Friday, November 7, 2008

The State of our Arts

Over the last few months I've seen a lot of 'Art': film, theatre, paintings, advertising, and almost none of it has moved me in any way. It isn't that the art was bad, it is simply that the 'Art' was unfulfilling. Art, at least at its best, holds a mirror up to the world and allows us to see that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes. It warms our heart, chills our soul, and ultimately brings us closer together making us more human. Somewhere in this instant society we have lost the purpose behind Art. We now only create small letter 'a' art. This art simply access our pleasure center, jerks us off, and then makes us pay ten dollars for its time. I have to wonder when Art changed to art and who is to blame. I am not saying that some good Art isn't being made, but if an Artist masturbates in the forest and there is no one around to see it, is it Art? Somewhere along the way 'Art for Arts sake' lost its audience and then the artists took over.

Before I go much further let me define artist. An artist is someone who attempts to create Art without actually understanding any of the theory behind what they are doing. The understand the tools of the trade and are actually extremely competent in utilizing them, but they do not know why this makes an audience feel a certain way. The result of this is audience experiences the thrill of art without actually gaining any of the deeper insight of Art.

The question that then needs to be answered is what do we do now. This is up for debate, and I will offer my thoughts in a moment, but first let me say what we must not do. We cannot blame the audience. It has never been the audiences mandate to dictate Art. Instead, it is the Artists responsibility to bring the audience into the world of ideas that they wish to discuss. To often have I been to shows where this simple fact is forgotten. I believe that many Artists feel that as soon as an audience walks into a room they sign a contract saying the Artist can do whatever he or she wants. This is wrong. As the audience beings to experience the Art before them the contract begins to be drawn up. In short, the Artist needs to prove their worth before the contract is signed. The contract essentially stipulates the rules of the world for the duration of the work. As long as the rules are followed the audience will follow the Artist anywhere he or she wishes to take them. This is where the true Art takes place.

I'm sure some people will argue that this approach to Art slows the avant guard as it does not allow for Artists to take giant leaps forward with extreme risks. I disagree entirely. I think this approach allows more people access to the world of Art, and thus widens the avant guard by stretching it laterally as well as forward, creating a higher overall area of Art. To insist that the avant guard be inhabited by a select few is not only elitist but also seems to defeat the overarching goals of Art to hold a minor up to the world.

Art is a unique form in that is it not only how we make it but also why we chose to make it. In the end, both of these ideas need to be working in harmony for it to be successful. Success is measured by each person individually, but if the goal of Art is to help change the world then it is much more likely to reach that goal if it plays to a full house.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Not voting is part of the problem

I was reading the post Canadian election results on and one of their lead stories was that only 59.1 percent of Canadians voted in the last election: a new record low. One of the first user comments I read I believe is quite telling of this phenomenon, ‘I didn’t vote because there is no difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives, it’s like voting for the worse of two evils’. This of course was met with the standard response, ‘If you don’t vote you can’t complain”, but I don’t think that is a valid retort anymore. What we should say to people who don’t vote is, “If you don’t vote you are part of the problem”! Politicians count on people not voting, they actually want people to not vote, why? Because it makes their job easier, they don’t have to care about as many people and can tailor their message to the fewer number of people that do vote.

Let’s look at some numbers to illustrate my point; the Conservatives won only 37.63 percent of the popular vote, the Liberals 26.24. the NDP 18.20, the Bloc 9.97, and the Greens 6.80. For the time being lets forget about the fact that the Bloc can win 50 seats in the house of commons with only 9.97% of the vote while the Greens get none with 6.80%. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that a good chunk of the 40.9% of people who voted probably wouldn’t have voted Bloc so that leaves the other 4 parties. I could be very wrong in this assumption but I feel that many of the 40.9% probably wouldn’t have voted Conservative, they may not have even voted Liberal, they seem more likely to have voted for a candidate that they knew wouldn’t get in. If either of the two leading parties knew that extra 40.9% was voting they would need to court that share of the vote in order to keep power, they would need to broaden their policies to something more people liked which would effectively make them less evil. So, by not voting you are actually further perpetuating the problem with the system. Working the argument even further, by not voting you are actually hurting the system even more because even parties receives money for each vote they get. This is to give smaller parties a leg up in future elections and help them build a solid base.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Morning After

I think I know why I often get so upset when I’m partying. It has very little to do with the alcohol itself and more to do with the fact that I’m chasing the high of previous party memories. I have in my memory the perfect party nights; nights where you feel absolutely invincible and totally in tune with the life force around you. It’s the memories that you wouldn’t trade for anything. To get to that state is almost pure serendipity and often I think I try and force it. It just doesn’t seem nearly as often anymore that the people I am partying with are on the same page. Perhaps it is just life starting to pull everyone in their own different directions now, we no longer all have the same singular set of experiences to draw from as everyone is starting to more off towards bigger aspirations. For a while though it just felt so perfect, it felt like we were the only people in the world who got it. We may not have been directly changing the world but we were all living our lives. We were creating the memories we will continue to reminisce over well into our elderly years and we knew it. Now I suppose people are old and our youthful idealism is starting to dim. I’m not sure if I am just hanging onto the past or if having seen just how powerful people actually can be when their vision is united I feel I must keep trying to get back there to steal ideas for the future. Maybe I refuse to grow up and see the world through adult eyes but given that they are the ones that got us into many of the messes the world is currently in I don’t think I’m entirely convinced they will be able to solve all of the problems. There is something so innocent and pure about a child saying “well why don’t you just do x to fix the problem”. Adults always explain the answer away with long convoluted well-worn ‘truths’ but I think the answers are more simple then we want to admit. I think that’s why I don’t want to lose track of my inner child and why I keep trying to push people back towards the days of lore. There was something there if only for a moment that was real and true. So maybe I am a dreamer, or just a party kid at heart, but I think it’s more than just chasing the high of wanting to be reliving memories. I want to be constantly creating new ones, it’s how you make history.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Accruing positive change

Common sense is a tricky thing to find some days, and I think quite wrongly named as it is rarely common. I think what common sense should be called is the key that allows you to access a universal truth that you often miss because it is too close to your eyes. It’s the good old adage about not seeing the forest for the tress. You know there is a wall in front of you but until you have the words to describe it and the image identified you can’t comprehend how to get around it.

I think some people shy away from common sense because the trust almost always comes at a cost: change. As soon as you’ve been told something new and accept it, you must change the way you perceive the world and this thought can be terrifying. It’s how ideas can move mountains and inspire nations. The true may set you free, but the next question is always ‘then what’, and that’s the one that matters most. ‘Then what’ is the truth that blinds. Like looking at anything bright however if we squint at first and then slowly open our eyes we are actually able to perceive the image before us slowly and steadily. This is how we must access our universal truths.

There is of course also the age old debate about whether leaders, the ones who help us find our way to the truth, are born or bread. I for one would like to think they are shaped. Everything in life that you come in contact with shapes you in some way, leaders simply react positivity to the change. If this is in fact true then anyone can become a leader, they simply need to shift the paradigm of their perception. Simple is rarely actually that however, and with every passing day the change required becomes exponentially greater. Luckily, like Newton stated so many years ago, the opposite is also true. The more often you tap into common sense the easier it becomes: the light naturally is less blinding. Consequentially the change required is also smaller and easier to incorporate into your daily life.

Change then is most easily accessed by children but this should come as no surprise. Most people I know can single out a handful of mentors without whom they would not have even seen the door to common sense. Interestingly, most also can list a certain point or two in their life where they were forced to make a difficult choice. Despite the immediate consequences they choose to listen to their common sense and do what they felt was right. The result is often painful at first, akin to the pains of growing up, but the result is someone who they are proud to say they have become.

Although we can look to our children as our future, and the hope of a better time, in the end it is the here and now that is the only thing that can be affected. Each and every one of us must look to ourselves as a person who can actively effect change. The moral of the story here is that every day we are faced with choices that we chose to ignore because doing so is easy. But, if we instead chose to listen to what we know to be right, our common sense, our universal truths, then we would all be on the road to self betterment and positive change. A road that only gets easier after the first step.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Technological Determinism: or the kids are alright

I just finished reading an article in a recent Maclean’s Magazine mocking the new Dodge Caravan. It smugly says, ‘with this new car long family trips are a blur, you don’t even have to talk to your kids anymore’. Now my first knee jerk response is that the article was fairly well written and I actually agree with its main point, technology = bad as it can destroy family dynamics and the need for social contact. It also apparently means you don’t need to build ‘puts-hair-on-your-chest’ character by staring out the window for hours on end.

I personally experienced many family trips as a child. My younger summers were spent with my two brothers and parents in a Pontiac Firebird (seats 5) with no air conditioning. We trekked all over BC in that car and it doesn’t take much to bring back memories of my dad saying “If you don’t stop punching your brother I’ll turn this car around…” Personally I blame all of my misbehaving on the heat… The heat issue was fixed in my teen years however as we got an air conditioned mini-van. This also meant that being the oldest I often got the entire back three person seat to myself. I was bigger, so I needed more room to stretch my legs. Still, the trips were long and although portable gaming devices were around, they could only hold my interest for so long, so I either read books, or more commonly just looked out the window. A shrink might say you could blame my over active imagination on staring out a car window for hours on end imagining lots of fun creatures, or more often a cool ninja running beside the car doing tricks and fighting bad guys to keep me entertained.

So, as you can see, my first response to the ad campaign was the same as the writers: ‘character building’ uncomforts as child are funny as an adult and in many ways define who we are. Clearly then by buying this car we are robbing our children of the ability to be creative. The second these words came out of my mouth a shiver was sent down my spine: have I really become I conservative technological determinist? Does that mean I can no longer shout proudly “Damn the man, say the empire!” I want a progressive future full of forward thinking, as long as my children, if I have them, can grow up the same way as I did. Is this my equivalent to walking to school in the snow uphill both ways? On a side note, I actually did walk to school almost every day, although because I grew up in Victoria it didn’t snow much.

Thankfully, upon second thought, I can redeem my liberal soul.

I think often we get so caught up trying to make the world a better place that we sometimes forget to remember the consequences of our actions. This can be a bad thing at times because the past gives us the knowledge to reframe the future. Change however, like death and taxes, is an inevitable feature of life, and it cannot be stopped but it should also not be feared. Everyone is a product of their past, the good, the bad, and the learned mistakes define who we are. Because of this, it is frightening to think of a changed past as that would radically change our identity. Generally, I think most people like who they are, and want their children to grow up to be similar to themselves. At the very least they hope that their kids hold similar core values to be true, and want for them to have the same opportunities to succeed and grow.

In reality however, the next generation will inherit a drastically different world. They will have different toys, different friends, and face different challenges. Hopefully the world will be cleaner. Hopefully there will be less war, and poverty. A person will be a person regardless of race, religion, skin colour, or even affinity for a particular sports team. Because of this, because of everything we are now doing, children will not grow up in the same environment as we did. It cannot be helped, but that is not a bad thing. It is progress, and it is what makes us human.

I have one last thought before I close for today. Change for the sake of change can be just as bad as fearing change. Progress needs to be shaped, it needs to be molded, and its foundations need to be sculpted from the past, both the good and the bad remembered. As a parent / future parent of children and ideas don’t be afraid to turn off the TV, the video games, and your Ipod, and talk. The kids are alright, and will continue to be alright, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need some help, guidance, and love to become something everyone can be proud of.