Blackpaint 41

Boltanski again

Another review of B’s Paris installation, this time Laura Cumming in the Observer.  I’m ashamed to learn that “he has long been considered France’s greatest living artist” – I’d seen his stuff before, I remember a dimly-lit corner (shrine) of photographs of Holocaust victims, possibly in the Bilbao Guggenheim; but I had no idea of his status.  Nor had his French nationality registered with me; because of his name, and  because of his work on the Holocaust, I’d (ironically)assumed he was Polish.  Given his previous work, it’s not surprising that Cumming refers to  “Auschwitz, Srebrenica, Rwanda”, when looking at the assemblages of anonymous clothing.

This piece, however, as Cumming  points out, goes further.  “You do not imagine these clothes to be those of murdered people so much as humanity en masse, flattened like biblical crops”, she writes and describes the repetitive action of a giant mechanical claw, picking up articles of clothing from a giant pile – and dropping them again, in a blind, random and ceaseless process.  A suitably solemn review, the tone of which was for me undermined by the headline, “A monument to everyone and no one” – yes, Clouzot, pathetic isn’t it?

By coincidence, I have just re-read Ray Bradbury’s story, “the Scythe” from “The October Country”.  An impoverished mid western family in 1938, heading to California, come across a well- kept farm in the midst of wheatfields.  A dead man is inside; they bury him and settle down in the farm, which is well stocked with food, and the man finds a scythe and begins to cut the ripe corn.  Strangely, it rots as soon as it is cut.  Also there are some patches that are still green, others ripening, others ready for the scythe… you can guess the rest.


I’m afraid I suggested in yesterday’s blog that Boltanski might be mad (before I knew he was France’s greatest living artist); that was prompted by the revelation in Searle’s Guardian article that he is compiling an audio library of people’s heartbeats that will be stored on a remote Japanese island.  I should say that I don’t consider madness in artists to be necessarily a bad thing – indeed, doing apparently mad things has been shown repeatedly to be the only way that art “advances” (although I don’t believe it advances – goes in cycles, maybe).

Sistine Chapel – Original Sin and The Last Judgement

Been looking at the Taschen “Michelangelo” again, and I was really struck by how close Eve’s face is to Adam’s penis in the apple scene.  The caption reads blandly; “The juxtaposition of a supposedly female face and masculine genitalia is a common feature of Michelangelo’s work”, and goes on to give other examples.

Then, there is the hilariously phallic right hand lunette of the “Last Judgement”, described as “angels lifting up the column of flagellation”.  Sorry to indulge in these base observations.

Bicycle Thieves – De Sica

Fantastic film – Coppola was surely informed by it, when he made The Godfather.  The music for one thing; and Ricci’s friend, the dustman-ganger who helps him look in the markets, reminded me of de Niro’s young house-breaking companion in Godfather II – but then, so did Bruno!  I love the shambolic picture of postwar Rome; everything half-built or crumbling, improvisation, old bits of uniform being worn..

There were a couple of scenes that seemed straight out of Cartier – Bresson; where the camera follows two street urchins along a dazzling white wall, as they beg from a suited and hatted gent with a briefcase – and the German(?) clerics with their circular hats and cassocks, sheltering from the cloudburst with Ricci and Bruno.  I must immediately get hold of “Miracle in Milan” again.

Listening to “Davy Lowston” by Martin Carthy.

“Our captain John McGrath, he set sail, he set sail,

Oh yes, for old Port Stanley, he set sail;

He said “I’ll return, men, without fail”,

But he foundered in a gale,

And went down, and went down, and went down”.



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