Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On or About Photography

I'm assembling readings for a Sophomore class titled IMAGING. I'm treating it like a Photography class. I am drawn back to, and repelled by, the discredited eponymous discourse on photography by Susan Sontag. One critic suggests it might be better titled “Against Photography” (Sorensen, Sue, “Against Photography”, in Afterimage , Vol. 31, Issue 6) A Wikipedia writer writes, “reviews from the world of art photography that followed On Photography’s publication were skeptical and often hostile.” I would add that they continue to be. But there is something to her polemic that questions ideas about creativity that we hold to be sacred. I’m not saying I would defend her positions but I am forced to consider that there is for me some aspect worth consideration in many of her arguments. I’m considering her statement “The final reason for the need to photography everything lies in the very logic of consumption itself.” Certainly, this can’t be the final reason. And she might be right: there is no thing left unphotographed. But the idea of consumption deserves a little more attention especially given the way her critics dismiss the text as now lacking all credibility. What if she is partly right? Can that be allowed? Aren’t we in some way consuming images --- consuming media --- with an automatic mode of processing given the shear quantity those of us on line are exposed to, and the distractions? To what are we responding? Is there a dialogue? Can this be a dialogue?

Monday, August 11, 2008

setting intentions

Setting Intentions: back to this idea.

I was asked to help coordinate the preparation of the preschool facility for the return of the children for the 08-09 school year at Sabot at Stony Point School

Two significant connections:
1) it is from Sabot and the reggio-inspired philosophy that I have developed this focus of intentionality as hub for motivation and action.
2) assuming this role of coordinating folks to get work done has led to many unexpected connections: a neighborhood community center for at risk youths was the first to call to claim the free stove and fridge we needed taken away so that we can convert the kitchen to a utility/diaper changing area (somehow disconnecting the stove and building a changing table on top of that chafed against my aesthetics). Building a community center is an enormous undertaking that creates a call to action for an ever-expanding set of skills and talents. Sabot is now a part of this.
Another call came from a theater group : The Conciliation Project (http://www.theconciliationproject.org/) whose mission states, “We believe that there is hope through constructive dialogue and active listening. We believe we must be willing to listen to one another and address our past if we are going to be allowed to have a future.” I couldn’t offer a stove but I did ask how my students can contribute their creative energies.
We’ll meet to consider collaborative possibilities.

What if I established an intention for my semester, or even my entire school year, drawing on the theme of the ICOGRADA design week in Doha, Qatar in March of 2009 (http://www.mousharaka.com/)? Collaboration.

The first time I began to consider the necessity of Intentionality came after a retreat at IMS, the Insight Meditation Center in Barre Massachusetts. Insight, or Vipassana is a Buddhist meditation practice. The associations of intentionality and Buddhism are too vast to describe here. A longer essay for another day.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

report from Clifftop

How to reconcile the various fractions or facets of our life into one comprehensive whole as "designer", or is designer just one piece of something else? Do they battle each other? Is being a parent in battle with being a tenured member of the faculty of a university design department? Is playing classical music from written pages in conflict with trying to understand (well enough to play) old time fiddle styles? Is writing a blog just one more facet, or is it the agent tying it all together. Writing about what is being attended to (like laundry or better, the garden) at present. And crafting some sort of public text/image persona that evolves and shifts. In some sense this blog is as comprehensive a story as anything a single incident or image could represent. A journal that is both public and private, both a private statement and a request for some resonance in the internet universe.

I've loaded this single image from Clifftop, the Appalachian Stinrg Band Festival in Clifftop West Virginia. For those wanting more, please check out the wealth of video offerings on youtube. This year's videos of both informal campground jams and competitions are just starting to appear. Clifftop is about music and dancing, and the renewal and continuation of friendships who share a love of old time music and dance. I rarely photograph jams. Either I am playing in one, or I'm more interested in listening. An image of folks playing music doesn't do what this one image of dancers does to explain the cross-generational and gender-equal (this is debatable, of course but note that four of the five finalists in the fiddle competition this year were young women) view of the culture at Clifftop --- here, flat-foot dancing. A man —who could be my father if he were still alive, a woman close to my age, and a girl just about the age of my son Henry dance together. Watch each other, study and learn, and relate in a way that only music can create unspeakable bonds.