Basquiat at the Brant

5th March 2019

For The New York Times, Martha Schwendener has written a fascinating response to the inaugural show at the new Brant Foundation in the East Village (until 15 May) of some 70 works by Jean-Michel Basquiat. ‘Jean-Michel Basquiat’ at the Brant shows his bifurcated life (which has terrific photographs by Charlie Rubin, one of which is above) is a nuanced consideration of the late painter’s place and myth in the contemporary art world:

There is something that feels almost not right about looking too long at a Basquiat because it’s like looking into an open wound. He didn’t go to art school (except for a few life-drawing classes) to learn this because it’s way beyond art, which is the best kind of art. But the words in Basquiat’s paintings often point to what it’s like to be turned into a masterpiece, a financial instrument, and a trophy.

Which is as good a reason as any to showcase once again the sequence with Basquiat that we filmed in New York in 1986 for our Channel 4/WDR series State of the Art. This extract is an embed of the better-quality version that we posted on Youtube fairly recently; the earlier version attracted more than 1.2 million views.

Our DVD of the six films of State of the Art can be purchased here. Am I allowed to say that I think the films stand up exceptionally well, and remain full of interest for anyone interested in the art world and television about the arts?

Image credit: Installation view of ‘Jean-Michel Basquiat,’ the inaugural exhibition of the Brant Foundation’s New York space in the East Village. A salon-style wall on the second floor includes a grid of 16 paintings from 1982. Credi tThe Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Licensed by Artestar, New York; via The Brant Foundation; Charlie Rubin for The New York Times.

Whither Europe (on TV)?

4th March 2019

John Wyver writes:Tomorrow night (less than four weeks from the scheduled B-Day), at 18.15 on Tuesday 7, I’m chairing a panel at BFI Southbank (tickets here, although there are not many left) with actor Cherie Lunghi (who is to be seen in the 1985 Sartre adaptation, Vicious Circle, screening at BFI Southbank on 16 March); the man behind Channel 4/All4’s hugely successful initaitive Walter Presents, Walter Iuzzolino; writer, producer and show-runner Stewart Harcourt, responsible for ITV’s Maigret and more; and Beatriz Campos, Head of International Sales Studiocanal TV. Expect provocative chat and a clutch of interesting clips, in a framework of what, according to the BFI’s blurb, we’ll be speaking about:

What does the representation of Europe on our TV screens today tell us about how we view Europe, and will this change with Brexit? Our panel of experts address this and explore the subject of European TV drama. Illustrated with clips of influential series such as Heimat and Das Boot (above), as well as the current crop of contemporary European favourites such as Deutschland ‘83, Spiral, Versailles, The Last Panthers and the many fascinating series brought to us by Channel 4’s Walter Presents strand, the discussion examines the current taste for European drama and where this might lead in the future.

Dancing with the camera

3rd March 2019

John Wyver writes:To the Barbican for Tesseract, a dance piece in two halves that played from Thursday to Saturday on the main stage. It’s the creation of filmmaker Charles Atlas and dancer-choreographers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, all three of whom worked with Merce Cunningham, and the piece was presented both as part of the Barbican’s Life Rewired season and in proximity to the arts centre’s celebrations of Merce’s centennial.

There were all sorts of echoes of the great choreographer’s work here, but the results were disappointing, as Lyndsey Winship’s Guardian review suggests and as is laid out in the coruscating comments by Anna Winter for The Stage: ‘a production bound up with pretension, straining towards po-faced notions of sci-fi “dimensionality”, “imagined architectures” and “interstitial spaces.” It’s an onslaught of self-indulgence that feels emotionally moribund and horribly interminable.’ For the record, this is a bit harsh, but for me the main interest was in the role of the Steadicam and its operator as a dancer.

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Television links

2nd March 2019

Following yesterday’s list of recent links to interesting articles about photography, here’s another pull-together, this time of pointers to pieces about the medium formerly known as television. The wonderful image of the early television studio at Alexandra Palace was posted online recently by the delightful Twitter feed Ally Pally ‘Museum’; do follow them here.

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Photography links

1st March 2019

Until quite recently I posted a list of links each Sunday of stuff that over the previous week I had found interesting or intriguing. The format had its fans (including, most weeks, me) but a combination of other calls on my time and a worry about a lack of focus meant that I stopped the practice. I’ve been wondering whether a more fruitful form might be occasional assemblies of links about specific topics – and that’s what I’m going to try out over the coming weeks, starting today with a clutch about the pasts and futures of photography. The image above is of Cauleen Smith’s slide projector installation Space Station Rainbow Infinity, 2014, discussed in the first link below. (Credit: Tomas Mutsaers, International Film Festival Rotterdam)

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The other Henry IV

28th February 2019

Tomorrow night, Friday 1 March, BFI Southbank, under the title ‘European Connections’, begins a rich season of British television productions of classic European plays. A time there was when both the BBC and ITV produced exceptional presentations of drama from the theatrical repertoires of France, Germany, Italy and beyond – and there are several great examples on offer. Henry IV tomorrow reminds us that Luigi Pirandello wrote a play with the same title as the far more familiar pair from the pen of William Shakespeare, and the signs are that this exceptionally rare screening starring Paul Scofield (above) will be a revelation. (Frustratingly I can’t get to the BFI for the showing, but I’m hoping to find another way to watch this – if anyone goes, could they record a thought or two below?)

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Forthcoming attractions

27th February 2019

We may have been neglecting the blog – and once again we’ll try hard to do better – but nonetheless we’ve been busy in the past months. Looking forward, here are details of a clutch of forthcoming events involving Illuminations and our productions: a panel at BFI Southbank, dance screenings at BAC (including Hofesh Shechter’s Clowns, above), a symposium about scripts in Exeter, the next RSC Live from Stratford-upon-Avon presentation, the cinema release of our screen version of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, and the publication in June of John Wyver’s book, Screening the Royal Shakespeare Company: A Critical History.

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Sunday links

18th November 2018

Links to articles and videos that have engaged me over the past week and more, starting with three essential Brexit-related essays. With thanks to those who alerted me to many on Twitter and elsewhere.

How the Brexiteers broke history: brilliant from Richard Evans for the New Statesman, both demolishing myths and arguing for the importance of historians:

In our age of “alternative facts” and “post-truth”, where opinion seems all and evidence is pushed aside in the interests of partisanship, manipulation of the past to fit the political agendas of the present has become all-pervasive. Historians, whatever their views on current events, need to call out those who would prefer to create myths rather than respect what actually happened.

• A “no deal” Brexit could cause constitutional breakdown: … and another warning from history, for Prospect by Philip Allott, former FCO legal adviser and now Professor Emeritus of International Public Law at Cambridge:

If the UK were to withdraw helter-skelter from the European Union on 29th March 2019 without an agreement… It would be the beginning of a disorderly reconstruction of the British constitution and legal system, the British economy, and Britain’s place in the world.

• Why Britain needs its own Mueller: the estimable Carol Cadwalladr contributes to The New York Review of Books:

Britain and America, Brexit and Trump, are inextricably entwined. By Nigel Farage. By Cambridge Analytica. By Steve Bannon. By the Russian ambassador to London, Alexander Yakovenko, who has been identified by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as a conduit between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. The same questions that dog the US election dog ours, too.

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Sunday links

11th November 2018

Links to articles and videos that have caught my eye in the past week or more – thanks, as always, to those on Twitter and elsewhere that drew my attention to them.

The fashion photography of Marilyn Stafford – in pictures: glorious images by the photographer who worked with Paris Haute Couture houses in the 1950s and took iconic images of ‘swinging London’ in the following decade. Courtesy of the Guardian and exhibitions at the Hull International Photography Festival, now finished, and Lucy Bell Gallery, Hastings, until 17 November; for more, see the Marilyn Stafford website. Above, a detail from ‘Paris Prêt-à-Porter 1960 on a rainy day’.

Reliable narrators? Telling tales on Trump: a fascinating essay by David Bordwell about three recent studies of the White House – Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, and Omarosa Manigault Newman’s Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House:

I’m not very concerned with tracking down their factual accuracy. That’s an important task, but I want simply to study what [Wayne] Booth might call the rhetoric of nonfiction. By looking at each book’s plot structure (yes, they have plots) and narration, I want to understand how narrative analysis can help us better understand what counts as ‘reliability’. Fortunately for my purposes, the books nicely illustrate three different models of storytelling.

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Sunday links

4th November 2018

Links to articles and videos that have caught my eye over the past week or so – thanks, as always, to those who alerted me to many of them.

• A long overdue light on black models of early modernism: a good Roberta Smith review for The New York Times , giving you a vivid sense of visiting the show, of what looks like a fascinating exhibition, Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today, currently at Columbia University’s  Wallach Art Gallery but coming (expanded, and with Manet’s ‘Olympia’) to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris next summer. Above, a detail from Frédéric Bazille’s ‘Young Woman With Peonies’, 1870, from the National Gallery of Art, Washington. For more, here’s a short video with curator Denise Murrell:

Six glimpses of the past: for The New Yorker (of course), Janet Malcolm is rather marvellous on photography and memory (and the sixth section, about her father, is especially touching).

• Pots, pans and pondering in Chardin’s domestic scenes: for Apollo, Kathryn looks carefully, and writes wonderfully, about two companion pieces by Jean-Siméon Chardin, ‘The Cellar Boy’ and ‘The Scullery Maid’, in the Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow.

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