NEWSLINKS 04.01.08

March 31st, 2008

Gregory Crewdson via New York Magazine

Gregory Crewdson’s elaborate, freaky-suburban, cinema set works [NYMag]
On the art pilgrimage to Judd’s Marfa, TX [Wall Street Journal]
A Tom Otterness sculpture to Dumbo [New York Sun]
Why Asian nations are bargain hunting Japanese Art [Herald Tribune]
Banksy works headline U.K. regional auction [Bloomberg]
Update: Overview of the Armory Show [Artinfo]
Update: Warhol’s “Ten portraits of Jews of the 20th century” [NYTimes]
Update: Armory sales hold despite economic slowdown [artnewspaper]
An over-the-front-desk look at the “gallerinas” of Chelsea [NYTimes]
C-Monster at the Whitney
[Time Magazine]

Television Review

The Independent (London, England) January 26, 2001 | Robert Hanks EVEN IF The 1940s House (C4) had not told us anything about life during wartime, it would have been fascinating for what it told us about life today: how, under the froth and bubble of our pampered lives, there is a search for an “authentic” sense of the past. The Hymers family’s three-month ordeal by ration book was a product of the sort of curiosity and anxiety that led to the Early Music Movement, with its catgut violins and shockingly brisk tempos.

As it happened, The 1940s House did tell us a lot about that period, if not always the things it wanted to tell us. Last night’s post-mortem on the experiment included a fascinating sequence in which the “war cabinet”, the team of historians assembled to oversee the house, expressed their disappointment in the Hymers. It wasn’t just that they had cheated on their ration books (Kirstie stole buns from a whist drive; meanwhile, her mother, Lyn, bummed cigarettes off everybody she met – you got the impression that if there had been any GIs around, she would have been in there). No, the real problem was that they hadn’t tried hard enough. They hadn’t improvised any cleaning materials out of paraffin and vinegar, hadn’t grown any food worth speaking of, hadn’t built their Anderson shelter to spec. here art of war quotes

The Hymers met the charges with indignation towards those “bastards”, those “faceless bureaucrats” handing down the orders. Michael defended his shelter-building robustly; the instructions had said that if the entrance to the shelter was close enough to the house, there was no need for earthworks to protect against a bomb blast.

But the defence seemed to miss the point: that in wartime, people don’t always try as hard as they should, don’t all get the Dunkirk spirit. Angus Calder’s book, The People’s War quotes Mass Observation’s finding that about a third of people bothered to read all the government pamphlets they were sent. As one of the war cabinet admitted, rationing helped crime and the black market to flourish. So, in bending the regulations, the Hymers were closer to the wartime mentality than they would have been if they stuck to them. A further irony: the war cabinet was itself getting sucked into the experiment, taking on the role of wartime civil servants, disappointed by people’s inability to live within the bounds they set them. see here art of war quotes

Not that the programme reproduced the conditions of war perfectly. The physical experience was replicated with surprising accuracy, but the psychological facts proved to be elusive. On the one hand, there was no way for the Hymers to suffer the uncertainty or long-term tedium of war; on the other, they could not enjoy the sense of community, of burdens and jokes shared. What the programme did have to say about the psychology of the period was inadequate. It was stated that the strains of life on the Home Front led to a number of suicides. In fact – Calder again – the suicide rate fell quite dramatically.

As history this was largely bunk, then. But as family drama it was funny and touching, with the Hymers becoming a calmer, happier bunch as they coped with privation. Now, please, can we leave the war alone for a bit?

Robert Hanks