Nuanced moves: The Idea behind “Echt” Dance Festival

5 May

By Galya Dimitrova

Real, authentic, unique. This is how the upcoming “Echt” dance festival could be described. Named after the German word for “genuine” and “honest”, the event is about exploring the holistic approach of the body through dancing. The show assembles four performances, each representing the main idea in a one-of-a-kind way.

“There are four dancers doing four different subjects rather than just dancing. So there are four different avenues and bringing them together is the idea of projection, which all of us are going to use in our performances to tie the whole project as one” says Katie, whose part features a film and an installation, documenting all four process if curating the work.

“Echt” consists of multiple elements – dance, visuals, theatre and music. Its variable structure aims at conveying every performance in the most creative and unprecedented possible way. Crizzel explains she expressed her personality on the process of planning and that reflected towards her work:

“Everyone knows me as a funny person, making jokes quote a lot whether it is awkward or not, so the whole idea of emphasizing the awkward moments in dances came from there”

And even though planning and preparation are key elements of the festival, “Echt” is also about a lot of spontaneity. Tara, who will portray the relationship between the patient and the therapist, describes her performance as “a mixture of improvisation and set work”:

“It is very naturalistic because it is an exaggeration of mine and also other personalities that people can connect with.”

The show features live music performance as well, which will be the background of Greta’s exploring the realistic idea of potential:

“Compared to all the other dance festivals that we know about, our festival is unique because it displays four performances at once, so it is worth coming because it is a rare event,” she says.

“Echt” dance festival takes place in The Hub’s “Square One” venue on 14th May from 15:00 to 21:00pm. For more information and ticket prices, check out the events Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1381008085509096/?fref=ts There will be two performances throughout the day, promising something different in each time.

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Photo by: Craig Beverley

 

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Short Cuts to Feature-Length Success: Alice Lowe on the Great Importance of Short Films

1 May

By Galya Dimitrova

Back in November 2013 I attended “Aesthetica Film Festival” in York. All the screenings I attended were brilliant for different reasons. In my views, every form of media that could convey a great idea in a limited amount of time, space and budget for that matter, deserves more admiration and respect than any major Hollywood-like production. The production of a short film could be the most valuable and in the same time most challenging project of everyone involved – from actors to directors. It is also an experience proven to be very personal, especially if this is your first big filmic venture. Your time is constrained, your budged could be little to non-existing and it is highly likely that you have several roles to deal with because your crew is not so big, too. In the same time, you have the freedom to experiment and introduce your unique ideas to the world. You have the chance to make the audience see the audience see the best of your work (regardless if it is performing or production) because you are not dependant on as many other factors as if you were involved in the production of a successful film company. Working on a short film gives you the opportunity to make “ars gratia artis” and fill your portfolio with a piece you are very proud of and enjoy being part of.

 

These and many other things I remembered when I stumbled upon a

Alice Lowe, ASFF. Source: Internet

Alice Lowe, ASFF. Source: Internet

notebook where I hurriedly scribbled down notes from the screenwriting master class I attended in the festival. The lecturer was no other than Alice Lowe who, for those who need introduction, has starred in “Hot Fuzz”, “Kill List”, “Sightseers”, “Black Books”, and I was happy to see her in “Sherlock” recently (S03E02, The Sign of Three). She talked about scriptwriting of short films with such passion, that I remember her talk alone inspired me to write down some ideas and work on them. She talked about the many problems that scriptwriters, producers and actors face when creating a short film and gave advice from her own experience how to overcome them. “A short film gives you strength”, she said which gives a proper food for creative thoughts, bearing in mind that it comes from a person who despite “struggling to make ends meet” has always been “all experimental”.

 

As a tribute to her memorable speech, I decided to list 10 of the best, most memorable quotes from this afternoon that would hopefully make you rediscover your creativity if you have been a bit stuck, or dive in it if you have just undertaken some artistic projects:

 

10. “It is always stronger to be able to be able to show something because it is un-ignorable.”

 

9. “The real work starts when you hand it over to someone else to have a look at it.”

 

8. “If I hadn’t been developing my own short films, I wouldn’t be able to move onto feature films.”

 

7. “Sometimes the first take might be your best.”

 

6. “Rehearsals are luxury in film making “

5. “It is possible to make a short film with nothing if you’ve got the right contacts.”

 

4. “Find a muse that could be really powerful; somebody who makes your creative juices running.”

 

3. “Improvisation is a very strong tool in comedy. If you have written something and it doesn’t make you laugh, then you have to change it.”

 

2. (my personal favourite) “All comedy is serious. I take it dead seriously. It is as technical as any kind of acting. If you have a comic role, play it as seriously as possible. Nobody thinks his life is a joke.”

 

1.“None of the films are perfect. They were never meant to be.”

 

As you could probably se for yourself, Alice captures the essence of the work around a film. The main message she got across was that frustration and struggling is absolutely normal and also “the most daunting thing on earth”. But going through all these nuances of the creative process is worth it because “the point of making a short film is getting your own vision, make your own mistakes, finding your own voice and learning”. She stands for brevity when it comes to work, backing up the idea of taking chances. She herself shared how back in the days she decided to make a short film per month with some like-minded colleagues of hers. This is how “Stiffy” came about – a short comedy film with a little bit disturbing undertone as the plot could basically be summarised in the sentence: An orderly is courting a corpse he falls in love with. Nevertheless, the idea is brilliantly executed and it proves what Alice says that a short film could be created with a minimum budget and crew as long as the plot is original and the writer doesn’t submit to frustration and fear of failure. In IMDb “Stiffy” has a hating of 7.4/10, its rank keeps growing and one review describes it as “very amusing and inventive”. Alice’s idea and work on it justifies the definition she gives about her mindset: “a funny mixture of loving really natural and really surreal stuff”.

 

It felt great to be in her lecture. Being a writer as well as an actor, she is a person with a strong presence, very elegant sense of humour and definitely a professional to look up to. Those of you out there who are specifically working on creating comedy could benefit a lot from her advice, the main one of which could be: “Try to truthfully portray what is happening to a human being”. It should work for any kind of scriptwriting. In fact, the quote that I loved the most because it is funny and very deep and true at the same time is : “The difference between comedy and tragedy is how many people are alive in the end.” It was worth meeting Alice just for the sake of hearing this.

Source: BAFTA Guru

Source: BAFTA Guru

CUSU needs you: student union elections are now open

15 Feb

By Galya Dimitrova

For every of you who wants to stand out with their abilities as a leader, organiser and campaigner, now is the time to act and stand for the Student Union’s elections. Nominations have been open since 6th January and will close at 16pm on 30th January. The positions you could be a candidate for are Sabbatical Officer, part-time Executives (Faculty Chair), Council Block of 20, Liberation Councillor and a Section Councillor.

 

The big change this year is the self-nomination. All you should do now is fill in a nomination form you could find on the Students’ Union page: http://www.cusu.org/news/article/cusu/Election-Nominations-NOW-OPEN/. Your submission now depends only on you and no one else.

Two representatives of the Sabbatical Team, Ross McGroaty (Communications) and Matt Stone (Sport and Wellbeing) explained what qualities one should have to make a successful candidate as a Sabb Officer:

“We are looking for someone who is not afraid to speak their mind and has a personal approach to the position. They also must have the ability to work well with others, have confidence and generally, be a leader”.

The elections are running from 21st until 28th February. There will be a Question Time on the first day of election week where every candidate will be given two minutes for a speech.

“It is a chance for you to drill on what you want to change”, says Ross and adds:

“Ryan (Democracy and Campaigns Officer) is very passionate about students knowing what the positions do and building their profile all the time”.

The competition will be strong as they are looking for six to seven candidates for every position.

This year we are saying goodbye to Ryan and Chidimma (Representation and Welfare) as they have reached the two-year limit of experience with the Union. So the new representatives of their positions will have to work extra hard to maintain the high profile they have built and introduce the students to even more improvements.

So if your head is buzzing with ideas of how to improve life on campus, nominate yourself for a position right now and start working on a manifesto. Good luck to all candidates!

The (R)Evolution of Digital Fandom: Part 1: Fans have the power

30 Jan

(Based on a lecture with Professor Matt Hills)

By Galya Dimitrova

Whovians, Sherlokians, setiquette, fanagement. Our parents will be at least concerned if we mention any of these words and similar in front of them. But for us, the mad and proud film and TV series fans, these words have already become an essential part of our everyday dictionary. Our Twitter feed is insane, our Tumblr is disturbing and we might have lost a few friends over our obsessions. However, we are happy to pay the prize. Welcome to the world of digital fandom and us, its creators, who changed its role in media perhaps for good.

Rituals (?) of Digital Fandom

It is evident now that fans are not only supporters of a show anymore, they want to actively participate in its franchise. A lot of us want to become contributors of information on certain production and sometimes, we are bigger specialists on it than any entertainment journalist, just because we are s passionate about the topic, that we never stop our research on its history and latest updates.

If you are fervent fan especially of the immensely popular TV series of late, “Dr Who” and “Sherlock”, Professor Matt Hills should be one of your heroes. Professor of Film and TV Studies, he is a huge fan of the shows himself and an expert of fan studies. Amongst his books is “Triumph of a Time Lord: Regenerating Doctor Who in the Twenty-first Century”. In the talk he held at Cov Uni recently he explained how much fandom has changed and what are the new terms that emerged with the change:

“In 2004 there wasn’t a setuquette, there weren’t set habits, routines and practises. Now, these exist and have been grated and shaped by and within ritual fandoms”.

The list of fantivities is long and keeps getting longer. Previews, set reporting and spoilers have led to the tradition of fan pilgrimage. Fans now travel to different cities and even abroad to get a sneak peak of the production of their favourite shows. This itself lead to the emerging of cult geography, as fans tend to have a great interest in the location of filming as well.

How fans could relate to locations in a pre-textual fashion? How people relate to it before the broadcast takes place? – these are some of the questions that give food for thought.

What fans are actually doing is tracking filming in public spaces. A recent example could be given with Sherlock’s scenes in the London Underground for the first episode of season 3: “The Empty Hearse”. Fans were asked not to interfere with the filming process if passing by the crew.

Dr Lee Broughton describes this phenomenon as “intriguing form of fan culture practice, wherein fan discourse leads to travel experiences which in turn provoke further discourse and further travel, demands more detailed research” (2011:316)

According to Matt “It’s kind of cycle, not a one-off fan activity. It is ongoing and relatively recent”.

With fan pilgrimages here to stay, many aspects in the fan cultures change:

“Actors might modify their behaviour” says Matt, referring to the way actors perform knowing that there are under constant fan surveillance. As David Brisbin, Production Designer on “Twilight: New Moon” points out: “film production gets pushed in this moment towards something akin to live stage performance” and adds that it is now a luxury for most producers to have a total control on the production

“Back into the 1980s there was already a popular knowledge. Fans have already been printing rumours and gossips, potential leaks of information (fanzienes). So the digital fandom is a sort of shift from it.”, says Matt

The development of digital fandom and the instant fan-made media could be rooted in the desire of fans to get closer and closer to a production they like and actively participate in its execution or simply having a more “tangible” experience, which could explain the pilgrimages and set-reporting.

Fans nowadays are more than a group of people that have an obsession in common. They are a community, a force. They have very positive influence on today’s TV and cinema. However, fanivities have a “dark side” too. In the next post dedicated to digital fandom, the focus will be on the “wars” between fans and producers, the leaks of information about key moments in episodes and to what extent fans stick to their own “settiquette”.

sherlockDoctorFood

Blurred Vision, Straight Lines: Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” analysed through theories on power, memory and spectacle

12 Jan

By Galya Dimitrova

It would be logical to believe that today’s society will not be easy to astound when it comes to art of any kind and the aberrant ways that modern artists use to liaise to the variable art forms. Audiences should be hardly impressed if an artist uses the unusual, the shocking and the abstract to convey his messages through art. Especially after the revolutionary ideas of Dadaism and the bold visions of Surrealism, what Postmodernism offers should not nearly be as surprising and challenging for the audience’s consciousness.

Yet, every individual has their own beliefs, moral standards, values and instincts on which they regard as fundamental truths and starting points when they encounter different aspects of life and compare their own viewpoints to those of other groups and individuals.

The song “Blurred Lines” and the video to it evoked a significant media scandal, resulting in the song being banned from playing in several British university campuses (Martel, March 2013). Various parodies of the song and the video were created as well, portraying women as the dominant gender over men, contrary to what the original piece presents. The artist Robin Thicke attempts to justify the song, stating that its aim is not to belittle or humiliate women, but it is rather a way to ridicule the aggressive “macho” type of behaviour that some men have towards women.  To an extent, this relates to the nature and purpose of a carnival. To a large part of the audience, the song has a very clear sexist message that women are sexual toys and should be abused as such. One of the main reasons the song is not allowed in many universities is because of the allegations it promotes non-consensual intercourse. Nevertheless, the song brought success to its creators, peaking number one in the music charts of fourteen countries around the world, perhaps mainly due to its controversial nature. So, the industry knows there is a market demand for this kind of songs and videos and allows the artists create controversial and provocative products, even though there is a strong opposition from a part of the audience, which, judging by the important places in music industry the song takes, is clearly a minority.

In this essay I will investigate and analyze the reasons behind both the creation of the song and the responses it received from the audiences. I will achieve that through analysing the power both sides (artist-audience) exercise on one another and the power the music industry exercises on both of them; will discuss the songs dual nature of being both a spectacle and a kind of a carnival in the same time and will also give reasons why the element of memory is key for the formation of the scandal.  All these theoretical aspects and my study on them will be implemented in my investigation on “Blurred Lines” lyrics and video, the audiences’ active and passive reaction to it and the role of the media  and what it presents to us as morally and aesthetically right.

The Guardian’s Dorian Lynskey defined it as “the most controversial song of the decade”, quoting different sources pro and against the song and its themes (Lynskey, 2013). It is actually difficult for one to regard the song and its video as anything more but a spectacle – it aims to impress us by including many elements in its visual and vocal parts that today’s society considers unacceptable. One of the performers himself, Robin Thicke, confirms that the purpose of it was “to do everything that was taboo. Bestiality, drug injections, and everything that is completely derogatory towards women.” (Phili, 2013).  From this statement alone, it could be concluded that the song’s ultimate goal was to throw the audiences in shock and awe by portraying unthinkable, forbidden acts. If we pursue the idea that “Blurred Lines” is only of a spectacular nature, we could easily robin-thicke-featuring-pharrell-t-i-blurred-lines-explciit.jpg-300x300understand why it has become one of the most popular songs of the year (Trust, 2013). We could relate the case with the increasing popularity of the song with theorist Guy Debord’s definition of spectacle, namely “a concrete inversion of life” (1994:24). We witness it, we perceive it, we live with the illusion that we are part of it by supporting or condemn it, but the truth is that it exists and it is “the leading production of present-day society” (Debord 1994:29).  Debord observes that “the language of spectacle consists of “signs” of the dominant system of production – signs which are at the same time the ultimate end-products of that production” (1994:25). The main encoding signs in the video are alcohol, cigarettes, hazard, female nudity and all of them were incorporated in it in order to sell the record. These items are an example of what a big role commodification has not only in music industry, but also in every successful market today.

Commodification has changed people’s perception of ordinary things such as red lipstick, for example. It has become a means of escapism and ultimate expression of femininity: “Red lipstick was considered essential if one was to be ‘attractive’ – the modern word is ‘sexy’”, according to the memories of Ruth Durrant, who worked in the wartime censorship office from 1941-1945. And it was not this way to her alone. “No young woman wanted to stay in every night so she’d escape by going to see Vivien Leigh in 1939’s Gone With The Wind or Carmen Miranda in Down Argentine Way (1940)” says Terry Charman, senior historian at London’s Imperial War Museum (Stylist.co.uk n.d.). Through the means of escapism was how the collective memory about the product was created. Even if not viewers the commodity is the expression of that idea, it is the time-traveller through the generations. The red lipstick is no longer just a commodity; women subconsciously regard it as freedom, modernity and self-esteem booster. This is why the women in the video wear it as an expression of their femininity, following the example of the actresses from the war-time films. It is an example of what Marx calls “commodity fetishism”, where people see a unique connection between items, resembling the social connection between people:

“…the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race. (…)This I call the Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour, so soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.” (Marx [1867] 1978:321)

 

It seems like the commodification of an item is a part of the spectacle. In “Blurred Lines” there are many visuals that were made commercial a long time ago and are nowadays regarded as connotations of male or female power, and the video uses their power to promote the music record, which leads to Debord’s statement that “The root of the spectacle is that oldest of all specializations, the specialization of power” (1994: 29).

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For Robin Thicke, however, this is more of an experiment, escapism from his usual artistry. In an interview for the American men’s magazine GQ he explains the reason behind making a song with mainstream sound and lyrics referencing to pop culture:

 

“A lot of my videos and songs have been so serious—about love and pride and relationships and hope and getting over insecurities and vulnerabilities. But lately, I’ve just wanted to have fun and enjoy my life, really appreciate all the great things that I have, like a great wife, a great child, and a great career. That shows up in the music with more humor and light-heartedness.” (Phili, 2013)

 

An insight of his artwork apart from “Blurred Lines” actually proves that he usually doesn’t create commercial music. His songs such as “Love After War”, ”The Sweetest Love” and “Dreamworld” have sensual lyrics harmonized with jazz and soul music, and his record “Lost Without U” won the 2008 ASCAP Award for Top R&B/Hip-Hop Song (ASCAP, n.d.). In another interview he wants “to make a change through my music, like the musicians whom I looked up to from the past did”, referring to universal problems such as sexism, racism and poverty (Widran, n.d.).

This is evidence that music for his is not always just means to get popularity but something indeed more profound. Therefore, “Blurred Lines” could be regarded as an evasion from his usual style. From this point of view, it bears some of the characteristics of the carnival.  For Thicke the song is a different filed, where he becomes someone else. This is very reminiscent of the concept of the carnival, where “everything is permitted”, and “done in a mood of laughter and laughter “and “the self is also transgressed through practices such as masking” (Robinson, 2011). For Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin the carnival creates “an alternative social space”, just as Thicke claims to regards “Blurred Lines”: “all three of us are happily married with children, we were like, “We’re the perfect guys to make fun of this” (Phili, 2013). What is more, if we analyse the symbolism of the song, we’ll conclude that it connects to the satisfaction of the primary human needs: eating, drinking, sex, etc. The needs of the body are set on a pedestal. This is another connection to the carnival, as “in carnival the exaggeratedly bulging and dirty lower stratum is give priority and turned into the source of comic display” (Stallybrass and White 1986:185). So this could be used as a proof that using what seems as superficial at first, actually gives a deeper meaning to the song, precisely because it uses exaggeration and irony.

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The audiences’ reception of “Blurred Lines” is almost as controversial as the song itself – while it was still at the top of the music charts, it was banned on the campuses of several universities in UK (Anon. The Guardian 2013). Campaigners based their choice on the grounds that the lyrics content promote non-consensual intimacy and are offensive for women as a whole. In one of his works on social construction and discourse, Parker observes that “There is no question that much of the work now appropriated as social constructionist considers language – or more properly discourse – and materiality to be inextricably entangled” (1998:79). It was the language that disturbed the audiences the most. The majority of creative responses criticizing and ridiculing “Blurred Lines” show that the text rather than the video made women, feminists in particular, to feel insulted and degraded. The fact that men are talking about “liberation”, but still requiring them to be “good girls” brings back memories from before the feminist movements and the sexual revolution, which are apparently still a sensitive topic to women nowadays. It sounds like men are still dominating and controlling life of women. In that case the statement of Professor Mariana Valverde applies that women “are subject to new pressures, and often feel the ideal of the sexually liberated woman as an externally imposed standard” (1985:36). Women obviously feel the consequences of what Valverde calls “the modernization of sex” and the notion of ideal female body and behaviour it brought about. Valverde (1985:37) states that surrender is a form of feminine power, containing a lot of eroticism, which doesn’t mean feminine women are weakly passive. Yet, even though the image of the modern woman is now far from what it used to be – “passive”, “weak”, ineffectual”, “victimised”, compared to the “assertive”, “aggressive” and “victorious” men (Gauntlett 2004:43) – the song’s text constantly asks the woman to be more sexually proactive because it is “in your nature”. This means the modern woman, despite all the changes in her behaviour during her emancipation, is still regarded as not enthusiastic and bold enough when it comes to expressing her femininity and sexual needs. This could be categorized as what Jameson calls “nostalgia mode” or “an alarming and pathological symptom of a society that has become incapable of dealing with time and history” (Jameson, n.d.), however, the song still enjoys a great success.

 

The discourse was soon taken over by the oppressed side. On 2nd April 2013 blogger Lisa Huynh defined “Blurred Lines” as a “rape song” and thus started the movement against it and its eventual banning from university premises. Her and numerous critics and audience members expressed concerns that the lyrics “I know you want it” and the sentence “Robin Ticke has a big d”, according to them, don’t “encompass the notion of consent in sexual activity” (Huynh 2013). To them the woman is given the illusion of power that she is emancipated enough if she behaves as a sexual athlete. The phrase that caused the biggest dismay, however, is “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”. Feminist academic and activist Lynne Segal describes sex for many women today as a means to find “self-assurance” and “self-confirmation” (1997:176). Valverde’s theory on role models’ influence on the mentality of both sexes links to the impulse of women trying to appraise their personality using sexual power. To her, the reason is because despite the drawbacks of the “macho” type of behaviour imposed on boys, it gives them confidence and power, while girls’ upbringing is “designed to render them powerless” (Valverde, 1985:29). In the attempts to change that fact, phenomena such as the early sexualisation of girls came about. Adopting the examples shown in media and applying them in real life puts new kinds of pressures on women. Along with the new vision and new attitude they have to deal with the different ways men react to their change. “Negotiation is often perceived as ‘being difficult’, which is exactly what young women seeking sexual pleasure do not want to be”, Segal explains. This confusion could be part of the reason why “Blurred Lines” and similar are created.

 

Members of the audience have used various media platforms to show their negative position towards “Blurred Lines”, some of them in a rather creative way. On 30th August 2013 a song called “Defined Lines” was released by a group of University of Auckland, New Zealand, whose purpose was to ridicule Thicke’s single and present women as the superior gender (Tesiram 2013). The video features three fully dressed women and three men only in their underwear, succumbing to the women’s wishes by giving them massage, allowing them to lead them on leashes and sexually abuse them. Overall, it conveys the ideas that that viewers insulted by “Blurred Lines” could identify with. The lyrics compliment the visuals, clearly stating that females can also be “smart and sarcastic” when they feel frustrated by the “sexist ways” they are portrayed in Thicke’s video. The text goes as far to define it as an expression of misogyny and chauvinism and stands up against it with lines such as “We ain’t good girls” and “ain’t whores to your household chores”. This part again links to the collective memory people have from the past, in particular the 1970s, when television showed women as much more interested in marriage, parenthood and domesticity rather than their personal and professional development (Gunter 1995:13-14). This must be the fundamental cause of the scandal – the audience finds it logical to see that with the evolving of media, the messages it conveys will change as well and it will promote equality in all levels. The phrase “good girl” shows encouragement that a superior individual shows towards the obedience of an inferior individual, in this case, a female. A big part of the audience obviously does not want to witness the implication of dominance anymore, especially if it was a practice in the past that modern society has condemned. Today’s multicultural society is sensitive towards any form of discrimination and if it feels harassed, “This which is placed outside the space of the self comes back to torment it” (Perry: 109).

blurredlines

 

The negative reaction from the audience illustrates Nietzsche’s theory that “an inferior force can bring about the disintegration of splitting up of superior forces” (Deleuze 2006:58). Robin Thicke, who believes the idea of “Blurred Lines” is “actually a feminist movement within itself” (Anon. The Guardian, 2013) had to put effort defending it: “I don’t think people got it out here [in the UK] in those positions of power … I think the kids get it… I just have to deal with that” (BBC Newsbeat, October 2013). This statement is arguable, however, because the song was addressed as a problem mainly by the young adults, which are its target audience. Even universities that didn’t ban it from playing on their campuses, still criticized it, such as the University of Exeter, which described the language of the lyrics and the video as “utterly degrading to the female subject” and “beyond unacceptable” (Anon. The Guardian, 2013). Nowadays not only artists but audience as well is struggling for power and dominance over each other, and the roles in this “master-slave” relationship are constantly changing. As an artist Thicke has the power to showcase his art through the media and gradually convince the audience it is of a good quality by the means of advertising. On the other hand, the audience also has the power to condemn and belittle his work if the majority of it says it is inappropriate and insulting. This is the secret of most media scandals – which side will prevail. This is a challenge to achieve because neither side of the argument is equally powerful to the others. Thicke may have the media support but when it comes to the defence of an art work, the guilt usually falls upon the artist rather than the industry they represent. So, regardless what evidence he presents that he did not mean to offend anyone, the dispute is still going on because he is one person talking to a collective. “An individual may accept contradiction and discussion; a crowd will never do so” (Le Bon, 1960: 53). For many viewers this is not just a spectacle, they take active action towards it and want to bring a change. However, despite all the bans, protests and parodies used to stop “Blurred Lines” from playing, it is still on the leading places of world music charts. So both sides keep struggling but none of them could really prevail over the other.

 

Debord (1996:16) recognises three roles within spectacular society: consumer, manager and shareholder.  Applied to the society of consumer capitalism, these roles are taken respectively by the audience, the artists and the media. The role of the medium is really interesting – it provides the platform for the artists, it takes the bigger part of their incomes, it exploits them if they are successful and stays in the shadows when their products clash with the views of audience.  It could be argued that media are in the most powerful position of all three because it manages to survive through all the changes and demands the other two bring along. Media know what audiences like, and if it doesn’t work out, they adjust according to their needs or convince them this is what they actually want. Morality in media is a very relative notion. They use what is popular, what is most appealing and “the fact remains that sex is an important lubricant for the smooth functioning of consumer capitalism, both in being itself packaged and marketed, and in its function as an attractive additive to other products”(Valverde 1985:35). Not everything in media is art for art’s sake. The director of “Blurred Lines” herself, Diane Martel, admitted “I want to make videos that sell records. This is my main focus right now, not to make videos that express my own obsessions, but to make videos that move units”. It is also revealed how the people representing the industry have covered themselves but not agreeing to an uncensored version at first, but “they came back agreeing to do the nude one if I would do a clothed version” (Ducker, 2013). The commercial enterprise has the unique opportunity to not be actively involved in scandals and yet to exercise ultimate power over those involved. As Galbraith puts it: “Some use of power depends on its being concealed…” (1984:3).  It is a complex relationship it has with performers and public. In her open letter to Miley Cyrus, Sinead O’Conner describes the music business as being neglectful towards the feelings of the artists, stating “They’re there for the money… we’re there for the music. It has always been that way and it will always be that way” (O’Conner, 2013).

 

 

What appears to be the biggest problem the audience has with “Blurred Lines” is that it became too popular, as Thicke himself jokingly pointed out (Blake, 2013). It still makes it significant for what popular culture of today is and what is appealing to young people. The question is, is this the worst and most offensive song and music video that corrupt the younge130322-robin-thicke-blurred-lines-8_0r generations’ views on sex and women? Other artists like Rihanna, Eminem and Madonna have been criticized for their explicit lyrics, videos and stage performances.  Robin Thicke is almost new to this style, though, and when the audience sees that he is very close to becoming mainstream by making songs with references to issues in the past, it regards it as a step back. This is why memory is a key part of the problem – it brings along the fear that history might repeat itself. Still, the fact remains that this song is not one of its kind and even if it gets banned, not much will be improved. Artists such as Annie Lennox are calling for changing of the whole culture rather than condemning individual artists. She suggests that the power of their exposure could be reduced if it is X-rated for adults only (BBC, 2013). Finally, the greatest fear when it comes to sexual content being widespread is that certain audiences will get it in their own way and will treat their sexual partners with disrespect. The scandal definitely did happen not because audiences had been unprepared for the ideas of this video. It happened probably because an artist who creates in a different style suddenly showed what everybody is afraid to see on the TV screen that could reflect badly on his younger fans who until that point have known the other side of his artwork. A solution needs to be found for the bigger problem – that of the people’s values. Maybe then the lines of morality will be truly defined.

American Company Boosts Midlands’ Employability

31 Oct

By Galya Dimitrova

(Published in the October edition of The Source newspaper)

More good news for the graduates in search for jobs and placements in the West Midlands is coming along. This time career opportunities are coming from the world-leading American events firm Freeman, which recently announced it is planning to settle its UK headquarters at Ryton, Shropshire.

Construction work for the new founding has already started at the former Pegeot site in the town.

Bosses at the event services company, which provides events for attractions such as Mademe Tussauds and the British Grand Prix, say up to 350 jobs will be created and employees will range from painters and decorators to marketing and administration staff.

Freeman’s UK chief executive David Walley told Coventry Telegraph the new site “ticked all the right boxes.”

“Its location is perfect for us, there are great transport links and also the Midlands is known to have excellent craftsmen and a skilled workforce that we could tap into.”

So with the completion of their new building (expected by March next year), the company will be ready to offer a chance to everyone, interested in working for them. Its workforce will hopefully be moved on site by May, which gives you plenty of time to think about that opportunity and maybe prepare your CV for them.

Coventry University’s reputation keeps on rising

30 Sep

By Galya Dimitrova

Coventry University has made a major step up in the league tables again.

Just a few months ago, in June, Coventry University rose 13 places to 33rd in the Guardian University Guide 2014. Thus, it did not only achieved its highest ever position but also ranked in the country’s top 20 for the quality of teaching in several subject areas, including art and design, business management, mathematics, modern languages and linguistics, and media studies and communications.

The rating is based on results of the National Student Survey (NSS), which gives students a chance to give feedback on their academic experience. Every opinion remains completely anonymous but the gathered information is used for improvements and comparison how the different universities keep their courses to the standard. Over 283,000 students around the UK completed the survey in 2013, placing Coventry in the top 15 of all universities around the country. According to its outcome, the University does particularly well in the teaching quality category, with 94% of students surveyed agreeing that tutors are “good at explaining things” and 93% saying staff members are “enthusiastic about what they are teaching”.

The University vice-chancellor Professor Madeleine Atkins said:

“The strong results we see for teaching quality, and for added value, are a reflection of the focus we continue to place on giving our students a high-quality academic experience and excellent facilities. Our continued investment is helping to make Coventry one of the most attractive places to study in the UK.”

 

The students themselves didn’t miss the chance to praise the University for its big improvement on meeting their expectations and needs. Twenty-one-year old Fashion graduate Danielle Warren, who took part in the survey this summer, said:

 

“In the fashion department the tutors and technicians are brilliant, providing support to help us develop a vast skill set and knowledge of all aspects of the industry. A key part alongside the course is to gain experience outside of the University from placements and internships. Over the three years, with my experience from the industry, I have become more confident in the skills I’ve gained and I feel prepared and excited to start work.”

Coventry University scored success in another area as well. It was ranked the top university in the Midlands for its work supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds to ensure they achieve success in employment or further study.

Figures published by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) – the independent body established to promote fair access to higher education – show that Coventry spends 10.8% of its tuition fee income on work to support its students through their courses and onto employment, which is more than twice the national average.

With those two major developments from the summer, Coventry University seems more than ready to meet the challenges of the new academic year.