Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Giuseppe Ungaretti

Giuseppe Ungaretti (8 February 1888 – 2 June 1970) was an Italian modernist poet, journalist, essayist, critic and academic. A leading representative of the experimental trend known as ermetismo, he was one of the most prominent contributors to 20th century Italian literature. Influenced by symbolism, he was briefly aligned with futurism. Like many futurists, he took an irredentist position during World War I. Ungaretti debuted as a poet while fighting in the trenches, publishing one of his best-known pieces, L'allegria ("The Joy").

During the interwar period, Ungaretti was a collaborator of Benito Mussolini (whom he met during his socialist accession), as well as a foreign-based correspondent for Il Popolo d'Italia and La Gazzetta del Popolo. While briefly associated with the Dadaists, he developed ermetismo as a personal take on poetry. After spending several years in Brazil, he returned home during World War II, and was assigned a teaching post at the University of Rome, where he spent the final decades of his life and career. His fascist past was the subject of controversy.

Ungaretti, considered the father of Hermetic poetry, presents beautifully terse lyrics that sing loud, despite their brevity. Here's a beautiful excerpt:

Time is silent among motionless rushes...

Far from moorings drifted a canoe...

Exhausted and sluggish the oarsman...The heavens
Already Fallen into abysses of smoke...

Stretched out in vain at the edge of memory,
It may be falling was mercy...

He did not know

It is the same illusion world and mind,
That in the mystery of its own waves
Every earthly voice is shipwrecked
He doesn't write for a reader, nor does he care if a reader responds to his work. Note the lack of popular allusions. Note the lack of interplay between writer and reader. This is a personal meditation, devoid of extension or concern for the critic. 
Many thanks to Francesco Lafiandra, who introduced me to this beret-wearing poet

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Marc Le Person & Ricardo Ponce

These pictures of Marc Le Person's Picasso inspired sculpture Homme au béret basque are made in Ricardo Ponce's art studio in Valencia. 
Web sites that are well worth checking out!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Armenian Painter Minas Avetisian

Minas Avetisian was born on the 20th of July 1928, in a little Armenian village-Djadjur. Leningrad, with its Academy of Fine Arts and its Hermitage, played a significant role in Avetisian's becoming an artist. Avetisian always remembers with gratitude his teachers, Johannson, Zaitsev and Khudiakov: they never hindered the natural expression of his own artistic individuality. Both in his student years and after graduating from the Academy, Avetisian traveled widely around Armenia, eagerly seeking out historical monuments; he studied the Armenian miniature and the works of the greatest Armenian artists, above all, Saryan's. 

"Austere and majestic is the beauty of Armenia. Bathed in light and color, pampered and caressed by the sun beneath whose strong rays the whole earth comes to life, this land has given the world not a few talented painters."

Interesting detail (going back to my post on Paradzjanov):  "Vartanov looks back at his friend, the assassinated painter Minas Avetisian, whom he presented for the first time in "The Colour of Armenian Land" (1968), when the Ministry of Culture, Goskino and Armenfilm demanded to delete the scene because Minas was not in favour. Vartanov refused. By the time of his assassination, in 1975, Minas had become an icon..."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

No Polish Series (yet) - Cezary Bodzianowski

No, although I have written regularly about berets in and from Poland, I can't see enough material to justify a "Polish Series", despite the Polish International Brigaders, the Sterkowski Berets and Jewish beret factory workers and Cezary Bodzianowski, who lives and works in Łódź, is Poland's most popular artist, according to the weekly magazine Raster's "Top Ten" list. In the international context, he has exhibited in such group shows as Ausgeträumt..., at the Secession in Vienna (2001), September Horse at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin (2002), Geschichte at the Salzburger Kunstverein (2002), and at the first Tirane Biennial (2001), among other places. He is also a close collaborator with the Foksal Gallery Foundation in Warsaw.
In his performance interventions, Cezary Bodzianowski plays with the absurdity of the mundane. It is impossible to define or predict his actions in advance. Everyday situations are transformed into a bizarre and often quite humorous form of communication with the public. 

Fot. Express Ilustrowany
Other than conscious collaborators and friends, or passers-by who accidentally get involved, rarely does anyone else participate in these direct and spontaneous performances. The documentation left on videotape or a photograph, which remains as an ephemeral record and exhibition material, speaks of the elusiveness and evanescence of his actions -
all that remains in our consciousness is the characteristic figure of the artist's persona. Fully aware of the charming allure of his own outwardly modest image, Cezary Bodzianowski enriches and sharpens the grayness of our everyday life.

Friday, June 25, 2010

More from the PLA

A few more pictures, for those of you who can't get enough of the looks of these Chinese made berets...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The German Series #4 - Ernst Reuter

Ernst Reuter was one of many people persecuted by the Nazis who fled the Third Reich and found refuge in Turkey. Reuter, a Social Democrat, held many different political offices during the Weimar Republic in Berlin and Magdeburg which made him a political opponent of the Nazi regime. Once the Nazis seized power, Reuter was stripped of his offices and later deported to the Lichtenburg concentration camp.
In 1934, with the help of friends and allies, he managed to escape to Turkey via Great Britain and survive the Nazi regime. Reuter worked as adviser to the Turkish Ministry of Economics and advised the Turkish government on matters relating to transport and wages among other things. He also taught urban development and town planning at the Ankara School of Management. After the end of the Second World War and about ten years of exile in Turkey, Reuter returned to Germany. At first he took over the Berlin Department of Transport and in 1951 was elected the city’s first Mayor.
With his legendary beret and his walking stick Ernst Reuter at the "Station Zoo". The photo is undated.
Ernst Reuter became famous for a memorable speech he delivered during the Berlin Blockade of 1948/1949. Standing in front of the Reichstag that lay in ruins, he addressed an audience of over 300,000 people: “People of this world ... look upon this city and see that you should not and cannot abandon this city and this people.” With Reuter’s help the Berlin Airlift could finally be implemented successfully, despite the Allies’ initial reservations.

Ernst Reuter died in Berlin on 29 September 1953 at the age of 64 following a heart attack.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The German Series #3 - Ernst Busch

Ernst Busch (1900 - 1980) was a German singer and actor.
Busch first rose to prominence as an interpreter of political songs, particularly those of Kurt Tucholsky, in the Berlin cabaret scene of the 1920s. He starred in the original 1928 production of Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera, as well as the subsequent 1931 film by Georg Wilhelm Pabst.
A lifelong Communist, Busch fled Nazi Germany in 1933 with the Gestapo on his heels, eventually settling in the Soviet Union. In 1937 he joined the International Brigades to fight against Fascism in Spain. His wartime songs were then recorded and broadcasted by Radio Barcelona and Radio Madrid. After the Spanish Republic fell to Franco, Busch migrated to Belgium where he was interned during the German occupation and later imprisoned in Camp Gurs, France and Berlin. Freed by the Soviet Army in 1945, he settled in East Berlin where he worked with Bertold Brecht and Erwin Piscator at the "Berliner Ensemble". 

A beloved figure in the DDR, he is best remembered for his performance in the title role of Brecht's Galileo and his stirring recordings of workers songs, including many written by Hanns Eisler. He also made a memorable and haunting recording of Peat Bog Soldiers. Many of Busch's original recordings from the 1930s are available in digitized form online and on CD; also available are re-recordings created during the late 1940s and early 1950s, which are equally stirring but perhaps less subtle in approach.
Ernst and Irene Busch, 1977

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The German Series #2 - The NVA

My friend Wynand sent me this red beret of the NVA, the East German People's Army, after a visit to Berlin. 

The badge is a Soviet Army badge, which probably sells better to Western tourists who believe red stars, hammers and sickles represents something cool. But, it is a nice gift and I'm always happy to ad another beret to my collection.
I have traveled and worked in many of the so-called Warsaw-Pact countries, but none was as unpleasant and scary as the DDR. Drab and grey, lots of soldiers, police and security wherever I went and an atmosphere that made me long for the Czechoslovak border 
(I didn't make it in time before being stopped by a VoPo on a MZ bike who fined me 200 Deutschmarks -without receipt- for not having my parking lights on while taking a break at a truck stop).

Anyway, it sparkled a search into berets of the NVA. Here a beret of the paratroopers of the NVA (and in action).

Monday, June 21, 2010

New Stock from Buenos Aires is IN!

It almost looked as if I had to stop the line of Tolosa Tupida and Espinosa berets from Argentina, but no - they are back in stock (and I am very, very happy with that)!

I often get the question which beret is "best", an Elosegui or a Bonigor.  It's a question I find impossible to answer as it really depends on what you, as a wearer of berets, value. 
Quality wise, in the sense of manufacturing and finishing, I believe there is no beret that beats the Boinas Elosegui Super Lujo and Tupida models; fantastic berets, beautiful smooth merino wool, elegant and slightly formal.

But, personally I prefer wearing the berets made by Bonigor SA, Buenos Aires. The Tolosa Tupida's are a good size (diameter) and just very, very comfortable to wear. Soft, easy to shape, a great range of colours and perfect for every day wear. Like the berets made by Boinas Elosegui, you'll see good craftsmanship and a beautiful finishing with satin lining and a sewn-on embroidered label - possibly just not as smooth as Elosegui's top models. 
And yes, I like the thought that 98% of Bonigor's berets are worn by the gaucho's, farmers and peasants on the pampas and fishermen of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay - they are far from a fashion item and are worn by the working people.
The Espinosa range is similar to the Tolosa Tupida in a smaller diameter and without satin lining and now with many more colours to choose from (Black, Navy, Gray, Green and Brown).
My friend David, in front of the Bonigor premises in B.A.
And then, of course, the cotton berets. Being a bit of a beret-purist, I remember being skeptical about these when I first learned about them, but I am completely converted. Every man (and woman) should have at least a couple!
Again, beautiful craftsmanship, knitted cotton in a delicate pattern, excellent protection from both the sun and the cold - I can't recommend these berets enough...

The German Series #1 - Anselm Dreher

Sure, Germany may not be the first country that comes to mind when thinking of Basque Berets, but actually, Germany has a well grounded tradition of berets - enough to justify the start of the "German Series". 
I have mentioned (my once favorite) author Heinrich Böll before, the beret as a replacement for Islamic head-scarves, "Tania the Guerilla" and of course, Germany often comes up in relation to WWII. 

But, there is much more; Anslem Dreher, for starters:
"It wasn't easy to be a gallery owner in Berlin, before the fall of the wall. In the east there was always a watchful stasi, while in the west chaos and provincial management reigned. 

Friedrich Loock and Anselm Dreher are still the gallery owners and, 25 years later, look back at eventful times in service of contemporary art."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Chinese Berets (in the PLA)

Of course, it is very easy to scoff at Chinese made berets and claim that there is nothing better than the Spanish and South American made  berets that I sell through South Pacific Berets
Well, I do actually believe that statement to be true, but also have to admit that, through the Citroen SM Club of Australia, I have got a very nice Chinese made beret; a bit too much the military style, but very comfortable and good quality.

And let's face it, if you just look at the numbers in the Chinese PLA, (some 3.5 million active servicemen and women!), it is obvious the Chinese have some idea of how to produce a half-decent beret. 
And how they can show their berets..? Yes, quite different from my time in the Dutch military (see post "Don't let them break you, punch back!" 8 May):

Okay, that'll do... But then, have a look here for a rather scary video of how these young men and women are trained into submission.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Kamp Amersfoort

While in the Netherlands a few weeks ago, I visited Kamp Amersfoort and the monuments for the Soviet P.O.W.'s who were slaughtered there after being displayed to the Dutch people as an example of Untermenschen; this former NAZI concentration camp ironically next-door to my father's graveside

Compared with other concentration camps, Kamp Amersfoort was a small and makeshift affair. In operation from 1941 until the end of the war, it was run not by the military but by the German police. Neglect, starvation, maltreatment and murder marked the lives of over 35,000 prisoners who – in the course of two separate periods of the war – were held here for a brief or extended time.

A lot of history and in many ways, connected to my own family - too much to write about in a short blog post - I'll stick to the beret related bit, which comes in the shape of a monument. A bed-frame, boots, uniform, beret... 
I thought it very beautiful and in place there.