Hey…I’m in Zurich! I have spent the entire afternoon in Wash Heaven. Which is a very specialisty way of saying I have been looking at some of my favourite drawings by Johann Heinrich Füssli – subject of my thesis. Wash refers to the use of mainly monochrome watercolour. This is a wash drawing:
J.H. Füssli. Achilles Sacrifices his Hair by the Pyre of Patroklos. From The Iliad. 1800-05. Zürich, Kunsthaus.
I didn’t see this one today, but I will one of the coming days. How great is that?!
And besides – I’m having cake. Of course. In a heavenly place called Cakefriends. I will be their cake friend, no problem – I feel like a part of the family already.
Having read Anna’s report from our trip to museum of art Louisiana last week, I thought I’d just do a post of my own, following up on Anna’s observations on Cindy Sherman.
Because seeing the Sherman exhibtion reminded me of the Tori Amos-album Stange Little Girls (2001) which I bought recently and like very much. It occured to me at Louisiana that Tori Amos is obviously very inspired by Sherman in this album, which features 12 cover tracks, covering songs by artists as diverse as Eminem and Lennon/McCartney.
On the album, Amos presents an interesting new take on the concept of musical covering as she uses each track to present a different side of Woman as an expressive individual – and perhaps even different sides of herself as a woman artist. The songs are all centered around women and they are all originally written by male artists, and thus Amos uses the album as a way of exploring different male visions of women, and she does so playfully and freely, as if trying on different outfits in a fitting room. The homage to Cindy Sherman’s work (whose artistic project of portraying women may be said to be similar) is quite evident, as Amos poses on the album booklet in a series of photos that recall Sherman’s staged photography:
From Tori Amos: Strange Little Girls
If the pictures stood by themselves, I would be tempted to dismiss them as sheer Sherman plagiatism, but appearing as they do as part of the album cover art, they merely serve to emphasize Strange Little Girls as Amos’s musical exploration of the artistic project that Sherman started, and I think that’s a very sympathetic idea.
Amos’s talent as a musician is indisputable, I think, and the tracks are all very interesting musically, ranging in genre from quite piano ballads to loud rock songs, much like Sherman’s photography which ranges from the fragmentary contemplative to the grotesque and shrill. My favourite tracks on the album are probably the beautiful, understated cover version of Tom Waits’s “Time”, which gains a whole new perspective with Amos’s delicate vocal replacing Waits’s hoarse one, and the almost deliriously rambling, disharmonic and multivoiced schizophrenic version of Neil Young’s otherwise very by-the-book ballad “Heart of Gold”. And her chillingly laid-back version of “I don’t like Mondays” haunted me for weeks after the Virginia Tech massacre and comes to my mind whenever I see Cho’s angry face on the news, the Elektra-like unquenchable thirst for revenge shining from his eyes.
A minor problem with Amos’s album is, however, that she does not achieve the diversity of expression that Sherman masters. While the genre of her cover tracks ranges, Amos’s women portraying gets a little monotonous, as the majority of the portraits present in some form a deranged and dangerous woman. She no doubt wishes to underline the tendency towards vagina-dentata-ish male fear of women, and while I think this is an important issue within our patriachal society, surely it does not reflect the attitude of the entire male population? Here, I think Sherman’s take on the male optics is more subtle and leaves more room for interpretation.
But the album’s spark and energy and Tori Amos’s fitting-room mentality towards a male-dominated society’s view on femininity, definitely makes Tori Amos’s music recommendable to anyone with an interest in Sherman’s project, and I think it is great, and much too rare, to see contemporary women musicians seriously exploring gender issues within their music. A much-needed break from Gwen Stefani’s scantily clad Hollaback Girls and Shakira’s allegedly truth-speaking hips. I haven’t yet heard Amos’s latest album American Doll Posse (which was released last month), but I understand that Amos continues her theme of women portraits, this time specifically criticising traditinal American sex roles; so it would seem that Sherman is indeed still very much alive and kicking. Good for her. And for all of us.
I have been busy! Hence my long silence on this blog. But as recent additions to our flickr account show the last week has been full of good stuff.
Wednesday night Marie and I tempted the deluge and drove to the museum of modern art, Louisiana, North of Copenhagen to see works by the Queen of Staged Photos, Cindy Sherman. And what a great time we had! The exhibition was very large and included photos and videos from all of Sherman’s carrier. Most of them with a humorous edge, some of them disgusting and some of them combining those two strains. Besides from her recent clown portraits (sju jætter?) I think this exhibition showed what an extremely skilled artist Cindy Sherman is. Not only are her photographs technically amazing they also capture the spirit of an age and of the person (herself in disguise) she portrays. Marie and I stopped by every piece and talked and talked about them. Nothing was of little importance or dull. I think she is fantastic.
As a curator to be I think the exhibition was very serene and nice and with a good selection of works. Some of the wall colours were odd but when it comes to hanging I think they did a good job. Look at this wall for example where Sherman’s Old Master photos have been arranged in a traditional hanging a’la Parisian Salon. Just the right thing to do if you ask me.
I am completely taken by these. Sort of an acting out of a make-a-match memory game for art historians.
On Thursday I went with my family to Sweden to do some more painting in the vicarage my parents bought. We spent a whole four days there working hard. Here are some pictures.
This is the dining room with me and my sister painting with grey (and me trying to make a straight line). Ever since entering a grey room in some friends’ house I have wished for some room of my own in grey. I think it is enchanting and with old furniture it just makes perfect sense.
After the dining room we painted the neighbouring living room. Yellow. A very difficult colour but beautiful together with grey and with the big white porcelain stove in the corner it looks great. Here again my sister and I painting.
Of course we weren’t alone – far from it. My brother, dad, uncle and brother-in-law made a great effort too as did my aunt and mom. This is my brother with his protective glasses. The staining annoyed him a good deal and when this wonderful pair turned up he just has to use them.
When not painting we went on trips in the wonderful area, Österlen which is the Easternmost part of Scania (Skåne to the locals). They live on apples in this part of the country so at this time of year Österlen is one big blooming apple garden.
Actually scenes from the Cherry Valley (apples…cherries…) in the adaptation of Astrid Lindgren’s The Brothers Lionheart were shot here and when driving through the scenery it is breathtaking.
The apples are used for cider and apple juice…and cakes.
Besides from apple trees there are fields, woods and steep hills. And a waterfall just five minutes from where we are.
We left Sweden on Sunday and on Monday it was my birthday. And look at all the great stuff I got from my wonderful family:
I have to admit I am ridiculously fond of presents and this year was perfect. I got what I wished for and I got what I had wished for but had forgotten again. Besides I had some more cake and a wonderful dinner with same wonderful family which just made the day perfect.
What a week!
If you happen to find yourself Copenhagen at the moment or during next week, you should definitely check out underground artist group Xofia’s latest staging REPLAY Veronika. I attended the performance last night and was very impressed with this thougtprovoking and inspired staging.
The play was inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake, the idea that a lapse in time could occur, setting history for a period of time, and thus suspending man’s free will momentarily. In REPLAY Veronika such a phenomenon occurs, resulting in the repetition of eight years (1999-2007), and main character Veronika is the only one in the world who preserves her free will and thus her ability to change her fate as of November 14 2007, the date that marks the occurence of the timequake.
The play queries the idea of a free will as Veronika, even when given the opportunity to change a less than desirable destiny, chooses to a large degree to follow the road already taken, and it does so in a fresh and sympathetically unresolved manner, leaving the ending open and inviting the audience to make a guess as to what will follow. It’s a kind of like a modern Everyman play, one might say, drawing on latter-day mythology in lieu of the lorn Christianity-inspired gallery of characters of medieval mystery plays. Veronika (Birgit Ulla Uldall-Ekman) with her mirroring surarium-name is Everywoman and the object of identification, God-like character Time (Sara Damgaard Andersen) embodies the much-worshipped media holding the remote control to a flat-screen monitor and effectively rewinds and fast-forwards, Lev (Bjørn Vikkelsø) is Veronika’s road-not-taken personified as the passionate, distant man in her life, contrasted by earthbound, button-down-shirted husband Jakob (Asger Kjær Pedersen), and clingy girlfriend Lily (Stina Mølgaard Pedersen), while The Stranger (Ulf Rathjen Kring Hansen) is an anon.-angelic kind of helper, dressed very appropriately like a film-noir informant in a hat and cottoncoat. It’s hard not to identify with Veronika as the years flash by in the course of about 80 minutes, relating to her story as well as (re-)considering one’s own actions and choices of the 1999-2007 time-span.
The art direction is very effective; the stage settings show the inside of an apartment, ambiguously decorated so that it reflects both claustrophic conformity and wall-paper-tattering rebellion, and I especially love the aforementioned flat-screen monitor: The rewinding and fast-forwarding is a brilliantly tangible way of presenting the passing of time, and I have always been a total sucker for the use of multi-media in modern theatre. I think it’s such a great Michel-Foucault-“Des espaces autres” way of depicting the juxtaposition of spaces, and such a juxtaposition is naturally relevant in a performance on the subject of life choices and dimensional displacement.
REPLAY Veronika is, in other words, very recommendable! It opened on Friday the 11th and will be playing until May 20 at Basement, Vesterbro – a great site for theatre, literally underground. Make sure you get a programme when picking up your tickets; Xofia’s visual designer Søren Meisner (also in charge of the absolutely awesome web design at xofia.dk) has done a magnificent job with the layout, and his poster (the above picture) is a rare example of promotional art offering an interpretation of and thus interacting with the stage performance.
I receive the newsletter of The National Gallery, London each month and the May issue had some information on their annual project for young school children called Take One. Every year the NG chooses a picture from their collection and teachers and pupils across the UK are then asked to be inspired by the picture in their lessons. Cross-curicular work as they call it. The products of this will be viewed by the Gallery officials and a selection will be exhibited. It could be pictures the children painted, poems they wrote, videos, photos, sculpture, etc.
How about these marvellous cheetahs by the children of Saint Nicholas Junior School, Bath:
Inspired by Bacchus and Ariadne (1521-23) by Titian:
Wonderful. But what caught my eye in the first place was a staged photo. And as you know Marie and I are always trying to be on the ball about staged photos. This year the National Gallery handed out a painting by the Dutch painter Jan Molenaer (1610-1668):
Two Boys and a Girl making Music, 1629
And here is the most hilarious staged photo – isn’t it precious?
If you go here you can read more on this year’s picture, the exhibition and watch a nice little film about the children participating.
Last year the picture was Pierre Mignard’s Marquise de Seignelay and Two of her Sons, 1691.
Seems like a very good project. Once again the Brits beat the rest of us at reaching children with art.
Last week I passed a couple of days in Berlin with my sister. The afternoon before our evening flight home we met this lady:
In that bowl she had some steaming hot chocolate and she asked us to come with her. And as all the children of Hamelin followed the Pied Piper we followed her.
She led us to Fassbender & Rausch, the most wonderful chocolate house. They have a Pralinentheke (OMG!)where I bought a marzipan potato and some delicious truffles.
But the lady kept calling and she guided us to an elevator which took us one flight up to the Schokoladencafé. She seated us and served a cup of the most wonderful hot chocolate I have ever tasted together with this red currant dream:
Here you see me paying homage to the cake while I leave the chocolate for a short moment:
Not only we had been led there. All sorts of people were there, including children served by child waiters who looked to content their every chocolate desire:
I think perhaps this could be a slightly grown Stewie who teaches a child colleague how to drink.
Fassbender & Rausch have my warmest recommendations. Do not neglect it the next time you visit Berlin. And you know what? They had other cakes than the pink one. Which means I will have to go there again!
“And over here you see a fresco showing Christ at this one time when He was standing around naked with a naked woman and a snake in a garden.”
High School teacher: And here you see the crucifixion of Christ.
Student: Um… Actually, I think that would be St. Peter. ‘Cause he’s hanging head down? That’s how St. Peter got crucified according to legends. Plus, his hair is gray. Christ only lived to be 30.
High school teacher: …no, I think this is Christ. I think this is just a painting showing Christ on the cross right before they turned Him around.
– Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence
/marie (who, remembering this, really doesn’t miss being in high school…)
Anna and I took the following staged photo during a stroll through an otherwise beautiful and Spring-like Copenhagen:
As I’m hoping the above photo will show, a clown-sighting is enough to induce in me a Norwegian-fin-de-siecle-ish kind of existential anxiety, and I will never understand how it might be possible to react differently. Who was it that first decided that a grotesque-ified version of a human (insane make-up, over-sized mouth, nose, and hair) displaying a generally destructive behaviour (falling on his own ass, or making fellow-clowns fall on theirs, extensive pie-abuse) would be funny? I don’t even want to know.
Incidentally, when Anna and I came across this disturbing billboard (which displays a particularly creepy clown, since it mixes elements of the perfectly normal – black suit, white shirt, tie – with the grotesque and clown-like, thus indicating that there is a clown hidden in all of us! *shudder*), I had just been sharing with Anna a clown-related urban legend. I am currently working on a feature for the literature radio programme that I work for, about urban legends as modern folklore, and I plan to cite this particular story in the feature, because I think it is a fine example of the brilliantly simple, yet effectful narrative structure that characterises most urban legends. And then, as a bonus, it serves to provoke in its recipient a certain caution when it comes to clowns, which is definitely a good thing. So I thought I would post the story here on the blog too:
A couple with kids were going out for a night on town, and they were trying out a new babysitter, a young girl. At some point during the evening, they called the babysitter to check if everything was going ok. Sure, said the babysitter, the children were in bed and sound asleep. The babysitter was, however, wondering, if it would be ok for her to watch cable TV in the parents’ bedroom? The living room TV didn’t have cable – the parents didn’t want their children to watch all sorts of garbage – and there was a particular programme that the babysitter wanted to see.
Of course she could watch TV in their bedroom, the parents said. The girl thanked them, but she did have one more request: Would it be ok if she pulled a blanket or a sheet or something over the clown statue that they had in their bedroom? It was kind of creeping her out, she felt like it was staring at her.
“Take the children and go to the neighbours immediately”, said the parents, “We’ll call the police. We don’t have a clown statue.”
This Friday night I have spent watching the fine movements of the back of an exquisite pianist: Leif Ove Andsnes. And it was a wonderful concert!
Very mozarty – the programme consisted of Eine kleine Nachtmusik and Piano Concerts nos 17 and 20.
Leaving Eine kleine Nachtmusik aside I will jump straight to the piano concerts conducted by Andsnes from the piano. At first I was a little bit sceptical always having perceived Andsnes as a somewhat introvert artist. An artist who communicates with his co-musicians via the music more than via eye-contact or movements intended for them to react on.
When they intoned the Piano Concert no. 17 I watched Andsnes carefully and frowned a bit upon his stiff and very exact direction. It seemed dry and sharp and perhaps a little bit unimaginative. But as they reached the last movement I was completely taken by the sweetness and delicacy. It was as if the exacting style liberated the orchestra and Andsnes himself.
Having moved away from a conducting fellow listener I was free to enjoy the Piano Concert no. 20 without any kind of disturbance. And this was when my eyes fell on Andsnes’s back. Since he was conducting from the piano he was sitting with his back at the audience flanked and faced by the orchestra.
His back was the most expressive back I have ever perceived (if I ever looked at any back that intently…). Despite, or perhaps because of, the black cloth of the jacket you had a very clear idea of where Andsnes wanted to go and how the music should proceed. His movements were so condensed and precise that I think the musicians would perhaps have understood more by looking on his back than on his face and hands. It was as if his back and the shifting folds of his jacket betrayed all his thoughts and feelings most delicately. Plain beautiful and adding to my enjoyment and understanding of the music.
It reminded me very much of the back of the Belvedere Torso or the flickering light in i.e. this drawing by Michelangelo. The same strength and beauty:
Michelangelo Buonarroti, Studies for the Libyan Sibyl, 1508-12. Red chalk. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Strangely enough Leif Ove Andsnes’s back and I have met before. Two years ago I attended a magnificent concert in Wigmore Hall, London with Andsnes and Christian Tetzlaff. My seat was on the side of the stage, almost beneath the grand piano looking up at Andsnes’s back and I was only able to see more than Tetzlaff’s feet via his reflection in the underside of the piano cover. But not even then did I realise the expressiveness of that back (perhaps from being too close). Well, I did tonight and it made me laugh with joy all the way home on my bike through the soft spring evening.
Besides the crocheted weapons she also does trophies! Look:
I’m totally amazed. And I’m definitely going to the Spring Exhibition, Charlottenborg, Copenhagen where she will be exhibiting soon.