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L’Ora Presente | Yves Bonnefoy

M. K. Čiurlionis, Summer,1907
M. K. Čiurlionis,Summer, 1907

Pubblicata lo scorso giugno,‘L’ora presente’ è la più recente raccolta di versi del poeta francese Yves Bonnefoy, massimo esponente della poesia del Novecento. La Repubblica ne celebra l’uscita con un’intervista redatta nei primi di luglio, leggibile cliccando questo link

Yves Bonnefoy ‘Diffidate degli artisti solitari il vero poeta ha bisogno di amici’ – La Repubblica

I poeti sono creature divine cui sensibilità fuori dal comune si mantiene inalterata nel tempo nonostante le miserie della vita. Ciò che vale a incupire e zittire l’animo di noi comuni mortali, nel poeta tende a manifestarsi come un lampo d’abbacinante intensità. Ed è bello cogliere nelle parole del poeta il riflesso di questo prodigioso sortilegio.

Il giardino

Pomona ti abbordava ridendo, e t’offriva
La pala, il rastrello, il cielo, la terra,
E l’istante, affinchè soltanto cielo e terra
Si chinassero, amandoti tanto, sul tuo sogno di te.

Nubi il cielo, ma anche reca
Il piovasco che brilla tra le sue mani quiete,
E forse un temporale: ma stasera,
Quando tutto sarà ripreso soltanto nella vita.

La scienza di un giardino sta nel calmare
Per un’ora il male della ferita,
Hortus non conclusus, illimitato

Dallo schizzo di una pompa: poichè un bambino
Spruzza dell’acqua, in una vasca di pietra,
Per spaventare gli insetti sul fondo.

Il letto, le pietre

Lei nomina il letto, che è più vasto
Del paese che s’estende davanti a loro,
Questo disordine di pozzanghere e di giunchi,
E di luci, in cui s’agitano ali.

E lui nomina la pietra,
Le sue masse crepate, le sue grandi gole d’ombra.
Poi l’uno e l’altra nominano la notte che viene,
Uno per dirla oscura, l’altra chiara.

Che si diano due nomi a ciò che si ama!
Scrivere in due il mondo avrebbe un qualche senso,
Dice ad Adamo sognatore Eva angustiata.

Avanzano, hanno nominato, tanto le parole vogliono,
Una casa, l’arenaria, un’upupa, una forra,
Un letto in lontananza, già coperto di pietre.

Annunci

The Reading Girl

The Reading Girl, Theodore Roussel, 1887
The Reading Girl, Theodore Roussel, 1887

..mumble..mumble..
Perchè La Ragazza che legge viene da Theodore Roussel raffigurata nuda nell’atto di leggere?
Forse perchè leggendo la ragazza si spoglia delle convinzioni sotto cui nasconde l’intrinseca natura del dubbio e il desiderio di conoscere? Forse perchè leggendo nuda la ragazza si offre all’epochè che la condurrà alla verità? Forse è nelle intenzioni dello stesso Roussel suggerire agli osservatori quella sospensione di giudizio necessaria a godere dell’opera attraverso i sensi e coi sensi soltanto, come del resto predispone di fare l’estetismo.
Bella La ragazza che legge è bella quanto l’opera tutta nell’insieme. Delicata, dedicata e sensibile al fascino dell’immaginazione. Questo quadro si direbbe un omaggio alla primavera.

Théodore Roussel | Tate London
Image credit biblioklept.org

Sorvegliante e Sorvegliato

L'Origine du monde, Gustave Courbet (1819–1877)
L’Origine du monde, Gustave Courbet (1819–1877)

Oh bhe. Pare gli interventi di vaginoplastica stiano incrementando di numero anche qui in Italia. Questa del perfezionamento delle labbra vaginali è una moda scoppiata qualche anno fa negli USA che ha conseguentemente fatto proselitismo nel resto del mondo incrementando di milioni di dollari il volume degli affari, prima in Australia, poi in Inghilterra, quindi nel resto d’Europa. Leggevo il profilo tipo della donna che richiede un intervento di vaginoplastica vede le quarantenni in carriera fra le pazienti in pole position. Al di là di una concreta risposta a un’anomalia che può comportare eventuali complicazioni fisiche e patologiche, la vaginoplastica risponde specificatamente alla richiesta da parte delle donne di risultare maggiormente sexy e confident attraverso il proprio aspetto fisico. Immagino donne e mamme super sprint, in buona parte divorziate, che oltre a gestire un bilancio aziendale e familiare, rimediano il tempo per vivisezionare allo specchio la propria vagina trovando in essa una ulteriore occasione di insuccesso. Maledetta natura male-fica. C’è dell’incredibile in queste donne che lottano tutti i giorni per affermare la propria emancipazione e accorciare le distanze che le separano dagli uomini nella lotta al potere. Pur di riuscirvi sono disposte a maschilizzarsi, a corrispondere al maschilismo degli uomini e a fare proprie caratteristiche comuni nelle stanze dei bottoni, talora deprecabili dal punto di vista dei figli, allevati dalle tate e accuditi dagli psicanalisti. Alle donne insicure circa le propria patatina, basterebbe guardare con un po’ più di senso critico al pene moscio e raggrinzito di un uomo per rivalutare con orgoglio lo splendore della propria vagina in tutta la sua abominevole bellezza.
Del corpo della donna reso oggetto di degustazione squisitamente maschile nell’industria mediatica, si è tanto parlato e si parla ancora, più per soddisfare le istanze dei movimenti femministi che per smantellare antichi luoghi comuni legati all’immagine della donna resa di consumo nell’ordierna società. A proposito mi è venuta in mente una considerazione molto interessante letta nel saggio ‘Questione di Sguardi’, di Berger, del quale ho parlato qualche post fa.
Attacca Berger, nel capitolo 3

Baccante distesa, Trutat (1824-1848)
Baccante distesa, Trutat (1824-1848)

[Nelle arti] In base all’uso e a convenzioni che, anche se finalmente in discussione, non sono tuttavia affatto superate, la presenza sociale della donna ha una qualità diversa da quella maschile. La presenza dell’uomo dipende dalla promessa di potere che egli incarna. Se la promessa è grande e credibile, la sua presenza è straordinaria. Se la promessa è irrisoria o non credibile, la sua presenza è considerata scarsa. Il potere annunciato può essere morale, fisico, emotivo, economico, sociale, sessuale, ma il suo oggetto è sempre esterno all’uomo. La presenza dell’uomo suggerisce ciò che egli è capace di fare a voi o per voi. La sua presenza può essere ingannevole, nel senso che egli finge di avere capacità che non ha. La finzione è, però, sempre rivolta a un potere che si esercita sugli altri.
La presenza della donna, invece, esprime l’atteggiamento che ella ha verso se stessa, e definisce cosa le si può o non le si può fare. La sua presenza si manifesta nei gesti, nella voce, nelle opinioni, nelle espressioni, negli abiti, negli ambienti di cui si circonda, nel gusto. In effetti non vi è nulla in ciò che ella fa che non contribuisca alla sua presenza. La presenza della donna è così intrinseca nella sua persona che gli uomini tendono a pensare a essa come a una sorta di emanazione fisica, una specie di calore o odore o aura.

Nascere donne ha significato nascere sotto custodia, affidate a uomini in uno spazio racchiuso e angusto. La presenza delle donne si è sviuppata in funzione della loro disponibilità a vivere sotto tale tutela entro uno spazio tanto limitato. Ciò è avvenuto, però, al prezzo di una spaccatura: l’io delle donne si è diviso in due. La donna deve guardarsi di continuo. Ella è quasi costantemente accompagnata dall’immagine che ha di se stessa. Sia che attraversi una stanza, sia che pianga la morte del padre, la donna non riesce a evitare di visualizzarsi nell’atto di camminare o di piangere. Sin dalla primissima infanzia, le hanno insegnato e l’hanno convinta a osservarsi di continuo.

E così ella arriva a considerare il sorvegliante e il sorvegliato che ha in sè come i due elementi costitutivi e pur sempre distinti della sua identità di donna.
Deve sottoporre a scrutinio tutto ciò che è e che fa, perchè il suo modo di apparire agli altri, e in definitiva il suo modo di apparire agli uomini, ha un’importanza cruciale per quanto viene solitamente considerato il suo successo nella vita. Per la donna il sentirsi esistente in sè è sostitutivo dal sentirsi riconosciuta dall’altro.
Gli uomini, prima di rivolgersi alle donne, le osservano. Di conseguenza, il trattamento che  l’uomo riserverà alla donna può essere determinato da come lei si presenta. Per acquisire un qualche controllo su questo processo, le donne devono accettarlo e interiorizzarlo. La parte dell’io femminile che fa da sorvegliante tratta la parte che agisce da sorvegliato in modo tale da dimostrare agli altri come l’io nel suo insieme vorrebbe essere trattato. E questo trattamento esemplare che da sè lei si riserva a se stessa costituisce la presenza della donna. La presenza di ogni singola donna stabilisce ciò che è o non è ‘ammissibile’ in sua presenza. Ciascuna delle sue azioni – qualunque ne sia lo scopo immediato o il movente – viene letta anche come indicazione del modo in cui vorrebbe essere trattata. Se una donna scaglia un bicchiere a terra, il suo gesto è esemplare di come ella tratti il proprio sentimento di collera e dunque di come vorrebbe essere trattata dagli altri. Se un uomo compie lo stesso gesto, il suo atto viene interpretato come una semplice espressione di collera. Se una donna fa una battura divertente, le sue parole dimostrano come ella tratti il burlone che c’è in lei e come dunque, da donna di spirito, vorrebbe essere trattata dagli altri. Solo un uomo può fare una buona battuta per il gusto di farla.
Si potrebbe semplificare dicendo: gli uomini agiscono e le donne appaiono. Gli uomini guardano le donne. Le donne osservano se stesse essere guardate. Ciò determina non soltanto il grosso dei rapporti tra uomini e donne, ma anche il rapporto delle donne con se stesse. Il sorvegliante che la donna ha dentro di sè è maschio: il sorvegliato femmina. Ecco dunque che ella si trasforma in oggetto, e più precisamente in oggetto di visione: in veduta.
Da Questione di sguardi. Sette inviti al vedere fra storia dell’arte e quotidianità, John Berger, 1972.

Affonda La Nave

The Explosion of the Spanish Flagship in the Battle of Gibraltar April 25th 1607 by Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen
The Explosion of the Spanish Flagship in the Battle of Gibraltar April 25th 1607 by Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen

Ho notato che da quando sono diventata adulta, i miei genitori sono contenti. Anche tutti gli adulti coi quali mi capita di avere a che fare, sono contenti. La trasformazione è avvenuta lentamente da quando sono rientrata in Italia, a ragione di un crollo di nervi, dunque più per sfinimento che per naturale evoluzione. Si tratta di un lutto privato, reso pubblico soltanto dalla disinvolta implacabilità che mi riservo di serbare con disprezzo nei confronti della vita. Sta funzionando. Ho iniziato a rispondere una a una a tutte le chiamate di mia madre. Azzecco tutte le risposte alle domande circa il futuro che mi vengono rivolte. Impiego qualche secondo di riflessione in più prima di trarre conclusioni già ovvie nelle premesse. Se il caso lo richiede, mi garantisco una certa neutralità di giudizio (chi ha detto bisogna avere delle opinioni. Specie se non richieste). Ho collaudato con successo una gamma pressochè variegata di espressioni d’uso efficaci al fine di ottenere l’altrui approvazione. Ho chiuso a chiave il cassetto dei desideri. Mi preoccupo di mandare a fanculo la gente con una certa diplomazia. Domenica scorsa sono persino riuscita a intavolare una discussione pacata al telefono con mio padre, durata -tenetevi forte- più di 15 minuti. Ogni tanto mi faccio prendere la mano e regredisco, mi mostro sincera, fantastico, mi rivelo e rivelo, dico quello che penso, mi incazzo, mi appassiono. Ma sto migliorando. Tempo un paio d’anni e mi sarò perfettamente omologata all’ambiente e spersonalizzata, in linea agli standard sociali emessi dal Buon Senso Comune.
L’italia è un paese che invecchia e mortifica, ferisce nell’orgoglio e rimminchiolisce. A trent’anni non si è più giovani abbastanza per un apprendistato. Ovviamente retribuito al minimo della paga salariale. E si è troppo vecchi per farsi assumere a scrocco. Avere trent’anni in Italia significa anche pensarci due volte, il multiplo delle volte per 10, prima di lasciare un lavoro. E se non si vuole finire per strada e perdere il lavoro, bisogna assolutamente evitare i colpi di testa, quelle stupide rivendicazioni idealiste che affondano le ragioni nel marxismo e tendono a portare alla luce vecchie questioni inumate per anni dalle politiche sindacali, e, diventare adulti. Il senso del dovere, della responsabilità, la saggezza, non hanno a che fare con il diventare adulti. Diventare adulti vuol dire stare al gioco. Degli adulti. Fondamentalmente il gioco degli adulti non ha niente di diverso dal gioco dei bambini e dei ragazzi. Ma è un gioco per certi versi più impegnativo e certamente sporco, che non ha regole ma quelle dell’astuzia e dei compromessi. Frasi come ‘ma questo è sleale!’ o ‘non me l’aspettavo’ sono del tutto bandite a meno di non farsi dare degli idioti, peggio degli ingenui, il che, nel gioco degli adulti, equivale a un errore madornale tale da porre i partecipanti in condizione di irrimediabile svantaggio. Si direbbe, il gioco degli adulti, una battaglia navale, in cui l’obiettivo è quello di affondare le navi antagoniste. Perchè di antagonismo si parla. Del tutti contro tutti, del meglio io che voi.
Ci si aspetterebbe in alcuni casi un gioco di squadra, in altri una partita a scacchi, una certa intelligenza nel ponderare le mosse giuste e le giuste manovre, avversari tali da non rimpiangere la sconfitta, e invece no. Bandita l’intelligenza, al gioco degli adulti vince il più forte, il più arrogante e il più stupido. Dipende da che parte state e volete stare. A vostro rischio e pericolo. Una cosa è certa, le distrazioni, le mosse mal calcolate, possono costare la perdita totale del gioco. E guai a voi a frignare. Non siete più dei bambini, sinceri persino nelle cattive intenzioni. Pugno fermo, nessun dubbio, alcuna incrinatura emotiva, voce alta. Maleducazione. Arroganza. Sottomissione. E la partita è vinta.
Picture credit » History of the Sailing Warship in the Marine Art

Colette Calascione

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Colette Calascione was born in San Francisco in 1971 and received her B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute. She resides in California.

Inspired by books and images of earlier eras, particularly the Victorian era, Calascione invents a world that is her own. Images of women and children in old photographs are transformed in the artist’s hands. She never literally copies a photo or its background. When she sees a figure she likes, her vision forms around it. Clothed figures in photographs are sometimes undressed by Calascione in her paintings, and placed in a mise-en-scene she creates. Rarely does the environment surrounding the figure come directly from a book or photo, as a “quote.”

Addressing the issue of gender identity and particularly that of “female identity,” Calascione’s imagination takes her into flights of fancy and fantasy in her paintings. She paints women in all guises, mostly unclothed, sitting on divans brocaded in satin, standing provocatively looking at the viewer, reclining on a bed surrounded by the stuff of dream and fantasy, purring cats, fairy tale fish, toy soldiers

Her painting, “Traveling Hermit,” gives the appearance of a masterwork, a classic posed “portrait” of an elegant woman of stature, dressed in velvet and lace, with exotic hat. The imagined hat, like attenuated wings, focuses the viewer’s attention on the lady’s eyes—are they there, or are they not? Calascione always evokes in the viewed a multitude of questions: this painting has the “seer” being seen, by eyes that take us to the great beyond.

Painted like Old Master paintings in many layers of oil, the artist beguiles us with her images and her imagination.

via Colette Calascione | Nancy Hoffman Gallery

Martin Eden | Jack London | CHAPTER I

Demuth Charles, Incense of a New Church, 1921
Demuth Charles, Incense of a New Church, 1921

The one opened the door with a latch-key and went in, followed by a young fellow who awkwardly removed his cap. He wore rough clothes that smacked of the sea, and he was manifestly out of place in the spacious hall in which he found himself. He did not know what to do with his cap, and was stuffing it into his coat pocket when the other took it from him. The act was done quietly and naturally, and the awkward young fellow appreciated it. “He understands,” was his thought. “He’ll see me through all right.”
He walked at the other’s heels with a swing to his shoulders, and his legs spread unwittingly, as if the level floors were tilting up and sinking down to the heave and lunge of the sea. The wide rooms seemed
too narrow for his rolling gait, and to himself he was in terror lest his broad shoulders should collide with the doorways or sweep the bric-a-brac from the low mantel. He recoiled from side to side between the various objects and multiplied the hazards that in reality lodged only in his mind. Between a grand piano and a centre-table piled high with books was space for a half a dozen to walk abreast, yet he essayed it with trepidation. His heavy arms hung loosely at his sides. He did not know what to do with those arms and hands, and when, to his excited vision, one arm seemed liable to brush against the books on the table, he lurched away like a frightened horse, barely missing the piano stool. He watched the easy walk of the other in front of him, and for the first time realized that his walk was different from that of other men. He experienced a momentary pang of shame that he should walk so uncouthly. The sweat burst through the skin of his forehead in tiny beads, and he paused and mopped his bronzed face with his handkerchief.
“Hold on, Arthur, my boy,” he said, attempting to mask his anxiety with facetious utterance. “This is too much all at once for yours truly. Give me a chance to get my nerve. You know I didn’t want to come, an’ I guess your fam’ly ain’t hankerin’ to see me neither.” “That’s all right,” was the reassuring answer. “You mustn’t be frightened at us. We’re just homely people–Hello, there’s a letter for me.”
He stepped back to the table, tore open the envelope, and began to read, giving the stranger an opportunity to recover himself. And the stranger understood and appreciated. His was the gift of sympathy, understanding; and beneath his alarmed exterior that sympathetic process went on. He mopped his forehead dry and glanced about him with a controlled face, though in the eyes there was an expression such as wild animals betray when they fear the trap. He was surrounded by the unknown, apprehensive of what might happen, ignorant of what he should do, aware that he walked and bore himself awkwardly, fearful that every attribute and power of him was similarly afflicted. He was keenly sensitive, hopelessly self-conscious, and the amused glance that the other stole privily at him over the top of the letter burned into him like a dagger-thrust. He saw the glance, but he gave no sign, for among the things he had learned was discipline. Also, that dagger-thrust went to his pride. He cursed himself for having come, and at the same time resolved that, happen what would, having come, he would carry it through. The lines of his face hardened, and into his eyes came a fighting light. He looked about more
unconcernedly, sharply observant, every detail of the pretty interior registering itself on his brain. His eyes were wide apart; nothing in their field of vision escaped; and as they drank in the beauty before
them the fighting light died out and a warm glow took its place. He was responsive to beauty, and here was cause to respond.
An oil painting caught and held him. A heavy surf thundered and burst over an outjutting rock; lowering storm-clouds covered the sky; and, outside the line of surf, a pilot-schooner, close-hauled, heeled over
till every detail of her deck was visible, was surging along against a stormy sunset sky. There was beauty, and it drew him irresistibly. He forgot his awkward walk and came closer to the painting, very close. The beauty faded out of the canvas. His face expressed his bepuzzlement. He stared at what seemed a careless daub of paint, then stepped away. Immediately all the beauty flashed back into the canvas. “A trick picture,” was his thought, as he dismissed it, though in the midst of the multitudinous impressions he was receiving he found time to feel a prod of indignation that so much beauty should be sacrificed to make a trick. He did not know painting. He had been brought up on chromos and lithographs that were always definite and sharp, near or far. He had seen oil paintings, it was true, in the show windows of shops, but the glass of the windows had prevented his eager eyes from approaching too near.
He glanced around at his friend reading the letter and saw the books on the table. Into his eyes leaped a wistfulness and a yearning as promptly as the yearning leaps into the eyes of a starving man at sight of food. An impulsive stride, with one lurch to right and left of the shoulders, brought him to the table, where he began affectionately handling the books. He glanced at the titles and the authors’ names, read fragments of text, caressing the volumes with his eyes and hands, and, once, recognized a book he had read. For the rest, they were strange books and strange authors. He chanced upon a volume of Swinburne and began reading steadily, forgetful of where he was, his face glowing. Twice he closed
the book on his forefinger to look at the name of the author. Swinburne! he would remember that name. That fellow had eyes, and he had certainly seen color and flashing light. But who was Swinburne? Was he dead a hundred years or so, like most of the poets? Or was he alive still, and writing? He turned to the title-page . . . yes, he had written other books; well, he would go to the free library the first thing in the morning and try to get hold of some of Swinburne’s stuff. He went back to the text and lost himself. He did not notice that a young woman had entered the room. The first he knew was when he heard Arthur’s voice saying:- “Ruth, this is Mr. Eden.”

The book was closed on his forefinger, and before he turned he was thrilling to the first new impression, which was not of the girl, but of her brother’s words. Under that muscled body of his he was a mass of
quivering sensibilities. At the slightest impact of the outside world upon his consciousness, his thoughts, sympathies, and emotions leapt and played like lambent flame. He was extraordinarily receptive and responsive, while his imagination, pitched high, was ever at work establishing relations of likeness and difference. “Mr. Eden,” was what he had thrilled to–he who had been called “Eden,” or “Martin Eden,” or just “Martin,” all his life. And “_Mister_!” It was certainly going some, was his internal comment. His mind seemed to turn, on the instant, into a vast camera obscura, and he saw arrayed around his consciousness endless pictures from his life, of stoke-holes and forecastles, camps and beaches, jails and boozing-kens, fever-hospitals and slum streets, wherein the thread of association was the fashion in which he had been addressed in those various situations.
And then he turned and saw the girl. The phantasmagoria of his brain vanished at sight of her. She was a pale, ethereal creature, with wide, spiritual blue eyes and a wealth of golden hair. He did not know how she was dressed, except that the dress was as wonderful as she. He likened her to a pale gold flower upon a slender stem. No, she was a spirit, a divinity, a goddess; such sublimated beauty was not of the earth. Or perhaps the books were right, and there were many such as she in the upper walks of life. She might well be sung by that chap, Swinburne. Perhaps he had had somebody like her in mind when he painted that girl, Iseult, in the book there on the table. All this plethora of sight, and feeling, and thought occurred on the instant. There was no pause of the realities wherein he moved. He saw her hand coming out to his, and she looked him straight in the eyes as she shook hands, frankly, like a man. The women he had known did not shake hands that way. For that matter, most of them did not shake hands at all. A flood of associations, visions of various ways he had made the acquaintance of women, rushed into his mind and threatened to swamp it. But he shook them aside and looked at her. Never had he seen such a woman. The women he had known!
Immediately, beside her, on either hand, ranged the women he had known. For an eternal second he stood in the midst of a portrait gallery, wherein she occupied the central place, while about her were limned many
women, all to be weighed and measured by a fleeting glance, herself the unit of weight and measure. He saw the weak and sickly faces of the girls of the factories, and the simpering, boisterous girls from the
south of Market. There were women of the cattle camps, and swarthy cigarette-smoking women of Old Mexico. These, in turn, were crowded out by Japanese women, doll-like, stepping mincingly on wooden clogs; by Eurasians, delicate featured, stamped with degeneracy; by full-bodied South-Sea-Island women, flower-crowned and brown-skinned. All these were blotted out by a grotesque and terrible nightmare brood–frowsy, shuffling creatures from the pavements of Whitechapel, gin-bloated hags of the stews, and all the vast hell’s following of harpies, vile-mouthed and filthy, that under the guise of monstrous female form prey upon sailors, the scrapings of the ports, the scum and slime of the human pit.
“Won’t you sit down, Mr. Eden?” the girl was saying. “I have been looking forward to meeting you ever since Arthur told us. It was brave of you”
He waved his hand deprecatingly and muttered that it was nothing at all, what he had done, and that any fellow would have done it. She noticed that the hand he waved was covered with fresh abrasions, in the process of healing, and a glance at the other loose-hanging hand showed it to be in the same condition. Also, with quick, critical eye, she noted a scar on his cheek, another that peeped out from under the hair of the forehead, and a third that ran down and disappeared under the starched collar. She repressed a smile at sight of the red line that marked the chafe of the collar against the bronzed neck. He was evidently unused to stiff collars. Likewise her feminine eye took in the clothes he wore, the cheap and unaesthetic cut, the wrinkling of the coat across the shoulders, and the series of wrinkles in the sleeves that advertised bulging biceps muscles.
While he waved his hand and muttered that he had done nothing at all, he was obeying her behest by trying to get into a chair. He found time to admire the ease with which she sat down, then lurched toward a chair facing her, overwhelmed with consciousness of the awkward figure he was cutting. This was a new experience for him. All his life, up to then, he had been unaware of being either graceful or awkward. Such thoughts of self had never entered his mind. He sat down gingerly on the edge of the chair, greatly worried by his hands. They were in the way wherever he put them. Arthur was leaving the room, and Martin Eden followed his exit with longing eyes. He felt lost, alone there in the room with that pale spirit of a woman. There was no bar-keeper upon whom to call for drinks, no small boy to send around the corner for a can of beer and by means of that social fluid start the amenities of friendship flowing.

“You have such a scar on your neck, Mr. Eden,” the girl was saying. “How did it happen? I am sure it must have been some adventure.”

“A Mexican with a knife, miss,” he answered, moistening his parched lips and clearing hip throat. “It was just a fight. After I got the knife away, he tried to bite off my nose.”

Baldly as he had stated it, in his eyes was a rich vision of that hot, starry night at Salina Cruz, the white strip of beach, the lights of the sugar steamers in the harbor, the voices of the drunken sailors in the distance, the jostling stevedores, the flaming passion in the Mexican’s face, the glint of the beast-eyes in the starlight, the sting of the steel in his neck, and the rush of blood, the crowd and the cries, the two bodies, his and the Mexican’s, locked together, rolling over and over and tearing up the sand, and from away off somewhere the mellow tinkling of a guitar. Such was the picture, and he thrilled to the memory of it, wondering if the man could paint it who had painted the pilot-schooner on the wall. The white beach, the stars, and the lights of the sugar steamers would look great, he thought, and midway on the sand the dark group of figures that surrounded the fighters. The knife occupied a place in the picture, he decided, and would show well, with a sort of gleam, in the light of the stars. But of all this no hint had crept into his speech. “He tried to bite off my nose,” he concluded.

“Oh,” the girl said, in a faint, far voice, and he noticed the shock in her sensitive face.

He felt a shock himself, and a blush of embarrassment shone faintly on his sunburned cheeks, though to him it burned as hotly as when his cheeks had been exposed to the open furnace-door in the fire-room. Such sordid things as stabbing affrays were evidently not fit subjects for conversation with a lady. People in the books, in her walk of life, did not talk about such things–perhaps they did not know about them, either.

There was a brief pause in the conversation they were trying to get started. Then she asked tentatively about the scar on his cheek. Even as she asked, he realized that she was making an effort to talk his talk, and he resolved to get away from it and talk hers. “It was just an accident,” he said, putting his hand to his cheek. “One night, in a calm, with a heavy sea running, the main-boom-lift carried away, an’ next the tackle. The lift was wire, an’ it was threshin’ around like a snake. The whole watch was tryin’ to grab it, an’ I rushed in an’ got swatted.”

“Oh,” she said, this time with an accent of comprehension, though secretly his speech had been so much Greek to her and she was wondering what a lift was and what swatted meant.

“This man Swineburne,” he began, attempting to put his plan into execution and pronouncing the i long.
“Who?”
“Swineburne,” he repeated, with the same mispronunciation. “The poet.”
“Swinburne,” she corrected.
“Yes, that’s the chap,” he stammered, his cheeks hot again. “How long since he died?”
“Why, I haven’t heard that he was dead.” She looked at him curiously. “Where did you make his acquaintance?”
“I never clapped eyes on him,” was the reply. “But I read some of his poetry out of that book there on the table just before you come in. How do you like his poetry?”

And thereat she began to talk quickly and easily upon the subject he had suggested. He felt better, and settled back slightly from the edge of the chair, holding tightly to its arms with his hands, as if it might get away from him and buck him to the floor. He had succeeded in making her talk her talk, and while she rattled on, he strove to follow her, marvelling at all the knowledge that was stowed away in that pretty head of hers, and drinking in the pale beauty of her face. Follow her he did, though bothered by unfamiliar words that fell glibly from her lips and by critical phrases and thought-processes that were foreign to his mind, but that nevertheless stimulated his mind and set it tingling. Here was
intellectual life, he thought, and here was beauty, warm and wonderful as he had never dreamed it could be. He forgot himself and stared at her with hungry eyes. Here was something to live for, to win to, to fight for–ay, and die for. The books were true. There were such women in the world. She was one of them. She lent wings to his imagination, and great, luminous canvases spread themselves before him whereon loomed vague, gigantic figures of love and romance, and of heroic deeds for woman’s sake–for a pale woman, a flower of gold. And through the swaying, palpitant vision, as through a fairy mirage, he stared at the real woman, sitting there and talking of literature and art. He listened as well, but he stared, unconscious of the fixity of his gaze or of the fact that all that was essentially masculine in his nature was shining in his eyes. But she, who knew little of the world of men, being a woman, was keenly aware of his burning eyes. She had never had men look at her in such fashion, and it embarrassed her. She stumbled and halted in her utterance. The thread of argument slipped from her. He frightened her, and at the same time it was strangely pleasant to be so looked upon. Her training warned her of peril and of wrong, subtle, mysterious, luring; while her instincts rang clarion-voiced through her being, impelling her to hurdle caste and place and gain to this traveller from another world, to this uncouth young fellow with lacerated hands and a line of raw red caused by the unaccustomed linen at his throat, who, all too evidently, was soiled and tainted by ungracious existence. She was clean, and her cleanness revolted; but she was woman, and she was just beginning to learn the paradox of woman.
“As I was saying–what was I saying?” She broke off abruptly and laughed merrily at her predicament.
“You was saying that this man Swinburne failed bein’ a great poet because–an’ that was as far as you got, miss,” he prompted, while to himself he seemed suddenly hungry, and delicious little thrills crawled up and down his spine at the sound of her laughter. Like silver, he thought to himself, like tinkling silver bells; and on the instant, and for an instant, he was transported to a far land, where under pink cherry blossoms, he smoked a cigarette and listened to the bells of the peaked pagoda calling straw-sandalled devotees to worship.
“Yes, thank you,” she said. “Swinburne fails, when all is said, because he is, well, indelicate. There are many of his poems that should never be read. Every line of the really great poets is filled with beautiful truth, and calls to all that is high and noble in the human. Not a line of the great poets can be spared without impoverishing the world by that much.”
“I thought it was great,” he said hesitatingly, “the little I read. I had no idea he was such a–a scoundrel. I guess that crops out in his other books.”
“There are many lines that could be spared from the book you were reading,” she said, her voice primly firm and dogmatic.
“I must ‘a’ missed ‘em,” he announced. “What I read was the real goods. It was all lighted up an’ shining, an’ it shun right into me an’ lighted me up inside, like the sun or a searchlight. That’s the way it landed on me, but I guess I ain’t up much on poetry, miss.”
He broke off lamely. He was confused, painfully conscious of his inarticulateness. He had felt the bigness and glow of life in what he had read, but his speech was inadequate. He could not express what he felt, and to himself he likened himself to a sailor, in a strange ship, on a dark night, groping about in the unfamiliar running rigging. Well, he decided, it was up to him to get acquainted in this new world. He had never seen anything that he couldn’t get the hang of when he wanted to and it was about time for him to want to learn to talk the things that were inside of him so that she could understand. She was bulking large on his horizon.
“Now Longfellow–” she was saying.
“Yes, I’ve read ‘m,” he broke in impulsively, spurred on to exhibit and make the most of his little store of book knowledge, desirous of showing her that he was not wholly a stupid clod. “‘The Psalm of Life,’
‘Excelsior,’ an’ . . . I guess that’s all.”
She nodded her head and smiled, and he felt, somehow, that her smile was tolerant, pitifully tolerant. He was a fool to attempt to make a pretence that way. That Longfellow chap most likely had written countless books of poetry.
“Excuse me, miss, for buttin’ in that way. I guess the real facts is that I don’t know nothin’ much about such things. It ain’t in my class. But I’m goin’ to make it in my class.”
It sounded like a threat. His voice was determined, his eyes were flashing, the lines of his face had grown harsh. And to her it seemed that the angle of his jaw had changed; its pitch had become unpleasantly aggressive. At the same time a wave of intense virility seemed to surge out from him and impinge upon her.
“I think you could make it in–in your class,” she finished with a laugh. “You are very strong.”
Her gaze rested for a moment on the muscular neck, heavy corded, almost bull-like, bronzed by the sun, spilling over with rugged health and strength. And though he sat there, blushing and humble, again she felt drawn to him. She was surprised by a wanton thought that rushed into her mind. It seemed to her that if she could lay her two hands upon that neck that all its strength and vigor would flow out to her. She was shocked by this thought. It seemed to reveal to her an undreamed depravity in her nature. Besides, strength to her was a gross and brutish thing. Her ideal of masculine beauty had always been slender gracefulness. Yet the thought still persisted. It bewildered her that she should desire to place her hands on that sunburned neck. In truth, she was far from robust, and the need of her body and mind was for strength. But she did not know it. She knew only that no man had ever affected her before as this one had, who shocked her from moment to moment with his awful grammar.
“Yes, I ain’t no invalid,” he said. “When it comes down to hard-pan, I can digest scrap-iron. But just now I’ve got dyspepsia. Most of what you was sayin’ I can’t digest. Never trained that way, you see. I like books and poetry, and what time I’ve had I’ve read ‘em, but I’ve never thought about ‘em the way you have. That’s why I can’t talk about ‘em. I’m like a navigator adrift on a strange sea without chart or compass. Now I want to get my bearin’s. Mebbe you can put me right. How did you learn all this you’ve ben talkin’?”
“By going to school, I fancy, and by studying,” she answered.
“I went to school when I was a kid,” he began to object.
“Yes; but I mean high school, and lectures, and the university.”
“You’ve gone to the university?” he demanded in frank amazement. He felt that she had become remoter from him by at least a million miles.
“I’m going there now. I’m taking special courses in English.”
He did not know what “English” meant, but he made a mental note of that item of ignorance and passed on.
“How long would I have to study before I could go to the university?” he asked.
She beamed encouragement upon his desire for knowledge, and said: “That depends upon how much studying you have already done. You have never attended high school? Of course not. But did you finish grammar
school?”
“I had two years to run, when I left,” he answered. “But I was always honorably promoted at school.”
The next moment, angry with himself for the boast, he had gripped the arms of the chair so savagely that every finger-end was stinging. At the same moment he became aware that a woman was entering the room. He saw the girl leave her chair and trip swiftly across the floor to the newcomer. They kissed each other, and, with arms around each other’s waists, they advanced toward him. That must be her mother, he thought. She was a tall, blond woman, slender, and stately, and beautiful. Her gown was what he might expect in such a house. His eyes delighted in the graceful lines of it. She and her dress together reminded him of women on the stage. Then he remembered seeing similar grand ladies and gowns entering the London theatres while he stood and watched and the policemen shoved him back into the drizzle beyond the awning. Next his mind leaped to the Grand Hotel at Yokohama, where, too, from the sidewalk, he had
seen grand ladies. Then the city and the harbor of Yokohama, in a thousand pictures, began flashing before his eyes. But he swiftly dismissed the kaleidoscope of memory, oppressed by the urgent need of the
present. He knew that he must stand up to be introduced, and he struggled painfully to his feet, where he stood with trousers bagging at the knees, his arms loose-hanging and ludicrous, his face set hard for
the impending ordeal.

taken from Martin Eden, Jack London, 1909

Transcending Matter by Morgan Meis | The Smart Set

Mc Sorley's Bar, John Sloan, 1912
Mc Sorley’s Bar, John Sloan, 1912

The Ashcan painters may have “lost” most battles during their time, but we should remember them by their goal: to paint the force of life.
By Morgan Meis

Bernadita, Robert Henri, 1922
Bernadita, Robert Henri, 1922

Human history is written from the perspective of the winners. But it is also the case that the winners are, more often than not, assholes. Looking back over the wreckage of past ages, losers can come off looking pretty good in comparison. The story of what-could-have-been sometimes beats the story of what-actually-was.
One scenario for meditations upon history’s winners and losers took place in New York City, 1913 when a group of painters decided to put on a show at the Armory building. The idea behind the show was simple. One of the organizers, John Quinn, expressed it in his opening address, “The members of this association have shown you that American artists — young American artists, that is — do not dread, and have no need to dread, the ideas or the culture of Europe.”

America was ready to confront the big boys (and a couple of girls) of European art. American art would no longer be perceived as the mostly provincial, second-order stuff of a colonial backwater. The Armory exhibit would display American artists like Oscar Bluemner, Patrick H. Bruce, James Earle Fraser, and Henry Twachtman alongside Cezanne, Redon, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, and Duchamp. Likewise, art enthusiasts in the U.S. would get their first glimpse of Continental art movements: Neo-Impressionism, Futurism, Fauvism, Abstraction, and Cubism.

Viewers of the exhibit were also going to see the newest creations of those American artists who had come to be known as The Ashcan School. Painters like William Glackens, Robert Henri, George Luks, Everett Shinn, and a young Edward Hopper. The Ashcan artists painted with a dark and sooty realism. They favored street scenes, often at night, frequently in less-savory parts of town. They were not prim and proper artists of the salon. They were artists making art about real people doing real things. In the confrontation with the newest in European painting, the Ashcan School was bringing to the Armory show a blend of social relevance and a brazen, forward-looking painting style. It was going to be a good fight.

Suffice it to say, the Ashcan School lost. Badly. A headline in the Sun — a New York newspaper of the time — read, “Cubists, Futurists, and Post Impressionists Win First Engagement, Leaving the Enemy Awestruck.” The Ashcans were overshadowed. They weren’t, it turned out, as radical as they thought they were. Next to the wild lines of a Kandinsky, the utter breakdown in form of a Duchamp, the Ashcan paintings looked tame.

The Ashcan School has since been deemed a minor movement. They failed at the Armory and they were forgotten. Art history, like all history, is usually written from the perspective of the winners. But of what does this “winning” really consist? The “victory” of, say, Futurism over the Ashcan School in 1913 has much to do with the outbreak of WWI one year later. Futurism’s vision of a mechanized and war-torn reality was confirmed by real-world events. But are we to judge the worth of a school of painting by its prophetic powers or by, in this case, its celebration of industrialized war? Maybe the road not taken deserves a second look. What do we really know about the Ashcan School?

Because the Ashcan painters often painted scenes from urban life, from the immigrant-strewn streets of New York City, their work is often judged, positively or negatively, as a form of journalism. They were thought to be “documenting” the reality of life on the Lower East Side, “editorializing” the plight of the urban poor. In fact, neither of these motivations drove the Ashcan painters.

The Ashcan painters followed a specific path that was laid down by the charismatic painter and teacher Robert Henri. Henri was born in 1865. He recognized, as did most painters of the late 19th and early 20th century, that painting was at a crossroads. Newer technologies like photography and early moving pictures had displaced painting as the means for creating documents of record. Painting was forced to find itself anew, forced to ask what it could do that a medium like photography could not.
Keep on reading via The Smart Set: Transcending Matter

The Power Of Art by Simon Schama | BBC

David con la testa di Golia, Caravaggio (1573–1610), 1606-1607, oil  on canvas. Rome, Museo e Galleria Borghese
David con la testa di Golia, Caravaggio (1573–1610), 1606-1607, olio su tela. Roma, Museo e Galleria Borghese

The power of the greatest art is the power to shake us into revelation and rip us from our default mode of seeing. After an encounter with that force, we don’t look at a face, a colour, a sky, a body, in quite the same way again. We get fitted with new sight: in-sight. Visions of beauty or a rush of intense pleasure are part of that process, but so too may be shock, pain, desire, pity, even revulsion. That kind of art seems to have rewired our senses. We apprehend the world differently.

via BBC – Arts – Simon Schama’s Power of Art

Nel 2006 la BBC affida al professor Simon Schama, saggista e storico dell’arte britannico (già autore di A History of Britain), la conduzione di una serie televisiva che ha come titolo The Power of Art e tratta di storia dell’arte, dal tardo Rinascimento, il Barocco, fino alla modernità. Protagonisti della serie sono Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt, Jacques-Louis David, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso, Rothko, e lo stesso Schama, cui aplomb fa da cornice alla sceneggiatura dei documentari.
Questo il primo degli otto episodi della serie, dedicato a Caravaggio, cui accento, squisitamente britannico, rende ulteriormente godibile la visione.

Borghese Gallery – Michelangelo Merisi called Caravaggio – David with the Head of Goliath
Caravaggio – The complete works
The mystery of Caravaggio’s death solved at last – painting killed him | Art and design | The Guardian

Swinging

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Michael Carson Paintings

A Brief History Of Cynical Realism Via Fang Lijun | SINOPOP.ORG

Yue Minjun, The Massacre At Chios, 1994
Yue Minjun, The Massacre At Chios, 1994

“Cynical realism — it’s the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation.”
Aldous Huxley

Fang Lijun
Fang Lijun

In Beijing, October 2006 two monumental art world events coincided to the fanfare of endless camera shutters: the opening of the Today Art Museum’s new space in Beijing and within it’s walls, the first Mainland solo exhibition of one of China’s most archetypical contemporary painters and celebrated “cynical realist” Fang Lijun. It was a strange “debut” in his hometown––late by almost 20 years––yet he is one of the most recognizable Mainland Chinese artists in the world.
Fang Lijun’s baldheads on desolate landscapes have become an iconic symbol of contemporary Chinese art, and Fang the commonly accepted as the definitive “cynical realist.” The Cynical Realist school that he so roundly represents and its contemporary, “Political Pop” have become the two most identifiable and uniquely “Chinese” contemporary art movements from the mainland—they are also some of the highest priced works in the international art market today.

Cynical Realism at a Glance

Cynical Realist painting, which emerged in the early 1990s, was a step towards personal expression and away from the collective mindset that prevailed in the Cultural Revolution, it is often linked with the political events of 1989 that left a sour taste in the hearts and psychologies of artists and intellectuals in Beijing, the cultural capital of China. Although Cynical Realist works maintain an ambiguous relationship with society and politics, socio-political themes emerge in form and content; politics are seen from a distance and take no clear pro-con stance on issues. The result is a cold, realistic view of a Chinese society in transition, a “stylized ambivalence” and a form of humor––later coined “grey humor”–– transcending the political realm although its roots clearly lie there. Fang Lijun incorporates his characteristic individual touches, such as the dusty landscapes of his native Hebei; other artists considered “Cynical Realists” include Yue Minjun, Yang Shaobin and according to some historians early works by Liu Xiaodong are considered as such, although he is more often categorized in the “New Generation” academic school of painters.

Keep on reading via s i n o p o p » Blog Archive » A Brief History of Cynical Realism via Fang Lijun

Revisiting Political Pop And Cynical Realism, Discussion With Luo Fei | 撒把盐
Il Giornale dell’Arte – Cinismo Cinese

World Is Not Big Enough For Me And A Picasso

John William Godward, A Roman Matrone, 1905
John William Godward, A Roman Matrone, 1905
Jean Michel Basquiat, Mona Lisa, 1983
Jean Michel Basquiat, Mona Lisa, 1983

‘Il mondo non è grande abbastanza per me e un Picasso’, lasciò scritto John William Godward (1861-1922) in una nota rinvenuta nel 1922 in occasione del suo suicidio. La geometria volumetrica di certe ‘bizzarrie cubiste’, la rigida e netta scomposizione delle figure in spigoli e tangenti, devono avere indignato il pittore neoclassico al punto da spegnere in lui il desiderio di dipingere. Non oso immaginare la reazione di Godward in risposta all’Espressionismo o alle opere dell’indisciplinato ‘nipote’ Basquiat, la pecora nera della famiglia, quel drogato malato di mente. ‘Ah, i giovani. Sono finiti i tempi di una volta’.
Vero. Nel 1922 la Belle Epoque è già finita da un pezzo e la Guernica si configura come il quadro che meglio rappresenta un lungo periodo di conflitti civili culminato nella seconda guerra mondiale e destinato a durare fino ai giorni nostri.
Credo la nota di Godward interessante perchè mette in discussione molti dei principi su cui ruotano buona parte delle considerazioni sull’arte e sul concetto di bellezza. Splendor veritatis, armonia, o mera rappresentazione della realtà?
La fotografia (a esclusione di quella concettuale, surrealista e manipolata digitalmente) offre una visione della realtà scevra di finzioni e ‘artefatti’. Tuttavia la fotografia rimanda esclusivamente alla prospettiva di chi guarda all’obiettivo e scatta la foto, dunque a una visione particolareggiata della realtà. Nelle arti la realtà è un ‘fatto’ soggettivo, una ‘questione’ personale. Idealismo e soggettivismo?
Fra tutti un quadro di John William Godward mi piace particolarmente. Si intitola Sweet Nothings, ovvero Dolce far niente.

John William Godward, Sweet Nothings, 1904
John William Godward, Sweet Nothings, 1904

In questo quadro la realtà è un sogno. Un giardino di orchidee in fiore, fontane gorgoglianti, dolcissimi usignoli cinguettanti. Col favore degli dei, vien voglia di chiudere gli occhi e immaginarsi perduti nella tranquillità di un mattino romano, neo classico, soleggiato, all’ombra di un ciliegio, con in mano un libro e ore e ore a disposizione per scrivere, studiare, cucinare, mangiare, dipingere. Niente traffico, smog, scadenze, invasioni aliene, complotti marziani, catastrofi naturali, guerre atomiche, attentati militari. Per certi versi un paradiso e una noia. Una noia paradisiaca di improbabile realizzazione.
La realtà è che se non mi decido a darmi una mossa finirò per fare tardi a lavoro ed essere licenziata. Allora si, sarà Guernica.

Touch

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The Art of Jeremy Lipking

Jeremy Geddes

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Jeremy Geddes

Questione Di Sguardi. Sette Inviti Al Vedere Fra Storia Dell’Arte E Quotidianità

‘E’ un errore credere che la pubblicità soppianti l’arte visiva dell’Europa postrinascimentale: essa è l’ultima, moribonda forma di quell’arte’

Questione di Sguardi, John BergerA iniziare da una breve analisi della pittura rinascimentale fino alla più moderna rappresentazione delle arti visive attraverso la pubblicità, questo breve saggio di John Berger, pubblicato nel 1972, offre suggestive chiavi di lettura e interpretazione dell’opera d’arte e del compiacente legame fra presunta arte, e spendibilità e commercializzazione della stessa. Chi è abituato alla critica marxista certo annuirà alle provocazioni di Berger senza tuttavia trovarvi alcunchè di originale e impressionante; buona parte del patrimonio artistico a noi presentato nei musei, esposto nelle piazze, conservato nelle chiese, nelle gallerie, è stato commissionato agli artisti da facoltosi possidenti e collezionisti privati che in qualche caso hanno limitato la libertà espressiva degli artisti stessi, e inevitabilmente hanno condizionato la rappresentazione di nozioni classiche quali la bellezza, la verità, il genio, la virtù, fino ad allora espresse nell’opera d’arte e dall’opera d’arte. Chi piuttosto si riserva di avere nei confronti dell’arte un atteggiamento meno critico e certamente più condiscendente, allora troverà questo di John Berger un saggio oltremodo inappropriato. Punti di vista. Questione di sguardi, appunto.
Fatto riferimento a Walter Benjamin e a un suo saggio del 1966 (del quale mi capitò parlare tempo fa), ‘L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica’, e chiarito l’uso e l’abuso del corpo femminile nella rappresentazione voyeristica del desiderio più prettamente maschile (nelle opere d’arte ‘gli uomini agiscono, le donne appaiono’), John Berger individua nella pubblicità lo stesso ‘valore tributario’ che influenzò e favorì la pittura a olio.

La tribuna degli Uffizi,1772-78, Johann Zoffany (1733–1810)
La tribuna degli Uffizi,1772-78, Johann Zoffany (1733–1810)

‘Spesso i dipinti a olio raffigurano cose. Cose che nella realtà si possono acquistare. Avere una cosa dipinta e messa su tela non è diverso dal comprarla e mettersela in casa. Se si compra un quadro si compra anche l’immagine della cosa che esso rappresenta. Questa analogia tra il possesso e il modo di vedere incorporato nei dipinti a olio è un fattore abitualmente ignorato dagli esperti d’arte e dagli storici. E’ significativo che a questa consapevolezza si sia avvicinato, più di chiunque altro, un antropologo.

Levi-Strauss scrive: (*)

‘Uno dei caratteri più originali della nostra civiltà sta proprio nell’avida esigenza, nell’ambizione di catturare l’oggetto a beneficio del proprietario o dello spettatore.’

Il termine pittura a olio si riferisce a qualcosa di più di una semplice tecnica. Esso definisce una forma artistica. La tecnica di mescolare olio e pigmenti esisteva già nell’antichità. La pittura a olio come forma artistica nacque, tuttavia, soltanto quando non ci fu più bisogno di sviluppare e perfezionare tale tecnica (che ben presto comportò l’uso di tele al posto delle tavole di legno) per esprimere una particolare visione della vita per cui le tecniche della tempera e dell’affresco erano inadeguate. Quando, agli inizi del quindicesimo secolo, nell’Europa del Nord, si impiegò per la prima volta la pittura a olio, per realizzare dipinti di natura nuova, tale natura fu in qualche modo inibita dalla sopravvivenza di varie convenzioni artistiche medievali. La pittura a olio non istituì completamente le proprie norme, il proprio modo di vedere, fino al sedicesimo secolo.
Nè la fine del periodo della pittura a olio può essere fissata in una data precisa. Di dipinti a olio se ne realizzano anche oggi. La base del suo tradizionale modo di vedere fu, però, erosa dall’impressionismo e scardinata dal cubismo. Più o meno nello stesso momento la pittura a olio cedette il campo alla fotografia, che ne prese il posto di fonte primaria dell’immaginazione visiva. Per queste ragioni il periodo della pittura a olio classica può essere collocato a grandi linee tra il 1500 e il 1900.
La tradizione continua nondimeno a dare forma a molte delle nostre posizioni culturali. Essa stabilisce cosa si intenda per verosimiglianza pittorica. Le sue norme continuano a influenzare il nostro modo di vedere certi soggetti: paesaggi, donne, cibo, nobiltà, mitologia. Essa ci dota dei nostri archetipi di ‘genio artistico’. E la storia della tradizione, così come normalmente la si insegna, ci dice che l’arte prospera se nella società vi è un numero sufficiente di individui che amano l’arte.
Cos’è l’amore per l’arte?
Esaminiamo un dipinto che appartiene alla tradizione e che ha per soggetto un amante dell’arte.

L'arciduca Leopoldo Guglielmo nella sua galleria privata Teniers 1651 circa David Teniers il Giovane (1610–1690)
L’arciduca Leopoldo Guglielmo nella sua galleria privata, 1651 circa, David Teniers il Giovane (1610–1690)

Cosa ci mostra quest’opera?
Ci mostra il genere d’uomo per il quale, nel diciassettesimo secolo, i pittori realizzavano i loro dipinti.
Cosa sono questi dipinti?
Prima di tutto, sono oggetti che si possono acquistare e possedere. Oggetti unici. Un mecenate non può circondarsi di musica o poesie nello stesso modo in cui si circonda dei suoi quadri.
E’ come se il collezionista vivesse in una casa costruita di quadri. Che vantaggio offrono le pareti di quadri rispetto a quelle di pietra o di legno?
I quadri offrono al proprietario una vista: la vista di ciò che egli potrebbe possedere.
E’ ancora Levi-Strauss a spiegare in che modo una collezione di quadri possa confermare l’orgoglio e l’amor proprio del collezionista.

‘Per gli artisti del Rinascimento la pittura è stata forse un mezzo di conoscenza, ma anche uno strumento di possesso: non dobbiamo infatti dimenticare che la pittura del Rinascimento è stata possibile grazie alle immense fortune che esistevano a Firenze e altrove, e che i pittori rinascimentali rappresentavano per i ricchi mercanti italiani gli strumenti con i quali essi riuscivano a impossessarsi di tutto ciò che vi era di più bello e desiderabile nell’universo. I dipinti di un palazzo fiorentino evocano una specie di microcosmo in cui il proprietario, grazie ai suoi artisti, ricostituiva a sua misura, in una forma la più reale possibile, tutto ciò che nel mondo aveva per lui un valore.’

Galleria del cardinale Valenti Gonzaga, Pannini (1692-1765)
Galleria del cardinale Valenti Gonzaga, Giovanni Paolo Pannini (1692-1765)

In ogni epoca l’arte tende a servire gli interessi ideologici della classe dominante. Se stessimo semplicemente dicendo che l’arte europea tra il 1500 e il 1900 servì gli interessi delle classi dominanti che si susseguirono, tutte in vario modo dipendenti dal nuovo potere del capitale, non staremmo dicendo niente di nuovo. Ciò che stiamo proponendo è un po’ più specifico, stiamo dicendo che un modo di vedere il mondo, determinato in definitiva da nuovi atteggiamenti nei confronti della proprietà e dello scambio, trovò la sua espressione visiva nella pittura a olio e non avrebbe potuto trovarla che lì.
La pittura a olio fece alle immagini ciò che il capitale aveva fatto alle relazioni sociali. Le ridusse all’equivalenza di oggetti. Tutto divenne intercambiabile, poichè tutto si convertì in merce. L’intera realtà venne meccanicamente misurata dalla sua materialità. L’anima, grazie al sistema cartesiano, venne messa al sicuro in una categoria a parte. Un dipinto poteva parlare all’anima, per via di ciò a cui si riferiva, mai per come lo concepiva. La pittura a olio trasmetteva una visione di esteriorità totale.
Vengono immediatamente alla mente opere che contraddicono quest’affermazione. Lavori di Rembrandt, El Greco, Giorgione, Vermeer, Turner, ecc. Eppure, se li si studia in rapporto alla tradizione nel suo complesso, si scopre che questi dipinti sono eccezioni di un tipo molto particolare.
[..] Perchè la pubblicità dipende tanto pesantemente dal linguaggio visivo della pittura a olio?
La pubblicità è la cultura della società del consumo. Essa propaga per via di immagini ciò che tale società pensa di se stessa. Le ragioni per cui queste immagini usano il linguaggio della pittura a olio sono numerose.
La pittura a olio fu, innanzi tutto, una celebrazione della proprietà privata. Come forma d’arte derivava dal principio che noi siamo ciò che abbiamo.
[..] Uno sviluppo tecnico recente ha reso facile tradurre il linguaggio della pittura a olio in clichè pubblicitari. Ci riferiamo all’invenzione, risalente a circa quindici anni fa, della fotografia a colori a basso costo. Questa fotografia è in grado di riprodurre il colore, la matericità e la tattilità degli oggetti come, prima d’ora, solo la pittura a olio era riuscita a fare. La fotografia a colori è per lo spettatore-compratore ciò che la pittura a olio era stata per lo spettatore-proprietario. Entrambi i media si servono di mezzi simili altamente tattili per giocare sull’impressione dello spettatore di acquistare la cosa vera che l’immagine mostra. In entrambi i casi la sua sensazione di poter quasi toccare ciò che è contenuto nell’immagine gli ricorda che potrebbe possedere o di fatto possiede la cosa vera.
[..] Il fine della pubblicità è di rendere lo spettatore insoddisfatto del suo presente stile di vita. Non dello stile di vita della società, ma del suo personale stile di vita all’interno della società. Essa suggerisce che, se lo spettatore comprerà ciò che egli sta offrendo, la sua vita diventerà migliore. Gli offre un’alternativa vantaggiosa a ciò che è.
La pittura a olio si rivolgeva a chi accumulava denaro grazie al mercato. La pubblicità si rivolge a chi costituisce il mercato, allo spettatore-compratore che è anche il compratore-produttore che fa raddoppiare i profitti, prima come lavoratore e poi come compratore.
La pubblicità suscita ansia. La misura di tutto è il denaro, avere denaro significa vincere l’ansia.
Alternativamente l’ansia su cui la pubblicità gioca è la nostra paura di non essere niente, perchè non abbiamo niente.
Il denaro è vita. Non nel senso che senza denaro si muore di fame. Non nel senso che il capitale dà a una classe il potere di dominare l’intera vita di un’altra classe. Ma nel senso che il denaro è il simbolo e la chiave di ogni capacità umana. Il potere di spendere denaro è il potere di vivere. Secondo le leggende della pubblicità, coloro che non hanno il potere di spendere denaro perdono letteralmente la faccia. Coloro che hanno questo potere diventano desiderabili.
[..] L’immagine pubblicitaria, che è effimera, usa solo il tempo futuro. ‘Con questo voi diventerete desiderabili. In questo ambiente tutte le vostre relazioni diventeranno felici e radiosi’. La pubblicità che si rivolge principalmente alla classe operaia tende a promettere una trasformazione personale grazie all’impiego del prodotto particolare che sta vendendo (Cenerentola); la pubblicità destinata alla classe media promette una trasformazione dei rapporti attraverso l’atmosfera generale creata da un insieme di prodotti (Il castello incantato).
La pubblicità parla al futuro e tuttavia la realizzazione di questo futuro è infinitamente rinviata. Come riesce dunque la pubblicità a mantenersi credibile, o abbastanza credibile da esercitare l’influenza che di fatto esercita? Essa continua a essere credibile, perchè la sua veridicità non viene giudicata dalle promesse che realmente mantiene, ma dal significato delle sue fantasie per quelle dello spettatore-compratore. Sostanzialmente essa si applica non alla realtà, bensì ai sogni a occhi aperti.

da ‘Questione di sguardi. Sette inviti al vedere fra storia dell’arte e quotidianità’, John Berger, 1972

(*) Claude Levi-Strauss, Primitivi e civilizzati. Conversazioni con Charles Charbonnier, 1974

Antonio Donghi

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Antonio Donghi (March 16, 1897 – July 16, 1963) 

Girl On A Red Carpet

Felice Casorati, Girl on a red carpet, 1912
Felice Casorati, Girl on a red carpet, 1912

Mark Demsteader

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Home Page | Mark Demsteader
EK Interview: Mark Demsteader | EMPTY KINGDOM You are Here, We are Everywhere.

Nicolas Kalmakoff, The Forgotten Visionary

The apparition by Nikolai Konstantin Kalmakoff

In 1955, a Russian émigré died alone, unknown and in poverty at the hôpital de Lagny to the north of Paris. After leading a hermit’s existence in his small room at the hotel de la Rochefoucault in Paris, this former Russian aristocrat had created a fascinating body of work which, deemed eccentric and worthless, was locked away in storage and forgotten.
Throughout his solitary life, the artist had painted works that reflected his various obsessions with martyrdom, asceticism, decadence, spirituality and sexuality. Executed in a style marked by the Russian art nouveau, his imagery nevertheless transcended this movement, bearing undeniable traces of demented vision, indeed, genius.

Only in 1962 did some of his works come to light when Bertrand Collin du Bocage and Georges Martin du Nord discovered forty canvases in the Marché aux Puces, a large flea market to the north of Paris. All the works in this unusual collection were signed with a stylized ‘K’ monogram.
The Hungarian merchant who sold the lot to them included with it a poster of an exhibition held in Galerie Le Roy, Brussels, in 1924. Here, for the first time, the full name of the mysterious ‘K’ was revealed – Nicolas Kalmakoff.

After lying in darkness and obscurity for thirty-seven years, Kalmakoff’s works were finally exhibited at Galerie Motte Paris in February of 1964. This led to the discovery of twenty-four new works in Metz – including an entire series which once decorated a chapel dedicated (ironically) to the resurrected called Chapelle Fortin du Résurrectoire. Four years later, another exhibition followed at Galerie Jacques Henri Perrin.
Finally, in May of 1986, a large exhibition of his collected works was organized by Musée-galerie de la Seita, resulting in the colour monograph: KALMAKOFF, L’Ange de l’Abîme, 1873 – 1955. A documentary film by Annie Tresgot (also called L’Ange de l’Abîme) provided interviews with Kalmakoff’s contemporaries. Through these various sources (all in French), a shadowy and fragmented picture of the recluse emerges.
And yet, the works themselves – many of them self-portraits – invite a myriad of speculations onto the artist’s life and his very unique view onto the world. Did his spiritual ideals drive him towards an extreme asceticism, which then had the contrary effect of releasing onto his canvases a rich profusion of repressed eroticism, effeminism, misogyny and narcissism – culminating in delusions of Satanhood and even Godhood? The enigma of his life and works remains unsolved – a labyrinth into which the speculative writer (and curious reader) wanders at his own risk…

via VISIONARY REVUE.

The World Of The Novel ‘“Petersburg’” By Andrei Bely

Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, City Types, City Grimaces, 1908

The Russian symbolist Andrei Bely was one of the pioneers of experimental aesthetics. Bely’s creative
method in the novel Petersburg was based on his perception of symbolism, which he associated
with ethics and religion. To create the world of the novel, he used symbolic-anthroposophical artistic
approaches. The world of the novel differs from reality, which is, according to non-materialistic philosophies,
apart from God, because it is created by God. It is as if the symbolic reality of Petersburg
were divine, as if it should have been God or God-Devil, here represented by the author’s subject.
Steiner’s deity, the most universal being of the human ego, so-called manas comes to life. It embodies
the author’s anthroposophical “ego”. The text of the novel, which is simultaneously the author’s world,
was created in the disharmonious relation of the author’s subject to external reality. It can be perceived
as a form of the occult text that became popular in twentieth-century literature.
Continue to read The World Of The Novel ‘“Petersburg’” By Andrei Bely (application/pdf Object).

Geoffrey Johnson’s Paintings

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Song

Abbott Handerson Thayer, Roses, 1907

If space and time, as sages say,
Are things that cannot be,
The fly that lives a single day
Has lived as long as we.
But let us live while yet we may,
While love and life are free,
For time is time, and runs away,
Through sages disagree.

The flowers I sent thee when the dew
Was trembling on the vine
Were withered ere the wild bee flew
To suck the eglantine.
But let us haste to pluck anew
Nor mourn to see them pine,
And though the flowers of life be few
Yet let them be divine.

T.S.Eliot

Andrew Wyeth

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“I do an awful lot of thinking and dreaming about things in the past and the future – the timelessness of the rocks and the hills – all the people who have existed there. I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”
Andrew Wyeth

Une Barque Sur l’Ocean

Gustave Courbet, The Wave, between 1869 and 1870

Maurice Ravel, “Une Barque sur l’Ocean”, from Miroirs, 1904-1905.
Performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

On Lolita, Rose La Touche, Saint Ursula and The 11,000 Virgins

Vittore Carpaccio, Apotheosis of St. Ursula, 1491

E’ indubbio ‘Lolita’ di Vladimir Nabokov un romanzo controverso che a oggi crea ancora sensazione e divide i lettori; tanti si rifiutano di leggerlo precludendo a se stessi la possibilità di farsene un’opinione, eventualmente apprezzarlo, eventualmente ignorarne i contenuti o disprezzarlo; quanti lo hanno letto in inglese converranno con me nel ritenerlo un capolavoro di stile in quanto a eleganza e misura. Il romanzo ha dato motivo a tanti registi di adattare la trama per il cinema, e mi sbaglierò affermando la versione di Kubrick di tutte la più denigratoria e allo stesso tempo tendenziosa; da una parte non rende giustizia al romanzo fuorviando l’opinione pubblica, penalizzando la maestria di Nabokov e riducendo l’affair Humbert-Lolita a una squallida e morbosa concupiscenza tra un degenerato in andropausa e una giovane ninfetta illibata; dall’altra personifica in Lolita la malizia dello spettatore, la malizia di colui che guarda con sospetto, avversione, disappunto, la storia d’amore tra un uomo adulto e una ragazzina civettuola. Ne risulta la trasposizione in celluloide di un pregiudizio in bianco e nero, che a mio parere va confutato soltanto attraverso la lettura del romanzo, denso in colori e ricco di sfumature.
Pomeriggio ho scoperto secondo lo studioso Wolfgang Kemp [#] Lolita trae ispirazione dalla storia d’amore fra il pittore, poeta, scrittore e critico d’arte londinese John Ruskin, e Rose La Touche, sua allieva e protagonista del romanzo Sesame and Lilies (1865). John Ruskin, molti studiosi e appassionati d’arte lo sapranno, viene ricordato principalmente per l’opera in cinque volumi Modern Painters, cui interpretazioni dell’arte e dell’architettura influenzarono in maniera determinante l’estetica vittoriana ed edoardiana. La biografia di Ruskin si contraddistingue specialmente per la vastissima produzione letteraria, i lunghi viaggi all’estero, l’impegno civile, la fondazione di una società chimerica di stampo medievale chiamata Guild of St.George, la costruzione di un museo, a Sheffield, dedicato agli operai del posto, e per l’incredibile propulsione ideale e morale che sottintende in ognuna delle iniziative da lui intraprese con grande passione e struggle, tensione e fatica. A buon ragione potremmo definire John Ruskin un eroe romantico per antonomasia.
Il primo incontro fra John Ruskin e Rose risale al 3 gennaio 1858, quando cioè il critico d’arte viene presentato dalla marchesa di Waterford alla benestante famiglia irlandese La Touche. Prima di raccontare l’accaduto, bisogna specificare Ruskin, ai tempi, aveva 39 anni, mentre Rose, appena 9; Ruskin è un evangelico, Rose, la famiglia La Touche, è protestante. E’ la madre di Rose a volere Ruskin in casa perchè la bambina venisse educata al disegno e alla storia dell’arte. Ruskin pare innamorarsene segretamente fin da subito sebbene aspetta il diciottesimo compleanno della bambina per chiederla in sposa alla famiglia. Perchè protestante, Rose rifiuta la proposta invitando Ruskin ad aspettare ancora tre anni; una volta compiuti i 21 anni, la ragazza potrà scegliere di propria volontà chi sposare senza dovere per questo dipendere dall’approvazione della famiglia. Trascorsi i tre anni, Ruskin si ripresenta all’attenzione di Rose, ma questa, incredibilmente, rifiuta ancora una volta il matrimonio a causa delle divergenze religiose. Fatto inaspettato, Rose muore a 27 anni -secondo alcune voci di anoressia, isteria, esaurimento nervoso, mania religiosa. Sconvolto dalla perdita e sopraffatto dal dolore, Ruskin subisce un crollo di nervi, si ammala di depressione, si dà allo spiritualismo; convinto della personificazione di Rose in Santa Orsola – rappresentata in un dipinto del pittore rinascimentale Vittore Carpaccio- Ruskin cerca da allora, e invano, di mettersi in contatto con l’amata attraverso una serie di sedute spiritiche che, come è immaginabile, lo porteranno a un ulteriore crollo di nervi e a un definitivo esaurimento nervoso.
Il quadro del pittore rinascimentale Vittore Carpaccio rappresenta l’apoteosi di Santa Orsola, secondo la leggenda vissuta tra il IV e il V secolo, santa della Chiesa Anglo-Cattolica, promessa sposa del governatore pagano Conan Meriadoc, vergine e martire. Cito da Wikipedia

Saint Ursula (“little female bear” in Latin) is a British Christian saint. Her feast day in the extraordinary form calendar of the Catholic Church is October 21. Because of the lack of definite information about the anonymous group of holy virgins who on some uncertain date were killed at Cologne, their commemoration was omitted from the Catholic calendar of saints for liturgical celebration when it was revised in 1969, but they have been kept in the Roman Martyrology.

Her legend, probably unhistorical, is that she was a Romano-British princess who, at the request of her father King Dionotus of Dumnonia in south-west England, set sail to join her future husband, the pagan Governor Conan Meriadoc of Armorica, along with 11,000 virginal handmaidens. After a miraculous storm brought them over the sea in a single day to a Gaulish port, Ursula declared that before her marriage she would undertake a pan-European pilgrimage. She headed for Rome with her followers and persuaded the Pope, Cyriacus (unknown in the pontifical records), and Sulpicius, Bishop of Ravenna, to join them. After setting out for Cologne, which was being besieged by Huns, all the virgins were beheaded in a massacre. The Huns’ leader shot Ursula dead, in about 383 (the date varies).

Interessante, a proposito di Vladimir Nabokov, questo articolo che mi è capitato leggere sul The Guardian

[#] Kemp, Wolfgang. The Desire of My Eyes: The Life and Work of John Ruskin. 1990

Le silence sculpte les visages, l’abondance de paroles les masque. A force de l’expliquer on le détruit. Il vaut mieux s’y glisser. Philippe Jaccottet

Raphael Soyer, Cafe Scene, 1946

Silence sculpts faces; too many words mask them.
By explaining it, you destroy it. It would be better to slip inside.
And, Nonetheless, fragment, Philippe Jaccottet

Cagnaccio Di San Pietro

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Natale Bentivoglio Scarpa nasce a Desenzano il 14 gennaio 1897 e cresce nell’isola di San Pietro in Volta nella laguna veneta, luogo d’origine dei genitori, manifestando fin dall’infanzia una spiccata attitudine per le attività artistiche.

Il suo percorso parte da un’inclinazione e un interesse privilegiato per l’attività plastica, a Venezia segue i corsi di Ettore Tito all’Accademia di Belle Arti e, intorno al 1911, il futurismo allora nascente lo coinvolge con la sua portata innovativa e ricca di stimoli. La vicenda drammatica della guerra segna una profonda linea di demarcazione tra un prima e un poi modificando definitivamente la sua visione del mondo, un’esperienza estrema che investe tutto l’ambiente artistico di quel periodo. Nel 1919 partecipa insieme a Gino Rossi, Casorati, Garbari, Semeghini alla mostra di Cà Pesaro a Venezia, esponendo Cromografia musicale e Velocità di linee-forza di un paesaggio, due opere di impronta futurista. Intorno al 1920 comincia a firmare i suoi lavori con il nome di Cagnaccio con cui era conosciuto nella piccola isola di San Pietro. E del 1920 La tempesta, tema che verrà ripreso e variato nel suo ultimo dipinto, La furia, del 1945.

L’opera segna un momento importante nel percorso artistico di Cagnaccio che proprio in questi anni inizia a gettare le basi della propria originalità e impronta stilistica. La tempesta è il punto di partenza per l’evoluzione della sua ricerca che, ormai affrancatasi dall’esperienza futurista, si rivolge alla tradizione formale del Quattrocento, unendo all’attenzione per la realtà la forza trasfigurante dell’emozione. Nel 1922 espone alla Biennale di Venezia La tempesta, le sue opere, che vengono inoltre esposte alle mostre di Cà Pesaro di quegli anni, saranno presenti nelle successive edizioni della Biennale fino al 1944 e oltre.

Certamente a Cagnaccio interessa la realtà, ma sempre mediata, attraversata da quella portata emozionale che, attraverso l’arte può rivelarsi. Verso il 1925 l’artista inizia a firmarsi Cagnaccio di San Pietro. Suoi temi preferiti sono le nature morte, i bambini, il quotidiano, restituito però in chiave straniata e talvolta drammatica, con il rigore di una ricerca sempre estremamente tesa e una lucida, esasperata attenzione per il dettaglio.

È del 1928 il dipinto Dopo l’orgia, che venne rifiutato dalla commissione della Biennale probabilmente anche per la brutale chiarezza con cui veniva rivelata nei particolari dei polsini fregiati del fascio littorio, il potere corrotto del fascismo.

Cagnaccio di San Pietro un anarchico, un cane sciolto, dimostra di non voler rinunciare all’impegno morale, conditio sine qua non di tutto il suo lavoro, sostanzialmente autonomo e spesso eccentrico rispetto all’ambiente artistico del tempo segnato dalla presenza del Novecento.

Va sottolineato inoltre come Dopo l’orgia non sia formalmente troppo lontano dalle realizzazioni della Nuova Oggettività tedesca; in ogni caso Cagnaccio spinge il realismo fino alla sua dimensione più estrema e straniata, non di rado avvalendosi di tagli, rese cromatiche e punti di vista propri del mezzo fotografico. Nel corso degli anni Trenta Cagnaccio continua ad affinare gli strumenti della sua ricerca, sempre più orientata verso un misticismo e una crescente attenzione per il mondo spirituale.

Nel 1934 realizza / naufraghi, una grande tela che verrà esposta alla Biennale di Venezia nel 1935, in cui è presente una doppia componente: da una parte una presa diretta sulla realtà e dall’altra la rarefazione della realtà stessa, cifra originale che caratterizza lo stile dell’artista. Tra il 1937 e il 1938 soggiorna a Genova.

Tornato a Venezia viene ricoverato tra il 1940 e il 1941 all’ospedale del Mare del Lido: nascono così opere che affrontano direttamente e con lucidità il tema della sofferenza, sempre sottilmente sotteso al suo lavoro.

Il lavoro di Cagnaccio di San Pietro, infaticabile disegnatore e artista dalle molteplici suggestioni, viene regolarmente esposto nell’ambito di mostre personali e di rassegne pubbliche fino alla sua morte, sopraggiunta il 26 maggio 1946 a Venezia. In seguito verranno curate rassegne espositive che contribuiscono a restituire il giusto rilievo all’artista per un lungo periodo impropriamente confinato in un ruolo di secondaria importanza nel contesto culturale del suo tempo.

via Genius Galleria Roma.

On Lucas Samaras and Photo Transformation

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Lucas Samaras (born September 14, 1936) is not the best-known artist in America, but among the cognoscenti he is considered a wizard, and among artists he’s an elusive legend: a loner, eccentric, master of unusual media, and visionary who has avoided classification. He’s a solitary worker who has remained outside of movements, trends, or cliques, making work that is always original, provocative, and surprising. Samaras stands out from the crowd in part because he tends to work with unique subject matter—himself. He has interviewed himself, photographed himself, sculpted himself, and decorated himself and, in doing so, he has always seemed to be a work in progress. Samaras is not necessarily a narcissist, even though one of his retrospectives was titled “Unrepentant Ego.” He is an intrepid self-investigator and he has made acareer out of mutating his own image and likeness.

Samaras was born in Greece in 1936 and emigrated to the United States with his family when he was 11. He won a scholarship to study art at Rutgers University, enrolling in 1955, at a time when the Rutgers art department was a hotbed of innovation, with a faculty that included Alan Kaprow, who organized the first Happenings, and Geoffrey Hendricks, who, along with Kaprow, George Segal, Roy Lichtenstein, and students like Robert Whitman, was instrumental in the Fluxus movement. Upon graduation, Samaras received a fellowship to attend Columbia University’s graduate department of art history, which afforded him the chance to get involved with New York City’s burgeoning Happenings scene, where he met artists such as Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, and Red Grooms. His interest in performance also led him to study acting with Stella Adler.

Samaras’s first art exhibition, in 1959, earned raves, and, two years later, one of his pieces was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. He was a significant figure in the New York art world early on, and Andy Warhol once recalled Samaras as being part of a fledgling rock band he tried to join in the ’60s that included Claes and Patti Oldenburg, Jasper Johns, La Monte Young, and Walter De Maria. Over the years, Samaras has made drawings, paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, furniture, and jewelry. He has been extraordinarily innovative in media, learning to manipulate Polaroids before the dyes set, or employing materials such as razor blades, chicken wire, beads, and gold.

Samaras is known for a series of “Auto-Interviews,” in which he interrogates himself, but for Interview this notorious loner spoke to his longtime friend and dealer Arne Glimcher, who may be the person who knows him best. The occasion is yet another remarkable body of work—this one composed of computer drawings of chimerical creatures all made on his Mac in the magical aerie where he lives, alone, high above midtown Manhattan, in one of those apartments wherein you might start to think you were an eagle or a god.

via Lucas Samaras – Page – Interview Magazine.

Nature Is On The Inside

Apples and Oranges, Paul Cezanne

In “Eye and Mind,” Maurice Merleau-Ponty examines how art, specifically painting, displays the act of viewing the world with openness and immersion that is more truly representative of the continuum of existence. The essay opposes scientific thinking that, according to Merleau-Ponty, views all things in the world with an objectifying appraisal and fails to see the lived world as the site through which the body perceives and associates itself with others and its surroundings. Because it is through the body that consciousness extends itself and is affected, perception becomes the means through which consciousness establishes itself as an integral part of the world. This perception is not a channel that simply filters in information from a separate environment, but rather it is a kind of interconnectedness that allows for a simultaneity in which one both perceives the world through observation and interaction, and experiences the world revealing itself through its very essence.

The essay explores how a painter must offer her body (through her eyes and hands) into and through the world in order to manifest it most truly in art. Merleau-Ponty describes this vision as a movement that both extends the body through the act of looking and opens the body to the world through this extension. The body sees and is seen. It is within this merging between the perceiver and observer that distinctions break down between the subject and the object, the real and the imagined, and enclosure/encapsulation and space. The painter, with her endowment of a clairvoyant-like vision, unveils the object, while at the same time the object makes itself known to her. The invisible is made manifest through the painter’s enactment of her vision and the object’s revelation of itself to the painter.

“Eye and Mind” moves beyond the Cartesian notion that the act of painting is simply a way of manifesting thought or empirical observation, and it rejects the conception that space is an entity separate from, outside of, and indeterminable by perception. In fact, Merleau-Ponty examines space as that which directs the viewer and painter back to themselves. The body is both born out of space and functions as the core around which all space expands. He argues, “I do not see [space] according to its exterior envelope; I live in it from the inside; I am immersed in it. After all, the world is all around me, not in front of me . . . ” (178). The question becomes not how to understand space, but rather how to make oneself open enough to perceive it. Space and content merge in their coming-into-being through the visible. And while the painter seeks to express this fusion through a concentration on depth, line, form, and color, she must uncover a “secret of preexistence,” an “internal animation,” or a “radiation of the visible” that exists as a kind of Ur-force in what she sees, what exposes itself to her (182). Line, for instance, does not exist as a clearly defined boarder that distinguishes objects from each other. Rather, it is suggested by space and content in their genesis into the visible. There is no actual distinction between the body and its environment, but rather an extension and expression of Being which permeates the painter’s vision.

What distinguishes Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological investigations from those of other philosophers, such as Sartre and Heidegger, is his insistence on the body as the center of perception and the medium of consciousness. His study of vision as an extension of the corporal shows us that in order for consciousness to unfold into a part of the world—to exist as a flourishing—it must be embodied. To perceive the world and be shaped by it, one must be in and of its flesh.

via Merleau-Ponty, “Eye and Mind,” annotation by Leila Wilson.

Eye and Mind

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

What I am trying to convey to you is more mysterious; it is entwined in the very roots of being, in the impalpable source of sensations.
J. Gasquet, Cézanne

Science manipulates things and gives up living in them.1 Operating within its own realm, it makes its constructs of things; operating upon these indices or variables to effect whatever transformations are permitted by their definition, it comes face to face with the real world only at rare intervals. It is, and always has been, that admirably active, ingenious, and bold way of thinking whose fundamental bias is to treat everything as though it were an object-in-general—as though it meant nothing to us and yet was predestined for our ingenious schemes. But classical science clung to a feeling for the opaqueness of the world, and it expected through its constructions to get back into the world. For this reason it felt obliged to seek a transcendent or transcendental foundation for its operations. Today we find—not in
science but in a widely prevalent philosophy of the sciences—an entirely new approach. Constructive scientific activities see themselves and represent themselves to be autonomous, and their thinking deliberately reduces itself to a set of data-collecting techniques which it has invented. To think is thus to test out, to operate, to transform—the only restriction being that this activity is regulated by an experimental control that admits only the most “worked-up” phenomena, more likely produced by the apparatus than recorded by it.
Whence all sorts of vagabond endeavors. Today more than ever, science is sensitive to intellectual fads and fashions. When a model has succeeded in one order of problems, it is tried out everywhere else. At the present time, for example, our embryology and biology are full of “gradients.” Just how these differ from what classical tradition called “order” or “totality” is not at all clear. This question, however, is not raised; it is not even allowed. The gradient is a net we throw out to sea, without knowing what we will haul back in it. It is the slender twig upon which unforeseeable crystalizations will form. No
doubt this freedom of operation will serve well to overcome many a pointless dilemma—provided only that from time to time we take stock, and ask ourselves why the apparatus works in one place and fails in others. For all its flexibility, science must understand itself; it must see itself as a construction based on a brute, existent world and not claim for its blind operations the constitutive value that “concepts of nature” were granted in a certain idealist philosophy. To say that the world is, by nominal definition, the object x of our operations is to treat the scientist’s knowledge as if it were absolute, as if everything that is and has been was meant only to enter the laboratory. Thinking “operationally” has become a sort of absolute artificialism, such as we see in the ideology of cybernetics, where human creations are derived from a natural information process, itself conceived on the model of human machines. If this kind of thinking were to extend its dominion over humanity and history; and if, ignoring what we know of them through contact and our own situations, it were to set out to construct them on the basis of a few abstract indices (as a decadent psychoanalysis and culturalism have done in the United States)—then, since the human being truly becomes the manipulandum he thinks he is, we enter into a cultural regimen in which there is neither truth nor falsehood concerning humanity and history, into a sleep, or nightmare from which there is no awakening.
Scientific thinking, a thinking which looks on from above, and thinks of the object-ingeneral, must return to the “there is” which precedes it; to the site, the soil of the sensible and humanly modified world such as it is in our lives and for our bodies—not that possible body which we may legitimately think of as an information machine but this actual body I call mine, this sentinel standing quietly at the command of my words and my acts. Further, associated bodies must be revived along with my body—”others,” not merely as my congeners, as the zoologist says, but others who haunt me and whom I
haunt; “others” along with whom I haunt a single, present, and actual Being as no animal ever haunted those of his own species, territory, or habitat. In this primordial historicity, science’s agile and improvisatory thought will learn to ground itself upon things themselves and upon itself, and will once more become philosophy….
Now art, especially painting, draws upon this fabric of brute meaning which operationalism would prefer to ignore. Art and only art does so in full innocence. From the writer and the philosopher, in contrast, we want opinions and advice. We will not allow them to hold the world suspended. We want them to take a stand; they cannot waive the responsibilities of humans who speak. Music, at the other extreme, is too far on the hither side of the world and the designatable to depict anything but certain schemata of Being—its ebb and flow, its growth, its upheavals, its turbulence.
Only the painter is entitled to look at everything without being obliged to appraise what he sees. For the painter, we might say, the watchwords of knowledge and action lose their meaning and force. Political regimes which denounce “degenerate” painting rarely destroy paintings. They hide them, and one senses here an element of “one never knows” amounting almost to an acknowledgment. The reproach of escapism is seldom aimed at the painter; we do not hold it against Cézanne that he lived hidden away at
L’Estaque during the Franco-Prussian War. And we recall with respect his “life is frightening,” although the most insignificant student, after Nietzsche, would flatly reject philosophy if he or she were told that it did not teach us how to live life to the fullest. It is as if in the painter’s calling there were some urgency above all other claims on him. Strong or frail in life, but incontestably sovereign in his rumination of the world, possessed of no other “technique” than the skill his eyes and hands discover in seeing and painting, he gives himself entirely to drawing from the world—with its din of history’s glories and scandals—canvases which will hardly add to the angers or the hopes of humanity; and no one complains.2 What, then, is the secret science which he has or which he seeks? That dimension which lets Van Gogh say he must go “still further”? What is this fundamental of painting, perhaps of all culture?

II

The painter “takes his body with him,” says Valery. Indeed we cannot imagine how a mind could paint. It is by lending his body to the world that the artist changes the world into paintings. To understand these transubstantiations we must go back to the working, actual body—not the body as a chunk of space or a bundle of functions but that body which is an intertwining of vision and movement. I have only to see something to know how to reach it and deal with it, even if I do not know how this happens in the nervous system. My moving body makes a difference in the visible world, being a part of it; that is why I can steer it through the visible. Moreover, it is also true that vision is attached to movement. We see only what we look at. What would vision be without eye movement? And how could the movement of the eyes not blur things if movement were blind? If it were only a reflex? If it did not have its antennae,
its clairvoyance? If vision were not prefigured in it? All my changes of place figure on principle in a corner of my landscape; they are carried over onto the map of the visible. Everything I see is on principle within my reach, at least within reach of my sight, and is marked upon the map of the “I can.” Each of the two maps is complete. The visible world and the world of my motor projects are both total
parts of the same Being.
This extraordinary overlapping, which we never give enough thought to, forbids us to conceive of vision as an operation of thought that would set up before the mind a picture or a representation of the world, a world of immanence and of ideality. Immersed in the visible by his body, itself visible, the see-er does not appropriate what he sees; he merely approaches it by looking, he opens onto the world. And for its part, that world of which he is a part is not in itself, or matter. My movement is not a decision made by the mind, an absolute doing which would decree, from the depths of a subjective retreat, some change of place miraculously executed in extended space. It is the natural sequel to, and maturation of, vision. I say of a thing that it is moved; but my body moves itself; my movement is self-moved. It is not ignorance of self, blind to itself; it radiates from a self….
The enigma derives from the fact that my body simultaneously sees and is seen. That which looks at all things can also look at itself and recognize, in what it sees, the “other side” of its power of looking. It sees itself seeing; it touches itself touching; it is visible and sensitive for itself. It is a self, not by transparency, like thought, which never thinks anything except by assimilating it, constituting it, transforming it into thought—but a self by confusion, narcissism, inherence of the see-er in the seen, the toucher in the touched, the feeler in the felt—a self, then, that is caught up in things, having a front and a back, a past and a future….
This initial paradox cannot but produce others. Visible and mobile, my body is a thing among things; it is one of them. It is caught in the fabric of the world, and its cohesion is that of a thing. But because it moves itself and sees, it holds things in a circle around itself. Things are an annex or prolongation of itself; they are incrusted in its flesh, they are part of its full definition; the world is made of the very stuff of the body. These reversals, these antinomies,4 are different ways of saying that vision is caught or comes to be in things—in that place where something visible undertakes to see, becomes visible to itself and in the sight of all things, in that place where there persists, like the original solution still present within crystal, the undividedness of the sensing and the sensed.
This interiority no more precedes the material arrangement of the human body than it results from it. What if our eyes were made in such a way as to prevent our seeing any part of our body, or some diabolical contraption were to let us move our hands over things, while preventing us from touching our own body? Or what if, like certain animals, we had lateral eyes with no cross-blending of visual fields? Such a body would not reflect itself; it would be an almost adamantine body, not really flesh, not really the body of a human being. There would be no humanity. But humanity is not produced as the effect of our articulations or by the way our eyes are implanted in us (still less by the existence of mirrors, though they alone can make our entire bodies visible to us). These contingencies and others like them, without which mankind would not exist, do not by simple summation bring it about that there is a single
man. The body’s animation is not the assemblage or juxtaposition of its parts. Nor is it a question of a mind or spirit coming down from somewhere else into an automation—which would still imply that the body itself is without an inside and without a “self.” A human body is present when, between the see-er and the visible, between touching and touched, between one eye and the other, between hand and hand a kind of crossover occurs, when the spark of the sensing/sensible is lit, when the fire starts to burn that will not cease until some accident befalls the body, undoing what no accident would have
sufficed to do…
Once this strange system of exchanges is given, we find before us all the problems of painting. These problems illustrate the enigma of the body, which enigma in turn legitimates them. Since things and my body are made of the same stuff, vision must somehow come about in them; or yet again, their manifest visibility must be repeated in the body by a secret visibility. “Nature is on the inside,” says Cézanne. Quality, light,color, depth, which are there before us, are there only because they awaken an echo in
our bodies and because the body welcomes them.
Things have an internal equivalent in me; they arouse in me a carnal formula of their presence. Why shouldn’t these correspondences in turn give rise to some tracing rendered visible again, in which the eyes of others could find an underlying motif to sustain their inspection of the world?5 Thus there appears a “visible” to the second power, a carnal essence or icon of the first. It is not a faded copy, a trompe l’oeil, or another thing. The animals painted on the walls of Lascaux are not there in the same way as are the fissures and limestone formations. Nor are they elsewhere. Pushed forward here, held back there, supported by the wall’s mass they use so adroitly, they radiate about the wall without ever breaking their elusive moorings. I would be hard pressed to say where the painting is I am looking at. For I do not look at it as one looks at a thing, fixing it in its place. My gaze wanders within it as in the halos of Being. Rather than seeing it, I see according to, or with it.
The word “image” is in bad repute because we have thoughtlessly believed that a drawing was a tracing, a copy, a second thing, and that the mental image was such a drawing, belonging among our private bric-a-brac. But if in fact it is nothing of the kind, then neither the drawing nor the painting belongs to the in-itself any more than the image does. They are the inside of the outside and the outside of the inside, which the duplicity of feeling [le sentir] makes possible and without which we would never understand the quasi presence and imminent visibility which make up the whole problem of the imaginary. The picture, the actor’s mimicry—these are not devices borrowed from the real world in order to refer to prosaic things which are absent. For the imaginary is much nearer to, and much farther away from, the actual—nearer because it is in my body as a diagram of the life of the actual, with all its pulp and carnal obverse exposed to view for the first time. In this sense, Giacometti says energetically, “What interests me in all paintings is likeness—that is, what likeness is for me: something that makes me uncover the external world a little.”6 And the imaginary is much farther away from the actual because the painting is an analogue or likeness only according to the body; because it does not offer the mind an occasion to rethink the constitutive relations of things, but rather it offers the gaze traces of vision, from the inside, in order that it may espouse them; it gives vision that which clothes it within, the imaginary texture of the real.
Shall we say, then, that there is an inner gaze, that there is a third eye which sees the paintings and even the mental images, as we used to speak of a third ear which grasps messages from the outside through the noises they caused inside us? But how would this help us when the whole point is to understand that our fleshly eyes are already much more than receptors for light rays, colors, and lines? They are computers of the world,which have the gift of the visible, as we say of the inspired man that he has the gift of tongues. Of course this gift is earned by exercise; it is not in a few months, or in solitude, that a painter comes into full possession of his vision. But that is not the question;
precocious or belated, spontaneous or cultivated in museums, his vision in any event learns only by seeing and learns only from itself. The eye sees the world, and what it would need to be a painting, sees what keeps a painting from being itself, sees—on the palette—the colors awaited by the painting, and sees, once it is done, the painting that answers to all these inadequacies just as it sees the paintings of others as other answers to other inadequacies.
It is no more possible to make a restrictive inventory of the visible than it is to catalog the possible expressions of a language or even its vocabulary and turns of phrase. The eye is an instrument that moves itself, a means which invents its own ends; it is that which has been moved by some impact of the world, which it then restores to the visible through the traces of a hand.
Continue to read...merleauponty_1964_eyeandmind.pdf (application/pdf Object).

Discorso Sui Massimi Sistemi

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Gualtiero Nativi

Summer

M. K. Čiurlionis, Summer, 1907

evaporazione, condensazione, precipitazione, infiltrazione

Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis

La Sensibilità Sospesa

Willem van Aelst. Still Life with flowers, 1675

Sapete che cos’è la sensibilità sospesa, questa specie di vitalità terrifica e scissa in due, questo punto di necessaria coesione a cui l’essere non s’innalza più, questo luogo minaccioso, questo luogo costernante?
da Il Pesa-Nervi, Frammenti, Antonin Artaud, 1925-1927

Ambera Wellmann






Ambera Wellmann

Nocturne And Ivan Aivazovsky

 Ivan Aivazovsky, The Black Sea at night, 1879
Ivan Aivazovsky, Storm in the North Sea, 1865
Ivan Aivazovsky, Battle of Chesma, 1886


Ivan Aivazovsky, The-Survivor, 1880
Ivan Aivazovsky, Battle of Vyborg Bay, 1846
Ivan Aivazovsky, The Battle of Navarino, 1827
Ivan Aivazovsky, The Black Sea, 1881

Throughout his lifetime, Aivazovsky contributed over 6,000 paintings to the art world, ranging from his early landscapes of the Crimean countryside to the seascapes and coastal scenes for which he is most famous. Aivazovsky was especially effective at developing the play of light in his paintings, sometimes applying layers of color to create a transparent quality, a technique for which they are highly admired.

Although he produced many portraits and landscapes, over half of all of Aivazovsky’s paintings are realistic depictions of coastal scenes and seascapes. He is most remembered for his beautifully melodramatic renditions of the seascapes of which he painted the most. Many of his later works depict the painful heartbreak of soldiers at battle or lost at sea, with a soft celestial body taunting of hope from behind the clouds. His artistic technique centers on his ability to render the realistic shimmer of the water against the light of the subject in the painting, be it the full moon, the sunrise, or battleships in flames. Many of his paintings also illustrate his adeptness at filling the sky with light, be it the diffuse light of a full moon through fog, or the orange glow of the sun gleaming through the clouds.

In addition to being the most prolific of Russian Armenian painters, Aivazovsky founded an art school and gallery to engage and educate other artists of the day. He also and built a historical museum in his hometown on Feodosia, Crimea, in addition to beginning the first archaeological expeditions of the same region.

Today, Aivazovsky’s paintings have been auctioned off for millions of dollars and have been printed on postage stamps for Russia, Ukraine, and Armenia. Perhaps it is also to his lasting legacy that he is said to be one of the most forged of all Russian artists.

via Ivan Aivazovsky – WikiPaintings.org.

Delle Cameriere E Dell’ Harem Ottomano

Circumcision Room’s door, Topkapi Palace.
Topkapi Palace, Interior

Dura la vita di noi cameriere, sia domestiche che impiegate nei luoghi di ristoro – acciacchi alla schiena, calli ai piedi, paga miserevole, ingaggio in nero; alcuni ci ritengono delle servette ammaestrate e ubbidienti, altri un buon motivo per flirtare e, in alcuni casi, praticare la sconcia e triste arte del mandrillato, dalle professioniste del settore considerata una tecnica in uso fra i maschi di rango spirituale inferiore volta ad ottenere favori sessuali in cambio di laute mance.
Qualche giorno fa mi è capitato oppormi a un cliente del ristorante dove lavoro, il quale pretendeva io rendessi omaggio al suo cane servendolo degli avanzi del padrone.
Forse umiliante, ma più clemente, la sorte delle odalische ( dal turco odalik: cameriera, domestica. Oda, stanza), accolte nell’harem ottomano di Istambul nato per volere di Maometto II, che nel 1453 conquista Costantinopoli facendone la capitale. Di recente mi è capitato leggere su Storica – National Geographic, un articolo che riguarda la struttura gerarchica alla base dell’harem ottomano realizzato all’interno del Palazzo di Topkapi, fatto costruire da Maometto II nel 1462 e ‘attivo’ fino al 1853, anno in cui il sultano Abdulmeci I trasferisce la corte in un altro palazzo (soltanto nel 1922, e con la nascita della repubblica turca, la fine del sultanato e con esso il tramonto dell’harem ottomano).

‘Il termine harem deriva dall’arabo harim, che significa luogo proibito, e la zona del Topkapi da esso occupata si presentava infatti cinta da alte mura e collegata al resto del palazzo da due porte (la Porta della Voliera e la Porta della Carrozze), presidiate di giorno dagli eunuchi neri e chiuse durante la notte.’

Il gineceo ottomano aveva a capo la Valide Sultan, ovvero la madre del sultano, che viveva nell’appartamento più grande, dopo quello del sultano stesso.

‘L’ harem era una struttura articolata formata da molti edifici, disposti tutt’intorno al cortile della Valide e al suo appartamento. La madre del sultano aveva ai suoi ordini un folto seguito, costituito principalmente dalle cameriere, le odalische, e da una capo tesoriera.
[..] nell’harem di Istambul vi erano odalische di tre tipi: le più anziane, destinate ai servizi umili; quelle acquistate da bambine, a cui venivano insegnate musica, danza, etichetta e letteratura; e infine le più belle, quelle tra i 15 e i 20 anni, che arrivavano già nell’harem con una certa formazione, spesso fornita loro dai mercanti ebrei che se le procacciavano per venderle al sultano. Tutte le odalische dovevano studiare il turco e il Corano. Esse percepivano un compenso quotidiano e ricchi doni in occasione delle feste. Le odalische più belle e più istruite potevano entrare in contatto diretto con il sovrano, servendo nei suoi alloggi e occupandosi direttamente di lui, di sua madre, delle sue favorite o dei suoi figli. Dopo nove anni tutte le domestiche, se volevano, potevano lasciare il Palazzo, ricevendo alla partenza doni e gioielli; ma se erano rimaste per più di 18 anni, ottenevano anche case e terreni oppure vitalizi. Le odalische alternavano un turno settimanale di lavoro a uno di riposo e tra di esse venivano scelte le 15-20 guardiane che di notte sorvegliavano gli appartamenti e i giardini dell’harem, sostituendo gli eunuchi neri, preposti a tale compito durante il giorno. Oltre alle odalische addette ai servizi ve ne erano altre che svolgevano compiti amministrativi legati alla gestione dell’harem, i cui ruoli replicavano quelli degli uomini nel Palazzo e a cui era demandato l’ordine nell’harem’

Clemente, ma più dolorosa e sofferta, la sorte dei portieri del palazzo, gli eunuchi

‘Gli unici uomini ammessi all’interno dell’harem erano gli eunuchi, scelti tra gli schiavi. Nell’Impero ottomano, questi ultimi, se capaci e di talento, potevano ambire a ruoli di prestigio in campo amministrativo e militare, soprattutto quelli che entravano a contatto con il sultano. Gli eunuchi erano suddivisi in ‘bianchi’ e ‘neri’. I primi, provenienti dai Balcani o dal Caucaso, svolgevano compiti amministrativi all’interno del Palazzo; mentre i secondi, originari soprattutto dell’Egitto, del Sudan e dell’Abissinia, lavoravano nell’harem. Tutti giungevano a Palazzo già castrati, in quanto tale operazione era proibita sul suolo ottomano. Il capo degli eunuchi neri godeva di grande potere, ma la storia abbonda di esempi di eunuchi semplici che hanno raggiunto posizioni di prestigio personale per aver appoggiato le trame delle ‘signore’ o delle favorite.’

tratto da Storica, National Geographic, numero 42, agosto 2012
Istanbul Image – Topkapi Palace’s roof top, Istanbul – Lonely Planet.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, La Grande Odalisque, 1814

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (August 29, 1780 – January 14, 1867) was a French Neoclassical painter. Although he considered himself a painter of history in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Jacques-Louis David, by the end of his life it was Ingres’ portraits, both painted and drawn, that were recognized as his greatest legacy.

A man profoundly respectful of the past, he assumed the role of a guardian of academic orthodoxy against the ascendant Romantic style represented by his nemesis Eugene Delacroix. His exemplars, he once explained, were “the great masters which flourished in that century of glorious memory when Raphael set the eternal and incontestable bounds of the sublime in art … I am thus a conservator of good doctrine, and not an innovator.” Nevertheless, modern opinion has tended to regard Ingres and the other Neoclassicists of his era as embodying the Romantic spirit of his time, while his expressive distortions of form and space make him an important precursor of modern art.

via Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – The complete works.

Reclining Nude Lying on Her Stomach and Facing Right

Reclining Nude Lying on Her Stomach and Facing Right – Gustav Klimt, 1910

Ricorre oggi 14 luglio l’anniversario di Gustav Klimt, pittore simbolista e secessionista austriaco nato nel 1862 e morto nel 1918, antesignano dell’Art Nouveau. Giusto qualche giorno fa mi è capitato trovare su wiki paintings l’immagine di questo quadro, piuttosto goloso e sensuale, che in tutta onestà non conoscevo ancora e mi ha colpita particolarmente.

Gustav Klimt was an Austrian symbolist painter, whose primary subject was the female body. His paintings, murals, and sketches are marked by a sensual eroticism, which is especially apparent in his pencil drawings. Klimt attended the Vienna University of Arts and Crafts in 1876, and formed the “Company of Artists” with his two brothers and a friend, after which he was awarded the Golden Order of Merit from the Emperor of Vienna. In 1892, his father and one of his brothers died, leaving him responsible for their families. The family tragedy also affected his artistic vision, which helped him develop his own personal style.

Throughout his life, although he was a controversial painter due to his subject matter, he was made an honorary member of the Universities of Vienna and of Munich. He was also a founding member and president of the Vienna Secession, which sought to create a platform for new and unconventional artists, bring new artists to Vienna, and created a magazine to showcase its member’ work.

Klimt lived a simple, cloistered life, in which he avoided other artists and café society. He often wore a long robe, sandals, and no undergarments. He also had many discreet affairs with women, and fathered at least 14 children. This may be an indication of his passion for women, their form and sexuality, which was the main focus of many of his works. The majority of his paintings were characterized by golden or colored swirling designs, spirals, and phallic shapes, depicting dominant women in erotic positions.

Klimt died in the influenza epidemic of 1918, leaving behind a posthumous legacy that few artists can rival. His paintings have brought in the highest amounts ever paid at auction.

via Gustav Klimt – WikiPaintings.org.

A Caccia Del Tesoro Il Marinaio

Antonello da Messina, Ignoto Marinaio, c.ca 1465

Diversi mesi fa lessi di un’iniziativa promossa dalla Società Dante Alighieri (www.ladante.it) che invitava i lettori ad adottare una parola e diventare così custode della stessa per un anno. Bastava allora sceglierne una per aggiudicarsene l’affido e il compito di diffonderla, in modo da affermarne il significato, delle volte sconosciuto o frainteso, nel linguaggio colloquiale, informale, scritto e verbale. L’iniziativa mi piacque molto così decisi anch’io di adottare, indovinate, la parola ipnagogico, aggettivo, secondo il mio dizionario Encarta: Detto di immagini visive che si formano mentre ci si addormenta o mentre ci si sveglia.
L’idea era quella di citarla spesso nei miei post, mentre io mi sono limitata appena a confermarla tutte le volte che ho postato, e di riflesso anche voi tutte le volte che siete venuti a trovarmi.
Qualche ora fa ho ripreso in mano un romanzo di Vincenzo Consolo, un autore siciliano, di difficile lettura ma interessante. Il romanzo, Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio, è ambientato in Sicilia – tra Cefalù, Messina, le Isole Eolie – in pieno Risorgimento, e racconta di un quadro dipinto da Antonello da Messina , noto come l’ignoto marinaio, ritrovato dal barone Enrico Pirajno di Mandralisca nella bottega di uno speziale di Lipari.
Ora, stavo leggendo una pagina quando tra le righe, e senza pudore, è saltata fuori la parola ‘sticchio’, una parola che davvero non sentivo da quando ero bambina e mi ha letteralmente fatta tossire di risate. Sticchio, i siciliani lo sapranno bene, significa vagina, e non so se viene usata ancora (pronunciarla sarebbe volgare quasi quanto parlare il dialetto, di cui tanti si vergognano, storpiando l’italiano), ma a me ricorda i cori dei bambini che la canzonavano a noi femminucce misericordiose, ancora vergini e immacolate, per farci arrossire di vergogna e scappare via, a gonne strette tra le gambe. Beata fanciullezza.
Sticchio sticchio sticchio
Io ho un debole per le parole. Quanto più inusitate, tanto più mi piacciono. Trovo certe parole hanno davvero il potere di fare il solletico, l’occhiolino, dare buffetti, provocare. Non è facile trovarne leggendo, ma quando le trovo, io mi entusiasmo, e di allegria. Per via del suono, che trovo buffo. Per via del significato, che delle volte sembra stridere rispetto al suono. Sarei capace di trascorre ore a sfogliare un vocabolario pur di rintracciarle e bearmene. Questo romanzo di Consolo ne offre parecchie, così ho pensato di raccogliere in questo post quelle che mi sono capitate sott’occhio finora, e aggiungerne di altre, le mie preferite. Inviterei ognuno di voi a suggerirmi quelle che più vi piacciono e a cui siete affezionati, sarebbe divertente condividerle

Le parole apriti-sesamo di questa notte:

-agave: s. f. Pianta rizomatosa delle Liliflore con foglie carnose radicali disposte a rosetta, scapo alto simile a un candelabro e infiorescenze a pannocchia
-busillis: s. m. inv. Difficoltà, punto difficile, nelle locuz. : qui sta il –b; questo è il –b.
-burnus: s. m. inv. Ampio mantello tagliato in un solo pezzo, gener. con cappuccio, usato dalle popolazioni arabo-berbere.
-maroso: s. m. Grossa onda di mare in burrasca.
-verone: s. m. (lett.) Terrazzo scoperto, balcone.
-arpagone: s. m. Persona estremamente avara. ETIMOLOGIA: dal nome del protagonista di una commedia di Molière del 1668, già in Plauto (tratto dal lat. harpago, harpagonis ‘uncino’).
-misirizzi: s. m. inv. Giocattolo a forma di pupazzo, imbottito di piombo alla base in modo che tende sempre a drizzarsi.
-austro: s. m. 1 Vento umido e caldo che soffia da mezzogiorno; SIN. Ostro. 2 (lett.) Mezzogiorno.
-uzza: s. f. (pop., tosc.) Aria pungente, della sera o del primo mattino.
-wapiti: Mammifero ruminante degli Ungulati dell’America del Nord, con pelame bruno e corna assai sviluppate, simile al cervo.
-soling: s. m. Grande imbarcazione a vela da regata, a scafo tondo e deriva fissa.
-soirèe: s. f. inv. (pl. franc. soirees) Festa mondana, elegante che ha luogo la tarda sera.
-musmè: s. f. inv. Giovane donna giapponese.
-murice: s. m. Mollusco marino dei Gasteropodi con conchiglia robusta, rugosa, fornita di spine.
-inopia: s. f. (lett.) Povertà assoluta.
-fonovaligia: s. f. (pl. -gie ) Giradischi portatile munito di apparecchiatura amplificatrice e altoparlante, contenuto in apposita valigia.
-edredone: s. m. Anatra marina delle zone nordiche dal bel piumaggio nero e bianco.
-briccica: s. f. (tosc.) Oggetto, lavoro, di poca importanza | Inezia, minuzia.
-eccì: interiez. riproduce il suono di uno starnuto.
e.e

Della Sindrome Di Eliogabalo, Le Dee e Betsabea

Bathsheba at Her Bath, Rembrandt, 1654

Ieri ho rinvenuto nello scaffale dei libri l’ultima donna mancante al 30% delle autrici citate nel precedente post circa le quote rosa, e realizzato si tratta di Jenny March, autrice del volume The Penguin Book of Classical Myths; m’era giusto venuta voglia di rivedere il mito di Perseo, che pur di evitare il matrimonio della madre Danae con Polidette, re dei Serifi, si dice disponibile a consegnargli la testa di Medusa, delle tre sorelle Gordoni l’unica sedotta da Poisedone, poi trasformata dallo stesso in un mostro, quindi abbandonata; Medusa mi intriga particolarmente perchè oltre ad avere il potere di pietrificare, letteralmente pietrificare qualunque uomo s’arrischi a guardarla, rappresenta anche la perversione intellettuale.
Intanto che leggevo mi sono chiesta quanti serpenti aveva in testa Medusa. Certamente meno delle tante corna che ho in testa io. Ho fatto il calcolo, in 21 anni di disonorata carriera sentimentale ho collezionato ben 5 tradimenti (colti in fallo, è il caso di dirlo) su un totale di sventurate relazioni, che io considero tutte, senza troppo pietismo, tentati suicidi sentimentali. C’è di mio un certo tempismo nel trovarmi irrimediabilmente coinvolta in relazioni intricatissime che in parte spiegano la mia propensione alla tragedia e alle conquiste impossibili, e in parte evincono le ragioni di un certo kamikazeismo latente, in alcuni casi la pietas della giovane crocerossina, in altri ancora la minchioneria di un’apprendista dea rimandata al test di ammissione all’Olimpo. La prova orale? Resistere al flauto del satiro. Il flauto confonde sempre tutte/i.
Giusto Angela Carter più volte tratta nei propri romanzi la mitizzazione delle donne operata dalla cultura occidentale e screditata dall’immaginario maschile che in definitiva le vuole o Giulie e tutte puttane, o Venere e tutta panna e fragoline.
La lettura di ‘Eliogabalo o L’anarchico incoronato’ di Artaud, mi ha giusto suggerito un’interessante chiave di interpretazione e dato modo di coniare una nuova sindrome, quella del maschio minacciato dalla castrazione, che vittima delle Giulie, ripiega nel caos e in una sorta di sregolatezza orgiastica e dionisiaca.
Essere traditi è una scocciatura e tradire ha un coefficiente di rischio molto alto che nella maggioranza dei casi pregiudica la riuscita di una buona relazione. A meno di non trattarsi di poliamore; lo scorso gennaio è stata celebrata qui a Londra la prima PolyDay, promossa da un comitato che sponsorizza il polyamory e in qualche maniera sostiene e supporta i propri associati (il 16 giugno prossimo una seconda giornata: Polyday – Celebrating and Supporting Responsible Non-monogamy). Le regole sono semplici, amare la prima, incondizionatamente, epurati da gelosia e desiderio di possedere, in condivisa armonia. E’ davvero possibile?
So a partire dall’antichità il tradimento veniva permesso agli uomini e proibito alle donne, che in alcuni casi rischiavano di essere punite per esempio attraverso la rasatura del pube e la violenza anale mediante un rafano. Donne avvisate, Eliogabalo tiene duro e non è solo un mito.
Il quadro sopra, del pittore olandese Rembrandt, raffigura piuttosto Betsabea, adultera biblica, moglie di Uria l’Ittita, soldato in guerra del re Davide che si tradisce il compagno, ma non viene punita nè muore di uxoricidio. Un giorno il re Davide vede Betsabea nuda mentre fa un bagno e decide di possederla. La donna rimane incinta e informa il re della propria gravidanza. Il re richiama al castello Uria, che per la collera rifiuta la moglie e si rifiuta di dormire sotto il tetto coniugale. Re Davide altrettanto in collera ordina al proprio generale di uccidere Uria, e prende in sposa Betsabea.

Eliogabalo o L’ Anarchico Incoronato

The Roses of Heliogabalus, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1888), oil on canvas (via wikipedia)

Per esempio quant’è sguaiato Artaud in questo testo ‘Eliogabalo o l’anarchico incoronato’ (1934), che l’altro giorno mi è saltato agli occhi nella camera di Federica e non ho potuto fare a meno di chiedere in prestito. E’ la prima volta che leggo Artaud in italiano

‘Se intorno al cadavere di Eliogabalo, morto senza tomba, e sgozzato dalla sua polizia nelle latrine di sangue e di escementi, intorno alla sua culla vi è un’intensa circolazione di sperma. Eliogabalo è nato in un’epoca in cui tutti fornicavano con tutti; nè si saprà mai dove e da chi fu realmente fecondata sua madre. Per un principe siriano, quale egli fu, la filiazione avviene attraverso le madri; – e, in fatto di madri, vi è intorno a questo figlio di cocchiere, appena nato, un pleiade di Giulie; – e ch’esse influiscano o no su un trono, tutte queste Giulie sono delle fiere puttane.’

‘Dall’alto delle torri costruite recentemente del suo tempio del dio pitico, egli [Eliogabalo] getta il grano e i membri virili.
Egli nutre un popolo castrato
Certo, non vi sono teorbe, tube, orchestre d’asor, in mezzo alle castrazioni che egli impone, ma che ogni volta impone come tante castrazioni personali, come se fosse egli stesso, Elagabalus, ad esser castrato. Sacchi di membri sono gettati dall’alto delle torri con la più crudele abbondanza nel giorno delle feste del dio Pizio.
Non giurerei che un’orchestra d’asor, o di nebel dalle corde stridule, dai vetri duri, non sia nascosta da qualche parte nei sotterranei delle torri a spirale, per coprire le grida dei parassiti che vengono castrati; ma a quelle grida di uomini martirizzati rispondono, quasi allo stesso tempo, le acclamazioni di un popolo festante, a cui Eliogabalo distribuisce il valore di parecchi campi di grano.
Il bene, il male, il sangue, lo sperma, i vini rosati, gli olii profumati, gli aromi più costosi creano, intorno alla generosità d’Eliogabalo, innumerevoli irrigazioni.
E la musica che esce di là trascende l’orecchio per raggiungere senza strumenti e senza orchestra lo spirito. Voglio dire che i ritornelli, gli arabeschi delle deboli orchestre non sono nulla vicino a questo flusso e riflusso, a questa marea che va e viene con strane dissonanze, dalla sua generosità alla sua crudeltà, dal suo gusto per il disordine alla ricerca di un ordine inapplicabile al mondo latino’

Aiuto, culle di sperma, piogge di membri virili, castrazioni pubbliche, lo scisma d’Irshu, lo zodiaco di Ram. Le Giulie, tutte puttane. Artaud soffriva di meningite e nevralgia, e si serviva di oppio per curare il dolore (ce n’eravamo accorti); l’opera di Artaud è delirio, spassosissimo delirio surrealista e le vicende e gli eccessi di Eliogabalo si prestato bene a soddisfare la morbosità di Artaud; il quadro sopra ‘The Roses of Heliogabalus’, del pittore olandese Lawrence Alma-Tadema, che Federica mi ha suggerito e di cui mi ha parlato, rappresenta appunto un mito secondo il quale Eliogabaldo, una sera e in occasione di un trionfale banchetto, uccise i suoi ospiti facendo cadere dal soffitto tonnellate di petali di rose.
Delle volte mi chiedo in che razza di prostrazione intellettuale deve essersi trovato Artaud per tirare fuori immagini così forti come quelle suggerite nelle sue opere. Quanto di vivo dev’esserci stato in tutto quel nervo malato strappato fuori dalle parole e chissà, curato solo attraverso la scrittura.
Ho trovato questa critica al testo, molto interessante, di Fabrizio Bandini (che io non conosco ma ringrazio per aver scritto e pubblicato online il testo)

ELIOGABALO, O L’ANARCHICO INCORONATO__________________________
Pubblicato in “Valley Life”, Anno III, n° 21 (2006)

L’Eliogabalo di Antonin Artaud è uno di quei rari libri che mostrano i simboli per come sono, nella loro essenza metafisica, e offrono squarci illuminanti sulla storia dell’uomo.
Artaud rilegge la biografia dell’imperatore romano, secondo una prospettiva metafisica assolutamente interessante, con molti punti di contatto con il pensiero tradizionalista, Guénon in primis, come nota giustamente Albino Galvano in una sua Prefazione al libro.
Eliogabalo, o l’anarchico incoronato, insomma, il dipinto di un’epoca affascinante e terribile, l’epoca dello sfacelo del grande Impero Romano, l’epoca del tracollo dell’Ordine, l’epoca della lotta fra il Femminile e il Maschile, l’epoca dell’esplodere del Caos.
Roma, oramai si era indebolita, politicamente, militarmente, e soprattutto spiritualmente.
L’antica etica, regale e nobile, che aveva forgiato l’Impero, oramai si era dissolta, e l’antica religione romana aveva aperto le porte da tempo ai culti matriarcali e tellurici dell’Asia minore.
Eliogabalo proviene proprio da quel pantano matriarcale, da Emesa, sacerdote effeminato di un culto solare posto sotto il dominio della Dea Madre, della Luna, del Femminile.
Quattro donne della sua stirpe si stagliano nella sua vita, imperiose, e forgiano letteralmente il suo destino: Giulia Domna, Giulia Mesa, Giulia Soemia e Giulia Mamea.
Sono donne forti, donne virili, donne sensuali, donne impudiche, donne prive di scrupoli, donne che fanno la storia e manipolano gli uomini, che d’altro canto appaiono deboli, passivi, invertiti ed effeminati.
Scrive Artaud: “Si può dire in proposito che Eliogabalo è stato fatto dalle donne…e che quando ha voluto pensare da sé, quando l’orgoglio del maschio frustrato dall’energia delle sue donne, delle sue madri, le quali hanno tutte fornicato con lui, ha voluto manifestarsi, si è visto cosa ne è risultato”.
La salita di Eliogabalo al trono imperiale di Roma, propiziata e voluta dalle virili e impudiche donne siriache della sua stirpe, segna uno dei punti più bassi nella decadenza dell’Impero.
Il disordine, l’anarchia, il caos, lo sconcio e la perversione travolgono tutto e tutti, senza pietà.

Roma entra nel Kali Yuga, in una atmosfera crepuscolare, da tregenda, il pantano Femminile spodesta l’ordine Maschile e virile, aprendo le porte al Caos.
La marcia di Eliogabalo sulla città eterna si assomiglia più ad un corteo dionisiaco, di falli, tori, baccanti, fanciulle ignude, ubriachi, pederasti, invertiti, e galli castrati, che ad un corteo imperiale.
Il sesso, il sangue, e l’ebbrezza, i tre segni del dionisiaco, vi dominano, scatenati.
Eliogabalo entra nella Città Eterna nell’autunno del 219.
“Davanti a lui vi è il Fallo, tirato da trecento fanciulle dai seni nudi che precedono i trecento tori, oramai intorpiditi e calmi…” scrive Artaud, “E, dietro ancora, le lettighe delle tre madri: Giulia Mesa, Giulia Soemia e Giulia Mamea…”.
Artaud paragona il suo ingresso a Roma ad un rito potente, ma invertito, dissolutore.
“Eliogabalo entra in Roma da dominatore, ma col didietro…Terminate le feste dell’incoronazione segnate da questa professione di fede pederastica…s’insedia con la nonna, la madre e la sorella di quest’ultima, la perfida Giulia Mamea, nel palazzo di Caracalla”.
Da quel giorno gli storici romani, Lampridio in testa, non fanno altro che annotare le turpitudini e le sconcezze del suo comportamento, con tono inorridito e schifato.
Artaud cita le fonti romane a man bassa e dispiega tutto il lungo elenco di scelleratezze dell’imperatore, che fa rimanere a bocca aperta.
Eliogabalo completamente succube della madre, Giulia Soemia, che non prende alcuna iniziativa di governo senza il suo consenso, mentre quella vive da meretrice e pratica ogni genere di lussuria; Eliogabalo che fa sedere la madre al Senato; Eliogabalo che istituisce un senatino delle donne; Eliogabalo che si veste da prostituta e si vende per quaranta soldi nelle strade di Roma; Eliogabalo che fa eleggere un ballerino a capo della sua guardia pretoriana; Eliogabalo che a Nicomedia si da alla più sordida depravazione, abbandonandosi con altri uomini a rapporti omosessuali attivi e passivi; Eliogabalo che sposa una vergine Vestale e profana i sacri culti romani.
E’ il trionfo del Caos, dell’anarchia, della dissoluzione.
L’Ordine decade totalmente, il Maschile si confonde con il Femminile, verso la dissoluzione completa dell’esistente, verso l’Unità originaria delle cose.
Eliogabalo, l’anarchico incoronato, anela a quell’Unità originaria delle cose, a quel Caos primordiale, secondo l’acuta interpretazione di Artaud, e per ripristinarlo spinge al massimo la via invertita della sovversione. Attore e spettatore, nello stesso tempo, di un terribile processo metastorico.
E’ troppo, Roma stessa non può più reggere.
La fine di Eliogabalo è nota: inseguito dai pretoriani venne trucidato in una latrina e gettato nel Tevere con la madre. Il suo regno era terminato. Un’altra tappa di un declino spaventoso.
L’Impero Romano non gli sopravvisse ancora a lungo.

via Eliogabalo, o l’anarchico incoronato Fabrizio Bandini.

Die Brücke: Origins of Expressionism – review | Art and design | Guardian Weekly

Dresden Street, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1907

Until the 1970s and 80s, French museums showed little interest in Die Brücke, a group of artists formed in Dresden, Germany, in 1905. They made the mistake of surfacing at the same time as Fauvism in Paris.

This led to comparisons that patriotically concluded that Matisse and Derain were better than Kirchner and Heckel. The argument was always the same: the French had a sense of harmony and balance, the Germans were brutal and exalted – in a word, expressionists.

Only in 1992, with the remarkable Figures du Moderne exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, did things started to change. But slowly. Matisse has had four shows at the Pompidou Centre since 1977, whereas neither Kirchner nor any other Die Brücke artist has ever had a look-in.

Since 1992 the only attempt to remedy this omission has been the Emil Nolde retrospective at the Grand Palais in 2008. Otherwise works have been loaned by German museums to Strasbourg or the Musée Marmottan in Paris. So the current exhibition in Grenoble (until 17 June) is all the more valuable. The Brücke-Museum in Berlin has loaned a substantial part of its collection, with more than 120 paintings, drawings and woodcuts, from the beginning of the movement till 1914. That it should have happened at all is gratifying, but the exhibition is well designed too, bringing out the common ground among the artists.

Kirchner, Heckel, Pechstein and Schmidt-Rottluff did not only agree on aesthetic issues. All four were born in the early 1880s and grew up to reject the world as they found it. They did not want its principles or its mores, nor its art. The form of impressionism that was then spreading through Germany seemed emblematic of a bourgeois society ruled by money and Christian morality. In opposition they advocated bodily freedom, life in the wild, communion with the elements. They spent the summer painting in the countryside, setting up temporary communes. Their shows were collective too and it is hard to distinguish a Heckel from a Pechstein, a Pechstein woodcut from one by Nolde, who joined the group in 1908.

Their unity of style reflected their common aspirations. They painted nudes, landscapes and nudes in landscapes. The intensity of the colours bore out the force of their desires and pleasure. The models were very youthful, shameless and mocking. Forms were defined by just a few lines, interspersed with red or yellow patches worthy of Van Gogh and Munch. Outlines hardened when the group started taking an interest in art from Africa and Oceania examples of which they saw in the ethnographic museums of Dresden and Berlin.

To satisfy their curiosity they travelled abroad. In 1913 Pechstein sailed to the Palauan archipelago in Micronesia; the same year Nolde visited New Guinea where he was horrified by the effects of colonisation. Later, in 1917, Kirchner retired to a chalet in the Swiss Alps, where he sculpted wooden effigies of women and encouraged his female friends to dance naked, as a distraction from Europe and modern warfare.

Today, when society is beset by doubts about what science and technology have done to the world, Die Brücke seems to have been one of the 20th century’s earliest movements of revolt, advocating and practising revolt by art and in art. The anger and provocation that inspired its founders has lost nothing of its force. Perhaps it is because the artists still scare some people that their work is shown so little.

This article originally appeared in Le Monde

via Die Brücke: Origins of Expressionism – review | Art and design | Guardian Weekly.

Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig (1880 – 1938), was a German Expressionist painter who was an original member of the Brücke. From 1917 Kirchner lived in Switzerland suffering from tuberculosis until his eventual suicide in 1938. Many of his pictures were confiscated by the Nazis, but the best collection is now in Stuttgart. He also made a large number of woodcuts and some sculpture. Kirchner formulated the programme for the Brücke in 1906 and wrote its obituary in 1913, although his close friend Heckel was the most enterprising member.
It’s said that Kirchner occasionally deliberately dated some of pictures too early in order to claim priority. There are works by him in Edinburgh and New York and other American museums as well as those in Germany.

Taken from Dictionary of Art and Artists, by Peter and Linda Murray, 1959

Le Douanier, Henri Rousseau

The Dream, Henri Rousseau, 1910

When I go out into the countryside and see the sun and the green and everything flowering, I say to myself Yes indeed, all that belongs to me!.
Nothing makes me so happy as to observe nature and to paint what I see.
Beauty is the promise of happiness.
It is often said that my heart is too open for my own good.
I cannot now change my style, which I acquired, as you can imagine, by dint of labour.
via Henri Rousseau – ArtinthePicture.com.

Rousseau, Henri, called ‘le Douanier’ (1844 – 1910), was an amateur or ‘Sunday’ painter with a direct, simple and hauntingly naive vision who painted some unusually large and complicated pictures of elaborately fanciful and pituresquely exotic subjects in a matter-of-factly pedestrian technique and strong colour. He served as a Regimental bandsman – according to his own account, in Mexico in 1861-7, which provided him with his fantastic settings – and as a Sergeant in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1. He entered the Paris municipal Customs service (hence ‘le Douanier’), and began painting about 1880, exhibiting at the Independants from 1886. A dinner in his honour was given in Picasso’s studio in 1908, and this gesture has played its part in the transmogrification of ‘le Douanier’ into a symbol of sophisticated interest in the pseudo – Primitive and in the opening of the floodgates of both psychological and the sentimental school of writers on art. He seems to have combined a certain peasant shrewdness and bland self-esteem with gullible simplemindedness; he kept a school where he taught elocution, music, and painting, wrote two plays, got himself involved, though guiltlessly, in a trial for fraud, and finally died, it is said, as a result of a disappointment in love in pursuit of a third wife.
There are works in London (Tate, Courtauld Inst.), New York (M of MA), Paris (Louvre), Zurich, and elsewhere.

Taken from ‘Dictionary of Art & Artists’, by Peter and Linda Murray, 1959

Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled, 1955

Robert Rauschenberg (1925 – 2008) was associated with his friend Jasper John in New York in the early 1960s in the creation of Pop Art. His works include paintings, collages, and combinations of disparate objects – ‘Monogram’, 1959, consists of a stuffed goat girdled by a tyre on a painted base.

Taken from Dictionary of Art and Artists, by Peter and Linda Murray, 1959
Combine Painting – Enciclopedia Treccani.

LEE PRICE

Ice Cream
Strawberry Swirl
Lemon Meringue
Self Portrait in Tub with Chinese Food
Boston Cream
Jelly Doughnuts

When I’m making a painting I’m not really thinking about audience reaction. I feel like my process is more instinctual than that. That that particular concern would cause me to contrive or second guess what it is that I’m trying to express. Also, I’m not concerned about the viewer taking in the information in a specific way. People see a piece of art and they react to it. They bring to it their own history/background and make interpretations from there. It’s a subjective interaction.

via Lee Price paints herself nude with junk food | Don’t Panic Magazine | Arts.
Lee Price: American Figurative Realist Oil Painter.

Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock, Number 8, 1949 (detail)

“On the floor I am more at ease, I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around in it, work from the four sides and be literally in the painting.”
-Jackson Pollock, 1947

Pollock, Jackson (1912-56), the chief American exponent of ACTION PAINTING, made studies for his apparently unpremeditated works, done on continuous lengths of canvas tacked to the floor, and later cut up with selective care. He abandoned the use of brushes in 1947, pouring the paint straight on to the canvas, but in 1953 he began to employ brushes again. He said of his paintings (1951):
‘I don’t work from drawings or color sketches. My painting is direct.. I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them.. When I am painting I have a general notion as to what I am about, I can control the flow of paint: there is no accident, just as there is no beginning and no end.’
He used metallic paints and ordinary commercial synthetic enamel and plastic paint, with results that are already unfortunate. There are examples in London (Tate), Rio de Janeiro and many US museums.
Taken from ‘Dictionary of Art and Artists, by Peter and Linda Murray, 1959

Production and Metaphysics*


In the background Sodom and Gomorra still burn. Lot and his daughters could escape in time before the inferno began. Lot’s wife was not that fortunate: she was transformed into a pillar of salt because she looked back, against God’s command. She can be seen standing on the wooden bridge.

As Lot has no male children, his daughters decide to help him. They make him drunk with lots of wine. The children that were conceived that night would become the ancestors of the Moabites and the Ammonites, neighbours of Israel.

via Lucas van Leyden: Lot and his Daughters (oil paint).

There is a work by a primitive painter in the Louvre, whether known or unknown I cannot say, who will never represent a major school in art history. The artist’s name is Lucas van Leyden and to my mind he invalidates the four or five hundred years of painting coming after him, rendering them useless. The painting in question is entitled Lot and His Daughters, a biblical subject in the style of the period. The Middle Ages certainly did not interpret the Bible as we do today and this painting is a strange example of the mystical inferences which can be deduced from it. In any event, its phatos is noticeable even from a distance, since it affects the mind by a kind of sticking visual harmony, intensely active in the whole work yet caught at a glance.
Even before we have made out the subject, we get the feeling something important is happening and it seems the ear is as affected by it as the eye. A tremendously important mental drama appears accumulated there, like a sudden cloud formation which the wind or some more immediate fate has blown there to assess their thunderbolts.
And, in fact, in the painting the sky is dark and overcast, but even before we can make out that this drama originated in the heavens, took place in the heavens, the strange colouring and jumble of forms, the impression emanating from it at a distance, all foretells a kind of natural drama, and I defy any other artist of the Golden Ages to offer us anything like it.
A tent is pitched on the shore, in front of which Lot is seated, wearing a breastplate and sporting a fine red beard, watching his daughters parade before him as if he were a guest at a prostitutes’ banquet.
And in fact they strut about, some mothers, others Amazons, combing their hair or fencing, as if they had never had any other object than to please their father, to serve as his creatures or playthings. Here we see the deeply incestuous nature of this old subject which the artist has developed in sexual imagery, a proof that he has fully understood all its deep sexuality in a modern way, that is to say as we would understand it ourselves. A proof that its deeply sexual but poetic nature did not escape him any more than it did us.
On the left of the painting, slightly in the background, a black tower rises to fantastic heights, its base supported by a network of rocks and plants, twisting roads marked by milestones, with houses dotted here and there. And by an apt perspective effect, one of these paths which had been threading its way through the maze stands out at a given spot, crosses a bridge, is finally caught in a shaft of that stormy light spilling out between the clouds, in which the region is fitfully bathed. In the background, the sea is very high besides being extraordinarily calm, considering the fiery web seething in one corner of the sky.
Sometimes, when we are watching exploding fireworks, some details of the landscape stand out against the darkness in the ghostly light, in the nocturnal gunfire of shooting stars, sky rockets and Roman candles; trees, tower, mountains and houses appear in relief before our eyes, their colour and appearance for ever remaining associated in our minds with a notion of ear-splitting noise. There is no better way of conveying how the various aspects of the landscape conform to this fire revealed in the sky than by saying that although they possess their own colour, in spite of everything, they remain related to it like muted echoes, like living points of reference born within it, put there to allow it to exert its full destructive power.
Besides, there is something horribly forceful and disturbing about the way the painter depicts this fire, like active, changing features in a set expression. It makes little difference how this effect is achieved, it is real. One has only to see the painting to be convinced of it.
In any case, this fire, which no one will deny gives one the impression of an evil intellect emanating from it, by its very violence mentally serves to counterbalance the heavy material solidity of the remainder.
To the right, on the same perspective level as the black tower, a narrow spit of land surrounded by a ruined monastery juts out between the heavens and high seas.
This spit of land, however near it may appear to the shore where the Lot’s tent is pitched, still leaves room for a vast gulf where an unprecedented maritime disaster seems to have taken place. Ships broken in two but not yet sunk are propped on the sea as if on crutches, while the water round about them is full of their uprooted masts and broken spars.
It is hard to say why such an impression of absolute disaster emanates from the sight of one or two shipwrecked vessels.
It seems as though the painter knew certain secrets about linear proportion and how to make it affect the mind directly like a physical reagent. In any case this impression of intellect spread abroad in outdoor nature, especially the manner of portraying it, is apparent in several other details on the canvas, such as the bridge standing out against the sea, high as an eight-storey house, with people filing across it, like Ideas in Plato’s cave.
It would be untrue to claim that the thoughts emerging from this painting are clear. At all events they are of a grandeur to which we have become totally unaccustomed during the last few centuries by painting that was merely painting.
In addiction, Lot and his daughters suggest an idea of sexuality and reproduction, and Lot seems placed like a drone, to take improper advantage of his daughters.
This is almost the only idea in the picture.
All the other ideas are metaphysical. I am sorry to have to use that word, but that is what they are called. And I might even say their poetic greatness, their tangible effect on us arises from the fact that they are metaphysical, that their mental profundity cannot be separated from the painting’s formal, external symmetry.
Furthermore there is an idea of change in the different landscape details and the way they are painted, their levels annulling or corresponding to one another, that leads us into the mind in painting the same way as in music.
There is another idea about Fate, revealed not so much by the appearance of that sudden fire as by the solemn way in which all forms are arranged or disarranged beneath it, some as of bent beneath a gust of irresistible panic, the others motionless, almost ironic, all obeying a powerful intelligent consistency, seemingly nature’s mind externalized.
There are also ideas on Chaos, the Marvellous and Balance. There are even one or two on the importance of Words, this supremely anarchic, material painting seeming to establish their futility.
In any event I must say this painting is what theatre ought to be, if only it knew how to speak its own language.
Text entirely taken from ‘The Theatre and its Double’, by Antonin Artaud, 1978
Off Production and Metaphysics*

Blooming the Plum I Let Sakura In


Flowering Plum and Camellia, six fold screen by Suzuki Kiitsu, c.1850s, ink and color on paper. Archive: Japanese Honolulu Academy Of Arts

Lucian Freud (1922-2011)

Lucian Freud, Girl with a White Dog, 1952

Article provided by Grove Art Online http://www.groveart.com

Lucian Freud Interior In Paddington, 1951

British painter and draughtsman. Freud spent most of his career in Paddington, London, an inner-city area whose seediness is reflected in Freud’s often sombre and moody interiors and cityscapes. In the 1940s he was principally interested in drawing, especially the face. He experimented with Surrealism. He was also loosely associated with Neo-Romanticism. He established his own artistic identity, however, in meticulously executed realist works, imbued with a pervasive mood of alienation.
Two important paintings of 1951 established the themes and preoccupations that dominated the rest of Freud’s career: Interior in Paddington (Liverpool, Walker A.G.) and Girl with a White Dog (London, Tate). Both paintings demonstrate an eagerness to establish a highly charged situation, in which the artist is free to explore formal and optical problems rather than expressive or interpretative ones.
By the late 1950s brushmarks became spatial as he began to describe the face and body in terms of shape and structure, and often in female nudes the brushstrokes help to suggest shape. Throughout his career Freud’s palette remained distinctly muted.
A close relationship with sitters was often important for Freud. His mother sat for an extensive series in the early 1970s after she was widowed, and his daughters Bella and Esther modelled nude, together and individually. Although the human form dominated his output, Freud also executed cityscapes, viewed from his studio window, and obsessively detailed nature studies. The 1980s and early 1990s were marked by increasingly ambitious compositions in terms of both scale and complexity.
via Tate.org.uk

Notes from an Exhibition

Così sono finalmente riuscita a finire di leggere Notes from an Exhibition, un romanzo regalatomi qualche tempo fa da un amico. Very English, un tanto ansiogeno e molto controllato. Patrick Gale non parla di emozioni, ma le suggerisce, attraverso la descrizione di un quadro a inizio capitolo; un quadro un capitolo, uno scrittore, che in alcuni passaggi si trattiene dall’emozionarsi ed estranea, singhiozza ma non piange, sorride ma di sbieco. La protagonista, Rachel Kelly, è una pittrice, è bipolare, è madre di quattro figli e figlia di un marito. C’è molto di Sylvia Plath, nella maniera in cui Gale ce la dipinge, vulnerabile e ostile, tenuo acquarello di ombre e segreti.
Rachel tenta il suicidio, s’infiamma, evapora, ammutolisce, si spreca in lacrime, muore, ma Patrick Gale non si scompone, rimane impassibile e fedele, al buon senso della ragione e alla chirurgia delle parole.

Artist Rachel Kelly’s beloved youngest son, suitably named Petroc, once gave her six stones collected from a Cornish beach, each chosen to represent a member of the family. Rachel treasures these stones and, while engaged on a groundbreaking new series of paintings possibly inspired by them, dies of a heart attack in her Cornish loft-studio.

A death is a well-worn fictional opening device, but here Patrick Gale uses it cleverly to fresh effect. Told via notes from a posthumous retrospective of Rachel’s work, which head each chapter, the narrative offers an unusual way into the half-dozen changing viewpoints that dot around in time and place, like apparently random pieces of a jigsaw. Fortunately for the reader, Gale guides us fairly confidently towards the full picture.

Rachel is bipolar, a creature alternately wonderful and terrible to her gentle Quaker husband Antony Middleton and her four children. As a young English postgraduate, Antony rescued her in Oxford when she was pregnant and suicidal. His devotion, his calm, tolerant religion and his childhood home in Penzance combined to make marriage to him her haven, and her abstract painting came to attract critical acclaim. Only after her death does Antony discover the hair-raising secrets of her upbringing
via Review: Notes From an Exhibition by Patrick Gale | Books | The Guardian.

SOFA’ SOGOOD # 1 LIFE A USER’S MANUAL by GEORGES PEREC


‘Nobody lives on the third floor right. The owner is a certain Monsieur Foureau, who is said to live on an estate at Chavignolles, between Caen and Falaise, in a farm of thirty- eight hectares, with a sort of manor house. Some years ago, a television drama was filmed there, under the title The Sixteenth Edge of This Cube; Remi Rorschach took part in the shooting but never met this owner.
Nobody ever seems to have seen him. There is no name on the door on the landing, nor on the list fixed on the glass pane of the concierge’s office door. The blinds are always drawn.’

Se per qualche ragione vi foste trovati a Parigi intorno alla fine degli anni ’70, e in cerca di Trelkovski, L’Inquilino del Terzo Piano (forse perchè vi doveva una scommessa, o quasi certamente perchè eravate voi a dovergli più di qualcosa), allora avreste fatto bene a cercarlo in Rue Simon-Crubellier. Sottoscrive Perec, al terzo piano di Rue Simon-Crubellier, numero 11, non vive nessuno, ma il sospetto di un omicidio. Lo stesso filmato da Roman Polanski due anni prima l’uscita del romanzo ‘La vita, Istruzioni per l’uso‘,? Sarebbe azzardato credere Trelkovski l’inquilino mancante a chiudere il ‘tour’ e rendere possibile il Percorso del Cavallo tracciato da Perec attraverso questo romanzo?

Knight's Tour. Image credit Wikipedia. Click on

Prendete una scacchiera e sfidate un cavaliere in una crociata, in palio la soluzione a un quesito matematico: come attraversare la scacchiera partendo da D7, compiere una sola volta tutte le mosse di gioco, visitare tutte le case della scacchiera, quindi concludere il tour in F7, esattamente nella casa vicina a quella di partenza.
Poniamo Perec abbia utilizzato una scacchiera 10×10, pari ai 10 piani in Rue Simon-Crubellier, e alle dieci camere in ciascuno dei piani. Una camera un capitolo, un capitolo una storia, una storia una mossa del cavaliere. 99 personaggi, ognuno con un passato diverso e un futuro in comune; 99 storie nella storia, una sola mossa mancante a rendere possibile una sfida letteraria quasi riuscita.
La sfida in questione rientra nell’ambizioso progetto visionario lanciato dalla Oulipo, una sorta di circolo, una confraternita del Merlot, fondata nel 1960 da Raymond Queneau e François Le Lionnais, che riunisce scrittori e artisti per lo più francesi (Italo Calvino un infiltrato speciale) cui obiettivo è quello di realizzare un’opera attraverso precise regole, coordinate stilistiche, poste a soluzione di un problema matematico, un lipogramma (di Perec anche La scomparsa, del 1969, un romanzo scritto senza la vocale ‘e’, e Le ripetizioni, un romanzo scritto di sole vocali ‘e’), palindromi, anagrammi.
Ne La vita, istruzioni per l’uso, la toponomastica esistenziale tracciata da Perec definisce una dimensione in cui convergono e si intersecano Arte, Storia, ‘Umanesimo’e Scienze. Ho ammirato con stupore e meraviglia la maniera in cui Perec dà respiro al romanzo affascinato dal potenziale visionario delle parole, delle immagini, dei colori, dei suoni, dei ricordi. Dev’essere stato un bel viaggio.
Mi rendo conto leggere questo romanzo è una sfida. Perec è un autore pretenzioso. Pretende noi si venga informati bene circa i fatti. Pretende noi ci si dedichi esclusivamente alla lettura del testo, in totale isolamento e regressione spazio temporale da ciò che ci circonda.

Sophie Calle (born 1953) is a French writer, photographer, installation artist, and conceptual artist. Calle's work is distinguished by its use of arbitrary sets of constraints, and evokes the French literary movement of the 1960s known as Oulipo. Her work frequently depicts human vulnerability, and examines identity and intimacy. She is recognized for her detective-like ability to follow strangers and investigate their private lives. Her photographic work often includes panels of text of her own writing (WK)

Del resto l’intero appartamento in Rue Simon-Crubellier sembra esistere nello spazio in una dimensione propria di trascendentale realizzazione causale e implicativa, rimandata al passato, interposta nel presente, e convergente nel futuro. Nel romanzo niente viene lasciato al caso, ogni attimo assemblato, composto entro un’unica cornice, un preciso ordine stabilito, la perfetta realizzazione di un puzzle umano e vivente, ricostruito minuziosamente attraverso una progressiva esarazione delle storie perchè ‘la storia’ centrale abbia a realizzarsi nell’insieme.
Preamble
To begin with, the art of jigsaw puzzles seems of little substance, easily exhausted, wholly dealt with by a basic introduction to Gestalt: the perceived object – we mai be dealing with a perceptual act, the acquisition of a skill, a physiological system, or, as in the present case, a wooden jigsaw puzzle – is not a sum of elements to be distinguished from each other and analyzed discretely, but a pattern, that is to say a form, a structure: the element’s existence does not precede the existence of the whole, it comes neither before nor after it, for the parts do not determine the pattern, but the pattern determines the parts: knowledge of the pattern and of its laws, of the set and its structure, could not possibly be derived from discrete knowledge of the elements that compose it. That means that you can look at a piece of a puzzle for three whole days, you can believe that you know all there is to know about its colouring and shape, and be no further on than when you started. The only thing that counts is the ability to link this piece to other pieces, and in that sense the art of jigsaw puzzle has something in common with the art of go. The pieces are readable, take on a sense, only when assembled; in isolation, a puzzle piece means nothing – just an impossible question, an opaque challenge. But as soon as you have succeeded, after minutes of trial and error, or after a prodigious half-second flash of inspiration, in fitting it into one of its neighbours, the piece disappears, ceases to exist as a piece. The intense difficulty preceding this link-up – which the English word puzzle indicates so well – not only loses its raison d’etre, it seems never to have had any reason, so obvious does the solution appear. The two pieces so miraculously conjoined are henceforth one, which in its turn will be a source of error, hesitation, dismay, and expectation.
The role of the puzzle-maker is hard to define. In most cases – and in particular in all cardboard jigsaw – the puzzles are machine-made, and the lines of cutting are entirely arbitrary: a blanking die, set up once and for all, cuts the sheets of cardboard along identical lines every time. But such jigsaw are eschewed by the true puzzle-lover, not just because the solutions are printed on the boxes the come in, but because this type of cut destroys the specific nature of jigsaw puzzles. Contrary to a widely and firmly held belief, it does not really matter whether the initial image is easy ( or something taken to be easy – a genre scene in the style of Vermeer, for example, or a color photograph of an Austrian castle) or difficult ( a Jackson Pollock, a Pissarro, or the poor paradox of a blank puzzle). It’s not the subject of the picture, or the painter’s technique, which makes a puzzle more or less difficult, but the greater or lesser subtlety of the way it jas been cut; and an arbitrary cutting pattern will necessarily produce an arbitrary degree of difficulty, ranging from the extreme of easiness – for edge pieces, patches of light, well-defined object, lines, transitions – to the tiresome awkwardness of all the other pieces (cloudless skies, sand, meadow, ploughed land, shaded areas, ect.).
Pieces in a puzzle of this kind come in classes of which the best-known are
the little chaps
the double crosses
and the crossbars
and once the edges have been put together, the detail pieces put in place – the very light, almost whitish yellow fringe on the carpet on the table holding the lectern with an open book, the rich edging of the mirror, the lute, the woman’s red dress – and the bulk of the background pieces parcelled out according to their shade of grey, brown, white, or sky blue, then solving the puzzle consists simply of trying all the plausible combinations one by one.
The art of jigsaw puzzling begins with wooden puzzles cut by hand, whose maker undertakes to ask himself all the questions the player will have to solve, and , instead of allowing chance to cover his tracks, aims to replace it with cunning, trickery, and subterfuge. All the elements occurring in the image to be reassembled – this armchair covered in gold brocade, that three-pointed black hat with its rather ruined black plume, or that silver-brained bright yellow livery – serve by design as points of departure for trails that lead to false information. The organized, coherent, structured signifying space of the picture is cut up not only into inert, formless elements containing little information or signifying power, but also into falsified elements, carrying false information; two fragments of cornice made to fit each other perfectly when they belong infact to two quite separate sections of the ceiling, the belt buckle of a uniform which turns out in extremis to be a metal clasp holding the chandelier, several almost identically cut pieces belonging, for one part, to a dwarf orange tree placed on a mantelpiece and, for the other part, to its scarcely attenuated reflection in a mirror, are classic examples of the types of traps puzzle-lovers come across.
From this, one can make a deduction which is quite certainly the ultimate truth of jigsaw puzzles: despite appearances, puzzling is not a solitary game: every move the puzzler makes, the puzzle-maker has made before; every piece the puzzler picks up, and picks up again, and studies and strokes, every combination he tries, each hope and each discouragement have all been designed, calculated, and decided by the other.

Avendo letto questo romanzo in inglese, mi sono concentrata più sul vocabolario e meno sull’ architettura della trama e il procedimento logico di progressione al vertice finale e conclusivo del testo. E’stato bello abbandonarsi all’evasività della lettura, carezzevole e pigra, ma è stato specialmente faticoso trovare il tempo e la concentrazione necessari a leggere Perec fra le righe e con la dovuta attenzione.
Non ho le competenze tecniche necessarie ad analizzare il romanzo dal punto di vista estetico, figurativo e stilistico, ma credo di aver individuato una sostanziosa quantità di suggerimenti, tecniche di componimento, tendenziosità allo spettacolarismo dei dettagli, che potrebbero tornare utili nell’organizzazione di un testo narrativo, per esempio.
Perec è insieme architetto e portinaio, poeta ed esteta, matematico e pittore. Perchè no, a suo modo un voyeur, e Parigi sullo sfondo la cornice di un’epoca.
Cercando delle immagini dello scrittore da inserire nel post, ho trovato quest’articolo meraviglioso che commenta, dal punto di vista estetico, le opere realizzate da Bartlebooth : Life A User’s Manual – Evening All Afternoon. Non mi permetto di rubare l’originalità delle considerazioni poste dall’autrice a commento delle opere, per questo ve ne consiglio la lettura.
E voi che mi dite, piaciuto?
Chi di voi vorrebbe aggiungere particolari alla descrizione del romanzo? A quali coinquilini vi siete affezionati, quale quadro vi ha suggestionati e impressionati maggiormente.
Volendo prendere a esempio il romanzo e improvvisare un esercizio di scrittura, potremmo anche noi catalogare degli oggetti, e sulla base di un finale, costruire un racconto che li comprenda
Ho per le mani una raccolta di storie, Last Night, a mio parere assai noiosa, dello scrittore americano James Salter. Si tratta di una coincidenza soltanto se avendone aperto a caso una pagina, è venuto fuori questo finale, tratto da Platinum, che recita
‘Tahar made another gesture of slight annoyance. For him, it was only the beginning.’

Non vi nascondo ho spedito all’inesistente indirizzo del palazzo, uno scarabocchio di Londra, realizzato a matita su un foglio A4
Monsieur Gaspard Winckler,
here a view of London I was working on a whole night
in solitude and ecstasy
Cheers from Hyperuranian
🙂
A breve posterò il calendario delle altre letture; perchè mattoni, ho considerato i libri più voluminosi da inserire alla fine, in modo da iniziare a leggerli, a poco a poco, già da adesso.
Vada per Il Seno di Philip Ruth, come lettura di febbraio?
Avrei voluto postare qualcosa lo scorso venerdì, in occasione della Giornata della Memoria (la madre di Perec fra le vittime della Shoah), ma sono stata via una settimana e ho avuto poco tempo a disposizione. Dal profondo un pensiero di pace, e un augurio. Che gli orrori del passato non abbiano a ripetersi nel futuro, come già nel presente e, purtroppo, ancora.
Buona Domenica a noi tutti

‘Look with all your eyes, look’
(Jules Verne, Michael Strogoff)

A Terrible Beauty

‘I feel at home here in this chaos because chaos suggests images to me’
Francis Bacon
On Bacon, The Logic Of Sensation by Deleuze

The Turk’s Opening Move

Attributed to Titian – Suleiman the Magnificant - Ottoman Sultan (c. 1539)

“It’s difficult to imagine an attraction more likely to appeal to the Londoners of 1783 than Kempelen’s chess-playing automaton. For in addiction to being a great center for chess, London was renowned for its enthusiasm for public displays of automata and other technological marvels. The arcades of Piccadilly, the streets of St.James’s, and the squares of Mayfair were home to several remarkable exhibitions of automata and other curiosities, open daily to the paying public.”

acclamato in tutta Europa dall’alta società illuminata di fine settecento, il Turco, un automa di legno, azionato all’interno da un complesso meccanismo di ingranaggi a carica, elegantemente vestito in abiti orientali, e perfettamente in grado di giocare a scacchi autonomamente, deve la propria fortuna all’ingegno di un grande uomo di talento e ambizione, l’ungherese di nascita Wolfgang von Kempelen, ufficiale di corte presso l’imperatrice Maria Teresa d’Austria.
The Turk, dello scrittore inglese Tom Standage (tomstandage.com), racconta di questa meravigliosa invenzione d’avvio alla progettazione di macchine più sofisticate utilizzate nei decenni a seguire, durante la prima fase della rivoluzione industriale; non solo, Il Turco anticipa di secoli la possibilità di creare delle macchine in grado di un’intelligenza artificiale (questo un meraviglioso articolo che si interroga circa gli humanoid robots e le ‘proprietà cognitive’ delle macchine: The Minds of Machines | Philosophy Now.)
La progettazione di automi risale agli inizi del 1700, ancora prima al quindicesimo secolo, quando già Leonardo da Vinci crea le bozze di un progetto straordinariamente visionario, una macchina volante studiata sulle sembianze di uccelli e pipistrelli (FLYING MACHINES – Leonardo da Vinci)
Gli automi creati all’inizio del diciottesimo secolo si basavano su complicati e pesanti meccanismi simili nel funzionamento a degli orologi; alcuni di questi così straordinariamente ben fatti da essere all’origine di curiose leggende; Standage racconta di un’automa capace di suonare l’arpa e invitato alla corte del re francese Luigi XV, il quale si disse talmente estasiato dalla bravura di questi da volerne scoprire in dettaglio il meccanismo. Aperta la macchina, il re vi trovò all’interno un bambino di cinque anni.
Il Turco fu soprattutto all’origine di interessanti dibattiti che stimolarono matematici, ingegneri e pensatori a comprenderne funzionalità ed eventuali applicazioni future; a rendere l’automa affascinante era specialmente l’incredibile maestria di cui era capace nel gioco degli scacchi (ragione per cui i più scettici dubitarono del genio di Wolfgang von Kempelen assumendo a un inganno e a un segreto, mai rivelato del tutto). L’automa non era solo in grado di giocare a scacchi, ma di vincere almeno otto partite su dieci e tante furono le personalità che vi si trovarono a perdere una partita contro; fra questi Benjamin Franklin (grande appassionato di scacchi e autore del saggio ‘The Moral of Chess‘), Caterina la Grande– Imperatrice di Russia, Charles Babbage, persino Edgard Allan Poe e più tardi l’imperatore Napoleone, in quello che fu un tour di partite e spettacoli intorno all’Europa e fino in America, a cavallo tra illuminismo e romantico futurismo.

“Of all the cities of Europe, two were renowned for their enthusiasm for chess during the eighteenth century: Paris and London. Chess had been a popular pastime in coffeehouses in both cities since the beginning of the century and enjoyed a period of heightened popularity in the 1770s and 1780s, when it became extremely fashionable in high society. As the nearer of the two cities to Vienna, Paris was the logical place for the first stop on the Turk’s tour of Europe.
As the French writer Denis Diderot put it in 1761, “Paris is the place in the world, and the Café de la Régence the place in Paris where this game is played best.” The Café de la Régence was a coffeehouse founded in the 1680s, and by the 1740s it had become the most prominent haunt of chess players in the city. Well-known intellectuals who were regulars at the café over the years included the philosophers Voltaire and Jean- Jacques Rousseau, the American statesman scientist Benjamin Franklin, and even the young Napoleon Bonaparte.”
taken from ‘The Turk’ by Tom Standage, chap. three, ‘A Most Charming Contraption’

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