The Beat Goes On...

Earlier this week, I went to see the Klein & Moriyama exhibition that's on at Tate Modern at the moment - something I've been planning to do for ages. The last time I saw Klein's work was three and a half years ago, in Rome, when I was on my Gap Year. I had missed the boat for full moons, volunteering opportunities and organised treks through mountainous locations, and decided instead to take off on a solo trip around Italy and Greece for a couple of months. For me, it was great. With no one from home, I could pretend all I wanted that I actually was Italian - I'd perfected the accent for a few phrases (even though I didn't understand the reply), dyed my hair a dark brown and gotten a tan, just to look the part. I spent a week in Rome in a little apartment near the Colosseum, and one day, wondering round, I came across a little exhibition held in Hadrian's Forum. Huge black and white photos lined the walls, documenting Rome in the mid 1950's - grainy stills of everyday life by a photographer I had never heard of, but nevertheless captured my imagination, and ignited my obsession with the Beat Generation. 

On Tuesday, on the train to London, I read an interview with Kristen Stewart in Vogue. She plays the part of Mary-Lou in the recent film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On The Road, and subsequently developed an interest in the Beat Generation herself. In the interview, she remarks: 

"There is always going to be that seam of people who want things differently to the standardised version. The world back then, it just seems freer to me than anything I could ever touch and I'm fully nostalgic for it, even though I wasn't even alive then..."

This sense of nostalgia for something you have never personally experienced is something that I totally relate to with this period of modern history. It was a time of change and of rule-breaking; a shifting from the past to what we now understand as the 'modern' world. Art became more subjective and abstract, poetry threw off its constraints, and literature glorified the flaws in mankind, rather than its virtues. Klein's photography is nothing like the 'iconic' photographs of his contemporaries; staged, polished scenes of the fashionable and the glamourous. Instead, he captures the ordinary in grainy, unframed and often blurry images, which look almost as though he has plucked them out of your own memories...

The exhibition covers his experiences of different major cities over a period spanning from the mid '50s to early '90s, and also examines his work in film and abstract art. My favourites are those from New York and Rome, but there are also great shots of Paris, Moscow and Tokyo. His work has a beautiful sense of melancholy about it, and ties in so well with the general attitude of the Beat Generation. One of my favourite poets, Charles Bukowski, was writing around this time. This is my favourite of his poems, which I think mirrors the themes found in Klein's work:

Alone with Everybody

the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
and nobody finds the
but keep
crawling in and out
of beds.
flesh covers
the bone and the
flesh searches
for more than

there's no chance
at all:
we are all trapped
by a singular

nobody ever finds
the one.

the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill

nothing else fills.

If you're in London with an hour free, do go along and look at Klein's work - it really is an amazing exhibition, and I hope it inspires you in the same way.

Belle x

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