Yesterday’s post was quite the incoherent jumble, I realized on waking up. I metaphorically scratched my head for way too long, trying to figure out what I was wanting to say. I’m still not quite sure. I did, however, realize I spelled Hilma af Klint’s name wrong, and mea culpa for that.
Most of life has randomness in some degree. Mistakes, people we meet, decisions made by a thousand people around us that connect in unseen ways. The best we can do is to try to observe it and how it joins ideas and thoughts. That’s the best way to discover newness, which is really just an unusual combination of things that exist in the world already.
Only now is the depth of her insight and discoveries widely known. She never exhibited her abstract work, pretending to the outside world she was working in a conventional way. This NY Times article covers the Guggenheim retrospective currently on display.
We should understand there’s likely lots of innovative and wondrous work out there, being done without acclaim or attention. Had af Klint not been encouraged to keep her brilliance secret, she might be known as the mother of abstract painting.
Take Your Dots for Walks, Start With the Easy Simple Thing and Work Up and Out
Katie Paterson is a Scot who works in Berlin, and the above film is mostly about the creation of a light bulb meant to emulate moonlight.
Her web site mentions her work is often about time and change, but I’d say it’s time and what remains constant. It’s charming and thoughtful, and her morse code message sending Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata bouncing to our satellite and back is an exploration of both how we make the moon a kind of person, anthropomorphizing it in so many ways, and also of our certainty of its permanence in our strange, short lives.
If You Don’t Feed the Fire, You Can Only Work by the Light of the Embers
That’s my attempt to be quotable. Without sassy characters spouting this stuff, we’re left with titles. This one should be the retort of Jen, the younger sister of a cynical, burned-out musician named Josh. Hm.
Hold on, let me just write down this pitch for a show.
What I’m talking about, though, is making sure you have enough fuel to burn. Never mind inspiration, you need stuff to steal from. As much art as you can handle stuffed in you so it mixes into a stew with all the other art you see and hear.
Go to galleries, web sites, shows, concerts, forums, colleges, museums, streaming TV, magazines, libraries.
And then? I don’t know how or why, but unless you’re trying yo be like one specific person, your things come out different. Art magic.
A Weirdly Specific List™: My Favorite Moments—Not Songs, Mind—From The Journey Catalog
Ever since I mentioned wanting to listen to the new Steve Perry album on the podcast this week (advance spoiler: it’s okay), I’ve been thinking about how I’ve liked the band since 1981, when Escape came out, which was one of the first rock albums I bought for myself. I know, I had a somewhat sheltered musical upbringing.
I’ve had a lot of friends over the years raise an eyebrow or two when they find out, and say something like, “Dude, you like Journey? But you’re into metal and prog and ambient…” True, but one likes what one likes, and I don’t believe in guilty pleasures.
So. Rather than some windy exposition detailing them, here’s this obsessive trifle:
5. The beginning of “Anytime” 4. The end of the first verse of “Good Morning Girl: “I see your eyes shining through/Those gentle eyes silver blue/Good morning girl” 3. Near the end of “Escape,” a series of C to ringing Gadd9 chords on the extended vocal of “stay” 2. In “Faithfully,” the syncopation of “Two strangers learn to fall in love again” 1. The last 10 a cappella seconds of “Girl Can’t Help It”
Bonus: “Only Solutions,” which can’t go on that list—the whole song is my favorite one.
Seasons Change and So Did I, You Need Not Wonder Why
Is it dramatic or overtly pretentious to use song lyrics as titles?
I’ve been pondering seasonal change now that I’m somewhere there actually are seasons. Do they correspond with changes in our work? Not usually, of course.
They’re inspiration, guidelines of timing, reminders. This sort of thing helps in planning and shaping. But the actual doing, I’m certain, isn’t changed by what’s around us. That happens no matter where we are.
And we always have to deal with inner change. It’s not a cycle, it’s a line beginning behind you and pointing ahead. View your work through that lens and be kind to yourself when it’s not what you thought. It will change again.
Banksy’s Bemusing, Possibly Cynical Shredding at Sotheby’s
There’s a lot of speculation about why Banks did this, and what it means. I’m not sure yet that there’s any one meaning to the work, but I’m intrigued by the larger possibilities behind the concept.
If Banksy wanted to “prank” the fine art world, it backfired, in a way, because the likelihood is that it’s worth more money shredded. This includes the possibility of the thing continuing through the frame shredder at some point. It transitioned from 2D art to conceptual art, and there’s plenty of that which doesn’t have a specific and discrete physical form. All this attention has undoubtedly increased its value for the buyer, and brought massive publicity to both Banksy and Sotheby’s. It’s not really tweaking the wealthy fine art community as much as fostering it.
On the other hand, Banksy may know what he’s doing, that all this would result in increased value, which is more cynical and that’s disheartening. It’s interesting as another in a series of “why is a thing worth this much?” works, but I’m not sure that goes very far. If the thing dissolved completely, that’d be a better way of bringing it full concept: what’s the resale value of a painting that no longer exists, sans documentation?
The main value, I think, is that I’ll have to think about this some more.
The Boring Reasons Get More Done and Further the Journey Better Than Desire and Dreams
Desire is the tool most of us use to motivate ourselves into creating, whether it’s an experience or a thing, your thing. We want something and that moves us to try to get it. But desire can be deceptive and distracting.
That’s because desire isn’t real. I mean, yes, it’s real for us inside our heads and hearts. But it isn’t reality, the stuff outside our private thoughts and feelings. Sometimes we’re lucky and what we desire syncs with what we feel. And often it doesn’t, or doesn’t quite.
Here’s when two vaguely Buddhist ideals come in handy. First, ignoring or casting off desires as unimportant can help get over things like wistfulness and hesitation. Those are roadblocks to creation. Fantasy is always easier than boring, cold reality, after all. But nothing happens if we spend too much time in dreams—cue that Dumbledore quotation that was such a key moment for me.
Second, the crazy simple Zen notion that plain, ordinary work—not noble aims, not high ideals, and not really backbreaking work, just work—gets us a little closer to the end of whatever we need to work on. And that’s the habit, see? The daily thing, a chunk chipped off of the big block. It’s enough.