zenpundit.com » art

Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Perhaps because I’m looking for the tauromachia

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Syria echoes Guernica ]
.

This, from JM Berger today, offers a glimpse of Syria that is neither war, nor peace, if I might put it this way, but war longing for peace:

Irresistibly, it reminds me of this:

Isn’t that a bull’s head in cloth, hanging right above the shoulder of the leaping boy in the Syrian image — and isn’t that alnmost exactly Picasso’s swooping white head, again in cloth, just to the right of it? The illusion of their similarity is enhanced by the aspect ratio of the Twitter image from Syria, which cuts off a stretch of green in the original photo, just below the image as you see it here..

**

But it may be I’m seeing this because the bullfight and tauromachia have been on my mind recently — mythic combats of man pitted agains one of his worthiest opponents. There’s an archaic resonance there that’s inmportant in some way, but the actual killing of the bull, blood in the sand, horrifies me, the animal descending from grandeur to humiliation, its bowed head propped on one horn as it awaits finality — terrible.

And I was accordingly happy to recall the less violent version of the sport, still pitting man’s skill against adversary — in the bull-leaping of Knossos:

and its latter-day practice, shown here at the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona:

**

Taurus:

taup
This image comes from the fabulous Constellations of Words site.

Muhammad Ali, the Navaho and the Tibetans

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a knockout triple DoubleQuote from Maidu country ]
.

This:

Ali mandala of victory

reminds me of this:

Sand Painting Jeff King

but also of this:

mandala-sand-painting-tibetan-monks-asia-society-texas-696x407

**

In fact, we have three potential DoubleQuotes here:

  • the stytlized figures in Neil Leifer‘s celebrated photo of Muhammad Ali evokes the stylized figures of Jeff King‘s sandpainting for the Navaho war ceremonial Where the Two Came to Their Father.
  • Jeff King‘s Navaho sandpaintings in turn easily summon memories of their Tibetan Buddhist equivalents, shown here in a photo of the Drepung Loseling monks.
  • And the symmetries of the overhead shot of Ali and that of the Drepung monks forms yet a third pair.
  • **

    Muhammad Ali at one point wanted “his people” to return to Africa, away from the deadly white man, and no doubt it has occurred to some Navajo from time to time to wish the white man would return to Europe — while Puebloans may on occasions have wished the Navajo had remained with their Athabaskan kin in Canada..

    But then, I’m Scots by heritage, British by subsequent conquest, and have invaded the United States myself in person, with a view to finding what American poet Gary Snyder calls “a sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at” here in California.

    In what I understand to have been Nisenan Maidu country.

    Hope as slogan, hope as navigation

    Sunday, August 7th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a visual DoubleQuote on the difference between artist and politician ]
    .

    As you may have gathered, I’m an admirer of the artist Alyce Santoro‘s work, and yesterday I came across her Existential Navigational Chart, with its little note in the bottom left corner:

    Soundings in the Unfathomable at Mean Low Water (MLW)

    In any case, it reminded me of the enormous difference between a political slogan and an artist’s insight.

    Obama‘s HOPE (upper panel, below) was a lure, an appeal to an ideal in the sea of practical politics — and opinions are divided as to how well he managed to fulfill that one-word promise:

    Tablet DQ 600 hope and hope islands

    Alyce‘s navigational mapping of area surrounding the the Hope Islands (lower panel, above) on the other hand, is both more fanciful and more realistic — a wonderful combination if you think about it. Notice the nuance she manages to pack into her map, with Inner Hope Island, Little Hope Island, Hope Island, and on southwards to Lost Hope Island, False Hope Island, and Hope Ledge — and all so close to both Little Despair Island, and Love Rocks —

    Who, truly alive, has not been stranded on one or more of those islands, nor dashed against Love Rocks?

    **

    You can download a print quality, high resolution file of Alyce’s chart without cost, or click through to her Philosoprop shop to purchase a signed copy.

    On the topology of dreams

    Saturday, August 6th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a poem that’s far too philosophical to work as poetry, Laramée’s Apparatus, and Alyce Santoro’s philosoprops ]
    .

    The logic of poetry is, más o menos, dream logic, and so I’ve been pondering the logic of dreams and recently wrote this not terribly poetic poem:

    The egg at the conjuror’s table

    There is a topology of dreams.
    Out beyond Riemann and names I have yet to learn,
    there are configurations of space:
    past Boole, dreams have their logics.

    *

    Take an egg.
    With a tap of the wand, crack it open,
    let it fall apart so precisely
    the two half-shells could again fit together,
    ovoid, seamlessly,
    almost an egg.
    Catch white and yolk in a glass.
    Toss up and catch the half shell in your left hand
    holding the right steady,
    bring them together, there’s a fit,
    a logic to it, a topology, one
    to one, across many thousands of facets
    of fragile, broken shell.
    Break another egg so preciely
    the left half of ts shell would match exactly
    the right half of the first,
    bring them together,
    the fit is exact by definition,
    brown shell with speckled,
    but there is loss of logic, the thing is surreal,
    an egg not an egg at all.
    Holding the half-shell in your right hand
    face upwards, pour into it
    yolk and white of the same egg,
    the heart of the egg filling its own shell,
    the fit ovoid, but better:
    the original yolk united with its familiar shell.
    Cover shell and all with a handkerchief,
    red, green, blue,
    whisk it away, and the egg vanishes —
    or appears, whole.

    **

    There are logics, topologies,
    affinities beyond the exact match
    of shell and shell,
    and so between times, places,
    people in dreams –
    the half hovel, half cathedral
    with its walkways among lily ponds, the koi,
    dusk in one century dawn in another,
    her youth your old age your youth again, time
    cracked open so precisely,
    its yolk, meaning,
    its moments an exact match across centuries,
    its half-shell a perch for Venus,
    its wholeness Fabergé,
    its yolk, tempera mixed by Giotto,
    meaning, tempera, Assisi,
    gesso, the chalk cliffs of Dover, the sea..
    There is a harmony of the whole,
    of the broken unbroken,
    named yet unnameable, unspeakable,
    there is a logic.
    there is a topology of the sundries of dreams,
    a mathematics to this matching
    of thou with i,
    of words, asleep, awake, of dusk to dawn, with all.

    Recognising that it belongs in a category she might call philosopoetry, I sent it to my friend, the artist Alyce Santoro, author of the remarkable Philosoprops: A Unified Field Guide>

    **

    I’m a lucky fellow.

    Today, via 3 Quarks Daily, I ran across this quote from Walter Bejamin:

    I had suffered very much from the din in my room. Last night the dream retained this. I found myself in front of a map and, at the same time, in the landscape which was depicted on it. The landscape was incredibly gloomy and bleak, and it wasn’t possible to say whether its desolation was merely a craggy wasteland or empty grey ground populated only by capital letters. These letters drifted curvily on their base, just as if they were following the mountain range; the words formed from these letters were more or less remote from each other. I knew, or came to know, that I was in the labyrinth of the ear canal. The map was at the same time a map of hell.

    There’s something darkly Borgesian about that quote, eh? But it certainly illuminates dream topology, and even moreso, the topology of the relationship of dream to waking, itself worth comparing with the relationship of map to territory, word to referent, and indeed moon to finger with which Count Korzybski, Lao Tzu, and the Zen poets are each so notably concerned.

    **

    Tunneling on through, I find myself contemplating one of Alyce’s inspirations — Eve Andrée Laramée’s Apparatus for the Distillation of Vague Intuitions, shown in Mass MoCA‘s 2000-2001 exhibition Unnatural Science, from 2000 – 2001:

    laramee

    A detail from that work illustrates the etching of certain phrases into the glass — in this case, the words polysemy and misconception:

    7. Eve Andree Laramee_polysemy-misconception

    The display is characterized in this piece from Art & Science Jounral:

    Apparatus for the Distillation of Vague Intuitions by American artist Eve Andrée Laramée consists of an array of tall metal stands, clamps, PVC tubings, glass beakers, flasks and vials. Although much of the equipment looks standard from afar, the installation is a dysfunctional and mythological sort of laboratory that highlights the inherent but often unnoticed subjectivity in scientific inquiry. [ .. ]

    In this fantastical and visually dazzling Apparatus, many of the glassware are hand-blown with various cloudy or luminous turquoise solutions and copper wires attached to large exotic flowers contributing to the spectacle of a giant chemistry experiment gone amok.

    Upon close inspection, a second level of complexity is revealed by the seemingly unscientific words and phrases such as “HANDFULS”, “LEAP IN THE DARK” and “UNNECESSARY EXPLANATORY PRINCIPLES” delicately etched into the glass, exposing a sense of insecurity and imprecision behind the process of science.

    **

    My Egg at the conjuror’s table is really more a philosoprop, to use Alyce’s coinage, than what many expect a poem to be, and likewise Laramée’s Apparatus more a philosoprop than what many expect an artwork to be.

    Philosoprops:

    The word philosoprop is a portmanteau of philosophy (love of wisdom) and either prop (theatrical property) or propaganda (influential communication), depending. A philosoprop is a device, implement, or illustration – crafted or discovered ready-made – that can be used for the purpose of demonstrating a concept or sparking a dialog.

    Let’s talk..

    Sunday surprise: peering digitally around corners 1: Holbein

    Sunday, July 31st, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a saunter through London’s National Gallery with Holbein’s Ambassadors, a skull and a psalter ]
    .

    Let’s begin with Hans Holbein, The Ambassadors:

    Holbein Ambassadors

    **

    First up for consideration is this anamorphic skull detail:

    Holbein detail anamorphic skull

    The very oddly misshapen object in the foreground is in fact a skull, visible as such from the right position vis-a-vis the painting. It has puzzled countless people for ages, and no doubt considerably increased the painting’s fame in the process. The simplest explanation I’ve found is this one:

    It has also been hypothesized that the painting is meant to hang in a stairwell, so that a person walking up the stairs from the painting’s right would be startled by the appearance of the skull. From such an angle, the skull appears in its correct aspect ratio.

    Here’s the skull, resolved — to show it as it appears from the correct viewing angle — an angle from which the rest of the painting makes no sense, mark you:

    Holbein_Skull

    **

    That’s the most striking detail in the painting, but also of interest is this Psalter detail:

    Holbein psalter detail

    The psalter is depicted in the painting in the same perspective as the two figures, globe, carpet and so forth, but it’s at an angle to the viewer — and an enterprising fellow therefore decided to work computationnal magic and show us the psalter rectified, as we might see it if we were in the room, went over, and looked down at it:

    Ambassadors_Lutherian_Psalms

    **

    All of this reminds me of another brilliant work of art, featuring an analogous shifting of viewpoint: Ridley Scott‘s Blade Runner, which I’ll explore in Part II of this two-part post.


    Switch to our mobile site