Friday, January 31, 2014

This #10

I'm tagging this post as a This Post because I haven't done a This post in awhile. But really what is happening is that these are the various things floating around in my brain at the end of such a wonderful, inspiring, peaceful, and beautiful January:

1. I'm in a foundations of digital media course this semester through the Media Arts + Practice program at USC and the first thing we're doing is examining photographs and photomontage. My professor introduced us to a French street artist, JR, who uses large scale photographs of faces to disrupt physical barriers, landscapes, etc. One of his most fascinating [and potentially complicated] projects is called Women Are Heros in Brasil. JR gained access to a favela in Rio and began pasting huge photographs of community women's eyes and faces on the stairs and buildings there. If you've ever been to Brasil and seen a favela, you know that this is both a massive physical feat and a complicated political, moral, and sociological endeavor. I haven't completely decided where I stand regarding the politics and ethics of the project, but I am interested in the arguments to be made on all sides of the issue. And frankly, this is an aesthetically gorgeous creation. The eyes of women staring back at the wealthy and privileged in one of Brasil's most important cities.  JR posted this video of the project on his site:

And these photos:

2. This drawing on Chris Ware's agent's website that Ware drew of himself at a podium. I can't even express to you all the feels I feel about this [and about Chris Ware]:
from http://barclayagency.com/ware.html
SwoonSighShudder. I can't tell if I'm laughing or crying, but I know there's empathy, compassion, pain, and pity all mixed up in there somewhere next to a heaping pile of respect. Like, I want to see Chris Ware speak so badly, but I almost don't want to if this is what doing so will do to him. I love him. I love him with my heart.

3. I'm teaching a writing course this semester, the theme of which is Los Angeles & the American Dream. Yikes. To introduce my students to potential varying definitions of Los Angeles, the American Dream, and to give them some practice reading and analyzing images, I showed them Ian Ruhter's unbelievably gorgeous photo project, American Dream. The first photo in the portfolio of this project on his site has become maybe my favorite photo of Los Angeles of all time:
from the PDF of his project site.

4. Cadillac Desert. A four-part documentary series that aired on PBS once upon a time about the creation of the city of Los Angeles, its evolution from a desert wasteland incapable of sustaining much of anything to a lush metropolis. Most people know that LA stole a lot of its water in the beginning. But I for one never knew the real story, all its messy details, all its brilliant horror. We watched this in my Post-West Representations class this week and I learned that palm trees are not native to Los Angeles and this kind of uncomfortable fear of what I think I always knew deep down struck me.
from the LA Times article about the book on which the documentary is based
Talk about Building Nothing Out of Something [yes, I meant exactly what I wrote]. Talk about The Lonesome Crowded West. My continual anthems for the desert. That I've always been living in the thing I've tried over and over to run away to, that I've been living in its ghost, its ghost dressed up as opportunity and life and the opposite of the solitude I crave. Well, that makes all the more sense, and makes me feel all the more... I don't know, guilty? Honest? Uncomfortable? Complete?

5. One of the books we're reading for my digital media class is Galloway's The Interface Effect. We read the introduction of the book for this past week and though I find Galloway's argumentation style shifty and unstable, he said one of the most important things I think I'll ever read about the area I intend to study and write about for the rest of my career:
Thus when one asks "What is the possibility of video?" one is in the same breath asking "What is the definition of video?" Yet the com­puter occupies an uneasy position in relation to both definition and possibility, for in many cases the very words that people use to address the question of the computer are those selfsame words "definition" and "possibility." One hears stories about computers being "definitional" machines: not only does com­puter code operate through the definitions of states and state changes, but computers themselves are those special machines that nominalize the world, that define and model its behavior using variables and functions. Likewise one hears stories about computers being "possibility" machines: they operate not through vague estimations of practice, but through hard, machinic possibilities of truth or falsehood, openness or clos­ed ness, on or off. So I suggest that these terms "definition" and "possibility" might do more harm than good if our aim is to understand the machine and how it works. How can we determine the possibility of new media if new media are nothing but possibility machines? How can we define them if they are already cast from the mold of definition?
[emphasis is mine, because these are the key questions I think he's asking about an overdetermined, over-discussed, and over-defined subject matter]

This quote kind of changed my perception of how I can and cannot approach writing a dissertation on electronic literature, narrative innovation, and the digital/analog.

6. This quote from Mary Austin's 1903 novel The Land of Little Rain:
"We breed in an environment of asphalt pavements a body of people whose creeds are chiefly restrictions against other people's way of life."
I think, not coincidentally, this novel was published in the exact same time period that the LA aqueduct was being created.

7. And speaking of deserts, my friend Jeff released the behind the scenes video he shot and edited about his upcoming film, The Circle of Abstract Ritual. It's his story, and also the story of the night we spent in the desert moving trees. You can even spot me in it if you know where to look.



Most nights on my bike ride home, I listen to The National's Trouble Will Find Me. I couldn't possibly wear that album out. January has brought me kumquats and yacht attire, champagne and nail polish, opportunity and the strength to broaden my scope of vision, reunion and clarity, invitation and compassion, and a glowing inside me that will hopefully soon be bright enough that I don't have to have the building manager come replace my bathroom light that went out while I was mid shower a couple nights ago. I have never been more excited to see what February brings me. I know that I'm bringing it love and dedication and probably some spinach and a Valentine's Day card.

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