Saturday, December 5, 2009

Required Reading! by James Franco in the Wall Street Journal

This is such an awesome article on performance art written by the actor James Franco in the Wall Street Journal. Recently Franco decided to do 20 episodes of General Hospital, taking on a job which he also saw as a kind of conceptual art performance on account of the fact that he is usually seen in major motion pictures (fantastic idea!) Please everyone in 180 and 280 take the time to read this excellent piece because I'll definitely bring this up in class next week, and I think you'll see the parallels we've been discussing in class. It also mentions a number of the performance artists we've brought up and discussed this semester.


Joanna said...

This is great. I especially enjoy the image of James Franco dressed as the Green the subway.

Julie said...

Before you posted this I saw and read this article from the gawker: I finally read Franco's essay myself and while I can't entirely agree with the gawker, I did find his writing style to be a little... de-luminating, however I think that his good ideas will be spread to the general public more so than a more anonymous, better writer. I just think it is a shame that his package couldn't be wrapped a little tighter. I like the bold steps that franco's taking--he's definitely stepping out of his comfort zone--but his article, like abromovick's desert, could also use some more spice

Excaliborn7 said...

I can't resist debating with you a bit here, Julie. I was actually struck by the directness and clarity of Franco's writing, though I can understand how one might find it simple. I wondered slightly if-because he is not a "writer"- it may have been cleaned up more than usual by an editor, but I give him the benefit of the doubt in the end. A little known yet interesting fact about Franco is that he is actually currently taking time off from acting to complete an MFA in writing at Columbia University. Kinda interesting.
I suppose what I really liked about his article was the central idea of how a major motion picture star inside of a soap opera is actually a very artistic, culturally transgressive gesture, and in this way mimics Abramovic's line of work. It's complex, daring, and new.
But I also thought his points of reference, while not really new to me, we're accessible in a way that I appreciate when one is writing for a public that has very little experience with any performance art.

I also should say that I feel a little opposed to the gawker piece in that I sometimes find gawker to be a little"too cool for school," ya know? Hip for hip's sake and thus unable to recognize quality or sincerity at the risk of of not having something snarky to write about it. I would even discredit their article as semi-ludicrous in claiming that James Franco "sounds like a moron." If that argument is going to be so boldly made, i would like a line by line break down of why they think his points and writing are poor, because I just don't see it in this. The fact is, most people won't be able to really grasp the conceptual nature of Franco appearing in soaps no matter how well it's explained or contextualized. Though some may experience the strangeness when it actually airs.

Last I would point out that I think public audiences have a tendency to pigeonhole, assuming that because someone is an actor, or a musician, or a chef, or a whatever, that they can't also write well. Good acting requires a refined sensibility and sensitivity that I think can carry over into other forms of expressive communication, like writing.

And very lastly...i have to defend abramovic's golden ball of peeled almonds and crushed cardamom, especially as she described it not as cooking but as meditation and as a specialty food for the brain. I liked the concentrated simplicity , and the visual force of the bright gold on the resulting edible.

alright, i realize that's an earful of contraries from me. But maybe our good-natured debate will prompt others to read and comment.

oh, and very very lastly, the Huffington post publishes celebrity op-eds all the time--right now I'm thinking of pieces I've read by Alec Baldwin, Natalie Portman, and Ed Begley Jr. - and I've always been impressed...especially by Alec Baldwin, who somehow never ceases to amaze me with his talents.

Julie said...

I agree that gawker's article was a little undescerning in terms of its analysis of good vs bad writing, but still, for them to add him to the list means something. While I maintain that Franco's writing could use some editorial input, I agree that his ideas were simply put and could connect with people who don't talk about re-contextualizing all the time, which isn't an easy feat.
Also, my dig at the desert was actually a quote from Franco when he said it needed more chili (I think it was a prototype of the almond gold ball, which I thought was visually appealing)

Excaliborn7 said...

point taken with regard to Franco's saying the prototype dessert ball needed more chili....However, I still don't think that gawker including James Franco's name in their article necessarily means anything. I would even wager that the writer of the gawker piece may not have been thoughtful enough to grasp the brilliance of it. Generally i've found that when people want to to sass or snark, they snark, and in doing so sometimes make themselves look worse then the people their snarking about. Just my two cents.

i would add that of course some celebrity op-ed stuff is crappy, but i just don't think this one deserves to be used as evidence for that point.