Posts Tagged ‘walking’
October 21, 2016 | by Jen George
Revisited is a series in which writers look back on a work of art they first encountered long ago. Here, Jen George revisits Balthus’s painting Thérèse Dreaming.
In Balthus’s painting Thérèse Dreaming, a young girl sits, face turned to profile, arms up, elbows out, hands rested on her head, legs a little open, underwear visible—a sort of clothed, daydreaming, preteen odalisque. She is at home in her youth. She has the countenance of someone who knows other things are coming, eventually. Maybe she knows what, though she probably doesn’t. Not like she needs to—experience comes from being alone in the world, and with time. When asked about the provocative poses of preadolescent girls in his work, Balthus said, “It is how they (young girls) sit.”
When I first saw Thérèse Dreaming, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I stopped to sit. Maybe I’d been tired. I had been traveling cross-country with a counterfeit sixty-day Greyhound Ameripass—it allowed for unlimited bus travel within the U.S—and I had been smoking heavily and maybe not sleeping at all. I couldn’t stay all day in the Brooklyn apartment where I’d been sleeping, so most days I went to the Met, looking at art, spacing out, reading, sometimes staring at blank walls. It was inviting, the room and the painting. Thérèse’s skirt was like mine. My hair was longer. I liked her shoes. I liked that she was both in this room and not; she was dreaming, but I couldn’t see where she’d gone. Read More »
August 25, 2016 | by Lauren Elkin
Reimagining the aimlessly wandering woman.
I started noticing the ads in the magazines I read. Here is a woman in an asymmetrical black swimsuit, a semitransparent palm tree superimposed on her head, a pink pole behind her. Here is a woman lying down, miraculously balanced on some kind of balustrade, in a white button-down, khaki skirt, and sandals, the same dynamic play of light and palm trees and buildings around her. In the top-right corner, the words Dans l’oeil du flâneur—“in the eye of the flâneur”—and beneath, the Hermès logo. The flâneur though whose “eye” we’re seeing seems to live in Miami. Not a well-known walking city, but why not—surely flânerie needn’t be confined to melancholic European capitals.
The theme was set by Hermès’s artistic director, Pierre-Alexis Dumas. While the media coverage of the campaign and the traveling exhibition that complemented it breathlessly adopted the term, Dumas gave a pretty illuminated definition of it. Flânerie, he explained, is not about “being idle” or “doing nothing.” It’s an “attitude of curiosity … about exploring everything.” It flourished in the nineteenth century, he continued, as a form of resistance to industrialization and the rationalization of everyday life, and “the roots of the spirit of Hermès are in nineteenth-century Flânerie.” This is pretty radical rhetoric for the director of a luxury-goods company with a €4.1 million yearly revenue. Looking at the ads, as well as the merchandise—including an eight-speed bicycle called “The Flâneur” that retailed for $11.3k—it seems someone at Hermès didn’t share, or understand, Dumas’s vision. Read More »
August 4, 2016 | by Wei Tchou
How the Brooklyn Bridge became a living landfill.
I too saw the satin ribbons, the scrunchies, the clothing tags, the fat knots of underwear and panty hose, had my eyes dazzled by the foil of a bag of potato chips, the ripped labels of Poland Spring water bottles, look’d on the clear plastic rosary with a cross, the teak mantra beads strung on red thread, look’d at the fine centrifugal spokes of light round the shape of a plastic spoon, and saw how four black locks neatly proselytized in gold marker (JESUS <3’S YOU, BE A CHRISTIAN, KEEP GOD <3 FIRST <3, GOD IS GREAT). Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge one evening last week, I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me when I saw the white diaphanous fluff of tampons—unused, I hope—that had been tied to the railings by the living crowd. Read More »
August 2, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Don’t learn this the hard way: it’s likely impossible to wrest a good screenplay from the pages of a Philip Roth novel. Many (okay, like, eight) have tried, the latest being James Schamus, with Indignation. All have struggled and gnashed their teeth. Leo Robson has some thoughts on why, and also some thoughts on the most singularly unfilmable Roth novels: “Sabbath’s Theater might be read as Roth’s ultimate piece of literary one-upmanship over the movies. You can picture Roth at his desk in rural Connecticut, far from the fluorescent, multiplex-ridden metropolis, writing the scenes in which Mickey communes with his lover’s ghost, yelling, ‘You filthy, wonderful Drenka cunt! Marry me! Marry me!,’ and ejaculating over her grave—and then saying to himself, with a vindicated smile, ‘Try filming that.’ ”
- While Lily Gurton-Wachter was pregnant, she taught classes about war literature. “We have a rich, challenging, and complex canon of war literature,” she began to realize, “and an equally engaged and vibrant tradition of criticism and philosophy that deals with war, violence, and trauma … The same cannot be said about a literature of pregnancy or childbirth or parenting, though these are also extreme experiences that stretch our understanding and push us beyond comfort or even comprehension. Yet we don’t have a familiar canon of nuanced literary or philosophical texts about the experience of having a child, even though having a child, too, is a profound, frightening, exhilarating, transformative experience at the boundary of life, an experience from which one comes back a different person.
- Rarely do I use this space to bring you practical advice or instruction—but you might want to know how to read a book and walk at the same time. It’s a skill I’ve tried to master for years, and I’m sick of causing traffic accidents in my pathetic efforts at “learning.” Nell Beram tells us that “it’s actually easier than it looks”: “First (and I really shouldn’t have to tell you this), stop reading when you cross the street. Second, forgo magazines. The columns are too narrow, forcing the eyes to skid to a stop at the end of a line as soon as they’ve gotten going. Plus, magazines are floppy, and the wind gets grope-y with the broad pages. So go with a book, ideally a hardback that you can hold comfortably in one hand … Your book cannot exceed fourteen ounces or it will murder your wrist.”
- It’s never been easier to take your self-portrait, which means you probably look uglier to yourself in other people’s photographs than ever before. Elisa Gabbert writes, “In a popular Quora thread, the top answers to the question ‘Why do I look good in the mirror but bad in photos?’ all revolve around the ‘mere exposure effect,’ which states that we prefer things simply because we are more familiar with them. Photos often capture unfamiliar angles, but even taken head-on, like a mug shot, they show us our true face, not the reversed face we see in the mirror. It’s the reflection that’s inaccurate, but to us, the unreversed face looks wrong … Some months ago, my friend A, then working on his dissertation, recorded me speaking about poetry on his expensive new DSLR camera and cut the footage into a short film … It was not just that I found the angle or lighting unflattering, not quite to my standards—my reaction was vehement. I felt the person in this film was hideously ugly, much uglier than my idea of myself, but more so, uglier than anyone I know. Though I knew it to be irrational, deathlessly vain, I was shaken to the core.”
- In Brazil, the effects of the economic downturn can be seen even in those bastions of wealth, the museums: “The rapidly decaying situation of museums in Brazil, especially the public institutions battling for the leftovers of contracting state budgets, seems to confirm the troubling pertinence of an observation Claude Lévi-Strauss made in the 1930s. When the French anthropologist visited São Paulo, he remarked that ‘here everything looks like it is under construction, but it is already in ruins.’ Indeed, even before Santiago Calatrava’s Museu do Amanhã opened in Rio, parts of its tortoise-like metallic shell had already rusted, like a corpse decomposing under the sun. Not far from there, in Copacabana, the Museu da Imagem e do Som’s Rio outpost was said to be sinking into the soft ground near the beach before its top floors were even completed. The basement of the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo, intended for the storage of artworks, showed signs of flooding and infiltration even while the white paint on its walls was still wet.”
July 15, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Today in deeply disturbing ontological questions: in the not-too-distant future, we can reasonably expect to upload simulations of ourselves to computers to enjoy eternal digital afterlives. So, uh … as Michael Graziano asks: “Did you cheat death, or merely replace yourself with a creepy copy? I can’t pretend to have a definitive answer … My own perspective borrows from a basic concept in topology. Imagine a branching Y. You’re born at the bottom of the Y and your lifeline progresses up the stalk. The branch point is the moment your brain is scanned and the simulation has begun. Now there are two of you, a digital one (let’s say the left branch) and a biological one (the right branch). They both inherit the memories, personality, and identity of the stalk. They both think they’re you. Psychologically, they’re equally real, equally valid. Once the simulation is fired up, the branches begin to diverge … Is it all one person, or two people, or a real person and a fake one? All of those and none of those. It’s a Y.”
- For those of us still among the biologically alive, there are more pressing matters, like, what happens when you and your paramour build yourselves the perfect new home for your perfect new love, and then you break up? It happens, you know. Even to famous architects, whose work survives the love affairs as a tribute to a broken heart. Leanne Shapton writes, “My friend Niklas Maak, a writer and architecture critic, took me to a house on Sardinia where the actress Monica Vitti once lived. The house, called La Cupola, was designed and built by the Italian architect Dante Bini for Vitti and her then boyfriend, the director Michelangelo Antonioni, in the late ’60s … It was beautiful. It was a wreck. It blistered on the rocky hillside: a perfect dome, gray weathered concrete and granite connected by a bridge to an eroded staircase … Looking around the main room, it was easy to imagine Vitti stepping carefully, cinematically, barefoot down the banister-free staircase that Antonioni built to watch her descend. But by 1972, Vitti and Antonioni were at the end of their affair.”
- While we’re in an existential frame of mind, here’s Robert Moor on how it feels to take a hike only to find that you’re literally walking in circles: “When you read about circular trails, they are nearly always described in a tone of existential despair. A trail, the naturalist Ernest Ingersoll wrote, is a ‘happy promise to the anxious heart that you are going somewhere, and are not aimlessly wandering in a circle.’ A circular trail, then, is a cruel trick, a breach of trust … It has been thought for centuries that human beings have a natural tendency to walk in circles. In 1928, a biologist named Asa Schaeffer claimed to have shown experimentally that blindfolded people walk, run, swim, row, and drive automobiles in spiraling patterns, a phenomenon he attributed to a ‘spiral mechanism’ in the brain. The navigator William Gatty believed that people circled because of simple biological asymmetry: one leg tends to be longer or stronger than the other.”
- Fact: Voltaire didn’t merely play the lottery. He gamed it. “At a dinner party he discussed the matter with a young mathematician and scientist, Charles-Marie de La Condamine. Together they began to wonder: What if one could buy all the tickets in a given draw as soon as they were issued? No one individual could hope to, but a syndicate might. How this all worked is not clear from the remaining records, but work it did … One surviving piece of documentary evidence records that Voltaire ‘acquired all the ticket books on payment of a deposit without filling them in.’ Clearly he had an understanding of sorts with the notaries appointed to sell the tickets, and it seems that he did not have to pay the full price of the tickets, so certain were he and his associates—and perhaps the notaries selling the tickets, presumably cut in on the action—of winning.”
- A new exhibition shows Dr. Seuss’s insomnia-induced art, which “he called his ‘Midnight Paintings’. Although famous for his rhyming picture books, Geisel created topical and surrealist art, much of which was kept private until his death. This 1955 oil painting, depicting a child’s small place in the universe, was printed in Collier’s magazine alongside a poem that read: “From here on earth, from my small place, I ask of You way out in space: Please tell all men in every land / what You and I both understand. Please tell all men that peace is good. That’s all that need be understood / in every world in Your great sky. We understand. Both You and I.”
January 8, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Over the course of the “Little Ice Age” that befell Europe some centuries back, the River Thames froze twenty-three times—such an unlikely occurrence that people had no choice but to party on the ice. These “frost fairs” often lasted for days; people set up tents and printers commemorated the occasion by selling letterpressed sheets of souvenir paper. “The men who dragged their presses onto the ice and produced these keepsakes were a competitive lot, each trying to offer the most enticing product … Promiscuity and sexual license were constitutive elements of the frost fair … Some of the tents set up on the ice were brothels.”
- Five booksellers and publishers have gone missing in Hong Kong, and their disappearance may be linked to a contentious manuscript about China’s president. “The book’s title was being debated by the publisher before the abductions … The two choices were: The Lovers of Xi Jinping or Xi Jinping and His Six Women … It is unclear whether the book alleges Xi had an extramarital affair. As part of his crackdown on corruption since he took office in 2012, Xi has led an anti-corruption campaign that made adultery grounds for banishment from the Communist Party.”
- Cognitive behavioral therapy long ago overtook psychoanalysis as the dominant form of therapy—and it had results to back up this dominance. In more recent studies, though, the talking cure has proven increasingly effective. Is it time to bring Freud back into the fold? “In contrast to the meandering conversations of psychoanalysis, a typical CBT exercise might involve filling out a flowchart to identify the self-critical ‘automatic thoughts’ that occur whenever you face a setback … Yet rumblings of dissent from the vanquished psychoanalytic old guard have never quite gone away. At their core is a fundamental disagreement about human nature—about why we suffer, and how, if ever, we can hope to find peace of mind … CBT doesn’t exactly claim that happiness is easy, but it does imply that it’s relatively simple: your distress is caused by your irrational beliefs, and it’s within your power to seize hold of those beliefs and change them. Psychoanalysts contend that things are much more complicated. For one thing, psychological pain needs first not to be eliminated, but understood. From this perspective, depression is less like a tumor and more like a stabbing pain in your abdomen: it’s telling you something, and you need to find out what.”
- Many of us enjoy a good walk. I myself embarked on a walk this very morning, and plan to walk more throughout the day. But I’ll probably never walk as much, or as far, as Werner Herzog, whose book Of Walking in Ice tells of his journey on foot from Munich to Paris in 1974. “‘Walking on foot brings you down to the very stark, naked core of existence,’ Herzog told a Film Comment interviewer in 1979, a year after Of Walking in Ice was first published in Germany. ‘We travel too much in airplanes and cars. It’s an existential quality that we are losing. It’s almost like a credo of religion that we should walk.’ Over the course of many years, and in countless different interviews, Herzog has spoken of his filmmaking—and of walking—in vaguely spiritual, even divine terms (‘It’s like a grace, like a gift of God that has fallen into my lap’).”
- In which Ben Lerner pays a visit to the new Whitney’s conservation department: “For many modern and contemporary artists, ephemerality is part of the point. Dieter Roth, to take just one example, didn’t cover his canvases with yogurt for the sake of durability; they were built to biodegrade. Picasso and Braque told friends that they would rather let their canvases deteriorate than have them varnished … In the absence of explicit and complete instructions—that is, most of the time—conservation is fundamentally an interpretive act … The work of a conservator can re-sacralize the original art object … Conservation can help produce—not just protect—the aura of the original.”