Monday 26 October 2009

The Mistress Bookshelf: MEDUSA by Sylvia Plath

Off that landspit of stony mouth-plugs,
Eyes rolled by white sticks,
Ears cupping the sea's incoherences,
You house your unnerving head -- God-ball,
Lens of mercies,
Your stooges
Plying their wild cells in my keel's shadow,
Pushing by like hearts,
Red stigmata at the very center,
Riding the rip tide to the nearest point of

Dragging their Jesus hair.
Did I escape, I wonder?
My mind winds to you
Old barnacled umbilicus, Atlantic cable,
Keeping itself, it seems, in a state of miraculous

In any case, you are always there,
Tremulous breath at the end of my line,
Curve of water upleaping
To my water rod, dazzling and grateful,
Touching and sucking.
I didn't call you.
I didn't call you at all.
Nevertheless, nevertheless
You steamed to me over the sea,
Fat and red, a placenta

Paralyzing the kicking lovers.
Cobra light
Squeezing the breath from the blood bells
Of the fuchsia. I could draw no breath,
Dead and moneyless,

Overexposed, like an X-ray.
Who do you think you are?
A Communion wafer? Blubbery Mary?
I shall take no bite of your body,
Bottle in which I live,

Ghastly Vatican.
I am sick to death of hot salt.
Green as eunuchs, your wishes
Hiss at my sins.
Off, off, eely tentacle!

There is nothing between us.

painting of medusa by Arnold Böcklin (1827 - 1901)

Friday 23 October 2009

The Mistress Bookshelf: Clarice Lispector (1920 - 1977)

What it would be like to read Clarice Lispector in English? As with Fernando Pessoa, I do not want to know. I do not want to swim away from the, at times loose, at times tight, tides of this woman's writing. In the same way as I am jealous of those who can read Tolstoy in his original Russian, or Proust in French, I do savour the fact that I can read her writing in its original form. I can enter this labyrinth and not watch it being projected on a white canvas on the wall.

Macabeia in English would make no sense to me, although I did understand her fully only when I moved away from Sao Paulo, to London. Saudade do Futuro indeed.

Transplanted, us, back and forth, Clarice and the millions into and out of Brazil. In these 500 years, the original language become that which we learn how to write and then, to speak.

Her intelligence, her inexhaustible inquisitiviness, her inward hunger, the umbilical chord leading all the way into an uncertain yet palpable infinity.

To Clarice, I humbly dedicate this post. The equivalent of a sphinx, the riddled oracle, the keeper of the labyrinth, our foreign Brasilianess.

"The word is my forth dimension" - CL

“Estou sentindo uma clareza tão grande que me anula como pessoa atual e comum: é uma lucidez vazia, como explicar? assim como um cálculo matemático perfeito do qual, no entanto, não se precise. Estou por assim dizer vendo claramente o vazio. E nem entendo aquilo que entendo: pois estou infinitamente maior do que eu mesma, e não me alcanço. Além do quê: que faço dessa lucidez? Sei também que esta minha lucidez pode-se tornar o inferno humano — já me aconteceu antes. Pois sei que — em termos de nossa diária e permanente acomodação resignada à irrealidade — essa clareza de realidade é um risco. Apagai, pois, minha flama, Deus, porque ela não me serve para viver os dias. Ajudai-me a de novo consistir dos modos possíveis. Eu consisto, eu consisto, amém.”.

Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)

Katherine Mansfield, nee Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp, was born on 14th October, 1888at 11 (now 25) Tinakori Road, Thorndon, Wellington. The house of her birth had newly been built for her parents, Annie and Harold Beauchamp. Harold Beauchamp was a clerk (later a partner) in the importing firm of Bannatyne and Co. Eventually he became chairman of the Bank of New Zealand and was knighted for his services to the business community.

Mansfield lived here with her parents, her three surviving sisters, Vera, Charlotte (Chaddie) and Jeanne, and her grandmother and her two teenage aunts until 1893, when the family left “ …that dark little cubby hole...” as she remembered her birthplace, to live in the country at Chesney Wold, in what is now the Wellington suburb of Karori. This is when her beloved only brother, Leslie, was born and where the happiest years of her childhood were spent. The move and subsequent events are described in the story Prelude. This new home and the local primary school are the settings for her most universally read story The Doll’s House.
The family returned to town in 1898. They lived in a grander house at 75 Tinakori Road which was to become was the setting of the story The Garden Party. Mansfield attended Wellington Girls’ College and then the recently opened Miss Swainson’s private school in Fitzherbert Terrace. In 1903 the three oldest girls were taken to England where they attended Queen’s College, London to finish their education.

Here Mansfield continued with her cello playing and, as at her Wellington schools, contributed to the literary life of the college. She decided on the professional name “Katherine Mansfield” and began Juliet, a novel that was never finished. During this time she made visits to Europe and met fellow pupil, the South African, Ida Baker, who was to become a life-long friend.

The three Beauchamp girls returned to Wellington in 1906, to an even larger home, at 75 Tinakori Road. The family now also owned a holiday cottage at Day’s Bay where Katherine spent a good deal of her time writing and which was later to become part of the setting for the story, At the Bay.

Mansfield found life in Wellington boring, complained that people in New Zealand “…do not know their alphabet” and expressed a wish to return to Europe to be a writer. After she had published some vignettes in the Melbourne magazine the Native Companion, her father assented. Before she left, however, she went on a camping trip to the Central North Island, an experience she was to draw on for her stories, Millie and The Woman at the Store.

Leaving New Zealand
With her father’s financial support of one hundred pounds a year (increased several times over the years when she needed medical care), Mansfield returned to England. She was never to see the land of her birth again.

During her first year in London, she embarked on various relationships and published very little - only one poem and one story. Pregnant to Garnet Trowell, the son of her childhood music teacher in New Zealand, she married George Bowden, a singing teacher considerably older than herself, whom she left almost immediately. Her mother responded to the news of this marriage by going to London and taking Mansfield for “treatment” to Bad Worishofen in Bavaria before returning to Wellington for the society wedding of her eldest daughter. Mansfield miscarried and was not to have any other children. This unhappy period of her life in Bad Worishofen produced the satirical, In a German Pension, stories that were published in the literary magazine, New Age, between 1910 and 1912. Despite the popularity of these stories, Mansfield expressed her dissatisfaction with them and refused to allow them to be republished.

Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry
© Alexander Turnbull Library
more about this image

Meeting John Middleton Murry
Having returned to London, Mansfield met John Middleton Murry, the Oxford scholar and editor of Rhythm, in 1911. They became lovers and were later to marry in 1918. Mansfield became a co-editor of Rhythm, later the short lived Blue Review, in which more of her works were published. She and Murry lived in various houses in England and briefly in Paris. The Blue Review folded, Murry was declared a bankrupt and they returned to London where Murry worked on the New Statesman.

By the outbreak of the First World War, Murry and Mansfield had been estranged for a short time. Mansfield returned to France in 1915 to visit her friend, the journalist, Francis Carco, in the war zone. On her return to London she spent time with her brother, Leslie, who was in England to train as an officer. Their recollections of their Wellington childhood inspired some of her Wellington stories.

Tragically Leslie Beauchamp was killed in October, 1915. Grief at his death, her own ill health and the desire to write prompted a return to France. Mansfield eventually settled at the “Villa Pauline” at Bandol, where she began to write The Aloe. She and Murry returned to England to live next door to Frieda and DH Lawrence at Zennor in Cornwall in a short lived experiment in “the brotherhood of man” . They moved from there to Mylor and continued to meet the Bloomsbury group at Garsington under the patronage of Lady Ottoline Morrell. It was here that Mansfield was introduced to artists and writers of the time such as Bertrand Russell, Bernard Shaw, the Huxleys and Dora Carrington. In 1916 Lytton Strachey arranged for her to meet Virginia Woolf who had Prelude, a reworking of The Aloe, published on the Woolfs’ new Hoggarth Press in 1917.

Failing health forced Mansfield to Bandol again where she wrote Je ne parle pas francais, and began Bliss. It was the publication of Bliss and Other Stories by Constable in 1920 that was to consolidate her reputation as a writer. In April 1918 Mansfield and Ida Baker returned to London. Mansfield married Murry in May and, after a brief time in Looe in Cornwall, they moved to their own house in Hampstead, London, referred to as “The Elephant”. However, by October Mansfield had been diagnosed with tuberculosis, and advised to enter a sanatorium. She could no longer spend winters in London.

In 1919 Murry was appointed editor of The Atheneum and Mansfield began reviewing novels for it. However, by the autumn she was so ill that she decided to go to Ospedaletti in Italy. She was accompanied by Ida Baker and visited there by her father, recently widowed, who was accompanied by his cousin, Miss Connie Beauchamp. From there Mansfield moved to Menton and, after a brief stay in London, returned as Miss Beauchamp’s tenant in the “The Villa Isola Bella”. Here she wrote eight stories including Miss Brill and The Daughters of the Late Colonel, the latter of which she pronounced to be “ ….the only story that satisfies me to any extent”.

Having offended her father’s cousin by not becoming a Roman Catholic, Mansfield and Ida Baker moved to Switzerland, first to Sierre and then to the “Chalet des Sapins” at Montana-sur-Sierre. Here in 1921 and 1922, Mansfield, nostalgically recollecting the country of her birth that she had despised as a teenager, wrote some of her last and best loved stories: At the Bay, The Garden Party and The Doll’s House. These stories vividly evoke the colonial Victorian world of her New Zealand childhood.

Mansfield left Montana for Paris in 1922, seeking, unsuccessfully, new treatment for her tuberculosis. In March she wrote to her father: “ ...the longer I live, the more I return to New Zealand. A young country is a real heritage, though it takes one time to remember it. But New Zealand is in my very bones”.

During this time in Paris she wrote The Fly and her last story, The Canary. She then left for London where she heard about Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at Avon near Fontainebleau which she entered on October 16, 1922, seeking both a physical cure and spiritual enlightenment that would aid her recovery.

While she found a certain peace there, and seemed happy when Murry visited her on 9th January, 1923, she died of a haemorrhage that evening and is buried at the nearby cemetery at Avon. The epitaph on her grave is one of her favourite quotations from Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I which she had chosen for the title page of Bliss and Other Stories: “...but I tell you, my lord fool, out of this nettle danger, we pluck the flower, safety”.

Mansfield’s letters, journals, notebooks, dramatic sketches and some of her poems and short stories were published posthumously. These works have been received with acclaim equal to that bestowed on her earlier work. The short stories, now translated into many languages, continue to have universal appeal.

source: (Katherine Mansfield Society)

Please click on the link that is this post's title to read "The Garden Party" in full.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Tina Modotti (1896 - 1942)

Modotti was born Assunta Adelaide Luigia Modotti Mondini in Udine, Friuli, Italy. In 1913, at the age of 16, she immigrated to the United States to join her father in San Francisco, California.Attracted to the performing arts supported by the Italian emigre community in the Bay Area, Modotti experimented with acting. She appeared in several plays, operas and silent movies in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and also worked as an artist’s model. In 1918, she married Roubaix “Robo” de l’Abrie Richey and moved with him to Los Angeles in order to pursue a career in the motion picture industry. There she met the photographer Edward Weston and his assistant Margrethe Mather.

By 1921, Modotti was Weston’s favorite model and, by October of that year, his lover. Modotti’s husband Robo seems to have responded to this by moving to Mexico in 1921. Following him to Mexico City, Modotti arrived two days after his death from smallpox on February 9, 1922. In 1923, Modotti returned to Mexico City with Weston and his son Chandler, leaving behind Weston’s wife and remaining three children. Modotti and Weston quickly gravitated toward the capital’s bohemian scene, and used their connections to create an expanding portrait business. It was also during this time that Modotti met several political radicals and Communists, including three Mexican Communist Party leaders who would all eventually become romantically linked with Modotti: Xavier Guerrero, Julio Antonio Mella, and Vittorio Vidali.

By 1927, a much more politically active Modotti (she joined the Mexican Communist Party that year) found her focus shifting and more of her work becoming politically motivated. Around that period, her photographs began appearing in publications such as Mexican Folkways, Forma, and the more radically motivated El Machete.

In Mexico, Modotti found a community of cultural and political avant guardists. She became the photographer of choice for the blossoming Mexican mural movement, documenting the works of José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera. Her visual vocabulary matured during this period, such as her formal experiments with architectural interiors, flowers and urban landscapes, and especially in her many lyrical images of peasants and workers. Indeed, her one-woman retrospective exhibition at the National Library in December 1929 was advertised as “The First Revolutionary Photographic Exhibition In Mexico.” She had reached a high point in her career as a photographer, but within the next year she was forced to set her camera aside in favor of more pressing concerns.

During this same period, economic and political contradictions within Mexico and indeed much of Central and South America were intensifying and this included increased repression of political dissidents. On January 10, 1929, Modotti’s comrade and companion Julio Antonio Mella was assassinated, ostensibly by agents of the Cuban government. Shortly thereafter an attempt was made on the Mexican President Pascual Ortiz Rubio. Modotti — who was a target of both the Mexican and Italian political police — was questioned about both crimes amidst a concerted anti-communist, anti-immigrant press campaign, which depicted “the fierce and bloody Tina Modotti” as the perpetrator. (A Catholic zealot, Daniel Luis Flores, was later charged with shooting Rubio. José Magriñat was arrested for Mella’s murder.)

As a result of the anti-communist campaign by the Mexican government, Modotti was expelled from Mexico in February, 1930, and placed under guard on a ship bound for Rotterdam. The Italian government made concerted efforts to extradite her as a subversive national, but with the assistance of International Red Aid activists, she evaded detention by the fascist police. Traveling on a restricted visa that mandated her final destination as Italy, Modotti initially stopped in Berlin and from there visited Switzerland. She apparently intended to make her way into Italy and to join the anti-fascist resistance there. However, in response to the deteriorating political situation in Germany and her own exhausted resources, she followed the advice of Vittorio Vidali and moved to Moscow in 1931.

During the next few years she engaged in various missions on behalf of the International Workers’ Relief organizations and the Comintern in Europe. When the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, Vidali (then known as “Comandante Carlos”) and Modotti (using the pseudonym “Maria”) left Moscow for Spain, where they stayed and worked until 1939. She worked with the famed Canadian Dr. Norman BethuneMálaga in 1937. In April 1939, following the collapse of the Republican movement in Spain, Modotti left Spain with Vidali and returned to Mexico under a pseudonym.

Modotti died from heart failure in Mexico City in 1942 under what is viewed by some as suspicious circumstances. After hearing about her death, Diego Rivera suggested that Vidali had orchestrated it. Modotti may have ‘known too much’ about Vidali’s activities in Spain, which included a rumoured 400 executions. Her grave is located within the vast Panteón de Dolores in Mexico City. Poet Pablo Neruda composed Tina Modotti’s epitaph, part of which can also be found on her tombstone, which also includes a relief portrait of Modotti by engraver Leopoldo Méndez:

Pure your gentle name, pure your fragile life,
bees, shadows, fire, snow, silence and foam,
combined with steel and wire and
pollen to make up your firm
and delicate being.


Susan Rothenberg - b. 1945

Good Dog Stay

Susan Rothenberg was born in Buffalo, New York in 1945. She received a BFA from Cornell University. Her early work—large acrylic, figurative paintings—came to prominence in the 1970s New York art world, a time and place almost completely dominated and defined by Minimalist aesthetics and theories. The first body of work for which she became known centered on life-sized images of horses. Glyph-like and iconic, these images are not so much abstracted as pared down to their most essential elements. The horses, along with fragmented body parts (heads, eyes, and hands) are almost totemic, like primitive symbols, and serve as formal elements through which Rothenberg investigated the meaning, mechanics, and essence of painting.

Rothenberg portrait by Mapplethorpe

Rothenberg’s paintings since the 1990s reflect her move from New York to New Mexico, her adoption of oil painting, and her new-found interest in using the memory of observed and experienced events (a riding accident, a near-fatal bee sting, walking the dog, a game of poker or dominoes) as an armature for creating a painting. These scenes excerpted from daily life, whether highlighting an untoward event or a moment of remembrance, come to life through Rothenberg’s thickly layered and nervous brushwork. A distinctive characteristic of these paintings is a tilted perspective in which the vantage point is located high above the ground. A common experience in the New Mexico landscape, this unexpected perspective invests the work with an eerily objective psychological edge. Susan Rothenberg received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Skowhegan Medal for Painting.


She has had one-person exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Dallas Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Tate Gallery, London, among others.

source: (Art:21)

Sunday 18 October 2009

Susan Glaspell (1876 -1948)

To most readers, Susan Glaspell (1876-1948) is still known primarily as the author of Trifles, the frequently anthologized, classic feminist play about two women's secret discovery of a wife's murder of her husband, or the short-story "A Jury of Her Peers,"a re-writing of that piece. But Glaspell wrote over fifty short stories, nine novels, eleven plays, and one biography. Many of her novels reached the best-seller lists, and one, Brook Evans (1928), was made into a movie. Her plays received better reviews than those of Eugene O'Neill, and her novels were positively reviewed through the 1930s. In 1931, Glaspell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her play Alison's House. Her 1939 novel, The Morning is Near Us, was the Literary Guild Book of the Month choice for April 1940, and sold more than 100,000 copies.

But there is yet more: Glaspell was the co-founder with her husband George Cram Cook of the Provincetown Players (1916-1922), the Little Theatre that did most to promote American dramatists, and her diplomacy and energy held the group together for seven years. It was largely thanks to Glaspell's intervention that O'Neill's first plays were performed, and she played a major role in stimulating and encouraging his writing in the following years.

Susan Glaspell had never liked to feel controlled or delimited; born in Davenport, Iowa, in 1876, she rebelled against society's expectations and, rather than passively wait for a husband to appear, went to Drake University in Des Moines, graduating in June of 1899, and then worked as a reporter for the Des Moines Daily News. She gave up her newspaper job in 1901 and returned to Davenport in order to write; she had already published a number of short stories in Youth's Companion, and was to see her stories accepted by more sophisticated magazines, such as Harpers, Leslie's, The American and others. Her story For Love of the Hills received the Black Cat prize in 1904; her first novel, The Glory of the Conquered, would come out in 1909, followed by The Visioning in 1911.

Back in her hometown, her status of published and respected author opened the doors of Davenport social and intellectual life and led to repeated meetings with George Cram Cook, whom she married in 1914. Cook was, by then, a twice-divorced father of two; he had given up a promising university career to try his hand at truck farming and socialism. The scandal and gossip provoked by his second divorce was the impulse that Glaspell and Cook needed to move East; they settled in Greenwich Village where the rents were cheap, and where they found other free-thinking liberals and radicals in both politics and art: the ideal breeding-ground for their experiments in theatre. At Cook's instigation Glaspell began writing plays, but she also published her third and most successful novel thusfar, Fidelity, in 1915.

With the support of Jack Reed and the still unacclaimed Eugene O'Neill, Glaspell and Cook founded the Provincetown Players in Provincetown, Cape Cod, at the end of the summer of 1916. This Little Theatre, which in the fall of that year moved to New York, produced innovative plays by American playwrights, such as Glaspell's The Verge (1921), and refused to consider commercial success to be of any significance until ONeills The Emperor Jones gave them a taste of Broadway. By 1922, Glaspell and Cook were so disappointed in the back-fighting and ambitious scheming that was dividing the Players that they decided to close the theatre and go to Greece. Cooks dream had always been to explore the sites of antiquity, and Glaspell was convinced that they needed time together, away from theatrical squabbles. They settled in Delphi, on the slopes of Mt. Parnassus, where they attempted to live the simple life of the shepherds, and became engrossed in an archaic lifestyle that fired Glaspell's imagination and inspired what many consider to be her greatest novel, Fugitive's Return (1929).

Glaspell returned to the United States in 1924, after Cook's death in Greece, and settled in Provincetown, where she wrote two of her best novels, Brook Evans (1928) and Fugitive's Return. Brook Evans appeared first in England, where, in the bold yellow covers that distinguished Victor Gollancz's imprint, it inaugurated his venture into independent publishing. In New York, Brook Evans reached second place on the Herald Tribune best-seller list, and the excellent sales led Paramount Pictures to film the novel, with screenplay by Zoe Akins, under the title The Right to Love. Fugitive's Return, in which Glaspell captured the flavor of her Greek adventure, traces a woman's growth from abject despair to independence and recognition of self; it ranked fourth on the best-seller charts, topped by Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms.

The Federal Theatre gave Glaspell another opportunity to devote herself to American drama in the 1930s. With Cook and the Provincetown Players she had shown that America, given a stage, could supply its own dramatists; as director of the Midwest Play Bureau in Chicago she sought out Midwestern talent and, although her contribution is rarely recognized, was instrumental in the development of the Living Newspapers. However, the red tape involved got the better of her and, resigning from her position with the Federal Theatre, she returned to spend her remaining years in Provincetown and gave all her energies to fiction, producing four more complex novels: Ambrose Holt and Family (1931). The Morning is Near Us (1939), Norma Ashe (1942), and Judd Rankin's Daughter (1945).

Glaspell's oeuvre is unparalleled in American letters in its major achievements in two genres, drama and fiction. Writing for the theatre made Glaspell more aware of innovations in structure and style, and her later novels benefited from her intense involvement in the development of the American drama. Taken together, her plays, stories, and novels, all explore themes that continue to be vital and challenging to readers and scholars today: themes of American identity, individuality vs. social conformity, the idealism of youth, the compromises of marriage, and the disillusionments and hopes of aging. Both her plays and novels explore feminist issues such as women's struggle for expression in a patriarchal culture that binds them in oppressive gender binarisms, the loving yet fraught relationships between daughters and mothers, and women's need for female friendship as a defining part of their growth toward autonomy and selfhood.

Barbara Ozieblo, author of Susan Glaspell: A Critical Biography. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

source: The Susan Glaspell Society

Louise Bourgeois (1911 - 2010)

Louise Bourgeois was born on December 25, 1911, in Paris. As a teenager, Bourgeois assisted her parents in their tapestry-restoration business, making drawings that indicated to the weavers the repairs to be made. In 1932, she entered the Sorbonne to study mathematics, but abandoned that discipline for art. In the mid- to late 1930s, she studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, Académie de la Grande-Chaumière, École du Louvre, Atelier Fernand Léger, and other Parisian schools. In 1938, Bourgeois married an American, the art historian Robert Goldwater, and moved to New York. There, she studied for two years at the Art Students League and was soon participating in print exhibitions.

After moving to a new apartment in 1941, Bourgeois began to make large wood sculptures on the roof of her building. In 1945, her first solo show, comprised of twelve paintings, was held at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery in New York and her work was first included in the Whitney Annual (later the Whitney Biennial). In the mid- to late 1940s, she worked at Stanley William Hayter's printshop, Atelier 17, where she met Le Corbusier, Joan Miró, and other Europeans exiled by World War II. In 1949, she exhibited works from her Personage series in the first show of her sculpture, at Peridot Gallery in New York.

In 1951, Bourgeois became an American citizen. Continuing her mode of abstracted figuration instilled with psychological and symbolic content, she remained stylistically distinct from New York School developments. She did, however, join American Abstract Artists in 1954. In the 1960s, she taught in public schools and at Brooklyn College and Pratt Institute in New York. She would continue to teach at colleges and universities during the following decade. In the late 1960s, Bourgeois's imagery became more explicitly sexual as she explored the relationship between men and women and the emotional impact of her troubled childhood (her father had had a ten-year affair with her governess). From 1967 until 1972, she made trips to Pietrasanta, Italy, to work in marble.

With the rise of feminism and the art world's new pluralism, her work found a wider audience. In the 1970s, she began to do Performance [more] pieces—among them A Banquet/A Fashion Show of Body Parts (1978), in which she wrapped art historians and students in white drapery with sewn-in anatomical forms—and expanded the scale of her three-dimensional work to large environments.

The first retrospective of Bourgeois's work was organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1982–83), and her first European retrospective was assembled by the Frankfurter Kunstverein (1989). Bourgeois was selected to be the American representative to the 1993 Venice Biennale. Her collected writings were published in 1998. In 2000, three thirty-foot-high towers by Bourgeois, commissioned by the Tate Modern in London—I Do, I Undo, and I Redo—were featured in that museum's inaugural exhibition. Many of her large-scale works have been exhibited as public art, including three spider sculptures installed at Rockefeller Center in New York in 2001 under the aegis of the Public Art Fund.

Bourgeois's achievements have been recognized with, among other honors, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1973), membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1981), a grand prize in sculpture from the French Ministry of Culture (1991), and the National Medal of Arts (1997). Bourgeois lives and works in Manhattan.


Sara Wheeler - Writer, Explorer

source: The Independent, Sunday 18th of October 2009.

Life in a cold climate: How Sara Wheeler is shaking up Arctic exploration

The polar explorer Sara Wheeler is unimpressed by the 'frozen-beard' brigade. Instead, her interest lies in the harsh reality of those who make their home in the Arctic

By Emily Dugan

Adjusting a daringly short black velvet dress and looking down at the girlie pink socks she has folded over her black boots, Sara Wheeler pronounces, "I don't do any sledge-pulling and I'm not interested in sledge-pulling." For the glamorous polar travel writer, whose grey pixie hair, kohled eyes and shocking-pink lipstick make her look a million miles from her Gore-Tex-clad contemporaries, sledge-pulling is a distraction from the real business of describing the world's extremities. "I think that to a certain extent we've got used to using the Arctic and the Antarctic as testing grounds," she explains. "Once upon a time, they had to be, because we didn't know what was there, but now those times have gone and we've got to look for something else. I find most of today's frozen-beard endeavours quite stunt-ish."

The "frozen beards", as she has dubbed those male contemporaries who pit themselves against the elements before publishing a book whose cover shows them staring out with ice flecks in their facial fuzz, have been unsurprisingly huffy in their reception of this female interloper in their predominantly male club. But Wheeler is unperturbed. "In the exploration community, there's a great sense that places such as the Antarctic are private territory, and they don't want me going in and making it seem as if anyone can do it. There is a certain group of people who are never going to like what I do, but that's OK, it's a free country. They don't own it and nor do I."

Lighting a gas fire in her already hot north London home on a warm autumn morning, Wheeler has no desire to prove how tough she is. Researching her sixth and latest book, The Magnetic North, a tale of the people and landscapes contained within the Arctic Circle, she frequently camped in sub-zero temperatures and "shared her bathroom with a seal", but she says that for that to be the purpose to her trips would miss the point. "I want to say other things about those regions, because I think there are plenty of other things to be said. It's a pity if it's only about losing half your body weight and seeing how dead you can get. I want to write about the places, or people, or the universal experience, not about myself."

Every Christmas, the shelves of bookshops heave with accounts of authors' extreme polar journeys, but Wheeler has chosen to do something different. Part reportage, part investigative journalism and part biography of a land, her book takes in every aspect of life within the Arctic Circle, presenting it as a home, not a playground. From investigating pollution crimes in Chukotka – a post-Communist outpost of Russia the size of Turkey – and travelling with reindeer herders in Lapp country, to uncovering the tragic history of a monastery in the middle of the White Sea, Wheeler's interest lies in the communities which make their lives there.

It was Chukotka – whose inhabitants were ill-treated first by Communism and then by capitalism, and are living in a place that often resembles a nuclear wasteland – that most captured her imagination. "Chukotka is this region of a quarter-of-a-million square miles where there's no road and nothing grows. The indigenous people have been abandoned there and I saw some pretty grim sights. Nuclear waste is just dotted around all over the place. There were nuclear submarine carcasses lolling around like whales."

Wheeler's first experience of writing in the ice caps was at the opposite end of the globe. In 1995, she wrote her first and most successful book to date, Terra Incognita, about her seven-month stay in Antarctica as a writer-in-residence with the US National Science Foundation. She returned several times to the far south, but the more polluted and developed Arctic had not appealed until now. "I was attracted to the Antarctic because it was an un-owned continent, undefined and pure. It was a symbol of the world as it might be, so it fitted a youthful vision of purity and idealism.

"In contrast, I was very unnattracted to the Arctic because it was everything the Antarctic wasn't. It was owned, it was polluted, there was lots of oil and all sorts of miserable people, it was just not something that interested me. Years went by and I went to other places; I went to Africa and did this and that, and then I became middle aged – I'm almost 50 – and I started thinking about the Arctic. Of course, it is all those things, and that more suits the elegiac melancholy of middle age, where everything is fragmented. I'm not interested in idealism any more, I'm interested in reality."

Reality is what you get in The Magnetic North. Whether it is scenes of alcoholic fathers pushing buggies with holsters, where beer cans have replaced milk bottles, or seeing the sharp end of climate change while camping with scientists on the Greenland ice sheet, Wheeler never shirks from the ugly truth of the region. Many of these truths were discovered with her children in tow. Reggie, now aged six, and Wilf, 12, both accompanied her on various legs of the trip. Reggie, at the time an un-weaned baby, was enthroned in pelts and taken reindeer herding with the Lapps, while Wilf, at the age of 10, was introduced to some colourful Slavic vocabulary after being taken under the wing of the Russian crew of an ice-breaker.

Now, after years of combining travelling with bringing up her two sons, Wheeler is ready for some time at home with them and her partner. "I haven't had any time off for 25 years and I feel writers need a fallow time," she says. Just don't expect her to embrace domestic life. "People always say to me it must be a challenge when I take my children with me to strange places, but I always think it's more of a challenge being here. I'm not domestic; I feel more of an imposter at the school gate."

The extract

The Magnetic North, By Sara Wheeler (Cape £20)

'... Every nation devastates native cultures ... Russians did it with bureaucracy, Americans with money, Canadians (in the end) with kindness. And everyone did it with booze and syphilis.

Acculturation is a theme of "The Magnetic North". It's a grim story, but I was not looking for a pretty picture. I was looking to see beneath both beauty and ugliness; to see the boredom and the horror ...'

Thursday 15 October 2009

Elinor Ostrom, First Woman to Win the Nobel Economics Prize

The award announced on the 12th of Ocotber 2009 was shared with Oliver Williamson.

Economic governance: the organization of cooperation

Elinor Ostrom has demonstrated how common property can be successfully managed by user associations. Oliver Williamson has developed a theory where business firms serve as structures for conflict resolution. Over the last three decades these seminal contributions have advanced economic governance research from the fringe to the forefront of scientific attention.

Economic transactions take place not only in markets, but also within firms, associations, households, and agencies. Whereas economic theory has comprehensively illuminated the virtues and limitations of markets, it has traditionally paid less attention to other institutional arrangements. The research of Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson demonstrates that economic analysis can shed light on most forms of social organization.

Elinor Ostrom has challenged the conventional wisdom that common property is poorly managed and should be either regulated by central authorities or privatized. Based on numerous studies of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes, and groundwater basins, Ostrom concludes that the outcomes are, more often than not, better than predicted by standard theories. She observes that resource users frequently develop sophisticated mechanisms for decision-making and rule enforcement to handle conflicts of interest, and she characterizes the rules that promote successful outcomes.

Oliver Williamson has argued that markets and hierarchical organizations, such as firms, represent alternative governance structures which differ in their approaches to resolving conflicts of interest. The drawback of markets is that they often entail haggling and disagreement. The drawback of firms is that authority, which mitigates contention, can be abused. Competitive markets work relatively well because buyers and sellers can turn to other trading partners in case of dissent. But when market competition is limited, firms are better suited for conflict resolution than markets. A key prediction of Williamson's theory, which has also been supported empirically, is therefore that the propensity of economic agents to conduct their transactions inside the boundaries of a firm increases along with the relationship-specific features of their assets.


Elinor Ostrom, US citizen. Born in 1933 in Los Angeles, CA, USA. Ph.D. in Political Science in 1965 from the University of California, Los Angeles, USA. Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science and Professor at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, both at Indiana University, Bloomington, USA. Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity, Arizona State University, Tempe, USA.

Ostrom with students in 1977


Wednesday 14 October 2009


pass it on, sisters.
Saw it first on


In this blog I intend to do some historical justice to the many, many women who have contributed with their genius, creativity, adventurous spirit, nurturing - amongst other qualities - to the apparent linear and male dominated prescribed notion of History. This is just the beggining.