A Note from Mel

Make the connection…

Cut Off My Arm Why Don’t You August 22, 2008

A few months back, I erased both my facebook and myspace accounts. I have to admit, it was hard for me…a person of my generation…a generation that has known computers all its life and has owned cell phones for all the years its social life has mattered. Nevertheless, my generation has also mourned the disappearance of payphones and impromptu visits from friends who just happened to be in the neighborhood.

Something is going awry. Digital social networks like those I’ve mentioned above are not supplementing or supporting relationships; they are seemingly breaking down the human component. The component that allows you, for instance, to embrace with fervor someone you haven’t seen in some time.

Human contact, human touch: oh man I missed your voice, how have you been, oh we have to catch up over lunch sometime. Isn’t this still important? Isn’t this still a vital part of being humans with emotions, traits, souls? Apparently, the creators of such networks would answer affirmatively. They have made it possible for you not only to hug your friend, but also kick them in the ass if necessary. So, all the actions of real human interactions and relationships are “seemingly” possible via these networks. But, honestly, I’d rather any friend of mine to touch my shoulder, embrace me, kiss my cheek (or lips) so that my body can actually sense it. Isn’t that still a critical part of the human experience?

It’s no wonder that many in and after my generation are seriously lacking in social skills, in building real relationships. It’s as if these digital social networks allow anyone you list as a friend not have to deal with, relate with, be confronted with the actual person. Someone who hasn’t seen you in years (and who might not care two pennies about you) can learn you got married, had 3 kids, earned a dual degree, joined a fraternity, went to the club last night, broke your arm, read a good book, and even be updated on how you claim to feel that day all by just reviewing your page. If they can do all that by just looking at your page online, what’s their motivation in calling you, stopping by, even sending you a nice email or letter just to say what’s up? Are we losing the x factor, the human factor?

I’m not exactly the most social of butterflies, but damn! Come talk to me, ring my phone, damn, ring my bell! Connect, connect, and connect some more. There is so much that is gained by relating with someone face to face, in the flesh, hearing someone’s voice rise in excitement, sing in laughter or tremble in nervousness, even in some hardship. So, yeah, I deleted my pages. I figure anyone who genuinely wants to deal with Mel has the means (i.e. telephone, email address, home address, etc.) and will happily use them. I haven’t regretted it thus far. 

So, I challenge you to rage against the machine. Call somebody you call a friend today. I challenge you to really connect like a human should.

 

Art in the University August 21, 2008

Within the same two-month span, I’ve been reading Gotz and Meyer by Jewish-Serbian writer David Albahari -b. 1948- and The Shape of Content by Lithuanian-American artist Ben Shahn (September 12, 1898 – March 14, 1969). Though the subject matter and the implications of the subject are severely different, I cannot help but find similarities between the two reading them so closely to each other. So that you can follow, I’ll briefly summarize the portions of the text relevant to these similarities.

 

Gotz and Meyer

Gotz and Meyer is a startling account of two SS servicemen during the Jewish Holocaust. The duty of Gotz and Meyer was to operate the then-latest technology in mass homicide. They picked up, transported and killed over 5,000 unknowing Jewish men, women, children and infants through the course of their service on a massive, airtight truck in which exhaust and poisonous fumes were redirected from the exhaust pipe into rear of the truck when Gotz (or Meyer) took a brief respite during the transport to cap off the pipe. The question Albahari seems to present is how can a human being, in this case Gotz or Meyer, acclimate his soul to a situation that demands of him to systematically murder over “5,000 souls” over the course of approximately 50 trips from the Jewish residences to the lifeless Fairgrounds.

 

The Shape of Content

Artists in Colleges, the first chapter of Shahn’s book, sets forth the three blocks to the development of a “mature art” especially as it pertains to artists in the somewhat non-dynamic environment of the university. The three blocks are dilettantism, fear of creativity, and a “romantic misconception” of what sort of man (or woman) the artist is. Shahn delves into the many positive and negative spaces of this literary sketch of the issues pertaining to the artist in the university community. By all means, if you’re an artist, you’d do yourself a great service to read this book.

 

The tragedy of the Holocaust, the mass murder of Jews by German Nazis, is understood without mention. With that said, I could not help but notice the systematic yet soulless nature of mass education with some exceptions of course. Many young people leave institutions of higher education less educated, if not more confused, than when they entered. It becomes even more tragic when this soulless instruction happens in the field of art. And how? Art is a field that not only involves soul, but requires it. Yet the truly original, creative artist can be rendered artless if there are strict confines that demand he conform to theory, to form, to the applications of soul as created and established by members of a canon. At what point does the modern artist live amongst real life for the soul of living things to speak themselves into his art? I don’t mean dabble. I mean really create something new and origina1! Can this really be fostered in the university environment? Could the embracing of art within the university setting be the Holocaust of the creativity of contemporary artists?

 

As an artist, I see the potential for this to take place. The bigger question is how do artist maintain the souls in the face of systematic “education?” Can we secure for ourselves that type of instruction that is personal, that seeks to know our souls, that sees the variations and depths of that soul to make more beautiful creations flourish?

 

I know it’s possible. I’ve had some instructors who have actually concerned themselves with the soul, the source of my art. But, to present these questions on a larger scale is so important in an oxymoronic world of rapid change and blind, systematic acceptance.