Friday, 27 July 2012

Heat wave and body awareness

With the Olympics approaching fast I left the erratic London traffic with some relief and finally arrived in Bath. What a lovely place How could I possibly have missed it in all the years I lived in England? Shame, absolutely shame on me.
We are having a heat wave at the moment with temperatures truly soaring, a real summer with a Mediterranean flavour. I arrived carrying a heavy suitcase - oh the days when I travelled light! Why is it that as you get older you seem to be unable to leave things behind? Bath is only one and a half hour away, I kept reminding myself, with the same major shops as any other English city. But no, I had to carry stuff which once unpacked made me realise that I should not have bothered with. Plus I am going back home every sunday! Anyway, I am digressing.
Being in Bath, you just have to think about well being, it's in the air. This is the place where for thousands of years people have been enjoying the waters, coming specially for it.
So it is no coincidence that as soon as I arrived I began to think about my body and its condition and I thought it needed some improvement. My digs are very central, two minutes away from a women only gym and one minute from a yoga centre. I wanted to attend classes but those at the gym are in the evening, I am busy working at those times so I had to settle for a personal trainer first thing in the morning. Yoga classes fortunately can be done in the morning though the centre is only operating late morning classes - I so dislike that, it means you cant have breakfast unless you get up at 6, which I find myself doing anyway because of the heat and of course the light that filters through around 4 (it's summer time). But you can't be in Bath and not experience the Thermae, Bath Spa. A visit is not exactly cheap but it is worth it. Even if you decide not to go for the various, very tempting, massages, which add up to the cost of the basic ticket.

Don't get me wrong. If you have the means and the will, you can get the very same treatment and more in the Metropolis.  But you can't get the thermal waters and the sheer experience of bathing there. If you then happen to be in Bath during an extraordinarily hot summer, as we are experiencing at the moment, there is something quite surreal about it. I walk around and I am not really sure where I am.

Yesterday evening I asked my bemused landlady if she could please put some ice in my water jug - I never take ice in water, it is an exceptional occurrence.

I treated myself to the spa this morning, today was our opening night after all. I was in my element, completely. Loved the steam bath, loved the jacuzzi, loved the roof top pool. I could live like this all the time, getting up early, going for training, going to the spa, eating healthy but light food.

Happiness is a thermal spring.

(Photo by Korrigan modelled by Alex B)

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Some thoughts while I am packing...

I am moving to Bath tomorrow and am busy packing my stuff. I know, Bath is only an hour and half away and I will be coming back home every Sunday, anyway. But it's been a while since I lived out of suitcases and to be honest I don't even know what to take with me.

I have been ill with a dreadful cough and cold for the whole week and busy attending a summer school, a five days intensive with choreographer Miranda Tufnell at the Siobhan Davies Studios. I loved working with Miranda, her approach to the body, working with writing as an extension of dancing, was amazing. I was very conscious of my breathing problems every time we had to lie on the floor and focus on the breath. Mine was so difficult! Every day, back home, I just went to sleep early. The workshops were not physically exhausting, but I always felt the need for a good, long sleep to recharge myself.

I did little yesterday, just rested, as my body was tired and full of aches. Then today I went for that ultimate masochistic experience which is contortion class.

I have been doing contortion for a while, out of boredom really. And contortion class is the reason why I will come back to London every Sunday while 'touring' in Bath - well, there are other reasons too, but I would hate to miss my contortion class.

I normally do a yoga class before going for contortion, to loosen up. I should explain that contortion is taught at a pole dancing school by a competitive gymnast/pole dancer. It is a mixed ability class. We just learn how to do things like splits, back bends etc. It's the process that matters, at least to me, rather than achieving. It brings home how much hard work one has to put in, you just need to train your body and this can be done gradually, practising a little everyday.

It is quite an amazing thing, the body. As you grow older you need longer to warm up but if you have something in your body memory you will be able to do it. What I love in contortion class is the willingness we all have to undergo some kind of torture. We often work in pairs and it is normal to ask for 'more' when that 'more' means more pain eg someone is pushing your legs down to the floor to help you achieve a better opening of the hips.

People take it immensely seriously and I have seen classmates going from a state of absolute inflexibility to one where they can bend and fold themselves up easily and at will. That gives me hope, not just in terms of physicality but generally, as a way to approach life.

I could not manage without my contortion class.

All photographs by Korrigan and modelled by Alex B.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Questions in my hand luggage

I am feeling quite poorly. Nothing major, just a cold, a cough, a very sore throat. It feels worse when you get this in summer.  Of course these things always happen when you are at your busiest. I was down to do a dawn shoot, now I have to cancel it. I have enrolled for a summer school in choreography which starts tomorrow.  I hope I will be better by tomorrow afternoon as I don't want to miss the first day. On top of this there's the rehearsals for the play, the last thing I want is to have this horrible flu coming along with me. It wont make me popular with the other actors, that's for sure.
I got this because on Friday I went to Hyde Park to see Iggy and the Stooges and Soundgarden and got totally drenched. As Chris Cornell intoned Black Hole Sun the heavens opened and no, he did not manage to wash away the rain.

Rant over. I was actually very pleased earlier to receive an email from a photographer friend. He has been asking interesting  questions, important ones, on the nature of nude modelling.   From time to time models and photographers don't see eye to eye about the images they make together. Some are really revealing and I don't mean this in the sense that 'certain' body parts are on show. I mean that they really are incisive portraits and often they show the model in a moment of extreme vulnerability. It is what makes a photograph really meaningful and yet it can be extremely difficult for the model to be seen that way. There have been a few photos taken of me that made me feel uncomfortable. Most of the time the photographers involved were very courteous, understood my reasons and removed the photos from their online portfolios. One or two did not and took great offense at my remarks/requests. C'est la vie.
Is nude photography a risk for the model? asks my friend.

Yes it is. "The reality of the power of your own image to change and shape and even destroy your life cannot be understood until [something awful] happens to you" says another friend who has had a very hard time as suddenly she was put in the stocks and some people felt entitled to scrutinise and comment on her appearance and actions, even character - and they did not even know her.

I dont have a solution, nor an answer to the questions, says my photographer friend. Nor do I.

But I have learnt one thing. Take a little distance. It can work miracles.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Surreal Freud and other matters

I finally went to my first rehearsal for the play I am doing a little acting in. It is acting now, rather than dancing, as I first understood it, and that's because I actually have to speak, call out rather, my stage brother's name: Sigmund, Sigmund. My two "sisters" have a little more to say: one screams - very effective, I could not possibly match that, the other breaks into German and pleads "Hilf, hilf".

I have a block about speaking - I am a dancer and prefer to be silent, though when I was in Indonesia at Sardono's studio in Solo he was very keen on using the voice, in a very powerful way. Oh, I really miss Indonesia now, it's been years and it keeps on coming into my dreams, I can even smell it.

Before I go on I should try and make this tale a little more coherent. I am in Hysteria a play by Terry Johnson - I talked about it in an earlier post. Yesterday I met the cast - impressive. Antony Sher is Sigmund Freud. I have been a fan of Sher's for years, so meeting him was quite emotional for me, even though I managed not to do something as silly as burst into tears, like a star-struck teenager.

I am appearing as one of Freud's sisters, on my way to a gas chamber (Freud's sisters died in a camp). It is all part of a surreal dream like sequence. The only thing I still can't figure is how Freud could see his sisters going towards a gas chamber as when he died in 1939 Die Endlösung had not yet begun. But a dream is a dream. Besides the conjurer is Salvador Dali, in this particular instance.

So it truly is a surreal Freud.

It was exciting to see such amazing actors rehearse. They were refining the interpretation and yesterday the work was all on movement - how to make use of the space, how to work expressively with the body while speaking the lines.

Though I did not do very much I felt quite exhausted at the end of the afternoon. Then I began to get very worried about finding accommodation in Bath, where I will have to be for three weeks from Monday 23rd July. I have left it a little late, no doubt. Finally this morning I found what I wanted, after loads of telephone calls. It felt a little unreal to be introducing myself as an actress to my prospective landlords. Should I really say that, I wondered. But it was the best thing, really, I wanted them to get an idea of why I was after a room for three weeks only. So, until the first week of September (we tour after the three weeks at the Theatre Royal) I will be an actress. I will enjoy this brief change of occupation
(Photo by Korrigan  modelled by Alex B)

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Watching and reporting

I have watched with dismay a whole drama unfold on a megasite where someone I held in high esteem - admittedly, I did not always see eye to eye with her, but the relationship was based on respect - was forced to leave the site, as whatever rightful grievance people had, they just turned it into a distasteful attack on her person and she could not take it anymore. The perpetrators were even applauded for it.
I watched another case of someone being thrown out of the same megasite because of his behaviour involving writing obscenities about models. It was a case of good riddance. The guy seemed unstable and perhaps too much was made of his utterances. But still...
Then this morning I learnt about someone else whom I have always admired and with whom I even run a group  on said megasite, deciding to wind up her blog and leaving, giving up modelling altogether. She can no longer take the dramas it involves.
I am full of doubts, at this point in time. It seems to me that to be a member of the megasite in question you need to be involved in policing. I find that too much of an effort, I am a busy lady.
 I know of someone on that megasite who seems to spend much of his time  spotting and reporting those who steal 'art' from Met-Art, turning himself into a balance as the French say. It makes me wonder. Does this person not have anything else to do with his life?

I am not saying that stealing from Met-Art is the right thing to do, but hey, do you really have to take on this policing? Can you not let the site deal with it? It will, in due course, and if it does not, is it really your loss? Especially when you consider that it is not necessarily, not in all cases anyway, done for profit. Some people enjoy having a go at processing images. Whether this is art or not is beside the point (not that Met-Art is great art anyway). So many times people have reprocessed the images I have displayed, sometimes they asked me beforehand, sometimes they simply presented me with a fait accompli, in some cases I only found out by chance. To be honest it has never bothered me.
It's this mind set of watching over what others are doing which I find disturbing. This idea of being able to say "I caught you and now you are going to pay for it" to me is a sign of great meanness masked as righteousness.
Some of these people so keen on policing also have a past as bullies. This very person now so bent on reporting members of that megasite who steal from Met-Art tried to get me off the megasite by casting aspersion on my character. I let it go and of course he did not succeed. I hold no grudges, ever, but I never forget.
Where was I? When I joined that megasite it was because I wanted an outlet for my photography, as a model and later, as a photographer. I was not quite prepared for its dramas. Now I am. I no longer spend much time on it. I take the view that I have paid my subscription, I will upload my stuff. Sod it if people dont like it. That's all , really.

(Photo by Korrigan modelled by Alex B)

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Becoming a flaneuse

My project over the summer is to walk a lot. I am stuck in England because I am involved in acting /dancing in a play and we open in Bath on 23rd July - I will be out of London while the Olympics are in full swing.
Londoners are being brainwashed into walking anyway, as during the Olympics, with millions of visitors, our transportation system will come, more or less, to a standstill. London Underground is already overcrowded, but with the extra passengers it will be impossible to get into a station without ending up feeling claustrophobic.
But being away from London will also mean that my routine of classes will be disrupted. So walking is going to be my past time and will help to keep fit. Oh, I am always available for one or two shoots while staying in Bath!
Anyway, I started my walking programme in earnest a couple of days ago. I did not top up my Oyster card and that acted as a deterrent. Yesterday I compromised - I used busses but I also walked around while doing errands. This morning I rushed to a meeting using the tube but on the way back I walked and was halfway through when it began to pour and I had, as usual, no umbrella. I had to run and get a bus. I will try and walk again in the early evening.

I aim to get up early every morning and go on a brisk walk. Apparently I live in an area of London that is historic and scenic, with various gardens tucked away where you least expect it - I checked on the Ramblers website. So it is a question of donning a pair of comfy shoes, take an umbrella - I always forget that - and my iPhone to google locations and listen to music, and that's it, really.
And my camera.
I am not an early riser so this will be a bit of a struggle but I am determined.
Are you a keen walker? Do you have any tips for me?
But let me explain the title of this post. Flaneur (feminine flaneuse) is a French word that literally means stroller, so to some extent it explains my new walking activity. But it is more than that, somehow I could not resist the association. The Baudelairian flaneur is "a gentleman stroller", however later the flaneur became a trope of modernity, through the flaneur's observation and participation in street life.

Susan Sontag applied the concept to street photography and the act of going about observing and taking photographs.

We all turn into flaneurs when on holiday, wandering and observing. I'd like to get into that state of mind even when not officially on holiday.

I hope my photos will reflect the attitude.

( Photo taken by Korrigan and modelled by Alex B. )

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Some thoughts on art theft

If you belong to any art site such as deviantArt or if you put your photographic work online, a common complaint of members is that of 'art theft'. On deviantArt there are even people who seem to spend all their time policing and reporting - bless them, they obviously don't have to engage in other work.
I perfectly understand the concerns of those who feel their Art has been taken away and their remonstrances when learning that someone is actually making a few bucks out of it .
However, I would like to open this up for discussion.
I would say that most art has been made by people stealing ideas from someone else. There are blatant examples of art being stolen and then copyrighted. Musical genius Benjamin Britten went to Bali and transcribed note by note well known traditional melodies for his score of The Prince of the Pagodas and then copyrighted the material. Traditional music is up for grabs. Also, as someone commented, "Balinese people are not real people to a European". Plenty of truth in that. It was Europe that invented colonialism 'for the benefit of those who are still developing' but we all know that it was for profit.
All right, all right, colonialism is a thing of the past. What has this to do with art theft?
You tell me, dear reader.

I would like to consider this notion of 'theft' or appropriation. Culturally the negativity of appropriation and the notion of intellectual property are Euro-American, modernist formulations. In a number of non-western cultures imitating and appropriating someone's work is regarded as an act of homage, expected and encouraged in order to inscribe one's authorship within a tradition; this was the case in pre-modern Europe and in classical antiquity.

Appropriation has  been seen as a threat to the authenticity of the ‘original,’ emphasising the superiority of the former over any derivative ‘copy’. However, Walter Benjamin reformulated the role of the copy as a reactivation of the reproduced object through the act of reproduction, thus questioning entrenched notions of originality and authenticity. Benjamin’s essay, akin to the ‘ready-mades’ of Dadaist artist Marcel Duchamp, had a profound influence on the development in New York during the 1980s of Appropriation Art, whose aim was to interrogate authenticity and originality and the purpose of contemporary art.

Post-modern critiques have  dispelled the aura of negativity surrounding appropriation by making us recognise that appropriation is potentially a two-way process of ‘exchange and creative response'. Bakhtin formulates utterance as response to another utterance as the basis of his notion of dialogue; Kristeva’s definition of intertextuality is that ‘any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another’; while the hypertext of contemporary internet usage relies on appropriation as a praxis.
A caveat is however necessary. Appropriation should not be equated with plagiarism, the act of passing off as one’s own what done by another, without any acknowledgement. There is arguably a fine line between the two.  It is not the endeavour as such, but the lack of acknowledgment, that is problematic.

(All photos modelled by Alex B and taken by Korrigan)