Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pina Bausch 1940-2009

In the early 1980's a coach, destination Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal left the Leidseplein in Amsterdam. On the bus modern dance lovers and prominent figures of the arts in the Netherlands. Among them Benno Premsela, the godfather of Dutch Design, his partner Friso Broeksma, and Arthur van Schendel, the founder of AUB UitBuro. I remember these gentlemen so well, because I got to sit right beside them in the first row of the theater. A great place to watch the ripple of every muscle, catch every spray of sweat, and hear the rhythmic panting of the dancers who performed in Café Müller.

Bewildered by the brutality of movement on the dance floor, seeing a female dancer climb back into the arms of her partner to be dropped on the floor, over and over again, I felt the assault. And slight embarrassment. Seated between an older and more seasoned audience I was struck by the notion that those around me as well were stunned— or mesmerized.

The lack of costumes —the dancers appeared to be wearing street clothes— drove the forceful, obsessive or neurotic behavior of the "players" home with more force than stylized costumes could have done.

In memory of the great innovative German choreographer Pina Bausch I'm watching a few videos on YouTube, intermittently writing a word, a sentence or two. Sitting through the stylized domestic violence pays off, Bausch herself speaks and then performs in the video posted by Malou Airado.

Seeing Bausch —the aged Pre-Raphaelite with the chiseled features, the pale skin and long hair— will the limbs of her achingly thin body in movements that are part of her very own vocabulary in Café Müller, is an extraordinary experience.

Remember Me, from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, which Bausch chose for this 1978 piece is a touching and appropriate song to listen to on the day of her death.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Not Your Average Baker's Dozen: Thirteen American/Asian Artists Visualize Their Stories

Last year the five dedicated curators of the ArtXchange Gallery sent a call out for artists whose work exemplified the theme of Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Out of hundreds of responses thirteen artists were chosen.The words American/Asian seem to jump at you, off the windowpane, as a newfangled combination. Yet in the Arts as created in the Pacific Northwest it is not.

At a recent gathering of Asian American writers, poets and artists at Elliott Bay Books, Art Historian Kazuko Nakane stated: "Unlike Asian American artists in different regions, who introduced Asian aesthetics to the United States, Asian American artists here developed their own American art, or should I say, the aesthetic of the Northwest, and some of them bridged the art of East and West. The Asian American artists of the Northwest were not marginalized but equally prominent as other Northwest artists of their time from the turn of the century, which is unique to this region."

Taking these words in account, it seems the groundwork was done for the artists showing at the ArtXchange Gallery. Yet, growing up in the aftermath of World War II, younger generations have a different situation to grapple with than their elders, and newcomers land in a culture already affected by sensibilities and esthetics of "new" Americans.

Rather than being mere exponents of the melting pot of yore, the artists of "New Cultures" stand for a freshly steeped infusion of the East and West. Their work a reminder of ancient and modern history, forged by great intent and new media.

At first glance Jonathan Wakuda Fischer's Great Wave looks familiar, traditional even, but his layered paintings are far from that. Combining old and new methods, he honors past and present. Deborah Kapoor changes the visible in her search for a visual language that connects cultures.
MalPina Chan delves from a literal paper trail to deliver a visual narrative in familiar collages. Barry Wong's reverent photography is an ode to his heritage. Dean Wong is the photographic chronicler of the International District. Frederic Wong, inspired by the Daoist notion of "non-action" provides the media, and then lets nature take its course. Tenzin Mingyur Paldron hopes that her 2008 documentary "Q&A: Ramifications of Identity" opens up discussions about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer Asian Pacific Islanders.

Where language and image is already interwoven from the first brush stroke, Hiroshima-born Chiyo Sanada adds experimental gestures to traditional Japanese & Chinese calligraphic imagery. Conceptual artist June Sekiguchi explores otherness and connectedness, familiarity and the unknown, and the beauty of it all. Arun Sharma exposes his Chinese Australian wife to hundreds of rotating floral images from Western works of art. The effect of his, "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let the hundred schools of thought contend …" (from Mao's 100 Flowers Campaign), is a mesmerizing lightshow. On another plane his fractured teacups allow room for thought.

The meditative quality in William Song's paintings expresses what making art means to him. In Joseph Songco's photos of Pike Place Market, Asian American farmers look almost timeless; generations in pursuit of the American Dream. Judy Shintani's Remembrance Shrine is the gift that keeps on giving. By inviting visitors to add their own memories or dedications to the shrine, it becomes more than personal; remembering together creates community. Her work is (as she herself states) "polite, very Japanese". Still, underneath black pebbles in her installation "The Quiet American Hero" one suspects a silent scream.

Come to the closing reception June 27th and you can participate from 1-3 p.m. in a free hands-on workshop Shintani presents in conjunction with Legacies of War, about "Remembrance Art". The resulting object d'art will become part of Legacies of War's traveling exhibit.

"American/Asian: A Tale of New Cultures" is on view through June 27.
At the ArtXchange Gallery, 512 First Ave S, Seattle.
Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
For more information call (206) 839-0377 or visit www.artxchange.org and www.legaciesofwar.org

Due to error this article did not appear in the International Examiner print issue of 6/17, it is archived on the website

IE Contributor Judith van Praag is a bilingual Dutch writer, author and artist. She lives in Seattle with her husband Gary and their pooch Mocha www.dutchessabroad.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sense of Smell Recovery - Peace of Mind

Last year May I discovered my sense of smell was gone. A month long battle with a virus I picked up shaking hands with the Washington State Poet Laureate Sam Green ended with total alienation from the world the way I'd known it before. "My nose is an empty house," I wrote, "Totally defunct of any smell."
Slowly and not steadily at all, a bit of sensory experience comes back to me. Little by little I've found my way around not smelling. Burned toast, blasting fire alarms, fastidious cleansing of refrigerator shelves and drawers and still, yes unbelievable but true, still cooking up a pretty good meal. My sense of smell gone, I, the one who could tell you what was in a dish by smelling and tasting am flying by the seat of my pants. A dash of this, a dash of that, never too much, just right and yes, more than edible, tasty, as always my sweetheart and friends assure me.
As for the roses, faintly, ever so faintly I detect a sullen perfume, a hint, no more and if I didn't have my nose burried between the petals, if you just let me smell with my eyes closed, I doubt I would smell anything, but with my eyes wide open, taking in the subtle hues of buttery yellow and shocking reddish pink, I know: A rose, is a rose, is a rose, no matter how faint the perfume.

Art Contest Joan Miró Foundation Mallorca

Visitors of the Baleares know that these isles off the Spanish shore have more to offer than just sandy beaches. Hippies loved Formentera and Ibiza but I've been more interested in Mallorca, the cradle of many different cultures.

That those early visitors left their mark becomes apparent when you stroll through the island's capital, Palma. The first time I did, a good 30 years ago, I was so taken by what I saw, I promised myself I'd come back often. Which I did. But now it's been too long, and there are plenty of reasons to plan another trip to Mallorca.

Throughout the ages artists have landed on this large isle, which is only a boat ride (and these days a short flight) from Barcelona. Frederic Chopin and George Sand stayed one winter at the Carthusian monastery of Valldimossa. And in the last century locals saw creatives such as Robert Graves, Joan Miró and Mati Klarwein arrive to make their home in the hills, mountains and valleys of the largest isle of the Baleares archipelago.

An added attraction is the possibility to visit the Cultural Centre in Palma, created around the studios of the admired Catalan sculptor, painter, print-maker, and more, in other words the most versatile Joan Miró.

Two years before his death, Miró (1893-1983) bequeathed his four studios among which Son Boter and the surrounding garden near Palma de Mallorca as well as his work to Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró a Mallorca with the intention to protect his property from the destructive force of project developers.

In 1958 Miró won the International Guggenheim Award, which allowed him to buy Son Boter a 17th-Century country house near Palma opposite the house he and his wife Pilar already occupied. Initially his intend was to use Son Boter as a sculpture studio, but eventually this space became the place where he worked on large size paintings. His charcoal sketches can still be seen on the interior walls. Other buildings on the lot contained the lithograph and etching print-shops.

Five years after the Fundació was started and three years after Miró's death, his widow Pilar Juncosa, realizing that the organization needed more space, announced that the grounds of Son Boter, the other studios and the surrounding garden were the perfect place. She gifted the Fundació with 39 gouaches and three oil paintings by Miró to be auctioned by Sotheby. The money from the auction would be used to create a new space and run the organization. Architect Rafael Moneo (who would go on to win the 1996 Pritzker Prize) was hired to design the building that would hold the headquarters of the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró a Mallorca.

The complex exists of the original studios of Miró among which the painting studio designed by Joseph Louis Sert, workshop, and exhibition spaces, a library , a gift shop, an auditorium and an (avant-garde) art-installation space. The Cultural Centre is a place for artists to create, meet and exchange ideas, as well as a residency for writers, visual and performing artists. A place where Mirós philosophy on the arts is carried out. Since the opening in 1992 the grounds and buildings are open to the public to visit or take courses.

De museum collection of the Fundación exists of work by Joan Miró.
Since 2007 the Fundació invites artists to enter yearly and bi-yearly contests.
The work of the prize winners becomes property of the Fundació and will be exhibited at the Cultural Centre in Palma.

Artists who see fit to come up with a proposal for an on-location garden project before August 31st are invited to enter the Pilar Juncosa & Sotheby Award contest.
In 2007 Susan Philipsz from Glasgow became the very first winner of this Award with her sound installation: "More Than This".
The First (and only) Prize amounts to €30,000 of which 10 thousand is meant as honorarium, the remaining 20 thou for execution and other expences.

For more information see pages 24 - 34 of the pdf on the Website
(click on 2/06/2009).

For more information on Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró a Mallorca see the comprehensive Website.
As for IRL visits, keep in mind that the lines may be long, so plan to be there early!

The above is a slightly different version of the original Dutch text published one day ago at Cultureel Persbureau

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Linkin Park's Brad Delson has got more to say than Golden Globe winner James Franco

The actor James "Gucci Face" Franco is so busy with a new film, that he's let go of the opportunity to present the commencement address at his Alma Mater UCLA. At least that's what we are made to believe.

Apparently a group of UCLA students argued that someone that close to their own age, and a one-time fellow student can't have anything worthwhile to share with them. After all, Franco was a drop-out, who only after his successes in the film bizz went back to school to get a degree in Creative Writing.

Franco, who received a Golden Globe Award for best actor as the lead man in Mark Rydell's Bio Tv-film James Dean, can also be seen in Milk. Earlier he became known for his role as Harry Osborn in Spider-Man films.

Some of those fellow students gathered on FaceBook to spew their dismay.
UCLA Students Against James Franco as Commencement Speaker has 646 leden. But that doesn't mean all of the 646 were against Franco's appearance as speaker at UCLA. After all, in order to post (pro or con) on The Wall of a FaceBook group you have to become a member.

The mouth piece of the Bruins expresses his appreciation of Franco as an actor, but stresses that a peer doesn't have enough experience to share, if only because most Bruins are not aiming at an acting career.

The founder of the contra opposition group Students Against UCLA Students Against James Franco as Commencement Speaker (149 leden) thinks it's all a bunch of nonsense: "Those UCLA students should show more respect for the arts, and not be so pretentious about it."

And now, who are the Bruins to listen to? Instead of James Franco, Brad Delson lead singer and guitarist of Linkin Park will now be the one to present the commencement speech.

Is BigBadBrad a better choice?
Kelly DiProspero, founder of another FaceBook group "People Against UCLA Students Against James Franco" doesn't think so. She writes, "Really? The lead guitarist from Linkin Park would be a better speaker at your graduation than James Franco?"
Capitalizing her words, she virtually yells, "REALLY!?!?!?!?"

The members of the contra opposition group think the whole thing is based on envy.

This article was published earlier today at the Dutch het Cultureel Persbureau