German Word of the Week: Warzenhof

There’ll be light blogging for the next few days, because I’ll be visiting a seminar in beautiful downtown Recklinghausen.  Thanks for your patience.

But before I go, quick: What is Russian actress Svetlana Metkina accidentally showing in this picture? If you said "nipple," you’re only 10% right. In fact, she’s mostly showing aureola, the nipple’s staging area, or plush honeymoon-suite bed, or landing strip, or perhaps just ‘hood.  That circle of brown around el areal sensitivo.

Which brings us to German. German words for body parts are frequently priceless, and the more sensitive the body part, the more risible they are. One look at "shame-region," for example, and you’ll see what sort of killer material Freud had to work with.

The word for nipple in German is Brustwarz. "Breast-wart." I don’t suppose the nipple is very happy about this, but what can he do? Grow a tongue and begin talking? If he could, he would probably point out that, under the same logic that saddled him with his ludicrous appellation, we should be calling our mouths "face-anuses," or our toes "foot-cysts."

As compensation, though, our friend the breast-wart gets to dominate the aureola, which is not called aureola in German, but rather Warzenhof, which you could translate as "wart-corona," "wart-yard," or my favorite, "wart-court."

All hail the nipple! Warty little king of his bouncy, circular court!

And the winner is…

…Marek Moehling.  Is there anything he can’t do?

"Elevator to the Scaffold" was Malle’s first studio release, and what a cooly intelligent crackler it is.  Miles Davis’ soundtrack is moody and tense, and well worth buying on its own.  It’s my second-favorite French film soundtrack performed by an American jazz musician after Stan Getz’s Le Mort d’un Pourri

The influence of American film noir (esp. Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity, if you ask me, and yes, I know Billy Wilder’s not American) is still palpable, but the scenes featuring the toothsome Jeanne Moreau wandering the streets of Paris at night are unmistakable Malle.  The DVD I watched has an interview with Malle filmed in the mid-1970s.  Malle, looking tanned but tense, with questing, slightly protuberant eyes, sits in a room chain-smoking and chain-talking.  He radiates a kind impersonal brilliance that, to me, is the trademark of the French intellectual. The interviewer, trapped in his wide lapels and de rigeur mid-70s aviator glasses, barely gets a word in edgewise.  Several camera crews circle the table, paying no attention to whether they enter shots.

Malle says that during "Elevator," he tried to stage Paris as a modern, anonymous city: the film is built around the five most modern buildings Malle could find in mid-50s Paris, plus what was then the only luxury motor hotel in France. He expresses his gratitude to Jacques Cousteau for giving him his first break. The enormous challenges of filming underwater honed his technical skills, but, he adds, so did the challenges of "directing fishes."

Seneca: On the Shortness of Life

From Lucius Annaeus Seneca: On the Shortness of Life:

Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is—the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it. Just as great and princely wealth is scattered in a moment when it comes into the hands of a bad owner, while wealth however limited, if it is entrusted to a good guardian, increases by use, so our life is amply long for him who orders it properly.

“If I could not hear your voice…

…I would be lost in a land of silence."  Obviously, this is French.  It’s a movie.  Shortly after our man tells his lover this, she goes to wait for him at a cafe. But he doesn’t arrive, because he’s trapped in an elevator.

What’s the name of the cafe?

Who wrote the book on which the movie is based?

Which documentary filmmaker gave the director of this movie his first responsible directing job?

Julius Popp’s Idea Machines

A few days ago I heard an interview with Julius Popp (G) a German artist who studied "Buchkunst" (literally, the art of bookmaking) and graphic design.  He seemed like quite a friendly chap.  His work combines dizzying technical proficiency with oblique, poetic social commentary.

Here is a description of Bitfall (2005) from the Saatchi gallery website:

Popp"Using technological wizardry, Julius Popp’s Bitfall reproduces the ‘flood’ of media information in the form of a real waterfall. Comprised of 128 nozzles, Popp’s curtain collects a continuous stream of water droplets. Directing their flow with a complex system of magnetic valves controlled by computer, text and graphics randomly selected from the internet appear in the drizzling liquid, creating a DIYplasma screen. As each message drips into a collection tank, its feeds back into the cycle, creating a metaphor for the impermanence and flux of the perception of ‘reality’"

Another project, micro.spheres,  involves robots. Little, ball-shaped ones.  They’re described in German here (my translation):

The spherical knee-high robots have only one ability: they roll automatically to the middle of any room in which they are placed. When they are left alone, they produce static, geometric patterns.  However, as soon as a "foreign" element enters the room, a wave-formed chain reaction is produced in which the space re-orders itself — a highly poetic image of our environment, which is constantly in the process of change and organization, and of the laws of cause and effect which form its basis.

Perhaps it’s my German genes, but I’ve always had a soft spot for art that somehow ‘works.’ (Although perhaps the Belgian Wim Delvoye’s shit-making machine carries things a bit too far.) Everyone who shares my taste should book a trip to Vienna, where Popp’s currently showing at project space (G).

Meanwhile, at the World Corrosion Organization

At its General Assembly, held in Nashville, Tennessee, the World Corrosion Organization has just named Prof. Michael Schütze (G) its new President.

Schütze delivered his acceptance speech while wearing iridescent synthrene gloves and stroking a white Persian cat named Mephistopheles. He closed the four-hour address by loudly repeating "their puny weapons will crumble to useless dust in their very hands!!" to ecstatic applause. 

Shortly afterward, the session was closed to reporters for discussion of "sensitive organizational matters."

Carol Vogel profiles the “Alchemist” Sigmar Polke

Carol Vogel profiles the fascinating Sigmar Polke in the New York Times:

Sorcerer, jester, sage, visionary — Mr. Polke is a hero to many artists working today and a magnet for curators and collectors. Part of the attraction is his relentless quest to ask more of the conventional canvas, applying clumps or droplets of ancient substances or cheap mass-produced fabrics in unusual juxtapositions with sketched figures.

At a moment when no clear artistic movement or style dominates popular tastes, he is known as a master of the unexpected. And while often rooted in ancient mythology, philosophy and chemistry, artists and curators say, his work always seems new. The artist John Baldessari, 75, describes Mr. Polke as an artist’s artist. “Any one move can provide a career for a lesser artist,” he explained.

He has reclusive tendencies:

Unlike Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst or Takashi Murakami, who work hard at maintaining their movie-star allure, Mr. Polke shuns the limelight and guards his privacy. He has been known to go for months without answering his phone, opening his mail or allowing visitors into his studio.

[h/t: JR]