Archive for June, 2011
In all the controversy over the availability or lack of it, of tickets for the London Olympics, the cultural festival that runs alongside it, seems to have been largely overlooked by the media. This could be set to change with the announcement that Tracey Emin, of ‘My Bed’ fame, has recently been named as one of twelve artists who are to design posters for the Olympic and Paralympic games. Miss Emin has a way with words certainly but judging by her artworks at least, has a somewhat limited vocabulary. When it comes to posters four letter words do have one advantage in so far as they are short and to the point, but unless the organisers want to add to the controversy which already surrounds the games, she’ll have to come up with some longer words. She also misspelled Picasso on one of them which doesn’t bode well.
For many of us, modern art is a bit like marmite– you either love it or you hate it. And the work of Britart artists in particular, has in recent years aroused a great deal of heated debate about the nature of art. Can a dead shark suspended in formaldehyde or a rumpled bed be art? I get out of bed every morning and leave the bed-clothes in a state of disarray: have I just created a piece of art or am I simply being a lazy slob? When I go back later to remake it, I often find myself agonising over the destruction of this masterwork of mine.
French playwright Yasmina Retza wrote a very clever and wonderfully funny play about modern art. Entitled ‘Art’, its plot is a deceptively simple one: three friends, Serge, Marc, and Yvan, are forced to reassess the nature of their long running friendship when Serge pays a huge sum for an abstract painting which consists of barely visible white lines on a white canvas. Serge and Marc fall out in a big way when Marc describes the painting as a ‘piece of sh*t’. Yvan’s attempt to reconcile his two friends succeeds only in widening the chasm that has opened up between them. It could be argued that the play is more about the nature of friendship than about art, but it provides plenty to chew over on both subjects.
Perhaps in the end, it comes down to this: it’s not what you see when you look at a work of art that makes it art for you, but what you think you see.
We were one man down this Tuesday in Housmans; Derek having taken the night train to Turin. No, it’s not another euphemism like; ‘he’s fallen off his perch’ or ‘he’s pushing up the daisies’ – he really had gone to Turin. He was on holiday.
Ordering our beers, we enquired if our absent friend had left money behind the bar for his round before departing for Italy. The barman has heard this ‘joke’ before; every time in fact one of us goes AWOL, and is immune to our pathetic attempts to obtain free beer and food. To his credit, he still managed an indulgent smile, though he was probably wondering why these old gits keep repeating the same old stuff. The answer is of course, that it’s the only way we remember anything!
Not that any of us is in our dotage or anywhere near it, you understand. No, being an ‘old git’ is more of an attitude than an age thing. We’re not angry old men exactly, just rather forthright in our views at times and yes, I admit it, a bit grumpy. This was brought home to me recently, when my daughter pointed out that – horror of horrors – I was sounding more like my father every day. All men have this charge levelled at them eventually, either by their wives or their children: my son lives in mortal fear of the day he finds himself plumping up the sofa cushions like his old man, but I still found it hard to accept. Not that my father was a bad man or anything, quite the opposite in fact, but in old age he could be very forthright in his views and well, how can I put it, just occasionally, I mean hardly ever really, just a wee bit grumpy.
An article in The Sunday Times the other week suggested that the elusive Higgs Boson, the so called God particle, may have been found 11 years ago. What’s going on here? Did an absent-minded professor put it down for a second and then forgot where he’d put it, or did some disgruntled employee steal it?
Scientists have been searching for this particle since the 1960’s, when Professor Peter Higgs first proposed its existence. So you can imagine the consternation at Cern, home of the Large Hadron Collider (a misnomer if ever there was one – it’s not just large – it’s enormous), when this oversight came to light.
Picture the scene: the head of Cern summons the entire complement of scientists and technicians to a meeting. Stepping up to the podium, he gazes out over the sea of expectant faces.
‘I think you all know why I have asked you here today,’ he intones sternly. ‘I don’t want to involve the police in this matter, unless I have to. So, if the Higgs Boson is handed in before the end of the day, we’ll say no more about it.’
Not quite how it was, but far weirder things go on in the world of physics. It’s full of strange theories, backed up by mathematics that ordinary human beings find totally incomprehensible. We just have to take the physicists’ word for it when they say that the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42, or whatever it turns out to be.
And the names they give to these things: quarks, gluons, worm holes (essentially short cuts to other parts of the universe), string theory and the rest. It’s even been suggested that there could be an infinite number of parallel universes where each of us has a doppelganger living out a different version of our lives.
What if one of these doppelgangers was to stumble into a worm hole and end up in the wrong universe: the same supermarket even as oneself. Bit of a shock coming face to face with an identical twin you never knew existed. Which begs the question: would it even be possible for the two of you to occupy the same cosmic space, or would it be a case of this universe ain’t big enough for the both of us?