Tag Archives: art

Arts, Old and New, in the Czech Republic

hip hip.By PAT HARTMAN
News Editor

Over in Moscow, graffiti artists had the chance to lay aside their outlaw status for a while, and join with art students and students of all kinds to embellish dozens of heating units throughout Russia’s capitol. Ksenia Galouchko tells us in The Moscow Times:

Heating units can be found in most courtyards and are usually squat, drab, utilitarian buildings with little architectural value. The only people attracted to the buildings seem to be the homeless and graffiti artists whose art work has never, until today, found favor with the energy companies who own the buildings.

This time the spray paint has been deployed with official approval, and each contestant hopes for a very special prize: passage to the Czech Republic, where the team will represent their country at an international music and lifestyle festival. The Czech city of Hradec Kralove is gearing up for the onslaught of thousands of energetic kids for the annual Hip Hop Kemp, scheduled this year for August 20-22, with plenty of allowance on both sides for before-parties and after-parties.

An artist herself, Ksenia Galouchko also writes for The Stanford Daily and is a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, as well as treasurer and V.P. of Artspan, a program for underprivileged and developmentally challenged children.

But now, to an older art form, in nearby Prague. I found a mystery in The Third Tower Up From the Road. When Kevin Dolgin went to Prague, he saw the Orloj, or astronomical clock, a very fancy timepiece with many moving figures, including the Christian Apostles and a skeleton (representing Death). This incredible piece of technology/art was created back in the year 1410. That’s almost 600 years ago. Anyway, here’s the interesting part. Quoting Kevin,

Legend says that Ruze’s eyes were put out after he finished so that he could never build a clock that would rival it. No one else ever did.

Yikes! However, closer attention reveals that Jan Ruze didn’t build the clock, and nobody put his eyes out. That’s why they call it a legend.

The point is, when I was a little kid, one of the standard family excursions was a trip to the museum in Buffalo, NY, 20 miles away, to see a clock very much like this one. Was there really never another clock like the Prague Orloj? Could it have been sent over to the States on loan? Because, going by the description, this clock sounded a lot like that one.

But no, this is not the same clock at all. A little research shows that the Prague Orloj is outdoors, for heaven’s sake. It’s a permanent installation. And it was attacked by tanks in World War II. And it’s a different shape. (Here’s a cool animated computer model of how the dials move.)Orloj The picture here is of a couple of the figures, and part of the dials.

The astronomical clock in the museum of my youth was housed in a wooden cabinet, like your standard-issue grandfather clock. The apostles were on a circular track and they came out from the interior of the clock’s case, past the figure of Jesus in the middle, which they all bowed to, except one. And Satan popped out like a cuckoo, from a little door. That’s how I remember it, anyway. As it turns out, there is such a clock. Myles Hughes built it, nowhere near 600 years ago.

There’s another Apostle Clock in Oshkosh , Wisconsin, pretty much like the one Hughes spent 35 years building, only this one was built by Mathias Kitz and it only took him six years. And it has an angel instead of the devil. And here it is not Peter who turns away, but Judas, bag of silver coins in hand. In the United States, about 25 of these “monumental clocks” were made altogether.

Also in Prague, the Kafka Musuem has opened, and you might be interested to know that the great author referred to his hometown as “a dear little mother with claws.” Last month, the cinephiles of Prague were delighted to welcome John Malkovich to the 44th International Film Festival where he taught a master class and received a Crystal Globe Award. Another festival, the Prague Biennale, has lost all its funding and the spring 2009 edition was sponsored by artists and curators. On the positive side, amazingly, Bernard’s Summer School of Irish Dancing is enjoying its successful 9th year in Prague.

Hip hop photo courtesy of .:martu:. , used under this Creative Commons license, Figures photo courtesy of Jorge-11, used under this Creative Commons license, Clock face photo courtesy of Jorge-11, used under this Creative Commons license

Naughty Mayfair, in London, England


News Editor

Not long ago, we noted the popularity of London as one of Student Universe’s Top Ten Party Destinations. Taking a closer look, we find that the great British capitol has always been a place where young and old could find something disreputable to pass the time, especially if they were wealthy and titled. In “Mayfair’s dark secrets laid bare,” Jasper Gerard unearths some facts and rumors about a venerable building called Albany. He says:

So savagely do Albany grandees protect their privacy that even snappers photographing the place have found themselves at the wrong end of a porter’s boot… One resident, a Mr. Gundry, was so aggressive he horsewhipped someone in Hyde Park for brushing against his shoulder a year earlier.

That revenge for bruised honor occurred, of course, quite some time in the past. But that’s the point. This structure seems to have a cumulative history of anarchic behavior well cloaked behind a veil of respectability. Remember the Chelsea Hotel in New York, when all the rock stars stayed there? Albany was, in its glory days, kind of like that — only with servants who would carry an inebriated resident to bed and tuck him in. Hookers came and went freely and,  according to a certain painter who called Albany home for a couple of years, they still do. Tradition and discretion don’t come cheap; it costs about £1,500 or about $2,500 USD per week to live there.

The reason why all this came to Gerard’s attention is an art show that includes 40 paintings by Keith Coventry. The whole series is called “Echoes of Albany” and the pictures bring back the days of chippies, tarts, absinthe, serious recreational drugs, women who wore tuxedos and courted other women, and much, much more. If you’re in the neighborhood of Burlington Gardens, the exhibit runs through August 15 at the Haunch of Venison gallery.

Gerard, incidentally, has had an interesting and varied journalistic career. It’s easy to be sidetracked into something like, for instance, his interview with novelist Ian McEwan. But no. This is about the famous old mansion where three of England’s prime ministers have lived, along with a number of titled aristocrats and upper-echelon stage actors such as Terence Stamp. Antony Armstrong-Jones, the photographer who was married to Queen Elizabeth’s sister Margaret, once lived there. So did art historian Sir Kenneth Clark. The poet Lord Byron was once a resident, as were novelists Aldous Huxley and Graham Greene, playwright Terence Rattigan, and esteemed travel writer Bruce Chatwin.mayfair mural

Speaking of London nightlife, there’s trouble in paradise as burlesque dancers take to the streets to protest unfair laws that impede their ability to make a living and entertain the rest of us. And check out this site for a handy guide to “student nights” in London clubs.

And in the daytime, be sure to observe the statues. Yes, the sculptures in public places which, as we know, are of abiding interest to Kevin Dolgin as he makes his way through the cities of the world. In London, he found plenty to write about, in “Forgotten Heroes: London, England” which of course is one of the pieces in The Third Tower Up From the Road.

Albany photo courtesy of Wolfiewolf , used under this Creative Commons license. Mayfair mural photo courtesy of danielle_blue , used under this Creative Commons license

And What About Travel Photography?

photographerBy PAT HARTMAN
News Editor

Okay, we’ve talked about plenty of cool travel writing, but let’s take a look at travel photography. Or rather, let’s look over the shoulder of Karen Walrond, who has compiled a pantheon and titled it “Through the Gadling Lens: 5 of the best travel photographers of all time.” It’s nice how she shares some of her own experience:

I’ve been diving in some of the clearest, stillest water possible, but still — the water never seems still enough to get a sharp image, it’s difficult to hold the camera steady while you’re floating, and the diffused light through the ocean totally distorts colours.

Walrond chooses Ansel Adams, who, in addition to being a photographer, was also a dedicated environmentalist. She is most impressed by the way he processed images, and by the way he shared his knowledge in a series of ten tech manuals. He was a big believer in having a picture come out looking the way he wanted it to look, rather than the way it might have really looked. He wasn’t into making documentaries. The surprising thing is that Adams didn’t take up painting instead, a form in which it’s relatively easy to make the picture come out looking like you want it to. Using the scientifically based methodology of the classical photograph as an expressive medium requires a kind of brute-force approach to art that not every creative person is comfortable with.

Remember the National Geographic cover with the Afghan girl? The one with the eyes? Steve McCurry made that picture in Pakistan, in a refugee camp. And then, many years later, he went back to find the girl with the eyes, Sharbat Gula, who was by then living in Afghanistan with her husband and their young children. In Walrond’s opinion, light and color are McCurry’s strong points.

Her next pick is Jim Brandenburg, another National Geographic photographer who specials in animals and landscapes. Julius Shulman was a very original photographer of architecture, with the ability to make buildings look their best in the same way that Hollywood studio photographers in the old days were able to make movie stars look their best. He could bring the magic. Walrond’s fifth choice is underwater photographer Chris Newbert, yet another National Geographic veteran.

Over at The Society of American Travel Writers, Bea Broda and Rich Grant have compiled a handy list of “Top 10 tips for better vacation photos from travel writers & photographers.” They advise shooting outdoors in early morning and late afternoon. Patiently wait for the right moment. Shoot in the highest resolution you can. Be creative with points of view other than eye level. Let the subject fill the frame. Remember to take vertical pictures as well as horizontal. Attend to such details as whether a human subject will appear to have a tree growing out of his head, and don’t let it happen.

There are plenty more great ideas, too. One of them is, take a lot of pictures and then later discard the losers. There are folks who go someplace and take literally thousands of pictures, and then feel compelled to load each and every one of them into Flickr. People, please, let’s use a little discrimination here!

On the other hand… maybe not. Maybe it’s good that someone should upload a dozen practically identical photos, and none of them inspired. Maybe there exists a fan for each and every one of those repetitious images.

In The Third Tower Up From the Road, Kevin Dolgin says, “I don’t take pictures. Ever.” (He can’t stand looking like a tourist.) But he likes to write about people who take pictures, for instance of each other in front of the door to hell, at the Rodin Museum in France. He says:

You have to wonder about this. It’s quite possible that they don’t actually know what the sculpture represents; there are no devils or pitchforks or anything. Or perhaps they like tempting fate, or are proud of the fact that they are on this side of the door (for now). Who knows?

Going back to Karen Walrond, her column ends with the words, “Greater minds may differ, though, so I hope you’ll challenge me in the comments.” And we feel the same way. It would be splendid to hear some opinions on the top travel photographers.

photo courtesy of cstrom , used under this Creative Commons license