Alejandra de Argos by Elena Cué

 

Autor colaborador: Matteo Mottin
ATPdiary.com collaborator.

 

 

 

  

Interview with Henrik Olai Kaarstein in occasion of his exhibition ‘Mothers’ at T293 Gallery (Naples)

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HENRIK OLAI KAARSTEIN, ‘MOTHERS’, INSTALLATION AT T293 NAPLES,COURTESY T293, ROME-NAPLES FOTO: MAURIZIO ESPOSITO

 

 

ATP:  In “Turning and Returning”, your previous exhibition with T293, you were showing “material collages” made with sheets and towels “found” in hotel rooms and saunas and assembled so as to fill the typical aseptic and empty void of those places. Is there a connection between these works and the ones you show in “Mothers”?

 


Henrik Olai Kaarstein: I’m drawn to the intimate, private and sexual connotations to these materials. They are heavy with information, insinuation and emotion even before I manipulate them. Making a fabric ”dirty” with paint and colours. Putting my hand on them so they never can be clean or fresh again. I guess in ”Turning and Returning” the idea of collecting and gathering materials was more present than in my newer works. As I never really was that concerned with the personal narrative of these objects, or the gesture of putting these everyday objects into a gallery space, I moved away from it. It’s always been more about the physical qualities of the fabrics that I didn’t have control over and had to work with and work around.

 


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HENRIK OLAI KAARSTEIN, ‘MOTHERS’, INSTALLATION AT T293 NAPLES, COURTESY T293, ROME-NAPLES FOTO: MAURIZIO ESPOSITO

 


ATP:  There’s been a clear evolution in your works, from the ones presented in “Projectile Weapons”, through “Idea is the object” at D’Amelio Gallery, to “Mothers”. Can you tell us something about this path?


H.O.K.: The word path is a bit farfetched. Of course there’s been progression and development. It’s getting more important for me to look back at earlier works as a way of evolving, retrospective investigation. It’s nothing complacent with a bit of self-referentiality. It’s almost like admitting defeat and accepting that there are still issues that need to be examined.


ATP:  ”Mothers” is a title that evokes feelings at the same time personal and impersonal. Can you explain us the reason behind this choice?


H.O.K.: I like writing words down as a method of working and framing my work. It’s part of a notebook for sketching and ideas. Most of my ”ideas” are not visual illustrations, but come more in the form of sentences, quick assembling of words etc. I like cementing ambiguities on paper.  Looking at the title “Mothers” standing alone on a piece of paper was odd. It has a great duality to it like you mentioned. It is a warm word, but also feels like a cold title. It’s harmful and dangerous somehow. Like a pack of angry lionesses. In the specific situation of the exhibition, the intimacy of the materials it turns perverse and incestuous. The plural form of the word swiftly disarms all of these connotations with impersonality, like it implodes into nothing and is suddenly pointing everywhere.  Mothers represents acceptance and embracement and therefore also functions as a wink to what I describe as ”aggressive femininity” in the exhibited works and ”sisterhood” of the seriality. It is a crowded, yet democratic installation. No individual work is allowed to be more important than its siblings.


ATP:  The works in the exhibition are characterized by simple basic materials such as towels and mattress covers. On these everyday objects you paint enigmatic and ambiguous landscapes. Can you tell us about the link between these two parts, the base and the paintings?


H.O.K.: I’m not sure if there’s much to tell. The surfaces lie on my dirty floor so I can circle around it, occasionally diving in after a decision is made. I just add with what makes sense, puzzling together a solution and struggle to make all aspects connect. A lot of water is mixed with the paint. It’s a long process of water damage and drying, hiding mistakes and sometimes seeing mistakes as success. Repeat, add and rework as many times as I feel necessary.  There are a lot of limitations when you work on something mass-produced. I need limitations to focus and control the visual delegation. Continuously adding liquids to objects made to repel and suck up moisture that never will be clean and pure again was the starting idea. Performing as aesthetical objects instead of functioning. It’s a great combination of sad and sexy.


ATP:  From the text that goes with the exhibition: “powerful resources and will are used to lay bare and point out the existence of repressed information”. What kind of repressed information do your works hide?


H.O.K.: “Prejudiced longings”, are the two last words of that press text. I just want to point out where. I’ve never been a who-what-why-man.



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HENRIK OLAI KAARSTEIN, ‘MOTHERS’, INSTALLATION AT T293 NAPLES, COURTESY T293, ROME-NAPLES FOTO: MAURIZIO ESPOSITO

 

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HENRIK OLAI KAARSTEIN, AND YOU DESERVE ALL 5, 2013, ACRYLIC PAINT, IRIDESCENT MEDIUM, ACRYLIC GLUE AND SILICONE ON MATTRESS PAD : PITTURA ACRILICA, MATERIALE IRIDESCENTE, COLLA ACRILICA E SILICONE SU COPRIMATERASSO, 75 X 200 CM, COURTESY T293, ROME-NAPLES FOTO: MAURIZIO ESPOSITO

 

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HENRIK OLAI KAARSTEIN, AND YOU OWN ALL 4, 2013, ACRYLIC PAINT, VINYL PAINT, ACRYLIC GLUE, IRIDESCENT MEDIUM ON MATTRESS PAD : PITTURA ACRILICA, PITTURA VINILICA, COLLA ACRILICA, MATERIALE IRIDESCENTE SU COPRIMATERASSO, 85 X 200 CM, COURTESY T293, ROME-NAPLES


 Written by our friends at ATPdiary.com in colaboration with Matteo Mottin

 
 Jake y Dinos Chapman. Foto:A de Argos

 

The Chapman brothers’ “Come and See” exhibition invites viewers to reflect on the meaning of art and its countless ramifications.

The Chapmans are part of the Young British Artists group, and a large part of their work is inspired by the Old Master Francisco de Goya. The artists’ desire to recreate Goya’s “flat” paintings in three dimensions is evident among the work on display.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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These photos show Goya’s etching on the right, and the related Chapman sculpture on the left. Although these works were not included in this exhibition at London’s Serpentine Gallery, it does go to show the relevance and modernity of Goya’s work, which dates back to around 1810.

 

A number of years ago the two brothers obtained one of Goya’s series of anti-war etchings titled “The Disasters of War”, and replaced the victims with clowns and puppets: an example of the irreverent black humour so often present in their work.

 

 

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 What surprised me the most in this visit, however, was seeing a group of people with Down syndrome accompanied by their carers. I don’t doubt that such an exhibition could be meaningful to them, although I struggle to see how. At one point one of them insisted that their carer take a photo of this piece for them.

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dino3Sex, religion, morality and culture are the main themes dealt with in their work, and their tone is grotesque, aggressive, provocative. In particular, references to morality can be seen in a series of life-size figures dressed in white tunics and hoods, looking down at what lies before them - a nod to Goya’s etchings depicting the Spanish Inquisition (this dress is also typically seen among penitent brotherhoods during Spain’s Holy Week). With these etchings Goya was speaking out against the Inquisition and superstition in general. The Chapman brothers are also creating an analogy with the robes worn by the Ku Klux Klan, the American far-right white supremacy group. This serious ideological tone is somewhat eased by the smiley faces present on the tunics, and by their grotesque sandals and colourful socks.

 

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What pushed me to visit an exhibition displaying humanity’s darkest moments? Mostly out of a sense of curiosity, influenced by a powerful art market whose job it is to create tastes and spark our interest. I wanted to know why this kind of art had become so successful, why it had achieved critical acclaim. And secondly, the art on display here forces me to reimagine my own ideas of political correctness and beauty - it’s taboo-shattering, and provocation is a key component of the art of our day. Having said that, once inside the exhibition I found the crudeness a little excessive. I ended my visit feeling that it was all too showy, too self-aware - the same artist-viewer dialogue of social and cultural critique could have been established in a much less aggressive manner.


It’s difficult to explain. What one finds here is ugly, aggressive, violent and unpleasant. The art mercilessly forces you to face the basest and crudest sides of human beings, leaving out civilization, culture or any of the other more constructive capacities of humanity which differentiate us from the rest of the animal kingdom. A real-world depiction, in all its rawness, of Twain’s quote: “Of all the creatures that were made, man is the most detestable. Of the entire brood he is the only one--the solitary one--that possesses malice.”

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Of all the exhibits on display, I most enjoyed the oil paintings. The majority of them belong to the White Cube gallery.

            

 

 

One of the rooms was dedicated to works made of cardboard.

 

 

Foto: Alejandra de Argos

 

 

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Duchamp famously said that art is in the eye of the beholder, not in the artwork itself. Art is and has always been a means of communication between the artist and the viewer. Francisco de Goya, the Chapman brothers: one message, two centuries...

 

 

 

          

 

Jake and Dinos Chapman. "Come and See". From November 29, 2013 to February 9, 2014.

 

 

 

 

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Foto: Alejandra de Argos

 

The Terracotta Army (or "Terracotta Warriors and Horses") is considered the Eighth Wonder of the World and was ordered to be built by the first Emperor of unified China, Qin Shihuang, who began the construction of the mausoleum at the tender age of 13.

Qin Shihuang (259 BC - 210 BC) was responsible for bringing an end to the feuds, achieving the unification of China, building the Great Wall as a defence against the Huns and unifying Chinese thought and culture of the time into a coherent system.

 

 

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Foto: Alejandra de Argos

 

Upon arriving at Xian I was greeted by a great fog, probably similar to London’s Great Smog of 1952. Outdoor visibility was extremely low due to China’s reliance on high-pollution energy sources such as carbon.


Just after landing, I drove for about an hour to visit this large museum, which is made up of three large pavilions, or pits, containing the remains of the army, and a hall containing two bronze carriages, together with information on the museum’s history.

I began my visit at the pit named N1, the largest of the three measuring 230m in length. It was certainly an impressive sight upon entering the space: a vast number of lifesize soldiers perfectly lined up, each with its own personality (their facial expressions are all different). This pit holds the infantry and war chariots.

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 Foto: Alejandra de Argos  Foto: Alejandra de Argos

 

The N2 pit houses over 1,300 warrior figures, horses and chariots. N3 is the smallest and it is believed to represent the army’s General Staff.

  

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What I found interesting was that even before the construction of the Emperor’s mausoleum, there was already a tradition in place among the feudal lords of burying lifesize terracotta figures near their tombs or mausoleums. Unlike these figures, however, those of the Emperor Qin Shihuang were made to a much higher standard, thanks to better quality clay mix and the use of high-temperature ovens. Coloured pigments would then be added at a later stage. What is most fascinating, however, is that the bronze weapons were covered in a chrome coating to preserve the metal from corrosion, a technique not seen in Europe until as recently as 1930.


As our guide explained, the Emperor Qin Shihuang sent 700,000 workers into forced labour for the construction of the mausoleum. On the day of his burial, upon order of the new Emperor, over 10,000 people were also buried, as well as all non-childbearing concubines and a large number of construction workers.

 

 

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In 1974, purely by accident, a group of farmers happened upon some broken remains of the figures while digging a well, and a team of archaeologists was brought in immediately to begin the excavation work. It is thought that there are still around 8,000 figures buried in the earth.



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Foto: Alejandra de Argos

 


Specialists are currently at work to recover the soldiers, so that new restoration work can be carried out. There are still thousands left to be unearthed, including the Emperor’s main tomb.

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Foto: Alejandra de Argos

 

 


The museum contains these two bronze carriages decorated in gold and silver, which together made up the Emperor’s funeral procession. The first carriage’s driver would be travelling on foot, and its role in the procession was to clear the way ahead, whereas the second carriage was used to carry the Emperor’s soul. The two carriages are beautifully displayed here, two precious jewels buried under ground for over 2,000 years (the restoration work alone took eight years). The horses were painted in white in order to protect the bronze from rust.

 

 

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Foto: Alejandra de Argos

 

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Foto: Alejandra de Argos

 

 

Recommendations:
For those who cannot travel to see the Xian warriors, Madrid’s Fernán Gómez-Centro Cultural de la Villa is hosting the exhibition 'Terracotta Army' until March 2, 2014. A part of the N1 pit has been reproduced here and can be visited; the centre is also showing an informative documentary about the terracotta army, which may well be the same that is shown to visitors in Xian.

 

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Foto: Alejandra de Argos

 

 

 

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This wonderful exhibition of Adel Abdessemed, artist of Argelian origin, can be seen at the Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar, until January 5, 2014. The exhibition opens our eyes to the violence that is present in the world. Adel’s work focuses on art as as a tool to condemn violence, and through his work he describes himself as an artist of action. This is Mathaf’s most significant project to date.

 

At the entrance to the museum we see La Vase Abominable, a vessel of uncommon proportions resting on a base made of bombs. A vessel and weapons: two of the first artifacts created by Man are united as symbols of our contradictory human condition, creation and destruction.




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In the entrance we can also see a video projection called Ayaï, where the action of a bare foot stamping violently on a rose in a cobblestone is repeated endlessly. A curious visual effect is created by the complete destruction of something that evokes beauty.

 

 

 




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Under the video we have the Soldaten. Abdessemed sees them everywhere, from Northern Ireland at the start of the 90s to modern-day Afghanistan. For security reasons. For our own safety. Soldiers represent the continuous wars of our time.


 

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Lastly in this room is Practice Zero Tolerance (2006), a terracotta car that seems to be carbonized, in stark contrast against the white walls. An image that reminds me of the many scenes of terrorist attacks in the media.



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The next room certainly doesn’t leave one indifferent. East of Eden is the first memory of a field of flowers transformed into knives.
“What a strange metamorphosis is imposing itself into our memory. What a vast and repeated crime has been committed against us, against our bodies, against the soil that we tread on, transforming old dreams of goodwill and happiness into waste, leading to soil destroyed by evil, violence and its signs, for a moment together again in a figure similar to the archetypal garden”.




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On the far side of the room, a video (Mémoire) is being projected of a baboon placing letters on a wall, spelling out "Hutu" and "Tutsi" - the two ethnicities which in 1994 caused the Rwandan genocide. Memory, memory everywhere...




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Suddenly I walked into a room and the impact was shocking. I found myself surrounded by a human installation tile covering the huge walls. I assume that the artist had to be performed exclusively for the exhibition. Room of a man as a builder. Shams is the name of this huge and very powerful installation. Man as a builder of monuments to perpetuate the memory. The archetype of the artist as a great builder. I found this installation as a kind of tribute to the millions of men who have helped build our memory and which are invisible.memoria y que son invisibles.

 

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Little Pot is a series of everyday jugs made of different materials (clay, rubber, lacquer, jade...). "Gift of love", the promise of time yet to come, perhaps.

 

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Room of the eternal, or Beyond time. Julie. D'un horizon á un autre. This refers to the concepts of eternity and the infinite, two terms which have much to do with the figure of the artist, since his work is related to space and time. The artwork represents his wife made out of salt stone on a rock from Qatar.
“In art, eternity and the infinite are related to the notion of beauty, since in life, beauty is similar to happiness”.




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And finally, a golden panel with its four daughters as a dreamt memory of a time that is to come, L'Âge d'Or.

 

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“L’Âge d’Or is a heavenly state where the fatigue of a life of effort and its subsequent unhappiness are banished. The Golden Age appears before civilization and its malaise. It belongs to the realms of myth and mythology…” Pier Luigi Tazzi

 

 

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Recommendations:


Even in the event of not being able to visit the exhibition, I recommend buying its catalogue. The majority of the information in this post comes from there. As well as explaining Adel Abdessemed’s work and thoughts in a very profound and precise fashion, it is also quite simply a delight for the soul. Art and philosophy are once again united with the purpose of attempting to comprehend our own existence.

 

 

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 Yesterday saw the opening of a new exhibition at Madrid’s Ivorypress gallery of designer and architect Ron Arad’s work. Elena Foster is the gallery’s founder and current director, fulfilling her role admirably. The gallery’s New York garage-style space is appropriate for the scale and scope of Arad’s surprising world.

 

 

The first item you see as you enter is a ping-pong table in stainless steel and bronze: the structure and design of its lines is a work of beauty in its own right. Already from this first item, the artist’s incredible technical skill is apparent.

 

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The exhibition invites us to appreciate the breadth of the artist’s work, which spills out into architecture, furniture design, lighting and sculpture. His collection of designer chairs is fascinating, from his very first chair, the Rover Chair, result of two ready-mades, a Rover 200 seat on top of a Kee-Klamp frame; spectacular chairs such as the Narrow Pappardelle and all its poetry; the Blo-Void, which unapologetically abandons all functionality to become a statue; or the singular Gomli, named, according to the artist, after his friend and fellow artist Antony Gormley designed with comfort in mind while eschewing all preconceived ideas of beauty.




 

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Arad is a versatile, highly creative artist, and skilled in the use of his materials which, through movement, are ascribed a life of their own. He likes to experiment with steel, aluminium, polyethylene or corian, playing around with them liberally to achieve often unexpected and delightful results. His shelf units are just as surprising. The stainless steel map of China is exceptional, and carries great visual impact upon first viewing. No Bad Colours, a workstation containing innovative technology that allows it to change colour, is incredibly creative and breaks new ground in design. But the real star of the show was Restless: movement, harmony and design all coming together in one great art piece.

 

 

 

 


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Blame the tools, a replica of a Fiat 500, architecture projects, eyewear design… all form part of the artist’s fascinating world.

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

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In terms of his architectural work, I would pick out the brilliant Design Museum Holon near Tel Aviv, the artist’s hometown. This is an impressive spiral-shaped construction in Corten steel which surrounds the museum, almost like a huge metal sculpture. A great example of how architecture, sculpture and design can come together harmoniously in a common public space.

 

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The exhibition embraces and embodies Arad’s motto: “My only principle: don’t base anything you do on what already exists”. This and much more can be enjoyed at Ivorypress, thanks in no small part to Elena Foster’s continued efforts to introduce us to the great artists and thinkers in design, architecture or painting.

 

 

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In 1999 I visited the magnificent Ducal Palace in Gubbio, owned by Federico de Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino and one of the 15th century’s great wonders. It was there, in the palace’s cold, empty halls, that part of the Panza di Biumo collection is held, containing works from the 1980s and 90s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monochromatic paintings in various formats filled the walls of the palace, and each of the participating artists was given a specific space in which to display their talents. The collection included Ettori Spalletti’s simplicity and harmony, metallic monochromatic paintings by David Simpson, geometric paintings by Ford Beckman and even small cubes by Stuart Arends, whose tiny size caught my attention - appearing in different colours on a large wall, it seemed as though they would simply vanish in space. 

 

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In his book Memories of a Collector, Panza reflects on Arends’ imaginative and sensitive artwork, noting that rather than hiding a certain ideology behind its surface, its sole purpose is aesthetic: beauty, composition and colour. There are times when visitors are grateful for the simple aesthetic contemplation of a piece, without feeling as if they are missing out on a greater message that the artist is trying to communicate.

 

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In September 2012 I had the chance to visit Villa Menafoglio in Varese (near Milan), a splendid building and home to Giuseppe Panza, one of history’s great contemporary art collectors, who lived there until his death. His widow Giovanna, who shared his passion for art, still lives in the Villa today. Panza’s interests were broad, including philosophy, astronomy and biology, the first in particular informing much of his art collection. He was a passionate man who tirelessly pursued his search for truth in life and art.

 

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He bought his first painting, a Tàpies, in 1956, attracted as he was by its pessimism which he recognized as being the result of the social traumas and political upheaval after WWII, and which deeply affected him personally. He was collecting art from the United States, spurred on by the lower prices and a more energetic, exciting art scene, at a time when Europe was not paying much attention to the American art market. Towards the end of the 50s, he starts buying Rothko’s spirituality, the every-day of Rauschenberg as a conceptual form of expression, the endlessness of Kline… In the 60s, he moves towards ever more abstract art, minimalist and conceptual works that are stripped to their essence, adding artists such as Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman and Robert Morris to his collection. In this period he also shows an active interest in the emerging pop art movement, acquiring works by Lichtenstein, Oldenburg and Rosenquist, among others. His collection continues to grow steadily, eventually adding up to over 2,500 pieces: a staggering representation of every avant-garde movement that came out of the second half of the 20th century.

 

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Today Villa Menafoglio maintains a permanent collection, even though the majority of the original collection was acquired by Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art and the Guggenheim in New York. What I found most fascinating was a part of the villa dedicated to Dan Flavin, made up of various halls each containing an installation piece by the artist: I’d certainly never seen a larger permanent space dedicated to Flavin before. The space was filled with complete silence, and visitors would walk down corridors lit by lights in adjacent rooms. The halls were set up to induce visitors into an almost mystical state of deep contemplation and reflection. Another artist whose work caught my attention was James Turrell: his work, which changes the environment around it, plays with space, light and our perceptions in general, sometimes tricking our senses in a surprising way. Other artists of note here are David Simpson, Max Cole, Fredenthal, Charlton and Beckman, as well as an excellent collection of African and Pre-Columbian art.

 

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A visit to the museum is highly recommended - through its collection, Panza has tried to understand the society of his time and the profound changes it was going through. This close relationship between art and the passing of time, together with the idea of art as a channel for humanity’s deepest concerns, were the common threads in his life and collection.

 

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FilosofiaGriega

 

 

Greek civilization laid the foundations of our contemporary Western culture - it is in Ancient Greece, specifically in Miletus, where the origins of philosophy are to be found.
The book begins with the Seven Sages of Greece and with Thales of Miletus, the first man to attempt to explain natural phenomena through science rather than myth.


Among other things, he earned his fame for having predicted a solar eclipse, discovering Ursa Major and its importance in circumnavigation, and for his theory on the existence of a primordial entity from which all things originate. Until Thales’ findings, all phenomena that could not be readily understood by man were attributed to the Greek gods who, although they exhibited physical attributes far superior to mortals, were nevertheless imagined in the shape of man with their same mortal needs.

For most readers, philosophy is a very dense discipline, and that is true for some parts of it. Hence this book’s appeal: written in an engaging and accessible style, it takes the reader on an exciting journey through the history of thought.

Philosophy, meaning “love of knowledge”, began in Ancient Greece and it is the attempt to find rational answers to the fundamental questions in life. Studying the history of philosophy is important not only for the factual knowledge we learn in the process, but also because it teaches us about the need to develop independent thought.

Philosophy is our guide in the difficult task of daring to think for ourselves. Kant - and many others before him - reminds us of this with his well-known “Sapere aude”, or “Dare to know”. We are so conditioned in our thinking that we don’t even realize it’s happening. Our family, teachers, our spiritual guides, the State, mass media, our consumerist society, etc.: everything and everyone around us, in some way, directs us towards a certain way of thinking and living. This is actually very easy for us to submit to, since we spend a lot less effort delegating our thinking to those we consider better able at doing it for us. According to Immanuel Kant in his 1784 essay, “Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?”, we act like this either out of laziness - it’s easier for us to have others think on our behalf - or out of cowardice - for fear of being wrong. In either case, he thinks it’s down to immaturity.

The idea of “daring to know” is as timeless as the history of thought; the great contributions made to the evolution of thought by these philosophers can be applied to any time in the history of humanity. And this is precisely why philosophy is a highly relevant subject in all our lives. This book is just the first step.

 

 
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