By Deb A.
Chris Ofili is arguably best known for creating art with elephant dung. Andres Serrano's Piss Christ was made with the artist's urine. Tracy Emin's My Bed hosted a range of bodily fluids, including one that has recently made headlines again in the art world: menses.
The first major movement in the West of using or depicting menstrual blood in art started in the 1970s, along with second wave feminism. And so it is no surprise that recent efforts to address the period taboo coincide with a reaction to the rise of high-profile misogyny.
In 2015 Rupi Kaur's photo showing the artist with a bloodstain at her crotch was removed (and subsequently reinstated following public backlash) from Instagram, leading Ms. Kaur to object to a world that "will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak."
Six months later, American artist and activist Sarah Levy used her period blood to create a portrait of a presidential candidate who reacted to tough questions at a debate by claiming the female moderator had "blood coming out of her wherever". He is now president, and the painting was purchased this year by the Museum of Military History in Dresden, Germany. It's hard to say which fact is stranger.
The latest controversial attempt to normalise a regular function of the bodies of half of the earth's human population can be found in an equally surprising place: the Stockholm subway. Its new exhibit by Liv Strömquist is a series of black-and white felt pen drawings that feature the occasional blotch of bright red between women's legs. Some have hailed it as a coup for womankind, while others have recoiled in disgust, angry at their newly uncomfortable commute.
For those who prefer to decide when they will be confronted with the reality of women's reproductive cycles--a luxury most women do not have--there's Period Piece in London, which "seeks to provoke critical dialogue about shifts in contraceptive technologies and constructions of the 'natural' around women's bodies." With music composed from ovulation cycles and poetry based on reactions to the Catholic church's rejection of birth control in 1968, the exhibit finds new, less confrontational ways of talking about periods. It is a pop-up event by the Science Gallery London, which opens officially in 2018.
For a brief overview of period art, this piece by Kristen Cochrane is a good place to start.
My country is
There are 7000 human languages in the world. Over half are endangered; one dies every two weeks. What happens to cultures as languages disappear?
The Southbank Centre's Endangered Poetry Project was created to preserve the unique poetic traditions of languages on the brink of extinction.
By reflecting a way of understanding the world, poetry gives us a glimpse into a culture: the ideas people have, what they care about, and how they interpret their surroundings. Documenting poems not only offers us insight into how others live, but also provides us with a novel way of seeing the world around us.
"I'm Iranian and I grew up in Germany--when I came to the U.S., it was very strange to me to learn that the colour blue stands for sadness," Dr. Mandana Seyfeddinipur, the head of the Endangered Languages Archive at SOAS University of London, explained to the BBC. "To me, blue is hope--the sea and the sky."
The intricacies of poetic language are windows into worldviews that can inform our own perspectives, or keep our cultural memories alive. According to Dr. Seyfeddinipur, reading poetry from other cultures "makes you more agile in thinking, because you have to be flexible," incorporating foreign concepts that may not appear in your own culture into your way of thinking.
Members of the public are invited to submit well known poems in an endangered language to the Centre to preserve them for future generations. The call is open until the end of this year.
By Deb A.
He was Canada's unofficial poet laureate, documenting the nation's past and present and guiding Canadians to a clearer understanding of their own cultural identity. Gord Downie, lead singer of The Tragically Hip, solo artist, and activist, died of brain cancer on October 17th. And while he held that his writing could only be completed through performance, his lyrics are still powerful in black and white.
Nautical Disaster (1994, Day for Night)
I had this dream where I relished the fray
And the screaming filled my head all day
It was as though I'd been spit here
Settled in, into the pocket
Of a lighthouse on some rocky socket
Off the coast of France, dear
One afternoon four thousand men died in the water here
And five hundred more were thrashing madly
As parasites might in your blood
Now I was in a lifeboat designed for ten and ten only
Anything that systematic would get you hated
It's not a deal nor a test nor a
Love of something faded
The selection was quick, the crew was picked in order
And those left in the water
Got kicked off our pant leg
And we headed for home
Then the dream ends when the phone rings
"You doing alright?"
He said, "It's out there most days and nights
But only a fool would complain"
Anyway, Susan, if you like
Our conversation is as faint a sound in my memory
As those fingernails scratching on my hull
By Deb A.
A book of poetry written by Leonard Cohen just before his death will be published next year. (Billboard)
We've talked about the Fearless Girl statue at length, and we wish we could be shocked that the firm behind it has a history of underpaying women and people of colour. (NPR)
Thirty publishers rejected Matt Cain's book on the grounds that it was too gay, but the general public disagrees: it's well on its way to getting published through crowdfunding instead. (The Bookseller)
505 new books were released during the UK's "Super Thursday". Which will you read first? (BBC)
Prize round-up: Kazuo Ishiguro won this year's Nobel Prize for literature. And the five finalists for Canada's Giller Prize have been announced. (Nobel Prize, Giller Prize)
The Guardian asked the art world about the biggest question currently facing artists. In one way or another, money comes up a lot. (The Guardian)
A school librarian rejected the First Lady's donation of ten Dr. Seuss books. (The Washington Post)
The Yayoi Kusama museum in Tokyo is open for business! (Yayoi Kusama Museum)
Prickly Pear Issue 1: Desert/Water
Agave Press is thrilled to announce our newest quarterly publication, Prickly Pear Kids, debuting in print this winter. Inspired by colours and contrasts, textures and senses, culture and the natural world, Prickly Pear brings an accessible community of learning and creating to children aged 5-12 across the globe.
Calls for submissions are open until November 1st.
Agave Magazine is read in over 75 countries, and readership continues to grow thanks to the immensely talented writers, artists and photographers who fill our pages. Vol. 3, Issue 3 is titled Best of Agave--keep your eye out for its release later this year. In the meantime, calls for submissions for the following issue close November 1st.
We are looking for manuscripts, artistic portfolios and mixed-genre work to bring to print in our 2018 series. The deadline for submissions is December 1st. Further information can be found here.
Agave Press is pleased to offer a range of services, from book design to editing, writing and even website customisation. Get in touch!
Considering a collaboration with Agave Press? For details about our publications, including reviews, stats, and prices for our integrated support services, please send us a request for our 2017 media kit.
By Deb A.
If you're in need of some inspiration to begin your week, look no further:
Art is good for us: On Wednesday the British Parliament will announce the results of its two-year inquiry into arts, health and wellbeing. In anticipation of the report, Nicci Gerrard offers an eloquent account of the role of arts in helping people with dementia. (The Guardian)
Beware the selfie: A single snapshot was to blame for the domino effect that knocked over a row of plinths holding $200,000 worth of art. Too perfectly awkward to be true? (The New York Times)
Sketching the unknown: How artists and researchers teamed up to find and introduce new species to the rest of the world. (The Atlantic)
Illustrator, cartoonist, trailblazer: Canadian artist Jillian Tamaki's new book of graphic short stories marks her emergence as a "consummate storyteller". (The Walrus)
Visual activist: Photographer Zanele Muholi highlights racism, homophobia, and hate with Somnyama Ngopnyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, a series of self-portraits she took every day for a year. The Guardian dedicates two spaces to her work, and rightly so: a striking photo gallery and a compelling article.
When is a Modigliani not a Modigliani? Twenty-one artworks have been confiscated from a major exhibition in Genoa after several were confirmed as fakes. (The Telegraph)
The Commuter Pig Keeper? You still have time to vote for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. (The Bookseller)
Agave alumna: Agave Magazine contributor Karla K. Morton's twelfth book, Wooden Lions, is now available.
By Deb A.
As the world's largest library and America's oldest federal cultural institution, the Library of Congress boasts over 164 million items stored on over 1300 kilometres of bookshelves. Its stated mission is to "document the history and further the creativity of the American people" and to ensure that its collections "record and contribute to the advancement of civilization and knowledge throughout the world." And this month the library has been particularly busy.
Welcome Tracy K. Smith, Poet Laureate
Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith has been named as the Library of Congress's 22nd poet laureate. She is the author of three books of poetry--The Body's Question, Duende, and Life on Mars--as well as a memoir, Ordinary Light. Her new post does not include any specific duties, but former poets laureate have attempted to popularize poetry beyond current audiences; in keeping with this tradition, Ms. Smith reports that she intends to hold poetry events in smaller towns, "where literary festivals don't always go".
Welcome to the web
It owns a Gutenberg bible and is now also home to lolcats. This week the Library of Congress launched two digital collections: The Web Cultures Archive and the Web Comics Archive. The former includes memes, GIFs, emojis and more in an effort to "help scholars 25 and 100 years from now have a fuller picture of the culture and life of people today," according to Elizabeth Peterson, director of the American Folklife Center. The Web Comics Archive is a natural extension of the library's comic book collection, which, with 135,000 issues, is the world's largest. It includes longstanding web comic classics such as XKCD alongside works by artists who are part of underrepresented groups, such as women, artists of colour and LGBTQ+ artists.
By Deb A.
Before it was devastated by invasions and war and sectarian violence, Baghdad had a very different reputation as the heart of literature in the Middle East.
Twenty-five-year-old Ali al-Moussawi is doing his best to revive his city's literary soul. With a BA in English translation and a passion for reading, he began selling books from a stall to finance book clubs and writing seminars. He now employs a staff of four and drives a converted van full of books around Baghdad's barbed wire and bomb-proof barriers.
Mr. al-Moussawi is often stopped by security teams that suspect him of carrying explosives in his van, and he is well-versed in long discussions over where he can set up shop. Still, he hopes that the books will serve as a starting point to bring communities together.
For now, the disparities facing Baghdad's readers are mirrored in the titles on display, which he changes according to the neighbourhood's clientele. Shiites and Sunnis can both easily find their respective religious texts, and the biographies of Saddam Hussein that continue to be popular in Sunni communities are available there. But when Mr. al-Moussawi sets up amongst students, it's biographies of celebrities, not political leaders, that are the order of the day, along with poetry, textbooks, and fiction.
By Deb A.
Does your tattered copy of Daniel Deronda smell like chocolate or wood? Researchers know that your sense of smell is important to how you experience a book (sorry, e-reader aficionados).
She was wondering how power affected a politician's physique, so Herlinde Koelbl asked to photograph up-and-coming German politicians once a year from 1991 to 1998. In 2006 she started the series up again. One subject who's been with her from the very beginning: Angela Merkel.
Goodbye, dandelion, hello, some sort of blue? Crayola is retiring the dandelion crayon. Perhaps before he quits?
This superhero skulks the streets of Bristol looking for bad grammar. As he tells the BBC, defacing signs with his Apostrophiser can hardly be considered criminal: "It's more of a crime to have the apostrophes wrong in the first place."
Poetry lovers, rejoice! The Observer highlights how poetry festivals and book sales are booming.
Thanks to the New York Times we can all enter one of Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirror Rooms:
Schizophrenic, wrenched by two styles,
one a hack's hired prose, I earn
my exile. I trudge this sickle, moonlit beach for miles,
to slough off
this love of ocean that's self-love.
To change your language you must change your life.
I cannot right old wrongs.
Waves tire of horizon and return.
Gulls screech with rusty tongues
Above the beached, rotting pirogues,
they were a venomous beaked cloud at Charlotteville.
Once I thought love of country was enough,
now, even if I chose, there's no room at the trough.
I watch the best minds root like dogs
for scraps of favour.
I am nearing middle-
age, burnt skin
peels from my hand like paper, onion-thin,
like Peer Gynt's riddle.
At heart there's nothing, not the dread
of death. I know too many dead.
They're all familiar, all in character,
even how they died. On fire,
the flesh no longer fears that furnace mouth
that kiln or ashpit of the sun,
nor this clouding, unclouding sickle moon
whitening this beach again like a blank page.
All its indifference is a different rage.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
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