Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.


Tate Liverpool, René Magritte: The Pleasure Principle until 16 October

Catch the end of the first UK exhibition devoted to the Belgian surrealist in a decade. This exhibition brings together major works and those from Magritte's early commercial career- many previously unseen in the UK. A highlight is a selection of rarely seen photographs and films. Adult tickets are priced £9, with concessions at £7.10.


Soho Theatre, London W1D, Josie Long- The Future is Another Place 20 October

Long is from South East London and started doing stand-up comedy at 14 years old. She has achieved rapid success, winning the BBC New Comedy Awards at 17 and supporting Stewart Lee during his spring 2005 tour. The Future is Another Place began at the Edinburgh Fringe. In this intelligent and charming show Long uses anti-Tory material; however, rather than being overly ranty, she is upbeat and optimistic.


Hammersmith Apollo, London W6, Bon Iver 23 October

Performing on 23-24 October, catch Bon Iver's indie folk sound. Best known for his raw and emotive vocals, American singer-songwriter Justin Vernon founded the band in 2007. Fellow band members are Michael Noyce, Sean Carey and Matthew McCaughan. The band have recently released a self-titled album follwing their widely-acclaimed debut For Emma, Forever Ago of 2008.


The Banqueting Hall, London SW1, Bye Bye Kitty!!! 17 October

What is one of the first things you think of when someone mentions contemporary Japanese culture? Is it kawaii (cuteness, sometimes super-girly hyper-cuteness)? David Elliott, founding director of the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, urges that this stereotype detracts attentions from the real nature of modern Japanese art. He emphasises its intensely reflective, self-critical and often political stance. Elliott will discuss the Bye Bye Kitty!!! exhibition he curated at the Japan Society in New York earlier this year, which will be complimented by a discussion with sociologist and Japanese art specialist Adrian Favell. The event is free, but booking is essential.


National Theatre, London SE1, The Kitchen until 8 November

Set in London during the 1950s, Arnold Wesker's darkly funny play takes place in the kitchen of an huge West End restaurant. It is a hectic place where a range of intriging and dynamic characters work: chefs, waitresses and porters from across Europe. Peter is an upbeat young cook who strikes up an affair with married waitress Monique, but can their relationship survive? As part of the National Theatre Live, The Kitchen will be broadcast live to cinemas worldwide on 6 October.

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Katy Perry’s new song is not so much Chained to the Rhythm as Chained to a Black Mirror episode

The video for “Chained to the Rhythm” is overwhelmingly pastel and batshit crazy. Watch out, this satire is sharp!

If you’ve tuned into the radio in the last month, you might have heard Katy Perry’s new song, “Chained to the Rhythm”, a blandly hypnotic single that’s quietly, creepingly irresistible.

If you’re a really attuned listener, you might have noticed that the lyrics of this song explore that very same atmosphere. “Are we crazy?” Perry sings, “Living our lives through a lens?”

Trapped in our white picket fence
Like ornaments
So comfortable, we’re living in a bubble, bubble
So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble
Aren’t you lonely?
Up there in utopia
Where nothing will ever be enough
Happily numb

The chorus muses that we all “think we’re free” but are, in fact, “stumbling around like a wasted zombie, yeah.” It’s a swipe (hehe) at social media, Instagram culture, online dating, whatever. As we all know, modern technology is Bad, people who take photos aren’t enjoying the moment, and glimpses other people’s Perfect Lives leave us lonely and empty. Kids these days just don’t feel anything any more!!!

The video for this new song was released today, and it’s set in a (get this) METAPHORICAL AMUSEMENT PARK. Not since Banky’s Dismaland have we seen such cutting satire of modern life. Walk with me, through Katy Perry’s OBLIVIA.

Yes, the park is literally called Oblivia. Get it? It sounds fun but it’s about oblivion, the state of being unaware or unconscious, i.e. the state we’re all living in, all the time, because phones. (I also personally hope it’s a nod to Staffordshire’s own Oblivion, but cannot confirm if Katy Perry has ever been on the Alton Towers classic steel roller coaster.)

The symbol of the park is a spaced-out gerbil thing, because, aren’t we all caged little hairy beings in our own hamster wheels?! Can’t someone get us off this never-ending rat race?!

We follow Katy as she explores the park – her wide eyes take in every ride, while her peers are unable to look past the giant iPads pressed against their noses.

You, a mindless drone: *takes selfies with an iPad*
Katy Perry, a smart, engaged person: *looks around with actual human eyes, stops to smell the roses*

She walks past rides, and stops to smell the roses – and the pastel-perfect world is injected with a dose of bright red reality when she pricks her finger on a thorn. Cause that’s what life really is, kids! Risk! At least she FEELS SOMETHING.

More like the not-so-great American Dream, am I right?!

So Katy (wait, “Rose”, apparently) takes her seat on her first ride – the LOVE ME ride. Heteronormative couples take their seats against either a blue heart or a pink one, before being whizzed through a tunnel of Facebook reaction icons.

Is this a comment on social media sexism, or a hint that Rose is just too damn human for your validation station? Who knows! All we can say for sure is that Katy Perry has definitely seen the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive”:

Now, we see a whole bunch of other rides.

Wait time: um, forever, because the human condition is now one of permanent stasis and unsatisfied desires, duh.

No Place Like Home is decorated with travel stamps and catapults two of the only black people in the video out of the park. A searing comment on anti-immigrant rhetoric/racism? Uh, maybe?

Meanwhile, Bombs Away shoots you around like you’re in a nuclear missile.

War: also bad.

Then everyone goes and takes a long drink of fire water (?!?!) at Inferno H2O (?!?!) which is also a gas station. Is this about polluted water or petrol companies or… drugs? Or are we just so commercialised even fire and water are paid-for privileges? I literally don’t know.

Anyway, Now it’s time for the NUCLEAR FAMILY SHOW, in 3D, no less. Rose is last to put her glasses on because, guess what? She’s not a robot. The show includes your typical 1950s family ironing and shit, while hamsters on wheels run on the TV. Then we see people in the rest of theme park running on similar wheels. Watch out! That satire is sharp.

Skip Marley appears on the TV with his message of “break down the walls to connect, inspire”, but no one seems to notice accept Rose, and soon becomes trapped in their dance of distraction.

Rose despairs amidst the choreography of compliance.

Wow, if that didn’t make you think, are you even human? Truly?

In many ways – this is the Platonic ideal of Katy Perry videos: overwhelmingly pastel, batshit crazy, the campest of camp, yet somehow walking the fine line between self-ridicule and terrifying sincerity. It might be totally stupid, but it’s somehow still irresistible.

But then I would say that. I’m a mindless drone, stumbling around like a wasted zombie, injecting pop culture like a prescription sedative.

I’m chained…………. to the rhythm.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.