Thursday 30 June 2011

and now for dessert ...

"It only remains to speak of the desserts, something for which the City is famous. The cassata is a symbol of this reputation. But in its triumph of triglycerides and colours baroquely assembled, the cassata merely represents that with the City-dwellers wish to display of themselves. The equivalent to the traditional cart, a mass of ornaments and plumes.

In contrast with the joyous extroversion of the classic cassata, maybe the almost black-and-white sobriety of the cassata
al forno needs to be considered; here the outside envelope of tender pastry is content to screen the treasure of ricotta within. The fact is, if it is possible to trace one characteristic the City-dwellers all have in common, it must definitely be found in the introversion of the cassata al forno, more than in the extroversion of the traditional cassata, a dessert that is all facade.

As a general rule, the cassata is an old-fashioned sweet that is only bought as a present, to discharge an obligation, to make a payment in kind for some professional service. The same holds true for the
buccellato, a repulsive variant on the strudel; it is given as a present at Christmas, a tiny bit of it is eaten and the rest goes into the dustbin before Epiphany.

This is because on the Island pastries, almost all of them of Arab inspiration, are very high in calories. They might well represent a nutritional experiment for astronauts, the way they address the need to contain the maximum nutritive value in the minimum bulk. A slice of cassata is the equivalent of a full meal.

The same is true of cannoli (cream horns) and other local specialities - line them all up and they make a whole nursery rhyme of assorted sugars adapted to the various times of year and the requirements of the calendar: melon ice, blancmange, martorana fruit, lamb-shaped meringues, kubbaita, honeycake, candied chestnuts, puma, 'ncilippati, sugar babies, mustazzola, cuccia (made with wheat flour, milk, sugar and cinnamon), minne de vergine, 'patate', sfinci di San Giuseppe, keys of St Peter, Sacred Hearts, Turks' heads, sammartinelli, reginelle and lastly the latest fantastic invention from a pastry cook in Via Colonna Rotta: the torta Setteveli, a chocolate confection destined to outlast the vagaries of time and taste.

The requirement for lightness envisaged by modern life leaves us to predict the extinction, or the preservation in a museum, of many of these sweet specialities. This fate has recently overtaken the 'Triumph of Greed', a high calorie bombe of green pistachio, compared with which the cassata is dieters' food. The last people to make it were the nuns in the Convent of the Virgins, at the back of the Teatro Biondo, and then only to order. A City legend claims that the milk used for the ricotta was produced by the nuns personally. Today the weight and elaboration of the 'Triumph of Greed' is still remembered, but even this memory will have been lost in a few years' time."

From Roberto Alajmo,
Palermo, trans. Guido Waldman, London: Haus Publishing, 2010

Wednesday 29 June 2011

good luck everybody

‘We've come a long way to be here and what's more we've come a long way to be here together’ (Lone Twin, On Everest).

As Gregg Whelan points out in one of the interviews in this book, the phrase ‘Good luck everybody’ has often been spoken at the beginning of Lone Twin performances, framing the event ‘in a way that suggests that even in reading a text there’s something at stake that has to do with well-being’.

On one level it contains a serious proposition - this shared encounter might just help a little, it suggests - and at the same time of course it is also a joke: a semi-formal civic pleasantry marking the beginning of a collective ‘adventure’, a small playful wish that all of those present and implicated will have the wherewithal to make it through ‘safely’ to its ending.

This phrase, co-opted as part of the title of this book, encapsulates in miniature certain characteristics at the heart of Lone Twin’s work. As an utterance it references other social situations that are a bit like their brand of performance – gigs, sport, stand-up, public speeches or presentations, long excursions, and so on. In these social events, journeys and rituals, something is to be worked through and transformed, for they are undertakings in which effort will need to be expended in order to attain a position in which something has shifted; and the possibility of failure is always there like a shadow.

The phrase also suggests that art making is always, and before all else, a social practice, made in the company of others; and that language is a core component of the give-and-take of social relationality, its dynamic play. These words invite imaginative complicity and a willingness to be implicated, to go for the ride.

Finally, and paradoxically, this phrase embeds humour within the tissue of something being fully committed to and invested in collectively, a humour that exposes and undoes something of the absurdity of received versions of ‘heroism’. For, like the performers, we are invited to be participants in a task that is both meaningful and insubstantial, gravitied and at the same time as light and throwaway as a gag or a game. (How many football coaches have uttered this phrase as their players jog out on to the pitch to engage in something that’s both utterly ‘serious’ and ridiculous?).

True seriousness admits and is contoured by laughter, lightness and folly; whereas earnestness is monotonal and monolithic, and gravity invariably wins. For all that’s at stake, for all of the real effort required and expended, perhaps there is liberation in conceiving of such work with both an immersive, blooded belief and the pleasure of a letting-go-lightly that is in the most affirmative and radical sense ‘child-like’.

As Tom Waits once said in an interview about song writing, ‘Children make up the best songs anyway. Better than grown-ups. Kids are always working on songs and throwing them away, like little origami things or paper airplanes. They don’t care if they lose it; they’ll just make another one …’

Reflecting on the devising process for Lone Twin Theatre’s Alice Bell in 2006, David Williams suggests that, within Whelan and Winters’ approach: ‘“naivety” and the “amateur” are qualities to be worked and affirmed and celebrated, and it’s often uncomfortable in terms of my own received ideas. It’s like hanging out with two disarmingly smart kids whose perceptions unsettle and surprise, and invite me into elsewhere and otherwise’.

This book, co-edited by two academics with an ongoing engagement in Lone Twin’s work, one of them as a long-term collaborator, is the first major publication to reflect upon Lone Twin’s protean body of work, and detail the development of its core concerns, processes and forms; its intellectual, aesthetic and social contexts; its continuities and evolutions; its perceptions, humour and paradoxes.

Furthermore this book is another kind of collaborative and collective ‘adventure’ in which you, the readers, will determine what’s at stake in its matter for you - what matters - and what’s disposable, the stuff of paper planes. At its outset, and as a way of marking the transition to the core materials it contains, we would like to take this opportunity to wish you a safe and pleasurable passage through its pages.

Good luck everybody…

Extract from the introduction by David Williams & Carl Lavery to a new book, Good Luck Everybody: Lone Twin - Journeys, Performances, Conversations, Aberystwyth: PR Books, 2011. Designed by Kevin Mount. 364 pp. ISBN: 978-1-906499-02-0

© David Williams & Carl Lavery / PR Books 2011

Book launched in May 2011 at the Anatomy Theatre, King's College, University of London

Contributors include: Emma Brodzinski, John Hall, Daniel Ladnar, Barry Laing, Carl Lavery, Larry Lynch, Esther Pilkington, Rebecca Shatwell, Nina Tecklenburg, Patrick Primavesi, Alan Read, Gregg Whelan, David Williams, Gary Winters

** For further details, and to buy the book via the CPR's online bookshop, see here

Monday 27 June 2011

those dancing days (3): night/sky

Images from Avalon, Shangri-La, The Common, The Unfair Ground, and Arcadia (Glastonbury Festival, 2011): at the top, Tim Etchells' installed LED text

those dancing days (2)

those dancing days (1)

Some Glastonbury bands, 2011 - from the top: Stockholm's Those Dancing Days, TV On The Radio, Warpaint (Theresa Wayman and Jenny Lee Lindberg), Fleet Foxes (Robin Pecknold and Josh Tillmans), The Master Musicians of Joujouka (watched by Cerys Matthews), James Vincent McMorrow's guitarist & drummer, John Grant (singing Sigourney Weaver), James Blake & flaring punters, 'like a waterfall in slow motion' ...