El Alma Dormida

Stanzas about the Death of his Father by Jorge Manrique

OH let the soul her slumbers break,
Let thought be quickened, and awake;
Awake to see
How soon this life is past and gone,
And death comes softly stealing on,
How silently!

Swiftly our pleasures glide away,
Our hearts recall the distant day
With many sighs;
The moments that are speeding fast
We heed not, but the past,—the past,
More highly prize.

El alma dormida (1981) Saavedra Fotografía Cristina García Rodero.

El Alma Dormida (The Sleeping Soul) is a photograph taken by Cristina Garcia Rodero in 1981 in Savedra, Spain. As Garcia Rodero was traveling around the country photographing Spanish festivals and traditions, she came across this little girl singing and jumping in front of the cemetery and quickly pulled out her camera. Now the moment is immortalized in this mysterious photograph. The title is inspired by the poem Coplas por la Muerte de su Padre by Jorge Manrique


The Skull Beneath the Skin

The skull beneath the skin John Stezaker's Mask XIII 2006

Mask XIII. John Stezaker. 2006


Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

A short story by Joyce Carol Oates

14FEBRERODaniela EdbergHer name was Connie. She was fifteen and she had a quick, nervous giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors or checking other people’s faces to make sure her own was all right. Her mother, who noticed everything and knew everything and who hadn’t much reason any longer to look at her own face, always scolded Connie about it. “Stop gawking at yourself. Who are you? You think you’re so pretty?” she would say. Connie would raise her eyebrows at these familiar old complaints and look right through her mother, into a shadowy vision of herself as she was right at that moment: she knew she was pretty and that was everything. Her mother had been pretty once too, if you could believe those old snapshots in the album, but now her looks were gone and that was why she was always after Connie.

“Why don’t you keep your room clean like your sister? How’ve you got your hair fixed—what the hell stinks? Hair spray? You don’t see your sister using that junk.”

Her sister June was twenty-four and still lived at home. She was a secretary in the high school Connie attended, and if that wasn’t bad enough—with her in the same building—she was so plain and chunky and steady that Connie had to hear her praised all the time by her mother and her mother’s sisters. June did this, June did that, she saved money and helped clean the house and cookedand Connie couldn’t do a thing, her mind was all filled with trashy daydreams. Their father was away at work most of the time and when he came home he wanted supper and he read the newspaper at supper and after supper he went to bed. He didn’t bother talking much to them, but around his bent head Connie’s mother kept picking at her until Connie wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over. “She makes me want to throw up sometimes,” she complained to her friends. She had a high, breathless, amused voice that made everything she said sound a little forced, whether it was sincere or not.

There was one good thing: June went places with girl friends of hers, girls who were just as plain and steady as she, and so when Connie wanted to do that her mother had no objections. The father of Connie’s best girl friend drove the girls the three miles to town and left them at a shopping plaza so they could walk through the stores or go to a movie, and when he came to pick them up again at eleven he never bothered to ask what they had done.

Despair, Film Still #1. 2010 Alex Prager

Click to continue reading and find out what happens to Connie…

Images:
1. 14 Febrero. Daniela Edberg
2. Despair, Film Still #1. Alex Prager. 2010


Beating the Bounds

In this day and age it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish a work of art from an ordinary object. In the second installment of his 2013 Reith Lectures, Playing to the Gallery, artist Grayson Perry talks about the tricky boundaries of art and how we can attempt to gauge whether or not something qualifies as art. To answer this question Perry has devised a series of tests which can be applied when looking at the questionable object. Read the list below (it might also be a good idea to print it out and carry it in your wallet — you never know when it might come in handy).

Reith Lectures Playing to the Gallery

Are you looking at a work of art or some old rubbish?

  1. Is it in a gallery or art context? For example Duchamp’s urinal was understood to be a work of art because it was on a plinth in a gallery. Keith Tyson used his power as an artist to convert all the objects and fixtures in the gallery into works of art: the light switch became “the apocalyptic switch” and the light bulb became “light bulb of awareness”
  2. Is it a boring version of something else? Leo Tolstoy said, “In order correctly to define art, it is necessary first of all to cease to consider it as a means of  pleasure and to consider it as one of the conditions of human life.”
  3. Was it made by an artist? Art historian Ernst Gombrich said, “There is no such thing as art, only artists.” So you have to be an artist to make art.
  4. Photography- problematic. We live in an age where photography rains on us like sewage from above. So how do you know if a photo is art?  (1) If they’re smiling, it’s probably not art. (2) if it’s bigger than two metres and it’s priced higher than five figures. — Martin Parr
  5. Is it a limited edition? If something is endless, it’s giving away part of its qualification as art.
  6. The Handbag and Hipster Test – Often you can tell by the people who are looking at it, after all art belongs mostly to the privileged and educated. So, are there lots of people with beards and glasses and women with big handbags looking a bit perturbed and puzzled by what they’re staring at? Then there’s a good chance that it’s art.
  7. Theme Park plus Sudoku – Is there a queue? “People nowadays, they love queuing for art, especially participatory art – you know the sort of art that kids can crawl around […] People want an outrageous and exciting experience from art and then they want to slightly puzzle over what it’s about.”
  8. The Rubbish Dump Test-  It was one of Perry’s tutors at college who introduced him to this test saying that If you want to test a work of art, throw it onto a rubbish dump. And if people walking by notice that it’s there and say  ‘Oh what’s that artwork doing on that rubbish dump’, it’s passed. But of course many good artworks would fail that because the rubbish dump itself might be the artwork.
  9. The Computer Art Test – Professor Charlie Gere said, “You know it might be art rather than just an interesting website when it has the grip of porn without the possibility of consummation or a happy ending.”

Perry explains that his tests are not watertight, however if you apply them all and visualize them in a Venn diagram, “the bit in the middle is pretty well guaranteed to be contemporary art.”

Click to listen to Grayson Perry’s complete lecture, Beating the Bounds

Click to read about part 1 of the series: Democracy Has Bad Taste

Grayson perry reith lectures b copy

The illustrations are exclusive drawings for the 2013 Reith Lectures made by Grayson Perry


Trapped

I Extend My Arms 1931 or 1932 by Claude Cahun 1894-1954

I Extend My Arms. Claude Cahun. 1931/2.

Michel François Cactus 1997

Cactus. Michel François. 1997.


Danger Book

‘Be careful of books. Be careful with books. Be careful or one can become a weapon-wielder. Be careful or one can become the victim’ -Cai Guo-Qiang

Artist books are not so much books as book-like objects. They are in themselves a work of art, they come in all shapes, sizes and forms, often challenging our notions of what constitutes a book. Artists have come up with some pretty inventive ways of presenting their work, however the most bizarre I have encountered is by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s Danger Book is made up of a series of drawings made using gunpowder and glue. Within the pages is attached a bundle of matches with a string that dangles out of the edge of the book, inviting the reader to pull it and in so doing ignite the book and set off the gunpowder. Thus each book is unique and comes with a kind of performance included in the price.

Read The Transient Art of Cai Guo-Qiang

danger book by cai guo qiang3
Cai Guo Giang Suicide Fireworks
danger book by cai guo qiang4
Danger Books: Suicide Fireworks. Edition of nine unique books, one prototype and one artist’s proof. Each book is individually titled.
Height: 75 cm | Width: 41.4 cm | Depth: 2 cm

The video below is a documentation of the process of making a Danger Book:


Instructions on How to Wind a Watch

By Julio Cortazar

Death stands there in the background, but don’t be afraid. Hold the watch down with one hand, take the stem in two fingers, and rotate it smoothly. Now another installment of time opens, trees spread their leaves, boats run races, like a fan time continues filling with itself, and from that burgeon the air, the breezes of earth, the shadow of a woman, the sweet smell of bread.

What did you expect, what more do you want? Quickly. strap it to your wrist, let it tick away in freedom, imitate it greedily. Fear will rust all the rubies, everything that could happen to it and was forgotten is about to corrode the watch’s veins, cankering the cold blood and its tiny rubies. And death is there in  the background, we must run to arrive beforehand and understand it’s already unimportant.

Graciela Iturbide4

Graciela Iturbide