Month: June 2013

Ode to Bees- “Buzz”

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Fine, hand colored engraving from Jardine's Naturalist Library engraved and published by W.H. Lizars in Edinburgh. 1859.
Fine, hand colored engraving from Jardine’s Naturalist Library engraved and published by W.H. Lizars in Edinburgh. 1859.

I once met an old Bosnian man, while living in Sarajevo, who had spent his whole life studying bees. In fact, he had written a hefty tome on apiculture. I recall being so fascinated by him. He was poised and slim with wizened skin and a sparkle in his eye. I was frustrated by my limited Bosnian vocabulary to suit an apiarist, in light of a fascinating conversation opportunity.

Virgil Surveying Bees. Œuvres avec les commentaires de Servius, Paris, 15th c.
Virgil Surveying Bees. Œuvres avec les commentaires de Servius, Paris, 15th c.

I’ve just downloaded Virgil’s Georgic’s Volume IV on Beekeeping to read and it has made me ponder when my first fascination with bees developed. Maybe it was as a small child in my grandfather, Poppy’s garden. Driving our Volvo to my grandparents’ house near the sea was one of the most thrilling things for me as a child. On arrival, I would race to Poppy’s garden. It was often hard to find him as he was quiet and reserved but once discovered, I’d hug his knees tight (that was all I could reach) and tell him I loved him.

There is something special I want to tell you about my Poppy. He could pat bees. He would stroke their abdomen with his rustic farmer’s hands. They never stung him in return. This fascinated the grandchildren and we would watch, wide eyed. After his death, I was asked by my Mum and Aunties,

“Did Poppy stroke bees”?

Didn’t they know?

“Of course he did,” I replied. It was concluded posthumously that this was something learnt in the Prison camps of South Germany, where apparently he had undertaken an apiculture course to pass the drudgery of incarceration.

Graffiti Fresco by Melbourne artist Mike Makatron.
Graffiti Fresco by Melbourne artist Mike Makatron.

The Indestructible Object or, “Oh Man Ray, we have a new Prime Minister”

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Object to be Destroyed. Man Ray. 1923.
Object to be Destroyed. Man Ray. 1923.

Australia has a new Prime Minister. Overnight. I’m not a political scientist. I’m far from it. So instead I will outline the chronology of a work of art that reminds me of Timeline: The Resurrection of Rudd, published today in The Australian.

In 1923 the artist Man Ray created Object to be Destroyed. Assembled from a second-hand German metronome with a print of an eye on the hand, he used to keep it ticking in his studio while he painted;

The faster it went, the faster I painted; and if the metronome stopped then I knew I had painted too long, I was repeating myself, my painting was no good and I would destroy it. A painter needs an audience, so I also clipped a photo of an eye to the metronome’s swinging arm to create the illusion of being watched as I painted. One day I did not accept the metronome’s verdict, the silence was unbearable and since I had called it, with a certain premonition, Object of Destruction, I smashed it to pieces.(Schwarz, p.206.)

10 years later, Man Ray recreated the object. He replaced the original eye with the eye of former lover Lee Miller. Images of the object were printed in the magazine This Quarter (September 1932) with instructions on it’s construction and use;

Cut out the eye from a photograph of one who has been loved but is seen no more. Attach the eye to the pendulum of a metronome and regulate the weight to suit the tempo desired. Keep going to the limit of endurance. With a hammer well-aimed, try to destroy the whole at a single blow

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Gillard enters the chamber for the first time as a backbencher. Global Mail. Photograph Mike Bowers.

In the mayhem of relocation to America from Paris during World War 2, the object was lost. A new model was created in it’s place and titled Lost Object but following a misprint in an art catalogue it also became known as Last Object.

On this object, Man Ray affirmed his wish to “some day while the eye is ticking away during a conversation …lift my hammer and with one well-aimed blow completely demolish the metronome”(Schwarz, p.206.) Man Ray’s words, preempted the object’s destruction, but maybe not quite as he had expected. In Paris in 1956, art students destroyed the item in protest at a Dada exhibition.

Unrelentless, in 1958, Man Ray remade the object. This time, he gave it a more hefty title- Indestructible Object. 7 years later he made some 100 reproductions of the Indestructible Object. In 1970 he changed the eye of the metronome- from then the eye blinks with each swing of the metronome’s hand.

Man Ray would be proud. Photograph Mike Bowers.
Man Ray would be proud. Photograph Mike Bowers.

Man Ray’s last statement on the object-

It finally annoys me always to repeat the same thing, so I introduced a small variation, I changed the eye of the metronome. Well, since I have repeated it now for the third time, I will call it Perpetual Motif. After all, the movement of the metronome is a perpetual motif. (Schwarz, p.206.)

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The Indestructible Object. Man Ray. 1965.

 

500 BABY!!!

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500 BABY!!!

We’ve hit 500, baby in our 1st week! Oh yeah!
1,2 CHA CHA CHA!!!

Oh gee, oh gosh, oh golly I’m in love!*

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The Lemon Dress. Summer 2013
The Lemon Dress. Summer 2013. Photographer Vassil Nikolov

Yesterday I felt like stepping back in time, to an era where colours were brighter, hemlines fuller and the dance beat a little more doo wop, so I did. There is this little boutique in a back street in downtown Sofia that I have wanted to check out for eons.

Oh gee, oh gosh, oh golly I’m in love!* What a dear store!

Rosettes made from found items! I got the clock face one! Can't wait to wear it!
Rosettes made from found items! I got the clock face one! Can’t wait to wear it!

Vintage Sofia is the concept of Ilka Peycheva– trained illustrator and animator.

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Designer Ilka Peycheva

Ilka sources her fabrics and patterns from  USA, France, New Zealand, Germany and Italy and is off to Greece with her collection for the Retro Expo this month.

It’s a tough market in Sofia, with generally low local salaries. It is also hard for young designers to break into the circle, with many feeling that they need strong business connections or to be established experts before they will have the courage to exhibit. 

Ilka said living in the States as an au pair made her braver. She used to exhibit her illustrations at local markets and the support and vivacity of market goers in response to her art increased her bravery.

What strikes me as so beautiful about this demure designer, is her efforts to ensure that the local girls can afford her designs and her ability to build a strong business from scratch.

What started as a rosette and brooch business has blossomed into a store with seasonal collections.Vintage Sofia plays an active roll in the Swing, Rockabilly and Retro circles in Sofia and is often behind the organisation for swing parties with big bands.

This seasons collection reminds me of fruit salad! I want a fruity dress too!

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Perfect for summer, huh?555987_517141628321629_78416609_n

Having fun in store talking to Ilka
Having fun in store talking to Ilka

*snatched from the KODAKS

** Images sourced from Vintage Sofia

*** Model- Grigorana Luciano

The Belly of Sofia- Le Ventre de Sofia

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When I first arrive in a new city, I do everything but what a pragmatist would do. I avoid travel guide books, maps and pre-reading. I like to get lost in the labyrinth. I used to carry maps, but they always receive more damage from an over packed clutch bag than from any navigational purpose.

There are little streets I’ll adjourn into so as to pass the things I find beautiful (Ulitsa Solunska for her trees, the book market). Promenades are extended a few hundred metres, just to see a structure I feel an affinity to (Ekzarh Josif for the beautiful synagogue, the Ivan Vazov National Theatre or anything in the yellow paves area).

Sofia Synagogue
Sofia Synagogue

The only other things that will pull me directionally are food items- the Neo-Byzantine Central Market Hall (that looks more like a train station) for it’s brilliant olive shop; a cute Euro style bakery near the end of Vitosha, with the best quiches I’ve ever had (creamy and buttery pastry, fragrant and just the right size to fit in both hand and belly), the gelati cafe with its bright and tart passionfruit scoops that send me giddy (I’ll walk 800 metres past maybe 10 icecream vendors, just to get that), my bread store that I always lose- is it on Knyazh Boris or Tsar Asen??? I still don’t know, but I’d fly from Melbourne for their ancient grainy sourdoughs and after a few weeks, I’ve found my favourite cherry vendors, I’m uncovering who has the best rosovi (pink) tomatoes- almost the size of my head- in the market….

Mentioned Bread
Mentioned Bread
Olives at the Central Market
Olives at the Central Market

It’s more exciting to navigate by delicacies than coordinates.

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As a teenager, I was blown away by Emile Zola‘s gastronomic novel, The Belly of Paris. I mean, Zola was ingenious. Who else describes a cheese shop as a Cheese Symphony?

“A silence fell at the mention of Gavard. They all looked at each other cautiously. As they were all rather short of breath by this time, it was the camembert they could smell. This cheese, with its gamy odour, had overpowered the milder smells of the marolles and the limbourg; its power was remarkable. Every now and then, however, a slight whiff, a flute-like note, came from the parmesan, while the bries came into play with their soft, musty smell, the gentle sound, so to speak, of a damp tambourine. The livarot launched into an overwhelming reprise, and the géromé kept up the symphony with a sustained high note.”

I recommend it!
I recommend it!

If Sofia were a symphony I can’t decide what is playing. But at the moment I think I hear strains of the most beautiful plump olives sourced from Greece, the tones of robust and gluttonous tomatoes grown in rich Bulgarian soil and definitely the bell song of bright vivid cherries.

The Matador & the Bull

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Bullfight: Death of the Toreador. Picasso. 1933.
Bullfight: Death of the Toreador. Picasso. 1933.

Opera singing is like bullfighting.

No, I’m not talking about Carmen.

Top matadors travel between continents. Fights are divided into 3 acts. Traditionally it is viewed as a fine art, not sport. Individuals either support or spurn it. Governments either fund it or prohibit it. Not so different from opera after all is it?

When you sing for them, in concert at least, you dress like the matador: flamboyant, gilded, twinkling. Sometimes though, you must play the whore or village idiot.

There is the “ring”-right there your audience sits. From their perspective it looks easy. It looks glamorous, indulgent. I’ll abstain from saying, it’s really not. But if you are not careful, the gruelling work can seem somewhat masochistic.

Fortunately opera singing is not so fatal as bullfighting, although some libretti certainly are.  You may have to impale yourself with a  dagger (Juliette), throw yourself from a castle’s parapets (Tosca) or be murdered en scene (should I even bother to start listing: Desdemona, Carmen, Lulu ad nauseum). If you are lucky though, maybe you will curtsy around the stage in ostrich feathers or tend your sheep, avoid being raped, deal a few cards or fall in love with a shepherd.

The problem is sometimes it’s hard to know whether you are the bull or the matador. As you step onto the stage you must master the bull (your professional fears and self doubt)- sing that top note, not breathe mid-phrase, get that French pronunciation right, beautify that cadenza, sing legato, float your pianissimi, walk like an Egyptian in Aida and not like you are off to buy some milk at 7-11, and so forth…

The alternative is to be the bull and simply produce bullshit.

One-piece Diplomat: “Sofia” Loren

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I arrive at the gate of the local swimming basin. With good intention to sit on a sun lounge and drink Virgin Mary cocktails (more on that another time) and swan around in the water. It’s so blasted hot. I buy my ticket for entry and saunter off to settle the sun lounge fee when I am stopped. They want to check my bag for ammunition and weapons. My friend and I dissolve into giggles. Why me? I look like I just stepped out of a 1920’s garden tea party, complete with aspic.

We find our territory on an elevated platform overlooking the basins and less than half a metre beneath the VIP zone (which appears exactly the same as our area, except there is plastic turf and fatter cushions and cedar umbrellas instead of plastic and no one else). I’m royally upset that I don’t have plastic turf and furthermore that there are no Virgin Marys, even for VIPs.

Dashing of to the change rooms, I don my togs and as I return to my chair I observe EVERY girl is in either a bikini (or a topless bikini). For years I’ve only worn bikinis. But of late, I simply love the lines of one-piece. They can look so damn spanking hot and for some reason they remind me of Sophia Loren, however I might need to eat more kartofki  and probably should have emerged from a different swimming, oops, gene pool.

I feel I am the last bastion of the one-piece swimming suit. Possibly this is why I was checked for ammunition. Maybe the guy on the gate realised the power of the one-piece.

Here is a splash of beautiful pieces for you Sofiates this summer;

Zimmerman 2013 Locket perforated one piece
Zimmerman 2013
Locket perforated one piece
Verano High 2013Nantucket retro Maillot one piece
Verano High 2013
Nantucket retro Maillot one piece
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Zimmerman 2013
Celestial floral print underwired one piece