Δευτέρα, 13 Οκτωβρίου, 2014
This post was triggered by the finding and opening a photo album of year 1993. In it I found a lot of photos from the 1993 Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix in Barcelona. This set of photos made me think about the passage of time, and the mysterious phenomenon of the emergence and blooming of the feeling that I had when looking at the photos again. The feeling was the near certainty that the photos were depicting an event I had witnessed in the near past, not a past that is 21 years ago. How can it be? I confess I was tempted to write something on this mysterious phenomenon, but then I opted for something infinitely simpler: to recount the story of the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix as I experienced it. But then again, things are not so simple. There is something else in the background. It is not so much the need to recount the specific race. Rather, it is the need to lament over the demise of what used to be a trully extreme sport.
I have been watching Formula 1 races in television this year and cannot but express my disbelief and then my acceptance of the sad reality. Formula 1 today is a sport that makes no sense whatsoever. The technological leadership of Mercedes Benz has turned the sport into a Research and Development Department for the automobile industry. Mercedes Benz have done so in a way that totally denies the essence of Formula 1, which was to provide room for innovation and ingenuity in racing, not in hybrid engine development or environmentally friendly technologies, and other R&D that is linked directly to the automobile industry.
It is not an accident that in parallel with the domination of Mercedes Benz (their cars are almost invariably one or more second faster per lap in all races of 2014), we see the demise and – almost – eclipse of the smaller teams as they used to be. We do have smaller teams in Formula 1 today, but they are totally different compared to the past, e.g. the period 1985 – 1995.
In the past the smaller teams were innovative ingenious and cutting edge outfits. Examples are the British team of Tyrell, and Jordan. They obviously did not have the huge budgets of the leading teams, but they could do a decent job because they were doing something right, and they wer first of all producing racing technology. Today Formula 1 produces automobile technology.
It is interesting to note that during the 1985-1995 period the German manufacturers were only marginally present in F1. As an example, Mercedes Benz provided the “concept” to the Sauber team in 1993. The leaders of F1 were the British, the Italians, and the French and the Japanese with their engines.
Talking about engines, the engine noise of a Formula 1 car was a real experience, especially during gear changes. In 1994 I could tell without looking whether the car passing by was a Ferrari or not. I never wore earplugs during a race, the noise of the roaring engines was unbelievable. It was like a chainsaw is twisting in your guts.
Today the engine noise has become timid, throaty, boring, unexciting, like the “sport” itself; so much so that the pundits no longer crowd the circuits and the stands.
This whimpish style has poisoned the drivers’ behaviour as well. In a sport that should be competitive to the end, we now have minor incidents on the track becoming huge because one driver did not give all the space in the world to another driver. What happened to the good old days when one leading driver could challenge another leading driver all the way to the tire wall?
In any case, let us now proceed with the reminiscing. At first I will present two memorable incidents in the Circuit de Catalunya, then move on with the presentation of what I remember from Saturday before the race, concluding with the race on Sunday.
Memorable incidents in the Catalunya Circuit
Experience is not necessarily something that requires the presence of the body that encases one’s soul. Experience is also gained when the mind (always encased in the body but also not) indulges in a topic and fantasizes about it, in spite of the fact that the body is physically located elsewhere.
In this spirit, I want to start with the memorable incidents that occured in the Spanish Grand Prix over the years.
This is not meant to downgrade the 1993 race, but to provide a reference that supercedes the direct experience of 1993 and in a sense supplements it.
The first incident occurred in 2001, when Mika Hakkinen, driving for McLaren lost his clutch in the last lap and lost the first place to Michael Schumacher who was driving a Ferrari. A devastating incident for a driver who did a splendid job throughout the race, only to be betrayed by his clutch in the last lap! As the old saying goes, “it is not over until the fat lady sings”.
The second incident occurred in 1991, between Ayrton Sena, driving for McLaren Honda, and Nigel Mansell, driving for Williams – Renault. They raced wheel to wheel on the pit straight, at a speed of approximately 190 mph. At the end of the straight, Mansell overtook Sena and went on to win the race. I remmebr this race as if it took place yesterday. At the time I was living in Putney, London. I was at home, during a wet Sunday, and was watching the race broadcast on BBC. Unforgettable.
The Catalunya Circuit
The circuit de Cataluna is located in Montmelo, a small town around 30 km southeast of the urban sprawl of Barcelona. It is a modern circuit and is easily accesible by train from Barcelona.
Saturday, 8 May 1993
In a Formula 1 Grand Prix event, the race is on Sunday but there is a lot of fun on Friday and Saturday.
My ticket was on the stand of the pit straight, so I could watch and photograph the going ons.
The teams have VIP guests who go around the pits and have their photos taken.
This photo is taken in front of the pit area of the Japanese team “Footwork”.
The full name of the team was Footwork-Mugen-Honda. “Mugen-Honda”, a firm owned by Honda’s founder son, were supplying the engines to the team.
Two of the guests pose with two girls dressed in the colors of the team.
This team no longer exists.
Saturday is also fun because there are test runs and at the end a qualifying session. The test runs are in the morning and qualifying in early afternoon. Derek Warwick, a British driver with Footwork rests leaning on the pit wall during the Saturday tests. He qualified sixteenth for the race.
I met Derek Warwick at the Nice airport, following the Monaco Grand Prix of 1993, which Ayrton Sena won. It was the day after the race, and I had with me the morning issue of L’Equipe. Naturally, Derek Warwick signed on the winner’s photograph.
Teams have their observation benches by the pit wall. In the photo we see the bench of French team Ligier-Renault, which no longer exists. Second from the left is British driver Mark Blundell and first from the right is British driver Martin Brundle.
Blundell qualified 12th for the race, whereas Brundle qualified 18th.
In 1994 Brundle drove for McLaren. I took his autograph at the Montreal Mirabel Airport in the Spring of 1994.
Ligier was bought by Alain Prost in 1997, and changed its name to Prost. It did not achieve much and went bankrupt in 2002.
On the grid, Sunday 9 May 1993
Sunday is also fun, especially when the pit lane opens and the cars take their position on the grid.
Here the Italian driver Riccardo Patrese is getting ready for the race. He raced with Benetton-Ford, having Michael Schumacher as his driver colleague. It was tough going for Patrese.
Patrese qualified sixth for the race, whereas Schumacher qualified fifth.
Although Michael Schumacher was in the same team, Benetton-Ford, with Riccardo Patrese, the two of them could not differ more.
Schumacher was a star. He raced in Formula 1 for the first time in the Belgian Grand Prix of 1991 with Jordan. Immediately after this race, he was snatched by Benetton.
He earned his first world championship with Benetton in 1994.
Patrese, on the other hand, started 256 Formual 1 races, and won six of them. He ended his career in 1993.
Senna in 1993 was driving the clearly inferior McLaren-Ford car. The big problem of the car was its engine. The V8 Ford engine was not up to speed with the V10 Renault engine of the Williams, and was even inferior to the Ford engine that powered the Benetton cars. This was due to an agreement between Benetton and Ford, which gave Benetton the advantage. It is ironic that McLaren, the team that dominated Formula 1 racing from 1988 to 1991 found itseld in such an inferior position. This was the result of Honda’s decision to withdraw from F1 racing at the end of the 1992 season.
Of course, this withdrawal was not absolute, as Mugen-Honda remained in the game.
Senna qualified third for the race and finished second.
(The 1st May 1994, the day that Sena was killed in the Imola circuit, was one of the saddest days of my life.)
Damon Hill is the son of British champion Graham Hill. He qualified second for the race, driving the superb Williams- Renault FW15C car that completely dominated the 1993 season. Hill took Patrese’s place in 1993, when Patrese left Williams to go to Benetton. I met Damon Hill at the Montreal Mirabel airport in June 1994. He was waiting to collect his bags, and I took the opportunity to take his autograph. It was only a month after Ayrton Sena’s death at Imola, and I was carrying with me the June 1994 issue of Motorsport. Damon Hill signed at the lower right side.
The FW15C was designed by Adrian Newey and built by Williams Grand Prix Engineering. IT is worth noting that 1993 was the last season before the FIA banned electronic driver aids, The FW15C has a decent claim to be the most technologically sophisticated Formula One car of all time, incorporating anti-lock brakes, traction control and active suspension (Wikipedia)
Damon Hill became world champion driving for Williams in 1996, but was dropped by the team the next year.
Alain Prost joined the Williams team in 1993, after a sabbatical in 1992, taking the place of World Champion Nigel Mansell. During 1992 among other things he was commentating Formula 1 events for a French TV station.
Also known as “the professor” for his cool approach to racing, Prost had the best car of the year in his hands, and he went on to win the world championship.
In the Barcelona race he qualified first, and won the race.
Ready to go
The grid is cleared for the formation lap within five minutes. Warwick was 16th on the grid, ahead of his Japanese teammate Aguri Suzuki who was 19th. Other than the incredible roar of the Mugen engine, I do not remember anything from this team.
Patrese is fifth, Karl Wendlinger, the Austrian driver of team Sauber is sixth, and Jean Alesi, with number 27, driving for Ferrari, is eighth. Michael Andretti, driving for McLaren Ford, is seventh on the grid but not in the photo.
Patrese will finish fourth, Wendlinger will be betrayed by his fuel system, and Alesi by his engine. 1993 was a horrible year for Ferrari.
Damon Hill is second on the grid. But he will not finish the race due to engine failure.
The “professor” started first and finished first. But it was a rather boring race. The superior engine of the Williams – Renault car combined with the good weather conditions, made it impossible for inferior cars with better drivers (Senna driving McLaren-Ford) to win. As a matter of fact, Senna finished 16.873 seconds behind Prost.
Pit stops are important during the race. Here we see Jordan-Hart driver Rubens Barichello, with number 14. He finished 12th in the race. I had the opportunity to meet Barichello back in 1993 at the Frankfurt airport, after the Hockenheim race. He was in the middle of a group of people with an incredible volume of baggage. Barichello had an above average career, the highlight being his 2000-2005 period driving for Ferrari, and being Michael Schumacher’s teammate. He is also the first F1 driver to reach 300 entries in F1 races in 2010.
I cannot make out the driver in this Footwork car. IFrom the topline of the helmet, I assume it is Aguri Suzuki (Warwick’s helmet was light blue).
Did not finish
Martin Brundle went out because of a tyre blow out.
Fabrizio Barbazza, driving for Minardi-Ford spun off and did not finish the race.
Ukyo Katayama, driving for Tyrell-Yamaha spun off and did not finish the race.
Tyrell-Yamaha driver Andrea de Cesaris was disqualified from the race.
Karl Wendlinger’s fuel system gave up.
The sweetest moment for the drivers, champaign on the podium. Prost wins, Senna is second, Schumacher is third.
Κυριακή, 5 Οκτωβρίου, 2014
nutcracker: a device for cracking nuts (Oxford Dictionaries).
New York based artist Jennifer Rubell has created her own nutcrackers.
In doing so, she objectified a metaphor of the female body.
A 2007 review of studies examining depictions of women in the media including commercials prime-time television programs, movies, music lyrics and videos, magazines advertising, sports media, video games, and Internet sites revealed that women more often than men are depicted in sexualizing and objectified mannerrs (e.g., wearing revealing and provocative clothing, portrayed in ways that emphasize their body parts and sexual readiness, serving as decorative objects). (Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research)
Rubell builds dramatically on the SO metaphor, and turns the female body into a nutcracker.
In the artist’s website, we read the following introduction to her “nutcracker” project:
“In the Dallas Contemporary’s largest gallery space, Nutcrackers consists of 18 life-size interactive sculptures of women surrounding a pedestal holding one ton of Texas pecans. Each prefabricated female mannequin is mounted on her side in an odalisque position and has been retooled to function as a nutcracker. Visitors interact with each sculpture by placing a pecan in the mannequin’s inner thigh, then pushing down the upper leg to crack open the nut so they may eat it in the gallery. Inspired by nutcrackers depicting female figures – especially one of Hillary Clinton – these interactive sculptures embody the two polar stereotypes of female power: the idealized, sexualized nude female form; and the too-powerful, nut-busting überwoman.”
One cannot resist but consider the artful play with words.
A nut-busting woman is a stereotype in a man’s world.
Rubell is explicit. The nut is broken high up, between the thighs.
What can be the source of life (Courbet) can also break one or more nuts.
I must confess that the close ups reminded me of Jeff Koons. Although totally irrelevant, Rubell’s parents are art collectors and their collection includes some of Koon’s works.
Having seen pictures from Dallas and New York, I prefer the “factory-like” arrangement of Dallas to the solitary and rather depressing “solo” of New York.
The “contingent” of the factory gives a totally different meaning tot he work.
I think I will return to the work of Jennifer Rubell.
P.S. What is the relationship between sexual objectification and heartbeats?
P.S. 2 Here is the answer.
Κυριακή, 28 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2014
A selection of some of the best bacalao dishes I have tasted, published as a photo story in storehouse.
Κυριακή, 21 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2014
The theme is “Dance”. The idea came to me after I visited Munch’s “Dance of Life” in the Oslo National Gallery.
I will present each painting first, and then attempt to compare and contrast them.
Paula Rego’s: “The Dance” 1988
Rego was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1935. Today she lives in London, and she continues to paint.
Paula Rego painted her “Dance” in 1988., after her husband Victor died, of multiple sclerosis.
It is a large painting, 2126 x 2740 mm.
Tate Gallery of London acquired the painting in 1989.
The painter had prepared eleven drawings for the composition.
When looking at the painting, at first one notices the female figure on the left. She is out of proportion with the rest of the people on the painting.
A young woman who appears to be and at the same time not be in the dance. Pensive, ambivalent, awkward as she does not belong.
Then the spectator’s gaze turns to the trio of women who form a circle.
A girl, in the middle of the circle drwas the attention of a young woman, most likely her mother, and an older woman, most likely her grandmother.
The trio exhumes strength and joy.
The couple at the centre of the painting is happy. They are young, appear to be in love, and enjoy life.
Finally, there is another couple, also enjoying their dance, but their anticipation is clear in their movement. The woman is pregnant, so it is not just a couple, it is the couple and the fetus in the womb.
Having “seen” all the dancers, let us now return to the woman on the left. Could it be that it is Rego looking at the stages of her life? Or of a woman’s life? If this is the case, what she sees does not fill her with joy. At best she is contemplative.
Edvard Munch: “Dance of Life” 1899-1900
Edvard Munch painted the “Dance of Life” at the turn of the 19th century (1899-1900). It is part of a series of paintings he created, called “The Frieze of Life”.
In a framework provided by a moonlit summer night, Munch included in the painting the three stages of a woman’s life.
On the left a young woman reaches for a flower. She is dressed in a yellow white dress, seems to be smiling, and does not really care for the dance as such.
At the right, a woman dressed in black appears to be contemplating. She is sad, her gaze is heavy, she almost looks down. Her body is “frozen”, there is not even a hint of motion. This woman is so tired, so exhausted, that she does not have the emotional energy to be desperate. She has gone beyond desperation, to a state of nothingness. Which anticipates death.
In the middle a woman in full bloom dances with her partner. She is dressed in red, and looks at her partner, who looks back at her. They both look young. There is some tension between them. This is not a care free dance, it is a dance that reveals or suspects the eternal conflict of the sexes.
Comparing and contrasting the paintings
The paintings have some features in common.
To begin with, they are paintings about women. Forget that there are men shown, they exist only because the women are there. The presence of men is “derived” from the presence of the women.
Another similarity, is that both paintings depict people dancing in a moonlit summer night.
A third similarity is that the paintings do not depict a large group of people intermingling, but discrete groups, couples, solitary figures. The discrete units of the painting are alone and at the same time they part of the painting.
Let us now consider some differences.
First of all, the style of the painters is distinctly different. Rego draws and then adds color. Munch does not draw, he just paints.
Then we have a difference of perspective.
Munch was a man, and a man whose relationships with women gave him a lot of problems, to say the least. His painting is a bleak one. There is a dark determinacy looming over the lives of the women depicted. The care free state of the young woman on the left will be succeeded by the erotic tension and battles of the couple in the middle, ending with the emptiness of the woman in black. The painting is “closed”, there is no way out.
Rego on the other hand is not exactly delirious with joy, but her picture is a tribute to the strength of women, and their way of making it through life. Making it may not be wonderful may not be easy, but Rego’s women are tough and robust and they make it, no matter what. It is their consitution, and also their relationships. In my mind the key to Rego’s painting is the cicrle of the girl, her mother and the grandmother. This is the bedrock of the family, and the bedrock of society. In this sense, Rego’s painting is “open”. There will be problems, there will be pain, there will be death, but there will also be life.
Σάββατο, 13 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2014
During my recent visit to Oslo’s National Gallery, I found time to “break” my complete and undivided attention to Edvard Munch, as I saw Emil Nolde’s “At the Night Club”. This post is about this benign infidelity.
I will not discuss of course whether an infidelity can be benign or not. This is not for this post. In any case, I claim it is, therefore it is, until we discuss it again.
I love the interplay between the cold and warm colors that Nolde has created in the picture. The woman’s blue dress contrasts with her red hair and the background to the picture, a dark glowing orange.
There is also a “wavy” aspect in the paint, that gives the picture a peculiar 3D quality. Typical example is the man’s shirt. A most difficult part, because it is white and (theoretically) boring.
The merging of colors is another unique aspect of the picture. In the detail above, it is not only (or primarily) the hands that join, it is the colors.
The man and woman in the picture do not look like a man and a woman, they are distorted in many ways, but there is nothing wrong with this.
Δευτέρα, 8 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2014
“Sickness and insanity were the black angels that guarded my cradle”
Edvard Munch, personal manuscript.
Edvard Munch is one of my painting idols.
Today I continue the Munch stories with “Alpha and Omega”, which I saw a few days ago at the Munch Museum in Oslo. It was a revelation for me to see these pictures.
Alpha and Omega is a fable written by Edvard Munch.
In addition to the text, there is a series of lithographs depicting the story.
It is possible that Munch first created the pictures and then he wrote the text.
As we read in Christie’s website, presenting one of the lithographs for sale, “lithograph, 1908-9, on stiff wove paper, signed in pencil, from the total edition of approximately 80 or 90 impressions”.
At first the title was “The First Human Beings”, but then Munch changes it to “Alpha and Omega”.
Before I present the fable itself, I would like to give some background relevant to Munch’s life at the time of writting and illustrating the fable.
In the period 1908 – 1909, Munch suffered a psychotic incident. He was 46 years old at the time.
In the fall of 1908, Munch collapsed in Copenhagen. Hearing hallucinatory voices and suffering paralysis on his left side, he was persuaded by his old roommate from the Saint-Cloud apartment, Emanuel Goldstein, to check himself into Dr. Jacobson’s clinic at Frederiksberg in Copenhagen for detoxification. It was during his stay there, 1908–09, that he created Alpha and Omega.
The sketch shown above, drafted by Munch himself, reads:
“Professor Jacobsen is electrifying the famous painter Munch, and is bringing a positive masculine force and a negative feminine force to his fragile brain.”
Munch made progress following his treatment, which included “tobacco-free cigars, alcohol-free drinks, and poison-free women.”
Let us now go back to Alpha and Omega.
Alpha is the first man and Omega is the first woman.
They live on an island and fall in love.
ALPHA AND OMEGA were the first Humans
on the Island. Alpha lay in the Grass and slept
and dreamed, Omega approached him, looked at
him and became curious. Omega broke off a
Fern branch and tickled him, so he awoke.
Alpha loved Omega; they sat in the Evenings
leaning into one another and gazing at the golden
pillar of the Moon, which swayed and rocked in
the Ocean surrounding the Island.
The couple lives a paradiselike existence, surrounded by animals and plants.
Omega becomes bored and allows herself to be seduced first by the Serpent, and then in turn by the Bear, the Poet Hyena, the Tiger and the Donkey, in addition to the Pig and other animals.
After a time she leaves the island on the back of a Doe and travels across the ocean to “the light green Land, that lay beneath the Moon”. Stenersen, quoted by Steinberg and Weiss, notes that the tubelike reflection of the moon on the water resembles the artist’s characteristic drawing of male genitalia. “Thus it appears that the image of the full moon (breast – penis) was to Munch a protection against castration anxiety.
Alpha remains on the island together with Omega’s offspring – a whole new generation of children – “little Pigs, little Serpents, little Monkeys and little Predatory animals and other Human Bastards”.
One day Omega returns. Suddenly the landscape turns to blood and Alpha closes his ears to the “cries of nature”. He then drowns Omega. According to Steinberg and Weiss, the bloody landscape represents the shocking sight of Munch’s dying mother, which could not be avoided or shut out. Munch experienced his mother’s death at the age of five.
He is in turn torn asunder by her small mixed offspring, who finally take over the island.
It is a story of an archetypal man and woman as they progress from love and passion, to jealousy and melancholy, to anxiety and death.
Κυριακή, 31 Αυγούστου, 2014
“You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn’t?”
This is what the American composer John Adams said about the experience behind the fanfare he wrote in 1986.
With all respect to John Adams, I beg to differ.
When a new world opens up in front of you, why not enjoy it for as long as you have access to it?
Having said that, the fanfare is one of the most ebullient short pieces of music that I have heard, and it suits the short ride in the fast red beauty perfectly.
No matter what you were thinking, no matter what you were doing, this piece is magic.
It draws you into its world, like the red beauty does, and you are a new person, even for the 4 minutes it lasts. Not bad I would say!
In this sense, the music and the car have a lot in common.
The red beauty to begin with, is a stunning piece of sculpture. I would not mind parking it in the middle of my living room.
And then the engine starts, and you have this eerie feeling that behind you there is something special.
You lift the clutch and get going.
And you feel that car and driver are one. In “cart” terminology, “you wear the car”.
The rest is not for publishing.
Thank you red beauty, thank you John Adams!