Party on: Clowning around under the big top

THERE'S A BIT of a circus theme coming through today. While I'm not a huge clowning fan (slight problems with horrifying images of Bozo turning into a pathological nutter and torching the big top, for example) my experiences this week have been strangely cathartic. Went to an early preview of Charles Kriel's installation Presenting The Amazing Kriels (June 24 - July 10), showing from Wednesday at chic ad/design collective Tomato (Lexington St, Soho) which was, in fact, amazing. American artist Kriel was born on the road and into a family of circus performers who travelled through smalltown America with their act. Kriel's installation is a homage to his family and his nomadic past. Gaudy, flashing circus lights announcing "CC Kriel" in the window beg for your attention while an array of family snaps - blown up, computer manipulated and laminated digichrome images - make an arresting collage of tribal circus life. Snaps include a candid picture of Kriel's aunt, in sparkly conical bra and fishnets, chatting flirtatiously to her future husband with an elephant smiling at her side; and yes, Bozo himself, Kriel's grandfather, standing with placard, advertising his hoolahoop act. Kriel himself was a child acrobat/ clown and still has the showman about him; as this column went to print, he was threatening to stand outside the gallery on a chair, drumming up business.

Staying with the circus, it was with raging hangover and zero good will that I went to the premiere this week of Que-Cir-Que, the French acrobatics/theatrics threesome who have been wowing Europe with their intense, inventive show. Part of the Islington International Festival (runs until June 27, Que- Cir-Que runs until July 5) at Highbury and Islington fields, Que-Cir-Que is a hybrid of music, street theatre, dance and acrobatics in which a skinheaded "Fool" vies with the "Strongman" for the affections of the aggressively sexual female trapese artist, who rather disconcertingly keeps poking her tongue out like she's trying to stick it her own nose. The two-hour show uses see-saws, pedal-less bikes, even the lighting rig as props for its radical performers. Seeing is believing but be warned: if you take your kids along they'll be bored out their brains (no Bozo) and will whine until you go. So leave them at home and enjoy yourself in peace.

You might not have heard of Ape. It's a quarterly, A3 newspaper stock mag, into its fourth issue ("Summer"), and currently selling for a pound a pop in Tower Records. To celebrate the new issue, the Apers recently threw their second "exotic cabaret" night called Gibber at Spitz Bar (Spitalfields Market) where an glowing array of poets, musicians and total oddballs took to the stage, did their thing and mostly got booed off again. The mag is "creatively yours", full of strange illustrations, stories and poetry, and it's bonkers. I like it. Worth a peek for a mere quid, and at least it's aiming for amusement value, which is more than you can say of most street mags these days.

Musically, congrats firstly to trip hop king Howie B and his Head-on Collision night which went off earlier this week at Crossbar (Pentonville Rd, Islington), the first in Howie's first monthly London residency. An ace night, with Derek Dahlarge along for the ride and a friendly, if somewhat sparse, crowd (not enough PR apparently). A welcome return planned for July 16. Also, great to see Detroit's darling Kevin Saunderson back on UK shores on Friday at The Complex for Quadrafunk. As far as today goes, if you're feeling in the mood for some music, check out Lazy Dog at Notting Hill Arts Club, a fortnightly gig from Everything But the Girls' Benn Watt and Black Market's chief buyer Jay Hannan which started up a few months back. NHAC pulls in a dedicated local crowd and Watt and Hannan's soulful, funky dance has been going down a treat.

On to film, and usually I wouldn't write about something I couldn't recommend, but last night I saw a movie which was so bad it deserves to be harangued from the hilltops. A sense of fairness forbids an all-out attack, so I'll just offer some clues to its name: nucleur mutation, big, ugly mother of a reptile, New York City, Matthew Broderick, special FX, Hollywood tripe. Work it out for yourself. The great unmentionable opens on July 17.

Finally, on a chirpier note, I went to the opening of an awesome new exhibition in Berry House, St John St, Clerkenwell, called Solo x 9: Artists in Clerkenwell (runs until August 8). The warehouse space - a former brewery - has only been in use since April and it's absolutely fantastic. Three huge floors of space, perfect to display the nine young, urban artists. While I am stubbornly hostile to Clem Crosby's single-coloured canvases (eg. a completely black painting, costs a completely daft pounds 8,000. Outrageous, Clem!), I loved Neil Cummings' witty, politicised work. His display cabinets were all made from discarded cardboard and elegantly designed to look like wood, with a collection of various plastic bottles set out inside as if they were precious jewels. Also impressive were Liz Rideal's "photobooth" shots, and Susan Hiller, perhaps the best known of the exhibiting artists, with her Wild Talents video installation. Two complementing programmes played on two separate vast screens, with a small angled television playing a third programme on a chair in the middle. Using clips from horror films, and including stars like Carrie Fisher, Drew Barrymore, the installation was creepy but effective in its celebration of the power of the mind, and the evil possibility. Spooky.

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