Talks and Debates

Culture Wars online review covers public talks, debates lectures and conferences in and around London, and beyond, in order to get to grips with the ideas behind the headlines.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Why doesn’t listening to modern classical music matter any more?

A talk given at, 'A cultured ear: why does listening to music matter?', at the Battle of Ideas, London, Saturday 31 October 2009

Like every art form, music should continue to provoke and explore different ways of getting under our skin, but though I would hate to have a world without dissonance, I believe that rock music stole classical music’s thunder when it took over the role of providing society’s songs and dances, not least by absorbing the power of electricity to provide the level of energy that an increasingly sex and technology obsessed society needed.

Friday 23 October 2009

Science against the law

'Science Fact: science journalism and libel law', City University, 15 October 2009

The problem with the libel laws isn’t their abuse by evil corporations, but the idea that the state has the right to regulate what we’re allowed to say.

Friday 2 October 2009

The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education

Brighton Salon, Thursday 24 September 2009

Ben, a teacher, was the first to get passionate: ‘I disagreed with everything you said. I can feel myself getting angry!’ he said. ‘I think that what you’re saying shows an absolute lack of compassion.’

Friday 21 August 2009

Deposing the Art Establishment?

Public art and the public

What united the three panellists who argued against public consultation was their impassioned support for the autonomy of the artist. They defended the freedom of the artist to create their art without the meddling of politicians or, more to the point, the need to answer to the public. In doing so, they framed the debate not in terms of a tired establishment versus the public stance but in terms of being pro-artist.

Friday 7 August 2009

Historicising the therapeutic turn

Changing the Subject: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Emotional Well-Being and Social Justice, Seminar 5: Perspectives from History, Oxford Brookes University, 7 July 2009

Durkheim’s warning against expecting education to be a magic wand capable of resolving social problems seems especially apt today, as the government loads ever greater responsibilities onto schools – nutrition, emotional well-being, citizenship, environmental awareness – without seeking to transform the social and economic problems that give rise to the problems these initiatives are naively expected to resolve.

Friday 17 July 2009

Adapting to alienation

Changing the Subject: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Emotional Well-Being and Social Justice, Seminar Four: Perspectives from Psychology, Canterbury Christ Church University, 10 June 2009

The nineteenth century viewed the mind as a machine, reflecting the Industrial Revolution; the late twentieth century saw it as a computer, expressing the Information Revolution. The view of the human mind operating through instinctive emotion prior to reason is perhaps no less specific to today’s ‘therapy culture’.

Friday 22 May 2009

The bigger economic picture

Post-G20 Public Summit: The Battle for the Economy, Goodenough College, London, 16 May 2009

The financial crisis taught us that it is dangerous to leave decisions about our economy to self-appointed ‘experts’. To hold politicians and business leaders accountable, the public needs to be educated, informed and engaged in a high level of economic debate. It’s time to take the battle of ideas out of the conference hall, and on to the streets. 

The art of democracy

Mobile Conference, London, 15 March 2009

The conference was a fringe event of Tate Britain’s Tate Triennial, and asked questions such as: can contemporary art provoke democratic participation? How can contemporary art reclaim the public realm through play?

Thursday 21 May 2009

Energise! Power to the people

Brighton Salon, Tuesday 28 April 2009

’We realised that we had to look much more carefully at energy and its uses and production. The politicisation of climate change is a serious issue because it stands in the way of solving problems and stifles debate,’ said Joe.

Friday 24 April 2009

The idea that drives the music

Through Venezuelan Eyes and Not If But How, Southbank Centre, London, April 2009

Projects that involve children in learning how to be a DJ or how to write rap and dance to hip-hop are no doubt enjoyable for the children involved, but will not transform their reality. In many instances, this is the only reality they know. The El Sistema approach, by contrast, would have forced them to engage with a different more rigorous tradition than the one they have grown up with

Friday 10 April 2009

Conventional liberty; unconventional God

The Convention on Modern Liberty, 28 February 2009, London

It is a shame that it seems to be reactive fear of a dystopic future – be it totalitarianism, environmental catastrophe, corporate consumerism or a militant sharia state – that motivates a defence of liberty; and not a more generous project for freedom, stressing ongoing human liberation and what it’s good for – what we can make with it as a society – in a way that can inspire others.

Time to think

The Idea of Communism, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanites, London, 14 March 2009

In many ways the mood was similar to that at the early stages of the 1 April G20 protests: there was a strong mix of curiosity and anticipation, but no-one really knew why they were there. As one attendee exclaimed to her friends, ‘with a crowd like this, with the economy as it is and with Zizek, Badiou, Negri, Ranciere all talking about Communism… Something’s got to happen’.

Friday 20 March 2009

Future un-presented

PHOTOCINEMA, Format International Photography Festival 2009, Derby, UK

Unlike a typical documentary photograph, making reference to an event which has already occurred, these images can be seen to inhabit a more flexible, perhaps even timeless, space, allowing the viewer to contemplate both a possible past and future.

Friday 13 February 2009

Resisting emotional education

Changing the Subject: Views from International Politics, Oxford Brookes University, 3 February 2008

Therapeutic apparatuses have particularly insidious ways of reincorporating dissenters as people who are ‘in denial’, as Nolan’s disturbing paper showed. However, we should never overestimate the power of officialdom to manage society and recast subjectivity by fiat.

Friday 30 January 2009

Regression to the Middle Ages?

Can we save the planet yet keep our freedoms? British Library, London, 14 January 2009

There is, Livingstone declared, ‘no right to follow the Atkins diet’, and consume ‘excessive amounts’ of meat.

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Institute of Contemporary Arts

Intelligence Squared

Gresham College

LSE Public Lectures

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Exhibitions and Talks at the British Library

Culture Wars in association with the Battles in Print, specially commissioned essays for this year’s Battle of Ideas festival.

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