Happy New Year?
I don’t do reviews. I certainly don’t do end-of-year roundups. Who cares? It’s next year that interests me.
I used not to do nostalgia either...particularly if it involved pain. Only look back if you can smile.
But more recently I have come to realise that what has happened in culture, politics, music and art in the last twenty years cannot be properly talked about without looking at the extraordinary impact of the sixties and seventies on them all – on us all. You can’t look at Afghanistan without looking at Vietnam. You can’t discuss Damion Hirst outside the context of Andy Warhol and you won’t know why Simon Cowell Exists unless you’ve heard of Mike Mansfield and Brian Epstein.
So I was genuinely interested when my sister took me to the Barbican to look around “Everything Was Moving” as a birthday present.
Twelve big big photographers who not only redefined that art form but also chronicled the changes which took place in the sixties and seventies with an amazing prescience. The pictures are not judgemental. By that I mean that the photographers are not judgemental. But it’s amazing how, when you look at David goldblatt’s chronicle of apartheid South Africa and William Eccleston’s pre-civil rights American South that they not only tell the real story but they also engender in me all the same feelings of anger and uprising that made me what I am politically.
More than that, they informed me that a black President and black football stars doesn’t mean that all the resentment, the mistrust, the feeling of superiority is not still there, lurking beneath the surface mostly. It’s just all too recent to possibly have goneaway.
In fact the unique photos of the Chinese Cultural Revolution tell us what we still think about China. That in turn should tell us that just because they speak English doesn’t mean that Americans or South Africans have done the transformation job as thoroughly as we might think. Look at those faces. The white ones and the black ones.
Look at the stolid unapologetic white mine overseers, the haunting empty faces of the black cotton pickers and shudder.
Realise that the younger ones are still alive. Don’t take anything for granted.
The show is on until January 13 and I recommend it if you feel like getting angry all over again.