A partial transcript from Episode 23 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full radio show.
Earlier, I announced that I will be releasing my book, Eye of the Beholder, on the 1st of September. And I should say, as if there was any need to, that it is a self-published book. I just don’t have the time to send out manuscripts left and right, do email back and forths and just go through all that bullshit process. I also don’t need that type of validation.
So, part of my drive to self-publish this particular book was that I wanted to teach myself all the parts that are involved in self-publishing, from designing a book and cover to actually using the software to transform manuscripts into an ebook and so on.
It is hard to figure it all out and I’m still learning. I mean, I have had to obviously do it in my free time, so I haven’t been sleeping much.
In any case, I realize that sometimes, when you have an idea and it’s a creative idea that you know will take a long time to put together but you want to do for as long as you have the drive to do it, getting other people involved will just slow you down.
The Beat Writers of the ’60s used to live by the concept of “first thought, best thought” and I think there’s something to that. I really do.
A partial transcript from Episode 23 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full radio show.
The Venice International Film Festival is scheduled to take place from the 2nd to the 12th of September and on the eve of its opening night, in other words, on the 1st of September, I will be releasing my first book.
It’s a collection of my film writings on film from the final two years of my CineCola website that focused on cinema, so, from 2017 and 2018.
The book is titled Eye of the Beholder, after my fundamental stance on film and art criticism, which is my believe that the cinematic truth lies in the eye of the beholder and that any work of art has the potential to help us understand ourselves and the world around us based more on a personal connection that we share with the artwork itself rather than any academic stances.
The pieces collected in the book are quite varied in both form and content. We go from a rather traditionalist piece on the history of the making of Milos Forman’s The Firemen’s Ball, one of the masterpieces of the Czechoslovak New Wave, to a lengthy account of what I hope the cinema venue of the future will look like, to a stream-of-consciousness piece written in response to the death of Bernardo Bertolucci.
In fact, in putting Eye of the Beholder together, I did favour eclecticism over cohesiveness and grand statements. But in any case, I will be releasing that on the day before the beginning of the Venice International Film Festival in eBook form and you can also order a paperback copy if you’re that way inclined. Which I understand because I, myself, am a paperback kind of guy. I may also release it in audio-book form.
A partial transcript from Episode 21 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Scroll down to listen to the full radio show.
Regarding the #IStandWithJKRowiling, I should say I’m not a fan of her books. That’s just personal taste, I realize that Harry Potter means a lot to a lot of people.
But in terms of trans-genderism, may I suggest Virginia Woolf instead? Not only was she revolutionary in experimentation with form and content, going against the norm of the novel during the Victorian Era and pioneering the stream of consciousness style of writing. But she was also modern-minded in her exploration of such themes as gender and sexuality in her books.
Actually, Woolf was a lesbian I believe. I’m not entirely sure whether she identified herself as such outright but she reportedly had affairs with women, especially with Vita Sackville West, who was an author herself, a prolific diarist and a garden designer. She also inspired one of Woolf’s most celebrated and modern-minded novels known — Orlando.
If you haven’t read it, it’s difficult to kind of do its narrative justice both in terms of content and form in just a few words. Essentially, it’s the story of Orlando, and it’s a fictional historical biography that spans almost 400 years in the lifetime of the title protagonist. And all throughout the book’s length, the protagonist constantly changes sex.
So, I suppose the novel explores such things as how gender roles are defined within society, confusion about gender and sexuality and all such things. There are a couple of lines that illustrate that, including the opening lines: “He–for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it–was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.”
In another part, Woolf wants us to understand the force of gender roles in her own world and writes: “When the boy, for alas, a boy it must be – no woman could skate with such speed and vigour – swept almost on tiptoe past him, Orlando was ready to tear his hair with vexation that the person was of his own sex, and thus all embraces were out of the question.”
But it’s a wonderful book and I would recommend it, particularly for anyone who is looking for some type of representation or comfort about their own sexuality and gender in classic literature. Sally Potter directed an awesome version of the book in 1992, starring Tilda Swinton, that you can check out in case reading is not your thing.
But as far as I’m concerned, and in terms of how I feel about this whole thing, if you do stand with J.K. Rowling, that’s cool. But I, on the other hand, stand with Virginia Woolf.
On my latest episode of Matt’s Art Chat, I speak with my friend, Egyptian author Mirna El Mahdy. I met Mirna two years ago at the Cairo International Film Festival two years ago. Shortly after that, I found out that she had published her first novel. This chat was recorded on the eve of the launch of her second published work.
Poet/writer Sylvia Plath is known as much for her body of work as for the tragedy of her short life. And the tragedy of her life is the tragedy of intelligence wasted in a world that doesn’t value it, a world that finds it dangerous and impossible to commodify.
Revisiting The Bell Jar (1963), her only narrative novel, is to revisit Plath’s own unhappiness. The world of the book is a world where people are not allowed to be depressed. The book is often defined a feminist classic because it quite honestly suggests that a woman’s sorry destiny is to have to find happiness as the servant of the man she is to marry or as a spinster with a job that’s generally unfulfilling.
Bright and intelligent 19-year-old Esther is the protagonist of The Bell Jar. Her story is told via first person narration and the parallels between author and character have been subject of literary analysis for decades.
One of the book’s most hard-hitting moments – despite its strangely subdued tone – comes when Esther returns home after a stint as a guest editor of a fashion magazine. Lacking a sense of direction or purpose and unable to voice her talents and fulfil her potential, she falls into a state of depression that causes her to behave in odd ways. Her behaviour eventually convince her mother that shock treatments are the only way to help her.
Shock treatment is now vilified. Yet, at the time of the novel, in the midst of the age of consensus, they were quite a popular practice, particularly in the United State.
Plath doesn’t exaggerate their horror nor does she use a heavy-handed approach in describing the events revolving around Esther’s experience at Doctor Gordon’s hospital. This fact alone shows that Plath doesn’t look down at her readers and believes anyone with an ounce of intelligence will be able to understand the seriousness of the situation without her having to put any unnecessary emphasis on it. In fact, it is arguably this subtle detachment that makes the event all the more powerful.
Likewise, her descriptions of the place and its mentally ill inhabitants appear to be not so different from all the other settings that she describes up to this point. This is true even of her arresting line that reads: “The figures around me weren’t people, but shop dummies, painted to resemble people and propped up in attitudes counterfeiting life.” It is not unlike similar lines she has used to describe her alienation (or inability to connect with the environment) in other places.
The point is that she is as out of place in Doctor Gordon’s hospital as anywhere else.
Later that day, she announces to her mother that she will not be doing anymore shock treatments. Her mother replies with a relief, but it is hardly reassuring when she tells her: “I knew my baby wasn’t like that,” referring to the patients in the hospital, later adding, “I knew you’d decide to be all right again.”
By using the term “decide,” the mother shows she believes that Esther is choosing to “not be all right.” In other words, Esther’s mother believes that depression is a choice. This response alone speaks much about the ways in which mental illness was discussed back in the day and how even today, much has to be done to understand it.
The tragedy of this situation is that up to now, most readers will have perceived the decision to subject Esther to shock treatments as a decision that was taken for her. Yet, at the moment she announces that she wants to stop her treatments, we understand that it was Esther’s decision all along. And she makes the decision to end it not because she doesn’t believe it will make her better but because she finds it difficult to concentrate – they actually enhance the alienation. (“I felt dumb and subdued,” she explains.)
Without spoiling the rest of the novel, it is important to once again remember that The Bell Jar is an quasi-autobiographical novel, published in 1963, shortly before her death.
In 1953, the time-setting of this novel, Plath too started geting electro-convulsive therapy for her depression. Shortly after, she made her first medically attempted suicide by ingesting a huge quantity of her mother’s sleeping pills and crawling under her house. The rest is a sad history, which ends with Plath’s taking her own life almost exactly ten years later.
The importance of this shock treatment moment of the book is well worth highlighting for another reason, which is suggested by the title itself.
The word “jar” is defined in the Webster dictionary as “send a painful or damaging shock through (something, especially a part of the body).” Could Plath therefore have been suggesting the shock treatment as what set her off down the path of further self-destruction? And anticipated her eventual, inevitable suicide?
Whenever I’m in Prague, one of my favorite cities in the world, my friend Lucien Zell is one of the first people I get in touch with. Lucien is a poet, author, photographer, singer and man full committed to what I refer to as the “art life.” The last time I was in Prague, I met him and documented our meeting with my camcorder. I noticed early on that something was off in the speed settings, but in the spirit of my Long Take series, I kept filming. I was happy to note that the error gives the video an unanticipated, dreamlike effect that is appropriate to this late-night conversation about art, culture and spirituality.
Matt’s Long Take is a new web series by art reporter Matt Micucci documenting a series of encounters with artists and art institutions around the world. The use of the long take is inspired by André Bazin, who believed it to be an important tool in cinema’s ability to capture “reality.”