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Callas Forever Returns as Prima Donna

Callas Forever, a film by Franco Zeffirelli, made a surprising return as a Prima Donna opera by Rufus Wainwright at Manchester International Festival 2009

Callas Forever by Franco Zeffirelli

In August 2003, just a few weeks I came over to the UK, I went to the screening of a film I thought I wanted to see. I’ve long loved the genius of Franco Zeffirelli, and I also loved classical music, opera in particular. Zeffirelli’s then latest feature, Callas Forever, was screened as a part of the programme of the annual Moscow International Film Festival.

As can be deducted from the title, the film was about Maria Callas. Or better, it was a fictional account of her final years. Zeffirelli, renowned for his work on opera productions, was very close with Callas, so he naturally tasked himself with commemorating her on screen. The story saw Callas (Fanny Ardant), living a recluse in a Parisian flat, her voice and Onassis lost, when she is reunited with her former manager, Larry Kelly (Jeremy Irons), who is determined to bring Callas out of her seclusion and to restore her legacy. With this in mind, he sets out to produce a lavish screen adaptation of Carmen, with Callas starring in it and lip-syncing to her own glorious recording.

As the film develops, so do innumerable relationships. Aside of Callas’s film, Larry Kelly is managing his love affair with a young artist. Callas is managing more than just the loss of her voice: Onassis left her for Jackie Kennedy, so a woman’s tragedy adds to the tragedy of the artist. Despite the pain it causes her, Callas stores the newspapers clips about her ex-husband and his new wife. While she is working on the film, she develops a certain passion for a co-actor, a young handsome man who is keen to use his relationship with Callas to advance his own career.

The feature itself is a film in a film, or better, an opera in an opera. Towards the middle of the film the highly charged human relationships begin to be interspersed with extracts from a would-be adaptation of Carmen. This is where Zeffirelli’s long experience of working on opera productions shines in full glory. One of the opening scenes of this “inner” film bedazzles the viewer with pure gold that downpours from the screen and spills over onto the audience. But Carmen will never be: in the end, Callas asks Kelly to destroy it, and he cannot say “no”…

Prima Donna by Rufus Wainwright

It’s July 2009, and I go to the Palace Theatre in Manchester to listen to Rufus Wainwright‘s first opera. It is called Prima Donna, and I have no expectations whatsoever. And in the middle of the first half I realise that, almost six years later, I am watching the musical version of Callas Forever. I didn’t buy a programme upon arrival but when we learnt that the protagonist was due to sing her renowned Aliénor, a beautiful recording of which existed, my realisation was complete. And if Rufus is surprised to read this, then so was I surprised to arrive to such conclusion. The rest of the work only convinced me.

In Prima Donna, the protagonist is a fading opera singer, Régine Saint Laurent (Janis Kelly), living a recluse in Paris in 1970. She has problems with her voice; she has been out of the public eye for six years; and her butler, Philippe (Jonathan Summers), is determined to get her back out on stage. He’s even arranged for a journalist, André (William Joyner), to do an interview. The journalist, however, used to be an opera student, with the aspiration for a tenor career. Quick passion ignites; and then we find out exactly what caused Regine to withdraw from stage and to lose her voice. Philippe is arranging for her to sing a part from the opera Aliénor (of which a great recording exists), in which she starred six years ago. Back then Régine was in love with her stage partner – not realising that she was a part of a love triangle, and eventually being violently confronted by the truth. It is this truth that caused both withdrawal from stage and the loss of the voice. Her possible hope – the journalist André – pays another visit, but this time brings his fiancee (called Sophie and dressed like Madame Butterfly). Following Philippe’s leave and André’s revelation, the singer finally decides to leave the stage. The final act of an artist that Regine performs is the signing of her albums, one for André, another for her faithful maid, Marie. Another faithful servant, François, gets the signature on his chest. Having sent everyone away, Régine watches the fireworks on the occasion of the Bastille Day, contemplating the shortness of the life’s festival.

Unexpected Parallels

As with Zeffirelli’s film, I am hugely impressed with scenography, costumes, and lighting design of Prima Donna. The work of everyone who worked on this production, starting with Alan Poots who commissioned it, cannot be faulted. This is a modern opera, and thus classical overtures fare along with the occasional bar-style mannerism. Janis Kelly who often has to perform as if her voice breaks, is astounding, as is Rebecca Bottone (Marie). I really wouldn’t want to go into any other connotations Rufus would bring with him – for, if this is music (or opera for that matter), it must transcend all personal experiences, if it is to be understood by (and most importantly if it is to influence) people. At the same time, it is his first opera, and I certainly would not want it to be the last, although I’d like him to put a different subject to music.

My only “problem” is therefore this striking similarity between the stories of Prima Donna and Callas Forever. Maybe I wouldn’t find it too striking if the story told by Zeffirelli was, well, a novel written, published, and read by many. But as it seems, Zeffirelli’s story was as original as it was fictional, a film script, so to see it making the storyline to Prima Donna is strange, to say the least. In the interviews with Rufus that I was able to watch, he mentions Callas but says no word about Zeffirelli. And in my view, the similarities are too obvious to be a coincidence.

And this is not to deny that Rufus wanted to concentrate on other “sides” to this story. E.g. when should a performer resolve that enough is enough, and to exit gracefully? Or to what extent Love rules not only the world but talent, too? But was the latter not the question that can be asked of Callas’s entire life? Did Onassis leave her because she lost her voice? Or did she never regain the voice because her love was betrayed?

I am asking myself what my impression of Prima Donna would be, had I not had the “baggage” of six years ago that forced itself upon? Taking everything together, the impression would be good, although I wish some lines wouldn’t be so simple or repetitive. But the baggage is there, and it’s just too obvious for me to ignore it.

Having thus broken the ground, Rufus, I’d expect, may compose a rock opera and/or a musical. Looking at the examples of Quadrophenia, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Phantom of the Opera, Notre Dame de Paris, and Cats, these genres will surely fit everything he seems to want to bring on stage. But if he chooses to work on classical opera, I’d like to see him try something less lavish, more restrained as in his score for one of Shakerspeare’s sonnets. (And do some research or ask someone to do it for him, as to the subject or storyline).

P.S. It feels extraordinarily weird to say this, but I couldn’t help hearing a hint to Michel Legrand’s (or Barbra Streisand’s) theme from Yentl, Papa Can You Hear Me?, in the overture to Prima Donna. It isn’t a copy, but again the similarity is strong. As mankind’s becoming older, it is getting harder to be totally original… but musically, as stylistically, this may indicate some curious influences.

If you’re based in the UK and haven’t seen Alan Yentob’s Imagine series about Rufus Wainwright, you can watch it on the BBC iPlayer. If you’re not in the UK, you may be able to download the file.

Other posts in Manchester International Festival.

Manchester International Festival Is Back!

It’s still July 2 in the UK, and therefore there’s still time to make a announcement of the launch of Manchester’s very own arts biennale – Manchester International Festival 2009.

This means that Manchester International Festival label is back and will be updated with reviews of whatever events I get to attend. One of them is Rufus Wainwright’s Prima Donna, and I am very much looking forward to it. Here’s a video from MIF’s website of Rufus introducing his tour de force.

You can check the festival’s programme here, and if you want to download a calendar, there’s a .pdf version to your service.

And I will also be updating the MIF09 Flickr set, as well as posting other photos of events and venues that I find elsewhere. Again, you may want to check a few photos from the first festival, MIF07.

Something I keep forgetting to mention… yes, the abbreviation of the festival is MIF, and if you read it as one word, it’ll sound as the Russian for “myth”. I don’t know how this phonetic similarity plays out in this year’s festival, but perhaps this is something that the festival organisers decide to explore in 2011.

As to why I chose this photo… everyone who walked or sat in Albert Square this afternoon knows that the Festival Pavilion wasn’t yet open. The photo thus reflects the “nascence” of the festival… or to play on the above mentioned linguistic peculiarity, “the emergence of the myth”. So, let’s welcome the second biannual artistic phantasmagoria to our busy hive.


Stand Up for Manchester International Festival Programme

The 2009 Manchester International Festival (2-19 July 2009) full programme goes up live on the site tomorrow, Thursday 19th of March, at 2pm. The tickets will be on sale from 3pm on the same day.

First of all, bookmark the MIF09 official website, and if you haven’t yet joined their mailing list, do it here. Then, you can follow their Twitter updates. Even if you’re not of Twitter, you can safely follow the festival via an RSS reader.

Speaking of… Prima Donna, the debut opera by Rufus Wainwright: I know the festival organisers were happy to hear my feedback about the poster you can see in Manchester. And on the screen by Piccadilly you can see the teaser clip… and if walking to Piccadilly is out of your regular path, then watch the clip online.

Next, you can either friend them on Facebook or MySpace – your choice. And be sure to follow their Flickr photostream and to add pictures when the time is right.

Two years ago I was attending the first ever MIF07; you can update yourself on the posts under the relevant label, and look up some pictures on Flickr. And I’m definitely looking forward to going places and events this year… naturally, reporting them here, in Los Cuadernos.

The photograph by Anthony Crook (Janis Kelly in the leading part in Prima Donna) is courtesy of Manchester International Festival 2009.

Manchester International Festival Feedback

The first Manchester International Festival may have ended, but not our talking about it. As the festival is planning to become Manchester’s own arts biennale, the organisers are waiting to receive feedback on their efforts. If you were there and would like to participate, just follow the link below:

Manchester International Festival Survey

There is a small incentive: “one lucky person can win £100”. So, you can test your luck, too, by completing the survey.

I completed it last week, trying to be as honest as I could. I do think that Manchester: Peripheral could’ve been presented better. The survey is said to take 10 mins: not quite so, when you’ve got questions like “Please name any SPONSORS, if you can”. Certainly, if you can’t, then you don’t have to, but it’s nice to be able to, nonetheless.

The concerns for nature and economy weren’t ignored, whereby there is a section of questions that should help “to estimate the total economic impact and carbon emissions the festival has generated in Manchester”. In particular, they ask “how many miles did you travel in total to get to and from Central Manchester to ALL the Manchester International Festival events you attended?”

This is a very tricky question to someone like me, who doesn’t have a car and thus cannot count miles.

Matthew Barney in Manchester

In April 2003 I was approached by a friend of mine who is now on the editorial board of The Herald of Europe (“Вестник Европы”), to do a few translations for their forthcoming first English issue, from Russian into English. I translated a lot of texts, but then it took them a year and a half to actually publish the journal. By September 2004 the majority of texts became outdated, except one, and that was a review of Matthew Barney’s The Cremaster Cycle by Alexander Parschikov (it is now available online at The Herald‘s website, slightly edited for publication and, alas, uncredited, like all translations). It was a very deep review, as you would consider any review that references Samuel Beckett in the very first paragraph. Back then it was the first time ever that I read the name of Barney, and my natural curiosity was helped by detailed descriptions of all five films.

This, for instance, is what you could see in The Cremaster 1:

One of the protagonists finds herself under a table that is covered with a white cloth. She wears a skimpy light silk dress and dances slowly around the hollow table-leg, lying on her back. Then she makes a hole in the tablecloth with her hairpin, and surreptitiously steals some grapes, which magically roll through her body and pour onto the floor through a hole in the high heel of her mule. When they reach the floor, the grapes link together like necklaces and form regular, symmetrical, mirror-image patterns. The figures they form look like female genitalia, and replicating this, the chains of girls in the football stadium arrange themselves into identical biomorphic shapes. The film has no beginning and no resolution: the balloons will never land, the protagonist will go on building new figures out of the grapes, stretching slowly like a mollusc as she looks for a lipstick; the air hostesses will not break their silence, and the smiles of the girls in the stadium are frozen for eternity. Perhaps, the protagonist, hidden from these sculpture-like air hostesses, expresses their subconscious desires, their biological rhythms and their suppressed eroticism.

The reviewer concluded that

…Barney takes his characters from the Pantheon of digital images that represent nothing but their own electronic essence. In his works we find an epic uniformity, a never-ending movement towards some objective. Nothing is clearly defined or attainable; rather there are opal lights reflecting on surfaces, high-molecular materials, and artificial or natural extensions of the human body. This leaves only one question. Where do these extensions take us?

The Manchester audience, especially that part of it which is better versed in Barney’s art than either me or Richard Fair, probably already knows a very detailed and long-winded answer because Matthew Barney’s genius has now marked Manchester with its presence. All in all, Manchester has done incredibly well for its first International Festival. We had Chopin’s music at the Museum of Science and Industry; Carlos Acosta is performing both classical and modern ballet numbers at The Lowry; jazz musicians entertained everyone who would drop in to the Festival Pavilion; we had a maverick Peter Sellars uttering age-old paradigms at the Guardian Debate; and eventually we had Guardian of the Veil, complete with urinating women and an impotent bull. And all this is against the backdrop of Barbra Streisand at the M.E.N. Arena on Tuesday and the forthcoming final performance of The Tempest at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

On Thursday night Deansgate was swarming with people in all sorts of evening frocks going to see Il Tempo del Postino. I haven’t been to the performance, but the headline “What if an exhibition was not about occupying space but about occupying time? Can contemporary art be interpreted outside of a traditional gallery environment?” doesn’t strike me as novel. André Malraux famously called on creating a “museum without walls”, which in simple terms means a museum in your head where you can wander at your leisure. Which means, in turn, that you’re occupying time while contemplating and interpreting art outside any kind of physical space.

And yet it looks like the show has gone the extra mile because Richard Fair says in his review:

I knew before the piece – Guardian of the Veil by Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler – that I was in for something different. Something challenging. Apart from what was going on stage, all around the auditorium were actors dressed in IRA-type uniform brandishing ukuleles. Let me tell you, if that was the chosen weapon of the paramilitary group in the seventies the troubles would have ended a long time ago.

Back to the question then: do art and politics mix? Should art and politics mix? Or should we simply wander from an excited bull to a guy with a dog strapped to his head, simply recognising that their nature as images and wandering off, without ever finding an idea behind an image?

Sometimes I feel that contemporary art is a mere, yet constant, wandering-off.

Read more:

Richard Fair, Manchester International Festival: Day 16 (BBC Manchester Blog)
Manchester International Festival: Il Tempo del Postino (Mancubist.co.uk).

Manchester Bloggers Meet at the Festival Pavilion

What do you do on Monday evening? Come home from work and wind down in front of your TV? No, no, and no, especially when you’re involved in Manchester’s blogging scene and when you know that the BBC’s Robin Hamman and Richard Fair have reserved a table at the Festival Pavilion near Manchester Central. Is there a better way to spend a hard Monday’s night than in a company of familiar and unfamiliar faces, in the heart of your lovely red-brick city, in the location that looks so stupendously grand?

This is exactly what we did tonight, and as I’m writing this post, the clock is close to striking midnight, which means that I haven’t slept for 18 hours. Still, it’s nothing in comparison to Robin who seems to be travelling non-stop in space both virtual and physical. And nothing in comparison to Richard, who admitted with a sigh that he hasn’t got a slightest idea of when he was going to have his holiday. So far the hero of all Alan Rickman’s fans has been faithfully blogging about the Manchester International Festival and is on duty next week to cover the Tatton Park Flower Show. Oh well, I regularly get my own doze of excitement with Search Marketing.

Craig McGinty was over, giving, as usual, a plenty of helpful advice (thank-you, Craig!). I had the pleasure to meet Stephen Newton and Andrew Wilshere, Paul Hurst and Vince Elgey, Edward (whose blog I don’t know yet) and Ian, and to see Stuart Brown again. Apologies to everyone who saw me but whom or whose blogs I don’t know – please feel free to add yourself to my map of friends, and we’ll all know who you are and what you do.

In general, this meeting was a good opportunity for me to test my memory. I recognised Stephen Newton from his blog’s profile picture. Better yet, I recognised Paul, who works for one of Wigan’s schools as a media instructor. I saw him one and only time in the summer of 2005, when I went to help out Paul Ridyard, my once colleague at QT Radio in Northern Quarter. There was, however, no difficulty in recognising Phil Wood, on whose show I had my first ever radio placement back in February 2005. Broadcasting from the Pavilion late at night, Phil was, as ever, all smile and professionalism – which is exactly the memory I’ve taken of him from the placement.

The Festival Pavilion is open to everyone during the Manchester International Festival, which is to end this Saturday. I’ve planned to blog about Manchester Peripheral and Carlos Acosta, but before I do either I will go to MEN Arena tomorrow to see Barbra Streisand. This reminds me of two guys who came all the way from Birmingham to see George Michael at the Arena. They met me in Bridge St, and with a sheer distraught on their faces anxiously began to explain that they got lost and that George Michael was unlikely to wait till they find the way to the venue. Standing under my huge umbrella in the drizzling rain I was explaining to them how to get to the Arena, but eventually I began to doubt the guys were actually going there. Anyway, I do know where the Arena is, although, alas, it seems that I won’t be able to take any pictures.

And it’s almost 1am now…

For more pictures, go to: BBC Manchester Blog on Flickr

First comes an observation: Alan Rickman has got a huge retinue of fans (I shall confess – I am one of them) who, I guess, are following publications about him online via news subscription (I don’t). There is such thing in Google, for instance, as Google Alerts: it saves time ego-surfing and also keeps you updated about your favourite subject. I didn’t check it for other email applications, but I’m sure this service is quite wide-spread. Well, Alan seems to be the subject of such alerts for a few people, and we can count this as yet another beauty of blogging and analysing who visits your blog, and why. I’m sure BBC Manchester Blog has amassed a stupenduous log of “alan rickman” queries since the broadcast of his interview.

And second, as I promised, several links to the posts about the meeting. Robin said on his blog that I wrote “what must be the definitive round-up of the evening”, but what I didn’t do (so tired I was) was that I didn’t say a word about this lovely little thing which you can find at http://www.kyte.tv. To see how it works, head over to Robin and Craig.

Richard Fair (who is the hero of Alan Rickman’s fans in Manchester and elsewhere in Britain, in case I didn’t spell it out right the first time) reviewing the night on BBC Manchester Blog. Also, BBC Manchester Blog on Flickr.

Vince writing about the night on It’s a Blog! Not a Log! and uploading pictures.

Robin Hamman doing a nice mosaic of photos on Flickr.

Paul Hurst uploading many interesting pictures on Flickr, as well as Ed Brownrigg from Mamucium.

Ian from Spinneyhead and Kate from Mersey Basin Campaign each offering their take on the night.

If anyone else writes their impression of the night, please feel free to add links to the comments.

And to round it all up, a picture from Paul Hurst: it shows two die-hard Mancunian bloggers at the meeting. Have I said before that I liked monochrome photography and blur? No? Well, now you all know it.

The Politics of Art: After the Debate

As I said in the previous post, I tend to dislike generic questions. With regards to this debate, as a lady in the audience pointed out, both we and speakers seemed to have confounded the verbs. Whilst the name of the debate was ‘do art and politics mix?‘, the debate itself would better go under the question ‘should art and politics mix?‘ The nuance is pivotal: although the connection between art and politics is irrefutable, the problem that often perplexes us has to do with the limits of this connection, rather than with the very fact of such.

I decided to record the debate on a rather simple digital recorder, and I’m glad that I did. The panel consisted of Ruth Mackenzie (Chair and the Festival Director), Peter Sellars, Jonathan Harris, Heather Ackroyd, and David Aaronovitch. First, Jonathan Harris attempted to illustrate that great works of art, although originating in a certain political context, nevertheless go beyond this context and may ultimately lose any connection with it. This brought to my mind a Chinese aphorism about poetry that I quoted previously in the blog: that poetry, when conveying a feeling through a “thing”, should be precise about the “thing” and reticent about the feeling, so that through the experience of the thing the feeling could be captured.

Heather Ackroyd spoke, first, about etymology and definitions of politics, and state, and art (not always convincingly, in my opinion), and then moved on to give various examples of modern art reacting to and challenging political regimes. David Aaronovitch, who came next, honestly admitted that, while listening to Jonathan and Heather, he forgot to think of what to say for himself. In the light of which he started by taking an issue with Heather and continued and ended up speaking more about politics than any kind of art. And then came Peter Sellars and, thankfully, saved the debate by getting back to where it all started: the crossroads of art and politics.

It is here that I can utter that I’m very happy to have recorded the debate because Peter’s talk is a great example of public talk. Someone may say this is no wonder that a famous theatre director should also be a good speaker, but, as we all know, talents for art and for speech don’t always complement each other.

It was Sellars who touched on the question I raised at the end of my previous post. Art and politics always mix, but to what end? A few people told me I was a dreamer, which I accept because it is true. I’ve always believed in peace, so for me the goal of both art and politics is to promote peace by the means of peace. Again, previously on this blog I quoted Picasso who said that ‘painting is the instrument of war‘. This phrase, however, shouldn’t be construed as Picasso’s advocating the war: Guernica is one of the most powerful anti-war statements in the world’s art. Rather Picasso was acknowledging the fact that art could be and was being used to wage and propagate wars. Yet he was also arguing that, since an artist is a political being, whose biggest political act consists of the ability to take interest in another human being, then painting, as art in general, was the instrument of bringing peace.

This theme of an artist’s empathy lies at the heart of Sellars’s talk. To accord a human status to a human being is a great political act, and art therefore teaches people the skill of inclusiveness, the ability to ‘get outside of your head‘ and to put yourself in other people’s shoes. It is also art, not the media, that provides a new level of information, as ‘uninformed democracy is worse than a tyranny‘. The lack of information and empathy leads to violence which is ‘the collapse of communication‘, the ultimate manifestation of the lack of knowledge and understanding. This is the theme that rises in Gus Van Sant’s Elephant: at certain point during the film you realise that the tragedy that is about to happen has to do not only with the “dangerous minds”, but with the conflict between craving for inclusion and alienation. In Sellars’s words, today’s violence originates from one’s desire to ignore and another’s desire to be acknowledged, whereby the latter plants a bomb in the former’s car.

War is the consequence of this lack of communication and violence, and the purpose of art is to teach us see both reasons and consequences of violence. There is only one way to prevent wars, and that is through deepening people’s listening and looking capacities. At the same time, art continues to be a category beyond all categories, a land that doesn’t exist, and it’s this non-existence that draws us to art. In this, art is akin to culture, and culture, in the words of J.-P. Sartre, neither saves, nor justifies anyone; but it is a man’s creation, a critical mirror in which he can see and recognise himself (The Words).

Ultimately, man always wants to possess something he doesn’t have, and that is Beauty. The myth of Pygmalion is about the fundamental craving for the Beautiful, it is about the desire to have that which is unattainable and yet so close. The pleasure of finding and experiencing the Beautiful is what we should read in the well-known ‘beauty saves the world‘. It is not Beauty as such that saves the world, it is our full and open experience of it that does. Sellars utters this at the end of his talk: ‘world is going to be transformed through pleasure, not through accusation‘.

I suppose it is easy to see, whose side I am on, which I personally acknowledged to Peter. I uploaded his speech, and I still apologise for some technical imperfections and coughing sounds – there is little you can do at the live event of this kind. But I feel that we need speakers like Peter Sellars who encourages the new generation of artists to complexify things exactly when politicians are simplifying them. He calls on the artists’ sophistication, humility and empathy, to bring deeper understanding and pleasure to people. Listen to his talk, think about it, pass it on. For my part, this was one of the occasions when I was thrilled and proud to be living in Manchester.

The Politics of Art (Manchester International Festival, Art and Politics Debate)

As I’m planning to attend MIF’s Arts and Politics Debate at the Town Hall, I’ve been looking for what the visitors to the official website of the festival had to say on the matter. I don’t know what I expected, but the numbers of posts and visitors to each of the forum’s categories are telling.

And then I went to Debates and Discussions section, and there was a selection of questions put up by The Guardian Debates:

  • is religion a force for good in modern times?
  • do art and politics mix?
  • is London bad for Britain?

These are said to be the issues that are to be debated by ‘some of the world’s finest minds‘. I’d especially love to hear their views on the third question, considering how important capital cities are in the development of most of the careers. As far as the first question goes, I’ll gladly quote Mr Tony Blair, ‘I’m certainly not bothered about that‘. Arts and politics is, however, a different subject, and before I go to the debate this afternoon I’ll jot down some of my views here.

Before I do, however, may I say that these generic questions often enrage me. They are usually asked in order to coax the audience into a “debate”, in which any common ground cannot be found by definition. Seriously, how many definitions of art do you know? They say that truth is born of an argument, which is true, providing we know exactly what we’re arguing about.

I had a short-period email correspondence with my compatriot, in which we were talking comfortably about globalisation, Europe, Heidegger, etc. All was fine, until I noticed that he wasn’t actually reading my letters. He was sieving through them, picking up certain phrases out of context, which led to various degrees of misunderstanding. When I finally expressed my concerns, he reproached me: ‘This is the beauty of an argument – soar freely, exchanging ideas, leaving them behind. Disagreements are what I find beautiful, and you don’t‘. I replied that there was nothing beautiful about losing my time.

Let us get back to our sheep. Do art and politics mix? Questions like this force on a thinker a suggestion that art and politics are two completely different, unconnected spheres of life. Whether or not this is possible, each of us can decide for themselves. As far as George Orwell was concerned, one of the four reasons why writers write was ‘political purpose – using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude‘ (Why I Write).

This must be second or third time I’m quoting this passage from Why I Write in my blog, which should unambiguously suggest where I stand. This blog is not about politics, although I expressed my opinion on certain political issues. However, there’s another reason, why I avoid writing about politics in my blog.

There is today what I would call “the politics of art“, which comprises absolutely everything: from language to the themes of your art. The very fact that political correctness is now fully integrated in the process of making or discussing art manifests that art possesses (or is developing) its own political culture. I personally experienced this during Brokeback Mountain release, when even the most humble critical opinion of the film was decried as a homophobic propaganda. I put the word “film” in bold because the whole BM-gate showed the inability of some faithful followers to distinguish between nasty anti-gay comments and a careful critique of the film as a work of art. The art scene thus came across as even less democratic than politics.

So, art and politics not only mix, they’re always entwined to the extent when you can no longer say exactly what feeds from what, art from politics or politics from art. This occasionally leads to confusion. One such on my memory was calling the monumental architecture and sculpture of the 1930s “totalitarian” because the author analysed it on the examples of Italy, Germany and Soviet Russia, failing to notice the examples of similarly “totalitarian” structures on the other side of the Atlantics. Had this been done, the 1930s monumentalism in art would have had to be placed in the context of industrialisation and the world economic crisis. But objectivity wasn’t the author’s political purpose.

I’ll be writing more on the subject after this afternoon’s debate. Since I don’t see the reason to refute the exchange and connection between politics and art, I think the fundamental question to ask is where the two are heading. How do politics and art see progress and mankind? I’ll wait to see if today’s panellists bring this question up.

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