Sunday, 11 September 2011

Review: The Museum of Broken Relationships

The Museum of Broken Relationships does exactly what it says on the tin.  It’s a travelling collection of mementos submitted from a worldwide canvas of those scarred by love’s burn. 
The museum, which has permanent residence in Croatia, also has a touring exhibition.  Last week the exhibition left The Tristian Bates Theatre in Covent Gardens where it was housed for its London leg of the tour. 
Admission at the Tristian Bates Theatre was £3.50 and each ticket allowed you to re-enter the exhibition as much as you liked for a week from the date of issue. I assume the more popular option was to pass on the ticket to a friend which is how I obtained mine (thanks!) .
It was through my relationship with a friend that I was allowed to witness the souvenirs from the demise of other people’s relationships in the museum. 
The museum itself was small but that worked well as it bred an overwhelming sense of intimacy, perfect for the subject matter on show.  There was something rather beautiful about the simplicity of the displays and how they are presented. I know that I am dedicating a lot of typing energy to what essentially was a black painted room with white lit platforms which shelved the artefacts but these foundations set the mood. 
The items in the museum were extremely varied. From the conventional postcards and stuffed toys to the unconventional magic 8 ball and prosthetic leg. What was my favourite part of the exhibition was the blurb which accompanied the images, submitted by the broken hearted to which the object once belonged to. The pleasure in the exhibition, for me, was weaving in and out of other visitors in silence, reading these descriptions off their illuminated block. It was through these words that these disembodied objects were given flesh and a history.
I laughed, I was indifferent at bits but most of all I got very sentimental.

There is not yet any news on where the exhibition might tour next but if you are visiting Croatia and want to get a little bit sentimental than I would differently recommend this.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Fighting Words That Prove To Be Stronger Than Sticks and Stones

I have been MIA for a while. I will write another post soon with more information about what I have been up to in the past month.

This video however, cannot be ingored.  I am writing this blog entry straight into the text box and not on Microsoft Word first which I normally do as this video needs to be posted now. No time to edit!

It seems like the streets of London have been taken over by violent, criminal, imbeciles who are wrecking their own communities which no sense. I will write a post to explain my views on the London (Essex and Birmingham now) Riots soon but for now, this amazing woman.  

I am so glad there are smart, brave and insightful people who aren't afraid to stand up to the thugs who are setting London alight.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Here we go again: Beyoncé sings pop songs, not feminist anthems.

I have no qualms with Beyoncé. She is the perfect pop star – great voice, great image and great moves but that is it and that is all she needs to be to define herself as a popular recording artist. So why in May 2010 did students at Harvard University hold a debate to discuss whether or not Beyoncé could be regarded as a modern day feminist icon (source)?  It is not only these students who have toyed with the idea of Beyoncé being a spokesperson for feminism. I have come across too many publications that regard Beyoncé as a modern feminist in so many words or less and up until now I have ceased to engage with this argument. Her latest single "Run The World (Girls)" has once again picked the scab off of this debate: Is Beyoncé a modern day feminist?

There is no smoke without fire and songs such as “Independent Ladies” conjure up presentations of strong, powerful women. Without fail every time this song is played, the ladies come together on the dance floor and hip shake in unison to celebrate their ovaries. More often than not, these messages are contradicted with presentations of subservient and obedient women in “Cater 4 U” (Baby I heard you/I’m here to serve you) and “Upgrade U” (Run by the man/But the women keep the tempo). These inconsistencies alone indicate that whilst Beyoncé may make fun tunes for the girls, it is wrong to look to her as a radical female voice of the generation – as this voice is confused and conflicted.
Understandably, there has been a lot of excitement brewing about Beyoncé’s material following her brief break from the spotlight. My twitter timeline quickly became flooded with links to demo snippets of her new single. Upon listening to the demo I became overwhelmed with a strong feeling of déjà vu. The musical identity of both the demo and the final mix rely heavily on a sample of Major Lazer’s ‘Pon de Replay’. Experimental dance beats are quite popular in the chart at the moment so there is no doubt that this track will be a hit. This sound is a new direction for Beyoncé’s music, yet the mixed messages of pseudo-feminism are still present.

The video for “Run The World (Girls)” is a stylistic, grand production and nothing less is expected from Beyoncé. It opens with Beyoncé riding a white stallion across a baron wasteland. After some shots of women strewn over random props the story of the video becomes clear. Beyoncé is the leader of a Mad Max style gang of outlawed women. A menacing mob of men run onto the set all dressed in black and carrying riot shields. The women, led by Beyoncé stand up to this male threat with a choreographed dance routine. Essentially, the message from the video is that women can run the world, only if male oppression is fought off with lots of aggressive crotch thrusting dance moves in orange capes and suspenders. This simplistic approach to tackling important gender issues is another example of why pop music should be enjoyed as mere entertainment and not as soundtracks to serious social movements.

It might well be that feminism has morphed as a concept, and that nowadays, female empowerment is a more relevent term in popular culture such the ‘girl power’ chants which echo from the Spice Girls era. Beyoncé herself said she was “a feminist in some ways” (source) in an interview with Yours Magazine. Beyoncé then goes on to say “My friendships with my girls are just so much a part of me that there are things I am never going to do that would upset that bond. I never want to betray that friendship, because I love being a woman and I love being a friend to other women." There seems to be a bit of confusion about being a feminist and simply being a hard working female, with a strong bond with her female friends. It can be that today, we can separate feminism from female empowerment and look at them as two completely separate entities. Female empowerment is saying that girls are great and feminism is actually acting on this premise.  

The video for ‘Run The World (Girls)’ shows a very reduced image of women as a mass of super sexy, dancers. Whilst there is nothing at all wrong with female sexuality, this is the only presentation of womanhood that is in this music video. Whilst the actual song may be powerful and empowering, the message doesn't translate in the visuals. Actually, this media representation of womanhood actually fits in with the status-quo of most pop videos where they empower women, degrade them or hold a neutral stance.

As a society we expect a lot from our celebrities. I believe that to study Beyoncé through a feminist lens draws irresponsible conclusions which will lead to a generation of young women with a distorted concept of gender equality. "Run The World (Girls)" was designed to get women dancing yes, but that is it and that is where the expectations should stop. Keep feminism out of it.