Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Bob Dylan Dilemma

I graduate this Spring. Which means I'll spend the next several months of my life not sleeping/making art. Basically, your BFA (as we refer to our Bachelor of Fine Arts thesis project) is a year's worth of freak outs and artwork. Sort of. Maybe. I've always looked forward to it, because a whole year to work on one body of work is amazing. A lot of my projects have felt hindered by deadlines. But in a year, I know I can make something wonderful. And that's a lot of pressure.

Today was our first in-progress presentation. Basically, we were supposed to get up in front of the other seniors in Digital Arts (how strange is it that I LOVE analog, and yet I'm in the digital arts area?), open our Power Points, and show our current thesis statement, and what we've been researching. In a time limit. Thinking about ideas as a "thesis" was super stressing me out, so I decided I would present "Things I've Been Thinking About Lately." Also, I decided I wanted to do an analog presentation because I hate how we distance ourselves through a digital interface, which is relevant to my "thesis." And this analog presentation turned into me dressing up like Bob Dylan (jeans, button-down shirt, vest, messy hair) and holding up small poster boards. Basically, I copied this video.
I made sure that my posters weren't always exactly what I was saying. And I made sure I spelled success as "suckcess." And I ended with "WHAT??" And I made sure to reference some songs of his. The thing is, last year, when I first started thinking about my thesis, Bob Dylan kept popping up on my Pandora. And I loved that he always sang about people and told these beautiful and terrible stories. But there was something genuine about them. And I liked that. And I liked that he was called a chronicler. And I realized I wanted to be a chronicler, too. So when I run out of ideas, I make sure to listen to some of his ballads, and then I remember why I'm doing this.

So I made a list of what I wanted to do. What I wanted to be. What role I wanted to play in my thesis besides the artist. What approach I wanted to take. And this is what I said (which I memorized, because I happen to be graced with a fantastic memory, and I try to take advantage of it when I can):

I want to be Bob Dylan. I want to be a chronicler. I want to travel around the country and meet interesting people and tell their stories. I want to play the harmonica and drink coffee and say what needs to be said. I want to listen when no one else will and value personal stories, even if I’m the only one. But I don’t want to be the only one. I want to encourage people to consider more than selfish concerns and immediate answers. I want people to appreciate sentimental value more than material wealth. I want people to think about their ideas of success and its effect on their communities. But Bob Dylan and I never quite agreed. He measured lives in mornings and miles, but I measure mine in mournings and smiles. He sang about the days passing but I think about the passing days. Bob Dylan was born in 1941 and I should have been born in 1936. He sings songs that will last forever, but I want our memories to last forever. I want to collect these memories from individuals throughout the land. I want to show their importance, and the importance of sharing our stories with others. I want to elevate these accounts to the level of historic documents. I want them to be valuable. I don’t want to be just a chronicler. I want to be a curator, in the 14th century sense of the word. I want to be a guardian of souls.

And my thesis, as it currently stands, in its simplest, most basic state, is that the Sentimental Archive aims to inspire people to take an interest in the personal stories of others, because the sharing of experiences evokes empathy between individuals, which helps strengthen a community.

Maybe. That's what I'm thinking about right now. The presentation went over really well and sparked a really helpful dialogue. Unfortunately (to me, anyway), I was really encouraged to consider performance art as an aspect. But I am not at all interested in labeling anything I do as a performance. I don't want to imply false fronts or spectacles. I want to have honest, sincere, and engaging interactions with my audience. But I don't want that to be the piece. I want that to inspire the piece. I think.

Art makes you think a lot. So for now I'm going to make things and try not to think. Maybe my ideas will sort themselves out. Maybe I will end up listening to Bob Dylan in a bit.

PS. My blog re-design is almost done. But I have other priorities before I call it finished.
PPS. I'm hoping to update more, with shorter posts. But in case you were really curious as to where I disappeared to, now you know.

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Thanks for reading about some things I made today! Feel free to leave a comment here; I love hearing from you!

Love, Michaela