Wednesday, January 24, 2007
IT IS LATE AT NIGHT HERE, and I have an early class meeting in the morning, but I feel compelled to write a small blurb about the exhibition I saw at the British Museum yesterday, before its impression fades from me.
"Cradle to Grave" is the latest creation of the tripart that title themselves Pharmacopoeia. The work enters a modern artistic discourse, that of political commentary on the medical realities of our "modern" lives. This one focuses on the well-being of Brits, in particular...showing in netting some 14, 000 pills: the average consumed by a contemporary British citizen during their lifetime. The meticulous textile, drugs, other medical equipment, photographs of a very personalized treck toward death, and official birth and death certificates, combine in a startling, powerful, moving piece. Thought-provoking and imaginative...
Exactly what art should be.
Monday, January 22, 2007
I AM NOT accustomed to ranting on my blog. In fact, this may be entirely unprecedented. That being said, haven't the English heard--Plato (the bugger on the left picking an imaginary nose in this image) HATED POETS! He thought they spun beautiful lies...they were dangerous. In fact, all writing was dangerous. It risked that the undereducated silver or bronze classes of "commoners" might acquire the ability to read (unlikely in itself) and misinterpreting texts! Clearly, only philosophers should pass along knowledge...you know, through pedophilic masculine homosexual relations. No one else is fit to. Speech is masculine and virtuous. Written word is feminine, given to erroneousness or subjectivity...according to Plato. How icky. I think he just couldn't deal with the female body's ability to procreate physically...he was intimidated, afraid of the feminine!
This accounted for, what in the hell am I doing reading Plato in all of my ENGLISH LITERATURE classes? What about Descartes? Have the English forgotten that he is French? Duh...that's why we say "De-cart" instead of "Des-cart-es"...
For the life of the queen, they invented the Bard, not to mention the Beatles, or Lord Byron, Dickens, Bronte, Blake, Austen, Tolkien...and the list goes on for days.
That said, what is gained by a philosophical (albeit one restricted to WESTERN philosophy) approach to literature? Perhaps it is to remind ourselves that what we are looking for in the act of literary creation is not a pleasing aesthetic experience, in and of itself...but a stab at the virtuous, the truthful, the meaningful. To create meaning out of even the most mundane...it is what poets do, but also what lovers do. This madness, feverishness, anarchic creativity is only as such in a communicable order. Language is order. Reason, philosophy...they yield and create the stuff of mythology and poetry. This is not to say that great philosophical texts are to be used by students of literature as fodder for better writing, but rather that they can be engaged. They must be engaged.
This particular philosophy of teaching can be perceived as a liberal arts education (of which i am both a huge fan and a product) to the nth power. Knowledge is not compartmentalized in reality, the way it often is in school systems, for the sake of practicality or economics... Rather, Plato and his comrades had it right--to be a scholar, one must be inquisitive about everything. Be a poet, and also a mathematician, and also a theoretician, a chemist, a musician, a politician, a playwright...and you will be a scholar in the fullest sense.
...Plato was wrong about poets though.
Friday, January 19, 2007
CULTURE SHOCK-- a phrase tossed around repeatedly among the "study abroad" gurus of universities the world wide. I didn't believe in it. Perhaps, because its manifestations are not so obvious in this era. They are subtle and pervasive collapses in communicative abilities...taken in the broadest possible sense of the phrase. It is not as if one moves to a foreign country and always feels a sense of direct homesickness, of rushing highs and lows--complete awe and enthusiasm running into disillusionment, fear, and general irritability or defeatedness, and back again. Culture shock is described in these terms, and yet it is not "culture shock" at all...
I have been thinking about this issue for the last couple of weeks, since moving to London. For me, the manifestation of the misnomer "culture shock" has been in a frustrated inability to produce creatively. Or, so I thought.
In searching for a) the roots of my creative stagnation, and b) the remedy, i have embarked on a long train of thoughts of the metaphor of language. Granted, Londoners speak English. Americans speak English. So, language is no boundary? In a simple sense--no. I comprehend most words, most utterences. But the subtleties are unnerving. In overhearing a conversation...the patterns and intonations of the speech are undecodable to me. In making a public statement, I incorrectly used the word "pants" (british for underwear) where i should have used "trousers," and quickly became the laughing stock of a queue of Britons. It is in the element of what Saussure called "Parole" that is different. Quickly, "parole" is the element of language which is the individual utterances and applications of what Saussure deemed "Langue"...or the underlying structural rules, and social contract that activates and anchors a language.
Parole, however, is the creative element of language. And I have lost my mastery of it, over night. In a broader sense, the metaphor of language is a means of understanding and explaining other systems of human communication...social customs, body language, fashion, cuisine, visual art, and music. My cues in all of these areas have failed me. So, there you have it. "Culture shock" is actually a frustrated inability to communicate and to understand. It is as if I am suddenly a toddler who knows individual words are associated with certain objects, and yet I cannot form utterances...i cannot make myself understood. Nor can I interpret my surroundings, which is perhaps more frustrating.
Take the cue of fashion. For me, fashion is crucial to my interpretation of the persons with which I am surrounded. By fashion, I do not mean the runways of Paris...rather, the choices people make or dont make about the clothing that they wear, the length of their hair, the presence or absence of makeup, etc... Most especially, the ecosystem of the college campus lends itself to the interpretation and utilization of fashion as a means of communication. Clothing choices can be misleading, but they also often are made specifically to signify that the individual enjoys a certain kind of music, or has a certain occupation, or religious belief... I am much less able to comprehend the fashion cues of Londoners. My frame of reference is gone. Indeed, it seems as if everyone is utilizing a different frame of reference. The city is so large, that in many sublingual ways, the population communicates entirely differently...
This is an extremely underdeveloped train of thought, but I will post more on it later.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
And my writing? It has come to a screeching halt. I think it is the lack of schedule, the lack of homeostasis. How strange! Something so organic as the creative processes (my art, crafting, etc has stopped too...even photography has slowed!) needs structure to thrive! It needs a place...
Ay, London! I am ready for school to start!
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
I went to the Tate Modern yesterday. All of the art is so incredible and overwhelming, plus it had a gorgeous view of the Thames. So, I really resonnated with a few pieces. There was one by an artist, whose name I forget, who died of AIDS in 1994. He created the piece after AIDS had attacked his nervous system and blinded him. It is a very thick multi-colored oil, in which he used his fingers to scrawl the words: "AIDS is fun" which is the title of the work. He was trying to counteract homophobia etc. attached to the disease. It was so powerful. I will find the artist's name and post it...
Also, I loved the work of Beatriz Milhazes. Here are some of her pieces.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Friday, January 05, 2007
This is the second post describing my advances in crafting/embellishing clothing. The tenative name of the company is "Poetree." Perhaps this hobbie will progress into a marketable boutique shop of hand-made articles of clothing. For now, here is a sampling of the most recent creations...mostly for men: