Archive for September, 2009

Don’t Watch Shitty Movies Just Because They Are Shitty

Posted in Art, Film, New Movies, Pop-culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20 September, 2009 by endlessslug

This Friday, I was getting ready to engage in one of my favorite pastimes/sports/recreational activities, fencing.  I was sitting at the local university’s recreation center pleasantly directing our new fencers to the place where they shall be trained.   A small group of obvious geeks were leaving the tennis court area and discussing the evening’s movie plans.  One nerd suggested, “I know, Episode I! <pause for social props/reactions from friends/peers>  Or, maybe Battlefield Earth!”  I was at once shocked and horrified.  I thought briefly that these dorks were planning to watch something they felt was good science fiction, but realized quickly that their goal was to watch terrible sci-fi.

Now, this blog entry is not about establishing a criticism of film, science-fiction, or whatever, but to gently remind my dear readers that we ought not to waste our precious time watching shit.  Although it might be funny or socially responsible of us to hold public conversations about the absolute devastation of humanity that are movies such as Episode I, Transformers, Wolverine, and the new Star Trek train-wreck, but we should not actually spend any of our capital, monetarily, psychologically, or culturally in viewing them.  Recently, I was watching an episode of Attack of the Show on G4.  Devin Faraci of was reviewing DVD’s in lieu of Chris Gore’s usual reviews in the DVDoucheday, excuse me, DVDuesday segment of the show.  I have really grown to enjoy and respect Faraci’s reviews over the past few months – huzzah!  But at one point during his review of Wolverine, he suggested that this would be a movie he might one day watch with some friends and a lot of beer and laugh at due to the complete ridiculousness of it.  I was a bit surprised at such a comment and can’t help but think he was contractually required to say something nice about it.  Seriously, this is not even a cult-bad style of film, but just outright a travesty of humanity.  And therein is my point – don’t waste your time or give the machine of entertainment media capitalism your money.  It’s just nuts.  When you give them money, they’ll just make more.  I’d much rather watch less of awesome than more of shit any day.

So, nerds, I speak to you:  Waste not yourselves on pseudo-cult “new classics” which are not classics but crap.  Waste not your time on anything anime.  Read some old books written before 1970; the pre-post-modern era.  Watch episodes 4-6 again, over and over.  Re-visit old film literature because as with all literature, the film will grow with you.  I recently had a small discussion with a friend of mine obsessed with the new Transformers franchise.  She had never seen the Star Wars trilogy.   I stopped right there and said, “Star Wars will become a better movie the older you get.  Transformers, if you like it now for some god-forsaken reason, ok, but it will get worse and really stupid as you age resulting in you wondering what sort of an idiot you were in ever caring about it.  It’s not that the movies themselves are any different, but with the accumulation of life experience that you will have, you will understand with more depth of knowing, the experiences of the characters and the story and thus will achieve more from viewing Star Wars over time.  It enriches you.  Transformers damages you by giving you unrealistic experiences which have no impact or meaning to anyone’s experience and is really very two-sided and shallow.”

And remember artists, the public/viewer cares nothing about you.  Don’t masturbate at them when you could instead offer a diachronic dialog.


Blog on the March

Posted in Art, Film, Gallery Talk, Literature, Music, Pop-culture, Social Science, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 15 September, 2009 by endlessslug

Just wanted a small update for the handful of dedicated readers out there – I have a number of posts coming up soon.  It’s been a little light this month in the posting world for the slug here due to working on stuff, general disillusionment with society again, and an overwhelming sense of futility every day I wake up.  But, I had the pleasure of getting my slug-ass up and going out to the gallery openings in Chicago over the weekend which inspired a number of topical ideas for blog posts as well as new paintings.  The work at the galleries were so amateurish and shit that I have been punched (slugged) in the face with an excitement for working rarely seen at the slug studios.  I also picked up a couple new books I’d like to review and comment on.  So, hopefully we’ll have a very post-heavy mid- and end-month.

Victory! (for me, sorta)

Posted in Anthropology, Art, Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Film, Literature, Music, Pop-culture, Social Science, Technique, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 5 September, 2009 by endlessslug

I had an unexpected epiphany today: I was right, damnit.

About five years ago at an embassy dinner, I was put on-the-spot by a number of other Americans because, apparently, they were offended by a comment I had made to another person earlier that day. I had said, “[serious] painters should not work to sell, but should work to communicate.” This statement was made to a girl who had no idea about fine art as we were looking at some total street-crap local art being sold by some opportunistic ex-pat geared at selling at tourists. Of course, the statement was perverted by this idiot to “he said artists should never sell their work,” which was not only what I said, but it also suggests a plethora of other related meanings that make me sound like the idiot. Well, this all came up at this dinner at a table of about 20 intellectuals, made up mostly of excellent graduate students and some government officials. I was really very unprepared for an argument and was in the middle of marking down some field notes when all the sudden I was fighting for my artistic life. Partly, I couldn’t remember what I had said exactly, because I have stated that I don’t think artists should sell work – but at the student or amateur level as a means to make them think a bit more outside their little selfish boxes. The point when I lost the argument came when my attacker said, “So, you’re saying artists should not sell their work, then what about choreographers? They live only by hiring people and showing otherwise there’s no art…” I really didn’t have an answer to that and clearly had lost the argument by then. This has always annoyed me because I could never explain myself. But today I figured it out.

Choreographers are illustrators they are not painters.

Here’s some explanation: For years, I’ve followed the social science of Levi-strauss, Geertz, and Bourdieu, meaning structuralism (with a hint of functionalism), interpretivism, and very early post-structuralism. I, like these people and most other humans, polarize and categorize the world around me. One of the most misunderstood aspects of polarism is that the poles always represent the extremes which most people are not – most people fall somewhere in between and are made up of millions of interrelated polemics which affect one another – much like a gene structure. An early painting teacher turned me on to thinking of art in a polemic – there are painters and there are illustrators, with drawing students somewhere in the middle but more towards painting and watercolorists more toward illustration. The basic distinction is not the materials used because uneducated people believe that whenever you use paint in a painting that makes you a painter – this is untrue. The distinction is in the function of the work, is it having a conversation with me or is it simply telling me something? We converse with Van Gogh’s color and movement, Rothko’s panels, Degas’ atmospheres, Hemingway’s doomed protagonists, Maupassant’s surprises, Dante’s longing, Pavolva’s rending Dying Swan, and literally with the humor of Pak Edy’s Punakawan puppets (wayang kulit clowns). We are told what’s happening in comic books, mystery novels, children’s books, modern public murals, social-commentary art, computer-aided art, and musicals. This is not to set firm categories which are unchangeable, but to acknowledge that there are general categories. It’s called observational data (science!). We must also distinguish between the stuff we personally just ‘like’ vs. the stuff which everyone should be able to converse with at some time or another. Every male American should be able to understand and enjoy Hemingway at about 30 years old, if not, 40. Every college student should be able to understand and enjoy Shakespeare in most of his levels. I’ve noticed the aging artists tend to really enjoy ballet – I’m not a huge fan but I do respect it greatly and look forward to the experience. Yes, I am a master of sweeping generalizations, but then again, that’s what science and art are all about. The “fine” part of fine art is the refinement of the generalization in the attempt to develop something akin to scientific laws. We want the laws of art because we cannot always explain why certain works evoke a conversation or emotion and why other works do not. As we teach in my anthropology courses, fine art is the ability to communicate something efficiently, which is otherwise impossible or too complex for simple vocal conversation (words). The poet manipulates language for efficiency in emotion, the short story author gets to the point, the novelist takes us on a journey, the novella author – well, nevermind this, no one knows what a novella is anymore, the painter evokes feelings long lost, the dancer gives us hope, the musician makes us move – they invoke.

So, what does the choreographer do? In the modern world, the choreographer gets much of the ‘props,’ which is something I did not know when entering my argument years ago. Why? Because we live in a world where the people require immediate gratification and complete knowledge of every aspect of the show they’re going to see before, during, and after they see it. The dancer has been removed as the central point to the dance. It is now in the hands of the director, producer, lighting guy, stagehands even, everything except that person on the stage doing all the work. As an acting teacher of mine said many years ago: “[Dancers, like] actors are taught their parts. An actor is just portraying what they’re paid to do and only the best actor for a part is hired by the director. Thus, there are bad plays and bad directors, and thus there are no bad actors. However, there are great actors who go above and beyond the part, bringing it alive and communicating with the audience in front of them. Essentially, to be an actor you must play the part. To be a great actor, you must become the part.” This is how it was. Great movies and great plays still are defined greatly by the actors, although many film friends of mine might say differently. Really, a film, play, or dance, is created by all of it’s parts, there really is no ‘one thing’ which defines it, and I think this is where the public generally is. The public doesn’t know why the liked something, they don’t need to, but they want to, leading to millions of water-cooler conversations about aspects of movies the public thinks made it a ‘good one you should see, man’.

So here it is: The choreographer instructs the dancers on every aspect of the dance, the whens, hows, whys, wheres, and so on. It is their job to make sure that the show looks good to bring in future audiences. I would never claim these people are not artists, they surely are. But their art falls on that illustrator side of the pole. They are putting together a show to tell the audience something based on a script. They cannot create a communication as a lone dancer can. They can set the stage for it, literally, and hope it happens, but it stops there. Their job is to bring in the clients, by making art, yes, but they don’t do it for free. And this was my point in that argument five years ago. Fine artists who are creating something powerful, are often aware of it and create it to create it for themselves and others, not because they’re looking for a sale. “I’m painting this because I want to talk to you. ‘You’ being humans for the next 500 years.”

As a final note, here’s a quote from Anna Pavlova about her dancing: “What exactly is success? For me it is to be found not in applause, but in the satisfaction of feeling that one is realizing one’s ideal. When, a small child rambling over there by the fir trees, I thought that success spelled happiness. I was wrong. Happiness is like a butterfly which appears and delights us for one brief moment, but soon flits away.”

If you think everyone can be an artist, and that all artists are fine artists, you think as a child.  But this is fine, it simply means that there is much more for you to learn.

I win.

Ovat Punches Knowledge and Art Square in the Balls, Once Again

Posted in Anthropology, Art, Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Social Science, Technique with tags , , , , , , , on 3 September, 2009 by endlessslug

So, I’m feeling pretty ill today, can’t work, can’t be in the studio, I can do very little but eat and play some video games. I decided to throw on Ovat yet again to see what’s up in the contemporary art scene. Ovat’s been running a number of specials on music, dance, and inspirational teachers lately which has been alright, but I was hoping to get back to the painters. Today, there is a special running about Andrew Rogers. Rogers thinks himself an artist and travels the world dropping massive stone geoglyphs in remote areas with some need to spread some sort of philosophical vision to the world. I come from a background in art and anthropology with specializations in archaeology and belief systems. Rogers is a complete hack-asshole. How self-righteous, self-centered, and ignorant can we possibly be when we have such a pompous and arrogant mentality where we feel we can drop a turd in the middle of a number of small societies in the world, preaching some sort of universal about spirituality? I’m all about universals, but make sure it’s friggin’ universal and not just your interpretation of what universal means. I don’t even know if Rogers asked permission for any of these sites or if the folks there even fully understood who this foreigner was, destroying our pasture lands and indigenous landscapes. If these people really wanted a massive geoglyph (which, by the way, these are not), they would make it themselves.

What a dick.

This came off a bit more ranty than usual. Again, not feeling well here, and I think this just lost a little more hope for the human condition from me.