Tuesday, 20 October 2020
Grayson Perry The Vanity of Small Differences Oct 3 - Jan 2 The Exchange, Penzance, Cornwall, UK These six large tapestries show the Hogarthian progress of a male character on a ' Class Journey’ using researches the artist made as he developed his 2012 tv series ' All in the best possible taste'. There were more people in the gallery than I have ever seen there apart from pre Coronavirus opening parties. All were masked and spaced and carefully examining the wealth of detail in the narratives and the way the fabric has a variety of textures. There is also a film about the weaving of the work. Grayson has produced a commentary on contemporary British life and class which can be witty and ingenious - focused on white characters. I enjoyed seeing the show. Grayson points out the art historical influences on the compositions in his lengthy written captions. I don't really like the horror vacui and the rather monotonous tones and textures but I admire the accumulation of observations which relate to class and taste. When Grayson makes a pot there is a satisfying beauty in the symmetry and form which then contrast alarmingly with the applied narrative content that can only be seen from a close look. That strange combination doesn't apply to the tapestries because although there are fascinating details to see up close you can see everything also at a distance. It's been a mammoth task to compile all the images but the all over complexity I find lessens the impact. It's well worth seeing nevertheless and admirable in its satirical contemporary relevance.
Monday, 7 September 2020
Robert Broadhurst. 'An Occurrence at Arverne' vimeo, 7.30 mins This short video is a 'staff pick' on Vimeo with 113,000 views. After seeing it I find this is Broadhurst's first narrative film, written by him, that isn't done as a commercial advert for his usual clients - Adidas, Kanye West fashion, Armani etc which are slick glossy productions. In 'Occurrence at Arverne' there are a lot of signs that can be read in ways that betray our prejudiced expectations. A hooded black man enters a bungalow. Towards the end a police car draws up outside. Is he up to no good or has he gone round to feed the cat - who fails to show up? It's clever, subtle, and succinct. Marcus Curtis Cooke is the actor. Extensive credits are followed by slogans in block capitals such as ' BLACK LIVES HAVE ALWAYS MATTERED', 'DUMP TRUMP' and 'LOVE BEATS FEAR'
The Little Book of Humanism. 2020 Alice Roberts and Andrew Copson I bought this because I am a humanist so I wanted to love it. However I don't like the unusual narrow format that means it won't stick out as far as a normal paperback in the bookcase. There may be a reason for the usual format - that it feels a more satisfactorily proportioned rectangle on which to arrange things. I don't like the quotations being often contained in a thin wriggly line, nor the photos being so lacking in contrast and by only two photographers. The illustrations are also by only two artists and some remind me of the very generalised people depicted in Jehovah's Withess literature. So it is that these visual aspects are very subordinate to the words and could have been more exciting, varied and important, could have included some great art from say Kathe Kollwitz and William Kentridge. Apart from that it can hardly be revelatory - humanism has but few basic beliefs so it's likely to be repetitive - but it does offer lots of quotes and a useful list of the writers of them with their dates. Andrew Copson and Alice Roberts have collaborated so we do not know who wrote which parts and I would have prefered them to own two distinct sections. They have decided not to alter quotes but leave the sexist 'he' where it could have been made 'he/she'. I found several writers I did not know before, lots of quotes I liked. I couldn't agree with Ingersoll that happiness is the only good, and I find the argument that eternal life would be boring is unconvincing. I wouldn't have referred to the book 'The Joy of Sex' because of an unsavoury bit in it that recommends mysogynistic sadism - perhaps Roberts and Copson got a later revised edition. My favourite bits were James Hemming on what our bodies are made of- eg 'enough iron to make a two inch nail' , Darwin on sympathy for all races and Einstein on the importance of society. I liked a Stevie Smith poem, something Protagoras said and Bertrand Russell on life as like a river that ends in the sea. I recommend buying the book - and perhaps keeping your own notebook of quotes to add to it. The profits go to Humanists UK and hopefully it will interest new people in joining a humanist group.
The Millionaires' Holiday Club. BBC 2. Director Simon Draper. There is a travel agent in the north of England where the starting salary for employees is £18,000. They are organising holidays that may cost per person that amount for one week. The program shows three of these young women on a work visit to see some of these luxury premises so that they will be good at selling the holidays. It also followed two couples who go on them. One were off on their travels several times a year. They wanted to see the staff as friends and kept hugging them. One of the staff explained to camera that there was in fact quite a social gap between them. The man of this couple was a quiet thoughtful person, his wife was described as being the party, and was dedicated to enjoying her holidays with some serious shopping. The other couple worked all year on their fruit farm business and took one week off to do nothing in style. The husband was prone to making heartless jokes at his wife's expense which she tolerated longsufferingly in silence. The rich holiday makers and the travel agent visitors were all shown as if they rarely had a serious thought in their heads, constantly playing their parts as happy hedonists. The staff were unfailingly playing theirs as ever devoted servants. If you've ever been to a poor world country on holiday you've experienced being many times better off than the beggars who live on the streets - which feels an insurmountable gulf which you can't alter. This is similar but on a vaster scale - these trippers keep well insulated from the poorest inhabitants, rarely leaving the hotel complex or luxury cruiser. The whole thing is nauseatingly watchable. It presents the white holiday makers and their black servants almost as if it's just a fact of nature that this huge gap exists. It shows us how enjoyable such a holiday can be - and therefore how anything that threatens this vast gap of wealth will be likely to be resisted - not as a cunning political plot but as an instinct to preserve this separate realm of wealth which the filthy rich can tell themselves is kindly giving employment to the poor, who they admire for working hard. Like a man convinced the woman he pays to pretend she fancies him isn't acting - they can imagine the hospitality staff are their faithful friends rather than the worker-dogs whose tails wag. Oh workers of the world unite.
Thursday, 20 August 2020
Today arrives a tiny parcel A man in a van drives to my door He posts it through. It is from China A necklace worth three US dollars From number three Yanhe Road Elephant Kok T Origin village Nanhung Street hexi D district There is a telephone number. Small packet by air Guaranteed to contain nothing dangerous or prohibited. Chinese characters Necklace in Chinese A month ago Late at night Browsing my ipad In bed Alone I chose a necklace Blue beads One yellow, one pink, one purple, one red And a green one One metal butterfly Two fish Tiny metal flowers It's perfectly sweet I put it on Happy Some Chinese hands assembled it. A person I hope paid decently Thousands of miles it travels to me. Only profitable because - measured by cost of living We are a wealthy country - they a poorer one.
The Joy of Painting Bob Ross showed people how to produce corny horrible inauthentic paintings for years on tv. These programmes are being repeated on British TV bbc 4 Apparently he practised the day's painting and copied from his practice efforts that were kept out of shot. While he works he keeps up a smooth softly voiced commentary, referring to 'happy little clouds' etc. He shows clever tricks of using the paint to depict land and seascapes. At the end he signs it prominently in red - the only red in the painting so it stands out. In a way the whole painting is just a background for the name he adds - Kilroy was here on a grand repeated scale. There is no soul, no observation, no personal experience, no innovation, nothing but a few tricks and a chocolate box image. I find it unbearable. I find it appalling that some tv producer accepted this, that people admire it, that there's no programme showing artists that are trying to produce something original, personal and not this complete trash. Well occasionally - there was 'What do artists do all day?' There used to be stuff about the Turner prize. How to explain to someone who likes this what I feel is so bad about it? Is it pointless to try? Do people in fact like it or even watch it? Bob Ross made a living from this repetitive nonsense. He died some time ago. How is it possible that it's on British tv now?
All or Nothing'. Mike Leigh 2002 The first third of this film shows us a collection of unpleasantly depressing characters on a south London housing estate. Their lives are wretched, their vocabulary and conversation limited, so that I felt like not even giving the DVD to a charity shop because of its horribly stereotyped view of the working or underclass in contemporary London. By the end I was crying, moved by the central character - Timothy Spall's taxi driver - who reminded me of myself once on holiday with my husband but temporarily cast into utter wretched despair - feeling I would rather be dead if our relationship should fall apart. It's as if Mike Leigh sets himself the challenge to take all the worst stereotypes of the poor and after presenting us with characters we can scarcely bear to think exist then develops them to a point where at least some of them become people so real to us that we long for the best for them. This director works via long improvisations which actors find alarming and wonderful. Their statements are on the DVD and it's a relief to see these actors - not those grim characters after all - but existing outside the Mike Leigh workshop. They didn't get a script but explored their characters and acted only knowing at any point what their character would know. Watching them talk about the process reminds me of the intensity of a psychodrama holiday I once went to on Skyros. Ruth Sheen as Maureen for me provides the most memorable and joyous moments in the story as she sings in the pub and becomes a beautiful, confident and subtle performer who could have had a stage career if she weren't living the life she has. Mike Leigh says in his interview that they are lucky to work in a loving atmosphere where they go 'on voyages of danger which produce the goods' which are 'a heightened and distilled reality'. I believe films are the greatest art form of our era - paralleling medieval cathedrals in their wide scope and combining of many talents which are largely left as anonymous contributors to the audience despite the end credits.