All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Category: Art (Page 2 of 2)

What is art? All the debate that’s fit to print goes here.

Gringo Moves in New Direction

What is going on here? I’m tapped out. I’ve had all kinds of interesting adventures and conversations, but I just can’t seem to put them down here. I guess, I should just take a deep breath and realize that sometimes the rivulets of artistic juices run in other directions.

I’ve recently started drawing and cartooning again. Laura has a project for a children’s educational curriculum, and I offered to help out with the illustrations.

don_pedro.png

That’s Don Pedro, the gardener. I got myself a cheapo Genius tablet (here’s a review) that works just great under Linux. Wacoms are in the hundreds of dollars, but this Genius was only $40 and works great. I’m using Inkscape for sketching and inking. When I’m done, I have a scalable vector graphic (SVG) which I can use, recolor, modify, and export.

Look for more artwork, cartoons, and projects in the coming months.

Once I learn the medium a little better, I’ll post some tutorials about working in Inkscape (or any vector graphic program for that matter).

Plot is a Four Letter Word

Plot is a four letter word.
— Alex Keegan

Plot is the picture frame.
— Me

Plot is like the picture frame. A frame is something that all
pictures need to some degree, but a beautiful frame with a black
velvet Elvis painting isn’t going into the Louvre any time soon.
Conversely, the most beautiful, insightful, imaginative painting in
the world isn’t going to suffer much in a weak frame. The picture
makes the frame, the frame accents the picture.

This is forgotten all too much in all forms of storytelling, most
notably movies. Repeat after me. Plot is the picture frame. Take a
look at the most recent Star Wars movies. What could be a
Tolkien-esque epic tale of the rise and fall of empires, people,
relationships, ends up being a b-movie with flat characters, starring
the computer generated imagery. The plot is so intricate, so twisted,
so melodramatic, and overcompensating of a weak painting that is
falls as flat as pastel sailboats hung above the couch.

It’s the characters stupid.

I am re-reading a book at the moment, Stendhal’s The Red and
the Black
. Wow, what a plotless book. This kid Julien is
wandering around ala Huck Finn (albeit an adult Huck Finn, ahem),
listlessly, pointlessly. Things happen to him. He winds up with a
rich family in the country. A seminary in the city, and finally as a
rich city family’s secretary. *yawn*. Pretty boring stuff, eh? The
novel is set in the early 1800’s. Perhaps it’s one of the Sense and
Sensibility type period pieces… you know, the ones that women
like. But there’s something about this book, something that grabs me
and won’t let me go. Maybe it’s the unlikely protagonist, Julien, his
inability to be honest with himself, who in the end is honest
with himself despite his attempts to culture cynicism.

The Red and the Black is perhaps the most beautiful
painting in the world placed simply in a beveled piece of matte
paper. It is not dialog driven, plot driven, situationally driven.
Ask me what has happened serially, and I would have problems. It
violates the show, don’t tell rule beaten into all beginning
writers. Perhaps as you mature you get to break some rules, but geez,
it would seem Stendhal’s downright lazy. Note the following passage
as the scene is dictated in the most abstract manner, with little
window into the actual goings on, the details:

I must drink some punch and dance a lot, she told
herself; I’ll pick the best of the crowd, and make an impression at
all costs. Good, here comes that impertinent celebrity the Comte de
Fervaques. She accepted his invitation; they dance. It’s a matter of
seeing, she thought, which of the two of us will be the more
impertinent; but so that I can make proper fun of him, I must get him
talking. Soon all the rest of the quadrille only dance for
appearances’ sake. No one wished to miss any of Mathilde’s stinging
repartee. M. de Fervaques was getting flustered, and as he could only
produce elegant phrases instead of ideas, he was making faces;
Mathilde, who was in a bad mood, was merciless to him and made an
enemy out of him. She danced until daybreak and at length withdrew in
a state of terrible fatigue. But in the carriage she went and used up
the small amount of strength she had left on making herself sad and
miserable. She’d been despised by Julien and couldn’t despise him.

He does this a lot, tells you what the people are talking about,
or hints at some dialog, but never reveals it. It would seem lazy
perhaps. Maybe he couldn’t think of the clever things that he was
putting into people’s mouths. Easier to just talk about them instead
of showing them. It would seem that way, but then there are
passages that suck you over the event horizon into the most awful
wonderful despair. Here the Madam de Rênal the wife of Mousier
de Rênal, the richest most powerful man in Verrières,
has fallen in love with Julien. She is his senior by 10 years and is
now consumed with guilt over her passion.

Shortly after the return to Vergy, Stanislas-Xavier the
youngest child threw a fever; Mme de Rênal was
suddenly overcome by terrible remorse. It was the first time she had
reproached herself for her love with any consistency; she seemed to
understand, as if by a miracle, how gross was the immorality she had
allowed herself to get caught up in. In spite of her deeply religious
nature, up until then she had not considered the enormity of her
crime in the eyes of God.

In the past, at the convent of the Sacred Heart, she had
loved God with passion; she started to fear him likewise in her new
situation. The battles which ravaged her soul were all the more
terrible because there was nothing rational in her fear. Julien
discovered that any attempt at rationalization aggravated rather than
soothed her: she took it as the language of hell. However, since
Julien himself was very fond of little Stanislas, he was more welcome
when talked to her of the boy’s illness. This soon took a very
serious turn. Then unremitting remorse deprived Mme de
Rênal even of the ability to sleep; she retreated into a
desperate silence: had she opened her mouth, it would have been to
confess her crime to God and to mankind.

‘I entreat you,’ Julien would say to her as soon as they
found themselves alone, ‘don’t say anything to anyone; let me be the
only recipient of your troubles. If you still love me, don’t say
anything”: you words can’t take the fever away from our little
Stanislas.’

But his endeavors to console her had no effect; he did
not know that Mme de Rênal had taken it into her
head that to appease the wrath of the jealous Almighty, she had to
hate Julien or else see her son die. It was because she felt she
could not hate her lover that she was wretched.

‘Keep away from me!’ she said one day. ‘In the name of
God, leave this house: it’s your presence here that’s killing my
son.’

‘God is punishing me,’ she added in a low voice, ‘he is
just. I worship his justice; my crime is horrendous, and there I was
living without remorse! It was the first sign of abandoning God”
I must be doubly punished.’

Julien was deeply touched. He could not detect any
hypocrisy of exaggeration in this. She thinks she’s killing her son
by loving me, and yet, poor thing, she loves me more than her son.
This is the source, I’m convinced, of the remorse that’s killing her;
these are truly noble sentiments. But how did I manage to inspire a
love like this: I’m so poor, so badly brought up, so ignorant, even
sometimes so crude in my ways?

One night, the child’s fever was at its height. Around
two in the morning M de Rênal came to see him. The child,
racked with fever, was exceedingly flushed and failed to recognize
his father. Suddenly Mme de Rênal flung herself at
her husband’s fee” Julien saw that she was going to confess
everything and ruin herself forever.

By good luck M de Rênal was very put out by this
strange gesture.

‘Goodnight! Goodnight!’ he said as he turned to leave.

‘No, listen to me!’ exclaimed his wife kneeling before
him and trying to hold him back. ‘You must learn the whole truth.
It’s my fault that my son is dying. I gave life to him, and I am
taking it from him. Heaven is punishing me, in the eyes of God I’m
guilty of murder. I must bring about my own downfall and my own
humiliation; perhaps this sacrifice will appease the Lord.’

If M de Rênal had been a man of any imagination, he
would have understood everything.

‘Romantic nonsense,’ he exclaimed pushing away his wife
who was trying to clasp his knees. ‘This is all a whole lot of
romantic nonsense! Julien, summon the doctor at daybreak.’

And off he went to bed. Mme de Rênal
fell on her knees, half unconscious, thrusting Julien away with a
convulsive gesture when he tried to come to her aid.

Julien stood amazed.

So this is adultery! He said… Could it possibly be that
those two-face priests… are right? That men who commit so many sins
are privileged to know the real workings of sin? What a peculiar
state of affairs!

For twenty minutes now since M de Rênal had
withdrawn Julien had watched the woman he loved kneeling with her
head resting on the child’s little bed, motionless and almost
unconscious. Here’s a woman of superior genius plunged in the very
depths of misery because of knowing me, he said.

Time is racing by. What can I do for her? I must make up
my mind. In this situation it isn’t a question of what I want any
more. What do I care about other people and their insipid little
comedies? What can I do for her… leave her? But I’d be leaving her
alone in the grip of the most appealing grief. Her automaton of a
husband is more of a hindrance than a help to her. He’ll say some
harsh word to her through being so crude; she may go mad and fling
herself out of the window.

If I leave her, if I stop watching over her, she’ll
confess everything to him. And who knows, perhaps in spite of the
inheritance she’s due to bring him he’ll cause a scandal. She may
tell all, great heavens! To that b… idiot of a Father Maslon, who
uses a six-year-old’s illness as an excuse for not budging from this
house, and with an ulterior motive too. In her grief and her fear of
God she forgets everything she knows about the man; she only sees the
priest.

‘Go away!’ said Mme de Rênal to him all
of a sudden, opening her eyes.

‘I’d lay down my life over and over again to know what
would be of greatest help to you,’ Julien replied. ‘I’ve never loved
you so much, my darling angel, or rather it’s only now that I begin
to adore you as you deserve. What will become of me far away from
you, with the knowledge that you’re unhappy through my fault! But
let’s not think about my suffering. All right, I’ll go, my love. But
if I leave you, if I cease to watch over you, to be constantly there
between you and your husband, you’ll tell him all, you’ll ruin
yourself. Just think how ignominiously he’ll drive you from his
house; the whole of Verrières, the whole of Besançon
will talk of this scandal. You’ll be made into the guilty party;
you’ll never get over the shame of it…’

‘That’s what I want,’ she exclaimed, rising to her feet.
‘I shall suffer: so much the better.’

‘But you’ll also bring about his own ruin with this
abominable scandal!’

‘But I’ll be humiliating myself, I’ll be flinging myself
into the mire; and perhaps in so doing I shall save my son perhaps
this humiliation in front of everyone is a form of public penitence?
As far as I can judge in my weakness, isn’t this the greatest
sacrifice I can make to God?… Perhaps he will deign to accept my
humiliation and leave me my son! Show me another more painful
sacrifice and I’m ready for it.’

‘Let me punish myself. I’m guilty too. Do you want me to
retreat to the Trappist monastery? The austerity of life there may
appease your God… Oh heavens! Why can’t I take Stanislas’s illness
upon myself…?’

‘Oh, you really love him, you do!’ said Mme de
Rênal, getting up and flinging herself into his arms.

At the same moment she pushed him away in horror.

‘I believe you! I believe you!’ she went on, sinking to
her knees again. ‘Oh my only friend! Oh why aren’t you Stanislas’s
father? Then it wouldn’t be a horrible crime to love you more than
your son.’

‘Will you allow me to stay, and to love you from now on
just like a brother? It’s the only only expiation that makes sense;
it may appease the wrath of the Almighty.’

‘And what about me?’ she cried, getting up and clasping
Julien’s head in both hands, and gazing at it at arm’s length, ‘what
about me, am I to love you like a brother? Is it in my power to love
you like a brother?’

Tears were starting to run down Julien’s face.

‘I shall obey you,’ he said falling at her feet. ‘I shall
obey you whatever you order me to do; it’s all that’s left for me. My
mind is struck blind; I can’t see what to do. If I leave you, you’ll
tell your husband everything; you’ll ruin yourself and him too.
There’s no way, after this ridicule, that he’ll ever be chosen for
the National Assembly. If I stay, you’ll think me the cause of your
son’s death, and you’ll die of grief. Do you want to try out the
effect of my departure? If you like, I’ll punish myself for your
wrongdoing by leaving you for a week. I’ll go and spend it in a
retreat of your choosing. In the abbey at Bray-le-Haut, for instance:
but swear to me that during my absence you won’t confess anything to
your husband. Just think that I won’t ever be able to come back if
you say anything.’

She promised, he left, but was recalled after two days.

‘It’s impossible for me to keep my oath without you. I
shall tell my husband if you aren’t there constantly to order with
your eyes to keep silent. Each hour of this abominable life seems to
me to last a whole day.’

At last heaven took pity on this wretched mother.
Gradually Stanislas emerged from danger. But the illusion was
shattered, her reason had grasped the extent of her sin; she was
unable to regain her stability. Her remorse remained, and it was as
you would expect in a heart of such sincerity. Her life was heaven
and hell: hell when she did not have Julien with her, heaven when she
was at his feet. ‘I don’t have any illusions left,’ she said to him
even at times when she dared to indulge her love to the full. ‘I’m
damned, damned beyond remission. You are young, you yielded to my
seduction, heaven may forgive you; but I am damned. I know from a
sure sign: I’m afraid. Who wouldn’t be afraid at the sight of hell?
But deep down I don’t repent. I’d commit my sin again if it had to be
committed. If heaven would just refrain from punishing me in this
world and through my children, then I shall have more than I deserve,
but what about you at least, my own Julien,’ she exclaimed at other
moments, ‘are you happy? Do I love you enough for your liking?’

It is in the passage that, I feel that one would have to be dead
to not empathize with such pathos. Sure, who today would really
believe that God would punish them for a transgression of the flesh.
I think most people today would see Mme de Rênal’s
plight and send her for psychological help. However, even within the
story, we note the Julien a seminarian sees her fear as folly, but he
gets sucked in too. He can’t help but feel her anguish, the torment
at the reality that she believes to be true. So it is his love that
allows him to accept her for her beliefs and look for a way to
diminish her grief. I don’t think you have to be a scholar or a
college educated person to get this, do you? It may be old, with
outdated mores, but the timelessness of the love, the undying,
uncompromising love is universal.

That’s what a story is all about… plot? Bah! Plot is a four
letter word. Plot is the frame. This book has no plot. And you know what?
All the greatest works of art don’t need it either. TV show voted to
be the greatest of the century: Seinfeld, a show about nothing: no
plot, just interesting characters. And that, my friends, is that.

The Importance of Art and Fast Food

I’ve thought a lot about this subject, that is, the importance of art, high art and how it relates to fine dining and fast food.

Take, for example, the recent changes in NPR’s Performance Today where
they have cut back on commentary, history, and music appreciation in
lieu of just more music. Just the facts ma’am. It seems that people
just want some more drive time relaxation, mood music to which to fall
asleep, or just to cover the naked backdrop of their lives with sonic
tapestries.

A lot of people would call such an indictment pure snobbery, that
classical music has long been a refuge of the rich, an inaccessible art
form protected by high fences of academia, class, and prohibitive
economies. Classical music becomes a talisman of protection from the
unwashed masses. As a stone it is used more often to build walls than
an inviting warm home.

I watch both sides rail against each other, especially with the most
recent changes in Performance Today. Classical music snobs lament the
dumbing down of the program, saying essentially that there are no more
refuges in which to hide from the "…pop artists, many of whom don’t
deserve the time of day." Pop aficionados, offended at someone calling
their art form less than art, react with similar negativity against the
classical music community, calling it, "Music by dead people"
"Irrelevant" and "Out of touch."

Well, I’m here to settle the debate once and for all. Now take careful notes here, because this is going to be the final word.

Classical music is to music what fine dining is to food, or what The Mission is to movie making, or what For Whom the Bell Tolls
is to literature. Conversely, Pop music is to music, what McDonalds (I
prefer Wendy’s though) is to food, or Star Wars is to movie making, or
Tom Clancy is to literature. It’s that simple, folks.

Now, before you get offended let me explain. Before concluding from the
above that I prefer or respect one genre over the other, let me just
say that I eat "low art" food more frequently than I dine finely.
Dining finely costs more, for one. $100 per plate is pretty steep, I’d
say. However, for the creation of an accomplished chef, personally
crafted for me, cooked to perfection, seasoned with skill, and served
artfully, I’m willing to give of myself. But I don’t just have to give
monetarily. In order to appreciate the creation, I have got to know a
bit about it. That takes experience, study, and refined palette. I
personally am but a student, a worm, unworthy perhaps of the creation
put in front of me, but I approach it with gusto, trying to soak all of
the experience from the plate in front of me, tasting the history, the
study, the preparation, the ingredients. Whew! It is an infrequent
experience which leaves me exhausted and satisfied to the very depths
of my soul. I am filled to an overflowing, babbling, quivering mass. To
do it more often would seem gluttonous, a transgression upon the soul.

I think one of the most extraordinary movies I have ever seen is The
Mission with Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons. It is a deep drama about
Jesuit missionaries in Brazil in their quest to keep the slave traders
of Portugal at bay. There is political intrigue, the Catholic
leadership making worldly political decisions in contrast to the
idealistic keepers of the truth, the Jesuits. They clash, and the
obvious outcome is the destruction of a people and the death of the
idealists.  You finish watching this movie and are run over, depressed
at the savagery of man, tired from the depth of sadness, and wishing
fervently that the movie could have turned out differently but knowing
it could not. How often could I watch such a movie without losing all
hope for humanity? Certainly, I could not watch it more than just a few
times. In fact, we own it, but it has been years since I have watched
it. I am not ready, it is too rich, too bankrupting, too indulgent, too
much to bear.

For Whom the Bell Tolls is by far my favorite piece of
literature. In much the same way as I relish fine dining and fine movie
making, Hemingway has crafted a setting, a time, a world that is at the
same time compelling as it is repulsive. The drama of an American
fighting for idealism during the Spanish Civil War, a prelude to World
War II, his love, his politics, his sacrifice, draws me in and at the
same time fills me with much sadness. I want the book never to end.
When I reread it, I get progressively slower hoping that it would never
end that I could preserve the literary reality forever. But alas, it
always does end, Robert Jordan does indeed die, and the Fascists do
take control of Spain for many years. Sigh, it’s so real, it envelopes
me, takes me away, soaks in to the depth of my soul and I must put the
book down for for a time or risk losing myself.

So where do I go from here? I surely cannot dine on fine cuisine every
day. I have not the money, time, nor am I willing to invest of myself
so frequently so much. I cannot watch The Mission more than but a few
times every decade, and I cannot read For Whom the Bell Tolls or run the risk of over nourishing and mineral poisoning my soul.

Most of our lives are spent eating "pop culture", consuming "pop" food,
watching "pop" movies and tv, and reading "pop" books. Pop is this case
comes from Popular, or in Latin, "of the people." These are the things
that sustain us, folks. The are mostly fillers, things with which to
fortify the body, mind, and soul short term. We cannot exist without
them, I think. We must nourish ourselves daily without paying such a
heavy price, either economically or spiritually. Sometimes a burger is
just a burger, a flick just a flick, and a rag just a rag.

But neither can we sustain "life" based SOLEY on them. Without high
art, we run the risk of blandly floating through existence, neither
aware of its depth, appreciative of its dimensions, and never ever
coming fully to our senses. It is this that I feel is the most
important. Experiences that demand a high price of us cannot be
consumed every day, but MUST be consumed at some point. Consider them
the trace elements necessary for life and health.

The Creation’s the Thing

I’ve been listening to Performance Today, a classical music program
from NPR, every day for the past two months. There’s nothing that I’ve
enjoyed more than my daily dose of classical music, commentary, and
history. Today, Fred Child related an interesting footnote to one of
Haydn’s works. Haydn’s newest piece was anticipated with great
expectation. His publisher was taking pre-orders on the score while
Haydn finished it up. That’s where I began to think.

Imagine, no CD’s, records, tapes, broadcasts. People (although
probably only the wealthier class) actually got all excited about a new
score coming out. They went out and bought the paper copy, brought it
home, learned, practiced, and played it. That was pretty much the only
method of reproduction that existed. If you wanted to hear a
performance you’d have to go to one. You as a listener didn’t control
when and where the performances happened, so if you wanted music on
demand, you had to play it.

Contrast this simpler form of music on demand to today’s digital
streaming, napster, cd’s, Direct TV, DVD’s etc. These days you have
access to thousands of hours of music at the touch of a button, from
anywhere, while you’re jogging, driving, sitting, or studying. Where
are we going? Obviously consumption of music has risen each year since
CD’s where introduced. Since Napster came along, CD sales have
increased over 50%. I’m sure the average music collection of Americans
has grown considerably as well, both in pirated and legal works.

I pondered all this while listening to music and enjoying myself. It
was easy, I sat there and listened. Imagine how long it would have
taken me to write Bach’s Passion of Matthew? It’s a lot easier to
listen to it than to write it, or play it. Playing it would require me
to study it, Bach, and other performances by Bach devoteés. I would
probably have to learn other pieces by Bach first, study technique,
history… wow. That’s years of preparation, careful dissection, and
practice. It is certainly easier to listen to it.

However, I do so wish that I had the time to learn to perform or
write. One day, I keep saying, I will dedicate myself to learning an
instrument. I’d like to be able to express myself in music. Sure it is
infinitely more work than listening or consuming, but to create
something… this is the joy of being human. I add maybe one or two
pieces of music to the world, in my own little corner. Maybe just
friends and family hear it. Maybe just Laura. Who knows, but it adds a
little piece of sustenance to our hungry world. It maybe feeds
someone’s soul just a bit. No one artist can create the world’s
repertoire, just as no one can right all the wrongs of the world, feed
every starving person, or save all the children. But if we all do a
little, take a leap, give of ourselves a bit instead of consuming,
eating, stuffing our faces with more and more and more every day, maybe
then.

So music is big business there days. "What is going to sell?" the
Sony execs ask. Creation is falling on fewer and fewer shoulders all
the time. Orchestras around the country have been failing at an
alarming rate. Pop music, never a bastion of creative integrity has
gone from hiding pre-fabbed bands, keeping the secret that Milli
Vanilli didn’t actually, write, sing or produce their own songs, to
just doing it right there on the TV for millions to see. Who cares if
they have talent. They look good, they can dance… the corporate
interests will take care of the slick packaging. Isn’t it funny that
there is more food in America than ever before, but more and more of it
is being grown by fewer and fewer people. Is this how the disease,
pesticides, and antibiotics have sneaked in? Is anybody at the wheel?
Who’s driving this bus?

It’s all connected. You name it, our military power is being
consolidated into fewer and fewer hands. Smart this and smart that. You
only need one person these days to take out a city. Take our Government
(please); far from the days of grass roots support and involvement, we
get all of our information from CNN. Just serve it up steaming hot and
we’ll suck it down without even a second thought. Does it matter that
it’s not quality, that it doesn’t demand back from you? No, I’d rather
just sit here. No wonder America is the fattest country on the planet.
Is it also why we’re the hungriest as well?

And there I sat. Wasn’t it a wonderful dream.

From Ancient Caves to the Guggenheim Museum

guggenheimday.jpgI’m not sure just how much you know about this magnificent building,
but it was recently finished under much international pomp and
circumstance. The Guggenheim in New York sought and found a city that
would undertake the newest task of supplying a location worthy of
housing the greatest modern art treasures of the world.

That city was Bilbo, Euskadi (BILL-bo, eww-SKA-dee) (Basque spelling of
"Bilbao" (BILL-bow) as in bow wow (dog bark)). In a city still trying
to overcome the difficult times of industrialization and civil war,
civil strife, and national identity, it is difficult to imagine what
the Guggenheim means to them. It is certainly a mark of national pride.
Critics in the community of Basque artists are quick to point out that
the museum is nothing more than an American icon dropped like a big
golden arch on top of an already repressed culture… call it McArt.

Whatever the case, it has brought a lot of attention to a city that is
trying to define itself apart from Spain and Spanish notoriety. They
have done it by building the building that was said to be unbuildable.
Basque engineers and contractors designed many firsts, from types of
I-beams to special suspension techniques to pull off a great coup for
the Basque People.

So we went through the galleries, as of now not that great a
collection, but it’s getting there. Once they (Guggenheim) get beyond
the dumping of art from their basement in New York to fill space here,
and start putting together a unique collection that has a personality
all of its own, then we’ll see some great things from Bilbao. I have to
say that among all the works in the Museum, I enjoyed the most the
works of contemporary Basque sculptors and painters. In all honesty, I
found their work more relevant than most other things, like American
pop icon Andy Warhol, and some of the various modern art competing for
eyeballs alongside fire extinguishers, hoses, and stairwell exits. I
swear one time I actually mistook a fire hose connector as a piece of
art. It was placed at the same eye level as the rest of the works, and
when I didn’t see a placard next to it, I figured out what it was. I
had a good chuckle about that one. There are other pieces worth
mentioning too (if only for their irrelevance), a teenager’s room
enclosed in glass with books and clothes strewn over an unmade bed, to
the giant billboard sized (actually about three stories) that had was
just one word. You know, I can’t even remember what it said… it was
nothing important, even though it was trying so hard to keep everyone’s
eyeballs. There was the ballpark style billboard with the rotating
shutters that had three messages. First a picture of a jar of Vaseline
and a cucumber, later the words "the problem with relationships" and
later a peach and a hammer. I’m sorry, but this just doesn’t make much
sense. It seems out of place in most settings excluding any California
art school.

There were the paintings that were only white, there were painting that
were only red, there were paintings that were only blue. Notice a
trend. I wonder if it’s patriotic brainwashing or something. Anyway,
they are mostly about color, attempting to understand art and the world
better through only one color. What is red, yada yada yada. We’ve been
through it folks. How much merit does it have. I don’t think they built
the Guggenheim to house canvases of red, white, and blue on a McSesame
McBun.

Of course there were bright spots. Laura loves Joan Miró for his
abstracted language, use of symbols, and extremely empathetic portrayal
of the dark years in Spain this century (during the civil war and under
Franco). For many he was a voice… er rather gave voice to the
emotions and the tearing and confusion that existed at that time. It
was his art that better than any other served as the hieroglyphs of the
middle portion of this century, what we felt, who we were, and where we
were going. Andy Warhol by comparison was but fifteen minutes of that
time, perhaps while Miró was on the toilet or something.

It’s worth a visit if you get a chance to go by there sometime. I’d
like to take another look in a few years to see how it’s developing.

From the New to the Ancient

We went to some ancient caves in the country. We witnessed what few
have seen, paintings that were over 12,000 years old, charcoal and iron
oxide drawings of horses, deer, bear, fish, goats, and cows. They were
so remarkable because they signify that humans have been living in this
area for… well a very long time. This particular cave was basically
in someone’s back yard, protected by an iron gate. Years ago it may
have been the summer hunting home of our human ancestors as they sought
game and enjoyed the valley of plenty.

Some of the drawings were simple outlines, themselves sophisticated
abstractions of the 3d world. Others were fully colored with rust and
have withstood over 120 centuries in that still cave. I stood there
before those simple scratches on the caves trying to imagine this
person there, with stick in hand, under torchlight, depicting
something. Why did they do it? I tried hard to see that person. I
squinted through the battery powered halogen lights until I swear I
could see it, there in the dark, an arm reaching out with a stick
rendering immortality.

They may have believed that by drawing these animals they might render
them more vulnerable, perhaps they would be able to hunt easier, like
capturing their soul, their spirit.

And then a thought popped into my head, something that Tom had said to
me while we were playing basketball the day before. "Visualize your
shot." I swear I could sometimes see that ball make the arch and drop,
swish, before I shot it.

Maybe that’s it, perhaps what I could begin to see through the dark was
something familiar, something that even through 12,000 years of
separation, felt close, felt familiar, more than just an old scribble
that invokes more questions than answers. Archaeologists and scientists
study those drawings wondering why most of them point to the back of
the cave (or was it out), why they drew so many horses, but really only
ate deer. What did they signify? Why did they do them?

Maybe they were visualizing their shots, learning more about these
animals that lived with them. An art teacher once told me that drawing
was 99% observation. I fully believe that, and I think that intuitively
ancient man without written language to communicate, realized that
rendering by drawing was the beginning to understanding better the
world they lived in. By recreating creation in abstracted forms, we can
begin to make sense, grasp the truth from a different perspective,
understand it in a new way. The ancient humans were no different then
we, they were not as unsophisticated as we would like to believe,
silly, superstitious people who thought that by drawing animals they
would be able to hunt them better. What is that? Magic? How silly.

Maybe what’s silly is how quickly we dismiss those old lessons, the
first lessons. "My God, that really captured the spirit of the moment!"
we exclaim. "How well you’ve captured her spirit in that photo!" "That
song really takes me back." "I cried during Titanic." "She has her
mother’s spirit." "I feel the anguish in Picasso’s ‘Gernika’."

We’ve been learning that lesson throughout the centuries as artists seek out new abstractions, new ways of looking at reality.

Isn’t if funny how we’re still drawing on walls? Why do we do it, what
does it mean? In the end I can only say that I believe it is
representative of our struggle to understand ourselves and to
communicate what we understand to others. If my trip from some of the
newest to some of the oldest has taught me anything, it has only let me
know that we share more in common with our ancestors than I thought.
Rather than primitive savages running around in a fog of barely
conscious sentience, scared of everything, and fearful of their
surroundings, struggling to separate themselves from the animal
kingdom, I see them as sophisticated, intelligent, aware, emotional
human beings who knew there were things they did not know and sought
them out.

Is Art Made by Computers Art?

OR what sort of Art might a computer make? Would we accept it as Art?

If computers might indeed someday become sentient or intelligent,
then why would we assume they would want to create art. When we think
of computer art, we think of pretty computer generated colors, swirls,
mathematics, fractals, raytraced solids, quirky animations, etc. But
these are the sorts of art WE make with computers.

Maybe computers would make completely unintelligible art, art that
is neither visual, audial, or textual. Maybe a computer will find art
in the making of a network connection run better. Maybe a computer will
creatively skip processing steps in order to arrive at the same answer.
Computers might fill idle time with "entertainment" which could be as
complex as finding bugs in each other’s operating systems, or running
their CPU idle processes (hey, WE watch TV).

I guess art/humor/beauty/hate depend so much on culture, it would be
hard to conceive of those things by a computer. It’s like asking how
someone will be when they grow up without knowing where and with whom.

How can we know the computer as equal, as sentient/intelligent before it is born?

We wouldn’t share:

  • the same native language "binary" (we speak it, but only passingly),
  • the same cuisine (raw electrical energy, Americans like cow meat),
  • the same customs (they might have a handshake, but we keep forgetting what to put in the packet header),
  • the same bodily function (they coredump, we… well),
  • sexual orientation (would they be
    homosexual/heterosexual/asexual? We as humans still can’t decide even
    if homosexuals are okay… what would we do with computers that are
    mated via hub with 20 different computers? Call it polygamy? Does the
    Alpha Server reign supreme over it’s tribe of Microsoft Clients *G*?)
  • the same concerns (we worry about the morning commute, the
    kids, our savings… what would it be like to worry about being
    unplugged by a careless cleaning crew, to commute through a jammed
    network cable, to not have arms, to not have eyes, to not have smell,
    etc.)

What happens when the race we’ve created begins to find that it
doesn’t really have much in common with us, when we find that they
aren’t much fun to talk to? They don’t care about sports, politics,
getting laid etc. What happens when the little children that needed us
for so much, every keystroke, every brushing, every time they needed to
be let out to play in the yard, every scrap of technology, know-how,
advancement, runny nose, bad day, college tuition, and approval stop
needing? We think we understand them, and because we share so little in
common we project our biases onto them. We call them mindless machines,
and we turn our backs on their rights. Do we use them to test viruses,
cosmetics, Microsoft software?

MOST people would say that computers weren’t sentient, and you would be one of those people, because "Most People" said it.

So we probably would decide that computers still can’t create art, because we expected them to create art we would like.

Isn’t that just typically human though?

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