I am off to New Brunswick, NJ, for a week. I will be talking about mothers, daughters and cryptophores as part of a Volver roundtable at the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society 2007 annual conference. The event, together with the proximity of New Jersey to Philadelphia —and therefore to the famous Duchamp room at the Philadelphia Museum of Art— makes me feel really excited. I’ll be sure to report upon my return on the 6 November…
Throughout the last 2 years, I have built a very extensive image database, collecting visual things I have encountered in a provisory way, as they may be able to help me make my argument in my thesis. In addition to this, I have also accumulated a number of images documenting my work and creative process. To this day, the archive contains 1106 images, 296 of which are mine, dating from 1998 to 2007. The archive is held on my computer, in folders and directories that are regularly backed up. This method, however, is wholly unsatisfactory to the visual researcher: it prevents me encountering my images by chance, stops the opening of memories lost.
To address this shortcoming, I turned to Apple’s iPhoto, a software package that comes with all Mac computers and claims to visually manage archives of images. As I was importing and organising the images, I decided to create a smart album where all the images that weren’t categorised in other folders would go. I did this in order to capture my work, by far the largest category. This meant I went through the process of importing, which took about one hour, without really seeing my images. So when I finished, this is the folder I first clicked on.
What I found took me by surprise, as the visual often does. In front of me was a roadmap of my thinking for the last 9 years, 2 of which belong to my intense PhD, 7 of which are part of the time leading up to it, with its mistakes, its changes of direction, its uncomfortableness. Seeing the process my practice had been through, its journey, was strangely revealing. Progress is not always evident in a research degree –particularly practice-led– but there it was, right in front of my eyes.
Speaking of fantasies, mine got realised tonight. I like very much meeting Sue for tea, as my meetings with her always have that air of relax and care for self. We usually get out of the artschool and the Cosmo Cafe at Glasgow Film Theatre is a favourite one of ours. It reminds me of a watered down version of the Mies van der Rohe modernist masterclass that is the cafe at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, but that may be my imagination… When she was ordering a couple of hot chocolates, I sat at a table and browsed the theatre’s events brochure. What? David Lynch is coming to Glasgow! Well indeed. And there were 9 tickets left as somebody had just returned them that afternoon. There you go. How lucky can one be sometimes?
So I got to see the great man and it was even better than I could have expected. He is touring with Donovan, promoting consciousness-based education and Transcendental Meditation, both of which may interest me in a peripheral manner but much much less than his films. Still, it’s David Lynch, so got tickets. The evening had two parts, the first of which consisted in Lynch taking on any questions from the audience. Any, at all. How generous is that? Anyway, being in Glasgow meant that politics had to come in pretty soon (after all, we are the city that banjoes) and his first question, asked by a lover of world conflicts –he had a thick Scottish accent and was sporting a top with the Basque flag– turned around Lynch’s recent visit to Israel. What good is TM for people like Palestinians? This question, like many others throughout the night did not, of course, get fully answered. The great director managed to answer, while fluttering his hand, by saying the words he needed to say in order to spread his message.
Apar from that, the Glasgow audience did not have particularly groundbreaking questions (myself included). I should have asked how he kept his hair so healthy. Thank God my friend Sarah went to the BFI, where the audience might have been more metrosexual and informs me that (a) he is currently using a L’Oreal product he bought in Iraq (??!) and (b) he is not overly happy with his current hairdo. the only interesting question came from a lady concerned with the world of dreams and reality. Again, he gave a beautiful, hand-fluttering non-answer. but the best, without a doubt, was when he was quizzed about the meaning of his films, especially Inland Empire. His fluttering got ever more magnificent, reaching ballet-like heights, his words were mesmerising, utterly unconnected to the task at hand.
The best example of his impeccable way of dealing with questions was when someone in the back row attempted to address him with an accent but without a microphone. Lynch closed his eyes and tried to listen intently to the speech, after which he said to his associates: “Is this something about research?” They answered that she was asking him to do a film –she was, but a specific one. Lynch, however, did not need any more information: he committed, of course, films are his thing! The highlight of his good humour came when he got asked about his opinion bout quakers. He opened his unconscious to a joke: “What is the difference between a quaker and a shaker?”, the answer to which he enacted. Genius. I was in awe, and even begun to be convinced about his low commitment attitude to TM (2 sessions of 20 minutes a day for infinite creativity; a bargain).
Donovan came afterwards and his ending the evening was just perfect. Nice songs, a nice man. Glaswegians love their own, so they gave Donovan, from Maryhill, their best singing voices and clapping. I joined in with Mellow Yellow, of course. Why not? Happiness was contagious! I did not even feel sad about not going to the after party shenanigans. The only answer I want from David Lynch are his films, his imagery, his immortal, infinite, incredibly beautiful universe. Besides, Neil invited me to a 10-year Laphroaig shot in the best of our 4 equidistant locals. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can be better than that.
Taking photographs in New York’s Fifth Avenue is a completely different experience to taking them in Glasgow’s Argyle Arcade. I know, I know, this statement may seem obvious to any person familiar with both contexts, but in this global world of ours, where Guinness and Starbucks are ubiquitous, the statement is perhaps a little more profound than it seems on the surface.
For a photographer taking snaps of shops and practices of consumption, NYC is heaven. No one minds! I could be as conspicuous as I wanted and that took me by surprise. There is an air of having seen it all, of displays being photographed constantly by tourists, by anyone. In fact, I am almost sure that those displays are especially created to be photographed, taken, visually consumed. They don’t display things to be bought, rather they are enticements to look, and look more, and look again and look inside the shop. Only the Manolo Blahnik security guard got slightly uncomfortable by my constant snapping and ever more daring compositions (my breath left circles on the shop window).
Glasgow, on the other hand, is full of fear: fear of being taken advantage to, fear of losing property. I realised early on I had to ask permission when carrying the Mamiya around, with its presence and clackety-clack shutter sound. the fear manifested itself in the responses I got:
• We can’t let you photograph in the shop, but the street is public, I suppose
• We had a robbery a few moths back and we can’t allow photographs
• Photographing shops is not allowed –(is this legally true?)
This is what was told to me, but apart from that, I am sure there were thoughts around intellectual property, copying designs or shop displays, building a master plan where the shop configuration, where its structural weaknesses showed themselves. I was looked at as if Art and Research were my covers, even though I had all my GSA staff, SHU student credentials, an outline of my research, and was happy to negotiate. Getting shops in Glasgow was hard work, hence why of my bridal shop and Agent Provocateur photos are night shots. I must, however, give credit to Berry’s, from Argyle Arcade, who were not only incredibly helpful, but also told me they were honoured, as if the business I was carrying out was of great importance (which it is). Lucky for me, they had the best display ever, with a black background and incredibly good lighting, which has spawned really interesting images at least from what I can see in the contact sheets and first scans.
New York has seen it all. Glasgow protect all it has. This is no doubt in part due to the fact that Fifth Avenue and Argyle Arcade are not comparable in global or capitalist terms. If I overstepped the line, the Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Manolo Blahnik corporations, would have fallen on to me with their legal team angels as hard as a vengeance. In New York, I was dealing with anonymous people, standing in for a name of someone they haven’t even met. A part from the occasional busybody, they didn’t care. In Glasgow, however, people had interests, were active agents in the bond I was offering. NYC was easier, but Glasgow was more real and that, I think, is reflected in the screen that separated me from my objects of desire and seduction.
Something strange happens in one’s body when they realise that a fantasy one has had for a while comes true. This is the disturbance –akin to an old box being opened– I experienced yesterday, when I clicked on the link my friend Emilio sent me.
The Galerie du Passage in Paris has a new show on. First blow to my fantasy: the Galerie is situated in one of the old shopping arcades in Paris, a favourite type of construction of mine, as a number of boundaries –outside and in, consumption and contemplation– are blurred. Arcades contain shops that invite you to look more than to buy. Once a flâneuse has crossed the threshold, the arch that represents the entry to this strange street, she is in the realm of visual seduction.
The works shown the Galerie du Passage are David Lynch’s photographs. Second blow to the fantasy: if there is a universe I would like to belong to, that is the Lynchian universe, with its schizophrenics, its personality changes, its bends in time and its Rabbit families. Lynch not only understands my unconscious, but can also represent it with unsettling accuracy.
David Lynch is photographing impossible shoes designed by Christian Louboutin. Third blow to my fantasy: while Blahnik is the uncontested maestro of shoe making in terms of object, Louboutin’s red soles and peep toes make me dream of the type of woman I could be, the type of femininity I know is within me (although hidden behind plimsolls). My red, like in those shoes, is underneath.
There is something strange about the beaten up box that has been opened, something to do with recognition, yet estrangement. Something as if the image the mirror returned was me, but not quite. Something delicate has been added, or else take away. I cannot quite put my finger on it. What do you want from me, fantasy, what do you want?
With thanks to Emilio Cendón, the best photographer alive, and one of the most charming persons I know.
Today, I began the lengthy process of scanning the medium format negatives of the images I took with the Mamiya 645. In order to produce life-size images, I need to scan the negatives at 4,000 d.p.i., which, of course, requires top of the range equipment. The technicians at the GSA Photography department were very helpful and explained the process extremely clearly. The problem was that each image was going to be 340MB and would take 15 minutes to scan and over 10 to save on to my ever-loyal iPod! After a lovely morning lecture (Harry Benson) and an hour and a half in the library browsing books about writing theses, I wish I had been more prompt in going to the studio (so that is why they are open until 9pm Mon to Thu).
From 2 to 5, I managed to scan 5 images and re-read a few pages of Baudrillard’s Seduction. I also had to think carefully about which images to scan, since it is obvious I am not going to be able to work on all 130. That’s for the better, although, once I scanned the first one, I realised that the images did not operate similarly on the contact sheets as in the screen. Colours were duller and unfocused surfaces, were scary, and I was viewing them a fraction of the size I have in my head. That, of course, provoked the third re-think of the day and a further selection was made. I have about 30 on my list, which amounts to 6-7 days of work in the studio. My only relief is that, when I got home and tried opening them in Photoshop, it worked –with the caveat of having nothing else open, working on one image at a time, arming myself with all my rendering patience and saving constantly to avoid system crashes. At 340MB a pop and a 4 year old laptop computer with 1.33 GHz Power and 768MB RAM, I wasn’t counting my chickens.
After scanning and touching up (carefully annotating all my moves on a notebook, for data purposes, but also to be able to understand what I am doing), I will make some preliminary printouts. Something tells me I am going to be surprised at every step of the way and the quicker I get to understand how the end product will operate the better, as that will be what matters in the end, what will hopefully seduce the viewer by showing seduction. Tom was right. This definitely feels like an investigation.
I dreamt Dr Sh— (my psychoanalyst) and I were in the Basque Country, taking a walk towards my Gran’s house. The way was swampy and somehow overgrown with Amazonian-type vegetation. The leaves we
encuntered encountered were enormous and I put that down to my home country changing. Dr Sh— led the way in front of me. At some point, we encountered snails and I mentioned, in passing, that they disgusted me. Dr Sh— reached down the swaped swamp and pulled out a snail or slug the size of a cap cat and showed it to me. I, rationally, explained my emotions. I felt disgusted, but this was an intellectual emotion, a kind of out-of- bidybody experience.
Borrowed from El Guindo. As soon as I find out author, title, and year, I will edit this entry.