Wednesday, February 09, 2005

London Trip

Occasionally it does one good to run away to get some fresh perspective and new ideas.

I went to see a friends exhibition opening at St Martins last Thursday in London. Great drama as we approached the building it was being held in (The London College of Fashion) as a man had climbed some scaffolding in Oxford St and the road had been cleared but the pavements were blocked with people gawping and we had to go the long way around to get in.

On Friday I went into the city using the bus from Highgate. My aim was the arts & crafts store Liberty's in Regent Street. I wandered from elegant room to room admiring and only succumed to Jaeger Fur Wool in the wool dept. A headache sent me in search of lunch .. too expensive in Liberty's so I started off for Neale's Yard where I knew there was an ok veggie cafe. I was able to restore my bloodsugar, and up my caffine levels. London is so hectic with traffic and people I find visiting it unbearable without well timed sit downs. I eavesdropped on conversations and drew in my journal then struggled mightily with my lomo ( they are complete pains to load film quickly) as a woman arrived with a pushchair wearing a floor lenth waistcoat hand knitted in multicoloured squares which I had to get a photo of. I wanted to see the radical knitting exhibition at the Design Centre but after scanning Time Out realised that the exhibition hadn't opened yet.

I walked back towards Charing Cross Road dipping into Stamfords the travel shop in Long Acre and then to The Photographers Gallery in Great Newport St. They have two sites on the street. One with a cafe and an exhibtion of ' Stories from Russia: The David King Collection'.

To celebrate the Russian publication of David King's book, "The Commissar Vanishes", tracing the falsification of photographs and art in Stalin's Russia, The Photographers' Gallery is presenting an installation of haunting images drawn from a discovery made by the author in Moscow. David King explains: "Like their counterparts in Hollywood, photographic retouchers in Soviet Russia spent long hours smoothing out the blemishes of imperfect complexions, helping the camera to falsify reality. Joseph Stalin's pockmarked face, in particular, demanded exceptional skills with the airbrush. But it was during the Great Purges, which raged in the late 1930s, that a new form of falsification emerged. The physical eradication of Stalin's political opponents at the hands of the secret police was swiftly followed by their obliteration from all forms of pictorial existence"."Photographs for publication were retouched and restructured with airbrush and scalpel to make once-famous personalities vanish. Paintings, too, were often withdrawn from museums so that compromising faces could be blocked out of group portraits. Entire editions of works by denounced politicians and writers were banished to the closed sections of the state libraries and archives or simply destroyed."Soviet citizens, fearful of the consequences of being caught in possession of material considered "anti-Soviet" or "counterrevolutionary", were forced to deface their own copies of books and photographs, often savagely attacking them with scissors or disfiguring them with ink. There is hardly a publication from the Stalinist period that does not bear the scars of this political vandalism. From ilikeyou

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