We Are the Work


“Truth must in. We are the work. The made-world is all decoration, and only matters that when it is not completely given over to its appointed task of providing a setting of the most consummate brutality, sterility, and hideousness, it is just plain ridiculously silly! Look about you — those clothes, houses, cars — woweee!!” — Kenneth Patchen

Paris Blues Revisited

It’s not too late: There are still 10 days left to visit the exhibit “Paris Blues Revisited” in Jazz at Lincoln Center on Columbus Circle in New York. The exhibit documents the collaborative effort of artist Romare Bearden, writer Albert Murray and photographer Sam Shaw to capture the unique creative milieu of black American artists living in Paris in the 1950s.

The idea for the book was prompted by the 1961 film “Paris Blues,” which Shaw produced in an attempt to capture his friend Bearden’s own Paris experiences. The film starred Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll (with brief, delightful appearances by Louis Armstrong), and featured a musical score by  Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. As might be expected of a commercial venture though, it  made enough concessions to Hollywood’s marketing mentality for Murray, Bearden and Shaw to want to supplement it with something that would be more true to Bearden’s experience and do justice to Ellington and Strayhorn’s music.

Their solution was their own “Paris Blues,” a book featuring collages by Bearden, text by Murray and photographs by Shaw. The project was never completed, but the pieces of it exhibited in Rose Hall — described by co-curator Robert G. O’Meally as a “book on the wall” — give a taste of what might have been.

“Paris Blues Revisited” at the Peter Jay Sharp Arcade, Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Columbus Circle, New York City, through February 28.

Some Premises

“Ideas are to objects as constellations are to stars.”
— Walter Benjamin

“… all moral events took place in a field of energy, the constellation of which charged them with meaning, and they contained good and evil just as an atom contains the potentialities of chemical combination. They were, so to speak, what they became …”
— Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities

“An essay is not the provisional or incidental expression of a conviction that might on a more favorable occasion be elevated to the status of truth or that might just as easily be recognized as error (of that kind are only the articles and treatises, referred to as ‘chips from their workshop’, with which learned persons favor us); an essay is the unique and unalterable form that a man’s inner life assumes in a decisive thought. Nothing is more alien to it that that irresponsibility and semifinishedness of mental images known as subjectivity; but neither are ‘true’ and ‘false’, ‘wise’ and ‘unwise’ terms that can be applied to such thoughts, which are nevertheless subject to laws that are no less strict than they appear to be delicate and ineffable.”
— Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities

Ouden mallon.