Journey to the Far East

For the Non-western portion of this class I wanted to focus on the Japanese renaissance of the Edo period. Japanese culture is unique and often times startling in this day and age, and I feel it has a sort of alien appeal to it. Artwork from the early cultural periods of their development is so interesting, as well as their cultural roots and practices. I personally feel that Japan would have evolved into a beautiful technological renaissance, with many of their cultural roots still intact, if Commodore Perry had not invaded in the 1850’s and forced Japan to open their ports to Western trade and democracy. That is why I would like to choose to focus on Edo period art, or more specifically, Ukiyo-e style, also known as Woodblock Prints.

A little bit of historical background: The Edo period is a period of cultural expansion and emergent middle classes, under the harsh and strict rule of descendants of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was instrumental in the overthrow of the previous dynasty and responsible for the introduction of the Edo period or otherwise known as the Tokugawa Dynasty, named after him. Tokugawa seized power and installed a new system known as the Shogunate, with himself as the first Shogun. Tokugawa encouraged foreign trade, but was suspicious of outsiders, so he seized direct control of all outgoing and incoming trade through Japan’s ports. This alienation was impressed harder upon the country after the initial Christian forays into the country, and Tokugawa decreed that Christianity must be forsworn.

After the transition to seclusion, the shogunate wanted to pacify the public by disarming the Samurai and imposing the Confucian ideals of social order. The rigid class system imposed by this order created cultural hubs where merchants, artisans, and ex-samurai interacted and promoted the emergence of the middle class. Because of this strict rule the system worked very efficiently. Urban centers were built and maintained, the social elite were well educated, agriculture was productive, and the nation was unified with a financial system and well maintained road infrastructure.

Because contact was cut off from the outside world, traditions of the past were revived and refined in their art forms. Many traditional forms of art were parodied and manipulated into the art I am planning to share with you. The city of Edo, now known as Tokyo, went through a charismatic revival after a devastating fire in 1657, and ‘witty, irreverent expression’ came to characterize urban Edo artwork, giving rise to Kabuki theatre and the distinctive art form of Wood-block printing, or Ukiyo-e.

Ukiyo-e is a two-part form of art, requiring a skilled painter and an equally skilled wood-carver. The image is first designed on paper by the artist, and is transferred to a thin, partially transparent paper, which is laid over usually cherry wood, and the carver carefully cuts and chisels into the wood to re-create the image in negative, to be dyed and then printed onto the paper.

This first image is the work of Katsushika Hokusai. Hokusai was influenced by Chinese painters and created beautifully detailed works that were not always woodprints. Hokusai was born in 1760 and his career began in 1779 after his father sent him to be the apprentice of a man who did wood-prints to copy books, and create artwork often enjoyed by the social upper class. He was discovered there by his first teacher, Katsukawa Shunsho. Hokusai’s first 1779 works were a series of kabuki actors. He created much beautiful ukiyo-e artwork, but after 1793 when Shunsho died, he altered the course of his artwork and began exploring western European influences.

This painting by Katsushika Hokusai is titled “Amida Falls on the Kiso Highway”, painted circa 1833.

This is another painting by Hokusai, titled “Mount Fuji reflects in Lake Kawaguchi”. This painting is a part of Hokusai’s collection titled “36 views of Mount Fuji”, a series of works done from 1826 to 1833 and were published together in a book. The works were so popular, 10 more were added on, and later Hokusai included these images in another book, “100 views of Mount Fuji”.

HERE is a link to a gallery containing the 36 views of Mount Fuji.

Finally here is one of Hokusai’s most easily recognizable works, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, which is the first in his 36 views, created 1829-1833.

 

This is the end of my presentation, however I am going to include a few more pictures for posterity’s sake. Some of these pictures will not be by Hokusai, and if so I will include the artist and the date created. The country of origin is obviously Japan.

Kitagawa Utamaro, Akashi of the Tamaya, c. 1794-95

Suzuki Harunobu, Crow and Heron, c. 1769

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, c. 1840-42

 

 

 

Sources:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e0/Kakinomoto_no_hitomaro.jpg

http://www.clker.com/cliparts/4/b/5/7/12608936441192028836za1zfc.png

http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/22078?search_no=5&index=16

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokusai

http://ukiyo-e.org/artist/katsukawa-shunsho

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/edop/hd_edop.htm

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ukiy/hd_ukiy.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_C._Perry

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edo_period

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokugawa_Ieyasu

http://indulgy.net/L1/pC/eF/d1dcd8c7f359f942a1382963d518a3dd.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/36_Views_of_Mount_Fuji_(Hokusai)

http://www.man-pai.com/Grandes_series/Hokusai_Fuji36/hokusai_36_vistas_monte_fuji_e.htm

http://www.man-pai.com/images/FHH142_c.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0a/The_Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa.jpg/1280px-The_Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa.jpg

http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/citi/images/standard/WebLarge/WebImg_000185/98944_2050473.jpg

http://ukiyo-e.org/image/mfa/sc136536

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Journey Into the Unknown

Hello there, and welcome to my gallery!

For this specific blog post, I am going to take my audience on a little adventure from one side, to the other side of a specific kind of spectrum- the PSYCEDELIC spectrum. Psychedelics and their use all have their own special kind of culture. You can see it strongly in the Vietnam protests, the peace-and-love kind of attitude of the 1970’s. But there is a much bigger side to it than it seems. Psychedelic drugs and their culture seem to all be about indulgence and pleasure, but they actually have a very religious connotation, I personally believe. I feel that there is two types of people who want to engage in psychedelics and the culture which promotes them- those who believe in the experience itself, and who don’t try to understand, but merely take it all in; and on the other hand, those who want to try to use psychedelics to understand the universe, and god’s relationship to man.

I say that this concept is ‘religious’, but I do not mean Judo-Christian style religious. There is a transcendental meaning behind much of the artwork that comes out of the ‘trippy’ attitude. That’s why for my first art showcase I’d like to share the works of one of my favorite artists, the genius Alex Grey.

This is Alex Grey’s “The Great Net of Being”. This specific painting is highly spiritual. From this painting we can see Grey’s belief, that we are all connected to one and other, before birth, during life, and after death. This image plays on a spiritual concept called “Bardo”. Bardo is a traditional Hindu and Buddhist ideal that there is a transitionary stage between death, and the next reincarnation. In this state we are all one being, and we experience dramatic hallucinations which are the clearest experience of reality one is spiritually capable of, followed by immense fear and despair over actions in the past that were done unskillfully. This period is actually more like a period of rest, or meditation, and there is a concept of Bardo that takes place in reality where one is ill, or in a coma, and this can be considered a time of resting as well.

I personally believe this image is beautiful and inspiring, very skillfully done with an immense eye for detail and repetition. It certainly says a lot about us, if you can think of each of these ‘faces’ as a representation of the human spirit, and if you look closely you can see these faces are made up of dozens of galaxies. I feel that Alex Grey is trying to convey the idea that we are each a galaxy in itself, and we are only the universe experiencing itself. A complicated, and difficult theory to consider, I know.

Here is another piece by Alex Grey that I particularly like, titled “Dying”.

This picture I believe shows the transitory state from life to death, and that the shimmering image coming out of the person’s brain is supposed to be their soul. The location in which the soul is coming out of is called the “Third Eye”, which is a conduit to the spiritual world that emerges from the pineal gland, which is the gland in the very center of your brain that contains fluid. Among the chemicals in this pineal fluid is a substance called Dimethyltriptamine, DMT, which is an extremely intense psychedlic drug when manufactured from Amazonian roots and herbs. People have claimed that while tripping on DMT, they have spoken to either god, or the devil. There is no scientific proof of any of this, and certainly it would be heresy to try to explain to the Catholic church, however it has been said that the DMT contained naturally in your brain is released at only two times in your life- upon birth, and upon death.

On another note, the reason why the conduit from the pineal gland is called the ‘Third Eye” is because there are some animals which literally have a milky, tertiary eye located in the middle of their forehead, usually found in frogs, lizards, and newts.

More about the artist: Alex Grey was born in Columbus, Ohio, November 29th, 1953. Alex Grey’s father was a graphic designer, and encouraged his son’s artistic vision. Grey would often collect dead insects and animals and bury them. Life and death have had a heavy influence on his artistic journey. Alex Grey’s period of death-based artwork was changed and heavily influenced by his wife Allyson Rymland Grey, who he met at the Boston Museum school. She introduced him to psychedelics, specifically LSD. Grey’s journey into a more philosophical standpoint was also influenced by his interest in human anatomy, which we can see in his paintings such as the one above. Alex Grey never draws a human being as they are seen from the outside, but rather as they are seen from the outside, or from the viewpoint of some spiritual being, looking in.

Grey’s work has been exhibited in many renown locations, such as Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum and in San Diego’s Museum of Contemporary Art. I consider him to be very successful. Alex Grey also partnered often with the music group TOOL, and is the art designer for all of their music videos and cover artwork.

Speaking of Tool, I would like to begin discussing them now. TOOL is an American rock band composed of 5 people, (1 guitarist, 1 drummer, 1 singer, 1 bassist, and 1 previous bassist who had to be replaced), so I won’t spend much time going into the biographies of the individual people, except for the main singer Maynard James Keenan. Tool was founded by the group of friends in 1990, in Los Angeles. Here is an example of one of their music videos, the iconic “Vicarious”, artwork done by, of course, Alex Grey. The LYRICS of the song, like much of Tool’s music, contains a strong message about society as we see it today and the problems that lie therein.

I am naturally impressed with the work as a whole, which goes without saying. I wouldn’t have chosen it if I didn’t like it. I’d like to explain instead what I think the art means, and why it’s meaningful to me. I think that the lyrics of the song and the video have separate messages which reinforce each-other. What Maynard is saying is that society lives in a vicious cycle of wanting to see suffering or misery. In this televised day and age, through the news we can see live reports of human atrocities, through television and Hollywood we see the glamorization of murder and sex and intrigue, and we get it instantly, every day, any time we desire it. As a world wide society we indulge in the use of television literally every second, of every minute, in every day, and Maynard questions the wisdom and the consequence of having this accessibility.

In the music video, we can see the humanoid form looking apparently very stressed and confused by his surroundings. Later, we see the creatures which emerge from his eyes, and the realm they venture into. Isn’t that realm familiar? It’s the first picture I posted, “The Great Net of Being”. I think that realm represents Bardo, and I explained how in the religious definition of the term, there is a period where the person has intense hallucinations about something they regret. I think the realm outside of the person’s eyes, where the big flaming circle is and the red dry earth, is a hallucination. The humanoid form is a person who has died. What they are hallucinating about is a regret, regret that they spent so much time just watching the television. They see creatures dying around them. I think the red and blue worms represent the person’s spirit, and the journey that it is undertaking. In the end we see the worm creatures, the man’s soul, go into one of the golden orbs in the Bardo realm, and they appear to go through a strange metamorphosis. I think this is representative of the person’s soul accepting its fate, and its shortcomings in their previous life. The transformation they undergo is reincarnation back into the world.

After this we see that the red sun on the planet is actually a massive eye. This eye is turned down, watching the life and death of what happened on the surface. I think, what Alex Grey is suggesting by this, is that the urge to see life and death play out in the natural drama that is life, is a very natural and common urge. It isn’t something to feel guilty of, because the universe is watching all of our lives play out, too. Observing is the natural state of the universe. We can observe motion, and learn from it. That is physics, at its very basics. There is a theory that the universe is self aware, which I think Alex Grey and Maynard James Keenan would believe. If that is the case, I think that the very end of this video explains that the universe exists to observe itself, and so simply observing is not a ‘sin’. But it is absolutely true that by spending all your days watching TV, you miss out on many experiences and possibilities.

Onto the darker side of TOOL. The band has heavy metal roots with their early album Undertow, which was actually rather inappropriate and received many negative criticisms for their vulgarity. The album’s song “Prison Sex” was actually removed from MTV for being too vulgar and offensive. The band’s original symbol was a wrench in the shape of a penis. This phallic imagery is a part of their message and idealism, that you can basically do whatever the hell you want in life. Much of the vulgarity in the band’s attitude likely stems from Maynard James Keenan, who is wholly inappropriate and controversial. His music and his attitude are explained by tragedies that happened in his past, such as the paralysis of his mother and her eventual death due to cerebral aneurysm.

This next video is for that controversial song that was removed from MTV, “Prison Sex”. It is in my opinion VERY disturbing, especially if you keep in mind that the LYRICS of the song are about sexual abuse. I am not going to go into details of what I think each scene of the video is about. Despite being so disturbing though, it does send a very powerful message, one I think that the public needs to hear, but prefers to keep quiet about.

Well, that is all the TOOL I am going to show you. The band is very emotionally provocative and stressful. There is another band I would like to discuss, and revisit the idea of psychedelic and spiritual influence creating modern artwork. Israeli artists Erez Eisen and Amit Duvdevani came together in 1996 to create the artist known as Infected Mushroom. Infected Mushroom is, as its name suggests, heavily influenced by electronic, the club scene, and of course psychedelic drugs. Despite this I feel that their music is brilliantly and excellently put together, well mastered and utterly inspired. They have a lot of skill as electronic musicians, but they also have roots in traditional instruments. Many of their songs are creatively influenced by their middle eastern upbringing, and include traditional Israeli instruments like the sitar. Here is the song “Heavyweight” off their album Vicious Delicious, released in 2007.

What a journey. This song might be obnoxiously long, but I think that the whole experience is very much worth it. Listen to the changing meters, and the rising and falling pace, like you might see in a work by Igor Stravinsky. The shifting and altered vocals, the swinging and sudden note changes typical in middle eastern music, and of course, that GUITAR. That electronic guitar was put through a filter, and that was it. No remastering, no auto-tuning, no manipulation, just Amit Duvdevani and his skill. (That might actually be Erez Eisen, but I think it’s Amit Duvdevani)

This song is pretty ideal to capture the essence of the way that their music sounds. It always has slow and rewarding building action, followed by indulgent melodies, and a gentle let down back to the ground.

To finish off this art gallery I would like to complete this with a song by an emergent duo of artists called Purity Ring, just being founded only 3 years ago in 2010. The duo Megan James and Corin Roddick, 25 and 23, are originally from Edminton, Canada. These are emergent artists and are part of the newer wave of dubstep and electronic music, although they are categorized as “Synth Pop”. This is one of my favorite songs by them, “Obedear” on their first and only album so far Shrines.

I really like this new kind of music, it is cleverly put together, gentle and relaxing. A good tone to end on, since the artwork I have shown you so far is either exciting, bizarre, or controversial. I think that vocalist must be Megan James, and I have to say she has a beautiful voice. The lyrics are interesting, complex and riddling. I especially appreciate those chanting vocals in the background, they give the piece an air of spirituality, a sort of sacred influence. I have high expectations for this duo and I hope to hear more music from them in the future.

Thank you for visiting my gallery, I am sure it’s been a long and winding trip. It is my hope that it was enjoyable, and accessible.

Sources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purity_Ring

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infected_Mushroom

http://infected-mushroom.com/

http://www.cosm.org/art/alexbio.html

http://www.cosm.org/art/AlexGreyGallery.html?action=thumbnail&thumbpage=1

http://encyclopediapsychonautica.org/images/c/c5/Alex_grey-net_of_being-2007-001.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bardo

http://neurometaphysics.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/alex21.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tool_(band)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maynard_James_Keenan

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=id_b484ljt0

http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ciencia/ciencia_psycho08.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWSDZI5Tsgs

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/tool/vicarious.html

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/tool/prisonsex.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4lMO4vM5Cc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETbGpGJNVLM

The Emergence of Fantasy and Abstraction

In the beginning of the 20th century we have the Early Modern era, and the slow emergence of cinema. Art in this era also begins to take a sudden change, morphing from paintings and portraits of reality to things that are more fantastical and conceptual. We begin to see the changes in the attitude of art towards reality with the movements in this era like the Dada movement, Avant Garde, and abstraction. Personally I am a great fan of abstract art. I enjoy abstract sculpture like what is utilized in Surrealism. I also see the connection in this era to futuristic building design that we employ today, using steel and concrete and glass. The smoothness and the interesting curvature of shape utilized in artwork in this period is simply fascinating.

Lets talk about the visual arts first. One of my favorite visual arts pieces is a surrealist piece of work done by Max Ernst in 1945 called “The Temptation of St. Anthony”.

(http://nonsite.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/3b.-Ernst-Anthony.jpg)

One of the reasons I think this painting is so awesome is the various amount of weird creatures in it. I also enjoy the color contrast, the difference in the brightness of the subject and then the neutral toned background of the sky and the sea and the statues, intermingled with creatures here and there. This painting is absolutely fantastic. It inspires wonder and interest in what the painting is about, and it draws on influences from my childhood.

This painting really makes me think of one of the iconic movies of my childhood, Jim Henson’s “The Dark Crystal”. I feel it is similar because of the creatures and the fantastic, otherworldly landscape, which just barely manages to be similar to our own, but different, and alien. This movie really is a great source of my creative drive, although it is only now as an adult that I realize this movie is much scarier than it seems.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cff3MIES61g)

On a related note, the reason why this movie and the doll animatronics seem so strange has to do with something called the Uncanny Valley. What the valley is, is a graphical representation of the reason why we find certain things that are humanoid, yet not human, to be unnerving. Have you ever seen those Japanese realistic robots that look, move, and act like humans? Yet you can tell they aren’t human. They also might seem a little creepy. That is the uncanny valley in action, right there.

Back to the topic at hand, the fantastic artwork of the 1930’s and on. I personally believe that The Great Depression had a heavy hand in shaping the way art has changed throughout the modern movement. People who were creating surrealistic, abstract, and avant-garde all had the same theme in mind: they wanted to break the mold that had set around what ‘art’ was. They wanted to change perspective and break away from traditional forms of media, traditional subject matter, and traditional use of colors. I feel that all of this stems from a feeling of wanting things to change. People made art that was fantastical and invigorating and different for two reasons: One, they were bored of reality; and two, they were sick of the harsh truths of reality. Creating fantasy artwork was a way to draw the eye away from the grimness and the poverty that came with the depression. And on top of that, when FDR came and introduced the New Deal, and gave jobs to artists and artisans to create artistic architecture, and parks, I think that these artists were inspired by this theme of fantasy to create something that was inspiring to the people. Since their work would be seen in public every day, I feel like they wanted to make artwork that would try to change the moods of the people influenced by them to be more positive.

Concerning positive effects on society, now I would like to transition into the music scene. Jazz and ragtime became popular in this pre-modern era, and was highly perpetuated by the Harlem Renaissance. The spirit and liveliness that were put into the movement were a reflection of the liveliness in African culture. Jazz followed historic African musical roots, employing bent notes, a ‘call and response’ tactic, and swinging rhythms. The nightclubs, the shakers and movers, all these influences due to the emergent African-American middle class have had a profound impact on music today. This African American music has given us all of our old fashioned rap and reggae, stars like Bob Marley and Tupac Shakur.

The music piece I’d like to share is a classic, from Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World”. I love the swinging, gentle melody, and the rough harshness of his voice. It is all very distinct and enjoyable.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2VCwBzGdPM)

This music really makes me think of another one of my favorite singers, who I reckon we are probably going to study in the next unit! Armstrong’s performance draws to mind the famous Frank Sinatra. I’d like to share one of my favorites by him, “Fly Me To The Moon”. I’m completely certain that Sinatra draws on inspiration from the emergent jazz of this era.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtFBRJFN3p8)

For my final topic I’d like to discuss the advances in technology made in this era. Technology is getting better and better, especially technology meant for the use of entertainment. With Photography hitting an all-time high in the art scene, likely the reason why portraits of reality were becoming less popular, photography was finally being utilized in a new fashion- the moving pictures. Cinema is starting to begin in this era, and it is a beautiful time to be an actor. With actors going from the stage, to in front of the camera, we see the beginnings of a whole new movement in the form of entertainment. The Hollywood era is just around the corner, and that could not be more exciting to me. The American film industry is, in my opinion, one of the best times in history for artists and actors as a whole. Film is a combination of all three of the styles of art. You needed painters to do the backgrounds, architects to make the sets, thespians to do the acting, and musicians to make the score. You can really think of movies as an advanced sort of entertainment, a unison of all the styles we’ve been appreciating all these centuries.

The film I’d like to show you in this emergent type of art is Nosferatu. Nosferatu I think is an excellent example of technological advancement bringing the other forms of artwork together. We have acting in a story that is shocking, frightening for its time. If you listen carefully to the musical score, you can see that it is very different than you would expect. I know I focused on the Harlem Renaissance when I discussed my chosen musical piece, but there was also another direction of music in this era that was more jarring and almost unpleasant to the ears. It was different, that is for sure. Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is a good example of what I am talking about. The music in Nosferatu is intentionally meant to be jarring, and to scare us and draw us in to different scenes. Finally we can see the intriguing visual concepts of the way that they designed the costuming for Dracula.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcyzubFvBsA)

Impressionism Relates to the Future

Impressionism. A new, interesting, almost startling sort of change in the way artwork was developing, Impressionism gave the artist opportunity to see things differently. An impressionist painter captured the moment, inviting action and movement into their pieces. Rather than painting exactly what they saw, to the finest detail, impressionism era artists were allowed to paint what they FELT, instead. Many people critiqued this art form as being lazy, because of the haggard blending of colors, sketchy lines, and the loose brush strokes.

In my opinion, Impressionism art is just as much art as anything else in the romantic period. While I can truly appreciate finer details, I think I like impressionism painting. The colors and the blending is a welcome change from the sharp and contrasting edges of the previous era’s artwork. The smoothness is something I can appreciate as well. Perhaps it doesn’t seem ‘smooth’, but as you back away from an impressionist painting it all comes together to form a well-crafted painting.

Impressionist art was apparently influenced by Japanese Ukiyo-e art, and I think I agree with this idea. While the impressionist art style is beautiful, I actually like the Ukiyo-e better. It seems to be a combination of these two ideas, rich colors and action and movement combined with smooth edges and well defined lines and detail. Here we have a picture of one of my favorite Ukiyo-e prints, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.

This print was done by Katsushika Hokusai in 1830, in the culturally booming Edo period. These paintings were actually created by carved blocks of wood. I think that this style is similar to impressionism, and I am going to quote Japanese Novelist Asai Ryoi to explain why. Ukiyo-e art is “living only for the moment, savouring the moon, the snow, the cherries in flower and the leaves of the maple, singing songs, drinking sake and enjoying simply floating, indifferent to the prospect of impending poverty, optimistic and carefree, like a pumpkin dragged along by the current of the river”.

The action and the sweeping curves of the wave in this painting remind me of one of my favorite Van Gogh painting, Starry Night, painted in 1889. While of course Van Gogh’s impressionist style is much less detailed than Hokusai’s woodblock painting, it still features the same magnificent blending of colors.

Interestingly enough, I have seen a wonderful optical illusion which can be used on Starry Night. The instructions are simple: Stare at the direct center of the spinning gif below. You will see a little white dot, concentrate on that for about 30 seconds. Then, quickly snap your attention to the picture of Starry Night below it, and watch the magic happen!

So the title of this post is “Impressionism Relates to the Future”, and now I’m going to explain why. I feel that impressionist artwork can somewhat be seen in early video gaming. See, early videogames like Mario and The Legend of Zelda used 8 bit pixelation in order to create their images. I’m sure many of you know what pixels are, but I’m going to explain them anyway.

A pixel is a little square piece of space on a screen. Computer screens, iPhone screens, television screens even are completely made up of pixels. When you see an image and it says something like “1280 x 800”, that means that the image is 1280 pixels wide, and 800 pixels tall. These are the dimensions of the starry night image I posted. Images that are made up of pixels are actually made up of a grid of patterned colors. A pixel is generally composed of three colors, red, green, and blue. By changing the intensity of these colors we can make different colors, and blend them together, just like impressionist artwork.

Pixel artwork was so important in the emerging art form of video games because they were able to change color based on an input command, which allowed your player to ‘move’ through the environment. One of my favorite games that employs this style is Chrono Trigger, produced by Square industries (now Square Enix, they make all the final fantasy games) in 1995. Chrono Trigger to me, is much more interesting than Mario, because it is part of the emerging style of gameplay called RPG, or Role-Playing Game, where you have a massive world to explore, an adventure to go on, with storyline, dialogue, and combat, whereas the original SNES Mario is a ‘sidescroller’ game with little exploration. The difference is that in an RPG you navigate up, down, left, and right, whereas in Mario you only navigate to the right.

Here we have somebody who hand crafted characters from the game with little plastic beads. Below it I am going to post an artists rendition of the characters, so you can see the difference.

The reason why this game is so interesting to me is the environments in certain places. It really tells a story, and shows an incredibly interesting depiction of reality. The game is called Chrono Trigger, because you are able to warp back and forth through time, and the point of the game is to change conditions in the past to prevent an alien parasite named Lavos from destroying the world. One of my favorite parts in this game is when you go to the future, after Lavos has destroyed the world with a nuclear apocalypse. You really get to see the ramifications of your actions in the past. The scene is bleak, and horrible. People live huddled in little shelters all across the map, the ruins of facilities which were created by the military to combat Lavos. These people are starving and wretched, and it really plays on the emotions. The saddest part of the future here, is that there are revitalization machines which heal you. Because of these machines, the people in the future don’t die, and continue living in the apocalypse, waiting for things to get better, which they never do. The machines keep them from dying, but they are always hungry. I feel like that would be a terrible way to live.

Here are a few pictures of the gameplay in this part. First we have the ‘world map’, and then a few pictures of interior structures.

Another example of why I think this game is artistically invigorating is the Kingdom of Zeal, a place where magic and wizardry are practiced and learned. Here I have a picture of the interior of one of their castles. I think this architecture may have been inspired by early renaissance architecture.

From these pictures, it is both easy and difficult to tell that these images are pixelated, just like impressionism artwork. That is where I feel the connection lies. If impressionism did not teach us to appreciate art by seeing it from a distance, pixelated games like this would look ugly and uninteresting. But instead we can focus on the rich amount of detail that was put into these works of art. I truly appreciate impressionism artwork, because of the impression these kinds of games made on my youth.

Sources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa

http://www.engraving-review.com/ukiyo-e-engraving-Japan-later-years.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Starry_Night

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixel

http://www.fantasyanime.com/squaresoft/images/maps/Zeal-08.png

The True Meaning of Revolution

To start with, my blog is titled “The Electronic Revolution”, but I don’t mean revolution in the traditional sense. A revolution in my opinion is  a change in general thinking, in the use of technology, and a change in the way we accept and live in the lawfully governed world. But, Revolution can also apply to things like the French and American Revolutions, and these are periods of time that involve rapid changes in thinking, artwork, and society. Physical, violent revolution is a powerful changing factor when it comes to art and society.

For my topic on the classical arts, I am going to focus on the roles both the French and the American revolution played in changing art, and the other way around: the way that art changed the revolution. I got three pieces of work here from the classical era, and I’m going to take my time explaining how each piece of art contributed to the spirit and overall mood of the revolution.

(http://images.asc.ohio-state.edu/is/image/eHistory/origins/images/4-1-img1761.jpg?qlt=100&wid=1200&fmt=jpeg)

 

This is the Prise de la Bastille or the Storming of the Bastille, in English, created by French painter Jean-Pierre Houel in 1789. It depicts the storming of the Bastille in the first, bloody conflict of the French Revolution. Jean-Pierre is known as an Italiante Rococo painter, having received an education in artwork at the French Academy of art. Jean-Pierre uses rich watercolors in his paintings, as well as lots of action and people. The use of bright colors and complicated scenery makes it obvious this is Rococo style artwork, but it seems to have a bit of influence from the humanist and mannerist styles of painting, something with Jean-Pierre no doubt picked up in his travels in Italy.

I don’t think I need to explain much about WHY this painting relates to the revolution and it’s effect on art. Jean Pierre apparently experienced the horrors of the French Revolution in close quarters, and painted what he saw as a documentation of those horros. Look at the aggression of the people in this painting, the violence of the French Militia and the stark, powerful colors which Jean-Pierre uses to color the Bastille, the great prison of France. This type of artwork wasn’t meant to inspire revolutionaries, it was meant to show the common person that was not involved in the war what the horrors of it were really like. In this painting we can see the conflict and the struggle and really understand the hardships that pushed the common people into revolution. War is never a pretty thing, and while this painting is beautifully done and colored, it is not pretty. It is a grim reminder that revolution comes with consequences. But, considering that artwork like this came out of the revolution, I think it was well worth the price.

Incidentally, I read Les Misérables in High school, and this was the artwork on the front cover. It really was an excellent way to express the topic in the book.

 

 

 

Now, onto our second piece. The first piece of art I shared was visual artwork, so lets take a look at musical artwork of the revolutionary era.

As I explained in the last topic, revolution artwork seems to have more than one purpose. On one hand, it can be used to remind us of the hardships of war and revolution and the grim condition of mankind when it is forced to fight and kill for basic human rights. But, the other purpose of revolution artwork is to inspire and bring courage, and determination, to the audiences at which it is directed. In other words, it’s propaganda. Propaganda is a vitally important part of warfare and a sign of the changing times, and we see a lot of American propaganda which is famous and fresh in our minds even today, such as images like this:

 

 

Rosie the Riveter (http://nyulocal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/rosie_the_riveter_poster-r3091783638ae408994a605de333dcf99_wi4_400.jpg) and Uncle Sam (http://www.futureclassx.com/bodypaint/stephanie/UncleSamWantsYou.gif)

 

These kind of images are meant to be inspiring, and represent the strength of the American people. It may not be classical artwork, mind you, but these aren’t the pieces of art I am going to talk about. What I want to show you is a classic piece of American Revolutionary music. The following piece is “Dixie” or “I Wish I Was In Dixie” depending on who you credit with the creation of the song. Most people credit an Ohio-born man named Daniel Decatur Emmett with the creation of this song in the early 1800’s near 1850. Listen to the patriotism, the style of music, the pride in your country which is just injected into this kind of music. This music was revolutionary, and indeed did serve as stirring propaganda to incite patriotism.

 

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1RD9Pv43EQ)

Ironically enough this particular piece of art was done by a Canadian orchestra known as the Canadian Brass, founded in the 1970’s.

This kind of music I feel is meant to inspire pride and wholesomeness in the American community, because it was in support of the revolution and shows the progression of American culture. The song is sort of like a testament, like other classical revolution songs like the national anthem and Yankee Doodle. It shows that Americans had their own style of music, and were developing something they could call their very own, just like how they wanted to call their country their very own. It’s interesting however that this type of music adapts many styles seen in classic British marching anthems, so it was relatable to the British Colonists who would soon come to call themselves Americans.

 

 

Onto my final piece of work to talk about, since we are on the topic of revolution I would like to continue with the controversial change in theatre style into entertaining and provocative satire. Satire was popular in the revolution era, and likely contributed greatly to the growing feeling of dissent against the government. Satires liked to poke fun at anything and everything, and government was very easy to satirize. The revolution played a big part in the theatre satire because of the mood that it set, that things couldn’t be taken seriously, especially the inter-workings of the government. Governmental corruption in the classical era was obvious and flagrant, and theatres no doubt took advantage of this.

Voltaire was a controversial and powerful playwright in this era. He produced many satirical works and dramas, but one of his most famous works was Oedipus. Since Voltaire’s work is so old and likely controversial for it’s time, I couldn’t find any live productions of the play on youtube or anything similar. However, I was able to find an online PDF of his play. You can read Oedipus by Voltaire HERE.

Voltaire’s work is philosophical and witty, and he constantly pokes fun at the king and aristocracy in general. In fact, Voltaire was jailed twice, and many of his works were banned, but that only made it more popular with people who felt dissent for the government. It’s interesting to see the way plays operated at this time, because playwrights were generally starting to learn they could ignore the rules. In this era, there were only two legally operated theatres in London, but many backwater, underground theatres started to pop up due to the popularity of satire. It’s interesting how the revolutionary mood of this era made it so easy to hate the government and make your own rules, or at least look for loopholes in the rules that were. Underground theatres were able to operate because they claimed they did their shows for no profit, or they were making money on only the refreshments.

Revolution against the aristocracy can be seen in lots of contemporary art forms as well. To wrap up my discussion about the classical era, I want to bring in a few examples of rebellion in it’s modern forms.

As far as I see it, we have two types of people who operate against the law; we have Anarchists, and we have Gangsters.

Now, living in Alaska, which has a lot of interesting radical people to speak of, I saw a lot of the anarchistic side of art rather than the gang based side. The Anarchistic side of art uses a lot of emotion in their music, usually being anger, and chaos. Anarchistic music is chaotic and hard to follow, sometimes almost being a little dissonant, because they want to spread the idea that things don’t need to be controlled, especially people, who CAN’T be controlled. Here I have an example of what I am talking about, when I mean Anarchistic music. It could be labelled as garage, or grunge, or skaa, or whatever term you want to use, but the basic concept of this art is that it’s angry, in your face, and more often than not written by and enjoyed by the youth crowd of America.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZCnAce9f3w)

This kind of wave of thinking is also pretty satirical, but it’s a little grim. Look in the video the graffiti that says “We kill people who kill people because killing people is wrong”. This is clearly satirical and anti-governmental.

On the other side, we have the Gangsters. Anarchists are pretty different because they want to have their own system where their is no system, no rules that restrict people, where might makes right and generally people try to be good to each-other. The gang mentality is a little similar, but still relies heavily on rules and customs. You look out for your homies, you don’t cross bigger people, you try to carve out your slice of the American pie without hurting anybody, or by screwing over as many people as you possibly can. Gang mentality is less about rebellion against the government and more about looking out for yourself. It is also very big about power. When you listen to anarchist music as I call it, you don’t get the sense that the artist is trying to prove he’s better than you, but you can really get that sense from modern hip-hop music. Modern hip-hop music is completely, and utterly about being more powerful. It’s about having faster cars, hotter women, more money, better houses, bigger guns, anything you can think of. Here’s an example of this kind of mentality.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=fJdqw-JzW08)

 

What connects these two types of art is the general sensation of disrespect for authority. It’s probably a topic to be discussed by someone with more qualifications than me, but I can theorize that the difference in these cultures probably arose from poverty, specifically the difference between the poor Irish immigrants and white southerners, and the Harlem and ghetto style influence of the newly escaped and freed black slaves. That’s only a theory, though.

 

Sources:

http://www.searchengine.org.uk/ebooks/70/83.pdf

http://amtf200.community.uaf.edu/2009/04/24/05-theater-3/

http://amtf200.community.uaf.edu/2009/04/24/04-music-3/

http://amtf200.community.uaf.edu/2009/04/24/03-visual-arts-2/

http://www.old-master-drawing.com/home/product/view/8/127.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dixie_(song)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Brass

http://library.thinkquest.org/TQ0312848/music.htm

 

 

 

The Thrilling World of Baroque Theatre

The Baroque renaissance marked a time of change in the world of artwork and theater, a time when impressing the people and expressing emotion became very important. Baroque productions were over the top, lavish with extreme detail and patterns, from the architecture to the stages to the music and the paintings. Baroque era artwork is very interesting concerning the topic of this blog, that is, linking things from the past to the future and the way technological advancement changes artwork for the better. The advancement of science in the Baroque era was pretty significant. While the philosophical advances made by people such as Galileo and his telescope, or Anton Van Leeuwenhoek’s use of optics to create the microscope are very important, the way that the stage and theater advanced in this era is particularly interesting to me. It shows the beginnings of the way we are entertained in society today. There are many connections one can make from the Baroque era to the modern era.

For example, the special effects used in theater are comparable to the effects we use today, such as the advances in lighting, and the way stages were constructed to allow for trap doors and machinery beneath the stage, as well as the Proscenium Arch Stage which we still use today. It is indeed very convenient. I have been in a few plays at my local high school when I was attending, and other productions at the Fairbanks Riverfront Theatre, and for those plays we employed use of the Proscenium Arch Stage. The arch is so convenient because with it, you can hide many props and devices right backstage, and easily wheel them out, as well as giving the actors privacy and room to practice lines and prepare for their scene to come up. This picture below is an example of a Proscenium Arch Stage:

(Sources- Top: http://davindergill17.blogspot.com/2010/11/proscenium-arch-stage.html    Bottom: http://theatredesigner.wordpress.com/theatre-design-101/stage-types-thrust/)

I also have HERE a video which shows some very good examples of the way stage technology drastically changed the entertainment scene in the Baroque era.

The French Playwright Moliere was an excellent example of an artist which took advantage of the advances in technology for the theatre. His works are mostly satirical comedies, poking fun at religion and society as a whole, and his sets are more often than not intended to be beautifully complex and interesting, employing use of the Proscenium Arch. I have the first scene of a play done by a community theatre which shows an example of the over-the-top costuming, set design, language, and emotion common in the Baroque Renaissance. This particular scene doesn’t seem to employ much use of special effects and complicated set construction, however, but Moliere’s plays included both of these aspects as well more often than not.

What’s so interesting to me about the type of technological advances that were made in the Baroque era, is that their invention allows for many interesting stage scenery, effects, lighting, and even pyrotechnics to be used today by professional and amateur performers alike. I’d like to connect this concept to an artist that we know about today, who has been on television and on stage and all sorts of places, and with the use of Baroque advancements in stage construction, lighting, and costuming, has captured the imagination and the inspiration of many people today;

(source- http://sphinex.wordpress.com/2009/03/02/michael-jackson-pictures/black-michael-jackson/)

That’s right, the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.

If you’ve ever seen any of his music videos or stage performances, you would probably know what I’m talking about when I say that Michael Jackson’s artwork is similar to the baroque style. It is over the top, brilliantly choreographed, and firmly supported by intriguing and well-crafted costumes, stage effects, lighting, and sound. Michael certainly used a lot of stage tricks and pyrotechnics to enhance the quality of his music, and it is emotionally moving and energetic, much like baroque style theater.

I have here a clip from a 2008 performance by Michael of his popular song Thriller. You can really see what I mean about the lighting and pyrotechnics throughout the whole video, but the stage play and effects start to show closer to the end of the video. Mind you, this is 2008, and Michael’s vitiligo was in its advanced stages. You can also see the effects his drug use near the end of his life are having on his physical ability to perform.

On the topic of Michael Jackson, I want to show you an example of the way he employed under-the-stage construction and effects, as well as reveal one of his trademark secrets. Here I have a gif showing his invention, the Jackson patented shoe, and the way it was used.

Video and other sources

http://pandawhale.com/post/23224/michael-jackson-smooth-criminal-shoe-patent-gif

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBkgEcLxSFY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ptSZQLZqnI&feature=player_embedded

http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Theatre/Moliere/moliere.shtml

http://amtf200.community.uaf.edu/2009/04/24/05-theater-2/

http://amtf200.community.uaf.edu/2009/04/24/02-influences-2/

Hieronymus Bosch is is a favorite painter of mine from the Italian and Northern/Germanic Renaissance era. His paintings are beautiful and complex, and they show a depth of the mind and a grasp on the realm of fantasy that is hard to see in the time that it was made. My whole point with this blog has been revolution and evolution, the way that mankind has changed over the eras to better reflect the emotional interior of the soul. Bosch’s work exhibits influences from the renaissance that are powerful and awe inspiring, with his attention to detail, his accurate and extensively complicated portrayal of the human body, and his ability to create a realm of fantasy and intrigue using the stories written in the bible. One of his favorite works of mine is The Last Judgement, shown here:

 

The Last Judgment

 

I do admit that I got the source of this painting from smarthistory.com. I had originally been interested in Hieronymus Bosch before seeing this painting, though. One of my favorites was the Garden of Earthly Delights, seen here. For reference, here is the video where I got the inspiration for this article.

Bosch’s work is interesting to me because of the sheer attention to detail he displays, showing massive amounts of influence from the Mannerism movement in the Italian Renaissance, showing complicated design with lots of interesting ‘noise’. or characters, which fill up each and every spot of the painting in articulate and almost painful detail.  The mannerism movement also has a lot of influence on the shape and form of the human body, something that Hieronymus Bosch paid close attention to when creating his religious depictions.

Because of the fact that many of Bosch’s works had to do with events occurring in the bible, it leads me to think that he was also heavily influenced by the Humanist movement in the Italian Renaissance, which had a heavy focus on human spirituality and meaning, as well as humanity’s relationship to god. Bosch portrays humanity’s relationship to angels and demons, and the weight of sin upon mankind, as well as the punishment for sin, shown in his depictions of hell, which you can see in much of his work. The far right panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights is meant to portray hell, I believe.

Speaking of heaven and hell, the work of Bosch draws me back to the point of my blog- the way humanity has changed to reflect the influence of artwork upon future generations. The way Bosch painted in his era was interesting and new, almost perhaps a little controversial, which might have been one of the reasons why he was a successful, and historical artist. We see influences of his artwork today in artwork currently being created.

I am a fan of television and entertainment, and one of my more interesting recent finds is a Japanese created, animated show called Shingeki no Kyojin, or in English, “Attack on Titan”. Attack on Titan I think draws a little bit of influence from not just Bosch, but much of the musical accomplishments made in the Renaissance era.

Attack on Titan is about an apocalyptic world where humans are trapped behind giant walls, which protect them from monsters known as Titans. Titans are humanoid and monstrous creatures which devour human beings purely for entertainment. We learn in the series that titans do not need to eat, so the reason why they eat humans is purely for extermination purposes.

Much of the rest of this blog will contain spoilers for Attack on Titan, so if you are interested in watching the series, you can start from the first episode here.

The reason why I believe that this series draws on the humanist movement, specifically why Bosch’s work is related, is because of the series portrayal of ‘titans’. Titans are grotesque, humanoid, and they all look different, being different sizes of having interesting, different faces. In a way the titans resemble many of the demons Bosch paints in his work, and I feel like they are meant to represent demons. The Titans are demons, and by living on a world that is controlled by their size and strength, the humans of this ‘universe’ are actually in hell, and Titans really are demons meant to punish them. Here’s a picture of what I mean when I say ‘interesting faces’.

 

Another one of the ways that Attack on Titan relates to the humanist era is the use of music in the series. Much of the series contains music that is seen in the Renaissance, such as singing in a round, and in a type of singing called a Motet. The use of the music is meant to portray scenes that are IMPORTANT, in the series, perhaps scenes that represent something, the culmination of the plot up until that point.

This video is an example of what I mean. This is a soundtrack used often in the series. Pay attention to the building tension and the ‘epic’ quality of the music, with the religious sounding chanting, like you would hear in renaissance style singing or opera.

 

 

You can see the way that this music is used in this video.

 

 

 

It feels to me that this music is inherently religious because in each of the scenes it is attempting to convey the importance of the scene, the way that reality has changed for the humans in this universe. For example, in the video I just linked, the moment is meant to seem religious or incredibly specific, time changing. That the fact that these things happened has changed history, and the future, in ways that humans can’t comprehend at that time. The reason I say this is because this scene shows the first time EVER in the series that a titan has been female. Titans are not inclined to either gender in the series, and do not show any genitals, so they can’t be identified as one gender or the other. But this titan is clearly female. This scene is also important because it shows a titan that can THINK, and can plan, unlike other titans in the series which are mindless cannibals. On top of all this, the scene is put together as an encounter between a titan which is out to destroy humanity, and a titan who is human, the character “Eren” in the series, who fights other titans out of a need for revenge. Their encounter is meant to be ‘holy’, and the music used by the creators of the series which seems to have historical and renaissance influences, punctuates this perfectly and tastefully, creating a series I find is not only interesting, but inspiring.