Home > art, cultural commentary > On getting a hoody (and related things)

On getting a hoody (and related things)

Palm tree in the conservatory at the Barbican, London

Conservatory at the Barbican, London

I’ll explain the pic later…

Today I’m sitting at home checking URLs in a training package – about two-thirds are outdated so it’s slow going. Yesterday, however, I was in London to see my younger son get his new hoody.

By ‘hoody’, of course, I mean his academicals – the gown and hood worn for a graduation ceremony.

Afterwards we went for a meal just next to Smithfield market, in a place that appears to sell entire sides of beef on a plate. The place is only a few yards from the site of the now-disappeared Fortune of War public house, the centre of the ‘resurrectionist’ trade – the sale of stolen corpses for medical dissection – until the Anatomy Act 1832 cleaned up the whole business of obtaining cadavers for medical students to work on. There’s quite a lot more information on this, incidentally, on Wikipedia for the ghoulishly inclined.

Just to be on the safe side, I had the fish… and my son’s a vegetarian anyway.

When all the festivities were over I nipped back to the Barbican (where the ceremony had been) because their art gallery has an exhibition ‘The Surreal House’ that runs until 12 September. It seems to have attracted quite a lot of attention. It’s big (170-ish works) and several of the pieces are either installations that periodically do stuff, or video pieces that run for maybe 10-15 minutes.

I’ve had a long-time interest in surrealism, so this was an opportunity to see (or see again) a number of well-known pieces, and find some new treasures in particular, for me, the work of Joseph Cornell (miniatures of artworks inside carry cases), Maya Deren and Jan Švankmajer. The first item in the exhibition, incidentally, is an old Buster Keaton silent film – and looking at it in this context, it’s interesting see that much of the humour and even the direction and production of the film seems to owe a great deal to surrealist influences. Or maybe the surrrealists were influenced by Keaton? I don’t know. Something to explore further when I have time – I’m assuming there’s a literature on this somewhere!

Much of the exhibition reminded me of the old Guy Bachelard paper on ‘The Phenomonology of the House, from Cellar to Attic’ (something like that anyway: I could get the proper reference but I’m being lazy). It’s an exploration of moods, meanings, and desire – sexual desire, given the links between surrealism and psychoanalysis, but differentiated into many forms – and how they are influenced by, but also expressed in, architecture and design.

Anyway, it’s an intriguing exhibition and I’d highly recommend it if you can get there.

Finally, the reason for the pic at the top of this piece – it’s random, a shot of a palm tree in the Barbican conservatory, taken from the gallery cafe that overlooks it, after I’d overloaded on surrealism for a couple of hours. Make of it what you will!

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  1. July 23, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Ghoulish themes seem to follow you wherever you go. Sounds like ideas for a new story…

  2. July 23, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    So they do. Can’t imagine why that would be… But yes, I did make a few notes for a story. I just need to get another dozen or so ideas that are in the queue written up into stories first.

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