Last Monday Noor and Dahlia gave two fantastic presentations about their art-research projects and the themes they’ve been pondering for a while. I left that class both very excited about what they were doing and full of questions. Particularly, I was thinking about the many ways they could approach or continue their research. I don’t want to call those approaches “methods,” because methods sound formulaic, pre-determined and dull when their projects are full of the unexpected, the contingent, and the uncertainty of not knowing even fully where they want to go.
Noor’s project on inter-generational knowledge involves doing collages and collages on collages with others while talking within spaces made for talking (like kitchens). When we think of Pink, this brings to mind what other sensory stimuli are present in those environments (coffee, cooking, maybe pollution and noise from the outside, light from the windows etc.) and if these are important to the research and need to be evoked or described. If the answer is affirmative, how do we do that? I also was curious about not only the transcript of the conversations taking place but the sounds of those conversations, because speech will reveal nuances and meanings that text cannot because of qualities like prosody (rhythm, pitch, volume). There are also facial expressions (remember the expression of La Toya Ruby Frazier’s grandmother in the video we saw?) that are hard to verbally translate though a poet might be able to do so visually with words. I think Victoria Restler’s work (she will be with us in a few weeks) could be very helpful to help us think about how to evoke the conditions that accompany fruitful inter-generational collage making. It could easily involve visuals that include but are not limited to the actual collages made together, and it could include video and sound experiments.
The question of what inter-generational knowledge is and why it’s important is also a present question in Noor’s work. Anything spoken between an elder and a younger is of course inter-generational communication. And maybe knowledge is conveyed even when the words themselves seem banal or inconsequential. Certainly relationship is cemented when you are in with someone else in a way that is nurturing. But what do mean by knowledge and how do we create it and pass it on?
In any case, all of you should be taking field notes all the time (these can be textual, audio, visual) so that you remember what you are saying and thinking and what those you work with are saying and thinking and doing. Do not count on your memory to remember. With every second that passes, you replace what you’ve seen or heard with imaginings (also interesting of course). So take good field notes!!!!!
Dahlia’s maps and the images she showed us struck me on a number of levels. First, there is what maps represent – geography, identity, routes to get from one place to another. In this sense the map that a person might choose to represent them has deep significance whether it is the map of a country, a city, a street, a house or a room that has deep significance for that person. So maps can represent various breadth of vision though even when the map is of something much more meso-level, a room of a house for example, it is infinite in the intimacies it has for the creator. Its visual qualities for the viewer, however, may be very different. Maps are famous for not giving us a feel or telling us what is really going on. We see a map of the US but don’t see from it the poverty that pervades it, the racism, the homelessness, the wealth, the people-power that actually live in the spaces represented by the map, pollution etc (though there are now some people making maps that focus on these very qualities). At best, even when they focus on a particular aspect of the geographic space they tend to be more informative – flat and illustrative- than evocative. There are ways around this, but they need to be contemplated. Furthermore, show me a map of your kitchen and I might likely think of my kitchen rather than yours, and associate with your image the smells, sounds, and conversations that my kitchen has for me. Show me a map of the lower-East Side and I will remember my experiences there – including muggings, mural painting, revolutionary incitement, and the homelessness that pervaded that area when I was in my 20s. So there is connection of some sort, but also certainly difference.
Then there is the visualness of the maps that may contrast to its symbolic representation, the rivers and roads looking like veins that crisscross the body that may transmit a sense contrary to the intimacy intended. How does the visualness of the map, what it looks like and evokes, align or not align with what the map is thought to represent by the maker of those maps? Is that contrast helpful or not helpful to convey what the artist wants to convey? Should she double down on the dissonance to create that rupture that collage is supposed to create (rupture of easy meaning), or alter the map to create a different type of visual power? Does it make sense to have discussions with the makers of the maps to understand their motivations and inspirations (which would make the study more “traditional” in some ways), and if so do we need sound files (or text files) to accompany the visuals? Of course these sound files could be played with as well, layered and jumbled, to jar rather than to explain. How does exhibiting the art by itself represent a stance about research that differs from a stance demanding that text and audio be exhibited together? Does the visual seen by itself just become art? Or because research (certainly of self and other) was central to the production of the maps, should we let the visuals “speak” for themselves and allow them to be vehicles through which the viewer will also examine/research herself? Is our objective disruption leading to examination? Is it understanding? Is it empathy?
As Lamar point out when talking about his work, the creation of the art is self-exploratory for the maker – though often that self-exploration is accompanied by discussion. Does research, to be research on the professional level, need to be exhibited? Does research need to have evocative, persuasive, or informative attributes for a public beyond the writer or maker? Is there a question of assessment that we need to consider, or is assessment old-school, old methods, old approaches for different types of research?
I’m forgetting some of the images that both Dahlia and Noor showed us, so please post them to the Commons site so we can all look at them again and think about them. I remember thinking how proud the figures in Dahlia’s images were, but I can’t remember the iages themselves.