Monday, July 27, 2009
On occasion, over the past year or so, I’ve had brief moments of realization that I must be in the prime of my life. These are undoubtedly my salad days, and I will look back at these times as the best I have lived.
Such moments of recognition announce themselves without great fanfare, and last but a few seconds, that is, until some discontent, some chatter from the thinking mind realizes it has been interrupted. These moments also have a distinctly filmic feel: I’ll look up from my drawing table and look out the window to see Marc in the bottom corner of the frame. Then our black and white cat will chase a bird across the top.
Last night, withdrawing early to my bedroom in the attic here, I stared out into the black night through another window, listening to the distant summery sound of the town celebration nearby. Listen here:
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tomorrow I’m heading to Paziols, a small village in southeastern France. For the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging about art from there. My apologies that recent posts have had some summer slack.
In terms of art supplies I’m bringing ink, pencils and gouache and a few stacks of paper. Right now I’m most interested in drawing food. For example these radishes, which blow my mind. Have you ever seen such a shape, such a color? And this is no postcard, just a casual snapshot taken by a woman I’ll be meeting.
Monday, July 20, 2009
When summer's in full swing, and blogging momentum is slow, quote, add a picture, make it ambiguous enough.
For a while we had trouble trying to get the sound of a champagne cork exploding out of the bottle. I solved the problem by sticking my finger in my mouth and popping it out.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
In lieu of writing today, I’ll quote from Margaret Talbot’s article in the New Yorker, “Brain Gain.” It appeared in the April 27 issue and discusses “concentration pills” like Ritalin, etc.
This is what popped out for me:
Both Chatterjee and Farah have wondered whether drugs that heighten users’ focus might dampen their creativity. After all, some of our best ideas come to us not when we sit down at a desk but, rather, when we’re in the shower or walking the dog—letting our minds roam. Jimi Hendrix reported that the inspiration for “Purple Haze” came to him in a dream; the chemist Friedrich August Kekule claimed that he discovered the ring structure of benzene during a reverie in which he saw the image of a snake biting its tail. Farah told me, “Cognitive psychologists have found that there is a trade-off between attentional focus and creativity. And there is some evidence that suggests that individuals who are better able to focus on one thing and filter out distractions tend to be less creative.”
“…I’m a little concerned that we could be raising a generation of very focussed accountants.”
The experience that neuroenhancement offers is not, for the most part, about opening the doors of perception, or about breaking the bonds of the self, or about experiencing a surge of genius. It’s about squeezing out an extra few hours to finish those sales figures when you’d really rather collapse into bed; getting a B instead of a B-minus on the final exam in a lecture class where you spent half your time texting; cramming for the G.R.E.s at night, because the information-industry job you got after college turned out to be deadening. Neuroenhancers don’t offer freedom. Rather, they facilitate a pinched, unromantic, grindingly efficient form of productivity.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I’m almost done watching a 2007 documentary called Bomb It about graffiti around the world. It’s overly edited – every second a new image or effect – but there’s lots of good stuff to hear and see.
I'm particularly attracted to a short segment on two Stockholm-based writers Pike and Nug, although I doubt “writing” is the right word; more spasmodic-primitive, instinctual-punk, territorial mark making.
In the video below, which remixes scenes from Bomb It, you can catch a clip.
Monday, July 6, 2009
(Le Roy Grannis, Hermosa Beach Strand, 1967)
Hello dear readers of Art On My Mind. Molly asked me to write down some thoughts on the subject of intuition in song lyrics, so here goes... Let me begin by asking you to make a comparison between two songs, "Califronia Girls" and the somewhat more obscure "Surf's Up".
Listen to "California Girls" here.
Listen to "Surf's Up" here.
Both songs have an evocative beauty that elevates the listener's soul into a state of all-out bliss. Somebody once asked me to describe the sensation I feel in my body when I hear a Beach Boys song, and the only way I could think of to describe it was as a "permanent orgasm." But there are different kinds of orgasm, and I think Molly is onto something with her interest in intuition in song and art more generally. ...The meaning of "California Girls" is transparent and its impact on the listener is immediate. It's the California Dream writ large, California at the absolute pinnacle of its post-war expansion, a world of golden sands, endless leisure, youthful exuberance, and beautiful girls dripping with perfect, nubile sexuality. The serpent has yet to appear with its fateful apple, and the emergent youth culture remains outside the messy world of political struggle. Listening to "California Girls" is an immensely satisfying experience, but it's also an exercise in passivity and escapism.
"Surf's up," which Brian Wilson wrote about a year later with Van Dyke Parks, reflects the enormous cultural changes that took place in the mid 60s. Returning to the biblical metaphor, the song is an expression of the youth movement after it has eaten from the tree of knowledge. And what's really fascinating is that the new-found knowledge and experience paradoxically make the world a much more complicated place...
Aboard a tidal wave
Come about hard and join
The young and often spring you gave
I heard the word
A children's song
I remember taking an interest in postmodernism as a college student and learning about how the information age would ultimately destroy any notion of timeless, absolute truth. Knowledge, in other words, makes the world less knowable. "Surf's Up" seems to be a musical instantiation of an increasingly unknowable world. Whereas with "Califronia Girls," the payoff is immediate and transparent, requiring very little work on the part of the audience, "Surf's Up" is opaque, associative, and brings the listener actively into the creative process. The meaning of the song is intuitive, subjective and much more slippery as a result. "California Girls" is one of my favorite songs ever, but the experience of hearing Surf's Up - with its thought fragments and words that are more about rhythmic sound than imagery - is quite a bit more satisfying because its meaning is contingent on my creativity as a listener. I appreciate songwriting that places a certain amount of trust in the audience. I would imagine that this is true of anyone who takes the practice of artistic appreciation seriously. There are sublime works of art that ask nothing more of us than to observe some fixed concepts and emotions, and then there are those where the artist communicates intuitively with the audience and, in doing so, demands that the audience contribute to the work's impact. Both have their place, but the latter is ultimately more gratifying.
Max Stevens is a writer living in Los Angeles. Molly and Max are brother and sister.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
The use of intuition is commonly disregarded, considered, as it is, to be unquantifiable and ungraspable. No data.
But intuition crops up nonetheless, perhaps in its most popular form as lyrics. It takes intuition to write them, and it definitely takes intuition to take them in.
If you think about it, they usually make absolutely no sense. But so what. You’re not supposed to think about it. You’re just supposed to get a sense of a song, get its tone through tone.
I’m often the kind of listener who just doesn’t pay attention to lyrics at all because they’re just too confusing. My rational mind, which I have a hard time putting on the back burner, feels frustrated because it can’t figure it all out. But I do see the joy and the deep emotional resonance that music lovers feel from lyrics and their combination with melody. So I’ve always wanted to work on it, although “work on” is not what one does with a sense of feel, me thinks.
To finish off Michael Jackson week here at Art on My Mind, let’s end with these lines. Can you identify the song to which they belong?
You're A Vegetable, You're A Vegetable
Still They Hate You, You're A Vegetable
You're Just A Buffet, You're A Vegetable
They Eat Off Of You, You're A Vegetable