25 Portals…new book

Posted on October 20th, 2017 by Ira Altschiller

A new book on the iBooks Store – check it out!

iBooks Store link: 25 Extraordinary Portals in Space Time

Ohad Naharin, Mr. Gaga

Posted on June 17th, 2017 by Ira Altschiller

The documentary Mr. Gaga is now on Netflix. It is about the Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. Naharin comes out of a physical culture – Feldenkreis therapy and psychodrama psychology / acting via mom and dad respectively.

His language of dance is called Gaga. He wants dancers to express from the inside, to fulfill metaphors then manifested in their movements. The dancers don’t watch themselves in mirrors – they don’t objectify themselves. They are instead vessels of feeling expressed physically.

“The descriptions that are used to guide the dancers through the improvisation are intended to help the dancer initiate and express movement in unique ways from parts of the body that tend to be ignored in other dance techniques.”

As it presents Gaga fits somewhere between Twyla Tharp and Jerome Robbins. Both Tharp and Robbins were Balanchine dancers – they touched colossal genius. The best trained dancers came from the New York City Ballet. The wonderful crew of dancers Naharin has assembled provide a rich palette for this talented man.

If Tharp invokes rag-dolls, with the ironic humor and hard won looseness that implies, Naharin’s punctuated epileptic fits, robo-moves and sinuous expressiveness are an impressive addition to the language of dance. The great and primary form of dance.

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Speech

Posted on June 10th, 2017 by Ira Altschiller

There’s been discussion about the Nobel Prize being given to Bob Dylan as not being appropriate. That Dylan does not achieve the heights of great writers and poets. It’s a conservative argument about standards. I don’t reject those arguments as conserving what is great from the past separates us from animals. But having standards doesn’t mean rejecting anything new out of hand.

Dylan himself questions the validity of his receiving the award. This more than anything, more even than his humility in laying out so many others as influential in his development, giving them credit at the table, shows the man’s character and seriousness. It is said, “We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.”

It is true that Dylan grew out of the pop/folk culture. But he aspired, was influenced by the fine arts; he absorbed some of the lessons of the spectacular achievements of the west.

He mentions as strong influences Moby Dick, John Donne, All Quiet on the Western Front, Homer – his influences are numerous, various and unassailable. There is something modest and touchingly forthright about his references to all those to whom he feels in debt. 

But Dylan doesn’t just refer to high art, but to pop culture as well, because at this period, pop culture has such a huge impact on people as they develop. Buddy Holly, Robert Johnson (the great blues singer), New Lost City Ramblers, Leadbelly.

Dylan says “ I wanted to know all about it and play that kind of music. I still had a feeling for music I’d grown up with, but for right now, I forgot about it…They were different than the radio songs I’d been listening to all along. They were more vibrant and truthful to life. With radio songs, a performer might get a hit with a roll of the dice or a fall of the cards, but that didn’t matter in the folk world.”

Dylan internalized it. “You sing it in the ragtime blues, work songs, Georgia sea chanties, Appalachian ballads and cowboy songs. You hear all the finer points and you learn the details.”

Some have questioned whether the obscurity of some of Dylan’s lyric references are meaningless patter. They quote Dylan as saying that, “I don’t know what they [the lyrics] mean.” Of course, Nobel laureate Milosz said the same thing. People would come to Milosz and ask what his poems meant and he would say that is not how it works. That he did not know what they meant. You aren’t illustrating ideas. You are opening a portal of feeling and spirit.

We may not really understand why Van Gogh painted with such crude haste, such un-nuanced explosive images. But the reason Van Gogh persists is that anyone looking at his images without prejudice can see the intensity of feeling, the spirit in struggle. That isn’t a meaning, it is a direct expression sensed from one person to another. It is the bridge between souls which art enables.

The Examined Life

Posted on January 31st, 2016 by Ira Altschiller

If the unexamined life is not worth living then Stephen Grosz’s “The Examined Life” might imply a template.

Grosz is a psychiatrist whose book received acclaim and awards. He presents case study / fables with a coda worthy of a fable. That is, they are neat rather than nuanced. The stories themselves are gnomic and remind me of John Cage’s one paragraph journal entries about the  circumstances of living; except Cage was writing about the randomness of events with an irony that was entertaining and amusing, pointing out the amazing quality of human experience and consciousness.

Grosz doesn’t offer analysis nor insight – other  than the codas – nor any depth. These are just stories taken from people’s lives; people who trusted him, now with their stories in the public  domain. Grosz no doubt checked with them first, at least I hope so, but still, it seems an exploitation to me, even if pseudonyms are used. Their brevity might suggest to Grosz the Checkhov he admires, but they have none of the resonance of true art.

I like books whose center is analysis and psychology so I looked forward to the journey. This book doesn’t satisfy in that sense, but Grosz’s general attitude warrants credit. Grosz feels people have stories that are untold – the stories of their lives. From fear or confusion or doubt they don’t piece together their own narrative, for many reasons – overdetermined, as analysis would have it – people don’t embrace or know who they are. Know thyself is the truth expressed – an old truth.

Grosz’s template is that he helps people in constructing their personal story. There were books written in the hippy days like that. “Telling Your Story,” was one excellent example. What Grosz says earlier in the book is probably more pertinent: he says that when he first meets a patient he tries to fully attend to them – so they leave feeling that they have been heard. That’s the crux, isn’t it. The most therapeutic thing, the most moral and decent thing we can do for each other – fully pay attention. I-Thou, not I-It, as Martin Buber would say.

That is the truth about therapy or confession or any human interaction that is beneveloent; the interlocutor feels they have been seen. not condescended to, nor even praised, but simply that their slim existence in the long narrative of our planet, was heard, if only for a brief moment, by a single individual.

Conformism and Free Speech

Posted on December 29th, 2015 by admin

This brief interview with the editor of Spiked is worth a listen. In the current environment of oppressive lynch mobs sanctimoniously attacking those with whom they disagree, Brendan O’Neill says that conformism and cowardice are currently the greatest threat to free speech. He feels the West has abandoned Enlightenment values.

Hearing and seeing things which are troubling is the price of living in a free society. The spirit of the arts is that of freedom.

New Digital Gallery

Posted on July 7th, 2015 by Ira Altschiller

RECENT DIGITAL IMAGES gallery

SELECTED DIGITAL IMAGES gallery

 

Many of the digital images in the above galleries can be purchased as prints:

Digital Print Store here @PaintedMatter (new)

Offsite Print Store @Saatchi

New on the iBookstore: Twenty Five Miles to True North

Posted on May 4th, 2015 by Ira Altschiller

cover-25Miles

Twenty-Five Miles to True North
(link takes you to iTunes)

“Twenty-Five Miles To True North” is a “Children’s Book for Adults.”

The radical play of imagination in these 13 unforgettable “journeys” will stay with you. The stories are a form-breaking, original mix of absurdist humor, Kafkaesque/Borgesian surrealism, pop culture references, which possess an underlying compassion. The tales in “Twenty-Five Miles To True North” affirm love and embrace the mystery of things.

These compelling, often deeply felt landscapes, offer surprising turns. The unnamed narrator is usually accompanied by a beautiful companion, who sometimes becomes just a sweet voice. Hovering, offering advice and protection, all the while teasing the narrator.

From the first form-breaking story we are launched into a landscape of bickering rabbits who warn of horrors ahead—prognosticators of doom. There is a suggestive story about a chaos machine which is also about public presentations. There is a landscape of lost things, mysterious Victorian ladies singing a song of healing enchantment, a crystallographer and his bionic pet—even a parade float in a basement.

PREVIEW, “ISLAND”, ebook on the iBookstore

Posted on July 21st, 2014 by Ira Altschiller

This is a preview @youtube of “ISLAND, Eleven Lost Islands, A Summary Report”

If this vid produces an error try viewing it on YouTube:
ISLAND @youtube

“ISLAND” iBookstore link: ibookstore

Philip Roth: Finding Form

Posted on June 1st, 2014 by admin

Quotes from Philip Roth about finding form and shape:

About the work…

“I am a turner of sentences. That’s my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning.”

If you paint as opposed to write, you walk around, look away, look out the window, imagine the work from another room. The image simmers, percolates in the background, forming up for you, if you let it.

About objectivity…

“Obviously the facts are never just coming at you but are incorporated by an imagination that is formed by your previous experience. Memories of the past are not memories of facts but memories of your imaginings of the facts.”

We are clouds of energy, on the subatomic level; we derive our self-definition, our ego, from a chaos of experience – we form our chaotic experiences into words and images and adhere them to stories we tell about ourselves, to ourselves, and others.

Silicon Valley, Mike Judge, YouTube

Posted on April 7th, 2014 by admin

Now that it’s in production you wonder why this show wasn’t created before.

Silicon Valley, a Mike Judge HBO production, is on YouTube, at least for now. This show is very funny.

It’s not exactly a Buñuel / Dali L’Age d’or collaboration, a sophisticated satire on bourgeois values, but Silicon Valley strikes a sweet spot, hitting the newly tech-rich and their hangers on, their uneven emotional and intellectual development, their guild language, New Age philosophy, and the comic personality cults surrounding the young ‘n wealthy.

Boy, has this period ached for satire. Satire almost doesn’t exist, or if it does, it is only comfortable with trendy, predictable, acceptable targets – Sarah Palin or Republicans or the Tea Party – rather than the comical clueless vitiating the power centers of contemporary society.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Later Woody Allen

Posted on April 6th, 2014 by Ira Altschiller

Vicky Cristina Barcelona is one of those Woody Allen movies that reminds you that the man does not know who he is or who he wants to be. The whole movie has a derivative feel – derivative of Allen’s earlier movies. Even the art used in Vicky Cristina Barcelona by Agustí Puig seemed derivative of Antoni Tàpies – although the artist says his greatest influence is Picasso? Maybe Picasso by way of the Abstract Expressionists. Allen’s trademark wit, which seemed to bubble out of his early movies, has been replaced by affectation; this from a movie maker who was so satisfyingly cutting in his treatment of artificiality.

From Vicky Cristina Barcelona you get the idea Allen wants to be a European, making sophisticated Jean Renoir sex romps, but to which, jarringly, Allen includes an awful lot of My Dinner With Andre cocktail party self-analysis; thence resolving to a false melancholic ending, hoping to evoke in the audience, “yeah, that’s life – it sorta sucks”. The movies Allen has made recently in this vein are actually sad, but not in the way Allen intends.

The settings in Spain are all gorgeous. The movie is like a Spanish travelogue advertisement. Setting makes a big difference, and this backdrop aids the movie enormously. It was one of Allen’s most financially successful movies. Despite the criticisms, I watched the whole thing, and, given the alternatives, it was a pleasant if disappointing excursion.

The cast was very good, Allen’s directorial skills have sharpened; the individual lines, as might be expected, are often well wrought, but it doesn’t add up. Not surprisingly, the movie won tons of awards.