Thursday, 30 June 2016

Thursday Thirteen : the dog caught the car #GuardianLive


I usually spend about 10-15 minutes on a blog post, but this one has gone into extra time because I've been on a train journey. First things first - It's also a Thursday Thirteen!

TO KINGS CROSS FOR A DEBATE
I was at the Guardian offices yesterday, for their debate about Brexit. The debate was billed as 'what next?' but actually took significant time examining how we all got to the current position.

In a few words: disenfranchised electorate with nothing to lose sticking it to the establishment of Westminster village. Separate bubbles of the haves and have nots.

Remembering that this was at Guardian HQ in London, it wasn't too surprising that the vast majority (90+%) of those in attendance were Remain voters. The phrase 'Remain but reform' was heard several times.

If many expected the end result to be Remain, the Brexit has forced an examination of a non-party-based stratified Britain that probably wouldn't happen if the result had gone the other way. The disenfranchised who voted 'Leave' may(?) get a voice from this that wouldn't happen in the same way if it had ended with 'Remain'.

I'd naïvely expected the debate to be more about the future, strategy and tactics around the next steps, but I suppose it was inevitable that there were large swathes of therapy included in the discussion.

Instead of a blow-by-blow of that debate, I'll throw in a few of my own thoughts.

STRUCTURAL
The structural damage to the UK wasn't just created in the weeks of the referendum countdown. It had been going on for years as more of the UK economy was sold off and offshored as consequences of both government policies and private companies looking for ways to keep shareholders (not stakeholders) sweet.

Osborne's ongoing austerity didn't help, even when borrowing more money would have been a cheap option for the UK government.

No wonder then, that many UK people looked around for things to blame. The same people also read the ever-lurid front page suggestions of the tabloid press.

We didn't help ourselves by having electoral representation in the EU that no-one really understood, most people can't name and where 39% of the UK MEPs are from UKIP with the folded arms agenda of exit.

LIES, DAMN LIES AND STATISTICS
Much of the campaign was fought on personalities, reductionism and piffle. Everyone lied and people pretended to only hear the fibs that suited their mindset. Many key players treated the whole thing as a game. Schoolboy japes in their privileged playground.

There seemed to be a conspiracy to keep to limited topics and confuse wherever possible. "The sky is blue/green/yellow/red/above/below."

Once the lies reached a certain level, people switched off from taking the campaign seriously.

LEADERSHIP
In the post referendum climate, the UK has been put on auto-pilot. The pound has dropped, shares spark at the behest of the gamblers and hedge fund profiteers and major companies reach to that shelf where they've stored their contingency plan.

The politicians have decided to look inward rather than towards the need to do anything. A placeholder Etonian ex merchant banker who wants to privatise everything has been put in charge of the Brexit planning. The one that threw confidential government papers away in a park bin.

Both of the so-called main parties are squabbling amongst themselves about who should be the next king-pin.

CONSERVATIVES
For a short time we had ex-journalist Gove as well as journalist Johnston stepping forward as possible next Conservative leaders. It illustrated just how disunited even the Brexit camp was. Let alone that slippery well-expensed Brussels wine drinker.

It's already changed with Boris removing himself from leadership consideration. He'd realised as soon as the result came in that the Brexit negotiation could be damaging. The Gove 'backstab' was quite handy and gives them both a way out.

Boris wasn't satisfied playing with Boris bikes, although upgrading from Boris Island as an airport to Boris Island = UK might have been one step too far.

Theresa May is probably leadership favourite at the moment, but there's all the secret corners in Portcullis House where the deals get struck.

And then the secret circles, that elite structure of the 330 Conservatives MPs to downselect to the two final contenders, then finally balloted by post to the around 160,000 members of the party.

LABOUR
Corbyn may have been a good choice once. It's hard to tell because of the nefarious deeds around the time of his election. Toby Young wrote that Telegraph piece urging Tories to spend £3, join the Labour Party and to vote for Corbyn.

There was then a sudden surge of around 100,000 extra members to the party just before Corbyn was elected, and a further 56,000 applicants who were turned down.

Back at the PLP nomination stage the story was 1 Andy Burnham(29%), 2 Yvette Cooper(25%), 3 Liz Kendall(18%), 4 Jeremy Corbyn (16%). At the result stage it was 1 Corbyn(60%) 2 Burnham(19%) 3 Cooper(17%) and 4 Kendall(5%). How things change.

Now it's a waiting game as the Labour party slides further into meltdown and discredit instead of running a contrarian debate like an 'opposition'.

Corbyn is hanging in there and desperately wants to be around for next week's appallingly delayed 2.6 million word £10 million Chilcot report.

Still, the situation is good for Labour membership as so far another 60,000 have just spent their £3 for the next round of voting .

NEW PROGRESSIVE PARTY
I've just made up that name, based on some things that John Harris said at the debate yesterday. It's a placeholder name for a new grouping which could attempt to wrest control from the two main failing organisations. It won't work if there's all the smaller parties being separate, but a smattering of good sense people from some of the current elected could conceivably mount some sort of attempt to gain control and set a direction out of the current mess.

CLINGING ON
Instead, what we get is the current group of people who have between them crashed the country and created years of sorting out, will now be given a new set of lives like some sort of video game.

It is also strange that these people retain control of when to hold the next election. Understandably any new leaders and their freshly appointed teams won't want to immediately go to the country. And if they did, the electorate may again decide they've had enough and do something akin to keeping that X-factor 'Wagner' in for the final. Except we'd get UKIP instead of a bad singer.

DEMOCRATIC PHILOSOPHY
Intriguingly, if the UK is still a constitutional monarchy, perhaps the monarch could exceptionally intervene and request a new election?

Also, if the democratic process is deliberative, then it does still give whoever is in charge a chance to use the aggregative directives of the people for guidance rather then blindly following them. Although, I suppose, that would be seen as playing to the metropolitan 'remain' agenda.

NEXT STEPS
There's no real news on nest steps yet. People burble about the Norway model which is really a code for keeping an EFTA/EEA style trade agreement. During yesterday's session Paul Mason talked about the second trench in a battle and knowing when to withdraw to it. The second trench for UK is an EFTA/EEA agreement which is the bundle of trade agreements on pragmatically the same terms as EU membership. I wrote a similar view a few days ago when I talked about BREFTA.

It's also when the code words start to come out. Angela Merkel has been using one which I suspect will become more prevalent as others pick up on its true meaning in this context. Obligations.

And the Article 50 is being positioned as 'Exit/Sunset' terms rather than 'Ongoing terms' by the Brussels bureaucrats. Another code word used in outsourcing and implying two separate projects. Sunset and Ongoing.

OBLIGATIONS
Yes, the exit needs something to base negotiations upon. UK says it wants Out.

Merkel and others are already signalling that there has to be settlement of some kind to give UK any revised position. It will amount to settlement of 'obligations' (otherwise known as money).

I'll translate. "If you want to trade with us, how much will you give us?"

The answer will be a signifiant proportion of the current annual payment to the EU, ongoing forever and linked in some way to GDP, population or another similar figure.

NEGOTIATION TACTICS
A clever negotiation would be to link it to a reciprocal of the migration proportion, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The point will be to have something that can be used to create scuffle and eventual endgame without completely throwing the game board away.

That's the irony in all of this. UK is already quite different from many EU members. No Euro, still has its own border control. Won't increase sovereignty. Even drives on the other side of the road.

So it becomes about how much we pay to formally show we are separate, but really we are still playing in the European game.

BIG LOSSES?
We could still lose more from all of this. We could lose the UK financial sector, which sounds boring, but is a big piece of GDP and prestige. We could lose the market agreements and have to renegotiate dozens of separate arrangements, taking years.

We could lose (if we haven't already) the confidence of the marketplace and see further downgrades of UK status. France is 6th largest economy and we are becoming closer ins size to it as the pound diminishes against the dollar. Then it's Brazil and then Italy. We only have to move down one place and we drop from being in the top five to being in the top ten.

THE CARD DECK
A major dilemma in all of this is the way that a negotiation would be handled.

If this was in private enterprise, there would be a small expert force set up and a silent running regime would be established to keep the negotiation position under wraps. A few head honchos would be updated or provide some inputs, but it wouldn't be widely known about because of the commercial sensitivity.

Parts of the negotiation could well include bluffs about position and there would be playbooks for the main moves, gains and losses. So far there's no evidence that anything like this is being planned whilst everyone plays the London personality games. Farage buffoons around in Brussels doing everything to wreck any chance of professionalism in the negotiations.

Gary Younge made a great point yesterday about dogs chasing cars. The point was they were not supposed to catch the car. They can't drive.

We now have startled politicians who chased the red Article 50 button. But, at present, apart from raving lunatics, no one wants to press it.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

security breach etonian privatisation champion to plan Brexit?


So we have an Etonian ex-Rothschild banker and champion of privatisation put in charge of the secret Brexit plans.

He's the guy that threw sensitive parliamentary papers away in a bin in St James Park.

The Mirror took some snapshots at the time.

Ironically he'll probably get some new sales of his book as the media move in to look for quotes.

The same guy that was condemned for racist views when he published an advisory document to Thatcher.

Oh, and caught out as an MP for expensing repairs to the plumbing of his Tennis Court.

Good choice, Dave.

Monday, 27 June 2016

#Brefta : starter plan for a #Brexit because no one else has one


No-one in charge is doing it, so I thought I'd have a crack at a Brexit Plan.

I was going to call it the UK-EU plan but decided that Brefta is more catchy and a bit less sweary.

I'm more interested in the shopping list of main negotiation points rather than whether Boris gets a bigger throne.

Breaking down the few bigger items:

1) Europe will want UK to pay. They will want the funds that UK has been providing and need to signal to everyone else that it's not a good idea to leave.

2) Migration is now being fudged now by the Brexiteers, but will need to be fixed somehow. I'll convert it into a monetary equation. I know morally it's far more than that, but somehow a mechanism has to be established. Money talks etc.

3) Services passports Not really being talked about, but the passport from London is a reason that many foreign Financial Services Institutions use it as their centre. Germany and France would both like a piece of the action, so we'll probably have to pay to get this.

4) Red Tape can be used to stop everything and create years of piffle. I'll assume that UK will continue to need to follow relevant agreements for borderless trade and uphold workers' rights. I don't care about busy-bee stuff like bendy courgettes.

5) Seats at tables EFTA zone tables only - ironically UK used to be in EFTA anyway. For trade this is probably OK and similar to the other EFTA members (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein). Although, I notice beer is far more expensive in both Norway and Switzerland.

6) Other stuff There's probably years of trailing edge stuff to sort out. Being entwined with the paper mill of the EU for 40 years means there's a job for all those MEPs forever to hesitantly untangle the rest.

My point is to select a few key items and know how to handle them. Of course, there's other options like unilateral agreements with everyone, not wanting to pay for anything and so on, and the next three months could easily be spent by expensive and busy consultants drawing up all the variations. Plans of plans and so on.

What this really needs is someone with some leadership to drive the vital few things through.

Here's my costings:

A) THE COST TO THE UK
This won't be free and the cost of using EFTA will be some proportion of the current EU payment. I decided to use the UK GDP as the basis for the calculation (other big numbers are also available). That's £1,476 billion. Then the amount we pay into the EU after the initial £5 billion rebate. That's £13 billion.

I'll declare that as a percentage and use it as the ceiling figure in an EFTA discussion. In Table 1 I use the pragmatic cost of EU membership to drive an EFTA entry cost calculation.

I also discount the value of EFTA compared with EU, using 70% for this example. i.e. EFTA is 'less' than the full EU.

In Table 2 I replay the Table 1 based upon the rebates we get from EU. The revised starting figure is £9 billion. The rest of the calculation is the same.

In 'Landing Zone' terms, I'd put the EFTA membership cost somewhere between £5-9 billion. That should fix the trade agreements aspect, except for those passport things.

B) COSTING MIGRATION CHANGES
The Brexiteers want to set a new number for EU migrants. This was the biggest plank of their argument, although they are now distancing from it.

I decided to convert it to a calculation, where EU gets reciprocal benefit from any reduced influx to UK. It's a crude form of spreadsheeting but essentially I've costed each migrant at the equivalent of their theoretical economic value based upon an average UK salary (£26,500).

Whilst morally dubious, it gives a way to adjust the numbers in terms that the EU will understand (i.e. money).

Seeding the calculation with the current influx number of 180,000 gives a range of between £1bn and £3.9 bn as a charge to pay to the EU. My method here is really to try to find a basis for the negotiation, which will inevitably come down to money in the end.

Of course, the start number, the economic value of an individual and many discounting would all affect this, as coulee any reciprocity built into the calculation.

C) SERVICES PASSPORTS
That's the thing needed to allow the UK to operate as if a member of the EU for certain businesses, particularly virtualised ones such as Financial Services.

Instead of a calculation for this, I'd suggest that the EFTA arrangement includes certain areas as Free Trade Zones, so that, say, London or SCOTLOND could operate under special privileges. It could also weaken the need for Scotland to break away, if they enjoy special concessions as part of the UK.

D) THE REST
Most of the rest amounts to arguing about the bike shed instead of the power station. The longer the braying and scuffling is allowed to persist, the more real power stations and steel plants will come under new question.

Many would admit that the aftermath of the Referendum has been fairly iconoclastic. We are now in a hazy game with not one, but two busted flushes and need some proper players to get us out.

everything's fine right now


The political spokespeople are telling us that there is nothing to worry about.

So there's nothing to worry about at RBS...

And nothing to worry about at Lloyds Bank.

Definitely nothing to worry about at Barclays.

And absolutely nothing to worry about at Barrett Homes.

Nothing to worry about at easyjet,

and certainly nothing to worry about at British Airways.

And nothing to worry about with the pound

That's all right then.

Just a few market corrections. Everything is fine right now?

Sunday, 26 June 2016

reflex politics without a plan


Cameron was still saying 'stability' as he made that hospital pass to his successor PM.

No wonder Johnston and Gove looked ashen as they realised they would actually have to make Brexit achievable.

Careerist Boris doesn't really care and has been busy phoning to get support for his next step. Don't worry, he can leave the implementation details to his operarios.

Meanwhile the usually hi-viz Osborne has gone missing, leaving Mark Carney to stabilise the plunging market.

Corbyn is sputtering along whilst his cabinet break formation forcing his wingman to return from the silent disco at Glastonbury. Bliar's reappearance on TV spots can't have helped and we now see the Labour party nobbling itself at the exact time that the Tories are in disarray.

If Nicola Sturgeon does rename the SNP as the EUP then with a few recruits from elsewhere perhaps it becomes the next opposition?

In Brussels the now UK-hostile EU suits are picking through their collateral damage as they try to force-start the Brexit process and already uninviting Cameron from their huddles.

By Tuesday that could all get rather messy with the Punch and Judy show both onshore with opposition leadership doubts and offshore with Cameron in EU talks.

Beyond the market collapses (maybe Italian or Spanish Stock market suspension on Monday?) someone should be adding up the cost to date of the decision.

Aside from all the lies told to the voters ahead of the Referendum, the biggest deceit of all was that there was no plan.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

supermassive


I thought yesterday evening's Muse at Glastonbury would be a perfect antidote to the day's unfolding political events. And yes, they played Supermassive Black Hole, and Matt Bellamy did say "Thank you, merci, danke schön" so at least some of the European bases were being covered.

Here's a link to yesterday's Glastonbury 2016 with Muse playing Mercy.

There's plenty of other good stuff including the entire Héloïse Letissier (Christine and the Queens) set. Although, come to think of it, 'Tilted' (at 20:00) may under-express the change in UK over the last day.

As an example, I notice that the global markets dropped by $2 trillion. Some of those gamblers on hedge funds must be minted, if they shorted UK stocks.

Less so for savers or people paying into pension schemes, where a probable loss of 6-10% in a single day is quite a singularity.

I had a quick look at a few of the market closes.

Even with the fiddly graphs on this picture, the drop is plain to see. By close of play the FTSE had made up some of the ground, leaving a somewhat ransacked UK banking sector in its wake. Less fortunate were the Italians and the Spanish, both down about 12%.

Coincidentally, the founding member countries of the EU are having an offsite in Berlin this weekend, but instead of an agreeable wine-tasting and opera-fest, they'll have to figure out how to prevent the speculated Frexit, Spexit, Duxit and similar referenda from occurring.

Natacha Bouchart, the Calais mayor, has made her position demanding fast change known. Yesterday evening she said she wanted to suspend the costly and troubled French policed border crossing at Calais.

That would move the challenging management of the border back to the English side.

Meanwhile the French and Germans are looking at ways to entice financial services business to their cities. Someone has thrown Dublin into the mix as well, although (even based on the traffic jams) I'm guessing that is more of a negotiating position. By comparison, when I worked around Frankfurt's financial district I was struck by its brilliantly close airport and ICE links but small size compared with London. There's already talk of thousands of banking jobs being moved across. There's also talk of suspending the $20 billion LSE/Deutsche Börse merger because the Germans now want the main centre to be in Frankfurt.

At the same time, the comedy London Independence Party has emerged with its purple logo and twitter feed and I've seen a few of those ScotLond designs as well, although a high speed train link might not be enough. Maybe London will have to be extra friendly with Nicola Sturgeon, who is already attempting to keep special terms for Scotland and the EU.

Incidentally, the left of the picture shows the Tower of London. I'm wondering if it may need to be re-opened for a special guest? At least the ravens are still there.

In other infrastructure news, the troubled EDF Hinkley Point CGT union energy spokeswoman Marie-Claire Cailletaud indicates new uncertainty, with the project now in a different kind of country, soon to be outside the European Union.

I knew I should have picked up the Prospectus for the changes, before the vote.

Oh, wait a minute, there weren't any?

Friday, 24 June 2016

crazy in the coconut?


Yeah, well. We're on the path to being out of the EU.

The FX traders had stayed up overnight chipping away at the pound, from the pre-poll close at $1.50, then to $1.44 on the first results and by morning down around $1.34. Black Wednesday again. Twice.

As the stock market opened we saw FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 plummet. Aside from the listed companies' own fortunes, it's also pension funds and jobs that take the hammering.

At least Mark Carney's Bank of England action was a stabilising force. He'd found £600 billion of liquidity and provided access to £250 billion of it to the banks. This action stopped the slide and saw a partial recovery on the markets.

Ironically, the BoE £250 billion is somewhat larger than the hotly contested figure of £350 million per week that was a headline figure during the pre-referendum campaigning.

It's about 13 years worth of that money, provided all at once. Quantitive Easing, anyone?

Whilst Carney brought some management, Cameron was speeching his own exit. Saying he wanted to bring stability whilst at the same time quitting and throwing a new leadership scramble onto the table. I notice the Economist didn't mince its words when it described Cameron afterwards.

Flash over to Islington, where Bo-Jo was getting into a minicab prior to his own statement. The crowds seemed -er- animated. He is no doubt doing a few career deals and getting storyline before he goes in front of the cameras.

Less so with the Labour guy. He was on BBC radio earlier than Cameron and talking about job losses. He seems to have become swamped in Jexit and the speculation of a further leadership contest for his own party.

And if Cameron is only around until October, there'll be a new selection process for his replacement. They need someone to press the big red button to fire the EU ejector seat. Assuming that the EU survives. There's already talk of Frexit and the Italian stock market is taking a duffing from today's events.

Osborne is unselectable and already the nominated scapegoat. In any case the voting will need to be for a new Brexiteer Prime Minister. Unlike the referendum, this will be in the hands of the mere 160,000 members of the Conservative Party.

Unless someone decides it is time to call a General Election.

Stability, huh?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

let X=X: referendum music to vote by: Thursday Thirteen


Its a Thursday - so Thursday Thirteen would be on the cards. It's also referendum day, so I'll see whether I can find a few quick songs to assist the voting process.

1) Dazed and Confused - live Led Zeppelin with a lesson in Les Paul playing.

And of course the dazed and confused is probably reflective of most of the electorate today.

2) An X Factor moment. I dislike the X factor, but decided that today I'd make an exception, as long as it wasn't with the usual suspects.

This Ukranian X factor scene when the judges accuse the singer (Aida Nikolaychuk) of miming is a mistrust moment.

We had plenty of mistrust in the Referendum campaign. Although in Russian, it's still easy to work out what is happening. Key phrase: A cappella.


3) I wasn’t born to follow The Byrds continue this brief dance to the music of time.

Written by Carole King, it's one of those earworms that'll put a skip into the step on the way to the polling booths.

4) Something darker next. Politician. Cream. With Eric Clapton riffing the very wide triangular lapels of an orange suit.

Hey now baby, get into my big black car. I wanna just show you what my politics are.

And that brings me to the badmouthing that has gone on throughout the campaign.

5) The Life And Death Of Mr Badmouth PJ Harvey. Fill in your own politician for this one. There's plenty to choose from.

Polly peeks at an aspect of the human condition.

6) Don't look back in anger Oasis. I've used the ending from Our Friends in the North, where the song is used to good effect. Play from 6:00.

Bribery, politics, north/south divide, crime, job cuts. All in the screenplay.

7) Electioneering Radiohead. Self explanatory look at tactics.

or, if by now you are tired of it all and instead want to try the guitar part, then this is a good finger clicking alternative version.

8) Working class hero John Lennon.

It may have been written in 1970, but still fresh now.

9) To have and have not Billy Bragg - something by Billy required in any political track listing.

Qualifications, once the golden rule.

10) Trouble Town Jake Bugg - watch out for the speed bumps.

My inner DJ keeps this type of track in the listing. I know.

11) Ruled by secrecy Muse - pointing out the games behind the scenes.

A bit of a neutron star collision at the beginning, then live performance. Muse has performances and sets that really go all the way to 11. Their show biz dazzle is fine. Less so for the swervy politicians.

12) Boris come back - the rather troubling 45 second song by David Cameron and Boris Johnston.

I'd ask them why they don't answer the direct questions they get asked, but it would be self-defeating.

13) Just don't know - by three random street performers.

A busker who then jams with two passing people.

It's far more positive to end with something showing the power of togetherness, rather than, say, Four Horsemen by Clash or Eve of Destruction [D G A D +(Bm) +(A7)]

There.

Time to put that X in a box.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

the quiet

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A scene of distant Union flags blocked by barriers. Maybe Regents Street is offering a metaphor for revised arrangements after a Brexit?
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More likely it's just London digging up its roads again. Toward Oxford Street there's early notice that the area will be will be closed at the weekends during the summer.
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Back at Downing Street, it's the quiet before everything kicks off later this week.
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Yes, London is preparing for the global TV event accompanying the referendum as an improvised media village assembles opposite the Palace of Westminster.
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Monday, 20 June 2016

Parliament Square

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"Far more in common with each other than things that divide us."
Jo Cox - Maiden speech

Sunday, 19 June 2016

quick Tate Modern impressions, including those bricks

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Once inside the Tate Modern, the first decision was where to start. Most people seemed to be heading for the tenth floor, which is really a public viewing platform. Instead, I took the other set of less crowded lifts to the fourth floor, which is the highest level of the new galleries.

I was soon inside my first room, which was a series of works by Louise Borgeoise. A whole room showcasing an artist gives time to form an opinion in a way that sometimes seeing single works juxtaposed won't provide.
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My picture shows one of her spider pieces, another much larger one (Maman) was used as a central piece when the Queen opened the Tate Modern back in 2000. Bourgeois kept working as an artist until her death at the age of 98.

Her later work developed themes around pain and loss of control sometimes through works enclosed in cages - like the Cell (Eyes and Mirrors) seen behind the spider in the above image. Here's my look inside Cell XIV, courtesy of my iPhone.
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And in a way the exhibit illustrates the difficulty in trying to describe the innards of the Tate. There's so much yp explore and much of it makes one think.

It could be an old and originally controversial piece like Carl Andre's 'Bricks' (properly called Equivalent VIII). I remember seeing it many years ago for the first time and then smiling this time as I entered one of the new rooms to see it arranged across the floor.
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Yes, it's a rectangular composition of bricks. Andre described it as a sensation like wading in bricks and the art establishment first in the 1970s and then again in the early 2000s became embroiled in debate about whether the piece was a con or pivotal in art sculpture.
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Then there's this innocent looking table from an art piece by Marina Abramovic. Part of her own living work which explored collective responsibility. Controversial in its original context, causing its first exhibition to be stopped after six hours, through viewer intervention. The instructions below give a further clue.
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These happen to be a few of the first items I stumbled across, examples of modern art greatest hits.

There's oodles of other material to explore with the Tate Modern frequently juxtaposing well known works and newer artists.
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One could say that there are plenty of ideas and much to reflect upon.