Rules Tactically Broken.

I liked the ending of Susan Tallman’s NYRB review (July 18, 2019) of The Self-Portrait: From Schiele to Beckmann, an exhibition at the Neue Galerie, New York City, and the associated catalog edited by Tobias G. Natter:

In the century of the selfie stick, when self-depiction has become a nearly automatic reflex, a show like this is salutary. It focuses our attention on a mode of self-presentation whose requirements—skill, effort, and the strategic deployment of mirrors—result in images that play out slowly. Time spent in front of them unfolds, in many cases, into something eerily like a social connection. This is true, I think, not in spite of their manipulations, quotations, and obfuscations, but because of them. Human society, after all, isn’t built on bald statements of fact and unfiltered emotion, but on rules understood, inverted, and tactically broken. Perhaps we recognize each other best through the games we play.

I really liked Paula Modersohn-Becker’s Self-Portrait at 6th Wedding Anniversary. She died way too young.

And for those of you who know any Russian, a tidbit from Erik McDonald: Is the set of verbs without a я form growing?, which concludes:

In writing защищу seems to be easily holding its expected place way ahead of the prescriptively incorrect alternative защитю and the correct ты form защитишь. But will защищу soon be as strange as ощущу? And what other verbs are doing this?


  1. Speaking of portraits,

    Record of Restoration Work on the National Treasure, “Portrait of Takami Senseki”

  2. J.W. Brewer says

    I can’t figure out if I saw that show at the Neue Gallerie or not, although of course my memories of the pre-pandemic epoch already seem blurred by the passage of time. Part of the problem is that I’ve seen plenty of exhibits there and a lot of the artists mentioned are ones they have stuff by in their permanent collection and/or would appear in other temporary shows there. The self-portrait of Paula M-B rang a definite bell, however. But then upon investigation it seems that I alluded to it in a social media post a year before that exhibit opened, so who knows.

  3. I was born in Bremen, then my parents moved house to the countryside from where I would often take the bicycle to Worpswede which was like 20 minutes away. I now live in Berlin where I walked across the Moderson Bridge together with a friend on Friday night. From that bridge I can see the spire of the church where my father was baptized before the war. It’s like running around in big circles. Talk about selfies.

  4. Paula Modersohn-Becker is sometimes identified as the first woman to paint nude self portraits (ca. 1906). However, I came across this somewhat bizarre claim on Wikipedia today, regarding Florine Stettheimer: “She painted the first feminist nude self-portrait….” I’m not sure what constitutes a feminist nude self-portrait, although Stettheimer’s nude is from 1915. (Personally, while I like Stettheimer’s crowd scenes, I don’t think her style lends itself to studies of individuals.)

  5. Stu Clayton says

    Human society, after all, isn’t built on bald statements of fact and unfiltered emotion, but on rules understood, inverted, and tactically broken.

    Don’t forget tacitly broken rules ! From time to time we need an epistemic laxative* to keep listlessness at bay. It is a sleepy assumption that one’s opponents are acting tactically, that is deliberately. Often enough they don’t know what they’re doing, any more than you do.

    *It “makes shit happen” [Van Peebles]

  6. Stu Clayton says

    # In 2011, Van Peebles started doing shows in NYC with members of Burnt Sugar, under the name Melvin Van Peebles wid Laxative.[14] Van Peebles has said that the band is called Laxative because they “make shit happen”.#

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