Wunderbuzz logo

Monthly Archive for December, 2012

A room of ones own

These photos are selected from the The Nooney Brooklyn Photographs, by Dinanda H. Nooney documenting almost 200 families or individuals in their Brooklyn homes in the late 1970s.

Nooney was very meticulous in her photographic projects, her first project was to document the entire length of the West Side Highway in Manhattan, which had partially collapsed in 1973 and was demolished beginning in 1977. In her second project was to document Brooklyn. She used her connections from when she was working in Brooklyn as a volunteer for George McGovern’s presidential campaign, gaining her the access to rooftops and other vantage points for a survey of the borough.

She worked almost daily from January 1978 to April 1979, crisscrossing the borough, documenting the broad ethnic and economic range of Brooklyn’s residents. The project became the subject of an exhibition, At Home in Brooklyn, at the Long Island Historical Society in 1985.

I have chosen a few photos from the collection without any residents because I believe our homes tell as much about us as a portrait would be able to, and I think it’s interesting to imagine who the people behind these homes are (or were).

Nursery School of Dorothy Howard. 150 Vernon Ave., Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

Dorothy Howard & daughter Lisa. 579 Putnam Ave., Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

Joseph & Mary Merz. 48 Willow Place, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

Apartment of Milton Briggs. 447 State St. Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

Home of Joe & Natalie Bailey. 123 Hancock St., Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

Simone Weil

Among the many professions Simone Weil (1909-1943) undertook during her short life were factory worker, teacher and soldier. Principally a philosopher, Weil sought to draw people’s attention to the oppressed, the poor, the starving and the outcast people of society, writing, “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity”.

Simone Weil

From a young age Weil acted with unguarded selflessness showing her to be a sensitive and highly astute thinker. At the age of six she refused to eat any more than the quantity of food allowed for the soldiers fighting during the First World War and refused to eat any sugar.

At the age of ten Weil had declared herself a Bolshevik and became involved in politics out of sympathy for the working class. Engaging with the ideas proposed by Leon Trotsky and the Russian Bolshevik party, she even arranged for Trotsky to stay in her parents’ house in 1933, while he was visiting Paris in secret.

Simone Weil, a soldier during the Spanish Civil War (1936)

Embracing all religions, Weil was fascinated by mysticism and befriended many religious clerics. With a deep spirituality she was empowered with an objectivity and clarity of mind that inspired many of the great writers, politicians and philosophers of her day. Meditating in Simone Weil’s room before going to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, Albert Camus described her as ‘the only great spirit of our times’ and Susan Sontag described her as one of the most uncompromising and troubling witnesses to the modern travail of the spirit.

Simone Weil embraced a struggle against the conventions gender and her social convention. One of the most rigorously moral and compassionate thinkers of her day, she is as an emblem of female courage and success, and “a giant of reflection”.

New Heroines

Living in an age of Twitter, Tumblr, blogs and an ever growing array of websites for young creatives it seems an apt time to reignite some debate around the archive. Seventeen years ago, in 1995, Jacques Derrida published his book Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression in which he set about deconstructing this dusty subject. Exposing the notorious hegemony that traditionally encased the archive Derrida sought to uncover some of the functions of preservation. Does the archive serve to overcome the inevitable and looming fear of our own mortality – the Freudian ‘death-drive’? At the dawn of the Internet age, Derrida asked what affect, or threat, does technology impose on the archive?

In the years since Derrida’s book the online frenzy has certainly dwarfed any modest expectations of technology. The rapid takeover of social networking and the online diary (from Tumblr and Insagram, to Facebook and blog-posting) has opened a space for an entirely new writer and has offered a new kind of archive, a platform on which female writers are beginning to take centre stage.

Jacques Derrida, author of Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (1995)

Female authors, journalists, thinkers, fashionistas and artists are using the Internet to publish discussions, writing, diaries and archiving what they do. This unsanctioned space has also been utilized to pose debates on interesting topics by important female figures. For instance, author Masha Tupitsyn used Twitter as a platform to discus her essays on love (soon to become a book), or Chris Kraus’ blog, Reality Sandwich, which frequently probes the heart of women’s topics as well as the inestimable number of budding fashionistas, artists and writers using social media to showcase their work.

Heroines by Kate Zambreno (2012)

Are these women transforming the stigma associated with female authors’ memoirs that have long been dismissed as “girls diaries”? Travel back to the pre-Internet age of Modernism and the memoirs of female authors, usually overlooked or reduced to the genre of “automatic” writing, have always stood at odds with the heroized memoirs and letters of Modernist male writers. A topic that writer Kate Zambreno has sought to investigate and expel in her recent book called Heroines.

Amongst the cast of female Modernist writers whom Zambreno has written of are Virginia Wolfe, Zelda Fitzgerald, Vivienne Eliot and Jane Bowles. A notably common characteristic of all these women being their apparent ‘madness’, the stigma that seems to be freely attached to many women writers of the time.

Vivienne Eliot (wife of T. S. Eliot)

Has technology created a new space in which women can write, record, review or publish their work and ideas freely? This new ‘archive’ has certainly acquired with it a new and more vocal female and, unchallenged, female creativity is flourishing in a global space that is only set to grow.

Dorothy Bohm

Due to the newly opened exhibition Women in Focus: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm, I went to an event organised by The Museum of London featuring the British photographer Dorothy Bohm talking about her life and career in company with her daughter, art historian Monica Bohm-Duchen.

Dorothy Bohm, 18 years old.

Dorothy Bohm was born in 1924 in East Prussia. She moved to England in 1939 as her father was able to send her to a boarding school, allowing her to escape from the Nazis. She graduated from Manchester College of Technology where she studied photography and met her future husband. The main reason to study photography was not because she hoped to become an artist, but simply because she wanted something she could make a decent living from. After graduating she got a job in a portrait studio in Manchester, developing her reputation as a portrait photographer and four years later, in 1946, she decided to set up her own portrait studio in Manchester.

A portrait taken by Dorothy Bohm

Portraits by Dorothy Bohm

Dorothy’s portrait studio secured her a stable income which made her able to support her husband’s final years of study, and after he graduated he got a job in a petrochemical company that obliged him to move around the world. They travelled all over the world together, and have lived in both Paris, New York and San Francisco. In the late 1950s, Dorothy decided to abandon studio portraiture in favour of “street photography” and she sold her studio in Manchester.

Israel 1956, by Dorothy Bohm

Brussels, Belgium 1949, by Dorothy Bohm

Stockholm, Sweden 1967, by Dorothy Bohm

South Africa 1974, by Dorothy Bohm

This was the first time she was “free” to take photographs solely with an artistic purpose. Her photographs were mainly shot in black and white, but in 1980 she was persuaded by the fellow photographer André Kertész to experiment with colour, which she did for a few years, and from 1985 she worked exclusively in colour film.

Provence, France 1992, by Dorothy Bohm

Venice 1987, by Dorothy Bohm

London 1990s, by Dorothy Bohm

Paris 1988, by Dorothy Bohm

Today, Dorothy’s work has been shown in numerous exhibitions, both in the UK and abroad. Fourteen books of her work have been published and she is still photographing. It is her way of collecting memories.

“I have spent my lifetime taking photographs. The photograph fulfils my deep need to stop things from disappearing. It makes transience less painful and retains some of the special magic, which I have looked for and found. I have tried to create order out of chaos, to find stability in flux and beauty in the most unlikely places.”

— Dorothy Bohm

See Dorothy talking about her career in this video made by The Tate Gallery:

YouTube Preview Image

Mr. Anger and the Puce Woman

Yvonne Marquis in Puce Moment

A lot have been said about Mr. Kenneth Anger. Over the years he’s been called many things, none of them particularly flattering: a satanist, a racist, a weirdo but whether he is one thing or another we can’t really tell. What we only know for sure is that he was, and still is, one of the most intriguing experimental directors ever. Demonic, provocative, way ahead of its time, Anger’s visual work is powerful and gentle at the same time, like suspended in time yet truly mesmerising.

“Puce Moment”, a short film by him from 1949, was meant to be a celebration of ladies of the silent screen (the original title was “Puce Women”). Puce is the name of a colour, the pale red-violet that permeate the six-minute filming of a lady in her boudoir, what is left of the original project, failed because of lack of funding.
Yvonne Marquis is the woman who plays the role of the “diva”, in real life she would later move to Mexico and become the lover to former Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas. Yvonne’s resemblance to old film stars such as Clara Bow and Barbara La Marr is striking and her whole action is a tribute to the rich, decadent life of the Roaring Twenties.

“Puce Women was my love affair with Hollywood…with all the great goddesses of the silent screen. They were to be filmed in their homes; I was, in effect, filming ghosts”

— Kenneth Anger

Puce Moment

Clara Bow & Barbara La Marr

Everything is perfect in this “puce” moment of pure visual pleasure…from the vivid colours of the sequinned gowns, that once belonged to Anger’s grand-mother, to the languid expressions of the silent Yvonne. Her alternate acts, slowed-down or speeded-up, are combined with beautiful and haunting psych-folk soundtrack (added in 1966) by mysterious musician Jonathan Halper. The power and immediacy of this unusual, dream-like film make it look so up to date after all those years. A post-modern celebration of the past, way before post-modernism really had a name.

Colleen Moore in her boudoir

Puce Moment

Enjoy the film…