The Creative State

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, and create— so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating."

–Pearl S. Buck

A big part of this sensitivity is about energy conservation. I think that's why a lot of creative people I know avoid other human beings like the plague. 

New York Mythology

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"DRIVING DOWN the West Side Highway, I still get the same thrill I did when I first drove over the bridge into Manhattan in 1980. I don’t think I’ll ever lose that feeling ...

In 1980 New York was near bankruptcy, with garbage strikes every month, it seemed, and a crumbling, weedy infrastructure ... 

These days, when I’m in New York, I wonder, What’s this place all about, really? The answer is consumption and moneymaking. Wall Street drives the whole country, with the fashion industry as the icing. Everything people call fabulous or amazing lasts for about ten minutes before the culture moves on to the next thing. Creative ideas and personal ambition are no longer mutually exclusive. A friend recently described the work of an artist we both know as “corporate,” and it wasn’t a compliment. The Museum of Modern Art is like a giant midtown gift store.

New York City today is a city on steroids. It now feels more like a cartoon than anything real. But New York has never been ideal, and people have always complained sourly about the changing face of the city, the loss of authenticity."

–Girl in a Band: A Memoir. Kim Gordon. 

New York City has always been a kind of self made purgatory. But today, New York is a limbo of the worst kind. It's a financial black hole where you make just enough to get by but never thrive. The fact is 1970s/1980s downtown New York was one of the city's last true bohemias. 

When contemporary artists cross over

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"For Muir, the key consideration is the fearlessness the right artist can bring to cinema: 'This is the route, we should remember, that gave us not only the first black director to win the best film Oscar, but also the first woman to win an Oscar. Kathryn Bigelow, who won in 2009 for The Hurt Locker, was a painter and conceptual artist before she made Strange Days and Point Break with Keanu Reeves. She was one of the first artists to cross over into narrative film. Both these artists have pushed things in film because that is what artists do.'"

"Muir also has a claim to have predicted the influence of video artists on the film industry. In an article for Arena in the 1990s he suggested some stars of the art world might go on to make the big films of the future. 'At least I don't need to eat my hat on that one,' he said."

–Steve McQueen paves way for artists to break the boundaries

#Shelfie: The Cinema of Transgression

Added on by Vivian Wong.

" … transgression is not simply about breaking/crossing established or created limits, and letting us view what we can not normally see, of allowing the viewer or the filmmaker a transcendent access to disguised, hidden, and unknown areas of human existence." 

"Transgression is seductive and infinitely encapsulating; to show transgression automatically marks the individual as transgressive or non-limited, and it also marks as transgressive the means through which it can be shown. Transgression seems to belong to the oppressed, the outsider, the unknown or unseen part of our psyches, forbidden knowledge and desire."

–Essay "The Transgressive Aesthetic" by Stephanie Watson. "Deathtripping: The Cinema of Transgression" by Jack Sargent. 

By the time I got to art school in the east village, the "east village art scene" was long over. But the cinema of transgression along with other underground filmmakers such as Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Stan Vanderbeek, and the Kuchar Brothers were a constant backdrop in our art/film education. 

I am still incredibly invested in the experimental / transgressive / outsider status and it's something that I hope to inject into everything that I do.

Public and Private: Distance Between Bodies

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"I've always been interested in how we relate to each other and the distance between bodies. In this film, a lot of the scenes are about the social awkwardness and the silence when we don't know what to do. I wanted to create an understanding for the social pressure the husband's character feels. With the other couple staring at him from across the table, has has to meet expectations placed upon him as a man. That makes him into a liar …

In a way, it's an essential scene. The film was inspired by a couple of friends of mine who had a similar experience -- of the man not doing what's expected of him. There were a couple of instances where the woman brought up the conflict in public to make it a really awkward social moment. It's something I've witnessed first hand. I think all of us have been in those moments; when intimate, private moments are made public. The scene highlights one of the goals of the film. One of the goals was to create one of the most spectacular avalanche scenes in film history. Another goal was to raise the percentage of divorce in society. I hope this scene helps me do that."

–'Force Majeure' Director Shares the Scene He Hopes Will Lead to More Divorces

I've been a busy worker bee

Added on by Vivian Wong.

Drosscapes: Ruins of Memory

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"That nothing lasts forever is perhaps our favorite thing to forget. And forgetting is the ruin of memory, its collapse, decay, shattering, and eventual fading away into nothingness. We don’t quite recognize how resilient cities are, how they arise over and over again from their own ruins, resurrected, reincarnated, though every Rome and London is such a resurrection, or reinvention … Ruins are evidence not only that cities can be destroyed but that they survive their own destruction, are resurrected again and again.

Ruins stand as reminders. Memory is always incomplete, always imperfect, always falling into ruin; but the ruins themselves, like other traces, are treasures: our links to what came before, our guide to situating ourselves in a landscape of time. To erase the ruins is to erase the visible public triggers of memory; a city without ruins and traces of age is like a mind without memories. Such erasure is the foundation of the amnesiac landscape that is the United States." 

–Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics. Rebecca Solnit. 2006. Essay "The Ruins of Memory".

David Wojnarowicz on Photography

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"In the art world, photography is one of the most misunderstood mediums because the camera is accessible to almost everybody ... The nature of the camera’s mechanisms makes it possible to never take a “bad” photograph. You can always get something on film and if it is blurry and out of focus or “badly” lit you only have to claim INTENT and the art world will consider it. Photography is one of the most misunderstood mediums because no one can really explain in a rational way what makes a good or bad photograph other than the artist’s intent. This is why the art world will not throw billions of dollars at photography the way it has at painting; and that is what makes it an exciting medium. You can do anything or everything you want and there is no precise criteria with which the art world can dismiss it or kill it. I used to wonder where the urge to photograph came from. I mean, there are literally billions of photographs of the eiffel tower spread all over the world by tourists with cameras. I imagine people sleep better at night having these tiny proofs of the existence of the eiffel tower in boxes underneath their beds."

–Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration. David Wojnarowicz. 1991. 

Ice Princess – Ballard Style

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"What had first struck me about Catherine was her immaculate cleanliness, as if she had individually reamed out every square centimetre of her elegant body, separately ventilated every pore. At times the porcelain appearance of her face, an over-elaborate make-up like some demonstration model of a beautiful woman's face, had made me suspect that her whole identity was a charade. I tried to visualize the childhood that had created this beautiful young woman, the perfect forgery of an Ingres."

–"Crash: A Novel". J.G. Ballard. 1973. 

Happy Valentine's Day to all you weirdos out there. 

Because you're an asshole

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"'Why is Mommy crying?' the young boy asks his dad, all sugared up and bewildered with concern. 'Because you’re an asshole,' barks back the father with exasperated logic."

–Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America. John Waters. 

The one and only John Waters, a true American original and national treasure. 

Modern Gothic

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"So why Gothic now? First we need to remember that ever since the Enlightenment killed off Satan in the eighteenth century, the artistic imagination has relished filling the void. The Gothic has never really left; one hell was replaced by another. Still, the present materialization has a sense of timing to it. On September 11 we all witnessed what could be described as a manifestation of the demonic. Even before then, the bright, busy globalism of the 1990s was wearing thin. Since 9/11, America has experienced an alarming reawakening of fundamentalist religiosity, and events have unfolded with an air of inevitability.

None of us knows what will hit us next, but things feel heavy. In the art world, fear and confusion brought about a return of the metaphysical, even if it's only skin-deep. There's been a shift from the big picture to the little one, from the cultural to the subcultural, the outer world to the inner one."

–Jerry Saltz, "Modern Gothic", The Village Voice (4-10 February 2004).

Complicity 1: Django Unchained

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"This is how Tarantino works— he tries to make you forget his many offenses by lulling you into complacency with his competence and flashes of brilliance. He tries to make the viewer believe that if the art is good enough, the message can be overlooked. I tried to overlook the message, but Tarantino never let me. Each time I tried to settle into the movie and enjoy myself, he made another indulgent, obnoxious choice that did little more than reveal what I can only assume is Tarantino’s serious problem with race.

Christoph Waltz was, as he always is, a revelation. His character, as a European struggling to understand American culture, reveals the absurdity of slavery and gives the movie at least one white person who isn’t wholly hateful. But he is still complicit in slavery, using the system to his advantage in the early going. Schultz tells Django he will only free him after they successfully capture the Brittles. Schultz finds slavery abhorrent unless it suits his purposes, which is, I imagine, the dilemma many white people found themselves in during the slavery era. Django isn’t given the autonomy to decide for himself if he wants to help Schultz or not, and we’re still supposed to go along with this. We’re still supposed to root for Schultz not because he is the best person. Rather, he is the least evil. I suppose that’s the point Tarantino is trying to make, that in the 1800s, everyone was complicit in the institution of slavery, but he does a half-assed job of getting that point across."

–Bad Feminist: Essays. Roxane Gay. "Surviving Django".

I've been thinking about the entire spectrum of complicity and all the infinite complex ethical dilemmas that accompany this act. 


Added on by Vivian Wong.

"Charity has allowed the uncaring to appear to care and is terrible for those dependent on it. It has become big business as the government shirks its responsibilities in these uncaring times. We go along with this, so the rich and powerful who fucked us over once fuck us over again and get it both ways. We have always been mistreated, so if anyone gives us the slightest sympathy we overreact with our thanks."

–"Blue". Derek Jarman. 1993 film. 

M.I.H. (Missing in History): Asian Americans

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"In the story of a white cop’s killing of a black teen, Asian-Americans may at first seem irrelevant. They are neither white nor black; they assume the benefits of non-blackness, but also the burdens of non-whiteness. They can appear innocuous on nighttime streets, but also defenseless; getting into Harvard is a result of “one’s own merit,” but also a genetic gift; they are assumed well-off in society, but also perpetually foreign. Asian-Americans’ peculiar gray space on the racial spectrum can translate to detachment from the situation in Ferguson ...

Racial engineering of Asian-Americans and African-Americans to protect a white-run society was nothing new, but the puppeteering of one minority to slap the other’s wrist was a marked change. The apparent boost of Asian-Americans suggested that racism was no longer a problem for all people of color — it was a problem for people of a specific color. “The model minority discourse has elevated Asian-Americans as a group that’s worked hard, using education to get ahead,” said Daryl Maeda, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “But the reality is that it’s a discourse that intends to pit us against other people of color. And that’s a divide and conquer strategy we shouldn’t be complicit with ... 

'This stuff is what I call M.I.H. — missing in history,' said Helen Zia, an Asian-American historian and activist. 'Unfortunately, we have generations growing up thinking there’s no connection [between African-Americans and Asian-Americans]. These things are there, all the linkages of struggles that have been fought together.'"

–Why Ferguson Should Matter to Asian-Americans

Andrea Zittel: Artist vs. Designer

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"There's like this other question that I ask myself that comes up a lot too, and it's like that question of why to be an artist and not a designer. I remember thinking that if an art historian, like, a hundred years from now had to talk about my generation, that it would be almost impossible to talk about it in, sort of, a significant cultural sense without touching on what was going on in design at the same time. There's this, kind of, privileged position of being an artist where you can do things on a more experimental nature simply to see what happens."

–Andrea Zittel: Art & Design. Art 21 Exclusive. 

The Cyborg

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"The cyborg incarnation is outside salvation history. Nor does it mark time on an Oedipal calendar, attempting to heal the terrible cleavages of gender in an oral symbiotic utopia or post-Oedipal apocalypse."

"The cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world; it has no truck with bisexuality pre-Oedipal symbiosis, unalienated labour, or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the power of the parts into a higher unity. In a sense, the cyborg has no origin story in the Western sense – a final irony since the cyborg is also the awful apocalyptic telos of the 'West's' escalating dominations of abstract individuation, an ultimate self united at last from all dependency, a man in space."

–"A Cyborg Manifesto". Donna Haraway. 1985.


Added on by Vivian Wong.

"While her friends baldly treat 'the help' terribly, Skeeter sits silently, rarely protests, but often frowns. Her frown lets us know that racism is very, very bad and that good southern girls should be nice to their mammies

Skeeter gets the bright idea to tell the stories of the maids who spend their lives cleaning white people's houses, raising white people's babies. Stone is charming and believable even if the character she plays is willfully ignorant. The charm, though, grates because it is fairly obscene to imagine that this wet-behind-the-ears lass would somehow guide the magical negroes to salvation through the spiritual cleansing of occupational confession … 

The Help is, in the absence of thinking, a good movie, but it is also an unfairly emotionally manipulative movie. There are any number of times during the interminable two hours and seventeen minutes of running time when I felt like my soul would shrivel up and die. I was devastated by all of it. Everyone around me cried openly throughout most of the movie. My eyes were not dry. I am certain we were often crying for different reasons ..."

"In another subplot, of which there are many, Skeeter's childhood nanny, Constantine (Cicely Tyson), is so devastated after being fired by the white family for whom she worked for more than twenty-seven years, she dies of a broken heart. The gross implication is that her will to live came from wiping the asses and scrubbing the toilets of white folks. This white wish fulfillment makes the movie rather frustrating."

"We don't know how Aibileen came to have a son, so we're left to assume, because she is magical, that her child's conception was immaculate."

–Bad Feminist: Essays. Roxane Gay. "The Solace of Preparing Fried Foods and Other Quaint Remembrances from 1960s Mississippi: Thoughts on The Help". 

Yeah, that basically sums up the squirm inducing and soul shriveling experience of watching The Help (2011).

Commodity Fetishism

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"I often ask beginner geography students to consider where their last meal came from. Tracing back all the items used in the production of that meal reveals a relation of dependence upon a whole world of social labour conducted in many different places under very different social relations and conditions of production … This was the condition that Karl Marx picked up on in developing one of his most telling concepts – the fetishism of commodities. He sought to capture by that term the way in which markets conceal social (and, we should add, geographical) information and relations … The grapes that sit upon the supermarket shelves are mute; we cannot see the fingerprints of exploitation upon them or tell immediately what part of the world they are from. We can, by further enquiry, lift the veil on this geographical and social ignorance and make ourselves aware of these issues (as we do when we engage in consumer boycott of non-union or [apartheid-era] South African grapes) … 

The geographical ignorance that arises out of the fetishism of commodities is in itself cause for concern. The spatial range of our own individual experience of procuring commodities in the marketplace bears no relationship to the spatial range over which the commodities themselves are produced." 

–"Between Space and Time". David Harvey. 1990. 

The Totality of Torture: Possession of the Voice

Added on by Vivian Wong.

"Through his ability to project words and sounds out into his environment, a human being inhabits, humanizes, and makes his own a space much larger than that occupied by his body alone. This space, always contracted under repressive regimes, is in torture almost wholly eliminated. The “it” in “Get it out of him” refers not just to a piece of information but to the capacity for speech itself. The written or tape-recorded confession that can be carried away on a piece of paper or on a tape is only the most concrete exhibition of the torturer’s attempt to induce sounds so that they can then be broken off from their speaker so that they can then be taken off and made the property of the regime. The torturer tries to make his own not only the words of the prisoner’s confession but all his words and sounds. One form of stress imposed on Portuguese prisoners was making them speak in a constant loud volume to other prisoners. In Greece, a similar rule was extended to nonverbal forms of sound: “[The officer] was not satisfied with my answer and hit me again.… Here the guard ordered me to walk so that my steps would be heard. He said I was to walk on the double.” He will, while being hurt, be made to speak, to sing, and, of course, to scream— and even those screams, the sounds anterior to language that a human being reverts to when overwhelmed by pain, will in turn be broken off and made the property of the torturers …"

–The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. Elaine Scarry. III. The Transformation of Body Into Voice.