for some reason around 2001 i became deeply interested in the VIENNA SECESSION MOVEMENT of the late 19th and early 20th century and related AUSTRIAN artists such as GUSTAV KLIMT, OSKAR KOKOSCHKA and EGON SCHIELE. with the later two there was an EXPRESSIONISTIC and VISCERAL nature to their paintings that i found compelling, especially when held in comparison to GERMAN EXPRESSIONIST painters like EMIL NOLDE and ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER from roughly the same period and later NEUE SACHLICHKEIT ("NEW OBJECTIVITY") painters like OTTO DIX, GEORGE GROSZ and MAX BECKMANN. SCHIELE in particular was just so EXRREME in his depiction of HUMAN FRAILTY with his nudes. there is an ingrained sense of PHYSICAL DETERIORATION and DISFIGUREMENT with the SALLOW skin, BLANK UNADORNED countenances, oblique sight-lines and CONTORTED corpse-like postures against a WHITEWASHED floating background that put the emphasis front-and-center on the nude figure in a PROVOCATIVE manner. i was taken with SCHIELE's work immediately as a teenager.
my mother on the other hand, initially was revulsed and put off by those nude paintings and that reaction is pretty common. his work can be interpreted as RAW, BLEAK, UNROMANTIC and CONFRONTATIONAL in the extreme. i was lucky enough to visit the scenic CZECH village of CESKY KRUMLOV where SCHIELE lived and his gallery is stationed, in between stops in VIENNA and PRAGUE on a trip with my father in 2002. where that capacity for depicting the human form in such a blemished, convulsive and wholly compromised state is rooted i will never know.
but i saw that unflinching artistic gaze and capacity to depict REPRESENTATIONAL REALITY "as is" as a sincere form of EMPATHY and COMPASSION, not DEBASEMENT, PITY or SCORN. and such is also the opinion and central thesis of the recent GERMAN documentary EGON SCHIELE: BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE (METAFILM, 2018), which recounts not only the life and impact of the painter on future GERMAN-speaking artists, but also the story of how his work grew over time to be celebrated on the same level as his peer, predecessor and one-time mentor KLIMT, whose own art in dialogue almost feels like an INVERSION of sorts in terms of TONE, TECHNIQUE and INTENT with that of SCHIELE. KLIMT's work was a celebration of the body and its status as a vessel for PLEASURE, VITALITY and REJUVENATION. with SCHIELE, his work seemingly depicts the body as a messy, fleshy, unsavory PRISON that is the locust of PAIN and DEBILITATION that the individual tolerates until ultimately freed from their mortal coil.
this documentary makes an interesting choice in having the narrator interview two of SCHIELE's favorite models, that being his girlfriend WALBURGA "WALLY" NEUZIL, sister-in-law ADELE HARMS and younger sister GERTRUDE. given his lack of resources and the PRIVATE nature of his visual experiments, its particularly interesting that he utilized his sister as a nude model. the narrative device of breaking the fourth wall and interviewing both of the DECEASED subjects firsthand is done partly to dispel a misinterpreted sexual interpretation of these rather EXPLICIT paintings. its still jarring though to consider that many of these paintings are of an underage family member and is most definitely still TABOO. for SCHIELE, the film argues, utilizing such a model was done out of necessity and was done in collaboration with his sibling.
overall, this brief documentary is successful in explaining how his paintings were informed by his technical training, preternatural artistic abilities and even access to emerging technologies such as x-rays. definitely worth checking if you are interested in TRANSGRESSIVE ART and the EXPRESSIONIST movement writ large.
with an absolute minimum amount of exposition, NORWEGIAN cartoonist LARS FISKE in his mostly wordless graphic novel GROSZ: BERLIN - NEW YORK (FANTAGRAPHICS, 2017) vividly depicts the life and career of noted GERMAN DADAIST painter GEORGE GROSZ in a style that expertly imitates his EXAGGERATED, CARICATURISTIC style. there is a certain NIHILISM to the work of GROSZ, especially that from the 1920s in which he showcased the PSYCHIC, MORAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL and PHYSICAL DAMAGE of the first world war on the collective GERMAN psyche. this was shown through a series of BRUTAL paintings depicting the DEBAUCHED nightlife of the WEIMAR REPUBLIC and all the opportunists, prostitutes and elites that frequented the bars and cabarets.
often compared to MODERNIST GERMAN peers like OTTO DIX and MAX BECKMANN, GROSZ had a harsh SARDONIC tone all his own which seemed to depict humanity as CORRUPTED and easily MANIPULATABLE, almost like DISCARDED marionettes once their value to the war machine has expired. this unbridled ability to hold a mirror to GERMAN society got him fined numerous times during this period, leading him to jump ship to the UNITED STATES in the early 1930s right as the NAZIS came to power. not surprisingly, HITLER had GROSZ's bitterly CAUSTIC paintings confiscated and deemed "degenerate art" alongside EMIL NOLDE, ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER, PAUL KLEE, MAX BECKMANN, MARC CHAGALL, OTTO DIX, WASILLY KANDINSKY, JOAN MIRO, OSKAR KOKOSCHKA, FERNAND LEGER and MAX ERNST as well as that of more famous artists like HENRI MATISSE, PABLO PICASSO, EDVARD MUNCH and VINCENT VAN GOGH.
what i love about FISKE's style is that it cleverly utilizes GROSZ's style in order to pass JUDGEMENT on his character and life decisions. id argue that this decision places GROSZ as a key part of a much larger tableau of GERMAN society, not separate from it as an outside observer. it seems to suggest that his experiences, perspectives and sense of FRACTURED IDENTITY are an outgrowth of this society that is largely in a state of FLUX. meaning here is fluid and so are the rules that govern society and the relationships that makeup politics and personal relationships. in this book it feels like everything pre-NAZIS is CULTURALLY, SEXUALLY, and ARTISTICALLY up for grabs. almost a year zero mentality that sees the forces that led to the CATASTROPHE of the first great war of being worthy of SCORN and DISMISSAL. but therein lies the problem of what to fill the void with and that is the world depicted in GROSZ: BERLIN - NEW YORK. at least in the early first half of the graphic novel before he moves to NEW YORK.
it is quite an achievement that such a dense depiction of such a notable artist was rendered efficiently utilizing such a minimum of words and almost completely through the power of GESTICULATION and TABLEAU. by presenting the multiple perspectives that made such a WARPED, FRAGMENTED reality possible very efficiently showcases the potential of the post war period and how that sense of fluid opportunity also gave way to the unleashing of the DARKEST RECESSES of the human id and our collective susceptibility to such. in the era of boundless GRIEVANCE and digital platforms that monetize such that is the DONALD TRUMP era, GROSZ and his artwork feels all the more RELEVANT and even PRESCIENT, probably more so than in the many decades past the second world war. GROSZ: BERLIN - NEW YORK is definitely worth checking out, especially for fans of MODERNISM and DADAISM or even that of EFFICIENT and thoughtfully executed storytelling constructs.
in the feature documentary HOCKNEY (BLAKEWAY, 2014) about the revered 20th century BRITISH painter DAVID HOCKNEY there is a quote attribute to him that paraphrased essentially argues that a transformation in viewing leads to a transformation in feeling. this conceit is the central thread that connects a life of creative work that really runs the stylistic gamut from ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM through POP ART. at heart HOCKNEY's work is concerned with perceived reality and is figure-based, but the aesthetic expressions of such showcase a talent concerned with SELF-ANALYSIS and SELF-EXPLORATION throughout his life: especially regarding his own relationship to his SEXUALITY. as his self-discovery through ART blossoms, so does his feelings towards such and the community that supports him.
being the child of RADIO from the SLEEPY northern industrial YORKSHIRE town of BRADFORD, HOCKNEY was well aware of the exploits of ESCAPISM that his IMAGINATION could provide, especially after discovering the local CINEMA as a child. movies provided both an escape and a spark that transported him far away from his DREARY routine in a crowded apartment that he shared with his parents and four siblings. its hard not to read that TRANSFORMATIONAL dream-like element into his paintings, almost SURREAL and GIORGIO DE CHIRICO-sque, that was no doubt so aided by both CINEMA and TELEVISION. the later of which he first witnessed as a teenager. even the notion of AMERICA and specifically HOLLYWOOD as a locust for personal expression and self-made REINVENTION seems rooted in this childhood attachment to MOTION PICTURES. my feeling is that its truly difficult to properly understand the REVOLUTION that was CINEMA if you were not a child of the RADIO beforehand. it was an EXPANSIVE and MIND-ALTERING INVENTION probably on par with the INTERNET a few generations later.
whereas his POP ART contemporaries in ANDY WARHOL and ROY LICHENSTEIN were more concerned with the MARCEL DUCHAMP-ian conceit of locating the AUTHENTICITY found in REPETITION and COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING and INDUSTRIAL PAINTING TECHNIQUES, HOCKNEY seemingly was more INTROSPECTIVE in both his focus and his subject matter. he usually painted associates, family and friends utilizing a CAMERA as the basis for his ART. interestingly HOCKNEY saw the emotional limitations of PHOTOGRAPHY as the starting point for his CREATIVE WORK, as he was able to warp elements such as color, proportion, light, composition and especially PERSPECTIVE to his will. though based in TRADITIONAL representational depictions of reality, over time his work confronted the VANISHING-POINT techniques from antiquity and sought out a wider PERSPECTIVE that took in multiple angles. his later work sought to seek the EMOTIONAL TRUTH found in a myriad of PERSPECTIVES on a single subject. almost twisting the idea of REPETITION on its head towards something altogether INSULAR and undoubtedly INNOVATIVE.
in many ways, being a HOMOSEXUAL in BOHEMIAN circles during his career was likewise a bold act of self-determination as such was completely TABOO in polite society. maybe i am reading in too much, but both his ARTISTIC and SEXUAL pursuits were related activities. i can only imagine the tragedy of the 1980s where the rise of AIDS effectively rendered two-thirds of his COMMUNITY gone seemingly overnight, especially in NEW YORK. that deep loss of vitality. that loss of potential. the seeming indifference of a CONSERVATIVE AMERICAN body politic that had yet to come to terms with its own constituent parts. it is still SHOCKING, even in retrospect.
many of HOCKNEY's friends, contemporaries, assistants and business partners participated in this film such as ED RUSCHA, JACK LARSON, DON BACHARDY, JOHN KASMIN, RAYMOND FOYE, TCHAIK CHASSEY, MELISSA NORTH, GEORGE LAWSON, WAYNE SLEEP, PHILIP STEADMAN, JOSEPH CLARK, KENNETH TYLER, CHARLIE SCHEIPS and DAVID OXTOBY. they likewise provide a multi-perspective on the subject himself, who is interviewed throughout. HOCKNEY was an absolutely REVELATORY and extremely WELL-CONSTRUCTED film that i highly recommend to anyone interested in MODERN ART or QUEER STUDIES. required viewing in my opinion.
the relationship between sleeve ART and the MUSIC it promotes has always been an INVIGORATING yet SUBTLE art, especially to music lovers like me. when seeking out an unfamiliar record by unknown ARTIST, seemingly you were always attempting to accurately surmise what the MUSIC would possibly SOUND like given the cover sleeve ARTWORK. most times this was a fool's errand but a fun one. the MAGIC of this interplay between SOUND and VISUALS is now largely lost given the MODERN advent of mobile streaming and various TECHNOLOGY-enabled distribution vehicles that make AUDIO content (as well as VIDEO) available instantaneously. there is no risk in purchasing a record, since commonly in recent years there is no record and consequently there is no purchase anymore (just watch it on YOUTUBE).
the documentary 23 ENVELOPE (BBC, 1985) is short documentary regarding the design firm 23 ENVELOPE, which was made up of graphic designer VAUGHAN OLIVER and photographer/videographer NIGEL GRIERSON. their partnership lasted from 1980 to 1988 and was celebrated for its CREATIVE work with BOUTIQUE BRITISH independent label 4AD and their stable of EXPERIMENTAL artists ranging from COCTEAU TWINS, PIXIES, LUSH, CLAN OF XYMOX and THIS MORTAL COIL to DEAD CAN DANCE and XMAL DEUTSCHLAND. what ties their PHOTOGRAPHIC and TYPOGRAPHIC work together is a commitment to all things and ABSTRACT. their work carries with it an ETHEREAL, OTHERWORLDLY quality that makes it feel very much up for interpretation, much like the MUSIC it serves to introduce. their work is also LYRICAL in the sense that it has an EMOTIONAL RESONANCE despite its OBTRUSIVE nature. too often with commercial COVER ART the images being displayed do not hold up AESTHETICALLY without explicit reference to the MUSIC. famous examples where this is not the case include ANDY WARHOL's iconic THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO (VERVE, 1967) cover, RICHARD KERN's early collaborations with SONIC YOUTH, as well as the images PETER SAVILLE provided for both JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER at FACTORY RECORDS. these NOTABLE examples standout as ARTISTICALLY compelling statements outside of their commercial associations with the TRANSGRESSIVE and INNOVATIVE MUSIC they were commissioned to promote.
the whole discussion regarding the role of ART and MUSIC is endlessly FASCINATING for me since at its core it serves a MARKET FUNCTION of differentiated what crassly very much is a PRODUCT for general CONSUMPTION. but the core INTEGRITY of INTENTION at display with this documentary in reference to the work of OLIVER and GRIERSON proves that more can be accomplished and render this PRODUCT as INDESPENSIBLE to the right constituency. that interplay between ARTIST and PATRON, MARKET and CONSUMER will never be figured out as they are uneasy bedfellows. 23 ENVELOPE voices this dynamic brilliantly and is a relevant documentary definitely well worth checking out.
RIP VAUGHAN OLIVER
for years i had a vague association of what i understood to be the obscure 1980s highly IDIOSYNCRATIC communal art project/quasi-religious/cult parody THE CHURCH OF THE SUBGENIUS with some of my favorite artists including DEVO and PAUL REUBENS (of PEE WEE's PLAYHOUSE fame), but beyond that i knew very little. so i was thrilled to watch the recent JR "BOB" DOBBS & THE CHURCH OF THE SUBGENIUS (DARK STAR, 2020) documentary and learn more about its origin, intent and its two main architects/accomplices IVAN STANG and PHILO DRUMMOND. i really had no idea that there was a whole community of likeminded artists including filmmakers ALEX COX (REPO MAN, SID & NANCY) and RICHARD LINKLATER (DAZED & CONFUSED, SLACKERS), cartoonists R. CRUMB and MATT GROENING (THE SIMPSONS), actor NICK OFFERMAN (PARKS & RECREATION), philosopher ROBERT ANTON WILSON, magicians PENN & TELLER and musicians DAVID BYRNE, THE RESIDENTS and FRANK ZAPPA among many others.
from what i could gather from the film, for all of the parodied RHETORICAL FLOURISHES, CADENCES, MANNERISMS and cyclical SELF-REFERENTIAL LOGIC that defines TELEVANGELISM, there is a value to the effort. at its core the whole endeavor seems to be about COMMUNICATION and COMMUNITY BUILDING. not for money or a RELIGIOUS SOCIOPOLITICAL EXPANSIONIST AGENDA, but seemingly for unfettered SELF-EXPRESSION and the search for SELF-GENERATIVE MEANING. of course by playing with the "us versus them" vocabulary and SELF-AGGRANDIZING MYTHOLOGIZED IDEOLOGY routinely utilized by CULTS and religious sects, they ran the risk of being treated like a cult or new religious sect by the population. or worse, converts. what makes this film interesting is how STANG and DRUMMOND navigate those waters of maintaining a parody religion over time, especially when things get hairy, as in the aftermath of 9/11 and the later rise of DONALD TRUMP. at those points irony was dead and the CYNICISM apparent in the population had seemingly far exceed the parodies and gentle prodding of THE CHURCH OF THE SUBGENIUS. during these periods the MANUFACTURING OF CONSENT and TRIBAL SECTARIANISM in the population through internet-enabled PROPAGANDA made for a DYSTOPIAN REALITY indeed.
at one point is the joke not funny anymore and essentially LIFE IMITATES ART.
im happy that the film ends with the two founders MOVING FORWARD and EVOLVING with the times. it makes me feel that that instinct to PROD, REJECT, LAUGH, PARODY, INVESTIGATE and ultimately THINK is an ART unto itself and when that is ability is given over to an AUTHORITY FIGURE, that is when it all ends. lights out. so im glad that the film closes with them not giving in to TRUMP. because sometimes i fear i have.
JR "BOB" DOBBS & THE CHURCH OF THE SUBGENIUS is definitely a strange film but well worth checking out, whether or not you are a genius or a subgenius.
its easy to write off a figure like turn-of-the-millennium UNDERGROUND collage artist / photographer DASH SNOW as being the recipient of undue acclaim and attention due to the presupposed PRIVILEGE of being a scion of the DE MENIL family and its massive art collection, as well as noted BUDDHIST author and academic ROBERT THURMAN. but that would be incorrect and such is the working thesis of the recent MOMENTS LIKE THIS NEVER LAST (VICE, 2021) documentary about his meteoric rise as a CELEBRATED artist and his tragically brief life at the hand of heroin.
SNOW was a talented artist who served as a catalyst for the downtown NYC art scene that included peers like RYAN MCGINLEY, DAN COLEN, TERENCE COH and ex-wife AGATHA SNOW among others. as a teen he effectively left his family (with whom he was apparently written out of their will) after returning to the city after a brief stint in a juvenile correctional facility in rural GEORGIA meant to cure him of his OPPOSITIONAL DEFIANT DISORDER diagnosis. the trauma of such seemingly only reinforced his OPPOSITIONAL worldview towards authority and strengthened his loyalty to friends and allies he found on the street, eventually coalescing with his IRAK clique of fellow hustlers and street artists. this pre-9/11 downtown scene during the height of GIULIANI's reign was the incubator for his PERSONA and ART. the dude tagged everywhere, including a legendary "FUCK GIULIANI" on the side of the BROOKLYN BRIDGE. this aspect of his personality i found more than a little JUVENILE and OUTLANDISH, since it reeked of attention-grabbing antics from a TROUBLED young man.
what i found IMPRESSIVE was how SNOW was able to hone his craft, be quite PRODUCTIVE and support his friends throughout his brief life and career. his work was biographical and completely UNINHIBITED, he essentially lived like someone in a community with no boundaries or limitations. outsiders may see this as bohemian nonsense, and at times watching some of these antics in retrospect does feel a bit forced, but there is no doubt when looking at his collages and photographs the studied intention and eye for detail. he was truly GIFTED. its more than a bit HUMOROUS and IRONIC as the film points out, that a kid who ran away and gave up a family of art royalty, in turn became one himself. like many TALENTED artist and musicians before and since, opiates robbed him of his creativity, sucked out his ENERGY to live and snuffed him out too soon. its an old story that is beyond cliche at this point but its one that will continue unabated going forward no doubt.
the fact that he passed away so young with an infant daughter to boot is just tragic. i condone the right of people making personal decisions regarding LIFESTYLE and HEALTH, but when said choices lead to a young child being robbed of the opportunity to grow up with a father, it just feels like a SELFISH moral failing. i could be wrong on that but its my reaction nonetheless with regards to SNOW as well as BRAD NOWELL, IAN CURTIS, SHANNON HOON or KURT COBAIN before him. again, cant help watching this celebration of his life without feeling BITTERSWEET about his legacy. he catalyzed an art movement but at the price of his family.
was it really worth it?
i first became aware of CLEVELAND-based artist DEREK HESS by way of the album covers he produced in the early 2000s for ascending POST-HARDCORE bands, notably CONVERGE and UNEARTH among many others. his EXPRESSIONISTIC, SKELETAL drawings often depicted CONTORTED, faceless bodies in a moment of PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL DISCONNECT. i found his work to be emotionally charged and unflinchingly VISCERAL. like CARAVAGGIO, its art that is very much concerned with the individual's connection to the PHYSICAL BODY as a vessel that bears intense emotions of ANXIETY, GRIEF, SORROW, REGRET and PAIN. in many ways, it fit the potent HONESTY and PATHOS of those albums like hand in glove.
FORCED PERSPECTIVE: THE STORY OF ARTIST DEREK HESS (COAT OF ARMS, 2013) is a poignant documentary that reveals the artist and his connection to not only art as CATHARSIS, but art also as a vehicle for DISCOVERY and CONNECTION. it tracks his evolution from comic book aficionado to trained figure artist to concert poster designer to celebrated fine artist and serial entrepreneur whose work is part of the LOUVRE's collection among others. it really is quite the career trajectory but the essence of this film is not so much on his career milestones, but his dual connection with the CLEVELAND-based cultural scene he helped nurture and foster as well as his own relationship with his SOBRIETY and BIPOLAR DIAGNOSIS. coming to AUTHENTIC, hard-fought terms with his own physical limitations and learning of the impact his actions have on those around him is at the heart of what this film is about. it is the basis and foundation from which his art can develop and self-renew without being clouded by CHEMICAL DEPENDENCIES. his work is so powerful it almost requires an UNBLINKING, unadulterated gaze straight into the soul. his work is the seeming very definition of SOBRIETY in how it depicts and evokes the COMPROMISED PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL nature of the HUMAN CONDITION without wincing or turning away. it shows the distance between our ASPIRATIONAL selves and our own dreary reality as is. and that DUALITY is something i very much appreciate about HESS' work.
i had no idea going in how much an inspiration SILVER AGE OF COMICS pioneer GIL KANE had on his work, especially with his dramatic use of foreshortening and forced perspective in order to evoke scale in a representational composition. KANE and his peers utilized such techniques as a narrative device in order to draw the viewer into the PSYCHODRAMA at play in the comic book. it feels like HESS utilized such as an EXTREME means of depicting INTERNAL, often SELF-DIRECTED CONFLICT at scale. its an INVENTIVE and CLEVER inversion.
ultimately HESS' ability to visually depict powerful INTERNAL PROCESSES related to INTENSE EMOTIONS is what he is renowned and celebrated for. in that he is a SINGULAR visionary. this film gets at the man behind the artist and his own personal struggles that feed his art. i found this documentary to be quite courageous in its depiction of HUMAN FRAILTY and would recommend to anyone interested in art as well as recovery from CHEMICAL DEPENDENCY and MENTAL HEALTH-related issues.
there is no stigma. only the determination to be yourself and showcase your own truth.
SHEPARD FAIREY is a celebrated RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN-trained GRAFFITI ARTIST / GRAPHIC DESIGNER best known for his "OBEY GIANT" urban guerrilla sticker/poster/stencil campaign and the ubiquitous "HOPE" icon he created in support of BARACK OBAMA's successful presidential campaign back in 2008. inspired by the likes ROBBIE CONAL, BARBARA KRUGER, MARCEL DUCHAMP, ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG and ANDY WARHOL, FAIREY ventured out with his EXPERIMENTAL CAMPAIGNS that often played with REPETITIVE MESSAGING and the general public's capacity to be influenced and manipulated by such.
the recent documentary OBEY GIANT: THE ART AND DISSENT OF SHEPARD FAIREY (HULU, 2017) is very much concerned with fleshing out and introducing the career of FAIREY to a general public that is seemingly unfamiliar with STREET ART and its misunderstood code of ethics, which are often the target of overzealous police departments. what comes across is the intent of his work, which is often POLITICALLY, CULTURALLY and SOCIALLY ACTIVIST in nature, and the inherent risk of utilizing forgotten derelict and abandoned building facades as his canvas. there is a transition of sorts from the "ANDRE THE GIANT HAS A POSSE" SOCIAL EXPERIMENTALISM phase to his reactionary BUSH-era visual screeds against the war in IRAQ to his more recent, constructive post-OBAMA that advocates on behalf of a whole host of causes he believes in and provides free visual graphic work for (including CLIMATE CHANGE, MARRIAGE EQUALITY, PRISON REFORM, IMMIGRANT RIGHTS, etc.). in essence FAIREY is a master of PROPAGANDA, but he uses his powers for good in that he creates omnipresent visuals that promote and support an immediately identifiable VALUE SYSTEM that promotes CORE HUMANISTIC BELIEFS in INCLUSIVITY, DIGNITY, INQUIRY and DIVERSITY.
i personally was unaware of FAIREY's legal challenges regarding the ASSOCIATED PRESS photograph he transformed into the famous "HOPE" icon. the fact that there were two images and he misremembered which one he utilized and thus made a string of bad choices to cover up that mistake. the documentary itself may be a mea culpa on his part as such apparently affected his CREDIBILITY and fundamentally questioned his HONESTY. in my mind the whole charade feels like corporate overreach. seems the ASSOCIATE PRESS was attempting to extract money and the ability to reach back and futilely attempt to control the ability of artists to transform what is essentially their INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. feels equally ludicrous as the BOSTON police department arresting FAIREY on the opening night of his new showing at the prestigious INSTITUTE of CONTEMPORARY ART. what a bunch of schmucks. what i gained from those two misadventures is the cost of doing business as a famous GRAFFITI ARTIST. that is the risk you run playing along the edge of legality. not that im judging in the least.
OBEY GIANT: THE ART AND DISSENT OF SHEPARD FAIREY is an interesting career retrospective for a guy that is still young, only 52 as of 2022. as long as he isnt incarcerated, im very much looking forward to his creative work and international ADVOCACY CAMPAIGNS for years to come.
i found the recent SEE KNOW EVIL (MADE TO MEASURE, 2018) documentary about the late ITALIAN fashion photographer DAVIDE SORRENTI to be quite touching. the film is obviously meant to be a RECLAMATION of his public image in the wake of the cultural backlash to the 1990s media phenomenon known as 'HEROIN CHIC' that his work was retroactively (and incorrectly) attributed.
SORRENTI had quite the back story. he suffered from a hereditary BLOOD DISORDER known as THALASSEMIA, which attacks the blood's production of hemoglobin and thus decreasing its ability to distribute oxygen throughout the body. this condition is life-threatening and does particular DAMAGE to several vital organs. SORRENTI spent his entire young life in PAIN, visiting hospitals for regular blood transfusions and sleeping hooked up to machines that added much needed oxygen to his system. THALASSEMIA is the type of condition that the patient diagnosed with it, is more than aware they are likely not going to live much pass the teens, if at all.
so in essence the life he led was one that was very much in the moment with few guardrails or time to waste being shy or indecisive. through his designer mother FRANCESCA and his model/photographer brother MARIO he was afforded access to the fashion industry of NEW YORK and carved out a niche as a street and fashion photographer in the INTIMATE and UNADORNED vein of LARRY CLARK or NAN GOLDIN. his work showcased models in CONTORTED poses with DOUR, MELANCHOLIC expressions, often draped in VIBRANT colors that were just slightly out of focus. the overall effect were AFFECTING photographs that projected a sense of internal PATHOS and portents of deep SUFFERING. it is hard not to read these VISCERAL images and see the connection between his own experience of the world and that of this ominous but SEDUCTIVE imagined reality. its almost like appreciating a CARAVAGGIO painting with the knowledge that for the artist those pictures of suffering martyrs and saints are projections of his own DOOMED sense of moral damnation.
the idea that his mother's well-intentioned efforts within the larger fashion community to address HEROIN usage in the wake of her son's passing led ironically to a mistaken national dialogue about glamorizing HEROIN in commercial advertising is TRAGIC. that national conversation in the media WHITEWASHED his talent, his work and his creativity. SORRENTI was only active over a three year period from 1994 through 1997 which also coincided with the ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion coming from the northwest and a titanic shift away from marketing materials showcasing the female form as ample and athletic. the FASHION INDUSTRY through the rise models like KATE MOSS, JAIME KING and MILLA JOVOVICH in response displayed a more streetwise aesthetic that had more attitude and personality than what was showcased in the 1980s. in many ways we are still living in the marketing world of the 1990s in terms of visual aesthetics and SORRENTI was a part of that movement. its just UNFAIR that outside political agendas smeared his work.
SEE KNOW EVIL is a compelling documentary irrespective of one's interest in PHOTOGRAPHY or FASHION. its more about the ATTITUDE and INTENTION with which you live your life each and every day. definitely worth checking out.
years ago when i was an secondary english teacher as a matter of necessity (i was tasked with creating an elective) i started teaching PHOTOGRAPHY. the class very much dovetailed with the online school newspaper i also helped initiate. there was some instruction regarding composition and light but the thing i always attempted to instill was the idea of capturing a MOMENT. french photographer HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON even had a term for it, THE DECISIVE MOMENT.
in the recent documentary SHOW ME THE PICTURE: THE STORY OF JIM MARSHALL (SAMPSONIC MEDIA, 2019) you are presented with an all too human figure in legendary PHOTOGRAPHER JIM MARSHALL who despite his serious shortcomings created an almost MYTHICAL body of work in how well he captured intimate moments with CULTURAL ICONS as they were in the ALCHEMICAL process of SPIRITUAL TRANSCENDENCE and ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT. being bombarded with his generation-defining photographs of the likes of MILES DAVIS, JANIS JOPLIN, BOB DYLAN, JIMI HENDRIX, JOHN COLTRANE, MUDDY WATERS, THE WHO, CHUCK BERRY, JOHNNY CASH, SANTANA, LED ZEPPELIN, B.B. KING, CREAM, THELONIOUS MONK, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, THE ROLLING STONES, JOHN LEE HOOKER, THE BEATLES, DUKE ELLINGTON, JOHN MAYALL, ARETHA FRANKLIN, THE GRATEFUL DEAD, DUANE ALLMAN as well as regular people during moments of POLITICAL STRIFE and PERSONAL COURAGE during the midst of the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, it becomes apparent of his preternatural gift to anticipate the moment and capture it at its peak EMOTIONAL POTENCY. my breath was taken away because i have had t-shirts and posters of several of what i learned were his PHOTOGRAPHS. they are iconic 20TH CENTURY CULTURAL MOMENTS, no way around it.
and what makes this documentary so interesting is that for a man with such SENSITIVITY and INTIMATE capacity to capture such images, there was an alternate figure that inhabited the same body that harnessed a mountain of SELF-LOATHING, manic drug consumption and glowing adoration of the PHYSICAL INTERPERSONAL INTIMIDATION that came with gun-wielding. its very much a JEYKLL and HYDE dynamic at play which allowed him unlimited access and deep TRUST on the part of his subjects and the manufactured fear and loathing of those who tried to get close to him. growing up in a single-parent immigrant household with just memories of a brutally ABUSIVE father, it make sense that he had issues with INTIMACY outside of what he found in his viewfinder.
but we are all the more enriched that his work exists and its interesting to consider how the medium itself has transitioned in recent years with the advent of SOCIAL MEDIA and the the proliferation of amateur photographers utilizing the camera phone in their pocket. we are inundated and bombarded on a minute-by-minute basis with an unrelenting cacophony of poor PHOTOGRAPHY. much like music, PHOTOGRAPHY itself has been DEVALUED since the advent and CULTURAL UBIQUITY of the IPHONE over the past two decades. id argue such a state of affairs makes his work stand out that much more. its interesting to consider that he left the field in the late 1970s once his access became limited by the CORPORATIZATION OF LIVE PERFORMANCES. in true capitalistic form, even someone as brilliant as MARSHALL was DISPOSABLE and seemingly REPLACEABLE by know-nothing bean counters and invested parties who wanted to control all assets of wealth-generation, including event PHOTOGRAPHS.
so MARSHALL marks the end of an era of sorts. its hard to believe that his kind will appear again, just given the state of the music business and the pervasiveness of SOCIAL MEDIA. again, we are all enriched by his work and hopefully this documentary will shed some light on what to the public is an often invisible occupation.
this documentary is a revelation. SHOW ME THE PICTURE is definitely worth checking out.
in the modern age we are spoiled with examples of both awe-inspiring, mind-bending and deeply challenging ARCHITECTURE. the rate of INNOVATION with regards to techniques and materials is something we take for granted, much like the parallel track that we see with computing technology. unlike digital technology, prominent architecture is not an ephemeral entity, instead it is a tangible representation of our current culture for future generations to appreciate, inhabit and incorporate into their owned lived experience.
what makes ROSS KING's book BRUNELLESCHI'S DOME: HOW A RENAISSANCE GENIUS REINVENTED ARCHITECTURE (BLOOMSBURY, 2013) so compelling is that it relates how the first modern skyscraper, the dome of the CATTEDRALE DI SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE (i.e. the FLORENCE CATHEDRAL), was built effectively for the first time since antiquity during the middle ages. in the 15th century when the dome was built over an 18-year span, FILIPPO BRUNELLESCHI had to bitterly compete against successful rivals (notably LORENZO GHIBERTI) and repeatedly convince the powerful wool guild (who were funding the operation) of unproven techniques such as a 360-degree oxen-driven pulley system, cross-fitted herringbone patterns of bricks with embedded (and hidden) iron rings and a dual layer dome with lighter materials used the further up it went. according to KING, the success of the raising of the dome of SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE sparked an era of innovation that caught the imagination of later artists, sculptors, architects and technical-minded local standouts like MICHELANGELO, DONATELLO and LEONARDO.
for me the most interesting aspect of this book is how BRUNELLESCHI was alone among his peers in taking the time to study the works of antiquity, especially the ruins of ROMA, for REFERENCE and INSPIRATION. during this period the common view was that their was nothing to be gained INTELLECTUALLY, TECHNICALLY or ARTISTICALLY from their PAGAN antecedents, as the regional powers of what later became ITALY were superior in their CHRISTIAN worldview. in fact, marble from old buildings was often repurposed into churches and headstones among other trivial entities. it is hard to believe that BRUNELLESCHI was alone in his efforts to unlock the secrets of creating not only a dome, but one with a hexagonal pattern. he found such an analogue in spa from one of NERO's palaces, and spent years devising a plan to make such work on a larger scale.
it would seem that convincing a massive paying entity to entrust that you're unproven techniques will be successful decades down the line in the most public of forums is quite the achievement. feels like the modern-day analogue to the lunar landing or the construction of the PANAMA CANAL. i couldnt help when reading about BRUNELLESCHI's curt, caustic temperament and sense of innate superiority the contemporary WILLY WONKA / TONY STARK figure of ELON MUSK. makes you wonder how he will be remembered generations down the line.
recently came across the documentary FOR NO GOOD REASON (SONY PICTURES CLASSICS, 2012) which loosely follows the career of the legendary BRITISH painter/visual artist RALPH STEADMAN through a series of interview with JOHNNY DEPP. with little surprise, much of the oxygen in the room is taken up with talk of his famous collaboration with AMERICAN writer and GONZO journalist HUNTER S. THOMPSON who passed away less than a decade before its filming. but not all of it.
what this film made me appreciate was the full context of STEADMAN's work and how bitingly political much of it was. its as if he took the turbulent, introspective psychological machinations of FRANCIS BACON's work and projected it outward onto a corrupt AMERICAN political apparatus that was not expecting that level vitriol and outright bile. what is also just as interesting is STEADMAN's questioning of the purpose of his work, since these warmongering capitalist structures have perpetuated themselves unabated through a new generation, his efforts to change the world inevitably failing. that lingering question is something that all artists, protestors and community organizers deal with at some point, if not constantly.
in the post-TRUMP (or perhaps pre-TRUMP empire) era it is a concern that feels particularly prescient and of-the-moment. what can art do in the face of raw power? his paintings are visceral and unwaveringly detailed to the pain and suffering of the war-torn, malnourished and forgotten victims of war as only someone like GOYA could attest beforehand in centuries past.
for what purpose if no one is listening? if no one cares outside of their own self-interest? there must be a good reason to create, provoke and progress. i just dont know it yet.
i came across this three-part series THE ART OF PUNK which examines the contributions of visual artists RAYMOND PETTIBON, WINSTON SMITH and the duo of DAVE KING/GENE VAUCHER and their iconic graphic work with HARDCORE PUNK bands BLACK FLAG, DEAD KENNEDYS and CRASS respectively. this online series was produced almost a decade ago for an installation at MOCA (MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, LOS ANGELES).
i think the art associated with the AMERICAN and BRITISH HARDCORE scenes that sprung up in the 1980s after the initial wave of PUNK ROCK had subsided really took the DIY ethic to heart and ran with it. this was reflected in the raw intensity of the music, but also the iconic graphic work went into its presentation. obviously the brazenly political collage work of WINSTON SMITH was something that became part of the lexicon of flyers and fanzines alike. the fact that his work maintains a cohesive yet caustic edge this many years later really is a testament to its quality. the simple yet effective "DK" logo he created for DEAD KENNEDYS is likewise an iconic piece of graphic design that has been drawn on innumerable toilet stalls at venues over the years. too many for me to count.
likewise the ink drawings of RAYMOND PETTIBON are absolutely unflinching and brutal. with an economy of movement, he is able to inflict maximum impact on his targets, which are often figures of power and corruption, both in public and on the domestic front. the logo he devised for his brother's band, BLACK FLAG, is now effectively AMERICAN folk art, given the repetition with which it has now been tattooed on HARDCORE fans throughout the intervening decades. what his interview shows is the depth of the humor in his work, which is sorely overlooked to date.
in DAVE KING and GEE VAUCHER you are presented with a symbol that is rooted in the branding lexicon of tribal identification and corporate power. CRASS is such a complex, high-concept outfit with profoundly radical political leanings that make its adoption of the visual vocabulary a subversion in and of itself. with the CRASS symbol you are shown a sense of art steeped in intention and symbolism, which is the mark of any great art.
anyway, THE ART OF PUNK is well worth your time whether or not you have any interest in PUNK ROCK per se. it is a series rooted in the deep power of images, a concept that thoroughly transcends any musical affiliation or tradition. if anything the work these artists produce make you think and by extension complicate the consumption of the music, which is something i find endlessly fascinating.
cover by nacrowe
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photo manipulations by nacrowe
in the obtuse documentary BURROUGHS: THE MOVIE (CITIFILMWORKS, 1983) by director HOWARD BROOKNER we are provided a rare glimpse into the mind and writings of the influential BEAT writer WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS through not only his narration, but interview footage with peers and acolytes such as ALLEN GINSBERG, TERRY SOUTHERN, LUCIEN CARR, HERBERT HUNCKE, BRION GYSIN, PATTI SMITH, FRANCIS BACON and JON GIORNO as well as his only son WILLIAM BURROUGHS JR (who passed on during the time of filming).
we follow BURROUGHS as he guides us through his past including his time spent as a child in ST. LOUIS as well as his time at HARVARD, medical school in VIENNA, his failed attempt to enlist with the OSS (now the CIA) during WWII and subsequent fall into HEROIN addiction in NYC which was around the time he made the acquaintance of JACK KEROUAC and ALLEN GINSBERG. this continues through his marriage to JOAN VOLLMER and brith of his son through her accidental shooting in MEXICO and his son's eventual death in his 30s due to the chronic effects of alcoholism. littered throughout this personal narrative we find BURROUGHS reading excerpts from JUNKIE, NOVA EXPRESS, NAKED LUNCH, THE WILD BOYS and EXTERMINATOR! among other publications. we learn that NAKED LUNCH was written during his time in TANGIERS in the early 1950s when he was able to make use of the lax customs of local pharmacies to indulge in narcotics.
as a documentary this film was exceedingly dry. this is partly due to BURROUGHS prodding vocal affectations that seem to drone on ad infinitum. its funny, if i wasnt a fan of his work than i would find this film impossible to stomach, but he is a figure that pretty much brought POSTMODERNISM to literature in the 20th century and is a preeminent literary figure among his peers. his work is almost like a collage in art terms or montage in film terms as his cutouts served to provide jagged juxtapositions of concepts, words and phrases that seemingly spawned new visualizations and ideas out of multiple perspectives connected over space and time.
to verbalize his influence on modern culture, which has only bent more towards his worldview in the digital age of fractured realities where truth isnt relative, its irrelevant. seemingly we are in a post-truth and post-morality world where everyone is a JUNKIE for information. brutal low-grade gossip or refined, well-articulated and researched essays all fill the same fix and are mainlined and discarded the same, onwards looking for the next hit.
so this all makes me think that to experience this film expecting a straightforward presentation of a coherent narrative is wholly missing the point. if anything this film is a snapshot that is out of focus and out of context. a brief window into his late life mindset after a long fruitful yet painful career. it is up to his to draw our own conclusions on the worth of his perspective and words. on us to provide the context for this disjointed documentary of a man whose trade was navigating moral and temporal ambiguity.
documentaries are meant to answer questions that they pose. but what if there is no answer?
that is the basic conceit of HOW TO DRAW A BUNNY (ELEVATOR PICTURES, 2002), a documentary about the mercurial and enigmatic artist RAY JOHNSON. he was someone that lived through his art and had little need for traditional human interaction, choosing to keep his contemporaries at a distance and not partaking in gallery exhibitions and the like. he instead presented himself doggedly to the world through his coded, impenetrable drawings and collage work that he'd mail out.
in many ways his use of the mail was his mode of interaction, which for the 1950s is exceedingly modern to our eyes in the digital age of anonymous monikers using comments sections with the gusto of a late night bathroom graffiti artist. its interesting to watch a documentary where those that speak of him, speak of their inability to get a sense of the man. a total enigma that confused and yet gained the respect of major players in the art world including contemporaries like CHUCK CLOSE, ANDY WARHOL, CHRISTO & JEAN-CLAUDE and ROY LICHTENSTEIN among others.
i can't say i learned anything about the guy. but maybe that was the point. even his mysterious suicide seemed in comparison to his life less baffling. at least with that act there was some finally conclusion being made. or was it? maybe it was just an exclamation point that invited investigators, the public and his peers to reconsider his life and by extension his work. seems his whole life was one long curated performance piece (including his death) and this documentary itself is both the entry point and the ultimate expression of his legacy as an groundbreaking artist.
but really i dont know. i'm still processing this very intriguing film on a most curious individual. its like trying to decipher MARCEL DUCHAMP. answer: you can't.
film director DAVID LYNCH is renowned for his ability to control tone and atmosphere to such an esteem that his surname is now an adjective for such. he is a modern director of the first order but what some in the public fail to grasp is how is career, much like JULIAN SCHNABEL a generation later, is rooted in painting.
THE ART LIFE (DUCK DIVER FILMS, 2016) is a documentary that follows a dual narrative of both LYNCH's telling of his upbringing and connection to art while showcasing him creating a new work on canvas at his studio in the HOLLYWOOD HILLS. it is almost as though the experience of creation in painting is conflatable with that of exploring a unique psychological perspective of uncertain space and time as seen through a camera's eye.
what i gained most about his upbringing was that in spite of its idyllic nature with two loving parents that treated each other well, there was always that unspecified fear of losing that love and affection. in fact, despite his father's fair judgement and loving temperament, any harsh words that resulted from disobedience came down arguably harsher in that environment. KEITH RICHARDS once wrote that his vision of hell was being invisible to those he loved. the threat of distance from his family is a common thread that influenced his character as well as his art. also reminds of the buddha's tenet that suffering is rooted in desire. they are intertwined, as even idyllic situations are rooted in suffering as we attempt to prolong and maintain them. the fear of loss of happiness is suffering in and of itself. that dualism resonates with me when considering his films as well as his paintings and visual film art.
this theme of family is also carried out as we see LYNCH's young child painting side-by-side with him. unencumbered by expectations, the toddler is just enjoying his company and playing with colors on the canvas. you get the sense that this type of boundless joy and seeming amorality towards expectation is something LYNCH strives for. the goal is not a concept or a point, but rather the transmission of an experience, which also describes the experience of consuming one of his films, especially ERASERHEAD (AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE, 1977). i have watched that film dozens of times yet i don't know what it is about, nor am i watching it to decode it. i watch it in order to enter that world.
an alternate time and space.
intriguing film. probably worth viewing if you can suspend expectations of what is usually presented in a traditional documentary. this film is an expressionist take on the individual and his paintings, not a treatise on his films. again, beyond intriguing and worth multiple viewings.
when looking at a DIANE ARBUS photograph what you are witnessing firsthand is an experiential document of an alternative AMERICAN narrative from the not-too-distant 1960s and 70s. her subjects run the gamut from drag queens, side show performers, twins, children, the developmentally challenged, the elderly and those that challenge normative culture with their unique perspective lived experience regarding issues of identity: specifically that of gender, race and sexual identity.
i don't find these images shocking, but for those who do i think it is due to the shallow nature of representation in our media diet of the true scope of lived experience in our country. too often we are marketed and sold images that placate our national sense of self, which is youth-driven.
this media reflection is the real freak show. it distorts our self-perception and makes those that fall outside our collective limited conceptions of beauty and what constitutes "normal" as being outliers that should be disregarded. this is to blame in my opinion for our infantilized views regarding issues surrounding sexual reproduction, death, aging, health and even family.
when i see her work i am reminded of once underground communities that have since been brought more prominently to the foreground of acknowledged lived experience. they don't seem that alternative anymore in the face of newer "others" to be castigated and dismissed (Muslims, Hispanics, Africans, Chinese, etc). not to get all BUDDHIST here, but i will be. there is no other. there is no dividing line between you, me and all sentient beings on the planet. it is all a shared experience. to deny the existence of others is only damaging yourself by extension.
famously the historical BUDDHA, the prince SIDDARTHA GUATAMA, as a kid lived in a palace where he was only surrounded by young, invigorated, healthy people that his father the king purposely put in place within its confines. one day when outside he saw the reality of the aging process and sickness and death. his self-perception and sense of reality was called into question and his life decisions took such into consideration accordingly. it was his real-life ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE played in a way PLATO may have not even imagined, as he used knowledge to further his goal of understanding reality minus blinders of greed and self-interest in the purpose of liberating his fellow sentient beings.
this is all well and good, but i know, again some would argue that the portraits of DIANE ARBUS are exploitative and her subjects the objects of revulsion or titillation. i'd argue that wholly depends on the viewer. if your limited scope of lived experience doesn't include these people than perhaps you should reconsider whether it is you that is being exploited by your feeble ignorance.
read a book. go outside (not during the pandemic). live a little. see the world for what it truly is in all its inclusive diversity.
when i look at the photography of WILLIAM EGGLESTON it reminds me of an AMERICA rarely noticed, not the skyscrapers, monuments and public buildings that have contrived meaning loaded into them, but the mundane and ordinary. a version of AMERICA that is stripped back of pretense and showcases the dignity of middle class exurban landscape of roads, storefronts, living rooms, restaurants and people making their way through life.
there seems to be a real problem in our culture where people look down on those that make a blue-collar living through manual labor, instead placing value and focusing our attention on the superficial "keeping up with the joneses" goals of mass consumerism. when i was in MANDALAY (MYANMAR) and you got up early enough, usually around dawn, and made your way across the river to the hilltop BUDDHIST temples of nearby SAGAING there was a good chance you would see lines of male and female monks seeking alms for the day. their one daily meal which consisted wholeheartedly of food donated by their neighbors. in the BUDDHIST worldview, allowing these monks to follow their spiritual path outside the framework of commerce was a gift with merit by their supporters. the fact that MYANMAR is a severely poor nation only goes to show how dear this daily gift is to the local community. there is a dignity in their spiritual work and those supporting it are likewise elevated.
we have none of that in the UNITED STATES. we have a zero sum mentality with clearly defined winner and losers. when i see the work of EGGLESTON, i am reminded that there is a beauty and dignity in work and the ordinary lives of everyday AMERICANS, even if our bloated culture and body politic refuse to acknowledge such.
his work is a celebration of it.
i remember when i was student teaching at BROOKLYN TECH almost a decade ago i had to film myself instructing students to later be dissected by my counterparts at TEACHERS COLLEGE COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY as part of my masters program. there was all this focus on presence and persona and clarity of instruction, etc. i was so caught up with that in mind that i got nervous a week later when the assistant principal walked in and saw a room full of students quietly reading and writing at their desks. she walked up to me in this silent space and said "there's a lot of action going on right now." and there was.
thats kind of how i felt when i first saw the work of noted PERSIAN artist/photographer/filmmaker SHIRIN NESHAT, her subjects emoted a depth and feeling that transcended their austere, silent poses.
if you look at early MUSLIM artwork, before they made the conscious decision against realism/naturalism in favor of calligraphy on religious grounds, there was a focus on the natural world. being surrounded by desert, depictions of heaven, as exemplified by the famous mosaics at the GREAT MOSQUE OF DAMASCUS, is a bountiful oasis with lush vegetation, plump fruits and blooming trees. like arable land, women are viewed as a resource subject to being protected, adored and objectified.
NESHAT's focus on feet, hands and eyes makes sense in that there is a cultural fetish on these exposed parts of the body when wearing an abaya and burqa much like the west have fetishized a women's' breasts, legs and backside. i saw this firsthand when attending school and later teaching in KUWAIT when we had cultural ministers visiting schools to make sure shirts and skirts were long enough in the classroom. very interesting indeed.
i remember my senior year in CALIFORNIA visiting the cadaver lab at UC DAVIS on a high school ANATOMY class trip and the parts of the body that they specifically covered were the eyes, hands and feet. apparently people faint at seeing those as they make the corpse feel "human." there is a power to those objects, thats all im saying.
what is interesting about NESHAT's work is that she takes PERSIAN calligraphy and contextualizes the female form into a sacred text. the melding of the sacred and the profane, the natural and the spiritual, the silent and the spoken. its powerful and thought-provoking and very much makes you consider your cultural baggage and preconceptions regarding the femininity of the other, in this case IRAN and SHI'A MUSLIM culture. there are depictions of a wide range of women, young and old, militant and praying, subdued and mysterious; all valid.
i find her work compelling and challenging and welcome others to explore it. a good companion piece to this subject is EDWARD SAID's post-colonial masterwork ORIENTALISM (PANTHEON, 1978) which examines the west's projections of exoticism and otherness to the outside world in order inoculate itself from exposure to new ideas that may complicate their need to dominate. fits in perfectly with this subject matter. enjoy.