Banksy has been nominated for an Oscar. That's right. (Checks Google one more time.) Banksy has been nominated for an Oscar. Hauling in the outsider and slicing off his cojones? Bizarre strand of anti-consumer radicalism sluicing its way through Hollywood? Crudely cynical attempt to bolster viewing figures for the ever-ailing awards ceremony? Belated plot to unladder the implausibly anonymous wall-sprayer? Unreported sponsorship by a major CCTV provider? Is Banksy in Malibu now? Something else involving a ubiquitous supermarket chain? Is Banksy even all that? These and other questions hang like paint fumes in the air...
Burial + Talk Talk (John Martyn ÷ Robert Wyatt) √Brian Eno (Portishead - Beth Gibbons) x 00.14 (last Saturday night train into Vauxhall) = James Blake
I'd never heard of the ambulatory sculptor and land artist Richard Long until a couple of months ago but in a strange instance of perceptual vigilance (y'know, when something you've never encountered before suddenly seems to be everywhere) he is, indeed, everywhere. Or at least somewhere, fairly frequently.
Nature is the subject of Long's art. Often literally. In 'A Line Made By Walking' from 1967, he made a line by walking - up and down a field in Wiltshire until the flattened grass became evidence of his presence, though he himself was absent from the haunting black and white photograph -an eerily empty scene which invites you to speculate on what may once have happened there. It was one of those uncategorised projects which straddles performance and art so no wonder Bill Drummond later championed Long.
It was in Drummond's enjoyably rambling account of his project to replace all recorded music with semi-spontaneous choral gatherings, 'The17', that I recently encountered Long. Then I realised he'd also featured in Drummond's '45', crops up in Rob Young's quite brilliant book about music, landscape, England and Englishness 'Electric Eden', and is currently among the exhibitors at British Sculpture In The 21st Century.
Generally, I don't even know if I like sculpture. As a mode of expression it feels about as useful as doing needlepoint with a log. But Long's work captures that strange, elemental, semi-sensual sense which being within a landscape can invoke.
Drummond happily shelled out 20 grand for Long's photograph A Smell Of Sulphur In The Wind, created while the artist walked across Iceland. But then something went wrong. This is what the press release over at Drummond's Penkiln Burn site says:
In 1998 , Drummond realized he no longer had an ongoing relationship with the work. In response to this realization he decided to sell it for the original $20,000; take the money in one dollar bills to Iceland; start walking from the top of the island to the bottom; stop off at what remained of the stone circle made by Richard Long; bury the $20,000 at the center of the circle; take a photograph of the enriched circle; complete the walk across Iceland leaving behind the 20,000 dollars to their destiny.
When no offers of 20k came, he decided to cut the photograph up into 20,000 pieces and sell each one for a quid. Or a dollar. It isn't clear what - if any - currency Bill Drummond generally recognises. The relationship between art and commerce, creation and consumption seems to be one of his most urgent obsessions. This seems a complicated way of working that problem out, which makes me think it could work. The pieces don't seem to have sold out yet.
Hawkwind x Neu! + Can (Spacemen 3 + Loop) ÷ The Heads (Suicide + The Fall) + unlicensed Transit van in a field (1986) = Mugstar
Events in Tunis prompt further questions about the role of social media. The Guardian summarises the position of 'Net Delusion' author Evgeny Mozorov as follows:
"Two delusions in particular concern Morozov: "cyber-utopianism", the belief that the culture of the internet is inherently emancipatory; and "internet-centrism", the belief that every important question about modern society and politics can be framed in terms of the internet. "
Mozorov writes more about 'slacktivism' here.
The ominous return to damaged Haiti of 'Papa Doc' Duvalier reminded me of Graham Greene's great novel about the country, The Comedians, over which the dictator hangs like a poisonous cloud, raining down violence, fascism, voodoo and corruption yet always just beyond reach. "Greene has been looking for hell all his life," wrote Conor Cruise O'Brien, "and in Haiti he has found it." That was back in 1967.
It's among my favourite of Greene's novels: tired, resigned, quietly absurd, its characters sinking into crisis. Greene's world of failing faith and shady motivations was once described as a place haunted by Englishmen going slowly to seed. Forget Brighton Rock, for me the greatest (and Greenest) of Greene's novels is the slim but brilliant story of reluctant emotional rebirth, A Burnt Out Case - a partner of sorts to The Comedians. Both are about failed states. One is out there in the Caribbean. The other is entirely internal.
The Guardian reports that three of Michelangelo Antonioni's early films are to be adapted for the theatre.
A bold move. With their plotless drift, haunted landscapes and eerie, anguished yearning, it's hard to imagine a filmmaker whose work is less well suited to the stage; the cinema of Antonioni is entirely cinematic. He was famously dismissive of actors as well, insisting they were cipher-like interperators of his own private visual language rather than the authors of any drama in their own right. Although, to be fair, Antonioni's actors never had much to do except wander round the empty squares of nuclear Europe and look anxiously over each others' shoulders.
I love - or am at least fascinated by - all of Antonioni's films. Maybe that's because they lend themselves so successfully to being written about. There's an Antonioni aesthetic - Antonioennui, they used to call it - and if it chimes, his films are transformed from languid reveries in search of a subject and become signals from some strange, seductive beacon of melancholy, swiveling out there in the dark.
This is what I had to say about L'Eclisee, though The Red Desert from 1964 and the long-lost 1970s thriller The Passenger are my favourites, alongside Blow Up, of course.
All of which provides an excuse for this spectacular finale from Antonioni's Zabriskie Point - possibly the greatest explosion ever filmed. Pink Floyd provide the sound of breaking glass.
Thanks to Urban Dictionary for defining G6, the mysterious term featured in a song by Official Far East Movement. Apparently it refers to the Gulfstream G650 twin-engine jet airplane and/or a range of server hardware. We all understand each other a little better now.
Christopher R. Weingarten of Rolling Stone at the 140 Characters Conference. It's a video. Watch it here.