Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Six Books – 09/02/09

Six Books – 09/02/09

- Fiction: The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster

Juster explores the imagination by way of a transformative journey. While I do not consider myself to be a fan of fantasy I can appreciate the fantastic. I particularly like the idea of how something can become fantastic when juxtaposed with something ordinary. Milo is ordinary, living a humdrum existence and seemingly immune to his own imagination. It takes a series of events and a suspension of disbelief in order for Milo to overcome himself enough to drive headlong into the unknown. This book relates to my work in that it deals with the ideas of aided (in this case reluctant) self-discovery and the physical journey as an emotionally transformative process.

Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth. New York: Random House, 1961.

- Non-Fiction: Landscape and Memory – Simon Schama

I was taken with this book years ago simply because of the title. I liked the idea that memory could have a location or be held within a landscape instead of just within the mind. I didn’t read the book at the time because it is pretty heavy with history and I wasn’t willing to pick through the information to find something of use. When I took the book up this time, it seemed suddenly more accessible. Schama is concerned with man’s impression of and on his environment. He explores landscape as a work of the mind, “a repository of the memories and obsessions of the people who gaze upon it.” This is relevant to my work because I am looking for foundations upon which to apply the layers (voice, sound, hopefully the human figure) of my work. I hope to broaden my scope beyond the up-close and fuzzy… to the far away and out-of-focus (?)

Schama, Simon. Landscape and Memory. New York: Vintage, 1995.

- Painter: Gerhard Richter: Landscapes

I am interested in a lot of Richter’s work but his handling of landscapes is particularly captivating because of their emptiness, unreality and illusory qualities. They’re all on the verge of disappearing – like the locus of memory. Looking at them I imagine human figures interacting with the landscape, voices telling the story of what happened there – or what happened once, somewhere else. I particularly relate to Richter’s desire to take a classical form – the landscape painting – and make it expand beyond mere depiction. Richter writes, “Painting is the making of an analogy for something non-visual and incomprehensible: giving it form and bringing it within reach.”

Elger, Dietmar ed. Gerhard Richter – Landscapes. New York: D.A.P., 1998.

- Photographer: Eileen Neff: between us

Eileen Neff originally took photographs as studies for paintings, the medium in which she was formally trained. I think that is the appeal of this work to me as I feel that my short films (at this point, anyway) are studies in human interaction and experience. The landscape appears again as a preoccupation for Neff and she often collapses the barrier between interior and exterior spaces, sometimes layering the two to abstract effect. Her work often references poetry and literature as well as having cinematic qualities – all of which make it particularly interesting to me. Her images manage to be both ordinary and transcendent – an effect to which I aspire.

Neff, Eileen. between us, Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, 2007.

- Sculptor: Joseph Cornell – Navigating the Imagination

Editing film and video has a lot in common with collage or assemblage; both seek to bring together elements – often disparate – cohesively and to illuminating effect. Cornell’s sculptural collages are fascinating to me for their nostalgia of artifact, use of metaphor and abstraction, and juxtaposition of object, picture and text. It is not surprising that he was influenced by Surrealism and went on to make experimental films. His boxes are rich with narrative potential, each one a story in itself or a scene from a larger narrative.

Hartigan, Lynda Roscoe. Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination. Salem,

Massachusetts: Peabody Essex Museum, 2007.

- Multi-Media (filmmaker): Abbas Kiarostami - Taste of Cherry (film)

Walking with the Wind: poems

Kiarostami’s work is haunting, deep and wide. I had not discovered his poems until this assignment and I am intrigued by their simplicity, vivid imagery and haiku-like brevity. His poems, like his cinematic compositions are simple but evocative. Each poem is a picture or a meditation that quietly paints a world-view. In Laura Mulvey’s essay, this quietness or “stillness” is explored. I am drawn to Kiarostami’s work not only aesthetically but thematically as well. He takes on grand human themes and emotion but explores them in deceptively un-dramatic ways. Taste of Cherry grapples with life and death – and virtually nothing happens during the course of the film. A man goes for a drive. A man will commit suicide. These are parallel events in the life of this man – not of equal significance but somehow of equal weight.

Kiarostami, Abbas. Walking with the Wind. Boston: Harvard Film Archive, 2001.

Mulvey, Laura. Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image. London: Reaktion

Books, 2006.

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