Thursday, October 29, 2009
This artist statement [in progress] is specifically for my fibers studio class, but the thoughts that filter through my work in that medium also factor into my other practices and my general view of relationships, interaction, and the movement of the world. This is my first draft.
When considering the collection and recording of texts, it is notable that:
The amount of text that is displayed in the inbox screen must be directly reflected in the personal title of the recreation of the text.
The word breaks and usage of letters, numbers, punctuation, and grammar must all be taken exactly from the source message to preserve the integrity of the original message and the person and moment and development associated with said message.
The date and time of each message should be noted and charted so as to give context and keep the text in its most original form with the basic information set given.
Organization of text messages should not necessarily tell a complete story or work as a straight narrative; however, there should be an implied emotional record or chart of development supposed with the relationship between receiver and each corresponding person sending the texts.
The format of fibers makes texts, a distant and impersonal communication tool, a bit more personal and attempts to reclaim them, the connections they represent, and/or the emotions previously filtered through a technological fog. Printing makes reference to the impersonality and the mass of superficial communication made available and exploited by texting and technology in general, but the use of hand-written letters with the associated time involved with etching and printing does again what embroidering or stitching the texts does: it adds a touch of humanity. This is alienated humanity, though, since it comes directly from the receiver and attempts to fill the pits left by senders. Texts are still seen through my particular history, experience, and DNA and selected because of the way these things tint my view of each. Because the texts the viewer might see are selected, the viewer’s sense of reality or narrative or even function is warped and detached, fitting the overall theme of the work despite its seeming attempts to calm this reality, or even fight it. Each text still feels a bit out of place… lonely, even.
This in no way explains the mindset of today or the disconnect I associate with it. I, having lived only in this century, have no real means by which to accurately make a claim about mindsets past, and so have no way to compare them to the present, or define the present by them. Even so, it is my impression that any sort of zeitgeist right now is a disconnected, unfocused, and lonely one. I mainly explore this through communication.
Despite ourselves, we aim for it. We wave our hands, distort our faces, speak, write, scribble, touch. We share things. We make.
The key in it all seems to be communication.
We can’t help this; it’s programmed into us to communicate, to connect, and in doing so, to stay alive and reproduce. Every emotion is set in brain waves and bodily balances. Every social experience, experiment, and impulse can be broken down into basic chemicals and survival of the species. We make friend groups, essentially, for survival and to fill our ‘trust’ quota, another safety mechanism. We romance for the sake of species continuation. We hold family bonds because groups are safer units and give us support systems. We search for identity as a means of understanding ourselves, sorting others, and measuring compatibility and associate ourselves with specifics to facilitate this. So, we continue to interact, despite the emotional wear-and-tear and the continued failure to truly connect with another, which we’re programmed to long for, search for, and possibly even think we’ve found.
Focusing simply on language, our attempts to communicate with each other, to understand, be understood, and through this, connect comes across rapidly. Everything has a written reciprocal. Documentation, receipts, records, lists, poetry, science books, street signs. We write and we read and we type and we hit “enter”, and in the fractured attention and narrative of our current day-to-day, we see this as communication. We accept this as connection. But at the same time, there is a feeling. There is a longing, a yearning for something we feel we’ve had before or something we feel we deserve, we need. This is because, despite our attempts, the lists mean nothing. We still cannot understand each other. We have only ever been ourselves and that is where our experience lies and so, to us, being ourselves is what it is to be human. To me, Caitlin is human. Caitlin is humanity. Caitlin is my understanding of us as a species. But even so, we can hardly understand ourselves. What a ludicrous thing it is to then suppose we can understand others. What you can’t understand, you can’t really know, and you can’t really be connected with. We are solitary creatures tricked by our bodies into believing otherwise. Nobody can truly be understood or understand. We have different histories and different genes and everything has a mental inflection or fluctuation. Language alone allows for interpretation and supposition and we fill in gaps with assumption and bend words and sounds based on what we know or feel or have experienced. All in all, what we have is just enough to get by. Our emotions get the better of us and we give meaning to even little things. We hold on. We continue to try to communicate, and through that, to connect, and we hold tight the things we feel we have connections with and the things we think represent connections we have with others. This goes beyond physical hoarding associated with OCD and magical thinking and into emotional hoarding and organization and classification of our lives and structures and emotions and all the people we see as involved in these things. So, despite our essential loneliness and separation from each other and the very physical aspects of the world, we continue. It’s all we have, and it’s the closest thing we’ve got to knowing, and knowing, attempting understanding, is the closest we’ve gotten to each other. This search, this longing, this attempt is in every word, letter, and sound. It sits on the curve of every line and balls under every vocalization sliding past our tongues. It’s in everything I say today and all the sentences I’ve ever strung or will string, and when the mufflers of miscommunication are removed, it blares from every keystroke of this document.
Please, I want you to know me. I need someone to know me.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Some play scales,
Or gentle runs.
We play a single note,
The only note,
The bass note of our scale.
A supporting role,
Only the support role.
With their warm up
Fast and lacey.
And our warm up
Slow and strong.
Our building up often
Ends in an unheard peak.
Their prowess is flaunted
In flowing technique.
While we tubas wait
Buried far beneath,
But our role immerges
Once the true note is needed,
For it will not be the top
But the bottom that sounds.
The dead man had one wish;
His funeral was to be happy.
Musicians, dancing and plenty
Of drinks and drugs to go round.
But with their hearts
And his body in pieces,
No one felt it appropriate
To celebrate his demise.
Until the priest in ethereal gown
Examined the body and announced,
‘This man never had a soul,’ relief
Spread and the drinking commenced.
Permits were attained and
Hallucinogens were spread
Amongst the living until the dead
Joined the crowded dance floor.
The dead man began to DJ, playing
Songs of the dead layer with the deepest
Beats to which the dead dancing the lead
And the living pulsed like marionettes.
The neighbors ordered the police
And the church to end this abomination,
But no laws were broken or sins committed,
The proper permits had been filed.
When the funeral took to the streets
neighbors, police and church all joined,
Drinks in hand and narcotics in system,
Dancing to the dead man’s unholy beat.
The dead man began feeding
His music into the city’s P.A.,
And soon the dance of the dead
Stole away the lives of the living.
The dead city had only one wish;
Their funeral was to be happy.
Musicians, dancing and plenty
Of drinks and drugs to go round.
My shyly uttered stutter
Your overwhelming confidence
My unexpected reply
Your money paying for me
My fiercely burning loneliness
Our silhouettes intertwining
This is why I loved you.
My lack of your phone call
My veil that couldn’t hide two
Your perfectly white suburbia
My baby tearing my flesh
Your perpetual overtime
This is why I needed you
My hope for one night of rest
My endless shitty diapers
Her lilac perfume on your shirt
His first word being daddy
This is why we left you.
Pieces of Her Life
Her cassettes carry
Another soul’s story
Across time and out
Her car stereo leaving
Us together listening
To a playlist of life.
Her music played on empty ears
We were busy crafting plans
To meet again. These brief moments
Were barely enough
For me to catch a glimpse;
Of her hacked short hair
Of her broken smoker’s voice.
Lacelike smoke traces
Her perfectly flawed self.
Her black lined eyes reflecting
My own fragmented form;
Comfort clothes still thick
With my husband’s cologne.
These things do not translate
Into phone lines. No. They need
To be taken in lifestyle wise.
We that kiss forbidden.
My one vice in an otherwise
Wholesome lustrous life.
Beauty of his eye guarded,
I stay sheltered from my true
Calling; my love that meets
Me when he’s a far away.
Horizon violated by the sun
Signals that our time is up.
My children need a mother
So with pieces of another’s
Life playing over the radio
We drive the long minutes
Back to the reality of life.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
We live in a world where people and nature are ceaselessly abused and exploited. An overwhelming amount of people live in absolute poverty and die of hunger and disease. These people are paid less than a living wage, barely surviving in conditions often worse than slavery. They are removed from the lands they have lived on for millennia, displaced by urban development or wilderness preservation sites. Numerous species are going extinct, the rainforest is getting smaller, the desert bigger, and we are spewing toxins into the air, land and water at an alarming rate. We are using such an excess amount of resources that we may soon have nothing left, driving ourselves to extinction.
It seems obvious that solving these problems should be a top priority, but the system which has the most power to fix the world is the one which is doing the most to destroy it. This system is the dominant global culture of materialism, in which possessions and profits trump all, and it is spreading faster and faster to every corner of the world. It’s a monster which feeds on the worst of human qualities: greed. It’s our insatiable greed which pushes it to grow ever larger, and it sees anything which hinders its growth as a threat; even those who would try and heal the wounds we have inflicted upon our planet are shunned by the powerful and shut out from mainstream media.
Nonetheless, great advances have been made at the grassroots level, depending on generosity and social power instead of greed and economic power. Pro-poor conservation seeks to let endangered environments be maintained by their native inhabitants, who have lived in them symbiotically for ages. Ecological economics seeks to reform the economic systems which have catalyzed materialism so that they recognize human needs other than material wealth as also being significant. Simple living has been advocated as a more fulfilling alternative to the cycle of hyper-consumption that the masses are being herded into. Fair trade has sought to remedy the injustices done to the global south and bring the world into closer solidarity.
Yet the selfishness of those in power, the establishment of materialism, has made its counterattacks to each of these. Environmental protection has been taken up, but in a way that hordes the land as a precious commodity for the wealthy, removing the indigenous peoples to create a pristine wilderness getaway. New ideas and values like ecological economics have been mostly shut out of conventional education by corporate domineered universities. Advertising and consumer culture retains its grip on peoples’ minds, using the farce of overpopulation to cloak the true problem of overconsumption. Fair trade is equally swept aside, kept unfamiliar to the public by the profusion of advertising of unfair goods and kept off of the shelves or overpriced at the typical markets.
Corporate power is a formidable rival, but this power is centralized in the hands of the few. If the hands of the many worked together to topple the greed and selfish of materialism, it is we who would be the giant. But people don’t turn their greed into generosity that easily. It takes a spiritual conversion of sorts to get people to care about more than just themselves. And if all the dominant forms of the media are owned by corporations, how will the people most isolated from these grassroots efforts ever be reached? An understanding of the issues the world faces and the possible solutions to these problems is not so difficult to achieve, but gaining the wisdom of how to shift the world into a new state of being seems nearly impossible. Perhaps it can only be done little by little.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Apparently one of the Aboriginal Creation myths talks about Creative Spirits walking around the earth and singing the world as it is today into being; if I understand correctly, singing things from the Dreamtime (a sort of spiritual combination of the Force and Plato's World of Forms) into "reality." The paths these spirits took during this process are called Songlines. The spirits then went back into the earth or went into the sky to live as stars, and left the care of the earth to the Aborigines. This care consists of the singing of songs to "keep the land 'alive.'" "In singing they preserve the land/story/dreaming of their ancestors, and recreate it in their oneness of past, present and future."
When the English colonized Australia, and eventually drove the Aborigines from their native lands, this process was prevented, and in an Aboriginal interpretation, this is why the land is dying (there was a noticeable drop in the health of the ecosystems of the Western Desert after all the nomadic tribes there had been removed); the cause of ecological collapse in the world as a whole is because the Songs are no longer sung.
Apparently, Dean Pertl once interviewed 60 people, of whom 40 independently described the sound of a didgeridoo as "the sound the Earth would make if it could sing." This would be quite fascinating, if it weren't a quote from something or other, which it seems to be.
The other thing of interest, especially to this community, was the discussion of authenticity. It seems that some people in the didgeridoo community in the West insist on using real Aboriginal instruments, mimicking their sounds, and trying to be "authentic" and, I guess, not appear to be stealing real culture and altering it in ways that might seem disrespectful. This is in contrast to the spirit of Aboriginal culture, which is concerned with sounds (so using a plastic instrument instead of one made of wood makes sense if it sounds better) and mimics things in the player's life; for an Aborigine, this would include dingos, kangaroos, etc, but a Westerner living in a city would have an extremely different palate of noises to mimic.
There has also been a movement to call didgeridoos (an onomatopoeic name made up by European listeners) by an "authentic" name; however, since they are called different things by different tribes, and since each tribe uses different materials and techniques to construct, no one "authentic" name would describe the whole family of instruments. Any one name (Yirdaki, for example) would be accurately applied to only one particular type of didgeridoo, and wrong for the rest.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
This evening, we had an incredible performance that illustrated some of the things I am really coming to enjoy about Lawrence: its cosmopolitanism and, somewhat less tangibly, a sense of play, of living a good life (I am a sucker for language like this, sorry; there is a quote from our former President that says something along the same lines, that at Lawrence the point of education is not learning skills or facts, but learning how live a life). Our Dean of the Conservatory, Brian Pertl, is a trombone and didgeridoo player and throat singer and conch player and etc. He and my percussion teacher, Dane, performed a piece by Lawrence Ferlinghetti with a theater man and a bass player at convocation.
The concert tonight was occasioned by a visit from Pertl's teacher, Stuart Dempster, who fits the same general description. The wikipedia article credits him for introducing the didjeridoo to North America, which is kind of cool. More importantly, though, he is a really vibrant, zany, playful man and this comes through in his playing.
When we entered the room, there were trombone players standing all around the edges of the room, scattered among the audience. Dempster stood in the center of the room, and from there introduced the first piece, which he called "Lawrence Trombone Universe." The piece originally had a different name, and was written for a smaller number of trombones to take advantage of the acoustical properties of the Cistern Chapel, an abandoned two million gallon water tank that boasts a 45 second reverberation. Before playing, Dempster had the audience hum an F, and hold that pitch throughout the piece. The trombones were then called in one by one at Dempster's nod as he spun around in a circle. He did this gradually for the entire piece, signaling the musicians to move from one repeated pattern to the next, starting with that F drone, building to a climax with somewhat more motion, and returning to the drone.
The next few pieces were done from on stage, with Dempster, Pertl, Dane, and another man playing accordion. The pieces they did were certainly weird, the kind of ambient, improvisatory music that some people like to deny acknowledging as such (music, that is). Some people may have a hard time getting past that, especially reading a review like this, without being able to see for themselves. This kind of music benefits enormously from being heard live, where your concentration is relatively undivided, and the acoustics can take their full effect. More importantly, though, is the sight of the performers and how much fun they are having.
There were several pieces in this mold, with Dean Pertl and several trombone students holding drones on didgeridoo while Dempster and the accordion player played over top. Dane had a messy (in the best way) setup, one of those one-man-band style "alternative drumsets." He was sitting on a cajon, which he played with his right foot, had a bell loop on his left foot, and switched around between a rain drum, a shaker, and a variety of "toys" from a big suitcase to his right. Dempster switched back and forth between trombone, conch, and his own pile of toys.
Another piece, along the same lines, featured Dean Pertl on a Dungchen. The instrument had been sitting on stage the entire time, about 2 feet high, a big bell with elaborate metal ornamentation. For the piece, he opened it up like a telescope, into 5 sections, as you can see in the picture. This is what it sounds like. He also did some throat singing in this piece. You can hear what most of this sounds like in these two videos of Pertl and Dempster.
The audience was asked to participate again in the next bit, an ode to a rainforest. We did the old rain trick, starting with rubbing your hands together, snapping, then patting and stomping, while they played droning didgeridoo and made animal noises. IGLU, our Improvisational Group, played with them next, doing what was easily the most abstruse, sparse piece of the night, for those of us who enjoy that sort of thing. Dean Pertl then performed a didgeridoo solo accompanied by Dane. Dane did a tambourine solo (very impressive) while everyone else vacated the stage.
The solo was cut off when the lights went out, and 4 glowing eyeballs came on stage, making odd growls and screeches. They came out into the audience, turning on and off sporadically. This last piece was written by Pertl for Dempster's 70th birthday concert, and he constructed the didgerdoos for it himself. I should add that while some of the didgeridoos they played were real wood or bamboo, most of them are the new plastic ones that just look like black pipes. To these were added backlit eyeballs controlled by a switch under the player's thumb. This is probably one of the zaniest things I had seen done in a "classical" context, until the end of the recital.
They resumed their normal stage setup after this, and did a final improvisatory piece like the ones before. However, this time, both the accordion player and Dempster got up and first went back and forth, fighting with sounds, circling around chairs and jumping at each other. They snuck back behind Pertl, still seated, and Dempster climbed onto a chair, pointing his bell at Pertl's head. Pertl then stood up, and he and the accordion player fell on the ground and died as the piece ended, with Dempster still frozen, also dead, on his chair.
The recital ended with another audience participation thing. Dempster decided to do this on the spot, telling us to take the "happy baby" pose (a yoga position, which he demonstrated) in our minds, and play with noises. He came out into the aisles and barked and growled and interacted in a very silly way with the audience, who responded in kind.
Monday, October 5, 2009
I was an exchange student in Istanbul through Rotary Youth Exchange, I met Adam this summer at a conference and he told me about this blog, so here I am. I am from MI, and right now I am studying International Relations and Diplomacy in Madrid, Spain.
I am really looking to start discussing various global and/or social justice issues and build some ideas with people who have the same interests. I'd type more, but my hand is kind of messed up right now for some reason, so instead of finishing my introduction properly I'll leave it as a cliffhanger.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
I am in college and am a very busy man. I would very much like to find time to write a journal about this time, and post it for discussion with all of you. However, I haven't found this time yet, and in the meantime, I would like to share a bunch of nice links I have been shown in the past few months.
This is an interview with James Turrell, a very interesting light artist. He was referenced by Barry Lopez in About This Life, and so I went looking for information on him.
As ever, many of these I found (and am now stealing) from Rachel Leow. She now has a new site, incidentally, that aggregates all of her on the internet.
This is a short book review that summarizes quite well how I feel about the part "spirituality" - for lack of a better word - should play in our lives. The awe we feel at the Universe sometimes, the astonishment of merely being alive, is a beautiful feeling and something we can and ought to cultivate, but there are no conclusions to be drawn from it. It is incommunicable, an increase in understanding that can not itself be understood rationally. I feel this is important.
These are just some nice, very surreal pictures.
If any of you are interested in education theory or philosophy, this book is an interesting compilation of subjects "important young internet intellectuals" feel are vital to a 21st century Liberal Arts education (which, of course, is the only kind of education worthy of the name ;)).
Shane showed me this radio program a while ago. I haven't listened to many episodes yet, but it is a good popular science kick when that is what you would like. One of the episodes (on Time) included a sample of "9 Beet Stretch," Leif Inge's renewal of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. It was electronically stretched to last 24 hours, and is a very interesting ambient noise now. I enjoy listening to it, especially at night.
Alex posted this on facebook a while ago; it has samples of about a dozen collections of beautiful photographs, most of them related to science. There are 4 from each set, but they each have links to the photographer's website. They are all exceptional.
Some of you know who Courtney Rabideau is; for the others, suffice it to say that she went to school in Cass City with us. However, I don't think any of us ever spent much time with her. She is eminently worth knowing, though, and seems to me a kindred spirit of girls like Sylvie and Rachel (I speak of her as though I actually knew her, which is interesting). I am shocked to realize I never invited her to this blog or my personal one. She has just recently started her own blog, and I thought perhaps some of you would enjoy reading it.
This video got forwarded to our percussion studio a few days ago. It is kind of silly pop science stuff, but the last few minutes have some really fascinating high speed footage of a snare drum and a cymbal being hit and vibrating.
Here there are horrifically haunting children, very worth perceiving.