Brushes with Culture

This is a space where I can reflect on the many fascinating things that I experience. Some of the things I brush with are Culture with a capital C. Others are just intriguing moments. Sometimes I am brushing with these moments in a hurry. This is a chance to relive those moments in tranquility. These are the stories I tell myself in those quieter moments.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Gaining the whole World, yet forfeiting the Soul

Even Gandhi would cut up rough if he had to sit through Philip Glass's interminable portrayal of his life. ... As a work of art, this piece undeniably pays due homage to a great man. As theatre, it is intermittently stylish; as a sermon, its precepts are unimpeachable. As music, extremely well performed, it is interesting for 10 minutes, pleasant for another 10, then insufferably monotonous for the ensuing three hours-plus. Some will emerge believing they have seen an inspirational affirmation of the human spirit, others a non-violent attempt to bore the oppressor into submission. (Anthony Holden),,2057340,00.html

Well, I did. I believed it was inspirational affirmation of the human spirit. I particularly liked the bit where an actor representing Martin Luther King with his back to us, stood before a blue sky of passing clouds and made the gestures of the great orator giving the 'I have a dream' speech. But Improbable's staging added considerable watchability throughout to an opera that is not narrative or dramatic and yet has a powerful story to tell. And delivers it with music that captures the essence of its message.

As a result the opera was a moving, calming experience, yet it transmitted an inner energy, rather like a meditation session - a power that should not be underestimated. (Ben Hogwood)

Indeed. Or what about this:
The score of Satyagraha contains all kind of historical echoes, while remaining rooted in the minimalist language Glass had refined over the previous two decades. There are solo arias, duets and ensembles, interspersed with the large-scale choruses that give the work its particular ritualistic feel. Glass uses traditional forms such as the chaconne, and reveals a love of his 19th-century antecedents.

It might seem strange to evoke the names of Rossini, Wagner and Verdi in discussing a work that seems so thoroughly the product of a late 20th-century musical aesthetic. But one part of the textural richness of Satyagraha is the way in which its music takes a perspective on the past, and renews it so imaginatively. (Andrew Clements),,2034614,00.html

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Do Gilbert and George have Surnames?

I gave myself 25 minutes in the run-up to meeting someone at Tate Modern last Thursday to whiz through the Gilbert and George retrospective. I knew that I wouldn't need longer and I was right. It's all so in-yer-face.

Nonetheless I enjoyed it far more than I could have hoped and spent a happy few minutes after my spree in contemplation of the wonders I had seen (my dining companion was late...). It was again worth the membership.

And this is what I have to say:
In Gilbert&George's world there are no women. There are lots of fey and less fey men. Some have pineapple tops from the mid-80s. Around the same time there are shots of Gilbert&George's bums in suits, and of their genitals. And then there are the spunk pictures, which at first seem designed to shock. But in the lull between the racism of the early days, the punk vibe, the austerity 80s, blasphemy, homelessness, the new stuff on terror and Islam, in between all this social commentary like a walk through the indignation I was reared on, there's a fallow section where piss, shit, blood and spunk all get to appear on the same canvas and it's a moment of Buddhism. Maybe I'm missing the anger - my name doesn't start with a G.

Are these artists homosexuals?

Note to the afficionados: I wore red and black. It was a stealth visit.

Monday, April 02, 2007