Archive for Language and art

Chaotic calligraphy

In the middle of last month, I participated in a double book launch by Cambria Press in Singapore (links here, here, and here).  The event was held at one of Singapore's most outstanding art galleries, called iPreciation (links here and here).  This is what I saw as soon as I walked in the door:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

Artsy-fartsy

Japanese artists depicted almost anything imaginable concerning humans, animals, and the natural world, and they did so with great skill and emotional power.  One sub-genre of Japanese painting that I recently became aware of is that of the fart battle (hōhi gassen 放屁合戦):

"21 Classic Images Of Japanese Fart Battles From The 19th Century", by Wyatt Redd, ati (7/23/18)

As soon as I perused this astonishing scroll, I could not get the expression "artsy-fartsy" out of my mind, and I wondered how and when English acquired such a peculiar term.  Merriam-Webster says that it's a rhyming compound based on "artsy" and "fart", and that its first known use is 1962.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)

An experiment with echoing Echos

Henry Cooke (aka "prehensile" on GitHub) has hatched a fascinating techno-artistic experiment. He set up two Amazon Echos to talk back and forth, each repeating a text to the other, with every iteration introducing new errors. His initial inspiration was "I Am Sitting in a Room," a 1969 work of acoustic art by Alvin Lucier, in which a text is recorded and re-recorded until all that is left is the hum of resonant frequencies in the room. (You can watch a 2014 performance with Lucier here.) Rather than replicate Lucier's text, Cooke created new ones for the two Echos to vocalize, with an added wrinkle: iterations of the texts follow the Oulipo S+7 constraint, in which each noun is replaced by another noun appearing seven steps away in the dictionary. You can see the first ten iterations (using Amazon Polly to synthesize different voices) in this video.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

Tangut workshop at Yale

On the weekend of January 19-20, 2018, there was a Tangut Workshop at Yale University.  Organized by Valerie Hansen and sponsored by the Yale Council of East Asian Studies, this was an intense, exciting learning experience for the 35 or so people who were in the room most of the time.

Many readers may be scratching their heads and asking, "Tangut?  What's that?  And why should we at Language Log be concerned with it?"

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (24)

Mistranscribed character

Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫 (1254-1322) is one of the most famous painters in the history of Chinese art.  Many of his priceless works still exist, and he was even honored by having a 167 kilometer-diameter feature on Mercury (132.4° west, 87.3° south), the "Chao Meng-Fu crater", named after him.

When Zhao Mengfu's name came up in a discussion on connoisseurship in one of my classes a few days ago, I almost fell off my chair upon hearing a graduate student from mainland China pronounce it as "Zhao Mengtiao".  Where did she learn that strange pronunciation for this ultrafamous artist's name?  Did she hear it from her teachers?  Her classmates?  Or was she just making a wild guess based on what she thought the ostensible phonophore, zhào 兆, would yield?  However she came up with "Zhao Mengtiao", the effect upon hearing it would be akin to hearing someone say "Michelanjump" or "Leonardo da Jump".

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

What does your tattoo mean?

Comments (20)

Lin Tianmiao's "Protruding Patterns": sexism in Chinese characters

Article by Sarah Cascone in Artnet (October 16, 2017):

This Artist Gathered 2,000 Words for Women—and Now, She Wants You to Walk All Over Them:  Lin Tianmiao's installation at Galerie Lelong puts contemporary language on top of antique carpets."

Here's an example of Lin's work:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2)

Bad Chinese handwriting or just another style?

Lisa Chang took this photo of two paintings at an antique store in 2015 (the store was either in Maryland or Pennsylvania):

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

"National backbone"

I. J. Khanewala writes:

While visiting the tomb of the first emperor, I saw a sign in Mandarin which read minzu jiliang and translated as "National backbone". It left me quite mystified.  Here's a photo of the sign:

Source ("Utterly lost in translation").  Any idea what it could mean?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

GAN4 ("Do it!")

From a long blog post on contemporary Chinese religious art and architecture:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (20)

Plum > apricot and wine > brew: the language of poetry and painting

[This is a follow up to "Preserved wife plum" (7/12/17), after which there ensued a vigorous and enlightening discussion on the terminology for plums, apricots, pastries, and so forth.]

My wife was born in Shandong in 1936, but fled from the Japanese with her family to Sichuan before she was one year old, and she spent the next eleven years of her life in Sichuan, before fleeing once again with her family, this time from the Chinese Communists, to Taiwan.

One of the last things Li-ching did before passing away in 2010 was write her childhood memoirs in Hanyu Pinyin (see here, here [three items], and here).  At this moment, I do not recall if she mentioned it in her memoirs, but one of her fondest recollections of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan where she and her family lived (it was also the wartime capital of the Republic of China — now on Taiwan) was the làméi 臘梅 / 腊梅 (Chimonanthus fragrans / praecox).  In English, the làméi 臘梅 is referred to as wintersweet, Japanese allspice (despite the attractive name, it is not edible), calyx canthus, and mistakenly — but still quite commonly — as "wax plum" (look it up on Google Images under this name for pretty pictures of the blossoms).   In Japanese this plant is called rōbai 蝋梅, although it used to be written 臘梅 and 蠟梅 (nowadays it is normally written in kana alone:  ろうばい · ロウバイ).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (19)

Wetware lives in meatspace

I missed Heather McHugh's poem "Hackers can sidejack cookies" — a collage of fragments from the Jargon File — when the New Yorker published the text in 2009. Here's the author reading it at B.U. on 4/17/2010:


Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

The sphere of the sphere is the sphere of the sphere

In a comment on "Electric Sheep", Tim wrote:

Just want to share a little Google Translate poetry resulting from drumming my fingers on the keyboard while set to Thai:

There are six sparks in the sky, each with six spheres. The sphere of the sphere is the sphere of the sphere.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)