This article is about Amy Winehouse the diva, Amy Winehouse the soul, Amy Winehouse the icon. Though it is impossible to separate Amy from her pain and sorrow, we will attempt here to remember her with respect and focus on many things she did exceptionally well.
Style. She understood the time she was in. Amy knew how to innovate, and how to hit a nerve with audiences. Amy understood the idea that “it’s all been done before,” and that the original choices an artist can make today involve original pairing, the mixture of ideas that have not been mixed before, rather than new ideas, which are arguably impossible, or a new rehash of old ideas. And so the risks Amy took were with style and also with the level of intimacy she bared in a world that has seen it all. Her extreme vulnerability still impacted us. While her tattoos screamed “biker chick” and her torn jeans “punk,” her giant beehive of black hair, red lipstick and nails, and black eyeliner were straight up borrowed from The Ronettes. A carefully chosen palette. Amy used red and black, bold colors, to accent her bold sound.
Brass. Amy knew how to use a big brass band. Backing your vocals with a wall of brass takes a lot of chutzpah, and Amy was a jazz siren for all ages.
A heart of gold. “Ask Amy, she’ll do it,” was the word among London’s charities; her list of contributions is lengthy, and her family is currently involved in the Amy Winehouse Foundation to help prevent drug and alcohol abuse among tomorrow’s artists.
And most of all, Amy had soul. The voice is the exterior manifestation of an intentional internal vibration of the organs against the bones. While musicians learn to play their chosen instrument, a vocalists uses the body and nothing else. Amy’s voice suggested power, vulnerability, a raspy weariness, confidence, swagger, defiance and submission all at once. It is in her voice we hear the part of Amy that was untouched, at first, by all her troubles.
One of the most important filmmakers of all time, Jean Luc Godard has made over 40 feature films, in addition to numerous film shorts, written screenplays, produced, and published his own and others film criticism world wide. He has had a wider influence on audiences and filmmaking than most any other living filmmaker of our time, despite most audiences not even knowing it. The reason for his profound, and often unknown influence, is that he has remained deliberately obscure, independent, and unique, for over 50 years as a filmmaker, yet cinefiles such as known influential directors including Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, and many more have studied his work, citing him as a major influence.
One who knows Godard, could easily write a book on Godard, as many have done. I have seen only 30 of his motion pictures. Jean Luc Godard’s greatness is manifold. One of his most powerful contributions to cinema is his daring uses of sound as art, such as having sounds from former scenes cut and overlap into present scenes, having sounds blend together, or having sound disappear entirely for stronger cinematic effect. His infusion of politics and philosophy into cinema is also unique; often having characters discourse or debate politics or philosophy on screen, and at times even reading out of a book of poetry or philosophy right on camera, inter-weaving the message throughout the film. Godard’s reference to and use of fine art in his films are also unique, using artwork not only as a set design piece or a prop, but literally referencing painters within the duologue, or showing characters creating a painting, as they discuss the colors, hues, tones, or feelings that they evoke, blending this too within the film.
Godard’s occasional use of nudity is portrayed as a work of art itself, not gratuitous, but simply there, as a part of life as art for arts sake. Violence in his films are treated as a reality of life, but one that should be avoided yet not ignored. Beauty, art, life, philosophy, women, and love are revered in Godard’s work, while chaos, destruction, government, warfare, and politics are derided as evils to fight or shun. As a former film critic, films are referenced within many Godard films, either blatantly with a poster of a film on the wall or a mention of it, or as an homage to a scene re-created. Light and the camera lens are used artistically as a painting in a Godard film. He may have the cinematographer point the lens directly at the sky as some birds pass by, or simply gaze upon some clouds, trees, or rolling water. Godard puts the emphasis on the aesthetic beauty and power of the object in front of the camera, rather than subverting aesthetics to action or dialogue.
Dialogue itself rolls out in a Godard film like a play, or often times like poetry, with stream of consciousness or nuanced fashion punctuated by a musical score or unique editing technique. Music in a Godard film often is classical; form Mozart to Beethoven or more, providing sweeping waves of emotion as a foreground or background to the scene or dialogue. Editing techniques by Godard are classic New Wave style, cutting long after the end of an action, a shot may linger on a subject no longer doing anything plot related, simply being or doing something ordinary, observing them as Andy Warhol may have done in one of his screen tests, simply letting the subject ‘be there’ and not imposing the time or space of a film on the subject with an ordinary edit. Godard popularized this technique, as well as the jump cut, cutting from one scene to an entirely different one, arguing that the viewer was smart enough to follow the change. This Godardian effect alone revolutionized cinema, with his landmark, groundbreaking debut feature film ‘Breathless,’ which also widely influenced the music video to come years later.
Lastly, Godard revolutionized cinema further still by his use of camera technique. While Hollywood cinema follows a traditional ‘blocking’ technique of focusing on the primary character in either a long shot (LS), medium shot (MS), close up (CU), or extreme close up (ECU), normally at eye level and following the so called Golden Meane; at the upper middle left of the picture plane where the viewers eyesight allegedly first goes, Godard throws this out the window, and may mix up a variety of shots in blended, reverse, or broken sequence that deliberately shock the viewer, or may focus on a secondary character when the primary character is talking, or he may focus on another part of a persons body instead of their face when their mouth is moving, for example. In other words, Godard throws the so called rules of filmmaking away, often doing everything possible a different way, in order to shake up the medium, transgress the art, and enliven the viewer. Poetic, philosophical, and anarchistic with the creation of his motion pictures, Jean Luc Godard is, without debate, one of the most revered and important filmmakers of all time. The Hollywood Sentinel ranks him among the Top 10 Greatest Filmmakers of All Time.
Jean Luc Godard’s feature films include: 1960 Breathless, 1960 Le Petit soldat, 1961 A Woman Is a Woman, 1962 My Life to Live, 1963 Les Carabiniers, 1963 Contempt, 1964 Band of Outsiders, 1964 A Married Woman, 1964 Alphaville, 1965 Pierrot le fou, 1966 Masculin Féminin, 1966 Made in U.S.A., 1967 Two or Three Things I Know About Her, 1967 La Chinoise, 1967 Week End, 1968 Le Gai savoir, 1968 A Film Like the Others, 1968 One Plus One, 1969 Wind from the East, 1969 Struggles in Italy, 1971 Vladimir et Rosa, 1972 Tout va bien, 1974 Here and Elsewhere, 1975 Number Two, 1976 How’s It Going?, 1980 Every Man for Himself, 1982 Passion, 1983 First Name: Carmen, 1985 Hail Mary, 1985 Détective, 1987 King Lear, 1987 Keep Your Right Up, 1990 New Wave, 1991 Germany Year 90 Nine Zero, 1993 The Kids Play Russian, 1993 Oh Woe Is Me, 1994 JLG/JLG – Self-Portrait in December, 1996 For Ever Mozart, 2001 In Praise of Love, 2004 Notre musique, 2010 Film Socialisme, and 2014 Goodbye to Language, his first in 3D.
– Bruce Edwin
Goodbye to Language
Goodbye to Language is a deconstructed film. I have read the filmmaker’s comments about the plot (which were tweeted) and also some of the critical discussion, but I wanted to review the film before being contaminated by those influences in order to have a genuine experience and express it from a blank starting place, taking it on its own as best I could.
Goodbye to Language is the 21st century equivalent of what Guernica was to painting: a film created by a man who loves film so much he wants to destroy it. Vision competes with narrative. The luxury of seeing destroys meaning. It’s a 3-D movie made by an artist of the highest caliber; which is sort of like having a twinkie made by Gordon Ramsey. There was a particular moment of the interior of a room with a window overlooking a summer field that is one of the most singularly striking images I have ever seen in film and reminded me in its ethos of Marcel Duchamp’s enigmatic assemblage Étant donnés: 1. La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’éclairage.
I concluded, sometime after the last credits had rolled, that this was the story of an adulterous couple and jealous murder told through the eyes of the couple’s adopted dog (the dog jumps into their car, they decide to keep him). The dog was played by Godard’s own dog. I believed the dog was the observer because of the non-chronology and the presentation of dialogue, as well as a reference to Jack London and Call of the Wild (which, coincidentally, I had just finished reading).
Godard’s own statements in this regard also include a subplot relating to a second couple, the relation of which to the main couple I don’t think anyone would have understood as fully as Godard’s description, but the film is so experimental that it doesn’t really matter what it is about, and each audience will make sense of it somewhat differently.
The Los Angeles Art Show was as usual once again, an amazing event. Held once a year in downtown Los Angeles at the Convention Center, this years 2015 show ran for four days, with 120 art galleries from 22 countries around the world, and thousands of pieces of some of the best art work in the world. Master works here were amazing including original paintings by Andy Warhol, van Gogh, Matisse, Monet, Renoir, LaTrec, and more, as well as modern contemporary and emerging artists, illustrators, and sculptors. The VIP Patron Reception was held before the general public attended, which we were at, hosted by the lovely and talented Amy Adams, who I had the pleasure to meet and was as kind, professional, and gracious as could be. The Patron Reception benefited St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Quality food, wine and other beverages were served to all attending patrons, who could buy their choice of many different ethnic options of food and drink, with plenty of seating area to dine during the attendance of the massive show.
The Fine Art Prints and Art Poster Collection was again held within the art show, and directly connected to the show itself, admittable with the same ticket through a massive hallway resided the Los Angeles Jewelry, Antique, and Design show, housing nearly a hundred booths of fine jewelry, furniture, art, fashion, and antiques on display, and all—like the art adjacent, for sale.
Galleries of note here included ACE Gallery, Arcadia, Axiom Contemporary, Bruce Lurie Gallery, Gallery Now, Masterworks Fine Art Gallery, Unix Gallery, The Estate of Bert Stern, Brisset Art Gallery, Daphne Alazraki Fine Art, Spoken Art, Barclay Samson Ltd, Steve Stein Gallery, and many, more.
ANDY WARHOL: Shadows
Moca’s legendary show of Andy Warhol’s rare show here ran from September 20th, 2014 to February 2nd, 2015. Andy created these incredible works in 1978 and 1979, based on photographs he took at The Factory. This show included the full collection of paintings from Dia Art Foundation, installed edge to edge, as Andy wanted. Stunning, dreamlike work, Shadows explored the element of light, dark, shadow, and beyond light, darkness, and color, creating flowing ethereal movements of mood, emotion, vibration, and tone with harmonic clarity. Singularly one painting may connote a bell ringing back and forth, or a ghostly form floating off in to the distance, haunting the viewer and its hanging landscape. Together, the forms may suggest a continual movement of light, color and form, flickering through time and space like the shuttering of a film stock winding its way through a camera from nothing to image, to nothing and back again. Vibrant, pop, neon colors washed abruptly against solid blackness, each painting taking on a form of their own and together creating a whole rhythmic movement not unlike an abstract film stopped and blown up for one to see singularly, frame by frame, picture by picture. Shadows was a massive success, and a true honor and pleasure to see. Thank you to MOCA for this wonderful show. What follows below is a clip of Velvet Underground legend Lou Reed discussing the icon.
As one of the most important museums in the world, in one of the greatest cities in the world, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago brings local, national, and international exhibitions to Chicago in the realm of modern art, performance art, dance, theatre, and music. MCA
has always been one of my favorite spots in my hometown, and has always treated me well. My visit back to Chicago recently was no exception, where I got to see the sold out show of DAVID BOWIE IS. David Bowis is presented the first international exhibition of the career of David Bowie, one of the most pioneering and influential performers of our time.
New Digital Technology Debuts for Audio Guide Tour
Typically, I don’t like acoustic guided headphone tours at museums, as I like to to quietly take in the art and walk away from any crowd, however this exhibition was an exception. The audio tour here, which I played at full blast, was a great, unique, soaring collection of known and rare Bowie tracks that went along with each work, synchronized wherever one walked to each video installation or display. The great success of this utilized the new Sennheiser GuidePORT technology, which mapped trigger unit “identifiers” to play each corresponding, appropriate audio track in full 3D stereo, wherever one would walk near every Bowie ‘display zone.’ This created an intense, trippy, brilliant and rocking atmosphere unique to each viewer depending on where they walked, and always queued to the correct beats and images.
Mods, rockers, new wavers, hippies, art folks, and more crowded this packed show like a rock concert, and while it wasn’t nearly as chaotic and clustered as the King Tut exhibition I saw, it was still crowded. The show here was filled with rare costumes Bowie wore on stage, rare videos, handwritten lyrics by Bowie, hand drawn sketches of his concepts for stage performances, concerts, videos, album covers, and more, and numerous rare works of black and white, color drawings, and paintings by Bowie which were very well executed and crafted. Also was included a rotating hour or so long film loop of many of Bowie’s film clips that he has been in, reminding us that he is also an actor who has had some significant and strong performances. Influenced by Japanese Kabuki theatre, German Expressionism, West End Musicals, Brechtian theatre, Surrealism, New Wave, Punk, and more, Bowie is a visionary, genius masterful artist of multiple disciplines. I have grown up always loving his music, and this great show proved to myself and other fans alike, why his relevance is even beyond what we already know and love. The following is a video of David Bowie’s legendary song “Andy Warhol” about the artist.
Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music) appeared later to discuss fame, music, and creative inspiration here at MCA.
Also at MCA this year and next, Artist Faheem Majeed runs from March 10 through July 7, 2015, MCA Screen: Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys from August 8 to January 17, 2016, MCA DNA: Rafael Ferrer, May 27-January 10 2016, Anne Collier runs until March 8, 2015, Doris Salcedo from February 21 to May 24, 2015, and Kerry James Marshall runs from April 23 to September 4, 2016.
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) is located at 220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60611, U.S.