Thursday, November 20, 2008

Make Love, Not War

In my interminable boredom today, I was perusing Very Short List. They posted this amazing animated video of an interview between John Lennon and a fourteen year old fan named Jerry Levitan. Almost forty years ago, Jerry snuck into Lennon's hotel room in Toronto carrying a reel to reel. Lennon graciously gave him a five minute interview. The end result, four decades in the making, is phenomenal. The movie that he has put together to accompany the audio is as fluid as the message is clear. It's no surprise that it was nominated for an Academy Award.

Oddly enough, I found this tidbit on the Wired Blog Network about the Beatles' copyright policies:

Maybe The Beatles are resisting releasing their music digitally because they're waiting for people to create their digital legacy for them, as Levitan and company have done here. On the other hand, Levitan's ownership of the sound recording rights to the tape and the lack of associated song publishing rights certainly helped. With a more liberal licensing policy, perhaps the Beatles estate could expect similar works in the future.

Which brings me back to my first post!

Here is the link. Check it out. You'll thank me later.

"Whatever you do, just do it for peace." -The Walrus
A message we should all live by.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thinking Outside the Architect Box

One of my favorite sites for connecting architects, Archinect, has been doing a series discussing architects who are branching out into other areas of design. Archinect features a team of ex-architects who started a studio fittingly called WeShouldDoItAll. They express their love for architecture but choose to work as designers not constrained by one path or expertise. They focus on many areas such as interiors, graphics, products and furniture design that will eventually lead to achieving well-rounded careers as designers. This is definitely not a new concept; architects have consistently followed alternative paths. But, it’s becoming more prevalent in the current economic crisis. Architects are losing their jobs everyday across the nation, leaving talented people looking for work that is non-existent. I, fortunately, am keeping my head out of the water but it may only be a matter of time before I become another victim. Therefore, I am starting to think of my options, both practical and idealistic. What dreams do I have for myself as an architect/designer, “ex-architect” or an architect on a hiatus?

First, let's look at one reason why countless architects are choosing to change direction. From my experience, it's partly due to the stifling nature of the typical corporate architecture firm. My colleagues and I work countless hours flushing out a concept design for developers who call all the shots. Architects are losing respect in the industry. We do all the grunt work coordinating with consultants striving to make our ideas realized while our developer client has the ability to stop production in an instant due to lack of funding, change in project scope, etc. And often we begin work on a project without a contract to receive payment. There is a lack of communication and mentorship between management and staff, leaving many young designers with unanswered questions and no clear direction. These circumstances among others have resulted in our failure to retain talented individuals. Many have changed their focus within the firm from concept designer to the technical/planning/programing side for job security. Being a concept designer is risky because it's easy to fall off the pedestal unless you stay on top of the trends.

On the brighter side, there are other options for people with architecture degrees. There is a trend in Austin of design-build firms that work as the developer and architect, allowing the firm to have control over decision-making on the project. But this is a route many architects avoid because of the financial risk. Also, I am interested in urban design and planning, focusing on the public policy side of the built environment. Areas tied to that are historic preservation and sustainability. These two concepts have been recently merged into one broad concept for the redevelopment of our aging communities. An exciting option is set design for movies or theatre, designing fantasy-like environments and only spending a couple months achieving results instead of a couple years. I too am interested in product design and would love to work here.

The list goes on and on...but whatever path I choose, I'm grateful to know I have options and that I won't be ostracized for following a path that isn't the typical architecture route. I, too, just like Jonathan Jackson from WSDIA, always wanted to be an architect growing up. And I wouldn't have endured 5 years to receive my degree if I didn't think I could make it. But the working world is different from architecture school. I don't aim to generalize all architecture firms, I have no doubt there are many places where architects feel they are on the right path. But it's apparent now more than ever that architects are choosing other paths because there is clearly something missing from the traditional role as architect.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Art's Role In The Intellectual Property Debate

In all of my free time during the work day, I read an article written by Daniel B. Smith on a theory author Lewis Hyde purports in his upcoming and yet untitled book. His idea is that intellectual property needs to be belong to the community as a whole, not solely to the creator or the purchaser of the piece. This debate covers more than just art, it is something that is hotly contended where the internet and copyright laws are involved. But, without getting too detailed, I would like to share my thoughts on the topic. 

As Hyde so succinctly puts it, art needs to belong to a communal pool of IP, how else could an artist and his work gain success if it is not discussed and debated, circulated, reviewed and critiqued? This is how we come to know such famous pieces so well- reading about them, learning about them in class, seeing the actual piece in a museum. Why even have museums if art is only for the possessor and not the benefit of the public? What if something as iconic as Picasso's Guernica was shut away in some private collection? If this was never available for public view, many students could not experience a masterpiece through their textbooks and Power Point slides. Millions of tourists could not stand back and take in Picasso's work in person. And having seen the actual piece, it is absolutely awe inspiring and moving. I would hate to deny anyone such an experience. 

One of my favourite authors Jonathan Lethem was quoted on Lewis Hyde's book "The Gift" and how it affected him. And pulling from my personal knowledge about the author (See! I'm sharing my own IP with the public!), Lethem got much of his inspiration from Dick Tracy comics he read as a kid. Thus furthering my point, we wouldn't be reading such great books as "Motherless Brooklyn" and "Gun With Occasional Music" today, if he himself had not been an avid reader the comic strip. Hyde has become the poster child and an outspoken advocate for a communal IP. So, clearly his own work has inspired and brought about many new and brilliant works of art. 

The question that initially came to mind upon finishing this article was, "Does a communal IP go against our individualistic society?" Right off, yes! We have always been a society that emphasises the importance of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps- forever imbued and romanticized in the cowboy image and Wild West era. But after further consideration, I realized much of our society is not only individualistic, but also collective. We have countless organisations, societies, charities, and even social networking online to prove it. So, we can still give the credit solely to the artist, but we also share the work through the same discussions and circulation that makes the artist successful, thus inspiring future artists. Hyde makes this point so articulately with Benjamin Franklin as his subject. Franklin was not a genius on his own, he had many mentors, volumes of research and literature, and experience from all around the world to bring him to the discoveries and inventions he made. And we, in today's society, still benefit from that collective knowledge Franklin pulled from. So too can this be applied to the artworld. We cannot stifle creativity by imposing too many restrictions on that which inspires us.

And thus begging the question: Why should art exist at all if it can't be shared?