An Encounter With Simone Weil

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‘Atten­tion is the rarest and purest form of generosity.’

In her short life, Simone Weil (1909–1943) fought in the Span­ish Civil War, worked as a machine oper­a­tor and farm laborer, debated Trot­sky, taught high school stu­dents and union mem­bers, and was part of the French Resis­tance. The daugh­ter of afflu­ent Jew­ish par­ents, she spent her life advo­cat­ing for the poor and dis­en­fran­chised in France and for col­o­nized peo­ple around the world, bravely orga­niz­ing and writ­ing on their behalf. A con­sum­mate out­sider, who dis­trusted ide­olo­gies of any kind, Simone Weil left behind a body of work that fills fif­teen vol­umes and estab­lishes her as a bril­liant polit­i­cal, social, and spir­i­tual thinker.

In her writ­ings, she ana­lyzed power and its dehu­man­iz­ing effects, out­lined a doc­trine of atten­tion and empa­thy for human suf­fer­ing, and cri­tiqued Stal­in­ism long before most of the French left-wing. She believed intel­lec­tual work should be com­bined with phys­i­cal work, and that the­o­ries should evolve from close obser­va­tion and direct expe­ri­ence.  And, after three Chris­t­ian mys­ti­cal expe­ri­ences, she began grap­pling with reli­gious faith, its role in human his­tory, and the short­com­ings of orga­nized reli­gion. Her best-known works, all pub­lished posthu­mously, are Grav­ity & Grace, Oppres­sion & Lib­erty, Wait­ing for God, and The Need for Roots.

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Simone Weil died in obscu­rity in Lon­don in 1943. She was just 34. Her rep­u­ta­tion rested mainly on her involve­ment in left-wing pol­i­tics in France dur­ing the 1930s. Then after the war, she was dis­cov­ered. T.S. Eliot intro­duced her to Eng­lish read­ers, with the claim that she pos­sessed “a genius akin to saint­hood.” A lot of atten­tion was focused on Weil’s extreme per­son­al­ity and her extra­or­di­nary life. Now, schol­ars and read­ers are pay­ing atten­tion to the endur­ing sig­nif­i­cance of her polit­i­cal and reli­gious thought.

The New York Times described her as “one of the most bril­liant and orig­i­nal minds of twentieth-century France.” But by far her biggest advo­cate was the exis­ten­tial­ist philoso­pher Albert Camus who played a major role in get­ting her work pub­lished after her death. He even made a pil­grim­age to her writ­ing room before leav­ing for Stock­holm to receive the Nobel Prize in 1957. Yet, despite these lumi­nary sup­port­ers, Simone Weil is a little-known fig­ure, prac­ti­cally for­got­ten in her native France, and rarely taught in uni­ver­si­ties or sec­ondary schools. Slowly that is start­ing to change.

Albert Camus described her as “the only great spirit of our times”.


The Music Of Black Orpheus

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Win­ner of both the Acad­emy Award for best foreign-language film and the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or, Mar­cel Camus’ Black Orpheus (Orfeu negro) brings the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eury­dice to the twentieth-century mad­ness of Car­ni­val in Rio de Janeiro. With its eye-popping pho­tog­ra­phy and rav­ish­ing, epochal sound­track, Black Orpheus was an inter­na­tional cul­tural event.

The fes­tive and haunt­ing sound­track to the film intro­duced Brazil­ian bossa nova to an entire world who quickly fell in love with its roman­tic themes of melan­choly, and, to this day, it remains one of the most pop­u­lar forms of world music. The sound­track fea­tures the three main fig­ure­heads behind bossa nova, those being Anto­nio Car­los Jobim, Luiz Bonfá and João Gilberto.

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Perihelion By Nick Cross

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Cana­dian film­maker Nick Cross (Yel­low Cake, The Pig Farmer) took a break from pro­duc­tion on his one-man fea­ture Black Sun­rise to make the ani­mated short Per­i­he­lion. Cross describes Per­i­he­lion as “a sort of ani­mated tone poem…that toes the line between nar­ra­tive and non-narrative, essen­tially hav­ing no real begin­ning, mid­dle or end.”

The film draws upon his appre­ci­a­tion of fine art, par­tic­u­larly Ger­man Expres­sion­ism and Sur­re­al­ism: Visu­ally, I was heav­ily inspired by the work of a num­ber of Ger­man painters from the early 20th cen­tury. Notably: Otto Dix, Richard Oelze, Ingrid Griebel-Zietlow, Rudolf Schlichter and Max Ernst, as well as Fran­cisco Goya. This is sort of a trib­ute to the work of these artists liv­ing in a time of Fas­cism and impend­ing war, which really informed their work in a dis­tinct way. Fans of those clas­sic artists will enjoy spot­ting the visual references.


Andrew Huang’s Glitch Music Video

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In the sum­mer of 2012, Andrew Huang teamed up with Side Pony Nation for the release of the sin­gle and accom­pany music video, “Ma Bicy­clette“. Since a good amount of time has passed, Huang decided to give the song a fresh take dubbed the “Uphill Mix”, and pushed out a warped and pur­pose­fully dis­torted glitchy style video.


Everything is a Remix

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Every­thing is a Remix is a video series pro­duced by Kirby Fer­gu­son, a New York-based filmmaker.

It helps rein­force ideas about mash-ups, cut-ups, copy­right and con­tent cre­ation as exposed on pre­vi­ous posts; more specif­i­cally RiP: A remix man­i­festo and The Cut-Ups.

Fol­low this link to Kirby’s Vimeo page to watch the rest of the series.

I also rec­om­mend that you visit his web­site to see some inter­est­ing infor­ma­tion and check out his ref­er­ences.

Every­thing comes round again, so noth­ing is com­pletely new”. Pythagoras.

My Sto­ries are attempts at recep­tion, at lis­ten­ing to voices from another place far away. They only come late at night, when the back­ground din and gab­ble of our world have faded out. Then, faintly, I heard voices from another star.”

Philip K. Dick


Taking Off

Famous first Amer­i­can film of Czech direc­tor Milos For­man. It tells the story of a group of par­ents whose chil­dren have run away from home. The par­ents take the oppor­tu­nity to redis­cover their youth.

It fea­tures a num­ber of mem­o­rable set pieces, includ­ing an open-mic record label audi­tion which is weaved through­out the film, fea­tur­ing a num­ber of female singers (includ­ing a young Carly Simon and a haunt­ing acoustic bal­lad by a then-unknown Kathy Bates) per­form­ing old stan­dards, folk bal­lads, and rock songs; a meet­ing in which a group of gen­er­ally middle-class con­ser­v­a­tive par­ents are taught how to smoke mar­i­juana; and a rau­cu­ous but sweet game of strip poker played by the adults.

Whether Tak­ing Off is car­i­ca­ture or dead-on is, pre­sum­ably, all a mat­ter of per­spec­tive and dis­tance. But it’s def­i­nitely hilar­i­ous: A dead­pan Buck Henry effort­lessly dom­i­nates as a mil­que­toast, and the sup­port­ing weirdos are all aces. (In his first on-screen appear­ance, Vin­cent Schi­avelli leads a pot-smoking tuto­r­ial for con­cerned par­ents want­ing to under­stand their run­aways bet­ter: “That’s called ‘bog­a­rt­ing’ the joint, and it’s very rude.”) It’s also a true New York movie.


82nd & Fifth: A new web series

82nd & Fifth is the Met’s address in New York City. It is also the inter­sec­tion of art and ideas. We’ve invited 100 cura­tors from across the Museum to talk about 100 works of art that changed the way they see the world.

Eleven Museum pho­tog­ra­phers inter­pret their vision: one work, one cura­tor, two min­utes at a time. 82nd & Fifth is a year-long series of 100 episodes. Through­out 2013, new releases will appear every Wednesday.


Brian Butler’s Magick Act

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For the Los Ange­les artist Brian But­ler, magic (or “mag­ick,” as the case may be) is as mod­ern as tech­nol­ogy. Cer­tain teach­ings may be ancient, he notes, but that doesn’t make them any less rel­e­vant. “In the mod­ern world of com­put­ers, the same ener­gies are still oper­at­ing,” he says.

But­ler was pre­mier­ing his film, “The Dove and the Ser­pent,” at the LAXART Annex in Hol­ly­wood last year, and a gritty, glam­orous crowd had gath­ered to watch a live musi­cal per­for­mance fea­tur­ing the leg­endary under­ground film­maker Ken­neth Anger.

Ini­tially drawn together by a shared inter­est in Aleis­ter Crow­ley and the occult, But­ler and Anger have worked together for more than a decade, But­ler pro­duc­ing Anger’s last few films and act­ing as cre­ative direc­tor of the trippy short he made for Missoni’s fall 2010 cam­paign. Anger appears with Vin­cent Gallo in Butler’s film “Night of Pan,” and the two also formed the band Tech­ni­color Skull.

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The Dove and the Ser­pent is a med­i­ta­tion on alchemy; the title ref­er­ences the Her­metic prin­ci­ple “as above, so below.” Filmed at a cas­tle in Nor­mandy, France, with some friends he rounded up dur­ing Paris fash­ion week last fall, includ­ing Dash Snow’s sis­ter Car­o­line and the cin­e­matog­ra­pher Edouard Plon­geon, whose fam­ily pro­vided the locale, the two-and-a-half minute piece is beau­ti­ful, hyp­notic and vaguely sinister.

Shad­owy fig­ures shape-shift and meld with the ele­ments, occult sym­bols flash and fade, and there is some cov­etable fash­ion on dis­play, includ­ing a Masonic robe and an ivory silk gown by the Lon­don designer Qasimi.

The Bartz­abel Work­ing is a per­for­mance based on a cer­e­mo­nial evo­ca­tion of the spirit of Mars, first writ­ten and per­formed in Lon­don in 1910 by Crow­ley, the rit­ual later became part of Los Ange­les his­tory in 1946 when Jack Par­sons con­ducted his own ver­sion of this rite with the inten­tion of plac­ing a Mar­tial curse on a pre-scientology L. Ron Hubbard.

For his rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of this his­tor­i­cal per­for­mance, But­ler con­jures Bartz­abel, the spirit of Mars, evok­ing on the site that was once home to late sci-fi author Ray Brad­bury and cur­rently com­prises L&M Gallery. And bel­low is also a lit­tle gem of a video by Mr. But­ler for The Black Lips



Breaking the 4th Wall Movie

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The fourth wall” is an expres­sion stem­ming from the world of the­ater. In most mod­ern the­ater design, a room will con­sist of three phys­i­cal walls, as well as a an imag­i­nary fourth that serves to sep­a­rate the world of the char­ac­ters from that of the audience.In fic­tion, “break­ing the fourth wall” often means hav­ing a char­ac­ter become aware of their fic­tional nature.

Here’s a  com­pi­la­tion of scenes and moments from films that all acknowl­edge that they’re part of a movie. The mon­tage includes 54 dif­fer­ent films (some used more than once) from per­haps the very first exam­ple of break­ing the fourth wall right up to today.