Culture Review: Artists Back JNU Hunger Strikes, Russian Orchestra Performs at Palmyra

A selection of arts and culture news from India and around the world.

The Mariinsky Orchestra performs at Palmyra.

The Mariinsky Orchestra performs at Palmyra.

Artists show solidarity with JNU hunger strikes

On May 1, in solidarity with the hunger strikes at JNU, reggae artists Delhi Sultanate and Begum X played protest songs from Jamaica and Punjabi poetry, on their originally-built sound system called Bass Foundation Roots. According to the artists, the students on strike were energised by the music, and began to chant slogans and dance.

Delhi Sultanate said he is “very grateful” for the chance to play Caribbean music that in its origins and nature is “outsider music from the margins” but has become paradoxically confined to elite spaces. He feels that the space and atmosphere that has been created at JNU is very important for protestors all over the country.

Reflecting on his experience, Delhi Sultanate said, “Artists have a responsibility to react to what is happening around them. Culture and the arts can get people to ask questions and draw people together.”

May Day Protests Over Guggenheim Museum Migrant Worker Conditions

On the occasion of May Day, the artist-activist groups Global Ultra Luxury Faction (G.U.L.F.) and Illuminator broadcasted messages onto the façade of the Guggenheim Museum, New York from a parked van. The messages protested the Guggenheim Foundation’s breaking off in April, negotiations with the Gulf Labor Coalition about the rights of migrant worker at the museum’s Abu Dhabi outpost. The messages were in languages including English, Arabic, Hindi and Bengali, and read “ULTRA LUXURY ART/ ULTRA LOW WAGES” and “EVERY DAY IS MAY DAY.” A video juxtaposed the faces and names of museum trustees with the message “YOU BROKE TRUST.”

Russian orchestra performs triumphal concert at Palmyra

St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Orchestra performed at Palmyra in Syria on May 5, to mark the March re-capture of the ancient site by Russian-backed Syrian forces, reports The Guardian. The concert was called ‘With a Prayer from Palmyra: Music Revives the Ancient Walls.’

Russian state TV channels gave full coverage to the concert. The Kremlin claims that Russian bombings have not killed any Syrian civilians, but rights groups say that about 2000 civilians have been killed as a result of Russian strikes in the last 6 months.

Cellist Sergei Roldugin, artistic director of St. Petersburg’s House of Music and Vladimir Putin’s best friend, performed at the concert. The Panama papers have revealed that Roldugin was the beneficiary of millions of dollars in offshore deals.

Putin, in a live video broadcast onstage, dedicated the concert to victims of “international terrorism” and to Aleksandr Prokhorenko, a Russian officer killed during the battle for Palmyra.

Valery Gergeiv, conductor of the concert and an outspoken supporter of Putin, said, “We protest against barbarians who destroyed wonderful monuments of world culture.” Gergeiv has previously conducted on Russian patriotic occasions.

Anne Frank in 1940. Credit: Wikipedia

Anne Frank in 1940. Credit: Wikipedia

New film to allow audiences to experience Anne Frank’s life

Using virtual reality technology, filmmaker Danny Abrahms and producer Jonah Hirsch are creating a new film Anne, which will allow viewers to go back to the early 1940s and tangibly experience the details of life in hiding from the Nazis. According to Abrahms, the technology will allow viewers to connect with “arguably the most significant event in human history (World War II/ The Holocaust.”

British Museum Accused of Breaking Code of Ethics

The Museums Association is investigating claims that the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate and others of Britain’s most revered cultural institutions have broken the Association’s code of ethics in their dealings with one of their commercial sponsors BP.

The Art Not Oil alliance has shown in emails and documents that the BP

Protestors against BP sponsorship of the British Museum last year, 2015. Credit: Youtube

Protestors against BP sponsorship of the British Museum last year, 2015. Credit: Youtube

influenced curatorial decisions at the British Museum and used its international networks to further its agenda. Some of the revealed correspondence, for instance, suggests that BP had curatorial influence over the museum’s show last year called “Indigenous Australia: enduring civilization” while it was involved in the controversial fight to drill in the Great Australian Bight.

Mexican and Portugese works win awards for best translation

Mexican novelist Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World has won the ninth Best Translated Book Award (BTBA), translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman. Herrera’s novel tells of a young woman’s trip on foot over the Mexico-US border to deliver a package and find her brother.

Angélica Freitas’s Rilke Shake, translated from the Portugese by Hilary Kaplan, has won for poetry. The 5,000 US dollar cash prizes, funded by the Amazon Literary Partnership programme, will be shared by the writer and the translator in each case.