Nothing would mean anything if I didn’t have a life of use to others, says Angelina Jolie.
Oliver Sacks said we are our internal self-narrative, the narrative we describe our experiences, the experiences of our acting and the experiences of our feelings. Without an internal self-narrative we have no identity, we don't know who we are.
We become ourselves through others who we interact with, who we share experiences, feelings and emotions. It means the self is always touched by the otherness, it's about finding or identifying the self in the other-self, according to Susan Sontag, who we recognize their features, mood, feelings, culture, believes and acting in ourselves. We can literally say that plurality is the law of the earth, without the other we are left with our thoughts and living solely in reflection creates insatiable desires, the endless pursuit to fill the emptiness (a biological unbalance) and feed a starved self-image, says Hannah Arendt. An urge to act because only through acting we can feel real and fulfilled. Experiences nurture our senses and through it is born the Self, says Fréderic Lordon who describes it as the economics of joy.
Empathy is the ability to put ourselves in others shoes so we become kind and honest to others as if we were doing it for ourselves, because we are feeling how it is to be in the other's position. This causes the brain to produce serotonin, that makes us have a well-being feeling. The same when someone is kind and honest to us, we have the empathy to put ourselves in their shoes and we understand they putting themselves in our shoes, allowing them to feel good in such expression towards us. For our brain it means we are socially understood and accepted. It is the cause of a socio-biological harmony because from others acceptance and understanding comes self-reassurance and self-acceptance. But we can also call it as love (Agape love to be more precise, the highest form of Christian love) that you can have towards friends, neighbors and even strangers. But if people feel alienated from each other in society it causes an opposite feeling and reaction called cynicism.
Empathy, social confidence and play are strong related, Play is embedded not only in humans but in all kind of animals; Fish, lizards, spiders, birds, they all play. It was found that play is part of evolution and as important as sleeping and eating according to scientist Stuart Brown. Animals that grow up playing have more social confidence and social intelligence, more empathy even towards other species, becoming less aggressive by showing less sign of violence and more relaxed. Some animals, such as rats, become depressed if hindered of playing. On the other hand, when growing up without playing animals and humans develop social anxiety.
Play is universal, part of every human being’s creativity and the source of a meaningful life. The capacity to add something of one’s own to the common world is the most elementary form of human creativity. If such capacity is destroyed, which can happens for many reasons such as economic isolation, social isolation or cultural isolation, isolation becomes all together unbearable, according to Arendt again.
Happiness is found on joy. We have joy on things that make us feel a biological and social harmony. The biggest joy one can have is to appreciate oneself as the cause of joy to others, which gives the person a grate power of acting and interaction (socially acceptance or the sense of belonging). Unfortunately, in our society, there is a big competition for that power through glamour, popularity, money, fame, status, etc; Things that causes the monopolization of joy, of the acting power, of social integration and harmony. Consequently, from such monopolization comes hate, blames, humiliation, envy, jealousy and further distress people causes to others, including exploitation of others or submission to others since being social is a biological necessity. Aloofness is the bureaucratic self images, or illusion, of a social power of belonging, as well as the power of being a gate-keeping of the social belonging.
Acting and playing means appearing. To appear involves confidence and risk, both that comes from trust. Trust we find where we identify ourselves with otherwise the other feels alien to us. When the otherness appears as alien to us we feel judged, excluded, hatred, cynic and not being able to act because of anxiety caused to such feelings, consequently not being able to become; Not being able to build an "I", said Alan Watts. The monopolization of joy through money, aloofness and even culture alienate people, the cause of feeling excluded from the socio-biological harmony.
The conclusion is that have fun is a serious matte. Through acting and playing we develop imagination which is important for us to gain a wider perspective of our reality, from our senses nurture , which means less alienated or less averse to different things and people.
So love people for let you express your empathy and let them express their empathy. Feel the serotonin effect together. Don't take life and people too serious but play and then let them go, move on. Be grateful for the moment experience you got and the nice memories they helped you stamp in your self-narrative. Be grateful to have an other person who accept you for such exchange for your socio-biological harmony, because it demands trust above all. If you have nobody to play with, make art.
At the end we are all the same only in different circumstances. Thank you for your trust on my act, that gives me a self-narrative about who I am and where I belong to, which without I would not be able to find my Self and there would be no “I”.
As a newborn we don't know that existed a world before us, we don't know that the things and people we see, hear and interact were there before us, we don't even know the concept of "before". When a newborn cries as a reaction of the uncomfortable or painful feeling of hunger their mother offers the milk from her breast, while for the newborn it is as if they have created the milk out of his cries, it is as if they have create the breast, as if it is appearing from nowhere; for the newborn even their mother is his own creation, as everything that there is out there and come in contact with them. Donald Winnicott explains it's natural for newborns to feel like everything comes from them. It's not a thinking, not a conceptualization in their heads (since they have none) but only a sensation.
If we feel people and things comes from us then it is as if they are us, it is specially true in relation with newborns and mothers who they experience the more frequency and intense touch, glance and care; who the newborn recognize the voice, the movements and the heartbeat when in their her womb.
The process of growing up is a phase of frustration because it is when we face the harsh reality that we can't have things as would please us and whenever we want all the time. It is when we start to realize that our mothers are an independent person with her own individuality, that things don't disappear when we don't see, feel and hear them anymore but they just go somewhere else, in an other place and reality that exist independent from us and was there before us came to the world.
Winnicott explains it is important for the child to express their frustration; The frustration expression happens in many ways, from associating people and things with good or bad personalities they learn from stories, by expressing and illustrating such associations in drawings, through playing which Winnicott described as a serious thing for the child, because it is through playing children try to make sense of the world and express their feelings; by expressing the act of love or hate and even destruction when the frustration feels unbearable, such as kicking doors and throwing things on the floor in anger. When toddlers are repressed, forbidden or punished, for being aggressive or destructive, they express their frustration in dreams, often as a nightmare.
All expression, of any kind, is an act of creation and destruction of our wishes and frustration even for grown ups. The act of building things, shape things, drowning and interacting are acts of creation that often help us to deal and overcome things in life that we can not have as we wished. In building and shaping things, or painting and drawing, in an aggressive manner or in an odd, freak, antic form can be an expression of destruction. At the end, what differ adults from toddlers other then becoming civilized, which means learning to repress and express our feelings of love (creation) and frustration (destruction) in a civilized way?
Depending on how we were allowed to overcome our unbearable frustrations is how we learn to deal with it in adult life. Not being able to overcome our natural frustration while growing up creates damaged adults who becomes little dictators, manipulative, aggressive, expressing their emotional pain with mean comments about people, through aggressive identitarian expression (such as football team support, nationalism or so) or through political and ideological position as representation of good and evil to be fought and imposed as they wish. The wanting of creating the world the way they want and the frustration of not being able to, which turns people nihilist.
Art helps us to deal with our feelings, it helps us to become civilized, it is the playing and the symbolic association we do to things, just like toddlers do which deep inside it is always serious for helping us to make sense of this world. Every act and interaction is an expression; From the little help we offer to a stranger, in mean comments some people do about others' appearances, in art, especially in confusing art, all is a form of expression.
Maybe because of its expressiveness representation people normally expect art to have a message, so they try to interpret what pieces of art say or what they are about, turning art into a utilitarian object that needs to have an explanation in order to be accepted and recognize as art. But as Susan Sontag says in "Against Interpretation", art is not about something, art is not supposed to have an utilitarian use for the public who appreciate and collect it, art is not about something. Art is a thing of its own, its only use is to experience it, sense it, as we are supposed to sense the world around us, shapes, sounds, colours, texture, composition pasterns and so. The same was a child kinking the door because of frustration is not a message but a sole expression of frustration, a something to be experienced in order to overcome the frustration, a hope that out of the destruction a greater figure will establish order. Reason why adults should not ask toddlers why they are misbehaving, they don't know and according to psychoanalysts such question only creates more confusion and frustration in their heads, which causes them to overthinking, leading them to mental stress and depression.
We can create and recreate meanings according to our own individual or collective understanding and experiences. Meanings are important, they are the associative representation we use to make sense of the world, consequently we use such meanings in our conceptual expression. But meaning and truth are not the same thing, so art is not about the message it carries (the meaning we give to it) but about the experiencing of its expressiveness, as creation and destruction, as overcoming our deep painful and unbearable feeling that causes us to overthink, so we can quite our mind and experience the fulfilling calm stillness behind everything, after the fulfilling act.
We photographers, or any creative and art lovers, have a lot in common with those in love with business and money. Despite the criticism and sometimes conflicting attitude among our differences, resulting the feeling of being against each other, we are looking for the same through different means.
Either if we care about it or not we can't deny that society is highly driven by money, status, aesthetics and so. Values, that are things related to the power of influence. The influence to create and the influence of attracting people persuaded to collaborate with us for our creation. Collaboration that others offer as an exchange of some of the access to such values, which once acquired enough gives them the power to create and to influence.
We know about people who believe that human interaction has only one meaning, and that would be money (which all other values are related to). In this particular perspective, money is what defines you. Your abilities, your brightness, your position in society, your level of access to goods and services and your level of creative power. There is a truth in it, not for natural reasons but for cultural reasons. The only way to survive with an healthy and integrated life balance in today society is through acquiring money (which ironically, the stress and worries related to money often scorn our health and life balance). The amount of money needed will depend on the values and views of those around you I suppose.
What I disagree in this view is about money being the means of every human relation. It's the meaning for social integration at certain level but not the meaning of human interaction. Humans, as any alive organism, strive for survival and according to Antonio Damasio such survival is measured by the organism balance. We have the perception of balance through emotion (visible or invisible somatic action and movements in reaction to something that provoked them), meaning that we perceive what causes us joy or irritability (and anything in between) and react according to it. In short, we build emotional defenses against what causes us distress and emotional attachment to what cause us joy in order to maintain a balance for life preservation and perpetuation. Simple living organisms such as insects, mono-cellular and even bacteria don't have consciousness of their emotions (which is not the same as feelings). Only animals who have feelings (mental images) can feel what they emote, which require a more developed nervous system. As Antonio Damasio simplify in a short quote, "emotions play in the theater of the body. Feelings play in the theater of the mind".
We can then conclude that the meaning of human interaction is Joy. Even if the job we work with is not joyful, we do it for the payment, normally through monetary earning. Money which bring us a joyful feeling, not because of the money itself but because of the joyful things (and people) we can obtain through it. And the most joyful thing one can have is to contemplate oneself as the cause of joy of others according to Lordon.
"Since this [joy] is renewed as man considers his virtues, or his power of acting, everyone is anxious to tell his own deeds, and show off his powers, both of body and mind." - Frédéric Lordon, Willing Slaves of Capital: Spinoza and Marx on Desire.
During my early adulthood I was often taking the buses in front of the building I used to live. As normally, at least for me, I had always been ignored. Not disrespected but ignored. At least until I started attending a flight attendant course that imposed on me the demand of a very formal looking and behavior. When I left home for the first time wearing suit and tie, in a such elegant and status symbol outfit, was when I noticed I had people attention, servitude and privileged treatment. Bus drivers welcoming with "good morning sir", shop attendants looking forwards to serve me first and women who usually would avoid contact and interaction with me were now smiley and approachable. I was the same poor guy as before only that I was in a fancy clothes going to, and returning from, a fancy neighborhood. The talk about the social prejudice in Brazilian society back then was still a kind of taboo among many people (despite today's obviousness), but it was a clear fact I deduced from my experience. Such experience made me feel good about myself, but I could not just ignore the fact that people was treating me based on a believe they have about me that wasn't true, based on my clothes symbolism. A believe on my power of acting, my power of causing others joy, biological and social harmony satisfaction, which they wish to acquire through me.
In 2008 I arrived in Ireland where I met great photographers and models who, thanks to them, I could learn from, build my portfolio with and get some jobs as photographer through. Over all, excluding some exceptions, we were not looking for money or status in a direct way but have fun, have joy. Models, makeup artists and photographers among other creators were happy to be part of projects for the creativity and joy sake, that consequently helped us in further opportunities in our respective industries. Enjoying and respecting each other's work without a snobbish attitude, aloofness, or competition about who has the privilege to be the joy provider to others but agreeing that we share joy among us, making we all feeling in harmony, working with each other, a biological (consequently emotional) and social harmony balance, all offering and acquiring the power of acting from each other, without the monetary gate keeping. Money? it always could be negotiated according to what we could afford. I was paying my bills working in a convenience store which was fine. My time in Ireland was the most joyful and prolific in my life, all that required little money but only trust. I found models searching among university students and I met many people through street photography.
Money is the value that gives us the power of acting, but we must not forget that the monetary value is not in the money itself but in the power of creation, of acting. This is the joy we are after and to truly obtain such joy it requires trust. Otherwise, the joy of monetary power monopoly creates envy and segregation, consequently social stress. John Berger says that the happiness of being envied is called glamour.
"Being envied is a solitary form of reassurance. It depends precisely upon not sharing your experience with those who envy you. You are observed with interest but you do not observe with interest - if you do, you will become less enviable. In this respect the envied are like bureaucrats; the more impersonal they are, the greater the illusion (for themselves and for others) of their power. The power of the glamorous resides in their supposed happiness: the power of the bureaucrat in his supposed authority.” ― John Berger, Ways of Seeing
I arrived in Germany with the expectation to continuous the photography life style I had in Ireland but I was wrong about it. Making contacts became rare, everybody is looking for money even though they don't need it. Being able to offer joy through my work became not enough, because people are not interested in sharing joy but in monopolize it through monetary status, using the money status as gate keeping, as trust symbol. Even among models and creators who look for no payment collaborative work, they often are looking for photographers who show to have fancy tools, a dedicated studio in a fix address. It doesn't matter to them the result and the joy of the activity unless it can be provided through monetary status, as the access to a monopolized joy which they can justify their aloofness and segregation.
It also results on a social fear, a distrust on people who look for joy sharing without segregation, suspicious of them as if they have second intentions, the intention to steal something from you maintained through the monetary gate keeping. Them seen as segregated from the privilege of your monopolistic joy, the ones who lack acting power and consequently have not much to provide as a joy, therefore desperate to take it from you.
Models and photographers seem to compete on their self importance, on who is the joy provider to the other, instead of enjoying it as a joy exchange though helping each other for a same result goal. People are not approachable because of the distrust that strangers attempt of interaction has either monetary or sexual (joyful) goal or is a mad person. The other human interaction attempt can only be about dubious intention of climbing and preserve the intrinsic joy of being the joy provider in a monopolistic status kept through monetary (and sexual) border.
I think the key is empathy and understanding of what really matters, what we are striving for. We are striving for balance that comes with joy. Through such understanding I suppose we can learn the importance of trust and honesty required for us to be able to enjoy life and society together. Because Being envied is a solitary form of reassurance.
There is a certain pleasure on execute things that is distinguished [here] in two categories. The first is the pleasure of archiving the end goal and the second as the pleasure in the activity itself. Both, or any activity we start or engage in, is caused by a mental inquietude. Every mental inquietude, according to Antonio Damasio, is caused by somatic experiences; the reaction when we experience irritation, pleasure and everything in between. Reaction as striving for life balance. We react (emote), then create a mental picture (icon) of the experience which we associate to a meaning, from which we create feelings. Feeling, then, connect us back to mental picture, activating our memories (of experiences). We like to believe we are rational beings when in fact we are emotional beings. We learn, remember, think and execute things based on our mental pictures brought by emotion associate to them, even when we believe we are being pure rational, like in science.
We don't perceive the world and reality as it is but as we are. As the mental picture we have from our experiences are, and meanings associated to them. Our five senses are not meant to reveal us the world out there but to help us keep our life balance regulation (preserve and perpetuate life), in finding food when we are hunger, in find shade when we are tired, in identify danger to avoid and pleasure to chase. The evolution presented us with our mental capacity in order to quick, or better adapt in the short term, to our environment changes, increasing our chances of survival and life perpetuation. Nonetheless, we use our highly developed nervous system to attempt the understanding of reality. We can't experience all, or many, mental pictures at once but one by one and consequently the feelings associated to each of them - although we can experience them so quickly that we don't realize it. - It means that we experience our mental pictures in a linear way, which allow us to experience what we call as train of thoughts. As we are the tool we use to give meaning to reality, we fall in what Kant used to call as The professional thinker fallacy. We perceive time, reality, history and even science in a leaner and progressive way because it's how our mind - and our verbal communication - works; not because reality, time, history and science is linear and progressive. It doesn't mean science does not progress. It means that progress is subjective to our mind.
The will is a mental activity inquietude. Will is not merely the power or choosing or making decision - it's not a mere desire, strive or wanting. - It is rather a conflict between two drives: yes and no, as Hannah Arendt describes in her book The Life of The Mind. The will, before become a concept or mental organ known by philosophers, was interpreted as a duality in one person, as a hidden person inside a person. It's as to have two "I"s, the "I" who commands and the "I" who obey, which the second one perceive both "I"s as a whole willing desire obedience anticipation. The first one is the will. The will is the commanding thought, as described by Heidegger. We Will as overcoming this mental duality conflict.
Every mental activity ceases the sense experience and our senses experience cease our thinking, meaning that when we are thinking (our attention in our mental pictures - train thoughts) we are unaware of our senses perception. If something happens to grab our sense perception attention, we then become unaware of our thinking. In order to fulfill the will we act through our senses (act in the world) which once completed ceases the Will and put us at a mental fulfilling rest (no mental conflict/inquietude but just being), because we cease to want things once we get them.
The first kind of pleasure from execution that I mentioned at the beginning, that means reach to it's end, comes from the wish against the activity itself, which we do in order to overcome it, as an obstacle to or real goal. It's like the Aristotelian thought that says the goal of work is leisure, as the goal of war is peace. Once you execute the activity and reach it's goal you feel fulfilled and at rest, without mental conflict/inquietude (at least for a while).
The second kind of pleasure we have from executing things, is not in the activity end but in the activity experience itself. Duns Scotus, one of the most original and important philosophers from middle-ages, called it as love. The transformation of the Will in love. It's the activity that doesn't need to reach it's end in order to bring a restful mind. At the same time, because it never reaches it's end it never ceases the will. So the activity causes temporary pause in the Will expectation for an end, and such temporary pause, during the activity, causes us a constant fulfillment, the pleasure in the activity and not on it's end. Or in other words, the goal of the activity is not to get something once it's end (like leisure we expect get from the end of the work or peace we are after when we do war), but the goal is the activity itself.
Coming from a religious philosopher it explains that the divine love, or true love, is the fulfillment one have for a desired object not through possession (which would ends the desire) but through pure activities interaction/creation around, or related, to such desired object.
While for Nietzsche the will is a destructive power. The goal of the will is to become it's master, but once events happened the will have no power. You have no power in shape the past, or as in Nietzsche words: The Will cannot will backwards. For him, as well for Heidegger, it's the source of our duality (the will) conflict. What is left for the will frustration of not being the master of past events is to destroy it, by willing new events to pass in which the Will can be the master.
Ancient Greek philosophers didn't know the will, but they had a parable about the best athlete being the one who is not looking for glory or fame (the goal to archive at the end of the sport activity), but the one who finds the pleasure in the sport itself. Something similar we think today about artists, photographers or creators in general. The true or the best creator being the one not doing it for money or fame, but for the art sake. The activity not as a gateway to happiness but the happiness itself. Or as the Greek philosophers described, one as both actor in the stage of life and spectator of their own act. The individual duality working together and overcoming it's internal duality conflict (inquietude).
The Oriental thinkers (Daoism) had a similar allegory about life being a stage, where we act, but through our act we forget who we originally are, causing a conflict between our acting character and who we are inside. The conflict is solved when we realize our acting character and, from such realization, we become our own spectator of our own acting in life, enjoying the stage of life both as actor and spectator - enjoying the activity by finding fulfillment in it, doing it for it's on sake.
In a modernist philosophy this duality is interpreted as the social self and original self (this second called Being). The social self hides the internal Being. The Will is the spontaneous and intuitive pulse of our internal self (our Being) emerging during activities focused on the pleasure of the activity sake, as if enjoying our internal self emerging.
What the Ancient Greek Philosophers and Daoism have in common is the perception of life not as linear but as a cycle. In the west, the linear view of life and reality gained space specially because the way we associate our mental picture and meanings to our linear verbal writing system. The concept of a willing-Ego is only possible through such linear view of reality. During Middle-Ages and Renascence, both linear and cyclical philosophical perception of reality developed parallel to each other; as Hannah Arendt describes, Descartes and Leibniz in one side, Hobbes and Spinoza in the other side. Kant somewhere else. Our scientific path during modernism was influenced by the linear perspective which brought the concept of the Will. Such influence was mainly because of a linear religious doctrine imposed by the Catholic Church as political institution in Europe. As Antonio Damasio narrate in his book Looking For Spinoza, he [Spinoza] influenced our great thinkers and discoveries but in a hidden way, behind the linear perception that creates the contradiction betwen free will and causative effects of a linear event of life. The Inquisition banned any kind of Spinozist philosophy to be learned, used or mentioned for more than one hundred years, consequently (and accidentally) giving more highlight to Descartes philosophy.
Cupid is the Roman god of love. He is the counterpart of the Greek god called Eros, the god of erotic love, the painful desire of what is not possessed, of what is somewhere else, inciting the imagination about the absent desired other.
Her eyes gaze at the void while she is deeply immersed in thoughts. Her hands as trying to reach and hold the pain inside. As Siri Hustvedt points out, the somatic experience induced by thoughts are no less real than a direct somatic experiences out in the world. Or as Hannah Arendt said, every emotion is a somatic experience. The source of our imagination and thinking are our feelings. Our feelings are the interpretation and meanings given to what our body senses experience. According to Antonio Damasio, the mind is a product of our body, not a distinct apart from it.
The image has a kind of movement, she is not still but moving, either in a bodily sense reacting to her feelings or in a mental sense of the dizziness, caused the mental travel.
Such movement in the image is not only suggested by her body expression and composition but also by the backdrop in a leaning position. The rugged backdrop is a curtain which suggest the scene is in a private setting. We look not as spectators of the scene but as a voyeur of what was supposed to be behind curtains. On the other hand, it also symbolizes a stage background of a performed act, like in a theater, like a fancy sculpture.
The comedian Jim Carrey said in an interview that, with his comedy, he has realized what all people want: to be free from concern. Despite the fact people usually don't take him seriously I don't think he said it casually. We tend to believe through thinking we will find understanding of things, solutions to problems and knowledge but - the most likely - often we think to withdraw us from reality, without realizing it, so thinking becomes an addiction especially when we are going through stress.
We don't experience what is going on in our mind with our senses. It is as whatever we think about ceases to exist to our body senses once it's projected in our mind. We experience our thinking through meaning, ceasing to be a somatic experience. Or as Alan Watts used to say, those who think too much have nothing to think about other than their own thoughts. Hannah Arendt explained it in her book The Life of The Mind: "All thoughts arise out of experiences, but no experience yields any meaning or even coherence without undergoing the operation of imagining and thinking. Seen from the perspective of thinking, life in its sheer thereness is meaningless; seen from the perspective of immediacy of life and the world given to the senses, thinking is, as Plato indicated, a living death".
Plato's associating thinking to a living death wasn't his negative point of view though. While we are thinking we are unaware of our own corporeality, which Plato understood as achieving our pure soul quality. Plato's philosophical tradition was perpetuated through Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance by the Catholic church, influencing philosophers as Descartes who concluded "the soul can think without the body". This reflects the belief of a duality. The distinction between body and mind (soul).
Against the occidental philosophical tradition is the belief that we think because we have a body; the mind being a product of our body and not distinct from it. Again, thoughts arise out of experiences - from our body senses. As our experiences turn into thoughts the bodily experienced thing disappears. As Arendt puts it, "in order to appear in my mind only, it must first be de-sensed, and the capacity to transform sensed-objects into images is called imagination". The imagination deals only with what is absent to our senses. The mind deals with nothing other than itself. Perhaps we could say that the opposite of thinking is body experience - perceive with our senses.
On the other hand, as the Greek philosophers believed, only the spectator and never the actor can see and understand the spectacle of life, because the spectator is free from concerns. The spectator is not acting in the spectacle but only contemplating it. Different from the old occidental philosophical belief, something suggests this contemplation is not done through thoughts and imagination but only through somatic experiences.
I personally believe the best meaning we can give to life is leisure. As Aristotle understood it, not the free time we got after a day of work, not a play and not a recreation but the deliberate act of abstaining, of hold oneself back from the ordinary activity determined by our daily wants in order to contemplate it. This contemplation is the act of leisure, "which in turns was the true goal of all others activities, just as peace, for Aristotle, was the true goal of war" - quoting Arendt again.
While for the Greeks the spectator may understand the 'truth' of what the spectacle is about, but with the price of have to pay a withdrawal from participating in it, the oriental wisdom presented by Alan Watts suggests something different; that we can be both the actor and the spectator. As the Taoist story goes, imagine if you were god and knew all without surprises; how boring would it be!? So we play this theater of life for fun - just as children do their play sometimes taking it too serious and forgetting it's just a play - and as we grow older we forget who we are, we forget we are wearing a phony by taking it too serious and thinking it's what we are. The spectator is the one who can see the play and enjoy the spectacle while still playing it, only knowing now that it's all a play and people forgot about it. - Like actors playing in a scene for a movie sometimes taking it too seriously mistaking the playing character as themselves, or living the character but still knowing he is another person behind it.
As I understand it – or from my point of view which can be questionable – contemplation is the way we can experience what is around us with our body senses, until the moment we gain the awareness about the spectacle we are in, without our thinking distraction that alienates us from our somatic experiences. This is why I think art is important. The thing that makes us stop and listen, see, feel through our senses. Pay attention to our somatic experience and step aside from the vicious meanings in thinking.
Truth and meaning are not the same thing. Our thinking doesn't bring us the reality truth but meanings, because our verbal language, associated to words, is metaphorical and not analogous to the mental images created from our somatic experiences. "Most people have experienced the odd sensation of estrangement that comes from looking long enough at a single object", says Siri Hustvedt in her book Mysteries Of The Rectangle. She goes on: "for all of us there was a time before we knew what things were called, and then the world looked different. Cézanne's still life is a rigorous effort to return to a vision unburdened by meaning". In other words, Cézanne's attempt was to see in painting what was lost in language.
When we look, listen and feel hard enough, long enough, we contemplate and find a world beyond meaning which tell us something else and which our verbal language is too limiting to comprise.
I remember 15 years ago when I use to see people everywhere talking about the democratization of information and learning thanks to the internet, along with the democratization of expression where anyone can share their knowledge and opinions. The free information accessible to all. It's ironic seeing fake-news and conspiracy theory popularized nowadays.
When I was about 14 years old, in 1997, bullying and other sort of offenses was considered kind of normal, at least in my neighborhood. Often such kind of provocation wasn't taken seriously despite of verbal aggressiveness. This kind of communication was somehow the standard nevertheless, meaning people verbally attacking and defending themselves with further attacks. It was in Sao Paulo (Brazil) which I believe to have an aggressive communication culture probably because of socio-economic gaps, along or as consequence of social segregation and prejudices. Prejudices often disguised as jokes.
In a weekend when I was returning home, I met one of my friends arguing with a bunch of other guys a couple of years old than us. They were calling him stupid and laughing at him because he said Alberto Santos-Dummont was the inventor of wrist watch. This was an information that I also believed to be true but back then I would never waist time and get angry trying to convince others about what I believed to be true. Maybe because life seemed to be already too stressful back then that I would rather avoid any more of it. So I called my friend inviting him to hang out somewhere else, and somehow helping him to distance from the situation he was in. Still stupefied while we were walking away, he was explaining me the other guys didn't want to believe on him. I replied to him suggesting to let it go. At that time I had not conceptualized it but I felt that there are many people who are not curious and interested to know things but only in self-affirmation. I feel I am right so you must be wrong (It has something to do with identity that I will expatiate in an other blog post eventually). Without any real argument to explain they are right they rely on verbal violence by offending and making the opponent angry, in order to feel as the winner of the argument. Honestly, this kind of conversation and its violence is what I see being popularized the most in the internet.
Recently I have been wondering if we really can teach others. My thinking is that probably people only learn things if they want to learn (curiosity or duty) or if the situation is conducive to learning. If such thinking is somehow true the goal of teaching is not only providing information but also help to create the situation that is propitious for learning. And this may be the reason why the internet is dominated by fake-news and conspiracy theory believers. A place where everyone can spread ideas of any kind in a moment of economic and, consequently, social distress.
When I began with street photography I was apprehensive about people reaction. What would they think? What if they get angry? I then thought that if there are others doing it I can do it as well. It was in Ireland where I had the mostly friendly strangers experience ever but my first attempt of stop someone and ask if I could take a portrait of them was considered a shameful failure by me at the time. What my subject said that made me feel ashamed was a single simple word: "No". So I went home frustrated for not obtaining what I was expecting. I watched some videos about street photography and one hour later I was in the street trying again. This time I told myself to not expect anything. If people says "no" it's ok and there is nothing wrong about it. Actually, we are supposed to take risks in order to learn and grow, in order to see what is possible and what is not, and in order to loose ties to expectations that narrow our perception about things. With this twist of mind I endured a couple of other "no"s before hear a "Sure". From that moment on I felt there was nothing to worry about.
With experience I learned to improve my communication. Being more direct and specific, ask as a suggestion or as an offer and not as a expectation or demand. One of the main reason of violent communication is the thinking that what others are asking is an order instead of a request. People hate to do things when they are demanded to and the natural reaction is to reject. On the other hand we all like to feel useful and helpful. Antonio Damasio tell in his book Looking for Spinoza that our brain produce Serotonin, which gives us a well-being feeling, when we help or cooperate with others as a team. It's part of our empathy which make us place ourselves in others shoes, sensing others emotion and feelings as our own.
Marshall Rosenberg, who wrote No Violent Communication, tells a story about an interview with a Nazi war criminal, who was asked "Was it hard to send ten of thousand of people to death?", which he answered "No, it was easy. Easy because our language makes it easy". He then explained that his fellow officers had a name for this language: Amtsprechen, the bureaucratic language. A language that denies option, consequently it denies responsibility. It is interesting to know that there are many people who can not distinguish between rule or law and morality, which is the same as distinguish can and can't from should and shouldn't. When we try to obtain some kind of alternative collaboration for a solution which would help make all the parties happier or less stressed such kind of people are not able to do it, they start quote what they believe to know about the law and their rights, meaning "I can do it so I will not do what you what me to do". Basicly they view others request as demand and in return react in a defensive way. They don't understand the saying "Just because you can do it, it doesn't mean you should do it (in consideration of others)".
In Ireland, after I got used to it, most people I approached was happy to let me photographing them, which they saw as a request which they could help with. In Germany most of my attempts with street portrait result is rejection, some people even get angry with my approach and can become verbally violent. I see it as a social phobia, worry that I want do something bad with the photo such as judge them or use the image for commercial purpose. worry about what might happens with a photo someone took of them, where can it end and who can see it. Worry about my approach has a second intention such as sell things, demand money or sexual intention when I am approaching women. In short, a lot of expectations which place people in the fear zone.
I think the coolest Germans are in Hamburg, although I have not been in most German's region yet. It was in Hamburg that I met Lucie Nechanická. We used to meet and wander in the streets to photograph it together. When she saw me approaching strangers asking if I could take their portrait she looked apprehensive, saying that she would not feel comfortable doing it, which reminded me when I was attempting it for the first time in Dublin.
Even still doing it in Germany I didn't feel as confident and easy as in Ireland, so I approach people with less frequency. But have Lucie on my side was different because she is a woman transmitting other women a sense of safeness with my approach. They actually became more friendly thanks to her. It was most evident when I was waiting Lucie in a train station and around me there were other people waiting to meet their friends. I saw a woman with a cool outfit, nice hair and interesting tatoo on her leg so I came to her asking if I could take her portrait. She looked at me with doubt and unsure but suddenly Lucie arrived saying "you don't waist time" to me. After my subject saw Lucie and realized we knew each other, she readily accepted to be photographed.
Street portrait in Hamburg is much easier than in other places I have been in Germany, but people still have some kind of fear about other people reaction. It's a different world than in Ireland where I could talk and photograph most people specially women without any tension, and I think it reflects in the way people communicate, in their expectations and consequently in how they learn and perceive other kinds of experiences.
Unlike when I was a boy, I have recently engaged in useless argument with people who didn't want to believe on what I was saying (in the internet), consequently I was annoyed and offended with others provocation, calling me stupid and names. Later on I was wondering why I was behaving like this. What changed? Did I forget my youth knowledge? And the only thing I could think about was my reality change, which created different expectation and frustration, therefore changing my experiences and learning. I am now in a process of no violence redeem.
The photography field attracts many technology and machines enthusiasts who come with the technicist attention to it. I see it as one of the reasons for the commercial photography to be seen and used as standard or reference for quality among many people interested in photography (although the debate on preferences between perfectionism and rusticity has existed since Ancient Greece and probably even before). The other reason is the fact that commercial photography dominates our visual experience wherever we are through publicity. Commercial photographers are mostly technicians who create images based on someone else's ideas. Most of it is technical reproduction and solutions, even the advertised photography in fashion magazines that mimic conceptual fashion photography. Depending how alienated the photographer is in this approach to photography he may come to the conclusion that what goes beyond such technical and commercial standards is poorly executed or wrong.
Fortunately photography is not a black and white thing limited to right and wrong. The meaning of anything is in the context. When we talk about quality we have to think about the context and meaning the work has. Commercial photography has its context and language, its main purpose is the tangibility, making the product or service presented in the image as tangible to the viewers, as if the spectator can touch and possess the object in the photo with their eyes. The visual sense appeal. It could not be different when the goal of the image is to sell a sensual joy to people's eyes and stimulate possession desires. As John Berger says in Ways of Seeing, The publicity image offers an alternative for the public, a better version of themselves, that they can obtain for the price of the product.
Photography that has other purposes will, or should, use other languages. The language that fits its message and context and which can be many. None of them are better or worse than the other nor more or less correct. Each of them are only good and bad based on their own context, public and message.
Siri Hustvedt in her essay "Playing, wild thoughts, and novels underground" refer to writing in this quote but it actually applies to any kind of artistic work: "There are no rules for writing novels. Those who believe there are rules are pedants and poseurs and do not deserve a minute of our time. Modes of writing and various schools come and go: Grub Street, Naturalism, the nouveau roman, magical realism. The novel remains."
When I photograph I often stay away from the sensual appeal, which used to be called as “sense corruption” by Cicero in ancient Rome, because it works on provoking anxieties. Instead I like to express my feelings and experiences. Technicality is about having control, the technical control of a machine precision appreciated from automated tools, catching our attention for the tool settings and control for the precise control result. In order to better express my feelings and experience I rather let this technical control aside, I take the advantage of the manual control which comes with my spontaneous human touch and failure. Or even when using automated tools, trust the automated failure as my own human failure with the machine, assuming therefore my sincere experience and adding it to the narrative context where it belongs.
Brené Brown, who wrote The Gifts of Imperfection, explains that it's important to understand the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism. “Healthy striving is self-focused: "How can I improve?" Perfectionism is other-focused: "What will they think?”. And I think it's important to remember that we should improve in relation to ourselves in our own language, context and message. Not in relation to a predetermined standard or have somebody else as reference of improvement goal/quality. This is not the same as being inspired by other creators and their works, because we all get inspiration from other creators, even unintended, in any way.
At the end, I don't want the viewers of my photos seeing themselves transported in the image by provoking anxieties. I want them to take the image as a memory or dream that inspires their feelings and contemplative imagination. Or at least tell us what or who we are, or who I am.
We need rules as a reference or start point when we are introduced to new activities, when we have not much from ourselves to put in a new work but practice, get inspired through copy, to fit in looking for results with a pre-determined expectation. We can get great pleasure from reproduction, from the empathic recognition of other creators and social feeling, or only for the pleasure of tools manipulation and the transformation observation. By doing so we can develop our own feeling, voice and personal way to create when we have a voice to express.
I was watching a documentary a while back, about french soldiers returning home after the second World War, the war which France was the country that had more dead and injured soldiers, maybe because it was the country that sent more men to the war. When survivor and fit-to-work soldiers returned home after the war, looking forward to their families and the labour routine that was occupied by women during the war, they found themselves lost, as they lacked identity and purpose. As soldiers those men got used to following orders, giving themselves to the battalion rhythm for its greater performance, the fellowship was their identity. Later on in society, working in their family farms, shops and industry they found themselves on their own with their individual decisions for their personal life and activities, and especially their own rhythm. What was missing was their inner voice.
I can't help seeing some similarities in the cooperation teamwork culture especially in the 80's and 90's, when they wanted workers to see the business which they worked for as part of their family, where one finds their purpose and identity through the job and culture provided by the business and their people.
Behind it all there is the fixation, the focus which people become alienated from. As Frédéric Lordon describes, alienation is not loss but fixation. The more limited is your attention and experiences range (fixed) the more alienated you find yourself. Through alienation it is easier to drive a person or a group's attention, work and goals to a determined direction, the direction aimed by their leader or ruler which the followers take as their own.
The Teutonic (Germanic) tribes have such principles as tradition. The military and hierarchical rules in society culture by the Prussians for example, expecting people to give up their own personal goals and interests in order to follow their social hierarchy determinism, looking forwards the to the greater completion of their "nation" (society) as their individual aim, instead of looking towards climb the social hierarchy. Like this workers can focus on only improving their ability on their own work and behavior expected from their social hierarchy (like in the army), instead of the distraction of dreams, looking and expecting eventually to get somewhere else. It's alienation where people get attached to rules for their guidance, and which one deep alienated they get lost, disorientated, messy, when there is no leader and their rules to follow as their own goals and identity.
The opposite is the ability to listen to our own inner voice, our timing, have a wide scope to observe and react in accord and spontaneously to each situation by following our guts, when rules are not what give us direction anymore but what make us feel limited, limiting our experiences, our observations, or experimentation, our self learning and expression. When desalination becomes necessary because rules funnel us to the alien aim that we take as our own.
Listening to our own inner voice is not the same as individualism and selfishness because when we are listening to our inner voice we are listening to others around us as well, sensing the world around us and trusting our feelings. Then our expressions take others in consideration.
Rules are for reproduction, and for creators who can not feel or trust their inner voice [yet]. A true creative work is a work that has its own voice and rhythm. A sincere self expression and feeling.
...and the truth about reality is it boredom. Nobody wants to be bored or, at least, most people seem incapable of being bored in our vicious entertainment culture.
Being able to talk about events is the most effective way to distance ourselves from reality. Once we concentrate on events, events about us, about others, about here or about anywhere else, we are not conscious about reality. Events are not reality, they are lapses of time and thoughts. Based on this principle we can say that reality is eventless.
Here is where the contradiction lies. Most people will say the opposite, associating reality to events but which version, or point of view, of events they are associating to reality? Which one is the real one? We could say all are real because they are the different side views of the same thing complementing each other. But we could also say that none of them are real because they are analyses from thoughts and therefore language.
The problem with language, which we humans have highly developed, is that it is always a translation. It is never reality but the organised thought of our perception. Thus it is always a metaphor.
Our consciousness are never the feedback of our reality or of our existence in real time. It is a echo in a delayed time. And we get it by challenging reality because people don't believe in reality, everything has to be evaluated and giving a meaning because we can't stand a meaningless life.
We can then say that thought is not compatible with reality, which contradicts the discourse of reality and rationality. We rationalize to give meaning and objective. We create a illusion world in metaphors to push us to move forwards, to the next stage of objective and meaning. Language and writing are the illusion of meaning.
On the other hand, while we become seduced by all the joy and beautiful worlds of meaning, which creates addicting meaningful events, reality itself must become enigmatic. If not enigmatic it becomes too obvious. If it is too obvious it doesn't seduce. If there is no seduction, there is no meaning. If there is no meaning, people won't take it seriously. Like reality itself.
Photography is not an easier way to make art, it is just easier to have confidence with. We have a natural feeling to find it easier to do things we feel confident doing.
"While photography is the easiest medium in which to be confident it is the hardest medium in which to have a distinct personal vision." Chuck Close.
Photography is the easiest form of the art of mimesis "the copy of reality". And is the copy of reality on which people are usually more attracted to. And is the copy of reality most people will judge as good quality work.
But when trying to do something else apart from mimesis photography can be even more challenging than other forms of art. Because it quite completely copy of reality, especially now a days with digital cameras with most people don't even need to craft their work in order to have a image ready to print, so most people with a camera will be confident that they are doing a good photo as soon as they can see a good image quality (not good art) in their LCD screen.
When we want to go beyond mimesis, painting, sculpture, etc are easier than photography. It also means that self expression in photography may be more difficult because you have to work with real things that you photograph instead of creating images straight from the imagination. And that's why photography is the hardest medium to have a distinct personal vision.
You don't need much skills to press a button on the automatic camera or to throw paintings or mixing colours on canvas, or even to create shapes in sculpture, as far you can do it with good composition, harmony or even message. But photography and other media can demand more skills and craft if you want to make something else.
If you ask a child if painting is easy they will tell you that it is very easy because they feel confident doing so. Until they grows up and is told that the good stuff looks like tangible things.
What makes some people suspicious about the "art status" of photography is the fact that the photo creation is highly dependable on a "photo machine". I have read a couple of years ago a study by an academic artist saying that photography is not art. His argument was about the technology limitation which the photographer is dependable to create his works.
For decades many photographers have tried to bring photography to the art discussion and galleries to make it more recognized as art. Until nowadays, with many people buying photographs and many photographers calling themselves as artists, there are still those who doesn't consider photography a true art. Or at least as artistic as painting or sculpture.
Recently I saw this question again when somebody wrote in an art community: "When artist depends on machines (not tools) to create; the machines' capabilities are the controlling factors of the joint creations that comes from the union of artist with machine. An Artist's tools on the other hand can be created by the hand of the artist and is not dependent on the bureaucracy of technology."
It is hard to don't agree with what the quote says. It is right.
But when thinking of cameras, are every camera a machine? Certainly digital cameras are pure machines, a body filled with electronics in it. But a true camera obscura is just an empty box, that can be made with any material, with a hole where the light comes in. Which means that it is not a machine at all but just a tool for the photographer as the brush is a tool for the painter.
Photographers can make their own negative (and positive images) preparing his own plate or paper sensible to light as painters can make their own canvas or any other material they wish to paint on.
Cameras, negatives and even light have their limitations as canvas and ink have their limitations as well. What makes people feel more like an artist is the ability to craft with a self expression and a vision for their creation in mind. The reason many photographers still use pinhole cameras or film negatives is because they can craft it with their own hands instead of just operating machines that are digital cameras and computers.
Yet, even when highly dependable of the machine work and capability, digital photographers and digital artists still can express their creativity and vision through their works. Which I think is what matters after all. Not much different from a director who is dependent from actors' works and abilities, or from contemporary artists who have never touched their creation but paid somebody to build the work setting for them.
It is funny to think of it because before Renascence artists weren't considered artists as they are today. They were just crafter-men. Hand workers as any other.
I can see Krider and Aldridge don't mean to criticise, instead they make it clear in exploring the evidence of object women in our culture.
The dummy look of the woman who has no personality and the lack of her soul and individuality is pointed out in Krider image through her covered eyes.
It explores the sexual image of the woman through model's pose and the fetched presentation of accessories and objects.
This photography style which Glenn O'Brien described as "high glamour photo fiction" is interesting because it uses the culture and language of publicity image in a explicit way and not the implicit manner explored in publicity, which is a good evidence of the mediatic and publicity visual culture of our time.
Merino is a sheep that was originally introduced into Spain in the 12th and 13th centuries. It was a Spanish monopoly for a very long time. Over time, Merino sheep spread throughout the world, where numerous recognised breeds, strains and varieties have developed.
Merino wool has several properties. It is 6 times stronger than cotton. The average lifespan of wool products is about 50% longer than that of cotton.
Merino wool is a natural climate regulator, because in hot weather the fibres absorb body moisture before it evaporates outside the fabric. In the cold season, the moisture vapours condense inside the fibre and warm it up. This makes merino wool perfect for all year round. In summer, it keeps you fresh and cool; in winter, nice and warm.
Another pleasant advantage of merino wool is that due to its antibacterial properties, all body odour is absorbed by the merino wool, no matter how hot the weather is. You feel fresh all day long because clothes made of merino wool do not smell. For the same reason, you don't need to wash merino wool clothes every time you've worn them; the odour is absorbed as you wear them and released from the fabric when you hang them out in the fresh air overnight. Merino wool is a good choice for travellers, especially for camping and backpacking.
When washing clothes made of merino wool, you can use cold water because merino fibers have protective layers that prevent stains from soaking into the fabric.
Merino fibers absorb more water than cotton and synthetic fabrics, so you stay dry much longer in wet weather. On the other hand, it also releases the water easily and dries much faster after rain or after washing than other wool fabrics. Merino wool is also wrinkled resistant due to its elastic property.
Merino wool is hypoallergenic and does not itch on the skin because the fibres are very flexible. It is an excellent clothing material for sensitive skin. It also protects your skin from the sun's UV rays because merino fibres have a natural UV barrier. Merino wool will protect your skin on summer holidays.
Both synthetic fibers and cotton require a lot of manipulation and processing, but not merino wool, as its fiber is 100% natural (no microplastics). Merino wool production uses 92% less water and 6x less energy. Merino wool fibers are 100% biodegradable; they naturally decompose in the soil and return natural nutrients such as nitrogen, sulphur and magnesium to the earth.
What else can we expect from merino wool? It is perfect for any kind of situation and weather.
Baby alpaca wool does not come from the babies of alpacas. Baby alpaca is only the name of the wool sheared from the neck and chest of alpacas, because these are the parts of alpacas that have the second* finest fleece. Despite of that, baby alpacas are usually sheared from alpacas younger than two years old also because of fleece quality.
Baby alpaca fleece is very gentle to skin because it is soft and silky. It is lighter than other wools and up to 7x warmer than sheep wool. On the other hand we can wear clothes made with alpaca yarn during warmer days because it is also very breathable. Another advantage of Alpaca wool is that it does not retain bacterias that causes the odor of weared clothes. This means that we can wear it for longer and wash less frequently.
Alpaca wool is convenient for wet days because it is water repellent but it is also flame retardant. The fibers are extremely durable; a well-made alpaca blanket can last a very long time. Another plus is that alpaca has a low environmental impact compared to other natural fibers.
Alpaca wool is not prickly like sheep wool and is much less prone to pilling. Because it contains no lanolin, it is hypoallergenic.
*As said at the beginning, baby alpaca is the second finest fleece from alpacas. The first finest fleece is called Royal Alpaca. It is sheared from the back of alpacas. It is the most expensive and the most rare alpaca fleece found in the market.
There is a third category of alpaca wool called Superfine Alpaca. It is sheared from the neck and belly of alpacas. Because it has a thicker diameter than baby and Royal Alpaca it is not as soft and silk.