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Current Topic: Arts

La Vie
Topic: Arts 7:12 am EST, Dec 19, 2007


This is all vaguely unexpected stuff, perhaps, but, over the weekend, things got positively French.

Great albums, BTW.

La Vie

The Lost Border: The Landscape of the Iron Curtain
Topic: Arts 9:03 pm EST, Dec 11, 2007

This book may appeal to fans of Photoblogging Chernobyl.

I am pleased to announce that The Lost Border is now available as a book published by Princeton Architectural Press.

The book generally follows the structure of the The Lost Border website, but includes a number of additional photographs including six made in 2004 in Berlin, and an essay by Anthony Bailey and a personal statement.

From the Publishers Weekly review:

Rivers slash across snow-covered tundra, barbed-wire fences partition desolate fields and graffiti-covered walls divide the land in Rose’s powerful pictorial.

Beautifully photographed and richly reproduced ... this is an intelligent, eye-catching chronicle of the changes, in both landscape and architecture, that occurred in central and eastern Europe throughout the 1980s and early ’90s.

The Lost Border: The Landscape of the Iron Curtain

Magical Mystery Instrument | Moscow News
Topic: Arts 6:33 pm EST, Dec  8, 2007

Finding something cool to do in Moscow at no cost is a near impossible feat. But on the fourth floor of a dingy house, one of the several buildings that make up the Moscow State Conservatory, something awe-inspiring and magical happens every Friday: theremin-playing lessons are given for free, and last up to three hours at a time.

Magical Mystery Instrument | Moscow News

Blindness, by Jose Saramago
Topic: Arts 9:40 pm EST, Nov 13, 2007

The hands of the girl with dark glasses searched for somewhere to hold on to, but it was the doctor's wife who gently held them in her own hands, Rest, rest. The girl closed her eyes, remained like that for a minute, she might have fallen asleep were it not for the quarrel that suddenly erupted, someone had gone to the lavatory and on his return found his bed occupied, no harm was meant, the other fellow had got up for the same reason, they had passed each other on the way, and obviously it did not occur to either of them to say, Take care not to get into the wrong bed when you come back. Standing there, the doctor's wife watched the two blind men who were arguing, she noticed they made no gestures, that they barely moved their bodies, having quickly learned that only their voice and hearing now served any purpose, true, they had their arms, that they could fight, grapple, come to blows, as the saying goes, but a bed swapped by mistake was not worth so much fuss, if only all life's deceptions were like this one, and all they had to do was to come to some agreement, Number two is mine, yours is number three, let that be understood once and for all, Were it not for the fact that we're blind this mix-up would never have happened, You're right, our problem is that we're blind. The doctor's wife said to her husband, The whole world is right here.

Blindness, by Jose Saramago

Age of Reason: Jacques Barzun at 100
Topic: Arts 7:00 pm EST, Nov 12, 2007

Jacques Barzun is always worth your time, but a 100th birthday is even more worthwhile. (The exchange below is classic.)

Not everything that Barzun wrote struck me with equal force, and some years later, when I edited a compilation of his essays, I made so bold as to tinker with his style. The editorial process led to a spate of letters, highlighting our asynchronous temperaments. During one exchange, I suggested that the importance of what he was saying warranted heightened language. His reply came so fast that I thought he’d bounded across Central Park and put the letter in my mailbox himself. “You are a sky-high highbrow,” he wrote. “Me, I suspect highbrows (and low- and middle-) as I do all specialists, suspect them of making things too easy for themselves; and like women with a good figure who can afford to go braless, I go about brow-less.” Undeterred, I offered to rewrite the passages in question. My changes were acknowledged with fitting tribute. “To put it in a nice, friendly, unprejudiced way,” he responded, “your aim as shown in your rewritings of the ‘objectionable’ sentences strikes me as patronizing, smarmy, emetic!” My heart swells when I contemplate that exclamation point, as he seldom resorts to one.

Barzun always seemed to know everything you had ever read or thought about reading one day ... The charge against Barzun, accordingly, was that he spread himself too thin. "I think his natural reserve and the variegated subject matter have caused him to be taken less seriously by the intellectual crowd that runs literature departments and literary quarterlies."

Barzun, though, never intended to write for that crowd. Instead, as he put it in a letter to me, he wanted “to write for a quite different, less homogeneous group: academics in other departments than English, people with a non-professional interest in the arts (doctors who play music, lawyers who read philosophy) and a certain number of men and women in business and philanthropy, in foundations and newspapers or publishing houses.” In writing for a general audience, Barzun was taking sides in an old debate about the relationship between the intellectual writer and the reading public. It was a question not of how much the reading public could bear but of who constituted that public. When Dr. Johnson wrote, “I rejoice to concur with the common reader,” he could count on that reader to actually read or hear about his rejoicing. He was speaking, after all, about a relatively small number of educated Brits who owned businesses or property and could afford to buy books. When Barzun began writing, the size and diversity of the reading public discouraged such assumptions.

Age of Reason: Jacques Barzun at 100

Jacques Barzun at 100 | The New Criterion
Topic: Arts 7:00 pm EST, Nov 12, 2007

If you haven't read (or finished) From Dawn to Decadence, you might want to get to work; Barzun is currently "putting the finishing touches" on his next book.

I did not actually meet Barzun until 1957 ... At that time Jacques Barzun and Lionel Trilling were teaching their famous graduate seminar on major works in the development of the modern mind. Admission to the Barzun-Trilling seminar, as it was known, entailed an interview with the two professors, which took place in Trilling’s Hamilton Hall office. This turned out to be genial, indeed conducted with a tone that suggested that in some sense we were equals, gentlemen and professionals, and serious about goals the three of us shared.

In that first interview I gained a distinct sense that what they wanted were seminar participants who not only would teach but had it in mind to write in a serious way, and to the extent possible be engaged in focused and shaping activity: No Waste Landers; no Bartleby the Scriveners; no William Steig figures curled up in protective boxes of sensibility.

The course met once a week in the evening. Each week, the two-hour session began with the consideration of an essay written by a member of the class. Clean copies had been put on reserve for the class to read. At the seminar the author received his own work back with written comments by Trilling and Barzun. Then the group discussed the essay. The pretensions of my first essay were annihilated, especially by Barzun. One result was that, as I rose from the dead, he was able to praise my second effort as publishable. There can be no doubt that other students found the intense criticism of Barzun and Trilling invaluable to their writing.

Jacques Barzun at 100 | The New Criterion

Creature, by Andrew Zuckerman
Topic: Arts 10:05 pm EST, Nov  9, 2007

This looks like a great gift.

Photographer Andrew Zuckerman's strikingly detailed images of animals from around the world are as delightful as they are inspiring. This collection of astonishing studio portraits of 175 wild creatures from baby leopards to parrots, bears, mandrills, and many more are stunningly foregrounded against white backgrounds, depicting their subjects with rare sensitivity, insight, humor, and wonder. Zuckerman, an up-and-coming filmmaker whose first short film, High Falls, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007, has created a volume perfect for animal lovers, photography fans, and anyone fascinated by the world around us. Creature is a beautiful and thought-provoking look at the fragile wonders of the natural world.

Check out the official web site for lots of photos; Wired also has some previews, but art-dept is really the place to go.

Here's what Style had to say:

... 300 pages of arrestingly detailed photographs of wild animals -- from a dramatic African crested porcupine and a playful Asian elephant to the elegant timber wolf and the smiling wild boar ...

If you like Zuckerman's work, you may also like Jill Greenberg.

Creature, by Andrew Zuckerman

Jill Greenberg :: The Manipulator
Topic: Arts 12:16 pm EDT, Sep  8, 2007

Jill Greenberg's "Monkey Portraits" is being exhibited at the National Academies’ Keck Center in Washington, DC.

Here's a description:

Chimpanzees are our biological relatives. Never have the similarities between simians and humans been as amusingly and brilliantly captured as in “Monkey Portraits.” Jill Greenberg has spent 15 years photographing celebrities--from Clint Eastwood to Drew Barrymore--for leading publications, but has recently focused on actors of a different sort. She has been photographing monkeys and apes, many of whom have appeared on film or in television shows. Her intimate portraits of these animals convey a startling range of emotions and personalities, and evoke an almost eerie sense of recognition. These anthropomorphic photographs will cause you to wonder just how different we truly are.

The gallery is online, as well. (Be sure to check out all three pages of the gallery.) Her "End Times" gallery is also available online.

Jill Greenberg :: The Manipulator

Through a Life Darkly
Topic: Arts 10:48 pm EDT, Jul 30, 2007

A Gold Star for Woody Allen's review of Ingmar Bergman's 1988 autobiography, The Magic Lantern. Read the review in its entirety.

Through a Life Darkly

Ed Burtynsky's beautifully monstrous 'Manufactured landscapes'
Topic: Arts 6:24 am EDT, Jul 30, 2007

If you are planning (you should) to go see Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary "Manufactured landscapes", which opened last week in theaters across the US after spending a year mesmerizing film festivals audiences and will soon arrive in Europe, make sure you get there in time, for nothing describes the scale and essence of today's globalized industry more tellingly than the opening scene: a seven-minutes tracking shot of the floor of a boundless Chinese factory, row after row after row of disciplined workers and efficient repetition that Stanley Kubrick could have filmed.

Ed Burtynsky's beautifully monstrous 'Manufactured landscapes'

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