Post from February, 2020

And the Winner Is…

Monday, 17. February 2020 0:56

The Academy Awards marked the end of the awards season for films, but not the end of the discussion and controversy surrounding the awards and the films, actors, and directors who did and did not get nominated or who did and did not win this or that award. Coupled with that are the discussions of who or what film should have won this or that award, and there is discussion of the snubs and the possible reasons for them.

There were two lessons to be taken from this year’s award season. The first is that nominations, wins, and snubs are political as well as aesthetic.

Artists who do not work in film understand that the various awards shows are simply spectacles attached to juried film contests. Unlike standard juried art shows, however, film awards programs are fostered by a series of advertisements not unlike electioneering. The reason is, of course, the potential income that winning such awards can bring. Still, at the bottom, the awards are nothing but grandly publicized juried contests with a great number of jurors.

As such, they are subject to all the vagaries of any juried show. Each juror has not only a personal aesthetic which informs his/her judgement, i.e. what is artistically worthy of an award, but a personal political view as well. That political view may include any number of considerations of what is politically appropriate at the moment with respect to the contestants and the milieu in which they work. Of course some of these considerations will overlap juror-to-juror; some will not. Multiply these concerns by the number of jurors and it is easy to see why some films rise to the top and some do not in any particular year.

Awards are voted and announced and then there is great indignation that someone’s choice did not win. However, if pressed, that person cannot tell you why this film should have won over the one that was chosen. The second lesson to be learned is that many film enthusiasts cannot articulate why they think one film is better than another one; they just think it is.

Perhaps the first problem to acknowledge is that comparing films is like comparing apples and roses and tricycles. Films are one-off creations, much like any handcrafted artifact. Yes, there are series and franchises, but each film is expected to stand on its own just like each painting or sculpture or photograph is expected to stand on its own.

If we are to compare a film about a “members of a poor family who scheme to become employed by a wealthy family” and a film about “a stand-up comedian…whose history of abuse causes him to become a nihilistic criminal” and a film about “two young British soldiers during the First World war who are ordered to deliver a message” we must have some sort of set of standards as to what makes a film good. Most people seem to have that, but are unable to articulate it. When questioned, they simply say, “It was just better.”

So my two take-aways from this year’s film awards seasons are: (1) these awards shows are simply hoopla associated with juried contests for films. There are hundreds of jurors, and they all come with their own aesthetics and political positions which influence their votes. (2) Non-jurors (and perhaps jurors as well) also have their own aesthetics and political positions with regards to the evaluation of film, but they cannot articulate their standards.

We should take these two considerations into account the next time we submit pieces to juried shows; it is likely that responses to our work will incorporate them.

Category:Aesthetics, Audience | Comment (0) | Author:

Change Just One Thing

Sunday, 2. February 2020 23:54

Most pundits agree that to be really creative, we must step outside our comfort zones. Some even argue that “being an artist is about living in the uncomfortable zone.” Even writers who take issue with this idea think that to be creative in our comfort zones we must regularly get out of them to gain “new experiences and learning,” and to be more productive. Regardless of what we read on the topic, it seems that having something fresh and different in our environments can be of great service to both our creativity and productivity.

At the same time, we read over and over again that to be creative and productive we should be working in comfortable places and adhering to a fairly strict routines. How are we to reconcile this opposition of views?

The most obvious way to do this is to change something within our comfortable places and strict routines. The easiest thing to change is something physical. The rationale for this approach is that we become very accustomed to having things in certain places—to the point that we don’t have to think about them. If we move something, it is still present and useful, but it is in a different place and that creates a newness in the environment that can sometimes have surprising results.

As it turns out, several people have mentioned doing this very thing over the last several weeks. One is a theatre artist who decided to move a salt lamp that was on a very small table beside a recliner. Suddenly the very small table was able to hold a book and a coffee cup, and a new reading nook had been created. This changed where she did some of her reading, which, in turn changed some of her reading habits and general traffic patterns. She is still getting used to this new reading place and is tracking how many other changes will flow from just this simple modification.

A photographer I know who has two “changeable” walls in his home. He says that he changes out pictures on these two walls at irregular intervals, and that those changes are so powerful that they transform the spaces, which in turn causes his thinking to change when he’s in those rooms. This, he claims, makes the environments more creative.

Another photographer I know does essentially the same thing with wall calendars. She says that the changing of several images once a month spark ideas that she would not otherwise have had.

And yet another person, a writer, says that in the past he has had trouble getting to end of non-fiction books. What he did to overcome the problem was to move the current non-fiction from his reading spot or bookcase to a very conspicuous place where he would have to pass it regularly. This would discomfit him and he would be compelled to pick the book up and proceed toward the end.

What all these people have in common is that they changed a very small part of their environments, and those changes provided just enough newness or difference to make a creative difference in their work. A small change is enough to push us just a little outside our comfort zone for a short amount of time, so we can have the best of both worlds.

All we have to do is change just one thing. Try it.

Category:Creativity, Productivity | Comment (0) | Author: