Arts and Identity

Should ‘the arts’ be used as a way of constructing - or reconstructing - a sense of who we are as individuals, as society, or as a nation? To what extent does this sort of thinking undermine any notion of universalism in the arts, or does the shift mean we must reconstitute an idea of what universalism means?

The arts have long been used as a way of exploring self-understanding, but as the idea of making clear critical judgments about artworks comes under fire, does the current focus on respecting cultural differences reflect a deeper lack of critical authority? And to what extent does it ‘dumb down’ people’s ability to appreciate and enjoy culture more generally?

Monday 16 February 2009

This time it’s different?

England People Very Nice, National Theatre (Olivier), London

Bean centres much of the action around a pub with a kind of eternal landlady (Sophie Stanton – whose cries of ‘Facking Frogs!’, ‘Facking Micks!’, ‘Facking Yids!’ herald the arrival of each new group) and her perky daughter (Michelle Terry), who at each point in history falls into bed with one of the immigrants.

Friday 13 February 2009

Individualism versus identity

Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East, Saatchi Gallery, London

It’s the first time I’ve seen Marwan Rechmaoui’s work liberated from the company of Deleuzian texts and yet another grainy video of someone’s aunt, and it is like seeing the artworks for the first time.

Friday 6 February 2009

The other side of the feminist coin

Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities, by Del LaGrace Volcano and Ulrika Dahl

Maybe femmes will not only lead a leather-booted charge against the parochial stone walls of the LGBT ghetto but - by doing so - also give an example of stiflingly conformist constraints being shattered, so giving encouragement to people who wish to rip-up taboos in other, wider, public debates

Thursday 5 February 2009

Emasculated murderers

Chugyeogja [The Chaser] (2008), directed by Hong-jin Na

Far from contemporary sleek action sequences or shoot-outs, the audience is privy to a sequence of slips, breathless chases, wrestles and slaps, which are distinctly ‘girly’.

Friday 30 January 2009

In hopeless emptiness

Revolutionary Road (2008), directed by Sam Mendes

The problem is that the Wheelers are an empty shell, remnants of a meaningful past of which they have no recollection. Their fight then is useless from the very outset, for it lacks any foundation.

Intentism – the Resurrection of the Author

The beginning of a new movement in art and literature?

Far from being a regressive reaction to postmodernism, Intentism is a small part of what happens next.

Friday 23 January 2009

The first step?

The 39 Steps (1935), directed by Alfred Hitchcock

With the benefit of hindsight and study in a post-Hitchcock world, this tale of an everyday man thrust into a world of espionage, assumed identities and rom-com banter can be referred to and considered as part of a canon, rather than a stand-alone film.

Friday 16 January 2009

Boy + Girl

Boogie (2008), directed by Radu Muntean / Hîrtia va fi albastră [The Paper Will Be Blue] (2006), directed by Radu Muntean

Muntean’s second film has featured in a few festivals throughout the last few years, but without much luck of finding distribution. His third found its way much quicker to the cinema screens. The question to ask is why a film about an ordinary couple having an ordinary holiday is deemed more appealing for foreign audiences than one about the social consequences of the 1989 revolution?

Friday 9 January 2009

Unravelling a nation’s psychic damage

Spellbound (1945), directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Psychology was a way to make sense of the madness of war and God’s silence at the violence and carnage of the Nazis. Hitchcock was using the plot to provide the sort of assurance his audience needed at the war’s end - the massive sacrifice had been for a meaningful purpose.

Friday 19 December 2008

Nonsense, reborn

Cultural Olympiad Blog - part two

The philanthropists of the past were often the gatekeepers of elite culture and values; and those calling for a new renaissance today are little different.

Seeds of rebellion

Persepolis (2007), directed by Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi

Paronnaud’s rendering of Satrapi’s graphic novel is such a joy to behold. This is a film that simply had to be animated, not only because it is maintaining the style and mood of the source material, but mainly for the fact that it enables the entire story to be imbued with Marjane’s vibrant personality.

Friday 28 November 2008

Playing with postcolonialism

The Boat, by Nam Le

Le plays with this genre, yet ultimately refuses to be confined by it, choosing to use aspects of the immigrant experience in his writing, yet avoiding any sense of didacticism.

Monday 24 November 2008

Forgetting colonial India

Partition (2007), directed by Vic Sarin

The scale may be localised at times, but the presence of the border and the resulting bureaucracy reminds the viewer of the splintering divisions that run through all lives in post-independent and partitioned India.

Thursday 13 November 2008

Symbolic Lyricism - Man Booker Shortlist 2008

The Secret Scripture, by Sebastian Barry (Faber & Faber)

As a beautiful young woman, Roseanne is surrounded and shaped by men. Not to labour the comparison, but as the country of Ireland, or Eíre, is often represented as a woman, it is not difficult to see parallels.

Life through a lens

Annie Leibowitz; A Photographer's Life, 1990-2005, National Portrait Gallery, London

So the exhibition gives us the celebrity stuff we expect. Or does it? For the unexpected lurks here.

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