london, 21st - 23rd January

I don’t travel to london that often.

I went this time to attend the last two nights of the ‘balloon & needle’ collectives residency at Cafe Oto, Dalston.

first day; arrived at kings cross - went to the taschen bookshop (sale !) and managed to come away having only bought two books and a diary.

‘The complete published works of Karl Blossfelt’

'20’s decorative art’

Hiroshige - famous views of edo’ 2011 diary

visited the saatchi gallery. on the top floor of the gallery I discovered a wall full of small paintings - more of which in a future post (basically when I ring the gallery to get the artists name because the one I wrote down on a piece of paper must have been for the work on the other wall !)

these still life paintings of broken china plates, cups, vases, stood out for their simplicity, their stillness and the space they allowed one to observe them in this particular room.

I walked to Victoria station to buy some seaweed onigiri (japanese rice balls) from the stall there.

so, then to Cafe Oto for an evening of film projections and solo performances by the Balloon & Needle people. Hankil Ryu I have met before, when I invited him to Hull for a performance as part of ‘seeds & bridges’ 2009. The rest of the collective I’ve known only via their cd’s and online connections.

set one; Hankil Ryu (solo) - typewriter, snare drum, clockworks, electronics

set two; Choi Joonyong - opened cd players, amplifiers

set three; Jin Sangtae - hard disk drives


set four; Lee Hangjung & Hong Chulki & Choi Joonyong - films / turntables / guitar

afterwards, turkish food with Choi Joonyong being brave and ordering lamb’s testicles. He offered them around but I declined. Salads and warm bread appeared on the table first and were tasty, especially the onion and beetroot one.

hotel - sleep

day two and we meet for breakfast at the hotel before heading out by bus, without Hankil who stays at the hotel, to visit vintage guitar shops. lots of nice instruments to be found - if one has the money of course. I spotted a 1930’s archtop made in czechoslovakia - I confess that my knowledge of the czech guitar industry in the 1930’s in non-existant but I was informed that the guitar didn’t play well. despite the fact that I wanted to have a closer look at it the man in the shop tried his best to talk me out of it.

outside the shop I spot a blue plaque marking the former home of the chap who worked on the development of the diving mask.

Hong Chulki & Jin Sangtae return to the hotel after having lunch in chinatown. I wandered around whilst they were eating - looking for asian sweets to take home for Pheobe and for dried fish for use in indonesian cookery. also spotted some japanese breadcrumbs so they had to be purchased too. no sign of bonito flakes though.

book shops were explored on charing cross road. I resisted, though was tempted by several publications. made notes of the titles for future reference (lets see how long I can last before I can’t resist any longer & find them online)

the rest of us headed to tate modern. turbine hall still half full of millions of ceramic sunflower seeds by the chinese artrist Ai Weiwei.

around the rooms, which we had to take in at quick speed due to needing to get back to the venue for 5pm, we missed the Rothko room - which is currently occupied by other artists work - but the room of Agnes Martin paintings was good, though these particular images looked better at Kettle’s yard (cambridge) at the exhibition there last year. the room full of russian posters was hypnotic - even for the few minutes we were there.

Bernd & Hilla Becher foundries, three Sugimoto theatre screen photographs

quickly to the hotel, then to Cafe Oto for the final night of the residency. two sets tonight - adding Ben Drew

set one; Lee Hangjung & Hong Chulki -films / turntables


set two; all + Ben Drew (projections, tapes)

recordings of both nights sound good. the desk recording of the last set on the second night sounds odd. the record level isn’t too high, it hasn’t peaked but the sound from the projectors is strangely distorted. perhaps this ‘new’ version of the results, transformed by the desk and the recording itself, has created a new work , one different from the room recording of the same performance.

both nights I was there were well attended. always a good mix of folks at Cafe Oto.

hotel. goodbyes said as most of the others had to leave at 6am to reach heathrow in time for their flight to france, the next stop on their tour, except for Jin Sangtae who will head to Ireland the day after and re-join the group a few days later. Hankil too will go on his own in a few days - to the czech republic to perform with Ivan Palacky. I was given some Korean seasweed and sweets as presents and also two cd’s - all very gratefully recieved and i’m looking forward to listening to them - and sampling the sweets and seaweed with Pheobe of course.

sunday, before catching my train home, I go to more bookshops and yes, this time I made some purchases but still kept them to a minimum.

Akiko Busch - ‘the uncommon life of common objects’

Gilbert Rumbold - ‘the wayside book’

on this trip to london I used the bus for almost every journey. it’s better than the tube if you have the time as one gets to see so much more of the architecture. spotted some remarkable functionalist structures. I also spent a fair bit of time walking around back streets and away from the main roads. it doesn’t take one long to escape the tiring nature of the general london experience.


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