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Iconic and PHEVER: The Words and Soundtrack of the Underground

11 Aug

Iconic Underground - Front Cover.jpg

by Rhea H.Boyden

In the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with two talented and accomplished men involved heavily in the Dublin underground dance music scene: award-winning and internationally acclaimed Irish DJ, music producer and PHEVER director and TV/Radio presenter, Dean Sherry and sound engineer, CEO and editor of Iconic Underground Magazine, Mike Mannix. Iconic Underground Magazine will be launching on Monday, August 15th- first edition in digital format and then in hard-copy by the end of the month. The first edition of the magazine will contain an in-depth interview with Dean Sherry who has had a dazzling career to date.

In my four years of blogging, I have covered a diverse range of topics from dating to restaurant reviews to art and theatre. In the past year, however, I have become more and more involved in covering the Dublin dance music scene as it has become very clear to me that this city certainly has no shortage of excellent DJs and producers. I have already had a lot of fun collaborating with some of them, promoting and reviewing their events, and I am now very excited about focusing my reviewing more on this scene in the future.

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Dean Sherry 

I was talking recently to both Dean and Mike separately about their projects and I realised that they were, in fact, talking to me about the same project and their collaboration with each other. I found this to be a delightful coincidence and so I felt compelled to learn more about their work together and what plans they have for future collaboration between PHEVER:TV-Radio and Iconic Underground Magazine. ‘Mike and I share similar visions without fear of doing the same thing. It’s complimentary on differing but related mediums,’ Dean told me. ‘Yes, and I have full respect for what Dean has achieved and his future direction,’ Mike said.

Dean, who has held residencies with almost every leading dance club in Ireland over the past 2 decades, set up and has managed PHEVER since 2014; which is now a collective of 75 DJs and presenters plus media artists. He produces and presents his weekly PHUNK’DUP Radio show which airs Saturdays 4-6pm. The latest global stats on PHEVER:TV-Radio from internet-radio.com and Google Analytics show an average of over 100K weekly tuning in to PHEVER.ie. I tuned in to Dean’s superb Old Skool set recently and I was instantly hooked to the funky beats. He told me his current focus is on the promotion of underground music styles, DJs and artists. He is hoping also to get spoken word interviews on the air and to transpose them onto the new PHEVER.ie website, as well as for Mike’s new magazine. He and Mike are looking at different ways in which their projects can intersect and how these ideas will develop in the future and benefit them both.

Mike at DJ awards

Mike Mannix

Mike, who holds a degree in sound engineering from Pulse College, Dublin told me that Iconic Underground’s main focus will be on quality in-depth interviews of the icons of culture based around the underground music scene, street art, graffiti and urban culture. He was a co-founder of online/hardcopy Zone Magazine which covers the underground dance music scene in Ireland and internationally, with Iconic Underground being his latest ambitious project. He told me he is interested in really getting to the heart of people’s stories and what makes them tick. He wants quality content as opposed to just chart listings. As well as including an interview with Dean Sherry, the first edition of Iconic Underground will feature interviews with the following artists: Joey Beltram, Jazzy M, Mauro Picotto, James Darkin, Jon the Dentist, Suddi Raval, KoZy and many more.

I read what Mike wrote about the first edition with great interest and I can’t wait to get my hands on the first copy: ‘kicking it off on the front cover with a worldwide raw and exclusive uncut interview with DJ/Producer Joey Beltram who has been banging out the bangers for 3 decades and showing no signs of abating anytime soon. With a prolific back catalogue and hundreds of thousands of air miles under his belt touring the world, Iconic Underground finally caught up with this techno Godfather to spit it real.This is Joey as you have never heard him before in any interview. He is speaking his mind with zero editing, just how we like it at Iconic, just keeping it real.’

PHEVER logo

In the course of my conversations with both Dean and Mike one thing has certainly stood out: they both value keeping it real and getting to the core of what makes people tick. They also both know that reaching a satisfying depth of quality in music production takes time and patience and it can’t be rushed. Pulse College, for their part, enjoy keeping up with their graduates and they asked Mike what he would advise students starting out in a career in electronic music. ‘Don’t just rush the process so you can get a track out and brag to your mates,’ he told them. ‘Be original and do your homework. Spend the time and then some, until you get it right. Don’t be a carbon copy of someone else, buck the trends and believe in yourself.’ Mike knows from experience how long it can take to produce quality music. He worked on his 5 track debut EP ‘Hypnotic Intelligence’ for 3 years until he was sick of hearing it and then put it away for a year to work on other projects before coming back to it to rework it. His patience with it certainly paid off; when he went back and listened to it with fresh ears he was able to finish it and it was instantly signed to Redbox records and did really well in the charts. As a writer, I can relate well to this process. I love the giddy feeling I get when I go back and re read and re edit a piece I have written in the past. I approach it with a vibrant new energy having been removed from it. I have even had heady moments where I have actually asked myself: ‘Did I write this?’ This is such a gratifying and important part of the creative process; to go back and complete a project to satisfaction that you have had the patience to leave alone for a while to ferment.

PHEVER studios

PHEVER:TV-Radio-Studios

As for Dean, well he is a DJ and producer who has consistently been a notch or two above many others for his ability to read a crowd deeply and know exactly what he should play and when. He has released many tracks on his own labels and others since the late 90’s worldwide, and toured extensively and globally as the PHUNK’DUP Soundsystem. He co-owned ViRTU:Media creative studios in Dublin 1 for a number of years and was involved heavily in music production and training, tuition and DJing courses; something he has now migrated over to the new PHEVER: DJ/Producer Academy (launching Q3 2016). He has played to all age groups in a host of venues over the past two decades, is extremely versatile musically and exceeds in technical ability. He was resident of the country’s leading nightclub The Wright Venue for the last 5 years. My impression of him so far too, is that he is an approachable and down-to-earth guy and I can’t wait to learn more about what makes him tick when I get my first copy of Iconic Underground Magazine and read the in-depth interview with him. It will be interesting to keep an eye on what Dean has planned for PHEVER:TV-Radio in the near future. ‘There’s a whole lot more to PHEVER as yet to be unleashed,’ he told me. ‘I have a roadmap, a plan, and an amazing team around me to achieve it as a collective.The Academy launches at the end of 2016, plus the agency, and next year a whole new approach to events is to be unleashed plus- finally-PHEVER Recordings, our label, representing the sound of the Irish underground.’ I know that I will be tuning in and paying attention to what this talented guy has in store.

The first issue of Iconic Underground Magazine will be for sale online priced at 2 Euro on Monday, August 15th in digital and PDF with printed hard copies landing at the end of August. Hardcopy 5 Euros (Ireland only-delivered) 15 Euros internationally.

On Saturday, August 13th tune in to PHUNK’DUP Radio between 4 and 6pm to hear Dean Sherry’s live interview with Mike Mannix about the launch of Iconic Underground Magazine.

PHEVER’s Mission: To develop and educate new artistic talent and establish a standard of excellence that is recognised globally through our broadcast media, publishing and performances.

www.phever.ie TV: Radio Global 24/7 91.6 FM Dublin- The Sound of the Irish Underground- Are U Turned On Yet? SMS/Viber/What’s App 353857833733 Facebook.com: PHEVER Music Twitter:@PHEVERirl. 

TV/Radio/Events/Academy/Agency/Label

Graphics and Photos courtesy of Dean Sherry and Mike Mannix

Iconic Underground Magazine- Issue 1 cover graphic by Natalie Keville

 

Preview: RHYTHMBOX at Front Door-Dame Street

27 Jul

Rhythmbox edited flyer

by Rhea H. Boyden

With the August Bank Holiday weekend fast approaching I thought I would have a look around for something new and fun to do. Saturday happens also to be my birthday so I don’t intend to spend it being lazy and going to bed early with a book. I would rather hit the streets of Dublin to celebrate even though 41 is a rather unspectacular age and last year was in fact, my big birthday celebration. But I am a Leo after all, and Leos do not generally let their birthdays slip by unnoticed.

Yesterday I was introduced to Dublin DJ and producer Eric Whelan who celebrated and hosted his own birthday last April in a Dublin venue I had not heard of until I spoke to him; the lovely and lush Front Door Bistro and music venue on Dame Street in Dublin city centre where he and his friends are hosting an event this Saturday night. Eric Whelan, whose artist’s name is Steady State, told me he started collecting vinyl in 1994 and has been an enthusiast ever since. I was curious to hear more about the upcoming event. And although I do not own a single record of my own, I am certainly passionate about and love electronic and underground music. What better way to celebrate than to check out a new venue and meet more of the talented DJs and producers who create, collect and collaborate in the world of electronic music.

Scoundrel Sound System

Scoundrels Sound System

Eric told me that Rhythmbox is the promotional outfit that comprises him and his good friend Dublin DJ and producer Alan Nolan, and that they both had so much fun DJing at Front Door for his birthday that they can’t wait for their next gig there this Saturday night. So what should we expect this Saturday? ‘We’ve put a small night together to party with Sub:Sonic Records (Rob Parkes and Phil Wade) to tip the hat to their fine contribution to the Irish electronic dance music scene,’ Eric said. ‘With two new tracks due for release with Sub:Sonic any time now under Steady State, I really felt a celebration was in order,’ he told me. Rob Parkes and Phil Wade are joined by Tomas Frawley, who are all from Limerick. Together they make up Scoundrel Sound System and Saturday’s gig will be their Dublin debut.

Alan and Eric at Front Door

  Rhythmbox – Eric Whelan and Alan Nolan

The event kicks off this Saturday, July 30th at the civilised hour of 8pm and admission is free. Eric told me that we can expect to hear a selection of slow techno, cosmic disco and chug. On rotation will be the Rhythmbox residents with visuals provided by Eric’s brother Trev Whelan (Little Wolf).’With close to one hundred years of combined musical experience this promises to be a night to remember,’ Eric said. I have a feeling this will be a birthday to remember and I am very much looking forward to the event.

Front Door is at 15 Dame Street in Dublin City Centre

Photos and Graphics courtesy of Eric Whelan and Sue Parkes.

Melancholic Moments with Murakami

22 May

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by Rhea H. Boyden

In his memoir on running and writing ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ Haruki Murakami writes the following in the first chapter: ‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.’ This is a mantra he uses to make the marathons he runs more tolerable, and indeed, enjoyable events.

I read his memoir about a year ago and about two weeks ago, looking for consolation and inspiration, I pulled it off my bookshelf and read it again. That one sentence lifted my spirits immensely: ‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.’ This thought has helped me rally my dejected spirits the past few weeks. I have also been rereading Murakami’s novels ‘Kafka on the Shore’ and ‘Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki.’

running

So why are my spirits low? Well, about a month ago, I was rejected by a man I was seeing who I liked a lot. His rejection of me makes no sense because although I hadn’t known him long, I had truly believed that what we were establishing was very good and that the feelings were mutual. I am hurt, but I am slowly accepting that I have no choice but to let him go. My chosen method for dealing with it and processing it all in order to move forward is to go on a Murakami reading binge and to run, swim and bike as often as possible in between. I have also been writing a lot. I feel too at the moment that I am being forced to bide my time and wait in several other areas of my life. I am waiting for others to make decisions about longer term projects, waiting for certain things to become clear. I am not the most patient person in the world, but right now I have no choice but to let things unfold at the pace life intends for them. I am not in a position to influence how smoothly certain things go at the moment. I can live in a fantasy world about how a love interest or a project that is dear to me may evolve and work out, but my ideal of how these things will work rarely aligns with reality. This is a simple fact of life, one that I sometimes have a hard time accepting. In his memoir Murakami writes the following  to which I very much relate:

‘But in real life things don’t go smoothly. At certain points in our lives, when we really need a clear-cut solution, the person who knocks at our door is, more likely than not, a messenger bearing bad news. It isn’t always the case, but from my experience I’d say the gloomy reports far outnumber the others. The messenger touches his hand to his cap and looks apologetic, but that does nothing to improve the content of the message. It isn’t the messenger’s fault. No good to blame him, no good to grab him by the collar and shake him. The messenger is just conscientiously doing the job his boss assigned him. And this boss? That would be none other than our old friend Reality.’

Clematis

So yes, I have been rudely forced to accept Reality in the past few weeks and spend time waiting in a Reality I am not entirely pleased with at the moment. I have never been a gardener by nature, but last week after eating a delicious ripe avocado, I went out into my beautiful garden in Dublin and dug a hole. With my bare hands I dug a deep hole in the ground next to the garden wall, under the blooming white and pink clematis. Into the hole I placed the avocado pit and I covered it up again. I will now have to wait patiently and see if it grows. I think of the avocado pit as a literal seed of hope that I can wait for amidst the other aspects of my life that are currently unclear. While I wait, I read. I am reading ‘Kafka on the Shore’ again. Is this the best choice of book when I am feeling rejected, lonely and like my life is in limbo? Probably not. It is full of melancholic and sad descriptions and it would probably cheer me up more to read something light-hearted and comical, but then I would nearly rather feel the emotions more deeply; rather acknowledge them and really make them my own. In this way, perhaps, answers will come to me faster and more will be revealed and resolved. I read sentences such as this aloud to myself from ‘Kafka on the Shore’: ‘That blank silent interval leaves you sad, so terribly sad, like fog from the sea, that blankness wends its way into your heart and remains there a long, long time. Finally it’s a part of you.’ Tears of frustration and loneliness roll down my face and I put the book down and walk over to the window and gaze out at the garden. ‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional,’ I say aloud to myself. I then lace up my running shoes and head out for a run.

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Murakami writes lengthy novels and runs marathons and triathlons. I only bike, run and swim short distances and write essays and articles but still I relate to many aspects of his lifestyle. He says in his memoir that when he is upset by something he runs a little further than he normally would. He says: ‘By running longer it’s like I can physically exhaust that portion of my discontent.’ I have been doing the same these past weeks: running and swimming further than I normally would in order to channel my confusion, exhaust my malaise and find clarity. When I am running, a lot becomes clear to me. Ideas I have been chasing in a maze finally find the exit as I run along the beautiful river, past weeping willows, copper birch trees and sycamores. I spot the Grey Heron in the river as I run and a smile breaks across my face. I am very lucky to have this lovely river walk on my doorstep in Dublin.

Weeping willow - milltown

After my run, I head back to my books. I have filled these books with fluorescent page markers. I hold the page markers in my hand like a security blanket. There is something very comforting about being able to fill books with colourful page markers. It has become such a habit now that I simply can’t read a book without having them close by. I am sure the pages I mark will be relevant at some point in some review. It brings order and harmony to my world. I am a fluorescent page marker addict.

I pick up Murakami’s ‘Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki’ which I read last summer and return to the pages I have marked. I am reminded of the main theme of this story and I realise how me being sad over being rejected by a man I was seeing for a few weeks is nothing compared to the pain of rejection the main character goes through in this story. He was one of a group of five best friends (who he had known for years) and they one day, out of the blue, tell him they want nothing more to do with him and give him zero explanation for this. The opening sentence of the novel is: ‘From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.’ I compare my own feelings to his. I may be a little sad and confused and am being forced to wait for answers but I certainly don’t feel like dying. I love my life and depression is not even the word I would use to describe my current state, but rather a feeling of wistful and melancholic regret that I am sure I will move beyond fairly soon.

tsukuru

When I am feeling a little blue I write. By writing I make sense of the world again. I also read a lot. I get lost in rereading ‘Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki’ and I flick open a page where I not only have a pink page marker, I have also underlined the following sentence: ‘Unspoken feelings were as heavy and lonely as the ancient glacier that had carved out the deep lake.’ I don’t remember why I underlined that sentence because I generally avoid writing in books, but I know that I do not, as a rule, leave my feelings unspoken. I have to express how I feel in order to create order in my emotional life. I may not always get the timely response I would like and the response I do get more often than not ends the Fantasy I had harboured and lands me back in a sometimes unforgiving Reality, but then what other choice do I have? This is who I am and this is my current Reality whether I like it or not. I am looking forward to what the next few months will reveal in my life and I am hopeful for new and exciting revelations. I am also keeping an eye on the corner of the garden to see if the avocado I planted sprouts. If it does, (and I am no gardener) I will take it as a positive omen going forward.

Review: Berlin Biennale 8

3 May

I am looking forward to heading back to Berlin this summer to do a review of the Berlin Biennale 9, which I will hopefully have a better impression of than the Berlin Biennale 8. The Berlin Biennale 9 official blog says, however, that this contemporary art show may or may not be about contemporary art. Ha. I am intrigued….

Rhea Boyden

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by Rhea H. Boyden

It is a hot Saturday afternoon and I am standing in the middle of Portuguese artist Leonor Antunes’ exhibit at KW Institute of Contemporary Art entitled ‘A secluded and pleasant land, in this land I wish to dwell.’ I am alone, thankfully, because I am in a bad mood. I have just walked down Auguststrasse in the centre of Berlin Mitte and entered this room of hanging hemp ropes, silk yarns, twirled and hanging bamboo sculptures and what appears to be a giant checkerboard on the floor. The rope makes me think of a noose, the checkerboard a maze. Hmm. I ponder the second half of the title: ‘in this land I wish to dwell.’ I am in the middle of a long goodbye to Berlin and have firmly decided that I no longer want to live in this land, and this exhibit is now irritating…

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Fast/Shape/Sound at Sweeney’s Bar-Dublin

6 Mar

Sweeneys bar image

by Rhea H.Boyden

I was home from Berlin about five years ago and I went to Sweeney’s Bar on Dame Street in Dublin city centre to meet a friend of mine for a few drinks. We were chatting about life in Ireland and Berlin and I remember getting very emotional and I began to cry. The tears rolling down one cheek were tears of joy at being home and the tears rolling down the other cheek were those of sadness that I did not actually live in Ireland. This was home, but it was not home. Many an emigrant who returns home to Ireland for a holiday can relate to these mixed emotions. I knew then that it was only a matter of time before I actually moved home to Ireland, which I finally did a year and a half ago.

Keith djing

Dj Flavo – Keith Farrell

I had not been back to Sweeney’s bar since that night five years ago, but last weekend I had a great reason to return. It was the first night at Sweeney’s of Dj Flavo‘s Fast/Shape/Sound event which promised to be a great night of dancing and excellent music. Dj Flavo, who is Dubliner Keith Farrell, is the resident Dj and founder of Fast/Shape/Sound and his first night djing with guest djs Dave Hales and Pete Dancer was indeed a huge success at Sweeney’s. I went with some friends of mine and we danced for hours.

This weekend I met up with Keith for a coffee at the wonderful and iconic Grogan’s pub  and he told me he was very satisfied with how the first night went and he had been getting great feedback. He is delighted that Sweeney’s have now booked him in for more nights and he is hoping it will be a monthly event. He told me he founded Fast/Shape/Sound as a concept for a club night back in 2009 when he spent 8 weeks in Buffalo, New York. The first night was hosted in Sound Lab in Buffalo and he then brought the night back to Dublin and played in The Workmans Club for about 3 years. I asked Keith about the meaning of the name of his gig and he told me the three words Fast/Shape/Sound each represent a side of the triangle, a shape whose meanings and interpretations intrigue him. Keith studied animation and illustration in Dublin and is fascinated with geometry and the particular symmetry of the number three. To him, the triangle represents focus and positive energy and his goal is to bring people together by striving constantly to play the best music from all genres. When I saw the poster for the event, that is precisely what attracted me to the night: ‘Playing musical genres across the floor: indie, soul, disco, house – plus everything in between.’

Fast shape sound poster

Keith has been djing for the past 23 years and he said as he matures he realises it is better to play good music from all genres to make for a successful night. And he surely has the experience to make this work. As we sipped our coffees he enlightened me on some of the things he has learned over more than 2 decades of playing music. ‘The first four tracks you play on a night of djing are really important for setting the vibe for the rest of the night’, he said. ‘A warm-up dj really has to be as good as the headliner for a night.’ I learned while talking to Keith that successfully playing a whole genre of music on one night really is a skill that has to be honed over many years of really learning about music and understanding what works.

FSS triangle image

As well as djing all over Dublin, Keith has also spent some time djing in Berlin at 8MM bar, White Trash and Astro Bar, three venues I know well from my partying days in Berlin. We realised over the course of our conversation that we had some mutual friends in Berlin too. He told me he had just been djing in Berlin this past January and he returned to Dublin charged on good energy and was motivated to get Fast/Shape/Sound up and going again: this time the venue being Sweeney’s.

I was happy sitting outside Grogan’s chatting to Keith in the March sunlight. I realised with joy now that I live in Dublin there will be no need for me to cry the emigrant’s tears of homesickness the next time I return to Sweeney’s with my friends for a night of dancing to Dj Flavo’s great eclectic mix of tunes. And what better way to celebrate the start of Springtime in Dublin; Fast/Shape/Sound’s next night is planned for Saturday March 19th.

Sweeney’s Bar is at 32 Dame Street in Dublin 2

UPDATE: The next FAST/SHAPE/SOUND night is confirmed for Friday, April 15th 2016

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Images and photos courtesy of Keith Farrell

Review: ‘What We Call Love-From Surrealism to Now’ at the Irish Museum of Modern Art

20 Dec

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by Rhea H. Boyden

As I wandered into the galleries of the Irish Museum of Modern Art that contained photographs by renowned German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans I was reminded of the several times I have seen his wonderful work at various galleries and exhibits in Berlin. I can scarcely visit any gallery or museum outside of Berlin that doesn’t have some reference to Berlin, bringing up memories of my 15 years spent in that wild city. I have now been in Dublin for 15 months and, after settling into a job, I am now, finally in the past months beginning to really discover the culture and art of Dublin.

One institution that I am in love with is The Irish Museum of Modern Art. The IMMA, as it is known, is currently holding a large scale group exhibition entitled ‘What We Call Love- from Surrealism to Now’ and I have been to the fabulous exhibit twice so far. Proposed initially by Christine Macel, head curator of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the exhibit is co-curated by Macel and Rachael Thomas, senior curator and head of exhibitions at the IMMA. The exhibit contains work by a host of international artists including Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Marina Abramovic, Louise Bourgeois, Damien Hirst, Rebecca Horn and many more.

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IMMA Brochure showing a photo of Karl, by Wolfgang Tillmans

On my second visit to this exhibit which has engrossed me the past few weeks, I bought the lovely exhibit guide and I read it from cover to cover. I have wanted to sit down and write a review but I have not been able to until now because well, where do you start which such a large and broad topic such as love? I find it very difficult to keep my feelings, emotions and anecdotes from my own love life out of my review. I have no choice but to bring my experience into it. I gain confidence in myself when I look again at Wolfgang Tillman’s wonderful and intimate photos of his subject, a man, Karl and I read in the brochure what is written about the photos: ‘One of the harbingers of a realistic approach to his subject is that the photos lack pretension or conceit, instead depicting moments of vulnerability, intimacy, honesty and intensity’.

Vulnerability, intimacy, honesty and intensity. I think about the weight these words hold. I felt very vulnerable as I wandered through the exhibit. I felt a whole range of emotions. My emotions as I explore the different artists’ work are most definitely intense as I relate their statements to my own love life, or current lack thereof. I am a 40 year old single and childless woman. Despite the fact that more and more people are choosing to live alone, I am someone who a certain sector of our society still eyes with a mix of sympathy and suspicion.

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‘Daphne and Apoll’-1943 by Meret Oppenheim – Photo by Claudia Benedettelli

When I mentioned to a colleague last week that I was reading a lot about the exhibit and would definitely be bringing anecdotes from my love life into my review he teased me and said ‘You will have twenty blank pages then?’ I laughed. I hope he realises that I was not in the least insulted by his joke about my current lack of love life. As a writer, twenty blank pages signifies hope and possibility. It is exciting and there are many possibilities for ideas and interpretation. I am reminded of what Alicia Knock writes in the exhibit brochure about Surrealist painter Meret Oppenheim’s painting ‘Daphne and Apoll’ (1943) which is on show: ‘Meret Oppenheim’s works escape categorical definitions in favour of open-ended readings. A man, a woman, an androgynous person or the artist herself, the viewer understands that art should be endlessly admired, interpreted and desired, just like love.’ Indeed, there is so much to write about love that the twenty pages would be quickly filled. My real challenge lies in narrowing my focus and writing an essay that readers will read to the end.

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‘The Kiss’ 1931 by Pablo Picasso – Photo by Claudia Benedettelli

Among the first works one sees upon entering the exhibit is a painting ‘The Kiss’ (1931) by Pablo Picasso and a sculpture ‘The Kiss’ (1923) by Constantin Brancusi. Picasso’s work of this time became filled with pathos as his own love life was an emotional shambles. His depiction of kisses appear painful and he describes love as ‘a nettle that we must mow down at every instant if we want to have a snooze in its shadow.’ I think about the concept of a painful kiss. If a kiss is not good, I will likely end a relationship pretty promptly. No pain, move on. It wasn’t love and there was no chemistry. In my experience it is only the memory of a good kiss that causes pain when you think about it over and over and how you can no longer have that desired kiss. The pain is in the loss and the projection of the sexual fantasy onto the person who bestowed the kiss initially. In his installation in the exhibit ‘Piece Mandala/End War’ (1966) American artist Paul Sharits explores the double meaning of projection. He projects a film of a couple making love onto a wall of the gallery. There are strobe lights and flickering images. High speed splicing of the images leaves an after image on your retina making it even harder to forget. Sharits shows us that film is a good medium to create infinite loops. The full comprehension of his work makes me both embarrassed and sad. The ‘infinite loops’ and the ‘projection’ are a metaphor for the psychological projection of sexual fantasy and obsession, I know only too well what it feels like to have the pleasurable memory of my last lover on infinite loops in my head. The act the lovers are carrying out in the film is also pretty much identical to the one of my own fantasy (a fantasy which is a real memory of a real event, but now rendered a fantasy nonetheless). Do I find any solace in this installation? A little, I guess. My obsession and suffering is pretty much universal. I am not alone in it. I still have very vivid and intense memories of my last lover who I still miss, there is no denying it and this exhibit is undoing any progress I have made in moving on.

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‘The Couple’ 2003 by Louise Bourgeois

Another artist whose work is featured is that of French-American artist Louise Bourgeois. She has several works on show all entitled ‘The Couple’ (2003). And although I am still nursing the pain of a lost love I feel empathy for Bourgeois as it seemed she suffered a whole lot more in love. She claims to have been incapable of seducing or gaining another’s affection, which is of course, a sorry state of affairs. And yet, love and obsession play a role in her work. One piece by her that particularly struck me was an embracing couple made of fabric and stainless steel underneath a glass covering. The obvious interpretation would be the idea of a couple isolating themselves from the world and finding their love to be all-fullfilling and all-consuming. I was reminded, however, of Anais Nin’s short story ‘Under a Glass Bell’ and Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel ‘The Bell Jar’. Plath’s bell jar is used to describe her isolation from enjoyment of life’s pleasures and a way of describing the incapacitating depression she suffered: ‘If Mrs Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe or a round-the-world cruise’, writes Plath, ‘It wouldn’t have made one scrap of a difference to me, because wherever I sat, on the deck of ship, or at a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok – I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.’ I may get a little sad with the pain of loss and have a hard time letting go, but I certainly never suffer the kind of depression and despondency that Plath describes in her story and for that I am grateful.

Anais Nin, in her story ‘Under a Glass Bell’ describes how one with an opulent lifestyle and riches in a big house can be then trapped in a marriage that is a farce with no escape. A glass bell covers the whole house: ‘Every day the silence, the peace, the softness, carved with greater delicacy the glass chandeliers, the furniture, the statuettes and laces… under the giant glass bell the colours looked inaccessible….’ This one piece by Louise Bourgeois says it all to me: how love can be isolating and depresssing and how the lure of riches can trap us into a situation we do not love.

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‘I’ll Love You Forever’ 1994 by Damien Hirst – Photo by Claudia Benedettelli

‘How the lure of riches can trap us into a situation we do not love’ is what I thought of English artist Damien Hirst’s piece for the exhibit entitled ‘I’ll Love you Forever'(1994). Hirst is one of Britain’s wealthiest and highest paid artists and ‘I’ll Love you Forever’ is a blue painted steel cage filled with medical waste containers and a gas mask. It was only the second time I went back to the museum did I notice the padlock on the cage. So, there really is no escape from this suffocating love. According to the exhibit brochure Hirst’s cage filled with explosives ‘condemns romantic passion to its inevitable implosion over time.’ This is a fine interpretation but I find the cage with golden bars to be a more suitable analogy. The cage with golden bars keeping one trapped in a relationship that grows ever more toxic. I have my own experience with this too. I was in a relationship with a wealthy man for a few years and he was happy to pay for everything which in hindsight, I realise, was his way of compensating for the lack of passion in the relationship. Fortunately the cage I found myself in did not have a padlock and I escaped from that situation. I may be a little lonely at times but at least I am free.

Or am I free? Part of what this fascinating exhibit explores is that, in fact, we are not free at all when it comes to love. We desire the freedom to love who we want and we cherish sexual freedom, but as soon as we are in love or infatuated with someone, we are anything but free. If it is a love that is unrequited it is torture. If we are still pining over a lost love we are also imprisoned. One of the most disturbing installations of the exhibit is ‘High Moon’ by German artist and film maker Rebecca Horn. It consists of two Winchester guns hanging from the ceiling and rotating both away and towards each other, two funnels filled with fake blood and a steel gutter on the floor below. On the wall there is a poem. All I can say is that the lovers who were in this scenario are finally free from all the harrowing pain that accompanies love, because they are now dead. Death is ultimately the only way to relieve ourselves of all our earthly confusion over love, as much as we like to live in denial of this and balm ourselves in fantasy. The poem by Rebecca Horn accompanying this piece reads:

High Moon

From the deepest part of the ocean

And the brightest light of the sun

Collected in a pair of identical moon funnels

The full-blown energy of two distinct creatures

Dancing about in abandon

Suddenly face to face with each other

Generating up to their maximum voltage

To meet for a second of equal eternity

Opening their pores and unleashing their bloodstreams

Accelerating each other to the point of near-bursting

Screaming like moon dogs in lost icy nights

When the arrow of Venus taps lightly the funnel

Unleashing the tandem explosion of energies

Transforming the creatures into illuminated fusion

Not missing a drop of each other’s volcanic residue

Flowingly forming a river of passion

Burrowing its way back to the limitless ocean

Bathed in the moon

(Rebecca Horn, New York, 1991)

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‘High Moon’ 1991 by Rebecca Horn – photo by Claudia Benedettelli

One especially fascinating part of the exhibit is an interview with British neurobiologist Semir Zeki about recent discoveries that have been made in the neuroscience of love. Accompanying this interview is an art installation by Berlin based Canadian artist Jeremy Shaw who has also worked with Zeki in Berlin probing the neuroscience of love. We are now beginning to understand more clearly what areas of the brain are activated and deactivated during romantic attachment and sexual arousal. Shaw’s work uses images of specific people’s brains as they experience romantic love, maternal love as well as the effect of various recreational drugs in a bid to prove that the same areas of the brain are activated in all instances. Most of us know the feeling of dopamine being pumped into our bloodstream while having good sex and Zeki’s work shows that serotonin levels in people freshly in love are at the same levels that are in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The Surrealists ‘Amour Fou’ or crazy love for which they lived in their creative lives, is now all beginning to be understood more from a neuroscientific standpoint. I personally find all of this knowledge very comforting. I like knowing the reason why I pine and obsess. It is interesting to understand it on a deeper level. In the interview Zeki says: ‘The prefrontal cortex, the parieto-temporal junction and the temporal poles constitute a network of areas invariably active with ‘mentalizing’ or ‘theory of mind’, that is the ability to determine other people’s emotions and intentions. It is also a truism to say that most people develop a preference for the kind of person they want to love, and hence a concept of their potential lover(s); their likelihood of falling in love with that kind of person is much greater.’

So when we say we have a dream partner there is a neuroscientic explanation for this. And when we fall in love and can’t stop thinking about the person and we experience feelings of well-being as well as a subsidence of fear, it is the deactivation of the amygdala that we can thank.

It is psychoanalyst Adam Phillips who sums it up most eloquently when he writes the following in his book ‘Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life’: ‘All love stories are frustration stories… To fall in love is to be reminded of a frustration you didn’t know you had (of one’s formative frustrations, and of one’s attempted self-cures for them); you wanted someone, you felt deprived of something, and then it seems to be there. And what is renewed in that experience is an intensity of frustration, and an intensity of satisfaction. It is as if, oddly, you were waiting for someone but you didn’t know who they were until they arrived. Whether or not you were aware that there was something missing in your life, you will when you meet the person you want. What psychoanalysis will add to this love story is that the person you fall in love with really is the man or woman of your dreams; that you have dreamed them up before you met them; not out of nothing- nothing comes of nothing- but out of prior experience, both real and wished for. You recognise them with such certainty, because you already, in a sense know them, and because you have quite literally been expecting them, you feel as though you have known them forever and yet at the same time, they are quite foreign to you. They are familar, foreign bodies.’

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Brain image scans by Jeremy Shaw

Therein lies the reason I pine. I experienced exactly what Phillips describes with the man I still miss and there have been times when I truly think I would have been better off never meeting him at all, rather than have him remind me of a frustration I didn’t know I had. He knows how I feel, and yet, there is little he can do to comfort me as he lives far, far away in another country. I still dream of being reunited with him someday, but I am reminded that that could end in disappointment and disenchantment too in the essay in the IMMA brochure that has intrigued me by sociologist Eva Illouz entitled ‘Against Desire’. She says that when our deepest desires are fulfilled we are then left unfillfilled and she uses a couple wonderful Greek myths to illustrate this. One myth is that of Midas and how everything he touches turns to gold, including his food and his daughter whom he tries to hug. Midas’ deepest desire quickly becomes a misery. ‘One could live in a gold palace’ writes Illouz, ‘but it is the ordinary gestures like hugging and eating that turn out to be the only ones that matter, and these ordinary gestures become unattainable precisely because they evade the logic of desire.’ The second myth is that of Tantalus who is punished for killing his son by being put in a garden near fruit and near a river with water but he can never reach either and so is tortured by the object of his desire being continually out of his reach. ‘Desire’, says Illouz, ‘is an insoluble contradiction. Unfullfilled, it makes us miserable, fulfilled it blocks access to what is essential but not determined by desire in our lives.’

I have had a hard time writing this review about love, considering the current status of my own love life which is the pathetic state of continuing to pine over a love that is lost and continuing to feed the fantasy of that lost love. But I am still full of hope that I will fall in love again at some unexpected point. I will meet another dream man, and I will celebrate the chance encounter in the same way the Surrealist artists and writers celebrated these coincidences of crazy love. And I will write more and be inspired and find a new muse. As Georges Sebbag points out in his video installation in the exhibit: ‘For the Surrealist, art, love and freedom took central stage. Ultimately, poetic expression was inconceivable for them independently of love.’ I would suppose this love has to be real or imagined, because some form of fantastical love or imagined muse has inspired me to write this essay even though I am experiencing a prolonged period of singlehood. The exhibit at the IMMA is immense and I have barely scratched the surface of this topic, but that will have to be dealt with in a second essay. Love is, after all, a vast topic with infinite interpretations and variations.

‘What We Call Love – From Surrealism to Now’ runs at the IMMA until February 7th 2016.

Feature image by Claudia Benedettelli

Review: Pacino’s at Night and The Blind Pig Cocktail Bar

25 Oct

Pacino's outside-image

by Rhea H.Boyden

Hidden inside a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’ I find the recipe for a mouth-watering cocktail. I am standing at the bar of ‘The Blind Pig’ in Pacino’s cellar venue on Suffolk street in Dublin city centre. I am speaking to the night manager, Daniel. He hands me a copy of the Bible. ‘You can find cocktail recipes in here too,’ he tells me. ‘Our drinks menu is hidden in books which is how it was done during Prohibition too. We are proud of our little Speakeasy bar down here,’ he says with a smile. I glance around me at the inviting decor: vintage style furniture in an original arched wine cellar.

This is my second time back to the lovely Pacino’s Restaurant and Bar in a week. Unlike the cocktail recipes, it is hardly in a hidden location, a minute’s walk from Trinity College, so how had I not noticed it before? I can only say that I have likely been too busy getting settled as many returning emigrants would be too, in their first year back in Ireland after many years abroad. It is only recently that the anxiety of moving home and finding a job and a place to live has subsided and I am happy and ready to really start exploring the city more. It makes me excited about discovering other gems of Dublin as I slowly begin to call this city my home.

NSA and Graham

NSA-Steve Cass and Justin Wilson, Audio Filth-Graham Keely

And truly, Dublin is becoming my home now and in the past month or so I have finally started going out more and meeting people and having a good time. Some of my new acquaintances here invited me to Pacino’s last Saturday night to a floating event called ‘Audio Filth’ that took place in the same cellar bar. At weekends, The Blind Pig turns into a dancefloor after 11pm. Graham Keely from Dublin who is the co-founder of Dublin’s first dance music radio station PowerFM, started Audio Filth last February with his friend Hugo McCann. They invite artists over from the U.K. who are making waves in the house/acid scene. Their guests last weekend were Justin Wilson and Steve Cass who have run a club in Edinburgh for the past 20 years. They call themselves NSA– No Strings Attached- and we had a great night dancing to their eclectic mix of house, disco and as they call it ‘Chug’. I had never heard this word used in a musical context before. ‘I would call it spaced out disco.’ Steve said, describing their set. There were only about 20 of us in the intimate private party in the cellar and we had a laugh dancing to Daft Punk, DJ Koze, Beato Cozzi, Duncan Gray and more. One thing that made the night especially interesting to me is that I found myself surrounded by my peers- people in their late thirties in early forties. I even met two women my age who I had been introduced to a few weeks before at The Sugar Club. I love this about Dublin; It’s not too big and not too small. I have a feeling it will be easy enough to continue making new friends here.

Audiofilth

I was also introduced to Eoghan Farrell who has been djing on the underground scene in Dublin for the last decade and who is a resident dj at Pacino’s. He runs a bi-monthly event there called Press Play and hosts various djs. And all the while our party was running in the basement there was a dub and reggae party- ‘Rub a Dub’ with Cian Finn upstairs on the main Pacino’s floor. It was Eoghan’s friend Marcus Lester who approached the owner of Pacino’s two years ago and proposed hosting late night music events at weekends. Lester, who is the curator of Pacino’s at Night said: ‘Pacino’s is more a vibe than a venue. We aim to put on quality music nights and find the best djs and promoters.’ It certainly seems like they are having a lot of success with it. Not only do they host events both up and downstairs, but they also host lane way parties outside Pacino’s on summer nights.

Eoghan Farrell

Resident Dj at Pacino’s – Eoghan Farrell

And while the wonderful djs and promoters are responsible for quality music at Pacino’s, it is their award-winning Italian chef Luca Mazza from Tuscany who is responsible for quality food upstairs in the main restaurant (The Blind Pig has its own separate menu). Luca Mazza was hailed as the best Italian chef in Ireland in 2012. In a recent article in the Independent- The King of Italian Cuisine, Mazza says that the most important ingredient in his dishes is love. I have yet to try Mazza’s delicacies, but I have a feeling Pacino’s and The Blind Pig will be places I will be returning to often in the future.

Pacino’s is at 18 Suffolk Street in Dublin City Centre

Images courtesy of Marcus Lester, Eoghan Farrell and Graham Keely

Review: Anti-Racist Fundraiser in Aid of the Refugee Crisis at the Sugar Club- Dublin

4 Oct

Anti Racist

by Rhea H.Boyden

In the past weeks several friends of mine have posted something similar to this on Facebook: ‘I have very little tolerance for the racist remarks being made on here about the refugee crisis and I will unfriend/unfollow people posting such remarks’. I too unfriended a woman just last week who was saying awful things about the refugees. Unfriending her was a knee-jerk reaction and I don’t regret it. I don’t need those kind of hateful remarks in my newsfeed. I hardly knew her anyway. A closer look at some Instagram accounts has also revealed some fanatically narrow-minded account holders who are posting the most unsavoury photos and remarks that are both racist and sexist. Instagram would do us all a favour by removing these account holders.

It seems many people are experiencing this recently and so the wonderful Sugar Club Dublin stepped up to counter it by holding an anti-racist fundraiser in aid of the refugee crisis on September 26th. The organisers of the Sugar Club event reminded us that Ireland has never been a racist country (aside from a small minority) and of this we should be proud and celebrate. And what better way to celebrate diversity, tolerance and creativity than by bringing together some of Dublin’s finest dj’s and musicians for a night of fun and fundraising.

Jason percussion MCs

Jason Williams and MCs RV and Mango

The event was organised by Dublin dj Johnny Moy and the line up included the following artists: The Dirty Dubsters, Aoife Nic Canna, Pete Dancer, Al Keegan, Louche, David Kitt, Calvin James, Mark Kavanagh, Ger Regan, DJ Scope, Chris Holten, This Greedy Pig, TASTE dj’s and more. It was wonderful. There was only one drawback: Very few people came to the event. I spoke to some of the organisers and artists and they were disappointed that the club was practically deserted. Do people not care about such an important cause? Where was everybody on the night? This fact did not prevent those of us who were there from having a great night and making the most of it, however.

The Sugar Club

This was my first time at The Sugar Club, Dublin and I love the venue. The main floor has fabulous tiered, saloon style seating with tables affording everyone a great view of the stage. They host a whole range of cultural events including movies and Burlesque nights. On a screen above the main stage there was a stream of photos telling the story of protests past and present and one slide that caught my attention was ‘End Direct Provision’. I also spoke to a few people who were wearing ‘End DP’ badges so I had to find out for myself what this meant. According to an Irish Times article titled ‘Lives in Limbo’ there are 34 state run direct provision centres in Ireland housing a total of 4,300 asylum seekers 1,600 of whom are children. Asylum seekers spend an average of three years and eight months in these centres in conditions that are cramped, unsanitary and damaging to mental health. The adults are not allowed to work or cook meals for themselves and they suffer from depression, boredom and low self-esteem. The children have little or no access to play or recreation and while they are entitled to attend primary and secondary school they are not entitled to continue to subsidised third-level education. The system has been heavily criticised by the United Nations and human rights groups. Ireland has one of the lowest success rates in Western Europe for those seeking asylum.

Photo: Eoin Holland www.eoinholland.com

Photo: Eoin Holland http://www.eoinholland.com

The Dirty Dubsters  founders Jason Rymer and Barry O’ Brien

One of the big things that has irritated people on social media recently is people crying out that we need to ‘help our own people first’. Yes, sure, but are these people who cry this really doing anything to ‘help their own’. Do they go and volunteer at homeless shelters in Dublin? Most of the people saying this do not, I fear. I am guilty too of not doing enough. There is a homeless woman on my street and I give her apples and tangerines when I pass her. It’s not much, but it makes her smile and brightens her day. I have also been down to the Human Appeal Charity shop in Dundrum to which the proceeds of the Sugar Club night went. I spoke to Isolda Heavey who is a member of the Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity and she said that it costs 7,500 Euros to get a container of aid into Syria hence the various fundraising events. She is currently in Calais with 60 volunteers (along with some friends of mine from my hometown in West Cork who are part of the West Cork Calais Refugee Solidarity). They are working with local charities on the ground in Calais building shelters and distributing winter clothes and medical aid to the many refugees in the camp there.

Special Request

I was sitting in the tiered seats of the Sugar Club discussing the refugee crisis with a few people when the funky beats of the Dirty Dubsters pulled me onto the dancefloor. It was hearing Jason Williams on percussion that quickly got me out of my seat and, as I had not been dancing for awhile, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The Dirty Dubsters’ music spans reggae, hip hop, house, jungle, drum and bass. ‘Our music is kind of hard to pigeon hole’ Jason Rymer told me. He and Barry O’ Brien founded the Dirty Dubsters in 2009 and have collaborated with many great vocalists and musicians since then. Jason told me they were very excited about their upcoming album ‘Special Request’ which is due for release next week on October 9th.

Aoife Nic Canna

Aoife Nic Canna

The Sugar Club has a lovely intimate outdoor area and the party withdrew there when it was clear that there were not going to be enough guests to fill the main room. For the rest of the evening we danced to the beats of Al Keegan, Aoife Nic Canna, Calvin James, Pete Dancer and others.

The wonderful and talented Aoife Nic Canna (who is a good friend of mine who I met in Berlin some years ago) played us some hip hop, soul and ended her set nicely with some mid-tempo house music. Aoife is an archivist at Near FM and presents and produces their Irish Arts program. I have been listening to the wonderful track Aoife played by Angie Stone ‘I wasn’t kidding’ this morning as I sipped my coffee in preparation for writing this review. I have also been listening to the classic tracks by Donna Summer, Terence Trent D’arby and the Stone Roses as well as other indie, house and disco tracks that Dublin dj Al Keegan finished out the set with at the Sugar Club. All in all, it was the best night I have had out in Dublin since I moved back to Ireland last year. I met some great people and I look forward to more nights like this.

To donate money to help relieve the suffering of refugees please go here:

Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity BANK DETAILS ******************************************************

BRANCH: AIB, Douglas, Cork

ACCOUNT NAME: Ireland Calais Solidarity

SORT CODE: 93 43 48 ACCOUNT NUMBER: 5600 8064

BIC: AIBKIE2D IBAN IE37AIBK93434856008064 *******************************************************

GOFUNDME.COM Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity http://www.gofundme.com/9zwfscys

Photos courtesy of Jason Rymer, Lynda Turley and Aoife Nic Canna

Book Translation Project (German-English)

10 Aug

A couple images from the completed story that I translated from German to English for Berlin client Pia Sophie Reimann:

Africa book 1

Africa book 2

‘Stories From The City-A Berlin Anthology’ Book Launch

4 Jul

STB anthology

kop oldkop new

On Sunday July 19th 2015, Slow Travel Berlin will launch a new book- ‘Stories From The City-A Berlin Anthology’. My article about the history of my street in Prenzlauer Berg- Kopenhagenerstrasse- will be included in the book. I talk about how my street changed over the decade I lived there from 2004-2014 as well as some of the fascinating history of some of the buildings on the street. Above are two photos of the building I lived in for that tumultuous decade. The old- photographed in 2009 and the newly-renovated- in 2014.