Dead Blogging ‘Walking Sculpture’ at the DeCordova

Well the Missus and I trundled out to the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum yesterday to catch the Walking Sculpture 1967-2015 exhibit and say, it was swell.

From the deCordova’s website:

Inspired by Michelangelo Pistoletto’s 1967 performance Walking Sculpture, in which the artist rolled a newspaper sphere through city streets in Turin, Italy, Walking Sculpture 1967–2015 features an international selection of artists who engage in walking as an autonomous form of art, as cartography, as an exploration of physical experience, and as social practice. Pistoletto’s walking performance was an act of dissonance against both traditional methods of art-making and behavioral norms. In the same spirit, Walking Sculpture 1967–2015 considers artists’ use of this elemental and often overlooked act as a poetic means for questioning established conventions of seeing and thinking.

Here’s a recreation of his Walking Sculpture that Pistoletto performed for a 2010 Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibit.

 

 

Another early work is Bruce Nauman’s “Walking in a Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square” from 1967-68.

 

 

We were lucky enough to have splendid tour guide Ellen Sturtevant walk us through the exhibit, which made our visit much more enjoyable (not to mention understandable).

The exhibit features sculpture, video, photography, and performance art. One of our favorites was the artist kanarinka’s work, It takes 156,000 breaths to evacuate Boston.

From her website:

In Spring 2007, kanarinka ran the entire evacuation route system in Boston and measured its distance in breaths. The project is an attempt to measure our post-9/11 collective fear in the individual breaths that it takes to traverse these new running1geographies of insecurity.

The $827,500 Boston emergency evacuation system was installed in 2006 to demonstrate the city’s preparedness for evacuating people in snowstorms, hurricanes, infrastructure failures, fires and/or terrorist attacks.

It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston consists of a series of running performances in public space (2007), a web podcast of breaths (2007), and a gallery installation of the archive of breaths (2008).

You really have to see (and hear) it.

The deCordova is closed tomorrow for the Fourth, but it’s open Sunday, with a museum tour at 2.

If Ellen Sturtevant is leading it, tell her we say hi.

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Hey, Marty Walsh: Hire THIS Guy to Fix City Hall Plaza

Since roughly 1969, one question has vexed every Boston mayor:

What the hell to do with City Hall Plaza?

And the answer that has routinely come back:

Damned if we know.

Regardless, the latest chapter of this ongoing saga is unfolding at this very minute, as our hardreading cousins at Two-Daily Town recently noted.

But relief is in site. From the current issue of The Atlantic:

Reclaiming the Public Square

Cleveland is the latest city to call on James Corner, the landscape architect behind New York’s High Line, to revive an urban park.

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To hear Clevelanders talk, Public Square is a place you pass through to reach somewhere else. When Moses Cleaveland laid out the town in 1796, he imagined the open area at its center as a New England–style commons: a gathering space for settlers, a grazing area for livestock. But its natural position as a transit hub—first for stagecoaches and streetcars, later for buses and automobiles—steadily intruded on that civic purpose. Despite efforts by some residents to preserve it as a park, including a decade-long stretch in the 19th century when it was fenced off to horse-drawn wagons, roads and traffic triumphed over people and place.

“Over the years, it just turned into more like a series of big traffic islands,” says the landscape architect James Corner . . . [Of] the square’s 10 acres, more than six are paved over with concrete or asphalt.

Sound familiar?

Corner, as Eric Jaffe’s Atlantic piece notes, “has been called a landscape ‘rock star’ and mentioned as a modern successor to Frederick Law Olmsted, the visionary behind Central Park.”

Not to mention the visionary behind Boston’s Emerald Necklace.

So how about it, Marty?

You can reach James Corner Fields Operations at 212-433-1450.

Make the call, wouldya?

And end the City Hall Pathetic Redesign Project once and for all.

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Why the New York Times Is a Great Newspaper (Phil Jackson Triangle Offense Edition)

The New York Times Sunday sports section is topped by this Nicholas Dawidoff piece about the origins of the triangle offense that Phil Jackson rode to 11 NBA championships but that the current New York Knicks just can’t get.

 

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Full disclosure: The hardworking staff has not yet read the piece, which occupies almost four full pages of valuable Times real estate.

In fact, we might never read it.

But we’re damn impressed it’s there.

P.S. The web version is even cooler than the print one.

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Civilians Who Run Full-Page Ads in the New York Times (Michael Steinhardt Edition)

The latest in our long-running series

Yesterday’s New York Times featured this ad on A5.

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At issue:

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That’s problematic for Michael Steinhardt – president of the Judy and Michael Steinhardt Foundation and co-founder of Birthright Israel – who paid for the six-figure Times ad.

Other fun facts to know and tell about Mr. Steinhardt:

• He’s a “hedge-fund pioneer” who has endowed NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development to the tune of $20 million

• He’s one of the big money GOP donors (along with casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and venture capitalist Ken Abramowitz) who are open to grubstaking multiple candidates, but not Rand Paul

• He’s no fan of Warren Buffett

• His brother-in-law is  FOX television host John Stossel

The hardworking staff, which is Jewish by attraction, has no official position on any of the above.

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In Apple Music Rumpus, Maybe Taylor Swift ISN’T All That and a Bag of Clips

Music maven Taylor Swift is getting all kinds of kudos for taking a bite out of Apple Music’s effort to strong-arm independent labels into getting no royalties for the new streaming service’s trial period.

But maybe she didn’t do it alone.

From Ben Sisario’s piece in Thursday’s New York Times:

Apple Signs Thousands of Independent Labels in Royalty Deal

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The turning point in Apple’s talks with the music industry came late Sunday night, when — after a rebuke from Taylor Swift — the company reversed course on a proposal to not pay royalties during test drives of a new streaming music service.

But for thousands of small record companies for whom Apple is a crucial source of income, a crisis had already been in effect for two weeks, and was resolved only late Tuesday, when the independent groups agreed to licensing terms with the tech giant.

The Guardian’s Eamonn Forde is even more adamant about the independent labels exercising more pressure than Swift.

Taylor Swift: does Apple’s climbdown really demonstrate her power?

It’s possible that bowing to Swift was merely good PR for Apple – but its real fear was of losing the right to stream music from independent labels

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The neat narrative would run that Taylor Swift, the planet’s biggest pop star, went toe to toe with Apple, the wealthiest company in corporate history, over its decision not to pay musicians and songwriters royalties for music its subscribers listened to during their three-month free trial to its streaming service Apple Music. She didn’t blink and Apple backed down. Taylor saved the day.

Except that the real story is far less simple. The Tumblr post in which Swift criticised “this historically progressive and generous company”did not happen in a vacuum. Last week, there had been rumblings among independent labels that quickly built to a thunderstorm. Record companies and trade bodies in the UK, the US, Germany, France and Australia piled in and said they were not doing deals with Apple until it agreed to pay them during the free trials. Collectively, the protesting labels – which included Beggars Group, home to Adele and Britain’s largest indie – represented about a quarter of the global market. Not to have Swift’s album 1989 on Apple Music, when it launches at the end of the month, is one thing; to be missing tens of millions of songs from independent acts is a whole other matter.

So, to recap:

Maybe Taylor Swift was the loss leader in Apple’s capitulation.

And maybe the independent labels were the real reason Apple folded.

Maybe.

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Bernie & Phyl Ads Get Phunky

Furniture mavens Bernie & Phyl are like baked beans & cod – New England traditions. For decades the couple – and their kids – have produced the most toe-curling commercials on Boston television.

Representative sample:

 

 

But now – what should we call the reconstituted couple? – Beryl! have gone all Gotham on us, hiring trendy New York ad agency DeVito Verdi (who also produce ads for Herb Chambers and Legal Sea Foods) and airing a new set of Bernie & Phyl commercials that are terminally hip.

 

 

 

Seriously?

Here’s another one.

Look – Bernie & Phyl have earned the right to do whatever they want. But naked guys? Thank goodness they hired an actor for the spot.

Meanwhile, DeVito Verdi’s Boston Massacre of local ad agencies continues, as the New York shop keeps snatching up local icons. From a recent Boston Globe piece:

The head-turning irreverence of the campaigns seems to appeal to Boston sensibilities. DeVito/Verdi now has more clients in Massachusetts than in New York. Besides Chambers and Suffolk [University], Fallon Health, Bernie and Phyl’s, Tribe Hummus, and City Sports have all signed on since last summer.

Of course, that head-turning irreverence doesn’t always work out: Suffolk pulled its ads shortly after they launched, and the Legal Sea Foods campaign has gotten the fisheye from numerous critics.

Still, say goodbye to Bernie & Phyl. And say Pharewell to yet another Boston institution.

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Newsies: Stop Covering Coverage of Donald Trump

Definition of irony:

Journalists lamenting news coverage of Donald Trump’s self-promotional presidential campaign.

Representative sample, via the Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby.

News organizations are under no obligation to provide a platform to every narcissistic buffoon who declares himself a candidate for the White House. It’s probably futile to expect the networks hosting the Republican primary debates to exclude a ratings magnet like Trump, but they should. His presence on the stage will be degrading to everyone in the room. Even if the other contenders run rings around Trump on substance, his insults and idiocies will stain them all by association.

Do the GOP’s serious candidates really want to share the spotlight with a loudmouth who spent much of the last presidential election cycle trafficking in “birther” theories?

Then again, do serious journalists want to give the spotlight to a loudmouth who spent much of the last presidential election cycle trafficking in “birther” theories?

Ay, there’s the rub.

A suggestion for news outlets worldwide: Adopt the official Campaign Outsider Bill O’Really Policy™.

The hardworking staff once toiled at a local public broadcast station, and our single mandate to the newsroom was this: Nobody can mention Fox Newshound Bill O’Reilly unless 1) there is blood involved, or 2) he’s on a police blotter.

It worked great then. It could work even better now as the Donald Trumped-Up Policy (pat. pending).

Ask for it by name.

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Dead Blogging ‘The Farnsworth Invention’ at Flat Earth Theatre

Well the Missus and I trundled out to Watertown’s Arsenal Center for the Arts yesterday to catch the Flat Earth Theatre production of The Farnsworth Invention and say, it was swell.

From the website:

From screenwriter/playwright Aaron Sorkin, who brought us The West Wing and The Social Network, comes a whirlwind history of the controversial invention of the television. Philo Farnsworth, a child prodigy raised on a farm in rural Idaho, FarnsworthPoster.159554bfhas overcome adversity to create a groundbreaking device never before achieved. Simultaneously, the self-made media mogul David Sarnoff has collected a team of geniuses to uncover Farnworth’s missing piece through any means necessary. The Farnsworth Invention moves fluidly from spell-binding to heart-breaking in this kinetic spectacle that confronts how history is remembered.

It’s a terrific – if factually challenged – production of the 2007 Aaron Sorkin play (and, yes, it’s predictably verbose and overlong). But it’s also appealing and moving – thanks to fine performances by Chris Larson as Farnsworth and Michael Fisher as Sarnoff.

The other cast members are adroit playing multiple roles, and director Sarah Gazdowicz reduces some highly technical material into intelligible theater.

Only bad news: The Missus tells me that the run, through June 27, is sold out.

But there are always cancellations to chase.

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Why Tom Stoppard Is Right to Be a Snob

Several months ago British playwright Tom Stoppard created a tempest in a theaterpot with an interview he gave to the Telegraph.

Quiz: Are Tom Stoppard’s plays too clever for you?

As the playwright says he has to dumb down his jokes for today’s theatregoers, pit yourself against Tom Stoppard’s fearsome intellect with this quiz

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The plays of Tom Stoppard are known as much for the scope of their themes and ideas as his dazzling wordplay and the uncompromising intellectual leaps required of the audience.

For The Hard Problem – the first play from theatreland’s philosopher king in almost a decade – he has tackled the mysteries of the mind and the nature of consciousness. But he claims to have “dumbed down” some lines, removing key historic, literary and scientific references in order that his play’s message is better understood by today’s theatregoers.

Critic Terry Teachout picked up on the picky Stoppard in the Weekend Wall Street Journal.

Why Is Tom Stoppard So Condescending?

Tom Stoppard, the English-speaking world’s brainiest playwright, thinks that British audiences have grown too dumb Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 1.42.04 AMto understand his plays. In a February interview with the Telegraph that was occasioned by the National Theatre’s London premiere of “The Hard Problem,” his latest play, Mr. Stoppard complained that he now has to water down his punch lines: “It’s very rare to connect an audience except on a level which is lower than you would want to connect them on….You could raise it a notch and you might lose an eighth of them….I really resent it.” By way of illustration, he mentioned a scene in “Travesties,” one of his earlier plays, that contains a joke which hinges on knowing the name of Goneril, King Lear’s oldest daughter. “In 1974,” he said, “everybody in the audience knew who Goneril was and laughed. In about 1990 when the play was revived, maybe half knew.”

But that’s okay, Teachout notes, according to some of this generation’s educators.

Just the other day, the Washington Post published a rant by Dana Dusbiber, who teaches English at an inner-city school in Sacramento, Calif. Not only does Ms. Dusbiber happily admit to “disliking” Shakespeare, but she wants to “leave Shakespeare out of the English curriculum entirely.” Her preferred replacement is “the oral tradition out of Africa, which includes an equally relevant commentary on human behavior.” She believes that Shakespeare’s plays are no longer relevant to the lives of the “students of color” whom she teaches: “Shakespeare lived in a pretty small world. It might now be appropriate for us to acknowledge him as chronicler of life as he saw it 450 years ago and leave it at that.”

Except, as Teachout writes,”[If] you’ve never seen or read, say, ‘Hamlet,’ then you will be utterly incapable of understanding ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,’ the 1966 philosophical comedy in which Mr. Stoppard placed two of the minor characters from ‘Hamlet’ at center stage and built a coruscatingly brilliant, endlessly thought-provoking masterpiece around their absurd follies. It will be a closed book to you, one whose covers you’ll find it impossible to pry apart.”

As it happens, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is the first stage play I ever saw, back in the ’70s. And it was a coruscatingly brilliant, endlessly thought-provoking masterpiece. Its inside-out version of “Hamlet” was a total revelation, opening up a whole new literary landscape.

And it’s not just Tom Stoppard who suffers from the defining down of the English curriculum. A dozen years ago Slings & Arrows debuted on Canadian television. The series, which chronicled the trials and tribulations of the New Burbage Festival, ran for three fabulous seasons – one revolving around the Festival’s staging of “Hamlet,” one revolving around “Macbeth,” the final around “King Lear.”

It was absolutely stunning – funny, smart, beautifully written, superbly acted – everything you could want from an artistic work.

From Season 2, when the director Jeffrey changes the opening-night staging on the fly to shake up the egomaniacal, mail-it-in actor playing Macbeth.

 

 

A total hoot. (The actor cold-cocks Jeffrey when the play ends.)

There are maybe 17 American high school seniors who would get that episode.

And that’s a damn shame.

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Dead Blogging ‘Thomas Hart Benton’ at PEM

Well the Missus and I trundled up to the Peabody Essex Museum to catch American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood the other day and say, it was . . . interesting.

This is the first major exhibition on Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) in more than 25 years and the first to explore important connections between Benton’s art and the movies. After working art113909webbriefly in the silent film industry, Benton became acutely aware of storytelling’s shift toward motion pictures and developed a cinematic style of painting that melded European art historical traditions and modern movie production techniques. In paintings, murals, drawings, prints and illustrated books, Benton reinvented national narratives for 20th-century America and captivated the public with his visual storytelling.

Yeah . . . except his visual storytelling was often hackneyed, according to critics, or overwrought, as in his World War II Year of Peril paintings.

Representative sample:

 

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‘Nuf ced about that.

Benton was an odd – if celebrated – duck, and PEM’s show of his Hollywood-related work  is an odd – if well-mounted – exhibit. (Through 9/7/15)

But also at PEM . . .

Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals

One of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, Duane Michals (b. 1932) is credited with pioneering new ways of considering and creating photographs. Running counter to the prevailing conventions of photography, Michals began working with sequences of images and multiple exposures, often overlaying hand-written messages and poems. Michals identifies himself a storyteller and through his work explores universal life experiences such as dreams, desire, love and mortality. He has noted: “I’m not interested in what something looks like, I want to know what it feels like … a realm beyond observation.” Organized by the Carnegie Museum of Art, this exhibition presents more than 200 works and provides a definitive retrospective of the artist’s career.

(To be honest graf goes here)

To be honest, the photographs of Duane Michals demand much more attention than I was willing to devote to them. Regardless, they’re largely interesting, and on display until tomorrow.

Also leaving tomorrow: Audacious: The Fine Art of Wood from the Montalto Bohlen Collection. 

An amazing exhibit: Wood artifacts that look like ceramics, that look like metal, that look like vegetation, that look like – fabric?

 

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Well worth the trip on a rainy day (as tomorrow promises to be).

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