Culture

Karl Lagerfeld, 1933–2019

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“Those social networks, there’s something sad about them. It’s like a talkative mirror where people talk to themselves.” So Karl Lagerfeld told Women’s Wear Daily in 2014. When the designer died in February, there was an outpouring of grief on social media from across the fashion industry for the self-styled pope of fashion.

Lagerfeld was known to hold contemptuous views of the same world he profited from. And social media was key to the promotion of both his businesses and highly recognisable personal image.

Bedrooms of London

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This exhibition of photographs by Katie Wilson documents the living conditions of London’s most disadvantaged children. It stands firmly within the mission of the Foundling Museum, in what was the Foundling Hospital set up by Thomas Coram in 1741. Coram’s purpose was to care for the estimated 1,000 children who were abandoned every year in London, resulting from the polarisation of wealth in the Georgian era. Today the site houses a museum and boasts the legacy of being the first children’s charity and public gallery.

Richard II

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This production of Shakespeare’s history play is entirely produced, directed and performed by non-white women — a first for a production on a major British stage. The costumes, set and music are non-specific, sometimes African, Arabic or Indian. Around the theatre are banners made from photos of the cast’s ancestors from across the world.

The play concerns the emerging national identity and it is fascinating how different the many references to gender and race come across with this cast, raising a new commentary about their original meaning.

Corita Kent: Power Up

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The cultural explosions that took place amid the social and political upheavals of 1960s America threw up extraordinary new forms of expression that articulated incendiary challenges to state injustices and atrocities of that postwar era.

Corita Kent was a radical artist, activist, designer and art educator whose exuberant, subversive and at times controversial work revolutionised typographical design and cried out against injustice. Corita seized pop art by the throat and set it to work for human liberation.

Scottish theatre’s modern renaissance

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Mark Brown, author of Modernism and Scottish Theatre Since 1969, gives the run down on how Scotland’s particular kind of Reformation stunted the development of dramatic writing for centuries, not really recovering until the early 1900s.

To talk about Scottish theatre in the late 20th and early 21st centuries we must, paradoxically, start in the 16th century. For it was then, amid the ferocious indignation and granite moral certainties of the Calvinist Reformation, that a new course was set for Scottish society and culture.

In the case of theatre, it meant no course at all. For the virulent Protestant reformer John Knox and his fellow Calvinists, the theatre was a cesspit of godless recreation. Consequently, as the roofs were ripped from the Catholic abbeys, the theatres, too, were closed down.

Hitler’s Hollywood

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What does cinema know that we don’t? That is the intriguing question posed by two powerful documentaries about the cinematic legacy of the Nazi era and the Weimar Republic respectively.

Inspired by the work of critical theorist and film critic Siegfried Kracauer, Hitler’s Hollywood investigates Nazi cinema as a style unto itself, completely under the control of the Minister of Propaganda, Josef Goebbels.

Green Book

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“Driving while black” is no 21st century curse. Since the earliest days of the motor car black American drivers have faced oppression. At petrol stations, restaurants, resorts and motels white supremacy has reigned.

Thus Harlem postal worker Victor Hugo Green compiled a guidebook in 1936 so that “the negro motorist” could “vacation without aggravation”. It was unknown beyond black families and ceased publication in 1966.

Love Sonia

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Love Sonia comes at a time when a 200 million-strong strike was held in India and 5 million women formed a wall of protest. The correlation between films about resistance and women’s rights in India and the explosive movements on the streets that the country has seen is not necessarily direct. But it is no surprise that the struggles that occur in the real world force the film industry to adapt to reflect and embolden the mood for change.

Monsters and Men

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American cinema’s appetite for themes of race and class shows no sign of abating. This latest contribution from debut writer and director Reinaldo Marcus Green comes in a series of increasingly class-conscious movies.

Monsters and Men’s raw aesthetic and unapologetically direct style, stripped of the self-conscious pretensions of some of its predecessors, reinvents social realism for 2019. It makes for a gripping 90 minutes that propels us into the Brooklyn enclave of Bed-Stuy and its inhabitants’ problems, joys and struggles.

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