Consider the following points as our Statement of Purpose. T-Sides intends to explore and examine these thoughts in particular, but most importantly, these are simply interests, not rules or restrictions. Above all, T-Sides aims to capture the real cultural experience, and in doing so, there can be no rules. Just the mind, as it is.
1. Art and Culture are not only experienced as they are new.
In just the last day, I’ve covered a handful of different decades. I’ve read Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1930s), watched Reality Bites (1990s), and listened to Neil Young’s On The Beach (1970s). However, arts and culture are primarily discussed only as they are new. It usually takes some sort of “anniversary” or re-release of an older work for it to be reexamined or, in some cases, looked at for the first time. Time influences the cultural landscape, and there are dozens of examples of works being critically appreciated decades after the fact as proof.
Not only that, but your personal relationship with art and culture changes over time – what you appreciated when you were young, you might not appreciate when you’re older, or vice versa. I couldn’t stand Sleater-Kinney for years, but one day I bought a used copy of The Woods on a whim, because I had remembered a friend raving about it. I now own all their albums.
2. The any forms of Art and Culture are interconnected.
Various mediums are separated in journalism, largely because people’s expertise or study covers a particular form. But this doesn’t reflect their nature. Movies are sometimes based on books, songs appear in movies, movies and books and songs examine studio arts, and studio arts might be inspired by a movie, book, or song. As they are created, they are naturally connected. In just a two year period I read the books for and then watched the movies based on two Cormac McCarthy novels (No Country For Old Men and The Road). I’ve rediscovered songs, albums and bands because of the excellent soundtrack work on the TV shows “The Sopranos” and “Nip/Tuck.”
Beyond that, the mind forms its own connections that are worth exploring. You might wonder if the character from your favorite novel would get along with the character in your favorite movie, or the emotion captured in a song might remind you of an emotion captured in a movie (as I wrote about here).
3. How and why we find and explore the works we do is important.
The context of discovery is often left out of writing – in some cases because we may have found something in a rather boring way, by browsing around the internet, or through a press release. But in other cases, it’s incredibly important. Some of us may never forget the first time we heard a certain song, or band, or saw a certain movie – I’ve written before about my vivid memory of hearing Death Cab For Cutie’s “Title Track” for the first time.
Who introduced us to something might influence our opinions, as well. If I hadn’t been in love with the person who recommended Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses to me, would I have rushed out to read it as quickly? Probably not.
4. Art and Culture are intensely personal and impact our lives in significant ways.
This time last year, I was slowly beginning to plan a cross-country road trip. I would begin in Seattle, and stretch across the United States in a U shape, through the south and then back up along the east coast, ending in Brooklyn. While planning the route, I realized there were two major factors influencing the stops I had chosen. Firstly, places where friends and family lived. Secondly, culture. I wanted to see the Grand Canyon because of a scene from the movie Grand Canyon. I wanted to see Las Cruces, New Mexico because of the Two Gallants song, “Las Cruces Jail.” I wanted to see the Mercer House and the Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia because of the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I wanted to go to Emory University in Atlanta so I could see the Salman Rushdie Archive.
My personal attraction to criticism and culture writing has always come from this appreciation, from the firm belief that art and culture are more than fluff pieces in our day-to-day lives, and should be treated and examined as such.
The standard school of writing about and discussing art and culture comes from the view of detaching ourselves from them, and discussing them only in the landscape from where they came. But to divorce your heart from art and culture is to look at it as half a person. One can know an album, a novel, or a film is critically “perfect” and still not find it moving. The writing that has stayed with me, the writing that has motivated me to read a book, see a movie, listen to a song is the writing that doesn’t always come from a place of trying to objectively view something in its place in history. It’s the writing that comes from a place of emotion, of passion, of self-awareness, of what many would likely refer to as “bias.”
In my years of being “biased” towards, say, Two Gallants, I have had any number of people, from close friends to virtual strangers, thank me for introducing them to their music. I think this is why the average “blogger” is so effective. They are more personal, more open. They might be family or friends, or friends of family, or friends of friends. You might know where they live, which parent they’re closer to, how their last relationship turned out, what their favorite meal is, what band they’ll travel to another state to see, what movie they’ll watch every time it comes on cable. But John Smith at The New York Times is just a name or a picture on a page. He can claim to not have biases, but we know he’s lying, and beyond that, we don’t know what his are. It’s great that he has a master’s degree in this or a doctorate in that, but what are his parents like? His friends? His lovers? These things matter because art hits your head and your heart, and everything that lives in them – every person, every place, every memory, every dream.