Cultural highlights – August / September 2015

Given the amount of theatre, cinema, books, music, art and events I go to each month thought it might be worth sharing the highlights, and what’s coming up on the Auckland cultural calendar.

The past month included a couple of weeks holiday in the UK, great for reading, art galleries, architecture, museums and visiting historic places.

Things I’ve read

Culture Blog September Books

Lots of travel = lots of reading, with 24 books read, including good but not spectacular latest books from Haruki Murakami, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes and Thomas Pynchon. Highlights were the revisionist British history tome The Isles : A History by Norman Davis, the particularly affecting Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D. T. Max, and the entertainingly informative The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth.

Quite randomly I’ve spent the last week focused on Germany, triggered by watching Andrew Graham Dixon’s insightful Art of Germany while laid low with jet lag and man flu. As I’ve found there’s a lot more to Germany than just the period of 1914 to 1945 obsessed about by the British (fully demonstrated at the revamped Imperial War Museum, though it was marginally more comprehensive than the old set up).

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Martin Amis’ The Zone of Interest is a brave and brilliantly written tour de force, but still struggled to compete with Wladyslaw Szpliman’s surprisingly unemotional if still harrowing account of surviving war torn Warsaw in The Pianist. Just finishing the bulky but fascinating The German Genius : Europe’s Third Renaissance, The Second Scientific Revolution and the Twentieth Century by Peter Watson, celebrating the huge number of German’s who have made an enormous contribution to music, science, maths, literature and philosophy over the past three hundred years, some known to me, many not.

Things I’ve seen

Culture Blog September Theatre Films

I made up for missing the theatre while away by seeing six plays in a week in Auckland. Highlights were The Events, a thought provoking, compelling and powerful piece of work, If There’s Not Dancing At The Revolution, I’m Not Coming at The Basement, funky, original and brilliantly performed by Julia Croft (also seen this week playing a black horse of depression in The Black), and Ernest Rutherford: Everyone Can Science!, an hilarious character comedy, fully deserving of having it’s run extended for another week. I was asking for it by sitting in the middle if the front row but did rather enjoy the audience participation…

After seeing 24 films in three weeks at the New Zeland International Film Festival I’ve taken a respite from the cinema, other than seeing Walking The Camino: Six Ways To Santiago, which made me appreciate living in a country with far more spectacular scenery and far fewer people. Interesting that a third of the audience had done the walk, and the other two thirds, apart from myself, planned to do it. Personally I think you’d be much better to head down to the South Island for a month, though I do recognise that the historical and spiritual components of the Camino would be missing.

Places I’ve been

Spent a couple of days in London, mainly visiting places I’d not been before including Churchill’s War Rooms, the Jewel Tower near Parliament, and Charter House and the Pyx Chamber in Westminster Abbey. Particularly enjoyed exploring the life of the first Duke of Wellington (of Waterloo fame) at the monumental Wellington Arch, his main residence at Apsley House, and his autumn residence at Walmer Castle.

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Also revisited Tate Modern and Tate Britain which I’m finding an increasingly divisive experience. Tate Modern is a huge, mostly empty (of artwork, not people), exhausting and unsatisfying experience, highlighting a particularly poor permanent collection and increasingly expensive temporary exhibitions. Tate Britain is the opposite, with the recent revamp further enhancing the contrast, in particular the spiral staircase near the entrance opens up the space beautifully. The potential of the cavernous central core is still wasted, but there is a rich and varied permanent collection, and a human scale to the building.

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Closer to home at Auckland Art Gallery Lisa Reihana’s ‘In Pursuit of Venus [Infected]‘ has sadly finished. For me it was probably the most technically impressive and emotionally engaging piece of new New Zealand art I’ve seen in my six years here. I expect to see it at galleries around the world, but probably not on the same scale.

IMG_1737 IMG_2120 In Pursuit of Venus Infected Auckland Art Gallery

Coming up

Festival session is approaching again, a repeat of the festival madness of April / May. Hoping to makes events at the following…

Auckland Heritage Festival 26 September to 11 October, over 180 events, see my recent blog for recommendations based on last year’s experience
Architecture Week 22-27 September, one of my favourite annual festivals, can’t beat a Bungalow Festival!
Tempo Dance Festival 30 September to 18 October, Q Theatre plays host to the 10th annual dance festival
ArtWeek 10-18 October, over 100 events at over 100 venues across the city, pretty buzzy
New Zealand Photographer of the Year, not confirmed yet but the winners are usually on display at Wynyard Quarter in late October

Author: jontycrane

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