I’ve come ashore for a little while. Long enough to say that I’m still swimming in my mind. I’m preparing for Bushwick Open Studios. Expect lots of pictures of clouds, windows and other soft focus items. In a world that is so focused on accuracy, efficiency and surgical procedures, I’ve been excited to sit on the edge, clicking at what bubbles up in the margins. Also, I’ll be showing photos from Mali that were taken several years ago but that appear in the upcoming Abel Ferrara film on DSK. Thanks to that, I’ve been given the inspiration to show these and bring attention to current struggles with extremists.
Looking for more to read? I did another blog post for 12Questions, take a look!
I was walking on air when I saw the smoker in the rain. Out later than usual, not as late as I used to be, I passed him and then I stepped back, back, back. I hit the buttons. He saw me. I lifted the camera, lifted my eyes to meet his, and in two seconds I moved on. Photography has this deep power to it. Most of us try not to notice because that power is all around us and dealing with it makes us uncomfortable. What pictures does your ex have? What lost weekend snap did a friend of a friend mobile upload to facebook before you could even wrap your head around what was happening? Those are just part of what I’m talking about.
Surveillance is a weird thing. The term “image capture” is also a weird, slightly deadening bit of techspeak that takes something magical like photography and turns it into something clinical, something with a data driven core. Does the desire to collect more data really drive my desire to take a picture of a beautiful sky, a sexy man in the rain or some random umbrella? Do I really see myself as data and this whole world as one big Program? Sometimes I do. Sometimes I find solace in it all being one great big program, because the program includes planets, stars and things much bigger and vaster than my world of worries and wonders. It’s bigger than revolutions and their oppressors and this bigger thing, it persists.
The switch from mechanical and analogue to data and digital is changing our language. It is changing our approach and our speech around our art forms. What this switch doesn’t change is the essential experience of consciousness. Yes, our consciousness can be expanded, elevated, clarified and put through all sorts of gymnastics, but its essence is this tiny little seed of something utterly, deeply persistent.
Last fall I went to visit Ronnie in Austin. It was a fine afternoon in September and somehow while I was standing with him on the balcony of his apartment I thought, well, are we under surveillance? Ronnie was up against felony charges for his non-violent participation in civil disobedience. His case was a little bit of Kafka and little bit of Vonnegut. It was plenty serious and it was seriously absurd. The cops had applied some antiquated law and one of their post Patriot Act inventions was to put Ronnie and some other folks into a precarious situation. The whole time we hung out that afternoon we laughed, we flirted, we argued, we spoke and still, somewhere in my mind I felt enclosed. In New York I’m on innumerable tapes. In New York, millions of us are constantly being filmed. But here, in Austin I hadn’t acclimated to it. It was sunny, there was lots of greenery. Oh how a silly thing like setting can completely cloud reality.
As I left Ronnie’s that evening we spoke of him maybe working on some art, although his mind was having a hard time of it between work, life and preparing for the trial. I boarded a bus back to the center of town and I smiled at all the churches, one was just around the bend of Ronnie’s road. I thought of the way our culture is changing. I wondered if a subtle shift wasn’t happening and if the shift wasn’t also accompanied by something persistent: that thing, that kernel of us that is bigger than us, that thing we love to try but in our deepest theological wanderings can not define.
Surveillance society seems to me now an extension of people’s perceptions of God. It’s a natural progression from a “God the Father” to a secular standard. The all knowing, all seeing specter of that idea of God has become secularized and sublimated into the all seeing state, the all knowing constant observer of government sanctioned cameras. God, in essence, has been and continues to be digitized. What’s also really interesting is that all of these paternalistic, hierarchical and heavily controlling versions of God, the ones that have destroyed most mystics, women of power and reverence for the earth, etc.–those are the aspects of God being played out by the state. So, that’s why when Ronnie asked me for some poetry recordings to use on his project before maybe going to prison for two years, I was moved to write “Surveillance Eye.” It’s not much text but I guess that’s because I remembered myself as a child, saying the prayer to my guardian angel and the prayer to God to take me if I died in my sleep. The second part of the final track Ronnie used a B roll I wasn’t sure he’d need or use. In it I just pressed record and let myself feel that same dreaminess while I responded to the hateful slogan of home, “If you see something, say something.” I believe the MTA has copyrighted that gem. In a society that is subtly encouraged to numb itself silently except in cases such as “OMG a bomb!” I find that line particularly irksome. So if something gets under your skin, the question to myself often is, “Can you transform it?” That’s essentially how, on my side of it all, the track Surveillance Eye was written.
Lately, I have a pervasive sense of dread. It’s not about world hunger, violence, or big data. My dread is small and petty. I worry that I’ve lost my ability to take a good picture. I worry that I’ve done it all wrong and that somehow all I’ve accomplished is to make a lot a noise and fill it with mediocrity. Even when I don’t worry about all of that futile, self-deluding and self-destructive nonsense I have the dread. Sometimes I play with it. I ask it questions like “Why do you peak on days of natural disasters?” and “Are you here to teach me something?” Maybe soon my pervasive sense of dread will give me a poem, sort of like the cold, night rain gave me the smoker. I have no idea if it will or not, but that’s OK, I like a little mystery. I find it attractive and attractive things tend to keep away my pervasive sense of petty dread as well as major paranoia and well founded disturbances of body and mind. What is the data mind doing to my consciousness? What number does a crappy, dominant vision of God, drilled into all forms of pop culture perform on my consciousness? I might have an idea, but I’d prefer instead to just keep asking the questions, because I’m just a mediocre poet bitch who rebelled against everyone and that’s just one voice I know pretty well. I wonder, what do you know?
What do you think about the world? What does everyone else think? And in the end, I wonder…would anyone adopt the idea of “image wrangling” instead of “image capture.” That language discussion point is most likely–futile, (and I’m not really sold on the word wrangling) but it would serve those language purveyors right if it caught on. That one small adaptation, it could change–something very small inside people’s minds and in time, that would make this mediocre girl’s legacy. I would have liberated untold millions from their relationship to being captured and remaining captive as a natural part of image making. It’s not going to happen, this banal little word change. At least, I don’t think, it will, but if some bigger change happened and that little change was part of it, then well, I’d have accomplished my mediocre best.
~It’s all art. It’s all fine. Keep going. In love.
I’ve just recovered from an amazing night at the Poem Room and am pleased to announce I’m reading again this month at Sycamore Stories. A recent interview with Kelley Brannon, host of Sycamore Stories and one of the inspiring activists who got me down to Zuccotti park back in 2011, is worth a read, since she’s charming and funny and the interview reveals that. I’m incredibly thankful for the mention she gives me and my “Republican boots.” The piece she references, was an improvisation of sorts. I used three old proverbs, taught to me by my grandfather, as a basis for dissecting my time and experiences in the affluent environs of the Rockies known as Boulder, Colorado. I might have also dissected an unfortunate karmic run-in with a Buddhist love-interest with a propensity for vulgar speech, but what happens in the story cave, stays in the story cave.
I’m not sure what I’ll read. I’m not sure what I’ll say, but I’d love to see you and to have you join what will be an open, engaging evening under the stairs at a flower shop/damn fine bar.
April 17th at Sycamore Bar. 8pm
Featuring death defying performances and readings by:
and Kala Jarzey
With Kelley Brannon as your erratic host who may or may not be drunker than you
I’ll be reading a fairytale as part of Macrophone, a Poem Room evening hosted by Drew Vanderburg!
April 9th, 2013 @ 8pm
2 Havemeyer St. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NYC
L Train to Bedford Ave.
Please share in our cosmic journey through language.