Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Books on Books #2

The forces which mould the thought of men change, or men’s resistance to them slackens; with the change of men’s thought comes a change of literature, alike in its inmost essence and its outward form: after the world has starved its soul long enough in the contemplation and the rearrangement of material things, comes the turn of the soul; and with it comes the literature of which I write this volume, a literature in which the visible is no longer a reality, and the unseen world no longer a dream.

Arthur Symons, The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899)

Monday, April 28, 2008

America #37

Today Europeans have begun to dress for the eye, American-style, just at the moment when Americans have begun to abandon their traditional visual style. The media analyst knows why these opposite styles suddenly transfer their locations. The European, since the Second War, has begun to stress visual values; his economy, not coincidentally, now supports a large amount of uniform consumer goods. Americans, on the other hand, have begun to rebel against uniform consumer values for the first time. In cars, in clothes, in paperback books; in beards, babies, and beehive hairdos, the American has declared for stress on touch, on participation, involvement, and sculptural values. America, once the land of an abstractly visual order, is profoundly "in touch" again with European traditions of food and life and art. What was an avant-garde program for the 1924 expatriates is now the teenagers' norm.

Marshall McLuhan, "Clothing," Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dead Presidents #38, Manhattan #35

President Benjamin Harrison passes under arch decorated with portraits of himself and George Washington, Wall Street (April 29, 1889)

Annals of Advertising #6, The Animal Kingdom #12

Nestlé sells milk through feline anthropomorphism. (ca. 1910)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cinema #36

Max cigarette card (published ca. 1935-1938)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Art #15

In the creative act, the artist goes from intention to realization through a chain of totally subjective reactions. His struggle toward the realization is a series of efforts, pains, satisfaction, refusals, decisions, which also cannot and must not be fully self-conscious, at least on the esthetic plane.

The result of this struggle is a difference between the intention and its realization, a difference which the artist is not aware of. Consequently, in the chain of reactions accompanying the creative act, a link is missing. This gap, representing the inability of the artist to express fully his intention, this difference between what he intended to realize and did realize, is the personal 'art coefficient' contained in the work.

In other works, the personal "art coefficient" is like a arithmetical relation between the unexpressed but intended and the unintentionally expressed.

To avoid a misunderstanding, we must remember that this 'art coefficient' is a personal expression of art à l'état brut, that is, still in a raw state, which must be 'refined' as pure sugar from molasses by the spectator; the digit of this coefficient has no bearing whatsoever on his verdict. The creative act takes another aspect when the spectator experiences the phenomenon of transmutation: through the change from inert matter into a work of art, an actual transubtantiation has taken place, and the role of the spectator is to determine the weight of the work on the esthetic scale.

All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualification and thus adds his contribution to the creative act. This becomes even more obvious when posterity gives a final verdict and sometimes rehabilitates forgotten artists.

Marcel Duchamp, "The Creative Act" (1957)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Seasons #3, D is for Dickinson #4

A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown —

Who ponder this tremendous scene —
This whole Experiment of Green —
As if it were his own!

Time #14, Faulkner #7

When the shadow of the sash appeared on the curtains it was between seven and eight oclock and then I was in time again, hearing the watch. It was Grandfather’s and when Father gave it to me he said I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire; it’s rather excruciatingly apt that you will use it to gain the reducto absurdum of all human experience which can fit your individual needs no better than it fitted his or his father’s. I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.

Quentin Compson, in The Sound and the Fury

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

America #36, Foreign Lands #25

La culture américaine en tant que distincte de la nôtre, comme l'est la culture chinoise, est une invention pure et simple des Européens.

American culture, as distinct from our own as is Chinese culture, is purely and simply a European invention.

André Malraux, Les Conquérants

Sunday, April 06, 2008

In Memoriam #10, Cinema #35

Charlton Heston


Charlton Heston est un axiome. Il constitue à lui seul une tragedie, et sa présence dans un film, quel qu'il soit, suffit à provoquer la beauté. La violence contenue dont témoignent la sombre phosphorescence des yeux, le profil d'aigle, l'arc orgueilleux des sourcils, le saillant des pommettes, la courbe amère et dure de la bouche, la fabuleuse puissance du torse, voilà ce qui est donné, et que le pire metteur en scène ne peut avilir. C'est dans ce sens que l'on peut dire que Charlton Heston, par son existence seule en dehors de tout film donne du cinéma une définition plus que des films comme Hiroshima [Mon Amour] ou Citizen Kane dont l'esthétique ignore ou récuse Charlton Heston. Par lui, la mise en scène peut accéder aux affrontements les plus intenses et les résoudre par le mépris d'un dieu prisonnier, secoué de grondements sourds.

Michel Mourlet, “Apologie de la violence” Cahiers du cinéma (May 1960)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Anniversaries #8

Something is happening in Memphis; something is happening in our world. And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?" I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God's children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn't stop there.

I would move on by Greece and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon. And I would watch them around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and aesthetic life of man. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would even go by the way that the man for whom I am named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church of Wittenberg. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating President by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would even come up to the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but "fear itself." But I wouldn't stop there.

Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, "If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy."
Now that's a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That's a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding.

Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee, the cry is always the same: "We want to be free."

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

excerpt from his final speech
"I've Been to the Mountaintop" (April 3, 1968)

Assassinated, Memphis, Tennessee (April 4, 1968)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

America #35, History #11

Sure you’re romantic about American history. What your professor left out of account was the fact that it’s the most romantic of all histories. It began in myth and has developed through three centuries of fairy stories. Whatever the time is in America it is always, at every moment, the mad and wayward hour when the prince is finding the little foot that alone fits into the slipper of glass. It is a little hard to know what romantic means to those who use the word umbrageously. But if the mad, impossible voyage of Columbus or Cartier or LaSalle or Coronado or John Ledyard is not romantic, if the stars did not dance in the sky when the Constitutional Convention met, if Atlantis has any landscape stranger or the other side of the moon any lights or colors or shapes more unearthly than the customary homespun of Lincoln or the morning coat of Jackson, well, I don’t know what romance is. Ours is a story mad with the impossible. It is by chaos out of dream, it began as dream and it has continued as dream down to the last headline you read in a newspaper, and of our dreams there are two things above all others to be said, that only madmen could have dreamed them or would have dared to—and that we have shown a considerable faculty for making them come true.

Bernard DeVoto to Catherine Drinker Bowen (c. 1940)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Scopitone #31

Rita Hayworth, as Gilda Mundson Farrell, sings "Who Put the Blame on Mame"
in Gilda
d: Charles Vidor (1946)