Feature Friday: “Anima Mundi” (1992)

Anima Mundi is Latin for “the shortest Godfrey Reggio / Philip Glass collaboration”—the third of their four “musical nature documentaries.” (The others are the Hopi-titled Koyaanisqatsi, 1982, Powaqqatsi, 1989, and Naqoyqatsi, 2002—although the less said about that last one, the better.) Reggio and Glass also sometimes get assigned Baraka (1992) but, beyond clearly inspiring it, they had nothing to do with it. (They were busy making Anima Mundi!)

Anima Mundi also means “the soul of the world,” although I think Reggio and Glass thought it means “animal world,” because that’s what the movie’s mostly about: animals. (That above image is the opening shot, a kind of counterpoint to the footage of people staring into the camera in Powaqqatsi.)

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This is the book I’m most looking forward to this year

And it’s a reprint, and I already own the original:

It’s that good.

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Announcing the Summer 2011 Issue of Requited

Carl Baratta, "Driver Take Me to the River 3."

The Summer 2011 issue of Requited is now online. It features:

  • fiction by Josh Collins, Jess Upshaw Glass, Suzanne Scanlon, Ben Slotzky, and Simon A. Smith;
  • poetry by Kristy Bowen, Nicelle Davis, Eric Ellingson, Molly Gaudry, Monica Gomery, Rich Ives, Alyse Knorr, Kate Martin Rowe, and J. A. Tyler;
  • essays by Steve Katz, Mark Rappaport, and Viktor Shklovsky;
  • visual art by Carl Baratta and Alexis MacKenzie;
  • and videos by Anne Elizabeth Moore and Hyon Jung Kim.

Please check it out! And since the nonfiction section is my domain, allow me to say a few words about the pieces there.

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A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies—Extra: Ranking Woody Allen

My last movie talk with Jeremy (about Midnight in Paris) made me want to rank Woody Allen’s films. Jeremy of course hemmed and hawed, but over a Millirahmstrudel I broke them down into:

  1. Masterpieces
  2. Near Masterpieces
  3. Delightful
  4. Problematic
  5. Forgettable
  6. Bad
  7. Unseen

Jeremy agreed to go along with this, albeit with certain objections.

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A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies: Midnight in Paris (and other recent Woody Allens)

[Last weekend, en route to Madagascar, Jeremy M. Davies swung by my Chicago atelier to hear my neighbor perform Mahler’s "Quartet for Strings and Piano in A Minor" on his singing saw. Fifteen minutes in, two other friends stopped by, bearing bootleg DVDs of three new films: Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life, and X-Men: First Class. The singing saw forgotten, I fired up my video projector, and a marathon viewing ensued. Hours later, our guests departed, Jeremy and I recorded the following conversation.]

A D: Jeremy, when did you give up on Woody Allen?

Jeremy: Small Time Crooks.

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Why I Hate the Avant-Garde, part 1

[Update: Part 2 is here]

Re: Greg’s most recent post on the term “avant-garde”—I’ve already discussed this somewhat here, here and here, but to recap:

  1. The term’s early 19th-century Socialist origins have mostly been forgotten. And that’s fine—language changes—but, personally, I find it deliciously perverse that the original Avant-Gardists, the Impressionists, essentially stole the term from Socialists, for use as a marketing term.
  2. It seems to me that anyone who wants to use the term today—especially if they want to use it to refer to some progressive art that’s free from any capitalist influence—would have to account for that history.
  3. People mostly don’t, though. Instead, they just use it interchangeably with terms like “experimental” and “unusual” and “innovative.” I consider this conflation very wrong-headed, not to mention not all that useful.
  4. For one thing, it assumes an incorrect model of how art and innovation actually proceed. It begins by positing that there’s a single conservative high art world, which follows a long and noble yet conservative tradition, and that there’s a single low art world, which is popular and commercial (i.e., crass). And then it assumes that there’s a small band of daring creative pioneers, huddled in some corner of the culture somewhere, who pass all artistic innovation to both the highs and the lows. (It’s the art world version of Reaganomics.)

I don’t truck with any of that. I think it’s important to remember history (even as it changes); I think it’s important to be as clear as possible in one’s terminology; and I regret any and all myopic views of the culture. (Not to mention, the notion of the avant-garde is rather elitist and racist: it posits a view of history in which all innovation flows from middle- and upper-class white folks.)

One need only look at recent music history to put the lie to the term “avant-garde.” Today Facebook showed me the following ad:

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Style as Imitation

Leonardo #1, page 17 (1987) (detail; First Publishing reprint). Art by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

1.

My father, who once trained as a baker, taught me when I was a kid how to bake an apple pie. I don’t know where he got the original recipe from; I highly doubt that he invented it. Certainly he didn’t invent the idea of baking pies. And he didn’t invent the idea of baking an apple pie.

He was very clear about certain instructions:

  • always use Granny Smith apples;
  • always use ice-cold water;
  • touch the dough as little as possible.

Since then, I’ve baked several apple pies, and over time I’ve modified the recipe slightly, but it’s essentially the same (and I never violate his prime instructions).

When I make a new apple pie, I’m not doing anything new.

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