Category Archives: review

Film Review: Francofonia

“All museums must be prepared for war,” states director Alexander Sokurov during his ongoing narration of his latest film, Francofonia, a meditation on European cultural heritage and conflict via the Louvre. Continue reading

Review: Samsung Digital Discovery Centre, British Museum, 8-9 August 2015

Stepping into the Virtual Reality Weekend Immersive Fulldome in the Great Court at the British Museum yesterday, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had read the press release for the event, and knew that I was about to experience a digital recreation of a 4,000 year-old bronze age roundhouse, complete with digitally scanned recreations of objects within the British Museum’s collections – but what form would this actually take? Continue reading

Film Review: Museum Hours

Museum Hours (2012)
106 minutes
directed by Jem Cohen

Museum Hours, Jem Cohen’s cinematic meditation on life, death, and art has a somewhat unexpected focus: sound. I finally got the chance to see this film almost a year after its initial release, and while I was expecting impressive visual statements (considering the film was shot primarily inside Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum), I was pleasantly surprised by its many fascinating sonic moments as well. Continue reading

Book Review: On The Odd Hours by Eric Liberge

On The Odd Hours coverSince 2005, the Louvre has been co-sponsoring the publication of a series of graphic novels set within the Louvre’s environs. Written and illustrated by multiple authors, these comics are self-contained rather than serialized stories, placing casts of characters inside the Louvre that act out stories asking fundamental questions about art, collection, audience, and museums (there’s a wonderful in-depth overview of the first four volumes in the series over at Comixology written by Columbia University’s Karen Green). Unsurprisingly, the novel that’s impressed me most in this series so far is Eric Liberge’s On The Odd Hours, a fantastical tale involving the power of sound to keep the Louvre’s objects “appeased.” It’s a thought-provoking take on the sonic experience of museums that has, pun intended, continued to resonate with me long after reading it. Continue reading

Book Review: The Ground of the Image by Jean-Luc Nancy

Cover of "The Ground of the Image"

Jean-Luc Nancy’s exploration of the image in relationship to the sacred feels slightly uneven compared to the other two books of his I’ve read (“Listening” and “The Fall of Sleep”). Two of the nine chapters — the first, “The Image — The Distinct”, and the fifth, “Distinct Oscillation”, contain some of my favorite writing of his, while the rest of the book hits a combination of high and low notes for my tastes. One of those high notes is his critique of violence in chapter two, which becomes so impassioned that his language becomes as coarse as the violence he seeks to shun; similarly, his keen eye for compositional analysis shines in the chapter eight’s analysis of a painting of the Visitation by Pontormo. The low notes tend to come in what I can only describe as needlessly murky writing, as in the meandering exploration of visual Nazism in chapter three, “Forbidden Representation.” Continue reading

Book Review: Victorian Soundscapes by John M. Picker

Victorian Soundscapes book cover

One of the most engaging books on sound I’ve read this year, “Victorian Soundscapes” examines the changing attitudes toward sound throughout the Victorian era by concentrating on the literature of the time. While previous knowledge of the written works referred to would obviously make this book’s conclusions even clearer than they already are, prior knowledge of the texts discussed isn’t necessary. Some of the works analyzed include Dickens’ “Dombey and Son,” George Eliot’s “Daniel Deronda,” Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Voice of Science,” Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” and Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” Along the way, other writings and events woven into the analysis include the writings on acoustics by Hermann von Helmhotz; the anti-immigrant cartoons of Punch magazine’s John Leech; the far-fetched theories about sound and the atmosphere put forth by father of the computer Charles Babbage; the saga of Thomas Carlyle’s attempt to design and build the first soundproof study in London; the histories of the development of the telephone, phonograph, and gramophone; and the origin of the painting “His Master’s Voice” featuring the Victor Dog. Continue reading