ALCStudies Journal

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Drawing from Experience

I teach language and write essays, scripts and fiction, so the narrative part of my brain gets a workout. As human beings we are wired for making sense of things through myths and stories. (See everything from The Odyssey to Aboriginal creation myths.) But sense-making through words has it’s limits. We now experience a daily cascade of messages ranging from talking heads on Youtube to news outlets who attempt to explain or comprehend the current convolution of events. At best these provide clarification and reassurance. At worst they scare and manipulate us. Many of the messages follow the same scripts – regardless of the fact that it’s obvious we need to revise them or create new ones.

Drawing for me provides a break from linearity and the compulsion to analyze and organize every of iota experience that literacy promotes, if not requires of us. Images exist for our hearts and brains to perceive and appreciate them as a whole. Like music, they resist reduction to discrete elements. Music is linear and spatial, happening over time and in an environment. But like all art, it creates an experience in our heart and soul, if we are open to it, that transcends our brain’s ability to analyze it.

In my travels, actual and virtual, when my brain feels overloaded, and I remember to take a sketch pad with me, I try to drop the analytical part and just see what’s in front of me. The following examples are from my travels in Latin America.

Above are a few informal examples from my time spent abroad in Latin America. Drawing provides another way of seeing the world. I’m not a professional artist. I’m not especially interested here in creating another commodity for what my friend Chris McGinnis calls the great productive machine of capitalism that turns everything we are and do now into a product. Rather, I’m interested in the process of apprehending the world through the unmediated visual act of seeing and the physical act of drawing. Virtual tools such as Zoom and Facebook have shown their use in allowing us to stay connected. The trade-off is that if we allow them to monopolize our experience, we miss being connected to the immanence of life and the world around us. — CDL

Is It Live, Memorex or Youtube?

Excellent article in the Irish Times about digital replication (streaming) of music and art vs. live performance and presentation.[1]

Woody Guthrie, troubadour of the American dustbowl in the 30s (who had a thing or two to say about labor, exploitation and music) observed “… electric fonagrafts an’ radeos an’ talkies has fixed it where you put a nickle in an’ one or two musicians entertains hundreds or thousends of people, an’ hole armies of well talented folks goes beggin.” [sic]

His complaint preceded Facebook and Youtube. The dilemma now as then is how to reward and support those who honor their artistic muse when the prevailing commercial and consumer trend is to turn her solely into a commodity, if not a whore. Our organization (ALCStudies.org) promotes live spoken-word and musical events (e.g., live radio and lectures). We believe the Web can digitize and duplicate the simulacra[2], but never replace the immanence (and sacredness) of connecting human beings through the gift of live art, including music, dance and the spoken-word. People hunger for that experience still, which is as old as civilization. The Gaelic and Celtic cultures gave us some of the greatest examples. Just ask Ossian (or at least James Macpherson) ; – ).

Speaking of exploitation, see an article on emotional labor at FastCompany.com

— DA


[1] *Memorex, orginator of a famous casette tape television commercial featuring singer Ella Fitzgerald, filed for bankruptcy in 1996.

 [2] Thanks to artist Chris McGinnis for introducing this term: …The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth—it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true. – Jean Baudrillard

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