The Parthenon Marbles

Figures from the East Pediment of the Parthenon, Acropolis Athens. From left to right cat no D Dionysos ,middle E & F Demeter & Persephone, left G Hebe. British Museum London Exhibit

I was recently acquainted with the knowledge that Christopher Hitchens was one of the leading voices in the case of reunifying the Parthenon marbles and as a consequence of which I discovered his book.
Visiting, not long ago, the Parthenon and the Acropolis Museum, I was greatly attracted by the beauty and the elegance of the archaic marble art found at the vicinity of the ancient monument. This attraction led me to pursuing an expansion of my understanding of Phidias’ pedimental sculpture masterpieces, commissioned by the visionary leader Pericles some 2 500 years ago.

The top floor of the Bernard Tschumi designed Acropolis Museum, which is aligned to the Parthenon, is dedicated to the long awaited reunification of the marble figures as most of the relics exhibited are plaster cast replicas of the originals which for the past 200 years are part of an imperialistic trophy exhibition at the British Museum. This, some may say, harsh conclusion I draw from all facts presented by Hitchens in this book which discusses the arguments aroused in Britain about the moral legality of the possession of the sculptures since the return of Thomas Bruce Elgin from Constantinople. The first half of the book is particularly painful – Hitchens reveals in a factual detail the unscrupulous acquisition of the Parthenon marbles by Elgin who, possessed by cupidity, tore off the frieze from the monument and shipped it to Britain. The firman he was issued from the Ottoman authority at the time did not permit him to strip the sculptures and in a later correspondence Elgin himself admits that he had acquired the marbles without authorization. Most heartbreaking is that his intentions for their fate were far from noble, again revealed in another correspondence letter he expresses his desire to use the looted art as a decoration of his house.
Further in the book Hitches presents positions of various British intellectuals of the time expressing their concerns about the hideous act of appropriation of cultural and historical artefacts, especially in times of great vulnerability of the patron state. The author also expresses his strong positions against each of the arguments employed by the British Museum to defend its right of possession of the Parthenon marbles.
Reading Hitchen’s work, one cannot remain impartial to the subject of the Parthenon marbles reunification. The hellenic civilization has been a longtime donor of ideas and artifacts to Western modus operandi. Ideas, being so intangible, travel with the intention to be shared. Artifacts have a meaning only in the context of their original provenance. It is a fair claim to be made in restoring the contextual attributes of the site that had given us the protogenesis of democracy, especially when they have been saved/smuggled out in times of imperial occupation as a spoil for another imperial ambition.

For the sake of humanity and those of us who marvel astonishingly at the works of art should such a unique piece of ancient art remain amputated and torn apart? Others don’t think so. As a friendly act of generosity and solidarity the Vatican has returned the head of a young man from panel No 5 of the Parthenon frieze, the museum at Heildelberg has also returned the foot of a young man playing the lyre on panel No. 8, so has the Salinas museum in Palermo given back the foot of goddess Artemis.
Ancient Greek art is scattered all over the world and the modern Hellenic state has no other claims but to only reunify once again Phidias’ marble assembly, so to revive their brilliance and integrity in their birthplace of Athens where they were conceived, executed and adored. (less)

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“Suddenly A Knock On The Door” by Etgar Keret

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Here is “Suddenly A Knock On The Door”,  another collection of short stories by Etgar Keret. I have already acquainted myself with his prose in some of his previous collections, “The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be a God” and “The Girl On The Fridge”.

Born and raised in Israel, Keret is much influenced and inspired by the twisted reality of his own counterparts and the endless discord between the two nations inhabiting the Promised Land. His stories are humane, however often decorated with absurd circumstances or events. To read Keret is as similar as to go on your own and stretch a towel on a crowded beach where your own ears would turn into German autobahns through which in a high speed are rushing the stories of the surrounding people. There are all kinds of  characters dragging their fates behind. Keret is like a real magician who  distinctively charges his stories with the tragicomical essence of mankind in stories that don’t repeat. His writings are short, dense and crazy as the end is never what you have anticipated.

A few short stories from “Suddenly A Knock On The Door” have reserved a special place in this department of my memory where I collect the most precious pieces of quality literature I come across.

One of these short stories is so dear to me that I almost wish to tear up the pages and fold them in my pocket. It is called “What Do We Cary In Our Pockets” and filmmaker Goran Dukic has made a short film based on it. These might be the sweetest, most encouraging and most inspiring 4 minutes for you today! Enjoy them!

Cathedrals of Culture

centre pompidou

 

“I was not meant to be an isolated monument. I am not just a museum or a library. I am a living, breathing culture machine.”  Centre Pompidou, Paris. Designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers.

Fall is the season of culture. As soon as September arrives the electric polls on street corners turn colorful with poster announcements about festivals, concerts and other cultural events. The current ongoing event for me is the Vancouver International Film Festival where in the duration of two weeks around 150 movies from around the world are played. I have noticed that the Canadians are welcoming with generous curiosity and interest the foreign movies as tickets sell out very quickly and the lines in front of the venues resemble a climate change protest.

The first movie for me this year was Cathedrals of Culture, which coincides with the North American premiere of the movie.

oslo opera hause

 

Oslo Opera House. Designed by Snøhetta. Photo credit to http://www.viff.org

What would buildings say if they could talk to us? This question perhaps inspired Win Wenders, Robert Redford and four other directors to create a documentary film about the cathedrals of culture. Cathedrals of Culture is divided to six parts each one presented by a different director. The cathedrals in the movie are not religious establishments, they are buildings designed and constructed to serve and elevate the most delicate need of the society – the need for culture.

Cathedrals of Culture is a three-hour architectural hymn about six buildings – Berlin Philharmonic, National Library of Russia, Halden Prison, Salk Institute, Oslo Opera House and Centre Pompidou. Each building demonstrates its meaning with its own voice and it becomes the existing evidence of the life within itself.  The movie is fashioned as a audio-visual confession that illuminates a more profound dimension of architecture – the soul of the building as a synonym of the aggregation of the architect’s ideas, the purpose in society and the inspiration on those who sojourn in it.

Cathedrals of Culture is not an ordinary documentary film, with artistic sensation of ‘Baraka’(Ron Fricke, 1992) and blended with 3D technologies manifests the intellect behind the art of architecture.

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