Tuesday, April 28, 2009

photos in provo

Here's a few photos from the day I walked around downtown Provo trying to get the feel for shooting with a film camera and trying to keep the beat photographers in mind. I'm not terribly happy with them, but I figured I aught to post a few anyway.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

some mystery. it's right here.

So I think I figured out why I was having such a hard time with creating something for the beat show, and for creating in general. That feeling of inauthenticity and disconnectedness, of trying to hard but not hard enough, and of a shallow result that didn't say anything or was too contrived. 

It was because I was trying to mimick the effects, rather than be inspired by the roots.

This is the same problem that made the Beatnik. So now that I've realized this I've tried to come up with a few things that will hopefully help me with Beat-ness (because who doesn't want to have that Beat sensibility?) and with authentic creativity in general. Here are the things I've come up with so far that I haven't done before:

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  • Read through ALL of the material. Books, poems, letters, articles, anything I've been given and anything else I can find. Thoroughly. Thoughtfully. Many times.
  • Write. Write and write and write. What I think, feel, reactions, inner musings, physical experiences, big questions, silly stories, notes, things that are "out there", etc.
  • Listen to and watch music, readings, films, performances, etc. Think about it.
  • Talk to other people. Have conversations. Have adventures.
It all comes down to time invested, effort invested, and a heightened consciousness of the world and myself through a sensibility that gets to the roots of things. Not letting things fly by me with a simple nod before I move on to the next thing. I need to spend time. I need to spend effort. The answer is with me, not with anything or anyone else.

This summer I plan to continue this blog. I will hopeuflly post much more of my own work along with thoughts, conversations, etc. I essentially want to go over everything we talked about in class all over again but in more depth and see what more I can reap from it. I'm looking forward to continuing this class with myself here and with friends.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

this is the ticking time bomb in my brain. maybe when it goes off I'll get a poem.


You know?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

stumped? stunted? stunned? stay tuned.

Beat Nite tonight. I love these people. I don't want this class to end. 

I was really excited to see so many people show up. I wish I had finished something to share with them. I have been trying to put together something of a cut up but for all of the times I started over I couldn't create something adequte. I'll keep working on it and post it here before next week, even if I still don't feel like it works.

What I keep struggling with is creating something original and personal but in the beat mentality and with the vision we've been learning about. I wanted to do some photography but the photos I took seemed mediocre and uninteresting. I wanted to put some beat-ish music together in a montage with some photos but when I put it together with some Beat photography it had no me in it, and when I put it with my photos it had hardly any beat in it. I am actually pretty upset that I wasn't able to be creative the way I wanted to be and synthesize my new knowledge of the Beat mentality with my personal creativity and expression. I want so badly to express myself but have little practice doing so and the whole thing seems so inadequte to me. Maybe I should try poetry. I used to write poetry. I'm going to write a poem.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NYT article on outsider artists

Communicating Across Barriers Few Could Imagine

Ricco/Maresca Gallery

Judith Scott, who had Down syndrome and spent much of her life institutionalized, began creating yarn sculptures like this untitled one from the late 1980s at the Creative Growth Art Center in the Bay Area. More Photos >

Published: April 16, 2009

JUDITH SCOTT couldn’t hear or speak, yet she found a language with which to describe her inner world. Hawkins Bolden couldn’t see, yet his statues stare at you with haunted eyes. And both Royal Robertson and Ike Morgan, isolated by mental illness, communicated through paintings what they couldn’t express any other way.

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Darin Murano

Scott Ogden, whose film about the four artists is screening on Saturdays at the Ricco/Maresca Gallery. More Photos »

These four artists, whose lives and work are the subject of a new documentary, “Make,” which is screening on Saturday evenings at 6 through May 2 at the Ricco/Maresca Gallery in Chelsea, belong to a category that some call outsider or self-taught artists, although these are terms that the film studiously avoids. Certainly all of them lived and made their art outside mainstream society, and Mr. Morgan, who is still living, continues to do so. But, as Frank Maresca, one of the owners of the gallery, which is also showing a group exhibition of the four artists, said, it is not their disabilities or their harrowing stories that make their work interesting.

“All of these people were born with a gift,” Mr. Maresca said, “and it was through their situations that the gift grew the way that it did.”

Their situations were extreme, to say the least. Ms. Scott — who is the most established of the four, having had museum shows and been the subject of a book, as well as another film — was born with severe Down syndrome in 1943. Her twin sister, Joyce, was developmentally normal, and as children they were inseparable. But when they were 7, their parents sent Judith to an institution, where she remained for 35 years, so isolated that for a long time her sister didn’t know if she was alive.

In the 1980s Joyce Scott located her sister, moved her to the Bay Area, where Joyce lived, and enrolled her in a workshop for artists with disabilities called the Creative Growth Art Center. There, after showing no interest in the paints that were offered her, Judith suddenly, with no prompting, began to create strange, cocoonlike sculptures by wrapping found objects in layers and layers of multicolored yarn. She continued making these, in many variations, until she died in 2005.

A psychologist interviewed in “Make” speculates that the sculptures, which sometimes take on anthropomorphic shapes, represent memories of her childhood bond to her sister. That no one knows for sure lends her work — as with all the exhibition — an air of mystery.

To Mr. Bolden, who was blind from the age of 7 or 8 as the result of an accident, the tribal-looking sculptures that he created out of old pots, discarded kitchen equipment, pieces of carpet and other detritus found around his Memphis neighborhood were scarecrows to keep birds away from his vegetable garden.

“I think it brought him a really intense joy to scare the birds,” one of the filmmakers, Scott Ogden, said of Mr. Bolden, who was over 90 when he died in 2005. But as for whether he considered these figures art, Mr. Ogden said, “I think he didn’t even understand the question.”

Mr. Robertson, who lived in extreme poverty in Baldwin, La., and died in 1997, didn’t consider his paintings, depicting alien landings and apocalyptic disasters, art either, but a form of prophecy.

Only Mr. Morgan, whose colorful, impressionistic paintings are based on pictures in books or album covers, thinks of his work as art. Yet he also sees it as a job, the only one he had in the 25 years he spent in the Austin State Hospital being treated for schizophrenia. (He was released several years ago.) “It’s given him a sense of purpose,” Mr. Ogden said. “He spends every waking minute making art.”

For Mr. Ogden, 35, an artist who lives in Brooklyn and shows his work at Ricco/Maresca while supporting himself primarily as an art handler, “Make” is the product of a more than decade-long obsession. He was a student at the University of Texas at Austin when he encountered the work of Mr. Bolden, Mr. Robertson and Mr. Morgan at the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, Tex. “I just got blown away,” said Mr. Ogden, who with his baby face and few days’ stubble looks as if he should be in an indie rock band. “This stuff looked so different from what I was seeing in art school.”

NYT article on Lichtenstein

In Sketches and Collages: Lichtenstein’s Workaday Musings
Published: April 17, 200

When Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) began making paintings of cartoon and comic book imagery in the 1960s, he rarely kept the preliminary drawings and collages in which he worked out composition and colors. He was happy to let them fall on the floor, where they were swept out with the trash. So it is entirely possible that Lichtenstein would not have approved of the present exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art. The show presents 65 of the artist’s later preliminary sketches, drawings and collages, from the 1970s through the ’90s, most of which were in the studio at the time of his death and are now in private collections.

HIS OWN DEVISING “Collage for Still Life With Reclining Nude” (1997) by Roy Lichtenstein.

“Lichtenstein in Process” is a fascinating and engrossing show providing a rare glimpse of the pop artist’s private working methods and creative process. Swift in execution, small in format and considerably more intimate than his finished paintings, Lichtenstein’s sketches, drawings and collages show the artist planning and arranging, experimenting with sources and compositional structures in search of something fresh, new and entirely his own. His finished pictures are not as simple or straightforward as they might look.

Take for instance “Interior With Exterior (Still Waters)” (1991), showing a pool and patio seen through a sliding glass door. The central source image is drawn from an architecture catalog into which the artist has collaged elements of a painting by the American abstract artist Clifford Still as well as, on the far wall, a parody of Lichtenstein’s own 1962 parody of Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington. Here we have paintings within paintings.

On the basis of the artworks in this show, it seems that Lichtenstein was largely preoccupied during his final decades with two themes: interiors and nudes. Among the more interesting nudes here is “Beach Scene With Star Fish” (1995), a large, expansive beach scene filled with prancing, nude female comic book characters. The composition, based on Picasso’s “Bathers With Beach Ball” (1928), once again combines art historical imagery and cartoons with all sorts of visual odds and ends of the artist’s own devising.

Three raw pencil sketches, a more detailed colored sketch and a painted and printed collage on board (also preparatory) show the gradual evolution of this image. Especially noticeable is the way in which the artist oscillates back and forth with the placement of a beachside shed, along with a reversing of figures in the composition to get the right sense of balance and proportion.

What is really fascinating about these preparatory sketches, drawings and collages is that they reveal not just the inner workings of the artist’s mind but the way in which he actively sought to hide or remove any trace of his hand in the final work. In each successive stage the composition becomes increasingly stylized and mechanical, eventually taking on the appearance of commercial printing. They are meticulously handmade imitations of mass prints.

Lichtenstein often described himself and other pop artists as making “industrial paintings.” But it wasn’t always so, for he spent the first decade of his career in Ohio making Cubist and Expressionist paintings. He began teaching in upstate New York in the late 1950s and in 1960, then moved to Rutgers University in New Jersey where, influenced by his colleague Allan Kaprow, he began painting using cartoons and commercial printing techniques. His first one-man show, at the Castelli Gallery in 1962 in New York, was a sell-out.

One of the criticisms often leveled at Lichtenstein’s work is that it lacks originally. This is only partly true, for while most of his best-known artworks are studious copies of comic-book panels, he largely stopped this in 1965. And even though he continued to incorporate elements of comic imagery into his work for the rest of his career, the source imagery is increasingly transformed.

This transformation is especially visible in his paintings based on art historical sources. “Landscape With Scholar’s Rock” (1996), one of a series of Chinese-style landscapes, takes its inspiration from books on the gardens of China and Japan along with Chinese landscape painting. But the end result is something altogether different — the artist’s use of bold colors and large black Benday dots make the final image look like a faded ink-jet reproduction.

It is worth remembering that the works in this show are not finished and most probably were never meant for public display. They are the workaday musings of a great artist. Still, the exhibition does include one grouping of sketches and collages paired with a finished painting, “Interior With Nude Leaving” (1997), enabling viewers to see the culmination of the process. Made the year that he died, the title suggests that somehow the artist knew it was time to depart.

“Lichtenstein in Process,” Katonah Museum of Art, Route 22 at Jay Street, through Jun. 28. Information: (914) 232-9555 or katonahmuseum.org.

Monday, April 20, 2009

a farmer a poet an academic a critic

So I don't know if Wendell Berry particularly expresses a Beat-like mentality about the environment, but I ran across this the other day and the poems kind of struck me as perhaps being related. I don't have any knowledge of his entire repoitoire but I'm going to look him up and see if there is any Beat-ness to his work as a whole. In any case, I'm posting the story that got me interested in checking him out:

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'Wild Blessings': Wendell Berry's Passions, Reframed

Actors Theatre of Louisville

“I have hope. I've devoted a lot of time in my life to discovering the grounds for having hope. But that doesn't mean that I'm optimistic.”
Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry
Pam Spaulding

Wendell Berry has been compared to nature writers like Thoreau and Emerson.


Weekend Edition Saturday,March 28, 2009 · 

Wendell Berry, the Kentucky-based agrarian philosopher, has been described as our era's heir to Emerson and Thoreau — a writer concerned with the importance of community, and with the lessons we can learn from the natural world.

Now, the Actors Theatre of Louisville is putting his ideas on stage.

There were plenty of ideas to choose from: Since the 1960s, Berry has published eight novels, dozens of short stories, and numerous essays with environmental themes.

But Wild Blessings, the theater piece premiering this weekend at the Humana Festival of New American Plays, is drawn exclusively from Berry's poems.

Plenty of playwrights write in verse — but not every poem would work on a stage. Even Berry himself had his doubts when the Actors Theater came calling.

"I didn't know what to think," he says. "I still don't know what to think. ... After I see it I guess I'll have an idea."

Not to worry, says Adrien-Alice Hansel, who helped put Wild Blessings together. She says Berry's poems worked perfectly as fodder for a play.

"He actually writes in a lot of different voices," Hansel says. "He has poems that are invocations of the natural world. He has poems that are funny. He has poems that are angry. And some of his poems have a really strong sense of voice and sense of character."

One such character is the "Mad Farmer," a man Berry describes as "a little extravagant" in his willingness to go against the grain. Thumbing through the script, he reads one of the adapted poems — one that, to him, sums up how he and the Mad Farmer both see the world.

To be sane in a mad time,
is bad for the brain, worse 
for the heart. The world 
is a holy vision had we clarity 
to see it; a clarity that men 
depend on men to make.

Wild Blessings weaves Berry's poems together with original music by composer Malcom Dalglish, who speaks and plays instruments onstage. Four actors, who also play instruments, present Berry's characters and life.

The arc of the play mirrors Berry's own migration: Born in 1934, he moved away from Kentucky in the late '50s to live in California and New York. Ultimately, though, he returned to his home state, where since the '60s he's been living the kind of agrarian life he writes about.

For playgoers, "the journey of the evening is [about] being a young person in the city and struggling against urban life, and then falling in love and moving back to home, which happens to be Kentucky," says Marc Masterson, artistic director at the Actor's Theatre.

Masterson, who collaborated with Hansel on Wild Blessings, says they organized the poems by themes like work, politics and economics. And though some were published decades ago, the poems feel surprisingly current. One in particular — about a stock market crash — feels particularly timely:

When I hear the stock market has fallen, 
I say, "Long live gravity! Long live 
stupidity, error and greed in the palaces 
of fantasy capitalism!" I think 
an economy should be based on thrift, 
on taking care of things, not on theft, 
usury, seduction, waste, and ruin. 
My purpose is a language that can make us whole, 
Though mortal, ignorant, and small. 
The world is whole beyond human knowing.

When Berry considers the current state of affairs against the work he's produced over nearly half a century, he seems reflective.

"I have hope," Berry says. "I've devoted a lot of time in my life to discovering the grounds for having hope. But that doesn't mean that I'm optimistic."

Actors Theatre may have reason to be, though: The company has already fielded calls about Wild Blessings from other theaters, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

brittany, meet regina.

I don't remember exactly at what point in the semester this happened, but one day after school as I was driving home I decided to listen to a musician who I hadn't listened to for a very long time. Her name is Regina Spektor. As I was driving it dawned on me: Regina is so Beat. 

This occurred to me somewhat slowly, and I realized that all this time I had known about her I had intentionally avoided the majority of her repoitoire because it was weird. I hadn't made room for it. I hadn't even listened to any of the songs all the way to the end.

So, I was completely blown away by this realization. I immediately made the connection between learning about the Beat sensibility and (1) deciding to give her stranger songs another chance, and (2) being blown away by them.

So I've compiled a playlist of some of her songs that I've been really digging. I've listened to all of the songs of hers that I could find at least a handful of times now, and I hope I'm right in my feeling that she is pretty Beat. Below the playlist I've also included some of her biography (which I've abbreviated) from Wikipedia.  

Regina Spektor (Cyrillic: Регина Спектор; born February 18, 1980) is a Soviet-born Jewish-American singer-songwriter and pianist. Her music is associated with the anti-folk scene centered on New York City's East Village.

Early life

Spektor was born in MoscowUSSR (now Russia), to a musical Jewish family. She learned how to play piano by practicing on a Petrof upright that was given to her mother by her grandfather. She was also exposed to the music of rock and roll bands such as The Beatles, Queen, and The Moody Blues by her father, who obtained such recordings in Eastern Europe and traded cassettes with friends in the Soviet Union. The family left the Soviet Union in 1989, when Regina was nine, during the period of Perestroika, when Soviet citizens were permitted to emigrate. Regina had to leave her piano behind. The seriousness of her piano studies led her parents to consider not leaving the USSR, but they finally decided to emigrate, due to the ethnic and political discrimination which Jews faced.

Traveling first to Austria and then Italy, the family settled in the Bronx, New York, where Spektor graduated from the SAR Academy, a Jewish day middle school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. She then attended high school for two years at the Frisch School, a yeshiva in Paramus, New Jersey, but transferred to a public school, Fair Lawn High School, in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, where she finished the last two years of her high school education

Beginnings as a songwriter

In New York, Spektor studied classical piano with Sonia Vargas, a professor at the Manhattan School of Music, until she was 17; Spektor's father had met Vargas through her husband, violinist Samuel Marder. Although the family had been unable to bring their piano from Russia, Spektor found a piano on which to play in the basement of her synagogue, and also practiced on tabletops and other hard surfaces.

Spektor was originally interested only in classical music, but later became interested in hip hop, rock and punk as well. Although she had always made up songs around the house, Spektor first became interested in more formal songwriting during a visit to Israel with the Nesiya Institute in her teenage years when she attracted attention from the other children on the trip for the songs she made up while hiking and realized she had an aptitude for songwriting.

Following this trip, she was exposed to the work of Joni Mitchell, Ani DiFranco, and other singer-songwriters, which encouraged her belief that she could create her own songs. She wrote her first a cappella songs around age sixteen and her first songs for voice and piano when she was nearly eighteen.

Spektor completed the four-year studio composition program of the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College within three years, graduating with honors in 2001. Around this time, she also worked briefly at a butterfly farm in Luck, Wisconsin, and studied in Tottenham, England for one semester.

She gradually achieved recognition through performances in the anti-folk scene in downtown New York City, most importantly at the East Village's Sidewalk Cafe, but also at the Living Room, Tonic, Fez, the Knitting Factory, and CB's Gallery. She sold self-produced CDs at her performances during this period: 11:11 (2001) and Songs (2002).


Spektor has said that she has created a great number of songs, but that she rarely writes any of them down. She has also stated that she never aspired to write songs herself, but songs seem to just flow to her. Spektor's songs are not usually autobiographical, but rather are based on scenarios and characters drawn from her imagination. Her songs show influences from folk, punk, rock, Jewish, Russian, hip hop, jazz, and classical music. Spektor's musical style has drawn many comparisons to fellow singer-pianists Tori Amos and Fiona Apple, as well as the vocal stylings of Björk. Spektor has said that she works hard to ensure that each of her songs has its own musical style, rather than trying to develop a distinctive style for her music as a whole.

Spektor possesses a broad vocal range and uses the full extent of it. She also explores a variety of different and somewhat unorthodox vocal techniques, such as verses composed entirely of buzzing noises made with the lips and beatbox-style flourishes in the middle of ballads, and also makes use of such unusual musical techniques as using a drum stick to tap rhythms on the body of the piano or chair. Part of her style also results from the exaggeration of certain aspects of vocalization, most notably the glottal stop, which is prominent in the single "Fidelity". She also uses a strong New York accent on some words, which she has said is due to her love of New York and its culture.

Her lyrics are equally eclectic, often taking the form of abstract narratives or first-person character studies, similar to short stories or vignettes put to song. Spektor usually sings in English, though she sometimes includes a few words or verses of Latin, Russian, French, and other languages in her songs. Some of Spektor's lyrics include literary allusions, such as to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway in "Poor Little Rich Boy", The Little Prince in "Baobabs", Virginia Woolf and Margaret Atwood in "Paris", Ezra Pound and William Shakespeare in "Pound of Flesh", Shakespeare's Hamlet in "The Virgin Queen", Boris Pasternak in "Après Moi", Samson and Delilah in "Samson", and Oedipus the King in "Oedipus", Billie Holiday in "Lady" and Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome in "2.99 cent blues". She alludes to The Beatles and Paul McCartney in the song "Edit". She also used a line from Joni Mitchell's California in her song "The Devil Came to Bethlehem". Recurring themes and topics in Spektor's lyrics include love, death, religion (particularly Biblical and Jewish references), city life (particularly New York references), and certain key phrases have been known to recur in different songs by Spektor, such as references to gravediggers, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the name "Marry Ann". Spektor's use of satire is evident in "Wasteside," which refers to the classic satirical novel by the Soviet authors Ilf and Petrov The Twelve Chairs, and describes the town in which people are born, get their hair cut, and then are sent to the cemetery.

In Spektor's early albums, many of her tracks had a very dry vocal production, with very little reverb or delay added. However, Spektor's more recent albums, particularly Begin to Hope, have put more emphasis into song production and have relied more on traditional pop and rock instruments.[  Spektor says the records that most impact her are those of "bands whose music is really involved", specifically naming The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Radiohead, Tom Waits, and Frédéric Chopin as primary influences.

criminalization of baggy pants

So I ran across this blog entry in the Criminal Justice section of change.org and thought the issue related well to how we were talking about the absorbtion or criminalization of percieved threats. I don't know that these blog entries (the one I am posting and the two that it links to at the beginning) articluate exactly what the issue is. It seems that the notion is that the "clothing style" is being criminalized because people just don't like it. I think that a more accurate way to describe it would be to say that the actual pants styles aren't what people have a problem with, the individuals wearing them are. They are the threat that the system is having a hard time controlling. I don't think the pants styles being targeted because of taste. I think this goes beyond grown-ups "just not understanding" kids. The individuals who are part of that group that are being targeted because their social and cultural mores and behaviors are considered threatening. This isn't fashion police, it's what happens when the system can't control something so it has to criminalize it. Even though the music industry has capitalized on this group, it doesn't seem like they've been able to sterilize it and repackage the ideas coming from them...but they are still selling them, and now it's a bohemeth that scares the shit out of people in power.

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The Racial Undertones of Baggy Pants Laws

PUBLISHED APRIL 14, 2009 @ 04:43PM PST

Two thoughtful posts yesterday - at Flawless Hustle and RaceWire - examine one of the newer additions to the criminalized-for-no-good-reason list: baggy pants.

Towns across the country have passed laws banning baggy pants, imposing fines and prison time on the offenders. In Pine Lawn, Missouri, the parents of young offenders could spend 90 days in jail. A proposed bill in Kentucky would fine offenders $1,000 for wearing pants below the waistline. These laws are misguided because they criminalize expression - anyone arguing that exposure of underwear is indecent exposure should work on amending indecent exposure laws rather than criminalizing a specific clothing style.

They're also wrong because they target an urban population and one that includes a large number of African-Americans. We tend to criminalize that which we don't understand, and we tend to make laws that increase contact between police and inner-city youth. Laws like this start the cycle that sucks too many people into a criminal justice system they don't need. A court date for baggy pants leads to a missed day at work and a continuance. Another court date, another missed day of work - or school. The case is finally wrapped up, with a fine and a brand new criminal record. A missed test or a lost job have serious consequences, and so does a record. Another infraction - maybe trespassing for hanging out a friend's public housing complex - and we have a repeat offender. It's no mystery how good people can get wrapped up in this system when we make laws like this.

Is it going to take a Supreme Court decision to end the baggy pants laws? Here's Michelle Chen at RaceWire:

"Grown-ups have been fretting about what kids are wearing for generations. In the 1960s, black armbands worn in protest of the Vietnam War were banned, ultimately leading to a landmark Supreme Court ruling. During the 1990s, courts ruled that some bans on provocatively worded T-shirts and other controversial fashion flunked the constitutional test because they didn’t serve a valid safety or disciplinary purpose."

And vadim at Flawless Hustle:

"I’ve been living in this country for a long time and this logic - X is distasteful to me, so let's throw people who use/show/wear X in jail - is intuitive to too many people. Lucky or us, we have the Constitution, and we have the first amendment, which clearly allows for Americans to exercise their Freedom of Expression to, for example, wear clothes others might find distasteful. And we have the eighth amendment, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment,” i.e. jailing/fining citizens for wearing clothes others might find objectionable."

The more litigants challenge these laws on Constitutional grounds, and the more activist judges overrule narrow-minded legislators, the better.

Well said.