Mama in the Mirror - The Art of Aging

“Jagoda Kaloper in the Mirror of the Cultural Screen,” a book about my mother’s art film “Woman in the Mirror” has just been published. Only few months ago, she celebrated her 66th birthday by opening a new exhibition. There were hundreds of people, lots of journalists and the exhibition received great reviews from art critics. Yesterday, she had a 45 minutes interview on Croatian National Television. She talked about her life – but what really impressed me was her talking about age and how she feels better now than she did when she was young. Yes, I am in love with my mom. I believe I have all reasons to be: She is the most caring, loving and supporting mother in the world (don’t get me wrong, she’s not perfect) but she is also a very strong, independent, successful woman – the kind of woman we would like our daughters to look up to. 

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Whatever Happened to Wilhelm Reich

If you are in Zagreb, you might be interested in seeing my mother's exhibition "What Happened to Wilhelm Reich?" which will open in Galerija Studenskog Centra on 19th of June. Here's the text I wrote for the exhibition catalogue: Since its beginnings, Jagoda Kaloper’s artistic opus has dealt with one single topic – the pain of human existence. At her first exhibition in 1970, she invited the visitors to look at themselves in a huge mirror placed on the gallery floor. Then she placed black silhouettes all around Zagreb, reminding us of the negativity we carry in ourselves and spread to each other. Forty years later, in her award-winning art film «Woman in the Mirror», she turned the mirror towards herself. She asked herself who am I, why am I and why do I hurt?  In the exhibition «What Happened to Wilhelm Reich?» Jagoda connects the questions she has been visually asking for over half a century with questions asked by the movies in which she acted, most specifically with «W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism.» Dušan Makavejev's 1971 movie analyzed communism and capitalism through Reich's theories of Orgone, human and universal energy. In the mean time, both of those systems have failed, but what persisted – stronger then ever in the history of human existence – is the yearning for the Garden of Eden, for a humanitarian environment in which we have finally learned to cherish our humanity and therefore annihilated black silhouettes. As long as we haven't achieved this, as long as we haven't accepted our human power, the world will be filled with wars, injustice and pain. And Jagoda Kaloper will continue to look painfully into the mirror and ask herself why we are still not capable of elevating ourselves above our own darkness.

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The Nomi Song

I just saw a great documentary about Klaus Nomi called “The Nomi Song”. I grew up with Nomi’s music completely unaware of his story, so it was amazing to learn more about this unique artist. If you’re into bizarre creatures and human stories, see it. But one thing struck me specially : Kenny Scharf, a painter and one of Nomi’s collaborators, talked about the art scene in New York in mid 70’s. He said something like (I saw it dubbed in German so this is a translation of the translation): When we arrived to NYC, we were all in the same boat. We didn’t have money, we lived on pizza and doughnuts. It wasn’t about success. Naturally, we dreamt about it, but there was a feeling of togetherness and solidarity. We weren’t scared that one of us could be better then the other. We were discovering our creativity together and supported each other. It was all about art.

While researching for “Titoland”, I saw a documentary about Yugoslavian rock’n’roll – and one of the biggest Yugoslavian rock musicians (yes, I forgot who it was) talked about the same thing: Zagreb in early ‘80’s, the creative people there who didn’t care about money or fame but just wanted to create and collaborate and support each other. And they all created fantastic stuff – the kind that doesn’t exist today.

It struck me as beautiful that people from completely different worlds, countries, continents, systems experienced the same creative phenomenon. Zeitgeist. Could you imagine someone saying the same thing about today’s art scene?

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Nomination for MIA Award 2013

I am very excited to announce my nomination for the MIA Award 2013 in category "Art and Culture". MIA Award is given annually to women with migration backgrounds who are especially successful in their field in Austria and who are active advocates in the issues of migration and women.

The award is handed out by the President of Austria, Dr. Heinz Fischer.

Please cross your fingers for me on 8 March 2013!

Link to my nomination:

MIA Awards 2013

 

Slut Dropping

Lots of interesting stuff is popping up as Miss Representation’s Facebook status. Readers of my blog will know why I like most of them. And also why I dislike some of them. I’m all for power to women – but ladies, with power comes responsibility. Here today’s example of what I mean: An article on “Slut Dropping” written by a “Independent” journalist. She tells us about the terrible practice at UK colleges where boys pick up slutty dressed girls at early hours of the morning and instead of bringing them home (as promised), they drop them at the other side of town. Yes, we all agree this is a terrible practice and women should be respected and treated nicely. But then. Have you seen what girls wear when they go out? God knows I’m a very open minded person. I was naked on the cover of my first book (called “From Barbie to Vibrator”)! And now I live in LA. And get to see a lot. Of skin. And other stuff.

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Rossini, Beethoven, Haydn, Händl and the Flag

Last night, I was excited to hear my first concert at the Hollywood Bowl. This legendary venue was supposed to add to my experiences of Opera Garnier, The Met, La Scala and Wiener Staatsoper (Covent Garden, Fenice and San Carlo are on the list). Unfortunately, the excitement has turned into shock right after the artists appeared on the stage. They received the welcoming applause and then the audience got up as they started playing the anthem. People held their hands on their hearts and sang out loud. American flag, which was hanging just left of the stage was projected on two large screens on each side of the stage. But why?

We were about to hear works by Rossini (Italian), Beethoven (German), Haydn (Austrian) and Händl (German). Solists were Swiss, Venezuelan, and American (born to Korean parents). The conductor was British. The instruments must have been made in Europe (or am I so ignorant that I don’t know USA is producing concert-class violins and pianos?)

Having experienced a war based on national hatred, having learned (as we all have) about the horrors the world has so recently experienced because of nationalism (WW2), and being aware of two wars going on under the same flag, the experience made me very uncomfortable.

There is no space for nationalism in art. Art should bring peace and break all boundaries. And at its best, it really does – many of those musicians were educated in and have built their careers in many different countries on different continents. A Händel opera in its original form will be equally appreciated in France, Japan or Australia. Warhol’s works hang on walls all around the world.

And yes, we are used to anthems – before sports events. But this has its reasons – national teams often compete each other and have to give their best representing their country.

Art is together and not against each other.

A fact that should be highly respected and valued.

Fatal Attraction 2

University of Texas economist Daniel Hamermesh claims that a good-looking American male will earn two hundred-fifty thousand dollars extra during his lifetime than his less attractive colleagues. This is equivalent to about 1 1/2 additional years of schooling. If you’re interested in more information, his book "Beauty Pays" will be published next summer by Princeton University Press. But yes, it’s nothing new - we’ve all read numerous studies proving that beauty pays and attractive people have it easier in life.

What we haven’t heard yet is the following reaction:

Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University, wrote a book on the issue, "The Beauty Bias”. Ms. Rhode believes there need to be more state or local laws banning discrimination based on appearance.

Isn’t this just adorable? I’d like to hear Ms. Rhode argue her cases. Because, as we all know, beauty (and attractiveness for that matter) lies in the eye of beholder. Can't get more subjective. So how can you prove that someone was discriminated for his/her looks? Maybe Rhode would make templates defining what’s beautiful/attractive and what not. Yes, I’d love to see Ms. Rhode working on those laws. Maybe I could apply for an assisting position in her project. Must be extremely amusing.

And – how much war against discrimination is simply .... too much?

P.S. Homework for my readers: Please, practice feeling bad about liking whom you find attractive.

Jay Kay's Magic

I’m in love with Jay Kay since the first time I’ve seen him.  This was at a cashiers’ desk of Zielpunkt (Austrian discount grocery store) in 1993. God only knows what his first CD was doing in that shop…. I fell even deeper in love when I saw him perform for the first time in 2002. He was like a ball of energy bouncing (in the coolest dance moves since Astaire and Jackson) from one side of the stage to the other. I calmed down a bit after I met him the same night – in person he was quiet, shy and … smoked-up. Plus - his accent made the conversation very difficult.

Last night, I’ve seen Jamiroquai perform again. Many things have changed in those eight years but one thing stayed same - I’m still in love. Last night was special because it was extremely fulfilling to see how lives and circumstances change. For the better.

Jay Kay: He calmed down. He is still incredibly energetic. He still electrifies the audience. But now it seems a bit more… not controlled but…. careful. What he used to do on stage was pure self-destruction. It was of course extremely gratifying to the audience but it was not sustainable in the long term. Especially not without drugs. On one side, as a fan, this “calmer version” makes me a bit sad. On the other side, as a woman in love ;-) it makes me happy to see that he will not bleed out on the stage just to fill the voids in our lives. He managed to perform a very fine balancing act of preserving his energy without seeming controlled or withheld. That’s what makes a great artist! Bravo Jay Kay!

Ana: I found myself! In 2002 after the concert, and especially after meeting Jay Kay and the band and hearing about their lives of rock stars, I was very sad about my life of a “Special Project Manager” at a mobile network provider. Compared to life of creating, performing, sharing energy with people, energizing your audience, travelling, being surrounded with like-minded people, my life seemed like a useless disaster. I was sad. And I was envious. Last night, I was just grateful for what they were giving me (us) and deeply satisfied with my own life and with the fact that now, I am a part of this creative force. Bravo Ana!

So one huge bravo to everyone! Including you, dear readers!

(Not so) Bright Star

Warning to all helpless romantics out there – if you plan to see “Bright Star”, Jane Campion’s film about John Keats and his love for his Fanny, do not expect too much. I was yet again fooled by a trailer. I must finally accept the fact that trailers are like wonderbras. You can only get disappointed. It is sad that a woman who made “Piano”, one of the most poetic films of all times, made a movie about one of the greatest poets of all times – without poetry. The editing was clumsy, photography was average, and at times even bad, the scenes which were meant to be poetic were just touched upon and left hanging in the air. And she never managed entering Keats. What happened there? Was Keats’ grandness cramping Campion, so that she hasn’t managed to unfold her talent? Pity, pity.

But the movie struck me for another point (as all those costumed dramas do): Ah, glorious times when life was so intense! When a letter traveled for weeks and it was kissed and cherished and reread because it was the only contact to your lover. When you had to think well about what you will write or communicate because you only had a very limited chance to do it. When the other person was sacred and adored because he/she was unique. And the one you were to stick to for the rest of your life. Which made it easier to project positive feelings on him/her.

When winter was dangerous, so you stayed inside, when a ball was a grand experience so you consciously enjoyed it, when a book was a rarity so it was precious.

We just have too much of everything. People, information, excitements, experiences, possibilities, things.  Too much of everything dilutes everything. Life is diluted, experiences are diluted. We are diluted.

Thank you, Mr. Keats.

Link to The Bright Star

Our Money. Or our Souls?

Sexcession scandal continues. The discussion goes on. Debates on TV, newspapers full of articles asking “How can it be possible that a swingers club is sponsored by taxpayers’ money???” Wrong discussion! Wrong question!

The money doesn't matter. Whether this “art” project was paid by taxpayers' money or private sponsors, it is all same: the money comes from us. Either in the form of taxes we pay or products & services we buy.

No, the discussion should be turned back from the money to a more important issue: Our souls.

Why is crap like this being sold to us as art?

What is art?

What is the purpose of art?

What position does it have in our society?

Does is still exist?

Why?

No, this time, money really doesn’t matter….

Art is dead. Or fucked up.

If I tell you that art is dead, you’ll tell me “Nothing new”. I know, I know. But I still get excited about it. It makes me sad. Our values are in rapid extinction, right in front of our eyes. Family is dead, altruism is dead, relationships are dead, nature is dead. Art is dead... Last week, I had the honour and the privilege to open my best friend’s exhibition. She’s a painter. A real painter. She paints paintings you can hang on your wall. Beautiful paintings, full of structures, patterns, colours. Paintings that take weeks to make. With her own hands. In my speech, I talked about how our society lost this patience for creating stuff (art and products, even relationships) with our own hands and through this process projecting our energy into them. I compared this to Japanese masters of sword making. They create their swords, Katanas, all by themselves, and they dedicate months to only one sword.  As a dancer, it fascinates me that they also use their whole bodies in this process. Made in this way, Katana has thousands of layers, each bursting with its creator’s energy. That is what makes it so unique and powerful. This Zen-like concentrated projection of energy used to be part of our western culture as well. But we’ve lost it. Our lives are virtualised. Our energy wasted. Our jobs are virtual (we don’t produce, we sit in meetings, talk on the phone and write e-mails), our music, films and newspapers are virtual. Our photos are virtual, our memories are virtual, our friendships are virtual. We use products made by someone else, somewhere else. And we don’t care about them. We buy them, use them, throw them away. They are exchangeable. They are not made to last. Just like everything else in our lives.

Same happened to art. Art became trickery, a collection of ideas or constructs created quickly or by someone else. Videos, performances, installations. If they are good, they will  tickle our brains for a few seconds. And be forgotten. And if they’re not….. Here the newest example, a huge scandal in Vienna. Swiss artist Christoph Bückel turned the basement of Secession (Vienna’s legendary art space bearing Klimt’s frescos) into a swinger club. That’s Büchel’s art: he already created a sun bed in Kassel and a supermarket and a betting office in Fridericianum. Pardon me! I come from a family of artist and I am really open for everything. But why should re-creating every day spaces somewhere outside of their normal context be called art? It is cheap (actually not, the Secession project costs  €90,000), it is not creative, it doesn’t really have a message, doesn’t involve artistry. It is just…an offence. Art is not dead. It is deader than dead.

Maybe the whole project would be a bit less scandalous if it wasn’t really operating as a sex club. Yes, someone got a licence for it. So people can come and look at it as art (why?) during the day and at night they can pay whatever entrance and have promiscuous sex in front of Klimt’s paintings. Art?

After we’ve broke all boundaries and lost all respect and fell on our knees in front of mediocrity and trickery, what will be left of our culture?

Satrapi on depression, creativity and adopting a foreign culture

From diverse  interviews.... "Well depressive, I don't know. If you have a little sensibility or a heart you have all the reason to be depressed once in a while. But the depression is like a motor for creation. I need a little bit of depression, a bit of acid in my stomach, to be able to create. When I'm happy I just want to dance."

“That is the capacity of the human being, that everything suddenly becomes absolutely normal.”

“If you want to have another culture come into you, it’s like you have to take out the first one, and then choose what you want from the two and swallow them again.”

“I can live fifty years in France and my affection will always be with Iran. I always say that if I were a man I might say that Iran is my mother and France is my wife. My mother, whether she’s crazy or not, I would die for her, no matter what she is my mother. She is me and I am her. My wife I can cheat on with another woman, I can leave her, I can also love her and make her children, I can do all of that but it’s not like with my mother. But nowhere is my home any more. I will never have any home any more.”

Oscar Niemeyer: "Be nice to each other!"

Thank you, Vice for the interview with Oscar Niemeyer!

Niemeyer is the living legend of architecture. A Brazilian, he was Le Corbusier’s student and later created the capital of Brasil from 0, in the middle of nothing. Today, Brasilia is protected and considered one of the greatest achievements of modern architecture. He is a big communist, he is 102 and still going to his office every day. He believes architects should have a wide spectrum of culture (as should all other creative people, I would say) so he employed a teacher who came to his office for 5 years to teach his architects about philosophy and universe.

And here what he says about life:

“We (Niemeyer and his friends) want to say to young people that life is more important than architecture, more important than anything else. Life is about knowing how to behave, how to be fair and enjoying being nice to others. That’s it. But life is not important. I don’t want to say that it’s shit. But it is just what destiny threw into your lap.”

More information on Niemeyer.

Sita Sings the Blues

If you are in Vienna, are a girl, or a man interested in animation, go to Top Kino to see Sita Sings the Blues. It is an animated movie (very independently produced, directed, animated, written by Nina Paley) drawing parallels between Ramayana, a Sanskrit epic (featuring beautiful Sita) and the author’s tragic love story. Amazingly animated in 4 completely different styles, very funny, with a fantastic soundtrack (featuring songs by Annette Hanshaw from 1927).

For more information – and to (yes, legally) download the movie for free, go to: Sita Sings the Blues

And life immediately looks quite different….

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Listen to Tord Gustavsen

Tord Gustavsen (and Ulrich Drechsler) last night in Konzerthaus. A bit disappointing because we all came to hear Gustavsen but got more of Drechsler.Still, an incredible event. Made me want to jump up and dance and then sit back and dry the tears from my eyes. Yes, it did open up new spaces for two hours. If you do listen to jazz, Tord Gustavsen is a must know. If you don’t (yet), he is the perfect way to start. His music is so gentle, so poetic, so melodic, and so deep in the same time that you cannot but get hooked. I listen to his music since his first CD came out in 2003. And once I had an amazing experience – I was in a modern jazz class with one of the best guest teachers we have in Vienna, Russell Adamson. He created a beautiful choreography to one of the songs from Gustavsen’s first CD “Changin Places”. I was already much attached to this music – listening to it always moved me emotionally, but then dancing to it multiplied this experience by hundred, creating a volcano of sensations that made tears pour from my eyes. I never before cried while I danced, and never since then. Unfortunately. Anyway, fantastic concert, but horrible technicians in Konzerthaus. It proved just how important they are… Percussion was too loud (and not good enough to be that loud), piano came from all different directions and was way too low. Apropos percussion - yesterday, I realised again that Jarrod Cagwin definitely is the best that there is!

Link: Tord Gustavsen

Writers and their moms

Information form Croatian daily newspapers: Michel Houellebecq˙s mother wrote an autobiography called "L`Innocente" as the answer to things he has been writing about her in his books. "My son is actually arogant, he is a real parasite and a lier" she said, according to the newspaper. "If he ever mentions me again in his books, he is going to receive such a slap that all his teet are going to drop out." In his interviews, Houellebecq calls her "old bitch". Oh how boring the world would be witout writers!

The Penis Trap

On my last tour through Viennese art galleries, I stumbled across a very interesting show by an American lady painter. She painted the displayed work in early 70’s, while being together (and very much in love) with a German painter. The colorful, psychedelic, naïve paintings all showed the couple with their genitals very obviously accentuated. Definitely not something you would hang in your living room if you had kids. This was the first time that I’ve seen in visual arts a woman admitting, though subconsciously, her obsession with her man’s penis. I’ve seen it in literature; in a book called “Vibrator” by the Japanese author Mari Akasaka (I can highly recommend the book). But both times, the she-artists tried to hide the fact that it is all about a penis-trap: the painter presented it as love, the writer described it as a  rescue from an eating disorder. It is interesting how women, even today’s mega emancipated alfa-girls, cannot admit being caught in a penis-trap. Men never had a problem admitting, sometimes even proudly, of having been caught in a pussy-trap. Ladies will always try to persuade themselves, and the world, that it is all about love, love, love.

Anyway, I was standing in front of one of those fun paintings admiring what the artist admired, when a lady approached me in hope for some highly intellectual art-meets-psychotherapy conversation “What do you thing was going through her head?” she asked.

“LSD and a big penis.” I replied. Come on, let’s get honest.

When did art become public masturbation?

Why is “art” without a message, invention, aesthetics or amusement being supported? Is it because it cannot be dangerous in any way?

I went to a modern dance performance. It wasn’t just any performance; a famous French choreographer danced in Tanzquartier, Vienna’s Mecca of modern dance. People get paid a lot to do this. There were 5 dancers on an empty stage. 4 men who looked like they just escaped a mental institution, hospital for bulimics or a prison. And one woman from the same institution, with dirty hair, unshaved armpits and hanging breasts. None looked like a dancer. There was no music. For 50 minutes, they were throwing themselves around the stage like autistic savants. What I was watching made me feel offended, annoyed and aggressive. I really have better things to do with my time. “But Ana, this is a dance laboratory. This is research!” my friend tried to explain. Come on - research is great, if it shows something new, something ascetically pleasing, something fun, something that will make us think, make us float away or has a message. But just getting rid of your frustration and energy is what I call masturbation. And if it is not sexy, then please, don’t do it in public!