Posts Tagged ‘politics
Japan. About a year later. Like clockwork something else happens, something catastrophic. Earthquakes, flooding, fires, the threat of nuclear fallout, the balance of the built environment and the toll of natural disasters keeps shifting and horrible things continue to occur. I live in a tiny little bubble in the northeast of the United States. None of these horrific events have touched me physically. I’ve known people, personally, who have been affected by disasters, but it has never been me.
And life continues. I’m going to my studio this afternoon, because short of me flying around the world to Japan, there is nothing, physically, that I can do to help. Donating money does help, but my day to day existence has not changed because of this earthquake.
And this is weird. It feels wrong, somehow.
And so I make new work. Unfortunately, this may become a new series, long term. My way of coping and dealing with these world-changing events that are so remote that I can go weeks without even thinking about what’s happened, yet there are whole populations whose entire lives have been irrevocably changed in the span of hours. My way of acknowledging my distance, both physically and emotionally from something so monumental.
These are coming out very differently than my Deepwater Horizon series. There, the images were of this body of water that was fundamentally being altered, even though it was difficult to see from the surface. Here, the devastation is so visible, so impactful, that there is a more chaotic feel to the work. Also, the immediate human loss is much more pronounced, so there are a more people finding their way into the images.
So, I’ve been in major art/life production mode these past few days, and I’m itching to work on my big project, but my paper still hasn’t shown up.
I decided that instead of getting sucked into the abyss of the interwebs I’d revisit my Deepwater Horizon images. There is still something there. It’s shifted, which I kind of expected. I’m drawn more towards moments of industrial, man-made, interruptions in the images now instead of the smoother organic shapes I started with (at least in my mind, this is how I think of them!) They are slower too. Not the same urgency. Not as many images.
It’s amazing to see how rapidly the news media folks shifted focus – most of the images are from the initial weeks of the catastrophe. It’s overwhelming at times, to think about how frequently new tragedies occur, grabbing our attention just long enough to disturb us but never long enough to affect us. I’m thinking now of what’s happened in Pakistan and the flooding along the Indus River. It’s terrifying to read some of the articles, not just about the distaster itself, but the Western response or lack of response.
Take for instance this piece by Max Fisher on the website for “The Atlantic” talking about why Americans specifically aren’t donating money the same way they did for the earthquake in Haiti or the Indian Ocean tsunami. This hits a different button for me than what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. This is one human being acting in a compassionate manner towards another human being in a time of need. Why should it matter where the tragedy is, or how “photogenic” the disaster is?!?! That’s just trying to put a pretty face on something quite ugly. It’s hard, when you read the numbers of how the donations have radically dropped not to think that either through the lack of coverage by the American media, or if it’s the American people themselves, it seems like we shouldn’t have to donate. The Pakistani people don’t deserve our compassion. How else can I parse this out? The disaster isn’t horrific enough to warrant us helping. Yet that’s not true. So we don’t have enough money to donate. Possible, but how on earth could that account for the astronomical difference between Haiti and Pakistan?? Seriously, look at the numbers.
I don’t know where I’m going with this. It’s just appalling to me on some level. I think there is something underlying both the American response to this disaster and the whole situation in the Gulf that disturbs me. A shift in priorities that fundamentally differs from my own. An emphasis on the material, the money, the consumable. An acceptance of the known and a deep-seated fear of the unknown, or the different. It’s hard to reconcile and hard to understand from where I sit.
Signing off for now….
This is a hard thing to do. When I started making my images that were a response to what is going on in the Gulf of Mexico, I was beyond outraged. I was devastated. Wrecked. There was no way for me to wrap my brain around what was going on, the long term implications, and the stupidity and ass-covering that was going on by politicians, CEO’s and everyone else. There is OIL gushing into a body of water. Fundamentally, oil and water don’t mix.
More than anything, I was really really pissed off. Now, here’s the tricky thing. I just can’t sustain that level of pissed-off-edness. I’m too nice a person, and I’m trying to cut down on my stress levels as is. So, I’ve been going a lot slower with new images, and occasionally, they feel really forced. But then I see a new image, or hear something really dumb, or read about scientific experts who are terrified that this will not end well, no matter what happens, and a little spark comes back to life.
Anyway, the images are still there. They keep coming. And until they stop, I’ll keep posting my attempts to work through this.
As always, thanks for taking a look!
So. This may the fastest that I’ve ever turned out images. It’s kinda weird, and I don’t know how to talk about them at all, mostly because they have only existed, even in my brain for less than 24 hours. Having a beer last night with the husband and friend, we ended up talking about the situation down in the Gulf of Mexico with BP and Deepwater Horizon. I realized that I had been ignoring the news regarding this horrific event because I knew how angry it was making me, even subconsciously. There is a very large part of me that believes that as a civilization, we will not change our ways until the damage we do is beyond repair, and this will forever change how human beings live on this planet. I guess I’m feeling a bit glass-half-empty.
As we were talking though, ideas for images started to creep in. I wanted some way to engage with my despair, but also to somehow work in that I was disconnected, distanced from reality with regards to this situation. I’m not down there. I haven’t seen anything first hand. I have roots in FL, and it terrifies me to think that one of my favorite places on earth could be damaged by this stupid accident. There are a lot of conflicting emotions. So I sat down today at the computer, and these started to come out.
More than anything, I think is my way of coping with my own perception of what is going on. Filtered and distorted through distance, emotion and a failing idealism (I used to be so naive!). Anyway, enough rambling. At this point, I think the images make more sense than the words….
as always, thanks for looking. comments are awesome, and welcome.
While drinking my coffee this morning, I decided to read about some of the goings-on in the art world. Somehow, this caused my brain to remember that I never did get around to reading/buying Michael Fried’s most recent book, Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before. So of course, I go to Amazon to see what’s what. And I’m plunged yet again into the complete chaos that is photo-theory.
Now, I’m not going to be able to sum up my ongoing, wonderful yet frustrating experience with contemporary theory of photography, more specifically, what the heck is Photography, in one post. I somehow sense that this will be a frequent thread here. But it really struck me when I started reading the comments for Fried’s book and looking at some of the other theory books that Amazon suggested in one of my favorite features “Customers Who Bought This Also Bought,” that there is a constant battle between “art” photography and photography for the rest of “us.” And in that second category, I would include everything else – commercial, snapshot, the proliferation of mobile devise photography (a la the iPhone pics), or even just “beautiful” photographs.
I’m not saying that I buy into this distinction of art vs. the world when it comes to photography. I’m in the camp that thinks that one of the greatest aspects to the entire medium of photography is its unclassifiableness (yes, I know that isn’t even close to a word). I think that the fact that we actually have to debate what photography is, what it means, what our relationship to it is as a member of society and also our relationship to it as artists means that in and of itself, the medium can contain everything. And that it will frequently contradict itself. Which I think leaves more room for those of us who grapple with the medium to push and explore how we use this ability to render light into image to better understand the world around us, however we interpret and see. In all, the more we can’t understand photography, the more it becomes a universal tool that will help us to learn to articulate our relationship to others.
But I’ve got to say, this is not the normally held position by photographers, by theorists or critics or historians (though there are many, and this is by no means my own idea that I developed – I read a crap-ton and got most of this from all the reading I did during grad school). And reading the comments left on Amazon reminded me that people spend so much time arguing about how we should or should not talk about photography, and who’s “right,” that a lot of the time we don’t ever talk about the photographs themselves, which I think is a bummer.
It also made me think about the articles I’d read this week about the Senate, and how currently all the RepGs keep doing is prevent any kind of debate at all, which means not only are the Dems stymied in their agenda, but everyone is frozen in place, incapable of any progress at all, let alone any forward progress. Which again, I think is a bummer. I’d argue that there is a major difference between productive debate that allows for differences but engages with the heart of the matter and debate that is purely posturing, where the fundamental ideas are ignored in favor of proving that someone is right and the other person is wrong – always. This sucks, in both politics and in art.