Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Is there no alternative?

Just finished Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, and very good it is too. Near the end, he quotes film-maker Adam Curtis (who I've mentioned previously), from this interview. I've quoted at greater length here but the whole thing is worth a read.

Systems that purport to be open and free - systems of political management, and the internet - are becoming ways of shutting debate down. Of simplifying - not of controlling, that's the thing - a new simplified sense of order.

In an age where people don't know what's what, we sort of agree with that. We look for order and want that. And our politicians can't give it to us - our media elites can't give it to us because they don't know what's what anymore. So far from creating a new richness and openness, we all work together to create a new system of agreed order, because we want it.

It's not that we're not bad people, that's what happens in an age of populism, a populist democracy.

The elites have given up, so no one's telling you what's what any more, we don't want that any longer - so we're beginning to work together sooner and actually, that's exactly what I was being accused of.

So what we're living through is a period of intense conformity. It is the great paradox of the age.


We should be saying to people "I'm going to take you out of yourself and show you something you haven't thought of, which is either awesome, or incredible, or will inspire you". But we don't. We've instead an equivalent of a Victorian book of etiquette. We've simply reinforced those simple definitions of what is ordered and disordered.


What people suffer from is being trapped within themselves - in a world of individualism everyone is trapped within their own feelings, trapped within their own imaginations. Our job as public service broadcasters is to take people beyond the limits of their own self, and until we do that we will carry on declining.

The BBC should realise that. I have an idealistic view, but if the BBC could do that, taking people beyond their own selves, it will renew itself in a way that jumps over the competition. The competition is obsessed by serving people in their little selves. And in a way, actually, Murdoch for all his power, is trapped by the self. That's his job, to feed the self.

In the BBC, it's the next step forward. It doesn't mean we go back to the 1950s and tell people how to dress, what we do is say "we can free you from yourself" - and people would love it.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Angels of Anarchy

Edith Rimmington, The Oneiroscopist, 1947

Léonor Fini, The Parasol, 1947

Kay Sage, Margin of Silence, 1942

Ithell Colquhoun, Tree Anatomy, 1942

Penny Slinger, I Hear What You Say, 1973

Eva Švankmajerová, Bed, 1976

Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism is on at Manchester Art Gallery until 10th January. Proof that the frequently overlooked female Surrealists were much more than just wives and mistresses being humoured by the men (which was how many of the latter saw it, I suspect). After complaining about the lack of information available on the Czech Surrealist movement, it turns out that there are works by Toyen and Švankmajerová practically on my doorstep...

The American Scene

Edward Hopper, Night in the Park, 1921

Martin Lewis, Shadow Magic, 1939

Louis Lozowick, New York, c.1925

James McConnell, Combo, c.1950

Josef Albers, i, 1934

Leonard Baskin, The Hydrogen Man, 1954

Hans Burkhardt, After The Bomb, 1948

These are from The American Scene: Prints from Hopper to Pollock, which is on at the Whitworth Gallery until Sunday (as mentioned previously). I've been a couple of times, and although it may not exactly be chock-full of masterpieces, it's fascinating to see some of the lesser-known (to me, at least) routes taken by US art in the 20th century. Some of the work, especially the earlier stuff, is highly derivative of various European masters from Goya to Miró, and Abstract Expressionism didn't particularly lend itself to printmaking, so the most compelling pieces are by some of the realists like Hopper and Martin Lewis, and eccentrics like Baskin.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Psychedelic Wonderland

Just ordered this 2010 calendar by the Manchester-based artist and designer John Coulthart, which you can preview here. I'm a relative newcomer to his work, but I very much enjoyed his graphic adaptation of HP Lovecraft's tales, The Haunter of the Dark, and his blog is one of the best out there.