Last Sunday I was about to get on the tube for 1.5 hours and needed something to read that wasn’t the news. Upton Park Newsagents had run out of all women’s mags except one. Womankind. A new magazine that is currently running it’s 5th issue.
Why the magazine should find itself here, in the home of West Ham football, amidst a sea of random, male – oriented periodicals is anyone’s guess. It’s the only magazine I’ve ever paid £5.99 for and don’t regret a single penny. It kept my attention from cover to cover, every single page, and there are 129 of them, no ads.
It covers so much in such a consistently considered and beautifully laid out way. Be you man or woman, it’s choc full of mind-treats – from the great art of the world, the opportunity to expand life beyond the daily grind, the latest on the workings of the brain and the pleasure taken in a nice picture of a bird with a bit of info you didn’t know and weren’t searching for but feel better and wiser for having absorbed…
Step aside Nicole. Although intended for Kim Cattrall, Penelope Skinner’s new play ‘Linda’ is no celebrity vehicle feebly driving a ready – made feminist message.
This is a play that gives you an idea of what it might have been like to watch a Greek tragedy as a Greek woman.
Here is the power and powerlessness of women writ large, “Changing the world one girl at a time” .The word woman is the elephant in the room. It’s dangerous, it could lead to depression or worse…
Why? The play explores what it is to be a woman, now, through the eyes of a typically dysfunctional modern family. The play’s 5 women/girls face all the new “millenial” challenges, front – loaded with the old.
It’s staged on bright and wrinkle – free sufaces that ingeniously rotate us around and through Linda, the career – driven mother’s shiny, mirror-strewn, self – made world.
Work and home sets ingeniously pry into and reflect off eachother and back at the audience, showing what all the play ‘ s 5 female cast feel – The pressure to be, do and have everything, on display, with beauty as your foundation, funded by a far greater ad spend than “Truth”.
If ‘Linda’ means ‘the beautiful’, I’d love to task Penelope Skinner’s ingenious pen to write a sequel entitled ‘Vera’, ‘the true’.
The Fir Tree is a fable of a Christmas tree that rues the day it took its roots and woodland home for granted. We should be happy, Hans preaches, with what we have, when we have it. Not just at Christmas.
The mice in the story help the tree reach this realisation, pointing out how luxurious the tree’s former life has been. The tree, like so many of us, was blessed and wasn’t thankful at the time and now regrets his inertia. Humankind, programmed to forget this simple oft repeated lesson, has evolved myth and fable as reminder- mechanisms designed to kick in when faced with another bout of
“I take joy for granted and am never satisfied with anything, especially myself”.
Anderson takes us beyond the tree’s traditional, simpler symbolism of festive reward. He uses the erring and ultimately redeemed tree to teach mindfulness and gratitude. The tree must die every year whereas we continue and must be forever thankful for our continuity through the seasons, however few or many.
Thus the tree acts as an offering and a reminder, both in the pagan and Christian rituals of death and sacrifice in exchange for new life and renewal. We fell a tree each year and adorn it each year to remind ourselves of our own luck and the abundance of life, growing us sweets and lights, year after year, with or without LED.
Agnes Martin gave us space to think beyond everything we see, what’s left when civilization is removed, before we impose language and thought, ‘My paintings are not about what is seen. They are about what is known forever in the mind’.
And so if Martin takes us outside time, provides the backdrop, the British Museum leads us through time, providing the props, wherever and whenever we want to set the play, the dressing room of civilization.
The museum’s objects play out, across vast distances and ostensibly disconnected cultures, our shared consciousness and show us humanity’s history. A history of diversity and integration, overlaid with repeating, universal patterns, indicating that we are all united by the same underlying needs, truths and impulses, wherever we are, whatever our culture and religion.
At this time of earth-shaking social friction and division, whether or not we, as autonomous individuals, understand and respect the universal nature of humanity is now a matter of life and death.
Cue for the British Museum to open its curtains and show the world the world – how no one race or culture is without connection to another and how every dominant race or culture eventually recedes.
In answer to accusations of colonialist hoarding piracy, the British Museum is now entirely open to everyone. Via its new online gallery tour, anyone can see everything that real visitors can see. Be you a shepherd in Afghanistan, a Greek in Athens, an Aborigine in Australia, a skater in LA……If you have a screen and broadband that is…
In its own words:
“The more we can work with partners in the technology sphere, and the more we rise to the challenge of making our world a digital one, the greater will be our impact on community cohesion and understanding, domestically and internationally. Through technology, the Museum’s collection can become the private collection of the entire world. And so our great Enlightenment vision moves into a phase our founders in the 18th century couldn’t even have dreamed of.”
Read the museum’s blog article introducing the online gallery.
Came out of this play feeling thankful that I could walk to Piccadilly without panic. The street-signs and lights were all in a harmless position, tucked into the bricks or resting on poles, and at least two foot away: a safe distance. A couple jostled past. A man’s hand hit mine. It hurt but it didn’t shake my inner being.
Thanks to ACIOTDITN, I am consciously grateful for my functioning limbic, parietal, and other regions that I can’t recall because I lack the total recall ‘malfunction’. We, the audience, were let into what the majority are locked out of, given a brief peer into someone else’s box. The box labelled ‘Asperger’, peculiar to us and particular to the 15 year old Christopher, is shown to contain a rare species of sense different from the common, that’s often more logical, and no less real. It’s perhaps closer to Nature than we give it or Nature credit for. Christopher sees everything that is and all that that entails; things and ways that we, in our own shared blindness, blank out in favour of a filtered self-created version that plays on repeat…
Those whose brains have a different mode for rendering reality can wake us up to the deception of perception. They show us we are walking through a carefully constructed creation of which we are largely the inventor. The film Inception, flawed though its concept may be on many levels, springs to mind. Since we all have access to the same ingredients and use the same tried and tested recipes, we have the delusion that there is only one way. This shared delusion dupes us into thinking that the cake on the table, with red jam and white cream and beige sponge is undoubtedly a cake on the table and has, in actual fact, those exact characteristics, in the real world, a world of real cake.
This play and book show us that there are other ways of constructing ‘reality’.
By leading us through Christopher’s labyrinthine mind, they make us think. They indicate the scale of the ‘inconvenient truth’ that most of us switch off. Christopher is permanently switched on. Like a wild animal not used to ‘civilised’ inertia, afraid to be touched, noticing everything, absorbing all the creation around him, he very quickly reaches saturation point. Electrified, he has a fit because he has trouble finding the off switch, feeling the universe’s constancy beam around him, all the time.
Obviously, this is highly inconvenient, at best, and crippling, even fatal, at worst. But there are lessons to be learned on both sides. Maths is the compass he uses for navigating through a world with the burden of total attention. Everyone knows that maths’ principle ingredient is truth. ‘Normal’ people can use maths to meet him in the middle. Maths can help ‘normals’ as it helps Christopher – help us navigate the shanty town we have built outside reality. Wherever our attention and perception stray, individually or collectively, maths will always lead us back.
After the ‘final’ curtain draw, the curtains re-open to reveal the answer to our teenage hero’s final maths A-Level exam question – it’s about Pythagoras’ right-angled triangle and proving how and why it’s right-angled (or something.. – I’m as bad at maths as Christopher is at telling lies). The answer emerges like a celestial truth, drawn in chalk on the night sky of the stage back-drop. The equation was solved. It was true. I was somehow reassured and deeply moved.
Try as we like to draw ‘real’ lines through existence, between fantasy and reality, some things are fundamental, like maths, or faith.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is based on Mark Haddon’s award-winning novel, adapted by Simon Stephens and directed by Marianne Elliott. The production won 7 Olivier Awards including Best Play in 2013 and is currently on tour in the UK.
As I stood in front of her works in her recent exhibition at the Tate I thought:
The Stars were and are like that, somehow. The Sea and Gratitude are like that, precisely, point for point and line for line. Here is a genius that transcends all previous attempts to capture beauty through art. She understands that beauty and nature cannot be trapped, nor can the complexity of their underlying symmetry be seen or understood. She shortcuts, with immeasurable generosity, to the harmony and ecstasy that can only be experienced through complete negation – shapes, curves, colours are all byproducts of the truth. Truth is infinitely simple and, being true, it is infinite.
It is the function of the artist to evoke the experience of surprised recognition: to show the viewer what he knows but does not know that he knows. (William Burroughs)