Standing up for the selfie

Standing up for the selfie

Only rarely does writing about the arts really rile me. But today I read two pieces on the same topic that I regard as nostalgic, ignorant and elitist twaddle. The topic is the relaxation of the ban on photography for personal use at the National Gallery. The twaddle comes from Sarah Crompton, arts editor of the Telegraph, and from Michael Savage who blogs as Grumpy Art Historian (and who also has other issues with the gallery). In their respective articles Why you shouldn’t take photos in galleries and Trivialising the National Gallery, both express the view that permitting people to take photographs of great paintings that they own (if, that is, they are UK citizens) is a Bad Thing. I want instead to suggest that what is Bad about all of this is the exclusive and patronising attitudes both writers display towards the rest of us.
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Sunday links stripped-down

Sunday links stripped-down

It’s our boy Ben’s 21st birthday today, and we have had an excellent party in Whitstable. This morning’s links have now been added to, with – as before – apologies for not properly crediting those who highlighted for me many of the below.

True Detective‘s Nic Pizzolato on season 2, ‘stupid criticism’ and rumors of on-set drama: Lacey Rose’s cover story for The Hollywood Reporter is a great read.

Hollywood theatrical issues – past, present, and future: Eric Hoyt discusses his new book Hollywood Vault: Film Libraries before Home Video - with added moving images.

Hitch’s ‘favourite stooge’: Philip French in the TLS on a life of scriptwriter Charles Bennett.

The Big Chill – these are your parents: writer and filmmaker Lena Dunham at Criterion on the people in Lawrence Kasdan’s 1983 movie.

Heinz Emigholz – building in time: from Sight & Sound, Aaron Cutler on film, photography, modernism and architecture, as seen by the German filmmaker.

The Tate affair – then and now: thoughts on the 1950s and now from Rosalind Mckever at Apollo.

Museum under fire for selling its art: the problems of the Delaware Art Museum, reported by Deborah Solomon for The New York Times.

The swimming pool, symbol of Southern California, takes a dip: an engaging short article by Christopher Hawthorne for the Los Angeles Times.

A raised voice: Claudia Roth Pierpoint on Nina Simone, from The New Yorker.

A message from the Amazon books team: really interesting, and an important issue.

Penguin’s new cover for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – securing the image, securing the female child: Jessica Sage posts on the blog for the Feminist & Women’s Studies Association.

The costly business of photo book publishing: the economics analysed by Kris Wilton at Photo District News.

Photographer Garry Winogrand captured America as it split wide open: Jerry Saltz for New York Magazine on a Met show that I would dearly love to see.

The Nether: Holger Syme contributes to the debate.

Clickhole or die – the fight over ‘sponsored content’ is 150 years old: Matt Novak at Paleofuture.

Shining a light into the BBC radio archives: ‘How to process very large archives cheaply, quickly and at scale.

The hi-tech mess of higher education: a piece for The New York Review of Books by David Bromwich prompted by the documentary Ivory Tower.

Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War centenary?: a very useful round-up of activities from Luke McKernan.

Stratford, the Shakespeare revival and World War 1: a lovely post by Sylvia Morris at The Shakespeare blog, which is where the detail above of an image of Morris dancing on the Avon comes from.

Academics fear for Warburg Institute’s London library, saved from the Nazis: this is important, as Maev Kennedy reports for the Guardian.

A pound here, a pound there: David Runciman on gambling, from the London Review of Books.

• The return of coach Lasso: NBC’s new promotional spot with Jason Sudeikis for their Premiership coverage – silly, but very funny:

Lord K, once more

Lord K, once more

The Tate Britain exhibition Kenneth Clark: Looking for Civilisation closes tomorrow, Sunday 10 August. I remain thrilled to have contributed to this by curating the television extracts and writing a catalogue essay about the television programmes that Clark made for ATV between 1958 and 1966. To mark the end of this fascinating – and beautiful – display (curated by Chris Stephens and John-Paul Stonard) about a profoundly influential figure in twentieth century culture I am republishing an expanded version of a blog post that rounds up reactions to the show.
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Mirror magic with Mobilux

Mirror magic with Mobilux

Following up my post about BBC Television’s 1952 experiment in abstract art, I came across a fascinating piece about the special effects system that, in its earliest form, was the inspiration of the programme. When the BBC producer Christian Simpson first met John Hoppé in 1952, the latter’s technique for projecting abstract moving images lacked a name. But less than a decade later, as a September 1960 article in Popular Mechanics shows, the process was called Mobilux and it was being used for special effects in American television. The image above is a detail from one of the photographs accompanying the piece (reproduced below); the caption reads:

Here the Hoppes co-operate, John on the head and arms, Dotte on the feet, and the result is a very realistically animated image, without the time and expense of animation, but with infinite flexibility of action.


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A ’52 TV ‘experiment in abstract art’

A ’52 TV ‘experiment in abstract art’

At 10.15pm on Wednesday 10 September 1952, just after an edition of the fortnightly film review show Current Release, BBC Television broadcast a 15-minute programme titled Shapes and Sounds. In its listing pages Radio Times described the transmission as ‘an experiment in light and music’, while the ‘Talk of the Week’ column explained that it was ‘designed to explore the possibilities of light patterns on the television screen’. Shapes and Sounds was produced by Christian Simpson, a fascinating figure from the early days of television, and he worked on the show with a group of artists including Rocky Stone, John Keen, Bruce Lacey, Alexis Key and Ivor Broughton.

Media studies records artists beginning to work with television in the 1960s (in the United States) and ’70s (over here). So this little discovery, which I believe is all-but-unknown to scholars (and of course no recording exists), will help re-write the history books. But perhaps it has another lesson for us as well, as the Sunday Times critic Maurice Wiggin suggested:  ’The fact that (in my opinion) the experiment [of Shapes and Sounds] did not succeed is not important. What matters is that the television authorities had the nerve to let Mr Simpson “have a go”.’
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Shakespeare the sailor man

Shakespeare the sailor man

Many of the world’s most prominent Shakespeare academics are meetings this week in Stratford-upon-Avon for the invite-only International Shakespeare Conference. A highlight of the first day was the screening of Shakespearian Spinach as part of the paper by Professor Peter Holland. This 1940 Paramount animation features Popeye and Olive Oyl as Romeo and Juliet – and it is rather special. Here it is as today’s treat…

Waiting for Webster

Waiting for Webster

Tomorrow, at the final preview before Wednesday’s press night, I get to see a production that I have been looking forward to for simply ages. Maria Aberg is directing John Webster’s The White Devil in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre in Stratford. So that’s one of the very greatest of all plays by one of the very smartest directors around in perhaps the best auditorium in the world. Excited, moi?

If you need an introduction to the play, the Wikipedia entry is a decent place to start. But in terms of this production, see this interview with Maria Aberg:

There is also a very good WhatsOnStage.com interview with Maria. Her production for the RSC of King John in The Swan in 2012 (go here for Peter Kirwan’s review for the Bardathon) is one of the most exciting and challenging productions of Shakespeare I’ve seen in recent years – and I have every hope that her take on Webster is as thrilling. Certainly the great set of production photographs by Keith Pattison that the RSC has just posted online suggests that this will be the case.

The RSC and Dusthouse have made a striking trailer for the show which comes with its parental advisory warning: ‘This trailer contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing’.

More later in the week…

Image: Laura Elphinstone as Flaminio in The White Devil. Photo by Keith Pattison, courtesy Royal Shakespeare Company.

Sunday links stripped-down

Sunday links stripped-down

An offering including several compelling pieces about copyright (honest!). Apologies as usual to all those from whom I’ve taken tips without credit.

What’s left to discover today? Plenty: David Bordwell as richly interesting as ever.

L.A Plays Itself is finally coming to home video. Here’s how: Glenn Whipp for the Los Angeles Times on ‘fair use’, film clips and Thom Andersen’s 2003 video essay about the city in cinema.

• At least one real, athentic moment of humanity with Cameron Diaz: Alex Pappademas meets her for Grantland.

Concrete nostalgia, Southmere Estate, Thamesmead: Andrea Klettner goes on a day trip for lovelondoncouncilhousing.com.

Bullying and hypocrisy – Andy Coulson’s reign at the News of the World: more from Nick Davies’ book Hack Attack.

Crime fiction: extraordinary journalism from Nicholas Schmidle for The New Yorker.

Gloomy pageant: Jeremy Harding on David Marquand’s new book about Britain, for London Review of Books.

How did Bob Dylan get so weird?: a long read from Bill Wyman for Vulture.

Ira Glass can’t relate to Shakespeare? Good: Holger Syme at disposito.

The Nether: not exactly a review (he hasn’t seen the show) but reflections on theatre and the virtual from Andrew Haydon at Postcards from the Gods.

The death of privacy: Alex Preston for the Observer.

Ways of knowing: Robert Pippin on the humanities in American universities.

The ephemeral ebook library: fascinating piece from Sharon Farb and Sean Johnson Andrews about the ‘first sale doctrine’ and ebooks.

The networked catalog: Matt Miller for the New York Public Library.

Lawsuit filed to prove Happy Birthday is in the public domain; demands Warner pay back millions of license fees: … and another compelling piece about copyright, from Mike Masnick at TechDirt.

Victory – format shifting and parody clear last hurdle: more on recent developments over copyright, from Javier Ruiz at the Open Rights Group.

The American room: Paul Ford on another way of looking at the spaces of the States on YouTube.

How the Commonwealth Games is helping define the future of broadcasting: Brendon Crowther at the BBC R&D blog…

The network behind the R&D 2014 Commonwealth Games showcase: and this from the same blog but from Martin Nicholson.

Image: Summer Day (detail), Johan Hendrik Weissenbruch, c. 1870 – c. 1903, with thanks to the Rijksmuseum’s wonderful policy of allowing images from its collection to be shared and used. As for the choice… why not?

Live from Salzburg

Live from Salzburg

To Cinema 1 at the Barbican for a live stream of The Forbidden Zone from the Salzburg Festival. Written by Duncan Macmillan and directed by Katie Mitchell, this new work premiered last Wednesday, plays Salzburg for another week and then goes to the Schaubuhne in Berlin. (A download of the programme in English is available here.) For one night only, and to one screen only, this innovative relay came to the Barbican as a co-commission with 14-18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions. Surprising and fascinating it most certainly was, as well as emotionally engaging.

As background, this video from 59 Productions includes rehearsal footage and an interview with Katie Mitchell:


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RSC Live from…, ’71 style

RSC Live from…, ’71 style

Today I went, by appointment, to what they call a carrel in Rare Books and Manuscripts at The British Library. My carrel was a little room with a glass wall, rather fierce air-conditioning and some headphones. An immensely helpful librarian explained that I should put on the headphones and she would start the playback I had requested. There had been, she admitted, a bit of a panic earlier when they discovered that the tape had been recorded more than forty years ago on a reel-to-reel machine at a very eccentric speed. But all was well. So I closed my eyes, opened my ears, and was transported back to the Aldwych Theatre on the evening of 2 January 1971. Playing out in my head was an ‘as live’ recording of The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
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