Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Chinese Junk

Hong Kong artist Pak Sheung Chuen makes no apologies for his collection of useless information and bric-a-brac at the Hong Kong Pavilion in the Venice Biennale. And nor does he need to. I was handed a folded sheet of yellow recycled - an artwork list with all the details ( titled Making (Perfect) World.

The artist is nothing if not supremely dedicated. He spends whole days and nights photographing, collating, travelling, standing, walking, observing and collecting the world's trivia. One time he went around blindfolded for a week. For the Biennale he produces 29 works. I only wonder when and where he gets his sleep.

The Hong Kong exhibition is spread over a courtyard and 6 rooms.

Exhibit 15 (b) in Room 3 is a charcoal drawing which is reminiscent of a poem by the Chinese poet Gu Cheng:

Darkness of the night gave me black eyes
I used it to search for light

Exhibit 11 in Room 2 is Waiting for Everyone to Fall Asleep. He reports:

I stood in front of a 13-storey building in Sham Shui Po and waited for all the residents to fall asleep. The 5 images were taken at 22:38/01:40/02:36/04:09/05:04. A person in the building remained awake throughout the night, we ended up wasting a night together while being on opposite sides of the street.

In the courtyard are 45 plastic bottles filled with seawater collected at 100 meter intervals from Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong. This is titled: The Horizon Placed at Home (N22°17'400" Version).

And last but not least back in Room 2 there is to be seen a curious Love Letter to LC. The artist visited the Hong Kong Commercial Press Book Store and bought 4 books. The first word/s from the title of each book spelled out the message: I am thinking of you

Other exhibits such as Two People Blowing into One Balloon, A Lake is a Huge Floating Cloud, Travelling Venice in the Dark, and Square Light were also great fun. I came away smiling. Great work. Art for art's sake! Stimulating and mind-bending rubbish. Full marks to Pak Sheung Chen and curator Tobias Berger.

Art works

is not in the Biennale

The average net worth for Abu Dhabi's 420,000 citizens is US$ 17 million

Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), currently estimated at US$ 875 billion, is the world's wealthiest sovereign fund, in terms of total asset value.

from UAE Fact Sheet being distributed to visitors attending la 53. Biennale di Venezia Esposizione Internazonale d'Arte 2009.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Happy 54th Birthday Austria

The picture shows Poet-in-Residence together with representatives of the allied powers (Russia, USA, Britain, France) returning control to Austria in 1955.

Today Austria is 54 years of age. The date 26th October is, as it has been every year since 1955, a national holiday.
In 1933 the fledgling 1st Austrian Republic disintegrated into a Fascist-Catholic State. The country ruled with an iron hand for hundreds of years by the Hapsburg's was unable to handle freedom and democracy. It fell apart. Fours years later Adolf Hitler, who had cleverly bankrupted Austria with severe economic sanctions, pounced. The Nazis marched in and the crowds cheered in the streets. There would be bread on the tables. Austria ceased to exist on the world maps. She was now part of the 3rd Reich. And she would be known simply as Ostmark.
The cheering stopped when the Austrians discovered their role in Hitler's master plan. The citizens of the beautiful land of Tirol would be shipped to the Ukraine where they would be given houses and land to farm. But first the Ukrainians would need to become slaves to the Germans, to the Herrenvolk (the supreme race). Austrians of all ages from 15 to 50 suddenly found themselves dressed in battlefield grey. The vast majority of them ended up on trains to starvation and death, or at best disablement, illness, disease and imprisonment with hard labour in Siberia, via the Battle of Stalingrad.
After the war Ostmark fell under the jurisdiction of the Allied Powers of Britain, USA, France and Russia. The ex-country and its ex-capital Vienna, were divided into 4 sectors. The system continued until 1955 when the allies withdrew and Austria became a fully fledged Republic once more.

Today I took myself along to the celebrations which took place in the centre of Vienna outside the Presidential Palace, the Hofburg. The first thing I saw was that the crowd was not of the usual sophisticated Vienna city-goer type. It was the man and woman from the Prater. The grass roots working class, you might say, of today's modern and outward looking Vienna. Working class it is and politically red to the bone. The socialist mayor Michael Haüpl need fear nothing from his extreme right wing rival Mr H C Strache in next year's mayoral elections, no matter how well Strache is doing in other provinces, if this lot are anything to go by. It's winning Vienna that counts. And count it will. For Haüpl a convincing win will help stem the tide of right wing fanaticism and xenophobia currently sweeping through many parts of Europe, starting here in the city where Adolf Hitler learnt his business at the heel of Dr Karl Lueger, a legendary anti-semitic mayor currently reposing in a tomb of Napoleonic proportions. Haüpl is another cut from schnitzel of pork altogether.

At the show field there was a plastic Eurofighter and a couple of Black Hawk helicopters which drew a modicum of public attention. The main business was eating. The Viennese are good at eating. The langos stands did a roaring trade. A langos is a kind of giant Hungarian crisp fried in batter. It is totally unhealthy eating and so it is extremely popular with the local citizenry.

Entertainment in the beer tent was provided by Team X-Dream, a folksy rock group dressed like Italian gangsters. It comprised of Don Patrone, Don Huan, Don Tango and Don Carlos. After letting us have "Born to be Wild!" at full volume - the wildest thing to be seen was a child with a helium filled teddy bear - Don Patrone yelled "Wien is Anders!" Yes, Vienna is different. It is different from what it was, and it is different from other cities. Vienna is unique. It is not a city living in a baroque past as the architecture would have you believe, nor is it a city living in a Mozart-like or Wagnerian fantasy world as the musical diet might lead you to believe. Vienna is like ... well, Vienna. Don Patrone wrapped up his singing spot with a rendition of "Knocking on Heaven's Door" and perhaps that's what Vienna is these days, a city almost in heaven, a city that consistently gains a top 3 spot when it comes to lists of major cities having the best quality of life for their citizens. Zurich and Vancouver being the other two constant companions.

Drifting away, at 6pm when it was all just about over, I negotiated a solitary peaceful drunk with a two-thirds empty wine bottle and made my way to the Donner Kebab stand. A young man, a Turkish student served me. He was reading Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment between serving customers. He was studying chemistry at the Vienna University. "Austria is wonderful," he said. And he's right. It is. The blustering bombast of the likes of far right-wing mayoral candidate H C Strache will be extinguished next year if the City of Vienna has anything to do with it. Meantime the Viennese will grin and bear it.

Happy birthday Austria!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

A song from India.
Go to the above place if want to escape to India for 10 minutes.
Less than the price of an airline ticket! Worth the journey.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

fellephant's Ben Nevis footage

Well worth a visit today is Mud, Sweat & Tears (MS&T in LINKS>>>). There you'll find brilliant piece of black&white film by the Scottish Hill Runners' blogger fellephant showing the atrocious weather, poor vizibility and slippery underfoot conditions experienced by competitors in the recent 2009 Ben Nevis Hill Race.

"Can you see anybody?" fell champion Rob Jebb asks one spectator.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Light for the world

In Ethiopia there is ONE opthalmologist for every ONE MILLION people. In Ethiopia there are 600,000 blind people whose eyesight could be restored by means of a relatively simple operation costing $40 per person. So why hasn't this been done already?

Consider for a moment how much money the so-called civilized World, in its self-gratifying climate of political hysteria takes from the public purse and wastes on manufacturing and developing more weapons of war than could ever possibly be needed. There is already in existence enough weaponry to wipe all human life off the face of the Earth almost overnight. And forever.

Clearly there can be no reasonable excuse that can be put forward for the impossible situation in which blind people find themselves in a country like Ethiopia. And the situation in several other African countries is even worse believe it or not. It's high time the West's politicians and bankers, to put it bluntly, got their finger out. Surely they can see that it's better to give than to destroy.

Tonight 15,000 runners, including blind runners, will run in Vienna's Night Run to raise awareness and much needed cash for the charity Licht für die Welt (Light for the World).

People like eye doctor Prof. Dr. Gerhard Schuhmann (University Clinic Graz) work in Africa helping many thousands of children regain their lost eyesight. He has been actively involved with the charity for more than 20 years.

Every second blind child in the so-called Third World suffers from grey star (cataracts) and can be helped to see again with a relatively simple operation, says Prof. Schuhmann who has recently returned from Ethiopia. The charity is now building a clinic in Somalia where tens of thousands of blind people will for the first time be able to benefit from appropriate medical treatment.

The terrible facts (WHO statistics) are that two-thirds of the blind children in the Third World will die within 2 years of becoming blind. An operation costs €30, €10 provides a course of Vitamin A.

The WHO is working with VISION 2020 to prevent the number of blind people from doubling in the next 12 years.

When blind children can see again they look eagerly at their world with new eyes. And every time it is just like a small sunrise, says Prof. Schuhmann.