Posts Tagged ‘art’
Throughout his seven-volume A la recherche du temps perdu– in his attempts to describe scenes and emotions, to help elucidate a point, to sharpen an image, or simply as a subject in itself – Proust would time and again turn to the visual arts.
As Proust says in Volume One, Du côté de chez Swann (Swann’s Way), “it is only through art that we can escape from ourselves and know how another person sees a universe which is not the same as our own and whose landscapes would otherwise have remained as unknown as any there may be on the moon.” He mentions more than a hundred painters from the 14th through the 20th century– making his novel, as artist Eric Karpeles points out, “one of the most profoundly visual works in Western literature.”
As a celebration of the centennial of its publication, Public Domain Review has put together a few highlights of Proust’s many mentions of artworks to be found in the first volume, Swann’s Way, in which the narrator uses the art to “illustrate” his experiences growing up, participating in society, falling in love– and indeed, learning about art.
(The translations are from C.K. Scott Moncrieff’s English translation, available here on project Gutenberg, in the public domain. PDR acknowledges its debt to Karpeles’ exquisite Paintings in Proust, a book for which readers should reach.)
As we manipulate our madeleines, we might send dark, but heartfelt birthday greetings to Proust’s literary contemporary Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, or as he’s better known to English readers, Joesph Conrad; he was born on this date in 1857. An early modernist who spoke and wrote in three languages (his native Polish, French, and English), he imported a non-English diction and tragic sense to his work, which included Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Nostromo, 17 other novels, and dozens of short stories. A success in his own time, Conrad’s influence grew; he’s been cited as a formative influence on writers including D. H. Lawrence, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Graham Greene, Malcolm Lowry, William Golding, William S. Burroughs, Joseph Heller, Italo Calvino, Gabriel García Márquez, J. G. Ballard, John le Carré, V.S. Naipaul, Philip Roth, Hunter S. Thompson, J.M. Coetzee, and Salman Rushdie.
When Ferran Adrià, the Spanish maestro who is undisputedly the most influential chef of the last two decades, gave up cooking at his restaurant El Bulli, he announced that he was going to be starting a number of projects. One of them is intended to be a foundation dedicated to the study of himself. Another was a collaboration on the subject of food and science with Harvard. I think quite a few people, on first hearing about that, scratched their heads and wondered what a joint venture between the two might be like. On the one hand, seawater sorbet and ampoules of reduced prawn head bouillon (two Adrià signature dishes). On the other, Helen Vendler. Outcome not obvious…
What we outsiders didn’t know is that all undergraduates at Harvard are required to take at least one class in science. As a result, the university offers some courses designed to be appealing to the kinds of student who wouldn’t be studying science unless they had to. Once that’s known, it makes a lot of sense to involve Adrià, who is rock-star famous in the world of food, in a course designed to appeal to the clever and curious and artily-minded young. So here it is: SPU27, an acronym standing for Science of the Physical Universe 27. Spelled out in English, the name of the course is Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science…
Once upon a time, to take a course like SPU27, you had to be young enough and lucky enough in all the relevant ways to get to Harvard. Today, all you need is to be lucky enough to have access to a computer with an internet connection. SPU27 is part of a remarkable experiment in open access university education called EdX, a collaboration between Harvard and MIT, which gives away entire courses, online, for free…
I registered for EdX and sat down in front of SPU27x (which started on 8 October; you can still sign up and do the course in time to get a certificate). My intention was to ‘audit’ it, i.e. do as much of it as I felt like without subjecting myself to anything too obviously worky. Also, the science of cooking is one of my interests, and I was quietly confident that I knew most of it already. That turned out not to be the case. Looking at the review materials before starting the course, I found myself trying to remember how to calculate the volume of a sphere – it’s (4/3)πr3, in case you too have forgotten – and crunching logarithms in an attempt to answer e3.5=x (answer, x=33.12, obv).
The lectures are broken up into segments of about ten minutes, followed by multiple choice questions which you can do at your leisure, or not, and submit your answers towards a certificate of completion, or not. (Certificates you have to pay for. Everything else is free.) In the first lecture Adrià showed off a few culinary tricks; the second quickly had us working with Avogadro’s constant to determine the number of molecules in a given amount of matter. Homework involves an experiment to calibrate the accuracy of your oven, and some calculations to ascertain the number of various molecules in a recipe for aubergine with buttermilk sauce. Then there’s a test: ‘Estimate the concentration in mol/L of protein using the fact that the average protein is 300 amino acids long and the average amino acid has a mass of 110 amu.’ Er … I think I’ll phone a friend on that one. All this was by way of working with ‘the equation of the week’, which is how SPU27 is structured: it teaches, both by lecture and by hands-on demonstration, the profound and endlessly satisfying mystery of how mathematics penetrates into matter.
In summary, the course is more rigorous, and more educational, than I’d thought it would be… MOOC’s [Massive Open Online Courses] like this one offer something simpler, and in its way purer: education for its own sake. They are purely educational, in the way that so much education increasingly isn’t, as it goes further and further in the direction of box-ticking and teaching to the test. Although it’s already possible to extract a great deal of use from MOOCs, as in the comp sci example I mentioned, I suspect a lot of the good they bring to the world won’t be in the form of anything useful. Instead they offer anyone who can be bothered the chance to learn things just for the sake of learning. As lifetimes get longer, there’s less need for people to stop learning, and less need for the experience of education to be something confined to ghettos of the young. Avogadro’s constant, which is used to tell you the number of molecules in a given amount of matter, is 6.022 x 1023. Isn’t that cool? And now I’m off to calibrate my oven by observing the melting point of sugar. I see in the course notes that the full protocol for doing that comes from a book called Cooking for Geeks.
As we wear our lab coats into the kitchen, we might send surprising birthday greetings to Rene Magritte; he was born on this date in 1898. Magritte made a living as a draftsman and an advertising artist before putting together the paintings (largely impressionist and futurist in style) for his first show in his native Belgium… at which critics heaped abuse on his work. Disheartened, Magritte moved to Paris, and fell in with Andre Breton, who helped him become the integral part of the Surrealist Movement that he became.
From the good folks at Revolution Messaging, a site for our times: Drink recipes + talking points + an app that dials the office of a random member of Congress = Drunkdial Congress… and a cathartic experience.
* “Howard Beale” (Peter Finch) in Paddy Chayefsky’s Network
As we contemplate the wages of federal foolishness, we might recall that this is the anniversary of the date commemorated in Harold Rosenberg’s powerful lithograph, “Dies Irae (Oct 29).” A graduate of Columbia College (1895) and Law School (1898), Rosenberg practiced corporate law for decades. But his passion was art. In 1922, he founded the New Gallery in New York for the exhibition and sale of works by little-known American and foreign artists. ”Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath), made on the day of the Wall Street crash in 1929, appeared on the front page of the Sunday Magazine section of The New York Times in 1930. Rosenberg retired from the Bar in the late 1940s, and devoted himself to art, both as a creator and as an influential critic (he coined the term “Action Painting” in 1952 for what came to be known as Abstract Expressionism). He was himself the subject of a painting by Elaine de Kooning, and was the model for Saul Bellow’s “Rosenberg” in the short story “What Kind of Day Did You Have?” His works hangs in museums throughout the U.S.
An art project that began three years ago by prompting people to embed USB thumb drives in structures has caught on like wildfire.
Dead Drops, as the project is called, now has more than 1,200 locations worldwide where anyone with a computer and a USB port can anonymously plug in and upload or download files — sharing who they are or what they care about or love.
The premise: cement a thumb drive into a wall with just the port protruding, and leave its location with photos in the Dead Drops central database.
According to its creator, German artist Aram Bartholl, the project is a way to “un-cloud” file sharing — that is, remove it from the Internet in a time when governments are spying on the online public.
“Dead Drops is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space,” Dead Drops’ manifesto states…
Read the whole story at Computerworld.
As we skulk toward Bethlehem, we might recall that it was on this date in 1983 that the last phone call was made in the U.S. on a hand-cranked (magneto) telephone system. In 1981, the local telephone company in Bryant Pond — serving 440 customers (sharing 220 lines), and operating from a two-position magneto switchboard in the living room of owners Barbara and Elden Hathaway– was purchased by the Oxford County Telephone & Telegraph Company, a nearby larger independent company. A movement called “Don’t Yank The Crank” was organized by David Perham and Brad Hooper in an effort to keep their beloved crank phones. The effort stalled the transition for two years, but ultimately failed: the last “crank” calls took place on October 11, 1983, when a modern dial exchange was put into service. A memorial statue has become a local landmark…
The annual occupation of mid-town Manhattan by couturiers and their cohorts– Fashion Week– ended earlier this month. As New York returns to normalcy, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the sartorial splendors of times gone by…
Visit Public Domain Review to take “A little wander down the catwalk of time…“
Special bonus from National Geographic: “As Fashion Week Ends, Pondering the Origins of Clothes.”
As we try it on for size, we might recall tat it was on this date in 1964 that the Paris Opera unveiled its newly-painted ceiling, the work of artist Marc Chagall. Andre Malraux, the French minister of culture at the time, had commissioned Chagall to design a new ceiling for the Paris Opera after seeing Chagall’s sets and costumes for an earlier Paris Opera production of Daphnis et Chloe. The ceiling was unveiled during a performance of the same Daphnis et Chloe. (Chagall was just getting warmed up: In 1966, as a gift to the city that had sheltered him during World War II, he painted two vast murals for New York’s Metropolitan Opera House.)