Books, culture

Decompress your verbage

I just wanted to share a little gem from Embattled Avant-Gardes which I am wading through at the moment.

“… this practice reflected nothing more than the typical experience of individuals living in modern conditions of space-time compression, in which personal identity become a precarious project of continuous negotiation rather than a received form that is lived out.”

It’s on page 14 if you happen to have a copy yourself.

Now I do understand what this quote means, I understand that it is a relatively compact way of talking about about a very complex topic. In fact I even like the rhythm and composition of the sentence. However… did the author really think that anyone was going to read that sentence with any enthusiasm or enjoyment? Instead it reads like the kind of dense, wordy and pretentious piece of academic barrier raising that it is. “Space-time compression”? Does the author honestly believe that the invention of the radio and telegraph actually compressed space-time? Probably not, it is probably just a yowie zowie way of describing the increasing quick transmission of ideas in the early 20th Century. It was probably also intended to establish the writer’s credentials. I expect English translations of Derrida to read like this quote but not histories of cultural movements.

The book is not as terrible as the quote above makes it sound. If you skip the introduction and the first chapter the historical element of the book seems perfectly serviceable.

Art, culture, London

Exhibition: From Russia

I had a chance to attend a Member’s Preview of the From Russia exhibition at the Royal Academy. The exhibition had a tricky start due to the status of some of the paintings as confiscated goods. The works are all here now though, courtesy of the Bolsheviks.

The preview was moderately crowded but not unbearable crush that these events can turn into all too often. The work on show is varied but the Expressionists predominate. Personally I reverted to type and really enjoyed the Constructivist and Suprematist pieces that are on show. Malevich has to be one of my favourite painters, even familiar stuff like Black Cross was great to see again.

The show has several pieces by Picasso who is normally a favourite of mine but they seem to be early stages in his Cubist phase and a far too Primitivist for me. Even the more “classically” Cubist on display didn’t grab me, maybe because it just doesn’t have any meaningful context. All the other Picasso Cubist paintings I have seen have usually been on display with at least a few Braques.

Of the native Russian painters Boris Grigoriev‘s Portrait of Vsevolod Meyerhold was the really surprising piece. A double portrait of an actor that has an amazing colour scheme. It also made me wonder why the double portrait is such a rarely used device.

I’m going to take a second look at the exhibition later but for all the fuss it does seem very thin.