Thursday, June 26, 2014

Van Gogh's Ear Regrown: WTF?

I was first hoping that this was an Internet joke, but apparently it's not: some modern German artist has claimed to have re-grown the infamous ear of Vincent Van Gogh. The Van Gogh DNA is supposedly from the back of an envelope Van Gogh was thought to have licked and from the saliva of a direct descendent of Theo Van Gogh, Lieuwe Van Gogh. It was then put into a computer program for three years and ABRACADABRA a 3-D printed image of Van Gogh's unmutilated ear was born.

Okay, I'm sure the actual process was a wee bit more complicated, but STILL, that's about what happened.

The 3-D ear was then placed in a spiffy box so that viewers can whisper their secrets into Vincent's ear -- which looks more like a creepy Jell-o mold than an ear. The piece is still not finished. It's still growing in a funky bubbly solution while it is on display in ZKM Karlsruhe Museum. In 2015, the piece is to be displayed somewhere in New York (where it may get an interesting headline in the New York Post but then be ignored.)

Anyway, the piece is called Sugarbabe (why not something that can be easily remembered, like Van Gogh's Ear? Trying to be ironic? Or just being a pain in the arse?) CNN gave this "news" the best treatment with this title "Apparently This Matters: Vincent Van Gogh's 3-D printed ear."

The artist, who's name I don't feel like mentioning, told the press that ear is alive: "Absolutely it’s alive!” she says. “What we did is create a machine to mimic the body. The whole system in which the ear lives you could say is the skin. The nutrition comes from the plasma. We have a pump, which is the heart, and an oxygen exchange like a lung.”

Wait -- WHAT? Did I miss something? Since when have ears been given personhood status?

I think even Vincent would have been fatally embarrassed by this one.

"Leaving Van Gogh"; By Carol Wallace: A Review

If you liked Lust for Life (1934) by Irving Stone, then you are going to be really disappointed with Carol Wallace's Leaving Van Gogh (2011.) Stone did the historical novel thing so much better and with far more intensity and focus than Wallace's rather sloppy word-portrait of both Vincent Van Gogh and his last therapist, Dr. Paul Gachet (yes -- the same Dr.Gachet of the infamous portraits.)

A far more interesting book would have been speculation on whatever happened to the painting Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1890), which disappeared in 1990 after being bought by a really rich Japanese guy.

The novel is told from Dr. Gachet's point of view. Granted, Dr. Gachet is one of the more mysterious characters on the fringe of art history. He was not only a bad amateur artist and spectacular art collector, he also treated Impressionists like Renoir. He clearly made a big impression on Van Gogh, which is why he did the portrait in the way he did.

The plot is all over the place. Dr. Gachet goes into flashbacks into most inconvenient times, which really interrupts the narrative. The big revelation of the novel turns out to be no revelation at all. Dr. Gachet sees Van Gogh in rose-tinted spectacles, which really clashes with the historical portrait we have of him. YES, I know this is work of fiction, but HONESTLY!