Saul Steinberg on art and philosophy in 1967

Saul Steinberg

At work, I nearly fell down a Wikipedia rabbit hole but stopped myself at Saul Steinberg. The reason I even got there was because I was looking up Slash from Guns N’ Roses and discovered he was named after the artist (Slash’s real name is Saul Hudson and he was born in Hampstead, London if you didn’t already know).

Saul Steinberg was born in Romania in 1914. He studied architecture in Milan and started cartooning for humorist newspaper, Bertoldo, in 1936. Anti-semitic laws in Italy forced him to leave and he fled to the Dominican Republic in 1941. He stayed there for a year waiting for a US visa but his cartoons were already well known by the time he entered the country. Many of his drawings had featured in The New Yorker.

After World War II, his work cropped up in more popular publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. His name was included in the “Fourteen Americans” show at MoMA and he embarked on an illustrious career. In 1967, he was the subject of a documentary called Saul Steinberg Talks.

Here’s a quote from early in the documentary

I think it is very important for people to run away…from home, from the mainstream, from their family, from the culture, from the society that produced them…because the moment I have to learn something new, like new habits, new languages, I myself have something like a rebirth. I reduce myself to the lowest denominator and this is very healthy for an artist. To start all over again.

Steinberg was a deep thinker and one of the greatest artist of the 20th century. His legacy now lives on through The Saul Steinberg Foundation, in accordance with his will.

Saul Steinberg Talks (1967)

Kintsugi: The Japanese Art of Repairing Pottery with Gold

kintsugi

The concept extends beyond pottery or objects and speaks to our humanity. We go through life feeling happiness and sorrow but dwell on the bad times more than the good. Metaphorical cracks form and we break from time to time. But do the pieces have to stay broken or can they be “glued” back together with a stronger more radiant bond?

The literal translation of kintsugi (or kintsukuroi meaning “golden repair”) is “golden joinery”. The art form involves repairing broken pottery with lacquer combined with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. A theory of its original derives from Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa who sent a broken Chinese tea bowl back to China for repairs in the 15th century. It came back with metal staples holding the pieces together. Japanese craftsmen sought improved ways of repair and kintsugi was later born. Lacquer repair had been an age-old tradition in Japan but the idea of adding luxuriant colours came from the brutal stapling.

Kintsugi is very much a Japanese tradition but it has found its way into Western art. The Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art have held exhibitions for the golden repair. Rock bands “Hey Rosetta!”, “The Rural Alberta Advantage”, and “Death Cab for Cutie” have used kintsugi and its ideal for song titles and album inspiration. The cover for Cathy Rentzenbrink’s A Manual for Heartache also has a similar style, with a golden jigsaw outline on an eggshell green background, perhaps a more British variant on the concept. But its influence lies heavy in philosophy. It shares similarities with the Japanese philosophies of wabi-sabi and “no mind” (無心 mushin), which “encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, acceptance of change and fate as aspects of human life”.

Rather than disguise the “scars”, kintsugi treats the cracks as historical signposts, showing a followed path and a beautiful destination in shimmering gold.

Reading/watching list

Flickwerk The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics — Christy, James; Holland, Henry; Bartlett, Charly Iten (2008)
EASTERN PHILOSOPHY – Kintsugi by School of Life [Video]
Perfect Imperfection (The Art of Healing) by Billie Bond, Dr Jeremy Spencer (2017)
Broken a pot? Copy the Japanese and fix it with gold

The Philosophy of Cowboy Bebop

cowboy-bebop

It’s not that I didn’t want to, I just never got round to it. I know it’s a classic and it’s still on my to watch list. But Open Culture has given me a new incentive.

Video essayist Lewis Bond looked at the philosophical musings of Cowboy Bebop in “The Meaning of Nothing”. Bond immediately opens the video dismissing the notion of a “hierarchy of art”. He promotes television for its helpful methods of storytelling “unattainable in film”. He then delves into the meaning behind the stories and why the protagonists distance themselves from the rest of the world.

Cowboy Bebop ended after only 26 episodes, but a live-action reboot is in the pipeline. With any luck, the futuristic existentialism will carry over but I doubt it. Remakes of Japanese works lose a lot in translation thanks to Western butchering.

While I make up for lost time, you can buy the complete Cowboy Bebop series on Blu-ray. That’s the best way to watch it.

Cowboy Bebop - The Meaning of Nothing | The Cinema Cartography

(via Open Culture)

The Ad Hominem Fallacy Fallacy

One particular phrase uttered by cocky know-it-alls is “ad hominem” or, in full, “argumentum ad hominem”. They also like to say things in other languages to sound more intellectual.

What is ad hominem?

Ad hominem is a logical fallacy whereby someone tries to undermine a person’s argument by attacking them rather than addressing the argument made.

But those on the losing side tend to throw it around when they’ve been backed into a corner and think they’ve won “something” and ad hominem is being used incorrectly pretty much every time.

Two wrongs don’t make a right

That’s where writer Stephen Bond comes in with his brilliantly written article on the fallacy’s fallacy. Once you’ve read it, you’ll see just how difficult it is to call “ad hominem” and in fact, there’s not much point because you’re arguing on the internet.

Follow the link and read The Ad Hominem Fallacy Fallacy here.

(image via Skepchick.org)