Thursday, September 17, 2009

Completist collecting.

I have the five-disc blu-ray edition of Blade Runner.  It's important to me that I have this edition, yet I only ever watch the main new cut -- one disc of five.  Why do I need the five?  I like the movie a lot, maybe even love it, but I'm not maniacal about it...
I think the key, though, is feeling that some day I might reach the level of mania.  I will need all that information in that moment, and I will have it.
Inspiration fleets by like a breeze, and enthusiasm without fast fuel often sputters.  It's not unimaginable that some day I might be taken by the need to go into Blade Runner really deeply, and anatomize it as I've done with previous hobby horses.  It's great fun to be in the throes of these romances... And I've also seen many doors ajar that closed due to delays in procuring that key object of desire.
If this happens to me with Blade Runner, I'm prepared now -- I've got that one covered.  And this is a comfort to me.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rock Hero Guitar Band

I support Rock Band and Guitar Hero, the video games.
First, I had always wondered about the popularity of Japanese rhythm games, and why the idea never caught on in the west.  The answer, potentially, is that it's all about how you culturally frame the essential actions, not the actions themselves.  (Final Fantasy, your day is coming.)  So the popularity of Rock Band gave me that way of considering the question.
Second, I like the way it gives non-performers a pretty good hint of what it's like to play in a band with people.  Not live, of course, but a group of friends drinking and playing Rock Band on a Saturday night carries something of the dynamic of a jam band getting together in someone's basement.  Of course it's not the same thing, but there's a taste of it.
Third, real guitarists -- and it's always the guitarists, which says a lot about guitarists -- are just wrong when they complain that people should be learning to play real instruments instead.  In my experience, people don't generally play Rock Band because they have inner musicians longing to get out (though they might anyway), and many of the musicians I know do play it as well.  People play it because it's a fun way to play a game and listen to music with friends, it gives focus to a party with grown-ups who might not otherwise be able to think of anything fun to do, and it's fun to pretend to be a rock star for a little while.
Further on that point, if Rock Band ever actually does prevent anyone from taking up real music, then music is better off.  I mean that quality-wise, but with the shape of the music industry these days it applies quantitatively as well.
So what's my point?
None of this affects that I fucking hate my upstairs neighbors at least three times a week.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What does the word "art" mean?

The barrier of taste is gone, of course.  Craft is pretty much gone too.

Debate continues over subtler issues like authorship -- does art need an artist?  "Artist", of course, is a much simpler word.  It uncontroversially signifies one whose intention of action is the production of art.
But then we're still at "art"...

Subjectively, I don't feel the controversy, since I have a definition of art I find sufficiently satisfying.  And I even grant it some movement toward "truth", since I feel (and have argued) that it represents the threshold of what is both sufficient and necessary, without an ounce of extra fat.

Essentially, to me "art" represents the relationship between an observer and an observed.  If you're looking at Voice of Fire and attempting to relate to the work as an artistic piece, there is art -- in that space where your intentionality as audience connects with the presence of something observable (which would include even ostensibly empty space).

Aside from being relatively tidy, I feel that this extends the most generous plausible grounds to each end of the artistic interaction -- the art and the experient of the art.  It presumes goodwill on the part of the latter and potential value within the former, and the unique quality of every singular experience degrades any good vs bad art considerations.

It also has the effect of bringing into the big tent such things as random events, natural objects, inadvertent performances, readymades, brut, anti-art, commercial art.  In opposition to the rules of competition as they apply to finance, this open view would, I believe, enhance the role of the artist in society, not diminish it.

If I demand realistic craft in my painting, I will approach Voice of Fire with suspicion, and declare it a paint-roller job.  Regardless of the failure of the work to meet my subjective criteria, the work was approached by me with the intention of perceiving it as art, thus I had an artistic relationship with that work.  The details of my legitimacy checklist are irrelevant at the macro level, what matters is the joining of the object with my intentional perception.

So a tree, a bag whirling in the wind, a thrift store painting-by-numbers, a blank sheet of paper, the sound of a car idling -- all of these are art the moment we ask the question.  The depth of the art can be debated, but it becomes impossible to disqualify the work from contender status.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The value of formula, and of goths.

No cultural standards remain in the west. This was arguably already underway by the late 90s, but it certainly seems explicit and difficult to challenge today. Society functions in de facto agnostic mode now, with no legitimate claims to a primary epistemological position remaining (though the jockeys of those horses still strive against one another for legislative power).
Every form of retro, including their futurisms, have found acceptance and inspired tribal bonds -- in fashion, art, philosophy, probably most of the sciences.
When I hear a contemporary act playing rock music, what I subjectively hear is "rock" music -- a conscious decision to pay homage to the genre by wearing its appearance. I used to believe that by mixing genres one could overcome this reification, but even if that were true (and I no longer believe so), the strategy itself has unavoidably become exalted to genre status, such that this "eclecticism" takes its place alongside the others... "jazz", "blues" -- god, especially "blues" -- "electronic", "punk" -- god, especially "punk" -- even "noise".
I concluded some time ago, aided by drugs and rave culture, that music as an art form was essentially dead. That is to say, there were no more directions in which to explore it. Pure atonality, randomness, maximum volume, silence, system noise, field recordings, extreme time -- every achievable departure from the accepted had been explored. Every corner of the map charted, nowhere be monsters.
With nothing to contribute in terms of movement of the form, only local action remains. Music as a spiritual or artistic act, a relationship with the energy of creativity, continues regardless of such concerns. But those who seek the authentically untested -- where does this leave us?
Some will glibly label the notion of "no more ideas" absurd -- how can there be an end to ideas? My report is that after a decade of seriously considering the question, and asking it to the musicians of my acquaintance, I have never received the challenge of an undismissable answer. Nobody has ever said "here is an unexplored concrete or theoretical area into which future musical vanguardists might embark". And yes, I've heard Jandek.
- - - - -
Thus, the value of formula.
Within the formulaic -- and I use this word without perjorative intent; I have already demonstrated that I consider the formulaic inevitable, so it would be poor sport to dismiss it as unworthy as well -- we have a microcosmic representation of every practical element important to the artist (save one, of course).
We instantly choose our tribe, our audience for our personal performance of the Art of Making Defining Aesthetic Choices. In the internal consciousness of our tribe we find the rules of achievement, and learn to measure ourselves within the set of tribal standards.
If I start a noise band, I am likely to bring myself into contact with others who enjoy and/or perform noise music; I might achieve the same essential benefits from a relationship with the creative energy by playing blues, but then I'm going to be spending my time with the blues tribe, which may not be as socially amenable to me.
If I wear a Metallica shirt, I am engaging in exactly the same kind of interaction with my environment, even if I am acting with ironic intent.  I am selecting reality's filter for its interaction with me.
Every decision we take defines us to the world, thus defining the world.
- - - - -
Goth is not a cultural genre.  Maybe it was, but no longer.  Goth is an asterisk, and the essential function of the asterisk is to disrupt.
In a book passage, an asterisk says "there is more, you must stop now and consider whether that matters to you".  A baseball record, a presidential record, a historical record -- when these earn an asterisk it is seldom a stabilizing influence.
Consider the range of contemporary gothdom.  Every daylight genre, from cowboys to drag queens to business suits to ravers to jocks to geeks, has a goth corollary.
The death that goth represents is the death of consensus culture.  It reminds us that every stance is a pose, willfully or otherwise.
- - - - -
Now a clearer picture of our genre afflictions emerges.  We select our territory and our teammates, with whatever perspective we have at our disposal, and we play the game.
This is the realm of the formula, and it does seem to walk comfortably hand-in-hand with the spectacle.  Nevertheless, it can be beneficial, satisfying to a degree, and generally worthwhile to take part in this show.
Still, the only possible remaining question lingers, unanswered:  when the map is filled in to every corner, where do we go next to find real adventure?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A heritage moment.

My traditional inaugural post, a picture of two chairs fucking.