By Deb A.
Happy Fathers' Day to our American readers! The New York Public Library has some book recommendations to honour the occasion.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z have caused a stir with their latest video, which was filmed at the Louvre. (If you're looking for a guide to the art featured in the video, Vulture has you covered.)
"Stay as invisible as possible," was Clemens Kalischer's advice for new photographers. The photojournalist died June 9 at the age of 97.
Get ready for a memorable address: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will receive the PEN Pinter Prize on October 9.
A "raw sense of connectivity": The Walrus profiles Billy-Ray Belcourt, the Cree poet and Rhodes scholar who recently won the Griffin Poetry Prize.
By Deb A.
The 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art kicked off this weekend, promising several months of probing structures of power, knowledge and history ahead.
Called We Don’t Need Another Hero, the Biennale examines what it terms "our collective psychosis," focusing on "different configurations of knowledge and power that enable contradictions and complications." The exhibition, which strives to take on these themes in an accessible. meaningful way, features works from 46 artists, including Natasha A. Kelly, Herman Mbamba, and Sara Haq. Visitors to any of the Biennale's five galleries may be surprised to find that no information is provided about when and where the artists were born; this shrewd move on the part of the organisers leaves audiences free to explore the exhibition space without clichéd cultural frameworks informing their interpretations.
Indeed, much has been made of the curatorial team’s own cultural identity, but curator Gabi Ngcobo and her team—Nomaduma Rosa Masilela, Serubiri Moses, Thiago de Paula Souza, and Yvette Mutumba--have repeatedly reminded journalists and art-lovers that the event is not centred on striving for new structures and systems to 'solve' post-colonialism—they are not the heroes that white Europeans may be looking for. Instead, their goal is to break through existing narratives and open up a space for different perspectives, voices, and ideas, giving artists and visitors alike the opportunity to strive for shared answers. In refusing to take on the role of hero, the Berlin Biennale reminds us that the only way to address our collective psychosis is through inclusive collective action.
By Deb A.
The extraordinary Hay Festival in Wales draws to a close today, and we were thrilled to find a list of books that give some of the festival speakers hope. Combine that with Steven Pinker's suggestions for reading material to make or keep you optimistic, and you have the start of a promising summer reading list.
One of the things that gives us hope is hearing women's voices, so here we offer, in no particular order, a selection of the books that make authors feel good. What books give you hope? Add your favourites in the comment section below.
By Deb A.
Beware: This week's recap of news from the worlds of art, literature, and photography is definitely the first in the Agave blog's history to contain over 200 wooden penises.
Voting has opened for the Golden Man Booker prize. A title from each of the Man Booker's five decades of existence has been shortlisted--In A Free State by V.S. Naipaul, Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively, The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. It's up to you to choose the winner. (The Man Booker Prizes)
"If I'm not an American, I'm nothing." Philip Roth died at the age of 85 on May 22nd. For an overview of his career and his place in cultural history, The Major Phases of Philip Roth by David Gooblar provides excellent insight. (The New York Times, Bloomsbury)
Indian Church or Church at Yuquot Village? The Art Gallery of Ontario has sparked debate by renaming an Emily Carr painting. (CBC News)
Conservation cuteness: Entries to the 2018 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are being accepted until June 30th. (My Modern Met)
A protest penis fountain will be included in the official programme of the European Capital of Culture this year. (The Guardian)
By Deb A.
My Dear Sir,
It has been so long since letters gave way to e-mails that now e-mails themselves have been replaced by messages that are easier to type with one's thumbs. And yet, there's something undeniable about the power of the handwritten word—in particular when it comes in an envelope.
For anyone rolling their eyes at this anachronistic, romanticised view of letter-writing: Try imagining an audience listening rapt as a renowned performer reads a piece of correspondence aloud. Is that performer reading a WhatsApp chat or a letter?
Chances are you're thinking of epistles, not emojis. So were the founders of Letters Live, who began an event series in London in 2013 that has, after over a dozen events in the United Kingdom, recently made its way over the the United States as well.
Letters Live bills itself as "a celebration of the enduring power of literary correspondence." The events are a surprise; the audience is aware of what to expect in the most general sense—in essence, a cast of famous people reading memorable letters from other, mostly famous, people—but the personalities and subject matter involved are a mystery until someone takes the stage, and every show is different. Perhaps Ian McKellen will read Kurt Vonnegut's letter to five teenage fans. Maybe Benedict Cumberbatch will recite Albert Camus's missive to the teacher who inspired him. The process is so secretive that the performers themselves are told only moments before they step into the spotlight what they'll be reading.
Shows are generally sold out, and part of the proceeds are used to support literacy-focused charities such as First Story, The Reading Agency, and 826LA. The next event is the series' New York debut this week.
The judges of the Branford Boase Award (BBA) for outstanding first novel for young people have noted an emerging trend in writing for readers aged seven and up: Instead of setting off for adventures in Narnia or where the wild things are, protagonists are staying home.
A significant amount of children's literature now takes place in an emotionally complex domestic setting. Julia Eccleshare, the award's co-founder and chairperson of the judging panel, points out in The Bookseller that increasingly, main characters are facing challenges such as death, depression, and divorce, which are "impossible for a child to resolve as the issues are insurmountable." Protagonists are trying to untangle internal family drama, not embarking on quests to catch thieves or right wrongs.
Although they might not fit the traditional understanding of adventure, these tales still offer excitement, as tension stems from internal monsters like mental health problems rather than the more literal wild-eyed furry giants with sharp teeth and claws. In more and more children's novels, Ms. Eccleshare explains, the action is in interaction, which invites readers to develop their sense of compassion and empathy.
She pinpoints the rise of more claustrophobic settings as coinciding with mobile phones and restrictions on children's freedom to roam without parental supervision. It is clear that at least the BBA judges still fancy some fresh air: Children will find a fair amount of outdoor adventure in the shortlisted titles below.
The winner of the Branford Boase Award, worth £1,000, will be announced On July 4th.
By Deb A.
She calls herself "the spinach in the teeth of the art world." Alice Procter, a.k.a. The Exhibitionist, draws attention to the colonial, whitewashed stories behind some of London's best-known artworks and the galleries in which they're found.
On Uncomfortable Art Tours through the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain, and the Queen’s House (National Maritime Museum), Ms. Procter offers her guests a viewpoint that is not likely to be part of a museum audio guide anytime soon. Her art history lessons, which began as part of Antiuniversity Now, pull no punches, covering everything from how colonialism helped build the collection to how the way in which the artworks are displayed lends credence to a very specific imperialist understanding of the world. Her own website features reproductions of classic portraits with labels like "thief" (Queen Victoria), "white supremacist" (Horatio Nelson) and "invader" (James Cook) scrawled across them in red graffiti, and she passes out buttons that read "display it like you stole it" at her tours.
The museums and galleries she examines have been quick to distance themselves from Ms. Procter's activity, but she notes that her ultimate goal is to encourage institutions to openly engage with the colonialist narratives behind their art collections and their own histories.
"Museums are institutions of memory," she wrote in The Guardian. "They must stop pretending there’s only one version of events, and be willing to own up to their role in shaping the way we see the past."
Uncomfortable? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely.
By Deb A.
This Earth Day we join NASA in looking back at a single iconic photograph: Pale Blue Dot, taken in 1990 from Voyager 1.
While it still looks the same from this vantage point, that single speck now contains more microplastics than there are stars in the galaxy.
Here's how the Earth Day Network is working to ensure that our pale blue dot doesn't get choked by plastics.
By Deb A.
The Nobel Prize for Literature is embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal. Bring back the pussy bow! (New York Times, Refinery29)
Women, how would a male author describe you? Katy Waldman at the New Yorker follows the trend started by Whit Reynolds and eagerly embraced by thousands of women. (Electric Lit offers a handy guide for women who are stumped.)
Ronaldo Schemidt's haunting photo from the Venezuelan protests has won this year's World Press Photo Contest. (World Press Photo)
Somaliland poet Nacima Qorane is the latest artist to receive a jail sentence for promoting reunification between Somaliland and Somalia. (BBC)
"We have assumed that a thing by him has to look like his late works, and that he therefore had no beginnings. That, of course, is totally implausible.": Laurence Kanter from the Yale University Art Gallery explains why Leonardo da Vinci is only now being credited for his work on an altarpiece panel. (The Observer)
From an unknown da Vinci to perhaps the best known--Mona Lisa's only smiling if you are. (artnet)
By Deb A.
Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Inspired by her Tibetan Buddist practice, Hildy Maze uses her art to inquire into the nature of mind.
Her collages are made with environmentally friendly materials and rooted in a deep connection between mind and heart that allows her to begin her works from a pure uncertainty. Hildy's "an investigation of mind through art" is featured in Agave Magazine's upcoming 5-Year Anniversary Edition.
AGAVE: What does your collage-making process entail?
HILDY MAZE: All of these things, color, texture, tones are developed in various stages of the process. It begins with making drawings and paintings on paper using various colors and tools, like branches brushes, anything that will make a mark. There’s play involved, experiment, sometimes a specific image. I let the creative mind roam free, a state of uncontrived creativity where I step out of my own way. I call it making paper. Some of these drawings and paintings are put aside as complete. Others are strewn on the floor to begin a ripening process meaning the paper becomes a part of the existing tapestry of paper already spread across the floor. The haphazardly strewn paper reveals combinations I would not otherwise think of that attract me, and from this a collage begins, with pinning, ripping, cutting, folding, and so on. It’s a conversation without words or thoughts, preconceived ideas or attachment. The natural aging of the paper along with the wrinkling, stains, drips and casual handling of the already painted and drawn upon paper lends much of the texture. Out of this the colors, textures and tones arise. From this the image takes form. An instinctual energy seems to be doing it all. The images create and conclude themselves naturally. I have no idea what the finished piece will look like, its size or shape. I trust my instinctual knowing, the clarity of mind’s basic nature. I find the paper more beautiful and inspiring as it ages, adding texture and depth. then when it is freshly painted and drawn on. The aging paper reminds me of ancient ruins, old fabrics. There’s an earth quality to the paper that’s attractive to me. It displays impermanence and imperfection, which is part of life.
What techniques do you use to persuade the viewer to go beyond the image presented?
Touching on combining symbols and emotions that could possibly persuade the viewer to see in a personal way beyond the image. Also naming the work which evolves when I’ve arrived at that point of leaving the work right there without trying to improve or manipulate it. Once it’s completed I distance myself and quiet my mind to allow some kind of essence of the image to speak. The title may arise immediately, other times it may take a few days. I don’t make an effort to walk the viewers through their visual experience since I have no idea what that may be. I just point in a direction of possibility.
The titles of your works are often stark and provocative: her emptiness, unknowing the confusion, unrelenting, when coping strategies fail... what do you believe is the importance of a strong title?
Strong titles are important if there is something I want to share or discuss with the viewer. Titles help select what that discussion could revolve around. Of course this may not happen and I don’t consider audience reception in making the work. I have an abiding belief in the titles and the ability of oil, paint and paper crumpled, torn, aged or flat and the genre of abstraction to best communicate and possibly seduce the viewer to make their own journey into their humanness. It’s not a requirement, more like an invitation.
What can you achieve through collage that is more powerful than with other mediums, and when do you prefer to rely on another art form?
My relationship to collage is somewhat magical and indescribable. What I achieve through collage I don’t think I could achieve in any other way. It seems to be instinctual for me. An endless dialogue. Also the process involves painting and drawing so I don’t have to rely on any other art form since the process, covers it all. I do work with clay from time to time, but that’s a completely different story…..
What are you proudest of so far in your career as an artist?
I’m proudest of embracing the challenge of actually doing my work consistently with curiosity and enthusiasm everyday.
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