2013 top ten, 4: Todd MacDonald

31st December 2013

At the end of every year each of us at Illuminations and at our sister company Illuminations Films contributes a top ten of cultural highlights of the year. We run these through this holiday period, with the fourth contribution today from filmmaker and facilities manager Todd Macdonald. 

1. Cirque De Soleil: Kooza, Royal Albert Hall

This was probably one of the most heart stopping live performances I have ever seen. Some of the acrobatics seemed so unnatural for any human to be able to achieve that it almost didn’t feel real to watch. It was the spinning wheels that looked like a giant rotary cheese grater act that stole the show. Two men scaled it’s frame whilst it span at speed, performing skips and flips in the brief moments they were at the top of it’s rotation. The trailer gives you a pretty good idea of how amazing the Cirque De Soleil is; utterly jaw dropping.

2. Show RCA 2013

My girlfriend’s graduation from an MA at the RCA was a big moment this year in it’s own way but equally, alongside this very significant occasion was the opportunity to see the work put together by all of the students over the last two years. The show filled an enormous space with an endless variety of ingenuity. Each person responsible for the work on show were illustrating an originality in their chosen area that will surely see them go on to have very interesting careers. Since graduation, one designer has had Bjork wear her hats, one has been designing interiors for Jaguar, one has worked for Anthropologie in Philadelphia, one is training with Alexander McQueen and one now works for Nissan in the design department. This show seemed to symbolize the beginning of these careers in very unique and special surroundings and to be party to seeing this felt like a huge privilege.

3. Paul Klee, Tate Modern

The name Paul Klee was very often mentioned in my house growing up whilst studying art at school. My mother being an artist herself is a huge admirer of his work. I had never seen any in the flesh so this Tate Modern exhibition was earmarked early on as a definite visit. Details of the story of Paul Klee’s life are often as compelling as his work and how his life’s trials are reflected in the work is at times, very moving. Klee is often described as an artist who was able to acutely depict particular emotions and I certainly took this away from my walk through the gallery. My benchmark for how much I like a particular artist’s work is often measured by what I would be willing to do or pay in order to have some of it on my wall. Some of Klee’s pieces certainly edge into the ‘Anything’ category!

4. All This Can Happen, ICA

A film by David Hinton and Siobhan Davies screened at the ICA was one I was very glad to have caught. The film is an utterly mesmerizing use of early cinema footage from a variety of sources including the BFI and the Museum of London. The way it compares and contrasts images alongside each other in such a variety of ways is a very rewarding viewing experience. The footage is also deliberately freeze framed at moments that illustrate the essence of the movement happening in that motion; an idea that reminded me of images from Futurist photography and paintings. Siobhan Davies launched a photography project alongside the film called Your Move, which explored the idea of the presence of movement in a still image. The film inspired me to respond with the image below.

5. Elvis Costello: 13 Revolvers, Royal Albert Hall

Perhaps if she had been able to go, our colleague Louise would maybe have had this gig in her own top ten. As it happens, I went in her stead and enjoyed a flawless hour and three quarter set that was almost entirely dictated by audience members coming onto stage and spinning a giant ‘wheel of fortune’ style wheel that contained Costello’s song names on rather than cash prize values. The highlight of this procedure being a woman called Alison coming onto the stage and being asked: ‘Is there any song in particular that you might like to hear tonight Alison?!!’

6. Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is often described as the only show worth having Netflix for. Whilst this is perhaps partly true for now, having this rollercoaster of a ride completely on demand is well worth your £5 or so a month. Everything else you like should come as a bonus. This was certainly the case for my viewing, and when the whole show came to its scintillating finale in October I was utterly hooked. I can’t remember the last TV show that had me in such a panic about what was coming next. I also can’t remember the last time that I was so totally satisfied with how a TV show came to its complete end.

7. Estuary, Museum of London

I was delighted to discover that a new film by John Smith was featured at this exhibition in the London Docklands. His work has always fascinated me and Horizon (Five pounds a Belgian) was no exception. Smith’s work is often about finding the suggestion of artifice within the natural; what is real but appears not to be. This film highlights the changing appearance of the sea in Margate where he spent a recent residency at Turner Contemporary. It’s a hypnotic affair that maintains the horizon in the same place but hard cuts between the different states of the water.

John Smith on Horizon (Five Pounds a Belgian) from Argent Productions on Vimeo.

8. Richard II, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Our colleague John’s involvement with this production is well documented on this blog and we were lucky enough to go and watch one of the early performances in the theatre before the live broadcast to cinema audiences. The production is fantastic and I would urge you to try and see it at the Barbican in London if you can. David Tenant is enchanting as Richard and the sets and staging are simply sublime. I loved the way the play moved through the complicated politics of overthrowing a King to the Eastenders’ like family breakdown as Aumerle’s parents beg Bolingbroke for their son’s forgiveness.

9. The Future is Here, Design Museum

This Design Museum exhibition explored the concepts behind, and the necessity for, more economic and efficient design. The boundaries between the designer, manufacturer and consumer are becoming increasingly blurred and some of the objects illustrated how each role is now just as important as the next. My personal favourite was a toaster made entirely out of one piece of metal with one replaceable clip in element in order to make it last. When the time came, the whole toaster could be melted down and used for something else. It also had an automatic counter on the side telling you your running total of toasted slices! An entertaining and thought-provoking visit.

10. The Beta Males: Goodnight, Gracey, Leicester Square Theatre

The Beta Males are a sketch comedy group that I’ve been following for sometime. They’re a well seasoned act having taken several shows to the Edinburgh fringe and their own club nights on the London circuit. Earlier this month they said goodbye to one of their founding members, John Gracey. The show was filled with some classic sketches of John’s time in the group and climaxed with some unforgettable naked star jumps from one particular member who decided the occasion was too good an opportunity not to. Yes, that was NAKED STAR JUMPS. Need I say anymore?

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