One day, your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.

~Unknown

Cutout placed against a building...I couldn't help but stop and look

Artist: Barbara Kruger

Since my mind has been on Surveillance Art the past few days, I couldn’t help but write about it (again). Specifically, my interest lie in the legal aspects and ramifications surrounding this particular art form and its effects on citizens. Aside from issues of safety and privacy, footage of any kind becomes art when you modify what it. With so much altering of anything these days (i.e., photos, audio, film footage, etc.); what is believable, verifiable, or trustworthy?

Last year, I did a Shotgun Review (by way of Art Practical) regarding the art collective, HUSH. Much of their art, let’s face it, may be perceived as intrusive and incredibly risqué art making, which is the best kind because you’re forced to discuss and ponder the aim of the piece. HUSH look at laws (cross culturally) and conduct surveillance themselves. Yes, folks, anything is possible and you may be the subject of art work and be completely unaware.  You’re probably being watched as you read this (imagine that, a camera somewhere recording your actions at this very moment). Something innocuous like reading this blog post on your phone or laptop. Not to increase paranoia but this is the world we live in.

Surveillance is meant to protect and serve people but, primarily, it’s used to dictate the actions of people. Subconsciously, people conduct themselves in accordance with the law but surveillance almost ensures compliance. Or, does it?  Within the realm of art, surveillance may be used to showcase the need for connection with others or how one method of perceiving and communication with the world (i.e., via digitally) has a negative affect (check out The Public Isolation Project). When you know you are being watched, you act and speak differently. There are no barriers other than your perception of what is being seen.

In any case, I will leave it at that today. Someone is probably watching…

Mattel's Video Girl Barbie

It takes a lot to make me uneasy. A couple months ago, I was listening to National Public Radio (NPR) and heard a story about Mattel’s Video Girl Barbie, which piqued my interest considering the doll prompted an FBI warning. You can listen to the Morning Edition story here. It made me incredibly uneasy because innocent play seems strange all of sudden.

Technology not only moves us faster into a higher and more sophisticated level of surveillance, it almost dictates our behaviors and actions (on a daily basis). The Video Girl Barbie is just one aspect of how technology permeates through the ages. To play Devil’s Advocate though before angry mothers start bashing on the creator of the Video Barbie, many phones can capture video and some have HD capabilities. Almost anyone can produce some record and/or documentation of anyone. Considering that my 4 year old cousin knows how to navigate around an iPhone (i.e., the iTot Generation), well, a doll isn’t going to stop anyone from voyeuristic tendencies but it, certainly, has you thinking, doesn’t it? Growing up, my mother limited my phone usage and television viewing. These days, I’ll go out with my niece or goddaughter and I’m convinced they would be able to identify all the dents on their phones before they notice my new haircut. Being in my early 30s (I still consider myself very young), we fall on the cusp of appreciating chain letters, pager code language, and passing notes (not texts messages). As ubiquitous as phones have become, the mobile phone consumer now has the power of surveillance in their own hands. Vigilante surveillance? Goodness, now we have a taxonomy of surveillance! Insane, I tell ya!

There’s a lot of ground to cover here so I’ll just say that all this is prompted by Bay Area Curator and Writer, Hanna Regev‘s, upcoming work on Surveillance. I’ll post more but here’s a little poll based on Ms. Ragev’s questions regarding the topic at hand.

Writing letters, drawing, doodling, and even your handwriting can become art. The documentary 1000 Journals includes interviews with individuals who have received and/or given away blank journals. The creator of the project, Someguy (yes, this is the name he goes by) is based in San Francisco thus tugging a bit at my heart-strings since I call this great city home. The distribution and circulation of the journals has been ongoing since 2000 and it has expanded to 1001 Journals! The journals have gone all over the United States as well as 35 other countries (if I recall correctly). As the journals traverse the world, it’s fun thinking about where they’ve gone and all the types of individuals that have filled the pages.

I’m actually working on a project for Valentine’s day at the moment and hoping to get it done within the next few days. Of course, now that I’ve mentioned it, I have no choice but to finish it, which is a great thing. I’m pretty excited about it. In any case, my project, primarily, is based on tons of doodling (that would otherwise be in my journal). Seriously, like many people, letting go of my drawings and doodling has been made easier now since I’ve learned more about the 1000 Journals project. As I watched the documentary (which kept skipping due to a bad disk – does anyone use the word ‘disk’ anymore? I digress!), it occurred to me that many people wouldn’t consider themselves artists or creative but there’s something, intrinsically, that makes people want more in life. People want to be more than their job, more than the money they make, and to be more than what another person thinks they are. This wanting more involves the creative spark. Trust me, even mathematicians and scientists need to be creative when looking critically at problems. Likewise, artists must problem solve when they are creating art work.

One of the most wonderful aspects of the 1000 Journals project is the idea of impermanence. The act of letting go of what you have created can be difficult. Yet, knowing there are others that have created something from their unique experiences and perceptions of the world is pretty extraordinary. I highly recommend looking at the 1000 Journals project and maybe put in a request to receive and pass a journal onto another person. Whether you create something dark, happy, sardonic, scathing, highly rendered, classical, abstract and/or write in the journal, it would be exciting to see what other stories are out there in the world. 🙂

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Life has been incredibly draining past few days. I had to post one of the little things that makes me happy and reminds me to keep my head up and move forward (always). One of my favorite pastimes involves walking along the Valencia corridor in San Francisco’s Mission District and take pictures. With a lot on my mind and busy (like everyone else), I wanted to post portraits found on the store front of one of my favorite book stores, Dog Eared Books. What can you do with a little time, some imagination, scrap paper, and a ball point pen? Here’s your answer. I’ve been wanting to post these for the past couple of weeks. Enjoy!

My take on the 10 tips (specific to art writing and criticism)…


1. Cut the boring parts. = Talk about something exciting. If there’s a piece or a show that falls short, provide constructive criticism without being brutal. I mean, for goodness sake, artists do need to hear it when they haven’t pushed boundaries enough. Yet, writers need to be brave enough to say, “You didn’t make me feel what you were trying to execute”.


2. Eliminate unnecessary words. = Take out any superfluous words and don’t be flowery (even though this is difficult for me to do, sometimes).


3. Write with passion. = Write authentically. Be genuine. People will know when you don’t mean it…


4. Paint a picture. = The whole idea of “show” and don’t “tell”. Unless you’re trying to command attention and have a specific reason to give direction, you need to describe what it is you see, especially if you’re describing art.


5. Keep it simple. = I heard it best put during a Critical Writing Workshop offered by The Lab in conjunction with Art Practical, one of the critics mentioned, “Write to an intelligent friend that doesn’t have time for bullsh*t”. Yes!


6. Do it for love. = See #3.


7. Learn to thrive on criticism. = People will love or hate you. Or sit on the fence when it comes to enjoying or disliking what you write. Learn to respect and appreciate opposing opinions or feedback.


8. Write all the time. = Well, create a schedule for yourself. If you’re incentive driven (like me), give yourself a reward or set a goal. Or, as Betty Edwards put it, draw (in this case, write) for 2 minutes! Typically, if you do something for at least 2 minutes and you find yourself engaged with the activity, you’ll probably continue past the 2 minutes mark.


9. Write what you know…or, what you want to know. = See #s 3 and 6


10. Be unique and unpredictable. = Hmmmm, this is debatable. Everyone is unique and has their own story but unpredictable? Well, I guess that’s up to the individual to decide.