December - dharma arts round-up

 
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For me, this is a ‘tidying up’ time of year. It’s not that I don’t like Christmas, but I do love putting away all the Christmas decorations and getting back to ‘normal’. Having done that, I want to clear out more stuff, to take the old year and sweep it out the door, making room for something new. It’s also the time that we seem to be getting over coughs and colds, wanting to open all the windows and clean sheet the beds.

In the midst of all this new year activity I read an article in The Guardian about Sara Berman and had a realisation. I, like her, love ironing. 


Art

(The art of) Ironing 

Aged 60, Sara Berman leaves her husband and her home in Tel Aviv and sets up a new life for herself in a small studio apartment in Manhattan. She takes with her just a small selection of objects, carefully chosen, and decides to only wear white. She creates a life that her daughter describes as ‘edited’ and as a quest for ‘beauty and clarity’. 

When she dies her family turn her closet into a museum exhibit. 

I was so happy to learn this about Sara Berman. There’s something for me about what happens when life becomes art or when art is a way of living. 

It being new year I’ve also been thinking about resolutions and how I spend my time, wanting less facebook, netflix etc. But what do I want to do instead? What hobbies do I have? What is leisure time?

It’s been dawning on me that what I really enjoy is cooking (I read ‘How to Eat a Peach’ from cover to cover over Christmas), ironing, sewing, tidying and making beautiful environments. Somehow I’ve felt these were in a category of ‘things that have to be done, that I quite like doing’. When actually they are ‘things that I love doing, find super relaxing and get a lot of satisfaction from’.

Thank you Sara Berman’s family for sharing your mother’s closet with me. 


Netflix

Tidying up with Marie Kondo

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It was this time of year, some years ago, that a friend introduced me to the Kon Marie method of tidying. What is it about January that makes you want to fold your pants? Me and my girlfriend got stuck in and Kon Marie’d our wardrobe, just before a visit from my father-in-law. We proudly showed him our sock drawers (hers and hers) and there was a moment’s silence before he said, ‘Isn’t that what psychopaths do?’. 

I’m sure Marie Kondo isn’t a psychopath, though she does come across as being slightly unhinged in the new Netflix series. Mind you, what’s so great about being hinged? 

But underneath the hype and the cringeworthiness of the show, I think there is something of value. The underlying message is to treat everything with respect and gratitude. To know what you have. To know what you value. To let go of what you don’t. 

She’s the master of positive spin, but in a zen kind of way. You can happily let go of those shoes that you paid a fortune for and never wore, grateful that they taught you that you don’t like those kind of shoes! 


Art

Exhibition - One Day at a Time - Manny Farber and Termite Art

I’m always on the lookout for situations where the everyday collides with the world of art. Whether it is art showing up in everyday life or, in this case, small, ordinary, incidental moments becoming art in gallery spaces.

Manny Farber was a painter and film critic. He coined the term ‘Termite Art’ which he compared to ‘White Elephant Art’. 

White Elephant Art is what Elisa Wouk Almino describes as “Art that aspires to be ‘traditional Great art’: it is grandiose and dull, striving too hard for fame.”

Whereas in his essay, ‘White Elephant Art vs Termite Art(download a PDF here), Manny Farber contrasts grandiose art to -

Termite art: which aims at bug-like immersion in a small area without point or aim, and, overall, concentration on nailing down one moment without glamorising it, but forgetting this accomplishment as soon as it’s been passed, the feeling that all is expendable, that it can be chopped up and flung down in a different arrangement without ruin.
— Manny Farber

One Day at a Time is an exhibition that puts together Manny Farber’s art with other ‘termite art’. I’m not going to get to Los Angeles to see it but I love the idea. The artist that came to mind for me was Wolfgang Tillmans, especially his ‘still lives’, looking at the list of artists in the show I notice he is there, termiting away! 

You can have a look around the The Museum of Contemporary Art exhibition here.


Wolfgang Tillmans - Still Life

I imagine tidiness is not high on the list of Tillman’s values. Instead he seems to find a beauty in the everyday debis of life. Above are a few shots from an exhibition catalogue but if you google Wolfgang Tillmans Still Life you’ll get a whole lot more.

I appreciate both kinds of beauty. The well laid table before the guests have arrived and the detritus that remains when they leave. Which brings us back to the best cookbook of 2018, or so everyone thought on Radio 4’s ‘Food Programme’, Diana Henry’s ‘How to Eat a Peach’.

Before Dinner
How to Eat a Peach - Diana Henry

After Dinner
How to Eat a Peach - Diana Henry


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Hope the debris of 2018 contains some beautiful memories, and that you get to create moments of the life you long for in 2019,

Rachel aka Vajradarshini