the state of things

An incomplete diagramming of personal opinion (my own), infrequently updated


permanence and (im)perfection

From top: 15th century bowl with 18th century porcelain yobitsugi repair, mid-17th century stoneware cup with kintsugi, 19th century tea tea bowl with kintsugi, mid 15th century bowl with maki-e repair.
All from the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution
12th century Korean ewer with replaced spout. V&A museum

All images of western repaired objects below from Past Imperfect, a blog by Andrew Baseman

My favorite items from Past Imperfect are unequivocally the glassware with prosthetic bases

First: kintsugi, I'm rather taken with the concept. Kintsugi ("gold joinery") is a traditional Japanese method of repair for cracked and broken ceramic ware. Lacquer is used to reattach broken pieces, the resulting "veins" of adhesive are then coated with silver or gold powder. Yobitsugi and maki-e are related techniques, the first utilizing "alien" pieces of ceramic to fill in for missing fragments, the latter replaces loss with areas of solid, decorated lacquer.

From a beautiful almost overwhelmingly sensitive essay by Christy Bartlett in Flickwerk:The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics interpreting the exquisitely subtle aspects of Japanese aesthetic philosophy:
Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated... a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin....Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. ...The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identiļ¬cation with, [things] outside oneself.
Quite a while ago I wrote briefly on the related Japanese sensibilities of wabi and sabi. The terms wabi-sabi taken together identify and connote appreciation of qualities such as impermanence, humility, asymmetry, and imperfection. (These underlying principles are diametrically opposed to their Western counterparts: values based in Classicism, perfection, rationality and the heroic.) I was dumbstruck when I first learned of these concepts. This dialectic or opposition appeared to explain one of my longstanding issues: a certain loneliness I'd felt growing up, in part because most everything I found aesthetically interesting, pleasing, or desirable seemed to be the farthest thing from what was all around me. (This was Queens in the 1970s and 80s. I carried with me a sense mild alienation most of the time.)

I have to clarify that it is the idea of kintsugi— mending as transformation, a sort of reified transience— rather than the physical ceramic objects themselves that truly seems beautiful to me.//

From the philosophically suffused, rarefied aesthetics of kintsugi to the stalwart thrift and ingenuity of necessity: Interior designer Andrew Baseman's blog, Past Imperfect, the art of inventive repair is a great find for anyone interested in the beauty of mended objects. Andrew's blog focusses on his collection of artfully repaired items, mostly 18th and 19th century western artifacts. Professing a longstanding appreciation of "make-dos"— folksy or crude homemade repairs— Baseman prefers the term “inventive repairs” for describing and appreciating the embellishments on the pieces. His collection is a parade of charming, quirky, even mystifying, everyday items from the past made even more so by the eclectic methods employed in mending physical mishaps. These objects lie somewhere outside but near the boundaries of "folk art." They seem to be animated with a spirit that pristine examples don't necessarily hold, a paradoxical demonstration of perseverance and resilience.


ancient face book

archaic statue fragment, possibly Apollo, 6th c BC
I dont quite understand the tremendous aesthetic shift in Greek art: This and the many stylistically related kouroi are all completely unlike anything envisioned with the (later) Classical eye
mummy of a cat from Abydos, Egypt, c. 1st c AD, British Museum.
A shipment of as many as 180,000 mummified cats was brought to Britain at the end of the nineteenth century to be processed into fertilizer...

Ptolemaic noblewoman, said to be Cleopatra or one of her court, 50-40 BC, British Museum

Bronze portrait of Sophocles, 5th century BC, British Museum

Bust of Julius Ceasar in green schist, Berlin
What an insane choice of material

limestone and stucco portrait of Nefertiti, 1345 BC, Berlin
Serene and unsettling at the same time

"Egyptian princess", Louvre

sycamore wood statue of Kaaper, chief lector priest, 2465-2458 BC, Cairo
He looks like a hit man

marble portrait of Lucius Verus, ca. 166–170, co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius,
Metropolitan Museum of Art
He was said to have blond hair that glinted in the sun, as if sprinkled with gold dust

bronze bust of Lucius Junius Brutus founder of the Roman Republic, c 3rd or 4th c BC,
possibly by an Etruscan artisan, Capitoline Museums
It is an odd mix of primitive and virtuosity

a Roman, unknown, Capitoline Museums
I think this is one of the most captivating portraits of any age. He and Kaaper (above) could be in The Godfather.
Bronze portrait from Delos, c 80BC
He seems to project Romantic weltschmerz 1800 years early
a wood and gesso portrait of King Tutanhkamen emerging from a lotus, ca. 1354 BC
Notice the folds of skin on the neck

a wooden Ka statue of pharoah Hor, c 1757 BC, Cairo
It is so much more animated, jovial, than most royal portraiture— if idealized funerary statuary can be jovial

A selection of compelling portraits I gathered along the way.


Interstellar Sublime

Black Rain from Semiconductor on Vimeo. (via: strange|beautiful)

Semiconductor is the alias of British multi-media installation artists Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt. The duo produce the "vision of sound in motion" which appears to mean high-concept films incorporating computers, random natural time-lapse sequences, sound translation and animation. As abstract and academic as that sounds, as an example the project Black Rain (above) is quite immediate and visceral in its effect. The piece is created from images transmitted by twin satellites sent into space by STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) to record solar activity. Semiconductor worked alongside the NASA scientists collecting and compiling all the raw unprocessed image data. It is just that rawness that conveys a haunting "realness" of the universe—which the cleaned-up, colored, officially issued NASA imagery does not.

The light flares, static, scanning bands, dropped frames and all other artifacts of natural disturbance or man-made process, typically edited out by NASA, give the piece a splintered, frenetic intensity. While I don't know if this film is in any way an accurate representation of what is truly out there, it struck me immediately how different a conception of space it presents. Compared to the sepulchral emptiness, the weightless silent vacuum we're used to— for instance, say, Kubrick's space—this energy and sense of limitless tumult leaves the viewer reeling.//

In poking around for some more background I came across "Professor Don Gurnett's favorite sounds of space." Despite sounding like a 1970s album not sold in any store, it is in fact a page from the University of Iowa physics department of audio files of space activity. I must say its a little bit of a let down that the 'music of the spheres' sounds like a slide whistle interlude or a Steve Miller Band concert.


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