Weekly Rochester Events #325: Josiah's "State of the Rock" Addresses
Thursday, March 31, 2005Last week offered some different twists. On Thursday I went to George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see the lecture by Vanessa Rocco from The International Center of Photography (1114 Avenue of the Americas, New York) [and I still giggle a little when they refer to it as "ICP"]. She talked about László Moholy-Nagy's photographic experiments in the 1920's. I'm always quite content being in lectures like this where I'm way over my head: a lot of it was intended for an audience well-versed (or even partially-versed) in art history, so I was furiously taking notes to go over later and figure out just what a "formalist" is and why Moholy-Nagy was a formalist but did other things. (By the way, I guess it's to do with separating form — the mechanics of the artwork — from its content ... heck, Google it yourself if you don't believe me.)
But anyway, they have some Moholy-Nagy originals up on display at Eastman House, and it really helped to hear about the context in history. He and his wife Lucia started making photograms (images using photograph technology but without using a camera) in the 1920's in Berlin. They were inspired by the idea of "activating" viewers: making them active participants in the works; at that time, by mixing concrete (i.e. real objects) and abstract imagery (i.e. photographic shadows) using a combination of "concrete" (i.e. photography) and "abstract" (i.e. not using a camera) methods.
Later, he moved to taking traditional photographs but at (what Vanessa Rocco described as) "jarring" angles: both in the perspective of the photographer and in the resulting angles on the image itself. As a nerd and an engineer, I thought I saw commonality between images: it seemed to me those resulting angles had something in common. I was disappointed that my question about it wasn't satisfactorily answered: are these angles common between images, and do they seem to deliberately avoid common architectural angles (30°, 60°, 1:12 runs, etc.) and photographic guidelines (i.e. rule of thirds)? Maybe I'll get over to Eastman House and do the analysis myself. [Apparently it only takes 2 paragraphs to go from defining formalism to analyzing it.]
I finish up by adding that he went on to create "photo-plastiques" which are photographic collages. Most of them require context of 1920's Germany, but, even browsing the museum a few months ago, I was captivated by Moholy-Nagy's Jealousy. It is apparently uncharacteristically personal compared to the rest of his work, but ironically stands the test of time somewhat better owing to its more visceral depiction of such a universal human emotion.
Following that lecture, I headed right over to The Memorial Art Gallery (500 University Ave., near Goodman St.) to listen to David Pollack of The University of Rochester give his discussion titled "Behind the Scenes: Sex, Drama, and Fashion in the Floating World." I was immediately suspicious that the auditorium was 80% full, and blamed the word "sex" in the title ... in reality, I think it was just a lot of UofR students and faculty present.
Regardless, the "floating world" (of fantasy and timelessnes) is in contrast to the "sad world" (of Buddhist pain-filled life.) This was a period of Japanese printmaking during the 1700's and 1800's that was largely advertising. It was fascinating to see how similar the techniques were to the Western advertising techniques of the 1900's — Pollack started out with direct comparisons between prints from that era and the pin-up-girl-style poses of starlets of the mid-1900's.
It was pretty wild to think that Edo, Japan (now Tokyo) was a densely-populated city full of shops for kimono fabric, tea, and (of course) sex. The advertising used idealized women with absurdly tall and thin bodies, and the details of hair on the back of their neck was as erotic as cleavage is today. The actors of the day were featured prominently and their crests were present on the prints. Heck, they even did product placement in the middle of kabuki performances like you see in early television programs.
That night I finished off my week of hard-drinking by drinking a lot and then the next day I rested a lot.
By Satuday, I was still feeling a bit wiped out. I had the option of going to see Harvey at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) or Der Untergang (Downfall) at The Little (240 East Ave.) Naturally I opted for the latter. It's a reenactment of the journals of Adolf Hitler during his last days. I have a bias towards seeing everyone as people — with good and bad traits — but I think most people will agree in this case that the filmmakers did a really good job of being honest without being sympathetic towards Hitler.
All the while, I kept thinking, "I sure hope this doesn't happen in America."
The whole Nazi disaster can be blamed on the notion that they believed they were selected by God to be superior to all others — their ideologies were simply "correct." People flocked to this because as long as they were in the "in-crowd," they were, by definition, superior. Who doesn't want to be superior? The atrocities were easily dispelled because they were, by definition, not atrocities, just nature-in-action.
Eighty years later, here we are in the best country in the world. We are superior to all others. We can commit no atrocities because the outcome is freedom. If you don't want our freedom, you are the enemy and must be exterminated for it is nature-in-action that freedom reigns.
Needless to say, this didn't exactly elevate my mood. It did, however, put things in perspective. When I left, my bike lock had flaked out — it has a resettable combination and sometimes when locking it, the combination resets ... usually one of the digits is off by a bit. So I spent 15 minutes breaking into my own bike lock. Comparing to the horrors depicted and implied in the movie, I wasn't particularly bothered that a dozen people watched me trying to break into a bike lock and nobody did anything; nor did I really care that the lock is now permanently busted.
This did prove annoying because The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) was packed and there was no way I'd be allowed to stow the bike inside, so I had to ride all the way home and drive back (in theory I could have grabbed another lock ... yeah, right.) I got to see The Grinders rock the hell out of the place, then The Isotopes took the stage and finished things off nice. They've really got a great show: both visually — with the mad-scientist motif and the dancers — and aurally — with surf-rock style originals and covers (including funny stuff like the Mario Brothers theme song) broken up with witty spoken interludes. Speaking of the dancers, Joey from Blue Spark and Flame was dancing like mad before she was *ahem* removed from the dancing platforms to make way for the admittedly younger, cuter, and more alluringly dressed Isotopes dancers — the missing descriptor is indeed "better dancers" and was deliberately omitted.
I got a bit of a break on Sunday with an Easter-style dinner (that is, a dinner with friends with ham.)
Monday had a couple things I wanted to see. I got out to Christ Church of Rochester (141 East Ave.) to see the Ossia New Music performance. The first piece was Milton Babbitt's Semi-Simple Variations which was a weirdly mathemetical combination of tone and intensity ... and short at only 2 minutes. Next was Babbitt's String Quartet No. 6 which was kinda like listening to 4 conversations at once — and each one is in a different Latin-based language. It was very complex and offered no pauses.
I had to skip the last piece if I wanted to have a bit of a break before getting to The Little (240 East Ave.) to see the Emerging Filmmakers Program. All the films were really interesting, but the closing triad of films was very impressive. First (er ... third-to-last) was Rapture by Trieu "Trusive" Le was a funny story that was so way-over-the-top-gay that John Waters himself might be jealous. Exit 8A by Margaret Harris was a horrifying account of a mentally off-kilter man who gets set off (plus, I give the film mad props for the correct open-door sound on a Toyota.) Finally, The Year Christmas Almost Wasn't by Jay Barbra and Brian Farrelly was a really funny satire of those Rankin/Bass Christmas specials — complete with talking misfit sex-toys.
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On this day ... March 31
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About the title ... Josiah Winslow was the first governor of the Plymouth Colony who was born in America. He died 325 years ago in 1680.
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While I'm on the topic of keywords for search engines, this update includes information for Thursday, March 31, 2005 (Thu, Mar 31, 2005, 3/31/2005, or 3/31/05) Friday, April 1, 2005 (Fri, Apr 1, 2005, 4/1/2005, or 4/1/05) Saturday, April 2, 2005 (Sat, Apr 2, 2005, 4/2/2005, or 4/2/05) Sunday, April 3, 2005 (Sun, Apr 3, 2005, 4/3/2005, or 4/3/05) Monday, April 4, 2005 (Mon, Apr 4, 2005, 4/4/2005, or 4/4/05) Tuesday, April 5, 2005 (Tue, Apr 5,
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