So What Exactly IS ‘Art’? – by James Bovington

(From Google)
(From Google)

I’ve been thinking about ‘art’ recently. It happens sometimes.

More specifically I’ve been trying to work out what ‘art’ is. Not necessarily ‘what is art?’ because that opens up the forum for people to claim a single house brick on a cushion is art. They’re very different questions, since one deals with individual pieces and asks ‘is this art?’ and the other questions the nature of the ephemeral wisps of nothing we happen to actually call ‘art’.

That is to say I’m questioning the aspect, not the components. Anyway;

A while ago I found a video on Youtube that made my heart sing. I posted a link to it on my Facebook with the addendum “If you ever, EVER feel the need to ask me what ‘art’ is;”

The video in question is here:

There’s something about that situation that is so beautiful that I don’t know where to put myself. I think part of that is the knowledge that for most of these people there really isn’t a real reason to be doing that, it’s just fun.

On a similar note; a few years ago there was a particularly cold winter and Times Square in New York City got quite a lot of snow in one evening. What erupted from that were not complaints and injury claims but a huge snowball fight. There were a number of photos posted online (you can find them with a quick Google of “Times Square snowball fight 2009”) and they showed a bunch of strangers lobbing frozen rain at each other. There was one particular photo (which I can’t seem to find now, despite my almost invincible Google-Fu. I wonder if that makes it more special.) of a young man, arm extended in mid- throw with a look of such joy on his face that it made me happy for days.

Is that art? I think it is. Not the photos themselves, but the act. A gigantic, spontaneous snowball fight in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world is a beautiful thing, and to me ‘art’ is definitively “Anything Beautiful”. I’ve mentioned the only other definition of art I respect elsewhere on Creatabot. (Here, to be specific). To me, ‘art’ that exists only to annoy people isn’t art. If someone puts up a gallery of paintings of people being tortured just to provoke a reaction, that’s not art, it is provocation and anyone can do it; you just have to shout insults in a library to get the same effect. The effect being people realising that you’re a dickhead. The only difference is that the first dickhead has learned to paint and the second hasn’t.

Which leads me to the reason I was thinking about this; I’ve been quite ill for a couple of weeks, but that didn’t stop me travelling to London with some friends one day. I thought I was feeling better, but I wasn’t.

After a harrowing (but cheap) journey down we spent a long time wandering around. I don’t really remember it very well, due to being an idiot when I’m ill. So it was that I found myself at the Barbican, standing in a room with water pouring from the ceiling, in a patch of dryness that followed me around as I shuffled back and forth. I was in Random International’s Rain Room, and it was very interesting.

But is it art? I think so, mainly because it’s interesting. As far as I’m concerned ‘interesting’ and ‘beautiful’ are very often one and the same. I also think the fact that I was in a strange headspace helped it seem more surreal than perhaps it actually was.

So no, I haven’t really answered the question I posed in the title, but can you blame me? Art is a shifting, formless thing and beauty is so subjective that having a single term for it seems overly simplistic.

Essentially all we’ve learned here is that people being happy makes me happy.

Is that art?

James Bovington is a writer of many different things, although he’s confused as to whether any of it is ‘art’.

You can find him on Twitter at: @JBov or you can look at his blogs:

http://jbovington.wordpress.com AND/OR http://burndownthesun.tumblr.com

Marketing; An Arid, Lonely Desert – by James Bovington

Atacama Desert (Creative Commons)
Atacama Desert (Creative Commons)

Yesterday garnered an interesting new experience for me, a new aspect of the world of writing that threw me for a loop and no mistake;

Just on a whim I tried to write a little five-hundred word article to use as a marketing tool for my work, basically a little slice of my life involving the product in question, loaded with key words and phrases I could link back to our website. Standard ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ stuff.

That’s not the interesting part; the interesting part is what I felt while I was writing it.

I felt like I was forcing it out, for one, mainly because I was, but I also felt…

Dry, I suppose.

Every sentence I typed felt dry and cracked and empty, almost gritty in my mind. Every time I started a new paragraph I was struck by the mental image of an arid, lonely desert. It was very strange. Almost frightening in fact, in that ‘Have I finally snapped?’ sort of way.

I also got very annoyed with myself, at first for not being able to do the task I set myself with any real passion, but eventually it was simply for even trying in the first place. I felt like I was betraying something ethereal, like I was using my powers for evil. I felt like Superman burning down an orphanage.

I know, I know, marketing is necessary in this modern world, but I’ve conditioned myself through the years to be distrustful of it, bordering on paranoia, and to be annoyed by it bordering on outright hostility. To find myself engaging in it was a little like telling my past self to shut up (although to be fair, he really should have, just not about this), or kicking my inner-child.

I stopped, about halfway into it, and had to go do something silly on the internet for a while just to stop feeling so despondent. I went back eventually and typed a few more sentences, but the feeling came back stronger. It hit me like a blow to the soul.

So now it’s unfinished and squats in my hard-drive like an awful goblin, it’s even called ‘Stupid Marketing Bullshit.doc’, which I don’t remember typing at all.

I’ll get on it eventually. I’ll either continue to force it out or I’ll find a way to make it enjoyable again. I might even have to start over and just write something on a whim, then try to find a way to force links into it in random places. But I’ll get it done.

I don’t know how interesting this was for any of you, but to me it was fascinating that I could have such a powerful adverse reaction to what should be a simple task.

I suppose writing with ulterior motives just doesn’t suit a man who wants to write stories about dragons, crisps, people and THE FUTURE. (‘THE FUTURE’ must always be in all-caps when discussed in the context of fiction. This is a rule I’m establishing right now.) Or maybe I’m being hugely egotistical about my writing and verging on the ‘too deep for you’ mentality that ruins a lot of prose.

Such is life.

by James Bovington

Procrastination Is Evil – By James Bovington

CC Emilie Ogez

You sit down, you grab your pen or your paintbrush, your finger hover over your keyboard, you say to yourself “Yeah, let’s CREATE!”

Then you check your Facebook. Then you have a sandwich. Then oh dear, it’s time you went to bed.

Procrastinating doesn’t even mean that, deep down in the secret parts of your head, you actually don’t want to do the task you’ve set yourself. I can be really excited about a project and then not start it for a day or two. I can be enthralled by something I’m scribbling down, then just wander off and come back to it later. Sometimes that’s actually helpful. More often, though, it is not.

Procrastination is the murderer of time and for many is almost impossible to avoid. There’s absolutely loads of tips and tricks available that claim to help you stop slacking off, some work, some don’t. You get a different genie each time you rub that particular lamp, so I’m not going to add my own to the legion.

Instead, here’s a handy list of things I’ve done, and you can do too, instead of working on your art; whatever it may be.

  1. Start something else.

This is a good one, actually. A good many times I’ve sat down to write something and ended up babbling about something else. Right now, in fact, I was going to work on my script. So here’s this instead.

  1. Eat something.

Put down your art supplies. You’re hungry. Yes you are. You’d love a sandwich right now. Hell, even some soup. If you’re doing soup you may as well cook up some noodles. Hey, why not make yourself a full stir-fry and watch a bit of telly while you eat it? You can get back to work right afterwards, right? Right?

  1. Check your Facebook page.

Or your Tumblr, or Google+ or whatever it is you crazy kids do nowadays. Go check it. Then check it again.

Then sit there refreshing the page over and over, staring at it as though that’s going to make something new happen. You have no new messages. Keep checking.

  1. Watch the TV.

It’s for inspiration. This show is shot really well, it’s interesting to look at. This show too. And this one. This one is just a really good show. Oh, they’re showing Alien on Channel 4? I’ll watch that then go to bed. I’ll finish my piece tomorrow.

  1. Go to bed.

Cut out the middle man; just go to bed right now. You were up all night working on your art anyway; it’s fine.

  1. Go out with your friends.

You haven’t seen them in days. You have to at least put in an appearance. You can go home early and finish off that article you’re writing. Is that a jagerbomb in your hand? Why are you ordering a gin and tonic? Don’t go to the club, it’s time to… oh, never mind.

  1. Have a hangover.

This is because of 6. You cannot brain today. You have the dumb. Coffee, bacon, telly, bed. No loud noises, thanks.

And finally, my personal favourite.

  1. Do nothing.

The number of times I’ve caught myself just staring at a wall midway through typing a sentence is absolutely ridiculous. Apparently a blank wall is really, really interesting when you have more important things to do.

So that’s that, just some handy suggestions you can use to aid your procrastination and put off working on your art for just that little bit longer.

I hope my little list has helped you come up with new ideas and new ways to avoid working when you really should be, and I hope you have as much fun not doing anything productive as I’ve had enabling your lazy arse.

Now get back to work.

By James Bovington

You can find out more about James at his main writing blog: http://jbovington.wordpress.com

Tumblr account http://burndownthesun.tumblr.com

and Twitter @JBov

Introducing a New Creatabot Contributor – James Bovington

Creatabot has a new contributor on board, James Bovington from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. James is a writer and will be writing various topical articles for the site. We asked him a few questions to find out more…

So what is your creative background? 

Thanks to my mother I was raised on science fiction, basically. I’ve been reading voraciously from a very young age. In fact the only ‘children’s’ book I can recall reading as a child is The Very Hungry Caterpillar, after that it’s all just ‘actual’ books, or books on tape.

Because of that I’ve always loved words, particularly the placing of words into nice lines. I wrote a lot of poetry when I was younger. These days I write a lot of fiction and a handful of articles on various subjects.

Did you study any creative subjects?

I studied radio journalism at university for a little while, then I dropped out; not for me, the life of a scholar.

It hasn’t helped me in my creative endeavours at all.

What other career paths have you taken?

I’ve done the most basic, lowest-rung drudge work in various kitchens; pot-washing and the like. It’s not exactly the most mentally engaging of jobs; gives one a lot of time to think.

Now I sell electronic cigarettes from a kiosk in a shopping centre. For large chunks of the day I have nothing official to do; gives one a lot of time to write. And ‘smoke’. I like it quite a lot.

Who inspires you both locally and universally?

I’m very lucky in that years ago I fell in with a group of people, all of whom are thoughtful, artistic and creative without exception. While we don’t necessarily always take impetus from each other’s work it’s nice to be, and to have been for so long, within that framework of creativity.

In an overall sense I, like everyone, have my influences. A list of names is in order, I think:

Kerouac

Thompson

Asimov

Vonnegut

Clarke

McCaffrey

Adams

Brooker

There are others, but listing them all would take too much room. Those are the main few.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

I’d like to eventually have at least one novel published. I’d like to get my comic script finished, drawn and online, and if I’m allowed a flight of fancy I’d like it to be picked up for an actual print run.

I think all creative people want to be recognised, and paid, for what they love doing.

I just want to keep writing for as long as I can.

Can you recommend a creative website you love?

Actually no, sorry. Everything I see by way of creative stuff comes to me over my Tumblr feed, or links and suggestions from my friends.

Although, once you filter through the endless reams of crap, Tumblr is actually awesome for finding cool artists and photographers and writers. Wimp and YouTube are the same, but for videos.

My advice is ‘You can never follow enough links.’ Keep clicking on stuff and you’ll find the diamonds amid the mud.

Thank you James, we look forward to reading your articles!

You can find out more about James at his main writing blog: http://jbovington.wordpress.com

Tumblr account http://burndownthesun.tumblr.com 

and Twitter @JBov