Monthly Archives: March 2011

Create your own art

Electronic music and art group Disinformation exhibited its art show “The Origin of Painting” at Usurp Gallery.

Joe Banks, a research fellow in the Creative and Performing Arts at University of Westminster created the exhibition. This exhibition was first displayed at the Hayward Gallery in 2000.

The interactive sound and light installation allows visitors to create their own life-size shadows or draw with a light pen directly onto a wall to produce graffiti, abstracts and portraits.

The light pens are provided by the gallery where the exhibition has been installed.

The Wall

The installation uses blackout fabric and green paint. The fabric and paint are available easily in the market and are quite cheap. Therefore, Joe did not have to invest much money in the exhibition.

Facing the wall are photographic lights that help to create the visitors image. Each photographic light discharges 30,000 volts shock.


The Origin of Painting is the creation of the artist Joe Banks. However, this interactive installation enthuses and involves the visitor into achieving new heights of creativity.

The Origin of Painting is about how people relate to seeing themselves separated from their own shadows.

In this exhibition, Joe Banks is not the only artist. Even visitors become artists. Not only are the visitors as able to participate in creating images with the light pen but also create their own shadows in different poses.

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The Death of the Fountain Pen

What was once a prized possession in the shirt pockets of a few is now diminishing. People writing with fountain pens aren’t as common as they used to be.

Fountain pen in school

When I was in school, there was a high regard for writing using a fountain pen. I started using a fountain pen in Year IV. Fountain pens were compulsory as they improved the handwriting and can boost the art of calligraphy.

Filling the ink into the pen was an art in itself. I had a separate cloth to wipe off the excess ink and a piece of chalk to absorb blotted ink while writing. The ink stains on the fingers at the end of a school day was a common sight.

The fountain pen today

Today a pen is used as a writing instrument. Gone are the days when if was compulsory for school children to write with fountain pens. Sadly today, many students don’t know how to use a fountain pen while others have not even seen one. A ballpoint pen is cheap, convenient and easy to use.

Go into a shop and ask for a fountain pen and the shopkeeper will look at you as though you are a dinosaur.

Collector’s items

The fountain pen is considered as a collector’s item and as a status symbol. Luxury brands like Mont Blanc and Waterman have a niche market and not meant for the common man.


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Beatlemania Vs. Road Safety

The Beatles fans have been flocking to the Abbey Road zebra crossing in an attempt to recreate the iconic album cover of the Beatles 1969 album titled “Abbey Road”

On the 8th of August, 1969, four famous men – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr of The Beatles walked across a zebra crossing on Abbey Road in London to shoot the cover of their penultimate album titled Abbey Road. Since then, Beatles fans from all over the world flock to Abbey Road to walk across the zebra crossing just like the Beatles did. Ever since the Beatles immortalised the pedestrian crossing in front of EMI studios on the cover of the 1969 album, over one hundred and fifty thousand (150,000) people make a pilgrimage to this famous Beatles site in London each year. This number was estimated in 2005 by EMI studios now renamed as Abbey Road studios.

Due to its popularity, the crossing was given Grade II Listed Building status by the English heritage in December 2010. The pedestrian crossing has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour and has witnessed 22 deaths since the year 2000. This has attracted the attention to the councillors of the City of Westminster who are planning to relocate the crossing over fears that the number of people posing for photographs in the middle of the road is causing accidents and holding up traffic.

Beatle Mania

“You cannot come to London and not do Abbey Road,” says Hannah Achen from Germany. “I think this road should have no traffic. We love The Beatles and Abbey Road is the greatest album,” adds Wendy Afonso from Poland.

I stood at the zebra crossing on Abbey Road and observed fans as they attempt to recreate the cover of The Beatles album Abbey Road. They were causing chaos.

Sam Williams from Tennessee, USA came to London with three friends and enacted the Beatles album cover. He said, “We are from Tennessee, United States. We actually just got into London today. We came here because the Beatles were here and yes I did enact Paul McCartney.” “We came to Abbey Road because its famous and we wanted to be here and have a look what it was like and of course take a picture,” adds Maria Brown.

Frank Nowak, a photographer who takes pictures of the Beatles fans on Abbey Road. “I come here almost everyday and I ask tourists if they want to take private pictures. I try to stand in the middle of the road and take pictures when there is less traffic,” says Frank.

The crazy things fans do.

“The craziest thing a fan has done so far that I have taken a picture of is a wedding scene, the Royal Family and a naked man,” says Frank, a photographer at Abbey Road.

Richard Porter is the owner of the Beatles Coffee Shop and a Beatles expert who does the Beatles walking tours. “Some fans forget about the cars and they see people standing in the middle of the road taking a picture, which is not a good idea,” said Richard. “The first time I did the tour, I had these guys from East Germany. The place they wanted to see the most was Abbey Road and when they saw the crossing, they were overcome and burst into tears. I have seen people going down their hand and kneeled and kissing the crossing in the middle of the road,” he added.

The live webcam

The Beatles recorded almost all of their albums and singles at Abbey Road studios between the years 1962 and 1970. In August 2010, Abbey Road studios installed a high definition camera that streams live footage of the Abbey Road zebra crossing on its website. The footage shows the dangerous lengths Beatles fans go to just to imitate the 1969 album cover and get the perfect picture just like the one clicked by photographer Iain Macmillan.

“Watching images from the camera is fun. It shows people on the crossing and it gets people to the Abbey Road Studios website as well. People over the world watch the webcam,” says Richard Porter, owner of the Beatles Coffee Shop and a Beatles expert.

Safety hazards

Arthur Smith, a Beatles fan said, “I just came with my friends. I think there are definitely hazards but it seems pretty safe. I would be pretty annoyed if I were a motorist. I felt really awkward walking across and tried to keep it to a minimum of two crossings down and back.”

Some residents and motorists have expressed their concerns about fans creating a ruckus in the area. “I’ve been driving up and down the Abbey Road since 18 months now. It is annoying. All the fans do is pose on the crossing. There is somebody who is going to get knocked down one of these days,” says Damien, a Taxi driver.

However, Reg thinks otherwise. “I think it’s quite nice but sometimes when the traffic is bad it can become a bit of a pain. Everyone wants to get a photo. Sometimes we just push our way through the people who are waiting to cross. It is distinguishing who is waiting to cross the road and who is waiting to get a photo on the crossing.”

Resident’s ire

“I have been living here for 23 years in this block on the left. We find it’s a great problem for as they tend to damage our property,” says Martin Brown, a resident.

“This is a zebra crossing and it is by law that motorists have to stop. Many tourists and fans ask us if we know where Paul McCartney lives and what his address is. But we say we don’t know,” says Nicola Johnson.

I find it is quite bad for the driver because it is dangerous. I think if they just step on the pavement and take some photographs it’s OK but not keep crossing and wait in the middle of the road. It’s very dangerous,” says Kiki Ling.


It is a tradition for Beatles fans to pay homage to the band by writing on the walls of Abbey Road studios where the Beatles and many other famous artists have recorded their albums. The wall containing the fan graffiti is painted regularly.

“The graffiti on the walls of the studio is ugly and spoiling the area,” says Martin Brown.

The Legacy

The Beatles no longer exist but 41 years after the release of the album, their legacy still lives on. This pedestrian crossing looks just like any ordinary crossing but remains as popular as ever with fans continuing to risk their lives to capture the ideal photograph.

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