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visits on art, design, architecture and literature

Category: 2018

Amsterdam_Tess van Zalinge “Shades of White”

In  color theory, a shade is a pure color mixed with black (or having a lower lightness) Strictly speaking, a “shade of white” would be a neutral beige.

Nevertheless, in Tess van Zalinge ‘s  fabulous creations, the shades of white take a complete different direction;  ‘The designer label’s aesthetics contemporises the female form, combining modern Dutch silhouettes with traditional elements. The precise cut and fit of her collections take centre stage, an approach lending itself to bespoke tailoring. Influenced by her Dutch roots, Tess van Zalinge references in her work Dutch crafts, costume wear, design and typically Dutch techniques.

photo ©Wadim Petunin

Virgin white organza and frail corsets formed the basis for the enchanting show with folkloristic kraplap. With the title ‘Monday, Wash Day’, the young designer referred to nostalgic traditional Dutch sculptures of green meadows with clotheslines full of flowing white wax.

I met Tess van Zalinge  first time last July afternoon in Munich; Tess  was attenting a special event for a dress creation which would be part of the Alte Pinakothek for limited time ‘Woman in Blue Reading a Letter’ by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675). Tess and her studio created  a dress for that occasion, as her studies on costume historical design.

Design: Tess van Zalinge, Photo©Peter Stigter

 

photo ©Tomek Dersu Aaron, model Suez

 

Her collection “De Porcelayne Fles” (“the Porcelain Bottle’), collection 2017/2018  was launched  in  collaboration with  Royal Delft.  The collection was a class  between functionality and sensuality, featuring oversized suits and lingerie. Due to the unique collaboration, between Tess and Royal Delft, prints were created honouring Dutch master painters like Johannes Vermeer.

The music of Alexander Desalt echoes beautifully during that collection. Young Tess, a very hard working young fashion designer based in Amsterdam has lots in her mind..

A long admired artist and writer,  Edmund de Waal in his magnificent book “The White Road”, he writes,

“Porcelain is made of two kins of mineral. The first element is ‘petunse’ or what is known as porcelain stone. In the vivid imagery used here in Jindgedezhen it provides the flesh of the porcelain.  It gives translucency and supplies the hardness of the body.  The second element is ‘kaolin’ or porcelain call and it is the bones.  It gives plasticity.  Together ‘petuntse’ and ‘kaolin’ fuse at great heat to create a form of glass that is vitrified: at a molecular level the spaces are filled up with glass, making the vessel non-porous. ” (Edmund de Wall,”The White Road”_ a pilgrimage of sorts, pp29)

 

  photo© Tomek Dersu Aaron

“…It is from ‘kaolin that porcelain draws its strength, just like tendons in the body.  Thus is that a soft earth strength to ‘petuntse’ which is the harder rock. A rich merchant told me that several years ago some Europeans purchased some petuntse, which they took back to their own country in order to make some porcelain, but not having any kaolin, their efforts failed … upon which the Chinese merchant told me laughing, ‘They wanted to have a body in which the flesh would be supported without bones.” (Edmund de Waal, ‘The White Road, pp.29

Tess’ love for crafts, nature and folklore is again central in her newest collection. Inspired by the nostalgic image of white laundry on the clothesline above the vast fields that Dutch nature has to offer. Tess takes you back to Monday Laundry, ‘I have been inspired by this typical Dutch image of peace and quietness and made a translation of it with the focus on traditional costume, craft and experiment’.

photo ©Tomek Dersu Aaron

In some of their creations, the fashion designers, not always referencing as specific building , often incorporate architectural elements, like elongated proportions and strong silhouettes in their fashions; architecture usually plays the influence pattern. Coco Chanel quoted  “Fashion is architecture: is a matter of proportions”

Tess van Zalinge’s studio was created in 2016, a small creative team of 1-5 young designers, usually some interns of fashion design and all the  fabrics are within the borders of Netherlands. Tess does not hold any rules concerning how often she will present collections, first year she held three and a capsule collection, for this year is to do one collection and simultaneously to work /collaborate on interesting projects on the site.

The unique folded apron from the Molensteenkraag was the inspiration for one of the signature looks from Tess Van Zalinge’s Porceleyne Fles’ collection back in 2017. For her partnership with the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, Tess has re-invented the stand-out piece to be exhibited next to the artwork in the museum for the duration of six months commencing in January, 2019.

photo©Marieke Bosma, courtesy of Centraal Museum Utrecht

photo© Marieke Bosma,courtesy of Centraal Museum Utrecht

photo © Tomek Dersu Aaron, model Fien Kloos

You are by the sea at the turn of the tide.. The san is washed clean. You make the first mark in the white sand, that first contact of foot on the crust of the sand, not knowing how deep and how definite your step will be. You hesitate over the white paper like Bellini’s scribe with his brush. Eighty paris from the tail of an otter ends in a breath, a single hair steady in the still air. You are ready to start. The hesitation of a kiss on the nape of the neck like a lover. (Edmund de Waal, The White Road) 

 

From September 5, 2018 to March 31, 2019, the Costume Museum organizes the Contemporary Fashion exhibition.

The Dutch Costume Museum shows the craftsmanship, artistry, and passion that created the Dutch traditional costumes. The collection encompasses a cross-section of local traditional dresses and folk art from each region. Each region has its own garb, with variations from different villages or stages of life, such as marriage and mourning after a death. The museum houses seven rooms, and each room is decorated with motives and colours characteristics for each specific region…..The museum is housed in a 17th-century canal house at Herengracht, around the corner or Leidsestraat in the center of Amsterdam. In 1665, ropemaker Jan Jacobszn van Gelder bought the plot of land on which he built house numbers 427 and 429. The carpenter Cornelis de Roos had a facade with neck gables constructed in 1700, a feature that is still visible today. The interior contains an original Blue Delft toilet, which is still in use.

……

all photos credited by the photographers and courtesy of Tess van Zalinge Studio, Amsterdam, Netherlands. 

 

 

 

“Stories and Reflections” Axel Vervoordt and Michael James Gardner

 

Last spring during a beautiful dinner given by Fergus McCaffrey gallery, New York, as of the historic exhibition Gutai (1953-1959)  I met the writer Michael  James Gardner.  Our evening conversation was on his new publication, a memoir co-written with Axel Vervoordt,  “Stories and Reflections”, published by Flammarion (p hardback, 312 pages).  Axel Vervoordt, Belgian designer and famous curator whose taste and knowledge for rare and beautiful antiques, in modern art, furnishings, and pottery is astonishing.  Michael James Gardner is an American writer and Axel’s son in law.   I was delighted when I received the following afternoon my own copy signed by both authors.

To make this book. we began with a list that Axel made that included one hundred moments from his fascinating life. During a period of time that lasted many weeks, we met as often as we could, Axel started to tell me his stories and I learned many things that I never knew.  In the months that followed, as I listened to the recordings of the time we spent together, it became clear that many of the one hundred moments were connected…One thing leads to another. One story contains many…(Acknowledgements, Stories, and Reflections)

 

Needless to say that ‘Stories and Reflections”  was my companion through the summer during quiet hot afternoons in the Mediterranean and busy travel time as  the stories  unveiled and weaved in an extraordinary way, from discovering Japanese Gutai art, the decades-long series of exhibitions at Palazzo Fortuny in Venice; the  wonderful insights gained from artists, such as Cy Twombly, Anish Capoor..   By permission from Michael James Gardner, I chose three stories and photos to share here.

Cy Twombly and a Change of Heart 

photo©Jan Liegeois, published in “Stories and Reflections”

 

One of the last times I saw Cy was at TEFAF. He was interested in an ancient artifact, a Mesopotamian duck weight, circa 1500 BCE. Made of marble, such weights were used for measuring commodities traded in local villages.  He wanted to buy it, and I wanted to deliver it to his house in Italy personally. It was always difficult to reach him to make the travel arrangements. He rarely used the phone. His home in Gaeta was in a remote, hillside village on the coast between Roma and Naples. The best way to contact him was to call a local café, which he went to at the same time every day. …..in 2011, the news arrived: he had died in a hospital in Rome. In remembrance of him, I didn’t want anyone else to have the marbled duck. Today, it has a special place in the library of the castle and I think of Cy wherever I see it. (Stories and Reflections,pp. 194)

 

Stones and Silence 

photo©Jan Liegeois, published in  “Stories and Reflections”

 

“I believe stones are created by time and carry the power of the earth. Stones are like silence, slow-living animals-they have a spirit that resonates for thousand and even millions of years. 
…I believe there is a distinctive spirit in different types of stones – my practice is a reminder of that.  It’s a way of giving nobility to an earthy object that looks humble but actually has weight and meaning.”
In our workshop, I have designed floating stone tables using black Belgian slate. The creative process includes simply running my hand over the stone, not to give it the shape that I want, but to respect the shape the stone has already – like its hidden soul – and to use this as a guide in the design. Creating a patina by rubbing our hands over stone objects can be a healing process.  (Stories and Reflections, pp. 202) 

 

The Story of the Parquet

photo©Jan Liegeois, published in “Stories and Reflections”
While renovating the castle in the mid-1980s. I dreamed of creating a study with a beautiful floor. .. Through a referral, I heard there was something special in the north of Paris 
…A few weeks late, the parquet was delivered to the castle. It was much more beautiful than I could have expected. The designs used a mixture of walnut, rosewood, and maple to make intricate and unique shapes inspired by geometry, with expert precision……
…During that time, the craftsmen in our workshop worked hard for man months to recreate each square. On the day that the parquet was removed from the castle, we replaced the entire floor with our version, The process of producing it was the excellent technical training of our craftsmen. I consider their work to be a masterpiece. (Stories and Reflections, pp145) 

 

Author’s note: In the process of creating this book. I relied upon my memory of many different experiences in my life. I recounted the stories to my son-in-law in English, which is not my native language. We consulted family members and others who appear in these stories to read drafts, provide edits, or offer their own accounts of the events as we lived them. We researched facts and details when we could. I have changed the names in some cases or omitted them altogether. I occasionally left out certain details, but only when that didn’t change the purpose or emotional truth of the story and why I wanted to share these memories with you. (Axel Vervoordt)

….. you learn also from the ugliness because you either want to make it better or try to accept it. There is no beauty without ugliness. Art made me look at things differently. It opened my mind. I went on my own to England when I was 14 to buy antiques, and then I sold to my parents’ friends. I went to big, beautiful houses, and they had the most amazing art and furniture with Wellington boots out front. They lived in a casual way with beautiful things. In France and other countries, people had expensive things, but you couldn’t touch them. It was only to show riches, and I never liked that. I like things that are close to you that give you spirit. (Axel Vervoordt ” the design is here’, conversation  with Kanye West, by Chris Gardner, April 13, 2018)

 

“I want to give a different dimension to what I do. I don’t like that word, decorating…Rick Owens speaks with Axel Vervoordt about living in the light and what it takes to make a village.” Interview magazine, July 16, 2014)

Author’s note: The first half of the book tells more of a chronological story of Axel’s life, and the second half he really wanted to add more “reflections” and little lessons that he learned. It is more about mentorship that he received as a child and trying to pay that forward. (Michael James Gardner, May 28th, private note/email to me)

all photos©Jan Liegeois published  by permission directly by the author Michael James Gardner

 

Hamburg: Elbphilarmonie, June 20th,2018; Robert Schumann & Antonín Dvorák

“The Elbphilharmonie takes inspiration from three structures: the ancient theatre at Delphi, sport stadiums and tents”
                                          Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron, architects

 

Visiting the captivating city of Hamburg, ‘Venezia of the North’ and  thanks to a splendit invitation by Tom R. Shulz (pressesprecher), I had  a blissful evening attending  a concert on June 20th with my daughter Nefeli at the Grand Hall of the Elbphilarmonie, (Robert Schumann and Antonín Dvorák ) with Thomas Hengelbrock  principal conductor of the NDR ElbPhilarmonie Orchestras, and lead violin Ms. Vilder Frang.

History meets modernity at the traditional port Sandtorhafen in the HafenCity in Hamburg.  Approximately up to 25 historical vessels can dock along th380-meter long pontoon area of Hamburg’s first artificially built port basin.  Somewhere here at the edge the ElbPhilarmonie stands spectacularly with its impressive glass facade and the wave-like rooftop rises up from the former Kaispeicher building on the western tip of the HafenCity.   It is been rated as one of the largest and most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world.

Elbphilarmonie, photo ©Sophie Wolter

For the Elbphilharmonie, ( Herzog said in an interview),  “one influence was the Greek amphitheater—carved out of the ground, as much geology as it is architecture.  Another was the canopies used at festivals and outdoor theaters to protect people from the sun.”

Elbphilharmonie Cross-Section (unlabelled) © Herzog & de Meuron

The Theatre at Delphi, designed to stage lyrical and dramatic productions, was cut out of the hillside overlooking the temple of Apollo during the sixth century BC, probably to replace an earlier wooden theatre.

Ancient Theater at  Delphi in Greece

 

On 11 January 2017, Thomas Hengelbrock and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra have officially opened Hamburg’s newest concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie. That first concert marked the beginning of a new era in the life of the orchestra, which has moved into the Elbphilharmonie as its resident orchestra and finally gained a permanent musical home after seventy years without a base.

NDR ElbPhilarmonie Orchester (Grand Hall); June 20th,2018  conductor: Thomas Hengelbrock,photo© Daniel Dittus

NDR ElbPhilarmonie Orchester; June 20th, 2018; violin: Vilder Frang; conductor: Thomas Hengelbrock, photo© Daniel Dittus

 

The renowned Japanese acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota is responsible for the perfect acoustics in the Elbphilharmonie. His company, Nagata Acoustics, has a long list of satisfied clients, including Suntory Hall in Tokyo and the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles. Toyota’s goal for the Elbphilharmonie Grand Hall (Grand Saal) was that the hall should assist the natural acoustics of the music but also be sensitive to electronic sound systems so the audience might enjoy rock concerts as well. ‘Designing the hall is something like making or creating an instrument, like a violin.‘ (interview of Yashuhisa Toyota to Aaron Gonsher, April 2017)

The auditorium, the Grand Hall (Grosser Saal) with the  ‘vineyard’ style seating places audience no further than 30 meters from the conductor, breaking down barriers bbetweenmusicians and audience.

Grand Hall at Elbphilarmonie, photo©Michael Zapf

This auditorium—the largest of three concert halls in the Elbphilharmonie—is a product of parametric design, a process by which designers use algorithms to develop an object’s form. Algorithms have helped design bridges, motorcycle parts….in the case of the Elbphilharmonie, Herzog and De Meuron used algorithms to generate a unique shape for each of the 10,000 gypsum fiber acoustic panels that line the auditorium’s walls like the interlocking pieces of a giant, undulating puzzle.(Wired, What happens when Algorithms design a concert hall?)

Grand Hall, white skin at Elbphilarmonie, photo ©Oliver Heissner

The described  “white skin” that covers the surface of the walls and ceilings in the Grand Hall is composed of approximately 10,000 sheets of gypsum fiber panels. With the help of an expansive reflector that is suspended from the middle of the vaulted ceiling, the panels project sound into every corner of the space.’ …The 10,000 panels coalesce into a billowy, off-white skin, punctuated only by 2,150 seats and 1,000 hand-blown glass light bulbs…. beauty was only part of the architects’ intention when they began designing the building more than 13 years ago. “Every panel has a function,” says Benjamin Koren, founder of One to One, the studio that worked with Herzog and De Meuron to design and fabricate the panels.’

NDR ElbPhilarmonie Orchester; June 20th, 2018 violin: Vilder Frang; conductor: Thomas Hengelbrock, photo© Daniel Dittus

 

The Elbphilharmonie is located in the historic Sandtorhafen, which was Hamburg’s old working harbor for centuries. The Kaiserspeicher, Hamburg’s biggest warehouse on the water, was built in 1875. Destroyed in the Second World War, it was then rebuilt and renamed Kaispeicher where cocoa, tobacco, and tea were stored until the 1990s.

der Kaispreicher (2003)l resource;bildarchive_Hamburg
Architects Pierre de Meuron, Jacques Herzog, and Ascan Mergenthaler have been working on the Elbphilharmonie since 2003. Herzog and de Meuron established their office in Basel in 1978 and have since then designed and completed major projects such as the Tate Modern in London, the Alliance Arena in Munich and the National Stadium in Peking for the 2008 Olympic Games

 

Elbphilharmonie Cross-Section (unlabelled) © Herzog & de Meuron

Concertgoers can access the Grand Hall and Recital Hall foyers via stairs and lifts from the Elbphilharmonie Plaza. The Grand Hall foyer clearly defines the character of the Elbphilharmonie architecture with stairs that extend over several floors; 1,000 curved window panels, tailor-made to capture and reflect the color of the sky, the sun’s rays, the water and the city, turn the concert hall into a gigantic crystal.

Grand Hall Foyer, Elbphilarmonie, photo © Iwan Baan

Elpphilarmonie, photo ©Maxim Schulz

Hamburg is called the city of Music. The cost of the ElbPhilarmonie has escalated to 789 million euro. The current music scene in Hamburg is highly diverse; the city is home to three professional orchestras, an opera house, notable soloists and ensembles, jazz, rock and pop musicians, composers, singer-songwriters, electronic experimenters and many renowned educational institutions.

Elbphilarmonie, photo ©Michael Zapf

Roof of Elbphilarmonie, photo ©Michael Zapf

 

Christoph Lieben-Seutter has been the General and Artistic Director of the historic Laeiszhalle and Hamburg’s new concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg,since September 2007. His responsibilities include directing the artistic content of both venues with around 100 events of different genres annually. Lieben-Seutter is also a member of the board of the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester…

Christoph Lieben-Seutter, photo © Michael Zapf

 

 a winter morning;  photo© Michael Zapf

all photos kindly have been released by the press office of Elbphilarmonie (all photographers accreditation have been noted). Thank you, dear Tom R. Schulz, for the invitation experiencing a magical evening.

New York_Andrew Ferentinos ‘The desk of an architect:objects of desire’

“Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design.” Charles Eames

 

A beautiful warm fall afternoon in New York City, I walked to Andrew Ferentinos‘ studio. The sun was bright and some beautiful object was calling for attention on his desk.  I thought yes, indeed, this is an object created at the desk of the architect to elevate maybe the experience of everyday life, the need to reach for simple but yet important moments that transcend a normal day experience;  without any technical device, or charged the phone. It was indeed there, the “Untitled, Box No, 1”

Andrew Ferentinos, Untitled, Box No. 1, 2016, aluminum, brass, cork, photo©Andrew Ferentinos

The box is constructed from two solid blocks of aluminum measuring 18″ x 4.75″x 3.5″. Voids within the interior provide storage for business cards or small items. The cork lining provides soft contact when closing. Two brass rods are pinned to the underside and raise the box slightly off the table.

Andrew Ferentinos, Untitled, Box No. 1, 2016, aluminum, brass, cork, photo©Andrew Ferentinos

 

Andrew Ferentinos, “Untitled, Box No. 1″, 2016, aluminum, brass, cork,5.5″ x 4.25” x 18″(available in mirror polish or sandblasted with clear anodize), photo©Andrew Ferentinos

 

“I am interested in part-to-whole relationships and the repetition of units in series. The concept of the box is to function as a brick. A brick can stand alone or be one of many bricks in a larger assembly. The form of the box is a result of its potential to construct something larger than itself.  This is achieved by the coupling of flutes and rods that fit together, establishing not only a firm joint and locking mechanism but also a sliding mechanism.  Boxes stacked in series function as the stacked sliding drawers of a cabinet.  Like a brick, there is no prescribed way of joining them together. It is up to the builder to make an arrangement.” (Andrew Ferentinos)

Andrew Ferentinos, 11″ x 17″ graphite on paper, sketches for the ‘unitled Box no.1’

Andrew Ferentinos, 11″ x 17″ graphite on paper. sketches for the ‘untitled box no.1’

Farnsworth House, in Plano, Ilinois,  designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, completed 1951,now a modernist icon, was once a controversial home, photo©Arcaid images/Alamy

Villa Savoye, a modernist villa on the outskirts of Paris, designed by Corbusier & Pierre Jeanneret (1928-1931)
Corbusier cited the 1912 book of the Austrian architect Adolf Loos “Ornament and crime”, and quoted Loos’s dictum, “The more a people are cultivated, the more decor disappears.”….He declared that in the future the decorative arts industry would produce only “objects which are perfectly useful, convenient, and have a true luxury which pleases our spirit by their elegance and the purity of their execution and the efficiency of their services.

 

Le Corbusier, Exterior of the Unité d’ Habitation, in Marseille (1947–1952)

The modular design of the apartments inserted into the building the Unité d’ Habitation, in Marseille (1947–1952)

Andrew Ferentinos has created another ‘object of desire’ the ‘Barcelona Column’  

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Andrew Ferentinos, ‘Barcelona Column’, a photo of the prototype,2016  ©Andrew Ferentinos

Barcelona Column is an exact replica of Mies van der Rohe’s legendary Barcelona Pavilion column, yet made of polished yellow brass and slightly scaled down to become an object rather than a building component.

Andrew Ferentinos, ‘Barcelona Column’, a photo of the prototype,2016  ©Andrew Ferentinos

The  Barcelona Pavilion, part of the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain,  designed by Mies van der Rohe, was the display of architecture’s modern movement to the world.  Originally named the German Pavilion, the pavilion was the face of Germany after WWI, emulating the nation’s progressively modern culture that was still rooted in its classical history. Its elegant and sleek design combined with rich natural material presented by Mies’ Barcelona Pavilion as a bridge into his future career, as well as architectural modernism.

the Barcelona Pavillion photo ©Gili Merin (resource, ARCDaily, Feb 2011 )

“..In 1930, the original Barcelona Pavilion was dismantled after the International Exposition was over;  in 1983 a group of Catalan architects began working on rebuilding the pavilion from photographs and what little salvaged drawings that remained.  Today it is open daily and can be seen in the same location as in 1929

….the Barcelona Pavilion resides on a narrow site in a quiet tucked away corner secluded from the bustling city streets of Barcelona.  Raised on a plinth of travertine, the Barcelona Pavilion separates itself from its context create atmospheric and experiential effects that seem to occur in a vacuum that dissolves all consciousness of the surrounding city.”

the Barcelona Pavillion photo ©Gili Merin (resource, ARCDaily, Feb 2011 )

 

‘…..The interior of the pavilion consists of offset wall places that work with the low roof plane to encourage movement, as well as activate Mies’ architectural promenade where framed views would induce movement through the narrow passage that would open into a larger volume….’

Andrew Ferentinos studied architecture and art at The Cooper Union in New York City and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Andrew Ferentinos received a BArch from Cooper Union and an advanced Masters degree from MIT.  Ferentinos opened his architecture office Ferentinos Architecture in 2012 after working in New York City for such prestigious architects as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), Raimund Abraham, and Francois de Menil.  Currently, Andrew is working on the re-constructing ambitious revival (private client) of two houses by Peter Eisenman, on West Cornwall, Connecticut, and Hardwick, Vermont.

 

The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.
                                                                                                 Frank Lloyd Wright

 

Andrew Ferentinos has been one of my contributor writers with a beautiful piece in earlier times for my blog, on Eero Saarinen’s MIT Chapel 

 

…………………Thank you Andrew Ferentinos for your friendship and your contributing story for  my blog  and learning  so much about architecture with you;  photos and sketches permission publication  of your fabulous ‘objects of desire ‘  (New York, May 2018 )

 

Munich “IL TRITTICO”, Giacomo Puccini at Bayerische Staatsoper_ a brilliant performance

IL TRITTICO: Il tabarro / Suor Angelica / Gianni Schicchi

Three operas in one act each: Composer: Giacomo Puccini ; Libretti by Giuseppe Adami and Giovacchino Forzano  (In Italian with German and English surtitles)

 IL TRITTICO (Suor Angelica): Ermonela Jaho (Suor Angelica), Ensemble und Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper photo©Wilfried Hösl

 

musical direction: Kirill Petrenko  production: Lotte de Beer
Conceptual advice: Peter te Nuyl 
stage: Bernhard Hammer 
Costumes: Jorine van Beek 
light: Alex Brok 
dramaturgy: Malte Krasting 
choirs: Sören Eckhoff 

Last December, few days before Christmas, I had a lovely invitation for “Il Triticco, one of the most underrated opera by Giacomo Puccini, for the Bayerische Staatsoper_Munich,   one of the most triumphant opera houses of our contemporary time.

Three radically different sets being demanded for this 3-act opera and a balanced ‘marriage’ of Ms Lotte de Beer ( production /stage design), the music direction by Kirill Petrenko and the performers, principally Ermonela Jaho on the role of Suor Angelica emanated  to an astonishingly outstanding performance.

Simply stunning, simply gorgeous….And then something very rare happens: De Beer takes the stage, and instead of the usual boos the applause gets even louder. The spinning spaceship has done it to the audience. “(Sueddeutsche Zeitung”)

These three self-contained operas whose stories have nothing to do with each other  act as strange neighbors; First,  ‘Il Tabarro’ (The Cloak), a melodramatic slice of life and marital sleaze, a chill drama on the Seine; then follows the delicate tragedy of Suor Angelica, a religious tale set in a convent, (location:near Siena), featuring an entirely female cast; and the third act comes a devilish comedy of Gianni Schicchi (location; Florence) in which a family of hypocrites are duped out  of their inheritance by a perfect villain.

 Giacomo Puccini has summarized under the art historical term “triptych” – Il tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi  three one-act operas,  scenes of reality. Puccini ventures to narrate the world as a whole in a grand opera as in a great novel.  Puccini sets three historical highlights, bundled by a music that understands the human impulses of relentless coldness to glowing passion.

Ms. de Beer doesn’t think operas should abandon the audiences they already have in favor of new audiences, but “I think they should get a second brand, like a younger version run by young artists who get a chance to try and communicate with their contemporaries.(NY Times, 2014, Breaking the Rules of Opera for a New Generation)

Il trittico (Sour Angelica): Michaela Schuster (Die Fürstin), Ermonela Jaho (Suor Angelica) photo ©Wilfried Hösl

Around 1904, Puccini first began planning a set of one-act operas, largely because of the success of  Cavalleria Rusticana.  Originally, he planned to write each opera to reflect one of the parts of Dante’s Divine Comedy However, he eventually based only Gianni Schicchi on Dante’s epic poem; the link in the final work is that each opera deals with the concealment of a death. 

Il trittico (Sour Angelica): Ermonela Jaho (Suor Angelica) photo©Wilfried Hösl

“Il Trittico is not only a showcase of some of Puccini’s best writing, but it can also be a showcase for a director who is unable to resist the temptation to try to link them at least thematically, since there is little common convergence of tone, period or character between the three short works. Lotte de Beer connects the three pieces in only the most abstract of ways for the new production in Munich. Each of the one-act operas remains in the period of its original setting, and plays out closely to the libretto, but each take place within the wide opening of what looks like a large tunnel. The concept behind this is something to do with time, connecting the past with the future, but it’s not something that makes a great impression or present the works in any new or revelatory way.” (Opera Journal, Puccini, Il Trittico, Munich 2017) 

Il trittico (Sour Angelica): Ermonela Jaho (Suor Angelica) photo©Wilfried Hösl

After the extensive music dramas of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi, the music world occupied itself with the question of what can follow those form-perfect opera dramas with leitmotif technique and a duration of many hours of performance; an increase no longer seemed possible. In Italy, therefore, people around the year 1880 recollected the short form of one-act play, which was not completely unknown. As early as the 16th century, it was customary to insert smaller and stand-alone “mini-comedies” as intermedia between the acts of tragedies, in order to make the evening evenings more varied. Over time, the comic intermezzi between soprano and bass buffo developed out of these, while in France they created variety through ballet inserts between the tragedy files. (Amelie Langermantel, Il Trittico-Die Kunst Des Einakters, 12.20.2017)

 IL TRITTICO (Il tabarro): Eva-Maria Westbroek (Giorgetta), Wolfgang Koch (Michele), Yonghoon Lee (Luigi); photo©Wilfried Hösl

 IL TRITTICO (Il tabarro): Eva-Maria Westbroek (Giorgetta), Wolfgang Koch (Michele), Yonghoon Lee (Luigi); photo©Wilfried Hösl

The idea of the one-acter Puccini did not seem to have let go since then. At the turn of the century, he focused more intensively on the idea of three co-ordinated short operas dedicated to various episodes of the Divine Comedy Dante, each depicting the areas of Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso (Hell, Purification Mountain and Paradise). Both the unsatisfactory libretto search for three matching stories, and in crucial instance Puccini’s publisher Giulio Ricordi spoke against the implementation of this fabric idea. However, Puccini thus laid the foundation for his Trittico, which should unite as well as the Divine Comedy in three initially independent parts under a theme. Over the years, the composer tried repeatedly  to implement the idea of the three separate acts and thought, for example, in 1907 to set to music by Maxim Gorki. Again publisher Ricordi expressed his concerns that those topics would not be suitable for an opera and would never sell to the public.

 IL TRITTICO (Suor Angelica): Ermonela Jaho (Suor Angelica), Ensemble und Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper photo©Wilfried Hösl

 

Many thanks to Christoph Koch (Head of Press & Editorial Content /STAATSOPER) for his invitation and  support  and patience to finalize this post.

 

 

‘Lightscape’ porcelain quietness creations of Ruth Gurvich

‘Lightscapes ‘: light and delicate as paper, precise as an origami object, and pure  and clean as freshly fallen snow.

all photos, courtesy of Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg

When the days are heavy and stormy, as last days in New York, my luxury refuge memories is my passion for porcelain.  About a year ago, a very misty morning, while living in Munich, having an invitation to visit the Porzellan Manufacturer Nymphenburg, I drove to Nymphenburg Palace, where springtime I visited often the gardens, to experience the creations of Ruth Grulich.

Porcelain has been made for 1,000 years, traded for 1,000 years. And it has been in Europe for 800 of these.  You can trace a few shards earlier.  These broken fragments of Chinese for gleam provocatively alongside the heavy earthenware pitchers they were found with an no one can work out how they got to this Kentish cemetery, the Urbino hillside. There are scattering of porcelain across medieval Europe in inventories of Jean, doc de Berry, a couple of popes, the will of Piero de’Medici with his ulna copper di porcellana, a cup of porcelain. (Edmund de Waal, The White Road, a pilgrimage of sorts,

….Marco Polo reaches ‘a city called Tinju’.

Here, they make bowls of porcelain, large and small, of incompatible beauty. They are made nowhere else except in this city, and from here they are exported all over the world. In the city itself, they are so plentiful and cheap that for a Venetian groat you might buy their bowls of such beauty that nothing lovelier could be imagined.  These dishes are made of a crumbly earth or clay which is dug as though from a mine and stacked in huge mounds and then left for thirty or forty years exposed to wind, rain, and sun. By this time the earth is so refined that dishes made of it are of an azure tint with a very brilliant scene. You must understand that when a man makes a mound of this earth he does so for his children; the time of maturing is so long that he cannot hope to draw any profit from it himself or to put it to use, but the son who succeeds him will repay the fruit. (Edmund de Waal

.

Ruth Gurevich’s models have not created additively; she does a model with paper, she constructs, usually starting with a single sheet of paper.  She cuts, folds, and designs according to a precisely calculated plan.  Like a true architect, Gurvich leaves nothing to chance.  And this is true when it comes to choosing the paper as well; she uses silky soft, absorbent paper made from cotton fibers, like the packing paper used for rolls of film. To fix the models in place, she uses off-the-shelf paper glue.  This creates tensions, kinks, and seams that give the vessel support and structure. (Nymphenburg Manu Factum)

Ruth Gurvich to the question ‘how do you transform paper into porcelain’,  She says: …‘for the production, we had to take a completely fresh approach.  The idea was always to translate the paper character of the models as accurately as possible, even including to the feels of it, but I also wanted to expose the construction process and structure. The cuts and splices, the kinks and curves, even the measurements I had written in pencil on the model, which provides the idea for the decorative painting.’

Ruth Gurvich originally studied architecture before she turned to painting, and this is reflected in her creations. The major theme of her life’s work is the examination of spatiality and dimension, and the passion to captivate space in delicate porcelain vases.

all photos, courtesy of Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg

‘Porcelain had interested me for a long time, so the idea was to translate the feel and character of the paper models, as accurately as possible, to porcelain,’ the Paris-based Argentine, who is known for her three-dimensional work with paper. A beautiful video, (Ruth Gurvich: An artist with scissors and paper): camera by Frank Becker.

Ruth Gurvich was born in Cordoba, Argentina in 1961. Initially, she studied architecture in her homeland, but in 1979 she switched to art, continuing her studies at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1987 to 1991. In her designs, Ruth Gurvich aims to show the shapes and structures of everyday things the way they are. Her ‘lightscape teapot 2011’, manufactured by Nymphenburg Porzellan, is part of the Product and Decorative Arts department at Cooper Hewitt, New York.  Ruth Gurvich lives and works in Paris.

 

 

 

 

New Haven: Tom Burr revives Jean Genet’s ‘May Day Speech’ at Yale/ the Pirelli bldg

Tom BurrThe Railings (May, 1970), 2017 detail, photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, NY

 

“What is still called American dynamism is an endless trembling.”

 Jean Genet’s prophetic declaration, written for a speech he delivered on  May 1, 1970 at Yale University, before an audience of approximately 25,000 (published in Hyperallergic, Tim Keane, Jan 21,2017

Reflecting last days of our ‘contemporary political landscape’, I recall that rainy  Sunday morning, November 5th,  invited by  Stefania Bortolami  for a  journey to New Heaven as of the last day of a ambitious project by artist Tom Burr, part of the expanding out of the box /Bortolami gallery projects “Artist/City”.  Over the past six months, Tom Burr has occupied and activated the first of the Marcel Breuer-designed Armstrong Rubber Company, later and more colloquially known as the “Pirelli Building” for the Pirelli Tire Company.After extensive demolition and remediation to the lobby’s original interiors, local codes required new railings. Burr produced and engraved new stainless steel railings with the complete text of Jean Genet’s “May Day Speech” delivered at Yale on the occasion of the 1970 May Day Rally (shortly after the construction of the building) in support of the Black Panthers, and their recently imprisoned founder, Bobby Seale. Burr named this site-responsive sculptural work The Railings (May 1970). (gallery press)

Tom Burr / New Haven, Phase 1, 2017, installation view, Bortolami, New Haven, photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, New York

In order to open the Pirelli Building to the public, the City of New Haven required the artist and the gallery to cordon off the rough edges of its naked interior with safety railings; this became the most and central piece for Burr as he inscribed with Genet’s speech, in full.  Genet’s words may ring  true today: ‘We whites are living perhaps in a liberal democracy, but the black lives, like it or not, under a paternalistic, authoritarian, imperialistic regime.’

Tom Burr / New Haven, Phase 1, 2017, installation view, Bortolami, New Haven,photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, NY

Genet was legendary for his queer subversion of power and his fetish for domination; his face appears twice in the Pirelli Building’s open-plan ground, printed on aluminum plates. Photographs of young and old Genet (Bae Genet / Grey Genet, all works 2017) rest on either side of a urinal divider, separated – or perhaps conjoined by – decades of sexual deviance.

Tom Burr / New Haven, Phase 1, 2017, installation view, Bortolami, New Haven,photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, NY

 

“Located in the artist’s hometown, the Breuer- designed building constitutes a cipher for the various social and political concerns central to Burr’s work, not to mention the artist’s own autobiography. As he explains, “I was born there a handful of years before the Pirelli Building was built, so it was always in my mind while I was growing up.” Armstrong Rubber commissioned the building in 1968 for its factory and executive offices and it became an iconic emblem as the entrance to the city o Interstate 95, particularly at a time when the city was gaining attention for its urban renewal and restructuring. The building was envisioned and constructed as a symbol of utopian urban strategy but, like many examples of  Brutalism became a representation of the failure of Modernism’s idealistic aspirations.” (Bortolami gallery,NY, press text)

today’s Pirelli /IKEA bldg.(photo@VK),Nov.5, 2017

This Brutalist masterpiece has served as the site of an evolving exhibition that commenced with the first phase, Pre-Existing Conditions, and it concluded with the final phase,  “Always Already Happening”, an ongoing durational performance consisting of simultaneous readings throughout the space …..

Tom Burr during the last day of the Artist/City project, (November 5,2017) orchestrated  a four-hour performance at the ground floor;  a group of “actors” /Yale are students were reading texts by or responding to the legacy of Anni Albers, Jean Genet, and the Black Panthers; the actors  were positioned near “zones of intensity” and each person was  reading  a specific  text during the 4 hour duration.

Yale art students on 4 hour performance,Nov.5, 2017  photos@VK

 

Yale Art students hired by Tom Burr reciting text (4-hour performance/Nov 5, 2017)photo @VKThe interior space had no heating and the constant rain and greyness of the day o had created a heavy atmosphere within  the dry and gloomy colors inside; while  the actors /students were reading, I found it somehow refreshing to take snippets of the text mirroring the experience of reading The Railing (May 1970)

Tom BurrThe Railings (May, 1970), 2017 Blackened steel, polished steel etched with Jean Genet’s 1970 “May Day Speech”, tempered glass, 23 panels, total length 42 in x 104 ft / 106.5 x 3170 cm, photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, New York

 

Located in the artist’s hometown, the Breuer- designed building constitutes a cipher for the various social and political concerns central to Burr’s work, not to mention the artist’s own autobiography. As he explains, “I was born there a handful of years before the Pirelli Building was built, so it was always in my mind while I was growing up.” Armstrong Rubber commissioned the building in 1968 for its factory and executive o ces and it became an iconic emblem as the entrance to the city o Interstate 95, particularly at a time when the city was gaining attention for its urban renewal and restructuring. The building was envisioned and constructed as a symbol of utopian urban strategy but, like many examples of Brutalism, became a representation of the failure of Modernism’s idealistic aspirations. (gallery press text)

Tom Burr Women Who Work, 2017 powder coated steel guard rails, IKEA desk chairs, direct-to-substrate print on aluminum, book (Women’s Work: Textile Art from the Bauhaus by Sigrid Wortmann Weltge), photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, NY

 

Burr’s sculptural composition entitled Women Who Work consists of a group of IKEA chairs facing away from a printed aluminum panel featuring a textile design by Joseph Albers. Burr positioned a book called “Women’s Work: Textile Art from the Bauhaus” is open on one of the empty chairs, suggesting maybe an absent audience.

Tom Burr ‘Brutalist Bathroom’, 2017 Powder coated steel guard rails, bathroom doors from Marcel Breuer’s Armstrong Rubber Co building, direct-to-substrate print on aluminum, photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, New York

 

Next to two bathroom doors, one labeled “Gentlemen” and the other without any label, Burr positioned a portrait of J. Edgar Hoover brandishing a gun.  At that time Hoover presiding  FBI Director in 1970 he ordered his agents to disrupt and discredit radical groups, like the Black Panthers who were on trial in New Haven at the time.

Best known as the home of Yale, one of the most elite universities in the US,  New Haven is a surprisingly blue-collar port town. Tom Burr was born in New Haven in 1963, under the mayoralty of Dick Lee, a prodigious builder and an enthusiast of modernism. In 1968, Lee convinced the Armstrong Rubber Company to hire Marcel Breuer to design their corporate headquarters: an imposing seven-story concrete tower atop a long base, like a head on a recumbent body. Armstrong was bought by Pirelli, a tire manufacturer, who later sold the building to IKEA; after demolishing its base, though, the Swedish megastore decided to set up shop next door, leaving the stripped Breuer behemoth abandoned for over 15 years. (text from gallery press)

Tom Burr Body/ Building (blue), 2017 Used blue work shirts, metal clothing rack, wooden pedestal, photo@courtesy of the artist and Bortolami, New York

 

“Genet’s highly stylized, sexually explicit works in memoir, fiction and playwriting transformed each of those genres, scandalizing readers and audiences and turning him into one of the most exasperating and profound moralists of the twentieth century. Late in his career, facing a decade-long writer’s block, his writing was reborn, first by engaging with the visual art and later, through writing about aspiring revolutionary groups who were fighting power from the margins. Little wonder, then, that by the late 1960s he was drawn to the trembling that was shaking the United States.” (Tim Keane, Hyperallergic, January 21, 2017)

Jean Genet, “May Day Speech” (1970) (© City Lights Books)

The speech, read in its English translation by a founding Black Panther member, Elbert “Big Man” Howard, consists of a rousing appeal on behalf of Bobby Seale, who was then on trial in New Haven for murder (the charges were eventually dropped). Genet’s oratorical strategy, a full-scale assault on the toxic apathy of white liberals, remains prophetic.

Genet blames the prevalence of racism on his Yale audience. “It is very clear that white radicals owe it to themselves,” he declares, “to behave in ways that would tend to erase their privileges.” Closing on a provocative note, he further goads the audience by comparing universities to “comfortable aquariums […] where people raise goldfish capable of nothing more than blowing bubbles.” Reread in light of the response to controversial police killings of African Americans in Charlotte, Ferguson, and elsewhere, Genet’s words bluntly spell out the diplomatically stated ideas coursing through the Black Lives Matter movement. (Harriet Staff, ‘A Look at Jean Genet’s 1970 May Day Speech,published at Poetry Foundation, January 23, 2017)

Angela Davis and Jean Genet  (Berkeley,70s,published at Blogcitylights, on Mumia Abu-Jamal’s article)

‘……The Frenchman’s name was Jean Genet, but I had no idea what that meant. David gave me a slender book, entitled The Blacks, with the name Jean Genet listed as its playwright. I turned to the back cover to learn more. It described the play, The Blacks, as an example of what was called ‘The Theatre of the Absurd’ (Mumia Abu-Jamal, Blogcitylights, September 9, 2016)

I want to thank  Tom Burr and Stefania Bortolami, an amazing visionary gallerist, who gave me  the chance to travel thru time, challenge and question myself where we are now as viewers, as spectators, as life critics, as young in heart revolutionary students, as mothers, being concerned of our times and the political fearful environment.  My early student days in Berkeley was after Genet and Angela Davis ‘s teaching days while their speeches were ‘rocking’ the strong temples of the University.  Indeed, their echo was still there; it also spread thru the Pirelli building that morning thru Burr’s selection of performance texts by the students and his fabulous rail installation/art piece.

 “The essence of theatre is the need to create not merely signs,” Genet writes, “but complete and compact images masking a reality that may consist in absence of being.”

Tom Burr with young visitors, Maya Fuchs Bortolami and Nefeli Brandhorst, Nov 5th, 2017, photo@VK

 

So much of my specificity as an author, as an artist, has to do with being a queer subject. …I became interested in throwing these things into the foreground, not letting them exist in an anonymous vessel. I’m interested in this project being a culmination of these facets, these problems/masquerades/privileges/disappointments, of both this particular building and my own body. All of these conditions that operate both metaphorically and actually, manifest in the presence of the building and in the hopes and dreams and expectations and all the disappointments and abandonments as well. … (Tom Burr, as told to Julian Elias Bronner, Artforum,500 Words, Feb 3, 2017.online)

rendering made “The Railings” 23 panels, total length: 42 in x 104ft (106.5 x 3170cm), 2017  @courtesy Bortolami gallery, New York
“I don’t have a preservationist approach to my project,” says the artist. “I like the building, so I don’t want to see it taken down. But I’m not here to save it. I’m interested in the fact that it’s amputated.” (Tom Burr to Mark Byrnes at CityLab, Oct.5, 2017

 

 

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