In celebration of my little sis 6th birthday, I spent a week /& something/ in London (and a few days in Manchester). London has been my annual visiting point for the last 15 years, yet I discover a new side of this vivid city with each visit I make.
The highlights of this early spring visit were as follows:
WHITECROSS STREET MARKET
I embarked on a walk towards Barbican centre (check below) and in-between the boring corporate buildings I felt the blend of magical food scents in the air.
Whitecross street market is located on Whitecross str. in Islington. The street is filled with stalls on both sides and as you walk between them you are exposed to Brazilian, Asian, Italian, French, Lebanese, Turkish.. (you name it) food. Compelling is also the mixture of visitors on this street - you have "City" people on their lunch break, as well as random hipsters and tourists. Observing (and smelling) all this food, it was incredibly difficult to resist the urge to taste everything!
STRANGE AND FAMILIAR
BRITAN AS REVEALED BY INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS
After the almost impossible to resist temptation of storming Whitecross' food stalls, I took off to Barbican centre. "The Barbican is performing arts centre in the City of London and the largest of its kind in Europe! (says Wikipedia; exclamation mark by me.) With too many options and too little time, I chose to see the prominent exhibition, curated by Martin Parr (famous British documentary photographer). Titled "Strange and Familiar", the exhibition goes through the works of international photographers that have either simply visited, or been appointed to visit, Britain and photographed the image of the country through their lenses from the 1930s onwards.
The exhibition was excellently curated (no wonder the curator's name was so loudly praised), with each photographer displayed in separate space. The arrangement also followed chronologically, beginning with 1930s and unveiling the lives of Britons, going through coronations, class differences (bankers and minors), travel books snippets, the Swinging Sixties, Vietnam war and the post-war era.
PERFORMING FOR THE CAMERA @ TATE MODERN
No vacation in London is complete without paying a visit to Tate Modern. I have seen the best exhibitions and discovered most of my favourite artists and authors exactly there. The newest exhibition, under the name "Performing for the camera" follows the artists' relationship with the camera. I can separate the ideology of the exhibition in two: "behind the scenes" of the artists in preparation of their works; and emblematic photographic performances by artists with much deeper meaning .. The ideology behind the exhibition is to portray the artist and his work from "behind the scenes" point of view, and also to show the reason behind the artist's choice to stand before the camera.
My favourite object of this exhibition is the first staged (and performed) picture taken in front of a camera. In 1840 Hippolyte Bayard posed in front of his own camera and named the photo "Self Portrait as a Drowned Man". Bayard was a pioneer photographer, but had to postpone announcing his photographic discoveries which cost him the recognition as one of the principal inventors of photography. In turn, he "killed" himself for the camera.
Another inspiring photo belongs to Yves Klein. In 1960 Klein hired the photographers Harry Shunk and Jean Kender (the photographic duo behind most of the footage in the exhibition) to create a photographic illusion, which depicts Klein jumping from a second-story window freely, undisturbed of the concrete below. The photo is, in fact, a combination of two shots - in the first we see Klein jumping and his friends holding a trampoline, and another shot of the empty street.
As the "selfie generation" theme is very hyped up right now, it found its place in the exhibition as well (Bayard being our selfie pioneer; check above). Most notably, for me, was the series of self-portraits by Boris Mikhailov, a famous Ukrainian photographer, whose works expose the political and social issues in the former Soviet Union. For "Performing for the camera", the curator exhibited a more "cheerful" project of his, titled "I Am Not" from 1992. The photographer takes a series of photos of himself, in which he poses naked with a wig or dildo, in funny and self-mockingly situations.
The justification behind these series of self-portraits by Mikhailov is the following: "I thought, if you criticise someone, start with yourself."
More on the exhibition in an extended article by The Telegraph.
The exhibition will be at Tate Modern until June 12.
THE UNION THEATRE (and) CAFÉ
After the visit to Tate Modern I embarked on a long walk, got lost a couple of times, which led me to discover this treasure place! Located under a railway bridge, on a busy traffic street, lies The Union Theatre Café, its open gates leading to the theatre itself. It's one of those places that you wouldn't set your mind on going to, but would simply bump into. Managed by two kind and elderly gentleman, with regular clientele consisting mostly of young actors and passing city bikers in need of a short break, this café is the perfect brief getaway from the city's buzz.
& OTHER STORIES | COLOUR DISCOVERIES
London is still of the lucky few cities to have & Other Stories shop. I browse through it for around 2 hours every time I'm in town. On this visit I got really attracted to a colour, mixture between yellow and green, but described as "dark green" in the labels. And so my dark green obsession begins.
Everything can be found on their website.
PERUVIAN FOOD IN THE HEART OF SHOREDITCH
One hour before an event at the Shoreditch Boxpark, me and my company stopped in front of a Peruvian restaurant with alluring menu hung on the glass windows (by "alluring" understand "dishes with complicated names and ingridients that I've never heard of before, but they all look yummy!"). The atmosphere inside looked dim, romantic and artistic. All in!
Andina, as is the restaurant's name, represents woman from the Andes who lovingly cooks for her family (as a blog suggests, not my idea).
The dishes come in small portion, so the waiter suggests 3 choices per person. We tried a couple of combinations that felt completely foreign (and incredibly tasty) to my taste buds! Like beetroot with mango and purée of asparagus (yum!) The cocktails were also very "inspiring"! Will repeat again, definitely.
Andina restaurant is located in East London, on 1 Redchurch str. Website here.
KANO /grime/ in Manchester
On the weekend we went to Manchester, which I visit for the first time. It was a happy coincidence that one of the grime artists I follow from recently, and his new album tour stopped in Manchester exactly on the same Friday I arrived.
KANO is an East London grime MC who came out with a new album 5 years after his last one. The album is titled "Made in the Manor" and it's quite an experience! More on him and the continued subject of the "grime renaissance" in a separate post.
Paramount here is the fact that I didn't have a ticket for KANO's show in Manchester and it was completely sold out. I had to scoop the area in front of the concert and find tickets to buy from some raggedy-looking people. As I was with family in Manchester, and no one wanted to go to a grime concert (least my 6 yrs old sister), I went alone to a gig for the first time! And it was GREAT! Kano is really good live and his energy is out-of-this world. Amazing experience.
A little something by KANO to give you a taste:
EASTERN BLOC RECORDS in Manchester
A couple of hours before leaving Manchester, we took a stroll along the city and headed to the Northern Quarters, which, we were told, could have something interesting on a Sunday. We stopped in front of a café/record store, named "Eastern Bloc". This place, originally a record store, exists since 1985 and it was famous for launching bands and holding vinyls from around the globe.
The café/record store has an edgy socialist exterior, with metal chairs and tables. Outside you can see the menu which proposes all kinds of English breakfasts (including vegan, wow!). They also do yummy home made deserts. In the nearby café there are your usual raggedy-looking people (is my new favourite word "raggedy"? hell yeah!) which contribute further to the funky atmosphere.
The interior of the cafe consists of the bar and randomly spread wooden tables. The second floor, though, leads to the original record store, which operates even today. A sneak peek in the mood:
We spent a few hours there, drinking coffee and tapping on our laptops. The owners gave us a birthday cake since the previous night was the re-launch of Eastern Bloc. A lovely place that I would recommend to anyone visiting Manchester!
EB's website here.
As a finale, here's a photo of me and my incredible-funny-lovely-baby sis, on her 6th birthday. (Taken somewhere in East London.)