Squeezing dragon

My son and I spent some time this morning lying in bed, me with a big cup of coffee, still both in our pajamas, going through the blog archives of Johnson Tsang, a sculptor from Hong Kong. Our minds were blown as we paged through the many stages of construction of “Painful Pot” which is a dragon coiled around and squeezing a porcelain vase; and then “Convergence”, a pair of hands holding a melting gun balanced over a ravaged half melted face of Buddha. Both Milo and I liked Tsang’s politics, of peace and compassion over war and violence, and combining human contact with natural forms with all the ways he worked with faces and splashing liquids.

I love this blog especially for its exposure of process. How did Tsang get from this plain form,


to this incredible complexity?

coiled dragon pot

The holographic thought had to live first, in Tsang’s mind. Through the exposure of his technique step by step, we can follow a little bit of how the reality of that vision came to be. For the vision to be possible the knowledge of what was possible had to live in his hands, the practice of playing with materials and ideas. I love that with material and words, music and art, performances and even just daily life, there is space and we have infinite potential to fill that space. The next five minutes could be a calm silence or there could be a revolutionary speech that fires your soul or a piece of art so beautiful and complicated you cry at the joy of being alive.

Process exposure shows us possible paths for us to take potential into reality and make amazing things. As artists or conscious agents of our own reality we can take that steering wheel, though not every moment can hold that weight. We could fill our lives a little more with those moments or commemorations, reminders, of them in the form of what we make or in public art. Looking at this site with my son, neither of us are sculptors, but I came away with a renewed sense of commitment to my own craft and life. (Or maybe it was just the coffee….)

Thanks for the gorgeous blog, Johnson Tsang!

Paying attention as an art form

In thinking about the ways that value is created (including literary value, or imaginary ideas like money) I arrived at some thoughts about the ways people pay attention to each other on the Internet. If you want to pay attention to someone on the Internet, thanks to social software and blogging and rss and things like Twitter and wikis, there’s a lot of ways to do that, to navigate attention & identity individually and collectively, and to let that be seen in varying degrees. In fact, paying attention to people with people can be done with amazing artistry and skill.

People need complex systems so that they can pay attention to each other indirectly and obliquely through all being attentive to something else they have in common. That thing has to be complicated enough to be worth attention. It might be social justice or the good life or gossip or religion or who is the most popular celebrity and why or who wins the Superbowl and how; or seduction or courtly etiquette or art criticism. Functionally and socially those things are all equivalent. Paying attention is better, the better the quality of the synthesis achieved. Software making is heady as any collective endeavor is because it’s about people paying enough attention to the same thing to make the thing happen and a creation of any sort is a logical synthesis of ideas & their practice (it is maybe a result of synthesis on one level but on another it is the synthesis.)

I come to this idea also as I think about how much I want to teach my college composition students about the pleasures of thought that arrives at synthesis. I’ve also gotten here because my partner just laughed at me and shook his head with disgust when I squeaked “Oooo, I’ve just reached twitterlibrium!”

Also because it’s late at night, I had an overstimulating and hyperproductive day, and can’t stop thinking to the point where I fool myself into thinking I’m Barthes or something and can write things like “Praxis is synthesis! Art is the collective attention stream!” and feel profound… without any acid.

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