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jameswagner.com

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  • Permalink for ''

    Kapelle der Versöhnung

    Posted: 11-August-2013, 2:44pm EDT

    Kapelle-der-Versoehnung.jpg
    detail of Stampflehmbauweise (rammed-earth process) wall


    Berlin's Kapelle der Versöhnung (chapel of the reconciliation) was built on the exact site of the Versöhnungskirche, which had survived the Anglo-American bombings of Berlin but not the pathology of the GDR. The 1895 church was destroyed in 1985 in order to improve the security of the wall standing adjacent to it. The history is a little complex, making the story of the new chapel, and its construction, even richer than it might be otherwise.

    Today the Kapelle is a part of the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse.

    The image at the top shows pieces of various materials (which here or elsewhere include stone, tile glass) which came from the rubble of the original church.

    This is a view of the entire chapel, the rammed-earth wall can be detected behind the vertical square-section raw wood slats:

    Chapel_of_the_Reconciliation.jpg

  • Permalink for 'Berlin's Tieranatomische Theater, resurrected'

    Berlin's Tieranatomische Theater, resurrected

    Posted: 10-August-2013, 2:21pm EDT

    Tieranatomische_Theater_Hoersaal.jpg
    large detail of the seating in the anatomical theater


    It was an immense privilege to visit the newly-restored 1789/90 Tieranatomische Theater in Berlin's Humboldt University today. The building, designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans, using Palladio's Villa Rotonda as a model, was commissioned by King Frederick William II to serve as a research centre to control and combat animal and equine diseases.

    Barry and I, along with our friend Daniel, were almost alone today while we explored the outer rooms, the staircases, the vault, and especially the remarkable steeply-tiered auditorium where veterinary students learned their profession.

    Horses and other large animals were dissected by their teachers on a large round platform which could neatly be raised above and lowered below the floor in the center by the wooden machinery designed by the architect. The didactic which accompanied a working model in the undercroft explained the rational for the device: The route chosen for introducing and removing the bodies to and from the elegant space was intended to minimize both the smell and the mess.

    As history and architecture buffs, our own experience in the former royal veterinary faculty was less critical to world betterment, but possibly more exhilarating. And incidentally, the museum attendants could not have been more gracious.

    The university will be using the building, restored between 2005 and 2012, for exhibitions and events. The artist Jodie Carey's site-specific piece, "Shroud", was installed in the auditorium in July. I wish we had seen it.


    There are more pictures here.

  • Permalink for 'study in grays and browns'

    study in grays and browns

    Posted: 23-July-2013, 2:58pm EDT

    cutting_board.jpg
    untitled (cutting board) 2013

  • Permalink for ''

    die Renovierung eines alten Gebäudes in Berlin

    Posted: 15-July-2013, 6:26pm EDT

    green_construction_screen.jpg
    untitled (no parking) 2013


    This is an image, taken in the late afternoon, of a large section of the facade of a 19th-century Berlin building on Münzstraße which is being renovated while covered with a green safety net.

  • Permalink for 'rebar pond on Berry St'

    rebar pond on Berry St

    Posted: 17-June-2013, 8:18pm EDT

    rebar_pond_Berry_St.jpg
    untitled (rebar) 2013


    The "pond", of which only a part is shown above, is actually a flooded (and abandoned?) construction site in Williamsburg, at the SE corner of Berry and N 12 St.. A pair of ducks, and some weeds waving in the breeze, supplied the only movement seen that afternoon.

  • Permalink for 'eleventh anniversary of jameswagner.com'

    eleventh anniversary of jameswagner.com

    Posted: 27-April-2013, 8:42pm EDT

    eleven.jpg
    on the fence


    Today is the eleventh anniversary of this blog. During the past year posting has remained a little sluggish, especially when compared to peak times, say, before the modern miracle, and seductive distraction, of Twitter, but I have no intention of letting the site lapse altogether.

    In the meantime, this is a brief description of its history, in the same words I used a year ago:


    The blog began when, finding myself totally frustrated with the idiocy and brutishness of my country's response to the events of September 11 and feeling almost totally isolated in my disgust, I started sending a series of emails to people I knew well, sharing my thoughts and my anger. A few months later I started jameswagner.com, intending it to be a more structured - and more widely broadcast - form for the kinds of unelicited rants with which I had been testing the patience of my friends. It was also intended to include ruminations on subjects in which I thought others might share my interest.

    Almost from the start there were entries on politics, the arts, queerdom, history, New York and the world, and within a year they began to be accompanied by images and photographs. Many of the latter have been my own.


    April 27 also marks the anniversary of the day I met Barry, my perfect partner in everything (and Wunderkind webmaster); it was exactly twenty two-years ago tonight.


    [for an image of number of years this blog has been operating, I chose the last two digits of an address shown on a fence I saw in Midtown today]

  • Permalink for 'war is a force that gives only some gays meaning'

    war is a force that gives only some gays meaning

    Posted: 31-March-2013, 2:48pm EDT

    drag-against-war.jpg


    Over the years I've made my take on the campaign to allow gays in uniform (or on the wedding cake) pretty clear, arguing that a truly progressive Queer rights movement has been highjacked by the most conservative of agendas. When DADT was finally dumped, I had hoped we could all finally stop talking about it and move on to more serious stuff, but the recent online fuss over the prosecution of its poster boy Dan Choi has again brought gay warriors out of the woodwork.

    Yesterday my friend Bill Dobbs sent around an email with some reflections on the historical frenzy over DADT, and its continuing fallout today. Dobbs is always worth listening to, and I have his permission to print his letter in its entirety here:


    When I heard people had chained themselves to the White House fence I figured a powerful protest was afoot. Turns out it was the same-sexer pro-war crowd who wanted to be part of the US military, Lt. Dan Choi et al. For his participation in the protest Choi faced federal charges and opted to go to trial. The link at the end of this post will tell you more about that.

    Choi was just a part of a much larger, successful campaign to overturn Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) which means anti-gay discrimination against those serving in the military is coming to an end. It is also an example of a gay agenda item helping to damage progressive organizing and ideals. The campaign invoked patriotic themes, the "takeaway" from that effort is -- war is no big deal, signing up for the military is now a fine choice for youth, sexual minority and otherwise. Military recruiters and training programs are now back on campuses.

    That the anti-war and gay movements walked arm and arm together for some decades is lost down the rabbit hole of history. The advancement of "equality" in the narrow gay sense means self-identified same-sexers can operate drones, blowing people to smithereens in service of the world's lone superpower.

    The gay agenda and all those sillyass equal signs should NOT be confused with progress. That's a message that straight people in particular need to absorb; those organizing for peace stood mostly mute during the DADT-repeal effort.

    And watch out for the mantra of "diversity" - the Pentagon has long been one of the most diverse workplaces in the country. The US military, of course, is far more than a workplace. There's the slight matter of war but that point got lost in the narrow discussions about DADT.

    -Bill Dobbs


    [the link Dobbs refers to above is Thursday's Washington Post story on Dan Choi's conviction]


    [image from Against Equality ("queer challenges to the politics of inclusion")]

  • Permalink for 'experimental Yiddish theater returns to the LES'

    experimental Yiddish theater returns to the LES

    Posted: 21-March-2013, 4:43pm EDT

    TMG_The_Haunted_Inn.jpg
    David Greenspan, Ugo Chukwu, Rachel Claire, Amir Darvish, Meg MacCary, & Susan Hyon ("Yiddish Theater for today's players and audience" - from the program notes)


    Resembling Edith Sitwell's enormous rings, the colorful bosses were attached at the very top of raw wooden sticks tethered to each other at the ends of the outer seating sections inside the Abrons Art Center. The only thing clear was that the audience was not supposed to take those seats.

    So what were those gorgeous, jewel-like ornaments all about?

    I never found the answer. When the lights went up after Target Margin Theater's presentation of Peretz Hirschbein's "The ( * ) Inn", Barry and I were so affected by what we had just seen on the stage that neither of us thought to investigate. By the time we had engaged some of the production team in conversation moments later I had forgotten to ask for any enlightenment.

    Thinking about it now, I may also have decided, unconsciously or not, to just go along with - can I say it? - the company's accustomed, and famously challenging obstruseness. Also, it's not impossible to imagine TMT's founder and the production's director, David Herskovits, merely wanting to keep the audience's experience intimate, by limiting its size.

    The play (in English, although with some Yiddish elements), and the production, were both a revelation, but I also left the theater with a lot of questions, all of them, I think, far more interesting than why the paste jewelry?

    Some of my questions relate to my passion for history and for Jewish culture, and some of them are more about how that history and culture relates to that of the ammei ha'aretzot.

    I grew up in the Midwest, ignorant of Jewish anything.

    I also grew up loving "The Goldbergs", first on radio, and then on TV, but I regret that I had little or no idea of the rich context of the drama of which Gertrude Berg was a part until decades later. I moved to New York in the mid-80's, but it was too late for the classic Yiddish theater scene on Second Avenue. Over the years, I sometimes overhear fragments of the little bit of Yiddish that survived the Holocaust, but it always makes me melancholy, and it made me still sadder that, even with a knowledge of German, I couldn't understand more.

    Hirschbein's play was written over 100 years ago, but there are big surprises. Both in the original (as I understand from the program notes) and as adapted & directed by Herskovits for performance on the Lower East Side today it's a remarkable document of the almost-forgotten creativity of experimental Yiddish theater. The company's notes describe their collaboration:


    The shtetl turns uncanny in Hirschbein's classic of Yiddish life. You might be expecting the farm life, the chicken-plucking and the arranged marriage, but not the S&M lust and the body-snatching wedding guests. The ( * ) Inn was an early touchstone for experimental theater in Yiddish, a sensation in Vilna, in London and in a 1917 New York production. This play is a perfect example of why we at TMT believe Yiddish drama is as innovative and challenging as any in the world. It's Tevye on drugs. Watch out.


    "The ( * ) Inn" is a great treat as theater, as an eyeopener, and - almost uniquely - as pre-WWI expressionist drama which can be experienced live today. I can't say I know all of what Hirschbein and Herskovits mean. As with all good theater, I believe, they leave the audience wanting to know more.

    And I still don't know what the ornaments strung along the aisle mean; I'll just imagine those jewels as "runway lights" for the gem being mounted on the boards off Grand Street this month, TMT's tribute to Yiddish theater and to "the Yiddish Maeterlinck".


    [image is by Erik Carter, for Target Margin Theater]

  • Permalink for 'The end of ArtCat Calendar'

    The end of ArtCat Calendar

    Posted: 12-December-2012, 8:45pm EST


    art_cat_head.png


    The end of our ArtCat Calendar, a project which Barry and I began eight years ago, whose mechanics he has pursued with great skill, generous commitment, and much love, was announced this morning on Twitter, in emails, and in a post which he published on Bloggy.com. I have reprinted that post below.


    The first version of ArtCat calendar (then called ArtCal) launched in November 2004. I wrote the first version in one weekend, to make it easier for James and me to keep track of shows we wanted to see, especially once Chelsea reached 300 galleries. For a long time it was a minimal website with locations, shows, and their dates -- not even images. Over time I added images, iCal and RSS feeds, and a weekly newsletter.

    Over 16,000 exhibitions at more than 2,000 venues have appeared on ArtCat. We average 200-300 current exhibitions on the site. While forms for galleries to add their exhibits have existed since late 2010, we still view each submission to approve it, for quality control and to prevent duplicates. That is the most time-consuming part of running the site. We also spend a lot of time processing corrections due to galleries submitting new version of press releases, or correcting typos and erroneously-submitted dates.

    Advertising revenue, even if one assumes my time is free, does not currently cover the cost of hosting the site plus paying someone to help me with approving submissions and responding to corrections. The calendar does serve as promotion for ArtCat Hosting, but the value of that, versus having more time to improve ArtCat Hosting, is unclear. Most of my hosting clients do not mention the calendar when signing up.

    Advertising revenue has averaged $250/month over the last year, primarily due to the support of Storefront Bushwick and Deborah Brown. Other advertisers have included Theodore:Art and Kianga Ellis Projects. Note that all of these are Brooklyn-based. Since I ended the Culture Pundits advertising network, there have been no advertisements from a Chelsea or Lower East Side gallery. During the entire 4 1/2 year run of Culture Pundits, only two commercial galleries in New York advertised with the network.

    Charging for listings, for a calendar that wants to maintain quality and promote underknown artists and galleries, is a non-starter. It is apparent to me, after eight years, that there is no financial support for an art calendar of this kind.

    I don't have the resources and time to continue to run the calendar by myself in its current form. I am spread too thinly to do a good job of running ArtCat, improving ArtCat Hosting, promoting and publishing IDIOM, documenting our art collection, and actually getting out to see art. Of course, I also have to make a living through my freelance work. My goal is to narrow the focus of my work I do within the art world, and do one or two things very well, rather than provide lesser versions of many things. As the wonderful Michael Mandiberg pointed out here, there are limits to one's time/labor/capital and it's healthy to move one when the time feels right.

    I will convert the site to an archive as of January 1, 2013. If someone is interested in the code and data (it is a Ruby on Rails 2.3 application), I'm ready to talk. The ArtCat name and domain will stay with me, as I own the trademark for it, to be used specifically for my art website hosting business.

    If you would like to express your gratitude in some way, please consider a tax-deductible donation to IDIOM.


    Please think about how, with even a modest amount of support, you might help IDIOM continue to publish and flourish. Thank you.

  • Permalink for 'Ensemble ?, much more than another new music group'

    Ensemble ?, much more than another new music group

    Posted: 12-November-2012, 1:25pm EST

    Ensemble_Pi_from_the_floor.jpg
    Eduardo Leandro leading members of Ensemble Pi in Kristin Nordeval's "Three Character Studies"


    On Saturday Ensemble Pi [Ensemble ?] presented "What Must be Said", its 7th annual Concert for Peace at The Cell, a jewelbox non-profit theater space carved out of the bottom floors of a handsome, early-19th-century Chelsea townhouse. I was delighted to be able to record some images from the concert. By the way, I've decided that the hardest part about photographing performances may be the thing about trying hard not to annoy the rest of the audience.

    The evening was one of the most extraordinary and profoundly-moving musical performance events I have ever experienced. The concert was conceived and presented with an intelligence and compassion which intensified the independent merits and beauties of the (seven?) works scheduled. The pieces included were by one writer and three composers all of whose work performed that night, as described by The Cell in its press release, "addresses some of the 'silences' enforced or suggested by governments or the media". All of the works were compelling for their historical and contemporary relevance, brilliant in their composition, and interpreted with consummate elegance by an ensemble which has adopted the most generous of missions.

    The collective describes itself as "a socially conscious new music group dedicated to performing the music of living and undiscovered composers", but that description doesn't do justice to the sincerity and bravery of what the group, under its artistic director Idith Meshulam, has been doing for eleven years.

    One constant in its programming, perhaps unique among both musical groups and performance venues, is its addressing of serious ideas about which there is not universal consensus even among progressives, and, just as important, the discussion of those ideas. Designed at least partly towards that end are the ensemble's regular collaborations with visual artists, writers, actors, and journalists.


    Susan_Botti_Lament.jpg
    Airi Yoshioka and Idith Meshulam playing Susan Botti's "Fallen City"

    On Saturday and Sunday the program began with Susan Botti's "Lament: The Fallen City", for violin and piano, which, the program describes, "reflects upon the fall of Troy as a metaphor for modern cities that have experienced natural or human-made disaster (i.e. Baghdad; New Orleans; Pisco, Peru; or Greensburg, Kansas)". I've never heard some of the kinds of sounds Airi Yoshioka (violin) and Idith Meshulam (piano) were able to produce in this affecting piece, but they were always as eloquent as they were anomalous.


    Gunter_Grass_What_Must_be_Said.jpg
    Kai Moser reading Günter Grass' "What Must be Said"

    Günter Grass' controversial poem on Israel, Iran and war, "Was gesagt werden muss" [What Must Be Said], from which the evening took its title, was read in German (with an English translation projection) by Kai Moser. Grass has gotten hell for what he wrote, not least because of his earlier, late-life confession that he had been part of an SS tank division (drafted at 17) near the end of the war.


    Kristin_Nordeval_Three_Character_Studies.jpg
    Kristin Nordeval singing "Ask Me", from her "Three Character Studies"

    The concert began a transformation into intimate musical theater with the performance of "Three Character Studies", excerpts from composer/soprano Kristin Norderval's opera in progress, "The Trials of Patricia Isasa". Both Emily Donato and Daniel Pincus sang beautifully, Donato in the role of the teenage Isasa, and Daniel Pincus as the federal judge convicted for his role in the torture and kidnapping of many Argentinians, including Isasa. Norderval herself was the superb soloist in the the third section (as the adult Patricia, now a media figure), accompanying herself with some sound processing on her laptop near the end.

    This beautiful and very moving piece could be staged as a mini opera on its own right now, and I very much look forward to hearing the completed opera, which will boast a powerful libretto by playwright Naomi Wallace.


    Eisler_puppets_2996.jpg
    a scene from An den kleinen Radioapparat [to the little radio]


    Eisler_Dark_Times.jpg
    from Und es sind die finstern Zeiten in der fremden Stadt [the times are dark and fearful]


    Eisler_Erfromen_Fischfolk.jpg
    the concluding, concentration camp scene, Harte Menschheit, unbewegt, lang erfror'nem Fischvolk gleich [people hard and impassive, like fishermen long at sea]


    The evening continued with the premiere of "Eisler on the Go", a beautiful, animated puppet show by the New York collaborative, Great Small Works, on the life of Hanns Eisler. The composer's studiedly-accessible music, his personality and his loyalties, his proletarian activism, and his sad fate (beginning long before he was expelled from the U.S. as a communist), has been something of an obsession for me ever since I first came across his music and his story a number of years ago; I'm very happy to find lately that his fans are now becoming legion.

    The tiny-theater show animated three of the most familiar of Eisler's many songs, each sung by Nordeval. They were: "Song von Angebot und Nachfrage", "An den kleinen Radioapparat", and "Und es sind die finstern Zeiten in der fremden Stadt" [the links are to three awesome videos, with three very different performers; enjoy].


    After the Puppenspiel Meshulam played the first movement of the composer's "Piano Sonata No. 3" and his "Klavierstück Op. 32 no V and VI", gently bringing the chamber back from the darkness, the anger and the funk - brilliantly.


    The program was repeated the following night.

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