”
O’Keeffe painted close-ups of other objects in the desert, such as rocks, trees, cliffs and mountains, for more than four decades.
“The reason the Gothic cathedral is so wonderful, is not the stained glass. It’s because it is a wonderful model of a community of artists. Everybody is working on their glass, their carvings, and their floors and it is what you see embodied in this building. He is not even interested in the Christianity and so forth; he is interested in this place for being a place where artisans can come and join and work. There are different varying levels; there is this good carving and the not so good; it doesn’t matter. If you’re an artist you can find a place there. Beautiful! Beautiful idea around the Gothic, which is of course the one that has sort of been shed today. And of course this is the symbol, the idea of Gothic, which made it beautiful to the Bauhaus, which is, I repeat, is lost.”
How would you describe the impact these strong personalities have had on your life; did you ever inject bug powder or “sit in your house for days on end staring at the roses in the closet”?
No, not yet. I’ve never stared at the roses in my closet, but maybe I should! I have mainly been inspired by the strong integrity and self-belief in these iconoclasts; they did it their own way, completely untouched by present ideas, restrictions and beliefs. They broke new ground and although there is a small portion of irony in my exhibition of Stained Glass Windows, (a hint towards today’s celebrity culture) I feel that these are the people that deserve praise and honor for the impact they have had on writers, musicians and artists.
We leave ordinary life outside as we enter Pure Evil gallery for the DJ Food exhibition on this fine Thursday evening in an increasingly cold and miserable London. DJ Food’s The Search Engine has finally been released on Ninja Tune and this exhibition is showcasing sound, visuals and fine art connected to the close-to one hour of revelation of sonic pleasure. On the ground floor, the crowd is lounging around, sipping beer, networking and loosing themselves in the intricate, mind-numbing and enticing art of Henry Flint, comic book illustrator of 2000AD as well as freestyling artist. A mixed flavor of unstoppable creative flows come together at this show at Pure Evil gallery, which can be explained by the owner’s, Charles ‘Pure Evil’ Uzzell-Edwards, love for all things creative. In addition to Henry Flint’s mind tripping artworks, DJ Food’s psychedelic audiovisual installation and the collaboration between the two, Will Cooper-Mitchell’s hot photographs of DJ Food in a replica astronaut suit are on display. All this is featured in a limited comic-sized 48-page CD booklet for sale at the gallery.
DJ Food, who has been a fan and a collector of Henry Flint’s art/illustrations for years, writes on his blog that Henry Flint’s work was the main source of inspiration for this exhibition. We can read how their collaboration begun on NinaTune.net: “The images were exactly what he [DJ Food] had been looking for as the starting point for the artwork on a series of EPs he was making, later to form an album on Ninja Tune. Henry sent a stack of images for Kev [DJ Food] to pick from and gave him permission to color them for the artwork, which were issued as foldout poster covers on three 12″ EPs.”
I know what is hiding in the basement and make my way down into the audiovisual world of DJ Food aka Strictly Kev. The powerful installation is pulsating in our vision and in our ears, inviting us to jump on that space train with loose teasing rhythms in curious sonic collages. Do I need to mention that the ambiance is hypnotic? The visuals contain details of molecular worlds of unknown life forms and entrancing mandalas are flying over our faces like an extra layer of skin. It strikes me that we are wrapped up in an angular momentum here; the force vibrates between the layers, smoothly merged together in time and the extended body of this mass affects us in some way as we sip our Peroni, but I am not sure how. DJ Food’s sonic art is not disturbing as Gordon Mumma’s The Dresden Interleaf 13 February 1945 from 1965, the notorious noise piece performed on the twentieth anniversary of the firestorm bombing of Dresden, because rather than reacting politically to a world in disorder, Strictly Kev is reacting poetically to the cosmos and the aim of his music is to take us out of the material realm and further. If this music, this sonic art, had been played to Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris, who was head of the Royal Air Force during the bombings of Dresden in 1945, he would have resigned and enrolled for NACA (early NASA).
“I began to see sounds, to feel sounds, like waves against my skin […] Have you ever touch a sound? Ever seen thunder?” From In Orbit Every Monday on The Search Engine
As described by Robert Lamb, one of Discovery News’ contributors, DJ Food has been “dropping cosmic noise, robotic bleeps and alien hip-hop on Solid Steel Radio Show listeners for 17 years”. Coldcut and PC of the Cinematic Orchestra were originally included under the banner ‘DJ Food’, which is now synonymous to Ninja Tune artist Strictly Kev. “DJ Food?” The name puts a smile on people’s faces, but honestly, I want to eat his recent Ninja Tune release The Search Engine. He is still an ambassador of sonically enhanced poetry and track 5 Sentinel (Shadow Guard) rests on the meanest bass line since Squarepusher’s Tetra-Sync. If there is one element that is missing in the show in order to reflect the essence of DJ Food, it is the lyrical. A spoken word performance would be an interesting addition to the next exhibition.
DJ Food asked Henry Flint to draw “A cosmonaut, hanging in space, strapped into an unfeasibly large backpack, the kind you could only wear in zero gravity”
A wide range of art works by Henry Flint is on display and he certainly knows how to use that ink. His art has a life of its own. As an artist, his subject matters evolve around a universe with magnificent potential, mystery and demons lurking in the corners of impossible buildings and perplexing situations; monstrous misfits and unseen patterns pour out of the subconscious mind of an artist who could have been an architect was it not that he had too good ideas. There is dazzling movement, detail, diversity and complexity; all of which comes beautifully together within a sheet of paper. I am almost upset that I haven’t come across his work earlier, but I now have the accompanying publication BROADCAST – The TV Doodles of Henry Flint. This is a compilation of works Flint made while allowing his conscious mind to be distracted by the TV, hence leaving the subconscious in charge.
Many years passed since DJ Food delivered a full length to the world and as I look back on the release of Kaleidoscope in2000, I remember many nights with The Crow on repeat. In my industrial hometown in Sweden, Västerås, we were listening to the album with awe while plowing the Internet for useful Cubase VST plugins and VJ softwares, painting on the walls and writing poetry in between. DJ Food has always inspired hyper creativity and it is only to be expected that he manages to put this night together at the Pure Evil gallery, with the help of Pure Evil and his beautiful assistant Molly.
The icing on the cake is when Pure Evil comes downstairs and opens up the door to his old school music studio. He urges us to come over and jam on drum machines and on “I think they call them drum kits. It is what they used in the old days to make a beat.”
Mother’s Day drawing at the age of 3, Edry’s earliest recollection of overpainting
”It is pretty amazing, looking back at life, how I have always had the privilege of being supported. Sometimes I don’t believe in myself, but when there are so many people who do believe in you, it strengthens you to continue on the artist’s journey.” – Noam Edry
In 2008 I got to know a Canadian abstract painter in his mid twenties whose parents dedicated the entire basement to his artistic endeavors. The first time I entered his studio I felt as if I had stepped into a dream world. There were hundreds upon hundreds of huge high quality canvases stacked along the walls like CDs at HMV. They were all beautiful and experimental abstract paintings, strongly influenced by Gerhard Richter. Wandering around in Wonderland, I stumbled on a mountain chain of used oil paint tubes. Luckily enough, I was wearing the epic studio guest-slippers, which were already covered in a Pollock pattern, including the soles. I suspect that those canvases have multiplied themselves without leaving the house, because it doesn’t matter how well you are taken care of by your family and other supporters; in order to succeed as an artist, you need to have Edry’s almost frightening impetus and a determination to keep on going no matter what anyone says.
Edry’s childhood is a wonderful story to be told: At the age of three she was discovered by the local kibbutz artist, who worked as a handy man in her kindergarten. When the man was called in to work, he always found her in the middle of a new drawing and started calling her ‘the painter’. Eventually the very young artist was invited by the experienced artist to have private lessons.
“I remember going to his studio and being totally fascinated by the smells and the colors, thinking ‘Wow, this is what a real artist does, I want to be a real artist!’ He tried teaching me to paint with aquarelle, in a specific technique which I found very rigid. I didn’t understand why I had to paint in his way. I found it very hard, but I also enjoyed the privilege that he was giving me.”
Most kids enjoy making cards for birthdays and special occasions and they are always really sweet with glued on deformed hearts and misspelled declarations of love. I can’t recall ever having seen a child covering a Mother’s Day card in a crayon colored square grid, but I didn’t go to daycare with Edry. For Mothers Day, when she was three, the daycare provided the kids with a square sheet of paper mounted on a wooden frame. Edry started drawing circles and thought it looked really nice, but decided to add a grid and at this point there was no return. The three year old had to keep going, exploring and pushing the limits until the point where the whole white square sheet of paper was full of crayon colors. Smiling at the memory, Edry said “I think that is my earliest recollection of ruining a painting; of over-painting“.
By recommendation of the painter, Edry’s parents bought Windsor and Newton watercolors and the specified brushes for their four year old daughter. One year later it was time for the family to move to London and in their new house, a little painting cove was built inside one of the wardrobes. Whenever the five year old decided to paint with her high quality materials, she would open the door of the wardrobe, sit down and paint. On occasion the little artist would be critical of her creation and throw it in the bin, but it was always rescued by her father.
The most fundamental requirement to achieve success in any field must be to have a limitless interest, a sincere passion for the subject, unless the ultimate goal is financial gain. One of Edry’s pre-school teachers was studying psychology and one day she conducted an experiment on the children. She gave them all a lump of clay and recorded the amount of time they were playing with it. Later on, Edry’s mother was told that everyone abandoned the lump of clay within 2-5 minutes, except for her daughter, who spent half an hour battling with this lump, sculpting it and molding it with her tiny little hands.
“My parents always recognized this gift that I have and they always made sure I had the room to do it. When we lived in London in our second house, we had this wonderful dining room with wooden paneling all over, including the ceiling and a beautiful fire place. They sacrificed the whole room and made it into my studio. I painted enormous paintings inside“.
Edry’s political engagement became evident one day at the orthodox Jewish school she attended in London. It was a strictly religious school, but it was her only option as a Jewish woman in London and despite not being religious, she was fascinated by the opportunity to get an insight into her culture and identity. Early on Edry was discovered by the art teacher Hinda Golding, who gave her leave from various classes to paint massive scenery billboards for the school play. The artist struggled to find her own identity within the school uniform and uniformity of thought, and decided to shave her head at the age of 14. It was a feminist gesture provoked by the conservative policies of the school, in which the male Morning Prayer went ‘Blessed be He for not making me a woman’, and the women’s version went ‘Blessed be the Lord for making me as he made me, according to his will.’
The girls had to pray every week at a general assembly, segregated from the boys. They stood quiet and still, because they were not allowed to join the men. One day Edry had enough and told the girls ‘Ok, we are going to sing today. Take it after me, I will start and you will follow.’ As the leader of the service announced the name of the prayer she had chosen, she started singing and everyone joined in. Once the girls started singing, the rabbi didn’t know what to do. They were not allowed to hear a woman’s voice, so they had to join in.
“From having this monotonous drilling on with mumblings of speech, it became a full sing along prayer. Everyone was shocked afterwards, wondering what had just happened. I was called as the representative of the girls to speak to the Head of Jewish Studies. He asked me ‘So, what do you want?’ I found myself sitting there negotiating the terms for the entire female congregation. I couldn’t say that I wanted women to be equal members of the prayer, because it was still a conservative school, but what we did achieve was to have an all-female prayer as well, where we could sing aloud and do what we wanted to do.”
At the age of 17 it was time to say goodbye to London and go back to Israel. From painting almost non-stop and selling works, Edry had to lock up her passion and learn how to serve the country. In order to say goodbye to London, she spent an entire month sketching a different favorite location every day. Her father would often accompany her for safety reasons and sometimes her siblings joined in as well. The series was called ‘My kind of London’. One day when Edry was sketching her own house, a person walking by took a liking to the drawing and asked her to come and sketch his house. The trend spread and the commissions started pouring in, but it was time for the family to leave the UK.
Back in Israel everything changed. After a fortnight of basic military training followed by a few weeks of specific training for her unit, Edry became depressed and didn’t understand why. “I had never been depressed before, I just felt completely lost. The meaning of life escaped me entirely. When I finally made the connection, I smuggled some art materials into my army post. It was completely forbidden. I had nothing to paint, other than four walls. I don’t remember if there was even a window. I sat there and sketched my left hand”. However interesting it is to sketch hands, the day comes when you get sick of it. Eventually, Edry gathered the courage to venture outside to sketch the surroundings of the military base, which was situated on the edge of a cliff. The military base, the netting, the atmosphere, the military camouflage and the fishermen were among her subject matters. When it leaked out that Edry was breaking the rules, the commander was very encouraging and gave her permission to use his office as a studio when he was away. Colleagues from the UN were given drawings as a gesture of good will and they still follow Edry’s career.
Noam Edry, Study of my Hand 2000 I and II, pencil on paper, 30 x 42 cm
With regards to her present preoccupations, a series of commissions from Israeli art museums, Edry says “The most important thing to me is to not conform, but to stay true to who I am. What is the point of art if it doesn’t engender social change? How long can an artist be preoccupied only with the inner crevasses of the soul and not be a socially productive human being? I strive now to blur the boundaries of what is art and what is social. I wish it will have some kind of effect beyond the art institution“.
Meet Jeffrey Silverthorne at Daniel Blau
::6th September 7 pm::
Introduction Brad Feuerhelm, Director of Daniel Blau Gallery London + Photography slide show + Live interview with Elinros Henriksdotter
American photographer Jeffrey Silverthorne is visiting the gallery for a comprehensive live interview with Elinros Henriksdotter from ContemporaryTalks.com in connection with his participation in “Haunting the Chapel – Photography and Dissolution” (1 Sept – 8 Oct 2011); an exhibition of vintage, anonymous, vernacular and spirit photography.
Jeffrey Silverthorne invites his audience to hidden worlds that are fully ignored by most –because of their danger, ugliness and difficult nature. He is an anonymous spectator, who instantly steps aside from his point of view and leave us alone with our experience.
What it is like to stand next to an unidentified dead person in the morgue? Do questions bombard your mind, and if, what are the answers sought for? Maybe it is a mind-numbing experience that silences you for days. Is it possible to go so far as to imagine oneself in that position; the body cold and stiff and everyone deprived of the last goodbye?
The slide show will take you on two rapid photographic journeys; first we will visit the morgue and secondly the borderland located on the Mexican side of the Texas-Mexico border, where prostitutes in high heels are seen on and off duty in bathrooms and bedrooms. Outside awaits guarding dogs, railroad tracks, illegals and newspaper editors.
Through Silverthorne’s photography we are presented reality’s inherent complexity via simplicity. The world might stop for a few seconds and take on a new significance.
Please RSVP to email@example.com, £5 payable on arrival
The event incl: Michael Grieve in conversation with Aaron Schuman