art by nacrowe
watch HERE for our most recent episode of DEER GOD RADIO on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC which explored the golden age of country and the modern americana movement that rediscovered that rootsy appalachian vibe. under no conditions did we ever consider playing any of that commercial pablum that passes itself as modern country. that stuff is utter shit.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.
it's funny. there's a lot about writer ERNEST HEMINGWAY that i don't like or identify with; his killing of animals for sport, macho sense of white privilege, womanizing, etc. that being said he was of his time for better or worse.
but for my money for a 30 period from the 1920s through to the 1950s he was one of the most adventurous both in terms of his wanderlust and his editing. yes i said it. when i think of what i like about HEMINGWAY, its his ability to showcase complex psychology using concise declarative sentences with minimal superfluous decorations like fancy adjectives and obscure references. in essence, the opposite of my writing style.
i am aware that this style came about from his time as a journalist both stateside and abroad as a war correspondent for the KANSAS CITY STAR during the spanish civil war of the 1930s. he is a case study in economy. to say the most with the least. its not minimal in the sense of a WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS poem where he is playing with the form itself, for HEMINGWAY i believe he was more interested in the conveying a thought like a straight line to the heart. in a way its kind of a similar ethos to punk rock, three chords and the truth except with him its a subject, verb, object and a typewriter.
i've read and taught HERMAN MELVILLE's MOBY DICK (1851) in my prior life as a secondary english teacher. what's intellectually stimulating about it is its breadth of knowledge about nearly every aspect of whaling in northeast america in the late 18th century. it's encyclopedic. the exercise in reading that book, beside its volume, is trying to surmise which religious, cultural, economic, political allusion to attach to a given part of the narrative. several times the actual plot works on several of these levels simultaneously, which gives the book depth. so basically MOBY DICK is both massive in terms of its breadth and depth.
HEMINGWAY isn't interested in that with THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (1952). to me the plot is more of a rorschach test where you can enjoy it for whatever you want it to be. the biblical story of job, sure. a treatise on the hardships related to aging, absolutely. an expression of HEMINGWAY'S depleted vitality and interest in life, maybe. to me HEMINGWAY presents something to project onto, as apart to MELVILLE where it feels more like an endurance test, like a marathon. love them both, but i feel the superior trick is to view the reader as an equal partner in the creation of meaning through the written word.
this was HEMINGWAY's calling card and gift as a writer. respecting his reader.
collage by nacrowe
when i think of the weimar-era german painter OTTO DIX, who famously depicted the WWI veterans as contorted, disfigured amalgamations of flesh and mechanical attachments, i think of someone interested in the idea of how identity is attached to one's physicality.
his work almost brings about notions of the paradox surrounding the Ship of Theseus, being that if you replace every piece of wood on a ship at some point it is no longer the original ship, except when exactly does that transformation happen? does it happen?
the german soldiers in his paintings are often seen to be missing limbs and parts of their face that have crudely been replaced by then-modern technology. even paintings showcasing soldiers in action on in the trenches find them wearing gas masks and charging towards the viewer like deranged madmen in a barren dream-like hellscape.
FRANCIS BACON used contorted figures to provide insight into his fragile mind-state and strikingly express the depths of his psychosis. with DIX i think that his use of body disfigurement was more to showcase the fragile collective german mindstate in the years after their defeat in WWI. along with the work of GEORGE GROSZ, i find his work endlessly compelling as it attempts to honestly channel psychological realism about the psyche of a nation. its power is what made it so dangerous to like of the third reich who later deemed it degenerate and attempted to suppress it in order to spin a much darker narrative with "realistic" historical paintings that were very much a quixotic fantasy.
ironically hitler's need to mock the work of DIX among others is what preserved their work. go figure.
art by nacrowe
it is often assumed that innovation in the arts is coupled with an expansive worldview that further enriches humanity. think LEONARDO DA VINCI with his visions of helicopters and future mechanical technology or SHAKESPEARE writing plays that ultimately sought to comment publicly on the role and responsibility of leaders (MACBETH, HAMLET, RICHARD III, KING LEAR) for then-current and future monarchs.
LENI RIEFENSTAHL mastered the relatively young art of cinema by bending the documentary form to her, umm, will in the epic nazi propaganda films OLYMPIA and TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. the very vocabulary of film shots was altered after her involvement, introducing crane and various dramatic aerial shots that sought to showcase the grandeur and sheer scale of a 1934 rally in nuremberg. massive widescreen shots of thousands of soldiers acting in unison is commonplace now (think NORTH KOREA military parades) and part of the fascist lexicon.
watching her films is a lesson in appreciating the craft while recognizing but disregarding the political, social and cultural repercussions of the message. it is difficult, much like appreciating the works of CARAVAGGIO, BERTOLT BRECHT, CHUCK BERRY, EDGARD DEGAS, WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS, PAUL GAUGUIN, JAMES BROWN, WILLIAM GOLDING and MORRISSEY after knowing their crimes or dispicable worldviews. i believe it can be done.
the fact that RIEFENSTAHL was a lesbian who was more than complicit in the propagation of a corrosive worldview that impacted millions of people, including those that shared her own sexuality, heightens her hypocrisy in scale beyond those of the artists i mentioned, so in a purely utilitarian argument she is much worse. she is the ultimate hypocrite and complicit in the holocaust and history should judge her for that.
at the same time when i view her work i see someone that is interested in the human form, both individually as with the famous divers form OLYMPIA (reminiscent of EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE except her figures are in flight) or en masse as a proverbial singular body politic in TRIUMPH OF THE WILL (which is basically the most warped BUSBY BERKELEY routine ever). the fact that her work is so visually compelling only makes it that much more sinister, as the diving bodies are meant to showcase the superiority of the Arian race and the mass of synchronized bodies a sign of the singular power and vision of the state.
to not watch her films is a mistake. appreciate her craft and be mindful of its dire implications, if anything her nazi filmography is a case study in the power of film to shape consciousness, just not those that suit our better angels.
to make a connection to how this lexicon of images she created applies to today is too obvious. all i am saying is be aware of it next time you see a mass of people in a political video trying to sell you on conformity.
Painting (1946), Oil on Linen, Museum of Modern Art
FRANCIS BACON was a 20th century british painter best known for his post-WWII work that often included crude depictions of animal carcasses, popes, and portraits of himself and his peers. it is often said that his work related an existential unease of many during the post-war period where many were forced to reevaluate their place in the world, both as individuals and nationally. being a highly intelligent homosexual man during this dark, less-enlightened period only further compounded such national and individual issues of identity.
i find his work fascinatingly inventive and gloriously opaque, its fractured nature almost the art analogue to LEWIS CARROLL, except way more self-examining in nature and more sinister in its implications for what constitutes human nature. essentially his beauty is visible in the grotesque and unsavory dark corners of the human psyche.
his work has influenced countless artists, a recent example being the MARK ROMANECK-directed 1994 video for the NINE INCH NAILS song "CLOSER" (embedded below).
if interested, i found this 1966 BBC documentary "FRAGEMENTS OF A PORTRAIT" to be particularly insightful into the psyche of this most impenetrable of artists.