Monday, May 28, 2007

Art vs. Commerce vs. A Rabies-Crazed Grizzly

Chris and I were speaking today - well, I was blathering and Chris was considerately not putting my head on the grill and then slamming the lid on it over and over - about ART and why we sometimes lose our connection to it, COMPUTERS and why they haven't improved our connections to them, and CONNECTIONS and why we sometimes computer our art into petunias.

What? Sorry, that got away from me.

Anyway, Chris sent me a follow-up on his end of the conversation, and I sent him some noise in return, and I think the whole thing (edited for clarity) is interesting enough to be tonight's Rambler. Maybe it's not Hitchcock/Truffaut, but it's probably better than O'Donnell/Hasselbeck.

For the sake of readability: Chris in bold, and me in italics.

in regard to computers:

The overall concept I have for computers is that the software should learn to become more intuitive. Maybe not even have the standard 6 or 7 heading up on top, with hierarchical sub menus. I don't mind keyboard shortcuts but I feel their times has come and gone. Software developers should be working on the next level and getting away from keyboards, mouse entry, and focusing more on touch screen, speech, eye and hand movements. That sort of thing. Why can't I just look at an icon, and have it open? Maybe a wink is a double click, or if I squint, the picture gets darker.... I don't know... something like that.... getting away completely from the PC altogether, and just making an integral part of the house. Your car, your cabinets, your refrigerator, your dishwasher, your tv, your lighting, whatever..... all an integrated unit. you'll know if you're low on gas, out of milk, need more pasta, running low on detergent, lightbulb is about to burn out, play games on
your tv, watch tv on your stovetop....... all this needs to happen, and we need to get away from this 15 year old computer interface......

Hello, Bill, get on it!

On 'convergence': The dream - or myth - of the fully integrated life with the smart agents and the avatars and the software with the learning curve and the hey-hey-hey it hurts me has been around for so long that its hair has grown hair. While I don't deny that it's a great and wonderful story, the "Minority Report" interface is probably going to remain an unrealized reality. I see a lot of movement on the interactive plasma technology front, but bear in mind that touch screen technology and even tablet monitors have been around for long enough to no longer be state-of-the-art (in fact, I think I used my first touch-screen monitor at the 1982 Knoxville World's Fair, along with my first Imax film) and I don't see software developers exactly coming in their pants at the interactive design possibilities these technologies open up. For better or worse, the free market will decide when the time is right to install Majel Barrett Roddenberry into your dishwasher. If people don't want a dishwasher that talks (or a car that tells you that your seat belt is unfastened, for that matter), then the market will never deliver.

Further - even though endless typing is not the funnest thing in the world, I note that both you and I are more coherent when we pass our thoughts through the keyboard. I can't speak (or type) for you, but I can tell you that I've been using this keyboard for long enough that it's become an integrated part of my creative process. I type faster than I print, and I think in type both clearer and faster than with my mouth. There's another feedback loop for you - how the tool has helped to shape the process. Bear in mind that the intelligence that separates us from the rest of the apes has be theorized to be a direct result of the evolution of the opposable thumb, so I wouldn't be so quick to remove the thumb from the human/machine interface.

Anyhow, Bill did get on it. The rest of us just can't afford it.

in regard to intellectual pursuits:

When I was younger, I kind of devoted my energies into writing, music, and photography, and a little bit of sketching. I found that it was impossible to maintain a relationship with anyone when I did this, because I became very moody and withdrawn. I also realized that I was not ready to devote the time it took to become really good at any of these things.

Yeah, no denying that the process can make you moody, and I've certainly entertained my periods of artistic despair, but moodiness is an energy, and it's a different thing in your thirties than your teens and twenties.

For what it's worth, I've seen your photography and I think you have a great eye, and the time may have come (as you said) to stop putting roadblocks in your own path and see what you might do. There's no guaranteeing that it will come easily - in fact, art, like science, is a process, not an end result. But art is not necessarily something that has to be dragged kicking and screaming to the surface that must be inflicted, rather than presented, to others. I don't buy that the artist must suffer for their art, but who knows? Maybe you've just listened to too much Ministry.

I just kind of decided to put it all out of my head, and move on with work and family..... Then the kids started to get old enough that they didn't require the constant attention that infants and toddlers require, and I thought I might pick up where I left off. I mean I hadn't played guitar, sang a note, or written anything besides business letters for a good 10 years at that point.

I am a bit of a voyeur. I watch people, take pictures, take mental notes, but I don't participate. That's just who and what I am.

So many times I've daydreamed in the middle of the day, and thought of an amazing idea for a story, but when I find the time to get down to it, I get about 2 pages in and stop. And I never go back. As far as photography goes, I'll put it to you this way, I lost touch with [an artist friend] for a while, and when [they] re-emerged , [they] had asked me to e-mail photos of what I am doing now with photography. So I sent what I thought was good stuff, and [they] said those pictures of my kids were nice, but [they] were expecting something else.

Let's start with the seeming implication that art cannot be about your family. Have [they] not heard of Jock Sturges, Sally Mann? It's a pretty basic concept that if your life has been dedicated to your family, your art could be as well. Secondly, even without the precedence of great and notable photographers who primarily shoot their close family, who is ANYONE to judge what an artist's subject matter can be? Can [they] think that abstract sculpture is a more elevated art than a direct document of your childrens' lives?

A better question is, should you? I don't need to tell you that I find most divisions between high-art, low-art, is-art and isn't-art to be entirely arbitrary, but this isn't even about that. It's about the mind-fuck that the art school mentality puts on people and the way we can buy into it and then judge everything through that particularly distorted and narrow lens. Disregard [them]. What [they] think is 'art' has nothing to do with how you should proceed.

Conversely, what I think about art has nothing to do with how you should proceed. If the artist has one mission, it's to satisfy themselves, and to only accept whatever criticism they feel applies to the betterment of their work. I consider my art to be a constant oil check on the contents of my head, often writing songs and creating comics (back when I created comics) that not only help to put my feelings into perspective but also give me hints as to thinks that I didn't even know I'd thought. So, it's a cheap form of self-analysis.

In my case, art is the conversation between my intellectual interests and my subconscious. For some, art is a purely aesthetic exercise, wrestling their own form of order onto a perceived chaos. I suspect that for you, your art may be that of observation and comment on others. But who knows? The only way to create art is to create it, and get an internal feedback loop going with that part of your brain that looks at it and thinks what would improve it.


All right. An interesting discussion, no? I'd be very interested to hear any other thoughts on any of that. Karl? I know you're out there...


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