Some Ghoulish Stained Glass for You, and Other News


On the Shelf

Harry Clarke, Our Lady of the Sorrows (detail), 1917. Photo: Kelly Sullivan

  • I know you have plenty to worry about, but Sam Kriss is here to warn you about the fabulously rich tech bros who really, honestly, actually believe that we may be living in a simulated reality generated by some hyperadvanced species of the future: “Ignore for a moment any objections you might have to the simulation hypothesis, and everything impractical about the idea that we could somehow break out of reality, and think about what these people are trying to do. The two billionaires … are convinced that they’ll emerge out of this drab illusion into a more shining reality, lit by a brighter and more beautiful star. But for the rest of us the experience would be very different—you lose your home, you lose your family, you lose your life and your body and everything around you. Simulation or not, everything would disappear. It would be the end of the world. Comic-book movies, in their own sprawling simulated narrative universes, have been raising the stakes to this level for years: every summer we watch dozens of villains plotting to blow up the entire universe, but the motivations are always hazy. Why, exactly, does the baddie want to destroy everything again? Now we know.”
  • It’s never a bad time to think about Dada. (Please don’t put that on a T-shirt. I call dibs. I need the money.) In the wake of six new Dadaist exhibitions around the world, Alfred Brendel reconsiders the slipperiest movement of the modern era: “Dada relished contradictions. A famous Dada saying claimed that whoever is a Dadaist is against Dada. In his Dada manifesto of 1918, Tzara informs us that, as the editor, he wants to emphasize that he feels unable to endorse any of the opinions being published since he was against manifestoes in principle. But also against principles. Theo van Doesburg called Dada the ‘art form on account of which its producer doesn’t take a stand for anything. This relative art form is accompanied by laughter’ … Traditionalists see Dadaists as silly people. To a degree, they are right. Silliness was liberating from the constraints of reason. Silliness has the potential to be funny, to provoke laughter, and make people realize that laughter is liberating. Raoul Hausmann mentioned the sanctity of nonsense and ‘the jubilation of orphic absurdity.’ To Dadaists, Charlie Chaplin was the greatest artist in the world.” 

  • Today in stained glass: Kelly Sullivan looks back at the work of Harry Clarke, an Irish artist who helped the nation find its own stained-glass identity, as all nations must. “As one of the leading artists of the Irish Arts and Crafts Movement, Clarke’s windows (and those his studio continued to produce in his style up until the 1970s) are instantly recognizable. His oftentimes strange vision became part of the established visual idiom of a newly independent Ireland in the 1920s and 1930s. Ireland had no indigenous stained-glass work, but Clarke’s careful study of medieval aesthetics and techniques led critics to think of him as the inheritor of a broader European tradition. He traveled to see Medieval glass in the great cathedrals of Chartres, Rouen, Amiens, and elsewhere. The playfulness and horror of the gothic grotesque no doubt captured his imagination, and he brings a gothic-influenced depiction of suffering, trauma, and death—often combined with a jesting playfulness—to his own glasswork.”
  • Njideka Akunyili Crosby makes dense, large-scale artworks depicting domestic life: “Her work is figurative and richly patterned, combining collage, drawing, painting and printmaking. Home, family, and the artifacts and trappings of diaspora are recurring motifs. What doesn’t come across in reproduction is the scale. These are big works, measuring three or four meters across … She weaves images from her Nigerian childhood—family photos, pictures of pop stars, generals, politicians, failed coups and adverts—into the surface in ways that overlap and merge with the figures and their surroundings. Like scenes from a private scrapbook these can only be read close-up.”