Monday, April 14, 2008

Initial Descriptions of Vik Muniz's Work

Vik Muniz’s “Gordian Puzzles” are a collection of pieces that are comprised of puzzle pieces arranged into representations of famous works, one of which is a photograph of Marilyn Monroe. It was taken on May 6, 1957 in New York City. The photographer was Avedon.
Upon first glance from far away, the image looks so real that it is hard to tell that the puzzle pieces are even there. However, closer up, the pieces become more evident. They are lined up so meticulously that the lines between colors and shapes are not blurry, but perfectly straight. The background is varied shades of grey, with the lightest grey accenting around her body and face. It is darker, almost black, toward the edges of the photograph. Her skin is very pale in contrast to her dress and the background, but her lips are the darkest feature on her face. Her eyes are also very much defined in contrast to her light, flawless complexion. She has a vague expression on her face and looks either confused or distraught. Her hair is textured in curls that frame her face, while her dark, halter-style dress is low-plunging with some sort of sparkles on the top. The dress is somewhat revealing for the time it was taken.
As for the puzzle pieces, they are not arranged so that they fit together in the typical fashion. They are layered in multiple directions so that the defined shape of each piece is more prominent. They almost appear to be thrown haphazardly onto a board and then painted. The picture, however, contains all three dimensions of her figure, as compared to some portraits that seem very flat.
The second of Muniz’s photos is “Small Change” which was created in 2003. The picture shows the figure of a quarter. The interesting catch, however, is that it is composed of different types of change, namely the penny. It has all the trademark symbols, words, and images of a real quarter. Across the top of the enormous circle is the “United Sates of America” with the image of the profile of George Washington located in the center of the circle. It also has the trademarks “In God We Trust” and “Liberty.”
Most of the design is made up of copper pennies, but there are some places that reflect silver, whether they are from dimes, nickels, or quarters. The details of the coin appear to be in proportion to one another as compared to the realistic version of the coin. The background is completely white so that the places that are left blank for the words and image can be seen brightly and clearly. There are only two dimensions to the image, as it does not appear as a three dimensional coin. It is simply a flat, circular shape. Also, there are two lines left open around the outside of the coin to show where the texture of the metal changes on a quarter.
Unlike the Marilyn Monroe, the lines are not as exact and distinct, given that coins are round, but they are fairly accurate. The one thing that’s missing, though, is the small letter below “In God We Trust” that indicates where the coin was manufactured. There is a thicker white outline on the left side of the quarter to give Washington a slightly raised effect, but overall, it still looks flat and two dimensional.
The third photo is entitled “Socrates” from the collection “Aftermath.” Created in 1998, the piece depicts a young, African-American boy standing in the middle with a vague expression, staring to one side, while holding something in his other hand. The picture is created from countless pieces of “junk” arranged on the floor and then taken a picture.
The boy in the center of the picture seems to be created out of dust or dirt. It is a very grey color with some darker black lines. There are some places that appear to be shaded, which could have been done easily with dirt or dust. The lines are fairly straight, with a slight bit of shading around the edges and in the folds of his clothing to make it look more three dimensional. The boy is standing up and his legs are crossed. He seems to be holding some type of pole and container, with the pole stretching around behind his back and out either side. His clothes are too big for him, with a baggy sweatshirt and oversized shorts. He has bare feet with no shoes. He has fairly short black hair, and one of his hands is not visible in the picture, as it is behind his back. There are two black, dark lines across his shirt in the upper right hand corner, which could be smears of dirt desired to look like the dirt or like something else. The boy looks weary and tired, as if he is unsure of what he is doing or is fed up with what he has been doing. The object that he’s holding is unclear, but it is made of a substance that is a different color from the boy. It is a more orange, light brown, almost clay, color, as compared to the gray on the boy and the pole. The boy, overall, seems to be positioned exactly in the middle of the image.
The junk in the background is made up of so many colors that it is hard to differentiate which item is which, but there are a few areas of color that stand out. For example, there seems to be a piece of green hose or tubing running down the right hand side of the image, which looks eerily reminiscent of a snake. There are also some red dots here and there that stand out from the rest, similar to red lights from a stop light or apples straight off a tree. There are many small areas of white, but they are not as noticeable in the primarily dark background as the other colors, including a few lavender points as well. Overall, however, the image has a very dark feeling.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Essay from Hamlet Test

Prompt: Original thesis on the following passage:

“I find thee apt;
And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,
Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear:
‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown.”

When the ghost of King Hamlet comes to visit Prince Hamlet and tell him of his betrayal by his brother, he tells the story through a series of symbols, allusions, and imagery, which emphasize the treachery of the act. King Hamlet alludes to hell and the Adam and Eve story from the Bible in order to connect his murder with original sin. Also, he characterizes Claudius, the murderer, as a devil figure in order to tie him in with sin as well.

King Hamlet begins by admitting that his son is “apt” or capable, of comprehending his story and carrying out what he will eventually ask him to do. He wants Hamlet to stay sharp and attentive, unlike the “fat weed/ that roots itself in ease on Lethe’s Wharf.” Though his betrayer is not mentioned until later, this is King Hamlet’s first description of his murderer, Claudius. Lethe is the river that flows through Hades, or hell, so he is implying that Claudius is solely a lazy man who does not deserve to be where he is. It also implies that he came from hell, similarly to the devil, which creates the image of Claudius as the devil.

Then, King Hamlet begins the story of the day of his murder. The allusion to this day is the story of Adam and Eve, where Eve took the poisonous apple from the serpent, or the devil, despite God’s direction not to. Thus, she created the original instance of sin. In comparison, King Hamlet is “sleeping in [his] orchard” when “a serpent stung” him. Though it seems to sound literal at this point, he continues to say that “the serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown.” Claudius now wears his crown as King of Denmark, so this solidly explains that it was he who killed his brother. Alluding to serpents is typically connoted with evil, but in this instance, it is referring to the devil himself, as indicated by the Adam and Eve story. King Hamlet, therefore, feels that his brother’s betrayal is equal to that of Eve’s betrayal of God and the creation of sin. King Hamlet, evidently, must have been very startled to believe that his brother murdered him if he could compare it to this type of sin.

By the end of his father’s story, Hamlet is completely set against his uncle and must avenge his father’s death. Because he is supposedly trying to take on the devil, or Claudius, this also sets Hamlet up as a type of Christ or God figure, as he is the ‘good’ force pitted against an ‘evil’ force. King Hamlet believes Denmark is being “rankly abused,” just as the devil would abuse any of his followers. It is as if Claudius has a spell over the people of Denmark just as the devil enchants mortals to sin, as he did with Eve.