Friday, September 25, 2009

Art In Our Time

"Our intention is to affirm this life, not bring order out of chaos or to suggest improvements in creation, but simply to wake up to the very life we are living, which is excellent once one gets one's mind and one's desires out of the way and let it act of its own accord." -John Cage

I think art has a place in our society.

After attending several sessions of the Winnipeg Writer's Festival at the campus, I am at a point of acceptance with the idea that art has an indefinite place in our society that is hard to pinpoint. Art can be a multitude of things; a poem, a spraypainting, a photograph of strategically placed items, oil on the floor, plants climbing a wall. Art is used for so many purposes from inciting anger and happiness to perpetuating propaganda in well designed posters for dictatorial magistrates.

Art and I are odd friends. I've gone through phases where I did not consider painters worthy of government subsidy in place of research committees and other more "logical", institutional pursuits. It's taken time for me to realize that everything I do from putting an unfortunate amount of thought into song order on a CD I'm burning to painting on rocks for my Grandmother's garden is artistic. I enjoy drawing in my free time, but always considered it a silly pastime that never amounted to my success in the professional world and should be ignored. Again, it took time until I realized that graphic designers are professionals. They are professionals in an artistic world full of artists and art.

I recently saw The Tragically Hip in concert. They're one of my favourite bands because of their lead singer Gord Downie. When my mother saw them in the 1980's, she said Downie had a habit of rolling around on the ground while singing. I would consider him an artist. The lyrics of his songs are some of the most cryptic in popular music and often reference popular culture, obscure Canadian history and geography. His movement when he sings is free. It's like he's in a trance. Tiger The Lion from the band's Music@Work album discusses what has become the main tenant of my theory on art.

John Cage was an experimental music composer who attempted to put Zen Buddhist beliefs into practice through the music he composed. His most recognizable piece of music is his 4'33 which consists of almost 5 minutes of silence in three movements (the first being thirty seconds, the second being two minutes and twenty-three seconds, and the third being one minute and forty seconds). It invokes an appreciation for the sounds around you, when you are in the presence of other people and when you are alone with your own thought. It also hammers home his idea that any sound, or lack there of, constitutes music.

His book Silence became a critical success, and Cage believed that theatre was the closest route to integrating art and (real) life and read his short stories to music or dance. Cage's artistic life went through a crisis in mid-1940s as the composer experienced disillusionment with the idea of music as means of communication: the public rarely accepted his work, and Cage himself, too, had trouble understanding the music of his colleagues. He would rejoin with his understanding of art in the 1960's, when his freedom of thought would be better embraced.

Sometimes art can be dynamic beyond control. I'm never sure if children understand this better than all of us or whether or not they put no specific meaning into their actions that we might regard as artistic. I appreciate the free style of avant garde art much more when I began to understand that art is not striving to complete your masterpiece of work which inevitably consumes or takes your life from you. Life is art, as everyday actions, unstructured, reflect my artistic self.

It's interesting to break out of my daily routine and contemplate how I was creative each day. I can contribute a reawakening of my creativity to CreComm, and I'm grateful for it.

Link: A site of John Cage's short stories titled Indeterminacy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Walking The Dog

Charlene Adam of the Winnipeg Free Press has been discussing Winnipeg's usage of city parks and designated areas for dogs as of late in her pet columns.

I adore dogs. I know my dog breeds. I know my dog training techniques. TV's Dog Whisperer and I are good friends through the magic of TiVo DVR. We eat lunch together (mostly where I eat lunch, and he continues doing his job through the glass). Unfortunately, I am allergic to dogs. Therefore, I am everyone's designated dog walker, by my own recommendation. I am yet to experience walking a neighbour or family member's dog in a public park, but understand the plight of the pro-dog space individuals wanting to expand the city's dog friendly parks.

The city of Winnipeg hosts a total of eleven parks where registered dogs can roam and play off-leash, but a recent issue with humans playing and frolicking in an area leased and restricted off by a sporting group in Maple Grove Park has the resident dog owners' fur up. If the owners and their four legged friends are being further restricted by sporting and recreational activity, I would assume the only fair solution to be to create another area with a larger range for owners to take their pets. Adam raises a point of interest that humbled my view; the consensus is not 100% in favour of dog parks as their are individuals in every community who are either afraid of dogs or uncomfortable with them being off-leash. If owners are not as diligent as is necessary, messes ensue. Large messes, considering the size of some dogs. The selection and number of off-leash areas has to be delicately decided.

I believe a happy medium can be found. Not all dog parks have to be created within conventional spaces. Like the off-leash area behind the Humane Society, there are fields unused near industrial areas throughout the city. Twice a year the city plows a path for easy access at the Humane Society location, and there is no conflict between other venues or activities as there are no ball parks, soccer fields or houses backing onto this space. It is within walking distance of many homes, but the only downside becomes apparent during the spring thaw when much of the ground becomes a muddy landslide. Winnipeg weather can be the total undoing of good intentioned areas and create a nightmare for owners who abhor muddy paws.

Winnipeg could potentially designating space for a dog park specially alloted for service dogs, such as fully trained guide dogs, in a bold move following a new trend. Halifax opened up such a park on September 8th, and it has been heralded as both a financial and responsible land usage success; building the fenced-in area only cost the city a few thousand dollars. I believe that to be a small price to pay for an area free of obstacles the dogs' owners would normally encounter in a public park. Plus, these dogs deserve it. Halifax currently has the only park of this type in Canada or the United States.

Whatever the conclusion of ongoing debates, dogs have to run. People will find spaces, and compromises will be made with hairless hominids throwing Frisbees in the grass. I, meanwhile, have to go watch Caesar Milan discipline naughty terriers.

Winnipeg Dogs @
Caesar Milan's Official Site

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


"The casual conversational tone of a blog is what makes it particularly dangerous." -Daniel B. Beaulieu

Through the expansive list of outlets I am learning to express my writing through as part of the Creative Communications program, I didn’t expect to have a blog. I have established blogs for personal informative purposes, where you can learn the tawdry details of how many packages of tube socks I’ve recently purchased (on sale, mind you). I have established blogs to provide updates on fandom and interests, but never as a professional channel to showcase writing.

I find it refreshing to be able to utilize the immediacy of blog posting to write about something pertinent at the moment of discovery, which put in to an essay format could become invalidated by new information. Being able to update and edit at will are friends of mine, in particular when dealing with current events.

I’m open to topics.
I’m mentally Rolodexing through my interests to find topics.
The thrill of blogging is the ability to have an idea strike at any moment, therefore I’m open for business.

Next: A discussion of what the Winnipeg Free Press’ Charlene Adam can’t fence in.