The Diary: Neil Hamburger; Louis Molloy; Brunel Institute; Atkinson Grimshaw; Bobby Baker
Friday 19 August 2011
A show to relish
Fresh from Edinburgh, America's "$1 funny man" Neil Hamburger will be at London's Soho Theatre next week. A cult hero and expert handler of the anti-comedy shtick, the character is the creation of comedian Gregg Turkington (although nobody's supposed to know this). Hamburger, with his studiedly nerdy garb, deadpan nasal delivery and sinus trouble, puts the "phlegm" into "phlegmatic", wheezing and spluttering through his set. Rather than get too close, I caught up with Hamburger for a Twitter interview and found that his so-unfunny-he's-hilarious style works surprisingly well in 140 characters. In response to the suggestion that being a $1 funny man might be rather cheap, he tweeted: "It didn't used to be! Unfortunately, inflation has taken its toll on everything including monikers."
Under the city's skin
Tattooist to the stars Louis Molloy should have been celebrating a crucial inroad for tattoos into the mainstream art world this week at the opening of an exhibition of his ink designs at the Generation Pop gallery in Manchester. But when thugs kicked in the windows of the space during the riots last week, the show was called off just two days before it was due to open. "In the media, tattoos are shorthand for criminals," says Molly, who created the angel motif on David Beckham's torso. "Newspaper reports go 'Blah blah blah tattooed thug, rapist... whatever." Dr Harold Shipman was biggest serial killer this country has ever known and he wasn't tattooed. What does that tell you?" It is a shame that an exhibition which would have countered this narrow view of body art, fell victim to mindless criminality. The gallery will be closed for repairs and the show will eventually open in late September.
Not since Shakespeare for Lunch at the Bridewell Theatre (45 minute plays at 1pm) two years ago have I heard of a cultural experience designed specifically for workers to dash to in their hourly lunch break. So it is refreshing that the Brunel Institute beside Brunel's SS Great Britain in Bristol is making treasures from the life and works of the British civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel available to the public at lunchtimes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The one hour time limit is "to ensure that no long-term damage is done to the precious artefacts" from the National Brunel Archive. These range from early stereoview photographs to Brunel's locked diaries and drawings. Curators will be on hand to give historical insights and say they will take a "lucky dip" approach to what will be on display on each day, so every session will be different. Manned by a mixture of employees and volunteers, it is a great example of an arts institution defying budget constraints to do something new.
The Square Mile will host the first major Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893) exhibition in 30 years next month. Typified by his pre-Raphaelite-style townscapes, Grimshaw's distinctive nocturnal street scenes captured the hazy green beauty of Victorian cities by gaslight. In the last decade revived interest has been shown in his British contemporaries, such as Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, but Grimshaw seems to have been wrongly overlooked. An exhibition titled Moonlight aims to redress. It features 50 paintings and takes place in the evocative setting of Guildhall Art Gallery and London's Roman Amphitheatre. Special late views will include the option of "moonbeam" cocktails.
It's great when you can leave a theatre with that "feel-good factor". But the artist Bobby Baker wants to take this a little bit further by launching a "wellness road show" called Mad Gyms & Kitchens. Inspired by her experiences of mental illness, the show will use a series of large suitcases by the sculptor Charlie Whittuck, which open up to become a kitchen, gym and living room within which Baker will demonstrate the art of feeling better. The tour, which kicks off at Bath's Institute of Contemporary Interdisciplinary Arts in October, will even include that age-old answer to the blues: a cup of tea.
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