Art for Whom? By
RICHARD CORK FIRST ORGANISED ‘Art for Whom?’ exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in 1978, arguing that ‘Art for whom?’ was more than a repetition of the age-old ‘Need art have a purpose?’ debate. Instead, to Cork this concept was the “most urgent challenge confronting artists in our time;” an idea re-explored by the Tate Britain’s current collection. The exhibition was intended to involve the public in contemporary issues through art, with Cork claiming that "all the work exhibited the idea of community and group experience.” The issues that today’s pieces tackle, such as the troubles in Northern Ireland or objectification of women are indeed those that encourage public reaction. Yet, to m,e several of the works themselves seemed to alienate rather than involve the viewer, creating a relationship between artist and spectator that can only be described as confrontational. She/She by Linder (b.1954) for example, consists of a series of 14 frames. Nine of these are photographs of the artist; heavily made-up, dressed in black and pearls, these prints make much of Linder’s striking features and bring fashion shoots to mind. Yet the text that makes up the five other frames throws her into a rather different light. The first of these reads; “am I your death/behind my flesh/does my skull smile?” And the creation of an isolated first person continues in the predominance of ‘I’ and ‘me’ throughout these frames. It is not until the final frame that the text includes a community; ‘we are unhealthy and fragile.’ The irony here is clear as Linder asserts her empowerment and defiance in the face of such labels. The barrier between artist and viewer is ever more extreme in Stuart Brisley’s (b.1933) 1981 piece ZL636595c Gallery House London; documenting the artist’s experience from 30th March to 15th April 1972. Brisley changed his name to his National Insurance number (ZL636595c) for this period and set up residence in a small room in Gallery House. In the ‘conditions for subject’ also displayed, the artist’s lack of any form of communication, entertainment or hygiene other than ‘Normal visits to lavatory’ are outlined. Living in this way Brisley reduces himself to as close to inanimate as possible. On his own, it
is an experiment in self-denial and almost Beckettian hell. Add the viewing window with its ‘NO REASON’ label, and it becomes a performance, a statement on the suppression of the individual and the role of the artist. Brisley’s attempt to invert the egotism of other performance art makes the question ‘Art for whom?’ very difficult to address here. In She/She the piece seems firmly focused on the artist. In ZL636595c the ‘artist’ no longer exists in the same way yet the spectator is also powerless, separated from a work that we view through a designated and restricted space. ‘Art for Whom?’ is certainly an issue which is explored, rather than resolved by the pieces in this collection, which to me deal as much with the relationship between artist and viewer as they do with social problems of the era. Having seen these works, you automatically keep the issues here in mind when viewing the other pieces in Tate Britain’s more permanent exhibits. Notable to me was Cerith Wyn Evans’ (b.1958) piece Inverse, Reverse, Perverse (1996.) Consisting of merely a large concave mirror, Wyn Evans’ exploration of perceptions becomes a very spectator-lead activity. I have read this piece described as ‘disturbing’ and ‘unsettling’ yet having been in the gallery the number of children that approached this piece created a very different impression. Wyn Evans’ work was fun. Part of the interest of this piece lay in watching the distortion as other people move around and away from the mirror in a sort of dodging dance to note the effect; not from some perverse interest in destruction of the self, but simply from a natural curiosity. Inverse, Reverse, Perverse appears to exemplify the problem of ‘Art for Whom?’ in the impossibility of forming one’s own viewpoint; denied, restricted and distorted as it is by the assigned roles of artist and spectator.
Bonnie and Clyde- The Language of Film By
THE RELEASE OF BONNIE AND CLYDE IN 1967 marked the beginning of an era, the birth of New Hollywood that was influenced by the French New Wave and characterized by a more liberal portrayal of reality. The United States was at a seminal moment in history, racked by conflict abroad and at home, which contributed to the estrangement of the Baby Boom generation from their parents’ generation. Bonnie and Clyde represented the novel attitude taken by the Baby Boom generation, which championed freedom of expression, embraced inner awareness and the power of heightened emotions, and advocated experimentation and risk-taking. Despite some controversy over the initial reception of the film, it was heavily praised and nominated for many awards, and to this day remains a major movie in the history of American cinema. The mise-en-scene of Bonnie and Clyde greatly contributes to the emotional impact of the movie, as it constructs a rich environment for the viewer to absorb that helps give the story context: even without words, the setting, costume and makeup, lighting, and staging convey the meaning of the plot. From the very first scene of Bonnie and Clyde when Bonnie is introduced to the audience, the mise-en-scene sheds light on her motivations and personality. Bonnie collapses on the bed, frowning and frustrated: the metal bars of the bed cut across the screen horizontally and Bonnie moves behind them, frantically scanning the room. The bars cage Bonnie in, and her dissatisfaction with life is heightened by the realization that she feels imprisoned: she searches for an escape as her eyes flit across the room, and the audience becomes aware that Bonnie is bored and tired of the confines of her small town. Bonnie’s attraction to a life of crime and adventure with Clyde is understandable because, as this scene shows, she longs to be set free from the chains that bind her to a dull and passionless life. The mise-en-scene emphasizes Bonnie and Clyde’s relationship, showing how deeply they feel for one another and how they affect each other. For example, when Bonnie and Clyde first meet, Bonnie looks down on Clyde from her window and calls out to him. He swivels around and looks up, where he sees
Bonnie through the window. The staging with Clyde positioned below Bonnie, looking up at her and admiring her beauty, shows how she instantly bedazzles him, and he places her on a pedestal the moment he meets her. His adoration and respect for Bonnie are obvious for the duration of the movie. Bonnie and Clyde go to a restaurant when they first meet, and the lighting emphasizes the immediate intimacy of their relationship. Bonnie is lit with strong frontal lighting as Clyde inspects her personality: he picks apart her history and shows that he is well aware of her desires. He exposes her, and her vulnerability is heightened by the frontal lighting that illuminates her whole face, leaving her nowhere to hide. She conceals nothing from Clyde in this scene, demonstrating the openness and honesty of their relationship. In addition to the lighting, Bonnieâ€™s wardrobe and appearance further contribute to the feeling that she is unreserved with Clyde: she wears light colors and her collar dips low revealing some skin. The brightness of her wardrobe and the cut of her collar help expose her to Clyde, and he is free to examine her and explore her more personal secrets. Clydeâ€™s wardrobe reveals much about his character, demonstrating his respectability and his honorable values. His shirt is always buttoned to the uppermost button, and this uprightness contributes to the sense that Clyde has principles and is steadfast in his ethics. While a looser man who deviates easily would wear his shirt slightly open, Clyde is strict in his appearance as he is strong in his beliefs. For example, he only robs from those who can afford it such as banks, and makes sure that farmers and disenfranchised people get to keep what little they have. It also shows that he may be concealing something. For example, when Clyde opens up to Bonnie and tells her how much she means to him, detailing the dangers that face her by remaining with him and giving her the opportunity to leave, he is wearing only an undershirt: this is the most exposed Clyde has been in the movie thus far. While his tightly buttoned shirt in public emphasizes his commitment to his morals, his undershirt conveys his vulnerability and willingness to share with Bonnie.
The color palette of the film and the shades used in the scenery and wardrobe emphasize the characters’ values and reveal their emotions. Earthy shades of brown, green, and yellow are the predominant colors of the movie. Walls are pale yellow, clothing is muted and brown, and the scenery is always green and dusty. These colors are simple and natural, reinforcing the meaning of the setting: Bonnie and Clyde live in a poor area inhabited by rural farmers and honest, working people. They rob only from the rich and they take pride in snubbing authority, while they connect entirely with rural standards of the ordinary folk. Bonnie and Clyde are members of the farmer class, which is represented by the warm tones of the earth. Greens, browns, and yellows emphasize that Bonnie and Clyde are the salt of the earth, entirely at home with the pastoralists and country folk. Additionally, the color black is important in revealing Bonnie’s feelings: while she usually wears earth tones, her black clothing conveys her fears. When she is confronted by her mortality, her black clothes come to symbolize her feelings towards death. For example, the Barrow gang picks up a young couple and go for a joy ride, and Bonnie is wearing a black blouse. While she laughs and enjoys the fresh company, the instant Eugene (the new man) says that he is an undertaker, Bonnie’s smile drops and she orders the newcomers out of the automobile. She is afraid of death, and black epitomizes her despair. The color black makes few appearances, but its presence signifies the dismal future that lies ahead for Bonnie and Clyde. For example, the police officers and authority figures who pursue the lovers wear black uniforms. In one poignant scene the Barrow gang has a picnic with Bonnie’s family. In the brightly lit desert against the light yellow sand, Bonnie and Clyde’s black clothing stands in stark contrast to the scenery. This is the last time they see their family and their mortality weighs heavily on their minds. As their family members disperse, Bonnie and Clyde are left alone, clinging to one another in the lifeless desert: their isolation is emphasized by their black and somber clothing as they are deserted by those that care for them. Mise-en-scene is a vital element in cinematic storytelling, as evidenced by the use of lighting, staging, colors, costume, and setting in Bonnie and Clyde.
Thanks to the color palette, lighting conditions, blocking and position of actors, and wardrobe, the props and images in the frame help convey the storyline, adding dimensions to the script that enable the audience to infer story from the plot and derive meaning from the image alone.
If Walls Could Talk By
Bernard Bursill- Hall and Tommaso Ruschi
ABOUT SIX MONTHS AGO Tommaso Ruschi decided to transform his old music room into a proper recording studio. This was to be the start of creating a space that was not necessarily acoustically perfect, but rather, a place where sound could have its own flavor. It’s this ‘flavor’ that gives our musical collaboration ‘The Lemon Flavored Dogs’ its distinction and, for the first time we were going to have somewhere to experiment to our heart’s content. We both spent a week clearing it up, repainting the walls, calculating the correct speaker distance and all the soundproofing, it was a tough job and it took some time before the studio acquired its final look (essentially messy and full of our gear). This was no longer simply a recording space but, a physical manifestation of our music. The 5 speakers distributed all around the room allow us to get a feel of how things will sound in different environments. To maximize this effect we also incorporated standard studio monitors and more "dirty" sounding speakers although, the best part of the sound system remains the "pig": our woofer that rattles the house when it hits the bass. Our first project together was started and finished in the course of a single night, like most of the music we make here, we like to work through the early hoursthere is nothing better than seeing dawn as you finish a track. Although, saying that, it’s me who’s the fifteen- hour stint guy. Tommaso prefers his beauty sleep. The studio isn’t just a work environment though; it’s a way of life. In the stretches of time when creative inspiration flags it becomes a wonderful place to just sit down and relax, listen to music and have a glass of wine. Even the view is incredible- you look out of the window and see a classic Tuscan hillside with olive groves and sheep grazing; more than enough inspiration in itself. As we write this, the clock’s dial is flashing one thirty am in green neon and, we’re about to start work- let me set the scene. We start off by listening to some jazz and slowly the ideas started coming... first an electric piano followed by an acoustic one- the piano gives it that twist on the high notes but the groove remains minimalistic. The eq of the rhythmic part is proving to be the trickiest the hardest
since, we’re trying to perfect a ‘radio feel’ to the high end of the sequence, while still keeping the kick clean and punchy. Next weadd to the piano something that fills it out; we tend to use guitars and a standard 303. You also have to bear in mind as you envisage this that all the sounds are made digitally. We process our signals to give them warmth- using rather unusual methods. The track is coming along well, encouraged by Tommaso’s idiosyncratic praise of: "jeez man you make weird music.” To you this may sound apathetic but it’s this simple phrase that never fails to fill me with indescribable happiness- it means we’re onto something. We have some rules in our two-man studio society. One of them is that, whoever has the initial idea get's to work on the computer and, working in this democratic way, we start to brain-storm our ideas about how to improve our sounds and get the most out of what we are working on. This is where the world outside the walls of the studio comes into play since, it’s from there that we draw our inspirationwe always run around with a little portable recorder- to catalogue everything that inspires us. It is this constant searching for inspiration that, this summer, took us across Europe for a week going from Prague to Amsterdam (and everything in between) but that’s another story.
Lanarck Is A Place On Earth- Alisdair Gray’s (un)Absurdity By
‘By George’- Francesca Nell Goodwin
MIDWAY THROUGH BOOK THREE of his landmark novel Lanark (1981), Alasdair Gray’s eponymous protagonist slides into a pair of lips three feet long. He falls through a continually expanding and contracting windpipe, where “Cities seemed piled on him with a weight which doubled every second”. Alternatively plunged into the abyss and slammed against walls, he is finally abandoned by his senses, becoming an “infinite worm in infinite darkness”. When he wakes in an unknown bed, “nothing seemed very important.” A classic example of a transition between the real and, the imaginary- or so it would seem. It is true that, characteristically of Gray’s work, Lanark oscillates between distress and humour, gloom and wonder. The comic novelty of a man engorged by a disembodied mouth is matched by the horror of his descent. Lanark tries to scream but his clothes bathetically stifle him, mere fabric sabotaging his expression of fear. Crashing down, he suffocates and urinates, exerting his physical humanity even as he abandons sense, to become a mere fleshly lump, a worm in the dark. Such polarities – rational and animal, absurd and poignant, local and the universal, and above all the fantastic and the realist – stream throughout the novel, creating a rippling, borderless world that twists and subverts norms of reality. Throughout Lanark, the reader is struck with the strangeness of the real. It is also true, purportedly, that Gray’s novel divides itself in two- into a realist narrative and a surrealist one. Its first two books, set mainly in a mid-20th century Glasgow with recognizable local detail, form a semi-autobiographical bildungsroman. We follow the painter Duncan Thaw from infancy to artistic apotheosis, passing through Second World War evacuation and childhood bereavement to the Glasgow School of Art. Books Three and Four, detailing Lanark’s travails in the fictional city of Unthank, feature men transforming into elevators and diseases that encase human flesh in dragon-hide. Subtitled ‘A Life in Four Volumes’, it soon seems clear that Lanark is a vision of one man’s life and afterlife. Restructuring this life, or these lives, so that we begin at Book Three, Gray forces us to surmise that Unthank is a vision of Hell before we’ve even encountered Lanark’s previous existence as Duncan Form.
‘The Girl In The Mirror Series’- Francesca Nell Goodwin
The bizarre afflictions and institutions that lie Unthank together become, as the author later commented, “metaphors for bad mental states, like the tortures in Dante’s Inferno”. Whatever he may attest, however, Lanark itself never explicitly marks Unthank as a post-modernist vision of Hell. For Unthank is a city much like post-war Glasgow, dominated by tenements and looming industrial decline. Lanark shelters in a cathedral architecturally and geographically identical to Glasgow’s own; the Institute in which he works recalls the hospital in which the asthmatic Thaw was once bound. As the two cities blur, Thaw’s Glasgow, the one ostensibly drawn from Gray’s own experience, begins to dislocate the reader. Thaw’s fantasies – transforming an overgrown garden into poisonous abyss, dreaming up epidemics of carnivorous maggots – and his failures to understand the people around him engender an earthly world less clearly real than the netherworld that follows it. The dreamlike landscapes and grotesque transfigurations of that underworld, conversely, conceal an exaggerated version of our own. Sinister and enigmatic political organizations are little different from the forces that shape earthly power; initially bizarre corridors and wastelands soon come to resemble metro lines and motorways. Nothing in Gray’s infernal region matches the absurdity of Thaw’s final hallucinatory trips. Though Unthank initially seems a fantastical world in the tradition of Swift, Lautreamont or Kafka, it soon comes to resemble a scrambled vision of our own. For Gray’s critic Janice Galloway, Lanark is “built on shifting stands, defying solidity at a number of levels”. Though we strive to call Glasgow real and Unthank unreal, the foundations fail to hold. Elsewhere, Gray’s work evades the solidity provided by a linear, connected narrative. The sexual fantasies of Jock McLeish, protagonist of 1982, Janine (1984), repeatedly melt away to reveal discreditable reminiscences; his breakdown mid-way through the novel explodes the typography of the written form so that the reader can no longer trust the text to provide solid, causally progressive fiction. Poor Things (1922) experiments with multiple viewpoints, while Old Men In Love (2004) creates an elaborate metafiction.
‘Broadsheet Breakthrough’- Francesca Nell Goodwin
In Lanark, though, it is not simply the authorial voice or individual aspects of the fictional world created by that voice which, are unstable. It is the entire fabric of the cities of Glasgow and Unthank, and all those that dwell within them, that shift within the text. It is not only dialogue that quickly slips from naturalistic to the preposterous; Grayâ€™s narration, his protagonistsâ€™ perspectives and our experience as a reader, clash and interweave to create an uncertain, fluctuating world. In this way, the symbolist city that allows Lanark to slide (perhaps in imitation of suicide though, equally, perhaps not), into a giant pair of animated lips ultimately appears more tangible than the Glasgow that Gray draws from reality. In Lanark, Hell is a place much like Earth, and it is our own mortal passage that is affiliated with the bizarre, rather than the purported absurdity of the imagination.
What The Audience Wants By
I'VE PLAYED AT MORE THAN 100 gigs in the last 3 years. Considering that there must have been an average of 50 people at each who had never heard me play before it means I have played to about 5000(probably a lot more actually) people in that time. If we also consider the people who heard me on the radio, the television, the internet or records, it adds up to a pretty large amount of people. (Not like U2-large, before you get carried away, but large enough). It’s easy to get caught up in these numbers and, it’s only recently that I’ve started wondering: All this time spent “saying stuff” (since, one quite rightly presumes you are saying SOMETHING when on stage or when publishing music), what have I actually been saying? It often seems that the aspiring rock star or even indie-rockstar isn't necessarily required to communicate an artistic message at all. His presence on a stage can look like a matter of form rather than anything substantial: “rock stars yell and have loud guitars”, and there's no need to ask why. The problem is: What the aspiring musician thinks is wanted from him (“make that guitar screaaaaam. It's easy to imagine oneself as a rockstar and, very hard to see oneself as an artist, especially if you think the first of the two is what the audience wants. In essence, once the audience lets the musician think he's not required to communicate anything substantial or sincere, he won't. The tragic side of this is that the audience still loves music with an innovative message, music that goes beyond what is commonly expected. Lady Gaga is a great example of this: she's a super-mega-hyper-popstar but what she's selling is far from socially accepted: S&M, homosexuality, anti-clericalism and in general tons, tons, tons of sex. It's obvious that none of this was concocted by some manager from her record label, it reeks too much of individualism. In Gaga's songwriting (like in Frank Black from the Pixies, along with most great songwriters) there is no trace of dishonesty: although her music is appreciated by millions of people she clearly didn't worry about “what the audience wants” while writing her songs.
This seems to be the key: the audience doesn't want the artist to worry about the audience. The audience wants the artist to be sincere. Since I started writing songs I never really realized that honesty was what was required from me. I focused on creating a persona that I thought would look cool or edgy,totally missing the point. So I've been on stages and recorded songs but, after all of this, I still don't feel like I've really said much. I've given the audience (mostly an imaginary and very hip indie-rock audience) what I though it wanted, instead of what it really wanted: for me to tell the truth. Â
Tor-So What? By
‘The Belvedere Torso’
IN THE ROOM OF THE MUSES, deep in the heart of the Vatican museums sits a hefty fragment of chiselled marble. On approach this particular piece summons an air of anticipation; it is augustly positioned in the centre of the room roped off and encircled by statues of Apollo and seven of the Muses. However, as one draws closer it is easy to understand why so often visitors are initially surprised that this highly broken piece of marble is treated with such gravitas, especially since they would have passed hundreds of more complete pieces on their passage to this room. (Its damaged nature was somewhat amusingly highlighted when I overheard a little girl excitedly pointing at a cast of the statue in the Ashmolean museum and telling her mother that it was a rhinoceros). As well as the genius in the rendering of this sculpture, what is it that, makes the Belvedere Torso one of the most revered statues in the world? Although the recognition was initially slow – it took about a hundred years after its discovery for it to finally be placed in the Vatican during the papacy of Clement VII (1523-1534), whereas the nearby Laocoon took roughly two months. Furthermore, this was in the Renaissance period, a time when Michelangelo was in his height of fame, having recently painted the nearby Sistine chapel. It was also a time when reconstructing fragmentary classical sculpture was the norm. When asked to complete the torso Michelangelo refused, claiming that it was already more beautiful than nature, in its suggestive state. Despite this the sculpture can in fact claim to have been ‘completed’ by him many times over but, in different mediums. Indeed, some historians claim that Michelangelo incorporates the Torso at least twenty times in his painting of the Sistine chapel. Although the exact statistics are up for debate, two figures that clearly support this theory are the images of Christ and Saint Bartholomew in Michelangelo’s spectacular Last Judgement. Even today the Belvedere torso is regarded as one of the most important pieces of art in the world. The reason why the greatest critics have hailed it thus for the last five hundred years is that, in spite its incompleteness, it is the most perfect male torso you will ever see. The
muscle structure, the power of the thighs and that narrative twist have allured men and women throughout the centuries. In addition to its obvious master craftsmanship what heightens its intrigue is the ‘Belvedere Torso Question’, which has perennially continued to baffle the world’s greatest art historians - to whom does this torso belong? Over the centuries, there have been countless speculations and, it is highly doubtful a conclusive answer will ever be reached; the most plausible and popular suggestions are that it is either a depiction of Ajax or Hercules. Both these heroes are notorious for their strength and equally regarded as the epitome of alpha masculinity. The suggestion that the Belvedere Torso is a character from the repertoire of classical mythology is entirely supported by the inscription on the base of the statue that reads: ‘made by Apollonios, son of Nestor the Athenian’. No literary records survive that refer to this particular artist, but there is another statue the bronze Boxer of Quirinal (Museo delle Terme, Rome), which is less certainly attributed to the exact same artist and it is fitting that both statues are commonly dated to 1st century BC. One thing that is, therefore, without dispute is that this is an authentic piece of Classical sculpture. In addition to this, the heroic nudity would further support that this is either Ajax or Hercules. There is one other important attribute to the torso which, is the feline animal skin slung over the base and left thigh which has been interpreted as both a lion and a panther skin. Hercules, in the first of his twelve labours, famously slew the Nemean lion and as a result the lion skin is a typical attribute of his portraiture. But, then again if you look at Rodin’s ‘Thinker’ which, was fundamentally inspired by the Torso it is easy to see the resemblance to Ajax. Ajax was a great Greek warrior in the Trojan wars and after having been informed that Achilles’ armour had been awarded to Odysseus and not him, he became blinded by rage and the goddess Athena and started slaughtering sheep believing them to be his men. Once he came back to his senses he was overrun by guilt. This tale was beautifully told by the tragedian Sophocles and in his play he dwells on Ajax’s mindset as he contemplates committing suicide and it is this particular moment that I believe Rodin captures perfectly.
Whether it is Ajax, Hercules or someone entirely different the Belvedere torso can still be appreciated and, continues to be adored in its unknown form. Indeed one of its most notorious admires was Pablo Picasso. Like the torso, the art of Picasso is often a controversial subject- many people do not like his work for the simple fact they claim they do not like modern art. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but, I will find few people that will deny the genius of Picasso who, did this sketch of the Belvedere Torso when he was 11 years old. www.romanempiretours.com
Picture Perfect By
The PROJECT STARTED LAST DECEMBER in the Eagle and Child pub, Oxford; two undergraduates, Adam Scott Taylor and I, eating chips and discussing theatre. Although we had decided to direct a play together, we had yet to choose exactly what. An existing script didn’t appeal to us; we wanted real ownership of the project and to offer the audience something new. Writing something of our own was the only option. After some dubious suggestions, we hit on the idea of adapting Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray for the stage. There started a project that was to consume us for the next year of our lives. The story is of a young man of extraordinary beauty, a beauty which his artist friend Basil Hallward commits to canvas. In meeting Basil’s friend Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian is persuaded to enter into a life of hedonism. However, after a Faustian pact, it is the picture that takes on the signs of his degeneracy, while his face remains ever young. Dorian descends into the depths of sin as his portrait festers in the attic, but is eventually forced to face up to the image of his own scarred soul. Wilde’s novel is in some ways perfect for a stage adaptation. The novel is concerned with the Aesthetic Movement that was emerging when it was published in 1890. The idea championed by artists such as Rossetti and Whistler that every part of life should be concerned with art, from clothing to interior decor, permeates the novel. This gave us a ready-made design; it is a work about visual experiences, and hence is perfect for translation to the stage. Moreover, the original text itself, especially the dialogue, reads like a script. It was Wilde’s only novel, and it is clear in Dorian Gray that a man who made his name as a playwright could not distance himself from his favourite style. As a result, the majority of our script is taken directly from passages in the novel, with some editing of the longer speeches and conversations. We even found many of our stage directions written in the original text. On the other hand, there are elements of the novel that were a nightmare for an adaptation. The most vital of these was how to present the portrait; we soon realised that any attempt to actually present such awful evil would be a disappointment. The second problem was that despite the theatrical passages of dialogue, there are also large tracts concerned with Dorian’s personal
reflections. Chapter 11, for example, is an almost hallucinogenic list of his obsessions and crazed imaginings, which despite being beautiful prose does not lend itself well to scripted speech without Dorian speaking in a perpetual monologue. However, we came up with a device to solve both of these problems, and this was our greatest creative change to the work. We have presented the portrait as a masked actor surrounded by an eight strong chorus, also masked. This allows us to suggest degeneration of the portrait though his clothing and changes to his body, but the horror of the face is left to the audience’s imagination. With the chorus added, we could then also dramatise abstracted versions of the reflective passages, as they act out what is going on inside Dorian’s head in parallel with the realistic action. As Dorian’s state of mind becomes more and more unstable, we could then blend reality with the abstract. Usefully, the chorus can also remove their masks to act peripheral characters in the play; with 34 individuals turning up in our adaptation, this made casting a lot easier.
Furthermore, these eight actors behave as a Greek chorus with the portrait as a chorus leader offering responses to and intensifications of Dorian’s behaviour. Although this is our addition to the work, it is appropriate to Wilde’s concerns both in the novel and his everyday life. Illegally homosexual, he was obsessed with Greek homoeroticism, a type of love once glorified in the classical world, though now forbidden to him. At his trial for sodomy in 1895, Wilde famously uttered the words, ‘ "The love that dare not speak its name" in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy.’ In fact, ‘Dorian’ actually refers to an ancient Greek ethnic group; Wilde’s choice of name for his protagonist in itself means ‘Greek’. Therefore, in our script it seemed appropriate to use a dramatic device to reflect the author’s interest in the classical world. The Greek parallel is also important for highlighting the homosexual themes in the novel. Although never made explicit, Basil’s intense worship for the young Dorian, and Henry’s suggested degenerate proclivities have a definite
homoerotic undertone. So much so in fact that the novel underwent several major edits in its various incarnations. The first edition appeared in instalments in Lippincott’s magazine, and the editor, James Stoddart, had already excised the more obviously homosexual passages. After that it appeared in novel form, but this time Wilde himself, after acrimonious reviews, toned it down even further. The novel form was also slightly extended, so this was our main point of reference when were writing. However, we also referred to the uncensored original manuscript published by Harvard earlier this year. Thus our script contains some of Wilde’s uninhibited references to homosexuality; for example, Basil tells Dorian, ‘I worshipped you with more romance of feeling than a man should ever give to a friend. I wanted to have you all to myself’. We have also made reference to the negative homophobic responses to the novel. Extracts from some of the actual reviews appear in a conversation that the chorus have about an unnamed book. Wilde also wrote a preface for the novel, a defensive list of aphorisms about the nature of art in response to the negative reviews; ‘all art is quite useless’, ‘’those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril’. We have added these to the script as the mantra on the chorus, constantly repeated and revisited throughout the story. Wilde’s homosexual identity and the public response to it had become fundamental to the very text by the time it appeared in novel, so we made an effort to reflect this in our adaptation. The next difficult thing to tackle was the fact that 18 years pass during the story. In terms of actually presenting this, it was obvious from the outset that representing this as a gradual change through the physicality of the actors was almost impossible. As a result, we put the 18 year time change into the interval to really emphasize the difference between the older main characters and the unchanged Dorian. The chorus characters represent the next generation. There was a real debate about the time frame that we were going to set it in, and for the first few days of writing we were going to modernise the whole story. Eventually, we only shifted the time scale 20 years forward, with the first act happening on the turn of the 20th Century and the second just after the First World War. The decision to put the time change into the interval had interesting ramifications on the writing of the play. The skeleton of first half
was written in four days flat, but the second half took just over a month, as we had to carefully account for the fact that the central characters have an extra 18 years of added history affecting their behaviour. It took us four months in total from that first moment in the Eagle and Child. We now have a finished script, a cast of 13 and we go onstage at the Oxford Playhouse on the 19th October. Watch this space.
Le Go没t Des Autres / The Taste Of Others By
I REALLY GOT LUCKY WHEN I stepped inside "Thems Please" in Chatsworth Road the other day, as it was their last few days. In an old Victorian shop - host to an interior made of wood counters and racks, dusty shelves and an obscured storefront â€“the artist Des Hughes had integrated fifteen years of his own sculptures. Merged within the remains of the place, his works had cohabited for a month with the former shopkeeper A. E. Barnow's own mishmash. Tiny plaster polar bears gazed upon figurines made of yellow wire. The former were Hughes', the latters- Barnow's. Since, Des Hughes cultivates a style in minimalistic manipulations, it was hard to tell things apart. Fulfilling an old dream, I walked behind the counter and investigated every dark corner of the shop. I grew more confused - nostalgic even - as I encountered numerous everyday objects: cleaning products, coats hanged behind a door, and old ads for JPS cigarettes (the very same my parents used to smoke. Upstairs, I made myself comfortable in an armchair and watched a "sweet-and-sour" short-film made by Verity-Jane Keefe. She had captured disparate elements of the building, from shop to cellar, and composed a contrasted experience of still images upon fast flowing chatter and laughter. Coming back from the upper room, I got struck by a nonchalantly hung hat. This perception of evidence of this personal history gave me the peculiar feeling of an everyday beauty - a feeling that has defined my artistic career. I love being asked by friends to guide them through an exhibition or a museum. They revel in the sensations that my words weave around them whilst I indulge my sensuality in unraveling unsuspected treasures of beauty, memories and anecdotes. However, I realize that being asked is the key really - the key to attention, to legitimacy and to pleasures. If it is I who propose such expeditions, many people simply won't give a damn. In my experience, I have noticed that these people are driven by two contradictory feelings. I first heard the: 'I-don't-know-enough-to-appreciateit'. Iâ€™ve long since lost count of its successor- the : 'I-could-have-done-itmyself' (my mother's personal favourite). The tone changes somewhat when
facing a stained-glass window or an iconic picture. I witnessed so many friends, relatives or complete strangers, one hand on their hip, declaring in a sententious tone "This is art". I do not wish to discuss the veracity or, even the relevance of these assertions. But, these statements always carry the very same voice inflexion, Certainty - with a capital C. And itâ€™s that which bothers me. If art - as I conceive it - were only facts, capacity and certainty, I would then be an accountant and, my little trips to museums would drown my friends with dullness. I do maintain that History and facts are, of course, relevant and, indeed, essential to appreciate manifold layers of sensibility. You first have to properly decipher a picture, then to link it with its context etc... At the other end of the scale, Malraux believed that even uneducated people were able to seize beauty, as in a very primitive - pristine - way. I think, for me, RenĂŠ Char best articulates what a balance between the two should entail- a poet should leave traces of his passage, not proofs, because traces alone engender dreams. In other words, what if both those who claim their ignorance, as well as those who claim knowledge, were missing the point? (The point being a beauty found in the everyday- the traces of creativity.) To me, learning art is a powerful means of conjuring the unexpected in your life- It is not a goal for its own sake.
Nowadays - after a lifetime spent learning dates and names in school - what I value most, is the ability to feel and to embrace something greater, something stronger, more intense and fugitive- something which grasps my emotions. I remember feeling it when I got my first bike (blue). Then, it was whilst listening to a Bach's Aria - Wer Gott Bekennt (BWV 45). At last and, certainly the most exquisite of all, was when I first fell for a girl. Her name was Elise and I was 8. I couldn't appreciate it at the time but, in retrospect, these were my first encounters with Art. Art should not make one feel red-flagged, simply because of his lack of education, nor should it state an intangible line between what's good and what's not. All this, is just a matter of discernment. To acquire such
discernment you need to educate your taste. Read, watch, go out and be curious. Don't be afraid of not knowing what it is all about (Believe me, I often don't know what I'm talking about myself). Dare to ask questions to people whom you think will give you accurate and savourly answers. Even grab one of those ABC-books for art, like Gombrich's one, and read it through. (It is an excellent and enjoyable reading anyway.) In conclusion, first focus on what you feel and why you're feeling it - physically and intellectually. Then, seek answers or explanations. Eventually, you'll have the urge and confidence to share your passion and, that's the enjoyable bit. Make a list of museums, galleries, institutes, etc... hunt openings, enjoy a large glass of over-chilled white wine and chat with the artist, his friends, everyone. Be courageous and at least, even if you don't like what's on the wall, you will long for the unexpected beauty of, as we say in France, a belle rencontre.
Them's Please Exhibition: - Installation by Des Hughes - Artist in Residence, Verity-Jane Keefe - Organised by Measure.
When Eros Is The Answer By
Francesca Nell Goodwin
Francesca Nell Goodwin- Balletic Triptych I
‘BUT ONE MUST NOT UNDERESTIMATE the primal appeal- to lose oneself, lose it utterly. And in losing it be born to the principle of continuous life, outside the prison of mortality and time’ (The Secret History, p.155, Donna Tartt)
A cathartic freedom from society’s rules, a rebirth into an ecstatic state of being. This is the ideal, which Henry envisages in the defence of the mysterious activities of himself and his compatriots. It is an ideal that ends in a vicious cycle of murder and loss of innocence.
The recent misrule encapsulated in the riots throughout the major city centers of England played great lip service to the anarchic, dangerous reputation that Bacchanals have earned throughout history. A frightful subversion of the status quo, linked to crimes and political conspiracies, is how the drunken revelry associated with the followers of the Greco-Roman God Bacchus (or Dionysus) has long been perceived. Admittedly, it was this definition that was realized in the looting and ruin spread by a mindless mob mentality.
However, in Ancient Greece the bacchanalia were rites of festal processions, the most famous of which, in Attica, culminated in a theatrical performance in the theatre of Dionysus. As the cult developed and spread over time, increasing emphasis was placed upon the channeling of spiritual possession into artistic practices. The casting off of society’s mannered masks during the rituals led, not so much to anarchy, but to a realization of a superior form of artistry. In essence the Dionysian mysteries became a symbol for the preservation of the soul in a triumph over death- art representing a purer truth than everyday reality.
It is perhaps no wonder therefore that, in The Cantos, Ezra Pound appeals to the lynx of Dionysus to be his guide as, in the guise of Odysseus, he navigates the perils involved in the formation of an idiosyncratic artistic style. Perhaps
there is, after all, some substance behind Oscar Wilde’s provocative testimony- ‘give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth’. The conclusion of the Bacchanal in The Secret History certainly foregrounds the destruction that may ensue when humanity loses reason and yet there endures the prevailing evidence that the intents of the experiment were noble. The development of the plot towards its tragic climax is a bi-product of unintended collateral damage. The experiment was not into what atrocity human nature is capable of but, rather, an intellectual investigation into abandonment of reason to ecstasy.
The sensations that Henry describes of ‘being (like) a baby’ when the ‘universe expands to fill the boundaries of the self’ epitomize a rather philanthropic abandonment of the egocentricity of the self. The boundaries between the private and the public that so preoccupy us and taint our mannerisms in dayto-day life become suddenly inconsequential. Certainly, the riots were an expression of some primitive impulse within human nature to indulge in lawlessness that could be indentified with the Bacchanal cults. Perhaps ‘And yet, wouldn’t a regular release of our animalistic selves into an artistic purpose in fact counteract the potential devastation inflicted when our repressed primal selves are let loose in frustration and anger?’
Dionysus has been identified with the unconscious mind of society- the impulses that we all possess and yet rarely expose to civilized examination. I am by no means condoning a national Bacchanal to solve the overcrowding of our prisons but, rather than following the Roman senate in responding to expressions of baser human nature with iron fisted suppression, why don’t we channel this energy to a productive purpose? Perhaps, if we celebrated our humanity and accepted that we all possess- to some extent- chaotic emotions, rather than shame facedly aspiring to a uniform emotional apathy, then the dreadful excuses for ‘anarchy’ that broke out in our streets would not occur.
I leave you with a thought, therefore, that recognition of the flaws within humanity is more productive than denial and the supposed reassurance of an exclusively punitive justice system. It is not so much the release of emotions that is the problem; It is the conspicuous lack of creative channels through which to guide them in our everyday lives.
The Secret History- Donna Tarrt (Penguin Group 1992)
The Mind Blogs By Laura Evelyn
IT’S BRUNCH O’CLOCK on a bracing Tuesday and my nipples could cut glass. Under many layers of various cottons and knits, however, this fact I get to keep to myself, especially since I’m now sallying forth out of Borough tube station, my Londoner stride morphing into a distracted touristy jaunt as the world of Charles Dickens floods my eye line. Marshalsea Road, hallo! Little Dorrit Court, there you are! I recognise these references having tuned into one of the most recent TV adaptations of Master Charles’ rather than actually reading the darn thing, but I won’t feel too bad for readily agreeing on the man’s genius despite never having read one of his novels. Hypocrisy and guilt aside, whilst the tourist in me reveled – nay, triumphed – in the familiarity of my literary surroundings, my inner blogger felt obligated – nay, forced – to share her delight with her four hundred plus Facebook friends. “Laura has been transported into Dickensian times.. wish her luck!” No, too vague; could be wittier. “Laura wished she could have read rather than watched Little Dorrit and be, therefore, impressively impressed.” I was mentally editing my Facebook status whilst jay-walking and negotiating the flow of genuine tourists. I am the youthful face of social networking! I am the future, a promise; symptomatic and involved! …I am lonely and representing the death knell of actual human contact, favouring communication via a profoundly oversized greeting card that lights up and beeps when you open it. Ok, calm down. This isn’t Psychologies. Or Look magazine attempting social investigation. Darn it, I mind-blog constantly! “Laura needs to file her toenails.” “Laura L.” “Laura: Team Edward.” What is the remedy?? More friends with which to share these little nuggets? No, my ample friend quota surely quashes that idea, doesn’t it? DOESN’T IT?! Methinks I need, instead, to take private delight in these ideas and impulses. Perhaps it is akin to taking a plus one to the theatre or sharing your evening
with a chum at a gig. Following the shared experience with casual critique is lovely and stuff, but isn’t the event heightened somewhat when it has one’s sole focus? Have you ever exited the now sticky-carpeted cinema invigorated by the new Harry Potter or the vintage screening of The Breakfast Club, only to have your companion sway your freshly-brewed opinion by commenting on Ms Watson’s timberesque performance or how John Hughes never once incorporated said meal and isn’t that a disappointment? Doubts aside, sharing is in fact entirely natural (and a smidge nurtured, but that’s another discussion) so why bother stifling the urge to contrast and compare with an additional and less subjective presence? In any case, I shan’t feel too guilty when next I get the urge to disclose my especially phlegmy gullet to cyberspace. Perhaps I will encourage other phlegmatists to share their experiences and alleviate any shame we, in our private bubbles of despair, endure. And thence comes national awareness, political lobbying and eventually social change. Or not. Maybe I’ll just note down some top tips to alleviate my symptoms and get on with my day.
The Problem With Poetry By
Adam Scott Taylor
THE POET IS DEFERRING RESPONSIBILITY. He sidles up to us, book in hand, and proffers a few extracts for our consultation. No longer does the reader simply read what is put in front of him, with good table manners, but instead he is forced to actively engage with the creative process. Readers have always expressed opinions, and it is vital that they do, but a trend has been forming in some recent poetry to empower the reader beyond the level of opinionated response. This is when said consultation occurs, when a poem is so lacking in clarity that it offers up its meaning to the individual, saying “do what you will”, and the inevitable outcome is a pick-and-mix affair; rather than dealing fully with a piece by seeing both its minutiae and their function within a coherent whole, such a poem’s readers drop greedy hands into a paper bag and pull out choice sweets for a moment’s tasting. “Oh I really like this line”, they will say, as if they would nominate it synecdoche for a total meaning. One worries for the longevity of such unspecific poetry, and for the character of the writer. To talk of the unspecific is a dangerous path, when poetry can be so rich in figurative language. Yet crucially the trend of poetry addressed here does not include the abstract work, or the symbolic, which are perfectly viable approaches so long as the writer is well-informed in their own mind as to what they wish to say, and can translate that onto the page for their readers. These are the two stumbling criteria for our trend, where either the writer’s total meaning is not fixed in their own mind, and they rely on esoteric presentation to cover this fact, or it is delivered in such a fashion that the reader cannot properly perceive it. The first scenario is harder to prove, and is perhaps waived respectfully as often as it is suspected. In the second scenario, the writer delivers only a partial meaning in the text, and the rest is lost because they have a knowledge of certain contexts which, while supposedly providing completion, are available to none but him or herself. In terms of presentation, we can expect to see unrelated phrases and images clashing away, a quasiliterary mess that the unwitting reader strides in to clear up. All then hail their resourcefulness, and order is recovered, at the expense of the writer and to the vanity of the reader.
Let us look at the trend, through a chief culprit. Here is J. H. Prynne, the Cambridge poet, with a stanza from ‘Rich in Vitamin C’: Under her brow the snowy wing-case delivers truly the surprise of days which slide under sunlight past loose glass in the door into the reflection of honour spread through the incomplete, the trusted. So darkly the stain skips as a livery of your pause like an apple pip, the baltic loved one who sleeps. Writing like this indulges the keen reader, where they wander through the lines trying to fathom out their favourite parts. This is not to say that there are not some well-crafted phrases: ‘days which slide under sunlight’ has a lovely passive resonance, and it is not common craft, either, to make a phrase that hints at such normality - sunset creeping up on a building - but that when examined is full of impossibility in the basic wording. Yet this craft when used extensively is deceptive: it is the trap of powerful phrases with weak meanings, where the reader is lured in and left empty-handed as the dissonant magic which originally attracted dissipates and is gone. In reading Prynne, the worth of his work is more apparent from a distance, but as Hazlitt says, it is not the distant object that pleases, but the distance between ourselves and the object. For this distance to be appreciated, we must be as sure of the thing
close up as we are from afar; the nonsense-verse which the reader perceives at closer quarters damages the mystery with which he or she was first enthused in a cursory glance. Harsh as it is, a label of nonsense seems appropriate when the reader is so lacking in context with which to ascertain the full meaning. The ‘loved one who sleeps’ needs no specific knowledge to understand, and so is totally specific, yet when the ‘baltic’ adjective is attached, the phrase becomes less specific, due to the need for specific knowledge – viz. a context of meaning which the writer is aware of – that is unavailable. Even so, there is still enough specificity in the phrase that the reader can make a rational or emotional guess at the meaning, but the real problem with the poem is in the indulgent arrangement of these semi-specific phrases. ‘So darkly the stain skips’, when isolated, could be a lively narration of wine seeping into fabric, or ‘your pause like an apple pip’ could be a fine simile of rest after activity being a simple, natural moment. It can never be clear though, and the potency of these expressions is lost by the lack of ordinary prosaic grammar with which to surround them; one cannot feast on sugar alone. So choice expressions are suffocated by their proximity to each other, and the exemplary last sentence reads as sad shouting, indistinguishable. Prynne is gold-dust for book clubs and poetry societies, as he empowers their opinion beyond the ordinary level. One member after another will impose their own ordinary prosaic grammar in between the lines, so as to try and make sense of the piece. In doing so, they will be creating meaning that was never present. They are not just intimating, but actively creating a semantic, and this diminishes the authority of the writer. Each one will tell how the apple pip links to the baltic loved one, where the stain fits in, and something of the livery, but in doing so, they will not finish reading with any sense as to what Prynne intended by his placement of the words. Moreover, what will their lasting remembrance be when thinking back to the poem? With so much effort expounded on trying to create clarity of meaning, the result is likely too personal and too complex to be recalled at once, especially if the poem is placed next to other read poems, overloaded in the same style. The reader returns to ‘Rich in Vitamin C’ at a later date, he or she will have to re-assess, the second process may have new results, and the creative power is reasserted;
it is an exhausting process, made more strenuous when expected from similar poems in succession. For this, they cannot take a strong specific image away with them, of the poem or the poet. If ‘Rich in Vitamin C’ is unspecific enough that it offers new meanings to repeat readings – it should be remembered that there is a difference between new meanings and new opinions, which of course may change with time – then Prynne has created a mirror for the age, rather than a voice within it. For a poet to have a character, viz. a literary and historical personality, then they must be more than solely reflective. They may be the product of a time, but they will still assert within it. So if a poet leaves his assertions to his readers, then less of him or her remains behind for our appraisal, an occurrence which past not-forgotten writers have avoided by creating an impression, or meaning, which would be universally accessible. The new fear is that writers of our derided trend will rearrange this, by creating universal access to the meaning, and promptly lose themselves in the process. There is no question that Prynne is celebrated, but he has become a generallyaccepted paragon of a style which would seem to have taken the fragmentation of modernism and ran with it. Yet Eliot leaves his Cleopatra for the close of a local bar because ‘he do… in different voices’, so that his meaning, or intent, is for the presentation of disparate elements. It is not style for Eliot to do so but meaning, where he and his contemporaries mean to react against the conventions of 19th century work, or mean to explore through verse the possibilities of vocal differentiation. Perhaps, informing the trend which includes Prynne, the meaning of modernism has been mistaken for style, and said style has too long and too strongly been upheld. Eliot is every second person’s favourite poet, but his disconnections and lack of specificity were reactionary, and there are now a thousand indulgent exponents of these stylistic traits who have no meaning for using them; a stream of would-be modernists is so very tiring. The visible result is often disjointed, contextheavy poetry, where the reader is frequently hampered in their attempts to find either strong imagination or strong reason. Such poems are not easily remembered, and diminish the author as a character.
‘Fly Away With Me’- Nicola Anthony
To those less talented than normal in the writing of such a style, any reader therein would have to suffer through vainglorious tat. At least with a more specific style, those less skilful in poetic mechanics can provide the reader with a strong narrative or image, and be rewarded in remembrance. And what of those more skilful? See Copus here, a far less open-house entity than Prynne, full of specifics and still brimming with urban mystery: But first she steadies herself, still crouching, the grains of the asphalt hot beneath her toes and fingertips, a square of petrified beach. Her tiny breasts rest lightly on her thighs. – What can she know of the way the world admits us less and less the more we grow? Here is a proper metaphor, ‘a square of petrified beach’, one that is exciting in all its strangeness of phrasing and yet completely visible. The more prosaic preceding line allows it to flourish, but even ‘asphalt hot beneath her toes and fingertips’ provides strong imaginative detail, though it seems obvious at first; the extremities of the girl interacting with her environment, a sense of present danger kept at a distance. Then we have more bodily specifics, but there is more explosive, uncatchable poetry in the young girl’s breasts on her thighs in the sun then in all of Prynne’s eddies and swirls. It is the pure poetic image, and the reader takes it with them to treasure. Copus is mentioned sometime after reading, and they immediately see her young girl crouching on the roof, the facilitating image that opens access to the full poem in the memory. They begin to form a character for the poet, helped along by the selective images she has provided. The last specific comes as a question, but by asking it Copus
has shown her meaning, which is to say she means to ask it; the reader is invited only to an opinion in answering it, as the creativity is all Copus’ as she puts it to us, authoritatively. It is part of that authority that she trusts a specific image of her own creation enough to invite debate upon it, for it is far easier to debate an unspecific thing and easier still to create one, but in debating ‘What can she know…?’, the poetry society or book club are still held within the specifics which Copus has determined, un-empowered and opinionated, as it should be. They are forced to engage specifically with the minutiae and with the whole poem, rather than indulging in a crass lucky-dip affair, and they treasure a stronger sense of poetic character in doing so. There is no better measure of poem or poet than to see the creator doing all the creating. http://jacketmagazine.com/06/pryn-kins.html http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/oct/07/forward-prize-single-poem-juliacopus
Haruki Murakami By
WRITTEN DURING THE JAPANESE economic boom of the 80s, Haruki Murakami’s work has been described by Herbert Mitgang as ‘a mixture of magical realism, feckless wandering and stylish writing, often ending at a blank wall.’ It is a combination of minimalist aesthetics — the prose being ‘stripped-down [and] off-handed’# – and magical realist techniques that characterises the style of his writing, as Loughman says in her review of the collection The Elephant Vanishes: ‘[Murakami] experiments with language, genre, realism, and fantasy, in order to explore the outer limits of postmodern expression.’ Characteristic of Murakami’s prose and contributing to its significance in the context of postmodern discourse is the subtle ironic and detached tone that works as means to critique the banality of the culture he evokes, with its emphasis on selling products, materialism, and ultimate failure to value or experience the deeper, more mysterious aspects of life. A great example of this can be found in the collection The Elephant Vanishes published in 1993 and specifically in the short-story The Second Bakery Attack; here the main character and his wife, taken aback by some unparalleled hunger in the middle of the night, decide to attack a bakery to exorcise some demon of the main character’s past, but all they can find is a McDonald’s. The irony of it is evident even more when, once they enter the premises, the girl behind the counter flashes him a ‘McDonald’s smile’. One can sense the feeling of estrangement of the main character who shows signs of confusion throughout the whole experience. Half in a dream, the story alternates the experience of the attack with a cinematic image of an undersea volcano, he says: ‘The clarity of the ocean water all around the boat gave me an unsettling feeling, as if a hollow had opened somewhere behind my solar plexus — a hermetically sealed cavern that had neither entrance nor exit. Something about this weird sense of absence — this sense of existential reality of non-existence — resembled the paralysing fear you might feel when you climb to the very top of a high steeple.’ The world of Murakami’s characters is a world in which it’s not a ‘question of right or wrong, (…)wrong choices can produce right results, and vice versa.’ The narrator in The Second Bakery Attack adds: ‘I myself have adopted the position that, in fact, we never choose anything at all.
Things happen. Or not.’ The dream-like quality of The Second Bakery Attack and that of most of the stories belonging to this collection serves to expose the ‘two worlds’# one conscious and one unconscious — that split the reality of Murakami’s detached and lost characters, and that is a fundamental structural element of the author’s prose. These two worlds are a way to access the narrator’s inner mind,# however, it is so only for the reader, as the characters never manage to find any connection between the strange happenings and themselves.’ The stories are structured in such a way that to make sense of them is possible only by means of suspension of belief and disbelief. Praised as ‘the major voice for the disaffected youth of Japan’s contemporary era’, Murakami wrote his first novel Hear the Wind Sing in 1979 at the age of 29 whilst working at the bar that he owned, he then sent the completed novel to the only literary contest that would accept a work of such length and won the first prize. Few readers in 1979 needed reminding that, less than ten years before, Japan’s greatest political struggle in the postwar era — Zenkyōtō, the popular student uprising against the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty — collapsed in utter defeat. As John W. Dower writes: ‘By 1972 the Left thus had lost hold of many of its most evocative peace issues (…). The average citizen turned inwards, to bask in Japan’s new international affluence as an economic power and become consumed by material pursuits, exemplified in such mass-media slogans as ‘My Home-ism’ and ‘My Car-ism’. The failure of the Zenkyōtō movement meant a growing sense of disillusionment and alienation among the youth of his generation. They neither understood affluence as a goal in itself, nor had known the hardship of the Second World War. It is this reality that Murakami portrays both in his novels and short-stories. Often humours and puzzling, they don’t offer any simple solution to the contemporary social context they belong to. In most cases Murakami’s narrators are nameless and faceless. They do nothing special, although they often have a good salary, they have regular jobs in factories, firms, law firms and advertising, and yet they are people without real ambitions. In their spare times they watch elephants at the zoo, search for lost cats, eat and listen to Western music most of the
time and wander around the city drunk and aimlessly. A year after the first novel Hear the Wind Sing, Murakami published Pinball, 1973, a sequel and in 1982 he published A Wild Sheep Chase, a critical success. Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball, 1973, and A Wild Sheep Chase form the Trilogy of the Rat (a sequel, Dance, Dance, Dance was written later but is not considered part of the series). The first two novels are unpublished in English translation outside of Japan. In 1985, Murakami wrote Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, a dream-like fantasy that takes the magical elements in his work to a new extreme. But it not until the publication of Norwegian Wood in 1987, a nostalgic story of loss and sexuality, that Murakami achieved a major breakthrough and national recognition. It sold millions of copies among Japanese youths, making Murakami a literary superstar in his native country. In 1994-1995, he published The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, a novel that fuses realistic and fantastic tendencies, and contains elements of physical violence. It is also considered to be more socially conscious than his previous work, dealing in part with the difficult topic of war crimes and sexual abuse. The novel won the Yomiuri Prize, awarded by one of his harshest former critics, Kenzaburo Oe, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994. Strecher points out: â€˜What Murakami achieves is the subtle evocation of the politics of the postmodern era in texts which do not seem political in the least.â€™
Bibliography Haruki Murakami, The Elephant Vanishes, Vintage Books, London, 2001 Celeste Loughman, Review of ‘The Elephant Vanishes’, World Literature Today, vol.68, No.2, Spring 1994, pp. 434-35 David L. Ulin, "Disorder Out of Chaos," in Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 4, 1993, p. 3, 11 Matthew Strecher, ‘Magical realism and the Search for Identity in the Fiction of Murakami Haruki’, Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2,(Summer 1999), pp.263-298 Brian McHale, Postmodernist Fiction, Routledge, 1987 Alejo Carpentier, ‘On the Marvelous Real in America (1949)’, ‘The Baroque and the Marvelous Real (1975), Magical Realism, 1995, pp. 75-118 Matthew Strecher, “Beyond ‘Pure’ Literature: Mimesis, Formula and the Postmodern in the Fiction of Murakami Haruki”, The Joagurnal of Asian Studies, Vol.57, No.2 (May 1998), Association of Asian Studies, http://www,jstor.org/stable/26588 Patricia Welch, ‘Haruki Murakami’s Storytelling World’, World Literature Today, Jan-Apr 2005, pp. 55-59 Cynthia J. Hallett, Studies in Short Fiction, Online article, 1996, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2455/is_n4_v33/ai_20906634/ Ian Buruma, ‘Turning Japanese’, The New Yorker, 23-30 December 1996, pp. 6071 Anna Maria Hong, Critical Essay ‘The Elephant Vanishes, in Short Stories for Students, Thompson Gale, 2006 Defeat: Matthew Strecher, ‘Magical realism and the Search for Identity in the Fiction of Murakami Haruki’, Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2,(Summer 1999), p. 264
Tipping The Balance By
Will James Alston
FOR ALL THE WORK that went into them, there was little in the five years of private education and the four A levels and 12 GCSEs to prepare me to write an article on life modeling. What is even more certain is that I was no better equipped to actually do it for myself. Yet, 2 years ago, shortly after getting my place to study mathematics in London - with all the promise of fortune and respectable employment that must surely follow - I found myself standing in the living room of a middle aged man who I had never met, my clothes neatly folded in the corner, listening to Travis's 12 Memories album and watching my own body emerge from the canvas before me. The first painting was nothing like I expected, far from being a masterpiece of scale and geometry that the artist's quick glances had hinted at, I was a mere shadowin a storm of colour: pink, orange, black and red: as grotesque as it was beautiful. From that moment it became a minor addiction, a great gamble that paid dividends in surprise and bewilderment. As the phrase goes, I'm no oil painting. I can vanish in a crowd and dislike a camera being put in my face only for the blown up image of every imperfection, the tired eyes or blotched skin to be posted on facebook for every trawler to shift past with indifference. The skill in photographing somebody like me is to take one that hides or covers up the flaws. Failing that, there is no shortage of digital software to do that. I would imagine that an artist can approach a painting from two or three directions, at least from what I've seen. Each method complements the model in its own way. Not only this but, each alters the way you look at yourself. For it is true that even for the most vain, your reflection will soon bore you and it can be refreshing to see yourself, almost literally, through the eyes of another. The first: to draw or paint the model as an inanimate object, like one would a bowl of fruit. This I hear is particularly difficult for the artist since, we often can't help but draw, say, a face as we imagine it to be rather than as it is. From the modelâ€™s perspective to be broken down into your constituent geometric parts means to have to surrender expression and present yourself to the artist as a construction. You become a 'model' in the most literal sense-
built for close observation and scrutiny. 'Isn't this difficult, to be studied so intently?' some might say-especially given my dislike of photography. This is, in fact, far from the case. With all emotion stripped away you appreciate your idiosyncrasies as challenges for the artist to rise to rather than as a flaw. You see those who succeed and fail in meeting the demands of your body and you notice new things. While I would not go as far as to say I am unique, it is hugely satisfying to see an artist struggling over the proportions of your shoulder to hip ratio or try to get the break on your nose just right. It offers little satisfaction when an artist throws in the towel to make you an Adonis that you simply aren't. As a gymnast and a rugby player I have particular muscle developments neither of which follow the stereotype, if one artist paints me as a gymnast and the other as a rugby player then to my mind they have both failed. Indeed, paradoxically, you delight in seeing the final piece come closer to its intended perfection as it highlights your imperfections. This is the satisfaction in the mutual acknowledgement of a successful artistic partnership, that you have raised a challenge and they have met it. The second painterly approach is one which is flattering for a model, and occasionally rewarding for an artist I would imagine, and that is to turn the organism in front of them into something beautiful, something that will be â€˜niceâ€™ to look at. In other words- a functioning piece of art. I would not be able to comment on the ease of applying such artistic license but it is certainly not unpopular. This is not the same as being attractive, it's not about standing on parade in an attempt to emulate some Greek or Roman God but, moreover, you provide a template that the artist has leave to alter and transform, whether through colours or minor alteration the artist draws out what they can from you and brings the canvas to life.
Curtsey Of The Cambridge Life Drawing Group
AS A MODEL THERE is some pressure that arises from this method of observation-what if the artist can find nothing beautiful in you? When such thoughts arise one must remember that it not, ultimately, your concern. A model could be the picture of beauty and an artist like me would have you looking like Anne Widdecombe (sorry Widdy... big fan). One might rightly assume that there is an aspect of the unsatisfying in this relationship- as a model you offer nothing in terms of personality to the artist and, get absolutely nothing in return. However, seeing yourself somewhere in a blur of colour and the strange marriage of your self to, often a complete strangerâ€™s, imagination is a strange, often captivating, feeling. The third approach slightly overlaps the second. It is the Dorian Gray scenario where you see something of yourself you would rather not. This is not in a physical sense since, a painting of you with a pot belly and webbed feet does not necessarily make it so. In contrast, an accurate painting of your imperfections has no bad meaning in itself since it is, by definition, accurate. Yet, just as there is great joy in seeing an artist turn your optimism and spirit into a beautiful chalk drawing, there is a strange sense of invasion when your fears and pessimism are brought out in a painting. There is nothing personal in it I'm sure, and I am also sure that it often says a good deal more about the artist than the model. For each person that says you must have extreme self -confidence to be a life model in reference purely to our physical side, the reality is that it is the scrutiny which, some artists pay to your disposition, that can be most telling. I would be lying, however, if I attested that the practicalities of life classes were a piece of cake. In fact, while most say that the attractive hourly rate of most art classes is on account of the â€˜getting your kit offâ€™, I think that the hardest part is the reality of staying still for such a long period of time. To overcome the inevitable numbness in the shoulder and knee regions, I normally stare intently at an object in the room and, wait for my imagination to take over for personal amusement. It is amazing how, when you surrender your senses, your thoughts can run away. Entire worlds can be built around mains sockets, cracks in the floor become earth shaking fissures, only to be
bought back to life by the scratching on paper or the splash of paint. This is not to mention the constant instruction from the teacher (the afore mentioned middle aged man). He will often try to guide the pupils toward this or that feature, a mole or a birthmark, occasionally getting out the measuring stick for some geometric observations. At other times it has been an attempt to impress the pupils with some fabricated anecdote about my sporting or personal life to make everyone feel ‘comfortable’. This theme of making people ‘comfortable’ is a recurrent one. I can't help but laugh at desperate eye contact that people make when they talk to you when you're nude, and the ridiculous small talk in between poses. The first few sessions where I would offer this pose or that pose, only to get a few awkward nods of approval or suggestions, always ended in that infamous phrase- 'Do whatever's comfortable'. Nothing is comfortable. And the actual paintings? I enjoy perusing the works after each session, as people occasionally ask for my approval to which, I nonchalantly reply that I have no opinion of my paintings. Then, I scoop up my tips, put my suit back on, drive home and, tell my mother that I had a long day at the office. Oh yes, I forgot to mention, at the time I was working in the trusts department for a leading professional services firm. Not that that should be too surprising, after all I am only in it for the money, I know fuck all about art.