Sunday, January 30, 2011

Art & Design

Packaging is an interesting concept in our world today. As artists, we can control more than ever before, considering the fact that the internet allows us to avoid dependence on studio execs who can "get your name out there." This creates a whole new relationship between the artist and the commercial art--a more personal connection.

Impeccable Blahs is a 2006 album by Say Hi to Your Mom (now just Say Hi) that I mentioned here before. It's about vampires which makes listening to it a humbling experience for me. My own attempt at vampire art (the third section of my book in case you haven't read enough here to know what I'm talking about, which I'm sure you haven't) is a failure in comparison to this. Eric Elbogen, the Trent Reznor character who basically is the only guy behind Say Hi, sings the lyrics over music that I can call minimalist, although I'm sure I'm wrong with that label. The lyrics are given as a block paragraph on the inside of the two panel cover booklet to the album and it causes the concept to even more hit home. These aren't single songs, but rather a contemplation on "vampires. Not creepy, goth vampires but rather people just like you and me who happen to get their nourishment from drinking blood" (as it says in the booklet) that goes on for just over forty-three minutes. Our themes are so similar it's scary and it makes me think that I was ripping off Elbogen before I even realized it. I'm not sure I listened to my first Say Hi after conceiving of my poetry novella (as I call it) so this is not an impossibility.

All of this is just a noteworthy example of design in art. I would say that I'm not completely out in right field when I mention the lyrics written as a block paragraph is some sort of attempt to get the listener to see the songs as part of a whole. Trent Reznor obviously recurs here as someone who does all sorts of interesting things with design. You can read the wiki article on practically every one of his albums and find him doing something interesting with the packaging or the design or whatever the hell it is I'm trying to say. This is a post where I can mention things like Miss Wyoming that has cover art created by the writer himself, Douglas Coupland, or more family-oriented: Rose, Li-Young Lee's first book of poetry, has a cover illustration by his brother (whose name of Li-Lin Lee might cause you to think there was a typo in the credits).

I'm not trying to get more reflective than this so I'll just continue in the same fourth-wall breaking mode. Anne Carson has talked about the book, stating, "I know that I have to make things. And it’s a convenient form we have in our culture, the book, in which you can make stuff, but it’s becoming less and less satisfying. And I’ve never felt that it exhausts any idea I’ve had” (quoted from her page on the Poetry Foundation's website). This is something I think she addresses in the design of her latest book, Nox, which we might better call a work of art. It's a scroll of some sort. Not something I can understand completely from reading about it, which is a bit of a thrill, considering this world we live in, where we basically just read summaries about everything instead of actually experiencing it, but that's neither here nor there. I know that I am going to pick this up at the library here at the university right when it comes in. Or rather when the first person returns it, because it's on order now and someone already has it on hold.

And there's something to hold here. I've self-published one book (here) or rather two, but one was simply to hold a novel I had written in my hands. There is definitely a disconnect, as a commercial artist, from the pen or keyboard or paintbrush or microphone we work with to the book or painting or record we create and it's very interesting to know how much control we have over this. I don't want anyone to forget that. Mostly, though, I want myself to think about it more, so I wrote it down. And what is a blog, really, but just another recreation of this same concept? &c

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