Archive | August, 2010


31 Aug

August Macke? Dead long time ago. He’s left paintings, some drawings. A few monographs came out. Some books have been written. Do the art tourist thing in Germany. See some August Macke.

In the annals 20th Century Art History he’s B-list significant. (See German Expressionism). He was born at the dawn of Modernism, 1887. When he was 23 he met Franz Marc and together with Vassily Kandinsky (and others who rate on the C-list or below) he formed Der Blaue Reiter – The Blue Rider.

This was the second of the two groups who together made Germany’s contribution to Modernism. Artists had long expressed the view that the emotional content of their work was in the colour. But the Expressionists were the first unabashed emotional egotists. Like Die Brücke (The Bridge) the artists of The Blue Rider had seen the Impressionists and decided that the classical style was dead. Like them they’d seen Cezanne and plugged into a different view of Beauty and Truth.

A ‘Blue Rider’ evokes at once intense colour and this forward movement. Their work was, however, more refined, less confrontantional then that of their earlier counter-parts. Kandinsky and Marc were the leaders. And Kandinsky is the only true capital ‘G’ genius of the crew. But, for this period, Macke’s my favourite.

During the preceding century the Romantics, the Impressionists and the Symbolists had pried the urge to express the music of the soul in colour away from Academic rigidity. Van Gogh, Gaugin and Cezanne had thrown a plague of molotov cocktails its way. And in Germany, in Spain, in France, Russia, Italy and Beligium there was pandamonium.

Expressionist pandamoium indulged in colour, convinced that true art was child-like. Not surprisingly they rejected naturalistic depiction and any obligation to the world as it’s commonly seen, turning instead inward. What made Macke different is that he refused to go as far as that, he never turned away from what the Old Masters had called ‘Nature’.

The year he met Fraz Marc he painted this:

August Macke 1

Farmboy at Tegernsee, 1910

The style is that of all the young artists of this generation who were doing as the proto-modernists did. It reminds me a little of Picasso’s blue period. And also of Courbet. Macke’s farmboy has a farmboy’s dignity. He’s ‘uneasy in front of the camera’. His hands are solid, meaty.

By the following year The Blue Rider had formed. Picasso and Braque had already wrenched apart any resemblence to the classical tradition. Macke radically broke away from the past.

Auguist Macke 2

He was still not yet 25.

Who knows how this young man would have developed thru the 1920s as the modern style began to attract larger markets and more attention. Whereas his contemporaries moved toward abstaction inevitably as the pure expression of the self, the psyche, he never lost the habit of observation:

Augist MAcke 3

The Milliner’s Shop, 1913

Painting is one of those arts where the best get better as they age. Hokusai wrote that none of the drawings he did before his 70th birthday were worth considering. And he had a point. Macke painted the above in a few short years. Such confidence, so young. What could have been?

A year after The Milliner’s Shop he was drafted into the German Army. The artists of the Western World had called for the destruction of the old world. Sub-consciously the empires that protected them agreed. As if by compulsion, they committed group suicide. The trenches were dug and August was posted to the French province of Champagne. A few weeks later he was dead, killed in action. Mowed down alongside two hundred-thousand anonymous others. He was 27 years old.

His last work, the gloom of which brings Kirchner to mind, was called “Farewell”.



30 Aug

When I was a young snotty undergraduate wanker my friends and I would wax on about something we called ‘politics’. Often this wasn’t politics but culture: eg the gear the Clash wore. We percieved this as ‘political’ because we regarded conventional dressers as the enemy. We never discussed the passing of actual laws much. Never contemplated the difficulty of drafting laws or the various interplay of interests that would effect and be effected by such legislation.

And we never never talked economics. Those interested in art often don’t. How often do you read, in histories of modern art, about the economic impact of the invention of chemical photography on the practice of artists. One thing seldom discussed in the history of painting is how modernist painting takes much less time and work than classical painting. You can pump it out, you can sell it cheap. You don’t go there.

One thing I’ve re-learned is that the ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ often amount to the political alliances of different kinds of people and minds. In Australia anyway right-wingers tend to be maths people, left-wingers word-and-image people. That’s a generalization but it seems it applies. Assuming its veracity it’s hardly surprising that the Left tend to advocate sociological arguments in favour of their polcies and the Right economic ones for their’s.

My idea of progress is to a world in which no-one is in authority over anyone else. I am a pragmatic anarchist so I know this world I speak of won’t materialize in my lifetime. So I do what I can to live without authority. To eliminate the need for it in my life. How? I work for myself. I don’t shit on other people (no cops) and if I do something against the law (which harms only me if anyone) I’m discreet. I also try my utmost to keep any information trail down to a minimum. Any database that has me on it should have a lot of blank spaces.

I try to assimilate various ideas and arguments without prejudice. In my opinion to assume that the ‘left’ is ‘virtuous’ and the ‘right’ is not, or vice versa is to play the boneheaded game the shadow-men of the world want you to. Don’t. It’s just another prison for your mind. Try and understand the facts. Make special effort getting used to those facts that are inconvenient to your worldview. The unpleasant ones. And understand where your reasoning ends and your feelings begin.

My feelings about economic matters began with Oscar Wilde: The Soul of Man Under Socialism is pure fantastic speculation but I still concord spiritually with the passage I quoted last Sunday. Our stuff finally limits us. It owns us. It stops you being the you you could be if only you didn’t spend every spare waking hour playing Doom III. All this scrambling by all these stupid monkeys to get more stuff is pure folly.

But an unpleasant fact, and faced by few who feel the way Oscar and I do – is that rights to private property are the foundation of a system which has managed to abate tyranny for centuries. Imperfect and not always working. Selective and prejudiced but fundamentally sound. It’s not ideal to me but it’s better than the People’s Republic of China where the government can take away whatever you have whenever it suits them.

We in the West forget that. We’ve forgotten it. And those of us who see something wrong in rampant mindless consumerism (as its called) take the liberty and prosperity on which rests this ability to consider the state of things for granted. Those of us who are appalled by the state of things in other parts of the world and the role of various agents from the West in perpetrating and profiting on’t seldom undertake any serious examination of the issues of economic development or geopolitical power. People who’re concerned about climate change are enthusiastic supporters of anyone who’ll do ‘something’ regardless of whether said something works, doesn’t work or is downright batshit. We assert rights that don’t exist and let those that do suffer the erosion of civil indifference.

Collecting Water

So to today’s question: do you have a right to water? It’s natural. It’s essential if you want to be alive three days from now but it requires an apparatus of pipes and pumps and reservoirs to deliver to the world’s cityscapes in which most humans now live. Someone has to design this stuff, build it, maintain it. Lots of work and the apparatus of State underwriting it. Should we give it over to the free market or should it continue to be subsidized by the State?

The way I feel is that water is natural and we have a right to get it without paying for it. But the fact I must confront is that the water I drink usually comes to me via the labours of strangers and that I live on a drying continent faced with climate change. And lurking behind all that is the corporate technocracy, public and private, that seeks to control everyone and everything. What is my opinion? I do not have enough data to form one. Yet.


29 Aug

Miro Dutch Interior I

Dutch Interior I, 1928
Joan Miró


29 Aug


From the Land of Black Metal


29 Aug

“Private property has crushed true Individualism, and set up an Individualism that is false. It has debarred one part of the community from being individual by starving them. It has debarred the other part of the community from being individual by putting them on the wrong road and encumbering them. Indeed, so completely has man’s personality been absorbed by his possessions that the English law has always treated offences against a man s property with far more severity than offences against his person, and property is still the test of complete citizenship. The industry necessary for the making of money is also very demoralising. In a community like ours, where property confers immense distinction, social position, honour, respect, titles, and other pleasant things of the kind, man, being naturally ambitious, makes it his aim to accumulate this property, and goes on wearily and tediously accumulating it long after he has got far more than he wants, or can use, or enjoy, or perhaps even know of. Man will kill himself by overwork in order to secure property, and really, considering the enormous advantages that property brings, one is hardly surprised. One’s regret is that society should be constructed on such a basis that man has been forced into a groove in which he cannot freely develop what is wonderful, and fascinating, and delightful in him in which, in fact, he misses the true pleasure and joy of living.”

Oscar Wilde
The Soul of Man Under Socialism


28 Aug

Went to Guildford Lane’s Friday evening jam session last night. It’s got some legs this night. There’s some good regular players and if you’re new they’re an inviting crowd.

I went with a friend of mine who wanted to play there. He brought his accordion and sat in throwing some chords at tunes he didn’t know all that well.

It was what you’d expect. Certain jazz standards were touted. The skins kept the beat and each player took a turn in the spotlight. It was done well by people who knew what they were doing. The mix was usually pretty good; the blend of organic synchopation and bop excursions into the stream of consciousness.

But, as we walked away, my friend and I agreed there was something frustrating about jazz. Something that had to do with the abandonment of melodies. I can’t, even now, say exactly what. The band gets together. They take turns at the box. Now there’s a bass guitar, now there’s an electric upright, now an acoustic. All the cats n hats had good chops. And you’re free to let yourself go. But somehow they were boxed in.

It’s been almost 50 years since the youth of the English speaking world abandoned jazz first to rock then to hip-hop. Last night they were back. A good 40% of the players were under 30. Considering the wish-washy miasma of contemporary pop music it’s easy to understand they’re stepping back in time to find something to shake to. That’s cool. But still we’re stuck.

By what? Tradition? Or a tradition of kicking against tradition? By the same old tunes? When the tune gets tired find a new one. Or maybe dust an old one off that hasn’t played in a while.


27 Aug

Question: In 50 words or less, consider whether Adam Smith’s vision of capitalism was in any way fundamentally different from that of Milton Friedman? Why?

(2 points)