How ABBA Won Eurovision and Became International Pop Stars (1974)

Eurovision, the flashy original song contest that captivates Europeans, tends to get roundly mocked in the U.S., where we choose our stars by having them sing other people’s songs on TV in ridiculous costumes. Nonetheless, Americans have fallen in love with many a contest winner, and that’s no more true than in the case of ABBA, the Swedish pop-disco juggernaut who broke through to international stardom when they won in 1974 with “Waterloo,” chosen twice as the greatest song in the competition’s history.

The two couples — Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaus; Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad — first formed as Festfolket (“Party People”) in 1970, and Ulvaus and Andersson began submitting songs to Swedish national contest Melodifestivalen. In 1973, they submitted “Ring Ring,” finally placed third, then released an album called Ring Ring as Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Frida. They had taken on a new glam rock look and sound, and the album was a hit in parts of Europe and South Africa, but didn’t break the UK and US charts.

It was time for another name change, an anagram formed from the first letters of their first names. (They were obliged to ask permission from a local fish cannery called Abba, who agreed on condition the band didn’t make the canners “feel ashamed for what you’re doing.”) The name, producer Stig Anderson thought, would translate internationally, and the band would sing in English for their next single, the song that would launch their rapid ascent into seemingly eternal relevance.

How did “Waterloo” not only break ABBA into stardom but also “reinvent pop music” as we know it? As the Polyphonic video at the top explains, it did far more than raise the bar for every Eurovision performance since. ABBA brought glam, glitter, and theatrical bombast into pop, using Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” studio techniques to coax an enormous, enveloping sound from their vocal harmonies, guitars, pianos, horns, drums, etc., and taking heavy inspiration from English band Wizzard’s song “See My Baby Jive,” while “pulling back on the rock” and leaning into cleaner, more dance-floor-friendly production.

ABBA wisely put Agnetha and Anni-Frid’s vocal harmonies in the center, and they took a decidedly quirky turn from glam rock’s love of sleazy come-ons and songs about aliens. Originally called “Honey Pie,” the band’s breakout hit became “Waterloo” when Stig Anderson turned it into an odd reference to Napoleon’s surrender, “such a novel conceit for a song that it’s hard to forget.” ABBA continued this tradition in short story-songs like “Fernando,” first written with different lyrics in Swedish for Lyngstad, then rewritten in English by Ulvaeus as a tale about two old campaigners from the Mexican-American War.

Smart songwriting, catchy hooks, impeccable vocal harmonies, and flashy beauty — once the world saw and heard ABBA, few could resist them. But it took their uniquely theatrical (at the time) Eurovision performance to break them out, as Ulvaeus says. “We knew that the Eurovision Song Contest was the only route for a Swedish group to make it outside Sweden.” The win was huge, but the contest was a means to an end. True validation came with hit after hit, as ABBA proved themselves indispensable to wedding dance floors everywhere and “completely transformed what it meant to be a pop star.” See their original Eurovision performance of “Waterloo” just above.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Making of a Violin from Start to Finish: Watch a French Luthier Practice a Time-Honored Craft

Two families have been credited with making the greatest violins of the classical period: the Stradivari and the Guarneri. The first luthiers with those names were trained in the workshops of the Amati family, whose patriarch, Andrea, founded a legacy in Cremona in the mid 1500s when he gave the violin the form we know today, inventing f-holes and perfecting the general shape and size of the instrument and others in its family.

But there’s far more to the story of the violin than its famous Italian maker names suggest, though these still stand for the height of quality and prestige. Violin-making centers arose elsewhere in Europe soon after the Stradivari and Guarneri set up shop. In France, the town of Mirecourt became “synonymous with French violins and the craft,” notes Corilon violins.

From 1732 on, French Mirecourt craftsmen followed the strict rules of their guild to uphold their high standards, and apprentices trained there were in demand far beyond the confines of the town. They frequently went on to found their own studios in other cities, especially Paris. Sometimes they later returned to Mirecourt after several years of success elsewhere. As a result the local art of making French violins had a strong effect on the outside world, whilst at the same time incorporating other influences. 

Famous Mirecourt makers included Nicolas Lupot, called “the French Stradivarius.” The primary influence came from Cremona, but “important technical insights were adapted from German violin making.”

The city entered a new phase when Didier Nicolas became the first to manufacture violins serially in Mirecourt at the turn of the 19th century. His factory “employed some 600 people, making his business the first large-scale operation of its kind in the tradition-rich town in northern Frances Vosges mountains,” and inaugurating an industrial period that would last until the late 1960s.

The post-industrial late-20th century saw the collapse of Mirecourt’s great violin-making companies, but not the end of the city’s fame as France’s violin-making center, thanks in great part to Nicolas’ founding of L’École Nationale de Lutherie, “where excellent masters and violin makers keep the time-honored art alive and dynamic.” The city’s “guild heritage” lives on in the work of contemporary makers like Dominique Nicosia.

A master luthier and instructor at the school in Mirecourt, Nicosia shows us in the video at the top the time-honored techniques employed in the making of violins in France for hundreds of years, using metal tools he also makes himself. Watch the tradition come alive, learn more about the famous violin-making city, which remains the bow-making capital of the world here, and see Nicosia pass his skills and knowledge to a new generation in the video above from L’École Nationale de Lutherie.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

Frida Kahlo: The Complete Paintings Collects the Painter’s Entire Body of Work in a 600-Page, Large-Format Book

Most of us who know Frida Kahlo’s work know her self-portraits. But, in her brief 47 years, she created a more various body of work: portraits of others, still lifes, and difficult-to-categorize visions that still, 67 years after her death, feel drawn straight from the wild currents of her imagination. (Not to mention her elaborately illustrated diary, previously featured here on Open Culture.) Somehow, Kahlo’s work has never all been gathered in one place. That, along with her enduring appeal as both an artist and a historical figure, surely made her an appealing proposition for art-book publisher Taschen, an operation as invested in visual richness as it is in completeness.

There’s also the matter of size. Though not conceived at the same scale as the murals of Diego Rivera, with whom Kahlo lived in not one but two less-than-conventional marriages, Kahlo’s paintings look best when seen at their biggest. Hence Taschen’s “large-format XXL” production of Frida Kahlo: The Complete Paintings, which “allows readers to admire Frida Kahlo’s paintings like never before, including unprecedented detail shots and famous photographs.” Presented along with a biographical essay, those photos capture, among other subjects, “Frida, Diego, and the Casa Azul, Frida’s home and the center of her universe.”

In creating his volume, editor-author Luis-Martín Lozano and contributors Andrea Kettenmann and Marina Vázquez Ramos focused not on the artist’s life, but her work. “Most people at exhibitions, they’re interested in her personality — who she is, how she dressed, who does she go to bed with, her lovers, her story,” says Lozano in an interview with BBC Culture. Putting together a run-of-the-mill Kahlo book, “you repeat the same things, and it will sell – because everything about Kahlo sells. It’s unfortunate to say, but she’s become a merchandise.” Frida Kahlo: The Complete Paintings is also, of course, a product, and one painstakingly designed to compel the Frida Kahlo enthusiast. Its ideal reader, however, desires to live in not Kahlo’s world, but the world she created.

via Colossal

Note: Taschen is a partner of ours. So if you purchase a book, it helps support Open Culture.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

What Makes Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks a Great Painting?: A Video Essay

“Even though you may live in one of the most crowded and busy cities on Earth, it is still possible to feel entirely alone.” Though hardly a novel sentiment, this nevertheless makes for a highly suitable entrée into a video essay on Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. Its creator is gallerist and Youtuber James Payne, whose channel Great Art Explained has already taken on the likes of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s David, Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych, and Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. Nighthawks, safe to say, makes a more immediate impression on us 21st-century urbanites than any of those works, whatever our individual degrees of alienation. But why?

Hopper painted what he knew, and especially so in the case of his single best-known work. Though the diner Nighthawks takes as its setting exists nowhere in New York, the artist had spent his entire adult life in the city, an immersion that allowed him to create a street-corner scene that feels realer than real.

But the emotion exuded by that diner’s patrons must run deeper than the standard urban malaise. Eighteen years into a bitter and dysfunctional marriage, the inspiration for all the “disconnected and unhappy couples he portrays time and again in his paintings,” Hopper knew intimately more than one kind of human loneliness. He himself acted as model for all three of Nighthawks‘ male figures, in fact, and his wife Josephine posed for the female one.

“It was down to Jo that Edward became a success,” says Payne, “a fact he never thanked her for.” An artist in her own right, she got Hopper his first solo show in 1924, when he was 42. Up to then he’d worked as a magazine illustrator, but even by the time of Nighthawks in 1942, he clearly hadn’t forgotten the misery of his day job. Nor had he discarded what it gave him: “along with the preparation skills he picked up, it also helped to hone his storytelling abilities.” An avid moviegoer, he “planned Nighthawks like a filmmaker, storyboarding the painting ahead of its creation.” Filmmakers have responded to Hopper’s cinematic painting with tributes of their own: Herbert Ross re-created the diner in Pennies from Heaven, as did Wim Wenders in The End of Violence, evoking Hopper’s “world of loneliness, anguish, and quiet isolation.” Ironic, then, that so many in Nighthawks generations of appreciators have felt less alone while regarding it.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Epidemics in Western Society Since 1600: A Free Online Course from Yale University

From Yale University comes an unfortunately timely course, Epidemics in Western Society Since 1600Recorded before the outbreak of COVID-19, the 25 lecture course, presented by historian Frank Snowden, covers the following ground:

This course consists of an international analysis of the impact of epidemic diseases on western society and culture from the bubonic plague to HIV/AIDS and the recent experience of SARS and swine flu. Leading themes include: infectious disease and its impact on society; the development of public health measures; the role of medical ethics; the genre of plague literature; the social reactions of mass hysteria and violence; the rise of the germ theory of disease; the development of tropical medicine; a comparison of the social, cultural, and historical impact of major infectious diseases; and the issue of emerging and re-emerging diseases.

You can watch the lectures on YouTube above, or on iTunes (VideoAudio). You can also read Snowden’s related book: Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present.

If you want to hear what Snowden has to say about COVID-19, we have two interviews below.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: Epidemics in History

How Will COVID-19 Change the World? Historian Frank Snowden on Epidemics From the Black Death to Now

Epidemics in Western Society Since 1600 will be added to our list of Free Online History courses, a subset of our metacollection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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Sylvia Plath’s Tarot Cards (Which Influenced the Poems in Ariel) Were Just Sold for $207,000

We celebrated my birthday yesterday: [Ted] gave me a lovely Tarot pack of cards and a dear rhyme with it, so after the obligations of this term are over your daughter shall start her way on the road to becoming a seeress & will also learn how to do horoscopes, a very difficult art which means reviving my elementary math. 

– Sylvia Plath, in a letter to her mother, 28 October 1956

Sylvia Plath’s Tarot cards, a 24th birthday present from her husband, poet Ted Hughes, just went for £151,200 in an auction at Sotheby’s.

That’s approximately £100,000 more than this lot, a Tarot de Marseille deck printed by playing card manufacturer B.P. Grimaud de Paris, was expected to fetch.

The auction house’s description indicates that a few of the cards were discolored —  evidence of use, as supported by Plath’s numerous references to Tarot in her journals.

Recall Tarot’s appearance in “Daddy,” her most widely known poem, and her identification with the Hanging Man card, in a poem of the same name:

By the roots of my hair some god got hold of me.

I sizzled in his blue volts like a desert prophet.

The nights snapped out of sight like a lizard’s eyelid :

A world of bald white days in a shadeless socket.

A vulturous boredom pinned me in this tree.

If he were I, he would do what I did.

This century has seen her collection Ariel restored to its author’s intended order.
The original order is said to correspond quite closely to Tarot, with the first twenty-two poems symbolizing the cards of the Major Arcana.

The next ten are aligned with the numbers of the Minor Arcana. Those are followed by four representing the Court cards. The collection’s final four poems can be seen to reference the pentacles, cups, swords and wands that comprise the Tarot’s suits.

Ariel’s manuscript was rearranged by Hughes, who dropped some of the “more lacerating” poems and added others in advance of its 1965 publication, two years after Plath’s death by suicide. (Hear Plath read poems from Ariel here.)

Daughter Frieda defends her father’s actions and describes how damaging they were to his reputation in her Foreword to Ariel: The Restored Edition.

One wonders if it’s significant that Plath’s Page of Cups, a card associated with positive messages related to family and loved ones, has a rip in it?

We also wonder who paid such a staggering price for those cards.

Will they give the deck a moon bath or salt burial to cleanse it of Plath’s negative energy?

Or is the winning bidder such a diehard fan, the chance to handle something so intimately connecting them to their literary hero neutralizes any occult misgivings?

We rather wish Plath’s Tarot de Marseille had been awarded to Phillip Roberts in Shipley, England, who planned to exhibit them alongside her tarot-influenced poems in a pop up gallery at the Saltaire Festival. To finance this dream, he launched a crowd-funding campaign, pledging that every £100 donor could keep one of the cards, to be drawn at random, with all contributors invited to submit new art or writing to the mini-exhibition: Save Sylvia Plath’s cards from living in the drawers of some wealthy collector, and let’s make some art together!

Alas, Roberts and friends fell  £148,990 short of the winning bid. Better luck next time, mate. We applaud your graciousness in defeat, as well as the spirit in which your project was conceived.

via Lithub

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How The Pink Panther Painted The Mona Lisa’s Smile: Watch the 1975 Animation, “Pink Da Vinci”

Just a little fun to send you into the summer weekend. Above, we present the 1975 animated short, “Pink Da Vinci,” which IMDB frames as follows:

Another battle of the paintbrush between the Pink Panther and a diminutive painter, who this time is Leonardo Da Vinci, painting his masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. The little Da Vinci paints a pouting mouth on the Mona Lisa, but the Pink Panther decides to covertly replace the pout with a smile. When the smile wins the appreciation of an art patron, Da Vinci is enraged and repaints the pout. The Pink Panther repeatedly changes the pout to a smile while the little painter is not looking, and ultimately it is the Pink Panther’s version of the Mona Lisa that hangs in the Louvre.

If this whets your appetite, watch 15 hours of Pink Panther animations here.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Oldest-Known Work of Literature in World History

You’re probably familiar with The Epic of Gilgamesh, the story of an overbearing Sumerian king and demi-god who meets his match in wild man Enkidu. Gilgamesh is humbled, the two become best friends, kill the forest guardian Humbaba, and face down spurned goddess Ishtar’s Bull of Heaven. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh goes looking for the only man to live forever, a survivor of a legendary pre-Biblical flood. The great king then tries, and fails, to gain eternal life himself. The story is packed with episodes of sex and violence, like the modern-day comics that are modeled on ancient mythology. It is also, as you may know, the oldest-known work of literature on Earth, written in cuneiform, the oldest-known form of writing.

This is one version of the story. But Gilgamesh beaks out of the tidy frame usually put around it. It is a “poem that exists in a pile of broken pieces,” Joan Acocella writes at The New Yorker, “in an extremely dead language.”

If Gilgamesh were based on a real king of Ur, he would have lived around 2700 BC. The first stories written about him come from some 800 years after that time, during the Old Babylonian period, after the last of the Sumerian dynasties had already ended. The version we tend to read in world literature and mythology courses comes from several hundred years later, notes the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Ira Spar:

Some time in the twelfth century B.C., Sin-leqi-unninni, a Babylonian scholar, recorded what was to become a classic version of the Gilgamesh tale. Not content to merely copy an old version of the tale, this scholar most likely assembled various versions of the story from both oral and written sources and updated them in light of the literary concerns of his day, which included questions about human mortality and the nature of wisdom…. Sin-leqi-unninni recast Enkidu as Gilgamesh’s companion and brought to the fore concerns about unbridled heroism, the responsibilities of good governance, and the purpose of life. 

This so-called “Standard Babylonian Version,” as you’ll learn in the TED-Ed video at the top by Soraya Field Fiorio, was itself only discovered in 1849 — very recent by comparison with other ancient texts we regularly read and study. The first archaeologists to discover it were searching not for Sumerian literature but for evidence that proved the Biblical stories. They thought they’d found it in Nineveh, in the excavated library of King Ashurbanipal, the oldest library in the world. Instead, they discovered the broken, incomplete tablets containing the story of Gilgamesh and Utnapishtim, who, like Noah from the Hebrew Bible, built an enormous boat in advance of a divinely ordered flood. The first person to translate the passages was so excited, he stripped off his clothes.

The flood story wasn’t the knock-down proof Christian scholars hoped for, but the discovery of the Gilgamesh epic was even more important for our understanding of the ancient world. What we know of the story, however, was already edited and redacted to suit a millennia-old agenda. The Epic of Gilgamesh “explains that Gilgamesh, although he is king of Uruk, acts as an arrogant, impulsive, and irresponsible ruler,” Spar writes. “Only after a frustrating and vain attempt to find eternal life does he emerge from immaturity to realize that one’s achievements, rather than immortality, serve as an enduring legacy.”

Other, much older versions of his story show the mythical king and his exploits in a different light. So how should we read Gilgamesh in the 21st century, a few thousand years after his first stories were composed? You can begin here with the TED-Ed summary and Crash Course in World Mythology video further up. Dig much deeper with the lecture above from Andrew George, Professor of Babylonian at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

George has produced one of the most highly respected translations of Gilgamesh, Acocella writes, one that “gives what remains of Sin-leqi-unninni’s text” and appends other fragmentary tablets discovered in Baghdad, showing how the meaning of the cuneiform symbols changed over the course of the millennia between the Old Babylonian stories and the “New Babylonian Version” of the Epic of Gilgamesh we think we know. Hear a full reading of Gilgamesh above, as translated by N.K. Sanders.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Discover The Grammar of Ornament, One of the Great Color Books & Design Masterpieces of the 19th Century

In the mid-17th century, young Englishmen of means began to mark their coming of age with a “Grand Tour” across the Continent and even beyond. This allowed them to take in the elements of their civilizational heritage first-hand, especially the artifacts of classical antiquity and the Renaissance. After completing his architectural studies, a Londoner named Owen Jones embarked upon his own Grand Tour in 1832, rather late in the history of the tradition, but ideal timing for the research that inspired the project that would become his legacy.

According to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Jones visited “Italy, Greece, Egypt and Turkey before arriving in Granada, in Spain to carry out studies of the Alhambra Palace that were to cement his reputation.”

He and French architect Jules Goury, “the first to study the Alhambra as a masterpiece of Islamic design,” produced “hundreds of drawings and plaster casts” of the historical, cultural, and aesthetic palimpsest of a building complex. The fruit of their labors was the book Plans, Elevations, Sections and Details of the Alhambra, “one of the most influential publications on Islamic architecture of all time.”

Published in the 1840s, the book pushed the printing technologies of the day to their limits. In search of a way to do justice to “the intricate and brightly colored decoration of the Alhambra Palace,” Jones had to put in more work researching “the then new technique of chromolithography — a method of producing multi-color prints using chemicals.” In the following decade, he would make even more ambitious use of chromolithography — and draw from a much wider swath of world culture — to create his printed magnum opus, The Grammar of Ornament.

With this book, Jones “set out to reacquaint his colleagues with the underlying principles that made art beautiful,” write Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Femke Speelberg and librarian Robyn Fleming. “Instead of writing an academic treatise on the subject, he chose to assemble a book of one hundred plates illustrating objects and patterns from around the world and across time, from which these principles could be distilled.” To accomplish this he drew on his own travel experiences as well as resources closer at hand, including “the museological and private collections that were available to him in England, and the objects that had been on display during the Universal Exhibitions held in London in 1851 and 1855.”

The Grammar of Ornament was published in 1856, emerging into a Britain “dominated by historical revivals such as Neoclassicism and the Gothic Revival,” says the V&A. “These design movements were riddled with religious and social connotations. Instead, Owen Jones sought a modern style with none of this cultural baggage. Setting out to identify the common principles behind the best examples of historical ornament, he formulated a design language that was suitable for the modern world, one which could be applied equally to wallpapers, textiles, furniture, metalwork and interiors.”

Indeed, the patterns so lavishly reproduced in the book soon became trends in real-world design. They weren’t always employed with the intellectual understanding Jones sought to instill, but since The Grammar of Ornament has never gone out of print (and can even be downloaded free from the Internet Archive), his principles remain available for all to learn — and his painstakingly artistic printing work remains available for all to admire — even in the corners of the world that lay beyond his imagination.

You can purchase a complete and unabridged color edition of The Grammar of Ornament online.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

When David Bowie Played Andy Warhol in Julian Schnabel’s Film, Basquiat

Many actors have played Andy Warhol over the years, but not as many as you might think. Crispin Glover played him in The Doors, Jared Harris played him in I Shot Andy Warhol, Guy Pearce played him in Factory Girl, and Bill Hader played him in Men in Black III, but with a twist: he is actually an agent who is so bad as his cover role as an artist, he’s “painting soup cans and bananas, for Christ sakes!” On television John Cameron Mitchell has acted the Warhol role in Vinyl, and Evan Peters briefly portrayed him in American Horror Story: Cult.

But you might suspect our favorite Warhol would be the one acted by David Bowie in Julian Schnabel’s 1996 Basquiat, the biopic of the Black street artist who was taken into the art world fold by Warhol, and wound up collaborating with him in last works by both artists. Jeffrey Wright plays Basquiat in one of his earliest roles.

Now, you might watch this scene from Basquiat above (and another below) and say, well, that’s just mostly Bowie. But I would say, yes, that’s kind of the point. Andy Warhol is an enigmatic figure, a legend to many, a man who hid behind a constructed persona; David Bowie is too. When one plays the other, a weird sort of magic happens. Fame leaks into fame. Many actors might do better with the mannerisms or the voice, but the charisma…that is all Bowie. After singing about the painter back in 1972, Bowie finally collapsed their visions together in the art of film, where reality and fantasy meet and meld.

Around this time in the mid 1990s, Bowie was very much a part of the New York/London art scene. He was on the editorial board of Modern Painters magazine and interviewed Basquiat director (and artist) Julian Schnabel, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, and Balthus. A conceptual artist-slash-serial killer became one of the main characters of his overlooked 1995 Eno collaboration Outside. He was both a collector and an artist, which we’ve focused on before. And he was thinking about the new world opening up because of the internet. Bowie’s artist brain saw the possibilities and the dangers, and also the raw capitalist potential. He offered shares in himself as an IPO in 1997 and released a single as Tao Jones Index, three puns in one. Bowie never predicted the idiocy of the NFT, but he certainly would have laughed wryly at it.

In this Charlie Rose interview to promote Basquiat, Bowie and Schnabel discuss the role of Warhol, the role of art, and the reality of the art world.

“It was more of an impersonation, really,” says Bowie about his Warhol. “That’s how I approach anything.” Of note, however, is how quickly Bowie moves away from discussing himself or the film to talk about larger issues of art and commerce. Bowie does admit that he and Schnabel disagree on a lot of things, and you can see it in their body language. But there’s also a huge respect. It’s a fascinating interview, go watch the whole thing.

Bonus: Below watch Bowie meeting Warhol back during the day…

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

What’s the Role of a Director in Constructing Comedy? Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #100

What makes for a good comedy film or show? Funny people reading (or improvising) funny lines is not enough; an good director needs to capture (or recreate in the editing room) comic timing, construct shots so that the humor comes through and coach the actors to make sure that the tone of the work is consistent.

Your Pretty Much Pop hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by Heather Fink to discuss the role of the director in making a comedy (or anything else) actually good. Heather has directed for TV, film, and commercials and spent a lot of time doing sound (a boom operator or sound utility) for productions like Saturday Night Live, Get Out, The Morning Show, and Marvel’s Daredevil.

We talk about maintaining comedy through the tedious process of filming, putting actors through sex scenes and other hardships, not telling them how to say their lines, comedians in dramas, directing improv/prank shows, and more. We touch on include Bad Trip, Barry, and Ted Lasso, and more.

Watch some of Heather’s work:

  • Alleged, a short about dramatizing accusations against Steven Segal
  • Inside You, a film she wrote, directed, and (reluctantly) starred in
  • The Focus Group, a short Heather directed written by and starring Sara Benincasa

We used some articles to bring various directors and techniques to mind:

Hear more of this podcast at This episode includes bonus discussion that you can access by supporting the podcast at This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

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