Tag Archives: arts

Vonnegut’s 8 points on how to Write a Story

Point 7:

“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

Kurt Vonnegut

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Raphael’s ‘School of Athens’ and the Religious themes at the Stanza della Segnatura, a reflection on Pope Julius II library

Stanza Rafael, Musei Vaticani

Stiched panorama of the four walls in the Stanza della Segnatura, painted by Raphael

The philosophical and religious discourse that took off in Renaissance Italy is beautifully depicted by Raphael in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican (Musei Vaticani).

Pope Julius II, in the early 1500’s, commissioned Raphael to paint his private apartments. Raphael painted the frescoes of four Rooms. All rooms are accessible to visitors today, they make part of the Musei Vaticani complex, which are known as the Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms).

One of these four Rooms is known as ‘The Stanza della Segnatura’, which is the very room that housed the Pope’s private library. For this Room, Raphael decided to make four frescoes (one on each wall) that depict the Renaissance newly (re)discovered Classical ideals in relation to the values of the Christian tradition. This choice of themes was meant to reflect the contents of the Pope’s library, the categories of which were : theology, philosophy, jurisprudence and poetry.

Of course the most famous fresco in this Room is none other than the ‘School of Athens‘….

school_of_athens

There is an interesting discussion on BBC Radio 4 about this painting, its relation to the other frescoes in the room and the concepts, ideas and discussions that were contemporary to the painting. I felt that this podcast gave me a bit more information on the choices made by Raphael (and Pope Julius II). The discussion is an episode of the ‘In Our Time’ program with Melvyn Bragg on BBC 4, available as a podcast for free. I am a fan of Melvyn’s podcasts… Here is the link to the ‘School of Athens’ episode:

'The School of Athens' episode

‘The School of Athens’ episode

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Francis Bacon: The Optimist

“Great art is always a way of concentrating, reinventing what is called fact, what we know of our existence – a reconcentration… tearing away the veils that fact acquires through time.”

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon was born like today, 28th October, in 1909 and died in 1992. He is probably the only ‘shock’ artist I like. Here is a link to an 1985 documentary about him, his work and his views. I think in this just short of an hour film you can see the man, who claims to be “an optimist for nothing” and to have no thoughts on the meaning of his individual works.

http://www.ubu.com/film/bacon.html

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Il Postino: La Metafora

I have this scene in my head all day… This scene from the film Il Postino, where Massimo Troisi (the Postman) having discovered the ‘metaphor’ in language tries to capture all those things that move him into a sound recorder. That whole film is poetry….

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Investing in the Arts

The Scream (1895) by Edvard Munch

The Scream by Edvard Munch became two days ago the most expensive painting to be bought. It was sold at a Sotheby’s auction to a private, unknown to the public, collector for $119.5 million. This painting, which makes a part of our collective art heritage and pop culture is officially out of sight for all of us (as an original) for now and out of reach for any public institution to obtain for its collection, if not for ever, definitely for a very very long time…

There is a market side to art, there has always been one. Auction Houses these days seem to be doing pretty well even in these shaky times. I guess this means that art is still considered a safe investment. It is said that the world of Auctions is a business that may ‘make’ artists but it kills the artwork, because they generate superstars, while they deprive artworks from their ‘reflective dimension’.
Following this, here are two interesting articles that have a different standing point when it comes to the Auction House’s performance:

On the Market‘ by Alice Gregory.

Alice Gregory was a ‘Sotheby’s girl’ and as an insider she sheds some light into the psychology and strategy behind the operations of this world famed Auction House. It is especially interesting as to how the House locates and  introduces its auction items to possible collectors and vice versa. The article was published on n+1 magazine

Quotes from the article:

‘Property often comes to auction under conditions that the specialists list with alliterative delight: death, divorce, debt. But in the end, the process by which any work of art changes hands is singular—there are as many reasons for selling a piece as there are for buying one…. Collectors are people, with insecurities and egos of varying size. It’s the specialist’s job to psychologize his clients and devise ad hoc strategies that ultimately earn him a commission.’

‘Meanwhile, the specialists have been looking for clients, listing potential bidders in an “interest list” prepared for each individual lot of the sale…. The length and seriousness of the interest list is the private metric specialists use to guess how well a lot will perform, rather than the more empirically determined estimate.’

This Is Why I Hate Big-Money Art Auctions‘ by Jerry Saltz

Snapshot from the Scream sale. photo by Mario Tama (via vulture)

Jerry Saltz is the senior art critic for the New York magazine. In this article he comments on the selling of the Scream at the recent auction and gives us an insight on the staging of a sale. Article found at www.vulture.com

Quote from the article:

‘Auction houses inherently equate capital with value. The price of a work of art has nothing to do with what the work of art is, can do, or is worth on an existential, alchemical level.’

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David Bowie’s Changes

“Time may change me
But I can’t trace time”

                                     David Bowie, ‘Changes’

Changes (1971)

I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste
was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the stranger)
Ch-ch-Changes
Don’t want to be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the stranger)
Ch-ch-Changes
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time

Continue reading

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On Imagination, Secret Worlds and the Explorer within us

'Silverback', by Jun Pierre Shiozawa (© 2012 junpierre)

I am startled by the power, creativity and freedom that imagination gives us access to. Startled not so much because through imagination we can escape reality, but mainly because it functions differently on all individuals but it gives us all the possibility to experience events and emotions, or to explore territories that are normally impossible (or just hard) to reach in our ‘real’ life.

In this sense I really liked Woody Allen’s latest film “Midnight in Paris“. It had the same old Allen structure but it didn’t have a ‘punch’, therefore I wouldn’t say that it was a great Woody Allen film. But I loved how Allen used the possibilities that the film medium provides to follow his dream and ‘transport’ himself back in time so that he could enjoy ‘in vivo’ the company of his cultural heroes, people like Elliot, Hemingway, Picasso, Lautrec, etc. How liberating is that?

It is in this very same way I am amazed by all kinds of imaginative people, be they artists, scientists or whichever tag one may carry. I find it absolutely inspiring how they let themselves loose in their personal strands of thought to explore and hopefully communicate their interests and fascinations.
Sometimes, via their travels in their wonder-worlds, we get to understand some things or some people better. This is how I felt about a book I read a few years back, “The Paper House” by Carlos María Domínguez. This book was given to me by my dad, a true ‘bookophile’.

I’m not sure I remember the story correctly but what has stayed with me is that it is a short story Domínguez came up with about a book collector, named Carlos Brauer, who accidentally destroys the taxonomy index of his collection. Losing this key ‘navigation tool’ for his collection has a mirroring parallel effect on Brauer himself and his ability to keep an order in his life and to maintain a sense of self. By losing his taxonomy ‘manual’ Brauer therefore progressively loses his ability to keep his interests distinct from his actual self. The endless options of categorizing his interests now live only inside his head and inevitably he and his collection become one, they have a common and inseparable life.
To illustrate the inevitable collapse of any useful distinction between the person and his interests, the author makes his main character, Brauer, build a shelter out of his very own books to live in, as a last resort. In his delusion Brauer sees this solution as his only way to “protect” his collection and his sanity, which are ultimately one and the same thing. His books become the bricks and insulation material that make up his home. Weather and time give a physical appearance to the psychological conditions that now dictate their common fate.
The book I think suggests that a collection without a taxonomy system is to a collector  what life is to all of us without access to our thoughts and love(s). For anyone who has been close to a book lover can feel very touched by the struggles of this man to care, protect and keep control of his world. For anyone who has felt at any point that they are losing their references in life, this character’s misery is suffocatingly real. By no means do I think this book to be a masterpiece, but it is a short and sweet story.

Paper House, detail, by Matej Kren (via flavorpill)

My immediate response when I read it, if I remember correctly, was feeling for the condition of the books more than that of the man. It surprised me that the book ‘stayed with me’ till my emotions went out to the man. Which means, that my first reaction was to hold the man responsible of his own fate and see his books as victims. Only later, when I had finished with being a reader of the book and I had become a ‘carrier’ of the story, did I see the collection as a material manifestation of a person’s endless journeys in his inner precious wonderland.
Having been given this book by my ‘bookophile’ dad I have always wondered if this is how he feels. I could not remember the name of the author or the title of the book till now that I googled it, but I could remember this: an intimate, silent and secret relationship between a book lover and his books. Of a father and his children. A story that makes a collector’s feelings your own and hopes to make you see more of the man amidst his collection. Cunning….
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“Nature has no outline, but Imagination has.”

William Blake

William Blake Quote

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“In the struggle for expression of the self, many selves can be expressed.”

Stephen Nachmanovitch

Another Nachmanovitch Quote

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Ernesto Sabato

Ernesto Sabato - photo © Sophie Bassouls:Sygma:Corbis (via biblioteca ignoria)

I first heard of Ernesto Sabato on Gavdos island. I went to that earthly paradise for a ten day break some years ago and I left on a brilliant day almost two months later. There, in the community of free-campistas I dwelt in silence and in beautiful conversations that kept the same gentle rhythm of rising and passing away, as the sea, the days and the season’s imprints on nature at that dear beach that was our home. While there, we used to call that place the Epicurean Garden.

Just yesterday I found this interview Sabato gave at the ‘Unesco Courier‘ journal for the August 1990 issue. I have highlighted so many phrases in my personal copy, so I thought of sharing some here as quotes but to also include the entire interview at the bottom:

“Is Don Quixote “unreal”? If reality bears any relationship to durability, then this character born of Cervantes’ imagination is much more real than the objects that surround us, for he is immortal.”

“Art can no more progress than a dream can, and for the same reasons.”

“I must be a reactionary because I still believe in dull, mediocre democracy, the only regime which, after all, allows me to think freely and to prepare the way for a better reality.”

The Unesco Courier, cover, August 1990 issue

Ernesto Sabato’s full interview at the Unesco Courier

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