Nerd Boners VS Art Elitists and Bioshock:Infinite

Today on my way home I heard Talk of the Nation reporting on the new release of the video game BioShock: Infinite and I got so stoked to hear something from nerd culture get so thoroughly discussed on NPR.  Prior to the story they kept running teasers about the interactive nature of the game and the plot/story of the game, leaving us with the cliff hanger “But is it art?”

I can’t roll my eyes hard enough.  While I appreciate you taking a break from reporting on “real news” and crawling down from your ivory tower to report on something as frivolous and pedestrian as video games, do you think you could approach it with just a tiny bit of respect?  Especially if you’re about to interview the creator of the video game.

The first part of the story describes what first person shooters are, punctuated again by the statement “Not exactly what people would call art.”  I mean, let’s just discount that someone wrote the storyline, a script, hired actors, developed physics engines that power realistic physical reactions in space, and then a literal TEAM of artists rendered textures, people, weapons, environment and on and on.  Let’s just gloss over all that and invent some sort of conversation on whether NPR thinks video games qualify as art.

Let me sum it up for you, Talk of the Nation: VIDEO GAMES DON’T NEED YOUR VALIDATION AND NEITHER DOES ART.

Way to kill this nerd boner, guys.

 

 

 

Triple-Six, Pagers, and Skateboards…Growing Up In Memphis (NSFW)

About a month ago I took a class and was asked to write about my high school experience as an assignment.  I thought it might be an interesting addition to the blog.  (Which, BTW, I know I’ve been neglecting.) I threw a few photos in too, for good measure.  Oh, I reference pagers.  Google it if you’re too young to remember.  They were the size of VCRs and made out of wood and let people contact you remotely so you could call them back on a pay phone. Jesus, Google “pay phone” while you’re at it.

For most of my adult life and part of my teen years I tried to forget high school.  There were no particularly awful experiences, I honestly feel like I had the normal experiences of being rejected by girls, acting awkward, smoking pot and wishing I was someplace different.  It was always a place that I viewed as a necessary evil and a transition between being a child and being an adult.  I knew these weren’t going to be my glory days and that I just needed to get through it.

Brook on Fuji

Brook on Fuji

In 10th grade I was friends with a kid named Eric Franklin Bartek who would not have been considered cool, ever, but he had a car which made him pretty popular.  Eric knew he wasn’t very cool. He was almost 6ft tall, clumsy, and overweight.  He desperately wanted to be a skater and a stoner, but only succeeded at the latter.  Genuinely, he was a good person, but high school standards are largely unreachable and he was always trying to find the thing that would rocket him to teen stardom.  Dealing drugs, skateboarding, carrying a gun, and acting a lot tougher than he was.

Eric would meet our little group of skaters at the mall where we would have been shooting ice though straws at old ladies and generally being assholes.  We’d pile in his car, sometimes comically, sitting in each other’s laps, crammed into the back of his hatchback even.  We insisted in smoking cigarettes in these conditions, inevitably burning one another with dropped cherries. Triple Six Mafia was more than often our soundtrack and in 1994 they were the world’s first underground Satanic rap group. We thought we were terrifying, and in retrospect, we were, but probably not for the reasons we imagined.

Brook on Fuji

Brook on Fuji

Some nights we’d find an empty parking lot to skate, or we’d go with Eric to pick up or sell whatever drugs he was holding.  Other nights were just about sitting in Perkin’s Restaurant eating hash browns and smoking, saying “fuck” too loudly hoping someone would kick us out. Some nights we’d try to find girls to hang out with which was more often than not an exercise in futility.  One fortuitous night Eric got a page from someone asking if he could give some girls a ride.  His car was maxed out, but he agreed anyway and we stopped to collect two classmates that needed to get home.  I knew Bekka and Ashley from class but not exceptionally well.  But as they got in the car Ashley climbed in my lap, put her arms around me and we drove off.  I put my arms around her, not necessarily as a romantic gesture, but because there wasn’t much of an option otherwise.  We held each other for the entire ride as her face gently pushed into my neck and her hands casually rubbed my shoulders.  As we pulled up to her house she detached herself from the tangle of our limbs and held my gaze as she got out of the car.  I remember reaching out through the window to touch her hand as we said goodbye.   I fell in love a little bit that night although I believe I was the only one.  Ashley and I never spoke about it and our paths didn’t ever really cross again.

That was the embodiment of high school though, for me.  Late nights in Memphis doing things that would have given my parents heart attacks, driving around with guns and drugs like we were such badasses, when we were stupid and childish at best.  Often I wonder how we all managed to get out alive, relatively unscathed, despite our every attempt to the contrary.

Brook/Holga

Brook/Holga

As I was trying to remember high school it occurred to me that going back and describing yourself as a nerd or awkward is kind of en vogue, especially for people who’ve reached a certain level of fame and beauty.  Everyone loves a story with humble beginnings.  The fact is, though, that high school was awkward for nearly everyone because there was just no other way to be in high school.  It’s not a place you can succeed because all the decks are stacked against you.  If you’re too smart, you’re a nerd.  If you’re too stupid, you’ll never amount to anything.  The pressures of being the popular kid are just as painful and real as the pressures of being the lonely outcast.  In many ways it’s a shame to pile that stress on a child, placing the burden of their future on the tumultuous years prior to 18 under the guise of success.   We all deserve a round of applause for surviving.

Interview With Comedian Juila Rotino: Yoga Pants And Daryl Strawberry.

Julia and I met a few months ago as she was branching out into stand-up comedy.  She was truly kicking ass as a comedian and wanted a few photos to go with her new website.  We spent an afternoon shooting a few concepts and the below shot was my favorite.  I got a chance to harass her with questions afterwards and this is what she said:

Getting hot for the gym

Getting hot for the gym

Basics: Name, where you live, how long you’ve been doing comedy…

My name is Julia Rotino. I live in Long Beach, CA, because I want to be a LA resident but not deal with the traffic. I’ve been doing improv, acting, and stand up for the past few years. I’m one of those “found my passion later in life” people.

What brought you to standup?
Probably a combination of narcissism mixed with a social conscious. Also, it’s a great way for me to get on stage without having to audition.

What’s your writing process? Do you have a routine that you fall into?
When I observe or have an idea about something that is amusing, I think, “I should write this down.” Half the time I don’t and the idea flies away into the ether. On the occasions where I do jot down my thoughts, I will mull the idea over for many weeks to figure out why it’s funny. If I can somehow come up with a series of sentences that turn it into a joke, I usually test it on my husband. And if he says it is crap, I will perform it because, chances are, it might be good.

Main influences…
Is it cheesy if I say my parents? They are not professional comedians but they have been making people laugh for many years. But since you probably don’t know them, I’ll say that I love the story-telling powers of Mike Birbiglia. I admire the ease with which Louis C.K. makes you feel like you are having a (very funny) conversation with him. I would mention some female comics but I am way too jealous of their success.

Why comedy, as opposed to making a comic book, writing for movies, or being a serial killer?

I love that comedy can make people think without realizing they are thinking. If you go to a dark indie film, you understand that you are there to analyze your current opinion on drug addiction or terrorists or on drug addicted terrorists. However, comedy is a much more subtle way to say something impactful and potentially get someone to ease up on their bigotry. I love making people realize that there are so many stupid things that we spend a ton of energy worrying about needlessly, like gay marriage, for example. I just never realized until I started writing that my humor was going to make people a little uncomfortable. The hope is that you can get someone out of his or her comfort zone and maybe just turn them into a kinder person for even a second. Or you might just get a bigot to laugh, which is a tough thing to do.

What’s in your pocket right now?

Nothing. I spend a majority of my existence in yoga pants. They are just so damn comfortable.

I hear you’re quite the karaoke star…Give us your top three go-to karaoke songs.

In my twenties, I spent years crafting my stunning rendition of Four Non Blondes “What’s Up?”. I could croon “hey yea yea ey ey” with conviction that would bring a tear to your eye. When I first started dating my husband, I asked him if he could guess my karaoke song, failing to hide the pride in my voice at my edgy choice. He shrugged and said, “ugh, I hope it’s not that ‘What’s going on’ one…the song that every girl does at karaoke.” Now failing to hide the disappointment in my voice, I replied, “Oh yeah um…that song’s cool. But I have a lot of others I do.” So now I have tried to expand my repertoire and love to perform “Time After Time”, “Nothing Compares 2 U”, and the incredibly original, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”

Describe your comedy style using only the names of celebrities that have gone to rehab or who have been arrested.

Sean Young, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Urban, Courtney Love…because Young Strawberry Urban Love would make a great comedy album title.

Secret super power?

I suck at this answer. And surprisingly, I get asked this question frequently. I put so much pressure on myself to answer it with some witty response. The truth is that I would want the power of teleportation, mostly because I hate driving. Think of all the time you could save if you didn’t have to drive anywhere. And the savings on gas! Okay, not the funniest of responses, but seriously practical.

Write a craiglist ad for a missed connection for yourself.

Funny lady- I saw you do standup at The Comedy Store. You were wearing a dress. I laughed so loud at your jokes. I think you heard me because you smiled. After the show I told you I liked your joke about cancer and you said thanks. You liked me too because you said I should come to your next show. But I forgot your name. If you remember me reply with the show date and what I was wearing.

How do we follow you/get in touch with you?
My website http://www.juliarotino.com has videos of my standup, photography by the fabulous Chris Fitzgerald, and an upcoming daily blog. As soon as I think of some stuff to say, it will be really interesting!

You can also follow me on Twitter @juliarotino and on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Julia-Rotino/240065926119603?fref=ts).

And please check out my YouTube page at http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtmoDsaWEZ5cZp3fA_aW0QQ?feature=mhee. One of my videos already has 63 views. You could be the 64th!

Rope, Latex, and Water–A Photo Zine (NSFW)

The first time I tied someone up for a photo it was a disaster.  She was someone I’d been working with for a while and often humored me with my photo-requests, and she was truly kind about the whole thing, despite my utter and obvious lack of grace.  I’d bought the wrong kind of rope.  I had no real plan going in.  I didn’t move quickly enough and she patiently tolerated every fumble and misstep.  And often, that’s the way of the first shoot with a  new idea.  The first model sometimes gets the short end of the stick while I work out all the kinks.

Rivi7_ChrisFitzgerald

A year and a half later, I’ve photographed 20 or so models for the bondage series and I have a much clearer vision of what I’m trying to say.  Trust is an ongoing theme in my work, and I found the idea of allowing oneself to be restricted in that way a huge act of confidence on the part of the one being tied.  It seemed almost empowering to be willing to be imprisoned in that way, and more so to be photographed in the act.  I wanted to make photos that talked about trust, choice, and how sometimes we choose our own prisons.

The bondage series led to latex, a world with which I was largely unfamiliar.  The constrictive aspect interested me though, and as a person who has literally had to re-teach himself how to breathe, being wrapped and bound in that way evoked a sense of curiosity and panic.

RiviLatex8

Lastly, the water theme combined bondage with baptism, cleansing, and to some extent, learning to breathe in stops and starts.  And again, trust as a central theme.  In so many ways we are ultimately the key-masters to our own shackles.  The shackles that we willingly step into every morning are the most interesting to me, and the means by which we seek our own rebirth.

Rivi Madison and I met not long after I moved to LA.  We emailed back and forth about the bondage shoot for a few weeks and then shot it in a friend’s studio.  Since then, despite the lunacy of my ideas, she’s remained quite unflappable.  This series, obviously, would have been impossible without her, as she found a voice in every scenario and brought this series to life.

RiviWater2_ChrisFitzgerald

I’ve published this in e-format for the time being on MagCloud, and am limiting the purchases of this edition to 100 copies.  (The option is there to buy a print copy, but my intention is to distribute this as an e-zine only at this point.)

Click any photo to be taken to the site for a short preview.  Probably not suitable for your mom or anyone under 18, and definitely NSFW.

Please feel free to share this post, and I hope you enjoy the zine.

2013 is going to be rad!

Instagram and The Cult of Too Big To Fail

It’s barely Wednesday and everyone at the internet got their panties all a-tither, myself included.  If your fingers are on the pulse or near the pulse, you probably heard that Instagram released a vaguely worded user-agreement yesterday that may or may not have given them the explicit right to sell your photos to whomever without your permission.  The internet united in a way that it’s not known for and collectively shook its head and said no.

photomoney

“Photographer” Stock Image. To be honest, I’m totally cool with selling every one of this photographer’s photos.

Amid the uproar, blogs wrote on both sides, some to the extreme and some like TheVerge that tried to naysay the conspiracy buffs based on what Facebook does with its image licensing and data mining.  All of this prompted Instagram to finally release a statement explaining:  JK. LOLOL!!!  Let’s not go apeshit, we are still the mustachioed hip kids with big glasses and not evil billionaires who want to become even billioner-aires!

There are three really important things to take away from this experience.  Probably more than three, but we’ll start there.

Advertising is changing rapidly, not always for the better, and we are all part of a big experiment.

One of the new agreements was IG’s right to make ads that don’t say they are ads.  (Slimy!) Another option for them was to possibly sell the usage of your photos, not the ownership, to advertisers who would then exploit them for their own ends.  They may have changed this at some point and the legality of this is dubious, but the general message is the same.  Traditional ways of thinking in advertising are less and less effective, the public is smarter than it used to be, and we are all guinea pigs until they figure out what works again.

Facebook still lets advertisers creep your photos and advertise with them, but I feel like collectively we know this and it makes us all feel a little queasy to see someone obviously plucked from their “Spring Break” folder trying to get you to click on an auto insurance ad.  It’s sloppy, ultimately, and shows a general contempt for the consumer, both on the part of the advertiser and Facebook for turning a blind eye.

Advertising can’t figure out what it is in relation to social media.  Corporations really want to be our friends and hang out on FB and IG, but they’re still the old guys at the club.  Until they work that out, we’re going to get more scenarios like this.

When an entity gets too big and doesn’t have to struggle, they stop caring.

This is the problem with billion dollar companies, American Apparel, and The Beatles.  When you’ve “made it” there’s no real impetus to keep trying to be relevant and awesome.  When you’re too big to fail, there’s no urgency or sense of caring about how you’re going to make rent next month.  Bank of America: High fees, lousy customer service, wanted to charge a monthly fee on debit cards.  American Apparel: Makes amazing clothes for 4 years, gets a following, and then tries to invent cool with fanny packs and onesies with heinous prints.  Instagram, now a part of Facebook and worth a billion dollars, decides that your photos are worth money…just not to you.

Point is, you get too popular or too rich and then you make bad decisions.  When you have to struggle to create a meaningful product, there’s a lot more on the line and it shows.  You don’t swing around a loosely worded legal document that makes you look like a complete asshole when you’re still struggling to be relevant.

Free is a lie.

Screenshot_2012-12-18-17-14-06

When I download IG for my Android a window pops up telling me the permissions to which I am agreeing.  With IG, it wants to know where I am, who calls me and the frequency, and to alter/read phone storage.  Why would it need to do that?  To sell that info to advertisers.  Your app is “free” in the sense that you didn’t pay money for it, but you paid with your data.  Facebook works this way.  Words With Friends works this way.  But then it gets confusing.  When we post our photos or poems or recipes to whatever hosting platform, we, in essence, are all co-authors in a giant digital book.  We didn’t make the book, but we made the words/images that everyone enjoys reading.  We’ve all got emotional investments in the content and we feel like it’s ours.  So when the book maker says “We’ve changed our minds and we’re going to sell your words to another bookmaker (for our ultimate profit)…” it’s understandable that we all feel like we’ve gotten the shaft.

Many people argued that we don’t own Instagram and we should just make another service and go there.  Yes-fantastic point, but the psychology is always going to be the same.  As long as social media creates a place for us to put things that are dear to us, we will feel like part of it is ours.

philosoraptor-zoomed-out

Admittedly, I am kind of proud to be a witness to the debate and excited that in times of corporate weirdness, the internet can band together and get a little pissed off in between cat videos and Philosoraptor memes.  Even Anonymous took a time out from making the Westboro Baptist people miserable and tweeted in support of posters.  It’s not over, and this isn’t the last we’ll hear about it, but I’m interested to see it all unfold.

Are you staying?  Are you leaving?  Let me know below.

Punching Internet Memes In The Peen

Lensecap

A buddy of mine posted this the other day and I’ve been thinking it about it for about a week so I thought you might want to check it out as well.  Before I post a link, I’ll say a few words of preface/warning.

If you are one of those sentimental people that tears up every time you see one of those “I took a photo of myself every day for 45 years and here it is in 30 seconds” then this is definitely for you or not for you.  This prompted one educated chap to write: “Protest art like this is just another form of self indulgent pedantic snobbery.”

Well, Mr. Opinions, all art is self indulgent.  There’s no other way to make it.  If you’re not making self-indulgent art, then why fucking bother? And, B) I’m not sure pedantic is the right word here.

To the point: We’ve been having a jaunty argument about a piece of work by Will Vincent who for 2,191 days took a photo of himself with the lens cap on.

(Check out the series.)

This has been haunting me for days to be honest and I can’t give you any definitive reasons why, exactly.  The immediate response I have is to the protesting nature of it, although he doesn’t specifically mention that in his notes.  After living through what seemed to be an entire six months of people posting videos of themselves doing this, or doing this to their kids, I began to wonder if I was just the dumbest person alive for NOT having done it.  This kind of art, even if we take the sentimentality out of it, is difficult for me.  It’s too close to Identity Art, which has got to be the most masturbatory genre of art, ever, except for the guy who mixes his sperm and blood to make Metallica record covers.

tumblr_lfaggcqm3L1qcnfxk

Secondly, I’m distrustful of anything that makes such a huge mark on the internet consciousness, spanning generations, that becomes so instantly popular.  If it’s too accessible it makes me worried.  Everyone on the planet likes McDonald’s french fries.  And they are entirely made of salt and garbage.

Thirdly, and lastly, I’ve been staunchly against artist statements ever since school.  Vincent wrote a couple lines at the end which succinctly outline his reasons for doing this in plain words that I can understand that were no doubt harder to write than two paragraphs of nonsense.

I keep coming back to this line: The sheer futility of human endeavour.

Then why make anything at all?  Why build a statue? A building? An internet?  Why make a physical thing that exists and turn it into a thing that doesn’t?  (Like putting things online, for example.)  Why run marathons?  Why fight cancer?

Because what else would we do, really?

Would love to hear everyone’s opinion of this!

 

Andres Serrano is a boss, btw.

Photos of FIDLAR For Leveled Magazine

fidlar-x-leveled-x-cult-noir-10

We spent an afternoon with LA garage/punk hooligans, FIDLAR, in which a sword, antlers and a kiddie pool were are incorporated, somehow, into the shoot.  Click the image for the whole set.

Photos of Darcy, Round Two.

Malibu

How was everyone’s Thanksgiving?  I survived a trip to Little Rock unscathed, and a little surprised at the 78 degree weather.  In my bag I’d thrown gloves and jackets and long sleeve shirts for the assumed wintry Armageddon that is North Arkansas in November.  Not so much, as it turns out.

I flew through Houston and had an hour layover, and there’s not much you need to know about the Houston airport, besides the fact that there is a Bass Pro Shop inside the airport.  Like, PAST the security.  You would have to be a traveler to access the store.  Secondly, they were playing a video of three women in chest high lake water catching catfish with their bare hands.  More importantly, I was the only one who thought this was disturbing.  No one else even looked at the screen.  I’ll take the gangs, mudslides, riots and earthquakes in LA any day.  Just keep me away from those terrifying fisherwomen.

 

Five Things Contemporary Artists Have to Stop Doing Dammit, Right Now.

This weekend we cruised on over to Bergamot Station and checked out a few of the openings, ran between buildings in the rain, and tried not to get bummed out because none of the galleries were serving beer.  Normally, Bergamot has some great galleries with more than enough thoughtful and impressive work to really make me excited about contemporary art.  But Saturday night, this was not the case.  A few months ago I asked that we put a moratorium on some photographic trends (like naked girls in animal masks) so I thought we might do the same for the other disciplines.  Strap in, this is going to hurt.

You know how much I love stock photography! This is “art thief.”

MICKEY MOUSE.

I know, I know…Disney represents a slow whitewashing of history, the corporate-ization of art and culture, pop culture in general, blissful ignorance on a grand scale, loss of innocence, and on and on.  But holy hell, you’d think that Mickey Mouse was the ONLY thing that was metaphorically representative of these ideas.  Disney is a cheap and easy target.  Everyone knows Disney takes a good idea and runs them through a computer to make a bad idea.  You’re not even trying!  Make me work for it!  Stop looking at SoCal art and go to an actual honest to god museum.

NEON.

Making a word/phrase in neon lights does not A) Make your uninteresting thought interesting,  B) Replace your flaccid concept with substance or C) Deserve a place on a wall.  Somewhere there is a Coors Light sign that can’t be made because you needed to make a sign that says “Asshole.”  True story.

This is what every poem on a photo looks like to me.

POEMS ON PHOTOS.

Not to attack photography again, but there was an entire show of photos on canvas (which is obscene to begin with) with stanzas of poems or journal entries imposed over them.  A picture, my friend, is worth a thousand words.  Not a thousand and thirty four.  This is kind of a rookie move and I think it was a vanity show, so I’m not going to go apeshit, but if I wanted to read your diary I’d subscribe to your blog.

MARK RYDEN RIP OFFS.

Still, despite the fact that this is 2012 and there is the internet and phones that let you look up Yelp reviews of things and libraries and AOL and Wikipedia, people are still insisting that the only way they can paint is to make Mark Ryden rip offs.  Mark Ryden, however copied and imitated and worshiped, is actually a damn fine painter with an incredible catalog of work.  If you’ve stood in front of one, you know they are seriously incredible.  I could totally get on board with this 14 years ago when Ryden was blowing people’s minds and freaking out Christina Ricci, but now, unless you’re 16 years old and drawing on your Trapper Keeper, leave the big-eyed ferrets to Mr. Ryden.

“Kickstart” stock photo.
“Hey, Chaz, could you look a little more diagonal for this next shot?”

KICKSTARTER.

Ugh.  I’ve been conflicted about writing this part since two weeks ago.  Kickstarter itself is a pretty amazing idea and I’m glad to be around in a time when it’s widely used and, for the most part, used well.  I’ve seen a lot of good ideas get money and things brought to light that might not have ever existed had it not been crowd-funded.  However, the emergence of sites like Kickstarter and others have allowed some artists to get lazy.  Every artist has an overhead.  Paint is expensive, cameras, film, computers, guitars, really good kitchen knives…all expensive.  Even you, kooky conceptual artist, who wanted the internet to pay all her expenses related to a performance piece, you have expenses and I expect you to foot the bill.  Or at least the bigger portion of it.  What I hear when I’m asked for money is that you don’t have faith in your own art, and that you’re not ready to do the hard work it takes to manifest it.  Art is risky.  Sell your blood.  Get a roommate.  Ride the bus more.  Beg your parents.  PUT YOUR OWN NUTS ON THE LINE FIRST.  And don’t let a lack of funding get in the way of anything.  Art is solving problems.  Your first problem is that you are lazy and broke.  Fix those problems, come back to your idea.

I’ll see you guys Thursday.. maybe.  If I’m not recovering from a wicked food coma while watching a stream of Disney movies on the couch in my Mark Ryden underpants.

Photos of Darcy

It has been a beautiful grey day in Santa Monica.  Of the things I miss about Memphis, cloudy days and thunderstorms are pretty high on the list.  Cloudy days are like leap years around here and you really have to enjoy them while they are around.  But good lord, don’t ever tell anyone from SoCal that you miss clouds.  I did that once and was nearly physically removed from the restaurant I was in.

This is Darcy from Industry Model Group.

There’s a few more of her on the site so you should go check those out if you’re not too busy. Click any photo for a redirect.

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