Posts tagged nika states
Nika States, of Propellers for Umbrellas, is one of my favorite photographers (as I’ve mentioned often); late last night, she posted the strange and delightful little video above, made by Japhy Riddle, and wrote the following:
His art is full devastating light, and flickering sounds, and a beautiful woman named Sofia Greenberg; it’s the kind of work that makes me want to try harder.
On a trip to Taos, New Mexico, Riddle brought a still camera and a tape recorder; he captured sound and still images, then made from them this beguiling narrative of moments.
Parque de Fina
I am not sure it is possible to unlove the Suburbs. They are so widely and rightly despised that if you do love them, your attraction becomes a mad, guarded thing, perhaps not secret but probably a little shifty-eyed. They are a sprawling silence, smelling like excess poolwater and featureless concrete, and it is easy to get lost there, where the map is a kind of circuit made of straight lines; you come upon the same place again and again but always on a different street. They hoard gas stations and space and safety, and you’re right to run from them, to stumble into some city knowing nothing about buying groceries every evening, or busing with the wetly sallow oyster ladies, the drunken eyeliner ladies, the ladies down the hall. I have done this. I will do it again, always a little forgetfully.
But if you have learned to love them in your own horrible way, as I have, you may send tiny prayers to netless basketball games in driveways, or to the browning lines of 1980’s rvs, or to all the horticultural absurdity. If there is one thing I love most about suburbs it is the cruelty with which people treat their juniper and spruce, a uniformity which somehow still surprises and amuses me. I dig these stupid poodle trees like I dig dingbats and striped awnings and Eichler homes, but I’ve rarely seen something so exciting as this.
One thing I will always refute is that suburbs lack culture and creativity. This man - with his big boat of a car, his kids and grandkids who live nearby, and his loafers - has his own art. Part of it is to explain what he does in a round whisper, with white at the corners of his mouth, about his banana trees and his tarot root and keeping a hollow space in the hedge, but mostly about his wife, whose name is clipped into it. The duck and the micky mouse and whatever other shapes emerge, the wind-chimes, the small plaque on which he’s painted Parque de Fina - these are a kind of sculpture.
If you are passionate about something - if you love sound, or smoking hookah in the park, or your wife - and if you can take that passion and build from it something which improves the lives of others, even if you do it quietly between Highway 101 and Middlefield road, I want to thank you. Who is to say this man would not have a heavily sourced wikipedia page if he weren’t happily married, or had settled in some more desperately vibrant part of the world? What mattered to me was that he was proud and fond, and had translated his love into something that could inspire a twenty-year-old with the twenty-year-old’s customary habit of disdain. He did it in suburbs.
Really, I suspect these things of happening everywhere.
Then the extraordinary Superfluidity, in response to this post on cliche, noted something of interest in a remarkable essay which exemplifies his brilliant, synthetic ideas on the literature of antiquity:
It has always seemed to me that our objection to cliché is not something inherent in the cliché itself, but rests instead in our perception of it. That is to say, if we refuse to allow ourselves to experience the cliché as a whole, and step back to see it for its parts, and absorb the cumulative wisdom which lies behind its creation, there is something valuable still to be had.
There is beauty in the suburb and poetry in the banal, they note: it is our task to find it, as they do in photography or rather static, long dead literature, literature which Nietzsche says changes on because we do, because our relation to it does. This is an excellent example of why they are among my favorite thinkers and creators, and I cannot recommend them more highly.
The deadly power of rushing about wherever I pleased had not been given me. I measured distances by the standard of man, man walking on his two feet, not by the internal combustion engine. I had not been allowed to deflower the very idea of distance; in return I possessed “infinite riches” in what would have been to motorists “a little room.” The truest and most horrible claim made for modern transport is that it “annihilates distance.” It does. It annihilates one of the most glorious gifts we have been given… A modern boy travels a hundred miles with less sense of liberation and pilgrimage and adventure than his grandfather got from traveling ten.
C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy. The idea that speed devalues space -and that such a devaluation impoverishes our experience of the world, deprives us of beauty and adventure- seems true to me, and easily demonstrated: think of the spaces of your childhood!
As a child, you experience the shed in the backyard, the ditch near your house, tree in the park, the sandbox, the closet, the sofa-fort as wonders of imaginative space. They are worlds! When you revisit the worlds of your past, you at once think, “How small it is.” This is not solely because you’re larger; you are also faster, and your mind -restless, impatient, adult- cannot create in those confines any longer.
Incidentally, art that restores the sense of space I had in childhood is often my favorite art; an excellent example is the work of Joshua Heineman. So is that of Nika States.
Concerns about distance, beauty, and memory recur in Milan Kundera’s works as well; see, for example, his remarks about speed, memory, and forgetting, or the passage below, from Immortality:
A highway differs from a path not only because it is solely intended for vehicles, but also because it is merely a line that connects one point with another. A highway has no meaning in itself; its meaning derives entirely from the two points that it connects. A path is a tribute to space. Every stretch of path has meaning in itself and invites us to stop. A high is the triumphant devaluation of space, which thanks to it has been reduced to a mere obstacle to human movement and a waste of time.
Before paths disappeared from the landscape, they had disappeared from the human soul: man stopped wanting to walk, to walk on his own feet and enjoy it. What’s more, he no longer saw his own life as a path, but as a highway: a line that led from one point to another, from the rank of captain to the rank of general, from the role of wife to the role of widow. Time became a mere obstacle to life, an obstacle that had to be overcome by ever greater speed.
Path and highway; these are also two different conceptions of beauty… In the world of highways, a beautiful landscape means: an island of beauty connected by a long line with other islands of beauty. In the world of paths, beauty is continuous and constantly changes; it tells us at every step: “Stop!”
Both Lewis and Kundera ascribe a violent and self-effacing quality to the obsession with speed, with compressing the world into quanta to be parsed, itemized, counted, rocketed between; Lewis writes, “Of course if a man hates space and wants it to be annihilated, that is another matter. Why not creep into his coffin at once? There is little enough space there.”
At the beginning: childhood, when the vacant lot next to your house is larger than any field you’ll ever see, any forest you’ll ever explore, a richer world than you’ll experience again: every tree’s bark captivating, every rock covering a menagerie of animals, every hole the lair of a monster. At the end: total compression, completely instantaneous travel throughout your world, the total collapse of reality into a pine box.
Between them, one struggles to keep one’s world as large as possible, not to let it close in around one: one’s city, one’s house, one’s television, one’s mind. One must break routines, abandon highways, sit in sand and dirt, walk paths, find alleys with old boxes to make spaceships out of; or perhaps one can translate childhood play into the language of adulthood; one can figuratively push against, smear paint on, write on the walls, postponing the looming singularity by living as a child does: in the present moment.
This is what I am trying to explain when I show people the pictures I take. When you have been mourning for most of your life and suddenly realize that nothing is lost, you want to share that with people, I think.
It’s great, as are her photos.
Hello! My name is Mills Baker. I write about art, culture, love, philosophy, memory, history, and more. Here are some relatively better posts. This site has been featured on Tumblr Tuesday and is listed in the Spotlight, but it pines for its youth as a coloring book. (Header lettering by the amazing Chirp).