Fleabag: a chance to see the stage performance

Multi-award winner Phoebe Waller-Bridge appears on This Morning to reveal the release of the Fleabag stage show on Amazon Prime

To all the Fleabag fans out there, devastated at the end of the award-winning TV series, there is more to see! Despite Waller-Bridge confirming multiple times that Fleabag has ended after 2 series, the play that sparked the brilliant show has just been made available online via Amazon Prime. It is a recording of last year’s theatrical production, which I tried to get tickets for and failed miserably 😦 But it is now happening; the iconic one-woman show is available from our own homes, and for a good cause too!

But why is this happening now? The online release of Fleabag is to “help raise money while providing a little theatrical entertainment in these isolated times,” Waller-Bridge commented in her announcement. The fee to download is £4, with all the proceeds going to important charities. Her aim is to raise money for the NHS workers on the frontline, as well as the theatre industry affected by the pandemic.

The stage show is a chance to see the TV series origins, which fired Waller-bridge into deserved international stardom. If you haven’t seen the TV show, you must be living under a rock! But if you are one of these few people, I couldn’t recommend it more. The addictive sitcom follows the life of a Londoner who is navigating her way through life after the death of her best friend with troublesome, and questionable, relationships. The characters are not always likable, but very often relatable. It is emotionally and sexually honest, and the finale left me in astonished awe, making me go straight back to the start.

So why would you want to miss out on seeing one of the most in demand shows of the past few years? Download the performance now and donate to the cause.

Dorothea Tanning: an uncanny narrative of gothic dreams

Tate Modern, London

This enigmatic exhibition reveals Dorothea Tanning as so much more than just another surrealist artist. Through her inclination for the gothic and her feminist subversion of the femme-enfant figure, Tanning breaks surrealist boundaries to explore a nightmarish dream world.

Dorothea Tanning, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, 1943, Tate.  © DACS.

Alyce Mahon brings together 100 works from Tanning’s extraordinary seven-decade career. The trip through her artistic oeuvre begins with mysteriously uncanny gothic interiors, and ends with her curiously creepy sculptures to create the first large-scale exhibition of Tanning’s artistic work for 25 years.

In her most famous work Eine Kleine Nachtmusik from 1943, two young girls in tattered dress wander a hotel corridor at night and confront the aggressive tangles of the monstrous sunflower. One girl slumps as if in defeat. Contrastingly, the other girl’s hair defies gravity, standing on end as if it were pushed up by a gust of wind. The sunflower creeps towards her with a tentacle-like stem, blocking her path to the open door and the stairs, yet her confident stance and electrified hair portray a newfound sense of power within her. The happenings of the image imply the occurrences of supernatural forces and the journey of the girls’ escape, which is alluded to through the light cast by the open door. Through this confrontation, Tanning disrupts the normative role of girls in surrealist painting as being simply the muse. The obsessive sexualisation of the femme-enfant figure was integral to Surrealists, such as the likes of Hans Bellmer, and Tanning too stages this figure but subverts it into an image of female defiance, bringing the femme-enfant motif a new feminist dimension.

Dorothea Tanning, Birthday, 1942, Philadelphia Museum of Art. © DACS, 2019.

Tanning’s 1942 self-portrait Birthday again exudes power, making us question if the young girl in Eine Kleine Nachmusik is a reflection of herself. She leaves us no answers; they are paintings of mysterious narratives exploring the imagination. Yet in Birthday, it is the viewer she confronts. We see Tanning opening a door in front of a space of multiple receding ajar doors. Her confident gaze stares out at the viewer; she has bare breasts, a Shakespearian dress and a mythical creature at her bare feet, creating an image of Tanning as a woman of innate power.

The idea of escapism is explored through Tanning’s continual use of the motif of the door, making the viewer question what is it that lies beyond the door? Is it unachievable desires? Or a gleaming chance of escaping this domestic interior? Tanning explained that the open door was a ‘talisman for the things that were happening’ in her life. And how it also acted as a talisman for the power of art over the viewer too, believing we should leave ‘the door open to the imagination. You see, enigma is a very healthy thing, because it encourages the viewer to look beyond the obvious and commonplace’.

Tanning’s subversion of the domestic space is integral to her work; she transforms confined interiority into an uncanny space of other-worldly happenings. Anything is possible. Confrontation and contrast thematically appear throughout the exhibition, not just in terms of subject matter but also in her highly conscious use of technique. Tanning’s painting style is meticulously detailed and realistic, contrasting against the surreal nature of the scene to create uncanny notions. The vividness created in her images is as if it’s a scene straight out of a story, linking her literary oeuvre of her novel Chasm and her poetry, to her artwork. The imagery is intertwined, each one simultaneously developing the other.

Halfway through the exhibition, the viewer is confronted with Tanning’s sudden change in media: paint to fabric. The darkly intricate interiors are swapped for soft sculptures made of pink, white and brown cloth. There is a huge change of media and construction, yet the inherent theme of her art remains the same; it is filled with dreams of escapism. She continues the escape of conventional female roles, by replicating the constraints of marriage and motherhood. This is seen in Emma, where the woman is reduced to only her pregnancy. The simplified soft forms are also incorporated into her installation titled Hôtel du Pavot, Chambre 202, from 1970-73. It is an interior hotel space with a disturbing atmosphere through its gloom, lit only by a singular light bulb. The light reveals to the viewer the soft sculptural womanly forms that burst through the wallpaper, disrupting the interior space. The significance of a hotel room is notable as it immediately alienates the space away from the home. This scene is a continuation of Tanning’s exploration of a gothic nightmare. Is this a horror scene that lies behind a hotel door in Eine Kleine Nachtmusik?

https://www.culturewhisper.com/redactor_uploads/4745b11a99e3ea935900013686406092.jpeg
Dorothea Tanning, Hôtel du Pavot, Chambre 202, 1970-1973. © DACS, 2018.

As I travelled through the nightmarish narrative of her art, it is revealed that all of her artwork is intrinsically linked – the motif of the door, the uncanny interior rooms and the adventurous femme-enfant. It is always a scene of mystery and an exploration of entrapment. Tanning rebels against gendered roles and her imagination explodes into her artwork, transforming the exhibition into a supernatural space.

Bibliography:

  • Alyce Mahon, Dorothea Tanning, London 2018.
  • Dorothea Tanning, interview with John Gruen, in The Artist Observed, Pennington, GA 1991.
  • Whitney Chadwick, ‘The Muse as Artist: Women in the Surrealist Movement’, Art in America, July 1985.

What Makes a Film Your Favourite?

Stepping outside these days is not a favourable option. The air feels BALTIC, the icy wind whips around my face, and darkness has taken over by 5pm. Being cold is a permanent state. I crave warmth.

I received an email today about a competition; describe your favourite film in 50 words. A writing task that isn’t uni work and can further procrastination? I’m in. Deciding on one favourite thing is tricky business, especially a film. So, I thought about films that had touched me, and Pride (2014) came to mind. It’s a favourite of mine because it combines love, history and humour, without trivialising how it is inspired by a true story. It made me laugh and made me cry.

Now how does this link to my rant about the cold?! Because, this film OOZES warmth. Maybe not in the literal sense, but it does warm my heart every time I watch it.

Here’s a short synopsis:

PRIDE is inspired by an extraordinary true story. It’s the summer of 1984, Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers is on strike, prompting a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists to raise money to support the strikers’ families. Initially rebuffed by the Union, the group identifies a tiny mining village in Wales and sets off to make their donation in person. As the strike drags on, the two groups discover that standing together makes for the strongest union of all.

Rotten Tomatoes

The film stars Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton (aka Dolores Umbridge), Andrew Scott (the Priest from Fleabag-which if you haven’t watched, watch now!), and Dominic West…the cast is amazing. I love how the film was politically savvy, yet still comedy gold. Combining these elements, with the themes of love and loss, creates a powerfully uplifting film.

Here are my 50 words:

Heartfelt without being exhortative, Pride is a film that like its protagonists, battles with the heart to emphasise that standing together is the most powerful union of all. Incredibly poignant moments move effortlessly to scenes of hilarity. It is a film that embodies casting differences aside, to become one.

A quote from Steph, played by the actress Faye Marsay

Banksy in Amsterdam

The Moco Museum is located within the biggest cultural hub in Amsterdam, the Museumplein, neighbouring the acclaimed Stedelijk, Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum. Everyone’s heard that these are the places to visit on a trip to Amsterdam, yet after my visit to the Moco Museum of modern contemporary art, I would state that this is the museum not to be missed.

The permanent collection features the artists the curator names the Moco Masters, and it celebrates icons such as Warhol, Haring, Koons and many more. The current exhibition ‘Laugh Now’ features a collection of some of Banksy’s most iconic works, including Girl with Balloon, Flower Thrower, and Laugh Now, to name a few.

Banksy has completed more traditional works of art for hanging inside on a wall, and this exhibition allows the viewer to see this. However, the exhibition could be considered contradictory in its nature. Banksy’s fame arose from his powerful and political graffiti in the streets. Does putting his art into a museum change the impact of the original street art?

The exhibition is not authorised by Banksy, nor was it curated in collaboration with the artist. This made me question the validity of the exhibition, is it right to do so? Does it make sense for Banksy to be in a museum?

Some of the works appear to have been physically cut from a wall. Whereas others have been removed from the wooden doors on which they have been taken from to put into the gallery. Is it fair to remove the art from the original location chosen by the artist?

Many of Banksy’s works still emit the same original political message. However, when the art is put into the gallery and the context is changed, the effect is weakened. Banksy’s political and satirical street art combines graffiti with dark humour, and ultimately it is meant to be a subversive surprise. As you walk down the street you might not take it in immediately, but once you do, the impact is felt, arising emotions varying from shock to hope. It makes you think. It is art available to all; it costs nothing to view it.

Banksy’s post after his ‘Devolved Parliament’ was sold at Sotheby’s for a record-breaking price of £9,879,500 on 03.10.19

Despite this, the exhibition at the Moco Museum is compelling and it absorbs you into the environment, making you think of the different interpretations as Banksy pushes the viewer to question society. It highlights Banksy’s political activism, and allows a more in depth look at Banksy’s less exposed indoor pieces. The exhibition has now been extended until the 6th of January 2020; get yourself there if you can.

Love Out Loud

At the end of May, Birmingham united together in the city centre to love out loud and celebrate Pride. It is estimated that 80,000 people joined the 5,000 strong parade, which was led by Andrew Moffat, a teacher at Parkfield Community School in Alum Rock. This teacher was slammed by parents, because his lesson programme covers LGBTQ+ relationships. His programme titled ‘No Outsiders’ resulted in big protests outside the school.

A snippet of Andrew Moffat’s Pride speech

This was mine and my friends first experience of Pride. We had no idea what to expect; we simply left the house in the morning of the Saturday decked out in rainbow attire. Birmingham Pride stood in solidarity with Andrew Moffat in a sea of colour and glitter as they paraded from Victoria Square, right down to Hurst Street. We joined the colourful crowds lining the streets to see the parade, which bursted with music from the floats, a plethora of diverse costumes, and of course rainbow everything. It was so exciting to feel part of such a euphoric atmosphere, the happiness was contagious and smiles were on every face. We were handed flags and all sorts from the people in the parade. The atmosphere created was inspiring, and I actually found it very moving. I was in awe of the crazy costumes that went by me, whilst at the same time remembering the importance of the event. As we freely celebrate Pride, dancing in the abundance of rainbow, I thought of how important it was to remember of those who first fought for LGBTQ+ rights, and of those who still are. The Pride Parade is an amazingly fun experience, but Pride is first and foremost a visible act of coming together as a community, in order to change public attitudes, through a joyful, public parade.

The event simply oozes happiness, and it was also just a time to have a fun day with friends. I will definitely go next year, and will hopefully by then have learnt when to stop drinking, so I don’t have an accidental nap after the final act and miss the night out (oops).

Writing about my time at Birmingham Pride reminded me of the film Pride, which came out in 2014, and remains one of my favourite films. It is based upon the true story of when Margaret Thatcher was in power during the summer of 1984, and the strikes of the mine workers was ongoing. The film tells the uplifting story of how a London group of gay activists raise money to support the miners cause, and how they unite together to support each other. Not only does it touch upon intense and dramatic moments, but it is also effortlessly hilarious. It is a heart-warming and inspiring film, defo one to add to your watch-list!

The Danaïd: Rodin’s Transformation of Sculpture

On Friday, I had my presentation on Auguste Rodin’s marble sculpture, the Danaïd (modelled in 1885, carved by Jean Escoula and exhibited in 1889). I saw and photographed this sculpture during my trip to the Musée Rodin, which is in Paris, where I was lucky enough to go on a study trip as part of my degree! During the trip, we had to choose one piece of art to do a 20 minute presentation on, which counts for the entirety of the marks for the module. A slightly daunting prospect, but one I wanted to push myself to do, and I was proud of! I went to Paris thinking I would do Claude Monet’s Nymphéas (Water Lilies), in the Musée de l’Orangerie. I have been here before, and the museum as an entirety creates an atmosphere of dreamy calmness as you walk around the unique exhibit, which includes eight of the Water Lily paintings. However, at the end of the trip we went to the Musée Rodin, and I was immediately swayed to research a piece of his sculpture.

Rodin’s Danaid
Interior of the Musée Rodin

As you can see from my photography, the setting created in the Musée Rodin is very important, and I appreciated the grandeur of the estate.  However, it is important when exploring his iconic masterpieces around the museum to not simply appreciate the lovely aesthetic qualities created between sculpture and setting, but also to analyse how the body is manipulated by Rodin to explore the themes of desire, mythology, sensuality. All of these themes contributed to Rodin’s innovation of sculpture. The light cascades out of the panelled windows to streak across the surfaces of the sculpture, revealing the qualities of the medium and the skills of the sculptor.

The mythological background…

Rodin’s Danaïd sculpture takes a mythological theme. It is based on a Greek myth, where the daughters of Danaos, called Danaïds, were condemned to hell and had to fill up a bottomless barrel with water as punishment for killing their husbands on their wedding night. In conventional iconography of this mythological theme, the Danaïd is portrayed in her act of filling up the barrel with water. However, Rodin chooses not to do this, and instead he evokes the despair she feels as she realises the pointlessness of her task. She is exhausted, and rests her head on her arm as she gracefully slumps over the rock. This positioning allows Rodin to highlight the curve of her back and neck, mimicking the contours of the rock.

Rodin’s Danaid

Rodin reveals the signs of production…

Rodin’s approach to marble sculpture is unique, due to how he wants to pay attention to the signs of production. The figure of the woman literally emerges out of the marble block. This gives the effect that it is not a fully formed sculpture, as he chooses to leave evidence of the original marble block. This is an allegory of the sculptural process itself. This is highlighted by creating a strong contrast between the woman and the marble block. The woman’s skin is a polished, smooth surface. Whereas where she emerges from is rough, directly showing the markings made by the tools used to carve with. Despite the mythological theme, as a whole, the sculpture is a challenging of the normal traditions and boundaries between marble block, pedestal, and body. This is because he has pushed all of these elements together forming an entirety, rather than keeping them all separate. The effect of this overstepping of sculpture boundaries created a new way of understanding sculpture. It does not have to be finished, it does not have to be whole, and it does not have to be framed by its pedestal.

However, I think that through its placement in the Rodin museum in Paris, this concept is changed. As you can see in my photo, the Danaïd is raised up on a wooden pedestal (beginning at around my waist height if you were standing), and contained within a glass box. It is placed corresponding to the window behind it, which frames the sculpture as the Danaïd fits centrally within it. This is very effective, as the light from the big window illuminates the side of the sculpture. Having it raised up also works very well because you can walk all the way around it, and the effect of the light illuminates the smooth curves of her skin, changing as you look from different angles around the pedestal. The concept of being able to walk all the way round is very key. In Rodin’s Danaïd, and in his other famous marble sculptures, for example The Kiss (1882), the viewer feels compelled to walk around the sculpture. As I was there in the gallery, I wanted to look at the figure from all angles of viewpoint, in order to understand what it is conveying, and how it did this. The aspect of being able to walk around the entirety of the sculpture was a key innovation in Rodin’s work. He achieved this desire to want to see more of the sculpture through making the female figure’s back as telling as her facial expressions. The curve of her back is very sensuous, through how Rodin has naturalisitically modelled her. However, at the same moment he also exaggerates the sharpness of her hips and shoulders, and the result of this makes them mirror and mold to the rocky ground on which the Danaïd lies. The light from the window also highlights the roughness of the block of marble from which she emerges. So despite the changing of giving the sculpture this separate pedestal, I think it is very effective in creating a relationship between the sculpture and the setting, because the squared panelled window creates streaks of light across the sculpture and illuminates it in different ways. This effect of light reveals the qualities of marble.

Rodin’s Danaid

The medium of marble has a ‘susceptibility to almost imperceptible nuances of smoothness.’

Elsen, Albert E., Rodin, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1963

Elsen’s complimentary use of marble can be understood upon close inspection of the sculpture, Rodin has sculpted a cracked and broken pot, upon which water cascades out. This water mirrors the Danaïd‘s hair and they merge together, and it is through the use of marble which aids in creating this fluidity. Rodin combined his naturalistic modelling of the female figure with his abstracted use of iconography and expression of her pose. It is this combination of innovations that able Rodin to transform sculpture.

Rodin’s reputation…

Louis Morin ‘La Sculpture Moderne’, Revue des Quat Saisons, No. 3, 1900

Louis Morin portrays a brutal version of Rodin at work in front of a model in his caricature. Rodin is depicted in his studio, but instead of sculpting, he is grappling with the female body. No sculpting tools are depicted, and it is shown to be very physical. This could also reflect how it wasn’t him that modelled the marbles – and so I thought that the cartoon could also be a criticism on this.  During the period when Rodin was alive and for many centuries earlier, it was a usual thing for the artist to first create in clay and plaster before having the sculpture then interpreted into stone. Rodin went about this by employing a small group of assistants as his stonecutters who would duplicate his work. The strongest criticism that Rodin received was directed by the sculptors a generation after Rodin, who criticised that as a result of not doing his own carving into the stone, he had no real feelings for the medium. This leads to the questioning of authorship upon Rodin’s marble works. Is it fair for Rodin to take the credit for the work when he did not carve it? I would argue yes, as it is his primary creation of the form of the figure and his decision of the suitability of the choice of marble –the museum label rightly credits Jean Escoula who did model the Danaïd – however in my research this is all he ever gets, so there is definitely room here for more research upon the marble carver. To go back to the caricature and the critique on Rodin’s treatment on women, it is noticeable that he has massive hands, and the way he peers in gives very graphic connotations. Rodin is depicted as predatorial and vulgar. The representation of models around the studio portrays how he got his models to pose in highly revealing and sexual ways.

It is hard to decipher if what Rodin was doing was negative or positive. Rodin did not care for the negative cartoons response, which makes you think that he did not care that it was the truth. The other thing to consider is to ask if his work was feminist? The way he got his models to pose was about contortion and using different angles, and this was a modern idea. In his work is the expression of female bodies, and female desire is more liberated (and not passive) – and so it can be argued that it was innovative. On other hand, people said he was randy and seedy. To look at Morin’s cartoon again – the model in the foreground is referencing the position of the Danaïd sculpture. It needs to be enforced however, that this is a caricature, not a photograph. But Anne Wagner points out in her text ‘Rodin’s Reputation’ that this is what Morin was aiming for, this likeness to make it recognisable, like a photo. There are many questions to consider as a result of this caricature: should we the viewer, ignore these allegations by Morin to separate the working process from the end product? Might the intense concentration the caricature presents be essential for Rodin’s completion of the work? Many questions can be posed after researching; my intrigue increased the more I read!

Rodin transformed the idea of what sculpture was about; he broke away from its confinements. He achieved this by portraying the female figure in new poses, which introduces different ways of thinking about the figure. He redefines and questions what was acceptable in sculpture. Despite not modelling the marble himself, he still pays attention to the medium through showing the signs of production, using contrast between the figure and the rough rock from which she emerges. He produces a new way of understanding sculpture.