Sweet and Sour Pork

Photo of Sweet and Sour Pork dish
I recently acquired a copy of a great cookbook called Chinese Regional Cooking by Deh-Ta Hsiung from 1979. I have been learning all sorts of interesting recipes and the methods and ingredients common in Chinese cooking. Coincidentally a new Chinese supermarket has opened up at the end of my road so I’m pretty sorted for ingredients. This dish is always a weakness of mine when ordering Chinese takeaway but I always find myself disappointed by the tiny amount of pork they put in there surrounded by tonnes of batter and in a too sweet/simply flavoured sauce. Turns out the sauce is quite simple to make and in terms of ingredients, but it tastes a whole lot better made at home and with proper sized portions of pork. I’ll post the recipe here later.

How designers can reduce carbon emissions

I just stumbled upon this brilliant article which is actually a presentation given by a designer at a green-design conference, but he’s included all his slides and videos in the page so it works nicely on his blog.

In this article he points to the massive responsibility designers have in terms of being ‘green’, Eg there is the obvious dilemma (for a print designer) that they make money designing stationary and brochures and the more they design the more money they make, when really we should be encouraging companies to go paperless and use email and websites instead (ha! that’s why I’m a web designer 🙂 ).

But what is most fascinating about his article, aside from the wicked video animation of all the flight activity over the USA in a day, are the ideas he got out of air traffic controllers about how use of fuel and emissions might be reduced:

“Better airport signage = better retrieval of baggage = better turn around time for aircraft loading and unloading = more gates available through operating hours = more aircraft can be landed in a given time period = less aircraft time in the air waiting to land = less fuel wastage from circling aircraft.”

So designers can actually help make a massive difference, and reduce carbon emissions by designing better signage. Now that’s a little more significant than the impact a batch of compliments slips has on the planet don’t you think?

Check out Ben Terret’s article I am a designer, use me better here

A Recurring Sequence of Events

Photo of audio sculpture in bell tower

Now that I’ve got my camera back (from being temporarily lost to a friend of a friend’s car… oops!) I can post this photo of Alex’s stunning audio installation in Hackney’s St Augustine’s Tower. This is what you found after walking up the very tiny spiral staircase, accompanied by the sound of a D minor chord which seemed to chase up the staircase beside you and then disappear off, only to return again a little while later. There were speakers installed in the ceiling of the staircase, and in some of the side chambers along the way. The source of the sound was revealed at the very top, alongside the bell (which rang just as I got to the top – wow! that is LOUD), by a customised record player which was not playing a record but consisted of 72 copper plates which were each connected to a speaker somewhere in the tower, and each speaker played the chord as the revolving copper brush made contact with it. All this was hooked up to a synthesiser, with the D minor chord held down by tape. This art installation was not only perfectly suited to the site, but the sculptural/audio creating element was so carefully constructed and considered. What makes Alex Baker’s audio installation and sculpture work stand out, is that he gives the elements which create the sound as much attention as the audio itself, so the work is aesthetically pleasing to both the eye and the ear.
Watch/listen to a video clip of the artwork (mpeg – 40 seconds)
More photos of A Recurring Sequence of Events on my Flickr stream
More about Alex Baker’s art on his website

Tunng Bullets video

I seem to be only posting video these days… I’m not quite sure why except that I keep coming across good stuff! So what I suggest is that you watch this video while you have the Four Eyed Monsters video I posted about below/before loading in another tab. This Tunng video is wonderful and hilarious. The bundle of stuff floating through space somehow seems to sum up Tunng’s music, and the way it is animated to the sound fits perfectly. I love Becky’s leg movements sticking out of the planet of Tunng, in fact, all of the various Tunng members are sticking out of the planet in some way or another… brilliant! Best of Haines’ Tunng videos so far, I’d say.

Four Eyed Monsters movie

I just watched this fantastic feature-length film on You Tube called Four Eyed Monsters. It is essentially a true love story made by two artists who met over the internet and then decided to make a film about their lives. The film is partly real-life footage (one of them is a filmmaker and video documents his life) and partly animations of drawings (the other draws/paints and documents her life in this medium) as well as specially shot scenes.

It might sound like a narcissistic endeavour, but I think it captures the way all our lives are saturated with online activity and digital documentation, and so watching the film on You Tube seems to make sense. Although a video sharing website is an appropriate context, this film is not limited by or to the internet – it has been shown at film festivals and at screenings around the world, and I am tempted to buy a DVD of it in order to enjoy a richer, higher definition visual experience.

Shot mainly in New York, the film includes some beautiful shots of the city, time-lapse and also video collage – a few times, they present video clips of other people speaking about their love lives, framed in the little thumbnail profile boxes of a myspace page. It is all very familiar territory, but interestingly, they met in a pre-Myspace time, when online networking/dating wasn’t something you talked about – so the appeal of this film grew as they worked on it and the online social networking phenomena really took off.

I like the way the film ends – at some point it switches into pure documentary mode and you start to get a glimpse of how and where it was fabricated. But at the same time as you are wondering if it was all just a grand fiction, you see the same two characters again, documented ‘behind the scenes’ making the story we’ve just been watching. Turns out the drama of their relationship is no less intense or real, in fact it is intensified (and nearly ruined) by this self-reflexive film making process [no kidding!]. They even edited in scenes of them receiving the acceptance call for the Slamdance film festival, so those first viewers almost saw themselves on the screen.

And so their story continues…

Watch the video above (you’ll have to wait some time while it loads) or find out more here: www.foureyedmonsters.com

Sound installation St Augustine’s Tower, Hackney

St Augustines Tower Alex Baker has a sculptural sound installation in our local clock tower on Mare Street in Hackney, St Augustine’s Tower. It is absolutely magical, to go into this space and experience it with the sound work. There is a reciprocal relationship where I think both the art and the tower gain a great deal from having the other around it. For the piece, titled A Recurring Sequence of Events, Alex has installed 72 speakers throughout the tower which are playing in a recurring ‘sequence’ of notes, which is controlled by a sculpural-audio-amplifying set up in the top of the tower. If you are in in Hackney you absolutely must take this opportunity to check out the tower, or go back if you have been in before, if you are in London anywhere else, then this is a really good reason to come visit us here in Hackney! You can get in there every weekend afternoon until the 14th October, but check out Alex’s website below for exact times.
More information on Alex Baker’s A Recurring Sequence of Events site-specific sound installation.

Saffron cauliflower bake

I’ve just made this brilliant cauliflower dish for the second time, and decided its really worth spreading the word about Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe published in the Guardian Weekend earlier this year.

Saffron Cauliflower - finished

One of my favourite things to do with cauliflower, before I discovered this recipe, (and now that I don’t eat dairy, so the obvious and rather delicious Cauliflower Cheese isn’t an option) was to saute it along with onions and green chilli, cumin seeds, freshly ground coriander and cayenne, and a squeeze of lemon juice to finish (Madhur Jaffrey provided the initial inspiration for this dish).

Ottonlenghi’s saffron cauliflower bake, which includes red onion, green olives, cumin seeds and sultanas, is a nice variation on the onion, cumin, cauliflower combination. In both cases the cauliflower is cooked just enough to be tender but firm.

Saffron Cauliflower - ingredients

And putting it together is such a pleasure—not just because its so easy—but the raw ingredients look stunning together.

[Edited 4.03.2010 to finally add photos I took of it the next time I made it!]

New season of art on Vyner Street, London

Klara Kristalova

It is the start of a new season in the art world and I can’t remember the last time I saw so many good shows in one go. Vyner Street is rocking! Starting off at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, is a group show called Effigies – which in this case refers mostly to busts as opposed to full-length figures, but not always known figures as you might expect from the title. There are, however, lots of known names in this show, like Henry Darger, Kiki Smith and Louise Bourgeois, but 2 of the highlights for me were lesser-known artists Klara Kristalova and Terence Koh.

Swedish artist Kristalova has two beautiful painted and glazed stoneware pieces in the show, The Rights of Spring (2007) (pictured) is my favourite. It is a striking but somehow tender image of a girl, head bowed, the tendrils of a waxy plant growing out of her eyes. The ceramic around the eye sockets is cracked, as if to indicate the plant forcing its way out of the sculpture, in fact, these tendrils have been fired out of the very same clay.

Terence Koh’s sculpture, The Golden Balls of My Youth (2007), is a gold plated double faced cast of his head, hung upside-down from a cable coming out of the neck. The mouths are open and you can see right through one mouth and out the other – but the surface of the lips and the inside of the mouth is distressed, it is not a continuation of the straight representation of the body inside.

Both these pieces seemed to refer to interiority, both human and sculptural. Interiority as in what we see in Kristalova’s piece, and through what we say in Koh’s work. And then both the interiors of the human form were rendered as a ruptured sculptural surface – which breaks the narrative of the figure but somehow resonates with it too.

Round the corner at Nettie Horn is another group show, The Joy, curated by participating artist Kate Street. This show has a few nice pieces, Debbie Lawson’s Collar and Cuffs (2007) being one – this is a sculpture of a little side table with plant on top, both of which have been covered in a rich patterned carpet, as if it crept up from underneath and smothered these pieces of household furniture.

There are also some interesting paintings on at Fred and sculpture at David Risley gallery – both worth a look. You’ll also want to leave time for the new Wilkinson Gallery which has just moved from round the corner to an enormous warehouse like space, which also has a project room currently showing film/video works.

Stuart Shave/Modern Art gallery website
Artist Klara Kristalova’s website
Nettie Horn gallery website

Blind Light at the Hayward

photo described below

I am really glad that I managed to get to the Anthony Gormley exhibition at the Hayward Gallery this summer. The Blind Light cloud installation was quite an experience – it was hot and damp and completely disorienting. You really couldn’t see further than the end of your arm, so at the same time as being isolated, you were really close to complete strangers, as they loomed out of the cloud right in front of you or as you listened to them call out to lost friends.
Click on the photo to see more photos of the exhibition on my Flickr stream.