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DEFEND BENJAMIN CAMPAIGN
On Saturday 9 July 2004, Militant Esthetix staged a picket of Shadowtime, the opera about Walter Benjamin by composer Brain Ferneyhough with a libretto by Charles Bernstein. A one-off concert version without costumes and scenery was performed at the Colosseum, London WC2. Like our picket of Michael Nyman's The Commissar Vanishes, this wasn't an expression of indignant identity politics telling people not to attend ("as a woman/gay/Christian etc I am offended, so ban this movie!" etc) but an injection of informed critique designed to widen the miserable parameters of current cultural debate ("as a woman/gay/Christian etc I am offended, so ban this movie!" etc).
We were later emailed by members of the orchestra, asking us for the text of our "interesting" leaflet. This gave us the delightful late-60s image of an orchestra thinking for itself, organising collectively (and maybe staging an improvised revolt against score-performance power relations?). The conductor emailed us accusing us of "cowardice" for being "anonymous"and saying we were like Ayatollahs issuing Fatwas ignorant of the text of Satanic Verses.Should we have attended Ferneyhough's talk earlier in the day? If this was anything like the discussion staged in Munich (desiring immanent critique of the art object, we flew out there to see the premiere) then our criticisms could not have been part of a debate. Once the money's been raised for a project like this, all involved are so defensive there CAN be no debate. BW wrote to Ferneyhough warning him about Bernstein's idiocies as soon as he heard a reading of his libretto, and suggesting he read EL's Walter Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism, but received no reply. Both BW (The Wire) and EL (Radical Philosophy) have published critiques of the opera under their own names. Our webite address was printed on the leaflet. How much more open could we be?
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