Hi Wonderful Listeners!! 🙂
I suppose you might have been wondering how life has been treating me? Well, it has definitely a ride. Ups and downs, highs and lows, and as you might have noticed, I’ve been M.I.A. Well, just know it wasn’t by choice.
I will say this, school itself has definitely been good. I admit, a little hectic at times, but good nonetheless. In fact, I’m going to start this with school. So, instead of dragging this out, I’m going to jump right into this. I think that will get me through this post the fastest, with the least amount of ramble. (No guarantees on the ramble part though!)
So this semester, I’m lined up with the following classes: Readings in Photography, Expanded Media II, Photo Thesis I, Pre-Columbian Art History, and Advanced Digital Photography. Let me start with the first I mentioned, and I’ll move down the list from there.
Readings in Photography
So this class was a whirlwind of emotions, philosophy, and critical thinking (along with some image making.) In this class, we convened for an hour and twenty minutes to talk about reading articles which relate to photography is some way. Often times, I found that this was my most enjoyable class, mainly because I get to stretch my brain and talk about ideas for long periods of time.
Jessica, my professor, was absolutely great. She’s totally into teaching the class because she loves getting lost in the conversation. In fact, I know my words won’t do my feelings justice in talking about what this class has done for me but I’ll try.
You see, photography has changed the world in many ways, some we haven’t even realized. I know I certainly didn’t think about the effects photography has had on humans and the world until this class! But it’s interesting how this mechanical evolution and technology we rely on so much controls much of our lives, even if we don’t feel its immediate effects.
We’ve talked about political representation, self-image, human relationship to landscape, human relationship to narrative, human relationship to what is real, and so many other things! I can’t possible tell it all here! But I certainly have been archiving my thoughts about these readings away. I certainly will not be getting rid of them any time soon.
But I’ve gained so much from this class so far in what little time I’ve been in it. I certainly thought before that I take picture making and image analysis to a deep level, but I certainly do now without doubt. Images a powerful things and what they do to us, is sometimes unspeakable.
Also, I must take a small moment to say this about Jessica. You know those teachers that affect your life in ways you weren’t expecting? Well, I think that she was one of them. I remember I had a conversation with her after class. I had to ask her how she managed to land such a wonderful job, teaching people to think about images in a critical way and to discuss life complexly.
You know what she told me? She told me that she had to fumble through life before she found her niche. She graduated with her degree in photography and then she didn’t know what to do with it. She took up jobs and kept living until she realized that she personally needed to return the environment of education so she went to go get her Master’s degree. Even after that, she still felt lost, that was until she found herself working for a gallery. Working that job, she felt purpose and joy and fulfilled. But she realized after some years that there was something more that she was still missing. Then she remembered that she felt it when she was in the classroom. By this time, at least ten years had passed. So she took a chance and went for a teaching job, and well… the rest is history.
But even after that story, she let me know that it’s OK to not know what you want or how to get it. Sometimes you just need to live and keep moving forward until you figure it out. It was heartwarming for me because I have considered for years, being a teacher. But seeing Jessica made me really want to pursue it in an art context. She told me I definitely have a knack for so I’ll be keeping it in the back of my mind, most definitely.
What was a little tidbit that made me smile was that I realized that I was already familiar with Jessica’s work as an artist. I first saw it when I was still interning for Artpace during the summer. I just thought that it was so interesting that I would run into her in person and be lucky enough to have her for a full semester!
I brought this up to her and she told me about her experience with them. She told me that it was fantastic because it was like a dream for an artist. You’re provided all the necessities you need to make your art happen and you can make whatever you want. The only limitations are that you have 3-4 months to do it. Still, a dream I wish to experience first-hand someday.
Overall, I was blessed to be taking this class. I’m so thankful that it was a requirement, because it certainly fed my soul. I think what I’ll do is upload a few notes from this class into a PDF so you guys can read them if you so choose. They’ll be a collection of ideas and meditations on different things so maybe they might peak your interest. Just so you know, the notes I pulled all came from reactions to The Photography Reader by Liz Wells. In case you want to read the book yourself, you have a title to go by!
Expanded Media II
If I might be frank, I didn’t know what to expect from this class. I signed up for it because Liz, my professor from Expanded Media I, recommended I did. But, I must say, that it was indeed worth every penny! I’ve learned so much but I have to break it down for you to understand.
You know, I’ve never given much thought to performance art. It was only in my small introduction to it from Liz’s class that I became more open to it. But diving fully into it through this class, with “Jimmy James” (I call him J.J. for short) piloting the plane, has been an experience.
I mean, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I somewhat put Jimmy on a pedestal since I knew that he had history with Artpace (it’s so funny how Artpace keeps popping back into my life.) But what I realized was that he was quite human like the rest of us. He’s figuring things out too, even in performance art.
Now, to explain performance art is a bit complicated. See, what I quickly learned about performance art is that you must be present to fully experience it. Often times, we see the documentation of performance art is some way rather than the actual performance. But it’s the same concept of watching a car crash happening on a video and in front of your eyes on the road; they both create two different experiences.
But what I am also learning is that performance art is sometimes more impactful because of its nature than other types of art. Performance art involves the human body in its full capacity. I’m not referring to a mere referent of the body but the actual body. To have flesh and blood before you, enacting something or an idea is an experience on its own. You cannot easily replicate the experience as you could with a painting or a photograph or a sculpture. This is often why performances hardly get re-performed.
I also realize, as a student who creates performances, that it draws from theater but not as I quite expected. See, I had a problem at first with calling my art “performance” because that word makes me think of curtain calls, musicals, and stage production. It makes me think of theater but I learned to give that up rather quickly. So adjusting and redefining that word, has been an experience on its own.
Performance art has also showed me the amount of effort which goes into putting it all together. See, I am a photographer firstly and so there is a process to making my photographs. However, as someone who has built performances from the ground up, I believe that a performance is a much lengthier and complicated process (to an extent.) In a performance, because it is not a static piece of art, because it moves and interacts, because it is (at its core) an experience, it’s entirety is taken into consideration.
When you build a performance, you must think about everything, and I do mean everything. J.J. has made this very apparent time and time again. In a performance, you take the artist’s appearance into account; you take the location of the performance into account; you take the duration of the performance into account; you take the action, the reaction, the set-up, into account. Every single thing is examined and made a part of the experience and performance art cannot get away from it.
It’s like drawing a parallel to how one presents their “static” art somewhere but allow me to explain where this differs. In “static” art (2-D, 3-D), it can go anywhere. You can look at the same painting in two different places, just as you can look at the same sculpture in two different place. Your focus is on the art and not necessarily what wall it hangs on, what floor it extends from, etc. You focus on the art.
But a performance is different. If I perform in a small white room where only 5 people can fit in, that’s one thing. However, if I manage to keep everything the same and simply expand the room where 20 people could fit in it but the same 5 are present, a different feeling is created. Suddenly, how does the increase in space throughout the room change your experience?
So, aside from the rambling explanation, this class taught me a lot. I feel that performance art can have a more powerful impact on those who witness it first-hand, than some “static” art might. Then again, part of that has to do with the power of the presence of a person instead of an object. However, objects, too, can have just as much power.
Now, I think you might be able to tell that I love this class! But I’ve met some cool people in this class. In fact, J.J. might have added a new medium to my belt for life. But what I’m trying to talk about is my own performances.
I had for four performances during the entire semester. To sum it up, one was about my relationship with my father, two were about power relationships, and one was about racial identity. All manifested themselves in different ways but, boy, I put myself out there to do these. So, while I learned a lot, I’m also grew a lot too! 🙂
I should also say that stopping by to talk with J.J. in his office is wonderful. I love his office.
And plus, J.J. is just a great guy to talk with. He’s amazing and I’m not sure everyone gives him the credit he deserves. I do believe though that everyone appreciates what he has exposed us to and how he has helped us to grow. But I actually learned about life with him. He’s such a character, because he’s always trying to make things comedic but that’s what you gotta love about him.
He actually recommended I read a book called Sensorium: Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art by Caroline A. Jones. I did manage to read a little bit of it and boy, I want to get my own copy to read the whole thing. It’s great in talking about how human sensory experience exists and is altered in the art context and via technology. It’s amazing! I suggest you read it you if you have the time.
He also put me onto The Examine Life, which is a documentary film on the philosophy of living and how to live. It was FANTASTIC!! Seriously, it’s only like two hours of watching but it’s absolutely worth it. I’d say that some of the ideas discussed made me evaluate my own life and how I live. I love that.
But I digress. I did manage to really explore concepts and experiment with this class. It was a complete joy and I can’t wait to do more performances. On the last day, Jimmy did leave us with a few things to continue to think about. Those things being a question and a mnemonic device:
The Question: What is performance art?
The Mnemonic Device: SURVIVAL
Size up the situation
Undue haste leads to undue waste
Remember where you are
Vanquish fear and panic
Value life and living
Act like the natives
Live by your wits but until then Learn Basic Skills
J.J. had been asking us that question all semester. I thought I had an answer but now, at the end of it all, I’m still figuring it out. In the meantime, I’d say that performance art is whatever I need it to be, as long as I don’t take away the element of “human.”
As for that mnemonic device, well, he made this military mnemonic apply to daily life and art. I loved that. I see this mnemonic as a good way to go through life in general and not just in survival situations and in art. Maybe it’s because the advice embedded in it is so applicable to situations is why I like it. I don’t know. But regardless, thank you Jimmy! I really can’t say how much you’ve given me. I promise to continue to “explorn” the best that I can! 🙂