kenneth-clark

The Clark Doll Test was created by Dr. Kenneth Clark and his wife, Marmie Clark. It focused on stereotypes and self perception in relation to race. Clark wanted to show that segregation in schools was misconstruing the mind of young African American children and causing them to internalise racism and view themselves as lesser. In the test, African American children ranging from 6-years-old to 9-years-old were shown two dolls - one was white and one was black. They were asked a number of questions such as:  Show me the doll that you like best or that you would like to play with. Show me the doll that is the ‘nice’ doll. Show me the doll that looks 'bad.’ Give me the doll that looks like a white child. Give me the doll that looks like a coloured child. Give me the doll that looks like a Negro child. Give me the doll that looks like you. The test showed that the children preferred to play with with white doll as opposed to the black doll. The children were then asked to colour in a human figure with the colour of their own skin - the majority chose a lighter shade. As well as this, the children gave the white doll positive attributes such as “good” and “pretty” while describing the black doll as “bad” and “ugly”. 44% of the children said that the white doll looked like them as opposed to the black doll. This test indicated that African American children, even as young as just 6-years-old, suffered internalised racism due to segregation. The findings paved the way for an increase in psychological research into areas of self-esteem and self-concept.

Kenneth Clark was a connoisseur, collector, patron, art historian and writer. He had a good eye.

In his personal collection was this Cezanne beauty ‘Le Chateau Noir’.

Speaking of Cezanne, the story goes that once, in 1933, while waiting for a train in Paris, Clark an his wife called on….

‘…Paul Guillaume, the most intelligent dealer in Paris, who showed us a pile of about a hundred drawings and watercolours that the son of Paul Cezanne had brought in for sale. We just had time to go through them, selected fifty, many of them familiar from reproduction in Vollard’s book, gave him a cheque for £250 and dashed to the station with our portfolio.’

What a darned bit of good luck.

Extract from Another Part of the Wood by Kenneth Clark

A margin of wealth is helpful to a civilisation, but for some mysterious reason great wealth is destructive. I suppose that, in the end, splendour is dehumanising, and a certain sense of limitation seems to be a condition of what we call good taste.
—  Kenneth Clark, Civilisation
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Kenneth Clark. Art historian extraordinaire. One cannot help but admire Clark and his passion for art. He achieved so much in his lifetime. The Civilisation series, his significant contributions as Director of the National Gallery and his wartime initiatives for artists during WWII.

He was a patron of and champion for contemporary artists, a dedicated art collector and a respected man of knowledge, intelligence and experience in the twentieth century art world.

Kenneth Clark Looking for Civilisation, at Tate Britain pays tribute to his lifetimes achievements and gifts us with an insight into his world.

Respect.

Kenneth Clark,Baron Clark by Graham Sutherland, 1963/64

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Alexander died, Alexander was buried, 

Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth;

of  earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he  

was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel? 

 Imperious Caesar, dead and turn’d to clay,  

Might stop a hole to keep the wind away: 

O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe, 

 Should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw!

One of the first ways that I would justify a civilisation is that it can produce a genius on this scale. In his freedom of mind, in his power of self-identification, in his complete absence of any dogma, Shakespeare sums up and illuminates the piece of history [the Reformation] that I’ve just described. His mature plays are, amongst other things, the poetical fulfilment of Montaigne’s intellectual honesty.

But Shakespeare’s skepticism was more complete and more uncomfortable. Instead of Montaigne’s detachment, there’s a spirit of passionate engagement. And instead of the essay, there’s the urgent communication of the stage. 

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

How unthinkable, before the breakup of Christendom, the tragic split that followed the Reformation. And yet I feel that the human mind has gained a new strength by outstaring this emptiness.  

As if Civilisation, which I am finally watching, isn’t already, every episode, quite wonderful, up pops an unexpected Ian Richardson being Hamlet. 

Kenneth Clark is that most rare and welcome thing - someone who can distill vast and difficult concepts/periods of history into clear, understandable insights. Civilisation is a self-proclaimed personal view, and can’t hope to cover the whole of history and art history in such a short time. But every episode brings moments of recognition, understanding and joy, even of areas I am spectacularly ignorant of (a lot of the pre-Renaissance world, which is the first four episodes). And when he discusses artists and thinkers that I have some or a lot of familiarity with like Michelangelo and Shakespeare it’s not old news - it’s illuminating and enriching.  

I’m trying to ration my viewing because there’s so much richness in every episode (and the restored bluray looks LOVELY as you can see) but it’s difficult, because it’s so damn good. If you ever thought I wish I knew more about *insert period of art history/historical genius/religious history/etc* but I don’t have the time/inclination/energy/idea of where to start then this is a very good introduction to a lot of the Western part of it.  

Cinema: Art of Light & Lunacy: The New Underground Films

uncredited writer, Time, 10 February 1967

Sunset. A blue Buddha dissolves into a large grey Teddy bear that weeps tears the size of a quarter. A little girl stabs a pig. A little boy urinates. Sixty white gloves run run run across a table. Bits of broken plaster abruptly assemble themselves into a bust of Dante. An egg cracks and marbles tumble out. A python oozes lazily around a large transparent bowl in which a child is huddled. Beside a giant telescope stands an old man, his ears blazing like light bulbs. On a narrow cot, a nude woman sits giggling and jiggling while an enormous, sinister horseshoe crab …

Most people would call it a nightmare. Lloyd Williams, the 26-year-old New Yorker who created this sequence of images, calls it a work of art. The startling thing is that a great many Americans now agree with him. After five years of lurid reports about an “underground cinema,” U.S. moviegoers have caught the show. For the first time, a large audience has tuned in on experimental film and is beginning to believe what a far-out few have been saying for years: the movies are entering an era of innovation that attempts to change the language of film and reeducate the human eye.

Image & Movement. The Marat of the revolution is Moviemaker (The Brig) and Movie Critic (Village Voice) Jonas Mekas, 44, a shy man with long greasy hair who looks like a slightly soiled Elijah. In print and in person, Mekas passionately proclaims the death of the film as an industry and the birth of the film as an art. “The new cinema is passion,” he says, “the passion of the free creative act.” The old cinema, as Mekas sees it, was esthetically no more than an extension of the theater. The new cinema, though it will also tell stories, will be essentially a cinema of image and movement composed by film poets. “The new cinema is an art of light,” says Mekas grandly, “and it is bursting on the world like a new dawn.”

At first blush, it seemed a dirty-fingered dawn. Two months ago, Mekas and some film-making friends leased an art house in midtown Manhattan to present The Chelsea Girls (Time, Dec. 30), a 3½-hour experimental peekture by Pop Painter Andy Warhol. Exclusively, explicitly and exhaustively, the film depicts homosexuality, Lesbianism, and drug-taking, and a majority of the critics (most of them over 40) found it dirty, dull and on-and-onanistic. But moviegoers (most of them under 30 and simply prurient) stood in long lines to buy the scene. All over the U.S., distributors suddenly sat up and begged for prints. In the next six months, The Chelsea Girls will be shown in at least 100 theaters—in addition to numerous college film societies. It figures to gross at least $1,000,000.

With that one blow the barricades fell, and the avant-garde came storming through. Robert Downey’s Chafed Elbows, the shaggy-surreal saga of a Village idiot who hopes to get rich quick by persuading female midgets to use contact lenses as contraceptives, opened in a Lower East Side cin bin that was soon crammed by the cab trade from uptown. And Shirley Clarke’s Jason, a harrowing 120-minute interview with a black male prostitute, was offered a midtown opening as a hard-eyed cautionary tale and a surefire succes de scandale.

Creating with Clorox. To most moviegoers, these films will look like nothing they have ever seen before, even though avant-garde cinema has been around for a long time—at least since the early ‘20s, when Luis Bunuel and Man Ray began making surrealistic movies in Paris. But a substantial movement became possible only in the late '50s, when motion-picture technology took an exciting new turn. Film increased in sensitivity; cameras, lights, recording equipment diminished in size, weight and cost. Suddenly, almost anybody could make movies, and make them almost anywhere for almost nothing. Hundreds of young men and women began to make them.

Most of the new moviemakers agree that what matters is not the story a film tells but the images it throws on the screen. To vary and to vitalize their images, they do just about everything but what George Eastman had in mind. They tilt the camera, turn it upside down, jiggle it, wave it around, run it in slow motion, run it in fast motion, run it backwards, run it out of focus, intercut images so fast that the mind cannot register what the eye perceives.

They paint the film, scratch it with knives, bleach it with Clorox, bake it in an oven, grow mold all over it. They overexpose it, underexpose it, triple-expose it, superimpose three film tracks on a fourth, mix black and white, sepia and full color in the same shot. They split the screen into a dozen segments. They use a dozen projectors and a dozen sound tracks simultaneously.

Such kooky methods have produced some kooky movies. Los Angeles’ Tom Anderson made a six-minute film in which the camera does nothing but stare at a melting sundae. New York’s Stan VanDerBeek made a five-minute animation (Blacks and Whites, Days and Nights) that does nothing but illustrate dirty limericks. New York’s Tony Conrad made a 30-minute movie that presents to the eye nothing but bright blank frames interspersed with solid-black frames that more and more frequently recur and recur until the spectator is confronted by an incessant and infuriating flicker that can drive him out of the theater with a splitting headache.

Through a Proctoscope. Other films offer other reasons for discreet retreat —and for police censorship, although in most parts of the U.S. the censors are in retreat too. The nude human figure, male or female, is a favorite subject of study for the new moviemakers. They look at it frequently, and sometimes with good artistic reason—as in Relativity, where Film Maker Ed Emshwiller implies the primordial relation of man to woman by superimposing a tiny photograph of his hero on the belly of a huge nude. Too often, though, they simply look at it and drool. Jack Smith’s four-year-old Flaming Creatures, an incredibly tedious parody of a sexploitation picture, demonstrates how easy it is to fall asleep in the steamy midst of an hour-long transvestite orgy. Barbara Rubin’s Christmas on Earth, in which an even steamier orgy is photographed, pretends to consider sex as a cosmic metaphor and looks as if it had been shot through a proctoscope.

Most of the new film makers are as far out as their films. Many of them are poets and painters who belong to the New Bohemia and can be found on Manhattan’s Lower East Side or in San Francisco’s North Beach. They are apt to wear hair to the shoulders and beards to the ears; some smoke grass and turn on frequently with LSD. A few can count on a small, steady income from film rentals. But most under ground moviemakers, though their movies as a rule cost less than $500, feel lucky if they break even.

Inevitably, the kooks and the kinks have given the new cinema a bad press. At the center of the movement, however, stands a creative cluster of imaginative moviemakers. Among them:

Robert Nelson, 36, a 6-ft. 3-in. San Franciscan, is a black-and-blue humorist who made one of the comic classics of the experimental cinema. Oh, Dem Watermelons is a daffy documentary about all the horrible things that can happen to watermelons. They get kicked like footballs, gutted like chickens, smashed on sidewalks, slashed with ice skates, riddled by bullets, split open and rubbed over the bodies of beautiful women. The monstrous irrelevance of it all is fracturingly funny—until suddenly the spectator realizes that the watermelon is meant to symbolize the Negro.

Marie Menken, 57, wife of Willard Maas, an avant-garde bard who made some well-known experimental movies in the '40s, is possibly the finest film poet the underground has produced. She has a subtle feel for rhythms, a grand flair for colors and a gay wild way with a camera that leaves the eye spinning. In Lights, a 5½-minute study of Manhattan after dark, she slashes at her subject with a camera as an action painter slashes at his canvas, and the great stone city breaks up into a wriggling calligraphy of flash and filigree.

Kenneth Anger, 34, is the wild man of the movement and one of its most creative craftsmen. A fanatical occultist, he practices the blood rites of devil worship and has splashed the walls of his San Francisco pad with a Nazi banner and words written in blood. Anger’s notorious Scorpio Rising is a jaggedly cubistic piece of black cinema that examines the big strong she-men who gun along with the cycle cult. The movie concludes with a satanic black-jacketed bacchanal that looks like the last stages of an amphetamine nightmare.

Ron Rice, a hard-living New Yorker who died in 1964 at the age of 29 while shooting a film in Mexico, made the most affecting movie that the new cinema has turned out to date: The Flower Thief. Certainly a vagrant, possibly an imbecile, the film’s hero wanders the streets of San Francisco by day, a grown man pulling a little wagon that carries his Teddy bear. At night he goes back to the abandoned factory where a gang of derelicts chases him through the cellars with a terrible silent intensity. As interpreted with a marvelous simplicity by Taylor Mead, a Beat poet, the hero is part Chaplin and part Myshkin —a holy idiot, unaccommodated man.

Stan Brakhage, 37, a husky hypochondriac who lives with his wife and five children in a log cabin in Colorado, has radically rewritten movie grammar. By fragmenting his films into frames, Brakhage has established the frame in cinema as equivalent to the note in music; whereupon he proceeds to make films with frames the way a composer makes music with notes. His Art of Vision, an attempt to do for cinema what Bach did for music with his Art of the Fugue, is an ambitious example of what Brakhage calls retinal music. One problem: to watch the violently flickering flick for 4½ hours, a spectator would require steel eyeballs.

Salvation in a Sugar Cube. The front ranks of the avant-garde are rapidly expanding. Stan VanDerBeek, Gregory vlarkopoulos, Bruce Conner, Robert Breer, Ed Emshwiller and Harry Smith have all done work of a high order. An even newer and no less gifted generation of moviemakers—Ben Van Meter, Ken Jacobs, Bruce Baillie—is rising with a whir. Romantic, rebellious and vaguely worried, the new boys come on like strangers in a world they never scripted. Some of them celebrate the horrors of modern life. They exhibit America as an air-conditioned cemetery for the walking dead, the war in Viet Nam as pure hell, and L.BJ. as a rather silly devil with his tail in hot water.

Some of them, attempting to find salvation in a sugar cube, make something called “psychedelic cinema.” Their intention is to reproduce on the screen what they see while they are in the acid bag. Even farther out is something called “expanded cinema” or “mixed-media environments,” a sort of avant-garde circus in which movies, theater, recorded music, kinetic sculpture and light paintings are fused into a single engulfing experience.

Like all other experimental art, the no-longer-underground cinema is sometimes silly or pointlessly shocking. And sooner or later, the experimenters will have to address themselves to what remains the movies’ main function—intelligible storytelling. But with all its excesses, the new cinema is bound to stimulate the medium. For one thing, it has already produced a modest but substantial body of exciting work. For another, it serves as a salon des refusés for aspects of the art rejected by the commercial cinema. Even though many Hollywood directors write off the experimenters as no-talent amateurs, some of their notions are already being absorbed into the visual vocabulary of the media. The men who make television commercials, for instance, regularly rent big batches of avant-garde films and ransack them for ideas.

Can the practitioners of the new cinema seriously expect to keep the underground overground? Jonas Mekas is certain that the answer is yes. He has organized a Film-Makers Cooperative to rent experimental films; he has 600 films in his catalogue and a growing list of theaters all across the U.S. lined up to exhibit them. “You might say,” Mekas murmurs with a sly little grin, “that the lunatics are taking over the asylum.” Nothing necessarily wrong with that. Every so often an art needs to go a little crazy.

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“I remember staying at Notley after the first night of Anna Karenina. The part had meant a great deal to Vivien, but once more she hadn’t got on with her director, and although I thought it had some wonderful moments (especially the end), I saw that it wasn’t a complete success. She was miserably depressed, and couldn’t face her guests, and we walked along the street in unrelieved gloom.” - Kenneth Clark