The universe of psychology 2

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The Universe of Psychology

Chapter 2: The Individual











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The Fundamental Attribution Error

It is Monday morning and you are late for work. The street is empty and nobody is looking - so you cross the street, ignoring the red light. On the elevator you meet your coworker. He still has toothpaste in the corners of his mouth. What a slag!

The fundamental attribution error suggests that our evaluation of actions is biased: While we explain our own behaviour in situational terms, we consider the behaviour of others to be the result of dispositional features. While our lateness to work was due to traffic, our co-worker is just lazy. While we forgot the birthday of a friend because we were on vacation, everyone else is just a bad person.

The group-serving bias extends this model to in- and outgroups: If friends, family or co-workers fail, we attribute this failure to external events, if they succeed, it is due to their personal qualities. Outgroups, on the other hand, i.e. another clique or the opponent in a football match, are judged the other way around. Failure is due to disposition, success the mere result of a situational advantage.

Anchoring

You walk down the narrow passage of a moroccan bazar. You smell the spices, the smoke. There, on a table with a ruby-red cloth, lies the object of your desire, an ancient artefact that tells the tales of the past.
How much, you ask. 200, he says. You have no idea what it’s worth, but 200 seems a lot. No way, you answer. 150! He pauses. 180, he says. 160, you respond. He accepts. You smile. You are a master of bargain.
And also a casualty of anchoring.

The anchoring heuristic is well known amongst car salesmen and advertising experts. It describes the insufficient adjustment from a prior given value, such as the price of a car. The initial price tag for the car may be 15.000€. The salesman then negotiates with the customer until an agreement is reached for 13.000€. Actually, the car is worth only 10.000€. But the customer, unaware of the exact price, is influenced by the anchor - the initial price tag - and thus assumes it to be worth more than it actually is.

Anchors decrease our ability to adjust from these initial values. We might knock down the price a bit, but not as much as we would have without that initial offer.
The effect works for all kinds of values. Every time we are in need for an estimate, we take any hint we can get, even if it comes from a source that is most likely biased. The only antidote is knowing the actual value.

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Extrinsic

Intrinsic

Motivation

Why do you draw? Or knit? Or cook? Why do pay your bills, brush your teeth, or eat broccoli?
Motivation has many facets. Two primary motives are extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation lies in the pursuit of reward or the avoidance of punishment. It means working harder to get a raise, doing homework to pass a class, working out to look great. Our daily life is filled with extrinsic motivation. Whether it’s getting up early, bringing out the garbage or ironing shirts, the motivation is boiled down to a gain/lose-dichotomy.

Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It is the motivation to do things for their own sake. It is the backbone of personal interests, goals and ambitions. And it is difficult to reach. While eating chocolate may be personally rewarding, it is much harder to evoke intrinsic motivation in a workout.

There is nothing wrong with extrinsic motivation per se. The promise of rewards can introduce interest in previously uncharted territories. However, the introduction of rewards also establishes a dependency on such and further rewards are needed or the motivation diminishes. This can even affect intrinsic motivation: Both forms of motivation are mutually exclusive, thus a shift towards one inevitably diminishes the other.

Cognitive Dissonance

The theory of cognitive dissonance describes a state in which attitudes and/or behaviour are in contradiction to each other. What sounds confusing at first is actually the very reason for why you still smoke despite knowing that it’s bad for you, for why you have a good reason not to eat less fast food and for why you never liked your ex girlfriend anyway.

A dissonance – the smoking habit that is pleasurable on the one hand but on the other hand might kill you – leads to anxiety and negative feelings.
A way to alleviate these feelings would be to change the behaviour – and quit smoking. But maybe you don’t want to change your behaviour. Or maybe you can’t. Another way to relieve yourself from the dissonance is thus to change the discrepancy itself. Behaviours and attitudes can be rationalised or trivialised. It’s not that bad after all. You’re still eating vegetables, after all! There are worse things out there, after all!

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The Just World Hypothesis

We have an inherent need for order and predictability. We need to be able to explain the world around us and the actions that take place in our life and that of others. We need to know that everything happens for a reason.

Sometimes, however, bad things happen. Things that are hard to explain and even less so can be justified by our concept of how the world works. The just world hypothesis describes the bias that can occur in these situations. We assume that every person gets what they deserve. And if something bad happens, then it is because that person deserved it.
This bias has tremendous consequences. An accident, an assault, anything that even outsiders can hardly bear, is explained by presumptions and thus diminished. We assume that the driver must have been drunk, that the guy must have provoked it, or that it was not as bad as it sounds. We diminish what happened or even blame the victim for our own sake. This leaves us with a still intact world. But it may shatter the world of others.

The universe of psychology 1

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The Universe of Psychology

an exploration of why we are so weird

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Intro

Psychology is everywhere. It's in your head, your shoes, your breakfast cereals.

Psychology is what drives every human being, every interaction, every thought and feeling. It is why you never forget your first kiss but always the essential stuff when you go to the supermarket. It is why you go to IKEA to buy two cups and a lamp and leave with a whole new bedroom. Psychology is you promising yourself to work out more and smoke less this year and it is also you having a very good reason right now for why you didn't. It is why you care for your friends in hard times. Why you fall in love even when it hurts. It's why you smile when you see a cute cat video, why you crave burgers at 3 a.m. and why you are hopelessly in love with Emma Watson.

The Universe of Psychology is an endeavour to grasp a few of these ideas. It is a collection of theories, anecdotes and insights, to better understand ourselves and the world around us.
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The Basics

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The Big 5

The big five personality traits are composed of Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism, often abbreviated by the acronym OCEAN. Each trait is correlated with certain personality attributes.

Openness to experience: Appreciates novelty, adventure and variety.
Conscientiousness: Is organised, dependable, disciplined, dutiful and achievement-oriented.
Extraversion: Outgoing, excitable, assertive, social and stimulated others.
Agreeableness: Is friendly, compassionate, cooperative, helpful, trusting.
Neuroticism: Sensitive, nervous, prone to unpleasant emotions, such as anxiety, depression, anger.

Individuals are described on dimensions from low to high in each trait.

Freud's Iceberg

Sigmund Freud structured the human personality in three parts: The Ego, which is the conscious and psychological component, the Id, the subconscious and biological component, and the Superego, the social component.
Much of the restless conflict between the three different parts happens without our awareness. The Id, focused on instinct and pleasure, and the Superego, representing the moral and social imperatives, are rarely in agreement. The Ego's task is to mediate between the two, bringing balance to intrinsic needs and social responsibility.

To consider Freud's theories controversial might be an understatement. Much of his work has been criticised, advanced and discarded, infuriating his followers and relieving his opponents. And yet, his ideas remain important today.


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The hierarchy of needs

Abraham Maslow proposed the hierarchy of needs in 1943 as an approach towards the ideal being. The most fundamental physiological need of survival provides the foundation for any further steps. Only if the current need is fulfilled, one will strive to complete the next step on the ladder to self-actualisation, the theory’s ultimate goal.

Research indeed indicates universal human needs but the content of those needs is highly debated. Maslow also does not account for collectivistic cultures, which emphasise the need for belonging far beyond the need for self-actualisation. To this date Maslow’s theory inspires a great many people. Yet, it also should be taken with a great many grains of salt.

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Secure

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The attachment styles

The attachment theory is an endeavour to describe the foundation of interpersonal relationships. At the core of each of the four relationship styles is the matter of trust in the caregiver and the self. The theory considers it crucial for later social and emotional development that infants develop a healthy relationship with a caregiver at a very early age.

A caregiver can be a mother, a father, a nanny, anyone who acts as a primary caregiver to the child. Caregivers provide a safe base for children which they can rely on as they explore the world around them. Parental interactions with their children are seldom flawless. It is natural and inevitable that they do not always meet the current expectations of their child. They might be working, on the phone or simply not sure what the child wants. What matters is not that parents never make mistakes, but that they care for their child with an unexceptional warmth and empathy and make it feel save. Consistently responding to the child’s needs leads to more secure attachments, whereas as a frequent lack of consistency or even disregard can damage the parent-child relationship and impact later development.

Secure: The infant has formed a secure attachment to its caregiver and knows it can rely on them. It thus can explore freely in their presence, even engage with strangers, cries on the caregiver’s departure but rejoices on their return.

Resistant: The infant is uncertain about the relationship to the caregiver. At time the caregiver is caring and loving, at other times insensitive and neglectful. The infant can't trust the caregiver but at the same time is desperate for their love.

Avoidant: The infant has learned that its caregiver does not respond to its needs and it needs to rely on itself. It avoids or ignores the caregiver, shows little regard for their departure or return. It becomes independent but distant.

Disorganised: The infant has a fearful, disruptive relationship to the caregiver, it seeks safety but is scared of the unsafe base they provide. Its emotions and behaviour are ambivalent, contradictory, odd and misdirected.

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Defence mechanisms

Based on the work of Sigmund Freud, his daughter Anna further developed the idea of defence mechanisms. These proposed unconscious processes shield us from unpleasant memories or inappropriate drives and urges, which can lead to feelings of anxiety or guilt and an inner conflict. As the Id and the Superego clash, the Ego needs to balance urges and norms in an adequate way. The Id’s response to a conflict, for instance, may be to attack, but social norms condemn such actions. The ego thus has to redirect the urge.
However, memories and urges are not eliminated, but banished to the unconscious, from where they still impact our behaviour. There are several different defence mechanisms, each with their own particular function and effect.

Repression: Disturbing and threatening thoughts are repressed to keep them from entering the conscious mind. However, the repressed content remains influential from the depths of the unconscious and, ultimately, leads to anxiety.

Projection: Own negative thoughts, feelings and qualities are projected on another person. The individual’s deficits or oddities are thus trivialised, as others are thought to display the same features.

Denial: The individual refuses to acknowledge a threat. Smokers may deny the consequences to their health, a fearful patient may reject a threatening diagnosis.

Identification: By identifying with an aggressor, the individual conquers their fear by becoming more like who or what they fear. An example is the Stockholm Syndrome.

Displacement: An emotion or impulse is shifted from one target onto a (weaker) substitute target. A person may shout at their kids instead of their boss after a bad day at work, as they are a less likely to retort.

Sublimation: Destructive impulses are channelled into constructive, admirable actions. A depression is turned into a love song, aggression relieved through sports.

Rationalisation: Distorting the facts to justify wrong actions, i.e. by stating that everyone else would act the same way or that it was the “logical” thing to do.

Reaction formation: Emphasising the opposite of one’s desired actions. Love turns into hate, shame into disgust. The classic example is the homophobe who actually has homosexual desires himself.

Curry with Keith

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Curry with Keith

Chapter 2 of Cooking Art*

*Cooking art details the life and work of the greatest artists of the 20th century. It provides the reader with both biographical details and visual representations of the artist's style, wrapped in crucial culinary instructions for an amazing meal that is both tasty and a clever way to avoid copyright infringement.

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*Ingredients: 300g chicken, 500g canned tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 lemon, 1 cup yoghurt, 250 ml cream, 3 tbs butter, chili, 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp garlic, salt, 1 1/2 tbs tandoori masala, 2 tsp cardamom, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 2 cloves, 1 tbs garam masala, 1 tbs honey.

Marinade: Combine chicken with lemon, salt, chili, yoghurt, ginger, garlic, tandoori. Leave for 1-12 hours.

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Keith Haring is born on may 4th, 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania. He grows up in Kutztown, a small, old-established ivory tower of a town, detached from the seething novelties of the progressive hubs.
His father Allen, an engineer, also is an amateur cartoonist. He draws for Keith, and introduces him to Disney and Dr. Seuss. Already at that early age, Keith falls in love with drawing.

In 1976, Haring graduates from high school. He is still in love with art but as so many others, his parents are scared of him living the live of a breadless artist and beg him to study commercial art. He enrols in the School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh. It takes him less than six months to realise that he wants everything but to become a commercial artist.

“The people i met who were doing it seemed really unhappy; they said that they were only doing it for a job while they did their own art on the side, but in reality that was never the case- their own art was lost. i quit the school.”

Seeing Pierre Alechinskys’s retrospective at the Carnegie Museum of Art displaying both a vaguely similar style to his own and the potential for its success, Haring experiences a boost in confidence and the affirmation to risk it all. He is inspired by the late work of Jean Dubuffet and Alechinsky but wants to transport the style of the latter into much bigger shapes and patterns of ink that are completely spontaneous and independent.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Running Fence, a veiled fence that stretches 40km across the hills of Sonoma and Marin in northern California, further underlines his belief that art should reach and be accessible to everyone, not just the small elite of the art world.

When an exhibition at the Pittsburgh Arts and Crafts Center is canceled last-minute, Haring gets the spot. At the age of only 19, he shows at the best place in Pittsburgh besides museums. But his world is already too small. Beginning his first relationships with men and feeling the limitedness of his environment, he decides to break out.
New York is the only option.

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Sauce: Melt butter, add cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, onion, chili, tomatoes. Cook for 20min on medium-low heat.

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1978, Haring moves to New York and enrols in the School od Visual Arts. He Finds a thriving art community that has developed as an alternative to galleries and museums and blooms in the streets, subways, clubs and former dance halls. The boy from Kutztown dives into the multicultural urban world of New York City and emerges in an entirely new environment that both inspires and shapes him. The east village gifts him the freedom to uninhibitedly explore a vibrant social world of likeminded creatives and his gay identity.

 

He befriends Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat and finds himself in the midst of musicians, performance artists, graffiti writers. He organises and participates in performances and exhibitions at the Club 57, experimenting with videos, installations and collages. But the fast, spontaneous art of graffiti writing most perfectly fits his awe and aim for channelling all his impulses into the bold expression of a line. He admires the creative and authentic street work of graffiti writers with their technical mastery and calligraphic style.

 

In 1980, he finds his entry to their world as he sees a blank black advertisement poster on a subway station.

“One day, riding the subway, I saw this empty black panel where an advertisement was supposed to go. I immediately realised that this was the perfect place to draw. I went back above ground to a card shop and bought a box of white chalk, went back down and did a drawing on it. It was perfect–soft black paper; chalk drew on it really easily.”

The blank posters, placeholders soon to be covered up by new advertisements, are everywhere in the city. And as Haring sets out to conquer them all for their finite time of availability, he develops the distinct style that will make him famous.
To Haring, the subway drawings are both drawing and performance. He draws in front of people, both those that despise his vandalism and those that stand in awe and watch him create. He thrives on the interactions and reactions and is fuelled and excited by the feedback, criticism, interest and resentment from such a broad variety of people that ride the subway – old and young, rich and poor, from all kinds of backgrounds and all kinds of minds.

Between 1980 and 1985, Haring creates thousands of public drawings, up to forty drawings a day. His style is shaped by speed, simplicity and rhythmic lines and soon becomes famous to New York commuters.

The subway serves as his laboratory, exploring and refining techniques and ideas and narrowing down his style to art that is perceived and understood in the blink of an eye but shaped into entirely different interpretations by each individual beholder.

The simplicity of the lines does not replace but enhance the depth and distinction of their meaning to the audience.

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The Subway drawings are followed by a rising international recognition throughout the 80s. In 1981, he has his first Solo Exhibition in New York at the Westbeth Painter Space. In 1982, the Tony Shafrazi Gallery follows with his first gallery debut with tremendous response.

He creates drawings, painted tarpaulins, sculptures and on-site work. He transforms the entire space into a club-like environment. International exhibitions follow at the Documenta 7, the Sao Paulo Biennal, the Whitney Biennal. Haring designs for the Spectacolor Billboard on Times Square, Coca-Cola, Swatch, creates advertising campaigns for Absolut Vodka, paints Murals around the world.

 

His incredible success brings an infinite extent of money and opportunities but also new issues. By 1984, his subway drawings are stolen within hours of their creation and sold on the art market. A single painting he would create in just a few hours sells for tens of thousands of dollars.

But his rise to fame does not stop his artistic ecstasy, it only increases his reach.

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“I could earn more money if I just painted a few things and jacked up the price. My shop is an extension of what I was doing in the subway stations, breaking down the barriers between high and low art."

The 1986 opening of the “Pop Shop”, a retail store in Soho that sells t-shirts, toys, posters, buttons and other merchandising bearing his images is both criticised and celebrated. The entire interior is painted by Haring as a black on white abstract mural. The low prices make his art accessible to almost everyone and are met with incomprehension, shock and anger by the art world.

“My work was starting to become more expensive and more popular within the art market. Those prices meant that only people who could afford big art prices could have access to the work.
The Pop Shop makes it accessible.”

Him circumventing the art critics and going straight to the public, making his work available to as wide of an audience as possible, is the exact opposite of how the art market works and demands to work. Haring creating a massive amount of artworks basically “for free” is the ultimate suicide for an artist's value. Asked for autographs, he doesn’t just sign, he draws, for every fan. While the art world condemns his move, his friends, fans and mentors, including Andy Warhol, praise him and give him the strength and confidence to persist.

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Finish: Add chicken (with yoghurt) and cream, cook till chicken is done.
Serve with rice, naan and love.

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“i suppose even just from the time of when i was a little kid i had this tremendous guilt about, you know, from learning of all the things that white people had done”

“i felt a much closer affinity to culture and people of color than i did to white culture."

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In the mid-80s, Haring uses his work increasingly to highlight socio-political issues. He designs the Free South Africa poster in 1985 and paints the Berlin Wall in 1986. He creates more than 50 public artworks between 1982 and 1989 all over the world, for charities, hospitals, children’s day care centres and orphanages. He fights for AIDS awareness and the crack cocaine epidemic with his world famous CRACK IS WACK mural along New York’s FDR drive. For the 100th anniversary of the statue of liberty in 1986, he creates a mural with over 900 children, he gives workshops for children in schools and museums all over the world and provides imagery for literacy programs and a variety of other public service campaigns.

“Thats one reason why i really like working with children more than anything else, because they still really have that freedom and that imagination to just .. to just do it.”

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“I like the idea of things lasting longer than you last and.. being somewhere where lots of people can see them for a long time”

While giving rise to an environment that enabled Haring to pursue his uninhibited creative identity, the 80s also give rise to AIDS. Haring watches his friends die of the disease and is deeply troubled by the experience. Knowing his own risk of being infected, he avoids the diagnosis for years, yet he is very aware of his inevitable fate.

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"I'm scared of having to watch more people die in front of me ... I refuse to die like that.
If the time comes, I think suicide is much more dignified and much easier on friends and loved ones. Nobody deserves to watch this kind of slow death."

In 1987, Haring becomes aware of the symptoms. In 1988 he is diagnosed. Knowing his days are numbered, he works even harder, to “do as much as possible as quickly as possible” before the end. His themes shift towards the male sexuality, wit the symbol of the horned sperm often regarded as a symbol of the virus. While the public considers aids the “gay cancer” or a “divine punishment”, Haring addresses the discrimination and oppression of those that suffer. His work gives the affected a voice and the deadly disease a shape.
In 1989, he establishes the Keith Haring Foundation with the goal to provide funding and imagery to aids organisations and children’s programs and spread his work to a wider audience.

“i knew it was going to happen but somehow that doesn’t prepare you any more for that moment when you know that it’s really...”

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“i went and sat by the river and just cried and cried and cried, but then it’s like, you can’t... you know, you have to go on. and you get yourself together and you realise that this is not the end right there and there is other things and you gotta continue and you gotta figure out how you’Re gonna deal with it and confront it and face it."

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“No matter how long you work, it’s always going to end sometime. And there’s always going to be things left undone. And it wouldn’t matter if you lived until you were seventy-five. There would still be new ideas. There would still be things that you wished you would have accomplished. You could work for several lifetimes… Part of the reason that I’m not having trouble facing the reality of death is that it’s not a limitation, in a way. It could have happened any time, and it is going to happen sometime. If you live your life according to that, death is irrelevant. Everything I’m doing right now is exactly what I want to do.”

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“you’re making these things that you know have a different kind of life. They don’t depend on breathing, so they’ll last longer than any of us will. Which is sort of an interesting idea, that it’s sort of extending your life to some degree.”

Harings work becomes his endeavour to prolong his life through his art. 1989 is filled with radiant paintings of birth and life. He accepts his death. He transforms the life that is taken from him into the immortality of his work.
On February 16, 1990, at the age of 31, he dies of AIDS-related complications.

„Art is for everybody.“
-Keith Haring

Breakfast with Roy

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Here is a counterproposal to boring art books,
long wikipedia articles and tedious art guides
with shitty elevator music.
"cooking art" gives you a boiled down basic understanding
of some of the greatest artists of the 20th century
all wrapped in crucial culinary instructions
for a perfect meal.

Breakfast with roy

A culinary introduction to roy lichtenstein

(And a clever way to avoid Copyright infringement)

Step 1: Fry bacon.

In the fall of 1961 an artist by the name of Andy Warhol walks into the gallery of Leo Castelli. Warhol, a renowned commercial artist, presents his artwork, a new style he has developed: comic style paintings. Castelli, one of the leading art dealers of the 20th century, rejects him.
Just prior to Warhol, another young artist has presented him with the same idea. Castelli demands that there can only be one to establish comic art. And he recognises this person to be Roy Lichtenstein.

What makes an artist great? What is it that elevates a piece of art from the ocean of artwork to the apex of artistry, that burns so deep into both the memory and the heart of its viewer that but a single glance can evoke awe and admiration? Is it the stroke? The colours? The immense force both expressed and evoked by compositions so unique, so fascinating, disturbing, inspiring?
Honestly? I don’t know. It is like falling in love. There are many explanations but none that do it justice. If someone steals your heart, there are no good or bad reasons.
You can’t explain. You just know.

The man who unwittingly nullified Warhol’s style and caused him to reinvent himself with the help of a bunch of soup cans, Roy Lichtenstein was born in 1923 to a real estate broker and a trained pianist turned homemaker. His idols were Rembrandt, Daumier and Picasso and his inspiration his mother, who would introduce him to the New York art world and his love for Jazz.
His impact on the art world stretched far beyond the genius of Andy Warhol. Roy Lichtenstein has to a big part defined the idea of pop art, he has established a style as distinctive as it is enticing, and inspired generations of artists, designers, illustrators and pop culture itself.

Lichtenstein disputed the idea that one person’s drawing “was considered brilliant, and somebody’s else’s, that may have looked better to you, was considered nothing by almost everyone.” His most famous pop paintings of the 1960s were the result of choosing the “dumbest” and “worst” items he could find, and to “alter and improve” them. It was a time at which commercial art was despised and rejected by the art world. Abstract Expressionism dominated the scene and the trivial was dismissed. Lichtenstein found his fascination in the scraps of the status quo.

He studied Fine Arts at the Ohio State University. To pacify his parent’s fear of him becoming a breadless artist, he enrolled for a lectureship degree. Drafted in 1943, Lichtenstein fought in France, Belgium and Germany. He enrolled at the Sorbonne but returned home in 1946 when his father fell sick. Milton Lichtenstein died shortly after. Roy became an art instructor.

1951, Lichtenstein moved to Cleveland. He worked as an interior decorator, industrial draftsman, furniture designer, window dresser. The same year he had his first solo exhibition in New York. His style fluctuated between Cubism and Expressionism. 1954 and 1956 his sons David Hoyt (named after his most influential teacher) and Mitchell were born.

In 1957, to increase his proximity to New York, he worked as an assistant professor at the State University of New York at Oswego, teaching Industrial Design. However, Oswego turned out to be even more isolated than Cleveland. His style changed towards Abstract Expressionism.

1960 he accepted a position at Rutgers University. The closeness to New York museums and Allan Kaprow, who also taught there, influenced Lichtenstein heavily in the development of his style. He returned to proto-pop imagery and in 1961 used cartoon images and techniques combined with commercial printing techniques.

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One day, Lichtenstein still on a quest to find his personal style, one of his sons challenged him as a painter. He showed him a Mickey Mouse comic book, asking if he could paint as good as that. His iconic work Look Mickey (1961) was one of the first to commence the art style that would make him famous.

Initially, he had little interest in continuing this new found style. But something would draw him back to it. “I couldn’t do any other kind of painting. […] Everything I did just looked like mush. And this thing kept looking at me.”
Having struck a chord, Lichtenstein further developed the comic strip style, producing six more paintings with pop culture characters from gum wrappers and cartoons. In the same year, Leo Castelli displayed his work at his gallery.

In 1962 Lichtenstein had is first solo show. All his work was sold already before the opening. 1963 he took a leave of absence from teaching and in 64 he resigned for good. His style swiftly developed from the rudimentary paintings of Look Mickey (1961) to a much more refined style as seen in The Ring (Engagement) (1961) and Drowning Girl (1963). In 1963, he produced his most prominent work, Whaam!. By 1963, Lichtenstein was a critical and commercial success. He was showcased in museums and galleries, grouped with Johns, Rauschenberg, Warhol and Rosenquist, overthrowing the status quo and redefining the idea of originality, fine art and entertainment.

Step 2: Fry an egg.

In 1965, the Rolling Stones release the song “The Last Time”. In the same year, Andrew Loog Oldham, their manager and producer, samples their guitar riff and creates an orchestral version. Fast forward to 1997, Richard Ashcroft and the former band members of The Verve find back together and create a song called "Bitter Sweet Symphony". They complete the song with another orchestral version of the orchestral sample of "The Last Time". The similarity to the original is minute. The song becomes world famous.
The lyrics written by Ashcroft, the song the result of the first studio session of a reunited band, The Verve acquire the rights to the sample but miss additional licensing requirements with ABKCO records.
ABKCO sues The Verve.
Ashcroft and his bands lose all rights and revenue from the song. The song that reunited the band and made them famous does not belong to them anymore. The authorship is changed to Ashcroft, Jagger and Richards, even the revenue of The Verve’s album Urban Hymns is to a huge part divided on the Stones. Ashcroft calls it the best song the Stones have written in 20 years. Keith Richards dares him to write something better. Oldham presumes authorship of the entire song.
Every time The Verve play it at the end of their show, they do so with the bittersweet love for their biggest success that is not theirs anymore.

Despite his appropriations, there is a remarkable similarity between Roy Lichtenstein’s work and the templates he used. Lichtenstein considered his approach an examination of mass media and pop culture, elevating mundane everyday objects to an artistic meta level. His originality was questioned throughout his rise to fame, with Life Magazine calling him “the worst artist in the U.S.”. Lichtenstein considered the closeness to the original not a flaw but an intense critic of its content.

He “entirely transformed [his work] in that my purpose and perception are entirely different. I think my paintings are critically transformed, but it would be difficult to prove it by any rational line of argument.”
“I am nominally copying, but I am really restating the copied thing in other terms. […] The original acquires a totally different texture.”

Lichtenstein did not credit the original artists. He did not pay them royalties, he did not ask them for permission to use their work.

In his comic strip Bottle of Wine, artist Russ Heath (DC Comics) discusses Lichtenstein “reinterpreting” his work for the paintings Blam (1962) and Brattata (1962). While Lichtenstein made millions, Heath got nothing. His resentment was shared by many colleagues that fell prey to Lichtenstein’s transformation. William Overgard, who, to his surprise, had provided the template for I Can See The Whole Room!… And There’s Nobody In It! (1961), was actually flattered by Lichtenstein’s copy. The piece would later sell for over 40 million dollars.
Most vocal, comic book artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) described Lichtenstein as a copycat, comparing the issue to the music industry, which would never have allowed this uncredited appropriation, questioning the unconditional veneration of contemporary art critics for the work of Roy Lichtenstein. Certainly, comic artists have a different idea of the man who transformed comic art into popular art.

It is ironic that, when entering the official Roy Lichtenstein Foundation’s database, one is greeted with the explicit warning that any images “may not be reproduced, downloaded or modified in any form without the express written permission of the Estate of Roy Lichtenstein”.

Step 3: Butter some toast.

In 1964 Lichtenstein experimented with sculptures, with a ceramicist providing the bust made of clay and Lichtenstein painting them in his distinctive graphic style. 1965, Lichtenstein discontinued his approach of appropriation. He stopped copying comic book panels and created his Modern paintings and Modern Sculptures series, a strong departure from the previous realistic comic style towards a more abstract array of elements. 1965 also commenced the Brushstrokes series. Lichtenstein reduced the painting to the brushstroke itself, depicting expressive strokes in his iconic comic style with bold colours and thick outlines. The tool of the artist became the subject itself.
With Three Landscapes, Lichtenstein shortly ventured into the medium of film in 1970.
In the same year, he bought a house in Southampton where he would spend the greater part of the 70s in seclusion.
Lichtenstein advanced more into the abstract, reigniting his roots in Cubism, Surrealism and Expressionism, with surreal paintings such as Pow Wow (1979), and sculptures like Amerind Figure (1981).

Lichtenstein explored still life paintings from 72 to the early 80s and reused his own paintings in his Reflection series, which depicted his comic imagery of the early 60s painted in frames and glass cover, with the painted reflection of the glass obscuring and deconstructing the image itself. His 1996 highly stylised Chinese landscapes made heavy use of the Ben-Day dots that would shape the landscape without any of the distinctive outlines he had used in previous work.

In addition to comic panels, Lichtenstein repeatedly reinterpreted existing artwork throughout the years of his craft. Woman with Flowered Hat (1963) was based on Pablo Picassos Dora Maar, the series Girl with Tear (1977) followed the surrealistic movement around Salvador Dalí. Nonobjective II (1964) borrowed from Mondrian, The Artist’s Studio: The Dance (1974) framed Matisse in a new perspective. Portrait of Madame Cezanne (1962) copied Erle Loran’s diagram of Paul Cézanne’s Portrait of Madame Cézanne and earned him a lawsuit by Loran.

Roy Lichtenstein was hospitalised at the New York University Medical centre in 1997. On September 29th, he died of pneumonia at the age of 73.

Step 4: Add orange juice.

Lichtenstein painted with oil and Magna (early acrylic). He read countless comic books and collected the panels he found most interesting. He would then appropriate them, project them on canvas and trace them. Key features were the thick outlines, strong colours and Ben-Day dots. The homogenous pattern of dots was typical for comic books of the 50s and 60s that were printed in a four colour process (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). The spacing and overlapping of Ben-Day-Dots enabled inexpensive shading and secondary colours within a limited colour spectrum. Lichtenstein magnified and stylised the dots to the extreme in his most iconic images, enhancing their effect in his later work.

ben-day

Smile

Posted on

I asked friends to think of the one thing in life that makes them happy.
The one thing, that one feeling, that one person that fulfils them,
that makes them smile, every time, with all their heart.
Here is what they thought of.

“Her”

“My little brother”

“Family”

“Sarah”

“Serenity”

“Silliness”

“Butterfly”

“Intimacy”

“Our future”

“Us”

A thank you..

to Chris, Eddie, Edwina, Ekta, Faya, Laura, Leah, Leonie, Peter and Tjorven,
for your trust, your patience and for smiling as bright as the sun!

I asked friends to think of the one thing in life that makes them happy.
The one thing, that one feeling, that one person that fulfils them,
that makes them smile, every time, with all their heart.
Here is what they thought of.

“Her”

“My little brother”

“Family”

“Sarah”

“Serenity”

“Silliness”

“Butterfly”

“Intimacy”

“Our future”

“Us”

A thank you..

to Chris, Eddie, Edwina, Ekta, Faya, Laura, Leah, Leonie, Peter and Tjorven,
for your trust, your patience and for smiling as bright as the sun!

CBLT

Posted on

CBLT

The best Chicken BLT you’ll ever eat

Click me!

Roast some toast!

Slay some tomatoes!

Defeat salad!

Overthrow cheese!

Ambush bacon!

Finish chicken,
season with pepper
and smoked paprika

add ketchup..

..and mayo

..and we’re done.

You’re welcome!

My grandmother

Posted on

hero

My grandmother,
who isn't there

scroll

the moment she entered the room, I froze.

I had seen her just about two years ago, we had conversations, went out for dinner and talked to random strangers she had thought to recognise. But it was still her. The athletic body, though weakened, the full light brown hair, though coloured, the same smile, voice, tan, she looked just like back in my childhood, the grandma who would push me outside on a sunny day, kick my ass on a bike through the forest, enjoy the nature, be active. It was still the woman who would beat me mercilessly at ping pong and chess, without breaking a sweat, so full of energy and life.

When my mother brought her in the room, she sat in a wheelchair, too weak to walk, her eyes anxiously searching. She saw me, she looked at me, with big eyes, with what I would mistake for recognition and what actually was confusion.
There was my grandmother, the woman who would give - not take, GIVE yoga lessons at the age of 70, who had traveled the world more than my whole family combined, who would kick everyone's ass and cook the best lasagna of my life. I knew it was her, I recognised her eyes, her hair, her hands, her smell even, and yet, this person in front of me was not my grandmother. Not anymore.
It was like she had been taken away, stolen, and nothing was left behind but her skin and bones and a stuttering voice that was full of words but empty in meaning.

Her skin was so pale, every vein shining through, every mark of the sun long faded away. I could see her bones, every one of them, through the papery thin wrinkles that had dried up and shrunken down, all her energy, her strength, her muscles had vanished. Her skin was nothing but wrinkles, her body sunken together, minimised to what's left, crumbling ruins of a once great empire.
Her eyes were that of a child, still, the same blue eyes, but pale, lost, looking around with both infantile amusement and childish fear, not understanding what was happening, who we were and where she was.

il1

My grandmother was born in 1930 in Germany.

She did not talk much about that time. Like most of her generation she never really talked about what happened, only about the consequences. Her family had been rich, but my great grandfather lost everything when he sold his houses just before the great inflation. She often told us how she had to bring her two younger brothers down into the cellar when the bombs fell, she talked about loss but not about what happens to a child who was only 9 years old when the Nazis started the war. What happens when everything around you goes to flame and you are right in the center of it all and all by yourself.

A few years ago, when it all started, she would call my mother on the phone and tell her how “they” had just loaded the people on transporters and that her block was next. She did not seem to remember any of that when she still was sane.
But neither did anyone else of that generation.

il3

il2

After the war, she worked as a secretary.

She had to work to support her family, but she didn't want that life, the constrictions, the dull. She didn't just want to be a secretary. That's when she met my grandfather.

My grandfather had survived the war because he was transferred to the front lines after pissing off his commanding officer. His whole class died in the war, while he sat amongst the grown ups who had long understood that the war was lost.
While Hitler burnt younger and younger children in the fight for his insanity, the grown ups at the front beat up my grandfather for trying and told him to sit tight till the war was over. After the allies had freed Europe, he returned to a broken home.

Ultimately he lived the American Dream, starting from scratch with nothing and ending as a manager. When he met my grandmother, he bought her a whole bar of chocolate, just for herself. She never had that before. They got married.

il4

My grandmother lived the perfect life of the 60s,
but not a happy one.

She had her own idea of life, and breaking out was not easy.
My grandfather didn't want children, but my grandmother found her ways to trick him. Thrice.
My grandmother wanted a driving license, so she got one, my grandfather, who back then would have had to give her permission, she told him about it the day she had passed the test.

From what my mother tells me - and there isn't really much talk about past events in my family - they had not really gotten married for love. It likely was pragmatism. It was a different time back then and priorities were not so much filled by ideals and Hollywood movies as they are today.

To my grandmother, my grandfather was a way to escape. She got out of her life. Left her past behind. They raised three children, had the life that people from the Mad Men age would dream of. But my grandmother still didn't feel in the right place.
She didn't want to be just a housewife.

Breaking free

Ever since her first love, who later should become a professor, my grandmother had that ideal, that picture in her head, the idea of a life of sophistication, art, culture. She would yearn for the big and intellectual, while my grandfather, though successful in his vocation, would settle for simplicity and crime novels. Though he had saved her from the dull life of her past, she now was caught in a life of routine and boredom. She despised her life as a housewife and the idea of spending a lifetime solely on cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children. There was more, and she knew it, and she wanted it.
So she went off to study at the university.

It was the time of the 1968 protests, of emancipation, socialist movements, revolutions. It was everything my grandfather despised and everything my grandmother longed for. A whole generation broke free from the norms and restrains imposed by the old, remnants of a world that had just recently burnt Europe to the ground. Students protested oppression and the Vietnam war, socialists fought imperialists, Kommune 1 the middle class and the government the press. The Red Army Faction was about to be founded, Rudi Dutschke about to be shot and the whole world about to change.

Right in between, my grandmother didn't want to be a secretary. And neither a housewife. She wanted independence, to take her life in her own hands, to seize it. She wanted self-actualisation in a time that didn't even know the meaning of that word. In her pursuit for freedom, happiness and fulfilment, she finished another chapter, closed the book, and moved on.
She left my 18-year-old mother behind to take care of my grandfather till he died.

lx1

lx2

lx3

Breaking apart

My aunt went abroad, to America. She returned with an invitation for my grandmother, to visit my aunt's host family. At the welcoming party, she met Albert, the ex-husband of my aunt's host. She was meant to stay with the host family for two weeks, but the next morning they ran off together.

Albert had a store on the 5th Avenue, he worked in a gallery, built picture frames for Sotheby's and Christie's and lived in the Hamptons. He lived for art and the life of a crazy artist, burning through money like a forest fire on crack. My grandmother and Albert would write their love with pens and send it in letters, both stuck thousands of miles apart.

Ultimately, Albert left everything behind and moved to Germany. They bought an art nouveau villa, the biggest house I've ever seen, restored it from the ground up, planed their future, a life. But the more their house took shape, the more their love fell apart.
At its completion, their relationship lay in ruins. In the end, they broke due to sheer ego. Albert had threatened to leave. My grandmother responded that she wouldn't stop him. Neither of them wanted to fall apart, but neither of them could back down. It was the simplest and yet most difficult thing in the world. Albert left, without wanting to, and my grandmother let him, without wanting to.

Albert moved out, but he had no place to go. As he was meant to leave America for good, he had stopped paying taxes there. He couldn't go back. The fabulous eccentric from the 5th Ave was stuck in a tiny German village, drowning between trees and loneliness. He ran out of hope, then out of money. Ultimately, he hanged himself.

l6

My grandmother was far from perfect. She always lived in her own world, her own thinking and her own point of view. She would pursue her goals and ideas with little regard for others.

And yet, ironically, many of those goals were driven by her regard for others.
She would work with drug addicts and women from the women's shelter, always watching out, always fighting. When I was a struggling teenager, she took care of me, she put me in my place and she got me back on my feet. She took care of her neighbours and her friends, and when she met strangers, she would make them friends. She taught me right and wrong with an uncompromising determination. And there was not a single day, not a second, in which she would sit down, lie back and relax.
There were always things to do.

She did not really do all these things out of sheer altruism. It was more like a necessity for her to help others, almost as saving others would save herself.
Maybe the girl who had to protect her two little brothers from the falling bombs and raise them when nobody else was around, maybe that girl never really grew out of her duty. 

She was so full of energy, so tense for action, restless from dawn to dusk. Maybe her inner restlessness, her need to act and break free was finally calmed by the needs of others.

I would have big and many fights with her over what she thought was best for me, and for years we would barely talk. 

She could be strict, merciless, judging. But I believe her, I always did, that she always thought it was for my best. 

The great escape

Years after escaping the straits of a good middle-class life, my grandmother would be left with a giant house that she could not fill. Albert was gone and so was their dream of a life together. So she traveled the world.

Her passport would be filled with the immigration stamps of her travels to Africa, south east Asia, Iran, Tibet. Her house was filled with both the evidence of a stereotypical, traditional German mother of three from the 70s, and the memories of a more adventurous, more versatile, more badass female Indiana Jones who would travel the world with Klaus-Dieter, and later Karl, the artist, and their camping van.

Many of her destinations, as so many of her destinations in life, she would reach far before any other westerner. There were no all-inclusive clubs and hotel resorts where she would go. And there wouldn't be anyone else with stories as mesmerising and unique as hers.

The woman who decided that the contemplative life was not enough, she would fill me with awe, with excitement, envy and, ultimately, the inspiration and yearning to travel the world by myself.

il8x

i8

My grandmother was a great person. Not a good one, and neither bad, but certainly, without a doubt, great. 
It is a cruel thing, and honestly, it is simply not okay, to watch all that fade away. Like an old photograph that becomes pale and wrinkly. And ultimately, it is lost. There will always be memories, but they shine only so strong. And slowly, they are lost as well. 

She sat in her wheelchair as I saw her for the last time. My mother cried. She could see that she was gone. My grandmother didn't even notice her tears. She was sitting there, right in front of us, smiling, holding my mother’s hand. But she wasn't there.
And she was holding the hand of a stranger. 

My grandmother always wanted to escape. Maybe she finally did.

Ilse Steinert

5.3.1930 - 8.7.2016