What is Art? Part 1

People often ask me, after some time, for my definition or understanding of art. What is more important: to define or to understand? Art cannot be defined so it’s better to try and explain how it can be understood. The way I understand art is not definitive. Different kinds of artworks demand different standards and criteria, if not values. It is true for every discipline: how can you judge ballroom dancing the same way as hiphop? How can you judge a novel on the same terms as a poem? How could you compare techno to bluegrass? You can and you can’t; it is both true and unjust. Continue reading “What is Art? Part 1”

Minimalism, Art as the Process of Simplification

I’ve always yearned for a minimalistic approach to art in which I use the fewest words or lines to produce a final creation. There is a famous story of Picasso scribbling on a napkin in a cafe. A woman hurries to him and says, “Please, how much for the napkin?” “Excuse me,” he replied. “I want to buy the sketch on the napkin.” “Twenty thousand” “What!?” “Twenty thousand,” he repeated. “But it only took you two minutes,” she said. “No, ma’am, this took me 65 years.”

It will take time and sacrifice. T his story illustrates a message I fail to communicate to anyone,  though I try: somehow it just feels like I’m always learning even if I’m not trying. The more I do it, the more I understand, the more focus and attention and analysis I put in, the better I become, even if it’s a simple line. It’s as if every inch of that line held a year each. That line couldn’t have been drawn without those years and an intensity of concentration (years alone guarantee nothing but decomposition). Continue reading “Minimalism, Art as the Process of Simplification”

Escapism in “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather

Paul is described to be fragile in physique and in character. “Paul was tall and very thin with high, cramped shoulders and a narrow chest” with abnormally large pupils and a tendency to wear flowers in his shirt pocket. In class, his teachers called him defiant, disorderly, and impertinent. The issue was that he didn’t hide his contempt; they complained that he made every physical sign—twisting away from their touch, shading his eyes, smiling at the wrong time, twitching, and gazing out the window–of withdrawal. For this, they wanted to suspend him. They wanted to suspend him. They wanted to suspend Paul simply because it made them feel insulted or uncomfortable; Paul was being punished for being slightly out of touch. “I didn’t mean to be polite or impolite, either. I guess it’s a sort of way I have of saying things regardless.” Is having no regard such an offense? The teachers finally realized that the boy was no defiant but had nervous tics and consequently they felt “humiliated to have felt so vindictive toward a mere boy”. The tables turn.

Paul is an usher at the local concert hall, where he gains access to and frequently enjoys the company of Gounod, Raffaelli, Rick, Augustus, and Alexandros of Antioch. “He was a model usher; gracious and smiling…nothng was too much trouble…as if it were his greatest pleasure in life…and all the people in his section thought him charming, feeling that he remembered and admired them.” Paul felt as if he were the host and was delighted, if not proud of himself and his status.

The juxtaposition of the settings reaffirmed what a place can make a person. In one, he is a mockery where pretentious and false persons openly expose their fangs and claws to rip the young boy to pieces; in the other, the “high” society of art, history, and culture, he is loved and adored. His smile is no longer a menace but of earnestness. Ironically, Paul subsequently looks down patronizingly at his teacher (who had been invited as charity), thinking “what business had she here among all these fine people and gay colors?” He decided that she was not “appropriately dressed and must be a fool to sit downstairs in such togs.” Paul had become as caustic and false as his teachers. He, like his teachers in theirs, had become too comfortable in his realm. Continue reading “Escapism in “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather”

Morality in Camus’ “The Guest”

Camus, in “Revolution and  Repression in Algeria (1958), writes on the burden of his writing: his words could unknowingly serve as justification to radical commentary or to radical action, especially in the “drama of Algeria” (Camus wrote specifically on the struggle Algeria endured seeking independence from French colonialism). Camus denounces the elitism of ideology and separates himself from those who think “one’s brother must die rather than one’s principles.”

In “The Guest”, a man only referred to as “The Arab”, is arrested and brought to Daru, a local educator, by the Corsican policeman, Balducci. Balducci has been ordered and orders Daru to deliver The Arab to the police. Daru refuses, it is beyond his scope of duty (as a teacher) he says but, Balducci insists that in times of war, one’s duty is one’s country takes on new forms. This painfully reminds me of our current country’s dilemma with equipping teachers with firearms to protect children from school shootings. Is it truly the duty of a teacher to do this, even in the most dire of times? Daru still refuses, though he agrees to sign Balducci’s papers, which passes the responsibility of the prisoner onto Daru. Continue reading “Morality in Camus’ “The Guest””

Colton: A Hologram of Sound

I know a boy who is trying to keep himself together, trying to make a man of himself, trying to keep his band together, but I already said that: I said he was trying to keep himself together. When I say keep his band together, you should’ve read “he’s trying to keep himself together” for the second time. It’s a rock band, and he’s jazz, the best you’ve ever heard because it’s so desperate (don’t misconstrue: he isn’t desperate, his music is).

This one is a martyr, like all artists are, not the triers, the doers, the ones on pursuit, the ones with no Plan B, the ones whose core is not a heart, and lungs, and liver, but everyone’s suffering and you wonder: “How can his body endure it; how can one body store so much suffering?”

It becomes transformed, maybe, in its expulsion into sonic sorrow, and when the sound fades, sorrow with it. Remember the dying note. Remember its final axis: the very exact second sound meets silence. I want to live there; I’ve never known so much peace as the peace of that exact moment. Continue reading “Colton: A Hologram of Sound”

Sorry to Bother You, White Isn’t Right

I saw this film with my political and “woke” boyfriend who still couldn’t seem to understand what this movie was about. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be understood. Maybe it’s something that defies logic purposefully. My response to his search for meaning: maybe, this movie is about Cassius Green (Lekeith Stanfield) and Detroit (Tessa Thomson) navigating a world not built for them.

Cassius feels as if his life has no meaning and feels inadequate compared to his girlfriend, Detroit: an emerging performance visual artist and sculptor. She sleeps, eats, and breathes political resistance (even down to her fashion: she wears different earrings the size of my palm, sporting different messages like “Murder, Murder, Murder,” and “Kill,Kill,Kill”). She loves Cassius because he’s “real” and has a keen moral compass (which he doesn’t seem to understand)………..at least until he starts working at the tele-marketing company. Continue reading “Sorry to Bother You, White Isn’t Right”

Shakespeare, Faulkner, and Tattoos

My best friend Basak is getting a tattoo, of a skull, on her right ankle. I said I’d get a matching one. Surprised and touched, she yelled in excitement and curiosity “Baby!” . She didn’t question me “Are you sure?” She already knew that there was something deeper. I’m not the type of woman to follow just to follow. I’m not silly enough to get a permanent mark on my body just to fit in. I’m not that whimsical. So…. why?

Life is surprising, that is why. Unpack that: Continue reading “Shakespeare, Faulkner, and Tattoos”

Watching Ballet

For a moment, I saw my humanity lying on the floor on a stage during a ballet performance. He laid there with his eyes dutifully glued to the ceiling. I could see him because my ticket said A24. Only once he tried to roll his eyes back to see his colleague dancing. How difficult it must be to lay there with everyone dancing behind you, just out of reach. Right now, it’s not my turn dance but to quiet catch my breath, looking dutifully where I’m supposed to, because it’s a part of my performance.

I started to cry and directed all my concentration on him. I hope he could feel it: the human extension.

The second time I felt my worth, was during the duet. This time I felt myself on Earth, as a part of a whole. I felt all the tenderness of touch . Most importantly, it reminded me that I was full of love and emotion. It seemed that there (in that moment), I had no more hate to give. How could I let this (my will) expire? No, this (feeling) could not be wrong. No, this should not be snuffed. There was no man, no woman, no black, no what; there wasn’t a thing as power. It was me, the world, the world within and without me.

How beautiful a thing that as humans, we dance for each other. We play music for each other. We give each other these gifts. It made me feel very hopeful and glad to be alive.

If art is not your most valuable currency, then I am a pauper. 

Watching 21st Century Choreographers at the New York City Ballet, May 1, 2018.
                   Dance Odyssey 
                   Pictures at an Exhibition
                   Year of the Rabbit 

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