BBC BLOGS - The Reporters: Razia Iqbal

Archives for April 2009

The return of Gordon Gekko

Razia Iqbal | 15:14 UK time, Thursday, 30 April 2009

News that Oliver Stone is making a sequel to Wall Street, that seminal film about financial greed in the 1980s, puts a whole new spin on taking advantage of the moment.

It appears that the villan of the 1980s movie, Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, (who won an Oscar for the role) may have been seen as an anti-hero, but those in the financial world who saw the movie, looked up to Gekko as a straightforward hero, something that Stone and Douglas constantly encountered.

The current economic crisis through a Hollywood prism: hmm, not sure what we could learn or be entertained by. My feeling is that the more elliptical F Scott Fitzgerald novel, The Great Gatsby, might teach us more.

Despite the terrible Australia, I am looking forward to Baz Luhrmann's version of that, much more than Gekko the second.

Paris receives a facelift

Razia Iqbal | 17:27 UK time, Wednesday, 29 April 2009

sarkozy.jpgThe French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has grand designs for his capital city.

Today, he unveils what is billed as one of the biggest redevelopments of the French capital since Baron Haussmann carved out those wonderful boulevards in the nineteenth century.

Two years ago, in what was seen as a gesture to a cultural elite who looked down on him for being a philistine who only watched Hollywood blockbusters, he invited some of the greatest international architects to come up with ideas which would allow him to leave a credible cultural legacy.

President Sarkozy understands how architecture can shape a leader's image. George Pompidou made an impact, as did Francois Mitterrand's "grands projets", which left us with the Louvre Pyramid, and the Arche de La Defense.

Ten teams of architects have presented blueprints for Sarkozy's project - among them Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, MVRDV, and Jean Nouvel. Futuristic glass towers, an artificial island in the river Seine and monorails high above the Paris traffic are among the ideas that could transform the city in decades to come.

One of the most ambitious, a plan to expand the French capital all the way to the English channel is pictured below:


The mission - which of course was launched in more optimistic financial times than now - was to envision a post-Kyoto metropolis, incorporating the best sustainable design techniques, energy efficient structures, and a mix of housing for rich and poor.

The Paris we are all familiar with as tourists works like a charm, with one of the best and cheapest inner city transport systems in Europe. Where it goes badly awry and poses a big challenge for architects and politicians alike, is in the outlying districts, the banlieues.

Sarkozy does not have a great reputation among the inhabitants there, and he is expected to define which of the 10 plans will be followed up once an exhibition of the initial designs goes on display in the Cite de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine.

For all the impact of so-called iconic buildings, where architects can truly contribute is in finding solutions to urban planning. In fact, it could be argued that they are morally or ethically obliged to do so.

This is much more likely to be a lasting and impressive monument for Sarkozy than anything flashy.

A coloured map of Paris by British architect Richard Rogers

A coloured map of Paris by British architect Richard Rogers

Turner credits bold and beautiful

Razia Iqbal | 15:00 UK time, Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Turner Prize Jury are a powerful group. It is down to them to decide who makes it onto the nominations list. And they can put anyone forward, as long as the artist is British, or lives and works here; is under fifty years old and has taken part in an exhibition in the past year.

There is no formal nomination process, and no gallery pushing artists forward. Nothing external influences the jurors, apart from whatever they see happening in the art world.

So, in that respect, the decision is quite personal, and potentially emotional and subjective. But is it just me, or has the prize gone off the boil in the last couple of years?

It's true that audiences continue to visit the exhibition when it runs between October and the prize ceremony in December. And there also continues to be sufficient interest in the tabloids for those screeching and tedious, "but is it art?" headlines. But, recently, it has just felt a bit dull.

That's why the jurors (this year: Jonathan Jones, Guardian art critic; Mariella Frostrup, writer and broadcaster; Stephen Deuchar, Director, Tate Britain and Chair; and Dr Andrea Schlieker, Director of the Folkestone Triennial.) are important.

Even if it is subjective, they sift the wheat from the chaff for you and me. And this year, they have come up with the following: Enrico David, Roger Hiorns, Lucy Skaer and Richard Wright.

I loved Roger Hiorns' Artangel Commission in south London, in which he turned a derelict flat into a cave of sulphurous splendour.
And I look forward to what alchemy he has in store for the Tate exhibition.

No video installlations this year, which is merely coincidence rather than design, but a bit of a relief to those who hanker after the traditional arts.

Enrico David is a figurative painter, but not as you and I might recognise it - and he wouldn't want you to try and define what he does anyway.

Lucy Skaer draws, but is also a sculptor and has started doing installations. And Richard Wright is also a painter, whose sources are as varied as Medieval painting and graphics.

If there is one thing that makes all these artists stand out it is that they actually make things, and in the case of Roger Hiorns and Enrico David (the only two whose works I have seen, as opposed to just pictures) things that are beautiful to look at. This makes the exhibition at Tate Britain, in October, one we can look forward to, for the first time in years.

Poetry and predictions

Razia Iqbal | 18:11 UK time, Monday, 27 April 2009

By the end of this week, we will have a new Poet Laureate - the 19th since the post was first founded. All have been men, and this time, there is fevered speculation (in as much as this is possible in the genteel and rather private world of poetry) that this time, it will be a woman, which will be a first.

It's a strange post, appointed by the monarch, from a list of nominees compiled on behalf of the prime minister. The process by which the Laureate is chosen and some might argue, the post itself, is very secretive (time for a freedom of information request perhaps) and archaic.

The smart money is on Carol Ann Duffy, who narrowly lost out to Andrew Motion. He steps down as the first Poet Laureate to be in the post for a fixed term of 10 years; before him, the post was held until the incumbent died.

Philip Larkin and Seamus Heaney famously rejected it. And more recently, Wendy Cope did not want to be considered. John Dryden was sacked and John Betjeman was probably the best known of the modern poets.

For his part, Andrew Motion has enjoyed it, but is relieved to be getting on with the business of his "own" writing; he was not treated kindly for many of his eight poems over the decade, some deriding him for the paucity of his output.

But his greatest legacy is the online National Poetry Archive, which is a vast and successful project containing recordings of poets reciting their own work, and has dragged poetry into the multimedia age.

And his tireless efforts to re-define the role has given the next person in the role much to build on. Should it be Carol Ann Duffy? Or Simon Armitage? I would applaud either, but then I would also cheer if it was Jackie Kay, or Alice Oswald, or the brilliant Jamie McKendrick.

Should it be a black or Asian poet, a young one (one day, Caroline Bird should get it, though she may be too iconoclastic for such a thing!) or an elder statesman?

It would be a great pity if the role garnered interest now merely because it was given to a woman. It's the poetry that's important, surely, and the role it is allowed to play in national life.

It should be an excellent poet, who is good as being an advocate for popularising the form.

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