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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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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