Australian Painter Garry Shead Finds Divine Inspiration in Dante

“Gregorian chants play softly and a curl of incense drifts high into the air at Garry Shead’s studio in Bundeena on the coast of the Royal National Park.

“For almost five months, Shead, one of Australia’s best-known figurative painters, has been grappling with a new series based on Dante Alighieri’s poem, The Divine Comedy. Invoking the spirit of the 700-year-old poet has been “terribly difficult”. He grimaces as he recalls stepping up to the blank canvas every morning, regardless of whether he felt like it or not.” […]    –Ali Gripper, The Sydney Morning Herald, September 12, 2014

 

Alfredo Jaar, “The Divine Comedy” (2019)

“A new tunnel, named Siloam, is an AUD$27M (£15m) underground extension to David Walsh’s privately owned MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart, Tasmania. The complex of chambers, gallery spaces and connecting tunnels of Siloam feature works by Ai Weiwei, Oliver Beer and Christopher Townend but the centrepiece is a new commission by Alfredo Jaar.

Jaar’s immersive installation The Divine Comedy (2019), is a three-room installation based on Dante’s The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso. Visitors enter—ten at a time—into three pavilions interpreting each of the realms of the 14th-century epic poem. They will encounter fire and flood in Inferno; hover between life and death with a film by the US artist Joan Jonas in Purgatorio; and, finally, simply exist in the sensory void of Paradiso.”    –Tim Stone, The Art Newspaper, July 18, 2019

Australian Metal Band, Abandon All Hope

abandon-all-hope-band-2005Abandon All Hope is a metal band out of Adelaide, Australia that was formed in 2005. The band had 5 members – Micah Leinonen as vocals, Jarrod Kennett on bass guitar, Chris Whitbread on drums, and Jake Battista and Shaan Kelly on guitars. The Metal Archives list the band’s lyrical themes as “Hate, Anger, Life, [and] Relationships.” The band split up in 2013.

Their discography consisted of 3 albums – Where Life and Death Meet (2007), A Havoc Command (2010), and Prowler (2011).

Fiona Hall’s Divine Comedy Polaroids (1988)

Inferno-V-Lustful-Fiona-Hall-Polaroid-Photograph

Artist : Fiona Hall (Australia, b.1953)
Title : Inferno, canto V: The circle of the lustful (1988)
Medium Description: Polaroid photograph

“This photograph from the late 1980s is from a series of twelve Polaroid photographs relating directly to Dante’s Divine Comedy. Each work is a carefully constructed scene illustrating a particular canto. Technically the artist has made the most of the cumbersome 20 x 40 inch Polaroid camera, using it to render exquisite detail and to capture subtle colour. She cuts and moulds aluminium soft-drink cans to form menacing vegetation, human figures, creatures from beyond the grave, on the journey through Hell and Purgatory to Paradise. Hall photographs them amongst found objects set against backgrounds which she has painted.” —Art Gallery of New South Wales website

View the whole collection of photographs at the Art Galley of New South Wales site.

Inferno Rap Translation by Hugo (2013)

Hugo_InfernoRap_coverIn July 2013, Melbourne-based hip hop artist Hugo released a rap translation of the first six cantos of Inferno.  Here is Hugo’s description of the project:

“Immortal innovators of the artform such as Rakim, Talib Kweli, Eminem, KRS One, Mos Def, Nas, Notorious BIG, Tupac Shakur and Pharoahe Monch, took this rap rhyming to incredible depths, exploring all angles of their own vernacular, spitting intricate multi-syllable rhymed verses over irresistible hip hop beats and delivering their version of the Dolce Stil Novo to an insatiable world, and in the process proving, like Dante, that their Vulgar vernacular could have global relevance in its eloquence.

“So, to this project. The basic agenda being simply to retranslate the Inferno using some of the forms of Rap – Multi-syllabic rhyme patterns, driving beats – to reengage with this epic medieval poem, and maybe contribute to garnering it a new audience. [ . . . ]” — YouTube

See the videos with lyrics here.

To listen to the full album, click here.

Contributed by Janet Gomez (PhD, Johns Hopkins University, 2015)

ABC’s Radio Poolside Story: “Star for Sale” (2009)

patrick-holland-star-for-sale-abc-radio-poolside-story-2009I followed the crowd down Fernberg Road onto Boys St where men in suits and shining shoes were selling stars. At first I did not know that was what they were doing. One suited man stood on a soapbox. The others sat behind a row of telescopes and their index fingers directed eyes about the firmament. I thought they were an astronomy club. But people were writing cheques; and a great celestial map clipped to an escritoire had pins and pen-marks all over it. Then I realised the man on the soapbox was conducting an auction.
I saw the weakest star of the Cross go for $100 000; someone whispered to the effect that he had bought the four major ones and was not greatly attached to this last only he needed it to complete the piece.
‘What would the Cross be without it?’ said the auctioneer to encourage the man through the bidding. The man intended the famed constellation for a light-feature in his garden. I felt a little sad for the ghosts of Cook and Magellan, lost upon dark waters below a bewildering sky.
In the background a ruckus was being subdued by the agency. Two men and an agent were fighting. It seemed the first star Dante saw when he emerged from the Inferno had been sold in a previous lot and there was a dispute over its authenticity. The agent was trying to reassure the man that though Florence was indeed in the Northern hemisphere, Dante had walked down through the Earth and emerged on the other side. The man’s companion was showing the agent Canto XXXIV and the line where Dante mysteriously turns back in space and for a while believes he is going deeper into the pit.
. . .so the night proceeded and all the stars were sold. One by one.
The final lot was a small fleck of a star, barely visible and only now toward three o’clock in winter. By this time there was little money or interest left in the auction. The auctioneer began the lot sheepishly at a thousand dollars. I put up my hand amidst the scattering, disinterested crowd and said ‘Ten’. The auctioneer laughed. He looked around the dispersing crowd and laughed again, but his confidence was gone.
‘It’s a star, you realize?’
‘I know,’ I said, stepping closer to the soapbox. ‘It’s worth much more, but ten is all I have.’
The auctioneer scowled:
‘I’d buy it myself if I had anywhere to put it.’
Reluctantly he re-started the auction. He called ‘Ten dollars’ three drawn out times and disgustedly brought the hammer down.
‘I expect you can arrange finance.’
I handed him the ten-dollar note.
‘Now, where do you want it delivered?’
‘I don’t. Leave it where it is.’
‘But it’s your star. You’ve bought it!’ He held a contract up to my face as proof.
‘I know. Only, leave it where it is. I like it there.’
I signed the contract and the auctioneer walked away shaking his head.
An energetic few had already set about taking down their new possessions. The Cross was gone to the rich man’s garden. The man who bought Dante’s star had it on the pavement, looking at it suspiciously where it burned as hot as a con. He was threatening to default on the deposit.
I always liked the smallest stars, anyway, I told myself: the ones that show the reality of the dark as well as the possibility of light. Perhaps tomorrow I would stay up late again and see my star rise alone in the east.”    –Patrick Holland, ABC Pool, 2009

Lyn White

lyn-white“Lyn White is the slender, blonde, former South Australian police senior constable who, armed with a hand-held video camera, descended into the depravity of Indonesia’s most hellish abattoirs. Her footage invoking all the blood, wailing, and terror of Dante’s Inferno as Australian cattle were tortured and brutalised before slaughter was broadcast on Four Corners last month and has caused a backlash against Australia’s live export trade so quick and so vehement that the Government has suspended the trade to Indonesia.” [. . .]    –Emma Macdonald, The Canberra Times, July 2, 2010 (retrieved on July 7, 2011)

Stephen Atkins, “Dante’s Inferno: Living Hell” (2010)

stephen-atkins-dantes-inferno-living-hell-2010

“Now in a third year of collaborating with Brisbane-based Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre, Human Theatre director Stephen Atkins delves into another classic with the premiere physical theatre company of Australia. Dante’s Inferno: Living Hell takes the audience on a promenade theatre experience, walking in Dante’s footsteps and lighting up another sold-out ‘In The Raw’ season with the company.
The project was conceived, scripted and rehearsed through the collaborative efforts of nineteen performers, two music composers and three choreographers. Based on Atkins’ adaptation, the performers created scenarios and vignettes illustrating the strata of the Inferno. Dante pulled no punches in the original 13th century poem, writing it entirely in the vernacular Italian language (instead of Latin) and populating hell with the corrupt popes, politicians and merchants of his own time; subjecting them to ironic and satirical punishments. It was meant to be a poem for the people, not the learned few; a dark comedy with a poignant message.
In this adaptation, the audience is lead through hell by two entrepreneurial tour guides who offer a ‘walking tour of the underworld’ while up-selling the audience on merchandise. As the evening progresses, the tables turn and the audience must fend for itself, guided by a heavenly angel through the City of Dis. In the end, evil is contemplated through the lens of the modern, contemporary world, bringing hell closer to home. Dante’s Inferno: Living Hell played for two weeks in Brisbane’s historic Old Museum.”    —Human Theater Collective (retrieved on August 23, 2010)

Contributed by Helena Miscioscia

John Kinsella, “Divine Comedy: Journeys Through a Regional Geography” (2008)

john-kinsella-divine-comedy-journeys-through-a-regional-geography-2008“This mammoth new volume from Australia’s Kinsella (Doppler Effect) takes its template and three-line stanza from the three books of Dante’s epic, out of order: first Purgatorio, then Paradiso, then Inferno. Each of the three works, made from dozens of separate poems, joins allusions to Dante with sights, events and memories from Kinsella’s Australia, especially the farming region outside Perth, where he grew up and sometimes lives. The poet’s wife, Tracy (his Beatrice, he says), and their toddler, Tim, play roles throughout. Mostly, though, the poems concern places, not people; their ground note is ecological, with nature taking many forms (locust wings… at sunrise over shallow farm-dams steaming already) set against the ballast/ of cars and infrastructures that endangers it all. That motif of eco-protest dominates the Inferno (last blocks of bushland// cleared away to placate the hunger/ for the Australian Dream), but it turns up in all three of these (perhaps too similar, and surely too long) sequences. Like his compatriot Les Murray, Kinsella can sound uncontrolled, even sloppy. Yet he can turn a phrase (Who describes where we are without thinking/ of when we’ll leave it?). Moreover, he means all he says and never exhausts his ideas or ambition.”    –Publisher’s Weekly, Amazon

Contributed by Aisha Woodward (Bowdoin, ’08)