Yi Zhou, The Ear (2009), The Greatness (2010)

“Imagine that van Gogh, after slicing off his ear, finds himself sucked down a passage into his own brain, which turns out to be the concentric onion of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Then capture that journey with three-dimensional digital imaging software and turn it, frame by computerized frame, into a five-minute animated movie. [. . .]

“She had her first breakthrough when she was taken on by the Jerome de Noirmont gallery in Paris in 2002. Since then, she has had a major sculpture and video projection work, ‘Paradise,’ installed in the Piazza della Signoria and the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, in 2006 [. . .].

“Ms. Zhou’s solo show of video art, ink brush drawings and sculpture at Shanghai Contrasts, running to Dec. 9, is built around her most recent film, The Greatness, a variation on the theme of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

“The film is a sequel to The Ear: both star Pharrell Williams, one in the flesh and the other as a sculpted vase, and both explore transience and death. In The Greatness, Mr. Williams’s look-alike vase, shattered by a bullet, disintegrates into a fractured universe while the bullet, like Dante guided by Virgil, travels through visions of hell and redemption accompanied by an other-worldly soundtrack composed by Mr. Morricone.” [. . .]    –Claudia Barbieri, The New York Times, December 1, 2010

Read more about The Greatness, on Vice.

Veiko Ounpuu, “The Temptation of St. Tony” (2010)


“Bizarre and beautiful, disturbing and droll, The Temptation of St. Tony wonders what it means to be a good man. Kicking off with a quotation from Dante’s Inferno, this delirious sophomore feature from the Estonian filmmaker Veiko Ounpuu observes Tony (Taavi Eelmaa), a triumphantly depressed middle manager. Dissatisfied with his adulterous wife and a boss who orders him to sack all his factory workers, Tony descends into a midlife crisis that manifests itself as a series of increasingly hilarious, horrific visions.” [. . .]    –Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times, September 16, 2010

Caroline Bergvall, Dante Variations

caroline-bergvall-dante-variations“As of May, 2000 the British Library housed 48 different translations of Dante’s Inferno into English.

“Poet and sound artist Caroline Bergvall gathers the opening lines of each translation in her sound piece VIA (48 Dante Variations).

“Bergvall reads the opening of each translation then names the translator and the date of the publication. The result is powerful. The overarching monotony sprinkled with the subtlety of each translation and the hypnotic drone of Bergvall’s voice leaves the listener transfixed as they await the next rendering of Dante’s lines. The piece conveys the inherent complexity of the art of translation and illuminates the uniqueness of each translator’s work.”    –Michael Lieberman, Book Patrol, December 15, 2009

Read Bergvall’s piece at poetryfoundation.org.

Listen to the performance


Contributed by Patrick Molloy

Evil Diva’s “(Really) Old Man Adventures”


Evil Diva is a webcomic about a young devil who becomes a superhero. With the help of “Mr. Virgil,” Diva learns how to control her powers and find her place among the forces of good and evil. Dante appears in the sporadic mini-comics entitled “(Really) Old Man Adventures” as well as in some of the other sketch comics on the site. A four part series in the “(Really) Old Man Adventures” reinterprets and illustrates early parts of the Inferno and references the Vita Nuova.

Contributed by Michelle Scharlock (McGill University)

Deborah Copaken Kogan, “Between Here and April” (2009)

deborah-copaken-kogan-between-here-and-april-2009 Between Here and April, a novel by Deborah Copaken Kogan, is an allegory of the Inferno. The middle-aged female protagonist “falls” into darkness at the beginning, but, being female, she has no Virgil to guide her. Dr. Karen (Charon) Rivers (Styx) is there to guide her to the underworld (her subconscious.) Each character she meets while researching the death of her friend at the hand of her mother represents a new circle of hell. (Mavis/lust & gluttony; Trudy/hoarders & wasters; etc.)

Learn more about the novel at Barnes and Noble.

Aidan Harte, Inferno Sculptures (2009)

aidan-harte-dante-sculptures“I’ve been working on this collection since I came back from Italy, and thinking about it for a lot longer. For what I want to do, combine realism with imaginative expressionism, sculpture is the perfect medium. In print and TV, we’re pepper-sprayed with visuals every hour of every day these days. It’s become very easy to tune it out as visual noise – somehow, for me at least, sculpture isn’t like that. Maybe it’s because it’s not an image of something but (seemingly) the thing itself – with mass and dimension, that it still demands our undivided attention. And maybe that’s why bad sculpture is so offensive, and great sculpture so sublime.
I’ve worked hard to try to make these pieces capture the imagination in the way Dante captured mine.”    —Aidan Harte, July 7, 2009

“Dante obsessed me when I studied sculpture in Italy. The Inferno contains a world of characters, but I chose to sculpt only those which spoke to my life. Each piece relates to a verse, recreating Dante’s journey in Hell….”    —Aidan Harte (retrieved on January 16, 2010)

See more sculptures by Aidan Harte at Sol Art Gallery, Dublin, Ireland.

Contributed by Guy Raffa

Car Talk

car-talk One of the Magliozzi brothers says, “And even though Dante says ‘OK, make it 10 circles!’ whenever he hears us say it, this is NPR, National Public Radio.”    –Episode 0945, “Good News! It’s Going to Cost a Fortune!”, Car Talk, November 7, 2009

http://www.cartalk.com/ct/review/show.jsp?showid=200945 (retrieved December 29, 2009)

Contributed by Alex Bertland (Niagara University)

Zazzle Items


Contributed by Kati Woodford (Exeter High School)

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “The First Circle” (1968)


The First Circle concerns worker-prisoners in the Soviet Gulag who are critically needed intelligence workers – mostly scientists and researchers. These intellectuals are, relatively speaking, the lucky ones. They live and work in an urban complex, and face little in the way of physical privation, regularly fed and decently clothed. They are the residents of the first circle of hell, with Solzhenitsyn explicitly comparing the Soviet dystopia to Dante’s Inferno. The novel haunts us with the awareness that far, far worse was taking place elsewhere. As a prisoner headed for the Gulag observes, with terrifying accuracy, at the end of the novel: ‘We are going into hell now. We are returning to hell. The sharashka is the highest, the best, the first circle of hell. It was almost paradise.'” [. . .]    –Saul Austerlitz, The Second Pass, August 4, 2009

Dante Alighieri Elementary School, Boston


See more at Boston Public Schools.

Contributed by Elizabeth Baskerville