My standard for publishing posts with advocacy ambitions is relatively high: namely I need to be convinced that the matter at hand will potentially inflict significant blows to the work of academics and museum professionals as related to the eighteenth century, or that some important material inheritance related to the eighteenth century is endangered. Threats to the NEH and the NEA are hardly new, but given the now entirely extraordinary context of American politics, such threats could be realized. As the National Humanities Alliance notes, there’s nothing inherently partisan about this issue, and coalitions of Republicans and Democrats care deeply about these organizations. Now is the time to vocalize how important we believe the NEH and NEA to be for the common good of the United States. –Craig Hanson
From the NHA (19 January 2017). . .
News broke this morning that the in-coming Trump Administration has a budget blueprint that proposes the elimination of NEH, along with other cultural agencies, and a major downsizing of others. This news has elicited great concern from the humanities community, and it is undoubtedly time to rally support for the National Endowment for the Humanities. That said, this blueprint is not an official proposal. The Trump Administration will be shaping its budget request over the coming months with broad input and we look forward to an opportunity to demonstrate the value of federal funding for NEH.
We are also heartened by Republican support in Congress, which has been strong over the past few years. Indeed, Republican-controlled appropriations committees have supported increases for both NEA and NEH for the past two fiscal years. More broadly, many Republicans have opposed far more minor cuts to the agency.
Consistently, Members of Congress have been compelled by advocacy that points out that:
• Through a rigorous peer-review process, NEH funds cutting-edge research, museum exhibits that reach all parts of the country, and cultural preservation of local heritage that would otherwise be lost.
• NEH’s Standing Together initiative funds reading groups for veterans that help them process their experiences through discussions on the literature of war; writing programs for veterans suffering from PTSD; and training for Veterans Affairs staff to help them better serve veterans.
• NEH grants catalyze private investment. Small organizations leverage NEH grants to attract additional private, local support. NEH’s Challenge Grant program has leveraged federal funds at a 3:1 ratio to enable organizations to raise more than $3 billion in private support. State Humanities Councils, meanwhile, leverage $5 for every dollar of federal investment. Grants through the Public Programs division have leveraged more than $16 billion in non-federal support, an 8:1 ratio.
We ask you now to send a message to your Members of Congress and the President-Elect to make clear that you, as a constituent, value the humanities.
Going forward, we will call on you again as the Congressional appropriations process for FY 2018 begins. We also encourage you to join us for our Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day on March 13th and 14th. Our goal is for constituents to visit Members of Congress from all 50 states to ensure that Congress serves as a stopgap to any efforts to defund NEH. Finally, we encourage you to spread word on social media. The more advocates receiving our alerts, the stronger our collective impact!
Note (added 20 January, 7am EST) — Jennifer Germann usefully notes this petition related to upcoming NEA funding.
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If this recent IKEA advertisement (uploaded to YouTube on 31 July 2016) depends more upon conventions for period films set in the eighteenth century than eighteenth-century sensibilities themselves, it might nonetheless be an interesting way to raise questions in the classroom of what exactly the century signals to people at a popular level today. Thanks to former Enfilade intern Caitlin Smits for drawing my attention to it (where would we be without bright former students?!). –Craig Hanson
From The Paley Center:
The Artistry of Outlander: Costumes and Set Designs
The Paley Center for Media, Los Angeles, 8 June — 14 August 2016
The Artistry of Outlander takes visitors into the world of the critically acclaimed STARZ and Sony Pictures Television series Outlander, showcasing many iconic costumes designed by Emmy-winning costume designer Terry Dresbach. Fans can step into 18th-century Parisian society, where they will be able to view actual set pieces from Outlander production designer Jon Gary Steele, life-size episodic photography, and behind-the-scenes video segments.
An extended description, with photographs, is provided by Amy Ratcliffe, writing for Nerdist (8 June 2016).
During a panel after the exhibit preview, Dresbach and Steele revealed they’ve been wanting to tackle 18th-century Paris for practically their entire careers. In fact, they longed to specifically work on Outlander. “Gary and I have been planning to do this show for about 25 years,” Dresbach said. She joked that she had to marry somebody (Outlander executive producer Ronald D. Moore) to make it happen, “It was all to get to Outlander.” Dresbach introduced Steele to Gabaldon’s book in the early ’90s, and they’ve been dreaming about it since. . . .
The sets in 18th-century France were so opulent and vivid, you’d think they were shot on location. That wasn’t the case. Most sets were built in a stage—including Claire and Jamie’s apartment, Master Raymond’s apothecary, and King Louis’ star chamber. They shot some exteriors in Prague, but for the most part, Steele got to dream the world into creation. “As designers, we want to build. It’s all from the ground-up. You create the whole thing. You control the color, the floor, the walls, the ceiling. That is so much more fun. It’s on stage, so it’s better in many ways for all of production,” Steele said. . .
Ratcliffe’s full piece is available here»
Contemporary art, engaging an iconic nineteenth-century interior, engaging perennially popular early eighteenth-century ceramics—opening next week at the Sackler:
Chinamania: Walter McConnell
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C., 9 July 2016 — 4 June 2017
A mania for Chinese blue-and-white porcelain swept through London in the 1870s as a new generation of artists and collectors ‘rediscovered’ imported wares from Asia. Foremost among them was American expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler. For him, porcelain was a source of serious aesthetic inspiration. For British shoppers, however, Chinese ceramics signified status and good taste. Cultural commentators of the time both embraced and poked fun at the porcelain craze. Illustrator George du Maurier parodied the fad in a series of cartoons for Punch magazine that documented what he mockingly called “Chinamania.”
More than a hundred fifty years later, American artist Walter McConnell explores Chinamania in our own time. In this exhibition, he juxtaposes two monumental porcelain sculptures, which he terms stupas, with export wares from China’s Kangxi period (1662–1722). Those blue-and-white ceramics are similar to those that once filled the shelves of Whistler’s Peacock Room in London. These historical porcelains also inspired McConnell to create a new work based on 3D-printed replicas. His interest in replication and in the serialized mass production of ceramic forms began after he visited China more than a decade ago. The large kilns and busy factories at Jingdezhen prompted McConnell to look at China as an enduring resource for ceramic production.
Chinamania complements the exhibition Peacock Room REMIX: Darren Waterston’s Filthy Lucre, a contemporary installation that reimagines the Peacock Room as a resplendent ruin. Inspired by museum founder Charles Lang Freer’s collection of Asian ceramics, Waterston painted scores of vessels and arranged them on the buckling shelves of Filthy Lucre. These oozing, misshapen ceramics convey a sense of unsustainable luxury and excess. They also echo McConnell’s interest in the interplay of creativity, the mass production of aesthetic objects, and the powerful forces of materialism and conspicuous consumption.
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Summer Open House: Chinamania After-Hours Preview
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C., 8 July 2016
Free and open to the public
Join us for a special after-hours celebration of the opening of Chinamania, the third and final installation in the Peacock Room REMIX series. Explore the craze for Chinese porcelain that took the West by storm in the nineteenth century and discover the interplay between creativity and mass production. Chinese blue-and-white ceramics from the Freer|Sackler collection join monumental installations by contemporary sculptor Walter McConnell and 3D objects printed especially for this exhibition.
The open house will feature tours led by McConnell and curator Lee Glazer, music, photo booths, and hands-on activities such as customizable screen-printed tote bags and create-your-own stop motion animation, featuring decorative motifs inspired by Chinese blue-and-white porcelain.
Across the street from the Sackler, food will be available through the USDA Farmer’s Market at Night, which hosts over 20 of our city’s most popular local food trucks from 4:00 to 7:00pm. So come get a first look at Chinamania and enjoy a picnic on the National Mall.
Friday, July 8, 5:30pm, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C.
From left: Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Christopher Jackson, Leslie Odom, Jr., Jasmine Cephas Jones, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, and Anthony Ramos. Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, Vogue (July 2015). Adam Green’s story for Vogue is available here»
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I’m at least a year overdue with this posting, but after Sunday evening’s Tony’s Awards, I feel compelled finally to note Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. I’ve not yet seen it; so my comments can address only the place of the production within the media and popular culture, rather than the musical itself, but for anyone interested in how the eighteenth century continues to matter for the present, Hamilton is difficult to ignore (notes on the cast recording at Genius.com are extraordinary, as noted in April by Shea Stuart for ABO Public). That a Broadway production could save the first U.S. Treasury Secretary’s place on the $10 bill is itself pretty remarkable. Nominated for a record-setting sixteen Tony Awards, it won eleven (second only to the twelve awards that went to The Producers in 2001)—including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Costume Design. A production opens in Chicago in September, followed by a pair of North American tours and a London production.
Writing for The New Yorker (9 February 2015), Rebecca Mead recounts the origins of the project. In the spring of 2009, Miranda had been invited to perform at a White House event addressing “the American experience,” with general expectations that he would perform something from the Broadway musical In the Heights.
Miranda had something different in mind. A few months earlier, he and his girlfriend, Vanessa Nadal, who has since become his wife, had been on vacation in Mexico, and while bobbing in the pool on an inflatable lounger he started to read a book that he had bought on impulse: Ron Chernow’s eight-hundred-page biography of Alexander Hamilton. Miranda was seized by the story of Hamilton’s early life. Born out of wedlock, raised in poverty in St. Croix, abandoned by his father, and orphaned by his mother as a child, Hamilton transplanted himself as an adolescent to a New York City filled with revolutionary fervor. An eloquent and prolific writer, he was the author of two-thirds of the Federalist Papers; after serving as George Washington’s aide during the Revolutionary War, he became America’s first Treasury Secretary. Later, Hamilton achieved the dubious distinction of being at the center of the nation’s first political sex scandal, after an extramarital affair became public. He never again held office, and before reaching the age of fifty he was dead, killed in a duel by Aaron Burr, the Vice-President, after a personal dispute escalated beyond remediation.
Miranda saw Hamilton’s relentlessness, brilliance, linguistic dexterity, and self-destructive stubbornness through his own idiosyncratic lens. It was, he thought, a hip-hop story, an immigrant’s story. Hamilton reminded him of his father, Luis A. Miranda, Jr., who, as an ambitious youth in provincial Puerto Rico, had graduated from college before turning eighteen, then moved to New York to pursue graduate studies at NYU. Luis Miranda served as a special adviser on Hispanic affairs to Mayor Ed Koch; he then co-founded a political consulting company, the MirRam Group, advising Fernando Ferrer, among others. On summer breaks during high school, Lin-Manuel worked in his father’s office; later, he wrote jingles for the political ads of several MirRam clients, including Eliot Spitzer, in his 2006 gubernatorial bid. Chernow’s description of the contentious election season of 1800—the origin of modern political campaigning—resonated with Miranda’s understanding of the inner workings of politics. And the kinds of debate that Hamilton and his peers had about the purpose of government still took place, on MSNBC and Fox. . .
With another contentious election season raging—and rearing its particularly ugly head in the wake of the devastating news of Sunday’s shootings in Orlando—Hamilton’s success may be even more timely than anyone could have imagined. And like the production itself, Annie Leibovitz’s photographs for Vogue might serve as a reminder that the future always gets worked out through thoughtful, imaginative engagements with the past.
Olafur Eliasson, Versailles 2016 © Olafur Eliasson
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Press release from Versailles:
Olafur Eliasson at the Palace of Versailles
Château de Versailles, 7 June — 30 October 2016
Curated by Alfred Pacquement
The work of internationally acclaimed visual artist Olafur Eliasson investigates perception, movement, embodied experience, and feelings of self. He is best known for striking installations such as the hugely popular The Weather Project (2003) in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, London, which was seen by more than two million people, and The New York City Waterfalls (2008), four large-scale artificial waterfalls which were installed on the shorelines of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Since 2008 the Palace of Versailles has put on a number of exhibitions dedicated to French or foreign artists, each one lasting a few months. Jeff Koons in 2008, Xavier Veilhan in 2009, Takashi Murakami in 2010, Bernar Venet in 2011, Joana Vasconcelos in 2012, Giuseppe Penone in 2013, Lee Ufan in 2014, and Anish Kapoor in 2015: these artists have all created a special dialogue between their works and the Palace and Gardens of Versailles. Since 2013 Alfred Pacquement is the curator of these exhibitions.
“With Olafur Eliasson, stars collide, the horizon slips away, and our perception blurs. The man who plays with light will make the contours of the Sun-King’s palace dance” says Catherine Pegard, President of the Château de Versailles.
“I am thrilled to be working with an iconic site like Versailles,” explains Olifur Eliasson. “As the palace and its gardens are so rich in history and meaning, in politics, dreams, and visions, it is an exciting challenge to create an artistic intervention that shifts visitors’ feeling of the place and offers a contemporary perspective on its strong tradition. I consider art to be a co-producer of reality, of our sense of now, society, and global togetherness. It is truly inspiring to have the opportunity to co-produce through art today’s perception of Versailles.”
Over the years, Eliasson has had significant exhibitions in France, from Chaque matin je me sens différent, chaque soir je me sens le même (2002) at the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, to Contact (2014), the first solo exhibition at the newly built Fondation Louis Vuitton, where Eliasson also created the permanent installation Inside the Horizon (2014). On the occasion of the COP21 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris in December 2015, Eliasson made climate change tangible by leaving twelve massive blocks of Greenlandic glacial ice to melt in the Place du Panthéon for the installation Ice Watch.
In 2012, Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen founded Little Sun. This social business and global project provides clean, affordable light to communities without access to electricity; encourages sustainable development through sales of the Little Sun solar-powered lamp and mobile charger, designed by Eliasson and Ottesen; and raises global awareness of the need for equal access to energy and light. Earlier this month in Davos, Eliasson received the prestigious Crystal Award for “creating inclusive communities”—a tribute to his work with Little Sun.
From 2009 to 2014, Eliasson ran the Institut für Raumexperimente (Institute for Spatial Experiments), an innovative model for art education affiliated with the Berlin University of the Arts. A comprehensive archive of the institute’s activities can be found online. In 2014, together with architect Sebastian Behmann, Eliasson founded Studio Other Spaces, an international office for art and architecture. As an architectural counterpart to Studio Olafur Eliasson, Studio Other Spaces focuses on interdisciplinary and experimental building projects and works in public space. Established in 1995, Eliasson’s studio today employs ninety craftsmen, specialised technicians, architects, archivists, administrators, and cooks. They work with Eliasson to develop and produce artworks and exhibitions, as well as to archive and communicate his work, digitally and in print. In addition to realising artworks in-house, the studio contracts with structural engineers and other specialists and collaborates worldwide with cultural practitioners, policy makers, and scientists.
A plan is available as a PDF file here»
Now on view in Sweden at the Gothenburg Museum of Art:
Unbounded: The Eighteenth Century Mirrored by the Present / Gränslöst: 1700-tal speglat i nuet
Göteborgs Konstmuseum, Gothenburg, 4 May — 13 November 2016
The major exhibition of the spring is based on unexpected encounters. Here, art from the eighteenth century is shown alongside crafts, fashion, design, and popular culture, in order to let visual expressions from different periods of time clash against each other, creating friction and new perspectives. The exhibition highlights the boundless and boundary transcending, with a focus on conceptions of gender, man’s relation to nature and the West’s image of China. These themes all touch on areas where norms and values are in a process of renegotiation. The exhibition is a collaboration between the Gothenburg Museum of Art, the Röhsska Museum, and the University of Gothenburg.
Kristoffer Arvidsson, ed., Gränslöst. 1700-tal speglat i nuet / Unbounded: The Eighteenth Century Mirrored by the Present (Gothenburg: Göteborgs Konstmuseums Skriftserie, 2016), 376 pages, ISBN: 978-9187968969.
Yinka Shonibare MBE, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle (maquette), 2007, as installed in the exhibition Fourth Plinth: Contemporary Monument (London: ICA, 2012–13).
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From the YCBA:
Yinka Shonibare MBE
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1 September — 11 December 2016
Curated by Martina Droth
The contemporary British Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare is best known for his explorations of the legacies of colonialism through sculpture, installations, film, and photography. This display, which coincides with the Center’s exhibition Spreading Canvas: Eighteenth-Century British Marine Painting, will focus on Shonibare’s interest in the British historical figure Admiral Lord Nelson, whom he uses as an emblem of Britain’s imperial history. An important feature of Shonibare’s work is the consistent use of colorful, wax-printed cotton fabrics, which are associated with Africa but originated in Indonesia and Holland, a product of global trade and imperial markets. The fabric sums up the themes at the heart of Shonibare’s work.
Yinka Shonibare MBE will be curated by Martina Droth, Deputy Director of Research and Curator of Sculpture, Yale Center for British Art.
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Now on view at the University of Michigan:
Scent of a Beaver: An Installation by Kent Monkman
University of Michigan, Institute for the Humanities, Ann Arbor, 21 January — 26 February 2016
Based on the rococo masterpiece The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Scent of a Beaver is a sculptural installation that features the artist Kent Monkman’s alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle dangling on a swing between a French and English general. With Miss Chief dressed in an opulent silk and fur gown, the work functions as a metaphor for the power relationships between the major players that shaped the social fabric, political structures, and economy of North America. True to Monkman’s modus operandi, Scent of a Beaver takes on white-washed, colonialist notions of history and overturns them, employing kitsch as a path toward self-determination and veering away from painful, misrepresented histories. It is this sort of conversion that is at the crux of Monkman’s powerful work—the transformation from age-old traditional stories which distort and oppress into something a little fantastical, a bit cathartic, and ultimately redeeming.
Kent Monkman is well known for his provocative reinterpretations of romantic North American landscapes. He explores themes of colonization, sexuality, loss, and resilience—the complexities of historic and contemporary Native American experience—in a variety of mediums including painting, film and video, performance, and installation. Monkman’s glamorous diva alter-ego Miss Chief appears in much of his work as an agent provocateur, trickster, and supernatural being who reverses the colonial gaze, upending received notions of history and indigenous people.
More information and installation photos are available from a piece by Sarah Rose Sharp for Hyperallergic (18 February 2016).