Rahil

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Overcoming the Internal Conflicts of an Artist

03 June 2011

These are the same universal conflicts conveyed in mainstream film cliches, advertisements, and other media.

The way people, or at least an artist, should think is simple: just do it. Nike’s slogan reigns true.

But for me, I’ve had troubles. I’ve partially developed bad habits in an suburban environment in which I over research and get districted trying to figure out how, when even I know all I have to do is just begin. Begin a project.

Jonathan Blow approached these conflicts in a keynote speech.

Jonathan Blow is the developer of the video game Braid. A game that I consider the Watchmen of video games, as it exposes the potential of a medium, as it expresses art at such high quality no other game can compare. Thanks to recent software developments, now, a team of two people can create an entire game, allowing independent developers to express themselves. Now, there also are multiple platforms (Xbox Live, Steam, Facebook) for these games to reach a wide audience to. Now is the time for games to exceed, to become a medium that can compare to film or literature.

He began with a presentation about “How and Why”. He felt the reason people come to conferences is that people want to figure out how. “How do I become an indie developer”, or “How do I get a publishing deal”. This disregards the other half of the question: Why. “Why am I doing what I am doing?. What is my core motivation to do these things?”

His answer was simple and mirrors my recent thoughts. The answer is that you already are an independent game developer, you just have to start making things. The How part will solve itself as you are making things.

Although he is talking about independent games, these morals apply to any art medium. His answer reminded me of the ending of a poem by Anis Mojghani in which he says, “Already am, already was, and I still have time to be”.

Thinking back now on films, I can’t think of many where this conflict is fought. I can only think of films where only the external conflicts are displayed. Hrmm, so maybe it isn’t a film cliche.

So where does this leave me?

After watching a great film, I’m able to think about life on a higher level, putting everything into perspective. I then feel that the things I’ve been doing recently are insignificant, I need to clean up all my shit and just do it. The problem is I never get to doing it.

An associated major problem is the concern of money. My day job is programming. Most working environments for programming jobs aren’t relaxing, or brooding creativity. They’re marketing heavy, deadline driven, burn you out environments with a bad work/life balance. So, often, more time than I like is wasted in my day job.

Again, I come to question what choices do I have? Find my way into an amazing profitable independent video game company? Most are just a few friends that got together and made up a cool company name. The other choice is slowly becoming inevitable: One day I will have to give up my day job and put all of my time, effort, and money into my personal work.

I haven’t gotten to that point yet. I haven’t found a project that I feel great enough to. But I will do this: I will purge all of my insignificant crap that distracts me, so that I can focus on what’s most important to me–my work.

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Exit Through the Gift Shop

02 January 2011

Before watching Exit Through the Gift Shop, I gathered from various snippets that it was movie instead of a documentary. I normally fall asleep on documentaries. To keep me awake, the documentary has to be more than a typical documentary that provides knowledge about a subject. It has to have some movie elements to keep it compelling throughout, like the thrill of “Man on Wire” or the cinematography of “Food Inc.”. Gladly it was more.

I’m interested in all types of art and media: films, comics, fashion, whatever. As long as it seems like the creator tried to create something original, I’m happy to observe. Street Art is no different. I’ve only glimpsed at some popular street art on the internet. I can’t recall exactly how, but a likely example would be: a friend instant messages me a stop motion animated film by blu, then I Wikipedia him, which leads to more Wikipedia articles, and eventually I find Banksy and Shepard Fairy, among others.

It did well on metacritic, Ebert liked it (my ratings are similar to his), and the Netflix summary on the DVD case cover was very appealing to me.

Filmmaker Thierry Guetta had been casually documenting the underground world of street art for years, but when he encounters Banksy, an elusive British stencil artist, his project takes a fascinating twist. Unimpressed with Guetta’s footage, Banksy takes over filmmaking duties and Guetta reinvents himself as a street artist named Mr. Brainwash — and, much to Banksy’s surprise, immediately becomes a darling of the Los Angeles art scene.

On to the movie…

The movie itself is very good. The main character felt real, background knowledge about modern street art is given, questions are asked.

The main character, Thierry Guetta, is a French guy who has, since childhood, filmed—err video recording—everything in life. When he starts taping his street artist cousin, Invader, he really gets into it. He goes out at night on rooftops to record Invader, and soon more famous people, notably, Banksy.

Banksy is a modern famous street artist, possibly helped by the anonymity of himself, but still a legit artist. When it comes time for Thierry to create a film out of the hundreds of unlabeled tapes in storage, he fails. The film stinks, because Thierry is not a filmmaker, nor an artist. Banksy takes over, creating the film being watched, while Thierry goes on to make his own art.

Thierry goes on to create a showcase similar to the one he recorded for Banksy. He hires a ton of people, morally good, hard-working people. Emulating the styles of the artists he recorded, his showcase becomes a media sensation, making him a celebrity. He goes on to sell his work, auctioning pieces off at lucrative prices.

It’s paining to any artist, or anyone who even appreciates art, that a person could use hype and copy popularized styles to make millions of dollars. It’s especially paining to Banksy, as it seems it is the main motive he made the film. I’ve personally seen this happen in every medium. Listen to the radio, watch a mainstream movie, I feel the pain too.

The main thing here is that Thierry is a genuinely flawed person. He’s not smart (I believe one person called him retarded). He’s not artistic. He’s just ambitious. With sheer ambition he is able to become famous, using accomplices better than himself.

He is shown to have ADD, not being able to focus, not even capable of creating a single art piece. Throughout the movie it is his hired assistants that do the work for him. In one of the extras, where he was to create one piece for a multi-artist exhibition, he asked for help, getting frustrated after trying for less than 30 seconds.

There are many lines spoken by Guetta, through his clumsy English, that strengthen the character. Simultaneously there are many lines said by Banksy, which question what art is. Sure, Guetta deliberately copied the people whom he videotaped, becoming an overnight celebrity with a piece as simple as a pop culture image with a mustache…but this shows how small the difference can be between art and a joke.

After watching the movie, I watched what I guessed are the two shorter extras [I’ll watch the other two tomorrow]. Then, I read the Wikipedia articles on the movie, Banksy, and Thierry Guetta. Before this, I didn’t know it was actually directed by Banksy! I then read that people and critics speculate the authenticity of the film. That the entire film was a hoax. Banksy created the character.

I recalled the movie in my head, questioning how plausible the main character was. I watch all serious films alone, taking it all in at once. I don’t think about plot holes, or question character’s motives, I just absorb it all feebly…but as I recalled the main character and the plausibility of the plot, it was quite ridiculous. A dimwitted nobody becomes an overnight celebrity?  Yet, the film was so good, that Thierry felt real.

The entire movie does fit into a hoax though. Banksy could’ve created this inferior artist, and the art behind it, and even display it in the public. The character’s name IS Mr. Brainwash… Still, I feel the character is too good to create. Maybe this guy, Thierry, is real. Then Banksy met him, took some of his old tapings of family events, and created the rest.

The film itself is great, and the thought that the entire thing may be a hoax makes it even greater. Banksy remains unidentified. The credited director is simply, “Banksy”. His elusiveness intrigues me, as does his art.

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