Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sometimes, It Just Needs To Be Said

I was going to write and post a piece on being a dick on and around college campuses, plus one on the role of the wonderweb in our culture. I will still do that, I promise, but something on my facebook page caught my eye. Well, two somethings really. You see, my network of friends tends to use the site as a way to share news, ideas, artwork and other little items. This is particularly true for my gigantic extended family. Often, facebook serves the function of a huge breakfast table for us, where we are constantly passing the paper back and forth and discussing its contents (O.K. I admit it’s usually more like bickering than discussing, but you get the point). Anyway, given the content of these two items, and the reaction they prompted in me, I felt as though it would be worth it to put those other posts on hold and discuss something urgent.

In the course of 20 minutes, two separate news articles have popped up on my newsfeed. Both detail the suicides of thirteen year old boys who were bullied by classmates and other peers. One, a young gay man, hanged himself in his backyard and spent nine days on life support before dying. The other shot himself in the head after enduring years of bullying*. I cannot state the following enough: They. Were. Both. Just. Thirteen. Years. Old. Take a minute and let that sink in. Imagine yourself at thirteen. Imagine the thirteen year olds you know now. Imagine anyone at that age deciding that their entire futures could hold nothing for them outside the pain of being bullied. Now, what are you going to do about that?

I know it may be easy to dismiss these stories as tragic one offs or random occurrences, or to point toward the victims individual differences, or even to simply look at the articles and consider how terrible some middle school kids can be and then move on with your life, but I think we’ve all been doing that for too long. I think we tend to do this because it is positively gut wrenching to consider how we, as adults in the world, tend to allow bullying and torturing to occur right beneath our noses. I wish it was easier to examine these issues with ourselves in mind, but it is not. We also might be tempted to turn events such as these into niche events which only affect a subset of kids, such as in this case where both victims were gay, and begin a campaign of protection for that particular subset. While I do think that campaigning for any group which is discriminated against is totally worthwhile and necessary, I do not think that such an action would really help us in this particular discussion.

You see, I believe that we all have an active role in perpetuating the mentality that anything which is different, or cannot be related to ourselves in some way, is, at best, something to be merely tolerated, and, at worse, something which is worthy of our scorn. We have learned, as a society, that it is polite to ignore differences, to avoid examining them and discussing them, and we have also, perhaps as a result of this, learned to tolerate others when they are hateful. Time and time again we are warned not to get involved in that which does not already involve us, and I think that it is this sort of caution that is helping to perpetuate a complex and widespread problem.

I am certain that, over the course of our adult lives, we have all witnessed an interaction or overheard a conversation which did not sit right with us. Perhaps it was a relative or friend using a racial slur, or a stranger using hateful speech. Maybe you’ve witnessed a fist fight between kids. I am certain that we have all, at one time or another, turned a blind eye or deaf ear to this and continued on our ways. I think this is particularly easy to do in situations where teenagers are being horrid to one another because it is easy to dismiss these occurrences as being typical of kids who are trying on different personas. I understand that kids often break away from their parents and seek out their own individuality by vacillating wildly to the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, so it can be easy to simply ignore these behaviors.

However, I think that, when we ignore that girl at the mall who thinks it’s hysterically funny to call another girl a whore or that boy at the bus stop who seems to punctuate every insult levied at a friend with the word faggot, we are doing these kids, and ourselves, a disservice. This also rings true for those times when a relative or friend uses an epithet in jest and we merely avert our eyes and make an internal excuse for their language and behavior. You see, whenever we allow this sort of hateful language to permeate our environment, we are sending a subtle message to kids that it is O.K. to be hateful. Sure, it may be uncomfortable to confront someone, but it has got to be less uncomfortable than contemplating the death of a thirteen year old child.

Perhaps we don’t intervene because we don’t feel as though we can really affect any change. I can understand this as well. It is easy to get caught up in the idea that we are helpless to change another person, much less the world. However, let me share something with you here. I was bullied mercilessly once upon a time. I was teased, chased, beaten and even had my clothes ripped off. Most of these things happened on busy city streets, in broad daylight. If even one adult had stopped to help me it would have meant the world to me at the time because it would have meant, in the very least, a moment of respite. Furthermore, as an adult, I can look back and understand that my tormenters were just as scared and insecure as I was, if not more so and maybe that is key. By ignoring kids when they bully out of their own insecurities, we merely perpetuate those fears when we ought to be modeling what a truly secure adult does when they see something which they know is wrong.

I know that this is quite a ramble, but what I am trying to say is simple. It is time for us all to grow up, be adults, and take control. It is not enough for us to simply avoid being bullies in our own lives, but we must do whatever we can to confront hatred and vitriol when it stumbles into our paths. We are all beings in this world, and we are all responsible, be it actively or passively, for how it operates. Can we please all agree to be a little more active in helping to stop tragedies like the ones that I have mentioned from occurring?

_Shannon (Who has nothing witty to say about this)

*To learn more about the boys mentioned above, follow the links below.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Our friend Jen has a beautiful fashion blog over at Go look at it for hours. Be prepared to swoon.


How TO Be A Dick: Restaurant Edition

I was going to begin, as promised below, writing a regular column explaining how not to be a dick. However, when I thought about it carefully, perhaps I had it backward. Maybe, and I have a ton of anecdotal evidence to support this, people want to be dicks. Who am I to tell them they can't? Well, if you ask them, I am a no body and should mind my own f**king business. We all know that is out the question, so I decided to give advice, instead, on how to be a dick. Enjoy.

Ten Easy Steps To Being A Total Dick While Dining Out

1.Please respond to all questions by staff with total non sequiturs. Examples of this include responding to the host/hostess's greeting of “Hi. How are you”, with a number or the word “boof”, and responding to your server's inquiry into your well being with something like “Ice Tea!” or “Bread!”. Bonus points if you can make it through your entire meal without ever responding appropriately to a direct question.

2.Never, ever, for any reason, use a complete sentence when addressing a staff member. This rule builds nicely off of tip #1. Basically, you want to respond to each new question, comment or inquisitive glance with a one word response such as “fine!” or “Steak!”. Advanced diners are capable of not only following this guideline, but of reducing most responses to mere grunts.

3.Once you've mastered the skills listed above, you can graduate to the advanced class of diners by gradually replacing words and grunts with gestures and signs. Signal the host that you've got two people in your party by simply waving something like a peace sign in the air (that's two fingers held aloft for those of you who don't know). Need a new drink? Easy. Just wave your glass in the air like you're having a seizure in your dominant arm until someone notices and fetches your refill. We all know the sign for “check please”, so always be sure to invent some sort of new, unintelligible sign for that so you can progress more easily to step 4.

4.Always, always be annoyed by anything and everything that occurs during the course of your meal. If your well done steak takes more than 3 minutes to prepare, you should immediately begin squirming, sighing, looking at your watch in an exaggerated manner (bonus points if you're not actually wearing a watch) and gesturing wildly for attention. If your food comes out quickly, make a dramatic show out of moving your salad or bread plate out of the way before suspiciously examining your plate for signs of error. Should your server pick up on your annoyance and offer to hold your food for you until you are ready, huffily inform her that you know she will just let your food rot under a heat lamp and that is unacceptable.

5.Eat every single thing you are offered with gusto and joy. Be so enthusiastic about this that whenever a staff member comes near your table to ask how you like everything, your mouth is so full of food that they cannot understand a single word you are saying and must duck to avoid being splattered with your half masticated wild wing zingers. Then, when you've licked your plate clean, proceed to loudly comment to your dining companions that you've tasted better slop in a greyhound bathroom. Since you'll be doing this as soon as your server turns his back, he will turn around and ask again if everything is ok. Tell him it is with an odd smile before finding and cornering the manager on duty and berating them endlessly about how awful the food is. Refuse any form of compensation for this and threaten to never return. Repeat this step with the free desert they bring you.

6.There is never, ever, ever, enough alcohol in your drink! This is easy with froufrou girl candy drinks like strawberry daiquiris because they are specially formulated so you can't really taste the liquor. Don't let this stop you though. Take half a sip, smell your drink dramatically and begin hysterically berating the bartender for trying to rip you off by not putting enough booze in there. Repeat this step over and over until you are sipping straight 151 through a straw. Alternately, order a single malt scotch, down the whole thing rapidly and then proceed to scream that you've been poisoned/given dummy liquor/ it tastes like burning until a manager comes over an offers to comp your drink.

7.Not a drinker? Easy. Simply come up with some bizarre concoction of soft drinks and give it a random name which is only known to you. When you receive a blank stare of confusion from your server, become agitated by their stupidity at not knowing what you are talking about and proceed to explain said drink as slowly and clearly as possible. Visualize explaining the ingredients to the love child of Corky from Life Goes On and Helen Keller. For example: “*sigh* A. Tom. Arnold. Is. One. Third. Coke. One. Third. Lemonade. And. One. Third. Coffee. Creamer. With. Exactly. 7. Ice. Cubes." When the server delivers it, utilize the skills in step 6 to repeatedly send them back and forth from the kitchen.

8.Always treat the staff as though they are nothing but sex objects. It doesn't matter if you're dining at The Four Seasons, Hooters, or IHOP. They are all there for you to flirt with, hit on and fondle. Cute waitress? No problem. Touch her every time she comes to the table, becoming more aggressive each time. Pepper your comments about the food with comments about how much more delicious she would be. Never give this up. If she stops coming to the table and, instead, sends a male coworker, start hitting on him. See a cook you like? Go on and on to your server about how hot he is. Use archaic expressions like “I wouldn't kick him out of bed for eating crackers.” Repeatedly try to get your server to get his number for you. Alternately, hit on your server by showing off how much more wealthy and educated you are. Do this by telling her at every possible moment that she would never have to wait another table again if you could have her. This last one works best if you are wearing a dirty wife beater and have not showered for a month.

9.Tipping is for fools and you know it, but you're going to hold the tip over your server's head for the entire time you are dining. When he greats you, tell him you want a perfect experience but not to worry, you will “take care of him”. If your server forgets something or your food comes out wrong, loudly proclaim “there goes your tip, sweetheart.”. Reference the tip at every single possible moment. Then, when the bill comes, leave nothing. Best. Practical. Joke. Ever.

10. Finally, now that you have made your night out a thrill for all involved, it's time to go home. You're probably pretty full, drunk and worn out by now, but don't forget the final step. Retain your receipt. Why? Because most mid level restaurants have websites where, with a tiny bit of effort, you can send comments to the owner/corporate office and receive free stuff in return. Simply type in the listed URL, log in and begin collecting free food. This is more effective if you have nothing at all positive to say, so simply pretend that your steak took too long, the food was awful, your drink was wrong and the server was cold and you'll be dining on easy street for a very long time to come. Bonus points if you can actually get someone fired or demoted in the process.

Shannon (Who Changes Her Name To HeyYouGirl Every Time She Goes To Work)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Coming Now: How Not To Be A Dick, Or Some Unsolicited Advice On Etiquette

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about etiquette and how it can be a helpful guideline in navigating awkward or uncomfortable situations, as well as a source of confusion and amusement, depending upon the source of advice. I have been toying with the idea of starting an etiquette column in the blog for a while now as I seem to be encountering more and more serious breaches of etiquette in my daily life as a student, waitress and human being. Obviously, as you are reading this, you can figure out that I have decided to go ahead and do it. However, I want to point out that I am not going to be discussing which fork to use or how to properly unfold a napkin. Although I can tell you those things, and will if people want me to, I don't feel as though they are the most important elements of etiquette and feel very strongly that an unnecessary focus on them takes the focus away from the truly important central idea behind etiquette. Basically, etiquette is all about kindness and furthering a sense of people respecting others as human beings. In other words it can be a helpful way to know how not to be a dick, which, as anyone who has ever been in public knows, can be a very tricky thing. On that note, I will be taking a few posts each month and focusing on a specific instance or set of instances where it seems as though many people struggle to understand how they should conduct themselves. If there are specific things which you want to know about, simply comment on a post and I will do my best to answer. I am a bit of a nut for these things and have collected a great many antique and modern books on the subject as well as having a great deal of experience working with the general public and observing behaviors. I am not an expert by any stretch, but my interest in the topic is one that makes it fun to research and gain understanding. So there you have it. Without further ado, the first addition will be posted above.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Are The Pixies Our Beatles? Or How One Band Might Be That Which Makes Us Look Good

There are, essentially, two kinds of people in this world: those who like music and those who LIKE MUSIC*. The first group is comprised mostly of those who will listen to whatever is available with interest and occasionally buy an album or attend a concert if the band or artist is catchy enough. These are the sorts of folks who make things like top 40 radio and easy listening possible. They want something that is catchy and fun and blends well into the background. Most of the American population is comprised of such people so, obviously, they are not the focus of this post. The second group, those who LOVE MUSIC with 10,000 exclamation marks, are the sorts of people you see twitching outside the record store at 10:59am on new release Tuesdays and overhear bragging about that totally sick super secret show they managed to see one time by accident. These people don't have favorite bands so much as obsessions which can be categorized, sub categorized and cataloged into top and bottom fives by theme, subject, genre, sub genre and key. I find those in the latter group to be fascinating and often quite pretty**, but that is also not what this post is about. This post is about the fact that for most music geeks, there are at least one or two bands that stick with them for their entire lifetime. Despite their fickle, new music seeking, nature, every music geek I know has some perennial obsessions which follow them everywhere.

For me, The Pixies are one of those bands. I can't even remember when I first became aware of them, but it seems as though they have always been there, rotating perpetually through my internal soundtrack and serving as a kind of musical reference point in my personal history. They have, at times, been a source of awe, a source of pleasure and a source of release. What they have never been, until this week, is a band that I have been successful at seeing live. My inability to attend a Pixies show was not for lack of desire or lack of trying, but it just never seemed to work out. Until, that is, a The Dead Guy mentioned to me in passing one night that he wished the Pixies would get back together and tour again (along with Primus and Tool). I laughed at the idea that night and was shocked the next morning to find an email from ticketmaster announcing that not only had The Pixies reformed for a tour, but that tickets for the local show were going on sale in 25 minutes. This news was red alert important to me. So much so that I bolted through the house in my underwear to secure a credit card with which to purchase tickets and purchase them I did.

In the weeks leading up to the show I became increasingly excited and concerned. What if they were too old to be good? What if my seats sucked? What if I was eaten by a dingo on the way to the show? Alas, none of those things happened and I was treated to what was probably one of the best shows of my life. I should point out, however, that they are indeed old, but they definitely do not suck. They don't jump around a lot of stage or engage in wild theatrics, but that's kind of what we all love the Pixies for anyway, right? I should also point out that none of the seats at the Tower are bad, famously so, and that ours were especially not bad. And finally, in the disclaimers section, I need to state that, as far as I know, there are no dingos in North America, so that was never really a true threat.

Anyway, so there I was, seated primly in my big girl seat in a grown up theater and commenting to my partner that I felt so sophisticated seeing a band in a place like that, when stage lit up and Salvador Dali's film Un Chien Andalou began to play at alternating speeds and resolutions as the house lights went down. After 10 minute or so of eye ball slicing and attempted molestations, the screen went blank, the room went quiet and then exploded and the Pixies were on stage. It was at this moment that I realized just how lucky I was to be there, seeing a band that I thought I would never get to see.

In keeping with tradition, I won't say much about the set, except that anyone seeing the tour can expect to hear more than just songs from Dolittle, despite the fact that the tour is billed as The Pixies Perform Doolittle. Instead, I will say that I had a pretty emotional reaction to the show. Basically, this all started two nights before, when I saw the Breeders and was sent into a spiral of gratitude at how far removed I have become from the insecure and overweight 13 year old girl I once was. With the Pixies, I could not help but think about how many times they provided a soundtrack for the adventures and experiences that have helped me to become who I am. They have been with me through prom night disasters, gonzo like explorations of the American highway system, squat house sleepovers and a million awkward, clumsy, and downright embarrassing moments. Their albums and singles have been played, discussed and argued about over beers, in bars, in the woods, at parties and over some elicit substances for nearly 20 years.

It's this kind of longevity that makes them true giants in the cluttered landscape of modern rock fandom. As our generation moves as awkwardly and clumsily through adulthood as we did through adolescence, I can not help but think that The Pixies are, perhaps, one of those bands that will end up like The Beatles or Jimi Hendrix to baby boomers in that they will always be on the radar of our consciousness and the consciousness of those generations which come after us. Our media is cluttered with articles and soundbites about the failure of generations X and Y to move forward, settle down, settle in and grow up. Perhaps, and I truly hope I am right here, we will one day look back on The Pixies*** as one of those bands which are so embedded into our culture that everyone grows up with some knowledge of them, however peripheral, because in a cultural climate which is full of disposable icons and dissipating fads, they deliver something which, I think, all human beings are hungry for: a musical reference point for that which is good about us when most of focus is on that which has failed.

-Shannon (Whose Manta Ray is Alright)

*There is, admittedly a small subset of this group which is comprised of people who claim not to like music at all. They are obviously robots and not to be trusted.

**I may or may not be referring to myself here.

***See Also: REM.

The Lack Of Vision In Conceptual Design

The art movement known as conceptual art is said, by most art historians, to have began in the 1960's. However, its roots can be traced back to the Dada Movement, which began in Zurich Switzerland during World War I, and its use of ready-made objects. The idea of conceptual art was born out of the contention that art should examine its own nature. Most art historians would point to works such as Marcel Duchamp's readymades, for instance: the Bicycle Wheel and Fountain, to be the epitome of the conceptual art movement. Duchamp remarked in interviews many times that his selection of his readymades came from a sensation of "visual indifference," and that " was always the idea that came first, not the visual example.” This idea was reinforced in 1967 by conceptual artist Sol LeWitt's “Paragraphs on conceptual art”, where he wrote: “In conceptual art, the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” Joseph Kosuth later added in his 1969 essay, Art after Philosophy, that, "With the unassisted Ready-made, art changed its focus from the form of the language to what was being said. Which means that it changed the nature of art from a question of morphology to a question of function. This change – one from “appearance” to “conception” – was the beginning of “modern” art and the beginning of conceptual art. All art, after Duchamp, is conceptual in nature because art only exists conceptually.”

The problem with conceptual art is that it takes the idea of what is known as “anti-art” to absurd and extreme lengths. It allows it to become pretentious, tasteless, and most of all unoriginal. It has become a “dead art” that offers very little to its audience except for tired nihilistic, in-your-face, shock-and-awe tactics that lack artistic credibility. Nihilism has no place in the art world. Although I do believe that art should have no rules or boundaries, it should be a vehicle of communication used to express meaning, purpose, and intrinsic value. Art should be more than just a concept or idea. Historically, art has been something known to speak to the deepest level of human existence. As Alex Grey wrote in his book The Mission of Art, “When artists give form to revelation, their art can advance, deepen, and potentially transform the consciousness of their community.” Conceptual art, although at times quite intriguing, has the tendency to confuse rather than liberate the human psyche. As a result, it has become fraught with stoic nihilism, which has not furthered our community's ability to evolve. This is due to conceptual art’s tendency to overvalue the idea, or concept, allowing it to take precedence over the rest of the creative process. Consequently, conceptual art has failed humanity on an epic scale, for its lack of spiritual sustenance and artistic vision. This is a travesty. An audience needs more than just the initial idea from the artist. What the audience needs is to witness the evolution of the transcendental visions that are bestowed upon the artistic individual, or for the artist, at least, to capture and preserve it in their body of work. In other words, art should aid in promoting the celebration of life through the entire creative process, not just the concept. It is precisely this problem that collegiate art schools perpetuate when they teach students outdated and banal conceptual art theories. An idea that lacks vision and a lucid message is hollow and worthless to the community. It is because of this that conceptual art has become nothing more than, "aesthetic masturbation without communication".

Art was once an evolutionary process of artistic development which allowed an artist to develop and sharpen their techniques while learning how to utilize their aesthetic knowledge to communicate a personal or, sometimes trans personal, vision. These are the very ideals that collegiate institutions threw away with the inception of conceptual art theory. There is no point in having a vision in conceptual art since the concept is given precedent over the process, the outcome, and the final work. Hence, the reason why many conceptual art installations are not even constructed by the artists who conceive them, but rather hired hands, further contributing to the detachment of the artists to the audience. Terence McKenna once said, "Art's task is to save the soul of mankind…anything else is a dithering while Rome burns.” conceptual art has become precisely the “dithering” that McKenna forewarn us of. Consequently, conceptual art has lost touch with it's audience, leaving the viewer with nothing more than a contrived and undeveloped message, if one even exists at all, and more confused then when they entered the gallery, and likely never to return again, except to propagate a false image of being a civilized intellectual who “gets it”. A work of art should enlighten the viewer by challenging its audience to think differently. It must liberate the mind, not just confuse and shock it. As Keith Haring once said, “I don't think art is propaganda; it should be something that liberates the soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further. It celebrates humanity instead of manipulating it.” conceptual art does not challenge its audience, but alienates it by mocking and confusing it's viewers with its intriguing, yet vague, and undeveloped ideas.

This may be the reason why the head of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Ivan Massow, said that most conceptual art was, "pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat" that is, “all hype and no substance.” This honest insight led conceptual artist, and former Turner Prize nominee, Tracey Emin to call for his resignation. However, In defense of Massow, The Stuckist, a International group of painters, responded by also calling it “pretentious” plus, “unremarkable and boring" and even responded creatively by leaving a coffin outside the White Cube gallery, marked "The Death of conceptual art". The Stuckists have asserted that conceptual art was warranted by the work of Marcel Duchamp, but that Duchamp's work was "anti-art by intent and effect". The Stuckists feel that "Duchamp's work was a protest against the stale, unthinking artistic establishment of his day", while "the great, but wholly unintentional, irony of postmodernism is that it is a direct equivalent of the conformist, unoriginal, establishment that Duchamp attacked in the first place." This puts the art students at a disadvantage when it comes to questioning conceptual art theory, because they fear that if they question their professor, they will receive bad marks. As a result, some art students will either drop out, lose their passion by graduation, or develop an unquestioning allegiance to their Alma Mater while perpetuating the dogmatic elitist ideals of the institution. This is a dreadful problem since a true artist, as a rule, should never hold an allegiance to any institution, be it political or educational. It should be the mission, which even the Dadaists; who are responsible for conceptual art have shown, is to question authority unequivocally and the systems of control that govern it.

Teachers who solely teach conceptual art in art schools cheapen the learning experience, not allowing their students to fully develop and evolve an idea to completion naturally. As a result, a lot of the students get frustrated and stressed out by an overwhelming work load that becomes devoid of the passion they once possessed, while being forced to quickly come up with a concept that never has a chance to gain a vision and a concise message. As a result these students spirits are slowly drained of all passion, producing nothing but more conceptual artists who continually perpetuate a “dead” art form. Subsequently, this allows the learning experience tp becomes very narrow and systematic, as conceptual thinking becomes dominate and creative thinking becomes ephemeral. Art schools should be teaching what will become the future of art, not the past. conceptual art has been around for almost a century, and if art teachers believe that conceptual art is the future of art then art will inevitably have no future. It is important to point out that art schools do not solely teach conceptual art theory, but many teachers may have a tendency to encourage their students to think conceptually since it is the art form that dominates the landscape that the students are trying to assimilate into.

If there is a future for art that teachers should take notice of, and maybe even fear, it would probably be the visionary art movement, which, slowly but surely, is starting to gain momentum. Art galleries, such as the Museum of Modern Art, are beginning to take notice of the visionary art movement, which may offer its audience what they’ve been searching for; an art movement with a progressive spiritual message of unity and a interconnectedness with nature. The American visionary art Museum, for its own purposes, defines visionary art as, "art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself." This shift is taking place right now in the contemporary art world. One example of this is the sold out Tim Burton exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Tim Burton has been referred to as a “Visionary Director” a number of times because of his use of Gothic, surrealistic, themes and images. Also his movies include archetypes, a favorite theme of visionary artists, such as the outcast protagonist of Jack Skelington in A Nightmare Before Christmas. A complete retrospective of a visionary art director would have been unthinkable 10-20 years ago, with conceptual art's stranglehold on the Contemporary Art world.

Many artists feel they are dealing with a ever increasing audience of vicarious Philistines who do nothing but binge on fast-food and reality T.V. while basking in the enjoyment of other peoples suffering. Therefore, conceptual art may have inadvertently expressed the vicarious and nihilistic nature that has consumed our culture for the last 50 years, but it has never offered any insight into how to reverse this dehumanization. In contrast, visionary art provides the soul of mankind with the spiritual nourishment that it desires. It is inarguable that the world around us is undergoing monumental changes, both socially and environmentally, which some members of the visionary art movement see as an attempt to prepare humanity for our next evolutionary stage, whether it be physical, psychological or both. Symbolism, Surrealism and Psychedelic Art are considered to be direct precursors to contemporary visionary art. As a Result, visionary artist have been tremendously intrigued by new developments in the fields of psychology and neurology by scientists such a Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Rick Strassman, who are examining the same uncharted territory of human consciousness and imagination practically parallel to the visionary art movement.

V.S. Ramachandran and William Hirstein began to explore this in their paper “The Science of Art: A Neurological Theory of Aesthetic Experience“, which presents what may be the, “first experiments ever designed to empirically investigate the question of how the brain responds to art.” It is possible that some artists may take offense to scientists trying to objectively examine the subjective nature of art, but the insight that has been provided by these experiments has given us a preliminary understanding of what may separate artists from the rest of the population neurologically. And how the brain physiologically responds to the aesthetics of form and color, which Kandinsky once proposed as the “two weapons” that “painting has at her disposal.” Their research has begun to provide actual answers to the age old philosophical question “What is Art?” by attempting to discover, “universal laws of art.” What Ramachandran came up with was what he calls the, “Eight laws of artistic experience”. In the essay Ramachandran remarked that, “Although we initially proposed these ‘laws’ in a playful spirit, we were persuaded that there is enough merit in them to warrant publication in a philosophical journal. If the essay succeeds in stimulating a dialogue between artists, visual physiologists and evolutionary biologists, it will have adequately served its purpose.” Ramachandran study of the human brain has also lead him to refute the idea of C.P Snow that the when it comes to the two cultures of the humanities and science “never the twain shall meet.” He demonstrated this at a recent Ted talk with his lecture entitled “The neurons that shaped civilization” where he demonstrated that, “within the human brain lies an interface” which can do precisely what Snow said should not be done. Ramachandran study of how the brain responds to art has even enhanced his own appreciation of visual art. The discoveries of these scientists has been fueling the fire of interest in minds all over the world. And what is being proposed within art and science is that understanding consciousness maybe the Holy Grail; to fully understand human culture and civilization. visionary art points us in that direction, which makes it more relevant and contemporary then conceptual art.

If we were to go back to the inception of conceptual art it would not have started during or after World War II, as most art historians contend, but prior. The ready-mades, which were made famous by artists such as Marcel Duchamp, date back to 1917 with Fountain. Therefore, An Art movement that has roots which can be traced back almost a century can hardly still be considered contemporary. This does not cheapen the importance of such artistic seers as Marcel Duchamp, but reinforces the artistic virtue of originality. As Josie Appleton wrote in his article conceptual art: What's the idea?, “What Duchamp did at least had the virtue of being original - up until that point, the issue of how we define art had not been questioned in such a dramatic way.” However, “Among those who followed him, this game of naming art objects became a little tired. Rather than explore ways of representing experiences or ideas, it became a matter of showing up the arbitrariness of systems of naming: presenting a plastic cup and calling it 'tree', for example.”

This age of Postmodernism and deconstructionism has totally baffled anyone trying to gain a deeper appreciation of art. To design a work with the wholly intention to offend the viewer is fundamentally different than designing a work of art that calls for a convention to be question. The difference of the matter lies solely with the action of intent. A conceptual artists who intended goal is solely to offend the viewer seems fundamentally pointless. It seems as though that the whole idea behind conceptual art is that the intent of a work is either secondary or even meaningless, and that the original idea, or concept, is the only thing that matters. The artist is a unique individual who is praised for their ability to question everything, especially conventions, but great artists, as a virtue, should try to evoke the same questioning in the viewer in order to evolve an idea within a society. If the idea is the only thing that matters, than any evolution of that idea would seem to be blasphemy to the conceptual artist. This presents a problem since most of the people who want to appreciate art are ridiculed by the conceptual artist for wanting to gain a transcendental shift in conciseness.

Conceptual art has lead humanity astray, and down a spiritually blind ally of nihilism and disenchantment. Offering us no glimpse of our collective future, and affording us no remedy to our dehumanization. In a lecture about creativity, Terrence Mckenna summarized the history of art, and the evolution from the archaic societies that first utilized it. Mckenna went on to point out the shamanic element of the artists who, much like the shaman, emerged himself in the visual realms of consciousness and brings back the artifacts of the imagination in the form of objects of art: painting, sculptures, clay pots ect. It is this mystical element, an alchemical experimentation with the irrational and unknown, as Mckenna stated, that has either been, “suppressed or forgotten.”. This fascination with the mystical has reared it head sporadically through art history since the Renaissance, first with the Romantics, and then again later on in the 20th century with Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. Art, like music, may have may themes and stories running through it, but like music what is always present in the highest level of art is an emotional resonance that should spur an Apocalypse of one's soul. As we speak, the world is undergoing a psychological apocalypse that is resonating on the deepest level of humanity, the world soul. It seems as though the world is collapsing, because all of the things that have even been given value in our society are beginning to be exposed as mere concepts. Money, laws, rights and the human ego; these are nothing more that concepts of human imagination and therefore have no basis in the real world of nature. It seems inevitable that conceptual art be subject to the same observation and should be allowed to be questioned. It has accomplished what it could for art history, and should be celebrated as it is added to the annals of history, but not until it releases it's grip around the throat of the art world.

Visionary artists, such as Alex Grey, are now using universal religious symbols and themes in order to unify the world in a search for the similarities linking all world religions, in hopes of promoting religious open-mindedness. conceptual art offers no evolutionary spring board to catapult our species to where we should be at this stage in our evolution, no longer making it relevant to “intelligent civilized humans in the twenty first century”. Consequently, if the institution of the collegiate art school does not undergo a long overdue evolution of its own artistic ideals and virtue, it will inevitably crumble with the rest of the world. What art schools should be doing is encouraging their students to develop and pursue their own personal vision, and also encourage artists to work together to create a collective vision to liberate humanity from the clutches of convention. It seems disingenuous for art schools to encourage students to conform their art to whatever happens to be the most successful art movement at that time. This kind of thinking is what has made the art world so stagnate recently. Some art teachers must relies that they are doing the art world an incredible disservice when they elect to create successful artists instead of encouraging artists to be unique and novel. It seems as though some teachers are robing their students of the power to insight change that can transform the art world, by teaching them that this is how art world is, and there is nothing that you can do about it. It is a travesty that the art world has become more concerned with who you know and what school you went to then what you can actually do. The art school, much like all collegiate institutions, has become first a formerly a business, and like any other college you must convince perspective students and their parents, who are most likely footing the bill, that going to this particular school is a investment in the success of the student. Thus perpetuating the American ideal that success can only be measured in dollars.

One of the greatest skills of artists is to think creatively, and what I mean by that is artists are not afraid to try new things or make mistakes, therefore novelty is not only the essence of the creative process, but the essential provocation of the universe. Many artists in the past have felt a deep connection to the universe and that if you are doing the will of the universe you can do no wrong. The idea of a mistake is just another construct of the conceptual mind and should be thoroughly renounced by artists. The late great Jackson Pollock believed their were no such thing as mistakes, which made it possible for him to suspend any interest to "do things right". conceptual art elevates and worships the Ego of the individual artists, and disregards the tao of the universe which makes this all possible in the first place. Artists are the cosmonaut that we rely on to give us a deeper appreciation and understanding of the universe. they present the individual as a microcosm that will lead the way. V.S. Ramachandran had stated that, “it has been calculated that the number of permutations and combinations of brain activity exceeds the number of elementary particles in the universe.” I believe this makes exploration of the inner world just as important as exploration of the outer world of deep space, and that it is time for the artists to reclaim their birth right and unite with the universe in order to expose humanity to what it finds most difficult to confront, and that is exploring the Terra Incognito of the inner, unconscious worlds of the human mind. This is precisely the virtue which unites the visionary art world.

-The Dead Guy