Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Name for Looky Lookie

Contempt for "Looky Lookie"
For the dozen of you who read the JCBA blog, you'll know that every month, I feature a book from the collection & that segment is called "Looky Lookie." I never thought that title was too clever or cute & those disdainful feelings grow more & more. So, dear blog readers, come up with a new title for the "artist book of the month" bit. Post it in the comment section & I'll choose the one I like the most. Maybe you'll win something, maybe you won't. I have to think of something for you to win first. But, fire away!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Two View Movie Review: 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days

Christian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days follows two college students, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) & Gabriela (Laura Vasiliu) in a Romanian town. Set in 1987, towards the end of the Communist Ceau┼čescu regime, abortions are illegal & committing an abortion after 3 months of pregnancy is considered manslaughter. When Gabriela gets pregnant, she asks for Otilia's help in getting   someone to perform an abortion. They get in contact with an elusive & rightfully cagey Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov,) who has clear, set instructions as to the preparations of the abortion. Gabriela manages to screw everything up & when Mr. Bebe finds out Gabriela lied about how long she's been pregnant, he demands more money, but the girls are out of money & time.

4 Months isn't a film about abortions in the sense it doesn't preach one way or the other on the topic. It's just a plot point. I would say the point of the film is to focus on faith in one's friends, as Otilia considerably risks herself many times in the film for her helpless friend (helpless in both senses of the word.) Marinca carries the emotional weight of the story & does so amazingly. Yet its Ivanov who steals every scene he is in. At first, he seems harmless, but the audience will learn that even if he doesn't shout or howl, he's a brute.

The acting is minimalist & natural, with the actors only doing what is required for each scene, a feature that is evident in all aspects of the film. Cinematographer Oleg Mutu uses a hand-camera skillfully to capture the grittiness of the time, which is helped by Mungiu's appropriate recreation of late '80's Romania. Mungiu uses limited editing & long takes, which builds suspense. My favorite scene, which is a seven minute long take with eight actors, is when Otilia is visiting her boyfriend at his parents' house during a dinner party. Obliged to join in the dinner, Otilia faces persecution for being both young & from a rural area by the parents & their friends. The long take allows the viewer to notice Otilia getting irritated from the judgement & the events going on outside the scene, too.

I've read descriptions of the film, with some calling it a thriller or a horror movie. Mungiu does offer hints in the movie as to what may or may not happen, which does create an atmosphere of dread, but I wouldn't put it in either of those categories. 4 Months is more subtle, more graceful, & in a way, more gut-wrenching.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

An Interview w/ John Cutrone: Parte Una

If you're a fan of the JCBA, then you probably know John Cutrone. Cutrone has been a part of the JCBA for some time, teaching classes, giving presentations, creating exhibits & sending out emails. He's the voice of the JCBA (besides myself) & this year, he's been appointed director of the JCBA, so I thought that I would have a little chat with Mr. Cutrone on what's in store for the JCBA.

First off, what does the JCBA mean to you?
Well, I think of it as a great experiment. JCBA is still very much in its infancy & we are most definitely still wending our way, trying to find our place. I think as Seth & Arthur & I have developed the place, we knew very much from the start what we did not want to be & so we've always built from that. We did not want it to be unapproachable. We did not want the books locked in a cage.

Moving beyond that has been this very interesting process of deciphering what JCBA can be. We know we have a lot to do if we are to get to the point where we can offer all the educational opportunities we hope to. This involves acquiring more metal & wood type for the Letterpress Studio, as well as another Vandercook press & it involves acquiring more special tools for the Book Studio & even though the Paper Studio is not yet open, we know there is more necessary equipment to acquire there, as well, if JCBA is to be a viable working research facility in the book arts.

We have many book arts centers across the country to look up to & aspire to, but we are aware that we have a clean slate to work from. For instance, we have the very awesome Book Arts Gallery & so we have learned to use what we have in creative ways. I don't think Jane Siberry has performed salon concerts at many other book arts centers, for instance. But, I have always thought of JCBA as not just a book arts center, but as a center for creativity in general, a place where ideas are exchanged, be it through books or music or film or performance or whatever anyone wants to bring to our table.

A 1932 pop-up edition of Pinocchio to be seen in POP!
What hamster wheels are turning in your head regarding future events & exhibits?
We've got a few really exciting exhibitions in the works, all of which have only working titles right now... so the titles may change as the exhibition research progresses. In the spring of 2012, watch for Motor City, which we are presenting as part of FAU's 50th anniversary festivities. This university began as an experiment in non-traditional education & part of that was a campus focused on commuter students (a fact that has changed only in the last decade.) Motor City will feature artists' books that deal with cars, maps, bridges, roads, & other motoring ideas & will also include a one-day antique automobile show at the new FAU stadium in March & perhaps a film series, too.

After that, we'll be unveiling the new Arthur J. Williams Pop-Up Book Collection, a recent gift to JCBA's permanent collection. The working title is POP! & it will be exciting & dynamic, because really good pop-up books can't help being anything but exciting & dynamic. This exhibition will certainly include some workshops in paper engineering & hopefully a gallery talk or two with some great paper engineers.

I'm already at work researching our exhibition for Autumn 2012, which explores the connections between paper folding, science, math, engineering & creativity. This exhibition, which I am particularly excited about, is inspired by the Green Fuse film Between the Folds, which looks at the traditional paper folding art of origami & how, in the hands of offbeat thinkers, origami is reshaping ideas on creativity & the relationship between art & science. Paper folding workshops & screening of the film are natural events to link this exhibition.

Other upcoming events include our annual print shop open house in celebration of Letterpress Appreciation Day (September 18) & the opening of JCBA's new Handpapermaking Studio some time this fall. Also, what might be our best fundraiser ever, involves pie, because there's nothing better than pie & coffee & a good book. The Elephant House, or the Home of Edward Gorey exhibition that we put up in the fall of 2009 will be at FAU's MacArthur Campus Library at the end of August. I'd like to do something with ghost stories, too, around Halloween...but we shall see about that. 

A more personal, second part of the interview will be coming soon, so look out for that. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An Enigmatic Book Artist

Someone has been showing off their cutting skills in Edinburgh, Scotland. Anonymous altered books have been popping up in the city, all at book friendly locations, including the National Library of Scotland. All the altered books conceived are from mystery writer Ian Rankin's books & often contains a note. The note juxtaposed with the sculptor containing a dragon in an egg says, "Once upon a time there was a book & in the book was a nest & in the nest was an egg & in the egg was a dragon & in the dragon was a story." There have been numerous speculations as to the identity of the Bansky-esque culprit, ranging from graduate students to installation artists to book artists, but no one has came forward & sometimes, it's better that way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Looky Lookie: Space + Time

Space + Time is Ken Leslie's project where he marked off 52 equally spaced points from one place in his garden, then sitting in the same spot, shot a photo once a week facing each successive point & created a circular foldbook. The book is housed in a slipcase featuring a photo of the photos joined together. 

Last month's "Looky Lookie" section featured Shinsuke Minegishi's The Tale of Three Black Boxes, which was also a study in the relationship of time & space (I didn't realize this when I picked this month's featured artists' book. I must be watching too many episodes of The Universe.) While Minesgishi is way more subtle with its dealing of the subject, Leslie wanted to make it clear that space & time are clearly closely related, despite being completely opposite concepts. This is proven by his different sides, one marked space & the other marked time, but the photos appear to be the same: the same standing grounds but objects appearing at different moments of the year. 

On each side, Leslie studies one of the two concepts. On the space side, Leslie notes that the world comes full circle & references Magellan. Leslie notes that Magellan traveled around the world to end up where he began & Leslie stayed in one spot & ended where he began. On the time side, Leslie notes that his daughter & he perceive time differently. A year to his ten year old daughter is only 10% of her life, which seems like a long time, yet a year to Leslie is 2% of his life. That idea blew my mind! It does seem to me, that my year in Kindergarten felt like forever; but now, semesters fly by me. It makes me wonder, if humans are someday able to live 200, 300, or 500 years because of advancements in medical technology, would a year feel like a week? How can you build relationships with people hundreds of years younger than you if you feel like the trends, cultures, politics & people are whizzing by? Ultimately, time moves faster, but do we go anywhere?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Graphic Novel of the Month: Hellboy: The Chained Coffin & Other Stories

During W.W. II, the Nazis tampered with anything that would allow them to change the tide of war. One attempt included summoning a demon from hell. They were successful in summoning a demon, but it was a demon infant. The infant was intercepted by Allied forces & raised by Professor Bruttenholm & the Bureau of Paranormal Research & Defense & is named Hellboy. In The Chained Coffin & Other Stories, Hellboy travels the world solving supernatural mysteries for the B.P.R.D. as the "World's Greatest Paranormal Investigator."

In the story The Corpse, a family needs Hellboy's help in order to get their baby back from faeries. In order to do so, Hellboy must bury the thieves' dead friend in sacred ground, but nothing is as easy as it seems. The Baba Yaga features Hellboy dealing with a Russian witch who counts dead men's fingers. In The Iron Shoes, Hellboy confronts a redcap from Border folklore who lurks in an abandoned tower. The winter special, A Christmas Underground, has Hellboy fulfilling a dying woman's final wish by rescuing her daughter from a prince of the underworld. In The Chained Coffin, Hellboy receives a vision of a nun & a priest protecting their dead mother from a demon, while learning a little about his past. The Wolves of Saint August contains a trip to a village filled with the ghosts of werewolves. The Almost Colossus story focuses on Hellboy tracking down a homunculus in order to save one of his teammates.

Hellboy is an interesting mix of super heroics, folklore, & horror. The stories are often humorous, weird, spine-chilling & monster packed. Mike Mignola plays with comic conventions in subtle way, such as word balloons, which may be designed according to the character's speech pattern. The most notable thing of Hellboy is Mignola's artwork, which is a mix of old-school flat coloring & German Expressionism. Mignola is also a master of shading & color, using shadows to create an eerie atmosphere. This collection features the best of Mignola's talent, most significantly The Corpse, which is probably the best comic story telling from the last 15 years, & A Christmas Underground, which is an oddly sweet holiday story that I will cherished along with my other holiday favorites, A Christmas Carol & The Gift of the Magi.