Sunday links

21st June 2020

John Wyver writes: another collection of links to stuff that I have found interesting, enlightening and challenging over the past week, much of it gleaned from my Twitter feed and starting with a remarkable online essay-cum-exhibition and a screen dance work that each stood head and shoulders about anything else I saw or read.

Sources of self-regard: from the New York Times, a glorious, powerful collection of ‘self-portraits by Black photographers reflecting on America’, accompanied by statements and an essay from Deborah Willis:

The impressive range of images featured here overturn the notion of self-portraits as mirrored reflections of the body; they become more reflexive as each photographer engages with the issues of the time. They make an imagined existence legible, establish a sense of being known and transform moments of the past. They explore probing stories about the self, even as they deconstruct and reflect on how the last four months have changed and will continue to shape our world — as we struggle through a global pandemic, unemployment, health disparity and protests focusing on ending police brutality in black neighborhoods. These self-portraits fuse together uncertainty, loneliness, dislocation, joy and discovery, and the results make for deeply insightful storytelling.

Choreography under lockdown: a New Yorker round-up by Jennifer Homans of responses by dancers to the lockdown, which especially highlights this brilliant 5-minute film ‘choreographed, designed, directed, performed, and shot (on an iPad)’ by Jamar Roberts (above, and see also A dance about the state of emergency we’re in by Brian Seibert for the New York Times):

One iconic look – Vivien Leigh’s ruffled white gown in Gone with the Wind (1939): exemplary analysis of white-ness in classic Hollywood costume design by Tom+Lorenzo.

50th anniversary, The Strawberry Statement (1970): from archivist Jan-Christopher Horvak, the odd tale of the afterlife in East Germany of a near-forgotten product of Hollywood’s embrace of youth culture.

LongShots Film Festival: who knew that (from BBC Global News Ltd) was hosting an online festival of international documentaries, with seven remarkable films to stream for free this month? Plus, Richard Brody in The New Yorker writes on one of the seven, Louise Narboni’s Sad Song.

Director of science at Kew – it’s time to decolonise botanical collections: thoughtful, practical suggestions at The Conversation from Alexander Antonelli.

Water boys and wishful thinking: a fascinating post about archives, images and colonialism by Christina Riggs on her blog Photographing Tutankhamun, prompted by this week’s BBC Four documentary Tutankhamun in Colour.

Art Deco in Britain: a richly interesting hour-plus online lecture for the 20th Century Society by one the doyennes of British architectural historians, Elaine Harwood:

• … and linked to the above, one of the Twitter threads that I most appreciated was from Neal Shasore (@IntrWr) about Empire and the Portland Place headquarters of RIBA…

First despatch from the mystic abyss: Alex Ross shares some initial thoughts about his forthcoming (and much anticipated) Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music.

On John Coltrane’s ‘Alabama’: for The Paris Review, Ismail Muhammad:

… the sonic landscape that Coltrane conjures on the track suggests something about the temporality in which black grief lives, the way that black people are forced to grieve our dead so often that the work of grieving never ends. You don’t even have time to grieve one new absence before the next one arrives. (We hadn’t time to grieve Ahmaud Arbery before we saw the video of [George] Floyd’s murder.) ‘Alabama’ gives this unceasing immersion in grief a form. It’s there in the song’s disconcerting stops and starts, its disarticulated notes, its willingness to abandon virtuosity in favor of a style of playing that is repetitive, diffuse, tentative, and dissonant.

Keith Tippett obituary: marking the passing of a remarkable musician, this is a deeply informed tribute by John Fordham for the Guardian, and you need also to read Richard Williams’s Keith Tippett: the jazz great who saw music as a source of goodness.

Real life rock Top 10: June 2020 — Part II: Greil Marcus, LA Review of Books, Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways.

Camberwick Green… or Nant-y-Pant?: broadcasting historian Jamie Medhurst on the turbulent times for BBC television inn Wales in the 1970s.

The history wars: Richard J Evans from New Statesman has to be read.

Why the arts must shape our future: Peter Bazalgette for the Guardian on SHAPE – this is important, people.

What journalists can learn from their mistakes during the pandemic: at the Reuters Institute Channel 4’s Dorothy Byrne asks some key questions: ‘How have we [as journalists] performed in our coverage of COVID-19? Where did we get it right and where did we make some of the same mistakes of which we accuse politicians and scientists?’

Democracy’s red line: for The New York Review of Books Hari Kunzru reads Masha Gessen’s chilling Surviving Autocracy.

How Black Lives Matter reached every corner of America: I know I’ve already featured one New York Times photo-essay this week, but this too is a stunning interactive feature from a media organisation that for all of its complexities and contradictions is endlessly remarkable.

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