Archive for Politics

“To Dispel a Great Malady: Robinson in Ruins, the Future of Landscape and the Moving Image »

May 11th, 2012 | Posted in: Articles General, Heritage & History, Politics

This article, co-written with Stephen Daniels, Patrick Keiller, Doreen Massey and Anderew Flintham, describes a collaborative project conducted under the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s “Landscape and Environment” programme. It was published in Tate Papers 17 on 11 May 2012. The main outcome was Keiller’s film “Robinson in Ruins”. For more information see here…

‘Nixon in China’? Yes, but what about Clement Attlee in Hangzhou eighteen years earlier? »

December 21st, 2009 | Posted in: Articles General, Politics

It’s not just admirers of John Adams’ opera, who have come to believe that western rapprochement with Communist China began with President Richard Nixon’s visit of 1972. I’ve been researching an earlier attempt to lift the ‘Bamboo Curtain’ – this one carried out by Clement Attlee and other leading members of the Labour Party in 1954. The full story of this forgotten mission, which also involved the philosopher A.J. Ayer, the physicist J.D. Bernal, the novelist and classicist Rex Warner, and the artists Paul Hogarth and Stanley Spencer, is reconstructed in my forthcoming book, Passport to Peking, to be published by OUP in October 2010.

Gone with the Berlin Wall? »

November 10th, 2009 | Posted in: Articles General, Politics

I wrote this piece on the disappearance, or otherwise, of the Iron Curtain as a brief ‘essay’ for the BBC World Service’s arts programme, ‘The Strand’. It was broadcast to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the overcoming of the Berlin wall on 10 November 2009.

On Civil Defence and the staging of modern politics »

July 11th, 2008 | Posted in: Articles General, Politics, Potemkinism and Camouflage

“In 1964, three British women stepped into the role of ‘civil defence volunteers’ and entered a model shelter next to the Guildhall in York. They spent 24 hours in their miserable hollow, listening to simulated regional broadcasts beamed in from a van outside. They slept for a few hours in a specially sandbagged ‘core’ area intended to protect them against fallout, cooked a meal on a primus stove and swallowed aspirins for their headaches. After a single day they were plainly demoralised. As the Times wrote of the widely reported exercise, ‘even that basic feminine impulse to make frequent cups of tea deserted them. . .’”

Prompted by the idea of ‘rehearsal’ presented in Tracy C. Davis’ book, Stages of Emergency: Cold War Nuclear Civil Defense (Duke 2007), I suggest a wider account of how theatrical techniques have emerged from the playhouse to shape public life and the political sphere.

Trouble in the Last Politburo »

July 17th, 1993 | Posted in: Articles General, Kulchur, Politics

About New Left Review, and the forceful reformation of its editorial committee. An abbreviated version of this article was published as ‘Beastly Troubles of the Last Politburo’, Guardian, 17 July 1993. The fuller version appeared as ‘Aufruhr im letzten Politbűro’, Freibeuter, 58, 1993, pp. 149-156.

A night to remember »

November 1st, 1991 | Posted in: Articles General, London, Politics

A report from Hackney Town Hall, describing the eventful night when Councillor Medlin Lewis defected from the ruling Labour group to join the Conservative opposition. Published in the Guardian, 1 November 1991.

In the Land of the Hyphen – Jan Budaj and ‘Fictional Culture’ in Slovakia before the Split »

June 1st, 1990 | Posted in: Articles General, Czecho-Slovakia, Encounters, Politics

In the summer of 1990, I visited Slovakia, then still part of Czechoslovakia, to watch preparations for the first general election since the Velvet Revolution. Jan Budaj had recently emerged as leader of Public Against Violence (VPN), the Slovak sister organisation of Civic Forum, but I had previously met him in the Communist era. Having been much impressed by the courage with which he had then lived as a persistently harassed dissident, I was shocked when I heard, just after my return to Britain (and the publication of this article), that he had been forced to resign after the closure of the polls. He was the victim of a ‘lustration’ process involving the manipulative publication of information from secret police files in Prague. Having won the election through Budaj’s campaign, Public Against Violence split in 1991, and power went to the breakaway Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, lead by the populist Vladimir Meciar. This article was published as ‘Gesture Politics’ in New Statesman and Society, 1 June 1990, pp. 16-20