Horror Vacui

The fear of the empty space, most times understood as “ridiculous to the excess”.

Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels. Francisco Goya


Historically understood as an expression of Catholic Anti-Reformation propaganda, Baroque art is normally understood as lacking the reason and discipline associated with neoclassicism and the sophistication of more refined  mannerism styles. In the 17th century, Baroque emerges in Europe as an extravagant, impetuous reaction against religious wars, the Reformation and the Counter Reformation, The 30 Years War, economic crisis and other ills and plagues form its historical backdrop. Going beyond the balanced and orderly representation of the world, it is an aesthetic of distortion, deception, complexity, and over-elaboration:  the novel inside the novel (Don Quijote [1605 and 1615]), theater inside the theater (Hamlet [c1601]), the painting inside the painting (Velázquez’s Las Meninas [1656] ), mirrors inside mirrors, etc. An emotional response to emptiness and disenchantement.

Leonardo da Vinci’s simplicity as the ultimate sophistication has become the norm in a society overwhelmed my the amount of visual information and material possessions that seem to clutter our minds and dominate our living spaces The claustrophobic in me has tried often times to convert to the minimalist / sophisticated imperative with no success. The maximalist in me can’t resist the emotional drama, radical spirit and aesthetic vertigo of the horror vacui.

Photos (mine) San Nicolás Church in Valencia, Spain,  A Gothic structure invaded by Baroque extravaganza.

 

 

References

Radical

Movie Inspiration of the Week – Le Mépris (1963)

The cinema substitutes for our gaze a world more in harmony with our desire. This is the story of that world

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Costume Designer Tanine Autré

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Aristotelian tragedies might not need elaborate costumes. After all, sometimes what you do not wear speaks as loud as what you do.

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This week, inspiration seems to be simple,  the always present, always perfect always modern Breton shirt. This week, more than ever, craving Summer by the harsh and timeless landscapes of Mediterranean sea.

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This was the first film that made me feel I could (I needed to) live inside it.

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You aspire to a world like Homer’s, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t exist

References

Contempt: A Visual Reading and Other Loose Ends

 

 

Movie Inspiration of the week – Il Gattopardo (1963)

Without Sicily, Italy creates no image in the soul: here is the key to everything.

Goethe

Costume Designer Piero Tosi. His work can be admired in luminous films by such directors as Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica and Franco Zeffirelli.  Tosi earned five Academy Award nominations during his career and an Academy Honory Award in 2013. His designs brought elegance, artistry, passion and, dare I say, a mastery of fantasmagoria and nostalgia, and even humour  to neo-realist dramas, historical romances and farsical comedies, including Senso, Death in Venice (BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design), The DamnedLa Traviata (BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design) and La Cage Aux Folles.

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Martin Scorsese, who restored this 1963 classic to its former glory and brought it back to Cannes in 2010, has often referred to “The Leopard” as one of the five best films ever made, having live [d] with this movie every day of [his] life. One of director Luchino Visconti’s handful of masterpieces, the film features subtle, visual storytelling in a world of decaying opulence, with its “deeply measured tone … its use of vast spaces and also the richness of every detail.” .

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As far as costume design goes, this is a true masterpiece. Tosi was born in Florence amid art, and studied at Florence’s Accademia di Belle Arti.  Both his appreciation for art and his knowledge of art’s history as a living and breathing heritage is evident in the design of his costumes (Christian Esquevin)

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 The extraordinary, verging on obsessive, collaboration between Piero Tosi and Umberto Tirelli , the tailor whose fate led him to create not for men but their representations, created a magnificent work of art through costume. Something like 2,000 costumes were made for this film. Visconti was one of the most meticulous Italian directors, he loved historical accuracy and had a great attention to details. Tirelli often remembered him working together with the costume designers, picking the colours for the costumes, studying the silhouettes and the shapes, sampling the fabrics and checking upon the work made by the tailoring houses (Anna Battista).

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The ball scene, where new and old Italy come face to face with each other,  takes about one-third of the total length of the movie and took a whole month to film, involving around 200 people in 14 interconnected rooms. 400 costumes were made for this scene alone, the most celebrate of which is, of course, the magnificent organza ball gown worn by Claudia Cardinale /Angelica Sedara.

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Il Gattopardo, an epic adaptation of Giuseppe de Lampedusa’s novel about an aristocratic Sicilian family’s adjustment to a changing way of life during the Risorgimento (1815-1871, the novel itself opens in 1860) is a tale of melancholy and change, a testimony of social avalanche, Art embodying History.

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Those were the best days in the life of Tancredi and Angelica, lives later to be so variegated, so erring, against the inevitable background of sorrow. But that they did not know then; and they were pursuing a future which they deemed more concrete than it turned out to be, made of nothing but smoke and wind.

Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard: A Novel

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All Sicilian sensuality is a hankering for oblivion … that is the cause of the well-known time lag of a century in our artistic and intellectual life; novelties attract us only when they are dead.

Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard: A Novel

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Fabrizio and Jean Baptiste Greuze’s The Punished Son (1778)

Do you really think, Chevalley, that you are the first who has hoped to canalise Sicily into the flow of universal history? I wonder how many Moslem Imams, how many of King Roger’s knights, how many Swabian scribes, how many Angevin barons, how many jurists of the Most Catholic King have conceived the same fine folly; and how many Spanish viceroys too, how many of Charles III’s reforming functionaries! And who knows now what happened to them all! Sicily wanted to sleep in spite of their invocations; for why should she listen to them if she herself is rich, if she’s wise, if she’s civilized, if she’s honest, if she’s admired and envied by all, if, in a word, she is perfect?

Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard: A Novel

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If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change

Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard: A Novel

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Dolce and Gabbana Alta Moda 2015

Everyone is either a fairy or princess.

Stefano Gabbana

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Dolce and Gabbana Alta Moda 2015

 

Look at all this beauty, truth and emotion, created from nothing but words. Just words. How can you possibly spend your life not trying to do the same?

Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard: A Novel

Tosi and Tirelli magnificently bring to life the glamorous, sensual and desperate  characters in Lampedusa’s novel. This is also, a portrait of the “lost South” or as Jonathan Jones so eloquently put it Lampedusa’s Sicily is a place where the optimistic, progressive, rational forces of history as viewed in the 19th century – the march of liberal democracy and of socialism alike – get lost in baroque back streets at midnight. As a myth, as a fiction of history, The Leopard will continue to ensnare minds, and not only in Italy. Lampedusa’s despair is not so different from that of today’s world, with its shrunken political expectations. We are all Sicilians now.

References

Goethe, Martin Scorsese, Giuseppe Di Lampedusa,

Photos via http://www.virtual-history.com and http://www.vogue.com

Vuelvo al Sur

I was born in the Southern Hemisphere and live in Southern Europe although my current city is geographically “up North” and people here tend to passionately identify themselves as “northerners “.

For a while I lived in Brighton, also the South in the North and then moved to London and to a more northern lifestyle. I did identify with England mainly because of the music that nurtured me through my teenage angst and bouts of dramatic isolation from the rest of the world. I miss my English life often, I miss the politeness and the freedom of being foreigner but accepted, or at least tolerated. I even miss the pebble beaches and the custard and the days spent in libraries and trying to find a proper espresso. I miss wandering around with nowhere to go. I miss feeling lonely in London and still quietly happy. I miss the quirkiness and people not staring at you because you look different. I miss talking to street performers and photographing them. I miss spending a fortune at Joe’s Basement in Soho to get contacts printed.

I could have stayed. I left and felt that I really belonged there. Up North. I don’t. My landscape is now far from the green grass, blue eyes, grey sky and the gothic lines that I  only revisit when travelling Northbound. Now I marvel at  the marble collonades, the porches and patios and baroque pearls of the south. Red soil, black eyes, blue sky.

 

son dos pozos de estrellas tus ojos negros

 

Geographies aside, I’m intellectually from the North and culturally and emotionally  from the South. Not the place. The set of values. The feeling. That different dimension where one floats and feels whole and at home in all “souths”. The olive tree souths, the palm tree souths and the fern souths.  The Atlantic souths and the Indic souths, the Mediterranean and the Gulf souths. The carnation souths, the azahar souths, the magnolia-scented souths and the lavender souths. The jacaranda south. The iced tea souths and the wine and manzanilla souths. The beignet souths and the cannoli souths. The pistachio colored souths, the turquoise souths and the ochre souths.  The south of Tango and the south of Blues. The rhythmic south. The south of Duende.

Llevo el Sur,

como un destino del corazon,

soy del Sur,

como los aires del bandoneon.

The Belles souths and the Amazons souths. The Maria souths and the Carmen souths and the Tallulah souths. The polite souths and the loud-mouthed souths. The south of dark hair and lustrous eyes and cadenced walks and throbbing charm. The south of apparent frailty and unbreakable strength.

The orange souths, the mango souths and the strange fruit souths.

The lazy, laughing South
With blood on its mouth.

The cruel south. Not a geography. A metaphor of all the pain in humanity. A testimony of decadence. The fatalist souths and the combative souths.

The emotional souths and the passionate souths. The souths of private virtues and public vices. The south of sin. The south of absolution.

The souths of Homer. The south of Faulkner. The souths of disquiet. The lazy Apollonian souths, the dancing, graceful, spontaneous, impulsive souths. The eternal midday, clear, still and in the moment South. The nostalgic, embracing South.

And still, the yearning for the lost South. “And there were other ways to live…”

Se você tem uma idéia incrível. É melhor fazer uma canção. Está provado que só é possível. Filosofar em alemão.

 

References (in a very random order)

Astor Piazolla, Caetano Veloso, Camaron de la Isla, Jorge Luis Borges, Eugene Walter, Langston Hughes, Agustina Bessa-Luís, Fernando Pessoa, Susan Sontag, William Faulkner, Billie Holiday, Oswald Spengler, Nietzsche

South.

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans 

My favorite travel souvenirs are vintage clothes. Every time I travel I try to make a list of vintage stores to check in the city I’m visiting.

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This House of Branell dress was not bought on a trip but because of a trip. Mainly. I also have a soft spot for gold lurex and could not resist the fact that I could own a dress by the same designer house responsible for Grace Kelly’s engagement dress. I used to be a big fan of Princess Grace when I was a kid, I still recall my eleven year old self writing a diary entry on the car crash that killed her because I felt truly sad about her death.

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Buy Royally Engaged – 1970s gold lurex shirt dress by House of Branell
I digress.

The main reason why I bought this dress was that this is a House of Branell for Gus Mayer dress. Founded in 1900, the original Gus Mayer department store was located on the corner of Canal and Carandolet Streets in New Orleans. I think the building now houses a CVS pharmacy where I bought a purple umbrella in August 2012.

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New Orleans was one of those “bucket lists” trips; I dreamt of going, I fantasized about living there and riding streetcars up and down said Canal Street and finally made it there on a spur of the moment unplanned week long vacation thanks to last minute deals on airfares and booking.com. I still have to make it both to Mardi Gras and the Jazz Festival ( my bucket lists keep growing).


I was in New Orleans in August and that probably explains why I managed to stay at the Royal Sonesta for a fraction of the normal price; not everyone enjoys extreme heat and humidity which seems to be my favorite kind of weather. Still, for a week, I enjoyed New Orleans on my own, which undoubtedly contributed to a very intense and emotional experience of the city, I was even serenaded by Jay-Ray & Gee who sang Chuck Berry’s Nadine to me on Royal Street in the rain, just after I bought the purple umbrella.

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Everything I experienced during that week, from daydreaming at Maskarade, to walking the corridor to Preservation Hall, to the aftermaths of Katrina in the form of an exhibition at The Presbytère, to entering William Faulkner’s house, to the beignets at Café du Monde, to the cooking lesson and cemetery tour and the very special music tour with a group of tour guides, to the delightful accent and politeness of everyone I met to the simple fact that “going home” for a whole week meant heading to 300 Bourbon Street, all this made me buy a gold lurex dress.

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In a way, it embodies all the feelings of longing to go back and the wild plans of ditching normal life and reinventing myself as an apprentice voodoo priestess or a sultry Jazz singer and having my own luxurious fern covered balcony.

Time to let it go because, as with so many of my errors, it does not fit me as gloriously as it will a curvier lady.

dancing in the rain

 

 

 

Gus Mayer photo via Louisiana Digital Library; all other photos are my own