Field Trip #13: BBC 6 Music, ICA, Tate Modern, BFI — London

When we were invited down to Radio 6 Music, we thought it would make perfect material for a London Field Trip…

This particular Field Trip has been a long time coming. London is one of our favourite places to visit, simply to immerse ourselves in some of that LDN cultural goodness that feels unique to the place.

We have friends and family there, but somehow it’s been a year since our last trip, back when The Double Negative was only just a little more than a glint in our eyes.

But when Lauren Laverne tweeted us (yes, THAT Lauren Laverne), inviting us to appear on the Web Chat feature (showcasing an independent website)  on her 6 music show,via phone, we cheekily asked whether it would be okay to drop into the studio, meet the team and make it part of a wider field trip. Wonderfully, the answer was yes!

Trains (and coaches – ugh) were hastily booked, and plans made. Really though, all we could think about was the inevitable possibility of being too star struck. What had we got ourselves into, here? When the time came, it was over in what seemed like a flash. Lauren and her team made us feel welcome and relaxed, so that it felt just like having a chat with some new mates.

“What had we got ourselves into, here?”

Our slot happened to follow the previous day’s session featuring Liverpool-based Stealing Sheep. It was already a good week for Liverpool. The bizarre thrill of our Radio 6 experience over, we wanted to make the most of the rest of the day.

First stop was the Institute of Contemporary Arts in SW1. Founded by a group of radical artists and writers in the 1940s as a space for experimental and challenging arts practice, the ICA is always on the ‘to do’ list. Aside from its well-earned reputation for exhibitions, the place has a staggeringly good selection of books, magazines and DVDs to relieve you of some cash.

If you manage to make it beyond the book shop (as we somehow eventually did), you’ll find current exhibition – and UK premiere – Days, by Bruce Nauman. The sound installation, which employs nothing other than 14 flat panel speakers playing a loop of seven voices randomly reciting the days of the week, looks initially a little on the bare (and dare we say it, gimmicky) side.

Purportedly, it “invokes both the banality and the profundity of the passing of each day, and invites reflection on how we measure, differentiate and commemorate time”. We’re not sure about that, but once you immerse yourself in the work, there is a sea-change in attitude, and any cynicism quickly goes out of the window.

“Once you immerse yourself in the work … any cynicism quickly goes out of the window”

The voices from a short distance sound like many overlapping conversations, but on closer inspection, the individuals really are just reciting days. It’s a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece we’re glad to have caught. If you’re in London next weekend, it would be remiss of us not to point you in the direction of the ICA’s Bowiefest, too.

In the cafe, we’d arranged to meet with founder of the Craftivist Collective (and long time friend of TDN), Sarah Corbett. Set up in 2009, their remit is “to expose the scandal of global poverty, and human rights injustices though the power of craft and public art. This will be done through provocative, non-violent creative actions”. It’s a growing movement, one which has caught the attention of The Times and The Observer Magazine to name just two.

Corbett wanted to show us around her new workspace, the Hub Westminster. Situated on a floor of the New Zealand Embassy on the corner of Pall Mall and Haymarket, the Hub is easily one of the cooler co-working spaces we’ve set foot in, and worth considering as a template for anybody looking to do something similar in Liverpool. With different levels of membership (there are regulars and hot-deskers), the Hub features a coffee bar and (somehow outdated looking) Skype stations. Yep. Skype stations.

A beautiful day, we decided (after another, much needed coffee break) to go check out the recently opened – following decades of inactivity -  Tanks at Tate Modern. The exhibitions here – among them Suzanne Lacy’s The Crystal Quilt and Light Music by Lis Rhodes – are free, but more than that, they’re worth a look simply for the fascinating architecture their opening has revealed. If you’re on London’s south bank, it’s more than worth seeing.

“It is truly a classic of the silent era”

It had been a long, if amazing, day, but we had one last thing to do. And in this case, there is something in the old ‘saving the best ‘til last’ saying. 2012 is the year the British Film Institute have chosen to as their Genius of Hitchcock season. This “major celebration of the most influential and iconic British film director of all time” happily meant that a remastered screening of The Lodger coincided with our visit.

Starring Ivor Novello, The Lodger is the tale of a spate of murders, all of women with golden hair. Investigations coincide with the titular lodger taking a room with a family, who, you guessed it, have a golden-haired daughter. It is truly a classic of the silent era.

Having never seen it before, we wondered whether we’d have felt the same about it had it not been accompanied by an all new score from Mercury nominated and MOBO winning Nitin Sawhney. Referencing – though not reliant on – Hitchcock’s most prolific composer Bernard Herrmann (responsible for producing the scores of Psycho, Vertigo and North by Northwest to name but three), it is in turn suspenseful, emotive and beautiful.

Watching at the quaintly old-fashioned (but plush) BFI cinema was a genuine treat, one which added a final frisson to a day which, though we can always hope, will be hard to match.

Listen to our Web Chat with Lauren Laverne here – we’re about 41 minutes in! 

Bruce Nauman: Days continues at the ICA until the 16th September 2012

Alfred Hitchcock retrospective runs at BFI Southbank until October 2012

Read The Big Interview: Lauren Laverne

Posted on 25/08/2012 by thedoublenegative