Monthly Archives: February 2010

Hirst and the Orca

Most humans love animals and love to be entertained by them. It thus comes as a great shock to most that a nice-looking beast such as an orca whale could kill its trainer. It is terrible indeed, but not surprising to me.

There couldn’t be something as evil to me as keeping an animal which lives in open waters in a tank just for the pleasure of the spectators. It is a gruesome thing to do to any free being and especially to a whale.

This terrible story made me think of Damian Hirst‘s series of works using dead animals preserved in formaldehyde. Controversial as they are, it is not a matter of simply liking them or not. Much more important is their role as questioners of our relationship to animals.

These artworks have always got me thinking about the use we make of animals. If killing them in large scales for eating, dressing and so forth is acceptable, why not put dead beasts on display for the sake of art?

It is high time we stopped with practices that in one way or the other damage the environment or disturb nature just for our selfishly human need for animal entertainment.

Hirst’s artistic approach to matters of life and death couldn’t be more appropriate.

Fri for fun

Friday spells fun for me. At least this one does.

I’m seeing Dj Mehdi tonight, one of France’s sole hopes for good music nowadays.

Let’s have some fun, this beat is sick.

The boss of remix

As I’ve said before, Brazil is the country of the remix; the place where art is cleverly appropriated and given a special touch: a Brazilian touch.

In this sense, I can’t think of any DJ who is as good at making fun, dancing music as Bo$$ in Drama. A performer and a music producer too, he can shake any dancefloor at any time and any day. He rules.

A live performance of the song Jumpstyle:

One of the best live gigs/dj nights I’ve ever been to.

Your heart feels

Never write anything and publish while you are drunk, you might regret it later.

Writing with a hangover from a fun yet alcohol-filled night is no good either.

Still, it is always nice to listen to good music when you wake up:

Thieves Like Us are a band I’ve liked for quite some time now. They are releasing a new record, called Again and Again soon.

Their latest single:

I just love the Berlin feeling I get whenever I listen to their music.

About II

It’s my roommate’s birthday today. We decided to start the celebrations by having a great lunch at home, with a bottle of champagne. I’m now a little drunk and I still have to work later on.

I had bought a book by Miranda July a couple of weeks ago, but I hadn’t started reading it until today after I got drunk. I guess I lacked to courage since she so often overwhelms me.

I guess one has to be ready to be overwhelmed, you know, with an open spirit.

I am now, but I still have to go to work.

No one belongs here more than you.

Found in translation

I love languages and I’m usually quite obsessed with them. I enjoy learning a tongue as much as I like learning about them.

The process of learning a foreign language is very intriguing, for it really challenges one’s preconceptions of oneself.

I’ve recently been given an issue of the Metronome magazine, a collection of fiction, poetry and thoughts by a collective of artists and writes. This special number from 2001 deals with speech and its magnetism.

The work of Danish artist Lise Harlev really caught my attention. Some excerpts:

When you come across a word that you do not understand as foreigner you are often in doubt whether you should ask about the meaning of the word right away or pretend to understand and go look it up later.

As a foreigner you often wonder if you actually manage to express your true personality to other people through the foreign language.

Wenn ein Inländer seine Muttersprache spricht, hört es sich manchmal so fliessend und perfekt an, dass man als Ausländer sein intektuelles Niveau überschätzt. (When a native speaks his/her mother tongue, it sometimes sounds so fluent and perfect that one as a foreigner overstimates the person’s intellectual level).

Som utlænding oplever man ofte at man taler fremmedsproget bedre men nogle indfødte end med andre.(As a foreigner, one often realizes that s/he speaks the foreign language better with some natives than with others).

The work, called Når man dagligt taler et fremmed sprog (“When you speak a foreign language daily”), is written in Danish, German and English and it is interesting to notice that although the sentences contain similar ideas (I chose different ones), they don’t translate exactly in the same way.

The questions raised by Harlev are also extremely clever because they make us wonder about how much what we think of ourselves is a product or not of our linguistic abilities. This is something that becomes very obvious when we are struggling to learn a different language.

Worlds

Are we what we speak or is there more to us than just words? Most importantly, how can we know?

Familiarity in strangeness

Brazil and Africa are so close in so many aspects that I am constantly tempted to say: Brazil is Africa.

Ever since my curiosity about our ancestors and their legacy to Brazilian culture was sparkled by music, I’ve been restlessly searching for a truer face of the continent. Unfortunately, it seems that most information about Africa is second-hand, that is, written by other people with their foreign mindsets. It seems that cliché is also just around the corner in most reports about Africa.

Luckily though, there are people like Pieter Hugo. A talented and politically aware photographer from South Africa, he has over the years produced startling images of the African people in the most diverse and intriguing situations.

The Hyena & Other Men series

Although acquiring great fame and recognition for his series of works entitled Nollywood (which depict s actors and ordinary people connected to Nigeria’s film industry), his work with the hyena tamers is to me the most impressive.

What I like most about his work is his ability to capture a glimpse of what the human soul and its secrets are supposed to be even in the strangest sets and situations.

What is then the connection of Pieter Hugo’s work to Brazil? Absurdity. The absurd things and and the absurdness of life bring the two places together in a very special way. It is when one feels familiarity in strangeness that one can really see a close link between nations and continents.

From the viewer

Contemporary art requires thinking.

Contemporary art requires knowledge about art history.

Contemporary art requires sensitivity.

Contemporary art requires questioning.

Contemporary art requires patience.

Contemporary art requires careful appreciation.

Sound Pavillion, by Doug Aitken

Interacting with a piece of work with a conceptual magnitude  like that of Doug Aitken (shown at Inhotim, close to Belo Horizonte) is only possible when one really believes or is willing to agree with these assumptions.

Very briefly, the installation offers a unique chance to combine all senses in reflecting upon the purpose of the work. The smallness of the human race if compared to the force of the planet is just something that occurred to me when I saw it. Needless to say (but I’ll do it anyway), I respect art and artists.

Consideration is my word du jour.

Naïve depth

Very few people in the world have the ability to write in a way that is insightful, deep, straight-forward and enjoyable at the same time. Even after having read an immense number of books, it is still quite rare to come across an author who has the gift of depth in simplicity.

Helena Morley is such a writer. The Diary of Helena Morley, a true account of the life of a young teenager in 19th century countryside Brazil, is a true masterpiece.  By telling stories that concern her daily life in a small mining town, the girl presents the reader with an in-depth yet humble view of human nature, society, gender and racial issues at a time when slavery had but recently ended officially.

Diamantina, where H. Morley grew up

The character of the girl in the book is strikingly full of compassion and understanding of the difficulties of living in a place with an extreme lack of resources:

“… if only we could stay at the mine with papa, mama wouldn’t have to work so hard. But our educations are such a burden to mama that it kills me to think of it.”

The Diary of Helena Morley is one of the most accurate descriptions of the human condition written in the simplest way one can think of, that of an almost child.

Unforgettable.

The Carnaval Report

It is quite hard for non-Brazilians to understand the size and importance of Carnaval in this country. To start with, here are some facts that might make it easier to grasp how big it really is:

Carnaval:

  1. has its origins in religious rituals;
  2. lasts only four days (the weekend before Shrove Tuesday – aka Mardi Gras, and the Monday before it);
  3. is a bigger event than both Christmas and the National Day (Sep 7th);
  4. is not celebrated in the same way everywhere in the country.

In the olden days, Lent was a period of prayer, fasting and penitence. For the forty days before Easter, Catholic people used to refrain from drinking, eating red meat, having sex and partying in general. Thus, the last day before Ash Wednesday (which marks the beginning of Lent) was a day of heavy partying, drinking, dancing and flirtation. Since the forbiddance of eating meat affected everyone, these celebrations got the name “carnaval”, a blend of the words carne (meat or flesh) and festival.

Although it may seem to last for a long time, it is officially just one day. Most Brazilians choose to work overtime other days so they can take the Monday before the holiday off. Carnaval then becomes a four-day holiday much appreciated by everyone, who often travel to the coast or the countryside to party.

Why is it bigger than both Christmas and the National Day? Well, maybe because many people for many reasons don’t like Christmas, simple as that. The National Day is a different story. September 07th commemorates the date when Brazilian Independence was declared from Portugal. The thing is, this important fact did not happen by the hands of the people, it was the apparently greedy for power Portuguese crown prince D. Pedro who declared independence to seize the power and then become a monarch. Not such a popular day then.

Street Carnaval in Ouro Preto

Although Rio has got the biggest reputation for Carnaval celebrations all over the world, it is not what the real party about. The samba parade in Rio is mainly for tourists, most people don’t take part in it. The most fun and interesting celebrations take place in the streets.

The way the majority of the people across the nation like to celebrate Carnaval is by dancing to basically three Brazilian rhythms in the streets. Traditional samba is very big in Rio and in the big cities in the informal street parades. Axé is the type of music most people enjoy, for it has a very strong appeal for the youngest generations. Lately, Brazilian funk has become quite big because of its beats and sexually charged lyrics.

The mixture of Catholicism, Brazilian hot climate (it’s summer in February), African elements (music and dance in Brazil are all of strong African influence) and the lack of a true national day that brings everyone together has made Carnaval so big.

It must be said too that during the long years of economic and political difficulties, this date was probably the only time of the year people could really be happy, forgetting all their problems and just joining the party.

Fun is the word du jour.

Little break

I’ve taken a little break during Carnaval.

I’ll be posting again as soon as it’s over.

Have fun.

Miranda & McQueen

Every time I use the word ‘creativity’ here I can’t help but wonder if I am being too repetitive. Then yesterday, after the shock of Alexander McQueen‘s death, I had an insight to why it is so crucial to me.

I truly feel the need to have access to others’ creativeness, for it somehow feeds my own sense of creation. The process of writing becomes much more difficult for me if there’s nothing to get inspiration from. All sorts of art inspire, especially those who challenge or defy the spectator.

Having said all that, I must state here my endless admiration for the work of multitalented artist Miranda July. Ever since I saw her film “Me and You and Everyone We Know” some years ago I am constantly mesmerized by just about everything she does, be it visual arts, music, photography or even a paper note.

Here’s a video of her I found that shows how interesting she is:

It also shows one of the things I like most about Miranda: her sense of humour.

It is to artists like her that I look up when I feel a creative void, such as with McQueen’s tragic death. It really helps.

Loss of an icon

One of the best and brightest designers of a generation, if not of all times, has died today.

Alexander McQueen, the talented British fashion designer apparently committed suicide approximately one week after the death of his mother.

Throughout his career, McQueen has helped the fashion world regain some of its magic and creativeness. With beautifully tailored clothes that defy aesthetics’ common sense, he also contributed immensely to bringing art, fashion and entertainment closer together in a fun way.

Robert Pattinson for McQueen

It is a truly sad day for all of those who admire and get so inspired by his work.

May his daring spirit and graceful and creative ideas live on through us, his fans.

New bet for good songs

If I am a photography lover, then I must say I am married to music. It embraces me in a way no other art (I dare say no other thing, sometimes) can.

Having been completely drawn from my original idea of a special series of posts on photography, I hereby recommend the newest indie band that has entered my musical heart: Caribou.

With vocals that seduce even the most faithful ears, this Canadian band is my new bet for good tunes.

Entice to delight

As observers and manipulators of reality, photographers often choose themes that are dear to their hungry eyes. People are one of the ever-so-interesting and commonest eye-catching subjects.

In the history of the visual arts, the female body has been very often used for the purpose of portraying the human soul. It has been said to exhaustion that women have a more harmonic – and thus more beautiful – body. Fortunately, many photographers beg to differ.

Among those, the work of Stuart Sandford outstands. With a special regard for male beauty charged with sexuality, the British photographer has over the years used pictures to break the sexist stereotype that only women are worth portraying:

From the Cumfaces series

Simple and yet enticing.

PS: after posting this, I started thinking about portraits of male beauty and I realized that the exposure of male sexuality is often still seen as a taboo in our sexist society. The work of artists such as Standford’s is very welcome in trying to widen horizons and allowing people to think carefully about sex stereotypes.