February 17: Censorship

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Ahoy, ahoy!

“Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with those not sufficiently prepared. Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art.”

Picasso said this.  It is a quote about censorship, which Picasso himself was a victim of, multiple times.  As soon as a work is different, it is often seen as threatening.  Art and books are tow things that the public has access to, regardless of age.  Anyone can take out any book from a library, just as anyone can go see any painting in a gallery.  Film, however, does have a rating system associated with it.  But how can someone censor art?  Do you censor based on nudity?  Do you censor based on themes?  Indeed, some works are shocking, maybe vulgar to some viewers.  But often, the works being put on trial are ones that people are simply afraid of.

Censorship grows out of fear.  Sometimes, the intention of artwork is to make you uncomfortable.  Why are you uncomfortable?  Why are you so upset by this piece?  Art can be very confrontational.  After all, it is about the expression of feelings and ideas, not just a bunch of aesthetically pleasing paintings or sculptures, or what have you.

Censorship is Canada is an ongoing battle.  The CBC archives website has plenty on the topic.  From the array of stories and clips, one can see that the issues being challenged are vast and varied.  Some may appeal to you as much worse than others.  But who is to say what is offensive to whom?  We all interpret art differently.  If offense is the interpretation of one individual, does that mean that no one has the right to view the piece?

http://archives.cbc.ca/arts_entertainment/visual_arts/topics/300/

Food for thought.  That’s all for today!

Brit

February 15th: How To Effectively Show Video and Film

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Ahoy, ahoy!

I’ve gotten a bit behind on my blog entries, as the last week before the break was a rather hectic one!  Nevertheless, I have some time to make it up now.  On the fifteenth of February, we had a rather relaxing class, as we viewed a bunch of different videos and talked about the importance of the National Film board.

This class was obviously different in structure than normal, because we do not often sit for the full time and watch videos.  Not surprisingly, this was actually unintentional, as what was previously scheduled for that class had to be rescheduled.  As we sat and watched videos that varied greatly in content and construction, I began thinking about what the best way to show video is.  I have been in art galleries before that have had videos playing, and I do not always watch the entire thing.  If I come in during the middle of the video, will I even be able to understand what is going on in the piece?  Also, if I begin watching it, will I be sitting for 2 minutes or 2 hours?  I don’t believe it is very effective to show videos in galleries, but then where else are people supposed to go to view these works?  The National Film board website gives you access to either whole films or trailers, and you can buy some DVD’s of the works, but is this the only option?

I suppose another option for showing film would to have scheduled viewings, much like a film festival.  I know that last semester, the Sackville Film Society was showing experimental shorts before the feature presentation.  Perhaps this is an effective way of getting an audience for your work?  Additionally, sometimes the National Film board puts these videos/films on television.  If the film is short, this could be another way of getting an audience for the work.  We briefly discussed this problem in class, but it really got me thinking.  On my own personal exploration of the National Film board website, I certainly did not watch each and every film.  Some films I started and then stopped.  Having everything on a website makes it accessible, to be sure, but just because it is accessible does not mean it is being accessed as often as the artist would like.

This is the film I liked best on the National Film board website.

http://www.nfb.ca/partial/player/popout/35741/?ct=0

Maybe personal media sharing, such as blogging, is another way to get word out about particular films?

That’s all!

Brit

February 10th: The Body As Your Tool

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Ahoy, ahoy!

We’ve launched into performance art, as I’ve mentioned previously.  Performance art is incredibly body-centric.  If there was no body, there would be no performance!  Thus, how the body behaves and interacts with the audience is what truly gets the message of the piece across.  What costumes are being worn?  Are there even costumes at all?  How is the body interacting with the audience?  Is the audience even aware that they are an audience?  So many different factors come into play, and the success of the piece is dependent on all of them.  And even then, the piece will always be different because we are never existing in the same way at any given time.

Some performances are done on stages, some for video cameras.  Others are done in public space, when the people around may not even know what they are witnessing.  But for the most part, performance is united in the focus it places on the body.  Performance art developed a strong following of both people interested in it, and those who practiced it in the 1970’s.  Coincidentally, this is the same time period that focus on the place of the body in society was becoming a dominant focus of anthropology.  Many anthropologists began centring their ideas around the importance and place of the body in society, and developing theories related to how we view the body’s role.

A interesting phenomenon among human beings is how we will automatically be drawn to focus on something when it is undergoing a change.  The body was no different.  Over the 20th century, technology became more and more advanced as time progressed.  Suddenly, to see or communicate with someone did not require actually being physically in the same place.  You had photographs and telephones, radios, then televisions, movies.  Computers and the Internet would catch on later.  Additionally, the 1970’s were a time of liberation from stereotypical roles attributed to gender and race.  People were breaking down barriers every which way you turned.  Suddenly, not only were you communicating differently with others, you were communicating with different people in different ways and contexts from the past.  Your body was communicating with other bodies in a new way.  And this is what spurned anthropologists and other social scientists to begin theorizing and discussing the body and it’s societal role in an almost instantaneous way.

I truly believe that the onset of performance art in Canadian society had much to do with this new context the body was being placed into.  After all, art imitates life, and life was focused around the body and the liberation of the body.

That’s all!

Brit

February 8th: Parody and Performance.

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Ahoy, ahoy!

Welcome back to another week of musings and posts.  Today in class, we discussed and watched a bit more performance art.  Performance art is definitely something I am relatively unfamiliar with.  In all of my art history courses, I have not run into much by way of performance art.  What is the purpose of performance art?  What does it do that other art forms cannot?  One purpose for performance art that was brought up is that it seems to have a moral responsibility.  Most of it seems to respond to social or political conditions of the day.  Certainly, I can think of why this would be so.  Because often performance art is a parody or personification of something, it would be easiest to choose a popular topic du jour, and perform a reaction to it as such.

When the topic of Youtube came up, I began reflecting on different YouTube videos I have watched and enjoyed.  I came to the conclusion that one of the most popular uses of YouTube is to create something that entertains. A YouTube video can’t be too long, or else the audience gets bored.  When it comes to videos that people have specifically created for entertainment value, often they are videos that make me laugh.  For example, this video below is entitled “How to Trick People Into Thinking You’re Goodlooking”

The girl in this video likely does not classify herself as a performance artist.  She probably came up with this idea after seeing similar tutorial style videos that are in abundance on YouTube that show you how to do your makeup like Gwenyth Paltrow at the 2011 Golden Globes or how to curl your hair like Miley Cyrus in her latest music video.  Believe it or not, videos such as that get tons of hits and some of the creators are classified as YouTube “gurus” because they are in the top  most subscribed or most featured or viewed vloggers (video-bloggers) on the website.   And I will admit to the fact that, on a Saturday night, when going to a bar in Montreal, I have willingly and faithfully followed step-by-step instructions on how to apply a glittery eye makeup look from one of these girls.  I won’t deny that they are useful for someone who is make-up challenged like myself.  But so often the videos are all about how to hide this, enhance this, shade that, highlight this.  And often, you don’t really look much like yourself at all by the end of it.  The girl who made “How To Trick People Into Thinking You’re Goodlooking” probably did it as a joke, but to me, it is very much like a performance piece, addressing the fact that there is so much propaganda thrown in the faces of young women about how to change themselves.

“The goal is to make yourself look nothing like yourself.”  The girl in the video says this and it more than likely makes the viewer laugh.  But in a sad sense, it is true.  I remember the first magazine my mother ever bought me.  I was in grade 6, so probably 11 or 12.  I don’t know if they make it anymore, but it was called Girl’s Life Magazine.  It was aimed at preteens and had lower level fashion tips, hair ideas, very simple makeup and gave advice about how to prove to your parents that you were mature enough to spend a night alone at home, pierce your ears, date a boy, wear makeup, extend your curfew by an hour…the whole thing was about making yourself look and act more mature.  It really seemed to be something that somewhat forced growing up on young girls.  I think it’s important to have media, even if it is a silly YouTube video, that seem to reach out and address these issues.

That’s all!

Brit

February 3rd: Performance Art

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Ahoy, ahoy!  If anyone is reading this (aside from when Gemey reads it in April), I hope your day is wonderful 🙂

We’ve been discussing performance art in class for the past few lectures.  Honestly, I find some performance art to be really weird.  I know that maybe that sounds offensive, but I have seen some examples of performance art that really do not seem to resonate as having much meaning, or, I actually find the concept to be off-putting.

Take Israel Mora’s Banff Centre piece, Level 7. He masturbated for six days and put his semen into seven vials.  The vials were strung between two trees on the centre’s property. I find it very hard to look at this as art.  Perhaps you need to have the piece explained to you or put into context in order to understand it more fully, but from what I could gather, this piece in particular was meant to represent the seven members of his family.  Somehow, I don’t think I would be too pleased if a member of my family “represented” me as a bottle of semen.

Then there’s Viktor Mitic’s Hole Jesus.  He took a painting of Jesus to a rifle range and pumped it full of gunshots.  Was there a deeper meaning behind this painting?  Not really.  Apparently, a critic told Mitic that his work was not penetrating enough.  As an act of retribution, Mitic decided to outline this painting of Jesus in bullet holes.

I dislike both of these performance pieces and don’t really see either one as art.  I know art is supposed to push boundaries and challenge our view of the world, but neither of these works do that for me.  Mora’s piece is something that I find unappealing based on the material being used and Mitic’s just seems like laziness, not a well thought out and carefully executed performance piece.  Yet his painting still brought in almost eight thousand dollars.

This is not to say that I dislike all performance art.  I think some of it is really quite brilliant and interesting.  Some artists are incredibly dedicated to a performance piece that they might be really passionate about.  Stelarc, for example, had a third ear implanted under the skin of his arm in 2007.  Stelarc also wants to put a microphone inside so anyone, anywhere in the world, can hear what Stelarc’s arm is hearing by connecting to the feed on the Internet.  In an interview, Stelarc said this work had been in progress for almost ten years, and it was clearly something he was very passionate about and dedicated to.  I like Stelarc’s arm-ear.  It may make some people squeamish, but I actually feel like I understand what the piece is about and the message it is trying to portray.

The context and place of the body in human culture is a much discussed phenomenon.  Many people feel that new technologies  and medical procedures play a large part in the increasing disconnect of physical presence being a necessity in the modern world. We can bank, shop, chat with friends and even order a pizza for supper without having to physically see or speak to another human being.  It’s kind of eerie, and also thought provoking.  Is this the future of how our bodies will be able to connect?  Are we losing touch with our physical makeup and presence?  Food for thought.

That’s all, and if you’re in the Maritimes, don’t get caught in a snowstorm!

Brit

February 1st: First Nations Performance

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Ahoy, ahoy!

I can hardly believe it is February already.  It feels like the Arctic out there, with blustery snowy days and windchill of -40C.  Brrrrrr!  I’m happy to sit inside the library with a hot cup of tea and blog while the drifts pile up outside…

First Nations performance art is an interesting topic because too often, First Nations performance is used to demonstrate Canadian culture to the world.  The type of performance I’m talking about is traditional performance, that is, traditional dances and songs.  Often, these performances are done in the traditional dress of a particular First Nations group.  At the Vancouver 2010 Olympic opening ceremonies, every First Nations group in Canada was invited to dance and perform to celebrate the beginning of the games.

This ceremony celebrated the histories of the First Nations peoples, to be sure, but did little to recognize or acknowledge present day First Nations people.  These traditional dances originated with the express purpose of passing knowledge through the generations.  They ensured that the preservation of the legends and customs of their people are passed on.  The First Nations writer, Thomas King, often speaks about how knowledge is transferred from one person to another.  In his mind, becoming entertainment for others is what you do when you have nothing left to offer, when nothing else has worked in order to have your voice heard.  The very fact that contemporary First Nations performance exists demonstrates, to me, that becoming entertainment in this sense has been like a cry for help.  These new stories that are being manifested and performed through these performances are the ones that the next generation of First Nations are going to have to worry about.  The sale of their traditional lands, the contamination of their ancestral rivers and the general dissipation of their language and culture is what is happening, and these performances urge a change.

They are not only demonstrations that exist within the present, they look forward to the future.  These performances about the current plights of First Nations people provide us with information about what needs to be addressed.  Sometimes, when all you have left to do is entertain, the survival of your culture could very well depend on your performance.

That’s all!

Brit