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2011: The Triumph of Authenticity | reviews, news & interviews

2011: The Triumph of Authenticity

2011: The Triumph of Authenticity

Crisis breeds blandness but genius too

'The Killing': a homeopathic cure for the gloom of double-dip recession

In a year of mounting turmoil and uncertainty, it was easy to fall back on safe bets and comfort-zone reassurance. Addictive TV series offered a welcome haven from the angst of financial meltdown: Sarah Lund’s melancholy airs in The Killing offered a homeopathic cure for the gloom of double-dip recession. Breaking Bad, the saga of the cancer-struck physics teacher who takes to a life of crime was dark, funny and endlessly surprising.

Downton Abbey, by way of a contrast, was well made and watchable, in a warmly soporific kind of way.

TV continued to thrive on the cult of celebrity, spewing out endless new personalities - front-men and women who gesticulate in a style that Monty Python lampooned beyond credibility several decades ago. It was refreshing, to watch Mark Cousins’s presenter-less, brilliant and idiosyncratic The Story of Film: An Odyssey. I gave up on Frozen Planet: David Attenborough may be a national treasure, but the series was swamped by a soundtrack of perpetually mounting and unfulfilled climaxes, which were supposed to turn us on but made great images dull and the experience numbingly bland.

The Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) High-concept vacuousness and gimmickry dominate mainstream cinema but one movie stands out: Scorsese’s Hugo is the first film to use 3-D and CGI with artistic imagination and flawless craftsmanship: a dark, funny and totally engrossing hymn to the poetic possibilities of cinema that takes you on an unforgettable emotional ride, a feel-good movie brimming with soul and very likely Scorsese’s masterpiece.  

A few CDs have given me repeated pleasure: Bon Iver’s elegiac suite of irresistible tunes, Bon Iver; Bako Dagnon’s Sidiba, featuring one of the last women griots to have drunk at the source and avoided the lure of money and fame; and PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake, a work of sober but inspired musical imagination and a fiercely poetic essay about Englishness and our fatal attraction to war.

Authenticity is not the currency of a world mesmerised by celebrity and shopping. Anselm Kiefer’s White Cube show, Il mistero delle cattedrali, evokes most powerfully the presence of the material world.  This is not the crass materialism of the market-place but matter which is informed by the spirit, in the tradition of alchemical imagination that has inspired Kiefer. Of all the large-scale events of the year – including Tacita Dean's disappointing Turbine Hall installation and Anish Kapoor’s impressively immersive Monumenta commission in Paris, Kiefer’s big show is the one that touches both head and heart, with an overwhelming force absent from so much contemporary art.

2011 highlight: Les Triaboliques (Justin Adams, Lu Edmunds and Ben Mandelson) with an unbeatable combination of blues, oriental and swamp music in a tiny Gloucestershire pub.

2011 letdown: the final overblown sequence - a kind of film-school sub-Antonioni - in Terrence Malick's otherwise inventive, moving and very original The Tree of Life.

2012 recommendation: Tom Morris’s production of John Adams’s operatic masterpiece The Death of Klinghoffer at the ENO.


Watch Les Triaboliques play "Black Earth Boys"


Agreed with Mark about that great intimate Triaboliques gig at the Prince Albert, Stroud; but feel compelled to point out that Charlie Gillett has been sadly gone and missed since March 2010

Thank you so much for pointing my mistake out. I guess I miss Charlie so much that it still feels like yesterday. If anyone illustrated the triumph of authenticity, Charlie did. He had impeccable taste too.

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