03 April 2020

Piazza Cordusio, then and now

There's a wonderful photostream on Flickr with historic photos of Milan: Milàn l'era inscì Urbanfile  I'm not sure exactly what the name means and am guessing that it may be a regional dialect rather than mainstream Italian.

This photo has the caption "Via e Piazza Cordusio 1915-20" on Flickr. Piazza Cordusio is normally a busy space near the Castello Sforzesco and the Cadorna train station which provides a nice alternative to the central station when you're coming in from Malpensa airport, home to all kinds of shopping adventures and good restaurants. Very busy. It must be strange to be in Cordusio (as the neighborhood is called) at the moment of the coronavirus lockdown.

When I was in Milan in September 2018, a commercial "palazzo" around the plaza (formerly a post office) had just opened as the first Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Italy.
Six or seven streets come into the square, trolleys pass through, people wait for buses, tourists snap photos ... in normal times. Good memories.

22 March 2020

hunker down? go on a cruise? tell stories in an Italian country villa?

At the end of my morning walk, Drew and Mary were walking down the other side of the street. Drew asked if I was hunkering down or on a cruise. He explained the latter by describing the student houses around town that seem to have taken on new life, at least on a warm day. Folks on the porch, laughing, carrying on. I'd noticed the increased activity around the houses too. There were nine cars parked at the house and a half just before the AU campus. The university is closing the dorms today so residents have been here to clear out their stuff, after spring break. I feel especially bad, in this regard, for the students that come from busy urban areas and live in perhaps small family apartments. I wish the university could have figured out a way to provide for social-distant housing for the rest of the term for students if they wanted to hunker down here in the country. Yes, I realize that dorms involve more than providing a bed, e.g., supervision, food, potential medical care and deeper isolation.

Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio
MS. Holkham misc. 49, fol. 5r
Miniature by Taddeo Crivelli, circa 1467
Bodleian Library, Oxford

Now, if an Italian villa seems a bit difficult at the moment, you might consider a visit to Holkham Hall, perhaps my favorite Palladian house in England. Better make that a virtual visit for the foreseeable future.

16 March 2020

boundaries in a time of coronavirus

This month's Tentative List of LC Subject Heading proposals includes a proposal for:
Boundaries (Psychology)

The author of the proposal (an LC cataloger) found six occurrences of the use of Boundaries--Psychological aspects in the LC catalog. Since the scope note makes it clear that Boundaries in LCSH is used for borders between countries, states, etc., those six occurrences would be more relevant for books about being distraught about immigration or border wall issues. The work in question for which the new subject heading is being proposed is entitled Setting boundaries will set you free. These days, setting boundaries might also keep you for catching COVID-19.

Be well, all.

12 March 2020

separated at birth: anagrammatic dates

Homage to Miro by Gordon Bunshaft, 1939
in a private collection
discussed by Nicholas Adams in Architectural Record, February 2020
Miró, Joan, 1893-1983
Bunshaft, Gordon, 1909-1990

Gordon Bunshaft was born in Buffalo and grew up there. He designed a new wing for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in the early 1960s. For a while, it looked like that wing would be shafted by the present project to build a new wing by Shohei Shigematsu of OMA North America but it's become a new pavilion on the other side of the original building. Thank heavens.

06 March 2020

art and nature

Today I'm wearing the Tom Thomson t-shirt that I bought at the Art Gallery of Ontario many years ago. The text reads "Was his work more influenced by art movements or the movements of the wind and water?"

Today I'm reading about the Pritzker Architecture Prize 2020 being awarded to Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects. The article in the N.Y. Times about the prize includes this quotation from Farrell in response to a question about fame, recognition, and starchitects: "There are people whose work should be more recognized sometimes. The media goes for the easy thing -- eye candy. Architecture is much more. It infiltrates our lives in a much deeper way. It's important to remember that the earth is beautiful and sunlight is liquid gold. A lot of architecture excludes natural phenomena -- the rising and setting sun, the power of springtime moving up through the soul."

Daniel and I were talking about the glory of the winter sun as you go about looking at buildings.

04 March 2020

separated at birth: eastern and western beasties

Fragment of a balustrade
Late 13th/early 14th century
Limestone with carved decoration
Art Institute of Chicago. The Orientals, 1947.521

capital, late 10th/early 11th century
Museo di Sant'Agostino, Genoa

Apple store grows in Central Park

It looks like the Apple store is in Central Park. This photo is by Peter Aaron from the Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (architects) webpage. The store is actually across Fifth Avenue from the Plaza Hotel, at the southeastern corner of Central Park.

01 March 2020

typewriter love

Working on some name authority records and came across this book cover:

October memories

24 February 2020

the beginning and the end

In the greater middle portion of your life, you like to feel like you're in at least partial control. You may make mistakes but you may have some influence over the next thing to happen or tomorrow. You sometimes seem to have only yourself to blame when things don't go right, whatever that is seen to be. And then there's when you are really young or dead. It all just is. You can holler or struggle or just be still.

I'm reading The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. There are plenty of good sentences but this one on page 16 stood out: "Being on an airplane, even in coach, was the closest an adult could come to the splendid helplessness of infancy." You're just there, for the duration of the flight you cannot move a whole lot, you can't pick from a variety of food and drink and activity. You can prepare but you're mostly helpless beyond a certain point. It's only good if you let the helplessness be splendid. My mom said I'd just happily sit in my playpen when I was an infant, probably running a little car back and forth. Her friends wondered if something was wrong with me, if I were perhaps a little "slow."

On the other end of life, we are often equally as helpless though maybe have too much awareness of our helplessness. There was an article in the New York Times on Thursday (February 20, 2020) entitled "Final moments for all to see" about taking pictures of people who had recently died. The online version of the story is called "The iPhone at the deathbed." The article also talks about the preparation of the body for the picture. There are various terms for the folks who will help you but I think I like "death doula" best. Amy Cunningham, a funeral director in Brooklyn, describes how she was talking to a group of Unitarians in Albany and said that she thought the dead person would want to look their best. A nonagenarian in the back of the room yelled out "You'll get over that!" Her reflection on that experience was that it "got [her] thinking. Wouldn't it be wonderful to die unfettered and free from worrying about how [you] look?" More splendid helplessness, even if you don't know about it.

You do know about how worried you have been all your life about how you looked. Another article in Thursday's paper, entitled "Paramedical tattooos: when ink is the Rx," was about tattoo artists who do healing tattoos like fingernail images on the tips of fingers which have been cut off in an accident. They also might do scar or blemish covering, the point being a subtle blending in with the rest of the person's skin. My nose reconstructions have left me not wishing to have my photograph taken and worried about the misshapen nose. Still I don't feel helpless (most of the time) and I'd rather tell the story about the scars than go through a bunch of operations to smooth it all out, especially since they'd probably not succeed. So the lesson is to do the best you can with what you've got and be patient if you're riding in coach. It will soon be over ... or not.

20 February 2020

what did we use to say?

I was looking at the January 2020 issue of Art in America which is a theme issue on "Generative art: the history and future of creative machines." I wasn't familiar with the term in art and started investigating. The "Generative art" article in Wikipedia is quite mature and traces the history of the term in the arts back to the 1960s. A keyword search in the Library of Congress catalog yielded about 100 hits and about a dozen of them seemed to be relevant, that is, the phrase "generative art" appeared in the title/subtitle. I looked at some of the records and several had the subject heading "Computer art" along with other headings.

The Wikipedia article starts "Generative art refers to art that in whole or in part has been created with the use of an autonomous system. An autonomous system in this context is generally one that is non-human and can independently determine features of an artwork that would otherwise require decisions made directly by the artist." It's a little like social practice with a machine. You give it a situation and it proceeds as it can. Wikipedia also compared it with algorithmic art ("algorithmically determined computer generated work") but generative art doesn't need to be based in an algorithm, I guess.

It definitely seemed like it was time to work on a subject proposal for LCSH. I checked the Art & Architecture Thesaurus and they have a record for generative art. The scope note defines it as "electronic art that incorporates process in the creation of the work. The work itself is usually experienced through time and space, and may include sound, motion, animated graphics, sculptural elements, or any combination of these. Generative art has a performative aspect. For visual art that incorporates algorithms to produce static visual works, use 'algorithmic art.'"

And then the word "generative" started leaping into my life: right, left, and center. Not as part of "generative art" but, for example, to describe the origin of an idea. Sam and I talked around it after an artist talk a couple weeks ago. I was at the College Art conference last week and heard at least a half dozen speakers include the word generative in their paper. I was reading the January 24th New York Times after I got home and this sentence appeared in a review of a book entitled The longing for less by Kyle Chayka: "More generative for him are the examples of artists who became known as Minimalists even as they disavowed the term." What word would have been used a while ago? Not generative, I don't think. Maybe I'm just noticing a word that's been out there all along. Whatever, it's good to have an expanding vocabulary.