Photographs of Chongqing, China

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

With the Olympics now over, China is slowly fading away from our sights.

Many cultural institutions held China-themed events over the summer (e.g. where I work) but these are coming to a close. I went to see what may be the last of these - City of Ambition, Ferit Kuyas's amazing photographs of Chongqing (at Photofusion).

Appropriately, the images are shrouded in haze - it's unclear whether this is early morning mist or pollution. Massive, ambitious constructions and buildings can be seen, but only their structures and only from a distance. Up-close detail is obscured.

From City of Ambition, by Ferit Kuyas
From City of Ambition, by Ferit Kuyas
With China supposedly revealing itself through the Olympics, this theme is interesting.

The landscapes are desolate, empty, almost eeries. For the most populated country in the world, there's a surprising absence of people in the photographs. In one image, however, a prominent person: a security guard standing to attention.
From City of Ambition, by Ferit Kuyas

London 2012 Olympics site

Sunday, September 28, 2008

As part of the Open House weekend, I went on a tour of the London 2012 Olympics site. Construction work has just begun on some parts of the site, with lots of activity going on.

The main thing that strikes you is the sheer quantities of rubble and material on the site - all this will either be cleared and re-used to create the Olympic park.

Mounds of rubble on London 2012 Olympic site

The skyline is cluttered and crowded with cranes.

Cranes on London 2012 Olympic site

Over 200km of electricity cables criss-cross the site at the moment. These will all be moved into two underground tunnels.

Pylons on London 2012 Olympic site

This is the beginning of the Olympic stadium. The piles in the bottom left are the first of 3,500 on which the stadium will stand. Its design is magnificent - it's changeable fabric curtain design gives it flexibility and democracy, enhancing its rather simple structure.

Beginning of Olympic stadium, London 2012 Olympics site

These hollows are for the foundations of Zaha Hadid's Aquatic Centre.

Site of Aquatic Centre, London 2012 Olympic site

This canal was built to transport material to and from the site. The Olympic stadium will be on an island site, surrounded by water.

Canal on London 2012 Olympic site

The island site, plus the iconic wave roof on the Aquatics Centre, and the ubiquitous Thames imagery used in so many London logo leads me to think that water should be a theme of these Olympics. The opening ceremony should emphasise water, movement, fluidity, change, from ancient to modern, from 1908 to 1948 to 2012.

On the tour, I discovered that a public walkway goes right through the park, so I will definitely be going back to keep up with the progress.

Films of the Olympics, 1900-1924

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I went to the BFI last night to watch The Olympic Games on film, 1900-1924, a fascinating set of vintage films.

The films revealed much about the Olympics - sometimes bad, such as the frankly racist Anthropological Days which tried to show that white people were a physically superior race.

The best stories came from the marathons, such as, in St Louis in 1904, the chap who came second travelled some of the race in a truck, the fairly widespread use of strychnine as a performance enhancer, and Dorando Pietri's misadventures from London's 1908 Olympics.

My highlight came from the 1924 Paris Olympics with the images of the control station - the runners came in, sweating, panting, exhausted, and the French served up glasses of red and white wine. Brilliant.

Colours of Greece

Monday, September 22, 2008

Greece is glorious - sun, sea, sand, and almost everything is blue and white. The Greek flag has been blue and white for centuries, in a number of different designs. It's generally thought this refers to the Aegean sea surrounding Greece.

The Greeks certainly adopt the colours with a patriotic verve when designing their houses, boats, furniture, motorbikes and lots more.

Traditional greek island architecture

Mykonos windmill

Mykonos doorway

Columns on Delos



Wall mural

Old building

Blue & white boat


Table & tablecloth




But then, occasionally, you come across a house not painted blue and white, but green, or red, or purple. Are these Greek houses? Or maybe Italians, Turks, or Albanians live in them? And what do the Greek neighbours say?

A green door

Photographs of Jones Beach, New York State

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I am going on a beach holiday to Greece tomorrow, so to get in the holiday mood, I went to see Joseph Szabo's photographs of New York State's Jones Beach (at the Michael Hoppen Gallery, until Sept 18).

The photographs are alive with a mass of bodies, with dancing girls, preening guys, sexuality, fun, enjoyment, nudity. The sun beats down, the sea cools - everyone is alive and glowing. Just the kind of thing you want to see before going to the beach!

By wonderful contrast, upstairs at the gallery, shimmering, dazzling, fabulous frozen landscapes of Greenland by Tiina Itkonen are on display. Not quite as appropriate for my holiday, but stunningly beautiful.