Alice Jones' Arts Diary: Wallinger's film may get Channel 4 the hairdryer treatment from its viewers


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The Independent Culture

They've staged an all-night rave, now Channel 4 plans to thrill viewers by broadcasting a static, silent image of a hairdresser's.

The film, by the Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger is one of 25 new shorts by artists which will screen on Channel 4 in the coming months. The Random Acts series began on Thursday with Marina Abramovic's meditation on children and war, Dangerous Games, and will continue in the late-night (from 11pm) slot with three-minute movies from Mark Leckey, Palme d'Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and James Franco, among others.

Martha Rosler's Because this is England is a “provocative” film based on one of David Cameron's speeches. “I've spent a lot of time talking to lawyers about it,” says Jacqui Davies, producer of Random Acts. Franco has submitted Dream. “He occupies a very odd position. He's both a star and trying to unpick that in his own work.” The biggest talking point will be Wallinger's Ever Since, a “perpetual” static shot of the exterior of a barber's shop in which the only changing element will be its spinning striped pole. “It's the kind of work which will confound and intrigue the channel surfer. It will be rather provocative and perhaps quite annoying.”

Straight outta Harlem: Obama, the early years

Could it be this year's The Mountaintop? A new play about Barack Obama's “wilderness” years in Harlem will open at Waterloo East Theatre in London next week. The President and the Pakistani, by journalist Rashid Razaq, is based on an episode (briefly outlined in Obama's memoir Dreams From My Father) when the future President had just graduated from Columbia and was living in a New York “slum” with Sohale Siddiqi, an illegal immigrant who later became a drug addict. Like The Mountaintop, the tense two-hander unfolds over the course of one night. Syrus Lowe, left, will play Obama. “People will be expecting a very austere, politically minded man, but our Barry is very raw. He's learning as he goes along,” says director Tom Attenborough. “He's very youthful, energetic, naïve and hugely ambitious in an unfocussed way. This play is about him finding his focus.”

Defecting rebels' return gets the Royal seal of approval

What do you have to do to be banished from Covent Garden for good? Leaving to run a rival company or storming out is not enough, it seems. The Royal Ballet has invited back two high-profile defectors for a rebels' reunion in February. Tamara Rojo (below centre), who left in July to run English National Ballet, and Sergei Polunin, who quit in January, saying the artist in him was “dying”, will dance Marguerite and Armand together for three nights. The run was booked before both left the company. “This will be Tamara's farewell because her last performance was the same night as [former Royal Ballet director] Monica Mason's last night,” I'm told. And Polunin? Is all forgiven? “No comment. But he is listed as a Guest Artist in our booklet.”

Whovians gather to make a fresh killing

ITV's forthcoming answer-to-The-Killing, Broadchurch may have a somewhat familiar flavour. Currently filming, the eight-part murder saga will star former Time Lord David Tennant as a detective and current Doctor Who sidekick Arthur Darvill as a priest. It's written by another member of the clan, Chris Chibnall, veteran of numerous episodes of Doctor Who and its spin-off, Torchwood. Once a Whovian, always a Whovian.