wang qingsong has some great artwork to explore here.
Babel. Playing off of the idea of human miscommunication, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu creates a complex tale around the shooting of an American tourist (Cate Blanchett) in Morocco. Pretty soon this tragic event links together a strange assortment of people stretched around the globe--Tokyo, LA, Mexico, Morocco. Its indicative of out globally connected world--information threading around the planet in seconds. the film does a great job of showing how paranoia and fear of each other lurk just below the surface of our lives. The bus-load of tourists quickly become agitated and self-preserving when forced to wait in a small village in the desert for help to arrive for the injured woman. They seem to have no problem being in the country when they are in the safety of their air-conditioned luxury coach, or when being served by servants at exotic desert stops, but when they are forced to come face to face with the 'real' world they immediately resort to stereotyping and over-inflated fear mongering. This is just one of the many issues the film explores with a wonderfully deft touch.
I haven't even mentioned Brad Pitt yet. He is technically the major star of the film , but it is so much of an ensemble piece (that includes Gael Garcia Bernal amongst others) that to be honest, the film doesn't stand or fall with any single actor. That said, he does a fine job playing the worn-down husband of Blanchett, they are on holiday trying to recover from the loss of one of their children. What happens to their other two children is one of the sub-stories that unfolds alongside the main storyline. For me however, the Japanese actress, Rinko Kikuchi, as Chieko, a desperately unhappy deaf-mute schoolgirl, steals the film. Her scenes just ache with sadness. The pain of continual rejection combined with th eloss of her mother, drive her to bolder and bolder attempts to get attention. Also the juxtaposition of Tokyo and the Moroccan desert, both locales linked by the shooting, is yet another example of how interconnected we all are today, one of the films over-arching themes seems to be that we are all joined to each other now in ways we never imagined, no matter where, and in what conditions we might live.
What is interesting about Babel is that although the film is about communication, or miscommunication really, there is not much dialogue--but there doesn't need to be. This is such a great film and I am not doing it justice here, I have been sitting with it for a couple of days and still feel unable to fully get my head around everything I want to say. Just go see it, it will be worth the tension, the sadness, and the confusion that comes from watching life unfold in a series of bad choices, poor decisions, sad situations, and gentle acts of human kindness unfolding against a greater sense of our growing fears and suspicions of each other.
It seems that there are cultural issues that emerge and shape the way we think about life. In the 50s it was all about the atom bomb and the Cold War that arose around issues of atomic energy and stuff defined the world for decades. We still live of course with the ramifications of atomic and nuclear energy issues--the recent North Korean nuclear tests and the on-going back and forth with Iran over similar intentions is still front and centre. But there is little doubt in my mind that ecology, the environment and other issues related to our natural world have increasingly become a central part of our daily life. Yesterday's UK environmental report, which garnered an awful lot of attention here in the U.S., seems to have sealed the role that the environment will play in our futures. I welcome all this attention, but it is really an education in how things develop in our culture. When I was growing up the environment received scant attention on a broad cultural level, but over the years it has gained energy and importance. What it will mean for us all, and whether or not the rhetoric will change anything remains to be seen, but hopefully it will prove fruitful. A good read on topics close to all of this is Mark Wallace's, "Finding God in the Singing River." I am useless at linking things, so just look for it on Amazon and buy it.
J'aime beaucoup cette filme...or something like that. Betrothed at 15, crowned Queen of France at 19, Austrian princess Marie Antoinette looms large in French revolutionary history. Booed at Cannes by many, Sofia Coppola's telling of the tale is a bold, brave and very postmodern version of Antonia Fraser's book about Marie.
Most people I know didn't enjoy the movie much--too long, too boring, were a couple of recurrent complaints. It does move quite slowly, but there again, Coppola always moves at her own laconic pace--neither the Virgin Suicides nor Lost in Translation were exactly action-paced films. But I really, really loved it. The movie is very image and music-driven, there are long sections with little or no dialogue and what there is doesn't amount to that much of the sum total of the film.
I think that the music is central to understanding the film, and it is really good. Choice tracks from Souixsie and the Banshees, Gang of Four, Bow Wow Wow are placed alongside more contemporary stuff from The Strokes, and it is held together by some orchestral reinterpretations by music supervisor Brian Reitzell.
The music is largely drawn from the New Romantic pop period and it is melancholic and emotionally naked--this is where the heart of the film's tension beats. Marie is caught up in a world of surface, the court at Versailles is riddled with guilt, obsessed with 'look,' and all about jostling for positions etc.---it is like a gossip magazine come to life---background gossip is quite literally littered throughout the movie as a background texture. Marie is viewed as an outcast, and given her husband Louis' reluctance to consummate the marriage, also as a frigid and heartless women. She retreats into a world of shopping and play--creating a natural village, influenced by the philosophy of Rousseau, where she raises chickens, romps in the fields of flowers and generally lives in splendid isolation.
You probably know the story--France is restless, the people are hungry and the tide turns against the royal family, and particularly towards Marie, words are put in her mouth and she makes no effort to refute them. We never see any of the external life of the french. Coppola is great at making cocoon-like environments--the suburban home of the girls in Suicides, the Hotel in Lost in Translation--she makes us see the world through very singular perspectives.
A lot of people didn't enjoy the music, the splash of colour, the modern look and feel, of what is supposed to be a 'histro-drama." But much like Baz Luhrmann, Coppola has no trouble putting her own spin on things, and what you get is not a dry, predictable period piece, but a living tale, alive with living colour and sounds, that drag the beginnings of the French revolution into the reality of 21st century life.
Whenever contemporary pop music is set to film other factors come into play, we often have prior emotional connections to the songs, Hong Kong Garden and a number of th other New Romantic songs she used have always resonated for me on a very melancholic level--the sound of 80s music, on the cusp of new technological innovation, yet somehow dated by it, has a distinctive quality--it is a period music, perfect for a period piece.
Six months ago today I started practicing yoga. I've been going about three times a week with a few exceptions for journeys here and there. But I think it is the longest period of disciplined activity I have ever done. In the past my gym activity has always been sporadic and begrudgingly approached--I knew I needed to exercise but I hated every minute of it. I love yoga, truly love it, even when its hard, especially when its hard--I enjoy the challenge. Who would have thought that I would like it so much? Certainly not me, and certainly not most of my friends and loved ones who seem as surprised as I am!!
I have a new respect for my body and a desire to treat it with more respect. Some days I am amazed at what I can do--I did the pose here for about five minutes straight last week and loved every second--am I nuts?!! Other days I am completely in awe of the grace with which others in my classes demonstrate their awareness of the practice. I won't go on, but I could, I could get quite evangelistic about it all!!!
Every so often i feel the need to pay a visit to Mark Ryden's wonderland of all things miraculous and macabre--who else is going to channel Jesus, USDA Beef, Kurt Cobain, Buddhism, and Christina Ricci into a mediation on mortality? He had an exhibition of his Blood paintings at a museum right next to Fuller Seminary a couple of years back which I took some of my students to. Unfortunately most of them didn't really 'get it,' they just thought he was weird--well of course he is weird, thats what makes him wonderful.
This is what he says about himself with regard to painting...
"The right frame of mind is important; I have to switch my brain from linear, logical thinking to creative, free feeling. If I start to think too much, then it’s time for a nap or perhaps build a fort out of blankets with my son. Things have to flow from a place that is more subconscious and uninhibited. When you believe and have faith things will flow. You can really feel it. It’s like magic. The Monkey comes tapping at the door, we get the paint and brushes out of the treasure chest and we have a great time making art.
When I was a child in school my teachers would wonder why my drawings of dogs would have their intestines showing or why my self portraits had a third eye. They disapproved, but I got a lot of support from my family and I learned to really enjoy confusing my teachers and even scaring them. Children have no inhibitions when making their art. I’ve never seen my 4 year old son have a creative block; and his art is much more interesting than most adult’s art. Children are miraculous.
I believe to get ideas you have to nourish the spirit. I stuff myself full of the things I like: pictures of bugs, paintings by Bouguereau and David, books about Phineas T. Barnum, films by Ray Harryhausen, old photographs of strange people, children’s books about space and science, medical illustrations, music by Frank Sinatra and Debussy, magazines, T.V., Jung and Freud, Ren and Stimpy, Joseph Campbell and Nostradamus, Ken and Barbie, Alchemy, Freemasonary, Buddhism. At night my head is so full of ideas I can’t sleep. I mix it all together and create my own doctrine of life and the universe. To me, certain things seem to fit together. There are certain parallels and clues all over the place. There may be a little part of Alice in Wonderland that fits in. Charles Darwin, and Colonel Sanders provide pieces. To me the world is full of awe and wonder. This is what I put in my paintings."
Ping is a Tokyo based magazine exploring design and making stuff. It is a great read, full of wonderfully diverse takes on everything from jockey's uniforms to contemporary graphics, to the top ten ways advertisers use the Tokyo subways.
I really enjoyed an article on the future of Maoist art in China. The 'art of revolution' in the 20th century is quite an education in contemporary iconry, of a certain kind. China lives with a communist legacy that traded in vast amounts of propaganda driven nation-building artwork and yet its current trajectory seems to be full-on 21st century capitalism. What happens to a society when its art states a particular course that the country itself now veers away from, what of ideology, of rhetoric? How does all of this shape the attitudes of the Chinese?
There is a lot to read and look at one the site, it's worth checking out.