2012 highlights

The best of theatre, film and art in the coming six months.

February
The Death of Klinghoffer at English National Opera, from 25 February. After the success of Nixon in China, John Adams's "docu-opera" recalls the killing of a Jewish-American tourist during the hijacking of a cruise liner by Palestinian militants.

March
The Duchess of Malfi at the Old Vic, from 17 March. John Webster's Jacobean tragedy tells the bloody story of the widowed duchess, played by Eve Best.

The Jerwood Gallery in Hastings opens from 17 March. This new seafront space, hot on the heels of the neighbouring Turner Contemporary in Margate, will house the Jerwood Collection of 20th- and 21st-century art and the first retrospective of work by the Kent-based Rose Wylie.

April
“Damien Hirst" at Tate Modern, from 4 April. In 2012 there will be no escaping the British artist everyone loves to hate - Gagosian will also be exhibiting Hirst's complete spot paintings in its 11 galleries worldwide from 12 January onwards.

June
London 2012 Festival from 21 June. The Olympics have their inevitable arty offshoot in the form of a 12-week, UK-wide cultural extravaganza. Look out for Big Dance Week in July, featuring nine days of dance in unusual spaces from parks to lidos. Also includes performances of new scores for three of Alfred Hitchcock's silent films (Wilton's Music Hall, 28 and 29 June; BFI, 21 July) and coincides with Southbank's Festival of the World, starting on 1 June.

July
The two big superhero films of the year - The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan's third and final instalment of the Batman trilogy, and The Amazing Spiderman - are slated for release in July.

Wynton Marsalis's Swing Symphony (Symphony No 3), 25 and 26 July. No more tantalising combination is possible this year: Marsalis performs at the Barbican Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.

This article first appeared in the 09 January 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Forget Obama

Pompidou Centre
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Harry Styles: What can three blank Instagram posts tell us about music promotion?

Do the One Direction star’s latest posts tell us about the future of music promotion in the social media age - or take us back to a bygone era?

Yesterday, Harry Styles posted three identical, captionless blank images to Instagram. He offered no explanation on any other social network, and left no clue via location serves or tagged accounts as to what the pictures might mean. There was nothing about any of the individual images that suggested they might have significance beyond their surface existence.

And, predictably, they brought in over a million likes – and thousands of Styles fans decoding them with the forensic dedication of the cast of Silent Witness.

Of course, the Instagrams are deliberately provocative in their vagueness. They reminded me of Robert Rauschenberg’s three-panelled White Painting (1951), or Robert Ryman’s Untitled, three square blank canvases that hang in the Pompidou Centre. The composer John Cage claimed that the significance of Rauschenberg’s White Paintings lay in their status as receptive surfaces that respond to the world around them. The significance of Styles’s Instagrams arguably, too, only gain cultural relevance as his audience engages with them.

So what did fans make of the cryptic posts? Some posited a modelling career announcement would follow, others theorised that it was a nod to a Taylor Swift song “Blank Space”, and that the former couple would soon confirm they were back together. Still more thought this suggested an oncoming solo album launch.

You can understand why a solo album launch would be on the tip of most fans’ tongues. Instagram has become a popular platform for the cryptic musical announcement — In April, Beyoncé teased Lemonade’s world premiere with a short Instagram video – keeping her face, and the significance behind the title Lemonade, hidden.

Creating a void is often seen as the ultimate way to tease fans and whet appetites. In June last year, The 1975 temporarily deleted their Instagram, a key platform in building the band’s grungy, black and white brand, in the lead up to the announcement of their second album, which involved a shift in aesthetic to pastel pinks and bright neons.

The Weekend wiped his, too, just last week – ahead of the release of his new single “Starboy”. Blank Instagrams are popular across the network. Jaden Smith has posted hundreds of them, seemingly with no wider philosophical point behind them, though he did tweet in April last year, “Instagram Is A BlackHole Of Time And Energy.”

The motive behind Harry’s blank posts perhaps seems somewhat anticlimactic – an interview with magazine Another Man, and three covers, with three different hairstyles, to go along with it. But presumably the interview coincides with the promotion of something new – hopefully, something other than his new film Dunkirk and the latest update on his beloved tresses. In fact, those blank Instagrams could lead to a surprisingly traditional form of celebrity announcement – one that surfaces to the world via the print press.

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