Readings / by MK luff

Week 11 - April 9, 2019

Heidegger Reframed

Sometimes I wonder why we spend all this time trying to redefine a word. If the general understanding of the word truth lies in this idea of correctness, and has historically been used as a tool of oppression to maintain the status quo and benefit the dominant groups - why try and redefine it? Why not work to create new language around your concept that isn’t as burdened by historical context. I think Heidegger makes a good point that art is not entirely about mimesis or correctness. There is something special that happens within certain art that brings about a new understanding and allows you to gain new perspectives - in his idea a “truth” - but again why discuss it as a truth when you could label it so many other things?


I find that I approach my own artistic practice similar to Kentridge. I struggle to sketch out ideas or write fully thought out concepts that I then wish to create art to embody. Instead I find inspiration in a material, or an object, or color and begin to create around it. It’s then within this process or making that any kind of true meaning emerges for me. Similar to what Heidegger discusses is that what makes art is not inherently in the artwork, but what happens in the process of creating that object. However instead of focusing on this experience as a “truth” I simply view it more as the importance of process. It resembles how we as humans often approach everything in life whether we realize it or not. We are constantly searching for greater meaning, but it’s often not in the big concepts where we find meaning. It’s in the small day to day actions, the places where we fail, try again, course-correct - that’s where we start to pull everything together and see some greater meaning in the work we are doing.

Week 5 - February 19, 2019

Sita Sings the Blues

I wound up watching all of Sita Sings the Blues. I found it charming, relatable, and funny. Knowing how long animation can take, it’s mind boggling that she animated that entire film by herself. I read a short interview with Paley where she was asked what the budget of the film was:

$200,000 in money (plus my time, which I'm valuing at $8 million, because I can). Mostly my own from freelance work, but also from a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship. Also donations from wonderful, wonderful people who read about it online.

This response is both encouraging and frustrating. It’s encouraging that we’re living in the time of crowdfunding, and that tons of people are willing to make small donations that add up to a substantial amount of money and help projects get made. But it’s frustrating to think about how limiting that can also be if you don’t have the right connections or aren’t lucky. My friend was working on a beautiful animation, but needed more money in order to finish it so she tried to crowdfund it, and now the film sits on a computer somewhere unfinished. It’s frustrating that there isn’t a better system in place to fund the arts considering how much joy it brings to peoples lives, and how valuable it is for exchanging culture.

Week 4 - February 12, 2019

Laws That Choke Creativity

In his TED talk I think one of the most important points Lawrence Lessig makes is that we can not stop technology. We have a choice to either criminalize it, categorizing those who rewrite material as copyright violators and pirates, or work with it. Advancements in technology have given everyone the ability to become a creator rather than a passive viewer. Future generations will only continue to build upon the content already placed in front of them to view. And I think he’s right that in order to create a better culture around this both artists and institutions need to be more open to freely sharing their content. It is a futile uphill battle to try and prevent all copyright infringement and I think the more freely we share the better chance we have of developing a proper system around the sharing and remixing of creative content. But I still wonder, where will the money come from? Ideologically this works, but how do we still make sure artists are supported for their creative work at every level and their work is not simple repurposed a thousand times over with them being entirely left out of the chain and potentially the profits?

Week 3 - February 5, 2019

What is a Rhizome?

Rhizomatic thinking is important for spreading ideas through interactions. By expanding outwards in multiple ways instead of simply moving in a single direction with our thinking, we can build a stronger and more connected understanding of the world around us. But like Deleuze says “the rhizome should not necessarily be celebrated as the answer to all problems”, for an imbalanced rhizome can grow like a weed: spreading out and taking over, losing the push and pull that creates balance. Interactive art has the potential to be rhizomatic. The interactions we create can be ambiguous, but they have the potential to create shifts within people, challenging them through interactions so that they the chance to form new ideas that have expanded outwards instead of simply upwards.

Sita Sings the Blues - Copyright

I have noticed that some of the happiest and most successful creators I’ve met are those who share everything without restriction. Their desire to share and create, far outweighs their desire for ultimate control over their intellectual property. They view their intellectual and creative property as something that only has power when it is shared. And it seems that the more they share without restriction the more they are rewarded. Working at an Open Source tech company I saw this first hand. Incredible and supportive communities evolve out of these spaces that openly share knowledge and creative work. So I think it’s important that we share our work freely. I don’t want to see art behind paywalls that prevent those without money from experiencing it. But that being said I struggle with the idea that artists should simply be relying on the kindness of strangers for their wellbeing. Art is something that deeply enriches our lives, and we are all better off when we experience it. But artists can not create and survive without support.

Week 2 - January 29, 2019

The Abuse of Beauty

At the time I did not much reflect on what it meant. But when I did, I came to the view that the Elegies— Motherwell painted over 170 of them by the time of his death— were artistically excellent not simply because they were beautiful but because their being beautiful was artistically right. By that I mean that when I grasped their thought, I understood that their aesthetic beauty was internal to their meaning.

While there are artworks that simply stop me in my tracks because I find them breathtaking, I often find the beauty that lingers is held up by a strong conceptual underpinning, or something that causes an emotional reaction within me. I have experienced this both in artwork and in everyday experiences that I deem “beautiful”. When I see a particularly stunning sunset it causes me to pause and reflect upon the moment. The beauty of the sunset becomes more intense because of the emotions and thoughts I suddenly start tying to it. While the colors draw me in, it is what they suddenly start to mean to me that holds my attention and instills that sense of beauty.

When discussing the Spanish Elegies Danto explains how “they are visual meditations on the death of a form of life”, and that is what makes them beautiful. I think that is a common theme in many of the things we define as beautiful. It is not simply the artistic structure of the piece (the technical ways in which it was made, the colors used, etc.), but rather the moods the pieces invoke within us, the way something makes us reflect upon a moment or a thought. Beautiful art makes us experience something outside the artwork itself, but in a way that is extremely personal. Beauty is an experience. I think attempting to define it by specific structures is a futile attempt to explain an unexplainable human phenomena. It is a concept our language will always dance around, because it is also something that is constantly changing. While it appears to be something that is universally experienced, the experience is never exactly the same between two people or even the same personally with each repeated viewing. A lot of beautiful art is something we feel we can insert ourselves into. There is something that feels inherently beautiful, that is then supported by concept, or by emotional attachment.

Week 1 - January 22, 2019

Notes On Beauty

Beauty is tension. It is the unexpected within something expected. Overwhelming the senses, making you simultaneously uncomfortable and at total ease. Beauty is a process of experiencing something seemingly for the first time, even when it’s been experienced over and over again. It pulls from inside of you a feeling of awe, and then allows you to rest comfortably within that.

I don’t know if I agree that modern technology has destroyed this connection between beauty and art. While modern technology can clutter our experiences of beauty and it seems extremely necessary to disengage from time to time, I think modern technology really just alters experiences of beauty. Beauty is always changing, just like technologies have always been changing.