100 years of Bauhaus

20th March 2019

Drawing on the documentary films Bauhaus and Masterworks: Bauhaus, available on DVD from Illuminations, as well as on recent articles marking 100 years since the Bauhaus was established, Tom Allen reflects on the meaning and the legacy of one of the most iconic schools of Modernism.

The Bauhaus lasted only 14 years, was in three different locations due to political pressures (Weimar, Dessau, above, and Berlin), had three different directors (Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) and was ultimately shut down by the Nazis for being an alleged Jewish-Bolshevik plot. Despite this brief but tumultuous history the Bauhaus has had a huge effect on how we think of art, design, architecture and their relation to the modern world. Indeed, the Bauhaus arguably offers the most successful example of all the schools of Modernism. Founded by German architect Walter Gropius in 1919 in Weimar, it had an ethos totally different from other art and technical schools. The Bauhaus drew on politics, theory, spirituality, and the most cutting edge of contemporary artists to try and remake the modern world.

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Writing links

16th March 2019

John Wyver writes: for this collection of links I am interpreting the idea of ‘writing’ rather broadly, and so there are pointers towards pieces about writing, pieces about journalism, pieces about reading, and pieces of what I feel to be simply really good writing. As with other pull-togethers like this, which have included recent ones about photography, television and the visual arts, I’m going to add to an initial selection during today and over the next few days.

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‘A world of rubble’

15th March 2019

John Wyver writes: Seeing The Lost People a week or so ago piqued my interest in movies set in the middle Europe of the immediate post-war years, and in how they might have negotiated the complex politics of reconstruction and the start of the Cold War. Today’s watch was Berlin Express, a Jacques Tourneur-directed thriller (sort of) made at exactly the same moment as The Lost People, in 1948. Except that this RKO movie features extensive location shooting in the ruins of Frankfurt and Berlin, and instead of Dennis Price and Mai Zetterling boasts the rather punchier star power of Robert Ryan and Merle Oberon. The plot, frankly, is pretty nonsensical, but the film is fascinating nonetheless.

Apart from anything else, it’s made me start to think about what I’m going to call mittelnoir, a sub-category of film noir set in and concerned with Mitteleuropa, the mythical central European world that embraced Germany, Austria and more. I think we can definitely co-opt for this emergent grouping Carol Reed’s great The Third Man (1949) and also The Man Between (1953), also directed by Reed, shot in Berlin and starring James Mason. I think Billy Wilkder’s A Foreign Affair (1948) should perhaps be next on my playlist. Does any one have any other suggestions?

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‘Performance Live’ box set at BAC

14th March 2019

This Sunday, 17 March, Battersea Arts Centre are hosting a very special one-off showing of all the films made for the series Performance Live as collaborations between BAC, Arts Council England, BBC Television and a host of cultural organisations and independent producers – including Illuminations.

Two of the films on which we collaborated for the series, and which were broadcast on BBC Two last year are being shown. At 4pm there’s a showing of Winged Bull in the Elephant Case, directed by Robin Friend, Wayne MacGregor and Rhodri Huw, and created with Studio Wayne McGregor. And at 7pm Hofesh Shechter’s Clowns (above) will be screened, which Hofesh choreographed and directed, and for which he created the score.

This is a unique opportunity to see these films, and a host of other great work, on a big screen – and for free! Among the other artists and groups whose work is being showcased are Paul Mason and Young Vic, Slung Low, Tamasha, Eggs Collective, 20 Stories High and Contact, Akala, Ross Sutherland, Touretteshero, Alexander Zeldin and National Theatre, and Kate Tempest.

The films will be screened between midday (doors open at 11.30am) and 9.30pm, with a special live interlude at 5.45pm.

The full programme is here and tickets can be reserved here, from a page which also has BAC details including access provisions..

‘Shipwreck’ on screen

13th March 2019

Our very latest production is the trailer for Anne Washburn’s play Shipwreck, directed by Rupert Goold, at the Almeida Theatre until 30 March. A tale of Trump’s America, it’s quite a ride – and the one-minute trailer aims to reflect the drama’s intensity and imaginative power. The trailer was filmed, edited and directed by Todd Macdonald.

Production image above © Marc Brenner.

Cinema links

10th March 2019

John Wyver writes: following recent clutches of Links concerned with Photography, with Television, and with the Visual Arts, today’s offering draws together a few of the essential articles and videos about film that I have enjoyed recently. I’ll be adding to these across the day and in the coming days, as I have been updating the other posts.

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‘All of Europe under one roof’

9th March 2019

John Wyver writes: To BFI Southbank on Thursday for a screening of the 1949 British film The Lost People, which proved to be almost laughably poor and entirely fascinating. There are three strands to just why I got so much from the showing. First, it was partly directed, as her first such assignment, by Muriel Box, whose later work I have recently been discovering with delight. Second, intertwinings between stage and screen are central to both the fictional world it depicts (a crumbling theatre in post-war Germany taken over as a dispersal centre for displaced persons) and to its production context (it was originally the stage play Cockpit by Bridget Boland, imaginatively staged in London in 1948). And third, it was made, and addressed to, a critical moment in the relationship between Britain and the rest of Europe. As I try to suggest below, drawing on the arguments of historian Anne Deighton, these dark, dark days just three weeks before the scheduled B-day, are the direct consequence of decisions taken at that time – and which the film, however clumsily, tries to explore.

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A ‘cinema’ shelfie

8th March 2019

John Wyver writes: Prompted by social media posts and World Book Day (and I know I’m a little late), above is an image of two of my bookshelves. These are part of my ‘cinema’ selection, with the volumes ordered in a way that makes sense to me even as it may be baffling to pretty much anyone else. I thought that through today (when I ought to be getting on with some writing of my own) I might compose a ‘reading’ of the two shelves, starting at the top left. I’m not going to comment on every volume, and I apologise if the image definition isn’t sufficiently good to allow you to make out each of the titles and authors.

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Visual arts links

7th March 2019

John Wyver writes: Another of my occasional posts where I bring together stuff that has interested or intrigued me recently, on this occasion about the visual arts. You can also access a recent group of Photography links and one of Television links.

Introducing: Lee Krasner: an excellent presentation by Charlotte Flint from Barbican Art Gallery about the artist who is the subject of the major exhibition opening on 30 May (and which I am very excited to see). Above, one of her major works, Polar Stampede, 1960.

Image credit: Lee Krasner, Polar Stampede, 1960 The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Image courtesy Kasmin Gallery.

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Indexes, writing about

6th March 2019

John Wyver writes:Most of my waking hours are currently occupied in compiling the index to my book Screening the Royal Shakespeare Company: A Critical History. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but this is to be published by Bloomsbury in The Arden Shakespeare series in June. Instead of writing this blog post I should be compiling my index. Instead of eating – and indeed, probably, sleeping, I should be compiling my index. But, well, compiling an index is a process that is both fascinating and deeply, deeply dull, and the occasional distraction has to be a good thing.

I asked colleagues whether I should compile the index, or whether I should pay a professional to do it. Most professionals (see below) advise against an author doing it themselves. But that’s what I opted to do – and I’m not regretting that call. Really I’m not. Along with all else, the process has made me curious about the creation of indexes. So as another distraction I started poking around in the uber-index of Google – and below is some of what I found. Incidentally, one of the best bits of advice I heard was to look at indexes of books you like and respect, which I did – and took the image above from one of them.

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