Friday, 24 April 2015

Bangsaen Rama

Bangsaen Rama
Boundary
A screening of Nontawat Numbenchapol's documentary Boundary has been cancelled after military intervention. Students at Burapha University in Chonburi had planned to show it today, as part of their Bangsaen Rama film festival, though they were contacted by the military and told to withdraw the film as it was considered too politically sensitive.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Worldwide History Of Dress

The Worldwide History Of Dress
There have been many histories of costume, though The Worldwide History Of Dress (published by Thames & Hudson) is the first truly comprehensive example ("destined to be the standard reference work on the subject", according to the blurb). Patricia Rieff Anawalt's book covers traditional clothing, jewellery, and other forms of adornment, across all geographical regions from pre-historic times onwards. There are 1,000 illustrations, almost all of which are in colour, plus an extensive bibliography.

Le Costume Historique (1876-1888), by Auguste Racinet, was the first attempt at a complete costume history, though its illustrations were all engravings. Millia Davenport's The Book Of Costume (two volumes; 1948) and Francois Boucher's 20,000 Years Of Fashion (updated in 1987) were the most extensive costume histories thus far, though (like most books on the subject) their coverage was restricted to Western dress. The three-volume Encyclopedia Of Clothing & Fashion (edited by Valerie Steele) is as comprehensive as Anawalt's book, arranged in an A-Z format.

The Facebook Effect

The Facebook Effect
The Facebook Effect: The Story Of The Company That Is Connecting The World is an authorised account of the exponential growth of Facebook, the first social network with more than a billion users. Author David Kirkpatrick interviewed Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and the book is similar to other profiles of Silicon Valley companies: Googled, Hatching Twitter, Steve Jobs and Becoming Steve Jobs (Apple), and The Everything Store (Amazon).

Kirkpatrick describes Facebook's impact as "a set of phenomena I call the Facebook Effect. As a fundamentally new form of communication, Facebook leads to fundamentally new interpersonal and social effects. The Facebook Effect happens when the service puts people in touch with each other, often unexpectedly, about a common experience, interest problem, or cause."

Replay

Replay
Replay: The History Of Video Games, by Tristan Donovan, is more comprehensive than previous histories of video games (a catch-all term for arcade, console, and computer games). It received superlative reviews from computing magazines such as Wired and Edge when it was published in 2010.

The author begins by quoting one of his interviewees, who asks him, "Why are you writing another book on the history of video games". Donovan's answer is: "attempts at writing the history of video games to date have been US rather than global histories. In Replay: The History of Video Games, I hope to redress the balance, giving the US its due without neglecting the important influence of video games developed in Japan, Europe, and elsewhere."

Replay does indeed have more international coverage than earlier books on the subject: the UK's Sinclair Spectrum is included, and there's even an overview of South Korea's online gaming industry. Also, this is a book about entertainment rather than technology: "I wanted to write a history of video games as an art form rather than as a business product." A detailed 'gameography' provides a taxonomy and chronology of influential games such as Spacewar!, Pong, Space Invaders ("an iconic moment in video game history"), and Doom ("One of the most significant video games ever made").

Leonard Herman's Phoenix: The Fall & Rise Of Home Videogames was the first book on the history of video games, published in 1994. Steven Poole (author of Unspeak) wrote the excellent Trigger Happy in 2000, analysing the aesthetics of video games. Also in 2000, Channel 4 broadcast Thumb Candy: Iain Lee's Brief History Of Video Games (directed by James Bobin).

Monday, 20 April 2015

Penjing

Penjing
Penjing, a form of Chinese horticulture that dates from the Han dynasty, is "a living art form using miniature trees grown in containers (pots or trays), along with shaped rockeries and other materials, to create aesthetic representations of natural landscapes." Penjing: The Chinese Art Of Bonsai - A Pictorial Exploration Of Its History, Aesthetics, Styles, & Preservation is the most authoritative English-language guide to penjing.

Author Zhao Qingquan is also a penjing artist, and many of his own works are reproduced, though there's also a historical section illustrated with depictions of penjing from Chinese paintings. The book also includes a taxonomy of the three categories of penjing: 'shumu' (tree), 'shanshui' (landscape), and 'shuihan' (water and land).

Each of the three styles of penjing has an equivalent in Japan: the Japanese art of bonsai was influenced by shumu penjing, saikei resembles shuihan penjing, and bonkei is similar to shanshui penjing. Shuihan penjing also influenced Vietnamese hon non bo. (Another Chinese art form, the scholar's stones known as gongshi, inspired the similar Japanese suiseki and Korean suseok.)

Friday, 10 April 2015

Design Of The 20th Century

Design Of The 20th Century
Design Of The 20th Century
Design Of The 20th Century, by Charlotte and Peter Fiell, was first published by Taschen in 1999. It was reprinted in 2005, and again in 2012, though the changes were minimal: dates were added for the designers who had died since the initial publication. The 2012 reprint has a particularly striking cover: the Eames LCW chair photographed against a plain blue background.

The book is a comprehensive guide to 20th century design, with alphabetical entries covering designers (including Dieter Rams and Charles and Ray Eames), companies (such as Braun and Sony), and design movements (Art Deco, Bauhaus, etc.). There are at least 1,000 illustrations, and all aspects of design are included: products, decorative arts, and graphics. The only drawback is that it hasn't been updated to cover designs of the last few years of the century, such as Jony Ive's Apple iMac.

Charlotte and Peter Fiell also wrote Industrial Design A-Z and The Story Of Design. The Design Encyclopedia, by Mel Byars, is the most comprehensive A-Z design guide, and The Penguin Dictionary of Design & Designers, by Simon Jervis, is also useful. History Of Design, by Pat Kirkham and Susan Weber, surveys the history of design since 1400. History Of Modern Design, by David Raizman, covers design since the Industrial Revolution. The Art Of Things, by Dominique Forest, is a history of product design since 1945. A History Of Industrial Design, by Edward Lucie Smith, is a slightly dated introduction to industrial design. Phaidon has published two visual histories of product design: the three-volume Phaidon Design Classics and the concise The Design Book.

Architecture In The 20th Century

Architecture In The 20th Century Architecture In The 20th Century
Architecture In The 20th Century
The second edition of Architecture In The 20th Century was published by Taschen in 2005, in two volumes with a slipcase. Written by Peter Gossel and Gabriele Leuthauser, it's more accessible than William JR Curtis's Modern Architecture Since 1900, though Curtis's book is more comprehensive.

The book is organised in broadly chronological order, and begins with 19th century iron structures such as the Eiffel Tower, followed by the skyscrapers of Chicago and New York. The century's greatest architects - Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - all receive extensive coverage. Some of the century's most iconic buildings (the Chrysler Building in Chicago, the Bauhaus Building in Dessau, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Congress Building in Brasilia) are included, though not the Sydney Opera House.

Some of the 'isms' of modern architecture are missing, notably Russian Constructivism (Vladimir Tatlin's proposed tower in St Petersberg) and Japanese Metabolism (Kisho Kurokawa's Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo). An appendix features biographies of major architects, though it's a bit too selective. Oscar Niemeyer, for example, was one of the key Modernist architects, yet he has no biography here. Also, the book has no bibliography or references.

The second edition was reprinted, in a single volume, in 2012. There were no changes to the book's main chapters (which were updated in 2005), though the biographies were revised to indicate the deaths of architects such as Kenzo Tange. The reprint had a much improved cover: the bold, black text on the white spine resembles that of A World History Of Art, and the back cover features a stunning photograph of the Chrysler Building.

Taschen's Modern Architecture A-Z (also co-written by Peter Gossel) is a more comprehensive guide to modern architects and buildings. A World History Of Architecture, published by Laurence King, is a recent survey of architectural history, though Banister Fletcher's A History Of Architecture is the classic and definitive book on the subject.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

The Pot Book

The Pot Book
The Pot Book, published by Phaidon, features 300 large (almost full-page) colour photographs of various ceramic vessels dating from the past 5,000 years, arranged alphabetically by their potters. It largely follows the same format as Phaidon's The Art Book, The 20th Century Art Book, The Fashion Book, The Photography Book, and The Design Book, though it improves on them in two respects: its entries were selected by a single expert (Edmund de Waal, author of 20th Century Ceramics), and it includes entries for artistic styles in addition to individual artists.

The 300 objects are depicted in exceptional detail, though their locations are not identified and there is no bibliography. Phaidon claims that "The Pot Book is the first publication to document the extraordinary range and variety of ceramic vessels of all periods." However, several comprehensive histories of ceramics have been published previously. Edward Dillon's book Porcelain, from the excellent Connoisseur's Library series, appeared in 1904. The Book Of Pottery & Porcelain (1944), by Warren E Cox, is a two-volume history of pottery, though it also has no bibliography and its illustrations are all black-and-white. Emmanuel Cooper's 10,000 Years Of Pottery (1972) is the best modern history of ceramics. The Dictionary Of World Pottery & Porcelain, by Louise Ade Boger, is a comprehensive reference work.

The Art Book

The Art Book
The Art Book is "an A-Z guide to the greatest painters, photographers and sculptors from medieval times to the present day." It was first published by Phaidon in 1994, and was followed by The 21st Century Art Book, The Photography Book, The Design Book, The Fashion Book, and The Pot Book, also from Phaidon. A second edition of The Art Book was published in 2012.

The book features over 500 artists, each represented by a large illustration of a single work. Some of the world's most iconic artworks are included: the Mona Lisa (Leonardo), Las Meninas (Velazquez), The Treachery Of Images (Magritte), and Fountain (Duchamp). Surprisingly, though, there are some notable omissions: Michelangelo is represented by his Pieta rather than David, an alternate Hokusai woodcut of Mount Fuji is included instead of The Great Wave, and Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is omitted in favour of his Weeping Woman. In the Chinese-language edition, Ai Weiwei has been replaced by Agostino di Duccio.

Phaidon's Art In Time and The Art Museum are also profusely illustrated art histories. The Story Of Art, by EH Gombrich, is the most influential history of art. A World History Of Art, by John Fleming and Hugh Honour, is the most comprehensive single-volume survey available.

The Photography Book

The Photography Book
The Photography Book, written by Ian Jeffrey, was first published in 1997, providing a collection of 500 significant photographs arranged alphabetically by photographer. It was the first such A-Z guide to photography, and it followed the same format as The Art Book and The 20th Century Art Book. The Design Book, The Fashion Book, and The Pot Book - also published Phaidon - have the same format.

A second edition of The Photography Book was published last year. Reproducing so many classic photographs in a single book remains a remarkable achievement, and The Photography Book is still the world's greatest photo album. Plenty of iconic images are included: the execution of a Vietcong prisoner (photographed by Eddie Adams), Buzz Aldrin on the moon (by Neil Armstrong), Dovima posing with two elephants (by Richard Avedon), the death of a Spanish Civil War soldier (by Robert Capa), a man leaping into a puddle (by Henri Cartier-Bresson), Milk Drop Coronet (by Harold Edgerton), and Vietnamese children after a napalm attack (by Nick Ut).

The book also features a wide variety of photographic genres, including portraiture, photojournalism, fashion, war, wildlife, art, and photomontage. Practically every major photographer is included, and most are represented by their most celebrated photograph. There are some exceptions, however: Irving Penn, for example, is represented by a still life, rather than one of his classic Vogue covers. Similarly, some of Eadweard Muybridge's horse photographs are included, though not his most famous images of a horse galloping.

After The Photography Book was first published, it was followed (or imitated) by several other A-Z photography guides, including Photographers A-Z and Photography Visionaries. These two later books contain more biographical information about their featured photographers, and they reproduce several images per photographer, in contrast to The Photography Book's single photo for each entry. However, The Photography Book has a more comprehensive scope (with 500 entries) and larger (practically full-page) reproductions.

Beaumont Newhall wrote the first history of photography as an art form, The History Of Photography. Helmut Gernsheim's The History Of Photography discusses the early development of photography. Naomi Rosenblum's A World History Of Photography and Mary Warner Marien's Photography: A Cultural History are more recent surveys of photographic history. The Focal Encyclopedia Of Photography is a comprehensive reference.

Monday, 6 April 2015

The Art Of Things

The Art Of ThingsThe Art Of Things
General Electric
The Art Of Things, edited by Dominique Forest, is the most comprehensive history of post-war product design, with almost 600 pages and more than 700 illustrations, including many full-page photographs. The original French edition had a better title (L'Art Du Design), though the English version has a brighter, more striking slipcase. The book focuses on American, European, and Japanese design, with chapters devoted to each country individually. It also has a useful chapter on the emergence of design, and an extensive bibliography.

Although subtitled Product Design Since 1945, The Art Of Things also covers design from the inter-war period: "the new products of the early twentieth century were still laden with antiquated motifs and ornamentation. Between 1925 and 1930, though, the art deco style was imported from Europe and established a firm hold on American design." The US chapter, for example, includes the Bell 302 telephone. The chapter on Italy begins with the Futurist manifesto, and the Belgium and the Netherlands chapter extends even further, to include the Nieuwe Kunst movement and Gerrit Rietveld's Red & Blue Chair.

The immediate post-war period saw significant changes in the middle-class American lifestyle: suburban living, television, home-improvement, teenage culture, the 'baby boom', more leisure time, and increased disposable income. This post-war American consumer culture transformed international product design: "A sophisticated consumer society emerged as a significant sector of the population sought modern homes, cars, and household goods with which to express its new affluence." (The consumer lifestyle is idealised in a vintage newspaper advertisement for a GE fridge.)

Fitted kitchens, white goods, and modern furniture became domestic status symbols in 1950s America: "The U.S. led the way in designing vehicles and kitchen appliances, and in making the "dream home" the key site of consumer aspiration and desire." Charles and Ray Eames remain the most celebrated designers of this Mid-Century Modern era: "Perhaps no single designed artifact expressed the idea of the modern lifestyle better than the Eamses' famous rosewood lounge chair". Car ownership also increased in the 1950s, and the Cadillac Eldorado was one of the most iconic automobile designs, "heavily influenced by jet fighters and space travel."

Technology is an essential aspect of product design, and the book highlights Japanese electronic innovation such as Sony's TX8-301 television: "a number of Japanese high-tech manufacturers began to develop sophisticated products characterized by their portability, flexibility, and miniature scale." It also includes examples of advanced German engineering such as the Leica IIIc camera and the Mercedes 300SL sports car.

Dieter Rams, head of design for Braun in the 1960s, is recognised as the most influential German designer: "Rams changed the international face and reputation of German industrial design more than any other designer during the second half of the twentieth century". Jony Ive, Apple's head of design, was inspired by Rams, and his work "resulted in the transformation of a series of electronic devices into lifestyle objects."

Eames, Rams, and Ive are among a handful of industrial designers who have become as famous as their products. The Art Of Things singles out Philippe Starck as the most notable of these design superstars, who "achieved an unprecedented degree of recognition, popularizing a discipline that was still little known among the general public." The book devotes six pages to Starck and "his most iconic objects" including the Juicy Salif lemon squeezer.

Like The Art Of Things, A History Of Industrial Design (Edward Lucie Smith), History of Modern Design (David Raizman), and The Story Of Design (Charlotte and Peter Fiell) also focus on European, American, and Japanese design, though History Of Design (Pat Kirkham and Susan Weber) has a wider scope. The Fiells also wrote two encyclopedic guides to modern design: Industrial Design A-Z and Design Of The 20th Century, though The Design Encyclopedia (Mel Byars) is a more comprehensive A-Z guide. Phaidon has published two visual histories of modern product design: the three-volume Phaidon Design Classics and the compact The Design Book.

Cinema Winehouse

Raging Bull
Django Unchained
Tonight, Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse will be screening Martin Scorsese's masterpiece, Raging Bull. Quentin Tarantino's most recent film, Django Unchained, will be shown on 10th March. (Cinema Winehouse screened Tarantino's Pulp Fiction in February.)

Paradoxocracy

Paradoxocracy
Paradoxocracy
The book version of Paradoxocracy, the political documentary by Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Pasakorn Pramoolwong, contains transcripts of interviews with various political commentators. It includes additional material that was not featured in the film, though some of the quotes have been censored (obscured by a black line), as they were in the theatrical and DVD releases.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Imply Reply

Imply Reply
Passage
Imply Reply, an exhibition of sculptures and installations by Huang Yong Ping and Sakarin Krue-On, opened at BACC on 11th February. Huang's installation Passage, positioned at the entrance and exit of the exhibition, consists of two cages containing lion feces and urine, and animal bones. Imply Reply runs until 26th April.

Crossover

Crossover
Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook's video The Class, in which she teaches a class of shrouded corpses, is currently on show at BACC. Crossover: The Unveiled Collection, an exhibition of Thai artworks on loan from various private collectors, opened on 20th February and will close on 14th June.

The Class was previously shown in Dialogues, also at BACC. Araya's other videos include Chant For Female Corpse (La Fete 2014), Reading For Female Corpse (From Message To Media), and Conversation (The Suspended Moment).

Cinema Diverse

Cinema Diverse
The annual Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice event begins at BACC on 23rd May. The season of free screenings will conclude on 28th November, when Apichatpong Weerasethakul (director of Uncle Boonmee and Syndromes & A Century) will introduce the Chilean film No. Highlights from previous years include The Good, The Bad, & The Weird introduced by Nonzee Nimibutr and Tears Of The Black Tiger introduced by Wisit Sasanatieng.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Ten Must-Watch Movies

Film Studies For Dummies
Film Studies For Dummies, published this year, includes a chapter titled Ten Must-Watch Movies. The chronological list of "ten essential films from the entire history of world cinema", compiled by James Cateridge, is as follows:
  • Sherlock Jr
  • Casablanca
  • Singin' In The Rain
  • Rear Window
  • Breathless
  • Don't Look Now
  • Blade Runner
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Spirited Away
  • City Of God

"We have prepared article 44..."

Prime Minister Prayuth has asked the King to authorise the cessation of martial law. The law has been in place since 20th May last year, when Prayuth imposed it unilaterally. At the time, Prayuth reassured the public that "The invocation of martial law is not a coup d'etat", though two days later he launched a full-scale coup. Prayuth's declaration of nationwide martial law was unconstitutional, as a royal decree was not issued and the charter authorised the military to declare martial law only "in a certain locality as a matter of urgency" (article 188).

Yesterday, Prayuth announced that he was ready to exercise his authority according to article 44 of the interim constitution: "We have prepared article 44 and will use it soon". Article 44 states: "NCPO Announcements and Orders... shall be all deemed lawful, constitutional and final". The withdrawal of martial law is therefore largely symbolic, as the interim constitution gives Prayuth the power to act without any checks or balances.

Former politicians are becoming increasingly vocal in challenging some of the NCPO's actions. The two main political parties, Pheu Thai and Democrat, have both called for a referendum on the next constitution. (A referendum was held in 2007, though this time the NCPO has made no such commitment.) Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva gave an interview to the Bangkok Post on 9th March, in which he directly criticised a proposal to enable the PM to dissolve parliament if it rejected a government bill: "This is a step backward for democracy. It will snatch democracy away from the people".

The Thai political situation was effectively summarised in a cartoon by Heng Kim Song published in the International New York Times on 2nd March. Thailand is depicted as a car on the road to democracy, heading for a metaphorical cliff, and the military's promise of democracy is presented as a deceptive illusion.

Photography Visionaries

Photography Visionaries
Photography Visionaries profiles seventy-five photographers, with four pages devoted to each artist. The selection includes masters such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, and Robert Capa, and contemporary photographers such as Sebastiao Salgado, Andreas Gursky, and Nan Goldin. There are some notable omissions, though: the Vietnam War is represented by two Don McCullin photographs, though his contemporaries Eddie Adams and Nick Ut are not included; there are very few 19th century images, and pioneers such as Joseph Niepce are missing; and fashion photography is limited to the works of Richard Avedon and Annie Leibovitz, while Irving Penn is excluded.

Photography Visionaries, published by Laurence King, is similar to Taschen's Photographers A-Z, and both have their strengths and weaknesses. Photographers A-Z is more substantial (a hefty volume profiling 400 photographers), though its illustrations are rather small. Photography Visionaries is more selective, though it includes many full-page images. Photographers A-Z contains detailed individual bibliographies, while Photography Visionaries features concise essays explaining the significance of each photographer.

Mary Warner Marien, author of Photography Visionaries, also wrote Photography: A Cultural History (arguably the best general history of photography) and 100 Ideas That Changed Photography. The Photography Book, by Ian Jeffrey, is another A-Z of photographers, with each represented by a single photograph. The first history of the art of photography was Beaumont Newhall's The History Of Photography, and Naomi Rosenblum's A World History Of Photography is a more recent example. The Focal Encyclopedia Of Photography is a comprehensive reference.

Top Ten Lists: Movies

Top Ten Lists: Movies
Top Ten Lists: Movies is a collection of film lists classified by theme and genre. Author Rob Hill (who co-wrote 501 Must-See Movies) lists his top ten films in the introduction:

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
2. Star Wars IV: A New Hope.
3. The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.
4. Brazil
5. Tokyo Story
6. Evil Dead II
7. Kind Hearts & Coronets
8. The Awful Truth
9. Seven Samurai
10. Spirited Away

The English Roses Collection

The English Roses Collection
The English Roses Collection
The English Roses Collection
The English Roses Collection
The English Roses Collection
The English Roses Collection
The English Roses Collection, limited to 1,500 copies, consists of two children's books written by Madonna: The English Roses (in a slipcase) and The English Roses: Too Good To Be True. The books are presented in a numbered box (mine being #204) with a print signed by illustrator Stacy Peterson. The Collection's main (or only) selling point is that it includes a letter autographed by Madonna. She clearly didn't take much care when signing it, and her signature is therefore little more than a scribble, though at least it's a genuine Madonna autograph.

Madonna wrote The English Roses (quite a departure from her previous book, Sex) in 2003. It was followed by Mr Peabody's Apples, Yakov & The Seven Thieves, The Adventures Of Abdi, Lotsa De Casha, and The English Roses: Too Good To Be True. (These were all picture books, intended to be read aloud to young children.) She then co-wrote a further dozen books in a new English Roses series: Friends For Life!; Goodbye, Grace?; The New Girl; A Rose By Any Other Name; Big-Sister Blues, Being Binah; Hooray For The Holidays; A Perfect Pair; Runway Rose; Ready, Set, Vote!; American Dreams; and Catch The Bouquet. (These were longer 'chapter books' aimed at slightly older children.)