The Foundation has Formed

March 24, 2008

Now that the Thesis has concluded the team here at Literature’s Next Frontier has decided to redesign ourselves in the hopes of establishing ourselves in our true search, one of artistic endeavors not tied to any one medium. Therefore…

WE HAVE MOVED. please join the continued discussion at the Comparative Blogging Foundation.

Thank you,

Huysmans


On the status of revivals appearing in contemporary American theater.

March 21, 2008

I have been pondering lately the situation of Revival Theater here in America and more specifically on Broadway. I myself have spent time working for a not-for-profit theater company that focused on revivals and have grown up with the idea that such endeavors are beneficial for the cultural growth of our community. I still believe in that today but I would like to consider with such an idea the reality of the amount of revive-able theater there is. So thinking about these two aspects, first the benefits of having older shows revived and second the amount of shows we can revive, I have come to consider the process in choosing what to revive when. This process is not something I’ve put much thought to in the past. When Cabaret opened a few years back I thought it was phenomenal. I loved it to the extent that I saw it five times before it closed. Never once though did I think about why Roundabout was putting it on now. What had compelled them to pick this production for this date? Perhaps they themselves didn’t have an answer for that but I find that hard to believe.

 

So I started there, thinking about these various aspects of revival culture and have begun to formulate some conclusions, obviously these conclusions are based around examples, recent ones that I had the good fortune to see last week. In the two examples I pondered the question of how one should pick what production to revive when.

 

Let me start with the bad case, South Pacific which is currently in preview at Lincoln Center in New York. The show is a classic work of theater and this current production stars Kelli O’Hara a contemporary master of theatrical performance. And yet I cite this as a bad case of theatrical revival. My parents, who I saw the show with, will cite the stage direction as the primary reason for disappointment. I agree with them but I found yet another problem. For me I felt that what I had seen was in essence and in form, a rerun. The idea disturbed me, have we forced theater into such a commercial atmosphere that what is being produced now is only the garbage we know was once successful? WHERE IS THE RISK! If I wanted to see the South Pacific from the 50s I would have rented the movie!

 

Now let me back up for a second here and clarify a few things. I do not mean to say that the show should have been altered to be set in a modern time, no that is not the essence of reviving a show. Rather the script needs to be looked at, the morals of the story evaluated and the director and crew need to ask themselves what their vision is. That is fundamental with reviving, a new vision, a new interpretation, a new show. If a director cannot discover some new vision in the work he is charged with reviving, than perhaps he should not be reviving it. Ultimately what I am suggesting is that revivals are not revivals but are productions of their own, that’s why we award the best a Tony each year. These are unique creative works that are both tied to the original as well as the contemporary culture to which they are presented.

 

This brings me to the second show, a show I believe greatly reflects the continued trends in our culture over how to deal with art and industry. Sunday in the Park with George, a wonderful Sondheim production which is currently being revived at Studio 54 by the Roundabout Theatre Company. Now first I am aware that this production is much more modern in its original than South Pacific and therefore lends itself better to being revised. However the themes of the original show are not all that is inspiring and encouraging about the current revival. This particular production utilized technology in a truly enhancing way. This new approach allowed for the production itself to do what the music and action already have mastered, create. When revived again, I can promise you that this show will not look like it does for the way in which this director has envisioned the story is unique, it is not a shadow of yesteryear as seen in South Pacific.

 

With that being said I’ll end with my opinion and hope it fosters a discussion. Revivals are unique, they are neither new productions nor reruns of old productions, they are a hybrid, a truly unique formula for producing a show that needs to be treated accordingly. In that treatment of such works the question of why must be easily answered by the audience. It is vision and relevance that pick the shows for revision, not original popularity. I love revivals, I love how they can connect today with yesterday by both honoring the history of theater while adding to it. In this respect South Pacific does not add to the culture of theater, it only mimics it. But seeing how it has already received much attention I may be wrong in how America wants to use the idea of revivals. Perhaps all we really want is mimicry. After all thousands perhaps millions more flock to museums than galleries, are we really so tied up in glorifying our past that we forget we have a present?

 

That is all,

Huysmans


Thesis Update

March 21, 2008

The thesis is done. well with typos and everything still intact, I mean what is a thesis without typos? That all being said over the next few weeks I will work on putting it online and will welcome all suggestions and criticism.


There is no title to this post

March 7, 2008

Blog + Dada = Blaga

(heading 1): NO paragraph!


Thesis due friday

March 3, 2008

it is the thesis week of weeks for me. See you all friday when i actually have discussions to post. Until then…

I’ve been commenting over at Flight Paths an incredible adventure in electronic literature.

Go and join the creation.

Huysmans


Is THAT art?!?!?! I mean a child could have done that?

February 20, 2008

I have much to say and engage with in regards to these two questions and I do not plan on writing it all down now, or even get close to addressing all the problems with these two questions but I wanted the conversation to start. So I have been doing some Saussure reading lately, for a class mind you, I don’t think I could do it for myself yet in life, and well more specifically I have been reading his Lecture Notes from the University of Geneva, 1906-11, compiled and published by his students after his death. Okay that all being said the part of these notes I want to draw attention to is the three ways in which a word, a linguistic sign, is arbitrary. The three ways come from first breaking up the sign into its two parts, signifier (the sound) and signified (the idea or concept). For example when we say “chair”  the sound associated with the concept of a device for sitting on are not inherently combined, that’s easy enough to understand when one travels to a place where one’s native language is not practiced. Try saying chair somewhere where they don’t speak English and see if they understand you. So with these two aspects defined what is then arbitrary? Well as is suggested above the relationship between the signified and the signifier is completely conventional, why call a chair a chair and not a table? It is just what we have chosen. Second the sound itself is arbitrarily defined, why not chairy or chaaaair? Lastly the concept is also arbitrarily defined. A stool and chair are separate in our language, not all languages and a desk chair and table chair both use the word chair, in other languages they don’t have the same signifier.

We can spend all day talking about Saussure but the only thing important for the art question is the arbitrariness of language.  given that I want to know bring up C. S. Pierce who studied sign. Pierce, 1839-1914, defined three different signs: Icons, resembles what it points to, Index, related to its object through forceful interaction, and Symbols, anything that requires information to form the connection. Language as it is arbitrary and conventional falls under that third category. Renaissance paintings fall under the first category and photograph falls under the first two, as it is both representational of what it points to and it is a consequence of it (that’s why photos can be evidence and paintings can’t, for the most part).

Okay NOW back to the question at hand, what is meant when someone says “a child could have done that?” that’s what I am now going to address:

So last weekend I was at our university’s annual sculpture show and had a wonderful and exploratory time observing and being part of the exhibitions. But of course, with the art being student created (ie experimental) there came a slew of questions or rather comments regarding the validity of the art. For example when looking at one of the more hidden pieces that was made up of plaster, grocery bags, hot glue, wax, and a globe it was stated that the piece was not for sale. The response of one individual to that knowledge was “why would someone even be interested in that? they could get it at a supermarket for far less, hell it comes with your order at a supermarket” he was obviously referring to the enormous number of plastic bags used int he sculpture’s creation. So therefore the question becomes creatability? I guess you could say, or rather that he and many others were measuring the “artistic merit” of the works based on how “easy” or “accessible” they were to create. Here is where I bring up Saussure, to remind us that our “conventions” for what is easy and hard, and what is beautiful and ugly, and especially what is and isn’t art is NOT based on any fundamental truth, for there isn’t one, but rather it is based on our own arbitrary definitions. One may be able to easily translate beauty linguistically between English and French but you’d be surprised at how the term may be applied very differently in the two cultures. I bring this up to suggest that when we talk about certain elements that “should” be striven for in art, those elements have no universality in them and furthermore are completely relative based on what we define them as not.

Okay then so let’s briefly talk about what is implied with that child statement. First let me say that I am not going to take the time here to debate it but rather just understand it, later we’ll debate it. So typically the “a child could do that” statement applies to the works of art that appear to have no talent applied during the creative process. One that I always think of in this argument is Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square or Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain. In either case the artistic object is not something that requires a mastery of representational ability. By that I mean to suggest that when this statement is applied to either work the implied meaning of it is that neither work achieved the same level of representational, iconic, achievement that say the Mona Lisa did. So in the end I bring this up now to ask, do you think that what is implied by this statement is a comparison with Renaissance art? After all nothing can be defined independently, everything is always negatively defined. Therefore for this to be slated with being less than art, what other artistic objects are being conjured up to mark this objects failure? Furthermore I want to bring up the question of “talent” and to suggest that we are applying to this word an age old convention of something physical. That the talent required to be a superior artist is some sort of mastery over representational, some kind of ability to recreate life through a medium. I would argue that it requires the SAME amount if not MORE talent to produce something so iconistic as to go against convention. Why seek only to use convention when defining art?

 

But I must also add that by bringing up Saussure we are going down a path of arbitrariness that may conclude with that unnerving realization that art itself is arbitrary.

 

Let the discussion begin,

Huysmans


On the power of imagination

February 18, 2008

After a long day at the library, something I am looking forward not to saying in the near future, I have come to realize or rather remember as it is something I have realized many times in my short life that there is a growing list of artistic expressions (I use as general a term as possible to emphasize the idea that there is no medium in particular by which this idea is communicated) that when interacted with (this list pertains only to me but I believe each of us has our own list) creates such a euphoric response like nothing else. Now what exactly do I mean by this, well I’ll tell yo through an anecdotal example.

As I mentioned before I spent today in the library reading some French and writing about Native Americans, interesting stuff I’ll admit but still there were many other places I would have rather been. Regardless this story is not about those other places.  I had my Ipod with me and was listening to an album, one specific album or rather soundtrack in particular. The soundtrack to Hook. A film that embodies both the early 90s and my childhood for me. And this happy thought as Williams would say in the movie did come from just that. The simple melody that played through my magnetically enhanced earphones blinded my vision from the dreary scene that was the library on a Sunday afternoon to that of home (New York) and toys, and a sense of imagination that one tries desperately to hold onto in life but only knows so purely as a child.

I was there again in that movie, believing in fairies and trying to fly. And though I have no specific memory with Hook (I don’t even remember seeing it in theaters though I am sure that I did) it brought a smile to my face. It made me happy. I didn’t need to explain it or understand it, it just made me smile and ultimately dance a little, perhaps throw a crow in there, I mean who really knows. The point is this. That list that holds that power should both never be written down or forgotten. Its active existence in our memories is what gives it its power.

I paused in the middle of writing this post to sit down and watch the movie. I smiled again.

Huysmans


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