Category Archives: art

Lending Credibility

Fake news

Back in February 2014, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” debated Ken Hamm, the creationist who built and operates the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Prior to the debate, people didn’t think it was wise for Bill Nye to be debating Ken Hamm. Though Nye wanted to have a debate from a more inquisitive perspective, to learn more about creationism and to see if it is an actual viable model for explaining the origin of things, people saw it as a way of elevating Ken Hamm, of inviting superstition to the scientific table, long after most of the world’s academic and critical thinkers have discarded religious dogma to explain natural phenomenon. I thought it was a useless exercise. Nye was lending his credibility to Ken Hamm and making him an “expert” equal to himself. I’m not opposed to debate, but I don’t see the value of debating people who sees a challenge to their ideas as fuel to their faith, scientific evidence as devilish trickery. The religious don’t even have conversations to be convinced. They are there to convince you, to add you to their flock. Scientists debate to see if there are holes to their ideas; see if their initial hypotheses holds up. So in the end, the debate didn’t do anything but raise Ken Hamm’s profile. It made him known to people outside of religious circles.

This is similar to my problem with Bill Maher. He claims that the best disinfectant is sunlight; and that we should confront irrational ideas and characters, and show them what fools they are. His show will have accomplished people like Senator Elizabeth Warren, Michael Eric Dyson, and Cornel West, then he will have people like SE Cupp, whose initial schtick “I’m an atheist but I envy the faith of the religious” is such a boldfaced sham that it’s a wonder why Maher didn’t run her out of the panel. Cupp was just a blip on the media radar at the time, but Maher elevated her, lent her his credibility as well as the credibility of his guests, and this resulted her getting employed by CNN and other media outlets. Maher claimed to do the same thing with Milo Yiannopoulos earlier in the year, to invite him to his show for a dialogue to see what makes him tick, then later took credit for Yiannopoulos getting exposed for his past comments regarding homosexuality and pedophilia. I saw the show and was not impressed with either of them. He didn’t really challenge Yiannopoulos too much on his flimsy arguments. I predict if Yiannopoulos wasn’t drummed out of the public eye by the Internet a week later, Maher would’ve had him as a regular guest, feeding off of his notoriety.

And now we see Kayleigh McEnany working for TrumpTV. A lawyer who graduated from Harvard, she worked at CNN as a Trump supporter, arguing for Trump’s and the administrations worst comments and actions. I wouldn’t mind her if her arguments were substantive, but the points she defended often goes against the viewers own senses (like Trump’s flip flops) and she sounded so disingenuous that it makes me wonder what it really takes to graduate with a law degree. She added nothing of value to debates, and it was infuriating to see CNN has people like her misinform their audience. A previously unknown person, CNN has elevated her and lent her their credibility simply by having her on their airwaves. The Most Trusted Name in News has misinformers on their payroll. And now McEnany is doing propaganda on TrumpTV. TrumpTV can now boast that it employs not just Trump relatives, but also former CNN contributors, giving merit and credibility to its “news.”

James Randi did it best. He had scammers on his show and showed them the flaws of their tricks. He exposed them in such a way that it wasn’t disrespectful. With logic and science, he showed how a person was deceiving the audience. Afterwards, he moved on to the next scammer. He didn’t have them as a regular guest nor consulted them regarding other matters. He didn’t lend them his credibility. Now, I’m not saying people like Bill Maher or networks like CNN should be debunkers. But they should call out lies and disinformation for what they are, and don’t reward liars by employing them or inviting them to sit on discussion panels to lie again.

 

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Missing Vietnam

Mosquito

Vietnam is a great place. The people are friendly, the architecture is charming, it’s amazingly safe, and the beaches are wonderful. It rained half the time I was there, but it was not so bad that I couldn’t explore the city. What surprised me about the trip was how cheap everything was. Food and drinks were cheap, especially compared to Seoul and other places I vacationed before. It was just insanity. I could see myself retiring there if my measly pension would not allow me to live in Seoul or Canada.

Another thing that surprised me was how safe I felt despite walking around in dark streets. I didn’t feel like I was gonna get mugged or kidnapped or anything. It’s more dangerous walking around in downtown Winnipeg. I was staying in a rural, touristy area, but compared to the rural areas I stayed at in the Philippines, my wife and I felt so much more secure. We felt fewer eyes looking at us.

What bothered me, however, was the apparent prejudice against Korean tourists. We stayed at Hoi An, the Old City. The place being a UNESCO heritage site, it is protected and needs maintenance. This requires funds from tourists, and some walkways welcome donations or have signs that ask people to present their tickets prior to passing. This policy appears to be enforced lackadaisically, as people just come and go without presenting any tickets or being asked to buy them. That is, unless you’re Korean. My wife and my sister-in-law’s family got asked to present their tickets, but not once was I asked. We also observed other tourists pass by and they don’t seem to be bothered by city officials. My wife and I thought it might be a colonial attitude, where white people are not hassled but other ethnicities are. But I wasn’t hassled, Chinese tourists weren’t hassled, it’s just the Korean tourists who were being asked for tickets. And we’re not crazy. We observed close by while having drinks. It seems like a scam, feels unjust, and was the only thing that really left a bad feeling in me.

That and the countless mosquito bites.

 

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Could be Tomorrow

Lungs

I’m off to Vietnam this week. I don’t know much about the country and its beautiful people, so I’ll talk about The Handmaid’s Tale instead. What a wonderful, wonderful adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s work (a Canadian treasure)! Good job, Hulu! What’s really interesting about the book and the show itself is that if there’s ever a more apt book to adapt for the times, it’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Being a work of “speculative fiction,” much like books like The Road or Blindness, it doesn’t need much fantasy in order for something to become our reality. In the case of The Handmaid’s Tale, religion and military dictatorship just needs to marry together, something which humanity has experimented with several times before.

And it’s not like we’re that far off from Ms. Atwood’s fiction. The world is becoming more and more militaristic. Many countries’ police officers are starting to look more like military forces. There’s a loud growing movement of conservatism with their adherence to religious dogma and a distrust of science and news media. And more and more, dictatorial rule seems to be coming back into fashion with many people blindly supporting strong men. Even my father pines for the days of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law and praises the likes of Duterte. The show did a great job of incorporating current trends and technology and making it part of the narrative. It almost screams at the viewers, “this could be you! You’d better do something about it” It’s not enough that we trust our collective goodness as a society. Our hubris, our confidence that several others will do good despite of our inaction, will lead to our eventual downfall. I’d like to believe more Americans are sensible, and yet Donald Trump and his ilk run the country. I was impressed at how friendly, welcoming, and seemingly sensible everyone was the last time I visited the Philippines, but they’re the same people who would deny their neighbors are being killed for their vices, even if it happens almost every day. My workplace is surrounded by people who yearn for the days of dictatorial rule in Korea.

It is scary. It really wouldn’t take much.

 

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Oh Manitoba!

Manitoba_Arts_Network

Thank you Manitoba Arts Network for having my works for their 2017-2018 touring exhibition. It’s always nice to have people appreciate my work, that the works I make are not just for me personally, that they could mean something else to some people as well.

 

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WiderScreen

WiderScreen_Tommi Musturi

My work is featured in a Finnish magazine. They’re a handful of images from my upcoming “Fever Dream” collection which will be making its way around my home province. I didn’t really think that the Finnish site would be interested at first, but it’s good to see some of my images out there. The site’s current theme is the use of text as an object of study and a work of art. I guess my style of work falls into that category. Although instead of focusing on things like fonts or the beauty of text itself, I use it more as building materials, as a means to add texture and to both literally and metaphorically add more emotions to the pieces I’m working on. I’m also more interested in the reason outside of obvious occasions such as books, notes, etc. why people write things down and why people read them. Why deface a wall? Why read graffiti? Is it a reflex or a need? Why write on a blog that no one will read? Why read a blog that no one reads? Is it more for the writer or for the reader? Who is getting their needs met from the exercise?

In any case, I recommend reading through the articles. Not all of it is for everyone, but I’m sure everyone would find something of interest. I particularly found Anders Carlsson’s article quite enlightening.

BTW: That image up there is by Tommy Musturi.

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Father’s Day Post

Waiting for my turn

I don’t write too much about Canadian politics because as much as a faux-progressive Justin Trudeau has been, he’s still miles better than Harper. I really can’t complain too much with regards to Canadian politics. But if there’s one thing that’s continued to be ignored regardless of whether it’s Harper, Trudeau, or even Chrétien, it’s Aboriginal issues.

As much as I applaud the CBC for featuring the works of Drag the Red (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/drag-the-red-bones-1.4166029), it’s still the same old effort with no real response from the government. Concerned citizens are still out there, dragging the river looking for bodies or any evidence of people missing. Members of the First Nations, specifically Aboriginal women, have a higher risk of ending up missing compared to other groups, and despite this trend, there hasn’t been any real change to correct this. And what’s tragic is, with all the Aboriginal women missing and being ignored, if there’s ever a white woman missing, her case would dominate the headlines. This is why people are out there trying to find members of their community by themselves. And perhaps it might not be the most effective means of trying to find bodies or evidence; I believe they do it mostly as a means for catharsis at this point, especially with the rather gloomy approach of dragging the river for bodies instead of looking for a living person.

I learned about Drag the Red a few months when the group started first started looking for bodies. I’m afraid the group will continue to exist well into the future, and the government will continue with their same replies. “If they feel like they’re doing something to address what THEY SEE is an issue, then we support that.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8iDzIQW0XE) I could understand the risk versus reward approach, especially if the authorities in Winnipeg in particular are working on a very limited budget. But how often are we as Canadians going to keep on saying to the First Nations every time they have a problem that we just don’t have the resources for them?

And while I already linked a VICE video, here’s another VICE feature on missing Aboriginal women (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xz63Vppw3gE)!

Before I forget, happy Father’s Day!

As much as I love my father, he’s the biggest Duterte supporter. I have two problems with that. One, Duterte is everything Canada and most western democracies are against. He’s a strongman dictator who happens to think casually about rape and thinks anyone involved with drugs should be murdered. Second, why is my dad so involved with Philippine politics? Shouldn’t he be more involved with Canadian or American politics? That’s where his kids and his grandkids are! It’s like he moved to Canada and enveloped himself into this hyper-nationalistic shell.

In any case, I’ve debated people like him regarding the whole Duterte situation and I’ve written about him before, but one argument that annoys me most is the line, “you don’t know how it is as an outsider; people who live here know better,” which basically means that any outside opinion is disqualified since we don’t get the whole breadth of the experience- we don’t see how much the country has improved under the tyrant Duterte.

Well, first off, that is one of the most common defense of battered spouses. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jZqwq7N-ps) “You don’t know him like I do. We’re doing fine.” I would argue that anyone on the inside is far too gaslighted to know what’s good or not, and that anyone who actually thinks that Duterte is good is too deep in the bubble to know any better. It would take a concerned outsider to point out what’s wrong in the situation.

And like many things Duterte, it doesn’t take too much to point out the hypocrisy in the whole situation. If outsiders’ opinions regarding a situation are not qualified, then what qualifies an outsiders’ opinion regarding a drug user’s lifestyle? Perhaps drug users totally fine with their lifestyle and believe it doesn’t affect them negatively. Who is to say, as an outsider, that they are doing society wrong by getting involved in drugs? Maybe the outsider, in this case Duterte and his followers, should try some drugs to get more insight. And what about the Muslim crisis in Mindanao? Why is the rest of Philippines forcing their some of their minority to be part of the bigger country? Maybe those smaller communities are happier are Muslim nations.

Lastly, as prescribed by Godwin’s Law, it is exactly outsiders’ opinions that got Hitler and the Nazis to stop murdering Jews. What’s chilling however is that it was Duterte who initially compared himself to Hitler, and his supporters didn’t even bat an eye.

So what am I saying to the lost Duterte supporter who happened to have stumbled into my page? Look at your neighbors. Perhaps it’s a good idea to listen when they tell you that you’re in a bad situation.

Oh and yeah, happy Father’s Day!

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Fake Paintings

goat-1

To this day, I still see news on television regarding Chun Kyung-Ja’s mysterious painting. To those unfamiliar, a quick summary: the late Chun Kyung-ja is one of Korea’s most successful painters. One of her paintings was purchased by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, but she declared in 1991 that it was the work of a forger. A forger even admitted to the fact but later retracted his claims. Lawsuits and forensic investigations afterwards, the official story is that the work is indeed authentic. Scientific analysis and some provenance backs up that claim, although Chun Kyung-Ja’s family continue to claim that it is not authentic, and that officials are perhaps protecting the reputation of Korea’s art experts.

Is this not the best problem to have? To be so good and to be so talented that not only are other people trying to copy your work, but reputations are at stake to prove that work you may or may not have done is indeed authentic.

In any case, I could certainly see the motivation to prove that the painting Beautiful Woman is authentic. It would be a big embarrassment should it be proven that the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art purchased and exhibited a forgery (Although some of the pieces I saw them exhibit a few years ago are quite disheartening themselves).  I don’t see the motivation of why an artist would lie and claim that a piece of artwork wasn’t done by them. Perhaps if it was an embarrassing piece of work or its political or social commentary might cause the artist some backlash. But if it’s as cherished as Beautiful Woman seems to be, I don’t see why the artist would claim she did not paint it.

It is true what Ms. Chun Kyung-Ja said. Speaking as a visual artist, I know which artwork was done by me. Even after evolving and considering some of my past works embarrassing or not reflective of the body of work I would like to be most remembered for, I know whether I’ve done something myself or not. Creating art is an intimate process. Visualizing then replicating a mental image into reality is such a unique and memorable experience that it’s very hard to forget. It is much different from putting words on paper. One can easily forget what they said one or two years ago. Some of the things I’ve blogged about on the Internet I’ll probably be unfamiliar with and be quite embarrassed to know that I’ve written them. And yet, we often remember childhood drawings we did once we see them again.

As much as I believe in science, I don’t think the science in many areas of forensic analysis has been settled yet. There have been several questions regarding the reliability of bite mark analysis and handwriting analysis. I just don’t find the art analysis evidence to be very convincing. Same materials can be bought. Brush strokes can be imitated. There’s a whole industry of painters creating the same paintings cheaply in many countries right now. Surely, a better forgery can be made at a much higher budget.

While people are speculating that the museum might be protecting its own experts by claiming that Beautiful Woman is authentic, I think it’s quite out of character for the museum, especially as Koreans who are often respectful to their elders to a fault, to be attacking the artist. They claim that perhaps Ms. Chun Kyung-Ja doesn’t remember she created the piece due to dementia. Those are very serious charges in a country that regards being called “crazy” as one of the worst insults a person can say. And as much as the museum trotted out several art experts to bolster their claims, I am curious to see if they presented any evidence to support suggestions of the artist’s failing memory at the time.

But that is the museum’s simple explanation. The artist forgot. So it’s a battle of simple explanations. Did the artist forget or did the museum get duped? I am quite biased, and I do believe that in this case, the artist did not forget. This won’t be the first time an art institution bought and displayed a forgery or misattributed a piece.

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A Bit of a Break

merrick

A bit of a break from staring at the Joseph Merrick that is politics these days. It’s difficult, but I have to try hard and wean myself from my Internet habits. Even my Twitter hasn’t been that active, despite the occasional fights with neo Nazis.

Speaking of Nazis, I used to volunteer for a hospital when I was fourteen years old. I would help feed and generally assist in the care of senior citizens at Deer Lodge Hospital. It was a good experience, and I got to meet heroes who actually fought Nazis. One man, Mr. Thurston, actually suffered a bullet would while fighting in World War II. He kept the bullet that was meant to kill him, and I remember him telling me that his wife never had much love for the horrible trophy. The man was a hero, and though he passed away over ten years ago, I still remember our conversations.

Come to think of it, that hospital was filled with veterans. It was filled with dying heroes. It was famously the hospital where Tommy Prince spent his last days. It’s almost like a field hospital back in World War II. But instead of young men dying because Winston Churchill sent them to their deaths, it’s time killing old men slowly.

Ironically, to this day, there are still Nazis. There are still Nazis online ready to argue with you and ruin your day. There are still people who can’t enjoy Hugo Boss’ aesthetics without going overboard and donning a swastika armband. Nazis were evil people who lost a war. They were losers. Some people forget that. We should all live in a world where we just shoot Nazis in videogames, not where we argue with them online and in the media.

Oh shoot. That just got political again, didn’t it?

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Pizza and Theater

Fox.jpg

There’s a reason why people would rather watch Marvel movies than documentaries. Marvel movies, despite their mythology, is far easier to digest and is made more interesting with its fantastical storylines compared to most documentaries. Just the word “documentary” itself would turn off most people. It speaks of the mundane. It almost sounds like homework.

That’s the problem right now. Everywhere, it seems like conspiracy theories and fake news are winning over actual, mundane truth. Call me naïve, but I actually believe basically the story that ‘This American Life’ did on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, that she is basically not very tech savvy and that the whole e-mail scandal thing is due to her need to keep using just one machine, an outdated Blackberry. The story is not very exciting, but it actually fits what I see in real life: older people not being tech savvy and clinging on to things that they’ve gotten used to.

Unfortunately, right now, #Pizzagate is trending on the Internet. According to Internet sleuths, John Podesta’s love for Italian food, as made apparent by the e-mails Wikileaks posted, is actually code word for something else. Because liking pizza is too mundane. It has to mean… I don’t know… something connected to an underground sex ring that the rich and powerful indulge in, along with pizza. Depending on how deep you get, there’s also talks of pedophilia and devil worship.

I like ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ and I actually think it’s the best Kubrick film despite starring Tom Cruise, but these conspiracy theorists can’t just leave an innocent love for Italian pastry alone and had to mix it with some Kubrick. Also worth noting is that this is the second time I’ve heard of Hillary Clinton being accused of actual witchcraft.

You see, Kubrick films are far easier to digest than watching Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible.’

The same thing is happening in Korea. Instead of actually talking about the real plausible crimes the current president is suspected of doing, there have been too many stories about secret affairs, hidden surgical operations, children out of wedlock, etc. What is happening right now is interesting enough as it is. We don’t have to spice it up with added narratives.

Even in the Philippines! I argue with people online about Duterte encouraging mass murder. And some people would say that the murders weren’t being done on his behalf, and that they were done by “bad people.” WHO? Who are these phantom bad people? Why are they doing this? To make the president look bad? The president is definitely not looking for any of these “bad people.” Why are some people resting easy with the explanation that “bad people did it”? Is ignorance truly that bliss?

The thing is, following the truth is actually a lot like homework. It’s not very sexy. And like homework, we rarely get what we want. Looking at Trump, instead of the media looking at his dealings with Indian business men or his $25 million settlement with the victims of Trump University, the media was more focused on the sexier, easier to digest story of Pence being booed at Hamilton. Then people start speculating that maybe Trump sent Pence to the theater himself to distract from his own issues. Another conspiracy theory. And again, instead of looking at the homework that is the business dealing s and lawsuits, we all obsess about easy to digest stories and conspiracy theories, then bicker about them until we the real issues are forgotten.

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