Thursday, March 29, 2012

Christian Marclay

Christian Marclay is a Swiss-American artist. Constantly moving from New York to London, he has already received many rewards for his performances and works of art. Moreover, he was named by some magazines as “One of the 10 most important artists of today”.
The artist was born on 11 January 1955 in California. He moved to Switzerland with both his parents and went to the “Ecole Supérieure d’Art Visuel” in Geneva. In 1977 he went back to the US and graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and the Cooper Union in New York.
Since the 70s, this visual artist and composer has been fascinated by the connections between sound, photography, noise, video and film.  His speciality soon became the sticking and stacking of sound or picture excerpts. He actually played in a band performing in underground clubs and created himself his music instruments, for example using a turntable to make an electric guitar. He improved his mixing of sounds and visual sources and even became a model for next generations of young artists daily using numeric mixing of voice recording. He is also considered as the inventor of turntablism.

Christian Marclay created many works of art and performances. Two of them are going to be introduced.

The Clock

“The Clock” is a record installation. This work is composed of 3000 film excerpts and lasts 24 hours, synchronized with the real time. You can then look at it at any moment of the day and be sure it gives the right time.
“The Clock” spreads the artist’s love for the cinema and breaks with any linear or narrative sequence. The work of art is a tribute to the cinema’s history since more than 100 years and the affirmation of today’s cinema. It was shown for the first time at the White Club Gallery of London in 2010 and found favour with the public. After some presentations of his work, Christian Marclay eventually received the Golden Lion of the best artist in 2011. Six assistants helped him finding the sequences, but Marclay himself did the whole editing.

Record without a cover

It is what the title suggests: A record without a cover, i.e. a vinyl LP distributed without any protective package. It was created in 1985 and is one of Marclay’s most notorious pieces of art.
The record itself is a mix of other records. Owner of the LP are instructed not to keep it in any protective sleeve so that every single album remains individual, marked by their own history and by everybody that came into contact with it. For Marclay, the LP comes alive. He wished the medium to come through and to create “a record that could change with time and would be different from one copy to the next.”

Sophie de Streel and Josua Dahmen

Monday, March 26, 2012

Jeff Wall


Jeff Wall, born in Vancouver in 1946, is a Canadian artist best known as a photographer and as an art-historical writer. He studied at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and received his MA with his thesis “Berlin Dada and the Notion of Context”. Afterwards, he worked at some universities in the field of art. He also published in 2007 essays on several contemporary artists such as Dan Graham, Ken Lum… These texts are collected in the New York Museum of Modern Art under the title of “Jeff Wall: Selected Essays and Interviews”. In 1978 he organized his first exhibition at Vancouver and presented his main oeuvre: the Destroyed Room.

His photography technique

Concerning his artistic technique, he already experimented with conceptual photography when he was an undergraduate student at UBC. It is only in 1977 that he produced his first back-light photo transparencies. His main sources of inspiration were the French poet, Charles Baudelaire and the French painter, Edouard Manet. Wall’s main objective was to recreate masterful paintings into photos. With the technique of back light, he tried to bring these masterpieces into new life. During the 1990s, Wall began to judge his work as a means of connecting film and literature with art. He started taking his pictures in the way of a Hollywood movie with large sets built for the occasion, gathered costumes and hired models. The outcome was a perfect representation of the natural world.

“The Destroyed Room”

“The Destroyed Room” is Wall’s first major work. He wanted to reconstruct the past in a photography. It depicts the violence of modern life in comparison with the ancient times. He explains that it emerged from a re-encounter with nineteenth-century art. The picture depicts a woman’s ruined room (everything is destroyed, the furniture, the floor,..). He took his inspiration from the painting "The Death of Sardanapalus” by Eugène Delacroix (1827). It represents the Assyrian monarch committing suicide with his slaves and wives after setting on fire his own city because he did not want his enemies to have his goods. The red in both the original painting and the picture represents the violent passion and the loss of control. What differs from Delacroix’s work is the absence of any characters or actions on the photography although the chaotic spread of colour and objects puts some energy in it and reminds of a recent past.

“Boy Falling From A Tree”

In “Boy Falling From A Tree”, Wall shows us a typical garden backyard: a shed, a swing hanging from a tree,… At first sight, it seems banal. However, if you look closer, we can see the lumbering figure of a boy falling from the tree. We wonder what will happen next. We are actually witnessing the moment of “just before”.


Jeff Wall is a key-icon in the art-scene for three reasons. First, he made Vancouver known by helping defining the so-called photoconceptualist paradigm. Secondly, he wrote and published many essays on the work of his contemporary colleagues such as Ian Wallace, Dan Graham, Rodney Graham,… Finally, he very often takes Vancouver’s natural beauty, urban decay and industrial featurelessness as sources of inspiration.

Charlotte Lambert and Olivia Nisolle

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fish and chips

It is very difficult to trace back the origin of fish and chips precisely. However, we know that chips (‘pommes frites’ in French) arrived in Britain from France in the eighteenth century. It was first mentioned in a recipe book called Shilling Cookery in 1854 when a chef included ‘thin cut potatoes cooked in oil’. As far as fish is concerned, it first appeared in Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist published in 1830 at a time when fish warehouses sold fried fish and bread. It is believed that the first ‘chippies’ (fish and chip shop) settled in Lancashire in the North and London in the South of England. The fish and chips trade grew massively to feed a rapidly expanding population: in 1995 the FFF (Federation of Fish Friers) claimed that the British consumed 300 million servings of fish and chips in that particular year, which represents around six servings for every man woman and child in the country. The record for the most servings sold in one day is over 4,000. Fish and chips were also helpful to feed the masses during the First World War and were one of the few dishes not to be rationed in the Second World War.

Hardly anyone can cook fish and chips at home but if you want to cook the perfect fish and chips you want to use the next ingredients. Five essential ingredients play a major role in the cooking of traditional fish and chips. The first and most important element is fish. Different sorts of fish are used in fish and chips recipes but the British’s favourite one is definitely the Cod. UK’s other favourite ones are haddock, whiting, skate and huss. However, the fish would certainly not taste the same without the batter. The batter is a mix of flour, oil, beer or lager and egg that gives a crispy coating to the fish once it has been fried. The second main ingredient in a fish and chips recipe is the potato.  People tend to use floury potato instead of waxy potato in order to prevent the chips from becoming too greasy. It is said that one British potato out of four becomes chips. Surprisingly enough, thinner chips absorb more oil and are thus less healthy than thicker ones. Another essential element is the fat, which you fry your fish and your chips in. The traditional fat was the beef dripping but it has been replaced by vegetable or corn oil, which are more suitable for vegetarians. And last but not least, the malt vinegar. It is used at the very end of the cooking and is sprinkled on the chips. This vinegar is made from grain and gives a hearty taste to the chips. In brief, fish, batter, chips, fat and vinegar are the essential ingredients that constitute traditional fish and chips.

United Kingdom is one of the major fish and chips vendors, along with Australia, New Zealand and North America. In New-York city, for example, there are four fish and chips shops in town. According to the ‘Fish&Chips Facts’, the English outlets sell roughly 25% of all white fish consumed in the United Kingdom, and 10% of all potatoes. Tourists who are willing to eat something quick and typical constitute a large part of the consumers. In the United Kingdom there are small local outlets and big chains of vendors where one can eat in place (restaurants) or take away. For temporary occasions fish and chips sell also through mobile “chip vans”. The largest chain of Fish & Chip shops and restaurants in the south of England is called ‘Deep Blue’. Its shops with restaurants are in Horsham, Oxted, Godalming, Cheddar (The Cheddar Fish Bar), Tavistock (The Tavistock) and both locations in Maidstone. Since 1893 ‘Henry Colbeck’ has been the oldest independent supplier to fish and chips shops in the United Kingdom. Traditionally vendors might want to serve the fried meal in an inner layer of white paper and an outer layer of newspaper or blank newsprint in order to absorb grease, although after some concerns expressed on the effect of ink on health, some chose to turn to a more basic wrapping instead.

Paul Smith

"I give classics just a little kick"

Born in 1946 in Nottingham, Sir Paul Smith is a famous British fashion designer. When he was 15, he left school without any qualifications and went to work in a clothing warehouse. His dream as a child was to become a racing cyclist but at the age of 17 his hope of sport career fell into pieces when he was badly injured in a cycling accident, which forced him to stay in a hospital for six months. There he met friends who introduced him to the world of art and fashion. Once he had recovered, Paul finally knew what he wanted: working in the fashion industry. After attending tailoring classes and working at Savile Row, he opened his own shop in Nottingham in 1970. Ten years later he was one of the first fashion designers to open a shop in Covent Garden. Since then he has never stopped doing his best in order to maintain his place on the fashion scene, mixing both business success and aesthetic value.

Smith started in the fashion industry with menswear collections which made him earn an international fame. Nowadays there are no less than 12 labels of the brand: Paul Smith, Paul Smith London, Paul Smith Jeans, PS by Paul Smith, etc. The women’s collection was formed in the 90’s, followed by the children’s one. With more than 200 shops and 500 wholesales, Smith’s products are now available in different parts of the world namely Antwerp, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo and Las Vegas."I give classics just a little kick" is his own motto. Paul Smith is indeed a traditional British designer with British cuts, but he always adds a colourful touch with his worldwide famous multicolour stripes.

Smith’s touch can be found in many other items: furniture, perfume, cameras, cars, and all kinds of unexpected objects such as cricket balls, the Lasonic i931 (a boom box) and lastly the London 2012 Olympic Games stamps. Not surprisingly, the man is still interested in sport but with a different approach. His contribution to sport item’s design is huge.
He has already participated to different kinds of projects such as the design of a bottle for Evian, of a Triumph motorbike, or the creation of suits for the footballers of Manchester United.
In 1991 he was recognised as an icon of the fashion industry when he got the distinction of Royal Designer for Industry given by Royal Society of Arts. This price rewards the designers for their contribution to the benefit to the nation, for their aesthetic value and design excellence. He was knighted by Queen in 2000 as Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to the nation’s fashion industry.

Being a very active man, Paul Smith is not only a name, but a talented designer and retailer as well as a photograph. At the moment, this talented artist is one of the main designers of the early 21st century and will probably not stop surprising us.

“You can find inspiration in everything (and if you can't, look again)”

by Julien Leclercq and Elisa Venturi

The National Trust

In 1884 Octavia Hill, an English social reformer, tried to save the beautiful manor house Sayes Court. The owner wanted to give it to the nation, but no organisation existed to accept the gift. This laid the foundation of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty.

The charity was founded with the aim to support and to maintain monuments and sites of public interest. It operates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but not in Scotland. The Trust’s symbol, a sprig of oak leaves and acorns, is supposed to have been inspired by an ornamental moulding of Alfriston Clergy House. This rare 14th-century house was the first building to be acquired by the National Trust in 1896. A century later the National Trust has become the biggest charity of this type in Europe and the second biggest landowner of the UK. Only the Crown possesses more land.

The National Trust is an independent charity, which raises 70% of its income from visitor’s income, lotteries, donations and legacies. The other 30% of the costs are financed by membership subscriptions. British people who are keen on gardens, old castles and cultural activities can become members of the National Trust. They will have to pay a fee – £53 for an annual membership. However, people can directly donate to the organisation or support a specific project; this is what they call ‘current appeals’. Last but not least, the only way to really get involved in the activities of the National Trust is to volunteer. There is a huge list of possible tasks: working as a gardener or as a visit guide for example. The UK has quite a lot of charities, which are present in each and every aspect of social life. This implies a lot of rivalry, which is the reason why the National Trust uses 11% of its annual budget for publicity and communication as well as for the recruitment of new members.

Thomas Hardy's Cottage, Dorset

The preservation and restoration of buildings – sometimes by using ancestral techniques – is definitely the main preoccupation of the Trust. A few examples are the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds which is the only surviving regency theatre in Britain; and the Fleece Inn in Evesham which is a traditional English pub, famous for its morris dancing. Finally, The Vyne in Hampshire is a well-known 16th-century-Tudor house. It is believed that the ring dating from the 4th or 5th century that was found there inspired J.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The National Trust possesses also a few houses where famous English writers lived and worked. Thomas Hardy’s, Rudyard Kipling’s and William Wordsworth’s houses are only a few of them.

Sissinghurst Castle garden

Although the charity takes care of many magnificent gardens the most beautiful garden is without any doubt Sissinghurst Castle garden. It was designed by Vita Sackville-West – poet, socialite and gardener-who once had a love affair with Virginia Woolf. Few gardens have acquired such a potent fame and to this day Sissinghurst is a prime example of romantic gardening at its most successful. Hundreds of houses that belong to the National Trust have been selected for people who want to spend holidays in picturesque English regions.

Today the Trust owns over 300 historic houses but also looks after gardens, mills, coastline, forests, farmland, moorland, islands, castles, nature reserves, villages… and pubs. Generation after generation people enjoy the brilliant work done by the National Trust in order to preserve historic material and natural wealth. That is why the Trust’s motto summarises so well what they are: “We’re a charity that works to preserve and protect historic places and spaces – for ever, for everyone” .

Myriam Carlier & Emmanuel Duquesne

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon was born on 28th October 1909 in Dublin from English parents. He was a descendant of Sir Francis Bacon, the famous philosopher who made significant contribution to the scientific method. In 1914, his family moved to London and when the war was over, they spent most of their time moving from Ireland to London. Then, he was thrown out of the family by his father because of his homosexuality. He was therefore forced to settle in London with just 3£ of weekly allowance from his mother. In 1927, at the age of sixteen, he travelled to Berlin and to Paris where he attended a Picasso exhibition, which encouraged him to start painting and drawing. Afterwards, he returned to London where he worked as a furniture and interior designer but quickly devoted himself to painting only.

His first paintings shared fundamental features with the cubist tradition but in 1932 he switched towards a kind of surrealism. His first notable work, Crucifixion, was exhibited at the Mayor Gallery in 1933. The following year he decided to run an exhibition in the basement of a friend’s house but it didn’t meet the success he expected. Profoundly affected by this failure he decided to destroy most of his paintings. However, he continued painting during the Second World War as he was exempt from military service because of asthma. It was only after the war that his works became well-known to the large public.

In 1944, his work Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion revealed the themes that would characterize his future works, such as the mutilated imaginary, anxiety, alienation, and so on. By 1950, he developed a new method which consisted in using photographs taken mainly from newspapers to create his works of art. One of the most famous examples in which he used this particular technique is the Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953). In this deformed version of Pope Innocent X (1650), Bacon represented a screaming pope whose voice is silenced by the dark drapes, which tries to convey the frustration and the pains of the human being.

In the 60’s, his popularity increased thanks to his retrospective at Solomon R. Guggenheim’s Museum in New York (1963) and to the publication of his catalogue raisonné. In 1964, he met his lover George Dyer, of whom he made several paintings. From the 70’s onwards, his artistic talent became better known around the world with exhibitions in places as far apart as Marseilles, Madrid, Caracas, Mexico and Tokyo. Most of his paintings from that time were mainly triptychs with less aggressive and shocking images.

After a period when many of his close friends passed away, he decided to paint portraits of himself since he had – according to him – "nothing else to do." Study for a Self-Portrait – Triptych (1985-86) resulted from this series of self-portraits and engages in expressing the marks that age and time leave on the body and on the spirit. From an artistic point of view, this work differs from his former ones inasmuch as he used lighter-colours and as he placed his figures more at the centre of his painting. He died of a heart failure on 28th April 1992, in Madrid.

Yorkshire Pudding

When speaking about pudding, the first thing that comes to mind is a kind of dessert. But in the case of Yorkshire Pudding, it is rarely served as such. Made of milk, flour, eggs and salt, it is usually basted with gravy to accompany roast meet.

As its name indicates, the Yorkshire pudding originated in Yorkshire, a historic county of Northern England. The first reference to this dish is to be found in a book of 1737: The Whole Duty of a Woman. The people made use of the fat in the dripping pan to cook a pudding. The recipe was the same as now, but it was then called dripping pudding (“dripping” comes from spit-roast meat). Ten years later, it was renamed “Yorkshire pudding” by Hannah Glasse, a famous English cookery writer of the 18th century, in her book The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. The popularity of the book was such that it spread the word of the Yorkshire Pudding. The two versions were the same, except that the one of 1737 was flatter than the puffy version known today. And this is apparently an important thing. Actually, in 2008, the Royal Society of Chemistry edited a ruling concerning the Yorkshire Pudding. This professional association of the United Kingdom then wrote that “a Yorkshire pudding isn't a Yorkshire pudding if it is less than four inches tall”.

Nowadays, this particular type of pudding generally accompanies the main course. It goes well together with roast beef, chicken or any dish with sauce. Gravy (meat juice) is actually considered by the British as the best accompaniment to the Yorkshire Pudding. Traditionally, however, it was eaten with onion juice as a starter. It is often said that it was in order to stuff the guests with something cheap so that they would eat less of the more expensive dishes that followed. Sometimes it is also served as a snack with jam or with jam and ice cream, in the common understanding of “pudding”.

Last but not least, you can here find a recipe by the famous cook Jamie Oliver:

Ingredients (12 puddings)

- 3 eggs

- 115 g plain flour

- 1 pinch sea salt

- 285 ml milk

- 12 tablespoons vegetable oil


1. Whisk the eggs, flour, salt, and milk together really well in a bowl to make your batter. Pour the batter into a jug, and let it sit for 30 minutes before you use it.

2. Turn your oven up to the highest setting, and place a 12 cup muffin tray in the oven to heat up for 5 minutes.

3. Place 1 tb of oil in each muffin hole, and put the tray back into the oven and heat until oil is very hot.

4. Open oven door, slide the tray half out, and carefully pour the batter into the muffin holes.

5. Close the door and cook for 15 minutes without opening the oven door.

6. Serve immediately.

Now that you know more about Yorkshire pudding and that you are in possession of the recipe by the famous British chef, you can finally try the staple of the British Sunday lunch yourself.

Caroline Laurent & Sophie Trigaux