Jack Kerouac, as Sal Paradise once said: "I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion." And I think that's a rather apt description of my blog over the years, and perhaps the most perfect description of me in general that I've ever read. So that's what this blog is, a collection of the falling stars that are beckoning me at any time.

22 April 2008

never going to be popular, but possibly the only art that's going to change us

Too many people, I think, think that the purpose of art is to look pretty, and that things that are ugly and inhumane or really at their depths show us the ugly and profane and inhumanness of humanity are not art. I saw that there's a facebook group to protest an artist whose art installation was a sick, starving and dying dog tied to a gallery wall. Many people apparently claim that the dog did starve to death, but other reports are that the dog was merely a very ill looking stray, was fed regularly while the exhibition wasn't open and escaped back to the streets after a few days. Either way a lot of people claim that this isn't art, just some sick inhumane man getting sport off an animals suffering. Really? Didn't this man's turning a spotlight on the miserable lives of stray animals? Didn't it pose intriguing questions about the nature of people who view the suffering and obviously pitiable condition of a living thing which was less fortunate, not of their own caste (situation) and whose condition that they could at any time have done something to improve (untied the rope and removed the dog to food and a vet) but chose not to because their interest was only served to look and pity and never to act? That methaphorically that dog was not only a dog, but the poor, the ill, the disenfranchised, the persecuted in any society whose lives we could all easily improve and show compassion for, but don't because to take action we would have to act differently than the rest of the group?

And what of the people who sign these petitions decrying the artist, so maybe some of them donate a couple of bucks to a charity for strays in Central America, do any of them really get what the artist was saying, would they really care about the dog or other dogs like him if it weren't for this man's exhibit? Would they even know about the plight of strays in Central America in the first place? Would they have taken time to look for a charity to give to if not for the way that this exhibit provoked them and challenged them to look outside their idea that somehow everyone on earth cared enough about stray dogs to save them from conditions that were deplorable?

The point of art is to challenge our notions, to give us sometimes surprising insights into things we over-looked or took for granted about things. It's to affect us in some way and say something. It is not merely to look pretty and show us the good and beautiful things. Personally I am absolutely convinced that this man's work is a piece of art. If it horrifying and ugly and repellent? Sure. Of course it is, but so is the fact that everyday millions of dogs and cats live that horrible existence and no one even looks at them let alone tries to save them. Here is a man who says, hey, don't ignore this dog, see how he is suffering. (though I do seriously hope that the reports that the dog was fed when the gallery was closed are true, sometimes you don't need the utmost of reality to get your point across.) Plus, Animal Planet makes a pretty penny in advertising $ with all their Animal Cops shows where viewers just sit and watch images of horrible animal cruelty so that they can get a jolt from saying how much they can't believe anyone could treat an animal like that and sometimes get a cathartic release seeing the person responsible arrested. It's not quite the same as standing there watching a dog suffer, but it's still a voyeuristic and somewhat sick form of entertainment.

In the end the ugly, nasty, and confrontation provoking art is probably the only art that has the power to change the world. We fight over its right to exist at all and yet we're never going to save ourselves and others from looking at a bowl of fruit and some flowers.

05 April 2008

Opera and opining

After a week of being easily angered over enviro-issues, I've decided I'm just not going to let myself be negative over self-congratulatory celebs (you missed, lucky you, me ranting about how un-filled with gushing praise for Leonardo DiCaprio actually practicing what he preached for a second and buying a multi-million dollar green condo I was) negative green-scenesters, or even how I think Method's new toilet bowl cleaner is slowly staining my bowl with blue streaks after just one use. Yes, if I wasn't so over-exposed to those "Keep Calm and Carry On" posters etc. I'd adopt it as m new motto.

Anyway I've started working on my new project, a jewelry rack for my necklace collection. I'm painting a bit of plywood (ok it's not a bit, it's like 2'x2', but Home Depot didn't have any smaller pieces of the right thickness)white with a grey and black design (I haven't decided what yet, but I saw a cross section of a petrol tree phloem the other day and I love the lines.) Then I'm going to screw cup hooks in to hold the necklaces and bracelets.

I went to the new staging of Aida that Opera Omaha just opened last night. They seem to be very into concept shows of late, which to be honest I think is pretty awesome. It's nice to see them taking artistic risks and pushing some boundaries (even though I wish that they didn't tend to show the same couple of well-trod operas in rotation. I swear I've seen at least 5 Carmens by now.) I really like the new staging, I was definitely interested to see that the dance during the celebration of the defeat of the Ethiopians was turned into more of a representation of the love triangle than the actual battle. All of the leads had perfect voices, but it's a shame that there seemed to be really poor sound design in general as especially during the first act there were huge dead spots where the mikes didn't pick up anything and the singers voices were swallowed into oblivion. This was especially disappointing during at least one scene where you couldn't hear Radames voice at all. The set design was hit or miss for me. I'd read an article in the paper about what the designer was trying to do with scale, and I think it's in the right direction and I loved that it was far more minimal than the set of the last production of Aida with it's giant gilt eagle, however I didn't really appreciate the black Egyptian lotus design on the columns, nor the massive white Lotus that formed another set and which looked like it was made out of cardboard frankly. I also felt that the altar monument looked far too Asian, and looked like it was built out of cheap plywood, which is hardly indicative of an altar to an Egyptian god. I did, however, love the use of the altar in the final scene as well as the giant archway that looked like abstracted tree branches at the Temple of Isis.

What I didn't think lived up to their job were the costumes. I didn't like them at all. They didn't seem harmonious with ancient Egypt, they seemed to fight for attention, looked awkward and ill-fitting, created ugly forms. The dancers looked like they just stepped off the set of an Ester Williams movie. Radames looked like he was wearing black Levis jeans under his tunic, Amneris's costume didn't fit in at all with any of the others and looked like it had been borrowed at the last second from a show set in Victorian times. Yuck all around. (and by the way I have it from members of the cast, at least some of them were created with fabrics that wrinkle so easily and badly that the cast was outlawed from sitting down in them or draping them over chairs as it would ruin them, which if you ask me is not a very practical design for a staging that they're trying to sell to other Opera companies)

So all in all, it was a good production, if you ignore the costumes, and the cast makes it worth seeing. I just don't know about it being a staging for the ages.

02 April 2008

Is creating things really so bad?

So I read on Apartment Therapy today that a couple of big name designers, namely Phillip Stark, are running around bemoaning how they're single-handedly destroying the planet through their design careers and their enablement of mass consumerism; claiming they're going to quit and give up and a bunch of other green-frenzied hogwash. Give me a break, seriously. Not only do I find these headline-grabbing, born-again-green chest thumping to be pretty much entirely disingenuous and nauseating, but I'm getting tired of hearing about how anything that's not completely utilitarian and made from bamboo is the root of all evil. Perhaps it's that as an artist it kind of irritates me that somehow art, or things that are created sheerly for aesthetics are bad, and the cause of all the environmental ills in the world. There's nothing wrong with creating things for sheer aesthetics, there's nothing wrong with buying cool, or pretty or decorative things, it's not destroying everything. What the real problems are is people who view everything as disposable and buy everything put in front of them only to toss it when the trends change. The problem is cheap, low-quality crap, not good design. We all love product porn and have hundreds of covets every year in the consumer sphere, but we don't have to buy it all. I admit I quite unashamedly maintain a shopping blog, full of stuff I'd love to buy, but only occasionally will (or rarely can afford.) Perhaps then that jades my perception of consumer goods, but I'd like to think people throughout civilization have always owned consumer goods, the issue is just the way culture views these things as disposable. Maybe it's an issue of things being too affordable.

01 April 2008

if you don't have a solution just complain about everyone else

Back when I was a senior in high school and freshman in college I was really into ska. I remember moving to Boston for my first year at Emerson and just being really excited about the scene and discovering new music from other people who were into what I liked, instead of the usual situation where I was the one who took all the chances on buying random cassettes and recommending the good ones to friends. It was one of the very first music sub-cultures that I was in, mainly because where I lived before there wasn't a big variety of sub-cultures to get into and where there were people were overly obsessed with whether you fit the image of what they thought their rebellious group should look like (still a problem in that particular small city, where I'm once again living.) About a year later disaster struck; ska got trendy in the mainstream. All of a sudden there were tons of bands on the radio with that ska sound, some good, some pretty shite. Usenet got cluttered with newbies, and worst of all, people in the scene turned into raging, elitist assholes. Every post, every discussion turned into an obnoxious debate about whether or not a bands members had been appropriately introduced to ska through earphones being placed against their mother's womb, everyone who had a song on th radio was a sellout, everyone who was newly introduced to ska was a poser. The scene imploded. After that experience I refused to ever get involved with a scene, which in retrospect probably made it a lot harder for me to make friends because I stayed out of discussions and kept to myself at concerts.

The reason I bring this up is earlier today I was killing time reading a blog. It was a home and design blog dedicated to green concerns (which have certainly become trendy in the mainstream, almost to the point of overkill at least for me) and I was actually inspired to, well rant, about the same BS holier than thou negative attitude that ruined the ska culture in the mid 90s that I found in some of the comments. People bitching because the blog posted about consumer products that the commenters belittled as "plastic crap"; completely unhelpful condescending suggestions; and I'm clearly greener than you why don't you make the same effort I do sorts of crap. It really pissed me off for some reason. Well,actually, I know the reason. It irritated me because I think this particular blog is a place that people who are first starting to get interested in living more sustainably and trying to find products that have less environmental impact that the ones they're currently using and I think that nasty and negative attitude is only going to be off-putting to not only those people, but a lot of people who read blogs for a positive community and good ideas. It pisses me off because, well what's the point in it? If you feel like a new washroom air freshner from a company with green points is an un-necessary energy wasting piece of plastic consumer crap, then what good have you really done anyone by calling it that and admonishing people for not opening their bathroom windows? Did anyone learn what they can do instead that would be effective, but not involve energy waste or plastic or buying new stuff? (especially if they happen to be like me or most of the people I know who rent apartments and do not, in fact, have a bathroom window.) I think it's so lazy to post nothing but complaining and negativity without offering solutions for how the thing you have such a problem with can be made better. I bring up the ska scene, because I've noticed that most of this negativity I've only seen since green became the new big consumer trend and there are suddenly a lot more communities focusing on it and a lot more quasi-green consumer products popping up, leading me to think that it's a related syndrome. The help-the-thing-I-care-about-is-over-run-with-posers-who-think-it's-just-about-the-fashion syndrome.