May 4, 2011

The Art of Man

Print More

I live in a box of grease and mud. The grime that surrounds my waking world has exceeded any point of laziness — the 11 other souls complicit with this lifestyle have simply grown accustomed to the crumbling walls, involuntarily rainbowed linoleum, and general dirt that makes up our house. You can’t wear flip flops through the kitchen — the floor is often so sticky that the tongs will rip, and you’re left wobbling on one foot, weighing if a possible ringworm is worth making it to the shower. In the warmer months, columns of flies lazily circle near-empty handles of rum while discarded wings become moldy ecosystems in the fridge.

These living conditions can be found on any block of any college town. While men make up the vast majority of these houses, I hesitate to assign any definitive gender to the style, even though it is totally manly to live like a slob. The machismo of the situation just happens to be celebrated more by guys. There is a certain pride attached to living in voluntary squalor — it is, in large part, attached to the fraternity lifestyle, but that comes as more of a coincidence than a prerequisite for the mentality. Frat life promotes euphoric destruction, and those who have moved out of the chapter and into “real” living spaces are anxious to recreate that carefree culture.

Those of us who inhabit these rooms rank with Keystone are accepted as a part of the larger college experience. Outsiders chuckle and assume its just boys being boys, smashing bottles and holes inside our carefully confined cages. Yet in an emerging world of interactive aesthetics and personalized media, we are ignoring the man-house’s place as a site of artistic installation. This lifestyle exists outside of a conventional definition of home. Whether or not we realize it, the college male has created an artistic exhibition by way of sleaze and apathy.

Having written for the Arts section for almost four years now, I’ve had a fair amount of exposure to the bustling artistic communities that exist within Cornell and Ithaca. The high-art practices seen at the Johnson and in art galleries reflect the subjective filter that makes artistic representation so beautiful: seeing the world through the eyes of talented painters, sculptors and filmmakers allows access into places we would not otherwise experience. For me, they represent ascension, elevation into a canvas of finer things and unparalleled genius. To deal in the real, however, the stuff of the everyday, should not be discounted as being artistically illegitimate. Rebellion against bourgeois culture practices is a natural part of history, but to bring it into the bedroom rather than the streets creates “pieces” that reveal that lower half, the dirt instead of the clouds.

Two summers ago I was living in New York with my buddy Funk. He came across a warehouse on Wooster Street that had been converted into an installation space. The creators, Justin Lower and Jonah Freeman, had created the Black Acid Co-Op, a room-by-room recreation of a functional meth lab. It was an immersive experience that blew me away. The rooms were alternately disgusting and immaculate, a weirdly hypnotizing maze that led you through a series of creations that personified counter-culture embedded into the metropolis.

My house probably doesn’t have as much fake crystal meth as the Black Acid Co-Op, but I’m fascinated by the fact that male sloth can accumulate a level of passive destruction that borders on shock and awe. Ask any girl that has passed through our Treasure Island in the morning — the response is invariably one of simultaneous revulsion and amazement. We decided to begin commemorating the fruits of our labor: out of nothing, artworks framed with black duct tape began to emerge on our walls, documenting moments as simple and pure as the dirty sock. In creating “Sock by Rob,” artist-in-residence Rob Abelson ’11 said he was looking to portray “a synthesis of everyday spontaneity and the lasting impression of a painting. Something as juvenile as a practical joke has its place as an satiric object of high-art when given the right context.”

These moments are ephemeral. With graduation comes the end of waking up to mysterious smells and stains, and these works of art will disappear. I take solace in the fact that those who follow will continue the tradition, blissfully unaware that their decision to live like a frat star creates immortal paintings of machismo.

I thank all those that have read and responded to my work in the Sun these past four years. My experiences with this paper have intensified a lifelong love for journalism, music and film in ways that I could never have anticipated. I encourage any and all prospective writers to give the Sun a shot — it has been a place of creative expression and beautiful friendships that I will never forget.

Original Author: Graham Corrigan