Synetic Theater, “Dante,” Washington, D.C. (2009)


“In an unprecedented, ambitious production, Synetic Theater takes on the entirety of Dante Alighieri’s epic masterpiece, the tale of a lost traveler’s visionary journey through the torments of Hell and up the slopes of Purgatory, before the final attainment of redemption and Paradise. Delving into the core of Dante’s original work, this modern retelling will bring the Italian classic to life in a way never seen before.”    —Italian Cultural Institute

Contributed by Aisha Woodward (Bowdoin, ’08)

Philip K. Dick, The Owl in Daylight (1982)

pk-dicks-the-owl-in-daylight-1982“Philip K. Dick’s last wife has reworked the novel he was working on when he died in 1982 and is publishing the book herself, The Guardian reported. Tessa Dick, the fifth wife of the science-fiction legend, told Self-Publishing Review, an online magazine (, that her version of The Owl in Daylight seeks to express ‘the spirit’ of the proposed book, about which little is known. Ms. Dick said that a letter from her husband to his editor and agent revealed plans to ‘have a great scientist design and build a computer system and then get trapped in its virtual reality,’ and added: ‘The computer would be so advanced that it developed human-like intelligence and rebelled against its frivolous purpose of managing a theme park.’ The letter also mentioned Dante’s Inferno and the Faust legend, she said.”    –Ben Sisario, The New York Times, February 16, 2009

See also: “The Owl in Daylight” Wikipedia page.

Paul Taylor, “Scudorama” (1963, 2009)

paul-taylor-scudorama-1963-2009“In Scudorama eight dancers, wearing street clothes and bright leotards and using beach towels as shrouds (with sets and costumes designed by the artist Alex Katz), disintegrate into ravaged forms. Like shifting shadows they crawl across the floor in jagged bursts of bewilderment, emptiness and rage. The dance’s accompanying program note, from Dante, begins with ‘What souls are these who run through this black haze?’ For Mr. Taylor, those words refer to the ‘lost souls in purgatory, because they hadn’t done anything good and they hadn’t done anything bad.'” [. . .]    –Gia Kourlas, The New York Times, February 13, 2009

Robert Talpin, “Everthing Imagined is Real (After Dante)” (2009)

robert-talpin-viii-get-back-the-river-styx-2008“Winston Wachter Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening of Robert Taplin’s new show entitled Everything Imagined is Real (After Dante), on exhibit from January 8 – February 7, 2009. Taplin’s last exhibition at Winston Wachter included tabletop sculptures that depict the everyday with imagined realities. His newest work, again incorporates the strange with familiar while portraying the 14th century classic, Dante’s Inferno, in nine cantos.
Dante’s epic poem is filled with allegory, symbolism and a balance between Dante’s perceived reality and dreams. The first nine cantos follow Dante in his journey through the nine circles of Hell, lead by the Roman poet Virgil. While working with a clear narrative from Dante, Taplin infuses the works in this exhibition with contemporary nuances and situations as well as personal references. For example, in canto IV, Taplin explains that he has constructed an exact replica of his old house as the backdrop for the scene. Taplin displays each diorama from a different vantage point allowing the viewer to either peer into an intimate domestic scene or be confronted with wide-screen drama. He highlights Dante’s role in the narrative by portraying his figure in full color. The rest of the characters and figures, including Beatrice and Virgil, are cast in resin and shown void of color.”    —Winston Wachter

“Robert Taplin’s Everything Real Is Imagined (After Dante) consists of nine sculptures, each referencing scenes from Dante’s Inferno as modern allegories of political strife. Taplin’s story begins as Dante’s does with the uncertain sense of whether or not we are in a dream or reality. Thus My Soul Which Was Still In Flight (The Dark Wood) depicts Dante, as a modern-day everyman, rising from bed to start his journey. As Talpin’s story unfolds, things become more complicated. The third canto of Dante’s Inferno brings Dante and Virgil to the River Acheron in order to cross into the First Circle of Hell. In Across The Dark Waters (The River Acheron), Taplin takes this iconic scene and turns it into a metaphor for the refuge crisis, representing people trying to cross waters, unknowing, just like Dante, of what awaits them upon their arrival. Taplin’s cycle ends with Dante mourning the fall of civilization — in We Went In Without a Fight (Through The Gates of Dis), Dante stands witness to a city destroyed, mourning both life on earth and what may await down below.”    —MASS MoCA

Contributed by Patrick Molloy; Katherine Gagnon (Colby, ’11)

“Smoking Ban Hits Home. Truly.”

smoking-ban-hits-home-truly“BELMONT, Calif. — During her 50 years of smoking, Edith Frederickson says, she has lit up in restaurants and bars, airplanes and trains, and indoors and out, all as part of a two-pack-a-day habit that she regrets not a bit. But as of two weeks ago, Ms. Frederickson can no longer smoke in the one place she loves the most: her home. . .
And that the ban should have originated in her very building — a sleepy government-subsidized retirement complex called Bonnie Brae Terrace — is even more galling. Indeed, according to city officials, a driving force behind the passage of the law was a group of retirees from the complex who lobbied the city to stop secondhand smoke from drifting into their apartments from the neighbors’ places. . .
At a local level, the debate over the law has divided the residents of the Bonnie Brae into two camps, with the likes of Ms. Frederickson, a hardy German emigre, on one side, and Ray Goodrich, a slim 84-year-old with a pulmonary disease and a lifelong allergy problem, on the other. . .
‘I came around the corner, and there was just a giant puff of black smoke, and I knew I wasn’t going to last five seconds in that,’ Mr. Goodrich said. ‘It was like Dante’s inferno up there.'” [. . .]    –Jesse McKinley, The New York Times, January 26, 2009

Piazza del Limbo, Florence, Italy


Contributed by Patrick Molloy

“You Will Feel the Heat” Penny Arcade Comic (2008)


Found at Penny Arcade.

Contributed by Charlie Russell-Schlesinger (Bowdoin, ’08)

Guy Raffa, “Danteworlds” (2007)


guy-raffa-danteworlds-2007-2009“It’s not a video game and it’s not CliffsNotes–Danteworlds is ‘an integrated multimedia journey’ through Dante’s Divine Comedy. Situated somewhere in cyberspace between EverQuest and Solitaire, it’s a terrific way to lose a month’s worth of lunchtime in a cubicle. Most literary texts don’t lend themselves to the ‘integrated multimedia’ approach, which often just whisks readers off the page into biographical or literary analysis land and strands them there. But, in the case of The Divine Comedy, and perhaps other epic poetry–the Odyssey comes to mind–the approach is a perfect marriage of medium and message, launching the reader right into the allegorical action, heightening rather than dulling appreciation and comprehension.” [. . .]    –Vicky Raab, The New Yorker, January 9, 2009

“Dante’s Inferno” (Sean Meredith, Paul Zaloom, Sandow Birk, 2007)

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 3.51.51 PM“DANTE’S INFERNO has been kicking around the cultural playground for over 700 years. But it has never before been interpreted with exquisitely hand-drawn paper puppets, brought to life using purely hand-made special effects. Until now. Rediscover this literary classic, retold in a kind of apocalyptic graphic novel meets Victoria-era toy theater. Dante’s Hell is brought to lurid 3-dimensional, high-definition life in a darkly comedic travelogue of the underworld–set against an all-too-familiar urban backdrop of used car lots, gated communities, strip malls, and the U.S. Capitol, and populated with a contemporary cast of reprobates, including famous (and infamous) politicians, presidents, popes, pimps, and the Prince of Darkness himself.”    —Dante Film

“THE last time that the artist Sandow Birk found himself concerned about responses from Muslims was in 2006. He was developing a film using puppets, inspired by his illustrations for a three-volume English-language version of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy,’ when riots broke out over the Danish newspaper cartoons representing Muhammad.
The outcry prompted Mr. Birk’s film team to reconsider its own representation of the prophet. ‘We had Muhammad in our film because he was in Dante’s poem,’ he said. ‘Dante put him in ‘Inferno’ as someone who supposedly created schisms.’ He argued at the time for respecting Dante’s treatment of Muhammad, as artists like Gustave Doré had done before him.
But the film’s producers were spooked, and Muhammad disappeared from the film. ‘I thought it was wrong to act out of fear,’ Mr. Birk said from his studio here.
‘But I was upset for another reason too,’ he admitted. His film collaborators didn’t know at the time, but quietly — privately — he had already embarked on another potentially controversial project: an effort to make by hand what he called a ‘personal Koran.’ [. . .]    –Jori Finkel, The New York Times, August 28, 2009

See Also: the “Dante’s Inferno” Trailer
See Also: Sandow Birk’s Illustrations of the “Divine Comedy” (2006)

Contributed by Zac Milner (Bowdoin, ’07)