Chopped and Screwed Tree, by David A. Brown www.dabfoto.com

Sher Doruff, the guest artist for week 9 of NovoED’s PBRA, directed us to devise a “bespoke rubric”; that is, to outline the ways in which we want our work (i.e., the projects each of us brought to the MOOC) to be critiqued.

Bespoke = custom made

Bespoke = built to order

 

Here’s my rubric:

Is the work interesting?

Does it move the audience to do something, or want to do something (anything)?

Is it musical?

Does it mean something? Does it have a sense of purpose?

Are the idiosyncratic elements reflective of larger social issues? In ways that add value?

Does it engage the brain (intellectual/critical/imaginative)? Does it engage the body (emotional/musical/intuitive)?

 

Tenth_of_December

For example, whenever I read a George Saunders‘ story, I get so excited! His voice is so strong and clear and engaging because it’s totally familiar AND strange at the same time. I recognize my own imagination within his, and yet he stretches my imagination in ways that surprise me and thrill me and make me laugh and make me cry. See his story “Escape from Spiderhead” for example, published in Tenth of December.

 

For example, when I’m walking at dusk and I suddenly find myself moving to the rhythm of a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, like The Windhover, or God’s Grandeur, and I feel more alert and satisfied by the reality that I’m alive and seeing trees and clouds and pavement and other people, that I’m moving through this world — what a fucking miracle that I’m here at all! — then I feel the way I want to make others feel — more alive, more alert, more amazed at the gift of being here on earth at all, to see what there is to see, feel what there is to feel, know what there is to know (which is what again?).

 

Kilifi Creek Image from New Yorker

For example, last night reading “Kilifi Creek “by Lionel Shriver (a writer I’ve never heard of before) inthe New Yorker, I was initially put off by the voice, but also strangely charmed, mesmerized.  The topics of Shriver’s story were life and death, youth and presumptuousness, fear and aging. Thinking back to Shriver’s off-putting voice, I’m reminded of Viktor Shklovsky’s idea — ostranenie or “making strange” or defamiliarization — where he suggests that the artist’s task is to engage the viewer/audience in a way that makes them feel like a crazy mixed-up kid so that they end up seeing the world anew instead of numbly recognizing it.

For example, when I listen to Leonard Cohen sing these lyrics of “Boogie Street” —

So come my friends, be not afraid

we are so lightly here.

It is in love that we are born;

in love we disappear —

I realize what’s true for me: I am so lightly here. And I will disappear.

These moments that these artists have created (and myriad others) arrest me, stay with me, and as a result, I can see the world through the lens of these moments, these lines, and I can be renewed, refreshed, relieved, restored, recreated. If only for a moment.

Beckett’s “pale flag

Roethke’s “Light takes the tree, but who can tell us how?”

Plath’s “Out of the ashes I rise with my red hair/and I eat men like air.”

Ultimately, here is the question:

Does my work magnify an ordinary experience so that the experience is transformed and becomes (momentarily, for a lifetime) extraordinary?

 

George Saunders, Tenth of December

6 Comments

  1. I very much agree with the standards you have set out in your rubric. Many are in line with how I define what great art is: a highly skilled work intentionally made to be beautiful and delivers a message. I particularly appreciate the following: Is the work interesting? Does it move the audience to do something, or want to do something (anything)? Does it mean something? Does it have a sense of purpose? Does it engage the brain (intellectual/critical/imaginative)? Does it engage the body (emotional/musical/intuitive)?

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