Newspeak: British Art Now |Saatchi Gallery

The place is surrounded by an unexplainable serenity. The wide open space in front of the house does not make you feel small; it is rather welcoming in its grandness. The majestic entrance with the smiles greeting you – it almost feels like there is a catch in all of it. Saatchi Gallery would not perhaps be the first thing that comes to mind when described like that.

The former Duke of York’s Headquarters has been beautifully transformed into an art gallery by Charles Saatchi who bought the place to display his art collections. Sharing something like that with the rest of the world is a big gesture from a big man like Saatchi himself. Advocating art that is fresh and intriguing, having the guts to put the money on young aspiring artists – that is what describes the young British art exhibition, currently showcasing for the second time.

The greatness of the old Duke of York Headquarters has been blended with beautiful contemporary architecture. A modern art collection does not necessarily go ‘by default’ with the aura of the Saatchi Gallery building. In the posh Sloane Square area and the gallery building it almost seems inappropriate to display extravagant and loud art like that, but once you cross the threshold, everything falls into place.

One of the biggest problems about art galleries is that they feel static and sterile as an environment for art to be presented in. No doubt it is all intentional, but when seeing how Saatchi Gallery converses with the art it is showcasing, the disconnectedness of the art and place is the last thing that comes to mind.

The walk on the warm wooden floors, eclectic colourful artwork on white walls – it is an experience in itself. The natural light glowing in through the big glass windows in hallways softens the impact of otherwise quite loud pieces of art in the ‘Newspeak: British Art Now’ exhibition.

The twelve galleries hold art styles from wall to wall; it is just about the right amount, if you are in the right state of mind. If you concentrate on every single work in a single visit, it is likely to be a bit too much. And this is because everything showcased is a very strong individual piece of art. It is difficult, if not impossible to pick out something that made the biggest impact. No doubt the emotions triggered are of the mixed kind, but any emotion is good emotion, when it comes to art, right?

One of the first jaw-dropping, if not perhaps the most incredible exhibit overall, is Tessa Farmer’s ‘Swarm’ (2004). Made of desiccated insect remains, dried plant roots and other organic materials, the tiny sculptures come across like creepy fairies or some other creatures from nightmares. It is unlikely you’ll see a smaller skeleton in your life. The crowds of people studying the vitrine with googly eyes, proves something – this stands out and will be remembered.

In Gallery 5, Steve Bishop’s works are likely to bring the most mixed emotions – rage, disbelief, confusion and amusement. ‘It’s Hard To Make A Stand’ (2009) makes a sharp statement in the form of a foam horse with a fur coat over its head. We could think of all the deep and meaningful things to say about this, but perhaps the lack of artiness is what makes the work ingenious. The story of how the work got its name is as glamorous – according to the artist it was hard to make the wooden stand the horse is standing on. Brilliant.

The writer’s personal irrevocable favourite must be Bishop’s second work ‘Christian Dior J’Adore (Mountain Goat)’ (2008). An adamant animal lover, this piece of art firstly triggered disgust and slight anger. The concept luckily thawed the thoughts of a poor animal who has been stuffed… in the name of art. It would be intriguing to try to put an existential story behind the artwork, but even in the lack of one, the mockery of the fashion industry and vanity works as magic. Combining taxidermy with concrete is an unconventional choice of art supplies, but has a strong impact. It is outrageous, funny, bizarre and unlikely to leave anyone indifferent.

Walking through the galleries is almost like a meditation, you will let the art take you on a journey, offering you emotions on the entire colour spectrum. Some of its quality and purpose is highly questionable; some of it will make you gasp in amazement. The British Art Now exhibition is a clear proof that art is not dead. For now.


The daily grind

As my previous blog post was full of poison, misery and other bad things, I’ve decided I’m going to try to mellow it out by writing the most Joe Bloggs blog post I can come up with.

I’m sitting in university canteen. Kane, Lee and Murray came here as well. Murray is ill, I hope I didn’t give him my bug. Kane says he’s being funny because he’s ill. Collins is eating a salad with loads of mayonnaise, saying he’s “being healthy”. Good luck with that. On another note I had to pick out wax from Kane’s hair and Murray reeks Olbas from two meters away.

When life is on the shit side, it’s always good to sit with the journalism boys. They provide endless amounts of entertainment.

Kane’s hair sits better when he doesn’t wash it. And he rants about fish. Now Murray rants about Kane’s rant. Collins just doesn’t really understand anything any more.

I’m happy Murray found out I’m Estonian now. “Somewhere in Europe somewhere”

Now it’s turned into a knitting club and that’s how we roll.

Lovely boys I go to uni with. Lovely. Absolutely delightful. 🙂

Is investigative journalism doomed?

In the 21st century journalism is not quite what it used to be during the days of Fleet Street. This is true all over the world, but especially prominent in the United Kingdom. New media and internet are changing the face of traditional journalism, and some even fear they might replace it. One of the prime examples of professional journalism at its best has always been investigative journalism. It is natural to fear that with the change in the media world, investigative journalism might get replaced with citizen journalism as well. But is that really the case?

Investigative journalism is among the most expensive forms of journalism. It requires time, well educated and experienced professionals and usually a big budget for travel costs etc. It has been practised mostly in big and established newspapers and television. Today with the recession forcing budget cuts almost in every field of life, journalism is not better off either. Quite the opposite, actually – with the internet and web 2.0 changing the face of journalism and with the recession favouring in most cases free publishing online, it does not seem to be a good ground for serious, long journalism.

In today’s world, time is also one of the big issues. The internet enables 24-hour news that are updated as often as things happen in the world. Immediacy and the need for up to date information are the key words in the 21st century’s network society (theory introduced by Manuel Castells). Investigative journalism does not seem to cater for those needs, because of its longer, highly professional profile.

Our society feeds on information today. Transparency is essential in a democratic society and mostly provided by the media, especially journalists. From this aspect it seems logical to assume that investigative journalism, dealing with more serious issues and subjects, would be in full bloom. Why is this not the case? Or why does it not seem to be the case? Continue reading “Is investigative journalism doomed?”

Log: multimedia, the net and journalism

The net changing journalism? Yes. What has changed the most is not exactly the platform, but rather the distribution. Some bloggers are now ‘citizen journalists’ but can that still be labelled as journalism? The prime task of journalism was distribution of information, and now it’s become largely peer-to-peer thanks to online tools, social network sites, and other things. One single authorative source of information is not enough any more. In a way it gives people more varied information, but then again the quality goes down because user generated/provided information is often not fact checked nor edited. On the other hand those quality information providers, such as the BBC for example, they take almost full advantage of online platforms. The Guardian newspaper even has online blogs! They’re all on Twitter and what not – you can literally follow them on all the different platforms. It’s all made very easily accessible, but readers-users-followers have to put more effort into filtering the vast amount of information thrown at them.

Even though a big part of information is internet-based now, online journalism hasn’t taken over completely yet. We’re still buying printed newspapers (less, but still), and there’s broadcast journalism, that does not seem to be going anywhere yet. Perhaps multimedia journalism is in an experimental phase then. But even that experimental phase is worth following, because one might stumble upon gems that cannot be found anywhere else in media.

Log: Online

I have been using different online tools for a while, but I still managed to start taking more advantage of the possibilities. Facebook and other social networking sites are old news, but a new cool thing for me to discover thanks to Multimedia Journalism was Twitter. I was a bit cautious about it at first – probably just a matter of getting into habit of using it. Now I like it quite a lot, but still don’t use as much as Facebook, for example. I guess the matter of habit is what limits all those very fancy feeds and things you can have on the internet. I’ve always used my Favourites folder and I don’t think I’ll ever start using RSS feeds, Delicious or something like that properly.  I guess all those things work for most people who use internet a lot, but I myself consider myself slightly more oldschool, and I prefer doing it ‘manually’.

One of the lovely things I started using was Vimeo, because YouTube does not appeal to me aesthetically that much. It compresses the quality, but Vimeo keeps it as it is. Unfortunately Vimeo is not as popular, so when I produce video content, I’ll put it up both on Vimeo and YouTube.

When it comes to blogging and journalism, I’ll definitely keep on doing that. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to label my blog posts as journalism, but since I’ve done it for *years* now, it’s good self-indulgent fun. Sometimes when I actually have something relevant to say, I might use my blog for that – so works perfectly for me.

Log: Audio

I did  my audio slideshow on the snow chaos in London. Eventually it was very old news, but I didn’t have anything much better to do it on. It had a newsy approach, and I took photos for it myself, as well as using some from other news channels websites.

When I made it, I tried to keep in mind that it is going to be an online thing. Something you’d find on the BBC website, one of those short news clips. And I guess it sort of worked, but I’m not too happy with the outcome – quite mediocre in my opinion, because my enthusiasm died a bit in the process of making it. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more with more practical guidance. We were never really taught all the tricks on Audacity and it became a bit of a hassle because of that. Just unnecessary stress that could have been solved with more effective group sessions. (Hats down for the video part in that respect – Movie Maker was really dumbed down for us enough, and thanks to that we were eventually able to do the audio slideshow as well)

Log: Video

The video project we (Nassia and I) decided to do was partially also for the other part of our module – multimedia journalism. Since we were doing a fashion blog for that,  we decided to do the video on something related to fashion. So we asked people what defines their style on video in our university (Harrow campus). It was great fun doing it. Funnily enough we ended up using the footage that was meant to be more like a test, to see if we’d actually catch enough people and all that. We ended up with more than enough footage (almost 2h?) and some lovely gems there we just could not leave unused. I was behind the camera and Nassia was caught the people.

Putting the actual video together was mostly my task. I ended up cutting the footage, editing the sound and cutaways, finding music. Decided on the final background music together with Nassia though. It took ages to do (very energy-consuming as well!), but I didn’t mind in the end, because I liked editing (almost everything). Nassia was happy with I had done, so it seems that the group work worked out as well. It doesn’t always have to be perfectly balanced.

The fact that it had to go online made it a lot more compact, I suspect. We did not have much time to use for the video, because people just lose interest after about 3 minutes of watching a clip online. So we had to work on that a Lot, and crop-crop-crop. I think in the end it was still a bit too long.

The end product of the video part might not have been the best quality video ever made, but I had fun doing it. What I loved the most about it was how our original idea was slightly different, but when we actually started filming, the idea just morphed on its own into what it ended up as.

How’d faqFashion go?

The group blog faqFashion we started for Multimedia Journalism module seems to have been a success.

The size of our group was fairly big, which I was first slightly worried about, but at the end of the day I feel like we had a lot of nice diversity. In my eyes that very diversity was what we were striving towards. We wanted to start a different fashion blog, and thanks to all the different roles, we accomplished it. Fashion blogs are definitely not the most original form of blogs out there, but that was exactly the challenge we wanted to take. We chose the best bits of different fashion blogs ant put them together.

Thanks to the size of our group – seven people – we had three posts per day, so content was constantly renewed. I think this is an important aspect of keeping a blog interesting. As we all had our own field to cover on different days, same sort of posts did not go up on the same day, which in my opinion made faqFashion interesting as well.

It also seems that our blog was a success because it got a fair amount of traffic from outside our journalism course, which shows that the content was interesting enough to attract other people. The topics covered were controversial at times and intriguing to inflict some response. We alsp put polls up on our blog, which is a fairly good way of engaging audience without much effort from their part.

What I found tricky about the blog was having been assigned certain days when we had to post. Since my topic was street fashion and style wrongdoings.. or well, just curious combinations, I truly had to look for material to publish. It was easy in the beginning, but at one point I just couldn’t find anything that would make my eyes bleed enough. On a more liberal schedule, I think, inspiration would work better. The fact that I Had To post probably jinxed my luck with sketchy combinations.

Another weakness of faqFashion is how female-oriented it is. Most of fashion seems to revolve around women, but I think faqFashion kind of blog would be perfect for covering more men’s fashion as well. I tried to do that myself, but it’s actually not that easy. I will try to do it more in the future.

Another strong side of our blog was the fact that half of the photographic content (if not more) was taken by us. It shows well that we actually did something in real life to get those posts! When it comes to me – I got quite a kick out of chasing some details, things, and people with my camera. My favourite picture was taken on a packed Circle line tube. We also managed to produce some original video material for Westminster fashion and Music and fashion.

I have to admit I did not learn any new things technically by contributing to this blog. Probably because I am a veteran blogger already. What I did learn about was how difficult it can be to get interesting content when you have a deadline. Sometimes the quality of writing goes down because of that. I suppose it’s the same with print journalism as well – sometimes you just don’t get the right things, but you Have To write something.

I enjoyed the blog-writing much. We will most probably keep on writing on it, but not on a strict schedule. I have never been too much into fashion, but I’ve learnt to love it now, in my own slightly sarcastic way. But then again.. diamons are a girl’s best friends.

Everything about faqFashion could be put into one sentence : we still want to write it, even when we don’t have to.