You thought I was joking about Dasniya only being in Berlin on a Tuesday? Right now she’s in Oldenburg, then she’s off to Warsaw, then back to Berlin to perform, then I dunno — too far in the future to scry. Definitely in Berlin in December with Das Helmi though. Plenty of rope/shibari/bondage/yoga workshops in November too (and Wellness to Torture is still the best name for a workshop ever).
Dear Rope and Theatre Friends,
the must-be event of the month is the Porn Film Festival 2016, starting next week. Check out my first photo exhibition Moviemento cinema! For November there will be five morning classes, and a bondage gig for Arte.
Also back in November: Yoga Shibari, and Self-Suspension #2.
Home one day early. Improbably cheap bus from beloved Wrocław to beloved Berlin through afternoon and evening, Snow departure. Snow across southern Poland. Snow and darkness in Germany. Two weeks before, Budapest to Kraków, another bus. Those photos were better. I was trying to do what I remembered from then, the combination of dirty and tinted glass, dim light, snow, cold air, interior light reflection. My memory was of them far more abstract. Another thing, then I was photographing towards the sun, this time the sun was on my front-left and I was photographing to the right or at most front-right. Still, a couple of them have something interesting for me. I had a strange daydream of spending winter on budget busses going back and forth across the Carpathians just so I could get the right dirty windows to photograph through.
The last of four posts on Muzeum Narodowe we Wrocławiu, this one perfunctorily covering the European Art of the 15th-20th Centuries collection. My camera battery was flat, I’d been there already three hours, no museum café open to take a break in, and already had over 300 photos which I was dreading culling for here. I went there on Thursday afternoon; it’s Saturday. I’ll keep this short.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s Winter Landscape with Skaters and Bird Trap. I was exuberant about his The Sermon of St. John the Baptist in Muzeum Narodowego w Krakowie, and this isn’t comparable. I just liked it for his style, simplicity, depth and how my eye constantly circles in his work.
Philipp Peter Roos’ Sheep and Ram gets all the lulz. I have no idea why Roos thought painting one farm animal drinking the other’s piss with both of them staring hurrhurr at the viewer, the pisser’s tail lifted for a full arse shot. Doing this now with people in England is illegal. But here in 1690, there’s obviously enough of an audience for sheep piss porn. I actually quite like Roos’ farmyard portraits, he clearly enjoys his subjects’ company and personality. I like him even more for this strange work.
Otello Tells the Stories of his Adventures by Carl Becker is a huge canvas, close to 2 metres horizontally. It’s also the one work where a black person is the main subject. There were a few Adoration of the Magi across all collections, and works like Antoine Pesne’s Gypsy Fortuneteller, or Alfred Wierusz Kowalski’s Couriers in Morocco, the latter broadly fitting into a theme of Arabic subject in the late-19th century, but predominately it’s someone with pale skin who is the subject in theme, position, and lighting. The people with darker skin colour habitually are pushed into the shadows, or out of the light focus; sometimes even their dark skin allows them to be closer than others without pulling attention, like in Corrado Giaquinto’s The Adoration of the Magi. There’s a bit of this too in Becker’s. Otello is in the shadow thrown by the pillar, while his audience pair are in the light (strange shadows that seem to bend according to their own physics). Otello’s lower half, the table beside him and the lower left third are substantially darker than the lighting would suggest, particularly seeing how brilliantly illuminated his golden sleeve is. If he was not Otello, if he was the same skin colour as the other two, then attention would be drawn to him, to his face, away from the pale woman in white in the light and sun.
I’ve seen similar in mediæval art, in the Magi works, this use of skin colour to create or heighten the appearance of light and shadow, to move the focus to the centre. It’s often not helped by poor museum lighting, which ruins everything dark with horrible glare, or just fails to light at all, being outside the narrow focus. I was still struck by it, its size, his central position, his clothing.
Later, a single work of Olga Boznańska. After all of her in Kraków, it’s like seeing someone I’ve just got to know. I didn’t even look at the 20th century Polish collection. I hope the rest of the museums in Wrocław aren’t so good or I’ll be ruined.
A little more brief after the excess of the Sculptures. The Muzeum Narodowe we Wrocławiu collection of 12th-16th Century Silesian Sacral Art paintings is really a good one, just that it pales somewhat when amidst the sculptures, which must be one of the finest collections in Europe. Also, as I’ve seen quite a lot of paintings recently, it’s the oddities that caught my eye.
The Deesis panel by a Silesian Master from around 1420 to start. The other three panels are fairly standard, gilt halos overlapping into a storm of reflective gold, but this last panel, with Jesus in a eye-like slit of rainbow colours is a weird hallucination, its simplicity and sparseness also breaking the quartet’s rhythm. There were a number of Veraicon or Veil of Veronica as well. I’ve seen a couple of these elsewhere, but here there were enough to make it a theme in the work, this repetition of a subject again and again until it dominates.
The Flagellation from the Workshop of the Master of the Years seems to go well with the Wrocław Workshop’s bloody Pietà. Here, Jesus is whipped until his skin forms a regular geometric pattern, diagonal lines of mouth-like wounds crossed by vertical lines of dripping blood. The clothing is more eastern than what I’m used to seeing in Berlin, something I’ve enjoyed on this tour of Museums, the geographic and cultural specifics coming forth in the art.
I really didn’t photograph many paintings though, at least compared to my orgy of sculptures. One that did make me stop is from a Wrocław painter, Portrait of the Bearded Helena Antonia, after 1621. She looked on first glance like a rather regal, possibly arabic man. I read the title, “Bearded Helena” looked again at the clothing, wondered very hard about what I was seeing, came home, found her: “Helena Antonia was a bearded female court dwarf of Maria of Austria, Holy Roman Empress and was a favorite of Margaret of Austria, Queen of Spain, and also a lady-in-waiting for Constance of Austria.” And that’s about all I found on cursory searching. But this is why I love (and despair at) museums, for these recognitions of people who were if not common in art, then at least consistent in the frequency of their appearance, who by the 19th century were almost entirely absent, and only in the past couple of decades is the revisionism of history being undone. It’s also a pretty awesome painting and a very fine beard.
I’m mixing up the collections here. I’ve combined paintings from the Silesian 12th-16th, 17th-19th, and the Polish 16th-19th into one, some of it isn’t even sacral. Mainly because I hadn’t photographed so much of this and wanted to keep things from getting too out of hand. There were a lot of works in the latter two collections I just breezed by, landscapes by the score, important old white men and women (even though usually the women I like to photograph), all that romantic nationalist dross of the late-19th century, at the moment it simply doesn’t interest me; even Baroque art I’m ambivalent about. So, this and the European Art of the 15th-20th Centuries post are flimsy compared to all that sculpture.