Project 24

Of the five areas of interest, I choose Investigative Cultural Reporting.
I would also add that though my work in the last decade has been radio work, I’d be more interested in concentrating on print during this Fellowship, as I think doing something that doesn’t have to be “produced” would probably be more sensible in the compressed time frame.

Here are three thoughts re projects:

Reality TV: What has its effect been, now that we’re just over 10 years in, here in the US?
I can think of almost unlimited angles from which to examine its rise, fall (after 9/11) and rise again: Its effect on the TV programming world; its impact on more serious documentary films; its influence on perception (can life be edited?) its power over audiences; the economics of the genre (cheap to produce); issues of privacy and voyeurism that are turned around by the form. I haven’t read a decent piece on the subject lately or maybe ever, though there are many “scholarly” academic analyses available (one paper looks at the genre through Reiss’ theory of the16 human desires. Another one applies Aristotelian theory!).

Arts Learning: What can we learn from the late 18th century?
I’ve read interesting and moving work on the absence of sufficient art education in this culture. I’m suggesting a project looking back to another century, perhaps the late 1700s, to examine the elements other than education that created the spectacular artists that emerged from that period, as well as the not-so-spectacular ones. The obvious we know: there were fewer distractions, artists were sponsored by royalty, travel was more limited, family members taught music to their offspring–all those things may have contributed to the flourishing of artists. But there were difficulties as well, not the least of which was a societal attitude toward artists: Mozart had to use the service entrance! Not until the days of Franz Liszt were artists considered so special and admirable that they could walk in the front door. What was it, exactly, that kept artists going (or defeated them) in an earlier age? What ignited their gifts? What “arts education” did they actually have?

The Value of Critics
I’d be interested in doing a project looking at critics in any discipline, past and present. The questions I’d go in with: How many critics were there in 1920? How many across the decades since then? What was the effect of their criticism? How many of them crossed over into becoming creative artists themselves, and with what success? How did critics treat the work of artists who were formerly critics? What was different about a society that had multiple critics? In our own moment, as we’ve replaced critics with bloggers and commenters, what have we lost? What have we gained? How do artists feel about critics? Filmmakers and actors used to claim they never read criticism of their work, now that there are fewer critics, are they missed? Do artists wish they had more critics whose work they could dismiss? Will the pendulum swing back to a culture more appreciative of “authority” or has the digital world broken that notion open forever?

I realize none of these have a particular connection to LA, so I hereby suggest a fourth idea more specific to LA:

The Idea Of West
Taking off from Glenn Gould’s documentary “The Idea of North,” which examined the Canadian mindset and the psychology of living and working in the Northern climate and atmosphere, what about looking at the the West? Beyond Hollywood, beyond the clichés about freeways and strip malls, what is the quality that defines the west, and how have artists used it? What challenges have been faced by cities, trying to fight the notion of “wide open spaces”? What writing, composing, painting and photography have cut through the clichés and delivered an understanding of the world of the West?