The Diary: Yayoi Kusama; Stephen Unwin; Charles Dickens; Other Cinema; Julian Barnes
Arifa Akbar is literary editor of The Independent and i newspapers. She has worked at The Independent since 2001 as a news reporter and arts correspondent before joining the books desk in 2009. She was a judge for the Orwell Prize for books 2013, and the Fiction Uncovered Prize 2014, and is currently judging the Aesthetica Magazine new writing prize.
Friday 03 February 2012
Spot the difference
The 82-year-old Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama, who was Andy Warhol's "friendly rival" in 1960s New York, now claims that the father of Pop Art copied her idea. "When Andy papered the ceiling and walls at the Leo Castelli Gallery with silkscreen posters of a cow's face, it was plainly appropriation or imitation of my One Thousand Boats Show," she claims. Her show was staged in December 1963, with an installation of stuffed and sewn phalluses that covered a rowing-boat, while the ceilings and walls were emblazoned with black-and-white poster-sized replica images of it. In her autobiography, Infinity Net, published to coincide with a retrospective at Tate Modern, she says: "Andy Warhol came to the opening and shouted, 'Yayoi, what is this?' His next words were 'It's fantastic!'" Warhol isn't the only one who is outed for imitation. Claes Oldenburg falls foul too, when it appears that his famous soft sculptures appeared as new works very shortly after a group show at Green Gallery in New York at which she had shown her soft sculptures. So blatant was Oldenburg's source of inspiration that his wife apologised. "When I went to see some new works by Oldenburg and his turned out to be numerically themed soft sculptures, his wife, Pat, pulled me aside and said, 'Yayoi, forgive us!'" Kusama will be coming to Britain for the first time in 12 years from Japan, where she voluntarily lives in an institution due to long-term mental illness.
A rosy future
Stephen Unwin, the artistic director of the Rose Theatre in Kingston on Thames, has caught a serious case of Ibsenistis. Unwin is making it his life's ambition to direct 12 seminal Ibsen plays. "I have this ridiculous dream to do his 12 realistic plays, from Pillars of Society toWhen We Dead Awaken. I wouldn't mind it said in my obituary. I think he is the second greatest writer after Shakespeare," he says. At the age of 52, Unwin is already halfway there, having directed five and currently on his sixth – The Lady from the Sea, starring Joely Richardson, which continues Ibsen's "endless exploration of how men and women live together", and which he has even translated himself from its original Norwegian. He also just co-wrote A Pocket Guide to Ibsen, Chekhov and Strindberg (Faber &Faber). And in surprisingly good cheer, given all the exposure to early 19th-century doom and gloom.
The great and good will be at Westminster Abbey, beside Charles Dickens' grave, to mark the day of his birth – 7 February 1812. The Prince of Wales will lay a wreath on the grave while the Archbishop of Canterbury will give an address. Rowan Atkinson and Stephen Fry will be among "well-wishers" as well as over 200 Dickens descendants. Ralph Fiennes will read from Bleak House; Mark Dickens, his great-great-grandson, from The Life of Our Lord, written for his children.
Cinema straight from the heart
The success of Secret Cinema has led its organisers to embark on a new mission: the Other Cinema, which will bring back the great community tradition of "picture palaces" that had Britons of old huddling in church and scout halls to watch films, a projector on wheels at the back and flasks to provide sustenance in the cold. Films will be played in churches, student unions and former flax mills in London, Norwich, Leeds, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Bournemouth, while usherettes will be there to meet and greet. The Other Cinema's launch will take place at London's Troxy (opened as a luxury cinema in 1933 and now an events venue) with a screening of Brief Encounter on Valentine's Day.
Sense of a beginning
Julian Barnes is proposing to publish a "second edition" of his 1998 novel, England, England, with a new revised extract, which describes a dystopian future in an England that has gone into sharp decline – the health service is the death service, The Daily Mail is the newspaper of record and libraries have gone underground, books now circulated on milk floats. Barnes's tongue-in-cheek proposal appears in The Library Book, a collection dedicated to the nation's libraries, in which writers muse on their library experiences, real and imagined.
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