Rattan, the Mai Tai, and Blue Hawaii: A History in “Exotic” Escapism

9639x5191c8da
Source: Tiki Central.

Polynesian pop and Tiki culture have always been about escapism. The trend got its beginnings in the 20s, though social and artistic obsessions with tropical climes have existed for as long as Europeans and Americans have been around to “discover” them. Escapism, however, is not a uniquely “Western” obsession; most everyone finds joy in a culture not their own, since they don’t have to live it every day. And that’s why people like to be tourists, as well as “pretend” to be locals for a time–which is still tourism, because the stay doesn’t last. So visitors buy contrived souvenirs, dress like cowboys or Harajuku girls, ride in rickshaws or double-decker buses, and take pictures, to live it all over again. But this particular history of an escapist culture is more than an exploration of kitschy shirts and fruity drinks, because it’s not about escaping a 9 to 5. Continue reading

On the Radar: Gerhard Richter’s Emotional Photo-Painting of His Aunt

richter_aunt_marianne
Tante Marianne, 1965, Copyright Gerhard Richter.

For those familiar with Gerhard Richter, he is often associated with his abstract, colorful “squeegee” works. A large portion of his artistic production, however, consists of photo paintings that include his trademark “blur.” In this particular painting–one of his early works–Richter copied a photo of his Aunt Marianne holding Richter as an infant. His Aunt developed Schizophrenia, spent 21 years in a sanatorium, and was euthanized in 1945 as part of Nazi Germany’s “Aktion T4” program, meant to “cleanse” society of mentally “unfit” individuals. Of the painting, Richter said:

“Idiots can do what I do. When I first started to do this [projecting photos on the canvas and painting them after having them traced in details with a piece of charcoal] in the 60’s, people laughed. I clearly showed that I painted from photographs. It seemed so juvenile. The provocation was purely formal – that I was making paintings like photographs. Nobody asked about what was in the pictures. Nobody asked who my Aunt Marianne was. That didn’t seem to be the point.”

-From Wikipedia

This idea that anyone could do what he did taken in the context of this work reminds one of the idea that “ordinary men” did this to his aunt; average people could have done this, and they did.

Sources: Wikipedia (DE) — Marianne Schönfelder, B.Z. Berlin

The Little French Village that Cared

86053
Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The picturesque town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon may look like an idyllic French village, tucked among the hills of the Loire and filled with quiet people wholly committed to the contentment found in daily routine. But this town is “Righteous Among the Nations,” and its population can count many heroes in its ranks. Together, its people saved thousands in a country divided by war. What seemed daring and different to many came but naturally to this French ville with a heart for resistance and faith. Continue reading

On the Radar: The “Acoustic Mirrors” of Denge–a Pre-Radar Warning System

denge_acoustic_mirrors_-march2005

Located along British coastlines, parabolic concrete structures such as these once served as interwar, pre-radar warning systems. They focused and concentrated sounds from the Channel, with the goal of detecting the approach of enemy planes. Image: Wikipedia.

Read more here: Acoustic Mirror – Wikipedia, and the succeeding radar system: Chain Home – Wikipedia