Tag Archives: Affluence and Avarice

A Diary of Twinkle and Tinsel in Vienna

26 Jul

Sunday 23rd –  After MUCH excitement and build up during the preceding weeks, we finally fly to Vienna, and land in a heat wave!  One of the gallerists from Galerie Michaela Stock, Jennifer Lang, and her boyfriend Stefan very kindly pick us up from the airport and take us to our apartment.

We spend our first evening in Vienna getting our bearings and exploring.  We have drinks at Museum Quarter and a very late dinner in a bistro near Stephanplatz.

Monday 24th – at 5am we are woken by a torrential downpour which doesn’t stop for 24 hours. We have an 11am meeting at the gallery with Michaela to set the show up. We spend 4 hours curating the space and hanging the works. Afterwards we have a late lunch in the Naschsmarkt, a big food market with indoor and outdoor eating where we indulged in celebratory wine and food.

Hanging Show 3Hanging show

Tuesday 25th –  We spend the morning in MUMOK looking around the Albert Oehlen contemporary painting exhibition, and lunch in the Palmenhaus in Burggarten.  It is our Bank of Tinsel & Twinkle performance later on that day, so before heading to Galerie Michaela Stock to prepare, we stop off for one quick drink in the ‘Trotsky Bar’ (he used to drink there) which is called Café Central on Herrengasse.

The Albert Oehlen exhibition at MUMOC

The Albert Oehlen exhibition at MUMOK

With some Dutch courage, we head to meet Michaela and Niksa, (Niksa is Michaela’s boyfriend who also helps with the gallery and both helped to make us feel very welcome!) at the Gallery to prepare for our performance.  Wearing our banker uniforms we walked from Schleifmuhlgasse to Graben and stage the bank outside Erste Bank, one of the biggest banks in Austria, for one and a half hours.

This was the first time ever we have staged The Bank of Tinsel & Twinkle in general public, previously we have been interacting with ‘art’ audiences.  The reaction on a busy high street when people are on their way home from work on a Tuesday evening was quite different to the response from guests at a private view.  Initially people were a little shy, ignoring us, or in some cases running away! With little German between us, we had memorized a few phrases to explain the concept of the bank, however the language barrier made it a bit difficult.  Jenny and Michaela very kindly helped out and helped to explain it to people, we soon started gathering some interesting comments with people stopping to chat and taking the time to really think about the thoughts they contributed.

GrabenBANK GRABEN 2

The purpose of The Bank of Tinsel & Twinkle is to discuss money and the economy in a creative arena, away from politics and the media.  Our bank gives power to the people, we are asking people to contribute their thoughts about what we can do to improve the economic situation and global financial problems. As the collection of thoughts builds, hopefully it will start to represent what we can do collectively to make a difference.

Graben1Graben2

The reaction was mixed, one man commented ‘I am not giving you my thoughts!’ , another stated that he was ‘too well known to give us a thought’.  A priest said that what we were doing was ‘too strong’.  Some people were quite disappointed when they realised we weren’t giving away free money.  We found ourselves in several debates and discussions with different people, on the topic of bankers and government bailouts, economics in general and materialism.  We were overwhelmed with positive responses too, with people contributing heartfelt and personal feelings about money and finance, light hearted ideas and philosophical thoughts.  One lady stayed for over ten minutes discussing her political background and opinions about what we were doing, she didn’t want to contribute to the Bank of Tinsel & Twinkle but the discussion was interesting.

Thank you very much to the people of Vienna, we very much enjoyed bringing the Bank of Tinsel & Twinkle to you, and thank you very much for your engagement with it.

Wednesday 26th – Tinsel’s mum, dad, brother and Elvi her son all arrive in Vienna. So do some of our best friends Scampi and Sparkle and Twinkle’s husband Mulka. Tinsel goes for a family dinner and Twinkle goes exploring with Scampi and Sparkle, walking through the rose gardens in Volksgarten, another stop off in Café Central for some Gruner Veltliner (the local Austrian wine) before heading to the museum Quarter to meet Tinsel and her Family and Mulka for a night out.

Volksgarten (you can just about see Scampi)

Volksgarten (you can just about see Scampi)

Thursday 27th – Twinkle’s mum, dad, sister and niece arrive in Vienna too. It’s also the opening night of the exhibition which has coincided with a yearly summer street party on Schleifmuhlgasse. When we get to the gallery the street has been pedestrianised and is filled with bars and food stalls, street performers and live music.

Sitting amongst the street party outside the gallery

Sitting amongst the street party outside the gallery

We were both quite nervous once again, not really knowing what to expect. For us there was an excitement in the air though, and fortunately it was a lovely warm, balmy evening.

Visitors and guests slowly started to arrive, and after a while the place was buzzing with a lively atmosphere, and we were genuinely pleasantly surprised by the time taken by guests who stayed to chat with us for ages about the work and the ideas behind what we are doing.

SHOW 1SHOW 2The Show 2The showOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Halfway through the opening night Michaela from the gallery instigates another staging of the Bank of T&T outside the gallery. Tinky, Sparkle and Tinsel’s Mum held the bank sign for us while we stopped passers by and asked them to fill out our bank notes with their thoughts. It was also during this time that we met arts journalist Marina Richter who ended up interviewing us and writing a great article and exhibition review which you can read here.

BANK GALLERYBANK GALLERY 2BANK GALLERY 3OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

During the opening evening we had bankers and lawyers leaving their economic thoughts and musings as well as students and children, mums and dads, other artists, journalists and general passers by who all left their contributions to the Bank of T&T.  We’ll be doing a post about the Bank of T&T in Vienna separately soon where we’ll go into more detail about the thoughts and responses we collected.

Gallery bank notesGallery bank notes2Banknotes at the gallery

Michaela and Jenny worked non-stop greeting guests and taking them one by one through all the paintings in the show. They were great at making sure we were introduced to people, and as a big added bonus Niksa really looked after us and our friends and families too.

photo 2

After the opening, which seemed to zoom by, we let our hair down and celebrated into the small hours!

Friday 28th – Both families and friends went for a lovely big lunch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

12 of us meet up at the beautiful Palmenhaus in Burrgarten, lots of food, drink and laughter and recollection of the show opening the night before.

The Palmenhaus

The Palmenhaus

Twinkle spends the afternoon with her family, going on a horse and cart around central Vienna with her niece and mum.

Horse and cart   Horse and cart2

Tinsel, Sparkle and Scampi visit the Belvedere, a beautiful palace with a stunning art collection, lots of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, including ‘The Kiss’.  They also looked round an interesting and beautiful temporary exhibition called ‘Decadence’ which explores symbolism in Austrian art at the turn of the 20th century.

That evening we head back to the street party where everyone meets up.  Stefan and friends DJ at the gallery, the whole place is filled with people dancing to Northern Soul, Ska, Rocksteady and 60’s classics, everyone parties until the early hours.

Stefan DJing

Stefan DJing

Saturday 29th – We were hanging out with families, Twinkle went to the Leopold museum with her dad and Mulka to see their Egon Scheile and Gustav Klimt collections, an exhibition about clouds and a really powerful but harrowing exhibition called Drawing Against Oblivion by Manfred Bockelmann which is made up of portraits of children killed during the holocaust in order to give identity to statistics.

Mulka clouds

Mulka amongst Andy Warhols Silver Clouds

Tinsel and her family had a lovely day out at the zoo. The Zoo in Vienna claims to be ‘the oldest zoo in the world’, found in the beautiful grounds of the Palace at Schonbrunn, the imperial rococo style summer residence. Currently there is a baby giraffe at the zoo which Elvi loved.

SCHLOSS SCHONBRUN

Tinsel and Elvi at Schloss Schonbrunn

That evening we all meet with Jenny and Stefan to go to a Heurigen on the outskirts of Vienna. Heurigens are wine taverns set up amongst the vineyards where the wine is made. You can also eat local traditional food there and the views are spectacular as you are up in the hills. It was also the last night of the street party, so we decided to make it a hat-trick and ended up there for the third night in a row!

Heurigen 2  AT THE HEURIGEN  Leaving the Heurigen

Sunday 30th – Twinkle’s family head home and in the evening Twinkle and Mulka have a night out bar hopping and going out for dinner. Tinsel and her family visit the Hundertwasser Haus, an unusual and colourful apartment block designed by the artist Friedrich Hundertwasser.  Drawing inspiration from his own bright and colourful paintings, he sought to unite architecture with nature.

Hundertwasser Haus

Hundertwasser Haus

Monday 1st – Mulks leaves, and Tinsels family leave. We get picked up by Stefan to be taken to the apartment on the outskirts and have dinner with Jenny and Stefan. Their apartment is in a very tranquil and idyllic setting, perfect for a couple of days relaxing!

View from Jenny and Stefans flat

View from Jenny and Stefans flat

Tuesday 2nd –  We spend the morning working on our notes for the artist talk in the evening.  After a quick afternoon walk, we head to Galerie Michaela Stock for the talk.  Jennifer Lang hosts, helping Tinsel & Twinkle calm their nerves! We discuss the theme of the exhibition and the Bank of Tinsel & Twinkle, talking about each of our paintings in the show.

A really lovely group of people turn up for the talk and afterwards there is wine and cheese and a chance to meet the guests.

TALK

A couple of artists turned up to the talk, and afterwards they really wanted to understand why we choose to use something so traditional like paint, and contrast it with something less traditional like the bank. Other people stay to ask questions about particular pieces, or to ask about London and the art scene there, we meet Marina Richter again too who came along to get to know us and the work a little more before writing her piece on us.

Wednesday 3rd – 30 degrees heat and a much needed day at the outdoor pool followed by dinner and wine and more relaxing.

At the outdoor pool

Thursday 4th – Our last day!  We have lots of errands to do, last minute present and post card buying… A big city walk in the morning and lunch at the Naschmarkt.  Twinkle heads to the Belvedere to see The Decadence exhibition, Tinsel and Elvi head to the Museum Quarter to find some child friendly things to do. They discover the Kinder Museum and spend an hour at The Atelier, Elvi builds an Aeroplane, learning how to use a drill, hacksaw, glue gun and electric screwdriver!

ATELIER AT KINDER MUSEUM

That evening we head to the riverside beach bars for some drinks with a friend, a lovely last evening in Vienna.

Elvi at the beach bar, we were all feeling a bit like this by the end!

Elvi at the beach bar, we were all feeling a bit like this by the end!

Friday 5th – HOME TIME!

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Affluence and Avarice by Graham Crowley

22 Jun

We’re very excited to publish today’s post, because Graham Crowley, the distinguished, talented painter with a brilliantly energetic mind who was previously professor of painting at the Royal College of Art, has written the text for our booklet which is accompanying our exhibition Affluence and Avarice at Galerie Michaela Stock in Vienna. We wanted to be able to share this text with everyone who can’t make the show, and who wont be able to get their hands on one of the booklets.  Graham was extensive with his research and the level of detail, he was so wonderful to work with on this project. We hope you enjoy!

Catalogue frontcover

‘Affluence and Avarice’

When Mama met Dada.

‘We will teach our twisted speech to the young believers’. The Clash 1977.

Once upon a time; long, long ago in a Britain that time wishes it had forgotten, a significant majority of artists behaved in a manner that was informed by socialist and humanist values. But as the remnants of the YBA’s and Thatcher’s children, the ‘me’ generation, turn into cynical, self-absorbed middle-aged ATMs and cash cows, it’s refreshing to find work that is politically and emotionally engaged. No politics please; we’re British.

The ‘toxic’ trinity of capital, celebrity and the media is now well established as the dominant culture. Young Farmers and YBAs united in Tory values.

‘I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.’ William Blake.

Tinsel and Twinkle are instinctive socialists. They believe in equality and collective action. Previously, much politically motivated work would have claimed its authority by occupying the high moral ground whilst becoming – as one commentator put it – ‘poor art for poor people’. It became didactic and rhetorical. A constipated mix of convention and dogma. This was also the hey-day of victim culture.

During the intervening forty years a lot has changed. Tinsel and Twinkle are aware of this rich and complex legacy and behave accordingly. Their work is affirmative and often political. Never didactic. They enjoy what they’re doing. But more importantly; they believe in what they’re doing – whether they’re painting or making music. They strive for some sense of authenticity in an inauthentic world.

They choose to paint because it still offers them the opportunity to discourse and to ‘play’. Play is an often belittled and misunderstood term that lends life value and meaning. Play makes life bearable. Play 1 – Work 0.

Their work is influenced by the spirit of Dada and the attitude of fin-de-circle composers like Erik Satie. It was Satie who sold whistles in the foyer during performances of his operas so that the audience could express their disapproval. At its core, the work of Tinsel and Twinkle reflects the values espoused by the Guerrilla Girls of 1980’s New York and the Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990’s.

‘My karma ran over my dogma.’ Anon. San Francisco 1960’s.

The assertion that addressing issues surrounding identity, racism, misogyny and poverty would make work somehow relevant no longer holds water. It’s seen as posturing. Particularly problematic in this context is the work of Anselm Kiefer which has come to be regarded as monumental political kitsch. Utter bombast. Tinsel and Twinkle’s work addresses both performance and painting with equal and parallel conviction. This is pursued with a healthy sense of the absurd. Hogarth would’ve approved. The fact that the ‘hard-of-thinking’ regard painting that is humorous as slight is a reflection of convention and prejudice. Tinsel and Twinkle’s work illuminates the fragility of understanding. They’re work spins a fine but sceptical thread. Scepticism is often wilfully misrepresented as cynicism. This is done in order to neutralise any doubt. It’s ‘No scepticism please; we’re British’. Any expression of dissent is immediately labeled ‘negative’. Caring is fast becoming a liability. Conversely, in this rather apolitical climate cynicism is seen as sophisticated. We should remind ourselves that sophistication is a form of decadence. Sophistication has become a euphemism for world-weariness and a form of self-defence. It’s too easy and down right lazy.

‘The Shaggs, they’re better than the Beatles – even today.’ Frank Zappa.

Let’s play. Anyone who still regards play as something facile, childish and dissipated should think again. How often have you dreamt of going  to shows with titles like ‘We Kidnapped A Banker’?  It beats the mind numbing – Recent Paintings – hands down. What next? ‘We Kidnapped A Banker And Posted His Body Parts Back To His Wife’? I’m fairly confident that I’m not alone when I say that I’d love to see that show.

It’s also worth mentioning that their approach is informed by their long-term friendship. In fact friendship and interdependence are central to their work. They’ve been ‘playing’ together since they were 9 years old. Playing in this context carries multiple meanings.

Within their cosmology Tinsel and Twinkle ‘run’ a bank. But the only currency that The Bank of Tinsel & Twinkle really trade in is hope, wrapped in gentle satire. Faith in a better future. Confidence that only they can make their lives richer and the world a slightly better place. Start small and think big. After all – this is it.

‘If I had to lay bets, my bet would be that everything is going to hell, but, you know, what else have we got except hope?’ Richard Rorty in interview 2003.

‘Just go out and do it’. That was the rallying cry of the 70’s punk movement. It’s this sense of self-reliance that’s at the centre of their work. Don’t take no for an answer and don’t ask permission. Tinsel and Twinkle offer a different state of mind. There best work offers hope. Not only do they collaborate as visual and performing artists; in 2012 Tinsel and another friend, Catherine Magnani founded ‘A Side B Side Gallery’. Tinsel and Twinkle have shown there. It’s the kind of gallery that offers emergent artists an opportunity to exhibit their work in London. Tinsel and Twinkle offer us social awareness instead of social autism.

‘There’s no such thing as society.’ Margaret Thatcher 1984.

Music has always been an important part of their partnership. In fact, to described their collaboration as a partnership is selling it short. What they have is a is a longstanding friendship. They seem to know how to share. In 2000 Tinsel and Twinkle along with Sparkle and Lindsay Lights started Pushing Pussy Records. The name of the venture is self-explanatory; it’s a record label that specialises in promoting music by women. They take their inspiration from acts like Hole, Courtney Love, The Slits, The Raincoats and to a lesser degree The Shaggs. There’s a theme emerging – the double entendre. An established ingredient of british institutions like the Carry On films and Whitehall farces.

When it comes to performing; The Fairies Band can really cut it. The group which includes Sparkle and Tinky, at its height became an eight piece outfit that played with the urgency of punk but with the musicality and power chords, reminiscent of bands like Guns ‘N’ Roses and The Strokes. Their song Random Boys should’ve been adopted as a post-punk, feminist anthem. It’s punk, but served in a mouth-watering Gillray inspired sauce, topped off with a twist of Austen. It’s all beginning to sound rather English. The Fairy Band plays tunes like the memorable Pink Socks Rock (‘Fuck My Hole’), a haunting little ballad about the lives of everyday screwing folk and their unbridled lust.

‘Just go out and do it.’ Anon 1976.

Since the early 1990’s the market has set the agenda for the public museums and galleries. Any discourse that doesn’t involve celebrity is marginalised. It’s probably worth mentioning at this point the toxic effect that all that dirty money, celebrity and the media have had upon the market. This has led to a return to the shiny, a-political wall furniture, which has always been popular with the nouveau riche. Liking things is rapidly becoming a lazy  way of expressing ones prejudices and sensibility. A blatant reflection of a consumerist mentality. The constant and nagging desire to buy stuff – to shop. The media and the internet are constantly cajoling us to ‘like this’. The only intelligent response to the ubiquitous internet thumbs up logo is a middle digit. As droves of middle-brow academics ‘theorise desire and consumption’ – the market thrives. These texts are both esoteric and politically benign. They acquire an almost symbolic status and – unsurprisingly – go largely unread and ignored. They’re tokens. The critic George Steiner has described such texts as ‘academic Kabbalah’.

‘Oh bondage – up yours’. Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex 1977.

Tinsel and Twinkle are the kind of people that take the past and the present  personally. They’re involved and  care. Their work may appear immediate, but it’s always studied; they respect the craft of painting and aspire to become ‘better’ painters. They strive to understand themselves and their practice. Their work combines a sense of injustice and anger with good humour and common decency. They’ve embraced empathy.

‘The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.’ William Blake

The idea that they could grant wishes is as absurd as it is brilliant. A blatant suspension of the rational. An invitation to The Land of Far, Far Away for lunch with Shrek. The fact that they claim ‘to make your wishes come true’ is as generous as it is barmy. But isn’t that what we all want to hear? All this when society is becoming increasingly fragmented and our democracies all over Europe are starting to crack. Fairies 1 – Politicians 0. Fairy culture or fairy-lore as it’s described in ‘The Burning of Bridget Cleary’ by Angela Bourke. A fascinating and remarkable book about misogyny and female emancipation in rural Ireland in the early 20th century. The author describes fairy-lore as a guide to good husbandry which is backed up with the threat of a grave punishment meted out by the fairies. Supernatural coercion.

‘The fairies break their dances

And leave the printed lawn.’  A E Housman 1922.

Imagine, you’re on your way to work. It’s an overcast, cash strapped Monday morning in London’s New Cross. The rush hour traffic hurtles past inches away and ‘The Fairies’ are out and about granting wishes to unsuspecting passers-by. The Fairies are dressed in denim hot pants. They’re toting magic wands and wearing faux-gossamer fairy wings. It sounds likes rather like the synopsis for a new sit com on Dave.

In the early 20th century things were different. Fairies were everywhere. As a child I was told that fairies lived ‘at the bottom of the garden’. One garden in rural Cottingley is particularly relevant in this context. It was here that two teenage girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths took their now famous faked photographs of fairies. The paintings of the Victorian Richard Dadd are now synonymous with fairies. The authenticity of Tinsel and Twinkle’s fairies isn’t in doubt. They exist and they’ve been seen playing in the traffic on the A20.

‘Culture is an observance. Or at least it presupposes an observance.’ Ludwig Wittgenstein 1949.

Tinsel and Twinkle don’t shrink from moral issues. They know where they stand and if you hang around long enough – they’ll let you know too. They’re aware that the kind of work favoured by the market celebrates the gulf between rich and poor, the indifference of male dominated politics and the criminality of banks and multinationals. It’s not all politics though; their recent paintings demonstrate an increasingly ambitious grasp of their practice and a restlessness that is symptomatic of their need to create.

They steer a very fine course between the vernacular idiom and a subtle sense of self mockery. Generosity and decency prevail. Hogarth would have approved. There’s a genuine tenderness and a sense of celebration rather than the narcissism and sense of entitlement that has pervaded so much work recently. On four; one…two…three…

‘Oh, girls, they wanna have fu-un.’  Cindi Lauper – 1985.

Graham Crowley

London 3rd May 2013.

______

A brief bibliography;

Blake by Peter Ackroyd.

Music in The Key of Z by Irwin Chusid.

The Burning of Bridget Cleary by Angela Bourke.

Culture & Value by Ludwig Wittgenstein.

The Banquet Years by Roger Shattuck.

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