Archives for the month of: January, 2013

birds2

Come on birds! Swoop down and enjoy this feast I’ve prepared for you, you ingrates!

Are there more birds around the garden when it’s snowing, or do you just see them more clearly against a white background? Whatever the reason, I’m more aware of them at the moment. And full of pity as they sit in the tree, feathers fluffed up against the cold. I’ve never been particularly interested, except in the occasional bird of prey: a hawk hovering over the A27 or a buzzard high up. No twitcher, I. Still, I find myself rubbing up a load of breadcrumbs from the loaf I’m about to eat (such compassion!), and even mixing in some mashed-up peanuts, and pulling the fat off slices of prosciutto (lucky birds!), some seeds, rice… That is right, isn’t it? I’m not going to make their little stomachs swell up and burst, am I?

Anyway, I carry a blue plastic tray full of this birdfeast out into the thick snow, still falling heavily, in bare feet so I don’t slide on the treacherous decking (and also to feel the effect of bare feet in snow in a Finnish sauna sort of way) and slide it up onto the wobbly wooden arbour. Then retire to watch them all swoop! I imagine myself as a St Francis of Assissi figure, arms outstretchrd with birds sitting on every horizontal surface of me…  Except that they don’t swoop. I sit in a warm living room, reasonably still, waiting…. After 15 minutes, and many birds flying past, none have landed. Perhaps blue plastic is the most unnatural element that a bird can think of (I’m not sure if birds really think). Perhaps a camouflage-finish tray would be better.

After a while the blue has all but disappeared under snow, and birds are feeling more comfortable with the lumps sticking through the white, and they queue up to get at the food. Well, I say queue, but the thrush or starling or blackbird stands in the middle pecking away, while the sparrows, chaffinches, blue-tits and robins hop around nervously waiting for the big thing to finish, before making off fast with a crumb.

You see, in the meantime, I’ve found the RSPB bird recognition web-site… Great, the internet, isn’t it?

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DLWPAV

A rosy dusk outside the De La Warr Pavilion’s stairwell. The camera swings in slow-motion side to side across the curved banister, and outside on the balcony, elderly couples waltz gracefully to Schubert’s Nocturne in E Major. It’s a beautiful and moving experience. I’m in a large dark gallery, at the De La Warr, and in the middle is a large double-sided screen on which the film is projected. Outside the room is the actual stairwell. And outside that, outside the curved glass, the waves are crashing onto the beach.

It’s part of Breakwell’s exhibition Keep Things As They Are. (The title is taken from his anti-Conservative leafleting campaign Vote Conservative and keep things as they are). It’s also ironic, as his work was experimental and groundbreaking, and he was one of the key members of the British art avant-garde. He was, but died in 2005, shortly before the re-opening of the Pavilion and its first exhibition, which he’d curated. He is mostly known for his Diary, which he started in 1965 and kept for forty years. It takes different forms: collages, photographs, drawings, text and calligraphy, and video.

I am in a small room now, and on each of the four walls is a life-size charcoal drawing of Thelonious Monk in profile, walking in a circle. I put on the headphones and walk in the same direction, round and round, hearing 12 bars of Monk’s Misterioso played over and over, seeing my reflection in the glass of the drawings. I can make the 12 bars last one circuit if I walk slowly.

Finally, I see a text on a wall: 50 Reasons For Getting Out Of Bed – and they are beautiful reasons: …’Lionel Hampton solo on Stardust. Freshly poured pint of Guinness settling on the bar. White butterfly on purple buddleia…’ (It’s shocking that when he finally gets up it is with pain and nausea from his chemotherapy). Inside the dark room is what appears to be a huge photograph of his face, while his rasping voice reflects on his life. After a while you realise that his face is slowly changing. It has changed from baby to its final sunken state.

It’s deeply moving, and you leave the De La Warr with a New Year’s resolution: make every day count. See it if you can: it closes 13 January.