Live arts correspondent Bella Todd on the hottest happenings in the global cultural calendar this week, including tripping the light fantastic with the original JLS in Berlin, and giant squids in the literary waters of Brighton...
The Main Event: Transmediale 2012/CTM festivals
It’s a damning indictment of the times we live in that the letters JLS now popularly signify a band of X Factor-generated, synchronized-strutting, condom-sponsoring sop-pop man-childs for whose fans a bottle of blue WKD is probably the ultimate mind-altering multi-sensory event.
Back in the psychedelic Sixties, JLS meant one thing and one thing only: the greatest light show on earth. Founded by NYC filmmaker and theatre designer Joshua White, The Joshua Light Show, aka JLS, was a group of multi-media projectionist and slideshow artists who became residents at legendary Sixties East Village venue, the Fillmore East. There they performed with everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Janis Joplin, Frank Zappa to The Doors, their multi-coloured oils swirling under the heat of the lamps as the tripping prog fans moved to the music (check out the slides of some of their performances here and watch one here). If you’ve watched the party scene from Midnight Cowboy, John Schlesinger’s 1969 multi-Academy Award winning hustler-flick starring Dustin Hoffman, you’ve seen their work.
Put pompously, JLS was the perfect realisation of Sixties culture’s awakening, acid-fuelled interest in synesthesia, the interchangeability of music and visual art, sound and sight. And when White started up an electronic light show using large-screen video projection (a Woodstock performance convinced White of the potential mass audience for rock music), he pretty much invented VJ-ing too.
But the Joshua Light Show is no museum piece. Performances in the past couple of years include shows at the Hayden Planetarium and with those most alt-y of New Jersey alt-rockers, Yo La Tengo (watch a clip here). And this month they’re one of the centerpieces of Berlin’s Transmediale 2012, in collaboration with its sister festival CTM.
Now in its 25th year, Transmediale is a festival of digital art and culture that has its finger firmly on the electronic pulse, this year promising performances, art interventions, screenings and more around the theme of ‘incompatibility’, including the relationship between hackers and developers, analogue and digital media. Among the musicians, JLS will be performing with in the Ghosts In The Machine strand is Brooklyn’s Oneohtrix Point Never, whose 2011 album Replica (watch the video for the track with the same name here) turned audio-archeologist to conjure a world of downbeat ambient song-cycle from ‘80s TV commercials.
CTM, meanwhile, is a festival of Adventurous Music and Related Arts that runs parallel to Transmediale and is this year – Burial fans will be pleased to hear – taking inspiration from the word SPECTRAL. Acts on hand to explore the darker reaches of experimental music include German glitch pioneers Mouse On Mars, with the launch of their eleventh album, Parastrophics.
New On The Scene: First Fictions
Giant squids, graphic novels, digital literature and Ian Rankin’s unpublished debut story (read by the UK’s best-selling crime writer himself) all factor in the launch weekend of First Fictions, a new programme of live lit events in the South East of the UK celebrating first novels past and present. Fresh is the word.
Culture Video Of The Week
Romans used to place statues and busts in the foundations of their buildings. Wales was big on stuffing its sites with human sacrifices (according to one Arthurian myth, Merlin nearly went that way as a boy - which might’ve leant a very different title to The Sword In The Stone…) And some people still think it’s lucky to put coins in the foundations of a new home. So there’s ancient history in the highly post-modern act of commissioning high-profile artists to throw up artworks on the construction site of the new Clapham Library Building – artworks that will be buried as soon as the plasterers move in. Check out this video of satirical artist Paul Davis graffitiing his contributions...