This New World

A bit has changed since my last post. Quarantined since March 12, I have not been outside of my immediate, walkable neighborhood since then.

I have a book project that I want to get through, and hoping that I do not have to delay it for a 3rd time. But all the material I was preparing for it – the book was to have photos purposefully shot for it – has changed less than halfway through the completion of the total series. The streets are almost empty. I’m not riding public transportation anymore. I’m not in the neighborhoods which I was shooting in. Many people (but not all, shame on them) are wearing surgical masks in public. I want to publish this book, but have to figure out how, given that everything has changed in such a short amount of time, so unexpectedly.

In other news, I’ve deactivated my FB account until further notice. First, because of the ugly political scene in this country, and how little people can agree on – including believing that this is a deadly pandemic, and that everyone needs to be on the same page in stopping its spread till we have a better method than isolation. Second, because of how quarantine is making otherwise more tolerant people I know in the virtual world, if not crabby, then downright mean, and not just to people they don’t know irl, but also to those who they do … I’m a working of mother of two teenagers, as well as a wife, who’s now trying to telework with less than ideal internet reception, while taking care of the things I take care of in the domestic sphere. I mean, I really don’t have tolerance left for extra acrimony, irrelevant, ceaseless and unhelpful arguments to aggravate my already perpetually under the gun for SOMETHING ALL THE TIME spirit. Especially if this business is coming from people who I am not invested in with a real, substantial, and long-term, supportive friendship.

Yes, at the end of the day, many acquaintances. But precious few people I’d bleed for. We’ll pick it up when times are less challenging, and I have an extra mental wastebasket available to throw the pointless stuff into. Right now the world at large, my work and domestic responsibilities are balled into one sphere and I really don’t have much of an independent life, never mind any space to really rest where no one is asking me for something and taking up all my time and mental, spiritual and physical energy.

Backtracking to social media though, before I shut FB down, I did form a group on Vimeo for very short, experimental pandemic-era videos. I contributed two so far, both starting with the word “meditation” – I want to eventually group them into a series (yes I still like working in series/chapters). They are Meditation 1, and Meditation 2. I haven’t had a group on Vimeo for a very long time. This is the only community project I am taking on right now, artistically. Eventually, when I have more perspective, it would be interesting to make a channel of all the videos from everyone which were added to this group. We’ll see how many there are at the end, whenever that happens…

On Instagram I have also been paring things back. During walks with the children during the golden hour (after my work hours), I have been taking shots of what’s in my neighborhood. I miss my street photography dearly, but this is a kind of experience that comes every 100 years or so, and everything noticed counts, even if it doesn’t make much sense now. That time will come.

I’d like to say, before closing, that I’ve confirmed a few things about myself during this more quiet time. I am not ambitious in the sense that I need to climb ladders and step on other people’s heads to achieve some dubious fame that random dubious people decide to bestow on me. Really, I live my life with my own goals at the forefront, and they don’t involve dependence on other people to achieve. Specifically with regard to my beliefs, with regard to living them because they aren’t foreign concepts to ME, and with regard to my creative expression, which is on no one else’s timeline or requirements.

You’d think that anyone who has an artistic inclination would be rebellious and independent, telling everyone who has an opinion to piss off and just be happy doing their work for themselves. Not so. This is a myth, a lie, and it’s perpetuated by pretty much everyone who hears the word “artist.”  Just as the idea that “art” is some free thing that grows from the spirit and can’t be contained by others’ academic, critical, and commercial interests. That it is something spiritual that rises above everyone’s heads like a prayer.

No, this is not the truth. It is the ideal. But we are earthbound and comfortable within the confines of what is accepted as a definition of this field and this identification, and there is real pressure to conform to what has gone on before. And real fear of being “unknown.” Especially if you are fueled by power and fueled by accolades. If you are, then recognize and acknowledge that you are in that camp, that you’re working within the system – but  that you’re not independent of its influences on your peace of mind. ‘fess up. You’re not the equivalent of John the Baptist, or any of those other raving prophets, toughing it out for their own reasons. And that is fine. It’s human, and normal, and also, not radical at all.

To declare not to care about all that, the climbing, the politics, the accolades, isn’t without trials. It means being considered “outside.” Always. It means that when you call your rad artist friend not so rad because they care about that stuff, they resent your saying so, and/or try to find a way to explain it that never does seem to gel to you. And having worked for other people your whole life, your whole life observing how very similar work politics is to a high school popularity contest, the gangs that rule the block till they’re replaced by yet another gang and so forth, I think that life of experience and observation of the way that people behave in groups is nothing if not damn valid.

Not caring about politics and accolades also means the inevitable ostracization when people notice you’re stubbornly not joining in their mindset and methodology . It’s something you’ve learned to get used to, if not expect right off the bat. This is is not a negative mindset, just the acknowledgment of a real possibility, having gone through years of experience observing how others’ power interests and insecurities affect one’s personal standing within a group. In sum, it’s a rare situation when you meet someone in general who isn’t solely focused on the crowd as their way to fulfilling their needs for this and that. I guess it makes sense, strength in numbers? But only for those who won’t rock the boat by being a different kind of thinker.

If you’ve experienced it enough times, you lose your fear of ostracization, you become more and more determined to pursue your own expressive path, leading your own life as you choose to, because everything else tastes sour to you. Because you wouldn’t have decided to pursue it in this way, if you didn’t already feel “outside” of the way your larger environment operates from the beginning of time. And will continue to operate in the way that it does as long as humans are who they are, and enjoy doing what they do to one another to “win.”


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