Thursday, June 25th
Dreaming up composite moments in Amsterdam
A few years ago, local photographer and concept developer Jamain Brigitha dreamt up the idea of an annual project to give established contemporary visual artists from around the world the opportunity each summer to use Amsterdam as both a source of inspiration and an exhibition space. The first 'Dream Amsterdam' was held in 2007, when Spencer Tunick, who had already become famous for his large-scale photo reportages of thousands of naked people in public places in cities around the world, got 2,000 more to pose naked in the centre of Amsterdam and a bulb field. As with his previous projects, naturally enough it was good for media coverage, but the results left me as cold as the participants probably were. Last year's invitee, Ryoji Ikeda, set up light installations in four locations in the city, but once again I felt it failed to deliver on the promise of Brigitha's concept as it neither revealed nor added to anything about the essence of Amsterdam.
'Amsterdam Stories' is the resulting exhibition of the third 'Dream Amsterdam', and opened this month around the pond in the middle of the Museumplein. And this time, by commissioning Danish photographer Peter Funch, Brigitha and her colleagues have made an excellent choice. Using the same concept he developed for 'Babel Tales', set in his adopted home of New York City, Funch has created a series of photographs that are clearly inspired by Amsterdam and that give its residents a new perspective on their city.
Funch shot the series on 15 locations in Amsterdam over a period of six weeks. As with 'Babel Tales', the works are composed of many separate moments taken over several weeks for each piece. He shoots in exactly the same position over a period of time and then superimposes images on top of each other, creating a fictional work based on documentary photography. Once again he has demonstrated his ability to create patterns out of our chaos. Funch is one of the rare photographers who know how to use Photoshop to create and enhance their work rather than just to clean it up.
One of the keys to his success is the thought and preparation he puts into his compositions. Unless he's the recipient of a chain of lucky coincidences which I very much doubt he first observes a location and picks up on similar collective behaviour that occurs there over time. A scene from Babel Tales shows a group of people apparently all yawning at the same time as they walk down a New York street for example I can imagine that hed noticed a number of people doing this on their way to work early in the morning. Similarly, in Amsterdam Stories he has people looking at timetables on a Central Station platform and checking their watches, and a group of dogs with no humans in sight converging on a city park.
The Dream Amsterdam 2009 exhibition can be seen in the Museumplein until August 31st, and both Amsterdam Stories and Babel Tales are on show at the Ron Mandos Gallery, Prinsengracht 282 until July 11th, from 12.00 to 18.00, Wednesdays to Saturdays.
Thursday, June 18th
Designed for reading
I must admit I dont read as many magazines as I used to. But in the mid-nineties a number of new titles hit the newsstands focusing on what was then called the new economy, and reflecting the heady excitement of those times in both their content and design. They tended to be weightier (in the literal sense, at least) and laid out more elegantly than more established titles like BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune and the Economist.
For a year or so I found myself buying two or three of these publications a month. Most have since fallen by the wayside, along with the dot.coms whod thought that basing their business on the Internet alone was enough to guarantee success. In fact, with the demise of Business 2.0 a couple of years ago, Fast Company is the sole survivor as far as I know. Perhaps its no coincidence that its now in the same publishing stable as Inc. magazine, which has been published continuously for almost 30 years.
Ive been receiving Fast Take, one of Fast Companys e-mail newsletters, since 2001. It was a weekly until a month ago, and it used to outline articles in the current edition of the magazine and others exclusive to the website, along with various resources and discussions. On May 18th it was re-designed and transformed into the Fast Company Now Daily, and since then it has contained five selected stories about innovation each weekday. They are five of the latest stories about technology, design, and ethonomics (ethical economics usually about CSR-oriented entrepreneurship), as well as articles from the print magazine.
As well as featuring really interesting articles, its a great new design, and one of the few newsletters thats easy to scan within my desktop e-mail program or (especially since I updated to the new version 3.0 software today) on my iPhone. Along with Now Daily, Fast Company have also redesigned their other free newsletter offerings and have created a series of five weekly newsletters featuring the best of each week's stories in Leadership (Monday), Design (Tuesday), Technology (Wednesday), Ethonomics (Thursday) and the Best of Fast Company (Friday). You can sign up for these newsletters here on the Fast Company website.
Thursday, June 11th
July is Europes jazz month again
For the fifth year running, heres my blog round-up of a selection of next months European jazz festivals. Before too many of the most popular concerts sell out, Im taking a tour around the continent again today to sample some of this year's offerings a month ahead. If youd like to take a side trip to check out more about the seven festivals Im listing, click on the graphics to open the sites in a new window.
Lets start with the three giants of European summer jazz festivals: in Switzerland, Holland and France. The Montreux, North Sea and Nice events have become bloated with a bewildering number of big name acts for years now, and this year is no exception. Montreux remains the big daddy of them all, and although Ive been critical of them losing their focus on jazz in the past, they have put together a great line-up for 2009. I also criticized their 2008 website, but theyve put a lot of thought and work into the site this year. So much so, its an example of excellent design, written content and intuitive navigation. My picks for 2009 are Steely Dan on the 4th (whose European tour opens here in Amsterdam on the 25th of this month, and who are also appearing in Perugia see below), Herbie Hancock & Lang Lang on the 5th (also at the North Sea see below), Steve Winwood on the 9th and Baaba Maal on the 10th.
This years three-day North Sea Jazz Festival is being held on July 10th, 11th and 12th for the fourth time in the Ahoy in Rotterdam. Once again, fitting so many performances into three days means many simultaneous concerts on no less than 18 stages. My highlights in Rotterdam would be Saturdays James Taylor (who will also be in Copenhagen, Nice, Perugia and San Sebastian, and whose band is slated to include the brilliant Steve Gadd and Jimmy Johnson), Burt Bacharach, Charlie Haden & friends, and Sundays Herbie Hancock with Lang Lang.
The French Rivieras week-long Nice Jazz Festival follows as usual this year from July 18th to 25th. Being longer means Nice only needs two stages, and all the music happens in the evening, so theres less chance of musical overload. The setting and the climate are also big plusses. My picks from the 2009 edition are the Brad Mehldau Trio on the 18th, Joe Jackson on the 21st, James Taylor (see above) on the 22nd and Chick Corea with Gary Burton on the 24th.
Copenhagen has a deserved reputation as one of Europes jazz capitals, so its no surprise that it also has a major festival each summer. This years Copenhagen Jazz Festival is being held from 3rd 12th July. The picks I managed to find despite this years sites ghastly navigation are Chick Coreas solo piano concert on the 5th and James Taylor (again
) on the 8th.
A number of great jazz events are held in Italy every summer. One of my favourites is the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, which takes place again next month from the 10th to the 19th. Included this year are Steely Dan on the 11th, Burt Bacharach on the 16th and James Taylor (yes, here too
) on the 18th.
My last selection from the many jazz festivals on offer in Europe next month rounds off our tour from 22nd to 26th July in the lovely Northern Spanish city of San Sebastian. The citys Heineken Jazzaldia rivals the nearby Vitoria-Gasteiz Jazz Festival held earlier in the month, and I think outshines it this year. My picks are Brad Mehldau on the 22nd, the Buena Vista Social Club on the 23rd and you guessed it James Taylor again on the 26th.