I’ve long used Bruegel in my work and been fascinated by the uses others make of his imagery. Tarkovsky as a way to search for a memory of humanity (Solaris, 1972), Von Trier as a (albeit pessimistic) nod to Tarkovsky (Melancholia, 2011) and Roeg more simply to connect Rip Torn to Our David while their characters have yet to meet (The Man Who Fell to Earth, 1976). I’ve used Bruegel’s The Peasant Wedding (1567) to stand for the possibility of collective memory or a yearning for human contact in shows such as Coco (2004) and They Are the We of Me (2005), and I’m now half-inching Tarkovsky’s examination of The Hunters in the Snow (1565) for Vicki and Alex, Like the Clouds (2014). But can anything beat Auden or Carlos Williams on this subject?
Musee des Beaux Arts
W. H. Auden
About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
Copyright © 1976 by Edward Mendelson, William Meredith and Monroe K. Spears, Executors of the Estate of W. H. Auden.
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
William Carlos Williams
According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring
a farmer was ploughing
the whole pageantry
of the year was
the edge of the sea
sweating in the sun
the wings’ wax
off the coast
a splash quite unnoticed
From Collected Poems: 1939-1962, Volume II by William Carlos Williams, published by New Directions Publishing Corp.
Here are a few screen shots from a film I’ve just finished, Vicki and Alex, Like the Clouds. Ostensibly it’s about a photograph.
It was a beautiful day for hanging out at Queens Park Railway Club with Patrick Jameson. Michael White’s hilarious show was augmented by a fluro-Michael drawing horses for children. And then Douglas Morland went by, hosting a drawing workshop on the train. Festive!
In the mood for a good ol’ conspiricy? Then you can’t beat Mirage Men by John Lundberg, Mark Pilkington, Roland Denning & Kypros Kyprianou. The truth isn’t out there.
Watch the trailer here.
Centered on Richard Doty, a former USA government agent tasked with deceiving UFO conspiracy theorists, the documentary Mirage Men examines the mythology surrounding the alien phenomenon; revealing that the subculture that it has spawned might all be the result of a well-organized and efficient fabrication.
The film explores a world where information and disinformation have converged and blended to such a degree that it is close to impossible to figure out who is telling the truth and who is not. The film posits that the USA government has misled, manipulated and corrupted those who believe in alien life for decades in an attempt to distract them from real, classified operations and to cover up evidence.
A more twitchy, jumpy or paranoid Hamlet I’ve yet to see. Dominic Hill directed an almost unlovable Brian Ferguson as Hamlet, sometimes overwhelmed by the cast’s soundscapes. But there was lots to like about this production. That a horse-headed Goth band made sense at one point was a testament to the actors’ commitment. And the grave scene was spot on. Hamlet as black comedy.
I managed to miss both the Glasgow and the London screenings of these new films. All made with exclusive access to the BBC archives, in what must be a dream residency. Watch all 6 films by Kate Davis, Kathryn Elkin, Luke Fowler, Torsten Lauschmann, Stephen Sutcliffe and Alia Syed here.