The Beats – Driving Cross Country in Search of Eternity

by Asia Leonardi for the Carl Kruse Arts Blog

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, 

[… ] with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls, 

[… ] who drove cross-country seventy-two hours to find out if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity [… ] who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus, to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose…”

Howl, by Allen Ginsberg, San Francisco 1955-56 
Carl Kruse Arts Blog - Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg

The Beats concentrated particularly in San Francisco. The Californian revival had already begun after the Second World War, with the arrival of thousands of European refugees, and was shaping the beautiful city on its footprints, characterizing it as the American city less linked to local traditions. 

In the unsettling wave of mass conformism accompanied by the economic boom beginning in the late 1940s, San Francisco opposed itself as an oasis of individualism, perhaps thanks to the Mediterranean and Mexican footprints, which had painted it with those characteristic features of the “laissez-faire,” of the “dolce far niente,” a peculiarity that would hardly be found in other American cities of the period. San Francisco thus built a reputation of the “easiest city in America, and was soon populated by avant-garde artists, old Dadaist anarchists, rebellious boys who had left their homes. In this context, was born, and strengthened the “Beat Generation,” an expression of the critic John Clellon Holmes, which was to indicate what we remember today as “burnt youth.” They were not illustrious writers supported by large publishing houses, but troubled boys who rejected the moral and social systems of bourgeois society, in search of discovery -of a full self, of real-life, of new methods to approach life. It almost seems from the moment Holmes called them Beat Generation, these guys started drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, writing poetry, hitchhiking around America. 

Of course, this is not the first youth anti-bourgeois movement and perhaps Baudelaire’s drunkenness was not so different from Hemingway’s, even though their literary programs were certainly so. Both anti-bourgeois, they led a violent battle to overcome the conformism of the time and impose their aesthetic creed even before the moral one. 

Bourgeois conformism flattens the personality, levels the souls, implicitly establishes the moral and social structures of the mass community, which becomes increasingly impersonal, anonymous, and flat. The boys feel suffocated, silenced in a “misunderstood” silence. Hence the need for expression, living experiences, through which to seek an autonomous reality, free from conventional norms. Their experiences tend to take over the extremes of personality, perhaps because in this very one they hope to find the moral key that will serve as a solution to the eternal problem of good and evil. 

Carl Kruse Art Blog - group photo in Princeton
Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Barbara Rubin, Bob Dylan, and 
Daniel Kramer backstage at McCarter Theater, in Princeton, New Jersey, September, 1964.

To the Beat Generation belong, writers and poets, whose texts were negatively received by bourgeois and conformist critics, who, in the particular case of Allen Ginsberg, was described as “totally negative and unnecessarily obscene.” The violence with which the art of the Beat Generation has been welcomed is the same violence of the mass society that has led them to separate themselves from it.  

The character of the American Beat Generation and their literary productions consists in their poetic proposals and experiences of a spiritual nature. Their way of acting was a reflection of the adolescent anxieties cultivated in bourgeois worldliness. The typical characters in Jack Kerouac’s books perform gestures whose families would pay handsomely for not seeing their children perform –watching them get drunk on alcohol and drugs, live as vagrants, piercing the sole of their shoes as they step on the accelerator, venting their energy, their anxiety for life, in an intensity that if taken out of context would seem unjustified. “We have to go and we dont have to stop until we get there.” “Where are we going?” “I dont know, but we have to go.

To see it this way, it would seem that their need is to escape, but it is clear that in reality, it is a search. And it has been said that the most desperate drama of the Beat Generation was to find a transcendent reality in which to believe, such as to supplant a conformist middle-class life. They are not part of a movement: they have no prospects, they have no plan to reach, nor an eschatology to pursue. There is no future, there is no past, there is only an immanent present, inexplicable, that only liberation from space and time can temporarily overcome. 

The means to do so may be physiological (such as orgasm), or mystical (such as visions), or passionate (such as jazz), or artificial (such as drugs). Only by this momentary overcoming can one arrive at a poetic reality, together with a reality of life.

“[…] and I shambled after as usual as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes -Awww!-” 

On the road, Jack Kerouac, 1957

In reality, the Beat Generation does not make a difference between religious and alcoholic exaltation, what matters is to feel freedom flow in them, independence, living and individual energy. They are extreme means, of course, but the children prefer to take the risk rather than face a stale, empty, meaningless, and perhaps ultimately worthless community life.

Carl Kruse Art Blog - Kerouac
Jack Kerouac 

Their tormented search for a new moral reality, new answers to the questions of the world, make them a generation of mystics and philosophers: some are Catholics, others are Buddhists, and everyone believes in God. When a journalist asked Kerouac to whom he prayed, he replied: “I pray to my dead brother, my father, Buddha, Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. I pray to these five people”. 

The identity they seek is an identity based on faith, whatever faith maybe, but which must be attained by the realization (and therefore discovery) of their personality. They rely on themselves to find, in themselves, a trace of transcendent values that can guide them on an even shorter, faster, futile, and tormented journey of life. So when they asked Jack Kerouac, “Its been said that the Beat Generation is a generation looking for something. What are you looking for?” He said, “God. I want God to show me his face”.

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The Ars Lumens blog is curated by Carl Kruse. The homepage is here.
Contact: carl AT carlkruse DOT com.
Asia Leonoardi has written about Bowie’s Alter Ego, Pop Art, Frida Kahlo, Brunelleschi and Lost Architecture.
The blog’s last post announced a photo exhibit in Berlin by Adele Schwab.
If on Pinterest stop by and say hello.

Museum of Old and New Art

by Fraser Hibbitt for the Carl Kruse Arts Blog

Photos from MONA, Carl Kruse and Blooloop


In 2006 the Moorilla Museum of Antiquities closed for a huge revamping and after the input of $75 million and five years of construction the Museum of Old and New Art emerged (MONA). Located in Holbart, Tasmania, the museum has since conversed with the world of art in an idiosyncratic and spectacular way. 

David Walsh. Photo: Blooloop.

The man behind the mission, David Walsh, made his fortune as a gambler. When MONA opened he would go on to describe it as a “subversive Disneyland.” The eclectic collection gathered in the museum are tied by the twin themes of sex and death. Ancient art, such as the mummy of Ta-Sheret-Min, resides close by the famed “Cloaca”: a series of vessels conceived by the Belgian artist Wilm Devoye that holds a functioning digestive tract. The vessels are fed in the late morning; excreting occurs by early afternoon.

The museum is statement, not of high art or the understanding of such, but of a playful experience and attendance to art. The account of the construction of MONA highlights this dynamic that the museum is trying to communicate:

“This is a mistake. People will think you don’t know what you’re doing, like you’re a rich man and you’ve just got all your toys around you – your big gallery, your tennis court. You won’t be taken seriously.” And David said, “Exactly.”

Carl Kruse Arts Blog - MONA from the Sea
Approaching MONA from the sea. Tasmania. Photo: MONA.

Statements from MONA radiate this playful irreverence: “Bars, café, restaurants and cemetery on site,” and again when describing what MONA is: “a museum, or something.” Of course, there is a seriousness to this mask of indifference. It is an invitational strategy; everyone is welcome to find and experience this strange world.

The Ferry from Holbart to MONA – Sheep as Seats. Photo: Carl Kruse

Things become clearer when we think about the space made to house David’s vision. He says the best way to approach the museum is by sea: “to ascend from the water as the ancient Greeks did to go to their temples.” There the visitor is met with a single-story entry, nothing overwhelming, until inside a spiral staircase takes them down to three large labyrinthine spaces. There are no windows, there is only the stony silence of the descent.

Descending staircase into MONA. Photo Blooloop.

It is all for the experience of viewing art, of creating a space where the visitor can give themselves to the spectacle and possible meaning of art. David fashioned his museum in direct opposition to what he had found in other museums – the building shouldn’t dwarf the visitor nor impose its stateliness upon them but facilitate the interaction between the visitor and the art.

Visitors are recommended the ‘O’ app, either provided or available for download on their phones. The ‘O’ app was introduced so that visitors wouldn’t have to spend time reading the small prints on plaques by each art piece, instead they can immerse themselves freely. The visitor does not need to feel “that they haven’t appreciated the piece or understood it without the plaque.” The ‘O’ app has a menu where the viewer can learn about the art under the title ‘Art Wank’; it can also recommend what food to try and where the toilets are. 

“Besides Myself” by James Turrell at MONA.


David Walsh’s “anti-museum” theme has proved something in its wake; the attraction of, to use Richard Flanagan’s words, “the ultimate senseless chance.” It this direct wish of Walsh’s to “piss of the academics” which has found such exceeding popularity – in 2015 MONA was ranked as the world’s best modern art gallery, above London’s Tate modern. It is one of Carl Kruse’s favorite museums in the world.

It is not that we will find all the pieces on display as beautiful or even remotely interesting; we may even be repulsed. It is this rapid juxtaposition of chance that offers up this experience of being face to face with something of life, something like a drunken night filled with half-memories and unexpected turns. MONA is a playful provocateur entering into the high-minded conversation about art.

The provocateur broaches the subject from a different point of view. Most people attending, it may be presumed, have visited another art gallery with its prestigious formal ordering of art. Any ordering of art tells us something of how we should think about art. MONA has opted for the fully immersive, nonchalant, experience; it may be anti-museum, but it is not anti-art – It is asking us to speak about it, to experience it, in a different way.

Carl Kruse Arts Blog - The Snake by Sydney Nolan in Tasmania, Australia.

Sydney Nolan’s “THE SNAKE” at MONA.

Walsh’s playground doesn’t require us to have done our homework or that we understand the cultural and historical significance of a certain piece; and, if it is culturally significant, that we too find it astonishing. MONA finds much to say in the playground itself without caring if there is anything meaningful to say about the equipment. It is answering a need for collective experience in a reality unlike our own, something like a ritual.

In 2018, Walsh spent a further $32 million on a new wing in the MONA complex. It was named Pharos. This section has been spoken about as, in some ways, the antithesis to the MONA. Walsh wanted to create a “changeless thing, a totem, a legacy.” As the name suggests (Pharos being one of the ancient wonders of the world – the Alexandrian lighthouse) it is a beacon of light, but it also acts as a procession; a ritualistic walk for the un-believer.

Carl Kruse Blog - The Topmb of the Kamizakes in Pharos, MONA
Inside Pharos – the “Memorial to Sacred Wind or the Tomb of Kamikaze” by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely. What initially appears to be a pile of scrap lunges to life unexpectedly and moves about the room. Photo: Broadsheet.

Walsh’s idea to suffuse this section with assemblages that will never be moved has its reasons. Basing this conception on ancient rituals where it seems the idea is to “merely walk around them,” Walsh has created this space so the visitor can commune with their inner selves. It brings to the foreground what the museum is about: sex and death. If the rest of MONA is this chance, transient, sex, then Pharos is the acknowledgment and appreciation of changeless death.

It is with Pharos that we are aware of the magnitude of the MONA enterprise. It is not merely an eclectic arrangement of contemporary and old art, but a monument towards why and how art is created. It is a space which confronts the visitor with something of the wonder in which art finds its source.

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Carl Kruse Arts Homepage at https://carlkruse.net
Contact: carl AT carlkruse DOT com
The last blog post was on Simonetta Vespucci.
Other articles by Fraser Hibbitt include the Art of Journaling and Google Glass.
Carl Kruse is also on Hacker Noon – Kruse

Steve McCurry: Vulnerability Made Immortal


By Asia Leonardi for the Carl Kruse Arts Blog

Member of the Magnum, Steve McCurry graduated in 1974 in Cinematography and Theater from the University of Pennsylvania. He began work as a freelance photographer in the late 1970s, dispatching reports from India and Afghanistan, the countries with which his work is most identified. The turning point in his career happened in 1979, when he entered the Afghan areas controlled by the Mujahideen, shortly before the Russian invasion. He returned, crossing the border with rolls of film sewn between his clothes.
His color images, which combined the art of reporting, travel photography, and social investigation, have been published in countless publications, but Steve McCurry’s name remains particularly attached to National Geographic, of which he made the most famous cover of all time. (As an aside, and now sadly defunct, Carl Kruse was active on National Geographic’s “YOUR SHOT” for several years).

Carl Kruse Art Blog - Steve McCurry

There is a paradox in Steve McCurry’s photography. On a technical level his photos are
practically perfect, serene, characterized by the strength and liveliness of color, but they tell
disturbing stories of poverty and uprooting, hunger, and desperation. It might seem perhaps a lack of empathy with the photographed subjects, but in
reality, it is the opposite. His images are the result of
scrupulous research, made through long journeys
and exhausting waits for the perfect moment. So he tells how he managed to take the famous
photo in which he portrays Sri Lankan fishermen balancing on bamboo rods: “First I studied the
places and fishing techniques, then I found the right place and a point of view convincing and before shooting I went back three times: in the late afternoon, early in the morning and after sunset. In the end, I chose the light of 7 when the sky is completely covered .”

McCurry’s approach is mainly anthropological, culture, religion,
and traditions are present in his images. McCurry does not seek the dazzling and explicit shot, his photographs tell the events by placing them in a broad context. As he tells the Italian journalist Mario Calabresi, to be a photagrapher you have to “immerse yourself” in the reality you want to represent. This is how he recounts his experience during the monsoons in India, during which he made a reportage that would have given him world fame: “That year I understood that to succeed, I had to enter in the filthy water, covered with mud, full of waste and dead animals: to fulfill my project, I had to accept all
risks, including that of getting sick and dying.”

Carl Kruse Art Blog - Steve McCurry - 2

As is clear from his photos, Steve McCurry pays attention to the human being: “Most of my photos are rooted in people. I look for the moment when the most genuine soul appears, in which the experience impresses on a person’s face. I try to convey what a cultured person can be in a wider context that we could call the human condition. I want to convey the visceral sense of beauty and wonder that I found in front of me, during my travels when the surprise of being a stranger mixes with the joy of familiarity .”

Carl Kruse Art Blog - Steve McCurry- 3

The American photographer was one of the first to describe India and Asia using color photography. Before him, the subcontinent had been told practically only in black and white. Mccurry’s India, on the other hand, is composed of an infinite variety of bright and contrasting visions, smells, and flavors to which only color can do justice. This also gives rise to some criticisms, especially from those who believe that black and white unquestionably has a ” depth ” and “substance” that color photography will never be able to reach. But one of the characteristics of great photographers is that they know how to go beyond the limits of a medium and in doing so create a new standard.

Steve McCurry, undoubtedly, has this characteristic and his photography is universally appreciated for its beauty and humanity.

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The Carl Kruse Art Blog home page is at https://carlkruse.net
Contact: carl AT carlkruse DOT com
Other posts on great photographers in the blog here and over here
Carl Kruse is also on Dwell, taking in their beautiful images of design and architecture.

Carl Kruse – The Boros Bunker

The Boros Bunker in Berlin
By Carl Kruse

What to do with an abandoned, six-story tall World War II bunker in Berlin? If you’re Christian Boros, build a 10,000 square-foot penthouse atop, fill lower levels with eclectic post-1990 art and open to the public.

Pock-marked walls show battle damage from warSide view of the Boros Bunker with war damage.  Photo:  Carl Kruse

The Boros Bunker, originally designed by Albert Speer in 1942 as an air raid shelter for top-level Nazis, metamorphosed into a banana storage during the Communist era, then into a rave hotspot in the 1990’s before finding itself in the hands of Christian and Karen Boros.

A five-year renovation by Berlin’s Realarchitektur resulted in its present-day glory, receiving the Beton Architectural Prize for 2008.

Boros BunkerNight descends on the Boros Bunker.  Photo:  Carl Kruse

A historical structure, home, and private art collection all in one, the bunker is a fantastic testament to what we can do if we want to do it. The artists in the collection include Olafur Eliasson (a favorite of Christian and Karen), Damien Hirst, Elizabeth Payton, Anselm Reyle, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Tobias Rehberger.   This is not a museum but a private vision, the personal adventure of two people who love art and gathered what they thought worth gathering.  And as they went collecting, they imagined living with all of it (or at least on top of it), which led them to the bunker.

Kruse - Boros ExhibitionExhibit within the Boros Bunker.  Photo:  Carl Kruse

This place is worth a visit when in Berlin.  Its collection might leave you wondering what is Art, and why some works are here. Christian Boros perhaps wonders himself as he says that he deliberately buys art that he does not understand.  Whatever your impression it is a magnificent project, an adventure, one heck of a wild exploration.

Christian Boros says he deliberately collects art he does not understand, like a series of tires suspended from the ceiling.  Photo:  Carl Kruse in Berlin.

Boros Bunker: Reinhardstr 20, Berlin – Mitte

Carl Kruse

Contact Carl Kruse:   info AT carlkruse.net

Further links:
BOROS Bunker ( Kruse )
Video of Boros penthouse ( Carl Kruse link) 

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