Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Meeting

Last Monday, I had my first Real Curatorial Meeting. It was, frankly, quite worrying for me.

In my opinion, I don't immediately look like someone who screams "mainstream employment." And it is incredibly important for me to look presentable to people, in order to counteract that. (Looking nice also makes me feel nice. I will never understand the people who go to class in PJs.) So I got dressed nicely for a meeting with people who are far above my age bracket and that of my professors. On the way there I drank coffee, and prayed I wouldn't be late-- oftentimes I have heard a complaint that people my age don't understand timeliness, and looking responsible is important too!

A lot of the meeting was, to be honest, explaining how museum numbering systems work. I had mocked up an example for the curatorial committee, and spent the next hour answering their questions and explaining to the committee at the museum why it was important that it get done. I also answered to some of their other questions, such as the pest issue, and worried the whole time that this internship wouldn't be worthwhile for myself or the museum. But, ultimately, I think that's for them to decide.

Films of Bloody Vengeance: Introduction

The tea before me is growing colder as I struggle to write this first post. How should I begin? Introductions have never been my strong suit, and yet you as my audience deserve better than to be plunged head-first into the world of high-flying wuxia films. This will not be the first time I have seen these movies, but it has been years since I’ve actually sat down to watch them in order to fully take in what they have to offer.

Wuxia films hold a certain sway over me that most American film genres do not. There is a certain amount of pathos and angst in the films that I will be watching, something that you can really sink your teeth into as a viewer while you sympathize with the emotional struggle of the protagonists and antagonists. The sideways glances, the lingering looks that quickly snap away manage to catch me.

I’m rarely one for such dramatics in films, yet the emotional struggle between Master Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon always manages to touch me. They are constrained by the strict codes their world is comprised of, a world that does not allow for a break in tradition: Jen, the primary protagonist, is ultimately unable to realize the life she so desperately wants, and so she commits suicide. Her bandit, the one person that stayed by her side throughout the majority of the film, is left alone.

In Hero, Nameless, the questionably heroic protagonist, sacrifices his need for vengeance in order to allow for the unification of China. What is “good” and “bad” does not matter in such films, only whether justice or lawlessness are triumphing.* And, likewise, the protagonist Po in Kung Fu Panda manages to find himself, the meaning of kung fu, and defeat the antagonist in under three hours.

Whether or not you believe that Kung Fu Panda is worthy of being among these exalted titles is beside the point: the film itself demonstrates the basics of what makes a wuxia movie, with the added bonus that this time the characters themselves are masters of the martial arts style that they physically embody. The characters also have a weight to them that wire-fu users do not, which is interesting in and of itself.

Finally, there is Kung Fu Hustle, one of my favorite Stephen Chow movies that managed to make it to the States. There is a large amount of physical comedy in the film, but often the struggles of the characters emotionally feel real while they attempt to fight back first against a powerful gang, and then against increasingly potent martial artists who are in the employ of the gang’s leader. The film itself includes numerous commentaries and in jokes about wuxia films, such as a scene in which a man is trying to sell off martial arts pamphlets that will unlock the secrets of kung fu, some supernatural doings from two assassins, and amazing fight scenes from supposedly “normal” folks. It’s not necessarily a film I expected to include, but after much thought I am glad I did!

Check back next week for my post about Hero, the Warring States Period, and color use.  

*Yes, I will spend a post un-packing that blanket statement. No worries.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The First Step

It took me all of ten minutes to realize that the small museum I volunteer at is so much more complicated than I was ever lead to believe. My college campus is incredibly secular, and just about any whiff of a strongly faithful Christian is met with general distrust. Our campus is located in a small Midwestern town that was once heavily immersed in the industrialization of the U.S., and we were known for producing the machines that made printing presses, as well as some other items. As such, our city is pretty well-entrenched in the Rust Belt, from what I can tell and from what I've heard. The downtown area, since I was a freshman, has been undergoing a lot of renovations in order to bring in revenue and to encourage more visitation to the town. There are now a bunch of adorable (and sometimes over-priced) shops, which are for the most part standard small-town college fair.

The museum I intern at is, to put it simply, tiny. The vast bulk of their collection is on permanent display, and they've managed to stay open for fifteen years. Their collection is, as well, incredibly specialized, which makes it interesting to spend time in the physical building. It was once a Catholic church, and as such has beautiful round stained glass windows that look like sunflowers at first glance.

To put it simply, I was nervous when I went for my initial interview. I had never stepped foot inside the building proper until my interview, and it was nerve-wracking to try and come up with a way to make myself look a little less like a college student and more like someone an institution like that would want seen around the building. I clean up well, though.

The woman who would become my on-site supervisor is incredibly kind. She worked for a car company for thirty years putting together engines, which is staggering to think about. I can't much imagine doing something for thirty years, let alone doing something like putting engines together. After talking with her for a few minutes into my interview, she told me that it wouldn't be likely that they would have a whole lot to do. I assumed I would mostly be dusting collections or moving heavy boxes for the volunteer staff that are all fifty or above (by my reckoning). My heart sank. I needed the credit, and I wanted the experience. But it turns out they needed someone to catalog the collections, which would be perfect for someone to do. I agreed, and that was that.

I'm not going to lie: cataloging is incredibly boring work so far. I've had to come up with a good way of organizing a collection of over one thousand items, many of which are numbered in ways that I can't quite fathom-- even if the system was explained to me by the owner of the collection. Microsoft Exel, it turns out, will be my very close friend.

Flying Fists & Internships

While this blog was initially created as a way of keeping track of my art in a digital format, for this summer it will also be used as a way of recording my experiences at my internship in Beloit, WI, for a small local museum, as well as for a special project that I am doing with Professor Robert LaFleur, of the blog Round and Square. Because of this, there will be two tags that you may want to look at, which will be filled out over the course of this summer: 1. Winged Internships and; 2. Flying Fists.

I'd like to apologize ahead of time: I am not necessarily the best academic writer, and it has certainly been quite a long time since I last wrote a blog with any consistency. So, please forgive any grammatical errors ahead of time, yes? I will be making new posts every week under both headings, so expect plenty of updates!