August 26th, 2010

I received an email from Chuck Duffie who recently completed an exercise from How to be an Explorer of the World with his two daughters. The exercise involves photographing the cracks in the sidewalk. I am so in love with what they did with it! They printed out the collage and framed it for their wall. Brilliant!

August 22nd, 2010
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Our little well loved house in the small village of Flesherton ON is for rent. The house is a two story, three bedroom, one bathroom, extremely cozy place built in the 1800′s.
The ideal candidate would be someone who is interested in trying out country living, (possibly an artist from Toronto), looking for a bit of solitude (or a retreat from the city on weekends). Maybe you are recently retired, or wanting to simplify your life a bit. Must be a non-smoker. Pets are okay. Must enjoy a winter lifestyle and the outdoors. Laundry in basement. $900.00 plus utilities per month (stack of wood provided). Available Oct 1st, yearly lease.
Read more about the house here.
if you feel that this might be the right thing for you, please write me. (serious inquiries only please.)

August 20th, 2010

link to Emily Carr University

I walked around my new campus the other day and was in awe of the buildings. The place was designed to fit in with an industrial waterfront landscape and so was made with all of my favorite architectural elements, large timber beams, corrugated metal, and concrete. I felt right at home being back in art school, and felt instantly that the space easily lends itself to creative thinking, conjuring, formulating and discussing ideas. I am flattered that my class filled up fast and now has a waiting list! I hope I will live up to the hype.

I wrote to a friend yesterday that I feel a bit like a kid in a candy store, there are so many things I want to teach, and talk about. I keep reminding myself to “keep it simple”. It’s just that I loved art school so much and I’m excited to share that with the students. For me it is like going to an amusement park every week, except with a lot of hard work you get to make it exactly as you want it.

August 19th, 2010

what is going on in my world? so many things (as my son would say). I think a list is in order because it helps me to organize my brain.

-I’ve been watching documentaries online lately. Two good ones to recommend, Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry. I am currently reading the novel Under the Volcano by Lowry as it was partially written where I am living (Dollarton/Deep Cove). And last night we watched Light At The Edge Of The World:Himalayas Science Of The Mind done by my favorite anthropologist Wade Davis (everyone should have a favorite anthropologist).

-The Winter of the Beard is getting some really great reviews and is selling steadily, (which is really nice as it is truly a labor of love, not a money making endeavor at all.) It has been really wonderful to read the beautiful comments people have made about it and it has even inspired a few daring souls to grow a six month beard themselves. Please continue to write me with your responses.

-I have begun doing a few interviews for the upcoming release of Mess: A Manual of Accidents and Mistakes. It is quite possible that it may be shipping very soon, (they always ship it as soon as they get it in at Amazon which is a little perk of pre-ordering). I confess I have not seen an actual copy yet (sending books to Canada from the states takes forever), but I did get a uncorrected proof before I left and finally had a chance to sit down with it two days ago (I know, it’s been a crazy time). After not having looked at it for many months I was able to have a bit of perspective and I did what I always do, I pretended it was written by someone else and waited to see what emotions came up.

My reaction?

I think it is genius. I was envious of the author. And most importantly, I wanted to go crazy with it and fill it up with all kinds of insane experiments.

So that is about as good as it gets as an author. Looking at something you created and saying, “Hell YES!!! I kick ASS!!” Even if it didn’t ever sell, I give myself the gift of feeling very proud of my accomplishment. Brings tears to my eyes really. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how important it is to really celebrate our accomplishments and how in our culture we don’t do this nearly enough. I now make a point to really sink into feeling good about the whole shebang, even the little stuff (especially the little stuff). A little bit of celebration every day goes a long way in making you feel good about your life. I love the idea of mini celebrations for things and have started them with my son, “let’s have a pee party!”, or “I think we should dance to celebrate our dinner.”

-the spiders are way too big on the west coast. (I just threw that in for a bit of contrast).

-I have met some amazing people here, ones that have already inspired me to do more really great things with my life. more on that to come.

-the blackberries are in full swing here and they are EVERYWHERE. just going for a walk you can have a nice snack along the way. my sister made an amazing peach and blackberry pie the other night which we devoured happily.

-I am working on a new book (I know, it never stops with me). It is one of my favorite things in life to be engrossed in the process of creating a new work. I so love the research, the connection making with regards to ideas, the searching. There is nothing better.

August 12th, 2010

Writing: a scrupulous attempt to preserve something, to make something last–plucking a few exact fragments from the deepening void, leaving somewhere or other a furrow, a trace, a mark, a few signs.

–Georges Perec (article: “Space”)

(I just figured out that becoming a professor has given me access to all kinds of academic databases and I’m finding articles I’ve never read before by my favorite writers. Wooohooo! I’m like a kid in a candy shop.)

August 12th, 2010

“Why do you ask the same questions every year?”, asked the student to Einstein: “because the questions stays the same, but the answers keep changing”.

found at the space collective

August 9th, 2010

I have a new boxed set coming out. I found it here, but it should be every where on Sept 7th. The box itself has many instructions for what to do with it.

August 8th, 2010

I received an email from a reader who suggested that “The Rules” by Corita Kent (which I cited a few posts back) was actually written by John Cage. This same reader (who asked to remain anonymous) claims to have seen in person, this list of rules in typewritten copy on the bulletin board at the Cunningham Studio (very cool).

And so there begins a little investigation on my part. The version of “The Rules” that I posted was printed in the book “Learning by Heart” by Corita Kent and Jan Steward. I happen to know for a fact (because she wrote about him and quoted him) that Corita was a big fan of John Cage (not surprising to me as both of them rank in my top five favorite artists of all time and all of my favorite people in the world are linked in some way to John Cage). The other curious thing is that my memory tells me that “the rules” were printed also in a book about John Cage with a different title and attributed to him.

I did find one link in my investigations that implied that the list was written by John Cage and typeset by Corita but there was no actual evidence for this. On another site I found this info:

As far as I know these “Rules” were the work of Corita Kent , (1918-1986), serigrapher and teacher extraordinare, in which she included a quote from John Cage. The calligrapher David Mekelburg produced them in hand-carved stamped lettering and they were published in Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit , a book begun by Corita with her former student Jan Steward and finished by Steward after Corita’s death. (Bantam 1992). -Trish Johnston, Atlanta, GA, USA

and then I find this one: “John Cage’s words visually formatted by Sister Corita Kent. Cage’s original title is “Some Rules and Helpful Hints for Students and Teachers.”

which confirms what my memory tells me. But…

then I start to put 2 and 2 together, if Rule number ten is a quote:

“We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” (John Cage)

Then it stands to reason that the simple act of quoting John Cage, leads many people to believe he is the author. It is quite possible that Merce Cunningham was sent a copy of Corita’s Rules because they quoted his partner (and because they are so good he put them up on his wall.) OR John himself received a copy and put it on Merce’s studio wall. This seems the more logical conclusion to me. The only grey area is what to make of the rules being published in one of John Cage’s books.

(After my husband looks at it he wonders if she is citing John Cage for the whole thing, since his name is at the end of all the rules, the quotes make this confusing.)

So what is the answer? Is it John Cage or Corita Kent?

If you have any information (evidence) that will help solve this mystery I would love to hear it (it will help me sleep at night).

(note: this whole thing brings up one of my big pet peeves with the internet, the lack of citing original sources.)

update: I just found this from a seemingly knowledgeable source:

The “10 Rules for Students and Teachers” that is often ascribed to Sister Corita Kent was actually authored by the composer John Cage. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who knows anything about the relationship between the two. I believe Cage came to know her and Sister Magdalene Mary originally through Peter Yates, but the history is still very sketchy. Thank you.
Laura Kuhn, Director, John Cage Trust

August 6th, 2010

The Winter of the Beard made Atlantic Monthly’s Daily Dish, written by Andrew Sullivan (an avid beardman himself). This is thanks to a very sweet reader (thank you). This is very exciting for us as this film was a total labor of love.

August 5th, 2010

Feeling a bit rusty in the writing department these days but I often when I feel conflicted about something I feel that it helps immensely to write about it. Joan Didion says,
“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” This is exactly true for my own process. It helps to clarify your thoughts by putting them out into the world.

I am certainly no stranger to the concept of plagiarism. If I am to be honest I have been on both ends of the spectrum with it. Many times in the past I have myself created things that I feel might fall a little “too close” to the source of inspiration in execution and in concept. There is sometimes a fine line between copying and “making something” your own and particularly in the beginning when I started I did not understand the line. I feel that I can say now that I have learned much better how to take the seed of something and work it into my own style and also to give credit when using the ideas of others. This has become an important focus in my work and my last few books have contained notes to original sources. It has taken me many years to get to this point and while I have made some mistakes in the learning of this lesson, it was a necessary part of my own path.

So how then, do I deal with the issue of people copying my own work? The last few years especially I have become aware of many instances of this. This has coincided with my work growing in popularity (of which I am immensely grateful) and so strangely, in a way, it is a kind of gift. Many of you have written me about it wanting to know my thoughts on the matter, how to deal with it, and if it bothers me. In every question period of every lecture I have ever given, I have been asked about this and here is my usual response.

When I was in art school I had an amazing illustration teacher named Linda Montgomery, whom I am still friends with. What was amazing about Linda was that she taught not only about tools and techniques but also the spiritual side of being an artist, the messy stuff, the human stuff, the stuff you really wanted to know about as a young student. The topic of plagiarism came up in the class discussion one day and the response Linda gave I have never forgotten. She said,

“When you do any kind of creative work there is an energy to it. This energy is made up of everything that is you, your personality, your life experience, the books you have read, the things that you are drawn to as a human being. This energy gives the work life and this is what people respond to when they see it. When someone copies you, their work will not have this same life or energy. It will not have the essence of you and consequently it will have a flatness to it.”

For the most part, when it comes up, I remember this. There are also times when I do not do a great job of it, and it feels extremely “icky” for a time and I try to sit with those feelings and figure out the root of them (as in today). And what often comes up is a feeling of “what if people like that person better than me even though they copied me?”, (especially in the case of published works). I think this comes out of a lack of confidence in my own work, or thoughts of scarcity (there won’t be enough to go around). Then I think about my own process and how I needed to learn those lessons myself, sometimes the hard way. Should I not allow others to make the same mistakes? I must come back to trusting in and believing in my own talent and abilities as that is all that I have control over in the moment. How often we flounder in this area.

I suppose my answer is a bit complicated. Does it challenge me? Yes. and also NO. But I have to do some important work with it. And I have to remind myself that I am utterly and completely unique (as all human being are), and that there will never be anyone who has the same collection of experiences, feelings, and lessons that I have had in my life. Therefore in actual fact it is completely impossible for someone to be able to copy you, except on a surface level, (which is not so interesting in my opinion.) We are an immense and complex ball of really interesting stuff if you stop to think about it. And if you work honestly at it, this incredible stuff will be infused into everything you do. This is the root of work that resonates with others. How incredible is that? This is what I hope to teach my students when I start teaching in a few weeks.

Whew. I feel so much better now. How bout you?

I told you writing helps.

(I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.)

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