Tag Archives: Art

Philistinism Redux

Review – The New Philistines: How Identity Politics Disfigure the Arts by Sohrab Ahmari

Identity politics, that very modern ideological constellation, with its fixation on race, class and gender, has migrated from academia into the arts. Queer theory, feminist readings, post-colonial studies – all these have carved out significant positions at the heart of the art world. Many artists and ‘creatives’ aspire to these doctrines; they increasingly govern the propagation of culture as well as new criticism of canonical art. Such things matter more than could be expected. Continue reading

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Memory and Matteo Ricci

Jonathan Spence’s book The Death of Woman Wang is an entrancing assessment of provincial China. It weaves together the stories of individuals, some of high rank, some freshly rescued from obscurity, with those of myth and legend, creating an absorbing, enriching portrait of a nation and of an era. In The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, Spence takes a slightly different tack. Again his subject is China, but this time, rather than attempting only to look at the country from within, he incorporates the perspective of those who came from without. The eponymous subject of this work was a Jesuit priest from Italy, a keen proselytiser, and one of the pioneering Western missionaries sent to China to spread Christianity among its vast population. Continue reading

The Monumental Beauty of Soviet Art‏

Soviet architecture and ‘socialist realism’ more generally have a poor reputation. These movements and their products are disdained by many, and deprecated in artistic terms. But each, despite their associations with totalitarianism and mass murder, can instead be seen as testament to the power of beauty, even in its monumental form. And all of this can be true despite the designs and intentions of the less than pleasant people who held political power in the Soviet Union. Continue reading

In Defence of History on TV

Television is in bad shape. Facing competition from video games, social media and online streaming services – all of which seek to overturn its long-established dominance – TV faces the toughest commercial challenges in its history. And those voices that criticise television for being too low-brow, for being, in their view, an entirely unintellectual form of entertainment, have never gone away. Historical television is a frequent target for those critics, who say history on TV (when it is produced at all) is often represented by nothing more than a collection of platitudes read over an emotive soundtrack and embarrassing reconstructions of dubious accuracy. Continue reading