Category Archives: European culture

RIP Stéphane Audran (1932 – 2018)

Stéphane Audran was a French actress, known for her performances in award-winning movies such as The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) and Babette’s Feast (1987) and in critically acclaimed films like The Big Red One (1980) and Violette Nozière (1978).

A well-known photo of the actress shows her sitting at a dressing table doing her toenails. It is from the film from the film La Femme Infidèle (1968).

Above is the clip of that film with Audran tending to her nails.

Of obfuscation and elucidation 

I finally hold a copy of Lequeu : An Architectural Enigma (1986) in my hand, a book on the oeuvre of French visionary architect Jean-Jacques Lequeu.

It is a strange mix of obfuscation and elucidation by its author Philippe Duboÿ.

It drew — among many other things — my attention to the satirical vignette against Bertrand Chaupy (above), an engraving better known as the “turd engraving by Piranesi.”

Regarding the obfuscation in this book, Robert Harbison says in The Built, the Unbuilt, and the Unbuildable (1993):

“Recently the idea has infiltrated academic consciousness that the eighteenth-century crank Lequeu, one of the world’s fringiest paper architects, is really Marcel Duchamp inserting himself Trojan-horse-like into the musty tomes of the Bibliotheque Nationale, whiling away countless hours creating a large hollow space in which a few hundred pseudo-eighteenth-century beings can roost.”

See on elucidation and obfuscation the dictum by Cioran:  between the demand to be clear, and the temptation to be obscure, impossible to decide which deserves more respect.

Back from London …

I spent the day in London yesterday. I arrived at St Pancras railway station, headed for the University of London in Russell Square where there was a day on political myth and Hans Blumenberg. I skipped class and went to the National Gallery and saw:

Lady Standing at a Virginal by Johannes Vermeer, detail

The Vision of the Blessed Gabriele by Carlo Crivelli (left, the yoni detail), right other detail.

Witches at their Incantations by Salvator Rosa, full and cooking hag detail

Two Followers of Cadmus devoured by a Dragon by Cornelis van Haarlem, detail

Forgotten which this one is, I was quite impressed by it, I think it’s Dutch, detail

The Agony in the Garden by Andrea Mantegna, detail

The Fight between the Lapiths and the Centaurs by Piero di Cosimo, detail

The Death of Procris by Piero di Cosimo, detail

Meeting Place of the Hunt by Adolphe Joseph Thomas Monticelli, detail

Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway by J. M. W. Turner, detail

Forgot, probably a Jupiter and Antiope, I loved the way the nipple was pinched, detail

Portrait of the Artist’s Wife, Cunera van der Cock by Frans van Mieris the Elder, very small and delicate painting, this one.

The Ugly Duchess by Quentin Matsys, cleavage detail

The Agony in the Garden by Bellini, detail of village in the distance

A Scene from El Hechizado por Fuerza (‘The Forcibly Bewitched’) by Francisco Goya, apparently a portrait of Charles II of Spain, detail

Still Life with a Nautilus Cup by Gerrit Willemsz. Heda, detail

RIP Austryn Wainhouse (1927 – 2014)

I only now became aware that Austryn Wainhouse (1927 – 2014) passed away. He was best-known for translating the work of Marquis de Sade and the novel Story of O.

It is of course the work of Marquis de Sade that interests us here. It so happens that one of the translations of Wainhouse, Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings is freely available online. And the most interesting item in that collection is “Yet Another Effort“, perhaps the first piece of writing anyone who wishes to acquaint himself with de Sade should read.

Here is that link[1].

RIP André S. Labarthe (1931 – 2018)

André S. Labarthe was a French actor, film producer and director.

He starred alongside Anna Karina in the 1962 film Vivre sa vie and was a celebrated television documentary maker.

He directed the documentary Georges Bataille – À perte de vue (1997) and David Cronenberg: I Have to Make the Word Be Flesh (1999).

Georges Bataille – À perte de vue (1997)

David Cronenberg: I Have to Make the Word Be Flesh (1999)

 

Everybody continually kills the Mandarin

Examining the bibliography of Art and Its Objects for my thesis Can Porn Be Art?, I came across Alain‘s System of the Fine Arts which in turn led me anew to the “killing of the hypothetical Mandarin“, a subject I had contemplated in some detail for the first time in 2013. I spent about six hours on the subject over the afternoon, time I did not spend on my thesis.

A new element in this afternoon reading and studying binge was “Killing a Chinese Mandarin“, an essay by Carlo Ginzburg (the current heir to Umberto Eco?) first published in 1994 and essential to the parable, referencing Aristotle’s Rhetoric, “Conversation of a Father with his Children” and “Letter on the Blind” (Diderot), Charles de PougensModeste Mignon (Balzac), Ordinary Men (Christopher Browning) and David Hume.

As far as I’m concerned Alain made the definitive statement about the “hypothetical Mandarin” when he said ” proving that we are all victims of collective guilt, a point particularly poignant in the current migrant crisis.

Having lost a lot of time (time I should’ve spent on my thesis), I decided to write this snippet reporting my vagrancies. As I was thinking of a picture that could illustrate it, I suddenly thought of Death by a Thousand Cuts. Are we not guilty — with every Chinese product we buy — of the violations of human rights in China perpetrated on a daily basis? But then I couldn’t. The image is just too cruel.

Instead, I give you a cover of Alain on Happiness [above], from whence came Alain’s dictum on the mandarin, not referenced by Ginzburg in his sublime essay on emotional and social distance.

RIP Mark E. Smith (1957 – 2018)

Mark E. Smith was an English musician, known for his post-punk group the Fall, a renowned and idiosyncratic offshoot from the UK post-punk popular music scene.

His voice is reminiscent of Jonathan Richman and tracks such as “Big New Prinz” [above] are as weird and danceable as Richman’s “Roadrunner” for example.

On a personal note: the covered “Mr. Pharmacist” in 1986, at a time when I was into garage rock.

P.S. The train footage in the clip of “Big New Prinz” is an example of slow television.

A nude woman isn’t indecent

Via peeking into Art/Porn: A History of Seeing and Touching (mentioned in previous post[1]) come Diderot’s thoughts on the difference between decency and indecency, or, by extension, the difference between erotica and pornography. According to Diderot, “it is the difference between a woman who is seen and a woman who exhibits herself.”

Here are Diderot’s thoughts in full from an unidentified translation:

“A nude woman isn’t indecent. It’s the lavishly decked out woman who is. Imagine the Medici Venus is standing in front of you, and tell me if her nudity offends you. But shoe this Venus’ feet with two little embroidered slippers. Dress her in tight white stockings secured at the knee with rose-colored garters. Place a chic little hat on her head, and you’ll feel the difference between decent and indecent quite vividly. It’s the difference between a woman seen and a woman displaying herself. (translator unidentified[2], probably John Goodman)

French original:

“Une femme nue n’est point indécente. C’est une femme troussée qui l’est. Supposez devant vous la Vénus de Médicis, et dites-moi si sa nudité vous offensera. Mais chaussez les pieds de cette Vénus de deux petites mules brodées. Attachez sur son genou avec des jarretières couleur de rose un bas blanc bien tiré. Ajustez sur sa tête un bout de cornette, et vous sentirez fortement la différence du décent et de l’indécent. C’est la différence d’une femme qu’on voit et d’une femme qui se montre.”

Please do not take Diderot too seriously when it comes to eroticism, I’ve previously written on Diderot’s hypocrisy. In my view, if it isn’t indecent, it isn’t erotic. That is why I do not consider many pieces of erotic art, erotic at all since they do not provoke erotic arousal. Shame is the most powerful aphrodisiac.

The eeriness of hanging, dripping mosses

Following my previous post[1], Paul Rumsey identifies the mystery print[2] as one from the hand of Georg Lemberger, an Austrian artist so obscure he does not even have an English language Wikipedia page.

One of Lemberger’s paintings, Saint George Freeing the Princess (Lemberger)[3], has an Italian-language Wikipedia page, which I’ve partly translated and partly augmented:

The scene takes place in a fantastic forest. St George is preparing to face the monstrous dragon, hitting him with a spear, while the horse rears its head and front legs, according to the traditional iconography.

On the left the princess kneels in prayer.

Despite the small size of the work, it is emblematic of the role of landscape in the German art, full of fantastic effects and symbolic meanings, which characterizes the Danube School.

The trees are particularly elongated, and seem to germinate the one above the other, waving their spectral fronds, like in a dream vision.

The forest has a feeling of great mossy humidity and the branches of the trees seem to be covered with hanging, dripping mosses, like Spanish moss.

The feeling of being lost in the dark forest prevails and the work conveys a sense of the unknown, dominated by mysterious forces of nature.

RIP German sex educator Oswalt Kolle (1928 – 2010)

Oswalt Kolle played a significant role in the sexual revolution in Germany.

Of all sexual revolutions (see here), the one that occurred in the 1960s was the most pervasive, due to mass media, the pill and general economic prosperity.

It was a funny revolution. A friend once told me that it was just an excuse for all alpha males to bang as many women as they could get their hands on. This is an exaggeration, of course, but contains some truth.

It was the start of sex education in state schools, like the Sexualkundeatlas of 1969, but also of state-funded sexual education films Helga – Vom Werden des menschlichen Lebens.

Illustration Zázrak Lásky (Czech translation of Wunder der Liebe by Oswalt Kolle). For more visuals of Oswalt Kolle’s products, see my old page here[1].