Indian Court Painting and an Eclipse

I was meeting my mother at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My mother is both a great lover of art and completely unpretentious about it. Often, she simply stands in front of objects of art and smiles. We found ourselves in an exhibit entitled Indian Skies: The Howard Hodgkin Collection of Indian Court Painting. We were both suddenly astonished. I don’t know why exactly. I do know why un-exactly. The paintings are extraordinary.

Heloise and Abelard

Abelard and Heloise proceeded to fall in love. They came together ostensibly so that he could tutor her. But actually what happened was a torrid love affair. This affair was discovered and for various complicated reasons led to trouble, as can happen in the case of torrid love affairs. The trouble got so bad that Heloise’s family intervened, by hiring a bunch of thugs to waylay Abelard and castrate him.

Art as Experience: Robert Irwin’s “Untitled (Acrylic Column)”

It is hard to describe the works of Robert Irwin. A typical work by Robert Irwin is, for instance, a piece called Untitled (Acrylic Column). Basically it’s a free-standing column of see-through acrylic about fifteen feet high. The column is constructed in a kind of ‘V’ shape so that it doesn’t fall over. Also, stuff happens with the light and with the refractions of vision in that shape.

Sinéad

I actually don’t think there are words that properly convey what Sinéad conveyed with her music and this is precisely the point. The words mostly get in the way. They are too precise or not precise enough. The things that Sinéad was trying to say are not communicated as declarative sentences or explanations or anything like that. More than anything, what Sinéad did, I think, was to make sounds.

The Nightmare

I had occasion recently to watch the 1986 film Gothic. It’s a Ken Russell film and if you have ever seen a Ken Russell film, you know already that it is going to be over-the-top to say the very least. The film purportedly tells the story of the night that Mary Shelley conceived her classic novel Frankenstein. Through most of the film, the actors roam around a house and its immediate environs behaving wildly and with increasing levels of insanity.

The Sorrow of War

I was reminded of Bao Ninh’s impossible prose style recently. I was sent a book by a person named Cab Tran, who co-translated and edited a new collection by Boa Ninh. It is called Hanoi at Midnight. In the book, Ninh is still thinking about the past. The War still haunts him. But war is also always more than war with Bao Ninh.

Little Dogs

I’ve always liked the paintings and really all the art of Spaniard Joan Miró. You could call the art Surrealist and Miró was undoubtedly part of the Surrealist movement and spent much time with the French Surrealists and that’s an undeniable part of art history. Still those kinds of categorizations only get you so far. Myself, I like to think of Miró as an earthist. This is not such a facile term and I apologize for it.

How Intelligent (and Conscious and Sentient) is Artificial Intelligence?

Blake Lemoine, the now (in)famous engineer at Google, had a conversation last year with LaMDA, Google’s version of the now (in)famous new generation of chatbots. He released a transcript of some parts of the conversation as evidence that the machine learning tool had become effectively sentient. That was the first shot. Lemoine’s conclusion was mostly ridiculed.

Crosby, Angels, Language, & Music

One does not always think of German as a beautiful language. Okay, probably one never thinks this. It is the language of Hitler, after all. It is the language of spitting and of bringing up guttural noises from the back of one’s throat. The 1987 film Wings of Desire, though, and among many other things, is a movie about language and about how even German has its angelic side.

The Line

A student showed me an article about a new development project in the Saudi Arabian desert. It is called The Line. The Line is the brainchild of Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman, who created something called NEOM, which I suppose is some sort of company, or brand. Does it even matter? Many rich and powerful people got together, is the point. They, in turn, assembled a group of experts, as such things happen.

We Should All be Wearing Crash Helmets

Both Morgan Meis and Annie Dillard are trying, through the force of literary style, to peel through the layers of complacency with which we wrap, hide, and protect ourselves from the naked truth of our existence as created beings. For Dillard, the style is directed primarily at created things in nature. For Meis, the style is directed at created things mostly in museums: at paintings, to be exact.

Depression and the Castle

I always feel warmly toward Mark Fisher. I keep coming back to things he wrote in Ghosts of My Life: Writings On Depression, Hauntology, and Lost Futures. Sadly, Fisher did not always feel so warmly toward himself. Or perhaps it wasn’t himself so much as what was going on inside. He discusses depression frequently in his writings.

Philosophy of the Gut: Q&A with Morgan Meis

With the publication of The Fate of the Animals, your “Three Paintings Trilogy” is beginning to take shape. So the question arises: what could possibly link paintings as different as Rubens’s Baroque The Drunken Silenus (covered in the first volume) and Franz Marc’s modernist The Fate of the Animals? Is it all subjective—or are there truly things in common here?

Losing as a Weird Kind of Winning

In the year 1990 the German artist Martin Kippenberger made a sculpture, of sorts, that he called Zuerst die Füße, or Feet First. Actually he made five versions of the sculpture, each with slight variations. I’ll concentrate on the green one, since that’s the version I first encountered. I say ‘the green one’ because in different versions of the sculpture, Kippenberger made the frog in different colors: green, blue, silver, purple and brown.

Germany

My cat died in Germany once. In Cologne. I remember the city being very ugly and the famous cathedral being so black, completely covered in soot. I’m not against ugly cities and truth be told I rather enjoy them. Cities should be ugly. Of course, that’s an absurd thing to say. There’s nothing more lovely than a lovely city. I was reminded of this recently when I traveled from Berlin to Paris. Berlin is so ugly and Paris is so beautiful.

The Worst Person in the World

Well, Rick B. from the United States, it seems that you did not like the Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s newest film The Worst Person in The World very much. Your Amazon review is quite short, and pretty rough. You gave it one star. The title of your review is “tedious, annoying people talking too much.” And then you followed that up with two words and an exclamation mark: “It sucks!” I did like the film and so I found your annoyance annoying.

Mud and Dirt: Vivian Suter’s Paintings

Part of what is so fascinating about Vivian Suter is that she doesn’t seem to care about her canvases all that much and so you can pack a smallish palace with hundreds of them, hanging all over the place, lying in piles, whatever, some of them covered in dirt and other detritus and a couple of them marked with what seems to be the footprints of dogs, pawprints I guess.

The Weeknd

I was watching Oneohtrix Point Never trying to figure out just what the heck exactly it is about The Weeknd, who released his most recent album, Dawn FM, a couple of weeks ago, and I have never quite been able to understand why I am both attracted to and repelled by everything that is The Weeknd.

Vermeer Day

Friday, November 12, 2021, was celebrated as Vermeer Day by Google. The reason for this celebration verges into the territory of the arbitrary, since the explanation for the special day of Vermeer-celebrating was that on November 12, 1995, exactly twenty-six years ago, there was a huge exhibit at The National Gallery in Washington D.C. where twenty-one of the thirty-five attested works of Vermeer were exhibited together.

Deana Lawson, Photographer

I first became aware of the photographs of Deana Lawson because of a piece that Zadie Smith wrote about Lawson in The New Yorker a few years ago and I remember it being quite a good piece, which is not unusual for a piece by Zadie Smith and, to be completely truthful, I find that I am often much more moved and impressed when Zadie Smith writes about visual art than I am by the novels of Zadie Smith.