Church going

31st March 2019

John Wyver writes: Like Philip Larkin, I am much drawn to visiting England’s parish churches. I once spoke about this to a friend, adding that I took great pleasure in the pastime despite being a clear-eyed atheist. She suggested that the visits were my way of seeking out the spiritual. Which may be the case, as it may have been for Larkin, although I tell myself that I go for the history and the art and the landscape and a sense of nation and of belonging. This post combines further reflections with an account of visiting two churches on a glorious spring day. Plus, I have a couple of recommendations of new aids to church going: the recent Explore Churches website and 100 Churches 100 Years, just published by the Twentieth Century Society. But Larkin first, ‘Church Going’, included in his second collection The Less Deceived, in 1955…

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Filming with Mary Boone

26th March 2019

John Wyver writes: Back in the summer of 1986, writer Sandy Nairne, director Geoff Dunlop and I were in New York filming our 6-part Channel 4 series State of the Art. Sandy had conceived the second programme as an exploration of ideas of ‘value’, considering five places in which, as he wrote in the accompanying book, ‘validation and valuation occur: the private gallery, the private collection, the public museum, the art magazine and the public site’. For the private gallery we profiled the Galerie Michael Werner and the its transatlantic partnership with the gallery of Mary Boone. (This was also a personal partnership since Michael Werner and Mary Boone had just married.)

Mary Boone was the among the most prominent dealers in New York, having risen rapidly selling the paintings of, among others, Julian Schnabel, and representing at the time David Salle, Eric Fischl and Ross Bleckner. In 1982 she opened a beautifully designed gallery at 417 West Broadway, and four years later Mary was the hot young dealer in Manhattan. Fast forward more than thirty years and, extraordinarily, Mary Boone is facing a federal prison sentence of two and a half years after pleading guilty to filing false tax returns. Nadya Sayej wrote a good piece recently for the Guardian with all the background.

There’s more on this story below, together with further links, but first take a look at the complete sequence as it was shown in early 1987. And if you’re intrigued by what you see, the six episodes of the series, together with an interview with Sandy Nairne, can be purchased on DVD – go here for that.

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Television links

25th March 2019

John Wyver with links to recent stuff about what we can still just about call television.

The cinematic in contemporary television and media: a strong set of selected clips with accompanying short essays from in media res:

  • The cinematic as force: curator of the week’s contributions Angelo Restivo kicks things off with a reflection on Breaking Bad and an argument that ‘the cinematic creates intensive thresholds in the image that work directly upon the bodies, objects, and spaces in the frame, often pushing us outside the logic of the narrative’.
  • What’s going on? Cinematic montage and televisual narrative: in an interesting consideration of cinematic editing and “live” televisual cutting, Corey K Creekmur uses an example from Sens8 to suggest that ‘The jagged fragments of modernist cinema are now the building blocks of serial narration, and montage, once virtually a definition of avant-garde cinema, has reemerged at the center of the current intersection of pulp and “quality” television.
  • Worth it: Steven Shapiro analyses a music video from musician Moses Sumney and film director Allie Avital, describing it as ‘intense, immersive, and intimate; yet also implosive and claustrophobic’.
  • Don Draper’s mask – evoking the cinematic: ‘What makes Mad Men cinematic,’ Rashna Wadia Richards posits, ‘is that its images activate a chain of unexpected or uncanny connections with a range of films. We might say, then, that the cinematic reveals how serial television serves an archival function in relation to cinema.
  • Of the cinematic and the televisual: considering one moment set in Jennifer Melfi’s office in The Sopranos, Martha P. Notchimson cautions against the application of ‘cinematic’ to serial television, asking ‘do we not lose the particularity and magnitude of the television auteur’s work, exalting cinema as the good object toward which inferior televisuality must strive? ‘
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Bauhaus links

24th March 2019

Following on from Tom Allen’s recent post ‘100 years of Bauhaus’, John Wyver selects links to online resources for the centenary of the influential German school of art and design. Above, the iconic Wassily Chair, 1925-26, designed by Marcel Breuer, discussed here at Dezeen.

You can purchase from us two DVDs about the Bauhaus:

Bauhaus: a 50-minute documentary about the school and its artists.

1000 Masterpieces: Bauhaus, featuring five short films about key works by Josef Albers, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Oscar Schlemmer and others.

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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.