7.08.2010

Expression in Art & Writing

     Somehow I finagled my way into guest speaking at Fordham University's Manhattan campus.  I'm writing this post to help hone my ideas, so I don't end up in, 'theoretical jargon land,' where I often times find myself.  Please- tell me what you think.

      (I'll skip my intro of who I am & such and get right to it.)
      Quickly – can anyone tell me what this is?

(Picasso, Stravinsky upside down, fast)

Little easier - how about this:


(cave dwg)

Is this a picture, or is this writing?

     Before we go any further Let's talk about that. - WHAT THIS picture is. Because I'm not here to talk so much about art OR writing. But I will probably be using those words a lot. What I'm actually here to speak to you all about is EXPRESSION. What IS Expression+ How can we more effectively, timelessly – EXPRESS ourselves+ It is important to understand than any form of expression, for today's sake, will be referred to as ART. Often times we as people forget that writing is just another art form. More often they forget that music is art as well. So let's begin by examining what IS art? What is, as is often stated, 'the problem of art?'

Let's look at this:


(Banksy Slide)

      Does anyone know what THIS is? Most likely – you didn't have to THINK about what this is. You see it – maybe it takes you a second to realize - `somethings off here.` And then BOOM – you get it. The intention of the piece has been clearly EXPRESSED to you w/ no more than a rock and some squiggly lines.

     Expression. At some level, as humans beings with minds & thoughts - we need to express our ideas, our feelings - to one another. The cave people did it to pass knowledge of the hunt. Banksy`s 'cave drawing' is the same, yet clearly expresses a sense of materialism in our modern world.

     Try and describe a thought. Not - what you are thinking, but what is a thought in itself? Electric synapses firing in your brain, thoughts lead to feelings. Feelings lead to thoughts. Describe a feeling. Express HEAT w/out using the word, 'hot.' Maybe a simpler one, more common - describe, 'confusion,' or, 'love.' Yes, these words have definitions in any dictionary or easily found on the internet. But they are only defined by a series of more & more words - all of which you can apply the same principle to: What do they REALLY mean? Lets take some time – describe for me, in writing, drawing – whatever – LOVE. Don't start yet – we will do this art school style – you have 10 seconds. Just kidding – take a full minute.

     We'll come back to these later. Who knows what this is:

(Parthenon)

     Who this is?


(Hendrix)

      One is thousands upon thousands of years old – the other, 40 years or so. Both before Either of our lifetimes, but yet we KNOW this image, this person in a second. Why is that? You've heard of this guy before:


(Aristotle)

     Lets think for a minute – why 2400 years have passed and this mans writing are still taught and referred back to by any philosopher ever since? Lets think about why the Parthenon still stands? How Jimi Hendrix was able to make static (among other things) sound so freeking good?

Lets look at this next slide.

(wait for Picasso picture)
     ...and I don't want you to think of WHAT it is... Its upside down because I want you to not look at WHAT it is – but instead what it is COMPRISED of. Hell-I'll tell you its comprised of lines on a piece of paper. What I want you to do for me now – is to spend the next 5 minutes copying the picture, but not thinking about the picture. Follow the lines on the paper – pay attention to the relationship of one line to the next... I know I'm not talking to an art class – so if you want to pick one line of the drawing – try to follow it top to bottom, left to right – whatever. Just go for it.

(pic)
     I'm flipping the picture right side up.

(pic)
     Turn your pictures around to match. See how close, or how far they are from the original. I bet you didn't know you could possibly draw as well as it came out. So you know, this is a sketch by Picasso of the influential musical composer Igor Stravinsky. Congratulations, you've just started your first forgery.
     Seriously – why did I ask you to do that?  Why would I come in here and ask you to describe LOVE in 1 minute? There is a reason, 'the masters,' as we call them are called, 'THE MASTERS.' They are masters of their trade yes – but do you think Da Vinci really knew how to build the helicopter he drew during the Renaissance period?

(davinci)
     Or that Phidias laid every block of the Parthenon himself? The reason we refer to, 'the masters,' as such is not only because they were a master of their craft – but they were MASTERS of their expression. What better way to express a dedication to a God (Nature) an understanding of ourselves in this natural world than with this:
(parth)

This is not a lost art. Lets look at this. Who knows what this is:


(empire)

      Why has this building become such an ICON of NYC? – which in itself is an icon of urban development. Not because it once held the title of tallest building in the world. There have been many tallest buildings built since, including in this very city. But what separates E.S.B. Apart from the rest? The design of the building was initially meant to represent the people of this city, as well as the city itself. It was not (although became) a race for the tallest building – it HAD to be the tallest building.
     The Empire is such an icon because it was designed, to be EXPRESSED as the greatest, tallest building in the world , because it sits in the largest, greatest (arguably) city in the world. What better testament to the people of this city than to put what would be the largest building in the world right in the heart of the city.
     It IS an expression for all of us. And while very few people study art, architecture, or anything – the message of the building is so crystal clear, it came to represent the very place it exists in.
  
     And hence I've just arrived at the problem of art. I'm trying to EXPRESS to you something w words & pictures – trying to articulate this feeling, this thought I have that I want to share with you.

     What does all this stuff I've been talking about have in common? Why did I have you do the drawing excersise? What I'm trying to get across is that all these things have something very definite in common, thousands of years apart – yet timeless.

     The artists of all these works had a good understanding of themselves, their society, their place in society. Or maybe they didn't – and their life & work was dedicated to figuring all of that out.

(arist)
     In this day and age, our society has developed very far. While this is good, in some ways, it is bad. All of us have pre-conceived notions of our ideas, our feelings – before we think about what those feelings & ideas even mean to ourselves. The 'masters,' if we for now apply this term to the people we study in history books, are not in the history books because they had a ,'style.' They are there because what they did became a, 'style,' after them. Style is for the birds. We all have our own, 'style,' so to say. But what separates us from the masters is the expression of what lies behind our, 'style.'
    
     Understanding that a thought, a feeling – has no description – the problem of art becomes that of, 'how do we communicate clearly,' to one another. We must remember – that all of us have our own interpretations of our feelings & thoughts. But at the same time, we are all human beings. 10 fingers, 10 toes, etc. So we must pay attention to what we SEE, not what we are TOLD WE SEE.

     If I wouldve asked you to draw me Stavinksy sitting in a chair – your drawings would not have come out so good. Think about what you see, how it affects you – and you will be able to more clearly express yourself, regardless of medium.


Cavemen – wanting to eat – a basic instinct. They drew-wrote a bull w a spear. Put a little background squiggly in there – boom.. The problems of a caveman are not the same as today.

Banksy – the new popular guy. He's expressing the same idea – but within our modern era... he's leaving something behind for the future, while simultaneously mocking our present. Was he up all night thinking of whats something cool to do or did he just have that nagging feeling we are all getting a bit too lazy and found a way to express that feeling?


The Parthenon – tribute to nature, how we relate to nature (diving proportion) how understanding that relationship is a testament to their God.


Jimi Hendrix – it is said that towards the end he would daydream all day about the sounds in his head that he would never be able to reproduce w the guitar – think of what THAT would've sound like. Think about how he looked INSIDE to produce sounds EXTernally.

Aristotle – never met a question he didn't want an answer too

Picasso – blessed us with cubism after reinterpreting what his classical training meant to HIM in HIS eyes. It is said that at 14, he could paint as well as Da Vinci, keep in mind. But we don't want to see any of that do we!
Da Vinci – forget the code... think Vetruvian Man.

Empire State Building – a testament to where it is and who it represents.


      Their EXPRESSION is made clear by tapping into that which is in all of us, yet can not be described in any kind of words, or paintings, or buildings, or sculpture, or song... Yet somehow, through whatever medium they chose, they were able to convey their message about their life, as it relates to yours whether the same or different.

     That's all I really have to say, if I've said anything at all today. I want to just leave you with a few paintings from Rene Magritte – a surrealist from Paris. I love to look at this guys interpretations of the world. First I say, damn that's messed up, but then after awhile I love to try and find his mind state and truly understand why a fish lady becomes so provocative. But Surrealism is a whole NOTHER animal by far.
     Thanks for you time, remember when you write, or anything that you do – understand what it is your trying to express, understand YOUR own feelings & ideas to more profoundly convey them. Forget style, be yourself.

(keep in mind these were my 'notes' please don't comment on any grammar.) 


(magritte)

I'd like to thank:
Sarah E. Cornish
Doctoral Candidate/Senior Teaching Fellow
Fordham University, NYC.

and of course the kids for staying awake and actually asking questions!

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