Sunday, 2 December: Iris, our visiting angel pattern cutter, arrived for the week. Not only does Iris create new patterns from our newly dreamed up cutting principles but she’s very important at the fittings with us, helping us to bring to a finish the toiles of our other pattern cutters. So this is a week when we really concentrate on the collection.
There is something rather Arab in the collection at the moment. This happened because of two things: I was interested in the theme of fighting because of the Climate Revolution and I am looking at fashion in the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. The crusaders brought these fashion influences back from the Crusades. I don’t say that I have adopted any specific details, only that the collection has an Arab feeling. These soldiers are supposed to be Romans but the illuminator imagined something more Arab.
Although the Climate Revolution is a non-violent revolution which we hope to win, there still lurks the horror of a hot world of violence, death and destruction if we don’t. By the way, the crusaders were the aggressors (yobs), not the Muslims. And, if the human race had evolved according to their human genius instead of indulging in their base instincts, we would not have war.
I like our current collections to have a mix of new cuts, standard cuts, historical cuts and simple envelopes or cloths thrown on in a theatrical way.
Tuesday, 4 December: I am wearing a long dress like an apron for special occasions at the moment. I wear it on top of a t-shirt which says Climate Revolution on the back. The dress is in a ravishing green silk satin shot with rainbow stripes which shine through from the back of the green. It has a matching cloak and my green feather headdress from the Rainforest matches it perfectly.
I wore it to a dinner in support of the Fortune Forum Summit’s Real Aid Campaign, founded by Renu Mehta to raise $100 billion to combat global poverty, disease and climate change. This is an incredible amount of money; the plan is to place it strategically in order to solve the world’s problems. The star speaker was billionaire philanthropist, George Soros. Ken Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, presented a short film showing their work. They have been colleagues for many years, since the time when Roth asked Soros for $50 million so they could hire more investigators – whereas they had one investigator trying to monitor abuses in three countries, they wished to have one per country where violations take place. Soros gave them $100 million 10 year grant to expand their activities.
Roth then interviewed Soros: He spoke of the “Open Society” according to Karl Popper, whose philosophy has influenced him enormously. The open society is the opposite of an autocratic state. As I listened, I got the idea that it is a truly democratic and just society, involving free speech and flexibility through discussion so that change can happen.
My own thoughts on this are that democracy can’t be mob rule. Mob rule bursts out through prejudice and ignorance and takes the law into its own hands; it never brings progress; it causes a backlash – conservative forces become more clever at controlling opinion. (This happened after the French Revolution but the great thing was that through the activity and ideas of the French salons, culture flourished, keeping conservative forces at bay until World War I, when conservatism finally won.)
Now what if the vested interests of the status quo (rule by psychopaths), using the media and advertising (consumption being a part of the advertising) manipulates the public to resort to their base instincts, isn’t this a controlled mob rule? Prejudice and ignorance kept simmering.
Gareth Peirce makes the point: the law is a reflection of the just sentiment of the people. When people are emotionally manipulated they are also intellectually blocked. The authorities get away with their state sponsored crimes.
Soros grew up in Nazi occupied Hungary. That’s where he learned about risk. Sometimes it is safer to take a risk than not to. He has been placing his money where it will promote the freedom of the open society. With regard to Russia, since the wall came down, though he had placed over $1 billion he failed – but he was “happy to have tried”.
Renu, the organizer and our hostess who was sitting between me and George Soros is a very clever woman at putting people together and making things happen. She turned to him and asked him what he thought, “Vivienne says our financial system is the cause of climate change and that in turn has helped cause the financial crisis.” I know him to be conservative on this point so I was delighted to hear him say, “The American hurricane Sandy was caused by climate change.”
Hooray for Michael Bloomberg, the NY mayor, who published the connection in press conferences and through his extensive media holdings (Bloomberg TV, Businessweek and various digital platforms)! This has made a hole in the dyke of denial. I think it is one of the significant acts of the year.
Wednesday, 5 December: We met with the “Lush” team we are working with on Climate Revolution: Tamsin Omond, Campaign Organizer; Ethics Director, Hilary Jones and co-founder, Mo Constantine to plan the New Year campaign which has just started – check the windows in the Lush shops and talk to the staff – you can also join us and participate in the brilliant new online platforms: www.climaterevolution.org.uk, www.facebook.com/jointheclimaterevolution, www.twitter.com/climate_rev.
We’re planning events for 2013 and will let you know what’s happening here and on the Climate Revolution platforms (it would also be great to hear your ideas!)
Thursday, 6 December: To “Nopi”, a restaurant which will host our Climate Revolution cabinet meetings. Cynthia and I met founder Michael Stein, Julia Groves, MD and Matt Mellen, Campaign Director of the Trillion Fund (www.trillionfund.com) preliminary to our first general cabinet meeting which will happen later this month.
I had to be at the Barbican by 7.00, so after lunch I stayed in the West End and rushed along to “Bronze”, the exhibition at the Royal Academy.
Stunning! Life-changing! The presentation was genius – one marvel after another. To get some idea of the number of exhibits and the scope, hear what the RA says: “Our themes – Figures, Gods, Heads, Animals, Groups, Objects and Reliefs – permit us to consider works of the same ‘species’ from different times and places together.” Especially regarding smaller, more intimate works every effort was made to show them in the round.
And the bronze itself! I am a small human element amongst some of the rich quantity of forms humans have created by means of this metallic force. The strength of bronze allows the sculpture to live in its space without support; bronze technique provides the potential to master size and detail; and the range of finish from hard shine to crusted patina bears witness to a metamorphosis from its hot liquid flux.
In his painting, Matisse so often wiped the paint away and overpainted: a labour of simplification to get at the truth; every decision, every stroke of the brush has to be uncompromising, spontaneous. In the case of bronze we can think of the brush as an arrow, released by the imagination and guided by the hand, through the process of bronze technique, to its mark.
In these four plaques named”Back” all are true, none is more true. In the last one, notice the bump on the back and near the right underarm. If you took it away the work would not be complete; it would lose its power.
The presence of these men as they listen to what each other is saying. Did you ever see anything more alive? Pure theatre; the drapery.
I know this sculpture well. It belongs to the Gemaldegalerie in Berlin where I used to teach. Whenever I see him, he fills me with awe and gladness; nothing is more universal – more than a baby, he’s the essence of the human spirit. The genius of Donatello – it’s the holding back, the restraint that does it.
This Buddha and his consort. The fullness of him with his multiple heads, arms and legs and the gaze that locks them together. I have never before experienced such sexual transmission of feelings from a work of art.
Votive figure (Called Evening Shadow, it famously influenced Giacometti.) If indeed this is a votive offering, the suggestion is that it would rise up from amongst other offerings and attract the attention of the god. I get the feeling that the figure wished in spirit to transcend its earthly dimension. Or, put another way, that it wishes to overcome the limits of its temporal dimension and, thereby penetrate the universe at large.
N.B. Notice the dates.
I would like to add my own comments and general observations.
There is no progress in art. Certainly no progress towards realism.
It is possible to see within a period of time an evolution towards realism as happened with the ancient Greeks (and this must have has an amazing impact on how people saw themselves). But the exhibition showed how, over a longer perspective, this is not true; neither is it absolute within the definitive periods, there are always exceptions and stirrings towards other needs of expression. And there are examples of realism way before the Greeks.
What is art?
Art mirrors the world. Human beings come to understand the world by imitating it. All works of art are imitations; they represent reality.
Today artists fail because they are self-indulgent and pander to the cheap trick (conceptual art). They stand in the way of their talent. The true artist gains personality through the discipline imposed by his technique. Then through this channel, his imagination is free to express itself. His path is clear.
You remember I had never looked at Indian Buddha’s and Hindu gods. There were beautiful examples of both. Every work of art has its own particular reason to exist; we all abstract different qualities which we need to express in the work of art; other realities to communicate.
It is interesting to note that when the Chinese became interested in bronze they made utensils for offerings to ancestors and ceremonial bells and not figure sculpture – because they did not worship gods. (They were eventually sculptures, Hindu, Buddhist because they were always tolerant of religion.)
In the evening, I opened the Barbican’s new cinemas 2 & 3 on Beech Street (across from the Barbican Centre) and also took part in the Barbican’s “Seven Deadly Sins” series of films. I was asked to choose a film on “Gluttony” after which there was a Q&A and late dinner for a group of guests. The film, “La Grande Bouffe” (Blow Out), from the 70’s is about four friends (gourmands) who meet for the weekend in a private house owned by one of them and cook and eat themselves to death.
It was their way of escape from pressures conforming to the false values of their age. High class call girls were called in to help with the death/food/sex orgy. There was so much meat being delivered that a kind of school mistress who accepted a duty to help them achieve their end told the delivery man to hang the carcasses in the trees.
But I can’t continue elaborating the Diary because I’m actually writing this on New Year’s day and tomorrow I have to stop everything and work on our collection because we are so dreadfully late.
From now until Friday the 14th, I did the usual things – fittings, working out knitwear, four interviews, one photoshoot, talking to Cynthia plotting the Revolution.
Lorna came to talk to me and film a bit about Leonard. I think she might be able to do something by the film because of the influential people she’s meeting. Went to two classical music concerts and one play – Middleton’s “The Changeling” (shit because clever production meant you couldn’t hear the words – the audience on four sides so actors talked with their backs to you. A great actor must always be fully in touch with the audience. The main actor, Zubin Varla, was an exception; he somehow used his head and body to reverberate his voice full circle. There were also three hospital events with friends – lots of bits and pieces including three days writing Christmas cards, which often included mini-letters – keeping in touch with all my friends.
Christmas with family and friends. I was reading the “Bronze” exhibition catalogue and re-reading Gareth Peirce’s book, which helped me. There were a couple of points I left unfinished and here they are: -
You remember I gave reasons as to why I can hate the US and not hate Americans. I would like to sum up my reasons to hate by nailing US policy and the harm it continues to wreak:
The domestic policy of isolation of its people backed up by a fear of persistent attack from an alien force; by the myth of the “chosen people”, whereby America carries the torch of freedom, the stronger she is, the greater the truth, what’s good for America is the ultimate goal.
Under cover of this legend – which keeps people at home ignorant and acquiescent to its foreign policy – its armies and secret services have been sent throughout the world (whenever I hear of a country as being “destabilized” I think: O-oh! The CIA is in there.) to impose a new imperial order with most of the characteristics of 19th century European imperialism: military garrisons, economic penetration and control, support for leaders no matter how brutal and undemocratic, and exploitation and depletion of natural resources.
[At the end of World War II, the countries of Europe were in debt to America. America was able to veto the chance of a fairer financial system worked out by economic genius, Maynard Keynes – which the European countries wanted because it could bring peace to the world.
At that time America admitted: (my words because I don’t have the statement in front of me). The earth is finite. For America to maintain its high standard of living (consumption) she will need a disproportionate – and ever increasing - share of the earth’s resources. (You can find this in George Monbiot’s book, “The Age of Consent” and by looking up the “Bretton Woods Agreement”)]
One reason I included a photo of Quincy Jones and me in my Diary (26 Oct – 14 Nov) was that I wanted to get back to him on something he said (we were trying to have a conversation but it was too noisy/too much going on – Diana Ross). He is a fan of Obama (I’m not) and he said to me, “America is not the worst country.”
Up until World War II, British imperialism had caused most death in the world at large but, thereafter, American imperialism took over. At the time of Stalin in the Soviet Union and Mao in China many, many millions died in their own country.
The worst thing to date that Britain does is to agree to everything the US wants, to aid and abet everything it does.
There is a difference in the way the US and Britain control public opinion. And for this I looked at Gareth Peirce’s recent book. America keeps its legal activity in the open or, put more accurately, it attempts to legalize its illegal activities. At the moment it has created a new legal regime which nevertheless is illegal according to previous principles of justice. For example, re the “War on Terror”: it is illegal to declare war on an idea (no state, no enemy) – it’s like you have declared war on the whole world and it is one reason why the US is so keen to force the people it designates “Terrorists” to say they belong to Al Qaeda [the enemy – it keeps you legal if there is an enemy. (You must read “1984” by George Orwell to understand the importance of controlling public opinion by war without end and by having one evil enemy . In “1984”, the enemy is Goldstein: “He was the commander of a vast shadowy army, an underground network of conspirators dedicated to the overthrow of the State.)] Trying to make illegality legal is carried to the extreme, e.g. terrorists are not given legal POW status because they don’t have a uniform! – which, therefore, permits inhuman treatment and denies the prisoner access to law. The US attorney general has redefined a number of practices for which no immunity exists under domestic or international law: waterboarding, sleep deprivation, forced standing and the like.
As for America’s Freedom of Information Act, judge for yourself. This is an example of a document requested and delivered to Leonard’s lawyers. There are still 150,000 documents pertaining to Leonard withheld under claims of national security (it would expose the government’s dirty work). The US government went to enormous lengths to frame Leonard. They don’t have to frame people anymore. If they have illegal laws, they can just kidnap them.
Britain avoids transparency, except now we, like the US, have a Freedom of Information (FoI) act which our governments obviously regret because they are now trying to get rid of it. Gareth speaks of a small window “opened by chance through accidents of litigation in which government communiques were required to be disclosed.” I assume she speaks of our FoI act and that certain internal ministerial records were unearthed and produced in court cases. They show that Britain’s method is to ignore legal obstacles and lie, e.g. a draft for an official statement on the conditions of Britons in Guantanamo “which we will clear with the Americans” – “Officials confirmed that the three detainees are being treated humanely and according to international norms. Our team was able to verify that this was the case.” This was drafted before any UK visit to Guantanamo had taken place. The message coming loud and clear from Blair was that there was no need for legal or moral restraint.
David Blunkett, the then UK Home Secretary, recorded “The longer they stay in Cuba/Afghanistan the better.” It is now known that the UK tipped off the US as to Arabs who would make suitable “terrorists”. One such person, Shaker Aamer, was kidnapped and subjected to appalling beatings in the unprotesting presence of a UK intelligence officer to get a confession out of him (false) that he was part of Al Quaeda and under the directive of Bin Laden. He is still in Guantanamo although he has been cleared for release by US authorities.
Gareth says, “History shows us that time and again, in nation after nation, the majority will accept the fallacy that the end justifies the means.” Let us not accept the fallacy of the national interest when it is just a ploy to cover the illicit behaviour of government.
The people of the UK have not yet accepted the present government’s attempt to set up secret courts (shame on Ken Clark for trying). They did not accept the previous government’s attempt to establish imprisonment for 42 days without trial – it’s still 28 days and higher than any other country. Shall we propose a petition to 38 degrees? Can we campaign for the release of Shaker Aamer?(http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/shakeraamer/?gclid=CMuejfDE1rQCFQzKtAodBjsA5w )
Tuesday, 1 January: A Happy New Year to all the world and especially to those American NGO’s and intellectuals who know what’s going on. Down with the Corporocracy and a New Great Life to America!
Major event of the year: Wales have declared that all policy will begin with climate change. They say, “We are only a small country but we can be the avant garde.” What’s good for the planet is good for Wales! Lead on!