Monthly Archives

August 2016

A Tale Told By An Idiot…

August 17, 2016

Dear Reader,

Full of scorpions is my mind. Or so it seemed, walking out of Suicide Squad. I felt not a little like Lady Macbeth who could not wash her mind of what she had experienced. The mythology of the comic book universes, both DC and Marvel, has the potential to be a lasting commentary on such weighty matters as the battle between good and evil, the desire for power, the consequences of crime, and the inevitability (or not) of fate. Instead, we are treated to dreck like Suicide Squad.

Even now, as we are making movies like this, in which such matters are wildly mishandled and messily slapped up on the screen, we are also still making and remaking the same great stories. And thus I turned to Macbeth.Macbeth_EE_720_367_85shar-10_s_c1

The most recent adaptation of The Scottish Play stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as Macbeth and his Lady. They are both glorious actors in their own right, having proven themselves again and again capable of handling the dark and weighty matters upon which this play must meditate. Their relationship builds their separate characters into murderers and madmen. Suicide-SquadIt makes them strong at first, but their deeds and the power that descends on them are crushing weights. In Macbeth we see the consequences of using the strength a relationship should give as a bolster for wickedness. Their separate and collective madness eats away at them, which is why the audience can feel sympathy for them. In Sucide Squad, the Joker and Harley Quinn are a pale imitation of this insane duo. They too, are the self-styled King and Queen of their universe, roles they took by force and which they do not deserve. But though we want to feel sympathy for the poor tortured Dr. Harleen Quinzel, and even admire the strength of the murderous Harley Quinn, there are no consequences for their actions. We are instead asked to admire the panache and the tattoos and the very madness they revel in. We cannot care when they take lives, but we should.Macbeth-2015Pretenders to the throne do not fair well in Shakespeare. Madness lies that way, for to kill a king is to stain oneself eternally. Fassbender’s Macbeth wastes little time descending into his own private hell. As soon as the crown rests on his head he becomes tenfold more the merciless brute, burning women and children at the stake to feed his paranoia and thirst for revenge. His madness is not funny. It is not bright or garish or stylish. It is the madness of repentance when repentance is impossible and he can see no course but to heap more bodies on the pyre. joker-suicide-squad-trailer-715It’s not easy being king, that’s for sure. This Macbeth makes that pointedly clear. There isn’t a moment when it is even fun. Fun, however, is the Joker’s raison d’etre. And love, perhaps. As the Joker flits in and out of this sad excuse for a story we see that everything he touches is touched carelessly. He maddens his psychiatrist and almost leaves her for dead, he rescues her when she is taken from him but then lets her fall out of the back of a plane, or nearly drown in a submerged car. From what we know of him so far she is a doll he enjoys playing with until he carelessly puts her down or pops off her head. macbeth_header-620x338But what of her? Madness does not give Lady Macbeth her strength. That is not what screws her courage to the sticking place. Her own ambitious humanity does that. It is not madness that compels her or her husband to act, it is the judgment they exercise. How much more powerful then, to have madness follow her as she confronts the consequences of her actions. The alternative mythology offered to us in a movie like Suicide Squad is that madness gives you strength, that it makes you fearless in battle. Perhaps the greatest sin of the movie is to give us the notion that any squad is not a suicide squad. As Macbeth prepares young boys for battle at the beginning of his movie, he knows, they know, and we know that they will all die that day.Harley-Quinn-prisonBut I will end with Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. That, though full of problems in its own right, was the saving grace of this movie. She manages to eke out of the script something I am not sure was ever written in it: fragility. Her madness and the choices that came out of it do have some consequences for her and her toughness hides a dream of normality. “Are you God?” she asks in this shot. The fear and wonder in her eyes mirrors our poor mad Lady’s.

Ai Wei Wei and LinkedIn

August 2, 2016

Dear Reader,

LinkedIn is a startling creature, one that I have been politely nudged into taming. Essentially, one translates one’s resume into digestible pieces and then looks hopefully to more successful people for connection. Or so I feel after five episodes of Mr. Robot have turned me cynical and happy to be so. To psych myself up for updating my LinkedIn I decided to first update all my hovering social media presences. What I found in doing so was one simple thing: Ai Wei Wei makes me happy.1074559

Ai Wei Wei is also cynical, and while my cynicism has currently only fueled me to create a better Tumblr (largely featuring his past and present work) his has fueled the lift of a triumphant middle finger to the things he finds unacceptable. So it is in the spirit of Ai Wei Wei that I start writing this blog again. I don’t want to lift a middle finger to you, dear reader, although I will happily share his.Ai Wei Wei

Now if that doesn’t make you feel something again after the slog of this election (so close and yet so very far), I don’t know what will. I discovered him wandering around the Princeton grounds, where his zodiac series was resting for a while, but it wasn’t until I rediscovered them by chance just a few minutes from my office that I gave in fully. If I could have a chance encounter with such an arresting artist on a frozen November Wednesday in a place I never had any expectation of finding myself, then run into the same exact work again five minutes from where I spend every day of my workweek… you get the point.

epaselect epa04932937 Chinese artist Ai Weiwei poses for photographers during the unveiling of his new sculpture 'Forever' outside the Gherkin building in London, Britain, 16 September 2015. The sculpture consists of 1.245 bicycle frames measuring 10 meters tall by 16 meters wide. EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGAAnd then, there were the bicycles. The Third Policeman introduced me to the wonder and menace of the bicycle (read it, embrace the oddity) and Ai Wei Wei turned that wonder and menace into art and protest and optical giddiness for miles.ai-weiwei-golden-age-wallpaper-serpentine-galleries-0And as I searched for a background for my LinkedIn (the most important part, correct?) I came across the wallpaper he had designed to protest Twitter censorship. Naturally, I needed to update my Twitter aesthetics a bit. I filled Tumblr with his joyful self-portraits in the nude, plastered my Pinterest art board with his rainbow dragon creatures and the giant snakes he coils on ceilings. The background of my work computer I illuminated with his chandelier series.Images saturate my world because I am 25 and I use the internet for everything. It is easy to overload and difficult to find what is worthwhile. Ai Wei Wei doesn’t make art so that I can have something pretty to put up as my GooglePlus background, but in a world that is demanding I assert what images I find worthwhile, I am happy to choose his. And to look at this while I write to you.

Cube Light, on display on the opening day of Ai Weiwei's exhibit According to What? at the Hirshhorn Museum on Sunday, October 7, 2012 in Washington, DC.Check out Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry on Netflix. It is a great introduction to him as an artist and as an activist. There’s a great episode on him on the podcast State of the Arts and right here in Boston, at the MFA, there is an exhibition featuring his work. Check out Megacities Asia and report back. Until next time,

 

-K