Nadia Bettega is in America
4 août 2010, 18 h 08 mi
Filed under: COUPS DE COEUR

 

Nadia Bettega is in America.

before…

Grand Old Opry (Nashville, TN)

The Grand Old Opry is a country music radio show, broadcast live every Friday and Saturday night in Nashville, Tennessee, which has been running since 1925: only 3 years younger than the grand old BBC herself. Yet for such a venerable institution, it is both one of the warmest and most joyful musical experiences that one can have. Celebrations of older musical forms tend to consist of youthful players watched by an audience increasing in age and diminishing in number. The Opry reverses this trend: many of its performers have been around almost as long as it has – Little Jimmy Dickens is almost 90 years old – and yet its audience has as many young people as old. In fact, one of the most touching aspects of the whole show was not the number of whole families attending, but the number performing. Few other musical genres contain as many blood-tied groups as country does: we saw both grandparents and grandchildren and brothers and sisters playing together. This familial theme is amplified by the fact that many of these musicians have obviously known each other and worked together over many years. The end result is that although you watch the show in 1000-plus seater auditorium, you feel as if you are round a camp fire or in someone’s home.

Graceland (Memphis, TN)

At $32 for an adult ticket – plus more for the photo-ops, cars, jet, wardrobe, lunch, etc – Graceland is perhaps the least value-for-money experience available in the Southern US. At least in Disneyworld one gets to meet Mickey Mouse. Here, Elvis is conspicuous by his absence. To make up for this, the memorabilia-machine goes into overdrive. We see countless gold discs and, amusingly, several platinum cassettes. We see rhinestone-encrusted suits expanding in size as the years go by. We see the great man’s house, with its wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling carpeting, TV’s in triplicate, jungle-themed living room complete with waterfall and a games room which any Arab prince would be proud to call his own. If you can summon the energy (we couldn’t), you and the rest of the crowds can slowly shuffle around his private jet.

Yet hardly anywhere in this American Mecca does one get a sense of the man himself, rather than the contents of his credit card bill. His many charitable contributions are displayed, it is true, but even these are just cheques. It is touching that he had his parents live in the same house: one struggles to imagine any contemporary musical superstars doing likewise. Given the access to his family this museum has, however, it is a great shame that they cannot obtain any more personal insights into Lisa-Marie’s father than her memories of how his jewellery jangled as he came down the stairs. Touring Graceland was like listening to an interminable wedding speech in which the father of the bride lists his daughter’s achievements without giving any sense that he knows or loves his own daughter. In a wedding, unlike Graceland, however, one has not paid handsomely for the privilege of listening.

Memphis Rock and Soul Museum (Memphis, TN)

Nashville, Clarksdale and Memphis have some of the richest musical heritages of any cities in the US (or indeed the world), which are rightfully reflected in these cities’ numerous museums dedicated to country, blues and their fusion, rock ‘n’ roll (respectively). One can have too much heritage, however, and too often these museums become incoherent as their islands of narrative are swamped by a sea of memorabilia.

The Memphis Rock and Soul museum is truly the exception to this rule. Its most wonderful feature is the amount of original blues music that one can listen to. Headphone tours are ubiquitous in museums around here, but their potential is rarely realised: with access to the Smithsonian’s extensive musical library, the Rock and Soul Museum reminds us that these museums should be about the music first and foremost, and not the guitars, suits, gold records and countless other accessories. And what wonderful music it is: a personal highlight (apologies for errors in recollection) was a song about a particularly cantankerous mule:

« He kicked a gate from off the fence and massacred a hog

He mortified ten Chinamen and swallowed a yellow dog

He kicked the feathers from a goose and broke an elephant’s back

He saw a Texas railroad train and kicked it off the track. »

A great advantage of this audio archive is that you can actually hear how rock ‘n’ roll came about. When listening to Elvis perform a song recorded earlier by Hank Williams, one begins to understand what an exciting and original development this was in music, and one almost feels what it must have been like to hear this music for the first time: the raison d’être of any good museum.

Frist Collection (Nashville, TN)

The photography work you see as you walk through the Frist Collection in Nashville belongs to Tokhiro Sato. Located in the Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery Presence or Absence deatures 13 landscape photographs by one of Japan’s most acclaimed and best-known contemporary artists, June 18–September 12, 2010.

Tokihiro Sato was born in 1957 in Yamagata Prefecture. He graduated in 1983 with a MFA in sculpture from Tokyo National University of the Arts. He is is one of the best known contemporary artists in Japan and in the rest of the world for his exploration of making photographs of landscapes or common spaces using very long exposures. His work explores concepts of light and space. The result leaves the viewer with a sense of the surreal and of the imagination. Sato documents a poetic, lyrical world. He captures articles of light dispersed throughout landscapes, cityscapes and deserted spaces. Perfectly silent, peaceful and deep, they present scenes that are magical and surrealistically alive

Each image is created through a long exposure time whilst the artist immerses himself into the image with either a mirror (during daylight) or a torch (at night) . In this way he direct the reflected light at the camera lens. Through this monotonous repetition, the particles of light are brought onto the photograph.

This procedure reveals that scenes which at first sight seem to be filled with poetic expression actually possess constructed spaces and structures. The light reflected converge on the camera and the tracks of light link the camera with light particles.

 Sato’s photographs give us a strong feeling of space, depth, and, through the artist’s process of applying light, even a sense of time. The curator at the gallery explains that Sato uses traditional technology in untraditional ways. His photographs can take up to three hours to make as he moves across the landscape with mirrors and lights to create ultra-long exposures using a large-format, 8 x 10 camera set on a tripod.

The rest of the gallery has on display a loan exhibition from Londons V&A gallery. The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957, explores one of the most glamorous and remarkable decades in fashion history. Starting with the impact of Christian Dior’s New Look after the Second World War, it looks at the work of Dior and his contemporaries during the period when haute couture was at its height. The exhibition celebrates an important decade in fashion history which had a huge influence on the way women dressed and the way the fashion industry evolved. The Frist is lucky to have a superb collection of dresses from this period.

This exhibition has been an exceptional opportunity to research the V&A collections and to tell the story of the couture industry after the war For me, both shows are intriguing, exciting and well worth a visit!

after…


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