Cult authors, sci-fi and snobs

Who gets to choose what’s worthy of being considered serious art when it comes to writing? And why is literature so much worse at recognising really great works that just happen to fall into a genre category? Film doesn’t have this problem; there are tons of sci-fi films that are widely recognised as works of art, real slices of celluloid genius. It doesn’t seem to work the same for books; you don’t get a sci-fi author winning, or even nominated for, the Booker, at least not often. You might get a book from a more mainstream literary author, like Margaret … Continue reading Cult authors, sci-fi and snobs

Despicable art: shock therapy for the soul?

John Waters, the people’s pervert, self declared “filth elder” and director of Hairspray, Pink Flamingoes and Serial Mom, among lots of other weird and disturbing films, is an ambassador for the shocking in art and cinema. The first London exhibition of his art is on at the Sprüth Magers gallery at the moment, and he recently gave the commencement address at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) – seriously, watch it. It’s amazing. Waters has, throughout his career, tried to shock people. He wants to be despised, hated, vilified. In his speech to the graduates at RISD, he told … Continue reading Despicable art: shock therapy for the soul?

Is art too clever or are we too stupid?

I don’t get art. I like it (I think), and I find the idea of art exciting. But sometimes it just goes right over my head and I wonder if it’s my problem or whether contemporary is just, you know, pretentious bullshit. The problem seems to be that most other forms of culture, like literature, film and music, are in general quite easy to understand. We know what the connotations of minor key are in a song, we get when someone in a novel or a film is looking in a mirror that perhaps they’re not being completely honest. We … Continue reading Is art too clever or are we too stupid?

Project hieroglyph: deep down, do we all just want to watch the world burn?

Disastrous and depressing visions of the future are everywhere; from 1984 to The Hunger Games, there are scores of books and films that imagine our future as pretty bleak, with all the worst elements of society dragged out to extreme levels. Try and think of fiction that puts a positive spin on the future and it’s a lot harder; so why are we so addicted to the dark, doom laced versions of the future? Project Hieroglyph, a new book of short sci-fi stories, published in September, was inspired by a desire to project a more positive vision of the future … Continue reading Project hieroglyph: deep down, do we all just want to watch the world burn?

Does Hollywood have a soul?: experimentation and education in film

Steven Soderbergh has re-cut Steven Spielberg’s film Raiders of the Lost Ark and put it on his website, extension765.com, as a lesson in staging. His new version has stripped out the soundtrack completely – so no dialogue, sound effects or incidental music, just an electronic score. On his website, Soderbergh says “I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are.” He’s using the experiment as a way to look at and learn about staging – how you can … Continue reading Does Hollywood have a soul?: experimentation and education in film