In 1973, Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery unveiled the exhibition Towards a Common Language. In it, blank ‘works’ were installed above boxes of art materials with visitors asked to make the art themselves. Once finished, they could take their work or leave it on display. Despite being such a stark departure from the Walker’s usual grand exhibitions, the public were far from put off, and the exhibition received 3,475 visitors in the week that it was open.

Towards a Common Language was the first of a number of participatory exhibitions organized by the Black-E, a community art organisation operating out of a repurposed church close to Liverpool’s historic Black and Chinese communities. Its output was incredibly broad: a performance of an avant-garde piece by John Cage could be followed straight after by mothers’ bingo. …

Seeing the news of Qasim Soleimani’s death doing the rounds on Twitter, my first reaction was relief. As a British-Iranian, his name wasn’t new to me and I’d heard about the horror he was unleashing across the Middle East. He was also doing this with a growing share of the Iranian regime’s budget at a time when sanctions have the left the country’s domestic economy in the gutter. People are struggling to afford basic supplies and yet Soleimani’s Quds forces were given carte blanche access to the regime’s resources.

Though not framed in this way, he was a threat to Iranian citizens as much as to American troops so yes, hearing he had been killed did give me some relief. Perhaps the country would break its obsession with costly interventions in other countries in the region and invest in its own people, who so desperately need it.Needless to say, I had been naive. The consequences of his death will prove more costly for all players involved. Seeing analysis of how this essentially amounted to a declaration of war, dread set in. …

How Olivia Laing’s Crudo plays with the middle-class liberal to question their privilege

Rarely is a novel so targeted to a specific audience as Olivia Laing’s fiction debut. Its cover uses a photograph by Wolfgang Tillmans, astro crusto to be precise. Those who recognise the image feel a certain pride at having done so, a testament to their intellectual and cultural proficiency. They feel capable of understanding the content wrapped up within the cover better than a reader who failed to pick up on the cover. As such, they become far more likely to buy the book.

This is not a case of simply judging the book by its cover as each aspect of the book-as-object serve to whittle down those who would consider the book to a specific set. The back has a testimonial from Chris Kraus, beacon of postmodernist feminism since the mid-90s onwards, amongst others. The notes on the slipcover speaks of how Crudo is set in the “horrifying summer of 2017" in a Britain that is “Brexit-paralysed”. Frankly, the summer of 2017 was not horrifying for the majority of Brits. Those who found it horrifying were broadly liberal intellectuals: those who had the means and the free time to stay up to date with minute-by-minute developments coming from Downing Street and the White House. They must have also had enough of an historical education to be able to see the worrying trends in their full context. In other words, before even having started reading the novel, Laing and her publishers, have made clear what kind of reader this was made for: the London internationalist liberal remainer, university educated and middle class. One feels that the ideal place to read Crudo would be on the District Line, heading west to the leafy riverside suburbs. …


Siavash Minoukadeh

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