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Double-Take, The Whitney Biennial 2012

Looking back on the work of Tom Thayer, Moyra Davey, Elaine Reichek and Werner Herzog – The Whitney Biennial, March 1–May 27, 2012, a group show of about fifty plus artists amply fills all five floors of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The exhibition is notorious for being one of the most anticipated and important group shows, while at the same time feeling like one of the most meaningless. The Biennial, turning from annual to biennial in 1973, is still seen as a truthful indicator of the state of the art world, the mood of contemporary artists, and the preoccupations of the society that surrounds them. The show has a kind of trend-setting prestige and greatly appeals to young artists, perhaps because the exhibition is supposed to … [Read more...]

Chauvet and Lascaux, The Deeper Syntax

Reflections on the Phenomenology of Upper Paleolithic Cave Art – One of the most important questions we can ask is how we came to recognize ourselves. This is not the same as asking when we first saw our image reflected in still water, or how we learned to react selfishly to pain and fear. It is not merely self-awareness we are after, but the awareness of oneself as oneself—the awareness of ‘I’ apart from the material continuum of the natural world, and without any other quality attached to it. So many uniquely human technological achievements—the fishhook, fire, cutting edges, even basic seafaring—the results of millennia of trials and errors—seem possible without recourse to ‘I’. But identity, philosophy, poetry, psychoanalysis, … [Read more...]

Werner Herzog, February 20, 2009, Royce Hall, UCLA — Part 3

Werner Herzog continued..."What I Learned": Part 3 OK, here comes the fun part!  Herzog shows footage from his oscar nominated Encounters at the End of the World. I feel a total disconnect between up and down. Had the explorers not been wearing wetsuits and flippers, had I not watched the bubbles of air float up, I would swear that we were looking back at earth from the moon. Are we on top of the world looking down or reveling in an enchanted abyss? Once you have oriented you realize that indeed these aquatic astronauts have entered this underworld via a 30 foot shaft drilled into the Ross Ice Shelf, Anatartica.  Back on dry ground or high ground, Herzog talks about man's ability to fly and … [Read more...]

Werner Herzog, February 20, 2009, Royce Hall, UCLA — Part 2

Werner Herzog continued..."This is what I learned": PART 2 That Werner Herzog is a lover of language and poetry. He speaks of the witnessing, the taxonomy of Virgil's Georgics, a paean to the earth and all that grows and grazes there. Herzog tells of the Icelandic Codex Regius, thought to have been written in the 1270's. How he was allowed to actually hold the delicate document, made up of 45 vellum leaves, and of its return journey to Reykjavík in 1971 accompanied  by  the full Danish military escort. He further narrates on the oral traditions of Iceland preserved and reserved for vital consolation. Women whose husbands have been lost at sea, recite all 800 verses of the Codex to purge their … [Read more...]

Werner Herzog, February 20, 2009, Royce Hall, UCLA — Part 1

Werner Herzog truly has an infinite amount of things to speak of. I wanted to speak about this lecture sooner, but in attempting to do so I found myself, like Alice, sliding down the proverbial rabbit hole, tracking sown some strange and wondrous knowledge. Here is what I learned: PART 1_ That George Murphy and Fred Astraire danced and sang their hearts out in the Cole Porter "Broadway Melody of 1940". If you get a chance to see it on the big screen, do it! That Werner Herzog is a human enthusiast, a champion of the raw psyche, condensed emotionality, "Fever Dreams", and the "Ecstatic Truth". Thus being said, he is the prime candidate to direct opera. Documenting the Wodabee tribes of the Sahara provides Herzog with the … [Read more...]