Living Statues

June 3, 2009 at 9:06 am (Interview, performance) (, , )

picture: hans s

picture: hans s

A lot of work goes into standing still – perfectly and completely still. Self-discipline is the key. You have to uphold constant control of each limb, each muscle. Physically it’s exhausting. But living statues must remain unaffected by their surrounding environment even if it is a bustling audience willing them to move. No nuance of thought is allowed to register on the face. They have to hide their breathing.

For Jason Maverick it’s just another day at the office: “The worst aspect is getting the body paint off – red or black make up is very difficult to remove. It’s just a case of scrubbing.” He admits it can be tricky when people try to make him laugh. While he has never cracked, he thinks people have probably detected a smile a couple of times: “because sometimes people do genuinely funny things”.

Today living statues line the Thames or other tourist destinations in most major cities. People may stop for a look and perhaps even throw a little change into the upturned top hat. Few realise that this art form has it’s roots in Renaissance where “tableau vivants” or living pictures would be used to entertain royalty.

Jason recently performed at the Watchman premiere. He was painted fluorescent blue and was wired up so that electricity shoots out of him, Doctor Manhattan-style. Seven hundred people attended to watch Jason stand. He is used to large crowds. He’s performed at a range of high-profile events, from the Queen’s Golden Jubilee to Sting’s private party. He won’t go into detail on either: “there’s a certain amount of privacy that you have to uphold”.

picture: Carlos Lorenzo

picture: Carlos Lorenzo

Jason trained in mime. The living statue utilises those skills. “The beauty of mime is that you can cross language barriers,” says Jason. “I have performed in India, Africa, Asia. I performed in a village in Africa and I really wondered how it was going to come across but the humour travels. I was surprised actually.”

Jason does a lot of different statues. Lord Nelson is popular and his Bollywood statue goes down well. One statue has an elaborate piping system which pumps water out of an urn. But his favourite statue is the Golden Doorman. The Doorman wears an expensive golden suit with painted mannequin-style face. “You get a very strong reaction because you look like a person but the make up has blanked out all your features – you put it across your lips, over your eyes, everything. When you move people find it quite disconcerting.” It was the Golden Doorman won Jason second place in the annual Living Statue Contest in Holland two years ago.

What can he think about when he’s performing? “I do concentrate quite a lot when I’m doing it. Sometimes I’ll focus on different parts of my body, so I’ll think oh my calves are really tense, or my shoulders or I’ll think about adjusting my body position. If you’re body painted of course people can detect you breathing so I try to shallow breathe. That’s a whole other area of concentration.”

Has a bird ever landed on him by accident? “That’s the most random question I’ve ever been asked,” smiles Jason. “No.”


Permalink Leave a Comment

The Great Cake Escape

May 11, 2009 at 11:22 am (Interview, street art) (, , , , )

cake-escapeA pink and white cupcake sits on a grubby East London pavement with a little flag saying “Eat me”. People bustling past barely notice it – just a small flash of colour on the grey side street. But this cupcake has a purpose. It’s waiting for someone to sink their teeth into it’s fluffy sponginess; to make a mess of its icing and read its flag. But who would eat a cupcake they found on a street corner?

Lot of people would, as it turns out. “So many people re into cake it’s crazy,” says Cherry Bakewell. “I never really realised before but people are obsessed with cake.” This particular cupcake is the creation of Cherry and Fondant Fancy – aka The Great Cake Escape – where street art meets Betty Crocker. The pair are bent on brightening up the world one cake at a time. A modern day Alice in Wonderland via Shoreditch.

The Great Cake Escape started as a one-off birthday project but has turned into a guerilla street-art campaign. “I always really liked that kind of thing, when you leave something on the street and you never quite know who’s going to find it,” says Cherry. They were both into street art but “didn’t want to be vandals”. Inspired by tea parties, they made lots of cupcakes, dropped them around London and watched.

It was supposed to be one afternoon of fun, but a year and a half later they’re still doing it. “We usually produce around 200 cakes,” says Cherry. “To make any visual impact you need to have plenty. They go so quickly it’s amazing. We’ll drop some, then turn around to see if anyone has taken them and they’ll be gone.

“Recently someone found one of the cakes – we left it on his bicycle basket – and he cycled round London and took pictures of all the places he had taken it. In the end he left it somewhere, hoping that someone else would find it and take it on another adventure.”

Dropping cakes isn’t always easy. Some people simply don’t get it. Cherry and Fondant have been criticised for wasting food, and more bizarrely, trying to poison a dog. Then there are the street wardens to contend with. “At first we were scared that we would get caught for littering,” says Cherry. “But i’ve seen street cleaners that go and look at them, pick them up, read the message and laugh and then put them back down.”cake escape flour

They never really intended for people to eat them, although they’re perfectly edible. It’s more about evoking curiosity, rousing people out of their everyday routine by giving them something unexpected. Each cake has a little flag saying things like “I’m an abandoned sweet surprise waiting just for you. Have a little fun tonight, share me with someone new.”

The domestic arts – crafts, knitting, baking – are expereincing something of a comeback. Nostlalgia is in. First it was the vintage boom and clothes your grandmother wore, and now her hobbies are back too. The Great Cake Escape has adopted a ’50s housewife aesthetic, lipstick and Mary-Janes.

“It’s about being sick of everything being manufactured, all the shops look the same,” says Cherry. “People are more aware that if they go and buy something in Topshop they’re not really sure of where it was manufactured or the quality of things. It’s nice to be individual and enjoy being creative and actually making something.”

Because they are young women baking cakes, inevitably questions have been raised about their feminist stance. Their work has been lauded by feminist groups such as Riot Grrrl fanzines and events like Ladyfest. But Cherry insists that a feminsit statement wasn’t they’re intention, though they enjoy the association. At these events, the flags say things like “Riot don’t diet” and “Love your muffin top, eat more cake”.

“People thought, ‘Ok, what are you doing with this image, are you reclaiming it?” says Cherry. They were accused of behaving lik drag queens performing an idea that was damaging to feminism. “It was really strange for us because we didn’t go into it with any agenda. I guess people can think what they want to think.

“It’s pretty simple,” says Cherry. “There’s nothing deep. We just want to make people smile.”

Permalink Leave a Comment

Wintersleep interview in Pictures

April 1, 2009 at 9:22 pm (Interview, music) (, , )

Wintersleep in Pictures by Alastair Plumb

Wintersleep in Pictures by Alastair Plumb

When we were interviewing Wintersleep (see post below ), my friend Ali (of Lollygagger fame) nimbly whipped out his camera and took these photos, which he has since organised into a pretty collage. For this, we thank him.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Interview: A Drink with Wintersleep

March 31, 2009 at 12:51 pm (Interview, music) (, , , )

Canadian rockers Wintersleep have just completed a tour to celebrate the release of their latest album, Welcome to the Night Sky in Europe.

I caught up with them in London to talk about first records, winning the Juno award and stealing polar bears…

Permalink 2 Comments

If you could inflict a film on your worst enemy, what would it be?

March 20, 2009 at 2:57 pm (film, Interview) (, , )

Picture from j-fin

Picture: j-fin

Everybody has a film they’ve watched so many times they can speak along with the characters. It works much the same as a wooly blanket and mug of soup when you’re ill – comforting and delicious. For me it’s Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice, mainly for the striding at the end.

Then there’s those films that you can’t belive you wasted 107 minutes of your life watching, such as Gurinder Chadher’s Bride and Prejudice. I wouldn’t inflict it on my worst enemy.

Or would I? I was curious to find out what films people would inflict on their enemies. So I asked the good people of London town:

Picture: shadowtech

Picture: shadowtech

Permalink 2 Comments