Mementos

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Image: Mare Milin / Museum of Broken Relationships

When Croatian artists Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišic ended their four-year relationship in 2003, they joked about creating a museum to house all their leftover personal items. “We were thinking of how to preserve the beautiful moments we had together and not destroy everything,” Vištica said. Three years later, Grubišic suggested that they do this in earnest, and they created the Museum of Broken Relationships, displaying items left over from breakups around the world.

After ending an 18-month relationship with an abusive lover, a Toronto woman sent in a necklace and earrings he had given her. “The necklace was given as an apology after one night of abuse. He used it as leverage that I should do as he said. I finally broke it off. I keep the necklace as a reminder of what to look out for.”

A Berlin women donated the ax she’d used to chop up her partner’s furniture after she left her for another woman. “Every day I axed one piece of her furniture. I kept the remains there, as an expression of my inner condition. The more her room filled with chopped furniture acquiring the look of my soul, the better I felt. Two weeks after she left, she came back for the furniture. It was neatly arranged into small heaps and fragments of wood. She took that trash and left my apartment for good. The axe was promoted to a therapy instrument.”

Between 2006 and 2010, the collection toured the world and was seen by 200,000 people. It’s now found a permanent home in Zagreb, and in 2016 it opened another location in Los Angeles, next to the theater that hosts the Oscars. “I think in periods of suffering people become creative, and I think this is a catharsis,” Vištica told The Star. “I think that relationships, especially love relationships, influence us so much and they make us the people we are.”

Theme and Variations

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

All of Johann Sebastian Bach’s surviving brothers were named Johann: Johann Rudolf, Johann Christoph, Johann Balthasar, Johannes Jonas, and Johann Jacob. His father was Johann Ambrosius Bach, and his sister was Johanna Juditha.

By contrast, his other sister, Marie Salome, “stuck out like a sore thumb,” writes Jeremy Siepmann in Bach: Life and Works. “And they all had grandparents and uncles and cousins whose names were also Johann, something. Johann Sebastian’s own children included Johann Gottfried, Johann Christoph, Johann August, Johann Christian, and Johanna Carolina.”

(Thanks, Charlie.)

Great and Small

michelangelo list

When the Seattle Art Museum presented an exhibition of Michelangelo’s early drawings in 2009, it included three menus that the sculptor had scrawled on the back of an envelope in 1518 — grocery lists for a servant.

Oregonian reviewer Steve Duin explained, “Because the servant he was sending to market was illiterate, Michelangelo illustrated the shopping lists — a herring, tortelli, two fennel soups, four anchovies and ‘a small quarter of a rough wine’ — with rushed (and all the more exquisite for it) caricatures in pen and ink.”

Related: In the 1490 manuscript below, Leonardo da Vinci tries to list successive doublings of 2 but mistakenly calculates 213 as 8092:

http://www.spoj.com/PROGPY/problems/PROG0237/

“Unmistakable this is a miscalculation of Leonardo and not of some sloppy copyists, as it was found in the original (mirrored) manuscript of da Vinci himself,” notes Ghent University computer scientist Peter Dawyndt. “That it was only discovered right now, five hundred years after da Vinci’s death, is probably due to the late discovery of the manuscript, barely fifty years ago.”

(Thanks, Peter.)

Immortality?

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The Austrian painter Johannes Gumpp is remembered for only two works.

Both are self-portraits in which his back is turned to the viewer.

Resolution

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Australia’s ARM Architecture designed the 31-story Swanston Square apartment building in Melbourne with custom-shaped white balconies against black windows, so that from a distance the face of Aboriginal leader William Barak emerges.

It’s situated to face the Shrine of Remembrance, which honors Australians who have served in war. “The site has this potential to be a very significant part of the public realm,” ARM founding director Howard Raggatt said. “The realization of the great civic axis of Swanston Street meant that we could acknowledge the Shrine at one end and then the deep history representation at the other.”

A Way Through

Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto makes labyrinths out of salt. Working alone, he refines his initial sketches on computer and then builds them meticulously by hand, forming large, intricate mazes that fill entire rooms.

The final effect resembles the surface of the brain. Yamamoto lost his sister in 1994 to brain cancer, and he chose salt, a funeral material in Japan, “to heal my grief.” His first labyrinth had a single path from the exterior to the center; later works have offered multiple paths and often multiple entrances and exits.

After a work has been exhibited, he invites the public to help him destroy it and toss it back into the sea. “Drawing a labyrinth with salt is like following a trace of my memory,” he says. “Memories seem to change and vanish as time goes by; however, what I seek is to capture a frozen moment that cannot be attained through pictures or writings. What I look for at the end of the act of drawing could be a feeling of touching a precious memory.”

Works in Progress

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Because weather and daylight change continually, Claude Monet believed that any visual effect lasts for only seven minutes, much too brief to paint — he said he wanted to “render my impressions before the most fugitive effects.”

His solution was to work on multiple canvases at once, putting a new one on the easel every seven minutes or so to capture the effect he was after. Georges Clemenceau once found him in a poppy field juggling four different canvases: “He was going from one to the other, according to the position of the sun.” In 1885 Guy de Maupassant watched him stalking about Etretat; no longer a painter, “he was a hunter. He walked along, trailed by children carrying canvases, five or six canvases representing the same subject at various hours of the day and with varying effects. He would pick them up or drop them one by one according to how the sky changed.”

When Monet visited London in 1901 to capture the “unique atmosphere” of the city’s fog, John Singer Sargent found him surrounded by 90 canvases, “each one the record of a momentary effect of light over the Thames. When the effect was repeated and an opportunity occurred for finishing the picture, the effect had generally passed away before the particular canvas could be found.”

“I am chasing a dream,” Monet once said. “I want the impossible.”

(Ross King, Mad Enchantment, 2016.)

The Interlace

Designed by German architect Ole Scheeren, Singapore’s Interlace apartment complex was named 2015 World Building of the Year for its innovative form, which resembles 31 conventional buildings stacked atop one another, like Jenga blocks. Each block comprises six stories, but they’re stacked four high, so there’s a maximum of 24 floors, and nearly every unit has an excellent view. Viewed from above they form eight hexagons, each with a swimming pool, and the stacking ensures that light and air can flow among the blocks.

In Architecture Review, Laura Raskin wrote, “Architect Ole Scheeren hypothesized that dense urban residential living didn’t have to occur in an isolating skyscraper — and he was right.”

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Forking Paths

British maze designer Randoll Coate produced this tribute to Jorge Luis Borges — a labyrinth of hedges shaped like an open book and spelling out the author’s name. (The original maze is in the writer’s native Argentina; Coate donated the copy above to Borges’ foundation in Venice.)

“Five years before Borges died, I had a dream in which I heard that Borges had just died,” the designer recalled. “And I thought to myself, I must make sure that Borges is not memorialized with one of those terrible statues — a depiction of angels or something. He has to be honored with something truly Borgesian, in other words, a labyrinth. That’s when I began to design it and think about it and dream up a shape for it — an extraordinary labyrinth for a man with an extraordinary mind.”

(From Francesca Tatarella, Labyrinths & Mazes, 2016.)

11/29/2017 UPDATE: Coate’s design is more sophisticated than I’d realized — from reader Daniël Hoek:

“The maze also contains a tiger, a walking stick, a question mark, the initials MK of his wife, and two hourglasses that spell the number of years Borges lived (’86’). After some effort I think I found all of those (the tiger is very cool once you find it –– you need to rotate the plan as in the attached image)”:

“PS. Another interesting tidbit: the maze in ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ has the feature that you can make it through by going left at every turn. Starting at the top entrance and discounting any forced turns, that is also true of this maze, although that is a boring route that takes you around the maze and not through the center.”