Corp’rate Day

thoughts on art and fiction

By My Voice I Shall Be Known

According to the Hellenic mythology, the Sybil of Cumae attracted the attentions of Apollo a god of various jurisdictions, who offered to grant her anything she desired if only she would sleep with him. Holding up a fistful of sand, she asked for as many years as there were grains of sand running through her fingers. But the deity had the last laugh (as deities usually do). The Sybil of Cumae had failed to ask for eternal youth and was subject to extremes of degeneration in her later life. She eventually subsided into a wrinkled husk contained in a jar, but the Fates allowed her to retain her voice long after her body had disintegrated completely.  As MarinaWarner writes, quoting the Sybil:

‘By my voice I shall be known’: that’s no bad epitaph for a storyteller. (Warner, 1994: 11).

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The Sentimental-Sublime

In the autumn of 1927, Salvador Dalí wrote to his friend Frederico Lorca denouncing the much-admired contemporary Spanish poet, Juan Jiménez. The latter, according to Dalí, is a ‘putrid marasmus’ who ‘has never ever seen anything, only receives mangy emotions from things’ (qtd. Ades, 1994: 139).  Dalí was especially outraged by Jiménez’s famous story Platero y Yo (1914), an account of the poet’s beloved companion Platero, a donkey, and their bland sojourns through pastoral scenes.  As Dawn Ades has speculated, Dalí’s violent dislike of this gentle, sentimental story may have contributed to the appearance of the rotting donkey as a visual image in such paintings as Honey Is Sweeter than Blood and as a verbal parody in written communication between Dalí and Lorca. In one such letter dated early December 1927, Dalí signs himself… ‘your ROTTING DONKEY’ and adds, ‘may…Platero…die’ (qtd. Ades, 1994: 139).

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The Head of Barbie Antoinette

Cover of American Vogue, September 2006

The American artist Karen Kilimnik, who depicts bourgeois fantasies of aristocratic ‘decadence,’ has been hailed as ‘frothy, fun and the antithesis of everything great art should be’ (Neal, 2007: 100).  Her portraits of movie-stars and celebrities posed as fairy tale characters and ancien-regime aristocrats include an image of the global heiress Paris Hilton in the guise of Marie Antoinette – ‘the teen queen who rocked versailles’ according to American Vogue (Vogue ed., 2006), though history knows her as a monstrous figure of decadence (a profligate spendthrift at a time of national bankruptcy) or a tragic scapegoat for the failures of the pre-revolution monarchy.  Clichés both malevolent and tragic fade from Kilimnik’s and Sophia Coppola’s respective interpretations in which extravagance appears as a form of creative rebellion—‘the party that started the revolution’ as the poster-art for Coppola’s film exclaimed! The latter unfolds like an epic-scaled pop-video (the life of an 18th century ‘It Girl’); with not a severed head in sight and little allusion to the hardships of the peasant class. Whatever we might say about these historical blind-spots (Coppola’s Antoinette, though, appeared prior to the global economic crisis), there is no denying their negation of dramatic interest, suggesting that unchecked frivolity is as fatal to art’s powers of absorption as it is to its ethics.  A similar candy-coated torpor infects Kilimnik’s practice which Donald Kuspit described as ‘hand-me down populism, a populism that has become so routine, even art-slumming populists find it boring’ (Kuspit, 2008: 8-9). Read more →

The Wizard of Oz at the Glasgow Britannia Panoptican

The creator of The Wizard of Oz, Lyman Frank Baum, was born in 1856 in Chittenango in upstate New York, the son of a wealthy business man and investor who had made his fortune in Pennsylvania oil. Throughout his life he would have a number of careers, including as a newspaper journalist and as a playwright and actor working in theatres that Baum’s father owned; he also managed a fancy goods store known as ‘Baum’s Bazar’ in South Dakota, and worked as a travelling salesman for a china and glass company. In his spare time, Baum made up fantastic stories to entertain his children and these were so good that his wife Maud encouraged him to write them down. He succeeded in getting a number of his books for children published the most successful of which, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, made its first appearance in print in 1900.

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Lotte Gertz

Gertz’s latest series of paintings and prints were made in a studio that occupied the same space as her general living-area and are full of the sense of immediacy that results from an artist’s direct response to ‘close-at-hand’ materials and objects.

Gertz’s sources include those items she ‘stumbles-upon’ again and again in the intimate chaos that surrounds her as she works: a space where ‘living’ encroaches upon ‘making’, where  discarded playthings (a stuffed panda-toy or a wooden Pinocchio-figure) might be found side-by-side with DIY tools, painting and printmaking materials, half-eaten slices of fruit or cheese, still-to-be-drunk cups of tea, and photographs of famous artworks from books and magazines. Read more →