Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bibliophile: Art at Emily Carr, in the Funkhouser Fashion

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

This is Bibliophile.

This week, we're continuing the BC survey, with a discussion of what's new in the library at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.  ...Honestly, unless there's a substantial  digital design section, this may be a very short post.  They've got an RSS feed that updates with the latest new books, and a list of just the new stuff.  I appreciate that, as it's more than we've seen in any library for a few weeks now.  Unfortunately, the RSS feed is just a list of titles and authors (and often, just titles), and even with the main list,  I'd really like something capable of narrowing the search down a little.  Still, beggars can't be choosers.  I'll note they've got a "browse the category" option that includes graphic novels as an option, so it's immediately appealing on that level.

Zen and the art of postmodern philosophy : two paths of liberation from the representational mode of thinking / by Olson, Carl.
On the surface, postmodernism doesn't strike me as something that can have a lot in common with religion.  Most religions are about creating a unified view of how to interpret the world, and postmodernism denies any such unity.  (Of course, that denial gets a little ragged around the edges if you poke too hard; at what point does refusing all beliefs become a belief of its own?).  Olson is going into this book recognizing that differences exist, but that both movements are reacting against a representational mode of thinking "that conceives of the mind like a mirror and assumes a correspondence between appearance and reality that is supported by a metaphysical structure."  That is a very poetic way of discussing something that you're opposed to.  The Zen thinkers include Dogen and Nisthitani, and the Western Thinkers consist of Derrida, Lacan, Heidegger, Lyotard, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattarri, Kristeva, and Levinas.  I have to say, I am much more familiar with the second half there than the first.  H.
New directions in digital poetry / by Funkhouser, Chris.
Before we get to the book, take a moment and just appreciate that name.  Obviously, I am more inclined to trust the opinion of a man named Funkhouser on digital poetry.  It's a 2012 book, too, so it's safely beyond the "this is hypertext" hype of the late 90s version of the subject.  The idea here is that digital poetry is something that happens in stages, that viewing digital poetry requires multiple steps, and multiple attempts.  Funkhouser's book purports to be a guide in interpreting the conventions used in such a form. I have to admit, as a degreed English person, poetry, especially 20th century and beyond poetry, is far beyond my comfort zone.  And throwing in the indeterminacy of the Web just confuses me further. So it's reassuring to know that someone, anyone, is out there trying to work through some guidelines.  Funkhouser particularly believes that there is too much emphasis on the instrument in digital poetry studies, while still recognizing that digital poetry is more than just poetry that happens to appear on a screen.  As someone still struggling with how platform studies fits into game studies, I can sympathize.  H.

Small is beautiful : economics as if people mattered / by Schumacher, E. F.(Ernst Friedrich),1911-1977
I can't decide whether this is a very optimistic title--we can make people matter in economics!--or a very depressing one--people don't matter.   As the date of the author's death suggests, this is not a new book, but a reprint of  a classic.  The cover is a collage that includes a man on a pennyfarthing, a lightbulb, a butterfly, and Ghandi, for what that's worth.  Schumacher condemns laissez-faire, capitalist economy as fundamentally ethnocentric and shortsighted, as the infinite expansion the model is based on does not work in a world with finite resources.   He also draws in the course of science since the 19th century, noting that its direction has been determined by economic forces as well.  (That reminds me of Heidegger's oft-cited (in my circles, at least) The Question Concerning Technology.) He does all this while drawing on concepts of basic humanist origin, emphasizing figures like the aforementioned Gandhi.  As one reviewer mentions, this "new age" sort of bent doesn't really win him much favor with the economics crowd, and his arguments can seem a little naive in the light of contemporary times, but I think it could probably find a home with many of the theorists operating in the humanities. (Like I said, he's very reminiscient of Heidegger, and I think there's some parallels to Liu's Laws of Cool, though that's a more broadstroke connection.)  H.
Social acupuncture : a guide to suicide, performance and utopia / by O'Donnell, Darren,1965
 This 2006 book describes Darren O'Donnell's latest theory (at the time, anyway) and his show, A Suicide-Site Guide to the City (its title explains the book's title, a little).  The performance is  theatre that's less a play and more an interactive chat with the audience over issues he feels is important, drawing them in and letting them shape things to the extent they want.  To be honest, I'm sometimes uncomfortable with this strain of interactive performance; O'Donnell's seem to focus on keeping the audience an equal partner and comfortable, which seems nice.  The book contains the full script for A Suicide Guide to the City (or as much as such things can be scripted) and an essay by O'Donnell on how theatre is waning, and civic engagement must look elsewhere.  Considering the plays I've been to, he probably has a point.  H.

Horror hospital unplugged / by Cooper, Dennis,1953-; Mayerson, Keith,1966-; 
Here's the first of four graphic novels on the list today.   It's funny--I've never really considered how graphic novels could be adapted for horror.  Oh, I've read horror comics: starting with those ECC Tales from the Cryptkeeper, moving up to some of Niles' oeuvre, and reaching Snyder's Severed.  Hell, we'll be talking Vasquez soon, and if that man's stuff might be the most disturbing material I've ever read, full-stop.  But I've never really thought about how horror could use some of comics' specific elements, including the gutters, the panel layout, seeing and not seeing, the audience complicity that Scott McCloud talks about.  That may be worth considering, at some point.This book, however, is not really about horror at all.  Rather, it is " the dark but hilarious story of Trevor Machine: a twenty-something, gay-but-sexually-confused lead singer of an L.A. indy band on its way to fame and fortune."  And the band is named after the 1971 British film Horror Hospital, in which hippies battle a doctor attempting to lobotomize them into zombies.  That's suitably horror-ish.  But again, the graphic novel is about none of that--rather, Trevor does some band stuff, with road tours and agents and so forth, and falls in love with a boy named Tim, and is confused about those feelings.  The art is very psychedelic, which is probably appropriate for a "sex, drugs, and rock and roll" sort of story.  And the romance is, from reviews, rather romantic.  I still kind of want some horror, though.  It's in the title, after all.  To leave it out is just false advertising.
One bad day / by Rolston, Steve.
The book stars a teenager, who is used to run-of-the-mill bad luck: missing an alarm, forgetting a test, and so forth.  Now, Maxie's going to have a day where she is chased by men with guns, without knowing why.  The writer claims to be going for a pulp aesthetic, and while the "innocent person is dragged into a world of crime" is a familiar pulp (and noir) plot, it's relatively novel to see that happen to a teenage protagonist.  Rolston has previously been the artist for the Greg Rucka written Queen and Country series, which is fairly well-regarded.  One Bad Day is... less well regarded; people like the art, but find the characters a little thin.  Still, as a quick little read, it seems to be a fair choice.
Sound unbound : sampling digital music and culture / by DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid.
Again, we have a promise of horror that doesn't deliver.  What makes you spooky, Mr DJ?  Okay, I think Subliminal Kid gets a pass on that one, actually. DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid's academic name is Paul D. Miller, and this 2008 anthology is all about what the remix can offer an artist in terms of what they can create.  The blurb describes the book as stories from "the front lines of the roles of sound and digital media."  I suppose that makes the enemy those who use old school... regular instruments?  That doesn't sound right.  Anyway, the essays in this volume are short but plentiful, with 36 in all.  This includes Miller on sampling as a creative art, Bruce Sterling on the Life and Death of Media, "Un-imagining Utopia" by Dick Hebdidge, Digital Culture and Copyright Law by Daphne Keller, Beth Coleman (there she is again) and Howard Goldkrand on Mobile Stealth Unit, Manuel DeLand on "The Virtual Breeding of Sound," Scott deLahunta on Software for Dancers,  Brian Eno on Bells and Their History, and Jaron Lanier on "Where Did the Music Go?".  That's a pretty impressive set, and I've listed half, at most.  I think if you're at all interested in digital sound, you should have already read this book.

Squee's wonderful big giant book of unspeakable horrors / by Vasquez, Jhonen.
I got into Invader Zim during my undergrad, and eventually went on to read Vasquez's Johnny The Homicidal Maniac.  MISTAKE.  As the title may suggest,  it's about a young man named Johnny who's pretty into kidnapping, torturing, and murdering people.  It's an exceptionally grotesque graphic novel, and very, very disturbing.  For my money, the best issue of the series is the second, wherein most of the content is devoted to Johnny having a long talk about why he does what he does with one of his victims.  Both characters are portrayed very sympathetically, which is a nice balance.  This book is a spin-off of one of the Johnny characters, Squee, who seems destined to live a life of perpetual victimhood.  It's a good book, but it's not really worth it unless you've read the original series--and I don't know if I could recommend that to anyone whose taste doesn't go seriously for the macabre.
Aya : life in Yop City / by Abouet, Marguerite,1971-; Oubrerie, Clement.; 
The fourth graphic novel of this week's set.  Like One Bad Day, it's another book with a teenaged female protagonist, but the setting is quite different: 1978 Ivory Coast, West Africa.  The book is slightly autobiographical, and tells the story of Aya and her friends Adjoua and Bintou, as they go through the everyday trials and tribulations of Yop City.  It's the first three volumes of the series, with the remaining three coming later.  The book has won a few awards in International comics circles and for children's book, so it's probably worth reading.   H.
Working with wool : a Coast Salish legacy and the Cowichan sweater / by Olsen, Sylvia,1955-; 
In my MA, I did a research paper on the funeral sermon John Donne gave for William Cockayne.  As a result, I learned a lot about the 17th century European wool trade. (Cockayne was rather infamous for ruining England's trade for about five years with some refining processes that didn't really go anywhere.)  It was the first time I ever really did a heavy level of research for a paper, and I'm still kindly inclined toward wool-ish studies. In this case, Sylvia Olsen provides the history of Cowichan sweaters, which are a tradition among Coast Salish people, a British Columbia First Nations group.  She speaks from personal experience too, as she has been a part of a group of women who have been making these sweaters for over forty years.  It's an interesting mix of culture, industry, and history, all bound up in a physical artifact.  Cool stuff.  H.

Every day is a good day : the visual art of John Cage / by Cage, John,1912-1992.; Millar, Jeremy.; Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.; Hayward Gallery.; John Cage Trust.; Hayward Touring (Exhibition); 
 I can't say I know very much about Cage.  But I know enough to know that other people are very taken with him, and that he gets a lot of books written about him.  Like this one, for instance.   It's a retrospective on his technique and art, with prints from exhibits such as R = Ryonji, and it contains interviews with several people who worked closely with him: Kathan Brown, who did printmaking for him;  Laura Kahn, Director of the John Cage Trust; Ray Kass; Julie Lazar, curator of Rolywholyover: A Circus.  There's also an interview he did with Irving Sandler, and a selection of quotations and writings by him.  If, like me, you know relatively little about Cage, this seems like a good place to start. H.
Fresh widow : the window in art since Matisse and Duchamp / by Müller-Schareck, Maria.; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (Germany);  H.
And for the art historian who has everything, a book on the history of windows in art.  "Window" is a metaphor that comes up often in digital media studies, for obvious reasons that start with Microsoft and include the idea of the computer as a portal into virtual reality, whatever that may mean.  So I'm interested in books that study the creative thought devoted to the window.  Famously, (or so Google tells me) a 15th century artist said that every painting is a window, which implied a devotion to the representational side of things.  Duchamp's Fresh Window, the artpiece that gives this book its name, was, if I'm understanding it, a window closed shut, with its panes darkened.  Duchamp, in no uncertain terms, is saying that if art is a window, the window is now closed; let's look at something else.  The book is an anthology of studies of those something elses that followed; I'll list a few for the general flavor: Melanie Vietmeier -- Right after : Eva Hesse's late drawings / Lisa Marei Schmidt -- Robert Motherwell's Open paintings / John Yau -- "Painting and drawing in space" : Brice Marden's designs for the choir windows of Basel Cathedral / Christian Müller -- Demonstrations of sight : the transformation of image and object in Gerhard Richter's windows / Stefan Gronert -- "Everybody needs at least one window" : Isa Genzken's window sculptures.  If you wanted some heavy thinking on windows, this is the book for you.
 It panes me to conclude on such an open-ended note, but I must glass you to accept my leave, and I'll see y'all next week.  Sill then,
Later Days.

No comments: