Monday, June 8, 2015

What do you believe in?

As I tend to do, I decided with this project to take the literal route from the “I’m a believer” prompt, and I am very happy with how it turned out.

I sat my 5 volunteers down in a comfy chair in the Hurvis studio. They knew I would be asking them a question and they would have to answer it for 2 minutes, but they did not know what it was. When I asked “What do you believe in?” (and clarified with the second question “What is true to you in your life?”) most of them were taken aback that I was asking them such a deep question on the spot. And yet, they all came up with interesting, diverse answers.

I eventually did a second filming session with each of them, getting footage out in the “real world” (as opposed to the very constructed studio space) of something that related somehow to what they said in the first session. It was interesting not being able to get all the filming done until I had gone through the first sessions and decided what I wanted to film next. Most of my work does not involve all of that planning, so having to make those decisions was different for me.

I then cut together the interview footage with the “real world” footage in a somewhat random way, though it makes some sort of sense as well. I decided to also add some background music. The music, while semi-cheesy, does serve a couple of helpful purposes. It distracts from the obnoxious white noise in all of the interview footage, and it also helps tie all the clips together so that it’s not just a video of random people talking.

De Certeau said in The Practice of Everyday Life, “For a long time people assumed that the reserves of belief were limitless” (179). Based on the responses I got, I think the reserves of belief ARE limitless. Different people believe in many different things, and they have the capacity to keep discovering new things that they believe in.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


I liked Stroszek a lot more than I thought I would. Since the only thing I knew about it was that it was filmed very authentically and was more or less “real life,” I was honestly expecting it to be relatively boring. However, it ended up keeping my attention most of the time, although it was rather confusing at times.

It was very interesting to learn that Bruno S. was actually kept in asylums for most of his life and he had little experience with the outside world when the movie was filmed. Also that the old man was actually just a crazy old man who believed in conspiracies. Eva was actually an actress and not a prostitute, but she played it well. It is funny that Herzog pinpointed random people that he wanted in his film, like an MC that he heard one time, a Native American mechanic that he met once, and the world’s best livestock auctioneer.

Now that I think about it, the way I feel about Stroszek is similar to how I felt after seeing Boyhood. Boyhood was all made with real actors, but it has the same feel of just watching someone’s life happen before you. You may expect a film like this to be boring because the concept of “everyday life” does not seem that interesting. But then you realize that it is so intriguing to so closely watch someone else’s life unfold before you, because we are so used to just noticing our own lives.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Gillian Wearing

I really enjoyed learning about Gillian Wearing’s work. It is all quite fascinating. I love that she was able to make compelling pieces of art out of the lives of everyday people. That is one thing that I strive toward in my own art.

One of my favorite pieces was Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what other people want them to say. I like the idea of having someone’s thoughts be with them in a photograph in written form. It reminds me of Wing Young Huie’s work, which he lectured about at Lawrence a few years ago.

All of her video work is incredible as well. At first glance, it all just seems weird or boring, but they are actually very conceptual and have deep meanings behind them. It is safe to say that Gillian Wearing is now one of my inspirations.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lawton Hall

It is always very reassuring to hear about alums having real, successful “lives after Lawrence.” I was very impressed by how much Lawton has done already and how put together he is. It seems counterintuitive to me to try making an artist’s life for yourself in a place like Wisconsin, which just seems like a cultural pit of despair (except for the few big cities – and Wisconsin is far from the worst state). But it would seem you could make that kind of life for yourself just about anywhere if you try hard enough and hold onto your connections in those places. And there are many more opportunities in Wisconsin than I had previous realized. (That is not to say I wish to live in Wisconsin any longer than I have to.)
One of the opportunities for artists in Wisconsin 
I got more interested in Lawton’s work as he went, and I think that is how he planned his presentation. Cyclic History/This Place is No Place were amazing to me, not because of the “music” of the projectors, but because it was very aesthetically pleasing. My favorite pieces of his that he showed, however, were All Your Thens for Now and the Holy Sheboygan! pieces. The latter were so intricate and experimental, but in a way that kept me engaged rather than overwhelming me. I would love to see the band live. All Your Thens for Now was so unique and drew inspirations from such unexpected sources. I really loved the use of voice as a percussion instrument.

Holy Sheboygan!

Once again, I am given hope that Life After Lawrence is not necessarily a black hole.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Act of Passing By

I was able to immediately draw an idea from this passage in De Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life: “It is true that the operations of walking on can be traced on city maps in such a way as to transcribe their paths and their trajectories. But these thick or thin curves only refer, like words, to the absence of what has passed by. Surveys of routes miss what was: the act itself of passing by” (97).

We often do not notice how many things we casually glance at as we are walking from point A to point B, especially in familiar places. My goal was to capture the feeling of those quick glances by randomly taking photographs around me while walking, without even looking through the viewfinder. I occasionally arbitrarily zoomed in or out and the camera was on autofocus, but those were the only ways I manipulated the images. I felt a little bit creepy at times, since many of these pictures included unsuspecting people, either passing by or engaging in nice-weekend-day activities. I didn't look at the pictures until I was done, and a lot of what I had photographed was the tops of buildings with the vast blue sky overhead.

This project reminds of a mix between my previous projects, I Can See Ahead of Me (a sped-up video of my travels across campus) and This Is Happening (photos taken at random and paired together). Both of these projects can be viewed on this blog.

You can view this haphazard series of photos on my flickr.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


In The Practice of Everyday Life, De Certeau says that “one can distinguish ‘ways of operating’ – ways of walking, reading, producing, speaking, etc.” (30). My project explores a couple ideas about “ways of operating.” The first being that we operate in ways that we consciously decide, as well as in ways that we do not realize or think about. There are things that we habitually do every day that we take no notice of, because we are literally always doing them. They sneak in with the things that we are conscious of.

The second idea is about how important our hands are to our everyday operating. In this class, we are all able-bodied people who cannot truly imagine what life would be like without our hands. They do almost everything for us and we barely take notice of that fact. Also, many of these unconscious everyday actions are done with our hands.

I chose to make a video because I focus on photography so often and I would like to do more work with video. I have always enjoyed making videos but have not had the time or inspiration for it in a while. It chronicles some of the everyday things I do with my hands. It is mostly conscious things; the things that make up most of one's day, such as making a sandwich or playing guitar. But some of the unconscious things sneak in between, such as snapping my fingers or putting my hair behind my ears.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Modalities of Action, Project Idea

Going along with De Certeau’s idea of “ways of operating,” I plan to make a video documenting some of the various things that my hands do throughout a normal day. I often find that my hands are doing things that I did not consciously decide to do; cracking my knuckles, tapping things, swaying while I walk. Then there are the things that I consciously decide to do; brushing my teeth, making food, playing guitar. Everyday things that I could not do without my hands.

Some hands, doing what hands do

When we think about it, it is obvious that our hands play a huge part in our lives and it would be incredibly difficult to function without them. But we do not think about it that often. It is easy to forget how many different things our hands do throughout the day.

Monday, March 16, 2015

I have no Yik and I must Yak

Having been influenced by the rediscovery of Wayne White, I knew that I wanted to work somehow with text on images. I thought of the various places that I could take text from: my journals, tumblr posts, quotes… And then I landed on Yik Yak, the app in which you post text anonymously and then vote on each other’s thoughts.

The premise of Yik Yak

A handful of Yik Yak posts are actually funny or relatable, but most of what is posted is mean/pointless/trolling/etc. Posting on Yik Yak is much like (to take a McLuhan quote completely out of context): “complaining to a hot dog vendor at a ballpark about how badly your favorite team is playing” (142). What is the point?

Yik Yak is meant for college campuses, so I thought it might be a fun idea to continue taking random candid photographs on campus, and pair the photos with random posts from Yik Yak. I toyed with the idea of making the pairings completely random, as people post many different things on Yik Yak in all types of situations, but I ended up deciding it would be funnier and make more sense for the viewer if I paired them to make at least a little bit of sense. I screenshotted the "Yaks" I liked and overlaid them with the photos in PhotoShop.

You can view the series on my flickr.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Nietzsche and McLuhan

Friedrich Nietzsche
I found this presentation to be much harder to make than all of the previous similar presentations I have done for Photography classes. Since it was not about an artist, I could not use art to illustrate my points. I had to draw my thesis and arguments from somewhat dense philosophical ideas, which I often have a hard time with. I am not entirely sure why I chose to do my presentation on Nietzsche. I guess I have always found him interesting, though I have never looked too closely at any of his work. If nothing else, this presentation was a good excuse to do just that. (And I found that I still like Nietzsche and his ideas.)
I did not know that Nietzsche had such strong opinions about art and that he even saw art as a substitute for “the God who made a clock-like universe, wound it, and withdrew,” who is now dead (146).
I think that if Nietzsche were around today, he would be mostly pleased with how far we have advanced our society and that we continue to seek out new ways to advance it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Respect and Honor and Respect and Honor and Respect and...

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy and Law at NYU
I was curious what Kwame Anthony Appiah’s lecture was really going to be about. I was expecting and hoping that it would be about the importance of showing respect to others and acknowledging the ways in which they are honorable, or something along those lines. I was definitely not prepared for the philosophical lecture that was to come. I must admit, I completely lost where Appiah was going for most of the lecture. I heard the words “honor” and “respect” innumerable times and it honestly sounded like he was repeating the same thing over and over with slightly different phrasing for the first 20 minutes. (This is not to belittle his intelligence or his field/research, this is only to say that I sadly could not comprehend it as well as I would have liked.)
Later in the lecture, he got to some ideas that I could actually think about, such as the idea of showing respect to soldiers because we perceive them as extremely honorable people. I definitely got more interested when he started talking about the influence of different cultures on each other. I found it very interesting how it was Western missionaries who got the Chinese government to rethink foot-binding. And then on the other hand, when missionaries tried to end female genital mutilation in certain Eastern countries, they were met with resistance and the horrific practice only grew.
I had trouble seeing how this lecture applied at all to our class until I read the last bit of The Medium is the Massage just now. The ideas presented in the book are rather outdated and tend to glorify the “West,” while Appiah’s lecture was very impartial and spoke of facts rather than ideals or biased ideas.