Friday, October 1, 2010

Cycle Of Le Cyc

Last night I went to the DVD release party/show for Le Cyc, a project presented by Polydactyl Hearts. It was an animation (sort of)/music hybrid, performed in a church, under the direction of the Wavelength music collective, featuring attractive young people from Guelph. It was totally a hipster paradise. Good hipsters, when they die, go to Polydactyl Hearts shows.

I sound like I'm shitting on, which I'm totally not. It was right up my alley: the main event was a presentation of Le Cyc, a series of sketches that have been inked with coffee and red wine and then matched to a song cycle. It's about an evil leg-stealing man, a mechanical parrot, a bicycle race and a triumphant return. Set in a future/alternate reality where people must pedal bicycles to generate power, it obviously appealed to my sci-fi, DIY, and bikey sides. The drawings were very cool, and the lead singer did different voices for the characters, including the very best evil laugh I've ever heard.

Crafts make me feel a little self-consciously hip. Obviously, I've done 'em. In high school, I used to meticulously bead images and words onto shirts, including an insanely intricate face and my dad's favourite, a tank top that said "Nobody likes you" in a child-like scrawl. I beaded and knit and made collages, I sewed (poorly) and I never thought twice about it. It was just something to keep my hands busy.

In the last few years, and it's since died down a little, there was an explosion of crafty hipsters throughout the land. Ladies (and it did seem to be mostly ladies) used traditional crafts to celebrate their own nerdiness, or to give the finger to traditional assumptions about gender roles. They launched crafting collectives and crafting shows to sell their wares. Bust includes a monthly craft for its readers, ranging from sweaters to Damien Hirst knock-offs. Hell, the entire Etsy empire (and its gleeful court jesters) is based on the idea that hand-made = good.

Which it is. But it's also painfully hip, encapsulating so much of the hipster "thing:" it's one-of-a-kind, it's bound to be a little bit pricier and harder to track down than your standard Urban Outfitters fare, lending it that "I just picked it up in Berlin" aura. Clearly, you could make it yourself, but it's also way hip to frame your purchase of a feathered hairpiece as if you're a patron of the arts, a heady experience for mostly-broke 20-somethings with an extra twenty bucks to spend on accessories. Crafting also has a child-like element to it; even though a lot of these products end up being intricate and complex, the word "craft" hearkens the mind back to rainy summer camp days when a bunch of hyperactive eleven-year-olds would be engrossed in making God's Eyes before playing dodgeball and then snacks. Adults create art; children do crafts.

So, is it revolutionary for folks to make things? Sure, in the same way that urban homesteading is revolutionary or artists collectives are revolutionary. Go back a hundred years, and the things that are bleeding edge now were standard-issue then: people farmed, and people joined co-ops, and people used their own hair to make crafts. Most people have at least one hobby that's active: cooking, designing teeshirts, writing television reviews, fixing bikes, opening bars, starting book clubs, gardening, raising ferrets, playing a sport, building a ham radio. And so on. Whatever it is requires creativity, production, and attention to detail. When so much of our world is premade and easy (hello, Ikea!), we like a pastime that presents a little bit of a challenge.

Art schools, in the past few years, have tried to marry the highbrow aspects of ART with the hands-on layperson elements of CRAFT, with varying degrees of success. OCAD's Material Art and Design program allows students to study jewelry design, ceramics and fiber arts, while SCAD and FIT offer programs that might help a budding crafter sell their wares, but don't necessarily teach the skills. There are resources, but crafts are usually given the short shrift in the big arts family. Art that's seen as do-able by your average housewife or teenager is often not really seen as art at all.

Which is why I like projects like Le Cyc: it's such a nice example of the DIY thing. While any chump can knit a sweater, it takes a different level of hands-on to create a musical animation (or animated musical) about dystopian bike societies. But Le Cyc and Polydactyl Hearts retain their crafty vibe. While undeniably homespun, Le Cyc transcends its hipster-made crafty roots and becomes, against all odds, art.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry to have missed this! Also, from what I've been able to find on the internet, the music was excellent.