Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why do we need a light show to see Hadrian's Wall?

On 31 August and 1 September a digital installation called Connecting Light will turn Hadrian's Wall into an artwork. At last, boring old history will become acceptable contemporary culture!

Sorry. I don't get it. Why is it so great or valuable or necessary to turnHadrian's Wall into modern art for a couple of nights? Because it will stimulate news coverage like these words you are reading, that's why, and for no other reason.

That is also, I suspect, why artist Glenn Brown has been invited to show his subversive paintings among a collection of old masters at the National Trust's Upton House. It is the motivation for most events that juxtapose current culture with history. We are becoming a nation of present-minded narcissists. We only seem to see the historic monuments and rich heritage of premodern art that are found all over the British Isles when these treasures are repackaged and re-presented as modern culture.

At least that's how it looks through the lens of the media. In reality, the cultural behaviour of modern Britons is varied and historically eclectic. I can bet that if you go for a walk on Hadrian's Wall any day of the year you'll encounter plenty of people of all ages who have come to imagine Roman Britain without any need for digital art to update it. Similarly I was recently astounded by the crowds on a rainy weekday morning atChatsworth in Derbyshire, and while Hampton Court Palace near London recently got a moment in the news thanks to Bradley Wiggins, it gets masses of visitors every day.