Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Nice Day!

A Message from In the Middle
The great and good scholars at In the Middle are heralding the new, but already deeply steeped in ritual and fervor, tradition of "International Hug a Medievalist Day."  I absolutely adore the poster (great graphic quality!) and especially prize the choice of what looks very much to be a detail of a Visitation image: Mary rushing to embrace Elizabeth, Elizabeth rushing to embrace Mary as they both feel the "quickening" movements of Christ and John the Baptist in their wombs.  It is one of the greatest hugs of all time, prized for all of its unspoken knowledge, painted for its promise, and exploratory of the bonds of friendship - between the women, between the boys.  The Visitation has been painted thousands of times, a pause (a hug) in Christ's Nativity narrative, before it picks up speed and the dramatic action sequence of the Massacre of the Innocents and the Flight into Egypt take over. 

Pontormo, Visitation, 1514-16
 But there is no gladder rush to friendship than Bill Viola's remarkable Greeting video (thank you, SFMoMA, for the clip!), in which the artist brought a Pontormo Visitation to life by staging the figures and then slowing down the real time of the approach and embrace (something like 3 seconds) to a full minute (or five or ten - it feels like a blessed forever).  The short, tersely spoken but intensely felt passage from Luke has been subsumed by this rush to gladness. Mac and I saw the video projected in Paris at a church right near Les Halles (and Innocents church?) and I'll never forget it. It was awesome.  The hug of all time.

There's a medievalist, or a crypto-medievalist, or a neo-medievalist, or a quasi-medievalist somewhere in your midst: give them a hug and feel good about the complexities of the human condition!  :-)

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