Category Archives: Philosophy

Waka Flock Flame, the Artist’s Role, & In Defense of Violence in Rap pt. 2

In recent time I’ve come to accept a wider array of very explicit vulgar gansta-rap. I’ve been a fan of Crucial Conflict for some time, but recently I really started to appreciate Waka Flocka and the likes who are kind of the underdogs in the genre that focus on exaggerating and glorifying the disgusting cruelties of violently raunchy, masculine dirty street/gang life. It’s easy to dismiss this type of music as silly and useless, but I feel that on the contrary it serves a crucial role of bringing awareness to issues regarding problems of the bad parts of town. By showing and often exaggerating killers and gangster’s mentalities in Waka Flocka Flame’s Bustin’ At ‘Em: “Shoot first, ask questions last. That’s how these so called gangsta’s last.” He precedes the song with this dangerously scary motto as a warning to anyone who thinks of messing with him, or the subculture he represents. “Ain’t no talkin’ homie, I’m jus’ bustin’ at ’em.” By showing a corrupted way of thinking it brings awareness to the values and conditions of this subculture, which creates discourse and thus opens the doors for possible political and social change. His songs are about as scary to me as terrorists, and I would never feel compelled to actually hang out with such groups of people. But, the more vulgar and urgent it is the more the song will call people to thought and action; the more seriously they will be taken…

In Waka’s other song “O Lets Do it,” he asserts that he influences “drug dealin’ music.” And I think this is great, because it creates so much social and political fear of “this music/these people.” Partially it propagates criminal and racial problems even further because Waka isn’t really proposing any solution, but somewhere between matter of factly and proudly acknowledging his effect on our society which is hauntingly unsettling. (But still beautiful). Nevertheless, his music preaches a certain camaraderie among his dogs (friends and close ones) He claims that he will rob kill etc. for his homies in “This is For My Dogs.” This is a very romantic idea, that shares similarity with numerous other classical plays, movies, songs books where the protagonist promises to do anything for his significant other.

Now, for the uber-cool art nerds, I want to throw in a contemporary art comparison: Santiago Serra. His work questions the morality of capitalism, arguing that degrading actions are not unethical in a capitalistic society because the people that are being degraded are being fairly compensated for their degradation, and they all participated voluntarily. I don’t know when he started doing these pieces, if it was before hip-hop started or after, but nevertheless the two share similar philosophies.

Lastly, I want to throw in one of my favorite quotes about art:

“Artists don’t solve problems; they create them.”

And I think that it is important for us, artists, to continue to cause as many problems and as big of problems as possible, whether they relate to violence, gender issues, or economic beliefs, and let the “other” people deal with or solve them. We cannot get caught up in ethical debates surrounding our own work. Ethical or not, we must put it out there, and let others decide. These other people need this, and it’s a strong, if not the only way to initiate change.

I think artists should continue to exploit their reality even if its absolutely repulsively cruel. Because without doing so, I don’t think people can become aware of their realities, in order to form opinions about it or initiate change.

I also think the popularity of this music indicates people’s repression, particularly that of violence, and power that I feel is prevalent in American culture. It seems manifesting these repressed themes can only be expressed through art because their expression even in minor forms is increasingly controlled and socially unacceptable. I don’t think its merely violence that is increasingly controlled, but other social standards and behaviors as well.

The Song Remains the Same

Recently, I’ve been thinking about (again) how inevitable some things are in our world. Like how inevitable that parents play a parental role, children are forced to respond by playing the children role, politicians play the role of a puppet, outsiders see the world as if they are outsiders, and consequently insiders treat outsiders like they cant be insiders. These relationships don’t go away and one feeds off the other in a never-ending pattern. Waka Flocka’s subject matter in rap has existed for probably over 30yrs now. There were rappers 10 yrs ago, 20 and 30 yrs ago that rapped threatening lyrics about ghetto and gangsta life. People responded in different ways, but some people respond with fear and feel like waging a war on gansta rap to not let their children hear it etc. So I don’t know if this music has brought about practical change.

Nevertheless, rappers attempt to keep making this music that should in theory initiate change. Perhaps it is our political system that doesn’t allow for change once the doors for change have opened. So here in 2010-11 Waka Flocka is bringing awareness to an issue. But I don’t think that change will ever come unless the political system or some systematic way of life and law and beliefs is altered. So I feel his voice will continue to be looked down upon by people who dismiss his music as violent garbage that ruins our country, and he will inevitable stick to creating more violent songs, because that’s the only way he knows how. And I think that even if he is aware that he isn’t bringing about change, I believe that he must continue to do what he does. This is what the system asks of him, and he seems to be a good candidate for that role that keeps the system going. Unfortunately, I don’t know if him taking up that role or rejecting it has any effect on the functioning of the system.

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Drug References and Glorification of Drugs in Hip-Hop

Talking about drugs in hip-hop songs has been around since the start of the genre, since drugs were very much a part of more inner city hip-hop artist’s lives.  Although some artists condemn the use and sale of drugs, many and if not most today glorify the drug culture—that of the dealer, and the consumer.  I wondered why this glorification of the drug culture is so prevalent in todays hip-hop.  There are several reasons.

Party/Nightlife

First, hip-hop is listened to in clubs and nightlife venues, where people go to celebrate something.  It is a party atmosphere so naturally people want to hear about drugs and intoxication.  I also think that we live in quite celebratory times, unlike in the past.  We celebrate everything, and celebration is basically necessary.  For example, concerts are usually just celebrations of the band; we have easy access to their often much better versions of the songs than those performed by most bands live, and anyways people don’t usually go to actually listen to the music.  Art openings are just parties too in honor of Art foremost, and somewhere succeeding it, the artist him/herself.  All kinds of organizations hold galas to raise money, which is essentially an exclusive party.  Parties and nightlife is an escape from your daily activities such as work.  The darkness of the club and the night lets you transform into your other self that you don’t show in the daytime, and makes it easier to feel not self-conscious in the dark.  It being after normal work hours which means there is a different set of rules and expectations.  Mostly the rules and professional interaction between people is ideally tossed out the door.   Essentially, nightlife is a creative way to express your real and fantastical/imaginary inner personas.  You leave behind your reality at the door of the club/bar.  This escape from reality parallels the escape that drugs can provide.

Power and Rebellion

It is a metaphor for power and say.  Boasting that you sell a lot of drugs is basically raising your status; you become a person who everyone is in need of because you provide the good product for the party.  Hip hop started and has arguably always been by those and for those who feel unrepresented in their society at large, who’s status is diminished, and whose voice isn’t heard.  When you have drugs, people want to listen to you and it attracts attention.  Boasting about drugs is a call for attention.  The interesting thing about drugs in hip-hop is that philosophically it is about fucking the system.  It is about the poor who have a diminished voice in politics and really everything else, and who want to speak, the political/social system discourages this and the ability to successfully sell drugs is like saying ok if your not going to listen to me ten I’m going to do something you don’t want me to, because I don’t agree with you, and because I can!  Its about revealing the corruption of society, esp considering that people of all financial levels consume drugs, so selling it to white wall st bankers is a way to infiltrate and challenge the system.  And cocaine started as an expensive drug for the elite.  It also reveals the corruption in our society, and draws attention to the impoverished conditions in the inner city.

Etc.

When a hip-hop artists song that is mostly about drugs and getting high hits number 1 on billboards charts, it in a way creates embarrassment for the leaders of our country, and is sort of a defeat of their beliefs, and in other words a victory of the people who don’t have much of a voice.

Interestingly, graffiti and tagging are too a significant part of the hip-hop way of life, because graffiti is again for the voiceless to express themselves in public, even if it be illegal, and their graffiti attests their existence.  It’s a way to evade and challenge the rules imposed by the more privileged people in power.

The more our society encourages a following of a set system that increasingly get more systematic, predictable, and boring the more we will seek an escape into a reality where these rigid rules and ways of life don’t apply.  This means the more we’ll want to hear about drugs in songs to provide us with a creative escape from mundane life.  We’ll turn into Japanese, except instead of cameras we’ll relish in drugs and drug-references.

Murakami, Lil’ Wayne, Warhol, Picasso: Motivation and creation.

This is Lil Wayne and the come is his music.   That’s Picasso, and that is my drawing from my “Drawing and Masturbating” series.

……

Or the top image is a portrait of Murakami/Warhol/Picasso, if we stick within the visual art references.

To me the connection is apparent, and shouldn’t be something revelatory.  Every piece of art that Takashi Murakami, Lil Wayne, me, Picasso, and any other artist creates is really, underneath the physical art object, the motive of power and sex all of which are inextricable from each other.  Each one of Murakami’s pieces is his offspring, which he took so much time and energy to create.  And he makes a lot of work just like lil wayne which infiltrates and impregnates our culture.  The two masters stand back and admire their offspring as they are being looked at, used, drooled over, celebrated, glorified and receive much attention.  Just like people enjoy impressing others with the accomplishments of their children.  The semen could symbolize this feverous creative energy just waiting to be released and splatted? Splattered? SplAtTTTerd?! onto the people of this world.

It is a worthwhile argument to say that music illustrates this theory perfectly because of its ability to be ubiquitous at the same moment, and thus impregnate more ears than a sculpture can.  (maybe a sculpture is like sex involving 2 people, and music can be like a mass orgy—like a concert). I think this is why music is so linked to sex even more directly than art.  Furthermore, music has a dominating power over the body.  It surrounds the body and the body cannot escape it and thus the body can respond through moving or dancing if it enjoys the music.  In addition, two people listening to music will hear it the same way whereas observing a painting is a more solitary activity because the whole of the painting is presented to you at once, and you cant synchronize the way your eye moves through it with the person next to you, whereas music unfolds sequentially which two people can (more or less) experience at the same time and place equally.  The plethora of tracks Lil Wayne makes, his drive to create says something about his sexuality/sex drive and his drive to exist.  More on his studio practice soon.

not caring is cool

I’ve been thinking about how cool it is to not care.  What inspired this idea?  A plain yet physically attractive girl at work, who is also the most careless girl I’ve met.  She always stands with one leg behind the other.  From my perspective, she does the bare minimum at work and waits for the end of the workday.  When she walks past people in a tight space she squeezes her arms together in front of her which forces her boobs up and she giggles out a “sorry…” She hardly talks to other employees either.  She has seen me when I was getting filling out my application.  She glanced at me once and when she caught my eyes she quickly looked away and her hair covered her face like curtains at the end of a show.  Why should she care about me?  Isn’t she curious about who I am?  Maybe I’m the greatest person she could ever meet.  She is really hot, girly and young and every male at work wants to fuck her, and the short Mexicans who can’t seduce her in English want to fuck her twice.  Sometimes she looks out the window out of boredom.  She doesn’t like to work, but doesn’t display a big attitude about that.  Her life is probably ok to her and happy at times.  There are probably times when she is sad, but overall she seems to feels content.  It’s as if whatever happens will just not threaten who she is, or her beauty and sex appeal.  I’m sure she is aware that all men drool over her, and that her sex appeal can get her much of what she wants.  A career, a promotion, a wealthy husband, friends and everything else beauties can get.  Surprisingly, she is not showy, and appears very modest with her actions.

Her lack of effort to initiate or carry on conversations besides gossip with her tight circle of friends makes her seem exclusive and cold.  But I severely admire how cool she is.  She exemplifies the women’s role in shaping evolution.  Every guy wants her and she knows it.  She doesn’t need to do anything to get a guy—she could be fucking at any moment of the day.  All she has to do is let the guys know or not resist.  But, she’s got the final say because she owns her pussy, and chooses who to let in, and that’s the bottom line.  And evolution has made it so the numerous males present themselves and the woman chooses only one who she feels is best suited.  This girl doesn’t need to care about others, because she is probably overwhelmed by how much and, or how many people care about her from the moment they lay eyes on her.  (About ½ the world.)  I think one knows when one is beautiful and young.  Basically, she doesn’t have to try, because even if she doesn’t try, she will still get a lot of what she wants, and that eliminates worry from her life.  People who have no worries are cool.

The more you care about something the more that something has the potential to frustrate you and give you problems.  In order to be affected by something you need to first care for it.  Nobody is affected by people they do not know, but many are affected by people they love or who love them.  If nobody cares about you and you want to have a healthy social life, then you start caring about other people.  But the vice versa is true. So a healthy social life should result in you caring less about people in general.  You’re scope of the people to care about will shrink.  You will become more selective about who you care about, because there are only a set number of caring hours in a day.

Not caring is a sign that you are above your problem.  Say you are in an argument about some political or social issue and your opponent is trying to convince you that he is right.   If you give up by implying that you don’t care, that conveys that you are so important that you are above this argument, and your unwillingness to care shows how calm you are within the situation and about the issue.  It shows that this issue is not a problem for you, yet is a problem for your opponent because obviously he is loosing more sleep over it than you.  And it’s not sexy to be very tired. Just tired enough to not care. Furthermore, it now has become a bigger problem for him to make you care about the issue he cares about so that he can convince you his viewpoint is right.    People who are careless are sexier, cooler, and calmer than people who care.  They do not care enough to get into heated arguments turned into fighting, and so they cannot bother anyone who cares.   Caring is always found alongside a problem, but carelessness is not associated with problems.  If nobody cared, there wouldn’t be any problems and wars.  People care when they feel threatened or some aspect of themselves is in jeopardy.  When you are happy you don’t care about being happy.  You are just participating in the moment not knowing that you are happy.  The only way you can care about happiness is if you are insecure about it, or don’t feel happy.

If you care more about someone than they care about you, they stop caring and they aren’t attracted to you as much.

Girls are attracted to celebrities and important individuals in part because those individuals don’t care about them to begin with and the girls have to work hard to get them to realize how special they really are.  Whoever cares less is more important to the caring people, and most people are caring.  Because it’s the carer’s job to care about the careless people.  Politicians pretend to care, and that artificial sincerity is even worse than caring in terms of being cool and sexy.  Caring people care both about careless people and caring people.

Look at fashion and advertisements, especially ads that are for clothing.  The models are often not smiling, emotionless.  They may be lit in dramatic lighting and emotional lighting, wear clothes in a way that conveys a certain emotion, but the individuals themselves are emotionless, especially on runways; like physical objects.  Sunglasses are always in style.  They cover up the eyes, windows to the inside of a person.  With sunglasses you are only limited to emotions and facial expressions that can be conveyed by the movements of the mouth. But we all know that a sincere smile is dependent on the eyes.  Models look so cool on ads because they make the viewer desire their situation, and the viewer becomes envious of them.  There is a certain air of disinterestedness that models often convey.

Sexy girls walk the streets, they don’t even turn their heads, sometimes you see them miss very beautiful interesting things.  Its sexy to be on a mission, have a destination or a goal to reach and be absolutely focused on that goal without getting distractions.  Clarity and confidence.

Engaging in activities that show you’re caring is not cool.  The more controversial the subject is the less cool it is to talk about.  The least coolest things to talk about are politics, and then even worse is religion (although it could be argued that both are equally un-cool topics).  If you talk about the weather the majority of people will agree to what you say, and it’s a neutral topic.  But you can really go wrong with saying that McCain is nice, or that the trickle up theory sure is great!

This is why I don’t understand why people, especially younger people are so proud to show everyone that they voted.  I mean there are plenty other things you could do while you’re young.  Rock, fuck, laugh, and if you don’t have a sense of humor, then drink and dance.  But please don’t smugly tell me you voted today.

Why do poor black/inner city people get so hostile/defensive if their identity, beliefs or self is put into question?

They live in the worst parts of the city and are looked down upon.  Their neighborhoods are referred to as “bad” parts of town and where nobody wants to live.  They are aware of their perception by others in and outside their community.  They are considered less important than the more affluent middle and upper class citizens who supposedly posses “high culture.”  One reason they are looked down upon or considered less important is because they are not consumers.  They simply do not spend as much money as those who live in better parts of town, which consequently are the richer parts of town.  The middle and upper class are important for this country because they spend money and thus are important economic players.  On the other hand the poor only suck money from the rich.  The most important role of the citizen today is that of consumer than anything else, as outlines in “History of the Self” BBC TV show.  So nobody cares about what the poor people think or how they feel because their thoughts and feelings (and they themselves) are not important.  This and other reasons cause these people to fall back on the one truth and thing they posses; their self.  These things cause them to defend what they feel and believe with no remorse and snap at any instance of attack on their individuality or beliefs, because this is the last valuable thing they can be sure to posses.  Any attack on this last thing becomes a direct attack on themselves, because they don’t have anything else to fall back on—no money, no material possessions, etc.  They not merely expect, but demand respect and make that apparent.  This is also a fundamental condition that gave birth to hip-hop

The most influential lecture i’ve ever attended about Art

The Point of Art
It’s worth watching whether you make visual art, dance, make music or any other Art form.  I summarize it and use Ratcliff’s philosophy in discussing graffiti vs. art here.

Life Happens, and so Does Art. (2007)

Funny how my artwork happens, just like life, just like shit.  I never thought I would come to this conclusion a few years ago.  I remember laughing when we titled our high school art show “Art Happens” almost thinking it was a little disgraceful.

But, the more I live, the more evidence I have that life happens, like art happens.  Or one could simply say life happens.  We like to think we are in control, free willed beings.  We think so because that is all we know. But that is because we tend to like only what we understand and we can only come close to understanding tangible things—things that are quantifiable and explainable due to science.

Every cause has an effect.  That is the nature of our selves.  All actions, events and even feelings have an explanation and a reason.  Nothing happens for no reason and everything happens for a reason.  Even love and hate, two of the most significant feeling, associated with powerful passions, can be scientifically broken down and explained with “things” happening between the mind, perception, our physical body and the external world.  We search for the explanation in despair at times, and other times cling to a pleasing one, an easy explanation, with which we can keep content.  It is also the nature of human beings—they yearn for understanding, or should I say a satisfying explanation whether this explanation is true of not.  Of course there is no way to test or be sure if it is true or not.  We are the prisoners of our minds.  Unique are none who escape.  Our minds create us and we create our minds.  This I believe, but you may not reader, for you are different.  But I’m almost positive that in reality only physics, chemistry and the laws of elements create and navigate our minds and bodies.  I don’t move my arm because I want to, but because of signals and chemicals interacting in my brain.  I don’t blink because I want to, but because it is an instinct.  I think of all happenings as instincts, however complex they may be, as programs, as cause and effects.

It seems a vain effort to aim at something.  To try to be this or that or like this or like that.  I have realized it is vain to try to plan a painting.  A piece of art will happen as the output of you being yourself.  Do not try to paint like Leonardo, unless you are him.  Further, do not try to paint, try to be yourself, and just maybe you’ll write the truest and greatest poem.  An image did not pop into Van Gogh’s head and he proceeded to transfer it onto a canvas with his hands.  His hands were an extension of himself, as an aid in a process that realized a mental and physical process.  The results were works such as “Starry Night.”

That is the trouble of being an  intelligent human; once you learn to think, its hard to stop it.  There is no need to think, and to explain even to yourself.   Who are you explaining thing to?   Why?  They will never understand, and you will only believe you understand.  There is no such thing as a bad thing or good thing.  Things just are and just happen…

-Spring 2007

Simple Concepts have the most potential to be the best concepts

I went to the Aperture Foundation’s reGeneration2 group show, where I saw hundreds of photos from a diverse group of photographers.  Yet a small photo by Milo Newman evoked the most profound experience and left an everlasting impression.  Upon a distant glance, I hardly recognized what the photo was of or about, I just saw a greyish page with maybe a few faint lines.  As I approached, puzzled, the lines transformed from looking like a contour drawing of a mountaintop to dots on an undefined greyish space, to flocks of birds in “V” and upside down “V” formation.  The photographer subtly captured flocks of birds in flight that look like distant mountaintops in a foggy grey landscape.  I can’t transcribe the experience of this realization—the events of my mind and perception when I was in the process of realizing this.  This personal moment, this punch-line, was the poignant part of the image.  I can’t transcribe this, because it’s beauty suffers when put into words; it’s meant, like all many masterpieces of art, to be experienced in person.  I just shook my head and sighed, “wow.”  How beautiful, and how simple, and how many times people have looked at flying birds, yet never took it just a few steps forward to create something out of that, and wow how did I not think of this??  It looks like something that’s so easy to think of.  But I guess in practice, it’s tragically hard to think of it—nearly impossible, because the concept simply has to get to you; you can’t really directly work at getting to it.

This is a simple concept, but I think that simple concepts are often, and I’m almost willing to argue that nearly always are more profound than complex ones.  I think that understating something will give it more authority and clarity that will not unnecessarily complicate a concept or artwork.  The artwork must eliminate everything except the art part and that which directly contributes to the art.  The more elements you have the more complex it gets and the less intriguing and meaningful the relationship of parts to each other becomes.   (the more complex, the higher the risk for this to happen.)  It often starts to feel contrived, and messy in a repulsive way.

Furthermore, (if nothing else), then a complex concept makes the viewer work harder than a simple and clear one, and this multi-step puzzle begins to build up suspense, hype and an increasing expectation of the reward of figuring the puzzle out (what the artwork is about).  If the viewer continues to work hard and figures out what the artwork is about, they will by that time have an extremely high expectation for the reward of what this artwork will bring into their experience and life.  So if the perceived reward is greater than what one finds, then that leaves the viewer disappointed that all this work was put in only to receive a mild reward.  But with a simple concept, I believe the viewer instinctively has a lower expectation of the reward, because it looks simple and simple things look like you need less time to appreciate them, and like there is less to learn from them.  But if the simple concept artwork is successful there will always be wonderment about it as to how unbelievably easy the concept is, vs. how complex and profound the revelation was.  The success of good simple concepts has something to do with how something so simple can elicit something so grand and profound.

Note:  what the artwork is about is not the end-all step to experiencing the artwork.  After one figures out what the artwork is about, the contemplation about the metaphors, themes, ideas begins, or continues to a much deeper extent.

This piece is not just a perceptual whimsical admiration of wildlife.  Conceptually it talks about the relationship between drawing and photography.  The way this artist drew the forever stationary quiet mountaintops with (a) moment(s) of ordinary flocks of flying birds, among other metaphors and ideas challenges the assumption of what drawing or photography is.  Drawing with animals, drawing with events.  Space, scale, relationships, time, transience vs. immobility, etc.   No answers in this photograph; just questions from the viewers and the image.  The artist gives no guidance to a conclusion, he simply presents an image that is very genuine, very true, but doesn’t says what its true about… that’s for us to contemplate. 

Some examples of simple concepts off the top of my head:  Chris Burden: sitting on a chair on a pedestal until he falls off.  Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings and other conceptual works.  Some of Tara Donovan’s work.

(This show closes March 17th.)

1st Time Modeling for a Figure Drawing Class

I posed clothed for a drawing class today. The interesting thing about modeling is that in a way you don’t have to do anything or be there. You are supposed to try to be an assortment of shapes, colors, textures and lines; an object. Not a living identity.  Just like an object, you don’t respond to other people’s glances, eye contact, or their conversations amongst each other.  You just pretend you are not there. I enjoyed being an object, (partly because I’ve never been one) although I wasn’t fully an object because I had clothes on which I felt gave me an identity and a personality. (Next session will be nude). Amongst other factors clothes are a mediating barrier between you and the physical world. Without clothes your body can’t alter the viewer’s perceptions of WHAT you are, and they can make many false judgments about you; you are WHAT you are in a purely physical natural sense. One person in the drawing session left early and said bye to me. I didn’t respond. I felt a little urge to respond but that would mean breaking character, so I didn’t. The most beautiful thing about being an object is that you remain a person but you can allow yourself to not do anything.  You can just not speak or laugh or frown at other’s conversations etc. because doing so would make viewers realize that you are human and would change their perceptions of what they are drawing and realize they are starring at a live person. And you can sense what it is like to be an object that others look at and use. In other social situations it’s hard to not do anything or not respond to other people because it would be socially awkward. Modeling for art is about trying to not be there, trying to escape, while leaving your physical body behind—an impossible feat.

-2009

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