School’s Out For Summer

24 Apr

When the sun comes out in London people stumble around confusedly for a bit, before realising what this MEANS. Then they rush to open green spaces, half-stripping off at lunchtimes to get a bit of colour while they devour their Pret purchases. Summer in the city also means sipping wine at art openings sprinkled throughout the centre – Farringdon, Brick Lane and Notting Hill being choice locations for crowds spilling out on to pavements, mingling with the after-work drinks mobs at the neighbouring pubs. It must be the start of the Summer then, or at least Spring, if last week I found myself at the opening of The New School street art exhibition in West London.

Here’s my review of what went down (aside from about 5 glasses of wine, oops). Oh, and you can also read this article on the rather fabulous West London Living website, where you’ll also find a fiiiiine selection of tips and treats that lurk in the Westery side of LDN!:

I feel like chicken tonight... 'Chicken Frankie' by Binty Bint

I feel like chicken tonight…
‘Chicken Frankie’ by Binty Bint

From Cherie Strong’s delicate ballerina sketched on wooden skate boards, to Binty Bint’s upbeat chicken in wellies sprayed live on the gallery’s wall, the pieces in Graffik Gallery’s new show The New School, proclaim their locations loud and clear. And no piece is clearer about where it is, or indeed, where it’s been, than Johnman’s The Glorious Morning We Missed The Last Train Home(pictured above). The hauntingly sweet image of a couple strolling down a railway track is emblazoned on to a group of train tickets, unaware when they were tattooed with their nondescript destinations that they would end up in west London, in a colourful arty heaven, admired by Londoner’s drinking £1.50 wine.

Best title for a picture I've ever heard: 'The Glorious Morning We Missed The Last Train Home', by Johnman

Best title for a picture I’ve ever heard: ‘The Glorious Morning We Missed The Last Train Home’, by Johnman

London is at the heart of this exhibition – each jarringly colourful piece representing its own little vision directly from the streets – all squashed into one of the city’s premiere spots for catching the next best thing. Some of these artists have been all over the world, stylishly scrawling their mark on all four corners – but gathered here together in their home town, they form a show that is London through and through. Where else could you see Prince Harry wielding a gun next to a policeman scolding Super Mario, or a sunny bird jostling for space with a wild-haired Medusa woman? But not all roads lead to London – this exhibition demonstrates that it’s not where you come from that matters, but where you’re going. And these artists are going far.

The New School at Graffik Gallery: 284 Portobello Road, London, W10

Until Thu 2 May; daily 11am–6.30pm; Free

www.graffikgallery.com; 020 8354 3592

The ‘R’ Word

8 Apr

Something I wrote a little while ago, for a talk at my synagogue. Inspired in part by my trip to Riga. Posted today in honour of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)

Take an amble down Riga’s trendy East London-esque street and you’ll find it hard to avoid one particular emblematic T-shirt adorning the city’s finest. Its monochrome design screams out the city’s name, transforming the wearer into a walking advert.

riga

These day’s while the upper case lettered T-shirt is de rigueur on the street of Riga, there’s another ‘R’ word drifting around the city’s consciousness, and that of its visitors – Rumbula.

Back in the 1930’s yellow stars of Davids gazed out from heaving chests and hunched shoulders – but rather than the latest must-have trend , this Jewish symbol, twisted into an icon of anti-Semitism, hollered its hatred into the occupied city. This symbol was as far from fashion as the catwalk of Riga’s streets was likely to get.

The onslaught of yellow stars was of course a predecessor to the slaughter to come – the murder of over 6 million Jews in Europe. In Lativa, 25,000 of these deaths occurred in Rumbula Forest.

The formation of Latvia’s Riga Ghetto began at end of August, 1941, with a fence erected on October 10th. The area, which had once played host to an integrated population of both Jews and Non-Jews, was plunged into a microcosm of barbed wire-surrounded hell. Food was scarce and homes were grossly overcrowded. But it was about to get worse.

On November 27, 1941 the Jews in the ghetto were told that they would be shifted further east. By the next day certain streets would be evacuated, and the Jews would be told to get ready for a journey. They didn’t know that the journey was to the Rumbula Forest, where they were to be shot. The last day of the month was also to be the last of their lives. The atrocity was repeated on December 8, 1941. In two violent, fell swoops the Nazis had wiped out almost all of Latvia’s Jews.

There has been some debate over the culpability of the Rumbula murders, and the persecution of Latvia’s Jews. Some believe that high ranking Nazi SS leaders attempted to shift blame onto a resistant local population of Latvians, stirring up deadly riots, pogroms and rumours. An exhibit in Latvia’s Museum of Occupation includes a Nazi “Comprehensive Report”, in which the Nazi unit charged with the elimination of Latvia’s Jews complains that it was difficult to start organized pogroms, and stir up anti-Semitic hatred in Latvia. Furthermore, we now know that a small number of Jews survived the Holocaust in Latvia with the aid of Latvians who risked death to hide them. The names of 269 Latvians who hid Jews during the Holocaust are inscribed on the Saviors Monument in Riga.

Extended Nazi influence on the Latvian Auxiliary Police, however, did initiate one Jewish pogrom in Riga, during which all synagogues were destroyed and around 400 Jews shot. Haviv Retig Gur asserted in a Jerusalem Post article on the subject,that Riga’s Museum of the Occupation greatly details the plight of the Jews, but also goes to great lengths to explain that it was the Nazis, not the Latvians, who committed the murders. Little to no mention is made throughout the museum of the responsibility of the Latvian Police. He cites Dr. Efraim Zuroff, a historian and Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who argues that in addition to the Nazi units, the Riga Municipal police were also involved in the operation –  and that it is very difficult to distinguish Latvians from Nazis in the chain of command. He points out that some Jewish groups see the debate over historical culpability as a debate over the country’s sense of victimhood, the feeling that Latvia was the victim of both Nazism and Communism – and Communism more acutely and for a longer period. With the small nation of Latvia still watching Russia’s movements warily, he refers to Leon Greenberg’s question: “Can you use historical terms as a cover for present-day geopolitics?”

In other words – should modern day inter-country relations affect how we retell the past, no matter how fraught their political discourse is?

"Massacre in Korea" by Pablo Picasso (1951).    Inspired by the No Gun Ri Massacre of July 26-29, 1950.

“Massacre in Korea” by Pablo Picasso (1951). Inspired by the No Gun Ri Massacre of July 26-29, 1950.

In the 1960’s and early 70’s, the trees of Rumbula forest, once the witnesses to nightmareish bloodshed, began to let in a little bit of light. When Latvia found itself back under Soviet rule, young Riga Jews began gathering at the Rumbula murder site to tidy and mark the mass graves, while discussing their Zionist dreams. These saplings of hope grew into the Refusenik Movement, a collective credited with pushing the USSR to permit the emigration of Jews to Israel in the early 1970’s.

And so although the Rumbula Forest can never quite breathe easily, its pained sighs possessed by screams of the past, at least the trees can sway gently in the Baltic breeze, bowing towards the state of Israel.

Israel-flag-3

A Few Words on Partying

4 Apr

Why is it that some people want to go out get a little tipsaaay, pouring over the cracked mirror pieces of themselves the next day, comparing reflections in the café over a fry up? Others are content curled up in front of Saturday night television, munching happily on caramel popcorn. The rest of us immerse ourselves in a dreamlike, cinematic world of trails of ripped clothes, glamour turning grim and intertwining its faded sparkle with those who share the same goals – to act out that classic tale of an endless party. We’re so quick to say – “you’re missing out”. You say you like to be in control of yourself – but can’t you see that it would be a different self, indulging in this self-gratifying bender? Wondering off into warehouses unknown, stumbling into you don’t know where, and realising that it’s nowhere, and it doesn’t matter because you’re never going back there. But then you wake up and you’re you again, slightly stunned that you’re in your own bed, in your own house, although admittedly it is rather hard to move. And for the following few days your party outfit seeps itself in through the skin of your everyday bodysuit, transforming the dull greyness with specks of florescent light, neon reminders that there’s only five days, four days, three days to go until you can do it all over again.

Bob Marley Festival at The Barby, Tel Aviv...One Love!!! (With thanks to Elianna!)

Bob Marley Festival at The Barby, Tel Aviv…One Love!!! (With thanks to Elianna  at Time Out Israel!)

NB: Nish Nush TLV is currently residing in London – Tel Aviv has never seemed to far away and yet so close. A £60 flight away in fact, if you catch Easyjet early enough, or get ahead of the budget airline gremlins while their backs are turned…

The Guilty Party

13 Feb

As someone who grew up in good old North London, I do think it is time to stop feeling the good old Jewish guilt. In Israel they have thrown it off their shoulders like last season’s party line, venue empty, the lights turned out. In the UK though, the guilty club is always open, pumping out its blame like a broken smoke machine, infiltrating lungs until you’re coughing bile and blacking out. In England we binge on our Jewishness, taking trips to Israel and diving into the clear blue sea of Tel Aviv, swallowing sea water and lying on the surface of the land which we swear belongs to us over anyone else. Then we fly back, sated, throwing up our views and opinions all over England self-righteously. We cram in the shul sessions, racking it up over the high holy days, breathing a deep sigh of relief as they pass. In Israel the faithful go slowly, nothing to prove, they’re already here, the result of the twists and turns of faith, fights and breeding to create some sort of super race of beautiful people, unbeatable and willing to fight to live how they want to live, where they want to live. They’ll chill out vertically for hours, chain smoking cigarettes, shisha and hashish, but they’ll jump up to fight for what they believe in, (or what their ancestors believed in).

The Judaism here may have Rashi turning in his grave, but all things must progress before they stagnate – and so there’s no point arguing against it – all those Orthodox right-wingers rudely shouting down the Women of the Wall for taking a stand against a deeply patriarchal and outdated system of prayer should know that change is happening, as it always does, and some sort of wavering sexual equality will come whether they like it or not. Equality is not a crime, and prosecuting people for using their voices is an issue of human rights more than it is one of religious significance.  Whether is it is in a few years (doubtful), or a few decades, the party that’s never over will pause for thought while the turntables stop for a minute, before restarting with a different tune.

wall

For info on Women of the Wall see: http://womenofthewall.org.il/about/

Nostalgia Sickness

4 Jan

Bowled over with nostalgia, I’ve been winded by the past.

I can’t breathe because I’m retching with the honeyed taste of memories, sickly sweet and fragrant, but hazy as they reach the pinnacle in their misty state. A night drifting by in a cartoon cloud, materialising like magic into a brain drenched in the pictures of the past, present, future, or what they might have been, are, will be.

I try to speak but I can’t get the sound out, memories invading my mouth, mangling my voice until strains its way out, saying “do you remember when?”, and then not quite managing to convey that ten out of ten, conjure up the full picture, insert you into the scene, as though you might have been, there, with me. My today is flooded with the thick heavy paste of nights gone by, loaded on like tar. When I raise my feet to move I find I can’t lift them off the ground, seeped in cement they stick too firmly to the slabs of the past, high heels trying to make marks if they could only just not hold so fast.  Connected violently to that which has just gone by, that which was once just a shadow in the corner of my eye until it rushed, rushed, rushed up on me, looked straight through me as I walked straight through it, knew, did it, felt, and emerged out the other side, and forgot to shake it off as I brushed messed up hair, and took anxious breathes.

And a result it still follows me around, the rusty jewel in the crown – I wear it like a tiara, symbolising the giggles, indecipherable riddles of what they call the yesteryear, taunting the tears of today with the laughter of a past which hasn’t done what, squinting, we thought was written on the tin. Time for new glasses then, to correct the triple vision, amend the indecision into an optician’s dream and the nightmare of nostalgia – clarity.

hazynights

Zine Scene Queen

30 Nov

The Central Bus Station – well known in the city for being:

a) the place you’re most likely to get lost in

b) a haven for cheap, tacky and actually quite tempting buys

and c) somewhere to stay away from late at night.

Last night though, the preconceptions and prejudices surrounding the Techana Mercazit (Central Bus Station) were cast aside, as Tel Aviv’s most arty descended on the hub of buses for the 3rd Annual Fanzine Festival. After getting slightly disorientated (okay lost) within the maze of floors, we followed our ears to the strains of electric guitar, and found the treasure – stall after stall of lovingly created independently published magazines, known as zines. In fact, stalls were available to any visiting passerby who had arrived early enough – had Nish Nush been a zine, it may possibly had made for a fine neighbour. Although this blog is nowhere near as raunchy. The scene seems to have a penchant for humour of the naked – and of course in the name of improving my Hebrew I felt bound to take a few examples home with me.

My swag – plus some mango juice – it’s thirsty work!

Zines for sale, read all about it!

And it wasn’t all about the zine – Art exhibit rooms lined the walls – freaky toy animals swayed menacingly on strings, while next door insane images were projected on to a wall. The TLV Derby Girls – Tel Aviv’s own roller derby squad were also in attendance with their own stall, selling their uber-cool new bags and T-Shirts. I’ll be trying out the most rock’n’roll of sports very soon. Balancing skills aren’t my biggest talent, so it should be an interesting occasion. And as if to convince me that I was surely dreaming this all up in my head, a man rode through the crowd in a shopping trolley, shouting out his own political agenda (thanks for the translation Dana)!  A great alternative to Hyde Park’s speaker’s corner, Sainsbury’s should be quaking in their boots and ensuring their trolleys are firmly tied in place.

Crazy Times in The Bubble

16 Nov

Tel Aviv – otherwise known as The Bubble. People don’t Keep Calm and Carry On here – they’re not calm to begin with – they just Keep Shouting and Carry On Partying. We were talking about ‘The Bubble’ last night, discussing how in Tel Aviv the party continues, we’re all hungover, chilling out outside. Thinking it’ll never happpen – Tel Aviv is untouchable. We go inside. Gin. I steer clear but have some beer instead. Then – an air raid siren. Like something out of the Imperial War Museum. We freeze, life on Pause for one split second before everyone lurches forward, grabs for their phone and makes a slightly unsteady dash towards the door. The bombshelter is in the music school next door. Right and then right. Down we go, followed by various good looking members of the music school – despite the seriousness of the situation , a mental note (C major) is made. We stay in the wierdly modern bombshelter until the sirens stop. Nothing’s hit home although of course it has – a hazy siege has fallen over the city. Nish Nush has temporarily relocated to Jerusalem – being with a group the decision was made to move us from the city, as least for a few days. But Jerusalem feels so calm in comparison. Pale stone walls, shimmering in their goodness – welcoming us. But I miss their graffiti  clad bad cousins back in Tel Aviv already – hanging out in the city.

UPDATE – Siren sounds in Jerusalem, pegged it down to the shelter. Crazy times.

 

‘Rocket Fire’ by the brilliant Elliott Leigh Tucker