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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Maboroshi: a radical cinematographic approach

Your spouse left one day to not return any more. It started like any given day. He went to his work, and soon came back in a hurry, to leave the bike and take the umbrella: it was cloudy and windy. In the evening you washed the baby: he was three months old. Then you laid in bed, waiting for him; sometimes he was back very late. Two police officers came instead: your spouse had committed suicide.

At the beginning it had been horrible. Then, some years passed - the kid was now five. Your relatives arranged a new marriage with a widower who was having a daughter. You moved with your son there and started a new life.

It seemed to you that the wound was now healed. Your boy and his daughter coped immediately each other and the new spouse was a kind man. You started to feel love for him: so it seemed.

A visit to the old place made you realize that nothing was healed actually. You realized that it was like your life had stopped in that night. You were not noticing anything new anymore. The same scenes were turning in your head again and again. The same recurrent dreams. The new place was like empty for you. Sometimes you were observing suddenly a room, a piece of furniture; only it was having a unique function: to remind you about the past. Any man or woman, any event, seemed to connect you to a situation from the past. You were living like in a dream that was coming again and again. Two or three moments that were repeating in your mind: moments of happiness with your first spouse, or other moments that had had no significance at all - now they were carrying something like a hidden message, in relation with the suicide that had followed.

And you asked suddenly, why did he commit suicide, I cannot understand why, this question comes again and again in my mind.

The new spouse tried to explain to you, there is a Maboroshi, a cheating light, that appears sometimes to beguile us, and it is hard to resist it.

And you understood that no other answers were possible: you were to live with your wound, because your life should follow your fate. Understanding this was the only way to come to your terms.

This is Maboroshi no Hikari, the movie directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, with Masao Nakabori as cinematographer. The story is told with a large economy of words, of actions, of images: it is a supremely ascetic film. The people are always in the distance, the images always in the dark. The only images that are clear are the scenes remembered by the protagonist: the woman that lost her first spouse.

It is a very radical cinematographic approach. I should say that it cannot be more radical than that. It is the movie from the mind of the protagonist.

But if you have the guts to follow this ascetic movie you'll be generously rewarded. Because it is actually an exquisite artwork. Yes, many images are left in obscurity: it is actually a great play of light and obscure. As for the images that have meaning for the protagonist, the camera is in such moments like caressing the whole: the scenery becomes then pure visual choreography.

Read also:

(Japanese Cinema)


Cabin John Trestle

I don't know why this trestle is named Cabin John, as the bridge and the village with the same name are far away.

(Capital Crescent Trail)

Photo of the Day - July 31

(Capital Crescent Trail)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dalecarlia Tunnel

Dalecarlia Tunnel - the railroad is no more.

As you get out the tunnel in your way to Bethesda, the Dalecarlia Reservoir appears on the right. It is a great view.

(Capital Crescent Trail)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

River Road Trestle

(Capital Crescent Trail)

Arizona Trestle

(Capital Crescent Trail)

Capital Crescent Trail

It used to be a railroad: the trains were bringing supplies for the workshops in Georgetown.

The workshops are no more. The old buildings were renovated: they are now hosting hotels and restaurants, shops and offices.

So the railroad disappeared. They took off the tracking and asphalted the road: the Capital Crescent Trail, linking Bethesda to Georgetown. Around seven miles. The trail has also a segment from Bethesda to SilverSpring.

It's a lovely trail. Half of it is in a huge park, then it's between the Potomac and the Chesapeake-Ohio Canal.

I will come back with stories and photos. It's a lot to tell about it.

(Washington, District of Columbia)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sugimoto at Galerie de l'Atelier Brancusi

Like every time when you see Sugimoto's works you'll be astonished. Very precise and pure works (be.Art).

Hiroshi Sugimoto a choisi de présenter dans la Galerie de l'Atelier Brancusi deux photographies monumentales de 2004 (Mathematical forms : 0004, Onduloid et 0006, Kuen's surface), ainsi que trois nouvelles oeuvres réalisées en aluminium en 2006, dont deux « colonnes » en spirale (Conceptual forms : 004 et 005) et une forme très effilée s'étirant à la verticale (Conceptual form 006). Ces formes conceptuelles en trois dimensions sont issues de formules mathématiques développées à l'ordinateur. Elles matérialisent le résultat d'une écriture scientifique et s'inscrivent dans une démarche de recherche pragmatique. Dans un jeu de comparaison entre l'art et la science, cette installation permet de confronter l'oeuvre de Sugimoto à celle de Brancusi, qui relève quant à elle entièrement d'une volonté artistique (Centre Pompidou)

(Contemporary Art)

The Seascape Series of Hiroshi Sugimoto

Hirshhorn Museum at Washington DC - Hiroshi Sugimoto - Seascape Series - Gelatin Silver Print

Water and air: the beginnings of life are shrouded in myth (Hiroshi Sugimoto)

Caribbean Sea, Ligurian Sea, Baltic Sea... Jamaica, Saviore, Rügen... photos made in 1980, 1982, 1996...

Living phenomena spontaneously generated from water and air in the presence of light, though that could just as easily suggest random coincidence as a Deity (Hiroshi Sugimoto)

Hiroshi Sugimoto was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. In 1970, Sugimoto studied politics and sociology at St. Paul’s University in Tokyo. Later, he retrained as an artist and received his BFA in Fine Arts at the Art Center College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, CA, two years later in 1972. Afterward, Sugimoto settled in New York City (Wikipedia).

That photograph is what I liked mostly. As I was recording, there was a young Japanese lady who was staying in front of this blurred image. She was having a great expression of amazed veneration as she was contemplating the photo. I would have liked to capture her expression in my video; I was afraid she would have felt uncomfortable with my intrusion. So I kept her expression in my memory.

Sugimoto has spoken of his work as an expression of time exposed, or photographs serving as a time capsule for a series of events in time. His work also focuses on transience of life, and the conflict between life and death (Wikipedia).

(Hirshhorn Museum)

(Contemporary Art)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hopper at Hirshhorn

Edward Hopper - First Row Orchestra, 1951
oil on canvas

They say Hopper depicts the loneliness in a crowd, the loneliness in a couple. Actually he depicts a universe. He's looking inside it, inside this universe: sometimes he discovers the loneliness there. He renders us this loneliness with discretion. But... he does not force things. He looks slowly inside this universe. Sometimes he finds there loneliness. He is patient, waiting.

Look at this painting... It is good that I posted first the painting of Kuhn, The Tragic Comedians. Hopper and Kuhn tell us the same truth: our life is a tragic comedy and we realize it sometimes.

Close Up

(Hirshhorn Museum)



Walt Kuhn at Hirshhorn

Walt Kuhn - The Tragic Comedians, c. 1918
oil on canvas

Here We Are!

(Hirshhorn Museum)

Ed Ruscha: Where Photorealism and Minimalism Meet in Elegance

Ed Ruscha - ACE, 1962
oil on canvas
Hirshhorn Museum, Washington

Ed Ruscha - Five Past Eleven, 1989
oil on canvas
Hirshhorn Museum, Washington

Look also at these two photographs, aren't they amazing?

Ed Ruscha - Gas Station
gelatin silver print
Galerie Trabant, Vienna

Ed Ruscha, Pool
9 ektacolor prints
Galerie Trabant, Vienna

(Hirshhorn Museum)

(Contemporary Art)


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Five Greatest Books according to Ferguson

Niall Ferguson is a historian who challenges history mainstream. His point is that in WWI the guilty was not Germany. What would have happened if events were to develop differently in 1914? His answer: Europe would have not known either Communism or Fascism. His best-known book, The War of the World, tries to follow some scenarios: what if Great Britain had stayed out of the First War World? Would the conflict have remained local? Would the outcome have been quick and very limited?

Well, one should read the book to see his arguments.

Niall Ferguson gave in today's Newsweek his top list of books and authors:

  1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: the book that, more than any other, persuaded him to be a historian (splendid way to understand your love for a book)
  2. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon: the greatest achievement of historical writing; the irony of Gibbon's prose is the literary equivalent of Turkish Delight (as a Romanian I would say that the comparison is double-edged - two different languages lead sometimes to huge differences of meaning for the same word)
  3. Diaries by Viktor Klemperer: a unique view of the Third Reich and Holocaust from the view of a German-Jewish academic (I think that Niall Ferguson views the Holocaust very much the way Zygmunt Bauman does - not a temporary regression of civilization; rather the outcome of a modern perfect organized society)
  4. Gold and Iron by Fritz Stern: a masterpiece of scholarship; it sheds light on the relationship between Bismarck and his banker (let's note here Mr. Ferguson's focus on economy and finances as essential dimensions for history)
  5. At Swim-Two Birds by Flann O'Brien: the book that has made him laugh the most.

(A Life in Books)

(Zygmunt Bauman)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Obama is Touring the MidEast

Discussing with General Petraeus

Arriving at Amman

Zoon Politikon)


Monday, July 21, 2008


A woman standing immobile, with the back to the camera. Perfectly motionless. You cannot see anything from her but the silhouette. She's contemplating the continuous motion of the river. Water moving slowly, detritus floating, sometimes metallic junk, of various shapes and sizes, something white comes and goes, now and then, ice, or maybe chemical debris, birds flying over the water. Flow of the river, fabric of life.

For Kimsooja, artist's practices are similar to that of Buddhist monks in the sense that they both try to liberate and go beyond themselves.

Because the woman standing still on the screen, perfectly anonymous, her back to us, is actually she, Kimsooja, the author of this movie.

A movie that does not belong to Performing Arts. It is not a Performing piece: it is a Performance artwork. The difference is subtle: she did not perform in order to create the movie; on the contrary, she created the movie in order to perform in front of us each time.

She is staying there, motionless, contemplating the river, till she feels that the river becomes immobile and she is moving.

For us, to understand the flow of the river, a referential is needed. She, the motionless woman, anonymous, rear to us, she is the referential. As we are watching, we realize more and more that she is there as anyone of us. That's why she has to remain anonymous, she is only a reference point for us; and we enter the trance, her trance, till we are starting to feel that the river becomes immobile and we are moving.

In that moment the temporal has disappeared; it remains the eternal: no past, no future, only a continuous flow, flow of the Cosmos, fabric of Cosmos, and we become part of it.

I am thinking now at the movies of Satyajit Ray: his Apu Trilogy, perhaps the greatest cinematic artwork ever: the conflict between cosmos and history, between eternity and temporal.

A Laundry Woman, Yamuna River, Delhi, the 10 minutes movie of Kimsooja: there is no beginning, no end, no good, no bad, no past, no future, only a continuous moment, flowing unaware of us, till we become part of it, till we flow and it remains motionless, stillness and motion no more distinct.

So, she is - as Buddhist monks should be - a mediator, to make us realize where the temporal becomes senseless.

The approach isn't new: art critics have noted the similarity with the Rückenfigur from the paintings of the Romanticist Caspar David Friedrich. Well, Friedrich used as referentials not only humans - sometimes a solitary tree, sometimes the ruines of a church - but the approach is the same (look at the presentation attached at the end of this post). And the similarity is striking if we look at his most famous canvas, Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer (The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog).
And we can go further back in the art history, to the Sprecher character from Medieval paintings: only here, in the movie of Kimsooja, the Sprecher is silent.

(Hirshhorn Museum)

(Contemporary Art)


(Caspar David Friedrich)

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Carpool Pub in Ballston

Ballston neighborhood in Arlington County, Northern Virginia. Pretty close to Virginia Square.

It used to be a carpool garage. It was converted into a pub. They kept the gas pumps at the entrance and all kind of auto stuff inside.

Beer and billiard, and always crowded. I think at my old friend from Bucharest, Radu - he would be fine here. This video is devoted to him.

Here are some more images:

(Virginia Square)


Rosslyn - Alexandria Trail

(Washington, District of Columbia)