Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Character of a Nationally Acclaimed Art School

The character is one of stark emptyness, both physically, and intellectually.
Virginia commonwealths art program, is, according to thier website, among the top in the nation, as evidenced by these rankings:

"In the Top Six
Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts' graduate programs are ranked overall sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Sculpture M.F.A. program Ranked Number 1
Graphic Design M.F.A. program ranked No. 4
Painting and Drawing M.F.A. program ranked No. 10

Without a doubt, signifigant resources have been invested by the school into this renown program, prodiving undergrads and grads with an enourmous metalshop, woodshop, large studio spaces, glassblowing, jewerlymaking, and clay facilities, along with various other resources. Freshman students, in a seperate program called art foundation, have thier own building with 24 hour studio access.

Out of the over 500 Art Foundation students, on a saturday afternoon only I and a security guard were in this building. Apparantely trusting me, and with nothing else to do, here is a portrait of the student security guard:
It is a comfy couch, and I would sleep on it too with his job, considering the lack of patronage, which is not the exception but the norm. The exception only happens when large and time consuming projects are due early in the week, forcing some students to use the space provided.
Here is one of the studio rooms we have to use, completely empty, as usual. When I was working on a 4 x 8 foot peice, this was nice, as I took up most of the room, but I would much rather actually be the central point in some sort of community of artists.
Here is the hallway of the building, lined with assigned work, the type of art you will find in this building. Every pieces meaning becomes apparant by looking at the surrounding peices, either becuase the directions for the work are actually posted next to it, or the alikeness of a hung group of artwork points to its reason for creation- to fulfill given assignment, to get good grade, to move onto next part of program, and so on. For this reason, and because any art school is product of the social and economic decay of our society, the desire to do artwork is, as shown here, nil among over 500 people who have supposedly chosen this as the focus of thier life. I have no doubt that this scene is repeated in many other places.
In considering the emptyness of this work, it is also important to note the character of the art courses- all talk is of art, with occasional references to the most banal aspects of culture. Artistic exploration of the world is shunned, while artistic exploration of the self, and of materials, is hailed. Consequently, almost all work is clearly isolated from any feeling or reality of the world, and what little does speak so does it in the simple, hackneyed, and pessimistic ways. This is trend readily shown in all forms of art, be it from "professional" artists, hollywood, novels, or music.
David Walsh, in critiquing American Beauty, describes well the character of that small fraction of art that attempts to examine society, although he is discussing filmmaking:
"The filmmakers tried to come to terms with American life and found it difficult. So they gave up half or a quarter of the way. I don't mean to pick on Ball, a playwright and former writer of situation comedies, but one isn't encouraged by his comment that “a lot of stuff in the script is really instinctive. I didn't think about what the purpose of it was, or that kind of thing.” That “kind of thing,” i.e., coherent thought, as we hardly need be reminded, is in short supply in American filmmaking circles."
"I didn't really think about what the purpose of it was, or that kind of thing" could be the slogan of the contemporary artworld. On Friday, I was present during a critique of a well crafted sculpture that placed a few select objects found in an unused warehouse inside a cabinent made out of old wood. The placement and presentation implied actual meaning behind it, such as an eerie baby doll head next to some bullets, on a bed of straw, framed by a weathered doorway that was the entrance to this lighted space. On quesitoning of the meaning of this and other juxtoposition, the artist might have actually said exactly "I didn't think about what the purpose of it was, or that kind of thing.” He proclaimed a fascination for abandoned objects, and decay in general, but alloted it to some sort of mysterious passion, instead of probing its causes. I could proclaim that same fascination, as I'm sure the photos on the site testify to, but I have actually bothered to analyze its reason- the blatant disuse and decay of the key elements to modern society, along with the widespread ignorance and disinformation to this trend, is an enourmous contradiction that cannot but provoke a fascination.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Abandoned Mine cont.

Aside from that rope bridge, and the metal trussing over the creak, there is also this curious vehicle bridge. It really looks like it was "designed" by throwing pipes in wet cement, and throwing more, smaller pipes in spaces where there weren't pipes

This is from above the tipple, in the top level of the photos in the previous post. Looking from here, the small road and can be seen, along with the rail line that formerly served this facility. As I said, activity on this line seemed to be sparse, obviously because of places like this.
It's like the rust is wet paint that got rained upon! This is just a pole leaning against a building
Machinery inside tipple housing. Everything was coated in white dust, thats why I think what was being dealt with here was lime.

Abandoned Quarry

Down the railroad a few miles from the last series of photos, with nothing else in between, is this I'm guessing lime plant. I forgot to get a picture of the enourmous hunk of mountain behind this photos that is now bare, having been stripped of down all around to look like its from another region of the world. Regardless, if it is indeed lime that was mined from the mountain, that was then transferred on this structure across the creek, and into the processing plant behind me in this photo. From there, it could've been loaded into railcars, or possibly trucks.

I would like someone to tell me why a large industrial facility has a rope bridge across a creek! While really fun to walk on, and now with some lose planks, In the context of working this seems absurd with the large metal bridge directly above. In fact, it has a walkway, which we looked into using, but the loose boards which are placed or the metal bars are loose, dissheleved, and rooting. On some different stairs, my foot went though a step, so we weren't looking to try that upper level out. Plus, who can resist a rope bridge? Oh, in the backround believe are storage silos.
Here are the tipples for unloading the material into trains/trucks. Obviously, the one on the left used to have a railroad track under it, but the one of the left has lower clearance and may be only for truck, or may have been converted to truck use. Either way, nothings going on now, except for a nice family that went down to the creek to fish. I really like this rusty symmetry.
Larger view showing storage silos.
What an aesthetically pleasing bridge in design, with the smooth tapering in of the peirs to form the main section. On the top of this is a conveyor belt to transport the material from the mountain behind me to the storage silos, and then processing.

Abandoned Coal Transloader

Here are 7 photos of a small coal transload in northeastern/central West Virginia. Trucks would come here, I'm guessing, with coal from surrounding mines, also likely of small size, and the coal would be dumped from the trucks onto a conyeor belt to be stored in a silo. It could either then be reloaded into trucks, or likely more commonly, into larger railcars. The facility is now abandoned, though it actually seems relatively modern- the condition, while rusty, is not exactly decrepit, and the pleasant hue of paint that (used) to cover the whole complex represents a trend that appeared in the 70's and continued onward.
This is the lower part of the complex, where coal from the silo heads on a conveyor belt into a tipple for dumping into railcars. Currently, those railroad tracks, along with the mine, are unused, but they look like they have recently recieved maintence; why, I don't know, becuase they end here. Across the creek in the backround is the main railroad track these come off of, and it seems scarcely used too.
Down at that building from the above photo it seems like a bear (?) has tried to get in!
I've seen plants out of buildings, on roofts, through concrete, but never coming up in between coal on a foundation of rubble. Its amazing how durable natural elements can be.
Climbing to the top of the storage silo.
Here is the most striking feature of this small complex, the conveyor leading up to the storage silo. Off to the left is a side coveyor for re-dumping into other vehicle.
The ground surrounding the silo is coyered in coal
View looking down from the silo, showing the conveyor belt rollers sans belt. The sky blue of the original paint is such a strange color in this setting, especially once heavily rusted.

Clearcutting in central West Virginia

This was the vista that appeared before me and a freind after a few miles of driving on a gravel/dirt road past long-gone mines, and one still standing tipple.

All of the trees on this ridge were felled, but lying on the side of the mountain Apparantely they were being burnt, not even used for logging, though it's possible this is ...large underbrush on fire? No explanation was apparant from what we saw, only questions: such as... isn't clear cutting illegal?

This is the landscape just prior to those last scenes, a murky pond polluted by who knows what other than the bare earth around it.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

How come I never get bothered by recruiters now?

I just read this article about military recruiting, and thought "thats curious.... now that I'm in college I don't really see many recruiters..."

And then I realized that I'm privelged and that the military prefers to prey on the millions without any oppurtunities, money, or prospects.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The last from yesterdays four hour bike ride

Next up will be some West Virginia pictures
Heres another common site- fenced in overgrowth. Maybe its hazerdous, but it still looks silly. Then again, fences are pretty silly... if anyone likes seeing fence pictures, sorry I didn't get thing's like the concertina wire roofed building nearby.

This is the neat entrance, seemingly unused, though apparantely guarded by the honorable Pinkerton Detective Agency! I wonder if they still even exist.

Railroad tracks for nothing.

Empty loading dock, empty railroad track. I used to be told that railroads in the U.S. had something like 2/3rds of the trackage abandoned in the last 50 years simply because of trucks. Obviously, closed industry ships by neither truck nor rail...

I'm curious why theres a yard to store cars here, because the track in the foreground is characteristic of the area... in other words, I didn't find any places nearby that had any rail service. Its probably that this has long been a yard, and outlying areas are the traffic base.

This is a very interesting scene to me. Why not take out that whole center track, or leave it fully in case of emergency use? Also, what could a few sections of rail possibly be needed for, considering all the last photos where it remains, covered in weeds?

If you have a fetish for railroad tracks that lead to nowhere and do nothing come to Richmond, VA! Rather, go to any industrial place in America... or many in Canada... or other "rich" countries wreaked by the contradictions of global capitolism...


The first is a paper recycling center, the second a large pallet something-or-other. I didn't catch what the place did because to snap the photo on a road with no shoulder I had to stand on railroad tracks, where I could'nt see much.

Is there a picture limit?

I've tried three times to add more..... not working.

Tank Farm

Across the 4 lane highway, with its tiny soulders of sand and filth, is this tank farm in various states of decay. A road cuts through the center, and one half are the very rusty tanks, seemingly in a mud of rusting metal and vehicle hulks. Some are completely bare now, covered in rust, with others slowly having their sheet metal fall or get torn off. Alot of interesting noises come from it banging around on the metal as it blows in the wind.

As for JEM I have no idea, but I really am curious about the how and why of carving off the white paint in letter forms to expose the underlying metal and create graffiti out of rust! Eventually the whole thing will be rust, so will it even stick out?

On the left were those better looking white tanks, and although some looked better off, and one even seemingly freshly repainted, rusty debris littered the ground, and the facilities seemed talyored more for a scrapyard than oil storage: instead of oil trucks, their were excavators. The whole palce sent whiffs of oil smell about.

More of RJ Reynolds taking up lots of land and resources for no practical reason

Lucky Strike storage

Photo sucks but the massive expanse with little to nothing going on truly is a curiosity to me
In the middle of the workday, I saw a forklift here- no cars, no people, nothing else. The layout of this place is really curious, it seems like there used to be a railroad track in the center, with constant loading docks all around. The facility seems relatively modern, maybe 70's or 80's, here is already fatally wounded by the overall economic collapse of american industry. For a time, and likely now, it is partially used to store commodities of little of no value, and soon it will be left to rot.


Concrete gaunlet leading to the James River, a River so polluted that I can find slag in every handful of riverbed I look at.

Yesterday's wanderings

Yet another empty railroad track cutting straight through industrial areas, with no diversion, and little maintence.