Is everything old new again?

Further to our last post, we received word that Mark Hix is opening up a restaurant called Tramshed in a former tram electricity station on Rivington Street in Shoreditch, just opposite Rivington Grill.

Hix himself set up Rivington Grill ages ago — back in the era of the yBas, if ye can cast your minds that far back — while he was the head chef of Caprice holdings, the restaurant group that owns the Ivy, J. Sheekey’s and other big ticket items. He left Caprice a few years ago to open up Hix in Soho and other Hix-titled franchises, and now Tramshed. If we were a real news organisation, we’d hack his phone to find out do a proper interview to ask him why he’s returning to the scene of his first crime (this is just a metaphor — we quite like the Rivington). Rivington Grill was very much associated with the yBas, which you can see in the Tracey Emin neons and Gillian Wearing prints that still festoon the restaurant (as they do his other holdings). Hix’s intimacy with the group ran beyond just buying their work — his was a hang-out for that set; there was a board in the restaurant showing what exhibitions were on; and he catered dinners for and contributed to young galleries in the area, which capitalised on the hype of the art scene to become the cool(ish?) district it is today. Funny then, wethinks, to see someone return to a place whose own glamour he helped create. There’s a little old-man-ship about this, like a craggy, minted Mick Jagger singing about youth and rebellion. Though to be fair Mark Hix is only singing about garden mint; the Tramshed website is called ‘chickenandsteak.co.uk’ – just the kind of return to plain English ingredients Rivington Street initiated all those years ago.

Old Hix meets new Hix. Truly Hixstatic.

Of course, attentive readers of this page by this point will surmise that what the DLR is really after is a Mark Hix takeover of Jaguar Shoes (www.chickenandsteakandjaguars.co.uk), serving free-range corn-fed jaguar while demanding patrons wear cat-print shoes and speak solely in impartial headlines like ‘THIS SEARED JAGUAR IS SO F*CKING TASTY I AM GOING TO INGEST IT THROUGH MY EYEBALLS AND THEN SINGLE-HANDEDLY TAKE IT OFF THE ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST SO THAT I CAN BUY THE WORLD’S POPULATION AND MAKE THEM INTO SHOES SO THE NAME “JAGUAR SHOES” FINALLY, AT LONG, BREATH-ABATED LAST MAKES SOME SORT OF SENSE’. Mark Hix, if this too is your dream project, do get in touch. If not, well, we are curious to see what you do at Ye Olde Shed of the Tram.

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Updated eating news

Well, hullo there, world. We are back off the wagon like Whitney to a crack pipe (too soon?). This week we bring you various news in the exciting world of eateries.

First up is East End stalwart Bistrotheque‘s move to the new King’s Cross area, an industrial wasteland recently been transformed by the pretty incredible new Central Saint Martins building. What does, you might ask, happen when you transplant 5,000 art and fashion students to a new derelict area of the city? Answer: like a tranny responding to a conch call, Bistrotheque comes to answer their too-cool-for-cocktails needs.

Moving to the Ed Ruscha-like former petrol station that has sat empty for years on the side of Goods Way, Bistrotheque is opening a Latin-themed bar, the somewhat less than inimitably called ‘Shrimpy’s‘. It promises ‘patrons a collection of dishes harvested from trips to the Americas, especially the Latin parts’. Lest you think the ‘Latin parts’ sounds slightly euphemistic, let us put your mind at ease: the owner’s boyfriend is Mexican, so yes, it is.

Shrimpy’s opens Thursday.

The pineapple was a symbol of hospitality in Europe following its discovery by explorers in the 15th century. This is why Gracie Mansion, the official mayor’s residence in New York (even if Bloomberg has too much money to stay there), has a pineapple motif in much of its cornicing and trims. FACT! Although it may or may not be why the peculiarly named Shrimpy’s is illustrated by a pineapple. NON-FACT!

Back in the Dalston woods things are not looking so cheery, as another early East End stalwart — Jaguar Shoes — has finally made it to the big time. Their previously local fame crossed the desk of the Jaguar car company – and Jaguar has promptly moved to quash it, bringing proceedings against the bar and music venue’s use of the name. In response Jaguar Shoes sent out an email press release to their email list of 20-something hipsters and booze hounds, calmly proclaiming that ‘CORPORATE GIANT APPLY PRESSURE TO INDEPENDENT LONDON ARTS COLLECTIVE’. We’ll see how this one goes. To be fair to Jaguar Shoes — a name we could never get our heads around in the first place — it doesn’t seem likely that someone searching for a Jaguar automobile will be mightily confused.

dreambagsjaguarshoes. Note: not dreamjagsjaguarcars.

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Remiss, remorse and remonstration

Well, the DLR has been remiss lately. And thinking of the DLR has led to panic stations on high alert, particularly when the DLR’s Facebook page has been adding fans at a far higher rate than it did when the DLR was actually publishing material. What does this tell us? People will eventually get around to liking everything — anything! — on Facebook? That 80% of life really is just showing up? That less is quite radically more?

Many things have happened in our e-absence. Frieze pitched their tent in New York and to all accounts it was a great success. Sales were mixed: rocky for some smaller galleries, stellar for the larger ones. Capitalism, eh? The rich get richer. A canvassing of word on the ground from the non-art crowd brought us this gem: ‘I didn’t see as much innovative art as I thought there would be. But I don’t like that innovative art anyway.’ Thus proving New Yorkers and Londoners are not only united by a common language (whatever they say), but use that same language to take the piss out of contemporary art.

Whatever this is, we’ve seen it before.

Tate has been chucking out cultural highlights like it’s no one’s business — an excellent Cara Tolmie performance during Electra’s latest instalment of the Her Noise project; Alighiero e Boetti; the Damian Hirst exhibition (ha! kidding). Annoyingly correlating again with the ridiculous proposition that recessions are good for the arts, the basely funded Tate curatorial team has produced a fantastic roster — Albo Tambellini, Yvonne Rainer, Rabih Mroué, Anthea Hamilton — for their Oil Tanks programme, a subterrenean celebration of performance. It also partly reflects Tate’s feeling that they had been ignoring performance — difficult to show in traditional exhibition spaces — and hands the Daily Mail a gem in rectifying this problem by putting performance in the basement.

Jeremy Deller has been tapped for Venice, but you knew that. But did you know he thinks Hogarth is the best British artist of all time? Well, if you listened to Radio 4 this lunchtime, you did. The rest of you can thank us now; incidentally the DLR finds itself obsessed with Deller’s new public sculpture — the giant Stonehenge bouncy castle — as it says everything about the Tories’ relation to history and culture: culture — one enormous fun park! Englandhood — great! Bring the kiddies! Engage! The elevation of dumbing down into an electable art! Deller, chapeau bas.

We defy you to say this is stupid.

Finally, something big, wild and woolly is happening at the ICA next weekend, coorganised with Lux. We are still wading through programme notes but will report back on what to see. To stave off remorse, you see, in a little bout of self-remonstration. Don’t, um, watch this page though, because more seems to happen when we don’t write about it.

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Mao’s power hour

Chairman Mao has a bad rep. And let’s be fair, some less-than-good things happened on his watch. Things like, you know, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution that killed tens of millions of people and desecrated invaluable cultural relics.

Still, he wasn’t all bad. Or even if he was, he did some pretty substantial things: he was instrumental in winning the Chinese civil war, founding the rurally focused branch of Marxist-Leninism that bore his name and writing some influential treatises on guerrilla warfare.

The Great Leap Forward: a slight policy blunder, but a remarkable marrying of Looney Tunes cartoons and Socialist Realism.

And those treatises/ideas on guerrilla warfare endure to this day. After the Cold War, you might have thought that Maoist- or other Marxist-inspired insurgencies disappeared in a puff of red smoke. Not so! Sure, some leftist insurgent movements have suffered greatly, particularly in Latin America as democratisation and concerted counter-insurgent campaigns have weakened both the motivation for and the ability to wage violent revolutions (we’re looking at you Sendero Luminoso and FARC, now both drug-carrying shadows of your former selves).

But elsewhere revolutionary insurgents have flourished. And nowhere is this more true than in South Asia. Ah, South Asia! Land of curries, cricket fanaticism, amazing mountains and Maoist insurgencies. How the DLR loves you!

Given its often rural economies and populations, South Asia is rife for Mao’s rural-focused revolutionary theories. And so it has proven: it is here that the Nepalese Maoists led a hugely successful campaign that eventually led to the de facto revolution that ousted bonkers King Gyanendra.

A picture of a Nepalese Maoist and a bonus fact: Nepal’s national flag is one of only two in the world that isn’t rectangular. BOOM! We just facted all over you. You’re welcome.

And just over the border, the Indian Maoists have become the cause celebre of the revolutionary insurgent world. Since 2004, when two geographically focused Maoist movements banded together to form the Communist Party of India-Maoist, the CPI-M has been a force with which to be reckoned (yes, that’s right, our campaign against sentences ending with prepositions even extends to creating ugly constructions just for pedantry’s sake). After nearly 40 years of the Naxalite campaign, a catch-all term for a variety of communit insurgencies that are so called because the movement began with an uprising in the town of Naxalbari in West Bengal, the CPI-M have emerged as a genuine threat to state governance in large areas of eastern India.

The eagle-eyed and well-read among you may notice the similarity between the CPI-M’s adopted moniker and that of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), the banner under which the Nepalese Maoists waged their military and then political campaign until 2009. But there’s no proven link between the two. They remain ideologically similar, and the CPI-M may well have been inspired by the success of the CPN-M, but it would be politically risky for the Nepalese Maoists to transport guns or materiel to their Indian counterparts.

Still, the Indian Maoists have been doing quite well on their own. After a few years of largely uninterrupted growth in their activities, the state and federal governments finally got round to coordinating a response in the last couple of years. This has led to a few setbacks for the Maoists, but the cack-handed operations by paramilitaries in India and enduring poverty means that the motivations for the insurgency are as strong as ever.

The elite special forces of the Indian Maoists demonstrate their patented crouch-and-hide technique. And yes, those are decades-old, bolt-action rifles some of them are holding.

Now, they have gained international renown through the kidnap of two Italian tourists in Odisha in March (yes, that’s Odisha nowadays, BBC. It’s been six months since they changed the name. Keep up!). The Italians were released, but two more kidnappings, of a state parliamentary member and a local civil servant, Alex Menonm in March and April have kept up the pressure. Kidnapping is not new to either the Nepalese or India Maoist campaigns. The tactic was first used in the 1980s in India and has continued sporadically since then, while local officials were regularly kidnapped by the Nepalese (although tourists were avoided to prevent international sanction).

These kidnap victims were all released, but the trend continues: just yesterday two people were kidnapped, including the local leader of the Hindu nationalist BJP party , in Chhattisgarh in the same district as Alex Menon. the kidnappings are proving particularly effective ways for the Maoists to force the governments into submission, with their demands often being met in full. It is also a way to win favour among high-profile victims: by treating the local politician well and subsequently releasing him, he has claimed he will agitate for Maoist policies focusing on improving conditions for tribal members.

The fabled and totally alarmist red corridor of Indian Maoist activity. Does it remind any of you of Command and Conquer? Oh. Us neither. (PS: Sorry for the copyright infringement, STRATFOR, but it’s already out there. And we imagine you have bigger problems with privacy right now what with wikileaks and all.)

The CPI-M, then, are here to stay. They’ve proven themselves a capable organisation, they are slowly building up their military capabilities, and even though still poorly trained, badly armed and suffering from a series of operations to remove their leadership, they are growing their numbers. They’re not going to be marching on Delhi, but they will be a constant reminder of the lack of governance in large areas of India’s impoverished east.

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Warts ‘n’ all

One of the DLR’s raisons d’être is that we maintain there is often an overlap between the worlds of art fairs and warfare. Wartfare, perhaps.

So, it has come to pass again that an art fair was at the heart of an armed conflict. This time: Mali. In 21 March, a coup led by a captain (a captain! The cheek of it! And we used to think Colonel Gadaffi was a bit above his station) seized control of Bamako.

The coup was apparently launched because the soldiers are unhappy with material support they gained from the government in their failing campaign to suppress an insurgency by Tuaregs in the north, who also happen to be some of the coolest-looking rebels you’re ever likely to see.

Tuareg rebels: wearing scarves for the benefit of Sahelian insurgent fashion.

Nearly coinciding with the coup was the New Spaces for Negotiating Art (and) History in African Cities. Several individuals connected with the contemporary artworld were trapped in the country as borders were closed. Apparently the coup wasn’t inspired by the show. Other international personnel were trapped, such as Kenya’s foreign minister, who was stranded for four days. In fact, it almost appeared to be an accidental coup, or a mutiny getting out of hand: it started with a protest against the defence minister during a visit to the Kati military camp and ended with soldiers sealing off the presidential palace.

The current interim government has branded itself the National Council for the Re-establishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State. This is a bad sign: the longer and more unfeasible the name of the interim government, the longer it intends to stay in power. Myanmar’s State Law and Order Restoration Council promised to stand by the results of multiparty electionst that would be held soon after it seized power in 1988. Elections were eventually held in 2010 with a pro-military party winning more than 75% of the vote. Go democracy!

We need a feasible name, something to raly the people. A soundbite! How about the National Committee for the Recovery of Democracy and the Restoration of the State. BOOM! Political gold.

Probably aware of this history, ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, has issued an ultimatum for Sanogo to return the country to its former political status quo or face sanctions and a blockade that would likely cripple a country that relies on energy imports. It’s even threatened an intervention force, although exactly who would be willing to commit troops to this force is unknown. The situation is extremely fluid, with the military disunited, popular support for both sides and political actors. The international pressure may well tip the balance, but we are betting on the ability of artspeak to baffle the Touaregs and to send them fleeing, like Morley Safer, back into the cultural desert.

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Mappa mia!

With everyone wrestling their way out of Afghanistan faster than you can say ‘nobody’s a winner here’ (so, not that fast after all), it seems fitting to think about Alighiero e Boetti — the Italian Arte Povera artist who travelled often in the 1970s and 80s to that country and used Afghan weavers to create his signature tapestries, on view now at Tate — and his project of mapping the world, consistently, repeatedly, to show how politics changes the literal face of the world. Czechoslovakia disappears; Lithuania reappears; Israel grows a little: these are facts with real human consequences, but are also only arbitrary —  a system of coordinates laid over spatial geometry that is understood as a representation of the world. A very human system indeed, and in that contingent on our modern Western way of thinking. The map is certainly not the territory.

The ancient Romans, for example, despite their prowess in road-building, did not have road maps in the way we conceive of them. Rather than a set of coordinates mapped onto an approximation of the space contained by one country — Ireland being smaller than Britain; Britain being smaller than the US; and represented as such — the ancient Romans just chucked the contents of a place into a space delineated on a sheet of a paper (a map). Ireland, a land containing Croke Park, the Blarney Stone and the Guinness Factory; England, a land with Westminster Abbey, Hadrian’s Wall and some little mountains to the North and West; the US, the Empire State Building, bigger mountains and some big faces carved into mountains. Rather than an emphasis on scaled representation, theirs was on information.

If things were flags, this would be an accurate representation of ancient Roman mapping strategies.

This ability of maps to convey information about the contents of a place — and not just how to get from here to there; turn left at the Via Appia and make a right at the Coliseum — is also evident in two very worthy new London projects whose press releases have lately crossed the DLR’s busy desk. First, the London Bookshop Map, a project run by Louise O’Hare, one of the organisers of Publish & Be Damned, the self-publishing fair that will hold its 2012 edition next weekend at the ICA. The Bookshop Map is what the city of London looks like to someone who only cares about independent bookshops (which is to say, what London looks like to any right-minded person): a sea of grey lines punctuated by the red bauble denoting a calm among the madding crowds.

There are 96 independent bookshops in London, O’Hare’s research tells us, evenly proportioned across the city. In the East, Broadway Market bats in heavy with Artwords, Broadway Bookshop and Donlon Books — with Luminous Books and X Marks the Bokship just over on Mare Street. Dalston lags, we have to say, behind in number but leaps ahead in speciality, with just one, Centerprise, “the UK’s leading stockist of African Caribbean titles”. One might buy one’s BS Johnson anywhere nowadays, should one be so inclined, but Centerprise offers lectures on Black History and on International Women’s Month — “Empowering Edutainment for the Empress” (yes, please!) — which, we say with no hard facts behind us, is probably, unfortunately, a literary niche not well stocked elsewhere. (The second edition of the London Bookshop Map launches at the PABD fair this weekend, with a new piece of artwork specially commissioned for it by the artist Katrina Palmer.)

For those who like their maps interactive and with an optional dose of topographical theory comes Unreal City Audio‘s Coffeehouse Tours, in which Dr Matthew Green and a trusty band of cohorts map out the invisible remnants of London’s coffeehouses, which flourished in London in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Coinciding with the relaxation of censorship laws, the presence of these coffeehouses as fora for discussion among men of varied social stature — aided and abetted by the dissemination of information and opinion in newspapers, which also thrived during that period — and you have the sudden and happy emergence of what has come to be known as the public sphere, or an arena where men (men) could come together to freely discuss social and political issues. Though coffeehouses are oddly invisible in current popular caricatures of London of that period — which are dominated by alehouses, mostly, which have survived — they, in their help creating this public sphere, have contributed to one of the major feats of the modern age. On the downside, based on the beverage “brewed in the eighteenth century manner” they serve on the tour, the coffee was terrible.

One also learns quite interesting tidbits such as the fact that Lloyds of London was once a coffeehouse, where, being in the City, one learned news of ships that had sunk, shipments gone awry, and other such calamities for which one should take out insurance. Even today the tellers at Lloyds are called waiters. Don’t say you never learn anything from this blog review of ideas!

Thus, go, see, conquer the land of London as it spreads out in coffee cups and bookshops before you! No better land than that to conquer.

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Defending the realm

It’s Oscars season! That time of year when the DLR sits down with a bowl of popcorn and makes acerbic comments about the dresses on parade. Or gets all giddy over best supporting actresses. Or somesuch.

So, we hereby present our own Oscars, but with a twist. This award ceremony is not for those working in the creative arts, but those working in the destructive arts. For we base our awards ceremony on Defense News’ top 100 defence companies.

Now, this data is a little out of date: it was issued in July 2011 (remain on tenterhooks for the update in summer, folks!). But it’s still an eye-opening and rarely regarded list of merchants of death the world over.

So, let’s start with the minors: the award for Most Surprising Company in the Top 100 Defence Companies goes to….(drumroll)……(golden envelope opening)…..Hewlett-Packard! Yes, the US tech company made USD971 million in 2010 from defence contracts and came in 65th place on the list, despite defence only making up less than 1% of its revenues. A good showing from HP there, seeing off competition from Deloitte (90th place: USD657 million), Mitsubishi (26th place: USD3.03 billion), General Electrics (19th place: USD4.1 billion) and Rolls Royce (18th place: USD4.48 billion).

Crashing on, the award for Most Shambolic Company to Make It into the Top 100 goes to…..(this one’s one of our favourites)….Hindustan Aeronautics! Well done HAL, lead contractor of the massively delayed Tejas aircraft (first planned to be in service by 1995; actually going to be in service by late 2012) and Dhruv helicopter (first flew in 1992; only entered service in 2002; still unsuitable for naval operations despite the original plan). Still, despite these delays and SNAFUs, HAL managed to come a respectable 37th in the list with USD2.27 billion.

HAL are considering a new strapline for Tejas adverts. Something along the lines of, "The Tejas: a chunky piece of crap that can barely fly." Probably.

One for the homecrowd here: Most Lucrative UK-based Company. Well, we all have an idea of which entity’s going to win this, but let’s open the envelope and find out. Yes, as expected, it’s BAE Systems! Coming in second overall, with USD33.1 billion, BAE is really powering ahead of the other European competition there.

One for the lefty liberal Hollywood types now: Least Ethical Defence Company. Some really strong competition for this one. Any company from France has got to be up there: they sell guns to anyone. And let’s not forget BAE Systems – bribing Saudis (probably), selling Hawk jets to Suharto’s Indonesia to use in East Timor. Gosh, this is exciting. And the winner is…….DCNS! Oh, well done the French. Such strong performers in this category. DCNS (24th place; USD3.3 billion) has done so well in particular, with its (alleged) involvement in the bribery of Taiwanese officials in the 1990s for the La Fayette deal (a deal that saw the murder of at least one Taiwanese naval captain and potential whistleblower) and the (alleged) bribery of a close associate of Malaysia’s now prime minister, who also had his bodyguards implicated in the murder of a Mongolian translator that helped with the submarine contract. Let’s not forget Thales’ (11th place; USD9.96 billion) involvement in the Taiwan scandal, but well done, DCNS.

Taiwan's La Fayette frigates: deadly in more ways than planned.

And finally, the big one. Most Revenue-Generating Defence Company in the World. I’m sure there will be tears and joy when this one’s announced. And the winner is…..Lockheed Martin! With a revenue in 2010 of USD42.8 billion, that will take some beating next year. It spanked Northrop Grumman (USD31.18 billion), Boeing (USD30.86 billon), General Dynamics (USD26.6 billion) and Raytheon (USD23.42 billion). It’s still heartening to see those billions of dollars go to those hard-working men and women producing guns, bombs and other items that tear human beings to pieces with white-hot shrapnel. And it goes to show, even in the increasingly multipolar world in which we live, there’s still only one dominant country out there in the world of defence.


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