Wednesday, November 30, 2011
"The Laughing Heart"
your life is your life
don't let it be clubbed
into dank submission
be on the watch;
there are ways out
there's light somewhere
it may not be much light,
but it beats the darkness
be on the watch
the gods will offer you chances;
know them . . . take them
you can't beat death, but you can
beat death in life . . . sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be
your life is your life
know it while you have it;
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight in you
I am breaking one of the rules I set for myself as a beauty blogger in this post. I told myself that I would only post pictures of paintings, sculptures, buildings, etc. that I had witnessed in person but I couldn't help myself. I love Dali and I was moved to share this work. The piece itself is owned by the William Bennett Gallery in New York. It is an illustration (of a series of illustrations) created by Salvador Dali to accompany Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. This particular one is titled "Advice from a Caterpiller."
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
I couldn’t think of an example during class, but I’ve remembered an instance when I made one of the errors that Scarry discusses—the recognition that something which deserved to be called beautiful had been previously withheld that attribution. I had always hated Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture “Maman,” which I had only ever seen in pictures, mostly because I abhor bugs and couldn’t find anything interesting or acceptable about a giant spider. It wasn’t until I actually saw one of the sculptures in Ottawa that I found them to be beautiful. It’s just one of those situations where you have to experience it in person. I found it somewhat humorous when, in a press release by the Tate, Bourgeois says that spiders are “helpful and protective” as they “eat mosquitoes.” I didn’t come to see the sculpture as beautiful as a result of background info I learned about the artist’s wish to make allusions to a mother’s protectiveness. This was all very poignant and, of course, central to the meaning behind the sculpture. What was more profound for me was the moment when being in the presence of this art work changed my impression of something I had always thought of as ugly.
My noon had come, to dine-
I, trembling, drew the table near
And touched the curious wine.
'T was this on tables I had seen
When turning, hungry, lone,
I looked in windows, for the wealth
I could not hope to own.
I did not know the ample bread,
'T was so unlike the crumb
The birds and I had often shared
In Nature's dining-room.
The plenty hurt me, 't was so new,--
Myself felt ill and odd,
As berry of a mountain bush
Transplanted to the road.
Nor was I hungry; so I found
That hunger was a way
Of persons outside windows,
The entering takes away.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Early September I was walking home at night through an alley (no, I was not alone, in case you were worried) and actually had a moment where I stopped walking to witness how mesmerized I was by the ground beneath me. For about thirty feet or so in front of me lay a dust of miniscule diamonds embedded in the cracks of the asphalt and shimmering under the artificial light of a streetlamp. No, they were not real diamonds, but of course tiny shards of glass from broken liquor bottles that must have been there for quite some time. The shards seemed to be dug into the ground by tires from cars, deceptively serving as one of the materials used to pave the road. For someone who just wanted to get home as quickly as possible on an unusually cold fall night, I remember that alleyway quite vividly and how I deliberately stopped walking to take a better look. I still recall how amused I was at something as familiar as broken glass that seemed to serve an aesthetic purpose for an otherwise bland backdrop. I have realized that I enjoy being fascinated by objects that aren't by themselves supposed to be beautiful. If put in the right place, an ordinary object becomes anything but. Perspective is everything.
...from the collection of the Louvre. Michelangelo's slaves are all about muscular torsion, the body restricted and bound. They are violently homoerotic and look forward to something like Mapplethorpe's sadomasochistic photography. In more extreme examples, the figures struggle to break free of the blocks of stone they're carved from.
the sleeping worm
of the apple
"any life saved in this place
is magic" Frank said
"it's life coming back to you"
This short, untitled poem is from a collection called The Book of Frank, comprised of many untitled, less-than-a-page-long poems revolving around a sexless, gender-less persona, Frank.
This poem has a haiku-like, imagistic clarity at the start. The reader is offered a glimpse of a specific situation; the lines are precise, almost uncomfortable in their handling of the situation as inherent or normal. (The worm is of the apple.) Then the speaker provides an aphoristic quotation, at first seemingly unrelated to the image which preceded it. The delay in connection amplifies the impact. Plus the ambiguity of the aphorism (Is the saving of life the preservation of the worm by the apple and its hibernation inside it or the sparing of its life by the human's careful eating?) allows the short poem to move beyond its limitations. The content and organization of the poem as well as its almost inextricable place within a larger work violates expectation. What sort of poem is this, one may ask. Certainly steeped in traditions of Japanese poetry, American imagism, and English epigrammatic verse, it is simultaneously outside these genres. Is this reverent emulation or something else? How sincere is the poem, given its positioning as part of The Book of Frank within literary history?
Let's get a drink
It's too muddy
to take a walk
Let's get a drink
Or you could bring some wine over
and some flowers
Because the bars are closed
even if you bang on the doors
The rain is beautiful
for about 5 minutes
and then it is annoying
your red lips
making a circle
replace the sun
If I'm lucky
In the mail yesterday, I found an envelope from Wave books. In it were about 15 printer pages stapled together. The cover page says TRANSLATIONS FROM HAFIZ. On each page is a short ghazal translated by Matthew Rohrer. There are 10 poems total. It doesn't come across here, but when you read several of the poems in succession, a distinct pattern emerges. This kind of lean musicality underpins what appear to be completely casual speech-acts. It's as though everyday-ness assumes a decalmatory posture in the poem. The effect is at once urgent and deliberate.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
I’ve already posted on one of her films recently, but I will single out Keira Knightley specifically here by saying that I think she has one of the most beautiful faces. I’m not sure if this is over-generalizing, but it seems somewhat similar to what Elaine Scarry calls a “clear discernibility” or “wordless certainty” about beauty. It’s not something I have to even think about—Keira is beautiful, and it doesn’t seem like a situation where I’ll one day say, “No, I was wrong.” I understand that human beauty especially allows for a great variability of responses and judgments. But, to me, it just feels like her beauty is self-evident, as if no one could deny it.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
This is a picture of a little pond in my favorite forest preserve. When my friends and I walk through the prairie part of the preserve to get to the forest there is one pond on each side of the trail, and they mark the half-way point (also that we took the right trail), so we're always happy to see them. On this particular day when we finally stumbled upon the twin ponds the way the light hit the water and the water reflected the sky was just breath-taking. It's almost as though I was looking at two skies, or an arch of heavily forested land that cuts through the sky... there's just so many ways to look at this picture. There's a different thing to see in the differently angled pictures, but I just felt that this one inspired my imagination the most, so I chose it to represent that moment. I guess this means that for me illusions like this in ordinary scenery that cause you to take a second glance and set your imagination soaring definitely fit the bill for beautiful.
I love this series of men in classic pin-up poses. This is supposedly one of the most popular, probably because of the straight-seeming masculinity as a starker contrast to the pose than some of the other men who look a little more queer or ambiguous about their orientation or gender performance.
Unfortunately the image is really small so here's the text of the poem:
from Love in the Time of War
Hand-to-hand: the two hugged each other
into a naked tussle, one riding the other's back,
locked into a double embrace. One
forced the other to kiss the ground,
as he cursed & bit into an earlobe.
They shook beads of dew off the grass.
One worked his fingers into the black soil,
& could feel a wing easing out of his scapula.
That night, the lucky one who gripped
a stone like Mercury weighing the planet
in his palm, who knew windfall
& downfall, he fell against his darling
again & again, as if holding that warrior in his arms,
& couldn't stop himself from lifting off the earth.
I think broadsides are a type of replication, celebration, or renewal of the poem. You stamp each letter onto thick paper and an artist draws or paints an image alongside the poem. The poem, which is often already published elsewhere, is renewed and changed at the same time. It turns the piece of paper into an entirely different kind of art work. The poem, which previously existed simply as language and letters on a page, is now part of a much more visual work, or at least more self-consciously visual.
Monday, November 21, 2011
This is a great painting by Frank Stella (nominally a Minimalist, but we could get into why I don't think it makes sense to call him one). The title comes from a colloquial Spanish expression meaning something like "from life nothing to death nothing." The shaped canvas sets up an interesting tension between extreme, literal flatness and the optical impression of dimensionality, which I think is key to the way this painting works. If my experience is any judge, you can't seriously look at it without being made profoundly aware of its visual, autonomous presence - you can see for yourself at the Art Institute of Chicago - but what I mean is this: it manages to collapse its shape (its thingly character?) into a total, optical experience.
I really admire Hollie Chastain for her ability to create extraordinary paper collages using old book covers, photographs, and construction paper. The bright colors accent the yellowed and worn book cover pages so well, giving more life and movement to the images as a whole. Creating something fresh and bold out of discarded and otherwise bland material is truly inspirational. Here is a link for more of her work: http://holliechastain.com/
Banksy, a British political activist and painter, has an incredibly interesting way to manifest his thoughts through mockery of controversial situations. For example, he painted the above picture on walls in Bethlehem, which was made to separate the Palestinians from Israelis. This wall is about 4x larger than the Berlin wall and is spurring even more hatred between the two heated groups. Banksy's paintings are interesting because he painted such a light-hearted carefree picture of a girl with balloons on a wall that represents hatred and separation. I personally think his bold statements are beautiful because it allows the people who live there to look at the wall in a different way, and it forces them to open their eyes. It also reminds the citizens daily about how ridiculous the wall actually is.
A citizen's opinion that explained this idea further:
"Banksy also recounts that an old man came up to him and told him that he was making the wall look beautiful. Banksy thanked him. The old man replied, “We don’t want it to be beautiful. We hate that wall. Go away.”
For some more of Banksy's pictures, check out:
This is the opening to Philip Glass’s Glassworks. I know you could probably find another almost identical video on YouTube, but the reason I decided to post a video of myself playing it has to do with something Elaine Scarry says in On Beauty and Being Just. Beauty necessitates replication, an “unceasing begetting…the perpetual duplicating of a moment that never stops.” The reason why we stare at something beautiful is so fundamentally obvious—a face, palm trees, a statue. We don’t want the beautiful thing to go away. We’re satisfied if we can continue to stare. I guess the same can apply to sound. With this song, I could practice it for hours and never tire of it. To say the least, the song is repetitive, which some people might hate, and if you’ve listened to the first two minutes or so, it would almost be as if you’ve heard the whole thing. But I think Glass understood Scarry's notion when he wrote the piece—I might speak only for myself, but it’s like I don’t want the sound to go away. I want it to be repeated over again and am glad it was written that way.
(It’s a poor substitute, but this is for someone to whom I had said I’d play this “next time there’s a piano…” Sorry we haven't found one.)
Thursday, November 17, 2011
This is a canto from Pound's Pisan Cantos, written while detained in an outdoor cage on the plains outside of Pisa, Italy. In what way is this concealed and unconcealed? In what way is this declaration and image coupled with the indecipherable or impenetrable personal as well as historical? How much do we need to know, and how does that affect the judgment of the Canto as good art?
(As a note, the blog obliterated Pound's indentations, which add a lot to the poem. Sorry for that.)
Ben Heine is a creative artist who mixes his drawing with photography. I find his work to be very different, but the concept behind it to be very beautiful because he takes the real world that we perceive and adds his own thoughts (in the form of drawings) to the photograph. His drawings are not randomly inserted into the picture, but the drawings are continuous and they look like they could actually be part of the photograph. His work allows for the audience to get a sneak peak on what is going on in his mind, as well as a different perspective on seeing things.
For more of his work, check out: http://thewondrous.com/amazingly-creative-drawing-vs-photography/
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
This is a photograph by Hiroshi Sugimoto of a waxwork of King Henry VIII. My sense is that we instinctively want a photograph to represent a literal point of view (and that we assume it does). That is to say, it's a mechanical record of what the eye sees from a particular vantage point. But Sugimoto's photographs appear to be taken from a vantage point that no one could possibly occupy (I don't mean in space or even in time - I mean something like, they record a special mode of seeing to which we don't normally have access). This picture involves us in thinking through methods of reproduction, the way they interact with one another and our world, and how we experience these overlapping visualities (cf. Hans Holbein's portrait of Henry VIII).
This photograph was taken in Kyoto, Japan, the city that happens to be the setting for the captivating, fictional story Memoirs of a Geisha. It must be such a breathtaking experience to walk through one of these gardens and I would love to visit one at some point in my life. It is these kinds of places that allow us to contemplate how humanity desires to encapsulate nature into a controlled space for the sake of creating an environment to appreciate the beautiful. I suppose a garden is like an outdoor museum, constructed to showcase nature. As a society, do we sometimes find these constructed displays of nature more beautiful than mother earth's untouched and original displays?
There are several reasons why I like Pride and Prejudice, but I’m going to pinpoint this scene in the film as beautiful. Yes, I admit that it’s a little cliché and Fabio-esque, but I feel like that’s exactly why people love it so much. Who wouldn’t want the love of their life to come walking over to their house in the misty dawn? I feel like there’s something worthwhile, oddly, in an art form that can allow people to experience a moment through a movie or character, if only briefly. It’s pure fantasy, while still hanging onto something that seems to resemble the hope of second chances in real life.
One morning I was walking across my lawn when I noticed the neighborhood cat sitting below a tree and intently gazing up. I wondered what poor squirrel she was in the process of stalking, but when I looked up I didn't see anything at first glace. Then I heard a small chirping so I looked again and sure enough, there was a large baby robin hiding up in the branches. It looked so beautiful sitting up there, and it was such a pleasant surprise I couldn't help but smile.
Todd Selby x Christine Sun Kim on Nowness.com.
This short video documents deaf artist Christine Sun Kim and her quest to change how sound is used in art. She gives sound a physical quality in her art and creates a different view of sound. I found it interesting how she described feedback as one of her favorite sounds because of its ability to physically impact her body. Also, I enjoyed how the film itself focused on everyday sounds in the beginning of the video, because those are usually sounds we don't really think about in everyday life.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Andrew Wyeth doesn't usually do it for me, but I like this painting from the Helga series. The tempera is so important to the way this picture works - that surface precision and the pigment's muted, inward glow. If we're talking about Heidegger, it's also worth considering Wyeth's regionalism and the way it might relate to the historical being and endowment of a people.
Foxfire is the name given to a kind of bioluminescence produced by certain types of fungi that grow on moist, rotting bark. You can see these fungi faintly glowing at night, especially during the summer in tropical forests that foster the moist environment needed for mushrooms and other fungi to grow. Finding pleasure in objects that normally produce disgust or distaste is both ironic and phenomenal. It is also fascinating to think that something so artificial looking is in fact a product of nature.
Dream Song 4
with chicken páprika, she glanced at me
Fainting with interest, I hungered back
and only the fact of her husband & four other people
kept me from springing on her
or falling at her little feet and crying
‘You are the hottest one for years of night
Henry’s dazed eyes
have enjoyed, Brilliance.’ I advanced upon
(despairing) my spumoni.—Sir Bones: is stuffed,
de world, wif feeding girls.
—Black hair, complexion Latin, jewelled eyes
downcast … The slob beside her feasts … What wonders is
she sitting on, over there?
The restaurant buzzes. She might as well be on Mars.
Where did it all go wrong? There ought to be a law against Henry.
—Mr. Bones: there is.
This is a poem from Berryman's collection The Dream Songs. The visual created in the poem is clear and dynamic, even though parts of the poem (Henry and Mr. Bones) are not as easily understood. Those elements are carried through the rest of the poems in the collection, but "Dream Song 4" creates a scene that is at first humorous and then slowly transforms into a symbol of something more powerful. The last two lines give pause to the reader and forces him to contemplate deeper on the constructed scene.
I think you do
But it frightens you
I have the guns
In the car.
I wanted to save
The rest. It will happen.
I will take you hostage.
Also I wasn't
Going to fall in love
But when you're fleeing
Someone had to take
My blindfold off for me to
Just take off. I turn the key in your ignition.
Contact! The propeller flickers.
We are taking off to
For the road. Burn the birth certificates.
Run the roadblock.
All the whirling lights
On the roofs of their cars.
They're going to check
The trunk and find our bodies.
We jump out firing.
I am already in you.
I am rafting down your bloodstream.
That is already over.
I have entered.
Frederick Seidel is offensive, savage, sinister, and yet in his poems, one can't exactly tell if this persona (elite, sleazy, macho) is being celebrated or satirized. That is the power of his poetry. The speaker seems delighted and afloat in his nightmarish, materialistic world--and yet he becomes cartoonish, absurd, as if partaking in self-ridicule. The offensive brutality of Seidel struggles with a delicacy and satirical sensibility. This conflict is not resolved by the poem or figured out by the reader. Heidegger might say there is concealment and an unveiling in Seidel's work. A rift and a striving that never finds an end.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Man-Moth: Newspaper misprint for “mammoth.”
As I Grew Older
By: Langston Hughes
It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun--
And then the wall rose,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky--
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
As people grow older, they lose their imagination and that sense of innocence they had during their childhood. People become so engulfed with their careers, making money, etc. that they forget to be themselves and do something that they enjoy, and a part of them gets lost. Whenever I read this poem, I'm always brought back down to Earth and remember that life shouldn't always be so serious :)
The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror.
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.
Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatous,
an easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
the formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light falls
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of the Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unkown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick, now, here, now, always-
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned not of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.