The Keepers Of Our Past & The Guides To Our Future (By Arundhati Roy)

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“The day capitalism is forced to tolerate non-capitalist societies in its midst and to acknowledge limits in its quest for domination, the day it is forced to recognize that its supply of raw material will not be endless, is the day when change will come. If there is any hope for the world at all, it does not live in climate-change conference rooms or in cities with tall buildings. It lives low down on the ground, with its arms around the people who go to battle every day to protect their forests, their mountains and their rivers because they know that the forests, the mountains and the rivers protect them.

The first step towards reimagining a world gone terribly wrong would be to stop the annihilation of those who have a different imagination — an imagination that is outside of capitalism as well as communism. An imagination which has an altogether different understanding of what constitutes happiness and fulfillment. To gain this philosophical space, it is necessary to concede some physical space for the survival of those who may look like the keepers of our past, but who may really be the guides to our future.”

—Arundhati Roy

(The image that illustrates this post was found in Flick; it’s a “Pachamama” Mural in Bariloche (Argentina), near the artisan market. “Pachamama” refers to “Mother Earth” and is central to many indigenous cultures across South America.)

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Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

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On Being: He bestowed the title “Mahatma” on Gandhi. He debated the deepest nature of reality with Einstein. He was championed by Yeats and Pound to become the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Rabindranath Tagore was a polymath — a writer and a painter, a philosopher and a musician, and a social innovator — but much of his poetry and prose is virtually untranslatable (or inaccessibly translated) for modern minds. We pull back the “dusty veils” that have hidden his memory from history.

Listen to the podcast:

 

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Sadhana: The Realisation of Life
Download e-book (McMillan, 1913, English) or Listen to audiobook:

“At my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near…” – A poem by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)

A Dance to the Music of Time, by Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665)

A Dance to the Music of Time, by Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665)

To his Coy Mistress
by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv’d virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am’rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp’d power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

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Poets previously published @ Awestruck Wanderer:

THE RAPE OF EUROPA – The fate of Europe’s art treasures in the Second World War

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THE RAPE OF EUROPE. Documentary, 2006, 117 min. Download Torrent.

The Story

The Rape of Europa tells the epic story of the systematic theft, deliberate destruction and miraculous survival of Europe’s art treasures during the Third Reich and the Second World War.

In a journey through seven countries, the film takes the audience into the violent whirlwind of fanaticism, greed, and warfare that threatened to wipe out the artistic heritage of Europe. For twelve long years, the Nazis looted and destroyed art on a scale unprecedented in history. But young art professionals as well as ordinary heroes, from truck drivers to department store clerks, fought back with an extraordinary effort to safeguard, rescue and return the millions of lost, hidden and stolen treasures.

The Rape of Europa begins and ends with the story of artist Gustav Klimt’s famed Gold Portrait, stolen from Viennese Jews in 1938 and now the most expensive painting ever sold.

Today, more than sixty years later, the legacy of this tragic history continues to play out as families of looted collectors recover major works of art, conservators repair battle damage, and nations fight over the fate of ill-gotten spoils of war.

Joan Allen narrates this breathtaking chronicle about the battle over the very survival of centuries of western culture.

Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Blochbauer

Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Blochbauer

Historical Background

According to U.S. estimates, the Nazis stole one-fifth of all the known artworks in Europe. While the Allies returned most of the displaced art in the decade following the war, much of the loot is still missing. Tragically, unique masterpieces were destroyed and lost to posterity forever. Other works of art – the last, forgotten victims of the war – survived but remain unidentified, traceable only with costly and difficult investigation.

By the mid-fifties the initial, massive restitution effort by the Allies had lost its priority and momentum to the pressures of the Cold War. Hundreds of works of art, their owners unidentified, still lay in government storerooms across Europe, or remained in the hands of unscrupulous dealers who waited for years before disguising their origins and feeding them slowly into the market.

But this long quiet period is over. The end of the Cold War and the opening of the archives of Eastern Europe revealed that many works believed lost had survived. The commemorations marking the end of World War II and the development of Holocaust scholarship also led to the re-examination and declassification of forgotten records, inspiring those who had long since despaired of finding their lost possessions to search again. Instrumental in bringing worldwide attention to this long-neglected story was the 1995 publication of The Rape of Europa, Lynn H. Nicholas’s landmark book on which the film is based.

The documentary film by Actual Films builds on her scholarship by incorporating the latest historical research, examining the legal and political problems presented by contemporary restitution claims, and assessing the lingering effects of this massive cultural displacement, an aspect of the war that still haunts us today.

The revival of interest in the subject of looting and restitution has had dramatic results. American museums from Seattle / Washington to Raleigh / North Carolina have had to explain how stolen paintings ended up in their collections after the war. In France, a catalogue of unclaimed art held by the national museums and ignored for years is now available online. Other nations, feeling the pressure, have also revisited the often unjust decisions made by their governments after the war concerning ownership of looted art. Perhaps most notable is the case of the five paintings by Gustav Klimt, long held by the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna, that were awarded in 2006 by a panel of Austrian judges to Maria Altmann, the 90-year-old Los Angeles niece of a Viennese Jew from whom the paintings were stolen in 1938. She subsequently sold the pictures, one of them- the famed Gold Portrait of her aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer – to Ronald Lauder for a record $135 million.

Pillage and looting during warfare are not, of course, activities that originated with World War II. Even before the epics of Homer, human history recorded the time-honored tradition of victors seizing plunder from the vanquished. But the massive scale, the unprecedented bureaucratic organization and the legalistic rationalizations offered by the Nazis set their accomplishments apart. Not hundreds or thousands, but millions of visual objects were bought and sold, confiscated and transported around the continent of Europe.

Just as the Nazis sought to impose their race-based morality onto the diverse population of Europe, they also sought to redraw the cultural face of Europe by rearranging or destroying its great artworks. Even in the upheavals of war the Nazi leaders devoted precious time and energy to the gathering of works of art. They carried out multiple operations with cross purposes. While Alfred Rosenberg’s propaganda unit (ERR) appropriated artworks that would buttress the Party’s racist ideology and pilfered the great Jewish collections of Europe, Hitler employed distinguished art historians and corrupt dealers to steal masterpieces that would confer prestige and symbolic legitimacy on the German nation.

However diverse, these operations were all linked by an underlying, racist effort by the Nazis to use the expropriation and destruction of cultural property as a means to dehumanize their victims. The Holocaust has become a symbol of the dark side of humanity, and we have spent decades trying to understand what it means to live knowing that average people are capable of complicity in such a horror. The history of what happened to Europe’s great art during and after the Second World War provides an important new lens through which to examine these seemingly imponderable themes.

"Monuments Men" (2014), a film by George Clooney

“Monuments Men” (2014), a film by George Clooney

In contrast to the wholesale looting of Hitler and the Nazis, the western Allies worked to mitigate the tragic, inevitable toll exacted on art and historic cities during their invasion of Italy, France and Germany. Central to this history is the unprecedented mission of the Monuments Men, mostly American art historians and museum curators who, drafted into military service, mounted a miraculous effort to protect monuments and recover millions of pieces of displaced art.

Moving back and forth in time, the film links investigations into looted art back to their wartime origins, tracing the remarkable journeys of individual masterpieces from wartime confiscation to present-day recovery by the families of the original owners. The Rape of Europa offers a privileged entry into the exclusive circles of the contemporary art trade and explores the little-known legacy of World War II that lured many post-war collectors and dealers into a Faustian bargain that continues to present day.

We live at a time when the common cultural heritage of humanity continues to be vulnerable to the threats of ideologues and the assaults of armed conflict, from the wanton destruction by Serbs of centuries-old mosques in Bosnia and Kosovo to the televised demolition by the Taliban of the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas of Afghanistan and the rampant looting that accompanied the American invasion of Iraq. The Rape of Europa is an emotional witness to the destruction wrought on culture and art by fanaticism, greed, and warfare. But it is also a hopeful film that demonstrates how it is possible for humanity to protect the integrity of cultural property in armed conflicts.

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Perspective on the film by Lynn H. Nicholas, author of The Rape of Europa

My interest in the issue of art looting began quite by chance in 1980 when I saw the obituary of a Louvre curator, Rose Valland, in the Herald Tribune. It said, among other things, that she had been a Resistance heroine and responsible for saving and recovering thousands of works of art both during and after World War II. I was living in Brussels at the time, without any particular commitments, and my curiosity having been aroused, I decided to look into just what had happened to all the works of art in Europe during the war. Despite the fact that I had long been involved in the American museum world, I had never given any thought to the issue, and apparently no one else had either, at least not for a long time.

I started slowly, in Brussels, asking people at the museums there what they had done during the war. As the story slowly emerged, all the Europeans were astonished at my ignorance and kept directing me to people who, by the late 1970’s, held high positions in US museums. And so it was, that upon my return to Washington in 1984, that I began the real work. As it turned out, no one had ever asked any of the “monuments men”, as those who dealt with the rescue of European art treasures during the war are called, about their work. I was very lucky. Since I had worked in museums for years, I did know many of them, and without exception, they were delighted to share their memories, letters, and photos with me.

These personal papers were just the beginning. At the National Gallery of Art, I found the day to day correspondence of the Presidential commission set up to deal with art looting. The National Archives was another revelation: here were not only all the Allied records and photographs of damage, recovery and restitution, but tons of German documents recording the looting of Hitler and his cronies. It is hard to describe how exciting it was to find the files containing the actual correspondence related to this activity, often annotated by Hitler and Goering themselves.

I soon realized that the amazing exploits of the Monuments Men – and I include those from all nations including Germany who protected works of art, could not be understood without considerable analysis of Nazi thinking and policy. For example – the items that the Nazi collectors bartered and sold as opposed to those they confiscated and bought could only be explained by their theories on the degeneracy of races and cultures which were exemplified by the purges of their own museums before the war.

I was also well along with my book before the issue of what had NOT been recovered even occurred to me. Although vast amounts of movable art had been returned at the end of the war, thousands of items remained unaccounted for and tracking them down and reuniting them with their original owners has become a hot topic. Politics and world events have made an enormous difference to the development of this research–most especially the demise of the Soviet Union, the opening up of Eastern Europe and the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII, with its reexamination of what had been done in the first years of peace–much of which, when revisited, did not seem quite right. As things thought lost forever came to light, families and governments began to look back at dusty records and memory was revived. All this was further fuelled by the gigantic increases in the values of many of the missing objects, with the result that many a lost work has been identified and returned its proper place.

The history of looting is not just about objects. It is a story full of personal tragedy and loss, of bittersweet recovery of the fragments of vanished cultures and lives. The combination of devastating destruction and the most beautiful objects of civilization is very powerful and is made even more so by the visual medium of film. I was quite overwhelmed by actually seeing images of the stories I knew so well. With great sensitivity the filmmakers of The Rape of Europa have added new dimensions and brought this whole history to life in an unforgettable and exciting manner.

Source: http://www.rapeofeuropa.com/

LYNN H. NICHOLAS, The Rape of Europa. DOWNLOAD E-BOOK.

LYNN H. NICHOLAS, The Rape of Europa. Vintage, 1995, 512 pgs. DOWNLOAD E-BOOK.

 

 

The confrontation with Gaia is imminent… (Bruno Latour)

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GAIA IN THE ANTHROPOCENE By Bruno Latour

“Geologists are beginning to use the term ANTHROPOCENE to designate the era of Earth’s history that extends from the scientific and industrial revolutions to the present day. These geologists see humanity as a force of the same amplitude as volcanoes or even plate tectonics. It is now before GAIA that we are summoned to appear: Gaia, the odd, doubly composite figure made up of science and mythology, used by certain specialists to designate the Earth that surrounds us and that we surround, the truly global Globe that threatens us even as we threaten it.

If I wanted to dramatize – perhaps overdramatize – the ambiance of my investigative project, I would say that it seeks to register the aftershocks of the MODERNIZATION FRONT just as the confrontation with Gaia appears imminent.

At all events, we shall not cure the Moderns of their attachment to their cherished theme, the modernization front, if we do not offer them an alternate narrative… After all, the Moderns have cities who are often quite beautiful; they are city-dwellers, citizens, they call themselves (and are sometimes called) “civilized”.

Why would we not have the right to propose to them a form of habitation that is more comfortable and convenient and that takes into account both their past and their future – a more sustainable habitat, in a way? Why would they not be at ease there? Why would they wander in the permanent utopia that has for so long made them beings without hearth or home – and has driven them for that very reason to inflict fire and bloodshed on the planet?

After all these years of wandering in the desert, do they have hope of reaching not the Promised Land but Earth itself, quite simply, the only one they have, at once underfoot and all around them, the aptly named Gaia?”

BRUNO LATOUR.
“An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns”
Harvard University Press, 2013. Translated by Catherine Porter.
Download e-book at Library Genesis.
Join: http://www.modesofexistence.org

 

Adam and Eve (Art by Alex Grey)

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The Affects of Capitalism (full lecture)
(If you wanna skip the intro, Latour actually starts speaking at 12 min and 45 seconds.)

The Whirlpool of Existence: Words by Jean-Marie Guyau, Image by K. Hokusai, Music by Claude Debussy…

Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849)

“The Great Wave”, by Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849)

“Perhaps there is nothing which offers to the eye and the mind a more complete and more sorrowful representation of the world than the sea. In the first place, it is a picture of force in its wildest and most unconquerable form; it is a display, a luxury of power, of which nothing else can give an idea; and it lives, moves, tosses, everlastingly without aim. Sometimes we might say that the sea is animated, that it palpitates and breathes, that it is an immense heart, whose powerful and tumultuous heaving we see; but what makes us despair here is that all this effort, this ardent life, is spent to no purpose. This heart of the world beats without hope; from all this rocking, all this collision of the waves, there results only a little foam stripped off by the wind.

I remember that, sitting on the beach once, I watched the serried waves rolling towards me. They came without interruption from the expanse of the sea, roaring and white. Behind the one dying at my feet I noticed another; and further behind that one, another; and further still, another and another – a multitude. At last, as far as I could see, the whole horizon seemed to rise and roll on towards me. There was a reservoir of infinite, inexhaustible forces there. How deeply I felt the impotency of man to arrest the effort of that whole ocean in movement! A dike might break one of these waves; it could break hundreds and thousands of them; but would not the immense and indefatigable ocean gain the victory?

The ocean neither works nor produces; it moves. It does not give life; it contains it, or rather it gives and takes it with the same indifference. It is the grand, eternal cradle rocking its creatures. If we look down into its fathoms, we see its swarming life. There is not one of its drops of water which does not hold living creatures, and all fight one another, persecute one another, avoid and devour one another… The ocean itself gives us the spectacle of a war, a struggle without truce… And yet this tempest of the water is but the continuation, the consequence, of the tempest of the air; is it not the shudder of the winds which communicates itself to the sea?

There is nothing which is not carried away by the whirlpool of cosmic existence. Earth itself, man, human intelligence, nothing can offer us anything fixed to which it would be possible to hold on – all these are swept away in slower, but not less irresistible, undulations…

* * * * *

Let us imagine a ship in a storm, rising and falling by a series of curves… If at one moment of the passage the descending curve bears the ship down, and she does not rise again, it would be a sign that she is sinking deeper and deeper, and beginning to founder. Even so is it with life, tossed about on waves of pleasure and of pain: if one marks these undulations with lines, and if the line of pain lengthens more than the other, it means that we are going down. Life, in order to exist, needs to be a perpetual victory of pleasure over pain.”

JEAN-MARIE GUYAU (1854-1888),
French philosopher and poet,
Esquisse d’une morale sans obligation ni sanction.
Originally published in 1884. Quoted from the English translation,
by Gertrude Kapteyn. London, 1898. Chapter I. Pgs. 42 – 35.
Download e-book in French or English.

“La Mer”, by Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

 

The Myth of Prometheus: a poem by Goethe, a painting by Rubens, music by Schubert and Hugo Wolf…


Prometheus (1774)
by Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)


Hide your heavens, Zeus,
in cloudy vapours
and practise your stroke, like a boy
beheading thistles,
on oaktrees and mountain summits;
still you must leave me
my steady earth,
and my hut, not built by you,
and my hearth,
whose warm glow
you envy me.

I know nothing more pitiful
under the sun than you Gods!
You feed your splendour
pathetically
on expensive sacrifices
and the breath of prayers
and would starve, were not
children and beggars
fools full of hope.

When I was a child,
not knowing out from in,
I turned my bewildered gaze
to the sun, as if there might be above it
an ear to hear my sorrow,
a heart like mine
to have mercy on the afflicted.

Who helped me
against the overweening Titans?
Who rescued me from death,
from slavery?
Was it not you, my holy glowing heart,
who did it all?
and young and good, deceived,
glowed thanks for rescue
to the slumberer in the heavens?

I, worship you? What for?
Did you ever relieve
the ache of the heavy-laden?
Did you ever wipe away
the tears of the terror-stricken?
Was I not hammered into the shape of Man
by almighty Time
and eternal Destiny,
my masters, and yours?

No doubt you supposed
I should hate life,
flee to the desert,
because not every
blossom of dream became fruit?

Here I sit, make men
on my own pattern,
a breed to resemble me,
to suffer pain, to weep,
to feel pleasure and joy,
and, like me,
to pay you no attention!

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Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Translated by D.M. Black
Modern Poetry in Translation
New Series, No. 16 (2000)
Read it in German or Portuguese

Prometheus depicted in a sculpture by Nicolas-Sébastien Adam, 1762 (Louvre)

Prometheus depicted in a sculpture by Nicolas-Sébastien Adam, 1762 (Louvre)

Music by Hugo Wolf (1889):

Music by Franz Schubert (1819):

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Poets previously published on Awestruck Wanderer: