Friday, 27 February 2015

Cosmigraphics

Cosmigraphics
Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time, by Michael Benson, contains 300 examples of celestial maps and diagrams, revealing how the cosmos has been depicted by astronomers and artists over the past 3,000 years. It's a remarkable visual guide to the history of cosmology, though unfortunately it has no footnotes or bibliography.

Some of the most elaborate illustrations are taken from Harmonia Macrocosmica by Andreas Cellarius (1660); several of his plates are reproduced, as are a selection of volvelles from Peter Apian's Astronomicum Caesareum (1540). Some of the examples are well-known, such as the panels representing the six days of creation from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493). Incredibly, an illustration of the void before creation (1617) by Robert Fludd pre-dates Kazimir Malevich's famous Black Square by almost exactly 300 years.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Rebel Heart

Rebel Heart
Rebel Heart
Rebel Heart
Last December, Madonna digitally released six tracks from her forthcoming album, Rebel Heart: Living For Love, Devil Pray, Ghosttown, Unapologetic Bitch, Illuminati, and Bitch I'm Madonna. A further three tracks were digitally released earlier this month: Joan Of Arc, Hold Tight, and Iconic. The full album will be available next month.

Rebel Heart will be released three years after Madonna's last studio album, MDNA. (That album inspired The MDNA Tour and the live album MDNA World Tour; Madonna also released the promo single Broken in 2012, and produced the short film secretprojectrevolution in 2013.)

The catchy Living For Love and Unapologetic Bitch are among the album's strongest tracks, as are the powerful Ghosttown and the autobiographical Rebel Heart. The least successful tracks are those featuring other artists: Nicki Minaj reappears on Bitch I'm Madonna, and Iconic opens with convicted rapist Mike Tyson. (Curiously, the album does not include any liner notes; guest vocalists are credited, though producers and other collaborators are not listed.)

The self-referential Bitch I'm Madonna echoes the final line of MDNA's I Don't Give A ("There's only one queen, and that's Madonna. Bitch!"). S.E.X. clearly evokes the infamous 1992 book Sex, though it feels too much like self-parody. Veni Vidi Vici's lyrics are a collage of titles from previous Madonna tracks ("I expressed myself, came like a virgin down the aisle..."). Holy Water, like 1993's Deeper & Deeper, quotes several lines from Vogue ("Ladies with an attitude...").

Rebel Heart will be available in three versions, each with a different cover: the 'standard' edition (featuring Madonna wearing a red sweater), the 'deluxe' edition (featuring Madonna's face bound with chord), and the 'super deluxe' edition (featuring a red-tinted cover). The standard version contains fourteen tracks: Living For Love, Devil Pray, Ghosttown, Unapologetic Bitch, Illuminati, Bitch I'm Madonna, Hold Tight, Joan Of Arc, Iconic, HeartBreakCity, Body Shop, Holy Water, Inside Out, and Wash All Over Me. (Strangely, this version doesn't include the title track, Rebel Heart.) The standard version is also available in a censored 'clean' edition.

The deluxe version adds five more tracks to the original fourteen: Best Night, Veni Vedi Vici, S.E.X., Messiah, and Rebel Heart. (This is the version released on vinyl.) The super deluxe version contains the original fourteen tracks, the five deluxe tracks, and a further four tracks: Beautiful Scars, Borrowed Time, Addicted, and Graffiti Heart. A bonus track, Auto-Tune Baby, is available in Germany.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Decorative Arts

Decorative Arts
Decorative Arts From The Middle Ages To The Renaissance: The Complete Plates contains all the illustrations from Kunstewerke & Gerathschaften Des Mittelalters & Der Renaissance, first published in three volumes (1852, 1857, and 1863). Like other Taschen reprints (such as the Atlas Maior), this is a lavish, folio-sized book, with several fold-out pages.

Kunstewerke & Gerathschaften was illustrated with hand-coloured copperplate engravings, many of which were produced by Jakob Heinrich von Hefner-Alteneck. In the original publication, he is listed as co-author alongside Carl Becker; in the introduction to Decorative Arts, Hefner-Alteneck is recognised as the primary author, though strangely Taschen gives Becker sole credit on the cover.

Shortly after the first volume of Kunstewerke & Gerathschaften, Owen Jones pioneered the use of chromolithography with The Grammar Of Ornament. Jones was concerned with ornamental patterns, reproducing isolated details and motifs, though Becker and Hefner-Alteneck focused on decorative artefacts themselves, celebrating them as objects d'art.

Decorative Arts was edited by Carsten-Peter Warncke, co-author of Codices Illustres (reissued as Masterpieces Of Illumination) and a two-volume Picasso monograph. In his introduction, he quotes Becker and Hefner-Alteneck's aim of presenting objects "whether they be everyday or luxury items, for ecclesiastical or secular purposes". This inclusive approach made Kunstewerke & Gerathschaften particularly useful as a survey of applied arts, as it was not limited only to the realms of liturgy or nobility.

Pat Kirkham and Susan Weber's definitive History Of Design begins in 1400, thus there is some overlap with Kunstewerke & Gerathschaften. John Fleming and Hugh Honour's encyclopedic Dictionary Of Decorative Arts covers a wider historical period, as does Judith Williams's glossy Decorative Arts.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Are You Charlie?

Are You Charlie?
A new book published in Japan has reprinted a selection of Charlie Hebdo's most controversial cartoons. The book, Are You Charlie? イスラム・ヘイトか、風刺か, also includes several Mohammed cartoons from Jyllands-Posten. Mohammed's face has been pixelated in each cartoon reprinted in the book, though the cartoons on the cover have been only slightly blurred.

Are You Charlie? includes all of Charlie Hebdo's Mohammed covers (2006, 2011, 2014, and 2015), and its back-page Mohammed cartoons from 2012. Oddly, in the cartoons of Mohammed naked, only his face has been pixelated, while his genitals and buttocks remain uncensored. Also, the pixelation is not entirely successful: two images have been mistakenly pixelated, even though they depict generic Muslim men rather than Mohammed; only the larger of the two Mohammed caricatures on the Charia Hebdo cover has been pixelated; and two covers featuring adverts for La Vie De Mahomet Part 2 have not been pixelated.

Meanwhile, following the attack on Charlie Hebdo's office last month, there has been an attempted assassination of Danish cartoonist Lars Vilks in Copenhagen. A lone gunman fired into a cafe where Vilks was holding a meeting on Sunday morning; one person inside the cafe was killed, though Vilks escaped unharmed. (A previous plot to murder Vilks was uncovered in 2010, and Kurt Westergaard's life was also threatened earlier that year. Vilks became a target after he exhibited caricatures of Mohammed as a dog in 2007.)

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

"C'est dur d'etre aime par des cons"

C'est dur d'etre aime par des cons
C'est dur d'etre aime par des cons C'est dur d'etre aime par des cons
C'est dur d'etre aime par des cons C'est dur d'etre aime par des cons
Charlie Hebdo
"C'est dur d'etre aime par des cons", a documentary directed by Daniel Leconte, profiles the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and its staff as they defend themselves against a lawsuit brought by the Grand Mosque of Paris and the Union of French Islamic Organisations. (The magazine was acquitted in 2007, and the BBC programme Bloody Cartoons also covered the trial and its aftermath. Last year, Charlie Hebdo was sued by the Muslim Judicial Defence League.)

The documentary takes its name from a 2006 Charlie Hebdo cover which depicts Mohammed weeping and complaining that "It's hard being loved by idiots". The cover appears in the film, and was even included on its theatrical poster, and Leconte's choice of title immediately dispels any notion of impartiality. (Charlie Hebdo's current issue again features a weeping Mohammed on its cover. The documentary was made before the infamous Charia Hebdo issue, and the terrorist attack on the newspaper last month.)

The film also features the twelve Jyllands-Posten Mohammed caricatures, a front-page France Soir newspaper cartoon commenting on the controversy, preparatory sketches of Mohammed drawn by Jean Cabut and Georges Wolinski, and a cartoon inspired by Kurt Westergaard's drawing of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. A featurette on the DVD includes a rejected version of the film's poster, depicting a cartoonist stabbed in the back after drawing Mohammed.

International Film Heritage Festival

International Film Heritage Festival
A Trip To The Moon
The Ladykillers
The General
The International Heritage Film Festival will take place in Bangkok later this month, from 26th February to 6th March. The Festival's theme is Memory!, and it will include screenings of several classic comedy films. All screenings are free.

The opening film, the Georges Melies masterpiece A Trip To The Moon, will be shown on 26th February at Alliance Francaise. (It was previously screened at the 5th World Film Festival of Bangkok, and the restored version was shown at La Fete 2012.) Later screenings include Alexander Mackendrick's Ealing comedy The Ladykillers (27th February, also at Alliance Francaise) and Buster Keaton's The General (1st March, at the National Film Archive in Salaya).

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction
Tomorrow, Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse will screen Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, celebrating twenty years since the film was first released. Pulp Fiction is arguably the greatest film of the past four decades, a landmark in the development of post-modern cinema and the American independent film movement.

The Art & History Of Globes

The Art & History Of Globes
The Art & History of Globes, by Sylvia Sumira, features sixty examples of terrestrial and celestial globes, from the earliest extant terrestrial globe (1492) to the Victorian era, including several by the great cartographers Gerardus Mercator and Willem Blaeu (whose son published the Atlas Maior). Most of the globes illustrated are from the British Library, though almost a third are from other collections.

Sumira provides a concise history of globe production, but the cultural history of the globe is not explored. (Globes have been cultural signifiers of power for at least 500 years, as in the 'Armada portrait' of Elizabeth I, James Gillray's 1805 cartoon of Pitt and Napoleon, and Charlie Chaplin's inflatable globe in The Great Dictator.) The book was published in America under the alternative title Globes: 400 Years Of Exploration, Navigation, & Power.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah

Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah
Avadhnama
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered an investigation into the newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah, after it published a drawing of Mohammed. The cartoon, by Mohammed Saba'aneh, was printed on Sunday.

Mohammed is depicted sowing seeds, a metaphor for peace, from a heart-shaped pouch. Last month, The Spectator and Le Point published historical images of Mohammed, though Sunday's cartoon is perhaps the first modern drawing of Mohammed by a Muslim artist.

In a similar case, the Iranian newspaper Mardom-e Emrooz was closed down last month, after it used the slogan "Je suis Charlie" as a headline. Also, the editor of the Indian newspaper Avadhnama, Shirin Dalvi, was arrested on 28th January, after her newspaper printed Charlie Hebdo's 2006 Mohammed cover on its front page on 17th January. She wrote a front-page apology the following day, though the newspaper was closed down on 19th January.

The contemporary debate surrounding representations of Mohammed began with the publication of a dozen caricatures by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005. Other newspapers subsequently printed their own Mohammed cartoons: Weekendavisen, France Soir, The Guardian, Philadelphia Daily News, Liberation, Het Nieuwsblad, The Daily Tar Heel, Akron Beacon Journal, The Strand, Nana, Gorodskiye Vesti, Misselijke Grappen, HP/De Tijd, Sex No Go, Dagbladet, Adresseavisen, Uke-Adressa, Harper's, and The International Herald Tribune (2006 and 2012).

French newspaper Charlie Hebdo's depictions of Mohammed made global headlines recently, after many of its staff were killed by Islamic terrorists. In 2006, Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon of Mohammed complaining that he is "loved by idiots". Its offices were firebombed in 2011, after it published a Charia Hebdo issue guest-edited by Mohammed. In 2012, it printed a caricature of Mohammed naked. In 2013, it produced a comic-strip biography of Mohammed (part 1, part 2), with an expanded edition in 2014. Last year, it depicted Mohammed being beheaded by an Islamic State terrorist.

El Universo

El Universo
Today, Ecuador's state media watchdog SuperCom, the Superintendency of Information and Communication, ordered the newspaper El Universo to print an apology for publishing a cartoon by Xavier Bonilla (known as Bonil) that violated an anti-discrimination law. The cartoon, published on 5th August last year, featured two photographs of politician Agustin Delgado, with speech bubbles mocking his stumbling delivery.

Delgado and President Rafael Correa both accused Bonil of racism, though the cartoonist argued that he was commenting on Delgado's political inexperience rather than his African ancestry. Bonil has now been ordered to produce a revised version of the cartoon. El Universo and Bonil were also censured by SuperCom last year, after a previous complaint from Correa.