Culture in the EU (8): Estonia

 

[Because of other commitments, it has not been possible to post more in this series for a little while, but I am endeavouring to complete as many as possible before the referendum on Thursday. For now, I will mostly give links and text without so much commentary, which may follow later]

As a solid supporter of the Remain campaign, in the 18 days from June 5th until the European Union Referendum on June 23rd, I am posting a selection of links and other information about music, literature, film, visual art, dance, architecture, etc., from each of the EU nations.

I make no claims to be comprehensive in any case, and my choices undoubtedly will reflect my own aesthetic interests – but I believe that may be more interesting than a rather anonymous selection of simply the most prominent artists or art. All work comes from the post-1945 era, the period during which the EU has come to fruition, but may (and often will) include work which dates from before the nations in question joined the EU. As I am writing in English, where translations exist I will use these. Time does not allow for detailed commentaries, I just throw these selections out there in the hope others will be interested in the extraordinary range of culture which has emerged from citizens of the EU.

 

Estonia

[With profound thanks to Helen Harjak for various suggestions of Estonian culture to investigate]

A major figure in the post-war Estonian literary scene was the writer and poet Bernard Kangro (1910-1994), who founded the cultural journal Tulimuld, which ran from 1950 to 1993. A selection of his quasi-surrealist poems is available in English translation, called Earthbound.

Kangro - Earthbound

Here is Kangro’s poem, ‘Late Flowers, Wind, Sea, Sand and Fish’, translated Ivar Ivask.

Wind wilts
late flowers,
tiny blossoms
at edge of bay.

Don’t blame the breeze!
The sea’s there
thundering
upon the sand.

Wave above,
sand blow.
Fish laugh
and skip away.

Another poem can be read here.

Another surrealist Estonian writer was the poet and sound poet Ilmar Laaban (1921-2000), who lived in Sweden from 1944. Here is Laaban’s poem ‘Silence and Violence’, as translated by Richard Adang and Andres Ehin

Silence and Violence

Long ago on a windy hunt
a horrible happiness abruptly bloomed in me
and the landscape congealed only its pungent
blood rustling through my veins the gun smoked
incessantly the hound did not bark
as it gazed at the clouds tightening
into meat and skinning over with fur
streaming tangled by despair

Because on the horizon a stout tower appeared
which swayed slowly between emptiness
and the overflowing clamor of hideous joy
like a gigantic latrine
the sweaty sun mottled Earth and Welkin
until suddenly it was eclipsed by cold
ravens of freedom who carried my eyes
and fresh images like flags in their bills

At twilight which was only flashes
as the sea is but the triumph of the drowned
my hunting jacket was freed of its heavy
web of lust I simply ran forward
along the mute moor coming across
animals with shining coals for hearts
I shot them so many that the road home
was finally choked with grass

Long ago I seized the empty beaker
and faced its inflexible challenge
and ever since this endless draught rinses –
my gun-barrel mouth which sparkles
in the starry sky and when it sees
some too-warm nebula defiling cosmic night
it proclaims ponderously and clearly
I DENY DEATH BUT AFFIRM ICE

Here is Laaban’s sound-text composition Ciel Inamputable (1969)

 

Amongst the most renowned Estonian writers of the post-war era are Jann Kaplinski (b. 1941), who drew widely upon mythology and Asian thought, and Jaan Kross (1920-2007), who spent an eight-year period as a prisoner in Soviet labour camps. Here is an obituary of Kross in The Guardian. Kross’s novels often had historical settings, but served as allegories of the contemporary situation under Soviet communism. His four volume sequence of novels Kolme katku vahel/Between Three Plagues (1970-1976) told the story of the sixteenth-century chronicler Balthasar Russow, who wrote the chronicle of the Livovian War, detailing his experience of the effects upon the peasantry from which he came.

Kross - The Ropewalker

 

A sparse form of poetry, reflecting post-1968 disillusionment and disenchantment, can be found in the work of Paul-Eerik Rummo (b. 1942), who also went on to become an Estonian politician. A selection of his poems can be read in translation here; here is one, ‘Crooning’.

Crooning

I am so fleeting
sighed the girl to the sea
oh, what can I do
you are eternal

I am transparent like you
sighed the girl to the window
oh, what can I do
my heart’s in full view

I open like you
sighed the girl to the door
oh, what can I do
the sun steps in

I am so small
sighed the girl to the sun
oh, what can I do
you are so large

I am so foolish
sighed the girl to the wise man
oh, what can I do
everyone is so wise

More on Rummo can be read here.

Poet and author Tõnu Õnnepalu (b. 1962), who has also published under the names Emil Tode and Anton Nigov. His novel Piiririik/Border State (1993), a short novel about the overwhelming and sometimes destructive effect of Western culture upon a Baltic citizen, comes highly recommended; more can be read about it here.

Onnepalu - Border State

Also, do check out the poet, short story writer and librettist Maarja Kangro (b. 1973). Here is her poem ‘The Butterfly of No Return’, as translated by Ilmar Lehtpere. A further selection of poems, with various translations, can be read here.

THE BUTTERFLY OF NO RETURN

‘again’ is a big word.
slowly and quickly
again

again men rejoice on the radio
that they are on the right road
and talk of the cyclical nature of time

a proper road goes in circles, even I
recognize young skin on the beach and
”et si tu n’existais pas,” is sung loudly

men on the radio speak of the connection
of everything to everything else:  ringingly
one says butterfly effect – I lift my wings

a good sleep gives you cyclical time
for after such a sleep you think you’re revived
and again

I flutter my wing
the good men on the radio start coughing
I flap my wings more amply and a wind comes up

the men cough wheezing, the airwaves revolt
ships sink and swimmers drown, the final sleep
comes stormy and grey

let’s think of a word that never was before
was just now
and now isn’t anymore

***

There’s a whining and ringing in the air.
You talk of a lout.
I’m the very one.  Through me you’ll never
reach the deeper levels or the heights,
the flash of pure being that you believe
you see in the village drunkard
or the poet gone mad.
When he drinks, secrets come to light.
When I get legless, I attack.
Or I drift off, stinking.  My gaze is dark.
I give off my exhaust in your face.
I want lovely meat that won‘t shame me.  I’m afraid of losing.
Words anger me.  I bellow.
I watch the telly, don’t read, can’t write properly.
Rubbish is left behind me.
I am rubbish. I’m the one you’re talking about.
– Ah no, what are you going on about, it’s me.
– Ah no, it’s me.
– No, I’m the one.
– No, I am.  Forgive me.
The whole road is full of us, and our fragile souls
are ringing.  Listen, how quietly, dear girls and boys.

One of the first major groups of Estonian artists to look beyond Soviet orthodoxy was ANK-64, who were responsible for resurrecting cubist and constructivist work from earlier in the century. One of the leading figures in this movement was Jüri Arrak (b. 1936), whose work employs cartoon-like imagery and surrealist ideas; other important artists who were involved with this movement include Kristiina Kaasik (b. 1943) and Marju Musu (1941-1980)

Arrak - Lennuk 6-20

Jüri Arrak, Lennuk 6/20 (1972)

 

Kaasik - Vaade treppu

Kristiina Kaasik, Vaade trepilt (1974)

 

Mutsu - Early in the Morning

Marju Mutsu, Early in the Morning (1970)

In 1967, artist Kaljo Põllu (1934-2010) created another group called the Visarid, which disseminated much information on Western artistic movements and ideas, not least relating to pop art and graphic design.

Pollu - Mangutuba

Kaljo Põllu, Mängutuba (1967)

 

Pollu - Kullatja

Kaljo Põllu, Kuulataja (Vaikus) (1968)

 

Pollu - Keegi

Kaljo Põllu, Keegi (1987)

A starker type of art came from the SOUP-69 group, also inspired by pop art and other movements. Amongst the leading figures here were Leonhard Lapin (b. 1947) and Ando Keskküla (b. 1950).

 

Lapin - Woman Machine

Leonhard Lapin, Woman-Machine X (1974)

 

Keskkula - Finish

Ando Keskküla, Finish (1979).

Also part of this movement was the architect Vilen Künnapu (b. 1948), who would later engage with post-modern architectural ideas.

Künnapu - Office of the State Farm October

 

Kunnapu - Snail tower

Vilen Künnapu, Snail Tower, Tartu (2008)

 

Other notable modern Estonian architects include Raine Karp (b. 1939) and Riina Altmäe (b. 1949), whose best known work is the brutalist Tallinn City Concert Hall (Linnahall) (1976-1980), shown here from various angles.

 

The Estonian painter Raoul Kurvitz (b. 1961) formed a group called Rühm T in 1986, whose work (which included performance art as much as painting) was described by them as ‘Cold Expressionism’. Here is Kurvitz’s painting Chapelle (1999):

Kurvitz - Chapelle

And here is a picture of Kurvitz’s ‘Reconstructed Environment’ Maelstrom (1999/2013):

Kurvitz - Maelstrom

An interview with Kurvitz can be read here, while more information on his work can be read here.

One artist inhabiting the wilder realms of video and performance art is Jaan Toomik (b. 1961), some of whose work was inspired by the Viennese Actionists, and involves various types of degradation to the body, use of bodily fluids, and so on, but also clear political themes, as well as a recurrent concert with the nature of communication. An interview with Toomik can be read here, and here are some videos of his work.

 

 

 

Another is Ene-Liis Semper (b. 1969), whose work focuses on the body, and especially the mouth and tongue. More can be read on her work here, not least her notorious Licked Room (2000), in which she literally licked a room clean with her tongue.

Here are some samples of Semper’s work:

 

 

Semper also formed the theatre group NO99 together with Tiit Ojasoo. Here is a video about their work:

 

This is one of NO99’s best-known works, NO83 How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, inspired by Joseph Beuys.

 

Another important figure in radical contemporary Estonian theatre (about which more can be read here) is writer and director Mati Unt (b. 1944). Here is a video of his production Hot (2002).

 

Best-known of Estonian composers is undoubtedly Arvo Pärt (b. 1935), whose works such as Fratres (1977), Tabula Rasa (1977), Spiegel im Spiegel (1978), and St John Passion (1982) appealed to certain Western ideals of ‘spiritualism’ and won world renown as a result. But not all of Pärt’s work is like this; the cello concerto Pro et contra (1966) is clearly indebted to aspects of a Western avant-garde language, including collage-like techniques, whilst in Credo (1968) for choir, piano and orchestra, Pärt distorts and defamiliarises Bach’s C major Prelude from Das wohltempierte Klavier, Book 1.

 

 

 

 

Here are two examples of Pärt’s later work:

 

 

 

Another composer of the same generation whose work Kuldar Sink (1942-1995), who began engaging with some modernist traditions, including the neo-classicism, the Second Viennese School, aleatoric composition, and even happenings (Sink, like Pärt, and ANK-64, was linked to an Estonian Fluxus movement in the late 1960s).

 

 

In later work, before his death in a house fire, Sink turned to Central Asian folk musics and drastic simplification.

 

 

 

A younger composer who also traversed a path from the avant-garde to modalism and postminimalism (from the early 1980s onwards) was Lepo Sumera (1950-2000)

Lepo Sumera, Pantomiim/Pantomime (1981)

 

Lepo Sumera, Senza metro (1986)

 

Lepo Sumera, Tähed / Stars for soprano and piano (2000)

In the  fascinating work of Jüri Reinvere (b. 1971), however, one finds a particular type of fusion or interplay of modernist, aleatoric, and romantic elements to varying degrees.

 

Jüri Reinvere, t.i.m.e. (2005)

 

Jüri Reinvere, Requiem (2009), excerpt.

Helena Tulve (b. 1972) combines modal elements with a wider musical language influenced in part by musique spectrale, and in some ways reminiscent of the work of Kaija Saariaho.

 

A much more pared-down music can be found in the work of composer and harpist Liis Viira (b. 1983), notorious for her Reverbeebi/Baby Symphony (2015), in which babies’ voices were combined with instruments.

 

The group Ensemble U have garnered attention through their creation of an ‘audience orchestra’ in which the audience members control much of the musical decision making.

 

Estonian cinema is generally thought to have come into its own in the 1960s. One of film which generated a fair degree of international interest was Arvo Kruusement’s Kevade/Spring (1969), based on a popular novel by Oskar Luts, a coming-of-age story set at the end of the 19th century. Here is a section of it, alas without subtitles, but which enables one to sample the visual qualities.

 

 

(the rest of the film can be viewed on the same YouTube channel)

Here is a film from the previous year, Kaljo Kiisk’s Hullumeelsus/Madness (1968)

 

And here is Leida Laius’s Kõrboja peremees (1979)

 

Of post-independence Estonian cinema, required viewing includes Hardi Volmer’s parody of the Russian Revolution, Minu Leninid/All My Lenins (1997), here available with English subtitles.

 

There is also an important tradition of Estonian animated film, in which the leading figure is Priit Pärn (b. 1946). Here is his  Ein murual/Breakfast on the Grass (1983, released 1986)

 

Here is a clip from Pärn’s 1992 film Hotel E:

Many other of Pärn’s animations can be viewed online.

An article on the evolution of Estonian contemporary dance post-independence can be read here. Here is a clip of the work of Fine 5 Dance Theatre, founded in 1992:

 

One can read about the United Dancers of Zuga here (unfortunately I have not found a good clip of their work).

 


Culture in the EU (7): Denmark

As a solid supporter of the Remain campaign, in the 18 days from June 5th until the European Union Referendum on June 23rd, I am posting a selection of links and other information about music, literature, film, visual art, dance, architecture, etc., from each of the EU nations.

I make no claims to be comprehensive in any case, and my choices undoubtedly will reflect my own aesthetic interests – but I believe that may be more interesting than a rather anonymous selection of simply the most prominent artists or art. All work comes from the post-1945 era, the period during which the EU has come to fruition, but may (and often will) include work which dates from before the nations in question joined the EU. As I am writing in English, where translations exist I will use these. Time does not allow for detailed commentaries, I just throw these selections out there in the hope others will be interested in the extraordinary range of culture which has emerged from citizens of the EU.

 

Denmark

Much read in Denmark is the tragic writer Tove Ditlevsen (1917-1976), whose work drew heavily upon an unhappy and materially and emotionally deprived life, culminating in her suicide in 1976. Here is a detailed article on Ditlevsen’s life and work, and here is an article on Ditlevsen’s 1967 autobiographical books Barndom/Childhood and Ungdom/Youth, which were translated into English as Early Spring.

Ditlevsen - Early Spring

 

I hope very much to be able soon to read Ditlevsen’s novel Ansigterne/The Faces (1968), about a disturbed children’s author with suicidal urges, tormented by her housekeeper and her family, haunted by hallucinatory visions, but ultimately finding her way towards peace through her art . Reviews of this can be read here  and here.

One of Ditlevsen’s best-known poems is ‘Blinkende Lygter’/’Flickering Lights’, a translation of which I have copied from here:

In childhood’s long night, both dim and dark
there are small twinkling lights that burn bright
like traces memory’s left there as sparks
while the heart freezes so and takes flight.

It’s here that your pathless love shines clear,
once lost in nights misty and chill,
and all that you’ve since loved and suffered most dear
has boundaries set by the will.

The first-felt sorrow’s a frail, thin light
like a tear that quivers in space;
that sorrow alone your heart will hold tight
when all others time has effaced.

High as a star on a night as in spring
your childhood’s first happiness burns,
you sought for it later, only to cling
to late-summer shadow’s swift turns.

Your faith you took with you to great extremes,
the first and the last to your cost,
in the dark now somewhere it surely gleams,
and there is no more to be lost.

And someone or other draws near to you but
will never quite manage to know you,
for beneath those small lights your life has been put,
since when everyone must forego you.

One of the most profilic of modern Danish writers was Klaus Rifbjerg (b. 1931), whose output included over 100 novels and poetry, short stories, plays, etc, often involving formal and linguistic experimentation. His novel Anna (jeg) Anna/Anna (I) Anna, which was translated in 1982, is the story of a diplomat’s wife suffering neurosis, who elopes with a hippie to a new Bohemian world, but discovers the fragmented and multifaceted nature of her character in the process. His best-known novel, Den kroniske uskyld/Terminal Innocence (1958) has recently appeared in English translation. An enticing review can be read here.

 

Rifbjerg - Terminal Innocence

 

Poet Inger Christensen (1935-2009) explored formal devices, some drawn from mathematics, to defamiliarise language and reveal other underlying patterns. This obituary gives more detail about her work.

Inger Christensen, from alphabet (1981), (as translated here)

1

apricot trees exist, apricot trees exist

2

bracken exists; and blackberries, blackberries;
bromine exists; and hydrogen, hydrogen

3

cicadas exist; chicory, chromium,
citrus trees; cicadas exist;
cicadas, cedars, cypresses, the cerebellum

4

doves exist, dreamers, and dolls;
killers exist, and doves, and doves;
haze, dioxin, and days; days
exist, days and death; and poems
exist; poems, days, death

5

early fall exists; aftertaste, afterthought;
seclusion and angels exist;
widows and elk exist; every
detail exists; memory, memory’s light;
afterglow exists; oaks, elms,
junipers, sameness, loneliness exist;
eider ducks, spiders, and vinegar
exist, and the future, the future

Christensen - Alphabet
Inger Christensen, from Letter in April: IV (as translated here)
Already on the street
with our money clutched
in our hands,
and the world is a white laundry,
where we are boiled and wrung
and dried and ironed,
and smoothed down
and forsaken
we sweep
back
in children’s dreams
of chains and jail
and the heartfelt sigh
of liberation
and in the spark trails
of feelings
the fire eater
the cigarette swallower
come
to light
and we pay
and distance ourselves
with laughter.

 

Two internationally well-known elder Danish composers, both somewhat aloof from the wider Western avant-garde, but no less original, are Ib Nørholm (b. 1931) and Per Nørgård (b. 1932). Little of Nørholm’s early work, which dabbled with serialism, graphic notation, aleatory devices, and the use of mecahnical toys, is available to listen to online, but one can read about it here. From the late 1960s, Nørholm would become associated with the so-called ‘New Simplicity’, in opposition to certain manifestations of the avant-garde, and gradualy moved back towards a form of Nordic expression with roots in the earlier symphonic tradition, whilst maintaining a degree of stylistic pluralism, as in the Third Symphony, A Day’s Nightmare (1973).

The trajectory of Nørgård’s compositional development was not dissimilar. Coming from an early influence of Sibelius, with whom he corresponded. His particular combination of microtonally-inflected exploration of natural harmonics, and textural composition, have led to his being cited as a forerunner of musique spectrale. These qualities can be heard in his Iris (1966-1967):

In his symphonic work, Nørgård demonstrated the possibility of some reconciliation of his earlier compositional achievements with the symphonic tradition to which he was earlier drawn, as demonstrated in the Third Symphony of 1975.

 

A composer associated with considerably more radical tendencies was Henning Christiansen (1932-2008) who was associated with the Fluxus movement and worked closely with Joseph Beuys. Here is a detailed article on his work, while a range of Christiansen’s work can be listened to here. Here is the score of his Audience Eve (1964), published in the Fluxus Performance Workbook:

Audience Eve

In the evening, during the performances:
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
after 5 min, turn off the light
after 5 min, turn off the light
after 5 min, turn off the light
after 5 min, turn off the light
after 5 min, turn off the light
after 5 min, turn off the light
continue through the whole program.
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
If possible, then fade the light in and out,
as beautiful as possible. [like the sea]

Here is a selection of Christiansen’s remarkable and disorienting work:

Henning Christiansen, Op. 50: Requiem of Art (1970)

 

Henning Christiansen/Bjørm Nørgaard, The Horse Sacrifice (1970)

 

Henning Christiansen, Symphony Natura Op. 170 (1985)

 

Henning Christiansen, Abschiedssymphonie, Op. 177 (1988)

A leading figure in electronic music in Denmark was Else Marie Pade (1924-2016), a former resistance fighter who worked with Pierre Schaeffer and Karlheinz Stockhausen, and also visited Darmstadt on various occasions.

 

Gunner Møller Pedersen (b. 1943) is best known a film composer, but also wrote a number of self-standing electronic works.

 

 

Of the generation born after the war, Hans Abrahamsen (b. 1950) , a student of  Nørgård and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen (b. 1932), was also viewed as part of the ‘new Simplicity’, in reaction against the avant-garde, though as with German composer Wolfgang Rihm, associated with the same movement, time has revealed this work to entail a modification and shift of emphasis within a broad European modernist tradition rather than a clean break as one might find amongst Anglo-American neo-romantics, say.

 

 

Hans Abrahamsen, Schnee (2006-2008)

But I cannot recommend highly enough that all listen to the extraordinarily beautiful and intimate music of Bent Sørensen (b. 1958). Here are several contrasting works.

 

Bent Sørensen, The Shadows of Silence (2003-2004)

Bent Sørensen, Serenidad (2011-2012).

 

And here is a trailer for a selection of Sørensen’s vocal works.

 

An important younger figure is composer and sound artist Sandra Boss (b. 1984), whose website is here. Here is a track from her 2015 album Perfekt Termisk.

Here is a sample from her sound installation En Håndfuld Støv (Copenhagen, 2014).

A range of Boss’s other work can be heard here.

One of the leading Danish free jazz musicians was saxophonist John Martin Tchicai (1936-2012), who worked with John Coltrane and Albert Ayler.

 

And the following are a range of varied Danish bands and other artists:

The classic Danish film director Carl Theodor Dreyer (1889-1968) continued to make films after the war up until his death, maintaining his austere, stark and redemptive visions, as in Ordet/The Word (1955):

 

 

Otherwise, though, post-war Danish cinema was mostly dominated by light comedies and from the 1960s films rather obsessed with sex , such as Annelise Meineche’s Sytten (1965).

 

Lars von Trier (b. 1956) is best known for his work with the Dogme 95 collective and international hits such as Breaking the Waves (1996), Dancer in the Dark (2000) and Dogville (2003), but already had a profound effect upon the Danish film scene from the early 1980s, as with his stylised and world-weary crime film The Element of Crime (1984), made soon after graduating from the National Film School of Denmark. This can be viewed complete here.

 

Followed by Gabriel Axel’s Babettes gæstebud/Babette’s Feast (1987)

A group of film directors came together in Copenhagen in spring 1995 to issue their new Dogme manifesto, entitled ‘The Vow of Chastity’, whereby directors would swear to adhere to ten principles, mostly avoiding any type of overtly stylised cinema, in favour of a new type of exaggerated realism (which became every bit as much of a ‘style’ as any other), concentrating on personal and emotional matters. The first film of the Dogme movement was Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen/The Celebration (1998), a distressing story of a family reunion for a father’s 60th birthday, at which his son reveals how he used to sexually abuse both him and his sister when young.

 

A full list of the 35 Dogme films, some made in Italy, the USA, Chile and elsewhere as well as Denmark, can be viewed here.

As regards animation, the 1988 Den offentlige røst/The Public Voice  by Lejf Marcussen (1936-2013) is something of a classic.

 

One of the more renowned Danish painters, Richard Mortensen (1910-1993), drew upon the work of Kandinsky and Malevich:

Mortensen 1

Richard Mortensen, Garches-Suresnes (1947)

Mortensen 2

Richard Mortensen, Opus 11 (1980-81)

More individual was Asger Jorn (1914-1973), a detailed article on whose work can be read here (see also this article). Jorn had been involved with the communist resistance during the occupation of Denmark and continued into the Danish Communist Party, though he soon broke with them, finding the experience constraining. Jorn met Guy Debord in 1954, and from 1957 to 1961 was associated with the Situationist International.

 

Jorn - Stalingrad

Asger Jorn, Stalingrad, No-Man’s Land, or the Mad Laughter of Courage (1957-1960, 1967, 1972).

Jorn - The Disquieting Duckling

Asger Jorn, The Disquieting Duckling (1959)

John and Debord

Asger Jorn and Guy Debord, Fin de Copenhagen (1957)

A quite different type of approach is found in the work of Merete Barker (b. 1944), whose paintings draw upon sketches and drawings from many travels, and also produced computer-generated data landscapes. Her website is here; see in particular some essays by Barker and others on her work here.

Barker - My own Town

Meret Barker, Byen under, byen over/My Own Town (1989)

 

Barker - The Landscape Underground

Merete Barker, The Landscape Underground (2012)

The Danish artist Michael Elmgreen (b. 1961) works together with Norwegian artist Ingar Dragset to produce defamiliarising artworks employing or resembling familiar objects, as a form of social critique. Their website is here

Elmgreen and Dragset - Powerless Structures, Fig. 11

Elmgreen & Dragset, Powerless Structures, Fig. 11 (1997) 

 

Elmgreen and Dragset - The Future

Elmgreen & Dragset, The Future (2014)

Sculptor Jens Galschiøt (b. 1954) is most renowned for his Pillar of Shame project, erecting sculptures as types of guerilla actions, to protest against violations of human rights.

Pillar of Shame - Hong Kong

Jens Galschiøt, Pillar of Shame, Hong Kong (1996) – painted red in 2008 by democracy activists.

Still the most renowned of modern Danish architects is high modernist functionalist Arno Jacobsen (1902-1971):

 

Rodovoer Town Hall

Arno Jacobsen, Rødovre Town Hall (1952-1956)

 

St Catherine's College, Oxford

Arno Jacobsen, St Catherine’s College, Oxford (1964-1966)

Later architects have applied many similar modernist principles but in more eclectic and adventurous fashion.

P1070590

Bjarke Ingels/PLOT, VM Houses, Copenhagen (2005)

 

Royal Danish Playhouse

Lundgaard & Tranberg, Royal Danish Playhouse (2008)

Furniture design also has a remarkable modernist tradition in Denmark, not least through the work of Hans Jørgensen Wegner (1914-2007) and Jacobsen.

 

Wegner Shell Chair

Wegner Shell Chair

 

Jacobsen Shell Sofa

Jacobsen Shell Sofa

Physical theatre is a well-established art in Denmark, following the founding of The Commedia School in 1978. The group Neander was founded in 1998 by Kristján Ingimarsson, and have won world renown.

 

A more recent physical theatre company is the Copenhagen-based Out of Balanz, founded in 2006 whose website is here. Stressing themes of community in the face of consumerism or death, here is a trailer for their work Next Door.

 

And here is a page on their Georgette va au Supermarche (2007), about a young woman’s odyssey into the supermarket.

The largest modern dance company in Denmark is the Danish Dance Theatre, founded in 1981. Here are a few clips from their work:

A different approach is to be found in the work of the Aarhus company Granhøj Dans, founded after the meeting in 1989 of dance Palle Granhøj and set designer Per Victor, who developed the ‘Obstruction Technique’, in which one dancer is physically held back by another, but still has to carry out as much of their intended phrase as possible, in the process creating a new phrase.

 


Culture in the EU (5): Cyprus

As a solid supporter of the Remain campaign, in the 18 days from June 5th until the European Union Referendum on June 23rd, I am posting a selection of links and other information about music, literature, film, visual art, dance, architecture, etc., from each of the EU nations.

I make no claims to be comprehensive in any case, and my choices undoubtedly will reflect my own aesthetic interests – but I believe that may be more interesting than a rather anonymous selection of simply the most prominent artists or art. All work comes from the post-1945 era, the period during which the EU has come to fruition, but may (and often will) include work which dates from before the nations in question joined the EU. As I am writing in English, where translations exist I will use these. Time does not allow for detailed commentaries, I just throw these selections out there in the hope others will be interested in the extraordinary range of culture which has emerged from citizens of the EU.

 

Cyprus

Writing some of these blog posts is in many ways a discovery for me, and sometimes involves laying down pointers to work about which I have read interesting things, but not read itself (but intend to do so). Reading poetry in translation is always problematic, but I am struck by the following poem, ‘Gece otobüsü/Night Bus’ by Turkish-Cypriot Mehmet Yaşın (b. 1956), translated by Taner Baybars:

NIGHT BUS
to Baris

Women were lying with horrible knife wounds
the bus drove on without stopping
those living on the floors above
had bolted their doors to the screams below.

I watched the same reel, shivering lightly
night after night,
secretly learning my part every day,
and I waited my turn
to see my own face on the screen,
I’ve paid the entrance fee to enter myself.

The night kissed him on the brow, on the lips,
opened the door and ushered him to his seat,
— neither man, nor woman —
mass produced dollies to tickle the flesh
blood-red drinks in hand
went round and round the house of lust.

They asked us who we were, but we forgot our names,
we had been severed from ourselves
by horses with dark wings…
The night changed our clothes
and fastened sequins on our hair
then carried us off to a sunken land.

Women were lying with horrible knife wounds
and the bus drove on without stopping.

Other poetry of Yaşın in translation can be read here.

Equally worth checking out in translation is Greek-Cypriot Kyriakos Charalambides (b. 1940). Here is a 1989 poem of his, taken from this blog which contains a range of translations and links:

CHILD WITH A PHOTOGRAPH

A child with a photograph in hand,
a photograph in the profundity of his eyes,
held upside down, was staring.

Around the child a crowd; and he
had in his eyes a small photograph,
a big one on his shoulders and vice versa —
a big one in his eyes, upon his shoulders a smaller one,
and in his hand one even smaller still.

He was amid a crowd screaming chants
and he was holding it upside down; it troubled me.

I approach him bypassing signs
of loved ones or arcs and voices
frozen in time and all completely inert.

The photograph bore some resemblance to his father.
I set it straight, and still I saw
the missing man with his head upside down.

Just like the king, the jack and the queen,
which, seen upturned, are found to be straight,
this man, as well, when looked at straight,
turns upside down and stares.

Many of Charalambides’ poems have been translated into English, some of them published by Dionysia Press.

An example of something I would like to read, but have not yet, would be the novel Üzgün Kızların Gizli Tarihi/The Secret History of the Sad Girls, about an affair between a Greek-Cypriot man and a Turkish-Cypriot woman, written by Turkish-Cypriot writer Neşe Yaşın (b. 1959). It appears as if a translation is at least underway.

 

Yaşın has apparently been attacked in the right-wing Turkish press for this book, called a ‘traitor and prostitute’ – more details can be read here. I cannot say any more about the book, but will also point to a small and striking selection of Yaşın’s  poetry in English translation here.

Also of great potential interest is the work of Greek-Cypriot writer Panos Ioannides (b. 1935), much of whose work has been widely translated into many languages. Here is a short review of the collection Gregory and other Stories, published in English in 2014.

Ioannides - Gregory.

The Nicosia-born poet Christodoulos Makris (b. 1971) moved to live and work in the UK. Here is a very interesting interview following the publication of his collection The Architecture of Chance, speaking of issues of language, languages (and the model of Beckett as a multilingual writer), form and his relationship to his home country, and here is Makris’s blog.

Makris - The Architecture of Chance

A paper by Petro Phokaides suggests that architectural modernism came to Cyprus in the 1930s, but gained a new symbolic value after independence in 1960. Here are some notable examples he gives:

Baheddin

Neoptolemos Michaelides, Neoptolemos Michaelides House, Nicosia (1965).

Ahmet Baheddin, Suleyman Onan House, Nicosia (1961-1966).

Michaelides

Neoptolemos Michaelides, AlexandrosDemetriou apartment building, Nicosia (1963-1965).

Neoptolemos Michaelides, Grecian Park Hotel,Famagusta (1965).

A composer who also studied architecture is Fedros Kavallaris (b. 1950):

 

Compositional directions drawing more widely upon international avant-garde tendencies (and popular musics) can be found in the work of Yannis Kyriakides (b. 1969):

Or Tasos Stylianou:

 

 

Or Christina Athinodorou (b. 1981):

Or Haris Sophocleous (b. 1977):

 

And here is a diverse selection of popular music from Cyprus:

 

 

The artist Adamantios Diamantis (1900-1994) travelled around Cyprus to study many peoples, in a type of anthropological approach to painting, producing his massive work The World of Cyprus between 1967 and 1972, which portrays, and arguably celebrates, a traditional way of life. Here is an article on the work, with links to illustrations, and here is a news feature on the return of the work to Cyprus in 2013.

 

From a later generation, a more forward-looking approach can be found in one of the leading Cypriot artists was Stass Paraskos (1933-2014), who did spend most of his working life in the UK. Some of his paintings can be viewed here. Paraskos founded the Cyprus College of Art in 1969, which came to attract many international figures both to study and teach.

Paraskos - Lovers and Romances

Stass Paraskos, Lovers and Romances (1966).

A very different type of work is that of Savvas Christodoulides (b. 1961), who manipulates everyday objects in distorted fashion. His website is here.

Christouolides

Savvas Christodoulides, My Precious II (2011)

Another general article on Cypriot art can be viewed here.

Even more boundary-breaking is the work of Cypriot-born performance artist Stelarc. His work deals with robotics and bodily modification, placing cameras in his lungs, colon and stomach, and most notoriously  having an ear created from biocompatible material attached to his left arm.

Sellars - Oblique

Nina Sellars, Oblique – Images from Stelarc’s Extra Ear Surgery.

Here is the main website for Stelarc, and here is an interview with him:

 

And here is a film of his 1997 performance Parasite.

In 1970, the Theatre Organization of Cyprus (THOC or ΘΟΚ) was founded. This consisted of multiple ‘stages’: a Main Stage for large ancient, classical and modern plays, a New Stage: for smaller plays in smaller spaces, a Children’s Stage, and (of most interest to me!) an Experimental Stage promoting more radical new work. Here is an article on the playwright Giorgos Neophytou (b. 1946), influenced by Brecht, who worked extensively in THOC.

Here is some of the work of Cypriot theatre troupe One/Off, performing Cypriot work in Avignon in 2011:

 

There are two major studies in English of Cypriot cinema, which are the following:

Little of the earlier wave of post-independence Cypriot cinema, such as the work of George Filis, Vangelis Oikonoimides’s O Paras o Maskaras/Money, Mischievous (1969) or Orsetis Laskos’s Diakopes stin Kypro Mas/Vacation in Our Cyprus (1971)  is available to view online.

From Turkish-Cypriot filmmaker Derviş Zaim (b. 1964), Tabutta Rövaşata/Somersault in a Coffin (1996), a film about a homeless criminal and a car thief, can be viewed in full, with English subtitles here:

 

Another film of Zaim, Filler ve Çimen/Elephants and Grass (2001)

A controversial film was Nikoladis Theodoros and Floridis Adonis’s Kalabush (2002), portraying the story of an illegal immigrant arriving in Cyprus, which he mistakes for Italy, but comes to inhabit a world on the margins of Cypriot society.

Kalabush

Equally controversial was Panicos Chrysanthou’s Akamas (2006), portraying a love affair between Turkish and Greek Cypriots (as in Neşe Yaşın’s novel mentioned above).

Akamas

However, a collaboration between Chrysanthou and Zaim, the film Paralel Yolculuklar/Parallel Trips (2004), attempts to show the conflict in the island from both sides.

 

Finally, here is a selection of the photographs of Jack Iacovides:

 

 


Culture in the EU (3): Bulgaria

As a solid supporter of the Remain campaign, in the 18 days from June 5th until the European Union Referendum on June 23rd, I am posting a selection of links and other information about music, literature, film, visual art, dance, architecture, etc., from each of the EU nations.

I make no claims to be comprehensive in any case, and my choices undoubtedly will reflect my own aesthetic interests – but I believe that may be more interesting than a rather anonymous selection of simply the most prominent artists or art. All work comes from the post-1945 era, the period during which the EU has come to fruition, but may (and often will) include work which dates from before the nations in question joined the EU. As I am writing in English, where translations exist I will use these. Time does not allow for detailed commentaries, I just throw these selections out there in the hope others will be interested in the extraordinary range of culture which has emerged from citizens of the EU.

 

Bulgaria

I will begin with a section from the the 1964 film Крадецът на праскови/The Peach-Garden Trespasser, directed by Vulo Radev (1923-2001):

 

And this is the 1973 film, Преброяване на дивите зайци/The Hare Census, directed by Eduard Zahariev (1938-1996). I can’t find a version with subtitles, but it is interesting to watch visually anyhow.

 

Here is some more information on this film.

And here is one of the many animations on the ‘Three Fools’ by Donyo Donev (1929-2007):

 

The writer Nikolai Rainov (1889-1954) lived into the post-war era, but his work did not receive widespread distribution in Bulgaria until after the fall of communism. Here is an article on his writing.

Rainov - Bulgarian Magical Fairy Tales

 

Here is one set of translations from the Bulgarian poet Atanas Dalchev (1904-1978); another is here.

This article gives plenty of information on a more recent Bulgarian writer, Georgi Gospodinov (b. 1968); I am especially looking forward to reading the following 1999 novel, which has been widely translated:

Gospodinov - Natural Novel

 

Here is the website for Bulgarian sculptor Ivan Minekov (b. 1947).

Minekov

Whilst here is the site for the couple Christo (b. 1935) and Jeanne-Claude Javacheff (1935-2009), installation artists about who there is much information on the web.

Jevacheff

Here is some of the work of painter and sculptor Andrey Lekarski (b. 1940), representing in part an extension of some devices and aesthetics derived from surrealism and pop art.

Lekarski.jpg

 

Here is the website for feminist performance artist Boryana Rossa (b. 1972).

Rossa

And here is an interview with Rossa on art and politics:

 

Here are a selection of diverse works by contemporary Bulgarian composers:

 

 

 

 

And here is the amazing and idiosyncratic Bulgarian-born pianist Alexis Weissenberg (1929-2012):

 

The work of this ensemble, playing a music with roots in traditional Bulgarian folk music, was much admired by Frank Zappa.

 

And for another genre, here is some electronica from Ivan Shopov:

 

One of the most renowned public intellectuals anywhere is the  Bulgarian-born  Julia Kristeva (b. 1941); here is her official site, and here is an extended interview:

 

The following is a film about Bulgarian choreographer Mila Iskenova (b. 1960):

 

 

More on Iskrenova can be seen here.

This volume made a good deal of contemporary Bulgarian theatre available to English speakers for the first time in the 1990s:

Contemporary Bulgarian Theatre

And here is a biography of leading theatre practitioner Yordan Radichkov (1929-2004). Radichkov was notorious for his 1978 drama Opit za letene/Trying to Fly, about which one can read more here.

Finally, here is the website for architect Georgi Stanishev (b. 1952).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Culture in the EU (2): Belgium

As a solid supporter of the Remain campaign, in the 18 days from June 5th until the European Union Referendum on June 23rd, I am posting a selection of links and other information about music, literature, film, visual art, dance, architecture, etc., from each of the EU nations.

I make no claims to be comprehensive in any case, and my choices undoubtedly will reflect my own aesthetic interests – but I believe that may be more interesting than a rather anonymous selection of simply the most prominent artists or art. All work comes from the post-1945 era, the period during which the EU has come to fruition, but may (and often will) include work which dates from before the nations in question joined the EU. As I am writing in English, where translations exist I will use these. Time does not allow for detailed commentaries, I just throw these selections out there in the hope others will be interested in the extraordinary range of culture which has emerged from citizens of the EU.

 

Belgium

I will begin with one of the most important of all artists of the twentieth century, poet, post-Duchamp artist and filmmaker Marcel Broodthaers (1924-1976). Here is a site with lots of information on his work and illustrations.

Citron-Citroen 1974 by Marcel Broodthaers 1924-1976

Citron-Citroen 1974 Marcel Broodthaers 1924-1976 Purchased 1977 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P07211

Marcel Broodthaers, Citron-Citroen, réclame pour la Mer du Nord (Advertisement for the North Sea) (1974).

And here one can listen to his ‘Interview with a Cat’.

Furthermore, here is Broodthaers’ 1968 film Le Corbeau et le Renard.

 

Here is a discussion of his work at the time of a 2016 retrospective at MOMA.

And here is a reading of Broodthaers’ poetry:

 

This site gives information on the experimental Belgian poet Hugo Claus (1929-2008), including some important links. Furthermore, at this site one can read and listen to a variety of Claus’s work.

Amongst other important Belgian writers are Françoise Mallet-Joris (b. 1930), about whom one can watch a feature here (only an excerpt available to those who have not subscribed). A biography and list of works (in French) is here. And some information on translations of highly-regarded writer Monika van Paemel (b. 1945) can be found here. Here are details of a translation of her story ‘The Accursed Fathers’. Some information on writer Kristien Hemmerechts (b. 1955) can be found here.

A useful page on Christian Dotremont (1922-1979), who brought together poetry and painting, is here.

Dotremont - Day of the Artist.jpg

And here is a poem by Jacques Izoard (1936-2008). A wider range can be viewed here.

This site gives much detail on the work of Gent artist Marthe Donas (1887-1967).

Donas - Intution No. 19 (1958)

Marthe Donas, Intuition No. 19 (1958).

 

The website of multi-faceted artist Jan Fabre (b. 1958) is here, whilst that of conceptual artist Arne Quinze (b. 1971) is here.

Quinze Cityscape wooden sculpture

Pictures related to my Brussels Photo Blog dedicated to anyone that wish to know more about the major or less known attractions of the city of Brussels.

Arno Quinze, Cityscape Wooden Sculpture.

 

Here is a site on the fantastic photography of Dirk Braeckman (b. 1958).

Braeckman

And here is the site of  Memymom, mother-daughter partnership Lisa De Boeck (b. 1985) and  Marilène Coolens (b. 1953).

Memymom

 

The senior figures of post-war Belgian music were Henri Pousseur (1929-2009) and Karol Goeyvaerts (1923-1993), both of seminal importance in the history of serial music.

 

 

Another figure who is a prominent and generous presence in Belgian musical life is André Laporte (b. 1931):

 

A very different type of music can be found in the minimalist work of Wim Mertens (b. 1953), known in particular for his music for the film The Belly of an Architect by Peter Greenaway, and for an extremely important book on American minimal music.

 

Amongst numerous younger figures, one should listen to the music of Serge Verstockt (b. 1957):

And also the remarkably fluent and effortless composer Luc Brewaeys (1959-2015), who was tragically lost to cancer last year.

 

 

An important institution for the promotion of new music in Belgium is the Logos Foundation, which is currently threatened with closure.

 

Amongst the numerous early music groups in Belgian, one of the most important is Collegium vocale, under the general direction of Philippe Herreweghe. Here they are singing Jean Langlais:

Here is a range of significant Belgian popular music, ranging from noise music to trip-hop.

 

Here is the 1966 animation Chromophobia by Raoul Servais (b. 1928):

 

A hugely important feminist work is Chantal Akerman’s 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975):

 

Whilst the disturbing 1992 film Man bites Dog, directed by Rémy Belvaux, André Nobzel and Benoît Poelvoorde (the latter in the main role), received some international attention upon release:

 

One of the most significant post-war theatre directors in Belgium is Michel Dezoteux (b. 1949). Here is is Le Revizor (2008), based on the work of Nikolai Gogol:

 

And here is an interview with another hugely important figure in contemporary Belgian theatre, Frédéric Baal (b. 1940):

 

The choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (b. 1960), created the dance company Rosas, who were resident at La Monnaie from 1992 to 2007. Here is a video of their work:

 

Finally, an article on the fashion collective, the Antwerp Six.

Dries van Noten.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Culture in the EU (1): Austria

As a solid supporter of the Remain campaign, in the 18 days from June 5th until the European Union Referendum on June 23rd, I am posting a selection of links and other information about music, literature, film, visual art, dance, architecture, etc., from each of the EU nations (I use the term EU to refer to all stages of the project, from the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952, then the European Economic Community in 1957, through to the European Community in 1993, until final subsumation in the European Union in 2009) . These selections are initially posted on Facebook, then blogged afterwards (including some suggestions from others). The eight nations with the largest populations (in descending order: Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain, Poland, Rumania, the Netherlands) will get a whole day each, all others will get two days. Otherwise these will be in alphabetical order, as follows:

5/6 Austria, Belgium
6/6 Bulgaria, Croatia
7/6 Cyprus, Czech Republic
8/6 Denmark, Estonia
9/6 Finland, Greece
10/6 France
11/6 Germany
12/6 Hungary, Ireland
13/6 Italy
14/6 Latvia, Lithuania
15/6 Luxembourg, Malta
16/6 Netherlands
17/6 Portugal, Slovakia
18/6 Poland
19/6 Romania
20/6 Slovenia, Sweden
21/6 Spain
22/6 UK

I make no claims to be comprehensive in any case, and my choices undoubtedly will reflect my own aesthetic interests – but I believe that may be more interesting than a rather anonymous selection of simply the most prominent artists or art. All work comes from the post-1945 era, the period during which the EU has come to fruition, but may (and often will) include work which dates from before the nations in question joined the EU. As I am writing in English, where translations exist I will use these. Time does not allow for detailed commentaries, I just throw these selections out there in the hope others will be interested in the extraordinary range of culture which has emerged from citizens of the EU.

 

Austria

I will open with a site devoted to the work of writer Thomas Bernhard (1939-1989).

This novel in particular is a big personal favourite.

Bernhard Woodcutters

Another major Austrian writer (and equally misanthropic!) is the Nobel Prize winning Elfriede Jelinek (b. 1946), a site devoted to whom can be found here. Here is one of her most notorious books.

Jelinek - Wonderful Times

Anyone interested in experimental writing needs to look into the work of the Wiener Gruppe, not least this anthology.

Wiener Gruppe

Here is a short article about the group and in particular leading figure Konrad Bayer (1932-1964). Also, here is an interesting article about Gerhard Rühm (b. 1930), whilst a range of his poetry can be read and listened to here.

Another vital, but distinct, experimental Austrian poet was the Dada-ist Ernst Jandl (1925-2000), a site devoted to whom can be found here.

Here is an informative doctoral dissertation on the Austrian avant-garde in general. And here is an interesting article on concrete poetry in Austria.

A very different type of Austrian writer is Peter Handke (b. 1942), whose more lyrical and expressive, though highly refined, work is known in part after having been filmed by the German director Wim Wenders.

Few movements in the arts can be considered as extreme, violent, and politically motivated as Wiener Aktionismus . A range of films from leading figures in the movement can be found here, and an important article (in German) here. Here are a selection of key videos by leading figures. First by Otto Muehl (1925-2013):

 

Then by Günter Brus:

Then, by the figure arguably with the most lasting impact, feminist performance artist Valie Export (b. 1940) (see her site here):

 

While not directly part of this movement, the work of film-maker Kurt Kren (1929-1998) shares a related sensibility:

 

Many more videos can be located online of these figures, all of which I strongly recommend.

A different type of radical film can be found in the work of Peter Kubelka (b. 1934):

 

Another type of avant-garde cinema can be found here in the work of Peter Tscherkassky (b. 1958):

 

More familiar to international audiences is the director Michael Haneke (b. 1942). Here is his 1992 film Benny’s Video:

And here is his 2001 film La Pianiste/The Piano Teacher based upon Jelinek’s 1983 book Die Klavierspielerin:

 

To my mind, no other film has captured the terrifying potential for harm and abuse in the world of the conservatoire, when inhabited by disturbed people, as this.

I could choose any amount of interesting Austrian new music (and might perhaps have done so on another day); for now, first here is a moderately early work by leading composer Beat Furrer (b. 1954):

 

Somewhat linked to the movement known as ‘new complexity’ is the composer Wolfram Schurig (b. 1967):

 

A wholly different world is found in the work of Klaus Lang (b. 1971):

 

The work of Karlheinz Essl (b. 1960), moves between composition, sound art, performance art, and improvisation.

 

Whilst Wolfgang Mitterer (b. 1958) is involved with both composition and improvisation:

 

And here are the Vienna Improvisers’ Orchestra:

 

Not to mention the Vegetable Orchestra, who play only on fresh vegetables:

Amongst many interesting Austrian contemporary painters, I am drawn to the work of Xenia Hausner (b. 1951) (various of whose work can be seen here) :

Hausner Indigo

Xenia Hausner, Indigo (Yao) (2013)

Here is a short article devoted to the opening of a new Tanzquartier in Vienna for the study of contemporary dance.

Here is an example of the work of writer and theatre practitioner Wolfgang Bauer (1941-2005):

 

Whilst I also find captivating the landscape architecture of Maria Auböck (b. 1951) and János Kárász, the website for whose firm is here.

Auboeck-Karasz

 

Next post will be on Belgium.


Paedophile Information Exchange interview from 1983