Tag Archives: History

Centuries apart but still..

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A promising day.

“Up then, fair phoenix bride, frustrate the sun;
Thyself from thine affection
Takest warmth enough, and from thine eye
All lesser birds will take their jollity.
Up, up, fair bride, and call
Thy stars from out their several boxes, take
Thy rubies, pearls, and diamonds forth, and make
Thyself a constellation of them all;
And by their blazing signify
That a great princess falls, but doth not die.
Be thou a new star, that to us portends
Ends of much wonder; and be thou those ends.”

―John Donne – the complete english poems.

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Chaos reinvented & how life gave birth to itself. – Structures pt.1

MySecretGarden - Arne Quinze

Chaos, a lifeless hump which existed before the era of gods. It was merely a concept not a god which is a crucial difference that must be made clear before I can proceed. Therefore “it” was not personalized like the later Gods were, neither has it an embodiment like for example Zeus or Aphrodite. Out of this Chaos, life and earth came forth. These first concepts who came forth out of the Chaos: Nyx (night) , Tartaros (the underworld), Gaea (the earth) and Eros (love) were also still concepts. But from these four, the first generation of embodied Gods came forth (fe. Kronos).

A lifeless lump, unfashion’d, and unfram’d, 
Of jarring seeds; and justly Chaos nam’d. 
No sun was lighted up, the world to view; 
No moon did yet her blunted horns renew: 
Nor yet was Earth suspended in the sky,..”

-Ovid; Metamorphoses, first book –

It’s important to note the difference between the Biblical story of Genesis and the beginning of ‘life’ as written down by the ancient Greeks and romans. The biggest ‘confusion’ lies in the fact that the world, earth or life – as told to us by the ancients – was not “created” , therefore there was no higher being, no God who molded the world (to his example – cf. Genesis). Instead, the world ‘gave birth to itself’. It came forth out of what they called ‘Chaos’ (which was ‘a gaping hole’, it was nor masculine nor female – it had no sex). So in that way it’s considerable that all the needed structures to build up life, to create the world were already contained inside of the Chaos but in a messy kind of way.

MySecretGardenDetail07Arne Quinze, a Belgian conceptual artist who’s work mainly relates to the social interaction, communication and urbanisation of art. He believes that by placing art in a common environment like a park or such, the public, the people passing by, get educated and involved into the world of culture. There’s no more hiding from art, it’s no longer concealed in a dark museum which is rarely visited by the ‘commoners’.  Therefor he places art right in front of their faces which leaves them no choice: they can either like or dislike it, but the interaction is inevitable.

“There’s no chaos, only structure” is a tagline in some of his work expressing his inner self and how he describes his thoughts. To him there is no chaos, everything is structured even in the chaos you find structure. (remember Ovid’s Metamorphoses, where in structure already was concealed inside of the Chaos). There’s no such thing as chaos in Quinze’s world or at least not in the sense of how society defines chaos. Chaos does exist, as a form of structure. Chaos is irretrievably linked with life. In life everything is a matter of rhythm. Something without a rigid structure is part of the organic order in life. (Again think about how the ancients described it). So the link between both is rather inevitable. As chaos housed structure and life. Arne Quinze’s ‘chaotic’ structures house people, house life. They shelter life, they form a meeting space, a social environment in what at first looked as a chaotic swarm of people passing by each other randomly. It brings them together. It brings art and life together. It reminds the people of their biggest accomplishment; culture. 

“There’s no chaos, only structure”

Earlier posts featuring Arne Quinze: https://whatsaboutart.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/cities-like-open-air-museums-beaufort-04-1/

Uchronia - Arne Quinze - Burning Man

Uchronia – Arne Quinze – Burning Man

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Enlightenment by memory recollection.

A simple draft, hidden in a plain old-fashioned sketchbook. That’s all it takes.

As I was searching for something this afternoon (nothing out of the ordinary), I surprisingly stumbled upon this (old) sketchbook of mine, which dates back to my college-years (2011). Although this was (hidden) is my closet all along it still surprised me how many memories it made me recollect. This sketch (see below) in particular. First of all I can still remember the sight I looked upon when drawing this sketch, gazing over the Grand Canale in Venice (what a sublime picture). Focusing my sight upon the San Giorgio Maggiore. It was warm that day. The sun glazing upon my sheets, I drew this fast sketch.

Now, more than 2 years later it still reminds me of the particular feelings I felt that day, being in love and all. Things were different back then, so many has changed since I got my college degree. University is nothing alike what I used to to back in those days.

What I really wanted to share with you is what it inspired me to do these last couple of days. As i gazed upon this sketch, I saw one thing, “structures”. I saw how the dome has been drew with its skeleton included, its supporting structures. Well, that’s what I want to explore in the near future; how to trigger certain expressions using only the structural lines of an object/building. Which structures are unable to? If so, why is this? Which structures are more appropriate than others and why?  Architecture reduced to their fundamental support. “Des lignes sans plus”.
Sketch.

San_Giorgio_Maggiore_Venezia

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Simply devine. – More words would be inappropriate.

Peter Fischli & David Weiss – 1987 – Art Installation (aprox 100ft).

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Sounds from Beneath.

Epic, touching and above all, astonishing and beautiful. These are the sounds from beneath the earth, the memory of an era below the surface, a recreation of the devastating sounds produced by a coal mine.

As mentioned before, I recently went to Manifesta ’09 (The deep of Modern, The european Biennial of Contemporary Art) where I saw this really moving and perhaps politically Video by Karikis Mikhail & Uriel Orlow. Working together with an ex-coal miners choir from Kent they recall an vocalise the sounds of underground activity in the coal-mines. The scenery used is the same as were they have worked for almost their entire lifespan. It Resonates with pathos, dignity and emotional force. It’s a tribute a requiem to all those who have spend their time in the mines, for all those who gave their lives.

Which moved me the most is perhaps that the sounds (which are inhumane) are not created by the machinery itself, but by the people who were the driving force of it all.

 

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Not to be seen without it’s controversy.

In celebration of Piano Renzo‘s 75th birthday I’ll be reviewing probably one of the most controversial, shocking and modern statements in architecture. It was Piano Renzo who designed, gave birth – together with Richard Rogers – to the infamous Centre Pompidou. This building is undoubtedly a marvelous piece of architecture and is a timeless view upon, industrial architecture and industry in it’s whole. Therefore it is not surprising if I tell you that both of them were fascinated by modern (industrial) american architecture like oil rigs and car lots which has been a great inspiration to both of them.

But why is this building so controversial? Why had it to endure so many critique and curses? First of all there is the less obvious reason that the city of Paris was a city dominated by concrete (except for Gustave Eiffel’s Eiffel tower which had to endure the same critique 70 years earlier). This building on the other hand has no concrete which is exteriorly visible, the only concrete used is hidden 3 stories below the surface.

Centre Pompidou – Exterior.

The entire building is build by vertical beams who hold u vertical platforms. Post-lintel you could call it (as in Ancient greek architecture). Of course cross- and v-shaped beams had to be added to support the weight of the floors (6 in total), consisting of entirely open spaces. This is achieved by placing all the functional aspects of the building on the facade (that is to say; the exterior) instead of interior. Everything that was conventionally hidden is now ‘proudly’ and ‘playfully’ shown on the outside of the building. Each color seen on the exterior has it’s own ‘functional’ meaning: blue for air, green for water, red for elevators, yellow for electricity, gray for corridors and white for the building itself.

Nowadays the building definitely stands as a monument to Paris. Although it is most often seen as a monument to high-tech, it represents the opposite. Because in reality it’s a parody to high-tech, it was a space ship it would be one designed by Jules Verne, that is to say, it would never work.

Although this building had to endure loads of harsh critique I do believe this is truly a marvelous and wonderful building, which does not at all make the city of Paris ‘less’ beautiful. Not only because it’s a cultural beacon for the entire city (library, music, art, ..) but also because it’s a place where people meet. It’s a public building (which is highly emphasized by the open corridor which takes in 2/3 of the parcel). On top of that it’s the only place in Paris which has a ‘free’ panoramic view. Not to mention that everything seen on the outside (therefore public) is accessible by anyone for no costs.

Renzo Piano

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Art and the expression of Meaning (found in music?)

Munich, September 1910. Final rehearsal for the world premiere of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, in the Neue Musik-Festhalle.

It is well known, that great art was many times inspired by great music. So did Mahler’s music inspire artists like Rodin, Kandinsky and most likely plenty others.   “En plus” it was on this day that for the last time in his lifetime a work of Mahler was premiered; his symphony n°8 (which has been used for the final scene of Faust).

But I’m drifting of, so as said above Kandinsky was inspired by his music. It is crucial to understand that modern art has usually been conceived as an art of creative expression. Therefor it is obvious to believe, to think of art as a reflection of the artist’s intentions. Kandinsky call’s for painting to move away from merely representation of objects toward works that arise from the “inner need”. It is the triumph of subjectivity and therefore a loss in objectivity.

“Kandinsky took music as the model how painting might free itself from objective limits and become more expressive” – This is his desire for a “music of painting”. But why? Well, for some centuries music has been the art which has devoted itself not to the reproduction of natural phenomena, but rather to the expression of the artist’s soul.

A painter who finds no satisfaction in mere representation, however artistic, in his longing to express his inner life, cannot but envy the ease with which music, the most non-material of the arts today, achieves this end. He naturally seeks to apply the methods of music to his own art. And from this results the modem desire for rhythm in painting, for mathematical, abstract construction, for repeated notes of color, for setting color in motion. – W. Kandinsky

W. Kandinsky – Composition 7

Auguste Rodin – Gustave Mahler

A totally different view on Mahler , but non the less interesting is his death mask, now obscured and well forgotten, subdued by photography. It’s the art (or rather was) of immortalizing the death

“A death mask is a wax or plaster cast made of a person’s face following death. Death masks may be mementos of the dead, or be used for creation of portraits. It is sometimes possible to identify portraits that have been painted from death masks, because of the characteristic slight distortions of the features caused by the weight of the plaster during the making of the mold. In other cultures a death mask may be a clay or other artifact placed on the face of the deceased before burial rites.  The best known of these are the masks used by ancient Egyptians as part of the mummification process, such as Tutankhamon’s burial mask.”

Gustave Mahler death mask

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He did not belong amongst them.

 

Ben Shahn – WWII

 

Another day, another birthday (what are the odds but it’s definitely worth trying: happy birthday to you if it’s yours as well). – Happy birthday Ben Shahn, you would have been 114 years old (if you do the math correctly you should find out he was born in 1898, unless I made a mistake). You probably can not see this, nor hear this but non the less here’s your gift (Yes I know, it’s a review).

Ben Shahn is most likely not well-known among you (at least not like you know Rothko, Klee..) but I do believe, although controversial, he made a big difference. You should know that his major works are to be situated in the first half of the 20th century. Which means; the era of the avant-garde (Dada, Surrealism, ..) and later on Abstract Expressionism (WWII) when the  major ‘artscape’ moved from Europe to America (because of the harsh regimes in Europe which suppressed all kinds of (artistic) freedom and therefore creativity). This is the time when a lot of painters, musicians, scientist, etc. had to move or rather flee to America or other non occupied regions. So did Ben Shahn.

“He identified himself as a communicative artist and employed pictorial realities instead of Abstract forms “to discover new truths about man and to reaffirm that his life is significant“. “

As my header might already have suggested, his themes and way of representing them were nothing like those used by the avant-garde, Abstract Expressionists. Whose paintings mostly were highly esoteric, abstract figures were used or/and color won over figure. So you won’t be surprised if I told you he challenged these ‘esoteric pretensions’ of art, which he believed disconnect artist’s and their work from the people, their public.

As an alternative Shahn tried to accomplish an intimate and mutually beneficial relationship between artist and public. He identified himself as a communicative artist and employed pictorial realities instead of Abstract forms “to discover new truths about man and to reaffirm that his life is significant“. But this didn’t mean he was a painter of the proletariat. As you can see on the painting below he did not only paint ‘social problems’ and ‘war-based iconography’. The painting ‘Still Music’ kind of reminds me of Miro, the playfulness of the lines and the rather ‘monotone background’. Whilst the second one -Farewell Luck Dragon- reminds of some landscapes Egon Schiele made or even a bit of Paul Klee.

Ben Shahn – Still Music

Jean Miro – Nocturne

Ben Shahn – Farewell Lucky Dragon

Egon Schiele – Landscape at Krumau

Non the less he also made some stark, dark and ‘bloody-shocking’ pictures:

Ben Shahn – Hunger

Or this one, which depicts on a harsh and bloody way the desolation and loneliness of war by showing a lonely, (most likely) dead soldier.

Ben Shahn – Death on the Beach

And my favorite:

Ben Shahn – Fourth of July

I could go on like this for pages, talking about the wonderful photographs, illustrations and murals he made. Narrating his life and so on. Although I believe that I made my point already telling you this painter had a statement of its own and did not follow any major group or stream as most artists in NYC did that time. He kept his own values and expressed humanity in a pictorial and ‘human’ way, although he wasn’t afraid of the color red, in contrary. It is worth saying that his art could be described as being introspective but non the less he often captured his figures engrossed in their own world.

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