ARTS BEAT NEWSLETTER - October 23 - 29, 2000

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Week of October 23-29, 2000

1. Special Interest
2. Issues
3. Dance
4. Media
5. Music
6. People
7. Publishing
8. Theatre
9. Visual Arts
10.For Fun


  • A FESTIVAL SURVEY OF 20th CENTURY OF DANCE: "Inside and in front of Royce Hall, all the bottom-line strategies that once sent plenty of dance audiences and critics fleeing into the night reign again, newly revived and still as provocative as ever. Minimalism. Structuralism. Endless Repetition. Everyday Movement. Task-Oriented Choreography, Dances Anyone Can Do. And you know what? The simple honesty of this work looks awfully appealing compared to the desperate narcissism, salesmanship, emotional grandstanding and empty virtuosity of much Big Deal contemporary dance these days." Los Angeles Times 10/27/00
  • WHY PEOPLE USE LIBRARIES: "Statistics clearly demonstrate that many people rely on libraries for their stories, and generally, librarians know what gets checked out. Unfortunately, librarians have little knowledge of why people read what they do. As a result, they lack a deeper understanding of how libraries already serve readers, and they miss evidence that they could use to convince state legislatures and other sources of financial support that spending money on stories is important." Chronicle of Higher Education 10/254/00
  • SAYING HIGH TO LOW: "Just last week, architect Daniel Libeskind suggested that contemporary museum designers could learn a lot from shopping malls. Contemporary experience is riddled with such categorical confusions. The commonplace becomes the aristocratic, an elite finds its values affirmed in the everyday. As much as debate on high and low culture seeks to affirm their difference, increasingly what emerges is a recognition of their equivalence." The Age (Melbourne) 10/23/00
  • THE ABCs OF ART APPRECIATION: "Can a stubbornly unvisual person - someone who might love a picture but might be unable to describe it coherently five minutes later - be taught to see things differently, in a less ham-handed way?" Slate 10/24/00

 2. ISSUES   

  • SMARTER FOR THE ARTS? A new Canadian study is investigating whether arts education helps children do better in math, reading and writing. The study is also looking at race and socio-economic factors that may play a factor in a child's involvement in the arts. CBC 10/24/00
  • THE MIGHTY PR MACHINE: Massive public relations campaigns drive the visual arts industry in much the same way they do politics and advertising, so it might be worth asking just what the word "public" means in the art world today." The Age (Melbourne) 10/25/00
  • LABEL THIS - PLEASE! It's been 13 years since a conservative movement in the US succeeded in getting warning labels affixed to recordings thought to be potentially offensive. And what's happened to labels? "These days, if you mean business in the market, you'd better have a sticker." The labels have come to signify edgier work and - not surprisingly - that's the music kids want to listen to. So what, really, is the point of labels? Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/29/00
  • BLAME IT ON PO-MO? Post-Modernism has got a bad name. "Mind you, most of them are never quite sure what postmodernism might be, but they know that it's evil. Indeed, all of the contemporary world's ills can be sheeted home to its pernicious influence." And yet, ultimately, civilization will continue. Sydney Morning Herald 10/27/00
    • FINALLY, A PRACTICAL DEFINITION OF POST-MODERNISM: According to John Barth: "Postmodernism consists somehow of being able to tie your necktie in a perfect full-Windsor knot while telling somebody what the stages are in tying a necktie - and at the same time discoursing on the history of men's neckwear from the court of Louis XIV to the present and still not screwing up the knot." Chicago Tribune 10/27/00

PLUS: Old Beijing is disappearing in a frenzy of development - but what about history? ~ Indigenous artists in Australia boycott indigenous arts festival their state's paucity of copyright legislation ~ Artists in Paris revive the practice of squatter's rights to reclaim uninhabited buildings for their own ~ UCLA has agreed to restore the name of its concert hall to Arnold Schoenberg Hall after announcing last a name change last month to honor a donor.


  • MOON-DANCE: Sun Myung Moon's dance company comes to London. Not just a vanity effort, the company is well-financed and has earned good reviews. "The Universal Ballet was created after Moon's 17-year-old son was killed in a car crash in 1984. The youth had been engaged to a gifted young ballet dancer called Julia Pak, the daughter of Moon's right-hand man. In a bizarre ceremony, she was married to her dead fiancé's ghost, thus becoming Rev Moon's daughter-in-law, and the Universal Ballet was set up as a memorial to the dead man." The Telegraph (London) 1026/00
  • THE HIGH COST OF DANCING: Why is ballet so expensive? In the wake of Cleveland San Jose Ballet's death by red ink, the question needs to be raised. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 10/29/00
  • EXCELLENCE IN TURMOIL? So the Australian National Ballet is in turmoil, eh? Dancers quitting, the press fuming, morale sagging... Funny, under artistic director Ross Stretton "the dancers have found a new way to dance. Technically, most of them have never looked better. They have a clarity to their dancing, an edge that comes from being able to use their technique as if it belongs to them rather than to the artistic director. And this is the way it should be. Sydney Morning Herald 10/24/00

Plus: Joffrey Ballet is getting a new $24 million building - surely a sign of its flourishing fortunes in Chicago ~ Cleveland San Jose Ballet left a lot of unpaid bills when it went out of business last month ~ Washington Ballet travels to Cuba ~ Anthony Tudor "made 57 ballets, four of them thought masterpieces. So why is he given short shrift in ballet histories? ~ After living in exile in France Lucinda Childs returns to New York, embracing much of what she formerly rejected.


  • ACTORS STRIKE OVER: The Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists reached a tentative agreement with the advertising industry to end their nearly half-year-long strike. 10/23/00
    • COSTS OF STRIKING: Hollywood's six-month actors strike against producers of commercials cost the economy of Los Angeles more than $275 million, and is expected to surpass $300 million when all the figures are in." Ottawa Citizen (CP) 10/25/00
  • ART OF FILM: Is art film dying? "On the surface it is as it always has been: more art films are produced annually than any sane person could possibly want to see. Maybe the problem is that the kind of films that I loved are being made." Prospect 10/00
  • TV TURN-OFF: A new study in Britain says that audiences may be getting tired of violence on TV. "Sixty per cent of people questioned for the report complained there was too much violence on TV. The study showed that increasing numbers of people are switching off programmes which disgust them." BBC 10/23/00
  • BUT I CAN WRITE YOUNG: Television writers in Hollywood have filed a $200 million age discrimination suit against producers. The writers content that producers systematically discriminate against writers over 40. "According to the suit, writers over age 40 account for more than two-thirds of the Writers Guild of America membership. During the 1997-98 television season, however, writers age 40-plus made up one-third or less of the writing staff on half of all prime-time series." Dallas Morning News 10/24/00

PLUS: Loews Cineplex, one of North America's largest movie theatre chains, is considering filing for bankruptcy. 

5. MUSIC   

  • CARNEGIE CHAOS: Five of Carnegie Hall’s top executives have resigned or been dismissed in the past six weeks, and tensions are running so high the board of trustees has hired an outside consultant to talk with the staff privately. Many of the disgruntled cite the autocratic management style of new executive director Franz Xaver Ohnesorg, whose soon-to-be-unveiled five-year plan may instill more ire. New York Times 10/25/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE WRONG MAN (MEN) WINS? Conductors converged on London for a conducting competition. The winner seemed obvious to the audience and at least one critic. "But after a backstage debate of some 40 minutes", the "five-strong team of conductors, composers and assorted musicians split the prize between two other finalists." The jury chairman described the result as “interesting”. "Batty would be nearer the mark." The Times (London) 10/26/00
  • THE BEETHOVEN MYSTERY: People are fascinated to speculate that Beethoven may have died of lead poisoning. But why? Does it make any difference to how we listen to his music? "Indeed, such is our culture's fascination with the great composers that we cannot resist putting them on the psychiatrist's couch. Not content with enjoying, respecting and honoring their music for its intrinsic artistic value, we poke and prod their brains and bodies in the hope we might fathom that ultimately unfathomable mystery, the source of their creative genius." Chicago Tribune 10/26/00
  • MUSIC FOR ITS OWN SAKE: "Music has rarely been truly pure in the sense of expressing nothing but itself. Almost always, it has been defined by other components as well: texts, places, purposes and all sorts of other circumstantial conditions." Now some composers revisit the idea of absolute music. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10/25/00
  • THEY ALL LAUGHED... Raymond Gubbay, the "impresario who has spent the past 30 years putting on opera for the people - opera with red roses for Valentine lovers, opera for kiddies with teddy bears, singalonganopera for those who like to join in" has applied for the top job running the Royal Opera House. The newspapers laughed. The mere notion of a businessman, a barrow boy, running the Opera House! "It would be like asking the Grim Reaper to run an old people's home," said one music critic. But when I question the experts closely they are more reluctant to dismiss Gubbay." The Guardian (London) 10/23/00
  • WORDS OVER MUSIC? Many see the adoption of supertitles in opera as the biggest advance in the artform in a hundred years. Audiences, for the most part love them. "Yet a powerful faction continues to deplore the phenomenon. Notable among the revanchistes are the distinguished critic Rodney Milnes and ENO director David Pountney, who argue that surtitles distract attention from the moment-by-moment reality of the stage and simplify or distort the text, as well as negating any emphasis or colour that a singer is attaching to an individual word or phrase." The Telegraph (London) 10/29/00

PLUS: St. Paul Chamber Orchestra names Andreas Delfs, 41, as its new music director ~ Chicago Symphony has balanced its $55 million budget for the 14th season in 15 years ~ Contemporary music thrives in some quarters. But why must it be ghettoized? ~ Pinchas Zukerman's tour with his National Arts Center Orchestra to Israel and Palestine got canceled by fighting, but Zukerman is convinced music can "play a vital role in bringing about the sorts of reconciliation the region desperate needs." ~ Leeds Piano Competition winner plays in London and no one seems to care ~ Daniel Barenboim still battling for position in Berlin's cultural world ~ Chopin Competition awarded a prize this year (the last two competitions ended without a winner).


  • THE REAL PAUL BOWLES? It's been a year since Paul Bowles died in Morocco. But the picture of him as the expat recluse is not very accurate. And tributes on the anniversary of his death aren't likely to get at the meat of his life. "The idea that Bowles preferred to live in isolation from the world - because he never moved back to New York - is an enabling fiction: it lets journalists and critics off the hook for not bothering to learn about Morocco or Bowles's life there." Feed 10/24/00
  • CHAUCER STILL FASCINATES: "This week sees the 600th anniversary of the death of Geoffrey Chaucer, spy, courtier, envoy and the father of English literature and the queues outside the Canterbury Tales, a converted church which contains an audio-assisted whistlestop tour round the great man's work, themselves tell a remarkable tale. "Canterbury is more popular today than it was in Chaucer's time." London Evening Standard 10/26/00
  • POWER BROKER: "His name is Costa Pilavachi, and he is president of the Decca Music Group in London. At 49, he happens to be just about the most powerful person in the classical-music business - the man who produces not only Bartoli's albums but those of Luciano Pavarotti, Renée Fleming, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Andrea Bocelli and Jessye Norman." Toronto Star 10/29/00

PLUS: Actor John Gielgud, who died earlier this year at the age of 96, has left an estate of £1.5 million, most of which will go to arts organizations ~ Susan Sontag decides to concentrate on fiction at the age of 67 ~ Edouardo Paolozzi, one of the most prolific and distinctive British artists of the 20th century, is in a persistent vegetative state after collapsing at his studio. 


  • CALL MY AGENT: As the world of publishing slices and dices, recombining in multimedia mega-companies, the role of an author's agent is changing. What are the new rules of the road? New York Times 10/26/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • RESEARCH WEB: So what will the web mean to academics, always on the lookout for places to publish their work? "The biggest change is that publication is suddenly cheap. Academics have always had much more opportunity to write than they've had sponsorship for publication so books and articles have had to be concisely focused - optimised - to deliver the most information using the fewest words. The Web allows an entirely new, discursive style of presentation, where an author can take however much space she needs to be as clear as possible." The Idler 10/25/00
  • READING HAITI: "Whatever its roots, Haiti’s extraordinary literature provides an occasion for this sad country to transcend its own instability, and discern possibilities beyond its current disasters. To tread a razor’s edge between poetry and disaster. To come to Haiti in search of its literature is to fall in love with the place–even if, sometimes, this passion is followed by a great deal of pain." Boston Review 10/00

PLUS:  Canada's Governor General Award finalists are announced ~ Sales of monthly comic books are languishing, but there are more hardcover and paperback collections of comics material than there have ever been in America before, and their sales have never been better.


  • PLAY IS TOO HOT FOR SINGAPORE: Singapore's Public Entertainment Licensing Unit has turned down a permit to stage a play. "Written by Indian playwright Elangovan, the play is about an Indian-Muslim woman's experiences of marital violence and rape. Staged three times in Tamil in 1998 and last year, it had triggered strong protests from some members of the Indian-Muslim community who thought it blasphemous and some religious groups wanted it banned." Singapore Straits-Times 10/29/00
  • NEW DIRECTIONS FOR TONYS? Broadway's Tony Awards are in disarray - low ratings, infighting and intrigue. Now a veteran producer is negotiating to come in to try and restore order. New York Post 10/27/00
  • THE RIGHT TO REPLACE MUSICIANS? A major Toronto theatre producer is attempting to do away with minimum requirement for the number of musicians it must pay for its productions. Musicians are protesting. "The technology is around the corner for all of it to be automated and to bury us. Right now [the minimum] is all we have, and we don't want to let it go." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/25/00
  • STEPPENWOLF TURNS 25: Twenty-five years after its first Chicago performances in a church basement, Steppenwolf Theatre Company is one of the most revered actors’ troupes in the world. "No important American theater ensemble has survived for even close to 25 years with the same core of performers. The troupe has expanded from its original 9 members to 33, but every one of the original members is still active. There is no such thing as a former member." New York Times 10/25/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • A CANARY-IN-A-COAL-MINE THING? London's National Theatre is about to report its first budget deficit since the mid-1980s. The National, which receives government subsidies of more than £1 million a month, has suffered in the past year from bad reviews and some delayed productions. "It is only a slight loss, at £160,000, but that is being seen as a worrying overspend. If the National Theatre is doing well, then everyone perceives that London theatre is doing well - so many would prefer that it was successful." BBC 10/23/00

PLUS: Stephen King and John Mellencamp are collaborating on writing a musical together ~ Why is theatre failing in Portland? ~ "Full Monty" opens on Broadway to good reviews ~ A new theatre company that produces plays for the viewing pleasure, and instruction, of wealthy family audiences." 


  • HIGH FASHION/HIGH PAY/HIGH INFLUENCE? The Guggenheim's new show of Armani fashion has reviewers in a tizzy. "Reviewers stumbled out of this array of some 400 garments in a higher-than-usual state of befuddlement, and have delivered themselves of reports written in rapturous poetry or horror-struck prose or, in some cases, both. And how do we factor in the US$15-million Giorgio Armani has reportedly given to the Guggenheim for its worldwide projects?" National Post (Canada) 10/25/00
  • CHINESE RAPPROCHEMENT: Leaders of Chinese Palace Museums (in Beijing and Taipei) meet to talk about exchanging artworks. The move is historic because Mainland China has in the past charged that Taipei's collection was plundered when the Nationalists left the Mainland. China Times (Taiwan) 10/24/00
  • TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION: The Guggenheim seems bent on being the Starbucks of the artworld - one on every corner. "The combined Guggenheim collections now run to 8,000 paintings, sculptures and installations and the pace of expansion seems unstoppable, feeding on a barely tapped global appetite for democratic art in spectacular surroundings." The Independent 10/24/00
    • VIVA LAS VEGAS: The Guggenheim and the Hermitage Museums are coming to Las Vegas. What will their new buildings look like? "Whether or not they succeed as architecture will go a long way in answering a question that has secretly terrified the profession for more than a decade: How does architecture assert its value in a world saturated by manipulative advertising and mass-market entertainment?" Los Angeles Times 10/25/00
    • AND MORE POWER TO THEM: Two of the most prestigious art institutions in the world, the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation of New York and the State Hermitage Museum of St Petersburg, have reached a conclusion that, until even a few years ago, would have seemed insane. Las Vegas, better known as a desert shrine to all that is base and gaudy, neon and greedy, is actually an ideal place to show fine art. The Independent 10/24/00
  • RUNNING OUT OF WOOD? Kenya's $20 million wood-carving industry is booming, born of the initiative of the Wakamba people of south-central Kenya. "But it has reached a difficult juncture. Favourite woods for carving, such as African blackwood, also known as ebony, or mpingo locally, are rapidly being depleted. Carvers and conservationists are assessing the future of the industry that each year fells 50,000 Kenyan trees, even as it employs 80,000 carvers." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/24/00
  • IT'S TURNER TIME: "This year's Turner prize show opens to the public at Tate Britain tomorrow. The shortlist for the £20,000 prize, which will be awarded on November 28, has already generated a small controversy. Only one finalist, Glenn Brown, is actually British, although the other three all live and work in Britain." The Guardian 10/24/00
    • COURTING CONTROVERSY: Works by the four artists shortlisted for this year’s Turner Prize have gone on view at London’s Tate Britain. The UK’s premier art award, the Turner (which will be announced next month) has developed a reputation for generating substantial controversy - Damien Hirst’s sheep in formaldehyde and Chris Ofili’s cow-dung paintings were past winners - and this year’s no different. Only one finalist is actually British, to the consternation of many. BBC 10/24/00
    • A SPECIAL SECTION ON THE TURNER PRIZE: The Guardian (London) 10/25/00
    • "The shortlist for this year's Turner Prize is the most balanced and serious since 1996." The Telegraph (London) 10/25/00
    • THE ANTI-TURNERISTS: There are those who think that the best thing about the Turner Prize is that it inevitably irritates a lot of people. "This year, the Turner Prize's promotional budget is being helped along by the Stuckists arts group, who are calling for a return to the values of modernism and an acknowledgment that painting is the only true expressive art form." London Evening Standard 10/27/00

PLUS: The Tate Modern opened last May, has topped 3 million visitors, averaging 18,000 people a day ~ An early Michelangelo drawing, recently discovered, is being offered by Sotheby's auction house for an estimated $8-11 million ~ Houston's Museum of Fine Art and the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow announce a long-term alliance to share and exchange artwork ~ Vienna's controversial new Holocaust memorial in the Judenplatz is a wonder ~ Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art is back from the brink of oblivion, but having difficulty balancing pop taste with artistic mission ~ Steve Wynn's Bellagio Collection in Las Vegas is being sold off piece by piece ~ A set of Henry Moore bronzes creates a buzz in Beijing.

10.  FOR FUN 

  • WHAT IF SHE HAD SAID NO? The Australian Ballet orchestra's conductor strode onstage as the applause was dying down after Tuesday night's performance in Perth, dropped to one knee and proposed to the dancer who had just danced the lead in "Merry Widow." The Age (Melbourne) 10/26/00
  • WHO REALLY WROTE "NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS'? Did Clement Clarke Moore really write the beloved Christmas poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" back in 1823? A Vassar scholar says he's uncovered evidence Moore did not. "He marshals a battery of circumstantial evidence to conclude that the poem's spirit and style are starkly at odds with the body of Moore's other writings." New York Times 10/26/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • ART AND NEWSPAPERS: London's Guardian newspaper has hired an artist-in-residence. He is Michael Atavar, and "playing the role of idiot savant outsider, he may illuminate some aspect of our work, or he may add previously unimagined meaning to it. Then again, he may just shrug and wander off. It really doesn't matter. In a giant shift of culture, we're trying not to be prescriptive: so no deadlines, no brief, and no project as such." The Guardian (London) 1024/00
  • SAN FRANCISCO'S SPLIT FEELINGS ON GRAFFITI: "While Mayor Willie Brown and a force of volunteers armed with solvents gathered at Yerba Buena Gardens on Saturday for a city-organized effort to stamp out graffiti, San Francisco-based video-game maker Sega of America played host to an art show featuring some of the nation's best taggers just a few blocks away." San Jose Mercury News 10/22/00
  • "RIGOLETTO AS REIMAGINED BY LARRY FLYNT": Chicago Lyric Opera's new production transfers the action "to a dark Victorian gaming room, a males-only citadel of stuffed armchairs and stuffed shirts. The inhabitants are even randier and slimier than the Duke of Mantua, the opera's tenoral anti-hero. Almost all the women who are allowed into this bad ol' boys club are whores, playthings or sexual hysterics. Poor Gilda, Rigoletto's virtuous daughter, is doomed the moment she steps into this crypto-orgy pit." Chicago Tribune 10/23/00