British artist Jeff Perks interviewed


This video from the USA says about itself:

Voice of Art – Iraq Veterans Against the War, Pt. 1

29 June 2012

Meet the artists: members Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) Chicago chapter. Hear their stories of service and struggle. Learn why they now protest the wars they once participated in.

And this video is the sequel.

By Len Phelan in Britain:

Saturday 30th August 2014

Artist JEFF PERKS tells Len Phelan why his stimulating and unabashedly political new show at the Stockport Art Gallery is not ‘a comfy sofa’

IT’S not often that you’ll see a retrospective which packs as political a punch as the one which opens in a few weeks at the Stockport Art Gallery.

Political Furniture, Not A Comfy Sofa is a must-see exhibition of work by the Derbyshire-based artist Jeff Perks, which wittily and provocatively views the world from an unavowedly socialist perspective. These striking, polemical images and constructions are beautifully crafted.

A filmmaker, painter, printmaker, publisher and sculptor, Perks has had his work on show at the Whitechapel Gallery’s Art For Society exhibition, Race Against Time for the TUC at Congress House and he produced the graphics for Michael Rosen’s enormously popular poem on the history of the slave trade.

Perks is also credited with recently producing the largest lino cut ever made, part of his We Will Not Walk Away From Iraq show at Battersea Arts Centre, a sardonic swipe at Tony Blair’s declaration of intent.

At six feet tall and 21 feet long The Training Ground tells the history and horrors of the British army’s involvement in Ireland and it’ll be on show in Stockport along with prints on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and ceramic sculptures which deal with the politics of everyday life in a humorous and original way.

Explaining the exhibition’s title, Perks is at pains to point out that the retrospective is designed to make us think about why the world is the way it is.

“The painter Henri Matisse described his own work as ‘a comfy sofa for the bourgeoisie to relax in’,” he says. “This exhibition is definitely not a ‘comfy sofa.’

“The work will inevitably be called anti-politician. It is, and against all those men who too quickly rush to solve the problems of our nuclear world by military action,” he stresses. And he’s clear too about the committed nature of his work, citing Pablo Picasso’s declaration that he had never looked on painting as an art “for mere pleasure or amusement.”

Perks left school aged 15 with only two qualifications in art and woodwork, which maybe accounts for his use of so much reclaimed material in his three-dimensional work. “Wherever possible the materials I use are either reclaimed industrial wood or steel or from trees uprooted from storms — this helps to maintain the existing native woodlands and landscape,” he says.

“Their shape both inspires me and defines the resulting sculpture.”

After what seems like a hugely active artistic life, embracing work in advertising, publishing and TV — where he made programmes about artists, cartooning, punk and women comics — Perks sees the Stockport show as a return to his first loves of painting and sculpture.

“You could say my life has come full circle and that at last I’ve put my two O-levels to good use,” he says.

Political Furniture, Not A Comfy Sofa runs from September 20 until October 20 at the Stockport Art Gallery, Wellington Road South, Stockport. Free. The exhibition will be opened by poet and broadcaster Michael Rosen on September 19, details: here.

Sydney spiders bigger than Australian outback spiders


This video from the USA says about itself:

6 June 2011

Get a behind-the-scenes look at this history and creation of this dazzling textile—the only one of its kind in the world—made from the strands of silk from over one million of Madagascar’s golden orb spiders. On view at the Art Institute of Chicago through October 2011.

From Wired magazine:

Cities Are Making Spiders Grow Bigger and Multiply Faster

By Nick Stockton

08.20.14, 2:00 pm

Something about city life appears to be causing spiders to grow larger than their rural counterparts. And if that’s not enough to give you nightmares, these bigger urban spiders are also multiplying faster.

A new study published today in PLOS One shows that golden orb weaver spiders living near heavily urbanized areas in Sydney, Australia tend to be bigger, better fed, and have more babies than those living in places less touched by human hands.

The study’s authors collected 222 of the creatures from parks and bushland throughout Sydney, and correlated their sizes to features of the built and natural landscape. …

To measure urbanization, the authors looked primarily at ground cover throughout the city, at several scales, where they collected each spider: Are surfaces mostly paved? Is there a lack of natural vegetation? Lawns as opposed to leaf litter?

“The landscape characteristics most associated with larger size of spiders were hard surfaces (concrete, roads etc) and lack of vegetation,” said Elizabeth Lowe, a Ph.D student studying arachnids at the University of Sydney.

Humped golden orb weavers are a common arachnid along Australia’s east coast. They get their name from their large, bulging thorax, and the gold silk they use to spin their spherical webs. They typically spend their lives in one place, constantly fixing the same web (which can be a meter in diameter). Each web is dominated by a single female, though 4 or 5 much smaller males usually hang around the edges of the web, waiting for an opportunity to mate (only occasionally does the female eat them afterwards).

Paved surfaces and lack of vegetation mean cities are typically warmer than the surrounding countryside. Orb weavers are adapted to warm weather, and tend to grow bigger in hotter temperatures. The correlation between size and urban-ness manifested at every scale. Citywide, larger spiders were found closer to the central business district. And, their immediate surroundings were more likely to be heavily paved and less shady.

More food also leads to bigger spiders, and the scientists believe that human activity attracts a smorgasbord of orb weavers’ favorite prey. Although the study wasn’t designed to determine exactly how the spiders were getting bigger, the researchers speculate that things like street lights, garbage, and fragmented clumps of plant life might attract insects. They also believe that the heat island effect might let urban spiders mate earlier in the year, and might even give them time to hatch multiple broods.

The orb weavers could also be keeping more of what they catch. Because they are such prolific hunters, orb weavers’ webs are usually home to several other species of spiders that steal food. The researchers found that these little kleptos were less common in webs surrounded by pavement and little vegetation.

Lowe says quite a few species of spider are successful in urban areas, and she wouldn’t be surprised if some of these other species were also getting bigger. Despite how terrifying this sounds, she assures me that this is actually a good thing. “They control fly and pest species populations and are food for birds,” she said.

Chicago urban warfare drills continue


This video from the USA is called Military helicopters flying low over Chicago River.

By Kristina Betinis in the USA:

Urban warfare training exercises continue in Chicago area

24 July 2013

In the late evening hours of July 22, several Blackhawk helicopters flew low over central areas of the city of Chicago without any lights, startling a number of residents who were not aware of the scheduled military helicopter training exercises.

A July 10 Chicago Tribune article on fresh exercises planned in the nearby suburb of Tinley Park cited Tinley Park Emergency Management Agency Director Pat Carr on helicopter exercises planned for July 23 and 24, but there was no indication of where these would be taking place.

Not visible on the City of Chicago web site front page, but placed in the Office of Emergency Management’s “News” section―having gone up on that site around 5:30 p.m. CT―was a vague notice reading, “The City of Chicago is providing support for a routine military training exercise in and around the Chicagoland area on July 22-25. This routine training is conducted by military personnel in cities across the country, designed to ensure the military’s ability to operate in urban environments as service members meet mandatory training certification requirements and prepare for upcoming overseas deployments. The training sites have been carefully selected to minimize the impact on the daily routine of residents. The training is not open to the public.”

A number of city residents turned to social media to find out what was going on, and throughout the evening and into Tuesday, a wide majority expressed their disagreement with the exercises and with the militarization of American cities more generally.

@HeatherStammen tweeted: “Blackhawk helicopters flying over my condo in the Loop, and all news stations are covering the royal birth, what’s up?”

Jerry Burch of New York wrote on NBCChicago.com: “These drills desensitize the public. The article calls them routine, we shouldn’t have routine urban warfare drills in a free or peaceful country. Having all these military and paramilitary drills with black vehicles is nothing but intimidation of the public using our own tax dollars. Why is this urban warfare practice so important? There seems to be zero accountability here.”

Craig Kegger wrote: “Who do they think they’re kidding? Training for overseas? They are training for civil unrest here.”

The military training exercises reported to prepare troops for urban combat are scheduled to continue through July 25. Three months ago, on April 23 and 24, urban warfare training exercises were coordinated by the Department of Defense at a recently shuttered mental health facility in the suburb of Tinley Park. Additional exercises were carried out there on July 15 and 17, coordinated by the United States Navy.

Last April, similar helicopter drills were conducted in the afternoon hours over the Loop area ahead of the May 2012 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit. City of Chicago officials are not indicating what branch of the military is carrying out the helicopter exercises over the city, but reiterated that they are “in preparation for overseas deployment.”

Urban warfare drills in Chicago, USA


This video from the USA is called Urban Warfare Drill Chicago 2012 Blackhawk helicopters NATO | G8.

The US Department of Defense conducted urban warfare training drills in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park this week, including the use of explosives to train soldiers in the raiding of homes and other structures: here.

Urban warfare exercise in Tinley Park frightens some residents: here.