Saturday, 30 July 2016

Beat Generation at the Pompidou

If you've never seen the scroll, hithee. If you have, hithee again. It doesn't come out to play very often. If you don't know what I am talking about then this exhibition really isn't for you.

The trouble with trying to make an art exhibition from what was essentially a literary movement, yes, I know Kerouac painted and the Beats made some dodgy films, is that it doesn't really work. There is no substitute for the words on the page. Sitting and reading them. Quietly. Alone.

There are words on the page, not that the scroll is especially legible these days, which fits its iconic status. And there are manuscripts of Howl and Kaddish to be drooled over, but that is no substitute for personal reading.

There are just too many photographs, not all of them actually that good as photographs, even if taken by famous poets.

Nice try Pompidou. A good effort at doing something different, timed well so as to maximise American visitor numbers. But no, not enough explanation, cultural criticism, historical, political and social context for anyone coming to the Beats relatively unschooled.

Yes, it's good to see first editions of Burroughs and the film of a young Dylan, but otherwise, meh, really, a great, big meh.

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