29 December 2013

Three shows of paintings on the Upper East Side this week: James Rosenquist at Feigen (34 East 69th Street, til Jan 10) centers around two large-scale paintings from 1973, but for those (like me) who didn't see the forty foot long version of his Holy Roman Empire Through Checkpoint Charlie at the 2006 Art Dealers Association show, a smaller version is there on lithograph, as well as a 2004 litho of The Xenophobic Movie Director or Our Foreign Policy (right), a selection of other paintings, and Rosenquist-related works by Ray Johnson.

A sampling of Peter Doig's early canvases are at Werner (4 E 77th St) til Jan 4th (below, Red Siena); these will apparently not be in his retrospective that runs Jan 25-May 4 in Montreal.

Iran Modern (til Jan 5): This was my first visit to the Asia Society and as Piri' Miri Muli' readers would no doubt expect, the listings in the 1991 Blue Guide put lofty notions in my head about seeing the 50 2ndC sculptures from Kushan period of North India etc. but the price of admission doesn't mean they have room for a permanent and temporary show at the same time, because the upper floors consist of conference rooms set up by the Rockefellers to foster better relations between the US and Asia, and the Iran show has been in the works for well over a year (insert conspiracy theory here). Their timeline is available online, in which the curators don't omit recollections like "In August (1953), as Iran continues to suffer economically due to its blockaded and boycotted oil industry, the CIA, British Intelligence, and a cadre of Iranian military leaders engineer a successful coup to overthrow Mosaddegh and replace him as Prime Minister with a Shah loyalist general" and "with aid from allied intelligence agencies based in the United States and Israel, the Shah founds SAVAK (in 1957), an internal security service soon to become notorious for its zeal and ruthlessness in hunting down political dissidents in all arenas of public life"; included is a photo of a large crowd of women protesting in support of the Ayatollah in 1978. The threat of SAVAK is portrayed in the two paintings of Nicky Nodjoumi here; a wider selection of his Neo Rauch-like tableau are reproduced on the Taymour Grahne site from their Nodjoumi show last fall.

The curator of the Tehran MoMA sponsored, upon its opening, a retrospective of Nodjoumi in 1980, but after some folks from the new Islamic government saw it he had to flee the country and leave the paintings behind. Even more tragically, Bahman Mohassess destroyed most of his artworks before he moved to Rome in 2006 and died there four years later. Seeing the collection of his paintings and sculptures here was a moving experience; his work is heavily influenced by European traditions and deeply psychological (right, Minotaur). Premiering this year in the festival circuit was Mitra Farahani's documentary about him, Fifi Howls from Happiness, referencing Balzac's The Unknown Masterpiece while suggesting a commission like Rivette's La Belle Noiseuse and, like Rivette's film, it doesn't appear to have a dvd distributor.

28 December 2013

A policeman was telling me recently the yuletide brings calls of (1) suicides; (2) domestic violence; (3) family fights; (4) relatives that threaten gatherings they're not invited to, as well as the other stuff..

It almost escaped the attention of Piri' Miri Muli' that someone has been uploading a lot of Andalusian Villancicos Navideños this winter.. I embeded La Macinita's from the Saura/ Storaro film a few years ago which is still my favorite Xmas video and it will likely remain that way,* but he uploaded that one w/ better pic and sound (but you'd have to check out the dvd for the English translation**)..

and a Camarón Villancico with Tomatito..

and one of Carmen Linares'..

This Lavoe/ Colon Asalto Navideño has some merry Yomo Toro solos..

Ah that concert.. from 1978.. I suppose this isn't an Xmas song unless they're telling Santa it's a bad neighborhood but it's Hector-ific especially near the end..

Here they're telling Santa he and Mrs. Claus are yesterday's news, unless they mean someone else. It's all about Santa all the time here tho..

* Last years' embed was close, a tune I first heard, as Piri' Miri Muli' readers know, accompanying Alain Sechas' installation Les Suspects rotated into the Pompidou permanent collection.
** Basically Joseph and Mary are broke and they need a room..

20 December 2013

What's up for two more days

Medal for Dishonor: Propaganda for War
Yes, two days left to see David Smith's 1955-56 Forgings at Gagosian 980 Madison, which "translated the spontaneity of a brushed line drawing into sculptural form," as he was known to say "I belong with the painters."  I have received word from the nice folks at the Smithsonian that though the Hirshhorn Museum stores four of Smith's Medals for Dishonor* from the late 30s and though they have 197,000 square feet of exhibition space, a large portion of which is devoted entirely to sculpture and all of which could contain sculpture, the medallions have not been displayed in the rotating gallery of sculptures since 1986, which was for the show "Relief Sculpture: Selections from the Museum's Collection."  Florence wanted the collection, where the Medals would go toe to toe with Ghiberti, as did London (Elgin Marbles), Zurich, Purchase, NY, and Tel Aviv.  My solution: a museum where angry masterpieces are guaranteed permanent exhibition.. they will come..

Medal for Dishonor: Elements Which cause Prostitution
Medal for Dishonor: War Exempt Sons of the Rich

Since I started writing this post, the gang was good enough to extend the Smith show til Jan 11, but at 980 Madison the late de Koonings and William Eggleston 1978 sky images are ending, and next door, the Balthus photos make a great date if for some reason you want your girlfriend to dump you.  Midtown: Kabakov at Pace, ending, and on 19th Street the lines will be very long for the last day of Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Rooms but if you show up at 10am it should be warm enough.

* All fifteen were shown at Matthew Marks in 1994-95.

07 December 2013

What's up

I am going to be checking out the rue Blomet show and some other stuff in a few days before they close up in the Big Sugar Plum but there's noteworthy shows 'round here, like, for instance, the Princeton Art Museum is cookin'.  I am forced against my inclinations (as Piri' Miri Muli' readers know) to lavish praise on curators all around, like Eduardo Cadava and Gabriela Nouzeilles' selections for a four-room Latin American photography survey (right, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio's And it is silver, cement, or breeze) and the Kelly Baum-curated New Jersey as Non-Site (til Jan. 5) which combines a generous selection of the Robert Smithson/ Nancy Holt oeuvre related to the Garden State with mementos of Allen Kaprow and Dick Higgins' happenings on and around George Segal's farm, Segal's own works, a whole section of Amiri Baraka in Newark materials proffering the ability to sit down and chill to his jazz collaborations, and, as they say in the two neighboring media markets, much, much more.  An excellent film documentation of a late 50s Kaprow happening gives one the impression that the South Brunswick farm is a folly that Segal bought with his art money, but Segal was an aspiring painter yet to turn to sculpture that Kaprow took under his wing, and the farm was being assiduously worked, purchased with the money his parents saved up from their butcher shop in the Bronx.  Segal's works in the show can be seen by day trippers in tandem with his Depression Bread Line, the only "sad" work in Seward Johnson's DisneyFrick Happy Land* (Grounds for Sculpture) where you can analysand it on the couch in Mister Munch's Centrally Heated Screamyland and see sculpture from folks who have happened by Johnson's Atelier.  If that's not happy enough there's a great Trinidian roti shop by GfS's entrance** at Nottingham and Ward.

The Non-Site show's location in Central Jersey means you have to drive through a part of NJ to see it "I do not say walk.. the sane man will want his.. by car. Even if it is by public omnibus. It is not a country to walk in.." unless you live in the Princeton area.  The show prominently features Kaprow's observation “the New Jersey Turnpike, as it passes through the industrial complex around Newark, is better than art,” and some have already speculated that Smithson was influenced by Tony Smith's 1966 recollection in ArtForum "..in.. the 50's, someone told me how I could get on to the unfinished New Jersey Turnpike..  it did something for me that art had never done. At first I didn't know what it was, but its effect was to liberate me from many of the views I had about art. It seemed that there had been a reality there which had not had any expression in art.. The experience on the road was something mapped out but not socially recognized. I thought to myself, it ought to be clear that's the end of art. Most paintings look pretty pictorial after that..." (pdf)  Some have also speculated that Smithson's earthworks (left, Line of Wreckage) may have been influenced by Marcos Grigorian, the Armenian from Iran featured in the Asia Society's Iran Modern show who was creating earthworks, inspired in part by the Holocaust, in New York in the late 50s.

Smithson's explanation of the Non-Site: "The Non-Site ... represents an actual site in New Jersey.  It is by this dimensional metaphor that one site can represent another site which does not resemble it - this The Non-Site. To understand this language of sites is to appreciate the metaphor between the syntactical construct and the complex of ideas, letting the former function as a three dimensional picture which doesn't look like a picture. 'Expressive art' avoids the problem of logic; therefore it is not truly abstract. A logical intuition can develop in an entirely 'new sense of metaphor' free of natural or realistic expressive content. Between the actual site in the Pine Barrens and The Non-Site itself exists a space of metaphoric significance. It could be that 'travel' in this space is a vast metaphor. Everything between the two sites could become physical metaphorical material devoid of natural meanings and realistic assumptions" relates to Piri' Miri Muli' themes (at times incorporating Smithson) of the interpretation of the visual world - for instance, Chogyam Trungpa's "samsara is the entrance, samsara is the vehicle for nirvana" preceded immediately by "there is active behavior, then passive, then active.. the first moment producing and giving birth to the next.." Daumal's wanting to see Mount Meru was paradoxically an active desire for the passive, while the Smithsonian and Cagean view of the ubiquity of the resonance of the material world was passive in its observation of, active in its recording of, a subject which was both passive and active. Daumal at different times would seem to appear in three points of Deleuze's Nietzsche and Philosophy schema: as the artist/master, as the top level of reactive ressentiment (towards Breton) and as the ascetic man, in his devotion to Gurdjieff.  Deleuze: "the fiction of a world-beyond in the ascetic ideal.. is what gives the world a value of appearance or of nought.. the ascetic ideal (also expresses) the affinity of reactive forces with nihilism as the 'motor' of reactive forces." Gurdjieff thought that artist should not arrive at meaning unwittingly, differing from the views of Hegel and Adorno, while Daumal, a year before he met Gurdjieff, wrote about Rimbaud "the object of criticism.. is to show luminously how the poet wrote a necessary corpus of work, bound by a rigorous determinism to the whole of the contemporary world, and supported by a law just as perfectly inflexible.. This freedom, the source of all values is (as Spinoza understands it, and any other meaning is impossible) that of the man who frees himself by thinking of himself as determined by universal will."  In Daumal's schema the active poet is valued over the "useless, sterile, odious" passive poet.

Also the Philly Museum is liberating a selection of the Surrealist works which were donated to them with good intentions but kept in storage for years so the curators could display inferior works, til March 2.  The Imagist poet Walter Arensberg donated his collection along with the Duchamp mausoleum because Philly made the longest contractual commitment to keeping the Large Glass and Étant donnés on display but gathering dust for years were Duchamp's erotic works, donated by Arensberg, now in storage to make way for Jasper Johns paintings, along with Arensberg's donations of Di Chirico's charcoal Victorious Love, an etching by Masson, and Leonora Carrington's wonderful etching The Dogs of the Sleeper (right).  There's also a donated Wifredo Lam (The Spirit of Morning), a donated 1934 painting The Bullfight by Picasso, both stored til now (I thought Picasso was taught in the art history programs), Kay Sage's The Unicorns Come Down to the Sea, and a delightful newly acquired Matta To Escape the Absolute.  Elaborating all my pet peeves about Philly culture would take me more than a little time and soul-searching, but one way to make room for good paintings would be to put the academic paintings in Gallery 155 in storage and stop hanging the works of Van Gogh, Manet, and Courbet in the hallway of all places. The Met has the large academic paintings in the crowded hallway and the important paintings in their own destination rooms.  Oh and a teeny weeny room displaying 16 major Venetian Renaissance paintings stolen from the John Johnson estate has had the naming rights sold to Arco Chemical Company, and the nice folks at the chemical company apparently are not, as I am, requesting that the works of Titian, Bassano, and Veronese are displayed at eye level, properly in a John Johnson wing.  "Properly" doesn't enter into it - Philly would be seen as a cultural beacon only after the Johnson works are returned to a reconstruction of the intended house museum, the Barnes works returned to his estate, with the mediocre boondoggle built for the Barnes works rededicated to become the Museum of the Mafia (I assure you, people would come see that, if they "properly" don't pull punches).  Oh, and they decided to take down the tribute to Albert Barnes, surprise, surprise; oh, and the museum that promised to bring art to the “plain people” now charges $22, surprise, surprise (I used to pay $1 to get in without a reservation); oh, a Barnes board member now admits they were all lying about the Barnes in Merion having financial problems, how'd they keep that out of the Inquirer and Bulletin.  Meanwhile the city is still broke because the same crooked people are running it. They hired Frank Gehry for the art museum renovation because he's the Most Famous Architect, First Class, Money's No Object but when he (who developed amongst visual artists in LA) unveiled his proposed exterior the board said "Ewww- that's weird, no way!" (the Philly art establishment said the same thing about Barnes' collection before they were told it was worth billions).  The Penn alumni, unlike their Princeton counterparts, can't have their collections shown at their alma mater unless they've snuck a ancient artifact home from the Mayan trail because the death squad cheerleaders in the anthropology department have successfully kept the art history department away from their gravy train of dusty, empty rooms that haven't seen a thoughtful acquisition in over 40 years, but I won't get into my views on the topic while I look forward to the rue Gramet show and Yuletide carols.

* Frick was known for collecting light works of art. I suppose I would like the Grounds better if Johnson did a three dimensional Third of May or, as Joan Fontcuberta is featured in the Princeton show, his Googlegram 5: Abu Ghraib would look good there as a sculpture for photo ops..

** Route 33 only seems to have an exit for northbound though, on your way out. If you're going S, I guess you can take Klockner Rd. N to State Street E

09 November 2013

Piri' Miri Muli' readers headed to Art Basel Miami next month, perhaps on their way to Finance Zurich Grand Cayman, are summoned to check out Regina Silveira's film at Alexander Gray. Silveira's show at the gallery was the summer show that stuck most in my mind, displaying the Brazilian's 1971 Labirintos (left) that predated Hélio Oiticica's Penetrables by a year. Post-WW2 geometrical abstraction in Caracas and Buenos Aires took the form of architectural design that was compatible with dictatorships, influencing the São Paolo Concretists along with a 1950 retrospective of the Swiss designer Max Bill. For Silveira, enrolled at the São Paulo art school, and Oiticica, based in Rio, the labyrinth was a way to connect geometry with classical literary and spiritual archetypes.

If Oiticica's Penetrables, termed "Dionysian" by Lygia Pape, contained latent social commentary, Silveira's utilization of the shapes of the São Paulo Concretists for the 1971 group portrait of her city folk called Middle Class & Co. were more akin to Theseus in the maze with the beast. English language blurbs of the show note the "faceless masses" and "standardized society" of Middle Class & Co., (right and below) but the series should be viewed in its historical context. The Brazilian middle class had grown and urbanized during the 50s as Juscelino Kubitschek industrialized the economy, welcoming foreign investment in the automotive industry that grew the area around São Paolo with minimal unionization, causing disruption and hardship for the rural poor that were driven off their land by higher agricultural demand. After the resignation of his elected successor in 1961, liberal VP João Goulart became president and organized the rural poor, passed land reform laws, increased student participation in government, extended the vote to enlisted military men and illiterates, and nationalized the pharmaceutical and meat-packing industry. In addition to vocal and active Communist factions in the electorate and military, belief in 'nationalism,' restrictions in the role of international financiers and corporations, was popular in both left and right circles, and by most accounts the ascendant middle class was concerned that Goulart was going to scare away foreign investors. In early 1963, a referendum gave Goulart broader presidential powers instead of a parliamentary role, labor protests escalated, and inflation decreased the middle class' purchasing power. Early the next year he expropriated unused farm land and extended the government's oil monopoly, and the coup that ousted him on April 1 would bring 21 years of military government.

Recently declassified documents attempt to suggest that LBJ was spurred to provide military support to a locally autonomous military uprising, but the US had begun to infiltrate and indoctrinate the Brazilian military as early as 1948 through the ESG institute,  whose graduates included most of the coup leaders, and when the CIA was formed it created the IBAD institute in 1960, whose financing and organization led to legislative victories for the right in 1962.  General Medici, President during the most repressive period of the early 70s, served previously as military attaché in Washington and was trained at the ESG as were his two predecessors.

The University of Brasilia was invaded the day after the coup, after which rural peasants organized by Goulart were subject to violence and killings as the judiciary, military, legislature (including Kubitschek), and civil service were purged of anti-fascist elements. In July 1964, the government created a bureau to counteract internal subversion, and after a new constitution eroded representative democracy in 1967, strikes escalated and dissidents turned to armed struggle, inspired in part by the Cuban revolution.  The A1-5 of December 1968 dissolved congress completely, censored cultural expression and suspended legal rights for anyone expressing criticism of the government. Consumer credit enabled 40% of households to own television sets in 1970, up from less than 10% a decade before, providing a new form of propaganda for the military that monopolized the programming.

After artists and intellectuals had protested for free expression earlier in the year, A1-5 drove many out of the country like Oiticica and, while penning the first works of liberation theology, Hugo Assmann. While Silvera, exiled in Puerto Rico,  was conceiving Middle Class & Co., the Brazilian middle class was enjoying increased prosperity from a rise in exports while Brazil's popular current president, Dilma Rousseff, was being tortured by military operatives after having robbed banks to fund her militia. The complicit middle class faces are not shown pacing a Constructivist or Concretist prison, but being framed by Concretist shapes; as Concretism had been a tool of the state, the frame presents an ambiguous representation of perception that may be the artist's or the state's: the king and queen in the mirror of Las Meninas.

Silveira's Neo-Concretism takes the form of attempting mathematical precision in the representation of tracks left by animals or vehicles and the shadow. Silveira to my knowledge has never said that her shadows are Jungian nor encouraged that interpretation: as she is preoccupied by process and materials she perhaps yearns to be among those whose shadows in paintings Jung referenced, because they could paint them without thinking of the guy, who was at time at the height of his popularity. Jung: "By shadow I mean.. all those unpleasant qualities we like to hide, together with the insufficiently developed functions and the contents of the personal unconscious."

In The Undiscovered Self he writes "(The individual) harbors within himself a dangerous shadow and adversary who is involved as an invisible helper in the dark mechinations of the political monster... Wherever justice is uncertain and police spying and terror are at work, human beings fall into isolation, which, of course, is the aim of the dictator state, since it is based on the greatest possible accumulation of depotentiated social units.. it is.. love for one's fellow man that suffers most of all from the lack of understanding wrought by projection." The labyrinth from Silveira's series pictured above is not a single path but a series of unconnected cubicles. Jung: "The projection is found in how the evil other is perceived and described by one who wants to get rid of everything he does not know about himself.. by foisting it off on others." Silveira's tanks can be seen in this way, but once the viewer becomes conscious of another's shadow, it takes on different characteristics. Geometrical abstraction is seem in panorama as a by-product of the dominant class of humans, rather than the artist creating a shape on behalf of them. If Oiticica responded to the times by seeking out the faces rather than the faceless, Silveira would likewise seek out life's particulars in her lighter and more process-oriented fare that was to follow. Impressionism made the shadow mostly representational rather than symbolic, as van Eyck and others would cast 'the shadow of the Almighty' on his figures, leaving it to di Chirico to bring symbolism back to the shadow. From Silveira's works of the early 70s, tension between the symbolic and the representational accompanies all of her shadows.

02 November 2013

The tour of a cemetery below is in the town of Erongarícuaro, where Breton lived, known for a lively Dia de los Muertos owing to the traditions of the local Purépecha, whose unconquered pre-Columbian culture was believed to be the most advanced. Lake Patzcuaro, which it fronts on, contains the most famous and heavily touristed celebrations on the Isla Janitzio, around which at night fishermen light candles in their boats to welcome the souls of the dead.

John Huston's evocation of the Day of the Dead establishing the time and place of his adaptation of Under the Volcano begins with the Consul trying to superstitiously win over a pariah dog, placating them repeatedly in the novel with the determination of Arion singing to his lyre in Sicily "come with me in the realm of shades. Though Cerberus may growl, we know the power of song can tame his rage." The custom of believing that dogs must be treated with respect because they will lead your soul to the valley of death remains widespread in Mexico, illustrated in parable form in Reygadas' Post Tenebrus Lux, and Lowry would have no doubt heard it, mixing it with "the temptation, the cowardly, the future-corruptive serpent" hanging from Cerberus' neck before Hades when he documents a third of the way through dogs leading the protagonists across a river "trample on it, you stupid fool. Be Mexico. Have you not passed through that river? In the name of God be dead." Dolphins escort Arion through the seas after his tangle with Cerberus. The Mexican belief in dogs ferrying comes from pre-Columbian narratives such as the Nahuatl tradition that life is a dream and the soul is escorted by dogs on a four year journey across the river 'beyond' to Mictlan, the realm of the dead. Lowry was also likely influenced by the belief, based on Aztec traditions, that the Dia is penance by humans for the mishaps of the gods that lead to life's fatal flaws and mortality.

31 October 2013

When I couldn't decide what to get someone as a gift, I would give them a new factory cassette of Velvet Underground starting with "Candy Says" which was available inexpensively at the record store. Everyone I did this for disliked the album. Everyone I know who bought the album liked it.

I had a phase where I listened to Metal Machine Music almost every day, on CD. I would make it through a record side equivalent and a half, usually. I did make it all the way through a few times. It relaxed me. "..the all-time guaranteed lease breaker. Every tenant in America should own a copy of this album... MMM is Lou's soul.. the greatest record ever made in the history of the human eardrum." 

In Croatia and Bosnia before the war the information ministry hanging on to Tito's Yugoslavia played "Dirty Boulevard" over and over as anti-capitalist propaganda, everywhere you went, grocery stores, post offices. I thought "Cool. Lou."

In an interview he said "There's nothing more boring than an ex-Catholic and an ex-drunk." I was trying to quit at the time (the latter) and was far from doing so. I recall only venting about the quote to one person once. It didn't actually delay my quitting so much as Pessoa's "Your poems are of interest to mankind; your liver isn't.. Bless your poems and be damned" may have added 4-5 months to the festivities. He returns to the Catholic theme vis a vis Warhol...

on that album I learned who Valerie Solanis was in perhaps her most unflattering introduction of all.

And he never did a "Ger..i..tol..It's the life of me.." commercial.

19 October 2013

What's up

Even as Nalini Malini produced her own video of her "In Search of Vanished Blood" installation, an immersive eleven minute loop at Lelong, seeing it in person (til the 26th) is most recommended as it affords the viewer different scale and framing as well as a more varied play of images --

Malini cites as formative being a Hindu refugee from the partition of India born in Karachi, Pakistan, "Cutting the country on religious lines was terrible in itself, but more terrible because they left behind a tool for further cutting, for the right wing to do whatever they like... And under the guise of communal problems, construction companies join hands with fascists to destroy the slums, in places where everybody was living together in complete harmony. So under any excuse this thing starts up... It’s all part of the business of greed. And it’s not about the Hindu-Muslim conflict."

The tradition of shadow puppetry referenced by Malani is believed by some to date to the city of Harappa in the Pakistani side of the Punjab before the Aryan invasion in the 2nd millennium BC as well as in Bengal during that time, and has for thousands of years been used to enact the Hindu epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana throughout India, migrating to Hindu communities in Java and Bali in Indonesia where it has retained its intensity. Miguel Covarrubias recounted in the 1930s "in Java it is a rule that the men look at the puppets while the women see only the shadows" around the time when Artaud observed during Balinese dance "the stratified, lunar eyes of the women. The dreamlike eye which seems to absorb us and before which we ourselves appear as phantoms." The inspiration for Malini's voice over is Christa Wolf's novel Cassandra, in which the mythological story is narrated by the prophetic daughter of Priam... "like Cassandra, we have Sahadeva in the Mahabharata. He knew the future but he needed to be asked... Which is what’s going on now. It’s like we’re cursed – we can see, we know what’s going to happen, but we’re frozen."

Covarrubias observed "travellers.. cannot understand why the great crowds sit listening with profound attention to the plays that do not end before dawn.. Every object and every move of the marionettes has symbolic significance.." Malani's shadows are wrested from narrative contextualization to intermingle, similar in manner to Bhanu Kapil's 2011 memoir of Indian partition Schizophrene, initially inspired by Ana Mendiata's silueta works and conceived as an epic until she threw the final drafts into the snow and retrieved them months later "I wanted to think about hallucination: the organization of acute matter. The capacity of fragments to attract, occur, re-circulate or shake (descend): in play." In both works, the imperative of describing the aftermath of partition seems to have demanded their final forms.

William Kentridge, who also utilizes shadow puppetry in videos like this one featuring his Ubu sketches

has a show of videos, sound sculptures and drawings of trees at Marian Goodman til the 26th, plus his "Felix in Exile" is still being projected in the contemporary rotation at MoMA, where at the "Soundings" show Jana Winderen's decontextualizing takes the form of using underwater microphones to gather sounds of creatures in the ultrasound range "above the hearing capacity of humans but in which many mammal and insect species communicate.. sounds made by.. bats, fish, and underwater insects and (pitching) these transmissions down to the human range" then mixing them together. (til Nov 3)

Boatswain Pettibon's offerings at Zwirner (til the 26th) are made up to resemble an early 80s studio with the bo's'n's 2013 prices, like 75K for a work on paper which says "Allowance $55,000," so I suppose you old schoolers who'd go vinyl shopping when the SST catalog came in the snail mail were making sound investments.

Piri' Miri Muli' readers should have no difficulty discerning what has drawn me to MoMA recently, and the Magritte show covering in about a half dozen or so rooms the period between his first Surrealist paintings of 1926 to 1938 is no disappointment, presenting many works from private collections as well as works on paper that one rarely sees even in reproduction.  I once took a bus from South Jersey to Montreal to see a Magritte retrospective, sponsored by the Oldsmobile Aurora "Ceci n'est pas une Oldsmobile."  The Greyhound ride was as you would guess horrible as we had to get out several times in the middle of the night and I got no sleep while my wingman got one hour, thus being more tired when we went straight to the Louise Bourgeois show at the contemporary museum and so when a crowd of art students sat around the video of Louise in her kitchen "you think my anger is fake?!  Really?!  Is this fake?! (breaks dishes) Is this fake?! (break more dishes)" he was snoring even louder than the audio.  But as most of Magritte's classic themes were introduced in these early years this (til Jan 12) is a joy, also traveling to Houston's Menil and the Art Institute of Chicago...

a focus that documents his thought process during his formative years, like his "The Light of Coincidences" with a candle representing the illumination of Lautreamont's "beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella," using ordinary objects rather than abstractions or imaginary creatures in a saṃsāra equals nirvāṇa approach, in his words: "a woman's body floating above a city was an advantageous substitute for the angels that never presented themselves to my sight." This subject matter and the hard edge composition cited in Magritte (whose lifelong emulation of de Chirico extended to his own Reubens phase) was what prompted Arthur Danto to call Surrealism 'retrograde' - forgetting of course Ernst's influence on everything he feels compelled to like - that I sometimes like to, well, I'll let Breton take this one this time (1937): "Those who speak disparagingly of Magritte's 'imagery' and reproach him for going against the grain of contemporary 'researches' in the plastic arts should beware: they are simply revealing the limits of their own intelligence.. the absolute scrupulousness of the kind of concrete figuration.. preserves the great semantic bridge which allows us to pass from the proper meaning to the figurative meaning and conjugate these two meanings in a single glance, with the aim of achieving 'perfect thought,' that is to say, thought that has achieved complete emancipation."

19 July 2013

What's up for two more days, Vol. 6

Don't miss this. Air conditioned once you get inside. The drawings..

25 May 2013

Tonight's full moon marks the celebration of the birth, nirvāṇa and death of Buddha in Tibet, Nepal, India, and Indonesia, though much of Asia celebrated it last night, as with the procession of the white elephants at Thailand's Wat Sanghathan..

25 February 2013

Gauguin "Mallarme" 1861
Blanchot's observation on the ontology of Mallarmé's works relates to works both written and unwritten: "Mallarmé had the most profoundly tormented awareness of the particular nature of literary creation. The work of art reduces itself to being. That is the task: to be, to make present 'those very words: it is... there lies all the mystery." Mircea Eliade reflects: "Mallarmé declared that a modern poet must go beyond Homer, because the decadence of Western poetry began with him. And when the interviewer asked 'But what poetry existed before Homer?' Mallarmé responded, 'The Vedas!'" In 1880, Mallarmé noted regarding his translation of Cox's Mythology, which summarized Max Müller's Sanskrit translations and theories: "The change of seasons, the birth of nature in the spring, its summer plenitude, its death in autumn and its disappearance during winter (phases that correspond to sunrise, sunset and night), is the great and perpetual theme of Mythology, the double solar, daily and annual evolution, the tragedy of nature." Paz paraphrased Mallarmé's solar drama: "Will the sun come out again? .. Or does the hour of midnight point to be beginning of a darkness without shores or without time?" By the time of the Rig-Veda, Ratri, the goddess-guardian of night, had long been taking turns with her sister the dawn.

Robert Motherwell, Mallarme's Swan, 1944

Rancière wrote about the sonnet that contrasts the lowercase swan with the capitalized Swan (perhaps the constellation Cygnus) "..the great 'tragedy of nature'; born again with each dawn from the darkness in which it dies each evening. As with nature, this tragedy has had its time, which is that of the first autumn. The poet who does not bear this in mind is like the swan, its captive wing stuck in the ice sheets of winter.. That is the mystery that succeeds tragedy: the great metaphor of the Idea-sun, buried in waters and darkness, is shattered into a multiplicity of schemas of disappearing.." Piri' Miri Muli' can't actually certify that the lowercase swan could get his wing out of the ice by conjuring Mallarmé's vision of the first autumn, as winter weather brought him precarious health '..I shall die or I shall survive.. I am descending earthwards from the Absolute..': Homer noted how Northern European swans sang just before they froze; in milder climes, the Nicaraguan Dario's capital S Swan sings the dawn instead of death at the precise moment it becomes Wagnerian, before the hill-dwelling González Martínez returned to the Mallarméan owl, which would seem to dream of swans all night. Mallarmé's Swan sonnet is used in the first improvisation of Boulez' Fold Upon Fold, a phrase* that Mallarmé used to describe the fog in Bruges:

Badiou uses 'schemas of disappearing' to interpret the "Ses purs ongles très haut…" sonnet in which "the sun-event, that is, the mirror" reveals "unicorns lashing a nymph with a flame" and then "disappears" to "create a sort of.. 'ban' of the subtractive." The poet also disappears, as Mallarmé writes "The right to accomplish anything exceptional, or beyond the reach of the vulgar, is paid for by the omission of the doer, and by his death as so-and-so." Paz calls the first stanza the death of nature, the second the death of consciousness, and the third, the mirage of the unicorn burning the nymph, the erotic. "Midnight.. is anguish.. Anguish is not psychological: it is a phase of the solar rite."

* Deleuze: "The fold is probably Mallarmé's most important notion.. the fold of the world is.. the open fan (which) makes all particles of matter, ashes, and fog rise and fall. We glimpse the visible through the mist as if through the mesh of a veil, following the creases that allow us to see stone in the opening of their inflections.."

12 February 2013

The bull as solar personification figures in a crucial poem of the late 40's by René Char, when he was emerging from his Liberation digs in Céreste, the mountain town 59 km east of his birthplace where he was known as Capitaine Alexandre, and began again to publish his work:


It is never night when you die,
Circled by shrieking shadows,
Sun with two like points.

Beast of love, sword's truth,
Murderous duo unique before all.
tr: James Lawler

Francis Picabia, Corrida-Transparence, 1930

Bullfighting was part of Char's everyday life growing up, where, as Ford Madox Ford wrote in 1935 "In Provence.. the bullfight continues still in its triumphant progress at the sword-ends of actors.. its essentials are swiftness and skill in wielding a thin spike of steel against a furious and alert monster.. In every village of Provence there is a bull-ring and on every Sunday of the year when the days are warm enough, all the young men of courage face, without arms, the wild bulls of the Camargue.." René's grandfather, a foundling named Charlemagne, walked to L'Isle-sur-Sorgue, 29 km east of Avignon, becoming a plaster merchant and building up the family business to where his son, Emile, would become mayor and have the square between the town center and the train station named after him, containing one of the town's ten remaining watermills upon the arms of the river Sorgue which powered the silk factories of its industrial boom:

"I was ten. The Sorgue enshrined me. The sun sang the hours upon the wise dial of the waters. Both sorrow and insouciance had sealed the weathercock onto the roof of the houses where, together, they stood propped. What wheel, though, in the heart of a watchful child turns swifter, more powerfully, than that of the mill with its white fire?" ("Announcing One's Name," tr: Gustaf Sobin)

Char's use of the bull as solar personification is without direct reference to the labyrinth myth, which entered France by way of Provence.  The Parisian belief of Baudelare and Surrealists that myths had to emanate from the modern gave way to Char's Provençal belief that myths emanated from nature, as his "Orion iroquois" found validation in the Iroquois' ceremony which coincided with the position of the constellation, before Breton, who referenced Oceanic myths late in his life, would use the labyrinth image to compliment Miró's constellations. The author of the line "fauve d'amour/ beast of love" was friends not only with Masson and Picasso, painters of bulls, and Bataille ("THE UNIVERSAL resembles a bull"), but also with Matisse years after his paintings like "Joie de Vivre" had him labeled a Fauvist.  Around this time Char and his friends were developing an interest in Lascaux and the neighboring caves, and after Henri Breuil described an animal in the main chamber (right) in his 1952 book as "The Unicorn," Char described it in a poem as "La Bête Inncommable/ The Unnamable Beast." Char was at one time friends with both Breton and Heidegger, entertaining the disparate strands of romanticism.

Piri' Miri Muli' readers recall Paz' commentary on Rilke's Eight Elegy: "The 'open' is where contraries are reconciled, where light and shadow are fused. This conception restores death's original meaning: death and life are opposites that compliment each other. Both are halves of a sphere that we, subjects of time and space, can only glimpse.. This recognition can only take place through detachment: he must renounce his temporal life and his nostalgia for limbo, for the animal world. He must open himself out to death if he wishes to open himself out to life. Then he will be 'like the angels.'" For Antoine Bloyé, the Nantes railroad manager of Paul Nizan's 1933 novel of the same name, "Death was in him.. without images.. without ideas.. not imaginable.. his nothingness would not be represented."

Bataille's essay from the Picasso issue of Documents notes "the human tendency to distinguish two suns": the sun "one obstinately focuses on" and the sun not stared at directly "of mathematical serenity and spiritual elevation." The Icarus myth "splits the sun in two - the one that was shining at the moment of Icarus' elevation, and the one that melted the wax.." Georg Trakl's poem "The Sun" similarly names two suns tied to human perception, "When night comes,/ The wanderer gently lifts the heavy eyelids.." after the daytime sun allows the natural world to "rise.. glide.." and "ripen."

Char as a pre-teen read Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Petrarch, and the title of "Le Soleil des eaux", composed around the same time as "The Bull," may like the watermill's "fire" have recalled Baudelaire's "les soleils marins" phrase from "La Vie antérieure," channeling a previous life when his slaves were assigned the sole task of interpreting the hidden cause of his sorrow, or Rimbaud's "sea gone with the sun." Petrarch lived the next town over in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, "mostly visited by those who have never heard of the poet whose sylvan haunt it once was, 'happy to have the Muses for his companions and the song of the birds and the murmur of the stream for his serenade.'" Petrarch, seeing the source of the Sorgue there at age 9 "spoke my boyish thoughts to myself: Here is the place which best suits with my temper, and which, if ever I have the chance, I will prefer before great cities." André Thirion in 1972 had "recently reread (Char's) 'Artine': 'Despite animals and cyclones Artine maintained an inexhaustible freshness. When strolling, she was absolute transparency.' Wasn't she coming straight from La Fontaine-de-Vaucluse?"

At 22, around the same time "The Bull" was written, Pierre Boulez would set Char's "Le Soleil des eaux" to music, at first wanting to present his poems a capella, then mixing Webern and Asian music in anticipation of using Char's Surrealist poems for Le marteau sans maître a few years later, which Boulez and Stravinsky agreed was his seminal early work. "The Bull"'s compression is what Boulez noticed: "what attracted me to Char was not, as many have written, his love of nature, his love of Provence, or his deep understanding of men. Rather was it his extraordinary power to gather together, in an extremely concise way, a whole universe." Soleil was originally a long poem documenting the Resistance, but Boulez used only a dramatic monologue of a lizard who fancies himself an omniscient prophet and tragically falls in love with a goldfinch ("who but a lizard in love to tell the secrets of the earth") followed by a tribute to the Sorgue. It could seem, at first, daunting for Char to compose a poem about a river frequently described in Petrarch's Canzionere as in 208 "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak," but Petrarch's much too fixated* on the married Laura of whom "we have no reason to suppose.. ever bestowed one favor on Petrarch beyond a pleasant look.." for him to give the river the extended treatment Char gave it:

Solar imagery would be related to his Resistance experience: In "Freedom" "..it came, a swan on the wound, along this white line.. that might signify dawn's emergence as well as dusk's candlestick", "Penumbra": "I was in one of those forests where the sun has no access, but where stars penetrate by night. The place could exist only because the inquisition of the state had overlooked it.." (tr: Mary Ann Caws)

* Char's aphorism "Le poème est l'amour réalisé du désir demeuré désir" could be commentary on Petrarch's legacy.

Anselm Kiefer, Fur René

02 February 2013

The key to Badiou's "I'll train those two!" line in Film Socialisme may lie in his description of Brechtian didacticism in the opening essay of his 1998 Petit manuel d'inesthetique, which also contains an essay on cinema: "The thesis (of the didactic schema) is that art is incapable of truth, or that all truth is external to art.. The definition of art, and of art alone: To be the charm of the semblance of truth...

"For (the didactic) Brecht, there exists a general and extrinsic truth, a truth the character of which is scientific.. dialectical materialism, whose status as the solid base of the new rationality Brecht never cast into doubt. This truth is essentially philosophical, and the 'philosopher' is the leading character in Brecht's didactic dialogues..

"For Brecht, art produces no truth, but is instead an elucidation - based on the supposition that the true exists - of the conditions for a courage of truth. Art, under surveillance, is a therapy against cowardice. Not against cowardice in general, but against cowardice in the face of truth. This is obviously why the figure of Galileo is central.."

The other two schemata are romanticism, which Badiou equates with Heideggerian hermeneutics, and psychoanalysis, aligned with the classicist, Aristotelian emotional catharsis in contrast to Brecht's Platonism.  He complains that the avant-gardes couldn't unite the first two against the third, citing Marinetti and Breton, in the long tradition of convoluted logic by Frenchmen to complain about Breton's aesthetics which includes, vying with Camus for the most deceptive tract, that of Henri Lefebvre's in Critique of Everyday Life.  Lefebvre, to his credit, said in a 1955 lecture on Lukács "the subversive antibourgeous character of Romanticism acts as a screen between classicism and ourselves. For my part, I do not share Lukács' radical suspicion of Romanticism," pointing out, as would countless other examples and testimonies, that there are many more sides to Romanticism other than Badiou's definition, which is no doubt a strain within the tradition. Breton called Surrealism "the prehensile tail of romanticism."  Anna Balakian wrote "Breton notes.. that.. Hegel succeeded in pointing out the very true differences between romanticism and modernism: the romantic draws the object within itself and makes an abstraction of it, while the true modern projects himself into the concrete existence of the object."  To gauge amongst other things, the treatment of the Aristotelian in Aragon's Le Paysan de Paris and Breton's Nadja, "the measuring stick is knowledge of concrete forms and objects, and the mind's elasticity in transforming them."  Breton sought out Freud in person and Aragon would emerge as a conventional master of Aristotelian-structured novels after WW2. We find below Godard, too, succumbing to the non-Brechtian "Oh! how many imagine the Bérénice, the Phèdre of their dreams, leaving the trace of her tears on her screen." (below, spoon purchased in L'Amour Fou by Breton at Saint-Ouen Market in the presence of Giacometti)

Brecht's first play, Baal* (noted here in keeping with the Minotaur theme, I, II) commented on the Romanticism that animated the previous era's fashion for Expressionism, which Douglas Kellner thinks "we must see.. as a late development of romantic anti-capitalist revolts."  

Bentley: "Walter Sokol has written of (Baal) eloquently as a parody of those Expressionist heroes whose life was a sacred mission. But since Brecht considered the Expressionist missions spurious, he makes Baal's 'mission' genuine. Baal is an ambiguous, ambivalent figure: part monster, but partly, too, the martyr of a poetic hedonism. And the positive element is more prominent than the negative because it is Baal's special contribution - his monstrousness he has in common with a monstrous world."

As the "didacticism" Badiou attributes to Brecht wasn't fully formed, the Hitchcockian justice visited on Baal's chaos and destruction is in keeping with Aristotelian conflict: "With the early Brecht, it is as if he were striving to break through to a hedonism as radical as that of Herbert Marcuse and Norman O. Brown. That guilt and anxiety blocked his path may, in one respect have been fortunate: he was a dramatist - conflict was his raw material."

The differing uses of the Baal/ Moloch figure by Brecht and Allen Ginsberg indicate their respective orientations at their starting points.  Ginsberg's was "Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks!," returning to William Blake who "had attacked the 'Satanic mills' and called for a spiritual rebirth in the face of the material and spiritual decay which industrialization produced." America in the 50's produced "the incomprehensible prison.. Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows," against which Ginsberg and his poet friends were protagonists slaying "Moloch who entered my soul early!" Brecht had a picture of Baal over his bed in Augsburg, "the enemy of the Christian-Judaic, puritanic, ascetic tradition.. an enemy of 'all that lacks life and vitality'.. of death." Prefacing his 1926 rewrite, he noted Baal's "heedless way of living.." and that "he shamelessly exploited every possibility that offered." Blake, believed to have been unaware of Hegel, wrote in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell "Without Contraries is no progression" and "Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy," long before Bentley would attribute that view to Brecht.

* 1982 BBC version starring Bowie in the title role here.

30 January 2013

Anselm Hollo's Inaugural Poem

Ah, to be a "National Poet"
wouldn't that be fun?

No I don't think so
They shot the last one
In the nineteenth century

& even less so
In the twenty-first
Where "spectacle overcomes thought"

& Xtianity so-called
's a perversion
Of the renegade rebbe's teachings

Shock & awe   Shlock & dread

Into the valleys of idiocy
They ride, our lords

23 January 2013

Alejandro Obregón, Estudiante Muerto, 1956
Readers of Piri' Miri Muli' may be capable by now of guessing my favorite Charles Mingus tune from my repeated references to Cumbia (I, II) and birdsong (I, II, III). In the 70s, when Colombia's drug trade was growing into what it would become in the following decade with the use of shipment points across the US-Mexican border, Mingus was asked to write music for the films Todo Mundo and Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, both about the Medellín-NY cocaine traffic. In the course of traveling around the country gathering Cumbia records, he took note of how "in Colombia the Indians in the mountains are poor, and at times, they come down to the cities and sing songs about rich people. Songs about the differences between having nothing and having so much. That got me to thinking about the ghetto in America, and how blacks there have no money either. And they too want, like I sing, 'all the fine things of life.'" Mingus' vocals for "Cumbia & Jazz Fusion" beginning at 19:27, a parody of the song "Shortnin' Bread," begin with references to gourmet food and quickly move into cultural stereotypes, educational integration, and, finally, that sought-after commodity "freedom" which Mingus methodically forged for himself by guarding the development his own musical projects and influences. The session employed a conga quartet to bring Caribbean timekeeping to his 16-piece big band.

I just noticed that, over 30 years later, someone set Cumbia diva "La Negra Grande" Leonor González Mina's "Campesino de Cuidad" - produced with orchestral accompaniment right around the same time - 1977 - to images from a 2008 documentary about forced displacement...

Colombia was named the world leader of forced displacement in February 2011 by the Consultancy on Human Rights and Displacement, concurring with a report two years earlier by the UN. "Some 5.2 million people were displaced from rural areas of this South American country between 1985 and 2010." A small percentage of Colombia's displacement currently results from the guerrilla war that began in 1964. "Some observers, including on occasion government officials, allege that displacement is predominantly caused by fighting, i.e. people fleeing combat zones. Whilst it is clear that people do flee combat zones, sometimes on a temporary basis, this is not in fact a major cause of forced displacement. The International Committee of the Red Cross has clearly stated that displacement in Colombia is 'a deliberate strategy rather than a by-product of the conflict.' The fact that large scale economic projects subsequently occur in many of regions where displacement is most intense, would also indicate that a deliberate strategy to expropriate land is in use."

2011 saw 239 attacks against human rights activists and 49 murders, mostly committed by AUC paramilitaries known to have had tacit, informal cooperation with the government and with large corporations. James Bageant filed a report two weeks ago that Chiquita was supporting a continuation of its displacement by paramilitaries through an arrangement with the supplier Banacol. In 2007, Chiquita pled guilty in the US to funding Colombian paramilitaries, paying a $25 million fine, leading to a 60 Minutes piece that used the theme "extortion is the cost of doing business down there." Banacol, now its largest supplier of bananas, has hired subsistence farmers to work the land seized by paramilitaries, defending it, with the help of paramilitaries, from local activists attempting legal restitution. "The land restitution process is now reaching a critical moment and violence and threats are again on the rise. Tensions increased earlier this year when Manuel Ruiz, a land rights campaigner involved in the restitution process, was abducted, tortured and murdered, along with his 15-year-old son Samir." In Honduras, where campesinos are being driven off their land for the harvesting of palm oil, which has also been grown in Colombia after displacement, campesinos have told Annie Bird they saw paramilitaries that appeared to be Colombian. (below: Alejandro Obregón, La Violencia, 1952; below right, Gabriel Carvajal/ Fady Flores 2004 photo tribute to Obregón's La Violencia)

Colombia's oil exports have expanded rapidly in recent years, and after Occidental Petroleum was given military support to herd the U'wa ("the thinking people") off their land and didn't find anything, the Colombian company Ecopetrol has similar plans, for whom "the new Santos government has achieved a complete change in how it exercises authority through processes of militarization, new laws, and guarantees to foreign investment." "In 2009 the Colombian Constitutional Court issued Ruling 004, stating that 34 indigenous peoples in Colombia are at risk of disappearing, culturally and physically." Previously, the largest sector for foreign investment in Colombia had been "African Goldmines! Diamonds in the know!" emeralds, nickel, and other minerals. One of González Mina's most famous covers is "A La Mina No Voy" (I Won't Go To the Mines), dating from resistance to the use of slaves for mining in the 19th Century.

11 January 2013

I was thinking for a few days about a blog post about poets I liked that are influenced by Anselm Hollo, and this morning Ron Silliman tweeted that Hollo has been transferred to hospice. When I was an undergrad I wanted to study with Hollo, though he hadn't published much crit in book form - the indispensable Caws and Causeries wasn't out then. I got The New Sentence out of the school library, and at 4 am the next morning asked "where does this Silliman guy teach?" When I found out he didn't teach anywhere (though he'd give a sort of course as a blogger in the future), there was still Anselm at Naropa, so I didn't have to decide. Hollo was very kind to me during my cup of coffee there, but as is sometimes the case I soaked up a lot more from reading him. He said a few years ago in an interview that one can write poetry to create a record for oneself, and his record will live forever, though he didn't get the well-deserved Nobel I tried to nominate him for. I want to say on my blog that he's my favorite living poet.

The dedication and intensity of the dead
always were greater than ours.
No doubt it seemed that way to them too
as dusk was falling
on their last weary glimpse of a land
populated by twerps.

10 January 2013

Godard's ontological Dante quote in the screening scene (at 4:37) of Le Mépris "Learn whence you came; you were not meant to be, but to discover knowledge and morality" was, it would seem, selected for its anti-Cartesianism, a position that Godard would continue to revisit thereafter. Godard came of age when Sartre's Being and Nothingness was popular, and though he was and is influenced by him, his unease with Sartrean ontology was most directly expressed in 1967's La Chinoise (right), which included "a wall of shame that serves as .. archery.. adorned with a collage of images of Descartres, Sartre's book on Descartes, Himmler (inscribed Emmanuel Kant), the poet Novalis, Lyndon Johnson, Kosygin, and Leonid Brezhnev." In 2004, Godard proposed an exhibit at the Pompidou based on "a question (by Emmanuel Levinas): in the 'I think, therefore I am' is the 'I' of 'I am' no longer the same as the 'I' of 'I think,' and why? .. The project.. will seek to respond to this kind of question, more profoundly than the philosopher, in a sort of proof by nine courses.. to show and to demonstrate several aspects that have made and unmade 'la cinematographie..'"

Film Socialisme can be interpreted in part as a realization of this project, as it contains several ontological quips, including "Simone Weil, after Franco's victory when she learned the Germans had taken Paris, declared: 'A great day for Indochina.' You see, with the verb 'to be', the lack of reality becomes flagrant..." and encloses Alain Badiou, who wrote in 1988 "A post-Cartesian doctrine of the subject is unfolding" and "mathematics is ontology" into vertically aligned shots which develop an analogical relationship to the ideas he expresses. From overhead, Badiou says in a lecture: "Geometry as origin. The origin is always what one returns to. There has been, for decades, especially in Mathematics a return to Geometry. The idea is not that Geometry would return to its origin but rather that we return to Geometry, as origin and participate in the return to Geometry." The film cuts to a landscape of a rocky shoreline with the narrator's voiceover "The poor things. The only thing they own is the name that we impose on them" and then tourists looking at a historic city from a bridge "There's nothing more convenient than a text. We have only books to put into books, but when we must put reality in a book, and looking below the surface, we must put reality in reality."

1972's Letter to Jane's* voiceovers include "Uncle Bertolt came up with five difficulties with telling the truth back in his time." A Brechtian attempt to "put reality in reality" can't be a spoiler, so I can upload Film Socialisme's closing montage - which I would venture to guess, with the Markeresque use of Potemkin footage, the visual of Racine's Principles of Tragedy, and recitation of Phèdre suggests, is a revisitation of the arguments and models set forth in his 1952 Cahiers du Cinéma essay "Defense and Illustration of Classical Construction," where he refuted André Bazin's contention that the long take contained more truth content than montage:

I would like to note certain points common to the art of the eighteenth century and the mise-en-scène of recent years. Firstly, the attitude of the artist to nature: he acknowledges nature as art's principle model. And then in the fact that it was not the cinema which inherited a narrative technique from the novel, but the novel which inherited an art of dialogue - lost, one should add, since Corneille? Oh! how many imagine the Bérénice, the Phèdre of their dreams, leaving the trace of her tears on her screen. But I fear that harmony, even of the most beautiful song, will not suffice this most virtuous of the arts: it also needs to be encumbered with truth, to correct - in Delacroix's fine phrase - the reality of that perspective in which the eye takes too much pleasure not to want to falsify it. By this I mean it will not be content with imitating a reality 'seized at random' (Jean Renoir)

That "harmony.. needs to be encumbered with truth" is revisited when the soundtrack is mixed with the music that accompanies tour boats to Odessa, preceded by the voice over (before this clip) "During his second course at the New School in New York, Roman Jakobson shows during the winter of 1942-43, that it is impossible to separate sound from meaning and that only the concept of the phoneme can solve this mystery." Rod Smith's 2003 Music and Honesty contains "my/ oft inner floated mesquite/ self's Ismene suddenness/ is known spirals sleep and/ clear" which I'm certain without a doubt is where Godard got the idea to relate phonemes to Racinian personae out of context, even though like Balzac and Gide he isn't in the three opening credits frames full of authors quoted in the film.

A Virgin Mary icon (left) like the one at 0:14 is referenced in the "Image and Text" lecture that Godard is traveling to Sarajevo to give in Notre Musique, which also contains a quote from Phèdre. Godard recounts the story in Malraux's book about Picasso when in 1858 the peasant girl Saint Bernadette of Lourdes was asked to identify the Virgin Mary that had been appearing to her, and after being shown many paintings using natural settings and perspective, was shown a Byzantine icon and said "it's her!" Godard: "An icon: no movement, no depth, no artifice. The sacred." At the end of the lecture, Godard is asked "Can the new little digital cameras save the cinema?" He is silent, with the high-key lighting without fill, for celluloid, creating contrast on his face that, in the past, video couldn't handle. Film Socialisme is, it would seem, an answer to the question, with footage of varying resolution shot with all sorts of cameras.

Another vertical sight gag is used in describing the dialectic:

Voice Over: As the whole of these parts, where the sum of these parts, at a given moment, denies - as each contains the whole - the parts we are considering: as much as this part denies them, as the sum of the parts, again becoming the whole, becomes the whole of the linked parts.
Badiou (sitting on a spiral staircase, shouting): I'll train these two!
VO: Dialectical thinking is first of all, in the same movement, the study of a reality, inasmuch as it is part of the whole, inasmuch as it denies this whole, and inasmuch the whole contains it, conditions it and denies it, inasmuch as, consequently, it is at once positive and negative in relationship to the whole, inasmuch as its movement must be destructive and conservative movement in relation to the whole.

Brecht, whose status as Godard's favorite theorist is demonstrated with the scene in the La Chinoise (which utilizes unstable irony to portray Université Paris Nanterre in the 60s) when all the names on the chalk board are erased but Brecht's (right), wrote "Hegel denied that one equals one, not only because everything that exists is continually turning into something else, namely its opposite, but because generally nothing is identical with itself."

Scenes at gas stations appear repeatedly in Godard's films: Hail Mary is set there, and important action takes place there in Pierrot le fou, Weekend, La Chinoise (below), Le Mépris, etc. From the gas station section, later in the film:

"Please don't use the verb "to be".
"There, use the verb "to have" and things will go much better for France.
"---- Did you find that in Balzac, Flo?
"--- Florine. If you make fun of Balzac, I will kill you."

The gas station attendant (below) is reading Balzac's Lost Illusions**, the tragicomedy Lukács was talking about when he wrote: "Hegel saw clearly, in connection with Diderot (Rameau's Nephew, a precursor to Lost Illusions), that the voice of historical evolution is heard, not in the isolated portrayal of what is good, but in the negative, in what is evil and perverse. According to Hegel, the perverse consciousness sees the connection - while the illusory good has to be content with incidental and isolated details,"*** while flanked by a llama. Eric Bentley wrote "in Brecht's world, badness is active, goodness is passive."

The Dardenne Brothers also name Levinas as a primary influence. The most famous essay on Levinas, Derrida's "Violence and Metaphysics" came out a few years after Le Mépris, describing Levinas' post-Cartesianism as "thought (that) can make us tremble.. which.. no longer seeks to be a thought of Being and phenomenality, makes us dream of an inconceivable process of dismantling and dispossession," like one character's proposal for the post-Cartesian gas station. Godard's closing montage reflects Levinas' view of Greece, like others before him: "the medium.. in which all truth is reflected - Greek civilization, and to what it produced, to the logos, to the coherent discourse of reason, to life in a reasonable State. This is the true grounds for all understanding." Derrida adds: "Such a site of encounter cannot only offer occasional hospitality to a thought which would remain foreign to it. And still less may the Greek absent himself, having loaned his house and his language.." Godard: "You see, with the verb "to be", the lack of reality becomes flagrant. For example: Soon we will be in Barcelona. It would be better to say: Barcelona will welcome us soon."

* At 35:25 of Letter to Jane, the VO: ".. before the talkies, films had a materialist standpoint. The actors said, 'I am film, therefore I think, at least I think of the fact that I am being filmed. It's because I exist that I think.' After the talkies, there was a New Deal between the matter being filmed and thought. The actor begain saying 'I think that I am an actor, therefore I am film. It is because I think that I am. I think, therefore I am.'"

Godard's statement in the voiceover that photography's split second of representation was more easily manipulated by captions than the moving image came eight years before Barthes contradicted it in Camera Lucida: "I was overcome by an 'ontological' desire: I wanted to learn at all costs what Photography was 'in itself'..In the Photograph, the event is never transcended for the sake of something else.. it is.. the This.. the Occasion, the Encounter, the Real, in its indefatigable expression.. a photograph cannot be transformed philosophically.." Later: "All the world's photographs formed a labyrinth. I knew that at the center of this Labyrinth I would find nothing but this sole picture, fulfilling Nietzsche's prophecy: 'A labyrinthine man never seeks the truth, but only his Ariadne.' The Winter Garden Photograph (not shown) was my Ariadne, not because it would help me discover a secret thing (monster or treasure) but because it would tell me what constituted the thread which drew me towards Photography."

** The other books that appear in the film are Gide's Straight is the Gate, with a title taken from the Sermon of the Mount, about an upbringing preventing love, and Mahfouz' Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth.

*** Lukács also says Balzac's "social ideal was that compromise between aristocratic landowner and bourgeois capitalist.. when he censured the attitude of the French aristocracy, he based his criticism on an idealized conception of the English Tory nobility."