Three Essays Written Circa 2004
I can still remember what it felt like at such a young age to discover that I could tell a computer to perform a desired action. Later I became amazed with how much it would reveal to me. Today we find that the Internet is a device for learning, which has prompted its being implemented in the classroom as a research tool, and allowed people to acquire degrees online. I mention this only because the question asks of my educational background, and my poor marks aren’t worth bragging about. The Internet’s role in my intellectual enrichment cannot be understated. If I could, I would argue that I learned more sitting in front of a screen than I ever did in class. The truth is, I was so consumed by the availability of information and my immediate interests that I seldom brought myself to work outside the time alloted for school. Which is not to suggest that high school was a waste — I simply would not excel within the given environment, a composite of things I felt like I already knew and became easily bored with.
From its introduction I always had an inexplicable aversion to homework, which made for a troubled academic career. Counselors used terms like “motivation” or “effort” in describing my case. Often my teachers offered me deals or extra time on an assignment to ensure that I would pass. I wondered if I were even deserving of such leniency, without which I would not have made it this far. At my worst I even neglected the opportunity they gave me, that is to say, sometimes I passed and sometimes I didn’t. But I am thankful to them, if only for wanting me to achieve, and perhaps recognizing some sort of innate talent.
After my sophomore year, I participated in a summer program at the Berklee College of Music for jazz guitar. The competitive atmosphere had a stimulating effect — I was around players as young as me and faster, more knowledgeable of theory, who knew more tunes. I came out of this experience with the realization that I was capable of more. In my junior year I was fortunate enough to visit the great cities of Italy with my Latin class. The images of Venice, Rome, Florence, and Assissi will forever be impressed upon my mind. Also during my junior year I landed the lead role in a short play, which was closer to a monologue, leaving me with most of the lines. The extensive memorization proved to be a challenge, but again affirmed my own capabilities. These are examples of experiences that can transform an individual, and what I am really looking for in Lang is another.
Thinking I had screwed up irreversibly in school I began to absorb and expose myself to whatever I could find. To me there is nothing more powerful than discovering the work of a great artist in any field. This type of discovery incurs an immensely valuable transformation in one’s ways of thinking. The person may be an author, musician, painter, performer, filmmaker or theorist: I have considered them my real teachers. I am fascinated by those who conduct their work outside the realm of what is socially acceptable. I am drawn to those who make sacrifices, who are willing to experiment and subvert conventions. This type of education is entirely self-motivated. If my schooling has taught me anything, it is only what distinguishes me from others.
Of culture, I consider myself equally a receptor and a participant. Every generation should have a chance to respond to the prevailing style, and I am worried that mine will be more focused on earning a dollar than contributing to humanities. My interest lies in the stories of life told through literature, the endless varieties of human behavior, and the absurdity of modern existence. These may be things that younger people are losing their grasp of, and I believe that scientific advancement, rather than narrowing, brings about more possibilities for art and abstraction.
I have observed how language shapes all of our experiences. I have decided that I would like to devote my life to something greater than me: the study and creation of art. It is because of this insatiable thirst for more knowledge and the dire need for something challenging, that I aspire to study at Lang. I have sought fluency in every discipline, hobby, or art form I’ve encountered. The acquisition of artistic sensibilities resembles a web; by reaction one idea leads to the next, branching further from the center. I can make no estimation as to whether my education thus far has prepared me; I wonder if my case does not represent failure of traditional pedagogy and assessment, of an educational system that left me behind because it wasn’t tailored to my unique needs and interests. In conclusion I explored a life outside of school that was infinitely more engaging, that had no dead ends — I could approach the subject how I wanted, and it would possess more meaning.
The idea that our world is post-everything would, by its own connotation, possess little novelty. Having arrived here through a cycle in which each movement can be described as a reaction to the preceding one, drained of further possibilities we are presented with the question: What is left to accomplish?
In popular art forms such as music, the obvious trend is toward imitation — new music is expectedly derivative of the past. A prototypical art movement combines everything previous with all that is current, however, the referential mergence of new and old is too familiar. Resulting from an accelerated pace of progress, anything associated with antiquity becomes cliché and novelties are quickly deemed obsolete. Considering communication as the central human strength, the advancement of art must begin with a complete transfiguration of our modes of communication.
Every feature of modern life is imbued with metaphor, providing limitless inspiration. Some would find it difficult to write honest literature amidst the actuality of cell phones, fast food, and designer clothes. Conversely, the fleeting sights and sounds of daily life suggest an interesting absurdity and dissociation pervading our existence. Western culture today would have been inconceivable just a century prior. In a sense we have been extracted from our primordial environment — instead of adapting to our surroundings, as the natural evolutionary course, we force our surroundings to adapt to us. With attention spans habitually tuned to thirty-second television commercials and obsessively dependent on materialities, culture increasingly revolves around continual stimulation. Pharmaceutical companies readily provide something that will enable us to sleep or eat less. Fascination with convenience extends to the driver’s seat, where one may enjoy an unhealthy, processed meal without being required to move.
The internet is an invention that embodies modernity. Corresponding to the importance of communication (exchange of information), an online existence is effectively an interactive mode of being. It is written language at ten times the speed and content of a book, the plot selected by its user and adjusted in real-time. Extensions and applications of technology have the potential to stimulate the human senses in any way desirable, and in ways never anticipated before. If art is concerned with senses, the influence of certain technologies on creative abstraction will be profound.
Promises of change, as always, are in the hands of young people around the world. Already intellectual development in children takes a divergent path when hours are spent in front of a television or computer screen. The availability of information and imposition of cultural ideas through media multiplies exponentially. As more grow up with the notion of modernity, they will begin to think in radically different contexts, observing the conception of new lifestyles and forms of humanistic expression. In the face of the 21st century, where day-to-day tasks are accomodated by machines, the artists of tomorrow will no longer be wary of repetition or limitation: using the most diversified tools and mediums yet, they will find accomplishment through realization and transcendence of their situation.
In my mind my education has been self-commissioned and self-directed. Knowing my own affinities, it is then not a surprise upon reviewing my formal education that the experiences I regard as most valuable have involved improvisation. From improvised skits in Theatre class to piano solos in Jazz band, I have searched for a moment to harness and display my own individuality or distinguish myself from the norm.
Undoubtedly schools have given me a chance to enrich myself. As a member of the NHS robotics team, I traveled to national competitions in New York City and Orlando, Florida. It was significant in that for the first time I connected with students from other parts of the country. Most of the people I met were technologically-minded as I have always been. An academic institution gave me another impacting experience when I participated in a summer program at the Berklee College of Music. Studying jazz guitar, I met more friends from other places, and seeing their incredible talent, I was driven to relentlessly improve my own skills on the instrument. As a student of Latin, a subject which has helped me better understand roots of English words, I spent two weeks in Italy. Visiting and touring historical sites of ancient/classical Roman cities was something I had only dreamed about. The imagery of Rome, Florence, Pompeii, Assissi, and especially Venice are forever impressed upon my mind. I kept a journal in photographs and writing while on this trip. Earlier that same year I had achieved a new perspective on the delicate skills of speech and action when I performed the lead role in a play.
I suppose the real strength of these opportunities which have been afforded me is that I recognize less fortunate school systems and communities exist. There are places that lack either financial resources or quite simply the interest to organize such clubs and ventures, and I am privileged in this way. My schooling has often allowed me the avenue to explore a topic of interest. Meanwhile I had teachers who encouraged me to write and to critique writing. From these teachers and my textbooks I began to hear names — these names were apparently associated with still other names, and I had to find out just who they all were.
Growing up I have observed the gradual implementation of computers into the classroom. What was at first a nascent flirtation with programming became full-blown when I took and excelled in the courses that were offered. Although I developed good skills with programming, and regard it as intrinsically creative, it was soon overshadowed by my other hobbies. I identify myself with one of the first generations of children who had immediate accessibility and availability of information via the Internet. It was not long before I began a continuing habit of research and cross-referencing and my true education took place. Whether it be discovering the Lost Generation and Beat writers, the great innovators of music, abstract artists or leaders of independent cinema, through my self-motivated studies I had found a niche and figured out what my tastes were. I had decidedly become addicted to absorbing media and information of all types. The downfall of my classes is that the characters who I find most alluring are not traditionally taught. These are the ones who subvert conventions and predictability, experiment, or conduct work outside the realm of what is socially acceptable. Through them I have developed the conviction that art is sacrifice.
I suppose the weakness of my high school education is that it did not allow for the same level of independent study which I hope to find in college. As a result of being too precocious and introverted for a public school curriculum, I was forced to teach myself the things I really wanted to know about elsewhere. My primary interest is to be fluent in any field or discipline I encounter and remain equally a receptor and participant to modern culture and events. At the end of the day, I am not motivated to study at Eugene Lang by what I already know — it is because I acknowledge there is much I have left to learn.