Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tal Spirit : Shirone, Japan 1971 to present day and beyond.

My mother and I received a very special letter last week from Shirone Japan. Back in 1971, Tal's introduction of this incredible community and their tremendous festival of Giant Kite fighting really rocked Western imaginations. It was The Art of the Japanese Kite's first chapter.

In some sense it recounts in a macro way Tal's own introduction to Japan. The train north, the except from Kawabata's Snow Country, the arrival in this tiny farming village, going to the gymnasium to see these giant things being readied, which were going to fly? It seemed impossible ! Tal wrote in extraordinary detail what it was like to encounter these mammoth O dako or "Giant" kites. His descriptions of the actual kite fighting were engrossing and unforgettable.

In the years that followed the publication of The Art of the Japanese Kite, American publications like National Geographic came to Shirone and filmed the festival, wrote articles on the kite crazy Japanese  

So it was particularly touching when two of the present day exponents of the Shirone Odako made a visit to Tal, in July 2013, a year before his passing. While he was greatly depleted of physical energy , he was very moved. Kazama Masao, one of the Odako Master kitemakers and Endo Hiromi head of the Shirone Odako Museum reignited his memories of those first experiences with these spectacular kites.

When Mr Endo, today's present director of the Shirone  heard of Tal's passing, he wrote offering his condolences. And this past month he sent us another message saying that Tal had "put Shirone on the map. Had introduced the Odako far beyond the island of Japan and for this, the town was eternally grateful and they were dedicating this years 2015 Odako Calender to Tal's spirit.
Tal ended the chapter on Shirone with these words : "The sight of the Shirone Kites hanging in the afternoon sky is indescribably beautiful. Their combat is exciting and their death poignant. For me, and for many others, the festival need not ever end."    


Lissa, looking out on a light snowfall in Santa Fe New Mexico
December 2014. 


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tal Friend : Otto Piene 1926 - 2014

Otto and Tal were fellow Brothers of the Sky, each influential in promoting and conceptualizing "Sky Art". Otto directed MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies from 1974 to until the early '90's. He invited Tal's participation in many Sky Art Conferences the world over as well as inviting him to become a CAVS Fellow.

And as you all know, Tal passed away on April 17, 2014 and his friend Otto, three months later on July 17, 2014 while preparing for a Sky Event and retrospective of his work at Berlin's Neue National Galley.

In preparation for Otto Piene's memorial service this coming November 8th 2014 at MIT's Kresge Auditorium 3:30PM. Friends and former CAVS fellows were asked to submit writing celebrating Piene's life and contribution.

Tal wrote this poem for Otto last September, 2013 on receiving Otto's gift of the huge book on Otto's life's work up until that date. He dictated* this letterpoem the next morning to Romig. She recently passed a copy to those organizing the event.

"For Otto"

Thank you for your wonderful book, Otto Piene.

Thank you for being so hard for us other mortals to keep up with.

Thank you for having a wonderful wife, your Elizabeth.

Thanks for keeping your neighbors, us, awake with your light.

Someday I hope your light will shine to the moon

when you have figured out that trip.

People most often are disappointed to see

This lump of far from the earth.

They forget that our perception of the moon

Is all about the beauty of light reflected from the sun.

The beauty of the moon is in

This fragile piece of light.

Day after day,

Night after night, Otto.


For further reading on Otto Piene, I would suggest having a look at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies - CAVS website.

Here is a selection of Otto's books that Tal had in his library (Now at Dream of Flight Museum and Library, Santa Fe NM) :

Lissa - Fall 2014 Paris

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tal Riff : Red Line to the Sky c.1973

Post Endless Column, post Flying Red Lines, on his return to the United States, Tal began development of a piece called  "Red Line to the Sky". 

Red Line to the Sky continued his boyhood fascination with towers, beacons and other tall structures seen from a great distance. Not yet  built (Ha ! ) this work went through many transformations. Red, not red, mirror finish steel, lasers emanating the top...anything to get off the earth's surface and up up into the sky !

His later proposals for "Prairie Beacon" and Kwanju Korea's "Great Tower of Light" all stem from this first light "tower".  

Red Line to the Sky drawing c.1973
The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC collection has an early pencil drawing of Tal's Red Line to the Sky with the following notes on the back: 
 "Somewhere between these two dimensions is the optimum, minimal height. 

Polished Chrome "mirror" four sided or single surfaces to be 2'- 0 (4' - 0) or 4' - (8' - 0 ) 

ie : really the needle, the skyscraper, the Empire State Building is the most dramatic contemporary statement - from skyscraper back to menhir in the "Cock" and Endless Column / Brancusi believed he had achieved something approaching ultimate perfection 1.1: Scale 1/4 - 1' SCALE : 1/4" = 2 - 0 ..."

I've found other Tal notes in SD magazine / Space Design Magazine May/June 1971  regarding Red Line to the Sky : 

"To put a mark in the sky with the finest of brushes. a Red Line to the Sky beginning somewhere deep in the earth but without end, continuing noiselessly on into the heavens. "

Tal's last riff on a "light tower" were his discussions with architect Gustavo Bonevardi of PROUN Space Studio in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. Tal suggested "two towers of white light". 

Yes you read that right. A proposal for two twin towers of light post 9/11. 

Tal considered the "Tribute in Light" which Bonevardi and Co. then organized and installed, a beautiful piece, making multiple trips to see it.  

I've never seen Tal's name mentioned as part of the team of other architects and artists that collaborated with Bonavardi. 

Romig says they met one evening at friends and Tal offered his idea of light towers. There you are.

Looking through the artists generally mentioned with this piece, none had ever done anything remotely like this in their previous works. 

Looks like a Tal "riff" that someone else carried to beautiful fruition. After all, It is one thing to have an idea and yet another to "make it happen".

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tal Riff on Kites : the chiringa !

Some late night writing of Pop's that I found in his pre-stroke emails. 

"It gave me the idea of teaching prisoners to make the little Chiringa* folded paper kite, which they could fly up and over the high prison walls. This idea didn't come about; a victim of worries of untrustworthiness and abuses (which did seem not completely unreasonable) but also, perhaps an underlying thought, a primary punishment, the loss of freedom in both spirit and substance.
It's something perhaps still possible in a more gentle and generous time.

This kite suggestion or proposal is something which might come to fruition on the web, reaching such a big audience..

Another kite-related thought, unrealized, in this similar subversive vein, one which has yet to see the the light of day: plans for a simple paper kite, in the shape and three-dimensional rendering of an old fashioned bomb. Black, with a yellow "Have a Happy Day, smiling face image" on it---which I imagined as anonymous “lesson,” several of these Happy Day Bomb kites flown  over small town centers (parks), the insurgent flyer catching the end of the kites flying string, high in a tree limb.

I see this as bringing to light a very emotional response from viewers, a consciousness-raising, for several quite different viewers both good and evil, The good response: "My god, will you look at that," The evil, calling the sheriff, “Hey "get that damn thing down from there.

Raising the question, “How's it feel to think of bombs raining down on your little community, pretty much anywhere throughout our United States.

Still, I don't “rightly know” as we say here and there, that this is an acceptable project for me to suggest: I've fairly frequently been asked to put well-meaning social messages on kites (a save the whales kite, for example and advertising (which I never seriously considered, although it’s a common practice).  

I've always turned to the thought that kites should remain in a kind of primary, pure formsomething beautiful flying in the sky."

* What might a Chiringa folded kite look like folks ? Any idea ? - Lissa  Verbank , 2014 

found this : "la chiringa es diferente al papalote o cometa, la chringa es hecha solo de papel, no tiene armazon de madera" . Lissa guessing translation : la chiringa is made only with paper and doesn't have wooden "bones".    
So still looking for a picture of just what this Cuban kite called a chiringa looks like !  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tal Humor : On Collecting

"One is nice. Shows interest and that you have a eye. Two ? Its just a pair, Bruce. Three ? Now you are getting started !  If you want someone to take you seriously, to take your collection seriously, these are the first three rules, a beginning collector must follow. "

Another nugget of Tal humor that came to Bruce as he packed up yet a third copy of this or that. 

Verbank, August 2014 

Tal Humor : Brigadier Generals

Bruce George is here in Verbank helping us pack up and he is a goldmine of Tal Humour. 

One that I liked : Pop answering Bruce when he asked him how he wanted his beard trimmed : "Like an artist ? Or an insurance salesman ?" 

Pop replied : "Neither ! I wanna look like a fuckin brigadier general !" 

Bruce persevered : "Like from the Civil War ? " You got it ! he replied " 

Having been a second lieutenant in the Signal Core in the fifties and sixties, stationed in Fort Riley Kansas with BIg Red One, Pop had unexpected affection for his days in the Army.

He was famous for having lost his rifle in his first week as an enlisted man. He wasn't issued a second one. As second lieutenant, his responsibilities included drilling the guys during parade. Apparently the first time he went out to this chore, not one man followed his instruction. So thereafter, his Sargent did all the marching orders and Pop was relieved from that duty for the rest of his career and could concentrate solely on filmmaking AND writing speeches for brigadier generals. Aha moment ! So that's how we get to the "brigadier general" ! 

He ended up being discharged as a Captain. 

Post-stroke, as his left brain spun out of control, he believed he was preparing to reintegrate and participate in building the "New Army ". 

One idea was for a "Green Core " where the military helped needy farmers with their crops.

Another : military cemeteries with spots for both enlisted parents. 

Pop was very concerned that children that had lost both parents would have to travel to two different places to visit the family grave. This last one he told all his aides in Manhattan ! Many of whom had a spouse or family in Iraq or Afghanistan.

His heart was in the right place My mother and I would say apologizing to yet another person recounting this each morning ! 

Verbank, 2014 

Monday, July 14, 2014

"Sky Boy" ... and Moving On !

There is a Link below to the wonderful BBC 3 radio series : Between the Ears, a kind of radio montage of interviews, bit of music and "found" sound. It's free to listen to. You can even download individual episodes for later listening when you are off-line.

This is one that I think Pop, a radio lover if ever there was one, would have really enjoyed:  

Between the Ears - "Sky Boy" - BBC 3 Radio

Back to the nittygritty as Romig would say. I apologize to all of you that come over here...looking for news of Tal ...

It's been so difficult for us. Overwhelming. I'm not sure we have ourselves all that organized. It's been such a slow process,  more like we are being taken up there and are skitting around on a thermal like some beautiful bird...or a kite!

In the immediate month after Pops passing, there was the cremation (!!!), the obituary writing, the calling friends and telling them moments (very very difficult), starting in on the things that need to be done. Organizing Pop's four archives : the writing work, the photographs, the kites, the scultpture. Each a separate thing in and of itself.

Thinking about how to republish the books, online, as ebooks, Wikipedia page for him, insuring the sculpture out there is in good shape and cared for, that Dream of Flight has what it needs to become established and functioning.  And that just skimming the surface! I'm sure there is a myriad of stuff yet to be discovered and dealt with.         

On one hand, each of us, in our Dream of Flight Family, is getting on with "life" . Making a living. Doing things that are important to our daily lives like cleaning the house! Mundane, everyday stuff.

Romig has been doing that which brings her the greatest sense of satisfaction and therapy : Potting! Touching clay! 

We have been brainstorming about what to do, what to concentrate on in our future. Tal had so many areas of interest. As do each of us! So it's a matter of organization. Going along as you can. Sometimes ploddingly, sometimes with bursts of energy...preparing the next steps together.

Bruce George and I have been looking into where and how the large scale sculpture is doing all over the world. (Yikes!) If any of it needs repair? Who is responsible for it ? Etc.  

On our immediate schedule :

First off is moving the library and collections from Verbank to Santa Fe.

That will be done in the first weeks of August.

Any help would be much appreciated ! Either on the Verbank side or along the route ( like places to stay for the truck crew driving NY - NM ) or helping recieve and unload the truck on the NM side.  

We could use help with:
packing book boxes, organizers : taking down what is in each box and getting that on a wordfile or other, photographer of each piece being crated. I think most objects already have a number but I'm not sure they have a quick photo. I'll check on that. 

Feeding our group ! That could be another helpful thing.  Encouraging Music/Sound DJ's for our working environment...truck loaders.  Things like that.

I'll be with Romig from the 3rd of August til the 8th of September in Verbank. We have room for folks to stay and we will figure out how to feed everyone I'm sure.

So I'm opening this up to all friends and family ! You are welcome in the widest sense of the word !

That's it for the nittygritty.

I'll turning this blog towards some new areas of interest, looking into "Tal Loves".  Subjects, friends, people, he was interested in or that we have updates on, or that I think he might have enjoyed.

That "Sky Boy" radio program that I opened with is my first offering post-Pop passing. I think he would have loved it. Hope to hear your impressions and opinion.