Wednesday, March 17


Last week I had the opportunity to take an impromptu 1-day trip to Newcastle. The catch was that I had to spend the day there by myself until Alex would join me in the evening, about 8 hours worth of wandering. That wouldn't usually be a problem, it's a city, of course there's lots to do. I was excited.

Well, it was kinda a problem. I had no preparation time whatsoever and knew next to nothing about Newcastle. My only experience with the place was from visiting the Gateshead Garden Festival in 1990 (including a trip to the Metrocentre!) and maybe a couple of train-changes in the station. Fearing a long day of window shopping, I asked for some tips on Twitter and within about an hour, I had a full day planned.

By far the most helpful advice came from the awesome Newcastle-based Cloud Commission who let me know that there was a bloody great AV festival on the go (AV Festival 10). How lucky was that? He pointed out a few shows and events worth checking out as well as some other cool things around town. Here's what I did with my body and my brain:

First stop, Tyneside Cinema.
The festival hub was based in Tyneside Cinema, a great independent picture-house in the city centre. I headed here first, following my hastily printed Google map from the train station and politely refusing to give a man money for drugs. Inside, a series of staff members, each more lovely than the last, directed me to the Feral Trade Cafe where I sat with a hot chocolate and a programme.

Next up, Jenny Holzer
Before I left, the newspapers were full of reviews for Jenny Holzer's big exhibition at the Baltic. Being a bit stupid, I didn't put 2 and 2 together to work out that the damn thing was in Gateshead, where I was headed. The show was pretty extraordinary. Holzer's huge-scale LED work is definitely worth seeing in real life (you've got until 16th May). I've been joking that her work looks like the Fitter Happier computer took charge of the Blackpool illuminations.

On to Condemned_Bulbes
Alongside AAIIR, Cloud Commission tipped this as one of two must-see shows in the festival. So much so, he offered a prize-incentive to anyone who produced proof that they'd visited both of them. I'm happy to say that I was one of the winners! The exhibit, produced by Montreal studio Artificiel, was really cool. Huge lightbulbs were hung from the ceiling in a blacked-out hall and would glow, fizz and crackle as waves of electricity passed through them.

Where now? All Art Is, Is Rhythm
Forgive some of these photos being a bit blurry, I was often trying to snap them without being spotted by security. The other CC challenge was to snap yourself at It's In The Air by Felix Hess, part of the All Art Is, Is Rhythm show at the Hatton Gallery. The work, a room full of tiny paper flags that moved with the tiniest currents of air as you walked around was really wonderful. A simple, elegant idea executed perfectly.

I managed to catch a few other shows and did a good amount of shop-wandering too. Unfortunately the AV festival finished up on the 14th so I guess if you haven't been then you've already missed it. You should visit Newcastle though, it's very nice. Thanks to my Twitter friends for the tips, the whole process was a nice example of a very 2010 internet-meets-the-real-world moment.

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