Published

Documentary “Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson”

Screenshot of Tove Jansson swimming in Finland from the BBC documentary Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson

Screenshot of Tove Jansson swimming from the BBC documentary “Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson”, around 1:20 mark. View the trailer here.

Until I watched the BBC documentary “Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson”, I had never really known about the artist and author Tove Jansson nor the context for her work. I’m so glad to have come across the film. She was an impressive and talented woman that lived through some devastating times. The documentary is enhanced by quite a bit of original footage, images, and quotes from her journals and other writings. It also includes interviews of her friends and family. My only criticism would be that the tilt-shift effect on some of the shots of contemporary Helsinki and the Finnish countryside felt a little heavy-handed.

The scene above was likely filmed by Tove Jansson’s partner and great love Tuulikki Pietilä, a Finnish graphic artist. Her nickname was Tooti. For nearly 30 summers, Tove and Tooti lived and worked in a cottage that they built together on a little remote island called Klovharu. It sounds like they were quite the independent adventurers, and their time on the island seemed idyllic. This moment was rather heart-wrenching.

Last summer something unforgivable happened: I started to fear the sea. The giant waves no longer signified adventure but fear. Fear and worry, for the boat and all the other boats that were sailing around in bad weather. We knew it was time to give the cottage away.

Once they had left, they never wanted to come back. They didn’t even want to talk about it. It was the end, and that was it.

A side note: Sophia Jansson’s comment reminded me of a moment in a recent episode of NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me when Peter Sagal asked Norman Lear if he had any tips “for those of us who would like to arrive at 93 as spry and as successful and happy as you are”.

What occurred to me first is two simple words, maybe as simple as any two words in the English language – over and next. We don’t pay enough attention to them. When something is over, it is over, and we are on to next.

I’m looking forward to discovering Tove Jansson’s work. I’ll probably start with the original two Moomins books, then move to The Summer Book and A Winter Book.

Published

On palm trees, one in particular

Photo of RAT beach taken by Piper Haywood in 2009

RAT Beach in 2009. RAT = Right After Torrance

When I was very young, I developed a sustained, irrational fear of the palm tree that stood near the southwest corner of Deelane Street and Anza Avenue in Torrance, CA.

This fear is one of my earliest memories. The palm was cartoonish and stereotypical. It was spindly and swayed even on very still days. I lost my four-year-old mind every time we passed it on foot, convinced that it would fall over and pile drive me in to the ground.

The palm tree no longer exists. It was probably removed just after we moved away in 1993.

Satellite view of Deelane Street and Anza Avenue (Torrance, CA) in 1980 and 1994

Satellite view of the corner of Deelane Street and Anza Avenue in Torrance, CA. Left image was captured in 1980, right image was captured in 1994. Source for both images is USGS via historicalaerials.com

I picked up “Edges of the Experiment – The Making of the American Landscape” from the Fw:Books table at Offprint a couple of weekends ago. It is a two-volume publication designed and edited by Hans Gremmen focusing on the landscape of the American West. The first volume features photographs by Marie-José Jongerius and is punctuated with essays. The second is more text-based and includes a curated selection of media; historical photographs, anecdotes, facsimiles, essays, etc. The photos by Jongerius are what originally drew me to the publication. They are incredibly true to the place.

Last weekend I started reading volume two, including an essay titled “The infrastructure of trees in Los Angeles” by architect Warren Techentin. I learned that the palm tree is a disappearing southern Californian icon:

Considering that the average lifespan of a palm tree is 70 to 100 years, and that most of the palms visible now were planted to beautify the city for the 1932 Olympics, the bulk of Los Angeles’s palm trees will disappear within a decade or two.

Warren Techentin, “The Infrastructure of Trees in Los Angeles”, Edges of the Experiment: The Making of the American Landscape, Vol. 2, Netherlands: FW:Books [2015], p74.

The city isn’t replacing most palms that are removed. Apparently they were never a great ecological or economical choice.

So my childhood nemesis was likely removed due to old age. It’s kind of sad. I haven’t found any photos of that particular palm tree.

I can’t emphasise enough how much I have enjoyed “Edges of the Experiment”. One particularly lovely spread includes the first page of Techentin’s essay alongside one of Hans Gremmen’s graphics illustrating water usage in California. Water is touched upon in many if not most of the texts in “Edges of the Experiment”, and its presence (or lack thereof) is notable in many of Jongerius’s photos.

Published

Semi-recent frequency illusion: Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt has been the subject of a months-long frequency illusion.

  1. A new friend described her research on biopolitics w/ a focus on Hannah Arendt’s work, was surprised when she realised I haven’t heard of The Human Condition and said I should check it out. Wanted to, but of course it slipped to the back of my mind.
  2. Months later, started reading essays and books by Joan Didion. Was reminded to read Arendt while reading Didion’s Miami where she dissects the language used by U.S. politicians and media during the Cuban Revolution.

    When someone speaks of Orlando Letelier as “murdered by his own masters,” […] that person is not arguing a case, but counting instead on the willingness of the listener to enter what Hannah Arendt called, in a discussion of propaganda, “the gruesome quiet of an entirely imaginary world.”

    Managed to at least purchase The Human Condition, got sidetracked again.

  3. Started reading Walter Benjamin’s Illuminations after coming across Carol Bove’s contribution to AKADEMIE X. The introduction to my edition is excellent. Lo and behold, it’s written by Arendt.
  4. Sam came across the origin of Life of the Mind as a name earlier this week, then this morning he mentioned a ditigized Arendt collection amassed by Bard College and currently making the rounds online.

Time to devote some time to her work.

Published

On dead writer besties, from the Hairpin

On Dead Writer Besties, by Alexandra Molotkow from The Hairpin

It’s like realizing that there’s a garden when you’d only been shown one rose.

See also: Hazlitt Magazine, “a home for writers and artists to tell the best stories about the things that matter most to them” (Molotkow is a senior editor); The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox (free on Google Books and Girlebooks); Those Who Write for Immortality by Heather Jackson (available via Yale University Press).

Published

Judd essay on function v. art

I’ll be your interface* is a recently-closed (shame!) exhibition organised by Roxana Fabius at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. The exhibition featured recent work by Dexter Sinister and objects from the Marieluise Hessel Collection.

There was a talk in March at the Judd Foundation (NYC) about work that doesn’t make a “crisp distinction” between function and art, sounded interesting (see more on Dexter Sinister).

Required further reading since I missed the talk: Donald Judd, It’s Hard to Find a Good Lamp, 1993.