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Monday 24 August 2015

Art appreciation on Coronation Street

A guest blog post from Elk in Canada.
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Has anyone noticed the surge in art appreciation lately on Coronation Street? Not just art appreciation, but actual art-making?

First the mysterious Banksi-like graffiti appeared on Sally's wall. Then we learned that it was part of budding artist Craig's oeuvre, followed by his touching commemoration of the Victoria Court fire victims.

Then we saw Cathy and Roy take in an art class at a museum in Manchester, in the course of which both characters made portraits of each other. They went home clutching their respective canvases, holding out the possibility that the products of their DIY fine art exercise might end up at some future date hanging on a wall in Roy's flat.  

Most recently, of course, we saw art and flirtation intertwined, as Craig encouraged Caitlyn to follow her dream of studying art history. She returned the compliment by drawing him in the likeness of Munch's Scream under a campsite shower head. This somewhat awkward and endearing romance  unfolded in the context of Craig's honest admission that he's averse to looking in mirrors or taking selfies. Therefore, trusting Caitlyn enough to reflect him back to himself in the form of a picture was great trust indeed and a sign that he is now strong enough to make himself vulnerable to another person.

Something is clearly happening and, if the trend continues, we should expect a public exhibition of art work by residents, perhaps revealing to us how they see themselves, their neighbours, and the community at large.

I find this development really interesting.  Although this development is not as earth-shaking as a tram crash, it had to be done. Otherwise, the characters risked living in a world too different from ours. At the same time, it's intriguing to ponder why this introduction of mainstream tech to the Street overlaps with a sudden focus on visual art. Well, for one thing, yes, it's an acknowledgement of how visual our culture has become. While the Street has always been plastered over with old posters and torn fliers, as d√©cor they mostly seemed blurry and difficult to make out, a relic of crumbling businesses gone by, such as grunge bars and strip clubs. Now, by contrast, we've got Tracy Barlow standing in front of a glossy poster for the touring production of Wicked.

Another aspect to this is the recognition that visual images have a profound connection to subjectivity, in other words, they can serve as an outward representation of individual points-of-view.
We appreciate when Corrie writers demonstrate their lock on a character's way-of-being through dialogue, in the best instances shedding light on an individual's deep-seated reflexes, their idiosyncratic, even sly, observational powers, as well as sometimes exposing that character's blind spots.

It seems, in this new age of visual saturation, TPTB are exploring how to translate dialogue into pictures – for example, in this most recent storyline, not what Caitlyn would say, but what she would draw. This adds texture to how we learn about a character's inner self, but also what it shows us about how characters are created. To the stable of writers, Corrie has evidently added some visual artists whose responsibility it is to put into pictures how Cathy sees Roy, how Roy sees Cathy, or maybe how they fail to see each other. When the art classes begin at the Community Centre, I suspect we will have predictable outcomes, such as quirky, flamboyant pictures from Mary, art from Sinead in the same genre as her candles and beaded basques. But there might also be some surprises from characters whose inner artist we have not encountered.

As Corrie works to catch up with the influx of technology into everyday life, it would also be timely for the residents' forms of artistic self-expression to expand from drawing, painting, not to mention Deirdre's pottery, to more contemporary forms like video and music production. Amy Barlow, equipped with a digital camera, seems like a natural to shame her family with damning home videos. Faye has a bottled-up inner life that she has shared a bit with Craig, but I would love to see how she might document life on the Street if she acquired a camera from a helpful teacher at school, or, for that matter, what visual prizes Tim could dish up if, in addition to his sharp social literacy, he added a picture-taking hobby.

On the music side, although we have had storylines that included Lloyd dragging friends and family to live music events, as well as Ryan gigging as a DJ, there has been far too little use of musical talent among the cast. When Kim Marsh originally arrived, if I remember correctly, she sang in an audition for Vernon. Why has she not been given a showcase to sing since?  In the early days of the show, the community regularly staged musicals, pantos, talent nights, as well as attending Ena Sharples' singalongs, Rita's sets at the nightclub, and Ernie Bishop's stints as an accompanist. Those scenes allowed the actors to display their considerable musical chops. If TPTB want to hire pop stars to play characters in 2015, why not at least have the characters sing on the show? Craig Charles was quoted in an interview as saying that he was proud to have brought his personal passion for music to the character of Lloyd Mullaney, but shouldn't the skill set of the cast enable much more musical activity in general? Not just the occasional karaoke night in the Rovers? After all, you can find out as much about a character's subjectivity from what they sing as what they say or, indeed, what and how they draw.

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Tvor said...

Very good point, about the art adding layers into the show. I also like listening for background music that also adds to whatever is going on at the time, quite often at least. Last night you could hear strains of the old disco song "Pick up the Pieces" when Liz, Lloyd and Erica were discussing their exes.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tvor! I don't always pick up on background music the first time around, so I'm grateful when you mention specific songs in your weekly awards. I also like what you say about adding layers. I know the whole Callum drugging Sarah and coercing Bethany thing was riddled with implausibility, but was I alone in thinking the live video insert via Gemma's phone was pretty cool? Kind of like a TV show within a TV show? -ELK

Tvor said...

Yes that was a good touch, using technology!


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