Art tells us that educational assessment simply produces symbols that are at best a pale reflection of a preconceived reality. These symbols can be distorted and exploited, until one day their utility will diminish, and a new dawn will emerge.
“I chose not to take the standard options in my business – going to Vegas and singing your great hits, if you’re lucky, or going to hell, which is where Elvis went,” Lennon said. “Walking away is much harder than carrying on.”
Austin Kleon collects together a number of perspectives on the challenges of walking away and finding balance. Kleon discusses the choices of Rick Moranis and John Lennon’s choices to stay at home with children.
This seems in contrast to those like Robyn Williams whose lives are deeply connected to their art. As Cherri Minns describes:
If he wasn’t working, he was a shell of himself. And when he worked, it was like a light bulb was turned on.
During my time in Canberra, I visited the National Gallery of Australia. Away without the children, I decided to use the opportunity to explore. I part I was interested in seeing Blue Poles:
I was pleasantly surprised to find an Arthur Streeton exhibition focusing on the First World War:
Bringing together key works from collections around Australia and overseas, an important survey exhibition of Arthur Streeton’s war art will open at the NGA in December. Streeton’s contribution to the Australian war effort was significant. He served with the Royal Army Medical Corps at the Third London General Hospital in Wandsworth from 1915 to 1917 before leaving for the Western Front as an official war artist in May 1918.
His wartime output includes images of war machinery stranded in the landscape and scenes of operations headquarters, dressing stations and field hospitals. Streeton visited regions in France where the Australian army had been successful against the enemy, including Poulainville, Péronne and Mont St Quentin, overlooking the Somme. The NGA has recently acquired a deftly painted watercolour of this strategically significant area, presented as a gift to Sir John Monash, one of the war’s outstanding commanders.
I have read poems and diaries, as well as listened to Dan Carlin’s five part series, Blueprint for Armageddon, the thing that stood out with Streeton’s paintings was the stories that they told. We are given such a visual impact of conflicts like Syria. However, back then this was left to artists.
Without “problematic,” then imperfect art is “bad” and you have to choose between cherishing the ways in which it improved your life and jettisoning the art and its effects on you. That all-or-nothing framework makes acknowledging imperfections needlessly expensive and thus unpopular.
But with “problematic,” we can have it both ways: “This art, whose flaws I acknowledge and wish to see improved upon, made me happy and improved my life and my understanding of the world.” That statement doesn’t give a pass to the flaws in art, it doesn’t make a virtue out of the work’s hurtful or ugly imperfections — rather, it opens a space to talk about (and thus address) the flaws without having to deny your pleasures, influences and loves.
It's good business for me, too. This "market research" of giving away e-books sells printed books. What's more, having my books more widely read opens many other opportunities for me to earn a living from activities around my writing, such as the Fulbright Chair I got at USC this year, this high-paying article in Forbes, speaking engagements and other opportunities to teach, write and license my work for translation and adaptation. My fans' tireless evangelism for my work doesn't just sell books--it sells me.
The golden age of hundreds of writers who lived off of nothing but their royalties is bunkum. Throughout history, writers have relied on day jobs, teaching, grants, inheritances, translation, licensing and other varied sources to make ends meet. The Internet not only sells more books for me, it also gives me more opportunities to earn my keep through writing-related activities.
Consider this a rational corrective to centuries of dismissive shrugs, then: look for the gorilla. Do what we already automatically do with male art: assume there is something worthy and interesting hiding there. If you find it, admire it. And outline it, so that others will see it too. Once you point it out, we’ll never miss it again. And we will be better for seeing as obvious and inevitable something that previously – absent the instructions – we simply couldn’t perceive.
Lili Loofbourow tries to rewrite the wrong that has male art is epic, universal, and profoundly meaningful, while Women’s creations as domestic, emotional and trivial. This critique of gender has ramifications far beyond fiction. When I think of music and the world of producers, it is another field dominated by males.
One interesting quote to come out of the piece was from Susan Sontag:
A famous Susan Sontag meditation on this aesthetic paradigm bears repeating: “The great advantage men have is that our culture allows two standards of male beauty: the boy and the man. The beauty of a boy resembles the beauty of a girl. In both sexes, it is a fragile kind of beauty and flourishes naturally only in the early part of the life cycle. Happily, men are able to accept themselves under another standard of good looks – heavier, rougher, more thickly built … There is no equivalent of this second standard for women. The single standard of beauty for women dictates that they must go on having clear skin. Every wrinkle, every line, every grey hair, is a defeat.”
You have to find the right tools to help your voice sing.
Austin Kleon reflects on the pride and place of the tool for the artist. Although he suggests that it does not necessarily matter, he also argues that we need to find the right tool that helps us sing. So often we talk about transformation or redefinition, but how often do we consider that the tool for each student ‘sing’ maybe different?
Loving this wondering! Some nice feedback I got early on was “it’s like professional me time” - this was said in a slightly guilty tone but led to a conversation about the need to value this time & give self permission.