30 September 2009

Blek end uajt

A political animation film, directed by Ivan Ivanov and Vano Leonid Amairik (1932).
The film was inspired by Mayakovsky's drawings and words. In 1925, with a permission to travel abroad, Mayakovsky took a boat to the United States of America. His poem Black and White came about as a direct attack on racism that he observed in Cuba (where he landed first).
Only fragments of the film were found, without restorable sound. It was decided to underscore the fragments with excerpts from Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child as recorded by Paul Robeson in 1949 in Moscow.
Robeson, a son of an American slave who taught Russians to sing Ol’ Man River in Russian, was of course not an incidental choice.

29 September 2009

Welcome to Radio Mayakovsky

Mayakovsky's Instead of a Letter, as sang and interpreted by a Russian group Splin. This song emerged as a part of a Living Mayakovsky project.
The same project gave birth to a live online Radio Mayakovsky - a never-ending listing of Mayakovsky's poems that are being made into songs.

Tobacco smoke
has consumed the air.
The room
is a chapter
in Kruchenukh's inferno.
Remember –
beyond that window
in a frenzy
I first stroked your hands.
You sit here today
with an iron-clad heart.
One more day –
you'll toss me out,
perhaps, cursing.
In the dim front hall my arm,
broken by trembling won't fit
right away in my sleeve.
I'll run out,
throw my body into the street.
I'll rave,
lashed by despair.
Don't let it happen
my dear,
my darling,
let us part now.
After all
my love is a heavy weight
hanging on you
no matter where you go.
Let me bellow a final cry
of bitter, wounded grievance.
If you drive
a bull to exhaustion
he will run away,
lay himself down
in the cold waters.
Besides your love
I have
no ocean
and your love won't grant
even a tearful plea for rest.
When a tired elephant
wants peace
he lies down regally
in the firebound sand.
Besides your love
I have
no sun,
but I don't even know
where you are and with whom.
If you tortured
a poet like this,
he would berate his beloved
for money and fame,
but for me
no sound is joyous
but the sound
of your beloved name.
I won't throw myself downstairs
or drink poison
nor can I put a gun to my head.
No blade
holds me transfixed
but your glance.
Tomorrow you'll forget
that I have crowned you,
that I burned my flowering soul
with love,
and the whirling carnival of
trivial days will ruffle
the pages of my books...
the dry leaves of my words
force you to a stop
gasping for air?

At least
let me
pave with a parting endearment
your retreating path.

26 May 1916, Petrograd

28 September 2009

Лиличка! Instead of a Letter

Vladimir Mayakovsky - a personal bias.
Recitation (in Italian) begins at 1:46. Turn captions on for English translation.
A poem was written in Petrograd on 26 May 1916. It is read against Sunrise, the notorious silent film answering only to F. W. Murnau (1927).
If you find yourself wearing wings, you may fly off a completely new creature.

25 September 2009


An original and cartoonish sequence from Zazie dans le métro (translation: Zazie in the metro), a French film directed by Louis Malle (1960). The film is based on Raymond Queneau's novel.
Zazie in the metro.
That novel.

24 September 2009

Stepping through Moscow

The ending scene from the beloved Russian film Я шагаю по Москве (translation: I am walking through Moscow), directed by Georgi Daneliya (1964).

23 September 2009

No pants day

900 New Yorkers, ad hoc performers for un unsuspecting subway audience, participated in the No Pants Day Subway Ride, organised by Improv Everywhere (2008).
As usual, the agents in underpants never break out of character.
Improv Everywhere is a public performance group based in New York City, aiming to cause scenes of chaos and joy in public places. To date, they have caused scenes of chaos and joy in over 85 missions.

22 September 2009

Ticket puncher of Lilas

Le poinçonneur des Lilas, one of the earliest songs by Serge Gainsbourg (1958).
I make holes, little hotles, still more little holes
Little holes, little holes, always little holes

It sure comes to one's mind at 2 a.m. when searching for holes, little holes, always little holes in little belittling legal documents.

21 September 2009


Merci!, a short awarded film by Christine Rabette (Belgium, 2003).

18 September 2009

Peek or play table

This product came about in connection with the Droog Design project Me, Myself and You. Objects created were to influence the social behaviour of users and enable them to both withdraw and to interact.
The table cloth - a little theatre tent - was an astonishing contribution by Moniek Gerner from Bless ,a small fashion company from Berlin.
While adults use the table, the children can hide underneath the table tent, they can play or prepare for dangerious and secret expeditions to the outside world. They can peep through the lace ribbon window and, if they really feel like it, open it completely to form a little stage and perform a puppet play for the giant people outside.

17 September 2009

Hotel Droog

In 2002 in Milano, a shabby one-star hotel on Via Mercato was temporarily renamed Hotel Droog. The idea of Droog design was to transform the cheap hotel - 12 hotel rooms - into a design experience with but a few additions. The interiors in hotel rooms were not altered, designers instead removed clutter to bare simplicity and added, for little if any cost, a touch of lucid invention.
The first photo is a still of "Sit down Gentlemen - respect the cleaning women!", a video projection by Floris Schiferli. It ran in Hotel Droog toilets: images of a hard working cleaning lady were meant to call on the guest to contribute to keeping the toilet facilites neat and clean.
The second photo showcases one of the 12 hotel rooms and featurs clothes hanger lamps designed by Hector Serrano.
Another room again provided a bulletproof sleeping bag and, on entrance, passports with new identities were offered to the visitors.
Was I there? Not as my current identity.

16 September 2009

Hans Brinker

Hans Brinker Budget Hotel Amsterdam - "for backpackers, students and travellers of the world, without whom there would be no one to abuse, no one to mistreat and no one to accept the reckless abandon and barefaced treachery that has given Hans Brinker the reputation - one which it holds dear, with pride and shame in equal measure - as the worst hotel in the world."
This is a hotel where rooms are so small that chairs are put on the wall - as photographs or drawings. You will, however, find free sleeping pills in the bathroom: "to help drown out the nightly orchestra of shouting, grunting and door slamming."
Rob Penris, a long-time manager of Hans Brinker, wanted "a campaign that doesn't get me any more complaints again in my whole life."
Kessels Kramer owns the idea.

15 September 2009


Having first developed self-sustaining Dutch farming projects for 1 and then 100 persons, Tjep. recently developed a concept for a self-sufficient farm sustaining 1000 people per day. The farm includes a restaurant, a hotel and an amusement park.
In Oogst 1000 Wonderland, all food is to be grown on site and hotel guests are the ones that would do the farming (and earn themselves a free stay).
Waste is to be used to generate more energy through bio-gas; visitors would get to be paid for using the toilet. Visitors' profit? 0.50 euros per visit.

14 September 2009


This is what one thinks of on a Sunday going on Monday.
A prototype of Wieki Somers, a very original Dutch designer.
Distributed by Galerie Kreo, Paris.
Price? On demand.

12 September 2009

Saturday special: Ode to Gedja

This is Milosav (Mija) Aleksić passionately singing about the day his beloved little piglet Geđa went missing.
Moja mala Geđa
šarena joj leđa
okrugla joj njuška
debela ko kruška

From a Yugoslavian film Biće skoro propast sveta directed by Aleksandar Petrović (1968, Serbia).
Abroad, this film is often translated as It rains in my village or (closer to a literal transation) The end of the world is near.

11 September 2009

Kapetan Lesi

Kapetan Leši (transl. Captain Leshi), a Serbian film - the first partizan western - directed by Živorad Žika Mitrović (1960) about successful exploits of Ramiz Leši, a heroic Albanian-Shiptar partisan, in driving balisti forces (a local fascist organisation) out of Kosovo Metohija.
You will not find much that is Albanian in this film - apart from the little white caps and the melody of the song. I remember seeing excellent Yugoslav actors of Albanian origin on stage and on the screen - notably, the excellent Bekim Fehmiu. I would, however, be hard pressed to find Yugoslav films (other than this one and its sequel) that is both set in Kosovo and focused on the lives of Yugoslavian Albanians. Even if they are acted by Serbian rather than Albanian actors; even if they speak Serbian rather than Albanian.
In that as well, an imitation of westerns where Indians were acted by Americans of European origin and spoke English even among eachother.
Departing from the national epic portrayal of partisans, this action adventure film was an absolute hit with the Yugoslavian audiences.

10 September 2009

Krstic and son bus company

This is the opening scene of - the one and only - Ko to tamo peva (transl. Who is singing over there). Everyone from the former Yugoslavia will instantly recognize this film, for it was at the very heart of Yugoslav cinema. Filmed by Slobodan Šijan in 1980 (based on a script by a playwright Dušan Kovačević), this film is equally beloved by filmmakers, elitist film critics and the public. In the mid-nineties, Serbian filmmakers voted it the best Yugoslav film of all time.

The beginning of April 1941. Several characters are waiting for the unpredictable Krstić and son bus driving to Belgrade. These people (with the exception of Krstić and his son) remain nameless throughout the film: a singer, a WW1 veteran, a hunter, a patient and a Germanophile are later joined by a bride and a groom. Two Gypsy singers – the magic people of the Balkans - act as a chorus that sets the pace and the rhythm of this crazy road movie.

Just like in other films posted this week, the characters – at least before they reach Belgrade - have nowhere to escape to. In Život je lep, a train driver stops the train and refuses to take passengers to its true destination. The passengers are forced to make do with a local kafana, where hostile locals hang out. The kafana might just as well be flying through the sky: you either stay or you jump through the window. The desires of Jovana Lukina implode in her village damp with evil. Goluža is forced to stay in a tavern on his way to the seaside. Unable to pay for his stay, Goluža appeals to the good heart of the innkeeper claiming that he chose this village as a venue to kill himself. The word spreads. Just like the dance of Jovana Lukina, just like the singing of Sonja Savić in Život je lep, the suicide-to-be is the event of choice, destined to become village folklore, a fairy tale, a sacrifice.

In Ko to tamo peva, the passengers are for a short time completely isolated from the fatal changes that take place in the real world during the very time that they travel. While a unique comedy from the onset, and on the surface, the real pace of Ko to tamo peva – its captivating rhythm – is driven by the chorus and runs underneath the visible comic layer. The effect is unnerving: the audience wants to laugh its heart out, but the laughter will bring no release as the tension (built up by the Gypsies’ maledictions) rises unstoppably.

Note that the ending scene in Ko to tamo peva is not shot as originally scripted; the scripted scene - a piece of absurd cinema - was prohibited by the Belgrade authorities in the face of Tito’s death. The Krstić and son bus should have, upon its arrival to Belgrade, met with wild animals that escaped from the bombed Belgrade zoo.

This gem of a scene - the true ending to Ko to tamo peva - was borrowed by Kusturica in the beginning scene of Underground, as a (rather poor) homage to Šijan and Kovačević.

09 September 2009

Death of Mister Goluza

A scene from Smrt gospodina Goluže (transl. Death of Mister Goluža), an excellent Yugoslav film directed by Živko Nikolić (Montenegro, 1982).

07 September 2009

Let's move that village

Hajde selo da selimo (Come on, let's move the village), a song performed by the late actress Sonja Savić (until 3:44) in Život je lep (Life is Beautiful). All too often overlooked, a Serbian film directed by Bora Drašković (1985).

Jovana Lukina

The scene is taken from Jovana Lukina, an unforgettable Yugoslavian film directed by Živko Nikolić (Montenegro, 1979).
Mesmerizing music, captivating dance.

04 September 2009

Snippety Snapnote: Common Chorus

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

Bobby McFerrin uncovering our common subconscious musical scale.
Note & Neurons: In Search of a Common Chorus, World Science Festival (2009).
Jumping along to this one is a must.

03 September 2009

Herd of beach creatures

Artist Theo Jansen is demonstrating how his kinetic sculptures move along and survive on the Dutch beach.
Such strandbeesten get their energy from the wind rather than from food. They have a simple brain, allowing them to reverse direction or fix themselves when they sense danger from water, loose sand or storms.
The very purpose of Jansen's project (that began 18 years ago) was to create a new form of life - beach animals powered by the wind - that would eventually live in herds and survive on their own.
Each animal has a unique genetic code, says Jansen. Only the winning ones will multiply.

02 September 2009

Pickers of the wind

Les Cueilleurs de Vent-The Pickers of the Wind from godino on Vimeo.

Theater troupe Les Cueilleurs de Vent, reinventing, constructing and piloting Leonardo da Vinci's flying contraptions. Flying is defying.

01 September 2009

People of the wind

Strange Fruit : Absolute Pearl from Trudy D on Vimeo.

Absolute Pearl, a swaying performance by Strange Fruit, a Melbourne-based theater troupe. The pilot performance Field was originally based on a field of wheat swaying in the breeze (see photo above). Swoon!, in Gotham City and at its most (if accidentally) gothic, is a personal favorite.