Tag Archives: art

Communicating faster than creativity

I ponder in my isolation as only the digital era could provide the question of creativity in our time. We have it and use and present all over, yet I wonder whether we realize the shallowness it exudes in the newness of complexity that all these intersecting signals have created. We raced to get here as fast as we can asking not what it means but rather what it can do, or do better, or faster, or longer, or smaller. We threw our net wide and incorporated the world from streaming internationally to communicating globally. The Earth isn’t as large or mysterious as it once was, the universe too now shrinks more and more. We hunger for information, raw and unchecked, that we aggregate it all to measure its success. Yet through this conglomerate of what we can present we have lost something meaningful, something only human. In our hunger to know we’ve forgotten context and depth. What matters now is a false sense of objective knowledge crowd sourced to the masses. In that importance we deemed the editor unnecessary, the journalist a waste, and the critic ourselves. With the communication of the digital age we all became the critics and informants of our own world, assuming that because we can now get around the critical eye, the critical eye is no longer necessary. Why learn from a historian what you can google on wikipedia? Why read from a journalist what you can learn first hand from twitter? why pay to experience the new when you can create (or decide) it for yourself?

The internet and the digital age has such an ability to create depth and yet all it has been used for is breath. We are losing touch with creativity because we no longer know what it means to be creative. We trust that which we don’t understand and fear that which is unfamiliar. We are as lost as ever despite everything that is helping us get found.

In all these vague generalizations what I really mean to say is something rather simple: We have lost our desire to be challenged intellectually. The 20th century saw the childhood of this concept in art, modernism though born in the 19th century truly came into its self in the 20th. But in so doing it created a world of art that needed to be engaged, thought through, and then understood. Modernism isn’t easy art, you can’t look at it once and understand it, it takes time and thought and engagement and discussion and research and understanding, and an open mind above all. But with all the tools of communication at our fingertips we have no interest in spending time figuring something out, rather we’ll just google it. And in so doing, we fail to fully understand it.

I challenge us and myself to stop googling. I challenge us to return to our tried and true techniques of learning the hard way. Use what has come before us, trust the disciplined approach it takes to be called a historian or journalist. And if through the internet we have come to believe that these academic processes for creating measures of distinction in our society are truly damaged or corrupt then lets fix them.



The Guernica of our time

I have a few albums that I have collected and organized into a playlist I just labeled thoughts. It consists of the type of music that really cannot be just in the background, but rather consumes the entirety of my being and prevents me from participating in any sense required activity other than giving it my full auditory attention. Today in shuffling my entire playlist as I furiously completed cover letters for jobs I had researched (the life of the unemployed teacher) my itunes stumbled on a track from an album I had almost forgotten was given to me near two years ago. Trinity Requiem by Robert Moran,  was commissioned by and performed in Trinity Church to honor the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. That was how this piece was introduced to me and added to my collection of thought music I listen to when contemplating what 9/11 means and how it should be remembered. As a New Yorker I have no shortage of opinions on the day and its aftermath. But one opinion has stayed with me for as long as I can remember, the idea that no artist captured that which needed to be captured from that event as Picasso had with Guernica. Guernica represented the devastation and tragedy that was to become modern warfare. I remember first seeing Guernica not too long after 9/11, in the Spring of 2002, and asking myself where is the Guernica of our time? What I didn’t realize then and now only realized too late to appreciate it live was that it didn’t come visually but rather from an auditory source.

Moran’s Requiem captures the emotion, the sadfullness hope of New Yorkers building a world after that fateful day. This piece is our Guernica and like Guernica is not to be listened to one day out of the year, but rather should be enjoyed and appreciated more regularly with the same heart that produced the hopeful sorrow it captures.

I will never forget that day, but can now listen and be inspired as to how we can positively prevent that day from ever happening again.

Why there is no celebration of the new.

As a society we have given up on the new. We don’t care about it anymore. I might be able to go as far as to say we don’t like it anymore. The new is weak and fragile, and to quote Anton Ego from Ratatouille, the new needs friends. But today the new has few friends and many enemies. The organizations who once upon a time cultivated the new, or stood for its cultivation, now work tirelessly to preserve not it but what it was. Where is modern art? In a museum. What is a museum? A place designed for conservation (ie preservation). 

We need to stop preserving art and start creating it again. 

Dancing Matt and a need to be inspired.

I have been wanting to post about “Where the Hell is Matt” for over a year at this point. The only real reason I haven’t is due mostly to my busy schedule as a  teacher, but with that life slipping behind me I find myself with nothing but time to catch up on the elements of life I missed out on. One in particular is responding to his most recent video from 2012 that inspired myself and my kids to find our own way to change the world. There isn’t much to his videos and there are based on something rather simple, dancing around the world. But his simple concept of visiting different cities and dancing with local populations has inspired me and continues to inspire me. The videos are cute, funny and leave an audience smiling if not laughing. But no jokes are told or script developed. For what makes us enjoy his videos is the happiness and togetherness they portray. We see the differences of our world so wonderfully displayed next to each other as to forget the pain those differences have caused. We are given a reason to smile from his video.

In my own explorations as to what is the responsibility of artists I have danced with the idea that as artists we have responsibilities to the population. As a community we always want to strive to be better and those who strive for our attention should naturally lead us down that path. I’ve gone so far as to criticize the remarkably enjoyable music of Jimmy Buffet for doing nothing more than giving us a reason to drink and screw. Yet I was mistaken then and can realize it now. The role of art is and always has been to engage us. To produce in us a reaction transient and pleasurable, his music does that.

I’m not about to suggest that Matt’s videos are as timeless and enjoyable as Jimmy Buffet but I do want to argue that there is a significance to the smile they produce in us. We are a social species by nature, it has had great influence on our evolution, being able to communicate and share and desiring to as well. We are a better, smarter species for our social desires and yet recently I feel we have lost some of that. Many smarter and more informed individuals have blasted our generation and the internet for the decrease in social experiences and though I lean towards their camp I’m not necessarily sure they are right. Have we truly replaced time together with time online? Furthermore is time online truly void of the same social celebrations produced in time together? The answers aren’t necessarily there just yet and maybe won’t be for a while. However what is there is that videos like this have a power to remind us what it means to be together. Those who participated in his videos enjoyed togetherness while those who enjoyed his videos witnessed it. But more than just witnessing it, my classroom felt it, discussed it, celebrated it, and used it to inspire ourselves.

I’ll leave it there for now but will return. I’d like to see more of us inspiring ourselves.

-Huysmans out.

Those unfamiliar with Matt’s dancing exploits can find information about him and his adventures here.

PS1 isn’t.

I finally made it to one of PS1’s Saturday concerts. I was disappointed. Sure the music and venue went well together and the $8 beer certainly helped remind me I was at a concert. But all in the art is limited in its appeal and lacking in its depth. I am now coming to terms with the idea that this particular museum houses the rejects from the more prominently located MoMa. But as far as rejects go this is no Salon of 1863, rather it is a conglomerate of artistic instillations that are nauseating in their attempt at  “ironic” art. Contemporary art cannot exist as a shadow of the violent and extraordinary gains of the 20th century. True that today we live in a post-modern world, a world where nearly every boundary ever to exist in the realm of art has been torn down. Yet that does not mean that everything today exists as art, in reality it is somewhat the opposite. With the boundaries destroyed and the internet thrusting communication to a instantaneous and global level, an artist today must be extremely diligent in getting recognized. PS1 and MoMa need to be beacons for these artists, they need to go out and explore the unknown, cast a wide net, and find the new. They need to protect the new and help it grow. We are hungry for the new, for the creative and provocative art of our generation. Stop giving us imitators of the modern! Give us the contemporary spirit that will create the next inspiring movement.

Become the now.

Huysmans out!

The social responsibility of the art community

THe purpose of this blog was always to focus on the new in terms of literature and art as it related to the internet and the digital age. But purpose is a funny thing as my partner and I have used this blog to write about a bunch of other topics as well. That said I want to push the “purpose” even further and suggest that there is a social responsibility to the internet beyond its artistic potential. Not a new idea but not a well respected one either. The internet in terms of social issues is typically a dumping ground for frustration and anger. People who are upset use it as a platform to complain while those who are passionate use it to motivate and inspire. All valid uses. I have argued before about the potential issues with the democratization of journalism on the web and I have no interest in revisiting that with this post. I am not here to talk about reporting the news but discussing it instead. I don’t think this is art, I think it a responsibility of those with the ability to communicate. Though this blog communicates to very few in its prime and fewer still today it is my venue to communicate my thoughts. I want to use it to speak to the travesty of Trayvon Martin. This case greatly upset me, I felt angry and frustrated as an American to watch its outcome. I am a white American, born to privilege and living well on the East Coast. I have never known racial profiling and though sometimes can ethnically identify as a minority with my Jewish heritage, I have never felt the fear and disrespect racial prejudice brings. That said I believe Martin’s death to be the outcome of racial profiling and I believe the verdict of this trial to be the outcome of racial discrimination and a lack of understanding. That said I know there are those out there that agree with me and I know that like myself they want to do something, something to never let this happen again. I am still figuring out what that is and what it will look like (open to suggestions) but in the meantime I am using this blog as a call to arms for the social artists out there. We need the symbols of change, the signs of revolution and hope. Lead the people as our president is. Show the world that an injustice has occurred and it needs to be corrected.

The Art of Teaching Part 3: Observation

Continuing the posts on teaching and art or the art in teaching or what have you I want to now focus on the second general topic I outlined back in the first post, Observation. Arguably this is the easiest for me to describe and transform into a curriculum based on its importance in the already established science curriculum.

The bigger problem is not with how it is taught but rather with what it has to compete with in the classroom. The problem with the current science curriculum is in the artificial selection of content material deemed important to master at arbitrary grade levels. My students get way too caught up with memorizing the properties and names of rock types to be able to focus in on the simple task of observing them.

My opinion on science is not a new one but it has become more empowered after being a science teacher. In my opinion the most important element of “science” is how to ask and begin to answer questions. The actual facts and figures are irrelevant unless you are studying the relevance specifically. By that I mean geology and the properties of rocks are extremely important when taking geology. But in middle school science (which right now prides itself on being a hybrid of all sciences) the most important aspects are those that help develop your ability to approach the more difficult concepts later on. Ultimately what I am trying to say is that middle school should be devoted to teaching you how to be a scientists. The facts about rocks and elements you will forget by high school, which ironically is completely okay because it is retaught in the curriculum anyway.

So therefore if the content is arbitrary let’s just get rid of it and continue to teach it in high school. This would free up middle school to focus on what are called the process skills necessary for approaching that higher level content. I would be really nice to teach the cell for the first time in high school with all it’s parts rather than introduce it in 6th grade but with the disclaimer that there are only 5 organelles you need to be responsible for knowing. I never really understood what kind of message that sends to our students.

So this brings me to what this course on observation would be. Observation would be the overall theme for the three years, but it wouldn’t be the only element. Making inferences, hypotheses, conclusions, and so on would also take a significant role in this class. In a way you could call it a class on the Scientific Method, but fundamentally it will be a class on observation. Keep in mind the original idea of my first post, much of what we teach specifically is arbitrarily taught at that time except for the skills needed to learn (arithmetic, learning to read and write, how to make observations, and similar elements of elementary school are not arbitrary in their timing). But at the end of the day the most important part of what makes our specifies capable of developing science is our ability to observe, and with that our ability to record and make inferences from those observations.

A class focused around observation would teach that process in all its glory and have at the periphery the content elements through which this process can be practiced and mastered. But unlike our state curriculum which holds as its measure of mastery an 8th grade CONTENT test, I would make the focus of science to be about the process and therefore you will master my middle school science class when you can demonstrate your ability to make observations, and through those observations record and analyze your data to ultimately make conclusions.