The Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.

Dance

Tate Modern, London SE1 – Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, 18– 20 July

The prominent Belgian choreographer reworks her 1982 minimalist dance piece, Fase: Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich, for The Tanks – the Tate Modern’s new gallery space devoted to live art. De Keersmaeker explores the relationship between music and dance in this hour-long performance, a classic piece from Flanders’s 1980s contemporary dance movement, exploiting the Tanks’ industrial space – originally the chambers containing oil that fuelled the former Bankside Power Station.

Music

Peckham Rye Car Park, London SE15 – John Adams’ “Harmonielehre”, 14 July

The American composer John Adams’s romantic-minimalist epic, Harmonielehre, is radically reimagined in the stripped-down expanse of Peckham Rye Multi-Storey Car Park. The 100-piece TROSP Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Stark, performs Adams’s 1985 symphonic poem as part of a series of summer events run by Bold Tendencies – a non-profit sculpture project that uses the car park for exhibitions.

Comedy

Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 – Stewart Lee, 18 July

The cerebral stand-up brings a slimmed down version of his show, Carpet Remnant World, to the Southbank. “It’s form interrogated by content through a haze of passive-aggressive monotony,” Lee explains, in a performance that slowly unfolds from a lengthy apology for inadequate content into a gleeful rejection of narrative structure and a brutal deconstruction of comedy itself.
 

Theatre

Shakespeare’s Globe, London SE1 - Richard III, 14 July – 13 October

Mark Rylance returns to the Globe for the first time since his 1995-2005 tenure as artistic director, in an all-male Original Practices production of Richard III. Rylance takes on the monstrous title role, in a journey of homicidal ambition that explores performance-practice from 1593. Richard III follows on the heels of the Globe’s Cultural Olympiad spring season when it staged each of Shakespeare’s plays in a different language.
 

Exhibition

Wellcome Collection, London NW1 – Superhuman, 19 July – 16 October

Superhuman, an exhibition exploring human enhancement from 600BCE to 2050, traces the history of an obsession with improving the body’s performance. From an ancient Egyptian prosthetic toe through to the superhero fantasies of comics, Superhuman provides an eclectic look at the ethics and science of human adaptability.
 
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker at the Tanks (Photo:Getty)
Iain Cameron
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Meet Scotland's 300-year-old snow patch, the Sphinx

Snow patch watchers expect it to melt away by the weekend. 

This weekend, Scotland's most resilient snow patch, dubbed Sphinx, is expected to melt away. The news has been met with a surprising outpouring of emotion and nationwide coverage. Even The Financial Times covered the story with the headline "The end is nigh for Britain's last snow". The story has also gone international, featuring in radio reports as far away as New Zealand.

So what is it about Sphinx that has captured the public’s imagination?  Some have suggested it could be symbolic. The Sphinx represents how we all feel, helpless and doomed to a fate determined by leaders like Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. 

Regular contributors to the Facebook page “Snow Patches in Scotland”  have their own, more prosaic theories. One tells me that the British are “generally a bit obsessed with weather and climate”, while another says snow-patches are "more interesting than anything Trump/May/Boris or Vladimir have to say”.

Those more interested in patches of snow than the existential consequences of international relations could be dismissed as having seriously skewed priorities, but there's more to the story of Sphinx than lies on the surface. 

For a start it's thought to be 300 years old, covering a small square of the Cairngorms for centuries with just six brief interruptions. Last time the Sphinx disappeared was 11 years ago. Though it may melt away this weekend, it is expected to be back by winter. 

Iain Cameron, the man who set up the Facebook page "Snow Patches in Scotland" and someone who has recorded and measured snow patches since he was a young boy, says that Sphinx has shrunk to the size of a large dinner table and he expects it will have melted entirely by this Saturday.

It came close to disappearing in 2011 as well, he adds. In October of that year, Sphinx at around its current size and only a heavy snowstorm revived it.

"They tend to keep the same shape and form every year," Cameron tells me. "It might sound weird to say, but it’s like seeing an elderly relative or an old friend. You’re slightly disappointed if it’s not in as good a condition."

But why has Sphinx survived for so long? The patch of land that Sphinx lies above faces towards the North East, meaning it is sheltered from the elements by large natural formations called Corries and avoids the bulk of what sunlight northern Scotland has to offer. 

It also sits on a bid of soil rather than boulder-fields, unlike the snow patches on Britain's highest mountain Ben Nevis. Boulder-fields allow air through them, but the soil does not, meaning the Sphinx melts only from the top.

Cameron is hesistant to attribute the increased rate of Sphinx's melting to climate change. He says meterologists can decide the causes based on the data which he and his fellow anoraks (as he calls them) collect. 

That data shows that over the past 11 years since Sphinx last melted it has changed size each year, not following any discernable pattern. “There is no rhyme or reason because of the vagaries of the Scottish climate," says Cameron.

One thing that has changed is Sphinx's title is no longer quite so secure. There is another snow patch in near Ben Nevis vying for the position of the last in Scotland. Cameron says that it is 50:50 as to which one will go first.