Artists and AB 5 Is Another Nexus We’ll Probably Have to Start Dealing With

And by “we” I’m referring to the elephant of a state in the room that will hugely influence the rest of the country in this.

And by “this” I mean independent contractors vs. employees and who decides which you are. Lots of art teachers are treated as 1099 type freelancers. That may change soon.

The Teaching Artists Guild has a rundown on the bill expected to be signed into law. I’m a bit worried about budget cuts, but agree with those who say that even taking a stand on the importance of worker protections for teachers, we’re just standing on a shrinking island of funding with even more weakened advocacy for art in general.

Looking Down Has Its Moments

We, the digital set, the technorati, the first world era, are castigated for looking down at our phones constantly.

But there’s a world to notice down there. On the ground, the street, the road. It’s all strange and overlooked colors, bits of stone, stains, scraps, fluff, fragments, trash, cracks, critters, patterns, paint, plants, paper, pools, plastics.

If your habit is to look down at your feet as you walk, spend some time looking up. But if you’ve been on your phone or staring straight ahead on your commutes, check out the view below.

Still Life With Movement and Music

I attended a housewarming last night. I knew almost no one. These occasions are cause for me to greet my social anxiety like an old friend, or more like a sadistic Ghost of Christmas Present, full of boisterous merriment that seems rather malevolent. But that’s my problem.

If I can figure out a passable excuse, I’ll stay home. If not, well, I’ve been known to bring a book to parties and read in a corner. But I’ve tried very hard to curb that introverted instinct. To not withdraw, to be more present in the moment. It’s good to push against your boundaries, at least regularly. Social gatherings are prime opportunities to observe. As artists, we are supposed to be doing that more, to see and to listen and to feel as deeply as possible.

So, I went. As most often happens, I had a good time for longer than I’d thought. Most importantly, I met new people, saw new places, and listened to an impromptu music jam started by a few musicians among the bunch. People danced. Conversations bloomed. I soaked in life.

Where Everything Comes From

10 of the streetcars in Portland were made in the Czech Republic

The short answer—the general, universal answer—is that things come from all over. I saw the above plate on the inside of a streetcar tram in my city. It was strange to see, but I was more disappointed I hadn’t noticed it right away. It took several trips, even sitting close to the front wall, before I read the plate. Stuff arrives near you from everywhere and anywhere. That isn’t the point, though.

The point is that we don’t often care or even notice where things come from, but beginning to pay attention, whenever possible, is another way of opening up to noticing the things we often overlook. And noticing more is key to growing as an artist. We need to see clearly, and find details in ordinary things. That’s a puzzle piece that completes a big section in the overall creative jigsaw.

Watching Artists Draw Is Not Only Therapeutic for Other Artists, It’s Educational

Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon Draw Stuff

I know, I know: we all revert to 10-year-olds when told something is “educational.” But no, really, it’s the next best thing to drawing yourself. In the video above, Dzama and Pettibon collaborate on some large drawings. It’s beautiful and inspiring.

It’s good for us to observe art in action. And, if you never watch other artists, you’re often struggling in a vast ocean of possibility. Maybe you’re getting better at staying afloat, but it takes a long time and is exhausting.

Returning to Form, Maybe

I’m back! Probably! It’s been a long, traumatic move. Being in a new place, with old stuff, is disorienting. Habits I thought I’d established are more easily broken. But still, change is usually good. It’s inevitable, so better to go the Taoist route and bend rather than break.

As easy as it is to blow off posting here, it’s also uncomfortable. I like the discipline of it, and I think it helps me, creatively. It’s also easy to beat myself up about missing days, but that approach only makes us want to stay away more. Whatever we do—our thing, our work—if it’s habitual, is valuable not just for its content, but also its ability to act as outlet, or creative hydrant. Its meaningfulness is deeply ingrained in the simple act of creation. We should continue.

The Absence of Art Is the Art of Absence, or Something

Involved in a tabletop game the other night, I had a chance to hold forth—probably too enthusiastically and vociferously—on John Cage’s iconoclastic piece, “4′ 33″.” There’s plenty of analysis on the work, but what struck me at the time was the following: Claude Debussy is supposed to have said (among other similar composers/musicians), “music is the space between the notes.” Cage simply expanded the space until that’s all there was, metaphorically making a silent composition music, not the lack of music.

But, naturally, these are concepts that make us think about what music is, about its nature. It’s akin to “is it art just because it hangs on the wall?”

Side note, just consider my lack of posts the previous two days to be a riff on Cage. Or that I was moving to a new apartment and exhausted and disorganized. One of the two.

Moving Ahead While Keeping an Eye on the Rear View Media Mirror

There’s a weird feeling when you’re engaged in a transformative action, like, say, moving, and also picking through bits of nostalgia. For me, the past week and a half has been littered with feelings of trepidation and elation, both brought on by the realization of moving possessions and location. But it’s also given me a strange desire for familiar media.

So, I’ve watched bits of Groundhog Day. The Empire Strikes Back. Also, much more obscurely, the Yogscast Jaffa Factory series on YouTube. While I’m wary of the dangers of nostalgia in general, I’ve kept a kind of distance from these things, unable to stop the perspective I’ve gained over the intervening years. Rather than try to recapture how I was feeling at those particular moments, I’ve been seeing some things with present day filters and world views.

It’s my hope that this is good for my work, to keep moving forward by acknowledging the past and things I’ve been influenced by, while crafting something new. I suppose that for others to decide, but it feels right and good, at the moment.

The Bridge Out of Somewhere Is Always the Bridge TO Somewhere

Don’t forget. There isn’t a straight, one-way path that is objectively better than others.

I have spent way too much time in the past looking at where I’d been and thinking how I could’ve been better than I was, that the stuff I’d made could be more refined, or even totally different.

But the trick was always to pay attention to where I was headed, not the place I’d been. There’s beauty in change and traveling creative roads you’ve never been down before.

In the Midst of Moving, More Videos!

I’m still moving everything I own down the street(s), and all is scattered and turvy. But I’ve got some links I’ve enjoyed recently, and here they are:

The sound of dial-up:

I was talking about early internet days with my brother, and how this very specific set of noises prepared me for the infinite possibilities that awaited.

David Tennant does a very different Hamlet:

The desperate quiet pain of a young man turning in on himself is beautifully, devastatingly interpreted, here. I need to see the whole thing, even if it’s got missing bits as the soliloquy here has.

The ultimate evil eye ending:

I quote Simpsons lines and scenes often, and in this segment, Homer and Mr. Burns carry off a beautifully timed, unhinged, and hilarious denouement. It’s the kind of trope-tweaking the show used to be very good at.

More art soon. The view from the new place is the image at the top.