- POPULAR CULTURE
- MENTAL HEALTH
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
- APPLIED SCIENCES
- PRINT & MEDIA
According to John Storey, there are six definitions of popular culture. The 6th edition of Storey's Cultural Theory & Popular Culture: An Introduction came out in 2012. I draw on Storey and his work here in the opening paragraph of this sub-section on "art" because much of the content at this sub-section of my website could be considered outside the realms of popular culture. As readers will see from some of Storey's analysis of popular culture, though, the term and usage of "popular culture" is complex.
John Storey has extensively revised his original text, a text now used in universities and colleges in various arts & humanities degree programs. He presents a clear and critical survey of competing theories of, & various approaches to, popular culture. The quantitative definition of culture, says Storey, has the problem that much "high culture" is also popular culture. A good example is the television dramatizations of Jane Austen. "Pop culture" is also defined as the culture that is "left over" when we have decided what high culture is. However, many works straddle the boundaries. Shakespeare & Charles Dickens are two good examples. A third definition of popular culture in Storey's typology equates pop culture with "mass culture" and ideas. This definition and usage of the term equates popular culture with commercial culture, mass-produced for mass consumption by mass media. From a Western European perspective, this may be compared to American culture. But this, too, is not a simple perspective. Alternatively, "pop culture" can be defined as an "authentic" culture of the people, but this can be problematic because there are many ways of defining the "people".
Storey argues that there is a political dimension to popular culture. He discusses what he calls "neo-Gramscian hegemony theory" which sees popular culture as a site of struggle between subordinate groups and dominant groups operating in society. For more detail on this theory go to: http://puzzycatz.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/neo-gramscian-hegemony-theory-5/ Finally, a postmodernist approach to popular culture would "no longer recognize the distinction between high and popular culture." I leave it to readers with the interest to follow-up in relation to all these terms and definitions.
Popular culture changes constantly, says Storey. It occurs uniquely in place and time. It forms currents and eddies. It represents a complex of mutually interdependent perspectives and values. These perspectives and values influence society and its institutions in various ways. Certain currents of pop culture, for example, may originate from, or diverge into, a subculture, representing perspectives with which the mainstream popular culture has only limited familiarity. Items of popular culture most typically appeal to a broad spectrum of the public. Important contemporary contributions for understanding what popular culture means have been given by the German researcher Ronald Daus, who studies the impact of extra-European cultures in North America, Asia and especially in Latin America. Ronald Daus(1943- ) was born in Hannover, and is a German university Professor of Romance philology and cultural studies at the Free University of Berlin. He is involved in multi-disciplinary studies. For more on this complex subject of popular culture go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_culture
I open this sub-section on popular culture with two of my favorite quotations: (i) "My predilection for what is hidden, for the mysterious, saved me from the unhappy influence of popular art."-V. Kandinsky(1866-1944), an influential Russian painter and art theorist. He is credited with painting the first purely abstract works. For more on Kandinsky go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wassily_Kandinsky, and (ii) "Behind all these manifestations is the one radiance, which shines through all things. The function of art is to reveal this radiance through the created object."-Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), an American mythologist, writer & lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience. His philosophy is often summarized by his phrase: "Follow your bliss." For more on Joseph Campbell go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell
TECHNOLOGIES AND ARTISTIC PERFORMANCE
Entangled: Technology and the Transformation of Performance by Chris Salter (MIT Press, 2010) is reviewed by Matthew Causey from the School of Drama, Film and Music at Trinity College, Dublin Ireland. Dr Matthew Causey is Associate Professor in Drama at Trinity College Dublin where he is Director of the Arts Technology Research Laboratory. His book Theatre and Performance in Digital Culture: From Simulation to Embeddedness is published by Routledge.
Entangled is an impressive and useful history of ‘how technologies, from the mechanical to the computational, have radically transformed artistic performance practices during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries on and off the stage.’ A remarkable history is told in this book, and Salter's telling is intelligent and clear. The collation of so many artists, practices and technologies is impressive, and this book will serve as a valuable resource for scholars and artists. This book is reviewed in the eJournal of Art and Technology: Crossings.
Salter brings a sophistication and clarity to his research, which foregrounds the work of the artists rather than the many theoretical complications that have accompanied the history of performance and technology. Covering much of the same territory as Steve Dixon's Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art and Installation (MIT Press, 2007), the first two chapters of Entangled are organized historically, as a chronological narrative from 1896 to the contemporary. The remainder of the book is usefully structured along technological and performative modalities (space, projections, sound, bodies, machines, and interactivity). The history begins, as is now the manner for the rehearsal of the history of performance and technology (i.e., Dixon, Goldberg, Giesekam), with Wagner's notions of gesamptkunstwerk as an origin point and the usual suspects of Appia, Italian and Russian Futurism, Constructivism, etc., following. Each movement, artist, practice or technology is neatly positioned & described. The work includes important references to Svoboda in the post-war period, up to & including the contemporary beginnings of new media performance with the earliest experiments with the Sony Portapak system. For more go to: http://crossings.tcd.ie/issues/6.1/Causey/
WHAT IS AN ARTIST or CRAFTSMAN?
By artist or craftsman I mean anyone who has tried to create something which was not in the world before him or her. The tools and materials used for this creation were and are the uncommerciable ones of the human spirit. To put this another way: the artist or craftsman is that person who has tried to carve, no matter how crudely, on the wall of that final oblivion, in the tongue of the human spirit, ''Kilroy was here.'' To put this yet another way: Richard Sennett(1943-), the Centennial Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and University Professor of the Humanities at New York University, writes in his book The Craftsman that “making is thinking." There is a strong link, Sennett argues, between what the famous Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein(1889-1951) who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language, learned by building a house. Sennett states that his philosophy took a new direction after building that house. That direction was away from rigorous logic and toward a playful engagement with common speech, paradox and parable.
An artist is a person engaged in one or more of any of a broad spectrum of activities related to creating art, practicing the arts, &/or demonstrating an art. The common usage in both everyday speech and academic discourse is a practitioner in the visual arts only. The term is often used in the entertainment business, especially in a business context, for musicians and other performers (less often for actors). "Artiste" (the French for artist) is a variant used in English only in this context. Use of the term to describe writers, for example, is valid, but less common, and mostly restricted to contexts like criticism. For more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artist
WHAT IS ART? WHAT IS CRAFT?
Art or craft are the product or process of deliberately arranging items, often with symbolic significance, in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect. They encompass a diverse range of human activities and creations, as well as modes of expression like music, literature, film, photography, sculpture, and painting. The creative arts include dramaturgy, music (music theory, musicology, & music history), graphic arts/cartooning, performing arts, film and publishing, galleries and museums, the visual arts, choreography, composing and play writing. The performing arts include dancing, music, drama, concertizing and acting. The performing arts involve the use of the artist's own body, face, and presence as a medium. The arts which readers will find at this site are, for the most part: literature and poetry, publishing and editing, as well as the photography of others and my comments on many aspects of the creative and performing arts.
A craft is a branch of a profession that requires some particular kind of skilled work. In historical sense, particularly as pertinent to the Medieval history and earlier, the term was usually applied towards people occupied in small-scale production of goods. The term crafts is often used to describe the family of artistic practices within the family decorative arts that traditionally are defined by their relationship to functional or utilitarian products (such as sculptural forms in the vessel tradition) or by their use of such natural media as wood, clay, glass, textiles, and metal. In a historical sense, particularly as pertinent to the Middle Ages and earlier, the term is usually applied to people occupied in small-scale production of goods, or their maintenance, for example by tinkers. The traditional terms craftsman and craftswoman are nowadays often replaced by artisan and rarely bycraftsperson (craftspeople). More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craft
HERE IS A very CLEVER SET OF ART GALLERY PHOTOS
Go to this link: http://mp.weixin.qq.com/mp/appmsg/show?__biz=MjM5MTg1Nzg5MQ%3D%3D&appmsgid=10000482&itemidx=5&sign=a28c4
A NEW ARTISTIC LANDSCAPE
A New Artistic Landscape is by Joel Chadabe. He is the chairman and founder of the Electronic Music Foundation, and also a composer and the author of Electric Sound. Mr. Chadabe is known for his pioneering work in interactive systems. He is currently Professor Emeritus at State Univ. of New York (Albany) and Director of Electronic Music at Bennington College. He begins: "Art may imitate life, but traditional art, at least, is not a part of it. Traditional art objects, like any objects of any time, are separated from the rest of the world by their boundaries. A musical object, as in a Beethoven symphony, has time boundaries of beginning and end, between which time passes in a way that is separate from the way time passes in the rest of the world. A visual object, as in a Rembrandt painting, may represent some aspect of the natural world, but it is based on an internal structure that functions within boundaries of dimension and closure to keep it complete & apart from our view of its real-life surroundings. In their content and in their structures, traditional art objects may occasionally reflect the quotidian life of their times. But they exist apart from life."
For more go to: http://crossings.tcd.ie/issues/1.1/Chadabe/
THE SMALL ART BOOK
Online articles and blogs, and the streaming of lectures, have placed the last nails into the coffin of the small art book devoted to an illustrated talk by an eminent scholar, accessible to specialists and general readers alike. Artists' books are works of art that utilize the form of the book. They are often published in small editions, though they are sometimes produced as one-of-a-kind objects. Artists' books have employed a wide range of forms, including scrolls, fold-outs, concertinas or loose items contained in a box. Artists have been active in printing and book production for centuries, but the artist's book is primarily a late 20th-century form with roots in earlier avant-garde movements, such as Dada, Constructivism, Futurism, and Fluxus. "Artists' books are books or book-like objects over the final appearance of which an artist has had a high degree of control; where the book is intended as a work of art in itself," writes Stephen Bury.
Stephen J. (John) Bury(1954-) is an art historian and the Andrew W. Mellon Chief Librarian of the Frick Art Reference Library in New York City. He is known for his scholarship on artists' books, although his research interests also include the literature of art, the impact of the digital on the future of humanities, and the use of the past in the project of modernism. For more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_J._Bury For more on "artists books" go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artist%27s_book
Small art books still appear, though; the Getty Research Institute is to be commended for commissioning David Dollenmayer’s fine translation of Willibald Sauerländer’s Manet Malt Monet: Ein Sommer in Argenteuil, a lecture given in Munich in the summer of 2004, published by Verlag C.H. Beck of that city in 2012. Now—over a decade later—the book appears in a handsomely designed English edition. Go to this link for a review: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/apr/23/manet-floating-studio/
BIG ART SMALL ART
In this follow-up to the bestselling Raw + Material = Art, Tristan Manco reveals international artists who are exploring extremes of scale. They are making us look at the world in new ways: from Lilian Bourgeat, who conjures a theatrical arena with his oversized everyday objects, to Takahiro Iwasaki, who transports us into a miniature world that reflects our own, to Leandro Erlich’s dizzying ‘house’ in Dalston, London. This book showcases forty-five artists who are pushing the boundaries of scale to create works of staggering skill and audacity. These artworks that play with perspective will bend your eyes and your mind. ‘Astounding artworks … provokes questions and arguments, as well as offering fresh perspectives on the ever enigmatic art world’– HungerTV.com'… a superbly chosen selection which will only increase the reputation of author Manco, already the world’s leading authority on street art’– EDP Weekend For more go to: http://www.thamesandhudson.com/Big_Art_Small_Art/9780500239223
CAN ART BE REDEMPTIVE?
In The New York Review of Books(25/6/'15) Julian Bell reviews Rendez-vous with Art by Philippe de Montebello & Martin Gayford(Thames & Hudson, 250 pages. What would it mean for art to have redemptive qualities? Julian Bell asks. It might mean that art has a necessary and structural part in human affairs, comparable to Christ’s in a religious scheme of salvation. It would at least imply that art compensates for some sort of lack in our lives or in the world and that it does so in a satisfying manner. This is a tenet that a great many people in the art scene—practitioners, collectors, dealers, critics, educators, curators—adhere to. It would seem a fortifying belief, whether you are conducting art therapy sessions or trying to persuade politicians to allocate money to cultural projects. As the spokesman for the largest art collection in the United States, de Montebello has appeared not so much an advocate as an embodiment of high cultural values: the steady-tempered, genially diplomatic, patrician discharger of a responsibility that is of its nature conservative.
Rendez-vous With Art consists of edited conversations between two friends in galleries and in their living rooms via Skype. The book raises fundamental, fascinating questions about art that typically aren't raised elsewhere. How important is it to see a place of art in the place where it was created? What changed when museums took hold and artists began to create pieces for museums instead of churches or private homes? What good is going to the part of a museum where icons like the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo reside when you can barely get close to the artworks because of the scrum of humanity packing in behind guides, flashing their cell phones to take pictures as if doing so were some sort of religious ritual? For more of a review of this work in The Huffington Post's Book Blog go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michaellevin/book-review-rendezvous-wi_b_6018376.html For more of Bell's review go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/jun/25/there-this-is-life/
WAYS OF SEEING
During my years as a teacher and tutor, lecturer and adult educator, 1967 to 2005, I used various television documentaries as resources and stimuli, teachers-aides and motivational material. The doco I used more than any other was Civilisation: A Personal View by Kenneth Clark. This was a documentary series outlining the history of Western art, architecture and philosophy since the Dark Ages. The series was produced by the BBC and aired in 1969 on BBC2. I was in the first two years of my marriage, working in a small town in rural Ontario at the time as a teacher, and as secretary of the local Baha'i community. I did not come to know of this series until 1974. Both the television scripts and the accompanying book version were written by art historian Lord Kenneth Clark (1903–1983), who also presented the series. The series was considered to be a landmark in British Television's broadcasting of the visual arts.
Clark as a person was sealed off; he was a mystery, even to himself. "I have no aptitude for self-analysis," he wrote in his memoirs. "When I try to examine my character, I soon give up in despair." Perhaps it was simply that, for Clark, it was better to look out than to look within, to see the barbarians at the gate not as the enemy, but as a helpful, even soothing distraction. One cannot help but feel thankful that Clark looked out and, in the process, gave us Civilization. The series had a groundbreaking format in which an expert presenter was combined with a lavish budget for a crew accompanying him around the world to illustrate his thesis over many episodes. With a heavily illustrated book version, the series became a template for later programs. I used all of the following series as well in my teaching and/or in my personal life: Alistair Cooke's America (1972), Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man (1973), Life on Earth(1979) and the many sequels by David Attenborough. More on Clark: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/civilisation/
Robert Hughes' series on modern art The Shock of the New (1980), and John Berger's BBC series, Ways of Seeing (1972) would have been useful when I taught the sociology of art in 1974. Berger's series was partly a response to Clark's views. Clark was an ardent pro-individualist, humanist, and anti-Marxist. Berger presented a radical, Marxist viewpoint. A few years later Clark made a similar but shorter TV series, The Romantic Rebellion, beginning with a book in 1973 on the art of Romanticism. This, too, would have been useful back in 1974. I knew nothing of Clark's work on Romanticism in 1974 up-to-my-ears, as I was at the time, in a relationship which became my second marriage. Another Baha'i community occupied my leisure time keeping me busy, with my work as a tutor in education studies, for at least 60 hours a week.
Ways of Seeing was a 1972 BBC four-part television series of 30-minute films created chiefly by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb. Berger's scripts were adapted into a book of the same name. The book has contributed to feminist readings of popular culture, through essays that focused particularly on depictions of women in advertisements and oil paintings. Ways of Seeing was and is considered a seminal text for current studies of visual culture and art history.
I did not even know about this series when it came out in 1972 since I had just arrived in Australia from Canada and had no TV. I was also heavily committed to at least 60 hour weeks teaching high school, and serving as the secretary of the Baha'i community of Whyalla, the only locally elected Baha'i body outside Adelaide, Darwin and Perth in western and central Australia. Berger's series & his book criticized traditional Western cultural aesthetics by raising questions about hidden ideologies in visual images. The series was partially a response to Kenneth Clark's Civilisation series, which represented a more traditionalist view of the Western artistic and cultural canon. Ways of Seeing is still considered a seminal text for current studies of visual culture and art history.(1) More: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2012/sep/07/ways-seeing-berger-tv-programme-british
At the opening of Ways of Seeing John Berger notes that the cultural presence of the woman is still very much different from that of the man. Berger argues that a man's presence in the world is all about his potency and is related to what he can do, his power and ability. On the other hand, Berger says, a woman's presence is always related to itself, not the world, and she does not represent potential but rather only herself, and what can or cannot be done to her, never by her. Such was Berger's view some 40 years ago; so I came to learn some 15 years after I had retired in 1999 from a 50 year student and employment life. In 2014 I read about Ways of Seeing. The sources of a woman's identity are, for Berger, the age-old notion that the woman is destined to take care of the man. He argues that, as a result, the woman is always self-conscious, always aware of her own presence in every action she performs. The woman constantly imagines and surveys herself and, by this, her identity is split between that of the surveyor and that of the one being surveyed.
These are the two rules that she has in relation to herself. For this reason, Berger notes, her self-value is measured through the manner in which she is portrayed, in her own eyes, in others' eyes & in men's eyes. Following Kenneth Clark, John Berger in Ways of Seeing distinguishes "naked" or "nakedness" from "nudity" in the European tradition, with nakedness simply being the state of having no clothes on and nudity being a form of artistic representation. The nature of this artistic mode is related, according to Berger, to what he terms "lived sexuality".
Being naked is just being yourself, but being nude in the artistic sense of the word is being without clothes for the purpose of being looked at. A naked body has to become an object of a gaze in order to become a nude representation. Being naked means being without any costume that you put on, but being nude means that you become your own costume. Painting and photographs which portray nudity appeal to the viewer's sexuality, the male viewer, & have nothing to do with the portrayed woman's sexuality – women are there for men to look at, not for themselves, for man's sexuality, not their own. When there is a man figure in nude painting the woman seldom addressed him, for she is aiming at her "true lover" – the viewer, which is the central figure of the painting without even being present in it.
In "Ways of Seeing" Berger also discusses the meaning of being naked outside of the artistic context. He argues that in nakedness there is the relief of finding out that someone is indeed a man or a woman, and that at the moment of being naked an element of banality comes into play and that we require this banality because it dissolves the mystery which was present up until cloths were taken off and reality became simpler. Therefore nakedness in reality, unlike representation, is for Berger a process, not a state. In concluding "Ways of Seeing" John Berger holds that the humanist tradition of European painting holds a contradiction: on the one hand the painter's, owner's and viewer's individualism and on the other the object, the woman, which is treated is abstraction. These unequal relations between men and women are, in Berger's view, deeply assimilated in our culture and in the consciousness of women who do to themselves what men do to them –objectify themselves.-Ron Price with thanks to (1) the cultural studies reader, and (2) Kenneth Clark, Civilization, 1969 and Richard Dorment in The Telegraph, 14 May 2014.
Your whole existence, Kenneth,
was centered on art: as collector,
museum director, curator, writer,
patron, social figure, and, finally,
educator in the series Civilisation.
I used the series at least twice over
my 32 years in classrooms as tutor
& as lecturer in the social sciences.
It was a way to tell your life's story
along with several hundred paintings,
sculptures, works on paper, & objets
d’art. You were taught how to look at
art by the best of mentors & you could
write about art with the best of them.
Men survey women before they relate to
them. Women's actions and appearances
show the ways in which she would like to
be treated. A woman's actions indicate the
way she would like to be observed, & this
is contrary to man's actions which are just
actions. Such was Berger's take on women.
He simplified this notion by saying that
"men act and women appear"....Women
objectify themselves as the subject of the
gaze of men; this is the meaning of his title:
Ways of Seeing, essentially meaning that the
ways of seeing men & women are different.
In other words ways of seeing are ways of
subjecting women to men's gaze, for Berger.
ESSAYS ON ART
Poetry and painting used to be called “the sister arts”, though that cosy phrase ignores the sibling rivalry between them. The verbal and the visual operate in different dimensions: language unfurls in time, but painted imagery is static and occupies space, which is why Cézanne indignantly asked a sitter who wasn’t content to be a still life: “Does an apple move?” Flaubert thought that painting should strike the viewer dumb, since it requires no prattling exegesis. Julian Barnes, defying the embargo in his recent collected essays, looks at his chosen artists with the eye of a novelist – chastened because paint can “render emotional states and complexities normally conveyed at novel length by means of colour, tone, density, focus, framing, swirl, intensity, rapture”, yet also keen to justify his own art by discovering a quirky literary character behind the faces painted by Manet and Bonnard or by teasing stories out of the moments frozen by Courbet and Degas.
Writers, Barnes admits, “envy other forms”. Painting “combines the means of expression & the expression itself”, music has an ecstatic eloquence, and neither needs “the trudging intervention of words”. But envy is a healthy and, indeed, compulsory vice for an artist, and in any case Barnes’s own words never plod. Or if they do, that’s because they tether us to reality: hence his contempt for the “clotted twaddle” of the “cubist prose” in which Gertrude Stein tries to explicate Picasso. For more of this review of the essays of Julian Barnes go to: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/may/10/keeping-an-eye-open-essays-art-review-julian-barnes-great-painters-afresh
Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer(1632-1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painterin his lifetime. He seems never to have been particularly wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings. Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, using bright colours and sometimes expensive pigments, with a preference for lapis lazuli and Indian yellow. He is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work. For an overview of his life and work go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Vermeer For a u-tube item on this artist go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kfeWpLry3U
A GREAT MASTER AT THE MET
Everyone who was anyone in the sixteenth-century art world liked Pieter Coecke van Aelst. The skilled artisans who wove tapestries and crafted stained-glass windows eagerly used his designs. The greatest patrons paid happily through the nose for the immense tapestries, eight or nine to a series, in which Coecke and those who executed his designs told biblical and classical stories, put the cardinal vices on parade, or celebrated the victories of great men. Monarchs who hated one another—for example, those bitter lifelong enemies King Francis I of France and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V—were as one in their desire to cover their walls with Coecke’s work, even if they had to wait years to see one of his subtle, elegant designs translated into solid, colorful cloth.
The above paragraph and the one below comes from a review at The New York Review of Books on 8/1/'15. The review is of a current exhibition entitled "Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry". It is an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City from October 8, 2014 to January 11, 2015. The catelogue is published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is 400 pages in length, and is distributed by Yale University Press.
Until the Metropolitan Museum put on its current, magnificent exhibition of Coecke’s work, however, his name was not a household word, even in those households that discuss Renaissance art. “Grand Design” is the third in a great series of shows that have restored tapestry to its proper place in our historical panorama of Renaissance and Baroque art. Deeply learned & dazzlingly accessible, these exhibitions—the first two organized by, and the third inspired by the scholarship of, Thomas Campbell, now the museum’s director—have taught or reminded us to see the tapestry as a central form of Renaissance art. For more of this review go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/jan/08/coecke-great-master-met/?insrc=hpma
GOYA AND SEAMUS HEANEY
Francisco José de Goya(1746-1828) was a Spanish romantic painter and printmaker. He is regarded both as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns. "The Dark & Light of Francisco Goya" is a review in The New york Review of Books by Colm Tóibín, 18/12/'14. It is a review of a 400 page work entitled Goya: Order and Disorder(an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, October 12, 2014–January 19, 2015). Toibin begins: "In the summer of 1969, as the violence intensified in Northern Ireland, the poet Seamus Heaney was in Madrid. Like any tourist, he went to the Prado, but not specifically, he later said, “to study examples of art in a time of violence.” He found, nonetheless, that some of Francisco Goya’s work on display “had the force of terrible events…. All that dread got mixed in with the slightly panicked, slightly exhilarated mood of the summer as things came to a head in Derry and Belfast.” He found Goya’s work “overwhelming,” and was fascinated at the idea of an artist confronting political violence “head-on.” In his poem “Summer 1969,” he wrote of his time in the heat of the Spanish city while Belfast burned.
Seamus Justin Heaney(1939-2013) was an Irish poet, playwright, translator and lecturer, and the recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. Go to this link for his poem and more of the review: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/dec/18/dark-and-light-francisco-goya/?insrc=toc
I retreated to the cool of the Prado.
Goya’s “Shootings of the Third of May”
Covered a wall—the thrown-up arms
And spasm of the rebel, the helmeted
And knapsacked military, the efficient
Rake of the fusillade.
NOBILITY AND THE ARTS: and REVOLUTION
It humans were created to achieve nobility, then you would expect to find that goal reflected in their arts and literature. But an impartial assessment of the state of contemporary arts & literature would find much of that artistic expression wanting in this respect. There are many examples that could be referred to. “Greed and passion, deceit, hypocrisy, tyranny, and pride are dominating features afflicting human relations. Music, art, and literature, whose role is to represent and inspire the noblest sentiments and highest aspirations, and should be a source of comfort and tranquility for troubled souls, have strayed from the straight path and are now the mirrors of the soiled hearts of this confused unprincipled and disordered age......The harmful thing, nowadays, is not the arts themselves, but the unfortunate corruption which often surrounds these arts.”--Shoghi Effendi
Throughout history forms of art have gone through periodic abrupt changes called artistic revolutions. Movements have come to an end to be replaced by a new movement markedly different in striking ways. A cultural movement is a change in the way a number of different disciplines approach their work. This embodies all art forms, the sciences, and philosophies. Historically, different nations or regions of the world have gone through their own independent sequence of movements in culture, but as world communications have accelerated this geographical distinction has become less distinct. When cultural movements go through revolutions from one to the next, genres tend to get attacked and mixed up, and often new genres are generated and old ones fade. These changes are often reactions against the prior cultural form, which typically has grown stale and repetitive. An obsession emerges among the mainstream with the new movement, and the old one falls into neglect - sometimes it dies out entirely, but often it chugs along favored in a few disciplines and occasionally making reappearances (sometimes prefixed with "neo-") https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_movement AND https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artistic_revolution
The arts represent an outlet of expression that is usually influenced by culture and which in turn helps to change culture. As such, the arts are a physical manifestation of the internal creative impulse. Major constituents of the arts include literature: including poetry, novels and short stories, and epics; performing arts – among them music, dance, and theatre; culinary arts such as baking, chocolatiering, and winemaking; media arts like photography and cinematography, and visual arts – including drawing, painting, ceramics, andsculpting. Some art forms combine a visual element with performance (e.g. film) and the written word (e.g. comics). From prehistoric cave paintings to modern day films, art serves as a vessel for storytelling and conveying mankind's relationship with its environment. For more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_arts
If you're looking for lesson plans, you won't find them here. The Art and Craft of Pedagogy is less about classroom methodology & more about how 10 visual artists came to be both producers and teachers of art. In the following review of The Art and Craft of Pedagogy: Portraits of Effective Teachers by Richard Hickman, published in 2011, we read that: "Hickman's approach rests on a somewhat provocative claim that the arts, meaning visual fine arts, are among the best taught of all subjects. As such, they offer pedagogical approaches meriting closer scrutiny by educators across the curriculum. He bases this on a couple of broad studies: (i) Harland et al.'s 2000 U.K.-based Arts Education in Secondary Schools: Effects and Effectiveness, & (ii) Hetland et al.'s 2007 Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education.. Both of of these studies examine classroom environment, supportive feedback, and the use of apprenticeship and studio models, among other things.
As a side point, it should be noted that both studies, as well as Hickman's own work, focus mainly on secondary students, with a few exceptions. Hickman argues that the "habits of mind", and the facilitative learning climate exemplified in these art classrooms are transferable to other disciplines: "There is no reason why mathematics teachers, for example, could not adopt an apprenticeship model". The trick lies in locating those strategies employed by art teachers that not only create the desired results but are potentially applicable across the curriculum, which is Hickman's aim: "The mission I set myself was to identify what it is that 'successful' art teachers do that is singular or special in some way". For more go to: http://www.enculturation.net/those-who-can-paint-teach
RECENT ESSAYS ON ART AND CULTURE
Jed Perl, who has served as the art critic for the New Republic for more than 20 years, 1994-2015, has a new book out: Magicians and Charlatans: Essays on Art and Culture. Published by the Eakins Press, the book is a collection of essays written between 1995 and 2011. The writings include profiles of seminal cultural figures such as Meyer Schapiro and Lincoln Kirstein, historical studies of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin and Édouard Vuillard, and critical commentaries on contemporary artists Robert Gober, Gerhard Richter and Jeremy Blake.
The critic Jed Perl has written that his ideal artist is a traditionalist with radical ambitions. “But aren’t all the artists who finally hold our attention simultaneously radicals and traditionalists?” he asked in an e-mail message. “Isn’t that dissonance an essential part of the creative act? I certainly feel that way about Alexander Calder, whose work is preoccupying me a good deal these days, as I’m working on the first full-length biography. The mobile is about as radical a departure from earlier forms as you can imagine, and yet the work is still grounded in the oldest sculptural ideas about the revelation of meaning through the unfolding of form in space.”
Perl believes that critics, whether their subject is art, literature, music or film, are all “working along the same lines”: “I don’t think the big issues are all that different, whether you’re talking about a painting, a novel, a dance. I see criticism, essentially, as a single discipline, an exploration of human experience as revealed through formal values.” He pointed out that James Lord(whose memoir “My Queer War” which he reviews) “became a writer in a time and place, in mid-century Paris, where the unity of the arts was pretty much taken for granted. I think Lord’s devotion to the writer’s craft was fueled by what he saw of Giacometti’s dedication to his own extraordinarily demanding craft. Writers ranging from Sartre to Malraux conceived of their mandate very broadly — they wrote about the visual arts along with many other things.”
Perl, who poet John Ashberry has called "an almost solitary and essential voice," opens the book by stating that in the past few years he has found the art world "unpredictable, fragmented, disorienting, like a hair-raising rollercoaster ride." An erudite critic who delivers his opinions unvarnished, Perl gives high praise to the 18th century master Chardin, in whose works he detects "a bold but elusive presence." He slams the contemporary German painter Gerhard Richter in whose "chilly stuff" he discerns "a loathing for painting's true magic." In his 2008 essay "Postcards from Nowhere" Perl recounts his visit to the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the LA County Museum, commenting that "BCAM is about high-end shopping" and that "you do not get the feeling that a curator has left a mark." For more on Perl go to:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-seed/jed-perl-magicians-and-charlatans_b_2277405.html
SUZANNE LANGER AND ART
With roots in logic, philosophy of language and philosophy of mind, Susanne Langer(1895-1985) sought to explicate the meaning and cognitive import of art works by developing a theory of symbolism that located works of art at the centre of a network of relations based firmly on semantic theory. Art works were nondiscursive, presentational symbols that expressed an artist’s ‘life of feeling’, by which observers, through a process of immediate apprehension, or intuition, came to acquire knowledge. Langer was educated at Radcliffe College and briefly attended the University of Vienna. She held the post of tutor at Radcliffe from 1927 to 1942, followed by positions at the University of Delaware(1943), Columbia University (1945–50), the Connecticut College for Women(1954–62), and a number of visiting positions.
In Feeling and Form, written eleven years later as a sequel to Philosophy in a New Key, art was characterized as the creation of forms symbolic of human feeling. Every work of art involved abstraction from actuality, thereby becoming mere semblance, a created realm of illusion, plasticity, that is the capacity of being manipulated in the interests of expression, and expressiveness whereby the symbol became transparent. A focus on the meaning of art works was replaced by a discussion of their import or significance. Intuition became the link between the qualities of the art work that constituted it a symbol & the import the work of art held for the observer. Through intuition, we perceive the ‘felt life’ of the artist’s expression.
In Problems of Art, a collection of essays originally delivered as lectures, Langer refined her views: a work of art was a form expressive of human feeling, created for our aesthetic perception through sense or imagination. Emphasizing the role that artistic intention played in creative activity, she traced the unity of the arts to their semblance of organic form. Insight (understanding of the essential life of feeling) was designated the aim of art. Reflections on Art, a collection of twenty-six essays ranging over music, art, dance, poetry, film and architecture, focused on two main issues: expressiveness and semblance. Her list of contributors included artists and ‘lay aestheticians’, as well as professional philosophers. Her final work, Mind, ambitiously sought to explicate the role feelings play as the mind functions uniquely in humans, and in particular how an artist projects an idea of feeling by means of art. For more on Langer and art go to:http://www.anthonyflood.com/langerroutledge.htm
ARTISTS I HAVE KNOWN
The New Era Bahá’í Choir was established in 1988 by musical director, Greg Parker. In the year 1988 I began to teach in Perth Western Australia. I lived and worked in that beautiful city, one of the most remote on the planet, until 1999. Malini Parker was an artist I came to know in the 1990s due to first her association with and then marriage to Greg Parker. She, Greg and I travelled different paths most of the time, consumed as each of us was with what life called of us and what we called of it. Greg and Malini had first come into my life in 1984 when I was 40 and beginning, such was and such is my hope, to achieve a degree of spiritual maturity. These two talented artistic people produced a cassette-tape entitled Journey's End. I have been listening to it and to them now for 30 years.
Initially in 1988, this New Era Choir was supposed to perform a one-off musical experience commemorating the 25th anniversary of the “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King. More than twenty-five years later the choir is still going strong, as is Malini and Greg Parker although, according to his doctors, he should have left this mortal coil in the last several years. According to Malini, in an email she sent to me in March 2014, her role as carer to, and wife of, Greg is a 24/7 exercise. The choir has been based in Perth, Western Australia. Over the years they have performed at hundreds of events before thousands of people all over Australia. I had the pleasure of attending a number of these performances in the dozen years I lived and worked in that city. Metropolitan Perth was the largest Baha'i community I had lived in during the first 40 years of my membership in this new world Faith.
I have included this part of my website on Malini because she is one of the few artists that I have known personally on my journey through life. “Life is a big canvas; throw all the paint on it you can!” she opens her blog, her website which you can access at:http://www.maliniparker.com/
She continues: "I am a scientist-turned-artist, and I share the story of my circuitous journey to this wonderful life over here. It’s been an incredible adventure, and along the way, I’ve been fortunate enough to have won some awards, showed my work in eight solo exhibitions since 2005, and in countless group shows – most recently in New York City! My paintings are fluid and organic abstractions, often featuring the softness of lace and leaves against rugged textural marks. I would love others to see them as joyful celebrations, painterly representations of the mysterious yet universal human experience of growth from adversity."
"I am delighted that from my home in Perth, Western Australia, my work has encircled the globe and is now featured in public & private collections all over the world, including the renowned private collection of the late Robert Juniper, one of Australia’s most prominent and respected artists. Painting and exhibiting my work are just part of the story. The ‘other half’ of my art practice involves sharing my process with others. Teaching and creating have become two sides of the same coin – I now cannot imagine one without the other! My popular and unique workshop, Painting for Beginners takes an absolute beginner and fills them with possibilities! They make beautiful art in just one fun, insanely busy day as they learn my very own seven step process. This workshop that began in my backyard just a few years ago, with five young folk who were keen to learn to paint has now grown into my consuming passion and helped transform the lives of so many people! It is an incredible honour to be part of another’s creative journey, and that delight I witness in my students as they rediscover their creativity… aaah, it makes my heart sing. Go to this link for more on Malini: http://www.maliniparker.com/
Wikipedia now has a very extensive list and index which sets down the name of each member of the Bahá'í Faith who is the subject of an article in this vast online encyclopedia which is more used, more popular, than any other encyclopedia on the planet. One of the lists arranges everyone by nationality. I won't list all the names here for that would lead to prolixity. There are, though, lists of: Bands, Musicians, Filmmakers, Actors, Artists, Architects, and Writers. There are also Athletes and Educators. In our burgeoning world of creative people in dozens of walks of life, these lists are now far from comprehensive. Artists, those whose chief medium is paint, are increasing in number.
I have only known three personally in the Baha'i community: (1) Dr Drewfus Gates, a gifted artist of international calibre, a phycisist and self taught painter of many years, he is well known for his portraits & works in pastel. He is internationally renowned for his light-filled realist/ impressionist land and seascapes. Drewfus brings unique insights into light, colour and perception in his art teaching. His website is at: http://website: http://www.gatesart.net ; (2) Chelinay Gates became a professional artist in 1983 and quickly established a name for herself for her bold impressionist works ---winning numerous Art awards. With Drewfus, she went on many art adventures to remote and beautiful parts of the world in search of subject matter. Her website is at:http://www.gatesart.net/ ; and (3) Malini Parker.
There are many other artists both inside and outside the Baha'i community whom I have known personally. There are far too many to list them here and many, after the passing of decades, are people whose names I have forgotten. Part of this forgetfulness is due to my peripatetic life-style. I have lived in more than 3 dozen houses and two dozen towns, and stayed in or just passed through well over 100 since my birth in the 1940s. Other sources of my forgetfulness are the several ECT treatments I received in my 20s, and the sheer passing of the years, of many decades of life. It somewhat saddens me to have forgotten so many names, so many friends, who were artists. Part of my autobiographical interest, as I head into my seventies in 2014, is the desire to preserve in my memory-bank, so much that can easily be forgotten.
There are also many who are and were relatively famous in the Baha'i community during its 170 year existence, but their lives have never crossed my personal path except in literary and, now, cyberspace circles: Bernard Leach, a potter, Mishkín-Qalam, a calligrapher, Juliet Thompson, a portrait artist, and Mark Tobey, a painter. Go to this link for lists which set down the name of each member of the Bahá'í Faith who is the subject of a Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bah%C3%A1'%C3%ADs
ART AND FORGERIES
The existence of a market for any kind of valuable object almost always encourages the production of counterfeits. It happens with drugs, banknotes, and designer handbags. It also happens with works of art. But whereas counterfeiting banknotes or other documents has always been considered a crime, attitudes toward art forgery have changed greatly over time, as Jonathon Keats and Thierry Lenain explain in their recent books. Keats provides a succinct, intelligent, and very readable summary of the subject, concentrating on some of the most famous modern art forgers, while Lenain, in a notably learned and wide-ranging text, goes into more detail and is more concerned with the broader implications of his topic. For more on this theme go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/aug/15/forgery-art-phony/
THE PERFORMING ARTS
Performing arts are art forms in which artists use their body, voice, or objects to convey artistic expression—as opposed to visual arts, in which artists use paint/canvas or various materials to create physical art objects. Performing arts include a variety of disciplines but all are intended to be performed in front of a live audience. Performing arts may include primary forms, such as dance, music, opera, theatre and musical theatre, and minor or secondary forms like Magic and/or illusion, mime, spoken word, puppetrycircus arts, performance art, recitation & public speaking. Artists who participate in performing arts in front of an audience are called performers, including actors, comedians, dancers, magicians, musicians, and singers. Performing arts are also supported by workers in related fields, such as songwriting and stagecraft.
PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, originally Performing Arts Journal, is a triannual academic journal of arts that was established in 1976 by Bonnie Marranca and Gautam Dasgupta. It has taken a particular interest in contemporary performance art and features expanded coverage in video, drama, dance, installations, media, and music. The journal is published by special arrangement with the MIT Press. Issues can also be accessed through the online databases JSTOR and Project MUSE. For more on this journal go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PAJ_(journal)
The online journal Scene is dedicated to a critical examination of space & scenic production. Scene provides an opportunity for dynamic debate, reflection and criticism. With a strong interdisciplinary focus, we welcome articles, interviews, visual essays, reports from conferences and festivals. We want to explore new critical frameworks for the scholarship of creating a scene. For more on this journal go to: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/intellect/ For more on the performing arts go to: http://issuu.com/mondavicenter You can also go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performing_arts
A. Frank Jeffrey Edson Smart(1921 – 20 June 2013) was an expatriate Australian painter known for his precisionist depictions of urban landscapes. Smart was born and educated in Adelaide where he worked as an Art teacher. After departing for Europe in 1948 he studied in Paris at La Grande Chaumière, & later at the Académie Montmartre under Fernand Léger. He returned to Australia 1951, living in Sydney, & began exhibiting frequently in 1957. In 1963, he moved to Italy, and in 1971 after a successful exhibition in London, bought "Posticcia Nuova" near Arezzo in Tuscany where he resided with his partner until his death. His autobiography, Not Quite Straight, was published in 1996. A major retrospective of his works travelled around Australian art galleries 1999–2000.
Though he lived more than half his life in Italy, Jeffrey Smart was regarded as one of Australia's greatest artists. Drawn to urban landscapes as a child, he later told The Sydney Morning Herald that by his early 20s he knew he had "painted my last billabong scene", preferring "urban life, factories, trucks and vacant city lots". His mature paintings take these everyday symbols of modernity and transform them into remarkably still, harmoniously composed images. Human figures are often small and isolated – regarded by many as a representation of urban alienation, but for Smart merely a compositional requirement. As Barry Pearce wrote in his book Jeffrey Smart, he was a "charming, effusive character with a mischievous sense of humour, a prodigious reader, a brilliant conversationalist (and) excellent listener". At times he could be "aloof" or "wilfully self-centred"; at others, quite the reverse.
B. In 2011, the University of SA conferred an honorary doctorate on Smart and in October 2012, a retrospective exhibition of Smart's work opened in Adelaide in two different venues. Barry Pearce was the curator of the 2012 exhibition, Master of Stillness Jeffrey Smart Paintings 1940-2011. “Without question Jeffrey is one of the most important artists born in this country,” he said. Throughout his painting career Smart was dedicated to painting beautiful pictures. During an interview with Sunday Arts in 2008, the artist said “beauty is what we chase, beauty is the raison d'être, don’t you think?”
Seven years ago, documentary filmmaker Catherine Hunter travelled to Tuscany to interview Jeffrey Smart at the old farmhouse where had he lived for many years. It was the starting point of her documentary Jeffrey Smart: Master of Stillness. "It was such a privilege to see him painting in his studio," says Catherine. "Then in his late 80s, what I remember is how slowly and painstakingly he worked. I believe his last painting Labyrinth (2011) took him many months to complete. By then he was frail and it was huge effort for him. And when he finished, he bowed out gracefully saying that it would be his final work.
"For me, the most interesting aspect to making the documentary was realising the importance of those early years in Adelaide. As Smart had lived in Italy since the 1960s, the focus was more often on the impact of the newly industrialised world of Europe on his art. "Clive James said of Smart, 'He was painting the future, the country we live in now. And somebody once said eventually everyone will live in the Smart country, in Smart Land. Well that was a good guess and the world now looks like what Jeffrey was painting back in the mid 50s in Italy.'
"Filming in Italy, you become only too aware of the truth of Clive James’ statement. So many visual moments become Smart moments – shipping containers, street signs and arrows, apartment blocks. And something else happens. However ordinary, they become transformed into beautiful objects of the industrialised world. "Driving around the industrial areas outside Arezzo, near where Smart lives, we witnessed the transformation first-hand. We stopped to film this SAICO building at the behest of Smart and later gave him our photographs. This was the painting that resulted." For more of this doco: http://www.abc.net.au/arts/stories/s3786671.htm For more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Smart and http://www.smh.com.au/comment/obituaries/artist-transformed-symbols-of-modernity-20130621-2on1p.html
DANCE: ONE OF THE PERFORMING ARTS
For an overview on the subject of dance as a type of art that generally involvesmovement of the body, often rhythmic and to music, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dance Dance is performed in many cultures as a form ofemotional expression, social interaction, or exercise, in a spiritual or performance setting, and is sometimes used to express ideas or tell a story.
Joseph Epstein, the author of “Snobbery,” has taken up Yale University Press’s offer to participate in a literary series called “Icons of America.” In the process Epstein wrote about Fred Astaire. Fred Astaire is a very readable and glowing 50,000-word portrait, notwithstanding Epstein’s determination not to subject Fred to rough cross-examination or prolonged background scrutiny. His book is an essay, a survey of a master’s sweep, the sort of slim book that could accompany a PBS tribute. But if you’re introducing Astaire to a novice, know that this book rejects depths to explore; it prefers to believe they do not exist. Further, Epstein seems to assume you can’t really describe a dance routine, and settles for a few potent, impressionistic touches.
This is all very well, but an Astaire virgin might do better to spend the $22 on a DVD of “Top Hat” or “Swing Time” or even “Silk Stockings.” With Astaire, the vital lesson lies in seeing what he does and then realizing how determined he is to make it seem effortless. That ease is directly linked to the daft stories, which don’t bear thinking about. The omission is all the plainer as one comes to Epstein’s excellent commentary on Astaire the singer. For more of this review of the new book on Fred Astaire go to this link at The New York Times:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/books/review/Thomson-t.html
Choreography is the art of designing sequences of movements in which motion, form, or both are specified. Choreography may also refer to the design itself. The word choreography literally means "dance-writing" from the Greek words for 'circular dance' and, see choreia) and 'writing'. A choreographer is one who creates choreographies by practicing the art of choreography. The word "choreography" first appeared in the American English dictionary in the 1950s, and "choreographer" was first used as a credit for George Balanchine in the Broadway show On Your Toes in 1936. Prior to this, stage and movie credits used phrases such as "ensembles staged by", or "dances staged by", or simply "dances by" to denote the choreographer.
Although the choreographer Gilles Jobin had used sciencey titles like “A+B=X” and “Spider Galaxies,” it was not until 2012, when he was an artist-in-residence at the CERN physics laboratory in Switzerland, that he says he began to feel “science-abled.” Working in a studio above the supercollider, he developed an abstract dance piece that gently riffs on some concepts in particle physics. Go to this link at The New York Times 29/9/'14 for more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/30/science/science-events-dancing-particle-physics-and-science-inspired-fashion.html?ref=science&_r=0
Jennifer Homans' article in the New York Review of Books, 24 October 2013 entitled: The Unknown Young Balanchine is a review of Elizabeth Kendall's book Balanchine and the Lost Muse: Revolution and the Making of a Choreographer. George Balanchine had a hidden childhood. When he left his native Russia for Europe and the United States in 1924, his entire family stayed behind, and even letters between them were unreliable. Judging from what he later told friends and biographers, he didn’t remember much, though what he did recall fit neatly, perhaps a bit too neatly, in two halves. Balanchine thought of his early family life as mostly warm, even happy, and he recalled with nostalgia a lost imperial world. He was born in St. Petersburg in 1904, and his father was Georgian, charismatic, a composer; his mother was Russian, and she played the piano and made wonderful food; they were Orthodox and he loved church ritual. Ballet, and his training at the Imperial Theater School, were part of his sensual memory; he longed for the smells, sights, sounds of old Russia. For more of this review go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/oct/24/unknown-young-balanchine/
WHAT IS CONTEMPORARY ART?
Waldemar Januszczak(1954- ) is a British art critic. Formerly the art critic of The Guardian, he now writes for The Sunday Times, and has twice won the Critic of the Year award. Januszczak is also a film maker of television arts documentaries and the Director of ZCZ Films. He writes about "the conceptual problematics that accompany the kidnapping of film and video by contemporary art." Go to this link for his column: http://www.waldemar.tv/2012/12/seduced-by-the-city/ In this column, published in 12/2012, Januszczak says that "there has never been a greedier cultural monster stalking the earth than the art of today? Just look at all the creative forms that have been swallowed up by it — ballet, music, literature, drama, photography, film. All are findable in today’s art galleries, successfully repackaged and rebranded.
"Film has caught on in art," says this delightful art-doco man, "for the same sorts of reasons that the dishwasher has caught on in the kitchen. Essentially, it’s a labour-saving device that leaves your hands free and offers superquick connections to the artistic imagination: expression without effort. You don’t have to learn to carve marble, or paint illusionistically, or any tough stuff like that. All you have to do is record and reshape." Again, if you want more of this Art Critic of the Year go to the above link.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES AND ART
The most important contribution for art of the so-called New Technologies is that they introduce,and/or let appear, new processes and forms of thinking. Defining these New Technologies and their characteristics as well as how they reveal these forms of thinking is complex and difficult. They introduce some kind of innovation in terms of methodological thinking. What we now mean when we say “New Technologies” is digital technology.
I have no doubt that the specificity of digital technology may be used to change our habits of thinking, our noology. Noology is the study of intuition and reason. Noology or Noölogy derives from the Greek words for "mind." Noology outlines a systematic study and organization of everything dealing with knowing and knowledge. It is also used to describe the science of intellectual phenomena. It is the study of images of thoughts, their emergence, their genealogy, and their creation.
These changes in our habits of thought take place in quite dramatic ways. Digital technology allows and facilitates changes in consciousness by primarily allowing us to act differently with new tools. For example, digital painters work and think much differently from traditional painters through their mastering of digital tools. If they do so in alliance with a sprit of heterogeneous innovation and inner-directed risk the differences are significant.
Ars Electronica is an ambitious event incorporating conferences, lectures and symposiums as well as a festival of electronic arts based on the prestigious Prix Ars Electronica. In 2004 this annual event provided a survey of recent art and theory in the digital domain. The year 2004 was the 25th anniversary, 1979 to 2004, of electronic arts. The anniversary provided an opportunity to reflect not only on the changes over 25 years, but on the broader developments within electronic arts, cultural movements and social networks across a turbulent quarter-century.
The designated theme of that 2004 event was “Timeshift.” It proposed to look forward another 25 years speculating on the “driving forces in art, technology and society over the next quarter century.” The rival spirits of techno-optimism and apocalyptic despair were projected across a range of symposiums on the themes “Progress”, “Disruption”, “Spirit” and “Topia”. For more on this 25 year retrospect and prospect go to: http://scan.net.au/scan/magazine/display.php?journal_id=31 For more on this subject you can also go to this interview at the electronic online journal SCAN, a journal published by Macquarie University on the subject of media arts and culture:http://scan.net.au/scan/magazine/display.php?journal_id=56
RUSSIAN SHOW AT THE SAATCHI GALLERY
After studying History of Art at Manchester University, Januszczak became an art critic – and then arts editor – of The Guardian. In 1990 he was appointed Head of Arts at the UK's Channel 4 television and in 1992 he became art critic for The Sunday Times. He has been voted Critic of the Year twice by the Press Association. In his review of one of the shows at the Saatchi Gallery, he writes: "For some of the most shocking, moving, disquieting and powerful imagery you will ever see in an art exhibition, I recommend a visit to the new Russian show at the Saatchi Gallery. Some people will believe you should not take your children to this display, and I leave that up to you, but I would certainly take my children. The sights on offer here are as vivid a warning as they will ever receive of the terrible things that collapsing societies are capable of doing to their citizens; and the even worse things those citizens go on to do to themselves."
"Was there ever a harsher place to live than the remnants of the old Soviet Union? I suppose there must have been, but, right now, after a roomful of Boris Mikhailov’s gripping photographs, I cannot imagine where or when. Taken in Kharkov, Ukraine, in 1997-8, his snapshots of street kids and tramps, prostitutes and drunks, drug addicts and rag-pickers, soaked in Chernobyl radiation and pickled in home-made vodka, slap you about the face and force you to pay attention in the manner popularised by East German border guards in the 1980s. (I speak from personal experience, but it’s a long story.) For more of this review by an art critic who uses words to graphic and, for me, powerful effect go to: http://www.waldemar.tv/2012/12/doom-with-a-view/
The meaning of art is explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics, and even disciplines such as history and psychology analyze art's relationship with individuals and society both in the present and the past with an eye, in some cases, on the future. Traditionally, the term art was used to refer to any skill or mastery. This conception changed during the Romantic period(1750-1830) when art came to be seen as "a special faculty of the human mind to be classified with religion and science."(1) Indeed, until the modern era, modern defined as about 1500, most, if not all art, was associated with religion. In the last five centuries, say, 1500 to 2000, art has had a myriad of other associations. The work of the hand can inform the work of the mind and, to draw on Sennett again: "thought arises in relation to craft." Sennett reimagines the Enlightenment in terms not of ideas but of how craftsmen learned to work.
For Sennett the emblematic Enlightenment publication was Diderot’s Encyclopedia, or Dictionary of Arts and Crafts. In 35 volumes, this great work told its readers how to keep bees, make cider or wooden shoes, cure tobacco, prepare hemp, build a windmill, grind wheat, or — in the case that Sennett expands upon — make paper as it was then produced at the great L’Anglée factory south of Paris. The Enlightenment as pictured by Diderot arose from the conversation between craftsmen and all the stuff — the wood, the gold, the papermaking rags — that met their hands. The material world speaks back to us constantly, by its resistance, by its ambiguity, by the way it changes as circumstances change, and the enlightened are those able to enter into this dialogue and, by so doing, come to develop an “intelligent hand.”
The categories which it has become customary to use in distinguishing and classifying "movements" in literature or philosophy, and in describing the nature of the significant transitions which have taken place in taste and in opinion, are far too rough, crude, undiscriminating -- and none of them so hopelessly as the category "Romantic."(2) The list of art movements has become burgeoning in this last century as art has come under the microscope of art historians. Go to the following link for a comprehensive list of the art movements in history:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_art_movements --Ron Price with thanks to: (1) Ernst Gombrich, "Press statement on The Story of Art," 2005, The Gombrich Archive; and (2) Arthur O. Lovejoy, "On the Discriminations of Romanticisms," 1924.
British art critic Waldemar Januszczak, tracking the passage of the famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo(1907-1954) from ''nothing to everything,'' set out to demystify her. Mexican culture and Amerindian cultural tradition are important in her work and readers who would like to know more about this artist for whom it is difficult to separate her life from her work---for whom her life is her work, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frida_Kahlo ''In the poker game of politically correct contemporary aesthetics,'' Januszczak wrote in 2006 in The Sunday Times, ''Kahlo constitutes a perfect flush. She is a woman. She is Mexican. She is bisexual. She is disabled." Kahlo's art is all about herself, her difficult and painful life, her response to her vicissitudes. Her self-portraits are fierce rivaled only by those of van Gogh. They both took up art while convalescing. So much of my writing, like this website, is autobiographical and it is, for this reason that I have taken an interest in Kahlo here.
Writing came to have for me as the years rolled-on a strong element of convalescence, among other strong elements. I have had to deal with bipolar disorder for the last half century. You can read about Kahlo's illness in the following link. Aesthetics has a great deal to do with social roles, society's perceptions, social norms and values. My aesthetics, defined in these same terms as Kahlo's, do not constitute a good poker-hand. I am a man; I am a Canadian; I am straight; I am disabled but my disability is in the area of mental health. The only poker-hand with which I would win would be one of those rare bluffs. The size and frequency of a bluff in poker determines its profitability to the bluffer.
"I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best," Kahlo once wrote. "I was born a bitch. I was born a painter." I, too, am the subject of much of my writing. It is not so much that I am alone, although I require solitude to write. It is not so much that I was born a writer. If anything I am and have been too kind, although my wife often finds me annoying---and being annoying is one of the definitions of being bitchy. I write for many reasons and I invite readers at this section of my website to read on and they will discover many of my reasons for writing. I became a writer by sensible and insensible degrees over several decades. I was certainly not born to the role, the vocation, the avocation. For more on Kahlo, her aesthetics and an exhibition of her work in 2005 go to:http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F30A1FFD3C5F0C748DDDAF0894DD404482
L. S. LOWRY: CHRONICLER OF COMMUNITY
In “Discovering L.S. Lowry,” which appears in the September 26, 2013 issue of The New York Review, Sanford Schwartz writes about a new exhibition of the work of Lowry (1887–1976), whom he calls “Britain’s only visual artist to make industrial Lancashire, with its factories and smoke-belching chimneys and crowded streets, his or her predominant subject.” In paintings that “show factories, shops, city parks, and fairs, and are generally marked by scores of small standing or walking figures,” Schwartz writes, “Lowry can seem like the chronicler of a community.” But the most impressive aspect of Lowry’s art may be “the way it grew and changed over time…If in the 1920s his work had the spirit of so many postcards of a dark and gloomy industrial scene, he gradually found ways to bring in more plain white, and his vistas, like Industrial City, became increasingly dynamic in their sense of space.” For more on this subject go to:http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/gallery/2013/sep/02/homeliness-mystery-isolation-art-ls-lowry/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=September+3+2013&utm_content=September+3+2013+CID_10d136532ab742d6da297d0bdb242119&utm_source=Email%20marketing%20software&utm_term=The%20Art%20of%20LS%20Lowry
PHOTOGRAPHY AND WAR
George Gittoes is an image scavenger who dares to make sense out of the dismembered emotions and tangled symbols found in the wake of war and recent terrorism. Having travelled to New York, and then to Baghdad before and after the US led forces entered the city, he unflinchingly presents the complex nature of societies on the edge of chaos – both subsiding into and emerging from moments of shattering change.
Often considered as a war artist he does not, however, focus on the conventions of documenting small day-to-day tasks and larger heroic acts against the theatrical backdrop that war so easily provides. Gittoes is rather more interested in the conditions of popular culture and generally held beliefs at the place where they collide in on their worst nightmares or where the repressed darker side erupts into view during times of stress. For more go to:http://scan.net.au/scan/magazine/display.php?journal_id=30
THE LITERARY-ARTISTIC LIFE, ONE'S CHILDHOOD AND ONE'S READERS
Many people in the arts, indeed, in all walks of life, feel that their work, the artistic products in their adult life, all its content, finds its initial inspiration in their childhood, which never loses its magic ands its mystery, its drama and its multiple dimensions. The life and the work of many a creative person shows, constantly and astonishingly, an incredible mixture of experiences, feelings and settings, as well as the intersection of several temporal layers, which a writer like myself seems to recreate simultaneously within the inspiring tension of a single creative moment. Such a peculiarity poignantly leads to the complexity and to the forceful conceptual meaning of my literary works which, as I explore here, are infinitely open to discussion and interpretation.
Although much of my work is autobiographical, I deal with universal themes, themes which have long obsessed me personally as far back as my childhood in a very complex and sinuous route or path. These universal themes are many: anxiety and alienation, rejection and romance, love and liberty, the search for identity and individuality, sex and the sensory, death and destruction, above all, human relations and communication, as well as the suffering they inevitably involve for myself and others. This is probably the main reason why my work has been considered, and is still defined, as autobiographical. This means that my main, although not only, source of inspiration has been my life, and the only aim of my art was to overcome my private pains and obsessions, such as my experiences as a child, my relationship to motherhood and fatherhood, and the complex physical states brought about by strong feelings. Nevertheless, my art can’t be easily dismissed as solely autobiographical, due to the high degree of sublimation that I achieve, reaching for my work a timeless and universal status which doesn’t only belong to me as a man, but refers, more widely, to human consciousness and to human perceptual experience.
In what follows I am drawing on: (i) Roland Barthes, The Death of the Author, Hill & Wang, 1977; and (ii) Jacques Derrida, Signature, Event, Context, The John Hopkins University Press, 1977. Jacques Derrida(1930-2004) was a French philosopher who developed a form of semiotic analysis known as deconstruction. His work was labeled as post-structuralism and associated with postmodern philosophy. Barthes((1915-1980) was a French literary theorist, philosopher, linguist, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, social theory, anthropology and post-structuralism. For more on Barthes go to:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_Barthes.Go to this link for more on Derrida: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Derrida
The content and context of their ideas are complex and, unless readers are interested in these themes, I advise that they give this section a miss. Considering Roland Barthes’ conception of the “death of the author,” and Jacques Derrida’s “disappearing of the human being”, I would like to suggest a wider interpretation of my work than it has already tended to produce, an interpretation which goes beyond the mere, the obvious, autobiographical references. I want to give some plausibility to my literay art as a vehicle for expressing more profound and existential ideas than simple autobiographical references. Both Derrida and Barthes have stated the necessity of the author to disappear, in order for the audience to exist in front of any piece of writing. In his writing, his analysis, Barthes disapproves of the reader's propensity to, the reader's emphasis on, considering aspects of the author’s identity (such as his/her historical context, religion, psychology, or other biographical events) in order to extract meaning from his/her work:
"To give an Author to a text is to impose upon that text a stop clause, to furnish it with a final signification, to close the writing. This conception perfectly suits criticism which can then take as its major task the discovery of the Author and/or his several hypostases: society, history, the psyche, freedom--beneath the work. Once the Author is discovered, the text is "explained:' the critic has conquered. It is scarcely surprising not only that, historically, the reign of the Author should also have been that of the Critic, but that criticism should be overthrown along with the Author. In the multiple paradigmatic writing that one reads everything is to be distinguished, but nothing deciphered. The structure can be followed and"threaded", like a stocking that has run, in all its recurrences and all its stages. To Barthes, there is no underlying ground in a text; the space of the writing is to be traversed, not penetrated: writing ceaselessly posits meaning but always in order to evaporate it: it proceeds to a systematic exemption of meaning.
Following the above lines of thought, lines that are initially difficult for readers to understand, readers must thus separate a literary work from its creator in order to get as close as possible to its real, and at the same time constantly changing, significance. Instead of discovering a “single theological meaning”, readers must thus discover that writing is created to make its meaning evaporate and change endlessly, it constitutes “a space of many dimensions,” which cannot be “deciphered,” but only “distinguished” and disentangled. The implications of such a radical vision of critical reading reverse the balance of authority and power between author and reader: the “birth of the reader” can only happen after the author has ceased to exist. For more on this subject go to: http://www.nobleworld.biz/images/Sabatini2.pdf
Architecture is both the process and the product of planning,designing, & constructing buildings and other physical structures. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural symbols and asworks of art. Historical civilizations are often identified with their surviving architectural achievements. The word "Architecture" can mean: (i) q general term to describe buildings and other physical structures; (ii) the art and science of designing buildings and (some)nonbuilding structures; (iii) the style of design and method of construction of buildings and other physical structures; (iv) the practice of the architect, his or her offering or rendering professional services in connection with the design and construction of buildings, or built environments; (v) the design activity of the architect, from the macro-level like urban design, landscape architecture, to the micro-level as in construction details and furniture.
Jonathan Meades reviews The Skyscraper by Paul Goldberger, and The City Observed: New York: A Guide to the Architecture of Manhattan by Paul Goldberger. Meades begins: "The reaction of the English to tall buildings is odd and inconsistent. Call them skyscrapers and put them in New York (or Chicago or Cleveland or Sioux Falls) and they incur something that approaches, if not awe, then admiration. Call them tower blocks and put them in Glasgow (or Hackney or Hanley or Colchester our old friend the University of Essex) and everyone jumps up and down in a pogo of deep concern and true ire and calls for the blood of a now aged, eternally tatentless architect. 'Aesthetic and social disaster' is the bit that comes next.
Paul Goldberger's informal history of the most quintessentially American of building types makes one wonder if the 'social' is merely dressing and if what we (I mean those English who do not live in high rise public housing but abhor it none the less) really object to is the places' appearance and the way they spoil previously consistent towns and suburbs." For more go to: http://www.clivejames.com/jonathan-meades/skyscrapers For more on the general subject of architecture go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture
After Christchurch was devastated by the 2011 earthquake, urban regeneration groups experimented with transitional architecture. Not only has this helped residents re-engage with their city, it has gained worldwide attention. Four years ago this week, as I write this update on February 28, 2015, the New Zealand city of Christchurch, a neatly planned conservative city, lost eighty per cent of its heart. That ravaged city centre has become a blank canvas for a group of young architects and community builders Rather than wait for what is turning out to be a very slow rebuild, these professionals have experimented with a new transitional form of architecture. Go to this link to read about and listen to their story: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/blueprintforliving/transitional-architecture/6148274
Frank Owen Gehry(1929- )is a Canadian-born American architect, residing in Los Angeles. A number of his buildings, including his private residence, have become world-renowned attractions. His works are cited as being among the most important works of contemporary architecture in the 2010 World Architecture Survey, which led Vanity Fair to label him as "the most important architect of our age". Gehry's best-known works include the titanium-clad Guggenheim Museumin Bilbao, Spain; Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles; Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, France; MIT Ray & Maria Stata Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts; The Vontz Center for Molecular Studies on the University of Cincinnati campus; Experience Music Project in Seattle; New World Center in Miami Beach; Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis;Dancing House in Prague; the Vitra Design Museum and the museumMARTa Herford in Germany; the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto; theCinémathèque française in Paris; and 8 Spruce Street in New York City. It was his private residence in Santa Monica, California, that jump-started his career. https://www.ted.com/talks/frank_gehry_as_a_young_rebel?language=en Gehry is also the designer of the future National Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Gehry
ARCHITECTURE AND CITIES
A. The twenty-first century is the first urban century in human history, the first time more people on the planet live in cities than don’t. Experts project that some 75 percent of the booming global population will be city dwellers by 2050. Dozens of new cities are springing up in Asia, their growth hastened by political unrest, climate change, and mass relocation programs that have cleared vast swaths of the Chinese countryside. Much of the growth in countries like India and Bangladesh is chaotic and badly planned. In many growing cities across the Global South there are serious shortages of water, sanitation, and housing, along with increasing air pollution. The United States has some of the same problems on a smaller scale, while here urban development is also being stimulated by growing numbers of university graduates and empty-nesters who are rejuvenating downtowns and rejecting suburbia, the culture of commuting, sprawl, and the automobile.
Not that suburbs have stopped growing, but since the late 1990s, the share of automobiles driven by people in their twenties in America has fallen from 20.8 percent to 13.7 percent. The number of nineteen-year-olds opting out of driver’s licenses has tripled since the 1970s from 8 to 23 percent. Electric, self-driving vehicles may soon revolutionize transportation and urban land use. Meanwhile, deindustrialization, plummeting crime rates, & increasing populations of singles and complex, nontraditional families have reshaped many formerly desolate urban neighborhoods. People are moving downtown for jobs, but also for the pleasures and benefits of cultural exchange, walkable streets, parks, and public squares. Squares have defined urban living since the dawn of democracy, from which they are inseparable. The public square has always been synonymous with a society that acknowledges public life and a life in public, which is to say a society distinguishing the individual from the state. There were, strictly speaking, no public squares in ancient Egypt or India or Mesopotamia. There were courts outside temples & royal houses, & some wide processional streets.
B. By the sixth century BC, the agora in Athens was a civic center, and with the rise of democracy, became a center for democracy’s institutions, the heart of public life. In ancient Greek, the word “agora” is hard to translate. In Homer it could imply a “gathering” or “assembly”; by the time of Thucydides it had come to connote the public center of a city, the place around which the rest of the city was arranged, where business and politics were conducted in public—the place without which Greeks did not really regard a town or city as a town or city at all. Rather, such a place was, as the second-century writer Pausanias roughly put it, just a sorry assortment of houses and ancient shrines.
The agora announced the town as a polis. Agoras grew in significance during the Classical and Hellenistic years, physical expressions of civic order and life, with their temples and fishmongers and bankers at money-changing tables and merchants selling oil and wine and pottery. Stoas, or colonnades, surrounded the typical agora, and sometimes trees provided shade. People who didn’t like cities, and disliked democracy in its messiness, complained that agoras mixed religious and sacrilegious life, commerce, politics, and theater. But of course that was also their attraction and significance. The agora symbolized civil justice; it was organic, changeable, urbane. Even as government moved indoors and the agora evolved over time into the Roman forum, a grander, more formal place, the notion of the public square as the soul of urban life remained, for thousands of years, critical to the self-identity of the state.
C. I don’t think it’s coincidental that early in 2011 the Egyptian revolution centered around Tahrir Square, or that the Occupy Movement later that same year, partly inspired by the Arab Spring, expressed itself by taking over squares like Taksim in Istanbul, the Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona, and Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. And I don’t think it’s coincidental that the strangers who came together at places like Zuccotti and Taksim all formed pop-up towns on these sites, producing in miniature form (at least temporarily) what they imagined to be the outlines of a city, with distinct spaces designated for legal services, libraries, medical stations, media centers, kitchens serving free food, and general stores handing out free clothing. For more of this essay "The Craving for Public Squares" Michael Kimmelman in the NYRB(7/4/'16) go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/04/07/craving-for-public-squares/
ART AND ARCHITECTURE: A BAHA'I PERSPECTIVE
Published in the Journal of Bahá’í Studies(V 7, No 3, 1988) "Art and Architecture: A Bahá’í Perspective" by Fariburz Sahba, is an essay produced from the transcript of a speech delivered on 1 September 1992 at the Fourth Conference of Art & Culture held at the Landegg Academy, Switzerland, from 30 August to 5 September 1992. The text of the speech, translated from the Persian by Mark Hellaby, has undergone modifications in the course of its preparation for publication. The essay is concerned with art as the indigenous offspring of a society. A society's distinctive music, literature, drama, visual arts, and architecture emerge in its maturity. This essay explores the spiritual significance of the relationship between traditional and new forms of artistic expression from the author’s experience as an architect. To Bahá’ís, creating a work of art is equivalent to an act of worship. In the Bahá’í Era, artists will find a new dimension of abstract truth. However, mastery of any branch of the arts requires a rigorous discipline not generally appreciated. If artists are to be in advance of the mass of their contemporaries, they must try to open the eyes of others to the world which already stands revealed before them. When the full implications of the Bahá’í Revelation for art are grasped, artists will turn towards the Bahá’í Faith, seeing in this religion a new gateway into spiritual worlds. I leave this essay to readers with the interest at this link: http://bahai-studies.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/7.3-Sahba.pdf
WHY WE BUILD
Why are architects so mercurial? Why is architect-speak so impenetrable? Rowan Moore, architecture critic for The Observer, answers question one and could not be accused of accusation number two. One of the UK's most accomplished writers on the profession, he critiques the most important buildings and the people who masterminded them with a style that is both entertaining & cuts through the crap. Why We Build, his new book, does not disappoint. It does not set out to be a definitive study, more a set of musings. As he tours the world, Moore dips into themes. He guides us through the relationship between architecture and eroticism, power and finance in a journey from São Paulo to New York, Beijing and beyond. For a review of this book in The Guardian and The Observer on 6/1/'13 go to: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jan/06/why-we-build-moore-review
ARCHITECTURE AND ALAIN DE BOTTON
Alain de Botton, the Swiss-born essayist who lives in London, founded a nonprofit group called Living Architecture in 2009 with a simple goal. “I want people to experience modern domestic architecture,” Mr. de Botton said. “What’s lacking in the U.K. are publicly accessible homes. The few modern houses that exist are almost all in private hands and cannot be visited.” The first of the five homes the group has commissioned — all of which will be available year-round for vacation rentals — recently opened to the public. The Balancing Barn, a gleaming aluminum structure with a mostly plywood interior, designed by the Dutch architecture firm MVRDV, is the antithesis of Victorian architecture with its enclosed, stuffy rooms. Cantilevered over a steep piece of land near Thorington, in Suffolk, the house is nearly 100 feet long, with oversize windows, four bedrooms and bathrooms, and an open living area at tree height. The house sleeps up to eight people, and is now available.
We can happily live with disagreements of taste when it comes to art, or poetry, or music. I listen to Abba on my iPod, you listen to Brahms on yours, and everybody’s content. But architecture is different. If I build a Zaha Hadid deconstructed-boomerang house across the street from your mock-Tudor raised ranch, you’re going to have to look at it whether you want to or not. And if Donald Trump pulls down a few 19th-century brownstones to put up the 110-story gilded-glass Trump Basilisk, we’re all going to have to look at it, even if it kills us. It is because architecture is an essentially public art that we need some shared sense of architectural value. Do we want to live amid the rationally ordered boulevards of Paris, or the complexity and contradiction of the Vegas Strip? Is less more, or a bore? Will a new museum in the form of a gigantic titanium-clad blob transform our backwater hometown into an exciting cultural capital? Can the right sort of architecture even improve our character? For more on this topic and Alain de Botton go to:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/10/books/review/Holt.t.html?ref=alaindebotton
There’s a funny, revealing moment in Alain de Botton’s new book, “A Week at the Airport,” when he discovers that the largest bookstore at Heathrow Airport, in London, does not stock his books. He decides to have a conversation with Manishankar, the shop’s manager, about what else might be available. In de Botton's book A Week at the Airport he explains that he "was looking for the sort of books in which a genial voice expresses emotions that the reader has long felt but never before really understood; those that convey the secret, everyday things that society at large prefers to leave unsaid; those that make one feel somehow less alone and strange." For more go to:http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/27/books/27book.html?ref=alaindebotton
EDWARD HOPPER and HENRI MATISSE
Two art-and-architecture u-tube items were sent to me today as the autumn season for 2015 in Australia was less than one week away. I post these 2 u-tube items below. They are more about art than architecture, but I leave them to readers to decide what implications these short videos have for architecture. Henri Matisse(1869-1954), who was a French artist, known for his use of colour and his fluid & original draughtsmanship, & Edward Hopper(1882-1967) are the subjects of these two u-tube items. Edward Hopper spent his life painting alienated scenes that aren't depressing in the least to look at. They make us feel less alone. He used art, in the main, therapeutically: to reconcile us to the isolation inside every one of us.
Edward Hopper was a prominent American realist painter & printmaker. While he was most popularly known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolorist & printmaker in etching. Both in his urban and rural scenes, his spare and finely calculated renderings reflected his personal vision of modern American life. Hopper's influence on the art world and pop culture is undeniable. Though he had no formal students, many artists have cited him as an influence, including: Willem de Kooning, Jim Dine, & Mark Rothko. An illustration of Hopper’s influence is Rothko’s early work 'Composition I' (c. 1931), which is a direct paraphrase of Hopper’s 'Chop Suey'. A painting of a large, imposing Gothic house, Hopper's 'The House by the Railroad', inspired the look of the Bates house in Alfred Hitchcock's film Psycho. The painting is a fanciful portrait of the Second Empire Victorian home at 18 Conger Ave. in Haverstraw, New York. Hopper's cinematic compositions and dramatic use of light and dark has made him a favorite among filmmakers. For more on Hopper go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Hopper#Place_in_American_art ....For these two u-tube items, and more go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rluUMpndKbo&feature=em-subs_digest
IS ART THEORY A THING OF THE PAST
A. The following article, a mildly polemical piece, is found in the electronic online journal Humanitas, Volume XV, No. 1, 2002. The author is Leon Rosenstein; the title is: "The End of Art Theory." Rosenstein begins his online essay/article with this quotation: “In aesthetics . . . one can argue more and better than in any other subject.”---Anatole France in “The Unsubstantiality of Aesthetics” from “Preface” to Life and Letters, trans. Bernard Miall, New York: Dodd, Mead, 1924, reprinted in Literary Criticism, Pope to Croce, ed. Gay Allen and Harry Clark (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1962), p. 582.
B. It needs finally to be said, in paraphrase and in extension of the philosopher Hegel, that art theory on the side of its highest possibilities is a thing of the past. How did this come about? How did art theory come to its demise? Hegel said this over 200 years ago. Things die off in various ways: they wear out, they dissipate into triviality, they self-destruct, they no longer have any raison d’être. Postmortem analysis of art theory will reveal that at the turn of the millennium, art and art theory, have succumbed to all four of these. Hegel’s premature obituary concerns art, of course, and not art theory.
Art no longer affords that satisfaction of spiritual needs which earlier ages and nations sought in it, and found in it. . . . Consequently the conditions of our present time are not favorable to art. . . . In all these respects art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past. Thereby it has lost for us genuine truth and life, and has rather been transferred into our ideas instead of maintaining its earlier necessity in reality and occupying its higher place. For more go to:http://www.nhinet.org/15-1.htm
Art criticism is the discussion or evaluation of visual art. Art critics usually criticize art in the context of aesthetics or the theory of beauty. One of criticism's goals is the pursuit of a rational basis for art appreciation. The variety of artistic movements has resulted in a division of art criticism into different disciplines, each using vastly different criteria for their judgements. The most common division in the field of criticism is between historical criticism and evaluation, a form of art history, and contemporary criticism of work by living artists.
Despite perceptions that art criticism is a much lower risk activity than making art, opinions of current art are always liable to drastic corrections with the passage of time. Critics of the past are often ridiculed for either favoring artists now derided (like the academic painters of the late 19th Century) or dismissing artists now venerated (like the early work of the Impressionists). Some art movements themselves were named disparagingly by critics, with the name later adopted as a sort of badge of honor by the artists of the style (e.g. Impressionism, Cubism), the original negative meaning forgotten. For more on this subject go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_criticism
"Throughout the English-speaking world, art criticism is in a permanent state of crisis," writes Clive James, "because of the opportunities that it offers for waffle." "In this regard," continues James, "London is in less benighted condition than most other cities. With such a swathe of periodicals and serious newspapers, it has more outlets for critical comment, so there is still a chance that a few critics might stand out by writing with less opacity than the rest. Among the younger critics, Laura Cumming of the Observer combines clarity of style with a wide range of taste. Sedulously haunting the galleries and attending all the smaller exhibitions, she knows real quality when she sees it and has the background to put it in context. The accumulating result, week by week, is a comprehensive survey in which individual works of art stand out in greater particularity, rather than being submerged in trends. Her book about self portraiture, A Face to the World, published in July 2009, was eagerly awaited and has been greeted with wide and deserved acclaim. Meanwhile, all aspiring critics of any art form should take a look at how much she can say in a short space about this most intractable of subjects." For more on Laura Cumming, go to: http://www.clivejames.com/guest-writers/laura-cumming, and http://www.theguardian.com/profile/lauracumming
THE MEANING AND POLITICS OF ART
Purposefulness without purpose, teleology without end, objectivity without an object, even in its most genteel definition, art is a site of impossibility. It is the impossibility we are most used to. It is the figure of impossibility to us. The meaningless and incomprehensible, from the most serene to the most violent, from the most fragile to the most shocking can only be redeemed as art. It is the place where the meaningless functions, and is talked about as if it were meaning, but which is not meaning. It is the abyss into which we can stare and live, the siren-song we can hear without being drawn onto rocks, the gap in the intelligible that offers us at least a figure of freedom. If it actually produced a sense in its senseless sense, it would become something else. It would no longer be art: it would be a fact, a principle, a truth, a lesson. But it is a truth, a truthfulness...and for more of this excellent, this philosophical, discussion of art go to:http://scan.net.au/scan/magazine/display.php?journal_id=28
THE BEGINNINGS OF POSTMODERNISM IN ART
Postmodern art is a body of art movements that sought to contradict some aspects of modernism or some aspects that emerged or developed in its aftermath. In general, movements such as Intermedia, Installation art, Conceptual Art and Multimedia, particularly involving video are described as postmodern. There are several characteristics which lend art to being postmodern; these include bricolage, the use of words prominently as the central artistic element, collage, simplification, appropriation, performance art, the recycling of past styles and themes in a modern-day context, as well as the break-up of the barrier between fine and high arts and low art and popular culture. For more of this introduction to postmodernism in art go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodern_art
In the 1970s, the art world also witnessed the beginnings of the postmodern. Whatever anticipations there may have been in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the assault upon the high/low barrier in art may usefully be dated to the 1970s. Rather than a high modernism that transgressed the forms of autonomous art, postmodern art registered the spread of information machines and the formation of the subject as consumer. Pop art, previously an oxymoron, explored the same aesthetics that television viewers experienced thousands of times a year. The commodity as object and the celebrity, the commodity as person, became the materials of aesthetic works. What was shocking to a modernist sensibility—for example, the presence of a work of Plato in an airport convenience store—was becoming commonplace as the markers of culture were drastically shifting and reforming. Herbert Marcuse discusses this. If modern cultural works derived their energy in part from their resistance to commodification and market principles, even though they were complicit with them if not absorbed by them, postmodern culture worked in and through the commodity as the locus of identification and subject construction.
A dominating figure in 19th century art criticism was French poet Charles Baudelaire, whose first published work was his art review Salon of 1845, which attracted immediate attention for its boldness. Many of his critical opinions were novel in their time, including his championing of Eugène Delacroix and Gustave Courbet. When Édouard Manet's famous Olympia (1865), a portrait of a nude courtesan, provoked a scandal for its blatant realism, Baudelaire worked privately to support his friend. "The will to work must dominate," wrote Baudelaire, "for art is long and time is brief.......Each man bears within himself his own dose of natural opium, incessantly secreted and renewed, and, from birth to death, how many hours can we count filled with pleasure,with prosperous and effective action?" For more on Baudelaire go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Baudelaire#The_artist
ROBERT HUGHES: GOING OUT IN STYLE
This afternoon my wife invited me down from my study saying “you’ll like this.”(1) And so it was that I had the pleasure of watching a doco released in 2008, a doco that subjects the commercialization of art to a withering criticism, a damning indictment of its degeneration into: (a) flashy triviality, and (b) the worst and the best of our post-modern world. I won’t give you chapter and verse of this hour-long critique by Robert Hughes(1938-2012) who died this week. You can read about this TV doco in cyberspace; perhaps the best analysis came out back in late 2008 at the internet site In Defence of Marxism,(2) although there was, for me at least, a splendid discussion containing both encomium and opprobrium with several non-professional art critics and participants at this link: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/mona-lisa-curse/
With his trademark style, Hughes explores how museums, the production of art and the way we experience it have radically changed in the last 50 years, telling the story of the rise of contemporary art and looking back over a life spent talking and writing about the art he loves and loathes. -Ron Price with thanks to (1)Robert Hughes: The Mona Lisa Curse, ABC1 TV, 3:00-4:00 p.m., 12 August 2012, and (2) Alan Woods, Art and the Crisis of Capitalism, 22/12/’08.
This doco started out in December ’62
with the French government loaning
the Mona Visa to the United States of
America to be displayed at New York’s
Metropolitan Museum of Art…I had no
idea at the time….immersed as I was in
grade 13 studies with 9 subjects as well
as four hours of homework every night
just before my father died and just after
I started the travelling-pioneering life for
a Canadian Baha’i community in Dundas,
the centre of Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe.
You are right there, Robert; things certainly
have changed in the last 50 years….not just
in the world of art. As Henry Miller wrote in
(1)…….that: “when the destruction brought about by the Second World War is complete another set of destructions will set in. They will be far more drastic, far more terrible than the destruction which we are now witnessing in the midst of this first global war. The whole planet will be in the throes of revolution. And the fires will rage until the very foundations of the present world crumble.” --Henry Miller, American writer and painter(1891-1980), in The Phoenix and the Ashes, Geoffrey Nash, George Ronald, Oxford, 1984, p.55.
Some of the observations of Carl Von Clausewitz(1780-1831), in his famous book On War, may apply in what Miller calls ‘a new, far more drastic, far more terrible’ destruction. Some military strategists argue that Clausewitz’s work was the first written effort to systematize the principles of conflict. His essays appeared from 1817 to 1828 and were published in On War(Princeton UP, 1976).
Clausewitz said “everything in strategy is simple but not easy”(p.656) and “there is no higher or simpler law than keeping one’s forces concentrated.”(p.664). Both principles apply, it could be argued, in this new style of war, a style of war which could be said to have begun in the world of art, at least according to Robert Hughes, in 1962. I would add, though, the caveat that ‘forces’ are those that operate in the private theatre of one’s inner life, and in a host of new collectivities that have emerged in the last century.--Ron Price, comment on Clausewitz’s On War in Pioneering Over Five Epochs, updated on 12 August 2012.
After that superficial propriety of mine
was given a good hard kick in the teeth
by raucous rock-&-roll which woke us
up from our day-dream world: Mr Clean,
General Ike, Doris Day, no negroes and
no genitalia: that war started & I had no
idea that it had begun! I had just moved
to the town of Dundas at the time; it was
a little place in the Golden Horseshoe...I
call it pioneering now; that was in 1962.
And the battle has been on ever since with
so many fronts: running across two wide
continents, caught in cross-fires which left
me bleeding raw & wounded, and I slowly
recovered, found the right prophylactic, am
taking it slowly now, walking, hands in my
pockets, and just watching the fires burning.
They are burning and harrowing up the souls
of billions in an orgy of violence—with such
complexity and confusion, bewildering and
so often an agony which insinuates itself
silently into the very soul, mind & the spirit
of men's children, and all the generations.
13/1/'96 through 12/8/’12 to 2/4/'13.
PAINTED WITH WORDS
Who are you Vincent?
On April Fools’ Day 2012 I watched Van Gogh: Painted With Words on ABC1.(1) It took me three weeks to find the right combination of time and circumstance to write a few words about this moving docudrama. I won’t tell you chapter and verse about the content of this TV program; you can read all about it, if you are interested at one of the many internet sites on the subject. There is also an immense bibliography that is devoted to van Gogh. You might call it the van Gogh industry.
My interest in this doco was heightened by the use of van Gogh’s letters which, for the millions who would have seen this doco since it came out several years ago, brought Vincent brilliantly and evocatively alive. Perhaps one of England’s great young actor’s Benedict Cumberbatch also helped to heighten my viewing pleasure. I’ve had an interest in van Gogh and his letters for years. My wife has had Arnold Pomerans’, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh( London: Penguin Classics, 1997) on her book shelves for many years. Van Gogh’s temperamental instability due to his bipolar disorder among other causative factors has been of interest to me since I also suffer from BPD. His intense religious predispositions and mine have also drawn me toward this now famous artist.(2)
Van Gogh, even as he was violently wrenching himself towards a form of painting which still startles us today, was filling his letters and his mind with thoughts of Corot. It was a tribute by the living artist to his predecessor’s clarity of seeing, an acknowledgment that this is what painting is. Just as the young John Richardson, visiting Braque’s studio for the first time, felt that he had arrived ‘at the very heart of painting’. No one did colour more blatantly and more unexpectedly than Van Gogh. Its blatancy gives his pictures their roaring charm. Colour, he seems to be saying: you haven’t seen colour before, look at this deep blue, this yellow, this black; watch me put them screechingly side by side. Colour for Van Gogh was a kind of noise.
Van Gogh’s letters are the best autobiography of an artist that we have, noted The Economist. Vincent wrote mostly to his brother, over 800 letters, to stave-off loneliness and perhaps achieve some psychic integration.(3) Irving Stone used van Gogh’s letters to write his bio-history, his biographical novel.(4) -Ron Price with thanks to (1)ABC1, 4-5 p.m., 1 April 2012, BBC 11 & 14 April 2010, (2) go to this link for Vincent’s religious views: mine are due to my intense association with the Baha’i Faith over 60 years; (3) Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker(eds.), Vincent Van Gogh: The Letters, 6 Vols., Thames and Hudson, 2009, and (4)Irving Stone, Lust for Life, 1934. For a review of Ever Yours: The Essential Letters by Vincent van Gogh, edited by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker(Yale, 800 pages, 2014; and Van Gogh: A Power Seething by Julian Bell(Amazon, 200 pages, 2014) go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n15/julian-barnes/selfie-with-sunflowers
Did you need to work yourself
to mental exhaustion, Vincent?
You were clearly a driven man.
If you had had these wonderful
meds that I have been given off
& on for the last 40 years, what
would happened to you Vincent?
Would you have been able to get
an erection?1 …It’s all guesswork
for us even with the research that
is now available to scholars & the
historians available for this book.2
You were not so good at personal
relationships, eh Vincent? As you
went headlong into your life-work,
into crisis after crisis, inner torment
after inner torment, the personal, the
relationships of yours were a disaster.
You told us this. But the depth of your3
inner life is still unplumbed as it is for
all of us…..Does anyone ever find out
who, what, their real self is, Vincent?!?4
1 Alex Danchev, Vincent Van Gogh’s tartan torment in The Times Literary Supplement, 21 March 2012. A Review of Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s, Van Gogh: The Life.
2 Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s 1000 page book, which came out in late 2011, Van Gogh: The Life had a team of 20 researchers and a database so vast that it required custom software and a team of digital scholars---so runs the press release.
3 Van Gogh wrote: “I have no talent for relationships” and “I can’t help that.”-Alex Danchev, op. cit.
4 The literature that now exists on this enigmatic question is burgeoning. The Real Self theory in politics and philosophy proposes that people often have a private "real will" or real self, that is different from their public "expressed will". As good a place to start as any on this mysterious question is at this link: http://www.trueself.org/
But this link is just a start. All the major religions and philosophies, to say nothing of the several dozen theories of personality in psychology, have a take on this subject, this topic and the issues related to it.
20 April 2012
In the 5 February 2015 edition of The New York Review of Books, Michael Kimmelman reviews a new book: Van Gogh: A Power Seething by Julian Bell. In this slim volume of 160 pages Bell has written what he describes, rightly, as an “unmystified” and compassionate biography. It follows the encyclopedic biography by Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith, published in 2011, a painstaking, brilliant, almost ceaselessly downbeat account of the life that nonetheless left room for a compact, personal take like this one, by a painter-writer about a painter-writer. Bell’s sympathy for his subject abides; his prose is angelic. He outlines the life without melodrama and with just enough exasperation at Vincent’s loutish, morose, and egocentric shenanigans. The book really comes alive when Bell describes specific pictures and their mechanics. For more go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/feb/05/van-gogh-courage-and-cunning/?insrc=hpss
EXTENSION OF HUMAN VISION AND ART
X-rays and lasers have extended human vision and multiplied its perspectives to such an extent that even the perfectionist fifteenth-century philosopher Nicholas of Cusa might revise upward his low estimate of our representations of reality through our perceptions. Nicholas of Cusa thought that our representations suffer from being "contracted to a sense organ." In the postmodern era, aesthetic experience, the very notion of looking, has been transformed for the viewer whose technologically enhanced gaze penetrates into the hidden dimensions of works such as Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait (1434).
The Arnolfini Portrait is an oil painting on oak panel dated 1434 by the Early Netherlandish painter Jan van Eyck. It is also known as The Arnolfini Wedding, The Arnolfini Marriage, The Arnolfini Double Portrait or the Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife, among other titles. The painting is a small full-length double portrait, which is believed to represent the Italian merchant Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife, presumably in their home in the Flemish city of Bruges. It is considered one of the more original and complex paintings in Western art because of the iconography. For more on this painting go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnolfini_Portrait
The numerous revisions of gestures, glances, and perspectives constituting the underpainting of van Eyck's masterpiece have been recovered by infrared reflectograms that reveal a mute symphony of pentimenti: Arnolfini's hand flutters through the stages of its composition; like images on badly spliced film, the two figures' eyes flicker through their adjustments; the wire-haired dog floats like a fuzzy electron cloud in the process of materializing in front of our eyes. The reworked mirror itself seems cognate with the artist's shifting intentions as it draws the composition into focus. A "restoration" in reverse, moving backward in time from finished product to earlier stages of composition, this process espies a hidden narrative teased out of the underdrawing's hatching and overlapping lines. This previously undisclosed narrative, realized through processes of interference and superposition, offers valuable clues as to the artist's physical planning and execution of the final image. A painting on view for over five hundred and seventy-five years suddenly has a new story to tell. For more on this theme go to:http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=667
THE ART OF HOME DESIGN AND TRANSFORMATION
Television programming devoted to rapid before-and-after transformation of homes is increasingly popular in the U.S. and Australia. Analysis of audience reception of messages contained in this television genre is important if we are to understand the efficacy of the growing do-it-yourself phenomenon, especially among women. Semi-structured interview data from thirty-four female decorating television viewers reveal that, with regard to adherence to traditional femininity, both agency and constraint are present in these women’s viewing practices. Many of the shows contain messages of “You can do this.” They are thus seen as empowering and giving agency to female viewers. However, women’s interpretation of the shows, as well as the manner in which they watch the shows, reveal that the traditionally female charge of domestic aesthetic beauty remains a strong force in women’s everyday lives, thus constraining women into a subordinate position to men.
From Western appropriation of Feng Shui to fascination with the legal ups and downs of lifestyle gurus such as Martha Stewart, American culture is continually shifting its definitions of “the good life” within the interior of the home. Television programming devoted to residential decorating and design has flourished in the last few years, with both cable and network stations introducing increasing numbers of home makeover shows (Fornoff 2004; Peterson 2004), largely targeted at female audiences. While non-fiction television programming is not new, the current mass dissemination of images of “reality” is noteworthy. And within the genre of reality television, the increase in the number of shows (and indeed, entire stations) devoted to before-and-after residential redecoration and remodeling is worthy of examination.
It is important to analyze this growing phenomenon of “lifestyle” television from the point of view of female audience members because they represent the consumers in a growing market devoted to rapid before-and-after transformations of the American interior homescape. They are also the ones who participate in everyday culture either by filtering aesthetic ideas from television programming into their own homes, or by protesting the “perfect lifestyle” (Chochswender 2005: D1) by avoiding consumption of extravagant lifestyle goods and services that are represented on television and in other forms of media. It is by examining audience reactions to decorating television that we can see social psychological dimensions of cultural action – how women absorb, ignore, re-communicate, and incorporate messages they may receive from texts such as television shows. In turn, by understanding audience member consumption practices, we can understand the efficacy of television messages about aesthetics as cultural symbols at a societal level (Schudson 2002). For more go to: "I Would Never do That in my Own Home: Gender, Audience Reflexivity, and the Decorating Television Viewing Culture," Michelle Janning and Lindsey Menard, Electronic Journal of Sociology, 2006; and http://www.sociology.org/archive.html
WOMEN IN ART
Though creativity has often been associated with women, historically and in the present there have been many impediments to achievement by women in art. Often relegated to the role of the “muse,” women have been expected to inspire men’s creativity but not develop their own. Poverty, household responsibilities, the rearing of children, and lack of education, support, and encouragement have been among the reasons there have been few “great” women artists. Often work by women was never discovered, was published or presented anonymously, or was credited to a male. The Bahá’í writings state that women should receive equal opportunities for education, should participate in all avenues of human endeavor, and should become proficient in the arts and sciences. Men are called upon to affirm that the capacity of women is equal to and even greater than theirs, in order to foster the development of women. In a world in which both sexes are free to express their creativity, great advances will be made.
In an essay entitled “From Muse to Heroine: Toward a Visible Creative Identity,” Anne Griswold Tyng describes the fate of one creative woman: Alma Schindler (1879–1964) “the most beautiful girl in Vienna,” had ability she might have developed as a composer; at twenty-two she married Gustav Mahler who was forty-one and already a famous composer-conductor. On the eve of the marriage, Mahler wrote to Alma: How do you picture the married life of a husband and wife who are both composers? Have you my idea how ridiculous and, in time, how degrading for both of us such a peculiarly competitive relationship would inevitably become? What will happen if, just when you’re ‘in the mood’, you’re obliged to attend to the house or to something I might happen to need? . . . You must become ‘what I need’ if we are to be happy together, i.e., my wife, not my colleague.
Alma agreed to Mahler’s demands. But, married three years, she wrote in her diary: “It came to me suddenly that I am living what only appears to be a life. I hold so much inside of me, I am not free—I suffer—but I don’t know why or what for.” For his part, Mahler was unable to compose without her presence to nourish an inspire him. (Architecture 172–73) After Mahler died, Alma became the lover of painter Oskar Kokoschka, and then Walter Gropius from whom she was divorced; she then married poet/novelist/playwright Franz Werfel. She had affairs with other noted men. For this lengthy article on women in art go to: http://bahai-studies.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/4.2-Gordon-Atkinson.pdf
SOCIOLOGY OF ART
In 1974 I taught a course to students at an art college in Tasmania on The Sociology of Art. In the last 40 years I have taken an interest in this field. The following article attempts to offer a foundation for the sociological study of art. The author argues that art is Weltanschauung, or a window into the world through which we can identify and explore the social contexts of artistic forms. He also highlights three theoretical sociological perspectives: Functional, Conflict, and Interpretivist. He examines art through each of these perspectives. His aim is to establish a framework from which to study art sociologically. For the first time, he argues, paintings and other artistic productions have truly become the expression of Weltanschauung, a “view-of the-world,” in the most literal sense of the term. The artist views the world, to explain it for its real context, its truth. I leave it to readers to read about these three sociological theories. To understand this author's essay readers need to understand the sociological theories on which his study is based.
Artists, through their work, capture an element of social reality. Much like the artist the sociologist, too, may view works of art as a form of captured reality and thus explore them for explanations of social existence, of the individual in society. However, in order to thoroughly identify and explore the social contexts of artistic forms, the social scientist must first implement an investigative framework that is relevant to the discipline of sociology and to the field of art. The goal of the author of this essay is to elucidate useful theoretical approaches to the sociology of art. The author defines art within a number of contexts: aesthetic, personal, and sociological. He discusses the role and place of theory in sociological investigations. The theoretical perspectives of the following theories of sociology are discussed: Functional, Conflict, and Interpretivist approaches. They are each highlighted in order to ground art as a field of sociological study. Go to this link at The Electronic Journal of Sociology for the article entitled "Art as Weltanschauung: An Overview of Theory in the Sociology of Art" by John Paul:http://www.sociology.org/archive.html
AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND ART
The art of Lucian Freud(1922-2011) is strongly autobiographical. For this reason, among others, I find Freud's art of interest. Since most of my writing is strongly autobiographical, Freud's work is of special interest to me. An autobiographer like myself learns from other autobiographers by contrast or comparison. “I’ve a strong autobiographical bias. My work is entirely about myself and my surroundings," said Freud, "The subject matter is autobiographical, it's all to do with hope and memory and sensuality and involvement, really."
Freud was a German-born British painter, known chiefly for his thickly impastoed portrait and figure paintings. He was widely considered the pre-eminent British artist of his time. His works are noted for their psychological penetration, and for their often discomforting examination of the relationship between artist and model. Freud's subjects, who needed to make a very large and uncertain commitment of their time, were often the people in his life; friends, family, fellow painters, lovers, children. He put the pictorial language of traditional European painting in the service of an anti-romantic, confrontational style of portraiture that stripped bare the sitter’s social facade. Ordinary people — many of them his friends — stared wide-eyed from the canvas, vulnerable to the artist’s ruthless inspection. In my case I do not strip bare the significant others in my life.
Freud's first solo exhibition in 1944 at the Alex Reid & Lefevre Gallery. I was born in 1944 and began my interest in autobiography in the mid-1980s when I was in my 40s. Some critics say that Freud was at his best as a painter when painting people he knew well such as Bella or Leigh Bowery and Nicola Bateman – the subjects of And The Bridgegroom (1993). The problem with painting people he did not often see is no doubt linked to the fact that he liked to work very slowly in prolonged multiple sittings. His portrait of the Queen, Richardson, and Moss did not afford him this luxury. Moss is one of several pregnant women he painted.
Lucian Freud worked against the grain in his deep and concentrated relation to the history of painting and in so doing became the most remarkable painter of human flesh since Rembrandt. He also worked against the grain of a culture of idealized bodies where images of fat or pregnant women are considered publishable only by sub genres of the pornography industry. And while doing so he painted exquisite vulnerable male nudes. Freud gave us a new understanding of the portrait and what it might yet achieve for the painter, the sitter, and for art. It is not an overstatement to call Lucian Freud the Rembrandt of our age. I would also like to think I provided a new understanding of autobiography, but I will have to leave that assessment to others.
Perhaps his greatest contribution, as a self acknowledged realist, was his betrayal of much of the mythology of “realism”. For Freud the human mask extended beyond the face where he usually began his portraits, and extended to the entire length of the body – even naked we remain largely unknowable to the other. In pushing the nude to its extremes – to the point of catastrophe – Freud calls upon the strong sense of humanity within each of us – not far from pity – while forcing us to want to look at these less than ideal representations for the sumptuous expressions of paint which each of them is. His work calls upon us to appreciate the melancholy creature we are as much as it calls on us to admire the technical skill of the painter.
In December 2013 a review of two new books about Lucian Freud appeared in the London Review of Books. The two books were: (i) Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud by Martin Gayford(Thames and Hudson, 250 pages, 2012), and (ii) Breakfast with Lucian: A Portrait of the Artist by Geordie Greig(Cape, 260 pages, 2013). The review was by Julian Barnes. I will quote below Barnes's opening paragraph: "Rembrandt’s Artist in His Studio( c.1629) is a small picture with a blazing message. The viewpoint is that of one seated on the bare floor in the corner of an attic studio with crumbling plaster walls. On the right, in shadow, is the doorway. In the centre, with its back to us, is an enormous easel with a picture propped on it. On the left, barely half the height of the easel, stands the painter, brush and mahlstick in hand, dressed in his painting robe and hat. He is in shadow, but we can roughly make out his moon face as he stares at his picture. The light source, out of shot, is to the left of him and above. It falls almost entirely on the floorboards, turning them corn-coloured, & also on the left-hand edge of the painting on the easel, giving it a glittering vertical line. But because we can’t see where the light is coming from, the image switches round in our head: it is as if the painting is blazing out over the floor. But it is not blazing onto the manikin-painter. So viewers and readers are to understand: it is the art which illuminates, which gives the artist both his being and his significance, rather than the other way round." For more of this review go to: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n23/julian-barnes/heart-squasher
Julian Patrick Barnes(1946-) is an English writer: novelist and essayist. Barnes won the Man Booker Prize for his book The Sense of an Ending (2011), and three of his earlier books had been shortlisted for the Booker Prize: Flaubert's Parrot (1984), England, England(1998), and Arthur & George (2005). He has also written crime fiction under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh. In addition to novels, Barnes has published collections of essays and short stories. I include these few words here about Barnes since he is the reviewer of the above two books in the LRB. His review in the LRB(April 2013) of Fellow Men: Fantin-Latour and the Problem of the Group in 19th-Century French Painting by Bridget Alsdorf(Princeton, 350 pages, 2012) is also a brilliant biographical-autobiographical analysis of four paintings by Henri Fantin-Latour(1836-1904). Latour was a French painter and lithographer best known for his flower paintings and group portraits of Parisian artists and writers. For more on Barnes go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Barn
In the summer of 1494, soon after his engagement, Albrecht Dürer made a startlingly intimate drawing of his fiancée Agnes Frey. One might have expected a twenty-three-year-old to depict his betrothed as a source of love, or comfort or well-being, all the more since her substantial dowry would soon launch his independent career. Instead, Albrecht showed Agnes twisted up in a knot of anxious introversion. She looks withdrawn and preoccupied, and the circles under her heavy-lidded eyes may even make one think she has been crying.
In its frank portrayal of an informal moment of unguarded emotion, there had never been a drawing quite like this before. Typically portraiture was honorific and meant to represent the exemplary virtues of the person shown; Dürer instead often sought to capture the idiosyncratic and psychological characteristics of the people he portrayed. He was fascinated with the close scrutiny of dark and brooding emotion. This is especially evident in his self-portraits, many of which show him in states of melancholy, doubt, or disease. Consider the self-portrait that he drew at the age of thirteen. It is made in ravishingly fine silverpoint, yet his large, staring eyes have a curiously anxious and unsettled look. The precocity evident in this sheet is not only in the flawless technique, but also in the impulse to self-examination. For more on Durer in Andrew Butterfield's article in a May 2013 issue of The New York Review of Books, "Dürer’s Devil Within," go to:http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/may/20/durer-devil-within/
MORE ON SELF-PORTRAITURE
The postwar upsurge in self-portraiture is amply documented in Tracey Warr and Amelia Jones’s anthology of texts and images, The Artist’s Body. The serial stuff-strutters include the photo-artists Gilbert & George, Cindy Sherman and John Coplans; the sculptors Jeff Koons, Antony Gormley and Marc Quinn; the painters Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon and Jenny Saville; the performance and video artists Joseph Beuys, Rebecca Horn, Bruce Nauman, Arnulf Rainer and Matthew Barney. Their work commonly involves the display of the artists themselves in extremis: Orlan’s increasingly drastic bouts of plastic surgery; the stages of Hannah Wilke’s death from cancer; Stelarc’s self-mutilation (he hung himself face down from the ceiling by inserting meat hooks into the skin on his back). So ubiquitous has self-portraiture become that we take it for granted. Art historians are forever claiming that an image by an Old Master is in fact a self-portrait.
In the London Review of Books(Vol. 23 No. 2, 2001) we can read a review of the following books: (i) The Artist's Body edited by Tracey Warr and Amelia Jones(Phaidon, 300 pages, 2000); (ii) Five Hundred Self-Portraits edited by Julian Bell(Phaidon,550 pages, 2000); and (iii) Renaissance Self-Portraiture by Joanna Woods-Marsden(Yale, 300 pages, 1998) In 2001 a skull found in Florence Cathedral was reconstructed and said to resemble a supposed self-portrait by Giotto in the Arena Chapel in Padua. We find it almost impossible to conceive that many artists have felt indifferent and even hostile to the genre, or regarded it as inappropriate. For more on self-portraiture go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v23/n02/james-hall/look-me-in-the-eye
A JEFF KOONS RETROSPECTIVE
Jeff Koons: A Retrospective is an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City on from June 27 to October 19, 2014. It then goes to the Centre Pompidou, Paris, November 26, 2014–April 27, 2015; and then the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, June 5–September 27, 2015. A September 2014 review in the The New York Review of Books of this exhibition begins as follows: "Imagine the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art as the perfect storm. And at the center of the perfect storm there is a perfect vacuum. The storm is everything going on around Jeff Koons: the multimillion-dollar auction prices, the blue chip dealers, the hyperbolic claims of the critics, the adulation and the controversy and the public that quite naturally wants to know what all the fuss is about. The vacuum is the work itself, displayed on five of the six floors of the Whitney, a succession of pop culture trophies so emotionally dead that museumgoers appear a little dazed as they dutifully take out their iPhones and produce their selfies. For more of this review, a review I enjoyed even if you do not, go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/sep/25/cult-jeff-koons/?insrc=toc
Ralph Waldo Emerson( 1803-1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement(link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendentalism) of the mid-19th century. He wrote in his essay on beauty that: "Things are pretty, graceful, rich, elegant, handsome but, until they speak to the imagination, not yet beautiful. This is the reason why beauty, in some ways, escapes, lies beyond, analysis. It is not yet possessed, it cannot be handled. “The human soul needs actual beauty more than bread," wrote the famous English novelist D.H. Lawrence(1885-1930). But the body needs bread and without bread all the beauty in the world is of little use to the soul.
Proclus(417-485), a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, and one of the last major Classical philosophers, said that "beauty swims on the light of forms." It is properly not in the form, but in the mind. It instantly deserts possession, and flies to an object in the horizon. If I could put my hand on the north star, would it be as beautiful? The sea is lovely, but when we bathe in it, the beauty forsakes all the near water. For the imagination and senses cannot be gratified at the same time. Wordsworth rightly speaks of "a light that never was on sea or land," meaning, that it was supplied by the observer, that cosmical quality with its power to suggest a relation to the whole world, and so lift the object out of a pitiful individuality." and
"There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrated to some stroke of the imagination. Into every beautiful object, there enters something immeasurable and divine, and just as much into form bounded by outlines, like mountains on the horizon, as into tones of music, or depths of space. When the second-sight of the mind is opened, now one color or form or gesture, and now another, has a pungency, as if a more interior ray had been emitted, disclosing its deep holdings in the frame of things. All high beauty has a moral element in it, and I find the antique sculpture as ethical as Marcus Antoninus: and the beauty ever in proportion tonsmustfurnisho the depth of thought." For more of Emerson on the subject of beauty go to:http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=EmeCond.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=8&division=div1
ART AND CRAFT: AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Richard Sennett, is a prime observer of society, an American, a pragmatist who takes the nitty gritty of daily life and turns it into a disquisition on morality. His earlier books include The Fall of Public Man, The Conscience of the Eye and The Corrosion of Character. Sennett's knowledge and interests range widely over architecture, art, design, literature and the ever fluctuating social life of cities. The components of the man-made environment enthral him. He is an enchanting writer with important things to say.
Typically his new book, The Craftsman, considers craftwork very broadly. Sennett does not stop at potters making mugs or Moroccan leather grainers, though such people do come into it, but extends his warm embrace to the crafts of making music, cooking, the bringing up of children. This is a book about perfectionist skills, the desire to do things well that (he thinks) resides in all of us, the frustration and damage once these urges are denied. When we downgrade dedication we do so at our peril, Sennett argues, in an erudite and thought-provoking work. For more go to these links:http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/feb/09/society and http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/06/books/review/Hyde-t.html?pagewanted=all
LUCIAN FREUD AND ART
“For me, the paint is the person. I’d like to think that I had in some way caught a scene rather than composed it, so that you never questioned it.”(1) “I could never put anything into a picture that wasn’t actually there in front of me. That would be a pointless lie.” By his own account, Lucian Freud is a painter who reaches after truth and substance. And for many today, the claims he makes hold good. Freud says that he wants his pictures to look “awkward, in the way that life looks awkward.” Of course, for many others, Freud does not paint truth or substance because the paint, in reality, can never in truth be the person. All Freud can do is cultivate the quality of attachment, the “ofness,” that the image bears toward its original.
To produce paintings means to rework the truths of personal experience. Many in the art world wish art and its artists to appear as Freud does. They know and understand, they accept, that many artists are, as Freud himself admitted in a recent interview, "completely selfish and only do what they want to do.” To treat Freud as “the greatest living realist painter” has now become commonplace. Robert Hughes gave Freud that title in 1987,(2) the point at which he started to acquire an international renown.-Ron Price with thanks to:(1) Freud quoted in Lawrence Gowing, Lucien Freud, Thames and Hudson, 1982, p.191; and (2) Robert Hughes, Introduction to Lucian Freud: Paintings, British Council Exhibition, 1987, p.7. For more on Lucian Freud go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/mar/06/the-way-to-all-flesh/ I enjoyed this discussion of Freud because similar issues are involved when one writes. I will discuss more on this later.
ART AND CRAFT: FROM CHILDHOOD TO OLD AGE
Perhaps the most amazing of the many remarkable aspects of Louise Bourgeois(1911-2010), the renowned French-American artist and sculptor, best known for her contributions to both modern and contemporary art, is that if she had died in her middle seventies we would not have known how daring, strange, ambitious, or disturbing an artist she could be. We would not have known how lively a colorist this sculptor who lived to be 98 was capable of being; and we would have been deprived of the full measure of one of the loveliest aspects of her art, her feeling for a range of weathered, frayed, and matte textures. Go to this link for more: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/oct/23/daring-and-disturbing/
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW AND ME
"This is the true joy in life," wrote George Bernard Shaw, "being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap…..being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."(1) In my late forties and certainly by the time I was fifty, I had my first feelings, the first intimations, of "being thoroughly worn out." I was not ready for the scrap heap but, toward midnight most nights, if I still happened to be up, I felt ready for this place of the proverbial end-game. In spite of these initial feelings of exhaustion, I was not inclined to be a complaining person, although my wife would give readers here a more reflective and perhaps diverging view of my complaint-syndrome; nor did I see that the function of the world was to make me happy. Still, I depended on much that was in the world for my happinees--as most of us do.
When not working in his studio, the famous artist Picasso had a nearly inexhaustible need for social and intellectual stimulus; he fed off the energy and the ideas of friends and acquaintances.(2) By the time I came to write seriously in my late 50s, the early years of the 21st century, I had the same need but I was able to satisfy it by reading and writing, and interaction on the internet with others who had similar interests. Perhaps my lack of need for social stimulus when I retired from the world of jobs was due to having spent half a century in classrooms; perhaps it was due to the medications I took for my bipolar disorder which only allowed me short bursts of energy; perhaps it was decades of having gone to "meetings-bloody-meetings", as the comedian John Cleese discusses these verbal exercises in a humorous fashion in his two videos on the subject; perhaps it was the feeling I had spent a lifetime in conversations and had indulged in "an excess of speech." -Ron Price with thanks to (1)Jan Carter in A Fortunate Life: A.B. Facey, Penguin, 1981, p.325; and (2) Andrew Butterfield, "Recreating Picasso," 20/12/'07, The New York Review of BookS. For more on Picasso go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/dec/20/recreating-picasso/
MY WRITING ON ART ON THE INTERNET
My poetry and prose, my essays & articles, my publishing & edited work, examples of my composition are found all over the internet. The following 10 links will take readers to several dozen pieces of my work and many of them in relation to the subject of art. Some writers & artists, for example, Picasso, must be seen in relation to their tertulia, the large and ever-changing circle of their friends who gathered around them. An irresistible force, writes a recent biographer on Picasso, pushed him relentlessly towards new and unknown horizons. Since retiring from work and being able to apply my energies to writing and not to teaching, to reading & not to going to meetings, to study & not to socializing, I, too have been possessed of an irresistable force. Unlike Picasso, though, I must be seen not in terms of the circle of people who gather around me, but in the large and ever-changing topics on which I am writing from day to day, month to month and year to year. The circle of my contacts on the internet, a very different context than human beings in real space, also provide a certain mise en scene for my literary endeavours.
The above link will take you to many of my posts on art. Readers will also find other Ron Price's mixed in with mine.
(there are more than 4000 Ron Prices in cyberpsace)
poemhunter (click on the top right side of the access page on the words "9 poems of RonPrice."
(scroll down the access page for a list of many articles posted at this site)
MORE ON PICASSO
No artist has ever embraced the freedom of the imagination with more fierce, hell-bent, intensity than Picasso. In the generation since his death in 1973 at the age of ninety-one, modernism has given way to postmodernism and posthumanism, and through it all Picasso has somehow retained his heroic standing, still the virile Nietzschean hero with the X-ray eyes. In 1973, I was just about to take-up a position at what is now the University of Tasmania as a senior tutor in education studies. Picasso was just about to come on my radar in a course I taught in 1974 entitled: the sociology of art. After more than 40 years he is still on my radar.
Jed Perl initially trained as a painter. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia College and also studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He decided to devote himself fully to criticism in the mid-1980s. "In my twenties I was very involved in making art as well as writing about art," he said an interview, "but in the early 80s I came to what I guess I would describe as a fork in the road, and around 1985 I just decided to stop painting. A lot of people were not that surprised, they felt that’s where I was going. For more on Perl go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jed_Perl
"Artists, curators, critics, and museum goers will disagree," writes Jed Perl in The New York Review of Books on 14/12/'14, "about the quality of one or another aspect of his epochal output. But anybody who walks through the Musée Picasso in Paris, just reopened after a five-year renovation, or through the enormous exhibitions of Picasso’s work currently on view at the Gagosian and Pace galleries in New York will probably experience something like the adrenaline rush that Picasso’s earliest admirers knew in the years before World War I. Perl reviews the following books: (i) Picasso’s Masterpieces: The Musée Picasso Paris Collection edited by Anne Baldassari(Flammarion/Musée Picasso Paris, 550 pages, 2014); (ii) Picasso and Jacqueline: The Evolution of Style(an exhibition at the Pace Gallery, New York City an exhibition at the Pace Gallery, New York City, October 31, 2014–January 10, 2015 Pace, 250 pages); and (iii) Picasso and the Camera(an exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery, New York City, October 28, 2014–January 3, 2015 Gagosian, 400 pages).
By now Picasso’s freedom may look like a glorious fluke not only of art history but of history itself, a product of the expanding democratic cosmopolitan culture of the final years of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. Those seventy-odd years were a time when even the most nihilistic members of the avant-garde remained on close enough terms with the academy to see what the old verities had to offer. And the violent face-offs between high culture and popular culture that in our own day seem to immobilize the art world remained healthy disagreements, provoking creative sparks, insights, revelations. The increasingly open society in which artists and writers were living stimulated the openness of the arts, and Picasso was willing to go for broke, precipitating the radical antinaturalism of abstraction and embracing the topsy-turvy naturalism of Surrealist dreams. For more of Perl on Picasso go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/dec/18/you-cant-catch-picasso/
OTHER PEOPLES' WRITING ON ART IN CYBERSPACE
An interview with a Baha'i artist in Toronto Canada:https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#inbox/1392682dec4bd831
WINNING SOME OF THE TIME
If you would prefer to stay on this page the following essayistic pieces and poetry may provide possible pleasure to you. A writer only wins the satisfaction of readers some of the time whether he writes: (a) in hard and soft cover books, (b) whether he writes for students as I did for 32 years as a teacher in the classroom, (c) whether he writes for teachers as I did as a student for another 18, or (d) whether he writes on the internet extensively as I have done for the last ten.
THE APPARENTLY IMPOSSIBLE
Goethe(1749-1832), that supreme genius of modern German literature, regarded his autobiography as "fragments of a great confession."(1) This conveys some truth to my own story, my own autobiography. The novel for German novelist Hermann Hesse was what he called "a personal transformation, a transformation adapted to the circumstances of his fiction." My autobiography, to use Hesse's way of conveying the role of the novel in his life, is also a personal transformation. My work and Hesse's was and is an "adventure of self-discovery"(2) shaped from and by autobiographical reality. We both began our writing in a serious way in our forties. Hesse's literary undertaking and mine was a reappraisal of our inner growth while we enjoyed a mood of contemplation and self-examination. My autobiographical undertaking took place as middle age/adulthood(40-60) developed sensibly and insensibly into late adulthood(60-80). It was an objective observation, as objective as I could be, of my surroundings and myself, my society and my religion. It was an analysis of the passing moment both in the present and the past. For both Hermann Hesse and myself, the desire to think and write often focused on self, on the psychology of the artist, the poet and the literary man; on the passion, the seriousness and some of the vanity of life which attempts, in part, the apparently impossible.(3) -Ron Price with thanks to (1 and 2) Hermann Hesse, Autobiographical Writings, editor T, Ziolkowski, Jonathan Cape, London, 1973, pp.ix-xiii, and (3) ibid., p.248.
MY NOTEBOOKS: A FORM OF MY ART
All of the above serves, in some ways, as a preamble to my discussion below of Notebooks which are a central aspect of my writing, at least a central aspect of where my writing begins. The material below, not originally part of the 5th edition of my memoirs entitled Pioneering Over Four Epochs, was added as an appendix. This appendix may be useful for future autobiographical, biographical and historical work. Since such a substantial part of my life has been spent compiling and utilizing Notebooks in my teaching, my personal study and my writing, it seemed relevant to include this commentary on my Notebooks in the 5th and subsequent editions of my autobiography all written in this third millennium, the first decade of my retirement from FT, PT and casual-volunteer work: 2001 to 2011.
Notebook is the general name I give to each file that I have in my study in hard copy or in my computer directory. One can spend much time defining precisely what constitutes a file, a notebook and, now, a relevant directory listing in my computer, but I do not intend to do that here.(1) I do that in several places in my literary resource base and I do it briefly below in this overview of my Notebooks: Volume 5. This Volume 5 of my Notebooks focuses on the Notebooks of other writers and provides an overview of some 300 of my own Notebooks. So much of my art, the art of writing, begins in my Notebooks and so it seems highly appropriage to make some comments here about this literary form.
THE NOTEBOOKS AND AUTOBIOGRAPHIES OF OTHERS
Insensibly, after I completed the first edition of my autobiography Pioneering Over Three Epochs in 1993, and as the 18 years since 1993 have run their course, I became aware of the importance of the Notebooks of other writers as models for my own. The genre Notebooks was so often the starting place to my eventual literary products, to my oeuvre in all its forms. It was my hope that I might learn a few things from these other writers and, in the process, define as precisely as I needed to do the concept of Notebook. This Notebook, Volume 5, attempts, as I say above, to place the Notebooks of other writers into some overview, some overall statement and perspective. After more than fifty years of keeping Notebooks of various kinds I am beginning to get a feel for their role in my life. In about 1950 when I entered grade one I produced a Notebook. It was another 12 years before anything substantial, anything was created, that could, that might, in time, become part of my archival Notebooks.(2) Now, like shards of memory distilled from the past they provide scenes to be contemplated, tasted, savoured when it serves my purpose. Now, after nearly fifty years(1962 to 2011), these Notebooks have become a type of memoir which contains a dialogue with the mixed legacies of my life: religious, cultural, historical, philosophical, inter alia. For the most part, though, these Notebooks are not poignant or provocative; they are, rather, workmanlike collections, general repositories, of other people’s ideas and words.
Those who have written exstensive autobiographies and memoirs in the Bahá'í community have been few and far between, although there have been many, indeed multitudes in the Baha'i community, who have kept a record in some shape or form of their experiences---and this has become especially true now that the world-wide-web has expanded into the labyrinth of sites that now exist. Those who did write their memoirs, for the most part, have written a short exposition--what might, and often did, become a chapter of a book. The closest I’ve come to reading about the notebooks of other Baha’is is their pilgrims’ notes and short autobiographical and biographical works in a wide range of Baha'i books and sources. In the last two decades, since I stopped buying books except on very rare occasions due to a lack of funds and the immense number of books that I would like to buy, there have been more and more autobiographical and biographical books available in Baha'i bookstores.
MORE ON MY NOTEBOOKS AND JOURNALS
What I have tried to do in my autobiography with its poetry and notes, journal and essays, is to do what Samuel Beckett did with his plays. He specified, not just the words, but the rhythms and tones, the sets and the lighting plots, and these specifications are preserved in the remarkable series of his notebooks published by Faber and Faber. Where most great playwrights were content to write the text of a play, Beckett wrote the entire theatrical event. In some ways my autobiography is an entire theatrical event. As this theatrical event approaches some 2600 pages of narrative and 1000s of pages in other genres, this comparison of my approach to Beckett’s is, I think, somewhat apt.
I now have more than 300 files or Notebooks and, by degrees in this 3rd millennium, it became tiresome to keep count. In the nearly 50 years of my pioneering life, 1962 to 2011 and of keeping material that has become part of a Notebook somewhere in this vast collection of material, I have also discarded literally hundreds of Notebooks. This Notebook: Volume 5 should be of value to anyone interested in general perspectives, overall pictures, of my Notebooks. I realize that future readers may find some ambiguity in my use of the term Notebook. I apologize here for placing any individuals who take a serious interest in all of this printed matter in these difficult positions with respect to my terminology and the resources in question. But I am confident that, should anyone really be interested in these Notebooks, I have done an ample job of organizing my printed matter for any future historical value it might have, if any.
(1) Generally, though, I define a Notebook as an arch-lever file, a 2-ring binder, an A-3 manilla folder or an easy-glide desk file. In the last decade(2001-2011) with my computer directory coming to serve as a, or 'the' major place of storage of printed matter, the term Notebook could easily be applied to much of the content in my computer directory. Of course, within most of these different collecting points there are sub-files or separate Notebooks. If I considered these sub or separate sections as Notebooks there would be several thousand Notebooks in my collection.
(2 )The oldest document I have in hard copy, and occupying a place in one of my notebooks, is an essay I wrote in the early months of 1962 in English class.—Ron Price, 2006, updated in: April 2011.
PERSPECTIVES ON MY CANADIANNESS
Canada, Identity and Art:
In the imagination of most Americans, Canada is a blur. It contains a lot of pine trees, moose, and Mounties; its population is relatively small, its politics relatively polite. Canadians are honest and serious but slightly dull. Some Americans may pity or scorn Canadians for not having joined the revolution of 1776, a revolution which led to a separate United States. In this American view, Canadians are like the goody-goody siblings who never rebelled against their parents. On the other hand, Americans admit Canada’s virtues, including a working national health care system, the acceptance of draft protesters during the Vietnam War, and the possession of many of the most brilliant and original writers in North America. It has sometimes taken us a while to notice these writers, of course. Alice Munro, for instance, had published three brilliant and strikingly original collections of stories and won the Governor General’s Prize before her work first appeared here in The New Yorker.
The Australians have quite a different view of Canadians. After living in Australia for more than 40 years, I am aware of both how similar and how different these two countries are. I am also aware that, as a Canadian, I do not experience the anti-American ethos that abounds in Australia. Canadians have the best of the British and the best of the American: the conservatism of the British and the get-up-and-go of the American. My writing, my art, reflects these 'bests' or so I like to think.
NOTEBOOKS: GENERAL OVERVIEW OF A LIFETIME OF COLLECTING
In the sixty-five years(1950-2015) that I have gathered my writing into Notebooks the writing has fallen into four general categories: school and job, personal and Baha’i. The first category: "school" was created in the 40 years 1949 to 1988 in primary, secondary and tertiary education as well as external studies programs(1973-1988). From the hundreds of Notebooks created in these years only two remain. From the hundreds of Notebooks created in category two, "jobs", the dozens of jobs, FT, PT and casual jobs that I have had, the only Notebooks remaining are the approximately 30 Notebooks from my last job at Polytechnic-West, what was then the Thornlie College of Technical & Further Education. These were & are Notebooks from several of the social sciences and humanities.
The third category of Notebooks: "personal" were created not for use in a place of employment, not for use as a teacher or in a school system. They were created for my personal use as a writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, reader and scholar, online blogger & journalist. I have been gathering resources now for fifty years, 1965-2015, but only seriously for the last thirty years, 1986-2015. I have been fine-tuning this 30 year collection of Notebooks in the last ten years, 2006-2015. I now have some 300 Notebooks covering millions of words and many subjects and topics. These Notebooks now serve and will serve as an important part of the base for my many writing projects in this last decade(70-80) of my late adulthood(60-80) & old age(80++) should I be granted a long life. The fourth category: "Baha'i" utilizes material from category three & has now come to occupy a multitude of Notebooks in these years of my retirement from the job world and my taking on, in the year 2006 & following, the full-time roles of writer & author, poet & publisher, editor & researcher, reader & scholar, online blogger & journalist.
Little did I know when I created my first Notebook at the mid-point in the twentieth century that 65 (1950-2015) years later Notebooks would come to occupy such an important place in my daily life. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, updated on 28/2/'15.
David Rokeby(1960- ) is a Canadian artist who has been making works of electronic, video and installation art since 1982. His early work Very Nervous System (1982–1991) is acknowledged as a pioneering work of interactive art, translating physical gestures into real-time interactive sound environments. Very Nervous System was presented at the Venice Biennale in 1986. For more on Rockeby go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Rokeby and http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/postmodern
POETS AND NOTEBOOKS
Some modern poets have published novels, for example, Robert Penn Warren, James Dickey, James Merrill, Sylvia Plath. Others have worked hard on novels but never saw them published: Edna St. Vincent Millay, Amy Clampitt. I was in this latter category during the late 1980s but, by the early 1990s I had given up trying to write a novel in any form. There are still others who simply can’t be imagined as novelists and who don't try. I moved into this category by 1992 and, in the last two decades 1991 to 2011 I call myself a poet and publisher, writer and author, essayist and blogger.
I am, like the American poet Theodore Roethke(1908-1963), a poet who utilizes notebooks. Roethke once declared, “I can become a bird but I can’t write a story." The recent re-release of Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke, 1943–63 a selection from Roethke's notebooks first published in 1972, reflects the purity of his poetic devotion. The book contains whole poems, failed poems, promising poem fragments, and comments about poetry. Its editor, David Wagoner, culled the contents from the 277 spiral notebooks Roethke left behind at his sudden death from coronary occlusion in 1963, at the age of fifty-five. A friend and former student of Roethke’s, as well as a notable poet himself, Wagoner may well have made his selections primarily to illuminate Roethke’s poetry, possibly at the expense of other literary concerns. Even so, Straw for the Fire is remarkable for the degree to which the stock-in-trade of the novelist: anecdote, characterization, dialogue---is absent, as are the usual concerns of the cultural critic: politics, social trends, the fine arts broadly. Or as W.H. Auden, who greatly admired Roethke’s poetry, once observed: “Ted had hardly any general ideas at all.” Like his poems, the notebooks brim with turbulent emotion—despair, rage, fear—and yet always with a sense that poetry alone provides the medium for sorting out one’s profoundest feelings. He was a writer secure in his sense of calling. For more of an account of his notebooks go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/apr/17/glassed-in/
THE CONCEPT OF NOTEBOOKS
Anselm Hollo wrote: "I love reading poets' notebooks. Poets are curious critters, and it is a pleasure to relax with the jottings and musings of other practitioners."(1) Many writers and poets, though not all, keep Notebooks. This part of Pioneering Over Four Epochs, section IX, contains information relevant to my Notebooks. What readers find here provides a general framework for the many Notebooks I have kept over the years. If there is any threat of philosophical textbookism hovering in the margins of my Notebooks, and the threat does exist, there is also my determination to "see ideas as always soaked through by the personal and social situations in which I find them." This tends to fend off that danger of textbookism with what I hope is, at least sometimes, a dazzling effect. The term textbookism as I use it means collecting information and quotations which, for the most part, are not part of a live, a living resource base.
There are generally two types of Notebooks which I use. One is the type where I keep notes on a particular subject. The subjects on which I kept notes--and booklet, the notebook names--are listed in this section.(2) Another notebook is the type where I keep quotations on the subject of writing, the literary process: poetry, reading, autobiography, diary/journal keeping and letter writing, inter alia. In this latter category I have some 20 major files and in the former category I have some 280 files. There is material in these Notebooks going back to the 1960s, the beginning of my pioneering experience but, for the most part, the Notebooks assumed the form they did in the last dozen years, after I retired from full-time employment in 1999.
1 Anselm Hollo, The Poet's Notebook: Excerpts from the Notebooks of 26 American Poets, WW Norton and Co., NY, editor, Stephen Kuudisto, et al., 1995.
2 Too many to list here. -9/9/04.
MORE GENERAL COMMENTS ON NOTEBOOKS
Karl Marx hand-copied whole passages of Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus into his Notebooks. The significance to Marx of the thought of Spinoza is much less clear than the simple fact of his copying passages of Spinoza.(1) The massive quantities of copied material in my Notebooks, two-ring binders and arch-lever files now numbering over three hundred, could be viewed for the significance of the thought of these various authors in relation to many Baha’i themes, There is, of course, significance beyond Baha’i themes but, after nearly 50 years of pioneering(1962-2012) the main focus is the connection of these resources to the Baha’i Cause. If a reader sifted my entire oeuvre, and any specific writer, through the collyrium of the Baha’i teachings, I’m sure he would find many interesting connections. For Price, these Notebooks were themselves a significant sifting mechanism.(2) -Ron Price with thanks to (1) Eugene Holland, “ Spinoza and Marx,” Cultural Logic, 2002; and (2)Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs, January 11th, 2004 to 20 June 2011.
I take a hint from Bill Bryson's new book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, that there may be a couple of good ways to think about ideas, and it would be a shame to blur them. Here he reports on a poet and a physicist talking about their work habits: When the poet Paul Valery once asked Einstein if he kept a notebook to record his ideas, Einstein looked at him with mild but genuine surprise. "Oh, that's not necessary," he replied. "It's so seldom I have one"(p.123).
Writers very often keep Notebooks and dip into them for ideas later on. They do this for at least two reasons. They want to preserve the energetic bits of language that come to them from time to time because they know that inspiration usually doesn't deliver whole poems and certainly never whole novels. Instead, they have to come back to the inspired bits and grow them into larger works, through regular practice of their craft. And they know that if they write regularly they will have more inspired bits to come back to. Good language comes to a writer who is working regularly with language, and not so much to one who writes only when on holiday, sporadically as if part of leisure time.
“Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old," writes American novelist Joan Didion(1934- ), I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.” As a keeper of notebooks, some of which are private and some of which are not, I do not see myself as an anxious malcontent nor as someone afflicted with some presentiment of loss. Nor am I lonely. Still Didion's words don't describe all those who keep notebooks. Few generalizations apply to everyone.
NOTEBOOKS: THE WORDS OF OTHERS---AND LANGUAGE
Einstein’s point needs emphasizing here because my Notebooks are full of ideas but they are significantly the words of others. To have an idea that is all yours is a rare experience. Poets have inspirations in all sorts of situations: as they walk along, sit, eat, or whatever. I knew a fiction writer once who said he thought poets were always "working." “Working is” that magical insider's word that writers use with each other to describe their writing activity. But there are different styles of working. T. S. Eliot once said in an interview that he didn't keep notes of ideas for new poems because he thought they froze when they were written down, but they kept evolving when he had them in his head rather than on paper.
The French poet Valery is surprised at Einstein, I believe, because as a poet he thinks through the specificity of language, and needs to keep the rich, promising clusters of new writing at hand somewhere, somehow, in order to save and work with the specificity. One way or another, Valery needs to preserve the hints, the false starts, the fragments, that might lead him in the direction of that specificity. Language is not the form his work takes; language is his work. And for me, of course, the language bites are different. Each writer has a different game and his Notebooks reflect his game and the quality of his intellectual clearing house.
I can't speak as clearly about the specificity in Einstein's field. I don't know it very well. I recognize its power, its workable specificity, even if I don't speak his language and don't know, perhaps, what to make of his allegiance to mathematics and quantitative analysis. But Valery offers a clearer clue, at least to this reader, about writers having a generative relationship to language. It's visible in the ways they work, as mine are visible in the ways I work. –Ron Price with thanks to Ken Smith’s website, 03/07/03 at 8:33 p.m.
THOMAS HARDY AND HIS NOTEBOOKS
I have a faculty...for burying an emotion in my heart or brain for forty years, and exhuming it at the end of that time as fresh as when interred.-Thomas Hardy, Notebooks, in The World of Poetry: Poets and Critics on the Art and Functions of Poetry, Clive Sansom, selector, Phoenix House, London, 1959, p.26.
Some would say that’s not a good idea, Thomas;
confusing burying with repressing is understandable.
For me burying is an unconscious process
associated with memory, so that remembering
is like creating something anew,
not always mind you, experiencing it
for the first time, again and again.
If I have any gift as a poet it is this
and it extends from strong experiences
to minute observations. This is the fresh centre
of richness which feeds imagination,
feeds the present with charged particles,
with blood and bone, with glance and gesture
and the poem rises and goes forth like a phoenix
from ashes where emotion lies buried,
exhumed fresh and tasted as if in some other world
by some other me, as if for the first time.
17 September 1995
7 REECE MEWS/6 REECE STREET
I think what caught my fancy about the story of Francis Bacon(1), in addition to his works of art and some of the quite stimulating and provocative things he said about art and the creative process, was the transfer in tact to Ireland of Bacon’s entire art studio at 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington. Bacon worked in this studio from 1961 to 1992. It is unlikely that this will ever happen to my study. The reasons for this are complex but obvious after a brief reflection.
My study holds less interest for the eye than Bacon’s studio. There is less colour, little clutter, far less heterogeneity and diversity of materials here. What I have here in my study is an orderly arrangement of books, files, furniture and stationary resources. In a general culture that takes more interest in the visual than in print a place like this study has virtually nothing to offer the art gallery, the library, the museum. The archivist or the librarian might find some print materials here that they could integrate into their wider collections. But I can not think of any reason to keep this study at “6 Reece Street” in tact for some future generation, as the studio of Francis Bacon has been kept.-Ron Price with thanks to (1)“7 Reece Mews,” ABC TV, 11:20-12:20 p.m., 14/15 August, 2005.
I watched “7 Reece Mews,”
on ABC TV last night
14th /15th August 2005
and wondered to myself
if there was any point in
transferring my study to some
home for tourists to come,
a place to serve as model
location for serious reflection.
But after brief consideration
I concluded that this could
never happen to my world,
this extension of who I am,
this identity framework
that tells much about this
self, this person, this man
from Canada transplanted
to the Antipodes near the
end of the Nine Year Plan
to spend the rest of his life
and lay his bones in the soil
at the southern end of the axis.
August 15th 2005
AN INTRODUCTION TO MY NOTEBOOKS:
In his work from day to day Leonard da Vinci concentrated on one thing at a time and, while he concentrated on that one thing, that thing was the most important in the world. Not much got done in the short term because da Vinci seemed interested in everything but, over a lifetime, da Vinci accomplished many great things, albeit unfinished. After his death Leonard da Vinci’s Notebooks were hidden away, scattered or lost. His wonderful ideas were forgotten; his inventions were not tested and built for hundreds of years. It was largely due to his wide interests that the things he started were never finished. These casual, passing, fleeting, but intense, interests can be found described, outlined, in those Notebooks. Those Notebooks record his observations, his sketches, his notes. They are all scattered through 28 Notebooks in over 5000 pages from 1490 to 1519. His Notebooks are a fascinating mixture of philosophy, scientific inquiry and art with, arguably, four major topics: painting, architecture, mechanics and anatomy made from the age of 37 to 67.-Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, “Leonardo da Vinci,” 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., October 31st, 2004.
Inside the Mind of Leonardo came to Australian television on 20 July 2014. It brought the wonder of da Vinci’s cryptic Codex to life through breathtaking 3D photography and animated graphics. The Codex was also brough to life by spectacular location videography, revealing and astute commentary from scholars and experts, and a virtuoso performance from acclaimed actor Peter Capaldi as the enigmatic da Vinci himself. While just 21 paintings by da Vinci are in existence, 6,000 pages within his private Journals/Notebooks have survived. This extraordinary treasure trove of sketches, designs, and written passages embodies da Vinci’s florid imagination, unbridled curiosity, keen insight, driving ambition & passionate obsessions with the natural world, engineering & innovation. A cherished & priceless cache from one of history’s most talented artists & perceptive thinkers, the Codex Atlanticus represents da Vinci’s deep, wildly varied and stunningly brilliant stream of consciousness. The film also reveals in intriguing ways the remarkably creative fruits of da Vinci’s mind based on his ground-breaking scientific investigations. These investigations often led to observations and conclusions that challenged or contradicted the Church’s prevailing orthodoxy.
Some may regard me as a little presumptuous to compare my Notebooks to those of one of the greatest geniuses of history. But, as Bahiyyih Nakhjavani writes in her article “Artist, Seeker and Seer,” our greatness “rests not in ourselves as much as in our ability and desire to circle around the great.”(1) I have quoted Nakhjavani, a writer who has influenced my thinking over many years. She grew up in Uganda and was educated in the United Kingdom and the United States. She taught European and American literature in Belgium, and now teaches in France. In 2007, Bahiyyih Nakhjavani received the honorary doctorate from the University of Liège. Her books have been translated into many languages. For more on this writer go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahiyyih_Nakhjavani
‘Contrast’ is a better word than ‘compare’ because my Notebooks are so very different than da Vinci’s. I won’t enumerate all the differences; perhaps the main difference is a visual bias in his work and a print bias in mine. Mine were collected some 500 years after da Vinci’s. Perhaps the first Notebook I created was in 1949-1950 in kindergarten and from that year until 1962 I created many a school Notebook. None of these notes now exist except two essays from English class in 1961-2 and now located in my Journal Volume 1.1.
I have some other notes going back to the early to mid sixties, to the start of my pioneering life in 1961-2, newspaper columns by Richard Needham of the Toronto Globe and Mail, and the 1970s. Most of these notes are: (a) photocopies of material given to me by students at Box Hill Tafe, (b) from Baha’i books which I keep in my Notebook: “Notes/Quotes file B,” (c) from a sociology of art course I taught in 1974 and (d) from media studies courses I taught in Ballarat in 1976-7. But the vast bulk of my notes comes from the last three decades, 1981 to 2011. Many notes and Notebooks from 1982 to 2002 were given to the Baha’i Council of the Northern Territory as part of The History of the Baha’i Faith in the NT: 1947-1997 in over 30 instalments(2); many were given to my colleagues when I left the teaching profession in 1999; many were thrown out when I reorganized my Notebooks on retiring from teaching in 1999 and retired from casual and volunteer teaching by mid-2004.
What exists now in my study are notes and Notebooks for a thirty year period, 1984 to 2015, from the age of 40 to 70.(3) In 1984 I began to keep a diary or journal. This collection consists of written notes and quotes from books on a multitude of subjects, photocopies and typed copies of the works of others and notes taken mostly from my reading and, to a far lesser extent, my observations and experiences. There are many categories of these Notebooks: (i) journal & diary Notebooks, (ii) Baha’i Notebooks, (iii) Notebooks on a multitude of humanities and social science disciplines in 300(ca) Notebooks in the form of two-ring binders & arch-lever files, inter alia; and (iv) Notebooks on the physical, biological and applied sciences.
AN INTRODUCTION TO MY NOTEBOOKS: Part 3
I have made a list of these and previous Notebooks in Section IX of my autobiography, Pioneering Over Four Epochs. I have also added additional information on the Notebooks of other writers to help provide perspectives on my own notes and note-keeping. I should add, too, that there are many (v) poetry Notebooks which occupy an extensive category unto itself. One could say that these are the five main categories of Notebooks that I have in my study 30 years after I began to keep notes that became the collection that now exists.(4)
New ideas are incubated, to some extent, in these Notebooks. I have squeezed brief writing periods, sketches of varying lengths & literary tasks of different kinds, into what seems now to have been my frenetic working and student life. I did this squeezing: (a) out of necessity because I was studying or teaching a particular subject, (b) out of interest because it was associated with my involvement in the Baha’i Faith, or (c) because I wanted to write about a subject, an idea, an experience, if not at the time I recorded the words, at least later on. I rarely recorded observations of nature in any detail, although occasionally I did in my poetry. The accounts of my experiences can be found in the main in my journals and my poetry. They are scattered like seeds on page after page; sometimes they fall on the right soil and grow into poems, essays or chapters of a book.
There are now 1000s of pages of notes; I would not even want to begin to count them. Over time I hope to write a more detailed outline of their origins, their evolution and their present contents. I’m not sure they are worth preserving as da Vinci’s were hundreds of years after they were written. I think it unlikely, although I will leave that to a posterity that I can scarcely anticipate at this climacteric of history in which I am living. For now, though, this brief statement is sufficient.(5)
1 Bahiyyih Nakhjvani, “Artist, Seeker and Seer,” Baha’i Studies, Vol.10, p.19.
2 Now at Baha'i Library Online
3 My Notebooks from the age of 18 to 40, from 1962 to 1984, were extensive, but what remains now is so minuscule as to hardly rate a mention. My Notebooks from the age of 5 to 18, although extensive, have disappeared into the dustbin of history. My Notebooks from the period 1984 to 2015 began on January 19th 1984, a journal entry. A more extensive analysis than this cursory one here may reveal a different timetable, a different history of my Notebooks.
4 Of course the whole note-taking process could be said to begin in the early years of primary school, say, 1949 to 1953. By 1953 I was in grade 4 & nine years old.
5 Ron Price, “In Commemoration of the 47th Anniversary of the Passing of the Guardian in 1957,” Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 2004 to 2006.
UNPRECEDENTED DIGNITY AND EASE
It is by a continual effort that I can create....My deepest, most certain leaning is toward silence and everyday activity. It has taken me years of perseverance to escape from distractions....It is how I despair and how I cure myself of despair.-Albert Camus, Selected Essays and Notebooks, Penguin, 1970, p.276.
I tend toward ‘the work’ every minute
and can sit vacant staring at the garden
or some inane bit of TV or some vacuous
act for only so long without a feeling of
great emptiness invading which I must fill
with my ‘planned program’. If this cannot
be done, I fill my own mind with my own
thoughts or some Passage. But, generally,
in a chaos of reading, silence and creation
I keep out a distracted, frenetic passivity
and a mountainous world of trivia as far
away as I can until necessity intervenes.
And then, then.... some holy simplicity,
some rest, plain mysterium, a feeling of
the numinous, a nothingness, an idiosyncratic
something that is incommunicable, gliding on
a sea of faith with reason resting in the wings,
the burning desire to seek enjoying a low
flame, quietly flickering, in a free zone
of some unprecedented dignity and ease.
12 January 1996
Each artist thus keeps in his heart of hearts a single stream which, so long as he is alive, feeds what he is and what he says. When that streams runs dry, you see his work gradually shrivel up and start to crack. -Albert Camus, Selected Essays and Notebooks, editor, Philip Thody, Penguin, London, 1970, p.18.
There’s been a stream, scented,
I’ve been drinking from since
before I came of age. The waters
have been sweet and deep, with
periodic wastelands when the bed ran dry
and the blackest soil filled my soul
with fear, disorder and desiccation.
My own tributary of this stream
only began to run in my middle years.
Inspiration has run with a force
that I barely understand, nor can withstand
its roving eye and hand like an interwoven
carpet or some meteor travelling through the dark.
Will this tributary shrivel after I have expressed
my life and all it means at a deeper, more intense,
more clear-sighted level than anything I can achieve
in the daily round? I think not; for it is a tributary
of a great and thundering river whose waters will
flow on forever into the sweet streams of eternity:
as long as I have the will that will’s this eternal flow;
I know many who have not
the will that will not will belief.
The mood will not strike them here below:
I know not why?
12 January 1996
MY SENSE OF NOTHINGNESS
...the highest station which they who aspire to know Thee can reach is the acknowledgment of their impotence to attain the retreats of Thy sublime knowledge I...beseech Thee, by this very powerlessness which is beloved of Thee....-Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations, USA, 1938, p.89.
To read Price’s poetry, his notebooks, his autobiographical narrative, his essays and his letters is to shift constantly from his imaginative and intellectual life to the here and the now, a specific time and place in the microcosm or the macrocosm. He has a wonderful capacity, gift if you like, to not see dust, as Virginia Woolf puts it, to be quite removed from the day-to-day trivia of life, as his wife might have put it-and often did. The rare joys of reality are juxtaposed with the endless elements of that trivia, the endlessly prosaic. Perhaps the reason he was a poet, at least in the 1990s, was that he could not stop. For him, writing poetry was a form of self-knowing, a form of risk-taking where he exposed himself. This process, though, helped him to define himself as a writer. He has come to socialize and to write very little in the last 7 months since his health has seriously deteriorated, and since he has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late August 2015. -Ron Price with thanks to Marlene Kadar, editor, Essays on Life Writing: From Genre to Critical Practice, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1992 & 13/3/'16.
It was not all risk, though;
some of it was simply pure
surprise and wonder: like
the two exploding stars colliding
17 million light years from Earth
and taking, according to one of
the many of the astrophysicists,
1200 years to do their colliding;
shooting out gas in all directions
at 36 million kilometres per hour,
creating a supernova, a brilliant
light show, in a place, a galaxy,
where six supernovas have been
produced since ‘Abdu’l-Baha wrote
His Tablets of the Divine Plan.
And me, defining myself,
my sense of nothingness,
in the face of that immensity.
14 June 1997 to 13/3/'16
NOT QUITE ME
It is absolutely essential to the writing of anything worthwhile that the mind be fluid and release itself to the task. -William Carlos Williams(1883-1963)
Every poem should be the last poem, written as if it contained the last thing the poet would ever say---like a will. -Lisel Mueller in The Poet’s Notebook: Excerpts from the Notebooks of 20 American Poets, W.W. Norton & Co., NY, 1995, p.218.
Every once in a while I go
to some plush joint on the
sixteenth floor and get a view
of the big smoke, or eat a lunch
in the finest restaurant in town
and discuss the state of the world.
Or I travel in the fast lane for an afternoon
with dinner at the Ritz, or rent a flash car
for the day; it’s a dip into another world for
an instant in time, a world that belongs to
someone else, that’s not quite me, or me for
a minute, fixed on a landscape, a soil, with new
desires, significations, to savour, like a dream,
vain and empty, just a semblance of reality.