anagnori

Archive for the ‘art’ Category

A Philosophy of Tickling by Aaron Schuster

In art, biology, philosophy, psychology on January 11, 2015 at 05:39

From: A Philosophy of Tickling by Aaron Schuster, CABINET Magazine, http://www.cabinetmagazine.org

… Aristotle famously defined man as the rational animal (zoon echon logon), and as the political animal (zoon politikon). But there are also passages in his work that indicate another less remarked upon, though no less profound, definition. In Parts of Animals, he writes: “When people are tickled, they quickly burst into laughter, and this is because the motion quickly penetrates to this part, and even though it is only gently warmed, still it produces a movement (independently of the will) in the intelligence which is recognizable. The fact that human beings only are susceptible to tickling is due (1) to the fineness of their skin and (2) to their being the only creatures that laugh.”1 Perhaps this notion of the “ticklish animal” was further elaborated in the second book of the Poetics, the lost treatise on comedy; indeed, the relationship between ticklish laughter and comic laughter remains an open question. Should tickling be investigated under the heading of comedy or of touch? Touch, Aristotle argues, is the most primary sense, and human beings are uniquely privileged in possessing the sharpest sense of touch thanks to the delicate nature of their skin. Though other animals have more advanced smell or hearing, “man’s sense of touch … excels that of all other animals in fineness.”2 We might view tickling as a side effect of the hyper-sensitivity of human touch. Our peculiar vulnerability to tickling is the price to be paid for more sophisticated and discriminating access to the world.

Does not tickling violate the basic mechanism of cause and effect, the principle that every action entails an equal and opposite reaction? The tiniest stroking produces a wildly explosive response, while a more vigorous rubbing may hardly elicit any reaction at all. On the most stupid bodily level, there is something miraculous in the activity of tickling that seems to contravene the everyday experience of causality, turning us into spontaneous philosophical skeptics. It is as if the lived body were split into two: a practical body governed by regular principles and interactions, and an oversensitive flesh that, with the slightest tingle, is apt to plunge all coordination and mastery into spasmodic helplessness.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: CABINET Magazine

Advertisements

AUDIO: Sounding the Sea by Conor Gillies

In art, audio, music on October 13, 2014 at 23:50

From: Sounding the Sea by Conor Gillies, Radio Open Source, http://radioopensource.org

… Adams downplays the politics of Become Ocean, which had its debut in June under the commission of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and its music director, Ludovic Morlot, and won the Pulitzer Prize for music this year. “Too often political art fails as both art and politics,” he says. Adams goes on:

Art needs no justification other than itself. Yet, I also believe that music can serve as a sounding model for the renewal of human consciousness and human culture and that it can invite us to listen more deeply to expand our awareness of this miraculous world that we live in.

So like everybody these days I think a lot, I think all the time, about climate change, and as I composed Become Ocean I had very much in my mind images of the melting of the polar ice and the rising of the seas. But I hope it transcends any metaphors, transcends its title, to become a purely musical world of its own.

The immense musical world of Become Ocean borrows its title from a tiny mesostic poem John Cage wrote in honor of his friend and fellow composer, Lou Harrison. “It’s a beautiful little poem in which Cage likens Lou’s music to a river in delta. And I just loved that image of listening, of music, as a stream that leads us toward oceanic consciousness,” Adams says.

The Cage connection goes beyond the name. Musically, Adams draws most directly from the post-war American avant-garde, including Cage and Morton Feldman. Like these artists, Adams is fascinated with fluidity: how sound and the environment blend.

“I’ve been obsessed, well, all my creative life with place as music but also music as place,” Adams says.

Water and landscape have long been themes of the John Cage school of minimalist music, and of Adams’ own career; Become Ocean follows Adams’ Dark Waves, a slow, slate-blue-colored piece for orchestra and electronics, from 2007.

Listen to John Luther Adams

Reposted according to copyright notice from: Radio Open Source

The Underbelly Project: Hiding in the Light, Painting in the by Dark Jeff Ferrell

In art, history of art, visual arts on August 19, 2014 at 03:03

From: The Underbelly Project: Hiding in the Light, Painting in the by Dark Jeff Ferrell, Rhizomes, www.rhizomes.net

A few years ago, New York City street artist and artiste provocateur PAC was out doing what street artists sometimes do: drinking. As the night wound down and the drinks added up, a guy PAC had met earlier in the evening asked him if he wanted “to go somewhere cool.” PAC soon enough found himself in a cavernous, never completed, long-abandoned New York City subway station, four stories below street level. “I woke up the next morning feeling like I might have dreamt it all,” PAC remembers. But it wasn’t a dream. It was the beginning of what was to become the Underbelly Project. 

IMG_2254In this sense, the Underbelly Project is, if nothing else, some next stumbling step in the evolution of street art and its relation to the gallery world and the “world in general”—kind of like Australian artist Strafe’s stumbling step over and off a subway platform in the middle of the night, in the dark, while painting in the Underbelly. In fact, the trajectory of art culture right up to the Underbelly can itself be seen as a long drunken stumble, replete with thieving, borrowing, occupying, screwing up, and generally mining mistakes and missteps. Looking back from the perspective of the present, from inside art history books and well-mannered museums and galleries, it can seem like it was all straight and honest and clean: new ideas, individual brilliance, a firm march toward beauty or enlightenment or profit. In reality, the whole thing has been more a matter of picking up the scraps, and figuring out ways to make those bits and pieces into something that matters. Dada artist Hannah Hoch recycling the fashion photographs that crowded her little Berlin magazine office in the 1920s into a confrontation with the horrors of World War I, Trinidadians transforming old fifty-five gallon oil drums into Caribbean steel drum music, hip hop pioneers digging through old records, cutting and mixing James Brown yelps and Clyde Stubblefield drum solos to invent a new form of global music and culture—time and again art’s forward momentum has run on what was around, with the only question being what to make of it. Then there’s Kandinsky, Man Ray, Duchamp, Rauschenberg, Pollock, de Kooning—all artists whose breakthrough works, we now know, emerged out of mistakes and misperceptions, out of cracked printing presses and broken picture tubes (Lovelace, 1996). So as I say, it strikes me that mounting a multi-year, international art project in an abandoned subway station four stories underground, sans legality or audience or fresh air, in violation of the norms of contemporary gallery art and artistic profitability, and with no certain prospects as to what it might become, constitutes just one more gorgeous mistake, one more moment of making do with what’s at hand and under foot, one more stumbling step toward…well, toward what?

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: Rhizomes

Photography, Automatism, Mechanicity by Charles Palermo

In art, philology, photography on July 30, 2014 at 16:38

From: Photography, Automatism, Mechanicity by Charles Palermo, NONSITE, http://nonsite.org

Since photography’s beginnings, descriptions of photography have emphasized its mechanical character—the fact that it makes images without the kinds of human actions, such as drawing, traditionally associated with image making.  Philosophical objections to calling photographs signs or representations continue to center on this feature of photography.  Increasingly, as photography has gained wider acceptance as a medium for artistic work, the photographic image’s independence from certain kinds of action traditionally associated with image making has come to seem less like a liability or source of doubt and more like a source of artistic value for the medium.  Either way, and without forgetting the variety of work that can be accomplished with photographic materials and processes, we can speak of pictures made photographically—images of the world made in cameras—as having been made mechanically.  In this sense, “mechanically” clearly means something like “with a machine.”

Of course, cameras do not work purely mechanically.  The operator always plays a role in photography.  Photographs require human agency.  Further, agency has always been understood to depend on the agent’s intention.  That is, we generally exclude from discussions of agency those acts performed (or events precipitated) unintentionally.  If I leave a Polaroid camera on a windowsill, and a breeze from the open window causes the curtain to billow, and the billowing drapery knocks the camera to the floor, and the resulting jolt actuates the shutter causing the camera to make a picture, we may call the result a photograph, but a generally accepted account of agency will stop short of calling the making of the photograph an act.  That is because the act I did perform—setting the camera on the windowsill—cannot be understood (on the account I’ve given) as comprehending anything we could call my intention to take a photograph.  Much less this photograph, the one the Polaroid actually ejected after the fall.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: NONSITE.org

How to Navigate the Murky Waters of Workplace Friendships by Maria Popova

In art, ethics, philosophy, society on June 16, 2014 at 13:55

From: How to Navigate the Murky Waters of Workplace Friendships: Wisdom from Adam Smith and Aristotle by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings, http://www.brainpickings.org

Vernon, who echoes Rilke’s memorable words and notes that “the value of asking about friendship lies in the asking, not necessarily in coming to any incontestable conclusions,” argues that one of the defining characteristics of friendship is its inherent ambiguity — unlike social institutions of belonging like marriage or the workplace, it doesn’t operate by clear social norms or contractually defined roles, it comes with “no predetermined instructions for assembly or project for growth.” In fact, it can’t even be automatically derived from within these other social contracts — a marriage, Vernon notes, may or may not foster true friendship, and even more so a workplace. He laments:

Is not mistaking relationships for what they are not — that is being blind to their ambiguity — arguably the greatest cause of disappointment and failure? … The corollary of friendship’s ambiguity is that it is packed with promise and strewn with perils.

That ambiguity gets especially perilous, Vernon argues, at work, where our relationships with colleagues may take the guise of friendship but are ultimately shaped by other forces — forces that often have an implicit power dynamic. It’s a modern predicament especially poignant in our culture where “productivity often counts for more than perspicacity, the professional touch more than the personal touch, being praised more than being praiseworthy.” What this produces is an air of “pseudo-intimacy” between colleagues, whose relationships, at the very core, are premised on their usefulness to one another. That utilitarian basis, Vernon argues, is the “fundamental source of the ambiguity of many friendships at work”:

People’s utility at work extends way beyond just being a welcome distraction or even performing a role or a function. It goes to the heart of the working environment, underpinning why people are there at all. They work to do something, for a client, for a team, for a boss. And work is not without one key utility to the employee, namely, the paycheck. Ideally the work is rewarding, doubly so when there’s a sense of achieving something with friends. And if you receive what you believe you are due that generates friendly feeling too.

One of the trickiest workplace “friendships” is that between a boss and her employee, where there is an implicit imbalance of power, money, and status. Vernon turns to Aristotle, perhaps our civilization’s greatest philosopher of friendship, who divided such relationships into two parts — contractual, based on the terms of employment and the respective expectations regarding responsibility, time, and compensation, and goodwill, “the human bit of the working relationship, or the extent to which you’re prepared to gift your talents free of charge to the boss.”

Read the post

Reposted with permission from: Maria Popova

Is it Love? by Brian Kuan Wood

In art, economics, economy, information, politics, society, sociology on May 18, 2014 at 07:59

From: Is it Love? by Brian Kuan Wood, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com

Now it becomes easy to see how love translates to economic terms as a union based in mutual debt. When the debt is paid off or called in, the union dissolves. And now that pretty much everyone is in debt, love abounds! Professionals are moving back in with their parents, people are returning home to their countries to depend on their extended families, contracts are increasingly backed by personal relationships, and even the values of goods and currencies are backed less by bonds and legal tender and more by the trust and intimacy that gives them their character. Shared associations and affinities expressed over communication lines produce pockets of enormous value in an otherwise lonely ocean of random data streams. Musicians record reams of songs without ever thinking about wanting a record contract from major labels that are still struggling to understand how to make money off computer files.

Love is the most recently introduced member in the family of inflation and bloat. It is a burst of fresh air fed straight into the bubble. It gives the Ponzi scheme at least another decade before people start to think about cashing out. Remember when you would run out of time and replace that with energy? Push a little harder and move a little faster and you can trick time, because darling you’re a superhero. But when you run out of time and energy alike, you run into a problem. You need help. You need support. You need love and a bit of tenderness. Now, with the help of others, you can feed the machine again.

Without time and energy of your own, love is the conduit through which you extract the time and energy of others. You then start to take the shape of that loving conduit. But you have also become a professional lover—or a diabolically good flirt. You are a kind of Marilyn Monroe or Don Juan in the labor of other Marilyns and Dons. This arrangement actually makes for a beautifully collective endeavor so long as you can stay beautiful, tender, and kind to your lovers, and so long as they stay that way to you. This tenderness is a force of resynchronization. Maybe it is a new kind of force altogether. Maybe it is love time. Let’s inhale and exhale together.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: e-flux

Short Attention Span Theater by Peggy Nelson

In art, culture, information, media on April 3, 2014 at 23:40

From: Short Attention Span Theater by Peggy Nelson, Berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

In advertising, our craving for novelty and interruption, and our drive to find patterns and make sense of it all, are lassoed together in the Costco corral. Billboards interrupt our landscapes, exhortations interrupt our songs, short videos interrupt longer videos. Shopping even interrupts shopping, as your activity is tracked through your credit cards, and targeted ads appear on your Facebook page. Phrases, fonts, songs, colors, memes — all these and more have been copyrighted, trademarked, branded, stamped with association. Soon claims will not even need to be staked, as we discover and deploy the exact frequency of yellow that makes you buy. Everywhere these signals invert their surroundings into noise, and capture our attention, even if only for a moment. But those moments accumulate, and we sequence the chaos into patterns and narratives.

There’s precedent for interruptant art in culture-jamming. We can take existing messages and alter them, for art or anarchy. But we can do more that that; there’s plenty of “there” there. Every minute brings more of it. We can seed our own messages, our own forms, our own voices, hesitant and partial though they may be, into the cultural space. In accumulation, small signals may form, if not a presence, than a pressure in the day, a direction, a bent to one’s life.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: Berfrois

Heidegger and the case of domestic animals by Philippe Theophanidis

In animals, art, philosophy, psychology on March 2, 2014 at 20:52

From: Heidegger and the case of domestic animals by Philippe Theophanidis, Aphelis, http://aphelis.net

Although various interpretations are still subject to debate, it seems to be rather common to provide Goya’s dog with feelings or affective dispositions. But how to bear witness of the animal’s world without substituting our human experience to its own?

Here’s a short excerpt where Heidegger discusses the relationship we have with domestics animals: the fact that we are tempted to interpret their world even though, at the same time, it remains fundamentally foreign to our own.

However, if an original transposedness on man’s part in relation to the animal is possible, this surely implies that the animal also has its world. Or is this going too far? Is it precisely this ‘going too far’ that we constantly misunderstand? And why do we do so? Transposedness into the animal can belong to the essence of man without this necessarily meaning that we transpose ourselves into an animal’s world or that the animal in general has a world. And now our question becomes more incisive: In this transposedness into the animal, where is it that we are transposed to? What is it we are going along with, and what does this ‘with’ mean? What sort of going is involved here? Or, from the perspective of the animal, what is it about the animal which allows and invites human transposedness into it, even while refusing man the possibility of going along with the animal? From the side of the animal, what is it that grants the possibility of transposedness and necessarily refuses any going along with? What is this having and yet not having? (The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics World, Finitude, Solitude, [1983] 1995, p. 210 [307-309])

Read the full post

Reposted with permission from: Philippe Theophanidis

Scandinavian Style by Sophie Pinkham

In art, books, culture, economics, literature, politics, review, writers on January 20, 2014 at 17:33

From: Scandinavian Style by Sophie Pinkham, N + 1 Magazine, http://nplusonemag.com

Karl Ove Knausgaard’s 3,500-page, six-volume magnum opus, My Struggle, is made from the material of the author’s daily life. The book has been described as an autobiographical novel, sometimes with “novel” in scare quotes, to indicate its excessive truthfulness. Like the author, the narrator is called Karl Ove Knausgaard, and, like the author, he is a Norwegian writer who lives in Stockholm with his second wife, the poet Linda Bostrom. As Knausgaard has explained in many interviews, his intention in writing My Struggle was to be absolutely honest, no matter how much shame this might cause. Many of his relatives have been furious, and some have cut off all contact with him. His wife relapsed into manic depression after she read the first manuscript. Knausgaard’s decision to tell the whole painful, humiliating truth has been the subject of heated debate in Norway, where My Struggle has sold about one copy for every ten residents. (To date, only the first two volumes have been released in English; the third will appear next summer.)

For American readers, Knausgaard’s writing is striking in its freedom from telling details, well-wrought similes, conspicuous fine-tuning. His sentences don’t look like they’ve been reworked for months, and they haven’t: he wrote My Struggle fast, with minimal revision. He uses well-worn phrases that we tend to identify as clichés, and that elicit, in many readers, a desire to whip out the red pencil. In an otherwise positive review of My Struggle in the New Yorker, James Wood criticized the uneven quality of the prose and the use of clichés. But these are essential parts of the method. Knausgaard rejects chiseled sentences in favor of a cumulative effect, and the flatness, the openness, the sprawl provide the space necessary for his discursive treatment of everyday life, allowing the reader to exist inside the narrator’s mind, to see as he sees.

We never see Knausgaard engaging in any kind of income-generating activity, apart from writing novels and producing the occasional reader’s report for a publishing house. He doesn’t teach creative writing classes, or literature classes. He never talks to an agent, though he occasionally does interviews or goes to writers’ conferences. He doesn’t write book reviews for magazines or newspapers. He is not enrolled in a PhD program or a funded MFA program—welfare for American intellectuals. His wife, Linda, is a poet who never seems to engage in any income-generating activity at all. And yet they have an apartment in the center of Stockholm, and Knausgaard has an office—a room of his own. The Knausgaards are always eating crab and salmon, drinking good wine and cognac. They vacation in Spain, and never seem to worry about the financial welfare of their aging parents. Most shocking of all, they have an extravagant number of children—three—in the course of just four years. They never wonder who’ll pay for their children to go to college, probably because in Sweden and Norway, university is free. When Linda gives birth, Knausgaard ponders the existential aspects of this process, rather than worrying about the hospital bill. In Stockholm, as in New York, life is full of banality; but it’s a different banality, without credit card debt or massive student loans.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: N + 1 Magazine

Amiri Baraka: Ennobled by Coltrane

In art, audio, music, North America, poetry, writers on January 12, 2014 at 00:42

From: Amiri Baraka: Ennobled by Coltrane, Radio Open Source, http://www.radioopensource.org

Christopher Lydon talks to Amiri Baraka: Listen to the interview

barakaAmiri Baraka‘s death prompts me to repost a conversation we had about the music of John Coltrane, which inspired Baraka and ennobled the ambitions of his Black Arts movement. “Trane was our flag,” Baraka remembered back in 2007. “We could feel what he was doing. We heard our own search and travail in the opening of ‘Giant Steps.’”

In the summer of 1957 the poet then known as Leroi Jones chanced to live over the Five Spot in Manhattan when Coltrane and Thelonius Monk had a five-month learning-by-doing gig on the Bowery. Willem de Kooning and Jack Kerouac were also among the listeners and drinkers at the Five Spot. Baraka told me he missed barely a session of the music that culminated in the Monk-Coltrane Carnegie Hall concert in November, 1957 — a Blue Note best-seller only after the Library of Congress unearthed the tapes in 2005. This was early, lyrical Coltrane, at the dawn of the civil-rights era — “the rebellion” in Baraka’s phrasing, then and ever — for which Coltrane became a sort of soundtrack. For Baraka, Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” planted a bomb inside the sentimentality of Richard Rodgers and “The Sound of Music.” The hostility in Baraka’s listening had softened a lot by 2007, but Coltrane was still perhaps his highest representation of black art with social traction. Baraka follows Coltrane to the yowling last recordings — Coltrane’s ultimate showdown with self and life — with a shudder of shared pain. But if that is what Coltrane wanted us to hear, serious devotees have no choice. “You have to listen to it.”

“Ironic thing is,” Baraka said, “when I was locked up in 1967 in the rebellion in Newark, I found I was listening all the time to Coltrane’s tunes. And then late one afternoon, the jailer came by — it was July 17, 1967 — and said ‘your man Coltrane died today.’ When I was locked up. That amazed me!”

Reposted according to copyright notice from: Radio Open Source

We Are the Weather by Brian Kuan Wood

In art, economy, North America, philosophy, society, visual arts on December 4, 2013 at 20:47

From: We Are the Weather by Brian Kuan Wood, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com

The sublime of the nineteenth century was described by Kant as the feeling of watching an avalanche from a distance. A glacier crumbles, a frozen world breaks down, creating awe and shock and awe again, pleasure and horror at the same time—but always at a remove. Today the sublime of the nineteenth century has gone haywire. It’s more like a monster wave. A tsunami as freeze frame. A twister exhaling in slow motion, collapsing a block of South Asian textile factories. A moment of exhilarated foam suspended high up then crashing down to devastate your lives terminally. The razor-sharp spike of an algorithm when it crests, just barely high enough to brush up against the inside of the bubble.

The distance between the observer and the disaster has disappeared. In fact the observer and the disaster might even be the same thing. It’s as if when one bubble bursts, another one expands to become the atmosphere itself. We are standing above the remains and the rubble of the first, but still inside another enclosure that arrives as some sort of psychotic causality. Is there a way out of the market or are we only trapped inside with no escape? Yes and yes! The trouble has to do with being liberated and newly imprisoned in such quick succession. You are watching the storm and being blown and carried away by it at the same time. This is why you may often feel that you’re in competition with yourself, or that you are not yourself at all. You may be a wanderer above the mist, but you are also in the mist.2 The Caspar David Friedrich painting went gray. You think you may be God himself, but you still need Google Maps to find your way through the mist. The wanderer lost his phone and is just trying to get to a restaurant.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, Wall Street firms made some very interesting adjustments. It is well known that after slashing jobs by the thousands, salaries and bonuses for individual executives reached record highs. But how is this possible? Did executives simply stuff their own pockets with bailout money? Well, yes, but only through a much larger systemic adjustment by which Wall Street firms essentially diverted money away from infrastructure and support staff, clearing the way for a slimmer workforce of highly gifted, self-sufficient, and well-paid geniuses.

Around the same time as the crash, while artists and art institutions feared the worst, many have been surprised to find the field of art as a whole thriving, even in spite of savage cuts to public funding nearly everywhere. Institutionalized austerity seems to remake the artist into a carrier of a much more important technology—one that it becomes increasingly necessary to understand and access. And the sensitive artist still guilty from being an agent of property speculation and gentrification during the boom years of the creative class may not have seen the ruins of that cutesy economy in cities like Dublin.3 As a vanguard of resilience in the face of impoverishment, the artist who beautified low-income or derelict neighborhoods has only more to give, because he or she is also an originator of extra-economic technologies, of ways of living inside and outside of economic relations, of the conquering genius of exemplary survival, with some misshapen idealism that pours forth seemingly endlessly, with or without resources, over and above demands and expectations.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: e-flux

The Guardians: Tamara Natalie Madden

In art, culture, North America, visual arts on October 21, 2013 at 05:13

From: The Guardians by Karolle Rabarison: Interview with Tamara Natalie Madden, The Morning News, www.themorningnews.org

Jamaican-born Tamara Natalie Madden is a painter, writer, and photographer based in Atlanta. Her work has appeared in outlets such as the New York Times, the Jamaican Gleaner, and Upscale Magazine. Her paintings are in the permanent collections of Vanderbilt University and London’s Bridgeman Art Library.
The Morning News:

KEEPEROFILLUSIONSTMNLike you, I emigrated to the States at a young age, and people often ask if I feel more attached to—or more a part of—one country’s culture over the other’s. To which country, Jamaica or the U.S., do you feel you most belong?

Tamara Natalie Madden:

I feel 100% connected to Jamaica. I was not embraced when I came to America and had difficulty adjusting. I faced culture shock and a battle to maintain my identity. As a young child, I did not have a choice in coming to America, so I kept Jamaica in the safest place that I knew—my heart. Over the years, I have developed many solid relationships with people in America, some that I couldn’t do without, but I am inherently connected to my country and my people, and no matter where I live or how long I have been gone, I am very proud to call Jamaica home.


See the art and read the interview

Reposted with permission from: The Morning News

Every Day We Put the State on Trial by Ai Weiwei

In art, Asia, culture, government, human rights, internet, technology on October 21, 2013 at 05:01

From: Every Day We Put the State on Trial by Ai Weiwei, Policy Innovations, http://www.policyinnovations.org

For ages, artists have asked difficult questions about the human condition. It is their privilege to pursue such questions without needing to yield practical results. As individuals, and as a society, we can never really say we know everything. Society allows artists to explore what we don’t know in ways that are distinct from the approaches of science, religion, and philosophy. As a result, art bears a unique responsibility in the search for truth.
Art is a social practice that helps people to locate their truth. The truth itself, or the so-called truth presented by the media, has limitations. Manipulation of the truth does not lead to a lack of truth—it’s worse than no truth. Manipulated truths help the powerful, or advance the positions of the people who publicize them. So the arts and journalistic media play completely different roles.
I think it is important for artists to see themselves as privileged, and to bear some responsibility, because their job is about communication and expression. These are the core values of life, of being individuals. Most people don’t realize that they have to fight for this, but for us artists it’s necessary.

With 140 Chinese characters on Twitter, you can write a short story or novel. It’s not like in English, where you only have room for one question or piece of information. So we’re very privileged. But at the same time, I have been censored countless times for blogging on Sina Weibo, sharing my opinions, and publishing the names and stories of children killed during the Sichuan earthquake. The authorities delete my sentences. When they find that I’m writing too much, they shut off my IP. So I have to use another one and write under another user name. Sometimes in one month I have to use a hundred different IP addresses. Still, whatever I do, they’ll try to recognize me from the way I talk and the name I take—variations on my name like “Ai Weiwei,” “Ai Wei,” “Ai” and so on.

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: Policy Innovations

The Death of Romance in the Shadow of the Colossus by Jesse Miksic

In anthropology, art, history, mythology, technology, visual arts on October 13, 2013 at 18:05

From: The Death of Romance in the Shadow of the Colossus by Jesse Miksic, Berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

Myths have no life of their own. They wait for us to give them flesh. If one man in the world answers their call, they give us their strength in all its fullness. We must preserve this myth, and ensure that its slumber is not mortal so that its resurrection is possible. (Albert Camus, Prometheus in the Underworld, 1947)

We are drowning in myths.

Of course, I don’t mean myths like primitive folk stories transcribed in anthropology textbooks, transmitted in a way that no shaman could have foreseen. Those myths are under glass, specimens preserved for our edification and amusement. Some commentators – like the great Claude Levi-Strauss – didn’t bother acknowledging any other definition of the term.

I’m talking about myths in a more general sense… myths as stories that tie our random, noisy, contingent lives into meaningful narratives. These myths may serve as articles of faith, or as aspirations codified into archetypes, or as warnings to those who would repeat our half-remembered mistakes. I’m talking about myths as the semantic sinew connecting our individual identities with our groaning, patchwork collective consciousness.

This is an essay about how a particular video game – an acclaimed 2005 adventure game called Shadow of the Colossus – unmistakably echoes Romanticism (specifically, German Romanticism and its related movements). Quite a bit of second-hand research has gone into this analysis, and I’m ecstatic about the results, but the whole mess would have very little meaning if I wasn’t talking about something bigger than a particular reading of a particular game, according to this particular player at this particular moment.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: Berfrois

Woody Allen and Wealth by Lisa Szefel

In aesthetics, art, film, society on July 30, 2013 at 18:05

From: Woody Allen and Wealth by Lisa Szefel, The Montreal Review, http://www.themontrealreview.com

Indeed, in a career that spans almost five decades, Woody Allen’s oeuvre has evinced an ethos that eschewed greed, materialism, ostentatious display, as well as unearned and undeserved ease. The ultra-rich had no taste, know-it-alls deserved to be brought down a peg, while the self-effacing, meaning-seeking, long-suffering individuals of modest means served as moral anchors. However, during a four-year interlude, from 1996 until 2000, Allen moderated his equal opportunity skewering of affectation, arrogance, and ignorance on both the left and the right. Softening his lens on the entitled rich, Allen went from critic to apologist. In doing so, he anticipated then refracted Americans’ fascination with New York, cash, and conspicuous consumption during the phase of triumphalist capitalism that in some ways ended with the 2008 crash. The turn demonstrates how one of the greatest film makers and astute cultural commentators of our time was transformed by an era aptly characterized in Matt Taibbi’s appraisal of Goldman Sachs: “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” When Allen returned to his former form, this time with more mastery and insight, Americans in the post-Cold War, post-economic bubble era followed in greater numbers than ever before.

A walk through Allen’s films reveals the extent to which money, or the lack thereof, has played a recurring, often central, role, determining plot, character, and setting, from the beginning. In his directorial debut, the mockumentary “Take the Money and Run,” Virgil Starkwell steals pens, snatches purses, hustles pool, counterfeits money, and robs everything from banks and gumball machines to veal and breading. “Under constant economic pressure,” he is an all-around failure subject to extortion who spends his life in and out of jails too unlucky to even make the “Ten Most Wanted” list because, as he laments, “It’s who you know.” In the end Virgil receives an eight hundred year sentence in federal prison. Asked if he regrets a life of crime, Virgil responds: “I think that crime definitely pays and that, you know, it’s a great job. The hours are good. You’re your own boss, and you travel a lot. You get to meet interesting people. I just think it’s a good job in general.” While appreciating the perquisites of a man of independence and means, he lacked the privilege and knowledge needed to amass money; he just took it and ran until he ran completely out of luck.

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: The Montreal Review

Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson (a.k.a. RAX) by Philippe Theophanidis

In art, documentary, environment, Europe, photography on June 28, 2013 at 21:48

From: Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson (a.k.a. RAX) by Philippe Theophanidis, Aphelis, http://aphelis.net Ragnar Axelsson website: http://www.rax.is/

Last Days of the Arctic, Photos © Ragnar Axelsson, www.RAX.is 2010.

The (above) photo was shot in the small town of Ittoqortoormit (sometimes spelled Illoqqortoormiut), the only permanent settlement in the region of Scoresby Sund. This geographical region is a fjord system on the East coast of Greenland and is said to be the largest fjord system in the world (see Archaeology and Environment in the Scoresby Sund Fjord, p. 7). In 2012, the total population of Ittoqqortoormiit was 477 habitants (see Statistics Greenland: “Population in towns and settlements July 1.st”). The town is located on the 70th parallel north. As a mean of comparison, the Arctic Circle begins at the 66th parallel north (see Wikipedia). The farthest north I have ever lived was on the 55th parallel. Ragnar Axelsson has said of this dog: “He stood up, shook the snow off, then lay down and let the snow cover him again.” (LENS: “Showcase: Black and Very White” December 7, 2009; photo no. 9). In an email exchange with him, I asked about the context in which this photograph was taken. He provided the following, additional details (I added the link): The photograph was taken in a blizzard. The glacier storms in Greenland are called Piteraq and can be so strong that houses are sometimes blown away. It has not happened for many years. … Ragnar Axelsson, also known as RAX, is a renowned, award-winning freelance photographer born in Iceland in 1958. He has been documenting the vanishing lifestyles of various Arctic communities for the past 30 years. Here’s what he has to say about Greenland in particular: Greenland, the biggest Island in the world, is a pearl with harsh elements. Inuites have been there for more than 4.000 years living on the land. In the old days Inuites where living in igloos and small cabins made of stones. It was a struggle for food everyday; hunting birds, fish, whales, seals, walruses and polar bears. Every single part of the hunted animal was being used. Skin for clothing, meat was eaten. The old hunting tradition is fading away as new posibilities in the modern world are taking over. (source: Fotopub.com) … Born and raised near a glacier in Iceland, he has seen the effects of global warming, both at home and in his trips. “One can definitely see it when travelling to the same places, 5 or 10 years later. The landscape is constantly changing. I did not realize the effects at first, I just wanted to go and shoot beautiful photos. I wanted to go where nobody had gone, challenging the cold, the distances and the weather. So many photographers just want to sit around in Africa, naked in the sun,” he joked. Read the post Reposted with permission from: Philippe Theophanidis

Art and the Cultural Turn by Irmgard Emmelhainz

In art, culture, politics, society on June 17, 2013 at 19:25

From: Art and the Cultural Turn: Farewell to Committed, Autonomous Art? by Irmgard Emmelhainz, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com

Nowadays, artists’ voices are thought to be important in giving shape to society, and art is considered to be useful. Moreover, the state, the private sector and society attribute to art a decisive political role as on the one hand, they invest in culture with the purpose generating political and economic surplus value. On the other hand, art and cultural practices are now part of the same network of strategies and questions as social movements are (this space is known as the “Infosphere”). In a context in which the creative, political, and mediatic fields are intrinsically linked, contemporary cultural practices point toward a new social order in which art has merged with life, privileging lived experience, collective communication and performative politics. In turn, the commodification of culture and its use as a resource—as well as the fusion of art, politics, and media—have had a significant impact in the way in which capitalist economies operate. A consequence has been the predominance of immaterial or cognitive labor over industrial production. Not to say that industrial production has ceased to exist, on the contrary, it has increased more than ever and for the most part it has been transferred to third-world countries. The prevalence of cognitive or immaterial work in contemporary capitalism implies that the main source of surplus value is the production and dissemination of signs. In other words,“creative’ work” has been injected to all areas of economic life. Immaterial labor also means the production of social life as lifestyles, and forms of life—a new form of the common at the center of which culture is located.1

In this context, the production of contemporary art, as Brian Kuan Wood and Anton Vidokle pointed out, has been foreclosed by a network of protocols dictating the forms and means of production of art circulating in exhibitions, galleries, biennials, and fairs. And while artists may address exhibition politics as a theme in their work, they are limited in terms of producing something outside of the consensual barriers placed on exhibition politics. This is due to the existence of a systemic enclosure which extends well beyond the consensus of the art world: art is fused with political sensibilities that exploit art’s diplomatic potential, as these political sensibilities consider culture to be a form of social capital, a resource. Thus, a lot of money is put into play.2 Under these conditions, is there any room left for autonomous, committed art?3

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: e-flux

The Weaver’s Dance: Briana Blasko by Karolle Rabarison

In art, Asia, culture, photography on June 12, 2013 at 08:29

From: The Weaver’s Dance: Briana Blasko by Karolle Rabarison, The Morning News, http://www.themorningnews.org/gallery/the-weavers-dance

In 1995, San Francisco-born Briana Blasko transplanted to New York City, where she earned a BFA in Photography from Tisch School of the Arts while working at the Annie Leibovitz Studio. Her photographs have appeared in Dance Magazine, the New York Times, India Perspectives, and numerous other publications. These days, Blasko is based in New Delhi and documents textile and dance throughout India.

Briana Blasko:

I have been working as a photographer for 13 years with a specialization in dance photography for the past 9 years. Frequent trips to India since 2003 have informed the conception of this book project through a deep appreciation for the arts and crafts of Indian textiles and dance. For over three and half years, I visited dance schools and festivals across India to research various forms of classical, folk, and tribal dances. Simultaneously, I visited weaving villages in these states to document the costumes and textiles used by the dancers.

Read the post

Reposted with permission from: Morning News

 

 

Emancipation of the Sign by Franco Berardi Bifo

In art, economics, languages, philosophy, poetry on June 6, 2013 at 20:38

From:  Emancipation of the Sign: Poetry and Finance During the Twentieth Century by Franco Berardi Bifo, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com/

Money and language have something in common: they are nothing and yet they move everything. They are nothing but symbols, conventions, flatus vocis, but they have the power to persuade human beings to act, to work, and to transform physical things:

Money makes things happen. It is the source of action in the world and perhaps the only power we invest in. Perhaps in every other respect, in every other value, bankruptcy has been declared, giving money the power of some sacred deity, demanding to be recognized. Economics no longer persuades money to behave. Numbers cannot make the beast lie down and be quiet or sit up and do tricks. Thus, as we suspected all along, economics falsely imitates science. At best, economics is a neurosis of money, a symptom contrived to hold the beast in abeyance … Thus economics shares the language of psychopathology, inflation, depression, lows and heights, slumps and peaks, investments and losses, and economy remains caught in manipulations of acting stimulated or depressed, drawing attention to itself, egotistically unaware of its own soul. Economists, brokers, accountants, financiers, all assisted by lawyers, are the priests of the cult of money, reciting their prayers to make the power of money work without imagination.1

Financial capitalism is based on the autonomization of the dynamics of money, but more deeply, on the autonomization of value production from the physical interaction of things.

The passage from the industrial abstraction of work to the digital abstraction of world implies an immaterialization of the labor process.

Jean Baudrillard proposed a general semiology of simulation based on the premise of the end of referentiality, in the economic as well as the linguistic field. In Le miroir de la production (1973), Baudrillard writes: “In this sense need, use value and the referent ‘do not exist.’ They are only concepts produced and projected into a generic dimension by the development of the very system of exchange value.”2′

But the analogy between economy and language should not mislead us: although money and language have something in common, their destinies do not coincide, as language exceeds economic exchange. Poetry is the language of non-exchangeability, the return of infinite hermeneutics, and the return of the sensuous body of language.

I’m talking of poetry here as an excess of language, as a hidden resource which enables us to shift from one paradigm to another.

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: e-flux

Books of Ice: Sculptures by Basia Irland

In art, books, ecology, nature, video, visual arts on March 12, 2013 at 15:32

From: Books of Ice: Sculptures by Basia Irland & Text by Kathleen Dean Moore, Orion Magazine, http://www.orionmagazine.org

Watch the video & Read the article

Balls of ice sowed seeds of life on Earth. That’s what comets are, just clumps of ice holding interstellar rocks and dust. But in that dust are amino acids and nucleotides that build living things. Many scientists think that this might be one way life began on Earth, 4 billion years ago, when the spinning arms of the galaxy cast comets over the planet, comets and comets and comets, protolife smacking onto the broken lava plains, until basins gathered the meltwater into oceans, and the oceans nurtured onrushing life.

Ice sows ice, too. The first grains gleamed in white sunshine, throwing back the sun’s heat and cooling their own small shadows. More ice formed in the cool places, and the shine of it cooled a larger shadow, until the reflectivity of the growing ice sheets cooled the whole planet, finally draped in dazzling layers of ice. Now the glaciers that remain in mountain valleys give life to rivers—the Ganges, the Fraser, the Colorado—as meltwater slides down blue rills and finally cuts a channel through gravel and till.

Reposted with permission from: Orion Magazine

Patterns in art and nature by Philip Ball

In aesthetics, art, biology, nature, photography, science, visual arts on February 24, 2013 at 01:03

From: Patterns in art and nature by Philip Ball, http://www.philipball.co.uk

Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa, near Mull in Scotland, has inspired artists (this is Turner) and composers – Felix Mendelsohn wrote his orchestral piece named after the cave in 1829. But it also made an impression on an awestruck Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Society, when he sailed to Staffa in 1772 during an expedition to Iceland. This is what he said:

    “Compared to this what are the cathedrals or palaces built by men! Mere models or playthings, as diminutive as his works will always be when compared with those of nature. What now is the boast of the architect! Regularity, the only part in which he fancied himself to exceed his mistress, Nature, is here found in her possession, and here it has been for ages undescribed.”

Banks had noticed that the entrance to the cave was flanked by these great pillars of rock. Close up, you can see the regularity that Banks spoke about: hexagonal cross-sections.

Now, this of course has its counterpart on the west coast of Ireland itself: the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, built in legend by the giant Finn MacCool.

There are something like 40,000 pillars of rock in the giant’s Causeway, and they generally have this extraordinarily regular and geometric honeycomb structure. When we make an architectural pattern like this, it is through careful planning and construction, with each individual element cut to shape and laid in place. At Fingal’s Cave and the Giant’s Causeway, the forces of nature have conspired to produce such a pattern without, we must presume, any blueprint or foresight or design. This is an example of spontaneous pattern formation.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: Philip Ball

Must We Mean What We Say? by Charles Petersen

In academia, art, ethics, music, philosophy, poetry, theory on February 17, 2013 at 21:46

From: Must We Mean What We Say? On Stanley Cavell by Charles Petersen, n + 1, http://nplusonemag.com

Stanley Cavell, born in 1926 and now 86 years old, is one of the greatest American philosophers of the past half-century. He was also something of a musical prodigy and like many prodigies his accomplishments struck him as a matter of fraud.

Cavell’s larger argument is this: If we must bring the world with us to understand a definition, then we cannot define away the ambiguity in words, for the world we bring with us is already hopelessly ambiguous. Hence the force of Cavell’s at first glance profound but on closer inspection obscure question: “Must We Mean What We Say?” A philosopher who limits the meaning of her words to carefully set out definitions, attempting to root out all ambiguity, in effect says, “I say, and you should hear, only what I mean.” Cavell insists that language cannot be limited in this way. Language, to Cavell, is ambiguous not because it is imperfect, awaiting precise definition, but because we do not all see in the same way; it is a reflection of our basic predicament as distinct human beings. Thus, we must dare to mean what we say, take responsibility for all the meanings our words might be taken to have—even if those meanings go beyond what we understand as our intentions—because in our unintentional (though perhaps meaningful) slips, and the misapprehensions, mistakes, and insights of those with whom we speak, we bring together not just words but worldviews.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: n + 1

Romanticism by Jane O’Grady

In art, culture, Europe, literature, writers on February 4, 2013 at 19:23

From: Romanticism; a piece composed for a concert of German Romantic Music by Jane O’Grady, openDemocracy, www.opendemocracy.net

Romanticism – lightning flashes, storms, ruined castles, the forest, hunting-horns, knights and ghosts from ancient legends; wild love and wilder despair, rugged mountains, waterfalls, the elusive, tantalising blue flower, tremulous nightingales, death.

Romanticism is a reaction against the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment had emerged in cosmopolitan Paris and London, Romanticism from the small states in Germany. It was impatient with urbanity, doubtful that the clear light of reason would enable all humans universally to converge on a common truth. Surely reason is too rigid a structure for the rich amorphousness of reality, and universalism too monolithic!    Romanticism trumpets emotion as against reason, it lauds what is natural and untamed above the constructed and artificial; relishes embodied particularity, mystery, the dark. And sings the wonders of the wild.

Where we all went wrong, said Rousseau, was when someone first enclosed a plot of ground, asserted ‘this is mine’, and persuaded others that it belonged to him (the encloser) rather than to everyone. That was the start of civilisation, yet civilisation, rather than being the nurturer of virtue, stifles it — humans began to be competitive, conformist, cunning, sham. The original sin was obedience, not disobedience. But now — out of the garden into the forest!

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: openDemocracy

Henry Miller on Art, War, and the Future of Mankind by Maria Popova

In art, civilisation, culture, history, literature, society, war, writers on February 4, 2013 at 19:16

From: Henry Miller on Art, War, and the Future of Mankind by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings, http://www.brainpickings.org

The problem of power, what to do with it, how to use it, who shall wield it or not wield it, will assume proportions heretofore unthinkable. We are moving into the realm of incalculables and imponderables in our everyday life just as for the last few generations we have been accustoming ourselves to this realm through the play of thought. Everything is coming to fruition, and the harvest will be brilliant and terrifying. To those who look upon such predictions as fantastic I have merely to point out, ask them to imagine, what would happen should we ever unlock the secret patents now hidden in the vaults of our unscrupulous exploiters. Once the present crazy system of exploitation crumbles, and it is crumbling hourly, the powers of the imagination, heretofore stifled and fettered, will run riot. The face of the earth can be changed utterly overnight one we have the courage to concretize the dreams of our inventive geniuses. Never was there such a plentitude of inventors as in this age of destruction. And there is one thing to bear in mind about the man of genius — even the inventor — usually he is on the side of humanity, not the devil. It has been the crowning shame of this age to have exploited the man of genius for sinister ends. But such a procedure always acts as a boomerang: ultimately the man of genius always has his revenge.

Read the post

Reposted with permission from: Maria Popova

Woody Guthrie at 100 with Amy Goodman

In art, history of art, interview, music, North America, politics, video on January 29, 2013 at 18:32

From: Woody Guthrie at 100: Pete Seeger, Billy Bragg, Will Kaufman Honor the “Dust Bowl Troubadour” with Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, http://www.democracynow.org

“Woody’s original songs, the songs that he wrote back in the 1930s … with these images of people losing their houses to the banks, of gamblers on the stock markets making millions, when ordinary working people can’t afford to make ends meet, and of people dying for want of proper free healthcare, you know, this song could have been written anytime in the last five years, really, in the United States of America,” says Bragg, who has long been inspired by Guthrie.

WILL KAUFMAN: Some of those Dust Bowl ballads come out of, really, his late teens and early twenties, you know. Then he joined about half-a-million other migrants heading westwards towards California, where they had heard there was lots of work out there—and, of course, they were wrong. And it’s there in California when Woody gets—he sort of hooks up with the right people, I suppose, and gets involved in the Popular Front out there in California, and this is the beginning of—really, of his politicization. As you said, began writing columns for the People’s World out there and—in Los Angeles, and got a show on a progressive radio station, KFVD, out in Los Angeles, and begins to circulate around the migrant camps, where the Okies, as they were pejoratively called, were living in old dwellings of tar, paper and tin and old packing crates and the bodies of abandoned cars, under railroad bridges, by the side of rivers and what have you, and getting their heads broken when they dared to organize into unions. And Woody began to witness that and began to write about it. And so, he began to see music as a political weapon then.

Watch the video

Reposted according to copyright notice from: Democracy Now! website

 

 

What is Poetry by Juan Tomas

In art, languages, poetry on January 9, 2013 at 23:59

From: What is Poetry by Juan Tomas, The Montreal Review, http://www.themontrealreview.com

To consider a question such as what is poetry, is tantamount to asking what art is, or what is music. Depending upon what period in man’s linear history, and in which culture we examine, the answer might be as varied as the nuances of a sun setting, or the shape of waves rolling in over a beach. If we examine any poem from the past, we will inevitably impose upon it our own twenty-first century interpretation, which might not coincide with the original contemporary view of its origin. Inspite of these obstacles, this essay examines poetic language and why it has been interpreted as an expression of some higher truth. With that in mind, this essay will demonstrate, through one specific poem, that poetry uses language to express the emotion of the human soul. It is therefore a window to the essence of its author, and of mankind’s collective soul.

If it can be said that poetry is a window to the essence of its author, then it is only proper that an examination be made of what constitutes a poet. Percy Bysshe Shelly makes a suggestion regarding that question in his remarks for an essay entitled, The Four Ages of Poetry from the opus A Defense of Poetry. Shelly writes that “In the infancy of society every author is necessarily a poet, because language itself is poetry; and to be a poet is to apprehend the true and the beautiful, in a word the good which in the relation, subsisting perception and expression.”(348) We know that language is the medium, or the means by which a poet expresses poetry, however, we might also ask why poetry and not prose is so appealing. Do the elements of rhythm and rhyme found in poetry give it some magical credibility, some appealing attraction? Do we believe a pronouncement made in rhyme over simple prose?

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: The Montreal Review

Zojoji Temple in Snow by Philippe Theophanidis

In art, Asia, history of art, visual arts on January 3, 2013 at 16:49

From: Zojoji Temple in Snow, four prints by Kawase Hasui by Philippe Theophanidis, Aphelis, http://aphelis.net

HASUI_1925_Zojoji_Temple_Snow-620x908

Hasui Kawase (1883-1957) was a prominent printmaker in the shin-hanga movement who worked closely (but not exclusively) with the famous publisher Shōzaburō Watanabe. From The British Museum:

In 1907 he began studying Western-style art, especially landscape, at the Hakuba-kai (White Horse Society) and took guidance from Okada Saburosuke (1869-1939); subsequently in 1910 he became a pupil of Kaburaki Kiyokata who gave him the art name Hasui, though the greatest influence on his style and palette was the ‘Nihonga’ painter Imamura Shiko (1880-1916). At this time he earned his living through designing ‘sashi-e’, magazine illustrations, posters and patterns for sashes. Through Kiyokata he became known to Watanabe Shozaburo, who published his first landscape prints in 1918-19. These in turn were first inspired by ‘Eight Views of Omi’ by his fellow-pupil Shinsui, which had aroused Hasui’s interest in single-sheet prints. From then on Hasui worked very extensively as a designer of landscape prints for Watanabe, and from almost the beginning inspired the carvers and printers to produce newer and subtler efforts, especially in the expression of snow.

Read the post

Reposted with permission from: Philippe Theophanidis

Ancient religious texts among the 25,000 new images online

In archaeology, art, books, history, information science, religion, research on January 3, 2013 at 16:25

From: Ancient religious texts among the 25,000 new images online, Past Horizons Archaeology, http://www.pasthorizonspr.com

Launched in December 2011,  the Cambridge Digital Library has already attracted tens of millions of hits on its website. Among the 25,000 new images being made freely available are a 2,000-year old copy of  The Ten Commandments on the famous Nash Papyrus and also one of the most remarkable ancient copies of the New Testament; the Codex Bezae.

While the latest release focuses on faith traditions – including important texts from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism – many of the manuscripts being made available are also of great political, cultural and historical importance.

One, the tenth-century Book of Deer, is widely believed to be the oldest surviving document from Scotland, and it contains the earliest known examples of written Gaelic.

A thirteenth-century Life of Edward the Confessor provides an account of the early English saint and king, produced by a later king for political purposes, and boasts masterpieces of English illumination, including a very graphic portrayal of the Battle of Hastings.

The extensive Cairo Genizah collections, which are being gradually released through the digital library, provide fascinating glimpses into the everyday life of a Jewish community in Egypt over a period of a thousand years. Based at the crossroads of trade and intellectual exchange, the archive of this community represents one of the most important sources for understanding the wider medieval world.

The Library is also beginning to release digital versions of its Islamic and Sanskrit collections, which include both secular and religious texts. The Islamic manuscripts collection includes some of the earliest surviving Qur’ans, while the Library’s Sanskrit manuscripts cover all the major religious traditions of South Asia and include some of the oldest known manuscripts of key religious texts.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: Past Horizons

Zen and the Art of Poetry: An Interview with Jane Hirshfield by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler

In art, books, Europe, interview, literature, North America, poetry, religion, theory, writers on January 1, 2013 at 19:48

From: Zen and the Art of Poetry: An Interview with Jane Hirshfield by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler, AGNI online, http://www.bu.edu/agni/index.html

IK and KT: Were you a Buddhist first and then a poet, or a poet first and then a Buddhist?

JH: If I think about this, the question begins to feel constrictive. At any moment is a person “this” or “that?” To label oneself is to close off the possibilities of being. But in the sense you are asking, the ordinary, narrative sense, poetry came first. I began to write poems as soon as I learned to write. After my first book came out, when I was 29, my mother pulled out of a bottom dresser drawer a big piece of paper I was given, probably around second grade, on which was written: “I want to be a writer when I grow up.” I have no idea where that came from. But writing was the way for me to craft a self I could unfold on my own, in private, and to find a life that was mine, one that didn’t belong to others.

Still, the two paths have intertwined for me from the beginning—the first book of poetry I bought, from a stationary store on East 20th Street, was a one dollar Peter Pauper Press book of Japanese haiku. I was maybe eight years old. I don’t know what drew me so strongly to those poems or what I could have seen in them at that age, but I recognized something that I absolutely knew I had to have in my life. The path has also been circular. Poetry brought me to Zen, and Zen returned me to poetry. In 1985, I took on the co-translation that became The Ink Dark Moon, a collection of poems by the two great women poets of classical-era Japan, whose work I had first read in a handful of English translations when I was 17. Their poetry, steeped in both eros and Buddhist views, was part of what turned me toward Zen as well as part of what shaped my sense of poems—how they move, what work they do. I had no idea then that I would work further on these women’s poems; if anything I thought that a path not taken. I did know that I wanted the book to exist, and I waited 15 years for someone else to translate it, before suddenly finding the chance to do it myself after all. So you see, each mode—poetry, Zen—has always returned me to the other. Thus far, they have been the left foot and the right foot of my life. It may, I suppose, look exotic. But from the inside, this life has felt like the most ordinary course possible, one choice simply following another.

IK and KT: In your essay, “The Question of Originality,” you write: “Originality requires the aptitude for exile.” Can you talk about any experiences of exile you may have had, and how they may have fed your work?

JH: I think the sense of exile I have always felt led me to practice Zen. I should add that Zen is what was congenial to me, but I certainly don’t believe there’s only one correct spiritual path—there are as many spiritual paths as there are people, and probably sparrows and frogs and pebbles as well. Still, for me, the not uncommon sense of being exiled from presence in the world brought me to both Zen and poetry. Perhaps urban, contemporary life is already an exile of a kind, perhaps it was more familial, perhaps it was spiritual. There is a Taoist poet in Women in Praise of the Sacred, Yu Xuanji, who said at the end of one poem, “Everywhere the wind carries me is home.” That was not something I felt as a child.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: AGNI

Wine and Spirits: Baudelaire’s Orgy and Attention by Michael Kinnucan

In art, education, philosophy, poetry, religion, society, writers on December 21, 2012 at 18:06

From: Wine and Spirits: Baudelaire’s Orgy and Attention by Michael Kinnucan, Hypocrite Reader, http://hypocritereader.com

Weil’s description of efforts of attention is an attempt to silence the future by turning us away from the objects of attention and toward attention as such. No time is wasted so long as it is spent attentively; to the question “what should I attend to?” Weil answers that the question itself is always a mistake, that it is sufficient simply to attend. The suspicion that one may be attending to the wrong thing is precisely what will prevent you from ever attending; let the question go, let your moments go, find your way out of time for a while.

In Baudelaire’s formalized conception of drunkenness, one can get drunk on almost anything: wine, poetry or virtue, it doesn’t matter at all. Drunkenness is defined by its opposite, and its opposite is consciousness of time as a ticking clock. We are temporary, temporal beings, and all the clocks tick us away; we have only so much time to spend. How shall we spend it? By forgetting that. If Weil tells us: always attend, because there’s only one thing to attend to, Baudelaire tells us: always get drunk, because there’s only one thing to forget.

Baudelaire’s endless fascination with the figure of the poet can be read as an inquiry into the question: What does it take to “marry the crowd”? Baudelaire’s poet is “accursed,” loathed by his family, misunderstood by his readers, absolutely alone; all this is not evidence of despair but a prerequisite for intoxication. The proud bourgeois cannot marry the crowd because he is too full of himself, too busy; he has too much to lose. He does not have a free and arbitrary will, only petty interests. The poet, to plunge at every movement, must have nothing to lose in the fall. Even Baudelaire’s famous irony, most vicious when turned against himself, reflects not world-weary bitterness but the pleasure of crowds. Irony serves the poet as self-flagellation serves the monk: it humbles the flesh to free the spirit. The poet lacerates his ego because his ego is what holds him back from the crowd.

Read the article

Reposted with permission from: Hypocrite Reader

%d bloggers like this: