Sunday links

10th May 2020

John Wyver writes: another group of articles, along with three videos and even a Twitter thread, that have engaged me, and just occasionally enraged me too, over the past week.

• We are witnessing a national catastrophe: Alastair Campbell writing for Tortoise Media; he offers a strong historical framework for what’s happening, and I have found – especially in the last week because of the VE Day anniversary – but also more generally, that I have been reading some excellent writing by historians, including…

Taking exception: … Charlotte Lydia Riley, University of Southampton, on British exceptionalism as part of History Workshop’s series Radical History after Brexit, and…

• How the myth of ‘Britain alone’ overshadows VE Day: … David Edgerton, King’s College London, for New Statesman – a brilliant analysis, and…

Must we mention the war?: … Chris Grey’s The Brexit Blog (he’s based at Royal Holloway University of London) is essential reading every Friday, and this week’s post offered a new intro to a newly topical contribution from September 2018, and…

Reflections on VE Day 75: … related thoughts from conservation and environment campaigner Miles King, and…

The story of the Golden Fleece – a study in political economy: … a rather technical but really interesting post by Nick Pearce, University of Bath, about ‘the industrial technique of “melt-blowing” thermoplastics to form microfibres’, the Cold War and Covid-19.

Watch Robert Fripp and Toyah perform Heroes for VE Day: from Louder’s Prog, details of this, which is really rather lovely…

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Sunday links

3rd May 2020

John Wyver writes: Welcome to my weekly list of links to articles and videos that have engaged me over the past week. Covid-19 is key, of course, but further down you’ll find pieces that have little or nothing to do with the virus. I’m aware that, as so often, there’s something of a bias towards writing from the States (and this week especially, The New York Times). In part, this reflects my belief that pieces from British publications will already be more familiar, but it is also a recognition that magazine culture in the USA is simply richer, deeper and more innovative than here…

• April 15: A Corona Virus chronicle: … a case in point being this remarkable dossier of text and images that took up almost all of the 4 May issue of The New Yorker: a historic account of ‘Twenty-four hours at the epicenter of the pandemic’.

The Corona Virus is rewriting our imaginations: also from The New Yorker, sci-fi novelist Kim Stanley Robinson:

Economics is a system for optimizing resources, and, if it were trying to calculate ways to optimize a sustainable civilization in balance with the biosphere, it could be a helpful tool. When it’s used to optimize profit, however, it encourages us to live within a system of destructive falsehoods. We need a new political economy by which to make our calculations. Now, acutely, we feel that need.

Pointing the finger: Jacqueline Rose is fearsomely good on Albert Camus’s The Plague for LRB, ending like this:

On the last page, the narrator tells his readers that he wrote the story so as to leave behind a memory of the injustice and violence undergone, and in order to state ‘quite simply what we learn in a time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise’. There is still everything to play for. A thought for the aftermath, when there will be so much to be done.

Bolero Julliard: on Twitter my friend Kirk McElhearn dubbed this online performance ‘genre-defining’, and that’s about right – it’s also utterly joyful and more than occasionally jaw-dropping:

• ‘Bolero Juilliard’ – Inside the making of a lockdown musical miracle: … and here’s the ‘making of’ story, by Tim Teeman at The Daily Beast: imagined by Juilliard President Damian Woetzel, choreographed and directed by Larry Keigwin, with 100 performers and more than 500 video clips.

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Masterpieces at home 3. [Updated]

1st May 2020

John Wyver writes: Yesterday was #MuseumFromHome day, which was co-ordinated as part of the very welcome Culture in Quarantine initiative from BBC Arts. Developed alongside the Museums in Quarantine films, two of which I wrote about on Tuesday, here was lots of activity on a webstream and a dizzying array of tagged Twitter activity. In the midst of all the buzzy-ness I elected to participate in two other extended offerings: a Look Slowly, Think Artfully webinar from the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, and the first Open Courtauld Hour (above) offered by the Courtauld Institute of Art. The first, I decided part way through, was not for me, but I got a great deal from the Courtauld Zoomcast, and I’m looking forward to the next three on the Thursday evenings to come.

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Masterpieces at home 2.

29th April 2020

John Wyver writes: On a Sunday evening in early August 1960 the esteemed art critic and cultural mandarin Kenneth Clark (knighted at the time, but not yet elevated to the peerage) hailed television viewers from a bench in the empty exhibition galleries of what was then the Tate Gallery. His position of privilege was within the great Picasso show of that summer, and over the next half-hour he walked through the spaces, guided the eye of monochrome electronic cameras linked to an outside broadcast (OB) unit, and offered his far from unequivocally positive thoughts about the art of the great Spaniard.

On a Friday just over a month ago the writer and broadcaster Alastair Sooke greeted us at the end of the Millennium Bridge. He was about to take us inside the empty exhibition galleries of Tate Britain (which back in 1960 as Bankside B electricity generating station was still under construction) for an ‘exclusive’ tour of the Andy Warhol show that had opened only days before. Sixty years on from Clark’s endeavour, Alastair Sooke followed pretty much the blueprint established by that pioneering ATV broadcast, demonstrating in the process aspects of a virtual museum visit of the kind that we are becoming ever more familiar with.

As a follow-up to Monday’s post and in anticipation of tomorrow’s Museum from Home day from the BBC (part of Culture in Quarantine), this column reflects on Sooke and Simon Schama (who took us around the Ashmolean Museum’s ‘Young Rembrandt’ show) and then selects a number of innovative online presentations of exhibitions created by museums and galleries across Britain and abroad. Both the Sooke and the Schama films are on BBC iPlayer for the next six months, here and here.

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Masterpieces at home 1.

27th April 2020

John Wyver writes: Frustrating as being isolated at home is in many ways, it is also fascinating for the opportunity to observe how cultural organisations are conjuring up all sorts of smart, innovative ways to respond to the crisis. As well as finding this a rewarding experience in and of itself I am also deeply intrigued by what we might learn from the new forms and aesthetics that are emerging, as well as from the models for producing and funding this work, and what we can perhaps take in to The After.

Tonight, BBC Four begins Museums in Quarantine, a series of half-hour films made in galleries under lockdown; the first has Alastair Sooke wandering around ‘Andy Warhol’ at Tate Modern. This seems a good prompt to look in a series of posts this week at how museums and other institutions are, sometimes with broadcasters but often not, making their works and shows available.

To kick off, today I want to consider three approaches to presenting locked-down exhibitions on screen. One is the BBC Arts film Titian: Behind Closed Doors (above, on BBC iPlayer for another week or so); this was made by the independent Matchlight with the National Gallery in the run-up to its major exhibition ‘Titian: Love Desire Death’ that closed just three days after it opened.

The others are videos made by museums: Picasso and Paper: Virtual Exhibition Tour from the Royal Academy, about a show that I was fortunate enough to walk around in The Before, and Van Eyck from Home, a tour of the show ‘Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution’ at the Museum of Fine Arts (MSK) Ghent, for which I had a ticket, a Eurostar reservation and a hotel booking.

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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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