Archive for April 2005

links for 2005-04-30

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Written by Dave Lovely

April 30, 2005 at 11:17 pm

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collage of photographs

"The photographs in this exhibit were made by inmate photographers, although their identities still have not been determined. Prison records from 1915 indicate that there were five convicts who listed their previous occupation as photographer. Reports also document that there was a room in the prison designated as the "Photograph Gallery" and that the current warden, Edmund M. Allen, had an annual budget for photographic expenses of almost $1000, approximately three times greater than that of previous administrations."


Preserved and exhibited by Richard Lawson as a professor at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, in 1981. Discoverd by him when an inmate at Joliet himself, having been busted for possession of marijuana on April 1st, 1969. Read more about the extraordinary story of the Joliet Prison Photographs, and see more images, here, and here.

For more on the visual representation of prisoners, see James Hugunin’s introduction to the exhibition Discipline and Punish: The Prison Experience, held at Chicago’s Peace Museum in 1996. There’s an odd similarity between the pose of the policeman and his collared captives:


and this diagram of the Bertillon Measurement System, (as used at Joliet Prison, and many others, in the 1890s):


There’s a Galtonian connection in all this, too (see earlier post on Sir Francis Galton). Galton believed that by superimposing photographs of criminals on top of one another, it would be possible to ascertain the lineaments and archetypal traits of the ‘criminal type’. The process was known as the "Galtonian composite", and was quite the thing amongst criminal anthropologists of the late 19th century, Cesare Lombroso, for one.

Further discussion of the Galtonian composite can be found in this post from Jeff Ward’s fascinating blog this Public Address, (and I recommend the Photo History Archives here to anyone interested in wider philosophical issues stemming from the history of photography). Andreas Broeckmann’s thesis "A Visual Economy of Individuals: The Use of Portrait Photography in the Nineteenth-Century Human Sciences" looks like being the source for many more future lines of inquiry in this area.


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Written by Dave Lovely

April 30, 2005 at 10:41 pm

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Cuckoo Song. Anonymous. The Oxford Book of English Verse.


SUMER is icumen in,
  Lhude sing cuccu!

Groweth sed, and bloweth med,
  And springth the wude nu—
     Sing cuccu!       

Awe bleteth after lomb,
  Lhouth after calve cu;

Bulluc sterteth, bucke verteth,
  Murie sing cuccu!

Cuccu, cuccu, well singes thu, cuccu:
   Ne swike thu naver nu;

Sing cuccu, nu, sing cuccu,
  Sing cuccu, sing cuccu, nu!

GLOSS:  lhude] loud.  awe] ewe.  lhouth] loweth.  sterteth] leaps.  swike] cease.

Anonymous, c.1250.

Heard today near Hayfield in Derbyshire (out walking again)…

For some folklore – the cuckoo is a bird made much of in folklore – see, for example Cuckoos of the Kalevala.. The Kalevala is a repository of Finnish myth and legend, but cuckoo folklore is common throughout Europe, for instance, in Bulgaria:

"Bulgarians would expect the cuckoo to make its first call on Annunciation day.  Some folk songs say that the cuckoo warned of the arrival of bad wood nymphs. Traditionally one is expected to have a piece of bread and a coin on themselves when they hear the first cuckoo call in order to be well-off and well-fed down the year. Fairy tales and legends say that the cuckoo used to be a maiden in her time. She and her brother never stopped fighting and were eventually turned into an owl and a cuckoo, one to be the lord of night, the other the lady of day, seeking to meet each other but failing…"

In Slavic cultures, Ascension Day traditionally saw the celebration of the cuckoo’s funeral:


before Ascension Day women (or girls) make a small doll from herbs or pieces of fabrics. The next day before sunrise, the women or (girls) carry the ‘cuckoo’ to a well. There they spill water on it to ‘baptize’ it. Then they put the ‘cuckoo’ into a small coffin, and with jocular laments carry a coffin in the forest. Men (or boys) do their best to find the site in the forest where a doll-cuckoo is buried. If they manage to find it they tear out the ‘cuckoo’ from the earth and tease women (or girls) with it. Having buried it women (or girls) make a funeral repast on the cuckoo’s grave. Then the whole group goes back to the village, makes a festive dinner, sings songs, and dances to the accordion.

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Written by Dave Lovely

April 29, 2005 at 9:48 pm

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Capturing the Unicorn


Detail of the Unicorn Tapestries, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. From the Unicorn Tapestries homepage.

It was as if, when the conservators removed the backing, the tapestries had woken up. The threads twisted and rotated restlessly. Tiny changes in temperature and humidity in the room had caused the tapestries to shrink or expand from hour to hour, from minute to minute. The gold- and silver-wrapped threads changed shape at different speeds and in different ways from the wool and silk threads.

“We found out that a tapestry is a three-dimensional structure,” Gregory went on. “It’s made from interlocked loops of wool.”

“The loops move and change,” David said.

“The tapestry is like water,” Gregory said. “Water has no permanent shape.”

Making digital images of the Unicorn tapestries at New York’s Cloisters, from the New Yorker.

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Written by Dave Lovely

April 28, 2005 at 9:57 pm

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links for 2005-04-27

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Written by Dave Lovely

April 27, 2005 at 11:17 pm

Posted in del.icio.us

Colour Associations

Via Purse Lip Square Jaw, the life and work of Sir Francis Galton, F.R.S., 1822-1911.

For example, this (an account of synaesthesia, from Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development:

"When I think of Wednesday I see a kind of oval flat wash of yellow emerald green; for Tuesday, a gray sky colour; for Thursday, a brown-red irregular polygon; and a dull yellow smudge for Friday."

chart of colour associations

Further (quoting a certain Baron von Osten Sacken):

“The localisation of numerals, peculiar to certain persons, is foreign to me. In my mind’s eye the figures appear in front of me, within a limited space. My peculiarity, however, consists in the fact that the numerals from I to 9 are differently coloured; (1) black, (2) yellow, (3) pale brick red, (4) brown, (5) blackish gray, (6) reddish brown, (7)
green, (8) bluish, (9) reddish brown, somewhat like 6. These colours appear very distinctly when I think of these figures separately; in compound figures they become less apparent. But the most remarkable manifestation of these colours appears in my recollections of chronology. When I think of the events of a given century they invariably appear to me on a background coloured like the principal figure in the dates of that century; thus events of the eighteenth century invariably appear to me on a greenish ground, from the colour of the figure 7. This habit clings to me most tenaciously, and the only hypothesis I can form about its origin is the following :—My tutor, when I was ten to twelve years old, taught me chronology by means of a diagram on which the centuries were represented by squares,
subdivided in 100 smaller squares; the squares representing centuries had narrow coloured borders; it may be that in this way the recollection of certain figures became associated with certain colours."

The extent of Galton’s interests may be gathered from this list of his major works, all of which are available online. The Art of Travel is an engaging compendium of advice for travellers. His ideas on eugenics, however, are not so appealing.

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Written by Dave Lovely

April 27, 2005 at 10:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized


Yesterday’s links stemmed from one that turned up coincidentally in one of my news aggregators after I had in fact spent the whole of what was, here in the North of England, a gloriously sunny spring day out walking in the Peak District.

As William Dunbar (a Scottish poet, but still…) has it "The skyes rang for schoutying of the larkis", voices so insistent that the landscape seems suspended from them, and they the focal point as they hang in the air singing their lungs out – at one point there were three skylarks above me at once as I tramped across a field craning my neck to find them.

The landscape is huge, whether worked by man (Bee Low Quarry near Dove Holes) or by natural forces – rolling and surging, breaking out in craggy fortress-like limestone outcrops ("Peter’s Stone" is one, just outside Litton near Wardlow Mires).

The fields near Tideswell full of lambs, Wheston with its 15th-century cross tucked away (I nearly missed it) in a clump of trees near the road next to a farmyard, Eyam with its moving plague story- the 16th century figure of Death painted on the wall of the nave in the parish church seems somehow premonitory but of course isn’t…

The links to walkinginplace  from rhizome, and to Thoreau’s essay from the walkinginplace reading group weblog at IPRH: the Illinois Program for Reasearch in the Humanities.

The walking exchange page lists a plethora of additional walking and place related links too numerous to mention, at least until I’ve had the time to explore some of them.

I should, however, point people to that fine writer Rebecca Solnit’s book Wanderlust: A History of Walking, and to her citation of Allan Kaprow which pretty much sums up what this whole walking as art thing, and indeed much of conceptual art in general, is all about:

They will discover out of ordinary things the meaning of ordinariness. They will not try to make them extraordinary but wil only state their real meaning. But out of this they will devise the extraordinary."

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Written by Dave Lovely

April 26, 2005 at 8:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized