Friday, October 21, 2011


I should probably talk a little about these lectures I've seen recently. I kind of don't want to, but I keep putting it off, so it's time to start articulating some of it, because otherwise more of it will slip away. That makes this sound like it's going to be more grandiose than it is, promise.

Last week, I saw Vito Acconci speak at University of Youngstown. I had only like a less than rudimentary knowledge of him. And the whole lecture was fantastic - his history and his past stuff and his modern stuff. But the Q&A should always be the best part, and this one was pretty good. One of my friends asked a question about how this guy felt about the shift to rendering everything on computers, if he thought it took away from the creation of it. I was hoping his answer was on the tape, but it wasn't. I remember it being a very sad answer. There was something about the way he looked while answering, as if all of a sudden he had gotten really old. The timbre of his voice was strong but maybe defeated. I say maybe because the way he talked about the history of technology and the tech guys at his own firm wasn't anything but mildly positive, word wise. It just looked very much like he wanted to say a lot more, but was so used to biting his tongue it took almost no effort now, was an automatic response, like putting yourself to sleep. This didn't match with the rest of the man you had seen throughout the night, so by default it seemed like the truest moment. Who knows if it was? He might have just been tired.

Later in the week I went to Jay's for dinner and we talked about the effect of computers on art. Jay stands by the idea that visual art on the computer hasn't got the soul of creating with other materials. He's a painter though, and that is definitely true for his form. As to mine, I know some people swear by typewriters but frankly I don't like them. They are slow and loud. Writing on a computer is just faster, and the faster I can type, the faster I can get my thoughts out, so better. Andrew and I had briefly discussed handwriting a while ago, there was some article about how kids not learning handwriting in school was detrimental to their development, because the very act of repetitively make the same actions with your hands while having to think about it on another simultaneous level was essential in creating certain neural pathways. But like an ill fated reptile, our hands were losing those particular strengths. I'm so used to typing everything that my handwriting has gotten weak and just a bit more illegible. I was lucky though, it was pretty legible from the beginning. Other people I know are not as fortunate. I don't know about the superiority of one set of neuron patterns to the other though. I'm not convinced that's true.

Computer renderings versus physical painting or drawing. It can be technically as good, but it's always just missing something. That memory of tactile sensation. Photography is a weird thing like that too. I'm starting to see the difference with film, and I've been trying pretty hard to avoid that, but you know, there it is. Ugh. Subtlety.

Tonight I saw Chuck Klosterman at Akron. When we got there a little late, he was reading from a portion of his new book. I didn't like Downtown Owl all that much, even though I like his nonfiction writing a lot, and it took a while for him to win me over, because as he was talking about writing the new one I kept comparing them. But once again, the Q&A was really good, and he answered questions for an hour. I had two favorite answers. The first was the guy who asked about how he felt about all media being changed to digital, if he thought it was taking something away from the experience for future generations. Klosterman answered that he thought our relationship with physical objects were overrated, and talked about how he and wife had recently gotten rid of all their CDs. That's a big thing. I haven't even done that yet frankly, I still have a bunch of them upstairs, and bunch in the car. But he talked about how hard it had been, how he thought he would miss them terribly, and then hadn't missed them at all. Because the value of the art was not in it's tangible form, and if it was, then it wasn't very valuable in the first place.

I asked him, since in the new book his character is searching for someone to tell him he's not guilty or bad for habitually and secretly observing people, then what was it he felt guiltiest about in his career? At first he told the story of mistakenly believing a high school kid about information for a story when he was young. Then he talked about Killing Yourself to Live. He had written about three exes in the book who he sent copies of it to. The first two had negative reactions, and the third had made him realize that by rewriting down memories, he had irrevocably changed her memory of how things had happened. That her mind had sucked down his version, imagination being as violatile as it is, and now she couldn't quite remember the way she had originally felt about it. And he felt terrible about that. Which is a really powerful recognition. When you are intentionally putting out your ideas about what has happened in your life, in a form that you want other people to consume, even if you try hard to accurate there are going to be words you pick and choose to use. It is just like how if you watch a movie before you read the book, that visual image is stuck with you while you read it, no matter what. That was a whole nother answer to something else, but also worthwhile. It does rob you of an extremely important relationship with the written characters. If you've watched Watership Down the movie first, and then read the book, you have no idea what you're missing and will never get, which makes me sad to think about.

Later at the bar I hadn't been to in a long time, it was nothing but old 90s songs playing, Tori Amos, Green Day, Collective Soul, No Doubt or just Gwen Stefani, I can't remember any more.

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