Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995), Ai Weiwei
I fear thy kisses, gentle maiden;
Thou needest not fear mine;
My spirit is too deeply laden
Ever to burden thine.
I fear thy mien, thy tone, thy motion;
Thou needest not fear mine;
Innocent is the heart’s devotion
With which I worship thine.
— Percy Bysshe Shelley
a. Freedom (2001), Philadelphia. Sculpture by Zenos Frudakis.
b. Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid; Mumbai (2009)
The Beatles’ imitation of fans.
The Japanese author and bodybuilder (!) Yukio Mishima, who wrote an entire memoir (Sun and Steel) on his relationship with his body.
The exercise of muscles elucidated the mysteries that words had made. It was similar to the process of acquiring erotic knowledge. Little by little, I began to understand the feeling behind existence and action.
"It would be the best of all, you know, if once in one of my pictures, only one human being had got something out of it for his life, for his daily life or for his future. I would be happy. That is the whole reason. If people use my pictures, it doesn’t matter if they are angry or aggressive or critical, but just that they are emotionally involved with my pictures. That is the only thing that is important to me."
July 14, 1918 — July 30, 2007
God knows I have got something out of your pictures, IB.
The philosopher Derek Parfit at Oxford in the 1980s.
From a stunning profile of Parfit via the newly opened New Yorker archives:
Parfit’s first book, “Reasons and Persons,” was published in 1984, when he was forty-one, and caused a sensation. The book was dense with science-fictional thought experiments, all urging a shift toward a more impersonal, non-physical, and selfless view of human life.
Parfit’s view resembles in some ways the Buddhist view of the self, a fact that was pointed out to him years ago by a professor of Oriental religions. Parfit was delighted by this discovery. (Sometime later, he learned that “Reasons and Persons” was being memorized and chanted, along with sutras, by novice monks at a monastery in Tibet.)
Loveliest of trees, the cherry nowIs hung with bloom along the bough,And stands about the woodland rideWearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,Twenty will not come again,And take from seventy springs a score,It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloomFifty springs are little room,About the woodlands I will goTo see the cherry hung with snow.
Brassai, Marlene (1937)
A young Bruce Chatwin in an earlier life as an art expert at Sotheby’s. From The Songlines:
When I was in my twenties, I had a job as an ‘expert’ on modern painting with a well known firm of art auctioneers. We had sale-rooms in London and New York. I was one of the bright boys. People said I had a great career, if only I would play my cards right. One morning, I woke up blind.
During the course of the day, the sight returned to the left eye, but the right one stayed sluggish and clouded. The eye specialist who examined me said there was nothing wrong organically, and diagnosed the nature of the trouble.
"You’ve been looking too closely at pictures,", he said. "Why don’t you swap them for some long horizons?"
"Why not?" I said.
1. JMW Turner, Dawn after the Wreck
2. Andrei Tarkovsky, Polaroid photograph
David Cronenberg on the sets of Crash (1996), the film based on the JG Ballard classic.
“I don’t endorse everything that happens in either the novel or the film of Crash,” was author JG Ballard’s spin on the content of his most controversial book and David Cronenberg’s movie adaptation. “But both are cautionary tales…”
Leads like Holly Hunter and James Spader came to Cronenberg rather than the other way around.
Hunter had her agent pester him to give her the role of Helen Remington, while James Spader’s only concern about taking on the film was who else was going to be in it. “He said, ‘After all I do fuck everybody in the movie,’” laughed Cronenberg.