Friday, October 22, 2010

Talkity, Talk, Talk

On Wednesday evening, I gave a presentation to an undergraduate class at NYU, in the photography department. It was a class called Processes and Practices (or something like that) led by a friend and artist, Erika DeVries. Although photography is peripheral to my work, I am heavily into process over product so Erika thought it might be good for her students to see it. She also asked me to teach a little yoga practice at the beginning, which was kind of fun - we only did a small amount of asana since most people really were not dressed for it and the floor was less than clean. Then we did nadi shodana, a pranayama exercise and a very brief meditation.

After their bodies and minds were primed, I started blathering about my work. Maybe I shouldn't say blathering but I often feel a little nauseous after giving talks about my work, which leads me to believe it might not be so good to spend that much time talking about myself. In any case, talk I did. It was a four-hour class! I chose projects that were especially process oriented - The House Museum, The Knitted Mile, Spindle 7, House Study/Handmade, Knitting Sprawl and Unconditional Yes. See my website for information if you are curious.

The students were lively and asked great questions. Erika had asked them to read the first chapter of the wonderful book titled The Gift by Lewis Hyde in preparation for my visit. So they were definitely keyed into my explorations of gift culture and of the whole notion of giving freely. As photographers, they were a little taken aback by such object-less work, or work in which the results disappear. But I could see some were intrigued. After my talk, I participated in looking at the student's work-in-progress. They are all making semester-long projects. As someone who received a "D" in photography in art school, I definitely don't pretend to understand the technical side of taking pictures so I was a little out of my league there. I was so impressed at how they shared their thoughts about each other's work openly, honestly and constructively. It was really refreshing and encouraging to see their work, feel their energy, and be immersed in that atmosphere.

There were some surprises too. One woman who spent my whole talk looking at the clock and yawning, came up to me afterwards and made a point of thanking me and asking if I teach yoga somewhere nearby. It was a good reminder that you can't know how your work will affect someone. Isn't that one of the great mysteries (and attractions) of making art?

And so this isn't a totally text-only entry, here is a photograph I dug out from my House Museum files for the talk.

It was from 2007, when a group of local residents worked with Marlene MacCallum to create photographic installations in THM. Dorothy King from the local CBC radio station is interviewing Midge Jones, one of the residents. Now that I am looking at this picture again, I realize what a photographic nightmare it is - back lit and poorly framed. No wonder one of the students asked me if I ever considered using photography to document my projects - disasters such as this clearly didn't count as "photography" in his book!

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