Arts & DesignEssays

Tiny Instruments Hit a Profound Chord

Multicultual creativity in the city of Wrocław

Last summer I was fortunate to be among the faculty of the Democracy & Diversity Institute in Wrocław, Poland, organized by Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS). Friendships were forged, ideas were tested, and disciplinary lines constructively crossed, all of which I’d been prepared for and had been looking forward to experiencing as the sole faculty member from Parsons among colleagues from the New School for Social Research.

What I hadn’t expected was that I’d develop a deep affection for the music of toy pianos. Specifically the toy pianos played by Małe Instrumenty (Small Instruments), a band started in 2006 by Paweł Romańczuk with Marcin Ożóg, Tomasz Orszulak, Jędrzej Kuziela and Maciej Bączyk.

Yes, toy pianos. Including a plastic Barbie piano, which, Paweł explained, has a very good sound, in contrast to their sole Communist-era piano called Precision whose keys emitted static…

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Arts & DesignCapitalismEssays

Snyder and Orr Suckerpunch the Arts in Michigan

In a nifty move right out of the Reagan Revolution playbook, the governor of Michigan and his hand picked bankruptcy fixer finally revealed their plan for monetizing the art collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The plan is brilliant in its simplicity and in its political nuance.

After months of hinting that the art in the museum was “on the table” for a liquidation that would generate cash to offset Detroit’s many debt obligations, the lords of the bankruptcy relented and “saved” the museum. Their idea basically runs like this: Art is worth money (they got an appraisal to prove it). People who like art have money. Thus, why not present the museum with a bill that would equate to the appraised value of its precious art and let the museum tap its rich friends across America for contributions that would pay the tab and keep the paintings on the Institute’s walls.

How perfect! How painless! How noble! This is the ideal “public/private partnership” we are always hearing about! …

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Arts & DesignEssays

Jan Sawka: The Power of the Not So Powerless

The following lecture was prepared for delivery at the symposium “Jan Sawka: The Artist’s Role in Changing the World” presented by The Paul Robeson Galleries, Gallery Aferro and the Newark Arts Council, Saturday, November 16, 2013, in conjunction with the exhibition at the Gallery Aferro, “Reflections on Everyman: the work of Jan Sawka.”

I have crossed paths with Jan Sawka three times, although only one of these times did we meet.

It was at a low moment in Polish history, the early 80s. It was in his small apartment on 58th street in Manhattan, in very cramped living quarters, with Sawka, constantly working, drawing and painting, even while the family entertained guests. In the midst of the domestic, he created his own world, responding to life’s public and private absurdities, and tragedies, with his imagination and craft. The intensity of the moment, during the weeks after the declaration of martial law in Poland, the repression of the first nationwide popular social movement in the former Soviet bloc, a labor movement of workers moving against the workers’ state, …

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Arts & DesignEssaysPsycheSex & Gender

“All My Life I Have Been a Woman” and Other Excerpts

About language, our society, madness…

Leslie Kaplan read the following excerpts from her plays after she gave the eighth William Phillips lecture on November 6, 2013 at Theresa Lang Student and Community Center/Arnhold Hall of The New School.

all my life I’ve been a woman

a woman

all my life

does that sentence seem

odd to me

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Arts & DesignEssaysPsyche

Writing Moves the Sky

“To write is to jump outside the line of the assassins.” - Franz Kafka

First of all I would like to thank the New School, and Edith Kurzweil who invited me to this eighth William Phillips lecture and gave me the opportunity to come to the prestigious New School.

My father Harold Kaplan was a great friend of William Phillips, who published his first short story, The Mohammedans, in Partisan Review, in 1943, and later his Paris Letters, and many other pieces, and I always heard about Partisan review and William Phillips at home.

I was born in Brooklyn, in 1943, but brought up in Paris. Before the war, my father was studying French literature at the University of Chicago where he had a scholarship. He started working for the radio in 1942, in The Voice of America (La voix de l’Amérique), with André Breton and Pierre Lazareff, and afterwards was sent to Algiers, where he was when I was born…

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Arts & DesignEssays

Aesthetic Community in Detroit

In the Huffington Post, author and community organizer Yusef Bunchy Shakur and co-author Jenny Lee write: “Detroit is modeling life after capitalism.” One of the ways this is happening is through the work of artists who are helping to envision what that life might look like. These artists are constructing what the French philosopher Jacques Ranciere calls an “aesthetic community.”

The aesthetic community of Detroit is more than simply a collection of artists and other creative types working in the same location. It’s a community of sense, as Ranciere expresses it, which operates on three levels.

The first level of aesthetic community is a certain combination of sense data — materials, forms, spaces, etc. — that constitute the work. In particular in Detroit, this often consists of using recycled castoff materials…

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