Category Archive: artwork

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Vonnegut Quote Examining Communication

While in deep discussion of the limits of communication in one of my classes recently, I was reminded of one of my favourite excerpts from Kurt Vonnegut’s final novel, Timequake:

I taught how to be sociable with ink on paper. I told my students that when they were writing they should be good dates on blind dates, should show strangers good times. Alternatively, they should run really nice whorehouses, come one, come all, although they were in fact working in perfect solitude. I said I expected them to do this with nothing but idiosyncratic arrangements in horizontal lines of twenty-six phonetic symbols, ten numbers, and maybe eight punctuation marks, because it wasn’t anything that hadn’t been done before.

In 1996, with movies and TV doing such good jobs of holding the attention of literates and illiterates alike, I have to question the value of my very strange, when you think about it, charm school. There is this: Attempted seductions with nothing but words on paper are so cheap for would-be ink-stained Don Juans or Cleopatras! They don’t have to get a bankable actor or actress to commit to the project, and then a bankable director, and so on, and then raise millions and millions of buckareenies from manic-depressive experts on what most people want.

Still and all, why bother? Here’s my answer: Many people need desperately to receive this message: “I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people don’t care about them. You are not alone.”

Reading is so much more immediately available and accessible than not just other media, but even the kind of experiences that they typically describe: tales of travel, adventure, whole lives lived out. We tend put “climbing Mt. Everest” and “comfortably reading a book on the sofa” in two entirely opposed categories, but in many respects they are quite similar. They are both experiences which occur outside of our existing understanding of ourselves.

It is human nature to believe that truth can be more clearly perceived through personal experience than through the written word. Most people would agree that communication is limited by language; we have a limited vocabulary that confines expression. I would argue that the same could be said for personal sensory experience; we have a limited mode of experiencing the world confined by our own time, identity, bodies… In my eyes, the defining difference is that our minds are not nearly as strong in their ability to create a cohesive construct based on language as other more immediate sensory experiences. The beautiful part is that we can take parts of these worlds, regardless of if they ever existed, and bring them into our lives.

The Man Who Saw the Future

syd-mead_1

I’ve recently had the pleasure of attending a local Pecha Kucha event where I was exposed to the work of Syd Mead. The influence of his vision can be seen played out in films like Blade Runner, Elysium, Aliens, Tron, and Star Trek, and his concepts have inextricably influenced the trajectory of design.

The Completion of Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia is more of a testament to the power of the human imagination than to the Catholic church. It was started in 1882 and wasn’t expected to be completed for another fifty-some years. New estimates project that it will be completed by 2026. When my wife and I saw it in 2009, we made a promise to one another that we would return to see it when it was completed. We thought that wouldn’t be until our twilight years, and I’m incredibly excited to hear that I will not need to wait that long.

Many people don’t know the work of Gaudi, and that’s largely because he worked exclusively in Spain, and predominantly in Barcelona. He developed his own unique, post-Gothic style of art and architecture that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. His work is an absolute spectacle to behold and has the potential to stupefy unlike any other. Make the pilgrimage to Barcelona and see it for yourself!

Arcade Fire’s Reflektor

Montreal-based band Arcade Fire recently released a video for their single Reflektor, a beautiful new song produced in collaboration with none other than David Bowie. I could probably ramble on about the genre-bending brilliance of the song, but instead I wanted to focus on developing a reading of the content of the video.

Reflektor is a disturbing work of art which paints a visceral portrait, shining light on the reflexive nature of art and humanity in general. We all see what we want in our interpretation and internalization of art. I can relate the painful perpetuation of isolation to some of the concepts fronted by Jung, Pieget, and other theorists.

The man covered in mirrors reflects everything but contains nothing. The big heads blindly crawl through a field, trying to find their own reflection. Despite their suffering, they force golden dolls to imitate one another like a bad facsimile, then place them in a mirror-covered coffin. I believe this overt use of symbolism critiques the destructive constraints we impose on our children. The repetition of the chorus and rhythm is prayer-like, a disturbing mantra, and hypnotizing call for change.

How I Spend My Weekends as a Teacher

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I stumbled upon this over the weekend. At first I chuckled, but now I am beginning to see the truth in it. I can recall a few instances where I ran into former teachers in the grocery store or other social settings, and I can confirm that I was indeed ‘freaked out.’ It was a baffling experience to see that teachers continue to exist outside the classroom. They aren’t just people though; as the graph shows, education can be an all-encompassing lifestyle. It is a consuming career and one that I’m excited to be joining.

I know that no matter how strong of a bond I form with my students, the nature of the relationship places an invulnerable barrier between you. That is the bittersweet part about teaching, especially within the arts: although students may wish to connect down the line, the likelihood is that regardless of how you impact a life, the effect you have had will be intangible. There will not be tearful goodbyes or parades in the street. Your contributions will rarely be celebrated or even acknowledged. The rewards can only be found intrinsically within the process.

From my experience, and unfortunately from the experience of many others as well, I have seen that it takes little more than a pulse to be a teacher. The real challenge is to do it well. I am trying to approach this program as not just a means to an end, but with the hope that it will one day allow me to become a great educator.

Simon Stalenhag

lambeosaursJust stumbled upon the beautiful work of Swedish painter Simon Stalenhag. He produced this beautifully illustrated conceptual series set in his vision of a dystopian future. It’s rich in visuals and maintains a surprisingly fun narrative. The style reminds me of the flat, rotoscoped animation used in adventure games in the early 90s, like Prince of Persia and Monkey Island.