Sunday, 14 July 2013

KISS: Confessions of a Culture Vulture

 (KISS: Keep it simple stupid)

The skateboard community seems to overlap with the tattoo community.

On the evening of Friday July 5th, Ned Pratt and I had the second of the photo shoots in concert with the tattoo project.  I was really impressed with how strong and beautiful the ladies became in front of Ned's camera and the evening just flowed with energy.  This week Ned has been hijacked by his exhibition out in Duntara and so he has not gotten round to reviewing the images from the shoot.  We've also promised the ladies control over the release of the images, so I am not able to share any of them just yet.

That same week I was commissioned to write an editorial for Studio magazine.  What I enjoy about editorial writing is that I get to be me.  An editorial is basically a well-reasoned opinion piece.  The column boiled down to one of my favourite bitch-tickets: let's weed out art speak.  As a writer and reader I adore words.  They create worlds and bridge individuals.  But I believe that professional communities in their quest for respect and legitimacy indulge in specialized language that lifts them onto pedestals.  Worse yet they alienate the rest of us left below the pedestal's heights.  And this is as true of the medical and legal communities as well as the art and studio craft community.

I realized when I was interviewing Robbie Ryan last week that part of what I want to do with the tattoo project is to come up with a body of writing about the incredibly rich tattoo culture that was meaningful on two levels.  1) It had to make sense to the people wearing the ink and 2) in terms of the general, broader social context of the practice.  I am intrigued and engaged by the individual stories I am collecting but I want to piece them together into a significant whole that isn't some obtuse theoretical study.  I think you can say profound things in simple terms and clear language.  That doesn't mean it is easy.  As the saying goes, "writing is easy, all you have to do is sit down to the keyboard and open a vein."
I like to joke that I spent 8 years at university but that I have recovered. Cartoon from:

My working process is that I research, read and think about a topic until the swell of ideas is too much and it needs to be put onto the page.  As such, it is a release and a giddy rush of words that have a life of their own.  Right now, I am occupied by rewriting, which is the slog work.  Filling in the gaps.  Strengthening arguments.  Chasing down facts and sources, double-checking.  This is for a book chapter about curatorial strategies that the editor has "sold" to a publisher in England.  Good stuff to do but hard work without the thrill of novelty that a first draft entails.  This is when I work on becoming a better writer.

The treat after each section has been an inexpensive concert or performance.  I was fortunate to attend three of the Festival 500 key performances including the gala and grand finale –feel good events to be sure with stellar talent.  I grabbed the premiere of Jus' Watch a high-energy film about our skateboarding tribe in St. John's, which has tie-ins for me with the tattoo project.    Then there was the first Shakespeare by the Sea performance of the season; free is my favourite four-lettered word.  And this weekend –if I am really good–I will indulge in the Wreckhouse International Jazz Blues Festival.  I could use a little, or a lot, of midnight samba.

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