here’s a couple of peep-holes into the peripheral worlds that you may have been unintentionally overlooking lately, or rather, welcome to my choice of focus.
this winter, i set out to subvert my viewer’s perspective by encouraging them to dramatically reduce the speed at which they look at the most habitual of their surroundings. my hope was to perhaps rekindle the public’s love affair with daydreams and inspire them to actively seek them out on their own watch.
so i searched for the unfamiliar view within my own habitual challenging myself to further slow my own gaze and see what daydreams i might be missing — not looking merely at things but in things, not looking through things but at things, paying attention to unassuming beauty, noticing the visual poetry of secret serendipity, and documenting the intrigue of pure slowness. i documented my findings in photography and video.
these images and videos visually communicated my message; revealing the potential for rediscovery within the habitual, and the depth of experience found within the slow gaze. yet i was left with the question of how i can frame them in a way to allow the general public to receive my message?
i realized that in order to communicate the quiet and the slowness of my images and videos, i need to surround them with the opposite. i wanted to bring them to a public sphere: to make a loud place quiet, a fast place slow, and a busy mind empty. i decided to propose video installations in new york subway stations to encourage daydreams to the audience that has most forgotten them and do so in the setting where a reminder is most needed.
this winter, i’ve begun to re-route my investigation of unnoticed visual wonder by making an effort to shift my own perspective on my surroundings in a manner that allows me to meditate not merely on the object in my sight, but on what is/may be/appears to be contained within the object. i’m in love with windows…
for my core samples class, we were asked to create a presentation that showed our creative history, our influences, what inspires us, what we surround ourselves with, or in other words: our sources.
behold, my source presenation:
in last week’s lecture at risd, john stilgoe preached to “bloom where you’re planted”. then during a phone chat on sunday, abe morell excitedly told me to remember that “fairly close by, there’s a lot of extraordinary stuff going on”.
& so on a particularly blustery fall morning, i sat inside my slightly warmer living room to put these ideas to work…
from sir albert einstein, of course:
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to WONDER and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.…To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms-this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness.”
i met with two of my extra lovely advisors, matt monk & nancy skolos, today & it was suggested that perhaps what my thesis truly is about is wonder: to create wonder, display wonder, give wonder & cause wonder.
it seems so simple…& though i talk about “wonder” when describing my thesis goals, i never thought to distill my ideas to simply that — wonder.
|1.||to think or speculate curiously: to wonder about the origin of the solar system.|
|2.||to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe; marvel (often fol. by at): He wondered at her composure in such a crisis.|
|3.||to doubt: I wonder if she’ll really get here.|
verb (used with object)
|4.||to speculate curiously or be curious about; be curious to know: to wonder what happened.|
|5.||to feel wonder at: I wonder that you went.|
|6.||something strange and surprising; a cause of surprise, astonishment, or admiration: That building is a wonder. It is a wonder he declined such an offer.|
|7.||the emotion excited by what is strange and surprising; a feeling of surprised or puzzled interest, sometimes tinged with admiration: He felt wonder at seeing the Grand Canyon.|
|8.||miraculous deed or event; remarkable phenomenon.|
|9.||for a wonder, as the reverse of what might be expected; surprisingly: For a wonder, they worked hard all day.|
even the dictionary agrees…it’s time for me to make wonder.
yes, i know it’s no surprise that my thesis work is made of stuff that i’m made of.
in my core samples course, we were asked to write about materials that we tend to collect/hoard/obsess over.
apparently, i have no trouble daydreaming…& you?
My mother is a knitter. When I was growing up, every summer she’d spend her days sitting in a beach chair under a tree knitting sweaters for my sister and myself. We’d each get one and we rarely loved them. In June she’d take us to a yarn store and let us go through the pattern books. We would do our best to find one that looked most like a Benetton original and envision the catalog models wearing shoulder pads under their wool. The next part was my favorite: searching for the yarn. I’d let my mother and sister fight over my sister’s choice of trendy sweater and head for the walls of wool hands first.
I’d pick my yarn by color first. Group together a pile of blues and turquoises and sea greens and leave them in a heap on an empty corner of shelf. Then I would attempt to gather them up in my arms, walk them over to a chair, deposit my stash and go back for a second sweep. This color-choosing of yarn was always deceptive as my fondness for certain skeins could fade in volume by the end of the next sorting process and so it was unwise to get too attached to an idea of color. It was the feel of the yarn was most important to me. This would be the thing that I would be most aware of when wearing the sweater. I would close my eyes and hold the yarn in my hands and pick the one that felt right. I usually ended up with the softest of soft that felt like being inside of milkweed pods or burrowing in llamas during a snowstorm.
Even before Polaroid stopped making instant film I have been an infamous hoarder of the stuff. There is something about the way that they capture and reveal moments in an “instant” that makes them seem dangerously disposable. They defy speed and are fired off like bullets in a pre-semi-automatic movie; shooting out of the camera until the cartridge is empty and you have no more hope. They are precious and plastic which is rare.
I have a fortune. The vegetable crisper, dairy and meat drawers in my refrigerator hold no food and instead house royal blue bricks of cardboard boxes making my refrigerator always look deceptively full. The mother load is sequestered out of state so as to limit temptation or wasteful use. Technology has forced me to be shrewd.
Often my land cameras will misfire. It’s as sad as a dropped buttered bagel face down on the kitchen floor. I keep these blank pictures and try to defend them to their pack-mates. They are milky and eternal. Both warm and cold.
I have a compulsion of gathering sea stones. When I leave any beach my bag is always far heavier than it was on my arrival. I try not to complain. I’ll see them on the sand — perfect, smooth, egg-like and fit for the hand and with a surface that was made waveless by the ocean and meant to be touched— and I have no choice but to grab them up greedily and stash them away. I know that I need them.
Once home, I bathe them in my kitchen sink and then dry them with my dish towel. I know they don’t need this but I believe that they appreciate the concern for their comfort and well-being as well as the time that I take while looking out for these needs. I arrange them on my windowsills or tabletops or bookshelves as temporary homes until I realize my use for them. This summer I ran out of room in the regions of their normal haunts and started making nests of rocky orbs behind my pots and pans.
In our Anne West seminar, we were asked to create a work based on a text that has helped to form our thesis direction. I, of course, chose Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space and did an exercise combining his use of a poetic lens turned upon our daily lives and Uta Barth’s idea of non-spaces to look at what I turn a blind eye to in my own surroundings.
below is a rough draft of a description of my exercise & the visual resulting (with computer generated text in lieu of handwriting):
In the poetics of space, Gaston Bachelard speaks of a different type of looking at our most intimate surroundings by bringing a poetic sensitivity to the spaces that we inhabit. A house is no longer a house but a collection of memories, metaphors, longings and daydreams. The reader begins to think about their environment in terms of possibilities of discovery instead of assumptions of knowing.
“Even if the ‘form’ was already well-known, previously discovered, carved from ‘commonplaces,’ before the interior poetic light was turned upon it, it was a mere object for the mind. But the soul comes and inaugurates the form, dwells in it, takes pleasure in it.”
Through the lens of poetic metaphor, Bachelard enables for spaces, the ones that we have become so accustomed to barely notice, to open up before our eyes. Aided by the information revealed through the alternate perspective of poetry, we discover deeper meanings and therefore more fully realize what it is that we are actually looking at. It becomes quite clear that we have not been conscious of the actual potential of our objects and spaces: everything bears reason to be examined more thoroughly.
This idea has been integral to my thesis topic and development as I am, in the simplest terms, aiming to make the unseen seen, the ordinary extraordinary and invite to the viewer to slow down in their practice of looking and truly commit to seeing what they are looking at; allowing them to meditate on the wonder of their world. Bachelard uses a poetic lens to guide his reader’s sight and imagination as an alternate perspective that allows for new observations to be made. In his chapter on miniatures, he writes: “Here we have an inversion of perspective, which is either fleeting or captivating, according to the talent of the narrator, or the reader’s capacity for dream.”
Photographer Uta Barth speaks of “non spaces”. In her ground series, she investigates what she calls “non spaces” which in this case is the background that is so often visually disregarded in portraiture. With the camera lens, as with our eyes but it’s often too subtle to note, when we choose to focus on one thing all else slips out of focus. Barth set up her shots with the focus on the person in foreground and then simply removed the person so that all that is left in her images is the blurred background; a non space becoming the subject of the piece. She creates an inversion of perspective by showing us what we neglect to notice.
I am a collector of treasure and like to think that I take no thing for granted as trash. I hunt flea markets for unloved objects, Salvation Army for discarded possession and receive countless packages of seemingly useless technology from Ebay. When these packages arrive, I rip them open greedily and relish my new find, yet, that is not all that the boxes contain but that is all that I see. What I do not focus my attention on is the “stuff” surrounding the object: cardboard, cheesecloth, burlap, bubble wrap and paper. These objects have been carefully swaddled into my package as well but they do not engage my attention as the object of my focus: they become nothing more than a “non-object”.
Perhaps through the use of an alternate perspective, I could allow these hastily decided non-objects to reveal an ulterior potential. Bachelard uses the language of words to create poetic phenomenology whereas I work with visual language. In this way, in order to truly view these objects anew, I chose to re-present them in another media, dimensionality and visual language. Although I discard the potential of these packing materials, I am an avid recycler (read: pack rat) and retain a box of them in a closet. I blindly grabbed three of them: burlap, cheesecloth and corrugated cardboard and set off to see them with greater sensitivity. I pressed their physical form into the soft ground of copper plates, etched this representation into the metal and re-presented their identity onto paper; manifesting themselves in a new light to reveal a different way of looking at their visual qualities. Isolated as form, line, texture and rhythm and presented as artwork, these non-objects shed their familiar existence to reveal an auxiliary integrity. We are able to more fully see the possibility of their “interior poetic light” through this shift of perspective.