SCAD Museum of Art: “The Divine Comedy”

Muluneh Aida, 99 SeriesThe Savannah College of Art and Design’s museum featured an exhibit called “The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists” which ran from October 16, 2014 to January 25, 2015.

“SCAD presents the U.S. premiere of ‘The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists.’ Curated by the internationally acclaimed Simon Njami, this monumental exhibition explores the thematic sequences of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem through works by more than 40 contemporary artists from 19 African countries as well as the African diaspora. [. . .]

“Through a variety of media, this exhibition demonstrates how concepts visited in Dante’s poem transcend Western traditions and resonate with diverse contemporary cultures, belief systems and political issues. Overall, the exhibition provides a probing examination of life, death and the continued power of art to express the unspoken and intangible.”    —SCAD Museum of Art

The exhibition was later featured at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, running from April 8 to August 2, 2015. The large exhibition was on display in the entrance pavilion, stairwells, and all three floors of the museum. See the National Museum of African Art’s exhibition page here, and Elena Goukassian’s review in the Washington Post here (April 16, 2015).

SwooshArt

Italian artist Davide Bedoni creates images of fine art as if sponsored by Nike.

“The Ghosts of Paolo and Francesca Appear to Dante and Virgil” by Ary Scheffer (1835): SwooshArt “Dante and Virgil in Hell” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1850): SwooshArt

 

Click here to view the images on tumblr.

The Veronica Mars Movie (2014)

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In The Veronica Mars Movie, a spinoff of the television series Veronica Mars created by Rob Thomas, Veronica (Kristen Bell) returns to her hometown to solve a crime. At her ten-year high school reunion, she makes a Dante reference:

“In a lesser known epic poem, Dante’s Inferno 2: ‘Hell Freezes Over’, ten years after escaping the nine circles, Dante returns. You know, for old times’ sake. Have a couple shots, catch up with the gang [. . .] See if Lucifer is still a bitch.”    —The Veronica Mars Movie

The Wisdom of the Exile

Opinionator“There are many types of uprooting. The brutal expulsions like those now devastating hundreds of thousands in countries like Iraq and Syria are common in the cycles of politics and war. But it can be more subtly political, too, as was Dante’s banishment from Florence at the hands of the Black Guelphs, or economic, as it was for the immigrants dancing in the Argentine brothels.

“Each person who survives this uprooting and finds himself in exile experiences an existential earthquake of sorts: Everything turns upside down, all certitudes are shattered. The world around you ceases to be that solid, reliable presence in which you used to feel comfortable, and turns into a ruin — cold and foreign. ‘You shall leave everything you love most: this is the arrow that the bow of exile shoots first,’ wrote Dante in Paradiso. [. . .]

“An Argentine poet called the tango ‘un pensamiento triste que se baila’: a sad thought that is danced. I am not sure. The tango is not just something sad — it is sadness itself that is danced. The ultimate sadness that comes from the earthquake of uprooting. If philosophers don’t manage to get them themselves exiled, at least they should take up tango for a while.”    —The New York Times

To read the full article on The New York Times‘ “Opinionator,” click here.

Grimes’ “Go” Video

grimes-go-video-blood-diamonds-dante-inferno On August 27, 2014, Grimes (Claire Boucher) released a music video for her single “Go” (feat. Blood Diamonds, aka Mike Tucker), providing the viewer with a glimpse into what Grimes perceives as Dante’s modern Hell. Though “abstract” in its composition, Grimes and her brother-turned-fellow-director strategically chose to set the video in various locations representing human carelessness and Hell on Earth. The video casts Grimes as the pilgrim and Blood Diamonds as Virgil, and begins with screenwriter David Hayter (X-Men, Watchmen) reading the opening verses of the poem: “Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.”

See Spin Magazine for Chris Martins’ post on the video, which he calls “a sci-fi homage to Dante’s Inferno.”

See the full video here.grimes-go-video-blood-diamonds-dante-inferno

Contributed by Ryan Alexander (George Mason University, 2016)

A Masterpiece of Sorrow: Edward Hirsch’s Elegy for His Son

Poet Edward Hirsch has written an elegaic poem in honor of his late son Gabriel, to be published in September of 2014.

According to The New Yorker‘s article, “Finding the Words” by Alec Wilkinson, Edward HirschHirsch “began it as a means of writing down everything he could remember of Gabriel, who died, at twenty-two, on August 27, 2011.”

The poet and his work bear similarities to Dante and his poetry: “Hirsch sometimes describes himself as a personal poet, by which he means that nearly everyone important to him has appeared in one of his poems.”

Hirsch’s latest work in memory of his son seems particularly Dantesque.

“After eight months, Hirsch had finished a narrative poem that is seventy-five pages long. It is called ‘Gabriel,’ and it will be published in September as a book by Knopf. The poet Eavan Boland described ‘Gabriel’ to me as ‘a masterpiece of sorrow.’ Hirsch’s writing characteristically involves ‘material that is psychically dangerous,’ the poet and critic Richard Howard told me. ‘His detractors would say that he feels he is someone who must reveal the truth, as opposed to being ironic, and he’s contending here with these forces.’ Hirsch felt that for the poem to succeed it could not include any traces of sentimentality, otherwise he would be an unreliable witness. [. . .]

“Writing ‘Gabriel’ required Hirsch, for the first time, to sort through a huge body of material for which he had to find a shape and a form. He found an organizing principle in the model of three-line stanzas. He liked that each stanza had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Usually, the three-line stanza is ‘a dialect of the underworld,’ Eavan Boland pointed out to me. ‘A signal that the poem is about grief.’ This is mainly because it invokes terza rima, the three-line rhyming scheme of The Divine Comedy. Dante’s lines rhyme aba, bcb, cdc, and so on, but Hirsch’s lines are unrhymed. Hirsch’s stanzas are also unpunctuated, which allows them to move adroitly and to bear what the poet C. K. Williams described to me as ‘both trivial things and grandly non-trivial things’—Gabriel’s antics, his humor and presence, but also the weight of Hirsch’s own desolate feelings. Charles Simic told me that the stanzas’ pace and fluidity reminded him of ‘the way memories pour out of us.'” [. . .]    —The New Yorker

Sympathy for the Devil: Satan, Sin, and the Underworld

Witkin, The Devil as TailorStanford University’s Cantor Arts Center is running an exhibit focused on the tradition of portraying Hell and the Devil in art, titled “Sympathy for the Devil: Satan, Sin, and the Underworld“. It explores the way the concept of the Devil has changed throughout the Western canon; we can think about how Dante’s silent Satan in frozen Hell fits into the story.

The exhibit’s description reads:

“The Cantor has Rodin’s famous masterwork the Gates of Hell. As Jackson Pollock’s important painting Lucifer comes to Stanford as part of the Anderson Collection, it is interesting to explore the visual history of the Devil and his realm. Also known as Satan, Lucifer, Mephistopheles, etc., the Devil and Hell itself are only briefly mentioned in the Bible; yet this source inspired artists.

“During the period from about 1500 to 1900, the Devil evolved from the bestial adversary of Christ to a rebellious, romantic hero or shrewd villain. In the 20th century this long tradition of graphic representation largely disappeared, as Hell came to be seen as an aspect of this world and its denizens as ‘other people.’ 

“Based upon the collections at Stanford and augmented by several loans, this exhibition traces the dominant Western tradition over approximately four centuries. A variety of prints, drawings, sculpture, and paintings— including works by Albrecht Dürer, Hendrick Goltzius, Jacques Callot, Gustav Doré, Max Beckmann, and Jerome Witkin—reveal how artists visualized Satan and his infernal realm and draw inspiration from religious sources and accounts by Homer, Dante, Virgil, and Milton.”

The exhibit runs from August 20th, 2014, until December 1st, 2014, and is open to the public.

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (2014)

Kim Kardashian: HollywoodKim Kardashian: Hollywood is an app in which a cartoon version of Kardashian guides the player’s avatar through the social and financial ladder of Hollywood. The app, released on iTunes in 2014, is expected to make $200 million by the end of 2014.

iTunes’ description of the app reads: “Join KIM KARDASHIAN on a red carpet adventure in Kim Kardashian: Hollywood! Create your own aspiring celebrity and rise to fame and fortune!”

TIME’s article, “Kim Kardashian’s Genius New Game is Basically Dante’s Inferno, claims that “Kim is a Virgil for our time”.

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood reminds me of that super-long 14th-century poem about the nine circles of hell, each filled with sinners punished in a manner fitting their crimes, poetic justice if you will. Kim Kardashian’s game is Dante’s Inferno.

“It’s basically the same idea, except you (Dante) can dress up in customizable hair and outfits that get increasingly elaborate as you get richer/closer to the center of hell. Kim is like Virgil, but she traded in her black robe for a sparkly silver dress, because shrouds are so 14th century. The circles of hell are levels of fame, natch.

“But what’s so hellish about an addictive game that allows users to play at being beautiful reality show stars? Um, everything. In the Kim Kardashian universe, your character can’t sleep, eat or see any friends who aren’t ‘contacts’ to help you get more famous. You have no family (Kim has family, but you don’t) and nobody to love. Your only human contact is with other hell-walkers game characters with whom you can either choose to ‘network’ or ‘flirt.’ You’re not allowed to do anything but go to club openings, photo-shoots or red carpet premieres. You can’t read. [. . .]

“It’s been nearly a month since the game came out, and I’m still in Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood, checking my eyeliner, changing my outfit, flirting and networking and promoting brands and slowly spinning deeper and deeper into darker circles of hell. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”    —TIME

SAWTOOTH Dancers’ Ombra

Dance company SAWTOOTH performs a Dante-inspired piece, Ombra, at Dixon Place in Chelsea, NY, on July 24, 2014.

SAWTOOTH Dancers“Inspired by Dante’s Paradiso and Plato’s Cave, Ombra is a multimedia dance performance embedded within a dance party. Drawing in part from a hypnotic, Butoh-inspired physicality, the dance performance emerges as episodic dreamscapes within a clubbing experience and a live cabaret. Sound artist Michael Feld orchestrates an eclectic sound score that moves between live percussion, electronic sound art, and 90s dance hits.

“Ombra asserts that liberation is created, not revealed. With humor, Ombra (Italian for ‘shadow’) is a piece that hopes to offer a re-evaluation of the dark, and it seeks to relocate the site of true human ascendance within the shadows and the shadows we make.”    —Dixon Place

To read about SAWTOOTH, click here.

To read about Dixon Place, click here.

Francesco Gungui, Canti delle Terre Divise (2014)

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Canti delle Terre Divise

Italian author Francesco Gungui completed the Canti delle Terre Divise trilogy this year: Inferno (2103), Purgatorio, and Paradiso (2014). Gungui’s young adult novels tell the story of Alec and Maj, two teenagers living in a dystopic city that resembles the landscape of The Divine ComedyGungui, a Milan native, is a popular young adult writer in Italy. The Canti delle Terre Divise series is his most recent work.

“Se sei nato a Europa, la grande città nazione del prossimo futuro, hai due sole possibilità: arrangiarti con lavori rischiosi o umili, oppure riuscire a trovare un impiego a Paradiso, la zona dove i ricchi vivono nel lusso più sfrenato e possono godere di una natura incontaminata. Ma se rubi o uccidi o solo metti in discussione l’autorità, quello che ti aspetta è la prigione definitiva, che sorge su un’isola vulcanica lontana dal mondo civile: Inferno.

“Costruita in modo da ricalcare l’inferno che Dante ha immaginato nella Divina Commedia, qui ogni reato ha il suo contrappasso. Piogge di fuoco, fiumi di lava, gelo, animali mostruosi rendono la vita difficile ai prigionieri che spesso muoiono prima di terminare la pena. Nessuno sceglierebbe di andare volontariamente a Inferno, tranne Alec, un giovane cresciuto nella parte sbagliata del mondo, quando scopre che la ragazza che ama, Maj, vi è stata mandata con una falsa accusa. Alec dovrà compiere l’impresa mai riuscita a nessuno, quella di scappare con lei dall’Inferno, combattendo per sopravvivere prima che chi ha complottato per uccidere entrambi riesca a trovarli…

“Il primo romanzo di una trilogia fantasy di grandissima potenza, scritta da uno degli autori italiani young adult più amati.”    —Amazon