Thirty Thousand Streets

Friday, April 18, 2008

Stop this Banksy madness.

*removes imaginary glasses, wearily massages bridge of nose between thumb and forefinger*

Now, I know everyone – but everyone – wants a piece of Banksy's ass. In fact, when we're all older, ironic pictures of snogging policeman will probably be what those kitschy reproductions of the woman with the green face were to your gran (and you know 'street art' has been utterly co-opted when advertising for the 'urbanproof' Nissan QashQai features the now familiar Banksy tropes of weapon wielding flying rats).

Just recently I received an email from his online vendor Pictures On Walls, advising buyers to beware (in their usual vaguely snarky tone of voice) of counterfeit editions of his work, currently flooding an internet auction site near you.

The thing is, people don't actually seem to be so bothered about the actual provenance or authenticity of the work, so long as they're buying a stake in the stencil grafitti goldrush, at vastly inflated cost. Which is good for some, as Banksy's satire-lite arguably constitutes an industry in itself, which from the looks of it, some people are managing to make a very respectable income off. For example, there's a gallery in Spitalfields market that as I remember, carries an almost exclusive stock-in-trade of canvas prints of photographs of his iconic paintings.

The biggest piss take I think I've ever seen though was just recently on this website, which came to my attention through a Google text ad in Gmail entitled "Banksy/Kate Moss original artwork" and just out of curiosity I followed through.

I nearly spat out my lunch. What's on offer isn't a painting, isn't even a print edition, it's a record cover which happened to feature the Bristol lad's Warhol knock-off featuring Kate Moss.

The cost?

A mere £495 to you (or a very reasonable £795 framed).

I'm sorry? What? are you having a laugh?

The blurb for this 'objet d'art' reads:

"The cover artwork is an exact replica of Banksy's original Kate Moss artwork based on the style of Andy Warhol's 'Marilyn Monroe'. Both this and his Mona Lisa stencil went for outstanding prices at Sotheby's, more than double his previous record price of £21,000"

Yes, but that was for a signed, limited edition screenprint which was about 24" x 24" in size. This is a record sleeve... and not even for a particularly good record, by the looks of it. Who the 'funk' are Dirty Funker anyway? Some straight-to-video dance act who deserve to be consigned to history's ash-can for the heinous pun-crime of bastardising the words 'funk' and (w-wait for it!) 'fuck' – Audacious!

But not nearly so audacious as the people running this site..

"Don't miss out, stock is very limited."

They warn, in a cautionary magenta footnote at the bottom. Yeah, stock's very limited because it was a hugely derivitive slice of "My Sharona" sampling Euro-cheddar which vanished without trace in 2006. What beggars belief is that they don't even pretend that it's anything other than a record sleeve though presumably some muppet with more credit cards than brain cells might actually purchase this, blinded by the throbbing retinal afterburn caused by seeing the words 'Banksy' and 'Buy' in close proximity.

I think I might start knocking out web-optimised jpegs of Banksy's 'authentic' artwork at a fiver a pop. Any takers?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

War of the Worlds

Now, you can keep your facebook, your Ebay (ok maybe not), but things like this, *wags finger emphatically* this are what makes the internet amazing. Ladies and gentlemen may I bring to your attention the original 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds, by HG Wells and starring Orson Welles, which sent swathes of the American radio listening public into panic when first broadcast.

It seems odd in retrospect, that while you could probably get the wack new Tom Cruise star vehicle version on some bi-torrent site no problem, it'd never ocurred to me (given its infamy) that this might be out there for the taking; but it is, and what a treat it is.

Based loosely on Wells's premise, the tale is transplanted from London – where the Martians land on Horsell Common – to New Jersey, and given a radio play treatment by Welles. In spite of the fact that in our wacky post-modern world, we're all sophisticated, cynical consumers of media, it still doesn't actually surprise me in some ways that it caused a furore at the time, at least in the first half, which consists of hoax emergency bulletins, cutting into segments of light instrumental dance music with an increasingly panicky tone.

I was also amused to note that these very incidental segments ("We're taking you now to the hotel martinette in Brooklyn") were later featured on the the cut'n'paste classic 'Lesson Two' by Double Dee and Steinski, and subsequently the sometime intro to Stretch Armstrong's eponymous hip hop show during hip hop's golden age in New York, New York, which kind of gives an indication of how far into modern popular culture, this event percolated.

Elsewhere on the same site, there's other vintage radio goodies, such as a 1968 version of H.P. Lovecraft's The Outsider and other tantalising bits and bobs I haven't as yet ventured to listen to.

So pull up a chair, or whatever you sit on on your planet, and prepare to enjoy a bit of radio history. Bliss.

The War of the Worlds

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hackney Techno Robot

London can be really exciting sometimes, in terms of the sheer volume of stuff going on, and its accessability. Quite recently, when I arrived in Central London half an hour early for a meeting one evening, I popped into the National Gallery, and found myself almost giggling with glee at how fun it all was, wandering round looking at these huge old paintings, checking out the tourists on the quiet, listening to a duo on cello and violin who were playing in one of the rooms.

In terms of more contemporary art and culture, London is always going to feel closer to the throbbing pulse of what's considered 'contemporary' and 'relevant'. In fact, the universal quest to be 'really fucking post modern, man' and 'edgy as fuck' has attained such a pitch in areas of the East End and Soho, that it's almost passé, oh irony of ironies.

I have to say though, I'm usually quite up for a bit of pretensious 'Über wank', as long as it's all in the spirit of fun. I come from Stockport y'see, where for me, the most 'underground' I could ever hope for on a Friday night was a lock-in at The Whistling Jig on the A6, with its flypaper-like carpets and seats whose upholstery was waxy with filth (though on karaoke nights there was certainly something quite 'challenging' and 'abstract' about the punter's renditions of poular hits).

Last night was really enjoyable. Sort of unexpectedly so too. I went up to Shoreditch to meet my friend Sam, and was anticipating a pretty standard evening boozing in the East End, perhaps spiced up with some techno, but ultimately wandered into something much more interesting – twice actually, the first time being when we nearly wandered into a face off between two groups of Hackney kids lobbing bottles at each other, but I won't go into that.

Firstly we caught a pizza (not literally) at Furnace, just off Old Street, which was really good – pizza express-ish with a wood fired oven. I'm constantly bemused by how crap most pizza joints are. I couldn't care less about the authenticity of pizzas – nobody talks about authentic, 'British' sandwiches – but like sandwiches, it can be a pretty unforgiving medium if you stint on ingredients. It's never going to be absolutely mind-blowing food, but extremely tasty if made well. These were really good, and I'd go back.

After that we hiked to a studio up in Hackney, where we were told, there was a gig. It was in a performance space on the second floor of an old office/factory complex, which doubled as someone's flat – a bit like a down-at-heels arty version of The Loft. There was a load of keyboards and the ubiquitous powerbook DJ, and we basically stood about jawing and swigging Heineken until, about half an hour later, the performance began.

The first act was a guy dressed as a robot in silver-painted boxes and tubes, who wandered out of the bathroom to play industrial noise on a pair of bust up keyboards, whose guts were spilling out in loops of cable. I couldn't quite work out what he was doing, but apart from playing the odd snatch of melody on the keys, I think he was largely manipulating the sound by altering the connections between these and the amps, and soldering them live. Ocassionally, amidst the grinding cacophany, he'd break off and wander into the audience to hand out fizzy sweets and affix springs to people.

Oddly, though it all appeared quite humorous and sweet, the overall effect was actually slightly unsettling – like having a mute 1980s Doctor Who monster in our midst.

After that, there was a break, where I ran to the offy, and returned just in time to catch a guy in a tie-dye jacket playing a solo set of African music – some traditional – on an electric guitar. He also had some kind of effects pedals, and marracas taped to his feet. Sounds kind of cheesey, but he really won everyone over as it was generally quite lovely, accessible music.

After that, more music, and I boozed and chatted, with some people I kind of know, and some I didn't, until around two, when I bounced, to read the last of Robert Harris's period ripsnorter Pompeii on the 35 home.

It was a really cool night... low key, but exciting enough to remind you why you'd want to live in London in the first place. I need to get involved in more stuff like this, so if anyone's running any under-subscribed 'happenings' round these parts, holler at me and I'm there.