Book announcement: The Islamic Golden Age in Spain (15.01.2007)
Book announcement: Art and Science, Architecture's and Art's Site-Specific Projects (15.12.2006)
Postponement: NOMAD ACADEMY GOES PUBLIC at Sharjah Art Museum (31.01.2006)
The Islamic Golden Age in Spain
Copenhagen, 15th January 2007
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts' School of Visual Arts is proud to present The Islamic Golden Age in Spain. Architecture and Science in Cordoba and Granada, a book written by Else Marie Bukdahl.
This book contains a description of how Arabian art and architecture developed and advanced in Spain, specifically at the Mosque of Cordoba and the Alhambra, in Granada. In line with this exegesis, Bukdahl's enlivened account touches on how this very art and this very architecture give expression to central aspects in Islam and the Arabic culture.
Islamic culture and European culture have always had a reciprocal influence on each other. This fruitful mutual influence was especially evident in Spain from the 8th century to the end of the 15th century. First in Cordoba, then in Granada, Arab artists and architects created new forms of expression that they combined with imaginative transformations of Roman or Christian stylistic elements. They merged these different styles into a new and surprising unity, whose rare and impressive beauty inspired growing admiration both in the East and the West.
Everywhere in the various halls of the Great Mosque of Cordoba, there is a delicate balance between, on the one hand, the calm, elevated effects of unity and on the other, the extravagance of architectural details, with walls either decorated with complicated patterns in stucco or covered in brilliantly colored mosaics. The architectural gem in the mosque and the culmination of the development of the Caliphael or Arabic-Cordobese style is the superb mihrab. Decorations cover the rigid construction of the central dome, which seems to float like a canopy.
At the Alhambra in Granada, the basic principles of Islamic architecture and its fundamental ideas about architectural form and ornamentation achieved an absolute zenith. This architecture was certainly inspirered by past Islamic buildings, but – in spite of its complexity – it evolved with a singular visual clarity, logic and virtuosity that made it unique in its own right. Especially the cupola in the Hall of the Two Sisters, in all its non-substantiality and symbolic meaning, clearly contains the most consistent and virtuoso-like use of stucco stalactites. This ornamentation creates an astonishing effect - dissolving the walls and the cupola, which has been transformed into a light, almost lace-like fantastic honeycomb of hanging stalactites. The Alhambra, moreover, has been held up as a complex that anticipates several modern architectural ideals. The Swiss architect Le Corbusier claimed to find examples in the Alhambra of some of the descriptions of modern architecture he himself put forth in La Cité moderne (1922). Over the centuries, especially during the Romantic Age, the Alhambra has inspired countless poets, artists and architects. For Hans Christian Andersen, too, the Alhambra was a beautiful fairy tale castle that held many stories and always appealed to the imagination and the emotions:
"The Alhambra is like an old book of legends filled with fantastically winding picture writing! Over color and gold, each chamber is a new leaf, the same story, the same language and yet a new chapter in the book." (Hans Christian Andersen, In Spain, 1863)
In the period from the 9th to the 15th century philosophy, poetry and natural science all evolved at a surprisingly fast clip. Influences from past cultures, especially Greco-Roman antiquity and India, were gradually followed up by independent contributions, primarily in philosophy and the sciences.The caliphs in Cordoba also made provisions for the implementation of what has been called "a cascade of translations", especially of the works of the Greek philosophers, like Aristotle. In Cordoba and Granada, new findings in scholarship and research were also achieved in the fields of mathematics, astronomy and botany.
|The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts|
Kongens Nytorv 1
Post Box 9014
DK-1022 Copenhagen K
The English text in the book, opening from one side of the volume, takes up 62 pages – these pages are supplied with 34 illustrations. The 17 pages of Arabic text are situated symmetrically, beginning with the other side of the volume.
The price of the book is Euro 11.00, including sales tax.
Date of publication: January 15, 2007.
Distribution in retail bookstores in Denmark and abroad:
Schultz Information A/S, Herstedvang 4, DK-2620 Albertslund, Denmark
telephone +45 4363 2300; telefax +45 4363 1969
Art and Science, Architecture's and Art's Site-Specific Projects
Copenhagen, 15th December 2006
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts' School of Visual Arts takes great pride in enclosing a copy of Art and Science, Architecture's and Art's Site-Specific Projects, a volume edited by Else Marie Bukdahl.
The eight different texts in this book have their origins as contributions to a seminar held in 2004 at The School of Architecture and Design in The American University in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. The seminar was a link in a program of cultural exchange between The Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah and The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Consequently, the book has been published as a bilingual volume, in English and Arabic.
The book's various authors are engaged here with the task of illuminating the relationship between art and science and they are concerned with putting forth straightforward proposals that demonstrate how artists and architects can work together to create projects which enter into an intimate visual dialogue with Arabic art, culture and religion in the Emirates and simultaneously address themselves to the rapid pace of development transpiring in this corner of the world.
In his article, The Sun and the Colors, Jørn Ankjær Pedersen examines how the enigmatic power of light and color has always had an alluring effect on people's sense of curiosity. With their respective approaches, art and science have each contributed – and frequently in the context of a productive interchange – to an understanding that has given us insight into the essential nature of color. In parallel with this, the reciprocal interaction of light and color has served to occasion key contributions pertinent to the discussion about one of the burning issues related to space as an entity in itself: the question of closed or open universes. Newton's interpretation of light's refraction and dispersion into a colored band as it passes through a glass prism and Chevreul's elucidation of how adjacent colored surfaces interact in a reciprocal way along and around their common borderlines – eliciting what have been called "effects of simultaneous contrast", have both had a momentous influence on the way colors have been used in the work of the French impressionist painters and in the work of the Danish artist Frede Christoffersen, who dedicated himself to making paintings of the sun's light. Frede Christoffersen was rendering concrete his own experience of looking directly into the sun – the source of all life's primordial energy – through a particularly sophisticated use of the contrast effects.
In her article, The Relation Between Art and Science – Hundred Views of Mount Fuji, Else Marie Bukdahl puts forth examples of how visualartists have been sharpening and widening their perceptual and experiential fields through adaptations of scientific research's unveiling of new knowledge and new conditions for the cognition of nature. Bukdahl demonstrates how Dorte Dahlin and Mogens Møller have been inspired by Niels Bohr's complementarity theory. However, "chaos theory" – and particularly fractal geometry – has also come to take on an especially marked influence on the art of our present day, since this thought-discipline is, like visual art, bound up with time, change, the single event and the notion of form. Bukdahl renders this point of view intelligible through her analyses of parallels between fractal geometry's images and Jackson Pollock's and Frank Stella's paintings. In their own respective ways, fractal geometry and visual art render visual the relationship between chaos and order, their competition and their co-existence.
Dorte Dahlin has written a "Greek drama", Sampling Hirtshals – that revolves around her work in the public space in Hirtshals.
The play is an adaptation of the artist's lecture at The American University in Sharjah in 2004, where she attempted to bring the listening students into a state of hypnosis all the way back to the time of 1993 and to the site of Northern Jutland, during a heavy winter storm.
Standing on the front stage, the artist herself tells about the special conditions that made the work possible – and about the artistic process that was activated by the storm. Her talk is being commented on, in a lively way, by a chorus of local fishermen, a couple of cultural luminaries and the architect Daniel Libeskind, who whisper, rap, sing and contradict.
In the dream space established by the text, a quotation-like "conversation" is carried on among artists and philosophers. Their words stand out as pillars in the text's space, where the background noise is supplied by Søren Kierkegaard and Michel Serres, while Niels Bohr appears as a ghost, who looks on and engages in a wordless dialogue with Else Marie Bukdahl.
The words uttered by the very living as well as the words contributed by the deceased participants, from Chorus to Satellite, have all been of crucial significance to the implementation of both "The Green Square" (1993) and "Monument and Stairs" (1997) in Hirtshals. Consequently, the text can be regarded as a key to Dorte Dahlin's conception of space and artistic method.
The article on The Moonlight Garden treats of a site-specific project for Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates. The plan has been worked outby sculptor Professor Mogens Møller , the architect Jane Havshøj and the Iranian astrologist and numerologist Nasser Moaedi Jorfi.
The Moonlight Garden is a time-honored Islamic cultural phenomenon, which arose from an even more ancient phenomenon: the Islamic cross garden, the Garden of Eden. The Moonlight Garden was an enchanted place, were poems were recited by the light of the moon, where there was dancing and music and where the water, the tiles and the white flowers reflected the moonbeams.
In preparing the sketch proposal for a present-day rendition of the Moonlight Garden, it has been the explicit aim of the creators to conjoin the past with the present, since it is their firm conviction that no culture can move its way into the future without being equipped with a firm understanding of the past.
Moonlight Garden consists of three elements:
The first has been inspired by a barchan, an elongated crescent-shaped dune that can be seen in the deserts.The barchan dune in the present project measures 130 meters in length, 60 meters in width and 12 meters in height. It is planked by light-colored tiles.
The second element, situated in the dune's southern end, is a circular pavilion, which measures 24 meters in diameter and 18 meters in height.
In the center of the pavilion's vault, a circular surface of sandblasted glass is visible. The moon's image – transmitted further from a "live" video camera - will be visible - projected onto this surface of glass.
The image of the moon will be so sharp and so large that the mountains of the moon will be clearly visible and the moon will be perceived as the classical object we regard it to be. The third element is water, which flows down over the dune's slip face (Shador) oriented toward the pavilion.
Kevin Mitchell teaches at the School of Architecture and Design at the American University of Sharjah. His essay, entitled Exchange and Adaptation: Notes on an approach to the courtyard, explores how past models of courtyard housing can be adapted and transformed to meet contemporary demands. Mitchell argues that discussing the courtyard house in terms of "traditional" and "modern" is futile and that the courtyard typology demands consideration in a broader theoretical framework that acknowledges the role of the study of traditional typologies in the process of design. Rather than building on existing traditions of exchange, the rapid pace of growth in the UAE has resulted in the indiscriminate importation of models of development that are not modified to respond to the particular conditions found in the Gulf region. Architects and artists have relied heavily on particular elements or images that they believed best "represented" the Arabian Gulf, for example the wind towers and sails.
The ideas expressed in the essay are demonstrated in a courtyard housing project designed for the American University of Sharjah campus. The essay discusses six aspects of the design proposal derived from analyses of concepts inherent in courtyard typologies found in the Arab world.
The Dubai Experiment, by George Katodrytis and Khalid Al Najjar proposes ways of responding to Dubai, a prototype of a city in rapid development at the beginning of the 21st century. The Dubai Experiment is an approach to "Hybrid Urbanism" that treats the city as both Global and Local. Beyond its apparent lack of identity, this city demonstrates a complex urbanism that has both an invisible infrastructure of non-hierarchical activities, goods, and participants and a visible theatricality. To the visitor, the city might seem peculiar: heterogeneous, hyperactive and with no apparent hierarchy. Yet everything points to one thing: commercial exchange and consumption. The result is a kind of mirage, urban fiction, free forms, synthetic and airport-like interiors.
Lars Bukdahl tells about The Danish Writers' Training College in Copenhagen, which is housed on the premises of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. The renowned author, Hans Otto Jørgensen, is presently the director of the school. The Danish Writers' Training College has existed for almost twenty years. Originally, it was opened on the basis of one writer's private initiative and fueled by the concomitant idealism. Now, it enjoys that status of a state-funded and state-certified artistic educational institution, where students are eligible to apply for national educational subsidies and loans, as they can when studying at the Danish National School of Theater or the National Film School of Denmark. What is so exemplary and exceptional about the Danish Writers' Training College, especially with the Arabic perspective in mind, are the so-called "text reviews", where the students and the instructors, in a situation fully imbued with a spirit of open critical equality, discuss the students' written work every which way - "from its philosophical implications to the placement of its commas". It could be said that here, it is the texts that come first: the literalness, and not the students or the teachers. Alongside the ongoing text-reviews, the educational program proceeds with guests from outside the school: authors and experts and other luminaries from the world of literature, as well as creators from other branches of the arts, with the result that the professional input can come to fashion itself in a simultaneously precise and kaleidoscopic way. At the Danish Writers' Training College in Copenhagen, there is lots of room to work … and the writing tables are ready for action!
For more on the cultural exchange project that has been transpiring between the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and the Sharjah Department of Culture & Information, see: www.nomad-academy.org
Else Marie Bukdahl, Dr. phil.
Director of the Department of Art-historical and Culture-historical Research & Scholarship
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
Kongens Nytorv 1
The English text in the book, opening from one side of the volume, takes up 53 pages – these pages are amply supplied with illustrations. The Arabic text is situated symmetrically, beginning with the other side of the volume. The price of the book is Euro 11,00 including sales tax.
Date of publication: November 22, 2006.
Distribution in retail bookstores in Denmark and abroad:
Schultz Information A/S, Herstedvang 4, DK-2620 Albertslund, Denmark
telephone +45 4363 2300; telefax +45 4363 1969. E-mail: kl(at)schultz.dk
Postponement: NOMAD ACADEMY GOES PUBLIC at Sharjah Art Museum
Copenhagen, 31th January 2006
As a result of the increasing unrest in connection with the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed brought in the private Danish newspaper "Jyllands Posten", one of the main Arabian Emirates, Sharjah, has just annonced the postponement of the Danish-Arabian culture project NOMAD ACADEMY, an exhibition of which was to have opened the 1th of March in Sharjah.
In Denmark his announcement has met understanding as well a regret.
The exhibition referred to, NOMAD ACADEMY GOES PUBLIC is the next step in a 7-year old project, whose aim is precisely to develop an understanding primarily in Denmark of Arabian art, culture and religion, and at the same time giving the Arabian hosts the opportunity to get aqquainted with Danish art and culture, says Else marie Bukdahl, former director of The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, who is one of the leaders of the project.
We had been looking forward to this latest of our many visits to Sharjah, where we have had extremely fruitful discussions, workshops and exhibitions. There have been lectures and there are published several books in Arabian and English on various subjects – to name just one example, some of the writings of Soren Kierkegaard – as well as an anthology of contemporary Arabian poets.
These activities have also resulted in exhibitions of artists from Sharjah in Copenhagen, giving both sides valuable inside in their respective cultures
Else Marie emphasizes, that the Ruler of Sharjah, HH Sheik Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, has been of vital importance to the continuing succes of the project up till now, as he both on TV and to us personally has expressed that "Art and culture are among the very best instruments for promoting understanding and co-operation between different peoples and cultures" which has become the motto of our project.
It is indeed sad to experience how easily the best intensions can come to grief as the result of thoughtlessness, finishes Else Marie Bukdahl.
Dorte Dahlin, artist and co-director of NOMAD ACADEMY, says of the postponement that it is a great sorrow, that a project whose aim is to create understanding between the Arabian and Danish art cultures has amongst many others also become an unwitting victim to a political situation, which could and should have been avoided.
"Our project has since the beginning looked on dialogue as the primary base of common understanding and I regret deeply its interruption in a situation, where exactly common understanding could be the key to its solution.
One part of the project is a series of architectural models of an Arabian Cultural Instititute in Copehagen. These are constructed by the Aarhus School of Architecture, also during discussions with Arabian collegues. At this moment two of the impresive models are on their way by sea to Sharjah.
This cooperation between Europeans and Arabians shows in my opinion one way to our common goal, in casu a "House of Knowledge", comitted to a greater understanding between the different peoples.
It is extremely sad to see such a vision be stopped, just because of lack of understanding, ends Dorte Dahlin.
The exhibition is therefore postponed, but not given up, and the further developments can be followed on NOMAD ACADEMY's website (www.nomad-academy.org).