As heritage campaigners become
increasingly alarmed at the
allegedly deteriorating condition ol‘ the Forth Rail Bridge. a new television history ol‘ British art
nominates the structure as
Victorian engineering‘s l‘inest legacy. Susanna Beaumont reports.
:\s‘ hr'idges go. the Forth Rail Bridge is a world high- llycr. Now m er llltl )ears old. hridge connoisseurs ha\e deserihe'l it as the lirst wonder ol‘ the engineering world and a monument to the industrial age. It has also become stul‘l‘ol‘ the Scottish ps}ehe. with an ltlllll'ttel ahotrt heing continually painted from end to end. It has appeared on tartan w rapped tins ol'shortl‘r'ead. and in .lohn Buchan's '/'/.'e l/Jii'li Nine Sir/M. hero lx’tchar'd llauna} dices w rtlr death as he scr'arnhles along its stccl girders pursued lw the
contribution to a new series on British art,
:I His/mt“ ()l limits/i .-lr!. a si\-p.rrtet' lrour BB( '3. is written and presented h} 'l/rr' Irir/qu'm/eu/‘s art critic , Andrew (irahanr-l)i\‘on. it kicks oll' w illr the itnage- [
|‘(\_\.\ in lilue. .\ow the lu‘itige is Scotland's math I
hashing da_\s ol' the Reformation. and cruises through i the centuries up to the present day as (ir'ahanr-l)i\orr crosses the countr} to illustrate w hat he sees as Britain’s line and hate realtionslnp w rth art. .-\nd (iraharn-l lison was deter armed the l"orth ls’ail Bridge
should make an appearance
Artists were then set against the spirit ot the age, hit!
. . , ; inspiring.
First clapping eyes on the l‘t'idge in the .\'t)s "e. hen he took a ferry across the l’orlh and ga/ed up at its underbelly ol‘angled and rnassrxe girders. ( iraharn I Dixon was seriously impressed. “It was a tantastrt thing and l'\‘e ttl\\;l_\s renieurlwred rt.' he sa}.s 'h is a work ol'ar't. hut also a parado\ ol' the \‘rctotran .ry'e
here is something genuiner grand and awe
.-\s Victorian Britain spawned a landscape ol' dark
' satanic mills at hque and a spraw ling tradr'ig empire
ahroad. artists tapped into the nation's insecurities and set'\'etl up a hearty dose ol nostalgia. “It was .Ill : age of retreat and reconstruct. not a glorious pcrrtd an British art.‘ says (iraharu- l )rxon
There was talk or a hridge hurtling the l‘or'th since the early l3()(ls. but it was the |urr;.'conrn:.' arm I train that ttrrned the talk to concrete plans lat-rarer» Thomas Boueher laid an initial loundalrorr stone :u 2 a hridgc in IH73. hut w rtlr the collapse ol his l.|_‘. i Bridge in IX7‘) and the death oi "* train passeir'crs. plans were shel\ ed. It was cngiuecr Bcnyarnrrr Baler. an advocate of a cantile\ er structure to support a lattice work ol girders. and (ilasg'ow ent'areerruzr contractor William .\rrol. w ho lo;_"clhet' argued the i
a .1 h x .. ‘ e? “7 ‘ ‘ “ sir “ .~ \ , . ow. . .. f g . I.) 77‘ - o .37;
Engineering as art: Andrew Graham-Dixon praises the Victorian monument to the modern age
oi \(l‘li‘i lcel and at a cost all met fj.‘
granite and a- 1 Ho ions it
lllll‘tl\sll\le \\;t\ [‘t)\\ll‘l‘
lt was a monumental operation Spanning a distance
hridge crutsttttte'l “MUN!” cuhie Itct o!~ \herdeen
slt‘c'l .r‘sl the Inc». ill a?
workmen and tool. sewn _\;'.ii~ it. lurid! l! was opened ill l\"‘ll In. the l‘:rncc oi \‘\'.ilcs l'h: . mouth l’l‘itrce ( ‘hatlcs returned to lend his
to\.rl support to
heritage campaigners who hehcu' the lirtdjje is herng
the .hairee is
(iidi‘rdlll lf'r’s a; awe \l;tic'l. if. the hat i..‘ «this r L"Ik."\ \ili\.-..l 'l'ri
people wattle l llllli"\
allowed to rust hi Its new o-.-.rreis_ ls’ailtrat l. But the hridge had its detractors. sparktulf a deliale ahotrt he.rttl_\ and itinetiou. w rlh that \'~.;ttclitlt-;_' ol
\\ ilharn \loirts caller-r ll ,1 "supreme l\.\‘i‘
Ill;ll1‘- \r.'.orr.:i:s lei: n.-t gust
t But also lcartul o: the ' ' " ' here ‘.\.r\ res r‘lttllttll :‘tl
p~att..:h} m l ill I tarp. . .Itld
\‘ll!\\'l‘..lll\ e III st‘s lc. tie sa\s
“It l~oth illtlsll.:lt‘\l Birtzsh power ;lll-i was .i powerlul rzretaphor te-r lhe l'otth ls’ail lill'ltfe' tricant Britain soul-J "t' air} where.
\l'lf‘r'l‘l \. (N Null»: \i,’ in ‘._','I'\ .'/5 Vin: 3/ .ll'n/r' rl/l
Ilkt r, r'i ."y:'
Kr'! [nit/aft /\ .’rrr'.’..'lr.. .I
Unabomber’s media explosion
‘In order to get our message in front of the public with some chance of making a lasting impression we have to kill people,’ stated the American serial killer known as the Unabomber in his notorious 35,000-word ‘manifesto’ which was published in two major US newspapers last year. The contents of the manifesto, which Iucidly argue against the malignant effects of technology on our society, prompted the brother of tamer university maths lecturer Theodore
Kaczynski to contact the FBI with information which led to the arrest of the alleged Unabomber.
In one sense, the FBI’s ‘advice’ to The New York Times and Washington Post to publish the manifesto has been vindicated. ‘Whether you like it or not, we’re turning our pages over to a man who has murdered people,’ said Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of The New York Times shortly before his paper printed a pull-out Unabomber supplement in September. ‘But I’m convinced we’re making the right choice between bad options.’
However, in another sense the media has allowed itself to become subordinated to the Unabomber’s warped agenda, which was only ever important if it was reported in newspapers and on television. Even before Kaczynski was arrested in his isolated shack in Montana, the Unabomber had become a celebrated
serial killer case whose
pronouncements were pored over by cultural commentators. In the UK, two 5 documentary producers were putting } the finishing touches to films — one i for an arts series and the other for a ' personal beliefs strand - even before ' the arrest. Both have now hotfooted it Q to Montana to film extra material before the programmes are shown i later this month. ‘lle is the most intellectual serial ; killer of all time.” says Alex Harvey,
producer of a documentary made for 8882’s new arts series The Works. ‘What makes him interesting is how someone so intelligent could also be ; so violent. What is so disturbing is i that the Unabomber is crazy but what ' he wrote is not. The whole story is a kind of American archetype.’ t Like Harvey’s film, Channel 4’s Witness series was fascinated by the Unabomber’s manifesto but went I
? further in producing a psychological
profile by examining the forensic work carried out by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies which had been working on the Unabomber case for the past seventeen years. It also interviewed survivors of the bombings which claimed three lives, who were less than intrigued by the fact that they had lost body parts in the name of ideas. ‘I don’t think taking me out would have done one bit of difference to the way this world evolves,’ said one survivor. Another stated: ‘He’s a criminal, he’s a serial killer, he should be treated as such.’
And that’s exactly what will happen - expect a great deal more myth-making in the run up to Kaczynski’s trial. (Eddie Gibb)
Witness: Unabomber is on Thurs 25 April on Channel 4. The Works: Killing For Ideas is on Tue 30 April on 8802.
The List 1‘) Apr-2 May I996 83