The Art Assignment 06: Psychological Landscape

CONTEXT:

EXECUTION:

This One

Mostly just me messing around in Powerpoint until a ground and a figure emerged, with maaaaybe a hint of critique of the assumption that I’m going to use paper.

I mean, I love paper. Paper and black pens are still 100% my jam. But I don’t have a camera or a scanner or anything, so if I want to upload a drawing for this art assignment, it’s going to have to be digital.

Here, then, is this landscape I drew; and here also is this piece of paper, who’s off having their own little adventure, not letting gravity hold them back.

We’ll catch up soon.

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The Art Assignment 05: Quietest Place

CONTEXT:

 

EXECUTION:

We’re doing poetry at the moment at uni, and I’m behind on both that and these, and just needed to write something today. So don’t judge.

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Staring at alleys that bend into darkness,

Whose cobblestones cough under leaves.

It leads to a place we don’t know.

It leads somewhere muffled in leaves.

 

Close in on the corner, the hidden new world,

Whose trees like sargassos     sway.

Maybe we are under a sea.

Maybe quiet is our little sea.

 

Somewhere deeper, a cymbal

crashes.

 

ShshshhshhshhshSHHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHHSHSHHSHSHSHSHSHSHHSHHSHSHSHHHSHSHSH

 

Stepping in sequence with every impact,

We hide inside larger sounds.

Need to hear and not to be heard.

Need to sit at the bottom, and look up.

 

ShhhhshshshshhshhshsSHHHHHHHHHHH

Shhhh.

 

Hiding in a hidden place where the sargassos sway,

The audience does not applaud.

We listen to a tune we don’t know.

We listen to the sound and the silence.

 

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Long story short, Seddon has secret drummers and maybe you are one of them?

 

Hello!

 

The Art Assignment 03: Intimate, Indispensable GIF

CONTEXT:

 

EXECUTION:
FUCKIN' ART!

It took me a while to think of something ‘indispensable’ to put here. My first thought was friends, or family. Maybe my dogs? They’re pretty damn necessary for functioning.

Man, I am gonna be all kinds of fucked up when they die.

Tiggy’s super grey these days. Limps about, spends her nights staring wistfully off into the dark of the back yard. She can’t run nearly as fast as she used to, but she still loves it. Just plodding around the park with her tongue out. Having a whale of a time. She’s still a puppy in her head. Still rolls around and plays games and manipulates us with her innocent little face when there’s food around.

Goddammit.

Anyway here’s some black pens. I’m a writer and a scribbler. I used to tell myself that the whole ‘I write better by hand than on a screen’ thing was just people being romantic about old times, but lately I’ve been writing a lot for uni, and let me tell you: some days, you just need a notebook. You need a canvas you can place down flat on a desk and then physically attack with a pen. Press down hard, carve your words into it, scratch them out even harder. Spread out, write big and write small, write notes on the sides. Re-write words over themselves to make them more legible when you can’t think of the next word. There is no delete key.

Plus you can draw in the margins. I’ve been doing a lot of drawings that incorporate small, circular holes lately. They’re at the edge of my notebooks, and while I don’t feel confident dedicating whole pages to my latest scrawl – paper and concentration are at a higher premium in university than highschool, who knew? – the margins are always a safe place to draw. Twisted faces with hollow eyes, angler fish, triangles and lines.

Writing and drawing are two things I’m always going to do. I can’t not. And outside of a computer, I need a cheap black pen to do both. Blue drawings don’t look anywhere near as cool as black ones, and blue words? Blech! I’ve got a box of 50 cheap black pens from Bic (This is the only product I’ve ever encountered that I genuinely feel happy about endorsing. Fuck yes you should buy this box of cheap pens. It’s fucking spectacular, and yes Bic, you can quote me.)

Man, that sphere-head dude is so blatantly about to murder me with that giant pen. How has he avoided capture all these years?

It’s my second one in three years and I just love them so much you spend $12 on pens one day and you are fucking set forever. I cram them into a little pouch in my backpack in bulk so there’s always a pen in easy reach. Every other, fancier kind of pen is just harder to use or too nice to haul around on the street. OR it jams. Fuck. Goddamn ‘gel pens.’ Are those still a thing? Never worth the trouble. These pens are just straight tubes of plastic. Sometimes I make a little bruise on the edge of my middle finger. Don’t even care. I will wear it as a badge of honour.

I don’t remember what it’s like to run out of black pens, and I don’t want to.

 

POST-SCRIPT:

Oh god, I just realised.

‘Indispensable.’

‘Indis – PENS – able.’

God dammit.

The Art Assignment 02: The Stakeout

CONTEXT:

EXECUTION:

On the day before my 20th birthday, I set out from my home with a backpack full of notebooks, sandwiches and secrets. This was to be my last day of ‘teen’-hood, my last teenage adventure.

I’d prepared ahead of time. My object to be planted was Joseph Conrad’s ‘The Secret Agent’. Inside was an envelope, with one edge peeking out the top of the pages. On this exposed section of envelope was written, in bold black lettering, the words ‘Hey! You!’

I was hoping that would get someone’s attention. Inside the envelope was a coded message, which when unscrambled contained a link to the video shown above. I hoped some curious person would figure it out, and then by the end of the video realise what they’d been a part of. That they’d been being watched.

ROUND ONE: ENTHUSIASTIC IRISHMAN

My first target was the outside of my local library. I hadn’t been in the area for a while, so there was an element of exploration there. Re-learning this space for a new purpose. Across from the library was a bus-stop. So long as there’s more than one bus route using a bus stop, you can sit there forever and no one will ever notice. All the witnesses are getting on and off buses. They’ll  all assume you’re waiting for the other one.

So I set down my book, leaning against a pillar, next to the bike racks, and walked away. I was terrified that a) someone would notice me leaving it, and try to intervene, or that b) someone would pick it up before I crossed to the bus stop and allowed myself to look back.

This fear turned out to be completely unfounded. I sat at that bus stop for a long time. After a little while, I started to notice people looking. Always in groups, always dragged along too quickly to stop and take a closer look. It was a frustrating time. I thought briefly about how I’d been so excited to perform this latest Art Assignment, but had never thought about the possibility of someone performing the same assignment near me. Had I , in the past few weeks, walked past an object? Some spy novel, some wrapped present, some weapon from a blatantly fictional murder?

In my notebook, I wrote ‘From now on, I’m picking up every street-book that isn’t nailed down!’

I feel I should also mention the… ‘remarkable’ man I met while waiting at the bus stop. He wore what looked like a cross between a sombrero and one of those conical hats Asian people wear in racist cartoons. He was clearly drunk, middle aged, and when it was just him and me at the bus stop he decided to teach me Gaellic. He said it was a dying language, and a good language, and instructed me to say a word that sounded kind of like ‘Shh-way-luh” to an Irishman. He said he didn’t know what it meant, but that it didn’t mean anything bad. It was good, he said. The next three people to pass us on the street, he greeted. “Shh-way-luh!” he mumbled. “Shh-way-luh!”

I smile and nod, and on my phone, I write a draft text to no-one: ‘I am going to die here.’

After I moved slightly further away from the bus stop to get away from Captain Ireland – who spoke with a broad Australian accent, by the way – an elderly man exited the library. He was thin and tall, and had a blue backpack on. He approached his bicycle in the racks beside the library steps, and stopped to look down at a little spy book leaning against a pedestal. My heart leapt. I abandoned all pretence of writing in my notebook and just stared at his back as he bent down, picked up the book, and opened it. Success! Finally! This man. This beautiful man! He’d done it, he’d broken outside of the shell we all wrap around our perceptions, to keep the world from ever touching us. I was suddenly worried that my secret code – based on a simple transposition of the QWERTY keyboard – would be incomprehensible to this older human being. Did he have a younger relative who could help him sort it out? My mind raced. He spent a good few minutes just standing there, motionless, the book and the envelope in his hands. I just kept smiling wider and wider and then of course the old prick put it back down.

What a ride! Anyway, the Irishman was gone, so I sat down at the bus stop again and ate lunch, scowling up a tempest. After a while, I crossed the road, picked up the book, and wrote on the section of the envelope that didn’t poke out of the top of the book ‘Good job! Now, take the book and the envelope to a safe place, then open them. There’s an adventure in it for you. How great are adventures? Anyway, you can do it. I believe in you!’ In retrospect, I think some of my despair at the near-miss with the old man slipped into my friendly greeting. There was a bitter sarcasm there, almost threatening. But it was too late, I only had one envelope. I put the book back down, crossed the street again, and after about twenty minutes the library closed. No one, on exiting, noticed the book.

Ten minutes later, I said ‘to hell with it’, picked the book up and walked off down the street. This time, there would be no holding back.

ROUND TWO: HARDER. BETTER. FASTER. STRONGER.

DAFT

The sun was starting to set (I started late, see. I never create art before noon. Or much else, really.) I made a beeline for the nearest train station, which was conveniently a multi-line transport hub. There’d be no end of potential art victims. I’d written off train stations initially because I figured there would be cameras, security officers, who might take offence at a suspicious book. Can you fit a bomb inside a book? I’m not sure I’d bet my life against it… But now I had a better plan. Bus stops! I’d sat at one all afternoon, watching somewhere else, when the answer had been under my butt the whole time. Loads of people, some of whom will inevitably sit there for a long time just waiting. Stick a book with a ‘Hey! You!’ in front of a bus stop and you were set. It almost felt too easy.

An old hand at this by now, I slid my spy novel underneath an anthology of student fiction, and sat down at my target bus stop. I was just an extra in the background of a scene. The woman sitting beside me was staring off to her right, the man standing out to the left was on his phone. I was invisible, and when I was sure no one was looking I propped the book up on the bench, made sure the envelope was securely in place, and walked away.

Sitting down at a tram stop down the road and across about a minute later, I held my anthology at eye level. Chin resting on my other hand, I looked as bored as I could, and within a minute someone new sat down at the bus stop. She had a friend with her, and though the book itself was out of sight I could see them, noticing it. Just like that, she’d picked it up. I felt a sudden wave of pride at my own mastery of the form. I was the Bobby Fischer  of leaving books lying around.

My quarry – and it did feel kind of scary like that, the voyeurism finally catching up with me – held the book up, and she and her friends all seemed to be discussing it. It was marvellous. The one holding the book – blue jeans, dark hair, glasses – just stared at it in her hands. I assume she had it open to the envelope, and she read it for what felt like a long time. I was trying to spend my time equally between watching her and staring at my prop book. Eye contact at that stage might have been… suggestive?

After a while, a red van rolled up next to the bus stop, obscuring my view. I wasn’t worried. There’d been buses parked in front of me half the time at my other spot. I was mostly thinking excitedly about whether or not she’d put it in her bag. She seemed interested – surely she wouldn’t just put it down. I’d left a note! Surely  – and the van pulled away. Just in time, too. If it had stayed a moment longer I’d have missed her dropping my envelope in the bin.

Bin

My mind reeled. But… But you can’t! All that time, all that trust, and she’d just thrown it out. This stranger, this case study of humanity circa 2014, found a mysterious envelope promising adventure and intrigue, and threw it away. For a long time I just sat there, gawping. My chin hung cartoonishly low.

But here’s the kicker: She kept reading the book! The whole time I was sitting there, winded, she was staring intently down at the tome in her hands. Every minute or so she’d quickly flip the page. I was shocked. To be honest, the book had always been packaging to me. I’d never read it, just picked it out from a small bookshop in exchange for donating two canvas bags of childhood favourites, and hence forgotten about. I picked it as something solid-looking to leave lying on the ground, and the fact that it seemed vaguely to do with spies and espionage made it all the more perfect. But it was just that, window-dressing.

Not for Bluejeans Darkhair though. She seemed positively engrossed. Maybe she was into that kind of book. I felt – after all the trauma of seeing my elaborate spy message fall into oblivion – a little bit good about it. If I could go back, maybe in stead of my passive-aggressive offer of adventure, I’d just write: “Hey! Thanks for picking it up. So many people don’t. You’re a special person. Enjoy the free book!”

What’s more, it was kind of fantastic, that I’d been made the Watcher; such a powerful, dangerous mantle to wear – and this woman had just walked right in off the street and ruined me. It was such a perfect shift in the balance of power between characters – a ‘beat’ as I was taught in film school. Too elegant for real life, this. I also comforted myself thinking about why she had thrown out the letter. I decided she must be the kind of person who’s already had enough bullshit adventures. This lady’s got nothing to prove, no missed opportunities floating around in her psyche. She’s happy with her life just the way it is, so hand over the vaguely noir hardback and good day to you.

The kids in every Evil-Dead-like could learn a lesson from this one.

In the end, I crossed back to their side of the street, and threw a piece of rubbish into the bin where my letter lay forgotten. I passed within a metre of my target. I imagined how crazy you’d have to be, to suspect that this random person walking past the bus stop had been staking out the book you just found. That all this was part of a plan. A spy novel.

So yeah, that was my last day of being a teenager.

God willing, I’ll remember it for a while.

The Art Assignment 01: Meet in the Middle

CONTEXT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9lpMFPEj58

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It’s 10:30 at night. My sister is sitting on her bed, eyes locked on her laptop. Two small dogs lie peacefully at her feet. In all probability, not much is going on. I don’t know, I’m not there.
At 10:33, my sister’s phone hums to life. My name is on the screen. She opens the text.
‘Sis,’ it reads. ‘The X in the hallway. 3 minutes. Bring the kettle.’ The reference flies straight over my sister’s head, but that’s fine. She texts back.
‘X in the hallway?’ A moment passes. The dogs snore on.
‘You’ll know what to do when the time comes.’
Our communication ends.

Placing her laptop down beside her, gently pulling her feet out from under the morass of blanket and disgruntled dogs, my sister cautiously steps out into the dark hallway.
‘The X in the hallway’ she remembers. What X? She casts her eyes around, and then reaches for the light switch. The hallway snaps to a muted amber. There is a white X taped to the floorboards, halfway between her room and my own. If this is a reference, my sister doesn’t get it. But that’s okay. She remembers the rest of the text.
‘3 minutes. Bring the kettle.’ She makes a left out of the corridor.There is 1 minute left.

Stepping into the kitchen, my sister finds the kettle – recently boiled. Something strange is happening.
She turns back, rounding the corner, taking in once again the soft tungsten hallway, and finally spots me. At the far end of the hall, I step briskly out my bedroom door. A six-foot-one ginger scarecrow, wearing my usual t-shirt and jeans with the addition of a fancy tuxedo jacket that I found in my wardrobe moments prior. It seemed… suitably ridiculous. And it works! My sister is already laughing.
In silence, struggling to contain my own laughter, I approach the X. There is a mug clenched in my right hand. My sister, still giggling away, walks over to meet me.

At the exact half-way point between our two rooms, I take the kettle from my sister, and pour boiling water over the instant coffee granules in my mug. She’s still laughing as I hand her back the kettle.
‘Wait,’ I say, gesturing for her to stay a moment. I reach into the breast pocket of my suitably ridiculous tuxedo jacket, and withdraw a small rectangle of A4 paper. I hand it to my sister, and return wordlessly back to my room. My performance is finished.

My sister looks down at the little card. It is blank, but for the hand-written missive:

Fuckin’ ART!

And in the moment of climactic WTF?! that follows – I can only hope – a lasting memory is formed.

So… yeah. Fuckin’ ART!