November 26, 2011 at 6:26 pm
· Filed under Art, Music
We were talking the other day (talking in a blogging sense) about talent versus genius. Mozart had genius, Salieri merely talent (as the playwright Peter Shaffer tells it anyway).
It took me a while to remember this scene from D.A. Pennebaker’s “Don’t Look Back”, but it brilliantly demonstrates the difference. Donovan sings a blandly sweet song for Dylan and his entourage, then Dylan reciprocates.
What I only just heard when I reviewed the clip is that it’s Donovan himself who asks Dylan to sing “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, the song that serves as the blade Dylan wields to leave not a scrap of meat on Donovan’s bones. Dylan could be cruel; I’d say it was his default behavior. But this is cruel in the way that a god is cruel too a mortal—he can’t help it.
“This image represents my support for the Occupy movement, a grassroots movement spawned to stand up against corruption, imbalance of power, and failure of our democracy to represent and help average Americans,” he wrote on the site. “On the other hand, as flawed as the system is, I see Obama as a potential ally of the Occupy movement if the energy of the movement is perceived as constructive, not destructive. I still see Obama as the closest thing to ‘a man on the inside’ that we have presently.”
Fairey had initially denied using the copyrighted 2006 AP photo as the basis for his image, but was forced to admit in 2009 that he used the picture. After changing his story, the graffiti artist then claimed that he changed the work enough that he shouldn’t have to pay the AP.
One Fairey skeptic, Globe editorial cartoonist Dan Wasserman, offered a scalding take-down of Fairey in 2009, especially Fairey’s record of lifting the work of lesser-known artists without credit:
I understand that we live in a world of rampant sampling and remixing, but claiming to be hip or leftist is not an excuse for ripping off other creators. It’s not even fundamentally a legal issue (though it may be that as well) — it’s respect for other artists. And the argument that the art is “transformative,” so no nod to the original is necessary, is a weak one.
Referencing well-known works that have become cultural touchstones is one thing, Wasserman says. But in Fairey’s case he often appropriated little-known artists, or, in the case of Obama poster, the AP’s Mannie Garcia — a well-regarded but hardly high-profile photographer. (Fairey does respect the rights of artists in some cases: as Wasserman points out, Fairey has been quick with the cease-and-desist letter to defend his own copyrights.)
And Wasserman scorned the idea that Fairey, now a well-compensated corporate adman with a Rolodex fat with lawyers, continues to claim the prerogatives of an underground artist:
[Fairey] inveighs against the depredations of consumer culture, but his design firm works on a “Want It!” campaign for Saks Fifth Avenue. He wants the street cred of a revolutionary artist extolling freedom fighters and quoting Noam Chomsky while doing “guerrilla” marketing campaigns for Netscape and Pepsi.
God bless Fairey for making a killing, and God bless him for treating the O-cow-piers as the saps that they are. The genius of capitalism is parting fools from their money and putting it in the hands of those who know what to do with it.
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t dig dance. I love symphonic, chamber, operatic music, but I don’t dig dance. But I was captivated by the Bill T. Jones documentary PBS has been running. He’s a brilliant man who happens to be a legendary dancer and choreographer. I couldn’t turn it off.
And then I remembered that I had come across Martha Graham’s original performance of Appalachian Spring on YouTube (she commissioned the work from Aaron Copland).
Here’s the last section, just a bit of the Simple Gifts theme, and then that magical, ethereal, timeless passage to the end (starting at around 3:30). The music just exhales the boundless still air of the American prairie. Everyone knows the use of the Shaker hymn tune, but that’s almost cheating. It is a pretty tune by itself, though Copland certainly ennobles it further. The last three minutes, though, are a lyric-less hymn to America, its space, it’s reach, its loneliness.
And Martha Graham is a miracle to behold. There are moments in this when my breath is literally taken away.
It’s kind of bothered me lately that we’re so negative here—I know I am. It’s negativity with a purpose, admittedly, and in pursuit of a moral cause, but still a bit of a bummer.
I appreciate Aggie’s posts about extreme sheepherding and super alter kockers, and think maybe I should contribute such items a bit more myself. I’m not really such a bitter person; in fact, I can tell a pretty good joke.
Why did the corrupt Democrat, who coddled public-sector unions in exchange for their campaign contributions, and who voted against cutting off funds to the Palestinian Arabs despite their rejection of—and bombardment of—the state of Israel, shortly after “forgetting” to declare rental properties as income, cross the road?
I forget. But it’s killer.
Okay, if I don’t do humor, I can at least do classical music. This is magic:
Many years ago in college, a friend had a single ticket to see Christoph Eschenbach at Carnegie Hall. He was sick and offered it to me. I didn’t even know what was on the program. It turned out to be Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas. The recital still stands as one of the greatest experiences of my life. Each sonata was greater than the last, the performances getting deeper, more personal, completely hypnotizing. When the ghostly last notes of the Opus 111 died away, there was only silence. Awed, devastated, timeless, grateful silence. Eventually, we applauded and he bowed. But there were no encores. There was nothing more to say that night.
My take: it’s very sweet and beautifully made, but how representative is it? Maybe that doesn’t matter in art. But it clearly tries to make us feel something, and I just have to ask what and why. A Hitler Youth boy does something noble for a Jewish girl, both in their youth and then later when they’re both old. I’m sure that happened. Occasionally. But the old woman lives in the same house she hid in as a girl. How often did that happen? Were there other people in hiding there, or were they taken away?
I guess I’m too cynical. I did choke up a bit, but I felt so manipulated, it seemed my tear ducts were being massaged to produce a drop.
For the past month, the International Academy of Art Palestine (IAAP) in Ramallah exhibited the $4.3 million painting, allowing Palestinians to experience the most valuable work of art to have ever been exhibited in the West Bank. As part of a larger project, IAAP documented its experience in requesting, transferring, exhibiting and returning the famous work of art.
Exhibited from June 24 to July 21, 2011, “Buste de Femme” is a 100”x80” oil on canvas painting that was on loan from the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands.
… I just had to see which Picasso that was:
And then I went to that dark place I go to sometimes, my little psychopathic corner. Looks like an Afghan woman in a burkha, I thought. After she set off the explosive belt she was packing underneath.
And then I remembered Dalal Mughrabi:
She’s a dead ringer, isn’t she? (Heh.)
But I’m glad the Palestinians are getting into art. As long as they stay away from Goya they should be okay.
May 22, 2011 at 6:26 am
· Filed under Art, Culture
Time to take a break from world events.
The little I heard Kleiber (never live, even though he conducted at the Met when I lived in NYC), his interpretations were compelling and new—as if I had never heard a Beethoven symphony before, even though I knew every note and rest by heart. With my untrained ear, I put it down to the the drawing out of interior voices (perhaps with the help of compliant recording engineers). Orchestral works have a lot of moving parts; each conductor chooses to emphasize some lines and subdue others. Kleiber’s secret, I thought, lay in his aural imagination: to hear and bring forward what was always there, but perhaps not always apparent.
How he differed from other great conductors I couldn’t exactly say. His sound wasn’t the polished chrome of von Karajan or raw nerves of Bernstein. It was the sound of the composer, speaking through the notes in a voice I had never quite heard before. Again, I don’t have the the knowledge to say how he does it, but it’s time to watch and listen to him do it.
The 4th movement of Mozart’s “Linz” Symphony, No. 36.
As you can see his deportment on the podium doesn’t give much away. Sometimes, he seems to be just along for the ride, at others, he’s practically mining the musical ore with a pickaxe.
I’m being a little coy. There is rehearsal footage of Kleiber working with the orchestra (sometimes the Vienna Phil, sometimes the Bavarian State) to get the exact effect he was after. But even then… alll conductors rehearse, all to get the desired effect. It’s the desired effect itself that is the thing: Kleiber’s desired effect.
Here’s an example, where Kleiber wrings just an ounce more of pathos out of a musical moment:
I like that it’s in German because you have to connect to the emotion he’s expressing, and not just the language in which he’s expressing it.
Though a commenter helpfully translates:
One moment please.
Let’s do it, where the horns come in, that is after? 3 – Clarinet, I don’t want you to force it. But can that be very desperate? I don’t want it to….It’s like that sometimes with the singers you want a great deal of expression and then, abruptly, not a single sound comes out. But actually it should be a scream. But actually it should be a scream… Isn’t that right?
In casting around for representative videos, I came across this guy, explaining how different conductors achieve their unique effects. The presenter, Itay Talgam, explores the different approaches of other great conductors—Muti, Bernstein, Karajan. The Kleiber section starts about 17 minutes in, and lasts for about 10 mins—but the whole thing is instructive. (It appears to be a lecture on Leadership, sponsired by Google.) And you can’t miss—don’t you dare miss—Lenny leading the finale of a Haydn symphony with facial expressions alone at the end of the clip.
There’s lots more out there, but less than you might expect. Kleiber didn’t lead a major symphony orchestra for decades, as most of his peers did, sometimes walking out on agreed projects. That had two effects in itself: it gave him a reputation for the Difficult Artist (or Troubled Genius), but also left people desperate for more.
BBC Music Magazine, one of the more popular such journals, announced on 17 March 2011 that Kleiber had been selected as “the greatest conductor of all time.” Some 100 current conductors, including Sir Colin Davis, Gustavo Dudamel, Valery Gergiev and Mariss Jansons participated in the BBC poll. Kleiber, who conducted just 96 concerts and around 400 operatic performances in his 74 years, was voted ahead of Leonard Bernstein and Claudio Abbado, who took second and third places respectively.
Again, for a man who never built and maintained an orchestra (like Toscanini, Karajan, Böhm, Szell, et al), that’s an unimaginable honor.
But to conclude, watch Kleiber conduct the last movement of Beethoven’s 5th. Here, Nietsche’s theory of Apollonian beauty and Dionysian fury in art is played out before us.
The clip is marred by the inexplicable intrusion of the television presenter signing off, but even that can’t derail the passion, thrill, welling eyes, and basic instincts that take over in the presence of the greatest art humankind has ever produced:
Just found out about this, but a new (as in 65-year-old) Chagall crucifixion has returned to the art world:
[W]hen David Glasser, one of the museum’s chairmen, was perusing a Paris auction catalog a few months ago, he found it hard to believe what he saw: a previously unknown 1945 gouache by Marc Chagall. It was one of a small group of images Chagall made in direct response to the Holocaust, after he and his wife had fled France in 1941, after the German occupation and after he had begun to learn the details of the Nazi atrocities.
The gouache on heavy paper, which Chagall signed and titled himself lightly with a pencil in Russian — “Apocalypse in Lilac, Capriccio” — employs one of his familiar motifs, an image of a crucified Jesus, which he used as a metaphor for persecuted Jewry. But this crucifixion, painted in New York, where Chagall settled for several years, is one of the most brutal and disturbing ever created by an artist primarily known for his brightly colored folkloric visions.
“Apocalypse” shows a naked Christ screaming at a Nazi storm trooper below the cross, who has a backwards swastika on his arm, a Hitler-like mustache and a serpentine tail. Another small figure can be seen crucified and a second being hanged, and a man appears to be poised to stab a child. A damaged, upside-down clock falls from the sky. The darkness and directness of the work may have been a response not only to the war but also to the death of Chagall’s wife, Bella, a year earlier from a viral infection that might have been treated if not for wartime medicine shortages.
As the article mentions, Chagall adopted the theme of the crucifixion (lower case) as central to his work.
Perhaps most famously (and certainly more recognizably Chagall) in “White Crucifixion”:
The White Crucifixion is enigmatic. To describe it, the roughly square painting depicts a slightly distorted crucified Christ clad, not in the traditional loin cloth, but a Jewish prayer shawl; the cross bathed in a blistering white beam of light from above while all around are elements of the Jewish unrest and persecution taking place in Germany and Russia at the time. A synagogue burns, homes are destroyed, the Red Army marches, no match for the impending holocaust. The white and grey tones of the overall painting make all the more disturbing the bursts of colour as refugees flee aboard a boat or on foot, attempting to rescue sacred scrolls, or merely themselves, from the onslaught of terror. This was Marc Chagall’s Guernica.
The crucifixion is the perfect symbol for European Jewry, reflecting bigotry and persecution, not to mention the fact that Jesus was born, lived, and even died a Jew.
Chagall went to that particular well often:
Even at the tender age of 25, under full Cubist influence:
But the recently rediscovered crucifixion differs from the others in some key respects. While the characters on the periphery are Chagallian, and the ladder and clock are familiar from previous depictions, the central crime is the Holocaust, the German extermination of the Jewish people, not Russian pogroms. No flying fish or floating cows, no rich colors, no scenes of shtetl life.
One of the commentaries above calls the White Crucufixion “Chagall’s Guernica”, which has a point (not least because it was painted shortly afterwards).
But Apocalypse is also inspired by Picasso’s masterpiece (one of many):
I don’t think I need to spell it out.
There are different ways to engage with great themes (evil, in this case). One can study history (Hilberg’s Destruction of European Jews), read first-person accounts (Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi), watch documentaries (Night and Fog, Shoah, Sorrow & Pity).
I think art can makes its case, too. It slips past our intellectual defenses and stabs us right through the heart. God damn it.
Not a very clever or insightful title, I admit, but WTF am I supposed to say about this?
A group of California artists wants Mexicans and Central Americans to have more than just a few cans of tuna and a jug of water for their illegal trek through the harsh desert into the United States.
Faculty at University of California, San Diego, are developing a GPS-enabled cellphone that tells dehydrated migrants where to find water, and pipes in poetry from phone speakers, regaling them on their journey much like the words of Emma Lazarus did a century ago to the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free’’ on Ellis Island.
The Transborder Immigrant Tool is part technology endeavor, part art project. It introduces a high-tech twist to an old debate about how far activists can go to prevent migrants from dying on the border without breaking the law.
Immigration hard-liners argue that the activists are aiding illegal entry to the United States, a felony. Even migrants and their sympathizers question whether the device will make the treacherous journey easier.
I don’t want wetbacks to die either (a word I apply only to those literally caught in the act of illegally entering the country), but why can’t these “artists” apply their “skills” to discouraging them from trying? Surely, Shephard Fairey’s Obey poster plastered across the banks of the Rio Grande would give “dehydrated migrants” (really, is that any less offensive than “wetbacks”?) pause before violating our sovereignty.
The effort is being done on the government’s dime – an irony not lost on the designers, whose salaries are paid by the state of California.
“There are many, many areas in which every American would say, ‘I don’t like the way my tax dollars are being spent.’ Our answer to that is an in-your-face ‘So what?’ ’’ says UCSD lecturer Brett Stalbaum, 33, a self-described news junkie who likens his role to chief technology officer.
Count to 10, BTL, count to 10. Really, don’t you just want to punch him in that smug face of his?
Brett Stalbaum and Micha Cardenas hope to create water-guidance software for cellphones to be given away in Mexico.
But no, we are a nation of laws (or used to be). And he may get his in the end (which something tells me is how he likes it—BTL, bad!):
“If it’s not a crime, it’s very close to committing a crime,’’ said Peter Nunez, a former US attorney in San Diego. “Whether this constitutes aiding and abetting would depend on the details, but it certainly puts you in the discussion.’’