Friday, October 24, 2014

Performance Art Gets Intimate


From March 10 to May 31 the "grandmother of performance art,” Marina Abramovi─ç, performed her epic work “The Artist is Present” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. For 736 and a half hours she sat mute and immobile at a table in the Museum’s atrium. She involved her audience by inviting them to take turns sitting opposite her.

Following in her footsteps, amongst others, the Proximity Festival came into being, although with a more intimate persona. The Festival presents intimate one-on-one performances that are an interaction between two strangers. It’s much like the personal interaction inspired by a conventional art work except that the art work is living and breathing and can respond in turn.

For those lucky enough to have tickets to this year’s Proximity Festival, it sold out in four days, there are 12 performances to experience.

·         A curious conversation about human flesh for the anatomically playful.
·         For those who don’t mind getting a little physical. No dance experience necessary.
·         For those who want to challenge national identity within their personal limits.
·         A joint effort tailor-made for all levels of driving experience. Zero blood alcohol required to teach.
·         A gentle task that may come with heavy rewards.
·         A sensory experience in an immersive installation. Contains flowers and pollen.
·         A roving experience that could take you to high places. Tailor-made for all fear levels.
·         A collaborative exercise looking at the pitfalls of gym culture and fitness fads.
·         For those willing to experience the momentary loss of their evolutionary advantages.
·         An insightful conversation about the natural world. You may want to take a deep breath.
·         A sensory experience for those with an appetite for making memories.
·         For those who don’t mind dancing with the untamed.

Further information about the Proximity Festival can be found at their website, here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Happy Birthday Ram Kumar

Today Indian artist Ram Kumar celebrates his 90th birthday. Half a life time ago, whilst working as an economist for a bank, he chanced upon an art exhibition in the city of Delhi.  "I saw paintings like that for the first time and it made me so intrigued that I returned several times," Kumar says. "There was a notice for evening art classes at the gallery, and I joined the Sarada Ukil School of Art.

Back then the Sarada Ukil School of Art taught Indian painting in the mornings and Western style painting in the evenings. A year later Ran Kumar was in Paris. For 3 years Kumar spent his time in the company of artists and poets like Jacaques Roubaut and Octavio Paz, Fernand Leger and Andre Lhote.

“I painted middle-class people because I felt I could speak best of their preoccupations and dreams, since I am a middle-class man," he said in a Times of India interview. But all that changed in 1961 when he visited  Varanasi "the religious capital of India". I was so impressed by the city with its thousands of people that there was no other way to capture the power of that city except through an abstract painting," he said. Over the intervening years Varanasi has been an ongoing inspiration for Kumar’s work.


In celebration of this milestone in Ran Kumar’s life an exhibition of drawings made in Varanasi in the 60’s will be shown at Delhi’s Aakriti Art Gallery from the 8th to 29th of November. More information about the exhibition can be found here

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

There is more to Schiele than pornography you can hang on your walls

Although some of his models keep their clothes on and he also painted landscapes, artist Egon Schiele is best known for his nudes many of which are explicit. This aspect of his work underpins TheRadical Nude a new exhibition of his work at London’s Courtauld Gallery.  In their publicity for the show they state “Schiele’s technical virtuosity, highly original vision and unflinching depictions of the naked figure distinguish these works as being among his most significant contributions to the development of modern art.” 

The Guardian’s art critic Jonathon Jones goes further stating that the Austro-Hungarian artist is “a feminist artist ahead of his time”. A claim he justifies by saying “his delight in the vagina sets him apart as an artist who not only lusts after but genuinely adores women.” Jones expounds on this theory citing the misogyny explicit in Schiele’s contemporaries, from Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon on. You can read the full review here. 

On the other side of the Atlantic in New York the Neue Galerie is hosting the exhibition Egon Schiele: Portraits. Four times the size of the Courtauld exhibition, Portraits gives a much wider look at his oeuvre from his student days to his death 12 years later. Consisting of paintings, drawings, and sculpture the exhibition documents an evolution of the artist's style, both pre- and post-imprisonment.

In April of 1912 Schiele spent 24 days in jail on a charge of public immorality for exposing minors to his erotic art in his studio. The previous year he had been forced to leave the Czech town of Krumau for working with a nude model outdoors. These incidents had a profound effect upon Schiele, especially the imprisonment. Which saw him adopted a more conventional attitude to morality steering away explicit sexuality subject matter to the more traditional.

In his critique of the Neue Galerie exhibition New York critic Ken Johnson said “Of the approximately 125 items on view, only 11 are oil paintings, which is a good thing. Except for a lovely, large 1915 picture of his wife, Edith, in a vibrant striped dress, Schiele’s paintings are overworked, dark and turgid. His drawings are nimble and nuanced. Working on paper with pencil, charcoal, ink, gouache, watercolor and crayons, often using different mediums to achieve diverse effects within the same picture, Schiele was as responsive to his own impulses as he was to the human reality of his subjects.” You can the full review here.

Any examination of Schiele’s work confirms Johnson’s view except Johnson misses Schiele’s compositional dexterity. His ability to dissect the picture plane with his lines and his restricted use of color are the elements that make Schiele’s works sing.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A New Look For A New Resolve

The Expat has been pretty quiet; OK almost mute for a long time, but the project that was stealing my time has come to an end. And, yes, you’re right, I was given a DCM (Don’t come Monday). It hurt, I didn’t see it coming, but life goes on. The upside is I once again have the time to spend on the Expat.

Hence the clean up, all the links are working once again, some of my dumber posts have been deleted and a cleaner and hopefully easier to read layout installed.

I will be posting regularly (3 to 5 posts a week is the plan) and I trust they will be of sufficient interest to encourage you dear reader to return often.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

On Loan Sharks, Predatory Banks and a Senate Re-election Hopeful



The Cheapest place to get an unsecured loan in the Philippines is through informal lenders described by Senate re-election hopeful Peter Cayetano as Loan Sharks. Working in and around the traditional wet markets their going interest rate is around 20%. How Cayetano would describe the banks is an unanswered question. An unsecured personal loan from a bank will cost you 23 to 25% and if you prefer the plastic route of a credit card expect to pay up to 42%.

 With one of the world’s highest credit card interest rates it should come as no surprise that over 11% of credit card accounts are delinquent. But to make matters worse the banks themselves operate predatory procedures that push their customers, especially the venerable, into this delinquency.

Take the case of Ami, (name changed to protect her privacy) a single mother of two. Ami has an income of 15,000 pesos ($375) a month. A little under the official income eligibility limit but ok’d to help the Bank’s Credit Card mall stall meet their monthly target.  Ami was given a Citi Bank card with a 30,000 peso limit. 

For the first few months everything was fine. Ami was able to meet her minimum payments of 500 pesos a month.  The bank was so pleased that they doubled her credit limit. They didn’t ask Ami if she wanted the increase, they just did it. The increased limit saw her debt to the bank increase slightly but still she was able to meet the minimum payments. A few months later the bank was still so happy with Ami’s conduct they again increased her credit limit, this time to 100,000 pesos. Ami now had over half her annual income to spend in a heartbeat should she so desire. And again the bank didn’t ask her permission.  

Then the inventible happened. In Ami’s case it was college fees for her eldest, but it could just as easily have been a stint in a hospital, a job loss or the effects of typhoon. Her 15,000 a month could stretch only so far and so the credit card started to take a hammering just to make ends meet. Ami was thankful for her plastic respite, but the other shoe was about to fall. Her monthly minimum credit card payment leapt to half her after tax monthly income. Ami was between a rock and a hard place, something had to give and she became a credit card delinquent. 

Ami now faces the prospect of the bank’s attach dogs, a collection agency who will do all in their power to shame her into payment.  Like the bank they know Ami’s circumstances and at their masters call the preferred outcome is a long term commitment from Ami to make the minimal payments; half her income for the next two and a half years with a residual payment from her savings at the end of the term.  A spendthrift Ami may be but she isn’t dumb, she will throw herself upon the mercy of the court to get a repayment schedule she can afford. 

It can be argued that Ami didn’t have to use her credit facility, but likewise it can be argued that a bank’s duty of care to its customers is not to exceed, where known, the customer’s ability to pay. In Ami’s case the bank knew her ability to pay and pushed it to the point of no return.

So Peter Cayetano, should you be re-elected for another term in the Senate perhaps you could introduce legislation that will protect people not only from loan sharks but also predatory banks. If you are unable to convince the banks to reduce their interest rates to match those of the loan sharks which are similar to first world credit card interest rates. Perhaps you may be able protect customers from the banks predatory practice of untenable credit limits.  It’s simple really “A credit limit cannot be increased without the written consent of all parties, if it is increased, which only the lender can authorize, it becomes the lenders liability”.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Now that I’ve got your attention





The recent incursion into Malaysia’s Eastern Province of Sabah by the "Sulu Royal Army" is less to do about claiming an ancestral homeland than it is to do with being part of the Bangsomoro solution to the Southern Philippines troubled and often violent history.

From its creation in 1963 the Malaysian Government has been paying “rent” to the Sultanate of Sulu for the Sabah region of Borneo.  Although modest, at around US$1700 per year, the payment does seem to validate the Sultan of Sulu’s claim of ownership. It is reported that a 2010 request to up the “rent” to US$ 1 Billion a year was ignored by the Malaysian Government.

The invasion of the village of Tanduo in the east of Sabah by the “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo” 3 weeks ago did not impress the Malaysian Government or the Government of the Philippines for that matter. Whilst there has been some question between these two governments over the sovereignty of Sabah it is one that has not been pursued with any vigor. And, unsurprisingly, the armed forces of Malaysia have been instructed to eject the interlopers.

The Malaysian Government has been acting as peace broker between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), one of the groups in the Southern Philippines conducting an armed struggle for regional autonomy.  In October of last year the Philippine President, Benigno Aquino III, announced the creation of a Bangsamoro political entity, a landmark deal designed to bring peace to the troubled region. The Sulu Sultan’s actions over the past few weeks would indicate a vote of confidence in this process and an act of desperation at being excluded.

For, should it come to pass that the Southern Philippines does in fact become a place of peace, prosperity is believed to follow. Mindanao, the Sulu archipelago, and adjacent islands including Palawan which fall under the Bangsamoro deal are rumored to be a resource treasure trove that has avoided exploitation due to the decades old civil unrest. No doubt several fortunes are just waiting to be made.   

Jamalul Kiram III, one of several claimants to the Sultancy of Sulu and the most vocal over the past weeks, claims to have written to President Aquino twice since the Bangsamoro announcement and on both occasions his letters have been ignored. Reports suggest that the letters have been lost in the bureaucratic maze of the Malaca├▒ang Palace, the home of the Philippine Presidency. Although it is a given in the Philippines that a request ignored or that needs to be thought about is a request denied.

Perhaps President Aquino should heed the advice of the UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and proceed with a dialogue with all the parties concerned. It may well entail giving the Sultanate of Sulu a seat at the Bangsamoro table, if not with a speaking part at least observer status. Obliviously such an inclusion by the Philippine Government would require the “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo” vacate Sabah should the Malaysian Government be persuaded to let them retire.  

Friday, February 08, 2013

Where's the Harm?



The Australian media is aghast over what has been called the "blackest day in Australian sport.” Half a length behind the Lance Armstrong doping scandle comes the news from the Australian Crime Commission of widespread drug use in professional Australian sport.

Worse than a conclave of Catholic bishops pontificating about the evils of artificial contraception, politicians past and present, sporting administrators and commentators have been calling for names to be named, rules to be strengthened and civil penalties for those who don’t co-operate.

What is all the fuss about? It’s only sport, for God’s sake. You know, that spectacle designed to entertain, divert and sell more beer during the commercial breaks.  

The integrity of sporting prowess is almost as antiquated as competing in the nude.  Science has long been a handmaiden to sporting success. You can wear it, ride it, drive it but you can’t inject it. Why the hell not?

It only makes for an unlevel playing field when the practice is outlawed. And with only winners being grinners the pressure to perform is immense. Even “clean” professional athletes have a lifestyle that is seriously removed from that of a normal citizen. Swimming star Michael Phelps daily food intake when in training would have kept 6 normal people well away from anorexia. 

Like the”highly successful” war on drugs this sporting prohibition encourages the bad guys to become involved. It’s just a short hop, step and a jump for them to use the blackmail that supply offers for other nefarious deeds which may well have deleterious effects on the beloved spectacle. 

This report suggests that it is the good apples not the bad that are in short supply. Perhaps the smart move is to allow athletes to choose their poison as they and their coaches see fit. After all it is the spectacle that fans come to see and if a jab in the bum can make for higher, faster, stronger performances where’s the harm?