Preview: Raymond Tallis and Julian Spalding on The Purpose of the Arts Today

Hear two leaders of contemporary thought, talking about why the arts are essential to our experience of the world as human beings.

 What is the purpose of the arts today? Ever asked this question, or indeed been asked it? Whether or not you’ve been able to vocalise what it is that makes art a pressing need, here are two who definitely can. Raymond Tallis and Julian Spalding have co-written a book entitled Summers of Discontent: The Purpose of the Arts Today, and are coming to King’s Place to discuss its contents, with audience participation warmly invited.

The main thrust behind the book is that art is created because of the urgent need for a means ofprocessing the world around us, without which we cannot wholly experience.

Raymond Tallis’s accomplishments are as eclectic as they come: a neuroscientist, a novelist, a cultural critic, a philosopher, a poet… he is a major thinker in more fields than most of his readers can follow him to. His publications include such titles as Why the Mind is Not a Computer and I Am: A Philosophical Inquiry into First-Person Being.

Julian Spalding is the maverick art critic who is best known for calling the bluff of the contemporary conceptual art world, most memorably Damien Hirst. He is also an outspoken broadcaster, the author of The Art of Wonder and founder of many innovative galleries throughout the UK.

Hear experts speak engagingly and humanly on a topic that has endured discussion from the time of the Ancient Greeks and is still relevant today as we emerge from a recession which caused much upset over arts funding and sparked the creative industries’ battle cry: “it’s a credit crunch, not a creative crunch”.


Preview: Egon Schiele, Freud Museum

Schiele's life was rife with sexual intrigue and his art was burnt before his eyes. Art historian Gemma Blackshaw explains his work in the context of pornography at the time.

Egon Schiele died of the Spanish Flu when he was only 28. It killed over 20 million people in Europe at the close of the First World War. But by this time he had already been imprisoned for exhibition of pornographic material to minors and for charges which were later dropped, of seducing and abducting an underage girl. On his arrest police seized over a hundred of his paintings that they considered to be erotic.

His journals from his time in prison show his reaction to the ceremonious burning over a candle flame in court of one of his paintings of a semi-naked woman:

“Auto-da-fé! Savanarola! Inquisition! Middle Ages! Castration, hypocrisy! Go then to the museums and cut up the greatest works of art into little pieces. He who denies sex is a filthy person who smears him in the lowest way his own parents who have begotten him.”

Schiele had studied at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna, but moved away from it and founded the New Art Group (Neukunstgruppe), where he was somewhat more free from the restrictive Academy to explore sexuality through his work. The naked woman remained a main trope of his work, right up until the end. His last drawings in the 3 days between his and his wife’s death were nudes, some in masturbatory poses.

For lovers of Schiele, this upcoming talk at the Freud Museum will shed some light on his raw,painfully crazed portraits. Gemma Blackshaw, Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Plymouth, speaks as part of a season of talks and events at the Freud Museum accompanying their exhibition ‘Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing’ from 22 October 2014 – 22 February 2015.

Originally published by Culture Whisper.

Preview: The Moth StorySLAM, The Book Club

Members of the public compete to tell the best stories in this much awaited cult event which has gathered a huge following on both sides of the Atlantic.

The New York phenomenon that has been sweeping The States and beyond has finally come to London: The Moth StorySLAM tickets are an outrageous £5 for this not-for-profit, and sold out immediately for the first two London events, so keep your fingers on the buzzer for this one – the release date has been announced, and tickets will go on sale on the 24th September.

Stories are everywhere. From the young child who desperately begs to be told a story at bedtime, to the grandparent who tells and retells favourite narratives from a life already lived, the need for stories is an urgent one, present in everyone – all ages, all cultures, both tellers and listeners. This is what The Moth StorySLAM has tapped into, and which audiences flock to – like moths to a flame.

This not-for-profit organisation goes deeper than appealing to our natural nosiness. We all have stories that we tell ourselves, stories that make up our identities. We narrativise our lives in an attempt to gain access to ourselves. To tell a story is to learn by finding patterns and poetics in the otherwise arbitrary events of one’s life. On the receiving end, stories have an intense power to engage the empathy of the listener, breaking down all manner of barriers.

At The Moth StorySLAM, storyteller hopefuls (who’ve prepared a tale based on the theme of the month) will put their names in The Moth hat. Names are picked and, one by one, storytellers take the stage. Each teller  has just five minutes, and those tellers are scored by teams of judges selected from the audience. Storytellers have no page in front of them. They are, true to the open mic format, ordinary people who have had something extraordinary, or hilariously ordinary, happen to them, given a chance to share it with a diverse audience in their own voice.

If you haven’t already spent years yearning to see The Moth live from this side of The Pond, you can get a taster by listening to their podcast. Our favourite Moth story is entitled Life on a Möbius Strip , told by a young astrophysicist who finds wild parallels in her research and personal life.

Originally published by Culture Whisper.

Preview: Assassins, The Menier Chocolate Factory

TV mega star Catherine Tate comes to an 150 seat intimate fringe venue in the spectacular black comedy musical Assassins.

Catherine Tate is coming to the Menier Chocolate Factory as the lead role in the 90s Stephen Sondheim musical Assassins. But this is not your average musical: it opens with the Presidential anthem “Hail to the Chief” eerily distorted as it plays through the steam and whistles of a carnival calliope. Set in the shooting gallery of an American fairground emblazoned with “Shoot the President – win a Prize”, the production sees real life historical assassins take to the stage to uphold their “right to be happy” (i.e. the right to bear arms, protected by the US consitution).

Expect demented hilarity that will send tears of laughter from streaming down your face, and yet have you half wishing you weren’t laughing at all, as the play examines giant American themes of the dark side of power and celebrity. It sounds truly bonkers, but under the award winning direction of Jamie Lloyd and with such a stellar cast, including such musical acting greats as Mike McShane and Carly Bawden, we trust this will be a spectacular night.

Tate is best known for her TV roles on Doctor Who and The Catherine Tate Show, but in fact she is no stranger to the stage, which is where she started with prestigious companies such as the National Theatre and the RSC. Her last major stage role in the UK was as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing at the Wyndham Theatre in 2011, which she couldn’t have suited better. This is a woman at the top of her powers, using her comedy prowess to tackle intense subject matter in a role quite different from anything she has done before.

Preview: Will Self, Polly Stenham, Ruth Padel, Howard Jacobson, Esther Freud, 5×15 stories, The Tabernacle

A truly unrepeatable evening with a selection of the top writers of our time, each of whom would like to tell you a story.

Five towering names of today’s literary world, spanning theatre, novels, poetry and non-fiction, come together for one evening to elicit your wholehearted attention while they pour their hearts out in five 15-minute stories.

Will Self, Umbrella author, journalist, and speaker of dizzying agility on any number of topics – from psychiatry to psychogeography – is undoubtably a phenomenal storyteller. Not comfortable with conformity, Self’s biting intelligence provides hilarity, disruptive controversy, and always an enthralling experience.

Polly Stenham, ‘Tusk Tusk’ writer, is the 28-year-old who has been a revered playwright since the age of 19 when her debut play ‘That Face’ premiered at the Royal Court Theatre. Theatre critic Charles Spencer said “This is one of the most astonishing debuts I have seen in more than 30 years of theatre reviewing.” She has recently been living up to the hype with her absorbing and ascerbic play, ‘Hotel’, which ended its run at the National’s temporary Shed theatre this month.

Ruth Padel is not only a well loved poet, but also a critic, nature writer, musician, conservationist, regular broadcaster on BBC radio, and recently a novelist with her book Where the Serpent Lives . She will be speaking at this event on just two of her passions – poetry and music.

Howard Jacobson, Booker Prize winner with his novel The Finkler Question in 2010, is running again this year for J . We predict the writer will speak about his experiences in light of recent conflict in Gaza; this is an unmissable moment to hear a man best known for exploring issues surrounding British Jewry, whether it be through non-fiction or in his comic novels.

Esther Freud, Hideous Kinky author and great granddaughter of Sigmund, has been named one of the 20 ‘Best of Young British Novelists’ by Granta. Her latest novel, Mr Mac and Me, published this September, is rooted in the real life story of Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, painting a portrait of the home front community during the First World War.

Originally published by Culture Whisper.

Preview: Freak, Anna Jordan, Theatre503

Anna Jordan’s new play comes to London after gathering quite a following at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

‘I don’t believe in writing plays without humour and hope’, says Anna Jordan, writer of ‘Freak’, which has come straight to us from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. ‘Freak’ is a new sex-fuelled play about young women whose driven sexualities place them as rebels against society. We can expect to be taken on a whirlwind ride by a play that moves from warmth and wit to the uncomfortably wretched.

‘Freak’ was the word on everybody’s lips when we visited the Edinburgh Fringe, and A Younger Theatre described the production as ‘capturing the Lambrini-soaked malaise of youth with rare precision’. We’ve already noticed a new literary trend of bad girl heroines who are reacting against the idea that to be a powerful women is to be perfectly in control. Instead they are, as Eat my Heart Out author Zoe Pilger put it in her conversation with Culture Whisper, ‘failing at being a woman to achieve a kind of freedom.’ We’re glad that this production shows women across the arts are taking their turn to glorify callous hedonism.

Anna Jordan was the winner of the Bruntwood Prize 2013 with her play ‘Yen’: a story about how environment defines us, inspired by a real life event Jordan read about in a local paper in which two boys, too young to have developed into into fully fledged personalities, commit an unthinkable murder. Her previous plays have had runs at the Bush Theatre and the Soho Theatre, and her writing has been described by The Observer as “Unflinching … laugh out loud funny”. If her recent successes are anything to go by, this will be an production that invigorates and leaves you the audience with plenty to think about.

To give you a flavour of the delicious inventiveness and clarity of Jordan’s writing (and also of the graphic and sexually explicit adult content), click here to download Freak’s opening monologue.