Wishes

If wishes were fishes, the sea would be full.

In one of my classes at SAIC, we talked about how Fear and Desire play into the design process, and about how we encounter they shape our experiences, particularly in the Urban Built Environment.  The culminating project for that class was to create an object or process that would shape the interactions of people in the city using the tension between what we Desire and what we Fear.

My project was a meditation on how alienated and uncomfortable it can feel to walk around in a city, like Chicago, which doesn’t have prolific park benches because they can allow homeless people or other transients to occupy space.  The side effect is that neither can people who are walking through the city sit down and enjoy the wonders of urban living.

It was a modular garment that could serve as a jacket, an umbrella, or a geodesic-dome tent depending on how many people or pieces you had with you.  It required no carrying case, since it was itself a wearable object, but would allow the wearer to create a sacred nest in the heart of the city by encouraging interaction with other people, and allowing the wearer to build a refuge using his clothing.

In Europe, there are more benches, and there are pedestrian pathways where people picnic.  One of the projects that I considered while living in Spain was to photograph and interview people sitting on different park benches.  In the end I was both too busy and too shy, but maybe one day I’ll go back and do it.  Though at this point someone made a movie with a similar theme, so maybe it isn’t such an original idea anymore.  But putting together a book of photos and stories might have some strengths of its own that wouldn’t be the same as the cinematic version.

Meandering along, today during my morning perusal of various internet founts, I discovered a modern convenience which pushes and pulls along that interface between fear and desire.  It is a map-app called Serendipitor.  In it you ask for directions to someplace and at each turn it gives you a task to do which makes your walk more interesting by forcing you to interact with people or go off your usual beaten path to see a different street going the long way.

All of this talk about fear and desire has sprung forth from a realization I had the other day while talking about what I want and running smack into a barrier: at the moment I have a lot of real fears and not many tangible desires.  It makes decision-making very difficult.

It’s time to give what I want some more tangible form, so today I’m meditating on some concrete things to wish for.

Photo Booths

Self-Portraits taken in a Photo-Booth

Today was extremely busy.  A friend of mine in our building has a daughter who is about 11.  She had an art show and a film festival today with photos and films by her on display in both places.  It sounded like a fun thing to do, so I went along for the ride.

The school, and the art centers were really interesting and bring to bear on a running argument that I have with my SO, who claims that there is less culture in the US in general, and in California in particular, than there is in Europe.  To an extent I can understand his perspective, but I’ve always said that we Americans have our cultural events surrounding familial units and children rather than in the streets.  Today’s events made that abundantly clear to me.

It isn’t that we don’t value cultural events, its that they are most vibrant in more closed settings.

Whereas in Spain or France, you go into the street and you see people doing art, and playing music, here you have to know where to go and usually they are open settings but with hidden addresses that you have to know about or be connected to in order to find.

I went to a bunch of different places with her along the way since she had errands to run, and things to pick up.  I saw a local school, the Electric Lodge, Staples, Venice Arts Gallery, and the Lutheran Church where the Kids Film Festival was held.

While we were at the Electric Lodge, they were setting up a photo-booth convention.  Real, not digital, photos ready in 5 minutes.  It sounded fun, so I went back later with my housemate, and we went on further adventures.

Since on a recent weekend outing we found a photo booth, and took our pictures, I’m beginning to amass a collection of photo booth photos.  There are some somewhere with me and one of my first Madrid roommies too.  When I find them I’ll publish them too.

Here’s photobooth photos (digital) of me and H in 2006 and in 2012.

Photo-booth photos 2006, 2012

The Stories We Tell

Although I’m trying to keep this blog focused narrowly on art and process, it is the time of year that I am prone to do soul-searching, and paying attention to what is going on in this country and the world, some things that people have said to encourage me have floated to the surface as relevant both to the polemical political situation we find ourselves in and to the process of emerging artistically.

 

The other day I was feeling very discouraged about the validity of the work that I do.  After months of searching for a creative and fulfilling job that pays the bills without luck, I was beginning to wonder how I could do any job, creative or not.

How could I transmit all of my skills and talents through the sieve of resumés and cover letters to reach the ear of some person willing to risk meeting me for a half-hour?  On paper I didn’t look so good to myself.  And I know how many companies– big and small– are using computerized algorithms to search for mysterious keywords that one needs ESP to divine.

Eventually I realized that the crux of the matter was that I didn’t feel like any of my multiple talents would be valued.

During all of this struggle, H has been very supportive.  In fact it is something he said to me that broke the stream of negativity.  He said, “You have to change the story that you tell about yourself.”

It made me realize that I was trying to tell my own life to by comparing myself to the perceived values of those robotic algorithms and it made me fall short, even in my own eyes.  Instead of seeing that while attending two prominent universities I was working full-time and still able to participate in the art community, and in gallery shows, I saw a non-traditional education and a dead-end job.  Instead of seeing that I am brave and talented enough to live and teach for four years in Spain, I saw that those years were in a different field than the one I want to continue in now, and so they were lost.

It is the same mistake that many of us make, and the same mistake that we are making as a country.

We are letting our new abilities to harness technology make us forget that each person has a story.  We are letting the big corporations create the premise of our nation’s story.  Their premise is that because a penny saved is a penny earned, we need to keep cutting costs by any means necessary.  Their premise is that because they make more money they are worth more than you or me.

H was talking about the attitude towards food in France v. in the USA.  He got it from a book by Clotaire Rapaille, who is a French psychologist and market-researcher.  According to this book, Americans view food as fuel, so more food is better because it fills us up.  In France, food is viewed as a central social and cultural focus of the day.  It is viewed as art, and valued for its place in culture.  Quality not quantity counts.

We view work, choices, test-scores, exercise, housing, cars, and many other things as if more, bigger, higher, and faster is always better.

Even in the banking crisis, those giant banks were “too big to fail.”  We couldn’t let them fail because we can’t imagine another solution.

Because we as a nation tell the story of “More is better,” so often, we don’t even realize it, and it is becoming the downfall of our country.

I’m not sure what our new story should be, but we need to find a new direction or we are going to fall-short, use-up, and break-down.

By changing the way I hear and tell my own story at least, I have found a job doing something I love!  Let’s hope our nation can change it’s story too.