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The return of right-wing retro

Port, 16 May 2011

Is 2011 a repeat of 1981? Two weeks ago, Britain celebrated a royal wedding with an enthusiasm and patriotic fervour that almost matched the betrothal of Charles and Diana. And today, as then, we can also see a creeping right-wing retro revivalism – an embrace of conservative style, status symbols and values – spreading across British culture.

That’s not to say that 1981 was an inherently conservative year. Sure Thatcher was in power. But it was a time of bitter division: of 2.5m unemployed, riots in Brixton, IRA hunger strikes and the Militant Tendency as a serious force in the Labour party. But if the country was split socially and politically, then it found some solace in the embrace of fashion trends and brands that espoused a traditionalist, un-modern and anti-urban concept of Britishness. This was the age of Laura Ashley dresses and Tricia Guild wallpaper, the Sloane Ranger and the Young Fogey, the Aga as a symbol of enduring tradition. more

The art of protest

Port, 18 April 2011

Can art change the world? Ekow Eshun on the total politics of Ai Weiwei

Politics has been a desperately unfashionable subject in art for the past decade or more. That’s roughly the length of time of the last art boom and it’s telling that the big hitters of that era – among them Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and Damien Hirst – produce art that is glossy and expensively finished but which raises few questions or hackles. In its absence of dissonance, a Koons giant inflatable bunny or a Hirst spin painting has become a perfect status symbol for moneyed classes around the world from investment bankers and hedge fund guys to Russian oligarchs and Gulf state sheiks. more

Self-expression

Port, March 2011

Ekow Eshun explains how social networking offers everyone with an Internet connection a curated form of self-expression, and argues that Twitter might one day become our voice of public – and private – record

What does it take to write the perfect tweet? I ask this question in the knowledge that Twitter is hardly short of contributions from the witty, the satirical and the compendiously well informed. But far less is it a repository for the polished, economical prose that’s part of the language of, say good journalism or non-fiction writing. Why? When I raised the subject on Twitter itself recently I largely drew a blank. Most people wanted to tell me that a 140-character limit is the enemy of good writing – as if Hemmingway or Carver or a centuries of Japanese haikus hadn’t made the case for literary concision. On reflection I think the question probably came across as an odd one to ask. Twitter is primarily used for voicing opinion and exchanging information. Worrying about style or form must seem irrelevant or even antique in comparison to addressing the nature of the content itself. more