holditnow

Category: Music

Revealing the Early Renaissance and Lost in the Memory Palace at the AGO

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The Black Pool 1995

Lost in the Memory Palace  is the name of the show by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller that has currently taken over the fourth floor of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Recalling the past is also at the heart of Revealing the Early Renaissance a wonderful survey of 13th and 14th century Florentine art work two floors below. Judging by the juxtaposition of these two shows, I’m guessing the curators of the AGO want us to stop, look, listen and step out of the now and reflect on the past. Sounds and looks good to me; at the moment I could use a break from the now.

Bernardo Daddi 1280-1348 A Crowned Virgin Martyr

Bernardo Daddi 1280-1348 A Crowned Virgin Martyr

When it comes to the Renaissance; Leonardo and Michelangelo get most of the attention, but nearly a century and half before them was a man who changed the entire course of Art: Giotto Di Bondone. Before Giotto we had staticky tin box radio and after Giotto we have high definition television. If you consider yourself an art lover of any degree then it is your duty to make the pilgrimage to Padua Italy to see his Scrovegni Chapel. It doesn’t look like much from the outside but the inside is a whole other story. It is a long way to go for the 15 minute timed experience but a definite must see and while you’re in Italy you can always grab a gelato. Delicious ice cream aside, the AGO has gathered a number of pieces by Giotto’s contemporaries and a few by the man himself. The show runs the gamut from the sublime to the obvious work of an apprentice. A few key pieces stood out and an artist that (I was unfamiliar with before the visit) really caught my eye was Bernardo Daddi. Giotto’s influence was apparent, but Daddi’s alter pieces breathed with their own life and vitality and really commanded the rooms they were in.

Dragon

Another highlight were the pages of  the Laudario of Sant’Agnese, illuminated by Pacino di Bonaguida. The paintings are quirky and just plain delightful. The pages come from a songbook that was originally meant to be song by a choir. Music fills the gallery as you lean in close to decipher the expressions of the saints who fill every corner.

the Forty Part Motet 2001

The Forty Part Motet 2001

Music is also what greets you when you leave the exhibit and find yourself in the Henry Moore gallery. Placed amongst the sculptures is a circle of forty speakers facing inward. Each speaker corresponds to an individual singer. The experience of standing in the middle of the circle is that of totally being immersed in music. You can hear the piece as a whole or travel to the periphery and focus on individuals. My memory  was jogged and I remember seeing this piece years ago at the Power Plant. This Cardiff/Miller artwork is a wonderful bridge between the contemporary and the 14th century.

Opera for a Small Room 2005

Opera for a Small Room 2005

Lost in the Memory Palace is comprised of eight installations that immerse you in a world of sound and spectacle. The first space we entered on getting off the elevator was The Black Pool 1995. You enter by a conspicuous wooden door and have to quickly adjust your eyes to a dimly lit environment filled with all manner of things. My first reaction was that of disappointment; I find the current trend of clutter installations as both uninspired and unengaging. Artists who just fill spaces with everything and the kitchen sink rarely rise above hoarders in my opinion. My disappointment quickly dissipated as I was drawn into all manner of recorded conversations coming through little speakers placed throughout the objects. Little notes gave you clues to the former occupants but provided more mystery than answers.  It was both disconcerting and comforting at the same time.

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Experiment in F# Minor 2013

Other rooms straddled this same mixed emotion (which turns out to be quite refreshing). I won’t give away any of the other spaces because it is best experienced with a sense of surprise and wonder. Getting Lost in the Memory Palace is an easy thing to do and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Oh one last thing, when they ask you to press the button – press it, you won’t soon forget.

The Killing Machine 2007

The Killing Machine 2007

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The Greatness of Gatsby

the-great-gatsby-partyEvery decision that Baz Lurhmann made in turning F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby into a motion picture was the right one. Right, but not necessarily good. The problem with making this film is; the source material is a fundamentally flawed piece of writing that has had more greatness foisted upon it than are hidden in its pages. Don’t get me wrong, the first time I read the novel I enjoyed the world of West Egg sure enough, and having just seen the film I still enjoy it but……….. let the spoilers begin.

THE GREAT GATSBYThe world that Fitzgerald created is one of longing rather than one of condemnation. Many words have been devoted to the corruption of the American Dream and the marginalization of the valley of ashes all under the guise of an apathetic blind God … yadda yadda yadda. If that was truly Fitzgerald’s intention, than it kind of makes him a hypocrite. Fitzgerald in real life wasn’t adverse to tipping a few back and seeing where the night would take him. He surrounded himself with eccentric and interesting people who came together in one of the most decadent scenes in human history: Paris in the twenties. He didn’t stay at the party for a brief moment but rather checked out seven years later. Fitzgerald drank the Kool-Aid and then handed it to Baz. It’s the spectacle that the movie uses for its armature to hang everything around and I don’t believe this would have offended Fitzgerald in the least.

GG-06742r-1386x693Say what you will about the American Dream; a theme that works for me is that there is nothing more exhilarating than arriving at a good party already at full steam and nothing more depressing than staying a little too long and watching the steam slowly escape. ‘The sweet life’ always ends with the party goers standing on a beach starring at an enormous dead fish. You can never recapture that initial high and if you try you will always be disappointed. Chasing the dragon is a fruitless endeavor and in Gatsby’s case his dragon is Daisy(Carey Mulligan).

careymulligan_2550464bThe movie shifts gears from the book with its portrayal of Daisy and her relationship with Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). The love story never really translates in the book. Everything Gatsby does is for her but you never can reason why. She’s like that girl in those Twilight books: an extremely two dimensional character that the people around her are willing to move mountains for. Why exactly? Well Hollywood tried to answer that question by amping up the love story  and turning Daisy into a more sympathetic character.  This is all about dollars and cents; no one would go see a movie where you don’t care if the guy gets the girl. Baz knows where his bread is buttered. This leaves you with the feeling that The Great Gatsby is no longer a book or even a movie but rather an industry. It is a pop culture artifact engineered to sell fashion, sell a soundtrack, be a star vehicle, sell a technology (the first thing I thought of when I heard Gatsby was 3D!) and most importantly make money. Take that: corruption of the American Dream, pass the Kool-Aid. It feels like a movie made by a committee. You can hear the pitch meeting in every frame. It’s too bad too, I loved the style of Strictly Ballroom and didn’t even mind the Jay-Z soundtrack but I felt like I was constantly being sold something. Sad thing is, I got the same feeling when I read the book; Fitzgerald was trying to sell the idea that he was a more important writer than he was.

CBSs-The-Great-Gatsby-Book-CoverThe book has some wonderful imagery and symbolism but feels a little inconsistent overall. The movie is more consistent but tends to spell everything out and goes a little overboard on the symbolism, especially that of the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. It seems the film can’t go twenty minutes without checking in on how the green light is doing. I predict college kids will eventually turn this into a drinking game. The Great Gatsby is told from the point of view of an unreliable narrator: Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). He goes along with everything that people put in front of him and then at the last minute is indignant at the results.  The film doesn’t even touch upon his relationship with Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki) with very little consequence. It is theorized that Nick represented one side of Fitzgerald’s personality while Gatsby represented another.

THE GREAT GATSBY“Who is this Gatsby?” This is supposed to be the big mystery that never really is a mystery in neither the book nor the movie. Having said that,I have to admit Leonardo’s reveal would  be my favourite part of the film. Baz nailed it; it was so over the top it was kind of awesome. Close-up, champagne glass, smug expression,  Rhapsody in Blue playing in the background and epic fireworks all added up to one of the most perfect/hilarious entrances for any character anywhere. Gatsby: ‘the poor son of a b*tch’ (a line conspicuously absent from the film) becomes more of a tragic character in Baz’s hands than Fitzgerald’s, along with the rest of Generation Egg. We are intoxicated by their decadence and apathetic to their plight.

Both the book and the movie are unabashed constructions of their times and this is where in their greatness lies, but just like the  green light off in the distance we never quite get there. ‘Pass the Kool-Aid old sport’.

3.5/5

1 Year Anniversary

Jeff Koons Party Hat 1997

Jeff Koons Party Hat 1997

Holditnow turns 1 today! Wow that went by fast. It started out as whim on a lazy afternoon and quickly turned into an addiction. I spread my net pretty wide trying to tackle all of Pop Culture and am slowly figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Turns out; you guys like it when I talk about Art and Movies a lot more than when I speak and share about Television and Music. I’m a hopeless TV addict so they’ll keep coming. I was also a DJ in a past life (granted not a very good one) so I’ll keep chipping away with mixes like this Disco to Disco.

Pathetic Fallacy 2012

Pathetic Fallacy 2012

Thanks for letting me share my artwork. My First Tablet Painting struck a chord and inspired me to keep working in this vein. Over the past year this work has gotten a lot of positive attention and is now represented by two galleries in Toronto. Art is my favourite thing to talk about/share and my very first post was an early digital work: Baconstein.

Seeing is Believing  2008

Seeing is Believing 2008

Definitely a highlight of this past year was being Freshly Pressed. The overwhelming surge of traffic for a new blogger is definitely a rush. I Want to Believe was a love letter to a childhood obsession. Thanks to all who stopped by and a big shout out to the ones that stayed. Other posts you guys liked include: Secret Gem, Picasso Vs Van Gogh, Delicatessen Review and World in My Eyes: Chicago.

Some of my personal favourites include: Creature From the Black Lagoon and Them! Review, The King and the Pauper, The Strange and Wondrous Story of The KLF and What’ so funny about peace, love and an inflatable Rabbit?

crop2Since this is a special anniversary post; I’m going to introduce a new category: Food. If anything, this might turn into a once a year thing. There are so many great food blogs out there that I know when I’m in way over my head. But Toronto is such a wonderful place to live with so many great places to eat I’d be remiss in not adding one more log on the fire. Over the last year, a friend and myself have been eating at a new place in the city every week and here are a few recommendations.

Best Ramen: Kenzo 

Don’t be confused, this is the North York restaurant close to Steeles. The downtown ones are good but this one is outa sight.

Best Meat on a Bun: Porchetta and Co

One word: crackling.

Best Milkshake: Holy Chuck

The Nutella and salted caramel will haunt you for days.

Best Taco: La Carnita

Come for the In cod we trust fish taco, stay for the key lime pie on a stick.

Best Cornbread: Southern Accent

Funky staple in Mirvish Village.

Best Schnitzel: Cafe Polonez

They serve a great platter of Polish comfort food.

Best Counter: The Stockyards

Last time we were there, we sat beside one of the Kids in the Hall.

Best Meatball: 7 numbers

Years later and people are still lined up out the door.

Thanks again for a great year.

Holditnow

Perfect Song 3: Deee-Lite Groove is in the Heart

Floor-filler. Nothing but goodness.

The Strange and Wondrous Story of the KLF

the-klf-justified-and-ancient-stand-by-the-jams-klf-communications-2

Be ready to ride the big dipper of the mixed metaphor. Be ready to dip your hands in the lucky bag of life, gather the storm clouds of fantasy and anoint your own genius.  –The Manual: How to Have a Number One the Easy Way

I’ve been told by numerous people that the newer version of the BBC series: Dr.Who is well worth the watch. I took a few hours out of my holiday schedule and put it to the test. It did not disappoint. When I was a kid, stumbling upon it while  surfing the thirteen channels that were available at the time was a mixed blessing; intriguing but kind of scary. I remembered the Tardis, the Daleks, the silver painted Doc Martens on the Cybermen, the Dr’s striped scarf and most of all the theme song and those trippy credits. Certainly one of the greatest theme songs in television history. While watching Dr. Who I couldn’t help but be reminded of The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. 

dr who

Before any Whovians start to comb through their collective databases looking for the lost Mu Mu episode; The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu are also known as the KLF, The Timelords, the JAMS, the K Foundation or Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty. Who are they you may be asking yourself? In 1992 they were the biggest selling British act in the world, and then shortly after that they literally let their fame and fortune go up in flames.

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The story of The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu starts in 1987 when the duo decided to form a hip-hop band. Influenced by the Discordian philosophy popularized by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s novel The Illuminatus! Trilogy, armed with a digital sampler and a desire to appropriate the canon of pop music they released : WTF Going On? The record samples The Monkees, Dave Brubeck and ABBA among others. No royalties were paid for the use of any audio clips.  ABBA‘s lawyers eventually had the record destroyed over its use of Dancing Queen in the track The Queen and I. Unfazed by this; they followed the same formula and released Doctorin’ the Tardis in 1988 under the moniker The Timelords. The song combines Gary Glitter’s Rock n’ Roll Part 1 and the Dr. Who theme. The song became a number #1 hit.

TheManual

After achieving pop chart supremacy, they decided to write a ‘how to manual‘ so that anyone could beome a pop star. The Austrian band Edelweiss followed the manual to a number one hit with Bring me Edelweiss sampling ABBA’s S.O.S.

 Because it is only by following the clear and concise instructions contained in this book that you can realise your childish fantasies of having a Number One hit single in the official U.K. Top 40 thus guaranteeing you a place forever in the sacred annals of Pop History. Other than achieving a Number One hit single we offer you nothing else. There will be no endless wealth. Fame will flicker and fade and sex will still be a problem. What was once yours for a few days will now enter the public domain.

The book itself was a humorous indictment of the music industry. It even came with a money back guarantee.

klf-chill-outIn 1990 Jimmy Cauty together with Alex Paterson formed the Orb and helped to invent the genre of ambient house music. Around this time The KLF also released the seminal album Chill Out which Mixmag voted the 5th best dance album of all time. Cauty soon left the Orb and continued on with The KLF. After the success of Doctorin’ the Tardis the band took on a more electronic sound. Hip-Hop’s influence was replaced by House Music. What Time is Love?, 3.am Eternal and Justified and Ancient featuring Tammy Wynette all appeared on the album The White Room. The band became critical darlings and helped define popular British music of the early nineties.

In 1992 The KLF won the Brit Award for best Dance Act and then promptly retired from the music business. Their final performance was at the awards ceremony. They finished their song by firing a round of blanks over the heads of the crowd from a machine gun. They originally wanted to spray blood on the audience but the BBC weren’t having any of it. Disenfranchised by the music industry they decided to call it quits, delete their entire catalogue, destroy all their merchandise and liquidate their earnings. Their actual Brit Award was found years later buried in a field just outside Stonehenge.

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In November of 1992 Drummond and his friend Zodiac Mindwarp attempted to drive to the North Pole where they were going to bury a picture of Elvis Presley in hopes that his soul would seep into the core of the earth and cause world peace. They got as far as Lapland before they nearly froze to death. Eventually they gave the picture to the keeper of the northern most lighthouse in the world and returned home. Their adventure ended up as a book entitled Bad Wisdom.

After paying their taxes and any outstanding debts, the KLF were left with 1 million quid. They set up the K Foundation and decided to get into the art making business. Their first  idea was to take the million dollars and nail bundles of 5o thousand dollars to the wall of a gallery. No gallery would accept it due to insurance reasons. After universally being rejected, they decided to burn it. On August 23rd 1995 on the Island of Jura the KLF burned 1 million pounds in a furnace. You can see it in the documentary here. This of course raises so many questions.

k-foundation

I have a hard time wrapping my head around this act. Is it art? Is it a comment on the vacuousness of pop music? Is it a sheer act of will? Is it anti-materialism? Is it stupid? Is it genius? What would Dr. Who do?

True to their word, they have disappeared from the spotlight. They burned extremely bright for a brief moment and then went out. Think what you will about them, but one thing’s for sure ‘KLF is going to rock you.’

Lists: the Season

bokeh elvis

bokeh elvis

It seems to me that December would be the official month of lists. Checking to see who was naughty and who was nice, who to buy what, countless food lists and the end of year round-ups chronicling the year’s highs and lows. We really love to rate things and list them from good to bad to ugly. So feeling in the festive mood, I thought I’d add my own list to the deluge of ratings that will soon totally consume the blogosphere.

Top 12 Christmas Tunes (for this year)

1. Skating by Vince Guaraldi Trio

2. Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses

3. Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade

4. Star of Wonder by Sufjan Stevens

5. Santa is Back in Town by Elvis Presley

6. Jingle Bells by Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters

7. Soulful Christmas by James Brown

8. This Christmas by Donny Hathaway

9. Fairytale of New York by The Pogues featuring Kristy MacColl

10. Christmas Is by Lou Rawls

11. Baby It’s Cold Outside by Bing Crosby and Doris Day

12. Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley

Check it twice.

Patricia: La Dolce Vita

Patricia is one of those songs that bears repeating. Recorded in 1958 by Perez Prado; it seems to embody “the sweet life“. I guess that’s why Fellini used it in his seminal film La Dolce Vita. (review coming soon). In the meantime, here it is in its entirety. Repeat often.

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The King and the Pauper

There was only one Elvis. Stojko and Costello may share his name but Presley was in a stratosphere all his own. He’s the the undisputed King. Cool just oozed out of him, as well as copious amounts of sweat in the twilight of his career. Later on he became a caricature of his former self; the end result of being the most famous of the famous- that and a diet that included a sandwich entitled The Fool’s Gold: which consisted of a jar of peanut butter, a jar of grape jelly and a pound of bacon all wrapped up in a loaf of Italian bread. As I said before, he was the King. Ultimate fame must ultimately undo a person.  Elvis lived in a world of his own creation appropriately called Graceland. He didn’t have to adhere to the same rules everyone else does (except perhaps when it came to cholesterol). He was almost above it all.

I joined the cult of Elvis as a teenager. It happened like a bolt of lightening. A friend of mine and I were watching TV, flipping through the channels when we came across a broadcast of Elvis live in Hawaii. He looked absolutely ridiculous and the music seemed extremely dated. We watched in curious fascination. My friend said: “What’s the big deal with this guy? Why is he the King?” As if on cue; Elvis broke into one of those over the top grand gestures that Elvis impersonators love to do so much. It started out as a little dance and ended in a move where he reached out to clutch the sky. The entire auditorium hit the roof and went insane. The world was in the palm of his hand. It was probably the cheesiest/most awesome gesture I had ever witnessed. My friend and I looked at each other realizing that we had just seen something extraordinary. This ridiculous looking man was a force outside the boundaries of normal human beings. Elvis Presley had special powers.

There was nothing he couldn’t do.   His movies provide hints to the extent of his powers. Elvis played a tank commander named Tulsa Maclean in G.I. Blues. He’s a rough and tumble carny in Roustabout. In Clambake he plays a scientist who builds and races speed boats. In every movie Elvis sings, entertains and eventually gets to punch somebody.  He always  saves the day and gets the girl. Elvis never stops being Elvis. He knows the power he wields and the effect he has on other people. Some people out there on the interwebs have surmised that a modern day equivalent of that knowing smile belongs to Justin Bieber.

My knowledge of the teen heart throb is spotty at best. I’m not too familiar with his music (I don’t really fall into his marketing demographic), so I can’t comment on its worth. I’m still waiting for his equivalent to a  Billie Jean or Jailhouse Rock. Being a student of pop culture I am however aware of the phenomena of his celebrity. People really seem to like him. The last time I paid any attention to him was when he appeared on Letterman and proceeded to call one of the greatest pieces of art in the history of mankind the “sixteenth chapel.”  The cringe worthy mistake of a kid, that was quickly forgiven with a shrug and a flash of  those self aware eyes. It seems Justin has drank his own Kool-Aid. He and Elvis do share this in common; they are both extremely self-important, but is Justin the new Elvis?

In a word: no. But what I would like to see is this: A shot for shot remake of Fun in Acapulco starring Justin Bieber. Don’t change any of the dialogue or songs. Film the whole thing on a sound stage like the original. (Elvis never stepped foot in  Mexico). Could Justin Bieber become Mike Windgren: the traumatized trapeze artist who blossoms into a Mexican cliff diver all the while juggling two beautiful women? This could be the vehicle that kick starts the second phase of his career. Will he become Justin Timberlake or Kevin Jonas? Justin your jumpsuit awaits.

C’est Something

 

A little music pick me up for the November blues.

Reggie Watts Live in Toronto

Reggie Watts entered the stage of the Queen Elizabeth Theater in Toronto to the sounds of Roam by the B52’s. The song is the perfect precursor for a comedian who rarely stays in the same intellectual place for any extended period of time. Roam was an understatement. As an audience; when Reggie leads -be prepared to follow. Oh, the places you’ll go and the things you’ll hear.

Reggie Watts is a Seattle based performer who is equal parts comedian, equal parts musician and totally engaging. From the minute he stepped on stage, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. He effortlessly weaved music with stand-up without breaking a sweat. While you watch it unfold, you get the impression that no two Reggie Watts’ shows are alike. He moves in mysterious ways.

Reggie is an intellectual comic who knows how to send up bureaucratic double speak, acknowledge the town he is in and dangle one mean participle, but the focal point of his show would have to be the music. When it comes to beat-boxing, Reggie would give Doug E Fresh a run for his money. Using a loop sampler and only his voice he integrates beats and pieces to create lush soundscapes (sometimes he adds a keyboard). If two roads diverged in a wood, Reggie Watts took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.