Photographer René Burri dies


This video says about itself:

René Burri: Impossible Reminiscences

27 September 2012

As a world-renowned photojournalist and celebrated member of Magnum photo agency, René Burri’s photographs have had a huge influence on our visual understanding of the major political and cultural events of the second half of the twentieth century. From his iconic shot of Che Guevara smoking a cigar, to his beautifully composed photographs of the construction of Brasilia, his black-and-white photography is ingrained in the collective consciousness.

Previously less-known are his colour photographs that he has continually taken alongside his black-and-white work. This book introduces, for the first time, a retrospective of his personal selection of colour photographs.

From the British Journal of Photography:

Magnum photographer René Burri dies

René Burri, a photographer with photography agency Magnum Photos, dies

Gemma Padley — 20 October 2014

News has emerged of the death of 81-year-old René Burri, a photographer with Magnum Photos. The news broke this afternoon (Monday 20 October). In an email sent to members of the press the agency said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Magnum photographer René Burri who passed away today”. An official statement has not yet been released.

The Swiss photographer, who began working with Magnum as an associate in 1955 and became a full member in 1959, was well known for his work in Cuba, including his iconic portraits of Che Guevara.

In addition to his work in Latin America, Burri, who lived and worked between Zurich and Paris, travelled throughout Europe and the Middle East during his lengthy career, photographing artists such as Picasso, Giacometti and Le Corbusier, and contributing to publications including Life, Stern, Paris-Match, and The New York Times, among others.

He also worked as a documentary filmmaker, participating in the creation of Magnum Films in 1965.

Of Burri’s book, Impossible Reminiscences, published by Phaidon last year [2013], Martin Parr commented: “[This book]…easily demonstrates that he is a master of colour as well as black and white, and one of the great figures of 20th century photography”.

German intellectuals’ World War I collaboration with militarism


This video about Belgium is called The last survivor of the destruction of Louvain in WW1 | Channel 4 News.

By Verena Nees in Germany:

German intellectuals in World War I

20 October 2014

The current revival of German militarism has won the enthusiastic support of considerable sections of the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia and academia. Since German President Gauck proclaimed the “end of military restraint” at the beginning of the year, many journalists and academic “experts” have called for the dispatch of German soldiers to combat zones in eastern Ukraine and the Middle East. While the majority of the population rejects militarism, these academics bang the drum for war and support rearmament.

A review of the behavior of the educated elites at the time of the outbreak of World War I a hundred years ago reveals many disturbing parallels to what is taking place today.

On October 4, 1914, some two months after the outbreak of the war, there appeared what came to be known as the “Manifesto of the Ninety-Three.” [1] Ninety-three signatories, including artists and writers, attempted to justify the bloody crimes of the German forces in Belgium and glorify the war as a struggle for culture. The manifesto first appeared in German (under the title “Appeal to the Civilized World”) and then in ten translations over the following days, sparking furious responses from scientists in England and France, who published their own fierce denunciations of the “German barbarians.”

Among the signatories of the “Appeal to the Civilized World” were many outstanding scholars, such as Wilhelm Röntgen, Max Planck (who later withdrew his signature), Wilhelm Foerster, Ernst Haeckel, Paul Ehrlich and Emil Fischer. Several were Nobel Prize winners.

The declaration was also signed by famous artists such as Max Liebermann, Max Reinhardt, Engelbert Humperdinck, Gerhart Hauptmann and Max Halbe. The signatories also included the architect and precursor of the Bauhaus, Bruno Paul, expressionist poet Richard Dehmel, and Max Klinger and Maximilian Lenz, members of Gustav Klimt’s Vienna Secessionist circle.

The text had been composed in September by the playwright Ludwig Fulda and the nature poet and playwright Hermann Sudermann. It was approved by the German Imperial Naval Office and the Foreign Office.

At the time, German troops were already committing war crimes in Belgium, which Germany had invaded despite the country’s declared neutrality. German forces demolished the old town of Leuven (Louvain) together with its medieval library. They shot hostages, terrorised the civilian population and burned down villages. Some 674 civilians were murdered in the Belgian town of Dinant on August 23. In total, approximately 6,000 people were killed by the German army.

This did not prevent the manifesto’s signatories from heralding the war as a defence of culture. Mimicking the style of Martin Luther’s 95 theses, they wrote: “It is not true that our troops treated Louvain brutally. Furious inhabitants having treacherously fallen upon them in their quarters, our troops with aching hearts were obliged to fire on a part of the town as punishment.

“It is not true that our warfare does not respect international laws. It knows no undisciplined cruelty. But in the east, the earth is saturated with the blood of women and children mercilessly butchered by the wild Russian troops, and in the west, dumdum bullets mutilate the breasts of our soldiers. Those who have allied themselves with Russians and Serbians and present such a shameful scene to the world as inciting Mongolians and Negroes against the white race have no right whatever to call themselves upholders of civilization.”

The appeal culminated in the glorification of German militarism—“Were it not for German militarism, German civilization would long since have been extirpated”—and an invocation of the unity of the people and the army—“The German Army and the German people are one. Today this consciousness fraternizes 70,000,000 Germans, all ranks, positions, and parties being one.”

The document closes with the cynical claim that it speaks for “a civilized nation, for whom the legacy of a Goethe, a Beethoven and a Kant is just as sacred as its own hearths and homes.”

The appeal was the best known of many similar declarations, letters and speeches by academics. Following the Kaiser’s declaration of war, a veritable spiritual mobilisation was launched. “German artists, writers, journalists and academics were some of the most jingoistic Germans in August 1914,” writes historian Jeffrey Verhey. [2] Wolfgang Kruse stresses that “A real flood of appeals, sermons, speeches and writings on the part of theologians, poets and thinkers attempted to define the significance of the war and justify the war policies of their own nation.” [3] This was particularly the case in Germany. Ernst Piper and Volker Ullrich have given similar accounts. [4]

The “Appeal to the Civilized World” was followed less than two weeks later on October 16, 1914 by the “Declaration of University Teachers of the German Empire,” which states: “In the German army there is no other spirit than that of the German people, for both are one, and we are also a part of it.” It goes on to declare that the “very culture of Europe” depends on “the redeeming victory… for which German militarism will fight.” This declaration, initiated by Berlin classicist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, was signed by about 4,000 tertiary-level teachers, i.e., almost the entire teaching staff of the German Empire.

On the other hand, a pacifist counter-manifesto, titled “An Appeal to Europeans” and written by physician Georg Friedrich Nicolai in October 1914, found only three signatories among German scientists—physicist Albert Einstein, philosopher Otto Buek and astronomer Wilhelm Foerster (who had previously signed the “Appeal to the Civilized World”). It ultimately failed to achieve publication in the German language.

In the spring of 1915, Albert Einstein commented on the behavior of scholars at the beginning of the war: “Will future centuries really be able to believe of our Europe that three centuries of assiduous cultural endeavor had brought no more progress than a transition from religious madness to national madness? Even the scholars of different countries are behaving as though their cerebrums had been surgically removed eight months ago.”

The struggle for “European culture”

The pathetic appeal to a “defence of culture” served to camouflage the promotion of German imperialist interests. This was very clearly demonstrated by the declaration of Bonn historians on September 1.

It proclaimed that Germany was called upon “to fight for the highest values of European culture” because the “principles of an intolerant Jacobinism, the self-seeking of predatory political parties and the control of political thought by an unscrupulous press” held sway in France. It charged that Russia wanted to liberate the Slavic peoples under Germanic rule and bring them under its protection, which offered only “mind-numbing, brutal and insidious despotism,” while England stood for “pure material egoism.” According to the Bonn historians, England wanted to destroy German naval and commercial power “so that the profit of world trade would fall alone to the British.”

The universities became a focus for pro-war rallies and a recruiting ground for volunteers among the students and younger teachers. This was where the ideological arguments for war were formulated. Berlin’s Friedrich Wilhelms University, the forerunner of today’s Humboldt University, distinguished itself in this respect.

The text of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s appeal of August 6, 1914, “To the People of Germany,” was drafted by Berlin theologian Adolf von Harnack together with historian Reinhold Koser. The appeal includes the infamous dictum: “I know of no political parties, only the German people.”

Among the intellectual “excellencies”—as the Berlin professors liked to be called—were theologians Ernst Troeltsch and Reinhold Seeberg, jurist Otto von Gierke, and historians Hans Delbrück, Dietrich Schäfer, Otto Hintze and Friedrich Meinecke. The latter, who in the course of the war became one of the more nominally liberal advocates of mutual peace, remarked in 1922 on the behavior of the Berlin professors (including himself) at the outbreak of war: “We are standing in the front, rather than before the front.”

Even after the horror of mass slaughter had long since extinguished the initial war euphoria, the majority of Berlin professors were still calling on the population to persevere. Thus, there appeared on July 27, 1916 the exhortative proclamation, “The Will to Victory.” [5]

The myth of the unity of the people

The much-touted “August experience” of 1914—i.e., universal enthusiasm for war—was a propaganda myth, as numerous studies now show. Even in the final days before the mobilisation, about three quarters of a million workers participated in anti-war rallies organised by the Social Democrats. The Kaiser’s declaration of war unleashed fear and shock, rather than enthusiasm, in the working class areas and the countryside.

It was only the historic betrayal of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which approved war loans and made a truce with the conservative parties on August 4, 1914, and the continuous war propaganda, which was now also being promoted by the SPD press, that influenced certain sections of workers to support the war. In contrast, the middle classes and especially the educated middle class enthusiastically welcomed the war and openly sided with the monarchy and the imperial government.

The industrial rise of Germany at the end of the nineteenth century had been accompanied by a sharp intensification of class antagonisms, and professors, school teachers, pastors and other academics felt increasingly threatened by the growing strength of the revolutionary workers’ movement. This drove the educated classes “to the right, onto the side of the old power elites, and made them ready to accept opposed ideologies such as nationalism and militarism,” writes Volker Ullrich.

The failure of the German states’ revolution of 1848 and the eventual violent unification of Germany in the German-French war of 1870-71 had converted many former liberals into enthusiastic supporters of Otto von Bismarck.

Towards the end of the First World War, the historian Friedrich Meinecke declared in retrospect: “The university educated middle class—once on the offensive against the old ruling classes, then joined and almost merged with them to form something of a co-regency—now feels on the defensive against all the social layers created by the transition from an agricultural to an industrial state, i.e., against the broad masses of workers and employees.”

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the nobility played a leading role within military and political circles, as well as among the academic elites. Those in educated middle-class circles, who saw themselves as the “intellectual aristocracy,” tried to adapt their lifestyle to that of the nobles—from aping their clothes and allegiance to reactionary student fraternities to embracing the feudal tradition of the duel. Their militaristic mindset was accompanied by an elitist rejection of democratic demands, such as the abolition of the Prussian three-class franchise.

In 1895, the historian Friedrich Paulsen had already complained about the “inhumane arrogance” of the educated middle classes. It led them, he wrote, to promote their own superiority at the expense of those less fortunate via “the noisy, narrow-minded nationalistic conceit that parades as patriotism.”

The war propaganda promoted by today’s academic elites is likewise marked by an “inhumane arrogance.” The only difference is that they invoke “human rights” instead of “culture” to justify the return of German militarism.

However, it is not the conservatives—those die-hard fossil elements still boasting of their student fraternity dueling scars—who now stand at the head of war propaganda. Instead, the tone is set by numerous veterans of the 1968 student revolt such as the Greens’ Joschka Fischer and Ralf Fücks, who once protested against the Vietnam War, and German university professors trying to hide their Nazi past.

What remains is their class conceit—their “inhumane arrogance”—in relation to the working class. In 1968, this had its roots in a distrust of any kind of mass movement, which drew from the ideology of the Frankfurt School, or took the form of a glorification of Stalinism in the form of Maoism. Today, many of the leading lights of these movements are in the forefront of the campaign to revive German imperialist war policy.

**
Notes

[1] Manifesto of the 93 here.

[2] Jeffrey Verhey: The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth, and Mobilization in Germany, CUP 2000

[3] Wolfgang Kruse: Eine Welt von Feinden. Der Große Krieg 1914-1918, Frankfurt a.M. 1997

[4] Ernst Piper: Nacht über Europa, Berlin 2013; Volker Ullrich: Die nervöse Großmacht 1871-1918, Frankfurt a.M., 1997, 2013

[5] Quote from Aufrufe und Reden deutscher Professoren im Ersten Weltkrieg, Reclam, 1975, 2014

Viking treasure discovery in Scotland


This video says about itself:

Metal detectorist finds Britain’s biggest ever haul of Viking treasure

12 October 2014

The largest haul of Viking treasure ever found in Britain has been unearthed by a metal detector enthusiast, it was revealed today.The discovery was found on Church of Scotland land after the detectorist painstakingly searched the unidentified area in Dumfries and Galloway for more than a year.

From STV in Scotland:

‘Significant’ Viking treasure found in Dumfries and Galloway

12 October 2014 12:31 BST

A hoard of Viking treasure found in Dumfries and Galloway has been described one of the most significant archaeological finds [in] Scottish history.

Early indication suggest there are over 100 artefacts, comprising several gold objects.

The hoard also included a complete metal vessel containing more objects. This has not yet been emptied and the first step will be to examine its contents by x-ray techniques.

Experts have begun to examine the finds, but it is already clear that this is one of the most significant Viking hoards ever discovered in Scotland.

Head of the Treasure Trove Unit Stuart Campbell, who is overseeing the recovery and assessment of the find, said: “This is a very important and significant find and has required the close cooperation of Historic Scotland with Treasure Trove Unit and National Museums Scotland staff to recover the fascinating items it contains.

“Due to the quantity and variety of the objects, and the importance of the find overall, it will take some time for experts to assess the hoard as a whole so that we can appreciate its true significance.

“We look forward to learning more.”

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said: “The Vikings were well known for having raided these shores in the past, but today we can appreciate what they have left behind, with this wonderful addition to Scotland’s cultural heritage.

“It’s clear that these artefacts are of great value in themselves, but their greatest value will be in what they can contribute to our understanding of life in early medieval Scotland, and what they tell us about the interaction between the different peoples in these islands at that time.

“The Dumfries hoard opens a fascinating window on a formative period in the story of Scotland and just goes to show how important our archaeological heritage in Scotland continues to be.

“As ever, the Scottish Government will work to facilitate and support the discovery, analysis and exhibiting of finds like this, for the benefit of people here and abroad. With that in mind I would like to echo the praise for the responsible behaviour of the metal detectorists: without their continued cooperation this would not be possible.”

The location of the find is not being revealed. The Scottish Government, Treasure Trove Unit and Historic Scotland are all involved in ensuring the area is properly protected while the full historical significance of the site is established.

Nature photos and video by artist Kim Boske


This Dutch video is about an exhibition in the Hilversum museum, the Netherlands at the moment. It is called I go walking in your landscape. The exhibition is by Kim Boske, photographer and videographer. She was born in Hilversum and lives in Amsterdam.

The subject of the exhibition is how time changes flowers and trees in nature, as recorded both in photos and on video.

This is another Dutch video on Ms Boske’s exhibition in Hilversum.

This video, in English, says about itself:

“I love this book, because I love Kim Boske, she’s a young artist. And I don’t love only this book, but I love her work.”

World’s oldest art discovered in Indonesia


This video about Sulawesi in Indonesia is called Cave art in the tropics.

From Nature:

World’s oldest art found in Indonesian cave

Analysis of images discovered in 1950s counters Eurocentric view of creativity’s origins.

David Cyranoski

8 October 2014

Artwork in an Indonesian cave has been found to date back at least 40,000 years, making it the oldest sign yet of human creative art — likely pre-dating art from European caves.

The findings, published on 8 October in Nature, undermine a Eurocentric view of the origins of human creativity and could prompt a ‘gold rush’ to find even older art on the route of human migration from Africa to the east.

The analysis hints at “just what a wealth of undiscovered information there is in Asia”, says Alistair Pike, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton, UK, who in 2013 identified what had been considered the world’s oldest cave art, in Europe, and had no involvement in the current project. “This paper will likely prompt a hunt.”

The Indonesian images, discovered in a limestone cave on the island of Sulawesi in the 1950s, had previously been thought to date back only 10,000 years. Anything older would, it was assumed, have deteriorated.

Even after a technology that could test that assumption, uranium-thorium dating, became available, no one thought to apply it to the Indonesian cave — until now. Though the paint itself cannot be dated, uranium-thorium dating can estimate the age of the bumpy layers of calcium carbonate (known as ‘cave popcorn’) that formed on the surface of the paintings. As mineral layers are deposited, they draw in uranium. Because uranium decays into thorium at a known rate, the ratio of uranium to thorium isotopes in a sample indicates how old it is.

The researchers dated 12 stencils of human hands and two images of large animals. Because they sampled the top layer of calcium carbonate, the uranium dating technique gave them a minimum age for each sample.

They found that the oldest stencil was at least 39,900 years old — 2,000 years older than the minimum age of the oldest European hand stencil. An image of a babirusa, or ‘pig-deer’, resembling an aubergine with stick-like legs jutting from each end, was estimated to be 35,400 years old — around the same age as the earliest large animal pictures in European caves.

This video from Sulawesi says about itself:

17 December 2013

A Video about the Babirusa in its natural habitat, the Paguyaman Forest. Other animals such as Heck’s macaque, reticulated python, water monitor lizard, oriental whipsnake, Gunther’s keelback and various birds like knobbed hornbill or emerald dove are also shown.

The Nature article continues:

The hand stencils look similar to those found in Europe. But the animal pictures, in addition to reflecting local animals rather than mammoths as in Europe, are stylistically different. The Indonesian images “look ‘line-y’, almost like brush strokes”, says Pike, whereas early European images “look dabbed, almost like finger paint”.

“It allows us to move away from the view that Europe was special,” says Maxime Aubert, an archaeologist at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, who led the team. “There was some idea that early Europeans were more aware of themselves and their surroundings. Now we can say that’s not true.”

Researchers posit two theories for the evolution of such artwork — either it arose independently in Indonesia, or early humans leaving Africa already had the capacity to make art, and carried it to multiple areas.

Pike thinks that researchers should seek evidence of art along the southern migration route. “India is the most obvious place to look,” he says. “I expect we’ll start getting a lot more photos [of images covered in calcium carbonate] from along that corridor from people who want to date them. This may move the field along very rapidly.” Southeast Asia will also be raked over, he predicts. There are hundreds more caves in that region of Sulawesi alone, and Aubert has also started looking in Borneo.

The discovery weakens a much-debated theory that Neanderthals, who were present in Europe until around 41,000 years ago, might have been responsible for the cave art there. “There were no Neanderthals in Sulawesi,” says Pike. But the hand stencils and choice of subject are very similar to the Indonesian figures, he adds.

Aubert hopes that the discovery might draw attention to the need to protect the caves, many of which have been damaged by mining and other industrial activity. Many of the paintings are flaking off, he says. He hopes that the site might finally, after years of candidacy, be designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Education, Social and Cultural Organization, which would accelerate conservation efforts.

English sculpture commemorates World War I


This video is called World War I “Celebration” (GRRRR).

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Tuesday 7th October 2014

THE tragedy of World War I is being commemorated in the Pennine town of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire.

A sand sculpture of a woman clutching a telegram informing her of her husband’s death has been created in a paved area outside Hebden Bridge town hall to mark 100 years since the senseless slaughter.

The sculpture is the work of Jamie Wardley, who will be reworking the sculpture twice over coming months.

In the first re-working, now complete, the woman became middle aged. Later she will be elderly to signify that although people learn to cope with loss, the hurt felt through tragedy is eternal.

The sculpture is modelled on a local woman called Hannah Greenwood. Her family name dates back centuries, but as is the case with many people, some of her extended family is also German.

The work was commissioned by Labour-run Hebden Royd Town Council.

See also here.

Special caterpillar, video


This video is about a special caterpillar on a mat.

It is a caterpillar of a pale tussock moth.

The Dutch name for this species is meriansborstel, Merian’s brush; named after famous seventeenth century naturalist and painter of insects Maria Sibylla Merian.

Jos van Zijl in the Netherlands made the video.

See also here.