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Posts from the ‘Benjamin Britten’ Category

Sebald, Snape Maltings, and Smith (as in Patti)

Located in the beautifully-named town of Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh Music is planning a weekend of film, music, conversation, and walks devoted to W.G. Sebald from January 28-30, 2011 called After Sebald – Place and Re-Enchantment: A Weekend Exploration.  Aldeburgh Music is a permanent performance center that has emerged out of the Aldeburgh Festival established in 1948 by Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, and Eric Crozier.  (In his recent book The Rest Is Silence, music critic Alex Ross made a brief but strong connection between Sebald and Britten.)  Below are some of the details of the weekend, which I’ve extracted from the organization’s website.  Additional details can be found at Aldeburgh Music’s website under the individual events.  Here’s the link to the main page.

Friday 28 January
Patience (After Sebald) – World Premiere
Written and directed by the award-winning filmmaker Grant Gee, Patience (After Sebald) is a multi-layered essay film on landscape, art, history, life and loss.  It offers a unique exploration of the life, work and influence of W.G. Sebald (1944–2001) via a long walk through coastal East Anglia tracking The Rings of Saturn. Visually and aurally innovative, Patience features contributions from Tacita Dean, Robert Macfarlane, Katie Mitchell, Rick Moody, Andrew Motion, Chris Petit, Iain Sinclair and Marina Warner.  After the screening, Grant Gee will be in conversation with prize-winning writer on place, Robert Macfarlane (The Wild Places).

Saturday 29 January
Towards Re-Enchantment – Symposium
A day-long enquiry into the landscapes of Suffolk, the spirit of place and its various meanings, taking Sebald as its foundation. Presentations, discussions
and readings with Robert Macfarlane and other leading writers.

Saturday 29 January
Max: A Tribute by Patti Smith
Internationally renowned for her visionary creativity and commitment, the iconic musician, poet, writer and cultural activist Patti Smith needs no
introduction. In an exclusive concert created for this weekend, she will respond to Sebald’s book-length poem After Nature in an intimate evening of song and spoken word performance.

Sunday 30 January
Orford Ness Walk

This singular landscape has inspired many artists, including Sebald, whose visit, recorded in The Rings of Saturn, captures perfectly its unsettling presence and buried past. Take advantage of a very rare opportunity to explore this haunting location in the heart of winter.

Tickets. Weekend tickets (best tickets, excluding Walk and Lunch) are available at £55. Only Weekend tickets will be available from Wednesday 1 September; booking for individual events opens Monday 18 October.

More on Grant Gee’s film:

Grant Gee’s film Patience (After Sebald) is part of a new series of commissions from a group called artevents as part of their project The Re-Enchantment:

The Re-Enchantment is the first national project exploring culture and the rural through original artistic commissions. This ambitious project seeks to interrogate the various meanings of ‘place’ in the twenty first century.  At a time when globalisation, the implications of extreme environmental change and the multiple alienations of modern society all threaten our sense of belonging, the importance of ‘place’ to the enhancement of identity and creative possibility in life and art cannot be underestimated. The Re-Enchantment aims to deliver an imaginative response through art, live performance, film and writing to one of the most pressing issues facing the contemporary world.

Note: On Saturday September 11, Gee will talk about his film with writer and critic Chris Darke and apparently will show clips at The British Library, as part of a one-day program Landscaping: Artists, Maps and Britain.

The Bleak Little Place Where Britten and Sebald Intersect

Pay a visit to The Rest Is Noise where Alex Ross wrote recently about Benjamin Britten’s beautiful and powerful opera Peter Grimes and the bleak, windswept landscape around Aldeburgh, which repeatedly inspired the composer. As Ross points out, this is the same territory covered by W.G. Sebald in his book The Rings of Saturn.

The bounding marshbank and the blighted tree;
The water only, when the tides were high,
When low, the mud half-covered and half-dry;
The sunburnt tar that blisters on the planks,
And bankside stakes in their uneven ranks;
Heaps of entangled weeds that slowly float,
As the tide rolls by th’ impeded boat.

From Peter Grimes by George Crabbe

Skimming Waterlog 3 – The Artists

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…the museum and the gallery are those spaces where obscurity may become the condition for enlightenment. [Brian Dillon, writing in Waterlog]

I have never been much good at skipping stones across a pond. Nevertheless that is the image I had in mind when I thought of writing about the monograph Waterlog: Journeys Around an Exhibition over the course of three posts – here, here, and now here.This final post deals with the visual artists in the monograph, although several, due to the hybrid nature of their works, have already been mentioned in the post on the poetry of Waterlog. (There are also additional illustrations in that same post.) Keep in mind that I am not reporting on the exhibition itself (which I have not seen), only its manifestation in the form of this monograph.

In the books of W.G. Sebald, the twin powers of nature and history overwhelm whatever pretensions and inadequate defenses mankind can muster, inevitably bringing insignificance, loss, and death.The only lasting power that mankind itself wields is destruction – a destructive attempt to dominate nature and a endless knack for self-destruction in the form of war. For the most part, the artists in Waterlog choose to meditate on our dialectical relationship with nature rather than with history. Marcus Coates is the only artist to address, even if obliquely, mankind as an agent of destruction. As I have mentioned earlier, his project Britain’s Bitterns circa 1997 Population – 11 Breeding Males is an elegy to England’s bittern population – and by extension the animal kingdom – brought to the level of near extinction by human encroachment.

In a gesture that is both playful and quixotic, Alec Finlay throws poetic life buoys to the city of Dunwich, an important port during the middle ages that became completely lost to storms and erosion over the course of centuries and now lies underwater. His project The Sunken Bell also included a number of color photographs by Guy Moreton of ruins, flooded marshes and other reminders of the power of nature. Simon Pope’s project The Memorial Walks, which was part installation and part performance, involved the selection of landscape paintings from area museums which were displayed draped in black and only occasionally unveiled.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that any publication can do to adequately translate video art onto the printed page. The film stills and short descriptions included in Waterlog give only the most skeletal sense of intriguing works by collaborators Alexander and Susan Maris and by Tacita Dean. In Alexander and Susan Maris’ video piece Silentium, Arvo Part’s composition Tabula Rasa provides the background music for their exploration of two key places in the life of composer Benjamin Britten: his long-time residence at Aldeburgh and the later residence in Horham, which he took up in order to find respite from the noise of air force planes flying overhead.

Tacita Dean is represented in Waterlog by two works, only one which was included in the exhibition. For Waterlog, Dean created a video on Sebald’s close friend the writer and translator Michael Hamburger, who died earlier this year.

Unwilling, perhaps unable, to talk of his past and his migrations, most especially fleeing Nazism in 1933, [Hamburger] talks poignantly, instead, of the apple trees in his garden…

Sebald had written his own lengthy profile of Hamburger on pages 175-190 of The Rings of Saturn, including two grainy photographs of the interior of Hamburger’s house. Stills from Dean’s video show scenes which clearly reference Sebald’s photographs.
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Tacita Dean, still from Michael Hamburger

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From The Rings of Saturn

Dean’s second work in Waterlog is a welcome reprint of a photo and text piece on Sebald which I have written about earlier. As far as I know, until now this work could only be found in a slim volume entitled W.G. Sebald as part of a boxed set of seven softcover catalogs produced in 2003 for an exhibition of Dean’s work at the Museé d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The version in Waterlog is not only a complete reprint of Dean’s fascinating piece on Sebald, but it also contains a brief Postscript that she added after the French publication.

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Consisting largely of newly commissioned works from artists, the exhibition Waterlog is a clear indication of how Sebald’s writing can be inspirational material for artists in many media. As the exhibition’s successor in print form, Waterlog: Journeys Around an Exhibition does a fine job converting the exhibition into a book that is can stand on its own. I only wish that Waterlog included a full exhibition checklist, which would have documented the contents of the show.
simon-pope-memorial-walks-2.jpg Simon Pope, from The Memorial Walks