Eye of the Story

The Evergreen State College

Author: Austin

Art & Fear Close Reading

Austin Milner
The Eye of the Story
Close Reading
Week Nine

Art/Fear:

A close reading with considerable emphasis on “Finding Your Work” (P.I S.V) and The Outside World (P.II S.I)

The subtitle of Art & Fear, “Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making”, sums up how it feels to be an artist, a struggling one at least, in the way that the negative, the fear, is always the more constant emotion lingering in one’s mind. The fact that Bayles and Orland put “and Rewards” in parenthesis points to this fact by unintentionally (or maybe it is) placing the importance of the title on the word “Peril”, a negative, though really just cautious, tone that continues to shadow the corners of Art & Fear from start to finish. Art & Fear, out of all the texts we have read this quarter, stands out to me as being the most useful for my own personal path in life. Bayles and Orland state that it is essential to use one’s previous artistic work as a “guide” when creating new pieces of art. Alongside my previous works of art I plan on using Bayles and Orland’s writing as a comprehensive guide, a guide to the personal guide one might say.
It is difficult to pick a select passage among the nine chapters that make up the two parts of Art & Fear solely based on the fact that I love every single page of this book. It’s safe to say that one would be hard pressed to find any book in my library with more writings in the margins or more highlights in the pages than this book. That being said I felt a distinct connection with the last chapter of Part One, titled “Finding Your Work”, and the first chapter of Part Two, titled “The Outside World”. I’m focusing on these two sections not only because they provide a unique perspective into how one goes about the process of making art and of making art for the world but also because I also think that there is a sort of shift in thinking, or at least in writing style, among the two authors of the text.
Part One appears to, on one end, boast a more optimistic approach to the creation of art, and on the other, call attention to the risks of art making in the personal sense in such a way as to focus on the insecurities of the artist in direct connection to oneself. Part two, especially in the first chapter talks about those ideas as well but adopts a more realist, almost pessimistic attitude (of which the texts even calls attention to itself at several points). It appears to be that the pessimism might come from the authors themselves and how they feel the state of the world is at the current time of the books publication (1993). This is not surprising to me, as the latter half of Art & Fear spends a good amount of time discussing American society and how is clashes with the artistic process and, more importantly, how it can easily corrupt the mind of an artist in any medium, especially the performing or media related arts.
It appears to me, if I am reading into the text as I assume others might be as well, that Capitalism is, though not entirely, what we can place a fair amount of the blame on for at least the current state of the “failed artist”. In a Capitalist society, such as the United States of America and in any country that it’s citizens operate under a lifestyle of consumer culture; art will always suffer because it serves the audience more than it serves the artist. One of the most important thing that I think can be gained from Art & Fear is that the artist must always create art for themselves and for the betterment of the understand of their own life, in whatever way that may be. The second an artist makes a piece for whom the want it to be seen instead of for what they themselves truly see, the art ceases to become genuine and is then a fragment of the artwork, hallow, an imitation.
What I believe that Art & Fear is trying to say more than anything else is that the artist must trust their own path must create their own path and must accept what that path turns out to be, no matter how muddy it may seem or become. A passage of significant importance that struck me while reading the book to such an extent that I literally just highlighted the entire two-page spread was one about how the artist creates their work and how the audience will never care about the process but that it is vitally important and inevitable that the artist them self will learn more from the process of creating art than anything else.

Journal Entry Seven (For week 8)

Free Write 2:

A boy of unknown origin appears in Spongeland, a wasteland of washed out tones of grey. His name is unknown but sometimes people call him Socio. Socio stands alone in Spongeland looking at the surrounding nothingness before falling backwards onto the ground and closing his eyes. Before long, Socio is disturbed by somebody poking his leg. Socio opens his eyes and sees three people standing over him,(The Girl from Before, The Boy from Before and the Other Girl from Before). The perceived leader of the group of three, The Girl from Before, holds her hand out to him and he takes it. As Socio is lifted up to his feet he realizes that this band of three is much larger than he thought. It is actually a group of 12. Socio is introduced to some other members of the group before they continue journeying through the wasteland, now with Socio as an inducted member.

As Socio travels with the group he learns various things and hears several tales about their destination from his group of three and a couple other followers. Everything is supposed to be different at their destination, and assumed to be a better place, a good place. The girl that helped him up tells Socio of a place far better than he has ever seen, a place where they don’t have to keep walking anymore.

The group stops walking at night, as it is not a part of protocol to journey in the dark (even though light barely changes the dark damp nature of Spongeland). As Socio drifts off to sleep he sees something waving to him on a hill in the distance. Socio looks around to see if anybody else has noticed this figure but everybody seems to be asleep. Socio decides to follow the figure in the distance. After a long walk in which Socio reaches the shores of Spongeland he discovers another group, these ones are camped out and are few in number. Socio learns that they do not wander the wasteland like the group that he is a part of. They say that it was easy to tell that Socio was not a part of the group and that they knew he didn’t really want to be there. Socio is not sure of this but does not know how to respond and does not wish to offend them. The group tells Socio that Spongeland is exactly as it seems and that he knows exactly what that means. Socio doesn’t think that he does. The group then tells Socio that he needs to get back to his group before dawn if wishes to travel further into Spongeland. He asks if he can stay and the group says that when he is ready to stay with them they will know and come visit again. Socio returns to his group.

Socio pretends to wake up with the rest of the group (the group sleeps in a rectangular military line formation for safety) and greets the new day with his friends as they continue their journey towards The Good Place. As Socio travels further with the group a serious discussion breaks out between the group leaders that Socio can not fully hear but ends with him being sent away with several other members of the group to try and get to a high point where they can see The Good Place. When Socio and his group return to camp there are several people missing, including The Girl from Before. Socio is distraught about this and once night falls again he waits for the wanderer of the other group to appear. They do not appear.

Socio wakes up and continues on his journey with the group that now consists of 8 people (2 more where gone when he awoke). Socio asks a group member what happened and is told that Spongeland is a dangerous place and that many of the group have been lost to other creatures and tricksters that inhabit the wasteland. Socio wonders if the group he met is what these people are referring to. The group begins to feel very off and Socio lashes out at them once he thinks that they’ve passed a landmark that they’d passed before. Nobody else thinks that they’ve passed it before and the leader of the group tells Socio to trust in the leadership of the group. Socio goes to bed.

Socio wakes up later that night and sees the wanderer from the other group waiting for him and standing next to the wanderer is The Girl from Before. Socio quickly gets to his feet but as he turns to leave is caught by the leader who asks him, “Do you really think that now is the best time for you to go?” in a condescending tone. Socio looks at him but does not respond. The rest of the group is awake. Socio spits at the ground and walks towards The Wanderer and The Girl from Before.

The Wanderer and The Girl from Before take Socio to the Beach side camp where he is greeted with open arms. Socio feels good about things. Socio decides that he chose the right path. Later that night the leader of the beach camp and The Girl from Before wake him up and bring him to an oasis that is sacred to the beach dwellers. Upon entering the oasis the leader of the beach camp disappears and can be seen watching them from a distance. The Girl from Before is grabbed by a woman hiding in the trees. The woman looks familiar in a way. The woman tells Socio that nothing is constant and then slits The Girl from Before’s throat. Socio runs away. Socio runs for a long time. Socio does not stop.

Socio runs into his original group. There are only 4 of them now. They seem worn down but say that they are close to the good place and will take Socio with them if he wants. Socio joins the group again and travels to the good place.
They make it to a camp that is said to be the good place. The four other people pretend that they love it but they all know that it’s no better then their own camp. New people who live at the good place greet them and show them around, eventually assigning them to different jobs for the “town”. Socio becomes numb and goes along with things. The leader of his original group becomes one of the leaders of the good place and when another member of the original group is publicly executed for unexplained crimes. The Leader tells Socio that he did something very bad and that he had to be dealt with.

That night Socio sees The Wanderer again and begins tp walk towards the hill that The Wanderer is standing on. He is stopped yet again by The Leader who says again, “Do you really think now is the right time to leave?”. Socio runs towards the horizon. Away from The Good Place and The Wanderer too. As he runs further away he passes through the Good Place again and passes The Wanderer, each time they are closer to him, watching with more intensity.

Socio falls to the ground and closes his eyes. He is disturbed by someone poking his leg. The Girl from Before is on the ground next to him, this time with a scar over her neck. She smiles and looks up at the sky. Socio looks to the right and sees his other friends from the original group next to him. Socio looks up to the sky with them. Socio begins to get disoriented. He loses his sight and when he regains it he is alone on the shore of the beach. Socio stands up and looks around. Socio begins to walk down the beach.

Journal Entry Six (for Week 7)

Free Write:

Int. Halloween party – night

Gibson stands in the corner of the living room at Asha’s house next to a fruit punch bowl. The room is filled with twenty or so high school juniors and seniors, an awkward sophomore here and there.

Gibson looks around the room at the various group socializing.

She takes a sip of his drink, just punch in a red solo cup, unlike the vodka-punch mixture that is so common amongst her peers.

A boy, Trevor, taps Gibson on the shoulder and starts talking to him.

As they talk Gibson looks away and when he looks back her mouth is covered in blood and an arrow is sticking out of her shoulder.

Gibson feels sick at the sight of Trevor “dying” and heads for the bathroom.

Int. bathroom – CONTINUOUS

Gibson enters the bathroom and turns around quickly to close and lock the door. Gibson sighs in relief and closes her eyes. She hears a rustling sounds and opens her eyes.

Gibson notices that she’s standing in front of a couple of teens who are half naked, entwined in eachother’s arms, obviously drunk, and staring at her.

Gibson unlocks the door, opens it and leaves but not before glancing back at the couple and seeing them and the bathroom covered in blood.

Int. Hallway – continuous

Gibson walks out into the hallway, sweating and anxious looking. She rushes past a couple talking and leaning against the living room entrance and accidently knocks a partygoers drink over which spills onto her shirt, appearing to be blood of some sort. Gibson walks faster and begin to run and exits the house.

Ext. backyard – MOMENTS LATER

As Gibson enters the backyard she notices that her shirt is not covered in blood but in vodka/punch. To Gibson, the backyard is even more crowded and suffocating than the living room of Asha’s house.

Gibson turns back to the house but the sliding doors leading inside are covered in blood, with the blood slowly seeping onto the pavement beyond the door.

Gibson covers her face and enters the house in a rush.

Int. kitchen – CONTINUOUS

Gibson rushes through the kitchen, towards a flight of stairs near the hallway. All around Gibson there are half alive partygoers covered in blood talking to eachother and to him.

Ext. Rooftop – MOMENTS LATER

Gibson pushes through a door leading to the rooftop of Asha’s house. Everything stops. The world is quiet and she can breathe again.

Gibson lays down on the roof and stares up at the sky. She falls asleep.

Ext. Rooftop – morning

Gibson wakes up to Asha standing over her with a cup of coffee. Asha offers a hand to Gibson and helps her up. They enter the house.

Int. kitchen – MOMENTS LATER

Asha sits Gibson down next to Davey, another party goer who spent the night, and offers her a bowl of cereal which she begins to eat.

Asha sits down next to Gibson and asks her about the party.

As Asha is talking Gibson looks down at her bowl of cereal to find that the cereal has turned into a bowl of intestines. Gibson begins to look sick and spits out some of her cereal, which also looks like chewed up intestines.

Davey asks if she’s alright

Asha dismisses this for Davey having a hangover but suggests that Davey gives her a ride to school.

Journal Entry – Week Six

Sorry it’s a day late!

I think it’s always important to point out the parallels that occur in our life, especially those that occur in different stages, for sometimes opposite reason, but yet have the same basic feeling. For example, when I met my now ex-lover last spring I experienced a shockwave of emotions that were quite foreign to me at the time, though I can say that after ten months of knowing her these emotions have persisted to the point that, at times, it feels like I might not be able to experience or feeling anything more or less than what I have felt in the presence of her. The feelings consisted of acute anxiety and nervousness whenever she appeared in my mind or in person (which was most every waking second in one way or another) coupled with something that I cannot describe as anything other than a surreal sense of the world, a happiness that exists without context or logic, where it’s only grounding is certain to come from her, or at least how I view her to be. While these feelings were always with me, and still are now, there were three very specific moments when life seemed to shift, in the way that I viewed the world, the way that I looked at my surroundings, the way that my chest felt both like is was ascending towards something grandiose as well as being tightly wound by some unseen force from within. What intrigues me is that these feelings are felt during the most positive moment, in the most heartbreaking moment and in the most melancholic moment of my relationship with this woman who has (had?) captured my heart with the most exhilarating and terrifying intensity that I could have ever imagined possible.

Close Viewing – Masculin/Feminin

Austin Milner
The Eye of the Story
Week Six
Close Viewing

The Roles of Gender:
A Closer look into Masculin/Feminin,
Gently Down the Stream, and The Smell of Burning Ants

I do not like Paul. For every possible redeemable or understandable reason that Masculin/Feminin presents about Paul, the gothic-hero, the anti-hero, the he means well protagonist, I cannot bring it to myself to like any part of Paul for more than about .3 seconds. I don’t like Paul because I know people like Paul and, in more ways than I’d like to admit, I am a little like Paul. In my interpretation of Goddard’s 1965 French cinema masterpiece, Paul represents what it is to be the typical Man and therefore operates to encompass the tropes of the majority of the male population of France, The United States, and the entire, albeit mainly western, world. In this representation of Man we see all of their shortcomings, for which there are many, in our lead actor Paul. We see the control that Paul exudes over the women in his life, and, though to a far lesser extent, the power that he holds over Robert (the less attractive, less successful, less aggressive but still aggressive man). We see the manic addiction to knowledge in Paul, the need for knowledge of the whereabouts of those, whom Paul regards as his property. We see the self-imposed “overseer of the world and of all life that is below him, the one true god” complex that Paul feeds through his interviews (mainly if not entirely, I can’t quite remember, consisting of female interviewees) and through his monologues to the ever-present “viewer”.
I feel as though Paul in real life, without the novelty of a writer acting as his puppet master, would still have these monologues, have this selfish observation that he shrouds his days in. It is the other trope of the man. If they are not a meathead then they are a wallflower, but one must be careful because in that innocent, sad lonely intellectual resides such a viscous judgment of those around him, of the women around him, that all who exist in this world, in his world, become lesser. Feel free to notice the connection that I seem to be making between Him, of what we refer to as a Man, and Him, of what some refer to as a God. We see this connection in Madeline as well, operating as the audiences understanding of the classic Woman. The politeness, the feigned interests in some boy like Paul for (and we cannot be certain of which this is or if it is both) an obligation that is felt, and awkwardness perhaps or for need of pure survival. To not provoke the proverbial beast that is seated next to her, with his cold and creepy/charming-not-sure-which-probably-both-maybe-neither-smile.
These states of being that both Paul and Madeline inhabit appear to work as a blanket, encompassing the mindset of the youth of the 1960’s and the identities of Men and Women in general. Out of everything that I believe can be felt in the social constructs that exist around Man and Woman, around the Masculine and the Feminine, the one thing that I always feel, regardless of the moment, is frustration. Some might call it tension, at times it could be jealousy or envy, or fear but at it’s core I believe that having such a strict definition of “what a man is” and “what a woman is” adds to the human mind such an extreme level of stress that frustration is the only apt comparison of this constant feeling.
We see this with everyone in Masculin/Feminin, in the pauses and nervous laughter or Catherine’s conversation with Robert, in everything. We see this intense feeling of frustration, even leading to what I would categorize as depression or trauma to a massive extent with Oscar, Beli, Yunior and even Lola in The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao but where I feel we see the most openly see the damage that can be done by this way of living is in both The Smell of Burning Ants and in Gently Down the Stream, one film focusing on the male-centric view of this issue and one focusing on the female. In my opinion both focus on the freedom that is lost in our current worldview of the “right” type of sexuality though I believe that to be changing rapidly in our immediate culture, hopefully something that will continue to spread in the next coming years. In every instance it seems that neither gender role is afforded with anything genuinely good. I do believe that Men have had the easier, the better, and the more lucrative time with this type of societal structure that has managed to persist for what appears to be all of recorded history (I very much hope that it was different before though I doubt it) but where22 the Male gender has come out ahead on I feel that they have also come out inhumane. Upon watching these films, reading these books, I find it hard to not believe that both men and women begin the journey to destroying both themselves and each other from the second that they enter this world.
This is not a new idea. I do not believe that I am alone in these feelings. That being said I feel like this issue has been gaining, and sufficiently losing, ground since the start of the industrial revolution. There is something about the not needing to worry about survival on a day-to-day, hour to hour pace that makes a human manic in a way. When we don’t live to survive we must replace it with something else. We replace this need with the need to thrive in the world that we have created. The problem is that we never set a definition of what this “Thrival” entails and how we work with others on this journey, to make it something that we do together and not against each other. I think the issue of gender roles and the problem with how we treat people of the opposite, and of the same, sex that don’t fit our expectation, or even if they do, is routed in something deeper than the social game we play. What that is I don’t know, but I think that movies like Masculin/Feminin, movies like The Smell of Burning Ants and Gently Down the Stream, books about people like Oscar and Lola move us in the direction of the answer to whatever question I am trying to pose.

Journal Entry – Week Five

The latest writing exercise in class consisted of students picking the author or filmmaker from one of the many novels and movies that we had worked with throughout the first half of the quarter and writing about how and why they were that student’s biggest influence of the quarter so far. For my entry I ended up choosing to write about Jean-Luc Godard and how his film Masculin Feminin resonated with me as well as how I felt that our styles were similar but what plagued me throughout this entry was that I was completely torn between writing about Godard and writing about W.G. Sebald and The Rings of Saturn. My thoughts on this struggle between these two magnificent artists follow as such:

I’m really not sure if I can pick between Godard and Sebald as to my most influential or similar (to my own work) artist of the quarter thus far. I love how Sebald writes and, in many ways, I feel that he writes how I do or at least how I would like to. On the other hand, Godard shows the audience his work in the way that I would like to show the audience mine. If I were writing a novel, Sebald would most definitely be my most influential artist so far but if I was writing a script and creating a film, which is exactly what I am doing, I believe that I would have to give the ultimate title to Godard.
What Inspires me about Godard’s work in Masculin Feminin is the way in which I feel he obscures reality, or at least the notion of normality. For example, Paul witnesses the death of three people during the course of the fifteen-act narrative (one at the café after meeting his false-love, Madeline, one on the subway, and one at the arcade after Madeline and Elizabeth leave Paul at some sort of diner or bar because of his poor attitude). Why does Paul witness these horrors and are they even real? And if they are they are most certainly not to be considered commonplace within the confines of the film. To meet it seems that the deaths that Paul encounters act as a sort of warning, from his own mind, about his deteriorating mental state and, if that is not to be the case, then it is to say something about the hidden lower classes or hidden tensions of French citizens at the time in which the film was produced.
In the film that I have written for class, Life After Defo, the main focus of the narrative is that of the crumbling mental states of the protagonists’ two close friends, Ari and Lennox, who appear to be at odds with each other and to an increasingly dangerous extent as the film moves on. Things begin to get even more complicated in the narrative when the protagonist herself, Cole, begins to seem, but only to the audience, as the one who may be mentally unhinged instead of the other two participants of the isolated journey that they partake on in the beginning of the film.
I feel as though Godard’s focus on blurred reality and obscured normality is the thing that speaks to me the most out of what we have discovered in the class as well as his focus on gender stereotypes and bias but I also feel the Sebald has influence almost as equally in his intentionally vagueness and intricate detail taken to confuse the reader of the time, place and truth of his narrative. This two artists and the works of theirs that we have experienced in the class seem to be the amalgamation that brought on the creation of my film for the class, quite the fitting combination I hope.

Journal Entry #2 – Week Four

I often wonder what prompts people that make the decisions that they make at the specific time in which they make them. I wonder if, just maybe, monumental things that exist within the lives of the others that inhabit the world around me are triggered, in a sense, by whoever has recently taken up an important role in their life. I think about this in the context of people but also with the notion in mind that jobs, hobbies and mental states can do the something of a similar nature. Upon reading The Rings of Saturn and the first half of The White Album I have been left with both an overwhelming sense of the vastness of the world (mainly from Sebald’s work) and the pure isolation that can come with the world seeming too open, too unknown and too sporadic (from the work of Joan Didion).
What I find to be crucially important in who one sees the world, who they associate with and how they define themselves within society is to be aware of the fact that a person’s outlook on life is quite possibly the most important thing about them, who they are, and why they do what they do. For a long time now I have had a very negative view of the world and of life itself (and specifically human life at that). I found that I was bothered by an overwhelming majority of accepted societal customs and specifically those tied to confidence (how one utilizes it and why) and comfort (how one finds and maintains it in social situations). I thought that it would be easier to accept that I just did not agree with how the world worked but to do nothing in an attempt to adapt to it or to learn about it more on the off chance that I was, in fact, misguided in my understanding of certain societal roles and pressures that I deemed to be immoral or difficult to deal with because they were lacking in something that I still to this day can not quite pinpoint.
They say it’s important to follow your gut, but I say that they brain does a very good job into tricking you into thinking that your mind is your gut and your gut is your mind. If one is unable to accurately identify a base need or feeling, they can easily begin to second-guess every feeling, every emotion for the possibility of it being fabrication as a sort of defense mechanism. I find that, and especially in the northwestern corner of America, it is incredibly easy to get lost in ones own “headspace”, to get lost in thoughts about the nature of thought, to delve too deep into the root of emotions that occur because they are just a conditioned response and not something that can be analyzed in any helpful sense.
Lately I have discovered within myself the understanding that if I feel like the world is inevitably doomed to perpetuate it’s sense of wrongness and that there is nothing that I can find aside from moments of fleeting happiness then the world would never feel redeemable. This does not mean that the world is so. All this means is that my mindset is blocking me from seeing different angles about how the world works. I have decided to undertake the challenge of being optimistic, if still cautiously so, in an attempt to make the world seem brighter through my eyes. Not so bright that I am blinded to the injustices that still plague very corner of the earth but to understand truly why they happen and to what extent I should be personal disheartened by it to the point where I feel the need to withdraw because by withdrawing I am doing no good to anyone other than myself and that, more than many of the things that I am bothered by, is part of the wrongness of the world.

Journal Entry #1

It is as if the weightlessness that he had anticipated would dominate his life as a college student who was experience his newfound freedom for the first time had just changed it’s form. From ecstatic hopefulness brought on by the realization that he was now fully in charge of his destiny he was then hurled into the opposite direction only three weeks into his first quarter of adulthood.
He had left his dormitory at this point, short of breath not in the way that an athlete is but in the way that his parent’s basset hound, who goes by the name Ollie, appears short of breath and shaking on one of those more extravagant holidays, such as New Years Eve or The Fourth of July. It is the look that Ollie gets when he begins to realize that his people, the ones that he most desperately tries to keep track of throughout the day, are about to leave him, for what he can only imagine to be forever.
He feels as Ollie the Basset Hound does at this moment in time. He feels an overwhelming sense of nothingness as he climbs up the outer stairwell of a library building. A stairwell leading to a clock tower that he has always wanted to enter, for there is a door that he has found, though it is locked.
The Boy feels what is often mistakenly categorized as “adulthood” instead of it’s more aptly put name “anxiety” in the form of a panic attack as he is standing upon the roof of that library building.
He only faintly remembers how he got there. Only faintly how he fell back, softly, slowly, laying against the brick roof of the building. Only faintly that he did not return home until 4am that morning. Only faintly that he stayed in bed for the next several days. Only faintly that this would happen again. Soon, but that it would not happen after that for a long time.

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The Evergreen State College
Olympia, Washington

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