The Theatre of Two Times video

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The Arts and Humanities Festival 2012 in tweets

  1. Jesscountscrows
    Amazing panel talk on feminism last night at King’s. @JosieLong was fucking hilarious. #YayForFeminism
    Sat, Oct 27 2012 13:08:22
  2. KatieBrown161
    As part of #ahfest, we learn more about one of Britain’s foremost art critics and keep questioning Ways of Seeing. http://katiebrownonculture.blogspot.com/2012/10/ways-of-seeing-john-berger-and.html?spref=tw
    Sat, Oct 27 2012 08:29:33
  3. thephotocynic
    I’m giving myself a morning off after #ahfest It’s been a great two weeks. I’ve been to more lectures than I ever went to at university!
    Sat, Oct 27 2012 03:01:18
  4. KingsCollegeLon
    Feminist Changes begins, with King’s Christina Scharff and comedienne Josie Long! #ahfest http://yfrog.com/h85nshoj
    Fri, Oct 26 2012 09:05:15
  5. catarinaazev
    These are pretty awesome. #ahfest http://pic.twitter.com/N0ZbfIYP
    Fri, Oct 26 2012 08:52:46
  6. kingsartshums
    ‘Digital Transformations’ event at the Anatomy Museum is starting at 17.00. Come and join us. #ahfest http://pic.twitter.com/iRuPTGfX
    Fri, Oct 26 2012 08:48:30
  7. chiggi
    RT @kingsartshums: More on the #ahfest blog: two @kingsclassics podcasts in advance of tonight’s Roman Britain event featuring @chiggi: http://goo.gl/4YzvK
    Fri, Oct 26 2012 04:32:06
  8. SUPERFERTILE_UK
    Just been to the lecture by Paolo Gerbaudo.’Tweets on the streets’ Social Media and Contemporary Activism.

    #kingscollege

    Thu, Oct 25 2012 15:44:55
  9. tequila_diamond
    Great talk from Jim Kelly at #ahfest tonight, I will definitely be reading all of his books!
    Wed, Oct 24 2012 16:07:49
  10. kingsartshums
    A packed Anatomy Museum to hear about the ‘Transformations in the Middle East’ tonight. #ahfest http://pic.twitter.com/WzxBumwT
    Wed, Oct 24 2012 12:24:34
  11. chrisJMwhite
    About to watch Manufactured Landscapes about Edward Burtynsky, in the beautiful Anatomy Theatre @kingsartshums #ahfest http://twitpic.com/b71zfw
    Wed, Oct 24 2012 10:44:14
  12. mcmcrawford
    Great event @kingsartshums last night – Will Self reading from Scale and Umbrella and walking from England to Dubai in 3 days. #excellent
    Wed, Oct 24 2012 03:28:36
  13. oliverray
    Things I have witnessed: Michael Morpurgo singing a folk song (I might have cried). Will Self breaking his specs (and being awesome).
    Tue, Oct 23 2012 14:40:27
  14. cackhandedchimp
    will self @ kcl: charmed the crowed. comedic savant philosopher-king
    Tue, Oct 23 2012 14:08:00
  15. JamesASharpe
    Great lecture from Peter Heather on the Conversion of Constantine. #ahfest
    Tue, Oct 23 2012 12:58:03
  16. chrisJMwhite
    The lights are up. @wself talks to Patrick Wright for @kingsartshums #ahfest at @KingsCollegeLon. Marvellous stuff! http://twitpic.com/b6szao
    Tue, Oct 23 2012 12:25:59
  17. KingsCollegeLon
    King’s alumnus and children’s writer Michael Morpurgo talks war, writing and his time at King’s http://goo.gl/yvqcy @RSLiterature #ahfest
    Tue, Oct 23 2012 08:55:35

Ways of Seeing: John Berger and Imagometia

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of two of John Berger’s most famous works: Ways of Seeing, his seminal BBC TV series about the nature of art as property, and G, his Booker Prize winning novel. It also sees the culmination of almost two years of work by Tom Overton, cataloguing sixty years worth of documents donated by Berger to the British Library, as part of a joint PhD between that institution and King’s College London. That work has resulted in an exhibition at the Inigo Rooms in Somerset House, running until November 10.

Tom was kind enough to give us a private tour of the exhibition, which combines unseen documents with artworks related to Berger’s life to provide a unique insight into one of Britain’s greatest art commentators. Until 2009, these documents had been boxed up in a shed at Berger’s home in rural France, in old fruit crates. Tom probably gave himself lung cancer breathing in all the cigarette smoke absorbed by the documents from Berger’s chain-smoking but assures us that it was worth the sacrifice to get a deeper understanding of Berger’s way of working and correspondence with others.
According to Tom, Berger’s father was also the ‘father of modern accounting’, meaning that young John was sent from his home in Hackney to private school in Oxford, expected to become a middle-class professional. Instead, Berger went to art school and became committed to Marxist humanism, as is evident throughout his works and the correspondence on show here. The exhibition includes a painting of the late Eric Hobsbawm, one of many British Marxist intellectuals with whom Berger would meet and discuss politics, as well as a selection of Socialist Realist paintings.

One thing the archives make very clear is Berger’s penchant for cutting and pasting, from long before Microsoft Word. His notebooks are full of newspaper clippings or notes scribbled on the back of envelopes precariously sellotaped into manuscripts in progress. The archive also highlights the collaboratory nature of Berger’s work, creating projects with many artists, photographers and film-makers. One of my favourite parts of the exhibition is the documents behind I Send You This Cadmium Red, a book which brings together the years of correspondence between John Berger and John Christie that began with sending a small colour sample.
Tom is full of anecdotes about Berger’s life and work. A particular favourite is how Berger, who did not approve of literary prizes, donated half of his Booker Prize money to the Black Panthers, allowing them to acquire a building for their headquarters. However, Berger’s philanthropy backfired in an unexpected way: all the members of the group moved in together, then swiftly all slept with each other, had huge fights and the movement broke up!
To tie in with the exhibition, a performance piece was specially commissioned for the King’s Arts and Humanities Festival:  Imagometia, by Rafau Sieraczek. Inspired by Berger’s seminal work, as well as Jacques Ranciere and Guy Debord, the performance aimed to make the audience reconsider how we see things. We were split in two, one group on either side of the stage, and told not to look around, as we were shown videos and dance performances. After a while we were made to swap sides: the same music played, but the images were different, making us question whether we were seeing the same thing as those on the other side of the room. Moreover, we were provided with mirrors and blacked-out glasses, which meant we could only see behind us or out of the very corner of our eyes, again making us question the traditional way of viewing art and performance straight on. Sadly, the event seemed to lose its way after a while, descending into a parlour game: one participant, blindfolded, had to describe an object in his hands to another who had to draw it from his words – an interesting concept, but sloppy in practice. Nonetheless, we all left Imagometia wish fresh ideas about how to view art and performance – John Berger would surely approve!

The Changing Face of Roman Britain

…For nothing he achieved
was greater than to sire this son of his.
To tame the Britons in their sea-girt isle, To sail victorious up the seven-mouthed Nile…

Ovid – Metamorphoses
Translated by A.D. Melville, Oxford World’s Classics

Despite Ovid’s relative dismissal of the Roman conquest of Britain, its effects are still with us over two thousand years later. Tonight’s talk – by the Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins, Professor Michael Trapp, and Dr John Pearce – will explore in more detail the transformations (and wishful transformations) the Romans presence had on our isle.

In advance of the talks, two podcasts by Professor William Fitzgerald on Ovid’s poem, which has inspired art & literature (and of course, the theme for this festival) ever since. In the first part, Professor Fitzgerald provides some background on the text:

While in part two, he looks in more detail at the transformations and themes in the work:

Review: Michael Morpurgo in conversation with Maggie Fergusson

Michael Morpurgo and Maggie Fergusson in conversation 2

An evening with Michael Morpurgo and Maggie Fergusson kicked off the second week of the Arts and Humanities Festival to an almost-full Great Hall. At this joint event with the Royal Society of Literature, hosted by the RSL’s Chair Anne Chisholm, those lucky enough to be in attendance were treated to an incredibly revealing conversation, which touched upon war, family break ups and grief, but also the joys of writing and reading. Continue reading

Tweets and the Streets: Social Media, Protest Mobilisation and Revolutionary Transformation

On Thursday, Dr Tim Jordan from the Department of Culture, Media and the Creative Industries will chair an exciting and topical discussion about the role of social media in contemporary activism. He will be joined by Dr Paolo Gerbaudo, who joined King’s in September and whose whose book, Tweets and the Streets, was published this month.

Tweets and the Streets book cover

❝ The concept of transformation that constitutes the main theme for this year’s Arts and Humanities festival at King’s is one which I have had the chance to reflect much about during my recent research into the use of social media in the recent wave of protest movements from the Arab Spring, to the indignados and Occupy, which has constituted the basis for my book Tweets and the Streets (2012). Studying the doings of this new wave of digital activists, from Facebook page admins, to activist tweeps, have made me think of the nature of protest mobilisation precisely as a process of transformation of those who are involved rather than simply their coordination across time and space. Continue reading

Opening Panel Round-Up

Opening Panel

The 2012 King’s Arts and Humanities Festival began in earnest last night with an opening panel comprising distinguished experts from a wide range of fields, from dance to computing, representing the diversity inherent in the arts and humanities, and in the theme of Metamorphoses which runs through the fortnight’s activities. For those that could not make it, here is an overview of the fascinating opening event from King’s PhD student Katie Brown.

Max Saunders, Professor of English and Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Institute at King’s officially opened the festival, explaining the relevance of ‘Metamorphoses’ for arts and humanities today. The College’s School of Arts and Humanities itself has undergone drastic changes recently, with a 55% increase in staff over the last five years and “imaginative investment” in new buildings and resources. This is parallel to the wider metamorphosis of arts and humanities scholarship, across the UK and beyond. It is not only the subjects themselves that have changed, but (with reference to John Berger, the focus of a current exhibition at Somerset House) “ways of seeing”. It is no longer acceptable to acquire knowledge for the sake of it; instead, the key idea is knowledge exchange. What impact does our research make? How do we promote public engagement? This shift is controversial, but exciting, and leads to events like the Arts and Humanities Festival itself, which Saunders calls “knowledge exchange at its best”.

Each of the panellists spoke briefly about what ‘Metamorphoses’ means within their field.

Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing, began by suggesting that we should not ask how current technology can help us with humanities research, but rather develop technology to carry out the tasks that study of cultural artefacts requires. Describing himself as an “obsessive lover” of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, McCarty examined the changing approaches to the seminal text in scholarship. Whereas George Sandys’ 1632 translation is content to provide a description of the action in each book and a moralising commentary, modern scholarship sees Metamorphoses as an “unresolved structural puzzle”. McCarty, then, has dedicated some twenty years work to attempting to solve this puzzle with the help of computers. He created an analytical onomasticon of Metamorphoses, tagging over 60,000 terms in the book which are related to naming things, in order to find some kind of pattern. In the end, his system just wasn’t enough. “We need a tool as fast as thought to keep up with Metamorphoses”, he suggests. The next step for digital humanities is therefore to create new technologies which will allow the type of work necessary to make sense of such cultural artefacts.

Deborah Bull, who is currently the Executive Director of the King’s Cultural Institute, became famous as a performer, journalist and broadcaster, notable for her award-winning BBC2 series The Dancer’s Body. For over thirty years, she worked with the Royal Opera House, first as a dancer, then as Creative Director, trying to attract new audiences in a changing world. Bull explained that institutions can no longer rely on status, history and titles, but instead have to prove their worth in order to attract an audience. By contrast, reality TV and the National Lottery’s insistence that “It could be you” have made us believe that anyone can achieve fame and fortune, regardless of merit. She insists that we must reclaim the idea of elites, and stop ignoring the decades of training, hard-work and self-denial necessary to become truly world-class. Equally, theatre must respond to new audiences born and raised in a technological era. Brains are developing in different ways today from a generation ago, ways of consuming culture are changing and media multi-tasking is the norm. Barriers to participation are falling away and it is no longer appropriate to think of the audience as a single, silent observer. Each segment of the audience has different habits, engagement and preferences and theatres must cater their efforts to each group separately. At the same time, the shape of the artistic experience is evolving, to become more like a website with sections to explore, rather than a traditional linear narrative. This is very much a metamorphosis in progress – new works of and for a new generation.

Tristan Sharps, Artistic Director of dreamthinkspeak, is a working example of Deborah Bull’s comments. dreamthinkspeak creates live performances in buildings which aren’t theatres, inspired by architecture, film and conceptual art. Audiences are not lead or guided, but free to explore the space. While ‘site-specific’ is the term most often used, Sharps says this isn’t quite right, as his works can move room one site to another. Instead, his work subtly changes an environment, allowing audiences to see it in a different way. The architecture and original function of the space stay the same, while minor changes like removing the light from a room have an enormous impact on the audience’s perception. By staging a performance inspired by the Orpheus story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (read in Penguin English translation) in a disused office space in Somerset House, dreamthinkspeak encouraged audiences to question their own mortality and journey through life.

Finally, Paul Gilroy, King’s new Professor of American and English Literature and an expert in racism and post-imperial cultures, discussed how the defence of the humanities engendered by changes in Higher Education should be an opportunity for the “re-enchantment of the human”. It is a chance to rethink binary oppositions of race, of nation, and to consider the “disavowed presence of war” in our ever-more militarised society. While obituaries for multiculturalism abound, we must more closely examine how cultures interact in London, the “unprecedented cosmopolis”. Gilroy highlighted the “contested metamorphoses of British identity”, citing Mo Farah as an example of someone whose identity evolved from ‘migrant’ to ‘native’, from ‘denizen’ to ‘citizen’, because of his new status.

After the panellists, Professor Jan Palmowski, Head of the School of Arts and Humanities, sparked a lively debate by picking up on Deborah Bull’s idea of elites. He maintained that elitism is something which universities like King’s both fight and support: fight because we want to broaden student demographics, making Higher Education available regardless of economic background; support because we want to keep subjects like Classics, arguably only practised today by ‘elites’ (in economic terms – private school pupils for example), alive. We are at risk of losing an important part of our cultural heritage if these subjects are not regenerated through scholarship, yet only those from economically privileged backgrounds currently have the opportunities to study them. Deborah Bull replied that there is a distinction between elites and elitism. People are scared of using the term because elitism is considered discrimination, elites refers to those who are the very best at what they do, as a result of both personal (psychological, genetic) factors, and hard work – special, differentiating qualities, rather than money. It is imperative that we recognise that there are some pursuits which we cannot all achieve, and should celebrate those who can. While Professor Palmowski agreed, the problem in education today is that it is not the most skilled that get the opportunity to learn and practice subjects like Classics, but those with the financial means. Coming from a perspective outside of academia, Tristan Sparks responded that, for him, academics are “torch-bearers”, bringing academic knowledge to the wider public through mass media and culture, such as the Penguin version of Metamorphoses that he read. While only a small number of people may get to study these subjects at university, their work is vital to keep the subjects alive in the wider world. Deborah Bull suggested that one of the major benefits of the digital era is that online communities can be created which keep these subjects alive beyond the university. This is a space where anyone can be involved, regardless of barriers to traditional academia. Willard McCarty added that when an Ancient Greek dictionary was made available online, suddenly lots of amateur scholars came out of the woodwork; people who loved Ancient Greek but had gone in to other careers were then able to contribute to online scholarship. He claimed that as long as there are “smart people who care”, supposedly ‘elitist’ subjects can thrive online.

Overall, the opening panel proved just how rich the theme Metamorphoses is, setting the tone for what will surely be two weeks of thought-provoking, enlightening events.