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Books, food, theatre

I did the rainbow meme and it came out totally inaccurate, so not even bothering to post it. Have been engrossed the past few days in re-reading Sharon Shinn's Samaria series; I literally did not get off the sofa all day yesterday, just slurped cup after cup of tea and devoured page after page after page. Such an excellent mix of fantasy, high-tech SF, sociocultural commentary, and just plain damn good story-telling.

Then we went to dinner (scallops, gnocchi w/wild mushrooms, nom nom nom) and to see Red, a play about artist Mark Rothko. I'm of two minds about abstract art. On the one hand I quite like some of the pictures, they're like big splashy colorful rugs you hang on the wall. On the other hand, it irritates me because it seems like the artist couldn't be bothered to make his point clear, instead relying on the viewer to supply the meaning. If it engenders an emotional reaction in the viewer/listener, does that mean it qualifies as art? What if the reaction is annoyance? Also, so many of the abstract artists seem terribly pretentious and self-important; if you don't understand their work it's due to some flaw in you, some lack of refinement or spirit. "If you don't understand what it means, I couldn't possibly explain it to you." Um, if you can't explain the meaning, isn't that a failure of communication on your part? Or perhaps because it's meaningless?

For example, John Cage's "composition" which consists of nothing but silence, or the one created by rolling dice. Is there musical skill and effort in that? Creativity? He may be making a statement about music, but is it actually music, or some sort of music criticism that makes you debate the question of what music is? In the same way, is a giant canvas covered with blocks of red (Rothko) or splatters of random paint (Pollock) art? Or is an illustrative form of art criticism that makes people think about what art is?

Still, the play was quite entertaining, especially Rothko's rant about things being "fine":

ROTHKO: (Explodes) 'Pretty.' 'Beautiful.' 'Nice.' 'Fine.' That's our life now! Everything's 'fine'. We put on the funny nose and glasses and slip on the banana peel and the TV makes everything happy and everyone's laughing all the time, it's all so goddamn funny, it's our constitutional right to be amused all the time, isn't it? We're a smirking nation, living under the tyranny of 'fine.' How are you? Fine.. How was your day? Fine. How are you feeling? Fine. How did you like the painting? Fine. What some dinner? Fine... Well, let me tell you, everything is not fine!! HOW ARE YOU?!... HOW WAS YOUR DAY?!... HOW ARE YOU FEELING? Conflicted. Nuanced. Troubled. Diseased. Doomed. I am not fine. We are not fine. We are anything but fine.

Now that's brilliant. If his art said that to me, I'd love it. Sadly, it doesn't; all it says to me is "Hi, I'm a giant canvas with quadrilaterals on," like some sort of geometry exercise. If I want to see cleverly and skillfully assembled quadrilaterals in pretty colors, I'll look at an Amish quilt, thank you very much.

Comments

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ennyousai
Mar. 11th, 2012 11:30 pm (UTC)
Samaria! I found those book a few years back and loved the heck out of them. :)
delphipsmith
Mar. 12th, 2012 01:10 am (UTC)
I just recently found Quatrain from 2009 which contains a Samaria novella. Good stuff!
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