“Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto” translates to
“I am human, and I think that, nothing that is human, is alien to me”
– Publius Terentius Afer, also known as Terrence, from his play Heauton Timorumenos.
“Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto” translates to
“I am human, and I think that, nothing that is human, is alien to me”
– Publius Terentius Afer, also known as Terrence, from his play Heauton Timorumenos.
On how to do something difficult:
to be someone who could do it.
Not pretend to do it, but pretend to be
someone who could.
So be wise,
because the world needs more wisdom.
And if you cannot be wise,
pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave
– Neil Gaiman
Gaiman, Neil. “Make Good Art”, 17 May. 2012, University of the Arts, Philadelphia. Keynote Speech. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikAb-NYksel>
“The rules on what is possible and impossible in
the arts were made by people who had not tested
the bounds of the possible by going beyond them.”
– Neil Gaiman
Gaiman, Neil. “Make Good Art.” 17 May. 2012, University of the Arts, Philadelphia. Keynote Speech. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikAb-NYksel> Uploaded by Peter Shev [Youtube user] on May 23, 2012. Web. Mar 2017.
Are there parallel or alternate realities, or does reality consist of multiple realities?
Ridgewell, Thomas. “…in the remaining parallel universes: Meanwhile 3” Youtube, uploaded by Thomas Ridgewell, December 14, 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWM8g59Pkm4>
The reality of one who is blind is vastly different from the reality of a person who isn’t blind. What does the multiplicity of realities, the realities that differ from person to person, say about reality itself? Is there one, true, capital “R” Reality? It would appear not, as Helen Keller obviously experienced a reality vastly different from someone like me. Helen Keller was born dumb, blind, and deaf, making her sense her reality, her existence in a very peculiar and unique way from those around her. But it’s only peculiar and unique because it’s different from what some would call “normal” people, as if normalcy is measured by our abilities to see, hear, and talk.
That’s just it. There is no normal, ideal way of existing, of being human, or living in reality. We are not created to be the same, we do not fit so easily into the moulds that are constructed for us. Nor should we attempt to define a person by prioritizing what is ideal and what is not. Blindness to some, would be seen as an impediment, as a hindrance, something to be quelled and fixed, made straight, made normal. But who decided that being able to see is ideal? What factors came into consideration when it was decided that blindness is something to be fixed? When in fact, blindness is just another reality, another form of existence? It is a way of life, it is a philosophy, it is merely another way being human.
It’s interesting to think that an image can carry meaning, can “say” something; that it allows the viewer to peel back the paint on the surface, and delve past the superficial level on the canvas to the potentially infinite possibilities and ways it can be interpreted, speaks to the power images have, simply by presenting themselves to the viewer. Again using words. Language seems to always crop up when it comes to the human individual in relation to the “other” or the relation to the subject matter, in relation to all that individual perceives, how they exist in the world they exist in. Humans use language to comprehend the things they’re looking at; and similarity art – photography, artwork, images, representations – use words as well among their other mediums handy in their tool kit, along with the paintbrush, the platform the image is exhibited, the lens. Words are as present as the subject matter, almost as visible as the techniques in composition, words have a natural place in the artwork, in the image, with the artist, alongside the photographer.
How? When a painting or photograph is presented to a viewer, are not words needed to describe the emotions elicited? words are used to comprehend possible reasons for that particular angle, used to elucidate the possibility that the artist is commenting on something else, using metaphor to get a view or a certain opinion across, that the artist is conveying something to their viewers, and the artwork itself is words portrayed on a canvas, painting a narrative, sketching a convention, using words as shading, that each brushstroke is rhetoric, that every single detail – or lack of detail – is in fact “saying” something. And in turn, for us as viewers and spectators, in relation to an artwork on canvas or a photograph, we use language in a way to describe the impact of what’s being presented.
Photography can be defined many ways. It can be seen as “capturing” a fleeting moment. It can be seen as taking a leash and lassoing it around a moment to keep it from fidgeting. It can be seen as cementing a memory forever onto something tangible. Photography can be seen as a means of objectively witnessing a frame of time – it can state rather definitively: “THIS IS EXACTLY AND PRECISELY WHAT THIS THING LOOKS LIKE” presenting itself as a means to which people can view their world “accurately”.
The photograph. A technology that brags being able to capture a fleeting moment’s time objectively. It can be seen as taking a leash and lassoing it around a frame in time to keep it from fidgeting. Ostensibly, a photograph perfectly represents the facts, presuppose that it tames the subject matter, cements memories into tangibility, silences the noise, makes still the fluidity and ephemerality of the moment; immortalizing and making timeless mere mortals, fleeting weather patterns, finite entities all to the four wall confinement of the photograph. Pretty powerful stuff. Also quite manipulative. That a mere machine, a lens, can take life — something known to be fleeting, ephemeral, ungraspable — and put it on display rather concretely, almost like the way museums tend to take the past and put it in display cases, as if it is something knowable, something tameable.
Yet there’s so much more to photography than merely a means of objectively documenting. Photography is an art form in some cases, it is a way of life, but ultimately it is a tool, and certainly a powerful one that goes beyond the boundaries between fact and reality and falsehoods. In fact, photography reshapes the categories and truth and lie, reality and fiction, making their borders porous.
What’s interesting in my limited and amateurish experience with photography, is the same motif time and time again: that the camera lens never seems to accurately capture exactly what my eyes are witnessing. The lens of the camera doesn’t seem to have as much depth and detail as the lens of the human eye. This is a frustration that I’m sure many camera users face. What it does is replicate what the human eye witnesses, and by using different settings, different lenses, different apertures, shutter releases — essentially knobs in a machine — you can recreate an image of reality into multiple, varying forms, twisting and bending a moment in time into something sometimes wholly other than what it looks. The fundamentally fascinating thing about this, is that photography, based on this definition, dismantles the most important distinction in ontological philosophy: what is the distinction between reality and appearance, representation and actuality, and how do we tell them apart?
In a way, photography, like art and film, is a lie.
Below is a wonderful video on Ansel Adams by the nerdwriter1.
Puschak, Evan “Ansel Adams: Photography with Intention” Youtube, uploaded by Evan Puschak (nerdwriter1) on March 16, 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zcancgfDVg>
Capturing the mind’s eye.
Below is a rather daunting example of this interesting facet of photography: that it doesn’t’ always quite represent what we see.
This is Daguerre’s photograph, known to be his first, of a bustling city street in the middle of Paris.
But what exactly do we see? What are our human, limited, finite senses picking up? As human beings, obviously, the only way we can see ourselves, the people around us, our world, and our existence is through our own humanness. Inevitably, we can only contemplate and seek to understand fragments of our world through human senses, human understanding, the finite boundaries of the human mind. The interesting thing about this photograph, is not only that it is one of the first known photographs taken, but that with an exposure time of 10-15 minutes, Daguerre cannot, with his camera, take a “proper” photograph of the street in Paris.
You see, at the that time, the streets of Paris, after having gone extensive construction following the French Revolution, would have been packed with people. In this photograph of a Parisian street, there should have been numerous amounts of people walking up and down the street. But there isn’t. These streets of Paris, theoretically, would have been the perfect place for a flaneur to do his viewing. The shops would have been brimming with people, the public lounge areas were just beginning to become a fad. The street was so filled with people hurrying back and forth, walking up and down the street, that no one would have been sitting or standing still long enough to be captured by the camera. And henceforth, due to their inability to be still, they are completely wiped off the frame of existence, as if they were never there. Daguerre’s camera convincingly shows that no one was there, when in “reality” there would have been multitudes.
All we see here are two people who were standing still long enough to be captured by the camera.
A shoe shiner, and a figure having their shoes shined.
But what’s real? How can we possibly know? Is the camera lying to us, is its technological inability to capture a bustling Parisian street the reason why the street looks empty. Or is the street truly empty, apart from the two figures engaged in the shining of shoes. What did Daguerre really see?
To be continued
There is no longer a demarcation between gamer and game.
There is no controller you hold in your hand, there is no keyboard and mouse at the mercy of your finger tips; there is no screen, no pixellated window you look through into the “game”.
markiplier [Youtube user], “STORE CLERK BLUES | Job Simulator – VIVE” Youtube video, 22:00, posted on April 25, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwvnT3AQcRM
With Oculus Rift, the gamer and the game are amalgamated, similarly to how the subject matter – the art/artist itself – is no longer separate from the viewer in the form of a canvas on a wall or a statue on a pedestal, but shares the same space as the viewer (see the Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece Post). With Oculus Rift, the game is no longer displayed virtually on a screen, but in the viewer’s space; The game itself is brought into and exists in the gamer’s world, the gamer’s reality. The game itself transcends boundaries of where and how it takes place. It is no longer in the digital sphere, but right in the gamer’s living room. Talk about utterly dismantling categories and distinctions.
Virtual reality has been brought over from its complicated existence in the digital sphere, and is now very much in our space. The fascinating thing with Oculus Rift is that its premise is totally reliant on human eyes: you essentially wear glasses, and these glasses present you a whole new reality. You put on the glasses, you look through the lens, and automatically you are transported to an entirely different world, while still staying in your living room, but what’s more is that your living room is the setting for the game.
You are in your living room and in the game at the same time: alternate reality is no longer so alternate, it exists together with “real reality”. The game alters and manipulates the space you are in. The living room is still there, but you as the gamer are being transported to a whole other place while still in your living room. But you can’t see your living room, as soon as you put on the headset, you exist in an entirely different world. Both the living room you are playing in and the game you are playing exist, but the gamer easily moves through these two spheres, as the fragmented line which separates them is porous.We can walk into a different reality by putting on glasses. The glasses show us what we are looking at, and as soon as we take off the glasses, we are immediately transported back into our living room. Oculus Rift really emphasizes the use of sight as an empirical sense receptor. It places heavy import on the use of the human eyes as a way of making us believe we are actually in an alternative dimension. What about those who are blind then? But by putting on the headset, the gamer in a way, is blinding themselves from the real world. Those in the actual real world who are blind, are not allowed the opportunity to delve into alternative realities.
But this raises the question: what is the actual real world? If a fake world is being brought into the dimension of the real world, how do we distinguish between the two? Will there come a time when we can’t, when the two become inseparable to the point where we all just have Oculus Rift headsets on, and see and look and view the way the Oculus Rift wants us to? Glasses can be tinted, their glass or plastic can get distorted or bent out of shape, altering our entire perception of reality? What about digital glasses? It’s scary to think that technocratic powers may allow these headsets to be easily subject to manipulation and distortion on a mass scale, altering humanity’s perception of reality itself, altogether.
Watch Wired’s review of OC and its relation to VR, and see what you think.
WIRED, “Oculus Rift: The Age of VR Has Begun”, video via WIRED posted 28 Mar. 2016. Web. Mar 2017. <https://www.wried.com/2016/03/oculus-rift-review-virtual-reality/>
A couple fascinating points Wired’s review touches on:
to be continued
So I’m having trouble understanding my existence in the world. It almost seems as if my existence is being split up into multiple pieces, and each piece goes and dabbles or immerses itself into a “reality”. As a student, my existence currently is being spent at school. School is a world of itself; a student is taken away from their hometown and their families and plunked into a world of deadlines, worth measured by letter grades, time efficiency, productivity, and a whole new social circle that replaces the family a student presumably came from. We now live with our friends or people who are not our friends but our roommates or canmates and we essentially have to provide for ourselves (in most cases). In my case I have to buy toilet paper which is something I had never returned from the grocery store with. School is a universe of itself. And to give even more evidence for this, when I complain to my parents how stressful school can be, they reply with “just wait til you leave school and get to REAL world”. Retrospectively, this is getting me thinking. What the heck is this so-called, quote on quote, “real” world they speak of? Is University life henceforth not real, or not as real as, this other ambiguous “real” world? How does this “real” world invalidate the realness of school life?
This is a fascinating path to venture down. But let’s look at the digital.
You so often hear the term “virtual” reality, a term used to describe the digital sphere. This digital world consists of platforms on the internet such as Youtube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter as well as online gaming, cosplay, and art communities, as well as many other communities and world and realities and platforms that exist in the vast, enigmatic myriad that is the network. I often personally am able to spend (easily) up to 5 consecutive hours on Youtube, and I know many people who have and enjoy spending many more hours on the internet, on their phone, staring at their computer screen. In fact, for a student this is the norm: online databases filled with scholarly journal articles, researching in general, and the majority of our interaction with our majors and the fields and subjects we study is spent in relation to our computer: typing notes on a word or pages file, attending online video conferences with other classes (that we wouldn’t be able to interact with easily due to our separate geographical placements), being a part of online classes, writing blogs, watching film, listening to music etc, etc, etc. Not only is the digital sphere or “virtual reality” a whole other or separate world that we can delve into, but it interacts, lends itself to and intersects with our reality. But now that the three (out of possibly the many many more) realities have been mentioned: the reality of a student living in a University setting, the reality of the “real” world one supposedly enters into upon leaving school, and the virtual reality of the digital world. If these are realities, their mere existence shows that reality in itself does not exist in the singular. If multiple realities are in existence, that goes to show that there is no one reality, but many. That reality can only exist by being plural. That there is no “one” reality but many.
Or perhaps, there is one reality and yet it exists by being split up into many different realities. It fragments itself as a puzzle would. It has many pieces, the picture itself in there, but it has been split into many, individual parts. These parts fit together, intersect and interact with each other to produce a holistic picture. Perhaps it is helpful to look at reality as if it is a puzzle.
And yes, the elephant in the room is finally being noticed. What exactly do we mean when we talk about reality? What is its precise definition? Can we associate reality with existence? Is reality, drawing on the puzzle metaphor, the individual existences of each individual human being?
to be continued
“Analyzing the Bible as an artifact concerning gender is an activity whose impetus lies almost entirely with the reader and is a reflection of the reader’s culture, beliefs, and worldviews”
Lawrence, Beatrice. “Gender Analysis: Gender and Method in Biblical Study.” Method Matters: Essays on the Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Honour of David L. Peterson, edited by Joel M. LeMon and Kent Harold Richards. Society of Biblical Literature, 2001, pp. 333-346.
And David J.A. Clines says that “It is not the Bible that sets the agenda but the culture in which its interpreters find themselves”.
Quoted from: Lawrence, Beatrice. “Gender Analysis: Gender and Method in Biblical Study.” Method Matters: Essays on the Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Honour of David L. Peterson, edited by Joel M. LeMon and Kent Harold Richards. Society of Biblical Literature, 2001, pp. 333-346.
Why am I mentioning the Hebrew Bible of all things, on a blog concerning itself with strangeness? Well, there is this notion called the death of the author, where as soon as a creator releases something — a piece of art, a book, a poem, a song — into the public sphere of the viewers, readers, and listeners, the creator’s initial meaning for their creation, in a sense, dies. It no longer matters what the original author or creator intended for the work to mean, what messages or feelings they intended it to convey; the creation is strictly in the hands of those who are now subject to it. This notion of there are as many books as there are readers is an almost universal one: it can be applied to almost anything in existence. We as humans, one could say, see through the lens of our heart’s deepest desire, we see through the lens our personal experience shapes. To bring metaphors into the mix in order to explain this notion, one could say that we all wear glasses. These glasses are not normal glasses, they are shaped and formed uniquely to us, they are our personal glasses, and we very rarely take them off, not to mention try on others’s glasses. These glasses are an appendage of our bodies that are hard to remove, but also they are malleable, and they adapt to us personally: our experiences, our opinions, our beliefs, our desires, our selves shape and mould these glasses, so that we see the world in “our” way, and we see the same world differently than others, for each individual person has their own individual pair of glasses that we see through.
Since this metaphorical glass is personally malleable, that would mean that we all see things differently, but wouldn’t it also mean that we are in a sense blinded by ourselves? If we’re looking through glasses, and not seeing things with the naked eye, how do we know that what we are viewing through the glasses is true to its nature, do the glasses allow things to be true to their nature, or is the glass slanted, bent, dirty, discoloured, distorted so that the things we think we are looking at are distorted too? How would we know the difference between a thing’s true nature or a mere single representation of it if we are constantly wearing the glasses and are unable to take them off?
If everyone is wearing metaphorical glasses over our eyes, never seeing things with the naked eye, the objective eye one could call it, or the unbiased,
Of course, no one metaphor will ever do anything justice. Like a poet, we have to perpetually be coming up with metaphors for we, like poets are in love with the world, and like a crush, want to keep the world here, keep increasingly coming up with new things to say about it.
Is, then, anything strange, if human beings are the one witnessing their own existence? How can anything be strange if it is seen through human eyes?
Yoko Ono, Cut Piece. 1965. Posted on Youtube by vbethany [Youtube user] on February, 28 2013. 08:00. Web. Mar 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYJ3dPwa2tl>
This is Yoko Ono’s performance art piece, “Cut Piece”
Essentially, the art is the hands of the viewer and the viewer (For their viewing pleasure) can and does whatever they wish to. Cut Piece is in the viewer’s hands, literally: what the art is, what the art means, what the art is saying is controlled by the viewer. The subject matter herself is totally dominated by the viewer.
In this case, the artist here presents herself on a stage with a pair of scissors. The audience members are then allowed to interact with her. They are given the opportunity to take the pair of scissors and cut a piece of Yoko Ono’s clothing. This really is experimental performance art: the artist acts as the art itself and allows the viewer to do whatever they may choose to with the artist. And she, like a good model, will sit their unmoving as the viewer “views” her.
Of course this is a work of art which criticizes the portrayal of women through art history. Yet what makes Cut Piece unique from other portraits of woman throughout art’s history, is that she, the subject matter, is in the flesh. The viewer is interacting with her explicitly and directly.
There is no line of demarcation between the viewer and the subject matter, they share the same space; while in painting, the canvas or frame acts as the threshold between the two realities: the world of the art itself which lies behind the surface, and the world of the viewer, who lies at the foot of this threshold and peers in through it like a window. What’s interesting about art is that there are two parties involved – the viewer and the subject matter/artist (perhaps the artist could be considered a distinct third party, but I like to imagine that art itself is the voice of the artist, and therefore the two are one in the same thing — at least in most cases). This relationship between art and its viewers is not exactly what one would call a fair, two way street.
The viewer is afforded the opportunity to view the artwork and make of it what they please. The viewer is not at all governed by the art, nothing about the viewer’s experience is controlled or dictated; they have the liberty to think, feel, and say whatever they like void of consequence. See the viewer hides behind the screen of the canvas, the threshold between the two acts as a looking glass for the viewer, and on the other side, a mirror for the subject matter to gaze at herself, while the viewer gazes at her.
The viewer is invisible as the threshold separating these two worlds is one-way glass. The art is perhaps not aware of their objectification, sexualization, demeaned, oppressed, defined inaccurately, or misidentified altogether: their identity is ambiguous, and therefore the viewer is given the agency to project whatever identity they see fit onto an unaware subject, denying and quelling whatever freedom the art and its artist had.
To be continued.
To be continued
When I think about what is strange it can be hard for me to define what that is. I have read so many books, watched many tv shows, animes, movies, and played so many video games. I’ve gone through so many stories that I find myself suspending disbelief whenever I get into a new one so that I can know what is and isn’t unusual for the inhabitants in that world. But what is strange for them is not strange for other worlds I have read and things that surprise them and seem odd to them I find myself at most going “Huh” and finding it interesting but not really “strange”.
This is partially in response to Janet’s post on the course website where she said that anything can be strange, because if anything can be strange then so could nothing.
What exactly is the definition of strangeness?
What exactly is the definition of normal?
What is the definition of strangeness? Often when we contemplate a thing, we think of its exact opposite — the thing existing on the far side of the spectrum — in order to truly understand the nature of the other. So when we consider strangeness, we look at the things we consider normal. But some of the most strangeness things we can behold, are the most natural, most normal occurrences in day to day life.
Castillon, Neels “A Bird Ballet” Vimeo. https://vimeo.com/58291553
Some of the most natural occurrences, the things we consider normal, are other people’s very definition of strange — just as one’s person’s garbage, is another’s gold, and one’s gold is another’s garbage.
The funny thing about perception, is that its human. The funny thing about definitions, is that they’re human. The funny thing about everything that exists, is that they exist is through human senses, through human experience. We give life to everything because if we ourselves weren’t in existence, we wouldn’t be to talk about concepts, notions, and ideas. And if a thing isn’t talked about, does it exist? It might exist, but it wouldn’t exist according to humans, if we ourselves didn’t exist.
Life seems to be a feedback loop. Humans experience life, life is seen through the eyes of the individual experiencing it, and therefore defined by us. Life can be turned upside down so easily, it can be totally altered by changing perspectives, changing ideas, changing concepts regarding the nature of existence. New theories pop up all the time, easily changing our perception of life. Yet life’s characteristics consistently impact our thinking.
Ashwin singh [Youtube user],”WE ACCEPT THE REALITY OF THE WORLD WITH WHICH WE ARE PRESENTED” 01:00, posted 16 Mar, 2013. <https://www.youtbe.com/watch?v=-bLyjGH4ZAE>
to be continued.
This is Marissa Bouchard’s, a student at Augustana with a psychology major and an art minor, very first film. It is called “A Visit”
It is hand made using a whole myriad of techniques on 16 mm found footage.
Bouchard, Marissa. A Visit: A Short Film. November 2016. Owned by Marissa Bouchard, Augustana. Video via Vimeo. Web. April 2017.
Interview with Marissa Bouchard:
L: So what exactly would you say if someone asked you what this short film is about?
M: The sequence is of a blob that naturally exists in a particular space, but has to unexpectedly leave that space to visit different and other spaces. It finds peace in these different spaces, and chooses to stay. That’s one way of looking at it. As you may notice, the blob gradually accumulates these spots on its… blob body. So there’s a possibility that the blob wasn’t voluntarily staying in these new and different spaces, but had to due to a sickness or some sort of infection that was a result of staying in these new spaces. The blob becomes decrepit, and in the end, you see a space, which is a sunset, but the blob is no longer there. It’s open ended. It could be that the blob decided to stay, and become one with space… it evolved from a blob into an entity that would fit in, that its blob-ness had to disintegrate so that it could stay in the new found spaces it found itself in. Another possibility is that the blob could have died. It either stayed or as a result of its staying, had to die.
It’s really about a visit to a place and either the result of this visit, or the consequences of the visit.
It’s really just a visit though, so it can be open to any interpretation. And I just made it, right? It’s not my job to attach definitive meaning onto it. It’s meant to be open-ended so that the viewer can bring their own meaning and perspective to the art, and draw the art’s meaning from their own… meaning.
L: “I like that loose definition of art. I really enjoy how the ending is up to one’s interpretation of it”
M: “Yeah, it has to be loose. Nothing is definitive, or so precise as a definition.”
L: “I also loved how there are no voices or music. It’s just silent, and I think that really harkens to and emphasizes the ambiguity, the lack of clear meaning.
M: “Yeah, I really considered putting in music or spoken word or just any noise really. Maybe voices or some dissonant background stuff. But towards the end, I realized what the film had come to be and mean for me. It’s just a visit and nothing more. That way it can be more open ended, more liberating for any viewer, and possibly more frustrating… kind of like life itself. There are so many options, and possibilities, and no one really knows what they’re doing, no one can foresee the potential ramifications of their actions. It’s very much like life itself.