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Sunday, July 27, 2003

Nixon: The Performance Artist Back in 1974, when the U.S. was captivated by the televised Watergate hearings and the downfall of a president, viewers probably just assumed that they were watching the news. But in retrospect, wasn't Watergate the moment when America's news media stopped being merely a cold, hard reading of the facts, and became a videocentric free-for-all, a neverending race for the perfect shot, the ideal angle, and the subtle manipulation of content for narrative purpose? In other words, was the decline and fall of Richard Nixon actually the first recorded instance of video art? The Guardian (UK) 07/28/03

AJ Blogs: Why Classical Music Should Survive Greg Sandow likes classical music. But he acknowledges that this is not a wholly compelling reason for it to survive as an art form. "I don't think classical music makes us smarter, or makes us better people. I don't think it's 'better' than other kinds of music... I don't think classical music has any special claim to be considered art. In fact -- as it's practiced currently in America -- I think it fails dramatically on one of the most important things that art ought to be about." And yet, there are a few positive aspects of classical music left to cling to, and Greg would love to hear from anyone knows of more. AJ Blogs 07/27/03

Thursday, July 24, 2003

A River Runs Through It The Los Angeles River is something of a civic joke. Polluted, abused, ignored, and bound into a concrete channel, the river that once provided all of the city's water has become a symbol of downtown L.A.'s shortsighted urban strategies. But a movement to remake the city's core has been gaining steam in recent years, and a loose coalition of artists and local activists want to free the river from its concrete bonds and make it the centerpiece of a grand... well, a grand something. Neighborhoods want parks, activists want an environmentally protected area, and some people just want the river cleaned, by any means necessary. What everyone agrees upon is that the river must play a part in the long-overdue revitalization of downtown Los Angeles. The Next American City 07/03

Should Art Serve A Medical Purpose? The increasingly popular art-as-medicine movement is a revelation to some, and a deep concern to others. "Healing is... a serious business, driven by moral and ethical imperatives. Enlisting the arts in its service raises concerns about efficacy, appropriateness, false hopes and accountability. Who's to say, finally, whether the arts figure substantially in healing or whether healing is pertinent to art?" San Francisco Chronicle 07/24/03

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Art: The New (Old) Alternative Medicine "Art opens people up and delves deep. Anyone who's ever poured out his passion on a dance floor, sung John Mayer in the shower or felt rapture at Swan Lake knows it. But can that delving heal people, in both body and mind, as a veritable army of art therapists, drama therapists, dance therapists, cinema and photo therapists, expressive arts practitioners, patients, their families, hospice workers and holistic musicians believe?" San Francisco Chronicle 07/23/03

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Musical Or Opera? Does It Matter? Terry Teachout is intrigued by a recent New York Times Magazine piece which referred to a new off-Broadway show as a "serious chamber musical." That sounds an awful lot like a description of an opera, doesn't it? While the distinction may be purely semantic, it's important, nonetheless, says Teachout in his ArtsJournal blog, and composers are not well served when they try to pass off their serious work as typical Broadway ear candy. AJ Blogs 07/22/03

Monday, July 21, 2003

No Such Thing As A Stupid Question Have you always wondered what the difference is between a violin and a viola? Or pondered exactly who it is that has to completely overhaul a museum's galleries between exhibits? Or puzzled over how exactly that dancer is able to hold that other dancer in the air by her big toe without either of them sustaining serious injury? Well, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is here to help: from now until August 1, the paper's arts section is accepting all the questions about the arts that you've never asked for fear of sounding stupid. And they promise to answer them, too. Go on - you know you've got one... Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 07/19/03

It Just Ain't Culturally Significant Until It's In The Dictionary "Artistic expression has a special meaning for lexicographers at Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Every decade or so as they prepare an overhauled edition, they decide which new words from the world of culture, among other domains, are suitable for inclusion." Among the words making the cut in this year's revision: 'burn,' as in burning a song onto a CD; 'gangsta,' being the preferred hip-hop pronunciation of an already-common word; 'zine,' a homemade magazine; and 'soukous,' which you'll just have to look up. Chicago Tribune 07/20/03

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Chronicling the Art of the New Persuaders They're often annoying, they're frequently invasive, they're more than occasionally misleading, and almost no one admits to liking them. But ads have come to define modern culture, and while it may be a stretch to brand naked salesmanship as art, it's difficult to overlook a phenomenon that causes millions of people to watch a specific football game in which they have little interest, just to see how Pepsi will be trying to get us to buy their product this year. A new 3-volume encyclopedia sets out to chronicle the history and uncover the cultural meaning of the advertising explosion of the last century. The New York Times 07/19/03

The Museum As Amusement Park: Where Has All The Intellectual Curiosity Gone? There was a time when science museums, children's museums, and the like were thought of as teaching tools, as a chance to impart important details about the workings of the world into the minds of visitors, especially children. But no more. "Museums aren't there to teach a systemic body of information in some prescribed manner, the current ideology goes. Nor, as studies show, are they very good at it -- people retain very little data from their visits. Instead, museums offer a kind of neutral platform where visitors explore the drift and dimension of their own curiosity as much as they do the accumulated knowledge about a particular subject or field." San Francisco Chronicle 07/19/03

Thursday, July 17, 2003

How Would You Clean The Last Supper? Restoration of historic art treasures is in the news these days. The Guardian wonders how its readers might "restore" Leonardo's "The Last Supper," providing a digital picture for readers to play around with and submit. The painting was itself the subject of a controversial 22-year "cleaning" completed in 1999 The Guardian (UK) 07/18/03

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Staring Down Cultural Extinction "If someone suggested to a room full of people that 100 years from now, half of all the world's flora and fauna would no longer exist, it's likely that at least a few of them would be worried enough to so do something. They might donate a few dollars to the World Wildlife Fund, or maybe go so far as to sit atop a redwood that was about to be cut down. But what would the reaction be if someone suggested that half the world's cultures and languages would no longer exist?" Two someones are suggesting exactly that, and they're convinced that they can do something about it, too. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/16/03

Monday, July 14, 2003

Searching For The Meaning Of Art Why do people seek out art? "We look at art in order to search for something — it gives us a particular place where we can search for something that we can't see. There's always something beyond the frame — not just what we see but what we don't see — and it's what we don't see that we often desire. It's quite mysterious. All art is a way of trapping something or freezing something about human desire." Los Angeles Times 07/13/03

Sunday, July 13, 2003

The New Cultural Paradigm We've moved into a new era in the culture, writes Frank Rich. "In post-9/11 New York, it's not those tired 20th-century battles about pornography and blasphemy that draw blood. The new culture wars often spring from 9/11 itself, starting with the future, aesthetic and otherwise, of ground zero." So here's "the leading front of the culture war: can architecture, commerce and artistic entrepreneurship (a new City Opera? a Museum of Freedom sponsored by American Express?) so quickly bind the gravest wound in New York's modern memory? Officially, we keep being told, the answer is yes..."
The New York Times 07/13/03

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

ArtsJournal As An Idea Addictions can be good or bad, writes John Rockwell. But "certainly the presence of a Web site called ArtsJournal.com has added something important to cultural discourse..." The New York Times 07/09/03

A Canon Of Geniuses (Aren't We All?) "The very idea of a canon of geniuses may be falling by the wayside; it makes more sense to talk about the flickering brilliance of a group, a place, or a people. In the future, it seems, everyone will be a genius for fifteen minutes. The past decade has seen the rise of pop-music studies, which is dedicated to the idea that Ellington, Hank Williams, and the Velvet Underground were created equal and deserve the same sort of scholarly scrutiny that used to be bestowed only on Bach and sons. Pop-music courses draw crowds of students on college campuses, and academic presses are putting out portentous titles..." The New Yorker 07/06/03

Monday, July 7, 2003

The Gender Of Writing Is it possible to tell whether a writer is male or female? "Scholars have developed a computer algorithm that can examine an anonymous text and determine, with accuracy rates of better than 80 percent, whether the author is male or female. For centuries, linguists and cultural pundits have argued heatedly about whether men and women communicate differently. But the group is the first to create an actual prediction machine. A rather controversial one, too..." Boston Globe 07/06/03

Sunday, July 6, 2003

McLennan: Why Classical Music Has Fallen Off The Cultural Literacy Menu What do you need to know to be considered culturally literate these days? Certainly a knowledge of current movies, an idea of what books are hot this season, maybe a passing interest in what’s wowing Broadway and an awareness of the latest blockbuster show to hit the local museum. But where once classical music was a core art, it is now no longer essential, one of those things educated people believe they ought to know something about in order to be considered educated. Newsweek 07/03/03

The Link Between Language, Dementia And Creativity "Where in the brain does artistic creativity reside? Can the "damaged" mind give rise to true art?" There appears to be a link between some kinds of dementia and creativity. "One of the tragic aspects of it is the beginning of creativity heralds the onset of disease. And as the disease progresses, we go through a period where someone perfects the artistic skill, so it steadily improves as the disease is progressing, and then the disease eventually overwhelms the process and eventually the creativity is gone." National Post (Canada) 07/06/03

Insta-Mobs Flash mobs are performance art projects involving large groups of people. Mobilized by e-mail, a mob suddenly materializes in a public place, acts out according to some loose instructions, and then melts away as quickly as it formed. In New York, the city's finest turned out in force to block the city's third mob gathering last Wednesday evening. 'There's a real desire for something like this out there. Community has always been a big buzzword in the Web space, and I think the smart mob concept helps to bring the virtual community into real space. No matter how good our devices become at allowing us to communicate, I think we're always going to need some real face time with folks'."
Wired 07/05/03

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