Björk and Jesse Kanda on the album art for Utopia

The cover for Björk’s latest album is both gorgeous and frightening. It’s the kind of image that leaps out at you from a screen and remains etched on your brain. The Icelandic artist resembles some kind of otherworldly goddess with a yonic silicone mask on her face, blowholes in her throat and a flute in one hand. There’s a softness to the image – from the newborn bird resting by her collarbone to the pale peach background – but there’s also something darker and a little disturbing.

The artwork is the result of a close collaboration between Björk, visual artist Jesse Kanda, James Merry and Hungry – a Berlin-based drag queen and makeup artist who creates twisted and beautiful looks using glitter, petals and pearls.

Kanda is a close friend of Björk’s – he created a weird and wonderful music video filmed inside the Icelandic artist’s mouth for song Mouth Mantra last year and has also created music videos and album for FKA twigs and Arca.

The artwork is supported by some stunning promo images and the video for song Blissing Me (directed by Tim Walker and Emma Dalzell) featured a similar aesthetic. We talk to Kanda and Bjork about the inspiration for the cover art and how it was created…

The cover art for Utopia, created by Björk, Jesse Kanda, James Merry and Hungry

CR: How does the cover relate to the album? You’ve said that Utopia is about a search for love whereas [previous album] Vulnicura was about the breakdown of a relationship – what bearing did this have on the artwork?

Björk: Me and James Merry started talking about it a year or so ago and I was talking about how it was kinda sci-fi – arriving on an island after some sort of apocalypse and starting anew. So like an optimistic moist rainforest mood. There would be some sort of mutation, like birds that become flutes that become synths that become human. And somehow – as in all beginnings – somehow erotically charged but not in the traditional sense: more in the energy. I wanted it to be peach and light seagreen and somehow try to capture that magic of sunrises and sunsets. It needed to have some sort of warped twist. Like the borderline aggressive optimist.

Jesse Kanda: For me it was about creating a portrait that encapsulated what I felt the album represented. And “felt” is really the key word – it’s a balance of soft, hard, strong, fragile, generous, selfish, happy, sad, beautiful, ugly, alive and dead. I absorbed the music, but just as influential was our friendship. We’re best friends (Arca, James Merry, Björk and I) so we live it all together and individually. I digested all of that experience. I’m especially proud that I see all of these different elements balancing and alive in the finished image. I feel it’s different every time I look at it, and even as I’m looking at it it shape shifts. Like a mirror.

Promo image for Utopia. Photography: Santiago Felipe

CR: Was the cover image shot in camera? How much was created in post and using CGI?

Jesse: James Merry did the face piece and Hungry did the make up and pearls. Björk and Raphael Salley did the hair. All of that was shot in camera. I also took pictures of insects and mouse corpses turned inside out (that’s her dress). Then I gathered all those photos, panicked for a couple days and pieced it all together, painted it etc. So kind of a collage. There were definitely moments of total terror because of the responsibility. But pure bliss as well.

Promo image for Utopia. Photography: Santiago Felipe

CR: Could you talk me through the process of creating the cover art? How you got from those initial ideas to the final image? Did the idea go through many iterations?

Björk: I think first was the conversation between me and James Merry and me saying I wanted to reveal my face but have some sort of orchid or floral shapes. James in the space of couple of days went and bought silicone and casts and in a hotel room taught himself from YouTube how to make casts and silicone pieces! So he made the forehead piece.

The hair was a shape I craved, kinda like my braids I’ve worn since i was a teenager on steroids. It took a few goes to get it right with several people. i kinda wanted racoontails but shaven in the back. We had already worked with Hungry on the makeup but it was probably [our] communal idea – guided by Jesse – to tone it down and make it more graphic and less detailed.

Jesse then took the photo and digitally treated it a lot. [He] changed all proportion and surfaces and made the shoulders. I felt it needed something on the neck and suggested a newborn bird to strengthen the matriarch fertility angle and James suggested blowholes on the neck to encourage the air theme which goes sonically through the whole album. I wanted to have a flute on the cover but Jesse altered it dramatically and positioned it.

Promo image for Utopia. Photography: Santiago Felipe

CR: So it was a very collaborative process between the four of you?

Björk: Extremely collaborative. Me, Jesse, James and Alejandro have spent a lot of time together last few years in Iceland, Dominican Republic and all over and I feel this image and our collaborative work is truly grown from that. It has a core of true friendship and to be honest sometimes [it’s] difficult to know where one idea begins and another ends.

CR: You seem to have developed a great working relationship. Why do you think it works so well and what do you enjoy about working together? 

Jesse: She’s just a beautiful human that I’m happy to call my friend. And like in all my friendships, there’s a forever changing dynamic of mutual respect, love, caring … sharing pain and joy! Comfort to be ourselves and just fun to be around each other. Making stuff together is kind of an awesome bonus.

Björk: I think mostly I’m just thrilled i got to know him. His integrity and self-sufficience is incredibly inspiring. Emotionally so lush and vibrant and a true radical at heart. It has been a privilege to witness him grow!!

Utopia is out now on One Little Indian Records. Download it here.

The post Björk and Jesse Kanda on the album art for Utopia appeared first on Creative Review.

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Black Friday Deals and the November Office Supply Geek Giveaway Winners!

So this year I decided to double up the twice monthly giveaway and do two prizes for Black Friday this week, and will still do the JetPens gift card giveaway at the end of the month.  So first I’ll share a few of the good deals I’ve found online for Black Friday and after that below I’ll share our two giveaway winners, who will each win a 3 pack of the new Field Notes Resolution Winter 2017 Quarterly Editions.

Sharpie Art Pen Hard Case Open

First up for the Black Friday Office Supplies sale, you can find this 12 pack of assorted color Sharpie Pens only $9.58, instead of the regular price of $20.  Sharpie Pens are one of my favorite every day use pens out there, so these are definitely a steal at this price. (buy via Amazon for 52% saving)

rOtring makes some pretty solid and reliable mechanical pencils, so this rOtring 800+ mechanical pencil with 0.5mm lead and stylus for only $38 is a great price.  Its normal list price was $59. (buy via Amazon for 35% savings)

Woodchuck Wood Journal Cedar with Lamy Studio Fountain Pen

I reviewed this Woodchuck Cedar Journal here a while ago, but was highly impressed with the look and feel of these amazing notebooks. Right now they are only $21 which is a $9 savings so grab one of these very stylish and unique notebooks now. (buy via Amazon for about 30% off)

The PaperMate Flair porous tip markers are a classic, but this limited edition set of 16 Tropical Colors is a nice upgrade to provide some color variety for you.  For only $9.70, that is about a $7 savings on this special Black Friday deal. (Buy via Amazon for $40% savings)

If you are in the market for highlighters, this 24 pack of Sharpie Smear Guard Highlighters is a great deal.  These would normally set you back about $16 but can be had today for only $7.58 which is the lowest price ever. (Buy via Amazon for 52% savings)

Field Notes Resolution Checklist and Date Book

Congratulations to Michelle Schackel and Andrew Richman who are this month’s giveaway winners.  If you are Michelle or Andrew, please reply to the email everyone got this morning, or use the About/Contact link below to get in touch so we can coordinate the shipment of your new Field Notes Journals.  If you have yet to sign up for these giveaways, you can do so right here.

The post Black Friday Deals and the November Office Supply Geek Giveaway Winners! appeared first on OfficeSupplyGeek®.

Source: http://ift.tt/1gDzG5M

Black Friday Deals and the November Office Supply Geek Giveaway Winners!

So this year I decided to double up the twice monthly giveaway and do two prizes for Black Friday this week, and will still do the JetPens gift card giveaway at the end of the month.  So first I’ll share a few of the good deals I’ve found online for Black Friday and after that below I’ll share our two giveaway winners, who will each win a 3 pack of the new Field Notes Resolution Winter 2017 Quarterly Editions.

Sharpie Art Pen Hard Case Open

First up for the Black Friday Office Supplies sale, you can find this 12 pack of assorted color Sharpie Pens only $9.58, instead of the regular price of $20.  Sharpie Pens are one of my favorite every day use pens out there, so these are definitely a steal at this price. (buy via Amazon for 52% saving)

rOtring makes some pretty solid and reliable mechanical pencils, so this rOtring 800+ mechanical pencil with 0.5mm lead and stylus for only $38 is a great price.  Its normal list price was $59. (buy via Amazon for 35% savings)

Woodchuck Wood Journal Cedar with Lamy Studio Fountain Pen

I reviewed this Woodchuck Cedar Journal here a while ago, but was highly impressed with the look and feel of these amazing notebooks. Right now they are only $21 which is a $9 savings so grab one of these very stylish and unique notebooks now. (buy via Amazon for about 30% off)

The PaperMate Flair porous tip markers are a classic, but this limited edition set of 16 Tropical Colors is a nice upgrade to provide some color variety for you.  For only $9.70, that is about a $7 savings on this special Black Friday deal. (Buy via Amazon for $40% savings)

If you are in the market for highlighters, this 24 pack of Sharpie Smear Guard Highlighters is a great deal.  These would normally set you back about $16 but can be had today for only $7.58 which is the lowest price ever. (Buy via Amazon for 52% savings)

Field Notes Resolution Checklist and Date Book

Congratulations to Michelle Schackel and Andrew Richman who are this month’s giveaway winners.  If you are Michelle or Andrew, please reply to the email everyone got this morning, or use the About/Contact link below to get in touch so we can coordinate the shipment of your new Field Notes Journals.  If you have yet to sign up for these giveaways, you can do so right here.

The post Black Friday Deals and the November Office Supply Geek Giveaway Winners! appeared first on OfficeSupplyGeek®.

Source: http://ift.tt/1gDzG5M

Musicless Music Videos revived for BBC Four trails

Mario Wienerroither’s hilarious technique of stripping music videos of all sound bar ambient noise, leaving just a medley of squeaky shoes, grunts and breathing was a bit of a YouTube sensation when it surfaced some three years ago (particularly his version of Bowie and Jagger’s Dancing in the Street).

He has now worked with the BBC’s in-house creative team to produce a series of trailers promoting the Friday Night Music slot on BBC Four. The first three feature Iggy Pop, Lionel Richie and Tina Turner, with more to come in subsequent weeks.

Credits
Creative: Vikki Stephenson
Creative Head: Susan Ayton
Executive Creative Heads: Aidan McClure, Laurent Simon
Sound Designer/Editor: Mario Wienerroither
Researchers: Edward Hobson, Farad Painchun

The post Musicless Music Videos revived for BBC Four trails appeared first on Creative Review.

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The architecture of affection

Making Wellbeing at the Built Environment Trust. Exhibition identity and design: Studio Pensom. Photo: Agnese Sanvito

“Is there anyone who has not, at least once, walked into a room and ‘felt the atmosphere’?” wrote feminist philosopher Teresa Brennan in the opening lines to her final book, The Transmission of Affect. I’ve felt it many times, in business meetings, classrooms, gigs and nightclubs, churches and occasionally in libraries where the silence is tangible – crafted by the readers, shelves, books – creating that visceral anticipation of discovery.

“The transmission of affect,” writes Brennan, “if only for an instant, alters the biochemistry and neurology of the subject. The ‘atmosphere’ or the environment literally gets into the individual. Physically and biologically, something is present that was not there before, but it did not originate sui generis: it was not generated solely or sometimes even in part by the individual organism or its genes.” Brennan is describing a kind of power generated by an ecosystem of people, materials, biology, chemistry, affect and atmosphere as a tangible feeling outside of us but that moves through us.



In helping to curate the Making Wellbeing: from birth to death exhibition at The Built Environment Trust in London three key features emerged: wellbeing is the creation of healthy atmospheres or affect as Teresa Brennan calls it; this atmosphere is created from a dynamic interaction of spaces, materials, technologies, design, engineering, people; in making wellbeing the word ‘building’ is not a noun, a static entity, but an ongoing activity of making.



The Making Wellbeing exhibition charts a journey beginning with the work of architects Rosan Bosch Studio. Their design of the Vittra Telefonplan elementary school in Stockholm in 2011 gained attention worldwide. Good magazine asked if this, “classroom-free school is the future for learning.” An alternative to a conventional classroom approach, the students are taught in groups adjusted to their achievement level, with different spaces designed around the school’s educational principles – “the watering hole”, “the show-off”, “the cave”, “the campfire” and “the laboratory”.

Liceo Europa. Photo: Kim Wendt

Rosa Bosch’s more recent project, a preschool at Liceo Europa in Zaragoza, Spain, creates spaces to facilitate the different learning styles of children such as learning with the body through hands-on learning and physical challenges. There is a growing body of research which breaks down the impact of different elements of the built environment, an ecology of energies, air, temperatures and materials. A study by researchers at the University of Salford’s School of the Built Environment highlighted the impact of discrete elements on student progress. It identified seven key design parameters that best predict the pupils’ progress: Light, Temperature, Air Quality, Ownership, Flexibility, Complexity and Colour. When measuring the schoolchildren’s learning progress these building and design elements combined to make up 16% of all the different drivers of learning – not an inconsiderable figure.

If atmosphere, as Teresa Brennan suggests, is not reducible to ‘air’, so temperature isn’t reducible to heat. Swiss architect Peter Zumthor writes in his book Atmospheres that, materials such as steel can bring down the temperature of space, extracting warmth from our bodies, but “what also comes to mind when I think of my own work is the verb ‘to temper’ – a bit like the tempering of pianos perhaps, the search for the right mood, in the sense of instrumental tuning and atmosphere as well. So temperature in this sense is physical, but presumably psychological too. It’s in what I see, what I feel, what I touch.”

Peter Barber, Holmes Road project

Atmosphere is political too, a quick google search for ‘toxic politics’ reveals a profoundly unhealthy political atmosphere. Which is why it was important to include in the Making Wellbeing show work by architect Peter Barber. His Holmes Road micro-homes in Kentish Town, London, enable homeless citizens, previously disconnected from the social connections and sense of self we take for granted, to create a new relationship with the social and with their sense of self. The atmosphere of the houses in Holmes Road is partly created by: natural light through a partially glazed door, circular windows and a roof light; materials and forms that depart from institutional building types; and the central garden, which becomes a venue for interaction, for growing things, for growing the capabilities of the residents, opening them up to think about food, nutrition and their bodies – care and wellbeing as a practice of creative self-design.

Likewise, the Healthy Housing for the Displaced prototyping project at the University of Bath, with research partners from Princess Sumaya University for Technology (Jordan), German Jordanian University (Jordan),
and Mersin University (Turkey) aims to creates structures that provide shelter, food, water, electricity, health services. It’s with the understanding that design is intimately connected in constructing wellbeing.

The shelter design will use novel combinations of conventional and non-conventional materials to ensure the shelters naturally stay warm in winter and cool in summer but it’s also about designing structures that can help create a sense of dignity, privacy, control, independence. It’s sometimes easy to think of refugees, as helpless, as affectless, without any ability to affect us beyond their identity (status as identity) as refugees. One of my German students returned to Germany briefly in the winter of 2015 to help in one of the refugee camps. A defining moment for her was when distributing clothes one of the refugees refused the jeans – ‘it’s not my style’. One can imagine certain kinds of reactions to the “ungratefulness…refugees shouldn’t be choosey.” But actually more than anyone else refugees need to be choosey. It was a lesson that wellbeing in the built environment is about facilitating autonomy.

Storstroem prison. Photo by Torben Eskerod

Which is what drives the architecture and design of CF Møller’s Storstrøm prison in Denmark, whose materials and spaces are all encouraged to foster an atmosphere – not of threat or surveillance – where inmates feel inspired to manage themselves like they will have to on release. Landscape is central to self-management and resocialisation, kitchen gardens are planned as an activity for the inmates, who can learn how to grow fruit and vegetables. Those looking with a sceptical eye preferring a more punitive and familiar approach, may be persuaded by the outcomes – Denmark has recidivism rates of 29% as opposed to 49% in England and Wales.

The Equal by Design project by Peg Rawes (Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL) and Beth Lord (University of Aberdeen) explicitly addresses this relationship between architecture, design and the ability to look after yourself and therefore contribute to society – the feeling of being able to contribute is an important aspect of wellbeing. In the Equal by Design documentary film project Peg Rawes says, “Humane approaches to design are intimately concerned with wellbeing and equality. These are values are something which we all see necessary to ourselves as individuals they are also something which really are at the heart of housing.”

The wellbeing of feeling good, the architecture of affection as a kind of personal and social power is most obvious in the exhibit of New Ground, the first senior co-designed cohousing community of its kind in the UK. This pioneering cohousing community is inhabited by women aged 50 and above Older Women’s Co-housing group (OWCH), this new purpose-built block of flats in High Barnet is an alternative to living alone.

The success of the cohousing relationships are already designed to the space through the activity of the residents participating in the design. The atmosphere is already being created. Angela, an 84-year old resident said that helping in the design, “gave me a sense of what it was going to be like to be there – I felt already at home when I moved because I was creating it.” Angela’s insight is that home is a feeling, and this feeling, atmosphere, affection, is not something that’s given, it’s something we design and create. This architecture of wellbeing is not just about creating healthy spaces, it’s about engendering community and politics designed with affection.

Making Wellbeing: from birth to death runs through January at the Built Environment Trust in London. John O’Reilly helped curate the exhibition and is Executive Editor of BE: Journal of the Built Environment Trust

The post The architecture of affection appeared first on Creative Review.

Source: http://ift.tt/1KjyLUn

The architecture of affection

Making Wellbeing at the Built Environment Trust. Exhibition identity and design: Studio Pensom. Photo: Agnese Sanvito

“Is there anyone who has not, at least once, walked into a room and ‘felt the atmosphere’?” wrote feminist philosopher Teresa Brennan in the opening lines to her final book, The Transmission of Affect. I’ve felt it many times, in business meetings, classrooms, gigs and nightclubs, churches and occasionally in libraries where the silence is tangible – crafted by the readers, shelves, books – creating that visceral anticipation of discovery.

“The transmission of affect,” writes Brennan, “if only for an instant, alters the biochemistry and neurology of the subject. The ‘atmosphere’ or the environment literally gets into the individual. Physically and biologically, something is present that was not there before, but it did not originate sui generis: it was not generated solely or sometimes even in part by the individual organism or its genes.” Brennan is describing a kind of power generated by an ecosystem of people, materials, biology, chemistry, affect and atmosphere as a tangible feeling outside of us but that moves through us.



In helping to curate the Making Wellbeing: from birth to death exhibition at The Built Environment Trust in London three key features emerged: wellbeing is the creation of healthy atmospheres or affect as Teresa Brennan calls it; this atmosphere is created from a dynamic interaction of spaces, materials, technologies, design, engineering, people; in making wellbeing the word ‘building’ is not a noun, a static entity, but an ongoing activity of making.



The Making Wellbeing exhibition charts a journey beginning with the work of architects Rosan Bosch Studio. Their design of the Vittra Telefonplan elementary school in Stockholm in 2011 gained attention worldwide. Good magazine asked if this, “classroom-free school is the future for learning.” An alternative to a conventional classroom approach, the students are taught in groups adjusted to their achievement level, with different spaces designed around the school’s educational principles – “the watering hole”, “the show-off”, “the cave”, “the campfire” and “the laboratory”.

Liceo Europa. Photo: Kim Wendt

Rosa Bosch’s more recent project, a preschool at Liceo Europa in Zaragoza, Spain, creates spaces to facilitate the different learning styles of children such as learning with the body through hands-on learning and physical challenges. There is a growing body of research which breaks down the impact of different elements of the built environment, an ecology of energies, air, temperatures and materials. A study by researchers at the University of Salford’s School of the Built Environment highlighted the impact of discrete elements on student progress. It identified seven key design parameters that best predict the pupils’ progress: Light, Temperature, Air Quality, Ownership, Flexibility, Complexity and Colour. When measuring the schoolchildren’s learning progress these building and design elements combined to make up 16% of all the different drivers of learning – not an inconsiderable figure.

If atmosphere, as Teresa Brennan suggests, is not reducible to ‘air’, so temperature isn’t reducible to heat. Swiss architect Peter Zumthor writes in his book Atmospheres that, materials such as steel can bring down the temperature of space, extracting warmth from our bodies, but “what also comes to mind when I think of my own work is the verb ‘to temper’ – a bit like the tempering of pianos perhaps, the search for the right mood, in the sense of instrumental tuning and atmosphere as well. So temperature in this sense is physical, but presumably psychological too. It’s in what I see, what I feel, what I touch.”

Peter Barber, Holmes Road project

Atmosphere is political too, a quick google search for ‘toxic politics’ reveals a profoundly unhealthy political atmosphere. Which is why it was important to include in the Making Wellbeing show work by architect Peter Barber. His Holmes Road micro-homes in Kentish Town, London, enable homeless citizens, previously disconnected from the social connections and sense of self we take for granted, to create a new relationship with the social and with their sense of self. The atmosphere of the houses in Holmes Road is partly created by: natural light through a partially glazed door, circular windows and a roof light; materials and forms that depart from institutional building types; and the central garden, which becomes a venue for interaction, for growing things, for growing the capabilities of the residents, opening them up to think about food, nutrition and their bodies – care and wellbeing as a practice of creative self-design.

Likewise, the Healthy Housing for the Displaced prototyping project at the University of Bath, with research partners from Princess Sumaya University for Technology (Jordan), German Jordanian University (Jordan),
and Mersin University (Turkey) aims to creates structures that provide shelter, food, water, electricity, health services. It’s with the understanding that design is intimately connected in constructing wellbeing.

The shelter design will use novel combinations of conventional and non-conventional materials to ensure the shelters naturally stay warm in winter and cool in summer but it’s also about designing structures that can help create a sense of dignity, privacy, control, independence. It’s sometimes easy to think of refugees, as helpless, as affectless, without any ability to affect us beyond their identity (status as identity) as refugees. One of my German students returned to Germany briefly in the winter of 2015 to help in one of the refugee camps. A defining moment for her was when distributing clothes one of the refugees refused the jeans – ‘it’s not my style’. One can imagine certain kinds of reactions to the “ungratefulness…refugees shouldn’t be choosey.” But actually more than anyone else refugees need to be choosey. It was a lesson that wellbeing in the built environment is about facilitating autonomy.

Storstroem prison. Photo by Torben Eskerod

Which is what drives the architecture and design of CF Møller’s Storstrøm prison in Denmark, whose materials and spaces are all encouraged to foster an atmosphere – not of threat or surveillance – where inmates feel inspired to manage themselves like they will have to on release. Landscape is central to self-management and resocialisation, kitchen gardens are planned as an activity for the inmates, who can learn how to grow fruit and vegetables. Those looking with a sceptical eye preferring a more punitive and familiar approach, may be persuaded by the outcomes – Denmark has recidivism rates of 29% as opposed to 49% in England and Wales.

The Equal by Design project by Peg Rawes (Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL) and Beth Lord (University of Aberdeen) explicitly addresses this relationship between architecture, design and the ability to look after yourself and therefore contribute to society – the feeling of being able to contribute is an important aspect of wellbeing. In the Equal by Design documentary film project Peg Rawes says, “Humane approaches to design are intimately concerned with wellbeing and equality. These are values are something which we all see necessary to ourselves as individuals they are also something which really are at the heart of housing.”

The wellbeing of feeling good, the architecture of affection as a kind of personal and social power is most obvious in the exhibit of New Ground, the first senior co-designed cohousing community of its kind in the UK. This pioneering cohousing community is inhabited by women aged 50 and above Older Women’s Co-housing group (OWCH), this new purpose-built block of flats in High Barnet is an alternative to living alone.

The success of the cohousing relationships are already designed to the space through the activity of the residents participating in the design. The atmosphere is already being created. Angela, an 84-year old resident said that helping in the design, “gave me a sense of what it was going to be like to be there – I felt already at home when I moved because I was creating it.” Angela’s insight is that home is a feeling, and this feeling, atmosphere, affection, is not something that’s given, it’s something we design and create. This architecture of wellbeing is not just about creating healthy spaces, it’s about engendering community and politics designed with affection.

Making Wellbeing: from birth to death runs through January at the Built Environment Trust in London. John O’Reilly helped curate the exhibition and is Executive Editor of BE: Journal of the Built Environment Trust

The post The architecture of affection appeared first on Creative Review.

Source: http://ift.tt/1KjyLUn

All fired up: Clay Stories is a triumphant display of contemporary Indigenous ceramics

Sabbia Gallery – Alison Milyika Carroll working on a pot at Ernabella Arts ceramic studio, 2017. Photo Ernabella Arts, Courtesy of Sabbia Gallery

The exuberant exhibition Clay Stories: Contemporary Indigenous Ceramics from Remote Australia is part of the 2017 Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art. While pottery making and firing were never part of the pre-contact repertoire, the pulse of tradition infuses these ceramic artworks.

Held at the JamFactory’s Seppeltsfield Gallery, Clay Stories is a collaboration between the Remote Communities Ceramic Network and Sydney’s Sabbia Gallery. The spacious, light-filled gallery on Seppeltsfield’s winery estate is the picture perfect setting for displaying these strikingly variegated bodies of work.

The ceramic artworks in Clay Stories have been sourced from remote Indigenous Art Centres located on the homelands of Indigenous people, from island to inland. These centres, controlled by members of local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities, represent optimal practice in the field, with profits routinely re-invested back into the organisation, providing grassroots infrastructural support for younger or emerging artists.

Sabbia Gallery – Clay Stories – Lynette Lewis – Tjala – Honey Ants – 2017 stoneware with sgraffito – 450 h x 162mm d. Private Collection. Photo Sabbia Gallery.

Clay Stories includes works by ceramists from Hermannsburg in Central Australia, Ernabella Arts on the APY Lands, the Tiwi Islands, the Torres Strait Islands and the Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre in far northeastern Queensland. They have been grouped on the basis of their regional provenance, thus capturing the distinctiveness of each body of work.

A sensible curatorial decision, this allows visitors to understand the specific zeitgeists and socio-cultural contexts that have given rise to the works, in terms of location and terrain, whether land and/or sea, and each group’s unique pre- and post-contact historical circumstances.

The works of Tiwi potter Jock Puautjimi, equally esteemed for his sculptural Pukumani (funerary) poles, are those of an artist at the top of his game. Puautjimi’s Tiwi Bird is a re-creation of an episode in Tiwi oral tradition chronicling events that brought death to the Tiwi Islands.

Sabbia Gallery – Clay Stories No 80 – Jock Puautjimi – Tiwi Bird – 2017 – hand built carved and glazed stoneware 580 h x 200 w x 150 mm d. Photo Sabbia Gallery.

Two Ancestral Beings, the adulterous lovers Bima and Japara, contravened Tiwi Law. Their sexual transgression led to the death of Bima’s baby Jinani, the demise of these two star-crossed lovers and their eventual transformation into Other Beings. Tiwi Islanders became forever mortal thereafter.

Birds figure prominently in this foundational Tiwi narrative. Tiwi Bird is an elegant, deceptively simple work, masking the true art that conceals art. Puautjimi’s marvellous visual poetry is also evident in his Open Vase. Adorned with classical Tiwi geometric designs, the clean lines, bold design and skilled craftsmanship informing this work confirm Puautjimi’s status as an Old Master.

Erub Islander Jimmy Kenny Thaiday evokes age-old Torres Strait Islander tradition in his dramatic ceramic rendering titled Le Op. In this magisterial sculptural piece, Thaiday re-creates a type of ceremonial mask originally carved from turtle shell and worn by Torres Strait Islander men. Thaiday’s younger countrywoman, Ella Rose Savage, also demonstrates in her ceramic works how the richness of Islander tradition and cultural practice continues to serve as an abundant source of creativity, regardless of medium used.

Artistic renaissance at Girringun

Cardwell, a small township some 1,500 kilometres north of Brisbane on Queensland’s north-eastern coast, is the home of the Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre, a collective representing nine distinct language groups. Girringun has very quickly become a hothouse of constant, bubbling artistic activity. Ceramic works are at its forefront.

Sabbia Gallery – Clay Stories – Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre – Emily Murray 60 h x 17 w x 8 cm d. Photo Sabbia Gallery.

The local people, mostly descendants of rainforest tribes, traditionally carved Bagu figures, ochre-painted Fire-Spirit Beings, from slow-burning wood, typically the milky pine (Alstonia scholaris). These curious little wooden homunculi have deep cavities in place of the eyes from which licking flames and smoke would leap. Traditionally, jiman (firesticks) were attached to the Bagu (fireboards). In the old days, these enchanting, mercurial beings were regarded as having sorcery power, but their practical use was paramount. Fire was a precious commodity to be transported everywhere, lest flames be extinguished in that damp, dank rainforest environment.

An exciting artistic and cultural renaissance is currently taking place at Girringun Art Centre. People are making ceramic Bagu figures ranging in size from diminutive to monumental. Major artists include Sally Murray, Emily Murray and Eileen Tep, all of whom have Bagu ceramic works on display in Clay Stories. Something else very powerful seems to inhabit these charismatic Bagu re-creations, partially related to the force field that these figures seem to exert. In equal measure this is a result of the artists’ sheer brilliance.

Moving inland to Ernabella Arts, another ceramics workshop and business is thriving. Based in Pukatja in northern South Australia, and located on the homelands of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara people, the Ernabella potters have been collaborating with the JamFactory for some years now.

Sabbia Gallery – Clay Stories – Rupert Jack at work at the Ernabella Arts Ceramic Studio 2017. Photo Ernabella Arts.

Rupert Jack’s stoneware with sgraffito work Ili evoking the native, desert or rock fig (Ficus platypoda) is among the standout exhibits on show, along with terrific work by Lynette Lewis, Alison Milyika Carroll and Derek Jungarrayi Thompson.

The Hermannsburg Potters

Hermannsburg, now known as Ntaria, is where the first modest foray of Aboriginal people into making and firing ceramics began on mainland Australia in the early 1960s. Two local Western Aranda men, Joseph Rontji and Nahasson Ungwanaka, worked with the mission gardener Vic Jaensch to construct a rudimentary kiln. They fired small, rather kitsch figurines.

Nahasson Ungwanaka (left) and Joseph Rontji at the Hermannsburg Mission, Northern Territory, working with clay to make ceramic figurines, photograph courtesy of Denise Mossel [née Kuhne], 1962.

After Jaensch departed the Mission there was a long hiatus in making ceramics until 1990 when the professional ceramist Naomi Sharp arrived. Sharp stayed for 16 years during which time the ceramists acquired professional skills.

Today’s Hermannsburg Potters are nationally and internationally acclaimed.
Rahel Kngwarriya Ungwanaka, Nahasson’s widow, has work in Clay Stories, as does Rona Panangka Rubuntja and the current and long term Chairperson of Hermannsburg Potters, Judith Pungkarta Inkamala. All three women began working with Sharp from the very beginning of what has now become a major enterprise.

Sabbia Gallery – Clay Stories No 67 – Rona Panangka Rubuntja – Nuka Pmere – My Country – 2017 – hand built terracotta and underglaze – 330 h x 270mm d. Photo Sabbia Gallery.

Rona Panangka Rubuntja’s Nuka Pmere (“My Country”), in which she portrays a mare and her foal, reveals this artist’s impish sense of fun. Peeking around the pot’s circumference, one can’t fail to notice that the foal’s mother is in fact taking a massive dump, graphically and humorously represented, in an understated way. This sent children (and many adults) off with big smiles on their faces as they moved through the gallery space.

The women’s ceramic works are mostly comprised of rounded bellies, a direct influence of Pueblo Native American pottery. Their lidded tops depict Dreamings, and/or local fauna and flora, historical scenarios, or scenes drawn from everyday life or other subject matter meaningful to each individual artist.

“Bush creatures” lovingly created by Judith Inkamala perch atop her rounded bowls. Inkamala’s ceramic magpie, for instance, seems poised to take flight, either to swoop down to gorge an attractively bald pate or take off skyward.

A brave new world

The works in Clay Stories also materialise to a greater or lesser extent the brave new world imposed upon their makers by British colonisation. But collectively, they serve to retain each group’s long-term social and cultural memories, standing against cultural and political amnesia.

Sabbia Gallery – Clay Stories No 37 Jimmy Kenny Thaiday – Little People – 2015 – hand built carved wood fired ceramic – tallest 360mm h. Private Collection. Photo Sabbia Gallery.

Not only are these ceramic works grounded in everyday living, but they’re also connected to country, and to narrative. Whilst many other contemporary Australian artists at times struggle to find inspiration for their artwork, these artists never angst about their choice of subject matter.

Clay Stories is a triumph. (It also exists at a fortuitous crossroads where art meets business.) These ceramic artists’ specific histories, Dreamings, and their country constantly replenish and refresh their artistic vision. Drawing on rich repositories of narrative these visual traditions continue to flow through the current generations. For this enduring source of cultural and visual fluency the artists have their Ancestors to thank. It isn’t just a matter of “mining the archive” but a means of representing their living cultures.

Clay Stories continues at the JamFactory’s Seppeltsfield Winery location until 10th December, after which it embarks on a national tour, which will continue well into, and beyond, 2019.

The Conversation

Christine Judith Nicholls does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Source: http://ift.tt/10p9N0X

All fired up: Clay Stories is a triumphant display of contemporary Indigenous ceramics

Sabbia Gallery – Alison Milyika Carroll working on a pot at Ernabella Arts ceramic studio, 2017. Photo Ernabella Arts, Courtesy of Sabbia Gallery

The exuberant exhibition Clay Stories: Contemporary Indigenous Ceramics from Remote Australia is part of the 2017 Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art. While pottery making and firing were never part of the pre-contact repertoire, the pulse of tradition infuses these ceramic artworks.

Held at the JamFactory’s Seppeltsfield Gallery, Clay Stories is a collaboration between the Remote Communities Ceramic Network and Sydney’s Sabbia Gallery. The spacious, light-filled gallery on Seppeltsfield’s winery estate is the picture perfect setting for displaying these strikingly variegated bodies of work.

The ceramic artworks in Clay Stories have been sourced from remote Indigenous Art Centres located on the homelands of Indigenous people, from island to inland. These centres, controlled by members of local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities, represent optimal practice in the field, with profits routinely re-invested back into the organisation, providing grassroots infrastructural support for younger or emerging artists.

Sabbia Gallery – Clay Stories – Lynette Lewis – Tjala – Honey Ants – 2017 stoneware with sgraffito – 450 h x 162mm d. Private Collection. Photo Sabbia Gallery.

Clay Stories includes works by ceramists from Hermannsburg in Central Australia, Ernabella Arts on the APY Lands, the Tiwi Islands, the Torres Strait Islands and the Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre in far northeastern Queensland. They have been grouped on the basis of their regional provenance, thus capturing the distinctiveness of each body of work.

A sensible curatorial decision, this allows visitors to understand the specific zeitgeists and socio-cultural contexts that have given rise to the works, in terms of location and terrain, whether land and/or sea, and each group’s unique pre- and post-contact historical circumstances.

The works of Tiwi potter Jock Puautjimi, equally esteemed for his sculptural Pukumani (funerary) poles, are those of an artist at the top of his game. Puautjimi’s Tiwi Bird is a re-creation of an episode in Tiwi oral tradition chronicling events that brought death to the Tiwi Islands.

Sabbia Gallery – Clay Stories No 80 – Jock Puautjimi – Tiwi Bird – 2017 – hand built carved and glazed stoneware 580 h x 200 w x 150 mm d. Photo Sabbia Gallery.

Two Ancestral Beings, the adulterous lovers Bima and Japara, contravened Tiwi Law. Their sexual transgression led to the death of Bima’s baby Jinani, the demise of these two star-crossed lovers and their eventual transformation into Other Beings. Tiwi Islanders became forever mortal thereafter.

Birds figure prominently in this foundational Tiwi narrative. Tiwi Bird is an elegant, deceptively simple work, masking the true art that conceals art. Puautjimi’s marvellous visual poetry is also evident in his Open Vase. Adorned with classical Tiwi geometric designs, the clean lines, bold design and skilled craftsmanship informing this work confirm Puautjimi’s status as an Old Master.

Erub Islander Jimmy Kenny Thaiday evokes age-old Torres Strait Islander tradition in his dramatic ceramic rendering titled Le Op. In this magisterial sculptural piece, Thaiday re-creates a type of ceremonial mask originally carved from turtle shell and worn by Torres Strait Islander men. Thaiday’s younger countrywoman, Ella Rose Savage, also demonstrates in her ceramic works how the richness of Islander tradition and cultural practice continues to serve as an abundant source of creativity, regardless of medium used.

Artistic renaissance at Girringun

Cardwell, a small township some 1,500 kilometres north of Brisbane on Queensland’s north-eastern coast, is the home of the Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre, a collective representing nine distinct language groups. Girringun has very quickly become a hothouse of constant, bubbling artistic activity. Ceramic works are at its forefront.

Sabbia Gallery – Clay Stories – Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre – Emily Murray 60 h x 17 w x 8 cm d. Photo Sabbia Gallery.

The local people, mostly descendants of rainforest tribes, traditionally carved Bagu figures, ochre-painted Fire-Spirit Beings, from slow-burning wood, typically the milky pine (Alstonia scholaris). These curious little wooden homunculi have deep cavities in place of the eyes from which licking flames and smoke would leap. Traditionally, jiman (firesticks) were attached to the Bagu (fireboards). In the old days, these enchanting, mercurial beings were regarded as having sorcery power, but their practical use was paramount. Fire was a precious commodity to be transported everywhere, lest flames be extinguished in that damp, dank rainforest environment.

An exciting artistic and cultural renaissance is currently taking place at Girringun Art Centre. People are making ceramic Bagu figures ranging in size from diminutive to monumental. Major artists include Sally Murray, Emily Murray and Eileen Tep, all of whom have Bagu ceramic works on display in Clay Stories. Something else very powerful seems to inhabit these charismatic Bagu re-creations, partially related to the force field that these figures seem to exert. In equal measure this is a result of the artists’ sheer brilliance.

Moving inland to Ernabella Arts, another ceramics workshop and business is thriving. Based in Pukatja in northern South Australia, and located on the homelands of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara people, the Ernabella potters have been collaborating with the JamFactory for some years now.

Sabbia Gallery – Clay Stories – Rupert Jack at work at the Ernabella Arts Ceramic Studio 2017. Photo Ernabella Arts.

Rupert Jack’s stoneware with sgraffito work Ili evoking the native, desert or rock fig (Ficus platypoda) is among the standout exhibits on show, along with terrific work by Lynette Lewis, Alison Milyika Carroll and Derek Jungarrayi Thompson.

The Hermannsburg Potters

Hermannsburg, now known as Ntaria, is where the first modest foray of Aboriginal people into making and firing ceramics began on mainland Australia in the early 1960s. Two local Western Aranda men, Joseph Rontji and Nahasson Ungwanaka, worked with the mission gardener Vic Jaensch to construct a rudimentary kiln. They fired small, rather kitsch figurines.

Nahasson Ungwanaka (left) and Joseph Rontji at the Hermannsburg Mission, Northern Territory, working with clay to make ceramic figurines, photograph courtesy of Denise Mossel [née Kuhne], 1962.

After Jaensch departed the Mission there was a long hiatus in making ceramics until 1990 when the professional ceramist Naomi Sharp arrived. Sharp stayed for 16 years during which time the ceramists acquired professional skills.

Today’s Hermannsburg Potters are nationally and internationally acclaimed.
Rahel Kngwarriya Ungwanaka, Nahasson’s widow, has work in Clay Stories, as does Rona Panangka Rubuntja and the current and long term Chairperson of Hermannsburg Potters, Judith Pungkarta Inkamala. All three women began working with Sharp from the very beginning of what has now become a major enterprise.

Sabbia Gallery – Clay Stories No 67 – Rona Panangka Rubuntja – Nuka Pmere – My Country – 2017 – hand built terracotta and underglaze – 330 h x 270mm d. Photo Sabbia Gallery.

Rona Panangka Rubuntja’s Nuka Pmere (“My Country”), in which she portrays a mare and her foal, reveals this artist’s impish sense of fun. Peeking around the pot’s circumference, one can’t fail to notice that the foal’s mother is in fact taking a massive dump, graphically and humorously represented, in an understated way. This sent children (and many adults) off with big smiles on their faces as they moved through the gallery space.

The women’s ceramic works are mostly comprised of rounded bellies, a direct influence of Pueblo Native American pottery. Their lidded tops depict Dreamings, and/or local fauna and flora, historical scenarios, or scenes drawn from everyday life or other subject matter meaningful to each individual artist.

“Bush creatures” lovingly created by Judith Inkamala perch atop her rounded bowls. Inkamala’s ceramic magpie, for instance, seems poised to take flight, either to swoop down to gorge an attractively bald pate or take off skyward.

A brave new world

The works in Clay Stories also materialise to a greater or lesser extent the brave new world imposed upon their makers by British colonisation. But collectively, they serve to retain each group’s long-term social and cultural memories, standing against cultural and political amnesia.

Sabbia Gallery – Clay Stories No 37 Jimmy Kenny Thaiday – Little People – 2015 – hand built carved wood fired ceramic – tallest 360mm h. Private Collection. Photo Sabbia Gallery.

Not only are these ceramic works grounded in everyday living, but they’re also connected to country, and to narrative. Whilst many other contemporary Australian artists at times struggle to find inspiration for their artwork, these artists never angst about their choice of subject matter.

Clay Stories is a triumph. (It also exists at a fortuitous crossroads where art meets business.) These ceramic artists’ specific histories, Dreamings, and their country constantly replenish and refresh their artistic vision. Drawing on rich repositories of narrative these visual traditions continue to flow through the current generations. For this enduring source of cultural and visual fluency the artists have their Ancestors to thank. It isn’t just a matter of “mining the archive” but a means of representing their living cultures.

Clay Stories continues at the JamFactory’s Seppeltsfield Winery location until 10th December, after which it embarks on a national tour, which will continue well into, and beyond, 2019.

The Conversation

Christine Judith Nicholls does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Source: http://ift.tt/10p9N0X

Friday essay: why grown-ups still need fairy tales

Edmund Dulac’s 1910 illustration of Sleeping Beauty Wikimedia images

For as long as we have been able to stand upright and speak, we have told stories. They explained the mysteries of the world: birth, death, the seasons, day and night. They were the origins of human creativity, expressed in words but also in pictures, as evidenced by the cave paintings of Chauvet (France) and Maros (Indonesia). On the walls of these caves, the paintings, which date back to around 30-40,000 BC, tell us myths or sacred narratives of the spirits of the land, the fauna of the regions, and humankind’s relationship to them.

A hyena painting found in the Chauvet cave.
Wikimedia images

As humanity progressed, other types of stories developed. These were not concerned with the mysteries of the meaning of life but with everyday, domestic matters. While they were more mundane in the issues they explored, such tales were no less spectacular in their creativity and inclusion of the supernatural.

These smaller, everyday stories, combining the world of humans with fantastical creatures and seemingly impossible plots are now classified as fairy tales or folk tales. Such tales, originating in pre-literate societies and told by the folk (or the average person), capture the hopes and dreams of humanity. They convey messages of overcoming adversity, rising from rags to riches, and the benefits of courage.

Hansel and Gretel by Arthur Rackham.
Wikimedia images

Fairy tales are also extremely moral in their demarcation between good and evil, right and wrong. Their justice references the ancient tradition of an eye for an eye, and their punishments are ruthless and complete. Originally for adults (sometimes for children), fairy tales can be brutal, violent, sexual and laden with taboo. When the earliest recorded versions were made by collectors such as the Brothers Grimm, the adult content was maintained. But as time progressed and Christian morality intervened, the tales became diluted, child-friendly and more benign.

Despite these changes, it is apparent that fairy tales are still needed today, even for grown-ups. In an uncanny, sometimes inexplicable way, we consciously and unconsciously continue to tell them, despite advances in logic, science and technology. It’s as if there is something ingrained in us – something we cannot suppress – that compels us to interpret the world around us through the lens of such tales. And if we are not the tellers, we are the greedy consumers.

‘Fairy tale’ princesses and ‘wicked witches’

The 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, for example, has been cast – like her life – as a fairy tale. Throughout the year, she has been commemorated in articles with headings such as “a troubled fairy tale”, “beyond a fairy tale”, and “just another fairy tale”. While these articles have endeavoured to deconstruct the familiar narrative, they have not been entirely successful.

Fairy tale wedding? Prince Frederik and Princess Mary.
Jerry Lampen/Reuters

The notion of a fairy tale princess has also characterised the coverage of Princess Mary of Denmark and Duchess Catherine of Cambridge. Even after 13 years of marriage, our own “Aussie princess” is described as living a fairy tale, evident in 2017 media stories with titles such as “Princess Mary and Prince Frederik’s fairy tale royal romance”. Likewise, Kate, once a commoner, now a princess, has featured in articles titled “Prince William and Duchess Kate’s fairy-tale love story” and “Kate’s Most Royal Fairy Tale Gown (To Date)”. As the titles of some of these stories show, they also feature the mandatory prince charming (William), or the prince who is revealed to be not-so-charming after all (Charles). Others extend the fairy tale formula to include wicked stepmothers (Di’s real life stepmother) and wicked witches (Camilla).

Is such recourse to fairy tales merely a media stunt to sell stories packaged in an easily consumable, gossip-laden snack box? Or, do these stories reflect that deep-seated compulsion of ours to tell and, in turn, to listen to stories? The answers are “yes” and “yes”. But let’s forget the media’s role and look at the more interesting latter point.

Many fairy tales began thousands of years ago, the age depending on the tale itself. Beauty and the Beast has its origins in the story of Cupid and Psyche from the Greek novel, The Golden Ass, from the second century AD.

Jacques-Louis David’s 1817 painting of Cupid and Psyche, the inspiration for Beauty and the Beast.
Wikimedia images

In this tale, the beautiful Psyche is visited at night by an invisible lover – hearing only a voice – whom she is led to believe is a monster. While recorded by the novelist, Apuleius, the story is almost certainly much older; perhaps having its origins in myth and ritual, and handed down by word of mouth.

The research of Dr Jamie Tehrani has unearthed an early date for Red Riding Hood, which he has traced back to at least 2,000 years; not originating in Asia, as once believed, but most likely in Europe. Other tales studied by Tehrani have been dated to as early as 6,000 years ago.

Fairy tales are excellent narratives with which to think through a range of human experiences: joy, disbelief, disappointment, fear, envy, disaster, greed, devastation, lust, and grief (just to name a few). They provide forms of expression to shed light not only on our own lives but on the lives beyond our own. And, contrary to the impression that fairy tales always end happily ever after, this is not the case – therein lies much of their power.

They helped our ancestors make sense of the unpredictability or randomness of life. They repeated familiar experiences of unfairness, misfortune, bad luck, and ill-treatment and sometimes showed us how courage, determination and ingenuity could be employed even by the most disempowered to change the course of events.

Arthur Rackham’s Jack and the Beanstalk Giant.
Wikimedia images

Jack and the Beanstalk, for example, tells how a chance encounter with a stranger (an old man who provides magic beans) can bring about terrible danger (meeting a giant) but also terrific good fortune (acquiring a hen that lays golden eggs). The tale also celebrates how a poor boy can make the most of an arbitrarily dangerous situation that could have gone either way – being eaten or becoming rich – through his bravery and his intellect.

Fairytales also celebrated unexpected good fortune and acts of kindness and heroism, thereby reinforcing – even restoring – our faith in humanity. As tales of the folk, they not only entertained, but reflected the turmoils and triumphs of the lower classes, and enabled them to fantasise about how the “other half” lived.

Cinderalla and social criticism

But tales of kings, queens, princes and princesses – of which there are many – are not only a means of mental escape for the poor. They are also a means of social criticism.

19th century engraving of Gustave Doré’s Cendrillon – Cinderella. From Dore’s 1864 edition of Stories or Fairy Tales from Past Times with Morals, originally published in 1697.
Wikimedia images

In Cinderella, as recorded by Charles Perrault, the two stepsisters may have every material possession imaginable, but their cruelty renders them grotesque. And, of course, the lowly Cinderella triumphs. In the German version, Aschenputtel, recorded by the Brothers Grimm, the fate of the stepsisters is very different. Whereas Perrault’s version has the kindly Cinderella forgive them, the Grimms – clearly working from another tradition – describe how they have their eyes plucked out by pigeons!

Such stories of fantasising about a royal life and simultaneously despising it may have functioned as an emotional release similar to the ancient Greek experience of catharsis (the shedding of anxieties through watching outrageous tragedies and obscene comedies).

Taking the fascination with Diana’s life as a fairy tale, for example, we still employ the cathartic release of the genre to interrogate her and, for those of us so inclined, to find some meaning in the Di phenomenon. From the romantic courtship, to the wedding of the century and that dress, to motherhood, glamour, betrayal, heartbreak, divorce, alienation and a new love cut short by an early death.

Diana on her wedding day in 1981.
Mal Langsdon/Reuters

Some, of course, have criticised the warm, fuzzy emotionalism that has sprung from the fairy tale of Di’s life. If it is not to your liking, there are more robust tales with powerful messages of resistance and resilience. In tales such as Hansel and Gretel and Donkeyskin, the young protagonists are persecuted and abused by predators.

There is much to complain about in these tales from a politically correct or feminist perspective. They are violent and subversive: Gretel pushes a witch into an oven and in Perrault’s version of Donkeyskin, a king wishes to marry his daughter following the death of his wife. But they are more than narratives of abuse. They are also about courage and ingenuity on the part of the young survivors.

Miwa Yanagi, Gretel 2004, gelatin silver print.
Collection of the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art

Courtesy of the artist and Yoshiko Isshiki Office, Tokyo

Donkeyskin, variants of which are extant in English (Catskin) and German (All-Kinds-Of-Fur), champions the bravery and inherent goodness of the young heroine who dresses in the skin of a donkey and leaves the palace in order to escape her father’s desires. Her subsequent life as a servant, filthy, humiliated, reviled and renamed “Donkeyskin” by her fellow servants, never crushes her soul.

Within the fantasy and the convenient appearance of supernatural assistants or a romantic ending, both of which feature in Donkeyskin, these stories are powerful reminders that evil exists in the world in the form of human beings – but it is not definitive or unconquerable.

Contemporary reworkings

With the publication of the Grimms’ Children’s and Household Tales in 1812, artists and illustrators were the first interpreters of fairy tales. Visual responses have ranged from famous works by Gustave Doré, Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac to Maurice Sendak and Jan Pieńkowski.

More dissident responses have included the photographs of Dina Goldstein, whose Fallen Princesses series (2007-2009) is an astute response to the Disney princess phenomenon of unattainable, debilitating images of femininity and romance in bowdlerised versions of the original tales. Here, Goldstein critiques the superficiality of the princess stereotype, reminding us that it is as facile for children as the Diana fairy tale dream is for adults.

Before Goldstein, photographer Sarah Moon also challenged the dilution of fairy tales in the modern west through her provocative (sometimes banned) interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood. In this powerful rendition, Moon takes her child reader back to the original and raw meanings embedded in the tale through her exploration of the theme of the human predator in the symbolic guise of the wolf.

Moon’s decision to return to the terror and drama of the Grimms’ version is testimony to the need to challenge the dilution and contamination of the tales. Even the Grimms were guilty of adding and subtracting to the material, particularly when it came to the insertion of overt Christian morality. Equally if not more so, the Disneyfication of fairy tales has stripped them of the power and the pain to which Moon returns.


Writers and poets have also responded to the tales and, like Moon, have regularly sought to return them to their once formidable status. Women authors in particular have created powerful, sometimes heartbreaking – but always real and truthful – new versions.

Among the thousands of old tales in new clothes is the literature of second wave feminists, including the suite entitled Transformations (1971) by renegade poet Anne Sexton, who takes the domesticity of the original tales and mocks, ridicules, cherishes and – literally – transforms them. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber (1979), a magnificent collection of retellings of famous fairy tales, is full of female empowerment, sensuality and violence in a tour de force that both reinstates the potency of the stories and re-imagines them.

Novelist, poet and essayist, Margaret Atwood also transforms the originals. Her response to The Girl Without Hands, which tells the story of a young woman who agrees to sacrifice her hands in order to save her father from the devil, in a poem of the same name is a profound meditation on the continuation of both abuse and survival.

The fairy tales first preserved by collectors such as the Brothers Grimm – retold, bastardised, edited, annotated, banned and reclaimed – belong ultimately to the folk who first told them. And the folk continue to tell and retell them. Closer to home than the Black Forest, a new show at the The Ian Potter Museum of Art contains work by international and Australian artists, including Tracy Moffatt and Sally Smart. The show returns – once again – to fairy tales to express social concerns and anxieties surrounding issues such as the abuse of power, injustice and exploitation.

Dina Goldstein, Snowy 2008 from the Fallen Princess series.
digital photograph

Courtesy of the artist

Fairy tales are, indeed, good to think with, and their retellings shed light on cultural, societal and artistic movements. Both children and adults should read more fairy tales – both the original and the transformed versions, for they are one of our cultural touchstones.

All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed, is on from Thursday 23 Nov 2017 to Sunday 4 Mar 2018 at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne.

The Conversation

Marguerite Johnson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Source: http://ift.tt/10p9N0X

Walk Through Old Tokyo with a 300-Year old Map of Edo

When we were in Tokyo last month we downloaded the Oedo Burari app. It was pricey – 600 yen – but we decided to bite the bullet and go for it. And I have to say, it was worth it. Part of what makes Tokyo such a fun city to walk is its ancient history […]

Source: http://ift.tt/zlrR8Y