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.

Why pandemics create conspiracy theories: a very good chunk of historical context by Richard Evans for New Statesman:

New diseases with a major impact on society tend to generate conspiracy theories because those people under threat grasp for easily comprehensible explanations, especially when medicine, as with cholera, seems unable to deal with the outbreak. Conspiracy theories appeal to people looking for someone to blame for a disaster, real or impending, not least because they always ascribe intention and purpose in their search for culprits; the conspiracist mentality refuses to accept that major events can happen without human agency. 

How photography has shaped our experience of pandemics: a very good essay by Christos Lynteris for Apollo, including some remarkable images from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

John Thompson – Victorian pioneer of photojournalism: Katherine Howells blogs at The National Archives, drawing on records and photographs submitted for copyright between 1862 and 1912.

Cinema organ interludes as messages from afar 1945-6: as a follow-up to his fascinating post about the Calling Blighty films (highlighted last week), Lawrence Napper writes about organ interludes used to communicate requests from soldiers serving abroad for their home cinemas, stipulating the regular day of the week that their loved one visited.

Destry Rides again – riding high: from Criterion, a new booklet essay by Farran Smith Nehme on George Marshall’s 1939 Western, made at Universal with Marlene Dietrich and James Stewart.

The intruder – Joseph Losey’s artistic exile: Scout Tafoya for on the blacklisted director’s first years in England, including the production of this rather extraordinary 11-minute promotional film hymning the Ford Anglia, made in 1959:

Preaching about the perverted – sadomasochistic romance on screen: a captivating survey by Anna Bogutskaya for Sight & Sound.

Who will watch the watchmen?: a completely fascinating, highly detailed piece by David Bordwell about the cinematography of the HBO series and the graphic novels on which it was based.

They are risen – drive-in distractions and hallowed ground under lock-down: a remarkable piece for Flow by David Church about the re-purposing of drive-in cinemas for church services in the time of coronavirus.

• As above, so below – drone cinematography, aerial vision and the vertical perspective: filmscapel this week drew my attention to this remarkable video essay by Ilse van der Spoel published two years ago:

Scratching the surface – handmade cinema in the digital age: Holly Wills for LA Review of Books on a clutch of volumes about manipulated celluloid.

COVID theatre – a German update: a compendious post by Holger Syme about the riches being streamed by German theatres which also has much of interest about the contemporary performance scene in that country.

« Dire merci »: the very finest and most moving lock-down performance I’ve seen so far, from les danseurs de l’Opéra de Paris in a video realised by film director Cédric Klapisch, with notes (in French) via the link.

Visualized #3 National Theatre at Home: a fascinating data analysis of those watching, Tweeting and donating alongside the NT’s Youtube presentation of One Man, Two Guv’nors by digital analytics agency One Further; this is exactly the kind of deep dive into viewership made possible by an online presentation.

The forgotten art of assembly: Or, why theatre makers should stop making – a forceful provocation by artist and theatre-maker Nicholas Berger:

…what I realize I am really reckoning with is my own non-essentialism. Theatre and its practitioners have been deemed non-essential in this moment and our refusal to acknowledge this has resulted in disposable digital work that dismantles the very intimacy our form demands. We’re being asked to exit the stage, not give an encore.

The tablet of memory: Luke McKernan on a book published in 1809, on books, on how we value them, on knowledge and recollections and history and more.

Looking for Henrietta – Roland Barthes’ tantalising mystery: I loved this Sean O’Hagan article about Odette England’s photographic project and Keeper of the Hearth. For this she invited submissions of ‘an image or text that reflects on Barthes’ unpublished snapshot of his mother at age five’; the reference is to the theorist’s famous passage in Camera Lucida in which he discusses but does not show an image of his beloved Henriette.

The politics of exhibiting female old masters: from Art Herstory, Sheila Barker on feminist engagement with the presentation of early modern women artists.

Lads and lobsters – John Minton’s food illustrations: Peter Parker for Apollo on the painter’s glorious illustrations for the books that transformed post-war Britain’s understanding of cuisine, including Elizabeth David’s A Book of Mediterranean Food (above), published by John Lehmann in 1950.

Curator tour of Dom Sylvester Houédard exhibition: this show at the Lisson Gallery was one that I really wanted to see – I first encountered DSH’s visual poems at the V&A as a schoolboy around 1970 – so it’s great that curator Nicola Simpson has made this lovely short exhibition tour.

Rockefeller Center’s art deco marvel – a virtual tour: I’m a big fan of Michael Kimmelman’s walks around Manhattan for The New York Times, and this one with historian Daniel Ockrent is a wonder, with exceptional Vincent Tullo photographs of the deserted spaces.

• American humbug: Nathaniel Rich on Robert Wilson’s new life of showman P T Barnum.

The earth had need of me: Joanna Biggs is terrific on Simone de Beauvoir for LRB.

The government of London: Owen Hatherley with a (really) long but rewarding look at the recent politics of the metropolis, for New Left Review.

Royal Tour of South Africa 1947: a fascinating compilation that I’ve never seen before, made at the time from BBC Television Newsreel footage of the first state visit since the war by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s fractured fairy tale: maybe not the most significant of topics but Rebecca Mead for The New Yorker turns in an exemplary essay.

Bruce Springsteen – where to start in his back catalogue: if nothing else, Laura Barton’s Guardian overview gives me an excuse to post this from 1980 (and already watched more than 14 million times – and not all by me):

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