Saturday, January 4, 2014

Five Works of Art Discovered in 2013.

This is a few days late, since we are already four days into 2014, but visiting family, holidays, and working on "Sila" have kept this post on the back burner.  At the end of the year everyone seems to have a list of the Top Ten Whatevers from the year - movies, books, etc.  Unfortunately, I rarely "discover" something the year it was released or created.  My consumption of art and media is such that I'm always randomly finding things a month, a year, a decade, later than everyone else.  Each December I try to make lists of things that *I* discovered for the first time that year, whether they were from this year or not.  These five cover things that I have not written about in this blog in 2013 but which have intellectually or emotionally stuck with me this year.

1.  Shane Carruth's "Upstream Color."

Carruth's previous film, "Primer," was one I watched twice in one night, without even a five minute pause between the two viewings.  It's compelling and frustrating, impossible to understand without seventeen flow charts but still, I couldn't take my eyes off of it.  I was prepared for his second film to be just as difficult, and while there is definitely a challenge to watching "Upstream Color," the film is far more abstract than "Primer" and probably less explainable.  But it's a beautiful experience, probably the most beautiful film I saw last year.

After you watch it, make sure to watch the following explanation (with stick puppets):
It's very helpful.

2.  "Braid" (indie game).

"Braid" is a work of art, a game so beautiful I played it simply for the experience of looking at the gorgeous art and animation work.  I've been following indie games and the "games as art" conversation a lot this year and stumbled upon this game because of it.  The art is gorgeous, and I love the use of color and light in all of the backgrounds.  The mechanics of the game are frustrating but extremely satisfying when solved - it's the kind of game you might play for hours, and then put aside, feeling the urge to give up, and then be thinking about it the next day on the bus or as you're falling asleep and suddenly hit upon the solution to a puzzle.  The other thing that draws me to this game is the rather ambiguous ending or meaning behind it.  I love the unexplained and the abstract.  I love it when art isn't dumbed down for its audience and asks the audience to do a tiny bit of research in order to appreciate it.    There is a quote used in the game's epilogue that turns the meaning of the entire story into...something else entirely, and I had to google it to get to its history and meaning.

3.  Margaret Atwood's poem "Habitation."
I don't have much to say about this poem, other than it's been a challenging year for me, and for those who love me, and this is truth in poem form.

4.  Vienna Teng's "My Medea."

I've discovered a lot of her music this year, thanks to Pandora.  It's achingly beautiful.  This song - personifying depression in order to heal, understanding the link between our pain and the art we create - just beautiful.  "There's a mysterious illness that I carry with me, whose symptoms flare up from time to time, though they're mercifully rare these days. It's not a medical condition, I don't think, but it feels like a disease to me: sudden bouts of grief and anger, completely out of proportion to the events that trigger them, and a frightening desire to dismantle anything good I've built."

5.  7 Towers Theatre's production of McDonagh's "The Pillowman."
I know I'm biased, but this production wasn't seen by nearly enough people in the Austin theater community.  It was, I think, Travis Bedard's best performance.  The design was beautiful and exemplified many of the things that led me to write this piece for HowlRound earlier in the year.  When I compile this list I look for things that moved me in surprising ways.  Parts of this play are still stuck in my brain, clattering around my dreams and disturbing my sleep.

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