Posts Tagged ‘art exhibition’

Yesterday I took a day trip to Durham, primarily to attend a seminar run by the Inventions of the Text series in the English Department [ a department I was attached to, with the History department, for BA]. I saw BioShock and games narrative mentioned one of the papers and we’ll, what’s an academic nerd girl going to do but turn up?

The talk wasn’t until 5.30pm so I took the opportunity to explore an exhibition at Palace Green library which I’d wanted to see since I’d heard it announced in November 2013. Let me set the scene, palace green is the grassy area on the Durham peninsula hill, between the old castle [now a college] and the cathedral. It’s a place steeped in history and so the perfect location for an exhibition on… wait for it… Robots!

Yes, you read that correctly, in a departure from their last exhibition on the historic Lindisfarne Gospels, the library traveled the other direction in time for inspiration to the imagined future of robotics. It is a little exhibition but one that is well thought out and jam packed with a variety of robots from the utopian to the dystopian. There are the familiar friendly faces in life size models of C3PO, R2D2, Kryten and Ironman, to the more dubious Borg [a Picard Borg model] Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet and a T-800 head.

The informational text panels are in a delightful computer style font, some in the green of older computer screens – a colour used to great effect in The Matrix. Attention is given to difference between Robots, Cyborgs and Androids, and to some very early examples of clockwork men, a sketch by Charles Dickens as ‘Boz’ being one of those examples.

I’d definitely recommend a visit if you are around Durham before the exhibition closes on 27th April.
With some more time to kill in the afternoon I took the long walk up the hill, past the science site of the university to the Oriental Museum [yes, not the most culturally sensitive name]. It should have been a pleasant walk but the heavens opened and pelted me with hail for most of the twenty minutes that I marched up hill.

The museum covers objects from China, Korea, Japan, Ancient Egypt, the Islamic world and South East Asia. Despite the list of cultures it is again a small museum, established in 1960, it was designed to allow students of oriental languages access to materials from the cultures which shaped the development of those languages.

Articulated snake, photo by me

Articulated snake, photo by me

One of the objects that caught my eye was this articulated snake, made in Japan in the nineteenth century.Last year I adapted Sherlock Holmes and The Speckled Band for a site specific theatre production at The Treasurer’s House in York for Theatre Mill. Now anyone familiar with the story will know why this item caught my attention – a replacement prop, perhaps, for the next time the play rolls out.

The museum has a real mix of different objects, both old and really modern – in the Japanese section there is a clothing cabinet which houses a beautifully intricate wedding kimono, covered in cranes and cherry blossom, next to a similarly intricate cosplay costume for a character from a recent anime/manga phenomenon Black Butler [Kuroshitsuji]

They also currently have a exhibition of modern Japanese Prints, mainly woodblocks, which I’ll admit I have a soft spot for. After the visit I have another couple of names to add to my list of artists whose work I like. There’s the otherworldly, geometric precision of Shiomi Nana whose use of the contrast between red, cream and black is strikingly beautiful.

On the more nostalgic end of the scale there’s  the work of Ohtsu Kazuyuki which depicts Japanese landscapes with emotional tenderness, invoking traditional past and giving the viewer a snap shot into a memory of Japan.

Clear Autumn Day by Ohtsu Kazuyuki

Clear Autumn Day by Ohtsu Kazuyuki

The colours in A Clear Autumn Day, along with the perspective and style, made me think of the worlds created in Miyazaki’s movies, there’s something of the artist’s house in Kiki’s Delivery Service here, isn’t there?


Again, if you can bare the walk, the Oriental Museum is a nice distraction for an hour and you never know, you might be inspired.

Read the next post for my thoughts on the two talks given at the seminar…

“You just complicate the narrative!” Computer games as ‚Erzählspiele’ (narrative games).
‘You seen The Godfather?’ – The Sopranos and the postmodern gangster.


Museum Info:

Robot – Exhibition                                                                   Oriental Museum

Palace Green Library,                                                               Elvet Hill, Durham

Palace Green, Durham,                                                            DH1 3TH                                                    

DH1 3RN 




I’m a huge architecture nerd. Buildings both modern and ancient really excite me. I’m working through a book, given as a Christmas present, of 1001 buildings to see before you die. I’ve seen 110 across Europe, China, Japan and America. Not too bad. Of course since 2007 when I was given the book new buildings have been created, so it’s a futile gesture really to try and see them all.

I also find architecture immensely inspiring for my writing. As I am focusing on science fiction these days, the city-scapes of these speculative futures form an important part of world building. The city itself often becomes a character. It exists as a means to show the theme of a film and to create mood or atmosphere.

And I’m a sucker for an ancient ruin that can be transformed into a spectacular set piece location for an action adventure movie. [That’s my youth watching Indiana Jones and playing Tomb Raider showing.]

So, whenever I can, I find time to see exhibitions involving architecture. The one currently on at the Royal Academy in London until 6th April is a thrilling, interactive experience I’d recommend to anyone with a spare hour and a few bob. It’s called Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined.

Seven architects have been given rooms to turn into their own architectural wonderlands. Some are gigantic structures like the towering wooden platform by Pezo von Ellrichshausen and the plastic tunnel by Diébédo Francis Kéré; while others develop more intimate spaces where the mind turns inwards like Kengo Kuma’s dark, scented rooms with delicate bamboo sculptures or the play of shadow and light by Irish Grafton Architects.

My favourite, pictured below, has to be the labyrinth forest of twigs by Li Xiandong.

Li Xiaodong exhibition piece at Royal AcademyPhotograph by Max Gee (on terrible phone camera)

The viewer walks on a luminous white floor, between walls of twigs in a darkened room, often turning to dead end seating spaces and eventually reaching a zen stone garden at the centre. Other people and spaces can be glimpsed through the twigs walls which are not solid. Caught on the peripheries of vision, these half seen sights create an atmosphere of mystery.

The quiet is broken when you reach the zen garden, where you are encouraged to walk across the pebbles. This brings back nostalgic experiences of holidays on pebbled beaches – a strange association in a dark, forest of twigs. Magical, I thought.

Li Xiaodong’s exhibition piece led to a google search of his other work; the library at Liyuan, struck a chord as inspiration for a location in a future movie.

Liyuan Library by Li Xiaodong

Photograph from Dezeen online magazine article

The strong lines of the main structure seem so current, modern, in clean light wood but they are tempered with the external shell of twigs found in the nearby landscape. The walls are solid, but not; the architect interested in the flow of light and air. It is the library to aspire to having – although I feel it might be completely impractical in Yorkshire.

I have a suspicion that flavours of the pieces in this exhibition will be making their way into the scripts that I will be writing for my PhD, apologies in advance Mr Li Xiaodong. 

Exhibition details:

Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined, The Royal Academy of Arts, 25th January until 06th April 2014,