I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of this…
TCHIKITAHMAN: “Just got done with a fitting for a job…now I’m off to the la gun club for some gun powder relaxation!” 4/29/11 via HTC Peep
I couldn’t have said it better. And I, for one, was absolutely crushed that he wasn’t at the concert at First Ave in Minneapolis…
I was headed into work this morning when I noticed yet another giant white truck selling food items in downtown Minneapolis. In the past, I’ve made the decision to judge every city I travel to/live in by the quality of its street food. For example, New York introduced me to the beauty of spicy squid on a stick. In Mexico City I had the distinct pleasure of having a five-course meal of nothing but delicious nibbles found on the street. Montreal and Sofia, Bulgaria both rocked the bagel-like items. Istanbul made me squeal with an amazing grilled mackerel sandwich on the Galata bridge. Street food truly is an indicator of the health of a city, its people’s participation in the public sphere, and a commitment to the exchange of energy and life which can only happen in public.
Back to Minneapolis. If I am to apply my criteria for evaluating street food, Minneapolis gets little more than a D-. The effort is there, but the joy, the spontaneity…. the people…. are no where to be found. Instead, I am greeted by the rather gruesome display of a giant, flaccid turkey drumstick roasting in the morning haze inside a pristine white snatcher van. Yippee.
Sometimes I wonder why I even both to write, think, or photograph anything. I do a great deal of rehashing ideas and thinking out loud via my site/blog. However, somehow, it ends up being worth it. For example, it is almost humorous the way that things can come back around; full circle. This time 3 years ago I was pouring over Michel Foucault’s “Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias“. And, again on this wet April morning, I’m scouring through the same text looking with a fresh set of eyes at what I missed. For those new to the term I love to use so often, Foucault describes a heterotopia by saying, “There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places — places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society – which are something like counter-sites…all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.”
My relationship with this particular bit of writing (from a Foucault lecture given in 1967) is an intimate one. In the last week, I’ve gone back and forth from reading this bit of Foucault to watching Michael Haneke’s “Caché” at least a dozen times, each time feeling the two are linked. Its going to be a bit of a stretch to relate these two together, but I’ll do my damnedest. The connection is something that I always come back to: both works discuss the relationships where private and public spill into each other.
In “Caché” the racial tensions that remain inherent in post-colonial French society demonstrate this “non-site” of neither public nor private. Over all, the film suggests it is one thing to support and favor a multicultural social fabric, but it is another thing to actually bring the otherness of an immigrant family into one’s own home. In the film, an unknown person sends to a wealthy Parisian family video footage observations of their home. In this regard, the film touches on the first heterotopia described by Foucalt: the mirror. He writes, “The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there.”
Foucault hints at other such sites that enmesh themselves into our lives such as heterotopias of crisis and deviation. He describes these sites as places where, “those in which individuals whose behavior is deviant in relation to the required mean or norm are placed.” To return to Haneke’s “Caché,” as the film progresses, the main character Georges (Daniel Auteuil) pursues the sender of the videos into such a place. In this instance, it one of the many large late-modernist housing projects surrounding the city. Inside, immigrants, the poor, and others considered to be “others” are conveniently vertically stacked, isolated, and concealed.
Now to draw back to me and my work. (After all, I am the reason for the season… its true! My birthday is Sunday, May 01… also known as International Workers of the World day.) Foucault’s third principle of the heterotopia is perhaps most pressing on my mind this morning. Put simply, “The heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible.” This is the thread that I’ve been yearning to examine and express with photography. In past work, I’ve failed to express this incompatibility that can occur within places of “non-site” even though it has been staring me in the face since the completion of my MFA exhibition. I’m going to expand more on this in subsequent posts on photos already gathering dust and also those that are still latent.
It has been an insanely good evening and I’m going to do my damnedest to keep this short and sweet. After a few perfectly mixed cocktails at the Aster Cafe, I found myself wandering around Northeast Minneapolis. Instead of waiting for the bus, I continued to drift up Hennepin Avenue, circling aimlessly around, until I ended up back at the bus stop, staring into the eyes of an nun who was also enjoying the first real spring evening.
Anyway. The future. Yes! That’s what’s been on my mind. Specifically, what is the future of our cities going to look like if we keep pushing for New Urbanist developments? The condos that now line both banks of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis are a good example. While I applaud the renewed interest in the heart of the city, I’m skeptical of the end results. Getting to the point. Why is it that in order to make people come back to the diversity of the city, we have to completely replace it with generic condo buildings with eco-ironic use of sheet metal adornments?
I’d really like to start a movement. It isn’t New Urbanism, it is simply called Urbanism. It is not the homogenization and sterilization of our urban spaces, but instead is the fruits of their diversity. What makes urban spaces so desirable is not the safety of the familiar, but instead the unknowable complexities that arise when the rich and the poor and the whole mix of our species live next to each other.
(One may ask why the above photo is posted. It is a scan of a c-print from an archive of Japanese train photos I acquired. Someone had the interest, bordering on obsession, to return again and again to Tokyo and photograph, what must have been at the time, the futuristic-looking landscape. There is just something inherent in the city of Tokyo that invokes feelings of what is yet to come… This is just one of about 100 photos that show this constant revision of what “the future” looks like… What a fantastic way to spend one’s yearly vacations.)
Abandoned racetrack near Hudson, Wisconsin.
The space in which we live, which draws us out of ourselves, in which the erosion of our lives, our time and our history occurs, the space that claws and gnaws at us, is also, in itself, a heterogeneous space. In other words, we do not live in a kind of void, inside of which we could place individuals and things. We do not live inside a void that could be colored with diverse shades of light, we live inside a set of relations that delineates sites which are irreducible to one another and absolutely not superimposable on one another.
Of Other Spaces (1967), Heterotopias.
“Behind the incessant parade of bright images, a gaping blackness.”
Through out the course of my day, I look at hundreds (if not more) photographic images that fall into the genre we call “photography”. RSS feeds of photo blogs have become the easiest and, at the same time, most in unobtrusive method for consuming my daily dose. It isn’t so much the dosage that bothers me. I’m hung up on the concept of what exactly I’m eating up when I’m searching, shifting, and glancing at the endless buffet of fine-art photography that is presented to me…
There is a point where I have to just take my eyes out of focus and concentrate on the idea that the blurred image which emerges might be a better indicator of contemporary photography than anything curated, anything put together into a project…
I know that this post could very easily be construed as being childish or immature. Trust me, I am both of those things. However, I think there is a deeper undercurrent to what I did at the Mall of America overflow parking lot yesterday afternoon.
Lets preface this a bit. You know, build up a framework before I delve in. I believe that everyone has certain design fetishes. Aesthetic aspects of physical products that appeal to us on a level we can’t quite explain. In turn, we’re drawn to those products and buy them. Really we buy the hell out of them to be more precise. Case in point, the new iPad or Macbook Air.
Now, in order to keep the universe from collapsing into oblivion, there has to be a counter balance to objects that are so compelling we cannot resist. There have to be objects out there that are so repulsive that the very sight of them triggers an innate hatred in the reptilian part of our brains.
For me, one of those objects is the mid-1990s Chevrolet Caprice station wagon. Perhaps it is the nature of the vehicle’s name… don’t we want vehicles that stand for reliability and not impulsive changes? However, I cannot pinpoint my hatred. I see them less and less these days, but… they’re out there. Like a fleet of marauding slug-shaped cars, they haunt me when I drive.
As luck and fate would have it, when I pulled into the Mall of America overflow parking lot, directly ahead of me was a real doozy of a Caprice wagon. Dark brown. DUNG brown even. I had to act to let this other driver know the torture which is seeing them on the road.
And so I did. I left a note. Childish you say? Yes, of course. But something had to be done.