What I Was Reading In June & July

Continuing with this amended way of blogging about what I’m reading, another small pile of books I picked up a couple of weeks ago and am currently getting through.

Akala came up in my Twit feed a while ago, I watched him utterly destroy at least one idiot white British politician on TV, decided he fitted into where I’m reading at the moment in combinations of UK / London / Colonialism / Black / Grime history, realised he’s the brother of the deadly Ms. Dynamite, laid into it at the same time I was reading Dan Hancox’s Inner City Pressure: The Story of Grime. Pretty much highly recommend Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire, even though he’s kinda weak on the feminism / queer side of things — bit of a cishet male bias there, mate — but he’s talking from his own experience growing up as a black boy and man in London, and it’s grim shit we need to hear and read.

Small aside, I went on a Giggs binge last night. First time I heard him was JME’s and his Man Don’t Care. Dasniya said she liked his voice more, something kinda menacing and slow but also “cinnamon tea”. He was live at Roundhouse earlier this year, and closed with Whippin’ Excursion, just watch the crowd fucking lose it when the bass drops, it’s a madness. Then go back to Talkin’ da Hardest in 2007 or even further, 2003, dejavu FM pirate radio and the Conflict DVD. That’s where grime came from, the rooftops of council housing tower-blocks (yeah I know Giggs isn’t grime, but he works with a lot of grime artists, so, keeping it simple here), rough as guts and dead end and set up to fail and go down or die. So belabouring a point here, the political and social significance of someone like Giggs filling the Roundhouse and having a packed crowd go the fuck off … gives me shivers. Good, deep, world-changing shivers.

I haven’t read Charlie Jane Anders’ Six Months, Three Days, Five Others yet. But I’ll always read her. The more of my sisters in this game, the better.

Corinne Duyvis’ On the Edge of Gone I probably heard of from the usual places, io9, or someone in my Twit feed. Reasons for reading: it’s sci-fi, she’s queer, lives in Amsterdam, is autistic. I’m not sold on the ‘science’ part of the science-fiction yet, set in 2035 and interstellar generation ships are a somewhat mature technology — this might be a ruse, but still, large-scale ships for hundreds or thousands of people, able to launch from Schiphol Airport seems improbable for 17 years from now. Maybe I’m reading that part wrong. Nonetheless, an autistic main character — and you all know my love of Feersum Endjinn and Whit. (I’m not even going to tell you about my own neurofuckery and my spreadsheet which I use to remember people I’ve met.)

Obviously I bought Deji Bryce Olukotun’s Nigerians in Space for the title. I’m still kinda on the whole, “I don’t really read menz” thing, for so long it’s not even a thing, it’s more of a “I read women authors and non-binary authors on the feminine side of things,” because obviously I want to see my people represented and that means all my people and their people and their people’s people. So sometimes I read a book by a guy. I have this habit, where I read an author’s acknowledgements and count the names and divide them into male-ish, female-ish, and I dunno. Pretty reliably, male author’s female-ish names count tops out around 30%, ’cos we all know 1/3 female feels like half or more than half in the real world. It means I tend to read male authors with suspicion, it’s a question of do they really genuinely care about and practice what we currently call intersectionality, or are they fortunate enough (truly though, I mean impoverished) to not have to make it a necessary part of their lives. So far, then — I’ve only read the first dozen pages — Nigerians in Space is a hilarious sci-fi thriller of straight men making really, really bad irreversible decisions.

Lucky last, Nuraliah Norasid’s The Gatekeeper. This one via JY Yang and / or various Twit mentions (I’m taking a long pause from the Twit, ’cos it’s not good for my moodiness or neurofuckery), and / or a bunch of South-East Asian blogs in my feed. I dunno what’s happening over Singapore way, but the sci-fi fantasy spec-fic stuff I’ve been reading is on fire. This is her first novel, and reminded me of Sofia Samatar’s The Winged Histories (or maybe more A Stranger in Olondria). There’s a lot I love in this, but some poor narrative decisions that seem more about manufacturing drama leading to an uncomfortable conclusion where the main character is incarcerated and pregnant and we know her children will be taken away from her to be experimented on. Which is an ongoing reality for colonised indigenous peoples, but here it was more in the vein of the awful Joss Whedon Black Widow trauma porn backstory. There’s a much tighter, more cogent story here that doesn’t rely on weak tropes, and which finesses out the cataclysmic acts of the main character and her sister (I’m ignoring the rich boy, ’cos he could be dropped and the story would only grow). First novel though, another author I’ll read again.

More Dasniya. More Shibari. More Art.

You thought I was joking about Dasniya only being in Berlin on a Tuesday? Right now she’s in Oldenburg, then she’s off to Warsaw, then back to Berlin to perform, then I dunno — too far in the future to scry. Definitely in Berlin in December with Das Helmi though. Plenty of rope/shibari/bondage/yoga workshops in November too (and Wellness to Torture is still the best name for a workshop ever).

Dasniya says:

Dear Rope and Theatre Friends,

the must-be event of the month is the Porn Film Festival 2016, starting next week. Check out my first photo exhibition Moviemento cinema! For November there will be five morning classes, and a bondage gig for Arte.

Also back in November: Yoga Shibari, and Self-Suspension #2.

Oil–burn your ropes and stay warm,


Here’s everything. You can also keep up with her news on her blog, Zur Zeit; on Twitter, @dasniyasommer; or her mailing list.

  1. Shows & Exhibitions
  2. Berlin Workshops
  3. Blog

Dasniya in Amsterdam for the Fringe Festival & Teaching

I got a phonecall from Dasniya last night, back from Bern (and e-bikes!) and not in Berlin for even a day before off to Amsterdam on the train this morning. She said, “I’m performing in the Amsterdam Fringe Festival!” All quite spontaneous and unexpected. So, this is me blogging her performing there, and yes, she will be teaching, public and private workshops and classes and yes, rope sessions also.

You can get all the performance information on her blog: Harness — Amsterdam Fringe Festival, general Amsterdam info: Workshops, Private Teaching, & Sessions in Amsterdam, and this Sunday’s (Sept 4th) Shibari Bondage Amsterdam Workshop.

Amsterdam. Dasniya. Shibari. Why are you not there already?


Gemäldegalerie — Part 2

Having only got through a third of the Gamäldegalerie two Sundays ago, and having completely fallen in love with the Renaissance religious art, I couldn’t imagine going to any other museum or gallery this weekend. I also knew I wasn’t going to try and see all the remaining two-thirds, and that I was going to plonk down €100 and get a Jahreskarte. There’s three different Jahreskarten, from €25 for the Basic to the Classic Plus, which is what I got, which gives me access to all the permanent and temporary exhibitions with bonus “jump to the head of the queue” special powers (if you saw the photo of me on the card, you’d want to get me away quick as possible also) — very necessary for Museuminsel on the weekend.

I decided to walk through the first third again, to remind myself what I’d seen and where I was up to, and yes, my heart did indeed leap with joy on entering the first room. It’s fucking phenomenal; there’s no superlatives that can convey the quality and breadth of the works on display, nor the endlessness of it, more rooms, bigger and smaller, yet more again, and more further still. So, starting where I got up to last time, with Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s Das Martyrium der hl. Agathe from 1755.

If the first third was transcendent, the second was … well, even better. I was over half-way through before I realised I was going back in time, from the late-18th century, working my way room by room back to the 13th, each side of the double horseshoe mirroring the other, rather than a linear progression, which pleased me no end, to finish with a sublime number of rooms of heavily gilded altarpieces. The coda to all that was a room of Botticelli. There’s no point wasting insufficient words on it.

Unlike last time, I remembered to turn off the filter on my camera, so it actually worked, though the glare from the atrium ceiling in the larger rooms smeared everything. Most of the paintings have a highly glossy finish, or are protected with glass, and many of them suffer from glare, particularly the darker ones, where any detail is lost from the unsympathetic light gushing down. What sucks for camera is just sad and disappointing for viewing. As for the glass, a couple looked like visitors had been rubbing their greasy heads against it. Some of the works are so massive, 4 or 5 metres high, you really need a ladder to appreciate them, or just grasp their vastness.

So, whereas the first third (which I previously saw) was German, Netherlands, and Flemish art from 13th to 17th centuries, followed by the several rooms of 17th century Netherlands art, the entire left side (ok, it’s not really a horseshoe, more of a ‘Q’ with a hole where the tail should be) is Italian art from 13th to 18th centuries across 23 exhibition spaces. There were many, many Mary with Childs, Hieronymouses, various martyrdoms, Jesuses (alive, dead, reborn), important and not so important apostles and holy people, so many more Marys it’s like that’s the only chance they got to see and be near a woman. Yes, they are beautiful, and seeing them all together helps me understand the monumental shift in art and culture over a few hundred years, but I was often far more attracted to the unknown portraits of men and women, real people with distinct faces, bodies, postures, the gazes of some of them, like Diego Veláquez’ Bildnis einer Dame, Charles Mellin’ Bildnis eines Mannes, Giovanni Battista Moroni’s Don Gabriel de la Cueva, Herzog von Alburquerque spanischer Gouverneur von Mailand, or Georges de la Tour’s Erbsen essendes Bauernpaar which is so magnificent I would steal it in an instant — actually I’d steal pretty much all of the ones I photographed if I had somewhere big enough to put them — the beauty and profundity of them makes me ache; let there never be an end to such art.

I am now two-thirds of the way through, more really, four-fifths, with ‘only’ the temporary exhibitions to go. I got a bit carried away with photos; I couldn’t decide which to show, so I end up with about half of them here. They do the paintings no justice. The depth of the light, the pigments, the brushwork, the frames also, the shift and change when moving closer or further away, the actual colours, hues, tones, shadows, the direction of the light especially, all this is only partially and incompletely, inadequately captured and seen in a photograph. The Gemäldegalerie, yes, worth going three times in a month. It’s going to be very difficult to see a museum better than this (yes, I have no critical perspective when it comes to museums, I love them all, but still …)

Oh yes, the audio guide! Brilliant! It’s why it takes so long to get through all the rooms. I only wish there was more. And the shop is rather good also, though it didn’t have many posters and I was hoping for at least a half dozen of various works to take home.


Gemäldegalerie — Part 1

It’s Sunday again and so off to a museum! Or for today, to a gallery, which is also a museum. The Gemäldegalerie is one of the nineteen of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the big ones, the Museuminsel ones. It’s located in the Kulturforum district, west of Potsdamer Platz and right under Tiergarten, and I’ve biked past it many times on my way from north to south and back. It’s built of lots of slabs of stone-embedded concrete, sloping angularly upwards, somehow reminding me of the Auckland’s Aotea Square and Centre. Inside, it’s vast, light and airy, like a high-modern interpretation of classical architecture.

So, arrive, pay, audio guide! It’s 10€ with the guide inclusive, on the verge of expensive; enough to make it worth having an annual card for SMB, especially because there’s no real way to get through the Gemäldegalerie in a single day. Yes, that vastness is vast. A central atrium runs the length, with the exhibition rooms forming a double horseshoe around it. The atrium itself is on the scale of science-fiction monumental, with a long gently burbling fountain of rectangular blocks midway along. It’s necessary. The gallery is a feat of endurance and people even carry folding chairs with them on the trek.

The rooms themselves are colour-coded, which the audio guide informed me is important, however I forgot this, as the only map I had was in black and white. Nonetheless, following the two horseshoes counterclockwise is an improvised embroidery, looping back and forth slightly as one goes from inner to outer and back. The inner rooms are numbered in Roman numerals, while the outer are in Arabic. This is also important. Once again, I forgot exactly why. Nonetheless again …

It begins with German painting from the late-High and early-Late Middle Ages. Much religious art of the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt, Jesus crucified and risen, all very literal, and quite a lot beautiful, often with gilt, fine typography, and a combination of brush- and line-work. I’d been reading recently about African and Arabic people represented in Mediaeval art and literature (around the time of Parsifal), and so was very happy to see what I’d been reading in the art. Interesting also, the further through the Renaissance I went, the whiter the subjects became, until by the Enlightenment they’d vanished entirely.

Back and forth between the rooms, Netherlands artists making their first appearance, then Flemish artists. A lot of this. As the audio guide said, over the course of Amsterdam’s power some five million paintings were made. The subject matter shifts from religious to mercantile, the great families of Italy, an increasing number of representations of Greek myths and the pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, Rembrandt shows up. As do a number of paintings I’ve seen countless times in magazines and books, and very unexpectedly, they are here. Entering each room is a thrill, discovering the artists, their subjects, the country or city in which they worked, the progression of themes, the refinement of techniques, the schools and styles.

The gallery is primarily Northern European art, Germanic and Dutch in particular. To be honest, not all of it is remarkable to me, though I do appreciate for someone with say, a love of Dutch art of a particular period, the quantity of works on display would be a joy to see. And it is a quantity. Many of the exhibition rooms are massive, and the smaller ones are no less than half their size. It’s possible to enter a room with multiple works of meters in length each and not feel things have been squashed in. Oh, and then there’s those 17th Century Flemish still lifes. Walls of them.

As for the audio guide, each room has at least a couple of works with audio accompaniment, which is usually 2 or so minutes, and there’s 70 rooms, so even concentrating only on these works is half a day of gallery-ing. I would have liked something to educate me on the paintings without accompaniment though, as I often ended up paying less attention to them unless they specifically caught my attention. Actually, some of them were pretty unmemorable, of the lesser works by lesser artists of a lesser school type. On the plus side, this meant there were one or two rooms I got through quicker. Not many though, every room had at least two pieces I could have stared at for ages. Lucky most rooms have (very large, wooden) benches in them, so I plopped my arse on them while audio-guiding.

Four hours later, and I’m turning the U of the horsehoe and it’s time to get kicked out. I’d seen a little over a third, realised there was no way I could steal all the works I’d fallen in love with (nor do I have big enough walls for most of them), and was part-way through listening to the story of the Martyrdom of Saint Agatha of Sicily, who was tortured, and had her breasts cut off for refusing to give up her faith.

I took a lot of not so good photos. I was wondering why, when the aperture was wide open I was still only managing a pathetic half- or quarter-second shutter speed. Turns out I’d left the ND filter on, which reduces light by about half. Idiocy abounds. As does blurriness. Still, I have to go back to get through the other two-thirds, so in the meantime …

temperance at cinedans

On a whim in May, because it landed in my maiming lists inbox, I decided to send temperance to Cinedans, promptly forgetting all about it in the whirl between then and a month or so ago. Then I find out it’s been accepted into the Festival and promptly forget to blog about it. So: temperance will be at the 2011 Cinedans Festival in Amsterdam from December 1st-4th. I’ll be in Brussels then, and shall try to find one of those €14.50 tickets from there to (the other) there, for a day/weekend of dance film, visiting Lewis if he’s in town, and canals.

perform your grief

Emile in Sydney! Then in Europe on tour with Curseovdialect! Then doing Masters in Amsterdam. See you in Nederlans for Kunst, Brot und kaffeeklatsch.

‘Clip Art’ Group Show

Performance Anxiety’ a new short video on Bindi Irwin and the death of Steve Irwin, YouTube mourning and grief in the twenty first century will be showing at Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney – opens Wednesday 8 August, 6-8pm exhibition continues to 25 August 2007

“Clip Art”
Ben Frost, Deborah Kelly, The Motel Sisters, Elvis Richardson, Kate Smith, Soda_Jerk & Sam Smith, Grant Stevens, Emile Zile
Curator: Daniel Mudie Cunningham as part of the Firstdraft Emerging Curators Program

” Clip Art showcases artists who make work about clips formed from fragments of moving and still images or through a combination of graphics and sound. Clip Art investigates the oppositional nature of meaning made from clip-based work and responds to the recent fascination with applying aural terms like sampling and remixing to the visual domain. Whether witty interrogations of popular culture or nostalgic trips through the visual archives of the recent past, Clip Art champions the analogue and handmade as much as it does daring things with digital technologies. ”


dutch east india papercut company

Shortly before I departed Guangzhou, I went shopping with Michael in search of 剪纸, papercut art, something Foshan was famous for, prior to its becoming yet another unrecognisable manufacturing town. Our wanderings through the more salubrious markets of Haizhu brought nothing besides a quite circuitous digression where I thought that while the Pearl River Delta is wholesale, Guangzhou is retail.

In the opposite hemisphere, at what was once the home of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie which traded across the orient and to Canton, Amsterdam artist Dylan Graham is exhibiting his papercut installation at de Vleeshal.

His work for De Vleeshal marks Graham`s first combination of the excessive decorativeness of his ornaments with a large scale installation. The installation consists of two layers. The outer layer is constituted by a large, dome-like structure reminiscent of De Vleeshal`s arched ceiling. However, instead of Gothic ornaments, the dome incorporates images of slavery. The second layer is formed by a small, modest building; an office filled with treasures from colonial times.

Dylan Graham`s work is a commentary on both the ostensibly peaceable voyages of discovery made in the days of the Dutch East India Company, and our present reality of refugees, adventurers and multinationals. In juxtaposing the perspectives of the vanquished and the vanquishers, Graham offers a subtle analysis of historical events – an analysis undertaken in what seems to be a very different time.

— de Vleeshal