Illustration: Melisa Trujillo

At the Festival of Love

Anna Blair, Aug 25th

In summer 2014, London’s Southbank Centre hosts the Festival of Love. Visitors can play games and dance, attend exhibitions, or watch performances: they are encouraged to engage with the structures of meaning around exhibitions of intimacy. Anna Blair reflects on the Festival’s nostalgic aesthetic, and on the ways in which engagement with others can be shaped and formed by place.

Recent articles

Careful: Do touch

Tobias Haeusermann, Aug 13th

Historically, the dominant paradigm of care has been providing acute for infectious diseases, rather than chronic treatments. Yet in light of the rising prevalence of chronic illnesses, care is becoming a more and more long-winded affair. It offers the most intimate insights into human nature: its lows, its highs, its errors, its embarrassments, and its inspiration. “But how can intimacy and care be combined?” asks Tobias Haeusermann, and illustrates how simultaneously maintaining empathy and professionalism means walking a thin and fragile line.

You’ll find Virginia in the City. A review of Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision at The National Portrait Gallery

Georgina Parfitt, Aug 11th

Georgina Parfitt visits the National Portrait Gallery in London to review Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision, a collection of artifacts that tell the story of Virginia’s life, from photographs of her as a baby to the original suicide letters she wrote to Leonard Woolf and Vanessa Bell in 1941. How did Woolf’s love of the energy of the city and her perception of her own persona, within this tumult of life that she loved so ardently, change through time?

Tracking Keynes through King’s: Economics, Genes and the Possibilities for Our Grandchildren

William Hoffman, Jul 29th

In a famous essay he published in 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted a future of material abundance and abundant leisure. Keynes’s essay has resurfaced today with the growth of automation and high levels of unemployment. In the interim his fellow King’s graduates advanced and chronicled the scientific and technical improvements that Keynes wrote characterize the modern age. In this essay, William Hoffman tracks computer genius Alan Turing, the technology entrepreneur Hermann Hauser, Charles Nicholl, who wrote a biography of Leonardo da Vinci, and the science journalist Nicholas Wade.

Thinking Through Activism, Sexuality, and Scholarship

Tom Boellstorff, Jul 23rd

How can we respond to the challenges of combining activism and scholarship in regard to the topic of sexuality? This question is important when, in the context of continuing worldwide inequality, queer activists cannot allow governments and corporations to be the only entities acting at the global level. In particular, how are activists and scholars who are in some sense Western work for goals of social justice and make use of their privilege without having that privilege detract from the work of non-Westerners? In this article Tom Boellstorff discusses three possible strategies for responding to this state of affairs, based on his own experiences in Indonesia and elsewhere.

Did Somebody Say … George Orwell?

Owen Holland, Jul 15th

Owen Holland reviews 1984, Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan’s stage adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a co-production between Headlong, the Nottingham Playhouse theatre company and the Almeida Theatre. It will continue to run at the London Playhouse theatre until August 23rd. This article elaborates the current political resonances of the production in the light of some twentieth-century co-optations of Orwell’s novel. It comments on the decisions made in adapting the novel for the stage, keeping half an eye on Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian glass-world, the Bauhaus and Lionel Trilling.

Corporate Boards, Quotas for Women and Political Theory

Jude Browne, Jul 5th

Across Europe, the question of whether quotas should be enforced for the highest-ranking corporate positions as a means to addressing gender injustice is under vigorous discussion. Much of the debate has focused on the European Commission’s (2012) draft directive COM 614, which would place an “obligation of means” on listed companies to ensure that at least 40% of non-executive directors (or 30% of all directors) of each corporate board are female by 2020. Jude Browne (Director of the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies) considers the philosophical arguments that underlie the main challenges to quota policy and concludes that a much greater emphasis should be placed on the structural causes of gender inequality in employing institutions. From this, Browne outlines the beginnings of an alternative quota policy: the Critical Mass Marker approach.

The Advent of Cryptocurrencies: A Reason to Rethink Currency in the 21st Century

Jens Wiechers, J. Amadeus Waltz, Manouchehr Shamsrizi, Jun 28th

Cryptocurrencies are another step in the evolution of a society in which mathematics and cryptography can replace or augment traditional trust-based centralized infrastructure in financial services and monetary politics. While flawed, they can serve as a catalyst for an important debate of the future of currency.

Related: read Johannes Lenhard’s analysis of alternative currencies.

Fueling crisis or driving change? Disentangling our relations with destructive industries

Ragnhild Freng Dale, Jun 15th

With climate change already unfolding across the globe, Ragnhild Freng Dale argues that it is high time we, as a planet and as a university, wean our energy systems off the addiction to fossil fuels. We need to cut our intimate ties to an industry profiting from the destruction of the planet.

‘Crisis ordinariness’: Grangetown, Middlesbrough

Joshua Oware, Jun 9th

People in Grangetown have always been told to look forward, encouraged to do so by the production of projects and spaces intended to carry hope. But what is it that they should look to? Joshua Oware describes how people cope living in a community that has been dragged between habit and shock, a community continually told to ‘look to a future’ that always fades into indeterminacy.

Butterflies, Mimesis and ‘The Double’

Polly Dickson, May 29th

Richard Ayoade’s film ‘The Double’ (2013) — based on the Dostoevsky novella of the same name — showcases the modern Doppelgänger: a figure who stems from a mimetic crisis. Mimesis, the urge to copy, to reproduce – in art, in nature, in all social interaction – is a project haunted by its own failure, by all the bits that copying leaves out. Ayoade’s ‘double’ figures out these left-overs. He’s a perfect copy, and he’s everything that isn’t: a figure made of semblance and alterity in equal measure, anxious proof of the phoniness of social identity and all our concurrent fears of replaceability and double-talk.

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The Blog

Radical Feminism, Transgender Issues, and Phenomenology

Sarah Stein LubranoAug 24

A subset of radical feminists argue that trans people’s claims about their gender are invalid, but these radical feminists need to take a harder look at the epistemological basis of their worldview.

Jeremy Deller Confronts the William Morris Myth: Problems of Biography and Image

Kim Clayton-GreeneAug 22

William Morris is celebrated as a British hero, a craftsman who fought for equality. Jeremy Deller’s ‘We Sit Starving Amidst Our Gold’ celebrates and queries this legacy, summoning Morris to throw Roman Abramovich’s yacht into the Venetian lagoon. Kim Clayton-Greene looks at Morris’s biography and popular image, and the ways in which his intent and impact have at times conflicted.

Australia’s refugee crisis and the normality of exception

Nkita SimpsonAug 17

The phantasm of the illegal asylum seeker has haunted Australian politics for the past fifty years. The measures successive governments have taken to tame the beast encroach increasingly on their human dignity. As the Abbott government introduces ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’, Nikita Simpson questions what happens when the exception becomes the norm.

“Can we do some real music now?” – Practice and the pursuit of perfection.

Anita DattaAug 10

If practice makes perfect, and nothing’s ever perfect, why practise? This piece considers the various different kinds of practice that go into making an adept and talented musician. Thinking through the problem from a range of viewpoints, from that of neurology to that of a six-year-old child, Anita Datta reflects on attitudes towards practice and considers the array of possible results.

Palimpsestic Townscapes: Gilbert & George’s Scapegoating Pictures

Aurélie PetiotAug 8

Gilbert and George’s new exhibition, Scapegoating Pictures for London, stirs controversy, as per usual: for going too far, by portraying their immediate environment and including, for the first time, many references to Islam. Are these criticisms as empty as their canisters of
laughing gas? What are these works really depicting?

Pro-sex, and anti-prison, but what about kink?

Sarah Stein LubranoAug 7

This June, Gay Shame, a radical queer anti-assimilation group, led a protest against a prison-themed kink party. They say they are ‘Pro-sex and anti-prison’ but neither they nor their opponents have a clear sense of what to say about kink itself.

Madcap

Polly DicksonAug 6

Madcaps and mad hatters: this piece stems from the feeling that there is something a little mad about a hat. Polly Dickson thinks about Magritte, and Carroll’s Hatter, and about seeing faces in things.

Abbott, Indigenous Australians and the Politics of Invisibility

Nkita SimpsonJul 30

Australia is often portrayed from within and without as the ‘Land of Milk and Honey’. With the new Abbott government in office, this fantasy has become politicised to the point of infatuation. Nikita Simpson questions what amnesia makes this possible. Beginning with the plight of Indigenous Australians, she questions if the mentality of Terra Nullius is by no means dead.

Tuning Into Each Other: Intimate Collaboration in Music-Making

Anita DattaJul 27

Anita Datta explores the elusive procedure by which musicians come together to create the special and emotional product of human culture we call music. How do people singing in a choir, for instance, come to affect and respond to each other in the process of creating music?

How to Look at War: Michael Gove and the Fitzwilliam Museum’s La Grande Guerre

Anna BlairJul 25

Exhibitions marking the beginning of the First World War are almost mandatory in British museums this year. At the same time, the question of how to remember or examine the events of 1914 has caused division, particularly following Michael Gove’s criticisms of academic history. In this article, the first in the new column ‘Picture Politics,’ Anna Blair looks at the Fitzwilliam Museum’s La Grande Guerre and the ways in which the prints on display serve as an exercise in examining detail, both attracting the viewer and deepening their awareness of the horrors of war.