‘La Mystique Féminine vol. 1,’ Frankie Teardrop

Jim Pennucci

At Anthology Film Archives

Die andere Heimat: Chronik einer Sehnsucht

In German with English subtitles, 2013, 230 min, DCP, b&w/color
Edgar Reitz’s monumental Heimat films hold a privileged place in postwar German cinema. A precursor to some of the episodic yet cohesively crafted serial dramas that are all the rage in the U.S. and Europe today, Reitz’s enormously ambitious, ever-expanding project began in 1984 with the 15-hour Heimat: A Chronicle of Germany. Since then, Reitz has added to his career-defining edifice roughly every ten years, with 1993’s Heimat II (more than 25 hours long), 2004’s Heimat III (11 hours), and now, like clockwork, with Home from Home: Chronique of a Vision, which comes in at a breezy 230 minutes. (This account elides the smaller-scale, in-between work, Heimat Fragments: The Women, from 2006…)

A prequel to the previous Heimat films, Home from Home turns back the clock to the mid-19th century, to focus on the ancestors of the Simon family, as they struggle to subsist in the (fictional) village of Schabbach (familiar from the earlier films). Depicting both the struggles and the deeply ingrained rituals and sense of community that define their lives, Reitz shows his usual panoramic flair, bringing to life a host of characters and capturing the rhythms and textures of a whole village.

Nevertheless, the film’s attention settles on two figures in particular: the sensitive, imaginative, and restless Jakob, who immerses himself in literature and dreams of emigrating to Brazil, and Henriette, the beautiful daughter of a gem cutter fallen on hard times, who is at once drawn to Jakob and fated to take a different path. Reitz, as always, is attuned both to his characters’ daily lives and to the larger social and historical forces that shape their existence. Here he explores a world marked by famine and poverty, the stirrings of revolution, and above all the specter of emigration, a phenomenon that holds the promise of freedom even as it represents a threat to the stability of the communities that are left behind. Playing out against the backdrop of the mass exodus that saw hundreds of thousands of German farmers, laborers, and craftsman departing for the New World, Home from Home is both a heart-wrenching drama and a penetrating portrait of an historical era.Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision is presented in collaboration with Corinth Films.

September 11 through 17, 7:00pm nightly, additional screenings on September 12 and 13, 9:00pm

Fried, Rancière and the Form of the Photograph (2011)

The photograph thus presents itself as a kind of theoretical antithesis to the Diderotian still life and, of course, this view is by no means limited to Barthes. On the contrary, from the very start, the claims photographers have made to be artists have been contested by critics denying that the photograph has enough “intentional meaning” “to be considered fine art. ”5 And Barthes is by no means the only recent writer to maintain some version of this position. But it’s a crucial fact about Barthes that (unlike, say, the notoriously sceptical Roger Scruton) his interest is not primarily in debunking photography’s claims to art, and not at all in claiming that because the photograph is not fully or adequately intended it cannot count as art. For, in Barthes’ own writing, art itself — with literature as the exemplary case — had already been disconnected from the question of intentional meaning.6 That is, starting at least in the mid 1960s and emerging more fully in “The Death of the Author” (1968) and “From Work to Text” (1971), there is a crucial sense in which for Barthes the irrelevance of “the author’s declared intentions” and the “removal of the Author”7 more generally had come to be seen as constitutive at the very least of modern aesthetic production and at the most of the idea of aesthetic production as such. “Writing begins,” Barthes says, when “the voice loses it origin” and “the author enters his own death.”8

Furthermore, as every student of literary theory knows very well — you learn it the minute you first read “The Intentional Fallacy” — this position was hardly unique to Barthes, or, for that matter, to Barthes and the others (Foucault, Derrida) who held some version of it. Beginning in the mid-1940s, the idea that the meaning of a literary work was not determined by its author’s intentions was foundational for American literary criticism, providing the material (although this was by no means what it was designed to do) for a potential theoretical solution to an aesthetic problem. The aesthetic problem was how to create anti-theatrical works of art at the moment when the very effort to do so (indeed, any effort at all) had begun to register as theatrical. The theoretical solution was to deny not that those efforts took place but that they were in any way constitutive of the meaning of the work of art. It was the syntactic and semantic rules of the language, not the author’s consciousness that determined the meaning of the work. Thus Fry’s strenuous but not very compelling attempt to imagine a kind of psychology for the painter’s desire not to produce an effect on the beholder (“half-conscious,” “almost unconscious,” “perfect sincerity,” “complete indifference”) is rendered supererogatory. The new theoretical anti-intentionalism rescues the critic from a psychological anti-intentionalism that, still committed to some account of the artist’s agency, can only register the artist’s actions as unconscious (and hence not fully actions) or as completely disconnected from all possible consequences (and hence, again, not fully actions). Now, the ontological irrelevance of the artist’s intentions, whatever they are, makes it unnecessary to deny that he actually had any.9

For our purposes, however, Barthes’s version of anti-intentionalism is more crucial than Wimsatt’s and Beardsley’s, and for two reasons. The first is that Barthes’s is theoretical and aesthetic (in effect, the anti-theatrical aesthetic creates the necessity for the anti-intentional — i.e. theatrical — theory) whereas Wimsatt’s and Beardsley’s is theoretical and methodological. Barthes is defending certain aesthetic values; Wimsatt and Beardsley were seeking to establish the “public” and “objective” character of literary meaning. Their concern was with professional literary criticism.10 And the second, which really follows from the first, is that insofar as Wimsatt and Beardsley were interested in establishing the public meaning of the text, they were just as opposed to considering the reader as they were to the writer; the companion to “The Intentional Fallacy” was “The Affective Fallacy.” Whereas Barthes is just the opposite; he explicitly links “The Death of the Author” to “the birth of the reader” and he explicitly celebrates the refusal of what he calls an “ultimate” meaning, the refusal to “fix meaning” that the shift from writer to reader makes inevitable.

Thus we have both an aesthetic solution to the problem of the artist’s agency — How do you avoid seeming to seek to produce an effect on the reader/beholder? Do nothing — and a theoretical answer to the question of the author’s agency — How do the artist’s actions determine the meaning of the work? They don’t. And just as, in Barthes, the theoretical answer immediately and (as I shall show) necessarily produces an appeal to the reader, so too does the aesthetic solution. That is, the theoretical solution to absorption’s aesthetic problem (the invention of an artist who could not be understood as performing for an audience because his intentions to produce certain effects were now understood as in principle irrelevant to the effects his work in fact produced) is simultaneously the transformation of absorption’s aesthetic indifference to the reader or beholder into a total — indeed (as I will also show), programmatic — appeal to the reader or beholder. In Camera Lucida, this is the whole point of the punctum, which is nothing but an accidental and unintended effect of the photograph on the beholder — the “detail” that can “‘prick’ me” only if the photographer has not put it there “intentionally” and that can prick me but may not prick you.11 That’s why Barthes famously doesn’t reproduce the Winter Garden photograph of his mother; it cannot have the effect on us (she’s not our mother) that it does on him — for us, no punctum, for us, “no wound.” The punctum, in other words, functions as an absorptive reproach to the “artifice” of the photographer, resisting and reproaching his inevitably theatrical efforts to produce a particular effect on the beholder while at the same time (and for the same reason) it transforms the photograph into a work dependent entirely on the beholder — a purely theatrical object. The absorptive demand of indifference to the reader/beholder becomes an insistence on the absolute primacy of the reader/beholder.

Richard Wilbur, ‘Piccola Commedia’ (1975)

He is no one I really know,
The sun-charred, gaunt young man
By the highway's edge in Kansas
Thirty-odd years ago.

On a tourist-cabin verandah
Two middle-aged women sat;
One, in a white dress, fat,
With a rattling glass in her hand,

Called "Son, don't you feel the heat?
Get up here into the shade."
Like a good boy, I obeyed,
And was given a crate for a seat

And an Orange Crush and gin.
"This state," she said, "is hell."
Her thin friend crackled, "Well, dear,
You've gotta fight sin with sin."

"No harm in a drink; my stars!"
Said the fat one, jerking her head.
"And I'll take no lip from Ed,
Him with his damn cigars."

Laughter. A combine whined
On past, and dry grass bent
In the backwash; liquor went
Like an ice-pick in my mind.

Beneath her skirt I spied
Two sea-cows on a floe.
"Go talk to Mary Jo, son,
She's reading a book inside."

As I gangled in at the door
A pink girl, curled in a chair,
Looked up with an ingenue stare.
Screenland lay on the floor.

Amazed by her starlet's pout
And the way her eyebrows arched,
I felt both drowned and parched.
Desire leapt up like a trout.

"Hello," she said, and her gum
Gave a calculating crack.
At once from the lightless back
Of the room came the grumble

Of someone heaving from bed,
A Zippo's click and flare,
Then, more and more apparent,
The shuffling form of ED,

Who neither looked nor spoke
But moved in profile by,
Blinking one gelid eye
In his elected smoke.

This is something I've never told,
And some of it I forget.
But the heat! I can feel it yet,
And that conniving cold.

A Lazarus beside me

Avies Platt

Avies Platt

The room filled up. [Norman] Haire and [Harry] Benjamin mounted the platform. Haire, from the chair, introduced Benjamin with appropriate remarks and Benjamin delivered his lecture. Here was quietness, assurance, scientific fact, human understanding, a vision for mankind: a German and a Jew who had found asylum in America, giving of his knowledge in England without self-interest or thought of personal gain. I was carried away beyond thought of my own gain, beyond the welfare of M.M. to a vision of a world made utopian by the fellowship of nations and the conquest of old age. ‘Life, after all, is not important,’ the speaker concluded. ‘Only living is.’

Questions and discussion followed. Two things remain in my memory. A man asked scornfully what was the connection, if any, between physical rejuvenation and the love to which the poets testified all down the ages? Strangely, I cannot recall Benjamin’s reply, but a woman got up and said that she had been ‘rejuvenated’ with the sole idea of benefiting her health, but that to her amazement she had fallen in love again and to her even greater amazement her love had been returned, and that, she submitted, was the gentleman’s answer. As far as I am aware the man who had gazed upon me said nothing. Neither did I. There seemed nothing more to say.

The meeting dispersed. I stayed behind to speak to the society’s secretary and so was one of the last to go down the stairs and out into the street. I remember how refreshing was the spring evening after the stuffy room.

The last cars, mostly large fashionable ones, were moving off. Only my poor old Singer remained, parked in the cul-de-sac outside the galleries. I knew that the battery was down so I took the starting handle and proceeded to crank up the engine. It was obstinate, and as I stooped there, struggling (somewhat incongruously, for I was in evening dress), I heard a voice say, ‘I’m sorry. I’m afraid I’m not much good with those things.’ I looked up and recognised the man who had compelled me to turn round in the lecture room. He stood on the pavement, half in shadow, at the end of the little street; motionless, as though he had always stood there, and always would. His presence there came as a shock. With my mind full of the lecture I had completely forgotten to notice what had happened to him after the meeting had broken up.

‘That’s all right,’ I said. ‘Please don’t apologise. I’m used to it.’ He looked on in silence. By the time the engine was going the place was deserted. We were the only people left. It seemed queer that so distinguished looking a person should appear so lonely and not have gone off in one of the big cars. I became acutely aware of the defects of mine, but at least it was going. It was clearly up to me to do something about it.

‘Are you, by any chance, going to Norman Haire’s party?’ I inquired. ‘I rather think that is where I’m supposed to be going,’ he replied. A little strange, that, I thought. But I said, ‘That’s where I’m going, so perhaps I may give you a lift?’ ‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘That’s very kind of you.’ And we got into the car and drove off.

At first neither of us spoke. I was concerned with joining the stream of traffic in Lower Regent Street. Then he asked abruptly: ‘Are you connected with the arts?’ ‘I don’t know about connected,’ I replied guardedly. ‘I’m interested.’ ‘And may I ask the name of my kind chauffeur?’ he continued. ‘Platt,’ I said. ‘Avies Platt. And may I ask yours?’ ‘Yeats,’ he said! ‘W.B. Yeats.’ And added: ‘I’m a poet.’

A last thought on Coates’s book. One of the more interesting aspects of the book is that it doesn’t seem to ask anything of the reader. I don’t mean that only in the more obvious political sense: go out and do x or y. I mean it in a more writerly sense: it doesn’t really make any demands on you, me, as a reader; it doesn’t seem to ask, require, or depend upon a response. It doesn’t ask or expect me to think differently after I’ve finished it, to sit with a passing sentence, to be rendered immobile by an arresting thought. When I read Baldwin, to whom Coates has been compared, perhaps unfairly, I feel assaulted, brought up short, forced to give an accounting of myself. Baldwin says, “The black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations.” And The Fire Next Time is written as if he believes that. I’m not sure Coates believes that, though he makes textual nods in that direction, and even if he does, the book doesn’t seem to be written out of that conviction. It makes no claims on the reader, not even, I think, the black reader. Now I can imagine one very fair response to that assessment: it’s not my job, white man (or white reader), to shake your foundations. It’s not my job to bring you up short, to make claims on you, to force you to think differently. I don’t write for you; I don’t write for all of black America. I don’t write to be part of a black canon. I write as a writer, I write for my imagined reader. That, in some sense, was Ralph Ellison’s response to Irving Howe, and it has some correspondence to what some of BLM’s defenders have said in the wake of these confrontations with Clinton and Sanders. Clearly, it speaks to and for a moment, our moment. It also reminds me, in a way, of the Stoics during the Roman Empire or dissidents in the fading days of Soviet communism, carving out ledges of personal dignity on the face of a most uninviting cliff. But it does come at a cost, and that cost is politics itself. Baldwin wrote, “We cannot be free until they [whites] are free.” He believed — not, I think, out of Christian conviction or humanist sentimentality, but on the basis of a hard-headed political judgment — that the fate of white and black America were intimately intertwined. Integration, for him, meant that “we, with love, shall force our [white] brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it.” He wrote as if he were aiming a gun at you. Coates doesn’t do that; his is almost a confession, an entry in a diary, written to and for himself, indifferent to how it will be received. I don’t say this as criticism because one of the virtues that I think so many of us have always responded to in Coates is his integrity as a writer. He doesn’t write a dishonest word; everything he says you know he believes. Though all writing is a performance, the authorial persona he’s crafted is like Orwell’s: not an ounce of performance in it. If he’s not doing Baldwin it’s because he’s not Baldwin, and wouldn’t do him even if he could. That’s not a failure; it’s his virtue, as I say. It’s also the luck of the historical draw, the curse of the political times one is born into. Coates may simply reflect a moment — call it a kind of progressive achievement — when a black writer can declare his independence from all that; it’s hard to deny (or not see) that there’s a kind of magnificence, a majesty, to his indifference. Or perhaps it’s a moment like that of the Stoics or the Soviet dissidents — when political movement seems not to be the ideal vehicle or instrument of individual being. Coates’s Struggle, which he refers to throughout the text, is an individual struggle; his only comrades, at least the only ones he mentions with any real recognition, are his family. He makes nods to the forbearers — the fathers and mothers of Black Freedom — but they aren’t his intimates. And there’s no reason they should be: I can see how, after decades of canonization of the struggle, how declaring one’s independence from that struggle, from the obligations it imposes, the cant it requires, could feel like, even be, a genuine act of freedom. But those sorts of declarations — of personal dignity and independence from one’s surroundings, of psychic immuring in the face of everyday degradation — again come at a cost. Not merely of the politics I spoke of earlier but of emancipation itself: I’m hard pressed, as I ransack the archive of history, to think of a people who’ve been liberated by not making demands of their oppressor, by not asking something of their readers.

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

John P. A. Ioannidis

ABSTRACT There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field. In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance. Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias. In this essay, I discuss the implications of these problems for the conduct and interpretation of research.

Stephen Shore. Ginger Shore, West Palm Beach, Florida, 14 November 1977

Elaine Lustig Cohen reflects on her career

My abstraction never came from narrative; it came from architecture. Even though I had many friends who were writers, I was never particularly drawn to narrative. When I finished my first paintings on view in the show, such as Centered Rhyme, I would look at them and there was always something more I wanted to explore, hence the repetition of shapes such as the diamond, the hexagon, and the parallelogram. There was a morphology to working in series like that. Part of my process did carry over to design, but none of my early design work was painted. Since in the early days of design we pasted up the images, they were manipulations of photographs, colors, and fonts. What did carry over to my paintings from the graphic work was in the sketching, because to do anything that hard-edged I had to do a sketch when I planned the paintings.

For me, painting is a combination of the flat plane and the color. When I sit and look at things, it is always about the interaction of the planes. When I was doing graphic design in the postwar period, architecture was going to save the world! We were all going to be good in life because of the space we lived it in. It’s a wonderful dream, but that was the mind-set of the time. On Alvin Lustig’s shelf, when I married him, were books by Piet Mondrian, Sigfried Giedion, László Moholy-Nagy, and Lewis Mumford. Postwar expression for me was not about individualism or the freedom of a Jackson Pollock; it was about cultural renewal in an architectonic expression.

Architecture was always a part of my informal training as an artist. When Alvin and I lived in Los Angeles, we did not go to museums. There were no museums there in those days, but during 1948 and 1949, Arts & Architecture magazine commissioned young architects to design the Case Study Houses in Los Angeles. We spent our weekends driving around and looking at Richard Neutra and Rudolf Schindler. That was the entertainment. We were friends with the Eameses; Alvin knew the Arensbergs, and we would go to their home to view art. From the very beginning, art for me was about this interplay with architecture.

My solo design career lasted from around 1957 to the mid-1960s, which is a short history compared with how long I have been painting, but it all started when Philip Johnson called me and said, “Get on with it! Do it.” He had hired Alvin to do the signage for the Seagram Building, but when Alvin died he had not designed anything yet. Two weeks or so later, I got the call that would lead to ongoing collaborations with Philip. I had never designed anything on my own in my life, but I did every piece: the 375 address outside, the Brasserie sign, firehose connections, switches, even things that wouldn’t be seen. It helped me survive for three years. I did all the catalogues for every museum he designed, every piece that had lettering on it. Philip was very fast and always had three ideas for every one idea you showed him, but if I stuck to my guns he would always go with my instincts.

When I started having people over to my studio, they were mainly writers—Donald Barthelme, Ralph Ellison, and John Ashbery—but there were artists too, such as Helen Frankenthaler and Robert Motherwell. Everyone was supportive, but I was still an outsider. That is the way history is written. I am still interested in painting, typography, collage, watercolor, and the computer; I still do everything. There is no line for me. You are lucky to be creative and be able to do it.

—As told to Andrianna Campbell