intraspace: the review lounge

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


insights: new zealand artists talk about creativity, by gareth shute

blimin' gareth shute! first of all he keeps on writing books that i'm interested in. then when you read them, they engage their subject on a reasonably simple level, but you end up engrossed and not only that but inspired to go out and try what ever his subject was.

he did this to me with 'hiphop music in aotearoa' (which won a montana book award). i read that and, although i'm not a hiphop fanatic, i found myself wanting to go out and create hiphop, or at least some kind of music.

with his latest book, he hit me a lot closer to home. 'insights' features 52 new zealand artists from across all disciplines - including writing, painting, photography, music, dance (hey, i just realised, no architects or fashion designers). each artist talks about their process of creativity. when you are interested in creativity, all this reading about different people's creative processes drives you wild with passion! i felt like an alcoholic outside a pub (except i'm sure being addicted to creativity isn't so much of a vice).

what makes the book even more interesting is the fact that it is based in new zealand - another thing that i'm pretty keen on.

so, i'd have to say highly recommended. the book reveals the depth and breadth of new zealand art, and describes a scene where artists are creating innovative and interesting work despite limited resources. another thing that comes out is the variation in creative processes - each process is unique to the individual - no patterns or formulas are obvious.

well worth owning and reading.

on the stereo: 'live with me (alternate version)' by massive attack, from the live with me single.

warandpeace-o-meter: 553/981 (volII, bookX, chapI)

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Monday, May 21, 2007

get a life

get a life, by dupuy and berberian

with a hour to kill while i waited for my tyre to be replaced and wheels aligned, i wandered into town to visit the library. they're renovating the library at the moment and that day the entire non-fiction floor was closed. this meant i had to browse the fiction section instead of the usual art and design sections. fortunately, the fiction section contains a small but rather well-maintained graphic novel shelf. so i ended up leaving the library with two new graphic novels and a book of truman capote's short stories (reviews to come...)

the next day, having decided to take a morning off church, i got some extra sleep and launched into one of the two graphic novels - 'get a life' by french illustrator/authors dupuy and berberian.

i have two basic criteria for selecting graphic novels: 1. drawing style and 2. not too much moral debauchery. this one seemed to fit the bill - especially on the drawing style criteria. dupuy and berberian use a classic french style that reminds me of certain books i read as a kid - one was called 'dustman dan' or 'dan the dustman' or something.

anyway, this is the first time i have come across the work of dupuy and berberian, but apparently they are quite well known. 'get a life' is a compilation of shorter stories about their character monsieur jean - a moderately successful author who is on the cusp of turning 30. according to the introduction, monsieur jean is how dupuy and berberian work out their own angst at having to grow up and take responsibility.

jean's existence is seinfeld-like, but the stories are told with french je ne sais crois. despite the trials of everyday life (insomnia, a dragon landlandy or rather concierge, past girlfriends, current girlfriends, annoying old friends and book signings), jean manages to stumble through life in quite a charming way that stops him from looking pathetic and ends in a nice little happy ending.


warandpeace-o-meter: 553/981 (volII, bookX, chapI)

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joyeux noël

joyeux noël, directed by christian carion

this is one of the best films i've seen this year - a bit of a tear-jerker but with edge and substance.

the story is based on the fraternisations that took place during WW1 between enemy troops on the front line. this is a fictionalised account of german, french and scottish troops coming together to celebrate christmas eve, thanks largely to a german tenor who sings 'silent night'. that may sound a little cheesy - but the juxtapositions between the hostility and violence of the front with the human kindness that eventuates is stunning. the film is beautifully shot and acted. one of the great things is that germans speak german, french speak french and scots speak english, which makes it more believeable and helps to immerse you in the realism of the film.

highly recommended.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

modern art and the death of a culture

modern art and the death of a culture, by h.r. rookmaaker

looking on the title page of my copy of this book, i see i have dated it 1998 - which means that it's taken me almost 10 years to get around to reading it. the daunting and critical-sounding title made me wonder if i wanted to. i'm glad i did.

the field of christianity and the arts is beginning to grow these days (both academically and in practice), but 30 years ago most christians didn't want to touch modern art with a ten-foot barge pole. into that gap stepped francis schaeffer and his friend hans rookmaaker (a jazz critic and art historian). 'modern art and the death of a culture' was rookmaaker's major work in this area, and the lack of other writing by christians on this subject at the time makes his book a seminal masterpiece.

the book was published in 1970, just as modern art was climaxing - by that year, virtually everything that you could do in art (barring technilogical developments) had been done. this of course included some extreme and freaky work, but even at the less extreme end, people (especially the majority of christians) found contemporary art to be distasteful and abhorrent - many of them were still 'coming to terms' with modern art that had come out in 1910 (some of them still are).

rookmaaker's masterstroke was engaging with the art world rather than condemning it. in this book he heavily critiques modern art, but he mines out what he believes is essentially at the heart of the apparent destructiveness of it - a sense of loss and despair. and again, rather than condemning this fact, rookmaaker examines that this is the natural result of the process of humanism and the enlightenment. and so, he says, modern art accurately represents where western society has come to as a result of the enlightenment framework. he doesn't dislike modern art at all - he simply wants it to have more hope and beauty.

he argues that bourgeois niceness is not the answer - it is equally as bad, if not worse, than the negative elements of modern art. instead he challenges christians to meet the modern world where it is, and offer alternatives.

there is so much in this book, that i couldn't possibly summarise it all here - in fact what i have just written is really only my take on what rookmaaker is saying.

for me, what i found interesting was examining rookmaaker's predictions about the future as he saw it in 1970. i'm not an expert in this, but i think some of rookmaaker's predictions have come true, and on the other hand, i feel that the art world has stepped back from the precipice it was on the edge of in 1970. the main reason is that there is nothingness over the edge. and so the art world has struck camp 100 metres or so from the edge, and stretches back from there. if this is true, then we can see what modern art accomplished as being a true revolution, complete with violence and harm but in the end creating significant freedom.

the other great thing about the book is the challenge it lays down for christians - the challenge, as i have said, not to retreat into bourgeois niceness but to get out there and engage. i believe there is now a definite christian arts movement under way - i can see it gathering momentum even since the late 90s when i was at university - and i think rookmaaker would have approved. but his challenge still rings true and relevant.

for it's on-going relevancy and its historical importance, i think 'modern art and the death of a culture' should forever remain a crucial text in the tradition of christian cultural study and practice.

highly recommended.

on the headphones: 'attack el robot! attack!' by calexico, from the album 'feast of wire'.

warandpeace-o-meter: 553/981 (volII, bookX, chapI)

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