Funkadelic's "Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts" appears on "Standing on the Verge of Getting On," Westbound Records, 1974

Funkadelic’s “Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts” appears on “Standing on the Verge of Getting On,” Westbound Records, 1974

Angela Davis once talked about the importance of being able to imagine liberation. If you’ve only known a world where you’ve never been free, it’s difficult to envision something else. If an autocratic regime becomes the new normal, and we are only able to respond with opposition, we have yet to imagine true self-determination.

When I make art about positive psychology, optimism, or happiness, I’m really talking about getting familiar with your inner life—paying attention to your mind and heart. A strong sense of self fuels the courage of one’s convictions. From where I stand, cognitive behavior strategies and real political agency are both points on a spectrum of self-empowerment.

Funkadelic’s song, “Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts,” is sort of so perfect that I will only say three things: it speaks to these themes, is 12 minutes long, and is probably best heard in a listening party of one. Get out the good speakers, silence the distractions, and sit back; some of the work to be done is within.

Works

Funkadelic’s Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts

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Erik Drooker, Flood, Dark Horse Books, 1992

Erik Drooker, Flood, Dark Horse Books, 1992 [Source: Drooker.com]

Eric Drooker, Blood Song, Dark Horse Books, 2002

Eric Drooker, Blood Song, Dark Horse Books, 2002 [Source: Drooker.com]

Today, a pot of pink daisies jolted me from a low-level state of sadness and self-pity by reminding me of a scene in Eric Drooker’s Flood. I probably last read Flood almost a decade ago. But its emotional power hasn’t diminished, even via memory.

If you haven’t yet read Drooker’s graphic novels, do! They’re amazing. I’ve discussed some of the stunningly elegant compositions at length in my workshops. And moreover, I think of them especially now because Drooker doesn’t shy away from depicting the terror of state violence, nor affirming life, creativity, and resistance. There is empathy, joy, and ferocity in these stories.

One of the most remarkable things about Hidden Figures (also recommended) is how it makes vivid the mundane and constant ways that systems of injustice dehumanize all involved. I hope that we are entering period of sustained resistance, and though powers will do everything they can to misdirect, exhaust, and numb us, we will insist on being staying human, listening, and keeping our hearts open.

Citizenship, Works

Eric Drooker’s Flood and Blood Song

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Works

Memory of an Artwork: Thomas Demand’s Rain/Regen

A stop-motion that reappears along a river of time.

Thomas Demand, Rain/Regen, (still), 2008. // Source: dhc-art.org.

Thomas Demand, Rain/Regen, (still), 2008. // Source: dhc-art.org.

Certain art-viewing experiences stay with you over time. When they’re pleasant, they can remind you of how meaningful the act of looking can be. Recalling a work of art—like reliving any memory—strengthens its salience. It could be that a series of vital art experiences will one day form a tally of the particular arcs of my life.

I’m in a reflective mood, having just finished William Finnegan’s memoir, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life. It’s about a life shaped by a passion, and later, a passion shaped by life, including loss and aging. Along with reading a remembrance of Oliver Sacks, and a book by the late positive psychologist Chris Peterson, my thoughts keep returning to what makes a life worth living.*

One work that I’ve continued to think about is Thomas Demand’s** Rain/Regen (2008). I saw it in 2010 in The Dissolve, the moving-image focused iteration of SITE Santa Fe’s biennial. It was my first visit to SITE and Santa Fe, on my first cross-country drive. We were moving from California to New York. Marking this life change with a road trip was wise. Those two weeks stand out in high relief.

I remember stepping out of Santa Fe’s picturesque, sun-baked adobe environs into the cinematic black box of the ICA. Floating screens and scrims primed me for psychologically-loaded spaces. Teresa Hak Kyung Cha’s notion that video paralleled the cinema of the mind seemed present.

Essentially, Demand makes stop-motion animations using paper constructions that are ever-increasing feats of production value. Rain/Regen is just what it sounds like—it’s an animated image of raindrops falling in a thin, frame-filling puddle. The fact that it’s constructed by hand, frame by frame, is astonishing. In this case, the paper might be bits of thin, clear plastic torn and stretched by hand. But like rain, all you see are streaks and a momentary splash upon impact. It’s gone in a split second. It happens fast, before your eye can catch up to it. It’s startlingly reminiscent of the overall peripheral sensation of rain. The perceptiveness of perception itself seems yet even more impressive. I know crediting this work with technical wow-factor sounds hollow. But the simplicity of the shot, indeed, the everydayness of the concept, paired with the ambition of animating it, forms a curious nexus.

I was moved by many works in that show, but Rain has stuck with me. Even the physics of a seemingly trivial drop of water exceeds the abilities of the human eye. We grasp only its motion, implosion, and disappearance.

*It’s been oddly reassuring that mentions of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances keep popping up in books I’m reading: Ted Purves in Tom Finklepearl’s What We Made, Marshall Trammel in Greg Sholette’s Dark Matter, and a familiar image by Hank Willis Thomas in Jeff Chang’s Who We Be. It’s probably attributable to two truths: the inevitability that a cohort would become the archivists and subjects of our eras, and, though I didn’t know it at the time, I was in the right places at the right times.

**It’s safe to assume that mega-artists like Thomas Demand rely heavily on studio staff for producing artworks, so a more fitting attribution would actually be “Thomas Demand Studio.” Of course sole authorship flows more freely through the systems of capitalism and law, but it’s nice to imagine a day that we drop these pretenses.

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Not because it’s easy, but because it often isn’t:

Susan O'Malley, One Minute Smile (participatory performance documentation), 2013

Susan O’Malley, One Minute Smile (participatory performance documentation), 2013 // Source: SusanOMalley.com

It’s an invitation to us, really. To try to smile every day, even on the days when we least want to.

—Susan O’Malley
Community, Works

Susan O’Malley, One Minute Smile

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Lygia Clark, Óculos’, 1968 // Source: FT.com (From the World of Lygia Clark Cultural Association. Photo: Eduardo Clark)

Lygia Clark, Óculos’, 1968 // Source: FT.com (From the World of Lygia Clark Cultural Association. Photo: Eduardo Clark)

Works

Lygia Clark, Óculos, 1968

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Josiah McElheny, Interactions of the Abstract Body. Choreographed dancers activating mirrored triangular and circular artworks. With alumni from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance: Lorea Burge, Mathilde Lepage Bagatta and Sandro Piccirilli. Co-ordinated with Susan Sentler. // Source: whitechapelgallery.org.

Josiah McElheny, Interactions of the Abstract Body. Choreographed dancers activating mirrored triangular and circular artworks. With alumni from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance: Lorea Burge, Mathilde Lepage Bagatta and Sandro Piccirilli. Co-ordinated with Susan Sentler. // Source: whitechapelgallery.org.

Works

Josiah McElheny: Interactions of the Abstract Body

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Han­nah Jick­ling, Helen Reed and grade 6 students, Your Lupines or Your Life // Source: reheardregalement.com

Han­nah Jick­ling, Helen Reed and grade 6 students, Your Lupines or Your Life, floral bouquets as ‘Abject Awards,’ made from surplus furnerary arrangements // Source: reheardregalement.com

Works

Han­nah Jick­ling, Helen Reed, and grade 6 students, Your Lupines or Your Life

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