Miksimum

is the index page for Jesse Miksic,
a digital dilettante dayjobbing as a UX designer

Loyally feeding the following beasts:

(follow and/or friend me -- if you appear to be a real person capable of passing the human tests, I will probably reciprocate)

General

  • @miksimum on Twitter A random sampling of thoughts and anxieties and signal-boosts and self-promotion.
  • Verbal

  • Benefit of the Doubt My outlet for Media Theory, also used to track other sources
  • @Miksimum on Medium Home to more politics and theory writing, plus reposts from Benefit of the Doubt
  • Berfrois.com A great site that kindly publishes my more polished critical writings
  • 366 Weird Movies An awesome site where I'm an on-and-off contributor
  • Goodreads My book reviews are long enough that I consider this an official creative outlet
  • Visual

  • @miksimum Tumblr Reposting all my visual art from Tumblr
  • @miksimum Instagram Visual art, plus occasional snapshots
  • Symbot on Flickr Digital photography, a hobby on temporary haitus
  • Overheated Media My short video work, on extended haitus since 2012
  • Recent Output

    Aggregated from Benefit of the Doubt and Tumblr, which gives the best representative sample of work in multiple media, I think

    Been trying to get this guy right for a few days. I think his...



    Been trying to get this guy right for a few days. I think his name is Dugan. Dugan Vandal Fluttermane.

    Now just gotta write him a story.
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    #art #artistsofinstagram #sketch #sketchbook #drawing #fantasy #fantasyart #illustration #characterdesign #pencildrawing

    Posted on 9 May 2017 | 10:25 pm

    Kubo (2016) and Poesis -- the Why of Art


    Did we all write poetry? I know I did. I read them in classes, and I workshopped them among friends. I once got to read a few at a library event (some lyrical little remixes of lines from Langston Hughes, trying to leverage some unearned insight into the soul of jazz and blues). When there wasn't a literary magazine to publish it, I founded one. Poetry was a very pure exercise in construction and expression, and even now I occasionally miss it.

    Despite its terrible potential for abuse by sullen teenagers, there’s something fundamental about poetry. In A Dying Art (2015), Clive James calls it "the queen of the humanities because all the humanities must be done for themselves alone, but poetry can prove that this is so." This is the praise of damnation, of course... he’s saying that poetry’s motives are vindicated by its social and economic irrelevance. Sad but fair.

    On this point -- the elevation of poetry among the arts -- Martin Heidegger is more convincing. In The Origin of the Work of Art, he says "Art happens as poetry," and like so many of his claims, this is built on a reading of history and language. As an infamous miner of linguistic resonance, Heidegger knew that the etymology of the word "poetry" (German "poesie") is from Greek poiesis, meaning "making" more generally. Poetry -- the word, the signifier itself -- drags around the trace of something bigger: the human drive to create.

    The question of "why" follows poetry around like an ill-tempered, codependent dog. In the last day, I’ve run across it in two different (very different) bits of criticism: the aforementioned Clive James essay, and the classic of literary theory, Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence. And as poiesis suggests, this question is a proxy for a broader one: why art in general? Why do we still insist on making things, when every practical and extrinsic motive is refuted?

    A 2016 stop-motion Samurai film -- Kubo and the Two Strings -- opens up this question ("why art?") and tries to give us the first traces of an answer.

    Kubo and the Two Strings is not a rumination on artistic practice. It’s a sentimental swashbuckler, the story of a boy who’s being hunted by his demonic grandfather, and who undertakes a hero’s journey to save himself and reconcile the breakup of his family. Still, the motif of creative energy is highly visible: Kubo’s prized possession is a magical Shamisen from his mother, and when he plays, he’s able to invoke spirits in origami form.

    I have to come out right here and declare my love for Kubo... not just the film, but the character himself, a solitary boy who’s taken on a nurturing role toward his ailing mother. He’s also, essentially, a multi-media artist, using his Shamizan and his origami puppets to stage adventure stories in a public square. And as exciting as his adventure becomes, I think that the beginning of the film, his time in his cave and hometown, have far more to offer the discerning audience... the film is truly thematically front-weighted.

    Martin Heidegger, afore-mentioned German philosopher who ran with the wrong crowd, had a lot to say about context, and how it inevitably defines us. This is an angle worth noting in Kubo. Heidegger used terms like "world" and "thrownness" to get at this theme, but we can skip the jargon and talk about the specifics. Kubo’s life is one of misfortune and absence, from the very beginning: he lives in a cave, living by a small fire, and he travels to a single town to perform skits and trade for his household’s everyday needs. His mother lives with him, and she’s also a storyteller, but it’s pretty clear that they don’t travel a lot, and nobody in this family is going to a specialized prep school for the arts.

    And this context, in turn, reveals the significance of Kubo’s music and theater. Kubo’s stories are vibrant and exotic, a succession of boss-fight vignettes that catch all Kubo’s spectators in their spell. They involve a great knight (Hanzo, who Kubo patterns after his mythical father) and a cast of monsters to be defeated... giant spiders, fire-breathing chickens... and they end with the appearance of The Moon King, an evil warlord, as Hanzo’s final adversary.

    Like so many artists, Kubo’s art is compromised by his economic needs. His public-square stories are products, his talent packaged and sold. For most of his life, Kubo’s "why" has been banal: to buy food for myself and my mother.

    After the plot’s initiating event, this changes, and Kubo finds himself traveling in search of his father’s mythical armaments, his economic concerns overruled. Still, he uses his magic, which is also his art: crossing a frozen tundra, he sees a lone bluebird, and he summons a flock of origami birds to fly alongside the loner and play with her.

    This is where I feel the most kinship with Kubo, and indeed, I wish I practiced such a spontaneous art.

    Kubo and I have this "why"... this creative impulse... because of the fissure between our inner lives and the world that situates us. We feel a richness in our imaginations, a vastness of possibilities, and when we return to the real world, we find it brittle, distracted by trivialities, rigid in scope, and inevitably lonely. This is not to say that reality is impoverished. Indeed, I’ve traveled to some amazing places, and Kubo spends half the film on a grand adventure. But we all have limits, standards, patterns, boundaries that draw us back. We are all locked into our situations. Our worlds don’t go on forever, and for some of us, at some times in our lives, they don’t even go past the city limits, or outside at night.

    The "why" of art -- poiesis, as Theory calls it -- is that it lets us contaminate the mundane with the magic of possibility. To the well-structured, inevitable world of experience, with its stable past and fleeting present and predictable future, we can add this trickle of our private reality. Art lets us broker a peace, or at least reach a stalemate. Art is the negotiating party of our imaginations, setting out to meet with the world... to compromise, to respond, but never to submit.

    ...

    Postscript: You could read more into Kubo, rich as it is in thematic nutrition. I mentioned Harold Bloom, and in a deep analysis, he might become useful again. Kubo is, after all, the product of powerful influences, and his relationship with them is a crucial part of his eventual resolution. You could also write something about the sort of bicameral relationship of Beetle/Mini-Hanzo, which becomes very puzzling as you learn more about the two characters.

    This is the expansive inner life of art, isn’t it? For every artifact, a thousand interpretations, an infinitude of lenses and dimensions. A good work of art is worth a thousand critical interpretations.

    Posted on 8 May 2017 | 8:30 pm

    Texture exercises . . . #watercolor #watercolorpainting...



    Texture exercises
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    #watercolor #watercolorpainting #painting #abstract #abstractart #art #artistsofinstagram

    Posted on 7 May 2017 | 10:19 pm

    Ready waiting … More random #sketch work from a recently...



    Ready waiting

    More random #sketch work from a recently completed #sketchbook

    #drawing #illustration #art #artistsofinstagram #fantasy #fantasyart #pencildrawing

    Posted on 4 May 2017 | 1:22 am

    Rough night … Grabbing and posting some old #sketch from...



    Rough night

    Grabbing and posting some old #sketch from a recently finished #sketchbook

    #art #artistsofinstagram #drawing #pencildrawing #illustration #fantasy

    Posted on 2 May 2017 | 12:57 pm

    2013, year of the doppelganger (on Ayoade's The Double & Villeneuve's Enemy)

    2013 was a big year for doppelgangers. I had to check IMDB to confirm, but I shouldn't have bothered, the memory is so vivid: seeing previews at indie features, and noticing that there were two movies arriving at the same time, both in a dark eccentric style, and both about protagonists meeting shadow versions of themselves.

    I finally got around to seeing both of them this year. 2017 is looking to be a great year for discovering movies.

    In case you missed either of them: the first was Enemy, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by Denis Villeneuve. You might recognize that name... in the past year, the guy really leveled up, directing excellent film and worldwide award magnet The Arrival. The other was The Double, starring Jesse Eisenberg and directed by Richard Ayoade.

    Enemy was an excellent, stirring film, partly because it was so focused and compact. It had the feel of Christopher Nolan's earlier films, but with richer tactile qualities, sort of inky and jaundiced. In a sense, its narrative purity was also its weakness: it felt so focused that it became irrelevant. It was essentially a study of itself, blind to the world that we were watching it from.

    The Double, on its surface, wasn't much different. It took place in an absurdist fantasy world with strong Terry Gilliam influences, and it was tricky and ominous, but relatively predictable (the twists weren't very twisty, and those moments that were surprising weren't very relevant to the plot as a whole). However, these criticisms are minor quibbles when the whole product is taken into account, and I think, though it was less pure and technically artful, The Double was heartier than Enemy, and had more to say to its audience.

    The key problematic in The Double was Simon's insecurity, and the film was intensely attentive to this. Simon was a sad character, perhaps too much of a caricature to be relatable, except for the fact that he embodies every neurotic insecurity and inferiority complex looming over our psychological bubbles. James was a brilliant foil, a manifestation of Simon's fantasy of dominance and aggression and confidence, and he captured both the thrill of that construct, and its terrible price: the inauthenticity, the opportunism, the misplaced priorities, the lack of consideration or compassion.

    Simon having to face James as a sort of shadow perfection: that made for a powerful film, and at least for me, a compelling comment on how fantasy and reality run in parallel.

    It brings larger questions to bear: at what point in our lives should we let go of the aspirational version of ourselves? At what point does a fantasy of self-possession, of personal success and validation, become an anchor rather than a buoy? Can we keep aspiring and striving, if we don't have some sort of perfect projection we're following... our own inadequacy, reconstructed as a guide to a better version of ourselves?

    I started reading Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet recently -- you may have run across it in my other recent entries -- and this fits firmly within this entry's thematic, as well. Pessoa's distinguishing characteristic was that he wrote under multiple personas, all refracting his own personality in various ways. These all had their own histories and identities and concerns, but their writing (through Pessoa) was always rich and earnest and fully realized. Pessoa's subjects included inadequacy and incompleteness, the existential gaps at the heart of human identity. His writing might have been a balm for Simon.

    This has been a relatively unfocused entry, and I hope you'll forgive it. Maybe I'll have more thoughts on 2013, the year of the doppelganger, and I'll write a second, more idealized post as a sort of twinner to this one.

    Posted on 30 April 2017 | 3:21 am

    Infiltration … More exercises in #abstract #color &...



    Infiltration

    More exercises in #abstract #color & contrast.

    #selftaught #art #practicemakesperfect #artistsofinstagram #painting #watercolor

    Posted on 22 April 2017 | 12:42 am

    Frost in the flow … Have a couple more ambitious...



    Frost in the flow

    Have a couple more ambitious paintings in the works. In the meantime, how bout some experiments?

    #watercolor #painting #abstractart #abstract #artistsofinstagram #practicemakesperfect #art #selftaught

    Posted on 21 April 2017 | 12:32 am

    Pole is trying to say something, but can’t get the words...



    Pole is trying to say something, but can’t get the words out quite right #blackandwhitephotography #peekskill

    Posted on 19 April 2017 | 10:39 pm

    A Manifesto, dedicated to Fernando Pessoa

    Your style is a straitjacket.

    You've figured out what you think is beautiful, and what kind of work you're committed to, and what kind of character you have as an artist, and this is your protective stance as you present yourself to the world. Every time you give the public a new artifact, a new piece of yourself, you put yourself at their mercy... and yet, you've shut out so many others. Because by choosing your style, you've excluded all other styles, and those exclusions have become part of your identity.

    Your identity is built on an unstable affirmative and a rigid infinity of negatives.

    I don't have a style. Each new work looks for a style, and they don't find it in me, and so they struggle. So my exclusions are washed away, and my potential fills the infinite space that my pretensions have vacated.

    . . . . .

    Your popularity is a poison.

    You know the taste of validation, of feedback and response and appreciation. It's a sweet acidity that penetrates every level of your praxis. It softens your commitment and puts cracks in your sovereignty, and once it's in there, it can't be washed out.

    You may embrace it. You may say you "do it for the fans," that your followers are "the most important thing to you." Some people love the things that are killing them.

    I have no fans. I've learned the long asceticism of failure, and it keeps my creative organs pure. If I love any of my own output, I know that it has a 100% approval rating, that the only person in the world who cares about it is enamored of it. Hate follows the same path.

    . . . . .

    Your productiveness is a failure mode.

    You know how to turn an idea into a product. You have a pipeline, a process, a series of technical steps that lead you to something complete, that you're happy with, that you can show the world. You've dug away the soft loam of unfinished projects.

    But that vast incompleteness was you at your most fertile, your most robust. When you finish a work, you strip away all its beautiful indecision, its vastness, the unfulfilled potential that gives it those cosmic roots. Each signature and sale is a cord of wood, and your range is notably short of trees.

    I don't finish projects, and they remain seeds and saplings in the primeval woodland of my imagination. I may produce artifacts, little bundles to burn as kindling or desiccated limbs shaped into walking sticks, but this only happens when the work has already died. And so I leave my best work to the wild, nascent, leafy, unrealized, hopeful and beautifully hopeless.

    . . . . .

    "And I wonder if my apparently negligible voice might not embody the essence of thousands of voices, the longing for self-expression of thousands of lives, the patience of millions of souls resigned like my own to their daily lot, their useless dreams, and their hopeless hopes."

    Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

    Posted on 7 April 2017 | 2:47 pm

    From a war with everyone to an empty battlefield on the frontier...



    From a war with everyone to an empty battlefield on the frontier of nowhere (a bonus from my work on that last #painting) .
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    #illustration #drawing #amdrawing #characterdesign #sketch #sketchbook #art #artistsofinstagram

    Posted on 7 April 2017 | 2:08 am

    After all that’s happened, why are you still sitting there? You...



    After all that’s happened, why are you still sitting there? You beast, you old fucker with your lead-paint plaster walls, your closed door, your leaky windows.

    Who was here when the fallout crept up the mountain? When the waves ate the eastern seaboard, when it got too hot for grass to grow on your incline? How is it that you’ll outlast me, and all of us? Not just my great grand-da who built you, but every human?

    Fuck you, you ungrateful bastard, sitting flushed on your bit of rock… you think you’ll be staring down when the last light goes out.

    I won’t let you have the pleasure. I won’t need to last much longer, to last longer than you.

    Posted on 2 April 2017 | 1:27 am

    “Of course I am going. Follow, sir, or take your leave,...



    “Of course I am going. Follow, sir, or take your leave, and stop asking such foolish questions.” (More in my series of figures in repose) #illustration #penandink #drawing #artistsofinstagram #art🎨 #sketch #sketchbook #characterdesign #lineart

    Posted on 27 March 2017 | 11:34 pm

    “Git a move on, youngen, this ain’t no different...



    “Git a move on, youngen, this ain’t no different than every other treacherous mountain path…” (more in my series of figures in repose) #characterdesign #sketchbook #sketch #art🎨 #artistsofinstagram #drawing #penandink #illustration

    Posted on 27 March 2017 | 8:05 pm

    “Da, droog, I am a long way from home, and I still have...



    “Da, droog, I am a long way from home, and I still have far to go!” (More from my series of figures in repose) #amdrawing #drawing #illustration #penandink #artistsofinstagram #art🎨 #sketch #sketchbook #characterdesign

    Posted on 25 March 2017 | 1:34 am