Something about art

“Art is the highest expression of the human spirit” – Joyce Carol Oates

There are certain times when artistic expression is more important than we might otherwise think it is. We don’t pay much attention to what’s being produced, performed, or created when we go about our lives on the day-to-day. We work, watch television, read, go to bed.

However, now with so much time on our hands for many Americans, we get to really delve into the meaning behind where we get joy.

In 1970, Leonard Bernstein gave an address at the opening exercises of the Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts: “…Dr. Norton said, ‘It is the artists of the world, the feelers and thinkers, who will ultimately save us, who can articulate, educate, defy, insist, sing, and shout the big dreams. Only the artists can turn the not-yet into reality.'”


The philosophy of art

“Philosophy of art, the study of the nature of art, including concepts such as interpretation, representation and expression, and form. It is closely related to aesthetics, the philosophical study of beauty and taste.”

Most of what we experience in the world is the after-effect of creation. It’s interpretation, it’s criticism, and it’s opinion. True creation is born of nothing but the imagination, and it fuels the next iteration of philosophical study.

Whether art can be defined as one thing or another is a question not agreed upon in philosophical studies. What we do know is that art has the ability to change lives, often for the better. It is thought-provoking and quite often innovative. 

The world is better for art, and art shines a light on the world that lets us see, even in the dark. 

Hello Sunshine

The media company Hello Sunshine, founded by Reese Witherspoon, has an interest in telling stories that are focused on women. Not only for women but that have women at the center of every story. Her purpose to tell, and share, female-driven stories.

You may not consider the need for someone pushing for telling women’s stories, but according to USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report, published in late last year:

This year’s study also went beyond the top 100 to look at film slates distributed by major companies over the last 5 years, with results revealing the overall percentage of female directors was 9.8 percent, with 2019 the year in which the highest percentage of female directors worked (15 percent). Still, of the 40 slates studied, 26 of them did not feature a single woman of color as a director.

When stories are told, there is obviously a slant to what message is coming across. So when you omit the stories of women, or of people of color, you’re missing out on voluminous perspectives.

HBO to the max…

HBO Max had a lackluster beginning when only about 90,000 people downloaded the new streaming service’s mobile app. By comparison, 4 million users opted for Disney’s Disney+ service when it debuted back in November.

Three HBO streaming options are available: Now, Go, and Max. I can at least differentiate Max from the other two, but differences between Go and Now are beyond my understanding.

When the streaming wars become such that all content is only available through a number of individual services, each with a $7 price tag or above, there will be push back. That market can’t handle that kind of saturation.

Not to mention the changing face of television and film production

Intersecting Arts & Technology

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few months about what the arts world would look like following this pandemic. Art as business has become much more expansive, and inclusive, since the last time something of this scale occured.

During the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918, Broadway theaters remained open. This was during World War I, and the following year striking performers and stage hands would create the Actor’s Equity Union.

Dance, theatre, and performing arts, as well as cinemas, are currently suffering. Each business is trying to adapt.

Museums generally fair better as they are brick and mortar, physical objects. But funding is, and can always be, a challenge.

So there are online performances, virtual walkthroughs, Zoom talkbacks and Q&As, as well as virtual and remote options for engagement, even as the American arts industry stands to lose nearly $7 billion as a result of the coronavirus.

Now, I’m not an early adopter for tech by any stretch of the imagination. I’m still rocking my iPhone 7, have my 25″ Samsung TV I purchased (used) in 2007 at Best Buy (which is now used more as a computer monitor, but still), and was actually gifted both video game consoles I play in the past two Christmases.

But, I believe there’s an opportunity for changing the way we think about the virtual space. It’s happening already. This shutdown has forced us into considering new habits.

But simply putting it online or broadcasting a performance isn’t enough. In that space you’re still competing for viewership, only now you have the whole of the internet to compete with, rather than other local arts groups.

The idea

“What a bad idea…”

“Good idea, bad idea: Good idea – playing cops and robbers in the park. Bad idea – playing cops and robbers in the bank.”

“Sometimes even hearing a bad idea is a great way to get a good idea.”

There is a lot of stigma surrounding the bad idea. However, my contention is that there is no such thing. An idea can neither be good or bad because it is simply a thought. It is our own self-revisionist qualities that prevent us from accepting ideas as merely ideas.

Yes, some ideas are marketable, while others are not. Some can be brought into reality, and others, for better or worse, can not. Some are executed extremely well, while others – many others – are simply not.

But the idea remains an idea. It’s a neutral thing. It’s what we – the creators – do with them that matters.

What about the movies?

I like movies. And, additionally, I like movie theaters. Seeing movies in the theater is a different experience than at home. For one, in a full theater, it’s a communal experience.

There are times I’ve talked about the transitory experience of live theatre, and that the performance that night will never be given again. Because, even if the lines and movements happen to be identical (being human, that seems incredibly unlikely), the audience changes. And each audience comes into a performance with something different than previous audiences.

Films, therefore, are subject to similar constraints. Audiences view films with many preconceived notions, and one’s perception of a movie can be drastically different from another seeing the same movie.

Under our current climate, it’s hard to envision what will happen to the movie theater, and to the film industry as a whole. But, as we’ve been programmed to be recipients for story since we first huddled in caves, I’m hopeful that we’ll resume theater-going once we’ve settled down again.

I know, at least, I’ll have a ticket in hand.


Table work

There’s a session in theatrical rehearsals where actors, the director, and design staff sit down and discuss the vision of the show. It’s not just about recitation, but about being visions to reality.

Life is a lot like that. If we have clear visions, we’re more apt to make them reality. We can sit down with them, till then over, discuss them, and try them out.

Clear visions set the standard for quality theatre, and can also be used to create quality life.

Making time to create

More often than not, when pressed for time we give up our own ambitions or creative work to make room for other things. The challenge, then, is to not push aside our creative work. Make time. Chisel it in stone into your calendar.

This is my time, for my creative work. It will not be altered.

Force yourself to work, and hold yourself accountable. That’s how to make meaningful projects come to life.

Thinking fuzzy

Back in 2013, Fast Company featured an article on 10 things about the brain. Item number one is: “Your brain does creative work better when you’re tired.”

The article quotes a study published in Scientific American, stating “Insight problems involve thinking outside the box. This is where susceptibility to “distraction” can be of benefit. At off-peak times we are less focused, and may consider a broader range of information. This wider scope gives us access to more alternatives and diverse interpretations, thus fostering innovation and insight.”

So what does that mean practically? When you need to come up with clever and innovative ideas, it’s better to do it from the side rather than straight on. Allow yourself to be distracted, or tired, or not even think about the problem at hand. Allow the unconscious mind some time to come up with the solution or find a breakthrough.