Monday, June 30, 2008
While in Europe, I became obsessed with markets. I went practically every weekend and on most days of the week. I liked the idea of supporting independent vendors, and usually everything found was a bargain. Some of my favorites finds: a green satchel purse with drawstring close, cell phone pocket, and butterfly decoration (£12), a cinched-waist black and gold dress with a peacock on the skirt (£5), a peach-colored Trovata trench (£10), a set of six old-fashioned keys (£5), and a brown jumper dress with a sash and buttons (£6), to name a few.
I have been wanting to visit the Fremont Market for ages, but never got around to it. I resolved that I would this weekend. I was not expecting much, as I was really spoiled in London as far as markets go. But I was pleasantly surprised. There was a good mix of art, clothing, antiques, and food. The antique dealers had some really crazy items (an framed embroidery that said "Seattle", which I really, REALLY felt I needed in my life), and the prices were fair for most of them, considering how unique they were. The clothing stalls were mishmashed collections and vintage and thrift. There was also belly dancing and music:
My favorite stall sold a collection of random bits and pieces from the past. Typewriter keys, cardboard postcards, porcelain doll heads, monocles, watch faces, death notices, uniform name patches, and old Victorian cartoons warning of the dangers of conceit, among other things. I did not take any pictures because I wasn't going to buy anything, but I loved the arrangement of the items in no particular order, and the missing thread that linked all of the items together. I don't know what I would do with most of it, but I wanted it all, probably for its novelty.
Hopefully soon I will be able to visit more markets. There are several all over Seattle every weekend, and hopefully I will make the entire round before the end of the summer.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
The park itself is beautiful. Rolling grassland, hidden trails, ponds, fountains, sculpture, and the Asian Art Museum. We climbed to the top of the old water tower and saw a new view of the Seattle skyline.
We passed a couple of groups practicing what looked to be a new trend in exercise, much the way yoga and tai chi have moved out of the studio and into public parks. One group consisted of about ten adults, briefcases in tow, dancing the can-can and doing pinwheels. The second marched to the militaristic beat of Abba's "Dancing Queen" and twirled white plastic rifles. It wasn't until later we discerned that these were not Exercise With Accessories Weekend Classes, but rather that these groups were probably practicing for the Pride Parade.
And then an ice cream truck whistled by. Who can resist ice cream that matches your outfit?
Later in the day, I decided more park pondering was needed. It was hot, so I decided to wear shorts. I have not worn shorts since the fourth grade, unless tights or leggings were involved in the outfit. Dukes of Hazzard, Nair commercials, and fashion trends have done nothing to alter my always-below-the-knee lifestyle. Perhaps it is the confidence I gained from studying abroad, or perhaps it is my new resolution to be creative with old pieces of clothing. Anyhow, I ventured out of my apartment wearing a pair of Dickie's mailman uniform shorts. And it wasn't half bad.
Except that I am beyond pale. The moniker of my makeup color is "transparent". But I have embraced my paleness. I accept it as a part of who I am. Plus, staying out of the sun helps me towards my goal of staying young forever (not justing looking young, staying young). So when a car almost ran me over as I was crossing the street, the first thought that came into my head was, "How could you not have seen me?! I am a beacon of light in this already bright world. My legs could be used in air-traffic control if enough cartwheeling is involved."
The park was lovely. The grass in the shade was cool and tickled my feet. I gripped bunches of it between my fingers, listening to the slidey-squeaky sounds I made by slowly lifting my palms from the ground. I think toes make for a nice canvas.
Friday, June 27, 2008
The 30 at 3:26 pm
There is a unique sensation when the bus you have been waiting for finally arrives, comparably only to visiting the restroom while at a restaurant and having your food appear while you were gone.
The bus rolls up, along with the familiar sound of wheels crunching over pavement, brakes whistling, and the release of air as the front end sags and the door swings open. I notice that the rear-view mirrors that hang off the front make the bus look like a beetle, the mirrors resembling feelers. But this bus does not scuttle, slide, or scurry like an insect. It lumbers, drags, and sweats smog.
I climb inside the Beetle Bus and scout for a place to sit. Literally all of the passengers have a seat to themselves. I follow suit and sit on one of the empty inward-facing bench seats in the back.
At the next stop, a girl and who I assume is her boyfriend (judging by the copious groping I witnessed occurring at the bus stop) enter and look for a place to sit. Her eyes flick over the single seats, finally and begrudgingly resting on the open space on the bench seat next to me. They sit, my side rising slightly as they do.
The Beetle Bus rolls on. There is silence.
“You got me some weird-ass shit,” the girl says. I look and see that she is referring to an opened pink package on her lap, some kind of present, it seems.
I do not hear her boyfriend’s response as the bus has rolled up to the next stop. A two-seat, front-facing space becomes available. Like buzzards, or perhaps fan girls because of the lack of preemptive circling and favor of an immediate ground attack, the couple takes the empty seats opposite me.
My ego is slightly bruised.
I can feel the engine whirring up through the soles of my feet. The sensation stops at my ankles. The shadows cast by the trees we pass dapple the entire interior of the bus. Floors, seats, faces. The window is warm. At night, I can usually see my reflection in it, layered over landmarks. The Space Needle splicing my face, the neon signs using my skin as a canvas.
“Did you see that shit?! Aw shit! That shit was hella funny!”
It is taking all of my energy not to snap shut into iPod escapism.
My eyes try to eat up details to distract me. The way riders’ bodies lean forward before popping back when the bus grinds to a halt, as if they were extensions of the bus itself. The pull-cord on my side is silver. On the other it is black. There are only seven ads in the bus. I don’t have my glasses with me so I cannot see all of them, but I know one is informing me that I can change the world somewhere between college graduation and starting a career. The two fluorescent strip lights in the front are not on, but the rest lining the interior are. The driver wears a blue baseball cap and a vacant look. Is it legal to wear a hat while operating government property? Doesn’t this obstruct his vision? Can’t sunglasses serve the same purpose?
Before I had the chance to let my mind spiral into scenarios rivaling Mad Max, I pull the cord to request my stop. The muted ding sounds as the bus swipes into the side of the street. I exit, thanking the bus driver. He thanks me back. For what, I’m not sure. Perhaps for not using the word “shit” every twelve seconds.
My feet hit the sidewalk. I am wearing thin-soled shoes, so I can feel almost every grain of concrete as I walk on the solid, unmoving ground. I turn to see the bus veer off. On the back, there is an ad with a man waving. I resist the urge to wave goodbye to the Beetle Bus, that cavernous creature that picks up and deposits people not exactly but at least within walking distance of where they need to be. An interim space between spaces. The oft-neglected, under-appreciated vehicle, because when you are taking public transportation, it is most definitely the destination that matters, not the journey.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I feel insecure about grasping the abstract concepts discussed in the Summer Institute class sessions. I am worried I was a lot of talk on my application and not a lot of walk in reality. It seems as though everyone has an opinion already, where as I am just catching on to what was discussed five minutes ago. Whenever I do think of something to contribute, someone says it and articulates is more clearly and adds to it in a way that never crossed my mind!
I took a look at my Statement of Purpose part of the application. The opening paragraph states:
By participating in the 2008 Summer Institute on “Media and the Senses”, I hope to explore the realm of scholarly research, and become more aware of my own relationship to media. Thus far while at the University of Washington, I have never tackled anything quite like exploring the sensory relationship to media. This is precisely why I am applying. I feel this is an opportunity to not only expand my academic horizons, but to experience a way of learning that deviates from the conventional classroom. It seems as though hands-on scholarly research in the humanities is rare, and perhaps fitting with the theme, I wish to be a “blank canvas”, upon which ideas may be tested and contested.And I stick that that. I am there to learn. Learn from the professors, from my peers, from the environment. I am lucky to even be participating, and should live in the moment and really take this opportunity to learn from my insecurities. The program is too short to let this hold me back from gleaning everything I can from this program. I realized recently that everything is a learning experience. There is a reason I am where I am and doing what I am doing.
There is nothing to do but jump head first.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
1. iPod Commercials
Particularly the old school iPod commercials, the first set that featured bands like the Gorillaz and Jet and had brightly colored, solid backgrounds and silhouettes of figures dancing. My first reaction was, “Wow! A music-listening device that will allow me to dance around without worrying about the song skipping!” I then decided the commercial itself was a work of genius. The anonymity of the dancing figures, each silhouette lacking a race or age (although one must assume that anyone who can move like that has to be a twenty-something), made the product something everyone could enjoy, maybe even me. The bright colors catch my attention, the songs are always instant hits, and I feel instantly cooler once I put in those iconic ear buds.
2. Adam Smith-An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
This treatise was the first piece I believe really “spoke” to me. The language of The Wealth of Nations was relatable, fluid, and I felt I understood what Smith was saying, despite the fact that he wrote it over two hundred years ago. I really believed I understood economics. I could see the invisible hand at work! The use of the industry of pin manufacture to illustrate the division of labor made complete sense! It wasn’t until Econ 200 that I realized I was totally, completely, and utterly wrong about understanding economics, because I had forgotten that economics involved numbers. I had been duped by language.
3. John Baldessari’s “I Am Making Art” video
This is a fifteen-minute video in which the artist stands in an empty room, positioning himself in different poses by moving one part of his body every ten seconds or so. After each new pose, he says in a monotone voice, “I am making art.” I saw this video at the MUMOK Modern Art Museum in Vienna. It was displayed in a completely dark room and took up the entire wall. Had it been displayed any other way besides forced participation, I probably would have walked right past it. But I’m glad I didn’t. I couldn’t tell if this guy was being absurd or really making a point. It made me think, “What is so wrong with art for art’s sake?”
4. Ciao! Manhattan
This film, I think, illustrates the adaptability of art and artists. The film took five years to make, and started as an account of Andy Warhol and his inner circle at The Factory, including Edie Sedgwick. Due to lack of funding, an unfinished script, and constant drug use on set, production stopped, followed shortly by Sedgwick’s disappearance and leaving of The Factory. Production picked up again when Sedgwick reappeared in California, and the film took on a new plot: the story of Susan Superstar, recounting her days as a model in New York. The story closely followed Sedgwick’s life, and even used the actual headline announcing her death as a plot device to end the film. The film made me question how much art may imitate life, and I wonder where the line should be drawn.
5. The Work of Henry Darger
The man that was Henry Darger proves that anyone, anyone can be an artist. Darger lived as a reclusive janitor, had one close friend and a few peripheral acquaintances, and died in a nursing home. It was after his death that his landlords discovered his 15,000 page manuscript entitled The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, along with hundreds of drawings, paintings, and collages to accompany his story. If he found happiness in his art, the world will never know, but something inspired him to keep creating.
6. Any Book Concerning Food, Food Culture, and/or Eating Habits
Not diet books, per se, but the growing phenomenon of topics centering on organic and local eating. Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible, recently came out with a book about her and her family’s year of being “locavores”. Michael Pollan came out with a follow-up to The Omnivore’s Dilemma entitled In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, subtitled: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” The way the authors describe food, the effects of food, and the hang-ups and gripes our society has about food, gave me supermarket anxiety. As a result, I joined a Community Supported Agriculture program and now have someone choose what I will eat for me. I wonder if these books will have any lasting effect, and if the written word is really the most efficient way of reaching people.
7. Tim Walker, photographer
Tim Walker recently has a show at the Design Museum in London, in which he showcased prints from his Vogue shoots along with his scrapbooks, journals, photographs from his childhood, and props from the sets. It was fascinating to see the journey from idea to reality. His work incorporates staple childhood stories (The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, etc), and the idea of bringing the outside to the inside, or vice versa. The results are whimsical, dreamy scenes depicting bedroom sets in trees, a ghost horse in a living room, and vintage dresses that resemble Christmas lights and give a forest a candy-colored glow. Walker plays with the senses, using real, everyday scenes jumbled into out-of-order sequences.
8. Juvenilia in Music
Continuing with the theme of childhood in art, I have noticed the recent trend of what I think I will call “juvenilia” in music. Technically, “juvenilia” refers to a piece of art created during an artist’s childhood, but I can’t think of a better term at the moment. I have noticed that bands such as Bat For Lashes and Tilly and the Wall, and artists like Kate Nash and Sufjan Stevens, increasingly incorporate fairy tale and myth into their lyrics, which reminds me of the stories I used to read as a child. They often make music using found objects, much like I did when I was young. That MGMT song that every apparel store in the English-speaking world plays at least three times a day embodies the idea of a generation not ready to grow up, so they’re choosing not to. It’s not just hearing music, it’s recalling and revisiting memories. For me, at least.
9. The Sensory Garden Project
The Sensory Garden is the brainchild of Carole Johnson, who while suffering from chronic MS, wanted a place where she could relax and indulge in senses other than sight. She created the garden along with her husband and two sons, and used the space to listen to running water and rustling leaves, to taste organically grown fruits and vegetables, to smell scented plants commonly used in aromatherapy, and touch natural surfaces varying in temperature and texture. The garden is now open to the public by appointment only and raises funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. I think nature, specifically manicured nature that still contains its wild essence, qualifies as a medium as well. Visit the Garden here.
10. Karl Lagerfeld’s Piano Dress for Chanel 1999
Chanel is known for its monopoly on the “little black dress”. When Karl Lagerfeld took over the house in 1983, he revolutionized and expanded the house while still honoring the late Coco’s vision of “basics that incorporate elegance, class, and originality”. Lagerfeld’s Piano Dress is a departure from the traditional LBD that made Chanel so popular. The top is a strapless, solid black boned bodice, attached to a silk skirt that poofs out over layers of crinoline. On the bottom half of the white skirt are black vertical lines, about five inches thick, circling the entirety of the skirt. These lines are made to look like the keys of a piano. The result is a playful, original way to connect the past and the present.