the blog is open!

Did you know? If you want, you can post about any art you see in NYC: just add a new blog post, and check the box for the “Around NYC” category. To add images or sound to your post, click the “Add Media” button above the edit box.

Looking forward to hearing more about your aesthetic adventures!

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Museum Day

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The High Cost of Cheap Art

In Raymond Williams’s piece “Culture is ordinary,” he writes :


But why, says Sir George Mammon, should I support a lot of doubtful artists? Why, says Mrs. Mink, should I pay good money to educate, at my expense, a lot of irresponsible and ungrateful State scholars? The answer, dear sir, dear madam, is that you don’t. On your own – learn your size- you could do practically nothing. We are talking about a method of common payment, for common services; we too shall be paying. (p. 90)



How does Raymond Williams consider art to be something that is for the common good? Is art a “common service” that should be paid for with a “method of common payment”? Should every artist that creates art be sponsored? Who should decide what art is worth public funding?

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9/26 – Tolstoy

The reading for Thursday, September 26th is “What is Art” by Tolstoy.

Reply to this post with your comments and questions! Groups 1 and 3 are in the lead this week, so please do write in early.

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9/24 – Williams and Cortazar consolidated

Hi, all! For Tuesday, September 24th, the assigned readings are these:

  • Gould, How to Succeed in College, pp. 74-105.
  • Herbert Read, “A Definition of Art”
  • Raymond Williams, “Culture is Ordinary”
  • Julio Cortazar, “On Receiving the Ruben Dario Award”

Since some of you have already posted about Williams and Cortazar, I thought it might help to combine those posts here — both in preparation for Tuesday’s discussion, and as a model for Thursday’s.

Please feel free to add comments and questions here! To create a new thread, use the box at the bottom; to respond to individual comments, just click one of the “reply” links instead.

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Is Culture a connotation of privilege and elitism?

       In “On receiving the Ruben Dario Award” Julio Cortazar states that “Culture here (Nicaragua) does not have the usual connotations of privilege and elitism which it has on so many circles” and because Culture is integrated into the everyday vocabulary of the people, the masses are more interested in the affairs of their country and are able to “understand complicated speeches and appreciate art.” Do you agree that culture has a connotation of elitism and elegance? If so, does stripping it of its connotations and integrating it into our everyday vocabulary help us attain a state of mind where we strive to learn and grow as a person?

Williams states that Leavis thought that the industrial society has deliberately cheapened our natural resources whereas, William argues that any aspect of culture that denies the value of an industrial society is really irrelevant. Do you agree with Leavis teachings that traditional culture has been degraded due to the industrial society or with Williams that industrial society has given people more real freedom to dispose of our lives?

Raymond Williams felt oppressed by a teashop in Cambridge because the people there insisted that culture is the difference of behavior and speech habit, and showed that they had culture.  Both the authors of  “Culture is ordinary” and “On receiving the Ruben Dario Award” disagree that culture is limited to a certain number of “educated” people and that culture is an intellectual attainment. In your opinion does a person have to be educated to be cultured?

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The Name of This Post is Secret

“Culture is Ordinary” by Raymond Williams argues (like the title states) that culture and the arts are not only found in the teashop of “cultivated” people but also in the lives of ordinary people.

1)   These “cultivated” people use their positions as the “educated” to remove art and culture away from the masses. Almost like the masses are uneducated and cannot benefit from the art. Williams asks how and why some “call certain things culture and then separate them from ordinary people?” Can anyone benefit from art or do you need to have some education in art to truly enjoy it?

2)   “So when the Marxists say that we live in a dying culture, and that the masses are ignorant, I have to ask them where on earth they have lived.” With which side do you agree more: with the Marxist who believe that culture is fading and the masses are uneducated or Williams?

3)   What is education? “The Times sell nearly three times as many copies as in the days of its virtual monopoly of the press.” Is reading a newspaper truly the way in which people learn?

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“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

In the article “The Beautiful and the Ugly are One Thing, the Sublime Another; A Reflection on Culture,” Diamond begins to describe the fine line between the definitions of “beauty,” “ugly,” and the “sublime.” He states that “what is beautiful today may be an embarrassment tomorrow,” so does that give beauty a true meaning, much like the inconspicuous meaning of art?

Diamond then links the meaning of the “sublime” to culture, giving examples such as language and food, but how does one’s culture help them to reach a state of “sublime-ness?” It can be inferred that from living in one culture for an extended period of time, the small things that seem to amaze people from outside that culture seem mundane and ordinary to the people living in it, but do those differences between cultures define art, or do they simply add a new dimension to the already multivalent meaning? Is being amazed by these differences define the achievement of the “sublime?”

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Applications to culture as we know it

In Raymond Williams’ “Culture is Ordinary,” he discusses first what he believes culture entails. He then goes on to take issue with Marxism and Leavis’ teachings, two ideologies that he says deeply impressed him, before clearing four significant misconceptions on what culture is. All the while, he maintains a ground truth that all of his arguments come back to: culture is ordinary.

1) Williams describes himself as coming from a farming valley that he believes is part of an “old society,” in which there is a deeply rooted sense of community and in which money was often a limiting factor, such that few in his family could pursue a formal education because few could spare the “immediate work.” Williams states that he was never “oppressed” by his university, Cambridge. He never felt as if he came from a different world; he was never mentally or emotionally isolated by a supposed sense of grandeur. However, he describes a tea shop in which he did feel a sense of unwelcoming and dissimilarity. The inhabitants “had [culture,] and they showed you they had it.” Have you ever found yourself in a setting with a similar atmosphere in New York, or anywhere else? If so, where?

2) Williams states that Leavis taught that traditional culture has been superseded by an industrial state which “deliberately cheapen[s] our natural human responses.” This contradicts with Anderson’s belief that art can be found everywhere, including modern-day technology and water fluoridation. With whom do you agree? Has industrialization conquered art and literature, or has it simply given them a new medium?

3) Williams wishes for three things to improve overall culture and society, one of which is added provision for the arts and education. One of the conditions he asks this on is that in implementing these funds, there be no underlying motive for increasing consumption or state revenue. One must ask himself: is this probable or practical? Looking back to the issue of the Barnes exhibit, is it possible to spend money on art for the sake of the art, or will there always be an underlying motive of earnings?

4) In “On Receiving the Rubén Darío Award,” Julio Cortázar describes culture in Nicaragua, the country from which he received his award. He portrays the culture as the exact opposite of that in Williams’ tea shop: it is that of the ordinary man, with no restrictions and complete freedom to whatever one feels or wishes to portray. On which end of the spectrum would you place the culture of New York, or of America as a whole? Why?

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schedule for week of 9/17

Confused about who’s writing what, when? Here’s what we wrote on the board at the end of class:


Readings involved

Post Questions


Talk in Class

Reflect after Class

Tues 9/17 Dewey and/or Anderson and/or Diamond group 1
(by 9/13)
group 2
(before 9/17)
group 3
(on 9/17)
group 4
(after 9/17)
Thurs 9/19 Williams and/or Cortázar group 2
(by 9/17)
group 3
(before 9/19)
group 4
(on 9/19)
group 1
(after 9/17

In other words, Tuesday’s class will be a catch-up / continuation of today’s, so if you’ve already done your blog task, you’re good to go. (Since there are no posts yet about Diamond, that can be an optional additional post — perhaps from the Reflect & Reconnect group, which in this case is group 4.)

We’ll begin moving the rotation forward for Thursday’s class. Group 2 will take the lead with Engage & Interrogate, posting early enough to give group 3 something to respond to.

Hope this helps!

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Date change for Compass Rose

Hi, everyone,

The date of “The Compass Rose” in Ryan’s Pub is Thursday, September 19th, not the 24th as I had thought. Please update your calendars.

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Art: Beyond the Experience of the Individual and it Role in Society

“Art and Civilization” by John Dewey

In this this chapter author John Dewey attempts to delineate the role of art beyond the experience of the individual, its influence on culture and its contribution to “civilization”. He writes, “Art is often distrusted because of its roots in imaginative creativity. A civilization’s art and culture is construed broadly in terms of its morals.” Hence, what Dewey really means to say is that art cannot be used as a source in the study of civilizations because of its inclinency to portray the author’s personal his or her own opinions and their understanding of morals.

  • My question to you is whether or not art can be considered a great resource in one’s intellectual arsenal to understand a civilization and its culture?
  • Or is it a deterring source, on which we cannot rely because of its strictly individualistic understanding of the civilization?

Author Dewey referred to Shelley’s theory that moral science only “arranges elements that poetry has created.” He also furthers his point by saying that “’intellectual’ products formulate the tendencies of these arts and provide them with an intellectual base.”

  • The question that follows this thought is to what extents do intellectual thoughts and theories influence art?
  • Is art intellectual or, in theory, an expression of the emotions of the artist and subject?
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What Really Is Art?

In American Muse, Chapter 1, Anderson puts forth the notion that “there is an enormous amount of art in America today — far more than is generally recognized by most people, scholar and nonspecialist alike.” He goes on to define art as “being made by humans whose elevated intellectual, creative, or bodily skills are recognized by others in their group; of being imaginatively created in an immediately, and directly sensuous, public medium.” If one applies Anderson’s definition of art to the music, paintings, sculptures, and other works that have been created in modern times by Americans, one can say that Anderson’s argument that art is alive and well in America is quite valid. However, do you believe that Anderson’s definition of art is flawed, and if so, how would you define art?

Anderson focuses on the descriptive rather than the evaluative usage of the word art throughout American Muse. However, most people who look at art make statements such as, “Oh, that’s a beautiful painting” or “That doesn’t look lifelike enough.” Is it wrong to make such evaluative statements about art? Is there such thing as “good art” or “bad art?”

Dewey asserts that “art is a mode of prediction not found in charts and statistics, and it insinuates possibilities of human relations not to be found in rule and precept, admonition and administration.” However, Anderson appears to downplay this by assuming that “art and aesthetics in America have an objective reality, one that can be empirically studied.” Can one’s reaction to art be studied quantitatively, or is art something that cannot be explained in numbers?

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Specialization of What Art Means to People

Richard L. Anderson paints a very rich, thorough, and descriptive picture of the word art in the perspectives of three ancient civilizations, a few 20th century philosophers and the general public throughout the centuries. There is a sense that art means differently in terms of culture to the ancient peoples of the Australian aboriginal, the Navajos, and the Yorubas in contrast with the more contemporary general public. Of course, the views of the ancient people on art, from what I gathered in “American Muse”, are drawn from their day-to-day life experience as well as their surrounding environment while the public’s or our opinion on art is guided by the thoughts of the philosophers. It is interesting to see the Navajos perceiving art as pervading every insignificant details of their lives demonstrated by the Navajo prayer that Anderson referenced to in the text. The Yoruba connects art with their culture “in sustaining fundamental beliefs and values” and of which the concept of harmony is included in daily living. The Australian Aboriginal simply uses art as a means of education, of growing up, and possibly religion (from the mentioning of rituals). Their views of art are in many ways simple and practical when compared to how we see art. Anderson refers to the centuries in which mankind has changed his view of art from art being “the exceptional skills associated with painting, drawing, engraving, and sculpture” in the 17th century through the 19th century to a whole abstract array of art in the 20th century and on.

1) Why is our perception of art always changing and complex in contrast to the understandable meaning art held for people of the ancient civilizations?

Anderson refers to the strategy of philosopher Morris Weitz in defining art in the majority of Chapter 1’s content. According to Weitz, a gray area exists, between what he deems as art and nonart, “to the degree that they possess the recognition criteria that characterizes artworks”, 2) how much do you agree with this statement? Similarly, most of us were left in a debate on Tuesday over whether a sketch of a person by a local Indian artist (who is conspicuously doing sketches for a living) should be deemed as art. Some of us feel that art is black and white, others maybe not. What are your thoughts?

In Chapter 2, Anderson takes us into the homes of three friends in a five minute video interview regarding the role art plays in their lives. Anderson’s wife, Kim, owns a home adorned by plentiful traces of art in a whole range of varieties. From the house’s exterior architecture, to its interior design, to paintings, furnitures, Kim’s attire, and etc, art can be clearly detected implicitly in Kim’s knowledge. Carmen, an elderly Mexican woman, doesn’t see art in her home in contrast to Kim. However Anderson convincingly defends this by remarking hints of art in the interior architectural features, to the furnitures, to the ceramic plaques, and more, all of which Carmen feels is not art to her as her definition of art is restricted to fine arts. Lastly, we are brought to Dick, the passionate auto-repair man, who conveys art in a down-to-earth manner through the sense of a car aficionado. Art is captured simply in his work environment, in the clothing, in the Volvo logo, graphic designs on his business cards, and more. Through Anderson’s eyes, we come to see how these three individuals understand and convey art. 3)With whom do you identify yourself in the notion as to which particular person’s perception of art does your definition of art fits closely in?

In many ways, art can vary between groups of people due to their occupation, philosophy, and ultimately, culture. Anderson’s project interview supports this namely in his interviewees’ designs and physical portrayals of their homes.

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Are these statements true? What is the significance of this?

In “Art and Civilization”, John Dewey says “the first stirrings of dissatisfaction and the first intimations of a better future are always found in works of art.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

But art, wherein man speaks in no wise to man,

Only to mankind– art may tell a truth

Obliquely, do the deed shall breed the thought

What is the significance and/or meaning of this quote? Why might Dewey have chosen to conclude this way?

Given Richard L. Anderson’s various examples, such as the Navajo and Yoruba peoples, do you agree with his assertion that “art is an absolute necessity”? Why or why not?



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Education of Art, Morality and Viewing Western Civilization through the Eyes of Somebody Out of It.

1. Dewey concludes that education is too literal and excludes imagination. For this reason, he rejects teaching of art and implies that art should be understood and appreciated through the imaginative eye affected by human emotions and desires. Do you think he is right? If not, why not? Was taking all those art classes in high school a waste of time?

2. Art is the represent of a time, a civilization and a collective experience. Art is also imaginative and thus, the projector of what a civilization could be. Considering this, should art conform to existing moral system or try to set up a better one?

3.  How would the Navajos and the people of Yoruba view the western civilization today? Would they view us as full of art as Anderson suggests? Dewey said that even technology is art as they “determine direction of interests and attention, and hence affect desire and purpose”. Would the Navajos and people of Yoruba think so, considering the status art is given in their society?

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Moving The Barnes: Albert and The Art Experience vs. The Masses

In The Art Of The Steal, the economic impact of the Barnes Collection relocation was projected to be the equivalent of “three Super Bowls, without the beer”, benefiting the masses and injecting money into the city. However, this is exactly what Barnes and his immediate cohorts did not want this collection to become. Do you think that the Barnes Collection should be exhibited in the public and economic interest contrary to Barnes’ intentions, or should the will of but one man and his followers be respected?

Martin Filler portrays Albert Barnes as an “incompetent, out-of-control relative” in Victory! and compares the movement of the Barnes to a “desperate family’s intervention aimed at saving a shared inheritance from being irrevocably squandered.” Based on what we know about Albert Barnes in this reading, Moving Pictures, and The Art Of The Steal, is Filler’s argument about Barnes and his collection justified, and if not, what about his argument is flawed?

In Moving Pictures, Peter Schjeldahl describes how worthwhile a visit to the Barnes is in that “a lifetime of art-history lectures will teach you less about his [Cézanne’s] art’s quiddity, and why and how it matters, than an hour at the Barnes.” In understanding a work of art, how important are facts and dates as opposed to the experience of actually admiring that work of art and treating it as a “feast of the eyes?”

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Underlying Intentions of the New Barnes: For Alfred or the Public?

Peter Schjeldahl’s “Moving Pictures” and Martin Filler’s “Victory!” certainly depicts the issue of the Barnes Foundation relocation from a different approach and angle.

Given Peter Schjeldahl’s need to write nearly a third of the article’s content on Dr. Alfred Barnes’s development in raising up an artwork display, aesthetic views on art and intentions in dedicating the Merion Museum for educational purposes, one would assume that the author has a complete knowledge and understanding for Barnes’s will to retain his art institution in Merion. In addition, he also remarks the transferring of Barnes’ collections “an aesthetic crime” and sees through this act as a political move to satisfy the “cravings of Philadelphian powers for a Center City tourist magnet.”

Yet, we find this assumption to be implicitly disproved by his approval of the Williams and Tsien’s construction of the new museum. Schjeldahl mentions that the new positioning of Matisse’s “Joy of Life” in the new building “looks bigger than I remembered, and, while still plenty radical, less confusing.” Furthermore, the author notes that the new installation of Barnes’ collections, while at first may have ignited concern for whether its integrity would be preserved, satisfactorily comments later on that it did “magnificently.”

Based on the gatherings of Schjeldahl’s opinions, (1)Does he really see the relocation as “an aesthetic crime”?  

Martin Filler, author of “Victory!”, introduces the relocation as a court order under legal requirements that the new building’s internal layout be identical to the old structure. However these conditions made people fearful that it would hinder the designers from putting a little originality. Essentially, the new Barnes’ design stemmed from “an invitational competition organized by Martha Thorne, executive director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Already, the motive for this move is held in question: (2) What is the real purpose behind all this? 

(3) Most importantly, why did both authors avoid mentioning Dr. Barnes’ will in their articles?

Behind the reasonings of the new Barnes installation from both articles, it seems as if people must find ways to justify their opinions in order to accommodate to their selfish desire to display art in what they deemed as appropriate rather than how the founder of his own art foundation sees it.


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Does it really matter?

Both Peter Schjeldah, the author of “Moving Pictures” and Martin Filler, the author of “Victory!” seem to agree with the relocation of the Barnes Collection. Although, both very thoroughly describe the new location, neither delve into the legal/political obstacles faced by the state in having the collection moved.

  • Why have the authors decided to leave this information out?Would the readers of these articles view the situation differently if presented with such information or would it not make a difference?

Although it is clear that Barnes’ will was violated by having the collection moved from its original home in Merion county to Philadelphia’s museum mile, both authors argue that strict stipulations have preserved Barnes’ aesthetic as much as possible. They also mention that the collection is still being used for educational purposes as was desired by Barnes.

  • Could one argue that although the collection was moved, Barnes’ wishes are still being respected?
  • To what extent is it significant that the collection has been relocated if the experience has been preserved?
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Was it an “Aesthetic Crime”?

“Moving Pictures – The Barnes Foundation’s New Home” By Peter Schjeldahl

(Questions 1 and 2)

First, let’s take into account the major and minor changes that have been brought forth by the move of the Barnes collection to its new home:

  1. Minor decorative differences
  2. Major technological differences in combining natural and automatic lighting
  3. The repositioning of “The Joy of Life” by Matisse from its original place in the collection to opposite “a great mural of dancing and tumbling nudes that Barnes commissioned from Matisse in 1929”.

Based on these differences let us now look at the effect it has on the original intent of Barnes behind the presentation of the collection:

  1. Minor decorative difference: non-existent
  2. Major technological differences in combining natural and automatic lighting: The lighting in the museum changes the artwork slightly in terms of hues and shades of a specific color but allows for better visibility of the artworks.
  3. The repositioning of “The Joy of Life” by Matisse: Although the repositioning would not have been consented by Barnes, the author notes that the piece seems less “confusing”, more understandable, and its aesthetic geniuses more recognizable and admirable.

It is stated clearly that there have been no major changes to the way the artworks are presented from its earlier home. It is also noted by the author that the integrity of the collection has survived “magnificently”. Now the question is whether it justifies the blatant disregard of Barnes wishes, legally specified in his will, and the move to the Philadelphia Museum?

Is it or is it not an “aesthetic crime”?

“Victory!” by Martin Filler (Question 3) The major preposition presented by the author is the tremendous effort it took to build the building which later house the Barnes collection. The $150 million dollar spendature that the building required and the architectural mounts the building had to surpass can lead us to question the ulterior motive of the move. Although it was political in the sense to make the city of Philadelphia the center of tourist attraction, the money could have been spent to renovate the original location in Merion where the collection was housed. Or, in your opinions, has the collection finally received a deserving location to showcase its simplicity and complexity all in one?

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Bias, Dissolution of Personal Wish, and An Odd Question of rights

1.Did the author of “Moving Pictures” fail to show both sides of the argument? The author mentioned his previous article on this matter to show that his opinion was different before he saw the new home of Barnes’ collection which seems like an attempt to convince the reader or himself that he is not biased and tried to see both sides. But he clearly ignores Barnes’ reasons for keeping the paintings strictly for educational purposes in this article and simply suggested his wishes were conserved in better condition.

2.Peter Schjeldahl, author of “Moving Pictures”, suggested that Barnes developed hatred for “Main Line oligarchy and nearly all credentialed art authorities”. He argued that this could be the main reason why Barnes didn’t want to “share” his collection by implying that Barnes’ view that art should be an experience for the viewer, was conserved in the new museum with minor changes. Would the author support any dissolution of personal wish and property if it is argued that the owner’s reason for not sharing the property is hatred for the other party or an institution?

3. “Victory!” by Martin Filler is shamelessly supportive of the move of the Barnes’ private collection and asserts that the intervention to move the collection against the wish of its owner is a civic attempt to rescue a “shared inheritance”. That raises a question: how can Martin Filler declare that a collection of paintings, sold without force and bought with one person’s fortune, is the property of everybody against the will of the person who actually paid for it?



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Exhibit opening: Lo Studio dei Nipoti: Four Artists. September 12, 2013 through January 10, 2014

Reblogged from the Calandra Italian American Institute, a CUNY-affiliated intellectual and cultural center located in Manhattan

The Calandra Institute presents an exhibition by Lo Studio dei Nipoti (“The Studio of the Grandchildren”), a nonprofit artist collective for U.S. artists of southern Italian ancestry. The works featured here, by artists Nancy Agati, Cianne Fragione, Rose Michelle Taverniti, and Marisa Tesauro, represent an effort to engage with immigrant culture in the United States through the lens of the Italian-American experience while seeking to evoke realities of Italian-American life in their true range and variety.

Nancy Agati; eastwest; 2010; mica mounted to black paper, stitched, on pedestal; 30 x 44 inches

Cianne Fragione; Monasterace, now cat’s done mewing, bedroom’s touched by white moon; 2012; lithographic crayon, Conte crayon, graphite pastel, collage and oil on paper; 45 x 37 inches

Lo Studio dei Nipoti was founded as an online community in 2009 by Taverniti. In the summer of 2012, Lo Studio established a residency program in Monasterace, Calabria. This exhibition’s artists were among the first participants.

Agati is a sculptor whose structures refer to traditional cultural forms and Italian fine-craft traditions with their emphasis on high skill and careful finish. Fragione, a painter, revels in both the light of the Italian south and its distinctive indigenous forms, visible in decorative designs and church architecture. Taverniti works on drafting film, creating large-scale drawings that study the rich surface textures of centuries-old buildings in rural Calabria. Tesauro constructs sculptures that convey the complex textures of an ancient landscape — human and natural — in continual decay and renewal.

On view: September 12, 2013 – January 10, 2014
Gallery hours: Monday-Friday, 9 am – 5 pm
Exhibition opening: Thursday, September 12, 2013, 6 pm
Artists’ talk: Tuesday, November 19, 2013, 6 pm

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“…it is appropriate to stress the social abnormality of the concert ritual itself. What attracts audiences to concerts is that what performers attempt on the concert or opera stage is exactly what most members of the audience cannot emulate or aspire to. But this unattainable actuality, so strikingly dramatic when we see it before us on a stage, depends on the existence of unseen faculties and powers that make it possible: the performers’ training and gifts; cultural agencies like concert associations, managers, ticketsellers; the conjunction of various social and cultural processes (including the revolutions in capitalism and telecommunication, electronic media, jet travel) with an audience’s wish or appetite for a particular musical event. The result is what can be called an extreme occasion, something beyond the everyday, something irreducibly and temporally non repeatable, something whose core is precisely what can be experienced only under relatively severe and unyielding conditions.” Edward W. Said, Musical Elaborations. NY: Columbia University Press, 1991, pp. 18-19.

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Working with Sources: there is a better way

For my inaugural post in the ITF Corner, I want to introduce you to Zotero, a bibliographic manager that lives in your web browser. What does that mean? With a single click, you can grab all the relevant citation information from a newspaper article, arts blog, flickr photo, academic database, google book, or just plain website — and for many databases, you can have Zotero automatically download a local pdf, too, so you can access it even without an internet connection . (Any other subway readers out there?) Then, when you’re ready to cite, creating a bibliography is as simple as drag-and-drop into any program or field that accepts text entry. There’s more to say, about tags and note-taking, full-text searching and in-text citations, but I’ll stop here to conclude as follows: this program will change your life. Watch the short demo video at You won’t regret it.

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