P&J Column 5.10.17

‘Art is the New Oil’ – that’ll come in handy now fracking’s out of the question.

J Fergus Lamont, arts correspondent

You may have spotted billboards and posters around the town proclaiming that ‘Art Is The New Oil’. And no doubt many have passed these by without further consideration be yond an uncultured ‘Eh?’’ perhaps a boorish ‘Fit?’ or, in one case, witnessed with my own eyes and ears, a pause, a furrowed brow, and an emphatically uttered scatological expletive.

Some could interpret the slogan as merely the quirky strapline for an upcoming contemporary dance festival. But those words have a far deeper meaning for clever people like me who have their finger on the nub of the artistic zeitgeist and talk loudly in restaurants. Art, like oil, is precious, rare, and incredibly useful to society; but is also a finite resource which will run out if we don’t keep digging madly for it. And however much of it we produce ourselves, the value we derive from it is entirely decided on the whim of OPEC.

The metaphor does not, perhaps, hold up to intense scrutiny – but there can be no doubt that we are living in an artistic golden age. Few will be aware of the new piece of experimental theatre, ‘Mama Mia’, currently playing at HMT, but the complex power of this stunning work can not be over stated. You may never have heard of it; it has received little, if any, promotion, but last night’s clearly knowledgeable audience were aware of the symbolism of the piece, many joining in with key sections. Indeed, one group of young ladies in my vicinity, seemed positively drunk on the raw emotional force of the piece, encouraging me to ‘join in grandad’ in a joyous, life-affirming display of inclusivity. And gin.

Were that not enough, this evening I will be attending one of the city’s newer contemporary arts spaces, the modernist/brutalist Institute Nightclub which tonight is hosting a unique chance to meet two of the greatest exponents of early 20th Century feminist multi-media expression. I speak of course of noted Romanian performance artists The Cheeky Girls, creators of the Neo-Dadaist meisterwerk ‘Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum)’.

It occurred to me only this morning that the cultural life we now enjoy in Aberdeen is truly sans pareil. I wept

Professor Hector J Schlenk

As a scientist, people are always asking me questions, like “will face recognition technology keep my data safe?”, “can genetic modification eradicate certain diseases?”, and “would you mind closing your curtains if you’re going to parade around like that?” But lately, they’ve been asking me about fracking, which has hit the headlines here thanks to the Scottish Parliament’s descision to outlaw the process. The country that pushed the envelope with hydro electric, nuclear fission and North Sea oil, has decided it doesn’t have the stomach for an “unconventional” process like fracking, just because it entails forcing a high pressure jet of water into unstable subterranean rock structures, causing potentially catastrophic risk to the very ground we walk on. Does that make it intrinsically dangerous?

Well, yes, of course it does. And that’s the problem with taking policy decisions based on overwhelming public opinion. The public seem to be significantly less keen than the multinational oil companies on doing highly dangerous things under Lanarkshire, on the off-chance that it won’t cave in.

But if fracking is out, what is Scotland to do? The oil will soon run dry, and the annual national hours of sunlight we get would barely power a smoke detector. All that is left to us is wind power; so, again, thank goodness for the Scottish Parliament.

Doddie Esslemont, Radical Independence Campaigner

As the most vociferous (and indeed only) campaigner for independence for 39G Seaton Drive, I was shocked to see the violence in Catalonia surrounding the recent independence poll. I always thought I was being poorly treated on election day when barely-concealed sniggers after walking into the polling booth and unilaterally declaring independence from the oppressive yoke of the EU, UK, Scotland and Seaton Community Council. But in fairness, no-one has ever told me I’m not allowed to vote, cracked my ribs with a truncheon and thrown me down a flight of stairs. Not since the days of Fawlty Towers have I seen someone from Barcelona get smacked over the head with such regularity.

So shocked was I by what I saw that I took myself into that bastion of British oppression, the Seaton post office, to send my Catalan friends a goodwill package from a like-minded friend. It contained my mother’s special recipe swiss milk tablet – something sweet for them in a bitter time; the salty tears of a fellow repressed separatist; and a dirty great crash helmet.