I’ve been working on a new series that, even in our modern world of contemporary digital art techniques, defies easy categorization. The project is part performance, part photographic. Part sculptural, part animation. Part abstract, part conceptual.
The project flourishes under the weight of its process, like print-making or some photographic techniques. I use MAXON Cinema 4D R13, an industry standard software designed for digital 3D animation. I set up a scene with lights and cameras, usually with a very tight focal distance. I then set emitters to spray out a random amount of particles with randomized size and speeds. I outfit the particles with reflective surfaces, so that they are luminescent when the light hits them. I then pause the emitters and render out those keyframes. What we have, as a result, is an ephemeral, singular work of art. It is a perfect moment of pure beauty, captured and recorded.
Call it a Halloween special if you want, but the truth of the matter is that I love listening to songs about murder all year ’round.
I will be giving a lecture on the rich history of the murder ballad for the Scarsdale Adult School coming up very soon. I’m calling it Stabbed, Poisoned, Drowned and Shot Down: An Examination of the Murder Ballad. I’ve decided that I’m going to podcast the material ahead of time, for a number of reasons. We will only meet once, so I would like to be able to show attendees that they can access the information online as well. Also, I wanted to make sure I could fill two hours with the material I had. Turns out, it might be tough to squeeze all of it into two hours!
This also means that, temporarily at least, the Social Activism in Folk Music podcast will be down. I am actively searching for a new place to host those three episodes. When I find one, I will have them back up and running. Until then, you’ll have to make due with murder ballads.
For my most recent class, through the Scarsdale Adult School program, I tackled the socio-political and cultural mayhem known as the Jazz Age. There were too many visuals to produce a podcast of the material (as I did with the Social Activism in Folk Music class), but I still wanted to publish as much of the material as I possibly could. We met three times, for an hour and half each, and discussed a wide range of topics. We started with the evolution of jazz music out of the ragtime and minstrel traditions in New Orleans, Chicago, and later New York. We talked about swing, flappers and vamps, prohibition, art deco, hollywood, and more. Reproduced here are some of the more interesting pieces of history I could find.
I’ve created a new page for links to these lecture series‘ I do at the Scarsdale Adult School, you can find it on the navigation bar to the left. Thanks.
I just posted a full animatic of my thesis project, The Artist and the Nightwatchman, over on the Animation page. It shows the full scope of the project with scenery rendered in Cinema 4D, and characters animated in Photoshop. All music and voice work was done by me, although some of the sound effects came from other sources. The next step is to model and animate the characters themselves, and then we should be ready to roll.
I’ve also been working on some motion graphics for my portfolio by following some tutorials over at Greyscalegorilla. There are more to come, but I have two to post now. Each took a few hours of solid work to get to their current state which, admittedly, is still far from perfect.
I used sound effectors in my first video to make some orbs react to music, kind of like the iTunes or Winamp equalizers and visualizers do. The song is “Transpose” by Emalkay. It seemed like a good idea to use some dubstep for some reason. The redder and (in most cases) larger orbs on the left indicate the bass channels, while the cooler blue orbs on the right represent treble.
In the second video I used cloners, tracers, and a randomizer to build a walking human figure out small rectangular prisms. It’s hard to tell, because I set the animation speed too low, but the small wisps are moving around, slowly building up the figure. The song is “Brainfeeder” by Flying Lotus.
Like I said, there will be more coming soon. These are just some preliminary exercises. I’m also working on an animated storyboard for my graduate thesis, which I hope to post sometime soon.
“A folk song is what’s wrong and how to fix it, or it could be who’s hungry and where their mouth is or who’s out of work and where the job is or who’s broke and where the money is or who’s carrying a gun and where the peace is.” ~ Woody Guthrie
I recently taught an abbreviated class for adults on the impact of social activism on American roots music, and vice versa. I was able to accumulate a vast library of audio and video while doing research, and decided to translate the class into a podcast for consumption on a much larger scale. It will be available here, on my site, completely free of charge.
Learn about some of the most exciting times in history, and how we used music to rise above and beyond and achieve equality for all (and by “all” I mean “most”). We talk about the Hutchinson Family Singers, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, right on up through the folk-revival during the civil rights movement and beyond. Learn about the history of protest music and the future of protest music, right here in these easily digested episodes featuring full musical performances and recordings.
You can see my page for the podcast by clicking on the logo above, or following this link. Enjoy!
A professor of mine recently encouraged me to read a section from the e-flux journal double issue about the nature of contemporary art.
Some very interesting questions are raised, and answers are sought out (if not always directly found). The term itself, “contemporary”, is a slippery one. The introduction, written by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, and Anton Vidokle raises some interesting (and some scathing) points.
“When there are no longer any artistic movements, it seems that we are all working under the auspices of this singular ‘-ism’ that is deliberately (and literally) not one at all.” For them, contemporary is “…a term we know well enough through its use as a de facto standard by museums, which denote their currency through an apparently modest temporal signifier.” The seeming meaninglessness of the term contemporary becomes evident. “With this shift,” they continue, “out go the grand narratives and ideals of modernism, replaced by a soft consensus on the immanence of the present, the empiricism of now.” The entirety of the introduction is not so bleak, however. They finish by saying that even though it is a meaningless signifier, its use in everyday art vocabulary means it must have some kind of significance.
There is also an article in this book, written by Cuauhtemoc Medina, that expounds eleven theses on the subject of “contemporary art.” Some noteworthy points include the idea that the contemporary exists to mark the end of the modernist movement. The term itself, contemporary, is an absolutely oxymoronic term that signifies a point in time, when time continues to move. “The hunger to be part of the global art calendar has more to do with the hope of keeping up with the frenzy of time than with any actual aesthetic pursuit or interest.” The arts are no longer separate disciplines, but rather “a single multifarious and nomadic kind of practice that forbids any attempt at specification.” And, finally, that the goal of contemporary art is to protect cultural critique and social radicalism from the “banality of the present.”
I recently took a trip down to Long Island City to see the infamous 5Pointz graffiti haven. I was lucky enough, while I was there, to meet the man behind the location: Meres One. It was a morning well-spent, and I have a lot of great photos to show for it.
It’s just a reminder that art doesn’t need much in order to flourish. A blank wall, a backpack full of spray-paint. Some of these mural pieces were more impactful and colorful than anything you could see in a museum. I think that there is a very good reason for that, also. Sure, graffiti comes from a tradition of being egotistical and having attitude; but the art-form itself comes from very humble beginnings. You don’t need an MFA to make art. Hell, you don’t even need to graduate High School.
Check out the whole album here.