Sunday, 2 October 2011

Culture vulture worries.

As I sat watching 'The Culture Show' the other evening, I found myself thinking about my own attitude to 'culture'. The very name 'The Culture Show' itself seems to place the programme on precarious ground- is it just a platform on which to display cultural goings on.. or is it a form of culture in itself? Its almost too overt title seems to exclaim:  'Red alert: Here are all things cultural. Watch this and you will be officially 'cultured'. We promise.'

By watching Andrew Graham-Dixon talking about a new art gallery in Colchester, or, let's face it, GAWPING at the lovely Alistair Sooke discussing with Frank Stella his new Retrospective ( some very, very, dark paintings, and then, conversely, some very, very bright ones), I can securely say I know a little more about them, am aware of their existence, can nod knowingly at their mention, but do I have any right to  think myself in anyway 'cultured'... whatever that may mean... now? After all, I haven't actually experienced anything have I?

In truth, I am merely exploring a personal hang-up.I so often feel myself to be a cultural fraud, very interested by the world of art, cinema, literature, music but in reality having experienced relatively little, particularly in terms of art. I could perhaps account this partly to having not lived anywhere near London- the centre of 90% of things going on in every 'What to do/see this week' newspaper section I ever read. Yet, for this year, at least, I am living within 50 or so minutes of said cultural land, so I have run out of excuses... but perhaps this will be a turning point. Sometimes I think I am just happy to have 'heard' of things, or content being able to make some very mundane comment probably subconsciousy derived from some review or other I've recently absorbed, never really having much cultural gravitas of my own.

In fact, amid the process of writing this blog post, I am rapidly coming to the realisation that worrying about whether I am ever really 'being cultured' echoes everything I hate about the pretentions frequently surrounding it. The word 'culture' alone is a deliberately broad term, surely counteracting any notions of exclusivity often intimated through its high-brow associations. To 'be cultured' should not be a label, but exactly what it proclaims to be. An act of 'being', an experience, whether that occur contentedly and passively from one's own sofa, or at the Tate Modern, with no pressure to gain anything specifically from it, beyond our own enjoyment. And if Mr Sooke just happens to be involved...bonus.


  1. I understand how you're feeling. Perversely, I tend to avoid cultural things on the TV - e.g. programme about art or beautiful books. I can't really pin down why, though I fear it may be a snobbish hang-up that thinks that if it's on the TV it's not proper culture.

    Anyhow, you don't even have to go down to London to get a bit of culture, you know: the Fitzwilliam Museum is free, and a great place to drop into for an hour or so. You don't have to 'do' it all at once - just pick a room and see what you like there. Much less intimidating that way! Kettle's Yard art gallery and house are both good, too.

    That's my essay finished (sorry about that). Hope the new job's treating you well - hopefully we'll meet at some point around the libraries world soon.


  2. Thanks Katie! Yes, I really want to explore the Fitzwilliam museum, and taking it one room at a time is definitely good advice. The Vermeer exhibition coming up looks especially good. And Kettle's Yard I have discovered, and love it! Thank you for the tips :) The new job's going great thank you- yes, definitely hope to see you soon!