For the Sugar Plums 2011 [FREE DOWNLOAD!]

Meant to have this out yesterday, but MediaFire wasn't cooperating. Here it is now:

For the Sugar Plums 2011

Click here to download:

Real simple this year. I did a gig for a "fire & ice" themed holiday luncheon earlier this week. The lounge music I had prepared for the occasion seemed appropriate, so I took a session from that event and recorded it for you guys! So please enjoy 40 minutes of laid-back, vibed-out lounge jams. I realize that this is coming to you late in the month, but it isn't an entirely Christmas-based mix, so it should be appropriate for the rest of winter as well. :)


(Times indicate when each song comes into play.)

[00:00] Blazo - Through the Way
[02:21] Fat Jon - Tell Me
[03:42] Presto - The Dream
[05:23] Tek 9 - Seven Days (DJ Spinna Remix)
[06:45] Durbin Elf - Carol of the Bells
[08:51] LuiGi - In My Life
[10:21] Freddie Joachim - If It's Okay
[11:53] Blend Crafters - Imagine
[14:17] DJ Okawari - Tactics Of LUV
[15:48] Alex Cortiz - Catwalk
[19:00] Josh One - We Three Kings (feat. Cool John Ferguson)
[21:11] DJ Alibi - When the Lights Get Low
[23:14] The Jazzment - Kick it Back
[25:04] Orange Factory - To Sleep, to Dream
[27:54] Floatation - Night Cruiser (Jon Crusoe Remix)
[32:53] Lemongrass - Feel Good
[35:33] Peas - O Holy Night
[38:02] Joy Zipper - Christmas Song

Total track duration: 41:43

By: Taylor Beaumont

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Merry Mixmas!

New Mix: Journey Through My Bedroom [FREE DOWNLOAD!!]

At last! A new mix! A tour of my bedroom with music-induced mental imagery! Let's go!

Click here to download:

After getting frustrated with the bunch of mix concepts that I had bouncing around in my head, I decided to just record what started feeling natural. The concept was drawn from the result. "Journey Through My Bedroom" is a mix of eclectic electronic. 46 tracks in 70 minutes! This one's a monster! There's some hip-hop, trip-hop, glitch, blip, boom-bap, leftfield, IDM and some blatantly experimental. It all represents the state of my room and, like my room, there's lots to find. Why, there's even some Cudi!

So get lost in the spacey, spring-fresh, sometimes frightening atmosphere of my room. Or, find a way out. (I'd recommend the latter.)


1. Palisades Entertainment - Brain Damage (Dialogue)
2. Kenlo Craqnuques - Wheels
3. Super Smoky Soul - Space Smoke
4. Dabrye - Truffle No Shuffle
5. The Game - How We Do (feat. 50 Cent) [Acapella]
6. Kelpe - Stop Parching Yourself (Fulgeance Booty Call Remix)
7. Dimlite - As We Arrive
8. J Todd - 00antiskit00
9. Montgomery Clunk - Entourage
10. Montgomery Clunk - Entourage (B-Ju Remix)
11. Baths - Maximalist
12. Low Limit - Turf Day
13. Del Wire - Zero
14. Dimlite - Byrdshot
15. Jackhigh - Shyft
16. USA Films - Traffic (Dialogue)
17. Lunice - Fancy Forty
18. Shing02 - Big City Lights (Tokimonsta Remix)
19. Don Henley - Dirty Laundry
20. Mux Mool - Jen and Soda
21. Machinedrum - Brighty
22. Machinedrum & Mochipet - Moog Porn
23. Slope - Just Add Water
24. Slicker - God Bless This Mess, This Test We Pass
25. Mr. Oizo - Feadz On
26. Tipper - Tip Hop2
27. Telefon Tel Aviv - 8 Track Project Cut
28. 00Genesis - I Like You
29. Prefuse 73 - Pomade Suite Version One
30. Olive Oil - Big Shell
31. E.Super - Ice Cave Glide
32. Deru - Soulik
33. Ooah - Hacksaw
34. Heyoka - Whomp G***d Mashup
35. Wasiu M. Brion - House Party (A Tribute to Madlib)
36. DJ Rob Swift - Dope On Plastic (Scratchapella)
37. Kid Cudi - Wild'n Cuz I'm Young
38. Tyler, The Creator - Nightmare
39. Groundislava - A Grass Day
40. Devonwho - Brushmetal
41. Jacque Polynice - Homesteady
42. 1000names - 32 Steps
43. Bluntmosphere - 8008 Matinee (Slightly Crowded)
44. Black Moon - War Zone (Constrobuz Remix)
45. L.E.G.A.C.Y. - Insomnia
46. Kankick - F.L.A. (Do You Like) '97
47. Pink Floyd - Breathe (Neko Neko Remix)
48. Cunninlynguists - My Habit (I Haven't Changed)

Total track duration: 1:11:15

Additional dialogue taken from:

- American Beauty (DreamWorks Pictures)
- Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (20th Century Fox Television)
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force (Williams Street)
- Rain Man (United Artists)
- The Mothman Prophecies (Screen Gems)
- Crank: High Voltage (Sony Pictures)
- Being John Malkovich (USA Films)
- Hot Rod (deleted scene) [Paramount Pictures]

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Thanks for your interest! And please share!

For the Sugar Plums 2010 [FREE DOWNLOAD!!]

I realize that I said I was kind of discontinuing this blog, but I come bearing gifts!

I know I'm cuttin' it pretty close this year, but here we go:

For the Sugar Plums 2010
(AKA The Mix That Almost Wasn't But Then Was)

Special thanks to Patty Giang for the picture takin'.

Click here to download:

I've returned again this holiday season with some more holly jolly for ya ears!

It's not as hyphy as last year's mix, but this mix is still full of that warm good stuff. This one's for enjoying by an open fire, or even that Shaw Firelog. I'm talkin' smooth jazz, hip-hop, downtempo, headnod, the gooey stuff. Grab your loved one, grab your alcohol beverage, grab that Bill Cosby sweater, vibe out!


(Times indicate when each song comes into play.)

[00:00] TriStar Pictures - Santa Claus: The Movie (dialogue)
[00:04] Cold Legistics - Northern Star
[01:24] Bugseed - Skillz In 09
[02:15] Hollywood Pictures - While You Were Sleeping (dialogue)
[02:29] Mad Skillz - Skillz in '95 (Instrumental)
[03:23] John Halloran & Choir - Intro (dialogue)
[03:54] Harmonic 33 - Where Have They Gone
[05:20] Moka Only - Winter Fields
[06:25] L.E.G.A.C.Y. - Pure (Khrysis Instrumental)
[07:29] Sach - Joy
[09:16] Snoop Doggy Dogg - A Pimp's Christmas Song
[10:31] DJ Trax - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
[11:29] Braniff Productions - South Park (Christmas dialogue)
[13:01] Freddy Fresh - Do This
[13:54] THRILL - SANTA'S VISIT to THRILL'S HOUSE (dialogue)
[14:05] J Boogie - Under the Christmas Tree
[16:24] Ackryte - Be Cool
[18:08] Columbia Pictures - The Holiday (dialogue)
[18:16] Teebs - Untitled
[19:55] Cold Legistics - Vibe Out
[21:14] 20th Century Fox - Die Hard (dialogue)
[21:22] Flying Lotus - Session Cats
[22:40] Atmosphere - If I Was Santa Claus
[24:56] Paramount Pictures - Scrooged (dialogue)
[24:58] Dam-Funk - Toeachizown (D-F's Theme)
[27:17] Buff1 - Love The Love (Haircut Instrumental)
[28:36] J Dilla - Won't Do
[31:01] Buchanan & Goodman - Santa & The Satellite Part 2

Total track duration: 31:13

This mix is also 100% clean! Listen to it with your family!

Click here to download:

Merry Mixmas everyone! Enjoy some serious holiday headnod!

Also, here's the link to the holiday mix I did last year:

[Food for Thought] Chapter 8 - Reproduction and Sexuality

Reproduction and Sexuality

Much of the art in this chapter comes from cultures in which human reproduction was actively promoted or even ritually aided. Having children was seen as an absolute good. Early pregnancy was common, and large families were a blessing and a source of pride.

However, in the last several decades, that attitude has changed. Abortion and birth control put more choices along the way to becoming parents. Sexuality has been emphasized more for personal pleasure rather than procreation; however, the threat of sexually transmitted diseases complicates this new attitude. Teenage pregnancy or marriage is not viewed positively in the United States today. As the human population tops six billion, many believe that there are too many people for the planet to sustain. Indeed, the world's most populous country, China, has already legislated population control measures.

1) How do you see these various attitudes reflected around you in the art made today?
Reproduction and sexuality is very overt in the attitudes of today. Throughout our lives, both concepts are constantly employed as tools of humor, humiliation, suppression, and incessant human interest. Artists often explore these attitudes. Sometimes, they will be made more explicit and other times, they will be turned into bizarre and frightening nightmares we wished we had never seen. Quite commonly, artists will reproduce our fantasies right before our very eyes. While many will shy away from these depictions, artists know full-well that they have illustrated the fantasies that lie deep within the psyches of every human being. In this way, art today forces us to confront reproduction and sexuality, often as the thing we shy away from in an increasingly explicit world. Art today points out our contradictory nature, our inconsistencies, and even our longing for a shock appeal.

Like everything else today, reproduction and sexuality have become overturned to material appeal. This can obviously refer to the selling of sex, but also to the sense that sex comes with so many obligations, (including children which can become undoubted burdens on any family's income). Many artists take to representing art superficially, or even without emotion, thus challenging our conceptions of the meaning we put behind sex and progeny. In addition, art may represent these concepts as overblown or too overstressed. People often express a blind dependence on the concept of "true romance", especially when it is still so widely conceived in movies and TV shows. Artists today challenge these ideals, however, and suggest that while the "concept" of true romance seems appealing to all, sexual desire typically overcomes. While people so seem to express a yearning for a tender, loving relationship, so do they give into primal temptations. Art today reveals the lust in people, the pent-up longing, and the frailty we befall when we're seduced. Of course, along with the experimentation and underground fixation of today's sexual culture has come subsequent artwork. Art today reveals the fetishes we develop, the abuse we undergo, and the crimes we commit. Indeed, art is displayed as both grotesquely beautiful and repulsively horrifying.

Today sexuality and reproduction even become expressed as the symbolic and celestial. Marc Quinn's, "Planet" (2008) for example, almost pays homage to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey", as the baby appears suspended in a cosmic dance of animation. Like the Star-Child, Marc Quinn's baby evokes a sense of divine creation, of purity, and of significant implications to come. Interpretations on the opposite spectrum of art reveal sex and reproduction as very domestic. Sex is sometimes seen as a very every-day thing that occurs all around us. No matter how often we try to censor the thought of casual sex, it is a very human thing that constitutes our lives. From apartments, to suburban houses, and even public areas, sex is constantly unraveling. Reproduction and birth is a stern reality. Laden throughout the joys of new life are gripping pressures that close in on all of us. As a relief from many of these grim realities, artists also choose combine the domestic sense with the fantastic. This is often presents us with a sense of the surreal. John Valadez's "Low Tide" (2004), which is pictured below, is an example of this. While not alarmingly dream-like, John Valadez's work does capture a certain grace period. A period of slow, concentrated sexual tension. Art today reflects sexuality and reproduction as a constant reminder, and a focal-point for many of life's decisions.

2) What attitudes do you see in images from popular culture-in movies, comics, fashions, dolls, advertisements, magazines, calendar art, billboards, and so on?
As it used in artwork, sex is projected very openly in images of popular culture. While our society has been able to maintain notions of taboos and decency, sex leaks into the public's view on a constant basis. It, quite literally, follows you everywhere you go. Sex and sexual appeal harp down on our lives with an impeding succession, striking at us through television shows, mall advertisements, and on our buses. Today, popular culture creates a very pressurized environment. It creates raging hormones that are forced into a reserved compression, and hormones that may very well torment our inner beings. From a popular culture, media-driven perspective, sex is a tool of manipulation. In this way, sex is a selling point.

Despite the terrifying nature of sex, the dominating sense of the fascination that it invokes plays a major role in the enticing of our culture. Sex appeal can be applied in nearly every respect of matured culture. From pistachio ads to the commitment of becoming a vegetarian, sex is virtually everywhere. A very common (and often controversial) attitude of modern culture is to cash-in on the exploitation of women. While portrayals are usually consensual and legal, women are constantly objectified. They are paraded around in tight, revealing, and very reduced types of clothing. When not overtly sexual, women are dressed in suggestive clothing, or placed in situations that can be interpreted as suggestive in many ways. And even with a merely flirtatious eye, a woman can turn a man's head instantly. In this we see a very psychological attitude towards sex. While it does produce feeling of neurosis, it also sparks the excitement in attraction. In a sense, ads today like to single-out people, and make them feel like what they're seeing is intended for their eyes only. Ads today like to allow for wide ranges of interpretations, many of which aren't even directly intended. With the culture that surrounds sex, it seems that anything vaguely sexual can be inferred because human nature delights in picking-up the dirty little secrets that lace themselves throughout our every day life.

One example of obverse, highly-sexualized culture today is GQ magazine's recent "Glee" cover photo shoot (2010). With this cover ensued immediate media reaction, with a fair expression of distaste and shock. Not only does it confront the viewer with obvious promiscuity, but it also suggests a very taboo nature in high schoolers. "Glee" is set in a high school, and although many of the actors are far past that point in their lives, they still lend the likeness to the roles of teenagers. It's true that many of us are aware of the early sexual behaviors displayed in high schools, but today's society still believes in instating a veil over the manner. This magazine cover not only announces young sexuality, but portrays it as quite explicit. There is suggestiveness at every turn on this cover. The lacks of clothes, the postures of the girls (which literally wrap themselves around the man), the expressions, all seem to say: "we lost our innocence a long time ago." Interestingly enough, I also feel it pertinent to point out that the cover features a story insert of the 33 miners that became trapped in the Chilean mine. When you juxtapose this story with the "Glee" teens, you get a very unsettling sense of where the priorities of our culture lie.

3) How do we determine when a sexual image is being used for oppressive ends?
Oppression can come in many forms, including many which are much less intrusive than some might think. In referencing the GQ magazine cover above, it is interesting to note that its depiction of sexual appeal could be considered oppressive. While the girls in the image do appear to carry an air of confidence, they prostrate themselves before a fully clothed male. Their outfits, on the other hand, are almost unnecessarily suggestive. They are under a clear domain of paternal control, and this refers not only to the man in the picture, but the men who were involved in the photo shoot, the men who conceive ideas at GQ, and the men all over the world who used this cover to their fancy. Indeed, the mere ogling over women can be seen as a form of oppression, as women are being reduced to objects for the lecherous eye. Already, we see how oppression can work. Oppression is the act of physical overpowering a person, it is the practice of BDSM, and it is cruel or unjust exploitation, yes, but it is also what we see disguised in seemingly humble situations. Oppression is when one person begins to draw more sexual enjoyment out of a situation than another person does.

I determine when a sexual image is being used for oppressive ends when sex stops being a celebration. When sex is a true appreciation of form, figure, and emotions, that's when it evolves beyond the point of carnal fascination. True beauty in sexuality is true investment beyond the physical realm. When we come to develop a deep appreciation for sexuality, we begin to appreciate its empowering qualities and its ability to satisfy one's heart. Sex that isn't oppressive is sex that is mutually beneficial for all parties involved. It is not exhausted or abused, because it is celebrated. Art throughout history often portrayed sex as a state of being that could connect individuals to the spiritual realm and because of this, sex had purpose. It was important to many people, yes, but it was also a celebration.

[Food for Thought] Chapter 7 - Food and Shelter

Food and Shelter

1) What are your experiences of eating?
Because I live in a family of four, with parents that both work full-time and a sister that attends school regularly like I do, I am immersed in the daily, "go-go" routine of suburban life. My breakfast time is fleeting in the morning, and it serves mostly as a method of quelling my hunger before I make an inevitable dash for the morning bus. When it comes to lunch, things can be quite paced and enjoyable, but sometimes lunch is lost in the daily bustle of school, and instead it becomes a series of small snacks throughout the day. Luckily, dinner with my family usually feels like the truly celebrated and honored meal of the day. Though my dad will often arrive late, or not at all (seeing as he spends a lot of time traveling), dinner is almost always a chance to enjoy family company and a hearty meal, even it it sometimes exists in front of the TV.

Unfortunately, eating in my life is never truly about an enlightening experience. I have been privileged enough to indulge in some of the more elegant foods of western culture on formal nights out, and I've been given opportunities to experiment with some more "exotic" food items, but never in my life has eating really been an experience beyond the satisfying of a grumbling stomach. Never have I connected with food spiritually, never have I desperately sought out food as a means of survival and never have I been apart of ceremonial food preparation. One of my vaguely significant experiences with the brevity of food was merely partaking in a Christian family's prayers prior to dinner. In recent memory, nothing about eating food has ever made me consider anything more than... the act of eating food.

Eating is straight-forward in my life. It is a meal prepared because it's "that time of day" or because "it will stop your complaining." Even family gatherings in my life have no major implications. If anything, they are about a common perception of a North American routine. I meet with family on Thanksgiving because it's what we've always done, and not because we feel a serious need to exchange "thanks". Outside of the family complex, I eat because I'm hungry. Or, because food is so readily available everywhere I go during a day, I eat because I see something appetizing and because I can have it prepared for me at a modest price. Even when my friends and I make somewhat "ritual" runs to a local McDonalds or IHOP, there is no sense of great importance in our eating. Admittedly, we're eating because we all have indulgent sides, with money at our disposal and a reckless abandon towards the serious health implications of "all-you-can-eat" pancakes.

2) What besides hunger is being satisfied?
While food can seem quite materialistic and one-dimensional in western society, it is still a pivotal aspect of human nature. It may often come in copious amounts and may be wasted frequently, but there is a certain satisfaction that everyone can obtain from it. For most, food isn't spiritual fulfillment. Rather, it is a method of a common, 9-to-5 working day routine. Food means schedule, as western society often defines a day through its three square meals. While a food schedule is not strictly adhered to, everyone can recognize the time of day with its parallel meal. At noon, the thought of lunch has passed through the head of every employee of the company. When some one sleeps late into the day, they know that they've missed breakfast. Food helps our society through the regiments it warrants.

Food also works hand-in-hand with many events and outings. In this way, food satisfies our leisure time. Regardless of being hungry or not, many people will instinctively purchase popcorn at a movie theater. Outings to a fair often warrant mass food consumption, as do sporting events. We can go even further to say that food is an excuse to go out. Food gives us opportunities for dinner at a friend's house, for a quick run to McDonalds, and for business luncheons. This is true because food satisfies a sense of social interaction and togetherness. Many groups of friends will decide upon random dinner outings, simply because restaurants are that common ground of conversation exchange and bonding. Beyond a circle of friends, food satisfies family. The term "family dinner" is more than just a common term. When family and extended family get together, food is often the central focus for the night. In addition, food is a venue for romance. A romantic dinner is symbolic of any burgeoning love, and will often serve the further developing of love. Some go as far as to consider many food "aphrodisiacs", and often use certain food items to inspire and strengthen sexual desire.

Though sometimes questionable in practice, food can also satisfy urges for competition. Food eating contests occur quite regularly, even resulting in leagues, institutions, and awards. Although many find such practices repulsive, others find exhilaration in the rapid consumption of hot dogs. In addition, many see food as a chance for experimentation and personal competition. Spicy foods can be consumed without any intention of satisfying hunger, but instead satisfying a sense of accomplishment and courage. Amongst friends and Internet culture, contests like the "Cinnamon Challenge" and the "Gallon Challenge" have been trialed by many. Food may even begin to do harm to the human body, but it still, in many prospects, proves vigor, determination, and raw solidarity. In terms of competition, chef skills are another common outlet. Western society is well aware of shows like "Iron Chef America" and "Chopped", but cooking competitions occur everywhere. Chili cook-offs, cake designing competitions, oyster shucking speed rounds, all happen quite regularly and with respected honors. When it comes to being a chef as a means of income, food is a means of profession. Food can be a means of academics, and even a means of carrying on family honor. If one so chooses to open up a restaurant, food can even inspire establishment.

Most characteristically of our society however, may just be food's ability to satisfy boredom. Indeed, many individuals find food as something to keep their hands busy. Food is something to watch in front of the TV, and something to make when you have time on your hands.

3) What food images have you seen today?
Images of food that I see today usually revolve around the advertisement of food. Because food is produced in such mass quantities and at such rapid rates, it is available everywhere one goes throughout their day. With the domination of fast food restaurants, privately owned restaurants, and convenience stores, the human population is barraged with food images on a constant basis. While there is evidence of design and composition in many of these advertisements, many of them can't be considered as works of fine art. If true artistry does exist in modern food advertisement, it usually lies in the process of making a food item look more appetizing than they often are. Food images we see are often highly edited, glossed-over and embellished. Food is made to look more plump, rich, and juicy, and many ads will actually go the extent of making it look like as if it is served in larger quantities than in actuality. Advertisements for food wish to achieve the bold and the pristine, but never the mystifying or the thought-inducing.

Beyond advertising, food doesn't appear as prominently as it once did it art. Still life isn't the phenomena that it once was. I could even dare to say that food has lost it's beauty of simplicity in today's modern art. Though still life is still a respectable method of improving one's work with shape, light, shadow, and colour, it no longer dominates gallery institutions. Interestingly enough, art today often looks towards the commercial nature of food. It looks to portray art in much the same fashion that it is distributed. Art today illustrates food in excess, in large proportions and in "supersizes". It also looks to incorporate the figures that come to represent food. Artists like Ron English portray mascots and spokespeople, often as the money-peddling, domineering figures that they are. With a keen sense of how food is so startlingly abundant, many artists choose to give food a grotesque appearance, representing it in its most extreme forms. The cover for Animal Collective's "Strawberry Jam" is one such example of this portrayal. Avey Tare photographed the album cover to embellish the strawberry jam as strikingly rich, lucid and glistening. Today's food images go beyond original surface appeals. They also portray the experience of eating, the humor in eating, the sickness in eating, and how eating may generally affect our lives.

4) How often can architects design housing with alternative materials, when construction workers are trained to use wood?
When it comes to designing with alternative materials, modern practices are leading architects to design houses with alternative materials quite frequently. Many precincts have actually taken to enforcing the use of alternative housing materials, as the damaged environments around us nearly demand salvation. With the world's energy resources being used up faster than ever and the onslaught of predicted Global Warming effects, human beings are taking noticeable steps towards the redemption of the environment. When added with the advancements of the computer age, overpopulation, suburban sprawl, and economic boom and bust, alternative housing becomes a very tempting option.

Some notable alternative materials include cardboard, car tires, ceramics, rubber and recycled plastics, glass, bamboo, straw and cob, and even aluminum cans. Some designers have even been so bold as to harness inflatable materials, rammed earth, and beer cans. Just as well, there a huge amounts of "sustainable" woods that can be used without causing any concern. River wood, reclaimed or salvaged wood, dead timbers, all can be used with leisure.

While initial perceptions would lead people to believe that construction with these materials would cause difficulties, this has actually been disproved. Many alternative materials follow the same basic principles of wood, and when it comes to other, more unnatural materials, construction workers can easily adapt. Using glass and car tires can be very straight-forward. If problems do arise with left-field products, workers are often willing and eager to be trained.

Although not entirely widespread and popular, alternative housing is springing up more often around North America. Housing has appeared in Toronto, Connecticut, Kentucky, New Mexico, Texas, and even New York. It is an appealing option for eco-buffs, outdoors-men, those who prefer isolation and, those who are strapped for cash. Around the world renowned architects are creating award-winning houses with the enlisted help of a team of workers. These workers work very closely with the architect, and thus learn methods of construction through first-hand experience. While still overlooked through the world's increased needs for fast, reliable, and luxury housing, it should be recognized that reliable housing could prove significant in times to come.

5) Should urban planners and architects have utopian concerns as the basis of their work?
The idea of a "utopia" is tempting to many. It has a very futuristic appeal in its aesthetic, and it can result in highly structuralized, ordered living. The utopian ideal is well suited for improved public transit, cleanliness, and even behavioral changes in humans. However, initiating a utopian template for a developing city also means the deconstruction of that city (to a certain extent). Utopian concerns often involve the ridding of a city's underbelly. For many, this means the destruction of culture. While much a city may be dilapidated, dirty, and rundown, it is nonetheless embedded with an overwhelming amount of history and symbolism. Communities often become attached to their surroundings, even when they're fully aware of how unappealing their living might be. This is because life in a rustic area brings a sense of attachment. Families may have lived in a certain community for generations, historical events may have taken place within certain buildings, and cultures may have been born. When big corporations move into parts such as these with plans of installing mega malls, hotels, and casinos, they spark an outrage.

For this reason, urban planners and architects should not have utopian concerns as the basis of their work. The controversy that can surround new urban planning is far too drastic too be tampered with. Of course, this isn't to say that the utopian vision should be abandoned. Utopian designs can be applied in small factors without prompting heated backlash. Large metropolitan cities today show signs of utopian intellect in their apartments, their town-housing complexes, and their mall districts. In addition, many utopian designers have taken to creating whole new communities that don't intrude on new cities at all. While ambitious and often costly, projects like the "Three Palms Islands" in Dubai have been met with critical acclaim. The Palm Jumeirah is already quite handsomely populated, with developed housing and even a monorail system. While not the cold, calculated example of a utopia that many would expect, the Three Palms Islands do create a sense of idealism, improved living, and social management. In senses such as these, the utopian ideal should appear as a promising prospect for designers and planners. It shouldn't, however, be a ruling cause at the base of all concerns.

[Food for Thought] Chapter 6 - What Do We Do With Art?

What Do We Do With Art?

1) What is obscene? Who defines it?
What is obscene is what sours the very core of human morals. As Stefan Morawski states in "Art and Obscenity", the definition of obscenity "often lends itself to examination from a variety of viewpoints: the purely analytical, the purely pragmatic (the moral, religious, or political angle, for example), or a combination of the two" (193). Analytically, obscenity can be examined from a number of avenues as well. Many see obscenity as a creation of culture, along with the psychology, ethics, and aesthetics that that culture has established.

From a devoutly artistic viewpoint, many actually consider obscenity as whatever they see as not fitting into their definition of "art". This embodies sexuality, violence and religious sacrilege. Interestingly enough, however, it also embodies art that confuses the viewer, angers the viewer, or stifles the viewer in some obscure way. In my opinion, however, people shouldn't be so quick to label that which they do not understand as "obscene". If anything, the "obscene" accusation is just a selfish method of deterring that which personally miffs an individual. This simply cannot be the case, as it brings arguments back full circle to the definition of art debate and its subsequent follow-up. Bob Dob's "Black Eyed Mouseketeers" (2009), which can be seen below, could be seen by some as outrageously offensive. It's shattering of a child's innocence and the coupling of Disney with violence could prove disturbing to some because of ideals held in child care. On the other hand, it can also be seen as witty and humorous.

Obscene is what festers at the bottom of human value. Obscene is what has the ability to offend, shock, demoralize and corrupt a human being. But because this varies so widely within a population, it must be directed at what truly results in the ill-being of a society. In many ways, the definition of obscenity works hand-in-hand with the definition of order. Obscenity includes taboos, unlawfulness, and injustice, which all play major roles when it comes to the outlining of a society's structure. Common examples of the obscene include highly graphic or exploitative depictions of sexuality, malicious and gore-based violence, and anything counter-active towards a religious message. In the sense that these are defined and even outlawed, obscenity can, in these ways, be limited to a political body's definition. And this can't be considered so oppressive, as it gives society a sense of united direction in what is unacceptable.

We cannot, however, overlook the individual holdings of the people around us. Everyone holds back against certain matters; everyone gets perturbed. These confinements may lie in some traumatic memory, an allegiance towards an organization of prestigious fundamentals, or the influence of a close friend. I personally find the depiction of violence against animals both uncomfortable and upsetting. Whether it be staged or real, society is always submitted to mankind's atrocities against animals. Even when it comes to hunting or self-defense, I simply cannot bare to watch a creature stopped dead in its tracks. And I say this with a firm grasp of the concept of survival of the fittest. I know that it is true primal and animalistic nature to do harm to another being. Nevertheless, harm against animals is a definition of obscenity that I have clarified for myself.

2) Some people claim that their tax dollars should not support art that they find offensive. Is that position different from those who object to tax dollars being spent on a military project they think is wasteful, or medical research that they find unethical?
Though many contentions with offensive artworks can be understandable, they simply don't hold the same weight against issues concerning military projects and medical ethics. To be fair, art can't even be considered in the same schools of thought that dictate warfare and and medicine. More often than not, artwork hasn't been a root cause of violence and suffering in the world. Artwork can spark controversy, heated flarings of emotions, and even political campaigns, but it will never actually prove itself as a major threat to the safety of a human being. It can be argued that, through extended exposure to a specific type of art, an individual can be driven to commit injustice. Without longstanding or devastating effects documented in these instances, however, this argument just doesn't hold up against the more pressing issues of our world today.

Aside from law enforcement and the government in general, a country's military force and medical support are its two most detrimentally significant. If shady business is occurring within these kinds of institutions, the well-being of the public is almost being put in direct harm. The tax dollars being sunk into these revenues are the first things we often consider, but long-term consequences could prove life-shattering. Money being put towards the funding of increased AI-related technologies, for example, could result in suspicion amongst other countries. If relationships between these countries is hostile, lives are being put in danger. This would be a viable and urgent argument to address. Any argument made against a public piece of art that bares some resemblance to a demonic spirit, on the other hand, might not be taken seriously when presented. The ideas of offensive art are dwarfed by ethics of war and medicine today. Indeed, any individual who makes it their business to put artwork above human safety needs to rethink their priorities.

3) Should all individuals decide for themselves what they can read, look at, or listen to? What happens if their choices conflict with community standards?
All individuals should decide for themselves when it comes to what they can read, look at, or listen to. If some one wants to abstain from listening to rap music on the radio that they find objectionable, they shouldn't be seen as a major cause for concern. If some one wants to subject themselves to the relentless gore of a horror flick, then they should be left to do so. A person has to accept their own responsibilities and face the consequences that they create for themselves. Most attempts at dictating a person's intake of entertainment are futile and, as many would express, insulting. We can claim to have some one's "best intentions" in mind all we want, but nothing can overcome human curiosity and desire.

The mass media of today saturates itself throughout our lives. It gives us the world at our fingertips, on our morning commute, and throughout our shopping malls. Any attempts at sealing some one off from certain entertainment can, in many ways, be futile. Indeed, we've really reached a "point of no return" with our media. It's frighteningly easy to jump on the computer today and find virtually any image, story or song that one desires. We must accept that everything is everywhere. In the past, many governments and institutes had the media under control. When they weren't able to keep something from the public eye, they had enough political, religious or moral prowess over people to divert attention. Today, we have a few precious laws that allow for censorship, and the concerned eyes of our parents. These should be valued, as they can keep children away from adult-oriented material, and adults away from questionably child-oriented material. There are lines that need to be drawn if a healthy social order is to be maintained. Just as well, people can't get caught-up in projecting their values over everyone else. People can't always be crusading to have a movie banned or a magazine taken off shelves. Not only would efforts prove to be hopeless, but they would also prove quite selfish and ego-centric. Sometimes we have to trust that legal censorship is running its course. We must hold-true to the fact that there is a purveying sense of morals among a person's tastes in viewing. In the end, only we can deftly define that which we choose to absorb.

4) Should art be uplifting? Should art be moral?
If art should be uplifting and moral, it should hinder on its location and intent. If an artist has been commissioned to craft a monument dedicated to a war hero, for example, the public would expect an uplifting (or at least inspiring), and moral homage. Art in this situation must obviously be handled sensitively. It must pay an endearing respect to a figure of a subject that still resonates at the hearts of a lot of people. It must be handled tastefully, honoring not only the figure, but anyone else involved in the war effort. Perhaps even more importantly, it must also honor a nation's pride. If the artist were to deviate from this intent in any way, the work would probably fail to ever see the light of day.

Many works on public display have to portray a positive feeling and a moral foundation, as the government can't afford to support the "radical" voice of the people. In many organizations, order needs to be maintained. It's unquestionable. To create an upbeat, morally-driven environment around many organizations is almost second nature, as it goes without saying. Art can serve merely as decoration in a room, and yet in many settings it is rather imperative that it be done in proper taste. Of course, this will often leads us to discover why we never see aesthetically significant art works in common institutions. Many of these places will opt to display art that falls along the lines of minimal, pop, and even kitsch. Art of his nature is a "safe bet". While it may not incur artistic and intellectual stimulation in everyone, it most definitely doesn't result in sour vibes. I personally feel like I gain nothing from the depictions of the great outdoors in my dentist's office, but I can't deny the comfort and familiarity they help me feel when I'm sitting in the waiting room. In this setting, art really needs to be that impartial, innocent piece of decor. The average citizen doesn't appreciate art looming over them as a representation of doom or distrust.

Outside of a practical, institutional setting, the short answer to this question is no; art shouldn't always be uplifting and moral. To reiterate what has been emphasized countless times before, art is expression. Art is raw, free-flowing expression and it can't be controlled. There are too many definitions, interpretations, and so-called specializations in art for it to ever be dictated. It bursts forth from the human mind on a constant basis and, along with values and morals, it also clashes. But this must be accepted, as there is virtually no way around it. Just as the human race will never agree upon its true creator, art will never be controlled. We may think that art must fit our perceptions of what is "good", but it is redefining "good" on a daily basis.

[Food for Thought] Chapter 5 - Who Makes Art?

Who Makes Art?

1) A popular Western myth portrays artists as completely asocial, isolated geniuses whose work is not recognized as important during their lifetimes. Do you think that the nonconformist (or even tragic) artist might fulfill an important role in a particular society?
Modern Western society has spawned a very hyperactive and inconsistent culture. Through the mass saturation of media through outlets such as digital TV, Internet websites such as YouTube, and iPhones, Western culture has become largely top 40-based. By this I mean that the majority of the population focuses quite diligently on the "flavors of the month", the "hits", and the "media darlings". This interesting to consider, especially seeing as modern technology provides for quite a contradiction. Despite access to more information than ever, it seems that the culture of today is satisfied most with focusing only on what is in the top 40. Eccentric and radical artists do exist today, but many can't exactly be considered "outsiders". Indeed, it is only the devoutly left-field individuals who truly populate themselves on the outskirts of society. Modern artists, (especially the young, up-and-coming), will typically fit nicely within the top 40-based society.

The population today, because so focused on "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Glee", has become obsessed with free-spirited expression and creativity. Social networking sites such as Facebook, which make it easy to exchange media, have spurred a yearning in people to create increasingly interesting egos for themselves. Because so much of life and the social interaction experience lies on the Internet nowadays, people can announce themselves to the masses instantly. People share images, videos, music, and more, all with the click of the button. To garner "likes" and "views", individuals will promote themselves in all forms imaginable, if not through their own work then through their interests in other works. This creates all kinds of "artists". Youth culture, in particular, now swarms cyberspace, with each individual fighting for more attention. As a result, these state of affairs have diminished much perception of the "outsider artist".

If tragic, radically individual artists do exist today, they do remain mostly in the shadows. Many of them are the recently elderly or seasoned, as they are the men and women who retain a strong respect for the expression of their time. There are struggling artists in the world today, but in very rare cases are they isolated. Within a couple seconds, any artists with a Blackberry or an iPhone can snap a picture of their latest achievement and issue it to hundreds, even thousands. Even the public and governmental respect for the artist has changed. Governments now pay more attention to a fledgling artist, schools recognize art as more respectable path of education, and art now seems more laden throughout our streets. This can be attributed back to the top 40 obsession, of course, and the notion that many of the personalities that we see on TV are striving artists. In this respect, the nonconformist artist is fading quickly. We do have "oddballs" of society, but they are often avoided and ostracized. Even drug culture no longer associates strictly with the "outsider artist" persona, as drugs are now noticeably diffused throughout our cities. Drug use is remarkably casual among our culture, and not the inducer of a "spaced" population we once knew.

To answer the original question, it must be noted that the nonconformist (or even tragic) artist is rarely seen. If they do serve a purpose, it's as a reminder of the times that still seem recent. The boom of social networking happened only in the last 5 years or so, and it was only during the early 2000's that the "outsider artist" truly seemed to disappear. Throughout the 90's the "starving artist" was a succinct social group. If the "outsider artists" do serve a purpose, it's to level-out the top 40 domination. It's to remind our culture that radical ideas still exist, and that true originality expands so much further beyond the top 40 scope.

2) When people from first-world nations buy the art of third-world countries, they often want something "authentic," meaning that the artwork conforms to traditional styles. Museum collections also favor traditional styles. But artists alive today are subject to influences from all over the world, through media, travel, and trade. Worldwide, contemporary art is often a mixture of foreign and indigenous influences. What is authentic art?
"Authentic art" from third-world countries is very uncertain. Media, travel, and trade are all components of the global market of art today, which is very much a mosaic of a broad world view. This is not only because it is easy to exchange art across the world and because traveling is easy, but because artists can now find inspiration on the worldwide scope. So many artists today pride themselves in their fusion of cultures and old-world influences. Some of them may be ethnically diverse yes, but many find genuine captivation in another country's styles. This is a phenomenon that is reflected in mass production as well as the self-made. Just as so many cultural items from North America are manufactured in China, cultural items from third-world countries may rear in the factories of North America. This leads to a wide range of perspectives and ensuing controversies over the matter of authentic art. Many individuals feel satisfied with a gift shop item as their "authentic art" property. Others will get on grassroots-level with a country, and seek art in the market shops and the street vendors. The reality is, however, that both of these respects include some form of mass production. Airport gift shop items are items of obvious factory-quality, and market based items are mass-produced by a country in hopes of revenue. Many third-world countries recognize the appeal of their art as a tourist-based market enterprise. (This is why you never have to look far before you come across a "genuine woven bracelet.")

"Authentic art" is art produced by an individual who has no intention of producing for a strictly sales-based market. Of course, all artists yearn to make a respectable living off art. But when art becomes more tangible in the business sense, it looses its genuine value. Authentic artists produce art based on their own self-expression, and not to keep up with an outsider view of aesthetics. Authentic artists produce for the spiritual enlightenment of their culture. Authenticity is lost in the mindless pursuit of revenue. Authentic artists create because they follow their inspiration (an inspiration other than money, of course). Perhaps most importantly, they produce because they have the will to produce. Many artists have experienced that drive to duplicate a work that draws particular interests, but if they have a commitment to the authentic, they know when to return to their original drive. Loosing sight of one's original driving artistic force is loosing sight of the real and the pure. In my eyes, obtaining authentic art from a third-world country would involve traveling to a third-world country. It would involve gaining acceptance into the house of a third-world resident, remaining courteous, and offering to buy a work of art produced by the one of the residents. Though somewhat extreme, this example is an undeniable source of the authentic.

[Food for Thought] Chapter 4 - Deriving Meaning

Deriving Meaning

1) Does the written word add to the public's experience of art?
The written word, though often plagued with biases, misinterpretations and false evidence, may actually serve the public well in their art experience. Handling art when it comes to a written work can be very fickle. Written works often have to begin to classify an art piece, for example, which can often worry the artist. Indeed, the thought that a grand sculpture or painting can be summarized down into a couple paragraphs or a couple pages of writing can leave many artists feeling uneasy. Throughout history, writings on the subject of art have often been known to spark controversy and accusations. Nevertheless, writing has proven an essential process in the understanding of art. It has bridged many barriers between artists and the general public, it has enriched discussion, and it has promoted many works for the better.

Art historians make it their business to enlighten their readers with the rich tapestry that is often woven around an art piece. They are academics who research art of the past and of other cultures, along many historical settings in general. While each piece may not have a terribly rich past, art historians often enlighten us on the context of a piece. They gives us an idea of why this work was created, and under what circumstances. If the art piece had a different impact on people when it was first created, chances are historians are looking into that info and fleshing it out for the public recognize. Through these processes, the myth and the legend around a piece is emphasized. In turn, the viewing experience becomes so much more than a "face value" kind of experience.

In addition, "museum curators write catalog essays, wall labels, and educational material for museum exhibitions" (Lazzari and Schlesier 88). While much of this work can be overlooked by museum and gallery attendees, much of it does add to the experience. Wall labels reveal the mediums used in art piece, which can be particularly interesting when the medium aren't initially recognizable. Along with the year of a work's creation, wall labels may often reveal the kind of information that an art historian would be responsible for. Some wall labels may even include brief stories to go along with the art, and for the avid reader these writings will never dampen their experience. Catalog essays and educational material, while not always distributed to every art-goer, can often be obtained if requested. These works are for the truly engrossed individuals, those who truly plan on spending more than a couple hours at a gallery.

When it comes to the work of an art critic, whether or not writing adds to the experience of art is debatable. Art critics may be academics, or writers, avid art enthusiasts, or even, in this day and age, anyone with a computer and a blog. Many critical examinations of artwork can be quite enlightening. Some analytical approaches to art offer up some previously unknown information. Many critics offer interpretations that you yourself would have never been to imagine, and may even point out details in a work that you had overlooked. Critics make it their business to delve deep inside the inner workings of an art piece. Even if their interpretation is completely left-field, it may give you a broader outlook on the topic at hand. That being said, it must also be addressed that art critics are never model examples of proper analysis. Art critics may choose to take personal stabs at artists, may propose asinine interpretations to draw reactions, and may embellish everything the art represents way beyond it originally intended. Art critics can exist within everyone, and, as such, should never be taken too seriously.

Nevertheless, let it show that the written word assuredly adds to the public's experience of art. Whether handled formally or strictly opinion-based, we must learn to at least accept writing as a viable mediator between art and the individual.

2) Do writings bias or limit our experience of art?
When it comes to the criticism of art, bias becomes a big part of of how we receive information. Be it formalist, ideological, structure-based, psychoanalytical, or feminist, criticism is always a process of swaying an opinion. Sometimes carried out without previous research, knowledge, or even experience, criticism aims to get readers thinking from a certain position. Criticism simply works on the level of bias. Very few criticisms are strictly fact-based, and even after formalist and structure-based criticisms, a reader will often make highly-biased judgment calls.

Some criticisms may, tragically, avoid the topic of the actual art piece and move straight into an analysis of the artist as a person. Sometimes there will be background story a critic will use to illustrate this particular artist, but in most cases many critics will just opt to go straight for an examination of the artist's living. If the critic chooses to do this, the reader is biased from the beginning, regardless of taking the analysis as negative or not. If a critic is restricting his or her view of the artist to a personal approach, the reader is going to view the artist's work on that personal level. Easily recognizable examples of this phenomenon are the many writings on Andy Warhol. Many divulge in Warhol's eccentric and enigmatic personal life quite incessantly. In turn, many have come to view his works strictly from the viewpoint of his peculiar character. Many of these criticisms come in the form of vicious character attacks, illustrating artists as monstrous individuals of sin, crime, and repulsiveness. On the other side of things, many will praise an artist. Critics will shine a benevolent light on the individual behind the artwork, hoping to offer nothing but a positive outlook on the artist as more than a great craftsman, but also a remarkable human being. In either of these cases, it must be noted that there lies a very good chance of an art critics personal involvement. Sometimes the critic will have had personal contact with the artist, and, in other instances, something the artist might have done may have evoked a very personal emotion. In either cases, a distinct bias will arise.

Along with character studies, a critic can spawn bias in many other fields of analysis. Through the words used, the length of the review, and the emphasis given, many elements of art can be altered beyond their original reception. Indeed, much like an artist is able to evoke mood in an art piece, a writer is able to evoke different opinions. For example, initial viewing of an art piece may lead one person to describe its colours as "vivid". Upon reading a review, the opinions of this individual may change and they might then view the colours as putrid and hallucinogenic. With words a critic may be able to alter views on many elements of form in a piece of art. Colour, composition, light and shadow, implied lines, all may be perceived differently after the reading of a review. By the end of any review, a reader may have indefinitely decided as to whether he or she appreciates the work or not. Indeed, there is power in the written word.

When not a piece of criticism, such as a wall label or an educational writing, less bias tends to exist. When it does exist, it can usually take the form of a purely positive approach. Many textbooks and art galleries have no intention of hyping the works they display in a negative light. These respects want display artwork as something significant that is worth promoting. Of course, it must also be considered that much of this bias doesn't even lie in the writing, but in the actual setting of the art. Initial viewpoint on an art piece in a prestigious gallery for example, can easily sway an individual to regard that piece with earnest respect.

3) How important is the artist's intention versus the critical reception of the work? Which should be most important in interpreting a work?
When compared with the critical reception of a work, the actual intention of the artist must always be held in higher regards. It is the artist, and only the artist, that actually holds the experience of forming his or her art piece. It is the artist who experiences the emotions, the struggles, the triumphs, the mastering, the research, and the life investments that went along with the process of creation. Most importantly, it is the artist who lives the ultimate process of creation. This is a regard that is strictly exclusive. To disregard the artist is to denounce that artist as only a minor part of art's amalgamation. Quite literally, it is the artist who represents the entirety of a piece. Writers can infer and research any aspect of art that they want. A writer can even have a one-on-one experience with an artist, but none of these processes substitute for the mind of the artist.

To regard the critical reception of a work over the artist's intention is, in many senses, to remove the artist from a work. Many critical writings make plenty of mention of the artist, yes, but they make mention on the terms of the writer. Without truly considering the artist, an art piece becomes a separate entity all on its own. This is what some artists intend, in many respects, but it is never a very conscious occurrence. Many monuments befall this fate. We often regard the Statue of Liberty as "The Statue of Liberty", and not "The Statue of Liberty - a gift to the United States form the people of France". It is true that we must not always get so hung-up on paying an unrequited respect to every artist of every piece, but it is also true that we can't selfishly claim every piece of art as a public piece of opinion.

Unless written by the artist, critical reception is secondary to what the artist truly intended. The author holds every right to his or her piece of work, and even though some of those rights can be limited through legal action, they should be considered out of a genuine human empathy.

[Food for Thought] Chapter 3 - Media


1) Does art only belong in certain places?
Where art belongs really depends on a number of factors. Initially, it depends on the general type of art in question. In addition, one must consider the type of media used in the art piece. (In most cases, you aren't going to want to place a paper sculpture outside at the public's mercy.) You must also consider the protection a piece of art warrants, if any at all. If a piece must be sealed behind glass, or kept in a climate-controlled environment, chances are it would be best-suited for an art gallery. But aside form initial judgment calls based on surface appeal, where art belongs truly depends on what it represents and what purpose it serves.

Because art is limitless and because it truly exists everywhere we look, it can applied everywhere we look. Many artists, especially the more experimental and daring ones, will often challenge themselves by creating art for abnormal and impractical spaces. Illegal or not, much of this artwork will seem spontaneous and uncalled for. The public may respond with distress, but chances are the artist can justify their action with some form of logic. With this example I intend to illustrate that art is carried out for one's own satisfaction and purpose. Many would be so bold as to say that only the artist can decide where his or her work belongs. In many senses, this is a respectable opinion. But, just as well, we can't ignore the fact that society does not lend itself as some one's personal canvas. Art can be carried out freely in nature (as long as it doesn't result in detrimental damage towards the environment), but not in the middle of a food court or a business center. The concepts of self expression that are defined in the urban psyche can't be abused to exhaustive extents.

Some art, however, garners affluent attention. Some art was created after years of professional training, some art was created with the support of a government grant, and some art is labeled as culturally significant. With this added value in an art piece, it is safe to propose proper and even prestigious placement of works such as these. Many art patrons have been known to object to the placement of certain works in art galleries or museums, but they don't have much leverage in these situations. Yes, an artist's meritable rise to "fame" can be questionable, but if they have been recognized by a museum constituency, their artwork definitely had a right of belonging within a museum setting. There are many works existent in the world today with very respectable qualifications and merit. Most of the time, these works truly do belong in an institution. Unfortunately, it is often a stone-cold matter of what is recognized. Again, how something comes to be recognized can arouse further suspicion. As is often stubbornly adhered to today, however, is the acceptance of art as a business venture.

Outside of a museum of gallery, where art belongs is much more loosely defined. Like I mentioned before, laws prohibit many public installations of a fine art piece without permission. In turn, the art that often "belongs" in a city setting usually comes in the form of advertisement, decoration, and permission-granted street performance. The art that does earn the honor of public display, when not temporary, typically takes the form of a statue. But, at the risk of making the government seem oppressive, it should be noted that these laws are quite lenient. People get away with plastering city walls with posters on a daily basis. If concern must be raised towards the "belonging" of works such as these, the concept of obscenity becomes important. Whether or not a piece of art is considered to intrude into vulgar, rude, immoral, offensive, or disturbing territory often garners it an obscene label. If art is obscene, chances are it cannot be exposed in a public setting. If the obscene actually "belongs" anywhere, it's in an individual's home and on the Internet. Whether a form of expression or a psychological imbalance, the obscene can always find a venue in the home setting and on the computer.

2) How does the medium influence the way we perceive art, and the value we may give to a particular piece?
Medium is funny in the way it sways our thoughts on art. In many cases, it has total control over how we address a piece. Sculptures done in marble or gold, for example, might be immediately regarded with higher value or significance, even despite the content or political context. This is because these materials aren't readily available to the general public. The high cost of marble and gold, coupled with the elegant richness of their mass, gives them an immediately higher regard. At other times, the medium used is almost completely disregarded when it comes to determining value. A sculpture by Scott Fife entitled "Kurt Cobain" (2006) was recently featured in the
"Kurt" exhibition at the Seattle Art Gallery. This sculpture depicts an enlarged version of Kurt Cobain's head, and is made entirely of archival cardboard, glue, and screws. This is an example of a medium that's not being applied in the traditional sense, and being placed completely out of context. Yes, the crude materials were obviously used to reflect the subject, but it is Fife's brilliant portrayal of the brooding grunge rocker that captures initial interest. The common household items he used are discovered and debated later, when the viewer actually takes a closer look at the piece and reads the description.

The use of medium can be applied in a vast variety of ways. Many artists will use specific mediums to evoke immediate shock factors with an audience. They might apply their medium in situations that are out of context, they might emphasize the unique texture or colour of a medium, and they might harness a medium as a tool of irony. Sometimes the sheer volume or proportion of a medium incurs a "wow" factor. Abnormality can even be achieved with a simple mismatch of mediums, when an artist mixes clashing mediums. In any of these situations, the artist may choose to make the materials they used blatantly obvious, or they may choose to apply subtlety.

In other instances, an individual may choose to work with a medium in the decidedly traditional sense. By this I mean that they use mediums conventionally, and in moderation. This usage can usually give the viewer a better understanding of what they are perceiving. For many people, an oil painting means control and security. It can be remarkable, however, to see how the thicker application of oil paint results in a highly altered perception. Materials used in commonality allow for more straight-forward translations.

Finally, mediums can be used with a purveying sense of sparsity. This often relates to the "minimalist" approach towards art. In this sense, mediums are used very vaguely. They are left untempered and simplified down to their very essence. Janine Antoni's "Gnaw" is an example of this usage. Though technically example of post-minimalist work, "Gnaw" (1992) presents the materials used in a very raw, elemental manner. Little is done to the composition of this piece, and, in turn, it is left to be interpreted primarily on the level of artist intent.

When it comes to the price that a work of art warrants, the materials used may often find themselves out of the question. In appraising artwork, one may often examine the amount of labor put into the work, the intention of the work, the message, the scale, he transportation it involves, and its inevitable mode of presentation. Because materials can be used in such unconventional manners, exacting prices on them only creates problems. Of course, certain materials carry with them an extravagant value, one that may even be defined in world markets. Works of slade or limestone, for example,

3) Should people have the right to determine what imagery is in public spaces around them, and how it looks?
This question can be difficult to answer, as the public outlook on art is widely varied. Members finely in-tune with an art community would surely prefer a degree of influence on public art. On the other hand, a large percentage of a population will simply remain indifferent or ambivalent towards public art, and even hold flat positions of apathy. Further examinations would even show that there is a percentage of people who are actually unaware of public art, along with the processes that birth it. In addition, those that do feel a commitment towards public art each hold different opinions. Some would prefer an increase in the amount of religious monuments around town, while as others may express strong feelings against the abstract. Opinions flare in the face of all forms of art, but public art can initiate some of the most heated debates. Public art is what a population sees out in the open, sometimes every day. It's what tourists see, it's what the world sees when it is broadcasted on TV. There is definite sense of pride that is embodied in a public art piece. Just as well, public art creates an identity for a city. It is not taken lightly.

Of course, a popular and just opinion would be to leave public art decision making in the hands of the public. Because not everyone feels compelled to contribute o the cause however, decision making would be reserved to those who feel inclined. Perhaps these individuals would create a democratic committee. Ideally, this would work. Unfortunately, the majority of a population is not composed of idealists. The sad reality is, sparking conflict is embedded in human nature. People are fervently opinionated, and it'll often take only the slightest disagreement to spark a controversy. When it comes to public art, leaving the decision making in the hands of the people could prove detrimental. It's not that people can't be trusted, rather, it is the inevitability of Murphy's Law. Public art needs to be decided on without becoming a public debate first. Cities need governments to be decisive and make calls. Yes, these decision can result in a backlash, but with the influence of government looming over everyone's head, tempers eventually die down.

4) Does graffiti have merit?
Like any form of art, graffiti has merit in some form or another. The common debate is over whether graffiti represents formal merit or not. While I am an enthusiastic advocate of street art, I have to argue that, unfortunately, graffiti will never exist as a prominent asset to the area of fine art. It should be noted, however, that there are some cases of graffiti artists achieving high statuses of professionalism. Shepard Fairey, for example, is widely touted as a renowned artist of critical respect. Widely proclaimed by institutions such as the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Fairey has achieved "merit" in the sense of high honors, payment, grants and more. While graffiti may not hold a place of respect in formal institution otherwise, that isn't to say that it doesn't influence artists. There is a raw, rebellious, free-flowing quality to graffiti that appears all throughout many institute-respected artists' work.

With this being said, it must be noted that graffiti warrants merit in a wide range of other respects. Graffiti is a very important aspect of rebel culture. It has even become quite characteristic of the urban setting. Cities all over the world are covered with graffiti, as it was born amongst the crushing, 21st-century paranoia of the city's youth. On top of this, graffiti is also one of the "Four Elements" of Hip-Hop culture. Graffiti carries prestige as a rebellious art, an adventurous art, an experimental art, a controversial art and yes, even an illegal art. Graffiti has shaped many laws and attitudes enforced by governments today. While this can be seen as negative, it holds cultural significance in its own respect. The merit of street art even lies in its output that expands beyond expression. When graffiti was born in cities like New York, graffiti was always about marking territory and announcing a presence. Gangs would "tag" areas to make other gangs aware of their turf, and fledgling young artists would use graffiti to broadcast their work on a city-level. Graffiti's merit lies in its shaping of a culture, and its reflection on that culture's attitudes and behaviors.

Of course, it is also promising to note that graffiti is appearing more and more often in gallery settings. Street artists are receiving requests to paint wall murals, and some are even being featured in films (a recent example being Banksy's "Exit Through the Gift Shop".)

[Food for Thought] Chapter 2 - The Language of Art and Architecture

The Language of Art and Architecture

Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass) by Édouard Manet 1862-1863.

1) What elements appear in this work: line, light and value, colour, shape and volume, texture and pattern, space, time and motion, and chance, improvisation, and spontaneity?
With Manet's "Le déjeuner sur l'herbe" comes an immediate sense of light and dark values. The viewer is immediately confronted with a fully nude, starkly lit female, who sits poised with two fully-clothed gentlemen on an apparent "luncheon". While her eyes do draw interest as a focal point, it is her pale, milky skin that stands out noticeably in the scene. To contrast her, the surroundings are dark and somewhat obscured. Close inspection of the 19th-century work also reveals very inconsistent shadows. The canopy of leaves that undoubtedly hang above the figures cast a mismatch of tones upon the grass, while the figures, on the other hand, remain unaffected. Oddly, little to no shadow is cast upon the figures.

The element of colour is united with a very earthy theme. Dark greens, browns and blacks prevail, broken up of course by the skin of the figures. Within the bottom left corner of the painting Manet also inserts the element of still life, which contributes an added layer of colour. Volume and depth is inferred, but it is portrayed very irregularly. As you travel deeper into the painting, brush strokes become much less detailed and refined. Some of the brush strokes even appear to have been done in a vigorous and almost free-handed nature, which would hint at the improvisation that Manet may have employed whilst nearing the completion process of his work. While another figure is made clear in the background, her proportion is very irregular. She doubles the size of the boat (which doesn't look too far away), and she even begins to impose on the central figures. Many have interpreted the lady in the water as a spirit, as she nearly seems to float above the heads of the lunch-goers.

Texture is relayed in Manet's traditional style. Some of the composition is rendered very smooth, while the rest is quite unkempt. In the background, brush strokes are made quite obvious and are even swirled and mixed together. In the compositional sense, the figures are positioned very dominantly and central. Implied lines appear in a number of ways, in the female's eyes, in the hand gesture of the man on the right, and even in the eyes of the man in the middle, who seems oddly unfocused in a potential conversation. I also find myself following an implied pyramid form in the painting, which draws its base from the two bottom corners of the painting and rises up the the lady in the water. In this way, attention is shifted away from the female nude. But attention does hang between the lunch-goers nonetheless. While initially one would assume that Manet intended to capture a moment of social interaction, it instead seems as if the figures are suspended in time. Rather than acting naturally, they appear to be posing. The men pay no attention to the fully exposed woman before them, the third man is gesturing at some one who seems uninterested, and none of the figures appear completely relaxed. Some critics have analyzed this scene as one that may have been set up in a studio, rather than conducted out in nature.

2) Which elements are dominant? Are the lesser elements important?
The most striking and intriguing element of this painting is the implied story. While one can easily manage interpretations on the technical levels, it is initially quite hard to get past the situation that unravels with such an auspicious nature. Manet's "Le déjeuner sur l'herbe" depicts a nude female seated so assuredly amongst two men with absent personalities. One can try to decipher the conversation that might be taking place, but of much more immediate appeal is the pressured air of strange sexuality. Rather than flatly announcing the nudity of the female, Manet also chose to include the abandoned clothes (which lay cast-aside amongst a picnic basket that has also been virtually ignored). Manet's painting is rich with mystery, suggestiveness, and surreal wonder. The controversy that ensued in 1863 was undoubtedly Manet's intended result.

Colour, tone, and value, though overshadowed, are technical elements that also carry some importance. It is the sharp contrast between the announced skin of the female and the the dark, muffled surroundings that give Manet's work such a confronting subject. The tones, while nothing vibrant, do add to the surrealism of the piece. Without the four figures situated in the painting, the forest would indeed seem quite drab and subdued. The earthy tones create a very typical setting, and a setting that may even seem awkward for a luncheon. The darkness during what can be evidenced as daytime surely wouldn't create an appealing spot for lunch. In addition, the close proximity of the trees eliminate the notion of a grass "clearing". The lunch-goers seem to have chosen a spot that is somewhat impeded on by the surrounding nature, and, even hidden from plain view. This could lead the viewer to infer that the lunch-goers have no intention of a humble lunch at all.

3) Does the work evoke thoughts or emotions? If it does, what formal elements add to the effect?
Suffice to say, thoughts can run quite wild with Manet's art. While most would be quick to call "Le déjeuner sur l'herbe" an evocative piece, others draw a defined sense of the sexually suggestive. It is because of this nature that Manet's work, which can be seen a classically styled painting, becomes an object of ripe fascination. Indeed, "The Luncheon on the Grass" has had a wide influence on all ranges of modern artists. From cartoon parodies, to abstract paintings, to sculpture works and even live photography, Manet's unique scene of a leisurely bourgeoisie outing has struck cords with everyone. Even in the popular culture of today has this painting been echoed. The New Jazz Orchestra released a record in 1969 that featured not only the title of Manet's work, but the likeness of the lunch scene. British New Wave group Bow Wow Wow also modeled a similar depiction on their 1981 album, "See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang, Yeah. City All Over! Go Ape Crazy" Manet's work makes me think of the controversy that was reported to arise when the painting was completed. Manet would often opt for an individual expression of his attitudes in his work. Though the juxtaposition of a nude female with clothed male figures was outrageous to many, to Manet it was an area to be explored.

Though few emotions run through the work, "Le déjeuner sur l'herbe" is a very suitable centerpiece of thought and discussion. I often like to imagine the cheekiness of the image, as much of it does not seem to suggest "lunch" at all. The picnic basket some one took time to prepare lays on its side in the corner of the painting, with its contents left as a disregarded jumble on the grass. The clothes of the female have also been completely abandoned, and left along with the food in "still life" position. A woman bathes in lake behind the lunching individuals, and also draws attention to an idling rowboat. None of these elements suggest a formal and sophisticated lunch in the wilderness. Some critics have interpreted the work as a depiction of prostitution, which became a prominent topic of taboo in 19th-century France. Prostitution and the idea of courtesans was a willfully avoided topic many formal French artists of Manet's time, but Manet himself was always one to challenge certain respects. Prostitution would even become a more obvious subject in Manet's later works, a notable example being his painting "Olympia", which prostrates a fully nude courtesan who bares an oddly expressionless face similar to the one conveyed by the woman of the luncheon. Some also pick up on a very implied narrative in the painting, hypothesizing that the nude woman of focus had indeed been bathing earlier, (just as the woman in the background is). I am also fascinated with the thought of the surreal. The emotional detachment in the scene almost gives Manet's painting an oddly serene period of unspoken understanding. None of the figures seem especially engaged in each other, and while they have found an area of seclusion, they also seem oddly aware of another presence.