Sunday, November 14, 2010

Week 9.

I am about to say something really, really shocking. And I know you will hate me for it, hate me forever. FOREVER!

OK, here goes nothing.

Up until last April, I honestly hated (Post-) Impressionism from the bottom of my heart.

Yes, it is true.

And I am sorry now.

Let me explain myself.

Actually, there is no real explanation for my disgust. I was never really into both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. The fact that I have been to the Van Gogh museum too many times when I was in secondary school didn’t really help me appreciate it. In fact, it worked contrarily: with every visit, my appreciation for the building grew, but in the same manner, the paintings got more loathsome.

Over the years I have actually only liked two of Van Gogh’s paintings: ‘Skull of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette’ (just because I like morbid art) and ‘Wheatfield with Crows’ (also because of the dark colours that probably speak to my inner being).

Two years ago I was in Paris. I did not go to the Musée D’Orsay. This was a deliberate choice. Paris itself had already deeply disappointed me (except for Le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise) and adding a museum full of Impressionist art to my lousy Paris experience would only make matters worse. So instead I strolled through the city and along the Seine.

I know this is an unforgivable thing to do, but you might be relieved about the following thing I am about to tell.

Last April, I went to Cologne and I visited Das Wallraff-Richardz Museum. This is a privately owned museum, situated in an amazing building with an extraordinary art collection. Starting with medieval art on the first floor, working its way chronologically up to (Post-) Impressionism on the top floor. Perhaps it was because of the natural state of ecstasy I was in from being in Cologne, but this was the first time that I saw a “classic” Van Gogh painting that I actually liked. Like I wrote before, I need to feel the appreciation for a painting in my guts, in order to like/love it and for the first time, this was the case for a Post-Impressionist painting pur sang.

Ever since, I am taking baby steps when it comes to appreciating Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. I do not wish to kiss ass, but I must say that your lectures have helped me understanding this branch of art history better and therefore, acknowledging its æsthetics and importance is easier for me. It will only be a matter of time for me to be able to appreciate it.

At least, contrary to all those times I went before (also thanks to the exhibition in het Dolhuys), I am actually excited to go the Van Gogh museum on Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Week 7.

With this journal entry, I want to give an extra dimension to my field trips to het Dolhuys.
I like both writing about and taking pictures of things. A good text or good pictures capture the atmosphere of the object. However, I have difficulty with doing so.

When I was in het Dolhuys for the first time, I thought about how photogenic the building actually is, so the week after, I returned to the museum with my camera.

I have no need to convince you of anything; there is no opinion or perception I want to force upon you. I simply want to show the æsthetics of the building the way I perceived them and hope that you will see it, too (and might even agree).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Week 5.

I decided that, for a change, I’ll write about the genre that we discussed in class this week. Romanticism. Kind of.

In secondary school I have learned quite a lot about it. Especially about the English side of it, with the International Baccalaureate program and about the German movement in German class (in both classes the focus was on literature). And I must say, I quite like Romanticism. Not the visual art per se, but the philosophy behind it.

Perhaps this is because I am a very emotional person. Of course I have a ratio, in fact, I even use it! I don’t think ratio is completely useless or overrated, but still, my emotions rule my existence. If something does not feel right, I will refuse to do it. My emotions decide what and who I like and it also determines the way I perceive art. Of course I can see Frans Hals’ different shades of black and how they aren’t actually black and I can also see how he used lines to make his audience see the whole picture. I do understand how clever and creative this is, I really do, but if I look at his paintings I don’t really feel anything.

Four years ago, when I was really into Pop Art, I had to do an assignment for my Arts, Crafts and Design class and I analyzed one of Andy Warhol’s less well-known screen prints: a portrait of Mick Jagger, made in 1975. It is part of a 10-piece series (which isn’t that good), and this particular painting really stood out to me. By looking at it very carefully I realized that the painting reflects Jagger’s personality really well. When you look at the painting the first thing you notice is Mick Jagger giving you his typical “don’t you dare screw with me-look”, but by closer investigating it, you see that Warhol really knew how to use his colors: by placing them the way he did, Jagger has an extra dimension in his body and his eyes. There is a second layer that you did not see at first sight. In his eyes is a sense of desperation and sadness and the viewer creates certain empathy for the Rolling Stone.

By studying a painting this close, you develop some kind of hard to tag relationship with it. At least that’s what happened to me.

Some years later, I visited a Warhol exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum here in Amsterdam. I knew the Mick Jagger series would be there, too and I was anxious to see them. Like I said before, the series isn’t that good, but the one print is the odd one out (in a good way) and my personal favorite of Warhol. I didn’t rush to the Jagger prints, but I simply started the exhibition at the start, and every minute I came closer and closer to the series. When I was finally standing in front of them, especially the one that I had analyzed, I had tears in my eyes. In real life the painting was even more filled with emotion and I felt so happy and grateful that I could finally see it.

Now, this is an extreme example of me being emotionally attached with a piece of art, but there are times that I am pretty emotional (happy is emotional, too), but the source is more rational.

This summer I went to Vienna and I visited the Kunsthistorisches Museum. I knew that there were paintings of Arcimboldo on display (L’eau, Le feu, L’été and L’hiver). I browsed the entire museum and there they were, hanging in a small backroom and I felt like a child in a toy store, that’s how overexcited I got about seeing them. Now, this time, I wasn’t excited because I studied the paintings closely and had an emotional attachment to them. I had had a casual look at them somewhere in a book, in a library or on the Internet and thought they were quite neat: nothing more, nothing less. But now that I was standing in front of them, I got so happy to see them. Those portraits are one of the most imaginative portraits I have ever seen, so cleverly constructed.

Take L’eau for example: a shell for an ear, with a pearl earring (people forget that pearl is originally a product of the sea), his eye being the eye of a fish and his mouth being the mouth of a small shark!

Or L’hiver. The natural growth of a tree creates the nose, eyes and eyebrows of the man, the lips, cleverly made out of mushroom and the moss and branches at his chin for a beard are just so organic. As an audience you know that you are watching at both a person and a tree at the same time and I find that very admirable. I could have watched these paintings all day long!

I need to draw to a close now. To sum this piece of text up, I think my favorite way to perceive art is through my emotions. Most of the paintings I like, I like because of their aesthetic value and because they are generally known as good or beautiful art. And of course I feel a kind of rush when I am in a museum and I see a nice painting, but when I am in love with a painting, I just feel it in my guts and throughout my whole body. It is in those moments that I fully appreciate art, because realize how on top of the world it can make you feel.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Week 3.

I blog, therefore I am.
- I am a blogger.

I am a blogger. I blog. That’s what I do. I like it a lot. It is my little, digital magazine. I can share stories; I can show pictures of what I have been wearing; I can change the web design so that I will come across as a highly creative and intelligent person; I can write “OpEds” about any topic, but sometimes a shocking picture is enough.

And I do all of this in English, so I am able to share my thoughts and findings with a large percentage of the world.

Yes, this sounds really non-academic and very opinionated and as a matter of fact, it is. I am my own think tank. I am my own editor and my own editor in chief. I am my own peer to review my blog entries. People categorize weblogs under ‘new media’, but is getting your own piece of writing out in the open as new as people regard it to be?

In the ‘Volkskrant’ of September 16th there was an article about Roeland Harms, who graduated at the University of Utrecht with a study called ‘The invention of public opinion. Pamphlets as mass media in the seventeenth century’ in which he researches the production of pamphlets during four Dutch, political conflicts in the 17th century.

To manipulate the public’s opinion, politicians produced pamphlets. During the 17th century the way pamphlets were written changed in a rather vicious way: in the beginning (1615) parties would just curse each other to express that they weren’t satisfied, but almost 35 years later stadholder Willem II would spread fictive stories about Amsterdam to manipulate the people’s opinion. Harms discovered both a pattern in pamphlet writing and similarities with our new media.

First of all, the pattern: by pamphlets, politicians are the first to spread the word and heat up the fire. When the word is spread, the people will take this up, think it over and start a counter-reaction and in the 17th century, they did this by writing and distributing pamphlets. Nowadays it’s pretty much the same: politicians will spread their message or announcement through television, papers, through the party’s website or even through Twitter and the everyday man will respond to the news by only clicking the ‘reply’ button on Twitter, submit a comment to an article at a newspaper’s website or write their opinion about the matter on their blog. Digital forums are being made to discuss different topics. The only thing you have to do is register yourself and post a comment with your opinion and other people can react by commenting on your comment and so on.

Though public reactions proceed much quicker nowadays, in the 17th century using pamphlets was the quickest way to spread your word. Pamphlets printed in Amsterdam could reach Leiden within half a day! Can you imagine?!

This brings me to the next similarity. The art of printing was faster then ever before and politicians were anxious to use them to their advantage when they were in a conflict. For the same reason, the public was as hungry for (political) news, opinion and discussion and so pamphlets were rather popular reading and writing stuff.

It is pretty much the same nowadays: people are involved in politics and want to know all about it. Modern media are spreading politician’s words fast and like I said before: people can quickly react to politics by all digital means. Mainly because you can reach many people, you can state your opinion briefly and it spreads fast. Also, pamphlets were very often produced anonymous and Internet, in a way, is very faceless as well. I can post a radical reaction on an online newspaper article with the name of ‘Fatty Fatty Boom Boom’ and nobody will know that behind that reactions is a tiny little girl with the name of Bénine Buijze.

The last similarity I want to point out is that at the end of the 17th century the public began to produce their own pamphlets. “Back in the ol’ days”, preachers wrote pamphlets for other preachers and politicians for other politicians and citizens could also lay their hands on it, but didn’t write the pamphlets. In the late sixteen hundreds this changed and the everyday man, without any religious or political background, began to produce their own opinionated texts to sell or hand out.

Naturally, complaints followed. Mainly the preachers were upset about this new development. “Nowadays” (400 years ago), everyday could write whatever they wanted and layman dominated the pamphlet production. This is a complaint that sounds familiar to many 20th, 21st century people.

In a time in which everybody who has access to a computer and Internet can write an opinionated piece of text, a modern pamphlet so to call it, and is able spread it over the World Wide Web in no-time!

Now, it feels great to be able to “run” your own blog. It is wonderful to put whatever you feel like onto the World Wide Web and it feels even better when you know people actually read or look at the things you are sharing. Not all the weblogs are political or religious opinionated; most of them are actually pretty shallow.

But still, it feels great to have the opportunity to share your thoughts, findings, creativity, inspiration, humour or whatsoever on Internet, so I can imagine where the citizens in the seventeenth century were coming from. Of course they were laymen, but laymen have an opinion, too. In a way, we can speak of a tender democracy, something we spoiled youth were born with and we don’t expect it to be any different. But perhaps we owe, something we tend to take for granted, to the laymen writing their pamphlets back in the seventeenth century.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Week 1.

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

I was sitting with a double espresso at the top storey of the Public Library, looking out over the towers of the churches and the manor houses, when it comes to my attention that all of a sudden an intense feeling of bliss sneaks into my entire body.

Under me the ducks are bathing themselves between the tourist vessels and a lost-looking swan is floating on the water, the water in which the sun is reflecting her last rays of summer.

I am sitting in between two men, who are from time to time very fond of their alone time, just like me. At least that is what I am assuming. The three of us are watching the panorama of Amsterdam. It is not an incredibly beautiful sight (I prefer the skyline of Manhattan. Everything in that view seems to be so perfectly balanced. Compared to that, Amsterdam is a mess). The Moses and Aaron church and the towers of the Museum of the Tropics are nice highlights. To be honest, the Rembrandt Tower is pretty charming as well, but the rest? I hate the view of that tasteless ArenA and the boring, business towers in the south of Amsterdam.

Regularly and randomly, cranes are erecting between these beauties and beast. Amsterdam is expanding and will always do so. Take for instance the area around Central Station, it seems to be fallowing forever now and I am starting to think that it will always be that way.

But does it matter? No, it certainly doesn’t! The only city in which I don’t mind the building excavations is Amsterdam. Every time is pass one and I see the manor houses behind the fences and sandhills, I can only think of how fortunate I am to be studying at AUC and that I am able to live in which is to me the most informal, most beautiful and most pleasant city in the Netherlands. And that feeling of bliss sneaks into my body every time. That feeling that I have at the moment, now that I am sitting behind my – in the mean time – empty coffee cup and overlooking my pretty city. I feel so good, I could cry out of happiness.