At the End of that Blind Alley

Sometimes I need a reminder as regards not just the beauty of the world, but the beauty of its tapestry, the spun consequence of those things we use the inadequacy of the English language to describe: darkness and light, mortality and the spirit. (Dress them up in fancier terms and they suffer no less for having been herded into our mental boxes.) I’m blessed in that I get a healthy dose of these visions every morning during the time I set aside for prayer and meditation, but when I think back to other periods of my life, such as the ten years I worked for the Department of Child Support back in California, I remember how easy it was to slip into that state of unbearable vanity, where you forget the beauty and see only those few things your waking mind deigns worthy in pursuit of The Daily [Whatever].

So here’s a dose of calm adventure, a lucid dream to put you in the mood for the ponderous, even pendulous nature of that oft-forgotten tapestry. Rino Stefano Tagliafierro, an animator and director from Italy whose video production work has netted him numerous awards, has taken great pains to present and animate pieces of beloved art in such a way as to be both inspiring, sensual, jarring, and downright creepy. You’ll find such wonders as Böcklin’s third version of “Die Toteninsel”, Sant’s “Frau und Tochter‬”, whole hosts of Caravaggio and Bouguereau, and many others, culminating in a dizzying total of 116 different animated pieces.

As with most beautiful things, this is an imperfect production. Some of the works lend themselves much better to animation than others, and of course some people may, due to taste or principle, find this sort of thing distasteful, either in the act of artistic parasitization or in the director’s subtle sway of interpretation. (There’s indeed a good chance you’ll find this video nearly as unsettling as beautiful.) Yet say what we might, in the end this is a work one can’t help but be shaken by, woken back to the driven undercurrent of the world, with its whiff of fragrance, that brief and almost uncertain suggestion which says yes, there will be pans of manna baking in the basement of a small kitchen around the corner; there will be a crack in the wall, just large enough to slip through, at the end of that blind alley; and maybe there’s something enchanting—or uncanny—behind the existence of both.

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