Art

Difficult one really

There is just one problem with the character, according to a BBC diversity chief: he’s not authentically black enough. Miranda Wayland cited the popular crime drama as an example of a series that is only superficially diverse, as the corporation seeks for more convincing and rounded portrayals of minority groups.

“When it first came out everybody loved the fact that Idris Elba was in there — a really strong, black character lead,” said Wayland, the corporation’s head of creative diversity.

“We all fell in love with him. Who didn’t, right? But after you got into about the second series you got kind of like, OK, he doesn’t have any black friends, he doesn’t eat any Caribbean food, this doesn’t feel authentic.”

Because that’s an insistence that black characters – leave aside that half of British blacks are in fact African, not Afro-Caribbean, so why would they eat Caribbean food – are significantly different from the wider society around them.

Which isn’t, quite, what we’re all supposed to be thinking, is it?

Actress of an age finds reason to generate headlines

When the actor Thandiwe Newton announced last week that she’d be reverting to the original spelling of her name, I felt some recognition. The journey her name has taken over three decades will strike a chord with many African and other non-western diasporas who have encountered the difficulty Anglophone countries have with accommodating foreign names.

While shooting Flirting (Newton’s first feature film) in 1991, the director decided to give her character her own name, Thandiwe. But in the film’s credits, Newton the actor was listed by her anglicised “nickname”, Thandie, to avoid confusion – this was done without consulting her. From then on she was known professionally as Thandie Newton.

Perhaps she knew the spelling and pronunciation of Thandiwe would be too troublesome for Hollywood. Perhaps Newton didn’t feel powerful enough to correct it. As a Black woman in an overwhelmingly white industry, it was her job to assimilate its standards.

In an interview for British Vogue, Newton has now declared of Thandiwe: “That’s my name. It’s always been my name. I’m taking back what’s mine.”

Oh, right.

On the subject of art repatriation

Around the day the Louvre announces the Mona Lisa is to return to Florence then we can discuss other matters.

Nope, that that’s different doesn’t wash. The difference is as with Gibraltar and Cueta – not a difference.

Springtime for Mao

A new state-produced musical set in Xinjiang inspired by the Hollywood blockbuster “La La Land” has hit China’s cinemas, portraying a rural idyll of ethnic cohesion devoid of repression, mass surveillance and even the Islam of its majority Uyghur population.

The big question being who gets the Zero Mostel part?

Georgian architecture

Apparently this is all colonialism:

Yep:

Still, the Mayor of London’s adviser on housing, the architect Dinah Bornat, has produced another argument. The Georgian style isn’t just bad because she doesn’t like it. Tweeting about an elegant, newly built dwelling with sash windows, arches and a cornice in the Regency manner, she invoked “imperialism” and “colonialism” as a cause to cancel. It is the architecture of oppression.

The problem I have with this is that I’m really not sure that that is Georgian or even Regency. Of course, I know nothing about architecture, my only experience is of having grown up in that jewel of the style, Bath. Even, owning a little flat that turns up in most BBC productions about the time and era (so many of the street scenes, as with Bridgerton and Jane Austen and so on are filmed just outside the Assembly Rooms in Bath). So, you know, no actual knowledge at all.

Looks more Romanesque to me. Or even, perhaps Tuscan, not that that is an actual style. Needs more pillars, pilasters and pediments to be Georgian to this untrained eye.

But why are the Elgin Marbles different?

This is the bit I’ve never really understood:

As if Brexit tensions were not bad enough, Brussels has opened a new row with the UK by backing Greece’s long standing claim over the Elgin marbles.

When the UK and Greece were both European Union members, the bloc tried to remain above the fray and adopted a position of studious neutrality in the dispute.

However, a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Elgin marbles were not being returned to Greece the Greek EU commissioner announced it backed Greece’s claim.

Margaritis Schinas, European Commission’s vice president for Promoting the European Way of Life, said: “The marbles belong in the Parthenon. In these difficult times, universal cultural heritage should uplift humanity, not divide it.”

Sure, there’s joy to unpack there. The Greek commissioner would say that, the club will rally around the member, not the outsider. But why is it that the marbles do belong to Greece?

For a start, Greece didn’t in fact exist at the time. There never actually had been an entity, a political unit, called Greece either. So quite why what is now called that should own something removed before its existence is unknown. You know, the Spain and Ceuta argument, we can have it because we’ve have since before Morocco existed?

But very much more importantly, peeps have been stealing art from other people all the time. Should those lions in Venice go back to Istanbul? There’s likely to be some statue or three in Rome that turned up from Greek settled areas a couple of thousand years back. The Louvre is going to look pretty naked without what Napoleon brought back from Italy.

Even if we agree that it was looting, illegal looting at that, what makes the marbles different? What construction insists that the marbles go to Athens but Schliemann’s Gold stays in Moscow, instead of returning to Berlin where it was looted from? Or, even, of course, Troy?

Woes

But the film’s production team has drawn criticism from Southeast Asian viewers for casting East Asian actors in many of its most important roles, rather than Southeast Asian actors.

They are, umm, actors, you know, doing pretend and made up stuff?

It’s also a cartoon, meaning that slanty eyes and all that aren’t all that important.

An interesting question – at what level of granularity is this supposed to work? If a Korean (as here) should not play a Malay then, well, should it be OK for a Cockney to play a Mummerset? A Bronxite a Brooklynite?

The claim here is that East Asian and South East Asian is too high a level of that granularity to be acceptabl;e substitution. So, what’s the acceptable level?

And no, some level of “culture” isn’t enough. Given the differences in such that would mean no prole could ever play a bourgeois given the cultural differences….

So that design didn’t work then

The Pompidou Centre, one of Paris’s top cultural attractions and home to Europe’s biggest modern art collection, is to close from 2023 for four years of renovations, France’s culture minister has said.

Designed by architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, the Pompidou Centre opened in 1977 and is showing visible signs of ageing.

“There were two options,” culture minister Roselyne Bachelot told the Figaro newspaper on Monday. “One involved renovating the centre while keeping it open, the other was closing it completely.

“I chose the second because it should be shorter and a little bit less expensive,” she said.

OK, fair enough.

The building’s radical design pushes almost all its structural and mechanical elements to the exterior, freeing up vast exhibition spaces on the inside.

A maze of blue airconditioning conduits, green water pipes, yellow electrical casings and red elevators are on display outside.

Ah, no, the justification at the time was that the services infrastructure – all that piping – had a shorter lifespan than the building. Thus put it on the outside where it could be repaired/replaced without having to shut down the building….

Of, or by?

A 33-metre reinforced concrete vagina has sparked a Bolsonarian backlash in Brazil, with supporters of the country’s far-right president clashing with leftwing art admirers over the installation.

The handmade sculpture, entitled Diva, was unveiled by visual artist Juliana Notari on Saturday at a rural art park on the grounds of a former sugar mill in Pernambuco, one of Brazil’s most culturally vibrant states.

In a Facebook post, Notari said the scarlet hillside vulva was intended to “question the relationship between nature and culture in our phallocentric and anthropocentric western society” and provoke debate over the “problematisation of gender”.

“Nowadays these issues have become increasingly urgent,” the artist added in what appeared partly to be a reference to the increasingly intolerant climate in Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

Yes, OK, we know it’s a huge one but the question is, is it of or by?

Pay rates at the Carry On films

It’s long been a standard complaint that the Carry On films just paid horrendously low amounts of money to the acting talent.

Hmm, well:

1959
The average male manual worker earns £13 2s 11d (about £13.15) a week.

Note that’s in a time of strong unionisation. And the Carry On rates?

I got very little money, perhaps £50 a week. I thought, ‘I don’t think Michael Elliott would approve if I went on making this trash.’ ” So she asked for an extra £50 a week. Not only was her request denied, she was sacked on the spot.

Four times that average wage is terrible pay, is it?

I also dimly recall a Kenneth Williams lament about that low pay. He was getting £7,000 for a film I think. That’s 10x that average annual wage for the couple of months it took to film a Carry On.

Sure, Carry On might have been dismal pay given the rate for the job – film acting – but compared to the society around it not too bad.

And, well, you know, we’ve all sorts of people lamenting high pay these days, recalling as they do that things were much better when the CEO to worker multiple was only 20:1. We’ve even the OberstSpudder at one time insisting that higher multiples than that should not be tax allowable.

So why is it that Carry On is derided as being low paying, rather than wondrously equitable? Or is it just that luvvies are different?

There’s a reason some read the words out and others write them

Cate Blanchett:

As a person working in the arts sector, the lockdown was strangely familiar on one level – a lot of actors get stuck in a kind of limbo waiting for someone else to give them permission to do what they are good at. It was as if we were all waiting by the phone for our agent to call. It was also strangely unfamiliar because the community that holds us together, the audiences, as well as the changing of the shows and the new releases, were all put on hold too. The flow between us all was severely affected, and I was both heartened and horrified when it began to surface online. Heartened because the urge to express ourselves and the desire to communicate seems undaunted by anything. Horrified because the worst place to rehearse and perform is alone in the mirror, and sometimes the phone is just a mirror.

It was amazing, though: the opera singers belting it out on their balconies, the dancers doing their solos in their living rooms, the DJs setting up on the verandahs of their apartments. Communication is definitely a need and not a want. And talent has to express itself. That need is like the roots of a tree seeking space and nutrition, and that single cell in the root hair that is the porous gateway between the soil and the plant – that exists in all of us, in our need to communicate and make shared sense. The porous gateway between audience and artist is just that – a two-way street where both seemingly separate worlds are alive together. The pub choir where everyone got on a group Zoom and sang. For themselves? Yes. For each other? Yes. For the uni- verse? Yes. Wonderful space that came alive and thrived and tried to reach across the divide.

That’s just horrible.

I don’t know why – I’m not a good enough writer to know. But it is. Dreadful.

So what has Covid-19 ripped open? The fragility of social space and the robustness of our need to share. The catastrophic misdirection of the past 30 years of economic and social planning (the guiding non-principle being that there is no such thing as society).

Yes, the ideas are shit too.

Follow the logic here

La Rambla: plans to transform Barcelona’s tourist rat run into a cultural hub

An ambitious project is under way to turn one of the world’s most overrun streets into an the ‘immersive art centre of southern Europe’

So, logically, they’re saying that more arts means less people. That art itself repels?

Well, of modern art that probably is true, yes.

Lemons and lemonade

For three decades, Anna-Jane Casey has been a West End leading lady. But her new role is a good deal less glamorous.Casey is working as a delivery driver, earning £1 per parcel, after the shutdown of the arts left her – like thousands of others in the industry – unable to do the job she loves.

Since June, Casey has been working for a courier company with her husband and fellow actor, Graham MacDuff.
It is a far cry from Casey’s West End career, which has included playing Velma Kelly in Chicago, Anita in West Side Story and Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot.

“I’ve been acting since I was 10 years old, I’ve paid tax for all that time. And yet you’re telling me that my industry isn’t viable, and that I should probably retrain and do something else? Well, that’s not what I’m going to do,” Casey said. “But I have a mortgage and two kids, so I need a job right now.”

Given that acting has survived a couple of thousand years as a profession so far I don’t think it’s going to entirely closedown. It might well change of course.

As to other jobs while resting, that’s hardly unusual now, is it?

Tee Hee

After Cool Runnings I not only got sent a lot of similar sports screenplays, but also every family movie being made. It got so bad that at one point I received a script called Amanda. Without reading a word, I picked up the phone and said to my agent: “What kind of animal is it, and what’s wrong with the kid?” There was a long pause before the reply came: “It’s a horse and a brain tumour.”

Isn’t this fun about the Oscars?

The film academy has established four broad representation categories: on screen; among the crew; at the studio; and in opportunities for training and advancement in other aspects of the film’s development and release. To be considered for best picture, films will have to meet two of the four new standards, the Academy said.

Each standard has detailed subcategories as well. To meet the onscreen representation standard, a film must either have at least one lead character or a significant supporting character be from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group; at least 30% of secondary roles must be from two underrepresented groups; or the main storyline, theme or narrative must be focused on an underrepresented group. According to the academy, underrepresented groups include women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people or people with disabilities.

By which standard Birdman would not be eligible and Gone With The Wind would be.

Mebbe they’re going just a little far

An example of the new thinking to address perceived imperial connections to science was a paper penned by a curator and shared with staff, which claimed “science, racism, and colonial power were inherently entwined”.

The work further argues that “museums were put in place to legitimise a racist ideology”, that “covert racism exists in the gaps between the displays”, and as a result collections need to be decolonised.

The executive board of the museum is understood to be “very engaged with the many issues and questions it highlights”.

Legacies that may fall foul of the shift in opinion might be the exotic birds of Darwin and Captain Robert Fitzroy, as their shared journey to South American was “enable greater British control” of the region, according to the paper shared with staff.

Especially since, you know, Britain never did colonise nor control the region? Latin America remaining Latin. Other than British Guyana which is at the other end of that very continent.

There could also be calls for specimens gathered by Sir Joseph Banks to be addressed, as the botanist sailed with Captain James Cook on the Endeavor voyage in the service of the British Empire.

We’re getting to a corollary of pecunia non olet here. Stuffed birds are stuffed birds. How and why we got them is vastly less important than the fact we have them.

These people are weird

To a degree, every one of Disney’s recent string of live-action adaptations of its animated classics has had to justify itself — its reason for existing. The many films Disney has tried to put new spins on have ranged from beloved ’90s films whose remakes failed to serve much purpose, like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, to older films, like Dumbo and The Jungle Book, which unquestionably benefited from applying more progressive contemporary lenses to their initially problematic tellings.

They seem to think that movies – whether you consider them to be art or business – is to advance the project. Instead of, you know, to make money for shareholders?