Tag Archives: art

Art and Party

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conversation 15 (feminist artist)

A: Do you know that female artist that made really feminine work? Fuck I can’t remember her name.
B: Which one? Ohhhhhh you mean the one that pulled a scroll out of her vagina?
A: Hahaha, no, the one that made a series of dildos like modeled after skyscrapers.

Garbage videos

When I heard that youtube is filled with garbage, I decided to literally fill it with videos of garbage, so that there is a collection of garbage videos and a channel dedicated specifically to cataloging all kinds of garbage.  Maybe this channel could become a resource for garbage videos in case someone is ever interested in watching garbage. Although I can’t possibly fill this expansive world with garbage, I thought I would try to do my part and I want one of the videos to get popular because it is exactly the opposite of what we strive for to create, and what we consider we want to view.

Furthermore, I decided to videotape garbage around 2008-2009 when I saw that someone tried to create “the worst youtube video.”  That video was a shitty video of some celebrity shot from a cell phone or something, and it got milions of views and became one of the most popular videos on youtube in terms of view numbers and thus was listed under “Top Youtube Videos” back when youtube had that section (I don’t know if youtube still has that section or how it’s judged today).

At some point I noticed there was a video where someone videotaped paint drying.  They did this because someone claimed that youtube videos are as interesting as watching paint dry.

Later, I was very interested in doing things that have anti-art, have a punk-aesthetic, and most importantly encompass Warholian ideas of triviality and the mundane.  Devoting time to make something very banal and useless on purpose, in an almost apathetic way, without dramatizing the subject or beautifying it.  Now there are several such videos: one two.

My goal was to get a video of garbage to accumulate millions of views.  In a community like youtube, the most important thing is popularity.  Videos that are popular surface in the forefront of this community, and videos that are not popular, yet possibly really good, are forgotten and hidden.  Having a video of garbage surface to prominence would exploit the judging system of youtube, by revealing the faults of glorifying popular things rather than tasteful creative endeavors. Anyways, in a context where everyone is trying to create a creative video, a fascinating video, a wild video, or a funny one, a video of trash stands out.  It’s something unusual in this context.

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Some notes on garbage:

These videos are exactly what we don’t want or care to see.  But people are interested in what nobody wants to see, or they could stumble upon it by accident due to the way things are linked on the internet.  People are curious to know what something worthless or terrible looks like.

When I think of garbage I think of objects that nobody need.  Extended it’s not just objects but anything.  Anything can be garbage in the wrong context or time: noise, music, art, love, old technology.  People think of garbage as useless.  One man’s trash it another’s treasure.

Garbage piles are something that is in the way of people; it is kept hidden in black bags in opaque trashcans.  It is in transit to some other place which nobody knows about and which is not a place of interest.  To a dump.  A morgue for useless materials.  It’s used material, or sometimes it’s new material that is in excess, or at the wrong place at the wrong time, and thus not in current need.  It looks gross because it is often the remains of objects that are not desirable.  The bottoms of lettuce, the bones and cartilage of a chicken breast that nobody can eat, empty bottles of drunk drinks, wrapping paper.

Garbage is ubiquitous as useful things.  We make useful things out of garbage.  Artists make visually intriguing things out of useless things.

The Internet, like our world, is full of garbage.  Spam is garbage.  Irrelevant home videos popular on youtube are considered garbage.  Everyone makes them, but nobody besides the creator and their close ones care about it.

I thought I would video record something that nobody claims they want to see, something that is traditionally unpleasant to look at.  Yet visually it forms descent compositions that are not much different than a lot of sculptures or paintings I’ve seen.  I’m not talking about the materials, but the way the shapes and colors are arranged and relate to each other.  Garbage piles happen naturally.

We, a first world “civilized” society, create more garbage than any other country.  It’s what we create.  When I think about this, I think that it is not a conscious decision that we do this, but more like an inevitable consequence, but nevertheless, it’s not something that most are proud of.  But still, we really do create garbage.  That’s undeniable.  Yet we don’t think of it as something we create and it doesn’t really have a purpose, so we don’t glorify this creation.  The garbage we create could be acknowledged.

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.

In Defense of Vulgar Gangsta Rap

Some people view gangsta rap negatively because it is catchy and it promotes sex, drugs and violence amongst youth in America.  And I would say the same, except I would say this in praise rather than in assault on rap.  I know it makes me have sexual, violent, and drug taking urges, and from working in an inner city school, I can see that that’s one of it’s effects on young kids today.  But unlike concerned teachers and parents I defend and even applaud rap music for this (as long as I never encounter it personally).  I think this is evidence of one of the philosophies of rap and hip-hop taking form, particularly gangsta rap.  In other words these rap artists have decided to stop fighting unfairness, corruption, and “the man,” with their own hands and feet, and decided to create something that would instigate a much larger group of other people to do it for them, while becoming famous and making tons of money doing it, all of which gives them a more powerful voice.  If rap can create an army of young rebels to cause friction to the system—any system, be it the school system, political system, our social expectations for sexual expression, or social acceptance of drugs, etc. then those artists’ hands need to be shaken (as artists) because they really did their job.  They created an army to challenge and fight the status quo.  Sure many of these kids aren’t creating any new solutions for the roots of these problems, but it’s still honorable, and needed for someone out there to simply, to cause friction for the system, so that the system becomes self-conscious or aware of itself.  Because once the system starts to reflect on itself this will lead to change, and new solutions.  Of course I don’t want my kids to be like that, but I do want someone’s kids to be like that, and frankly that’s what’s going to help cause change as dangerous as it sounds.

It’s a pretty clever way to fight the man, or the system if you think about it.  It works well with how commercialized rap has become in our capitalist society.  The rapper sells his music to “the Man,” and “the Man” sells his music to the public.  He is essentially selling weapons against himself, and negative propaganda, but he will do this no matter what values the music preaches as long as he can get rich doing it. And if he doesn’t do it, the next man will.  So really it’s him that’s making the choice, but someone making the choice to release this danger into our society at such a scale is inevitable.  It’s great though that he sells something that he is probably in complete opposition to.  Whether rappers think about it like this or not doesn’t matter, what matters is how their music functions and what philosophy it creates or fits under.  Perhaps it went beyond punk rock in terms of figuring out how to become part of the system and exploit it, rather than completely reject it.

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.

the “Why do You Make Art?” Question

I think it’s so silly when people ask me why I make art or why I made these ink paintings.  Because I made them the same reason an art critic is asking me these questions and the same reason anyone in the world does anything.  If you break down a physical thing you get to protons, neutrons and electrons, and I think they discovered even smaller things.  Likewise, you can break down a person’s motive for self-expression.  And what you end up with are these things.  Survival, sex, and a felling of self-importance.  These are the core elements behind the reason anyone does anything.  Everything someone does relates back to these core things.  Everyone wants to survive, to fuck/bring offspring into the world, and feel powerful/existence whether they are conscious of this or not.  Indeed, that’s WHY I make art: power/sex, and I fear that not making art threatens my survival/existence.  Why I am interested in art is something I would answer differently.  These people should ask why I am interested in art or to tell them ABOUT my art, rather than why I make it.  And I don’t like when someone gives different reasons for making art other than those core things I just mentioned.  And today the problem of survival is virtually solved.  If you work a slightly above minimum wage job then you will survive.  So today in America people really do things for two reasons: Sex and a feeling of importance, which are related.  If I could have sex and feel important all the time, while knowing I have the means to survive, I might not be making art so seriously, or doing anything at all.  Why work when you can afford to just play?

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.

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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.

Lil’ Wayne is one of the greatest, if not the greatest artist/musician alive

Everyone in the field of creating things (like art, music, dance etc) should consider lil wayne—lil wayne as music | lil wayne as persona, | lil wayne as worker/creator, | lil wayne as innovator.  Even if you completely dislike his music, there is something to be learned from his studio practice as an artist/creator.  He is a force that has to be studied and learned from, and his proliferation should not be overlooked or dismissed.  He has achieved such widespread success that he now supersedes being relevant only within the music genre.

First of all, I want to apologize in advance of for spreading this propaganda glorifying Lil Wayne.  Wait, I take my apology back because I made a resolution to not apologize.  Ok, to the point:  there is nobody in the world who does “it” better than Lil Wayne.  Nobody is as masterful and prolific but more interestingly simply amazing at their music game (“it”) as Lil Wayne.  Not Lady Gaga, not Grizzley Bear, not the Red Hot Chili Peppers, not Foreigner, definitely not Drake, Rick Ross, Minaj, and not any other somewhat known non-mainstream musician/band.  Yes there are a number of musicians who are the best at making brilliant music within their genre, but they are not the best they could be; they haven’t reached or will not reach their potential.  There is no other musician that I can imagine who exists today, is exceptionally talented and dedicates so much time to their craft as Lil Wayne.  Yes there’s been others that compare to him (Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Notorious BIG, Joy Division, Ippy Pop, Velvet Underground to name some.)  But aside from these, and a few others, nobody today breathes music like Wayne does.  By breathing music I mean having it be their life.  Like Mark Zuckerburger breathes facebook, his dear child, like Hugh Heffner breathes, whatever it is he breathes these days, and like Warhol breathed pop art.

Partly what inspired me to write this, and subsequent posts is I realized that not a day goes by when I don’t hear at least one Lil Wayne song.  I listen to him religiously, and increasingly so to the point where other artists are starting to simply not do it for me.  Most musicians become palette cleansers in relation to him.  Of course I like hearing variety, and I do like to discover new non-rap/non-hip hop artists, and I do also listen to nearly as much Velvet Underground, but I realized I can’t get past the allure of Lil Wayne’s music.  I guess I haven’t figured out how these perfect bizarre verses flow effortlessly out of his mouth.  It has to do with practice that he has acquired throughout the literally thousands of songs he’s put out in his career.

Of course the greatest songs of numerous other musicians can compete with his work, but the thing is he’s got more hit songs and appearances on other artists tracks than any other known musician I can think of, especially today.  What’s happened is the quality of his work just drowns out anything I hear by less capable musicians.  I used to try to listen to an indie radio station, and I enjoyed it quite a lot sometimes.  They played the greatest indie stuff.  But I couldn’t help to often prefer a pop station to the indie station, because even though most of the artists on the pop station are mediocre or horrible, the production value is so high that at least the song is technically very well made, and the background music is done very very well.  It’s like a naïve artist who paints in a traditional or kitsch manner, but does it so well that you almost prefer to look at that than a poorly executed, rough craftsmanship albeit potentially much more interesting art experiment by an informed art student. I’m trying to say that most other musicians are exploring equally interesting territory, but they just haven’t presented as successful of findings as wayne has. Of course Wayne has also put out a fair share of atrocious material, but consider those practice.

There are plenty of talented indie bands out there making great stuff, but with the exception of their handful of hits if that, the rest is just mediocre.  Sometimes, it partly has to do with the amount of time these talented people can afford to spend on their craft.  (some have other jobs to tend to)  but regardless, Lil Wayne brings his recording equipment everywhere he goes, even if he is on tour.  I approximate quotes from his interview.  Q: what do you think of the situation in New Orleans? (around time of Katrina I believe)  Wayne:  Shit idk.  Man I don’t understand these journalists who interview me.  Don’t they do their research?  Where do they come up with these questions?  Don’t they know that I aint got time to watch the news or care about what goes on in New Orleans?  Q:  What do you think of rapper x?  Wayne: I don’t have time to listen to him.

And I keep discovering new music of his that I haven’t heard before that is really good.  I feel he is getting a lot of attention, but I think he should get even more attention than he is because this is one of those times in history that we can witness something beautiful and brilliant unfolding.  Anyways, I had to let this out, and that’s all I want to say until I complete my essay about why he is so alluring, and why his music is so brilliant.

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.

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.)

Photography and Analysis: One Chance One Life by Laura Pannack

Ahhh Photography the moment’s medium.  Where the experienced creator knows what to look for (or spontaneously discovers) and presses the shutter button when all the expressive elements have lined up and will fall apart the next moment unless he exclaims “Yes!” with the shutter button.  There’s a lot of waiting involved and figuring out what it is that you “the framer”/photographer is looking for.  Often it’s a matter of luck; being at the right place at the right time with the right equipment.  I came across Laura Pannack’s photograph today and responded immediately—I had to write about it because it was so right.

I don’t know if it is a staged photograph, but it can pass for an unstaged shot.  The piercingly determined look of the adolescent girl demands you to halt in your tracks and at least for a second admire the energy in those eyes.  Cliché perhaps.  But that proves to only be the beginning quite quickly.   Although we are positioned close to the subject, we feel her staring past us into a farther space than we inhabit, way beyond the picture frame.  We notice the tattoo that says “one chance, one life” on her skinny, pale, young arm.  She looks puzzled and in deep thought with the creases between her eyebrows.  The sunlight casts a slicing ray on her face that is dramatically interrupted by her eye, and the corners of her slightly opened mouth are fixed together from her drying lips.    She is caught in a profound moment and emotionally we, the viewers, are too; trying to figure out what she has realized or is feeling.  The perfectness of this image comes from several more elements aligning just right.   She has a piercing, which complements the tattoo, letting us know she is already experimenting with identity, her look, and philosophy of life.  Tattoos and piercings comment (among other things) on a person’s philosophy of self, the transience of time, and adventure seeking.  Her body looks like a young teenager’s but things about her could allow her to pass for a mature adult.  She has an expression of passion with her frame, and dark, straight, long hair; a sign of passion, which further frames and isolates her mind.   She has dinky kid’s bracelets as if it was what was available at the moment and she decided to just put them on just to have a bracelet that would distinguish her a little and make her somebody.  She has some rings on her finger, and all the accessories/bodily manipulations create an unsettling balance between child and young adult, innocence and corruption.  It is amazing that she is caged in the back seat of a white (color of innocence) new car.  She is waiting and ready.  She is leaning out of it, fighting its confinement.  The back seat lets us know she likely hasn’t gotten her license or doesn’t have a car, or hasn’t been granted the freedom from her parents to own a car.  She is probably 14-17 year old.  Then I noticed the blurred cigarette in her hand left burning, forgotten about for the moment.

Lastly, I see a Nike sign, (the famous “just do it” attitude) that encourages bravery and adventure (and sells a company).  This is just delicious cake with an already superb meal.  Everything adds up just right.  Lastly, what makes this image a masterpiece beside what has been mentioned is the conceptual connection between the photographer and the situation.  The “just do it” logo and the tattoo really relate to the craft of photography.  I started to think that this is not simply about the girl, but also about photography at large.  The photographer often has one chance to capture something that will not be seen again for the rest of his life; it’s an opportunity that if he misses he will wish for it to happen again, but it won’t.  Because he only has one chance.  And the nike sign says that when you are faced with a conviction; the conviction that now is the time to press the shutter button—shoot!

PS.  I don’t think what I have written limits this image, because there are further ideas left to explore such as consumerism.  Everything is so new and perfect in this image.  The new white shirt, the car, the almost product placement of the Nike sign, the literal text tattoo.  The style of photography is fairly commercial too.   These must all amount to some questions about the packaging and sale of the promise of individuality perhaps wherein there is none?

What Made Me Focus on Painting

I was preparing for interviews at grad programs around the time that I started my series of color stack paintings, researching other artists that I could say influenced my work, because I knew the question would be asked.  I think I had already had my first interview, and the question had been asked.  The question was asked when I was writing my Statement of Purpose for the applications for grad schools.  It’s been asked before.  It’s the question I dread most —“what contemporary painters do you look at/influence your work?”  I dread it because I have no idea what the intention of the question is for the person asking it so I don’t know what answer to give.  After being asked this question I realized I really don’t focus my attention on painters.  I probably look more at and am more influenced by artists that work in other media and genres such as performance, installation, new media, and other more conceptually driven untraditional work.  But as I began to succumb to researching contemporary artists to try to impress the interviewers I picked up the Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting book and read part of the introduction.  They talked about how often painting is pronounced dead only to be resurrected again and again, and how just when you think that there is nothing new to be done in painting, someone does something new.  Really it’s a problem for painters.  They are sort of burdened with having to learn a genre that has been practiced longer than any other medium thus making it so hard to see the medium and genre itself objectively and not be swayed by its own biases, baggage, mistifications, etc.  Prior to this research I’ve been drawn very much to art that rebells against traditional forms of art.  I like rebellion.  But once I studied a bit of this book I realized that painting too can be rebellious—even more so than new mediums such as video and performance that are inherently rebellious.  And in fact it could be a bigger challenge to be rebellious in painting than in newer mediums.  This renewed my interest in painting, and I decided to seriously focus on painting.  I had an idea for painting that I already started, and one I really to this day believe in, and that’s what I’ve focused on since.

In addition to this I simply like paint and the process of painting.  I like its physicality and other inherent properties.  I like its immediacy and urgency- it allows me to create something quickly and see the effects of my effort quickly.  Translate my thoughts into something in real time.  And I don’t need to depend on venues, or a large audience to create the work the way I used to when it came to performance or interactive pieces.

Work of Art

Originally I wasn’t going to even bother writing about this audacious show that promises to find the so-called “next great artist.” But people kept asking what I thought, so, uh, sigh, here it goes… What an embarrassment to the true artists that are struggling to truly create the world’s most beautiful art, who’s life constantly mocked by the mainstream and Hollywood industry that only perpetuates inaccurate, disgraceful stereotypes. Haaha, jk.

1. The Concept and the Means
It didn’t take many episodes to prove that the whole concept of a “reality” TV show about art/artists is absurd, but that is part of the fun of being an artist and watching it. I mean insiders like me can actually laugh at things the masses don’t notice-the misrepresentations of Artist archetypes, their critique responses, etc.

The challenge of making a TV show about art for the mass American audience—and yes I’m singling out the mass American audience—is that American TV viewers don’t actually want to think so the producers are forced to create shows that feed the audience what it is already familiar with; its self created conservative stereotypes and clichés. Warhol said it, “it’s not American to think, it’s american to buy [consume]” so people don’t watch TV to think, but for other reasons (entertainment). Thinking is messy, its uncertain, its not sexy. Cliches are sexy. If you want to learn about art, how its made and what it means, watch Art 21. It’s an excellent show, but for those who already have a curiosity about art, and I wish more people would watch it, I’m still trying to nail down why that’s not the case. Probably because it’s too analytical and educational. The challenge of putting good art into a mass-media like TV or newspapers which targets the masses is the conflict of elitism (for lack of a better word) and populism. We can’t expect to have average people to understand such complex contemporary art that many full-time artists can’t comprehend or relate to. And art is their job! That aside, Work of Art has/had the potential to be an entertaining educational show if it wasn’t for the MTV inspired ultra-fast-choppy, ADD cuts, movements, only the jist approach to filming and audio editing who’s main intent is to create mystery and a hope to get a closer look in the coming scene. This glossing over and breezing through everything really disappointed me—they overdid it to the point where it was hard to watch. How many second of artwork did they actually show? And 1 hr to get to know 14 people in the 1st episode, AND see the making of a challenge? The editing was so manipulated I wondered if they were all actors, or their interviews guided. I feel the producers didn’t care for the artists’ development and achievement because they need to make a quick buck. But if they cared, it wouldn’t be on Bravo, and it wouldn’t make money. I still think they could’ve found more creative ways to create entertaining drama and suspense while educating those that want an insight into an artist’s mind. For example they could have shown more of the home life like in the Real World where people’s inner thoughts and motives come out in ways that make for fun TV.

Having said this, I wonder what non-artwork people think, maybe they love the show and I have heard them tell me they watch it and like it. This is great because that’s who it’s made for.

I watch Russian TV once in a while, and although they are mostly stuck in the past, which results in TV shows even more absurd than Work of Art, albeit in a diff. way, there are some shows that actually have people discussing culture or some educational content. they are more slow in filming and aren’t jumpy like Bravo and MTV. There is a show called “Cultural Revolution” where in each episode two guests and audience debate a question for instance, “Is it a must for real art to be impossible to understand?” it was very educational, but it would die on mainstream American TV.

I also think that visual art and the art genres Bravo is using are incompatible for the TV medium. Its hard to put up an image of a painting for 5 seconds and not lose part of the audience. Painting, photography, and much of sculpt/installation are static forms, whereas TV viewers want movement.

The best thing about this show is no matter how true to artists or art-making it is, it nevertheless brings an awareness of art to the world. I just hope people will realize it doesn’t accurately portray real artists.

To conclude, the concept of the show is entertainment, not education, not seeing great art etc.

2. Jerry Saltz, the critic.
Jerry says worthwhile things with the seconds that he gets. I wish they let him and other judges talk more, Jerry is great at using enticing colorful language with an enthusiastic tone. He himself is an untrained artist, and this is perfect for the show. He said that his peers warned him that doing this show would ruin his career, and people who say those kinds of delusional things just baffle my mind. Those lame-oes just have gotta swallow their pride, become more humble and take on a challenge like this, make the best of it and not think in an elitist way. Kudos to Jerry.

3. Artists on the Show.
Nothing wrong with being on the show. You get to make art, be on TV and experiment with acting, practice talking art in front of the camera, and you have a chance to win something great, what else do you need to say yes? Now that I think about it I wish I would have taken the call seriously. If anything it’s a fun art camp with publicity. I don’t understand why more artists didn’t try out, and why all the artists that made it onto the show are not good, with the exception of Miles, Nao, and the Asian guy that got eliminated early. These three are the only ones that of a minute interest to me because they are actually aware of the creative process and can think visually and talk about it in words. Miles it truly verse in the visual language, and he is likely to win even though he is nowhere near the title of “Great Artist.” Judith’s personal work outside of the show is actually not bad. With the exception of a few works, everything that has been made on the show is at best worthy of an undergraduate’s senior thesis. Most of the things made on the show are descent freshman in art school projects.

4. Jaclyn Santos

Jaclyn Santos is hot, and it’s good to keep her on because she probably pulls in a number of male viewers. She was a senior when I went to MICA for a semester, and I remember her being in the fashion show and everyone knew of her. Her personal work on the other hand is very questionable, and something I wouldn’t look at other than to appreciate the provocative sexual poses and subjects. She is an interesting one. People bashed her for being gorgeous and attempting to make art before the show started. She has a surprisingly timid personality considering her natural beauty. She seems to feel guilty for being beautiful, and extra cautious to not flaunt it. I advise otherwise considering her work and ideas, and in order to bring more attention to the show and the art world at large. I would advise her to read up on Lady Gaga and Paris Hilton and put the “Show” into “show.” As Jerry told her, her timidness prevents her from saying what she wants to say in her work, like in the faint book cover where she photographed herself half nude back to camera and made the painting very faint. One of her pieces in the Audi challenge revealed that there might be creative juices flowing about her head.

5. Stereotypes
Stereotypes are created by people, for people and it’s a conservative way to make a show for a conservative time about something people don’t know much about. And people should be free to stereotype artists and make a show about it. Let them. Let them make a show that perpetuates stereotypes. And if people enjoy it, then let them laugh at artists, what’s the difference? I don’t care if they missportray or mock artists. Shit I’ll do it myself for laughs and giggles.

6. Challenges
The challenges are cool, and I would probably not survive past the first few rounds because I can’t make art about what someone tells me. I would definitely get eliminated after the round where they had to illustrate a book cover. I suck at illustration. The dumb thing about the challenges is the time. You just can’t make something good in that short of time. Art is a very slow process. It may take years for an artist to figure out their vision—what they are making art about, why, what forms to use and to perfect this into their “style.”

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You Have More Freedom than You Are Using (Analysis of Dan Attoe’s brilliant work)

"You have more freedom than you are using"

This week I was working on my own neon light artwork and came across this gem by artist Dan Attoe.  At first glance the foolish image of the topless, blow-up-doll-like young woman and snowflakes is so shocking that one is forced to continue searching to figure out just what on earth this lunatic looking woman with a few strands of hair is doing. Where is she and why are there snowflakes coming out of her open mouth, reminiscent of a blow up doll’s mouth that is unnaturally constantly open, (why blow-up dolls are so funny).  We then read the statement below her waist written in goofy adolescent style handwriting with the same feeling of Comic Sans: “You have more freedom than you’re using.”  This puts the viewer in an awkward position, where he is at once expected to get a joke and laugh or understand the work as if after a punchline, yet he is confused as to the meaning of this text and how it relates to the image, and if it is even meant to be funny, a work of art, or a silly sign made by an amateur artist for shits and giggle.   The woman seems to be freely running topless outside in the winter, yes those snowflakes are snowflakes, but could also double as sounds coming from her mouth as if singing.  Or is she trying to eat them?   Her arms are open to welcome what’s ahead, and more questions about what exactly she is saying or singing arise.  She is within her world, as there is nothing else indicating a more specific setting or time.  The piece seems to say “Hey you!  You have freedom and you aren’t using it; USE IT!”  An out of place remark that assumes, but in the end cannot be argued with for it is true for all.

A dialogue between three entities is uncovered when we realize the message does not apply solely to the viewer, but could be addressing the young lady, and the artist as well.  The artist chose to use neon light, which is a very sexy, attention-grabbing medium of communication, but at the same time numerous limitations, such as ability to render specific detail, utilize shade, various texture, and so on…  The most important limitation to this concept that the artist exploited is neon light’s inflexibility, (both literally and metaphorically), that is inadequate to portray a human being in motion dancing or running around in snowfall.  We can’t see her hair wave in the wind, or her mouth change shape, and we can’t hear her.  Neon’s inhuman quality and consumer related baggage make the whole work and statement impersonal.  The artist is giving himself advice.  Because we are only left to imagine the lower half of this sexy lady, it could be a lesson for her as well, like, “Hey! Did you ever think of liberating yourself from all your clothes and frolicking completely naked?  The work has a dreamlike quality, hovering against the wall, yet physically immobile.  The viewer can independently interpret the statement as it relates to his life.  Also her nipples are different colors giving the artwork just that little “Yeee-Ha!” of self-unaware wildness.  Bravo Dan Attoe!

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