Saturday, September 7, 2019: 7.30 am: Off to London (again) for a final fling before the new academic year begins. It’s helps to be nourished, before the ship sets sail, by artists whose work I either find intriguing or admire beyond words. The afternoon was spent walking around Battersea Park with my elder son, while eating a Mr Whippyesque ’99, drinking tea, and locating a Barbara Hepworth sculpture (the ground-based plaque for which was dutifully claimed by a dog who unceremoniously urinated over it):
I’d not been at the park since my first visit to London, around 1967 or 68, when the pleasure grounds were held there. I remember a magnificent helter-skelter. Late afternoon, we walked to a Singaporean restaurant before I headed to the Clapham Picture House to watch Tarentino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I relished the evocation of late 1960s American TV programmes, many of which were a staple diet of my childhood entertainment.
Sunday, September 8, 2019: I caught the Olafur Eliasson exhibition at Tate Modern. He, his team, and collaborators in the sciences, make environmentally aware and socially committed artworks that have succeeded engaging a broad public.
It’s a very good example of art as research. The exhibition showed the processes as much as it did the products of his experimentation and conceptualisation. At its the best, the work realised simple ideas with a minimum of technology to maximal effect. One work comprised a narrow, long white corridor filled with dense mist (evoking a sanitised version of a London ‘peasouper’). It engendered a sensation that I’d never before experienced: ‘I can see, yet I’m blind!’ was my overriding impression.
We took lunch a Raman restaurant close by, before returning to the exhibition and, afterwards, heading to attend St Paul’s Cathedral, for Choral Evensong (albeit in the mid afternoon).
The reverberation under the dome is always problematic; the sounds of singing and speaking are overlaid, and end up as an incomprehensible mush. Whereas, the reverberation within the large tank at Tate Modern was resonant with positive potential. I counted a 7-second decay rate, from the moment I uttered a yelp to its progress into silence. (The dome of the Taj Mahal is reputed to have a decay rate of over 20 seconds.) Later, at the Apple ‘cathedral’ in Covent Garden, the techies in the ‘Genius Bar’ fixed my dippy iPhone. Late evening, my elder son made dinner, over which we watched Tarentino’s Inglorious Bastards.
Monday, September 9, 2019: I disembarked from my Clapham hotel (and its magnificent artwork) and took the train to Kensington Olympia and, from there, to the Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition at the Design Museum:
There are few artists to who I’d ascribe the epithet ‘genius’; he is one of them. It was a remarkable exhibition: full of models, photographs, props, artefacts of cinematic technology, letters, recordings, and film clips. Confronting the dresses worn by the actresses who played the evil-twin girls (‘Hello, Danny!’ Them.) in The Shining, was like a sacred encounter with the vestmental relics of religious notables:
Kubrick was a self-disciplinarian, patient in his art (although not always with others), who took control over, and responsibility for, all aspect of film making. You can’t be a visionary director without being a master craftsman also.
He could not only think outside the box but also invent other types of boxes. His approach to editing was instructive – embodying principles and ideals that are applicable to all creative practice:
When I’m editing, I’m only concerned with the questions of ‘Is it good or bad?’, ‘Is it necessary?’, Can I get rid of it?’, ‘Does it work?’ I’m never concerned with how much difficulty there was to shoot something, how much it cost, and so forth. I’m never troubled losing material. I cut everything to the bone.