Friday, June 11, 2021

Friday in the Park with Jim


Green Beard

Cool blue moths!

When you’re walking around a beautiful place with an urge to capture it in photographs, and you sternly remind yourself it’s OK to simply be there without needing to incessantly document, then, and only then, is when good photographs seem to happen.
Note: I'm not sure these are good photographs. I suspect they're merely pretty (the very thing I object to below). But I'll continue riffing, even if I haven't offered fitting examples.
The creative urge requires friction. If you freely indulge a photographic urge, for example, you're doomed to produce postcard shots. Art needs something to grind against. That's why actors insist they perform best with a little stage fright.

Why postcard shots are a bad thing (at least if you aspire to be creative):
The Wellspring of Great Results
The Crux of Creativity
The Times Everything Worked Out

There needs to be a process of reflection before you press the button or play the note or write the word. The subject must be processed for the output to acquire some all-important skew. To produce a shot that’s not merely lovely but interesting and capable of inducing a shift in the viewer, it must pass through your perceptual digestive system (note: I do NOT mean you should "think about it". For best results, leave cognition out!). This consideration imparts all the power. Viewers might glean a spidey sense of the artist's perspective, and perhaps briefly experience a sympathetic shift. Skew, deftly applied, is highly contagious.

When we talk about the "touch" of a chef or a painter or other artist, that's what we mean. We project it as existing within the meatloaf, but it's our very perspective that's touched by touch. The meatloaf is the medium (take that, Marshall McLuhan).

The thing is, it's hard to tell the difference. A flatly pretty postcard shot doesn't look so different, at a glance, from a more interesting shot with skew - with personality and touch that can induce viewers to reframe. If the slippery quality were squarely discernible, we’d be living in a completely different world.

Here in this world, most people overlook touch and skew most of the time. We even skoff at those who claim to be affected by this mysterious, hard-to-pin-down quality. They seem kooky. For many of us, Jackson Pollock‘s work is indistinguishable from random paint splatters. When you're less sensitive to touch - because it's not something you're interested in, or pay attention to - you become less susceptible to having your perspective shifted. Hold fast enough for long enough and you'll find yourself living in a purely material world sans subtext and subtlety, where abstract art is just spatters and meatloaf's just meatloaf (unless there's some obvious wrinkle, e.g. truffle oil...which, by the way, pretty much accounts for the existence of truffle oil).

As weeks go by, I find myself growing more sympathetic to the commentor beneath this posting who was exasperated by the notion that a few unremarkable - even hackneyed - words spoken to a friend in duress might have swung him into a different trajectory. I should have respected the skepticism, even thought I'm certain it's wrong, and that unimpressive-seeming snatches of word or action, wielded with great sensitivity and flawless timing and deliberate inflection, really do have the potential to shift someone's perspective, much as we can be shifted (aka "inspired", "transported", "elevated", etc.) by more conventional forms of art. I've seen it happen many times, from both sides of the fence. But I mustn't lose touch with the fact that, being inherently slippery and implicit - forever relegated to peripheral vision - the very idea of it parses to many as delusional.

Art is any human creation devised to induce a reframing of perspective, and it can be subtle to the point of invisibility without losing its power to coax a shift. This represents the fulfillment of my Nano-Aesthetics rallying cry, and the ultimate goal of Devas, who aim to maximize their helpfulness while minimizing the part they apparently play.

It also gets me a notch closer to accounting for the mysterious ju-ju of Paleolithic cave art.

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