March 10: Reacting to art

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Apologies for the delay.  I promised to have something really fantastically insightful for you up sometime this weekend, and suffice to say, this did not happen.  So I don’t know if this entry is going to be awesome or insightful, I just know that I have to do it.  A plus, I’ve got a lovely entry based off of today’s lecture that I cannot wait to post tomorrow.  But for now, reflections of the weekend.  We had to write a painting review for class today, reflecting specifically on either a talk by Ben Reeves or a gallery exhibition by Andrea Mortson.  I was at a complete loss of what on earth to write about.  My brilliant, art-history-masters-program accepted roommate, however, polished off a great little review about the technique of thin application of paint in Mortson’s works.  I, on the other hand, felt as though it would be torturous to get a few words out, and whether or not they were good words was to the mercy of Gemey.  Sometimes I wonder how art critics do it.  I went to the Owens and was there for close to an hour, just looking at these paintings and thinking lots of different thoughts associated with each one.  But when it came down to analyzing or critiquing the subject of painting, I didn’t even know which way to look!  Was I supposed to be speaking about the application of paint or the subjects in the paintings?  Colours used? How the painting made me feel?  The possibilities were so varied!  I ended up writing about how the paintings made me feel, but the technical aspects of the art were lost on me.  I love art but perhaps I wouldn’t make a very good critic or art historian.  A patron of the arts perhaps?  To me, what I take away from most works is not technical but how I felt.  Was my first reaction “That’s cool/scary/weird/awesome” or was it “That’s bad/sloppy/messy/poor quality?”  I feel like I have not been immersed long enough in the art world to begin passing judgements on the quality of work.  Perhaps, like anything, it simply takes practice.  Until then, I suppose I’ll be content with personal reactions and reflections.

That’s all for tonight!

Brit

March 3 and 8: Uninspired

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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!

Brit

March 1st: Photography’s Stories

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Reading break is over and March in Sackville has come in like a lion with another vicious dump of snow last night…I find it hard to believe that I have been writing this blog for five months now!  I feel like I have learned so much about my own ability to reflect on artists, movements and pieces.  I hope my entries have shown steady improvement in both content and clarification for my readers!

Today we’ve moved into photography.  I always love looking at photography that came before digital.  You can really tell that these artists had to work hard at their craft in order to perfect it.  I took a photography class once and I remember how difficult of a time I had getting my images to turn out just right in the wash.  I remember the frustration I would feel after unclipping several dried prints and examining them in the light only to realize that one was too dark, the other too light.  Sometimes I had not timed the exposure properly, other times there were fatal cross processed images.  Sometimes the film itself was the problem, and my apertures were set incorrectly.  And then it would be back to the drawing board, to pore over scribbled notes about how I went about developing and processing the first time around, in order to identify the mistake.  However, I had a lot of fun in that class and learned so much with that old camera of my dad’s.  But, at the end of the day, it seemed so much easier to just use a digital camera and then fix my mistakes later on the computer.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t think digital photography can be art.  Not by any means.  I know people who are digital photographers, and there is immense amounts of work involved.  it’s just a different kind of work.  I think that these two types of photography are very different, and both ought to be respected equally.  However, when I see old professional photographs, I can’t help but want to stare at them for much longer than digital prints.  They are often more beautiful to me than digital work, and usually more intriguing.  I find that most of my encounters with digital photography are focused on landscape.  Digital is an amazing way to capture blazing orange sunsets and the crystal perfection of the sea in the Mediterannean.  But black and white photography like Michel Lambeth and George Zimbel’s works seem to be more about stories and ideas, rather than the image itself.

That’s all!

Brit

February 17: Censorship

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“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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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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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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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

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