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The Persistence of Pancakes: Artemy Lebedev Studio Revisits Salvador Dali’s Painting

A renowned Russian design studio run by Artemy Lebedev revisited the famous 1931 painting by Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory.

Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory (1931)

Dali’s work was painted during his Freudian phase, but also allegedly contained reference to Albert Einstein’s relativity theory. Even if the second argument was not quite true, the Time is clearly seen in this work as a moving substance, something not solid, and therefore, relative.

Artemy Lebedev design studio revisited the image in the context of the Pancake Week craze. So we see pancakes instead of pocket watches. Since a pancake’s substance is soft by nature, Dali’s idea becomes inverted and follows a different track, not from exactness to relativity, but from movement to immobility. Here pancakes represent a fixture that, despite its unenduring state, persists in time and in mind.

I am not sure what name the Russian designers gave to their work (the inscription on the image merely says “Happy Pancake Week”), so I thought that the paraphrase of Dali’s original image was rather fit.

Artemy Lebedev Studio’s image


Exhibitions Expected At the State Hermitage Museum In 2013

Perhaps there is no better way to eventually visit a city than to start learning about upcoming events. So, in a hope to finally visit St. Petersburg I’d like to post here provisional list of exhibitions I found interesting that are currently listed on the State Hermitage Museum’s website. As the museum authorities note, the titles and dates of the exhibitions may change, but we shall hope my choice will remain more or less the same.

Paul Cezanne, Card Players. From the Courtauld Institute collection, as part of the series “Masterpieces of world museums at the Hermitage
When: Feb 27 – May 26, 2013.

The Legacy of German Expressionism. From the George Economou collection
When: May 13, 2013 – Jan 20, 2014.

The Corporate Unity. The Dutch group portrait of the Golden Age from the collection of the Museum of History of Amsterdam
When: June 8 – Sept 1, 2013.

The White City. The Bauhaus architecture in Tel-Aviv
When: June 12 – Sept 15, 2013.

El Lisitsky and Ilya Kabakov
When: July 17 – Sept 15, 2013.

Wilhelm II and Anna Pavlovna. The royal luxury of the Dutch court
When: Sept 25, 2013 – Jan 12, 2014.

Fluxus. Jurgis Maciunas. Russia Atlases
When: Oct 5 – Nov 3, 2013.

Britannia silver from Queen Victoria’s time
Oct 23, 2013 – Jan 19, 2014.

Contemporary Japanese Art
Nov 9, 2013 – Feb 9, 2014

Salvador Dali and his Spanish contemporaries
Nov 23, 2013 – Feb 16, 2014

More events.

And if you are based in Australia or plan to travel there before May 2013, bear in mind that you can visit a unique exhibition of ancient artifacts from the Hermitage collection that date back to the time of Alexander the Great. “Alexander the Great: 2000 Years of Treasures” is exhibited at the Museum of Australia in Sydney until May 10, 2013. The exhibition is sponsored by The Daily Telegraph, JCDecaux, Etihad Airways, and National Geographic Channel among others.

Alexander the Great’s exhibition displays (courtesy of The Hermitage)

An Interview With the Secretary of Salvador Dali, Enrique Sabater

Until May 10, 2012 an exhibition of rarely seen artwork of Salvador Dali was exhibited in Paris. All objects on display belonged to one-time secretary of the great artist, Enrique Sabater. The video from PressTVGlobalNews is a fair introduction to the kind of artwork that went on display. And below is my translation (from French) of an interview with Mr Sabater, conducted by Nathalie d’Allincourt for L’Objet d’Art edition (April 2012).


In the privacy of Salvador Dali 

Nathalie d’Allincourt

A personal secterary to Salvador Dali, the Catalan Enrique Sabater lived for over ten years next to the master and his muse, Gala. After the Musee de Cadaques l’Espace Dali exhibited an anthology of 120 works that the master had given him and often dedicated: drawings, watercolours, photographs, objects…

The photos that underpin the exhibition were made throughout the years passed close to Dali. Were they intended to be art or merely a matter-of-fact? 
I adore photography that I have practised since childhood. Near Mr Dali there was no restriction, I could photograph at any moment. In 2004 I presented the scores of my photographs at the exhibition in Barcelona marking Dali’s centenary. Almost always these photos show the artist in an intimate atmosphere.

People are aware of the theatrical aspect of Dali’s personality. Was he really different in private life? 
He had two personas. When we were all three together with Gala (we had a breakfast together every morning), it was one person, absolutely normal. He was very intelligent, passionate about science and had many scientists as his friends. But when he appeared in public, he acted in a very theatrical manner, to the point of changing his voice.

How did you live all those years next to Dali? 
Every year we spent summer in Catalonia, at the house of Portlligat. Mr Dali worked in the morning and in the afternoon, after a short siesta. After 6pm he often received visits from young artists who came to show him their work. After that there were 15 days in Paris, at the hotel Meurice, then in New York where we stayed for 4 or 5 months at the hotel Saint Regis. In New York every Sunday Andy Warhol came to have a dinner with three of us. We always stayed at the same hotels, in the same rooms. Twice a year we spent a few years at the Ritz in Barcelona for familial reasons. Likewise, we visited Madrid and stayed at the Palace Hotel, to see the Prince Juan Carlos, the future king.

Did Dali visit other museums or artists of his generation? 
The master knew all the museums and collections, but he did not feel the necessity to put himself vis-a-vis the work of other artists. The only museum that we did visit was the Centre Pompidou because we collaborated with them a lot. Since our stays in Paris were short, we particularly loved visiting certain streets, like Rue Jacob. Throughout his life Dali upheld the connection with Picasso. It is often considered that the two had been enemies for political reasons: Picasso was a Communist, of course, but Dali was not at all a Fascist! They maintained the distance without ever breaking the connection: the word was sent by trumpet. Each one in their own way was acutely aware of what they had to say to another, and so they did. In April 1973 Dali was immediately informed about Picasso’s death, and we left for Mougins. Picasso treasured his trumpets, which his son Claude inherited from him.

You hold the academic sword of Dali in your possession…
Yes, he gave it to me the next day after receiving it, and this is the first time I am showing it to the public. On the sword a polished space was prepared for a gravure, a dedication created by Dali for the paper letters of Gala. The object was not leave Paris without being engraved! I am also showing a preparatory drawing.

You met Dali in 1968 during an interview and you never left until 1981. What was it that made you leave him? 
In 1972, Dali and Gala charged me with commecialisation of the master’s work. But in 1981 Gala went mad. Dali, ennerved, could no longer make enough to satisfy the enormous want of money this woman had had. Behind my back Gala began to deal with real gangsters, and the market got flooded with forged lihographs. I ended up infoming the Spanish government. A New-Yorkean solicitor of Dali came to try and explain to Gala that she needed to stop. I left, despite the master’s insisting on me staying.

Are you going to write the memoirs of this exciting time?
They have already been written, it only remains to publish them…

Translated from French by Julia Shuvalova

Visual Effects: From The Age of Innocence to Inglorious Basterds

Despite the title of the post, I am not going to write either about The Age of Innocence by Martin Scorsese, or about Inglorious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino. To me, these titles, taken figuratively, mean something different: namely, how visual effects in cinema went from the state of the art to the art of farting, to quote Dali. Of course, as we know from the novel and the film, “the age of innocence” was anything but innocent, and hence visual effects have always had something of a travesty about them, but still…

(I would love to provide you with a link to the text, but it looks like only my Russian-speaking readers are lucky to read the full text. The English-speaking readers are welcome to check Diary of a Genius on Amazon or at Copac).

Dali, of course, would be the first who would reassure us that, to make a good fart, one would need to work hard. We shall leave it there, but you can see the point: a fart is something natural yet trivial that we usually prefer to conceal because of its “low” nature. When it comes to film production, money and equipment are pumped into the feature’s bowels, and if we are committed to maintaining that “money doesn’t smell”, then we need to work really, really hard to make the viewer forget the reports about the zillions of dollars. Although the time and money that are put towards producing the elaborate special effects with the help of various computer programs are often publicised, both film makers and audience prefer not to give too much notice to it – or to the fact that the special effects produced at the time when no such money or equipment were available often appear more captivating and “natural”.

I am not a retrograde thinker. For the record, I immensely enjoyed The Lord of the Rings, and of course, as we know, Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett both have normal ears off screen. But while playing with technology Peter Jackson managed to preserve the innocent glee with which generations of readers dive into Tolkien’s opus magnum. Sadly, this is not always the case, and, as much as they keep the audience in awe, the elaborate special effects also become those very “inglorious basterds” that eventually make some film directors claim that cinema has died.

I am sure it has not died, but it surely has forgotten how beautiful the simple things are.

The film list:

1900 – The Enchanted Drawing
1903 – The Great Train Robbery
1923 – The Ten Commandments (Silent)
1927 – Sunrise
1933 – King Kong
1939 – The Wizard of Oz
1940 – The Thief of Bagdad
1954 – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
1956 – Forbidden Planet
1963 – Jason and the Argonauts
1964 – Mary Poppins
1977 – Star Wars
1982 – Tron
1985 – Back to the Future
1988 – Who Framed Roger Rabbit
1989 – The Abyss
1991 – Terminator 2: Judgement Day
1992 – The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
1993 – Jurassic Park
2004 – Spider-Man 2
2005 – King Kong
2006 – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
2007 – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
2007 – The Golden Compass
2008 – The Spiderwick Chronicles
2008 – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

With thanks to Bengraphics and Jennifer Cisney.

Twirrealism: Birds, Fail Whales, and Robocats

Whatever happens to Twitter, it will be remembered for many good reasons – including branding. The name of the service has substantially expanded our appreciation of the English language: cue in Twaffik, twittonary, twootball, Outwit, twinfluence, and twanslate. People all over the globe have fallen in love with the blue bird and fail whale. The bird was an expectable symbol, given the service’s name – except that it didn’t quite work as a symbol for the network’s overload. So the fail whale took the centre stage… and now the lovely creature has got the fan website, gets slapped on mugs and T-shits, and even tattooed.

Until this morning, though, I never came into a message about technical difficulties. The image looked strangely Surrealist. The Robocat certainly reminded me of a terrifying creature in Fuseli’s Nightmare (left) that was one of the paintings reverred by Surrealists. The whole image is a curious crossbreed between Yves Tanguy’s autistic landscape and Salvador Dali’s psychedelic terrain. The colours, of course, are very Pop Art. Either way, this gives us a good reason to add two more terms to Twitter-inspired vocabulary: Twirrealism and Twop Art.

The image of a dead Twitter bird is courtesy of Profy blog.
Paintings cited: Yves Tanguy, Sans Titre (1938) and Salvador Dali, Study for Honey Sweeter than Blood (1927).

How To Protect Your Ideas From Being Stolen?

WebProNews is currently taking on Digg.com showcasing how a story submitted by an “ordinary mortal” is ignored by the majority, whilst exactly the same submission by one of the elite Diggers soars freely on the front page. Ironically, I have had a conversation with a Cheshire-based SEO agency just before Christmas, and they asked me if I knew (or could suggest) any ways of getting “dugg”. I said what I believed was the real picture: that 1) there are cliques that stand on guard of their authority and that 2) the process of “digging” is a pure chain reaction. This is confirmed by the majority of Digg users who aren’t satisfied with the service:
“The coalition of outcasts has primarily blamed two Digg.com features pretty standard on Internet social networks: the ability to form friends lists and “shout” to those friends about news stories a user wants promoted”.

Forming friends and sending “shouts” is precisely the ‘chain-reaction’ mechanisms. But is it only peculiar of Digg.com? Or does Digg.com represent the world at work: a cluster of mutually supportive coalitions that keep an individual user at a distance while also being keen on feeding off his/her ideas?

On this occasion, WebProNews refers to Digg.com as a failed democratic model; however, ironically, Digg.com may be that very democratic model – at its worst, of course. Alexis de Tocqueville, a French aristocrat who is reportedly still studied in the States for all things democratic, predicted in his treatise that a democratic regime can degrade into the tyranny of many – exactly what we see on Digg.

Yet again, is it only Digg that we should blame? What about campaigns pro or contra something on Facebook? What about the whole nature of Social Media whereby you share the content only to find out that someone else has appropriated it? The example that is discussed on WebProNews involving Digg.com may not be entirely relevant, but it does give a perspective to the problem.
So, how to protect your ideas from being stolen?

As I write this, I must admit: I do not know the answer. Two things come to mind, however. One is a comment I recently had on my article drawing on the interview I made with Dave McKean. Turns out that The Jim Hanson Company were very positive about the artwork of Tanya Doskova, a Canadian artist who worked at the Company’s studios in London for a period of time. You will get the gist of the problem as you read the comments. I said to Tanya what I felt was well relevant to me at times. As once an insider of a huge media corporation, I am confident that my inkling about the ‘preferential’ attitude to the native citizens is grounded. This is not to accuse anyone of something bad; but this is not deny that ‘foreign’ and ‘alien’ are synonyms, after all.

The second is a seminar at the London Book Fair 2007. One of the talks centred precisely on the possibility of copyrighting an idea. We looked at what then was the very popular case of Dan Brown vs. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. The answer wasn’t bringing a relief to anyone of us who is concerned about the issue: you cannot copyright an idea. Indeed, if we suppose that all things exist as ideas, then imagine, say, Dante being issued with a copyright on the idea of Love. Just because he composed The Divine Comedy, to be sure.

For my part, I have never really publicised my ideas, and as far as writing goes, I very rarely let anyone read the text before it is finished. I am sure not to publish the entire text online (except for short stories or those that were inspired by a contemporary art work), but only a selection because – forgive me my audacity which is supported by comments I receive about my work – I think I do have brilliant ideas that just doesn’t visit some people. But this is different with blogging where the whole idea is about publishing and publicising your content.

Now, ideas are beautiful in that they are in the ether: if one idea didn’t visit me, it may surely land in someone else’s head. If this happens ‘naturally’, i.e. I didn’t mention this idea in another’s presence (a blog post included), then I don’t have a problem. But when I do mention those ideas and then I see other people trumpeting exactly the same (and by the look of it, they didn’t quite trumpet this idea before my mention) and without crediting me, I do ask: what do I do? Especially if I am still going to act on the idea that I voiced?

To an extent, this is a problem of pre-eminence: who was the first to mention something? But even if you can survive not being credited as the original communicator of an idea, the question remains: when and how should you start throwing your idea around, to gain feedback or support? To get back to that example with Digg.com and to use it symbolically, when should you submit your content to Digg?

By the look of it, unless you’re among the top users, you shouldn’t submit it at all. Yet Digg is but one of the places that operates as a ‘network’, and you may not be a part of it even if you seem to be. What to do? Maybe to follow Zizek who said that today the criticised and ostracised Socialists should recognise their legacy precisely because it is theirs and should know their facts better and thus make their critics play on their, Socialist, terms. Ignore ‘Socialist’, and you’ll find a plenty of individuals and smaller groups that are trying to use the Internet to promote their causes against networks of other individuals and groups. However hard it is, self-belief and the ability to see through the polite facade of today’s relations may be the only things that can get you through any difficult times. And to quote my preferred Dali, ‘the difference between Surrealists and me is that I am a Surrealist‘.

The illustration is the courtesy of WebProNews.

Histoire de Melody Nelson (Serge Gainsbourg)

As you might have noticed from the Links section in my side bar, as well as from my profile, I’m a fan of Serge Gainsbourg. The first time I heard him, I was just as innocent as France Gall (who reportedly didn’t have a clue about the sexual innuendos in the song ‘Les Sucettes‘ (The Lollipops)). In fact, I was younger than Gall because my discovery of Gainsbourg’s music started with the notorious ‘Je T’Aime Moi Non Plus‘, with me having no idea about the meaning of some specific sounds on the record.

For years, Gainsbourg has been hovering over the French music scene. His versatility at both music and lyrics, as well as his lifestyle, not only turned him into a monumental figure of European music, but in later years also inspired many *interpretations*. As someone noted on YouTube, Kate Moss and Pete Doherty look strangely similar to Birkin-Gainsbourg duet, except that Doherty’s influence on modern music is not as decisive, as was Gainsbourg’s. Then again, as Philip Sweeney remarked a year ago in The Independent, “Gainsbourg was an enthralled recycler of English and American trends, themes and phrases“, which may signal to somebody that Gainsbourg was not necessarily original.

This, however, is not the case, as Sweeney notes himself, because Gainsbourg’s songs are extremely difficult to translate into English and, in fact, into any other language. Consider this passage from his song ‘Variations sur Marilou‘:

Dans son regard absent
Et son iris absinthe
Tandis que Marilou s’amuse à faire des vol
Utes de sèches au menthol
Entre deux bulles de comic-strip
Tout en jouant avec le zip
De ses Levi’s
Je lis le vice
Et je pense à Caroll Lewis

It makes sense in English, if translated, but, as often happens, the difference in pronunciation takes away this lingering quality of original French lyrics. Furthermore, because of this difference the last three lines don’t produce the same effect. The emphasis on ‘-iss’ in the French text reminds one of a gentle murmur, of mussitation; the English version would never capture this effect.

So, on to Histoire de Melody Nelson. It was Gainsbourg’s 1972 conceptual album, which cover you may see on the right. Containing 7 songs, “Melody Nelson is a weirdly jewel-like micro-opera featuring a vintage Rolls-Royce, a male obsession for the eponymous 14-year-old garçonne, and demise via New Guinean cargo-cult, rendered by Gainsbourg’s voluptuous drawl and Birkin’s Lolita whisper, and a richly idiosyncratic instrumentation by Gainsbourg’s close collaborator Jean-Claude Vannier, owing as much to Abbey Road, George Martin and the film soundtracks of John Barry as to anything from Paris“. (Philip Sweeney, The Independent, 16 April 2006).

You can obviously find the album on Amazon.com, where the featured cover comes from. You can browse the links below, to read more about the album and/or Serge Gainsbourg. But on YouTube you can also find the videos to the songs. The videos, like the songs, are psychedelic, and feature the paintings of Max Ernst, Paul Delvaux, Salvador Dali, Felix Labisse, René Magritte, Henri Rousseau, which makes Gainsbourg’s album even dearer to my heart because I’ve been a devouted student of French surrealism for years.

The video I’m putting up here is the 5th part of the album. It is called ‘L’hôtel particulier‘, and uses predominantly the works of Paul Delvaux, with a few glimpses of Felix Labisse’s images. If you want to read the lyrics to the song, follow the link to Alex Chabot’s translation.


Serge Gainsbourg’s site – in French. Very informative – be careful if you’re a serious Serge’s fan and didn’t know about this site: you may very well spend the entire night reading the story of a remarkable talent.

Alex Chabot’s translations of Gainsbourg’s texts.

Specifically L’hôtel particulier (from the above).

Philip Sweeney, Serge Gainsbourg: Filthy French (The Independent, 16 April 2006). Also: LookSmart’s FindArticles – Filthy French

Notes on Histoire de Melody Nelson – some interesting and somewhat sentimental facts about the making of this album from Movie Grooves.

Histoire de Melody Nelson on Amazon.com

What Do You Think an Artist Is?

Is pain-inflicting, self-mutilating “art” worthy of such name? Can we not sympathise with another person until we literally wear his shoes and physically experience his sufferings?

Update (29 July 2009):

Almost three years on, this has become one of the most popular posts on Los Cuadernos blog. And in the first half of 2009 I saw one site and one video that presented individuals performing self-mutilating acts for art’s sake. First, a pair of twin brothers exchanged arms: one brother’s arm was cut off from his body and reattached to his twin’s body. Thus one man remained with only one arm, while another ended up with three. And the video below taken from TrendHunter explores artistic self-mutilation further, with ten jaw-dropping examples of what is considered art.

Far from decrying anything you see in the video, I will, however, reiterate the point I made in the original post: why, after all wars and losses, do people still need to “practise” pain and mutilation, as if viewing the images of the dead and disabled people is not enough to understand what pain and death is? Three years on, I think I know the answer.

Humanity is fascinated by Death because, like Love and Pain, this is an eternal secret. It is a mystery. Camus said that suicide is the only true philosophical problem, but since the result of a suicide is death, it means that death itself may be the only true philosophical problem. Philosophy, since its origins, has been preoccupied with making sense of Life and of Man as a living being; but much rarely has it delved into the mystery of Death, and this may be its biggest challenge and hurdle.

It is human therefore that everything morbid fascinates, intrigues, and perplexes us. (Zizek comes to mind: people are forever concerned with what they cannot change). Memento mori. Danse macabre. The theme of Death and the Maiden in art (e.g., Hans Baldung, 1517 (right)). Venus at the Mirror as the parable of the fleeting beauty and deplorable life… the list can be continued, and all it will serve to do is to prove to us how truly interested artists are in what philosophy isn’t so eager to discuss. And in this regard it is probably only normal that there are people who use their own bodies to understand the mystery of pain or the secret of being on the brink of dying. In order to live on, art must be experimental, even if it has to experiment with itself.

Having said so, I’d rather not have this kind of art being performed publicly, let alone covered by the media. With our inclination to build hype around things it would be hard to see the forest for the trees.

Most importantly, I am always somewhat confused when artists, writers in particular, claim that in order to write about something they must know it, experience it first-hand. I’m uttering things, but does that mean that Dostoyevsky would need to kill a couple of old ladies to be able to write Crime and Punishment? And at the same time, speaking of literature, can it not help us gain the life experience that we seek?

It may depend on how we read, of course. Reading is both mental and emotional process. However, what is interesting is that because we most often use words to express ourselves, our entire life is one huge text, and each of us is reading it and making sense of it according to our aptitude and experience. We have to translate this text, either in the language of our experience, or in the foreign language, or in the language of other arts or disciplines.

Can it be therefore that after all the millenia humanity has learnt to do pretty much everything, including the genetic engineering and flying into space, but is still rubbish at such important thing as reading? Reading is understanding. Understanding gives one a key to influence things, to change the world. But what is there at the heart of it? Love, no doubt. For we only care to understand things we care about. And nothing can drive us to care about something as much as Love does. However…

…if we cannot love enough to care to understand, does it not mean that even in our Christian world we have never taken Jesus as an example? Does it not mean that we broke the teaching into citations and took to memorise the words without understanding (sic!) their meaning? It’s been a while since I thought: how odd it is that we are told to love God – but not people. How odd that people love God but distrust their neighbours. Maybe it simply means that people inherently distrust themselves. Maybe it means that they find it easier to trust in the Object that is forever absent and therefore cannot let them down more than it already does, rather than trusting another human being whose money isn’t always where the mouth is. But if Art is born in Love, and the present generation of artists often lacks empathy, does this not explain the rising concerns that contemporary art is devoid of essence?

Original post (2 October, 2006)

Several sayings by Pablo Picasso have already appeared on The LOOK’s front page in the past. I also love this photo of him made by Robert Doisneau. A genuine portrait of the genius.

Another portrait of the genius was made by Jean Dieuzaide, and I’ll leave it for you to guess, whose historic moustache you’re gazing at.

I’ve also found this phrase by Picasso a while ago on the web:

What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has only eyes, if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he is a poet, or even, if he is a boxer, just his muscles? Far from it: at the same time, he is also a political being, constantly aware of the heartbreaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people, and with a cool indifference to detach yourself from the very life which they bring to you so abundantly? No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.

One may say that Picasso’s viewpoint is somewhat outdated, in that people want to live in the world as peaceful as possible, hence art-as-war is no longer interesting. But there are many kinds of war, and not all are fought with tanks and missiles. There are language wars, religious wars, ‘moral’ wars, media wars, and all use art as a type of warfare. Furthermore, as George Orwell has put it, there are four main reasons to write prose, one of which is ‘political purpose‘ – ‘using the word “political” in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certan direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude‘ (Orwell, G., Why I write).

It would be very hard indeed to disagree with either Picasso or Orwell, and there are modern artists who follow in their footsteps. Perhaps, they don’t get involved in politics very much, but they nonetheless admit that their art exists because of people. One such artist is Dave McKean, who put it this way:

My own world is just trying to make sense of the real world. I don’t like the sort of science-fiction art and fantasy art that is just about goblins and fairies and spaceships. I don’t really see the point of that. It’s entertaining and it’s fine, but I couldn’t do it. I needed to be about people, who I have to deal with every day, and that’s what I’m interested in. I’m interested in what people think and how they think, and the things that they believe in, and desire, and are frightened of. So I’m interested in that side of life, really. And then I’m trying to sort of look at those things from a different point of view, or from metaphor, or from dreams, or from these other angles, because I think they are just interesting ways of seeing things, you know, that you have to deal with everyday for fresh, and you see them with different eyes, I think. [read full article based on McKean’s interview].
Finally, however, comes this passage from The Wicked and Unfaithful Song of Marcel Duchamp to His Queen by Paul Carroll:


Art? A form
of intimate hygiene for
the ghosts we really are.

This brings to my mind a TV programme made by Channel 4, which explored the anti-art, particularly in the form of inflicting pain on oneself as a means of teaching the audience a lesson of empathy. One of my ‘favourite’ moments on the programme was the couple who drank tea with biscuits, while literally “hanging down” from the ceiling on chains, hooks perceing their skin. The idea was to explore their experience of pain and also to expand people’s understanding of pain through such performances.

Having read the entire 120 Days of Sodome by de Sade, I wasn’t scared or repulsed by what I saw on screen, but it made me think. The question I asked myself was this: why in the world where there are so many wars and where the footage of deaths and casualties is already available on the Internet, is it necessary to appeal to people’s empathy by sticking iron hooks in your chest? Far from telling the artists what not to do for their art’s sake, I’m simply wondering about the purpose of such art. If the knowledge of the two World Wars and many other military conflicts doesn’t automatically make people detest the very idea of an offensive war, if the photos of destroyed houses, orphaned children and open wounds don’t change people’s view of loss and pain, then why would seeing two able-bodied adults hanging on chains drinking tea influence people’s idea of pain, or make people more compassionate? I’d imagine that after watching such ‘performance’ people would lose interest in pain altogether. If it’s endurable, then what’s the problem?

Some people with whom I discussed this previously have pointed out that this practice of piercing and inflicting pain is ritual in some countries and cultures. The problem, though, is that the only instance of it on our continent that springs to my mind was flagellantism that had spread in Europe in the 13-14th c. and was later revived as a sexual practice. There is evidently a difference between the culture of piercing in African or Aboriginous societies and this ‘hygienic’ European movement, and as far as I am concerned, this difference is much bigger than someone may think. This ‘civilized’ pain-inflicting art, given its purposes, is – in my opinion – exactly the kind of ‘personal hygiene’ Carroll had written about. An artist, no matter how politically involved, is above all a human being, and when he lacks empathy and cannot relate to other people’s experience, unless he shares it physically, forces to raise questions as to how worthwhile, creative and useful his art is.

And don’t quote Wilde’s ‘all art is quite useless‘. Unknowingly, in this witticism Wilde precluded Sartre who would say that culture doesn’t save or justify anyone – but that it is the mirror in which humanity sees itself. Considering that the Wildean phrase comes from The Portrait of Dorian Gray, culture or art as the mirror symbolically connects Wilde and Sartre. Perhaps it is good if humanity finally notices that it spends more time destructing and inflicting pain instead of learning to love. But will it finally start doing something about it?

Dragostea din Tei: from Haiduc to Robin Hood to Outlaw

Dragostea din Tei song has a very interesting example of translating the word “haiduc”. It can be Robin Hood but it can be an outlaw, too.

I always appreciate a good play on words and other peculiarities in translation. We normally find them in “high culture”, but a song Dragostea din Tei by O-Zone band offers its own example. 
First, my examples. It’s been years since I fell under the spell of surrealism. So much so that I ended up using ‘avidadollars’ as my nickname or login on many forums and websites. This doesn’t tell anything about my love for, erm, dollars, but says aplenty about my admiration for both Salvador Dali (whose name was so deftly anagrammed by Andre Breton) and Andre Breton (who anagrammed so deftly the name of Salvador Dali). In fact, if for any reason you had doubts about Breton as genius, ‘avidadollars’ should convince you once and for all.

Anyway, this is as far as my enchantment has led me, and I doubt I go any further. On the other hand, I have recently read about a family who were such ardent supporters of the Chelsea Premier League Football Club that they changed their family name to Chelsea.

‘Ok’, I thought, ‘but I’ve heard something like this before’.

Turned out I was thinking about a Moldovan band O-Zone, who burst onto the European music scene a couple of years ago, dancing away on a plane’s wings (in their clip, at least) to the song ‘Dragostea din Tei’. It is something practically untranslatable, as Wikipedia tells us. The interpretation ranges from ‘Love of the Lime Tree’ through ‘Love among Young People’ to ‘Love at First Sight’. I knew they were singing the name ‘Picasso’ in one of the lines, but I never looked up the lyrics, to be honest. Two years later I finally found myself sufficiently intrigued, and as I don’t know Romanian, I had to go with a German translation. The line in which the Spaniard’s name was mentioned is:

Hallo Du,
Hier bin ich, dein Picasso.
Hello you,
This is me, your Picasso.

Nice one, even if purely for the purpose of rhyming. This Romanian Picasso was waiting for his Muse to come, but I assume the girl never turned up. Otherwise we would already have a painting of ‘A Girl under the Lime Tree’.

However – a peculiar point – in the very first verse of the song the word ‘haiduc‘ is mentioned. ‘Haiduc‘ is an outlaw, but in Moldovan and Romanian folklore the haiduc only robbed the rich, while protecting the poor. Reminds of Robin Hood, doesn’t it? And this is exactly how the Germans translated it.

I decided to look up the English translation. I found out that the English went for ‘outlaw‘ – so is this how Robin Hood actually regarded, never mind the popular admiration?

So, I wondered how the French dealt with it. Turned out, they decided not to translate the word at all

error: Sorry, no copying !!