Monday, 31 October 2016

Autumnal feelings.

It was a suitably autumnal day as I walked from South Kensington, along Exhibition Road, and into Kensington Gardens. Brown autumn leaves crunched under foot, the overcast skies filled me with a warm melancholia, and all around me folks were sporting their hats and scarves. French artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz had subtitled his Serpentine Gallery show An Autumn Lexicon and would the works be as seasonably apt as the title?

Well, spoiler alert, no. They wouldn't. It's not that there was anything wrong with them per se. They just weren't particularly inspiring. Chaimowicz claims to bring together painting, sculpture, and photography with prototypes of everyday decor and home furnishings to explore the space between public and private, design and art.

So far so much press release bullshit. More interesting was the claim that the show was curated in direct response to its host. The building that was opened in 1930 as a park cafe and, 40 years later, became the Serpentine Gallery.

Probably the highlight was having Bowie's Hunky Dory on repeat as I wandered, slightly aimlessly, around the galleries. Pavilion (2013-2015), above, is wallpaper and, as such, I have virtually nothing to say about it. Index (2016), below, looks quite nice but there was little I'd not be able to get from a traipse round a home furnishing shop.

The centrepiece was Enough Tiranny (1972-2016). Yes, it was really spelt that way. This is the room where the Bowie CD was situated and it also featured an assorted jumble of tvs, goldfish, glitterballs, toy cars, Chanel bags, baubles, ashtrays, and tinsel. I'm not sure how it fitted in with the rest of the exhibition but it was interesting to have a nose around. Though not as interesting as a trip to Greenwich market.

You really don't need to spend long looking at Model for a Window from 2015. It does exactly what it says on the tin. If you enjoy minimalist art and wood there's plenty to be getting on with. I do like both those things but would have to say I've seen this done better elsewhere and long ago.

2016's North was nice. I felt like I wanted to run my hands along it but that would probably have been frowned at. It did add to the suspicion I was visiting House of Fraser instead of an art gallery though. Something the last three rooms, as you'll see below, did little to discourage.

All pleasant enough. All nicely laid out but as I headed up to Lancaster Gate, passing the Long Water and the Italian Gardens, the coots, swans, geese, parakeets, and ducks all seemed to confirm that this had been a day when art had not been able to hold a candle to nature.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Bhupen Khakhar:Good Taste Can Be Very Killing.

The plan was to see the Wilfredo Lam exhibition but when I met Mark and Natalie in the Turbine Hall they'd noticed that the exhibition of Indian figurative artist Bhupen Khakhar was ending shortly and Lam still had two months to run. I surprised myself by being open to this change of plan and, in accordance with other recent life changes, I felt a little pleased about it.

It was rewarding too. A crash course into an artist I had no knowledge of. In fact before the Tate hosted this show I'd never even heard his name. Come to think of it I couldn't name you a single modern Indian artist. Quite a shocking oversight and one this exhibition has only gone a small way towards rectifying.

The Tate's 'You Can't Please All' is the first international retrospective of Khakhar's work since his death in 2003. Born in Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1934 he studied accountancy before moving to Baroda in Gujarat for a master's in art criticism. Freed from the shackles of familial conventions he started to mix it up with the artistic community around the Department of Fine Arts at Maharaja Siyajirao University and became affiliated with a bunch of Indian painters who moved away from abstraction towards narrative based, figurative works. Khakhar used his work to meld both the everyday and the extraordinary. A decade or so older than Salman Rushdie he was a magical realist of the canvas.

In keeping with such he recognised, and celebrated, the inherent duality. Being both Indian and an internationalist held no contradictions. He aped the camp, affected mannerisms of Hockney and Warhol and used his work to reflect his frank and correctly unabashed homosexuality. The time he'd spent in London had seen him witness both homophobia and an openness to sexuality that, while once prevalent in India, had been curtailed by British rule.

The room titles are great. Room one is "A Man Labelled Bhupen Khakhar Branded As Painter". As you'd expect it contains his early works and traces his journey from collage to oil. At the same time as making these works Khakhar was writing short stories and satire in Gujarati.

The Soldier With A Gun, above, from 1972, doesn't look particularly militaristic and, in fact, looks more like Khakhar, the gay artist himself. Death In The Family (1977), below, shows a burgeoning mastery of colour and an interesting take on perspective. You could look at it for hours and still find new, and nuanced, takes.

1970's Man Leaving (Going Abroad) reflects Khakhar's global approach and his interest in travel. The lotus bower and the palm trees reaching out into an ocean that suggests infinite choices.

Room two has been given the title 'The Insignificant Man' which sounds altogether less positive. There's a tv on in the corner of the room showing a documentary about the artist. It's hard to hear and there's not enough seats. It'd probably been better situated in a room of its own. A minor complaint in a room full of Khakhar's 'trade paintings' of everyday life in Baroda. Historically these had been made as a form of oriental exotica for curious colonial audiences. Khakhar reappropriated them, and with the obvious influence of Tuscan renaissance masters, set about depicting modern India.

Barber's Shop (1973), Janata Watch Repairing (1972), and Man Eating Jalebi (1975) are all fine examples. Again they show Khakhar's genius with colour and his taut angles. Matisse would be proud. El Greco too. In fact Man Eating Jalebi looks more like a Greek island than anywhere in India I've visited.

Royal Circus (above, 1974) looks even less like India. It could almost be the surface of the moon. A far cry from Man in Pub (1979) in which Khakhar, on a visit to the UK, reflects the alienation and sadness of solitary drinking. It's a picture that still resonates now though the gent in it is far better attired than those currently in the same predicament. If Khakhar was to come back now and visit a branch of Wetherspoons he'd have enough inspiration to fill the Tate. Even the carpets aren't so different to the wallpaper here.

No room has been granted a better title than the third:- 'Good Taste Can Be Very Killing'. It's the biggest room too and is fleshed out with sculpture, books and poetry pertinent to Khakhar's career and times. Rushdie and Tagore feature prominently.

The works here are bigger and see Khakhar getting braver. 1991's Pink City expands the premise of Death in the Family with multiple scenarios playing out across the canvas. It's as if Khakhar felt unsatisfied by width, height, and even depth and set out to capture the fourth dimension of time in his work.

Jatra (1997-199) sees the equivalent bravado applied to his sexuality although An Old Man From Vasad Who Had Five Penises Suffered From Running Nose (least of his problems you'd have thought) from 1995 seems to be taking things into the next dimension.

Three years later he was still taking pleasure from drawing actual men's cocks. The below portrait is titled Picture Taken On Their 30th Wedding Anniversary and who wouldn't, at the very least, expect to have their balls cupped to celebrate. Thirtieth wedding anniversaries are traditionally marked with pearl so I'll leave it to you to imagine what kind of necklace would be an appropriate gift here.

Khakhar's even managed to work nudity into his depiction of an Aesop fable. Two men struggled to convey a donkey. They rode it but people said they were cruel. It rode them but people said they were stupid. The moral was that you can't please everyone. With this in mind the chap in the foreground whipped his pants off and decided to please himself. Judging by the raised position of his hands, in a literal, rather than physical, way.

If you were disappointed that our hero had shied away from painting willies don't be. They're back, bigger and brighter than ever, in room four, 'My Dear Friend'. Two Men In Banaras witnesses a very warm embrace. Khakhar was interested in mystical Bhakti spiritual traditions which often expressed the idea of love between men, master and disciple, as a form of devotion. It sounds like a load of religious bullshit to justify grooming to me. But it's a nice painting.

Not as nice as 1996's Night though. There's something about its use of panels that make it my very favourite thing in the show. Maybe also the use of blue suggesting seasides and sunshine. I can't quite put my finger on why I like it so much but I wholeheartedly do.

There's more marvellous blue paint in Blind Man Looks In A Mirror And Has Relations With Wanton Woman, 1980. The Venetian blinds suggests similar forbidden fruit as that depicted in Eric Fischl's Bad Boy, the clothing looks so fine you want to stroke it, and, let's be honest, the norks on the 'wanton woman' are as impressive as any dangling dong Khakhar ever painted. Was he definitely gay?

Room five:At The End Of The Day Iron Ingots Came Out. After all the willies, boobs, sunshine, and positivity the last room sees Bhupen reaching the end of his life and reflecting, as we all must, on mortality and the failings of his body. He doesn't hold back either. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998 and died of it in 2003. The works below show how he bore this with both honesty and gallows humour. Which is the best any of us can really hope for.

Bullet Shot in the Stomach (2011) reflects growing violence between India's Hindus and Muslims and owes more than a little to Bollywood cinema hoardings. 2002's Sri Lankan Caves is, possibly, Khakhar's most abstract, ethereal, work. It almost defies you not to look at it in the way a dying man may not wish to be seen by sympathetic friends.

In 1999 Khakhar made two paintings that spoke, brutally, of illness. At The End Of The Day Ingots Came Out and He Took Enema Five Times A Day may have comical elements but they're not very funny. They seem to be deadly serious contemplations of a life soon to end. As such they're incredibly powerful. They seem to be by a different painter than the vividly hued captain of colour we'd met earlier.

This compact, yet bijou, exhibition tells, in just five rooms, the life story of a clearly talented man and if it ends in his death well that's no spoiler. That's what we've all got to look forward to. We're not here long. Don't waste time.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Fleapit revisited:I, Daniel Blake

"When I say what things are like everyone's heart must be torn to shreds." - Bertolt Brecht.

It's probably a good job cinemas are dark. Fellow patrons may've been embarrassed by the tears streaming down my cheeks during Ken Loach's timely, important, and vital new film I, Daniel Blake. I'd been warned in advance that it was a tough, but rewarding, watch and it certainly is both those things. But it's so much more as well. It's a righteously angry, heartbreaking, tightly scripted (by Loach's regular collaborator Paul Laverty) look at the 'conscious cruelty' of the current ruling class and how it affects, corrupts, and destroys everyone beneath them in the food chain.

Loach is renowned both for his powerful realist work and for the strong social conscience that underpins it. TV drama Cathy Come Home about a young woman's descent into poverty and homelessness, Kes, the film about a bullied Yorkshire schoolboy who finds hope in caring for a kestrel, and My Name Is Joe, about a recovering alcoholic who falls in love with a health visitor. They're all excellent but I, Daniel Blake may be his best yet.

The film centres around the story of 59 year old Blake, a joiner living in Newcastle who's suffered a heart attack and been told by medical professionals he can't go back to work. During a farcical, and occasionally hilarious, eligibility assessment for sickness benefit he comes up a little short of the 'points' required and is forced instead to apply for job seeker's allowance.

This throws him into a byzantine, Kafkaesque world of sanctions, punishments, and having to spend his days applying for jobs that either aren't there or he can't do anyway. Not computer literate he struggles with the new online world. The ludicrous CV workshop he attends would be enough to send lesser men into a life of crime. All the while his appeals and applications for benefit are handled by an unseen 'decision maker' on the end of the phone. Like the banker on Deal or No Deal all power seems to rest in the hands of a person who's barely real.

During one typically fractious day at the Job Centre he runs into Katie. She's not long arrived in Newcastle from London with her two young children, Daisy and Dylan, and, due to her lack of local geography, has arrived slightly late for her interview. This, of course, cuts no ice with the bureaucratic regime instilled within that organisation from higher up.

Daniel and Katie strike up a friendship. Daniel's lost his wife, Molly, and, having never had children himself, appears to be taking Katie and her children as surrogate daughter and grandchildren. In a film so bleak and harrowing in places the warmth of their relationship, the small acts of kindness played out, is almost harder to watch than the scenes where Daniel verbally dukes it out with authority.

Predictably things go from bad to worse for both Daniel and Katie. Slowly a proud man is brought to his knees and Katie's dreams of returning to the Open University have to be shelved as more pressing concerns, like visiting a food bank so her family don't starve and buying shoes for her children, take over. Quiet scenes, like Katie crying on the stairs after Daisy asks her to look after herself, are nearly too much to bear. Many directors would show the drama and not the consequences. Loach allows the camera to linger those few extra seconds. The viewer, of course, realises that these seconds can become hours, weeks, and years.

Though the prognosis never looks particularly good I found myself genuinely caring, and rooting, for these characters. It's a testament to a fine performance in the title role by Dave Johns and, perhaps, an even better one by Hayley Squires as Katie. Like Tiffany Mitchell from Eastenders hitting the skids her determination and resolve sit in stark counterpoint to her grim reality. That Squires conveys this with such a light touch underlines what a wonderful performance she provides.

Briana Shann, who plays Daisy, must earn plaudits too. At times she seems preternaturally grown up as she calmly gets on with her new life in a new town. Trying to look after the adults as much as they try to look after her. But when she climbs into her mum's bed for a cuddle after a bullying incident at school you realise she's really just a little girl who's been forced, by circumstance, to grow up quicker than she should. The bastards won't just steal your hopes and dreams. They'll steal your childhood. It's sickening.

Some light relief is provided in the role of Daniel's neighbour China (Kema Sikazwe) who leaves his half-eaten takeaways in the aisles of the block they live in, runs an imported trainer racket with a mate, and helps Daniel with his technophobia. The employees at the Job Centre aren't so well sketched but there's a telling scene where one member of staff takes pity on Daniel and offers him some extra assistance. She's immediately called in for a reprimand. It's made clear it's not the first time she's been in trouble for helping people.

This small moment speaks volumes about where we're at as a society. Nobody should ever be in trouble for helping somebody and until the system is changed so that kindness replaces cruelty these scenes will play out over and over again, in real life, and often much worse, up and down the country. The people who work in these places aren't the problem. They're also victims of a system of mistrust and blame that's been whipped up by the right wing press and exploited by the likes of Iain Duncan Smith and his buddies for decades. Vice reports that between December 2011 and February of 2014 2,380 people died after their claim for employment and support allowance ended because a work capability assessment found they were "fit for work". If this doesn't make you angry you're part of the problem.

One person who seems intensely relaxed about it is Camilla Long, an ancestor of the Duke of Newcastle who was educated at Oxford Corpus Christi before taking a highly paid job for Rupert Murdoch spewing out vile filth about the 'lower orders'. She claimed, of this film, "for all its hideously condescending attempts at teeth-grinding realism, it feels unreal".Well, being an ancestor of the Duke of Newcastle feels pretty unreal to me. What's concerning is that Daniel Blake is clearly a competent, able, articulate man. Not everyone who falls into the system is and they're the ones that get crushed the quickest and most painfully.

What would Camilla Long say if she saw the disabled people being squashed by the DWP? What would she say about children being forced into destitution and women being pressured into prostitution? How would she justify the terrified and desperate being whipped up into fits of rage by the (tax-avoiding) man she works for so they can continue voting for the spiral of hate? She seems to represent the very worst of entitlement, the management class, the anti-Spartacist element. Her existence, and success, prove this film's worth.

The quote at the start of this piece was given by Loach himself at a Cannes press conference for I, Daniel Blake (where it won the Palme d'Or). Bertolt Brecht died in 1956. Loach made Cathy Come Home in 1966. The fact that 50/60 years later both seem not just pertinent, but more relevant than ever, is an absolute fucking disgrace.

Ken Loach should be applauded for shining a light on to the darkness. Those of us who watch the film are surely duty bound to do what we can to move away from it, reject the right wing agenda of Rupert Murdoch, and, in common with the more life affirming moments of this film, reach out to each other and share our humanity while it's not too late. It's what we're for.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

A discourse on a discussion about the Discourse on the worship of Priapus.

On Monday evening the London Fortean Society hosted Phil Hine - A Phallic (K)night. After Gregory Akerman's humorous and interesting thoughts on death and Owen Hopkins' insightful talk about Hawksmoor I was very much in the mood to trust the LFS with whatever they could throw at me and despite some obvious early guffawing at the subject I thought a talk about the history of dick worship might actually be very interesting.

Writer and occultist Phil Hine was in Conway Hall to talk about Richard Payne Knight. The collector, arbiter of taste, and scholar whose book Discourse on the worship of Priapus (to shorten the title considerably, Knight clearly considered length important) was the first to propose the theory that all religion (including Christianity) and mythology derives from primitive fertility cults.

The book was released in 1786 and in it Knight outlined his theory that both male and female genitalia (but mainly male going by the pictures) are symbols of procreative power and that the primal life force is worshipped through imagery that would've been seen as highly obscene at the time.

Nowadays, via contemporary paganism and the works of Freud and Jung, these ideas are more established. You may not agree that a church tower is a phallic symbol but it's highly unlikely the concept of phallic imagery and penis substitutes is new to you. Sports cars and all that.

Knight, being a very rich man who'd grown up in a stately home, had been on the Grand Tour and while bringing back artefacts for the British Museum he took a particular interest in some of the findings that contained graphic sexual imagery. From this he proposed that earlier religions had always paid tribute to genitalia and that Christianity, modern Christianity at least, had promoted the theory of sex as something dirty, to be hidden, to be ashamed of.

He was, of course, attacked as an infidel and an apologist. Possibly as a pornographer but if you get off on the images below that's probably more your problem. One of them does, perhaps, give us an idea where the term 'pecker' comes from.

These pictures were blown up large behind the speaker during the talk and, amazingly, there were only a couple of giggles. Hine's talk took in Aleister Crowley, Madame Blavatsky, and Knight's time as a member of parliament. A proud member one would hope. It was fat and long but sometimes, perhaps in order to impress, it lost its thrust a bit.

I must confess I lost the drift a little bit a couple of times. The bits about comparative religions veered too close to the academic and, bearing in mind the subject matter, a few laughs might've been nice. Maybe some knob gags. You'll have noticed I've at least tried.

It was still interesting to hear how Knight's, once ridiculed, ideas had moved into popular thought. Not least through a reissue of the book in the 19th century.

During the Q&A session at the end a lady in the audience asked what he thought about the seemingly universal custom of drawing cocks on toilet walls and garage doors etc; Hine didn't seem to regard this as a serious enough question. I thought it was a pity as the questioner had probably tapped into something far more primal within us than the speaker's somewhat flaccid delivery.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

From Ladbroke Grove to the Barbican.

It'd be pointless to try and list all the music that Rough Trade have put out and I've enjoyed over the years. When I was a teenager I made regular pilgrimages up to their shop on Talbot Road in Ladbroke Grove. Returning to Tadley with Shop Assistants 7"s, bags full of flyers, and normally an offer or two of drugs underneath the Westway.

Later on I'd buy gig tickets at the Covent Garden store they shared with Slam City Skates. They sometimes had gigs in there. You normally couldn't see a thing. Me and my mate Bugsy went to see Truman's Water once and that was an almighty racket.

The Internet age has been tough on record shops but, after a period of brief decline, Rough Trade seems to be thriving. Their flagship outlet on Brick Lane is a pleasure to spend time in. Regular gigs and book signings there too - but now it's big enough that you can actually see the artists.

So when Darren suggested we get along to the 40th birthday celebrations at the Barbican I was immediately up for it. There were poetry readings and discussion groups during the afternoon but we skipped these for a pizza and a pint. We had catching up to do.

We weren't sure exactly how things would pan out and the curators seem to have devised a plan of having two acts on at the same time. This would work differently in each case. After a brief, and humorous, introduction by James Endeacott, once of Loop, first up were Protomartyr. Soon to be joined on stage by The Pop Group. 

The Detroit post-punk outfit were pretty good in a Hold Steady sing/talk kind of way but it was the arrival of the towering figure of Mark Stewart as the set segued into a Pop Group gig that really got things moving. She Is Beyond Good And Evil and We Are All Prostitutes sound as vitally discordant as ever. The fierceness now counterbalanced by the slightly avuncular figure of Stewart. When he falls over a monitor he doesn't miss a beat and he's soon requesting for more beers to be brought to the stage. They never arrive but in their place we're treated to a feast of awesome riffs that could conceivably have lasted all night.

After a brief interval we're back in the auditorium for Scritti Politti with special guest Alexis Taylor. There's no Hot Chip songs. This is pretty much a Scritti gig with Alexis mucking in on vocals, piano, and, later on, guitar. It's almost like the final round of a sweetest voice competition when him and Green Gartside duet. I'd have to give it to Green though. There was no shame in playing what was essentially a greatest hits set.

Boom Boom Bap, The Word Girl, Skank Bloc Bologna. Even Woodbeez. Its slippery cubist funk sounding as odd now as it did back in the eighties. The Sweetest Girl was better still. Tune of the night. It seems odd that in the height of punk a man who sang like a choirboy over white reggae could find a place. The description sounds fucking awful on paper but on record, and last night on stage, it sounded anything but. There was a cover of Chic's At Last I Am Free which owed a lot, and was acknowledged as such, to Robert Wyatt's version and even a Jonathan Richman tune chucked in for our delectation. What a delight.

Darren and I were split on John Grant. I'm a fan. He's not. He was playing with Stephen Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire and clearly, tonight Matthew, they were going to be Kraftwerk. An early shout for Queen of Denmark provoked a rebuke from Mallinder. They'd written this stuff specially for us and that's what they were gonna play.

If I'm honest I'd rather have heard the song about Sigourney Weaver and while there was nothing inherently bad about the sound I've seen Kraftwerk themselves and didn't need to hear an imitation. Even a halfway decent one. Darren's train was leaving Waterloo fairly early and he had to shoot off. It may be a dereliction of my blogging duties but it'd been a long, and emotional, week for me so I left with him. John Grant was fine but he was never gonna compete with Scritti.

Thanks to Darren, though, for a wonderful birthday present and a top evening all round.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Synagogues of sound.

The Jewish Museum in Camden is one of London's hidden treasures. A small doorway on a road off Parkway opens up into an Aladdin's cave of religious artefacts, historical displays, and child friendly activities. Concentrating on both secular and religious aspects of Judaism.

I was there to see Jukebox, Jewkbox:A Century on Shellac and Vinyl. The exhibition took as its starting point German-Jewish US immigrant Emil Berliner's invention of the gramophone and, therefore, records as we know them. Before opening up into a tale of the record age (viewed, of course, through a Jewish prism) culminating in the rise of CDs and, finally, the Internet which many thought, incorrectly, spelt the death of vinyl.

Berliner had been born in Hanover and had moved to the US in 1870. Edison had already recorded sound but Berliner's technology was vastly superior and the shellac started to spin. In 1889 Francois Barraud's 'His Master's Voice' became the logo of Berliner's burgeoning business. It'd been offered to Edison but he'd shown no interest.

Four year later, in Washington DC, Berliner formed the United States Gramophone Company and in 1898 they moved to Montreal where they provided a home for jazz music. This wasn't so easy to do in the US when you had the likes of Henry Ford traducing it as "the vile work of Jews".

As the record boom continued companies like Decca and RCA sprang up. In 1904 Columbia set the regulation speed of revolutions per minute at 78 and, later, another Jewish immigrant, Alex Steinweiss, persuaded Columbia to market shellac records in individually designed covers. The first, below, was by two very famous Jewish songwriters.

American labels, marginally improving from Henry Ford's overt racism, introduced 'ethnic lists' and these included many Jewish records. In 1935 Moses Asch founded a New York studio for Yiddish theatre songs and folk music whilst Simcha released medleys recorded in Jewish hotels up in the Catskills.

Asch went on to produce Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger and started the label Folkways. Alongside their core of folk music they found room for Sephardic and Arabic-Jewish music.

At the same time the big German label Odeon was making recordings as far afield as Baghdad, Turkey, and Uganda. In 1934 Odeon was Aryanized by the Nazis. As I'm sure you can imagine there were further crackdowns. The secular and liturgical company Semer was destroyed on Kristallnacht, November 1938 and the popular Jewish dance band Sid Kay's Fellows were banned from playing in Berlin.

In 1948 another Jewish man, Peter Goldmark, came out with vinyl. Spinning at 33rpm increased the listening time exponentially and LPs were born. RCA countered, one year later, with the advent of the 7" single. Atlantic Records appeared on the seen c/o Jerry Wexler, son of a Jewish window cleaner from the Bronx, and Ahmet Ertegun, the son of a Turkish diplomat.

Many of these records would have been played on the Rock-Ola jukebox (1956 example below). In Camden you can hear scratched and warped 7s of Simon & Garfunkel singing Rag Doll and El Condor Pasa and Blondie's Heart of Glass amongst others.

For home listening you could use your Dansette. Designed by Russian-Jewish UK immigrant Morris Margolin. It coincided with, and cashed in on, the boom in the lucrative teenage market.

The second, and considerably larger, part of the exhibition is given over to what looks like a rather fantastic record shop. Complete with headphones to listen to some of the music on. Many of which weren't working. Surprising in such a spruce and orderly establishment. You do, however, have the option of reclining on a beanbag and watching JewTube.

There are various sections in the record 'shop'. The first is given over to cantors. Most of these are chanted prayers recorded in Warsaw, Smolensk, or Vienna for home listening. Next up are popular songs of Tin Pan Alley featuring the works and performances of Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill, and Harold Arlen rubbing up against Gershwin, Korngold, and Hart. Writers who bridged the gap between popular and serious.

The Yiddish theatre section features recordings of Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen and an area devoted to comedians is thick with household names. Try Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Jerry Lewis, Tom Lehrer, and Lenny Bruce for size.

They've some real curate's eggs in the educational area. Religious readings are perhaps not particularly surprising but was there really much of a market for field recordings of the Six Day War?

Folk music and Israeli folk music are given separate sections as is klezmer. I must admit I'm not qualified enough to make distinctions though the klezmer artists like Dave Tarras, The Klezmatics, and She'Koyokh were familiar to me. I was unable to find anything by an old favourite of mine, Naftule Brandwein, however.

The Arabic-Jewish music looked intriguing with recordings from Spain, Persia, Yemen, and Morocco. The 'Black & White' section begins with Al Jolson but moves on to Stan Getz, Benny Goodman, and Paul Desmond. The label Blue Note was founded by Jewish refugee Alfred Lion.

Jewish pop producers included Jac Holzman, Phil Spector, David Geffen, Seymour Stein, and Rick Rubin. Jewish pop performers make for a very lengthy list:- Burt Bacharach, Neil Sedaka, Bob Dylan (who yodelled a version of Hava Nagila back in '61), Simon and Garfunkel, Carole King, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, Barbra Streisand, and Kiss are just the tip of the iceberg. Israeli pop has been given its own zone. Ofra Haza features as do Esther and Abi Ofarim.

There's a surprisingly large punk contingent stretching from forebears like Lou Reed (who's listed, perhaps incorrectly, as having been born Lewis Allan Rabinowitz) to punks turned hip-hoppers The Beastie Boys. Somewhere in the middle there's a fair bit of flirting with Nazi imagery. If your parents are Jewish what better way to shock them?

The newest recordings are lumped under the slightly unwieldy term 'Jewish Radical'. That'd be John Zorn, Peaches etc; Alan Vega said CBGBs was 'one big synagogue' which seems somewhat unlikely but makes for a good quote.

There's loads of interesting stuff in this exhibition. It's laid out a bit willy-nilly but you could spend hours poring over the record sleeves and listening to them. I spent a couple but then I went for a cappuccino in the cafe downstairs which was served up with a chocolate heart on top. I was told 'enjoy your art'. I had done already.