Culture column

Dancing to the wrong tune

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In recent times Islamophobia has started to creep into art and theatre, including pieces by artists who have previously produced progressive and pioneering work. This is part of a corrosive trend that has led to some mainstream liberal commentators to pander to anti-Muslim racism.

From the 1980s onwards Australian-born choreographer Lloyd Newson, with his physical theatre company DV8, has created groundbreaking work. He has challenged the boundaries of dance, both in form and in content, and made work that was both overtly political and artistically cutting-edge.

Keep kicking

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If you thought racism in football was as outdated as Kevin Keegan's bubble perm or Chris Waddle's mullet haircut, then recent events will have been a real wake-up call.

Football has moved from the back pages of our daily papers to the front, and for all the wrong reasons. Once again racism is rearing its ugly head.

First there was the case of Liverpool player Luis Suarez racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra in October 2011. The Football Association found Suarez guilty, gave him an eight-match ban and fined him £40,000. This was followed by England and Chelsea captain John Terry allegedly racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. Terry has now been charged by the police and was stripped of his captaincy of England.

The art of occupation

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The Teatro Valle, Rome's oldest theatre, has been occupied for six months by performers, technicians and directors in protest against arts cuts.

Ben Windsor spoke to Il Manifesto journalist Roberto Ciccarelli about the occupation

"The occupation was a response to the Berlusconi government's cuts to social spending - and in particular their cuts to cultural spending. Italian theatres have been devastated by this. For many theatres, including the Teatro Valle, this either meant closure or privatisation. In some cases, even privatised theatres were unable to make ends meet, and closed soon afterwards.

Don't make me laugh

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What's going on? It seems like every time I switch on my TV, so-called comedians and panel show celebrities are telling racist and other offensive jokes.

Only the other day, Jimmy Carr was on a quiz panel spouting a tirade of racist jokes about Travellers and their protest at Dale Farm. Two days later Jeremy Clarkson was on the BBC's One Show saying that strikers should be shot in front of their families.

His excuse? It was only a joke. I don't recall the same leniency being applied to the two young men who jokingly called on people to riot on facebook over the summer.

The building of dreams and nightmares

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"Once more he looked intently at this new city, not wanting to forget it or to be mistaken, but the buildings stood clear as before, as if around them lay not the murk of Russian air but a cool transparency" - Anton Platonov, The Foundation Pit

Walter Benjamin notes that "what characterises revolutionary classes at their moment of action is the awareness that they are about to make the continuum of history explode". Never has this been so acutely illustrated than in the early years of the Russian Revolution that began in 1917.

For the first time a country's working class had defeated its ruling class, and created their own fledgling soviet democracy. A new world was being born, what Arthur Ransome would describe as "the living, vivifying expression of something hitherto hidden in the consciousness of humanity".

The Prophets Outcast

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''I am an invisible man. No I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fibre and liquids - and I might even be said to possess a mind."

The opening lines from Ralph Ellison's novel Invisible Man have remained etched on my consciousness ever since I first read them 30 years ago. The Invisible Man is narrated in the first person, by an unnamed African-American man, who is socially invisible. It could equally be applied to the Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities of Europe today.

A top playwright

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Caryl Churchill is one of the most important playwrights of modern times, writes Jennifer Wilkinson

From women's oppression to stock market greed, Caryl Churchill frequently uses theatre to intervene in the political arena. Her play Seven Jewish Children was a powerful response to Israel's massacre of people in Gaza in early 2009. A self-described "political event" in ten minutes, she punctures the Zionist narrative of self defence and dramatically heightens the viewer's moral outrage at the continuing oppression of the Palestinians. Churchill has made it clear that the play may be performed by anyone for free, as long as a collection is taken for the people of Gaza.

A class above the rest

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I believe a world without art and leisure would be a world devoid of hope, beauty and imagination. And it would indeed be an inhuman world that left no space for any creativity or relaxation. Yet our pursuit of good art, leisure and relaxation is polluted by commercialisation, blandness and conformity.

It was with those thoughts in mind I wrote what I hoped would be an uplifting column about the German football team St Pauli in June's edition of this magazine.

Unfortunately, as Mike Webber pointed out in a letter published in the last issue, the story of St Pauli didn't have a happy ending. They were relegated from the German Bundesliga at the end of last season.

The question Mike poses is a valid one. Can there ever be, as he puts it, a happy ending?

Mahler: music from the volcano

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Today one of the most recorded and performed composers is Gustav Mahler. Born to a poor Jewish family in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he died 100 years ago in imperial Vienna as one of the richest and most famous musicians in Europe. How can his music speak to us today?

During his lifetime he was mainly famous as a conductor. His style was based on the idea that the printed musical score is not a holy text to be obeyed. Instead music is a living art that changes at every performance as every concert hall, every audience, every social context is different. This understanding of how changes in social circumstances affect the listener and performer also explains the changes in the popularity of Mahler's music.

Pirates of the Bundesliga

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If you hate football with every fibre in your body, then read on. If you love football with a passion, then you need to read on too.

How can I square this circle, I hear you ask. The answer to this conundrum lies in Hamburg, Germany. There, nestling between the Reeperbahn (Hamburg's red-light district), the docks, and poor migrant and working class neighbourhoods is the Millerntor stadium, home to the football team St Pauli.

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