Links for the weekend

Links for the weekend

On at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art until 27 May there’s an exhibition that I really want to see. Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity is a sumptuous assembly of 80 or so figure paintings along with ‘period costumes, accessories, fashion plates, photographs, and popular prints’ which explore the relationship between fashion and art from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s. But I’m pretty certain that I won’t get there before the end of next month and so I’m contenting myself with frequent virtual visits to the show – and, you know, I’m OK with that. The Met has a really good web site about the show with a room-by-room guide and great photos; there’s a catalogue of exceptional splendour and sumptuousness edited by curator Gloria Groom; and I can read detailed criticism about it like Paris: The thrill of the modern by Anka Muhlstein in the New York Review of Books. Who needs Manhattan? Below, more links to more stuff, with thanks for recommendations this week to @emilybell and @KeyframeDaily.
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Postcard from Pasadena 3.

Postcard from Pasadena 3.

I have been staying in The Athenaeum on the Caltech campus. A faculty club for the university, it was completed in 1930 and is a gloriously sturdy and determinedly old-fashioned institution of English descent. Jackets and ties are expected for dinner (Albert Einstein dined here in the 1930s) and there is no chance of a cup of coffee before a 7am breakfast. Yet it has been a delight, as have so many aspects of my few days here. Leave aside that my screening and Friday seminar were (let’s say) modestly attended; otherwise I have had a great time. I fell in love with the thrills of freeway driving all over again (thanks to my generous host John Brewer for the loan of a car, and for much else) and not even getting stuck in hideous rush hour traffic took the shine off this. But I understand why apparently there is not as much collaboration between USC and UCLA as there might be when it can take you 90 minutes-plus to drive from one to the other. USC was where I showed Julius Caesar, while my reason for visiting UCLA was to view early television from the estimable UCLA Film & Television Archive.
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Postcard from Pasadena 2.

Postcard from Pasadena 2.

Just before 12.30 the technician comes to switch on Metropolis II. Crowded around a room-size contraption that is part Heath Robinson, part Meccano mountain, is an expectant group of young children, older men and perhaps even an art lover or two. It is just as well that the operative is slight and on the short side, since once he has removed his shoes (and tucked them away out of sight) he has to squeeze into a complex lattice of roadways and railways to reach the crucial buttons. After some final checks, and with no trace of a fanfare, he activates the belts that take the cars to the top of the structure and then tip them over to race down – powered only by gravity – around curves and between buildings and then back to the belt. The spectators smile and watch transfixed. Welcome to Chris Burden’s installation at LACMA – if you’ve not seen it, I promise you’ll love the video (and don’t worry, we’ll get to the big rock above soon enough).


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Links for the week

Links for the week

Andrew O’Hagan’s essay about the Savile scandal in the London Review of Books, Light entertainment, is (and I know this is much over-used adjective) indispensable. Amongst much else it is a truly remarkable portrait of the post-war BBC, but it is also a dazzling dissection of the problems of trying to understand the past through the distorting lens of the present – and it quotes great sense from Joan Bakewell:

‘You just can’t get into the culture of what it was like, transfer our sensibilities backwards from today. It would be like asking Victorian factory owners to explain why they sent children up chimneys. It’s the same with the BBC that I first entered. It had habits and values that we just can’t understand from the point of view of where we are now.’

Read this if you care even a jot about the BBC, about sexuality and sexual anxiety in the 1960s and since, and about what we all too often take for granted from ‘entertainment’.

Across the jump, some other excellent links, with thanks to – among others - @annehelen, @AdamRutherford and @filmdrblog for tips.


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Postcard from Pasadena 1.

Postcard from Pasadena 1.

File this post (and the next couple) under what-I-did-on-a-more-or-less-holiday. Until Sunday I am in Pasadena, north-east of downtown Los Angeles, having been invited to talk about filming Shakespeare by Professor John Brewer. A decade back we made Sense and Sensation from John’s wonderful book The Pleasures of the Imagination (about eighteenth century culture in Britain and its publics; out-of-print but likely to be available again soon), and now John is Eli and Edye Broad Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at the California Institute of Technology. Caltech is a private research university focussed on science and engineering but the institution also has a commitment to the humanities, and all the students have to incorporate some element of non-science study in their courses. So while I’m here I am speaking both at Caltech and at USC, but I am also taking the opportunity to view some early television from the UCLA archive (that’s Postcard 2.) and to visit some of the best museums in the States.
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Something for the weekend

Something for the weekend

Let’s celebrate some inspired joined-up thinking from the BBC music departments. Symphony is a new four-part BBC Four series hosted by Simon Russell Beale about the development of the central orchestral form. Part one, Genesis and Genius, is on iPlayer for a month. Along with it comes an extensive series of Radio 3 broadcasts and a wonderful Music Showcase selection of audio and video associated with the series (still in alpha). And then there’s a totally delightful video on YouTube of last Thursday’s ‘pop-up’ performance at St Pancras (above) by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Symphony Chorus of the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth – it deserves a million-plus views. There’s even a back-up OpenLearn site from the Open University (with a free introductory course to music theory). Let’s count all that as two of the choices for this weekend’s alternative viewing – and move on to another (unrelated) eight in the jump.
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Virtual gallery going

Virtual gallery going

Museums and galleries on the west coast are a fortnight or so into the main run of Pacific Standard Time. This is a wonderfully ambitious project to explore and expose visual art in Los Angeles and southern California between 1945 and 1980. Time was when you would have had to jump on a plane to experience and explore its riches – and of course, in many ways, that’s still essential. But such is our access now to cultural organisations online and to local commentators, both mainstream and marginal, that can take a pretty thorough tour round PST without leaving your screen. Following are a few places to start.
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