Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee: Natalie Merchant; The Decay of Contemporary Art; Solar Sails

Natalie Merchant puts poems to music on her new album (released in April this year). See the PBS video above. Canary especially likes Merchant's stated emphasis on rediscovering and exploring the spoken, rhythmic elements of poetry.

Lobster likes Ben Lewis's polemic, "The Dustbin of Art History," in the current issue of Prospect. Some delicious quotes from Lewis:

"The paintings in Damien Hirst’s exhibition at the Wallace Collection last October were execrable. Most critics fulminated that these works of art should never have been hung in close proximity to masterpieces by Poussin and Rembrandt. [...] I made my way hastily to the exit—down the grand staircase past vast pompous canvases of sunrise and sunset by the 18th-century French painter François Boucher, full of pink putti and topless girls in diaphanous dresses—I realised that those critics were wrong. The Wallace, famous for its collection of French rococo, was actually the perfect setting for Hirst’s exhibition, titled “No Love Lost, Blue Paintings.”

For there are compelling parallels between much of the contemporary art of the last two decades—not only the work of the expensive artists who made the headlines like Hirst, Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami, but also many of the conceptual artists patronised by public galleries—and French rococo, a movement that extolled frivolity, luxury and dilettantism, patronised by a corrupt and decadent ancien régime. Boucher’s art represented the degradation of the baroque school’s classical and Christian values into a heavenly zone of soft porn, shorn of danger, conflict and moral purpose. Similarly, Hirst’s work represents the degeneration of the modernist project from its mission to sweep away art’s “bourgeois relics” into a set of eye-pleasing and sentimental visual tropes."

"There is a pattern typical of these end-phase periods, when an artistic movement ossifies. At such times there is exaggeration and multiplication instead of development. A once new armoury of artistic concepts, processes, techniques and themes becomes an archive of formulae, quotations or paraphrasings, ultimately assuming the mode of self-parody."

Finally, on a muggy Sunday morning in New York City, the canary sighs in envy of the silken wings that sprouted this week on the Japanese experimental satellite Ikaros, 6 million miles out in space. Click here for photographs of the Ikaros solar sail. Perhaps one day such sails will take our craft to the stars, powered by the force of sunlight alone.

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