Thursday, October 08, 2015

Pictures of Mary: Signs and Wonders Out of South America

While in Austin, checked out a series of very cool paintings of Mary, part of a special exhibition:  Re-envisioning the Virgin Mary: Colonial Painting from South America, organized by the Blanton Museum of Art. 
The patterns in this one jump out in an almost ghostly manner: both on Mary's garment and cascading over and around her from above. Tiny Jesus gleams with a happy elfin expression.  
Cherubs pull back the curtain as Mary and Jesus ride by, sideways, on an ass. 
Here, Mary hovers in the air, flanked by symbols and icons.

"Created in the modern-day countries of Peru and Bolivia, the 'sculpture paintings' now on view mark the shift in representations of the Virgin from Europe to the Americas. Created by indigenous artists, the paintings reflect and were inspired by local miracles attributed to sculptures of Mary, which could be found in churches and holy places throughout the region. The works attest to the propagation of images of the Virgin in South America, as well as her rise in popularity during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries." From the Blanton's overview, which can be found in full here. 
Mary and Jesus emerge from an object that looks like a lamp shade while priests look on with wonder.

Today's Rune: Wholeness. 

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Formosa: Elisabet Ney (1833-1907) and the Loveliness of Things

Elisabet Ney (1833-1907) was born in Germany, died in Texas, and married Edmund Montgomery, a Scotsman, in between. They were "x" people -- of artistic, Bohemian dispositions, dancing to the sound of their own music. Elisabet is best known as a sculptor. She also created a mini-legend by linking herself to Michel Ney (1769-1815), her supposed "great uncle," maréchal d’Empire. Just as fellow artist Nella Fontaine Binckley (1860-1951) recalibrated her birthday from 1860 (real) to 1877 (fictionalized), Elisabet seems to have successfully confused posterity about her kinship with Marshal Ney. Nice work! 

Here's a sample of Elisabet Ney's philosophy in her own words: "Shall not our surroundings . . . become transformed into scenes beautiful to behold . . .? Shall not out dwellings, our public buildings, our factories, our gardens, our parks, reflect in reality the loveliness of our artist[ic] dreams?

The more our sensibility for loveliness of things is nurtured and the more lovely our surroundings are made the more lovely and joyful our souls will grow."

And from Ney's husband, the Scotsman:

"In moments of keenest ideal insight, when gazing with intense self-forgetfulness into the abysmal profundity of being, where all likes joshed in silent awe, then, suddenly, strangely the sense of our own little self intrudes into inner light . . . filling with world deep significance the whole fathomless reach of consciousness, where it feels indissolubly melted into one with the essence of reality."
"We who have loosened our religious skiff from traditional moorings are much in need of a scientific elucidation of this unmistakable inner experience." (Edmund Montgomery). 
Ney window. "Formosa" (which means "beautiful" in Portuguese) was the name Elisabet Ney gave to her studio in Austin, Texas. It remains intact, on a nice bit of protected land. Here's a link to the museum.

Today's Rune: Partnership.   

Monday, October 05, 2015

'Pawn Sacrifice' (2014/2015): Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spassky

Edward M. Zwick's Pawn Sacrifice (2014/2015) delivers a dramatic rendering (with some comic touches) of the great but erratic chess player Bobby Fischer, culminating in his world championship match against Boris Spassky in 1972.

I love the cast of Pawn Sacrifice, which includes Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Lily Rabe, Robin Weigert and Evelyne Brochu, among others. Overall, the movie is fun and interesting, definitely lighter fare -- and hokier -- than the documentaries Red Army and Best of Enemies -- although all three compliment each other within the Cold War Zeitgeist and all three are worth watching. 
In Pawn Sacrifice, Fischer (played by Tobey Maguire) is depicted as a person existentially located somewhere between an anti-social and paranoid "idiot savant," chess prodigy, and enfant terrible -- fittingly compared to Mozart (although Wagner might be even more fitting). Stuhlbarg and Sarsgaard, pictured here, play Fischer's handlers, the one an eager promoter-patriot and the other a worldly Catholic priest and chess coach. 
Liev Schreiber makes Boris Spassky seem a whole lot cooler and classier than Bobby Fischer, albeit tightly contained by his Soviet "management team" (which he resents, but begrudgingly understands). In 1972, both players are "pawns" of the Cold War. 

Today's Rune: Wholeness. 

Saturday, October 03, 2015

'Best of Enemies' (2015): Buckley vs. Vidal

Best of Enemies (2015): a documentary film by Morgan Neville & Robert Gordon, centers on the 1968 televised debates between Gore Vidal ("liberal") and William F. Buckley, Jr. ("conservative"). This excellent work takes the participant-spectator to a place where the culture and history of those times as well as these times can be put in clearer perspective, regardless of one's personal or group worldview. This is done largely though the scrim of American network TV, but includes additional angles and mirrors. 

I loved this film on first look and aim to get my hands on a copy upon its November 3, 2015 DVD release, for further consideration.    
Best of Enemies: the news reporters, most gone now, good to see in action again, time regained if just for the duration of the film. And the witty antagonists, leading their factions, obsessed with each other and their zingers and their overall performances. Buckley permanently upset by his loss of control, Vidal having gotten under his skin; Vidal, upset by his ebbing influence in older age. A beautiful, funny and sad arc that leads to the always-unfolding now of continuing ideological conflicts of words, wars and colliding worlds. Wow.  

Today's Rune: Joy. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chimes at Midnight: Kraftwerk Late Show, Austin, Texas

It was weird listening this very morning to outdoor wind chimes dingling and tintinnabuluming as a result of a light air-breeze, sounding alternately like a bit of music echoing off a Jean Michel Jarre theme (Ryan's Daughter) or various phantom samples from a Kraftwerk track ("Computer Love," "Spacelab," etcetera).  

Indeed, life and art are often working together, hand in hand, through each other, in time, beyond space and by way of tingling memory responses triggered by music or comparable stimuli . .
I can write quite a lot about Kraftwerk's evening performance at Bass Concert Hall in Austin, Texas, this past Friday (September 25, 2015 A. D.), but it mostly comes down to transcending time -- funneling time and feeling and memory -- regaining two other Kraftwerk performances -- Brixton 1991 and Detroit 1998 -- heightened consciousness of our (via Marshall McLuhan) "electronic envelope," keen awareness of "the extensions of man" or humanness, our evolving nature as man-machine, human-machine -- total immersion, total realization . . . total immersion through pure art. 

I can now refer you to an excellent review of the daytime show by Wes Eichenwald here. He gets at the gist of things, giving me no reason to try to reinvent the electronic wheel for this particular post. 
Kraftwerk's music in Austin, with dazzling "retro future" interaction that included multi-lingual text (German, English, Russian, French, Spanish, Japanese . . .), numbers and Gestaltic iconography, was played more or less in this order:

 "Numbers;" "Computer World;" "Home Computer" and "It's More Fun to Compute;" "Computer Love;" "Pocket Calculator;" "The Man Machine;" "Spacelab;" "The Model;" "Neon Lights;" "Autobahn;" "Airwaves" . . . "Geiger Counter + Radioactivity;" "Ohm Sweet Ohm;" "Electric Café;" "Tour de France;" "Trans Europe Express" . . . (first encore) "The Robots;" (second encore) "Aerodynamik;" "Boom Boom Tschak" + "Techno Pop" + "Musique Non Stop" plus individual bows and a dandy Auf Wiedersehen.  

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Kraftwerk 2015: Austin. Meine erste Reaktion.

Road trip to Austin, Texas to catch the Kraftwerk 3-D concert on Friday, September 25, 2015, at the Bass Concert Hall off 23rd Street, 10:30 p.m. until well past midnight.

Brilliant, wonderful show and I wish I could see them again in Detroit or Philadelphia! 

Kraftwerk comes from the Mount Olympus of electronic music. One must pull out all the stops to see them. Orphic electronica!

Kraftwerk's remaining venues in the USA for this year are all coming up in October:

October 2nd: Philadelphia
October 3rd: Boston
October 5th: Detroit
Then Minneapolis and Kansas City.

In November, Kraftwerk is off to France, Monaco, and other European hot spots. Pictured above is a scanned copy of a packet for 3D glasses given out at the Austin late show. 

More on Kraftwerk coming down the tracks.

Today's Rune: Breakthrough. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Twyla Tharp 50th Anniversary Tour: Dallas

I didn't get to see the Rolling Stones play this year, and I'm geographically too far away from seeing Pope Francis in person on his visit, but I did do something a bit different. Twyla Tharp's 50th Anniversary Tour began in Dallas at the Winspear Opera House (AT&T Performing Arts Center) on September 18 and 19, 2015. I attended on the second night and was thrilled to see it.

I do not know much about the technical aspects of dance and its choreography, but I do know when I like something, and I found this event mesmerizing and great fun: spectacle, music and dance choreographed with both respect and a sense of humor.  
Twyla Tharp is quoted in the program with regards to her organizing principle: "Simply put, PRELUDES AND FUGUES is the world as it ought to be. YOWZIE as it is. The FANFARES celebrate both."

The night proceeded in this order:

[- FINIS -]

"Preludes and Fugues" revolved around piano music composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. "Yowzie" was constructed around early blues/jazz songs by Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, and others. The whole second part of the night was wilder and more energetic than the first -- which was perfect, not least because audience members could bring "spirits" netted during the intermission to their seats, so long as they had lids on them. 

It was astonishingly pleasing to hear the pounding and thumping of bare feet on the stage, to see it all in person -- a much more exciting experience than seeing such things on a small glass screen.

The dress of the dancers contrasted between halves. For the Bach piano vibe, the men wore what looked to me like simple outfits from the time of the French Revolution or Napoleonic era. The women wore shorter outfits, more like flappers from the 1920s or pre-flappers from ancient times with colorful fabrics. The differences between the attire of the men and women was both anachronistic and cool. Much stranger were the outfits worn by both women and men after the intermission. Think bright, colorful ragtag clothes with the vibe of Billy Idol in "Dancing with Myself" -- sort of 70s punk meets 80s garish tones mixed within a hallucinated dreamscape. In other words: bizarre. Especially because the dancers moved around the stage to musical classics of the first half of the 20th century. Again, both anachronistic and cool.

Which all reminds me: it's good to stretch, get out of the same old, same old routines. My little synapses were firing away, taking it all in. A dash of pinot noir aided me.

Twyla Tharp is astonishing. She came out afterwards and spoke to a sizable subset of the overall audience, that portion which remained after the main performance. She fielded questions. Until this point, the only languages I'd heard around me (when seated elsewhere) were Portuguese, Russian, Italian and Queen's English. In the Q & A, American English was spoken.  

I've already written some about her earlier work with David Byrne on The Catherine Wheel project.  Let me add that Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life (with Mark Reiter, 2006) is a useful and entertaining book, especially for the creatively inclined. For her 50th anniversary tour, you can access Twyla Tharp's NY Times blog here

This North American tour (or part thereof) proceeds next to the mountain states, the West Coast, Austin, New Orleans, Bloomington, Toronto, East Lansing, Chicago, Washington, DC, and New York City. Can you dig? I'd see it again if I could. 

Today's Rune: Initiation.