Sunday, October 22, 2006

Invisible memories

We ventured out to deepest, darkest Hoxton today. Through the litter and the grime, we walked down a practically deserted Rivington Street in search of the inIVA gallery. Apparently, Hoxton comes alive during the night, and the endless graffitied and shuttered down bars and restaurants we passed testify to Hoxton's thriving night life. But on a cold, grey day such as today, we couldn't see the appeal.

Up to the second floor of the gallery in a smelly, pokey, wall-to-ceiling carpeted lift, we were greeted with a wall of sound so sublime I nearly teared up in the gallery lobby. Into the dark space we went, towards the light and sound emanating from a screen at the back, where artist Idris Khan had filmed Gabriella Swallow playing Bach's Cello Suites but had layered the film footage so that the cellist was playing all six pieces at the same time - the cellist's bow, her arm and the music spinning, colliding and veering from side to side and into one another. The effect was a singular wall of music that was at once quintessentially Bach and at once completely modern.

Khan has said of the new commission: "When we look at images or listen to a piece of music it can trigger memories, which often become blurred in our minds and mixed with all sorts of emotions. When I first began to listen to Bach's cello suites, I would play it so often that my experience of the music would become hazy and indistinct. This is a film installation that evokes the effect of memory where one can't quite see but the experience is still vivid and intense."

I fell in love with Bach's Cello Suites a few years ago and, as played by Pierre Fournier, it is now one of my favourite pieces of music of all time. I am even battling it out with M to have the Prelude accompany me on my walk down the aisle with my father. He thinks it's too mournful; I think it's perfectly joyous! However, I didn't know until today that Bach never intended the Suites to be performed as a concert; instead he composed them as recital pieces for strenthening the hands, arms and fingers as they are intensely difficult to play.

In the evening, we went to the ICA and watched Thai director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's riveting Invisible Waves as part of the London Film Festival. The film - featuring superlative cinematography by Christopher Doyle - follows Asano who, on his boss' orders, kills his boss' wife and flees from Macau to Thailand where he is pursued by his own bad karma, in the shape of The Lizard - his boss' gangster moll.

Afterwards, we ate salt and pepper deep-fried squid, beef in satay sauce and garlic broccoli and drank hot Chinese tea in our favourite Hong Kong Diner in Chinatown.

And then it was home to sip hot green tea with roasted rice and listen to snippets from Bach's Cello Suites as played by M's favourite Cassals, my favourite Fournier and also Tortelier.

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