Alex Ross, music critic for the New York Times, stated today that the orchestra of Minnesota is in trouble. Though I have never had the privilege of attending a concert of Minneapolis’s famed orchestra, but their reputation has made it to NYC where I grew up. As a sign of the times, even Minneapolis isn’t spared the decent from creativity. Without the means to create, we will certainly lose the ability to create.
Though I am not one to follow the birthdays of the artists I admire, I am however touched by what Google did to celebrate Debussy’s. The animation uses Clair de lune or Moonlight, one of his more popular pieces today. In honor of his birthday however I’d like to draw my readers’ attention to a different one of his works, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, or Prelude to the afternoon of a faun. This piece was met with great disdain by the public when first performed. When combined with a ballet by Nijinsky it was met with great controversy. Needless to say it was canned the following day by the critics. I only point this out to continue my theme of defending the new. We cherish and celebrate Debussy today but we forget that listening to Debussy as we do was not his intent. His music wasn’t to be preserved, he wrote it to challenge and push the limits. Were he alive today I believe and hope he’d be continuing to challenge our musical understanding, not preserving the one from 100 years ago.
Posted in Artistic Discussion, Journalism, Music, Theatre
Tagged ballet, clair de lune, Debussy, France, google, music, New, Nijinsky, prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune
It is easy today to get lost in everything that is offered up to us. From social media to a high budget Hollywood films to episodic literary fiction there is so much to distract us, to placate us that I believe we have forgotten what we are capable of. I grew up with the internet, and love its potential… but I hate its reality. The internet and all its crowd sourcing power has changed the way we view the world ever so slightly, but in that slight change it has had a significant impact. We don’t trust the expert anymore. In the past news came from those who, through countless years of discipline, had earned the right to deliver it to us. Music was achieved through hard work and rigorous study…not song editing on youtube. And art… art was painful nuanced process that through careful analysis and inspired emotional revolution developed a modern sense. But it stopped there, it stopped because the world didn’t understand that modern sense and never tried to. Today we live without it, lost in a continuous recreation of the modern art world, not realizing that has already happened… multiple times.
Here is where PIxar comes into place. There is an underlying message in their films, and underlying push to challenge what is expected, what is believed to be wanted, and instead pushes for the new. Most literally this comes from Ratatouille where Anton Ego gives his review of the delicious meal he enjoyed. Additionally you could say that it came from an earlier scene where Remy confronts his dad about the ideas of change and nature. The message is clear that conformity and preservation are inadequate for a successful society. We must change and we must fight for that new change. Pixar may not have been directly attacking museums and our arts institutions with this film but I am. If we preserve art as something to be preserved we will lose it forever.
Let’s continue this. I have no link to explain where Wall-E fits except the credits. The credits tie the film to exactly what I have always seen it represent. The culmination of Disney’s dream, emotion through animation. For a large portion of the film dialog isn’t used to convey the plot, rather we visually follow the developing romance of two robots. Disney believed in the power of animation as a tool to convey emotion and he gave himself to his characters. In times past Disney has honored this tradition, the eyes in Pocahontas for example, but recently they lost sight of it. Wall-E set them back on the path by taking inorganic objects (robots) and giving them the emotion enough to convey an entire love story to us.
At the end of Pixar’s short Day and Night we find a radio broadcast defending just how beautiful the new is how scared we are of it. This example might be my favorite as the animation behind it is rather ingenious. Seemingly two dimensional characters are interacting for the first time and at first fighting but by the end are friendly. What makes it near breathtaking is the three dimensional environment that makes up their bodies, one filled by a daytime scene while the other a nighttime scene. As the two move throughout the film we see the environment their bodies are windows on change between day and night. Again Pixar uses no dialog save the radio announcement at the end of the film but is still very capable of telling a story.
Pixar is screaming at us to embrace the new, to fight for it and honor it. I imagine part of their interest is in their own image as the new, which isn’t far from the truth. They allowed for Disney’s second renaissance which is still going strong and pushed the boundaries of computer animation to such an extent that it now makes up the mainstream. But at the same time when in control of Disney’s animation studios, revived and expanded them to re-imagine the cartoon short.
Though this very well may be obvious to many I still wanted to gather my thoughts in one place and encourage further discussion on them. Pixar to me is a beacon of newness that is both pushing the boundary and making it popular at the same time. We need this level of creativity and risk to infiltrate more of the arts and move away from the idea that the arts is something to preserve. The arts is something that should challenge us and push our abilities both to create and to contemplate.
This is what I believe we can learn from Pixar.
Posted in Artistic Discussion, Film, Museum, Philosophy, Uncategorized
Tagged animated shorts, Animation, Artistic Discussion, Aton Ego, change, Computer Animation, contemporary art, Creativity, Day and Night, disney, film, Film shorts, Museum, New, pixar, Pocahontas, Ratatouille, Remy, Three-Dimensional Animation, Wall-E
The conflicts of our own Wash U graduation are now behind us and following our commission on the front lines of the political battle for the past few weeks the Foundation will now resume business as usual. The Right Hand of Nixon has many posts in the work and though I have to begin preparing for Teach For America I too have much more time to devote back to this site.
So with that short introduction said and done I will also leave this short post on one of the new and pretty incredible animated films, Ratatouille. First I have found that this particular Pixar film has the potential to fill numerous posts. There is the visual representation of gustation, more generally there is the animation itself (which has moved well beyond trying to imitate reality and has entered into its own abstract version of representation). But for this short post I want to focus on the speech given by the films sinister looking yet ultimately agreeable food critic, Anton Ego. Ego delivers a speech following his proustian moment eating ratatouille.
His speech touched me the first time I saw it and again this past week when watching it. He defends the New. Here is his review in full:
In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau’s soon, hungry for more.
Though when stepping outside of the world of the story we realize that the new being defended here is a cooking rat, the idea of the challenge in its defense is not outside of our world. The new at times, especially in art, can appear and actually be that outlandish (as a rat cooking better than most humans). But the reality is that though at times the new can fail it truly does need support, it needs friends.
I have nothing to say except Ratatouille and Pixar are heading in the right direction to view art in such a way as to defend the new. I hope that spirit persists in Wall*E this summer.