Monday, January 3, 2011

For 2011? How about "thought-executing fires"

By Barry Johnson

Well, then, 2011. In yet another calendar year, we plant our flag and await the lightning bolt summoned by the hubris of it all. Because here at Arts Dispatch we recollect:
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!/ You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout/ Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!/ You sulphurous and thought-executing fires, / Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,/ Singe my white head!
Of course, at that point the Fool tells Lear: "... here's a night pities neither wise man nor fool." And advises him to go inside.  He knows that "thought-executing fires" bring an end to the play -- and the blog post -- before its time. So we'll take good advice and go inside and type a bit more.

The presumption at Arts Dispatch is that if you aren't interested in reading about art, you aren't reading the posts. And "reading about art" covers everything from news to commentary to utterly crazy speculation. Also, "criticism." (Sigh.)

Yesterday, the New York Times Book Review published a group of essays about the State of Criticism, specifically literary criticism, and we'll be considering it a some length later. For now, we'll just link you up, if you haven't seen it.

The presumption behind arts criticism is freedom of expression. That doesn't exist everywhere. (I suppose one could argue that it doesn't exist absolutely anywhere, but I'm not looking for a metaphysical rabbit hole here.) And one of the places it doesn't exist is Belarus, where the government has cracked down on a politically engaged theater company, the Belarus Free Theater.  Portland theater artists are gathering tonight at Portland Center Stage to express solidarity with their brothers in Belarus. They will read from Being Harold Pinter, "a piece that mixes transcribed statements by Belarusian political prisoners with writings by the award-winning playwright Pinter, who also was a friend and supporter of the troupe." The reading will take place at on the Mezzanine of Portland Center Stage, 128 NW Eleventh Avenue, on Monday, January 3, from 6-7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

We'd heard from Mr. Peter Ames Carlin himself that he was working on a story about Jay Cunningham, the Portland artist who flashed "star" potential in his quasi-allegorical, quasi-surreal, obsessively detailed paintings in the early '90s. And then disappeared. Carlin gets us up-to-date with Cunningham, who may be BACK this year, with his story in The Oregonian on Sunday. We are a little dubious that the reason he stopped working and exhibiting had only to do with a rampant perfectionism, as the article seemed to argue, because, you know, the chain of causality. What caused the perfectionism? What's really going on when you spend hours repainting individual blades of grass? But still, interesting story, and it will be good to have Cunningham art to puzzle over.

Let's say that for purely psychological reasons, you have a hard time embracing the Western New Year celebration. Or maybe you resist it for political reasons because you reject the culture within which it occurs. (I know you're interested in art, but I have NO idea what your politics are!) Or maybe you were just sick or in transit on Dec. 31. What I'm getting at is that you haven't missed EVERYTHING. In fact, several New Year's celebrations await, and Anne Adams at Culturephile has collected them for you: Russian, Japanese and Chinese New Year's among them. So party well!

No comments: