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When Patrick Modiano’s Nobel Prize for Literature was announced in October, none of his books were in print in English. Only a fraction of his books had been translated at all over the past few decades: Ring Roads and Villa Triste (which I’ve previously discussed here) were translated in the 1970s. Yale University Press was the first, and apparently the only, English-language publisher to jump on the Nobel bandwagon, seeing an opportunity for new translations. Suspended Sentences, a collection of three novellas translated by Mark Polizotti, was published in November – an apparently rapidly produced translation that nonetheless is better than its 1970s predecessors.

Suspended Sentences is a collection of three slightly more recent novellas, which are Modiano’s narrative form of choice: Afterimage (Chien de printemps, 1993), Suspended Sentences (Reminse de peine, 1988), and Flowers of Ruin (Fleurs de ruine, 1991). Afterimage describes the friendship between the young narrator and a photographer, Francis Jansen. The narrator becomes obsessed with Jansen’s photographs, which he considers to be brilliant, and frantically tries to catalogue them, to Jansen’s slight bemusement. In Suspended Sentences, a young boy is raised by members of the infamous Rue Lauriston gang in Nazi-occupied France, though he is unable to understand what is happening around him until the day they are all rounded up and he is left in an empty house. Flowers of Ruin, finally, is the least powerful of the three, and tells the story of the double suicide of a young couple which is somehow connected to a mysterious man who has stolen the identity of a former Dachau prisoner.

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Their thematic similarity is presumably what inspired both publisher and translator to publish these three works in one collection: all three works exhibit a fascination with the photographical image, a sentimental yearning for France in the 1960s, and a young male narrator who seems to be adrift in the world. Modiano’s language is descriptive even though it is sparse: as the brevity of these works suggests, he does not use a word too many. The scenes he describes, divided into chapters sometimes no more than a page in length, always seem to be at one remove from the narrator, and thus even more distant and ungraspable for the reader. This becomes most visible, and quite problematic, in Flowers of Ruin. Here the narrator drifts so fluidly from one scene, one memory, to the other that it is difficult for the reader to get a grasp on the story, tragic though the narrative may be.

In a collection that seems to be intended to both highlight and introduce the work of this suddenly famous author to a wider English-speaking audience, it would perhaps have been better to have included his novella Ring Roads rather than Flowers of Ruin as the third part of the collection. That particular work is easier to follow and deals with similar themes of youth versus adulthood, in a similar language, but with a more striking treatment of the topics of racism and anti-Semitism in pre-war France.

These themes, however, sound perhaps too familiar to those who know a few more of Modiano’s novellas. Both Ring Roads and Villa Triste deal with very similar themes, although in these two works the narrator’s connection to his father is more central to the story. After having read more than three of Modiano’s works, the similarities in both language and subject matter overwhelm the differences: Modiano seems to be writing the same work over and over. For a reader who dislikes wordiness and loves the sense of tragic reminiscence that these works exude, this may be positive. For someone who is looking for variation, this bundle is precisely enough Modiano.

K. Dihal

‘Suspended Sentences’ is available to buy from most bookstores, RRP £12.99.

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A photographic canvas stretches across a wall in the Tate Modern. Slowly fading from black to white, the only discernible shape is in the centre, what looks like the leaves of a palm tree. Having come to the Tate for their Conflict, Time, Photography exhibition (running until March 2015), this was not an image I expected to see. Intrigued, I explored the accompanying text. Here, the photographer in question explained that as an embedded journalist, assigned to a specific military unit, he was not allowed to take photos of what he would usually have documented – colleagues kidnapped and killed, communities destroyed. Instead, when each of these events occurred he exposed a piece of photographic paper to sunlight, a memento of the images never captured, producing the work in front of me.

Creating this sense of ‘absent presences’ made this one of the most successful war exhibitions that I have seen. All artistic explorations of conflict run the risk of aestheticising violence, but Conflict, Time, Photography manages to avoid this by making broader philosophical and political comments about representations of war. It is an unusual exhibition in many respects: gone are the iconic images of Vietnamese children, emaciated refugees, soldiers embracing their lovers. In their place hang a diverse set of artworks that, for the most part, are devoid of people. The photographs document the landscapes of war, rather than the souls that inhabit them. Stretched across the entirety of the Eyal Ofer Galleries, the images are arranged according to time since the conflict in question, from seconds after the bomb at Hiroshima, to one hundred years after the First World War.

Richard Peter, 'Dresden After Allied Raids', 1945

Richard Peter, ‘Dresden After Allied Raids’, 1945

At face value, it seems difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions about conflict from these often tranquil landscapes. Look closer, however, and these images powerfully question how accurately war can ever actually be documented on film. What happens to those stories that do not become photographs which define a generation, the people whose faces we do not see? These absent perpetrators and victims are at the heart of this exhibition, often represented in the texts that hang with each image. Perhaps the most effective of these was the set of photographs from Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, where the texts form part of the installation itself. Next to each photograph is an explanation of the atrocities that occurred there twenty years previously: a deserted square saw the public execution of a young man, an empty building housed the remains of the regime’s victims. These people will never be part of our visual history, despite their suffering being as great as those who are remembered.

Perhaps the most disturbing point raised throughout the entire exhibition was that of journalistic embedding, dramatically announced by the image described above, and by Don McCullin’s shell-shocked US soldier in Vietnam. One of the rare images of people included in the exhibition, it is in the first room dedicated to photographs taken minutes after conflict. The sightless eyes of the young man are shocking in a visceral way that the landscapes are not, but perhaps more striking in the context of the exhibition was McCullin’s comment in the accompanying text stating that it would be impossible to take this photograph now due to media embedding. Journalists such as Patrick Cockburn have raised concerns about the biased nature of reporting produced by this technique, but this exhibition brought home the highly politicised nature of media representations of war. This was particularly apparent for the photos from Iraq and Afghanistan, conflicts which most visitors to the exhibition will probably think themselves familiar. Having a new perspective that focused upon absence raised disturbing questions about what was not allowed to be documented in Western media portrayals of the wars.

Dom McCullin, 'Shell Shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue', 1968

Dom McCullin, ‘Shell Shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue’, 1968

My main criticism of the exhibition would be that it did at times risk becoming monotonous which slightly dampened the impact of some of the images (such as the entire room dedicated to Sophie Ristelhueber’s photos of Kuwait). Thankfully the predominantly monochrome prints were punctuated often enough with splashes of colour and contrast of tone to prevent this becoming a significant problem. Chloe Dewe Mathews’ Shot at Dawn was such an example. In the series, she revisited the sites where deserters were killed during the World Wars, at the same time and day as the executions, one hundred years later. The landscape’s indifference to these events is chilling, a stark reminder that the scars created by war run far deeper in cultural memory than in geographical. A more hopeful outlook was provided by the images of old Nazi buildings in Berlin which now house a music conservatoire: above the bullet-riddled basements, a young woman practices the harp in what used to be Hitler’s breakfast room. As one of the few humans bodily present in the exhibition, she provided a poignant contrast to Jim Goldberg’s Open See, taken one year after the Congolese civil wars, whose subjects still bore the physical scars of violence.

Chloe Dewe Matthews, 'Shot at Dawn', 2014

Chloe Dewe Matthews, ‘Shot at Dawn’, 2014

Conflict, Time, Photography is a bold reconfiguration of war photography. By removing much of what one expects to see when one thinks of conflict photography, it allows these events to be viewed in an entirely new light. It reminds us that there are so many voices that are never heard in the public discourse on war. As Dewe Mathews writes of her installation, ‘these places have been altered by a traumatic event. By photographing them, I am reinserting the individual into that space, stamping their presence back onto the land, so that their histories are not forgotten.’ But more critically, it suggests that whether due to the restrictions of embedding or photographers dimly being absent from sites of conflict, the true human impact of events like Nagasaki and Hiroshima cannot be captured on canvas. All that remains are shadows burned on to buildings, as in Matsumoto Eiichi’s images, or melted belongings, photographed by Shomei Tomatsu, that allude to the children destroyed by a single atomic bomb. These fragments that echo across time remind us of these forgotten souls, and it is what remains absent from these images that truly bears witness to the horrors of war.

Matsumoto Eiichi, 'Shadow of a soldier remaining on the wooden wall of the Nagasaki military headquarters', 1945

Matsumoto Eiichi, ‘Shadow of a soldier remaining on the wooden wall of the Nagasaki military headquarters’, 1945

L. C. Broad

‘Time, Conflict, Photography’ runs at the Tate Modern until March 2015, tickets £14.50/£12.50. For more information, please visit the gallery’s website.

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'Where Alice had a Picnic' © Karyn Peyton

‘Where Alice had a Picnic’ © Karyn Peyton

Karyn is a visiting student studying history (and coffee on the side) at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford; she is originally from the middle of the desert in Arizona. She bought her first high-end camera five months ago, and Oxford has kept her photographing ever since.

We are currently looking for photography submissions on the theme of ‘Hidden Oxford’. If you would like to submit your photographs to the Review, please email the editor at theoxfordculturereview@gmail.com

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Few historical trials speak to the imagination as much as the Salem witch trials of 1692, an event that led to the executions of twenty innocent people through an unfortunate combination of mass hysteria and theocratic despotism. Seeing parallels with the manic hunt for communists in the McCarthy era, Miller published his play The Crucible in 1953, three years before he himself was summoned to appear before McCarthy’s committee. More than sixty years later, the play remains a compelling indictment of mass hysteria and juridical fumbling – has society not changed much at all?

This week, St Hilda’s College Drama Society stages Miller’s most widely performed play with an impressively large cast: twenty-one people share the stage. Two roles that weren’t in Miller’s original have been added, Martha Corey and Ruth Putnam, who are only spoken of in Miller’s play. The play focuses on John and Elizabeth Proctor, husband and wife played by David Meijers and Alice Gray. Elizabeth is falsely accused of witchcraft by her former maid, Abigail Williams, played by Mary Higgins. This trio, Gray, Meijers, and Higgins, deliver the play with astonishing conviction, ensuring a lasting impact on the audience.

Ellen Gibson in 'The Crucible'

Ellen Gibson in ‘The Crucible’

The play opens impressively, the music overwhelming, matching the bewildering effect of the action on and around the stage. Throughout the play, good use is made of the various resources available in the theatrical space, with sounds, voices and singing at times coming from outside, increasing a feeling of immersion for the audience. The scene cuts, on the other hand, are extremely sharp, suddenly plunging the audience into darkness, conveying a feeling of increasing paranoia and mass hysteria extremely effectively.

Through both the lead actors’ excellent performances and these clever technical enhancements, the play builds tension immensely well. In the first scene, as Betty Parris (Bee Liese) is apparently possessed by the devil, Liese plays her part of possessed child so convincingly, and is handled so seemingly roughly by the others, that one may wonder if she comes home with bruises from each performance. Well-acted violence is part and parcel of this play: David Meijers as John Proctor is at his best during emotional extremes. At the moment when John Proctor has to say his ten commandments to prove his Christianity and innocence, he manages to make this simple summing up a nail-biting moment. Not all performances are equally convincing, however: the age difference between the characters is not always clear, especially with the elderly characters seeming younger than their lines suggest them to be.

'The Crucible'

‘The Crucible’

It is of course at the trial of Elizabeth that emotions come to an extreme, and both Meijers and Gray shine in these scenes. Unfortunately, the emotions of Deputy Governor Danforth (James Galvin) also boil over at this point, and here Galvin shows himself to be a better actor when he is calmer, contrary to Meijer. Galvin can put on a seriously impressive bellowing voice, which is startling the first time, makes half the crowd jump the second and third time, and begins to feel slightly exhausting every time it is used after that.

The ending is as overwhelming as the start of the play, as those who know it – or the Salem trials – may well expect. Here, the lead actors show how emotionally invested they were in their acting, Alice Gray wiping away her final tears during the curtain call. The Crucible, which runs at St Hilda’s until Saturday, is well worth your time.

K. Dihal

For more information about ‘The Crucible’, please visit the event’s Facebook page.

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The mark of quality in student productions of original writing – of which James P. Mannion’s new play “Ridley’s Choice” is certainly a fine specimen – is in being able to engage with contemporary concerns and shed new light on this changing world without overburdening the play with details that narrow its concerns and mark it with a definite expiration date. And this engaging piece of satiric comedy-drama is nothing if not timely. It follows the struggles of failed playwright George Ridley, who escapes from disillusionment and despair by living alone in a cabin in the woods, only to find the society he’s been so desperate to hide from force itself on him. It surfaces first in the form of a teenager who’s hunting with his iPhone for the next YouTube viral video, and then a journalist looking to profit from a controversial “prophet” that can no doubt be commodified into excellent clickbait. The “Choice” of the title refers to Ridley’s struggles to keep his ideals pure, resisting the lure of publicity and profit. Despite the references to YouTube, Tumblr, Reddit, blog journalism, and other bits and pieces of contemporary set-dressing, the dialogue does not seem like it would date too badly 10 years from now. The playwright takes great care to make sure that the satire is situational rather than slap-stick, and that the biting dialogue builds its comedy not from cheap one-liners but from a sustained engagement with the precarious positions the characters are placed in. The plot, with a few snags here and there, is well-balanced, with scenes that build towards clearly-defined climaxes. Mannion is even willing to draw explicit parallels between Ridley’s situation and Thoreau’s “Walden”, reaching back in history to emphasize the timeless nature of the individual’s struggle against society. In other words, the play is built on sound foundations.

Director Jack Saville’s rendering of this claustrophobic play is realized perfectly in its visual stage design, although it leaves some room for improvement in the quality of acting. The staging is semi-in-the-round, with the set squashed into a corner of the black box theatre, while audiences are ranged on two sides to complete the square. This is a rare departure from the standard configuration of the Burton Taylor Studio. Naturally, the actors have a much smaller space to act in, which, combined with the fact that the the play is supposedly in an expansive natural setting, creates a nice paradox. The only attempts at creating an illusion of broad space are in the audio-visual interludes, crafted with great attention to detail by Rebecca Ajulu-Bushell and Alex Newton, though these interludes constantly undermine themselves by serving as ironic Brechtian devices. George Varley’s performance as Ridley conveys quite effectively the feverish madness of a hermetically-sealed life, and the supporting cast is certainly decent, especially Archie Thomson as a very funny Clive.

As a whole, the ensemble made many correct choices in performance. However, the execution on a purely technical level did leave something to be desired. There was not much sense of fitting their performance to the intimate size of the space; they instead chose too often to declaim their lines at each other. The movement of the characters was also uniformly strained, as if they were too afraid to have their back to the audience for even an instant. Consequently, more than once, the actors drew attention away from the action and to themselves by walking in an unnatural manner. In this case, having boldly committed to staging the play in-the-round, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have been less fussy about which way the actors ought to face. Varley, in particular, relied on physical mannerisms as a clutch and often bordered on telegraphing Ridley’s madness to the audience, rather than allowing his madness to emerge in a more subtle manner. The makeup design also had to take some of the blame – Ridley is described as an unwashed madman, yet there was a distinct lack of leaves in his hair and mud on his face, as if he were little different from a comfortable, smooth-skinned Oxford student.

It is hard to evaluate how much of Ridley’s lack of subtlety was intentional: all the characters in the “real world”, whether it is the youth, the journalist Polly Freeman, the interviewers Olive and Darius, or Ridley’s daughter Lucy, were more restrained in their performances than Ridley and Clive, who seemed to inhabit a different world altogether. Ali Ackland-Snow as Polly revealed just enough Machiavellian scheming to let the audience in on her motivations, but without turning her character into a stereotype; Clare Saxby and Keelan Kember’s bickering and inability to focus on the job at hand displayed great comic timing; while Chloe Wall drummed up as much sympathy for Lucy as she could without overstepping into the maudlin. In this context, Varley’s overacting could understandably be explained as a conscious decision; however, I still contend that there was an element of nervousness to his performance, and the way he returned to certain safe gestures, such as sticking his hands in his pockets (even when at an awards ceremony!), is perhaps evidence for that. Nonetheless, technical faults aside, it is hard to fault Varley’s interpretation of his character on a conceptual level.

Ridley's Choice

Ridley’s Choice

The text is not quite perfect but is consistently ambitious, setting itself high aims and meeting most of them. Certain subplots, such as Olive and Darius’s misunderstanding about the nature of their relationship, add tremendously to the central concerns of the play: there is no genuine connection between the two characters, although one of them deceives himself into thinking there is – this breakdown in communication serves as a constant reminder of the life Ridley has been escaping from. However, there are certain interludes, most notably erotically-charged dream sequences, that do nothing apart from rehashing what we already know, and I suspect they were kept in because of how funny they were in isolation, and not for their importance to the structure. A more significant flaw of the play is that, for much of the middle section, the audience is far ahead of the characters. Not wanting to give spoilers, it took Ridley an inordinately long time to reach the same conclusion about Clive as the audience did. This came off not as intentional dramatic irony, but as the author being unable or unwilling to outsmart the audience. The social commentary of the play could also be strengthened with more attention to the concrete workings of institutions and social forces: there is perhaps not enough exploration of how exactly the media can commodify a person’s image, or exactly how controversy can lead to revenue. The media, in this play, is a simplified and monolithic force, and Ridley’s rise to fame has very little context to ground it – of all the madmen in this world, why him, specifically? What makes him especially brandable? These were unexplored questions that, if unpacked, would have given the play even greater depth. Then again, I might be setting an unrealistic bar. What the play does it achieves very well, and it deserves to be seen, discussed, and pondered over.

E. Kamalabadi

‘Ridley’s Choice’ runs at the Burton Taylor studio until Saturday 29th November. For more information or to book tickets please visit their website.

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Featuring a programme of twentieth- and twenty-first-century music loosely centred around the theme of war, the Oxford debut of chamber choir Sansara, an exciting group of talented young singers, was an impressive affair. The great technical challenges of much of this repertoire, full of complex cross-rhythms and searing dissonances, were met with great confidence. There was an intense feeling of assured communication between conductor Benjamin Cunningham, junior organ scholar at Worcester College Chapel, and his singers. This showed itself particularly in the fluidity of phrasing achieved in Elgar’s They are at Rest and the care given to the conclusion of Francis Pott’s Lament.

Oxford, though, is saturated with choral groups who can demonstrate an impressive sound and precision of ensemble. In such a crowded scene, what made this concert stand out was the manner in which these skills were put to the service of considered interpretations of the repertoire at hand. The music was brought to life by the understanding and highlighting of its crucial expressive gestures. For example, the sforzando effect that marks the final cadence of William Walton’s A Litany was particularly striking. As well as an eye for such details, Sansara and Cunningham were also able to sculpt large-scale structures highly effectively. Particularly telling in this respect was Arvo Pärt’s 1980 setting of the psalm De profundis for male voices, organ and percussion, music that is typical of the Estonian composer’s sparse and meditative tintinnabuli style. This work enacts a gestational emergence de profundis (‘from the depths’). It was thus a fitting opening to the programme and one that posed interesting challenges in its gradual process of intensification. Aside from some moments of hesitancy in the exposed opening bars, this was an impressive performance. The sense of awe created by the powerful sound at the summit of Pärt’s unfolding process of emergence was facilitated by the disciplined restraint shown in preparing that climax.

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The programme also featured two inventive new works commissioned by Sansara. The first of these was a setting of I Vow to Thee, My Country by Marco Galvani, an undergraduate student at Queen’s College who was also singing tenor in the concert. Galvani’s use of choral forces was imaginative, as in the use of repetitive droning figures in the inner voices with which the piece opened. Programmed alongside the Pärt, this work could be heard as tapping into a rich twentieth-century choral tradition in which one might also include the late John Tavener, that draws upon sparseness, repetition, and harmonic stasis to powerful effect. Cunningham writes in his programme notes that Galvani’s setting, ‘written in 2014 for Sansara, in this the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, sets the famous Cecil Rice poem in an almost other-worldly haze, and is imbued with a haunting nostalgia’. Nostalgia for what exactly?, one was left to wonder. To many of today’s listeners the notion of celebrating a patriotic love ‘that lays upon the altar the dearest and the best’, as Spring Rice’s poem puts it, might feel uncomfortable. To me, the ethereal, ritual qualities invoked by this kind of choral writing were a decisive turn away from the hymnic Gustav Holst setting with which these words are usually associated and with which any new setting is surely in dialogue. In this sense, the work seemed to reflect on the impossibility of returning to these early twentieth-century values and perhaps even their destructive power. There was indeed a ‘haunting’ sense of loss here in the growth of the afterworld ‘soul by soul’, but not one that could necessarily be reduced to simple ‘nostalgia’.

The other premiere on the programme was A Prayer of St. Richard of Chichester by Oliver Tarney, a composer based in the Hampshire area where Sansara was first formed. Tarney splits the singers into a main choir and a smaller semi-chorus, placed at the other end of the chapel in this performance. The fluidity of the relationship between the two groups showed a sense of dialogue, and even the possibility of congruence at the centre of the work framed by interruptions and fragmentation. As with the rest of the repertoire on the programme, Sansara overcame the potential pitfalls of this challenging writing with distinction.

Sansara

Sansara

Given the proficiency and musicality on display, it was a real pity that more attention was not paid to putting across text at times. The resonant acoustic of Worcester’s stunning chapel may have helped to emphasise the quality of sound produced by Sansara, but it certainly did not help with this issue of diction. Similarly, it was a shame that Tom Herring’s rich and dignified tone in the solo baritone part for Nigel Short and Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of The Dying Soldier was rather lost in the wash of sound produced by the rest of the choir in this venue. Another possible problem was the choice of a programme that consisted overwhelmingly of slow, spacious pieces. Although a reflective tone was obviously appropriate, a greater sense of variety would have been welcome. However, these problems of diction and homogeneity of mood were both addressed in Philip Moore’s Three Prayers of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, arguably the highlight of the concert. From the outset, with countertenor Alexander Chance’s excellent solos, there was a much clearer engagement with, and transmission of, the text. It is unfortunate that we had to wait until the end of the programme to hear the thrilling sense of dynamism and rhythmic attack which Sansara conveyed here.

The pressing contemporary relevance of exploring themes of war and conflict was emphasised by the bold choice of repertoire and especially the impressive new works on the programme, as well as the admirable decision to raise money for the Royal British Legion. These were fitting acknowledgements of the deeply tragic fact that our world today is still shaped by the legacies of previous conflicts, and the arrival and continuation of current ones.

G. Masters

For more information about Sansara and their forthcoming events, please visit their website.

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Last Friday marked the start of the eight-week Oxford Christmas festival. Many museums opened their doors with special evening events, from a festival at the Ashmolean to a moon-themed evening at the Museum of the History of Science. By far the most popular event, however, seems to have been Northern Lights at the Pitt Rivers Museum.

The event centred around all things Arctic, and the museum itself was to be shrouded in darkness, to be explored by torchlight. Most enticingly, the museum announced that the soundtrack playing that evening would include a voice-over of Philip Pullman reading from Northern Lights – the first instalment of his amazing His Dark Materials trilogy, the stage version of which was put on in Oxford just last week.

The Pitt Rivers had created its hype very carefully. To say that their publicity campaign was successful would be an understatement: 3500 people pledged to attend on Facebook alone. A reader who is familiar with the Museum of Natural History/Pitt Rivers building may well be confused by these numbers: the two museums each have one large floor space and an upper gallery – how are all these thousands of people going to fit in? The answer is sad and simple: they didn’t. Starting at seven, by eight o’clock there was an hour-long queue to get into the museums. Inside, most people would have to face another queue of at least half an hour to get into the Pitt Rivers itself, which led to the rather odd sight of seeing more people standing in line along the many display cases of taxidermied animals of the Natural History Museum than actually walking among them, even though this museum had its own Northern Lights-themed events, which included an Arctic bar, children’s activities, and a band playing with the T-Rex skeleton looming over them.

Northern Lights at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Northern Lights at the Pitt Rivers Museum

So, imagine someone would have stood in line for an hour and a half to get into the Northern Lights exhibition. Would it have been worth it?

Beautiful as it usually is, the hall looked even more impressive in twilight – to call it ‘dark’ would be an overstatement, and with many children visiting, darkness would have been too dangerous anyway. The torches were certainly necessary, to look into the display cabinets and read the explanations. And the shrunken heads, of course, already strange and creepy to see in full daylight, drew furtive whispers from a crowd of onlookers as they looked positively terrifying by torchlight.

Unfortunately, however, the soundtrack playing in the background proved to be a strange mix that did not always blend well. It consisted of “natural sounds from Arctic regions” and “samples of indigenous music” which indeed worked very well with the objects on display, but Pullman’s reading was drowned out too much by the large crowd to follow the story well enough to be able to fit it in with the surroundings. The final part of the soundtrack was filled by “Museum staff discussing Arctic objects on display”, and this was a strange choice indeed – whenever one of these sections started, it sounded as if a museum staff member was making an announcement to the crowd over the intercom, interrupting the music.

Pitt Rivers Museum in the daytime

Pitt Rivers Museum in the daytime

The museum staff themselves seemed rather flustered by the overwhelming number of people attending the event. It is unfortunate indeed that the event had a turnout such as this, because all in all, the crowds meant it would not have been worth a wait of an hour and a half to get into Northern Lights. For those who had never been to the museum before, this must have been an impressive sight indeed. Yet for those who had, although it was beautiful, it did not add enough novelty to the wealth the museum normally offers to reward such perseverance. This is a shame, since such special events are what would draw a previous visitor to a museum once more.

This, however, should not mean that the Pitt Rivers should avoid multimedia events in the future, it just might require more limited entrance numbers. The popularity of this event clearly showed that there is a large audience for such museum lates, and that they appeal to visitors of all ages. Considering the limitations of the venue, the two museums might have been better off by merging their events completely (am I opening a can of worms here?) in order to create one big event – with one single queue. If anything, Northern Lights proved that interactive events are more popular than some museums might anticipate, which should mean that we will hopefully be seeing more of them in the future.

K. Dihal

For more information about the Pitt Rivers Museum and their upcoming events, please visit their website.

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