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green limes

Illuminated limes in Utrecht - 1

Illuminated limes in Utrecht - 2

Illuminated limes in Utrecht - 3

This green line of light is part of a project to mark the ancient boundaries of the Roman castellum in Utrecht (Traiectum), which was also the nothern frontier (limes) of the Roman empire.

bonnie and clyde

Vous avez lu l'histoire
De Jesse James
Comment il vécu
Comment il est mort
Ça vous a plus hein
Vous en d'mandez encore
Et bien
Ecoutez l'histoire
De Bonnie and Clyde

Alors voilà
Clyde a une petite amie
Elle est belle et son prénom
C'est Bonnie
A eux deux ils forment
Le gang Barrow
Leurs noms
Bonnie Parker et Clyde Barrow

Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde

Moi lorsque j'ai connu Clyde
Autrefois
C'était un gars loyal
Honnête et droit
Il faut croire
Que c'est la société
Qui m'a définitivement abîmé

Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde

Qu'est-c' qu'on a pas écrit
Sur elle et moi
On prétend que nous tuons
De sang-froid
C'est pas drôl'
Mais on est bien obligé
De fair' tair'
Celui qui se met à gueuler

Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde

From the song by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot. (Full lyrics here.)

This came out in the same year (1967) as Arthur Penn's legendary film 'Bonnie and Clyde', which paved the way for the socalled American New Wave.

"A sympathetic portrait of two barely articulate criminals, played by Warren Beatty and a newcomer, Faye Dunaway, that disconcertingly mixed sex, violence and hayseed comedy," as the NY Times put it. In retrospect the film's tagline about sums up the New Hollywood attitude: "They're young. They're in love. They kill people."

The song, by the way, was memorably covered by Luna, and sampled by MC Solaar (in 'Nouveau Western').

dutch light

While on the subject of observing Holland, another interesting documentary is 'Dutch Light' ('Hollands Licht', 2003), investigating the myth of the unique quality of light in Holland. It is the dramatic, almost tangible light of 17th century landscape painters like Jan van Goyen, Jacob van Ruisdael and Johannes Vermeer (who took the light indoors), of the 19th century Hague School, and even of Mondrian's geometrical abstractions.

Dutch Light - 1

Dutch Light - 2

Though part of the film is concerned with whether this myth is based on a natural (physical, meteorological) phenomenon, most artists and critics interviewed agree it is best seen as an artistic construct, a phenomenon inseparable from the techniques used for its representation. The question is also answered implicitly: when looking at other places known for its peculiar light, the film does so through the eyes of artists, examining Vincent van Gogh's Provence and James Turrell's Arizona.

Dutch Light - 3

Dutch Light - 4

For all its theorizing, 'Dutch Light' is most convincing when it shows rather than talks about this elusive phenomenon. For a whole year, the filmmakers shot images on the same spot, on the dyke between Marken and Monnickendam. The resulting panoramas are stunning cinematic examples of Dutch light: slivers of land in a landscape dominated by water, with a low, open horizon giving room to vast skyscapes, and the ever changing, harsh, clear light creating spots of bright blue and green in the overall greyness.

mirror of holland

This year's Nederlands Film Festival has a program called Mirror of Holland, a retrospective of Dutch cinema of the past 30 years as "cultural-historical documents". The program's title pays homage to Bert Haanstra's classic short documentary 'Mirror of Holland' ('Spiegel van Holland', 1950), which won a Palme d'Or in Cannes.

Bert Haanstra's Spiegel van Holland

Composed entirely of reflections in water, the film has the quality of a moving painting which gets increasingly abstract as the images are distorted by ripples. Its visual poetry is simply timeless.

As I'm not sure the festival actually shows Haanstra's film, here it is online.

copyclash

'Copyclash' at Roodkapje, which opened on Sunday, offers some interesting arguments in the copyright vs. copyleft debate. Curated by Trailer, who also published an accompanying magazine (mostly in Dutch), the exhibition brings together classic examples of sampling, copying, reusing and recontextualizing. In all these cases, the "stealing" of artistic ideas, works and samples resulted in great new art works, or even entire genres and subcultures.

This spirit of freely "devouring" and using other works is articulated nicely in the fifth of Jim Jarmusch's 'Golden Rules':

Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don't bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: "It's not where you take things from - it's where you take them to."

(Note that this is me quoting Trailer quoting Jarmusch quoting Godard, so let's just hope all parties consider this 'fair use'...)

Not surprisingly, most of the works in the exhibition can be found online. This in fact illustrates another aspect of the debate: the ease and ubiquity of digital reproduction, which is changing the meaning of concepts like "original" and "copy", "owning" and "stealing". And not just in the rarified art world, but for mainstream consumers all over the world.

Anyway, highlights of the exhibition include:

  • 'Der Lauf der Dinge' (1987) by Peter Fischli and David Weiss is a half-hour long film depicting one long chain of cause and effect involving anything from tires to fireworks. The film inspired a kind of mini-genre of causal chain films, including television commercial 'Cog' and OK Go music video 'This Too Shall Pass'.
  • 'Can I Have an Amen' (2004) by Nate Harrison is an audio installation tracing the use of the socalled 'amen break' from a 1969 song to countless hip hop samples and drum 'n' bass deconstructions. The story of this six-second clip illustrates "the rise and subsequent problematic of digital sampling in relation to today's increasingly stringent copyright and trademark laws".
  • 'I Am Sitting In A Video Room' (2010) by Patrick Liddell, who uploaded a video of himself to YouTube, downloaded it and uploaded it again, and repeated this 1000 times. The result shows the limits of digital reproducability, or more specifically, of YouTube's video codec. Of course, Liddell's work also pays hommage to Alvin Lucier's famous audio piece 'I Am Sitting in a Room' (1970).

the golden temple

Yes, the Golden Temple appeared before me - that strange building which, when one thought it was near, became distant, that building which always floated clearly in some inscrutable point of space, intimate with the beholder, yet utterly remote. It was this structure that now came and stood between me and the life at which I was aiming. At first it was as small as a miniature painting, but in an instant it grew larger, until it completely buried the world that surrounded me and filled every nook and cranny of this world, just as in that delicate model which I had once seen the Golden Temple had been so huge that it had encompassed everything else. It filled the world like some tremendous music, and this music itself became sufficient to occupy the entire meaning of the world. The Golden Temple, which sometimes seemed to be so utterly indifferent to me and to tower into the air outside myself, had now completely engulfed me and had allowed me to be situated within its structure.

From 'The Temple of the Golden Pavilion' by Yukio Mishima. Based on historical events, the novel explores the Dostoyevskian obsession of a young monk for the Golden Temple in Kyoto, which he ended up burning to the ground in 1950. The temple has since been rebuilt (glimpsed here before), as a new incarnation of beauty's eternity...

In life, an instant that assumes the form of eternity will intoxicate us; but the Golden Temple knew full well that such an instant is insignificant compared with what happens when eternity assumes the form of an instant, as the temple itself had now done. It is at such times that the fact of beauty's eternity can really block our lives and poison our existences. The instantaneous beauty that life lets us glimpse is helpless against such poison. The poison crushes and destroys it at once, and finally exposes life itself under the light-brown glare of ruin.

For an introduction to Mishima's life and work check out Paul Schrader's documentary 'Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters', which also contains scenes from the book.

journalism warning labels

Great initiative, Tom Scott's pointed set of 'Journalism Warning Labels', spreading some much-needed media scepticism - like a do-it-yourself 'Flat Earth News'. Even if you can't be bothered printing stickers, doing some mental labeling of your daily news fare is definitely a sane exercise.

Journalism Warning Label - 1

Journalism Warning Label - 2

There's a Dutch version too. (For some Dutch background on this issue, see for instance this article on 'Mediafalen'.)