Architecture of observer and observed.
I cannot think of a single place that has held my attention longer than the Cedar-Riverside Plaza in Minneapolis. Ralph Rapson’s brutalist “New Town in Town” located near the West Bank of the U of M has caught my gaze since I first stepped out of the light rail in 2005.
Click above for full wallpaper size (2560 X 1440)…
And the meaning of the Earth completely changes: with the legal model, one is constantly reterritorializing around a point of view, on a domain, according to a set of constant relations, but with the ambulant model, the process of deterritorialization constitutes and extends the territory itself.
–Deleuze & Guattari from Treatise on Nomadology
Perhaps it is the overcast skies of Southern California that are making me miss Minneapolis so much. Then again, maybe it is just the displacement that naturally follows moving to a new city, one where I have no roots, no paths to calmly wander, and no climate to fight angrily against. Above: a happy mishap with film loading and my old Mamiya 7.
I have to take a second to give a quick shout out and link to one of my favorite Minneapolis artist’s work: Andy Sturdevant’s “The Stroll” writings for the MinnPost. I can’t emphasize how much I agree with and am always surprised by the observations and encounters described in each piece.
At the moment I’m especially engrossed in “When you hear the roar in south Minneapolis, look up to add color and form” about the air traffic that traipses through the skies over MPLS. I specifically remember when I first moved to Minneapolis from Nebraska thinking “Finally! I live near an international airport. If I have to flee the country in the night, I can at least get to Amsterdam.”
When I moved away from Minneapolis to begin my letterpress, the most startling thing I noticed about Green Bay was the absolute lack of aircraft noise overhead. Sure, when you live in a city, it is an annoyance. It is the ultra loud noise that seems to appear EXACTLY when you’re about to make a point in a conversation. But, when it is gone, there is an uneasy tension. There is a nagging feeling that amounts to roughly “Did I really just move to a place so barren, so remote that airlines won’t fly here?”
Now that I have relocated to Los Angeles, the feeling of isolation has been replaced with an uneasy relief (hey! people actually WANT to be here) paired with a bit of paranoia (why is that helicopter STILL hovering over my apartment building?).
When I was working my way through the first year of the MFA program at the University of Minnesota, I took an amazing class called “Performed Photography” with a professor who would later end up as a vital part of my thesis committee. The course consisted of making projects that used photography (or any media really) as a documentary tool to record and present the actions or conceptual artworks that were produced by students outside the studio. So, less focus on photography as a fine-art medium and the pursuit of aesthetics and more attention to the photograph as witness or document.
This course continues to influence me and has been on my mind almost daily as I walk around the neighborhood and try to orient myself to life in LA. One assignment in particular sticks out: the walking assignment. We were directed to create a piece that utilized walking in some way – as the basis for the piece, or as a result, byproduct, whatever – the direction was wide open.
Somehow this was the assignment I flubbed. Continue reading
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.
I’m exceptionally excited to report that one of my photographs will be published in the upcoming issue of 1110. Thank you, Eireann!