Sunday, July 19, 2015

Shoppe Talk at the Mermaid Tavern

Refreshing as a summer cloudburst stalled in daylong masquerade, I’ve received a profusion of literary and visual art: fiction, non-fiction, visual essay---the lyrical prose, the intellectually attractive thought, the lovely photographs. Some are still in production, some have been out for awhile, and some have just been released.  (The three discussed below fit in one or the other of the latter two categories.)

Rebecca Solnit  The Faraway Nearby  This book length essay is a meditation about personal vulnerabilities, family challenges, the ends of things, the beginnings of others, apricots, meth, Che Guevara, Buddhism, Iceland, surgery, Mary Shelley, leprosy, and more.  The topics extend independently for awhile and then cross with others, run parallel, come together, separate, like a series of trails in an accessible wilderness. And the author is an intelligent guide, there is grace and beauty in the writing, and occasional virtuosity, such as when she contrasts ecstatically benevolent feelings induced by methamphetamine with the destructive side effects:  “It’s as though you dug your grave with what you thought were wings.” 

Joseph Keppler:  Rewriting a Presocratic Chorus/RemixingVerbal + Visual Lines A beautiful, illuminated meditation, just released.  Different from his previous E-ratio expositions, in that it is not in essay or discursive form, but rather in what he calls fragments--brief statements, phrases, observations, mystical, profound, banal, didactic.  The fragments are “interwoven” with artwork, a familiar Keppler presentation trope, drawings, photographs and graphic designs elucidating the text.

Paul Forte:  Visual Thinking & Cognitive Exploration   Deeper into the trees of theory and artspeak, this essay briefly reviews the history/timeline/scene of "conceptual art." He quotes Arthur Danto, at the time a prominent critic and expositor:  “Artists today are an especially serious group of what one ought properly to think of as visual thinkers.” But then quickly expands the universe, from artists to everyone, turning “aesthetic experience” into “visual thinking,” the new, digitally enriched thinking being expostulated about on the web’s smarter sites.

In discussing Rudolf Arnheim, Forte notes “But visual thinking, according to Arnheim, is hardly limited to the activities of artists.  It is a capacity that we all share, artists and lay people alike, and may be the only form of thought capable of engendering productive understanding on a broad scale. ‘Visual thinking is the ability of the mind to unite observing and reasoning in every field of learning.’” 

So, in addition to its erudition, the essay teaches a change in the art world mindset affecting the digital transformation happening around the world.  Plus, with Forte as with Keppler, there’s a terrific bonus: you get examples of the art embedded in the text.  Fine work. 

A precept attributed to Chinese painter Fu Baoshi is that a person should be drunk when creating art.  Rebecca Solnit, Joseph Keppler, and  Paul Forte, drunk or not, and all of us artists, we are finding our places in the nano/micro/insta/digital/globalization meme. With the capability for a work of art to be created and sent to any screen anywhere in the world, it can’t be helped. 

I like to think about my place in terms of appeal, or potential appeal, to screenviewers. What am I creating that would appeal to the truck driver in Belarus, the dental assistant in Afghanistan, the philosopher in New Zealand, the movie director in Rwanda, the box partition specialist in Vietnam?  What attracts attention to anybody’s screen, anywhere, in tents and campers and trailers, in homes and apartments, mansions and shacks, in unincorporated areas or in cities, Paris, Toronto, Los Angeles, Chicago, Berlin, Dallas, Rome, New York, Tokyo, London, Seoul, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Cairo, Johannesburg, Bogota, Lima, Mumbai, Lagos, Sao Paulo, Manila, Shanghai, Mexico City, Nairobi, Kinshasa? 

And of the cities listed above, taken  from a list of the “Top 25 Cities for Young People,” the continental locations break down as follows:

·         Six in North America
·         Five in Africa
·         Five in Asia
·         Five in Europe
·         Four in South America

Have a great week.

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