'Chemistry for Beginners' by Anthony Strong

On the brink of fame and fortune, young scientist Dr Steven Fisher, is just one gasp and sigh away from finding the cure for FSD (Female Sexual Dysfunction – or in Layman’s terms, women who can’t get to that special place). In fact, it’s so nearly within his reach, he’s already visioning his fellow peers and science geeks in a standing ovation applauding his discovery. However, when his last test subject – the intelligent and feisty ‘Miss G’ – saunters into his lab, she threatens to destroy his entire career, and most importantly, make him question his understanding of that whimsical idea – love.

Anthony Strong’s fourth novel is a refreshingly original love story and one that will have you gripped and giggling from the start. Whether he’s describing the ins and outs of the chemical reactions that get women all hot and bothered, or sensitively depicting a die-hard chemist unwilling to accept that human feelings cannot always be explained in the vocabulary science demands, Chemistry for Beginners takes you on a whirlwind romance and teaches you something along the way too. Strong clearly has a knack for turning science which can often go straight over our heads (who can remember anything from Chemistry GSCE?) into something that is truly engaging and worth knowing about.

Published April 2011, Touchstone Books.


William Corwin

Artist, sculptor, teacher, writer – William Corwin is a man of many talents. He has been exhibited in a splattering of shows across the world since the 1990s and has strong connections to the ‘underground’ art scene in America. Will is also no stranger to the British art scene (having trained with YMB Richard Patterson). He says the city is like a “catalyst” for his work and inspiration – he also met his girlfriend there.

Here, I asked Will about his hometown New York, his ‘alternative’ career and his attraction to unusual materials.

Can you tell us about what it was like growing up in New York? Has it had an impact on you as an artist?

I think New York is what made me an artist. My dad is a playwright, my Mum was a writer, tons of their friends were artists, writers and actors, and I just remember running around in old Soho lofts when I was a kid, seeing all this funky art and thinking how cool it was to be an artist. I think when your family is in the arts, you often end up doing that yourself – everyone thinks it’s a really rebellious thing to become an artist, but it’s really like a family business a lot of the time.

What influence has your ‘underground’ work and experience had on your work?

It’s very simple – alternative and “underground” art spaces take the pressure off selling your work. That’s key to making sincere and philosophically probing work, not having to worry about the dollar! The spaces are also often funky – in both a good and bad way! – and really challenge you to create something that works within a weird space.

As a sculptor, what is it about the structural aspect of art that interests you?

I like site-specific projects; that’s why the show at George and Jorgen Gallery was so cool [this was the artists most recent exhibition in London, March 2011]. The whole idea was to build something into the space. When the gallery told me to build whatever I wanted, and preferably make it big, it was like a dream come true! I like the process of figuring out how the materials and objects will inhabit the space, and then constructing a framework for the ideas.

What was it that interested you about the Last Judgment mosaic? There is clearly a theme of cataloguing in this work – can you expand on this?

My installation came about through the idea of ranking a lot of the objects and materials I make and produce as bi-products of my work. There’s plaster rubble, little cast plaster objects, and these wooden panels I build with or paint on. I thought it would be cool to apply a sort of moral filter to these objects, displaying them on shelves, and giving them a sort of cosmic hierarchy, which is also a theme in the Last Judgment.

Why do you like to use bi-products of your work in your art?

I don’t particularly like art stores – the materials are pricey and there is way too much selection. There are too many colors of oil paint, acrylic, watercolor and tempera. I think that the magic in art resides in the fact that looking at a Frank Stella Black Painting or in a simple stone piece by Noguchi, or a box full of stuff by Cornell, there is magic and there doesn’t need to be artifice, that’s why I like wood and plaster – it’s basic and yet you can represent the universe with it.

Any ideas or plans for your next project?

July and August I’ll be doing a residency at the Clocktower Gallery. I’m going to keep following this lead with the shelves and hierarchies that I’ve started at George and Jorgen. I think I’ll create an inaccessible library, of layers and layers of shelves that can’t be reached, laden with objects and pieces of things. It’s a residency, so there will be a time aspect. The thing will grow over a few weeks, and I’ll eventually build myself into the space.


Robert Mangold

With over four decades of experience as an artist, and having been exhibited widely across America and Europe, Robert Mangold has always produced original and interesting work. His art is carefully considered, with particular attention paid to composition – including his use of shape, line and colour – to create abstract pieces that are usually informed by his interest in structured art.

His latest project, Ring, is no exception to this tradition. The exhibition, being shown at The Pace Gallery in New York for the rest of this month and most of April (and his 13th at the gallery), showcases a series of paintings on a circular shaped canvas, as well as a selection of related works on paper. This showing is the culmination of three years work on this particular project.

Can you elaborate on why you chose to use a circle shape in this collection?

I’ve been working with the circle and circle parts as an image off and on since the mid 60s, and these Ring paintings are a continuation of that. However, the new paintings, for all the enclosure a circle signifies, the central area is empty, a void.

Why have you used two halves of a circle instead of one whole canvas in a circular shape?

The paintings are constructed in two pieces with a split or vertical seam, which has both an aesthetic as well as practical purpose. I work alone in my studio and the way the pieces for this series are made, with a large amount of plywood, it makes them very heavy. If they were in one piece, I wouldn’t have been able to handle them alone.

What role does colour play in your art?

Often a series of works or individual paintings demand certain colour or tonal restrictions, because of the nature of the piece. For instance in the Ring series, if I only used dark colours, all you would see is the ring. An intense colour might also be too much for them.

Any ideas or plans for your next project?

I don’t really know what route my next works will take, if they will be an offshoot of the current paintings or move in a different direction. I feel lucky that there are still some ideas floating around in my head that I want to pursue though!


'Basilicata: Coast to Coast', Time Out, March 3rd-9th 2011

Following four musicians on their emotionally enlightening journey across the Southern Italian region of Basilicata, this low-budget directorial debut by Italian actor Rocco Papaleo, while aesthetically pleasing, packs little punch. The film is sadly spoilt by classic school boy errors – drama at times verges on the ridiculous (pseudo bandits, incestuous threesomes, a mute that finds his voice), characters are poorly developed and, most irritatingly, the crew can often be seen in the reflection of the actor’s sunglasses. Give this one a wide birth.

'Animal Kingdom' 2010

Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Animal Kingdom always promised to be epic.

Australian director David Michôd’s debut feature is a haunting tragedy exposing a world of base survival and fierce family loyalty. Gritty and disturbing, Animal Kingdom tells the story of an estranged grandchild of the Cody family, Joshua or ‘J’, played by newcomer James Frecheville. J is just your average 17-year-old boy: awkward, alienated and confused. After witnessing his mother silently slip away due to a heroin overdose, he is taken in by his grandmother and it’s from this point on that he gets sucked unwillingly into a world of drugs, violence and uncompromising obligation to do things the ‘Cody’ way.

The loud, sombre, classical music that accompanies some of the film’s darkest moments makes the mood ever more intense and electrifying and the camera work provides us with long, unsettling looks from the films chilling characters. Michôd’s direction shows a real determination to force the audience between the bonds that fragment the family. The movie isn’t recommended for the faint hearted, but for anyone else who is interested in seeing Australian cinema at its best and most gripping, ‘Animal Kingdom’ is a must see.

'Flaming Bodies', Rosemary Branch Theatre

In a time that is hitting young people hard, Roar Theatre – a graduate-led production company – is producing shows that are not only ambitious, but are also executed to a high standard. And true to their name, their latest venture is sure to make a big impact in their bright-looking future.

Snoo Wilson’s Flaming Bodies, written in 1979 and ironically also at a time when young people found themselves particularly hard up, delves into the subconscious of Mercedes Mordecai, a sexually confused and recently fired American woman. In her dreams, she battles demons that she is unable to face in her everyday life, most prominently, the troubled relationship she has with her mother.

While the playwright’s narrative is complicated (and unfortunately sometimes unclear) the acting talent – all alumni of Guildhall’s acting school – showcased throughout is of a high calibre. Most strikingly so is Paloma Oakenfold, the play’s lead. Her intense and powerful monologues keep audiences interested and gripped throughout.

An impressive crew also supports the cast; credit must be given to those behind the lights as the production flowed with energy, clarity and confidence. They’ve certainly set the bar high for their next production.



'The Fighter'

'The Fighter', which opened in the UK this weekend, demonstrates how an exceptional cast can transform what could have been a disappointing 115 minutes.

Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams star in the gritty true-story of boxing brothers - Mickey Wark and Dickie Eklund - who come head-to-head with each other when trying to prepare for the former's final attempt at a major boxing title. Issues such as loyalty, the painful process of realising and accepting change, and the power of love make this film's emotional punch so powerful.

The Fighter has already done the rounds in many of the awards ceremonies so far. Bale picked up Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes, as did his on-screen over protective mother, actress Melissa Leo, who won the same award but in the actress category. And both of them are deserved of their awards - the honesty and believability each convey throughout are outstanding. Unfortunately, playing the solid and 'rock' character, Wahlberg has been overlooked this awards season, which is a true disappointment. He is what holds the film together; without Wahlberg the film would lack an element of charm that none of the other characters can bring.

That being said, although the acting in The Fighter is none short of a master class, the film is let down in other departments. Direction is inconsistent and fails to find its own style; switching between heavy handed camera work to wide shots of Ward's apartment. Throughout it feels like director, David O. Russell (I Heart Huckerbees, Thee Kings), wants to show every way in which a movie can be shot, which at times sadly distracts the audience from the real selling point - the story. The music falls short also as it misses an opportunity to add drama to many of the most important scenes.

Nonetheless, this film gives us a fantastic insight into family disfunction and the lonely world of chasing glory. It's definitely worth a see if you're a fan of these actors too, as The Fighter showcases them at their best.


I've just set up a Twitter account (downward slope from here...)!


If you say Twitter over and over again it sounds really weird.


The Streets: 'Computers and Blues'

Image: Phil Fisk for the Observer

'Computers and Blues' represents The Streets at their best; each song is nothing like the one before and the sound is completely engaging. When I was first properly exposed to The Streets it was with their second album 'A Grand Don't Come For Free'. The story telling nature of the record and each song giving you a different insight into the mystical mind of Mr Skinner was something that impressed me the most. And his latest, and perhaps last, venture is nothing less. We get the feeling from 'Computers and Blues' that The Streets have come to a natural close, and so consciously play homage to what they know to be their strengths. Honest lyrics, sensitive melodies and an emotional arc are all there. The tracks that stand out to me are 'Blip On The Screen', 'We Can Never Be Friends' and 'Trying To Kill M.E.' as they demonstrate how Mike Skinner is not perhaps the hard edged bad boy that we may understand him as through the media, but actually a reflective yet troubled individual who finds his comfort in his music.

The final song on the record, 'Lock The Locks', ends rather abruptly, as if it has been accidently cut-off before it's finished. Is this purposeful? Is Mike Skinner trying to suggest that in fact he isn't ready to retire just yet? It might be wishful thinking but I really hope so. The Streets offer us a rare, refreshingly original side of British music that is quickly being overlooked with the likes of Cheryl Cole and X-Factor contestants dominating the charts. It has been said that Mike Skinner has recently become a father for the first time, so if the break in music has coincided with his choice to stay at home more and shy away from the public glare, than that must be appreciated. I just hope that 'Computers and Blues' won't be the last we'll hear from the man and The Streets.

You can stream 'Computers and Blues' on The Guardian website here. The album is out on 7th February, 2011.

Benoit Millot's 'Be Linen'

I came across this really lovely short on www.hypebeast.com. The film follows the production of Linen - from soil in the ground to catwalk shows. I never knew the fabric went through such an intricate process before it appears as we know it. The film is beautifully shot and Millot fantastically conveys the importance this material is to the people that love it; the awe and respect they feel towards it is something that's captured brilliantly.


Facebook 'aving a laf

Pirate English gives a refreshing take on something which is usually mundanely boring... I especially love "What be troublin' ye?" in the status box and "34 shots o'rum ago" indicating the time of the post.
To check it out yourself: Scroll to the bottom of your Facebook page where it says in little blue letters, "English (US)." Click on it. When the language box pops up, click on the arrow next to "English (US)" and select "English (Pirate)."

Diana Thater: Chernobyl (DazedDigital)

The renowned film fanatic and artist presents her new video installation about the tragic nuclear accident in northern Ukraine.

Image: Production Still; ©Diana Thater

Growing up in New York in the 1960s and 70s was bound to leave its mark on self-confessed film fanatic and artist, Diana Thater – most notably in that the word impossible doesn’t seem to register in her mind. Constantly pushing technology to its limits, this acclaimed video installation artist has just tackled her most difficult project to date: an abstract look at the post-nuclear landscape of Chernobyl.

Chernobyl – a village in northern Ukraine – is today a shell of it’s former self. Twenty-five years ago, in the midst of a bustling purpose built Soviet city, Pripyat, a nuclear power plant exploded, registering level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (the only level 7 event in history). It allegedly released 100 times more nuclear debris than Hiroshima did and is responsible for the deaths and illnesses of thousands of its former inhabitants. Today, the area stands completely deserted of humans, but in a remarkable feat of nature wild animals are slowly settling there. This is what attracted Diana Thater to the area – her interest in the conflict between human life and the natural world meant Chernobyl was the perfect place for her and her camera to explore.

Dazed Digital: How did you decide to become an artist?
Diana Thater:
I honestly don’t know! I just was an artist. I didn’t make any conscious decision to become one. I grew up in New York and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art from when I could walk. I always loved art from when I was really little.

DD: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Diana Thater:
There are two things I love, one is art and the other is film. I take inspiration from wherever I can – I read, I watch films, I look at art. I’ve made work that was inspired by Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, John Ford’s Westerns, shots of Dolphins – literally any number of places. I get ideas from everything.

DD: You’ve said in the past how interested you are by the relationship between the human and natural world. What is it that you find so fascinating?
Diana Thater
: The natural world is the only true unknown. There is always this discussion of the Asian person, or the black person, or the-this-or-the-that person being the ‘other’. But they are not ‘others’ at all. The only ‘other’ we actually have is animal. They are completely unknowable – we don’t know anything about their consciousness. We can speculate, but we don’t really know.

DD: Is this interest the reason why you decided to do a project on Chernobyl?
Diana Thater: Yeah, of course. Chernobyl is the only post-apocalyptic, or post-human landscape on earth. Today it’s falling into ruins, but it still looks like a city; there’s stores, apartment buildings, schools. And even though it’s completely deserted and falling apart, animals are moving into the city. So, on the one hand you have this perfectly preserved Soviet city from 1970, and on the other hand you have this post-apocalyptic landscape where animals are living.

DD: How long where you there filming for?
Diana Thater:
Seven days, and a preliminary visit of two days in the summer.

DD: While you were there what kind of feelings did you experience?
Diana Thater:
It was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I’ve worked in Central Africa, I’ve worked with tigers and done things that people consider ‘dangerous’, but this was the hardest. When you go to Chernobyl it’s incredibly depressing. It has something of a concentration camp feeling because there are things like piles of children’s shoes and rusted baby beds in maternity hospitals. My assistant had to leave – it was too much for her. She was living in Chernobyl in 1986 when the explosion happened, and we went back to her apartment and found a calendar from that year. She remembered it all.

DD: Is this piece political? Does it say that something good can come from such a horrific and terrible event?
Diana Thater:
I think it’s both political and cultural. Chernobyl represents the failure of lots of things – a massive political system, a way of life, of science. Yet even with the human failures, nature continues to persist. Not because it wants or chooses to, but because it must.

DD: Is the video trying to say that nature will always persist then?
Diana Thater: That’s a hope!

DD: Why do you choose to convey your art through video and motion picture?
Diana Thater:
I think that film is the only place – other than music – where you can experience duration, and I am very interested in that. I also like to invent little techniques and make cameras do what they’re not supposed to. When I think of new work I’m thinking about what I’m going to do with a camera or edit system that I’ve never done before.

DD: What’s next for you?
Diana Thater:
Have a long nap! No, but seriously, I’m always thinking about the next thing. As soon as a piece is done, I’m always thinking about what’s next.

Chernobyl shows at Hauser & Wirth London, Piccadilly, 28 January – 5 March 2011


'Just For Kicks' (2005)

Here is a great documentary that was made in 2005, about the evolution of sneakers, with particular reference to their popularity boom in the 1980s. It doesn't simply talk about the designs, but also investigates the symbolic meaning of the footwear - what status symbols particular shoes can offer, how they can make someone feel and also the role music played in making trainers a staple in everyday wear. It's really well made and tells an interesting, original story.

(If the video doesn't work go to - http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6444453634416523444# - to see it)


Room 101: Frankie Boyle

I am still stunned by the shocking display of nonchalance both the BBC and Channel 4 have shown this past year. Both British TV channels have in their own way supported the vile and grotesque jibes controversial comedian, Frankie Boyle, has made towards certain factions of society by refusing to publicly apologise for the offense he has caused.

Boyle, a Scottish comedian best known for his shocking and dark humour, has been a panellist on the BBC’s popular comedy show Mock The Week, and currently has his comedy stand-up show Tramadol Nights aired on Channel 4. This past year saw several of his sketches scrutinised by the public and media at their outrageous content.

One incident occurred when Boyle referred to the British Olympic gold winner, Rebecca Adlington, as someone whose face resembled the reflection you get when looking into the back of a spoon. This dig, made on the satirical and often offensive Mock The Week, was magnified in the media’s response to Adlington’s public call for an apology from the BBC and the comedian himself. The public, on the issue of the apology, were split. Many were supportive of Adlington’s claim, but thousands of people also thought that because the athlete is in the public eye, she has to accept that she is now open to public observation.

With this understanding, because she is by trade a swimmer who happens to have won international recognition for her abilities, is she now anyone’s game merely for the fact that she has been on TV a few times? More importantly, does she now have to accept that she can be made fun of on national television for something entirely irrelevant to her ‘fame’ in the first place?

This bizarre logic was used last month when Katie Price’s (aka Jordan) heavily disabled son, Harvey, was picked on once again by Boyle. His quips ranged from “Jordan and Peter Andre are still fighting each other over custody of Harvey – eventually one of them will lose and have to keep him” to him assuming that the reason why Price married a cage fighter was because she “needed a man strong enough to stop Harvey from f*****g her”.

The ‘price of fame’ logic would suggest that because Harvey has appeared in Jordan’s many reality TV shows he too now has to accept being publicly attacked because he is in the ‘public eye’. But why is it that even a disabled child, who has no means of defending himself, is not off limits? If we allow bullies, of which I would classify Boyle to be, to appear on TV and online for the world to see, what is stopping a child in the playground to laugh at a disabled or ‘different’ looking classmate? We would have to respect what the child had to say, and allow him to continue to say it, if we are to follow the example set by the BBC and Channel 4. And this example isn’t being set on obscure channels that no one watches, they are happening on mainstream television, and more disturbingly, these comedians are being paid to say these remarks.

I find it humiliating that in our society we still have set-backs to social progression in the form of bigots like Frankie Boyle and the bosses of institutions like Channel 4, and it is my biggest hope that in 2011 our moral compass will begin to re-align itself.