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Barbican February highlights

Illustration of Beethoven made up of instruments and Barbican architectural features

Barbican February highlights

  • Barbican Cinema present Her Lens, His Story: Female Directors and Masculinities, a series of feature films by female directors, including Edith Carlmar, Kinuyo Tanaka, Larisa Shepitko and Shahrbanoo Sadat, many of which are rarely screened in the UK.
  • Building on the success of the biannual Sound Unbound festival, the Barbican’s Beethoven celebrations centre around a Beethoven Weekender which offers a fresh and informal way to experience and explore Beethoven through symphonic and chamber music concerts, talks, and family events.
  • A remarkable evening of performance in Barbican Theatre, Isadora Now pays tribute to the American dancer Isadora Duncan, a timeless feminist icon who made work that enabled women to express themselves physically on their own terms.
  • Opening in Barbican Art Gallery, Masculinities: Liberation through Photography is a major group exhibition that explores the ways in which masculinity is experienced, performed, coded and socially constructed as expressed and documented through photography and film from the 1960s to the present day.


Her Lens, His Story: Female Directors and Masculinities
Wed 26 Feb—Tue 10 Mar 2020, Cinema 3
Part of Inside Out

This season explores complex, revealing and often provocative takes on men and masculinity, as seen through the lens of female filmmakers around the world.

Barbican Cinema present a series of feature films by female directors, including Edith Carlmar, Kinuyo Tanaka, Larisa Shepitko and Shahrbanoo Sadat, many of which are rarely screened in the UK.

Her Lens, His Story shows how great female directors have reversed the traditional male gaze to give us exciting and challenging male characters across multiple genres, including film noirs, melodramas, comedies and war movies.

Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests – Reel #10 (U*) with a new soundtrack created and performed by Leif
Thu 27 Feb 2020, Cinema 1
Part of
Inside Out

Barbican Cinema presents a selection of Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, the series of short, silent black-and-white film portraits made by Warhol at the Factory between1964-66. Reel #10, which includes Lou Reed, Edie Sedgwick, poet John Ashbery and filmmakers Jonas Mekas and Paul Morrissey will be screened accompanied by a new soundtrack created and performed by Leif

The people who sat for the Screen Tests – poets, artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, dancers, models, celebrities and hangers-on – were part of the New York downtown arts scene during a watershed period. Collectively then, the Screen Tests can be read as a group portrait of this scene, as well as an oblique portrait of Warhol himself, delineating his network of connections and associations, his range of interests.

Second Sight
New Commissions + panel discussion
Tue 18—Sun 23 Feb 2020, Cinema 2

In association with LUX, the ICO’s 2020 national film tour Second Sight explores the legacy, methods, aesthetic strategies and histories of the UK’s Black Film Workshop Movement.

The Black Film Workshop Movement developed throughout the 1980s, a pivotal decade in UK society. Against a backdrop of divisive national politics and civil unrest, a series of radical filmmaking collectives sprung up.

Their films explored the Black community’s relationship to Britain’s colonial past; whilst also looking to the Civil Rights movement in America, Black feminism, Pan-Africanism, the struggle of apartheid, and the emergent fields of postcolonial and cultural studies.

Bringing key films from the Movement to UK screens, Second Sight also incorporates new commissions from contemporary film artists created in response to the Workshop context.


Beethoven Weekender
Sat 1 Feb–Sun 2 Feb 2020
Part of Beethoven 250
Sponsored by DHL
Part of
Inside Out

The year 2020 marks the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the most iconic figures in music. The Barbican’s Beethoven celebrations centre around a Beethoven Weekender which offers a fresh and informal way to experience and explore Beethoven through symphonic and chamber music concerts, talks, and family events. Central to the weekend will be a complete performance of all of Beethoven’s nine symphonies by five of the UK’s leading orchestras from Liverpool, Bournemouth, Birmingham, Gateshead and Manchester with their chief conductors in a single weekend. Each symphony will be introduced by Classic FM presenter and Beethoven expert John Suchet, whilst numerous other Beethoven performances take place across the Centre in a relaxed festival atmosphere. The Carducci Quartet performs Beethoven’s string quartets, alongside readings of extracts from Beethoven’s intensely passionate letters. Violinist Daniel Sepec plays Beethoven’s own violin in a chamber music concert. The performance will be presented by broadcaster Sara Mohr-Pietsch. Pianist Christopher Park performs Beethoven’s bagatelles, short pieces filled with humour as well as profundity, presented by Gerard McBurney. s t a r g a z e, a network of multi-talented and classically-trained European musicians, led by André de Ridder presents a contemporary take on Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 with Matthew Herbert’s Beethoven NEIN! The piece moves from electronic installation to flash mob and culminates in a participatory performance with the LSO Community Choir.

From 27 Jan – 6 Feb, the Barbican hosts Beethoven-Haus Bonn’s exhibition BTHVN on TOUR which includes artefacts from the composer’s birth place, such as the composer’s violin, his sketch books, and ear trumpet – used by Beethoven as a hearing aid as his deafness worsened – as well as one of Andy Warhol’s famous screen-prints of the composer. The exhibition is created by DHL and Beethoven-Haus. The Weekender also features screenings of the 70s kids’ cartoon Ludwig – a surreal, mischievous, Beethoven-playing ovoid – with live soundtrack from Guildhall School’s Electronic Music department, performed by Guildhall Session Orchestra directed by Mike Roberts, and live narration from the voice of the original TV series, Jon Glover. In Beethoven Bites, young composers respond to Beethoven’s conversation books with bite-sized new works, including an installation that reimagines his Pastoral symphony which will be set amidst the greenery of the Barbican Conservatory. Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning will offer children aged five and under and their families a space to discover, touch, play and listen through Beethoven-inspired music in Squish Space in the Level G Studio.

Julian Cope
Sat 8 Feb 2020, Barbican Hall, 8pm 

In anticipation of his brand-new album release for 2020, singer, poet, and occultist, Julian Cope brings a solo performance of music from his significant back catalogue to the Barbican in February 2020. The former front man of The Teardrop Explodes, and a key figure in mid-90s psychedelia, will bring psych-pop and masterful musicianship from across his career to the Barbican Hall – including pieces from his critically-acclaimed albums Peggy Suicide, Jehovahkill, and Autogeddon and his 2017 LP Drunken Songs – his 30th solo album.

With a wealth of material and experience to draw upon, Cope will present a deep dive into his work - performed with inimitable showmanship, stage presence and peerless instrumentation. With his brand new album of songs to be released in January 2020, Cope brings this performance to the Barbican as part of his full UK tour.

Produced by the Barbican.

Igor Levit: featured artist

Pianist Igor Levit is Featured Artist in the Barbican Presents 2019-20 classical music season. He will perform four concerts between January and April 2020, demonstrating the many different sides of his musicianship. For the second concert on 13 February, Levit has chosen some of his friends to perform with him. The programme includes Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen and a chamber version of Shostakovich’s Symphony no 15, for which he will be joined by Markus Hinterhäuser (piano), Ning Feng (violin), Julia Hagen (cello), Klaus Reda (percussion), Andreas Boettger (percussion), Simon Etzold (percussion) and Jeremy Cornes (percussion).

The third concert in the series on 19 February features a performance of Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, Brahms’ Variations on a Theme of Haydn and Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. In this concert, Levit will be joined by three of his former teachers: Markus Becker (piano) and well as Klaus Reda (percussion) and Andreas Boettger (percussion).

Max Richter: Voices
Mon 17 & Tue 18 Feb 2020, Barbican Hall

The Barbican has co-commissioned Voices, a new work by composer Max Richter, known for his style that combines the classical tradition with the experimentalism of contemporary electronica. The world premiere performance will be given by an orchestra featuring a radically reimagined instrumentation. With this new commission, Richter continues his long-established relationship with the Barbican. Most recently he co-curated the Barbican’s marathon weekend of music and film, Sounds and Visions, with artist Yulia Mahr (May 2018), which followed on from a performance of his landmark eight-hour piece Sleep in an overnight event at Old Billingsgate alongside the Max Richter Ensemble in May 2017.

Produced by the Barbican.

These New Puritans: The Blue Door
Sun 23 Feb 2020, Barbican Hall, 8pm 

English band These New Puritans, founded by twin brothers George Barnett and Jack Barnett, return to the Barbican this February, bringing their latest TNP live event, The Blue Door.

The group defies categorisation, and this performance – which will be the band’s biggest undertaking to date – is no exception. The expanded line-up, including minimalist, pitched percussion, will cut across electronic, contemporary, classical, rock and industrial music. Based on the themes of sex, death, transcendence and love at the end of the human age, the concert features reinterpretations and rearrangements of music from across TNP’s four studio albums (including recent album Inside The Rose) alongside new material to be released in 2020. All combined and for the first time presented with an industrial stage installation and visuals from George Barnett and some of the band's collaborators including photographer and director Harley Weir, filmmaker and artist Daniel Askill and photographer Angelo Pennetta.

Produced by the Barbican.

Efterklang + Kristín Anna
Sat 29 Feb 2020, Barbican Hall, 8pm 

Seven years after their last album release, Danish band Efterklang return with their fifth studio record Altid Sammen. Barbican audiences can hear the new material, as well as songs from the lauded back catalogue, live on 29 February. 

Altid Sammen (meaning ‘always together’) is steeped in the sonic experimentation that has long been the band’s trademark. Here, band members Casper Clausen, Mads Brauer and Rasmus Stolberg have been fusing baroque instrumentation with their signature expansive sound, and the album also sees Clausen singing in his mother tongue some of his most personal lyrics thus far.

Support comes from former múm vocalist Kristín Anna who will perform a solo set with material from her album I Must Be the Devil.

Produced by the Barbican.

London Symphony Orchestra highlights

Shostakovich’s Symphony No 9 will be the next instalment in LSO Principal Guest Conductor Gianandrea Noseda’s Shostakovich cycle on Sunday 9 February. LSO Leader Roman Simovic will be the soloist for Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No 1, with further Russian compositions completing the programme.

Beethoven 250 celebrations continue into February, with Sir Simon Rattle conducting three concerts, including a Half Six Fix. The ‘Choral’ Symphony No 9 will be performed twice – on 12 and 16 February – with the London Symphony Chorus and soprano Iwona Sobotka, mezzo-soprano Anna Stéphany, tenor Robert Murray, and baritone Florian Boesch. Beethoven’s lesser-known oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives will also be presented, paired with Berg’s Violin Concerto featuring Lisa Batiashvili as soloist on 13 February.

Closing the month is a concert conducted by Elim Chan on 27 February, with works by LSO Panufnik composers Elizabeth Ogonek and James Hoyle – the latter of which will be a world premiere. Completing the programme is Ravel’s vibrant Daphnis and Chloe Suite No 2, and pianist Lukáš Vondráček as soloist in Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 3.


Viviana Durante Company – Isadora Now
Fri 21–Sat 29 Feb 2020, Barbican Theatre

Press night: Tue 25 Feb 2020, 7.45pm
Part of
Inside Out

A remarkable evening of performance paying tribute to the American dancer Isadora Duncan, a timeless feminist icon who made work that enabled women to express themselves physically on their own terms.

To open, a rare opportunity to see Duncan’s own choreography. Dance of the Furies was created in 1905 and exemplifies daring, courage and ambition - qualities that were widely disapproved of in female dancers at the time. Next the evocative Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan by Frederick Ashton, performed here by the legendary ballerina Viviana Durante in her first solo appearance for a decade. And to close, UNDA (Waves) a new and fearless group piece by choreographer Joy Alpuerto Ritter set to specially composed live music by Lih Qun Wong.

The dancers are Begoña Cao, Viviana Durante, Nikita Goile, Sharia Johnson, Charmene Pang and Serena Zaccagnini.

Diverse City – Mid Life
Wed 19–Sat 22 Feb 2020, The Pit
Press night: Wed 19 Feb 2020, 7.45pm
All performances are BSL-interpreted and audio-described

Three women paused at a moment in time – the menopause – talk about their fears, confront losses and invite acceptance as they unpack their real-life stories with soaring humour, honesty and rage. Claire, Jacqui and Karen are emotional-load-bearers, up-all-nighters and piece-picker-uppers, finding their way through the frustration, freedom and possibility of those middle years. Layering elements of song, movement and live BSL interpretation into the narrative, this transformational and witty show connects experiences from different cultures and communities into a collective whole. Mid Life encourages openness around the subject of menopause with empathy and keen observation.


Trevor Paglen: From ‘Apple’ to ‘Anomaly’
Until Sun 16 Feb 2020, The Curve
Free admission
Part of
Life Rewired

Barbican Art Gallery has commissioned the artist Trevor Paglen to create a new work for The Curve. Paglen takes as his starting point the way in which Artificial Intelligence networks are taught how to ‘see’, ‘hear’ and ‘perceive’ the world by engineers who feed them vast training sets. Standard training sets consist of images, video and sound libraries that depict objects, faces, facial expressions, gestures, actions, speech commands, eye movements and more. Paglen highlights how the advent of autonomous computer vision and AI has developed alongside this new kind of media, not designed for humans, but for machines, which are rife with hidden politics, biases, stereotypes and epistemological assumptions.

Masculinities: Liberation through Photography
Thu 20 Feb–Sun 17 May 2020, Barbican Art Gallery
Media View: Wed 19 Feb 2020, 10am–1pm
Part of
Inside Out

Barbican Art Gallery will stage Masculinities: Liberation through Photography, a major group exhibition that explores the ways in which masculinity is experienced, performed, coded and socially constructed as expressed and documented through photography and film from the 1960s to the present day. The exhibition brings together over 300 works by over 50 pioneering international artists, photographers and filmmakers such as Laurie Anderson, Richard Avedon, Rineke Dijkstra, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Peter Hujar, Isaac Julien, Annette Messager, and Catherine Opie alongside a lesser-known and younger generation of artists including Cassils, Sam Contis, George Dureau, Karen Knorr, Elle Pèrez, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Hank Willis Thomas, Karlheinz Weinberger and Marianne Wex among others.

With ideas around masculinity undergoing a global crisis and terms such as ‘toxic’ and ‘fragile’ masculinity filling endless column inches, the exhibition will chart the representation of masculinity in all its myriad forms, rife with contradiction and complexity. Touching on themes of patriarchy, power, queer identity, race, sexuality, class, female perceptions of men, heteronormative stereotypes, and fatherhood, the works in the exhibition present masculinity as a largely unfixed performative identity shaped by cultural, political and social forces, with photography and film central to the way in which masculinity is shaped and understood.

Architecture on Stage
Francesca Torzo, Mon 3 Feb 2020, Frobisher Auditorium 1, 7pm
Stephen Taylor, Fri 7 Feb 2020, Barbican Theatre, 7pm
Maccreanor Lavington, Mon 10 Feb 2020, Barbican Theatre, 7pm
Johansen Skovsted, Thu 20 Feb 2020, Frobisher Auditorium 1, 7pm

The Architecture Foundation and the Barbican in partnership present Architecture on Stage – a programme of talks by the world's leading architects. In February, Francesca Torzo, whose current projects include the Bishan Dance School in Huangshan and the Bamboo Library pavilion in Yangshuo, explores her practice. Stephen Taylor, who has realized projects in London and, more recently, Antwerp, discusses his focus on the design of housing in situations of high density. Partners Gerard Maccreanor and Richard Lavington explore the work of their studio Maccreanor Lavington, which is recognized for its rigorous research in masterplanning and the built environment and contributes to setting the agenda within the housing sector. Danish architects Søren Johansen and Sebastian Skovsted discuss their recent works across Denmark, which delicately blend landscape, architecture and heritage.