Saturday, November 28, 2009

The French Connection


Outside Cardiff Library a massive piece of modern sculpture is being installed. It's a large arrow-like column with a hoop leaning against it. The hoop will be filled with liquid that will have 'a phosphorous glow' at night. Also at night, projectors installed within the arrow will project words in English and Welsh on to the ground.

It was designed by a Frenchman and is being installed by French engineers.

As you would expect there is some resentment that a Welsh artist wasn't chosen to produce something.

The official blurb says, "The monumental sculpture was commissioned following a national competition to find the right piece of artwork that would fit well within the city and become a new landmark. A total of 120 responses were received from artists across the globe with just 5 artists shortlisted for the opportunity. Jean-Bernard Metais' 'Alliance' was eventually chosen for the task because his response to the brief stood out as the best."

I would quote more but I'm losing the will to live.

So if it was a "national" competition, did that mean Wales or the UK?

Seems it's an irrelevant question because responses were received from around the globe.
Doesn't make sense to me.

Anyway, I've been watching it going up from the 4th floor window of the library, where I sit. The other day the artist and the project manager were sat next to me watching the installation. I was going to chat to them about it but they were talking to each other in French. I can sound like a French person but I can't actually speak French so I left them alone.

When on site, the project manager wore the obligatory hard hat and vis-vest ... but with white wellies! Very French. And at lunch time he and his workers have a glass of wine!

One side of me is cross that there was deemed to be no Welsh proposal that was good enough. But maybe that's because the art-scene in Wales isn't of an international standard. I don't know.

But another side of me thinks it's cool that Wales is a European nation, and Cardiff is a European city, and so this sense of internationalism in the arts may be appropriate.

So maybe I'll start calling myself a European artist.

Especially if it means I can wear white wellies and drink wine at lunch time.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Won't Get Fooled Again

When I was a teenager me and my friends used to go to "rock concerts" at Cowbridge Town Hall. The music was loud and the place was packed. We'd usually drunk cider and smoked cigarettes round the back. Down the front, close to the speakers was the place to be. Your ears ringing the next day was the sign it was a good evening.

A friend of mine's Dad had an amazing "hi-fi" system in the back room (kept for best). We used to go there after school (and sometimes when we should have been in school) and play LPs very loud.

The local youth club sometimes had "discos" where we would take our own LPs and dance.


I say dance ...

It was legs apart, head down, hair over ya face and imaginary guitar in hands. Then rock back and fore Status Quo style.

This all came back to me the other day when I was travelling in the car to London. I always listen to music - usually the same thing on repeat for 2 or 3 hours. But I'd recently dug out a CD of The Who's greatest hits. I let it play happily in the background, until it came to "Won't Get Fooled Again". On a whim, I turned it up ... really loud. It was fantastic. All these memories of listening to loud music and dancing crazily came back to me. It was fun.

Then I got sad, and I was sad for the next 3 days.

Why did I stop listening to music really loud?

And when did I stop rockin'?

Probably when I cut my hair.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month"

On this Armistice Day, I'd like to read you a poem written by a young Welsh poet, Owen Sheers:

Mametz Wood

For years afterwards the farmers found them -
the wasted young, turning up under their plough blades
as they tended the land back into itself.


A chit of bone, the china plate of a shoulder blade,
the relic of a finger, the blown
and broken bird's egg of a skull,


all mimicked now in flint, breaking blue in white
across this field where they were told to walk, not run,
towards the wood and its nesting machine guns.


And even now the earth stands sentinel,
reaching back into itself for reminders of what happened
like a wound working a foreign body to the surface of the skin.


This morning, twenty men buried in one long grave,
a broken mosaic of bone linked arm in arm,
their skeletons paused mid dance-macabre


in boots that outlasted them,
their socketed heads tilted back at an angle
and their jaws, those that have them, dropped open.


As if the notes they had sung
have only now, with this unearthing,
slipped from their absent tongues.


From Skirrid Hill by Owen Sheers, published by Seren.

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