Art is Love is Love is Love

Don’t you believe in a little magic? No, only neurobiological responses.

Only feel-good neurotransmitters spurting across synapse to neuron to whisper overused phrases outside

and under the stars

Only “electrical currents”. Only “Dante”. Only “the kind in museums” and “literary figures in the middle ages” preserved in oil and turpentine I stayed up last night to draw

a figure named Beatrice.

Art does all the immortalizing– not me, not you, not any of us.

Chaos Until Dawn: The Butterfly Effect

Sometimes I feel tired in looking back, but I’m not sure why. There’s a videogame my boyfriend and I just started called Until Dawn, a survivalist horror drama game where, based on the decisions you make, you carve out the characters’ fate. In one portion of the game, the therapist, Dr. Hill, goes:

The past is beyond our control. You have to accept this in order to move forward. Everything you do, every decision you make from now on, will open doors to the future. I want you to remember this. Every single choice will affect your fate, and the fate of those around you.

I imagine the game creator had an epiphany while contemplating The Butterfly Effect, which the game hinges heavily on. It’s a part of Chaos Theory, The Butterfly Effect–the scientific notion that tiny changes, however minuscule, can “change the course of the universe forever” (Thanks, Urban Dictionary).

As Until Dawn writes, “a tiny butterfly flapping its wings today may lead to a devastating hurricane weeks from now. The smallest decision can dramatically change the future….Your story is one of many possibilities.”

Even though it refers to the game story, it echoes of our own lives, our own stories. We write them as we move forward, sans game programming.

Comics, Atrocities and Literary Parallels

A few days ago I finished Autobiography of Barefoot Gen, a book about Hiroshima written by survivor Nakazawa Keiji.  His survival, as a child, was miraculous–he had stood behind a cement wall, which somehow protected him, which then fell against a tree, which then prevented the wall from crushing him. Despite everything he went through, from poverty to shame to stigma, he went on to depict the horrors of the atomic bomb in manga-form.

The author’s baby sister born during the atomic bomb. Autobiography of Barefoot Gen, Nakazawa Keiji

Sometimes I marvel at humanity’s incredible capacity for cruelty. It isn’t to say that all of humanity’s terrible–that isn’t true, there is a lot of kindness and goodness–but at the same time, just, well, wow. Trips down history lane tend to reinforce this belief. Ironic, since history’s written by its victors and you’d think they’d want to portray themselves in the best light possible. But between these moments of kindness, of peace and progress and beauty, are undeniable pockets of cruelty you couldn’t even begin to imagine. From mass genocide to strangely cruel punishments to war to sheer greed, it’s alarming what people are capable of. And this cruelty–it’s from the ground up, too, it’s not just victors from high-up who wield power that are evil, but neighbors, too–family, friends, people you thought you could trust.

I think of Art Spiegelman, author of MAUS, who depicted his father’s survival of the Holocaust in comics form. As a child, Art had fallen down and his friends had left him behind. Upon telling his father, his father says that until he’s spent five days locked up in a room with others with no food, driven to the brink of desperation, he does not know the meaning of “friends”. When I read this, one of the first pages of the book, I was confused. Then it quickly dawned on me–ah, yes, the Lord of the Rings-esque brutality that brews beneath the surface of humanity: that’s what he’s referring to.

spiegelman maus comics friends fall

“Then you can see what it is, friends!” MAUS (pg. 3), Art Spiegelman

If I were in some sort of literature class on comics–and I was, but I no longer am–I’d start drawing parallels between Spiegelman’s MAUS and Nakazawa Autobiography of Barefoot Gen. I will anyways. Both depict the horrors during World War II, with one taking place in Germany, the other taking place in Japan. Both stories are told with a combination of text and visual form–in this case, comics. But whereas MAUS is Art’s depiction of his father’s stories, Nakazawa’s stories are his–he had gone through the horrors first-hand. Even so, both descend into depression after writing their stories.

There aren’t many ways you can effectively communicate these experiences without alienating the audience. With most people, they cannot stomach reliving–if only as a third party–the reality of these atrocities. Even with the removal provided by time, space, distance, mental-acrobats, glass museum displays, it can be difficult to (literally) face history. But that’s what makes their use of comics genius. It’s easy, as a viewer, to look at comics, to listen to a story ballooned through speech-bubbles. Comics offer a cartoonish version of reality, where things are distilled into visual and mental palatability. Possible downsides: it doesn’t accurately convey the horror, waters down the experience. But I’d say that Spiegelman and Keiji succeed in toeing the balance between depicting their experiences while keeping the stories, well, “audience-friendly.” Relatively, at least–they’re still horrific.

From a personal bookish perspective, both are really good reads. Not sure if the Autobiography of Barefoot Gen is online, but MAUS I and MAUS II are (I’ve linked to the pdf for MAUS). If you ever get a chance to read any of them, I’d recommend it, especially if you’re interested in history, WWII, comics or memoirs. Or if you’d like to get a glimpse of the realities of those who lived through these atrocities, hear the stories of these survivors.

Something Ama-Zine

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I love zines: they’re the perfect intersection between art and poetry and prose and photography with just a dash of weird-creative and jarring-aesthetic and shakes-you-up-prose. Sorry not sorry, but I’m having a major art nerd attack right now: I’ve found zines on zines on zines! And it is, I tell you, ama-zine. Normally, zines are small print booklets distributed by hand. But many–as I discovered last night–are uploaded onto Issuu and it’s f–king fantastic.

Before I forget, here’s a link to the vast array of zines littered across Issuu

It makes me wish I could write poetry the way these writers do. But poetry always feels so personal. I mean, writing’s pretty personal in general, but poetry’s, like, the stuff of the heart. I only ever write poetry when the heart-stuff’s threatening to overflow and coat everything in sight so I jot it down real quick and show it to nobody.

But I guess that’s why I like these zines so much. They’re raw. Made of heart-stuff. Not like the glossy magazines–they’re more like the, uh, hashtag nofilter creative underbelly cousins of the magazine. Magazines are all dolled up, stuffed with ads. Zines aren’t. And that they’re oft produced by creatives and minorities makes it all the better.

God, all the art and writing is so inspiring.

Behind The Lens

My ears are ringing. A girl’s crying in the bathroom. A boy in my class dances fluid-languid by another boy in my class who’s across a girl in my class who is tall and wears crop tops. I scan the disco-ball lit dance floor for what’s ‘in’: short tight mini-skirts that hike up your belly paired with black x-ed tops that your dyed hair can flow over. I wish my hair were long again so I could hide behind it.

Behind the lens and under disco lights, being a photographer lets me observe. Observe, record, document. It’s how I both connect and disconnect, like being a third party in my own reality. It can be interesting, toeing this social middle-ground. Here, I’m simultaneously a participant and an observer. I am a passive agent, an active recorder. An authority, a prop: the photographer.