On the top floor of a Tudor hunting lodge at the edge of Epping Forest, something both strange and enlightening happened this weekend. “On All Hallows Eve, when the veil between the living and dead is at its thinnest” Becoming the Forest, and installation by Norwegian artist, Una Hamilton Helle, invited visitors to “take part in an audio journey celebrating the oncoming winter, populated by the voices of forest dwellers past and present, including the trees themselves.”
I have become a regular visitor to Hamburg this year, as it is a convenient stopping off point on the train journey from London through to Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, where work takes me frequently. Usually I arrive late and leave early, but recently I discovered what I had been missing, after an early doors trip to the Hamburger Kuntshalle gallery. Most exciting were the landscapes of Caspar Friederich, an artist I had never previously encountered, but whose ‘Hill and Ploughed Field Near Dresden’ now lights up my soul every time I turn on my iPad.
I was briefly into performing magic as a kid, inspired by Paul Daniels on the telly if truth be told. A visit to the Wellcome Collection’s fascinating new exhibition, ‘Smoke and Mirrors – The Psychology of Magic’, has re-ignited my interest and reminded me just how malleable the human mind can be.
“Overcoming poverty is not an act of charity, it is an act of justice”, said Nelson Mandela, in a quote that closes ‘Mandela: The Official Exhibition” on London’s southbank. He went on to explain how poverty can be overcome: “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural, it is man-made and it can be eradicated by the actions of human beings”.
Over 300 million years have passed since coal seams were laid down in the valleys from where I write this blog, when Wales sat astride the Earth’s equator and plants ruled the planet. The Big Pit National Coal Museum’s focuses on the last two hundred of those years and the ferocious drive of homo sapiens to dig out and burn this bounty of the Carboniferous. It is a tale of exploitation and degradation, but also of pride and ingenuity.
It was probably the post-wedding hangover, but while I struggled with the room of abstracts, everything else about the Oxford Ashmolean gallery’s ‘American Modernism’ exhibition was pure joy.
If you ever find yourself near a barbershop in Dar es Salaam late at night and you hear music, follow the sound. You won’t be disappointed.