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‘A Crass, Backward-Looking View of the Arts’

By March 9, 2009News

That’s how Guardian columnist and former Livingstone acolyte Jude Woodward has described Boris’s recent attempt to ensure that high culture isn’t entirely swamped by more easily-digested reimaginings in an article that’s extraordinarily critical of the whole thing.

We’ve commented on the recent Arts initiative here at BorisWatch before, — very enthusiastically, I might add — and so it’s rather surprising to hear that Woodward holds such a radically different view. Apparently, she’s of the opinion that it’s the worst kind of snobbery, and that stating you prefer the works of Homer, Shakespeare and the Renaissance artists (as BoJo has done) makes you some kind of heavy-handed and short-sighted fool.

Boris’s administration have never said they want to stop contemporary re-evaluations of ‘high culture’, but seem to be trying to ensure that the original material isn’t lost under a flood of reinterpretation. Like it or not, kids in school are always going to be taught mainly from the text of Romeo and Juliet and not the film, and rightly so. I haven’t been able to find out what Woodward’s opinion of the Capital’s artistic legacy was when she was in charge of it during the Livingstone years, but I can only hope it was less critical and more willing to accept a variety of strategies for ensuring London’s status as a cultural touchstone for everyone.

What do you think? Is Boris right to try and keep ‘high culture’ present in day to day life, or should he give up and focus more on new and ‘improved’ versions? Let us know in the comments.

One Comment

  • ArtFriend says:

    All concerts, performances of plays, readings of poems, displays of paintings etc are part of the time in which they occur as well as the time in which they were created. That is inevitable and the tensions so caused are frequently a source of discussion, entertainment and even bad-tempered criticism. The wilful exaggeration of those tensions to create modern versions can create new and powerful works but they are not the originals. For example, how many films and shows hailed as a “modern Romeo and Juliet” can you name? That phrase is ‘mushy-minded relativism’ as it shows a lack of understanding of both the original Shakespeare and the more modern work.

    For Jude Woodward to claim that Boris is closed to non-Western cultures is just plain wrong as anyone who saw the Moorish sections of his tv programme on Rome will know. Boris does not need me or anyone else to defend his taste in art because taste is personal and a product of personal context. For every person struggling to understand the allusions in a Boccaccio there will be someone wondering what on earth hip-hop is all about. With exposure to both, people choose what they prefer and what suits their mood. It’s an economic fact that a lone hip-hop artist gig costs less than a full version of Carmen employing hundreds. At times of great economic pressure, it would be easy to support only the less-expensive forms of art but to do so would be to commit a new form of cultural relativism and this time it would not be ‘mushy-minded’ but dictatorial denial of our heritage combined with inept economics. Perhaps Boris and Mizra should be allowed to do their jobs.

    ArtFriend’s last blog post..Diploma scammers claim time limits

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