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Art and Exhibitions

Behold the Parallel World 'China Design Now' at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Walking into the room dedicated to Beijing is like being ten years old again and watching Star Wars for the first time. Extremely futuristic and unrecognisable shapes float, stand, flash and surround you.
Katerina Zherebtsova

A portrait of the artist as a tired pirate Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008, National Portrait Gallery, London
The photos in this exhibition provide degrees of insight about how the false – the pose – can help to reveal the truth. And the fact that they sometimes do so with a touch of glamour is an added bonus.
Nicky Charlish

Good work, 007! For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond, Imperial War Museum, London
In recent films Bond’s patronising treatment of women has been changed, whilst Dame Judi Dench has appeared as a formidable female ‘M’, but these changes have probably been done with an eye more on the cultural critics than on the box office – few filmgoers, one imagines, view Bond films as consciousness-raising exercises.
Nicky Charlish

Dialogue or self-aggrandizement? Jan Fabre at the Louvre, Paris
Apparently, the ‘universe of the artist’ is connected ‘with the main themes running through the Louvre’s collections’ so the visitor can ‘rediscover celebrated works through the eyes of this major artist of the contemporary scene’. On a closer look, this comes down to a rather fortuitous juxtaposition on mostly superficial grounds.
Stefan Beyst

The colour of Heaven Derek Jarman: Brutal Beauty, curated by Isaac Julien
Serpentine Gallery, London

In the first room we sense that this is an artist who explored death as much as he did life. A selection of Jarman’s sculptural paintings, which preserve found objects in tar, cover one wall. Aesthetically, these intricate pieces are beautiful, but their unified message points to the omnipresence of death and the passing of time.
Florence Mackenzie

Alexander Rodchenko: Revolution in Photography Hayward Gallery, London
'Photograph and be photographed,' Rodchenko once said. 'Record a person's life not a single "synthetic" portrait, but in a mass of instantaneous shots made at different times and in different conditions. Write the truth. Value everything that is real and contemporary. And we will be real people, not actors.'
Emily Hill

Border Country Photographs by Melanie Friend, UK tour
The absence of people in these photographs indicates the key way in which the rooms portrayed here differ from the waiting spaces which are familiar to us. These are Removal Centres. They exist to remove people from public view. The people who are incarcerated here are removed from the streets.
Chris Gilligan

A Chinese Frequency Vital 07 – The Essence of Performance, Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, 20 and 21 November
Whether it is history, performativity, luck or energy, Vital offered compelling evidence that such ‘essences’ of performance are far from academic, non-material and ephemeral. The agency of this work is raw, visceral and exists on a very distinct frequency. Could this elemental aspect of performance be quintessentially Chinese?
Rachel Lois Clapham

The Age of Enchantment: Beardsley, Dulac and their Contemporaries 1890-1930 Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
There are a few deliciously terrifying drawings in this show, almost worth a trip in themselves. But go and see it just to admire how beautiful a single line can be in the hands of masters. The best draughtsmen – Beardsley himself, Rackham and Dulac – prove that art can make the ugliest thing look beautiful.
Jan Bowman

There is a Failing Man Micheál O'Connell
The work is as de-skilled, de-crafted and as fully automated as possible: O'Connell practises 'art by rote' or printing by computerised numbers in which technology serves as third party or mediator, distancing him, his human artistic touch and any inherent intended (terroristic) meaning away from the print.
Rachel Lois Clapham

Lyon Biennial 2007 - Shilpa Gupta La Sucri're - Confluent, Lyon
Siena’s civic art was inspired by religion and trade, mythology and war. In comparison, today’s artistic presentation of civic self-understanding art is rather different. Symbolism is limited, more plate-glass than gold-leaf. The exhibition simultaneously enriches us with beauty and heightens our sense of loss.
Micheál O'Connell

Renaissance Siena: Art for a City National Gallery, London
Siena’s civic art was inspired by religion and trade, mythology and war. In comparison, today’s artistic presentation of civic self-understanding art is rather different. Symbolism is limited, more plate-glass than gold-leaf. The exhibition simultaneously enriches us with beauty and heightens our sense of loss.
Nicky Charlish

The Painting of Modern Life Hayward Gallery, London
What emerges walking around the exhibition is the rather casual assumption that modern life is a lonely and absent space. These Hopper-like qualities are tragic and beautiful but at the same time, one can’t help feel that they are surely only part of the story. Modern life is also emotionally rich, dynamic, funny and engaging.
Munira Mirza

Ocultos Fundación Canal, Madrid
Marilyn Monroe (with her trademark ‘Oops, excuse me!’ glance over the shoulder) appears half-draped in Eve Arnold’s photo, her emergent behind illustrating Plato’s paradigm of the whole that acquires a nominative identity in a manner ontologically distinct from its parts.
Robert Latona

Sugar Coated Tears Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton
Given the subject matter of the exhibition it could be ponderous, harrowing, cloying. But it is not. The exhibition space is still. Silent. It feels light and airy. The chains and manacles hang suspended from the ceiling; appearing weightless and ponderous simultaneously.
Chris Gilligan

The Irresistible Force Tate Modern, London
An unintended malfunction of ‘The Fountain’ unintentionally reveals the weakness of the exhibition as a whole. Does the reality of the breakdown of the piece reveal that when the replica of the model of the economy fails then the system itself continues to function regardless of its imagined failure?
Chris Gilligan

The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army British Museum, London
Given that the figures were assembled in parts by teams of slaves one would expect there to be subtle differences in each one – so used have we gotten to the notion of ‘mass-produced homogeneity’ we forget that before the latter half of the twentieth century it was something to aspire to, not disdain.
David Bowden

Auras of War Arsenale, Venice Biennale
This artist's documentary describes a phenomenal trip, providing explanations for the presence of the truck and the slab of wall in Venice. Without this background information though the solid three dimensional artefacts vibrate in a different way which has validity in its own right.
Micheál O'Connell

Some Things Happen More Often Than All of the Time Palazzo Van Axel, Venice Biennale
The phrase ‘Relational Aesthetics’ gets a few mentions in documentation of the artist's public work, but perhaps impact really comes from a different source: conceptual beauty and purity. This artist's work goes way beyond some heavy handed attempt at propaganda or political art.
Micheál O'Connell

Discussion (Property) Arsenale, Venice Biennale
The main text ends with the ironic comment ‘I feel personally satisfied that, at least in the assault rifle sector of the international arms trade, there will finally be relative peace'. Solokov's work exudes messages and pertinent questions, but the form and makeup of the installation are what really matter.
Micheál O'Connell

Martin Creed Hauser and Wirth COPPERMILL, London
The nails bring a surprising touch of delicacy, the film connects with our human essence, and the neon reflects the seductive falseness of contemporary life, although the significance of the green-haired woman is less clear.
Neil Stoker

The End Begins The Hospital, London
Many of the works show an obsessive quality, having been made using techniques that seem almost insanely painstaking. It would be possible to achieve very similar effects using much easier means, so why do they bother? It’s a question that goes to the heart of what art is about.
Dolan Cummings

In Defense of Ardor Bellwether Gallery, New York
The exhibition brought together a group of young artists whose work the curators - João Ribas and Becky Smith - felt attempted to comment on or reference current political issues as well as being relatively free from irony or emotional distancing that characterises so much contemporary art.
Ed Beaugard

Global Cities Tate Modern, London
Burdett and Wagstaff have explicitly chosen to make this a very socially oriented exhibition. At the same time, they have done an impressive job making this exhibition fit into the Tate Modern’s artistic mission. The video work specifically has added artistic currency to an exhibition that was, at the outset, wholly architectural.
Sarah Snider

Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Surrealists helped to publicise Freud and the whole disturbing idea of subconscious human drives, whose implications have yet to be comprehended by religious, political and legal establishments as well as those who would prefer human nature to be a simple matter of neatly-controllable nurture.
Nicky Charlish

Intelligent Art Art and Design degree show, Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh
Each female icon is accompanied with a slogan alluding both to historical achievement and the seamy language of erotic fantasy. The representation of Margaret Thatcher is overlaid thus: ‘With a string of pearls and an iron fist she's not so conservative in the bedroom. 'Bollocks!' thinks this Lady IS for turning!’.
Shaun Hadnett

Don't Panic: emergent critical design The Yard Gallery, London
The designers choose not to escape from these ideas of fear and danger, but to embrace them to the bitter end. They are motivated by the everyday and, conversely, act upon it, catapulting the everyday itself into a narrative of repetition and eternal presence.
Sarah Snider

Recent photography in Spain various galleries
Drop into the Prado to check out the 'Blind Hurdy-Gurdy Player'. Then come back to the Juana de Aizpuru gallery to meet 'Abel' with his one empty eye socket, the other buried under a thick carapace of oozing cataract, and an upraised hand whose gnarled fingers are deformed by calluses, cuts and filth. Same deal, right?
Robert Latona

Shotgun Wedding: Scots and The Union of 1707 Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
The fragmentary technique used by the artists forces the viewer to think about the reality of Scotland in the present day, but the viewer has to think hard. The exhibition makes a nice show of the Union’s origins and early decades, and depicts a constitutional monarchy that is presently and irreversibly weak.
Shaun Hadnett

Dada Reviews Dean Gallery, Edinburgh
Wider society provoked Dada artists to make their art more complete despite the backdrop of war. To these experimentalists art could no longer be understood in isolation from society, so a new idea of performance art was being tested.
Shaun Hadnett

Gilbert and George Tate Modern, London
The duo's work is powerful but, when dealing with sex, have the artists partly dreamed - or watered-down - their talents away? The urban gay world should receive the same tough focus and examination that the artists give to other aspects of the life of the city. Immature graffiti won't do.
Nicky Charlish

Humanism in China Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart
No surprise that many photos evoke China's embrace of capitalism without irony, subtlety or even commentary. The one of the beaming fellow carrying an armful of money fresh from the mint made for a great poster.
Robert Latona

David Hockney Portraits: Life, Love, Art National Portrait Gallery, London
He's revealing the guts of each subject, the feelings behind the forms, without any fancy stuff. Yorkshiremen pride themselves on common sense, a commodity that can often be a camouflage for the commonplace. With Hockney, it's sensual and disturbing.
Nicky Charlish


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