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January 10, 2007 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2007-01-10

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - SA

The (un)fashion
of contrapposto

gg-hating isn't reserved
for ergonomics-purists.
Sure, the boots betray
:ommon sense and physical health
>n several counts, but that's hardly
unique as footwear goes. They're
also one of the most visible players
in a bizarre modern trend that's a

is possible only by digital manipu-
lation, it stays safely ridiculous.
But if disabling postures are
obviously satirical in shoe ads,
what do we call them when real
women fall back on this stance, or
when they wear shoes that force
them to shuffle and drag their feet

Michael Kenna's powerful study of Ford's Rouge plant in Dearborn, now at UMMA's Off-Site Gallery.

Built subtle

ManagingArts Editor
In the exhibit "The Rouge: Photographs by
MichaelKenna,"the overridingthemeis patience.
Running through Jan. 14
at the University's off-site The Rouge:
gallery, the exhibit is com- Photographs
prised of approximately 40 by Michael
photographs taken at Ford's Kenna
massive automotive plant
in Dearborn. The plant, Through
designed by Albert Kahn, At UMMA's
stretches for 93 miles and Off-Site Gal ery
at one pointboasted a work-
force nearly the size of Ann Arbor. It's an artist's
delight: massive smokestacks, ominous cloud-
banks of smog, dramatic angles - the works.
But it's difficult not to recall Michigan's eco-
nomic woes and how they're tied to the twilight
of the American auto industry. When the subject
of a photographic study is the Rouge plant, the
question of representing the immediate humani-
ty of the situation (the countless lives and futures
upended by the recession) both constrains and
contextualizes - and Kenna's images eventu-
ally triumph through their dedicated pacing and
unadulterated reverence to the subject.
The lush black-and-white photographs are
executed in medium format with long exposure

times. Every detail is coerced into focus and,
since there is little action, each image carries a
sense of foreboding, of absolute stillness.
Immediately noticeable is the total lack of
organic lifeforms - the only exceptions being a
single bird and a bare tree. None of Kenna's imag-
es have titles, only differentiated by their series
number. The photos are universally medium-
sized squares, but with so much attention paid
to detail and composition, each image appears
remote. It's a completely unromantic aesthetic.
Kenna is keenly aware of how the eye of the
photographer can compromise the integrity of
the subject, and while his distanced approach is
almost surgical at times, it pays off for the series
as a whole.
Kenna doesn't spotlight political or social
issues (at least not overtly), and his compositional
choices reflect a modernist approach to photog-
raphy: uncovering the repetition and transfor-
mation of forms, grids, etc. found in manmade,
"non-artistic" structures. Rather than washing
out the subject with theory, though, Kenna's aca-
demic style plays perfectly into the images.
"The Rouge Study #87" is an almost fantastical
image. The artist is perched atop a monumental
assembly of steel girders, looking down toward
the industrial skyline. It's clear that Kenna is per-
haps hundreds of feet offthe ground, but the final
image is not one of wide-open astonishment. The

view is closely cropped, eliminating the sense of
the peripheral as well as the presence of the pho-
Kenna himself is from the Midwest, and so
the vocabulary of industry is far from foreign to
him. But instead of idealizing easily recogniz-
able objects and scenes, Kenna looks to nameless,
sometimes abandoned bits of machinery and
presents them as part of a seemingly alien world
- namely in images #27, #66 and #72. The sense
of distance is heightened; the viewer cannot label
the photographed objects.
The images are not grouped chronologically
(far from it), and instead appear in clusters of
related compositions - such as the stunning
night shots of silo-like structures from the
ground, the stars appearing as concentric arcs
emanating from an unknown center. This can be
disconcerting for the meandering viewer, but a
little patience goes a long way with this exhibit.
Kenna avoids numerous pitfalls, such as over
sentimentalizing the Michigan economy and
diluting the subject with academic compositions.
Diego Rivera visited the Rouge plant during its
mid-20th century heyday, and his studies influ-
enced his iconic mural series at the Detroit Insti-
tute of Art. Kenna could not have approached
the subject more differently, but in the end, his
pared-down images carry their own weight -
along with the history behind them.

direct challenge to clas- - which, in the ads, were
sical aesthetics. as deliberate aesthetic
Let's take that iconic choices as tiny waists and
image of romantic wom- glossy hair?
anhood: the goddess Not only are they going
Venus as she appears nowhere fast, they seem
in Botticelli's "The unaware of their ability
Birth of Venus." The to adjust themselves. This
tall blonde stands on a aesthetic is easy enough
seashell on the ocean's ABIGAIL B. to find in American pop-
surface, waves pushing COLODNER ular images, and it's all
her toward shore. With over the place in their
her hands and a lock of hair, she Japanese counterparts. Trends in
covers (more or less) select parts of fashion, theoretically a kind of fem-
her naked body. Her pose is a prime inine armor, now draw attention to
example of contrapposto, where, how handicapped girls allow them-
due to the angle of her shoulders selves to be.
and hips, she seems to be shifting While the Renaissance Venus
her weight. Visually, contrapposto reinforced a beloved aesthetic for
gives us the sense that she's about the feminine form, one 19th-cen-
to step forward. tury painter's reimaginingof Venus
It's her stance that makes this is notorious for the ire it provoked.
one of the most recognizable imag- Edouard Manet's "Olympia" shows
es in art - you could dress as Venus a prostitute reclining on an unmade
in a hazmat suit and still the refer-
ence would be recognizable.
If this Venus embodies, as the The Italian
test of time would suggest, some-
thing essentially appealing and Renaissance and
perhaps even essentially feminine,
what are we to think when other women's posture.
icons take this position and direct-
ly invert it?
Scarlett Johansson at an awards bed. Like Botticelli's. Venus, she
show, Harajuku girls trailing Gwen comes off as self-possessed and in
Stefani, fashion spreads in Van- charge of her presentation - which
ity Fair - women stand with their is of the greatest importance. Writ-
weight thrown into one hip, their ings from the time show that this
knees angled in and down and their self-possession was both apparent
toes pointing at each other. They and objectionable to his contempo-
stand pigeon-toed and off-balance, raries. They describe the image as
baffled by their own bodies. "cynical," and say that the woman's
Botticelli's Venus welcomes our straightforward, unwavering gaze
gaze, gesturing modestly while is "provoking the public." Unlike
allowing us to see the good stuff. her visual predecessors, includ-
That in itself is not terribly progres- ing various Venuses, she's neither
sive, but look how momentary this come-hither nor clueless.
indulgence is - she's about to step Both the Venus and this prosti-
onto shore, where a maiden waits tute hold the cards - Venus whets
to sheathe her in cloth. Her tender your appetite before stepping
look is a small liberty she allows us. away, and Manet's figure holds her
We are a privileged and barely wor- ground. She's not going anywhere
thy audience for her nudity - and until she decides to. We see that
she's about to take it away. in the steady look that made her
Far from stepping lightly onto viewers so disgruntled and in how
fragrant shores, the best that some she positions herself not without
of today's women could hope for feminine appeal - crossed legs and
is to recover quickly after tripping nudity being generally appealing
over their own torqued feet. - but with a heavy dose of deci-
The most grotesque perpetra- siveness. Ankles crossed, knees
cor in the media of this cartoonish together, and that's what she has
pose is the Steve Madden company, chosen to do. As opposed to leav-
whose ad campaign showed its ing the decision of what happens to
models as imps with proportions her physical person - whether she
adjusted according to marketabil- will walk or be tipped over - up to
ity. So the company lampooned someone else.
advertising while banking onthe
same methods it ridiculed to be - Colodner's feet are
effective advertising. Fine and priceless. Ask her about them
savvy: when an aesthetic that alien at abigabor@umich.edu.
Students compete for
public recital spots

In Chinese village, the slow triumph of love

Daily Arts Writer
One of the obvious challenges a
filmmaker faces when adapting a
complex book
is how to man-
age the book's The Painted
many tropes eil
in a two-hour
window. At the
In the case Michigan Theater
of "The Paint- Warner
ed Veil," this Independent
difficulty is further amplified by
the generational gap between the
original noveland themodern audi-
ence. Written in 1925 by Somerset
Maugham, the book is grounded in
the cultural motifs of its day. From
the social politicking of its urbane
characters to the revolutionary
transformation in China, the novel
has simply too many promising
and topical themes for one film to
explore effectively. Director John
Curran's ("We Don't Live Here
Anymore") solution to this dilem-
ma is to cover all its bases - but
dwell on only one.
The film opens with the intro-
duction of English socialite Kitty
(Naomi Watts, "King Kong") who,
like any typical upper-class Victo-
rian young woman, flocks to night-
ly dinner parties while flashing
vacant smiles. When Walter Fane
(Edward Norton, "The Illusion-
ist"), a young bacteriologist whome
she barely knows, proposes to her,
she accepts and takes the opportu-
nity to escape her mother's critical
eye. However, marriage isn't what
she imagined and she soon realizes
she doesn't love her workaholic
husband. When she meets debonair

Edward Norton and Naomi Watts aren't the perfect couple - but a few months in a cholera hotspot should do the trick.

Charles Townsend (Liev Schreiber, Watts gives arguably her best
"The Manchurian Candidate"), performance as the spiritually
Kitty is immediately smitten and reborn Kitty. Even as a spoiled
the two throw themselves into an and selfish party girl, we can't help
affair. Inevitably, Walter discovers but find her faults tolerable. When
his wife's adultery and forces her to she transforms into a caring and
accompany him on an expedition altruistic woman, we rush to for-
give her for her past foolishness,
convinced the virtues were there
Love in the all along. Norton's faux-British
accent betrays him, but he excels
time of cholera. as the tormented Dr. Fane, whose
outward diligence veils an internal
Seriously. affliction.
But the film itself isn't with-
out its flaws. The numerous issues
to a small Chinese town where an that Curran ambitiously touches
outbreak of cholera has taken place. upon saturate the film and build to
It's here, at a remote corner of the little more than haphazard embel-
world surrounded by disease and lishments. For instance, the story
political perils, where their love builds heavily on a tense atmo-
slowly begins to bloom. sphere at a time when Western

political pressures on a Chinese
nationalist regime provoked deeply
anti-foreign sentiments. But noth-
ing materializes out of this and the
conflict is forgotten as the movie
In the end, the film's central
theme, an exploration of a love
nurtured by time, is executed
exceptionally well. Curran metic-
ulously portrays how a callous,
often antagonistic relationship
can mature into a passionate bond.
The story seems to reject the idea
of love at first sight by defining it
instead as discovering, and eventu-
ally embracing others' attributes
and shortcomings.
As Kitty somberly admits, "We
were wrong to look for qualities
in each other that weren't there at

DailyArts Writer
off the first of three free days of
outstanding music and passionate
musicians. The annual Concerto
Competition Finals allow a prime
group of Music School performers,
both graduates and undergradu-
ates, to compete against each other
in hopes of landing a coveted seat
in public recitals later this winter
and spring.
Participants perform musical
numbers by composers such as Ser-
gei Rachmaninoff, Aaron Copland

and Peter Tchaikovsky before a
panel of 12 to 13 judges. After each
audition, the judges decide wheth-
er or not they would like to see
the participant perform his or her
piece for a crowd. Each judge may
choose as many or as few perform-
ers as he or she decides and votes on
who continues on. Audiences don't
have a say in who moves forward
to the public recitals, but the atten-
tiveness of students and family in
the crowd and the sheer intensity
of the hopeful students makes it a
worthwhile event to explore.
Performances are free and begin
at 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.

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