those who are dead and those who are yet to be bored

August 28, 2014 § Leave a comment


Tonight, BBC Four will televise one of the best-loved events of the BBC Proms season, the National Youth Orchestra’s Prom, which was performed on 10 August 2014 to a packed and joyful audience at the Royal Albert Hall. One work from the concert programme will be omitted from tonight’s broadcast, however: Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s three-minute piece Sonance Severance 2000.

The BBC have been quick to confirm that it will be televised, as part of a special BBC Four programme on Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Birtwistle scheduled for 11 September, and that it is also available on the iPlayer. So that’s ok then. No, hang on, it’s not.  read more

KATAKANA: via Feitclub

wch Restraynt is by the meanes of playinge the Jeylle of dooges

February 13, 2014 § Leave a comment


The three finest works of British brutalism were designed by Rodney Gordon of the Owen Luder Partnership. They were: Eros House in Catford, London; the Tricorn in Portsmouth; and the Trinity in Gateshead. The first, a block of flats, is disfigured; the other two shopping centre and car park complexes have been destroyed in acts of petty-minded provincial vandalism. One can have nothing but contempt for the scum-of-the-earth councillors, blind planners and toady local journalists who conspired to effect the demolition of such masterpieces. One can only despair at the pusillanimous lack of support from wretched English Heritage.

The dependably crass Prince of Wales, the man who sullied Dorset with Poundbury, described the Tricorn as “a mildewed lump of elephant droppings”, a simile as vulgar as it is visually inept. No doubt his heritage industry toadies removed their tongues in order to chortle a moment’s laughter. The critic Ian Nairn was on the money: “This great belly laugh of forms … the only thing that has been squandered is imagination.”

Gordon’s imagination was indeed fecund, rich, untrammelled. It was haunted by Russian constructivism, crusader castles, Levantine skylines. But the paramount desire was to make an architecture that had not previously existed. There are as many ideas in a single Gordon building as there are in the entire careers of most architects. The seldom-photographed street level stuff at the Trinity left the observer with the sensation of being in the presence of genius. One thinks of the burning of books.

It took more than three-quarters of a century before high Victorian architecture began to be rehabilitated through the efforts of John Betjeman, Evelyn Waugh, etc. Their pleas went unheeded. They were reckoned to be perverse and mischievous. Thousands of “monstrosities” were destroyed. The survivors are now widely valued, and lost ones are mourned. We have learned nothing. Half a century after brutalism’s heyday, the term “concrete monstrosity” trips readily off the tongues of the unseeing, the torpid, the incurious. Britain is once again being architecturally cleansed in favour of timidity and insipidity.

Newness and change were bound to be for the better. When Harold Macmillan announced in 1957 that “most of our people have never had it so good”, some of our people were still living in caves (in the Severn valley), and many of our people had no bathrooms and shared outdoor toilets. Built along brutalist lines, new flats had all those amenities, plus central heating, and were welcomed by their occupants. Social-housing projects were not yet bins for sociopaths. But they would soon become so: if blocks are unguarded, if there are no janitors, if they are not maintained … You don’t buy a car and never get it serviced.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Franck Bohbot

Why do you need to identify with it? Can there be nothing out there but you?

February 3, 2014 § Leave a comment


The main aim of the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project is to provide the best possible images of every page of the manuscripts relating to theatrical affairs in the Henslowe-Alleyn Papers at Dulwich College.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Michaela Meadow

There are two types of people in this world: those who divide us all in half

December 2, 2013 § Leave a comment


On April 5, 1772, the author of The Wisdom of Angels Concerning Divine Love and Divine Wisdom and Heaven and its Wonders, and Hell: From Things Heard and Seen was buried in three coffins, the innermost of soldered lead, in the vault of St George’s in the East, Princes Square, London – “an obscure little Swedish church in an East London slum”. When Blake and his wife Catherine attended the conference of the Swedenborgian New Jerusalem Church in 1789, the Swede was still at rest in his crypt. As J. V. Hultkrantz’s polemical study of Swedenborg’s bones (1910) emphasizes, it was in 1790 that the rot set in. In the early 1790s, as the Revolution Controversy gathered momentum, Swedenborgian ideas circulated as part of wider speculative discourses. Swedenborg’s emphasis on divine humanity, on the ossified dogmas and hypocrisies of established religion, and on an “internal millennium” that guaranteed access in the here and now to visions of Eternity, clearly boosted the intensity of radical debate.

Hultkrantz quotes two versions of the bizarre sepulchral events of 1790. According to Gustav Broling (who was there), Swedenborg’s coffin was opened “merely to satisfy the curiosity” of an “American physician” who had “hit upon the idea that a man so much associated with the spirit world . . . must have been removed thence in some extraordinary manner, and not have died and been buried like other human beings”. With the help of a prominent Swedenborgian, “a kind of burglary was made into the dwellings of the dead”, and the three coffins were opened. A grave game of Russian dolls disabused the American of his esoteric faith. When the lead coffin was broken into, “there issued forth such effluvia . . . that the candles went out, and all the observers were obliged to rush head over heels out of the burial vault”. As Broling wryly remarks, “What kind of philosophical considerations as to the materialism and correspondence of Swedenborgian spirits were now awakened in the American no one knows”. The church having been “fumigated with vinegar”, the harrowers of Heaven and Hell returned to gaze on the perfectly preserved body of Swedenborg.

Another version of the story tells how a Rosicrucian claimed that Swedenborg had discovered “an expensive elixir” of youth, and had “withdrawn to some other part of the world, causing a sham funeral to be performed to avoid discovery”. As with the physician, so with the Rosicrucian: mortal remains proved the vanity of arcane belief. Poor Swedenborg suffered the further indignity, it seems, of being exposed to prying eyes a few days later; this time, when the investigating officer, Robert Hindmarsh (publisher of the Swede’s writings) touched the dead man’s forehead, the flesh crumbled into dust, leaving the bones that would now begin their cultural journey. It can be suggested that Blake’s decision to make Swedenborg an angel at the tomb of Christ in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790–3), and his writings the (discarded) wrappings of the risen spiritual body, was motivated in part by his knowledge of the recent raids on Swedenborg’s tomb and of the materialist debate surrounding its contents. Moreover, the event gives contemporary edge to the design that accompanies Blake’s concerted assault, later in the same work, on Swedenborg as an unoriginal recycler of “all the old falsehoods”: a naked figure whose knee rests on “a skull of dead thought”, in David Erdman’s phrase.

The violations continued.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Kristie Muller

like the ruins of those ruins

November 7, 2013 § Leave a comment


On March 7 1939, a few months before the beginning of the Second World War, and just nine days before Germany invaded Czechoslavakia, a German woman called Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, described by Hitler as ‘the perfect Nazi Woman’, arrived at Croydon Airport and was met by the wife of the German Ambassador Frau von Dirksen. A few hours later Scholtz-Klink was introduced to Lady Douglas-Hamilton, formerly Prunella Stack, coincidentally known as ‘Britain’s Perfect Girl’.

They were both at a dinner at Claridges organised by the Anglo-German Fellowship who had invited Scoltz-Klink over to London, ostensibly, “to study the work done by and for English women” but were very keen to publicise the connections and similarities between the two nations despite an almost certain war quickly approaching…

Prunella Stack, despite her young age, was the leader of the two hundred thousand strong Women’s League of Health and Beauty and she was one of the most famous women in the country at the time – the Daily Mail had recently described her as ‘the most physically perfect girl in the world’.

Nine months before Gertrud Schlotz-Klink’s visit to London, during the summer of 1938, five thousand enthusiastic members of the Women’s League of Health and Beauty had performed in front of a huge crowd on the bright green grass of the fifteen year old Empire Stadium in Wembley. The finale of the ‘Empire Pageant’ featured an impressive Greek-influenced athletic dance with women in white tunics carrying swords, shields and javelins.

Suddenly some grecian-style chariots emerged from the tunnel drawn by horses that were meant to gallop around the cinder athletic track that surrounded the famous turf. Instead they charged across the pitch scattering performers in every direction; totally upsetting the careful choreography of the event. At one point, realising that flaming torches were involved, Mr Herbert, Wembley’s overweight manager, stood with arms outstretched shouting “For God’s sake, Ladies! For God sake, take care!”…

On the 15th October 1938 Prunella married a Scottish Laird, Lord David Douglas-Hamilton the youngest son of the 13th Duke of Hamilton. At their first meeting, at the opening of a swimming pool, he impressed her that he was keen to start a fitness summer school in the Highlands. As he said goodbye, he took her hand and examined her fingernails. “I’m glad you don’t paint them,” he said, “I hate artificiality.”

Douglas Hamilton had German and Austrian friends (his best man was Prince Ernst August of Hanover) and before their wedding they went on  holiday just days after the 8th Army of the German Wehmacht had marched into Austria to be greeted by cheering Austrians with cheers, Nazi flags and salutes. Prunella, in her auto-biography, described Bands of Hitler Youth marching through the streets shouting ‘Jeder Deutsche stimmt mit ‘ja’. Nur ein Schwein stimmt mit ‘Nein’. (Every German votes with ‘yes’. Only a swine votes with ‘no’.)

Prunella also visited Germany in the summer of 1938 after the League had been invited to participate that summer in a Physical Education Congress sponsored by Kraft durch Freude. Prunella and the rest of the League women stayed on the luxurious cruise-ship Wilhelm Gustloff from which they watched mass demonstrations of German physical culture and folk-dancing.

The British Women’s League of Health and Beauty performed twice – “their neat black and white uniforms and slim figures contrasted with the generous build of the blonde German girls,” Prunella later wrote. On the ship she was introduced to the Reichsportsfuhrer, Herr von Tschammer und Osten, Dr Ley, the leader of Kraft durch Freude and even Himmler.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Becker & Maaß

Embarrassing? He’s on his knees, begging God. What’s he supposed to be? Cool?

November 4, 2013 § Leave a comment


Early 21st century: from “SELF” + “IE,” says the Oxford Dictionary Online, and since my generation still remembers Internet Explorer (I.E., see), I want to smile. Then I want to paint, whiten, and Willow-filter my smile on Instagram, except I can’t without making a statement: The selfie is self-exploration. It’s self-ex_ploit_ation. It is harmless, fun. It’s narcissism gone wild. No, it’s female narcissism, which didn’t you know is redundant, unless it’s “feminist narcissism” by which we mean self-love so please go fuck yourself. Or it is neither feminist nor female but rather the male gaze internalized and viral, in which case it is nothing but harm, and also is making us stupid. But what if it’s self-portraiture? Then who’s stupid? You, who cannot draw a simple line from the nose of Picasso to Miley’s tongue.

My problem with this last, ultimate defense of the selfie is the assumption it needs defending at all. We have been depicting cool animals since the #LOLMAMMOTHS of the Chauvet Caves, yet pseudo-historians are not lining up around Greenpoint to place the cats of Instagram in a lustrous tradition of art. Likewise, I have not read twenty-eight minor essays defending Thanksgiving dinner pics as new Dutch-masterly still lifes. The face alone has launched a thousand think pieces. So now the question is not one of basic selfie-justification, but rather, why must a photo of my face be justified when a photo of my bookshelf is not?  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Elizabeth Moran

The changes that have taken place in the surrounding neighbourhood are vastly significant of the progress of a beef-eating people

September 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

If there is a particular practice that epitomises the sanctuaries, it is the rescue. This was the forcible release of a prisoner from the custody of an authority, be it the law, the military or bailiffs. Whilst it was common enough during the eighteenth century – especially when the press gang was on the prowl – the sanctuaries provided two enhancements: a ready crew for mounting them and a place of safety from recapture.

The following document from 1697 shows a rescue more or less carried out ‘to order.’ Two men were being taken under habeas corpus from Somerset to the London courts; a letter requesting their rescue was sent to one Thomas Gurney in Whitefriars, who raised a troop and intercepted them.  read more


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