Mission Complete: Digital Processes Presentation

So here is the culmination of class efforts. Today, I gave the presentation on my collaborative and experimental works entitled: An Exquisite Cycle. I was described on the program with this Haiku: Video and Sound
conceptions of life and death
I think that was a pretty fair assessment to give the audience an idea of what to expect. I have to say that I am rather pleased with the way everything turned out. I ended up producing my first book, an accompanying DVD featuring four music videos and an extra song with outtakes and deleted scenes besides. Most of this content can be seen or purchased online from various websites and are also linked to my website. In the end I think this is a very good product for sale and enough content to make me satisfied that I accomplished a lot this term even though it seems to have gone by too fast. I have uploaded some things to Youtube also. Here you can see one of the music motion pictures I showed at the event and another that did not appear. The totality is on the DVD that I am selling to those interested with or without a copy of the book. For an even more modest sum, I will send mp3's or a cd of all 5 songs that came out of this project. Those interested need only contact me for details. I haven't sold much yet, but a lot of people have expressed interest and I got more compliments on my work than I expected. Hopefully, I continue making videos and music in the future as part of my art.

Until Later,


"Because it's two in the morning...and my eyes are spread wide open" -Atomship


Visit, Research and Artistic Identity

So, this week Kristin Boehm, Lawrence Alumnus '09, visited to talk about Art and the Day Job and life after studio art undergrad in general. After seeing her in two of my classes, listening to her lecture, and speaking to her in person it has made me consider a lot of the topics in her discussion and how they might apply to me.

Kristin spent some time being sort of jobless and confused like so many of us studio art students are fearing. But things turned around a bit as she started finding outlets for her art to continue, while she worked other jobs at summer camps, volunteer organizations and did freelance work, sometimes even for free. All the while she kept blogging, maintaining her internet presence and searching for opportunities. Eventually she got some recognition with her fiber art, entered some contests, and found herself a part of a small movement that might get her published in a book on the subject. But then none of those things really did anything that she expected and she heard nothing more about the attention she got from a blog post that generated quite a deal of interest. This was part of the story that struck me. It was echoed by the advice she gave us. I realized that this was the reality part that was so hard for people to grasp. Making herself more available and easily found through internet resources made it just as easy to go unnoticed and to disappear just as quickly as she had found some recognition. That is pretty sobering to think about. Even if you catch some break or get noticed like it seems everyone thinks is the key to becoming successful, it may not really last or accomplish much at all to that end in the day and age of the internet. So, maybe aiming for fame and recognition is just as unrealistic as it sounds even if you do become known for something.

Kristin also made me think by suggesting that looking for a job is a constant kind of search. She eventually found something that fit herself after accepting a temporary internship that got turned into a permanent position after she did a great deal of hard, but quality work for the company that hired her. I guess that is something I took from her story: you might not achieve success by catching attention through the internet, but by doing consistent, hard work, you may be noticed somewhere that you already are and make that into something better for yourself. I think that is a reasonable lesson and it is supported by her assertion that you shouldn't be able to take time to develop your art slowly, but you should look for work and other opportunities everywhere since you don't know what possibilities will provide you with a stable and rewarding position.

A few other things she spoke of reinforced things I have heard before. She spoke about setting reasonable goals and keeping track of blogs and internet sites (many of which she provided examples of) to keep up to date and motivate yourself. This is part of the reality of her concept that it is wrong to treat the rest of life after being coddled at a University with an overabundance of guidance, as a list to cross off or checks to put in boxes. It turns out, real life is not really like that even though it is often how academia trains us to behave. She also spoke about taking initiative and networking to know more contacts, which always seems to be relevant.

Consistency of artistic image--this is something I have thought about, but not very directly. I like to experiment and change my work a lot, but from a marketing standpoint and as someone who offers art as a service and hopefully will make some kind of money that way, I can see how I need to put more thought into making the manner in which I present myself reliable to viewers. I think all consumers want to feel a certain amount of trust in whatever they purchase so they know that they can get what they expect and will be satisfied buying a product without getting buyer's remorse. This is related to branding I guess, but you don't always think about that so much in art because so many people have a perception of artists being eccentric and unreliable or inconsistent, but I guess even if you are targeting a small number of people who desire that, you have to do even those things with consistency.

So that has made me think along with my presentation this week. I chose to present on a number of topics (I can't help that I want context for artistic references) including my research into video artist Jim Campbell. I found that even though he has some famous pieces, has had a lot of exhibitions/installations, it is rather difficult to find some background info on him. There isn't really a detailed bio even on his website. But then I realized that I didn't want to find that and I was more interested in the messages of his art and what they meant to me. After researching that, I think that is exactly what he means to accomplish. I can relate to that and I think I will consider limiting some of my personal information to make others consider the meaning of my artwork and their implications more based on what they think, rather than solely on something I might say about them. I also found I had a lot of interesting connections in common with Campbell who relates to ideas of Buddhism (and other philosophical/religious thoughts) and examines viewer interaction/interpretation, memory and time as recurring themes in his work.

On my project, I am working feverishly to complete everything. I am taking in criticism to try to improve what I have thus far, I am adding my songs together with the videos I have been constructing with narratives that I am rearranging at the moment, and my book will be here soon. I hope by the end of this week to have my videos nearly completed, so that I can make some important decisions on what I want to present at the public presentation of my art on the 11th and how I will present there. I may only show two videos if they stand out or if they are equally strong, tighten them up to three minutes each and show three. Then on Monday I will be able to burn dvds and get all those materials ready to be aesthetically (dis)pleasing and whatnot.

"Your story only tells one side, it's based on fact, but filled with lies"


Shoot and Burn


Continuing Progress

So, it is nearing the end of the term and my project is nearing completion, but really there is a lot left to accomplish. I want to try to finish it at the beginning of this week so I can really hone and polish it into a great finished project and also have time to experiment with some promotional options. So, this week I made the layout for my accompanying book and I am in the midst of creating an account and sending it to lulu.com to get my book published so I can see how it looks and have a copy for our presentation. This layout process was a lot more daunting that I imagined. You can really get finicky with Adobe InDesign, I guess. The weather was no help, but I got motivated to start and finish my book layout with only a few very late nights to finish it off. A lot of what I did was to film (actually not the right word technically speaking) the majority of the core scenes that I had left to shoot and then I used specific scenes to represent my narratives in the book. I exported those still frames from final cut, touched them up and formatted them in Photoshop and then imported them into my book layout.

That was enough decision making, and then the layout was infinitely more... do I want a different font, do I want multiple fonts, will this look silly? How many photos do I want? Where should they go? Etc. But I got through it and I am pretty pleased for the moment, but I am sure some changes will eventually have to be made for the final version. Simultaneously, I have been editing my footage into the three narratives I have planned to match up with my songs. And if that wasn't enough I have been listening to the songs and trying to think of how to strengthen them and cut them down to the essentials or cut out the ones that are not as strong or fit less well with the others. I need a lot of input on that, so I have sent the current versions as mp3s to a lot of musically inclined and knowledgeable people for feedback. And I am still waiting for most of it... On another note I went to and SEA (self employment in the arts) conference this weekend and attended several speakers' presentations which very much aligned with the concepts I am dealing with in music, video, visual arts, marketing those and making a profit from these passions. I picked up some good tips and insight, so hopefully they come in handy in the near future.

So, here are some photos from the book in this blogpost to give a preview.





I guess that makes sense when Viola, in his essay, explains that the internet is a tool just like everything else and it will accomplish only what its user implements it for. This reminds me of the phrase, "user error." My brother owns a computer consulting business and I have heard his stories as well as experienced for myself how angry and frustrated people get using computers. They are stressed out and they blame the machine for their problems, but in reality they should be angry with themselves for not understanding their machine or for other humans who programmed software poorly. To be honest, the biggest drawback of a machine is also its biggest asset. It does exactly what it is supposed to. Unfortunately, people have different expectations and are never satisfied with this because they are imperfect and they make imperfect things. Is it really the computer's fault that it is being used in a different way that it was designed or programmed for? This is doubtful. What is the real benefit of technology and connections? Is it convenience or understanding or something else entirely? As I continue to use the internet and other technologies to edit my videos, market my music, create a book, etc. I think will have to reconsider the impact of these connections and what they all mean. I hope to make some valuable connections, but also some surprising or unexpected ones.



Circuitous Circulation of Art

Art, like many things in life, can be viewed frequently as a continuous coil or perhaps even a mobius strip. I say this after a review of Ray Johnson and the documentary How to Draw a Bunny, visiting the WC gallery and listening to Stephen Perkins speak on the subject, and then attending a convocation, luncheon, and two question and answer sessions featuring renowned curator, Mary Jane Jacob (I had already read about an interview and four articles she had contributed to).

Ray Johnson was a rather enigmatic artist, but I feel as though I can relate to him in many ways. Ray seems to have been of the mindset that he would do whatever he felt was appropriate no matter what others thought and I often feel that way too. I understand what it is like for people to be familiar with someone's ideas without giving the originator credit. I think that it was smart of Ray to keep control of his art by not allowing anyone to nail him down to a certain location or concept for too long. It seems like Ray also did a lot of things that were not only original, wonderful contributions to the world, but he also seems to have been poking fun at people and their inability to see or be original simultaneously. I have to say, I have often felt like that is the best way to handle the world and feelings of spleen or "world weariness."

Maybe things really are just a joke when you figure out how to do what you need and want to and everyone else who hasn't figured that out is still criticizing you. That is pretty comical and probably more common than most realize. I also feel like I often act very differently according to context so that people are really confused when they observe me in another situation than they are used to. I think Ray really capitalized on that so that no one person really got everything that was in his head... Even though that seems a bit lonely and tragic, I think it is beautiful. Just like the controversy over his death. People still don't know how he made money or supported himself, or even what he ate, but he left a legacy with mail art and communication like no one else had done before him. Mail art and communicating the way he did, getting into the Museum of Modern Art through the archives, cutting his works into small pieces and asking others to "add something and pass it on" was a very circular process just like his negotiation over art processes. That makes sense considering the fact that his own death was quite possibly an elaborately planned piece (the best performance of his life) complete with all the clues to inform others about the kind of circle that he had formed with his life, the number 13, the river, communication, etc. I think that becoming your art is probably the best way to die and while in some ways his end seems tragic, I think it is ultimately more meaningful and important that way.

I think the WC Gallery is a very interesting and intimate space. It raises many thoughts about curating, main stream art, and alternative gallery spaces. Perkins also has a very informed perspective on Ray Johnson, corresponded with the man, continues his own mail art, and is pretty interesting in his own right. For me, this trip really bridged the gap between the concepts I soaked up about Ray Johnson and the information that relates more directly to curating and everything that Mary Jane Jacob spoke about at convocation.

I am still considering Mary Jane Jacob's words after interacting with her at lunch and question and answer sessions, but I do find a lot of her ideas and approach to curating thought-provoking. Her ideas help us be conscious of the fact that it is very important to question the manner in which art is delivered to the public and to analyze how it is received. Individuals like Jacob are important because they remind us that conventions and standards do not always serve the best interest of everyone and they need to be challenged when they are not adequately meeting the needs of changing times. It is fortunate that we were able to hear her perspective as she continues to contribute to the dialogue that exists in today's art world. If alternative spaces allow artists, curators, and their audience to communicate more effectively they will certainly continue to be implemented in a manner that benefits communities like those Jacob spoke of in places like Charleston.

As for me, I will continue to consider her words, and she has definitely impacted the way I am thinking about the upcoming projects I have been planning in the Campus Center Gallery and in other venues. She has also confirmed many of my beliefs about collaboration and prompted me to be more active in seeking involvement of others in the space. I hope a great many students will benefit from spaces on campus even though they are not all traditional gallery spaces. Jacob has also helped me think about how someone like myself can and should collaborate with peers directly while in the campus environment and expand that experience into the world beyond undergraduate degrees. Besides her explanation of the importance of experience and the mutual risk involved for artists and curators, I also responded to her notion of fluidity in the sense that it is most important today to be open-minded and ready to change your path and thoughts to take advantage of ever-changing opportunities. I also liked the notions contained in her visuals that explain the steps of successful collaboration as observation, co-generation, action, and integration. I think that helps put it into perspective as art is a process and cooperation with others takes time, but can accomplish more than individual efforts. Thus, cooperation or collaboration is cyclical as this diagram just as some of the Buddhist ideas that MJJ applies curating (she refers to concentric circles herself about some of these topics), as well as the processes of making and displaying art.

On a basic level, the loose narrative concepts of my project are also representative of this circular concept in life. The encompassing stages of life: renewal, advancement and struggle, and death. These represent the very basis of metaphors for life and its events and hopefully I encapsulate those in my music videos as I continue to adapt these stories with the footage that I have begun to shoot and edit. I hope my music and videos convey these concepts to some degree when they are finished, but also that they can be viewed in any order and still make sense, sort of like a lot of Native American mythology and narratives that take advantage of circular motifs and structures. Anyway, that is what I think I have learned this week and what I will attempt to apply to my project as I continue to mix my songs, add vocals and shoot video.

"If what you got is what you need, hell, then I don't want to hear the rest." ~ Big Wreck




What's Happening? Allan Kaprow Et. Al.

So I have been following up my study of Joseph Beuys with a brief look at Allan Kaprow. His ideas seem a bit more accessible to someone of my background and perspective, but I wonder if I would have the same ease of understanding in looking at Kaprow and his Happenings had I not tried so hard to wrap my head around Beuys first. But before thinking about that, let's talk about Happenings. What are they? They are something of a contradiction, aren't they? They are structured and controlled events that create a lack of control and foster a bit of chaos. How odd, right? So, a bunch of people get together with a plan, involve others in a sort of random event, all the while intending to deviate from the original plan and trying to summon some sort of mutual awkwardness. I know that sounds weird, but I think it is actually a pretty exciting notion. I think that part of the point of a Happening must be that you have to experience it to fuly comprehend it and gain from it, but what I do know is that it must be a pretty exhilirating thing. I mean that is what B.A. Baracas means when he says Hannibal is on the Jazz, isn't it? The thrill of not knowing what to expect, but knowing it is going to be a unique experience.

But I digress... After hearing about Kaprow, I first started wondering,how is a Happening different than a Fluxus piece? Okay, so first thing I thought of was actually the Pixies song (see below), which may or may not be related even though I don't think the lyrics really correlate to the art event, the verdict is not yet in for me. But then I thought about Fluxus and Happenings. They both have instructions and are reinterpreted. They both are performance-based art events that are pretty hard to define since they encompass so much.
Allan Kaprow. But then I started thinking about how people like Nam June Paik overlapped with Kaprow in events like the Originale, so maybe there isn't much of a difference. But then I started thinking, how are Kaprow's Happenings different than events like Tristan Tzara at Cabaret Voltaire? Was Kaprow just some kind of of Dada reincarnation? I guess in the end it doesn't really matter to me. What matters is that they have changed the way art is understood and experienced. Nam June Paik and his Cybernetics manifesto may not have initially changed much, but I think his influence is growing all the time and Kaprow involved and interacted with so many people during his lifetime that the impact of the Happening is probably immeasurable. I think that is why he seems so accessible today while someone like Beuys remains even more esoteric than Nam June Paik even though both are better understood than they used to be.

It seems to me, that at the time Beuys was probably more understood than Kaprow, which is funny that it seems to be the opposite now. So, now I wonder are Happenings still possible? Are they dead with no hope of resuscitation? Should we still call them Happenings or maybe just Happened... I think what I have learned is that spontaneous, intuitive events are thrilling and that is why I try to add more improvisation to my artwork, probably why I fence, and definitely a big part of the way I make music. I would never want to be in a cover band. That is boring and stale (just like Kaprow thought art had become before he adopted the Happening). I would much rather have an impromptu jam even though many musicians never seem to agree with me (one amazing exception I have found is Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle, and Ashes Divide fame). This concept has definitely informed and reinforced some of the ideas for my project as I continue to lay down bass and guitar tracks and start filming. I find it much more effective to limit the amount of planning I do, so that I can improvise and collaborate more by taking advantage of the strengths that naturally occur and run with them. I am still mastering that art, but I think it will serve me well in this project and in others.




Mesmer-ized: Hast Du Felt Fat Lately?

This week I took a closer look at Joseph Beuys by reading short biographies, watching John Halpern's Joseph Beuys-Transformer, and even his pop music video. I have to say that I am a bit mystified and perhaps a bit surprised I didn't know more about the man. He certainly is an enigmatic entity, but I do not know for sure how I feel about his ideas. There is something very troubled and guilty about his person that is probably mostly the result of his war-torn past. I wonder what direction his artistic ideas would have taken if he had not been in the German army during the Nazi reign of terror. In what ways would his ideas have manifested themselves if he had not been a POW? There is something truly haunting about these realities and the way that Beuys seemed to use his influence and artistic ideas to try and make amends for himself or his country during that time of hatred and confusion in the war. I suppose in some ways I can relate to this since I have seen strange consequences result in my own life experiences as the result of some sort of "Catholic guilt." I can really understand how something that is such a dominating ideology in your youth can easily dominate your later life and thoughts with obsessive tendencies or the desire to correct such wrong circumstances. There seems to be something very human about that. I like some of the concepts about Beuys' views on art and producing artwork not with media, but in the mind of the viewer. I think I can agree with that type of observable response in the viewer. However, it seems that some parts of Beuys are at odds with himself.

I admire the way he avoided political manipulation or the possible political influences he could have pursued to instead use his artwork to symbolically improve the world through artistic gestures contained in the acts of planting trees and performing or installing fat and felt in galleries. Starting movements like Green Roots, that so slow, slow, slowly making its way to the U.S. nowadays (pretty comical) seem like fitting ways to rehabilitate the image of Germans in the rest of the world and it appeals to me that Beuys used his ideas to further projects that visibly changed the landscape of his time even if some people did not understand his metaphors and symbols. Maybe all this makes more sense considering that he volunteered to avoid the draft and was angry with the German people for not opposing the Nazi party more strongly, and that he had time to think as a POW.

I also read "The Chain of Reason Versus the Chain of Thumbs," from Stephen Jay Gould's Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History this week. This I found amusing, interesting and timely. It relates to Mesmer and his ideas during their most popular until they were debunked by a committee headed by Ben Franklin and Lavoisier. This specifically relates to Herzog's Stoszek with the references to Animal Magnetism. Was it really just a glorified cult though some swore results from Mesmer's treatments, as strange as they were (though sometimes I think it is the stranger, the better with these things)? What is a cult exactly, anyhow? We are still asking this question today.

My roommate and I have recently been "investigating" the Church of Scientology and Dianetics. Maybe L. Ron Hubbard was not so different from Franz Mesmer. We have found some shocking parallels: animosity and uncooperative nature at the question of authenticity, loyal testimonies, pseudo-science, mysterious and inexplicable belief, religious awe, demonstrations of proof or disproving proportions, etc. Is Scientology just an example of a contemporary huckster looking to Mesmer-ize the masses? Maybe this is an example of something that just doesn't change. France and the BBC would agree, but so many seem so convinced. Besides the obvious humorous value, curiosity prompted my roommate and I to start watching How to Use Dianetics to see what compelling conditions create the psychological conditions that make followers of some beliefs so fanatical and determined. Anyway, it was that and the lure of free books from the library, which I am convinced is an absolutely irresistible temptation despite the lack of space on my bookshelves.

To put this back into perspective, I guess what I have gathered from these disparate, but intertwined sources, is that so much of any idea will boil down to a perspective favored by the links created by every person's perceptions. And more than that, there is an extreme need that seems to be inherent in human kind for some sort of healing and rehabilitation in the processes associated with daily life. Like Beuys' habitual use of lard and wool in his installations or his planting of trees or Mesmer's Magnetic rods and chain of thumbs, or even Hubbard's auditing of engrams.

I guess this sort of theme of healing is also relevant to my project as well. I think that part of my relationship with music, and all art for that matter, is very related to this need. I most like the cathartic and restorative qualities that associated with creating or partaking of music and art. So far I have gotten good stories from my friends in creative writing to contribute to my work. We have met about them and one I will definitely use, so I have also started composing the songs for my project. I have been experimenting and laid down some drum tracks with some ideas for an overall concept and for adapting the stories to music. I want to in some ways simplify the story narratives to their most essential qualities so that others can relate to them and maybe find some sort of "healing" in that. We have also been considering the natural themes in the narratives that we are considering to be interpretations of basic life processes like birth, death, and transition. I think if I am successful with those concepts, our project could very well have some healing qualities.


Jordan Severson