Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Self-Conscious Electron and the Creative Process

Good day Blogger world!

On a not completely unrelated note to the previous blog, I'd like to talk a little bit about quantum physics.  This isn't the first time this has come up - you may remember me touching on the subject while reviewing the book "Is There Life After Death?", which had a surprising amount of quantum physics to it.  Recently I came across a  Youtube video that explains one of the quintessential quantum physics experiments, and also one of its most tantalizing mysteries.

The "Double Slit Experiment" presents two mysteries:  that of how an electron can act like both a wave and a particle, and that of how the act of observing said electron actually changes how they act in the experiment.  I find this fascinating, and inspiring, on a number of levels.  

To start off, this makes for an apt metaphor for many situations in life.  You've heard that a watched pot never boils.  Not literally, of course, but it certainly feels that way at first.  This one (probably) has more to do with the way our mind perceives time (which is something else that becomes more interesting through the lens of quantum physics).  Still, the fact that a watched electron will not act like a wave (though the actions of the unobserved electron indicate it can), draws some interesting parallels.

As often happens, I find myself thinking of art making.  In the last post I talked about how a spontaneous drawing can end up being a really good piece of art, in a different way than the piece that took months to plan and execute.  In the same way that direct observation scares the little electron into acting like a true particle, sometimes it's as though thorough planning scares off that special something about spontaneous art.  This isn't taking anything away from a really well-planned and well-worked piece of art.  I'm just saying it's different.

I don't mind being observed when I'm making art, but I will sometimes keep ideas to myself until I've had a chance to get the real-world work started.  In the past, when I've admitted one of these ideas to, say, a teacher, it almost feels like premature contact with open air kills it instantly.  Without anything solid to back it up, it shrivels and dies under scrutiny, and no amount of explaining on my part can save it.

How interesting to observe something like an electron acting...self-conscious.  We all know it's more difficult to perform while being hyper-scrutinized - that we tend to change things, consciously or sub-consciously when being observed.  But what is this power of observation that it changes the behavior of an electron?  Alternatively, what is the power of the electron that it can react to the act of being measured, as if psychically aware?  Even we as human beings don't always know when we're being observed.  What tips off the electron?  What is this connection that is being made?!

The real-world implications of this are mind-boggling.  This is just one example of proof that there's way more going on in our world than we know.  As both a metaphor and an experiment, it makes one want to observe the world around us with new attention, and at the same time to stop over-thinking and start living with a new openness to the unknown.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Facebook, Surrealism, and Collaboration

Good Day, Blogger world!

Another week begins.  I just finished writing a haiku.  Not just any haiku, and not just for me.  Some time ago, my mother started piecing together haikus, one each day, from her friends' Facebook statuses.  There is a surprising amount of material for this, especially when she just takes pieces of statuses and not the whole thing.  Her friends seem to love it, and so do I :).  This week I'm actually standing in for her in capacity of Facebook haiku poet.  Here is what I came up with tonight:

The perfect revenge
practically writes itself! 
sweet or unsweetened

(To see more of her work, you can follow her on twitter at @PeggyMackinnon.  To see more of mine, come visit me at @art_rat.  :)

I started writing some of my own, just sporadically.  I've been posting them on Facebook and twitter, and I'm noticing my twitter follower numbers picking up of late.  People have even specifically said that they like the haikus.  It's cool to see this kind of thing actually catching on.  

This makes me think of something that came my way on Facebook a while ago - a meme that one of my friends tagged me for:  

1 - Go to "wikipedia." Hit “random”
or click this link.
The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to "Random quotations"
or click this link.
The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
or click this link.
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use photoshop or similar to put it all together.

5 - Post it with this text in the "caption" and TAG the friends you want to join in.

This was what I came up with.  The original picture can be found here:

I feel like this kind of thing must have been at least partially inspired by the surrealists' "Exquisite Corpse" game.  This was originally a word game:  Each player (minimum 3) writes down a definite or indefinite article as well as an adjective, conceals it, and passes their paper to the player beside them.  That player then writes a noun, conceals it, and then passes the paper on to the next person, who writes a verb.  The next person proceeds with another definite or indefinite article and adjective, and the next person another noun.  This completes a sentence that nobody has read yet, which could be anything, and usually ends up being pretty amusing.  The game was actually named for one such sentence:  "The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine".  

Most of us have been introduced to this kind of thing as a drawing game.  That was true for me, at least, and I've had a lot of fun with it.  This is part of what I love about surrealism - finding the creative potential in chaos.  Chance elements, not chosen by the creator/artist/player, acting as fertile ground for the creation of something unique, strange, and potentially challenging.  One wonders what kind of work we'd have seen from Salvador Dali, had he lived in this day and age, with a resource like the internet as his disposal.  No doubt he and his fellow surrealists had a hand in shaping this era, setting the stage for new ways of thinking and being creative.  

What's interesting is how purely original the results of these games can be, even though they are collaborative works.  Of course, there is the element of chance that gives it true spontaneity.  As an artist, one can spend many agonizing hours coming up with "original" work, straining for that final result that is just as often achieved by letting go and allowing whatever happens to happen.  Speaking from my own experience, a lot of my best work has come about that way.  I've even illustrated some of my Mom's Facebook haikus, and been pretty happy with the results:  

Nothing is really, truly original - as Carl Sagan once said, to make an apple pie from scratch, one must first invent the universe.   We don't create our own materials, but we do decide what we create with them.  There is, of course, plenty to be said for collaboration.  The internet age has made it so much easier to find inspiration, resources, and even collaborators.  As long as we can respect each other's abilities and remain open-minded, the possibilities are endless.  

If I may leave you with a couple more links, here is a Deviantart group dedicated to the creation of Exquisite Corpse works. All of these works are collaborations by different artists, and the results are consistently mindblowing!

Also, if you like the look of my Facebook haiku illustrations, you may want to check out this Cafepress shop, a collaboration of 3 creative minds, including mine and Mom's:

Thanks so much for reading.  Later, Blogger world!  :)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Unexpectedly Free Day - Also, Elfquest!

Good day, Blogger world!

It's a grey, humid day when I thought I'd be venturing out solely for the purposes of dance class.  Then my teacher sent me a message saying class was cancelled this week - so I might just stay at home being sweaty and unshowered today, at least until my dye projects dry.  I've been making costumes, and this has required messing around with a dye, which means my washroom is being taken up by a big drying rack right now.  In the meantime...

I would like to take this opportunity to write another book review post - though really it's about a graphic novel series rather than one book.  Some of you may have heard of Elfquest, the sci-fi/fantasy graphic novel series that began in the 70s, if I'm not mistaken.  I stumbled across it years ago.  Haven't seen anything quite like it before or since.  It can be called sci-fi because there is a certain amount of 'science' within the magic of it all.  It is an adult graphic novel, though a teenage audience could (and I have no doubt does) appreciate it as well.  I would describe it as an adult fairy tale, even the later sci-fi extensions of the story.  The cartooning style is definitely cartoonish, and how this manages to go hand in hand with the adult content of the stories (which is definitely not hard-core, but is there) is something I find to be unique, even though I'm not really sure why I find it so unusual.  New additions to the series have been added in recent years by the original creators, to add to the many different formats and incarnations this series has already had.  There's been a collection of chapters books, various creators interpreting and adding to the series, different artists, and a couple of attempts at a movie (one of which is ongoing, if I'm not mistaken).  I'd be holding out on you if I didn't say you can find the mother load of the Elfquest series online, right here:  

Of course there are some things you can't find there yet (as far as I've found), such as the chapter books.  I own and have read them all, and it was a good read each time.  One of my favorite parts of the series is the story at the beginning of book 2 ("Wolfsong Volume 2, The Blood of Ten Chiefs), titled "Colours", translated in graphic novel form illustrated with watercolour.  There is also an obscure bit, the 9th installment in the New Blood group of stories, that I feel really gets to the core of the philosophy behind the whole series, the whole story.  This is the part that amazes me about the series.  It starts to feel like a mythology more than a graphic novel series.  No doubt it takes roots in the imagination.  The mark of a truly excellent creative work! 

Alright, I think I've geeked out enough for one day.  I just wanted to share that with you, as it is, well and truly, my favorite graphic novel series of all time.  

Later Blogger world!  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Warning! References to Lady Parts!

Good Day, Blogger World!

As I started my day, I saw a link to this article in Bust Magazine go by on Facebook.  It featured this Kotex advertisment,

followed by this stand-up comic, making a really good point through a comedic skit:

Rather than making me angry, this thing brightened up my day.  That's what I love about comedy, that it can be used to raise consciousness without raising negativity.  Seriously (and this was pointed out in the second video) wasn't it Kotex that was supposedly trying to get us to be less self-conscious with our lady parts?  With their pretty pads and "Why are tampons such a big deal" video?

I don't want to make Kotex out to be the enemy.  But neither am I buying that they're as progressive as they say.  Making more money tends to trump the social issues angle when it comes to business.  What troubles me about this product is that it seems to be edging in the direction of maxi pads become required women's wear for everyday life, not just that special time each month.  Creating a problem and then solving it - one of my least favorite tricks of marketing.  What's next - pads for everywhere else we sweat?  Even outside the women's issues angle, think of all the pantyliners that end up in landfills already!  Overall, I don't believe a lot of thinking went into this product.  But at least it's good for a laugh.  :P

I had some fun with panty liners back in art school.  Here's what I came up with:

Lily - the maxi pad dress by ~Eseopia on deviantART

Lightdays Party Dress by ~Eseopia on deviantART

One was to address the deeper cultural issues around women's menstruation, while the other was more a celebration of the freedom we've come to enjoy compared to generations past.  I made both of these dresses with pads from the dollar store.  It was fun, and they've actually had quite a bit of attention over the years.  It sparks an interesting dialogue, at least.  I thought of making another one with the fancy new Kotex pads, though I've lacked the funds to take on big projects lately.  Now I'm thinking I might hold off for different reasons....

Anyway, this has been the most interesting part of my morning so far.  Until next time, blogger world!  :)