I started not liking Christmas back in 2018, what a horrible Christmas that was. Looking back, I’ve had different kinds of Christmases in my long existence: warm family-oriented celebrations with gifts and all sorts of food, depressing Christmases spent all by myself, saucy Christmases similar to those found on Internet videos, but Christmas 2018 truly ruined Christmas for me. It was the worst. I don’t want to dwell too much on the details, but it started a miserable trend to which I’m not sure I could recover from. And now every Christmas, I get reminded of that horrible night. Ever had that happen to you? A holiday you’ve cherished since childhood has been turned into a depressing reminder? Well, that’s me. So yeah, I’m really in no mood for trees, decorations, and presents.
And now it’s 2020, and it seems like the rest of the world is catching up with my feelings towards Christmas. Everyone’s sentiment towards the holidays is just a little bit closer to how I feel about it. It’s a day where you’re supposed to find joy despite everything in your life being miserable and hopeless.
In any case, I hope you’re doing better than I am. I hope your holidays, your year, and your life is better than mine. Smile and be happy. Things can only get better, count your blessings, someone else’s situation is always worse, etc. Etc.
Let me continue my depressing rant with what I imagine is an unpopular take: photorealism is not art, at least most people’s take on photorealism is not art. It annoys me how people are too focused on the initial shock at the skill of rendering an image with an almost photographic precision when the image itself is not saying anything that the original photograph already said. It doesn’t matter whether I see the works on galleries or on Instagram. They are not art. Simply, they are an exercises in meticulous reproduction. Re-drawing a photorealistic image of a beautiful woman by hand doesn’t change nor add meaning to the original photograph. It’s merely a change in medium. If anything, it just tells me that the artist spent an inordinate amount of time staring at a picture of a woman doing something a colored printer can easily do. Photorealism is akin to having great penmanship and re-writing great literary works. It is re-writing, not writing.
Steve Martin said that the joy of looking at Edward Hopper paintings, or many other paintings for that matter, is figuring out the meaning of the work. Why are elements of the work placed in a particular way? What are characters or objects in the piece meant to tell the viewer? This is why some works can endure being seen once or twice, like a long game of chess. And once you figure it out, the work is dead. It is very easy to lose interest in it. This is why most photorealistic pieces don’t work for me. The one thing that most viewers try to figure out is, “How did the artist do this?” and “How long did it take?” And the answer is already in the questions. With enough time, practice, and even techniques like tracing or drawing grids, I believe anyone can duplicate photographs. And once the viewer comes to that answer or has recovered from the initial awe of realizing that, “it’s not a photograph,” then it’s just a quick stroll around images that don’t say anything beyond the original.
This is not to say that I don’t enjoy photorealism. I do. I actually like the works of Torlakson, Blackwell, and others, as well as the hyperrealist movement as a whole. But most photorealist works that try to pass off as art, in my opinion, is not really art. They are bland exercises. Photorealism is often craft disguised as art. And even that comment is doing a disservice to many people who do crafts because some “crafts” could very well be works of art. I cannot say the same for the many of the photorealistic works I see. I’m sure the artists themselves are very talented and are demonstrably quite resilient and patient, but they are better served doing other types of work. The real tragedy in all of this cuts two ways. Talented people are spending too much time making art that is shallow and not really art, and people are actually taking the time to look at and admire “art” are not getting anything out of it other than, “wow, the artist is really talented. He didn’t say anything, but he is really talented.”
I don’t have much patience for hearing about other people’s dreams, but since this is my website and no one is being forced to read it, I’m going to indulge myself a bit and talk about an asshole dream I had last night.
My mom passed away back in 2008 of pancreatic cancer. It was rather fast. She started experiencing pain in her stomach around November of 2007, then she was finally diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on February 2008, then she passed away come July. Pancreatic cancer is awful.
So last night, I had a dream that my mom committed suicide. Apparently, she had a fight with my dad during her birthday and she jumped off an apartment building roof in the middle of the night. We were all in shock. I remember my grandmother, her mother, was there too, mourning my mom’s sudden passing. Interestingly, my grandmother passed away two years ago as well. So anyway, it was a pretty depressing dream/nightmare. I couldn’t remember much but several things happened regarding investigations and funerals but eventually, I woke up.
You know when you wake up from a nightmare and you’re all relieved that it was all a nightmare and that everything is going to be fine? Well, I woke up, felt relief, then I remembered that my mom already passed away over ten years ago. I also remember that Korea is also in the middle of a second wave of coronavirus infections and that I don’t know what awaits me at work. Depressed, relieved, then back to depressed. My brain’s subconscious is a jerk asshole.
Speaking of the coronavirus, for two days in a row now, Korea has been having over 1000 cases a day. Before that, the country’s jumped to over 600 a day. We are currently on a high alert level, close to the strictest level yet, which would mean a total lockdown and closing of businesses and schools. While Korea has been a model for containing the virus with its constant testing and contact-tracing, the country appears to have been caught flat-footed with the second wave. Unfortunately, while the rest of the world is already getting started with vaccination, the government decided to wait it out until March 2021 before getting the vaccine. The government wants to see how the rest of the world reacts to the vaccine first. There is some wisdom to healthy skepticism and caution, but the government seems to be neglecting to help people and businesses while they hold out and wait for life to go back to normal. The Trump administration is being lauded for only providing a $1200 check once to its citizens. Well, Korea only gave out assistance once as well.
As much as I appreciate the government’s initial reaction to the virus, it seems like the government only has testing and contact-tracing in its bag of tricks. Cases are increasing and all we’re doing is testing. They put free testing facilities all over Seoul, even outside my workplace. What I don’t see are financial aid for businesses and for people who are unable to earn a living while they are forced to stay at home. As for waiting and see for the rest of the world to react to the vaccines’ side effects, I wonder if that skepticism would be there if it weren’t for the anti-vaccine movement.
Ever since I saw it back when I was studying art in university, I’ve always been haunted by Duane Michal’s work, This Photograph is My Proof. It is one of my favorite images. It talks about longing and holding on to things which may or may not be true anymore. It is both sad and happy. It is mourning for love that is no longer there, but it is also celebrating love that used to exist.
Back when I first saw it, I was in a sad pathetic time in my life. And I guess every time I’m in that space, the picture always comes back to me. “Look, there was a time I was happy!” Even when I’m not suffering from crippling depression, I think about the picture the same way John Lennon would think about Procol Harum’s ‘Whiter Shade of Pale.’
It really applies to any picture and any situation. Here, as cheesy as it may be, I can put it on my image and it can equally apply even though my photography does not compare to Duane Michals’.
The picture also talk about how pictures communicate moments in the past, and because of that, they might not be true anymore. Pictures lie. In This Photograph is My Proof, the image says something, but the words elaborate things more and perhaps contradicts what is going on. But really, the writer could have written anything else as well. The writer could’ve lied if he wanted to. “Things are still great between us. She loves me. I love her.”
A friend of mine recently broke up with his girlfriend and purged all of her images on his Instagram. You know why? Because, “those photographs are proofs” that love existed between them once. And now, he would rather pretend that it didn’t exist in the first place. Online, people controlling the message on their images is more pervasive than Duane Michal’s pen. But still, he saw that people control their images, people are sad, and the past is often never as good as the present.
I realized yesterday that my best friend, despite being an artist and a gallery owner, is incapable of talking about art. For sure, she can spend hours talking about her works and her self, but she is not the best person to talk to about art, artists, and anything creative. I’m not even sure if she’s interested in art history or anything in the past that could inspire her works. I remember giving her a couple of books about art and artists, sending her links about art, or even trying to talk about potential art concepts, but I can’t remember feeling any interest coming from her in return. If anything, I recall a couple of times being discouraged and just keeping things in the status quo when I tried to brainstorm ideas with her.
She simply can’t or is just disinterested. We try talking about art, and then eventually we drift back to talking about her works, going through the same rote conversations.
Now, I know that this is not a prerequisite for all artists to follow, but it surely helps in guiding one’s work to know about art and be able to talk about them, and to be inspired by bigger artists. It instructs the artists not only with their style but also in how to see their own works. Is an artist painting the way Jackson Pollock painted in order to see the canvas in different directions and show movement? Or is the artist just doing it for pretty colors? Maybe an artist can start with the latter, but knowing who Pollock is and why he painted the way he did, an artist can move on to the former and beyond.
Anyway, I’m going to have to take my art conversations elsewhere.
Today, Trump’s MAGA goon squad marched and broke into the US Capitol in protest of President-elect Biden’s electoral votes being ceremoniously counted. This was a coup attempt. This was insurrection and sedition fueled by craven politicians telling MAGA supporters that there is still a way for Trump to win the presidency, that it was somehow stolen from his via complex global, pedophile conspiracies, and that what they are doing is akin to being patriots. The last time forces stormed the Capitol was back in the War of 1812, when the United Kingdom and Canada went to war with the United States. Confederate generals dreamed of someday flying their flag in the US Capitol, and Trump’s MAGA forces this possible. A few years ago, Trump was also in charge of judging whether Gary Busey should be pretend-fired on a pretend job interview. Now, a man with Trump’s wall tattooed on his arm and who traveled with a buffalo headgear to Washington broke several laws making a jackass of himself in the US halls of power. Now, four people are dead.
I love politics. But as much as I love politics, I also love the law and how it works. This was a disgraceful day in US history in what it has done to politics and what it has done to the law. Now, much has already been said about the Republican politicians who allowed this to happen and to the racist police force who let the seditious terrorists run wild in the government building, but I have to say, I have a bigger problem with the weakness of the Democrats.
Joe Biden, in his response to the terrorist attack, tells the nation that the actions of Trump’s supporters “borders on sedition.” Ridiculous. If that mob caught up to one Democratic senator, who knows what would have happened. Even at this point, he talks about “restoring order.” Restoring order? What about arrests? What about prosecution? People made a mockery and attacked the people’s house. The house of the nation who proclaims to be the model of democracy. The nation whose troops all over the world fight wars to defend. Idiot MAGA terrorists ran amok through those hallowed halls and we are still hesitating on calling sedition what it is?
Even as Trump leaves this year, it will be a disappointing four years for Americans who are keen on democracy and justice. As much as Obama was beloved, he cursed America with probably the stupidest seven words he ever uttered, “We don’t look backwards, we look forward.” A recording of Trump committing an impeachable crime by pressuring officials to manufacture phantom votes for him in Georgia surfaced two days ago, and seemingly without even much consideration, we hear US representative Hakeem Jeffries saying those same dumb seven lines, “We don’t look backwards, we look forward.” Then how can Trump or any other officials learn? What’s stopping people from committing crimes in the future? It doesn’t even make any logical sense. ALL crimes in order to fit the definition must have “actus reus,” the conduct of the crime. How else can you establish conduct if you don’t look backward? If someone slaps Hakeem Jeffries in the face, will he immediately respond by, “We don’t look backwards, instead, we look forward to the inauguration of a President Joe Biden and will not allow ourselves to be distracted by these slapping in the face issues.”?
See, back in 2020, armed protesters stormed the Michigan statehouse in order to protest wearing masks. They essentially held the statehouse hostage and the police barely touched them. Not much of consequence happened to the agitators as the nation moved on to the next outrageous thing in the news cycle. Fast forward to now and again, armed agitators fueled by conspiracy theories essentially invade the US Capitol. See how they didn’t learn their lesson?
But wait, that was under under Trump. Are the Democrats still to be blamed for that? Yes, because they have short memories and easily move on. Republicans fueled so many congressional hearing on four deaths in Benghazi. How many congressional hearings will come out of this? How many hearings came out of the storming of the Michigan statehouse? Heck, when Bundy ranchers pointed rifles at police officers during Obama’s presidency, Democrats essentially let them get away with it. Gabby Giffords got shot in the head and the Democrats didn’t use it as a rallying cry for some sort of sensible gun legislation. I’d call the Democrats weak tea, but that would be offensive to teas everywhere.
So yeah, even as progressives like Representatives Cori Bush and Ilhan Omar are calling for impeachment, most of the Democrats will likely try to oppose them or at least try to weaken their call to action. As Trump’s ugliness infected Republicans and the rest of body politic, so will Barack Obama’s weak look-forward, not backward continue to lull Democratic politicians to inaction and complacency. Don’t get too excited about Trump leaving, folks. As we learned in 2020, things can always, ALWAYS get worse.
Note my entry last week. Canada lost the World Juniors yesterday, and now there’s a failed coup. 2021 off to a great start.
I would like to think that next year will be better than 2020, but I have learned not to be too optimistic, lest I be disappointed. Christmas was a quiet affair spent watching Netflix. New Year’s Eve is probably going to be the same. I can feel myself getting old just thinking about it.
Here’s hoping that 2021 is indeed an improvement over this lousy year.