Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Do we need to analyse art?

Is it art something to be analysed and teach?

Some time ago,  I saw this video:

It has being a long time since I saw something on the internet that moved me to the point that I share a couple of tears.  And it’s not only that this young man speaks with passion, it’s that what he said resonates with me deep inside.

I love art in all its forms, my favourite being of course music, but poetry is a close second. Both get a special shining brilliance when they become performing arts. Surely, you can enjoy a recording of a song/melody and enjoy deeply the reading of a poetry book, but the strength and power that some people have when performing makes them go to a level that can move you inside as no other.

But performing or not, art needs to be about feelings, about searching beauty and pleasure, for beauty and pleasure sake.   We live in world when everything is analyzed, we read reviews and critics talk about the technicalities of the piece of art itself, we ask our students to give objective and academic reviews of works.  How good is the musician technique, how perfect are the lights and perspective in photography, how well written is a poem; but I find that people forget to mention what is really important, what does that piece of art made you feel?

Is it art something that really belongs to the academia? Professional artists, who spend years learning their skills on the academia have the advantage of a better knowledge of their tools, they even get clues on how to enhance their creative part.  A composer who understands the technicalities of orchestration have the tools to make great compositions. So I’m not talking about the people who go to colleges and universities to be professionals, they deserve all my respect, and I fully understand why that’s needed. Although I would add that for there are people whose talent is so great that even if they are self taught, they can produce monumental master pieces.

And furthermore, academic art, is becoming and intellectual exercise, it's losing it's most important basis, to be the conveyor of your feelings.  You go out to a concert, listen to the piece, and it doesn't move you inside, you will probably understand the author on an intellectual level, see the good practices and techniques, see why he mixed or used certain motives, and even enjoy it very much with the rational part of your brain. But In my humble opinion, that's not what art is about.

But when art becomes something of the elites, something that needs to be analyzed, or needs to be understood under certain parameters, it loose its soul.  There’s something deeply wrong with the educational system that force students to submit essays about a poem or a symphony, there’s something broken when the critics focus solely on the production, techniques and make their reviews an academic exercise.

Are there really good and bad works of art, or just art that moves you and the one who doesn’t.  Is the commercial popular art fulfilling its role as a medium of feeling-share or just a commercial goal? Is the academic and historic art too elitists?  Do we need a change on our perception of it from schools to day-to-day life?

Monday, 12 September 2011

Bisexual Revolution: Documentary Review

Co-directed and written by Laure Michel and Eric Wastiaux, La bisexualité : tout un art?  (titled Bisexual Revolution for the english-speaking market) is a 2010 documentary about bisexuality, its culture, its cultural manifestations, taboos, myths, realities, and perceptions.  It goes through a series of interviews in Paris, Berlin, New York, San Francisco, Montreal artists, writers and psychologists, about the subject in point.

Although it all goes in an intellectual and artistic discussion format, it's not the kind of documentary that goes down to really interact with "normal" people in their lives, apart from a few street-interviews.  That of course doesn't make it less valuable or boring, but a very traditional documentary approach in that way.
It covers a lot of topics and issues about bisexuality and its different cultural, artistic and social manifestations. As well as its perception from the three points of view, the heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual communities.

Bisexuality has existed in all cultures and times, and the most well known examples for us westerns, are ancient Greece and Rome.  But after 2000 years of christian ban on sexualities that don't follow the hetero-normative and patriarchal hierarchy that the abrahamic monotheisms imposed as a norm in the world, sexual diversity has re-emerge in the 20th century, and it's winning its rightful place in society by the 21st century.   The documentary acknoledge that fact and give us  a quick overview of the history of bisexuality, and how for the very nature of it, it has being able to be "hidden" when the time of repression was on, just living underground.

We can hide if we want to, says Regina Reinhart, from the American Institute of Bisexuality,  but the fact is that we are developing a pride in our sexual orientation, we are making films, we are writting books, giving interviews, we are out and proud.

But be out and proud for a bisexual is, at least today, harder than to a homosexual person, since discrimination from both, the hetero and gay communities come into place.  Bisexuals are just confused, are just gays who can't accept themselves, are just going through a phase.  Many of the prejudices that 20 or 30 years ago were applied to the gay and lesbian community, are now applied to the bisexual one.

And how bisexuals see themselves?  Sexuality goes well beyond the sexual act, it goes into the affection, feelings and social culture associated with romantic love.  That leads many people to not really know or accept they are bisexual.  what if I'm totally homo or if I'm kidding myself.  What if I like the active/controller role with girls and the passive submissive role with boys? is that possible?  ask Titof a porn film star and director from Paris.   And how about bi-affective people, those who can develop a big emotional and even romantic bond with the two genres but mainly just a sexual bond with one of them, or at least in a higher percentage, since, like another broken myth says, bisexuals are not 50/50 in their preferences.  With women is more a fusion of body and soul, but with men is a sexual intensity that I can't find with women, says Narcys, a pop/indie singer from Paris.

Michel Dorais from Université Laval in Montreal, Quebec,  explains how in a world based on binary trends, ie. good/bad, day/night, male/female, heterosexual/homosexual;  bisexuality brakes the establishment and confuses society. Bisexuality is perceived as dangerous, as unstable, unreliable.   And perhaps this perceptions more than the idea of love without a specific genre is what has boost bi-phobia on society.
But is it there a bisexual culture? as the gay and lesbian cultures?  or being so in the middle has made bisexuality a grey area where there's no a definite cultural manifestation?

 The documentary focus on two ways of this cultural/social manifestations.  First it's the artistic and activist point of view. Singers as Narcys, have made explicit songs about bisexuality and gender identification, as You dream about it (Toi t'en rêves)

or Alex Beaupain, composer of the songs for Les Chansons d'Amour (Love Songs) a bisexual film/musical. 

Books, paintings, poetry.  A lot of cultural manifestations have being based on bisexual themes.  But despite all this it's difficult to find a defined tribal element, as with the gay and lesbian culture.   Which is sometimes a problem for some bisexual people themselves, since they grow this feeling of not belonging anywhere.

The second social and cultural manifestation is one that has being associated with bisexuality, and that to some extent is true for a sector of the bisexual community.  The sexual freedom of the 21st century, bisexuals are perceived as open minded, as someone who's open to everything. Therefore promiscuity and sexual activities as sex-parties and poly amorous relationships are linked to bisexuality, and the documentary ask a valid question.  Would this sexual freedom and openness, where everything is valid with anyone, as long as it's between consenting adults,  will make that the society of the future will embrace bisexuality as the norm?

There's a sense of freedom in bisexuality. A freedom of not requiring to comply with any norms or stereotypes.  Men and women have grow up with an educational baggage, a role in society, an idea of their meaning of existence socially culturally and sexually.  Bisexuality brakes all of this into pieces, men can enjoy the freedom of not having the responsibility of being the ones to provide the orgasm to their women, but being able to experience that passive role themselves, women are free to be strong and leading the way with other women in a relationship, and this freedom stays with them should they decide to go back to a heterosexual relationship, they discover that all those roles created by society are not fixed on stone.   They also have freedom from the gay culture that has its own prejudices, roles and stereotypes.  But at the same time they can be sympathetic to both men and women needs, both heterosexual and homosexual communities, it's cultural manifestations, it's worries and joys, the fight for their rights and freedoms.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there's some self identified heterosexuals and homosexuals who would like to experience that freedom. Some could, some will not,  but at least the awareness that the world is not just black and white would help bisexual people to live without prejudices and rejection.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Lists, lists, and more lists

I was reading a post from Carlos López (in Spanish) about how futile “favourite” lists can be on literature, even if it comes from a well known author or intellectual; arguing that literature taste is like football taste, totally subjective, and that each book touches each person in a different way.  I totally agree with that idea.  However it seems that more and more lists, not only on literature, but any other field you can imagine have been released over the internet or even books have been written about them.

Sergei Rachmaninov said that one life is not enough for all the music, but music is enough for one life. On the age of internet, there’s so much information floating around that it’s so difficult to keep track of the relevant stream, indeed one life is not enough, not just for music, but for the books, and all the knowledge we would like to have, so there’s a necessity of focusing our time on the information that is relevant to us.  Hence these lists are helpers on the “things to do” or “things to look at” for people.

There has being several on-going discussions on G+ about the list of recommended users to follow, sites like have tried to make unofficial lists, after the first google attempt of an “official recommendation” wasn’t that welcome.  I have been participating in several of these discussions, but one that made me think the most was one about Carter Gibson's post discussing the lack of sexuality on your about information, after this Ryan Crow expanded the debate, on a post of his own, to also political views and religion fields on G+ profiles. Do we really need them?  I argued in favour of those fields to be included, since there’s a real need of community build around sexuality, political views and even religion (or lack of it).  For mainstream people (ie. heterosexual, christian, capitalists) there’s no real problem, but to minorities this becomes more of an issue, you can see my comments on the thread for more about that, but a lot of comments of people who were against made me think.

Even in a small and emerging social network as Google Plus, with “only” 25 million users, there’s so many people there that it’s hard to find who to follow on it.  Ideally, we would go around and start following people based on their comments, and the things they share, people who we really find interesting.  Reality is that if we don’t narrow down the numbers, based on our interests, we would not have the time to do it, or just drift away in the flow of information without a set course.  So yes, we need those lists, and people like Alireza Yavari are doing a great job in putting them all together.

However, how healthy is this?.  A comment from a friend of mine on FB saying that she should know better than reading certain papers, is symptomatic of our days.  We only want to read and see things that we agree with, in a way reaffirming our thoughts and avoid confronting our point of view.  We seek for like-minded people and content only, that could lead us to just to alienate ourselves. 

This interesting video talks precisely about that:

It’s not just ourselves consciously putting filters on which type of content we want to see, or what kind of people we want to hear or read. Now even the search websites and social networks are putting in place algorithms to filter for us the information stream, leaving us, for all practical purposes, living in a bubble of information that, yes is the one we like, but making all the rest of it a black box to us.  Learning and growing as a person is not all about things you like or things you agree with, or things that went well in your life, it’s actually mainly about mistakes, confrontation of ideas, things that went wrong, that is what make us grow, that is what makes us learn.

There’s no use in just having information flowing in front of us that just make us shake our heads in agreement

It is in a way like the parents of these days who don’t want their children to be exposed to any bacteria at all, and keep everything crystal clean, living in almost an sterilized environment; and therefore those kids never develop the necessary antibodies.

We need exposure to all kind of ideas, not just the ones we like, but mainly the ones that are relevant, not only to us, but to the world we live.

So yes, it’s great to have a list of books you should read, a list of like-minded people you can follow, a list of your favourite papers and columnists.  But don’t limit yourself to only that, explore new avenues, read things that make you think, even that make you angry.  I will probably will keep using those kind of lists, since yes, we all need to narrow down what it seems to endless sources of information; but I would suggest, try now and again to just find things the old fashion way, without anyone telling you which way is the right one, just exploring.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Does Sexuality needs scientific validation?

Science as any other tool can be used for political purposes.

In that sense several studies about gender, gender identification and diversity in sexuality have been circulating in scientific papers from researches and Universities.  Even when the scientific method is per se, objective, the way results or studies are presented can have a strong political agenda.

So we have lots of studies about gender differences, that to some extend have validated the idea that women and men are different in the way the think, feel and behave.  This has been reflected in popular culture, to give the masses the "scientific truth" that, to put it on the words of a popular book, women are from venus and men are from mars.   Problem is that the studies tend to confuse nature and nurture.  Is the way men and women react to stimuli different because the way they have being educated, or is it something that they are born with?   At least one study seems to think we are actually not that different, and I definitely recomend the reading of  Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society and Neurosexism Create Difference.

Then it came to validate the notion that homosexuality is something people are born with, and not acquired. There was a very powerful reason behind these studies, and it is that the christian right wing insisted (and still does) that homosexuality was a deviation, a perversion that men and women choose to live against their god's teachings.  So various studies were made on the subject, and also in other species, to show that homosexuality was something natural.   How ever the inability of shown that there's a "gay gene" or something specific that triggers homosexuality when people are born, has being used as a weapon to say that as with gender, they studies can't give a conclusive truth about the nature vs nurture debate.

Finally just a few weeks ago, a new study was published, this time was about bisexual men, that branch of sexuality that is famous for it's partial invisibility and attacks from both heterosexual and homosexual communities that "doubt" that it really exists. So  this new study tend to conclude that yes, bisexuals are real.  But not much time passed for the study to start being attacked under the same premises.

Studies and counter studies can be made about gender and sexuality, all along, and change with the political tide that they surf with.  But the question will be:  Do we really need to validate our sexuality or our gender with scientific studies? or is it not a better long term solution to educate people on accepting that even in our differences we are all human and deserve respect, and that stereotypes are just product of ignorance?

I have no doubt that all this scientists have good intentions when they try to prove that men and women are equal, that gay, lesbians and bisexuals are not perverts, etc.  And yes, their work can be used to some extent. But science is useless against prejudice, ignorance and hard religious indoctrination. And some times even counter-productive.  The only thing that can really make a difference is education, in both our homes and schools.

- This post was originally written for Queer UK and appears here.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Soundtrack music

This post is in response to NextManStanding post about soundtracks.

I will classify soundtrack music in three categories.

The First Category will be Soundtracks which aim to transmit a specific feeling or mood in general terms. Music born out of a theme or idea.  This music has its origins in academic music.

From Vivaldi's four seasons:

to Holst's Planets:

or the famous Musorgski/Ravel "pictures at an exhibition":

they are compositions that try to express a visual idea, in form of music.  If successful the composer would be able to transmit the basic emotions associated with the visual (or multi sensory input) theme they chose as inspiration.

This is one of my favourite genres of music, since I think it was the first multimedia works, and they obviously work as it even now a days.   A lot of my own music falls into this category, specially when inspired on the places I have visited. Here an example.

Obviously with the advent of films, this was the chosen style that film soundtrack composer have chosen to follow, and there are great composers indeed.  Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Michael Nyman, to name a few. We all have our favourites, and we all know film themes that are easy to distinguish and associate with the film itself, specially if it's a famous one.  TV series and Video Games, now a days, tend to fall also on this categories, with really interesting music made for those two.

I can think of two of my favourites:

Bear McCreary's Battlestar Gallactica music:

Final Fantasy Advent Children:

The second category will be the "jingle"  "intro" themes for commercials, telly series, video games, and to some extend some films.  They tend to be easy listening, rapid-catch themes, case in point this two:

Or "epic and very identifiable themes" like, arguably the most famous music intro to a film,  which most people would recognize.

Even when they have to be in-line with the general feeling of the visual media they are associated, they not necessarily try to express a specific image on the listener (a priori that is).

The third category, the songs that have become famous for a film, tv series, video game or even commercial.  They may or may not have being composed specifically for the visual media they are associated to, they usually aren't, but after the media exposition they have come to be one and the same with the show.  Eg.

My obvious favourite is category one, but there are some interesting things that I have come to love from category 3, and not that many but some specific examples in category 2

So, do you like more a category from another, why and which song/theme is your favourite?


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