Richard Warren

"Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

From the Fox’s mouth: a presenter apologises

The July transmissions of James Fox’s British Masters series on BBC 4 came in for much lambasting in this blog (posts of July 12, 19 and 26) and elsewhere. In the 2011 issue of The Journal of Wyndham Lewis Studies (just out), Dr Fox makes an extended seven page apologia/apology (“Response to Paul Edwards”) to “the Wyndham Lewis community”. In the defence of his programmes he manages, perhaps a little disingenuously, to leave himself a fair amount of wriggle room, though in the process he sheds a good deal of interesting light on the depressing business of how TV arts programmes are put together these days, and on the pressures and interests involved.

But his apology for the dismally distasteful treatment of Wyndham Lewis (particularly the notorious brain-brandishing episode) is rounded and generous.

Here (and this is in no way intended as triumphalist) is a little of the flavour:

“In part it was motivated by the desire to hook and provoke an audience whose attention had to be hard-earned and could easily be lost.

… countless inclusions, elisions and omissions were made for televisual rather than art-historical reasons.

Throughout the series … biography was preferred to context, narrative was preferred to analysis, and when discussing artworks, meaning was prioritized over form.

Edwards criticizes the programme’s misinterpretation of Lewis’s overall ambitions and individual works. He is completely right.

… my inability to substantiate those provocative assertions [that Lewis was misogynist, fascist, anti-Semite], or more importantly to qualify them, was such a dramatic simplification of Lewis’s views that it effectively became an inaccuracy.

I do not recall how the decision to film Lewis’s brain was made … This was a major error of judgement … it was also deeply distasteful, and I shall regret my involvement in that sequence for a long time.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: