Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lassú Chair

In 1974, while editor of Italian design magazine Casabella, Alessandro Mendini set fire to a chair. The photograph of the resulting conflagration graced the front cover of the magazine. Mendini's ritual destruction of his own design can be read in various ways: as a comment on the ephemeral nature of architecture, as an example of design as media performance and as a personal comment on destruction and mortality.
What's clear is that Mendini's act was one of the very few examples in design where the demise of the object was intrinsic to its meaning. It is a fitting way to end this lament because Postmodernism was a movement that always acknowledged its own temporality and was obsessed by ruins, fragments and remains. Despite its claims to popularity and a shiny commercialism, Postmodernism was actually morbidly obsessed with the dead and (nearly) buried remains of architecture and culture. This is actually one of the most interesting things about it.
Contrary to popular misconception, materiality was very important to it. It's just that it also acknowledged the alchemical process by which that materiality gains cultural meaning, as well as how that meaning changes over time. Sometimes it disappears altogether. And in disappearing, it gains another, perhaps more permanent kind of meaning.
Charles Holland

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Jewel Stair's Grievance

The jeweled steps are already quite white with dew,
It is so late the dew soaks my gauze stockings,
And I let down the crystal curtain
And watch the moon through the clear autumn.
Note.—Jewel stairs, therefore a palace. Grievance, therefore there is something to complain of. Gauze stockings, therefore a court lady, not a servant who complains. Clear autumn, therefore he has no excuse on account of the weather. Also she has come early, for the dew has not merely whitened the stairs, but soaks her stockings. The poem is especially prized because she utters no direct reproach.
Pound’s poem  based on Li Bai’s “Yujie yuan 玉階怨 [Jade Staircase Lament], 1705.

Li Bai and Ezra Pound's "Jewel Stair's Grievance"'

In 1913, Ezra Pound began working on a new series of poems based on Ernest Fenollosa’s unpublished notes on classical Chinese poetry. 1 These poems would become the core of Cathay, published in 1915. A volume of translations of classical Chinese poems by 李白 Li Bai (sometimes romanized in older literature as Li Po, 701 – 762), and others, Cathay represented a watershed moment in English Modernist poetry.Pound’s use of Li Bai’s Japanese sobriquet, “Rihaku,” points to his double alienation from his source materials. 

He could not access the Chinese-language originals, nor could he understand the Japanese source materials that formed the foundation of Ernest Fenollosa’s (1853-1908) manuscripts. Fenollosa’s translations were created, according to Eric Hayot, “with the help of a Professor Mori and a Mr. Ariga.” Steven Yao offers a slightly different account of how Pound became interested in classical Chinese poetry:
As the story goes, shortly after their initial meeting in London during the early autumn of 1913, Pound received from Mary McNeil Fenollosa a set of manuscripts produced by her late husband,
Ernest, who had died suddenly of a heart attack in 1908 after a distinguished, if not entirely unblemished, trans-Pacific career as a philosopher, cultural reformer, and historian and advocate of “Oriental” art in Japan and the United States. These manuscripts, which have come to be referred to collectively as “the Fenollosa notebooks,” record the efforts Ernest Fenollosa made studying various East Asian literary traditions, including both classical Chinese poetry and Japanese Noh drama, with distinguished Japanese scholars during one of his final visits to Japan in 1898 5 

Text by Cynthia Houng