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Everyone Wants to Understand Art

Pablo Picasso, A Girl with a Book
Everyone wants to understand art. Why don’t we try to understand the songs of a bird? Why do we love the night, the flowers, everything around us, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting, people think they have to understand. If only they realised above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only an insignificant part of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things that please us in the world, though we can’t explain them. People who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree. 
People want to find a ‘meaning’ in everything and everyone. That’s the disease of our age, an age that is anything but practical but believes itself to be more practical than any other age. 
I object to the idea that there should be three or four thousand ways of interpreting my pictures. There ought to be no more than one, and within this interpretation it should be possible, to some extent, to see nature, which after all is nothing but a kind of struggle between my inner being and the outer world. 
Is there anything more dangerous that being understood? All the more so, as there is no such thing. You are always misunderstood. You think you aren’t lonely, but in actual fact you are even more lonely.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

If You Don’t Do It, It Doesn’t Exist

Still image from Citizen Kane

Great films can teach us more than what their makers plan while filming. The story quoted below can be found in Paul Arden’s book, and it amply demonstrates how far one can go for a cause.

When It Can’t Be Done, Do It. If You Don’t Do It, It Doesn’t Exist. 
A new idea can be either unfamiliar, or silly, or both. 
It can’t be judged by description. It needs to be done (made) to exist. 
It is unlikely that anyone will sanction the cost of something they don’t understand, therefore you have no choice but to do it yourself. 
At whatever cost. 
You may have to beg, steal and borrow to get it done. But that’s for you to work out how you do it. 
It’s exciting. 
It’s difficult and it’s fun. 
If it was easy anyone could do it. 
The film Citizen Kane  is a very good example. It was stolen not sanctioned. 
Orson Welles could not find any backers, but he did raise a small sum for casting. 
He begged, borrowed and cajoled people into building sets and shooting full-blown screen tests which eventually formed a third of the film. 
Backers could see what they were getting. He got the money. 
Without him doing it when it supposedly couldn’t be done, it would be another in the endless list of ideas that never happened. 


Image credit: The Joblo Movie Network .

Can You Really Not Earn Money With Poetry?

A long time ago I had a conversation with someone who was considering to be a man-of-letters. The person was meeting the difficult subject heads on.

It would be nice to write poetry‘, he said, ‘and I do like writing poetry. But it doesn’t sell. I won’t be able to earn money with it. And I need to earn money. That’s why I’ll be writing prose‘.

Without being ironic, I think this was a very sensible line of argument. I heard it in 2001, if not 2000 – a long time ago. Today, in 2009 I was checking my emails, one of which was from a poet. As becomes Gmail, I was served “relevant ads”, including the one in the screen grab, from Blogit.com:

So, without much ado, just as you can earn zillions by instant blogging, so you can earn money the moment you start writing poetry. And if it does sound like I’m uttering things then I’m simply using the extreme example. As we know, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) is increasingly becoming very rare.

She Stared at My Open Window…

protected by nothing except bikinis made of leopard skin and boots (it is almost mid-November, after all). Her gaze was inviting, and her dark locks flowed freely down her shoulders, entwining with the glossy waves of her blonde friend who sat by her side, wrapped up in tiger skin.

In over a year that I lived in my apartment I got to see all sorts of things from my “rare window”. But to have two sexy women pushing their faces into my flat was, erm, different. I knew – of course, I knew – these two sirens would be gracing the cover of a large truck, tall enough to cover my entire window from the view, and I was not wrong. And yet… it was a peculiar sight to behold. Which is why I commemorated it in pictures and in a post.

Jean-Paul Sartre on Poetry

Poetry is a case of the loser winning. And the genuine poet chooses to lose, even if he has to go so far as to die, in order to win. … Thus, if one absolutely wishes to speak of the commitment of the poet, let us say that he is the man who commits himself to lose. This is the deeper meaning of that tough-luck, of that curse with which he always claims kinship and which he always attributes to an intervention from without; whereas it is his deepest choice, the source, and not the consequence of his poetry. He is certain of the total defeat of the human enterprise and arranges to fail in his own life in order to bear witness, by his individual defeat, to human defeat in general. Thus, he challenges, as we shall see, which is what the prose-writer does too. But the challenge of prose is carried on in the name of a great success; and that of poetry, in the name of the hidden defeat which every victory conceals. 

It goes without saying that in all poetry a certain form of prose, that is of success, is present; and, vice versa, the driest prose always contains a bit of poetry, that is, a certain form of defeat; no prose-writer is quite capable of expressing what he wants to say; he says too much or not enough; each phrase is a wager, a risk assumed; the more cautious one is, the more attention the word attracts; as Valery has shown, no one can understand a word to its very bottom. Thus, each word is used simultaneously for its clear and social meaning and for certain obscure resonances – let me say, almost for its physiognomy. The reader, too, is sensitive to this. At once we are no longer on the level of concerted communication, but on that of grace and chance; the silences of prose are poetic because they mark its limits, and it is for the purposes of greater clarity that I have been considering the extreme cases of pure prose and pure poetry. However, it need not be concluded that we can pass from poetry to prose by a continuous series of intermediate forms. If the prose-writer is too eager to fondle his words, the eidos of ‘prose’ is shattered and we fall into highfalutin nonsense. If the poet relates, explains, or teaches, the poetry complex becomes prosaic; he has lost the game. It is a matter of structures, impure, but well-defined.

From What Is Literature (translated by Bernard Frechtman, with introduction by David Caute; Routledge Classics, 2003, p. 26)

Some Saturday Music – Rafaella Carra

A friend of mine shared this video clip with us before jetting off to Ibiza in summer. I have been hooked since, even though I can only recognise certain words in Spanish (corazon de vagabundo sounds particularly familiar). The text of the song makes sense although I’d still not attempt to translate it… but if you know Spanish and can help, please do!

Por si acaso se acaba el mundo
todo el tiempo he de aprovechar,
corazon de vagabundo
voy buscando mi libertad

he viajado por la tierra
y me he dado cuenta de que
donde no hay odio ni guerra
el amor se convierte en rey

Tuve muchas experiencias
y he llegado a la conclusion
que perdida la inocencia
en el Sur se pasa mejor

Para hacer bien el amor hay que venir al sur
para hacer bien el amor e ir donde estas tu
sin amantes!
quien se puede consolar
sin amantes!
esta vida es infernal

Para hacer bien el amor hay que venir al sur
lo importante es que lo hagas con quien quieras tu…
y si te deja no lo pienses mas…
… buscate otro mas bueno
vuelvete a enamorar!!!

Todos dicen que el amor
es amigo de la locura.
Pero a mi que ya estoy loca
es lo unico que me cura
Cuantas veces la inconciencia
rompe con la vulgaridad
venceremos resistencias
para amrnos cada vez mas

Tuve muchas experiencias
y he llegado a la conclusion
que perdida la inocencia
en el Sur se pasa mejor….

Para hacer bien el amor hay que venir al sur
lo importante es que lo hagas con quien quieras tu…
y si te deja no lo pienses mas…
… buscate otro mas bueno
vuelvete a enamorar!!!

Para hacer bien el amor hay que venir al sur
lo importante es que lo hagas con quien quieras tu…
y si te deja no lo pienses mas…
… buscate otro mas bueno
vuelvete a enamorar!!!

… Buscate otro mas bueno
vuelvete a enamorar!!!!!!!!!!!!

(found here).

Buy a Picasso, Save the Planet

Pratically hours after I briefly talked about saving the planet with the help of Social Media at the monthly Social Media Cafe, the UK-wide campaign to cut down emissions by 10% by 2010 has set off an art bomb. They got their hands on an original, signed Picasso and are offering it up for grabs, provided you pay £10.10 to enter the competition. And you can buy yourself as many chances as you like before the 31th of January deadline. The magic hat computer database will then produce one lucky white rabbit who will receive their genuine treat to hang up on the wall. All entry fees will go towards supporting the green cause.

Sadly, the competition is for the UK citizens only, but this will undoubtedly provide some food for thought to other green organisations elsewhere in the world. I have no idea where they’d get their Picassos from (or Matisses, or Leonardos, for that matter), but something will surely be spurred by this marriage of art and ecological initiative.

PS: I know the title is somewhat misleading. You are winning a Picasso, of course. However, because you are buying yourself chances to win the painting, you are effectively buying a Picasso. Not for a princely sum… although that may depend on how many times you choose to enter.

Turner And The Masters – Now With a Special Quiz from Tate

I cannot complain about the number of lovely presents I have received, but to have an app dedicated by Tate Britain on Twitter is very different, so many thanks for such a wonderful surprise. Admittedly, I am not the only recipient: I am in the company of great Twitter folk who enthusiastically took part in discussing The Guardian‘s article back in September. You have read my contribution in this post: The Masters We Choose: Turner vs. Old Masters.

I am not going to tell you who won when I attempted the quiz, although I state that I was not cheating. I was as honest a critic as I could be. Turner goes against Rubens, Rembrandt, Canaletto, and Titian, among others, and the pop-up windows give you a chance to have a close look at the paintings.

To take a quiz, go to Turner & The Masters. And at the end of it you may like to fill in a form for a chance to win a special Turner goodie bag. What’s in it? Hmmm, you’ll have to do the quiz to find out!

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