Questions

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Perhaps most of us have, at some point in out lives, been annoyed by a 6- year old who asked too many questions. Why this, why that. But really, why? Why are we so irritated by questions? Is reality that obvious?

Approaching reality as an innocent child is not only fun but also necessary for appreciating beauty and valuing others. Nothing is evident. Don’t be afraid to ask too many questions. Do you actually know how does blood circulate your body or why is the sky blue or how movies are done?

Curiosity makes you strong, not weak. An inquisitive child who is encouraged will probably by a perceptive adult who enjoys the little things. Adults with many questions often find many answers.

Keep learning. Keep asking.

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Ladylike

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Chasing butterflies- Berthe Morisot

According to the gender stereotype, women are more sensitive and have a sharper ability to perceive beauty. Then, how come the art world has been forever ruled and dominated by men? I urge you to think right now of your five favourite artists. How many of them are female? This phenomena is also true in the kitchens, as women were typically in charge of the cooking, but there are few famous female chefs in comparison to male.

Women are at the same time expected to be a certain way, but cannot succeed in that particular area either.
The intention of this entry is not merely to open a debate about gender equality. Rather, it seeks to direct the readers attention towards female artists, suggesting who to Google in order to learn more.
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Flamenco singer- Sonia Delaunay

When speaking about female personalities in art, they are often presented as muses or artistic lovers. For instance, Sonia Delaunay is often presented as “Robert Delaunay’s wife who was also a painter”. Also, Gabriele Münter was Kandinsky’s lover, but this fact should not distract oneself from the fact that she was a prolific artist and thinker of the time.
Along Monet and Renoir, famous impressionists, painted Berthe Morisot: she was part of the movement but is not commonly mentioned; yes, she was Manet’s wife but also talented and dedicated to art. Mary Cassat should also be mentioned.
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Cats- Natalia Goncharova

In Russian avant- garde movement, women were crucial, for instance, Natalia Goncharova was one of the most relevant artists of the time.
Did your know that the first mexican artist to be featured at the Louvre was a woman? Perhaps you thought of her at the begining, trying to evoke a female painter: Frida Kahlo. It would be interesting to debate whether her fame is based on her art or rather on her excentric life and iconic looks. It is perhaps surprising that Mexico, a country with a prominent macho culture, was a place where surrealism was a movement lead by women, Kahlo, Leonora Carrigton and Remedios Varo.
A good friend of mine has been forever fascinated by Lee Miller, a successful photographer also related to Surrealism. Her work is very broad: from fashion photography to documenting WWII.
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Bridget Riley is the main exponent of Op Art, a movement that seeks to produce movement by optical illusions.
While it is true that in contemporary art more names of female creators come to mind: Yoko Ono, Louise Bourgeois, Tracy Emin and Marina Abramovic to name a few, there is still a long path ahead for female recognition in art. We should not only be praising art done today, but re-writing history and learning about the names that were overlooked or underrated. Forget about introducing an artist with “she was the lover of…” as this should only be a secondary fact and not the statement that defines someone.

“When I’m writing a poem or drawing, I’m not a female; I’m an artist.” Patti Smith

 

-ana-

Auto- pilot

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Lavabo y espejo (Sink and Mirror)- Antonio López

 

We go through life with no time, moving from one thing to another with no time to stop and smell the flowers. Sure, we can take breaks but our minds do not: they are constantly planning what’s next, or worrying about yesterday.

In this blog and in real life, I am constantly defending movement and the search for novelty. Been constantly in the look for new and interesting things (beautiful things) to make one’s own. Cherishing the past and imagining the future are some of the activities in which I find more joy. However, I realise that without the ability to live the present, neither the plans or the memories make any sense. What good is there in remembering with a smile a road trip across the Basque Country if you were then thinking about what was going to happen next?

Live the moment.

But no, this blog post is not about reminding everyone to enjoy the great moments of life. Rather, it is an invitation to enjoy the small, insignificant parts of your day: let your senses feast in even the simplest activities. It will not only make life more interesting, it will also bring happiness.

Here is a brief mindfulness meditation exercise from the book Living in the Moment by Anna Black:

When you shower in the morning, take a moment or two to notice who has “joined” you… Who are you thinking about- perhaps it is your boss, or colleagues at work, maybe it is someone you are going to see later that day, or perhaps it is someone you talked to yesterday. It might be your partner, your children, your parents, your next- door neighbour…  How many people are in the shower with you?

Then, begin focusing on the physical sensations of showering… the water running off your skin… the temperature of the water… the soap lathering up between your fingers. Notice when you experience a sensation of delight or when there might be a feeling of pushing away or dislike. There is no right way to shower and whether we are invigorating ourselves first thing in the morning, simply shampooing our hair, or cooling off after a hot day, all we are doing is paying attention to the act of taking a shower.

Remove the auto- pilot.

-ana-

Let’s go collect beautiful things

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“Let’s go collect beautiful things”

 I found myself running behind a 6 year old as she sprinted into the field and gathered numerous objects she came across.

“What kinds of beautiful things?” I asked.

A sparkly and jagged rock, one tall snowdrop, two daisies that were missing a couple of petals, a stick decorated by curved lines some mites had left behind.

So I set out to find and collect beautiful things too, but my search didn’t stop once break time was over.

Two gradient sunsets, one perfect daffodil, a moment of unexpected peace, hair blowing in the wind.

I became an avid collector of beauty. A disciple of what this small child professed and has likely forgotten. Unaware of it, this girl inspired in me a new practice.

Countless flowers pressed on pages (but their names I do not know), a steaming cup of tea that burnt my tongue a little, one night of restful sleep, the smile of a friend when I needed it most.

I have become a hoarder- myriad mental cupboards stuffed with casual beauty, motivated by the unsuspecting wisdom of a 6 year old.

A sprint through a flower field, a stolen kiss on a train platform, a bowl of strawberries in the sun, conversations shared in a tent.

All this time I had been trying to find a sudden revelation in books and in meditation, but all it took to cause this paradigm shift within me was one lunch time in the playground. Such a little event has caused me to think about my everyday life in a new way. I no longer consider beauty to be extraordinary, but something I can find if I just stop for a second to notice the things around me.

Wisdom isn’t reserved to those who are old and experienced.

Sometimes the purest and most impactful pieces of insight come from those who are looking at the world with fresh eyes.

So listen in to what they say, and let yourself be taught by them, or better yet, teach them to collect beauty too.

-teresa-

The purpose of art

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The Fountain by Marcel Duchamp (1917)

The question of the meaning of art, and whether it has a purpose or not, is nowadays as current as ever. Throughout time, it has been a matter discussed not merely by academics and scholars, but also by simple people: if you have ever seen a modern piece of art with family or friends, it is likely you questioned what was the meaning of it. As art became more accessible to everyone, the views on the matter diversified: more people could see art and discuss about it. With the arrival of contemporary art, understanding art became ever more challenging as all the typical standards that were once acceptable in order to judge it seemed out-dated: the technique and style no longer mattered as much, there had to be an interesting idea behind it and a charismatic artist. Questions about what art exactly means and what is the purpose of all of it became even more frequent. As art became more intellectual, the objective of achieving Beauty was lost- at least Beauty understood as that which pleases the eye (Thomas Aquinas).

During the XIX century, the theory of “art for art’s sake” thrived and became extremely popular. It meant to divorce artistic creation from any use other than art itself, focusing on aesthetic value and forgetting about educational, political or moral purposes. Art was to be judged separated from its themes and purposes. Oscar Wilde, the famous British writer who was linked to the movement, in his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, famously said that all art is quite useless, later explaining it in a letter:

“Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realise the complete artistic impression.”

This tempestuous century was also the time of the great realistic historical paintings used as a means of propaganda for kings and government that wanted to show their success and status; as well as the explosion of new artistic techniques such as Impressionism. It was a period of intense debate around the concept of art, and it would be the seed of the significant art revolution that took place in the early 1900’s. From that time onwards, art became a means of expression: social, political and philosophical ideas could be manifested through it.

It became evident that there was a clash between the artist and what was being painted: who was the real protagonist?

If you’re interested, don’t miss this great video that reflects upon this topic further in an easy accesible way: HISTORY OF IDEAS: ART

-ana-

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness

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Nowadays, it is considered very cool someone who proclaims himself a hipster, who lives an apparently alternative lifestyle, listens to “indie music” and dresses in an “unconventional way”. Upon this dramatic definition, one comes to the obvious conclusion: these people are a counterculture; they are rebels; they are intellectuals who do not agree with society. Wrong. The moment this routine became popular and accepted by society, their existence became absurd and contradictory.

Because of my frustration towards these septum- pierced, thrift shop explorers who enjoy vegan cookies and think they are actually fighting society instead of being the most accepted and cool members, I decided to dedicate this blog post to the most real non- conformists of all time: the Beat Generation.

To start, I seriously recommend listening to the poem Howl by Allen Ginsberg, read by James Franco and animated by Eric Drooker: Howl- Allen Ginsberg

The Beat Generation is everything the contemporary cool hipsters pretend to be.

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They were a group of American writers whose primary activity developed just after World War II ended, in the 50’s. It was during that time that society, after living the horrors of war, returned to conservative traditional values and aspirations. These young authors did not agree and were willing to break all the rules and conventions in order to be free. They were in the look for novelty and alternative lifestyles, their life would constitute a constant quest for new experiences: mental, through the use of drugs such as peyote and LSD; spiritual, by exploring eastern religions; and physical, as they were the beginning of the sexual liberation. All of this was a great influence for the later hippie movement and the 68 movements around the world.

This group excluded themselves from society in order to create an alternative world of their own: more anarchic, less judgemental and free. They expressed themselves through Literature; the novels The Road by Jack Kerouac and The Naked Lunch by William Burroughs express perfectly this insatiable pursuit of new experiences, almost as if life were an endless journey.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

Kerouac, The Road

Happiness is sometimes about searching for it, often in uncommon places. But make sure they are actually uncommon, not only mere appearance.

-ana-

Frankenstein: evil scientists and lonely monsters

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Illustration by Bernie Wrightson, 1979

“How ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom!”

The XIX century was a time of immense innovations and improvements. It was during this time that the human race developed a strong and almost religious faith in science, seeing it as the key to progress and a foundation of a new and better world where everything was possible. Mary Shelley, through her novel Frankenstein, makes a sharp critic against this mentality that believes men is all-powerful, focusing on the consequences this may have. The bottom idea of the book is that science should have certain limits, otherwise it can be dangerous; this is a notion that is still very much present nowadays. When Frankenstein finally gives life to his creature, he suddenly realises the implications of his actions- “I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.”

Viktor Frankenstein is a student with great ability and skills, who becomes obsessed over the idea of providing life after seeing the power of a lighting bolt striking a tree. However, he does not think thoroughly about the repercussion of his actions. Later on, he even despises his creation and regrets it. Shelley denounces how science gives man great power; however, this power may hunt him in his sleep later on.

It can also be argued it is a simile- God is Frankenstein who created life but later abandoned it because it no longer found it perfect or capable of good, and the monster represents humankind who feels lonely, left alone in an inhospitable world where he does not feel loved. The feelings the creature experiments are often the most human of all, even though he is called a monster and despised because he is not human enough. Through the monster’s thoughts, Shelley communicates the worries and afflictions all men have:

Listen to me, Frankenstein. You accuse me of murder; and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man! 

‘Hateful day when I received life!’ I exclaimed in agony. ‘Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?’

The loneliness and the search of love and acceptance, as well as an explanation of the meaning of our own lives, are true human feelings. The monster is not good or bad in the beginning; it merely turns evil after his contact with the world. Mary Shelley gives Science the role of power and creation, which can be associated with God.

There was none among the myriads of men that existed who would pity or assist me; and should I feel kindness towards my enemies? No: from that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and, more than all, against him who had formed me and sent me forth to this insupportable misery.

Furthermore, Shelley goes beyond her time preventing the dangers that the careless use of science may have. Science and technology are not things to play with without proper weighting of consequences. Think about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where it was proved that science does not necessarily imply progress and can even cause barbaric actions.

“How dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.” Mary Shelley foresees the potential problems that the rapid advances of Science, which began in the XIX century, may bring. The author manages to present Science as the villain and well as the hero of the story.

Was Science the real monster?

-ana-

My Lost Leaf

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Last week, a friend and I decided to take up a challenge by the artist Nathaniel Russell, proposed on the Youtube channel “The Art Assignment”.

We made a handful of fake flyers advertising made up clubs, requesting help for imaginary scenarios and displaying some ridiculous ideas. We hung them up around our school and sat back to see the reactions of people.

Some people thought they were hilarious, others thought they were pointless.
This was all just as we had expected.

What we did not foresee was that some people felt so passionately against them. They claimed that the flyers were the most ridiculous thing they’d seen. They spoke against them throughout the day, they called us childish.

I guess it makes sense.

When I tried to explain that the flyers were based on artwork and were trying to be art, we were told we were pretentious.

I found all of this very interesting, because what was a harmless bit of experimental fun for us, caused a serious reaction out of  some people.

I guess this happens often, when people don’t enjoy a piece of contemporary art, they claim that it isn’t art. Nobody claims that a Rembrandt painting isn’t art simply because they don’t like looking at it, but people criticise contemporary artists all the time just because their art is not as straightforward as people would like.

I’m not claiming that my friend Poppy and I are contemporary artists who have been misunderstood. We simply copied an idea and tried to engage with it, but the response we received helped us understand the concept that art isn’t just what the spectator makes it to be.

Art is in the intention, art is in the thoughts provoked by a piece.

Art shouldn’t just be about the physical object that has been created.
If it has incited some thought in you, then your thoughts are also art.

Let’s break down the boxes that we have built up to categorise things.

Let’s relax a little and stop jumping up to disagree with the things we don’t understand.

It’s ok to be confused, let’s not get hostile when presented with the unfamiliar.

And if you find my leaf anywhere, please let me know.

Hurt

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Weeping- Edvard Munch (1913)

With a physical wound, sometimes even the lightest finger stroke over the damaged area is enough to make you shiver. Your senses sharpen in order to protect you. The injury can be felt at all times: walking, sitting down and even sleeping.

This is not at all different from an emotional wound.

If you have ever experienced a broken heart, a loss of a close friend or a broken soul due to depression, you will know this is true. No matter how hard your friends try to distract you, you still feel this pressure against your chest, an uncontrollable pain that makes your spirit crash. Emotional pain is real pain. Just like with physical pain, you cannot just “try to think about something else” and “get over it”. Sensitivity increases in order for you to take care of yourself and become more aware.

Pain awakens and sharpens the senses. You feel more deeply. When being hurt and feeling extremely vulnerable, nothing is more appealing than either staying at home and turning your back to the world, or keeping extremely busy in order to avoid time alone to think and feel.

Don´t.

Instead, how about focusing the increased sensitivity to explore your creative side? If pain means a deeper and more intense connection with the world through sensorial experience, make the most of it: taste, smell, listen, touch, feel. Look out for new things. Remember that many of the great masterpieces of art and music were produced due to a personal crisis.

You’ll never feel more alive that when you are hurt.

Embrace the pain.

-ana-

Discover

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Choshi in Shimosha, Hokusaki

It was four months ago, browsing through a second- hand book fair, that a friend selected a book from a pile and said “this one is very good”. Yukio Mishima: had I heard of him? Maybe, but not really. After reading Confessions of a mask, I was surprised of how little I knew about Japanese culture. That particular book opened my eyes to a whole new reality that I had once overlooked.

Perhaps this is the best part about literature: you will always find new exciting things that remind you that there is so much you ignore. Especially whenever you step out of your comfort zone by seeking new authors from different contexts.

Think about cultures you feel very distant from, of which you know nothing about or maybe of which you would like to learn more. Instead of doing a quick Wikipedia search or watching a documentary, how about selecting a few iconic pieces of literature? Fiction is a great teacher as it allows you to immerse yourself fully in a whole different world, as if seeing life from the eyes of another. And it is not only about what the story is about but also, how it is told and the ideas that are behind; moreover, what is important to the one telling the story: what the characters eat and drink, how they feel or their perception of others.

So, next time you want to start a book, consider avoiding the safety of your favourite writer and pick instead a more adventurous piece. Have you read any Indian authors lately? Nigerian? How about female writers?

Reading is discovering.

-ana-