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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"I Only Want You to Love Me"

Something strange happened when I saw this photo by Miles Aldridge - it flet so "Yes, that's exactly right!" and made me think about all the ways we are trying to be perfect, only to be loved - without ever knowing what "perfect" really is..... And what we will actually one day be loved for (or if we're lucky, what we are really loved for). P.S. And yes, that is the title of the photo 229645_s43_f7

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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The Tree of Art

Ironically, I watched Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life one day after I came up with the outline for my script about women from my island Zlarin. I wrote the outline for the script writing class at UCLA. It wasn’t easy – what I originally wanted to do was a real “foreign language movie” (that’s what they call them here), but the class was about writing a Hollywood movie. I received my first slap (or two or more) during first five minutes in the class. I heard things like “Why make something that 400 people will see when you can make something 4 mil. people will see?”; “Why make movies that will only show on Sundance?”; “I’m doing this to make money”. I was offended by the lack of recognition that art and entertainment are two different things done out of different drives. But they both deserve respect. 

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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.

One

I took the picture and didn’t think much of it. Only a few minutes later, as I was leaving Central Park, it occurred to me. I’ve just witnessed Bruegel.  Even better, I’ve just witnessed life. At its most glorious manifestation. One by Peter Bruegel, the other by Ana Tajder. A man. A woman. Netherlands, United States.  One in 16th century, the other in 21st. 500 years apart. Continents apart. Identical.

How persistent is true joy of life? And how simple! It just is. Must love it.

Artificial Biological Clock

I don’t know what I’ve been waiting for. I guess this one. I found it in “Why Design Now?”, National Design Triennial at the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. If you are in New York, see it – you have time till Jan. 9 2011. This is not just a design exhibition, it is more about projects from various fields of design such as architecture, product design, fashion and new media trying to solve some of our most important human and environmental problems. See how creative people propose to save the world. I’m missing one main point: how about moving away from the culture of consumption (and that’s asap)? But I guess poor designers are a very wrong address for that one. Here my favorite project: “Artificial Biological Clock” by Revital Cohen. The point is that through birth control, ideas of self-realization and career, independency, youth cult, Peter-Pan complex, hedonistic way of life, etc., we have completely lost the idea of biological clock - so why not have the artificial version (I’m sure Steve Jobs could think of a very cool gadget here. Actually, why not simply making an App out of it?). This one “reacts to information from her doctor, therapist, and bank manager via an online service. When she is physically, mentally, and financially ready to conceive the object awakes, seeking her attention.” Yes, alienation, my favorite topic. And a perfect example of critical design. Bravo, Revital.

More on Why Design Now?

More on Revital Cohen

Un roman français

Just finished Frédéric Beigbeder’s „Un roman français“, highly praised by the French press. Yes, the clown is finally gone. Instead, there is honesty, vulnerability, depth, Chantilly language and some fantastic thoughts. In a way it's his first book. I was very curious and excited about the book. Opening Beigbeder’s books for the first time always makes me feel like a kid opening Christmas presents. My first reaction was very emotional. After reading three pages, I had to put the book away. It was spooky. What I was reading felt like my unwritten words. My thoughts about writing, about family, about the childhood. About amnesia. Just like Beigbeder, I also suffer from a complete amnesia about my childhood. No memories whatsoever.

But this is where the similarities end. In contrary to my childhood, which was bursting with dramatic episodes, Beigbeder’s childhood is just plain…. boring. It takes artistry (and yes, some tricks) to write a whole (good) book about a boring childhood. Noble ancestors, holidays in family villas, Bently rides to the country club, parents’ divorce which magically went by without one bad word, let alone a fight, a caring mother and a cool father, a handsome brother. Beigbeder is nice to his readers, and even excuses himself for this boring childhood, mentioning that probably most childhoods are boring. That is his actual problem – or the actual inspiration for creating what is today his famous public persona – Beigbeder is extremely isolated in his French bourgeois capsule.  No Fréderic, most childhoods are everything but boring!

This extreme boredom (I actually cannot believe that one can have such a childhood. He must be romanticising it.) is for a person like me, who often complains about the challenges life has opposed on her, a very important message - boredom is actually a curse! Especially for a sensible, creative, educated person like Beigbeder who wants to feel the whole intensity of life and reproduce it in his writing. What to do when there is nothing is there? Search in all the wrong places. Search in clubs and parties and young female bodies. Search in alcohol and drugs.

And it is the drugs (cocaine) that gave Beigbeder the huge gift of finally having a dramatic experience – and a chance to grow up. After getting arrested for snorting coke on a hood of a parked car, he ends up in a jail. And hey, an eternal kid finally gets to experience a bit of “not boredom” – which he describes as horror! Two nights in jail are such a trauma that he finally decides to try growing up and writes his best book yet.

The book is honest, the book is self-critical, the book is a fantastic portrait of bored bourgeoisie. But there is a disturbing feeling that here,  he is trying to make everything right. Through self-criticism and through glorifying others. His mother is a self-scarifying saint. His father is a cool businessman heartbroken because his wife left him. His ex-wife should be pitied for her role of  a single mother. The brother is a handsome successful knight. The daughter is an angel. Jesus! What is happening here!? “I’ve been a bad boy till now, I did and said some bad things but let me try correct it here!”??? This glorifying of his family feels ... intentional. The end result is making the boring life he is describing seem even more uninteresting.

I was extremely excided for Frédéric when I finished the book. Personally. I was happy for him because he seems to have (finally) reached another stage in his life. I know how great that feels. Knowing him, I believe he has actually reached this stage long ago but it took this book, admitting it on paper and turning it into peace of art, to make it “official”. But the book also made me sad. For the emptiness. It made me want to take him by the hand and take him to Baghdad for a few moths to live with an Iraqi family. And then make him work in a hospital with very ill children. Anything that would make him a bit ashamed for dramatizing two nights in a jail.

But most of all, this book made me grateful for all challenges life has given me. I will not complain about them anymore. But honestly - I did have enough!

P.S. Definitely do read if you want to know why we write.

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….