The Sunday dozen

5th May 2024

John Wyver writes: welcome to this week’s selection of stuff that I’ve enjoyed and been enriched by over the past week.

Frank Stella went from Bauhaus to fun house: such a great appraisal by Deborah Solomon for The New York Times of the art and life of the artist who died on Saturday; I feel I’ve been looking at Stella’s art for most of my life, ever since in 1971 I bought the slim Penguin New Art volume about him written by Robert Rosenblum – I learned so much from that (I was 16, and just starting to look at modern art), and as my photo shows I still have it in my library, 53 years on. Plus, here’s a short Christie’s video of a studio visit with the artist five years back:

In the Streets: a recommended first edition of an ‘insert’ in Mubi Notebook comprising a collection of reflections on moving-image culture; as the editors say, ‘For this inaugural offering, we consider the ever-increasing presence of video in public spaces, from live streams to protest projections, from commercial advertising to state propaganda, and from architectural marvels to in-flight entertainment.’

Discovering Hiroshi Shimizu: for Reverse Shot, Imogen Sara Smith introduces the Japanese director Shimizu (1903-1966) who was known, according to the website of New York’s Museum of the Museum Image (organisers of an important retrospective), ‘for his seemingly effortless formal ingenuity, distinguished by his signature linear traveling shots and his naturalistic, open-air depictions of regional Japan. Shot on location and frequently employing non-actors, the loosely plotted, low-key tragicomedies that comprise his most characteristic work foregrounded the transient lives and hardships of everyday people with a marked regard for those pushed to the margins of society, including drifters, migrant workers, war veterans, persons with disabilities, outcast women, and especially children.’ Let’s hope the season comes this side of the Atlantic.

The “Nacirema” dream: the story of an Asian American studio: an absolutely fascinating essay for LA Review of Books by Jonathan van Harmelen about David Yokozeki’s Nacirema Productions, a Japanese American film-making entity on the West coast of the United States in the post-war years.

‘No longer a matter of film versus digital’ – what film preservation means today: Jim Hemphill’s report for IndieWire is very good on key issues about film preservation and archiving today; plus, news of a new 70mm restoration print of John Ford’s 1956 masterpiece The Searchers, which was originally shot in VistaVision! Be still my beating heart. Is there a more perfect opening shot to a movie? The light, the land, the wind, Max Steiner’s score – and the dolly forward that comes not a milli-second too soon, nor too late.

Art and memory: a delightful, thoughtful, moving ‘Diary’ contribution for the LRB by Julian Barnes.

The CBSO’s experiment with the concert experience and Opinion – navigating change in a resistant industry: two really good pieces from the Thoroughly Good Classical Music blog – which are much better than the social and mainstream media coverage of the furore – about the ideas that the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra have been exploring; lots here to reflect on for everyone involved in the performing arts.

• In Our Time – Bertolt Brecht: only repeating what I’ve said before, but Melyn Bragg’s continuing BBC Radio 4 marvel is, along with New Music Show on BBC Radio 3, worth the cost of the licence fee alone; this edition is an admirably concise, informed and accessible engagement with the theatre and ideas of the great German writer, featuring Laura Bradley, University of Edinburgh; David Barnett, University of York; and Tom Kuhn, Emeritus Fellow of St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford; there’s also a very useful reading list on the web page that my link takes you to.

What does a book cost?: a truly eye-opening breakdown from Galley Beggar Press about the economics of publishing for a small press.

The History of Bad Ideas: The Gold Standard: regular readers may recall that I have tried on several occasions to understand exactly what the Gold Standard was and why it was so politically important in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; David Runciman’s Past Present Future podcast speaks with the political economist Helen Thompson and gets me a tad nearer to enlightenment (as well as challenging the idea that it was and is unquestionably a bad idea), although I’m glad I don’t have an imminent exam to face.

Boeing and the dark age of American manufacturing: exemplary and profoundly disturbing reporting by Jerry Useem for The Atlantic.

The King’s 289M bodies: on Trump’s mug shot and the sovereign image: if you can bear reading anything more about Tr*mp, this is brilliant from Meghan Sutherland for inmediares.

Also… do read David Stubbs’ eulogy for Neil Kulkarni, at Coventry cathedral, that Billy Smart has posted in response to a Sunday dozen from late January.

And finally: Art Tatum plays ‘Yesterdays’ in 1954. Just because.


  1. Robert Beeson says:

    Just on Shimizu – I suspect our national film organisation may not step up to the plate for this, but with luck The Japan Foundation may import a few prints for their annual festival next year. Seen 4 so far on Criterion DVDs thanks to the invaluable Close-Up library.

  2. John Wyver says:

    Good thoughts, Robert – thanks.

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