Saturday, March 05, 2005

Ars gratia artis

Listening to Blood on the Tracks. “If You See Her, Say Hello.” What a CD, gosh, what a CD.

Yesterday evening my brother came home from college for a week of spring vacation; unfortunately for him, all of his friends have spring break the following week. On the other hand, at least I’ll get to see more of him! It’s really nice to have him back; I didn’t realize how much I missed him until he came back. Our family really isn’t whole without him here, even though with him comes the inevitably contention with my sister. He really does keep me sane.

To backtrack a paragraph, I’ve got two interesting music-related links to share. The first link is to an unbelievably good mash-up of the Beatles’ Revolver, called Revolved. I’ve recently become a lot more interested in mash-ups, not just because it’s a whole new genre of music with its own set of musicians (or technicians), but also because it combines different types of music, different decades, styles, artists, and sensibilities into a new thing that works, that people like to listen to in and of itself. Furthermore, it’s this experimental, uniting process that people usually do for the joy of making something beautiful to share with others, and they do share—generally the mash-ups are covered with a Creative Commons license but rarely are they sold for profit. This process in general and Revolved in particular strike me as exactly the kinds of things the Beatles would have loved.

The second link is to a Wired News interview with Jeff Tweedy (the article is entitled “Music is Not a Loaf of Bread”; couldn’t agree more); it’s from a couple months ago, but I just came across it recently. Anyway, it’s about Wilco’s relationship with fans and with the internet (they famously released Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for free when they were dropped from their music label), and though I didn’t learn too much from the article that I didn’t already know, it did serve to strengthen my as-of-yet unabated love for Wilco and Tweedy. For instance:

“Wired News: What was your reaction when copies of A Ghost Is Born started showing up online this year, before the official release?

“Tweedy: Something interesting happened. We were contacted by fans who were excited about the fact that they found it on P2P networks, but wanted to give something back in good faith. They wanted to send money to express solidarity with the fact that we'd embraced the downloading community. We couldn't take the money ourselves, so they asked if we could pick a charity instead--we pointed them to Doctors Without Borders, and they ended up receiving about $15,000.”

That Jeff! (Along those same lines, I’ve actually mailed a few bucks to musicians before, if I downloaded their CD and really liked it. I figured that they only get cents per each CD sold, and this way I’d cut out the middleman. Maybe next time I should donate some money to charity in their name, instead?)

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Ever since I saw the Gates in New York City, I’ve been revved up and wanting to spearhead some kind of public or conceptual art exhibit of my own. Art for art's sake. I thought of Christo’s previous works like the giant umbrellas and I thought of Keith Haring’s subway illustrations. I thought of this artist (or “artist”) who has recently been putting up little tiled Pac-Man curiosities in cities all around the world.

I also thought of something I stumbled across when I was in Rome a couple years ago: most of my family was napping (in Italy, they take their siesta seriously!) and the stores were all closed for the few hours of siesta in mid-afternoon. My dad and I decided to wander the streets, and we had much of the city to ourselves. We came across a sketchy-looking alley, and of course we went through…on the other side, we found to our surprise and delight a sunny little space with various sculptures, drawings, arrows, and messages (in Italian, English, and German) in semi-orderly form—they seemed to tell a sort of scatterbrained story about a Mexican cigar-maker and his mysterious murder… For instance, there would be a photo of a tree next to one of those tourist-binocular machines and a stack of quarters to work it; when you stuck in a quarter and looked through, you had to find that tree off in the distance, and because the scene was magnified, you could see various artifacts placed next to it. Later, a chalk body-outline drawn on the sidewalk (want more chalk-themed public art?—this fellow blogger’s got you covered). Broken bottles with a weird poem. At the very end, the artist himself was a part of the exhibit, part of the story. It was fantastic—like some bizarre dream, surreal and funny and confusing. And you could tell that when the quarters ran out, or when some rain washed away the chalk, or when a pedestrian threw away the broken beer bottle—the story would be gone, the exhibit done, and the artist would go home and think about all the people he had seen, and how they had reacted to this thing he had made. How wonderful!

Alas, I have yet to decide what I can do for my own little public art extravaganza—the fact that I live in a little suburb sort of cramps my style in this area. But I will, of course, let you all know as soon as I come to a decision.

I would also be delighted if any of you decided to take on such an endeavor—let me know and send me pictures, if you do! Now go make art.


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