Culture

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.

Cleverman

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For any politically engaged viewer, the fierce social criticism at the core of the television series Cleverman will be immediately apparent. The series pulls no punches in its attack on the Australian government’s racist policies towards Indigenous people and asylum seekers, while commenting on very real debates among these communities and their allies over how best to resist them.

Blonde

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Frank Ocean is a 21st century enigma. His ability to surround himself in mystery is impressive, given that we are in a time where celebrities’ personal business is aired freely among all channels of social media and the television.

It has been a feat, especially after the breakthrough success of Channel Orange (2012), his debut studio album, earned him a shed load of award nominations and a top 5 spot in various end of year album lists. So the extraordinary hype surrounding Blonde has been justified.

Embrace of the Serpent

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This remarkable film, set in Amazonian Colombia in the early 20th century, achieves what so many fail to — it transports you not only to another time and place, but to a different mind-set and approach to storytelling.

It is at once dreamlike as the shaman Karamakate leads his western travellers down the river in search of a hallucinogenic plant, but also political and angry in its depiction of colonialism and the social and environmental destruction it brings.

The Plough and the Stars

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This production of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough And The Stars, written in 1926, marks the centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin.

The action in the first two acts takes place in November 1915 and the final two are set during Easter week 1916, with the uprising as the backdrop. The mood of the play changes with the shifting time. The opening scenes have a lighthearted humour that is absent in the final tragic and heartrending moments.

The Clan

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Based on a true story The Clan is about a criminal family in 1980s Argentina, a period when the military dictatorship was coming to an end and democracy was reinstalled. The Clan follows the Puccio family’s antics in kidnapping rich neighbours for a ransom.

It is a politically turbulent period, with their first victim having already been kidnapped before. It is never made explicit, but it is implied that father Arquimedes learned the tactics of extortion through working for the state.

The Body Extended: Sculpture and Prosthetics

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I wear prosthetics and I have never considered them to be sculpture or an object of art. My prosthetics aren’t quite me nor are they quite distinct from me. Are they the creation of Deborah the prosthetist, or are they now my creation, wearing the scratches and scuffs of my everyday use?

This exhibition appears to clearly place these prosthetics in the realm of the creator, whether this is by artist, sculptor, engineer, craftsman or doctor. This challenged me emotionally more than I expected, and probably affected my response.

The Entertainer

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I went to see this production with low expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The Entertainer is quite possibly the most overhyped play in modern theatre. While a comparable play of genuine originality and power like Trevor Griffiths’ The Comedians is rarely performed, this shallow threnody for the British Empire is regularly revived and regularly discussed in academia as one of the great plays.

Five things to do or see this month

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The Battle of the Somme
Out now
This astonishing 77 minute film gets a centenary rerelease. It was shot a few days before and after the initial attack on 1 July 1916 by Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell, the only cinematographers allowed anywhere near the front line. It was released in cinemas on 21 August 1916 and an estimated 20 million people saw it — half the UK population. Although conceived as propaganda, it was widely seen as showing the reality of the war.

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