A parting post for the old year

A parting post for the old year

So… first, I hope everyone has had an excellent holiday break – and that you will all have a wonderful 2012, Happy New Year!

Now, it will hardly have escaped your notice that I have not posted here for some ten days, which means there has been a longer gap than any I’ve allowed to open up for more than three years. In part, this can be accounted for by a frantically busy few days in the run-up to Christmas, but there’s clearly more going on than that. Perhaps the simplest way of expressing this is that somehow I’ve suddenly lost confidence in my blogging, and I’ve been trying to work out why this might be so and what the blog’s future might be.
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101 questions for a de Kooning

101 questions for a de Kooning

I am standing in front of a large painting by Willem de Kooning. It is the centrepiece of the third gallery at the Museum of Modern Art’s spectacular retrospective of the painter’s work (until 9 January). The title of the painting is Excavation, and it was completed in 1950. It has been loaned to the MoMA show by the Art Institute of Chicago, which is where it normally hangs. MoMA has a good microsite about the artist and the exhibition. I have never encountered the actual painting although I have seen numerous reproductions of it. I look at the canvas – and I start to ask questions. Without too much effort, I soon have 101 questions…

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Sunday links

Sunday links

This weekend’s The New York Times Magazine has an essay by Heather Havrilesky, ‘Clues that lead to more clues that add up to nothing’, lamenting the narrative plotting of post-Lost television drama. ‘The empty thrills, the ticking clock that never runs down, the pointless twists and turns that are neither motivated nor resolved’ are in danger, runs the rather shrill argument, of killing American television’s new ‘golden age’ (The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men et al). For a more nuanced discussion, take a look at Lost in a great story: evaluation in narrative television (and television studies), scholar Jason Mittell’s October 2007 blog post at Just TV from with his appreciation of, among other qualities, the show’s ‘twists and turns’: ‘For me and many other viewers, the ability to be pleasantly surprised by a television series violating conventions and expectations keeps us tuning in and anticipating future twists, offering a wealth of pleasures within both the show’s story content and storytelling form.’ Mittell has just posted the text of a keynote that’s also directly relevant, The qualities of complexity: aesthetic evaluation in contemporary television. It’s an essential read – and see also posts at InMediaRes about Popular seriality (one of them Mittell’s). Across the break, further links to good stuff.


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Something for the weekend

Something for the weekend

George Whitman died on Wednesday. He was 98 and the legendary proprietor of the most romantic bookshop in the world, Shakespeare and Company on the Seine in Paris. Do read James Campbell’s Guardian obituary, and also Jeanette Winterson’s short tribute. Like many another, long ago thanks to his generosity I slept a couple of nights in one of the beds among the shelves. I remember it was the best of times (to be young and in Paris was very heaven) and the worst of times (the bedbugs were truly vicious). Thanks to the invaluable Brain Pickings, I was charmed by the Spike Jonze animated short Mourir auprès de toi (co-directed with Simon Cahn and made with designer Olympia Le-Tan) that is set after hours in Shakespeare and Company (that’s a framegrab above). Across the jump, you’ll find – as usual (at least I can keep up with the weekend blogs, if not the weekday ones) – nine other recommendations for alternative viewing online.
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Hand-held exhibitions

Hand-held exhibitions

At The British Library Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination (until 13 March) is an exhibition of medieval bibles and prayer books, histories and genealogies. Many are objects of astounding beauty, as well as being of profound historical significance. Complementing the compelling show there’s an iPad app with multiple images drawn from fifty-eight of the manuscripts. The app does one thing brilliantly well, but in other ways it’s disappointing. Another current exhibition with its own app is Maurizio Cattelan: All at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (until 22 January). Created with the same mobile content system, toura, this app is both more engaging (filmmaker John Waters acts as host) and somehow more substantial. Taken together, they are a good introduction to the state of the app for major exhibitions.
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‘This grave shall have a living monument’

‘This grave shall have a living monument’

To King’s College London on Saturday for the stimulating symposium Monumental Shakespeares. ‘Remembering Shakespeare in 1916 and after’ was the subtitle for a day of talks exploring the ways in which the tercentenary of Shakespeare’s death was marked. The discussions felt timely because two very significant dates will soon be upon us: 2014, which is the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the poet’s birth, and 2016, the quatercentenary of his death. On the other hand, numerous institutions under the title of the World Shakespeare Festival 2012 are going big on the Bard next year, alongside the Olympics. (Our film of Julius Caesar with the RSC for BBC is a contribution to the WSF.) So what might we learn from events a century ago to help us find appropriate ways to remember Shakespeare in the coming years?
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Sunday links

Sunday links

This is not the first time we have led a selection of links with one of Adam Curtis’ essential posts at The Medium and the Message – and I trust it won’t be the last. His latest The Bitch, the Stud and the Prawn is subtitled The rise of geezer capitalism in Britain, and it continues his analysis of the narrowing of political possibilities in post-war Britain. It is also a wonderfully colourful and profoundly depressing tale of tycoon George Walker, Guy Hands, bankers and boxers, film finance, tax dodges and a mutant prawn boxing movie. The post also features some fabulous extracts from BBC programmes – here, if nowhere else, is the BBC archive being productively plundered in the most imaginative and intelligent way. Below, a handful of other links to stuff that I’ve found interesting over the past week (and which remains a work in progress until I add some more later on).
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Something for the weekend

Something for the weekend

I know, I know – we’ve all seen too many time-lapse films over the past couple of years, but this one really is pretty special. The High Dynamic Range imaging by French photographer Tanguy Louvigny illuminates the French countryside in astonishing ways – and his short compilation is the perfect antidote to a gloomy December day. Thanks to the invaluable Open Culture site for alerting me to this – and for explaining a little of how Louvigny achieves these truly remarkable moving timelapses (he built his own robotic three-axis motion system). Across the jump, nine further free and legal online alternatives to the final of some kind of talent show that I believe is taking place this weekend.
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Busy, busy, busy

Busy, busy, busy

I can’t remember the last time I’ve neglected this blog in the way that I have over the past week. Apologies. Reasons – but not excuses – include having two performance films in development (only one of which has been announced), a music documentary for 2012 and three possible iPad apps, as well as dealing in the past few days with possible proposals for the Arts Council England/BBC project The Space (submissions close today). And then there’s the documentary The Art of Clare Woods, which I’m speaking about next Thursday at The Hepworth Wakefield, where there is a wonderful exhibition of her paintings. The film’s not yet finished, but I’ll be showing sections of it and talking about how it relates to earlier visual arts films that we have produced. You can see the trailer for it here – and over the weekend I’ll be back with our usual features. Thanks for your patience.

Turner time again

Turner time again

Channel 4 brings Turner Prize 2011 back to primetime tonight after a number of years when the announcement of the winner has been tucked away in Channel 4 News. Tune in from 8pm onwards to see how they handle the show, and follow the tweet stream with #tp2011. We have a particular interest (a) because of the years when we handled the coverage for the channel, and (b) because we pitched for tonight’s programme but failed to win it. So if you have any thoughts or comments about the programme, so please contribute them in the Comments below. To get into the mood, you can see Channel 4 and Tate’s short films with each of the short-listed artists here, and you can catch up on 4oD here with our More4 programme Vic Reeves’ Turner Prize Moments about the controversy and television coverage over last twenty years (above, Vic with Cornelia Parker); for background on this, see Linda’s blog here – and, again, let us know what you think below.