13 March 2009

London: Free for the last time

Last Friday, Mark and I hopped in the car for an impromptu road trip. Our link to a free apartment in London was expiring at the end of the month, and it was our last chance to head down and enjoy the city without paying exorbitant amounts for a hotel room.

The trip was a little long, but nothing compared to our marathon road trips in yesteryear from VT to NYC. Mark scored an excellent parking space a block away from our flat, and we stumbled in and collapsed in a gummy gorgefest-induced sleep.

The next morning, Mark ventured out for a thirteen mile run, while I did about a mile and a half. Surprisingly (or not so...), I still had a some time to kill until he returned. I actually had a lot of time, as Mark got lost (he was supposed to turn around at a bridge which, upon closer inspection of Google Maps, turned out to be a tunnel - easy to miss when you don't typically run underground).

After a quick breakfast, we walked along the Thames to the Tate Modern, encountering a strange group of street performers along the way, and a very crowded boarding platform for the London Eye. At the Tate, we saw their latest exhibit on Rodchenko and Popova. These avant-garde artists were part of the constructivist movement in Russia in the 1920s, and the work was interesting. You can definitely see their influence in a lot of pop art in the US in the 1950s and 60s, as well as much of the Soviet and Nazi propaganda on the 1930s and 40s. Some of the pieces were exceptionally striking, as the artists abandoned paint and canvas as a meaningful medium of art (preferring architecture, textiles, and other three dimensional forms) in a final exhibition, '5x5=25'. The artists used the opportunity to bid farewell to paint - Rodchenko perhaps most dramatically, painting three canvases Pure Red Color, Pure Yellow Color and Pure Blue Color, to represent the primary colors and the death of painting.

"I reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue and yellow. I affirmed: it's all over. Basic colors. Every plane is a plane and there is to be no representation." Rodchenko

After a bit of shopping (Mark was a good sport) and a few beers in a pub, we also seized the opportunity to have some spicy Thai food near the flat and head home. 

The only real downside to my Saturday was that my Nikon stopped working - I've started getting an error every time I press the shutter (it sounds like it opens but doesn't close). Pressing it again fixes the shutter but the camera won't take a picture, and the next time I press it the computer gives me an error again. I'm shipping it out to an authorized Nikon representative today, but I have a feeling the shutter needs to be replaced, meaning I won't have the camera back any time soon, and it will probably be pretty expensive. Definitely disappointing.

On the way back, we stopped in Oxford to see the campus. It's beautiful, as you'd expect, built along the Thames and other small rivers, with gorgeous old stone buildings and churches. We also found a little Mexican place and had burritos (though I'm convinced that they got me sick the following evening). Mark has some photos, and we'll post them soon.

Today we head out for a romantic weekend in Wales. Pictures and stories to come!

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