The Kunstakademie Düsseldorf is the Arts Academy of the city of Düsseldorf. Notable artists who attended the academy include Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Thomas Demand and Andreas Gursky. In the stairway of its main entrance, are engraved the Words: “Für unsere Studenten nur das Beste” (“For our Students only the Best”).
The school was founded by Lambert Krahe in 1762 as a school of drawing. In 1773, it became the “Kurfürstlich-Pfälzische Academie der Maler, Bildhauer- und Baukunst” (Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture of the Electorate of the Palatinate).
It has been amongst Europe’s foremost art schools for more than two centuries.
The German photographic movement commonly known as the Düsseldorf School of Photography, began in the mid 1970s at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under the instruction of the influential photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher, known for their comparative grids of mundane industrial buildings captured with an objective and clinical eye.
This school has not only birthed some of today’s most important and successful photographers, but has also had a fundamental and lasting influence on the history of the medium.
In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous and beautiful creatures, portrayed as femme fatales who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Roman poets placed them on some small islands called Sirenum scopuli. In some later, rationalized traditions, the literal geography of the “flowery” island of Anthemoessa, or Anthemusa, is fixed: sometimes on Cape Pelorum and at others in the islands known as the Sirenuse, near Paestum, or in Capreae. All such locations were surrounded by cliffs and rocks.
When the Sirens were given a name of their own they were considered the daughters of the river god Achelous, fathered upon Terpsichore, Melpomene, Sterope, or Chthon. Although they lured mariners, for the Greeks the Sirens in their “meadow starred with flowers” were not sea deities. Roman writers linked the Sirens more closely to the sea, as daughters of Phorcys. Sirens are found in many Greek stories, particularly in Homer’s Odyssey.
According to Ovid, the Sirens were the companions of young Persephone and were given wings by Demeter to search for Persephone when she was abducted. However, the Fabulae of Hyginus has Demeter cursing the Sirens for failing to intervene in the abduction of Persephone.
The Sirens might be called the Muses of the lower world, Walter Copland Perry observed: “Their song, though irresistibly sweet, was no less sad than sweet, and lapped both body and soul in a fatal lethargy, the forerunner of death and corruption.” Their song is continually calling on Persephone. The term “siren song” refers to an appeal that is hard to resist but that, if heeded, will lead to a bad conclusion. Later writers have implied that the Sirens were anthropophagous, based on Circe’s description of them “lolling there in their meadow, round them heaps of corpses rotting away, rags of skin shriveling on their bones.” As Jane Ellen Harrison notes of “The Ker as siren:” “It is strange and beautiful that Homer should make the Sirens appeal to the spirit, not to the flesh.”
“They are mantic creatures like the Sphinx with whom they have much in common, knowing both the past and the future,” Harrison observed. “Their song takes effect at midday, in a windless calm. The end of that song is death.” That the sailors’ flesh is rotting away, though, would suggest it has not been eaten. It has been suggested that, with their feathers stolen, their divine nature kept them alive, but unable to feed for their visitors, who starved to death by refusing to leave.
According to Hyginus, sirens were fated to live only until the mortals who heard their songs were able to pass by them.
“Oh Lord Most High, Creator of the Cosmos, Spinner of Galaxies, Soul of Electromagnetic Waves, Inhaler and Exhaler of Inconceivable Volumes of Vacuum, Spitter of Fire and Rock, Trifler with Millennia — what could we do for Thee that Thou couldst not do for Thyself one octillion times better? Nothing. What could we do or say that could possibly interest Thee? Nothing. Oh, Mankind, rejoice in the apathy of our Creator, for it makes us free and truthful and dignified at last. No longer can a fool point to a ridiculous accident of good luck and say, ‘Somebody up there likes me.’ And no longer can a tyrant say, ‘God wants this or that to happen, and anyone who doesn’t help this or that to happen is against God.’ O Lord Most High, what a glorious weapon is Thy Apathy, for we have unsheathed it, have thrust and slashed mightily with it, and the claptrap that has so often enslaved us or driven us into the madhouse lies slain!” -The prayer of the Reverend C. Horner Redwine”
― Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan
In Buddhism, all objects, or in other words, color and matter are another word for space and space is another word for color. All objects can become one according to the concept of “all matter is emptiness” and the process of breaking down is called “emptiness is form.” In particular, Hua-yen Buddhism’s teachings of “one is all, all is one” is a physical analysis of how points build to space and space breaks down to a point. Buddhism’s “all matter is emptiness” does not mean a lack. I will use my work as an example.
New York (2008) Indala Series A photographic portrait of New York using 10,000 images.
My ON-AIR Project’s Indala Series (Indala is another word for Indra’s net, which refers to the concept of the interconnectedness of all things in the universe. New York, Washington, Moscow, Tokyo, Paris, London, Venice, Berlin, Athens, Seoul, Delhi, and others, comprise the 14 cities that are a part of this project). For the project, I took 10,000 photographs of New York and superimposed them to create one final picture.
The completed picture appears to be nothing but a blurry, gray image, but there are physically 10,000 photographs within it. Those 10,000 photographs of New York streets, buildings, people, and events were vividly captured over the course of several years, lovingly, with proper photographic technique. I’m not Buddhist and I didn’t do this project with the intention of explaining the concept of “all is emptiness,” but this is similar to that concept of emptiness. If one penetrates into the gray image (as in Heidegger’s concept of entwurf, or the mental process of absorption in something), one is able to meet again the countless events and identities melted into the 10,000 cuts. This process of disassembly is “emptiness is everything.” If one physically dismantles an analog picture, one is left with the particles that make up analog film; in a digital process, only the pixels are left. In the final gray image of the Indala project, those 10,000 photographs have become one and each has lost its function but their identity is not gone. Just like how my DNA contains all of humanity’s genes, identity does not disappear. This is similar to how the point’s identity is inherent in space. Ironically though, the final gray picture of one city composed of 10,000 different superimposed photographs is digitized and has no mass or volume; it only has form when it comes out.
“The Swimmer” a short story by American author John Cheever, was originally published in The New Yorker on July 18, 1964, and then in the 1964 short story collection, The Brigadier and the Golf Widow. Originally conceived as a novel and pared down from over 150 pages of notes, it is probably Cheever’s most famous and frequently anthologized story. At one point Cheever wanted to parallel the tale of Narcissus, a character in Greek mythology who died while staring at his own reflection in a pool of water, which Cheever dismissed as too restrictive. As published, the story is highly praised for its blend of realism and surrealism, the thematic exploration of suburban America, especially the relationship between wealth and happiness, as well as his use of myth and symbolism.
In 1968, “The Swimmer” was adapted into a film with the same name, starring Burt Lancaster.
The story begins with Neddy Merrill and his wife lounging at a friend’s pool on a mid-summer’s day. On a whim, Neddy decides to get home by swimming across all the pools in the county, and starts off enthusiastically and full of youthful energy. In the early stops on his journey, he is enthusiastically greeted by friends, who welcome him with drinks. It is readily apparent that he is well-regarded and from an upper-class social standing.
Midway through his journey, things gradually take on a darker and ultimately surreal tone. Despite everything taking place over just one afternoon, it becomes unclear how much time has passed. At the beginning of the story, it was clearly mid-summer, but by the end all natural signs point to the season being autumn. Different people Neddy encounters mention misfortune and money troubles he doesn’t remember, and he is outright unwelcome at several houses which should’ve certainly been beneath him. His earlier, youthful energy leaves him, and it becomes increasingly painful and difficult for him to swim on. Finally, he staggers back home, only to find his house decrepit, empty, and abandoned.
L’Age d’or, The Golden Age (1930) is a French surrealist comedy directed by Luis Buñuel about the insanities of modern life, the hypocrisy of the sexual mores of bourgeois society and the value system of the Roman Catholic Church. The screenplay is by Salvador Dalí and Buñuel. It was one of the first sound films made in France.
In a series of thematically-linked vignettes, a couple’s attempts at a fulfilling and consummated romantic relationship are continually thwarted by the bourgeois values and sexual mores of Family, Church, and Society. In the course of seeking sexual release and satisfaction, the woman sublimates her sexual passion by fellating the toe of a religious statue.
The final vignette is an allusion to the Marquis de Sade’s novel 120 Days of Sodom; the intertitle reads: 120 Days of Depraved Acts, about an orgy in a castle, wherein the surviving orgiasts are ready to emerge to the light of mainstream society. From the castle door emerges the bearded and berobed Duc de Blangis (a character from de Sade’s novel) who greatly resembles Jesus, the Christ, who comforts a young woman who has run out from the castle, before he takes her back inside. Afterwards, a woman’s scream is heard, and only the Duc re-emerges; and he is beardless. The concluding image is a crucifix festooned with the scalps of women; to the accompaniment of jovial music, the scalps sway in the wind.
Cube is a 1997 Canadian science fiction psychological horror film, directed by Vincenzo Natali. The film was a successful product of the Canadian Film Centre’s First Feature Project.
The movie received a cult status for its surreal, Kafkaesque settings; it is set in identical cube-like rooms (hence the name) with each room being a different color (white, blue, green, amber and red), and no background story is revealed for the characters or the reason they were left in the Cube. The film also doesn’t demonstrate any clear plot regarding the Cube’s background, creation, purpose and its location. The timeframe of the story is also left unknown.
Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) is a 1929 silent surrealist short film by the Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí. It was Buñuel’s first film and was initially released in 1929 to a limited showing in Paris, but became popular and ran for eight months.
The film has no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial “once upon a time” to “eight years later” without the events or characters changing very much. It uses dream logic in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes.
The film is famous for the scene where a middle-aged man (Luis Buñuel) sharpens his razor at his balcony door and tests the razor on his thumb. He then opens the door, and idly fingers the razor while gazing at the moon, about to be engulfed by a thin cloud, from his balcony. There is a cut to a close-up of a young woman (Simone Mareuil) being held by the man as she calmly stares straight ahead. Another cut occurs to the moon being overcome by the cloud as the man slits the woman’s eye with the razor, and the vitreous humour spills out from it.