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IDOLATRIA INTELIGENȚEI, FRICA și MULTICULTURALISMUL. Anglia și România, povestite de o femeie deșteaptă



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Ilinca Bernea viețuiește în Anglia, la Londra, dar, adesea, creează în România, în țara pe care o are, poate, mai aproape de inimă. Ilinca este inteligentă. Și nu pentru că scrie poezii, romane, piese de teatru sau scenarii de film. Nici pentru că este doctor în filosofie. Nu! Ilinca Bernea este o femeie deșteaptă, cum zic românii, pentru că a înțeles, cât de cât, viața. Citiți povestea ei! Merită
Cum este perceput un intelectual român în Anglia, la Londra? Ai fost vreodată nedreptățită?” Ilinca Bernea înfășoară curiozitatea mea într-o plasă delicată, care îmblânzește asperitățile închipuite: „Eu nu mă consider intelectuală, ci artistă. N-aș scrie demonstrativ sau analitic. Mă preocupă și cunoașterea desigur, dar ceea ce mă mo bilizează e dorința de fi în contact cu frumusețea în orice situație. Nu e vorba de o încercare de a estetiza existența, ci de a extrage substanța estetică din orice. Acesta este țelul meu. Vreau ca tot ce trăiesc să aibă grație, să mă enervez frumos, să îmbătrânesc frumos, să pierd frumos”.
După această piruetă reușită, da că pândești atent, poți prinde gândurile Ilincăi, risipite departe de Brașovul copilăriei, pe o insulă: „În Anglia nu mă ia nimeni drept „intelectuală”, ceea ce este în avantajul și în interesul meu. Însăși noțiunea este proscrisă în acea cultură... Te consideră un prețios ridicol și arogant dacă-ți spui așa”.
Focarul de iluzii și prietena de culoare
Se oprește Ilinca și când reia i se deschide și sufletul: „Nu-mi convine că sunt bănuită de către cei care nu mă cunosc decât din ce scriu - pentru că am ceva forță în condei - drept cerebrală, dură și dominatoare. Sunt exact pe dos. Toată lumea face ce vrea din mine, le caut în coarne tuturor, nici măcar în fața pisicii n-am autoritate”. Odată stinsă această minunată exuberanță, Ilinca plonjează în realitate.
Realitatea de pe Tamisa sau de oriunde: „Problema cu categoriile generice care au în vedere nația, profesia, gradul de erudiție al cuiva, genul, vârsta, rasa - e că sunt un focar de iluzii, nu cunoști nimic despre oameni așa. Oi fi româncă pentru un angajator german, dar nu pentru mama. Nici măcar pentru intimii mei englezi nu mai sunt româncă, sunt Ilinca. Prietena mea din Londra e de culoare. E ingineră și critic de artă, vorbitoare de șase limbi printre care și mandarina și o excelentă fotografă. Ultimul lucru pe care îl sesizăm amândouă e diferența de rasă”.
„Mie nu mi-e frică de moarte”
S-a înfierbântat Ilinca. Se simte în verb, în negații: „Aceste identități generice mai sunt și relative pe deasupra. Pentru un țăran thailandez nu ești savant, dacă el e analfabet, nu te recunoaște de intelectual, zice uite bărbosul sau lunganul sau ce-o zice”. Concluzia alunecă natural, spre ieșirea din curiozitatea mea inițială: „Intelectualul e un personaj social în ultimă instanță. Iar eu sunt un om cu vocația intimității”.
Mergem mai departe cu mirările. „Nu-ți este frică de atentatele care însângerează, de ceva vreme, Anglia? Nu-ți este teamă că te-ai putea obișnui cu o asemenea realitate șocantă?” Ilinca șochează: „Mie nu mi-e frică de moarte. Mă aștept să mor oricând și de obicei trăiesc ca un om fără viitor. Singurele momente când sunt mai anxioasă sunt atunci când scriu câte un roman pe care vreau să nu îl las neterminat și când am câte o dorință arzătoare care sper să nu rămână neîmplinită”.
Cea mai frumoasă dezvăluire
Urmează ceva deosebit: „A - cum jumătate de an, când am văzut că se îngroașă gluma cu atentatele, i-am spus iubitului meu: „dacă e să se întâmple ceva, vreau să știi că întâlnirea cu tine m-a făcut fericită. Îți mulțumesc că ești în viața mea”. Pe urmă am fost liniștită. Cred că ar merita să facem asta și fără atentate, cu toți cei care ne-au adus bucurie sau mângâiere. Când s-a întâmplat nenorocirea de pe stadionul din Manchester, în luna mai, ne-au sunat disperate mamele noastre, din țările lor de baștină: Aveți grijă, mamă! Cum să avem grijă? Cam cum? Sunt chestiuni pe care le-a pus în discuție și Socrate când a ridicat problema destinului. Dacă știi că nu stă în puterea ta să schimbi cursul lucrurilor nu e, oare, cel mai înțelept să te bucuri de viață fără griji?”
„Vocația mea profundă e să fiu femeie”
„Ilinca, ce este fericirea? Cum arată fericirea ta?” Curiozitatea mea nu irită, dovadă răspunsul generos: „Am fost, ca tot omul, dresată să îmi doresc lucruri care aveau mai mult sau mai puțin legătură cu identitatea mea interioară. Bine, și identitatea asta nu e un bun accesibil din primii ani de viață, ea iese la iveală în timp, cum iese creștetul unui ghețar din ape. Faci cunoștință cu tine însuți din aproape în aproape. Îți palpezi niște umeri, niște pomeți, spui: „asta sunt”, dar cu timpul mai descoperi și altele”.
Inspiră adânc, urmează ceva memorabil: „Vocația mea profundă e să fiu femeie. Cea mai de genul feminin femeie cu putință. Și în scris tot asta sunt. Iar fericirea e să îmi pot pune în valoare potențialul feminității, să consum până la epuizare toate sevele acestei vietăți spectaculoase. Fericirea e să mă simt pe deplin femeie în ceea ce sunt și fac și exprim. Ba chiar simt că fac un bine speciei așa. E absolut vitală o refeminizare a lumii!”
„Împărăția Mea” - cartierul turcesc din nordul Londrei
De unde-și trage Ilinca seva? Care sunt paradisurile care-i luminează amintirile? „Le zic pe nume, ca să nu o lungesc: copilăria mea, Bunica Elena, grădina ei de la Brașov, ziua în care m-am trezit cu zăpadă care depășea jumătatea ferestrei, adolescența - când l-am descoperit pe Danny Ash și chitarele lui extraterestre, zâmbetul lui Danny, o piesă de-a lui din epoca Bauhaus numită „Dark Entries”, imaginea lui Gellu Naum, așezat în fotoliul lui din casa care avea scris la intrare: attention chat gentil, vocea și blândețea Lygiei Naum , mirosul de scorțișoară, parfumul teilor în floare și, mai nou, un loc sălbatic din inima cartierului turcesc din Nordul Londrei pe care l-am botezat Împărăția Mea”.
Multiculturalismul și mecanismul fricii
Multiculturalismul - cum ar trebui să-l gândim, să-l înțelegem pentru a ne fi bine tuturor, indiferent de credințe, tradiții și obiceiuri? Provocarea o urcă pe Ilinca la catedră, în postura unui fin cunoscător care, după ce se alintă puțin, eliberează cuvintele potrivite: „E o întrebare colosal de grea.
Dacă am avea răspunsul la ea și ar putea fi difuzat la scară largă, s-ar aplana bună parte dintre tensiunile existente în marile metropole! De-a lungul și de-a latul istoriei, imperiile au colectat, asamblat și omogenizat culturi diferite. Acum fenomenul se instituie în spațiul socio-cultural al marilor puteri economice. Migrația produce inevitabil multiculturalism.
Dar lucrurile nu se așază în pagină echilibrat și egalitarist. Imixtiunea dintre culturi și armonizarea lor nu e un proces idilic, apar tot felul de disensiuni, de turbulențe. Fiecare nou val de emigranți e întâmpinat cu ostilitate de localnici. Să luăm cazul concret al Brexit-ului. Printre cei care au fost pentru ieșirea Regatului Unit din UE sunt mulți emigranți la a doua generație”
Trei dimensiuni
Pauză scurtă, cât pentru o aducere-aminte, apoi Ilinca reia: „În anii ’70 se stabiliseră masiv în Anglia jamaicani. A fost un mare val de rasism care s-a iscat atunci, ca un suflu vulcanic. Frica față de „străin” e ceva atavic. Necunoscutul e „periculos”. Iar această frică, în plan cultural, are trei dimensiuni”.
Ilinca le ordonează frumos: „1. Frica de pierdere a valorilor, deci a identității proprii, prin contagiune cu altele (străinul apare ca purtător al unui agent contaminant); 2. Frica de persecuție/ agresiune (străinul poate ajunge să facă legea cu forța); 3. Frica de criză a resurselor (mai cu seamă economice). Toate aceste temeri sunt de înțeles. Pe fondul lor subzistă și se manifestă multiculturalismul. Fiecare comunitate gândește despre celelalte lucruri nu tocmai flatante”.
„Românii sunt aproape idolatri față de inteligență și cunoaștere”
Care este, acum, profilul cultural al României? Ilinca se/ne laudă, meritat: „Ceea ce e de apreciat e că am ieșit din schema aceea cu cultura de mase și cultura înaltă, există nenumărate straturi culturale acum în România. Pe măsură ce se diversifică reperele și manifestările, se diversifică și concepțiile. România e evoluată din punct de vedere al educației și mai ales al procesării culturii academice. Sunt oameni fini, inteligenți și doxați la noi”.
Odată abordat, subiectul e disecat chirurgical: „Amicul meu, Samuel Brenton, care este fiul celebrului dramaturg britanic Howard Brenton, s-a arătat uluit la un moment dat de niște cugetări de-ale mele și i-am zis că sunt common knowledge la noi la școala de filosofie. El a studiat umanioare la Cambridge, nu a absolvit vreo fabrică de diplome. Și l-au dat pe spate lucrările unor profesori și colegi de-ai mei”.
Minte și talent versus generozitate și empatie
Când o asculți pe Ilinca vorbind despre români, îți vibrează parcă ceva în piept: „Olimpicii Europei la filosofie sunt studenții noștri. E nedrept că Universitatea din București e subcotată. Românii sunt printre cei mai apreciați profesioniști și cercetători din lume, printre cei mai buni informaticieni, medici, lingviști, ingineri.
Românii sunt aproape idolatri față de inteligență și cunoaștere. La capitolul performanțe ale minții și talent suntem foarte sus. Dar suntem la pământ la capitolele cooperare, modestie, generozitate, empatie. Acesta este reversul medaliei. Performanțele sunt consecința unui puternic simț al competiției. Pe de altă parte, concurența anulează dezvoltarea calităților care produc armonie și confort sufletesc. Românii au un simț critic exacerbat”.
„Ca femeie, azi, în România, e mai la îndemână să ai o carieră decât o familie sau o relație stabilă”
Simte Ilinca o anumită marginalizare, în România, a scriitoarelor în raport cu scriitorii? „Țara asta e stranie. Există în acest mediu cultural o formă de misoginie care se adresează corpului și sensibilităților femeiești, dar nu gândirii. Pentru tot ce e considerat metafizic există multă considerație”, apreciază Ilinca Bernea.
Ce apreciază englezii la Ilinca
În continuare, a se citi cu ochii larg deschiși. Mă rog, atent: „Ca femeie, în ziua de azi, în România, e mai la îndemână să ai o carieră decât o familie sau o relație stabilă, oricât de bine ai găti, spăla și călca și oricât ai fi de devotată, senzuală și docilă. Oamenii te prețuiesc pentru acea parte din tine care rezonează cu valorile sau preocupările sau interesele lor. Iar în România, cum spuneam, există un cult pentru creație. În plus, compatrioții sunt textualiști. Îi fascinează argumentele, ideile. Vecinii mei de cartier de la Londra, care habar n-au că scriu, și mă îndoiesc că i-ar impresiona, îmi apreciază talia desigur”.
E regizoare, poetă și doctor în filosofie
Romancieră și poetă, Ilinca Bernea a scris și piese de teatru sau scenarii de film. E doctor în filosofie, regizor și artist vizual. A debutat în 2003 cu volumul de proză scurtă Iubiri în cămașă de forță (Cartea Românească). La aceeași editură a mai publicat romanele Legende Androgine (2004) și Semnul Lunii (2006). În 2017 a primit Premiul pentru Proză al revistei Convorbiri Literare, în semn de apreciere pentru romanul Cutia Neagră (Timpul, 2015). Ultimul său roman a apărut anul acesta - Numele tău și alte erezii (Polirom).
„În Anglia se scot mai puține cărți bune decât în România și se citește puțin”
Vorbind de literatură: „În Anglia sistemul de publicare este absolut draconic, totul e trecut prin sute de furci caudine și este monitorizat și automatizat, zici că e incubator. E revoltător că nu poți ajunge să intri nici măcar în evidența unui agent literar dacă nu ai trecut prin nu știu câte forme de educație specializată și nu ai primit girul unor școli de profil. Ultimul lucru în care cred e că te poate învăța cineva să scrii liber și viu. Stanislaw Lem, Huxley, Kafka n-au făcut cursuri de creative writing! E un sistem la care nu vreau să subscriu. Se scot mai puține cărți bune decât în România și se citește puțin. Din acest punct de vedere suntem norocoși”.

Myths of Globalization

Noam Chomsky and Ha-Joon Chang in Conversation

C.J. Polychroniou

Noam Chomsky. (Photo: Jeanbaptisteparis) 

 


Since the late 1970s, the world's economy and dominant nations have been marching to the tune of (neoliberal) globalization, whose impact and effects on average people's livelihood and communities everywhere are generating great popular discontent, accompanied by a rising wave of nationalist and anti-elitist sentiments. But what exactly is driving globalization? And who really benefits from globalization? Are globalization and capitalism interwoven? How do we deal with the growing levels of inequality and massive economic insecurity? Should progressives and radicals rally behind the call for the introduction of a universal basic income? In the unique and exclusive interview below, two leading minds of our time, linguist and public intellectual Noam Chomsky and Cambridge University economist Ha-Joon Chang, share their views on these essential questions. 

C. J. Polychroniou: Globalization is usually referred to as a process of interaction and integration among the economies and people of the world through international trade and foreign investment with the aid of information technology. Is globalization then simply a neutral, inevitable process of economic, social and technological interlinkages, or something of a more political nature in which state action produces global transformations (state-led globalization)?

Ha-Joon Chang: The biggest myth about globalization is that it is a process driven by technological progress. This has allowed the defenders of globalization to brand the critics as "modern Luddites" who are trying to turn back the clock against the relentless progress of science and technology.

However, if technology is what determines the degree of globalization, how can you explain that the world was far more globalized in the late 19th and the early 20th century than in the mid-20th century? During the first Liberal era, roughly between 1870 and 1914, we relied upon steamships and wired telegraphy, but the world economy was on almost all accounts more globalized than during the far less liberal period in the mid-20th century (roughly between 1945 and 1973), when we had all the technologies of transportation and communications that we have today, except for the internet and cellular phones, albeit in less efficient forms.

The reason why the world was much less globalized in the latter period is that, during the period, most countries imposed rather significant restrictions on the movements of goods, services, capital and people, and liberalized them only gradually. What is notable is that, despite [its] lower degree of globalization … this period is when capitalism has done the best: the fastest growth, the lowest degree of inequality, the highest degree of financial stability, and -- in the case of the advanced capitalist economies -- the lowest level of unemployment in the 250-year history of capitalism. This is why the period is often called "the Golden Age of Capitalism."

Technology only sets the outer boundary of globalization -- it was impossible for the world to reach a high degree of globalization with only sail ships. It is economic policy (or politics, if you like) that determines exactly how much globalization is achieved in what areas.

The current form of market-oriented and corporate-driven globalization is not the only -- not to speak of being the best -- possible form of globalization. A more equitable, more dynamic and more sustainable form of globalization is possible.

We know that globalization properly began in the 15th century, and that there have been different stages of globalization since, with each stage reflecting the underlying impact of imperial state power and of the transformations that were taking place in institutional forms, such as firms and the emergence of new technologies and communications. What distinguishes the current stage of globalization (1973-present) from previous ones?

Chang: The current stage of globalization is different from the previous ones in two important ways.

The first difference is that there is less open imperialism.

Before 1945, the advanced capitalist countries practised [overt] imperialism. They colonized weaker countries or imposed "unequal treaties" on them, which made them virtual colonies -- for example, they occupied parts of territories through "leasing," deprived them of the right to set tariffs, etc.

Since 1945, we have seen the emergence of a global system that rejects such naked imperialism. There has been a continuous process of de-colonialization and, once you get sovereignty, you became a member of the United Nations, which is based upon the principle of one-country-one-vote.

Of course, the practice has been different -- the permanent members of the Security Council of the UN have a veto and many international economic organizations (the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank) are run on the principle of one-dollar-one-vote (voting rights are linked to paid-in capital). However, even so, the post-1945 world order was immeasurably better than the one that came before it.

Unfortunately, starting in the 1980s but accelerating from the mid-1990s, there has been a rollback of the sovereignty that the post-colonial countries had been enjoying. The birth of the WTO (World Trade Organization) in 1995 has shrunk the "policy space" for developing countries. The shrinkage was intensified by subsequent series of bilateral and regional trade and investment agreements between rich countries and developing ones, like Free Trade Agreements with the US and Economic Partnership agreements with the European Union.

The second thing that distinguishes the post-1973 globalization is that it has been driven by transnational corporations far more than before. Transnational corporations existed even from the late 19th century, but their economic importance has vastly increased since the 1980s.

They have also influenced the shaping of the global rules in a way that enhances their power. Most importantly, they have inserted the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism into many international agreements. Through this mechanism, transnational corporations can take governments to a tribunal of three adjudicators, drawn from a pool of largely pro-corporate international commercial lawyers, for having reduced their profits through regulations. This is an unprecedented extension of corporate power.

Noam, are globalization and capitalism different?

Noam Chomsky: If by "globalization" we mean international integration, then it long pre-dates capitalism. The silk roads dating back to the pre-Christian era were an extensive form of globalization. The rise of industrial state capitalism has changed the scale and character of globalization, and there have been further changes along the way as the global economy has been reshaped by those whom Adam Smith called "the masters of mankind," pursuing their "vile maxim": "All for ourselves, and nothing for other people."

There have been quite substantial changes during the recent period of neoliberal globalization, since the late 1970s, with Reagan and Thatcher the iconic figures -- though the policies vary only slightly as administrations change. Transnational corporations are the driving force, and their political power largely shapes state policy in their interests.

During these years, supported by the policies of the states they largely dominate, transnational corporations have increasingly constructed global value chains (GVCs) in which the "lead firm" outsources production through intricate global networks that it establishes and controls. A standard illustration is Apple, the world's biggest company. Its iPhone is designed in the US. Parts from many suppliers in the US and East Asia are assembled mostly in China in factories owned by the huge Taiwanese firm Foxconn. Apple's profit is estimated to be about 10 times that of Foxconn, while value added and profit in China, where workers toil under miserable conditions, is slight. Apple then sets up an office in Ireland so as to evade US taxes -- and has recently been fined $14 billion by the EU in back taxes.

Reviewing the "GVC world" in the British journal International Affairs, Nicola Phillips writes that production for Apple involves thousands of firms and enterprises that have no formal relationship with Apple, and at the lower tiers may be entirely unaware of the destination of what they are producing. This is a situation that generalizes.

The immense scale of this new globalized system is revealed in the 2013 World Investment Report of the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development. It estimates that some 80 percent of global trade is internal to the global value chains established and run by transnational corporations, accounting for perhaps 20 percent of jobs worldwide.

National wealth by conventional measures has declined. But US corporate ownership of the globalized economy has exploded.

Ownership of this globalized economy has been studied by political economist Sean Starrs. He points out that the conventional estimates of national wealth in terms of GDP are misleading in the era of neoliberal globalization. With complex integrated supply chains, subcontracting and other such devices, corporate ownership of the world's wealth is becoming a more realistic measure of global power than national wealth, as the world departs more than before from the model of nationally discrete political economies. Investigating corporate ownership, Starrs finds that in virtually every economic sector – manufacturing, finance, services, retail and others -- US corporations are well in the lead in ownership of the global economy. Overall, their ownership is close to 50 percent of the total. That is roughly the maximum estimate of US national wealth in 1945, at the historical peak of US power. National wealth by conventional measures has declined from 1945 to the present, to maybe 20 percent. But US corporate ownership of the globalized economy has exploded.

The standard line of mainstream politicians is that globalization benefits everyone. Yet, globalization produces winners and losers, as Branko Milanovic's book Global Inequality has shown, so the question is this: Is success in globalization a matter of skills?

Chang: The assumption that globalization benefits everyone is based on mainstream economic theories that assume that workers can be costlessly re-deployed, if international trade or cross-border investments make certain industries unviable.

In this view, if the US signs NAFTA with Mexico, some auto workers in the US may lose their jobs, but they will not lose out, as they can retrain themselves and get jobs in industries that are expanding, thanks to NAFTA, such as software or investment banking.

You will immediately see the absurdity of the argument -- how many US auto workers do you know who have retrained themselves as software engineers or investment bankers in the last couple of decades? Typically, ex-auto-workers fired from their jobs have ended up working as night-shift janitors in a warehouse or stacking shelves in supermarkets, drawing much lower wages than before.

The point is that, even if the country gains overall from globalization, there will always be losers, especially (although not exclusively) workers who have skills that are not valued anymore. And unless these losers are compensated, you cannot say that the change is a good thing for "everyone".…

Of course, most rich countries have mechanisms through which the winners from the globalization process (or any economic change, really) compensate the losers. The basic mechanism for this is the welfare state, but there are also publicly financed retraining and job-search mechanisms -- the Scandinavians do this particularly well -- as well as sector-specific schemes to compensate the "losers" (e.g., temporary protection for firms to promote restructuring, money for severance payments for the workers). These mechanisms are better in some countries than others, but nowhere are they perfect and, unfortunately, some countries have been running them down. (The recent shrinkage of the welfare state in the UK is a good example.)

In your view, Ha-Joon Chang, is the convergence of globalization and technology likely to produce more or less inequality?

Chang: As I have argued above, technology and globalization are not destiny.

The fact that income inequality actually fell in Switzerland between 1990 and 2000 and the fact that income inequality has hardly increased in Canada and the Netherlands during the neoliberal period show that countries can choose what income inequality they have, even though they are all faced with the same technologies and same trends in the global economy.

There is actually a lot that countries can do to influence income inequality. Many European countries, including Germany, France, Sweden and Belgium are as unequal as (or occasionally even more so than) the US, before they redistribute income through progressive tax and the welfare state. Because they redistribute so much, the resulting inequalities in those countries are much lower.

Noam, in what ways does globalization increase capitalism's inherent tendencies toward economic dependence, inequality and exploitation?

Chomsky: Globalization during the era of industrial capitalism has always enhanced dependence, inequality and exploitation, often to horrendous extremes. To take a classic example, the early industrial revolution relied crucially on cotton, produced mainly in the American South in the most vicious system of slavery in human history -- which took new forms after the Civil War with the criminalization of Black life and sharecropping. Today's version of globalization includes not only super-exploitation at the lower tiers of the global value chains system but also virtual genocide, notably in Eastern Congo where millions have been slaughtered in recent years while critical minerals find their way to high-tech devices produced in the global value chains.

But even apart from such hideous elements of globalization ... pursuit of the "vile maxim" quite naturally yields such consequences. The Phillips study I mentioned is a rare example of inquiry into "how inequalities are produced and reproduced in a [global value chains] world [through] asymmetries of market power, asymmetries of social power, and asymmetries of political power." As Phillips shows, "The consolidation and mobilization of these market asymmetries rests on securing a structure of production in which a small number of very large firms at the top, in many cases the branded retailers, occupy oligopolistic positions -- that is, positions of market dominance, and in which the lower tiers of production are characterized by densely populated and intensely competitive markets…. The consequence across the world has been the explosive growth of precarious, insecure and exploitative work in global production, performed by a workforce significantly made up of informal, migrant, contract and female workers, and extending at the end of the spectrum to the purposeful use of forced labour."

These consequences are enhanced by deliberate trade and fiscal policies, a matter discussed particularly by Dean Baker. As he points out, in the US, "from December 1970 to December of 2000, manufacturing employment was virtually unchanged, apart from cyclical ups and downs. In the next seven years, from December of 2000 to December of 2007, manufacturing employment fell by more than 3.4 million, a drop of almost 20 percent. This plunge in employment was due to the explosion of the trade deficit over this period, not automation. There was plenty of automation (a.k.a. productivity growth) in the three decades from 1970 to 2000, but higher productivity was offset by an increase in demand, leaving total employment little changed. This was no longer true when the trade deficit exploded to almost 6 percent of GDP in 2005 and 2006 (more than $1.1 trillion in today's economy)."

These were substantially consequences of the high-dollar policy and the investor-rights agreements masquerading as "free trade" -- among the political choices in the interests of the masters, not the results of economic laws.

Ha-Joon Chang, progressives aim to develop strategies to counter the adverse effects of globalization, but there is little agreement on the most effective and realistic way to do so. In this context, the responses vary from alternative forms of globalization to localization? What's your take on this matter?

Chang: In short, my preferred option would be a more controlled form of globalization, based on far more restrictions on global flows of capital and more restrictions on the flows of goods and services. Moreover, even with these restrictions, there will inevitably be winners and losers, and you need a stronger (not weaker) welfare state and other mechanisms through which the losers from the process get compensated. Politically, such a policy combination will require stronger voices for workers and citizens.

I don't think localization is a solution, although the feasibility of localization will depend on what the locality is and what issues we are talking about. If the locality in question is one village or a neighborhood in an urban area, you will immediately see that there are very few things that can be "localised." If you are talking about a German land (state) or US state, I can see how it can try to grow more of its own food or produce some currently imported manufactured products for itself. However, for most things, it is simply not viable to have the majority of things supplied locally. It would be unwise to have every country, not to speak of every American state, manufacture its own airplanes, mobile phones, or even all of its food.

Having said that, I am not against all forms of localization. There are certainly things that can be more locally provided, like certain food items or health care.

One final question: The idea of a universal basic income is slowly but gradually gaining ground as a policy tool in order to address the problem of poverty and concerns over automation. In fact, companies like Google and Facebook are strong advocates of a universal basic income, although it will be societies bearing the cost of this policy while most multinational firms move increasingly to using robots and other computer-assisted techniques for performing tasks traditionally done by labor. Should progressives and opponents of capitalist globalization in general support the idea of a universal basic income?

Chang: Universal basic income (UBI) has many different versions, but it is a libertarian idea in the sense that it puts emphasis on maximizing individual freedom rather than on collective identity and solidarity.

All citizens in countries at more than middle-income level have some entitlements to a basic amount of resources. (In the poorer countries, there are virtually none.) They have access to some health care, education, pension, water and other "basic" things in life. The idea behind UBI is that the resource entitlements should be provided to individuals in cash (rather than in kind) as much as possible, so that they can exercise maximum choice.

The right-wing version of UBI, supported by Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman, the gurus of neoliberalism, is that the government should provide its citizens with a basic income at the subsistence level, while providing no (or little) further goods and services. As far as I can see, this is the version of UBI supported by the Silicon Valley companies. I am totally against this.

There are left-wing libertarians who support UBI, who would set its level quite high, which would require quite a high degree of income redistribution. But they too believe that collective provision of "basic" goods and services through the welfare state should be minimized (although their "minimum" would be considerably larger than the neo-liberal one). This version is more acceptable to me, but I am not convinced by it.

First, if the members of a society are collectively provisioning some goods and services, they have the collective right to influence how people use their basic entitlements.

Second, provision through a citizenship-based universal welfare state makes social services like health, education, child care, unemployment insurance and pensions much cheaper through bulk purchases and pooling of risk. The fact that the US spends at least 50 percent more on health care than other rich countries do (17 percent of GDP in the US compared to at most 11.5 percent of GDP in Switzerland) but has the worst health indicators is very suggestive of the potential problems that we could have in a system of UBI combined with private provision of basic social services, even if the level of UBI is high.

Chomsky: The answer, I think, is: "it all depends" -- namely, on the socioeconomic and political context in which the idea is advanced. The society to which we should aspire, I think, would respect the concept "jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen": to each according to their needs. Among the primary needs for most people is a life of dignity and fulfillment. That translates in particular as work undertaken under their own control, typically in solidarity and interaction with others, creative and of value to the society at large. Such work can take many forms: building a beautiful and needed bridge, the challenging task of teaching-and-learning with young children, solving an outstanding problem in number theory, or myriad other options. Providing for such needs is surely within the realm of possibility.

In the current world, firms increasingly turn to automation, as they have been doing as far back as we look; the cotton gin, for example. Currently, there is little evidence that the effects are beyond the norm. Major impacts would show up in productivity, which is in fact low by the standards of the early post-World War II era. Meanwhile there is a great deal of work to be done -- from reconstructing collapsing infrastructure, to establishing decent schools, to advancing knowledge and understanding, and far more. There are many willing hands. There are ample resources. But the socioeconomic system is so dysfunctional that it is not capable of bringing these factors together in a satisfactory way -- and under the current Trump-Republican campaign to create a tiny America trembling within walls, the situation can only become worse. Insofar as robots and other forms of automation can free people from routine and dangerous work and liberate them for more creative endeavors (and, particularly in the leisure-deprived US, with time for themselves), that's all to the good. UBI could have a place, though it is too crude an instrument to achieve the preferable Marxist version.

Cacoyannis si Euripide: Ifigenia in actualitatea politica

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Filmele sunt de altfel mituri: Ne permitem sa zburam peste timp si spatiu si camera ne permite sa vedem un om drept in fata si sa-i simtim sufletul. Miturile incearca sa aduca sens lipsei de sens si sa impuna ordine in haos si in moarte. Ultima parte a Trilogiei troiene a lui Euripide, Ifigenia, primele doua fiind Electra si Femeile din Troia, a ilustrat cu ajutorul regizorului grec Michael Cacoyannis, actualitatea sau chiar modernitatea comentariului politic apartinand autorului tragediei. Miturile sunt atemporale si marele tragedian grec  intra si scormone in partea cea mai inselatoare, mai delicata sau daca pot spune, mai fragila a mitului. Acesta descrie lectii grele, dure invatate din suferinta si cum o persoana care abuzeaza va suferi la randul sau.

 Ifigenia ne da ocazia sa vedem care este relevanta miturilor pentru timpurile moderne. Euripide, cu sau fara voia sa, reuseste sa lumineze intunericul prezent. Atrocitatile din fosta Yugoslavie, razboaiele tribale din Africa, rezistenta impotriva imperialismului perpetuat in Irlanda, razboaiele civile din Grecia,  dar si terorismul cu razboaiele lui concomitente, toate isi gasesc o rezonanta in productiile moderne ale pieselor lui Euripide. Miturile capteaza adevaruri constante care transced capriciile circumstantelor specifice. Miturile sunt cele care dezvaluie suferinta umana inglobata in schimbarile politice sau cosmice.


Filmul poate fi o parabola. Ne gandim ca poate au existat sau exista cazul unor presedinti care creaza o criza internationala ca o diversiune la scandalul privind viata sa privata care ar putea conduce la suspendarea sa. (Nixon, de exemplu). Daca o tara e destul de puternica ar putea bombarda unde doreste sub pretextul depistarii terorismului. Daca o tara e destul de bogata incat orice alta putere sa si-o doreasca drept colonie, atunci orice pretext cum ar fi adapostirea in acea tara a unei sotii adulterine poate constitui o justificare morala a unui atac armat major. Cauzele sustinute a fi reale sunt intotdeauna credibile sau au acest aer de autenticitate.
Ifigenia arata un tata care accepta sa-si sacrifice propria fiica din dorinta de putere; aceasta e doar o varianta a faptelor reprobabile, inumane, posibil a avea loc motivate de dorinta puterii. Puterea celor fara de putere are rolul doar de a arata realitatea din spatele mitului si poate speranta ca aceasta revelatie va inspira o schimbare.Cacoyannis recurge la un clasic cu probleme universale pe care le aduce intr-un moment istoric particular.
Exista asemanari intre filmele lui Cacoyannis si piesele lui Euripide.  Ei arata o lume extinsa in care barbatii pot fi batbari. Noii eroi sunt de fapt femei, sclavi, si copii si de multe ori eroismul lor consta in gradul lor de suferinta in calitate de victime. Amandoi dezvaluie dialectica puterii. Euripide era un critic al societatii sale si de aceea dramele sale nu erau opera populare.  Se pare ca in timpul ambilor creatori critica situatiilor sociale nu era deloc apreciata in tarile si in timpul lor. Putem accepta adevarurile lor universale doar daca nu simtim presiunea politicilor curente. Ambii au parasit la un moment dat Atena din motive ce tineau in substrat de o democratie imperfecta. Ambii erau un fel de tauni socratici.

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Cacoyannis a fost intotdeauna interesat de puterea femeilor-de a suferi si de a schimba. El uraste ipocrizia, in special a celor puternici manifestata fata de cei slabi. Aceste doua interese sunt aliniate cu relatiile structurale dintre adevaruri larg acceptate si realitatea contingenta: femeile (si tarile mici) sufera in modul lor propriu de manifestare in timp ce barbatii recurg la reguli in general impersonale de dominare. De altfel el exprima intr-un interviu ca gradul de stilizare a filmelor sale este dictat de impactul emotional pe care il sconteaza. Nu doreste sa umple de lacrimi ochii spectatorilor ci sa le atinga inimile, sa-i socheze si sa-i emotioneze.  Asa ajunge la un soi de experienta cathartica. De exemplu, Aristotel il considera pe Euripide a fi  cel mai tragic dintre tragedienii greci. De altfel ambii, si Euripide si unicul regizor care l-a putut reda pe acesta in intreg tragismul sau,  aduc lacrimi atat pentru victime cat si pentru spectatorii insisi.
Ifigenia este un studiu al victimei iar Cacoyannis este un maestru in a arata ce simt victimele. El adauga un prolog in care un cerb este impuscat. Camera ne permite sa impartasim perspectiva cerbului, vedem copacii cum se invart in jur, si sangeram la randul nostru. O secventa similara mai tarziu in film, proiecteaza paralela dintre cerb si Ifigenia; ea este vanata in padure precum cerbul si noi impartasim iarasi perspectiva ei.. Regizorul reuseste sa capteze teroarea victimei inocente El sugereaza contradictia dintre violenta rationalizata- noi trebuie sa omoram copilul ca sa trecem cu success peste razboi, adica ceea ce oameni cred ca justifica actiunile lor – si sensul suferintei victimelor si crimele comise impotriva umanitatii.



Euripide ne-a aratat clar care e pretul razboiului: proprii nostrii copii. O tara intotdeauna isi trimite proprii copii sa lupte in razboaiele ei. Acceptul lui Agamemnon de a-si sacrifica fata este in nota obisnuita a oricarui lider care declara razboi. Doar ca la inceput ei isi imagineaza ca tragediile razboiului vor lovi pe altii iar mortile ce se vor plati tribut nu vor fi ale lor sau ale copiilor lor.. Vechiul dramaturg grec ne pune moartea direct in fata ochilor; Clitemnestra realizeaza obscenitatea deciziei grecilor sa-i omoare fata si declara ca aceasta crima reprezinta alegerea rea. Calchas este singura sursa a oracolului si oracolul a oferit o sansa: viata fiicei lui Agamemnon sau Victoria.. Tatal, desi indurerat  a optat pentru victorie si pe masura ce trecea timpul cu atat mai putin era capabil sa-si schimbe hotararea.  Cand armata a auzit despre cererea oracolului,  era deja prea tarziu ca sa-si mai schimbe hotararea-revolta soldatilor l-ar fi desfiintat - iar cand Agamemnon a incercat sa se scuze in fata Clitemnestrei invocand ca intreaga familie ar putea fi omorata, poate avea dreptate. Mai devreme el ar fi avut o sansa. Amandoi, atat el cat si fratele sau Menelaos si-au dezvaluit slabiciunea, unul pentru putere, celalalt pentru o femeie. Euripide demasca barbatii si ii arata schimbandu-si pozitiile, inversandu-si rolurile in privinta acceptarii sacrificiului Ifigeniei. Acestia sunt exemplele de corupti ale lui Euripide.


Razboiul a fost un profesor aspru ... Pentru a se potrivi cu schimbarea evenimentelor, a fost nevoie ca si cuvintele sa-si schimbe sensurile obișnuite. Ceea ce se  obisnuia sa fie descris ca un act de agresiune este acum considerat drept curajul pe care ne-am astepta sa-l gasim la un membru al unui partid; sa se gandeasca la viitor si sa astepte era doar un alt mod de a spune despre cineva ca era un las; orice idee de moderatie a fost doar o incercare de a deghiza un caracter inuman; capacitatea ca toate partile implicate sa inteleaga o intrebare a fost de regula total improprie actiunii. Entuziasmul fanatic a fost semnul caracteristic unui om adevarat si ideea de a complota pe la spatele unui dusman a fost o forma de aparare perfect legitima. Oricine profera cu violenta era intotdeauna considerat de incredere, si oricine care a obiectionat a devenit un suspect.  A complota cu succes parea un semn de inteligenta, dar si mai inteligent era  sa vezi cum se naste un complot... Relatiile de familie au fost o legatura mai slaba decat apartenenta la un o partid, deoarece membrii grupului erau mai pregatiti sa mearga pana la capat indiferent de motiv
Acesta este modul in care functioneaza Calchas și fiii lui Atreus, așa cum este ilustrat in Iphigenia la Aulis a lui Euripides. Este totodată tipul de politică care a avut loc intre Grecia, Cipru, America si turci.Inca grecii traiesc cu consecintele acestei dezastruoase politici de manevrare a puterii. Este tipul de negociere care conduce la atat de multe razboaie. Un motiv politic prevalează in fata justiției. Aceasta este povestea Ifigeniei.

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Cacoyannis isi face filmul mai uman printr-o poveste de dragoste (love story) si introduce un fermecator Ahile, in locul egocentricului puritan pe care il gasim in Euripide. Cacoyannis ii face pe toți tinerii sai mai atragatori. Orestes este mai fermecator si mai hotărât, iar Ahile este acum un iubit indragit. Ochii lui o intalnesc incet-incet pe Ifigenia, si este dragoste la prima vedere. Presupun ca Cacoyannis crede ca intr-un film popular trebuie sa existe o poveste de dragoste. Se adauga multe dintre remodelarile franceze ale tragediei grecești, precum cele făcute de Racine în Phèdre..
Sunt multe lucruri care se pot face cu camera de filmat și care nu se pot exprima prin cuvinte, si astfel se fac modificari. Discursul egotist pe care il tine Achilles in fata Clytemnestrei, sustinand ca a invatat cum sa fie temperat in infrangerile si bucuriile sale, este tăiat. Oare ce s-a intamplat cu Achilles, a carui manie a generat Iliada lui Homer? Cel al lui Euripides ii spune Clytemnestrei cand aceasta ii cere ajutor, "Nu ma cauta, te voi cauta eu" si o sfatuieste sa se inteleaga cu Agamemnon. El arată ca principala preocupare pe care o are nu este ca fiica ei urmeaza sa moara, ci ca nu a fost consultat in prealabil. De aceea se consideră insultat. Toate acestea sunt eludate de Cacoyannis, care ne arată un Achilles tanar, curajos, dispus sa lupte pana la moarte pentru dragostea lui.

Retin ca mesaj politic valabil: Daca ca lider (om politic) propui unei armate (electorat) bogatie (atacarea Troiei) atunci trebuie sa te tii de cuvant. Pana in acel moment trebuie sa eviti cu orice chip momeala poporului cu imbogatire daca stii ca acest lucru inseamna moarte, tragedii multiple, dezastre neinchipuit de greu de suportat. Liderul are constrangeri majore, cele familiare neintrand in categoria de maxima atentie. Razboiul trebuie evitat ca prima optiune.Acestea sunt lectii valabile in antichitate, valabile si acum, dupa 40 ani de la aparitia Ifigeniei lui Cacoyannis.

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Facing Off with the Old Masters



Ingrid D. Rowland

Facing Off with the Old Masters

Pieve di San Michele Arcangelo, Carmignano; Kira Perov/Bill Viola Studio/Performers: Angela Black, Suzanne Peters, Bonnie SnyderJacopo Carucci Pontormo: Visitation, circa 1528–1529; a still from Bill Viola's The Greeting, 1995

One of the favorite sports of Renaissance artists was a contest called the paragone, the "comparison," the age-old debate about the most expressive form of art. Like sport itself, the paragone never led to a definitive conclusion; the fun lay in playing the game with headlong passion, insisting that painting, or sculpture, or architecture reigned as queen of all the other arts. At the very least, the paragone sharpened its participants' eyes and wits, though it must have led to the occasional tavern brawl as well. It also engendered endless repetitions of Horace's ut pictura poesis, "poetry is like painting," making the three-word phrase one of the sovereign clichés of the Renaissance.

In the real world, of course, the paragone rarely convinced an artist to turn down a good commission in any medium, be it architecture, embroidery, engraving, cannonry, or ceramic design. Filippo Brunelleschi started as a goldsmith and ended up an architect, shifting his scale from miniature to monumental. The sculptress Properzia de' Rossi exercised her talents both in carving a crowd of saints' faces into a single peach pit and in chiseling big blocks of marble. Giorgio Vasari designed temporary pageants and permanent structures, including the daring riverside Uffizi complex in Florence. He also painted, wrote, and helped to found the Accademia del Disegno, the state-sponsored artistic academy of Florence, where the paragone dominated discussion. For Vasari himself, disegno, which can mean both drawing and design, stood at the heart of every artistic enterprise and ruled them all.

Museo della Collegiata di Sant'Andrea, EmpoliMasolino da Panicale: Pietà, 1424

This spring and summer, the Florentine exhibition "Bill Viola: Electronic Renaissance," organized around the work of the acclaimed American video artist Bill Viola, has brought the paragone into the twenty-first century. Centered in the massive fifteenth-century Palazzo Strozzi, "Electronic Renaissance," which runs until July 23, also involves several other venues in the city, placing Viola's videos alongside Renaissance works by the likes of Jacopo Pontormo, Michelangelo, and Paolo Uccello.

The juxtapositions are anything but casual. Florence is where Viola spent a formative two-year period from 1974 to 1976, at the very beginning of his career, studying the old masters as he explored new ways of making moving pictures as technical director of art/tapes/22, a pioneering center for video art until it closed in 1976. He has returned again and again to the city to refresh his ideas, and this retrospective exhibition creates a new paragone that is both lively and, if the pun may be pardoned, illuminating. The greatest contribution his slow-motion video technique makes to creative expression, as he describes it, is time: "Time shapes your image, and the image shapes time with its slowness. Your time is like a series of frozen moments that come together to form an unbroken continuity, making emotions truly powerful. You use narrative and the figurative form to portray emotion."

Kira Perov/Bill Viola Studio/Performers: Weba Garretson, John Hay, Sarah StebenA still from Bill Viola's Emergence, 2002

Viola's The Greeting, a 1995 video work, explicitly recreates the architectural setting and three of the figures of Jacopo Pontormo's Visitation (1528 or 1529), a dramatic imagining of the passage from the Gospel of Luke (1:39-56) in which the Virgin Mary, newly pregnant, goes to visit Elizabeth, her elderly relative, who is six months into a miraculous pregnancy that will produce the boy destined to become John the Baptist. "And it came to pass," Luke writes, "that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost." Pontormo adds two attendants to accompany Mary and Elizabeth; respectable women would not have gone out alone in his day, and especially not holy women.

Viola's slow-motion video, like Pontormo's altarpiece, involves a young pregnant woman greeting an older woman. Rather than adding an attendant, he places a third woman at a slight remove from the other two, concentrating on the expression on her face when she is patently excluded from their embraces. He evidently draws his inspiration from Pontormo's rendering of the gestures and the facial expressions of the trio, but deliberately their ultimate significance as "ambiguous." Viola's women, moreover, are dressed like white upper-middle-class Los Angeles women in the 1990s, even if they stand before a staged recreation of Pontormo's Florentine street scene. His younger woman is much nearer to term than Mary in the Gospel narrative, and the older woman does not show any signs of a miraculous pregnancy; thus the scene is neither a recreation of the Bible nor a video tableau vivant of Pontormo's painting.

Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, FlorenceMichelangelo Buonarroti: Pietà Bandini, 1547-1555

However, watching The Greeting unfold in the same room as The Visitation makes us look much harder at how Pontormo has succeeded in creating a similar impression of movement with immobile figures: he does it partly with drapery and gestures that seem to leave behind traces of their previous positions, and partly with complementary colors that dance on our retinas. Pontormo's colors, derived from natural pigments and vibrant in their complex range of hues, are an experience that no video image can match, and they are what first drew Viola to the work, in a printed reproduction. He writes: "I'd gone to a bookstore and out of the corner of my eye I saw a new book on Pontormo with the Visitation on the jacket. I was struck by the colours. I knew nothing about the picture but I just couldn't stop looking at it. I bought the book and took it home but I waited for months before picking it up. Finally I opened the book, read it, and was mesmerized by the painter's ideas and colours. That was how The Greeting was conceived."

Viola's long sequence of shifting poses and facial expressions reveals how carefully Pontormo has chosen the moment to capture for each of his models; rather than a single snapshot, the painter, too, has recorded a sequence of actions and emotions.

Kira Perov/Bill Viola StudioFrom Bill Viola's Observance, 2002

Emergence (2002) draws its inspiration from a 1424 Pietà by Masolino da Panicale, an early Renaissance painting that is almost medieval in its feel. Masolino shows a resurrected Jesus rising triumphantly from his marble tomb, while his mother and Mary Magdalene still suffer the fathomless sorrow of losing him. The chalk-white youth of Emergence rises naked from a tomblike marble well, in a flood of water that spills over its rim, but unlike Masolino's Christ, he is as inert as a corpse. Two women, one older, one younger, lay him out, wrap him in a shroud, and begin to weep over his body. As with The Greeting, Viola concentrates on exploring kindred expressions of emotion rather than explicitly imitating a painting he admires.

During the current exhibition, Observance (2002) is sharing space in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo with Michelangelo's late Bandini Pietà (abandoned in 1555 or so), in which the dead Christ is supported by Mary, Mary Magdalene, and the elderly Nicodemus, a cloaked figure who bears the features of Michelangelo himself, and who stands over the entire composition and clasps it in a pensive embrace. Christ is missing a leg; Michelangelo, perennially dissatisfied with his work, kept whittling away at the marble until too much of it was gone to salvage what was left.

But all we need, for this Pietà to move us, is the sorrowing face of Nicodemus, an image of an artist who is not only entirely immersed in the tragic story, but also willing to take up its sorrows in his powerful arms: for the sake of Jesus, Mary, and Mary Magdalene, the holy figures whose presence is utterly real to him, but also for his three battered, overworked statues, and for us, his fellow suffering mortals, as battered as this miraculous marble block. Observance tracks a line of people, all ages, shapes, sizes, and colors, coming forward to look at something that deeply moves them. We see only their faces, not what moves their souls, and Viola, unlike Michelangelo, registers their consternation without sharing its burden, let alone taking it upon himself.

Kira Perov/Bill Viola Studio/Performer: Norman ScottBill Viola: Inverted Birth, 2014, as installed at the Palazzo Strozzi, 2017; click to enlarge

Inverted Birth (2014) shows, in reverse, a man being showered in a blood-colored liquid. By reversing the direction of the flow, Viola focuses our concentration on the incredible three-dimensional space the deluge has created, almost as phantasmagoric as a cloudscape by El Greco, but not quite—El Greco is in a celestial region all his own—and without El Greco's electrifying colors. It is an act of rare courage for Bill Viola to enter the contest of the paragone with the very best of the best. This writer will always prefer solid matter over projections on a screen, but it is exciting to see the paragone applied to new media as well as traditional arts. "Electronic Renaissance" is a feast for the mind as well as the eyes.


"Bill Viola: Electric Renaissance" is at the Palazzo Strozzi through July 23.


Bill Viola. Electronic Renaissance |Exhibition from 10 March to 23 July 2017


You are here: Home » Mostra » Bill Viola. Electronic Renaissance |Exhibition from 10 March to 23 July 2017

Organized by: Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi in collaboration with Bill Viola Studio

Curated by: Arturo Galansino and Kira Perov

From 10 March to 23 July 2017 the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi will be introducing the Florentine public to Bill Viola. Electronic Renaissance, a significant exhibition celebrating this unchallenged master of video art.
A single, comprehensive exhibition occupying both the Piano Nobile and the Strozzina will immerse you in space, music and sound as you track the career of this artist from his early experimental work in the 1970s right up to his monumental installations of the 21st century.

Exploring spirituality, experience and perception, Viola probes humanity: people, bodies and faces are the leading players in his work with its poetic and strongly symbolic style in which man interacts with the forces and energies of nature such as water and fire, light and dark, the cycle of life and the cycle of rebirth.

But more importantly, the Renaissance setting of Palazzo Strozzi fuels mesmerising interaction between the classic and the contemporary by fostering innovative dialogue between Viola's work and the masterpieces of the great masters of the past, from which he has drawn his inspiration and which have marked the development of his artistic vocabulary and style.

Thus the exhibition is a celebration of Bill Viola's special relationship with Florence, where his career in video art began when he was technical director of art/tapes/22, a video production and documentation centre, from 1974 to 1976. His bond with Tuscan history and art is further enhanced by the exhibition's intense interaction with such museums and institutions as the Grande Museo del Duomo, the Gallerie degli Uffizi and the Museo di Santa Maria Novella in Florence, as well as with the cities of Empoli and Arezzo.

10 FAMOUS BOOK HOARDERS


KARL LAGERFELD HAS MORE BOOKS THAN YOU

 By Emily Temple


I have a hard time getting rid of books, and if you're reading this space, you probably do too. As Summer Brennan put it, "what kind of degenerate only wants to own 30 books (or fewer) at a time on purpose?" Not anyone I know. But apparently, you only have to own one thousand books to qualify as a book hoarder. Which seems a bit low, to be honest—unless we're talking about one thousand books in a New York City one-bedroom, in which case, sure.

In general, I'm interested in other people's book collections. How many books, which ones, how are they kept, where are they kept? So, one rainy afternoon, I started poking around the book collections of famous people, to see which ones happened to be (technical or actual) book hoarders. Some of the results surprised me—though I admit I already knew about Karl Lagerfeld.

N.B. that of course this list is in no way scientific or exhaustive—no doubt there are scores of famous people out there with large libraries (disposable income and lots of space tend to make that possible), but either the actual numbers have never been documented, or I simply couldn't (or didn't) dig them up. Notables with high figures who didn't make the top ten include Marilyn Monroe (400 books), George Washington (1,200 books), Charles Darwin (1,480 books), Oprah (1,500 books), Frederick Douglass (2,000-odd books), and David Markson (2,500 books). If you have any further intel on this score, please add on to the list in the comments as you see fit.

Karl Lagerfeld: 300,000 books

Karl Lagerfeld has more books than pretty much anybody. During a "master class" at the 2015 International Festival of Fashion and Photography, Lagerfeld explained: "Today, I only collect books; there is no room left for something else. If you go to my house, I'll have you walk around the books. I ended up with a library of 300,000. It's a lot for an individual." No kidding. His collection includes books in French, English, and German, and in order to create more space in his home for all the volumes, he stacks his books sideways—that is, horizontally instead of vertically. Oh, and there's a catwalk to reach the upper levels. This is Lagerfeld, after all.

George Lucas: 27,000 books+

In 1978, George Lucas established the Lucasfilm Research Library—first collecting volumes at his Los Angeles office, and eventually moving the library to the main house at Skywalker Ranch. In addition to the more than 27,000 books, the collection includes over 17,000 films, as well as photographs, periodicals, press clippings, and more. Lucas's library is not open to the public, but his employees—as well as special guests like Cecil B. DeMille, Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Clint Eastwood, Steve Martin, Edith Head, and Charlton Heston—are allowed to check things out.

Jay Walker: 20,000 books

So, Jay Walker is only a famous person if you're a nerd, I guess. He's an entrepreneur who founded Priceline.com, but to me at least, he's actually famous because of his personal library: a wing in his Ridgefield, Connecticut home that he calls "the Library of the History of Human Imagination"—which is deeply pretentious, I know, but just look at it. It has three levels, a glass bridge, floating platforms, and yes, lots and lots of books.

Michael Jackson: 10,000 books+

The King of Pop was also the King of Books. During Michael Jackson's life, he was a regular customer at his local bookstores in Los Angeles, including Book Soup and Skylight. "He loved the poetry section," Dave Dutton of Dutton's Books in Brentwood told the L.A. Times. Ralph Waldo Emerson was his favorite. Jackson's attorney Bob Sanger told L.A. Weekly that the pop star had 10,000 books at the Neverland Ranch, "[a]nd there were places that he liked to sit, and you could see the books with his bookmarks in it, with notes and everything in it where he liked to sit and read. And I can tell you from talking to him that he had a very—especially for someone who was self-taught, as it were, and had his own reading list—he was very well-read."

Ernest Hemingway: 9,000 books+

According to Debra A. Moddelmog and Suzanne del Gizzo's Hemingway in Context, the writer carried a library with him wherever he went, and was continually acquiring new books, as many as 150-200 a year. By the time of his death, his Finca Vigía library had some 9,000 volumes—which does not even include the books he left behind in Key West (he moved with about 800 of his books and built from there). Not surprising, perhaps, but still impressive.

William Randolph Hearst: 7,000 books+

Hearst had two libraries in his castle/Ken Dream House—the main library, which held 4,000 volumes, and the Gothic study, which held 3,000, but it seems even that wasn't enough space for all his books, and he tucked them pretty much wherever he could find room.

Thomas Jefferson: 6,487 books

"I cannot live without books," Thomas Jefferson famously said. According to the Library of Congress, when the British torched the capital in 1814, Jefferson had built the biggest personal library in the United States—which he then sold to Congress for $23,950. After that, he promptly began acquiring books again (and sold that new collection to pay his debts in 1829).

Nigella Lawson: 6,000 books

Food writer, television personality and "domestic  goddess" Nigella Lawson is pictured above in front of the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with thousands of cookbooks in her house in Belgravia, London. It's not just cookbooks that populate her reading lists, though—she also has a literary bent. Her favorite book is David Copperfield.

Harry Houdini: 5,000 books+

[Insert joke about not escaping from piles of books here.] When Houdini died, he left his private collection—book on magic, theater, and spiritualism—to the Library of Congress. Several sources claim that at that time he probably had the largest collection of books on magic in the world. You can browse almost 4,000 of them here.

Hannah Arendt: 4,000 books

The Hannah Arendt collection at Bard College is made up of some "4,000 volumes, ephemera and pamphlets"—including over 900 featuring her annotations—that come directly from the New York City apartment she lived in until she died in 1975. I hope it was bigger than a one-bedroom. (For some reason, 4,000 seems to be a lucky number for libraries of literary types—other writers who had about that many books in their private collections include Virginia Woolf and Katherine Anne Porter.)