States of the Arts



by Hedda Sterne

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Hedda Sterne, the ‘last Irascible’, and a reluctant one at that, once noted that she was ‘known more for [a] darn photo than for eighty years of work’. Thankfully, her reputation as a ‘feather’ atop the cap of her male contemporaries did nothing to stem her creative output. This untitled work was drawn in the last decade of Sterne’s life, when cataracts and macular degeneration had led to severe visual impairment. Working with pencil, white crayons, and a magnifying glass, she gave form to the ‘floaters and flashers’ that swam into view. The result is an arresting composite of figurative features.

Words by John Wadsworth


directed by Cristi Puiu
Feature film

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A woman is espied through the slim stripe of an open door. Shifting her weight from foot to foot, she sighs and moves about her bedroom. Her domestic garb of underwear and flesh-coloured tights suggests that she is fully at ease as she folds laundry and chats idly. But framed within a cropped, keyhole-like space, she appears isolated and vulnerable. Our view continues to be obstructed throughout Aurora. Doorways shear off the edges of shots and rearview mirrors hamper our observation, so that we never see the full picture. As we follow a seemingly ordinary man, quietly furious, equipped with a gun, we feel something of his mounting frustration. 

Words by Elizabeth Brown


by Ana Blandiana

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A series of items is reeled off, a stockroom inventory list of sorts. Some of the objects could grace shop shelves: tinned food, loaves of bread, and cola. Others are rather less tangible: jokes, words, tears, and ‘The struggle of nations for peace’. The catalogue forms a concise summary of the conditions experienced under Nicolas Ceaușescu’s regime. Each thing or phrase is imbued with meaning: the Colorado beetles that damaged potato crops; the Adidas shoes offered only on the black market. Published in a literary magazine before being retracted hours later, ‘Everything’ dissented by broadcasting the realities of its time.

Words by John Wadsworth


by Johnny Răducanu

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Johnny Răducanu's Jazz Made in Romania begins with the repetition of an arching, syncopated motif, which emanates from one lightly electrified guitar. A second gives quiet harmonic support. With keys and bass soon in tow, the riff thickens to a groove, cut short by a saxophone's insistent triplets. A walking bass settles the mêlée before the guitar seizes the spotlight again, shaping its solo phrases with slides and silence. Răducanu follows suit from the piano stool, his delicate right-hand melody in contrast with his forceful left-hand accompaniment.

Words by Hugh Maloney

More to discover

Hedda Sterne: You can visit The Hedda Sterne Foundation's website here. Anney Bonney has interviewed Sterne for BOMB Magazine. Sarah Boxer has written two articles for The New York Review of Books: 'The Last Irascible' and 'I Work Against Ego'.

Aurora: You can watch the trailer here. Rob White has interviewed Cristi Puiu for Film Quarterly, as has Nicolas Rapold for Film Comment. Reviews of the film include Ryan Gilbey's for Sight & Sound, and Manohla Dargis for The New York Times.

Everything: You can read the poem on the Beyond the Forest website. Other poems by Ana Blandiana available online include: 'Scene', on the site of The Times Literary Supplement; five poems translated by Paul Scott Derrick & Viorica Patea for World Literature Today; and two further poems translated by Derrick & Patea, again for World Literature Today.

Tescani: You can listen to the composition here, and read an obituary for Johnny Răducanu by Alan Brownjohn on The Guardian website. 

Question of the day

Which Romanian artworks would you recommend, and why?
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Pie Fight Study 2, a painting by Adrian Ghenie. Thick oil paint applied with a palette knife transforms the aftermath of a food fight into something more sinister. (→)

– Katherine Fieldgate, Silent Frame Sub-Editor (via Patreon →)

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