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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!

People Vs. Artists

I know I’ve not written anything about Roman Polanski’s arrest on this blog – but I have written an article. As always, I allow myself to do what the legal system of some countries evidently cannot: namely, to make my own mind, without falling into either “protectionism” or emotionalism. I sent the article to one of the papers in the UK but have not heard anything. And to judge by the stance taken in this case by The Guardian, in particular, the article like mine is unlikely to be published. To use The Guardian‘s scale, I’ve got French views.

People vs. Roman Polanski

The point that Polanski’s supporters seem to be missing has to do with the shift in values that has been occurring over the last couple of decades (at least). The shift in values has to do with what is defined as art, and with who is defined as an artist. The shift in values has to do with how artists are compared and chosen. There is nothing wrong, of course, with listening to Maria Callas and Rufus Wainwright with a similar degree of pleasure. But if we apply “genius” to both of them, the question rises: if we have to choose further, who of these two will be the ‘ultimate’ genius, and why?

Because of this it is futile to argue that Polanski should be pardoned due to the sheer merit of his work. I argue in the article that nobody is interested in the present state of things. Nobody is interested in who Polanski is (or how old he is), just as nobody cares about Samantha Geimer, her family, her children. The entire attention is focused – farcically and paradoxically – on the event that took place 32 years ago, and the present is judged entirely in the light of the past, if with a sprinkle of today’s cynicism. The situation is strangely reminiscent of the one explored in The Tenant, a Polanski film.

Jacques Derrida – a Frenchman, of course – proposed a very valuable but perhaps improbable for our opinionated society idea: to forgive means to forget. Judging by Geimer’s interview of a few years ago, this is exactly what she has been trying to do all this time: to put the incident behind, to forgive, and to move on.

And, honestly, the publicity surrounding it was so traumatic that what he did to me seemed to pale in comparison… Here’s the way I feel about it: I don’t really have any hard feelings toward him, or any sympathy, either. He is a stranger to me. But I believe that Mr. Polanski and his film should be honored according to the quality of the work. What he does for a living and how good he is at it have nothing to do with me or what he did to me. I don’t think it would be fair to take past events into consideration.

It is the society that seems to be unable to grasp the fact that, for all the terrible nature of the incident, its repercussions for the victim were not as gruesome as they could be. It is the society, as well, that continuously blurs the boundary between a child and an adult. We are used to the trend of mass-producing Lolitas and putting the burden of responsibility on adult men, but on this occasion we have a different situation: 32 years later Samantha Geimer, a married woman with children, is still treated as a 13-year-old girl who was raped by a famous film maker.

I argue that Polanski should be pardoned not because of the merit of his work or certain tragic circumstances of his life. The aim of the legal system of each country is intelligent justice, and on this occasion the legal system must be above the public opinion. Rather than taking into account Polanski’s work – the significance of which the current imbroglio cannot detract from – the American legal system should better remember that, with the possible extradition, the country where Polanski is not native will again be robbing him of his family, as it already did once, thanks to Charles Manson’s gang. By re-opening the case, the legal system will also not do any justice to the woman. It is best to admit that there are occasions when legal judgement is non-applicable, especially when a significant period of time has elapsed, and the victim has expressed her opinion.

As for why Hollywood’s defense has provoked a backlash of “average Americans”… getting back to the start of this post, people do not discern between artists, and it is for this very reason “being Polanski” (or Allen, or Scorsese) is no different from “being John Smith”. Whenever there is a chance to bring an artist down – and the public defamation of artists and other public figures has been trendy for a while – the crowd is always up for it. This is not done with Justice in mind. This is merely an opportunity to bring an accompished person down to an average level, to the level where the crowd can treat this person as one of its own.

This antagonism between people and artists is the very antagonism that underpins democracy. Freedom is the paramount condition in which a great work is born; equality challenges it by ascertaining the right to produce an average piece of work rather than an outstanding one. Freedom is associated with artists; equality is close to people’s heart. In democracy, equality both threatens and is threatened by freedom – but it is, in its turn, a pre-condition of democracy. The Polanski case this time round sheds tons of light on this antagonism, and the outcome of the situation may well predict how freedom and equality will co-exist in future.

Diwali in Trafalgar

Diwali in Trafalgar, originally uploaded by loscuadernosdejulia.

Back in April 2004 I travelled to London for the first time in my life. And then I went again at the turn of October and November in 2004, which was when I took this photo. I went to see Raphael’s exhibition at the National Gallery, and there was the Diwali festival happening in Trafalgar Square. This is one of the photos I took with a regular Kodak camera, not a digital one.

I am posting this photo to wish a Happy Diwali to all readers who celebrate this holiday!

Museum Photography: Examples from Three Countries (UK, USA, and Russia)

How do museums regulate permissions for museum photography, and is there a conflict between personal photos and official museum merchandise?

Industrial Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (@Julia Shuvalova, 2008)

In the first week of December I went to Birmingham, and one my destinations was the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery that houses the works of some leading Pre-Raphaelites. Taught by experience, I asked about museum photography. Yes, I had to fill out the form again, but this time the rules were set out in more detail, although once more there is a clause or two that may potentially be difficult to interpret even for the staff themselves:

1. Any copyrights (including publication rights) created in the photographic materials produced under the conditions stated below are reassigned to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

2. Any photography is for personal reference only. No permission for any reproduction rights of any kind is granted or may be assumed. Permission for reproduction rights should be applied for, in writing, to the Picture Library. Each case will be evaluated independently.

3. Any work, which is protected by the artists’ copyright, may not be photographed without the permission of the copyright holder.

4. Any works on loan, including temporary exhibitions, may not be photographed.

5. Flash photography is permitted unless otherwise specified.

6. The use of professional photographic equipment is prohibited. Tripods and monopods may not be used under any circumstances.

7. Video cameras or camcorders may not be used under any circumstances. Filming is prohibited.

Fair enough, reading these rules may put an intrepid visitor off taking pictures in the gallery altogether. However, the first two points just further reinforce what I have highlighted in the previous post on the question of reproduction. The problem is seemingly not only about a picture’s commercial use, but about the multiplicity of such uses. Naturally, if the photo is included in a book, it will be reproduced as many time as the book. For this, it is essential to apply for a permission to a museum.

Regarding the 3rd point, my feeling is that this needs to be discussed with the copyright holder before their work actually gets to be displayed. This is something that many professional artists’ and photographers’ websites tend to lose the sight of. By creating a website and making it public, they by default agree that this information can be shared. It is the same as with the printed word: if it was printed, you cannot stop people from quoting it. This is not to say that their work can be reproduced for commercial purposes by other people, but this should mean that a blogger may wish to not only write about them and give a link to their website, but also to include an image in the post, to illustrate why it would be good to visit the website at all.

Likewise, when an artist is displaying their work at the museum or gallery where photography is generally permitted, they have to be aware that a visitor can upload a taken photo online. It makes every sense to restrict this, on the one hand; but, on the other hand, the world has grown bigger with the Internet, and this potentially means that artists, especially young, may find it more and more difficult to compete with other artists and to assert themselves in the world. Social Media tools, and particularly photosharing, will facilitate this to an extent.

With loaned works and temporary exhibitions, I feel the galleries would need to spare some resources to clearly display the permission signs in such spaces of the gallery. As more and more often galleries intercept the regular display with a temporary exhibition, it is difficult for a visitor to understand where a photography permission ends and where it resumes again.

Regarding the specialist photography permission, this is a good point and the one that I think can be reinforced to avoid the taken photos being reproduced to a commercial end. This is how the Brooklyn Museum defines their stance on photography in the gallery:

Photography and videography are allowed in the Museum so long as the images are taken using existing light only (no flash) and are for personal, non-commercial use. Photography and videography are often restricted in special exhibition galleries.

Add to this also that many paintings are displayed under the glass, hence the photographic image of a painting in the gallery space can be far from ideal for reproduction.

A different take on photography and videography in the museum comes from the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia. As you need to purchase tickets to view the collection, you can also purchase a permission to make photos or videos in the museum. The website explains that there are warning pictograms in the halls where it is not permitted to take photos or to use flash. I did use this permission once myself in 2002, and this was great to show the museum to my parents who happened to have never visited the Hermitage.

The question rises, of course: why would I film, and not buy a video cassette or a DVD? Well, we all count our pennies, and on my memory even 6 years ago it was cheaper to pay for a photography pass rather than to buy a DVD set. I have been taking a notice of what people photograph and film, and I have never seen any of them making a complete record of the collection. If any of the readers have been to the Hermitage, they vividly imagine the sheer grandeur of the place: you would not know what to photograph because there is too much to see, and all too splendid! They say it takes 5 hours to quickly run through the entire Hermitage (i.e. only stopping at a few paintings), so imagine the weight of this on your photo- or videocamera. But what the Hermitage achieving with this is very valuable. On the one hand, they allow people to create a personal record of a visit to this art depository, a historic monument, and one of the most beautiful sights in the world altogether. On the other hand, by asking for a small fee for a photography permit they also bring in money to the museum.

More on Photography and Blogs and Social Media

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