Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Influence and Consilience-A Movie Review

"Everything comes from the great book of nature. Human attainments are an already printed book" Antoni Gaudi

Casa Mila designed by architect Gaudi, 1906.

'The word gaudy has been used as an insult for almost a century.The word usage came from an unusual renegade architect in Catalan'. Archictect Antoni Gaudi was an extremely pious religious figure, a fanatic Catholic who lived a life of voluntary simplicity and who had a commitment to building designs inspired by his countryside and nature. He is an extrodinarily contradictory figure and was co-opted by various groups in the 1960's who would have mortified him. Groups like hippies, the hallucenegetic experiements in drugs and counterculture and the Dadists and Surrealists. The convolution of gaudy and Gaudi has become an urban myth and yet there may be a logical connection to the usage of gaudy being negative with the architect.

Recently, during a small power outage, I noticed that we had a Criterion Collection dvd of Catalan architect Anonio Guadi by beautiful Japanese direct Hiroshi Teshigahara. (Woman of the Dunes) I was so surprised, I guess Stagg had picked it up without me noticing! The Criterion Collection is so amazing and basically it's not unusual to open up a dvd, set aside a couple of hours and feel like you just sat in on an awesome tutorial! This set comes with the 1984 film Tesigahara made on one of his re-visits to see Gaudi's work. He first went to visit Barcelona with his father who was a master of Ikebana (flower arrangements) a sculptor, and a member of Japan's avant garde movement.

The younger Teshigahara says he had only seen a photo of one of Gaudi's benches and that he went into a shock seeing his buildings the first time. A special delight in this dvd set is that the original film he shoots of his father's visit is included. This footage is before Hiroshi becomes a film maker! The filming was instrumental to him becoming a film maker. Comparing his 1959 footage to the 1984 shots is fascinating. Sofu Teshigahara is also filmed by his son visiting Salvador Dali. And another wonderful monet is Sofu constructing a driftwood and flower arangement right in front of Dali, with Dali and Gaia his wife, in fabulous dramatic black and white clothes. She is wearing these broad striped pants and they are thrilled with Teshigahara's impulsive creation.

Something of note, Picasso would have been a young boy walking the same streets that Gaudi was constructing fabulous buildings like this one:

The influence upon cubism by Gaudi's mosaic and organic designs is discussed in brief during some of the "extras' on this dvd set and an episode of Robert Hughes's BBC program Monito is included.

Woman With Guitar by George Braque, 1913.

Trailer for Teshigahar's Woman In The Dunes.


Carmen said...

never knew what something being "gaudy" came from. Now I know!

Oh, I've been a bad, bad blogger. :) But glad you stopped by.

and I'm proud of your travel!

Candy Minx said...

Hey Carmen, wonderful to "see" you! Thanks! Heh heh I knew you'd dig the travel!

~A-Lo~ said...

I must apologize, I haven't visited your blog in a very long time- I'm glad you msged me at emancipation...My everyday blog is now
It's not a happy-go-lucky place, but it's still "me"...So check it out when you have a sec- and I shall be adding your blog to my links so I can keep visiting!!!!!!!

tweetey30 said...

Interesting. Never thought about it before now that you bring it up.

mister anchovy said...

I believe the word gaudy has been in play since the 16th century. I like your story better though.

Candy Minx said...

Great to see you A-Lo, I'll be by your new spot shortly.

Hey Tweetey, glad you found something interesting.

Mister Anchovy, yes the word gaudy is older than a hundred years. I am sorry if I sounded like I was saying it was a new word. Likely latin, for "party" or "merriment". Usually surrounding a positve event or joyful. I was saying the word has been used as an insult for 100 years. I believe it's change of usage from a positive term to a negative one is associated with Gaudi.

Marc said...

'The word gaudy has been used as an insult for almost a century.The word usage came from an unusual renegade architect in Catalan'

What evidence or documentation would lead you to believe that the 'insulting' nature (subjective at best -- I see the word gaudy as simply descriptive) is at all connnected to the architect Gaudi? His work is most definitely surreal but I believe it's a bit of a stretch to make that association based on the similarity of the name & the word alone.

Candy Minx said...

Great question Marc!

This is a fascinating subject for you can see...I wrote quite a long post about the film and one of my favourite architects. I am so surprised in many quiet months of posting and almost no comments, that a subject dear to my heart has garnered a response of 5 comments! Wow!

The history of the usage of "gaudy" is a tricky one. In fact, there are a couple of "urban myth" sites and articles devoted to the idea that the word is associated...or not...with the architect.

You are correct to wonder about it's "facts".

The word was a positive noun originally as I understand it's Latin and French usage. is kind of a mystique about the change of the word to an adjective. How can we know when this occurred and how can we know if in fact, it was from the Spanish citizens rejection of the architect?

I first encountered this mystery in an art class. We spent a week or two trying to track down roots.

It is a word from 15th or 16th century.

The word did exist before the architect, but it's original usage, as a party, or celebration and likely the french word for rejoice is related...was NOT a negative usage.

Just when it became a negative or insult is what is actually at question...much more interesting than the urban myth (actual mistake that many people believe is true that the word came from the architect)

What I that Gaudi was a popular architect for a while...but during the Spaish Civil war, nihilists had broken into offices or archives and destroyed the blueprints of his passion...the famous cathedral. since then...there was a very mixed and often Gaudi had fallen out of favour. In the late 1950's the Japanese had a kind of discovery and brought him to the stage of the avant gaude art movement. Salvador Dali also championed him much earlier, over the years. In fact, Gaudi entered the Japanese popular imagination in the 50's and 60's and fell out of favour. THEN he was again adopted as a popular artist/architect in the 1980's.

I think I am taking up too much space here...but it is not unusual for anarchists or revolutionaries to target an art form or artist, even an architect...nd the person falls out of favor. I can't spend too much more time on this today...but will revisit this subject on my blog in the future. Meanwhile here are two dictionary sources...

A recent dictionary defines gaudy as :

gaudy 1 |ˈgôdē|
adjective ( gaudier , gaudiest )
extravagantly bright or showy, typically so as to be tasteless : silver bows and gaudy ribbons.
gaudily |-dəlē| adverb
gaudiness noun
ORIGIN late 15th cent.: probably from gaud + -y 1 .
gaudy 2
noun ( pl. gaudies) Brit.
a celebratory reunion dinner or entertainment held by a college.
ORIGIN mid 16th cent.(in the sense [rejoicing, a celebration] ): from Latin gaudium ‘joy,’ or from gaude ‘rejoice!,’ imperative of gaudere.

the motel rooms were clean but howlingly gaudy garish, lurid, loud, overbright, glaring, harsh, violent, showy, glittering, brassy, ostentatious; tasteless, in bad taste, tawdry, vulgar, unattractive, bilious; informal flash, flashy, tacky, kitsch, kitschy. antonym drab, tasteful.

And here is a site that debunks any association with "gaudy" and "gaudi"

I hope I have helped with some qualms you may have about the history of Gaudi's popularity and my search for the history of a word.

I think that the two histories of usage and popularity are absolutely compelling. But I am such a super nerd, URP!

And it's an ongoing mystery to figure out and trace sources on these possible associations! But overall I would cite the time period of the anarchists setting fire to Gaudi's blueprints of his beloved cathedral the Sagrada Familia...

Can you cite some sources of how this might not be a good avenue of exploration? Where has your research led you?

And thanks again... a fun question!!!

Candy Minx said...

p.s. and this is just quick, hope it makes sense.

The word kitsch might be a clue to the change in usage of "gaudy". Kitsch is german word coined in the 1920's. This was a one of the sources we had found way back in art class of the negative usage of gaudy, in thesaurus form, in a dictionary from the 30's.

Is it possible with the politics in Germany some of which supported the Spanish Civil war at the time, that the politics were also taking a stand on "avant gaurde". Art Nouveau has an interesting history as do most art movements when it comes to opppresive governments and totalitarian politics. But again...these are clues...and I am not able to be online much today...

Marc said...

"Can you cite some sources of how this might not be a good avenue of exploration? Where has your research led you?"

I have no sources to site but it's really not incumbent on me to cite anything. I was merely wondering how you were able make the connection between a word that's been around since the late 1500s and the name of a famous architect that sounds the same. You made the assertion. I just wanted to know how you got from point A to point B. So in other words, it was simply idle speculation on your part? Slow news day maybe?

Candy Minx said...

Heh heh, Well, Marc, you're not the first person to think my blog posts are boring. There is a long line ahead of you.

I didn't mean to suggest anything was incumbent on you, oh dear. I was hoping you might have some interest in this topic and had found some helpful resources. That's all. I was just geeked!


I am sorry that I don't have as compelling an answer as your interesting question. There isn't really "one answer" but rather my own nerdy interest in such organic evolutions of some words.

The part that interests me is how these urban myths begin, and how they are often traced to particular taboos or social events, even if not entirely concrete moments.

The usage of the word gaudy does seem to have changed over the centuries. It is both a somewhat neutral noun and an adjective which is considered a slur. I find that really interesting. Anarchists did burn the blueprints to Gaudi's cathedral. And there was a movement with Adorno and Greenberg regarding the separation between "kitsch" and "avant garde".

I am sorry my movie review of the Criterion Collection left you disappointed. I still highly recommend it though.

marc said...

You misunderstand me, my dear. I never said the blog post was boring, just questioned the Gaudi/gaudy assertion itself. You may have me confused with someone else -- I never said I was disappointed in the Criterion review. Just looking for clarification on one specific point.

Candy Minx said...

Oh good. Okay, I guess I took "slow news day" as meaning boring heh heh.

I do have a couple of essays dealing with the Spanish Civil War and Gaudi...unfortunately I do not have them here. So I can't give you an exact citing. Have you a web site or e-mail...I could forward them next time I am going through my filing cabinets. I live between two cities and don't have many of my books with me at all times.

I don't know if I have you confused with someone, there aren't usually anonymous posters here at my blog. I do tend to take anonymous comments more seriously than my I have a fairly long familair rapport with them.

Although you do remind me of my sister...except she wouldn't have used the phrase "slow news day". she and I love to banter and analyse sources etc. People who know me very well know I spend a lot of time researching things and Idon't usually commit to a proposition unless I have checked my sources and read rigorously.

Cheers and let me know if I should someday forward you the citations. You sound pretty serious about getting them. I respect that!

marc said...

Somehow I don't think using my given name Marc (Goldin) qualifies as anonymous. Do you?

Candy Minx said...

Marc? Oh my god that is hilarious! I never even made the association. Wow, thanks very much for taking the time post your thoughts here.

I have a cool essay about the art critic Greenberg, art nouveau and hate crimes you might enjoy...and the history of the word gaudy.

I can not remember the name of the person who wrote it, or I'd track it down now. I have so many things like that in a storage space. Someday I'll try to mail it to you!

You rock!

Greg S. said...

Hi Candy,

Are you familiar with Friedensreich Hundertwasser?

One of his buildings is located in the Taunus hills near Frankfurt. Interesting stuff.

Candy Minx said...

Thanks Greg, I love his stuff. I'm going to do a blog post about him.

AmyO said...

Hey, great blog! Also, I think I've seen your comments on my friend Martha's blog... small world, eh? :)
Sorry my post about Gaudi was a bit misleading - I don't know a whole lot about the association between the words... so I enjoyed reading your post!

Anonymous said...

Even though there may only be coincedental association between gaudy and gaudi, it has to be the one of the most interesting associations ever. I mean if you look at a piece of architecture or art today, and you consider it gaudy, just imagine what people considered Gaudi's work at the time. Both gaudy and gaudi stick out like sore thumbs, pardon the cliche'.

I always wondered if he was affected by the coincendental association and maybe it had an influence on him. Who knows, he could have built the most gaudy of buildings just to play off of the association. Maybe he wanted to own the word. Sort of like a redneck buying more 4-wheelers just because they can. I have redneck friends, this is real.

He could have pushed the limits of design, color, shape and engineering just to show how guady he could get.

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