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Friday, October 14, 2011

Week 1 - And we're back.

Well, for a lot of non-art people (and even currently working artists), there are numerous questions about how to land on the elusive planet known as the "art world." My background as an artist/professional began 14 years ago with a strong interest in theater stagecraft: set design, painting, lighting and costume design. I worked on numerous productions for a stellar high school theater program (Niles North in Skokie - seriously, look them up), and it was my involvement in all aspects of the stage that got me curious about deeper questions regarding why people create things that seem to serve no function at all. In other words, art.

I had taken art classes as a child too, usually preferring it as an elective to activities like tae-kwon-do and baseball. However, it was nearly a decade later when I met my first real, live, working artist that I knew, "YES, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life!" All illusions of becoming a pediatrician, forensic scientist, Harvard lecturer, [insert tiger-mom dream job here] vanished forever.

These days, I split my time wearing multiple hats to 'live the dream.' It's useful being a jack-of-all trades, but if you have a ferocious vision, that's even better. I apply most of my time in the studio to develop my practice while working part-time as a freelance assistant for other more established artists. I also devote about two days a week working for a contemporary art gallery whose artists show in major international biennales and museums around the country. My 'gallerist/curator' resume was about 10 years in the making, but more on that in a future post.

This week's theme, which is somewhat relevant to being in the art universe (ok, I'm reaaaallly stretching here) is about situational awareness. More specifically, though: HOW TO WATCH REALITY TV!

One of my secret hate to love / love to hate personal traits is that I'm a fanboy of various reality TV iterations: the original seasons of Real World and Survivor, Project Runway and the penultimate -- RuPaul's Drag Race! C.harisma, U.niqueness, N.erve, and T.alent, bitches! In this unique Venn diagram of art and reality TV, somehow I found my moment [Anyone want to make me a jpeg here!? Pics plz].

So here are two tips on enjoying any reality show:

1. Immediately, when the show begins, I pay very close attention to the sound editing and background music that accompanies the introduction of characters. Is the music upbeat and cheerful? Bumbling and oafish? Sad and melancholy? Music is the first indication of how editors want you to feel about certain characters before they've even opened their mouths. When Russell from Survivor walks on 'set' do you hear a hero's anthem or villain music? Does Tanesha from Bad Girls Club seem to have clownish trombones syncopated with her every step, or is it Flight of the Valkyries blasting from the speakers. Watch again. How do sound editors portray characters based on music alone?

2. Any contestant on any reality show that immediately is 'forgotten' by the panel of judges -- whether you're modeling a handbag in roller-skates for The Tyra or cooking pasta using avocado bat foam is D-O-O-O-M-E-D!! The worst sin on any show is to be unmemorable or boring. Better to regret than forget -- that is, stick out even if it's a bad thing rather than trying to blend and fly below the radar. Survivor may be one of the few exceptions, but I usually keep my eye on the character that the judges seem to have lost sight of.

All right, I see the noose coming. Next week a real topic: Curation. What the hell is curation and how do you do it??

Until then. Comments!


  1. I agree with your thoughts so much. I watch too many of the same shows. I have two rules of thumb. One is I factor in editing which any way you do it can alter the context. I'm not saying there's any intent to alter the context, but they're making a TV shows not a surveillance videos. Two I always figure that there are some people that are bound to act, even if subconsciously, different when the camera is rolling.

    PS: I've yet to see a judge impressed by the use of foam. Even avocado bat foam! :)

    Snortles aka Mark Raven on Facebook.

  2. I like your comment on surveillance videos. It reminds me of a project in the late 90s called "Quiet" by web frontiersman/tyrant Josh Harris. He created an immersive reality experiment in NYC where about 100 artists were observed around the clock by cameras and re-broadcast to each other. Participants living in this artificial bunker could actually flip through channels of themselves having sex, taking drugs, showering, shitting..all the mundane and extreme things that occurred in the bubble. Frightening and fascinating at once. The project is well documented in Ondi Timoner's documentary, "We Live in Public." Hmm..I smell a post coming.

    Thanks for the inspiration, Mark!