Bacchus and Ariadne: the Long and the Short


Serendipity would have it that two separate digital initiatives at the National Gallery had me talking about one of my favourite paintings in the collection, Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne, for two consecutive weeks. One was our #PaintedLovers campaign for the Valentine’s Day season, which consisted of a series of very short and (hopefully) to the point expositions on selected paintings with love as their theme by myself and colleagues (above). The other is a new initiative, #NGYouChoose, where the public votes for paintings in the collection to receive more in-depth facilitation from the curatorial staff. This consists of a public lecture of half an hour or so that is then posted to the Gallery’s YouTube channel (below).

It was a fun exercise, and hopefully the lectures and videos have been useful to some of you. I’ve got to admit, however, how difficult I find it to talk to a camera. This is particularly evident in the #PaintedLovers video, where I was ad-libbing a presentation where everything had to be on point, i.e. clear, devoid of mispronounciations, uhs, digressions, etc. I come across (to myself, at least) as mannered and robotic. As such it is a pretty good reminder that I need to loosen up when speaking into the dark glass.


The #NGYouChoose lecture was also improvised — which is the way I tend to prefer it — and its lack of tight coherence shows it, but at least I feel more relaxed. I am talking to an audience that is right there, and that helps. It doesn’t change the fact, however, that the camera mercilessly captures every nervous head scratch, every superfluous gesture, and my incessant shifting of feet. I get sea sick watching it.

Sorry, this is mostly a bit of autocriticism. If nothing else, I hope it will help me do better videos in the future. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy at least some of what I have to say on this terrific painting. Do let me know, and thanks for watching.

The Week

From Kevin Huizenga's contribution to Kramers Ergot 7


The week in review.

This week saw the passing of several notable people in letters. The one that hit closest to home here was the way too early departure of Alvin Buenaventura, one of the great artisans in comics publishing. I didn’t know Buenaventura and only barely met him, once, when he was in Angoulême with cartoonist and editor extraordinaire Sammy Harkham in 2009 to promote their giant undertaking Kramers Ergot 7. But he was one of those publishers one feels one knows through the facture of their books. And whatever else I thought of Kramers 7, it was a triumph of book production and a truly admirable publication in both its ambition and generosity.

Generosity was, I gather from the many touching words from people that knew him, a defining trait in Buenaventura, which is no surprise, because that is exactly the impression one gets from his publications, from the lo-fi texturing and sharp printing of Souther Salazar’s overlooked Destined for Dizziness to the accurate, always vivid reproduction of radically different source material, often from one page to the next, in the monumental Kramers 7. Buenaventura set an example to aspire towards. RIP.

Read Tim Hensley’s, Ken Parille’s, Dan Clowes’ and Anders Nilsen’s words and visit the comments thread of Joe McCulloch and Chris Mautner’s obituary at the Comics Journal.

  • RIP also to the great Umberto Eco! Since this is already so comics oriented, here’s his famous piece on George Herriman’s Krazy Kat and Charles M. Schulz’ Peanuts.
  • Back at HU! With Daniel Clowes


    So today I made kind of a comeback. I’m back at the Hooded Utilitarian, where I haven’t posted for almost three years. Not because I haven’t wanted to, but because I’ve found it difficult to find the time to write something that lives up to the content generally provided at the site and, frankly, the work I myself put into my writing there way back when. Naturally, that’s not a useful frame of mind, so I just decided to go ahead and write a short review of Daniel Clowes’ new book, Patience, which I enjoyed a lot.

    Patience came out in Denmark just before Christmas in advance of its US release next month, so I thought what the heck — if nothing else, I can maybe help start a conversation on what I think is a challenging and fun book. Go here and check it out.

    I am not promising to start writing regularly for HU just yet. Again, not because I wouldn’t love to, but well, because I still can’t shake this self-imposed pressure to write something good.

    The Week

    Steve Bell for the Guardian


    The week in review.

    I guess the past week may end up being seen as a kind of turning point when it comes to Denmark’s international reputation. “Jewellery-Gate” as it has become known in Denmark seems like it may leave a lasting stain on my country’s image abroad. The new law is a particularly egregious — and hard-hitting — example of pandering to the voters that may just have backfired, precisely because its symbolism is conceived for maximum effect. Not even the politicians who proposed and passed it seem to have spent much time arguing that confiscating valuables from refugees would make much of a difference to covering the considerable costs of admitting and accommodating them. It is purely a way of showing their resolve to prevent too many immigrants coming to Denmark. Less attention has been paid to the more consequential and fundamentally more serious decision to delay family reunification for refugees by three years, a measure that has been roundly criticised by human rights groups.

    Information: satirebladet Spot!


    I juni sidste år lancerede en gruppe journalister, tegnere og akademikere satirebladet Spot, som er tænkt som en art dansk pendant til Charlie Hebdo. Der er nu kommet fire numre og jeg forsøger at gøre status over det prisværdige men stadig noget tyndbenede initiativ i Information, med implicit forhåbning om mere og bedre og sjovere og grovere i fremtiden. Læs her (paywall).

    The Week

    The week in review.

    Sorry, I can’t let it go. Yesterday I filed an article on the media shit storm over Charlie Hebdo‘s provocation, Riss cartoon speculating that poor, dead Aylan Kurdi might have become an ‘ass-groper in Germany’, had he been given the chance to grow up in Europe. I guess this small cartoon, buried deep within an issue with David Bowie on the cover and with many other, very different cartoons (one of which is at least as offensive…) is newsworthy, in the sense that anything Charlie does these days is potentially so. But: this is a still rather marginal left-wing magazine we’re talking about and casting it as the reincarnation of Der Stürmer or whatever in the manner of many, mostly uninformed left-wing critics is not only hugely overblown, but ignorant of context. Not to mention insensitive to the multivalent qualities of even heavy-handed cartoons. Look, it’s perfectly legitimate to criticise this cartoon for bluntly furthering an anti-refugee agenda — it clearly does, whether intentionally or, more likely, not –but this is mostly because of the media treatment of it.

    The Week


    The week in review

    As is always the case, lots happened this week, but my preoccupation continues to be the implications of the 7 and 9 January 2015 murders in Paris, or at least what they are coming to represent. As Kenan Malik laments in his excellent op-ed piece for Göteborg-Posten, the initial wave of sympathy for the dead and the huge public manifestations which happened as a reaction all over France, and in other countries, exactly one year ago don’t seem to have changed much for the better when it comes to public opinion on freedom of speech and freedom of expression. European countries, France not least among them, continue prosecuting people for various forms of “hate speech” and “terrorist sympathies” while identity politics are leading educated people in increasingly absurd to silence others. And Islamist reactionaries and jihadists seem as determined as ever to silence any perceived transgressors, whether in the West or in Muslim majority countries, most recently and horrifically Saudi Arabia. At the same time, very few in the West are joining Charlie Hebdo in the necessary, continued testing of the boundaries. And frankly Charlie itself is much diminished now that several of their best cartoonists are either dead or have left the publication.