enjoying the foliage

Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Rather than reading Wittgenstein’s prophetic pronouncements on philosophy and the world on Friday night, I went to see a movie with my friend Adam. It was a vampire movie, and it wasn’t Twilight. You can deduce a priori from these facts that it was a film far superior to the preachy, misogynistic, goth-lite fodder that all the world’s fourteen-year-olds have been lining up to see lately. It’s called Let the Right One In, and you might be able to find it at your local indie-flick haunt.

There is just something about Swedish winters, playground love, and bloodsucking that is deeply horrifying and yet very good from a cushy movie-theatre seat. The film features smatterings of gore, yes – self-mutilation, exsanguination, immolation – but these tidbits aren’t what leave you in want of a hug when the credits roll. It’s all about the understated love and pain, the strange and demanding moral entanglements of being twelve and a bit of a bloodsucker. It’s a lonely, messy, and desperate sort of life.

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So I was talking to some BFA (bachelor of fine arts) friends of mine last night, and this conceptual art exhibit, Shedboatshed, came up. Basically, the artist, Simon Starling, came upon an old shed by the Rhine one day and decided that he would reconstruct it into a boat, row the boat to the museum he was having an exhibit at, and then rebuild his boat into a shed. It won the Turner prize in 2005. I thought it was a neat piece right away just because it automatically made me think of the good old Ship of Theseus paradox about object identity (as much as I hate that kind of metaphysics) – is Starling’s shed at the museum the same shed as the one he found by the river? But other than that, I think it still raises a lot of interesting questions – from ‘what counts as (good) art?’ to ‘in what ways do manufactured objects relate to us specifically, people in general, and the world around us?’. I suggest scrolling down to the bottom of the Tate page (first link) and listening to the audio clips or reading the transcripts from them about Shedboatshed. It’s nice to note the thought behind the piece rather than just dimissing it as a weird, postmodern act of futility.

If you knew me in high school, you knew that John Cameron Mitchell rocked my world and you probably saw me at Artsfest in grade 11 – Salvation Army fur coat, blonde Tina Turner wig, neon-orange fishnets – singing Wicked Little Town and its reprise with Tracy and Jade. I’ve outgrown Hedwig and the Angry Inch a bit since then, but I think I’ve found a replacement in JCM’s new film – Shortbus.

If you’ve heard of it, it’s probably because of Sook-Yin Lee and the real sex she has in the film. So let me just say it: there’s a glorious amount of sex on celluloid here. It’s not clever camera angles and lighting and heavy breathing; it’s real people¬† having real sex with one another, and it’s great. You’ll have to trust me when I say that it’s not pornographic. There is so much sex (and of all kinds too), so many happy naked limbs flailing around, and yet it’s fabulous because it really is just about more than a bunch of people fucking. Somehow, JCM manages to efface all of the dirt and shame that weighs down just about every other depiction of sex in the history of North American cinema and to make sex a joyous and transcendent affair. Really, Shortbus just makes me incredibly happy.

Watch this when you need to be reminded of the fact that there is love in the world or when you have someone you love beside you.

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Because I’m stuck in my wicked little town for the summer and know all of five people, I’ve begun a curriculum of cultural enrichment for myself. I rented DVDs from Classic Video down the street for the first time last night and started off with Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express.

I think I’ll report back here from time to time with my cultural adventures, but I’ve grown out of the days where I had obnoxious opinions about everything and was just a general loudmouth in her own little corner of the internet, so no full on reviews this time. It’ll suffice to say that Chungking is hilarious, disorienting, beautiful, and made me laugh out loud quite frequently and gesticulate widely to no one at times. It was also nice to know that as far as girls vying for the attention of some cute boy go, I’m not that crazy. I haven’t bought goldfish and broken into anyone’s apartment yet. I don’t talk to my bar of soap and project my sorrows on to it either. Maybe this film isn’t the best way to measure my sanity, but it’s great nonetheless.

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I promise that I will get around to posting something substantial on this thing, but for now I think I have to stick with whimsy. I recently discovered Theo Jansen, a kinetic sculptor. This is what his Wikipedia page says about him:

Jansen is dedicated to creating artificial life through the use of genetic algorithms, which simulate evolution inside their code. Genetic algorithms can be modified to solve a variety of problems including circuit design, and in the case of Jansen’s creations, complex systems. Some measure of “fitness” is introduced into the algorithm; in Theo’s case it is to survive on the beach while moving around within two enclosing lines on the wet sand near the ocean and the dry sand at the edge of the beach. Those designs best at the assigned task within the modeled beach environment are bred together and graded again. Over time complex designs emerge which sprout wings and flap in the breeze pressurizing what look like plastic two liter soda bottles. Articulated legs sprout and scuttle across the sand like those of a crab. Jansen uses plastic electrical conduit to make some of the computer’s most promising designs; and he then lets them roam free on the beach, measures their success, and updates his model.

After reading that, I didn’t really get it. You really have to watch this, a commercial Jansen made in collaboration with BMW:

Isn’t that maybe the most beautiful, creepy, amazing thing you have ever seen? There is another here, which Jansen calls The Animaris Rhinoceros.¬† It’s exactly the kind of aesthetic that I really like but don’t really know exactly how to describe. Imagine a herd of Rhinoceri creeping slowly across a plain, huge and silent. I recommend turning the sound off on youtube and listening to something Radiohead-equivalent when you watch it.

I hope, having seen this, you all have amazing fantastical dreams. Goodnight!