Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pina Bausch

This summer sudiences across Europe have been watching the Wim Wenders tribute film to German choreographer Pina Bausch, who died two years ago. I have not discovered any clues about when or if the movie will be distributed in the U.S.

On my own miniature scale (here and here, in accordance with my own miniature powers) I also made attempts to mark the loss of this irreplaceable artist – even though my little tributes, when I look back at them, seem more than anything to resemble those goggle-eyed stuffed animals lashed to traffic barriers at the sites of car crashes.

But then just today I also came across some entirely unfamiliar & entirely ravishing photos of Pina Bausch from the late 1960s, a time when she was still actively dancing and only dreaming about becoming a dance-maker.

The source for these is an archive at deSingel, a cultural center in Antwerp where Pina Bausch frequently toured with her company, Tantztheater Wuppertal. The final photo, below, was also taken at deSingel – just a short time before she died in June 2009.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Italian Decorative Patterns

I just came across a small chunky squarish hardcover by Pepin van Roojen published in 2008 by Pepin Press in Amsterdam: Decorative Patterns from Italy. The book is beautifully printed on heavy shiny coated paper. The patterns themselves are in nice jarring colors with lots of sharp-edged intensity. "Most are taken from floor mosaics and wall friezes in Gothic and Renaissance churches, restored and digitized for contemporary use."

Source for these samples is the CD-ROM of images included with the book.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Leanne Shapton

I used some of Leanne Shaptone's painted lettering as my share of Silas & Eppie this morning.

We never know ahead of time how the individual images we post side by side will appear once we see them combined, but today I liked how strong the black and red writing looked alongside my daughter's photo of a cube-shaped light-filled entrance hall with wallpaper on the ceiling. Then I tracked Gee, Thanks back to its creator's web site in order to make a link. Then I got distracted from the Silas & Eppie task. Instead began poking around among various samples of Shapton's work, including illustrations from three of her highly wonderful books: Native Trees of Canada, Was She Pretty? and Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry. My best discovery was a folder called Pattern Paintings. I certainly do wish that I could see these paintings (watercolor or finger-paint or whatever) reproduced as textiles. Below, a few to admire.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Connoisseurs of Certainty

Yale University Press has published Janet Malcolm's new book. Iphigenia in Forest Hills : Anatomy of a Murder Trial. It concerns a sensational real-life drama set against the ordinary background of the Forest Hills neighborhood in the ordinary American town of Queens, New York.

A young mother and father going through a divorce were negotiating custody of their four-year-old. Unexpectedly and abruptly a family law judge ordered the child to be taken from the mother and given to the father. Shortly after the transfer took place  by force, with the help of police  the father was murdered by a "contract killer" with ties to the mother.

Malcolm (below) spent seven weeks attending the murder trial at Queens Supreme Courthouse. In the book she offers profiles of all the participants, interviews with many of them, and her usual cautious & nuanced speculations about what actually might be going on in front of her eyes. But she never claims that she KNOWS what is going on – even though all the other players on this stage are all-too ready to express extreme (and conflicting) certainties.

Below (in italics) I've set out a few brief examples of the way Malcolm insists on making her version of the story more complicated rather than less complicated  a sort of anti-journalism, and the trademark of her style since she began to publish widely back in the Eighties.

In her first tentative step into the court system that would swallow her, Borukhova [the mother, above and below] did call the police, but stepped back after Malakov [the father] was arrested; like many battered women, she did not press charges. However, on June 24, 2005, citing further abuse, she requested and received a temporary order of protection from the Queens Family Court, whereby Daniel was ordered to stay away from her and Michelle or be liable to criminal prosecution. Now she had crossed the line between the private and the public. She had asked the state for help, and the state had given it, but, in exchange for its protection, had exacted control over a part of her life  her motherhood  that was as firm in its way as the "stay away" directive to Malakov.

"The prosecution does have an overwhelming advantage," he said. "The jury walks in and figures the defendant wouldn't be there if he wasn't guilty. They don't trust the defense lawyer. And if there is any bias by the judge, if there is any body language by the judge that supports that bias, it becomes almost impossible to overcome." Scaring
[defense attorney] spoke of Hanophy's bias by body language: "During the prosecution's summation, Hanophy sat behind his desk intently listening. During the defense summations he walked around looking bored."

But Leventhal
[the prosecutor] was letting no opportunity to buttress his case go by. He knew that juries want more than evidence to convict; they want to be certain that the person [in this case the mother, as shown again, above] they are sending to prison or to another world is an evil creature as well as an evil-doer.

It was as inevitable that Borukhova would revenge herself on Daniel for the loss of Michelle as that Clytemnestra would revenge herself on Agamemnon for the loss of Iphigenia.

Joseph and Nalia [relatives of the murdered man] evidently felt no impropriety in speaking unguardedly to a journalist [Malcolm herself, seen again above]. Murder violates the social contract, and makes a mockery of privacy. As they had eagerly cooperated with the prosecution, so they eagerly told me their stories  as they had been telling them to other journalists - in the perhaps not so far-fetched belief that journalists are part of the criminal justice system: small but necessary cogs in its machinery of retribution. As losing defense lawyers are wont to do, Scaring had spoken bitterly of the role of the press in his defeat. He said that the defendants had been tried and convicted in the press, and it is true that the press had made the prosecution's narrative its own. Journalism is an enterprise of reassurance. We do not wring our hands and rend our clothes over the senseless crimes and disasters that give us our subject. We explain and blame. We are connoisseurs of certainty.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sand Friend

After a 90-minute afternoon nap and a meal of peas and applesauce and Puffs, Mabel Watson Payne felt energetic enough to induce me to climb up Nob Hill and take her to Huntington Park. We carried along sand toys. A little girl came up to play with us. She was probably about four. I got the impression that she spoke no English at all. She spoke to us in Chinese. Her grandfather sat far away on a bench and occasionally shouted instructions or warnings in Chinese. Mabel Watson Payne likes company. She did not notice when her plastic teacup (white inside, green outside) got slipped inside the little girl's sweatshirt and never came out again. I could not bring myself to intervene. I just wasn't sure how to do it, and didn't care at all about the teacup itself. Probably my daughter and son-in-law will now issue me with more elaborate protocols about playground etiquette and theft prevention. But I cannot promise that in future I will pursue Mabel Watson Payne's property with any more zeal. I would prefer to buy her a new set of plastic teacups.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pre-Raphaelite Child

Mabel Watson Payne stayed home with me this evening while her parents and her grandmother went out for dinner and then to see the latest (and purportedly the last) Harry Potter movie. The three of them had seen all the earlier ones together over the years. And I had seen none. Nobody therefore had to worry that I wouldn't rather split a burrito with my granddaughter and read her stories and generally smooth her path toward bedtime. It is, in fact, a truth universally acknowledged that I personally would much rather share a series of routine activities with Mabel Watson Payne than drive to the Palace in a coach-and-six and be knighted by the Queen.

The amazing Thomas Struth of the amazing Düsseldorf school of photography made this new official portrait (the first in ten years, in ever-vernal shades of green) to mark Queen Elizabeth's 60th anniversary on the throne and Prince Philip's 90th birthday. I didn't think of Struth in association with portraits, since he is mainly famous for panoramic views of interior spaces like museums and churches, but now am discovering that earlier examples of his portraits do exist, such as the Consolandi family of Milan below (showing that even back in 1996 the artist liked putting people against green).

Thomas Eggerer

As if reflecting upon his own constant simultaneous engagement with the dialectic of abstraction and figuralism, Eggerer here occupies the point where both might begin or end. From the point of view of the focus of the new paintings, the four strokes of the letter M, all answers are defiantly arbitrary. Eggerer, focusing on the material of language as form, penetrates into the uneasy core of a traditional dialectic.

M (ɛm), the thirteenth letter of the modern German and English alphabets, as Ben Jonson put it in 1635 , “is pronounc’d with a kind of humming inward, the lips clos’d. Open, and full in the beginning: obscure in the end: and meanly in the midd’st.”

The work above is from this year's Thomas Eggerer solo show at Daniel Buchholz, Cologne.

The work below is from last year's Thomas Eggerer solo show at Daniel Buchholz, Berlin.

Italicized passages are taken from the gallery's press releases (translated into English by an elderly German computer).

One painting shows an unreasonably big yacht with crew members and hanger-outs on board holding in full summer action against the ocean waves, which are, compared to the graphically represented people, not at all defined, making the yacht somehow an image of a vessel, or a container of a group more absorbed with what happens inside of themselves, than with the space itself, the immense and deep world of the ocean.

Almost the same, or maybe even the same couple of young men as in the uncanny warp space walks down this time a declining ramp-like path, and behind we find a very textured space of dark floating colors. Maybe not one hundred percent correctly, but this work, the two downward moving figures in the space of a darkish universe, might include probably references to William Blake.