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Posted By Sandra Alland

Thanks to all our friends who came out to the most excellent Christmas party at the ceaselessly amazing Elvis Shakespeare Music and Books. If you're shopping, please shop there! They are a rare last bastion of community-oriented shops. And they have good stuff.

Zorras had a blast and enjoyed all the other bands who managed to cram themselves into that tiny corner among too many records, books, beer bottles and people. We especially dug the Fnords. Pure surf-punk joy.

In other news, please read the following review of Angels of Anarchy (see previous post on this amazing show at Manchester Art Gallery) by London's fantastic Sopher Mayer. I can't tell you enough times to go see this show if you get the chance.

xo


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

"In 1994, there were 125 women's bookstores worldwide. Now there are 21." - Quill & Quire, December 2009

And soon there will be 20, unless the wonderful Toronto Women's Bookstore manages to raise $40 000. Please go here to donate.

xo


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Wow. Just got back from a much-needed break in Manchester. Unfortunately I couldn't walk as much as I would've liked to (because of post-stressful-employment pain), but wow. Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism is perhaps the best show I have ever seen. Dr Patricia Allmer curated this exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery, and has put together an incredible historical collection, as well as mind-blowing art by amazing international artists. There's Frida Kahlo, Kay Sage, Dora Maar, Claude Cahun, Eileen Agar, Lee Miller, Leonora Carrington, Meret Oppenheim & Dorothea Tanning, just for starters. Honestly, it was stunning stunning stunning to see these artists collected so extensively in one place. There are paintings, photographs, films, collages, exquisite corpses, sculptures & books. You really get a sense of what was going on in surrealist art, of how important these women were to that movement, and to art and feminist thought in general.

It was also wonderful to see the work of highly talented artists who have been even more under-exhibited than those mentioned above -- mainly from Argentina, Mexico, India and former Czechoslovakia. Lola Alvarez Bravo, Leonor Fini, Remedios Varo, Ithell Colquhoun, Emila Medkova and Eva Swankmajerova, to name a few. The show gave me a sense of lineage that I've never felt before... this is work by, and often for, women -- and work of such high calibre that relegating it to a separate category (or footnote in the margins of history) is ridiculous. There's also work that explores gender identity in a less binary way (as surrealism itself explored the world beyond binaries), allowing a transgender narrative to enter into art history... if only quietly in the work of Cahun. Yay for Patricia Allmer! Continues to 10 January, do not miss it!

The experience was bittersweet, though, for as you travel throughout the remainder of the gallery everything remains as male as always. The gallery shop has only one small and temporary section of women's and feminist books; the rest of the shop continues to promote male artists through books, posters and calendars. There was one calendar of Tamara de Lempicka, though...

In other art news, Manchester Art Gallery's show of Francisco Goya's etchings The Fantasies, The Disasters of War and The Follies is also stunning, as is the accompanying installation, The Disasters of War, by the Chapman Brothers. As always, the Chapman Brothers' gruesome detail of the horrors of war and occupation left me feeling sad, sick and slightly faint. Goya's work didn't help much... but what more fitting way is there to feel when faced with the atrocities of war. Sadly, despite Goya's fame, these works were not shown or published in his lifetime because of their controversial or disturbing subject matter. Luckily Manchester Art Gallery respects its audience enough to show these still-disturbing and extremely violent works, and without any condescending warnings. This is even more impressive when you consider MAG is known as one of the most child-friendly galleries in the UK... but perhaps it's only Scotland that is so paternalistic with its art-goers as to limit or label what they see?

In accessibility notes, MAG is great... there are audio guides for the shows and large-print versions of text available, plus you can book BSL tours upon request. You can even borrow a wheelchair if you need to! Some of the works could have been hung lower for people using chairs to view, but overall they score four stars for accessibility.

Okay, back to bed with me.


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

I'm watching a show about how chronic disease is way higher in deprived communities. A major study about Scotland shows that huge socioeconomic changes since the 1950s are responsible for Scotland having the highest rate of heart disease in Western Europe. It seems that hopelessness, stress and poverty are more important factors in bad health than beer, smoking and deep fried crap. This show is depressing me. Scotland depresses me. Speaking of colonial fallout, I'm feeling quite homesick, or maybe just sick of "Great" Britain.

Partially because of reading The English Stories by Cynthia Flood. It's a fantastic collection of linked stories about an 11-year-old Canadian named Amanda who is uprooted and sent to a girls' school in 1950s England. Though the book is not set in Canada, Flood evokes Canada in a beautiful yet unsentimental way.

Flood examines the devastation of colonialism in a complex manner, subtly and brilliantly creating links between England's subjugation of Canada, Ireland and Nigeria. Amanda's chosen connection with Canada's First Nations (despite her own parents' racism and indifference) adds another lush layer to this quiet yet persistent background music. Flood also avoids the potentially bad Canadian cliche of the coming-of-age story by switching the focus of several stories from the little girl to other characters in the narrative. This creates a depth and complexity that the story would otherwise lack. One of the most exquisite parts is when we switch to the point of view of an Irish man who sometimes teaches at the school; we see his struggle between English and Irish identity, and the racism he both experiences and inflicts. In places the book is heartbreaking; Flood creeps up on you in unexpected ways. Special thanks to the lovely Hungry Girl, who put this book into my hands. xo


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

I am currently liking Kristiane Taylor. I hope you like her too. Read her poems here.

xo


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

The blatantly fascist/racist British Nationalist Party's website currently describes the Copenhagen Summit as an "anti-white guilt hatefest which will see billions more taxpayers' cash poured into the Third World." When will Britian do something about the BNP?

In other news, Borders is closing its doors in Glasgow. In the Metro "news", there were reports of campaigns to keep it open. The quotes were as follows: "I met my wifey at the Starbucks in Borders." "I like watching people passing from the window." and "I enjoyed wandering around." No one mentioned books or magazines. I guess that explains why these "protesters" weren't around to protest the closing of independent bookshops...

I do have to admit that I'm slightly sad to see Borders close, only because it's one of the very, very, very few places in Scotland where you can get at least a minimum selection of independent arts, feminist and LGBT magazines and journals. Waterstones, for example, do not sell a single magazine or journal. This is very scary. And I don't know of one good independent bookshop in Glasgow or Edinburgh that specialises in new books and magazines on a wide variety of topics.

Speaking of the death of books and book culture, have you heard of Google Books? Google Books freaked me out a while back when I read they were scanning billions of books to put online without permission. Now it seems there's a class-action suit against them for copyright infringement, which they deny and yet are agreeing to a settlement about.

It's all very confusing for a poet but it seems that I can get the whopping sum of 30 quid for each of my published books that was stolen by Google. From now on I can also supposedly get payments if people request full views of my books (currently the views are partial yet extensive) or click on advertisements for new cars or breath mints next to my books. I can also decide how much of the work and what sections people can view. Finally I have the option to delete my books from their database, but with the threat that they will not be rescanned in the future should I change my mind (e.g. because Google owns the whole world and it's the only way to read anything.)

My first instinct is to have my books deleted, yet I'm a bit confused. Look here and tell me your thoughts if you're so inspired www.googlebooksettlement.com/

In still other news, Noisy Nights was fantastic! Check out the next one in February. It's the Traverse Theatre's new music night, where they accept scores by new and established composers, then arrange a (usually somewhat bizarre) trio of professional musicians to play them live. I especially loved Robert Irvine on the saw and Judith Keaney on the toy piano. Zorras had a blast, and even sold some CDs, which was impressive to me in such a discerning crowd. Also fittingly the logo for Noisy Nights is a person with a megaphone, and the Traverse is currently showcasing Zorro.

Now back to bed with me. Haven't been feeling well.

xo


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Here's a link to the Times article on Turner-prize winner Douglas Gordon's recent vow to "never accept a public commission in Scotland again."

www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article6946006.ece

I thought it fit in well with yesterday's post... governmental paternalism seems to be quite the problem in Scotland these days.

xo


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Zorras play Noisy Nights on Monday 7 December at 8pm at the Traverse Theatre bar on Lothian Road. Free admission to this cool night of new music experiments, with a focus on composition.

In less fun news, my experience working for GoMA and Culture and Sport Glasgow (and without my knowledge Glasgow City Council) has (among other things) confirmed for me the notion that the government should never ever ever have any direct involvement with the arts. Funding for the arts is of course necessary, but politicians should not have any direct say about the actual commissioning, production or dissemination of art. It's a slippery slope when it comes to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. As soon as you let them decide one thing, suddenly they are deciding everything -- not only limiting artists and art itself, but also limiting what the general public can and can't see, or the way in which they see it. For many people (including queers and trans and disabled folk) this is a scary thing in a prejudiced world. Just plain icky.

xo


 

 

 
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