Why dress up a sporting event with daredevil dancers, balancing buses and poetry falling from the sky? It's all show and no brains
I saw those daredevil dancers on Sunday. The Elizabeth Streb dance troupe may well be familiar to you by now, as its participation in the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad drew massive media interest. We didn't see them bungee off any bridges but, strolling on the South Bank, we did chance on Streb's dancers flying up and down a vertigo-inducing gantry outside the National Theatre.
It was an eye-catching spectacle: acrobatic, dangerous, elegant. After a few minutes, however, we were ready to move on. My daughter wanted to do some skateboarding.
I was mildly surprised to see how much coverage these performers got the next day. They were diverting, as I say, but only as background colour to a walk by the Thames. Sure, this is "culture". But it isn't the kind that matters. It isn't the sort that sears the mind or soul.
This is the summer of stupid. The two big events that define it are no-brainers. The jubilee was one big festival of refusing to think. It was heroically crass. Royalists moaned about the supposedly dumb coverage by the BBC of the Thames pageant – but they were shooting the messenger. There was no hidden profundity for commentators to unpick. It was just silly.
So is the Cultural Olympiad, with its high-class acrobats. Who really cares about Streb's aerial choreography? It has no cultural depth at all. Nor do such highlights of the Olympic summer of culture as a bus balanced on top of a seaside pavilion or a poetry bombing. This stuff confuses art with hype and show.
It's all just a mind-draining aperitif, as we prepare for the biggest collective brainwash since … well, since the jubilee concert. The Olympics is a festival of bodies, not brains. It is not going to be a rich and inspiring time for art lovers. It is going to be the triumph of sport. Which is fine, great, but why dress it up as culture? A dance in the sky is not Wuthering Heights.