Monday, August 31, 2009

Cate Blanchett and Liv Ullmann: A Street Car Named Desire

Brando – drunk, sweating and on his knees – howling for his pregnant wife to take him back is an indelible part of our popular culture. Just as Romeo and Juliet gripped the Elizabethans, Tennessee Williams's drama A Streetcar Named Desire has blazed across stage and screen for decades.

It's been made into an opera (by Andre Previn), a ballet and three films, most famously by director Elia Kazan in 1951, with Brando, Vivien Leigh and Kim Hunter in the leads. Pedro Almodovar's award-winning film All about My Mother features a Spanish-language version of the play. Matt Groenig has nominated A Streetcar Named Marge as his all-time favourite episode of The Simpsons. Even Sesame Street has presented A Streetcar Named Monster, with Grover bellowing to Stella to let him in because he's forgotten his keys.

Williams regarded the work as a “tragedy of misunderstandings and insensitivity”. Cate Blanchett – who is about to step on to the stage as the bourbon-soaked, sexual predator Blanche DuBois in a new Sydney Theatre Company production – describes it as a “big, aching wound” of a play. “The writing is so beautiful and poetic but the shadow side to that is an incredible ugliness,” she says.

The clock was set on this production – directed by the celebrated film actress Liv Ullmann – by Robyn Nevin, who secured the rights for the play during her tenure as artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company. Nevin always had Blanchett in mind for Blanche. But the timing wasn't right for Blanchett – until now.

“Robyn had mentioned years ago that she had the rights when we were talking about doing Hedda Gabler and I thought, 'Oooh, no,' ” says Blanchett. “And then I met Liv in London – and I'd been desperate to work with her – and we were talking about various projects for quite some time and then Andrew [Upton, co-artistic director at the STC] brought up Streetcar. Suddenly the temperature in the room changed.”

Ullmann remembers the moment well. “When Andrew said that, I was thrilled," she says. "I had been thinking about it before I met Cate but I thought she would be much too young for the role, so I never talked about it.”

Ullmann, 70, is best known as muse to Ingmar Bergman, appearing in nine of his films, including Scenes from a Marriage and The Emigrants. She says watching Blanchett in rehearsals has been thrilling.

“As an actress, I played many wonderful roles but I never had the chance to play Blanche. But I know from the bottom of my soul that I would never be the kind of Blanche she is. Cate is making choices that I would never have thought of. Even if I don't say a word as the director, it is all magically happening in front of me. When I watch Cate, the hairs stand up on my arms.” Her voice softens and her eyes suddenly fill with tears.

“I admire Cate tremendously,” Ullmann says. “And if my eyes have tears that is because what she is doing in the rehearsal room is so magical.”

THE film and stage director Bruce Beresford – who directed the opera for Opera Australia in 2007 – laughs when asked what the play's appeal is. “Sex!” he says. “It's very, very powerful writing about human desire and that's what makes it so timeless. Those kinds of universal passions are not going to fizzle out in a hurry.”

The director, Benedict Andrews, who presented a stripped-back production of the play in Berlin in May, goes one step further. “All the characters in Streetcar are objects of desire for Tennessee Williams. It's like he's in drag and he either wanted to be them or f--- them.”

The story's anti-heroine is Blanche DuBois, a fragile Southern belle visiting her younger sister Stella (played in the forthcoming production by Robin McLeavy), now living in a seedy district of New Orleans. The sisters are scions of the old South, a family of plantation owners from Laurel, Mississippi. But Blanche is now broke, half-crazed with grief, a fantasist, a drunk. Stella's sexually aggressive husband, Stanley (Joel Edgerton), a working-class car parts salesman, is contemptuous of and attracted to his sister-in-law.

Booze, lust and madness in the steamy heat of New Orleans bring the trio undone.

“To understand the play, you have to delve into the man,” Blanchett says. “Tennessee Williams writes beautifully for women because the mask of writing for a female character is how he really expressed himself.”

Williams wrote the play in 1945 and when it was first produced on Broadway in 1947 the director Elia Kazan shrewdly noted that Blanche was really a self-portrait of the playwright. Williams, too, was a Mississippian – a man who drifted from one homosexual relationship to another – and tormented by the loss of his beloved sister, Rose, to madness. His alcohol and drug consumption was the stuff of legend.

“He's a man who is really crying out of his heart,” Ullmann says. “What he really wants people to know is that we must truly see each other and recognise each other. He has so much compassion for his characters and he never judges Blanche or Stanley. He wrote a letter to his mother saying, 'I am Stanley, too.' This violent, ape-like man is the kind of man he often ran after. It's what attracted him.”

Blanchett and Ullmann are acutely aware that audiences will be familiar with the 1951 film and the towering performances of Brando and Leigh. Rather than swerve away from its influence, they embrace it.

Ullmann's production will be a faithful recreation of 1940s New Orleans, awash with the blues music that Williams was listening to as he wrote the play. The apartment Blanche will share with Stella and Stanley will be cramped and claustrophobic. Only a flimsy curtain will separate them, as it did in Kazan's film.

“There are very, very few theatre texts that are masterpieces that also exist as a classic in film form,” Blanchett says. “I personally don't think the two mediums are mutually exclusive but the challenge in this particular case is to lift that text out from under the shadow of the film.”

Ullmann agrees. “I love the film and I admire the work of Elia Kazan. I can see no reason why we should deliberately ignore the film. But Cate and I talked about it and we know that sometimes in the theatre there can be a close-up that is even more magical than a close-up in a film because it is an incredible moment that is happening right now in front of you.”

As powerful as the film was, Beresford says the play was so shocking when it was first produced that censorship in Hollywood forced the film's producers to drop the more controversial scenes. “In the movie they deleted all reference to Blanche's affair with a 17-year-old schoolboy and anything about her finding her first husband in bed with another man. It weakened the film horribly and took a lot of the punch away from her character,” he says. “But I'm sure in this production of the play, they'll really go for broke.”

Andrews certainly didn't hold back in his Berlin production. His modern-day, German-speaking Blanche entered from the street through a door at the back of the theatre, staggering in broken high heels. She sprayed herself between the legs with perfume, changed outfits on stage, cigarette in mouth, bottle in hand.

“Our conceit was that she had already fallen as low as she could go and we watch the catastrophe of her drinking and madness increase during a series of monologues that are a bit like psychoanalytical sessions,” he says, adding that he felt liberated by doing the play in German instead of re-creating American Southern accents.

“The play runs the risk of being a sentimental museum piece. It has such a life force and I don't see the point in recreating it over and over as a period piece and have it lose its sting,” Andrews says. “We have to ask ourselves why return to it? And how are we returning to it? It's really the story of the collapse of a great woman. She has exceeded the limits of what society will allow and it makes us ask, 'How do we tolerate the bits of ourselves that are excessive?' ”

Ullmann believes the play is a long way from the museum. “I think it's more alive than ever. The theatre is still the place where you can go and see the truth about what it means to be alive and how important it is to listen and to see and to recognise each other.”


Protesters Halt Sotheby’s Auction

A group of protesters chanting “Sotheby's, Sotheby's, leave them alone, let us take our ancestors home” assailed art collectors arriving at an auction of “Important Australian Art” in Armadale, Australia, last night, reports The Age.

Five demonstrators led by two staff from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center were protesting outside Sotheby's at the proposed sale of “racist” nineteenth-century black plaster busts of Van Diemen's Land Aboriginal chief Woureddy and his wife, Truganini, who, to the offense of Aboriginal people, is often referred to as the last “full-blood” Tasmanian Aboriginal.

Sotheby's had withdrawn the works for sale just hours before the auction after it learned of the protest and growing attention in Tasmania. The busts had been expected to sell for between five hundred thousand and seven hundred thousand dollars for the vendor—a family from New South Wales that has owned them by familial descent from the original artist, Benjamin Law, who is considered Australia's first professional sculptor.

“In consultation with the vendor, Sotheby's has decided to withdraw the lots from sale,” the auction house said in a statement yesterday. “This has been done to ensure the safety and security of the public and staff, and protect the works.”

Protest organizer Sara Maynard, the legal field officer for the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center, said her group had decided to go ahead with the protest to bring attention to the issue and to “negotiate” with the vendor to return the busts to Tasmania's Aboriginal community. “These busts are not art. The image of Truganini on display shows she was the last full-blooded Aboriginal, and this provides a racist image that there is no continuing Aboriginal culture in Tasmania.”

Law made up to thirty casts of the busts and eight remain in public collections around Australia and overseas, including at the Melbourne Museum, Melbourne University, and the British Museum. The pair for sale have been on loan to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery since 1983 and were shown at Canberra's National Portrait Museum this year.


SnagFilms is an extraordinary site that features many documentaries, on many subjects. Each film is periodically interrupted by commercials but it is a
small price to pay for access to a treasure such as this.

Shipping Container Housing

Cove Park’s 2008 programme began in April and continues until November. This is our most comprehensive programme to date, bringing together over fifty national and international artists working in a wide variety of art forms and at all stages in their careers. We offer up to ten residencies at any one time and these residencies may last from one week to six months.
Artists are given the time, space and freedom to concentrate on the development of their work. Cove Park provides a supportive context in which artists can devise new projects, experiment and engage with artists working in different fields or with different approaches to their practice.
Cove Park is happy to support and facilitate the production of specific projects during residencies and, equally, to ensure that those artists who wish to develop new ideas without the constraints of the completion of a final piece of work are free to do so. The opportunity for individual research and development is enhanced through the interaction and discussion that takes place between the artists on residency. This is facilitated through a series of informal events, artists talks and presentations.


John Cage about Silence

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mystery of the hidden pig discovered in 17th century Dutch painting

Barn Interior, one of 16 paintings given to Calvin College in Michigan by alumnus Cornelius Van Nuis two years ago, shows a woman and two children inside a barn. It was painted by Egbert van der Poel, who lived from 1621 to 1664.

Last summer, Joel Zwart, the director of exhibitions at the college, sent the picture to Barry Bauman, a Chicago-based art conservator, for cleaning

Bauman noticed that a ladder on the left side of the painting had been heavily painted over and the paint was flaking.

Underneath, he discovered the pig, butchered and stretched hanging upside down from the ladder.

"It was painted over, and the obvious question is, Why was it painted over?" said Mr Zwart. "Well, it was most likely not covered over by the artist. Very likely a wealthy patron bought it.

"It's this grotesque scene, this butchered animal hanging in a barn. And quite likely this patron hired another artist to paint it over."

Mr Zwart said the restored work "looks a lot different than before, and it looks better.

The restoration work also revealed information about the painting's history. It turns out that the work is a "pendant," one of a pair of paintings on a shared theme. Barn Interior's companion painting hangs in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.


Transitory Objects

from the article,

“Transitory Objects,” the latest exhibit at Vienna’s influential Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary gallery, features some of the most innovative and splendidly unconventional forms coming out of the architectural world today, including works from Matthew Ritchie, Neri Oxman, Alisa Andrasek, François Roche, Greg Lynn, and Hernan Diaz Alonso. To have these mesmerizing structures together in one exhibit is remarkable in itself, but to have them positioned alongside works of contemporary art, as this exhibit has done, raises a provocative point about how boundaries have collapsed between architectural objects, conceptual art, and theoretical science. The exhibit aims to look at those architectural works that “have achieved an appearance of being autonomous forms,” says curator Daniela Zyman, suggesting that these works are meaningful outside of a specific context or place.

Ritchie, Oxman, Roche, and their colleagues split deeply from the finite, permanent, and utilitarian tradition of architecture. Not to say their end products are not useful or habitable. In fact, their structures are arguably better suited to the constantly morphing, impermanent, and aesthetically driven needs and desires of modern society. Rather than working with an end product or useful context in mind, they focus on the process of producing a structure that follows certain laws or principles. These resulting objects rise from computational models and algorithms whose inputs are being drawn from or at least inspired by some of the most boundary-pushing and abstract ideas in science, like quantum physics or the multiverse theory.

“Transitory Objects” includes two elegant models from Alisa Andrasek/BIOTHING that are part of a design project called “Mesonic Emission,” a reference to mesons, subatomic particles composed of quarks. These designs are made from an algorithm that is based on behaviors of electro-magnetic fields and is sophisticated enough to respond to the shape of the environment and to “grow” around obstructing objects. [For details about the algorithm, click here].

Matthew Ritchie’s two pieces in the exhibit are based on cosmologists Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok’s cyclic universe theory. Speaking about his modular architecture at Seed’s Design Series last year, Ritchie told the audience, “I want to make a physicalized model of everything in the universe…. [I]t will be a superposed structure in the sense that it has multiple options contained within it at any given time and that it can be rebuilt.” The resulting black-aluminum modules are assembled using the logic of language and form a web-like tangle that can be reassembled in an infinite number of ways. For “Transitory Objects” close to 100 of the pieces have been assembled for an entirely unique 10’ x 20’ x 10’ structure.


The Rorschach Paintings

In creating her new series, Pareidolia, artist and chemist Vesna Jovanovic detected biomorphic and medical forms in blots of ink.

from the article,

Science in our society is a key source of information about the world—conversely a source of awe, admiration, and fear (the way religion once was). Pareidolia conveys both the curiosity and fear that are often associated with scientific research; the chaos of spilled ink is seen in contrast with the detailed and calculated, yet absurd configurations of tubing and glassware drawn on top of it. In a sense, I have created my own Rorschach test—one that that had tapped into my deep-rooted attraction to the chemistry lab, both visually and conceptually. Ultimately, I find that science and art are complementary to each other and equally important in social significance and function. Science strives to provide answers about the world, while art strives to inspire questions.


Film on Confucius Resurfacing

from the article,

After years of painstaking restoration, the archive premiered a partially reassembled “Confucius” during April’s Hong Kong International Film Festival. Mr. Ho said a more complete version should be ready by early next year. While Fei Mu’s slow-moving, meditative drama is unlikely to outshine a forthcoming lavish biopic about Confucius starring the Hong Kong film idol Chow Yun-Fat, it will give filmgoers a chance to get acquainted with a singular piece of China’s cinematic heritage.

“‘Confucius’ has always been considered a lost film,” Mr. Ho said. “It’s always been a major missing piece in the puzzle of the cinema of Fei, because of the time it was made and his aesthetic development as an artist.”

Though relatively few of his films have survived physically the passage of time, Fei is revered by fans of classic Chinese cinema. His 1948 love story, “Spring in a Small Town,” was voted the greatest Chinese film of all time by Hong Kong’s Film Awards Association in 2005. That film was also remade, in 2002, by the influential director Tian Zhuangzhuang.

“Confucius” dates from a particularly tumultuous period in both Fei’s career and China’s history. With the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937, Fei, along with thousands of others, fled Shanghai for Hong Kong. There he met a group of aspiring young movie producers, including Jin Xinmin, an herbal medicine merchant and ardent film buff. Together, they struck upon the idea of making a film biography of Confucius — a politically fraught gesture at a time when Chinese culture seemed under attack from all sides.


His film Spring In A Small Town in its entireity, from 1948. Without English subtitles.

SANDOW BIRK: Personal Meditations’ on the Koran

from the article,

Upon being told of the project, Marianna Shreve Simpson, an Islamic art and book-arts expert who is president-elect of the Historians of Islamic Art Association, anticipated that some Muslims might consider the use of figurative images in this context “heretical.” But she added that reactions are especially hard to predict in this case because it’s so unusual. “I’ve never in my entire career heard of an artist creating a handwritten copy of the Koran in English, and certainly not one that incorporates representational imagery. So this is completely novel, what he is doing.”

Formally Mr. Birk is known for novelty, for scrambling high and low art by updating genres like European history painting with a graphic, urban sensibility. For this project, he said, he paid homage to Persian miniatures by working with watercolors and gouaches and adopting a relatively flat, non-Western perspective. And in keeping with historic examples of the Koran he made blue, red and gold the touchstones of his color scheme.

At the same time his take on the Koran is highly unconventional, complete with gritty street scenes that reflect his own skate-surf aesthetic. His calligraphy is loosely based on Cholo graffiti associated with East Los Angeles. And instead of celebrating the text as the focal point in keeping with the Islamic bias against figurative imagery, he has painted elaborate narrative scenes underneath the written word.


Link to WOrk:

Jukka-Pekka Kervinen: Composer, writer, visual artist, publisher

Jukka-Pekka Kervinen (b. 1961) is a Finnish composer, writer and visual artist. He studied musicology and composition in University of Helsinki in 1981-88 and has worked since then as a teacher, freelance composer, writer, visual artist and publisher. Most of his current works are algorithmic compositions, he is developing a new system, GenPM, a general-purpose composing system to generate conventional scores and digital audio output. First compositions are a group of postminimal chamber works for small ensembles, the theoretical base for the works are from Henry Cowell, J. Schillinger, the program is based on controlled indeterminacy and simple combinatorics to mix elements to fit any particular 'style' by using 'virtual' punchcards to control the algorithms.

Jukka's works have been performed in USA and Europe, for instance by Carson Cooman, Duo46 and NYME. Jukka lives in small village Puhos, in Kitee, North Karelia with his wife and two youngest children.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thai writer Ob Jayavasu's life as the famous 'Humorist'

from the article,

From his very first piece there, Ma Jing Jing Pen Yarng Rai (What Exactly Is a Horse?), Ob carved for himself a distinct genre of humorous writing, one that is a mix of wit and subtlety and has little to do with vulgar innuendoes. His command of the Thai language is second to none, and being quintessentially Thai in nature, often makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to translate. Every now and then, though, there is even a tinge of melancholy, or one could say, dark humour cloaked underneath the so-called comedy.

Another constant trait in most of Ob's works is the presence of the character "I", or layers of "I", which allows the writer to play with the blur between what seems to be drawn from his personal life and his imagination, mocking his own sense of identity and importance.

In Ekkaphot Burut Thi Nueng (The First Person - Singular), Ob continues to play with the fluidity of this stock character. From the outset, he stresses how the "I" in the story is not the same as the "I" whose name appears as its writer. Written in 1947, the plot is a mischievous postmodern (if one could apply such a term) satire of how a writer discovered fame after he has been presumed dead by the public.

"If, say, after we died, and people started praising us tremendously, we become hugely famous, our works greatly admired, shouldn't we die then and there? Wouldn't death be better than being alive?"

At 81, Ob confided to an interviewer that Ekkaphot Burut Thi Nueng was his favourite piece, for it reflects the truth about a writer's existence as accolades usually come only posthumously.

In retrospect, however, Ob had quite a blessed life. Despite the minor glitches in his teaching and journalism careers, the man was recognised for his scholarship and contributions to the corpus of Thai language. He was declared a National Artist in 1986 and received the prestigious Phra Kiew golden award from Chulalongkorn University for his role in promoting the Thai language in the same year.

In the past couple of years, some of his works have been reissued. A collection of seven short stories has been put on the "one hundred books every Thai should read" compiled by the Thailand Research Fund.

It remains to be seen how many of Humorist's works will continue to be appreciated by the Thai public. In fact, a number of Thai writers have acknowledged the man's unique, well-polished prose as being influential in their formative years. Among them is SEA Write laureate Prabda Yoon.

"His life and works represent perfect humanism in my eye," Says Prabda. "His works are fun, humorous, stinging, witty, modern and diverse. They reflect the society, and the [writer's] mastery of language, both in Thai and English, someone who can convey messages breezily. He does not set himself up as a scholar or leader, nor does he try to impose any particular set of ideology on anyone. His personal life was quite colourful. He befriended all the interesting figures of his time. But he also had a peaceful side - he stayed quietly at home, had a good family and died of old age. I cannot think of anyone who enjoyed a better life than this."


Henry Darger at The American Folk Art Museum

The American Folk Art Museum is devoting an intimate gallery on the fourth floor to rotating exhibitions focusing on a single theme. The first of these showcases eight of the nearly three hundred watercolors Henry Darger created to illustrate his 15,000-page manuscript The Story of the Vivian Girls, in what is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. Volume 6 of that epic is also on view.

The museum is home to the single largest public repository of works by Henry Darger (1892-1973), one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century. The works on view in "Up Close: Henry Darger" are drawn from this extensive collection.


zoophilious terraquarium – the anarchic taxonomy of chris garofalo

Zoophilious terraquarium: the anarchic taxonomy of chris garofalo opens at the Muskegon Museum of Art on June 4. The public is invited to an opening reception for the exhibition that night, starting at 5:30 p.m. Chicago-based ceramic artist Chris Garofalo will present an iMovie about her work at 7:00 p.m. The 45-minute film provides insight into the artist’s creative motivations and is composed of still and moving images, combined with music and text. The film will be shown in the MMA’s auditorium. Reception and film admission are free. Zoophilious terraquarium will be on display through September 13.

Garofalo’s finely detailed, glazed porcelain sculptures are comprised of elements of land and sea, evoking primeval environments that have evolved outside the human sphere of influence. Grouped together, these specimens manifest a curious universe of the artist’s making. More than 70 objects, ranging in size from a few inches to more than a foot in diameter, are mounted on a “landscape” specially designed by the artist and her architect-husband, Doug. The primordial scene is suspended with wavelike undulation from the ceiling by cables that allow it to float from near eye level to a few feet off the floor.

Garofalo titles each of her objects and installations with language as unexpected as her ceramic life forms. “Zoophilious” is a play on the word “zoophilous,” or pollinated by animals. We usually think of pollination occurring among plants and insects, or perhaps birds, in the interest of producing more plants. Animal pollination conjures up offspring that are both plant and animal. A terrarium or an aquarium is a kind of controlled, contained ecosystem of either earth or water. “Zoophilious terraquarium” implies an ecosystem containing creatures both terrestrial and aquatic, equal parts plant and animal. “Taxonomy” is a means of classifying organisms in an ordered system, while “anarchic” describes the opposite, something without a cohesive standard. This dichotomy describes opposite qualities demonstrated in Garofalo’s works—aggressive/delicate, wild/tamed, and alien/familiar.
Chris Garofalo was a graphic designer before she discovered the organic medium of clay. She has lived in Chicago since 1980 and began exhibiting in 1991. In 2007, she received the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painter and Sculptor Grant Award, and is currently represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago.


Evidence of Being: A Conversation with Richard Humann

While Williamsburg can claim no movement as its own, the inventive sculpture of Richard Humann reveals what made the hip Brooklyn neighborhood a creative escape from art world institutionalization and commercialization in the 1990s. Although Williamsburg has recently succumbed to development pressures, driving out mid-level artists at crucial stages in their careers, Humann retains his original studio while exhibiting throughout the United States and internationally.
Humann, who was born in 1961, delivers a crucial message about the keys to his generation’s ascent to power: integration and containment. Arising out of the open community in which he was a pioneer, his vision matured under a short-lived neo-Fluxus experiment in a Broadway space linked to Fluxus founder George Maciunas. Humann’s experimental approach led to works that juxtapose historically sanctioned self-exploration with the tightening noose of academic appropriation and the globalized international art market. His examinations of the personal and the universal alternate between investigations of coding systems and explorations of the individual subconscious projected in everyday objects. In 1997, at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, he made his mark with The Lightbox, a piece in which he illuminated the work of fellow artists.
His intention was to create a raw exchange of identities, energies, and ideas. He then embarked on a personal journey that examined new archetypes within universal systems of coding (“Psycho Killer,” Lance Fung Gallery, 1998). In “Evidence of my Being” (Lance Fung Gallery, 2000), he used his own image to explore the choices facing the collective ego: surrender to an emerging archetype versus the desire for personal fame. This led to the depletion of his subconscious in “A Childish Fear” (Lance Fung Gallery, 2003) and subsequent integration of his dual path of exploration through the human body. His most recent exhibition at Elga Wimmer PCC in Chelsea, “You Must Be This Tall,” featured a miniature satirical amusement park.

Lisa Paul Streitfeld: Dunk the Clown, to me, is the key to “You Must Be This Tall”: the geometry of the noose above the trap door means death by hanging, but on another level it is an opening of possibility, discovery, and creativity. When did you start it?
Richard Humann: Two years ago, around the New Year. It was begun, destroyed, and begun again. It started with me reinventing myself, the idea of who I am as an artist. I went back to my roots, asking, “Where did my art start?” Even at 15 years old, I was attracted to Minimalism. Donald Judd was my inspiration. So, I thought, “What would I do with a Donald Judd box?” I started envisioning it as a room. The box is a room where things live. Somehow I got the idea of building an electric chair in this room. On the wall, there would be a video screen with cartoons. I built a mini-electric chair, but took it away. It was too obvious. I went back to other things. And then, six months later, I did this project.


Ivan Arguelles: Inferno

Poetry. " has to read this work with a new mind-set. Instead of looking for the neat moral conclusion, one has to allow oneself to be 'drowned' in the ocean of this stunning and protean work and be receptive to all the ambiguities and contradictions it contains. One should not look for an 'end' to it, for it is endless. You can never 'finish' reading it, but now you must 'start'!"

--Dr. John M. Bennett.

from 9th. St. Blog,

Inferno by Ivan Argüelles with cover and introduction by John M. Bennett is a radical re-visoning of Dante's epic and has just been published and is available for $15.00 from: Beatitude Press Press at 1731 10th Street #A Berkeley CA 94710 or thru Small Press Distribution:


Image Source:

Art Begins To Flourish In Kashmir

ARTIST: Masood Hussain, a sculptor and teacher, brought an arts conference back to Srinigar after it had gone years without such gatherings.

from the article,

SRINAGAR, India -- At times it was enough just to stay alive, or to keep from breaking down when friends were dying and soldiers came knocking. Ugliness replaced beauty, and the finer things -- art, music, poetry -- seemed unbearable luxuries, like a rich dessert on an empty stomach.

But after nearly two decades of devastating conflict, of violence made more horrific by the achingly lovely natural surroundings, times are better now in Kashmir, the Himalayan region fought over by India and Pakistan. The two countries are engaged in a peace process, and the arts here are slowly coming back to life.

Over the last two or three years, Kashmiri painters, sculptors, filmmakers, poets and playwrights have again started plowing ground that had lain fallow for so long. Their cautious reemergence comes at a time when civil society as a whole is beginning to reclaim the space formerly monopolized by the Indian army and Pakistani-backed militants, whose confrontations have left more than 60,000 people dead since 1989.

"People have started to come out of their fear," filmmaker Akmal Hanan said as he sipped a cappuccino at a hip cafe here in Srinagar, the summer capital of the portion of Kashmir controlled by India. "I see a lot of potential."

Last year, a documentary Hanan shot about the travails of traditional Kashmiri potters screened at Srinagar's first festival of documentary, animated and short films. The year before that, an audience of hundreds gave a standing ovation to the premiere of the first digital feature film in the Kashmiri language, a story of star-crossed love set in the 19th century, directed by Aarshad Mushtaq.

Both men's films touched on themes of traditional Kashmiri culture, which bears more affinities with the Islamic culture of Central Asian nations to the west, such as Iran and Afghanistan, than with traditional Indian civilization to the south. Though fiercely proud of their heritage, the people here have struggled to preserve their identity under Indian rule and amid the same globalizing trends that have put indigenous cultures under pressure the world over.


Julian Schnabel, Untitled (Chinese Paintings)

La mostra, realizzata da Marco Voena in collaborazione con la Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico, Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale della città di Napoli, presenta, in Italia per la prima volta, nove grandi tele dell’artista e regista americano appartenenti alla serie delle Chinese Paintings. Dipinte partendo da un’immagine comune, un vecchio specchio cinese, attraverso l’uso di inchiostri, resine e olio, il pittore è riuscito, in ogni dipinto, a esprimere una mutevole dimensione poetica e onirica, che rende ogni tela un pezzo unico e sorprendente.


The extension, realized from Voena Mark in collaboration with the Special Soprintendenza for the Historical, Artistic Patrimony, Etnoantropologico and for the Museale Pole of the city of Naples, introduces, in Italy for the first time, nine great burlaps of the artist and director American pertaining to the series of the Chinese Paintings. Painted leaving from a common image, an old Chinese mirror, through the use of inks, I rendered of it and oil, the painter is successful, in every painting, to express a changing poetica and onirica dimension, that it renders every burlap an only and amazing piece.

Translation by:

A>D>D Sonic Youth Antenna


Charlotte Gainsbourg/Beck Album Details

Back in June, Beck dropped a few hints about an upcoming album he was working on with Gallic singer-actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, and now that album-- dubbed IRM, which is French for MRI-- is set for release this coming January via Because.

And while we assume Charlotte's name will grace the LP's cover in bold type, Beck's contribution can't be underestimated-- not only did he write all of the record's music, he co-wrote the lyrics, produced, and mixed the thing. And if that photo of Charlotte and Beck up there is to be believed, these guys were concentrating super hard on this stuff while in the studio. Consider your classy/sultry post-holiday bash soundtracked.

In other Beck news, the online powerhouse continues to update his official site with cool mixes, covers, and videos on a daily basis. He's got another Record Club covers project debuting next Thursday that features MGMT, Devendra Banhart, and members of Wolfmother and Little Joy.


Novoram: Rammed Earth Housing

John Novotny, a Melbourne resident, has developed a very simple and innovative method of rammed earth construction that results in houses massively cheaper than conventional ones and with amazing environmental benefits.He passionately wants to see this technique widely used to benefit ordinary people and contribute to a better world


On the Hunt for Jefferson's Lost Books

A Library of Congress curator is on a worldwide mission to find exact copies of the books that belonged to Thomas Jefferson

from the article,

For more than a decade, Mark Dimunation has led a quest to rebuild an American treasure—knowing he will likely never see the complete results of his efforts.

On an August day 195 years ago, the British burned the U.S. Capitol in the War of 1812 and by doing so, destroyed the first Library of Congress. When the war ended, former President Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his personal library, which at 6,487 books was the largest in America, to Congress for whatever price the legislators settled upon. After much partisan debate and rancor, it agreed to pay Jefferson $23,950.

Then another fire in the Capitol on Christmas Eve of 1851 incinerated some 35,000 volumes, including two-thirds of the books that had belonged to Jefferson. And although Congress appropriated funds to replace much of the Library of Congress collection, the restoration of the Jefferson library fell by the wayside.

Since 1998, Dimunation, the rare-books and special collections curator for the Library of Congress, has guided a slow-moving, yet successful search for the 4,324 Jefferson titles that were destroyed. The result of his labor thus far is on view at the library in the Jefferson Collection Exhibition.


Brian Jungen: Native American Artist from Vancouver

from the article,

There's an old belief, shared by many cultures, that a sculpture is hidden within a block of uncut stone, just waiting for an artist to reveal it. Jungen, 39, likely would agree: the half-Dunne-za (a Canadian Indian tribe), half-Swiss installation artist has a gift for seeing images in mundane objects. "When a product breaks, it's kind of liberated in my eyes," says Jungen. In 1997, when the Dunne-za chief council began distributing funds from a land claims settlement among tribal members, the artist noticed that some of them were using the money to buy leather couches. "I thought it was this crazy icon of wealth," he says. "But there's a lot of hide in them." Jungen dismantled 11 Natuzzi sofas and built a massive tepee with the leather and wood.

In 2000, Jungen began noticing all the broken white, molded-plastic patio chairs being put out for trash on curbsides. At the time, he says, he was reading about the history of whaling, and "everything kind of clicked." Hence, Shapeshifter (2000), Cetology (2002) and Vienna (2003)—three 21- to 40-foot-long whale skeletons made with plastic "bones" carved out of the chairs. Next month, Jungen will become the first living artist to have a solo exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C. "Brian Jungen: Strange Comfort" opens on October 16. (Crux, the centerpiece, will be installed in the Potomac Atrium, the museum's soaring rotunda.)

Sitting in a fifth-floor conference room at the museum wearing a T-shirt, camouflage cargo shorts and Adidas trail runners, Jungen displays a teenage spirit that belies his age. It's as if his surname, which translates to "youth" in Swiss German, is prophetic—right down to his subtle mohawk hairstyle and timid smile that reveals braces on his teeth.

Jungen considers his work a "return to the use of whatever a Native American artist has at his disposal." He credits his Dunne-za side of the family for his resourcefulness. As a kid in northeastern British Columbia, he'd watch his relatives recycle different household objects to extend their usefulness. In his early years, he dabbled in just about every artistic medium. Then, on a 1998 visit to New York City, Jungen saw some red, white and black Nike Air Jordan basketball shoes in a store window. They were the traditional colors of the Haida, an indigenous peo­ple of the Pacific Northwest coast. Meticulously re­stitching the shoes into ceremonial masks, the "wizardly craftsman," as New York Times art critic Grace Glueck called him, fashioned shoe tongues into curled ears, reinforced toes into chins and Nike swooshes into eyes.


Akram Zaatari: Sfeir-Semler Gallery and Beirut Art Center, Beirut

from the article,

‘Earth of Endless Secrets’ performs the difficulties of directly accessing the histories and testimonies of war, occupation and resistance. Though due partly to logistical constraints, holding the exhibition in separate venues (between which there are formal parallels) enacts how fractured histories only become knowable once the impossibility of accessing them is acknowledged. Although, in some instances ‘Earth of Endless Secrets’ emanates a kind of flattening effect whereby a fraught history is organized into too clean-cut terms, the gestures of secret letters and testimonial remains also, however, makes Zaatari’s interventions seem akin to arranging fossils (images of found shells, the capsule letter, the bombed-out hills he shot as a teenager, even the fictive videos, all act like imprints). They do this without making lofty, authoritative claims.


'Starting Point' gives a rare glimpse of acclaimed animator Hayao Miyazaki

from the article,

As a boy, Miyazaki loved the early manga of Osamu Tezuka, the creator of "Astro Boy." But as Miyazaki struggled to find his artistic voice, he rejected that influence: "When I was finally forced to admit that my drawings actually did look like Tezuka's, I took out the sketches I had stored in the drawer of our dresser and burned them all. I burned them and resolved to start over from scratch, and in the belief that I needed to study the basics first, I went back to practicing drawing and draftsmanship. Yet it still wasn't easy to rid myself of Tezuka's influence." The reinvention of his personal style culminated in the creation of "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind," an ecological fantasy Miyazaki wrote and drew off and on from 1982 through 1994.

Miyazaki can be a perceptive critic, pointing out the weaknesses of the ill-fated "Mr. Bug Goes to Town" (1941) or recounting his efforts to escape the influence of "the cheap, spiritually feeble, third-rate quality of the last thirty years of postwar Japanese popular culture." In his essay on "The Man Who Planted Trees," Miyazaki praises not only the beauty and heartfelt power of the film, but the skill with which Back captures the subtle movements of the natural world:

"If we draw just the plants waving in the breeze, it looks formulaic. Plants exist in the weather and light rays that surround them -- waving in the wind, shimmering in the sunlight. I am always puzzling over how to draw such things. . . . But Back has taken this problem head on and mastered it." Miyazaki's admirers will be most interested in his comments on his own work and personal life. In an essay from 1992, he recalls that when his sons were young, "they made me want to make movies for them, to show them certain kinds of work. My children were both my motivation for work and my best audience." But he also confesses he was rarely at home and left the raising of the children to his wife.

He describes the various landscapes he combined to form the backgrounds in "My Neighbor Totoro," reprints his notes about the characters in his earlier films, and mischievously tells anecdotes about his old friend and colleague Isao Takahata, the director of "Grave of the Fireflies" and "My Neighbors the Yamadas."

These rare insights into one of the greatest talents the art of animation has produced make "Starting Point" essential reading for anyone interested in Japanese -- or Western -- animation. However, the anthology covers only to 1996, before Miyazaki made his most mature films: "Princess Mononoke" (1997), "Spirited Away" (2001) and "Howl's Moving Castle" (2004). Readers and viewers can only hope a second volume is already in the works.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Pete Townshend writing new musical, Floss

Pete Townshend once wrote "I hope I die before I get old."

Now the 64-year-old guitarist and songwriter for British rock band The Who says he is working on a new musical about ageing.

Townshend says Floss will focus on a pub-rock musician and his troubled relationship with his wife, who runs a riding stable.

He says he wants to use the angry medium of rock 'n' roll to take on issues of aging and mortality facing the baby boom generation.

Songs from Floss will feature on a new Who album due next year.

Townshend said on Tuesday he is in talks with New York producers about staging the show in 2011.

Townshend's previous rock operas Quadrophenia and Tommy started as albums and later became films and stage musicals.


Anne Carson’s String Theory

from the article,

Carson, the Lillian Vernon Writer-in-Residence at the NYU Creative Writing Program, has under her name as many awards as books and is one of a very few surviving examples of a nearly extinct species: the famous living poet. (Seven hundred people, Friday night, New York City, poet—any questions?) Her outsize fan base can be partly attributed to the fact that Carson is not really a poet, exactly, or not only a poet. Rather, she is a postmodernist-classicist textual artist, as comfortable writing about Aretha Franklin and Joseph Beuys as about Sappho and Ovid, as likely to deploy spare bursts of arrhythmic prose as dactyls and trochees. Since the 1960s, a playful bunch of Renaissance Faire types calling themselves the Society for Creative Anachronism have carved a place for themselves in the Bay Area. While Carson is not, academically speaking, a medievalist—nor, judging from her slim frame, a mutton-and-mead kind of gal—the title suits her: She is a creative anachronist.

For a writer fixated on the color red, the Skirball Center was a sympathetic venue. The seats lining the handsome, wood-paneled auditorium were upholstered in a fetching fire-engine hue. These were filled by an equally attractive all-ages crowd that radiated the kind of anticipatory excitement usually reserved for rock stars. Without flourish, Creative Writing Program director Deborah Landau emerged onstage, welcomed the audience, and introduced Mark Bibbins, who in turn introduced Carson, announcing that he had made a film to kick off the evening. Quoting Brian Eno, Bibbins said his film was guided by the principle that “it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.” After ten or so minutes of close-up shots of paintings, collages, and pages from Carson’s books, scored by ambient electronic music, Bibbins had succeeded in meeting this standard.

Then Carson appeared, resembling a fashionable student in her naval-inspired jacket, black floral pleated skirt, black tights, and red cowboy boots, accompanied by the yarn man and the three dancers (two males, one female). In a tiny voice, Carson said that tonight was a “neo-post-Fluxus evening,” deadpanning that we were looking at the entirety of the movement. She explained that the first fragments she would be reading were from the subject index of Roni Horn’s forthcoming 2009 Whitney Museum retrospective catalogue, the writers of which, including Carson, had been asked to base their entries on the artwork titles. Carson admitted that she had misunderstood the instructions, writing on individual words in the titles instead. One fragment involved H. G. Wells’s long-suffering wife. Carson read in a breathy, affectless voice, occasionally rolling on her ankles.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Marc Ribot: Questing After Coltrane’s Messy Transcendence

from the article,

He’s after the same thing with Sun Ship, named after an album of similar temperament by John Coltrane. Mr. Ribot unveiled this group in May, during a week of festivities tied to his 55th birthday. It resurfaced on Wednesday night at Rose Live Music in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, drawing largely from the album.

“Sun Ship” was recorded in late August 1965, a time of steep transition for Coltrane. Two months earlier he had made his large-canvas free-jazz album “Ascension.” He still had his quartet, but his music was pulling away from its foundations. On one level “Sun Ship” reflects Coltrane’s attunement to younger saxophonists like Ayler. On another it represents a moment of late grace for his landmark first band. (It was released in 1971, four years after Coltrane’s death.)

Mr. Ribot’s strategy for this music skirts the obvious angles of approach. His Sun Ship features neither tenor saxophone nor piano. Instead he enlists a second guitarist, Mary Halvorson, as well as Jason Ajemian on upright bass and Chad Taylor on drums. He assumes an unambiguous lead voice, as Coltrane did, but his vision for the band descends from multiple stylistic platforms: not just polyrhythmic post-bop but also Cuban music, psychedelic surf-rock, maybe a bit of vintage punk.


William Burroughs at the Berg

from the article,

The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection has posted the finding aid for the William S. Burroughs Papers. A guide to the papers can now be accessed here.

The archive is a swirl of 1960s political, popular and literary culture, offering a close look at a cross-section of social revolutions that caught fire in the late fifties and sixties, including the rise of drugs, the gay liberation movement, free speech and the development of Scientology. Here too, are many of the era’s most innovative artists, thinkers and experimental writers. Burroughs's correspondents include Paul Bowles, Mary Beach & Claude Pelieu, David Budd, Truman Capote, Gregory Corso, Brion Gysin, Allen Ginsburg, Rolf Gunter-Dienst, Lawrence Fehrlinghetti, Charles Henri Ford, Timothy Leary, Jack Kerouac, David Prentice and Terry Southern. Also present is extensive correspondence with noted publishers Dick Seaver and Barney Rossett of Grove Press and Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press.

The archive offers an extensive record of the evolution of Burroughs’s cut-up method, wherein the author cut-up and randomly arranged fragments of text to create arbitrary phrases. Burroughs viewed the cut-up method as a corrective to the exertion of conscious thought on language, and saw it as a way to create texts that were fresh and spontaneous. Using this method, Burroughs created his “word horde”, a collection of texts from which he drew to create the novels Naked Lunch, The Ticket that Exploded, and Soft Machine (the archive devotes several folders to each, along with folders devoted to the word horde alone). Extensive correspondence with the painter Brion Gysin, who introduced Burroughs to his own visual cut-ups in Paris at the Beat Hotel in 1959 and inspired Burroughs to apply the method to texts, is instructive on technique and practice. Drafts and correspondence related to their book, The Third Mind, can also be found here.

Burroughs plays with images using the cut-up technique as well; the archive is rich in photographs of photographs, typescripts and newspaper clippings taken by Burroughs himself that he cut-up and rearranged. Cut-up letters written to his mother, brother and son, as well as to Gysin, Paul Bowles and other friends corroborate that Burroughs was experimenting with the technique in all facets of his writing.

In letters to Gysin, Ginsburg and Bowles in the archive, Burroughs’s literary philosophy begins to emerge. Correspondence between the nomadic Ginsburg and Burroughs is as rich and far-flung in the territory each covered in their travels. Ginsberg writes fizzy, dense letters that zigzag from topic to topic in much the same fashion that his poetry leaps. The poet furnishes his letters with vivid travelogue accounts of travels in Benares, Chile, and Calcutta, and with bird’s eye views of Greenwich Village in the fifties and sixties (Ginsberg likens the terrain to Asian landscape watercolors, but his downtown apartments are jumpy, desperate places for strivers on Mescaline). In turn, Burroughs writes fascinating letters unraveling the cut-up technique. Cut-ups, he tells Ginsburg, are funny. He prescribes mixing the technique with yagé (a hallucinogenic vine, used for spiritual practice in Columbia by Amazonian peoples, and later the subject of Burroughs and Ginsberg’s Yage Letters). Amongst the post that Burroughs received is a holograph draft of Ginsburg’s “Kaddish”, signed by his friend.


Renowned translator Pivano dies

(ANSA) - Rome, August 19 - Italy on Wednesday was mourning the death of Fernanda Pivano, known above all for making modern American literature accessible to the public through her translations of works ranging from Ernest Hemingway to the Beat poets and Bob Dylan.

Pivano, who turned 92 a month ago, died in a Milan clinic Tuesday evening and is expected to be buried in her native Genoa.

After growing up in Genoa, Pivano moved with her family to Turin where in 1941 she earned a degree in American literature and her thesis on Herman Melville's Moby Dick won her a prize at the Center of American Studies in Rome.

After her degree she translated Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology which was published in 1943 by Einaudi, where novelist Cesare Pavese, who was her teacher in high school, became her editor and mentor.

In 1948, Pivano met Hemingway in Cortina and they developed a long personal and professional relationship which first saw her translate his novel A Farewell to Arms for the Mondadori publishing house and later all his works.

While working at Mondadori she also translated F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night, This Side of Paradise and the Beautiful and the Damned. Pivano first visited the United States in 1956 and discovered the 'Beat Generation', returning to Italy to translate and write the introduction to Jack Kerouac's On the Road and later the poems of Allen Ginsberg and the other Beat Poets.

She also oversaw and wrote the introduction to the first translation in Italian of the lyrics of Bob Dylan.

Her interest in American culture continued into her final years and is responsible for promoting in Italy the latest generation of American writers including Bret Easton Ellis and David Foster Wallace.

Aside from working as a journalist and critic, Pivano was also an established writer and produced a number of biographies, including an award-winning one of Hemingway, several memoirs and an autobiography, the second installment of which she gave her editor last month.


Among the eulogies which flowed in on Wednesday were tributes from two of Pivano's personal friends: Italy's Nobel laureate for literature Dario Fo and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, one of the last remaining survivors of the 'Beat Generation' which Pivano introduced to the Italian cultural mainstream. ''She was an incredible woman with an extraordinary mind of rare intelligence,'' Fo recalled on the online daily

''We knew each other well having taken part in many debates and meetings over the years. But more important were the times we met in private. To say that I'm saddened seems so insufficient and banal,'' Fo added.

''She had an extremely high sense of civic responsibility. She took part in countless struggles and battles without ever holding back, always adopting clear cut stances from both a political and cultural standpoint. She left a lasting mark and this is the most important thing,'' he added. In an interview published in the Rome daily La Repubblica, Ferlinghetti said ''I am greatly saddened. This is not just a personal loss, for Fernanda was a great friend, but also a loss for international literature''. Looking back at his first meetings with Pivano, at the start of the Beat movement in the early 1950s, Ferlinghetti recalled that ''Fernanda wanted to become the narrator of this new literary movement and the life style which accompanied it. I must admit that she immediately grasped its spirit and was able to transmit it''.

Ferlinghetti said they first met when she came to his home in California to interview him for the Turin daily La Stampa and ''I read (Allen Ginsberg's) Howl to her. It was the first time she had heard it and she was awestruck. For her Allen was a discovery and she basically forgot about me, no longer really interested in what I had written. After that he was the one she was out to champion''. Pivano, Ferlinghetti observed, ''was a very loyal woman, endowed with great tenacity and curiosity. She was also an excellent translator, a warm and humane person''. In a comment to Rome's Il Messaggero, Ferlinghetti recalled ''like all of us and like the world around us, Fernanda moved quickly in those days so long ago''


Dixon’s Civil War Exhibit Punctuated by Whitman’s Poetry

from the article,

“When I first started thinking about this exhibition, I was thinking of a landscape show from the 1860s,” said Sharp, who curated the exhibition himself. “I started thinking about the relationship between landscapes and poetry – poetry led to Walt Whitman, and next thing I knew I’m doing this Cecil B. de Mille version of this little show.

“That’s the wonderful thing about doing these kinds of projects. They often take you to places you didn’t expect to go.”

The exhibition leads viewers through five “chapters” of Whitman’s experience of the war, beginning with the news that his brother, George, had been wounded in the battle of Fredericksburg.

Walt Whitman, who had remained relatively unknown despite the third edition of his masterpiece “Leaves of Grass” being published, boarded a train the same day and found his brother alive in a hospital camp, but stayed on to nurse wounded soldiers.

The exhibition includes more than 60 pieces by American artists from every genre up through the mid-19th century from the romantically influenced Hudson School to Daguerreotype portraiture. Among those are Winslow Homer, Eastman Johnson, Sanford Robinson Gifford, Frederic Church and John Frederick Kensett.

“What we began to look for was the variety of expression,” Sharp said. “What we didn’t want is to illustrate the war. We wanted works that expressed the war.”


Mexican Silversmith Antonio Pineda


Architecture Week: AIA Small Project Awards 2009

from the article,

When Nanette and Jerry Stump bought a wooded property in Evansville, Indiana, to build an accessible retirement home, they turned to a young architect fresh out of school: their son.

Parental faith in a designer without a completed project to his name did not go unrewarded. The Stumps have enjoyed living in their Luminous Bodies Residence for the last two years, and the design was recently honored by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in its 2009 Small Project Awards.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky

Link to podcast of an interview with director:

Salman Rushdie: The Ground Beneath Her Feet

from the article,

And that's why this book is so great, why it surpasses most of his published work to date. Readers can always tell when the author cares, and when the author is, for lack of a better phrase, in love with his characters and his subject matter. Rushdie has never been this much in love with the written word, and the result is a novel that comes very, very close to explaining rock 'n' roll. Before I read this novel, 10 years ago, I would have said that was an impossible task. I won’t say that now.

In a 1999 essay entitled "Rock Music -- A Sleeve Note," Rushdie sniffed, "I don't subscribe to the lyrics-are-poetry school of rock aficionado overclaiming." I do, and some days I might go so far as to say that the rockers now have the upper hand. After I reread "The Ground Beneath Her Feet," I'd guess that Rushdie wasn't being entirely honest with himself. His love for rock 'n' roll is gloriously unconcealed in this novel; it's the kind of love and ardor that poets, not mere entertainers, can inspire. He's a rock fan, and this novel proves he's the kind of fan who accepts that music can change the world, not just sell records and land its artists on magazine covers. In terms of art, and in terms of joy, it's hard to overclaim the effect that people like John Lennon, like Lou Reed, like David Bowie can have on society. That's what being a fan is about, and Rushdie knows it. That’s poetry -- just like this book.


John Cage and Raashan Roland Kirk - Sound?? 1966

Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1935-1977)

entire article,

Although Rahsaan Roland Kirk and John Cage never actually meet in this film (Cage's enigmatic questions about sound are intercut with some of Kirk's more ambitious experiments with it) these two very different musical iconoclasts share a similar vision of the boundless possibilities of music. Kirk plays three saxes at once, switches to flute, incorporates tapes of birds played backwards, and finally hands out whistles to his audience and encourages them to accompany him, "in the key of W, if you please." Cage, on the other hand, is preparing a work for musical bicycle with David Tudor and Merce Cunningham at the Seville Theatre in London. Cage meets Rahsaan's music in an echo chamber, and he ends his search for the sound of silence in his favorite spot -- the anechoic chamber -- where it turns out to be the uproar of "your nervous system in operation." -- Martin Williams, JAZZ TIMES


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Paint It Black Panther: Emory Douglas at the New Museum

from the article,

It's 1967, and you're starting a newspaper for a grassroots organization. Problem is, your readership isn't, as Bobby Seale puts it, really "a reading community." How do you get the word out?

Along comes Emory Douglas, a self-professed former juvenile delinquent who has been drawing since childhood and got directed to art school. He has had some training in commercial art at the City College of San Francisco, has worked in a print shop, and knows how to do layout and paste-up. More important, he's into the message. A great artist is born.

If you haven't heard of Douglas, that's because he hasn't been on the radar in what artist Adrian Piper has called the "Euroethnic" (read: predominately white) art world for long. In 2002, Los Angeles–based Sam Durant, a white artist whose work often cites upheavals of the 1960s, asked Douglas to lecture in conjunction with one of his shows. Durant subsequently put together a monograph and curated a show at the MOCA Pacific Design Center in L.A., and now this one, the New Museum's "Emory Douglas: Black Panther."

The other reason that Douglas isn't familiar is because he's an example of something you hear about, but rarely encounter: a true revolutionary artist. Douglas signed on as Revolutionary Artist of the Black Panther Party and later became the Party's Minister of Culture. The New Museum show covers Douglas's efforts from 1966 to 1977, when the paper, The Black Panther, ceased publication. But what makes Douglas's work "revolutionary" is that it was first and foremost about its connection with the community and the evolving concerns of the Party rather than being a solely personal aesthetic agenda.

The spare offset lithographs hung on the wall and the editions of The Black Panther housed in vitrines from the early days, 1966 and 1967, show iconic images of Panthers in black berets, toting guns. Throughout the show, it's stressed that the impetus for forming the party was to protect the black community—initially of Oakland, California—from police brutality. The Panthers were about defense rather than offense—inspired by Malcolm X's decree, "By any means necessary." Co-founder Huey Newton described the panther as an animal that never attacks unprovoked, but "defends itself to death." (The Party was originally called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, but the "self-defense" part was later dropped.)


Lester "Prez" Young Turns 100

from the article,

Young’s impact on the language of music was even greater. Before tenorman Coleman Hawkins led the emergence of the saxophone as a serious instrument in the 1920s, most sax players “habitually produced either a kind of rubbery belch or a low, mooing noise,” wrote Young biographer Dave Gelly. Young came along right behind Hawkins, and electrified the jazz world with his dexterity and imagination.

“He redefined the instrument,” says the tenor saxophonist and jazz scholar Loren Schoenberg, who is also executive director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem (a Smithsonian affiliate). His most fundamental change involved a subtle relaxation of jazz phrasing and rhythm. “A lot of lesser players depend on the friction of a spiky rhythm to make it seem as if it’s ‘hot,’ ” Schoenberg says. “Young found a way to play that had a more even rhythm, and yet he swung like crazy. This called for great ingenuity and great genius.”

Young mastered the art of improvising beautiful melodies, which he played with a velvety tone and an effortless, floating quality. Yet like a great dancer, he never lost sight of the beat. A bluesman at heart, he could swoop and moan and play with edge, but more typically, the sensation was one of “pulsating ease,” as critic Nat Hentoff once described it. At slower tempos, he radiated a more wistful, bruised spirit. “In all of Lester Young’s finest solos,” Albert Murray writes in his classic study, Stomping the Blues, “there are overtones of unsentimental sadness that suggest he was never unmindful of human vulnerability.”

Young was raised in and around New Orleans in a musical family that performed in minstrel shows and carnivals. His father, Willis Handy Young, was an accomplished music educator; he doted on Lester but also often belt-whipped the boy, prompting him to run away 10 or 12 times, according to his younger brother Lee. The family moved to Minneapolis in 1919 and performed across the American heartland. At a stop in Harlan, Kentucky, the Youngs came close to being lynched; apparently, the audience had been expecting a white band. In 1927, at age 18, Lester ran away for good rather than face the indignities of a planned tour of Texas and the Deep South. He latched on with territory bands (dance bands that would travel a given region) such as Walter Page’s Blue Devils, several of whose stars—including bassist Page, singer Jimmy Rushing, drummer Jo Jones and pianist Count Basie—would later form the nucleus of Basie’s popular, ultra-swinging orchestra. The novelist and jazz writer Ralph Ellison remembered hearing Young jamming in an Oklahoma City shoeshine parlor with members of the Blue Devils as early as 1929, “his head thrown back, his horn even then outthrust.”

Young’s prowess was well known by 1934, when he first joined the Basie band in Kansas City; by the time he left, in 1940, he had established himself as one of the top stars in jazz. Most of Young’s greatest records date from this period and the early ’40s, when he teamed up with Holiday, Goodman, Charlie Christian, Nat King Cole and a number of excellent small groups composed mainly of Basie-ites. Young later said that his favorite solo from the Basie years came on a sprightly tune called Taxi War Dance. “The entire solo is 32 bars long; it takes exactly 35 seconds,” writes Gelly, “and it’s a masterpiece to stand alongside Armstrong’s West End Blues and Parker’s Ko-Ko. No one else could have done it because no else’s mind worked that way.”

By all accounts, Young was a painfully shy and sensitive loner who hated conflict of any kind. He also had a self-destructive streak and blithely ignored his health. “Prez always had a bottle of liquor in his pocket,” said pianist Jimmy Rowles.

Young was sliding into a long decline by his early 30s, probably accelerated by his hellish Army experience. He was court-martialed in early 1945 for marijuana possession, then confined for nearly a year in disciplinary barracks, an experience he called “one mad nightmare.” He bounced back to record some of his most successful records and tour with the all-star Jazz at the Philharmonic bands, but he was hospitalized with a nervous breakdown in 1955. Soon after returning from an engagement in Paris, Young died in the Alvin Hotel in Manhattan on March 15, 1959, just months before his old friend and musical soulmate Billie Holiday.

He remains a powerful influence on the music. Wayne Shorter, Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano and Mark Turner—an elite list of contemporary saxophonists—have all professed deep admiration for Young, much as their predecessors did.

The late pianist John Lewis played in Young’s band in the early ’50s at about the time Lewis was forming the Modern Jazz Quartet. A kindred spirit, he said he regarded Young as “a living, walking poet” whose wounds in life had never healed. “Lester is an extremely gentle, kind, considerate person,” he told Hentoff in 1956 or ‘57. “He’s always concerned about the underdog. He always wants to help somebody. The way he seems to see being is: ‘Here we are. Let’s have a nice time.’ ”


Intimate Distances - Fragments for a Phenomenology of Organ Transplantation

from the article,

As I peer inside me (but which me?) at the other's liver, the medical gesture explodes into a hall of mirrors. These are the points where the transplantation situation can be carried to the sentimental extremes of either having being touched by 'a gift' (from somewhere, from 'life' or 'god'), or else the simplicity of the doctors who remain set at the level of their technical prowess. In between lies the lived phenomenon, that must be drawn out otherwise, in other parameters.

Transplantation creates and happens in a mixed or hybrid space. There are several subjects that are decentred by exchanging body parts; or decentred as the 'team' that makes the technical gesture, or even further, as the distributed network of the National Graft Centre who that fateful day decided it was my turn. At the same time this is an embodied space, where my body (and his/her now dead) are placemarkers, experiencing the bodily indicators of pain and expectation. As if the centre of gravity of the process oscillates between an intimate inside and a dispersed outside of donor, receiver and the 'team'.

We can start with the embodied sentience of the organism, the 'natural' basis for the study of lived events. Sentience, in this sense, has a double value or valence: natural and phenomenal. Natural because sentience stands for the organism and its structural coupling with the environment, manifest in a detailed and empirical sense. It thus includes, without remainder, the biological details of the constitution and explanation of function, an inescapable narrative. Phenomenal, because sentience has as its flip side the immanence of the world of experience and experiencing; it has an inescapably lived dimension that the word organism connotes already. Moreover, that the organism is a sentient and cognitive agent is possible only because we are already conscious, and have an intrinsic intuition of life and its manifestations. It is in this sense that 'life can only be known by life' (Jonas, 1966, p. 91). This intertwining can be grounded on the very origin of life and its world of meaning by the self-producing nature of the living. Given that the scientific tradition has construed the natural as the objective, and thus has made it impossible to see the seamless unity between the natural and the phenomenal by making sure they are kept apart, no 'bridging' or 'putting together' would do the work. The only way is to mobilize here a re-examination of the very basis of modern science. But this gets, all of a sudden, too ambitious.

Exploring the phenomenal side of the organism requires a gesture, a procedure, a phenomenological method, contra the current prejudice that we are all experts on our own experience. Little can be said about this lived dimension without the work that it requires for its deployment. (In a basic sense, this is also close to the recent interest in 'first-person' methods in cognitive science.) And therein resides its paradoxical constitution: our nature is such that this gesture needs cultivation and is not spontaneously forthcoming. This is why it is appropriate to reserve the name of feeling of existence (sentiment d'existence, a term I borrow from Maine de Biran) as the core phenomenon here, the true flip side of sentience.

The feeling of existence, in itself, can be characterized as having a double valence too. This is expressed as a tension between two simultaneous dimensions: embodied and decentred. Embodied: on the one hand examining experience always takes us a step closer to what seems more intimate, more pertinent, or more existentially close. There is here a link between the felt quality or the possible depth of experience, and the fact that in order to manifest such depth it must be addressed with a method in a sustained exploration. It is this methodological gesture which gives the impression of turning 'inwards' or 'excavating'. What it does, instead, is to bring to the fore the organism's embodiment, the inseparable doublet quality of the body as lived and as functional (natural/phenomenal; Leib/Körper). In other words, it is this double aspect that is the source of depth (the roots of embodiment go through the entire body and extend out into the large environment), as well as its intimacy (we are situated thanks to the feeling-tone and affect that places us where we are and of which the body is the place marker). Decentred: on the other hand, experience is also and at the same time permeated with alterity, with a transcendental side, that is, always and already decentred in relation to the individuality of the organism. This defies the habitual move to see mind and consciousness as inside the head/brain, instead of inseparably enfolded with the experience of others, as if the experience of a liver transplant was a private matter. This inescapable intersubjectivity (the 'team') of mental life shapes us through childhood and social life, and in the transplantation experience takes a tangible form as well. But it is also true in the organism's very embodiment, appearing as the depth of space, of the intrinsically extensible nature of its sentience, especially in exploring the lived body.

These parallel themes serve as the hidden scaffolding for the analysis here. First, the lived body as focus: the intrusion, the alien as flesh, and the always already mobile subject of enunciation and hence the mobility of the lived body's identity. Second, the networks of dissemination playing in unison: the social network of the gift, and the imaginary circles of the images that give this inside a metaphorical concreteness.

On May 28, 2001, Francisco J. Varela passed peacefully away at his home in Paris, surrounded by his family. In theses posthumous fragments, Varela sums up his experiences of battling with the complications of Hepatitis C which had over the years evolved to liver cancer and claimed a liver transplant. This is an shortened version of the text first published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, No. 5-7, 2001, pp. 259-71. We are very thankful Imprint Academic Exeter and especially to Anthony Freeman who kindly accepted that the essay may be republished for ATOPIA.