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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Send in the Clowns

This weekend I visited the city of Newcastle in the north east of England. I'd never been there before but was fascinated by the place for many years, mostly because it produced The Animals, whose Chas Chandler brought Jimi Hendrix to the attention of the world, not to mention Sting - possibly the world's most famous Geordie. The main purpose of my visit was the opening of an art show dedicated to Live Art from New York since 1975 from the Franklin Furnace Archive, entitled History of Disappearance.

The exhibition is open at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, just across the River Tyne from Newcastle's city center, until early September. The Baltic is a phenomenal place indeed. I was very pleased to see what I feel is a good representation of the Franklin Furnace Archive outside New York. The work covers the last 30 years without emphasizing any one era more than the others. Franklin Furnace founder Martha Wilson has produced two new oral histories on performance art and alternative art spaces in collaboration with the Baltic. I hope these two gems make it to the Furnace website soon.

It was also quite rewarding to travel up to Newcastle to spend some quality face-time with artists Diane Torr (whom I've admired from afar for many years) and the resilient Billy X. Curmano. Even without all the amazing Franklin Furnace goings on at the Baltic, the two-hour journey to Newcastle would have been worth it just to have the conversations I had with Diane and Billy this weekend.

Besides this, my trip also featured a spectacular evening with the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination, currently touring England and Scotland in preparation for the upcoming G8 anticapitalist protests led by CIRCA: the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army. Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army in Newcastle - 18 June 2005It's all a healthy mixture of live art and cultural resistance training camp for civil disobedience strategies and non-violent direct action. It was good to have the opportunity to buy a copy of the Lab of ii's video production of 13 Experiments in Hope, featuring works by CIRCA, My Dad's Strip Club, and The Vacuum Cleaner, among many others, including the amazing Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. All the videos are also freely available through the Lab of ii's web page for the DVD.

Seeing all this cultural resistance and creative interventions against capitalism made me start thinking seriously about the upcoming G8 and how this year it will be dominated by Bob Geldof's Live 8. I was looking for Live 8 concert tickets just the other day, but I seriously doubt we'll be able to get any. The official website is actually encouraging people not to go to Hyde Park for the concert (yes, the one where Pink Floyd will appear with Roger Waters again) on the 2nd of July and descend on Edinburgh for the Long Walk To Justice four days later instead. I haven't made up my mind yet. I'd like to go to both events, but I'll probably only going to one of the two. Anyway, there's still more than a week left to decide.

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