White Wight with Witch-Wife

Gustave Moreau, Jason et Médée (1865)

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Performativizing Papyrocentricity #46

Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:

Machina MundiThe Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution, David Wootton (Allen Lane 2015)

Wandering WondersPlankton: Wonders of the Drifting World, Christian Sardet (The University of Chicago Press 2015)

Love BuzzA Buzz in the Meadow, Dave Goulson (Jonathan Cape 2014)

Quake’s ProgressThe Million Death Quake: The Science of Predicting Earth’s Deadliest Natural Disaster, Roger Musson (Palgrave Macmillan 2012)

Sin after CinGargoyle Girls from Beelzebub’s Ballsack: The Sickest, Sleaziest, Splanchnophagousest Slimefests in Scum Cinema, Dr Joan Jay Jefferson (TransToxic Texts 2016)


Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR

Performativizing Papyrocentricity #42

Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:

Feats for the EyesDrawn from Paradise: The discovery, art and natural history of the birds of paradise, David Attenborough and Errol Fuller (Collins 2012)

Heart of the MatherChaotic Fishponds and Mirror Universes: the maths that governs our world, Richard Elwes (Quercus 2013)

BergblumenEnchanting Alpine Flowers, Alfred Pohler, trans. Jacqueline Schweighofer


Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR

Performativizing Papyrocentricity #37

Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:

Maths and Marmosets – The Great Mathematical Problems: Marvels and Mysteries of Mathematics, Ian Stewart (Profile Books 2013)

Be Ear Now – Sonic Wonderland: A Scientific Odyssey of Sound, Trevor Cox (Vintage 2015)

Exquisite Bulgarity – The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings, Mark Kushner (Simon & Schuster 2015)

Stellar StoryDiscovering the Universe: The Story of Astronomy, Paul Murdin (Andre Deutsch 2014)

Terms of EndrearmentShe Literally Exploded: The Daily Telegraph Infuriating Phrasebook, Christopher Howse and Richard Preston (Constable 2007)


Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR

Life in Vein

William Sharp, “Victoria Regia or the Great Water Lily of America (Underside of a Leaf)“ (1854), viâ Jeff Thompson

William Sharp, “Victoria Regia or the Great Water Lily of America (Underside of a Leaf)” (1854), viâ Jeff Thompson

Performativizing Papyrocentricity #29

Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:

Sky StoryThe Cloud Book: How to Understand the Skies, Richard Hamblyn (David & Charles 2008)

Wine WordsThe Oxford Companion to Wine, ed. Janice Robinson (Oxford University Press 2006)

Nu WorldsNumericon, Marianne Freiberger and Rachel Thomas (Quercus Editions 2014)

ThalassobiblionOcean: The Definitive Visual Guide, introduction by Fabien Cousteau (Dorling Kindersley 2014) (posted @ Overlord of the Über-Feral)


Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR

She-Shell

Perseus Releases Andromeda by Joachim Wtewael (mirrored)

Joachim Wtewael (sic), Perseus Rescuing Andromeda (1611) (mirrored)

When I first came across this painting in a recent edition of Arthur Cotterell’s Classic Mythology,* it had mutated in two ways: it was mirror-reversed (as above) and Wtewael’s name (pronounced something like “EET-a-vaal”) was printed “WIEWAEL”. At least, I assume the painting was mirror-reversed, because almost all versions on the web have Andromeda on the left, which means that Perseus is holding his sword in his right hand, as you would expect.

I think I prefer the mirrored version, though I don’t know whether that’s because it was the first one I saw. In either version, it is a rich and dramatic painting, full of meaning, seething with symbolism. It’s displayed in the Louvre and if French etymology had been a little different, I could have called it La Conque d’Andromède. Here is the commoner version:
Perseus Releases Andromeda by Joachim Wtewael


*Mythology of Greece and Rome (Southwater 2003).

Hip-Hop Hermeneuticized

The Guardian undertakes a close hermeneutical analysis of some respected figures in the rap community and their complex and challenging lyrical interrogation of issues around neo-liberal capitalism:

In contemporary America, success in overcoming adversity (and often systemic racism) is most often represented in financial terms, and it’s a recurring theme in hip-hop. Consider Kanye West:

I treat the cash the way the government treats AIDS
I won’t be satisfied til all my niggas get it, get it?

Or Dr Dre:

Get your money right
Don’t be worried ’bout the next man – make sure your business tight
Get your money right
Go inside the safe, grab your stash that you copped tonight
Get your money right
Be an international player, don’t be scared to catch those red eye flights
You better get your money right
Cause when you out there on the streets, you gotta get it – get it

Or even TI himself:

Regardless what haters say I’m as real as they come
I’m chasin that paper baby however it come
I’m singin a song and movin yay by the ton
I bet you never seen a nigga gettin money so young.

Hip-Hop Hermeneuticized

Jewels in the Skull

Phaidon Art BookThe Art Book, Phaidon (Second edition 2012)

An A to Z of artists, mostly painters, occasionally sculptors, installers and performers, with a few photographers and video-makers too. You can trace the development, culmination and corruption of high art all the way from Giotto and Fra Angelico through Van Eyck and Caravaggio to Auerbach and Twombly. But the modernist dreck heightens the power of the pre-modernist delights. A few pages after Pieter Claesz’s remarkable A Vanitas Still Life of 1645 there’s Joseph Cornell’s “Untitled” of 1950. One is a skull, watch and overturned glass, skilfully lit, minutely detailed, richly symbolic; the other is a wooden box containing a “frugal assortment of stamps, newspaper cuttings and other objects with no particular relevance to each other”. From the sublime to the slapdash. Over the page from Eleazar Lissitzky’s Composition of 1941 there’s Stefan Lochner’s The Virgin and Child in a Rose Arbour of 1442. One is like a child’s doodle, the other like a jewel. From the slapdash to the sublime.
Hirst Skull and landscape
And so it goes on throughout the book, with beautiful art by great artists following or preceding ugly art by poseurs and charlatans. But some of the modern art is attractive or interesting, like Bridget Riley’s eye-alive Cataract 3 (1961) and Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull For the Love of God (2006). Riley and Hirst aren’t great and Hirst at least is more like an entrepreneur than an artist, but their art here is something that rewards the eye. So is Riley’s art elsewhere, as newcomers to her work might guess from the single example here. That is one of the purposes of a guide like this: to invite – or discourage – further investigation. I vaguely remember seeing the beautiful still-life of a boiled lobster, drinking horn and peeled lemon on page 283 before, but I wouldn’t have recognized the name of the Dutch artist: Willem Kalf (1619-93).

Willem Kalf, Still Life (c. 1653)

Willem Kalf, Still Life (c. 1653)


Elsewhere, I was surprised and pleased to see an old favourite: John Atkinson Grimshaw and his Nightfall on the Thames (1880). Many more people know Grimshaw’s atmospheric and eerie art than know his name, because it often appears on book-covers and as illustrations. If Phaidon are including him in popular guides with giants like Da Vinci, Dürer, Raphael and Titian, perhaps he’ll return to his previous fame. I certainly hope so.

Finding Grimshaw here made a good guide even better. The short texts above each art-work pack in a surprising amount of information and anecdote too. What you learn from the texts raises some interesting questions. For example: Why has one small nation contributed so much to the world’s treasury of art? From Van Eyck to Van Gogh by way of Hieronymus Bosch and Jan Vermeer, Holland is comparable to Italy in its importance. But only in painting, not sculpture or architecture. There aren’t just patterns of pigment, texture and geometry in this book: there are patterns of DNA, culture and evolution too. Brilliant, beautiful and banal; skilful, subtle and slapdash: The Art Book has all that and more. It puts jewels inside your skull.


Elsewhere other-posted:

Ai Wei to HellHow to Read Contemporary Art, Michael Wilson
Eyck’s EyesVan Eyck, Simone Ferrari
Face PaintA Face to the World: On Self-Portraits, Laura Cumming