Category Archives: impertinence

THIRD YEAR GRAD REVIEW

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This work was shown in the 2008/2009 UW-Madison third year graduate group show, titled Third Gear. In a humorous and irreverent way, these images illustrate my frustration with Abrahamic religions and the central role they have played in the oppression of gays and lesbians, both historically and in the present day.

See two more and read more of my thoughts on this after the jump:

I am aware that many religious people support gay rights and believe that the Abrahamic monotheisms can be reconciled with the idea of gay equality, but I find such a position to be illogical; it requires a novel interpretation of the religious texts sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all of which contain anti-gay verses including passages such as Leviticus 20:13 which calls for the death penalty for men who commit homosexual acts. Anti-gay sentiment has been the norm for several centuries in societies dominated by Abrahamic religions; and contemporary theology that is affirming of sexual minorities and their rights is wholly modern and constitutes a break from tradition.

These were each 11″ x 8.5″ digital prints. The sudden difference in the aesthetic style of the middle image is meant to highlight the inherent tension between religion and civil rights. The title I gave to the group of three images was Reconcile Shmeconcile.

GRAD VIDEO

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In grad school I continued working with Flash animation (which I had begun to learn as an undergrad). Like much of the work I made during this time, this work contained unambiguous socio-political commentary, conveyed in a humorous and irreverent manner.

Why Aren’t There More Christian Video Games? (Flash video, 2008)

Continue reading to see another video and some words about these projects.

The assignment here was to appropriate “found footage”. While the aesthetics of this piece look simple, being that they are based off of 8-bit video game graphics, the process for creating this turned out to be complicated. I could not just hack into these video games and change the text, since there is a set number of characters available in the dialogue, and for my purposes I needed to add much more words than the original software would have allowed. Instead of manipulating the games themselves, I had to recreate the scenes using several digital art, video and animation techniques, and ensure that they matched the original sources exactly.

As a gamer, I sometimes encounter Christian gamers who wonder why there aren’t more Christian video games (or why the few that are made are of such low quality). Of course there are several games that incorporate stories and images from Christian mythology (e.g. Castlevania, ActRaiser), but these aren’t what people have in mind when they say they want a “Christian video game”. What they want is a game that proselytizes, and they realize that video games have the power to reach millions of impressionable young minds.

I wanted to cast doubt on the notion that Christianity is per se a positive influence that should be marketed to children and teenagers (or adults for that matter). To prove this point, I’ve taken some of my favorite mainstream Nintendo games and replaced the dialogue with “wisdom” from the Bible.

Evolution (Flash video, 2008)

Embarrassingly, nearly half of the United States public rejects the theory of evolution. There have been genuine educational efforts to explain the theory of evolution to the American people, and to fight back against the misconceptions and willful ignorance of the creationism/intelligent design movement. Unfortunately, debate with someone who has embraced creationism is nearly impossible. Since theirs is a passionate religious/ideological conviction, it can be difficult if not impossible to reason with them at all, much less get them to understand what evolution actually is, and that it is an uncontested scientific fact.

With that frustration in mind, I decided to make a parody of the evolution/creationism debate. The video doesn’t explain evolution; in fact it goes out of its way not to, and calls attention to that absence. Rather it is a reflection on the profound incompetence of the creationism/intelligent design movement, and the fact that genuine scientific inquiry and, sadly, the educations of millions of young Americans, are being stalled and undermined as a result of the absurd nation-wide push to teach bronze age mythology in public schools in place of credible science.

As the Narrator, I took on the invented role of a typical youth of today’s Youtube generation, and engaged the vulgar sarcasm and mocking that is characteristic of much Online discourse. I wrote the script based on conversations I had seen on Internet forums, as well as observing the camaraderie among my younger college-age friends.

Another video I made for this course ended up being a part of an exhibition, which you can see here.

DRUG BUDDIES

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The Drug Buddies card game is a sarcastic reaction against multiple sides of the so-called “war on drugs”. The overall message of the piece is that our culture needs to grow up and adopt a more rational approach toward drugs and drug use.

View individual cards and read a more thorough commentary after the break:

The cartoon aesthetic pokes fun at fretful parent groups who worry that drugs and alcohol are being marketed toward young people. On the other hand it also makes fun of the drug culture, or at least members of it who glorify drug use or subject their peers to social pressure. “Just say no” and “drugs are cool” are opposite, yet equally oversimplified viewpoints I wish to call into question.

The Schedule ratings at the top right of each card represent the classifications given to each controlled substance by our own government. According to the government, the lower the number, the greater the risk. Marijuana – which many people feel is less harmful than alcohol – resides in the most dangerous category alongside heroin, while truly destructive substances such as cocaine and prescription painkillers are said to be less harmful. The government even claims Schedule I drugs have no medicinal value, which is curious indeed, since marijuana is currently being prescribed by licensed doctors in several states.

The green and red bars associated with attributes are not only intended to mimic RPG board and trading card games, they are also my best estimates, based on my perusal of medical research, of such things as how long the drug lasts, how sociable it makes its user, and how damaging it is to one’s health. This way you can directly compare, for example, the red “attrition” bar representing how dangerous the drug is in real life, with the government’s Schedule classifications, and the incongruity in some cases should be obvious.

When printed out, the backs of the cards feature a fragment of a poster, a convention borrowed from trading cards I used to collect as a child. The poster is a “D.O.N.T.” poster, an obvious parody of the D.A.R.E. program, which, despite being demonstrably ineffective, remains a popular, funded program. The slogan “D.O.N.T. will keep you straight” was inspired by a heterosexual friend of mine who had a drug problem. His parents would sporadically ask him if he was “straight”, by which they meant “sober”. Being gay myself, I had to laugh; and it reminded me of the stereotype that gay people do drugs more than straight people do.

I haven’t made up any rules for this card game yet, but it might be an interesting project for the future.

FATHER ZEUS

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The following image is intended for mature audiences.

One of my first attempts at a full color digital painting.

I wanted to illustrate a Pagan story in all its pre-Christian glory, complete with the frank and bizarre depictions of violence and sexuality that were originally present in Greek myths. In this case, I combined two stories: the births of Athena and Dionysus, who were both born from their father’s body. In this context Zeus’ erect penis should be viewed as a symbol of his fertility rather than sexual desire.