Sunday, October 14, 2012

Random thoughts on writing, street art and 'Living in the Material World'

A very busy week at work, which did not leave me much time for writing of any sort. I have mixed feelings about these kinds of weeks. On the one hand, it’s good to be busy at work. On the other hand, time passes and each day that ticks by is one less day to write and to pursue those small personal dreams. I guess others have the same problem—being torn between personal dreams that have less to do with career ambitions and more to do with personal fulfillment, and workplace ambitions and goals that are held up as meaningful by the workplace. I am always trying to find time to write. It has become my soul’s desire, nothing more, nothing less.

Tired in the evenings, so that doesn’t always bode well for writing, either for its quality or its quantity. In other words, I don’t get many words on a page before my eyes start to close and I feel sleepy. Twenty-five years ago, I could pack another life into my evenings, and I did. I worked sixty to seventy hour weeks then, and sometimes on the weekends. Sometimes I took courses at night—accounting, Italian, business courses, or sometimes I attended evening seminars having to do with investing. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a course. I’m more into learning how to do things myself these days, and less interested in traditional ways of learning. I suppose that has to do with how the brain changes and learns as one grows older. I like that aspect of growing older. Everything feels more fluid and less rigid. There is not one right way to do things anymore, like we were ‘taught’ when we were young.

Inspiration comes from films—I watched ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’,  a documentary film from 2010 about street art as viewed through the eyes of Thierry Guetta, a would-be filmmaker, who followed street artists around the world for years as they pursued their art. One of those artists was Banksy, who ended up using Guetta’s video footage to make this film, because the film that Guetta first made was (presumably) a chaotic mess. Hard to know for sure how tongue-in-cheek this movie really is—is it a hoax film or is it for real? Thierry Guetta followed these street artists and ended up besting them at their own game—setting up a big ‘street art’ show happening in Los Angeles as MBW (Mr. Brainwash) and making millions. By the end of the film, Madonna has hired him to do the artwork for her latest album cover. The question then becomes, who was the brainwasher and who was being brainwashed? Are we being hoodwinked, or is this film for real? The film is well-worth watching, as it is a good introduction to the lives of currently-popular street artists from around the world.

Apropos Madonna (“…You know that we are living in a material world, And I am a material girl”), another good documentary film I watched this past week was from 2011—‘George Harrison: Living in the Material World’ (director Martin Scorsese). Scorsese did a great job with this film; we get a real introduction to the spiritual Beatle, and to his spiritual journey as well as to his progression and evolution as an artist. We also get a real sense of the conflict that pervaded most of his life—how to remain spiritual in a material world. Harrison was truly an amazing artist—creative, spiritual, persistent, focused, dedicated. All of this came through in the film. Mostly when you think of the Beatles, you think of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. This film shows you why George Harrison was an artistic force to be reckoned with. He was way ahead of his time in terms of collaborating musically with ‘foreign’ artists—Ravi Shankar and other Indian musicians--as well as organizing the first charity concert for Bangladesh in 1971. But mostly, I was impressed with his spiritual journey. Here was a man who thought it was important to prepare for death, for the time when he would leave his body for another world. He never denigrated or poked fun at the world of the spirit. And he was a pretty good example of practicing what he preached, with the possible exception of the few periods in his life when he dishonored his body through excessive drug use. I like films about artists of all kinds; I like watching the creative process at work—how artists think, act, work, live in a family, relax—all those things.

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