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Framing Current Affairs with History and Art: Situating Now in a Continuum
Situating Now in a Continuum
[Image: public art in Thessaloniki captured by Alex Christoforou in one his news commentaries.]
Publication date: 2022-06-15
Breaking the Set
The Proscenium Arch is the standard framing of theatrical works. The audience sits before a framed stage. Interestingly enough, at the Globe Theatre in which Shakespeare's works were initially preformed, the stage was extended forward into the audience allowing what is termed "Theatre in the Round". This provides a method for the performers to be closer to the audience and breaks the framing of the Proscenium Arch, or rectangular fronted stage.
When one examines modern "cable news" framing, the key elements are a desk and a background. The background is some set design with a green screen as an element thereof onto which graphics are inserted. Interviews in remote studios are almost entirely in "green rooms" onto which whatever background the publisher wishes can be placed. An interview with a person in London may show the Thames river or the houses of parliament. In Athens, the Parthenon may be featured.
With both the ability to publish via the Internet and the ubiquity of high quality cameras and microphones in devices as small as a mobile phone, independent journalists can "break the set" in how they frame their commentary. A wonderful example of this is Alex Christoforou.
One Man, His Wit and two Cellphones
Mr. Chistoforou, a Greek Cypriot, resides in the former, northeastern Mediterranean, key trading port of Nicosia. While many of his video news analysis pieces use a streetscape as a background, he makes effort to visit sites of historic or cultural significance. These provide a narrative background to his commentary of recent events.
His selection of news items and his commentary are insightful and humorous. Each episode concludes with a "Clown World" in which some hypocrisy or insanity being published by the Mainstream Media (MSM) is appropriately ridiculed.
The topic of this article is how he performs theatre in the round, or “breaks the set”, with art and history.
Another independent commentator, Caitlin Johnstone, writes of Mainstream Media seeking to seduce and distract us, using framing to hypnotize the viewer. The sets, the infographics and the "chyron" (scrolling text bar at the bottom of the screen) are elements of this seduction and diversion.
Instead, Mr. Christoforou provides a picture of reality as his background. Having near exhausted locations of historical or cultural interest in Nicosia and other Cypriot locations, he recently ventured to Athens and has now visited another historic city in Greece, Thessaloniki.
This third ancient trading hub features both historic and cultural landmarks which Alex employs as backdrops to his news analysis. They serve as a beautiful juxtaposition, contrasting history and art works against a daily reality as he presents his analysis of current affairs.
[Image: Alex stands still as a flock of pidgeons stream past. Time offset 00:36:26.]
Mr. Christoforou, as his name may suggest, is a Christian. He is a member not of the Roman Catholic Church, but the Greek Orthodox Church. A point of history significantly ignored is that the Eastern Roman Empire embraced the Greek Orthodox Church. Spanning the schism of 1054 CE the Eastern Roman Empire had already outlived the Western Roman Empire by over 500 years, and continued for 400 beyond.
The fall of Constantinople, formerly Byzantium, in 1453 involved the first use of artillery in warfare. Interestingly, it was a person from the modern territory of Hungary who provided the Turkic attackers with this technology. Though this technology was not decisive in the battle, it is noteworthy. This author cannot recommend enough Roger Crowley's recount of the tale in "1453", subtitled "The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West" (ISBN 1-4013-0850-3).
[Image: the cover of the author’s loved copy of “1453”. This is the only image in this article which is not obtained from Mr. Christoforou’s work.]
The book is not a dry dusty tome of academia, but a popularization with narrative. Its commonality with studied works is its exhaustive referencing : 20 pages of mostly single line references in a small font. I digress ...
Why do so many of us subject ourselves to the horror of "modern" television news with all of its attendant seduction and infographics? Mr. Christoforou has taken the freedoms offered by the new information distribution platform we call the internet and employed the affordability of high quality video and audio capture devices to create a far superior product. This one man is outperforming in commentary and composition whole news organisations of hundreds of people. He is free. They are not.
Having switched passions from Information Security into Authorship, your writer has learned how much effort is required to produce content which validates an audience's attention. Alex must first survey news items and select those which he deems significant. One, or perhaps two, must be selected for the "Clown World" concluding section. He must then research and travel to a novel location with historic or cultural significance to create the background narrative. There, he films himself presenting his commentary on the selected news items featuring the chosen background.
Afterward he must insert into the video screenshots of news items which he has quoted. The video is uploaded to multiple distribution platforms including Rumble, YouTube, and others. The skill and effort are most impressive. The cost for accessing this rich content is what one pays for connection to the internet.
[Image: Ukrainian propaganda graphics depicts the UK’s head of state, the Queen, shouldering a missile launcher, with the Ukrainian trident on her left arm.]
One can contribute to Mr. Christoforou's efforts via numerous methods. He and Alexander Mercouris form "The Duran" which host live broadcasts in which they discuss current events, often with a guest. Alex and Alexander are the Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief, respectively, of The Duran. Their funding strategy includes an on-line shop, live contributions known as "super chat" and a subscription possibility to the community which they welcome. Each publishes their own channel of video commentary in addition to their combined efforts on The Duran. See Sources below for links to all channels and the community as pathways to contribute to their individual or collective works.
History and Art
Aside from the critical commentary, Mr. Christoforou's work reminds us of the importance to two elements of civic life, the enrichments afforded us by the preservation of historic sites and the creation of public works of art.
Those who work in museums, or to preserve historic sites, are most dedicated towards their purpose. Public funds, your tax payments, are in small part used to subsidize this work. Fees from visitors, local or international, form an important part of the funding of this preservation. Mr. Christoforou's work inspires us to visit these spaces, to celebrate our history.
As a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, Alex often features churches in his work. He also featured a Mosque in Nicosia. He wears his faith on his sleeve, though history is the focus. In Thessaloniki he visited a building which was first a Christian Church, then an Islamic Mosque and has since reverted to a Church. It is history, the place, the structure and its place in time which are of import.
[Image: The Rotunda in Thessaloniki. The minaret from its time as mosque can be seen to the left of the main structure.]
The historic sites often include ancient Greek or Roman structures. Towers feature. Below is the White Tower in Thessaloniki.
The use of public art to background his commentary also serves to highlight its importance in our lives. Greek youth seem to have decided that any surface is a canvas for spray paint, or graffiti. While most are vapid "Tagging" occasionally more creative works appear.
Nonetheless, publicly funded and hosted art spaces are of a totally different calibre. While they may not have the timelessness of a tower or church, they are certainly more durable than a garage door. It is their creativity which inspires.
In our age of austerity and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) we are losing an essential part of our soul, Art. Investments in public art works pay lasting dividends of which financial are the least important.
Art and History
The monument to Alexander the Great in Thessaloniki is masterful. It embraces the space on which it is positioned. Its materials hold its narrative.
A bronze frieze tells Alexander the Great's story in the metal of his age.
Two collections of spears with circular shields rise to the skies and flank the space. The number of spears and shields in each set, five and three, surely have significance. Perhaps the three represent regions conquered which were delegated to Alexander's sons: Anatolia, Syria and Egypt.
In the afternoon light the shadows of spears and shields fall across the exquisite, bold and lively sculpture of Alexander riding Bucephalus.
Legend relates that only Alexander could tame and ride his powerful stallion. Bucephalus rears on hind legs. (Those with an eye to gravity will note that much effort is placed in counter weights to balance the bronze sculpture; another metal of the age, lead, hidden, holds the sculpture aloft.)
Alexander's cape flies behind him. His stallion’s forelegs are in motion.
The General's sword is not raised in victory, but at the ready. Battle is happening. Victory is surely at hand, not yet achieved.
Alexander is inspiring his phalanxes of spearmen towards their place in history. We, the public, are inspired by this magnificent artistic composition embracing its space and time.
These works of art and history are Mr. Christoforou's chyron.
All images, bar the photograph of “1453”, are single frames from Mr. Christoforou’s news analysis videos downloaded from his Rumble channel.
Alex Christoforou, channel on Rumble
Alexander Mercouris, channel on Rumble
East–West Schism, Wikipedia
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