Monthly Archives: June 2010

Quote of the Day: Confucious

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.


Quote of the day

Quote of the Day:

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
— credit to Andy McIntyre and Derek Bok

Stretch of the month

Courtesy of New York City ballet teacher Kat Wildish.  


Kat Wildish

ArtSlant Journalist Calvin Phelps Reports on the Cenorship Of Kaucyila Brooke in Bucharest

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Brooke’s “Tit for Twat” Not At The Bucharest Biennial

by Calvin Phelps

My self-conception as a curator along with my self-conception as an actor in today’s society is based on an active role in analyzing and critically questioning what the socio-political is and how it can be changed. I am sure that art exhibitions can play an active role in intervening in and making visible processes in the socio-political.

– Felix Vogel from a conversation with Markus Miessen (July 2008)

Until November 14, 1996, Romania’s Article 200 stated that sexual relations between persons of the same sex were “punishable by a prison term between one and 5 years.” Public displays of homosexuality were still illegal until the complete repeal of Article 200 in June 2001. Remarkably, in 2006 the Human Rights Watch commended Romania in its “exemplary progress” in gay rights. This was due in large part on Romania’s wish to comply with EU regulations. But, how far can we realistically expect a virulently Orthodox society to advance in less than a decade? Not very far, it seems.

Last month, Los Angeles artist Kaucyila Brooke was invited to participate in Bucharest Biennale 4 (BB4) by curator Felix Vogel. On May 20th, her on-going project Tit for Twat: Can we Talk? was scheduled to open at one of the Biennale’s offsite venues, the National Geology Museum. As the work is a re-telling of the creation myth – a story of Madam and Eve, specifically – the venue seemed an interesting enough fit. And though the work does depict lesbian and interracial sexuality, it was by no means erotic.

Details are not forthcoming from the Museum, but what has been reported is that as the work was being installed, Marcel Maruntiu, the director of the museum, having become aware of the work’s content, insisted that the work be removed. In a statement issued by BB4, the museum sited the “presence of pornography.” According to an AFP newswire, Maruntiu went on to state, “With all my esteem for artists and their means of expression, we must make a distinction between censorship and matching works on display with the purpose of a location.” His reasoning was that the work would be inappropriate for children who constitute 80 percent of the museum’s attendance. An alternative to the removal was not offered by the National Geology Museum.

It is incumbent upon progressive institutions and their leaders to defend the right of the artists to free speech. To that end, statements of support have been issued by a number of Brooke’s professional colleagues including Stella Rollig, Director of Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz; Matthias Michalka, Curator of Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien; Bettina Steinbrügge, Co-curator of Forum Expanded/Berlin International Film Festival and Associate Curator of La Kunsthalle, Mulhouse; David Joselit, Carnegie Professor of Art History at Yale University; Catherine Lord, Professor, Department of Studio Art, University of California, Irvine; David Bunn, Artist, Visiting Faculty, California Institute of the Arts, University of Southern California; Ellen Birrell, Artist, Publisher and Editor, X-TRA, a Quarterly Journal of the Arts; Julia Schäfer, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Leipzig, Germany.

Kaucyila 1

Who has become eerily silent are the curator Mr. Vogel, and the co-directors of BB4, Razvan Ion and Eugen Radescuof. According to Brooke’s publicist Tracey Paleo, at the urging of an American Embassy liaison a press release was eventually issued by BB4 that said, in part, “As the team of the Bucharest Biennale we will stand for the freedom of speech and the freedom of the arts and we will speak our position loud and clear any time the situation will require this.” But since then, no other public statement or support has been made.

Could a compromise have been reached? If it’s true that the director was only trying to shield young eyes from what could have been misconstrued imagery, tthen could he have ordered a guard to warn the unsuspecting public of the works content?

During the days of Jesse Helms – and more notably, the days of the “Velvet Revolution”, cultural theorist Carol Becker wrote extensively on the rights, roles and responsibilities of artists in society. She argued against the idealization of the romantic freedom of the artist. Artists (and curators), she felt, needed to be aware that their work may elicit negative responses; and, while that is no reason to NOT make the work, the art world must be prepared to react to any negative response and intelligently defend the work. It was due to his societal engagement that censored playwright and human rights activist Vaclav Havel was elected President of Czechoslovakia in 1990. Becker would argue that more than pointing out cases of censorship is required of us.

Kaucyila 2

Kaucyila Brooke, Ken Ehrlich and Glenn Phillips will be discussing issues related to identity, power structures, censorship, and how these relate to larger narratives about social space. The Big City Forum takes place on Thursday, June 24th 2010 at 7:00 p.m. at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, 5750 Wilshire Blvd. #100, Los Angeles, CA 90036.
— Calvin Phelps
Images: Kaucyila Brooke, Tit for Twat, 1993 – ongoing, Photo montage, Courtesy Andersen’s Contemporary, Copenhagen, Denmark

Posted by Calvin Phelps on 6/14

Abby Sunderland – More than a survivor.

Abby Sunderland - More Than A Survivor

Been reading all of the stories and latest news on the rescue of Abby Sunderland.  But what really strikes me most is all of the commentary about her parents “allowing” her to sail around the world alone portrayed as something worse than child abuse.  And how she is a teenager and should not be “allowed” to do such at thing.

Ok, well, I am not saying it is not a dangerous enterprise.  However, things could be worse.  She could be having underage sex, getting pregnant and getting on welfare.  She could be a rebellious high schooler hell bent on doing drugs and who knows what other kinds of petty crimes.  She could be apathetic about life in general…and well look where that’s gotten most of America.  I mean, I guess everyone has already forgotten about the Financial Crisis and how banks, corporations and government just stole America right out from under us with neary a complaint.  She could not be rebellious at all – and frankly that would be downright abnormal.  I mean, it’s kind of your job to not do what your parents say at some point.  Test boundries that kind of thing.  Anyone who tells you differently is all about control, which most parents from every century gone by, today and most likely well in to the end of time will be.  Believe me, I know.  I have a few friends whose parents are still controlling their lives at 40.  Pathetic.

The truth is, she was experienced, knowledgable, courageous, tough and willing to take the risk.  And what’s more–her parents agreed.  But of course — we are being led to believe according to many articles that her parents didn’t know better.  They are bad parents.  They don’t know there child as well as the court system. 

So, strangers must know better? 

Who knows better than Abby herself. 

Yes, she is lucky to have been found and to have survived.  Yes, in retrospect she may say someday to her own children that perhaps it wasn’t the wisest decision she could have made.

But oh, what a thrill it was to have taken the risk on something she could have only fantasized about for life and never attempted.  I think that would have been sadder. Perhaps even more psychologically detrimental in the long run.  There are so many people who never follow their dreams.  Angry, sad, unfulfilled and a great deal of the time taking it out on everyone else.

Brava Abby.  Glad you did it.  Glad you are still with us. What an achievement!

Dance Review: Don Quixote at American Ballet Theatre

By Carlos Stafford, the Model Reviewer
Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel headed up the sterling cast for ABT’s 2010 Spring/Summer productionof  Don Q, and the adventures  of the knight of the woeful countenance. What an unforgettable night it was. As Kitri and Basillio, the two sparkled throughout the evening’s performance I saw.  Murphy, a great talent, with incredible available technique, projected her character’s necessary strength, sharp footwork, and precision  Sometimes a cool persona, Murphy used the blazing choreography to her advantage, and smoldered.
Ethan Stiefel, as Basillio, has always been astonishing.  He has a rare facility of sharp power and speed, and combines it all with a confident ease. Add to that stage presence, humor, and incredible bravura dancing, and he becomes a pleasure to watch; he owns the stage.
This venerable version of Don Q has deep roots in the history of ballet, and comes to us from the Imperial Russian Ballet, first performed in 1869, to the choreography of Marius Petipa.  It is no doubt the same ballet, but one can imagine the changes that may have taken place throughout its’ evolution in Italy, France, Denmark, England and America. Nonetheless, the ballet has the unmistakable
stamp of other master works by Petipa and his era–Swan Lake, La Bayadere, and Giselle; lush music created especially for the ballet; dream sequences with large corps of female dancers appearing in gauzy white; lovers finally united in this life or in death. This was Grand Ballet! Here, the beautiful, energetic score by Ludwig Minkus is also original and was created for this story ballet.   It finally entered the repertory of American Ballet Theater in 1978.
As for the story of Don Quixote de La Mancha, we can say that it only loosely resembles the original novel by Cervantes, but is properly placed for the purposes of dance. The Don and his squire, Sancho Panza, make appearances as we see Kitri transformed into the Don’s vision of beauty, purity and true love that Dulcinea represents; windmilled monsters, emblematic of invading Muslims into Christian Spain, are attacked with his lance;  and of course Don Quixote’s dream.  But mainly the ballet is filled with the crackling dance of matadors, toreadors, lovers, and gypsies.
As Espada, the matador, David Hallberg is superb.  His princely carriage, articulate dancing, and incredible cat-like jumps were perfect.  Also appearing briefly, but remarkably, was Daniel Simkin.  A new arrival, and son of  former dancers from the Kirov, this young man is someone to watch.  In the brief solo he performs as a gypsy he also leaves the audience with his own indelible vision of a brilliant dancer in the making with his of uncanny leaps and crystalline pirouettes.
The lighting by Natasha Katz, especially in the gypsy camp and in the Dream Maiden scenes were very evocative.  I especially liked the costumes that blazed with rich earth tones of apricot, ochre, dusty greens and pinks on the women’s skirts, to the bright, clarifying blues worn by the proud toreadors, and the bold “suit of lights” in white for Espada, the matador.  Their costumes along with their dances con brio created an exciting affect. However, at times, because of the speed of the music, and the demands of the choreography, the toreadors were uneven.  Stella Abrera, as Mercedes, had some beautiful moments, especially her solo when she executed five difficult, and not often seen, Italian fouettes on pointe. The audience loved it.
But all was overshadowed by the Grand Pas de Deux at the final wedding scene of Kitri and Basillio.  All the energy of the evening exploded into fireworks as Murphy and Stiefel held nothing back and got the reward of a remarkable, flawless performance.  Their timing, musicality, and technical prowess was magic. In their pas de deux they were brilliant, in their solos both had an intensity and sense of abandonment in their jumps and footwork, while Murphy did the most balanced, and fastest pique turns I’ve ever seen.  The final feeling in the house was electrifying. I then remember what the great Martha Graham once said.  Even though she was from another dance discipline it was well worth remembering.  She said dancers were “acrobats of the gods.” It was certainly evident here.

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