Friday, November 29, 2013

The Holy Bible reinterpreted as a photo book.

An article in LensCulture asserts that "it seems impossible to avoid confronting this difficult and provocative work." Any tampering with the Bible is bound to be provocative. It comes with the territory. The work in question is called simply "Holy Bible."

Time Magazine has called "Holy Bible" one of the best photo books of 2013. The original Holy Bible, of course, was not a photo book. This "Holy Bible" is an appropriation and reinterpretation by the artist duo of Adam Broomberg and Oliver Charnarin, who have reproduced the look and feel of the text and layout of the King James Version. They have inserted images over the biblical text and they have underlined in red some of the passages. The images, not their own, were selected from The Archive of Modern Conflict, reputed to be the largest photographic collection of its kind in the world.

Conflict is a primary theme of this work of art, which is based on the writings of Israeli philosopher Adi Ophir. Ophir's central tenet is that "God reveals himself predominantly through catastrophe and that power structures within the Bible correlate with those within modern systems of governance." (see Mack books.)

Broomberg and Charnarin are no strangers to conflict. According to a bio in Nowness, they "have frequently imperiled and enlightened themselves in the name of art, "including "by joining the British Army in Afghanistan." The artists, whose work leans toward documentary photography, have a curiously unique combination of qualifications: Broomberg has degrees in sociology and history of art and Chanarin degrees in philosophy and artificial intelligence.

The only text added to the original King James Version text is a short essay by Adi Ophir, appended as an epilogue. It's provocative title is "Divine Violence." To read the essay, click here

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A variety of arts for a gloomy day

I awoke to another dreary morning, after a thoroughly dreary yesterday, with promise of more to come for the rest of the weekend. As is my Sunday morning ritual, I perused the Sunday Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and was pleasantly surprised to find a diverse offering of arts related stories. None of which were in the Cue Section, where I usually look for them. So, in case you overlooked these, or don't get the paper, I offer a guided tour:

Mary Louise Schumacher, the paper's arts critic, is usually found in Cue. Today she has a story in the decorating department of the Entree section. True! But before you shudder and worry that she's sold out let me quickly add that it was refreshing to read an appropriately thoughtful approach to collecting art--the decorating aspect being importantly secondary.

Coincidentally, one of the things I did to escape the gloom yesterday was to go to Bed Bath & Beyond to look at stools for the kitchen we are in the midst of remodeling. I confess I'd never been to BB&B before and it was an education, I freely admit. One of the things I discovered there was the "wall decorating" department, where you can buy graphic visual objects in frames that you can hang over your couch, or wherever. Really? If this is a tempting solution to your blank walls, please read Schumacher's story. "Blank walls are...better than bad art," she says. I agree.

Key to collecting art is learning what you love

Link: Key to collecting art is learning what you love.

Of course, we don't all love the same kinds of art. And that's not only OK, it's a good thing, in my humble opinion. 

If you turn to the back page of Cue you will find the Travel section. I've found this arrangement annoying ever since the JS redesigned the paper some time ago. But that's where it is. There is a surprising feature about Waupun being a 'City of Sculpture.' The sculptural style is traditional, as illustrated below by "End of the Trail." The artist is native son Clarence Addison Shaler. I have to admit that I'm not likely to go out of my way to visit Waupun for these artworks. However, I was intrigued to discover that this particularly famous image of the tragic Indian warrior was not, as I expected to read at first glance, a copy from some other artistic antecedent. Shaler, who became a sculptor only after retirement at age 70, was the originator of the iconic image. In Waupun, WI. Who knew?

"End of the Trail" is Waupun’s most famous sculpture. Created by James Earl Fraser, the sculpture was commissioned by Waupun-area native Clarence Addison Shaler and donated to the city in 1929.

Link: Waupun's Sculpture's are Worth a Visit.

Here was a particularly surprising find. On page 2 of the paper's front section, which deals out international features and top news stories, is one reprinted from the Associated Press about NASA's next attempt to send a spacecraft to Mars. Among the various things being sent along on this unmanned (of course) scientific expedition are 1,000 haiku and 377 "student art contest entries." (The latter, one must presume, have been digitized.) The article is short on rationale for these curious additions to the spacecraft's mission.

Here are the two samples of haiku reprinted for the article:

"Amidst sand and stars / We scan a lifeless planet / To escape its fate."

"It's funny, they named / Mars after the God of War / Have a look at Earth."

Link: NASA's newest Mars spacecraft will study atmosphere, tackle puzzle of Martian climate change.

Finally, on a lighter note, I enjoyed Foxtrot today. I'm a devoted comics reader, despite the trend towards unfunny comics over the years. The fewer and fewer chestnuts are worth brushing through the chaff. Foxtrot is more reliably funny than most. (My favorites are Get Fuzzy, Zits and Dilbert.) Today Foxtrot indulged in a bit of meta-comics, a comic about the design of comics.


And so, on this "introspective morning," as WFMR radio announcer Obie Yadgar used to say (I know, I'm really dating myself there), I offer a bit of diversion. Arts without borders today. Enjoy!

p.s., in another discipline entirely, I enjoyed an excellent dance performance last night. Although it's too late to catch the one-night only Flamenco extravaganza, I recommend checking out the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center's season. If it's not on your radar, it's worth a look. I've been a few times and the performances have been good to outstanding and the house rarely full.

Flamenco Soul

Monday, November 11, 2013

Underground in the internet age? What a snob!

There was a time when, if you ran in certain creative circles, it was cool to be "underground." David Byrne, for example, remembers fondly the anonymity of his early years with the Talking Heads. “we felt comfortable trying out different things, songs that were quickly abandoned and stage wear that proved impractical,” he is quoted in an article in yesterday's New York Times. “That’s all hugely important (the songs part anyway) as it allowed us to explore, refine our identity and go down those musical dead ends without the embarrassment of public scrutiny.”

Today everyone posts everything online, whether or not it's been tested, whether or not it's considered "cool." In fact, there can be a backlash when someone chooses to remain aloof from the mainstream of the social media dominated culture. Now, it's considered snobbish.

No one denies the allure or the vast potential of the internet for artists (musicians, visual artists, everyone) who want to get their names out in the world. "Online exposure can make for an overnight viral sensation." But “it can also destroy and eliminate that crucial period of anonymity,” again, according to Byrne. “The Internet giveth, and the Internet taketh away.” 

The article goes on to describe a small but significant segment of the creative class who desire to remain underground, to experiment out of the public eye. Today, unlike the past, that means staying offline.

Check out: Sidestepping the Digital Demimonde." It's a good read. I'll post this to facebook now.