VVP: Art 434 & Engl. 410

Website for Vision Voice and Practice: An Interdisciplinary Course in Art and Creative Writing

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Malcolm Guite

Today we were visited by Malcolm Guite, visiting campus this week as part of the CCCA's "visionary-in-residence" program. Guite, an Anglican priest, a chaplain and teacher at Cambridge University, read some poems for us, and he also shared some of the collaborative projects he's been part of. Guite is a prolific sonneteer, and he shared with us a series of sonnets he made in collaboration with drawings and paintings by Adam Boulter, set in the holy land. Guite ended his time with us today by reading the following poem, while projecting an early watercolor "sketch" of the finished painting, below. Both poem and painting were inspired by camps in Jordan filled with refugees who have fled or been driven from their homes by ISIS.

     Christ Amongst the Refugees

     That fearful road of weariness and want,
     Through unforgiving heat and hate, ends here;
     We narrow sand-blown eyes to scan this scant
     And tented city outside Syria.
     He fled with us when everything was wrecked
     As Nazarene was blazoned on our door,
     Walked with the damaged and the derelict
     To where these tents are ranked and massed, foursquare
     Against the desert, with a different blazon;
     We trace the letters: UNHCR,
     As dark smoke looms behind a cruel horizon.
     Christ stands with us and withstands, where we are,
     His high commission, as a refugee;
     To pitch his tent in our humanity.

Friday, March 20, 2015

John Early

Yesterday, the conceptual artist John Early visited the class. He described a number of magical-in-an-everyday-sort-of-way projects, such as his eclipse photo series, where various objects are tossed into the sky--lawn chair, bicycle helmet--and then photographed as they eclipsed the sun. (We were told it took lots of tossing and lots of shutter clicks to get the images.) He talked a bit about being influenced by post-studio artists, who make and compile their work anyplace they can, including the living room, the office, the street.

In one particular project, Early described turning his life-long habit of collecting car parts into installations where he remade those cars, or at least parts of them, in the gallery, suspending the pieces according to their positions in the original vehicles. The results look similar to the way incomplete dinosaur fossils are articulated in a museum, prefiguring the (hopeful) possibility, thousands of years hence, when people unearth these machines and assemble them for display for in their public spaces and galleries. Click here to see an image.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Walker Percy, the Beatles, and the Mistaken Metaphor

A couple weeks back, we read the essay "Metaphor as Mistake," in which Walker Percy describes several instances of mishearing, misperceiving, misreading, or mis-composing that lead to richer insight into the thing described than what was/is meant. An example he gives is how the "wrong" term "Blue Dollar Hawk" captures the unnameable something of the bird it describes better than its more "correct," descriptive name, "Blue Darter Hawk." The "Blue Dollar Hawk" is a metaphorical description that somehow perceives, effectively and poetically, the being of the thing itself.

Every time I re-read the essay, I'm reminded of an anecdote about the composition of "Hey Jude" I first heard in the Beatles Anthology miniseries, from the 90s. The song was written by Paul McCartney for Julian Lennon, John's son, as a kind of comfort for the boy as his parents divorced. Here's the Wikipedia summary of what happened when Paul, who had a few "nonsense" lyrics as placeholders till he could revise them, first presented the near-finished song to John:
When McCartney introduced Lennon to his new composition, he came to "the movement you need is on your shoulder" and told Lennon "I'll fix that bit." Lennon asked why, and McCartney answered "it's a stupid expression; it sounds like a parrot." Lennon parried with "You won't, you know. That's the best line in the song." McCartney thus left the line in and later said: "when I play that song, that's the line when I think of John, and sometimes I get a little emotional during that moment."
There's a lot that could be said about this--about, say, the metaphorical "rightness" of the "wrong" phrase--but what stands out to me is that this action, this preservation of the lyric, occurs because Paul showed the song to John--i.e., out of a collaborative process. Even if that process was a shadow of what it had been at the beginning of the Beatles' career. As Paul, I think, somewhere said, when he wrote Beatles songs, even on his own, he always imagined what John would say about it.

Walter Ong on the power of the grapholect

I've been reading Walter Ong's best known book, Orality and Literacy. Given the attention we give in this class to crafting images and writing, I thought I'd put something down here here. The analysis is more complicated and nuanced than this passage might suggest.
Though words are grounded in oral speech, writing tyrannically locks them into a visual field forever. A literate person, asked to think of the word 'nevertheless,' will normally (and I strongly suspect always) have some image, at least vague, of the spelled-out word and be quite unable ever to think of the word 'nevertheless' for, let us say, 60 seconds without adverting to any lettering but only to the sound. This is to say, a literate person cannot fully recover the sense of what the word is to purely oral people.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Cross-Genre Conversations, Cornell & Moore

In this project students were introduced to the work of poet Marianne Moore and artist Joseph Cornell and asked to look for ways the artifacts they made (poems and boxes, respectively) suggested similarities in theme or practice. The visual art students were then asked to create work that responded to Moore or was Moore-like in some way, and the writing students were to create work that responded to Cornell or was Cornell-like. Here are a few examples:

Ian Koh:

[Made:] Saturday @ 7:30pm – 8:30pm, 28 February 2015

Response to Cornell’s “Solar Set”

Object of Obsession
Scientists exhumes from their deep mental crevice,
Silence leaks sacredness, like a beautiful delicate chalice.
Frantic
but intensely chalked lines and numbers gambit
at inapprehensible magnitude.
Found just over head in clear imaginary ether
So distinctly shining, a tiny crystal,
Like a cartoon mouse hole in a spot
on an infinitely large wall; and a child waits for a clap and squeak. 

 Chris Rasmussen:


Kaitlin Lanning:

Lex Aquilina:


Marisa Lainson:

The Last Medici Princess

There are ghosts in the kitchen drawer next to the sink,
mixed with the whisks and the spoons, asleep.
They're hidden under the silverware tray. Above,
slippery waves of moonlight spill through the window
and kiss the countertop blue. A bird sits on the sill and sings,
"How do you do, How do you do."

The clock chimes two.

I roll marbles in the grout lines of the tile
floor. They scatter and the cat chases after,
following lines that look like telephone wires, a
crucifix covered in shoe prints. I hear our mother
sob and roll three marbles all at once.
They clash and clatter, globs of matter
in motion.

The cat doesn't know where to run.

It'll be three hours yet before the sun comes
up. Voices swim in the rafters like whales
in the ocean, they echo and they spar.
The bird extends her wings and says,
"Goodnight, whoever you are." Our parents
are still fighting, but the dawn is marching
towards our door.

Katie fell from the second floor.
She doesn't play marbles with me anymore.

She lives in the kitchen drawer next to the sink,
sleeping in pearls and a dress. Sisters I never knew
keep her company, likewise clothed in their best--
pendants and curls, their wide eyes unblinking
and blue. They whisper in silence,
"We're waiting for you."

We were the last two. 

Adrianna Coe:


Abby Zilka:
My Eye Falls on Cornell's Parrot and Butterfly Habitat

and meets two other eyes, 
two other creatures staring out,
plump, perched, complacent, nestled and floating,
they flash against the whitewashed sky. Beneath
wrapped-wirey knotted cloud, breeze trails me to the hatched
and boarded case where drabber beasts of air
toss lightly, wing
to wing, span to span, landing
dusty rooted to the ground, then lift and
rush back up: two old friends.

Safe, contained, I tumble through;
watching them watching others
and again.

Kristen Hatakeda:

Kristin Rasmussen:

Ian Heisler:


Holly Collier:

Kelly McBride:
Mare Insularum:

sea of islands, the southeast range
of moon mountains. A light flickered on
in the old section. I returned in tropic showers,
saw the racehorses and yellow trees at dawn.
In Belmont, they're playing calypso music, 
tidal forces against the shores. Night
in the Ibrium Basin, a surface breach,
a flood of lava uprising.

[Text taken from Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Near Side of the Moon and Isles of the Caribbean.]


Johanna Hickle:
 Sands of Time

Each in turn must scoop his share
From the floor of this desert we call life.
Goblets, hats, cupped hands
Clutching at what we cannot keep.

Sand always discovers the
Cracks in the class
Tears in the cloth
Gaps between the fingers.
A trickling towards
The inevitable conclusion.

Life is not the organized hour glass
But an imperfect vessel--shattered. 
Time leaks.
Its loss will end coldly
And yet we linger in each warm grain of the present.
Sand wears down stone and bone alike
But does so 
Almost gently. 

Jessamy Delling:
  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

text/image collaboration

In this collaborative project the students, working in groups of three, were to create an original work using a combination of text (student produced or appropriated)  with image (student produced or appropriated) in such a way that text was to be privileged.

      Alexis, Jessamy, Chris:
Kristen, Z., Ian H.:
   
Kelly, Kristin, Janet:
   
 Natalie, Ian, Marisa:

Amy,Emily, Kaitlin:
 


    
Adrianna, Johanna, Maggie:



   
 Sean, Abby, Phil
  
 Nathaniel, Holly, Aaron:

Spot Collaboration - constructing visual meaning

In this in-class spot collaboration the students, working in groups of three,  had 30 mins. to select, extract, and reconfigure a series of disparate images into an new intentional unified whole.










Monday, February 23, 2015

Further gloss on constraint...

"Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross." - Paul, in the letter to the Philipians, 2.6-10

Saturday, February 21, 2015

"The body is a formal constraint."

This poem, by Elizabeth Willis, from the February issue of Poetry, is dedicated to the actress Rose Hobart and the artist Joseph Cornell, who had something of an obsession with her. (From Wikipedia: "[Cornell] bought a print of the movie to screen at home, became smitten with the actress, and cut out nearly all the parts that did not include her.")

It's a really good poem that should be read patiently and out loud. I'm linking to it here, as it connects to this class, not just in our study of Joseph Cornell, but because we ask our students to conceive for themselves a number of formal constraints against which they make their weekly written or visual work. We contextualize this requirement by looking at Cornell's space-constrained boxes alongside Marianne Moore's syllabically constrained poems. Cornell & Moore help set the tone of the class, to help students see, as W.H. Auden says about meter, that "rules...forbid automatic responses, force us to have second thoughts, free from the fetters of Self." Of course, as Willis puts it, "The body is a formal constraint." One is never completely unfettered. Moore in "What Are Years?" suggests that submitting to this fact is the way to move beyond it:
                                      He
sees deep and is glad, who
   accedes to mortality
and in his imprisonment rises
upon himself as
the sea in a chasm, struggling to be
free and unable to be,
   in its surrendering
   finds its continuing.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

New Semester, New Work to Come!

Tuesday was our first day of the semester, and we've already set the students to work, with two spot collaborations and restrictions for their own individual practices. Wonders to follow!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Final Image/Text Conversation

This was a final one-class session collaboration project where the student teams had one hour and a $10 budget to create a site-specific installation using image and text.









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