International Klein Blue

l’accord bleu (RE 10), 1960 by Yves Klein. Foundation Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam Collection

Had he not died of a heart attack at age 34, Yves Klein would have turned 90 this year. In celebration of this would-be milestone, Blenheim Palace in the UK is currently exhibiting more than 50 Klein works, including multiple pieces made with International Klein Blue (IKB), the eponymous paint Klein developed in 1960. At the time of its creation, IKB was considered by some artists and critics to be an outrage—how, after all, could one artist be so arrogant as to lay personal claim to a color? Others, however, saw Klein as a genius—a predecessor of the time we live in now, when even the most minute and irrelevant intellectual property is jealously guarded. Even today there is much debate on this issue, although that debate is largely fed by a fundamental misunderstanding about what IKB actually is, and what Klein did to lay claim to it. One misunderstanding is the belief that IKB was a new color. It was not. It was a new medium for conveying an existing color. The other misunderstanding was that Klein patented IKB, thereby claiming ownership of it in the eyes of the law. He did not. Klein only registered IKB by way of a Soleau envelope, the official French method of establishing when someone first had the idea for something. The sender of a Soleau envelope makes two copies of a description of an idea. One copy is mailed to the office that registers intellectual property, and the other copy is retained by the registrant. The Soleau envelope that Klein mailed to the French government to register IKB was accidentally destroyed, so it is only by the copy he retained that we can confirm IKB was ever registered at all. Regardless, a Soleau envelope does not imply ownership. It only establishes the time, and the instigator, of an inventive achievement. And the invention of IKB was, indeed, inventive. In fact, its origin story helps explain why Klein was one of the most influential artists of his generation.

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Yves Klein was a French painter and an important figure in post-war European art.

The Knowns and Unknowns

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We do not know.
Finally, there are unknown knowns
The knowns
We do not want to know.

— Donald H. Rumsfeld

The Myth of the Self-Made Individual

You can hardly go through a day without hearing or reading tiresome iterations of “I did it all by myself,” or “he/she is a self-made individual.” When stated that way, it is often presumed that the individual achieved great success through their own efforts without any help. That’s what the people who say it would like you to think, but it just isn’t true. Let’s think about it for a moment. Is there really a self-made individual?

Quoting a statement  attributed to Bernard of Chartres, in a letter to his life-long rival, Isaac Newton wrote, “If I’ve seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Newton humbly recognized that discoveries were a product of building on the knowledge of others. We owe modern business methods to Adam Smith, the foundation of philosophical thinking to Plato, and the development of theoretical computer science to Alan Turing. These men and  many others,  made it easy for us to expand on their ideas so that we can create societies that  enable the individual flourish.

The invention of the internet  made unimaginable things possible. At the click of a button, we can overthrow repressive governments, meet new friends, make an industry obsolete, learn new things, and conduct billion-dollar deals via email. By leveraging the power of the internet, many have become millionaires and billionaires. In turn, these wealthy individuals have empowered millions of people across the globe.

The life expectancy of the individual has improved tremendously compared to the 1700s . Due to advancements in medicine, polio and many other life-threatening diseases have been eradicated in most parts of the world. Except for a few bellicose states, most countries advance their interests through diplomacy, thus there has been a decline in war-related deaths. Literacy levels have increased, and many United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals have been met thanks to policy makers around the world.

For publicly advocating for the end of Apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela and many others were imprisoned under harsh conditions for over two decades.  In the United States, Martin Luther King, Malcom X, and Medgar Evers were assassinated for their Civil Rights Activism. In Nigeria, the military government frequently had Fela Anikulapo Kuti beaten and imprisoned for championing the cause of the average man through music. Everyday around the world, status-quo-clinging power structures are being dismantled. Today, it’s less costly to be lesbian, gay, transgender, or black compared to centuries before. If a whiff of racism or bigotry is suspected, the offender might serve a jail term if found guilty by a court of law.

Let’s not forget the role of the family in raising confident and strong children who can contribute to the betterment of society.  To quote an African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Even an orphan does not  feed or bathe itself within the first few years of life.  Since children are vulnerable and highly impressionable, the quality of their lives is determined by the kinds of influences their parents or guardians expose them to.

Perpetuating the notion of the self-made individual is disrespectful to our predecessors, who through struggle and deprivation,  handed down to us all the luxuries we now enjoy. I think it’s narcissistic and plain stupid to dismiss our collective heritage by not giving credit to those whom it is due.

Playlist of the Week

Faith Evans ft. Twista   –   Hope
David Bowie   –   Lazarus
Genesis   –   In too Deep
2Pac   –   Ghetto Gospel
Nas ft. The-Dream, Kanye West   –   Everything
Depeche Mode   –   People are People
Men Without Hats   –   The Safety Dance
Bon Jovi   –   Living on a Prayer
Musical Youth   –   Pass the Dutchie
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Enola Gay

This week’s playlist is available on iTunes and Spotify. I hope you enjoy it

Stephen Payne on Designing the Queen Mary 2

I have a personal philosophy that says before trying anything new, you have the best chance of success if you look back at history.  Because you have to realize what has worked and what was filed.  There is so much about this ship, if you look around closely you can see that it has been done before.  All I have done is take all the successful bits from other ships and brought it all together into this one new ship and added a little bit of new technology and new thinking.  That has all been packaged together to create Queen Mary 2.

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Stephen PayneOBEMNMRDIFREngFRINAHonFIED is a British naval architect. He has worked on the designs of approximately 40 passenger ships for the Carnival Corporation, including the Cunardocean linerRMS Queen Mary 2

Francis Kurkdjian on Business Partnerships

FRANCIS Kurkdjian is one of the world’s greatest perfumers. Since creating Le Male for Jean Paul Gaultier in 1995, one of the most popular fragrances ever, when the Paris-born Kurkdjian was only 26, he went to make many other breath-takingly lovely fragrances for other brands such as Burberry and Elie Saab. In 2009, he established his own company Maison Francis Kurkdjian (MFK), which has gone from success to success, producing some of the most subtle, sophisticated and deliriously lovely perfumes of our times. This year it was announced that he had sold MFK to LVMH. Glass speaks to Kurkdjian to find out more about the inspiration and philosophy of MFK.

Where do you seek and find  inspiration for your perfumes? And once inspired, what is your creative process?

Inspiration is the invisible part of creation. It’s by far the hardest part of my work and the most challenging one as time goes by.

My inspirations are not driven by raw materials. Classic and modern art, couture and lifestyle inspire me, but I always try to focus on a universal feeling. It must be an idea that everyone around the globe can understand in their own language and apprehend with their own feelings.

Timeless elegance can be translated through different manners, but everyone can understand what it means, and the same with the idea of an ode to femininity, and so on.

Once I have envisioned that idea, I translated it into a name that would become the one for the fragrance. To me, the name is very important. It defines a frame for me to work within. A name is unswervingly tied to a fragrance. Once I have that, I dream about the actual scent, and imagine the scent that goes with that name. I only start writing the formula after that stage. Because if you don’t know what you want to say, you don’t know what raw materials to blend together. Painters use colours, musicians use notes, and as a perfumer I use scents.

What is the dynamic between you and the co-founder of Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Marc Chaya? How did you meet? And how did you decide to open a perfume house together?

I met Marc Chaya at a dinner after a Jean Paul Gaultier fashion show in 2003. During our dinner Marc Chaya asked me what I was doing in life and I said, “I am a perfumer”. He didn’t know that much about perfumery. He wore Le Male at some point and we had a long moment talking about it. He was really surprised not to know my name despite the number of fragrances I had created.

With time, we became very good friends and realised that we were sharing the same vision of lifestyle and definition of luxury. Plus, we had complementary professional and creative skills.

In 2005, we both were at a turning point in our professional careers. We decided to do a world tour. When we came back, I told him that I would open my own fragrance house and that I wanted him to run the business. We started to work together on different projects and in 2009 we finally co-founded Maison Francis Kurkdjian.

I have always been convinced that to build a great luxury house, you need a creative mind backed up with a business genius. Christian Dior had Jacques Rouet, Yves Saint Laurent had Pierre Bergé, Tom Ford had Domenico de Sole. These success stories are examples to me.

Marc Chaya is the business side and mastermind of the company. He has set up our company like a rocket. We are not big at all but we are super-organised. He has basically built a shell around me. I discuss all the matters with him. I am the first wearer of my creations but he is my first customer. He challenges me a lot.

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Francis Kurkdjian is an Armenian contemporary perfumer and businessman

Søren Kierkegaard On the Perils of Procrastination

Gordon Marino in Philosophy Now:

In his powerful discourse ‘At a Graveside’ (1845), Kierkegaard emphasizes the existential importance of coming to a first-person understanding of our mortality. It might seem anachronistic but, to listen to Kierkegaard, earnestness (alvorlighed) as opposed to happiness ought to be the ultimate aim in life. He writes, “Earnestness is that you think of death, and that you are thinking it as your lot.” He then explains a number of ways in which people go wrong in trying to walk over their own grave, for example, by thinking of death as a ‘rest’, or as a ‘great equalizer’, or by putting yourself outside of death with rote memorized phrases such as, “Where I am death is not, and where death is I am not”. However, when we achieve the bone-deep understanding that it is certain that at some uncertain time it will be over for us, that understanding will give a force to life and help us avoid the temptation to procrastinate. The individual for whom the day receives high worth as being limited is not going to be inclined to procrastinate, to put off decisions with palliatives such as “I’ll sleep on it.” As Kierkegaard writes:

“Indeed, time (Tid) also is a good. If a person were able to produce a scarcity (Drytid) in the external world, yes, then he would be busy. The merchant is correct in saying that the commodity certainly has its price, but the price still depends very much on the advantageous circumstances at the time – and when there is a scarcity, the merchant profits … with the thought of death the earnest person is able to create a scarcity [of time] so that the year and the day receive infinite worth.”

Regarding our predilection for pulling the wool over our own eyes, Kierkegaard pronounces this dire verdict: “This is how the majority of men live; they work gradually at eclipsing their ethical and ethical-religious comprehension, which would lead them into decisions that their lower nature does not much care for.” And after we have given in and taken the road most travelled once, twice, thrice, maybe we lose confidence in our capacity to stand up for what is right.

The author of The Sickness unpacks despair in terms of ignoring your God-relation. Nevertheless, this austere and otherwise dogmatic text retains purchase even for adherents of the ‘God is dead’ gospel. After all, those who have put the question of religious belief to bed need only to read Kierkegaard’s anatomy of despair as referring to the process of losing faith in one’s agency – in one’s moral capacities – and thereby running up the white flag towards one’s moral aspirations.

Kierkegaard is often misunderstood as believing that we ought to act on feeling or impulse. But in his analysis of procrastination he is implying that we ought to act as soon as we know what’s right. This knowledge may require reflection. But we should be wary of reflecting our way out of tough decisions.

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Gordon Marino is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Hong Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf College

Playlist of the Week

Coldplay   –   Amazing Day
Bobby McFerrin   –   Don’t Worry Be Happy
Marcus Miller ft Selah Sue   –   Que Sera Sera
Fleetwood Mac   –   Don’t Stop
Chris Rea   –   Shadows of the Big Man
Buju Banton   –   Destiny
Iyanya   –   Hold On
Donna Summer   –   She Works Hard for the Money
Big Sean ft Migos   –   Sacrifices
Post Malone   –   Better Now

This week’s playlist is available on iTunes and Spotify. I hope you enjoy it