News & Notes: The shark before the storm

Today's edition considers Sherwood Anderson, Hungarian fascism, philosophy, the limits of Crayolas

We are taking a day to gather our forces before we plunge into 2013 in earnest, because starting this weekend and going through April the arts events are going to start landing with increasing frequency until it we reach and then pass through “saturation.” This sounds ominous, maybe, but actually I’m looking forward to it.

So, onto this edition of News & Notes, which has a more philosophical bent maybe than subsequent installments will have? Or maybe it just has one link to a story about philosophy surrounded by some snark. At least we end on a happy note!

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DanceEast 2013 group photo/ Eamonn McCabe

DanceEast 2013 group photo/ Eamonn McCabe

If you look closely (second from the left, row 1) you’ll see Christopher Stowell, who recently resigned as artistic director of Oregon Ballet Theatre after a disagreement with the board about the direction of the company. The occasion was DanceEast’s annual Rural Retreat in the UK, where a who’s who of international dance leaders meet to talk about the future of dance.

Among those in attendance were representatives from the Royal Danish Ballet, Netherlands Dance Theatre, Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, Royal Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet and many other prominent European and Asian companies. But for our purposes it’s interesting because it shows the sort of circles Stowell runs in and an unfortunate consequence of his resignation—he takes his contact list with him.

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Sometimes maybe I forget that freedom and the arts are symbiotic, that coercive political systems inevitably seek to control the arts, too, and that the arts always find themselves at odds with those system. As Hungary slips into something that looks a lot like old-fashioned fascism, it has begun to crush the free expression of its artists—and not just writers, either—as Hari Kunzru writes for the New Yorker.

“After the election, the mayor of Budapest fired the head of the New Theatre (one of the country’s leading producers of contemporary drama) and appointed in his place György Dörner, an actor who supports the far-right Jobbik opposition party, an openly anti-Semitic, anti-gay, and anti-Roma organization with a recently disbanded paramilitary wing, whose Presidential candidate has declared that Israeli Jews are “lice-infested dirty murderers.””

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When it comes right down to it, the study of philosophy is simply an effort to be more aware of our thinking process, isn’t it? And that would be a good thing to focus on in school, yes? Well, Brazil seems to think so, and this Boston Review article is a great demonstration of the benefits of philosophy class, at least one with a good teacher.

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Damien Hirst poses in front of his famous shark/Tate Modern

Damien Hirst poses in front of his famous shark/Tate Modern

Nobody is interested in modern art, because it’s just too hard to understand. Somehow more than five million nobodies wandered into the Tate Modern in London this year, a record. Of course, maybe they were all there to make fun of Damien Hirst

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Don’t take it from me. Take it from Sherwood Anderson, leveling with his teen-age son about life and art…

“The thing of course, is to make yourself alive. Most people remain all of their lives in a stupor.

The point of being an artist is that you may live.”

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No… we are not all snark and admonition all the time…

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