Dry Cleaning review – left-field art rockers are a deadpan delight – The Guardian
The large industrial fan set into the wall to the rear of the stage is supposed to swirl dry ice around the band. Were it working, it might serve as a subtle echo of the process of dry cleaning itself. Instead, the venue’s fan is on the blink. “Just a big, smoking hole,” notes Dry Cleaning’s Florence Shaw with wry amusement. It sounds like a future lyric.
The band ease into Her Hippo, a standout from their 2021 debut album, New Long Leg. “I’m smiling constantly,” Shaw intones, magnificently stony-faced. By contrast, Tom Dowse’s guitar is eager, ringing and exploratory, then increasingly anxious, ratcheting up the tension as Shaw keeps her impassive cool. While Dowse and hirsute bassist Lewis Maynard rock out beside her, Shaw runs through a repertoire of punk-adjacent stares, shrugs and glances heavenwards. There are expressions you might dub “regretful oncologist” and a side eye that implies exasperation or complicity. The band’s kit boasts the initials DC in gothic script; smiley faces made from tape adorn their speaker cabinets, of which, fittingly, only one smiles and two are much more equivocal.
You might call Shaw’s lyrical work in Dry Cleaning cut-up, or free-associative, if it weren’t funnier, sadder and more fed up than that. “You didn’t necessarily feel/ So I don’t necessarily feel,” she offers neutrally on Kwenchy Kups, a highlight of the band’s second album, 2022’s Stumpwork. If you haven’t heard Stumpwork, you may have noted its notorious artwork: the LP’s title rendered in pubic hair on a bar of soap.
Dry Cleaning band lore runs that Shaw, a visual artist, joined the angular outfit founded by Dowse, bassist Maynard and drummer Nick Buxton – all veterans of previous post-punk acts – after being persuaded she could repurpose her sheaves of overheard conversation, notes-to-self and found texts into a collage of oblique lyrics. There was no need to sing. Dowse and Shaw had met at art college; you can still see some of his pizza-based figurative work online. Significantly, one of Shaw’s 2019 graphic works, Sleep Torpor, used “found narration sourced from online forums, synthesising personal experiences and collective feeling”. Her drawings have also become tattoos.
Shaw’s discipline-pivot to front this extraordinary band has resulted in two albums and three EPs of focused art rock – non-sung, rather than unsung. That one foundational idea – Shaw deadpanning over Dowse’s hyperactive guitar and Maynard’s funky or metallic basslines – has proved surprisingly expansive. There is so much going on in Dry Cleaning. Dowse’s guitar lines dash pell-mell into the indie disco or get lost in post-rock; often, they could curdle milk at 20 paces, so deliciously sour is his tone. Towards the end, Shaw breaks out a melodica; at the climax of the encore, Buxton plays sax drones.
Dry Cleaning have been a surprisingly fruitful endeavour too. For a band just getting going with a seemingly niche offering at the start of the pandemic, they captured the lockdown imagination with their jigsaw wordplay and wiry, dyspeptic sound. Having quit their day jobs at the least best inflection point in living memory, Dry Cleaning soldiered on through the worst of the live music drought to release 2022’s Stumpwork. Maynard’s mother died during this time; with no overt references, the past couple of years turn up nonetheless. “Staying in my room is what I like to do anyway,” runs Liberty Log.
This tour coincides with the release of a new EP, Swampy, essentially unused bits of Stumpwork, but no new song makes it on to the set list. Shaw, meanwhile, is a guest on a recent Sleaford Mods track called Force 10 from Navarone, where the parallels between her aloof witness-bearing and Jason Williamson’s disdainful invective are made plain. The repurposed former wind turbine factory we are in sits in a lonely bit of the Liverpool docks that boasts statuesque industrial decay, deluxe developments and the continuing Everton stadium rebuild, with a smattering of breweries and plucky creative industries making up the middle ground. That sense of dislocation, of places in flux, a vernacular struggling to retain meaning, feels of a piece with Dry Cleaning’s uneasy associating. They also have their more straightforward moments. “Everything’s expensive and opaque and privatised,” Shaw mutters on Anna Calls from the Arctic. A song called Conservative Hell gets a whoop when Shaw announces it.
When all around, certainties seem to be crumbling, the fact that Dry Cleaning seem to be consolidating audiences – ones who will happily spend 90 minutes egging on a living music installation – is no small boon. In part, a rising tide lifts all boats: if Wet Leg can bag Grammys, it’s probably good news for the mid-size British left-field musician. But Dry Cleaning are genuinely radical prospects.
They could so easily lean into their lyrics as cutesy memes, or comedy catchphrases, but don’t. Moreover, few front people are doing what Shaw is doing. While still being a magnetic focus of attention, she is dialled-down, un-needy, boundaried. In a recent interview, Shaw talked about using “a dispassionate woman’s voice, not giving or seducing”. Perhaps she says it best on Hot Penny Day. “I’m not here to provide blank,” Shaw avers. “They can fucking provide blank.”
Vancouver to remove unsanctioned spider art creeping-out transit riders – Vancouver Sun
City staff are looking into how to remove a large metallic spider from under a high-traffic bridge on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.
The artwork, which startled some arachnophobic SkyTrain riders when it was installed earlier this month, was created by pop artist Junko Playtime.
In an email to Postmedia News on Friday, city staff say they were made aware of the unsanctioned spider artwork located in a corridor for SkyTrain and CN/BNSF Rail.
The installation wasn’t done in consultation with the city or the rail corridor partners, city staff said. They’re trying to figure out the best way to remove the artwork so there is no damage to the bridge structure or rail lines.
Staff said the artist will have the ability to claim the work through the city’s impoundment process.
According to Playtime’s Instagram page, the eight-foot-diameter spider was installed at night recently on the north bank below the bridge between North Grandview Highway and Broadway.
Playtime, from Montreal, has gained a reputation over the past two years for installing very large and far-out insect like futuristic sculptures from scrap metal and household items.
The artist called this latest spider creation “Phobia 2023. Time to face our fears.”
— With files from David Carrigg
Artist behind guerilla Vancouver art piece launches campaign to ‘save spidey’ – Global News
The artist behind a guerilla sculpture installation in East Vancouver that the city plans to remove is fighting to save the work.
The art work in question is a large, black spider made of recycled materials affixed beneath an overpass near Broadway and Victoria Drive, and visible from the SkyTrain Millennium Line.
The city says the work was unsanctioned, and that it is in the midst of plans on how to best remove the spider.
The anonymous Montreal-based artist who goes by the moniker Junko Playtime is calling on supporters to contact the city and ask it to leave the guerilla installation, titled Phobia, in place.
Unsanctioned spider sculpture seen from Skytrain to be removed
“I think it’s a shame, there’s are a lot of people that really enjoy the artwork and would love for it to stay there. Sure, there are some people that might not like it, but it’s impossible to please everyone with public art,” Playtime told Global News in an email.
“The work is positioned in a way that doesn’t put anything or anyone in danger and can easily be ignored if someone doesn’t want to look at it.”
Junko Playtime contrasted the city’s reaction to the spider to the mounting piles of trash along the rail line where it was installed, saying it doesn’t make sense to remove the art but not the garbage.
“In terms of this piece, the city didn’t pay a dime for it. It’s built out of waste material collected in the streets so it’s essentially cleaning up some of the litter and there’s a huge amount of people that really enjoy it — seems like a pretty good deal to me,” he said.
City crews remove satan statue erected alongside busy Vancouver roadway
The City of Vancouver said the artwork was installed without review or approval, and that it began planning to remove it after complaints from the public.
It pointed to the city’s official public art program, which selects works through a jury process or its Public Art Committee, and that all approved pieces are vetted by engineers to ensure safety, structural integrity, longevity and maintenance plans.
“The installation of public art on key infrastructure, such as a bridge, would require due process to ensure safety. The unsanctioned spider artwork has not been through this review process,” it said in a statement Friday.
The cost of removing the spider remains unclear, according to the city.
The artist responded by suggesting leaving the piece in place was a chance for Vancouver to shake its dubious reputation as “no fun city,” which he said it had earned “for a reason.”
The spider is not the first artwork by Junko Playtime to appear in Metro Vancouver.
Last month, Habitat, a sanctioned piece he created from reclaimed materials appeared outside the Bentall Centre Gallery as a part of the Vancouver Mural Festival’s Winter Arts Festival.
Last year, a large, yellow, insect-like sculpture he created called Queen BX1000 appeared in an empty lot near the Fraser River near the Canada Line.
The artist, who said his work revolves around themes of biodiversity and ecological responsibility, said he designed the spider installation specifically for the location where he placed it, telling Global News, “the cliff face covered overhead by the large metal and concrete bridge really felt like a fitting environment for a creation like this to inhabit.”
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Gagosian’s DALL-E–Enabled Art Exhibition Throws Us Headfirst into the Uncanny Valley
The arrival of AI text generators and chatbots like Chat GPT and Bing (or is she named Sydney?) over the last year has shattered the assumption that creativity is the sole domain of humans, and other living things. But, while image generators like DALL-E and Midjourney are the visual equivalent technologies, the same crisis has not quite registered in the art world.
Perhaps, this lack of response stems from a lack of opportunity. No longer! Earlier this week, mega-gallery Gagosian opened an exhibition of works by DALL-E, which, like its AI image generator competitors, can turn a simple text prompt into an image in seconds. Might I find some crisis awaiting me there? (Yes).
The exhibition is produced by Bennet Miller, a film director who has been nominated for Oscars for Foxcatcher (2014) and Capote (2005); the works, and the exhibition are untitled. Over the past several years, Miller has been making a documentary about AI, through which he interviewed Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, who gave him beta access to DALL-E far before the rest of the public.
The images DALL-E produces produce range from obviously amiss (twisted fingers, a fuzzy swirl of pixels) to hauntingly accurate in their targeting of one’s request. Despite these occasional flaws, no longer is the AI image quickly clocked for what it is by that tell-tale sheen of psychedelic patterning. It’s no wonder then why the word “real” was invoked, again and again, by the audience at Miller’s opening this week.
One woman I pass gestures at one of Miller’s prints, a large piece laid on with deep, dark, wet-looking ink onto sepia-toned paper, depicting a child as she stares at the viewer while the wind tosses her hair. It looks as if it comes from the Victorian era, dated not just by its coloring but by what looks to be a simple, linen dress of the era. It’s all projection. The woman tells her friend, “It’s not real.” There is no linen dress.
Well, so what. It’s a bit melodramatic to behave as if we don’t already live in an era of unreal-ness. And anyways, since when does art require a real-world referent to represent something “real”? Since when is “realness” a metric?
Sure, many of Miller’s works look like they could be photographs, but many are heavily stylized. Often extremely out of focus and piled on with grain, there is just enough form to suggest a subject or a landscape. Some of them seem to represent momentous or historical moments in the past. Here is a profile that looks Native American, extending an arm that could be a wing, that could be cultural dress. Here is a mushroom cloud, as if from an explosion, but flattened in a way that, perhaps, Nature wouldn’t allow. A machine like a train but it’s not. A disk, just a flat circle of some substance, held in the hands of a woman. Beguilingly simple, pointing back to nothing.
I spot Fran Lebowitz. Blunt, coarse bob, big coat, tortoiseshell glasses perched on her nose and another set in her welt pocket. Loafers! It really is her. She’s thumbing through the exhibition text that was produced for the show by author Benjamin Labatut using ChatGPT, an AI text generator also produced by OpenAI. It turns out Miller also interviewed Lebowitz for his documentary, though it doesn’t seem clear why. She repeats an apology to me several times: she doesn’t know what this means, the exhibition, the fact of its genesis. But she makes an effort.
“These are not real photographs, but what are real photographs?” Lebowtiz begins. “Are the only real photographs the ones made on film, not the digital ones? My friend Peter Hujar would say so.”
The slippery slope tack: if we’ve accepted that cameras do not make the photographs, but that photographers do, why should any succeeding technology that the human mind directs for its purpose not be judged similarly? That is, as a genuine, human act of creation. I ask Lebowitz a clumsy question, something like, ‘Isn’t the labor of trying to make something worth something?” She says of course. What are we even talking about? It’s too basic but I can’t help it.
The concern about realness comes from two places. Where did these images come from and can we credit Miller with a “real” creative act. It’s really one problem: what do we do with this other actor in the picture, AI? What spasm was it that gave birth to these images, that Miller guided and curated?
It’s telling that these new tools are called AI “generators” not “creators”. Generation is to bring into being, but behind a veil. Generation has its roots in the phenomenon of conception, which is not done with the conscious mind but the secret efforts of the body. It is only in this way that I can relate to the concept of AI, this thing that brings into being without conscious, all the indifference and capability of nature. But this is false analogy (is there a word for anthropomorphizing but for nature? Naturmorphizing?). I’m not sure why I can’t see it as an extension of all the other amazing technological capabilities with their hidden mechanisms. I don’t know how my computer works.
Walking around Miller’s show I’m surprised that so many people look happy and curious whereas I feel bitterly on guard. I look closely at each image, which range from looking like vintage photographs to charcoal drawings, and investigate for signs of their computerly origins. I’m not to be tricked!
As images, though, I do like them. They remind me of a picture book I once had and spark my love of old and whimsical looking things, for what that’s worth. A lot of AI images I’ve seen do this, that is, open the door to alternate, fantastical worlds, which says a lot about the people who request these images. There’s a lovely impulse to see something wondrous, magical, not of our reality. But how tightly and terribly joined is this desire for the fantastic to the impish twitch for falsity.
By now, haven’t we all seen those AI generated images of Trump getting arrested? How quickly we come back to Earth. One day it’ll feel normal. For now it’s tripping me up.
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