“Fandom, after all, is born of a balance between fascination and frustration: if media content didn’t fascinate us, there would be no desire to engage with it; but if it didn’t frustrate us on some level, there would be no drive to rewrite or remake it.”—Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture, 2006. (via bigbangthesis)
I’m mad at Ricky Gervais for a lot of things: for the monstrously dehumanizing way he talks about fat people; for lending his voice to the myopic throng railing against “political correctness”; and, most recently, for implying that Jennifer Lawrence—along with countless other women—is complicit in her own sexual victimization, because she chose to take photos of her body in the (apparently illusory) privacy of home.
7. Excerpts of films will be discussed, which could include your submitted films; they may be shown and discussed as well. Depending on the materials, the attention will revolve around essential questions: how does music function in film? How do you narrate a story? (This will certainly depart from the brainless teachings of three-act-screenplays). How do you sensitize an audience? How is space created and understood by an audience? How do you produce and edit a film? How do you create illumination and an ecstasy of truth?
8. Related, but more practical subjects, will be the art of lockpicking. Traveling on foot. The exhilaration of being shot at unsuccessfully. The athletic side of filmmaking. The creation of your own shooting permits. The neutralization of bureaucracy. Guerrilla tactics. Self reliance.
9. Censorship will be enforced. There will be no talk of shamans, of yoga classes, nutritional values, herbal teas, discovering your Boundaries, and Inner Growth.
10. Related, but more reflective, will be a reading list. Required reading: Virgil’s “Georgics”, Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, and Baker’s “The Peregrine” (New York Review Books Edition published by HarperCollins). Suggested reading: The Warren Commission Report, “The Poetic Edda”, translated by Lee M. Hollander (in particular The Prophecy of the Seeress), Bernal Diaz del Castillo “True History of the Conquest of New Spain”.
11. Required film viewing list: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948, dir. John Huston), Viva Zapata (1952, dir. Elia Kazan), The Battle of Algiers (1966, dir. Gillo Pontecorvo), the Apu trilogy (1955-1959, dir. Satyajit Ray), and, if available, “Where is the Friend’s Home?” (1987, dir. Abbas Kiarostami).
12. Follow your vision. Form secretive Rogue Cells everywhere. At the same time, be not afraid of solitude.
GUYS. My most amazing friend Kelly started a blog basically about all the weird things she’s found writing her dissertation on 19th c. morticians (officially called: “Men of Sorrow, Markets of Grief: A History of the American Funeral Industry, 1780-1930.”) She’s just getting started, but please give her a warm welcome to Tumblr!
On a recent Saturday in Los Angeles, one could attend a Pee-Wee Herman art show at Meltdown, a pop-up Nicolas Cage art show (a port of an earlier Nicolas Cage art show put on in San Francisco), and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles art show at I Am 8-bit (not to be confused with the official Nickelodeon-sponsored Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show held a week earlier at Nucleus*). There have been *at least* three Bill Murray art shows that I’m aware of, not counting any Ghostbusters-specific art shows, of which I have entirely lost count. The word that often gets used to describe these shows is tribute. “Well, it’s a tribute,” I remember Jensen of Gallery 1988** saying when discussing the legality of one of their bajillion pop-cult shows, as though invoking the word and its reverent connotations was an instant fair-use forcefield. The thing is, well, this is a tribute:
And here’s another:
If you love the Bible, these candles might be totally awesome. But to a non-believer, a tribute means nothing. They are offerings to the thing being depicted, to reaffirm the faith of the maker and those in the pews. Smash-cut to the present, and our tributes take the form of a bunch of paintings crammed into in a gallery, that seem to exist only to say, “Hey, we all saw this one movie and think it’s cool, right?”
I wonder, sometimes, if I accidentally started this whole thing—back in college, I put on an exhibit of artwork inspired by Edward Norton. I wonder if people saw that show, or the early 8-Bit/Cult shows, and thought, “All you need is a theme. Pick a thing you like, get people to draw pictures of it, BOOM, art show.” But theme is nothing without concept. Edward Norton was the theme of that 2002 show, but the actual concept was that it would be funny to see a room filled with Edward Norton art. Funny because there is no fucking reason a room should ever be filled with art of Edward Norton; it was a joke on the expectations of an art show. It wasn’t (sorry, Edward Norton!) about how cool a guy Edward Norton is.
A good show concept, in my mind, should bring out the personality and sensibility of each artist. It should almost be a problem that the artist has to engineer his or her way out of. One of the most popular things I’ve ever painted was done, oddly enough, for a group show. No One Wants to Play Sega with Harrison Ford:
The theme of the show was “8-bit video games.” Now, I had seen pieces from the previous year’s exhibit and they were mostly depictions of Mario, Link, etc. However, I never played Nintendo. We had a Sega Master System. I knew if I drew Sega characters (this was pre-Sonic, so I’m talking Alis, Opa Opa, etc.) no one would have a clue who they were. So my challenge was to somehow use the system itself, and the image became about the actual experience of playing video games, of not having the popular system, etc. I ended up making a better piece, a a piece with emotional content, because the idea of the show made me place constraints on myself.
Being a massive hypocrite, I have continued to curate my own pop culture shows in recent years. I put together a Jurassic Park show, with the stipulation that there could be no depictions of dinosaurs, only humans. Which meant artists had to get a little creative, zeroing in on particular aspects of the film and its stars. Putting that one constraint on the art, I feel, moved the show away from advertisement/celebration/fan wankery and into the realm of weird commentary. Erin Pearce, for example, dressed beetles in the clothes of the main characters:
John Larriva drew a Michelangelo/Ian Malcolm parallel:
And Jeff Ramirez made us look, really look, at a gorgeous movie star’s face:
Earlier this year, I based a show around an X-Men coloring book. Each artist picked a page from the book and made a new piece in some way inspired by it (I should mention, the book was terrible):
Good ol’ Jeff Ramirez again:
This concept, to me, was about the transformative leap. You could see, there on the gallery wall, each artist making a connection and running with it. If you happen to like X-Men and/or think Gambit is stupid, hey, that’s a nice bonus, but it’s not central to the enjoyment of the art.
I’m not saying any of this to poo-poo group shows in general. I also don’t want to come off like I’m saying, “Wah wah, my ideas are better!” What I’m trying to demonstrate is, Yes, pop culture is neat, and you don’t have to shy away from it as subject matter. It gives us a huge shared vocabulary to draw from (example: the title of this essay). But wouldn’t it be great if we tried a little harder to do something with that vocabulary? It is my experience that if you give an artist a challenge, they will absolutely rise to it.
*I tend to like the shows Nucleus puts on, because they have a curatorial or museum aspect. For example, if they are doing a show related to a property, they will involve creators from the property and include concept art and things like that. Not surprisingly, it is run by people with art backgrounds.
**Did you know: a number of Gallery 1988 group shows are paid commercials. Artists are being used to advertise Lost, or make chickens hip in anticipation of Disney’s Chicken Little.
Ok, all of us involved with pop culture + art + expressions need to read this. Emphasis mine.
This reality is a bit harder to swallow: There are more white people in the US and Canada because the US and Canada were established using the systematic genocide of Native peoples, the theft of Native lands, and the labour of enslaved peoples in the past and immigrant peoples currently who were and are never meant to stay or survive.
And now you’re uncomfortable. Good.
When you accept and acknowledge that census figures reflect a long history of marginalization, it is preposterous to use these same figures as the benchmark to which you measure the inclusion of marginalized people.
So I actually enjoyed the first ep, but after reading this I am going to enjoy it 10000x more with Roxanne Gay’s recaps:
"Claire steps in just before the Highlanders do irreparable harm to beautiful Jamie’s finely muscled arm and thank goodness. A body like his should only be handled by professionals. I volunteer as tribute."
“I don’t care if Mike Brown was going to college soon. This should not matter. We should not have to prove Mike Brown was worthy of living. We should not have to account for the ways in which he is suitably respectable. We should not have to prove that his body did not deserve to be riddled with bullets. His community should not have to silence their anger so they won’t be accused of rioting, so they won’t become targets too.”—