Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Coming Home

My reproduction the atmosphere of this surreal point in time and space will be most faithful while I'm still submerged in it; I present the last blog of the school year: a peak into my mysterious New York life.

Green emerges from beneath the layers of mud and winter. Exploding flashes of pink cheery blossoms accompany the revival of squirrels and cats. Trees regroup their leaves, and the sun finally provides some warmth. Scantily clad New Yorkers migrate back to their Summer plots as they squat in public parks. Thousands of people living in an artificial world of steal, glass, concrete, and plastic desperately cram into public parks like shipwrecked passengers climbing onto a single piece of floating driftwood. We step out into the sunshine of our own private park and remember why we choose Pratt. Hazy carelessness of early Summer spreads from physical laziness to a serene overall bliss. Maybe it's the birds, or the long days, or the smell of foliage that's to blame for our mental transition from photorealism to some blurry impressionist piece. It seems everyone is constantly captured in the distant atmospheric perspective of some warm, indistinct fog. Rigorous projects about structure have turned into, "draw something outside." Specific requirements are debatable; Due dates are debatable; Homework is debatable. The bizarre campus tone, a tension releasing like an unwinding ball of yarn, has led to some odd happenings.

One Monday morning, at approximately 10 am, I was startled by something darting across a nearby isle of my Art History classroom. Before I divulge the cause of this mystery, I will paint the setting. Imagine hardwood floors, large windows overseeing the sculpture garden, high ceilings, stadium seating with a capacity for about 50-80 people, my jolly, 70 year old, cane wielding professor, Mary Edwards, and an old school projector shooting Italian Renaissance art to a pull down screen in the front of a classroom. It is a typical, sophisticated, collegiate classroom like that of most major universities outside of art school. Everyone is tired and slowly waking up as the class progresses. My peripheral radar alerted my of an unusual disturbance. I sat in the very back row, yet could see no reaction in the vicinity of the object's destination. Nervous as I was, I focused back on the lecture. A few minutes later, I felt a cold rush of terror as something brushed against my leg. The creature was stationary against me, and eventually unavoidable. Big smiling eyes met my fearful glance as I looked into the face of a silly white and orange spotted cat. Although I frequently see the campus cats (Prattcats), they are mostly outside, and it is still very odd to see a cat in this setting. The cat continued to meander around the class, under desk, seemingly undetected by most of the students and the professor. It was a happening that was never addressed out loud. The only confirmation I got of whether or not anyone else saw the cat were subtle nods from classmates who I don't know. My sanity was never confirmed or denied verbally. Throughout the rest of the day, I would give them quizzical looks, as if to say "did you see that cat?" Smiles and small tilts of the head seemed to respond, "yes, I saw it too," but they could have just as easily been greetings.

Taking a breather from Drawing class, I sat outside and watched a man tying a rope between two trees that were approximately 10 feet apart. A few minutes later, my drifting gaze brought my attention back to the scene with the trees, which was now surrounded by a group of students who appeared seemingly out of nowhere. At that point the heavily bearded rope-tier began to address what seemed to be his class. Overcoming several minutes of disbelief, I determined that the lecturer was, in fact, a bearded woman. She stood on the tightrope balanced on one foot and explained how it was more difficult to walk on a tightrope with slack, such as the one she stood on. My wide-eyed gawking was only shattered when the juggling started. I should mention that I sat cross legged, in a state of dizzying confusion, in close enough proximity to be a member of the class. Overhead, a chinese yo-yo danced fluidly, as a member of the class warmed up. Almost on cue, a fire-drill sent hundreds of students to join me in shocked amazement as the class began to try the tightrope. The mystery of this event went unresolved, and only worsened more recently when I saw a group of unicyclers juggling as the made their way across campus; they are apparently part of a completely separate organization.

Rhythmic drums grew louder as I descended deeper into the underground jungle of the subway. Tribal hypnotism pulled me into that humid mouth, and I was consumed by a savage atmosphere reminiscent of Heart of Darkness. Concrete caves opened into a moving platform of dancing subway riders. Blurred drumsticks collided infinitely with the surface of various buckets and other makeshift drums; the subway performers were at it again after a short winter lull. Businessmen, sassy teenage girls, artsy hipsters, old people, classy housewives, foreigners, gangsters, a hobo, and probably a few tourist were sharing a beat. Swaying, lurching bodies goofily danced without insecurity. Somehow, everyone just seemed caught in this spontaneous moment without the ability to resist the drummer's song. The diverse dancing crowd was not interrupted by the approaching train; the end of the song transitioned into the normal noises and movement of a subway with the even choreography of a musical. It was a surreal experience.

Busting through the door of my drawing class with slick charm, the assistant chair of the foundation department pitched the Pratt Drawathon. In the style of a 1950's circus manager, he pitched "Come one come all to the Fabulous Pratt Drawathon, it's an experience like no other!" He moved swiftly before the shock of his entry could wear off, Chair: "How bout you kiddo? Don't you wanna an experience you can tell your grandkids about?" overwhelmed student: "wha- I, uh- oh-" Chair: "Alright then, we'll sign you right up! What's you name champ?" And so on until 90% of my class was signed up. From the hours of 7p.m. to 7a.m. on a Friday Night/Saturday morning, top two floors of the Fine Arts building were filled with a variety of paid drawing models. Each room had a different model, sometimes multiple, who posed for times ranging from 1 minute to 6 hours depending on the room. Packed full of scribbling students consumed by a contagious air of drawing fever, I roamed from room to room, reviving my love for drawing. A year worth of being forced to draw the subject, process, and style dictated by a professor, it is easy to develop a distaste for drawing. Fortunately the crazy bongos and mindless bliss of seemingly endless pressure free creation refreshed my perspective. Professors and students drew how they wanted next to one another, senior drawing masters shared a space with the clumsy hands of first year students, and the awkward wall between student-model interaction was broken. Roles dissolved, there were no teachers, students, rivals, superiors, models, assignments, or failures. Everyone just became friends interested in art, drawing for hours, re-energized by pizza and coffee at 1, and then continued through the night. 16 models crammed onto a stand in one huge room as the rising sun illuminated miles of land. Manhattan's iconic buildings were flooded by the blue light of early morning as I gazed past Brooklyn and East River. Daybreak gave way to the end of the night raffle for prizes. The assistant chair then stood on the stand, and said he was proud of everyone who was still here, and that they had earned the right to say the slogan of the Drawathon, "I can do it all night long!"

I made a music video for Carly Simon. As you reread that last sentence and settle into your confused expression, know that it is as much of a surprise to me as it is for you. Carly Simon's 1972 smash hit, "Your So Vain," never had an official music video. She recently released a new version of the song and a corresponding contest for the music video. Despite my lack of any particular interest in her music, I agreed to the film club's project. I was first taught to storyboard, then put to work practicing my new skill. Preparation for this included basic casting experience, budgeting, determination of shooting location, transportation, gathering equipment, and generally orchestrating the circus that is preproduction. One quiet zip car ride to a nearby apartment later, and we were on set. Billy and I were the only two freshman on set among far more experienced filmmakers. What was initially intimidating became more intense when the senior Director of Photography lost his wallet, and Billy got promoted. Advising the shots based on the story boards, I somehow went from set assistant to co-director. Aubrey, our film club president, taught us how to work movie miracles while shooting a music video inside a microscopic NYC bathroom. I learned how to use a camera and tripod that are of higher quality than some professional television shows. Lighting, continuity, shot orders, directing actors, and working the fog machine were the lessons of the day. We left Bedstuy Brooklyn that day with a sense of satisfaction. Some post-production magic by my roommate Jared and tough editing decisions resulted in a satisfactory video. If your interested in seeing it, let me know. We did not win the contest, but Aubrey got everyone who worked on the video press passes to Tribeca Film Festival for our hard work. Pratt obtained these tickets to Tribeca for Aubrey to distribute at her discretion; they are extremely valuable and hard to come by. We saw the world premiers of several movies, Jared met one of his childhood heroes, and we got to walk past the lines like we were important. Hannah was also allowed to come with us, and we watched a movie written and directed by one of her professors. It was a good movie, Tribeca was amazing.

Jared, Andy Serkis (Golem, Lord of the Rings, Motion Model for King Kong) and I

We have had some cool guest speakers lately. Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, and supposed inspiration for "The Devil Wears Prada" came and spoke at Pratt on Monday. Then, Santiago Calatrava, one of the top architects in the world, spoke and gave a critique of projects by freshman architecture majors.

Some fun facts:
-I learned how to work with sheet metal and plastic in 3D class

-Shake Shack is one of the most delicious burger places in NYC

-I had 4D (video) class the other day at the Museum of Modern Art, then went out to eat at a French restaurant with a few friends before returning for English (MOMA had a funny exhibit, ask me about it if you want a laugh)

-Drawing class a while back was at the Museum of Natural History, we drew ourselves in the reflection of a curved surface with animal dioramas behind us; the goal was to make the painted backgrounds (like safari, plains, etc.) look like it was actually behind us in the drawing. Then we returned two weeks later to draw elephants life size by taping 18x24 inch sheets of paper together. I drew the skeleton of a Mammoth. It is literally life size. I don't want to show mine because I am still putting final touches on it, but here is a picture of my friend's awesome drawing.

-Hannah and I went to Coney Island for my Birthday visited the aquarium, then a French restaurant that only serves steak and French Fries, then the world famous Magnolia Bakery for cupcakes. Hannah described Coney Island the best, "cheap, dirty, and utterly wonderful." Ah, nothing like the smell of a century of hotdogs.


french restaurant

-I watched Star Wars a few weeks back in English class, then Children of Men the other day, and I learned more in the corresponding lesson than any other English lesson I have ever had.

-I made my schedule for next year, and got exactly what I wanted. It is going to be awesome.

I will return on May 11th. 10 things I look forward to (in no particular order): 1. doing art of my own, without requirements or critiques 2. Reading, I have a good list 3. Watching my list of movies 4. Working at the Angelika 5. Watching movies in theaters (for free cause of my job!) 6. Swimming 7. Playing Pool 8. Video Games (specifically Brawl) 9. Hanging out with friends and family 10. RA training at the end of summer at some camp in upstate NY