Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Oblique connections

So I've seen a lot of art lately that seems to be about making these oblique connections with information. Maybe it's because there's so much information everywhere that the beauty made from arranging it in unique and clever ways is similar to the beauty of seeing an art piece made out of trash or throw away objects. I can't help but be reminded of the alien's art in Slaughter House Five. It's been a while since I've read it but the way I remember it is artists in the 4th dimension arrange random moments so that when perceived at once the disparate parts become beautiful and connected.

Usually I have dreams that I can flatten into nice little narratives, but the one last night was too strange to explain. It was a different world with different rules. But at one point I was trying to remember these lines from the W.H. Auden Poem September 1, 1939:

I don't think I've read that poem since 11th grade Honors English class. The only parts I could recite or half remember in my dream, and I was trying so desperately to tell someone, where: "The lights must never go out/the music must always play/Children afraid of the night/ who have never been happy or good/not universal love/but to be loved alone."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Blood n Guts

So I get to go to these really great CATE lectures and last week saw Blood and Guts in High School by Laura Parnes, as well as some webeisodes she's working on called County Down.

The video piece is considered a "re-imaging" of a book by the same name written by Kathy Acker in the late 70's. Parnes called it a visual period piece that was talking about now. I haven't read the book, but from the discussion I was struck by fact that the significant difference between the Janey in the book and the Janie in the movie is that Janey is truly rebelling, while Janie is complicit with authority. Janie is wearing rebellious garb and has rebellious thoughts and phrases but ultimately is passive. This is the difference between the attitude in the 70's and now. This is reinforced by clips from historical events from the late 70's like the Jonestown Massacre, Moral Majority, Three Mile Island, etc.

Janie is seen wearing a variety of punk outfits, but the defiant clothes and hairstyles serve to highlight the unexpected vulnerability, confusion, and loss in her conversations. The defiance she shows to authority is fleeting and misdirected, and is always mixed with strange attempts to be understood by them. Every tableau has Janie mainly interacting/conversing with one other person who then takes on symbolic significance; a psychotic reverend, her father, an indifferent nurse, a policeman, a teacher criticizing her writing, a peer/coworker criticizing her mannerisms. With every male authority figure there is explicit or implicit sexual tension which highlights the power dynamic. This is especially interesting in the last tableau, where Janie tries half-heartedly talking to the police officer about her rights and in response he laughs. The scene  shows Janie and the police officer in her cell, fully clothed, in a series of frozen and increasingly intimate and vulnerable positions. Janie eventually wakes up and sees that the police officer has been shot and she runs away.

I might be romanticizing the piece by taking from it issues I'm interested in, but to me the poignancy of the piece is in the portrait that it paints of the American "young people." The self-consciousness that Janie has and the confused mixture of defiance and desire to be accepted she shows towards authority figures, the appearance of rebellion which contrast with the passivity and compliance with authority, these are all things that make Janie a prototypical Everygirl (Everyman) from now.