Tag Archives: presence

… musings re: photography, art, secret hoards …

When I take a photograph I stop time, from where I stand, from where I walk, from where I look. The image becomes inner, a pregnant, eternal moment. Artists who engage with the intimate reality mirrored in their surroundings might admit, or not, the erotic dynamics at play in this search for a glimpse of the beloved, an essence shining through the cracks from beneath fleeting surfaces. It’s not only artists who frame flashes of significance, everyone selects, does the stop-motion of perceiving, it’s how stories are made.

A self-portrait of Vivian Maier

A self-portrait of Vivian Maier

In 2007 a photographic archive was auctioned off to recover debts for storage rent. Most of her life Vivian Maier (1926 – 2009) worked as a nanny. In her free time she recorded what caught her eye, predominantly in the streets of New York and Chicago. She captured poignant moments, like soul mirrors, in brief encounters. Read the tale of how her archive was discovered and the puzzle of her life was assembled HERE

During my stay in Amsterdam I visited a retrospective of her work from 1950s to 1980s at Foam Gallery

It is my guess that, while she was without means to have innumerable film rolls printed, Vivian Maier distinctly memorised each unpredictable encounter she captured. What makes me think so?

Photo by Vivian Maier

Photo by Vivian Maier

The memory of defining and framing something on the move is powerful, with or without camera, though a creative record helps structuring and symbolising our perceptions. During the 70s, when I worked as photo-journalist, using analogue cameras, a Rolleiflex, like Vivian, but also Nikons, and a Hasselblad, I never wasted film. Each image was taken by choice.

Certain frames live on in my memory as iconic elements, and I recall the exact instant when I pressed the shutter, encapsulating something of essence.

A number of years ago I lost three 35 mm film-rolls on a plane from Berlin to London. I thought they were secure in my make-up bag, but the bag slipped unnoticed down the seat and I never recovered it. I mourned. It was the first time I re-visited Berlin, my mother’s city, since I was 7 years old.  Yet the images I took in Berlin and of the friends I travelled with are still crystal clear in my mind.

I recall the massive amount of negatives and prints I burned at an earlier point in my life, not to be burdened with storage, not to sit on my laurels, and for other reasons – profound stupitity, I know,  a self-destructive streak haunted me at the time. The vanished portfolio is now a secret hoard lingering in my memory. It is also a scene in my mythic poetic novel, still awaiting publication.

The story of the discovery of Vivian Maier’s secret archive grips the imagination. Why? Maybe because we all yearn to evidence our existence. Even if only one person holds up a mirror of approval, can GROG us, we are affirmed.

With the cornucopia of individual creativity unleashed through the new technologies of recent decades, the chance of public recognition is fickle, sponsors look for novelty, notoriety, eccentricity, looks, hard elbows …  A good deal depends on timing, and luck.

Yet no individual perspective is alike. The passions we pursue in communion with what we encounter inside, outside, our search, our uniqueness, is forever in need of expression. We want to be witnessed for the coherence and ingenuity of our individual world, our deeply felt values, skills and insights. And yet – I heard it said – if Einstein’s equation of relativity had never been published, it would still have influenced and shifted the collective consciousness.

I deduct that since we all benefit from the inspirations and inventions of individuals who may never have received credit for their genius, their life’s work, and since nothing is ever truly lost (I believe,) there can be solace in our giving, be it acknowledged or not, while we keep on the lookout and ready ourselve for a glimpse of the beloved’s curl.

And of course, nothing prevents me, or you, from expecting miracles 🙂

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… delights of peek-a-boo …

In ways we project ourselves into our surroundings, as children we delight in the appearance, vanishing and re-appearance of a loved object or person.

Georgios Jakobides - 1895

Georgios Jakobides – 1895

To observe something reappear is as thrilling as green shoots returning in spring, as inexplicable as birth itself. Hide and seek or peek-a-boo are games said to adjust toddlers to ‘object permanence,’ an illusion we embrace, yet these games are also the prelude to a lifelong quest for the mystery of existence. Children, unless talked down to and belittled, ask deep questions – where do I come from, where did the candle-flame go, where has grandpa gone, how long is time, how come I see things with my eyes closed?  The same questions spurn lifelong passion in scientists.

Growing social, we slip into collective rituals of seeing, feeling, thinking and doing. We obey, ignore or defy rules meant to serve cultural cohesion, rules promising acceptance and success in life. We respond or react according to circumstance and temperament. Some of us have a need to belong, feel safe, protected, others may venture into the unknown, become spiritual warriors on a warpath with obstacles, often rituals, blocking individual potential.

I’m a warrior learning from obstacles, one of which I like to share.

You may recall commands, often subtle and inferred, by early significant persons, communicated via responses, to you, to life, based on generational ideals. These commands worm themselves into the psyche and settle around an inner critic. While well-meaning in aiding conscience and integrity, this critic can also become strident and counter-productive.

In my case – the critic periodically berates me for not keeping my own promises … stay on top of things, complete tasks,  respond to request without delay, call on friends, de-clutter, prepare accounts, fix the warped front-door, only so many roll-ups a day, only two glasses of wine … the tick-off list is … ah well … endless …

Good objectives aside – the more the opinionated critic berates my shortcomings, the more I need to release the tension by transgressing self-imposed rules – otherwise the noise of my inner battle drives away the bird of intuition, the unexpected and the wonder of each day.

I listen, but won’t bow to the critic, obey in fear and cage the bird. In my book, this sums up the making of tyrants.

More and more often I remember to soften the demands. Instead of berating I praise myself for small promises kept, for what has gone well, small steps in overcoming this stealthy ritual that does not benefit my aims. It’s my idiosyncratic strategy: no fighting, no surrendering. Try it – humour the critic into humanness and adjust your rules of engagement with the elegant phenomenon of now.

P1050813 - lowres You may ask – how does my strategy relate to hide and seek and peek-a-poo?

It’s the play with reality by the child in us – the delight in re-discovering being.

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This little bird cheered me, it arrived flattened in a Christmas card. Instructions read: Stand me up on my feet.

Blessings to my friends for 2014 – may the bird of intuition frequently visit you.

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… distractions …

We meet monthly, a group of local friends, offering workshops or discussing on a theme. Last we explored distractions, which, well, distracted us from other things that afternoon, like the rain outside, concerns about people being unwell, family, and the buffet waiting for us in the kitchen. Most of all, it made us present to each other. I share here my reflections on the theme after our discussion. A dictionary definition of distraction is: To cause to turn away from the original focus of attention or interest; divert.

We listed outer distractions – basically life’s realities, though they tend to get in the way of more immediate objectives and disturb our peace of mind:

Physical pain, noise, smells, temperature, food, weather, world news, politics, economics, ecology, bills, insurance renewals, nuisance calls, other people’s feelings and projections, family demands, accumulated clutter, maintenance tasks, bureaucracy, lack of response to a query, mail, internet, waiting … little things … we agreed that negatives can turn positive  🙂

Life’s demands tumble into our oscillating mind patterns as dissonances that excite or inhibit our well-being. Conflict results when we resist what’s happening. We may suffer loudly or in silence, or distract ourselves from unpleasant distractions through the innumerable uplifting or numbing sensations our culture offers.

As our discussion spiralled, we homed in on personal routines for dealing with distractions. They differed for each of us, depending on mood, attitude, the state of our nervous system, and the importance of the disrupted task. Days when everything is an effort are made up for by days when everything flows – bliss.

We went on to explore inner distractions, often reactions to outer ones.

Worries, anxieties, despair, obsessive thoughts, anger, pressure of deadlines, excessive associations and ideas, day-dreaming, nagging conscience, hesitations, doubts, guilt feelings, hastily given promises, boredom, pending obligations …

Regarding hesitations and doubts, the term gut-feeling came up. Can it be trusted? Somatic memories may trigger avoidance, a signal to protect us from danger, though the signal could equally sabotage our desires and deeper needs, whereas a higher level intuition might encourage us to re-evaluate what seems obstructive, and take a risk.

We find it exhilarating to watch wild animals chase prey, with total focus and concentration, fulfilling a vital need, which is why competitive sports are so attractive, where a clear and undivided attention towards a single objective gives an energy rush, even to the bystander. Having a passion, or specialising with narrow focus on mastering one skill or subject, is satisfying. Wave-ripples, most southern point, Lizard, poster desat

Having nothing that fully absorbs us for periods of time, we may be be tempted to roam in a vast sea of beautiful glittering mirror shards that will reflect a fuzzy sense of ourselves. But that’s fine too.

I had various passions in my life, which eventually come circling round to writing. One of my blog posts from last year contains a small excerpt from my second novel, where a character, Cara, shares a slice of the random processes of her mind. She turns out to be the myth-maker, the storyteller. If you’re a little peculiar, like me, you’ll grok this: https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/the-wild-horse-of-the-mind/

I’m a dreamer. Like Cara shares in the excerpt, I occasionally like to let the horse of my mind run wild. I find wild things that way. Random, for better or worse, functions as the creative trickster in my writing, where distractions become allies. Sure, countless mental prompts heap up and demand execution. I procrastinate, adopting patience. My nagging voices are not jailers. They’re easily humoured until the time is right for a blitz of action.

In technological advanced societies, where the struggle for physical survival is being replaced by a struggle for identity, or its new definition, ‘brand,’ distracting prompts accumulate quickly. On the virtual stage I must become visible and speak up in order to engage with others. Love or hate the screens, messages keep wavering by. I become a switchboard for exceedingly complex influences. When switched on, I’m plugged into a bigger brain, the vast extensions of a collective nervous system. There is a challenged to assimilate differences and fast-changing knowledge. This calls for tolerance like never before. The Twitter stream, for example, of succinct messages and links, can be dizzying. However, if monitored and surfed with purpose, the information flow cuts through swaths of mindless, sensational news and opens meaningful connections across the world.

Fewer people are born into the blueprint of a tradition that defines them in terms of their roots, their country or family. The question – where do you come from – is shifting to – where do you put yourself, and to what purpose do you channel your energy? Yew-at-Waverley

Information available, the privileges we have, the choices and commitments we make, require astute intelligence of the heart, flexibility of mind, and they come with responsibilities. In today’s shadow play, we see people confront injustice head-on at the risk of becoming sacrificial heroes, which takes more courage than fighting a dragon. Others, like me, play subtler games. Those who have not found a purpose in their lives may get carried along by the sensation of it all, and continue searching for what matters most, for their deeper need.

So these are my reflection on the theme of distraction our friend introduced. We closed the meeting with a silence – an excellent practice for evoking a blank canvas/screen to re-draw one’s track on. Our time sees distractions speeded up, exposing us to multiple perceptions, some of them abhorrent to us, some of them uplifting. It is freed psychic energy that needs channelling. To develop a useful strategy for dealing with psychic energy we must look inside ourselves to find our homing device, our purpose, new communities, and new meaning.

I hope my reflections make you think about how you deal with distractions.

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Just discovered – a brilliant article  in relation to our speedy electronic communications, it looks at the glitches that can reveal something truly distracting, and sobering … the mortifying ordeal of being known

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/15/i-know-what-you-think-of-me/?smid=fb-share&_r=2&

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