Sunday links

26th April 2020

John Wyver writes: welcome to this week’s listing of links to articles and a handful of videos that have engaged my attention over the past week. Stay safe and well.

• The extraordinary Sir Simon McDonald “clarification” – a guided tour: this was probably the piece I most enjoyed across the week – David Allen Green’s forensic (and devastating) close reading.

What do we need in a crisis? Broadcast TV!: John Ellis at CST Online is very good on media in this moment: ‘Connection and reassurance, long the business of ordinary TV, have found their cultural role in this time of crisis. There is a new reality that we all share…’

‘Can we do this without breaking the law?’ Inside the first lockdown TV drama: Mark Lawson for the Guardian spoke with the makers of the starry Isolation Stories, shot in self-isolation and due to be screened by ITV from 4 May.

How the coronavirus is changing television production: meanwhile, across the Atlantic, for Buzzfeed, Krystie Lee Yandoli explored ways of continuing to work pioneered by producers at Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Tonight with Jimmy Fallon, American Idol, The Walking Dead and more.

Close contact: an illuminating essay by Michael Lobel for Artforum about art and the 1918 flu pandemic, taking in Duchamp, Munch, Schiele and especially John Singer Sargent’s monumental canvas Gassed, 1918-19, from the Imperial War Museums collections (header image and detail, © IWM Art).

What we miss without museums: this is beautiful and very true, from Rachel Cohen for The New Yorker.

The untold story of the birth of social distancing: fascinating social, medical and political history from the mid-2000s, by Eric Lipton and Jennifer Steinhauer for The New York Times.

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Dancing at Illuminations

23rd April 2020

John Wyver writes: the current embrace of streaming performance by cultural organisations, broadcasters and audiences means that, amongst a cornucopia of online delights, you can find a rich range of Illuminations’ productions and collaborations involving dance. Highlights of the available productions in which we have been involved include the following…

Tomorrow night, at 7.30pm on Friday 24 April, Sadler’s Wells premieres An Evening with Natalia Osipova, which will be available for a week on the Sadler’s Wells Facebook page. Included in the programme of works with the astonishing dancer is Qutb, a complex and intimate work choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, which premiered in 2016. Natalia Osipova performs alongside dancers Jason Kittelberger and James O’Hara in a showcase of the technique, energy and precision which feature throughout the great dancer’s work. We filmed the dance as part of a trilogy of performances for Sky Arts, with Ross MacGibbon as screen director and Lucie Conrad as producer.

The programme from Sadler’s Wells also includes the ‘ravishing six-minute ballet’ (as The New York Times described it) Valse Triste specially created for Osipova and American Ballet Theatre principal David Hallberg by Alexei Ratmansky, as well as the beautifully emotive Ave Maria by Japanese choreographer Yuka Oishi set to the music of Schubert.

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Sunday links

19th April 2020

John Wyver writes: my usual weekly compendium of articles and a video or two that have engaged and interested me over the past week, with the inevitable Covid-19 links — but hopefully not too many of them.

By invitation – Mark Carney on how the economy must yield to human values: the former director of the Bank of England for the Economist on the possibilities post-Covid-19 for reversing the move from market economy to market society ‘so that public values help shape private value’.

The government’s response to Covid-19 and Brexit are intimately connected.: David Edgerton is brief but damning on the historical analogies beloved by the Brexiters and the Tories:

What we need to understand is the centrality of a mythical picture of British innovation to Brexit. Brexiter arguments for a hard Brexit hinge on the UK’s supposed leadership in creativity and innovation, which was just waiting to be unleashed… The wonderful thing about invoking ‘science’ is that it suggests action, drive, modernity. Yet what Johnson and other Brexiters have  rediscovered was a great British liberal tradition of making a lot of noise about science in order to cover up deliberate inaction, in the face of demands for a national and imperial strategy for agriculture and industry.

Donald Trump’s greatest escape: Michael Kruse for Politico on how 45 has been training for this moment for his entire life.

Shax Americana: Rhodri Lewis for TLS reviews recent books about Shakespeare in the age of 45 by james Shapiro and Jeffrey Wilson.

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‘Emergency Ward’, 1952

16th April 2020

John Wyver writes: among the film treasures nearly accessible online is a digital restoration from the George Eastman Museum of Emergency Ward (1952), a remarkable documentary made at St Vincent’s Hospital, New York City. I had read about this precursor of the ‘direct cinema’ and cinema verité documentaries that emerged from the late 1950s onwards, but I’ve never before had the chance to see it. Slightly frustratingly, this Vimeo upload can’t be embedded elsewhere, but the film can be viewed here. (Peter Bagrov, Curator in Charge in the Moving Image Department of the George Eastman Museum, writes here about the institution’s new policy of making films available online.)

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‘Future States’ surprise ending

14th April 2020

John Wyver writes: Over the past fortnight or so I have posted on several occasions about the Future States online conference from the Centre for Design History, University of Brighton, which I have been following and appreciating. I had been flattered to be asked, along with Professor Barbara Green, to contribute some closing remarks as a way of kick-starting the plenary session over the next four days. And indeed placeholders for our contributions featured on the conference website from the start, as above.

I am not a periodical studies scholar, but the organisers invited me, so I understood, to offer remarks about the potentials and problems, the strengths and limitations of online conferences in general, and the specific nearly carbon neutral conference (NCNC) format with which Future States was working. ‘I leave it, of course,’ read the invitation e-mail to Barbara Green and myself, ‘entirely up to yourselves to decide the nature of your Closing remarks. I imagined that… you, John, might talk more about the NCNC medium – but you can both surprise me, and that will be delightful!’

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Stage and screen: first questions for The After

13th April 2020

John Wyver writes: For those of us who have been working in screen adaptations of stage performances it feels as if, in the specific as well as the general, over the past three weeks the world has turned upside down. From being just one strand in the work of theatre, opera and dance companies, nice-to-have for many but perhaps not absolutely at the heart of things, recordings in many forms of stage performances have become central. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have been enjoying free streams of content that, until ten days ago, and in large part because of rights restrictions, was accessible only by scholars.

Performance companies, large and small, have been showcasing their work online, for one night only or for just seven days or for months, and for free or for a donation or as part of a trial for a streaming service. We have been privileged to engage with productions from the National Theatre, Berlin’s Schaubühne, Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London’s Royal Opera House, Rosas in Belgium, The Wooster Group, Royal Shakespeare Company and countless others. And there’s much more to come, from the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine initiative and from other projects still being worked through.

A greater degree of mainstream critical attention has been paid to stage to screen translations in the last three weeks than in the past decade. There have been numerous coordinated Twitter parties, watch-alongs and post-show Q&As on Zoom. Companies are also beginning to make original work for online. In many ways all of this digital activity is thrilling and heady and more-than-slightly overwhelming.

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Sunday links

12th April 2020

John Wyver writes: for this week’s round-up of reading and viewing that has engaged me over the past week I tried to limit stuff related to Covid-19, but somehow that proved hard to do – the first links are all pretty essential, and the mood lightens a little ‘below the fold’.

Special Report – Johnson listened to his scientists about coronavirus – but they were slow to sound the alarm: I tend not to include links to day-to-day reporting but this is exceptional journalism, datelined 7 April, from Stephen Grey and Andrew MacAskill at Reuters; I’ve seen surprisingly little pick-up.

• Vector in chief: Fintan O’Toole is simply brilliant on Tr*mp and the crisis, for New York Review of Books:

to understand Trump’s incoherence, we have to take into account two contradictory impulses within the right-wing mindset: paranoia and risk. The right appeals to the fear of invasion, of subversion, of contamination. But it also valorizes risk. The contemporary Republican Party, through Trumpism, has managed to ride both of these horses at the same time.

Shockwave: hardly a cheering read, nor an easy one, but nonetheless essential — from the LRB Adam Tooze on the likely consequences of the pandemic for the world economy.

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‘Radio Times’ at Easter in the 1930s

10th April 2020

John Wyver writes: considering the two television covers of Radio Times from October 1936 in an earlier post piqued my interest as to what the covers of the weekly listings magazine were like throughout the rest of the 1930s. How, for example, did Radio Times use its covers to celebrate Easter during what W H Auden famously called ‘a low dishonest decade’? So I poked around in BBC Genome and came up with the somewhat surprising answer, hardly at all. Christmas was a major event for the magazine, reflecting its significance for radio, and later television, from the BBC, but at least on the covers of Radio Times religious services and bunnies very much took a back seat to sport and other attractions.

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‘Radio Times’ welcomes television

8th April 2020

John Wyver writes: The Future States conference, about which I have been writing and which continues online until 17 April, is focussed on illustrated magazines in the interwar period. In Britain, much of the academic work on this topic, at least in relation to popular titles, has considered the mainstream illustrated weeklies from mid-1930s on, and most notably Picture Post. But I have long been fascinated by Radio Times, the BBC’s weekly magazine which enjoyed a monopoly for broadcast listings.

From late October 1936, the ‘Television’ edition of Radio Times (which I believe was only around one-fifth of the copies printed each week, and only available in London) also included television listings and features, and these pages (available – albeit with significant gaps – via the invaluable BBC Genome) are an unparalleled source for understanding the early years of the new medium. Today, I want to muse a little about the only two pre-war covers of the magazine that featured television, published on 23 and 30 October 1936.

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Half-time at ‘Future States’

7th April 2020

John Wyver writes: for the past week or so I have been … what? ‘attending’, perhaps, or ‘participating in’, or ‘watching’, the Future States conference. I’ve posted before about this, and about its innovative online format, here and here, and I have been asked to offer some brief closing remarks for next week’s plenary session. So this is something of a try-out for that contribution – and I would be very pleased to hear from anyone else who may be experiencing the conference. Also, it’s not too late to register and be part of what I’m finding is a really interesting initiative.

The focus of the conference is ‘Modernity and national identity in popular magazines, 1890-1945’, and while I am most certainly not a periodical studies scholar, I am really interested in the methodologies being developed in this field as well as specific aspects of the topic. My interest before I started looking in a little more detail at readings for the conference, and also at the contributions, was most strongly focussed on Britain and interwar photography, and especially its intermedial links with documentary film and early television. But it has been productively enlightening to learn about magazines in Canada, the Soviet Union and Australia.

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