Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mirrors and the Cellar

Another Field trip today- this was the second last of four big outings for our class this quarter. It was complete with Indian museums, junk and scrap yards, as well as ice cream, pottery and dolls. Of course throughout the entire trip I was much more conscious of photography through mirrors and themes of dolls/mannequins, and memento mori, especially after last night reading a book on Czech photographer Jindřich Štyrský. He often photographed objects from amusement parks and fairs, storefront windows, and funerary objects. Karel Sro goes on to describe how "Štyrský's view becomes the shop window in which the world is taking place and he carries the shop window inside himself. The object at which he aims his camera is also the eye observing the observer".
That certainly made more sense to me now- how we view ourselves through multiple mirrors and lenses and fragments, reminders of human presence and death, stopped yet fleeting time. Always, it seems I latch on to certain things to discover they've already been done, of course, but it is also comforting and helps to figure oneself out, as this is just the way that others have explored their own psyche, almost 100 years ago. So much and yet not much has changed. The only difficulty is working with these images even though I now have this extra knowledge about their why and how. It is a little stifling to not simply work intuitively. Sometimes knowledge is a curse.

I had also spent the night before watching Jan Svankmajer's "Down to the Cellar" featuring a young girl who goes down to fetch potatoes- a seemingly impossible task, encountering all of her anxieties of the adult world- all seeming strange, threatening, and incomprehensible. And of course, featuring the menace of coal being shoveled down in the depths- a man sleeping in piles of it and a woman making coal cakes in a flaming oven. The girl shakes her head and never accepts their offers. Also, the black cat and mysterious rolling and disappearing potatoes sabotoge her attempts to get back upstairs. I certainly relate to the dank basement full of groaning furnace bellies, mysterious machines, and an avalanche of coal.

Jan Svankmajer, Down to the Cellar, 1983

So I leave you here with some images from the trip- mirrors, an intriguing bridge in Zanesville, and photographs in pottery-making and a Charlie Chaplin exhibit (another one who highly impressed the Dadaists). Till then...

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