Art / Exhibitions

Comic4Syria

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Syrian revolutionaries are using every weapon at their disposal to resist the regime of Bashar al-Assad - including cartoons. In the comic strip reproduced above, Bashar al-Assad tickles the sleeping dragon of sectarianism, only for it to swallow him whole. In this case, a picture paints a complex political situation.

As the regime has heavily censored the press for years, Syrian artists have a long tradition of using metaphorical imagery to convey dissent. Now, as the armed struggle intensifies, that creative artistry has been unleashed.

Cecil Beaton: Theatre of War

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Imperial War Museum, London, until 1 January

If you know something of Cecil Beaton's politics you could be forgiven for thinking that this exhibition may be one to miss. Beaton, like so many of the English aristocracy that he longed to be part of, was an anti-Semite a fawning monarchist and a snob of the worst sort.

However, if you can afford the eight quid to get in, missing this exhibition would be an error for a number of reasons.

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde

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At Tate Britain, until 13 January

Victorian Britain, we know now, was one of capitalism's great success stories. Britain industrialised and came to dominate the world economically and politically. At the time success seemed far less certain to Britain's rulers. Revolution broke out in France in 1789, 1830, 1848 and 1871: it might do so in Britain. The educated classes had believed that the Bible, central to their ideas, was literally true: in 1859 Darwin's Origin of Species implied that it was not. Britain was the world's first industrial superpower, but could such a society last?

John Heartfield Photo montages

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Tate Modern currently has a display of 54 works by the German artist John Heartfield (1891-1968).

Heartfield pioneered photomontage and used the technique of cutting up and combining photographic images to strong political effect. His most famous works were powerful satirical attacks on Hitler and the Nazis.

Heartfield was born Helmut Herzfelde. He anglicised his name during the First World War in protest against German nationalism.

Shakespeare: Staging the world

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For those interested in such things, a minor spat has broken out among some of Britain's best known thespians about whether Will Shakespeare of Stratford was, in fact, the author of the plays attributed to him.

So this exhibition at the British Musuem seems timely. Visitors are invited to walk through a series of themed rooms which explore the relationship between the plays and the world that Shakespeare would have known. Specially commissioned videos of well-known actors performing Shakespearean soliloquies are interspersed among the swords, maps, paintings, bear skulls, witches' charms and other renaissance relics.

Although at £14 it's a bit expensive for those without British Museum membership, there is plenty to enjoy here.

The End of Oil

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Edward Burtynsky says that the main aim of his work is to depict nature transformed through industry. Over a long career he has photographed mines, quarries, scrapyards, shipyards, recycling yards, refineries, oil fields and oil spills, factories and urban landscapes.

Through these images he attempts to show us places that are outside most people's normal experience, but whose output is central to our daily lives. These landscapes are often scarred and damaged by industrial development - but Burtynsky's photographs are often hauntingly beautiful.

Summer of culture

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Our round-up of some of this summer's cultural highlights


Total Recall
Out 3 August

The 1990 film adaptation of Philip K Dick's short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale", starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as forgetful fugitive Douglas Quaid, was a huge hit.

This reboot of Total Recall stars Colin Farrell and will try to put some of the political punch back into Dick's sci-fi romp.

Writing Britain

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An attempt to convey the essence, as the author perceives it, of a particular time and location is often central to literature. This has arguably become more important in the last 200 hundred years, as writers have attempted to memorialise places that are being rapidly transformed by industrialisation.

So Wordsworth's beloved Lake District is punctured by Blake's dark satanic mills; for George Eliot's provincial characters the railways are a thrilling but threatening herald of progress; from a train carriage in Edward Thomas's well-known poem "Adlestrop", the serenity of an English village seems complete - but the horror of an industrial world war is just round the corner.

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