Saturday, January 25, 2014

Steve McQueen to work on BBC drama and Yinka Shonibare at the National Maritime Museum

Although Oscar nominated film director Steve McQueen grew up in West London, it was when he was at Goldsmiths College doing his Fine Art degree that he realised his love of film. As he said on the Culture Show on BBC last night (and echoing many a Goldsmith Fine Art under-graduate who thinks they're on the wrong course), "When I was at Goldsmiths, I wanted to be at film school...and when I went to (Tisch film school in New York) I only stayed 3 months". He felt stifled by the limitations there – the Goldsmiths ethos had turned his head. For McQueen, "it was all about ideas". He went on to win the Turner Prize in 1999 after making several highly distinctive short films.

The 12 Years A Slave director is now working towards a new BBC drama about the lives of black Britons, claimed to be 'epic in scope' and covering 1968 to the present day, says the BBC. What better hands could such a high profile project be in that are in charge of a story about black people from all walks of life living in Britain in a period spanning fifty years?

Was there an open competition to which perhaps the UK's most talented black dramatists who've been working in theatre all these years might have pitched? Oh well never mind. Good luck, Steve, we're looking forward to it! Ask your writers to get in touch with your Deptford cousins, we don't want all the London scenes set in Notting Hill and Brixton, it was all gwan here y'know.

Meanwhile, another great artist and Goldsmiths Fine Arts Degree graduate, Yinka Shonibare MBE, is showing at the National Maritime Museum until 23 February.

Shonibare, who was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2004, turns all the reverential baloney about Nelson on its head – by introducing new photographs into the museum's collection of paintings of Nelson at the Queen's House.

In Shonibare's reconstructed likenesses of the paintings, Nelson is accompanied by the black people who might inevitably have been there at the time if they hadn't been wiped from history (the short-focused history recorded and collected by the privileged of the time and henceforth).

The exhibition includes Shonibare's trademark Dutch wax 'African' printed costumes for Nelson and his lover, plus a beautiful outdoor sculpture of a flag in the Queen's Park on the Trafalgar Road side. His better known "Nelson's Ship in A Bottle" sits on the Greenwich Park side, originally displayed on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square and subsequently acquired by the Museum. A further work is displayed at the Observatory but you'll have to pay to get in.

At a public talk at the NMM late last year, Shonibare said that when he was young he'd always felt "museums were not for him and his like", but now he was "on the inside to change things from the inside out". It's no coincidence that Royal Museums Greenwich are making a special effort to address their hitherto highly narrow, blinkered and colonial approach to British Naval History by inviting Shonibare to tinker (they say "infiltrate") with their collection. Don't miss – and it's free.

(God forbid the estate agents pick up on this slice of 'vibrancy' - Ed.)

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