Friday, May 21, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is one of those movies, like Schindler’s List, that makes evil disturbingly palpable. The protagonist is a young boy, Bruno, whose father administers a Nazi WWII concentration camp. Their family moves to a house not far from the camp. Naturally, the boy is curious about the camp and the people there. And his parents’attempts to keep him confined to their house (or, better, prison) only manages to fuel his fascination with what is going on in the ‘outside world.’
Bruno is a source of freedom, innocence and hope in the midst of a very dark story set in one of the more disturbing episodes of world history. Throughout the film, his vibrant and carefree spirit drew me in as I gradually, seemingly naturally, became his advocate. When his parents, and especially the hired tutor, discourage Bruno’s inquisitiveness, restrict his imaginative play, and refuse to let him play in the forested area around their home, I am forced to choose sides.How can I not cheer for the winsome Bruno who is forced to grow up too quickly, but at the same time is sheltered from the horrific realities of living in a time of war.
When Bruno found a way to escape from the house, I could not help but feel a thrill of excitement and hope. Now, the stifling fear can really be left behind. And when he finds the concentration camp, and meets Schmuel, a young Jewish boy his age (the only boy his age that he can call a friend), how could I not want him to bring food to the famished Schmuel. How could I not want Bruno to play with Schmuel through that terrible barbed-wire fence. What was I thinking?Perhaps I thought that this relationship could bring some kind of redemption to the horror and tragedy of genocide. Perhaps I wanted to the boys to at least have friendship for they both, in their different ways, had very little of life and happiness. Whatever the reason, and it sure felt like a good reason, I wanted their friendship to grow.
On the day that Bruno came with a shovel and a sandwich, and he offered to help Schmuel to find his father (who he had not seen for days), I wondered if something unspeakable were about to happen. And yet, I cheered when Bruno put on the striped uniform, and I cheered when he slipped under the fence. I could not help it because, I thought, here is an image of reconciliationand here is hope that injustice will not continue forever. I could not help it, but the moment he was on the other side, I regretted it. The boys ran through the camp, and searched in several huts, but, before long, they were caught up and corralled by German soldiers in a forced march.The marched in the middle of the group unable to get out and unable to see where they were going. They marched into a room where they were forced to take their clothes off. They marched into a room where they were pushed even closer together. Then, the soldiers shut the large metal door. I regretted that I ever wanted Bruno to be friends with Schmuel, let alone crawl under the fence, but I had wanted that. I had cheered him to his death.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Most of my blog posts, lately, have been about visual images. They are an attempt to bring words to a visual metaphor, and to explore its possibilities. But words themselves can generate imagery, and not merely describe it.
Tell me, baby, tell me
Are you still on the stoop
Watching the windows close?
I've not seen you lately
On the street by the beach
Or places we used to go
I've a picture of you
On our favorite day
By the seaside
There's a bird stealing bread
That I brought
Out from under my nose
Tell me, baby, tell me
Does his company make
Light of a rainy day?
How I've missed you lately
And the way we would speak
And all that we wouldn't say
Do his hands in your hair
Feel a lot like a thing
You believe in
Or a bit like a bird
Out from under your nose?
Tell me, baby, tell me
Do you carry the words
Around like a key or change?
I've been thinking lately
Of a night on the stoop
And all that we wouldn't say
If I see you again
On the street by the beach
In the evening
Will you fly like a bird
Out from under my nose?
Monday, May 17, 2010
The curtain has been drawn back to such an extent that half of the eavesdropped conversation becomes visible: A woman who stands behind a table and who, judging from the position of her arms, which she has on her hips, and her head, which she holds at an angle, reproaches a person opposite her. If now, as a result of the eavesdropper's invitation, we become active ourselves in the right half of the painting and lifted the curtain or tried to look behind it in our thoughts, the blank would close and we would really become the eavesdropper's accomplices. That this is not possible ... that by the art's grace we have "only" the painting, is made obvious by the curtain, which, as an everyday instrument of veiling and unveiling, yet belongs wholly and doubly to art by being part of the matter of the painting and, also as the painted curtain, its sign.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
An excellent example of how Goldsworthy incorporates this tension between geometry and nature into his work is his Three Cairns project. “The project consists of three temporary cairns, three permanent sculptures, and three museum exhibitions.” Produced on a massive scale, the space between them stretches across the North American continent. The permanent cairns remain at museums in San Diego, California (the west coast), Purchase, New York (the east coast), and Des Moines, Iowa (central). The enormity of the Three Cairns project is suggestive of this Scotsman’s attempt to grasp the vastness of the North American continent.
The construction of a cairn typically requires some mathematical precision because it must be able to support its own weight. Nevertheless, Goldsworthy rarely uses mechanical devices or engineering manuals. Reflecting on this theme in his work, Goldsworthy writes,
The cairns are made by eye. I use a tape measure, just to keep within the limitations of the width that I feel is stable in proportion to the base. I always attempt to make the perfect cone but fail. A tension between what I want and what is emerging. This tension is important to the feeling of the piece.
The tension between geometry and the natural form is further heightened in Three Cairns because mathematical precision is the only way to connect the physically distant cairns to one another. Goldsworthy writes, “It is the way I carry with me the East and West Coast cairns and can project them into the space at Des Moines.” The difference between the ‘perfect cone’ and the one that is actually constructed could be seen as a flaw in his work, but he suggests that it is a fundamental aspect of the cairns.
Goldsworthy himself speaks about the process of building a cairn in which he, as one dialogue partner, is not in complete control. He writes the following at the time of constructing the “West Coast Cain” at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art:
I am now locked into an intense dialogue with the stone. There is a feeling of physical engagement with the material that is consuming and at times exhausting, a struggle in which a moment’s lapse of concentration can lead to a loss of control.
What is so interesting about Three Cairns is that the value of this “loss of control” is called into question. He writes, “Normally [a loss of control] can be interesting, but the parameters I have set for myself in the Three Cairns are so tight that they do not allow for that kind of variation.” His journals at the time that he was in North America constructing Three Cairns reveal an internal debate over how much this particular project can be made in his typical dialogical manner. While working on the “East Coast Cairn” for the Neuberger Museum of Art in New York Goldsworthy speaks much more positively about a lack of control in his creative practice:
Sometimes I feel that the source of a sculpture’s energy comes from the effort of trying to regain a sense of balance lost at some point when I lacked control or concentration or perhaps made an error of judgment.
As valuable as the experience of overcoming a loss of control can be, it is nevertheless very frustrating for the artist. While working on the “Midwest Cairn” in Des Moines, Iowa, Goldsworthy writes:
I had to leave the site and find a quiet indoor space in which to work out dimensions away from the stone. This is a very different way of working for me: problems are usually best solved in the making. This sculpture however needs a different approach. I need to look at the space between the three cairns as well as the stone in front of me.
Leaving the site on which he is working may not seem that radical, but considering the importance of place and the physicality of his materials, this choice by Goldsworthy reveals that he is willing to depart from his normal mode of practice to successfully complete these sculptures. Thus, the tension introduced by greater mathematical precision in Three Cairns proved to be a struggle for Goldsworthy, and one that provoked an exploration of new ways of making.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
"I have a child by this man. It's my place to be here with him," said Marie-Therese. "You can leave right now." Dora said, "I have as much reason as you have to be here. I haven't borne him a child but I don't see what difference that makes."
Finally, Marie-Therese turned to me and said, "Make up your mind. Which one of us goes?" It was a hard decision to make. I liked them both, for different reasons: Marie-Therese because she was sweet and gentle and did whatever I wanted her to do, and Dora because she was intelligent... I told them they'd have to fight it out themselves. So they began to wrestle.Picasso's relationships with women were, to say the least, complicated. During the making of Guernica Picasso would stay with his wife(?) Marie-Therese and their daughter on the weekends, but during the week he was working in Paris and accompanied by his mistress Dora Maar. This tale is the kind of soap-opera-situation that no one imagines would happen in 'real life', but when it happens to an artist we nod our heads and chuckle softly to ourselves.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Another post of considerable length with further reflections on Goldsworthy's creative practice will arrive shortly. But, until it does, I thought I would share an excerpt from a recent article on Goldsworthy's work that Jon Mackenzie brought to my attention. The artilce, by Mike Wade, appeared in The Times Saturday May 1 2010:
You are not going to credit this, he says, his keen eyes shining with laughter, but he was almost arrested by the NYPD a month ago -- simply for being an artist. He'd been trying to make rain shadows outside the Rockefeller Center. His plan was to lie down on the pavement, just as a shower began, so that the dry shape of his body would remain after the raindrops soaked the concrete around him. Alas, as soon as he set about his work the long arm of the law intervened. "There is a video of me being evicted from outsid Fox News," Goldsworthy snorts. "Corporate America has such a fear of a terrorist attack. They own the bloody sidewalk."So he was frogmarched away? "Oh yeah. To be honest, the police were great about it. They wanted to know what I was doing but the were OK. The security guards simply would not look me in the eye. I said to one guy, 'What's wrong with the world? I had far more freedom in Moscow when it was under communism than I have had in New York this week.' It was really oppressive."
Saturday, May 8, 2010
I have an art that teaches mea very important things about nature, my nature, the land and my relationship to it. I don't mean that I learn in an academic sense; like getting a book and learning the names of plants, but something through which I try to understand the processes of growth and decay, of life in nature. Although it is often a practical and physical art, it is also an intensely spiritual affair that I have with nature: a relationship.Goldsworthy's creative practice is an act of discovery, but this is qualified by the statement that he is not trying to "learn in an academic sense." Instead, Goldsworthy's exploration of the landscape takes place within the intimacy of a committed relationship. He chooses to fully immerse himself in the physical terrain, and thereby gather a kind of "working" knowledge of the world as a whole. This epistemic dimension resides at the core of his work: "At the heart of whatever I do are a growing understanding and a sharpening perception of the land."
Goldsworthy is profoundly aware that his presence as an artist is manifested in a place, and not simply before a homogenous mass of material. He writes, "When you make something [in Britain], unlike America, you work with a place that is so full of the relationship between people and the land, and also made so rich by it... The social nature of the British landscape demands to be acknowledged." Goldsworthy's awareness of the land's human history, as well as its natural history, is evident in the long-term project Sheepfolds that seeks to restore numerous sheepfolds in Cumbria. His presence in Cumbria is like one stepping into a story already being told: he largely works on existing sites and he aims at restoring a function that has been part of the Cumbrian economy for hundreds of years. Although Sheepfolds is a highly original artistic project, it nevertheless is in continuity with the history and traditions of a place.
Goldsworthy's creative practice creates a space in which the land reveals its own creativity and beauty. His work is an act of discovery that finds in the ordinary stuff of the world an extraordinary element. The room required to achieve this discovery, to allow the land to present its beauty and meaning, is made by entering into the land and identifying with it as closely as possible. Similarly, in the incarnation, God comes to His creation in full creatureliness and reveals the true meaning of what it is to be a son or daughter of God. We may find a parallel here with Jeremy Begbie's suggestion that human creator's are to be "secretaries of God's praise." Begbie argues for a Christologically oriented creativity which understands that "biblical language about the relation between Christ and creation should properly remind us that God's love for creation entails him honoring its integrity distinct from himself." For Begbie, human creativity is understood as participating in the movements of the trinity. He writes,
In the humanity assumed by his Son, the Father has released our humanity from its crippling self-concern in such a way that a new corporate humanity has been made possible, one which is bound together with that same self-forgetful love which binds Father and Son.