Art is…

All art is political. All art is philosophical. All art has a message Scott Derrickson

Just because art — whether it comes in the form of a painting, a photograph, a sculpture, a piece of music, a film or a novel — is meant to be enjoyed by the viewer/reader, it doesn’t mean it can’t be political, philosophical or carry a message at the same time.

The photographs that I’ve created may be pretty and even interesting. But my choice in photographic subject matter is deliberate. How I shoot it is deliberate. What is omitted from an image is deliberate.

The same can be said about my fiction writing. My choice of writing in the first or third person, my choice in story setting, my choice in topics to tackle are deliberate. Who my characters are, are deliberate. Everything in my storytelling is consciously and subconsciously deliberate.

The decision to be deliberate comes from an accumulation of life experiences, my morality, and a reaction to and manifestation of what I consider to be fundamentally important to me.

Art is a reaction to the world that surrounds the artist. Creativity stems from the relationship a person has with the world he or she functions in. Art is not separate from the rest of the world. Art is not created in a vacuum. It is a reflection, a reaction to the world.

So when entertainers, actors, filmmakers, writers and artists are told to go back to what they do best and keep their noses out of politics by those who have very compartmentalized ideas of what artists and entertainers should be, the hair on the back of my neck stands up.

It is complete bullshit to tell a particular group of people that their opinion is unwanted, that they’re not capable of wading into politics and current affairs. An invisible hierarchy is at work here. Those who go into the arts are not as smart or intelligent as a business person, an academic or a politician. Or maybe the artist is seen as being more vacuous, vapid or flighty. Head in the clouds instead of feet on the ground. Classism. Right brain folks vs. left brain folks.

Anyway, there goes the idea of having a healthy discussion. Down the fucking toilet.

As an artist, everything I’ve created visually or in the written word is a reaction to the time in which it was being created. My work is a reflection of my mindset during that period of time. It is a reflection of the music, the people and the visuals in other mediums that have inspired the stories I have told so far.

My personal politics and philosophies are in my work. Sometimes it’s blatant, most times it’s subtle. But it’s there. You can ignore it but you can’t hide from it. You can’t hide from me.

So, yes, all art is political. All art is philosophical. All art has a message.

So taken with the melancholy

Music is a great catalyst for emotion because it gets to your core — Chris Milk

Last week, I discovered a piece of music I would dare to describe as the definitive theme, the musical blueprint that speaks to the relationship between my two main characters, my boys. The lyrics don’t speak entirely to the true nature of the relationship between my boys. It is the emotions the music evokes that simmers between them.

It happened by accident, to be honest. I follow a website called Nowness on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a great little site. So, I spotted one of their postings and because of the blurb and the image, I had to click and watch. What I clicked onto and watched was a dance video (if you want to label it as such) called The Idea of Us, directed by Geej Ower.

What adjectives can I use to describe this film (because it’s more than just a video)… heartbreaking, melancholic, breathtaking, tender, brilliantly simple in terms of its visual language and the body language belonging to the two characters, and just drop-dead beautiful. Yes, I’m a little obsessed with it, at the moment. I’ve never experienced before, a music/dance video, that basically put me under its spell the way this one has.

After seeing the vid, I was wondering what the fuck happened. The visual storytelling was clear. No ‘ifs, ands or buts’ about what it was about. That definitely didn’t confuse me. But I was left in the wake of the emotions, the intentions, the struggles of the lead character. They stayed with me. And that was pretty powerful.

You may watch the video and wonder what the fuck I’m talking about. I’m fine with you not understanding why this visual and musical manifestation of pain, loss and the struggle to move on is a masterpiece in my eyes and my heart. I’m also fine with you not reading this post anymore for whatever reason pops into your head. Later, dude. Make sure the door doesn’t hit you in the ass on the way out.

Movement, music and visual language are my holy trinity. Get the mix just right and it is beyond sublime. Ower’s video/film does that for me. I could spend days looking at that video, examining the details. Every. Fucking. Detail. I would go at it scene by scene, frame by frame. I’m such a geek.

You’d think I was looking for secrets. Secrets to what? I haven’t a clue and I don’t know what you’re talking about. But, if you insist, I’m looking for revelations and affirmations about my own artistic sensibilities — defining or redefining it by dissecting the sensibilities of others. Who are the kindred spirits? Who inspires me without even trying? If I met them at a bar, would we end up sharing a bottle of whisky or mezcal? I’m always up for new drinking buddies, especially when they make you think, in a good way.

I want to talk about the music as much as the visuals and the movement. Sometimes it’s so hard to separate them and talk about them in isolation from one another. It’s possible but it would be so wrong. So, I’ll start off with the music and weave everything else into it.

The song is This Idea of Us by UK singer-songwriter Jono McCleery. I don’t know what to say other than the combination of acoustic guitar teamed up with a string quartet and McCleery’s vocals has given me nothing but all kinds of intense feels. The kind that gently takes you by the hand and takes you on a slow burn journey that leaves you stunned and breathless at the end.

As an side, I have to say this: As much as I love the piano, I’ve become a sucker for string instruments. Their sound brings texture, complexity and nuance to a piece of music and to the sound of other instruments. I never thought to pair a string quartet with a guitar but it was done. McCleery’s friend, Matt Kelly, wrote the string quartet part for the song. He refers to Kelly as a wizard. I would have to agree. The layers of sounds he wrote for the strings, blend so seductively with McCleery’s voice. It really is sublime. Yeah, it’s definitely one way to seduce me. How do I know Kelly wrote the music for the strings? McCleery told me when we were chatting via Twitter. How did that happen? Well, I tweeted about being obsessed with This Idea of Us and we ended up having a small discourse.

So, back to that slow burn journey. That journey is manifested in the two characters in the film. Without a doubt, the two characters are portrayed by dancers because of the quality of their movement. While it’s not quite dance, the interaction and struggle is expressed in contemporary dance movements. The choice of particular movements enhance and magnify the music, the story and the characters’ motivations. And vice versa.

The visual choices the director makes, brings out the bittersweet melancholy of the song. Overcast skies with no hint of sun. Ambient light pouring into a home where its four walls, if it could talk, would tell you stories of a love that once lived there. The light is not harsh, cruel or dim. You’re just stuck in the grey. Nothing bright and colourful except for the rich blue sweater the lead character wears in most of his scenes. The memories of the past clashing with the need to move forward bleeds in the softness of shadow and light.

I don’t even know if what I feel when I listen to the song has been appropriately conveyed. Sometimes words are not enough or they can’t do justice to the intangibles. I think my words fall somewhere in between.

And I’m going back to play the crap out of that song again because it’s not done with me yet. It probably won’t ever be done with me. So enthralled. So taken. So under its spell.

Lost in hello

I don’t write songs about a specific, elusive thing. I write about love, and everyone knows what it is like to have your heart broken — Adele

Since Friday, whenever I’m not doing anything that requires my full attention, I have been obsessively listening to Hello, the new single by British singer Adele from her forthcoming album, 25, to be released Nov. 20.

The last time I listened this obsessively to any piece of music was Adele’s Skyfall. Go figure. Yes, I love Skyfall — the song… and the movie. I won’t even wade into the discussion of the Top 10 James Bond theme songs. The verbal jousting and fisticuffs over this list has gotten very lively and pretty heated in the past. Everyone has an opinion.

Anyway, when I heard that Adele had been tapped to perform the theme song for Skyfall, I knew it was a match made in heaven. And when I heard the song, I was more than smitten.

Because it has been four years since Adele’s last album was released and three years since Skyfall, there has been a lot of anticipation from her fans as to when she would release her next album. I can’t really proclaim myself as one of her undying and adoring fans. But I am a fan nonetheless.

So, when I heard the video and single for Hello would be released this past Friday, I had to take a look ‘n’ listen. I didn’t know what to expect. I was more than pleasantly surprised… make it more like stunned.

The video blew me away. The song blew me away. It’s been awhile since I’ve been this moved. Not a long time but awhile. I’m thinking maybe a year or more. And I can’t think of when was the last time I was moved in this way. And no, it wasn’t Skyfall. It never moved me the way Hello does right now.

Let’s start with the video. As my friends know, I’m a sucker for black and white and sepia-toned images and visuals. The cinematography is stunning, textured and visceral, thanks in part to the fact that this is the first music video to use IMAX cameras for some of its shots.

Personally, I have never watched anything in an IMAX theatre because I hadn’t come across anything that would compel me enough to watch it in IMAX. Not even the Rolling Stones. Sorry, guys.

Every scene in the video is simple, breath-taking and intimate.

Before I continue on, this has to be mentioned — the choice of Tristan Wilds as Adele’s lover in the video… wow. Nice casting. A serious cutie patootie with a 100-watt smile, Wilds is an accomplished actor and musician in his own right. I won’t hold the fact he was on the reboot of 90210 against him.

So, the person to thank for the look and feel of this video is award-winning Quebecois actor and director Xavier Dolan.

I hate to admit I haven’t seen any of his work as an actor or as a director, mainly because it’s been awhile since I’ve watched a French-language film. I had heard his name before and the buzz surrounding his talent behind the camera but I never got around to seeing his work.

After a quick search for the movies Dolan has directed and a quick read of the plot lines, I’m now going to make a point of watching them. Let’s just say his films have piqued my interest and seem to align quite comfortably with my artistic and personal sensibilities.

Since its Friday release, the Hello video has been viewed well over 66 million times (and it’s still climbing). Apparently, that’s a record. Something do with breaking a Taylor Swift record for most views within a certain time period. I have no idea. I don’t keep track of this kind of stuff but I can understand why it’s been viewed so many times. It is a visually gorgeous video. I think I said something to that effect already. Doesn’t hurt to say it again.

It’s also been interesting reading the interviews the Canadian and international media have conducted with Dolan since it was revealed he was hand-picked by Adele, who is a fan of his films, to direct the music video for Hello. I think I’m just fangirling a bit with regards to Dolan. I’m just drawn to his visual storytelling sensibilities and his attention to the little details that make for a great shot.

As for the song itself, I love a great hook. And who doesn’t? Hello from the other side. I must’ve called a thousand times. And then there’s this line — It’s no secret that the both of us are running out of time. Yeah, just shoot me right now. Adele’s voice is the kind that cuts into you and shakes you to the bone. Her voice is front and center. The piano, percussion and backing vocals drape themselves around her voice. I really wasn’t expecting it to affect me the way it did when I heard it. And that’s not a bad thing. It means I still feel. It means my heart hasn’t turned to ice yet.

And strange as it may sound, it also means I’m starting to come out of the fog my head has been in since the car accident a month ago. Who would have thought that I have Adele and Xavier Dolan to thank for the fog’s slow but steady dissipation? The strangest little things. Go figure.

Now, that I’ve spent the weekend getting lost in Hello and trying to satisfy my persistent need to watch the video for the umpteenth time, I think getting back to my old self sooner than later is possible and probable.

Can’t wait.