Fixing Stuff, Repairing the World

Alice Rawsthorn talks about the “art of repair” in her review of the Tokyo exhibit Fab Mind.

As odd as it is to see an exquisite 17th-century Japanese bowl in a contemporary design exhibition, it seems odder still to discover that it is there not because of the finesse with which it was originally made, but the skill with which it was repaired during the late 1800s.

Tsukuroi, or the art of repair, is so revered in Japan that it is believed to create a new form of beauty, as the bowl demonstrates. In “The Fab Mind: Hints of the Future in a Shifting World,” an exhibition here, the bowl acts as a prelude to a display of work by the Fixperts. This international network of contemporary designers and makers experiments with recently developed digital tools and ancient craft techniques to customize new objects and repair damaged ones, just as the artisan who fixed the broken bowl did so deftly over a century ago.

Through a Lens Sharply

Dominque Browning says she was late to fall in love with photography.

That’s why people take their own pictures when they travel. But I never did — I was intimidated by the equipment — and now it is one of my life’s regrets. Then, a couple of years ago, a friend stuck a camera in my hands, and told me to lose my fear. Today, I cannot leave my house without my simple, no-nonsense Canon point-and-shoot, small enough to fit in an evening bag. And I cannot begin to count the ways in which this little miracle of memory has changed the way I travel.

 

 

The Big Picture Strikes Back

A.O. Scott wonders how video convergence is impacting film’s distinctiveness from TV and other video media.

Equally hard to refute is the idea that we are approaching a horizon of video convergence, in which all those screens will be equal and interchangeable and the distinctions between the stuff that’s shown on each one won’t seem as consequential as it does now. We still tend to take for granted that a cable drama, a network sitcom, a feature film, a web video and a first-person combat game are fundamentally different creatures, but they might really be diverse species within a single genus, their variations ultimately less important than what they have in common. They are all moving pictures, after all, and as our means of access to them proliferate and recombine, those old categories are likely to feel increasingly arbitrary and obsolete. The infrastructure of a multiplatform future is before us, and resistance to it can look like an especially tiresome kind of sentimentality. Cinephilia is nostalgia. We might keep going to the movies out of habit, or because it’s sometimes nice to leave the house, but we are losing the old, sustaining belief that this is a special and exalted cultural activity, the supreme mode of participation in the popular arts.

Thomas Hawk Ditches Getty Images

Photographer Thomas Hawk explains why he is leaving Getty Images to join Stocksy, the photographer co-op.

I don’t care how you look at it, for me, 20% is not fair. It’s too low. I’ve been complaining about it for years, but have just grumbled along because Getty felt like the only game in town for stock photo sales.

Artists and photographers deserve more than 20% payouts. I understand that Getty has the buyers, that Getty is the 800 pound gorilla, but still, photographers deserve a better split than 80/20 against them.

There are other reasons why I’m quitting Getty Images too, though.

How do you pack your bag for a seven-year, 22,000-mile international reporting assignment?

Paul Salopek is starting Out of Eden, a seven-year narrative trek “that anthropologists believe was the first path humans took out of Africa to populate the rest of the world,” says Nieman Lab.

But what will likely make the journey more immersive is the multimedia component. Using his video and audio equipment, Salopek said he wants to create a kind of continuous portrait of the world at this point in time. “I’m calling it a narrative transect: Every 100 miles, I’ll methodically take a series of narrative readings that do not vary along the path of the walk,” he said. The plan, as he envisions it, is to stop to take six samples: Ambient sound, photos of the earth and sky, a panorama of his current location, a minute or so of video, and an interview, all in the same method in each location. He sees it as almost a scientific approach, one that can show the changes and similarities in terrain, but also culture and people. And while these transects will make for good multimedia, Salopek said their real value will be as an archive of what the world looked like from 2013 to 2019.

“By the end of seven years, I’ll have created an enduring portrait of a storytelling transect around the world at the end of the millennium,” he said.

 

Street Life through the Nanny’s Eyes

Is Vivian Maier the Emily Dickinson of photography? The New York Times in a slideshow of prints from her previously undeveloped rolls says:

Even to those who knew her, Vivian Maier was a cipher. To the children she took care of on Chicago’s wealthy North Shore, she was Mary Poppins, if Mary Poppins carried an old Rolleiflex. To the amateur historian who unearthed thousands of negatives at an auction in Chicago in 2007, she was a revelation: an undiscovered Diane Arbus, whose work captured the grit and elegance of city life.

Distant Reading

Kathryn Schulz’s New York Times Book Review essay on distant reading has interesting thoughts on how technology can help us understand the greater body of literature.

We need distant reading, Moretti argues, because its opposite, close reading, can’t uncover the true scope and nature of literature. Let’s say you pick up a copy of “Jude the Obscure,” become obsessed with Victorian fiction and somehow manage to make your way through all 200-odd books generally considered part of that canon. Moretti would say: So what? As many as 60,000 other novels were published in 19th-century England — to mention nothing of other times and places. You might know your George Eliot from your George Meredith, but you won’t have learned anything meaningful about literature, because your sample size is absurdly small. Since no feasible amount of reading can fix that, what’s called for is a change not in scale but in strategy. To understand literature, Moretti argues, we must stop reading books.

But distant reading misses the point on how and why people enjoy the literary experience: curling up with a good book; being transported to another realm.