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Iain Sinclair & The Culture Detectives

June 13, 2011

Cult London author Iain Sinclair is on Start the Week today, pouring scorn on the Olympics and their effects on East London. In 2008 he was allegedly banned by Hackney Council from airing these views in one of their libraries. I was riding to work when it was on, so I’ll have to catch it later, but I googled around for the poem that I think he has written about the Olympics (the pretext for him being on the programme I think) but what I found, although beautiful, was too explicit to post for young eyes. This slideshow gives you a clean three minute precis of where he’s coming from. Sinclair’s work is a critique of the connection between the Olympics regeneration programme and the culture of East London. This is essentially the same connection that Nimblefish have been exploring (albeit less polemically) in their cultural detectives work.

The Cultural Olympiad is a key element of the London 2012 Olympics. But how can young people make sense of ‘culture’ in their own lives? As Culture Detectives, pupils will use a variety of creative tools to find ‘clues’ that link their culture to that of the world of the Olympics. 

This programme is an enquiry into culture: how it is defined, why it is important, and how it connects one set of individuals to others, both in the UK and around the world. We will invite the teachers and students to ‘co-author’ these definitions, and the results will inform and shape our ‘sleuthing’ activities.

Although Sinclair clearly hates the Olympics, I can’t see him disapproving of this. In fact, why would anyone? It’s amazing.


June 10, 2011

This is amazing. It’s a chant made up by kids from Wembley Primary School riffing on the Olympic values (Inspiration, Determination, Courage, Equality, Friendship, Respect and Excellence) as a part of their project with LIFT and sound artist Dan Scott. More about the project here. I like it because it’s chanting and I love chanting. But I also like it because the Olympic values are well, I dunno a bit self-contradictory, and a bit like meh, but somehow hear they’ve managed to make them sound, well like a protest, a celebration and a dream all at the same time! just listen to the bit in the middle where the girl goes ‘I am courage, I AM courage, I AM COURAGE – WE-KEEP -HELPING-TILL-SIX-AM! I’m inspired. I have finally seen the light. Will somebody please put these children in the opening ceremony NOW.

iconic moments/poses III

May 27, 2011

Still no time to discuss the route of the torch relay, I’ve got people to judge. This is another entry from a new direction who continue to ignore my request for iconic Olympic moments to indulge their twin obsessions with water and photoshop. How can this be iconic? There aren’t even people in the seats behind her. Hmmm… I suppose you could say that this was an iconic pose… hmm I think I see now – aghh. I misunderstood my own exercise. Fair game, I understand now. But would still contend whether this was an iconic pose – I mean she looks like she’s, err, well use your imagination..

Now stop. And look at this.

For all my misgivings about the choice of photo, I commend  the expert positioning of the arms here and the even a cursory effort has been made at the toes. But there’s no hiding from the fact that the legs aren’t really all there – which is clearer in the photoshop rendering below.

This mid air high-hurdling look does look cool though. 4.5/6

Atom, Hampstead

May 24, 2011

This is Atom from Kinetica’s Imagination Our Nation project on Hampstead Heath today. The children from the biglop schools in Hackney who are looking after him, took him up to the top of the Parliament Hill, where he could see the Olympic Stadium (it’s just to the right of the trees in the second photo).

More re-enactments

May 24, 2011

Some more iconic re-enactments here, this time from the AND office. Using photoshop in these re-enactments is like the whip in horse raceing – over-use it and you could get disqualified. So, mad skillz as they are, I have relegated the photo-shopped ones to the bottom of the post. These are technically my colleagues here but they need to remember that I’m the judge, so I’ll do what I want. Starting with the worst, moving to the best….


This is a high-grade mass particpation effort, with an impossible camera angle but a bit of fail on the fascinators. Also they seem to have failed to notice that there is a bloke in their original photo. What is going on here? I don’t understand so I’m punishing you – 2.1/6


If you rest a pencil on the screen along the line of arms of the man pretending to be Torville here and then slide it across to the real Torville, you’ll see that they aren’t correctly aligned. But otherwise this is pretty smoking and a genuine bone fide recognisable Olympic moment.  4.8/6


Woh. Pose, composition, grace. And the blue shawl in the last photo has made another ingenious comeback. Respect  to the players here for being properly in costume too, but i feel like they could have rubbed in some hair gel for that shimmering wet look. 5.0/6


Keen observers will have noticed a clear H2O theme in these photos. What is that about? I don’t know. But I do know that this is probably as strong as reenacting the Olympics gets. Admittedly the addition of some speedos might have made it more real,  but the face-to-carpet commitment on show here is a worthy tribute to the iconic boy Olympian

5.3 /6

Disqualifications for over-use of photoshop whip.

Dreams and nightmares

May 23, 2011

This is really lovely. The story of Mary Lou Petty-Skok – a member of the American swimming team for the 1936 Olympics. She speaks powerfully about the universal power of sport, at a time when race and nationality cast far greater divides between people than they do today and yet at the same time, she conveys a believable sense of the awe people felt in the presence of Hitler. The difference between the dream of the Olympics and the nightmare of Nazi Germany is clear-cut now, but for ordinary people and competing athletes at the time, it might not have been so obvious.

I was particularly interested in the story of how the American team (including Jesse Owens) traveled to Europe in the hold of boat, playing skittles with oranges and bottles and playing around-the-world on a table tennis table.

On the other, they were locked on a lower deck, just like passengers in the movie “Titanic.” When the great actress Helen Hayes invited some of the swimmers to dinner in first class, they weren’t allowed to go. And almost everyone got seasick.

The swimming pool was a rectangular metal tank in steerage; when the ship rolled, swimmers would slam against the side. And after a few days, the water was so fetid no one could use it in any event.

There was one table-tennis table and one volleyball net for more than 300 Olympic athletes. Ten would play table tennis at a time, taking turns with the paddles. “We bowled with an orange and Coke bottles. That’s Americans for you.’

Reenact a moment from Olympic history.

May 19, 2011

I’ve been neglecting the blog lately, which is daft as there is much to blog about. I’ve made contact with someone who coached the dream team, I’ve visited Punchdrunk’s Space Invaders Agency underneath Waterloo Station  and we’ve been planning the School of Research as a part of biglopfest.. So much to do.

And the other news is that task 3  is starting to take on a life of it’s own.  Rolling Sound offer their re-enactments… I know that it’s the taking part that counts, but I couldn’t help giving marks out of six and adding my comments. Starting with the worst, moving on to the best, here we go…


These are supposed to be iconic moments. I don’t recognise this one. Solid poses but they could have done something about the background – and they should wipe those smiles off their faces. 1.2/6


This is Kelly Homes winning one of her gold medal’s in 2004 isn’t it. I remember this one. Great hand gesture from the supporting actor but his face lacks the wist of defeat. The person playing Kelly looks less like she’s wrapped in the ecstasy of victory and more like she’s going to grab me and eat me. Good choice of photo though. 1.7/6


This one has been submitted a bit small which makes it hard to judge (I’m thinking it might be Carl Lewis at Atlanta 96?), but I really like the photoshop skillz on show here. And the pose of the athlete is as true to the original as you could wish. A step up 3.2/6


Hmm. I feel like these actors know that they’re goofing around here and aren’t taking this seriously enough (those skaters could have been seriously hurt) but you can’t get away from the fact that they’ve put saucepans on their heads. 3.7/6


Ok, I really feel like we’re approaching the business end of these submissions now. This is a proper location here, with some really ethereal use of light to boot. The choice of costume really echoes the weightlifters. And you know what,  this is actually the first photo where I feel like I’m getting some convincing emotion from the actor. Has she won? has she lost? I don”t care, I feel her pain. Look at the size of those dumbells she just hoiked onto her shoulders.  Wow. I just sense this person knows about training and works out – I know that she knows what it means to the weightlifter. This is Olympic. 5.1/6


Oh dear. After melting over the weightlifter I feel like I’ve copped out by choosing this one as technically it’s obvious that it’s just not as good. But I dunno. Not only have they chosen implements that curiously resemble those used by curling contestants in the 1920s but they  also happen to be the implements of office cleaning and polishing – the hoover, the mop, the brush etc So ingenious, so accurate. I feel a bit sad that they didn’t do anything about the hats though. To score really well in this game I need to believe that if you were renacting a scene from the ancient Olympics you would be doing it as they did – naked. I’m not getting that sense of commitment here – which I’m afraid leaves us well short of a perfect six. 5.2/6