Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pissy Artist

I have a complaint. I am sure it is not an unfamiliar complaint to many of you, although it may be foreign to some; I am never sure of my audience. My complaint starts with this picture which I took last week on the morning of graduation.


The gates were still closed and locked and the students were still, presumably, in their houses. The building in the background is the third-years' classrooms. The large poster hanging down is a rendering of the Shureimon in Okinawa which displays a large Chinese influence, which our school also has. The graduating third-years made it when they were first-years in preparation for the trip they would take to Okinawa two years later. The teacher in the foreground wearing a suit is the homeroom teacher of 3-9. He is Korean-Japanese. This year his two year-old daughter fell out of the window of their apartment and died after being in the hospital for a week. Soon after this the teacher and his wife divorced. He is the same age as me. Once when we were drinking he told me about his divorce and that he had moved back in with his parents. "I come to school everyday with a smile because it is important for the kids. I do it for them." Don't I know it. This is one of my favorite pictures I have ever taken because, for me any way, it conveys all of this information. I took it on accident, but I took it this way because I left myself open to take it on accident. This is one of my favorite pictures I have ever taken because I took it on accident and it seemed to convey this information and I think it is capable of saying all of that even if the viewer doesn't know the story I just told you. Soon after I took this picture, an older teacher who has nothing to do with the graduating class started yelling at me that I wasn't taking pictures right and that no one was lined up or looking at the camera. I don't care. I also didn't care that he was pointing it out. Most people will. Most people take pictures by standing just off to the left of an object and looking at the camera. If there is a group they will squish in past the point mandated by borders and protest when they feel the photograph was taken without them looking at the camera. It is normal. I showed this photo, among many others of graduation, to the third-year teachers. No one commented on it other than to say, "Ha! It is us working." They said this as a discreditation. That they hadn't had a chance to pose. I often get yelled at for taking pictures when people "aren't ready." No one asked for a copy of this photo. It is one of my favorite pictures I have ever taken. Is it any wonder that any person who leans toward quantifying an experience through art, such a dicey term anyway, tends to operate at an increasing remove from society? Now that I have singled it out and told you the story, you can look at this photo and see a dead child and a failed marriage and 421 fifteen year-olds who made it all seem worthwhile. Now that I told you.


The Morholt said...

A lot of art is about context. The teachers were looking for snapshots, portraiture, not photos that are ABOUT something, but photos that commemorate a moment. Which is not to say that i don't agree that it is frustrating when others are not open to what you are up to, just that if people don't get it, that might just be because they are looking for something else.
I have a whole argument in favor of museums that i trot out for the "art is everywhere" crowd. It has a parallel in favor of churches and the creation of sacred space, because maybe "God is everywhere" but the awareness of God is not in every moment and a special context and space creates the illusion of God much better for most people than looking out the window of the bus. With ephemeral phenomena like our senses of art and spirituality, we often need to be reminded to summon our capacity for awareness.

wwc said...

Sure. I don't even have a real complaint. They have no obligation to want anything other than a documentation of what happens. I am just speaking to the slow, brick by brick frustration of finding meaning in something to be received by blank stares. That is not unique in the least and to remark on it is the territory of a 13 year-old with a dog-eared Ginsburg anthology. Yet....

attempting to silence the voices in my head.