Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Dark Behaviour: Queer Futures

Hero Worship... coming soon

Yes, I am Unwell

Moans and PC nonsense, eh?

I am aware that there is something passive-aggressive in my current engagement with politics - I take other articles and moan about them - but that is what critics do. Here's my latest whinge, about an article on Spiked, which is an article about an article...

But amid all this heat, there’s also been a moment of light. It came in a Washington Post piece by Avinash Tharoor, who studied international relations at Westminster, Jihadi John’s alma mater. Tharoor describes a seminar discussion of Immanuel Kant’s democratic peace theory in which something shocking happened. A student in a niqab scoffed at Kant and said: ‘As a Muslim, I don’t believe in democracy.’ Even more shocking was the response. ‘Our instructor seemed astonished but did not question the basis of her argument’, says Tharoor. ‘Why hadn't the instructor challenged her?’, he asks, perplexed, especially considering that her Kant-bashing views, her sniffiness about this top dog of Enlightenment, were not rare but rather were ‘prevalent within the institution’.

The author goes on to weave a complaint that is far too common at the moment: the real enemies of the western tradition are intellectuals and academics who, instead of defending the best in civilisation, are selling a version of post-modernism that rejects all values and replaces it with political correct neutrality. 

Apart from the problem of basing a theory on an anecdote - as with the case of the bloke out of CAGE, one example is being made to stand for the whole - I wonder how many Jihadis and Islamicists took time to study philosophy at University. Jihadi John, for example, studied Business Management. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (emir  of ISIL) did Islam Studies according to US intelligence. Osama Bin Laden had a crack at Civil Engineering. And the majority of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, and I am not sure the western enlightenment is on the syllabus in their high schools.

Of course, the great post-modern philosophers have had their moments of idiocy - Foucault thought the Islamic Revolution in Iran was just peachy. But I don't think that the rise of militant Islam can be blamed on a bunch of wishy-washy liberals in universities who can't be bothered to argue for the great white male every time some undergraduate tries to show off by disrespecting Kant. 

Dear God, I sound like a nationalist troll

Usually, there isn’t too much common ground on big political issues between the artists, writers and performers who inhabit the cultural world. The nature of intellectual endeavour suggests that these creative types are individualistic, edgy and hard to dragoon behind an established position.

However, the marathon referendum campaign in Scotland turned such an assumption on its head.

Scotland’s writers and performers were overwhelmingly in favour of independence, at least the ones who spoke out. 2,000 of them flocked to join a ‘National Collective’ of pro-independence ‘creatives’.

This is the introduction to an article by Tom Gallagher. He goes on to quote Chris Deerin, the Daily Mail journalist who made himself notorious for conflating political opinion with personal insults during the referendum campaigns.

First of all, here's my full disclosure. I am neither a member of National Collective, nor do I support any political party - I am sympathetic to The Greens, but have suspicions about their leadership and await a more mature manifesto from them. 

The only political campaigns that interest me are ones that focus on compassion, or Wessex Regionalism

However, I have a few disagreements with Mr Gallagher. 

Usually, there isn’t too much common ground on big political issues between the artists, writers and performers who inhabit the cultural world. 

Nope, that's not true. Artists tend to share a general left of centre consensus (hence the number of political plays about asylum seekers, socialist politics and so on). Even before the referendum got going, there was a lack of 'right wing' playwrights in Scotland. Even with my soppy liberal values, it distressed me that so little was being written by the 'other side'. The majority of Scottish artists have always shared ideals - which tend to reflect the 'soft' socialism of the Scottish people.

a ‘National Collective’ of pro-independence ‘creatives’.

Any reasons for the scare quotes? 

As for this picture: it is not a picture of the National Collective - and while I do not wish to dismiss the opinions of the man with his top off, it is hardly an image of a typical Scottish creative. I remember Alan Bissett threatening to strip off in his show about Andrea Dworkin (the audience persuaded him that this was not necessary, thank you), but he was hardly the Scottish version of the techno viking.

While I can't say that I have any time at all for Chris Deerin - he is worried about Scottish Independence, but consistently conflates it with the SNP (which, again, isn't true - there are plenty of supporters of independence who are going to be voting Labour or Green in the next election) - I am interested in James MacMillan. I adore his compositions, and have been consistently moved by his ability to use Latin text within a choral context, interpreting the words profound and spiritual beauty through cascading layers of sound. 

‘The last time I saw him was at a post-devolution party at the National Museum of Scotland; the kind of lavish event where the Scottish liberal elites gather to exult in one of their regular self-congratulatory orgies of entitlement and privilege. He looked at me, with tears in his eyes and said falteringly “Look at all this James; we are now the new modern Scottish establishment.” Something snapped in me that night, and I've never been the same since…’

This is MacMillan talking about Pat Kane. The article references MacMillan's article on celebrities preaching politics, and rejects the idea that they are any use as a foundation for making a choice at the poll-booth. Gallagher points out that a Herald journalist then called him a hypocrite, as if this was an act performed by a cabal of nationalists trying to censor MacMillan.

I'd call it a media debate... and argue that MacMillan's warning is perfectly sensible (think for yourself and be suspicious of any establishment figure, even Pat Kane) but does not constitute a fear of the National Collective. 

Articles like this, however, are an attempt to stir up an argument when a debate is possible. And what the hell is the point of banging on about a referendum campaign after the results have all been counted?

I am testing my freedom of speech with this piece. Let's see who retweets, and who doesn't.

Hedda Gabler @ Lyceum

The Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh presents
Hedda GablerBy Henrik Ibsen
In a new version by Richard Eyre
Directed by Amanda Gaughan
20 March – 11 April 2015

“For once in my life I want to control a man’s fate”

With a distinguished father, a reputable husband, and a respectable home Hedda’s life is beyond reproach, anything else would be scandalous. For excitement she turns to the lives of others; enchanting and beguiling them, bending them to her will, determined to be a woman of consequence, whatever the consequences.

Well, that sounds like it is going to end well, doesn't it?

Recently, in an exclusive interview with The List, artistic director of the Lyceum, Mark Thomson made the point that he did not think that the Lyceum had a 'house style.' I disagree: it sits somewhere between the full-on director's theatre of, say, Dominic Hill at The Citizens, and the respectful renderings of Firebrand, which pay close attention to the script (sometimes to the production's advantage, as with Iron or White Rose). 

They also tend towards scripts - not seeing much devised art in the programme - that are reasonably established.

Ibsen's classic drama of passion and desperation follows a dangerously irresistible woman as she rushes headlong towards a disaster that will embrace all those who have fallen fatally under her spell.

The show will be directed by Lyceum Associate Artist Amanda Gaughan. Set and costume design is by Jean Chan with lighting design from Simon Wilkinson and music and sound design by composer Claire McKenzie. Movement Direction is provided by EJ Boyle.

The cast are Nicola Daley as Hedda Gabler, Sally Edwards as Julia Tesman, Lewis Hart as George Tesman, Vari Sylvester as Berthe, Jack Tarlton as Eilbert Loevborg, Jade Williams as Thea Elvsted and Benny Young as Judge Brack.

Director Amanda Gaughan says “I am thrilled to be directing Hedda Gabler as my first show as an Associate Artist with The Lyceum. Hedda is considered to be one of the greatest female roles in theatre as she attempts to exert control and influence in a male dominated world which ultimately leads to the destruction of everyone and everything around her. 

Ibsen’s work continues to stand the test of the time as he strived to ‘depict human beings, human emotions, and human destinies, upon groundwork of certain of the social conditions and principles of the present day’ (Ibsen letter). Richard Eyre has written a remarkable adaptation of Hedda Gabler with the language being both contemporary and viscerally bold but staying true to both Ibsen’s intentions whilst creating a fully imaginative and relevant discourse for our contemporary audience. 

Within Hedda Gabler we have real people who exist within a domestic situation and over the course of the 36 hours of the play struggle to deal with life and death situations, and how to conform to the societal constructs of being a successful and reputable ‘Man’ or ‘Woman'.

Our characters are in conflict with maintaining these perceived societal ideals: where men can take direct and public action whereas women were less and to remain behind the scenes. I think it is highly interesting to look at how far we have moved forward in equality and what aspects we still have to address. I am genuinely delighted with the discussions, ideas and the strength of acting we are exploring and playing with in rehearsals.”

New Visual Art Exhibition Earth Rise at Glasgow Tramway

Jessica Ramm presents Earth Rise, a new exhibition for Tramway from 14 March to 19 April.

Jessica Ramm’s films, sculptures, and performances explore the relationships between people, the environment, and technology. Resembling imaginary sets or curious experiments her works convey a sense of material translation, often involving reconfigurations of objects and materials drawn from nature. Ramm’s works also allude to mythological themes as well as our environment, and her immersive installations investigate different notions of space and matter.

Ramm’s research consists of a series of ongoing, sometimes haphazard, experiments which examine contemporary civilizations and their ordering of nature through technology and science, often contrasting with the environmental forces of the natural world.

This is reinforced by the allusion to different orders of time in her works which juxtapose themes of day to day life with long term geological and cosmic events.

For Tramway, Jessica Ramm will present new sculptural works that extend her research into the mobility and resistance of matter. 

Presenting documentation of her performances in which she uses her own body to manipulate the environment, alongside objects lifted from nature such as a large erratic boulders, her work evokes landscapes which are both interior and exterior to the human body.

This new Jessica Ramm exhibition is supported and presented by Tramway, and is part of Rip It Up.

14 March– 19 April
Tramway 5