Friday, November 25, 2011

Negatively mad

What makes a photograph? I mean – what makes you stay, not look away. Is it the colors, the technique, the subject, the lighting, the unexpected factor? I am asking myself this because I’m contemplating a new photo project. In this project, I take photos of mundane objects in the house and try to make them poetic. A rudimentary keyboard, for instance, with the black trapeze keys rising in perfect order like soldiers, each one holding up a coded flag, all backlit in a discotheque of neon colors. Something like this - only in images. Fernando once told me a story about a class he taught, where the students, with their cameras, were locked in a classroom for several hours and were asked to produce their final class project right then and there, having as subjects only the items in the classroom. They came up with the most brilliant things. The lesson is that limits challenge us and stimulate creativity, leading us to talents we didn’t even know we had. It’s definitely a hypothesis to which I am partial.

But really, I am not trying to be one of those would-be artists, you know the kind, who explain their would-be art and prompt for oohing and aahing from the audience. If I am a good artist, I should at least hope that I wouldn’t have to explain my art. How am I different from a poet, who formulates the lyrical with words and vernacular fireworks? I strive for the same, but use another medium. So then, if the poet’s verbal imagery limps, not lending itself easily to be conjured in one’s imagination, then the poet probably stinks. And in the same way, if my photography makes little sense without my profuse attempts at explanations (where I use tangled abstract words and run-on sentences to mystify the audience, who will nevertheless nod spastically as if they grasp everything so thoroughly), then, well, I must stink as a photographer too. Yes, it really is that black and white.

I have yet again spent the entire day indoors. Such days, when I am cloistered in my tower, are more numerous in my life now. Here’s how the idea for this new project was born, sitting at this table quite simply and boredly, eating a carob-chip cookie that I made myself. I spend so much time looking at these objects every day, and in my dejection they are even more trivial than their mundane design and purpose have already cursed them to be. They are beyond dull and nondescript, they are irritating and exasperating, and they are angering me. I could just stand up right now, get closer to this haughty chair and smack him one with a hammer, just to show him! Serves you right, chair. Or! – tomorrow, when I wake up, I could arrange the blinds just so, make a studio out of the sunrise light and find some inspiration to take a portrait of this chair, as if it is smiling. You see? It really is a challenge. But wait, don’t call the funny farm on me just yet.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A year after

November. A sensitive time for me, a sort of purgatory. This year the topic for December is “aging” – as it is every year, thanks to the relentlessness with which the world celebrates birthday anniversaries. Perhaps we should mourn them instead. I briefly glanced over here last week, with dread rather, and it happened to be November 11, exactly a year since I wrote my ominous last post. So I became even more resentful of myself, if that is even possible at the moment, and resolved to write another post the same day, an anniversary post, if you will.

Evidently, I failed. One cannot simply sit and decide to write, as I knew too well. Words don’t come easily, and even less so when they’re rusted with disuse, as are mine. I’ve tried to discipline myself and attempt one of those spartan challenges, where the gratification of an impending need is conditioned upon the completion of a less desirable and more arduous task. I browsed for ideas through the cliche hand-holding techniques they teach you on Yahoo. No breakfast until I write one page (but I am hungry!). No shower until I come up with one story idea (but I need one!). Puerile as I find these things, they might be the only way I’ve left to marshal my now-slothful mind into some sort of constructive routine.

Halfway through the first paragraph, I did prepare breakfast. I toasted wheat germ, mixed it with some yogurt of a dubious expiration date (but I wonder if yogurt could ever go bad, since yogurt is already milk gone bad, in a sense), and with dried cranberries. But I am still writing. A satisfied stomach feels good, the yogurt did not kill me, the heater purrs happily next to me like a napping cat, no life-threatening things have happened lately. Life is good. Nathan and I arrived at this conclusion yesterday, when we summarized that: we have enough food to eat, we have all our limbs, our minds are healthy and we do not live in North Korea. So we are lucky. And then Nathan made one of those jokes that hardly make sense even to himself, something about grandma’s house, if I remember us playing there when we were children. Then he looked at me with a dumb smile, as if I’m supposed to understand something arcane within. Many of these jokes do, for all their randomness, become prophetic in some way, as most ambiguous things are, and little did he know that I was thinking of precisely that, of grandma’s house and of being young and careless. Neither of us has yet figured out how to be an adult, I suppose, and so far we both find adulthood rather disappointing.

And since my talents are becoming less numerous and I lack a photo of my latest feats, as befitting a resurrection post, I decided that the pizza I made last night could well fall under the “feats” category, since cooking, unlike writing, is still something I am good at. Entirely-home-made pizza with whole wheat crust, evil pepperoni and wholesome vegetables on top. Goes well with a nice Chardonnay, by the way. Thanksgiving is coming, so in the spirit of being thankful, I am happy for pizza and wine, for being alive and for having not lost my marbles yet.