Contemporaneous Extension


Nerd Alert!

I found an interview with Jorge Luis Borges from 1966 on a list of the best interviews from the Paris Review. It was so incredibly thorough, boasting his knowledge of authors and his understanding of his own work. He talks candidly about his growth as a writer, and I found several passages particularly poignant.

“When I was a young man I was always hunting for new metaphors. Then I found out that really good metaphors are always the same. I mean you compare time to a road, death to sleeping, life to dreaming, and those are the great metaphors in literature because they correspond to something essential. If you invent metaphors, they are apt to be surprising during the fraction of a second, but they strike no deep emotion whatever. If you think of life as a dream, that is a thought, a thought that is real, or at least that most men are bound to have, no? ‘What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.’ I think that’s better than the idea of shocking people, than finding connections between things that have never been connected before, because there is no real connection, so the whole thing is a kind of juggling.”

“I think that Mark Twain was one of the really great writers, but I think he was rather unaware of the fact. But perhaps in order to write a really great book, you must be rather unaware of the fact. You can slave away at it and change every adjective to some other adjective, but perhaps you can write better if you leave the mistakes. I remember what Bernard Shaw said, that as to style, a writer has as much style as his conviction will give him and not more. Shaw thought that the idea of a game of style was quite nonsensical, quite meaningless. He thought of Bunyan, for example, as a great writer because he was convinced of what he was saying. If a writer disbelieves what he is writing, then he can hardly expect his readers to believe it. In this country, though, there is a tendency to regard any kind of writing—especially the writing of poetry—as a game of style. I have known many poets here who have written well—very fine stuff—with delicate moods and so on—but if you talk with them, the only thing they tell you is smutty stories or they speak of politics in the way that everybody does, so that really their writing turns out to be kind of sideshow. They had learned writing in the way that a man might learn to play chess or to play bridge. They were not really poets or writers at all. It was a trick they had learned, and they had learned it thoroughly. They had the whole thing at their finger ends. But most of them—except four or five, I should say—seemed to think of life as having nothing poetic or mysterious about it. They take things for granted. They know that when they have to write, then, well, they have to suddenly become rather sad or ironic.”

“He [a writer] should be judged by the enjoyment he gives and by the emotions one gets. As to ideas, after all it is not very important whether a writer has some political opinion or other because a work will come through despite them, as in the case of Kipling’s Kim. Suppose you consider the idea of the empire of the English—well, in Kim I think the characters one really is fond of are not the English, but many of the Indians, the Mussulmans. I think they’re nicer people. And that’s because he thought them—No! No! Not because he thought them nicer—because he felt them nicer.”

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I unfortunately had to miss this panel at Christie’s last week, entitled ‘A Second Look at the Future of Arts Journalism.’ It is a great insight into the technicalities of arts journalism from several perspectives. Eric Gibson, the editor of Leisure and Art at WSJ, was the first participant.  Although you could smell his pessimism toward Twitter and the “digeratti,” he stressed the importance of acknowledging and finding a place for such delivery methods. He claimed to employ approximately 99% freelancers and discussed the glory of variety. Lindsay Pollock, the newly appointed editor-in-chief of Art in America, contributed her opinion on the state of publications and their necessary evolution. She discussed her history as a blogger with freelance opportunities at Bloomberg and the NY Sun, and stressed the importance of entrepreneurial agility. Lastly, Dennis Scholl from the Knight Foundation spoke at length about the Foundation’s new initiative to launch arts journalism funding in smaller cities like Akron and St. Paul. His advice, which was echoed by Blake Gopnik from the Washington Post in the audience, was to be nauseously aware of your audience. Gopnik brought up a great juxtaposition between writing about art and writing about art controversy/drama, and found his readers responded to the former while colleagues were tickled by the latter. It isn’t about simplification or reduction, but rather about engaging the grander frame of readers. Sree Sreenivasan, the moderator and Dean of Student Affairs at Columbia’s Journalism School, closed with two necessities in the current state of arts journalism: specialization and digital skills.

“We’re in the middle of the soup right now…ignore your audience at your own peril.” -Scholl

You can find the lecture streaming here, courtesy of Christie’s.

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I’ve been looking into Elad Lassry’s work a bit lately as a confrontation of storytelling tactics in photography. I saw the show Luhring Augustine had up of his last year and was thoroughly…puzzled. An interview/studio visit in FlashArt gave me a grain of insight into his thought process. I enjoy the contradictions he presents in manipulating compositions that reference a story or memory that doesn’t necessarily exist. He explains that he addresses many contradictions in photography, most notably for me imitation vs. truth, and idea vs. content. His work oddly enough stirs up thoughts of a three-some: something that looks good, sounds good, but doesn’t really make sense in terms of logistics or how to proceed afterward. Check out the interview here.

Elad Lassry. 'British Shorthair Tortie,' 2010, C-print with painted frame. Edition of 5 and 2 artist's proofs, 14 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches

Elad Lassry.'British Shorthair Tortie,' 2010, C-print with painted frame. Edition of 5 and 2 artist's proofs, 14 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches

Elad Lassry, 'Candles,' 2010, C-print with painted frame. Edition of 5 and 2 artist's proofs, 14 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches

Elad Lassry, 'Candles,' 2010, C-print with painted frame. Edition of 5 and 2 artist's proofs, 14 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches

Elad Lassry, 'Geoff,' 2010, C-print with painted frame. Edition of 5 and 2 artist's proofs, 14 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches

Elad Lassry, G'eoff,' 2010, C-print with painted frame. Edition of 5 and 2 artist's proofs, 14 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches

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This is a great look into Ansel Adam’s process and genius when it came to manual photography. His son, Michael, leads the viewer through charts, rare prints, and some history. For those not too familiar with the darkroom, we get an insight into vertical developing, dodging, and the mechanics of the actual space. Whodathunk that Ansel Adams put his prints in the microwave to dry them?

Ansel Adams, 'Moonlight, Hernandez, New Mexico,' 1941

Ansel Adams, 'Moonlight, Hernandez, New Mexico,' 1941

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