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Film Review: Prince Avalanche

I’m a big fan of Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd so a film starring both of them is exactly the sort of film I like. Throw in some exceptionally beautiful shots of natural landscapes and that’s the sort of film I really like.

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Prince Avalanche has sort of side-stepped the big paper reviews, which is strange considering the hollywood names attached to it. It caught some attention when it was revealed Joyce Payne was given an impromptu cameo role when the film crew stumbled across her hunting through the rubble of her house, which had been destroyed six months earlier in the worst wildfire in Texas history in a wide brimmed red sun hat. But the film itself was little mentioned. Sadly this is probably due to the fact that it’s classed as an ‘indie flick’. Not enough sex, not enough blood, not mainstream enough for headlines.

The film is a new sort for the director of blockbuster, gore and drug filled Pineapple Express. It’s quiet, calm, gentle, solitary. An meditation on the friendship between two disparate men employed to repaint the yellow road lines in a Texas state park that’s been wiped clean by wildfires. It’s slow to start and unusually silent. My friend commented it made her ‘ears hurt’ straining for a sound. But it doesn’t need to be fast, this isn’t an action packed thriller. This is an exploration for director, cast, crew and audience. The camera lingers on the astounding views and the achingly sad wreckages of lost homes, allowing your mind to wander and contemplate the material destruction compared to the continuation and rebirth of nature.

As you can probably already guess it’s not the most uplifting of films, at least not at the start. Alvin (Rudd) has escaped into the wilderness to deal with his depression, whilst Lance (Hirsch), the brother of Alvin’s girlfriend, is an adult trapped in a teen’s body, who cries about not getting laid on his weekend away. There are humorous moments but they’re underlined by the tragic realisation that both characters are trapped in their own delusions.

The story is simple, real. No plot twists, no gasps. And unbelievably touching. It won’t win any oscars, but it will stay with you.

Give the trailer a go:

 

 

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The loveable eccentric: Cosmo Sheldrake

I haven’t really been keeping up with my music lately because of looming university finals, but I allowed myself a little breather today and fell in love with Cosmo Sheldrake. I’ve heard one or two of his songs before but they never really grabbed me. If I’m being honest I thought he was a little odd and not in the cool, trendy way but odd as in peculiar. But I was wrong. He is odd (the name sort of says it all) but that’s  part of the charm and actually he really couldn’t be any cooler. His music is all about experimentation with the environment (in one of my favourite videos he chases after a beetle with some sort of sound device), playing with objects and space to produce unusual and unique sounds. ‘Rich’ featuring Andrea Vargas starts off with what sounds like a cat purring… It keeps you on your toes and the music is just great. Think banjos, didgeridoos, whistles, bongos, keyboards, improv vocals., robots, beetles, washing machines. You know, that sort of vibe.

Anyway, check him out. He’s set to release a debut single in April, 2014 and he’s just all round a pretty inspirational guy.

Here’s a vid of the cat purring song, performed live in a pig sty:

And ‘Prefusify’ performed live in a laundrette:

 

 

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Zack Seckler’s Aerial Abstracts

After spending a good 2 hours this afternoon watching a slideshow of photographs from my mother and her partner’s trip to Africa, you’d imagine I’d had my fill of landscapes, but then I came across Zack Seckler.

Flicking through Seckler’s online portfolio I have to admit is a bit disappointing; some of the photos are impressive, others amusing, but a lot are, I hate to say it, just a bit too “American”. When I say “American”, I’m not taking a swipe at the nation’s identity, what I mean is it’s all a bit too commercial and smiley for my liking. Too staged, too bright, too happy… Seckler’s Aerial Abstracts, on the other hand, are utterly entrancing. The landscapes are simultaneously warped and enhanced from a height to form beautiful, vibrant patterns. Looking at his photographs is like flying over exotic, magical lands – it’s an incredibly humbling and awe inspiring experience. The vastness of the landscapes is intensified by the absence of human life and the scale of the few animals dotted across the frame…

Seckler’s at his best when people are left out of it, but then again maybe landscapes are too.

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To see the full series head over to Seckler’s website: http://www.zackseckler.com/about

 

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Interview with Akio Suzuki

Taking his lead from nature, the Japanese sound artist on his latest performance at the North East festival, which sees him finding ‘sound spots’ around Newcastle city centre

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Akio Suzuki began experimenting with sound in the 1960s and is now recognised as a forerunner of the international sound-art scene. Despite of his numerous exhibitions and performances across the globe, Suzuki is a modest man modest who lives a humble life closely connected to nature. His gentle personality is reflected in the meditative nature of his work, which encourages listeners and viewers to experience an alternative perspective of the world.

This month, Akio Suzuki brings his work to Newcastle upon Tyne for AV Festival 14: Extraction. The biannual festival runs throughout March, and marks Suzuki’s first major solo exhibition in the UK featuring new work inspired by his visit to the North East coast. In keeping with the central focus of the festival, a re-imagining of the geologic through the exploration of the earth’s raw materials, Suzuki has created original artworks, both visual and aural, that make use of stones taken from the local pebbled beaches.

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Millie Walton: When did you first begin experimenting with sound?

Akio Suzuki: Originally I was studying architecture, but somehow I gave that up and became a sound artist. I’m not really sure how it happened! [Laughs] As an architect I was always working in a space and developed a fascination with the relationship between sound and space – that’s really the foundation of my art.

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Millie: All of your sound is created using instruments you have constructed by hand, the most significant of these being ‘Analapos’… how was the idea conceived?

Akio: I didn’t learn about sound in school, but from nature. Nature was my teacher. I would immerse myself in the surrounding environment and play around with natural sound phenomenons. For example, I would go to the mountainside or shout across the valley and listen to the way the sound came back. My interest in natural echoes then led me to start thinking about an instrument that could also create that kind of sound.

At the time I was collecting lots of junk in my studio, pieces of metal I found on the streets, and then one day when I was playing around with a metal can I attached a metal coil, and found that together they could create an echo effect similar to that of nature. So it was really by chance that I conceived the basic idea of analapos. I am always searching for these chance encounters and moments in life. It’s a bit like chemistry between objects, similar to that between a man and a woman. Sometimes there’s chemistry, sometimes there isn’t. If you just take a metal can it doesn’t make a sound but if you just attach a coil it creates a sound.

Millie: In the late 80s, for the ‘Space in the Sun’ project, you spent sunrise to sunset listening to the natural sounds of your surroundings. What was the purpose of this project?

Akio: I had no intention to become a performer, but in the 70s I somehow became one through people requesting live performances and exhibitions. ‘Space in the Sun’ was really about returning to my starting place, which was nature. I began learning from nature not as an artist, but just as a human being, and I wanted to be reminded of who I really was. I was listening to ‘La Mer’ a composition by the French classical composer Claude Debussy and I formed this idea that to create the piece, Debussy had sat on the beach for a day listening to the ocean. Debussy was actually inspired by Japanese print, but I was very moved by the idea that I had imagined so I started to build two red brick walls. It took two years to build the walls, which I then sat between for one day listening to the sounds of nature. In that time I didn’t create any other artworks but just channeled all of my energy into this one project. It was a way for me to reconnect with nature.

Millie: The AV Festival is very much centred around natural resources and landscapes this year. How is this theme explored in your solo exhibition at the Globe Gallery, and live performances?

Akio: I really love stones. I have a big selection of stones collected from beaches all around the world. When we [Aki and I] visited Newcastle last July, we went to a local beach and collected specific stones for the exhibition. I found ‘stone-flutes’, stones with natural holes in them, which I will be playing in our duo performance.

Millie: Your exhibition Na Ge Ka Ke meaning ‘to cast, to throw’ reflects on the general idea behind your artwork but also includes a collection of installations that are ‘of sound but are soundless’…

Akio: All of the pieces make sound but I have arranged them at the point before sound, the point at which I imagine the sound. I want visitors to imagine the sound before they actually hear it.

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Millie: This interest in provoking other’s imaginations seems to be at the centre of your work: tell me about your oto-date project, which invites people to explore their cities in unique ways.

Akio: When I was in my 20s, I started walking around various cities looking for echo points and specific locations, which have interesting sound phenomenons. It started off as a personal project, a ‘Self-Study Event’ before it developed into something I could share with the public. On our visit to Newcastle last summer, I walked around the city exploring the different sounds, but I didn’t actually choose the spots for the oto-date project until returning this time. Newcastle is a great oto-date city because the geography and architecture is very complex. Especially around the centre, there are lots of layers of stairs, big wide buildings and unusual sound spaces.

Akio Suzuki’s solo exhibition runs at Globe Gallery for the duration of the festival (until 31 March) along with the oto-date project. To find out more about the festival, and the performances, click here

Words: Millie Walton

Translation: Aki Onda

Photography: Janette Scott, courtesy AV Festival

This article was originally written for and published by PORT Magazine: http://www.port-magazine.com/music/av-festival-14-extraction-akio-suzuki/

To properly understand Akio’s art watch this short film of him exploring the acoustic of the Walthamstowe Marshes railway bridge in London:

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One to watch: Allan Mcenroe

Scottish artist, Allan Mcenroe’s work is an interesting blend of nature with the industrial. Though Mcenroe doesn’t discriminate when it comes to subjects, he’s best when working with animals and nature. He has a fine eye for detail, combining sections of recycled aluminium with paint to create textured portraits set against vibrant painted backdrops. Though it may sound vaguely like something you created for a school art project, I can assure you (unless you were an exceptionally talented student) it’s not; with precision and imagination Mcenroe manages to create some very sophisticated and powerful art work. And if colourful animal paintings aren’t really your bag, Mcenroe happens to be a dab hand with a camera too. It’s well worth keeping your eye on this multi-talented Scotsman…

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Check out his full portfolio here: www.allanisart.com

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Hauntingly Beautiful

My Science Academy’s gallery of ’30 abandoned places that look truly beautiful’ is too good to be kept a secret. From the 15th Century Monastery in Germany to the Sunken Yacht in Antarctica, each photograph captures the ghostly quality and age worn beauty of these amazing places. My list of places to go is increasing by the minute.

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alien-esque dome houses, South West Florida

For the full list hit the link: http://myscienceacademy.org/2013/04/14/the-33-most-beautiful-abandoned-places-in-the-world/

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5 of the world’s most beautiful beaches

It’s Wednesday, two days after I landed back in London and the coming home excitement has subsided into a state of mild melancholy or what I like to call ‘post holiday blues’. So in a yearning for the sunshine I’ve spent my morning beach hunting on the internet. It’s sad really, but it’s somewhat therapeutic and gives me something to aim for… The result of my search is really my wish list, but more generally 5 of the world’s most beautiful beaches:

#5 White Haven, Whitsunday Islands, Australia. I’m a sucker for rainforest onto white sands and this is the perfect example, only draw back is it’s often voted Australia’s best beach and you know what that means: tourists. Call me selfish, but I don’t like to share my paradise!

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#4 Navagio, Zakynthos, Greece. This tiny beach, enclosed by steep cliffs, boasts water so exquisitely turquoise it looks like it’s been photo shopped. It’s also home to an old shipwreck left behind by smugglers and perhaps some hidden treasure!

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#3 Bangaram Beach, Lakshadweep Islands, India. Surrounded by lush green coconut palms, this beach is uninhabited, excepting one small resort and is the perfect hideaway for snorkelling enthusiasts who are on the search for manta rays and exotic fish.

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#2 Bora Bora, French Polynesia. It’s not hard to understand why Bora Bora is such an exclusive, pined after destination, with white sands, and clear water this is pure paradise. Where is Polynesia? Who knows, but it sounds exotic…

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#1 Ofu Beach, American Samoa. The looming mountain peaks and thin layer of mist resting over the water make Ofu Beach a truly magical, unspoilt location. The snorkelling is also incredible with an offshore reef home to over 300 species of fish. But the best thing about it is, there isn’t a tourist in sight. Yet.

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