I was going to title this post, The Bizarre World of Not London but I’m aware that most people don’t realise that I’m joking most of the time so I went with numbers and acronyms. I recently went on a rare trip out of London; firstly to see the Birth of Colour exhibition at the National Media Museum in Bradford. This was the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television (pic 1 – I don’t remember it ever being called just the National Museum of Photography so I guess this sign was just a contraction). The curation of the show was a bit “Blue Peter” in it’s tone but I suppose that’s partly due to the NMM being closer to the Science Museum than an art gallery and a lot of the exhibits seemed to take the dumbed down approach so I assume it’s the house style. In fairness, there is a lot of good supporting material on their web site for the show. Fortunately, they did have some actual autochrome transparencies on display. I wanted to get an idea of what 4 million potato starch grains per square inch could look like, because you can’t really tell from web photos (or the recent TV series). I think most of them were “quarter plate” size, so a bit bigger than 6x9cm format, and they looked great; the best of them similar to modern transparencies to my eyes (although they weren’t of consistent quality) but there were a couple of thin, vertical portraits which were much bigger and looked stunning.
Bradford seemed surprisingly rundown. I keep hearing about how much is happening in Leeds and Manchester but Bradford was dominated by boarded up shops and huge office to-let banners as if it hadn’t changed since the last recession. There were signs of tidying up in the centre but it’ll only end up looking like everywhere else so I rejoice in the mess (pic 2). We took advantage of the one of the nice cinemas at the NMM followed by curry at a very cheap restaurant, which in a neat coincidence, Sarah spotted in that day’s Guardian. The Kashmir. Because of the article, I half expected it to be full of Guardian readers but we seemed to be the only people who looked out of place.
The next day, on the way to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, it seemed like Leeds, seen from the train, had lots of emerging glass and steel and a horizon of cranes. That completed the survey of Northern developments.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
If you visit the YSP web site you will see that the nearest railway station is Wakefield but there’s no mention of how you’re supposed to get from there to the park. We had half a plan to get a cab from the station but arriving at Wakefield decided to be more adventurous and find a bus. There were no signs at the station, no YSP leaflets amongst the many other attractions in the ‘things to do’ rack but a helpful man in the information office directed us to the bus station. Same thing at the bus station, no mention of the sculpture park. Another helpful man gave us the bus number and we started to feel like this wasn’t a well travelled route. The bus didn’t get us all the way there but the weather was ok so the 20 minute walk wasn’t a problem. By the time we arrived it was pretty clear that they expect everyone to get there by car. There’s no charge for entry, only for car parking. I felt a bit confused as I thought I might have been part of their target audience. (pic 3 – sculpture and tape)
The main reason for this part of the trip was the Andy Goldsworthy show and seeing some of his work in the flesh made me realise that it’s about 4,000 times more interesting than looking at the usual presentation as photographs. The pictures on the web site don’t do it justice and the postcards in the shop are even worse but I’d say, If you’re anywhere near the YSP before January ’08 you should go. This was during the school holidays so the main building and restaurant were quite busy. However, most people didn’t venture far from the main galleries and even if they had I suspect, like me, they would have found the park map confusing and signage irritatingly minimal. This turned out to be a positive as it meant that the James Turrell Deer Shelter Skyspace (pic 4) was reasonably quiet. In this case, I was less wowed than expected after seeing similar rooms on TV (here, I think). I suspect you need to sit for hours in changing, end of the day, light to get the full effect. (More on skyspaces).
So that’s RL 2 – TV 1. Do click the pictures to enlarge. Update: I had a google search hit from someone looking for the bus from Wakefield to YSP, so it’s not just me and I’ve made this page to help.