Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Releasing the Ephemeral, Final Project- by Elise Beckman


Final Project: Releasing the Ephemeral

My final project:

Releasing the Ephemeral
 Elise Beckman

plaster, fabric, objects from nature

     Nests are symbolic of the sacred places inside us, where we collect our invested meaning from the physical world. The hollow form of a human hand creates an opportunity to view these sacred places inside us-- the internal space which holds these sacred collections-- in the form of a nest, visible inside. The form follows the lines of a tree branch which supports it, in its extending gesture outward towards a giving expression. In the palm rests a branch holding small objects from the natural world-- an acorn, a leaf, a rock-- the physical objects from the external world which can filter from the outside world into our inner world, and there spread their meaning, in a place beyond words. It is my hope that these representations of inner and external space, of nests and new creations, and the physical body will reveal these invisible meanings, and connect us with a new way of reading the space around us, inside us, and the people which inhabit it.

   In the words of Walt Whitman:

To be in any form, what is that?

(Round and round we go, all of us, and ever come back
If nothing lay more develop'd   the quahaug in its callous shell
     were enough.
Mine is no callous shell,
I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop,
They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me.
I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am happy
All truths wait in all things,
they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it
     becomes omnific.

-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

In the future, I plan to take these ideas into steps further, and create a, or several, full-scale human forms in this fashion, with these ideas of internal and external space, branching, and nests in mind, and install them outside in relation with physical living trees. It is my intention to hopefully inspire an experience which may change the way people read the world around them and inside them through the use of full-size human form in relation with these natural spaces often overlooked, and reveal inner truths inside them. I am so excited for where this journey is leading me, and all that is to come :) Thank you for all that this class has been and meant for me!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Final Thoughts on the Future of Books

With the end of our class nearing, I wanted to reflected on the perceptions of story-telling that we were asked to consider: traditional books, ebooks, videos, blogs, and other mediums for storing and sharing information. What I've realized is that these creations do not need to conquer each other (unless, maybe, you are sitting in a publisher's chair); I believe that they will maintain and grow in their own spheres, perhaps branching off into new subsets we have yet to imagine. It is up to the user to choose what type of storyworld they want to enter. Is it one that they can watch on a screen where the physical descriptions of characters are made clear by the casted actors? Is it the opinion of an unnamed man out in Nebraska writing about a garden design on blogger? Is is it the first page of a Dickens's story? I don't think it's important to define what is the best way of communication, it is just important to allow for multiple ways for stories to thrive. If the user values story-telling and have the privledged choice to picking how they view it, why does there need to be a conclusion on the value of an ebook versus print?

There doesn't. And as an aspiring writer, these considerations have made me more open-minded to the types of things I hope to make. So far, I have stuck to traditional short stories and poetry, but taking on a project that required me to learn a bit about filmmaking makes me more excited to collaborate with others in this medium. 

It seems that we are in a time of transition, a time where access to stories and creative collaboration is easier than ever. Instead of defining it, we should enjoy the newness and fullness of it all. Doing so may reveal parts of ourselves that we did not think could be touched. It is the same as teaching too much theory squashing the enjoyment of literature, too much theory could blind us to what is really happening with technological changes. As is written in Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami,

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn't something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step. There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That's the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Update on Project!

So I know I haven't blogged in a while, but that's because I have been spending time on my books and final project.  I spent today's class in the printing studio to print out photos for my project which you will all see!  I've come up with an idea to use the photos in my book and a sort of map/web which you will all see.  Many of them will be connected in certain ways as you will see!

My personal class blog

Here's a post from my blog, and the link to my blog for anyone interested:

Trying to figure out how this is going to work… just realized I have to be at the hospital all night before my presentation.  I hope I can get all my drawings done in time, and I hope the henna comes in the mail by then!!!  

I guess I shouldn’t freak out.  If it doesn’t work out, I can always do the drawings later and take pictures to show the class.  

I have once again decided to take my project in a bit of a different direction.  I had originally planned to write out a few lines of poetry or something to that effect to go along with each picture.  Now I’m thinking just one word would be more poignant and effective.  For the hand picture, “hold”.  Lung will be “breathe”.  I want to also do like ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus and maybe use “life” as the word?  Or… hmm.  Is that the right word for it?  Or “female” or “woman”.  I kinda like “woman” actually.  That might change, we’ll see. Heart… hmm.  I want to kind of say “feel” or “love”.  Even though I know that obviously our hearts have absolutely nothing to do with feelings or love, people always say you feel with your heart and think with your head.  And honestly, even though anatomically I know exactly (and I do mean exactly… you can’t possibly know the hourrrrrrs I’ve spent learning the circulatory system haha) how the heart works, I am the sort of person who generally relies more on feelings.  I know that sometimes logical thought is the better course of action, and many of the mistakes I’ve made in my life have come from me being too hasty to make decisions based on how I feel.  But I also think that some of the best decisions I’ve made have been based on feelings.  Yeah, I think “feel” is a good word for the heart.  Brain stem will probably be “know”.  

I think I’ve just had a revelation about how I’m going to present this.  I think I’m going to talk about how, even though as humans we all have these same internal structures that more or less look and function in the same way, all of them mean such different things to us based on our own personal selves.  Everyone’s hands have held different people and things and done all different sorts of work whether it’s art or medicine or cooking or writing or anything!  Lord knows our hearts feel different things and our heads know different things.  Sex organs… everyone feels differently about those.  Personally, I think, or rather I know, that hormones have played a huge role in my life.  I have a condition where I get cysts on my ovaries, I’ve had it all my life (it’s called PCOS).  It’s caused be an overexposure to hormones while in utero.  Interestingly enough, 40% of women with PCOS are lesbians, which I think is probably a huge reason behind my being gay.  That’s kind of another story though… I think heart and head and every aspect of my life plays into that as well.  But, there’s no denying that sex organs/hormones have played a role.  They’re also integral, to me, because having a feminine body I think has developed my sense of gender over the course of my life.  In that sense I definitely have a positive view of that area of my body.  I know though, that for many people, their sense of self doesn’t match up with the sex organs they possess (which I think is really sad).  So they could absolutely be viewed by some in a negative light.  

Ok now I need to go jot down some notes on what I’m going to say for this presentation.  I’m glad that all just came to me!

Action Blogging.

I was nervous about how I have been using my time. Time seems to slip away so fast and what moments you use it for must be important or else that time has been wasted. I have not been blogging as much, and in some ways I worried about that. I have been using most of my time these past few weeks to work on my final project (which still remains unnamed), and I think the action I have taken in this situation was the right thing for me. 

I find that I tend to base what is an important use of my time on action. I prefer to do something with my time instead of talk or write about it. That, of course, is not completely true, as that philosophy does not at all apply to my love for writing poetry or having long, meaningful conversations with friends, family and peers. I only suggest that when it comes to creating something, the best way to move forward is to take action and do something. 

I have been doing a lot with my project, but not writing about it very much. I believe that is fine for myself. Something that I have always believed since high school has been "who cares about grades as long as you are learning something." I am more than a grade in a grade book, and just because a grade is what the teacher thinks I deserve in terms of the class standards, if I know that I learned something, then that is all that matters. 

My good friends Kevin is taking a class right now called Bad Homos. Neither him nor I really understand what that name means. Kevin has explained to me many times how much he loves the class and how it has affected him and helped him grow this semester. He has also explained to me that his grade in the class is pretty awful somehow...his grade will be determined by the teacher, but what he got out of the class can only be determined by him, and I think what he has learned has nothing to do with a stupid grade. 

What I'm trying to say is that I was nervous because the main criteria of this class is the journey we take, and there is only literal evidence of that journey if we take the time to reflect upon it in words...which I have not been doing as much. But, what I am also saying is that although there may not be written evidence of the journey I have taken through this class, I know personally what I have learned and the journey that I have taken. The hard work I have been putting into my project is journey enough for me. I have learned from an hours worth of editing a twenty second clip of film what I learn from a days worth of blogging. 

I dig blogging, but action is what has gotten me to this point. 


Thursday, April 4, 2013

In the unlikely event that anyone’s interested to read more of my thoughts about the whole Ryan Gosling Sex Experience[1] debacle:

I think the issue of rational vs. sentimental decisionmaking is interesting, and didn’t necessarily get a fair shake when we were discussing all this in class -- in large part, no doubt, because I was trying pretty hard to stick to my guns and not concede a single inch in a discussion where it probably would’ve been productive for me to concede several inches, if not whole yards. Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’m more or less convinced that every decisionmaking process requires something like a sentimental push[2] to get going, even if the mechanisms doing most of the work in the decisionmaking process are totally rational/non-sentimental. Take, for example, the hypothetical situation we discussed, where someone offers to give you a ten dollar bill or let you select a single bill from out of a hat that contains a one dollar bill, a five, and a twenty. It’s tempting to say that taking the guaranteed ten dollars is the rational choice, but strictly speaking this isn’t true. Taking the guaranteed ten dollars is only the rational choice if it’s the case that you’re looking to come away from the interaction with the highest chance of holding the most money. If, however, you don’t have any cash but really want to buy something that costs $15, picking a random bill from out of the hat becomes the rational choice because a $10 bill has zero chance of getting you what you want whereas you’ve got a 1/3 chance of getting what you want if you pick out of the hat[3]. Neither motivation is rational (though both motivations can undergo rational operations), it’s just a matter of your particular desires.

This is not to say that there’s no real discussion to be had concerning the Ryan Gosling Sex Experience, just that such a discussion will necessarily involve a sub-discussion about we’re really after when we’re choosing between a brief moment of intense pleasure and a much larger span of time during which who knows what could happen. I think, for the vast majority of people, the first implulse in these sorts of situations is going to be to make the decision that will maximize the total amount of pleasure[4] they’re likely to experience. And, in all honesty, it’s overwhelmingly likely that the total amount of pleasure you’ll experience in any ten year timespan is going to exceed the amount of pleasure you’d experience having sex with Ryan Gosling or taking part in some comparable activity. So, unless you can think of a brief experience so pleasurable it would outweigh all the good experiences you can expect to have in a ten year period, it would seem irrational to choose the brief pleasurable experience over ten years of regular life, so long as your choice is motivated solely by a desire to experience the most total pleasure[5].

However, I think the desire to experience the most total pleasure is far weaker in most people than the desire to experience the highest possible concentration of pleasure or the highest amount of total pleasure minus total pain and boredome. Consider what you would do if someone offered to let you start life over and live for thousands of years all while experiencing a barely perceptible sensation of pleasure (and no more). Such a life would afford you the opportunity to experience a greater sum of total pleasure than you would in your normal life, but you would probably rather live a normal life anyway. Even living a normal life for thousands of years is unappealing to a great number of people, which suggests that the total amount of pleasure experienced over a lifetime is less of a motivating factor than the desire not to be bored or lonely or what have you.

But say someone offers you a dollar for every second you’re willing to shave off your life. Losing ten seconds and gaining ten dollars sounds pretty reasonable. I suspect most people would willingly give up a little less than two minutes of life in order to have $100, and I think few people would blame them. Obviously, there’d come a point where you’d stop exchanging time for money since you need time to spend money, but the same isn’t true for pleasure[6]. If someone offered to reduce your total lifespan by 1%, but promised that all the time removed would be time you’d otherwise spend bored and unproductive, would you do it? You’d be able to retain the same number of happy/pleasurable moments, and moreover, they’d occur with a higher frequency. I suspect some people would take this offer. More importantly, I suspect fewer and fewer people would take the offer if the percentage by which their lifespan would be reduced grew to 10 or even 50%. Even I don’t think I’d agree to reduce my lifespan to a single moment even if I could be assured of experiencing the same amount of total pleasure. But if it were really the case, as I suggested in class, that concentration of pleasurable experiences should be the driving motivation for these decisions, then it would be incredibly irrational of me to turn down any of the lifespan-reduction offers.

What I think is motivating my refusal to reduce my lifespan to a single moment (even if I can guarantee that I’ll feel the same amount of total pleasure) is a disbelief that I’d really be able to experience a lifetime’s worth of happiness in just a split second. I have no reason (i.e. logical motivation) to foster this disbelief -- I’m simply incapable of imagining a life that short or pleasurably dense. Whether or not the Ryan Gosling Sex Experience is really worth ten years of your life is only relevant if you’re capable of believing that it might be. In comparison with a ten year span of life, which we’ve all not only had but seen represented[7] hundreds of times in various media, the Ryan Gosling Sex Experience is a relative unknown. Our reactions to the question Would you give up ten years of your life in exchange for a moment unlike any you’ve ever known? may have more to do with our respective imaginative capacities than any ability to reason.

1. Would you give up ten years of your life to have sex with Ryan Gosling? Which question, for broad discussion purposes, we basically recast as: Would you give up ten years of your life (in the future) in exchange for a brief but immensely pleasurable experience? Back to body

2. or at the very least a set of non-provable assumptions Back to body

3. This scenario isn’t very likely, but all that matters is that it’s logically possible, since I’m using rational and logical more or less interchangeably here. Back to body

4. Pleasure here includes things like fulfillment, joy, etc. Basically: good feelings. Back to body

5. This assumes that all increments of pleasure are equally weighted and can theoretically be merged into a total sum of pleasure. I’m not sure that’s the case. How many child’s drawings would someone have to give you in trade for the Mona Lisa? Back to body

6. Maybe. I suppose there could be a maximum number/amount of happiness chemicals your brain can release before it’s incapable of processing any more, but I’m not sure where the cutoff is. Back to body

7. As we were leaving the classroom, Jesse said something about preferring chick flicks over any other genre of movie, and her statement got me thinking about the sorts of stories we consume for entertainment and what they might bring to bear on this discussion. Something that I think contributes to my disbelief that ten years of ordinary life is really truly all that valuable an experience (if we’re being honest) is the fact that we hardly ever seek out accurate representations of life. Actors are almost always better looking than the people we interact with daily, and their characters’ lives are soundtracked and condensed (no movie I’ve seen is even close to ten years long) in a way that allows us to value their long-term accomplishments without experiencing the tedium it takes to acheive them. I might argue that a lot of the value people see in a ten year stretch of their life has more to do with the narrative arc those ten years enable to develop than it does the actual lived experiences that take place in that time. Back to body