Monday, October 13, 2008

Week 5 Reading

Here are a few gems from this week's reading in McQuade & McQuade, Chapter 5: Tip, don't skip the reading pieces this week.
  • "How to Live" by Annie Dillard, p. 426-428
  • "Coming into the Country" by Gish Jen, p. 434-436
  • "Cool like Me" by Donnell Alexander, p. 440-443. I really fell for this one, when I read, cool is "about making a dollar out of a 15 cents." I think this could be a starting point for a discussion on the connection between the current "hipster" cool that steals from low-class culture--trucker hats, flannel/plaid shirts and mohawks/mullets. Originally I thought an article on cool was going to be, well, lame. But Alexander really does understand cool. The synthesis of difference and living by it, not just wearing it or speaking it, but being it.
  • "24 People for whom I haven been mistaken" by Roger Shimomura, p.474-475
  • "National Museum of the Middle Class Opens in Schaumburg, Il." by The Onion. p. 488-89. What was greatest about this piece is their decsribing the middle class workers work week--eight hours a day, five days a week, and weekends off, and it makes it so clear that this is NOT the way we, people, have to live their lives. It's how we choose to or are made to choose to. The work week is just a construct and I think everyone's lives would be a lot better if the system would reevaluate what is best for the people and the economy regarding the balance of work and life. (I strongly support afternoon siestas and shutting down for the month of August. Ohhh France!)
Pick of the Week: Nikki Lee's collection from p. 407-419. The images were fairly intersting in their own right, but when I was reading her bio and realized that it was her in every image, that she had worked her way into each of the different subcultures, I was blown away. Mostly, I'm curious about how she infiltrated these cultures. She altered her "hair, makeup, clothing, body language, and even weight to fit in." It seems and makes me question the level of deception. Did her new friends know nothing about her project, did they know anything of her when the make-up and clothes were off? If so, how did they feel? If not, how did they feel when she was suddenly no longer a part of their lives? (I'm making the assumption that if she didn't tell them, she must have removed herself from them, because how could she maintain so many facades simultaneously.) The photos ask who are you and what makes you you? But they also seem to be answering that you are shaped wholly by your environment. Perhaps, if we were provided with her personal feelings regarding her experience, we could see the role that nature (ie genetics, ethnicity etc) played and/or intertwined with environment.

6 comments:

Samuel said...

I find the 40-hour work week strange, too. In fact, I find a lot in corporate America to be kind of a pain. I'm just starting to read Walden and am loving Thoreau's comments about society. (If you hate Thoreau, I'm sorry for plaguing your blog with this, by the way.) Here are a few of his comments, which I think relate:

"Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them."

"It is never too late to give up our own prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof."

"Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new."

And I could go on. Anyway, there are a lot of things I think need changing about the way we live!

As for the photographs, I too, wondered about Lee's technique in catching the photos. Seemed exploitative to me. I mean, sure, she got some great pictures out of it, and she proved she was able to infiltrate a group through clever costumes and smooth talking (maybe that's a bit harsh), but I also wondered about the people she took the pictures with. Hope their feelings weren't too hurt by what she did.

h. van de mark said...

Yeah, I guess that was what was ultimately bothering my about Lee's photographs--I wonder if she was hurting people's feelings. Something about the first image feels intimate, so to know that she might have been creating a ruse with him, seems unfair.

Maybe it's time I read Walden.

jmc said...

I remember seeing the Nikki Lee project in 2001 in Vice Magazine. They focused on her immersion method. In the Seeing and Writing Q&A, she stated that she doesn't like the technical aspects of photography. I find that interesting, and it brings to mind a question: Can someone still be a photographer if they don't actually click the shutter?

Her projects remind me of John Steinbeck. He immersed himself in the migrant worker community moving from Oklahoma to Southern California, but still kept an objective distance from his subjects. Nikki Lee seems to break that barrier, by actually becoming one of her subjects.

jmc said...

p.s. anytime you want to face off on a crossword, let me know.

Samuel said...

we should have a crossword faceoff! Although you guys would kill me. I'm not that good at it. But if I could invite myself, I'd do it.

h. van de mark said...

i didn't even think about the whole who's clicking the camera part... hmm.. it seems like she's a performance artist more than a photographer? but then again, what's in a name?

sam you can totally be in on the crossword face off. although, i'll have to put some thought into how to do this.