Thursday, August 28, 2008

George Orwell: blogger.

Night before last an hour’s rain. Yesterday hot & overcast. Today ditto, with a few drops of rain in the afternoon. The hop-picking due to start in about a week.

So reads George Orwell's diary entry for August 28, 1938, recorded in Suffolk, England, a chronicle now being trickled out in daily blog form 70 years on by the Orwell Trust. An intriguing idea and one well worth bookmarking. Accepting that we're all virtual anyway, why not skip back 70 years to learn how the blackberries are ripening this season.

Highly recommended.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Johann Dieter Wassmann, Nietzsche 306P, 1897. 37 x 28 x 10 cm.

I'm still in holiday mode as August winds to a close, so here's one last look back at our more popular posts from these past three years. Next week, we're back in business here at MuseumZeitraum, promise.

Today, on this 108th anniversary of the death of Nietzsche, it seems only appropriate to revisit Johann Dieter Wassmann's audience with the master and the creative outcome from this brief passing of souls. This post appeared on July 8, 2007. But first, here's rare footage of Nietzsche and his sister Elisabeth, believed to be recorded in 1899, not long before his death.

In recent posts I've been examining the first of three leitmotifs posed by the Documenta 12 team, "Is modernity our antiquity?" If I may, I'd like to skip ahead to the second question for a moment, "What is bare life?" as further means of addressing the first.

In 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche suffered a mental breakdown, often attributed to his contraction of syphilis, resulting in his admission to various clinics before he was moved to Naumburg, where his mother looked after him until her death in 1897. At this point his sister Elisabeth shifted him to Weimar, where she continued his care, as well as promoting his legacy and allowing the occasional audience with guests until his death in 1900.

It was in Weimar that Johann Dieter Wassmann briefly visited Nietzsche, but finding only a shell of a man he returned home to produce this work, depicting simply and eloquently the empty collar of the man, an organ stop with the name 'Nietzsche' printed on it, and an opium-stained bone apothecary spoon; a life stripped bare. These objects are placed against a dappled blue wall, reflecting Nietzsche's penchant for blue-lensed spectacles.

Johann's ability to take the contemporary moment of his visit with Nietzsche and so confidently convert it into the iconography of modernism speaks legions about the raw vitality of the modern movement at the dawn of the 20th century. In no time, however, modernity fell victim to the second law of thermodynamics, with entropy holding sway, but it was not until the close of the century that we realised the paradigm had simply collapsed en route.

Today it is essentially modernity stripped bare that we address as artists and curators, an ongoing post-mortem of abject failure. So in this sense is modernity our antiquity? The answer is not so clear.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

50 Moons of Saturn: Is there life on Enceladus, Major Tom?

The New York Times
August 16, 2008

Exquisite close-ups of fissures on a tiny frozen moon of Saturn will provide the latest clues in solving the riddle of how a 310-mile-wide ice ball could possibly be shooting geysers of vapor and icy particles.

Since the discovery of the jets in 2005, the moon, Enceladus, has jumped to near the top of the list of potential places for life in the solar system. A warm spot near Enceladus’s south pole powers the jets and may also melt below-surface ice into water, a necessity for living organisms.

On Monday, the NASA spacecraft Cassini made its latest flyby of Enceladus (pronounced en-SELL-ah-dus), passing 30 miles above the moon’s surface at 64,000 miles per hour.

Despite the high speed, Cassini was able to take razor-sharp images that, at seven meters per pixel, offer a resolution 10 times greater than earlier views. Scientists can now clearly see the V-shaped walls of the fractures, which are nearly 1,000 feet deep. Team members likened the accomplishment to taking a photo of a roadside billboard using a telephoto lens held out the window of a speeding car.

“If there is one set of images from this mission that illustrates how skilled we have become as planetary explorers, this is it,” said Carolyn Porco, leader of Cassini’s imaging team. “They are the most astounding images of any planetary surface that our cameras have so far taken.”

The observations should help scientists understand how geological processes can persist on such a small body, which is being heated by tidal distortions induced by Saturn.

A series of long fissures known as tiger stripes scars Enceladus’s south polar region, and earlier observations allowed the Cassini scientists to triangulate the origin of the jets within the fissures and show that the warm spots coincide with them.

In a flyby in March, Cassini flew through the plume and detected organic molecules, the carbon-based molecules that could provide the building blocks for life. Cassini also detected water vapor, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. The composition was surprisingly similar to that of a comet, scientists said.

At first glance, nothing in the landscape differentiates the active jet areas from other parts of the fissures. “We have a lot of interpretation to do,” Dr. Porco said. “The effects appear to be subtle.”

Comparison with other data taken during the flyby — like temperatures — should provide more clues.

The researchers see smooth areas on Enceladus that appear to be piles of ice particles that have fallen back to the surface. “Like snow,” Dr. Porco said. “We’re pretty sure we’re seeing that in these pictures.”

Paul Helfenstein, the team member who developed the technique for taking the high-speed, up-close pictures, said: “We can actually count boulders on the surface. We can look at details and distinguish fresh deposits.”

In the fall, Cassini is to make an even closer near-miss of Enceladus, passing within 15 miles of the moon’s surface.

Photo courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute, recorded on August 11, 2008 by the Cassini Orbiter.

50 Moons of Saturn
Curator: Daniel Birnbaum
Torino Triennale
6 November 2008 – 1 February 2009

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Venice called on to stage a "Biennale for Islamic Dissent"

Naples, 11 August (AKI) - Islamic leaders have welcomed a proposal to stage an international forum at the Venice Biennale arts festival to promote debate in the Muslim world.

Ahmad Vincenzo, president of the Association of Muslim Intellectuals and lecturer in Islamic rights at Naples' Federico II University said the proposal was positive.

Carlo Ripa Di Meana, former president of the Venice Biennale, moved to dedicate the 1977 Venice Biennale to the theme of "dissent" in relation to the Communist countries of the eastern bloc, a move opposed by Moscow.

He has called for the creation of a similar "Biennale for Islamic Dissent" to enhance debate in the Muslim world.

But Vincenzo said the proposal advanced by Carlo Ripa Di Meana, should not be compared to the event that generated widespread debate among Communists in 1977.

"The Venice Biennale is a prestigious institution," Vincenzo told Adnkronos International (AKI).

"The possibility of having a great initiative dedicated to the Islamic world would certainly have vast interest, even though I don't think you could in any way compare it to the meeting of dissidents of the Communist bloc in 1977."

“I imagine that it would speak about dissent with regard to the regimes of many countries that have an Islamic majority. Not dissent towards Islam as a religion," he said.

According to the Muslim lecturer, few know that the distinction between religion and politics is part of Islamic history.

He stressed there was a profound difference between the situation in Muslim countries and those of the former Communist bloc.

"In these, there was in many cases a democratic opposition, capable in a certain sense to create a turning point in the entire country.

In the Islamic world, on the contrary, the opposition is often more totalitarian and anti democratic than the regimes they want to change. I am referring particularly to the fundamentalist movement of the Muslim Brotherhood."

Karima Moual, president of the Association of Young Moroccans in Italy, said he welcomed the proposal providing it was not designed to promote "anti-Islamic" positions.

"I believe that this initiative would benefit if it made people from the Arab Islamic world participate, rather than those who are hostile towards Islam," she told AKI.

"It would be interesting to invite Muslim intellectuals but also non-Muslims from Arab countries to debate the 'cancer' that is destroying the Arab-Islamic world.

"I believe that the real problem in our countries is the absence of debate."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is modernity our antiquity? (revisited).

In these lazy days of August, I'm revisiting some of our more popular posts from previous years, here our entry for July 18, 2007:

Dada and Surrealism were still years away when Johann Dieter Wassmann struck out with this monumental, if misunderstood, work, “Of the Stealing of Women” 1896. Never before published or exhibited, the work merges an early 18th century English case-law text, open to a page describing the (limited) rights of women from being, yes, that’s right, stolen, with a medical engraving of mid-19th century bandaging practices, all linked by a harmony of violin pegs and tailpiece. In his notes on the work, Johann enthusiastically describes the piece in terms that we now might read as empowerment and liberation, closing with an enigmatic quote from his beloved muse, Goethe: ‘Man sieht nur, was man weiss.’ One sees only what one knows. Some critics have hesitated at themes they (mis)read as bondage and repression, with one Australian curator going so far as to have the work removed from the exhibition BLEEDING NAPOLEON at the 2003 Melbourne International Arts Festival.

Personally, I believe the work can be read as a nod to the rising sentiment across Europe in support of women's suffrage. Three years earlier, in 1893, New Zealand was the first country to introduce universal suffrage, generating headlines world-wide. The use of an English case-law book would suggest some reference to the British empire here. The image of a woman bandaged suggests a play on the word suffrage. Violin pegs are, of course, necessary to tune the instrument, implying an adjustment or refinement of the social politic to enhance the role of women in 19th century society.

Whatever its inner meaning, the work stands as a significant precursor to the explosive power Dada and Surrealism would have on the course of 20th century modernism.