Category Archives: art

The World After Kafka

Franz Kafka is usually viewed as a dystopian writer. . But the most interesting aspect of the stories for me is not the nastiness that you find in his stories. It is the reaction by the characters to that nastiness. The discussion of it. The consciousness of it. For the characters there is no escape, they know it, and they talk about their suffering.

More broadly, one could argue that this type of awakening to horror is a part of our modern sensibility.  Perhaps this image by Bacon captures the feeling as well as any

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The Pope — supposedly Christ’s representative on earth — is revealed as part of the horror.

What is the horror? It is a shattering of myths. A shattering of the idea that a benevolent force, either God or King or country, has been guiding us to a better future. We woke up to the idea that these myths blinded us to ugly reality. War. Dictatorship. Degradation. Forces that reduced the dignity of man. The title of Robert Graves’s autobiography, written in 1929, “Goodbye to All That” says it all. Humanity may be a dead end species.

More recently, we have a more vivid incarnation of that story line in the film, The Matrix, where humans are not living their lives at all.  They think they are, but in fact, they are just enmeshed in a computer generated simulation.  They exist in tubes of goo, kept alive solely for the electricity their bodies generate.  A few remaining rebels seek to free the rest of humanity from the machines. And at the end of a whole series of movies, it is difficult to tell who won the war, if anyone or anything.

So, is this the end of the line? Having woken up, so to speak, to this type of shattering experience, is there nothing more to say? Are we now without new stories to tell? The current fascination with fantasy based tales suggests to me that some have given up on reality. For them, stories are useful only as escapes from it.  Stories take us to places where we can be part of more epic sagas even if life basically sucks.

I am not persuaded, however, that this will last. A new story line will emerge. And it will be about re-discovering meaning in reality rather than escaping from it. We will find an aligning narrative for the 21st century and it will transcend the consciousness of horrors of the 20th century.

What is it?  What will rekindle our faith in the future – the real future? It is not the gadgets that are falling into our hands. At the end of the day, these are just tools or toys. Our faith in the future will be rekindled form something that comes form inside us.

Stay tuned!


May Morris and a Love of Nature

William Morris is well known for stewarding the revival of the artisan movement in England in the 19th century.  And, of course, for his role in founding the socialist movement in England.

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Morris also had a rather exceptional daughter by the name of May Morris.

May Morris was one of the leading artists of the Arts and Crafts movement whose designs for everything from wallpaper to baby’s Christening mittens became the defining feature of many a wealthy, progressive household at the beginning of the 20th century. In particular, May’s brilliance at needlework helped raise what had previously been a trivial female hobby or, worse still, domestic drudgery, into fine art.

Here she is

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Here is an example of her work

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From the Guardian

This autumn an exhibition entitled May Morris: Art & Life will showcase more than 80 of her works, including original artwork, designs, embroidery, jewellery and fashion, many of them borrowed from leading institutions including the V&A, the Ashmolean and the National Trust.

It is at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, London

Cape Town: Turning a Grain Silo into a Museum

This picture says it all

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Hmmm … is there a backstory? Yes. From Wired

The building, shuttered in 2001, was once the tallest in sub-Saharan Africa, its 100-foot bins capable of storing 30,000 tons of wheat, maize, soya, and sorghum. (Mat) Cash’s design winks at the facility’s original purpose: He carved a kernel-shaped cavity into its heart using a 20-ton hydraulic breaker and industrial wire saw. The resulting cathedral-like atrium is now a celebration of art instead of agriculture.