Saturday at the Symphony by Nina Berggren

On Saturday evening, I slipped into classy attire and rode the train to Davies Symphony Hall, downtown. I entered the lobby early, and settled into a seat beside several sophomore peers. None of us had had the opportunity to research the performance in store for us, so we discussed our previous experiences attending the symphony. Eventually, Ronald Chase approached us. Ronald is the founder of San Francisco Art & Film for Teenagers, an organization that immerses interested teenagers in a world of art, film, and music for free! By providing free access to local cultural programs, students like myself learn to better engage with, discuss, dissect, and enjoy, art, film, and music. Saturday night was my first time taking advantage of Art & Film’s free symphony tickets.

Ronald joined us on our bench, quickly launching into an elaborate explanation of musical history relating to the following evening’s music. With our minds brimming with newfound knowledge, we clutched our tickets tightly and entered the grand symphony hall. Our tickets lead us to a collection of seats in the second row of the front orchestra. Ecstatically we sunk into yellow, cushioned chairs and endured the thirty minute lecture that came before the music. As the long rows behind us filled with elegant ladies and equally spiffy gentlemen, I admired the tall rounded ceiling and lavish nature of my surrounding environment. At long last, the conductor walked onstage, almost close enough for me to reach out and touch him. His wrinkled face revealed comfort that can only be attributed to someone that has been in a particular business for decades. A choir rose in the back and musicians took their seats, taking brief moments to tune their instruments. Then, they played and sang and my body felt full and complete as I absorbed the music with every fiber of my being. I leaned forward and allowed the sounds to run through me and take my mind from thought to image and back again. I sat so close to a violin player that I could hear the scratch of his bow on strings, which added an element of intensity and authenticity to the sound, much like a record player does. The distance I had always felt from most classical music was immediately eliminated, because I was both physically and mentally in the thick of it.

Between two hymns performed, I got to thinking that classical music and the romantic poetry we are studying in Creative Writing 1, are similar in many ways. First, one must approach both poetry and music with patience. In order to appreciate each word or note in a piece, as well as the piece as a whole, one must patiently interpret it and come to various conclusions on their own. Second, both compositions and poems are inspiring and inspired by the world around us. Romantics in the 1800s spent lifetimes writing poetry about nature and emotions. While composers often sought out urban environments to write music about. One example of this, was the final song played at the symphony called “An American in Paris,” a stunning classic that was inspired by a foreigner walking through Parisian streets.

With this knowledge, I listened to the symphony play it and could clearly visualize an American in Paris, listening to unfamiliar sounds and inhaling the culture. Which brings me to my third point, not only are poets and composers inspired by life, the works of art they create provide clear images in one’s mind, whether one has to read or listen, to see it. Fourth, both poetry and music convey emotions and make you feel emotions. All through the evening I heard sound combinations that swelled my heart and sounded so complicated and beautiful. During intermission, Ronald Chase informed us that all the history and information he had initially taught us, described different pieces that he mistakenly thought would be played that night. However the unpredictability of going into something unfamiliar forced me to run with my emotions as opposed to my mind. This strengthened my experience and made me come out of it with a newfound interest and wonder for classical music and symphonies.

I was especially fascinated by one of the main differentiating aspects of writing and music: teamwork. While poetry is personal and often written in privacy, symphonies would not thrive without countless unified musicians, working together to bring a piece to life. Their flawless ability to play in such harmony, was enough to draw me back to many more future performances. I highly encourage others to attend, and I look forward to venturing forth into more musically influenced endeavors. Thank you Art & Film!

Nina Berggren, class of 2020

Cine Club by Rae Dox Kim

San Francisco Art & Film for Teenagers holds a weekly showing of a film at the picturesque SF Art Institute. The hike up the hill to the building is the ultimate test of faith, but makes for a great view. Prior to the film, you can watch the sun setting over the tourist district or look for stray cats under the bushes in the courtyard. There is always sparking water to sip as the lights go down in the theater, and an oatmeal cookie. The movie is paired with an animated short–often Looney Tunes, which aptly sets the stage for the war film or deep inspection of our human experience that follows. You are instructed to spend five minutes, not a moment less, meeting your fellow moviegoers.

The great joy of Cine Club is that I will see movies there that I would not see otherwise, in different languages, set in the past and even the future. Many of the high-budget blockbusters in the American theaters of today are limited to one perspective. The movies shown at Cine Club are more than drawn-out plot progression and attractive CGI action scenes. They demonstrate powers of cinematography, well-written dialogue (or lack thereof… some of the films are more silent than not) and immaculate design. They do not lean on the guarantee of a happily-ever-after conclusion. These are films recognized as classics, critical to an education in media. Sitting in that theater, I have learned more about movies and about life than in any class.

Attending Cine Club is an assignment for Creative Writing, but once I sit down and torture the little tables on the armrests into a horizontal position, I can’t help but feel content. I am surrounded by people who aren’t just there to see a movie, but to find some kind of meaning in art. And later, while churning out a reflection on the movie I have seen, I feel that contentment again.

Rae Dox Kim, class of 2020

Bruce Connor: It’s All True by Ren Weber

“I am an artist, an anti-artist, no shrinking ego, modest, a feminist, a profound misogynist, a romantic, a realist, a surrealist, a funk artist, conceptual artist, minimalist, postmodernist, beatnik, hippie, punk, subtle, confrontational, believable, paranoiac, courteous, difficult, forthright, impossible to work with, accessible, obscure, precise, calm, contrary, elusive, spiritual, profane, a Renaissance man of contemporary art, and one the most important artists in the world. My work is described as beautiful, horrible, hogwash, genius, maundering, precise, quaint, avant-garde, historical, hackneyed, masterful, trivial, intense, mystical, virtuosic, bewildering, absorbing, concise, absurd, amusing, innovative, nostalgic, contemporary, iconoclastic, sophisticated, trash, masterpieces, etc. It’s all true.”
–Bruce Conner

It’s All True at the SFMOMA is a collection of Bruce Conner’s work over fifty years as a Bay Area artist. It’s an almost overwhelming exhibit: a combination of experimental film, photographs, collages, paintings, etc. My vivid recollection of this exhibit is due not only to Conner’s ability to stretch far across many genres and medias, but also how well he carried it out.

His first film, A MOVIE, is a twelve-minute edit of old newsreels. The non-narrative film is similar to others in the collection: incorporating a washed-out, hazy black and white style and also having no story, rather a collection of images or one long shot. CROSSROADS, made in 1976, is an extremely slow-motion replay of an underwater nuclear test at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. The intense slow-mo gives the audience room to capture every detail as the mushroom cloud descends towards the camera, expressing a deliberate destruction. Conner, who is clearly a fan of replaying and rewinding clips, includes this in BREAKAWAY, my favorite in the exhibit. The five-minute movie is a black and white rendition of Toni Basil (known for “Oh Mickey, you’re so fine”) dancing to her song, “Breakaway.” The entire film is made up of very quick shots of Basil, rapidly changing from close-up to far away, all moving quickly so she looks feathered and a flurry of white against the black background. When the song is done the clip and track rewind, becoming an eerie, indistinguishable gurgle.

Besides the films, Conner showcased his paintings and assemblages, which often include different textures created with netting or fabric layered on photo collages. These pieces as well as his ink drawings have a distinct color scheme: monochrome, dusty brown, or beige. The exhibit has a wall dedicated to punk rock show photos, appropriately gritty and faded, and in the next room the “angels,” gelatin silver prints of human silhouettes with hands outstretched towards us. These collections of photographs, as well as his avant-garde films, relay a signature style of white figures against a black background.

With many artists these days, I feel there is an underlying fear of “stretching oneself out too thin” in art. At SOTA, with separate departments, the idea is furthered that we should hone one art. However, if anything, Conner’s art disproves this in a way. His work is a full, vivid, synchronized range of art that surpasses the limitation of genres, blurring the lines and filling the gaps between them.

Ren Weber, class of 2018

Film Workshop by Davis DuBose-Marler

Every Sunday morning, I drag myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of nine thirty and get ready for the seven and a half hour time commitment otherwise known as “Film Workshop,” taught by Ronald Chase and mentored by SotA artists-in-residence Jesse Filipko and Isaiah Dufort (the Great).

The workload and demand for quality are high. Yes, Film Workshop can be stressful at times and has definitely given me nightmares about 3D uses of space and visual concepts, but it has also provided with me with a new understanding not only of film and how to analyze it, but also with a new way to see works of literature. Sure, the visual aspects don’t really apply, but as far as critique goes, the methods are very similar. There’s still form versus content to consider, as well as the pacing and subject matter.

As much sleep, hair, and sanity as I’ve lost through the workshop, getting to work with so many young artists from their different backgrounds has been a great experience for me, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has a high pain tolerance and/or a passion for new artistic experiences.

Davis DuBose-Marler, class of 2017

A Trip to the De Young by Solange Baker

Each marking period we are required to attend a certain number of art related events. Most of the freshman, having never done any of it before, were confused and frazzled. But we all filed into the museum, excited for the exhibit we were about to see. The paintings that were on display was the magnificent work of J. M. W. Turner. Just to give some background on who he is, he is arguably one of the best painters of the 19th century and he liked to paint light. You could see each swirling brush stroke that he had made so long ago.

There was so much emotion and depth in his paintings. They ranged from beautiful light filled landscapes and shining rolling crystal water to dark sea storms tossing ships about and sea monsters to radiant angels. It was wonderful to be able to experience and observe his paintings with such wonderful people who all appreciate all forms of art as much as I do. Even after we left we all talked about his paintings and his life.

We then traveled to an art gallery filled with photos of artists in their work spaces, and even a photo of the twin towers before the tragic events of September 11th. We all walked around the gallery as we exchanged comments on the photos. After we left, we walked over to The Grove to have lunch (which was paid for). As we ate our amazing meal and waited for our parents to arrive to pick us up, we talked about the day we had had together and about how glad we are to have met each other. We all said our goodbyes for the day and went our separate ways, but I kept thinking about how happy I am to get to be around them. And how one small decision had brought us all together. And for once in my life, I actually find myself looking forward to school.

Art & Film – Tarkovsky Essay Contest

One of the earliest units Creative Writing delved into this semester was an “art unit” taught by Ronald Chase, where he helped us understand the changing landscape, subject, and techniques of art, and taught us ways in which we communicate about art. Why use, “I just don’t like it very much,” when you can go much deeper into the composition and specify? “This blank canvas may attempt to communicate a blank and slightly saturated view of what art has fallen into, but fails because it is, in effect, a blank canvas.”

The unit concluded with an essay contest in which we were to enter: the 2012 Tarkovsky Essay Contest, involving a short essay on any of the Art & Film movies we had seen and wanted to write about. The lucky winners were: Abigail Schott-Rosenfield, 11th grade, Tarkovsky Prize winner; Frances Saux, 11th grade, 2nd Place; Midori Chen, 11th Grade, 3rd Place; and Bailey Lewis Van, 10th Grade, runner-up.

A link to all of their essays can be found here. Congrats to the winners and all other C-Dubs who entered!