Waves of blinding camera flashes and unbridled shrieks of worship greet the grand dame as she emerges from behind a curtain, in a scene straight from an old time Hollywood movie premiere. But this is not Rita Hayworth or Lauren Bacall, but national treasure Vivienne Westwood, who has come to Latitude’s literary tent to read from her “cultural manifesto”.
This is Active Resistance, a detailed and exhaustive study that aims to contextualise commerce, creativity and media into some semblance of ordered agenda. As Viv herself, resplendant in what looks like a gauze sari, explains in her introduction: “Art gives culture and culture is the antidote to propaganda. We all love art and some of you claim to be artists. Without judges there is no art. She only exists when we know her. Does she exist? The answer to this question is of vital importance because if art is alive the world will change. No art, no progress.”
Vivienne then expanded on her themes with the help of several readers, including a man dressed, almost inevitably, as a pirate (“I plunder for you! Stick with me and you might get a share of the bounty. My name is Progress!”), and versions of Pinocchio, Aristotle and Lewis Carroll’s Alice, each hammily taking different sides of convoluted arguments.
Pretentious? Certainly. But Westwood’s ideas still bristle with humour and a healthy dose of self-mockery, curiosity and intrigue. It’s typical behaviour from a woman who’s every move in a long and fascinating career has never been less than interesting, who generates levels of affection normally reserved for pop stars or screen goddesses. On Saturday afternoon she made her fans fall in love with her all over again.
Pic credit: PA Photos