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Humanities-speak gone wild

Over at Modern Art Notes, Tyler Green links to the College Art Association's list of papers to be presented at its annual conference, summarized here by the Art History Newsletter. This is the kind of thing I love to read, simply for the utterly confounding, intentionally obfuscating and always entertaining terms certain writers and academics sometimes use to sex up the titles of their papers.

My fave: “Pray, Sir, Whose Dog Are You? Nobility and Animality in Eighteenth-Century French Hunting Pictures.”

This list, which is definitely one for the ages, reminds me of Gary Kamiya's much-circulated essay for Salon, jokingly titled "Transgressing the Transgressors: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Total Bull***," available here. It documents a successful attempt by physicist Alan Sokal to place a completely invented paper into a prestigious cultural journal simply by couching it in terms that appeal to what Sokal characterized as a group of lazy intellectuals.

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Accentuate the positive

Anyone who's seen more than a handful of productions at Buffalo-area theaters will tell you that when it comes to accents, a select few actors can pull them off, and plenty of them can't.

It's not uncommon for a cast -- otherwise eminently capable and moving in their portrayals of German sergeants or cockney housewives -- to adopt accents that approach camp in their complete lack of resemblance to the source dialect. To my ear, and I suspect to many others, a lack of consistency in the accent department can have the effect of throwing even a fine production off-kilter. More often than not, productions that dispense with accents entirely (except in the rare case when actors have enough time and training to properly prepare) come off far better, and without that stifling sense dislocation we all experience when we hear Kevin Costner's half-hearted rendition of, say, Sir Robin of Loxley.

So it was with plenty of interest that I read a profile by Alec Wilkinson in this week's New Yorker of Tim Monich, dialect coach to the stars. It provides a fascinating glimpse into just how difficult adopting a foreign accent can be, just how much practice and discipline it requires, and how seriously Monich takes it. Here's an excerpt:

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'Pictures Generation' wins odd new art award

18_Pictures Generation_Sher

A photograph by Cindy Sherman from her "Untitled Film Stills" series. Part of "The Pictures Generation,

" a 2009 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

"The Pictures Generation," a show that closed earlier this year at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, has been dubbed the best group show of the year in something called "Rob Pruitt Presents: The First Annual Art Awards." This new collection of awards -- part genuine contest, part performance art piece, part fundraiser -- was jointly sponsored by the Guggenheim Museum and Calvin Klein.

It's an unconventional award, to be sure. Pruitt, an artist whose work often deals with the machinations of the art world, organized the Oct. 29 awards ceremony to resemble a Hollywood affair. An account of the evening from the Guggenheim's Web site:

After a dinner of locally sourced cuisine culled from Brooklyn-based restaurants and chefs, presenters including Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum Richard Armstrong, Cecily Brown, Jeffrey Deitch, James Franco, Knight Landesman, Julianne Moore, and Guggenheim Chief Curator Nancy Spector announced the winners. On receiving her award, a statuette created by Pruitt resembling a celebratory bucket of champagne that also serves as a fully functional lamp, Heilmann acknowledged the significance of being recognized while also declaring, “The Guggenheim belongs to all of us."

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Talking theater on WECK

Last Thursday, Constance McEwen Caldwell of the Theatre Alliance of Buffalo invited me to participate in the alliance's weekly radio segment with Loraine O'Donnell on WECK AM 1230. O'Donnell, a well known local actor who recently appeared in the Irish Classical Theatre Company's production of "Blood Brothers," grilled me about the News' star rating system, my background in journalism and theater and the challenges of critiquing Buffalo's wide-ranging and diverse theater community. Download the segment here, or listen below:

TAB-102909

--Colin Dabkowski

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