March 3 and 8: Uninspired

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Ahoy, ahoy!

So I have a terrible dilemma.  I have been completely, and totally uninspired to write this blog for an entire week!  I owe you guys entries for last Thursday and this Tuesday, and of course I owe you one for today.  However, I am going to hold off on today’s blog because I am dedicating this blog (which accounts for two days) to trying to find some inspiration.  I’ll try to hit you all with an awesome, insightful and relevant entry this weekend about today’s class but for now, I’m going to discuss inspiration.

The concept of inspiration can be applied to almost any goal or situation anyone has.  You need inspiration for an amazing essay, inspiration to win the big game, inspiration to create a work.  I need (and lack) inspiration for this blog.  Maybe it’s the March blues…it’s too early for it to be the “ides of March” as we have all been warned about through Shakespeare’s writ.  However, regardless of what the inspiration is for, the concept of inspiration is that you are aiming to achieve something great, something even better than usual.  It’s about putting out your best work, and ultimately, a representation of your best self for all to see.

To me, inspiration cannot be forced, but you can certainly help yourself along.  I am not an artist, but I live with one.  Each project she decides to ultimately create comes from hours of thinking, not-thinking, overthinking….until eventually something clicks.  Maybe she sees a photograph she loves of one of her friends and absolutely has to paint the face.  Another time, I know she was absentmindedly unraveling a thread and that’s when genius struck.  Sometimes the idea works, other times she hates it and it’s back to square one.  I feel that this happens often in all disciplines.  After all, Oscar Wilde was the one who said “I spent the entire morning inserting a comma; I spent the whole afternoon removing it again.”

Inspiration strikes, only to be whisked away again.  The worst is when inspiration occurs in the middle of the night.  You jolt upwards, wide awake at 3:38 am or some ridiculous time such as that, smiling.  You’ve awoken and had a marvelous idea.  The creative process is over!  Content you drift back to sleep….you awake at 7 am to your alarm.  You know you had thought of something, now if you could only remember what it was….

Looking for inspiration is an ongoing quest I feel that every human being experiences in their life.  Whether they are consciously always awaiting it, unconsciously stumbling upon it, channeling it only when needed….we all experience a need or want or flash of inspiration at some point.  And what a wonderful feeling it is.  One of my best moments of inspiration actually came from an incredibly explicit song.  For an energetic group of 19 to 21 year old girls, this song was hilarious in it’s explicitness.  I think we liked it mostly because of how obscene the lyrics were, to the point where the whole thing had become a joke.  And then, one day in the library, while talking about how easy it was in the modern age to find out someone’s entire life story on the Internet, inspiration took hold in my mind.  Instead of doing my homework, I instead chose to pen a parody of this explicit song’s lyrics, but have it talk about the phenomenon known as “Facebook creeping”. I was done the lyrics in half an hour and it was amazing.  I showed my friends who knew the original lyrics and everyone agreed that these new lyrics were even better than the old ones.  The whole thing was very Weird Al Yankovic, and for whatever reason I was absurdly proud of my lyrics and of course, posted them on Facebook.  Unfortunately, I don’t have my own parody video but my brother and I absolutely loved Weird Al when we were younger, so here it my own personal fave from him, “Eat It” inspired by the King of Pop’s “Beat It”.

Now how’s that for parody art?!

That’s all for now!  I promise I’ll have something new and interesting this weekend about today’s class!



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!


October 5: Photography Disputes/The Importance of Research

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Ahoy ahoy lovely readers of the blogosphere!  I am back with another post, though this time it is a somewhat guilty one as I thought we didn’t have to post about last Thursday’s lecture, as it was a library session and I figured “Everyone knows how to use a library, I’m sure I don’t have any divine wisdom to impart on this topic.”  But Gemey seems to think we (as a class) do!  Result: a rather long entry today, but a good one! (I hope)

So lecture on the 5th.  We began looking at photography influencing the art of oil paintings and landscape paintings and were faced with the concept of photography being an art or photography being a science.  This whole concept always somewhat amuses me.  People still argue over whether or not photography books ought to belong in the science section of a library or should it belong to the art section?  To me, the whole idea of creating art is a science.  In nature, I would say that many things are seen as aesthetically pleasing.  Mountains, rivers, trees, even the way people and animals move and are shaped– we see these things as being visually pleasant, at least most of the time.  In order for an artist who is painting a landscape in the sense of a traditional landscape painting, is also trying to create something visually pleasant, whether it is the view of a forest or a canyon ridge, whatever.  So in order to do this, the painter or sketcher must attempt to recreate images from nature onto a 2 dimensional surface.  A landscape is almost always three dimensional and in order to make something properly function as three-dimensional, you have to have at least some concept of how mathematical proportions and geometry function.

I don’t think people look at math and call it art.

This is not to say that artists sit around working out math equations all day long.  But I am saying that I believe artists learn a particular, geometric and mathematical way of thinking that gets translated into the success of their works on a 2 dimensional surface.  Furthering the connection of science and art, when a science textbook demands a detailed, in-depth reproduction of a work, do they turn to a photographer or an artist?  To complete an illustration of a cell, it is only natural that an artist would first look at a microscopic photograph before attempting to sketch it out.  Photography, like art, serves many different purposes aside from just being decorative.

Another idea that could factor into the concept of what classes as a science and what classes an art is the idea of graphic art.  Graphic art is created on a computer, and it definitely requires a knowledge of how to use a computer, which is considered a scientific machine, much like many would argue with the camera and the processes that were originally used to develop film.  Now we have programs like photoshop and digital photography so anyone can make the colours of their sunsets more vibrant or eradicate wrinkles from the face of an ageing woman.  Is someone who works with digital art not an artist?  Is their work any less authenticated as art than someone who uses paper and a pencil?  So how can one say that photography is either one or the other when it is so clearly both?  This divide between science and art is such a Western concept and it applies throughout the comparison of science to many other studies as well, such as sociology, music and a variety of other schools of learning.

Our lecture on September 30 was more of a library based session about different research methods available to us as Mount Allison students.  Now, as a student, I can say that research is an integral part of our day to day lives.  For our upcoming essay in Canadian Art we’re invited to use a variety of sources in order to complete our essay.  In the digital age we have access to so many different sources of information.  Entire books can be found online and downloaded, along with countless journal articles, old newspapers, visual images…the list really goes on and on.  But who are these resources created for?  The Wikipedia page about Emily Carr is a very different information source than a scholarly article written about Emily Carr.  A collection of her works, bound in a coffee-table book, is yet again information aimed at a different audience.  A Wikipedia entry can be used as a jumping off point for research, yet because it can be edited it can also act as a forum for people to share what they know.

So often, as a student, you get your information from a secondary source, you research someone else’s research.  This entire concept sometimes seems so bizarre to me, especially when it comes to analyzing works of art.  Is it okay for me to just think for myself and make my own interpretations?  Does background information about an artist intercede with my own personal feelings about a particular piece, or will it help me to understand if I find myself confused?  This is especially difficult when that artist is deceased because we have to rely entirely on interpretations from others.  Research can sometimes produce even more questions than it answers!

Well that’s enough on that subject.  In other news of art and art history, my roommate Liz and I have decided to do a collaborative art project for our Modern Art class.  We’re using a bunch of different media on paper, ie pastel, ink, pencil, paint etc and doing a series of automatic drawings and writings.  She or I will start the piece, and the other will finish or we will both add to it until we feel it is complete.  I’m really excited!

That’s all for now!