Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Report from the Phantom Zone

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Halloween (1978)
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Day of the Dead (1985)
Creepshow 2 (1987)
Monkey Shines (1988)
They Live (1988)
Village of the Damned (1995)
Land of the Dead (2005)


My wife and I have an extensive collection of horror movies.
Horror movies are fantastic. And anyone who says they can’t be serious as well does not watch them.
The social commentary in the original Night of the Living Dead propels the zombie flick from more than just gory cult classic, to a staple of film studies classes across the US.

Literature has extolled the horror genre for centuries. Who didn’t read Edge Allen Poe or Mary Shelley in high school both for pleasure and intellectual development?

So how come there is no such thing as horror art?
If there were it would be a mockery.

The closest artists I could find were artists like Jane Benson who displayed a totem of latex masks pierced through, and held together by, a steel bar at Samson Projects or David Altmejd’s werewolves. But neither of these artists really inspires a deep feeling of horror … more like intellectual curiosity.

So why don’t we look for art to provide the same type of visceral reaction to horror the way we want to watch a movie or read a book? It seems to be a hold over from the notion that galleries and museum should be places of quite contemplation. How great would it be to show up at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and hear hundreds of people inside shrieking in terror?!

My real question is, “Why is art only supposed to inspire certain emotions”? Art that employs humor is rare, horror seems unacceptable, sexual arousal is considered pornography, hatred implies ignorance, ecstatic joy is only for church, etc. etc.

Well, on this Halloween, the one day of the year where horror is venerated for the powerful force that it is, consider how there is so little art that inspires horror that is shown in the US, and yet we still show so much horrible art.

Jane Benson
You and Me
from Samson Projects exhibition "Off My Biscuit, Destroy Your District!"

David Altmejd
"The Glasswalker"

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Report from the Phantom Zone: The reverence of looking

The Zuni have used clay figures for thousands of years.
Buddhists; mandalas.
A clinical psychologists may suggest a candle.
Christians may use the cross.

Cultures from around the globe and throughout history have used objects as points of focus for beginning meditative or spiritual journeys. These objects sometimes end-up gaining there own religious or sacred value, but not always. Frequently, these objects are classified as art. In fact, even a quick walk through the Museum of Fine Arts shows that the vast majority of the art on display was probably originally created as objects of contemplation. So how come most of the art that is produced by our culture is not designed to be contemplated or even thought about at all? (Advertising makes the bulk of visual material produced by our culture. However, ads like “Drink Coca-Cola” are usually not interpreted for the Zen koans that they could be …)

What are the objects in our society that exist for long, quiet contemplation? Whatever they are, they are few and far between. Even worse, people seem to have abandoned the desire to spend time with art for its meditative qualities. When was the last time you asked someone what they did today and they replied, “Oh, I looked at a painting”?

The notion of purposely creating work that is quiet, meditative and can give the viewer a path to a different consciousness seems to have all but disappeared. The reasons for this include the fact that people spend less time with art now and much more time with decoration, the fact that art education has all but vanished, but mostly it is a change in human philosophy that no longer has a reverence for the pursuit of anything except the hyper-material.

So what does it mean that in today’s world, MIT has an entire Student Loan Art Collection where MIT students can borrow important artworks their living spaces for the academic year? This is incredible! Encouraging students to live with and take long looks at original pieces of artwork? Who would do this? MIT’s Student Loan Art Collection is important to everyone, not just MIT students because it represents a completely different philosophy; an older, wiser philosophy.

The most recent acquisitions to MIT’s Student Loan Art Collection are on display at the MIT LIST Visual Arts Center until Nov. 21 and everyone should go see the work. True, you will only be able to look at the work for a fleeting few moments, but it may inspire you to seek out your objects for contemplation for your walls. Even better, it may inspire to just go back and stare at one of the pieces of art that you already own and just look at it. For a long time.

Drink Coke

A Walk in the MFA

MIT’s Student Loan Art Collection

Saturday, October 11, 2008

ACP 10 Portfolio Walk

Monday, October 06, 2008

ACP Public Art Installation