Monday 23 May 2011

Exploring mindfulness at The School of Life


I’m intrigued by The School of Life enterprise in London ~ so wish I could experience it.

The School offers a variety of programmes and services concerned with how to live wisely and well,

addressing such questions as why work is often unfulfilling, why relationships can be so challenging,

why it’s ever harder to stay calm and what one could do to try to change the world for the better.

The School offers psychotherapy and bibliotherapy services

and runs a small shop which has been described as

‘an apothecary for the mind’

The School of Life is an organisation offering higher education,

a bookshop, psychotherapy and a holiday bureau.

It is housed in a bijou shop front building on leafy Marchmont Street, central London and the lecture room downstairs is covered in stunning illustration by London artist Charlotte Mann and has a cosy, secret library atmosphere….  It may sound quite daunting, but you won’t be asked to find the answer to life’s big questions, just to take part in class discussion and practical exercises within a small group. Cherie City

A social enterprise founded in 2008, it’s a place ‘free from dogma’, where participants are ‘directed towards a variety of ideas ~ from philosophy to literature, psychology to the visual arts ~ that tickle, exercise and expand your mind’ and where participants can ‘meet other curious, sociable and open-minded people in an atmosphere of exploration and enjoyment’.

The School of Life offers courses on “the five central themes of our lives-work, play, family, politics and love.

The school’s courses treat the classics (like Shakespeare’s sonnets or Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina)

as works with practical, not just academic, value.

It also offers conversation meals, stigma-free psychotherapy, and “bibliotherapy.”

In the summer of 2008, Alain de Botton and some colleagues set up The School of Life.

Founded by Sophie Howarth, a former curator of Tate Modern,

it was a collaboration with writers, artists and educators.

The School of Life has a division dedicated to running architectural ‘holidays’ or field trips to unusual locations.

The School offers communal meals, holidays and a beautiful shop with fascinating gift vouchers and other items. It also has a division offering psychotherapy for individuals, couples or families – and it does so in a completely stigma-free way. The School attempts to put learning and ideas back to where they should always have been – right in the middle of our lives.

The interior is designed by Susanna Edwards and Joseph Harries and features real silver birch trees. The shop sells a small number of books and gifts and displays information about all The School of Life’s programmes and services. Beneath the shop is the School’s classroom muraled throughout by the British fashion illustrator Charlotte Mann.

Meals :: The School regularly hosts evening meals in Central London restaurants along with a Breakfast Club at its Marchmont Street store. Those attending are usually strangers who get to know one another by discussing topics on the ‘conversation menu’. According to Time Out London ‘there are tasks to accomplish, aphorisms to discuss with the aperitif, questions to bat across the table with a stranger through dinner, postcards to ponder over dessert.

Bibliotherapy :: The School of Life offers a literary consultation service it calls bibliotherapy.[12] For a fee, people are able to meet with a bibliotherapist who will talk to them about their reading habits and ‘prescribe’ books which relate to their interests or concerns. The School of Life’s bibliotherapists include the novelist Susan Elderkin.

Sermons :: On Sunday mornings The School of Life hosts secular sermons in which cultural figures are invited to give their opinion about ‘what values we should live by today’. These theatrical events are usually held at Conway Hall in London. Past preachers have included Tom Hodgkinson on Loving Your Neighbour, Geoff Dyer on Punctuality, Sam Roddick on Seduction and Alain de Botton on Pessimism.

Weekends :: The School offers weekends led by writers, artists, economists and scientists to create extraordinary experiences designed to inspire personal journeys, during which participants can learn a new skill or address a particular issue in more depth while providing an opportunity for stimulating reflection and sociable exploration.

    Practitioners’ Parlour

    is the current series of talks which brings together makers, bakers, experimenters, creators and craftspeople, in an active exploration of human hinterland of everyday craft.

    This is such a cool idea that I will post more! If you can’t wait the links will aid your curiosity. The school’s founder was interviewed on NPR AND check out the School of Life blog.

    {Images via dezeen}

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    Sunday 1 May 2011

    a little birdie told me…


    French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s musical artwork From here to ear (v. 13) 2010 is still on display at GOMA… the installation is a seductive experience and aesthetically beautiful.

    I know that with all my Royal wedding blogging you may have the impression that I have done nothing else but be absorbed by the British monarchy. Not true, I have been out and about!

    Whilst the 21st Century: Art in the First Decade exhibition has officially closed,

    some of the artworks can still be viewed. And I enjoyed a return visit.

    The contained space of light and natural elements is  filled with hundreds of wire coat hangers, nests and numerous fluttering finch birds.

    The sound installation is an unconventional musical instrument that is played by the birds, but also a fully functional habitat for the finches. In fact, the finches have been so comfortable, a new generation hatched in the custom made nests. The Queensland Finch Society has been monitoring food, water and conditions in the Gallery to ensure a happy, healthy environment for the birds and their babies.

    It works like this: right before your eyes, dozens of tiny finches alight on coat hangers that hang in pods from the gallery ceiling. The movement of each bird triggers a sound. By capturing the movement of the finches and letting these random notes mingle with the birds’ own singing, Boursier-Mougenot has given us a great privilege, allowing us to briefly become part of their natural world. Sharne WolffLost at E Minor

    After training as a musician and composer, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot forged an art practice that merges the visual and the auditory. Boursier-Mougenot considers music the medium through which humans most commonly experience the intangible and abstract. He aims to create the conditions for experiencing what composer and innovator of ambient music, Brian Eno called ‘the long now’, by interrupting the constant assault of sensory data which passes for experience. Queensland Art Gallery

    Another popular work also remains on display, Swimming pool 2010.

    This is a visually perplexing installation by the Argentine artist Leandro Erlich.

    My god-daughter and her gorgeous mum Angela experiencing the installation.

    Erlich has constructed a full-size pool, complete with all its trappings, including a deck and a ladder. When approached from the first floor, visitors are confronted with a surreal scene: people, fully clothed, can be seen standing, walking, and breathing beneath the surface of the water. It is only when visitors enter the Duplex gallery from the basement that they recognize that the pool is empty, its construction a visual trick fashioned by the artist. A large, continuous piece of acrylic spans the pool and suspends water above it, creating the illusion of a standard swimming pool that is both disorienting and humorous. Artabase

    {Images: Céleste Boursier-Mougenot From here to ear (v. 13) 2010 [b. 1961 France, lives and works in Sète, France] via QAG; Leandro Erlich Swimming pool 2010 [b.1973 Argentina, lives and works in Buenos Aires and Paris] via urban titan}

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    Saturday 23 April 2011

    The Art of Chess :: Your Move


    I have come to the conclusion that while all artists are not chess players,

    he memorably remarked, “all chess players are artists.”

    Marcel Duchamp

    Imagine some of the world’s most innovative artists being asked to create a chess set.

    The end product is an exhibition called The Art of Chess.

    Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin Chess Set 2003, hand-painted porcelain, leather, timber. Courtesy of RS&A Ltd, London.

    A highlight today was visiting the UQ Art Museum to view two exhibitions of chess inspired works ~ one  was Your Move — Australian Artists Play Chess, and the other is an international touring show called The Art of Chess that included works by two of my favourite artists, Damien Hirst and Yayoi Kusama.

    Extraordinary spotted fungal sculptures by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. [Detail of Pumpkin chess]

    Apparently approximately 600 million people worldwide know how to play chess.

    Chess is the great and ancient tactical game — a life and death struggle on a board of squares,

    between two sets of characters: characters that each have their own special powers and status.

    It’s a war-game of immense simplicity and complexity.

    Michael Doolan Chess, a cautionary tale 2010 (detail) Polystyrene, polyurethane, earthenware, auto enamel

    A chess set has two functions – it’s a great game to test your strategy and your patience,

    plus it can also be a work of art you can be proud to leave on display.

    Damien Hirst, Mental Escapology 2003

    The Art of Chess features innovative and curious chess sets

    commissioned from acclaimed international contemporary artists:

    Maurizio Cattelan (Italy), Jake and Dinos Chapman (UK), Oliver Clegg (UK), Tracey Emin (UK), Tom Friedman (USA), Paul Fryer (UK), Damien Hirst (UK), Barbara Kruger (USA), Yayoi Kusama (Japan), Paul McCarthy (USA), Alistair Mackie (UK), Mathew Ronay (USA), Tunga (Brazil), Gavin Turk (UK), Rachel Whiteread (UK).

    Damien Hirst, Mental Escapology 2003

    glass, silver, stainless steel, acrylic, timber and leather. Private collection, London.

    Damien Hirst has cast medicine bottles in silver and glass (complete with engraved labels) on a mirrored glass board displaying the biohazard sign. The installation includes the finely crafted set of glass and silver pill bottles with surgical trolley chessboard and two medical stools.

    Alastair Mackie Amorphous Organic, 2008

    Each chess piece encapsulates a single suspended insect; the “white” pieces are represented by flying insects and the “black” side by ground based insects. The chessboard design a light box set into the surface of the table to illuminate the insects trapped in the clear amber pieces. An evolution from his previous set of dices, which consisted of a set of dice cut from amber with mosquitoes making up each of the die’s digits.

    Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled (Good versus Evil), 2003

    Hand-painted porcelain, Wenge, American Black Walnut, foam, suede

    Based on the concept of good and evil, Italian artist Maurizo Cattelan’s chess pieces are fabricated in porcelain and represent figures that he both admires and despises. The line-up of fictional and real villains and heroes from history include Hitler and Cruella de Ville cast as the King and Queen of evil, and Martin Luther King is Hitler’s equal on the white side. Other notable figures appear as pawns, including Donatella Versace, Rasputin, General Custer, Superman, Mother Teresa, and Sitting Bull.

    Barbara Kruger,Untitled 2005, Corian, electronic components, speakers. Courtesy of RS&A Ltd, London and Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York.

    In 2001, a newly formed art company called RS&A commissioned five prominent artists, including Damien Hirst and the Chapman brothers, to create bespoke sets that were then exhibited at Somerset House in London two years later. Facing off against the stellar international line-up is Your Move: Australian artists play chess.

    Artists featured in Your Move include Benjamin Armstrong, Lionel Bawden, Sebastian Di Mauro, Michael Doolan, Emily Floyd, Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro, Robert Jacks, Danie Mellor, Kate Rohde, Caroline Rothwell, Sally Smart and Ken Yonetani.

    Players in Your Move include human-animal hybrids, literary characters and beer bottles and coasters set up to play on a rickety Australian picnic table. There are chess sets made from exquisite glass and ceramic, sets made from rustic homemade pieces and even a chess set that speaks its mind.

    The UQ Art Museum is one of two Australian venues for the travelling exhibition, The Art of Chess from RS&A Ltd, London. The Art of Chess is an ongoing project featuring chess sets designed by some of the world’s leading contemporary artists in a celebration of the game of chess and its continued relevance to the creative arts.

    Marcel Duchamp

    In 1927, Marcel Duchamp, the French-born trail-blazer of conceptual art, married a young heiress called Lydie Sarazin-Lavassor. The honeymoon did not go well. “Duchamp spent most of the week studying chess problems,” recalled the artist’s close friend Man Ray, “and his bride, in desperate retaliation, got up one night when he was asleep and glued the chess pieces to the board.” Bad move. They were divorced three months later.

    Duchamp had played chess since he was a boy, and over time became more and more obsessed by the infinitely intricate permutations of the game. In his thirties, he stunned his friends by announcing that he was giving up his career as an artist to become a full-time chess player. He moved to Buenos Aires, where he frequented local chess clubs and even designed and carved a chess set of his own.

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    Wednesday 5 January 2011

    Blessings Of The Earth


    more drumming ~ experience the nergy of the taiko drumming ensemble, TaikOz.

    To beat with every muscle, bone and sinew in our bodies,

    with an open and joyous spirit.

    ‘Blessings Of The Earth’ features the full range of TaikOz’s dynamic taiko drums, including the 250kg odaiko Grand Drum and a Solo from Kaidan: A Ghost Story, choreographed by the internationally acclaimed Meryl Tankard.

    More than the beating of drums: it incorporates a complete world of drumming, song and dance that on the one hand harks back to ancient Buddhist and Shinto rituals and on the other, is a reflection of contemporary musical life, irrespective of nationality. The performance features beautiful melodies for the bamboo flutes, as well as traditional and contemporary songs.

    TalkOz is Australia’s internationally acclaimed taiko drumming ensemble.

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    Wednesday 5 January 2011

    drummers drumming


    on the twelfth day of Christmas,

    the High Energy Drums of Japan

    Traditional Japanese Music – Kodo Ibuki Taiko Drums

    Yamato – The Drums of Japan: The ancient Japanese art of Taiko drumming is being rejuvenated by a group of men and women who combine music and dance from the ancestral Japanese beliefs about the power of the drum.

    Taiko drumming has been part of Japanese culture for hundreds of years, with its roots originating during religious festivals and ceremonies at temples and shrines. During feudal times in Japan, taiko drums were often used to set cadence on marches, motivate troops, or to announce orders, similar to a drum and bugle corps.

    The eleven piece group blend drums, theater and musical arts into a performance of tightly synchronized percussion mixed with explosive solos.  Using the koto (the 13-string Japanese zither) and three-string shamisen (a Japanese lute) along with cymbals, gongs, flutes, and a series of drums ranging from six inches to six feet across. Yamato was founded in 1993 in Nara, Japan, known as the birthplace of Japanese culture. The term Yamato is the original name of Japan.

    {Images Kodo Ibuki Taiko Drums via The DC Traveler}

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