17 October 2010

Hieronymus Bosch and Francis Alÿs


One of the lovely things about a slow evening on the reference desk is catching up on the current periodicals. This evening, I read a couple wonderful paragraphs, one about Hieronymus Bosch and the other about Francis Alÿs. Matthew Collings is making a movie about the Garden of Earthly Delights and got to spend eight hours filming in the Prado. I wasn't there for eight hours but I did spend a lot of time with the Garden last December. The Garden of Earthly Delights is in a gallery with several other Bosch paintings. And it was the object of research for Peter Glum whose microfilms were my recently completed cataloging gig for the Morgan Library. Francis Alÿs has long been a favorite artist, as Bosch has been. He's a Belgian who lives in Mexico City and does great pieces that are often related strongly to place. It makes sense, then, that someone might want to play on his work and do a show entitled "I'm not here -- an exhibition without Francis Alÿs." The show also played off Todd Haynes' 2007 film "I'm not there." The show was at De Appel Boys' School in Amsterdam. At any rate, here are a couple paragraphs that I found interesting:

"One of the films I've been working on is about Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. ... I say perhaps because no one knows what Bosch's intention was with this or any of his surviving pictures. Piety, lust, and ghastly eternal pain are typical symbols in a Renaissance altarpiece, which is always a moral history of humanity. But Bosch plays such weird games with everything defining religious art up to then (the painting was likely done about 1505) that the rhetorical emotion doesn't seem like anything at all, replaced by an entirely new emotion. Or maybe what is truly new and truly refreshing is the apparent absence of emotion: a kind of sudden loaded bewilderment. I think that may be my favorite feeling in art. I certainly felt happy and privileged to be filming this painting for more than eight hours in the Prado one day earlier this year. Then, as the weeks went by and all the filming was done and the editing began and the footage had to be made into a convincing, seamless narrative, the torture began." (Collings, Modern painters, Oct. 2010, p. 27)

"But sometimes serendipity just falls into place: in the performance Just popped out, back in two hours (2010), artist David Sherry was meant to sit zombie-like in a chair for the duration of the evening, with a Post-it note stuck to his forehead reading 'Just popped out, back in two hours.' But due to the lingering traces of Eyjafjallajökull's eruption, Sherry couldn't get to Amsterdam in time, and was thus replaced by a stand-in, making him even more 'not here' than he otherwise would have been." (Douglas Heingartner, review of the show, Frieze, June/July/August 2010, p. 186)

The image of the Garden is, by the way, from the Wikipedia article on the painting.

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