Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is That Art?

Last night I went to see a screening in Portland for the documentary, Died Young, Stayed Pretty. It was a really interesting look into the world of poster making. I myself have always had a love for posters and I find myself fascinated by the artwork done for the shows of my favorite bands. I guess it was always something I was curious about and I didn't really know where it was all coming from.

Overall, I would say this film was pretty good and did a great job focusing on the artists- those who have actually been the unknown part of the poster subculture. I loved that it gave them a face and a voice, but there were some other things I would have liked to seen in the film. I would have liked to have seen the fans, the people who collect posters to better understand what it means to them and if they were connecting to the message or not (maybe that just wasn't the point of the film though). I would have liked to have seen a point of view from the people who oppose posters (this was brought up, but not really explored). I really enjoyed the shots of production and the look into the ink factory, I would have loved a more detailed look at the process, but I can't say it wasn't there- I just would have preferred more.

The director Eileen Yaghoobian and some of the artists featured in the film held a discussion panel after the screening which was also interesting. A major topic up for discussion was whether or not poster making was an art form because of its use of borrowed content (remediation of images, the name of the band if they weren't being commissioned etc). It was hard to tell where to draw the line- If it was art, could it be a commodity or is it simply a gift to the public? If it's not art, does that change anything?

This thinking led me to a book I have been meaning to get to and I finally began reading it today.

The Gift by Lewis Hyde
Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World:

Because I am only 20 pages in, I am completely unable to provide any real synopsis of meaning; however, according to the introduction, Hyde aims to discuss the theory of "the gift" by exploring the idea of art as a gift and the problem with the market, through the study and criticism of cultural anthropology, philosophy, storytelling and ethnography... and probably more.

"The first half of this book is a theory of gift exchange and the second is an attempt to apply the language of that theory to the life of the artist."

I have a lot of thinking, reading and absorbing ahead of me- I am excited for this book, I have no idea why I have waited so long to read it.

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