Nature of the Beat

by Joseph Futral

Artist, post-modern wannabe, conversationalist, provocateur, introverted extravert… or is that extraverted introvert? A personal blog to share thoughts on faith and art.

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Counting the cultural cost of utility

I am not a strict formalist. Systematic approaches to learning a craft have value. But I also understand there are limits that are intrinsic to any particular system of training. That’s just the nature of systems. They give voice, but they do so within a certain framework of vocabulary. We are facing such limitations and influence of systems on our cultural voice and perception of our worldview even now as we confront them with the #metoo movement.

I happen to think there is not such a hard line between imagination and creativity. They do not exist in such a bifurcated form any more than reason or emotion, material or immaterial, sacred or secular. Reductionism can help in understanding one aspect or another, but when our nature is as intertwined as these things, even creativity and imagination, something is sacrificed when dissected.

R. Buckminster Fuller said we are born

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There is a season, turn, turn, turn

Writing to say something, writing to exercise, writing to keep at it even in the face of an empty page. There is value in all that. Should it all be published, though?

I was working on a show many moons ago where the featured musicians were Wynton Marsalis and his Septet. They were rehearsing one of the pieces and while one musician was taking his solo, Wynton stopped everyone and, reprimanding the musician, shouted something along the lines of (my memory isn’t perfect but I remember the point) “Stop practicing your scales! I came here to play! Practice at home. If you’re here to play, then play! But stop wasting my time.”

All the great artists did a great deal of research, practice, and rehearsals. Even Mark Rothko, as simple as his works may seem, did drafts. We are enamored with process, especially us artists. Process is important. It is important to keep creating especially in

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AI commits suicide at 27 years old. News at 11.

In the movie It Might Get Loud, Jack White advises his younger self “You have to have a fight with your guitar. You have to have a fight with your guitar and win. If you don’t have a struggle you have to make one up.”

I remember watching the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation when it first aired. I was very excited. After the the first few episodes I was very disappointed. What disappointed me is that each time the captain and crew always seemed to know exactly what was going on and what to do about it. There was no struggle, no wrestling. Everyone had reached a level of enlightenment that made each encounter relatively effortless.

Rothko was once asked how he knew when a painting was finished. He responded “There is tragedy in every brush stroke”.

These days there is a great deal of excitement and hand-wringing about the potential for artificial intelligence to appreciate

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Emotions and concepts

There is some science to my point about emotions and the intellect and why I believe the reason we need to renew the mind is because that is where we lie about our emotions, the emotions themselves don’t lie.

Part 1

And Part 2


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The interesting thing about light

The tl;dr—Understanding art is hard. Understanding the Bible is hard. Understanding life, making choices in the real world is hard. That’s the point of both art and the Bible. Stop trying to find the easy answers. That’s not the point of the Bible and it is not the point of art. Knowing scripture and what it says should lead us to be able to look at each other and say to each other “Yeah, life is hard, that was a hard decision to make. Let me help you. Let me be there for you. Not because I know the answer, but because I struggle with my own decisions and I need people, too.”

The interesting thing about light.

You cannot see light. You can see things reflecting light. You can see the light source. But the light itself, you cannot see.

Then both the light and the object reflecting light affect each other. How an object looks, the color of the object, will be affected by what wave

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Culture is not the enemy

Culture is not the enemy. Culture does not need “redeeming”. Culture does not need “taking back”. Culture is not evil. Culture is what we make it. If you take an antagonistic approach and attack culture, you can’t blame culture for being defensive or offensive. If you avoid culture, you can’t blame culture for what it becomes. If you take an approach to create a counter culture, you can’t blame the “other” culture for what it becomes.

The best way to affect culture is to participate.

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My cat could do that (and may actually have)

 “Real art makes demands”

In attempts to understand complex issues, it is not uncommon nor unreasonable to sometimes reduce issues as part of a larger process to work something out. This can help clarify some things, figure out where pivotal problems may exist, root causes, etc. While it can often be an important part of Minimalism, it can just as easily be found utilized for other, less thoughtful purposes.

Sometimes we settle into a reductionist conclusion from the outset because, well, we may think it obvious or easier. I think this is where we are with much of the discourse of art, especially in the current environment surrounding discussions of government support of art, particularly in the form of the National Endowment for the Arts. Critics of Modern art (whatever one may mean by that, and it seems no two people are actually referring to the same thing) are again emboldened to

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In the arts, particularly in the arts and faith discussions, even more particularly in the Christian faith and arts discussions, we love to use certain words. The words are quite meaningful, but their constant use actually starts to dilute meaning. Words like Faith, Beauty, Relationship, Art, Love, Gospel, Excellence—we use them all the time, but their applications have become so diverse I truly doubt any two people talking about one of those words will be talking about exactly the same thing.

Take Excellence for example. What do we really mean by Excellence? I know it might seem self-evident, but it really isn’t. The easy assumption, such as in the arts, is excellence in technique. But what technique? Was Mark Twain an excellent grammarian? Is B. B. King an excellent guitar player? Is his technique on par with, say, Andre Segovia?

Okay, maybe we don’t really mean technique in general

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Art for money’s sake

If you don’t care who sees, hears, or likes the art you create, much less if anyone gives you money for it, you aren’t trying to make a living as an artist.
That doesn’t mean you aren’t an artist, but when you decide that you want to make a living with your art, things change. Sometimes drastically, sometime subtly, sometimes so subtle you may never even notice until rent comes due or groceries need to be shopped.

At some point you realize that what you are doing is work as much as it may not even feel like it. Art becomes your job, even as you may love doing it. Or you may hate doing it for pay, but you can’t imagine doing anything else.
Sometimes we may be trying to create something that has widespread, popular demand. Sometimes we may be aware that we may be working for a more limited audience. Sometimes we are just experimenting. There is value in all that.

This is not to say you

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Make sh*t. Just do it.

I want to make sure my message is clear about art and art making. Just make art. Just do it. I don’t care what you think of what you make, I don’t care what other people think of what you make. There is no such thing as failure, only education. Which is to say you can only learn by doing when it comes to making things.

There are lots of reasons to do so, which is what I try to explore and examine. All the prognostication and contemplation about art I partake in is only about understanding art metaphysically and how that may or may not affect our individual and communal physicality and spirituality.

I do think that stuff is important because inevitably the questions about art’s importance, relevance, utility, and sustainability come up, particularly in the spheres I operate in as a professional artist. At that level of discourse you can’t sit back on justifying, explaining, or

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