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Rhythm and Reaction

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Marking the centenary of the arrival of Jazz in Britain, Rhythm and Reaction offers an eclectic overview of the effect on British society, of this most controversial of musical genres. In particular social and cultural effects and the extent to which the very existence and evolution of Jazz, was driven in no small part by the technological developments of the day.

 

Jazz is a visual music and lends itself to display, yet this remains a largely neglected area for UK galleries. And the few exhibitions with Jazz as a theme have tended to focus on a single aspect.1 The remit of the 2018 exhibition at Two Temple Place is considerably wider and consequently much more ambitious.

 

The exhibition space is intuitively curated with the ground floor room devoted to pre- and early-jazz, and the first floor concentrating on the music of British and American dance bands in the 1920s and 30s. The chronological context is supplemented by a number of sub-themes including; art and design, dance, race, technology, and transport. If I have a criticism it is that each sub ‘theme’ felt like a tantalising taster and some could have been an exhibition in their own right.

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Brightest London and Home by Underground 1924, © TfL
The expansion of public transport in the interwar years (in particular the London underground) enabled wider access to some of Britain’s existing clubs and newly built dancehalls, in which dance itself was radically changed by the arrival of Jazz – colourfully illustrated here through costume, sculpture and iconic London Transport marketing posters of the era. Improvements in recording technology and radio also increased the accessibility of Jazz beyond those able to enjoy live music, while artists from the conventional to the surreal embraced the genre.

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Dancing, M Hartley 1929

Many of these ‘developments’ are represented in the objects on display (sourced from a wide range of lenders including major galleries, the National Jazz Archive and private collections, some of which may be displayed for the first time). These include early examples of; the gramophone, 78rpm records, the radio – and the modern drum ‘kit’ and saxophone, both of which were essential for the Jazz ‘sound’.

Console Drum Kit c.1938                              Tenor sax c 1938

Jazz has long been associated with subversion. And in this context Rhythm and Reaction reflects on its role in developing a sense of freedom for some (especially the young) while simultaneously threatening the establishment, at a time when existing social norms had inevitably been disrupted by war. It also acknowledges the extent to which the development of Jazz in Britain was influenced by attitudes to race, and for a period of time, – the implicit operation of dual culture – within which Jazz was ‘sanitised’ into dance music for (among others) the BBC, while African American Jazz thrived in ‘underground’ clubs.

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Detail from the Breakdown, J B Souter, 1926
Rhythm and Reaction is likely to have a wide appeal encompassing as it does social and cultural history, the development of popular music and leisure, and art and design. However I am often struck by the extent to which Jazz is one of the most contested of musical genres. What is loved by one enthusiast can be detested by another, and vice-versa, and debates on what even constitutes ‘Jazz’ can be some of the fiercest amongst fans. I suspect purists may wonder (as I overheard a murmur) ‘but what have ceramics to do with Jazz?’ (or similar).

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Detail from Royal Winton Jazz Coffee set. (Private collection)

But this is to miss the point. The strength of Rhythm and Reaction is precisely in this breadth of approach. That the influence of Jazz was so pervasive – as well as producing an iconography that gave its name to an entire ‘age’ – only serves to underline its potential for both freedom and subversion. Rhythm and Reaction captures this well, and I suspect Two Temple Place has a major hit on its hands.
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About Two Temple Place
For those new to it, Two Temple Place will be a delight. Completed in 1895 (by John Loughborough Pearson) as the estate office for William Waldorf Astor, the building and in particular it’s interior, is a stunning exhibit in its own right. Highlights include substantial wood panelling, carving and stained glass windows.
Visiting Rhythm and Reaction provides a rare opportunity to enjoy this building which closed to the public for most of the year). Since 2011 Two Temple Place has been London’s first exhibition space dedicated to raising national awareness of collections around the UK in collaboration with regional partners, and has treated us to everything from William Morris to Sussex Modernism.

© text and images Later Than You Think (unless otherwise specified)

1 A recent example being the Fashion and Textile Museum’s 2016-17 exhibition ‘The 1920’s Jazz Age – Fashion and Photographs’.


Further Information
Dates: now – until 22nd April 2018

Times: daily 10-4.30 EXCEPT:

• Closed on Tuesdays
• opens at 11am on Sundays
• closes at 9pm on Wednesdays

Travel: Temple tube station (Circle and District lines) less than 5 minutes walk

Two Temple Place
https://twotempleplace.org/exhibitions/rhythm-and-reaction/

Winter Lights

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Now in its fourth year Winter Lights at Canary Wharf has gone from strength to strength and as apparent by the numbers viewing on the opening night earlier this week, it has become a fixture in the calendar for many Londoners. Expectations were high following, last year’s success at the darc architectural awards (Winter Lights won for ‘Best Creative Lighting Event’ in 2017), and 2018’s offering does not disappoint.

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The programme includes over 30 installations, across the Canary Wharf Estate, ranging from Tom Dekyvere’s Apparatus Florius which is literally woven into the flora of Westferry Circus Park, to the selection of smaller works by Amber Stefani (Amberlights) which give an impression of art deco influence, at Crossrail Place. Most installations are sited outdoors in the Wharf’s parks and public spaces. However 2018 has seen the inclusion of a greater number of indoor works. A welcome development, given the inevitable annual timing of Winter Lights, and an innovative use of some spaces.

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This is particularly true of Level -3 at Crossrail place. This is the location of a new yet-to-be-occupied shopping mall, which will in the near future no doubt be a constant blaze of light and activity. Yet descending into this subterranean space in its current state, which aside from the installation spaces themselves is only dimly lit, encourages a sense of trespass. As though these light creations have quietly inhabited this other world to which we are not (yet) invited, and we observe or participate as intruders. Level -3 shows a wide range of work from the mesmerising and aptly named ‘On Your Wavelength’ (by Marcus Lyall) in which a massive into-infinity light sculpture is controlled by your thoughts via a headset, to the beautiful ‘Reflecting Holons’ (Michiel Martens and Jeske Visser) which has an ethereal almost unsettling feel.

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Another development this year was the inclusion of more individual interactive installations, though I suspect that the queues for those that offer a one-to-one interactive experience – especially Sunlight Graffiti in Jubilee Place and Luma Paint Light Graffiti at the Crossrail Roof Garden, will grow considerably through the run. I only had time to try Sunlight Graffiti which was great fun. Directed where to stand and handed a ‘little sun’ with which to produce my ‘art’ – the photographic evidence of this creation had arrived by email by the time I returned home.
It is impossible with limited time and space to describe in detail all the installations but here are some of my favourites this year…

Polaris (Laurent Font) at Cabot Place, inspired by the northern lights is deceptively simple yet compelling. Luminous green light moves around the small space in constant change and evolution. A peaceful and calming experience.

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Approaching Westferry Circus I expected to view an installation on the green in the middle of the park. It took a minute or two to realise that Apparatus Florius was all around us. Weaving organically through the trees and shrubbery light combined with sound to deliver an ethereal experience reminiscent of walking within a forest at dusk. With added magic.

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I also particularly enjoyed Halo (Venividmultiplex and FosFor Design). The suspension of an apparent giant halo above the fountain in Cabot Square is another great example of Winter Lights working with the existing landscape of the Wharf. When the fountain pool is still the reflection can be mesmerising, and viewed by approaching Cabot Square up the steps from West India Avenue the halo appears to cradle the One Canada Square Tower.

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While Winter Lights has no overall theme a number of this year’s works (Sunlight Graffiti, Polaris, Halo, Apparatus Florius, and Intrude) are inspired by, or reference the natural world and environment, in particular the presence of the sun. A timely reminder of its role in our lives, not least at the stage of the year when we see it least.
Canary Wharf has a growing and well-loved arts scene, with the summer theatre and concerts season drawing large crowds. The Wharf is also home to one of the UK’s largest public art collections – from which several permanent works – Bit.Fall, Lightbenches, and Coup de Foudre II – feature in Winter Lights.

See Winter Lights if you can. Rarely is technology so beautiful. It’s a welcome antidote to the dark post-festive days and many of the works lift the spirits and soothe the soul in ways that are unexpected and endure beyond the evening visit.

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© all text and images – copyright Later Than You Think


Additional information

Dates: Now until 27th January 2018
Cost: Free
Time: Available 5-10pm.
Travel : Canary Wharf (Jubilee Line, DLR), several bus routes pass through the Wharf, Thames Clippers stop at Canary Riverside (very close to Apparatus Florius)
As far as I am aware all works are accessible to visitors with restricted mobility, though visitors should be prepared for the amount of travel required between (some) sites. Sound is also a feature of many.
Download a map in advance here (hard copies can also be collected from installation locations). Personally I would allow a good 2-3 hours to visit all the sites (not allowing for queuing for some). Warm clothes and comfortable footwear (expect a reasonable amount of walking between locations) are advised, and it can be helpful to plan a route beforehand to ensure viewing as many as possible. Of course the ‘Lights’ are ideally placed to enable viewing a few here and there as you enjoy other activities – and there is no shortage of places (to suit all budgets) across the Wharf for food and drink.

Later Than You Think

Later than you think is inspired by the realisation that it is always ‘later than we think’ and time is the most precious thing we have.

This is a space for thoughts about exhibitions, concerts, festivals, performances and other arts and cultural activities. There is no overall theme, other than they are those events and activities that have interested me.

I’m not a critic or ‘expert’, but a lifelong fan of, and participant in, the arts, our culture and heritage in its widest sense, sharing my experiences and thoughts.

Some will be reviews of a launch, for others the post will be part way through a run, or highlighting that there is only a week or two left to enjoy a particular exhibition or run, or a review of a one-off event.

In the words of the great Prince Buster (and possibly Socrates) ‘Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think’.

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