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Posts from the ‘W.G. Sebald’ Category

A New Melancholia Exhibition Opens in Brussels

Parmiggiani Melancholia

© Claudio Parmiggiani, Senza Titolo, 2009
Book, plaster cast, clock

“Melancholia,” an intriguing new exhibition has just opened in Brussels at the Boghossian Foundation – Villa Empain. Although somewhat similarly named, this exhibition is not related to the Melancholia: A Sebald Variation, which recently closed at King’s College London.  The Brussels exhibit, on view through August 19 at the Boghossian Foundation – Villa Empain, Avenue Franklin Roosevelt 67, B – 1050 Brussels. From the press release:

“Melancholy: Sign of a refined heart and elevated mind”
Dictionary of Accepted Ideas, Gustave Flaubert

Curated by Louma Salamé

Present since antiquity in the East and West and named black bile, acedia or spleen according to the epoch; melancholy incessantly returns man to a lost origin and to the regret of a past world, which would take a painful charm. This temperament, which has historically been equated with both positive and negative feelings, has inspired some of the world’s greatest artists.

Melancholia presents works by major artists from different parts of the world, and installations specially designed for the Boghossian Foundation, such as Pascal Convert’s library or Animitas, Christian Boltanski’s installation in the Villa Empain’s garden. Other examples include the sculptures and installations by Claudio Parmiggiani and the fresco by Abdelkader Benchamma.

Through a dialogue between the works of modern and contemporary artists who inspire or are inspired by the nostalgia of an elsewhere or a before, and by representations of loneliness, ruins and passing time, the exhibition invites the public to explore the feeling of melancholy and its manifestations.

A link is woven through the works of 38 artists and a dialogue is created between the paintings of Rémy Zaugg, the self-portraits of Giuseppe Penone and Joseph Beuys, the sculpted work of El Anatsui, and the installation of Barbara Bloom or the sound work of On Kawara. The exhibition also features many Belgian artists such as Léon Spilliaert, Constant Permeke, Paul Delvaux, Jef Geys, Geert Goiris and the collective KRJST Studio.

If melancholy remains at the heart of the problems facing humanity today, it is because the world it has to face up to is an unavoidable source of concern, particularly in view of the current humanitarian challenges and the irreversible change in our climate regime. The “known” world will never be the same again and now seems like a lost paradise. The digital revolution of the 2000s ushered in a form of dehumanization of human relations, questioning the extent to which the individual remains a unique and irreplaceable being.

The catalogue accompanying the exhibition includes a selection of quotations from poets and writers as well as a collection of photographs from the exhibition.

Works by Etel Adnan, Manal Al Dowayan, El Anatsui, Farah Atassi, Abdelkader Benchamma, Barbara Bloom, Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, Pascal Convert, Eli Cortiñas, Giorgio De Chirico, Paul Delvaux, Marlene Dumas, Lionel Estève, Jef Geys, Alberto Giacometti, Geert Goiris, Mimmo Jodice, On Kawara, Martin Kippenberger, KRJST Studio, Marwan, Mathieu Mercier, Melik Ohanian, Claudio Parmiggiani, Giuseppe Penone, Constant Permeke, Félicien Rops, Norbert Schwontkowski, Kiki Smith, Léon Spilliaert, Tatiana Wolska, Samuel Yal, Rémy Zaugg, Lamia Ziadé

London Review Bookshop Event – April 23

Patience Preview

I’ll be visiting London and Cambridge in April and the folks at the London Review Bookshop have invited me to join in a program celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication in Great Britain of W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. Grant Gee will be screening his terrific film Patience (After Sebald). Here’s the LRB’s program preview:

Marking 20 years since the translation into English of the late W.G Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, one of the most remarkable books of the late twentieth century, Grant Gee introduces his acclaimed 2011 documentary essay film tracking both the journey taken in the volume, and the work’s own influence on numerous writers, artists and thinkers.

He will be joined in conversation by the film’s creative consultant, writer and critic Chris Darke, and Terry Pitts, founder of the remarkable literary blog Vertigo, founded out of a profound admiration for Sebald’s work. The evening is hosted by Gareth Evans.

You can purchase tickets for the 7:00 PM event at the LRB website. Come say hello!

In preparation for watching Patience, take a listen to the film’s hauntingly beautiful score by The Caretaker over at Bandcamp. Leyland Kirby (aka The Caretaker) used Franz Schubert’s 1827 piece Winterreise as his source material, which he “subjected to his perplexing processes, smudging and rubbing isolated fragments into a dust-caked haze of plangent keys, strangely resolved loops and de-pitched vocals which recede from view as eerily as they appear.”

Sebald, Dance, Seattle

Bill T Jones Adelwarth

Since 2014, the Bill  T. Jones/Arne Zane Company has been developing a trilogy of major, evening-length dances, one of which is based on the Ambros Adelwarth segment of W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants. That trilogy is about to be performed in Seattle at the University of Washington on the evenings of February 1, 2, and 3. Here are the details from the University’s website.

Bill T. Jones’s latest work, Analogy: A Trilogy, is comprised of three evening-length works that reflect Jones’s fierce engagement with race, class, gender, history, and identity. Over three nights, Meany Center will present the entire trilogy (one of the first ever presentations in the country). The program, which features a live music soundscape, searches for the connection between three stories, focusing on memory and the effect of powerful events on the inner lives of individuals.

The first work from Analogy stems from an oral history Jones conducted with 95-year old Dora Amelan, a French Jewish nurse and survivor of WWII. Dora is a meditation on perseverance, resourcefulness and resilience while suggesting the amorphous nature of memory.

Based on an oral history Jones conducted with his nephew, Lance T. Briggs. Lance is a tragic, yet humorous journey through the sex trade, drug use and excess during the 1980s.

This final program in Analogy is based on Ambros Adelwarth, a German valet to a dissipated, young scion of a wealthy Jewish family, from W. G. Sebald’s celebrated historical novel, The Emigrants. Ambros is an exploration of how trauma can go underground in the psyche to direct the course of an individual’s life.

Click here for more information and tickets.

Austerlitz, Child Refugees & Zoos


The “Being Human” festival in London is hosting a program this Wednesday, November 22 from 6-8 PM, called “A refugee child in London: on W G Sebald’s novel Austerlitz.” To quote from the program’s website (where you can also register to attend):

Today images and stories of child refugees, lost and found across Europe and beyond, challenge and haunt us. Come along for a free evening of talks, discussions and a film screening about one such story. The event focuses on one of our century’s greatest novels, W G Sebald’s Austerlitz (2001), about a child who comes to London in 1939 on a Kindertransport from Nazi-occupied Prague, and what happens to him afterwards. This book, entrancing, shocking and enigmatic by turns, recounts a search for Europe’s past and present, as well as a lost personal history. Academics and students from University College London will present their perspectives on the novel.

The program is being organized by the School of European Languages, Culture and Society of University College London. The event is being held at the Grant Museum of Zoology. According to organizers, the program will include talks and a discussion involving Zoltán Biedermann, Stephanie Bird, Mererid Puw Davies and Mairéad Hanrahan, and a film exploring different angles of Sebald’s book. “Amongst other things we will be talking about what drew us to link Austerlitz with the amazing specimens on view at the Museum.”

“He that increaseth wisdom, increaseth sorrow.”

Durer MelancholiaDetail from Albrecht Durer’s “Melancholia I” (1514)

Over at The Quietus, Adam Scovell has written an insightful review of the exhibition “Melancholia – A Sebald Variation” which I reported on recently. The exhibition is at the Inigo Rooms at Somerset House in London until the 10th of December. Scovell’s piece includes a wonderful photograph of a young Sebald riding a bicycle that is worth checking out.

Coming up on November 13, one of the exhibition’s artists Guido van der Werve will talk about his work with John-Paul Stonard and screen a film. Stonard is an art historian and writer who recently reviewed van der Werve’s work for The Guardian. The event is free but registration is required. Here’s the blurb from the web page where you can register:

The Dutch artist Guido Van der Werve makes films based on his personal interests, including extreme sports. For Nummer Vierteen: Home (exhibited in the Melancholia exhibition), he completed an epic 1000-mile triathlon between the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw, where Chopin’s heart is preserved, and the cemetery of Père Lachaise in Paris, where the composer’s body was laid to rest. Here Van der Werve will discuss this film and his other more recent work, alongside a screening.

And there is still time to register for the conversation on the exhibition with John Banville, Brian Dillon, and Lara Feigel tomorrow November 8.

W.G. Sebald, Tacita Dean, Georges Rodenbach, Will Stone & More


A couple of weeks ago I called attention to an exhibition that had just opened in London called “Melancholia: A Sebald Variation.” Poet and translator Will Stone recently paid a visit to the Inigo Rooms of Somerset House and wrote a review of the exhibition for The London Magazine. “This exhibition constitutes a rare gift” to the viewer, he wrote. Unfortunately, the magazine doesn’t provide online access to non-subscribers, so I asked Will if I could reprint small portions of his piece.

According to Will, the exhibition is really “about destruction, or rather W.G. Sebald’s eponymous work On the Natural History of Destruction (1999) and the way melancholy alluringly affixes to these tragic scenes, which, once having leaked away the reality of their human suffering, become artistically aligned images whose visual message creates a space for new creativity.” Read more

Banville & Dillon To Speak about “Melancholia”


Albrecht Durer, “Melencholia I” [Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Here is more about the exhibition “Melancholia: A Sebald Variation,” which I posted about last week. From the Eventbrite invitation:

John Banville and Brian Dillon in conversation with Lara Feigel

Free discussion followed by a drinks reception

Is melancholy, as Freud thought, an indulgent, unproductive form of mourning? Or can it be a form of sadness that is ultimately uplifting for the consciousness it brings of life and its more startling possibilities?

The exhibition “Melancholia. A Sebald Variation” (Inigo Rooms, Sept 21-Dec 10) traces a melancholic path from Albrecht Dürer to W.G. Sebald to Anselm Kiefer to Tacita Dean. Here John Banville and Brian Dillon, both melancholic writers with an interest in Sebald, will use the exhibition as a springboard to reflect on the theme of melancholia.

Wed 8 November 2017 18:30 – 20:00 GMT.

Great Hall, King’s College London, Strand Campus

The tickets are free but you must register.




Sebald Melancholia Image

Guido van de Werve, Nummer Veertien: Home (video still), 2012*

At Inigo Rooms, King’s College London, Somerset House East Wing, the exhibition “Melancholia: A Sebald Variation” has just opened and can be seen until December 10, 2017. To quote from the exhibition’s website

“Melancholia: A Sebald Variation” takes the viewer on a Sebaldian journey from the ruins of 1945 to the present day. It begins at that ‘zero hour’ after the war when melancholy found its physical form in the rubble scattered throughout its cities after the Second World War and its human form in the refugees who wandered around them.

Tracing its way from the ruins of Britain and Germany to the suburbs of contemporary Holland, the exhibition aims to provoke reflection about the European condition and about the nature of melancholy itself. Is it, as in Freud’s formulation, an indulgent, unproductive form of mourning? Or can it be, as for Sebald, a form of sadness that is ultimately uplifting because it enables loss to bring with it a consciousness of life and its more startling possibilities?

Alongside Dürer’s Melencolia this exhibition will display works from a wide range of international artists, including Dexter Dalwood, Tacita Dean, Susan Hiller, Tess Jaray, Anselm Kiefer, George Shaw, Guido van der Werve, and Jeremy Wood, as well as archival materials and a film of Sebald in discussion with Susan Sontag.

This exhibition has been done in collaboration with the Centre for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona (CCCB) which presented some of these works in their 2015 exhibition “Sebald Variations” curated by Jorge Carrión and Pablo Helguera, which I wrote about at the time.

*For more on van der Werve’s 54 minute video, click here or watch a brief clip of it here. A CD of the requiem he composed for the work can be purchased here.

Sebald Talk in Berlin September 12, 2017

As part of the Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin this year, Markus Joch and Uwe Schütte will talk about W.G. Sebald on Tuesday, September 12 at 19:00 at the Institut Français. Tickets here.

The full program (in German or in English) can be found here. The long list of invited guests is impressive and includes people such as Edward Snowden (via Skype), artist Christian Boltanski, László Krasznahorkai, Yoko Tawada, Yasmina Reza, mystery writer Donna Leon (one of my favorites), Salman Rushdie, and Hari Kunzru. Several other programs caught my attention:

Thursday September 7 at 22:30 is a screening of a new film about James Baldwin and race called I Am Not Your Negro, which I have seen and highly recommend.

Saturday September 9 at 15:00 is a meeting for people wishing to join book clubs; two of the books under consideration are Sebald’s Austerlitz and Peter Weiss’s The Aesthetics of Resistance.

Sunday September 10 is devoted to graphic novels.

Five Novels, Five Photographs


Almost Island online literary magazine has published my essay “Five Novels, Five Photographs” in their Spring 2017 issue. In this essay, I look at five novels in which only a single photograph is used, examining both the different strategies that writers employ when they embed photographic images in their fictional narratives and looking at the impact a single photograph can have on a text. The five novels I chose to write about are:

Jeff Jackson’s debut novel Mira Corpora (Two Dollar Radio, 2013), a grimly beautiful coming-of-age novel that reminds me of Larry Clark’s infamous 1971 photobook Tulsa, with its insider’s vision of a group of teenagers whose lives centered around sex, drugs, and alcohol. Jackson’s second photo-embedded novel Novi Sad came out in 2016 from Kiddiepunk.

Nicholas Rombes’s first novel The Absolution of Roberto Acestes Laing (Two Dollar Radio, 2014), a noir-saturated exploration of images (both moving and still) and their relationship with truth. Rombes is currently a major contributor to the website The Lost Signals Collection, which describes itself as “an archive of speculative texts, images, sounds, and moving pictures lost to history. It is interested in interrogating what might have been, and what might yet be ….”

Wright Morris’s Plains Song (Harper & Row, 1980), is, as far as I know, unique amongst novels with embedded photographs, in that it uses one photograph which repeats at the opening of each of the book’s fourteen chapters. Plains Song is structured as a multigenerational family tree and thus the photograph that is repeated throughout the book serves as a refrain that encapsulates the gist of Morris’s story.

Konrad Bayer’s Der Kopf des Vitus Bering: Ein Porträit in Prosa (Walter Verlag, 1965), a deliberately fragmented, rambling, hallucinogenic prose work that is ostensibly (but only marginally) about the final days of Vitus Bering (1681–1741), the Danish cartographer for whom the sea that separates Siberia from North America was named.

Dubravka Ugrešiƈ’s The Museum of Unconditional Surrender (New Directions, 1999), a novel about what it means to be an exile, extensively references photographs and photography.