Culture

Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s

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This is a timely exhibition of art from second wave feminism, which emerged in the 1960s. By the 1970s artists were using photography, performance and installations as tools for activism. Women’s emancipation and gender equality became a visible part of a wider movement for liberation. Famously the personal became the political.

This is very much in evidence at the exhibition which takes an unflinchingly intimate view of female representation in art and society. Over 200 works by 48 international artists are shown on two levels of the gallery.

The fierce humanity of Dario Fo

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Lina Nicolli recalls a memorable preformance by Dario Fo, the radical Italian theatre maker and Nobel prize-winning playwright, who died last month. His excoriating farces, such as Accidental Death of an Anarchist, satirised the corruption of the Italian state.

When an unassuming man walked onto the bare stage, I was ready for the kind of worthy evening that you know is probably doing you good, but is not exactly fun — a bit like bran for breakfast.

But as soon as Dario Fo started talking, gesticulating, moving around, totally in control of the connection he was making with his audience, it was obvious that I was very wrong. Eating out of the palm of his hand doesn’t even begin to capture it.

American Honey

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Sasha Lane as Star

This is a film about a class we don’t often see in movies but are all too aware exists behind the shiny images of the American dream.

American Honey follows a group of young people on the road. A classic road-trip you might think, but the film rejects the predictable beginning, middle and end. We first meet its focus, Star (newcomer Sasha Lane), dumpster diving, scoring a plastic wrapped chicken, which she tosses to the kids with her. We are left wondering who they are. All we see is Star’s existence in a grimy home and grubby town dragged down by poverty.

Five things to see or do this month

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“We Are the Lions”
19 October 2016-26 March 2017, Brent Museum and Archives, London
An exhibition commemorating the Grunwick Strike of 1976 to 1978. Forty years ago a group of workers led by Asian women stood up to their bosses and started one of the most important industrial disputes in British history, changing the face of the trade union movement in Britain. With photographs, testimonies, posters, banners and exclusive archive material.

AIM

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MIA’s fifth album is fresh, vibrant and bold, encapsulating everything that is unique about her as an artist. Her songs are infused with politics and are as relevant as ever.

Throughout the album there is a consistent theme of opening borders and explicit references to the ongoing refugee crisis that has yet to be resolved in Europe and across the world.

MIA has been criticised for her writing but any fan knows that lazy lyrics are part of her style. She aims to be simple, to the point and in your face.

I, Daniel Blake

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Ken Loach’s new film is an unflinching exploration of the reality of government welfare reforms. The powerful performances illustrate the effects on people at the receiving end of this Orwellian nightmare. Their stories, though fictional, find parallels with many who have found themselves at the mercy of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in recent years.

The Free State of Jones

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This film is quite unlike other recent movies about the American Civil War. It’s not about heroes and victims. It’s the true-life story of poor whites and black slaves coming together to fight a common enemy: the Southern plantocracy.

The film opens with Confederate soldiers being mown down by Union troops. The pointless death of his terrified young press-ganged nephew spurs Newt Knighton (Matthew McConaughey) to desert the Southern army. So do many others, as the Confederate generals demand economic sacrifices to pursue the war they are losing.

Abstract Expressionism

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At the close of the Second World War, the Western art world pivoted from Europe to the United States. The great wave of artists influenced by the Russian and German revolutionary movements had crashed in the 1920s when socialist realism became only art style sanctioned by Moscow.

In New York a collection of ambitious young emerging artists was producing work that escaped the confines of representation and sought to interrogate the feelings and emotions of the age. Some were natives of the city, some were escaping the horrors engulfing Europe.

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