by MICHAEL SPENS
Yet there it is, much to the liking of Country Life, Horse and Hound, and even The Times evidently. Thus composed of a green and pleasant land, cottage and cottars, village cricket pitch and players, horses and ponies, paddocks and fields, cows and sheep, yokels, allotted gardens, maypoles, even puffy cloud simulacra above: and to boot further afield, a barely identifiable Glastonbury Tor (hint of an ancient pilgrim past). There is a specially cast great bell. This will toll in the Games. There is also, contemporarily already planned, a phalanx of (possibly striking) NHS nurses. Contemporaneity is also served by the landscaping of the Tor Hill being apparently modelled on the recent works of cosmic landscapist Charles Jencks. All to the good, but where else is 21st-century Britain, for outstanding technical innovation, financial global centring, IT growth, engineering skill and productivity and creativity within a world leading all arts spectrum.
But is not this model actually a cunning decoy by Boyle for a traumatising and yet pacifying filmic expansion of reality? Will his famous Frankenstein-obsessive condition create an Olympian-stein nightmare springing from this archaic and tranquil backdrop? Finally, to end on a palliative note for the stunned global audience, voluntarily entrapped (yet at great cost) as in this slightly claustrophobic stadium, Boyle will offer a contemporary scenario achieved by electronic media writ large. Can there be an emergent hi-tech wafting of manure odours, mown grass; with repeated cricket “sixes” shot into the crowd suddenly awry: overlaid with superimposed flight path noise, motorway hum; now nurses dashing into A&E, even seasonal floodlands, nuclear pollution, riots (simulated)? So to a rising crescendo of reality: rescue teams only helicoptered in at dusk. Danny Boyle has much up his leather sleeve it is to be hoped. He claims that "this is a festival of the Olympic ideal" which may indeed prove hard to verify amidst all the sweaty nostalgia and mystic heritage, proposed thus far.
It has been justifiably claimed by Janet Street-Porter (Independent on Sunday, 17 June 2012) that a trick has been missed by a failure to add in the major foreign-exchange earning international superstars: Teletubbies, Wallace and Gromit, Thomas the Tank Engine and Fungus the Bogeyman. As Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust has suggested, Boyle “is lost in lah-laa land” (Guardian, 15 June 2012): but inferring plausibly that Boyle's countryside set was actually even then a feint. There is much still to come, so fingers-crossed. Are we indeed not the more concerned today with an aesthetic of traumatisation, in the mode of the philosophers Theodor Adorno and Guy Debord? To give Boyle full free scope for this, to fire up the Olympic crowds as never before, could be to know that in the Happy Planet Index 2012 Britain emerges as the happiest European nation of all.
“Olympian-stein” could bring about here a stimulating contrast – the return of the real. The soundtrack includes Underworld and so can pace up a Frankensteinian frenzy; Clockwork Orange skits can be collaged in. The clouds open raining “cats and dogs” as we say, under countless umbrellas. All before a sublime Royal personage appears, restoring peace by a merest shimmering presence amidst a surge of Britannic music, and of course the National Anthem (All must stand).
Looking for Legends, Gambling on Faith
Now at the pinnacle of his 30-year career, Chinese artist Wang Guangyi, a resident of Beijing, has attained many of the rewards associated with success in the west: a global audience, wealthy collectors, media and documentary coverage, solo exhibitions internationally and a high degree of material comfort.
Art Basel Miami Beach 2012
The paint, the plaster and the woodchips have settled on Art Basel week in Miami and the tally is mixed. The overall attendance totaled an impressive 50,000 visitors, with those (approximately half) not privy to a VIP pass paying an average $20 entry fee per fair.
A Delicate Game of Cat-and-Mouse
Interviews with Artists 1966-2012 by Michael Peppiatt. Yale University Press, 2012. The experience of art is not merely a matter of looking at it, but thinking and talking about it. For nearly 50 years, English critic and biographer Michael Peppiatt has been getting artists to talk about the art they create, offering readers ways to consider the art they see, and sparking curiosity about the artists who made it.
A festival for our time: dOCUMENTA 13
Faces press against the glass wall of a rotunda in one of the world’s oldest museums: the Neo-Classical Fridericianum. This is the heart of Documenta (13) in Kassel: outside the 'Brain', the nerve centre of this serious contemporary art festival, where its many threads of thought converge into one. It is where visitors stop, look and think about what strange historical objects and artefacts mean.
The Afghan Seminars – dOCUMENTA 13
This year, in addition to its home-base in Kassel, dOCUMENTA (13) has satellite venues in Kabul, Alexandria/Cairo and Banff. The exhibitionís curator, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, stresses that she is not interested in deconstructing borders or creating a sense of utopian harmony between various times and physical locations, but instead seeks to draw attention to the importance of a specific place. Christov-Bakargiev further explains that each site (and in turn the artworks exhibited there) explores four different states: under siege, in retreat, in a state of hope and on stage. Each of these states is important because it represents a turning point ñ though the direction that follows is unknown.