Culture Fix: December 12th
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There's a pretty good chance that the closest you'll come to culture during the festive period is watching the Eastenders Christmas special whilst sipping on the brandy your aunt bought you that you're pretending to like. So you better get as much as you can before everything shuts down and you completely lose your marbles at home. Art, music, film and theatre coming up!
Every day, 350 million photos are uploaded on Facebook and 95 million shared on Instagram; we reckon photography probably wants to put its feet up for a bit. This is a timely exploration of what is arguably THE medium of our time with 11 contemporary artists mapping, visualising, questioning and assessing photography's cultural value at a time when the boundaries between real and fake are so blurred; the 'like' sharing economy is so dominant; and when photos are so linked to bots, crowd-sourced workers and AI.
Yeah it's an (aptly) photographic deep dive that'll take you to normally unseen corners such as the human labour involved in moderating and Google Street View photographers. Some people dig the image-saturated world we're living in; some people don't. Here's the evidence for you to make up your own mind on just where it is we're heading.
Excellent playwright Henry Naylor has landed at Arcola with a double bill of theatre that won over all the critics in Edinburgh. Borders is a smart, satirical take on celebrity that finds two artists - one a celebrated Western news photographer, the other a Syrian graffiti artist - who suddenly come into contact with one another.
Games, meanwhile, is set in 1936 Nazi Germany in the run up to the Olympic Games, and follows a Jewish athlete and the prejudice she is running from and against touching on topical themes of far right populism. Both are highly relevant, powerful tales that can be seen as a double bill for a discounted price, or separately if you’re the restless type.
There aren’t many reasons to find yourself in Limehouse but this is perhaps the best of ‘em. Portrait Jazz is a jam session that happens every other Tuesday at Unit31, where a house band plays a classic Jazz joint from start to finish. Previous editions have seen the records of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Art Blakey given the treatment. After that, the floor opens to anyone able to hold a note or a double bass. With a good vibe, a nice edgy setting and excellent musicians, this is ticking all the Dojo boxes - the next one is on 18th December.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Kris Lemsalu, where animals are humans, beauty is ugliness and the strange figures which inhabit the Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art are a cross between fetishist taxidermy and ancient totemic statues. Concerned with the processes of birth, death, and what she terms 'the bit in-between’, this show examines life from the sometimes humorous, sometimes macabre lens of Lemsalu’s eye.
Beautifully detailed ceramics and rich tapestry work is placed alongside dirty clothes and debris in a challenge to traditional hierarchies placed on aesthetics and art.
Death has never looked so chic as in this excellent show which sees the designer of the iconic Alexander McQueen floral skull, Jacky Tsai, exploring the superstition and fear associated with death in Chinese culture. Blooming from the bones, the flowers, butterflies and bees in Tsai’s beautifully creepy works celebrate the beauty in decay. One to enjoy visually, but also get the cogs whirring too.
Cottoning onto the fact that, for plenty of us, this is the time of year when we really need a laugh, the BFI have turned up like a knight in shining armour with a whole season of films devoted to tickling that funny bone. For a few months, they have comedy films every which way: straight up, slapstick or smutty, with strands devoted to English Eccentrics, Christmas, Slapstick and Lampooning the Führer.
Look out for Withnail and I (December 28th); Monty Python’s Life of Brian (December 17th & 22nd); Superbad (15th & 21st); and plenty of other humorous films to have you feeling happier than you might be feeling in the real world.