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Art and Socialism

7 May 2008




Classical and jazz musicians, literature and the foremost exhibition in the city will be served together in a unique combination at Christchurch Art Gallery next weekend (16 &17 May).

Art and Socialism is a unique, theatrical performance of music and spoken word in the spectacular Gallery foyer.  Inspired by William Morris’s well-known lecture “Art and Socialism,” Silencio Ensemble takes the audience on a musical exploration of the evolution of socialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Perhaps best known for his design work - currently featuring in a major exhibition at the Gallery - William Morris is known to many as a writer of poetry and fiction; and as a pioneer of the socialist movement.  He was also a Marxist, a revolutionary socialist and a political agitator who formed the Socialist League and took part in the Bloody Sunday March on Trafalgar Square.

This exceptional nineteenth century English figure led the arts and crafts movement and his firm Morris & Co. became one of the leading interior decorating businesses of Victorian Britain, enjoying an international reputation and clientele. 

Excerpts from his “Art and Socialism” lecture will be complemented by the Silencio Ensemble, consisting of ten of Christchurch’s leading musicians,  presenting a programme of folk and socialist music by composers Vaughan Williams, Bela Bartok, Dimitri Shostakovich, Hanns Eisler, Kurt Tuchkolsky, Woody Guthrie and more.  It will also feature vocalist Jennine Bailey, spoken word by Sarah Amazinnia and arrangements by six contemporary Canterbury composers, including Patrick Shepherd, Chris Adams and ensemble founders Chris Reddington and Alex van den Boek.

This unique combination of music and theatre provides the opportunity to examine the relevance of Morris’s ideas about art and politics in contemporary society, and invites reflection on today’s cultural and political climate in the arts in New Zealand.

“I’m delighted that the Gallery can play a role in drawing together these themes of music, literature and art; and there is no better venue in Christchurch for this range of performances,” says Gallery Director Jenny Harper.

Art and Socialism performances will be in the Christchurch Art Gallery foyer at 7.30pm on Friday 16 and Saturday 17 May.  Bookings are recommended; tickets cost $20 (Friends, students and unwaged $15) and are available at the Gallery’s front desk.  For more information, please phone 941 7342.



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