eccomi

Bard summer, post 5

OK, we are all going to New York today, and it's so unbelievable I really don't know what to say about it. I'll try to write something decent when I'm back; there's also a good chance you won't hear from me while I'm there unless I find WiFi.
But before I go and come back with all the new things to tell I have one more thing you all need to know about. Sorry for this being written in a bit of a hurry, I have an English class starting just in a few minutes, and then another class, and then I must grab something to eat and we're off!
So, about this other class I have today. This week we are having a totally amazing class about Mexican Art run by Susan Aberth.
Now, you do know that there's hardly another person around who is less enthusiastic about painting and painters than me. To top that off, all I ever knew about Mexican art is that they had Frieda Kahlo, and that Siqueiros, whose paintings I don't recall seeing, was the guy who killed Trotsky.
Out of Frieda's works, which I have seen a lot and do really appreciate, I only got the emotional impression. Probably that was because of the film starring Selma Hayek (which I do think is brilliant), which primarily told about Frieda's life as a private person, with her struggle for love and motherhood overshadowing all the politics, and her courage much more impressive than that of people at war.
That being said, you would expect me to be quite nervous about the class!
Let me tell you, Susan is not just a fascinating teacher, she is an amazing human being. She is is engaging and encouraging – that is not to mention how erudite she is. She manages to achieve such a creative atmosphere in her class that you somehow start feeling you are co-creating it with her. She encourages you in such a way that you feel the urge to share what little you know, you need to discuss things, you want to learn deeper. The whole class actually turns into a kind of game quest where you go from one location to another and keep discovering new and important thing you feel are vital for your mission. I don't know how she does it. I wish I could learn that!
As you can gather from the above, Mexican art is not boring at all.
(What I love about how classes are taught here in general is that everything you learn is put into a broader social, political and historical context. It does not mean you study biographies instead of analyzing works, it means that in your analysis you have a lot of things that come in handy, and you end up having a much broader outlook at the matter at hand. It is really hard to achieve and maintain such approach in practice, and I'm infinitely grateful for the chance to learn this way – both at Smolny and here.)
Susan opened a whole new world to me. She did it in such a captivating (and funny) way I memorized everything she said right on the spot! Even the names of the painters which I am normally no good at.
I also loved the way she traced the links to the art of French Revolution, primarily to Jaques Louis David – you do know the French Revolution is something very special for me ;))
Susan also introduced me to a new side of Jose Guadalupe Posada. We all remember him as the guy who painted those funny skeletons, right? Well, apparently there's much more to him than that. Like, look here at this Hamletian scene with the lady with a funnel in someone else's ear? ;) I cannot find the most exciting pictures online, but Maria took photographs of them in class and when she posts them, I'll give you a link.
Or look here:
This one particularly appealed to me, and it's done by a painter I've never heard about before (but definitely will not forget now) named Jose Clemente Orozco. I'm giving you a link to the Spanish-language article here for the sake of more pictures they have there, like this one, a skeleton giving birth to a dead fetus of knowledge. And do you know where that painting is? It's in a library! Right above the door! I mean, can you believe it?
I'm totally in love. Orozco was a person for whom life was never just black and white. And he imagined to express it so powerfully you really cannot pretend you didn't get it.
OMG, can you actually believe I am chatting about Mexican murals and cannot get enough of it? That's Susan. She works magic.
I'm also doing some reading about Mexican Art, which you wouldn't expect of me either, huh? What I've read so far though is only one article, one by Leon Botstein himself, for the SummerScape annual book that just came out (and this year it's called 'Chavez and His World').
There's another thing that very much puts you in the context of Latin American culture here (save for the English class assignment I told you about last time... See how considerately everything is planned here?), and it's a movie retrospect going on called Reinventing Mexico. Unfortunately I only got to go once, to see Luis Buñuel 'Angel Exterminator'. I loved it, which is no surprise, but then again – with all this going on you start thinking of it also in terms of the Latin American context, and that's something quite new to me.
It's all a wonderful prelude to the Chavez festival starting next week.
I guess I should let you go now...
Oh wait! One more thing to make you all jealous. We were actually invited to Leon Botstein 's house and had a longish conversation with him. I'll just give you one thing that he said because it was so brilliantly to the point.
Remember a while ago I told you (at least some of you) how Elena Semyonovna Khodorkovskaya explained the difference between the audience for academic music connects in the past and people who go to pop or rock concerts nowadays? She said that the former always wanted to hear new things, while the latter actually come to the show for the sake of something they already know. And that the problem nowadays is the the 'rock concert audience' is everywhere because the mentality has changed. And I guess she's right, we are all children of modern mainstream music in one way or another.
But Leon pointed out that in the modern world there actually is an industry tailored for people who want to encounter new things, and it's the movie industry. 'No one becomes famous by doing the role DiCaprio did before him. And remakes never actually work,' said Leon. 'I wish our industry was more like the movie business'.
He also talked about future plans a lot. Have I told you next year 's SummerScape is going to be dedicated to Puccini, and they are doing a stage version of Mascagni's 'Iris'? How I wish I could go!

P.S. On a completely different note, I am doing a lot of reading for my paper and hope to have the first meeting with my advisor, Peter Laki, next week when he comes from Hungary. In the meantime see if you can read this:
Because to tell you the truth, I failed there completely ;-) Just downright forgot what Russian words look like in Latin letters. LOL.
Do you really nead English classes, Aya?

Buy the way, the guy who killed Trotsky went by the name of Ramon Mercader, and, unlike Kahlo, Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco,, he was no painter.
Да, Меркадер. Убил, дурак, и сел на 20 лет в тюрьму.
English is compulsory, and in many respects the classes are enjoyable. I was very skeptical at first and wanted to drop out, but then I realized I can practice other things, like finally learning to imitate the american accent ;))